Yamato (Kuroneko) Overhauls English Website; Redelivery, Pickup Now Available in English Online

Looks like my previous posts on how to arrange a redelivery via Yamato (Kuroneko) will become almost obsolete! (Though I still recommend them for Japanese/kanji reading practice, if anything).

Yamato completely redid the English version of their website, and now it resembles the Japanese version of the site, unlike the old version, as seen below:

Yamato, Kuroneko, Japan, redelivery, shipping,
New Yamato (Kuroneko) English website

With the new site, you can request a redelivery online in English (pictured below) via the site, in a seemingly simplified process (versus a multiple-step process on the Japanese site), and it doesn't appear that you need to sign up as you are required to via the Japanese version of the site. Using that same form, you can also request a pickup of package for shipping or to have your luggage taken to the airport (previously, you could only request a pickup in English via phone).

Yamato, Kuroneko, English, redelivery, pickup, form, Japan, shipping
Yamato Online English redelivery, pickup request form
You can also request a redelivery by phone, in English, with the auto-delivery phone service.

They have even explained the redelivery notice in English for those who may not be able to read it.

And of course, they break down all of their other services in English as well. I think this is a great step in the right direction for companies being more accessible to foreigners living in Japan.

In summary, Yamato (Kuroneko) has revamped their English website and now offers the following services (among others):
  • Internet redelivery in English
  • Phone redelivery in English (auto)
  • Online package or luggage pickup request in English

25 Fun and Helpful Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks - April 22

sakura, cherry blossoms, Japan, spring
Still sakura season!
Back again for another round of top Japan links from the past couple weeks. There wasn't as much to choose from as usual, but I think the selections below are both useful and some of them, fun! Did I miss anything you thought worth being on this list?

Living in Japan

Tokyo Police Department Announces Traffic Restrictions to Follow Major Earthquakes in Tokyo Metro Area (RocketNews24) - In case of a large earthquake, traffic restrictions will be enforced around the greater Tokyo area, followed by secondary restrictions. PDFs with more information are provided in several languages.

Teachers with two left feet struggling with dance classes (Japan Times) - Modern dance will also become a required subject for junior high students in Japan, and while some schools will bring in professionals to help train P.E. teachers, for everyone else it's not clear what will be done. Most gym teachers know nothing about how to teach dance.

Can I sue a former employer for not paying toward my pension? (Japan Times) - Are you in a similar situation? What are your rights?

Ikea opens outlet No. 6 in Fukuoka (Japan Times) - Ikea fans rejoice!

Japanese law: a solid reference book (Japan Times) - Translations of the law are also available online here.

Medicinal direction from both the East and West (Japan Times) - Thoughts on kanpo, or "Chinese medicine" or herbal medicine.

From the common cold to sleeping problems, kanpō can offer natural relief (Japan Times) - Some common kanpo blends, their names in kanji, and what they're good for.

Why good Wi-Fi is so hard to find in Japan (Japan Times) - The question so many ask when they come to Japan. Makes sense to me for the most part, although some might disagree. What do you think?

Retailers, restaurants turning to foreign rice (Japan Times) - California rice in Japan? Yes, it's true.

Bridgestone to recall nearly 10,000 Jobno bicycles with radioactive baskets (Japan Times) -

H&M to open second outlet in Gifu (Japan Times) - H&M just opened in Nagoya, and now heading to Gifu. Where next, I wonder?

Hulu Japan Cuts Price 2/3 To 980 Yen (Asiajin) - One way to watch some of your favorite TV shows and movies, cheaper than before.

Alternative Work in Japan: Freelancing in Tokyo [Interview]

Today I'd like to introduce David Chester, who wrote Freelancing in Tokyo: A Unique Guide to Achieving Financial Success in Japan's Most Expensive City. I'm frequently asked about "other types of work" in Japan aside from teaching English, and though it varies, especially depending on where you go in Japan, not everyone has to get locked into teaching English if they don't want to.

I first heard about David's book through his interview on Tokyo Podcast and found it really interesting, so I bought and read the book. I also recommend you check out the Tokyo Podcast interview (after reading this one, of course!), since I heard about David's book there first.

freelance, Tokyo, Japan, book,

Ashley: First of all, where are you from, how long have you been in Japan, and what do you do?

David: I’m from Los Angeles (California, USA). I came to Tokyo in April 1993 as a musician/songwriter. I am still a musician but have become a screenwriter/filmmaker along the way.

Ashley: Teaching English is commonly believed to be one of the few ways a foreigner can find work in Japan, but your experience has proven otherwise. Do you think freelancing in Tokyo (or another large city in Japan) is a viable option for anyone?

New: Most Helpful Comments on Surviving in Japan

So many of you have offered great advice, additional tips, or other useful suggestions in response to posts here on SiJ and even on Facebook and Twitter. So, although I often add helpful comments into the posts themselves, I've decided to give those comments more eyes and also just to say thank you by regularly highlighting them.

To start things off, I've gathered some feedback from the past few weeks:

Hay Fever Tips

Cee C mentioned local honey would be helpful for hay fever symptoms:

Lost in Ube suggested some special glasses to help block out pollen, along with shaking jackets before heading indoors:

Comments originally appeared on 15 Ways to Survive Hay Fever Season in Japan.

Importing Tips

The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan

food label, nutrition label, Japan, Japanese, English

When I first came to Japan, attempting to read food labels and understand what things were and what was IN what I was buying and eating was a huge obstacle. I could read hiragana, katakana and some kanji, but the majority of the food labels were confusing and I spent extensive amounts of time at the supermarket, smartphone in hand with a Japanese-English dictionary open, trying to decipher ingredients and information. I'd also use the smartphone app, ShinKanji, to search for various kanji and words I couldn't read.

The work paid off, and though now I can't read every single Japanese word without consulting a J-E dictionary or looking up certain kanji, I can usually quickly scan most labels to find what I want to know.

A guide to reading food labels in Japan is also one of the most popular post topic requests I've received. It's something most of us struggle with when we first arrive, and I'd imagine even some of those who are fluent may not have known every word or kanji at first. Deciphering Japanese food labels, the entirety of them anyway, isn't particularly easy, but I've attempted to break them down for you here. Note that I have not covered various ingredients aside from common allergens, as that's something to cover in a separate post (or more than one). This one is already long!

I should note that food labels in Japan aren't always consistent, as you'll see below, and although, for example, you'll usually see information about the total calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and similar main nutrients, you won't always see much about other minerals or vitamins (though things like fortified cereals, breads, etc., often list these).

I've also tried to include a variety of words you'll see, but some terms/phrases are worded slightly different, although the meaning is generally the same, e.g., "賞味期限" and "消費期限" both mean "best before; best eaten by" or the expiration date.

Also note that throughout the post I have not broken down kanji and words as I normally do - instead, the vocabulary charts break them down, so please reference the charts for a breakdown. (You can also use the "find" feature on your browser and copy/paste a word you want to see in the chart to find it quickly.)

So let's get on with it: how do you read food labels in Japan?

35 Valuable Japan Links From the Past 2 Weeks

sakura, cherry blossom, Japan, spring, hanami
This year's sakura!
Another round of top Japan links from the past two weeks for your perusal and enjoyment. Hope you're enjoying the spring blossoms if they've popped up where you are!

Living in Japan

Asia's massive fake meds industry (CNNGo) - If you order prescription meds online, beware!

What can you do if you’re involved in a traffic accident in Japan?  (Metropolis Magazine) - This article goes into insurance related issues.

All about the Manaca (Nagoya International Center, via Japan Info Swap) - A travel pass and smart card for Nagoya area residents.

Osaka to keep register of released child sex offenders (Japan Today)

Good news for renters in Japan: Security deposits, key money on the demise (Japan Today)

Fukuoka offers cash rewards for hand grenades (Japan Today) - If you know about them, find them, see them, that is. You can also read more extensive information about this in this interesting article.

Nankai quake scenario menaces Pacific coast (Japan Times) - More earthquake/tsunami preparedness scary stuff information.

Q&A: Opticians, Glasses in Japan

Q: What do you know about Opticians in Japan? I wear glasses and although I am not blind without them but I am a little paranoid of breaking/losing my specs whilst on holiday or hopefully if I get to live in Japan someday. If you know anything about eye tests and the cost of glasses in Japan that would be really helpful!


A: Readers, I turn this one over to you - what does a glasses/contact lens wearer need to know about opticians in Japan? And anything else relevant to this topic?

Thanks so much to those of you who've offered your advice so far! Lots of helpful info and definitely something to turn into a future post, I think.

Carly says:
I went to a JINS eyeglasses store and got two pairs recently. I picked out the frames I wanted and then did an eye exam. They do a free in-house eye exam to check your vision, nothing fancy like an astigmatism test or anything. They asked if I knew my prescription power (correct term?) so I told the clerk the same numbers I have on my American contact prescription, and that helped them out before testing me. The catch is that the chart you read is in hiragana, but if you can read that you'll be fine. If there are a lot of people waiting for exams or having glasses made they give you a time estimate of how long it'll take so you can go do other things. The whole process took less than three hours and I went home with my glasses. I paid the price displayed in the shop (less than $200 for two pairs of prescription glasses!) and the frames are insured for 6 months.
Hope that helps! It was a fairly painless process and so much more convenient than in America. 

Bruce suggests:
Megane Ichiban. Frames and lenses for a little over 18,000 Yen. I have prescription from US doctor and have no problem. Or they can copy from your current lenses. Have already bought several eye glasses from there with no problems. 

From Chris:
Glasses seemed insanely cheap compared to Australia at first. But then I found out the "dirty little secret". The cheaper glass stores (those in the 5,000 - 20,000 yen range) don't custom make lens for your eyes. They do the eye test, of course, but then they dip into a box of standard lens either available in store or ordered, and make a "best match" for your eye condition. If you are only moderately short sighted then you will almost definitely be OK. However, if you are severely long or short sighted and have one or more additional eye conditions then you might end up with a pair of glasses that results in eye strain.
As I fall into the later category I went to a more expensive optician who custom makes lens and paid 70,000 yen for my glasses. I used to always pay $400-600 in Australia where almost all lens are made to order so this matched up with my expectation. Unfortunately government health care doesn't include any rebate for glasses here. 
Emma says:
I bought some glasses last year at the Optician in the Hiroo shopping street. I just walked in and they tested my eyes using an automatic machine and compared with my old glasses. They were very helpful and spoke enough English to get by. Of course taking a Japanese friend is helpful but I am guessing most opticians would have basic English skills.
I have a strong astigmatism and whenever I buy glasses in Australia they always get sent off to Japan to be specially ground so i thought that I may as well just buy them here. They were not cheap but on par with what I pay in Australia.
Always a pleasure to go back and get the glasses adjusted when I need to and they clean them so beautifully including a quick buzz in the ultrasonic bath!!! Love it!

From Jennifer:
I'm not sure about opticians because they're not really trained to do eye exams (so I hear), but only help you choose and fit eyeglasses. However, I have been to the optometrist here in Japan several times to get my eyes checked and purchase my contacts. Unlike the states, where I only got my eyes checked once every two years, the office here has me come in every 6 months. (I've had to go a couple of extra times for when I changed the brand of contacts I was using and they wanted to make sure I was okay and to get allergy eye drops.) The eye exam seems pretty routine and similar to my exams at home: I read a chart with different size Cs pointing in different directions (it would be good to know your up, down, left, and right in Japanese), identify whether the red or green side of the screen was brighter, had the puff of air blown into my eye, and have a doctor look at my eyes more closely. 
Also, I used to wear soft lenses that I disposed of every month, but I didn't get that option here (and I've been to two different places) and now use 1 day lenses. I think 2 week lenses are also available, but the 1 days work for me. I no longer have to buy solution! However, I don''t know how the experience would be for hard lens wearers.
Responses from folks on Facebook:

glasses, contact lens, Japan, optician

Cecilia adds:
I have lived in Japan for almost 2 years.  Last year I had my eyes examined and got new glasses.  The examination was very similar, with only a few differences, to exams I have had in the US.  The main difference was the process of ordering the glasses.  Many more questions were asked.  I remember having to select the company from which the lens would come.  I was fortunate in that for this whole process I was with a Japanese friend who is an eye doctor.  He led me through EVERYTHING  and helped me to respond to questions when ordering the glasses.  This was especially helpful since it was all done in Japanese and I speak no Japanese.  My advice to anyone going through the process is  to make sure that you are accompanied by a trusted, friend who if very literate in Japanese.  I would not hesitate to go through the process again.   I don't remember the exact cost.  I remember thinking that it was not excessively expensive.  I got a pair of regular glasses and a pair of prescription sunglasses.  I remember being less than impressed with the selection of styles of frames available.  However, I was long overdue for an exam and the variety of frames available here may be representative of what's available in the states.
All in all, the process is a good process here and I encourage others to take the plunge!
inverse says:
I went to Zoff (you can find them in most PARCO department stores) and I was really impressed by both the selection of frames and the service from the staff. I didn't originally intend to go there shopping for glasses, I just happened to find a cute pair and I had to have them!
- I was wearing contacts at the time. I don't know my prescription for my lenses offhand, so they asked me to take out my contacts (they have supplies to do this at the store), wait 10 minutes for my eyes to "adjust," then gave me a vision test. The test they gave me was using the alphabet, and using the standard test of "Which one's better? One or two?" The clerk couldn't speak only a little English, but it was enough to do the test.- I don't believe the staff of the store are licensed optometrists or anything, but interestingly enough, they gave me the same lens prescription that I have on my contacts, without knowing it. So they got it right.
- After waiting about 20 minutes, I got my glasses, a case and the eye exam for about ¥5,000. Pretty cheap and convenient, compared to the US, at least!

Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below!