Here are the most worthwhile purchases I’ve made since coming to Japan (in order of most to least expensive rather than importance):
1. 1999 Toyota Vitz (¥350,000)
I didn’t realize how much I loved my car until I got into the accident and had to make the decision to junk it and get a new one rather than fixing it. It felt small but was big enough to fit five people. It handled really well and was quite fuel efficient. And I loved how cute and red it was! My K-car now is much more economical (I’m actually paying LESS insurance per month even after the accident!) but I don’t feel the same pride of ownership as with the Vitz when I look at it.
2. Toshiba TW-180VE SDD-Hybrid Drum Front-Loading Washer-Dryer (¥116,000)
I’ve always wanted a front-loading washer and dryer set, and now I have a front-loading washer-dryer! It’s awesome!! Granted, it takes more time overall to do my laundry than it would to do the same load size in Canada, but I love the time set function (i.e. I can put all my laundry in at night and program it to finish washing and drying the next morning) and all the different settings: dry clean, delicates, towels, etc. Basically, I just love it!! It was definitely the best purchasing decision I made when I was deciding what to buy for the apartment!
3. Casio EX-Word (XD-SW6400) Electronic Dictionary (¥15,750)
I still can’t believe my luck in finding this at the Hard-Off. I use it almost everyday. The ability to input kanji by writing it with a stylus is indispensable!
4. Kenkyusha Japanese-English Dictionary CD-Rom (Casio EX-Word DATAPLUS2 XS-KE04) (¥11,235)
The Kenkyusha dictionary is so much better than the Japanese-English dictionary that comes with the XD-SW6400! It has a LOT more entries and examples. I wouldn’t be a Hotaru no Hikari proof reader for J-SiS if I didn’t have this dictionary to check translations against.
5. Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary SD Card (Casio EX-Word DATAPLUS3 XS-KD01CA) (¥7590)
This is an indispensable tool for learning the correct stroke order for writing kanji. Plus it’s a good back-up to have for those times when no matter how hard I try, I can’t get the proper kanji to show up when I write it by hand: with this I can look up the kanji by the stroke count, instead!
6. LPD3213 Compact Fuji Lamipacker (A3) (¥6980)
When I got Christmas money from my parents in my first year (I stayed in Japan that year), I immediately decided to buy a laminator with it and I’ve never regretted the decision! I’ve made dozens upon dozens of flashcards with it—often late at night/in the wee hours of the morning. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time/gas/mileage I would’ve had to have used to drive to the office to do my laminating if I hadn’t made this wise investment early on in my time in Japan.
7. Harmony Eupa Toaster Oven (TSK-2847N) (¥3980)
Most toasters in Japan don’t have temperature settings, just wattage settings, so I was really happy to have found this! I have made hundreds of cookies using this toaster. When I first bought it, I also had a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza toast for dinner!
8. DVD Player (YTO-104) (¥3480)
It plays both R1 and R2 DVDs. My first year in Japan, I was pretty much the only Towada ALT to stay in Towada over the winter vacation, so the DVD player (and Tsutaya’s ¥100 rentals) was my best friend during that time!
9. Miffy Slippers (¥780)
In Canada I was never a slipper-wearing person, but even in the apartment the floors get pretty cold, so it’s great to have warm, lined slippers to wear around the house! They also look a lot nicer/cuter than the old blue pair I bought at the ¥100 store when I was living in the old house.
10. Onigiri Mould (¥105)
This probably saved me from many a dinnerless night when I first arrived in Japan! Even now, whenever I have to bring a bento to school or the office, I almost always make mayo-tuna onigiri. Sure, I could make the ongiri by hand, but using the mould is so much easier and faster (it takes about two minutes to make two).