Monday, February 20, 2012

Things About Living In Japan That Make Me Happy

Now that I've lived in Japan for six months, I've gotten somewhat of a handle on what things are like here (well at least in Yokosuka).  I am by no means claiming to be an expert, but at least now I no longer walk around with a dazed and confused look on my face all the time (although the locals might disagree).  I know that those who live here have their own likes/dislikes about living in Japan, but since this is MY blog, it's only fitting that I give MY opinion of the things, even the little things, that I like about living here.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list, just the things that came to mind first (and in no particular order).

1.  Restaurant Buzzers:  Except for the really tiny restaurants, many of the ones we've been to in Yokosuka have buzzers at the tables.  From the moment Rich and I figured out exactly what the buzzers were for, we haven't been able to stop raving about them (to each other of course).  Basically, once you're seated, the server does not come back to your table unless you press the buzzer.  You can take as long as you want to look at the menu without being asked every 5 minutes if you're ready to order and you don't have to worry about flagging the server down (both of which annoy me).  The staff is much more efficient with their time and someone is always at your table within seconds of pressing the buzzer (well in my experience that's been the case).  It's amazing how such a simple concept makes the dining experience so much better. If only restaurants in the U.S. would adopt this concept!

2.  Japanese Sweets/Bakeries:  I'm a sucker for desserts and baked goods, so I really lucked out moving to a country where there are bakeries aplenty and where they are serious about their baked goods. Whenever I'm in the mood for fresh bread or a cinammon roll, all I have to do is walk down the street to the bakery.  When I really feel like splurging, I'll catch the train and go to Saint-Germain which is a little on the pricey side, but in my opinion, their stuff is the best (here and in Hawaii).  Anywhere you go in Japan, you'll find that not only do the desserts look impeccable but they also taste really good. Even the desserts in the grocery store are top notch.  For awhile my favorite was a pancake stuffed with custard and cream (yum) and Rich's favorite was the yellow roll cake stuffed with cream and an actual banana in the middle (double yum). The only downside to this all is that it's really not good for my waistline.

3.  Vending Machines:  Vending machines are everywhere in Japan (allegedly there is one vending machine for every 23 people here).  In some places you can find five or more machines from different vendors next to each other. And I'm not talking about crappy, boring vending machines.  Japanese vending machines are famous for their number, quality of product(s) and the sometimes odd/unique products they dispense.  There are vending machines where one can purchase things like corn soup, ties, sneakers, and batteries.  Most recently, Asahi announced their new machines will be offering free Wi-Fi.  I love the fact that vending machines are everywhere because you never have to go very far when you're thirsty.  In fact, there's a vending machine pretty much right outside my front door, so whenever I'm in the mood for a coke or lemon water, all I have to do is step outside.  They also come in handy in the winter to warm up....just buy a hot coffee and then use the piping hot can to warm your hands up!

4.  Safety:  Japan is known for being a safe place.  Like anywhere else, it has its share of crime, but I did read somewhere that it has one of the lowest crime rates.  Not that I'm out by myself at night on a regular basis, but I definitely feel safe walking from the train station to my house at night alone.  Although, I'm never really alone because even at 11:00 p.m., there are usually a good number of people that get off at my station.  My girl friends that live off base also feel comfortable walking around at night which is important given that we are always walking (even though we all have cars it's just easier to walk than find parking sometimes; plus, no drinking and driving).

5.  Small Portions:  One thing I've come to appreciate living here is the Japanese philosophy/practice against waste.  I do my grocery shopping at both the Commissary on base and at Seiyu the Japanese grocery store by our house, and I've noticed a difference in the shopping habits at each.  At the commissary, there are American shopping carts and shoppers' carts are usually overflowing with stuff (mine included, but only because I try to get all my shopping for the week done in one trip).  But at Seiyu, the carts are only the size of a shopping basket, and people generally only get just enough food for that day and maybe the next day.  Also, products at a Japanese grocery store generally come in small portions, which I love because I hate throwing food away.  I think it's the greatest thing that I can buy 4 or 6 slices of bread rather than a huge U.S. size loaf because I'm the only one in the house that eats bread and I know it won't go to waste!

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