Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another new car.

After a week of driving a cramped, smelly, rental car I finally got my car back. But they gave me a brand new one in its place! :D
Old 2007 model
Old above and new below.
New bleah 2010 model. :(
Exactly 3 years ago, I got my first new car in Japan. I took care of that thing like I actually owned it despite it being a lease. I even became very comfortable with that car and its design but I couldn’t keep it because the lease company only deals in new models. No big loss though as I pay 11,000 yen less a month now for it and it’s new!
DSCF0007  Basically I upgraded from the 2007 year model to the brand new 2010 model. Fundamentally the cars are from the same maker and model but the newer one has a rounder shape a slightly better interior layout.
I’m not a huge fan of the newer “rounder” more aerodynamic exterior design though. I preferred the more boxy like shape of the car I had before.
DSCF0003 The boxy look made it more menacing and masculine. At least I thought so. Now my car has sissy new-age curves… I even lost a little head room in the driver’s seat and the trunk got chopped in half. I also lost my spare tire bay that used to be under the rear passenger seats. Now it’s bolted below the car ( I think). I still haven’t crawled under to confirm this but what good would that car jack be without a spare eh?
DSCF0012 Despite my misgivings about the exterior design changes, it’s basically the same car. It drives about the same and handles just like a box on 4 wheels should. I’m pleased.
If you have time, go ahead and check out the video walk through of the car below.
If you lift up the foam tray you will find absolutely nothing beneath it.
I actually lost a little bit of foot and arm space in the new model.

It's a tiny engine but it has enough power to get the job done.
Here’s the video:
Also, here are a few things I missed in the video:
-My camera was being dumb and cut off the first few seconds of the video. I mentioned how the car is a “wa” number plate which is generally accepted in Japan as a rental car specification. In my case the car is being leased to me so it’s basically mine till I return it. It is also a tad strange because it has Yokohama plates on it instead of Yamanashi, where I live.
-Upon further inspection that white box was not just a pressure gage, it’s also a DC air pump that can be used with the flat repair kit.
-The old model had an onboard spare under the passenger seat space. The new model lost the spare tire space hence why I have the special flat repair kit. I’d still prefer a spare but whatever.
-The new model’s front lights are the biggest change as they are wrap around. I’m not really into that style but the car’s cheap so I guess that’s OK too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A video tour of our home.

It keeps giving me errors. I think it's gonna die soon. I’ve owned my JVC mini-DV camera since 2001 yet I haven’t used it more than a handful of times. I’m kind of bummed the video quality seems almost on par with my 10 megapixel Fuji Finepix camera. I always thought mini-DV was about 720p but I think I’m mistaken… At least it records in widescreen.
Anyway, I was on video Skype with some of you guys earlier this week and you asked me to make a video. So here’s a video blog entry of my apartment.
It’s not all that big but it’s comfy and in an excellent area considering the prefecture I live in. Maybe next time I’ll mount the camera to my dashboard and do a typical drive video.
If you have any follow up questions after seeing the video or want to see more stuff in detail just leave a message here or wherever you prefer contacting me.
Sorry, this video is now only available to family and friends. Email me for a direct link!
Some notes left out in the video:
Good ol' captain's chair. Access to phasers, photon torpedpes, and core ejection functions.

-I do wash my hands after using the restroom. I just don’t do it in the restroom tank sink because there is nowhere to place soap. Plus, it just splashes all over the seat of the toilet making it look like I am still struggling with toilet training. Yeah, great idea on paper, poor in practice.


I get a camping vibe off of this thing even though this is standard fare for most of Japan. -Our gas stove kind of looks like a science lab bunson burner hose setup doesn’t it?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let’s go on a safari…in Japan?!

The drive-through entrance. You could also take a bus  tour if you want to. But what's the point in that?! This was my last day for sightseeing with my mom so we drove over to Shizuoka prefecture to check out a cool place. A place called Fuji Safari Park.
Basically Fuji Safari Park is a drive through zoo. If you live in San Diego, think of the Wild Animal Park but instead of you sitting on a boring train driving around the animals, here we drive through them IN OUR OWN CAR!
Holy s----! Get in the car it's a Lion! Yup, it’s pretty bonkers but it seems to work. It’s not all fun and game there though, some visitors have fallen victim to their own lapse in judgment to hungry animals there. Basically follow the rules by keeping your windows and doors shut at all times and you’re cool.
Derp. So I drove my dinky clown car through the park. It kind of felt like Jurassic park at times because each area is gated off with electrified fences. Maybe they got the idea from that movie, or vice versa. Whatever.
So yeah, that’s the closest I’ve ever been to large wild animals. I want to do it again with Yuko as she couldn’t make it that day due to her work schedule. Next time I’ll try to take even cooler pictures.
For now you’ll just have to check out the ones below.
Seriously, it's just right outside my door.
So close it could swipe our tires out.

Day two of the hot summer honeymoon sightseeing tour: Matsumoto Castle.

DSCF0007 That rainstorm video was something else wasn’t it? My first ever YouTube submission. I doubt anybody outside of my readers will ever watch it but it is kind of cool that I put something up there.
So on to the second day after the wedding. It was another sweltering hot day but at least this time we didn’t get rained on. On this day I drove my mom and my wife out to Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto City. It was my first time ever out there so it was really interesting to see new stuff.
DSCF0049 We went to Matsumoto city to see the original castle they have there. Unlike other more well visited castles in Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya; Matsumoto Castle is built to scale (for midgets). It’s cool to see what a real castle looked like inside. It’s pretty Spartan as castles in Japan were used primarily for defensive purposes.
DSCF0066 The whole area around Matsumoto Castle was nice and green and well kept. Pretty par for the course for a land mark in Japan. But one thing that really stood out to me was that it was easy to get to by car and even easier to park there. Maybe it was the day we visited, but that’s how I experienced it.
Here’s some more pictures of Matsumoto Castle. Mouse over the images for more details.
Lots and lots of narrow stairs.
A shot from the top of the castle.
A nice exterior shot from the courtyard.
 Another exterior shot.
Stay tuned for day three of summer traveling in Japan.

Don’t go sightseeing in the middle of summer in Japan!

Gates to a shrine near the lake at Hakone. Hey all my patient readers! Sorry to leave you hanging for so long! I just checked my last entry and it looks like I haven’t written anything for nearly 3 months. That must be the longest stretch I’ve had between entries. Well, I’ve got a few entries full of pictures to make up for that long absence.
As you may or may not already know, I’m now married! I’ve already shown most of you those pictures over facebook so that’s not what I’m going to write about right now. I want to share what I did while my mom visited over the week we got married.
The day after we got married we went to Hakone with Yuko’s parents to see the lake in Hakone near Mt. Fuji. The weather was overcast so we really couldn’t see Mt. Fuji that day but we managed to snap some nice pictures. Oh, and I know that the pictures don’t really show it but it was nasty hot and humid that day! So bad that there was a sudden downpour at the end on the way home.
Move your mouse over the pictures to read my comments.
Here's a pirate ship ferry you can ride around in Hakone.
 Some sort of ninja playground near one of the landings.
One of those silly swan boats you see in anime/manga.
If I had binoculars I could see perfectly into the baths on the top floor. XD
And last but not least, here’s a video of that rain storm I mentioned earlier.
Just a normal summer shower in Japan.
So that’s it for this entry. The next entry will pick up from the day after this one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yummy slime drinks and Stars

slime[1] Just wanted to make a quick post of what I picked up today.
I know some of my friends out there are curious about the new limited edition Dragon Quest Slime drink out in Japanese stores right now. Well, I picked a few up to try them out. There are only two flavors, orange and blue. They don’t really tell you what they taste like, they just have colors and slimy. They’re not carbonated or regular juice.
The drinks come in thick, heavy, glass bottles. I was expecting these things to be plastic, but I guess they’re collector items so they gotta keep them sturdy. The bottles are also kind of small. Like half the height of a can starting from the neck of the bottle down. It’s going to be interesting trying to drink one.
DSCF0011 I have yet to drink one because they weren’t refrigerated at the store I got them from. I will taste it later tonight probably. Maybe I should vlog it…
I will be sending the other two to Bri since she really wants them. If anybody else wants one, just ask. My local Lawson convenience store sells them. But I’m not sure for how much longer…
DSCF0016 I also picked up Star Ocean 4 for 500 yen. The game was in perfect condition, it was just used. I guess there were a ton of used copies floating around which dragged the used value of the game down a lot. Plus it’s been like 2 years since it was released and there’s a superior version on the PS3 now. Oh well, I will enjoy it for sure. It is in Japanese though, so it may be a little work digging through the story. I’ll be focused on the subtitles for sure!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One more week till we get married.

DSCF0002 I can’t believe it’s almost here so soon. It only feels like I proposed yesterday to Yuko. We’ve been fairly busy over the past month and most of this one preparing for our wedding. As the wedding day comes closer we are rushing to tie up all loose ends in our preparation and planning.
We’ve been diligently working on our slideshow and greetings videos for about a month now. They’re just about finished and I can’t wait to show them to Yuko’s wedding guests soon.
The weather is almost unbearable here. We’re in the middle of a rainy part of the month that comes every year so it’s extra humid and uncomfortable. I am really glad I have a washing machine that dries clothes. Hanging clothes outside would never dry and they’d smell strange because of all the moisture in the air.
I’ve also stopped taking morning showers and now take them before bed. It actually seems to work out well. I’m just as awake and alert even with out a shower. I just wash my face in the morning and I’m ready to go out.
Pictured above, you can see a green rice field. It sure is different from the barren field of dirt we had about a month ago. Things sure do change over the course of a month. Even Mt. Fuji has lost almost all of its snowy cap though you may not see it in today’s picture. Actually, I haven’t seen Mt. Fuji for about 3 weeks. The humidity and constant rainfall help keep the volcano shrouded in a wall of clouds. Hopefully things will clear up in time for my mother. I’m sure she will want to snap some pictures with the digital camera I’m giving to her now that I have a new and better one. :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

It feels nice to not live in a jail cell.

igdro8 It’s been just over a month since I’ve moved into my new place and married Yuko. Changing addresses and other stuff with the city office and government went smoothly. Life is probably the best its ever been for me in Japan right now.
The apartment is about 90 percent furnished but we’re still missing a kitchen table for the dining area and a small computer desk for me to study at. All of our other appliance and furniture needs were mostly satisfied by all the stuff I had accumulated over the past couple of years living on my own. It feels like its our own place now. No more lingering stale smell of the past tenants or the tatami flooring under our white carpet in the living room. Things just seem to be fine.
The best thing about the apartment must be that I have a separate room for a bed to sleep in. I haven’t had such good sleep patterns for a long time. Speaking of good sleep, the baby that lives next-door isn’t screaming its head off anymore. The parents either figured out a way to keep it quiet or it grew out of its howling phase.
DSCF0009 The living room is also pretty nice. I have the room arranged just about how I would like it. I wish the room was a little bigger, but I have to make do with what I’ve got. At least the room is bigger than my last couple of shoebox inspired design apartments. I picked up my last bit of furniture to hold my games and other miscellaneous knickknacks. The oddly shaped shelf only cost me 998 yen and took me an hour to set up. I think it fills out the wall next to my TV well. I still have to figure out what I want to do with the bottom shelf but I’m not in any hurry to finish.
DSCF0005 In a few weeks Yuko and I will have our wedding reception. I can’t believe it will be July in only another couple of weeks. Time sure does fly now a days. I look forward to seeing my mom during our wedding. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any family.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My new sofa.

DSCF0006 I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could sit on a real sofa big enough to seat more than 1 fully grown adult. Now I have that chance. Even Yuko is happy with the new sofa although she prefers sitting in traditional Japanese floor seats. Bleah to that.
DSCF0001 Our new sofa can seat three fully grown adults comfortably plus anybody who may want to sit just on the ottoman. The sofa can be configured to have the ottoman as a fixed part of it or as a freely moving seat. The seats are firm yet comfortable and can be removed and flipped to retain their shape unlike my last hand me down sofa that was made of hard spring and vinyl. I think the best part of the couch is that its made out of a dark brown matte fabric. I won’t stick to the sofa during the summer and it won’t feel that cold during the winter.
The only downside to our sofa is its size. While it’s awesome that it’s big and comfy, it also takes up a quarter of the living room! I guess that’s one thing I can’t change in Japan. Here’s a little factoid for you all; my current living room is as big as my last apartment for size comparison's sake. The loft at the old apartment really helped hide a lot of clutter.
DSCF0005 Considering the cost and build quality of the average Japanese sofa, I think we did really good with our purchase. We were looking at smaller sofas that were even more expensive than the one we got. Plus most stores charge delivery fees on top of the final cost but we bought it online and saved a ton. I’m so content. :D
I am fairly certain this will be the final large piece of furniture we’ll buy for a while. We may get a kitchen table later next month but we really don’t need it. :) Now we can have guests over… I wonder if we ever will though. :(

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grand tour of the new apartment

As promised, here are some follow-up shots of the new apartment after unpacking. After living in such a small place for nearly three years, it’s really strange having a place nearly 3 times the size you’ve become accustomed to. I no longer feel claustrophobic in the shower, I can walk about without worrying about banging my head into door frames and I got a separate bedroom from the rest of the distractions of the apartment. It’s really great!
After setting up everything I had plus some extra bits of kitchen furniture and the new fridge, my apartment feels really empty. We’ll be getting the washing machine this weekend, shortly followed by our nice 3 seat sofa+ottoman. Maybe our home will feel more like home after we get those last things.
DSCF0016 I had great timing this morning when I took pictures of my apartment. The skies about Mt. Fuji were unusually clear and I got a nearly perfect shot from my living room window. Can you see Mt. Fuji? I have a nearly unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji from the comfort of my own home. Now that’s pretty cool right?
Everything seems to have worked out fine for the move and I may even get some of my deposit money back from my old apartment because I kept it so clean which is pretty unusual in Japan. :D
Here come the pictures!
DSCF0009Here’s the inside of the front door as seen from the hallway.
DSCF0006
A real BED in my BEDROOM! It’s a double.
DSCF0008
Yuko’s dressers with my perler beads on top.
DSCF0011
My standing shower and Japanese style deep tub. It’s nearly twice as large as my last bath area. Outside of the bath is a new sink and washer area. I can’t take a good shot of those because there’s not a good angle for useful shots there.
DSCF0005
My futuristic toilet with seat warmer, bidet, and other features for ladies. It’s like a captain’s chair in Star Trek except not as cool when I think that much about it.
DSCF0004
I actually have a kitchen/dining area this time. The gas stove kind of feels like I’m camping though since most Japanese homes run off propane gas. That orange hose really feels like I’m in a science lab. The hose color is the standard color for propane gas. Naural gas has a grey color. Too bad most homes don’t have natural gas in Japan.
DSCF0017
My new fridge. The top door opens both ways and the bottom 2 slide out. The middle drawer is the freezer and the bottom is the crisper. Pretty funky but it’s very functional and quiet.
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It’s kind of empty since I’m living alone till after we get married. I still dine like a bachelor when Yuko doesn’t cook for me.
DSCF0020
Pretty nice space saving idea to have a pull out freezer box. This freezer is larger than my last apartment’s fridge. :)
DSCF0003
The living room. It’s kind of bare for now since we don’t have our sofa yet. I’ll take another set of pictures once that comes in. You can also see the kitchen rack I put together. Hanging the doors on that thing was a pain in the butt. Also the living room area used to have sliding doors to separate it from the dining/kitchen area. I put the doors in the bedroom closet. It really opens up the apartment a lot more.
Well that’s it for now. Maybe by next Wednesday I’ll have more pictures of the new sofa and washing machine.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Here’s the new apartment.

DSC00018 As promised, I bring you a follow-up post about the new apartment. We spent about 30 minutes checking stuff and measuring all the rooms for the new furniture and appliances.
One really silly thing about Japanese apartments is that they come completely unfurnished. By unfurnished I don’t mean they don’t give us tables and chairs, I mean that it has nothing there as far as appliances and light fixtures. When you move to any apartment in Japan unless under special circumstances, you will be expected to bring your own ceiling light fixtures, light bulbs, cooking stove, curtains/blinds and refrigerator. Apartments come bare, something that you wouldn’t expect if you came from a long life time of living in apartments in the US. I find this very strange.
DSC00020 The official move in date is May 5th which falls on a national holiday. We lucked out and don’t need to pay any additional move in costs as mentioned in the previous post so we can use the money we “saved” and put it toward buying all the missing appliances and then some. We’ve already found a washing machine/drier unit and refrigerator at our local appliance store. We will have them delivered on move in day.
DSC00019 One of the coolest things about the apartment is that the living room window has a perfect, clear view of Mt. Fuji on a clear weather day. The town I’m moving to also has a much cheaper city tax than the one I currently live in and I can also enroll into Japanese national health insurance without looking forward to a hefty back pay penalty unlike my current city which expects me to pay for the past 2 years I never had it on top of the monthly charge...Another nice thing about it is that the apartment is located in an even more convenient location than my current one and has even more shopping and restaurants nearby. But the best thing about the apartment is that it is within a short bike ride to both of my schools.
The apartment its self is by far the nicest one I’ve lived in yet. It’s spacious for a Japanese apartment, it’s fairly new, comes with two parking spaces included in the rent, and it comes with a keypad door lock.
The kitchen is still dirty from the last tenant as the property owner hasn’t had a cleaning crew come in yet. Every thing will be tidied up for us before we set foot into the apartment again. I can’t wait to move in to a place I can actually call home.
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The living/dining room area looking in from the kitchen area.
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The kitchen area that’s connected to the living/dining room.
DSC00007DSC00008 
Here’s the bedroom that is connected to the living room. We’ll probably absorb this into the living room as the living/dining area is kind of small. It has tatami floors but we’ll cover them with a custom fit carpet. I hate tatami because they have an odor I am incredibly sensitive to. This room is the same size as the apartment room I lived in when I studied abroad at Gunma University. Now I have a properly sized apartment!
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Both sides of the second bedroom. We’ll sleep in this one as the tatami room will be used as an extension of the living room.
I’ll take pictures of the restroom hallway and bath another time. The ones I took were hard to make out as I only took reference shots for measuring where the appliances would go. The restroom is pretty interesting, it has a bidet, seat warmer, and some other functions I’ll never use!