The Low Point of Culture Shock

Sunglasses and hats. These days I often hide behind them, thinking as if in some way they'll conceal my dirty-blond hair and blue-green eyes -- features that stand out starkly here in Japan. Then again, if you've spent some time in Japan, you know how uncommon baseball caps and sunglasses are among young women here. I usually justify them as covers for my three-day-unwashed mom hair and the dark purple clouds accentuating my lower eyelids from a year of nightly baby wakings. But deep down I know that lately, it's also a bit more than that.

29 Click-worthy Japan Links - Sep. 21

Hey all - I've had an awful lot going on lately, and realized I completely missed a links post a week ago. So I'm playing catch up. Hope you've been all been doing well! Enjoy.

Living in Japan

Tokyo the most expensive city in the world for food: UBS | Japan Times - I seriously wonder what they bought, though. A couple 10,000 yen melons, perhaps?

How To Identify A Kanji That You Don’t Know | Tofugu - This has some great ideas for anyone trying to get by reading kanji here in Japan. I also highly recommend iphone app Shinkanji

Who can guarantee you'll get your dream apartment? | Japan Times - It's interesting, though, because we didn't need a guarantor... 

Foreigners barred at Haneda can get legal aid | Japan Times

Contact Lenses | Japanzine - This seems like a useful service for those who might need contact lenses while in Japan.

Tokyo firms asked to stockpile water, food just in case | Japan Times

HOW TO: Become an Organ Donor in Japan

You might remember the recent series of Lifelines columns I did on blood donation in Japan, and in response someone asked if organ donors needed to meet the same requirements. The answer to that question is in this week's column along with information on how you can become an organ donor. I also answer a woman's question regarding how to renew a resident card as a permanent resident without a Japanese address:

Unlike giving blood, becoming an organ donor easy | Japan Times

Ultimate Guide to Baby Products in Japan - Part 1

You're having a baby. Or maybe you already have a baby or two and you've just moved to Japan. You might know what kind of stuff you need (since a lot of that information is available in English) but how do you find what you need in Japanese? Are the car seats safe? Are the bottles BPA-free? Can you find organic bedding?

I attempted to answer these in the latest issue of Metropolis magazine, which you can read here, and then went ahead and elaborated a bit more below. I know there are many, many more baby products, but I believe most of what I've listed below are some of the more important ones, plus a few extras added in. I've also added my thoughts here and there in terms of what we've done to save money or what I like, but I believe that everything is different for every baby and family, so it's just there for anyone who might be curious or wondering.

And please, let me know in the comments what you'd like me to cover next, or what you've used and liked, didn't like, or whatever. I'm particularly keen to hear from those of you who use/have used bottles, as my kid wanted them desperately for a month and then refused them, so my knowledge of slow-flow - fast-flow or whatever it's called is limited.

On to our Japanese baby products:

HOW TO: Get a Self-Sponsored Visa to Work in Japan

This topic is something I was personally curious about before I actually looked into it for the latest Lifelines column. And though it seems like a bit of work, especially if you don't have contracts of some kind with some steady part-time employers, it's not impossible. In fact it might be a better option for quite a few folks, depending on what type of work you do.

So, how do you go about it? What kind of paperwork do you need? Check the link below for what you need to know:

Self-sponsored visas: a passport to freedom or a world of pain? | The Japan Times

Do any of you (who haven't already told me) have a self-sponsored visa? How easy or difficult was it to get?

Q&A: Finding a Vet and Pet-sitters in Japan

I'm looking to all of you experienced pet owners living in Japan for some help with this one. We don't have any pets and I know some of you do and probably have some good advice or suggestions. What do you know about going to the vet here in Japan (anywhere in the country), and where do you take your pets when you go on vacation or need someone to watch them for a little while?

Q: For us folks in the 'burbs (we're about two hours northwest of Tokyo via train/subway or car), can you assist with recommendations about pets??

We drove our two 50 lb dogs into Tokyo to the Japan Veterinary Medical Group and had a great experience with a (very fluent) English-speaking vet last Saturday -- basically just a meet-greet to develop a relationship should we need one in a hurry. Sano-Sensei was great - I would certainly recommend. That said... it sure would be nice to not have to drive them two hours to the vet, AND both of us go so one could literally drive around in circles due to parking shortage. Any knowledge of vets in the rest of the country?

On a related note... pet sitters? We'll go back to the States every year for a few weeks. Most of the 'home centers' (Cainz, Super Viva) have 'pet hotels' here (as best we can tell, no one here knows what a 'kennel' is), but for pups over 20kg, it's prohibitively expensive (like, well over US$130/day for them both -- over twice what we paid for a great kennel in the US -- and they're not 'big' dogs). Finding someone we'd trust to enter our home (or just stay here) two to three times a day and feed, water, potty the pups. Have you by chance run across any of those types of services, or folks looking to just make extra money doing that occasionally - in the outlying areas?

(That said, is anyone remotely near Ashikaga who might want to earn some extra money looking after a couple of larger playful dogs around the last two weeks of November??)


A: Over to you. What do you know and/or suggest? I'll add your answers below. Thanks! -Ashley

TokyoVeggie said:

Finding a (GOOD!) vet is incredibly difficult. In the Kanagawa area, for example, there are a lot of pet clinics, but we immediately ruled out 4 due to how dirty the offices were. Also, you have to make sure that the vet actually knows about your type of animal. In this case, it would be best to ask Sano-sensei if he/she knows anyone in your area. Another idea is to Google Ashikaga, Japan, and then visit each vet one by one until you find one that you like/can communicate with.
For pet sitters, we always use I just looked it up and they do have a certified pet sitter in Askikaga! Unfortunately, the website is only in Japanese, but we have had excellent experiences with using the sitters on that site, so I really recommend it over letting someone with no certification watch your pets, especially if you will be out of the country. When I return to the States, it is nice to know that my pets will be taken care of even in case of a disaster or an emergency. And the sitters we have found on that site emailed us updates every day.
Hope that helps!