HOW TO: Prevent and kill cockroaches

With summer comes insects, and in Japan they tend to come in droves. We’ve already looked at some ways to prevent mosquitoes, but several people have asked me, “what about cockroaches?” And for good reason.

cockroach trap, baitFortunately I haven’t had to deal with cockroaches much at all during my time in Japan (happily I’ll admit, as I’m a wimp when it comes to large, icky bugs like that...). In fact, the apartment we’ve lived in the past two years hasn’t seen one cockroach.

Until last week. During the stormy weather from the typhoon.

What is "Calorie Off", and why should you care?

 My time in Japan so far has seen many changes, as to be expected, and most have been gradual. One such change has been the increasing prevalence of “calorie off” drinks. When I first arrived I remember this option being available, but as the years have gone by some of my favorite beverages converted completely to “calorie off”, including my beloved lemon Mitsuya Cider... (I like CC Lemon too, but I prefer Mitsuya Cider).

Now, just browsing at the local コンビニ (convenience store), it is more difficult to find carbonated (and some non-carbonated) beverages that aren’t “calorie off.” Not that I drink much else aside water in general (and occasionally 100% juice or tea), but even if some new, "limited edition" beverage looks interesting to try I often don’t because it is, of course, “calorie off.”

So, what is “calorie off”? Basically, the manufacturers have replaced all or most of the sugar with artificial sweeteners, the most typical ingredient being sucralose. Not that regular sugar or corn syrup is healthy, but it is somewhat misleading for folks thinking they are getting something healthy in a “low” or “no” calorie drink, but instead are chugging down something that could be just as unhealthy, but in a potentially different way.

Q&A: Swimming with a tattoo?

Q: Do you have any advice on tattoo-friendly swimming?

- @scoutie

A: Many readers may already know that a lot of onsen, sento and pools in Japan prohibit guests with (visible) tattoos from using their facilities. I don't have any personal experience with this, but I do know it can be an issue (unless you're heading to the beach), especially for those with larger tattoos that aren't easily covered up by swimsuit (or towel, if at an onsen).

A guide to toothpaste in Japan

In response to HOW TO: Find (good) toothpaste in Japan, some people were wondering about other types of Japanese toothpaste (aside from Aquafresh, which was used as an example in the "how to" post). Can you find whitening toothpaste in Japan? What about natural toothpaste? What other Japanese brands are available?

Depending on where you go in Japan, you’ll likely find a varied selection of toothpaste options. Some stores will have more variety than others and larger cities may have a greater selection than what you might find in a small town. Nonetheless, it is always possible to find a myriad of choices online if nothing near you seems appealing.

I want to cover some ingredients and things to look for here, as a general guide - you'll want to check the ingredients list to confirm what a particular type has to be sure of what you're getting inside.

And, if you're wondering about the basic vocabulary for toothpaste, please refer to HOW TO: Find (good) toothpaste in Japan.

Japanese Toothpaste Brands and Makers

Traveling the Izu Peninsula

The Izu peninsula of Shizuoka prefecture is one of my favorite places in Japan (although, I haven't been to every part of the country yet...), and I've written about it several times before. My husband and I decided to take a road trip to Izu this year (in May) for our second anniversary, as we just got a car last winter and I knew from my visits to Izu before that having a car would allow us to explore the area more than I had previously been able to.

So I booked us a spot on the Shimizu Ferry that travels from Shizuoka city to the port of Toi (土肥) on the peninsula side of Suruga Bay. I found a decent deal at a hotel near the beaches in Shimoda (下田), the southernmost city in Izu, known for its many white, sandy beaches. Shimoda is a bit of a drive from Toi (I think it took us an hour and a half or so, but with stops), but the scenery is absolutely gorgeous and I knew we wouldn't get bored at all.

As for the ferry ride, it was our first in Japan, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Of course, I also come from Seattle (Washington State, US), where we have giant ferries. Not that there aren't giant ferries in Japan, as I'm sure others are (particularly the overnight ones), but this one wasn't as big as I'd imagined it to be.

Sitting on the outdoor deck of the ferry.

Immigration changes coming in 2012

A new immigration law was passed in 2009 and scheduled to be implemented in summer 2012. This new law includes various changes for non-Japanese living in Japan, such as the following:

  • New immigration procedures
  • A new "residence card" to replace the current alien registration card
  • No need for a re-entry permit if you return to Japan within a year
  • Non-Japanese residents will be added to the national registry (Japanese nationals are already listed in the registry, with the exception of a few towns). 

Wondering how this change will affect you?

Check out the following Japan Times article (one of my recent columns) for more details: Bye-bye to the gaijin card, welcome to the Juki Net in '12

HOW TO: Find a fireworks festival (花火大会) this summer

fireworks, Japan, festival, summer

The rainy season has ended, and along with the heat and humidity, late July, August and early September mean festivals in Japan. You’ll find them all over the country, and even in local neighborhoods, either 祭り (まつり, matsuri, festival) or 花火大会 (はなびたいかい, hanabi taikai, fireworks display/show). Matsuri generally refers to a festival (as that is what it means), which can take on various forms depending on the type of festival it is. For example, I wrote about the big Shimada Obi Matsuri last year, which is specific to Shimada city in Shizuoka prefecture, but there are hundreds of other types.

And then there’s fireworks festivals, or 花火大会. Sometimes these happen in conjunction with a regular matsuri, or they may happen separately (particularly the big events). My local neighborhood (or 町, machi/cho, also known as "town") holds a small festival at the nearby temple every summer, and they shoot off fireworks at night.

One large fireworks festival I have particularly enjoyed here in Japan is the Fukuroi Fireworks Festival in Shizuoka. You can read more about it in my write-up here on SiJ, and if you're interested in going, check out this Fukuroi Fireworks Festival post for specifics (in English).

So if you’re in Japan, whether you live here or just visiting, I certainly recommend checking out a festival of some kind, in particular the fireworks festivals. But how do you find them?

My 7 Links

This post is a submission to TripBase’s My 7 Links initiative after receiving nomination from Haikugirl’s Japan to participate (Thanks, Ali!). The process is simple. Nominated bloggers identify posts that meet seven specified criteria and share them with readers. In turn I have the opportunity to nominate 5 bloggers, listed at the bottom of this post, to participate.


HOW TO: Find a recreational pool or water park in Japan

In light of setsuden (reduced electricity usage) this year in response to the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region and the crisis at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, residents and businesses in Japan, in particular those in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, are being called on to reduce energy consumption to avoid blackouts this summer. This is a somewhat difficult call as the temperatures rise and many folks are desperate to turn up the air conditioning (and a lot of people need it, for health reasons).

So how else can we keep cool? I recently wrote about the “cool air fan”, or 冷風扇, but I also stumbled across a nifty website that allows you to look up recreational pools (or "leisure" pools, as they are referred to in Japanese) and water parks all over Japan - perfect for those hot, sunny days when it’s unbearable to stay indoors with no or little a/c.

The pools listed on this site aren’t typically municipal pools, though, and many municipal pools have water slides, outdoor pools, etc. You can search for these by checking out your city’s website (though probably have to search in Japanese) or search on Google maps (using プール as the keyword in your desired location).

You can find the pools featured on this site using the above options as well, but I found this site to be an easier way to find multiple pools in a larger area (such as a prefecture) at one time.

So if you’re looking for a place to cool off, perhaps ride some water slides, or float along in a lazy river pool, read on.

Packing for Japan Q&A

To preface this list, if you are attached to any brand/type of personal care products, clothing item, etc., and/or you cannot find that particular size/brand in Japan, then by all means, bring it with you. I want to provide this information to a) debunk common "living in Japan" myths or see if they hold true and b) provide details and specifics so that others can make their own informed decisions based on what is best for them. As the saying goes, information is power, and expats often face a lack of information, due to language ability or other reasons. And of course, I welcome your suggestions and feedback in the comments - as some things may be slightly different depending on which part of Japan you are in as well.

HOW TO: Stay cool without air conditioning: "Cool Air Fan" or 冷風扇

cold air fan, reifuusen
冷風扇 - れいふうせん or "cool air fan"
The last week or so has been rather hot (in central Japan at least), with temps here in Shizuoka hovering around 30 Celsius and up (high 80s to 90s Fahrenheit). My husband and I still don’t own an air conditioner, simply due to the costs involved with buying and installing one, and then periodic cleaning. Yet, being 33 weeks pregnant, I've been finding myself desperate for some kind of cooling alternative the past week or so.

Contraception in Japan: Condoms, IUDs and Calendar Methods

condoms, Japan, IUD, contraception

We’ve already looked at birth control pills in Japan, so let’s talk about a few other contraception options.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given their recent introduction to the country, birth control pills are not the most popular form of birth control in Japan. Condoms are still the leading form of contraception, so I’ll cover them briefly here, and I also want to mention IUDs and calendar-based methods.