Do You Read Surviving in Japan via Google Reader? Read This.

To our many, many lovely readers using RSS feed readers, you may or may not already know that Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st. Yes, this coming Monday.

So if you haven't already migrated your feeds elsewhere, you may want to find a new RSS reader, or at the very least, download your data and subscriptions so you have them safe and sound.

I recommend checking out Lifehacker's post if you're not sure what's going on or how to download your data: How To Prepare for Monday's Google Reader Shutdown

I'm trying out Feedly for now (waiting for Reeder to support it and/or other services), but you can choose from numerous other options.

And as usual, you can also follow Surviving in Japan via Facebook, Twitter, or Email (in the sidebar to the right under "Follow Surviving in Japan".

Thank you so much to all of you for subscribing, following, liking, tweeting, sharing and commenting. Thank you for your support, patience and understanding during our transition and personal issues. I appreciate it and I hope we can continue to build up SiJ to be helpful to you all.


Starting a Business in Japan: Yoyo Market [Interview]

Today we're talking with Jason Maitland, President and CEO of Yoyo Market, about starting a business in Japan. Yoyo Market is a fantastic online store for "almost anything from Costco, IKEA, organic and health foods and more".

SiJ: Tell us a little about yourself and Yoyo Market. 

Jason: I'm originally from Vancouver but have now been living in Japan for over 10 years. Like many, I came here with the intent to go home after one year but 10 years later I am still here, and loving it!

Yoyo Market is, in my opinion, Japan's number one bilingual online supermarket. It was my answer to the problem of getting the food and goods that you want all in one place. Years ago I used to spend half my Sundays going around to all the supermarkets, shops, and stores in my area just to get the food I wanted to eat. At first I enjoyed the challenge of assembling such a network but it quickly became laborious and way too time consuming. I also came to dread going to Costco on the weekend (waiting 40 minutes for parking is not a good use of my precious free time!). I finally came to the realization that if I wanted to combine all the of the food I wanted, plus a Costco and IKEA delivery service into one, I'd just have to do it myself. Now going on three years, Yoyo Market has evolved into one of the fastest, friendliest and diverse delivery services in the country.

SiJ: What were the main obstacles you faced trying to start Yoyo Market? What are the primary obstacles your business faces now? How have you overcome them? 

Moving to Japan This Summer? 31 Posts to Help You Prepare

moving to Japan, packing for Japan, Mt. Fuji, Fujisan

Summer is almost here and if you're part of the JET Program, you're likely preparing and trying to figure out what to bring and what to expect when you arrive. While there are a lot advice-givers out there (forums in particular), I'd strongly suggest that you take what is said with a grain of salt. Usually the advice you hear is limited to that person's particular experience.

Prior to arriving in Japan, I heard a lot about what Japan didn't have, only to later find out most of that wasn't true. It may have been true for the person who told me, but that depends on where they were/are living, what their situation is, how much Japanese they know/speak/read, what they do in their free time, who they associate with, etc.

Japan also changes quickly in different ways and so you might be surprised that there are more options of whatever than your predecessor or someone else might have known about.

Some people are more knowledgeable in certain areas, especially if they've gone through certain experiences themselves. Stay as open-minded as possible. And I strongly encourage you to seek out truth for yourself. Someone might state something as fact, but they may not know otherwise--it's a fact to them, but not necessarily to Japan.

Not just expats, but plenty of Japanese people might not even know, depending on the topic. For example, I tried for months to find a farmer's market in my first city, and no one (expats, Japanese) seemed to know about any or how to go about finding them. Some of my coworkers insisted that there weren't any around. But I happened upon one while out exploring on my bike a few months later, and then learned, on my own, how to find them.

So, keep an open mind and explore Japan for yourself. Ask questions, always. Be gracious when advice is offered--and please don't hesitate to ask for it!--but keep in mind that you might find it to be different down the road.

With that said, here are some posts to help with your preparations (regardless of how or why you're moving to Japan):

What to Pack for Japan -- A comprehensive list, which includes many of the links below in each relevant section. Please read this before packing or deciding what to bring or leave behind. You can find more posts in the "how-tos" link above.

moving to Japan, packing for Japan

Personal Care

condoms, contraception, IUDs, calendar, Japanese, Japan
toothpaste, Japan, Japanese

sunscreen, Japan, Japanese


food, Japan, Japanese, food labels





For more how-tos and information about living in Japan, see the "how-tos" page above.

24 Places to Find Infant and Children's Toys in Japan

Big thanks to Ashley Tieman for putting together this very useful post and to Annamarie for her contributions!

Just had a baby in Japan? Have small children? And looking for a few toys for them to play with? You may already have found some at nearby stores, but it is possible to find a range of quality, cute, safe, and educational kids' toys in Japan. And keep in mind that toy is おもちゃ (omocha) in Japanese. If you know of any others, please leave a comment below!

New Toy Stores

Don Quixote (ドンキー)
This nationwide chain is a foreigner's paradise. Once you've filled your cart with hard-to-find food items, head over to the massive games and toys section. Aisle after aisle is filled with puzzles, board games, collectibles, models, and more, often imported from overseas but with a reasonable price tag. The store also has a lot of "adult goods" nearby, so unless you are prepared for a potentially awkward question from your child, this might be a parents-only expedition. Available items may vary by store and region.

Home Centers (ホームセンター)
Japan's unique blend of hardware store+furniture store+pet goods+everyday life stores, called home centers (ホームセンター), can be an excellent, if surprising, place to find toys, especially for young children or children who like crafts/hobbies. Some examples in my area are Namba Home Center (ナンバホームセンター), Time (タイム) and Nafco (ナフコ). Cainz has stores around the country. Feel free to list your local home center in the comments (and location).

A typical place to find a large variety of toys is a children's store. Toys R Us and Babies R Us have been in Japan for years, but there are plenty of domestic companies as well. These stores are especially good for finding educational toys (like if you want to teach your kids hiragana or find books with animal names in Japanese).