Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Shopping (Page 2 of 2)

Ginza Christmas 

Dave and I spent Saturday morning and early afternoon walking around Ginza. Ginza is a popular upscale shopping area of Tokyo. There are numerous internationally renowned department stores, jewelry stores and restaurants located in its vicinity. Ginza is considered one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. It was like The Magnificent Mile on steroids. 

It was a quick 15 minute trip on the Tokyo Subway from our hotel. 

Every day at noon the main road, Ginza Street, is closed to vehicles and pedestrians are able to walk freely across the street. 

Several of the buildings have unique architecture. The DeBeers building is amazing. 

The Sapporo building – 

The Bvlgari building. 

The highlight this time of year was seeing all the Christmas decorations. 

Check out those diamonds!!

If only in my dreams…

Let it snow!

Of course, a cat!

So many trees!! 

We had to pose for several tourist photos! 

For all my Hello Kitty fans, there is a Sanrio World in Ginza. Kawaii! 

Cruising in da Cube

I picked up our car today. A Nissan Cube. Seriously.  It’s kind of cute in a cube sort of way. Not top-down-convertible-Saab cute. However, it is new-driver-in-Japan-only-need-for-three-years cute. Check it out. 

Once I had our Cube, I made a list of errands to do and cruised. I wanted to go to the Home store and the Japanese grocery store. The home store is like combination of a Home Depot, Walmart and PetSmart. There is one part of the store I LOVE. The store has PUPPIES! They are adorable. I decided to make a beeline to the puppies and then do my shopping. Here are today’s cuties. 

Check out this little miniature pincher and his price. ¥158,000 is about $1,580.00. Serious sticker shock! 

The cute lab puppy pictured above had a price tag of ¥98,000 or $980.00. Unfortunately, no puppy will be purchased while we live here. 

After getting my puppy fix, I shopped for a few this or that for the house. On my list was to investigate paint options. I had an idea of painting an accent wall in our family room. Here is what I discovered. Paint is different here. The paint is sold already tinted and expensive. 

The color is painted on large paint chips set above the cans and the cans have the designated color on the label.  There are no portable paint chips to bring home and think about. And you definitely don’t want to buy the wrong color because the price doesn’t accommodate mistakes.   

Upon closer inspection. It is important to note Japan uses the metric system. Paint is not sold by the gallon. Pictured here are 1.6L cans for ¥2,980. Google conversions helped me understand this amount. 1.6L is equal to approximately.422 gallon. In summary, less than a half gallon of paint cost $30. What! That’s ridiculous. Check this picture out- 

This can is less than a liter and ¥2,550. A gallon is approximately 3.7L. This color blue was one of my favorites. I would need to purchase 4 of these baby paint cans to make a gallon. That’s ¥10,000 or about $100! That’s craziness. I don’t see myself painting any more than I see us buying a $1,500 puppy! 

Shifting gears to what isn’t expensive. Sushi. My reward for cruising in da cube & not buying a puppy was picking up sushi at the grocery store for dinner. All this sushi was less than ¥1,000 or $10.00. Pretty good deal. Plus, I picked up some bubbly sake. This one may be a little too sweet. However, it pairs nicely with the salty soy sauce! 

One final picture of our kitchen table arrangement. I’ve been working hard to make this house feel and look like home. 


Long story short, I saw our future house today!!  Here is a picture of our “le” (pronounced “e-et”).  It was great to put eyes on our home sweet home.  Less than 2 weeks!

What you can’t see is the long hill I climbed to get to the house.  Nor can you feel how hot and sweaty it was to make the climb.  I know the U.S is feeling the torch of summer and Japan is no different.  It was 89 degrees – 70% humidity with a heat index of 99 degrees.  Sounds familiar to so many!

Added bonus is that it is an end unit and tucked away with a woody backyard.

And now for the longer part of the story.  Let me back up to Wednesday, 8/3.  Two key things happened.  1.  We obtained our Japanese cell phones.  This enabled me to utilize GPS and cellular service beyond wifi.  2.  My newest friend, offered to show me how to use the trains.  Armed with my new cell phone (iphone 6s) and money for a drink at a vending machine along our journey, my friend, her two kids and I, set off on a field trip to Ikego Hills and back.  We were successful in our adventure and I was prepared for my solo journey on Thursday.  Here are a few pictures to provide better understanding of the Japanese train system.

  1.  Boarding passengers form a line behind the diamonds while waiting.  Also notice the passengers across the tracks.  The benches are unique. 

  1. If you desire to sit on a bench and wait, you sit on a specific square on the bench.  Do NOT hog the entire bench.  If possible, leave a space between you and another person on the bench if you don’t know them as demonstrated in the above picture. 
  2. The trains are really clean.  Ok, maybe not the train station but, the train is really clean.  Also, it is really difficult to find a trashcan.  Another lesson learned, keep a trash bag in your purse at all times. 
  3. Do NOT talk loudly, eat, drink or anything else that would cause you to make a spectacle of yourself.  I should probably include “be a tall American women with blond hair” because people will stare at you.

This leads to my favorite game to play on the train.  During my first solo train ride on 8/4/16, I developed the adult version of “peek-a-boo”.  I sat in silence and I played on my phone for a minute or two.  Then spontaneously I would look up, make eye contact with the person staring at me and smile.  Without fail, each time I looked up, someone was staring at me.  After I looked up and caught them staring they would quickly look away or at the floor.  It was hard to keep a straight face.  I was giggling on the inside.  I didn’t feel threatened by any means.  It was more a feeling of being a mysterious anomaly who should be admired and studied.  Too much?  Seriously, I didn’t feel threatened or awkward just different because I am and that is OK!

Continuing on with my journey, here is a screen shot of my Google Map.  In case I haven’t explained how easy Google Map is to use, if you look at the directions at the bottom, it tells you what time your train will arrive, which platform, how many stops your train will make and total travel time.  Even more helpful, the blue dot travels along the route.  Enabling visual verification you are on the correct train.  Completely user foreigner friendly.

I also develop a mnemonic to help me identify my stops.

  1. Jimmuji Station – Jumanji (Station by our housing area)
  2. Kanazawa-Hakkei Station – Kwanzaa-Hanukkah (Where we switch trains)
  3. Yokosukachuo Station – Yokosuka”chew” (Station near the base)

Silly, but very helpful when everything is indecipherable.

After my trek to and from housing, I shopped along Blue Street as I made my way back to the base.  Here were items I found at a little convenience store.  Tomato Pretz, 2 flavors of KitKats (still searching for wine flavored), clorets (gum) and two individually wrapped Japanese “uncrustables”.  One flavor is egg salad and the other peanut butter.  Interestingly, neither were refrigerated and both had an expiration date of 8/6/2016.  Hmmm….

Finally, it was time for lunch.  This was a yummy soft bread covered with macaroni salad, 3 pieces of broccoli and 1 shrimp.  It was served warm.

I am happy to report that I was not a bobbing blond bobble head while exchanging currency.  I made two separate purchases and felt I handled it like a 96-hour newbie.  I followed the locals in line ahead of me and placed my CASH on the little tray that was by the register.  I bowed slightly each time (only once) and said “hai” and “aragoto” – (thank you).  Oh, and of coursed smiled.

D2 – Who knew?

This morning I was invited to venture off base with friend I have met since our arrival. She has been here about a month and in my opinion a complete expert on Japanese living. I hope to be so wise by the end of the month. She drove us to D2 (“this is not the droid store you’re looking for”) – a store equivalent to a Japanese Walmart. It was stimulating, overwhelming and a great opportunity to learn Japanese customs. The trip took about 15 minutes one way and we spent about an hour shopping.

We wandered around the plant section and selected several plants for the flower bed that is in front of my friend’s townhouse. I could feel a tug of jealousy because she is already living in her accommodations and is able to start making it feel more like home. Considering we have been gypsies and vacationers for so long, I am ready to be planted myself! 

Once we entered the store, I was overwhelmed. Most of the signs were in Japanese. Although, there are several signs labeling sections of the store. Having a little bit of English helped us to navigate around the store.

We went to the snack section because I am on the hunt for the wine-flavored Kit Kat.  No luck. We did find an interesting option available in the “snack” section. Google Translate informed me the label advertises the dried fish to be extremely high in calcium. Good to know and so is milk.

Let’s discuss what I did buy.  To start, I have been searching for LaCroix fizzy water.  No luck yet.  I have found Perrier but, it is too expensive (249 yen) and the bubbles are too small. Today, I found 3 different types of sparkling water. I purchased two bottles of each brand for my authentic science experiment to determine which brand I enjoy the most. I am secretly hoping it is the brand that only cost 68 yen vice the other two brands that cost 98 yen.  

I took a picture to refer back to later and promptly forgot the price of each one.  The little packages on the left are “fish flavored” (Google Translate) goldfish like crackers.  They are ok. Two packs of Hi-Chew.  Grape & Strawberry.  Grape is the better flavor of the two. A package of Pretz – pretzel sticks salt flavor – a handy & yummy snack.  The Japanese version of poop-pourri in fresh sprig scent (according to Google Translate).  (We are living in a hotel room for 2 more weeks, I thought that might be a nice touch.) And finally the magnetic sign for our future vehicle. It is a Japanese requirement for new drivers to attach this sticker to their vehicle until they have one year of driving experience.  It alerts other drivers you are a newbie. Totaling – 6 bottles of sparkling water, 1 package of pretzels, 2 packages of starburst like candy, goldfish, poop-pourri and my cool new driver magnet for just 1,727 yen. Rolling back the prices…

Checking out with my items was definitely an experience.  One lady scanned the items and another lady bagged the items.  Neatly.  And fit them all into one bag with great care.  I am slowly learning the cultural expectations.  The Japanese embrace every opportunity to be polite.  For example, when exchanging money, you present the money with both hands and bow slightly.  The receiving person takes the money with both hands and returns the bow.  All of this occurs while standing at the check out counter and both times a card or money is exchanged.  To put it mildly, I looked like the awkward American with a cheesy smile bobbing back and forth.  Also, the receipt is placed on a small clipboard so the customer doesn’t have to bend over to sign it.  Again, in my awkward American finesse and part bow, I lean over to sign it on the counter.  At this point I realize how far I’m having to lean over and think, “good grief these are really low check out counters.”  I only realized my mistake when my friend checked out and stood holding the little clipboard and signed her receipt.  *Facepalm*  For my homework tonight, I am going to practice bowing to the mirror with my credit card firmly held in both hands and say “hai” – meaning, yes and pronounced “hi”.

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