How Japan Celebrates Halloween…

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Halloween decorations often sold at 100 yen stores.
© J // Washing Rice Blog

…or more like how it pretty much doesn’t!  There’s not much going on unless you’re a club or party type living in a bigger city, or want to buy a bunch of cute knick knacks to decorate your house with.  You really have to actively go out of your way to find something fun to do.

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Making the Big Move: Apartment Hunting (Part 2)

Have an idea of the kind of property you’d like to rent?  If not, check out Part 1!  If so, you’re ready to start tackling some of the hurdles you might encounter when you visit a real estate agency.  These places are called fudōya or fudōya-san in Japanese.

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Making the Big Move: Apartment Hunting (Part 1)

© BIGLOBE

What a typical real estate agency looks like in Japan.
© BIGLOBE

As I wrote in my previous post, apartment hunting in Japan can be tricky.  This first step is understanding what kind of properties in Japan are available.  Unless you plan on staying here for many, many years you’ll be looking for rental property, called chintai bukken.  There are three main types:

  1. apartments, called apaato – These are generally older apartments made of wood.  Due to building regulations they can’t exceed two or three floors, unless under special circumstances.
  2. mansion-style apartments, called manshon – Don’t let the name fool you, you won’t be getting a real mansion!  These are the most popular because they’re generally newer properties and made of stronger materials like reinforced concrete.  Mansion-style apartments are usually four stories or higher, and it’s not uncommon to see high-rise mansion-style apartment complexes with 10 to 20 floors or more, especially in big cities.
  3. stand-alone properties, called ikkodate or kashiya – These are usually houses for lease but sometimes include maisonette-style rental properties.

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Making the Big Move: Finding Home

Apartment hunting and moving into a new place is a pretty daunting process anywhere, especially in Japan.  If you don’t know what to look for in a property, you may end up with a dud.  Once you get stuck with a bad property, there’s not much you can do but stick it out for awhile unless you have a lot of money to throw around; moving will set you back a few hundreds of thousands of yen (a few thousand USD) each time or more.  My husband and I lived in two duds before finally settling into the place we now call home. Continue reading

Making the Big Move: Let’s Talk Visas

There are many ways to move to Japan, but pretty much all of them require getting your hands on a visa.  With the exception of a few special countries, you’ll need a visa if you plan on staying longer than 90 days or 3 months in Japan.

Requirements for applying and being granted a visa depend on what kind of agreement Japan has with the country your passport is issued from.  Requirements also depend on what kind of visa you’re seeking.  The following sites are very useful reading:

During my stay I’ve had three different kinds of visas and all of them required jumping through different hoops to get my hands on. Continue reading

A Forward… Beginnings & Backstory

Why “Washing Rice”?

Anyone who’s ever heard of or been to Japan probably knows that rice is the staple of pretty much all Japanese meals.  On its own, Japanese rice looks simple and tastes plain.  In reality, preparing great-tasting rice takes more effort than you’d think.  The first step to cooking rice is washing it.  Rice is washed, literally “polished” in Japanese, using cold water and your hands to remove the starch.  You add water, gently run your hands through the rice, empty the water, and repeat until the water is clear.  It takes time and patience just to achieve something as simple as a good, steaming bowl of rice.  Likewise, it’s taken time and patience to build up my simple life in Japan into something I’d call happy.

It also has another connotation when it comes to dating.  Women who “can’t wash rice”, or live up to the usual domestic expectations that Japanese consider a woman’s duty, are rarely accepted as suitable marriage partners by Japanese men or their families.  So as you can probably guess, a foreign woman like me is usually not high up on the list of who to bring home to mom and dad or marry, and the result has at times been as harsh as it’s been humorous.

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