Thursday, September 30, 2010

Filling out the national census form (国勢調査調査票)

In Japan, a national census (国勢調査 kokusei chousa) is done every five years, and one is being done this year!

Every household should have received a form sometime between September 23rd and 30th. The forms should be filled out and returned by October 7th either by mail (in the small envelope) or in person (in the large envelope) to the official census staff who will come to collect it.

Here's some information (slightly tailored to JET ALTs) to help you fill out the form:

[Edit: Hah! The Japanese government actually created translations and explanations on how to fill out the census form in English, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese! You can download/read the PDF files here: Oh well. It was good Japanese translation practice for me, at any rate! =P]

Section 1: 氏名及び男女の別 (Full name & gender)
氏名 (Full Name) 男 (Male) 女(Female)
They want your name just to make sure that your information hasn't been submitted elsewhere. The data won't be kept, so it (probably) doesn't matter if you write your name in katakana or English.

Section 2: 世帯主との続き柄 (Relation to head of the household)
世帯主又は代表者 (Household head, hereafter HH)
世帯主の配偶者 (Spouse of HH)
子 (Child)
子の配偶者 (Child's spouse)
世帯主の父母 (HH's parent)
世帯主の配偶者の父母 (HH's spouse's parent)
孫 (Grandchild) 
祖父母 (Grandparent)
兄弟姉妹 (Sibling)
他の親族 (Other relative)
住み込みの雇人 (Live-in employee)
その他 (Other)

Section 3: 出生の年月 (Month & Year of Birth)
明治(Meiji) 大正(Taisho) 昭和(Showa) 平成(Heiwa)  西暦 (AD)
年 (year) 月(Month) - For Jan-Sep, just the single digit is fine 
If you don't know the Japanese year (Showa, Heisei, etc.) for your year of birth, you can just select 西暦 and write 19-- (You can also look up the Japanese equivalent in your JET Diary!)

Section 4: 配偶者の有無 (Marital status)
未婚(幼児などを含む) (unmarried [also for children, etc.])
配偶者あり (married)
死別 (widowed)
離別 (divorced)

Section 5: 国籍 (Nationality)
日本 (Japanese)
外国 (Other country) → Remember to write the country name in the box!

Section 6: 現在の場所に住んでいる期間 (Length of time you've lived in your current location)
出生時から (From birth)
1年未満 (Less than 1 year)
1~5年未満 (From 1 to less than 5 years)
5~10年未満 (From 5 to less than 10 years)
10~20年未満 (From 10 to less than 20 years)
20年以上 (Over 20 years)
(If you were living in your current location but were transferred, traveled, or lived elsewhere for over 3 months before returning, please calculate the length of time from when you returned, e.g. 3 years in the house, half a year overseas, 5 years back in the house = 5 years)

Section 7: 5年前(平成17年10月1日)にはどこで住んでいましたか (Where were you living 5 years ago? Oct 1, 2005)
現在と同じ場所 (same location as currently)
同じ区・市町村内の地の場所  (within the same area/city/municipality)
他の区・市町村(other area/city/muncipality) → 住んでいた場所を記入(please record the place where you lived) 都道府県(prefecture) 市郡支庁city/district 区町村 ward/municipality
外国 (foreign country)

世帯について (About your household)
(1) 世帯員の数 (Number of Household Members) 
総数 (Total) 男 (Male) 女(Female)

(2) 住居の種類 (Type of Housing)
持ち家 (own house)
都道府県・市区町村営の賃貸住宅 (Public-owned--prefectural/city, etc. rental housing)
都市再生機構・公社等の賃貸住宅  (Urban Renaissance Agency or other government/public corporation rental housing)
民営の賃貸住宅 (privately owned rental housing - apartments, mansion complexes, etc.)
給与住宅(社宅・公務員住宅など) ([company/state-]provided housing)
住宅に間借り (rental housing, e.g. renting a room in someone's house, etc.)
 →  If any of the above, continue to (3) and (4)
会社などの独身寮・寄宿舎 (company, etc.-provided dormitory for single employees; boarding house; residence)
その他 (other)

(3) 住宅の建て方 (type of building)
一戸建 (House)
長屋建(テラスハウスを含む) (row housing, e.g. duplexes, townhouses)
共同住宅 (Apartment/"Mansion" complexes) → 建物全体の階数 (Total # of floors in the building) 住んでいる住宅のある階 (The floor you live on)
その他 (other)

(4) 住宅の床面積の会計 (Floor area)
Don't include veranda/balcony or separate storage space (e.g. a storage locker outside) measurements

電話番号 (phone number) - you may be asked to clarify things

Section 8 教育 (Education)
在学中 (currently in school) / 卒業 (graduated) 
小学・中学 (elementary/junior high school)
高校・旧中 (high school)
短大・高専 (junior college/technical college)
大学・大学院 (university/post-grad)

未就学 (preschool)
幼稚園(yochien: kindergarten; preschool)
保育園・保育所 (hoikuen/hoikusho: day care center, nursery school)
乳児・その他 (still in nursing/other)

Section 9: 9月24日から30日までの1週間に仕事をしましたか (Did you work during the week from Sep 24-30?)
少しでも仕事(収入を伴うもの)をした人 (If you worked even just a little [things earning income])
主に仕事 (You worked)
家事などのほか仕事 (did housework or other related work)
通学のかたわら仕事 (attended school and worked)
→ Complete sections 10 ~ 14

少しでも仕事(収入を伴うもの)をしなかった人 (If you didn't work even a little [things earning income])
仕事を休んでいた (vacation from work) → Complete sections 10 ~ 14
家事 (housework) → Survey ends here
通学 (attended school)→ Complete sections 10 & 11
その他(幼児・高齢など) (other [infant; senior, etc.]) → Survey ends here

Section 10: 従業地又は通学地 (Location of Work/School)
住宅(住み込みを含む) ( house [includes live-in employees])
同じ区・市町村 (Same area/city where you live)
他の区・市町村(other area/city/muncipality) → 都道府県(prefecture) 市郡支庁city/district 区町村 ward/municipality

Section 11: 従業地又は通学地までの利用交通手段 (Main mode of transportation to work/school)
徒歩のみ - On foot only
鉄道・電車 (railway/train)
乗合バス (bus)
勤め先・学校のバス (work/school bus)
自 家用車 (personal car)
ハイヤー・タクシー (taxi)
オートバイ (motorbike)
自転車 (bicycle)
その他 (other)
(If your mode of transport changes from day to day, to write your MAIN/regular mode of transportation only. If you use more than one mode of transportation, e.g. drive to train station, train, then bus, fill in all applicable forms of transportation. If your going and return modes of transportation differ, fill it in based on what you use to go to work/school.)

Section 12: 勤めか自営の別 (Type of Employment)
雇われている人 (employee) 
正規の職員・従業員 (regular (full-time) staff/employee)
労働者派遣事業所の派遣社員 (temp employee dispatched by a personnel agency)
パート・アルバイト・その他 (part-time/"baito"/other)
(Because our contracts are only for one year, ALTs are not regular employees, but in the category with part-timers, etc.パート・アルバイト・その他!)
会社などの役員 (company, etc. executive staff)

自営業主 (self-employed)
雇人あり (have employees)
雇人なし (no employees)

家族従業者 (employed by family??)
家庭内の賃仕事(内職) ("piece rate work"--work done at home for a wage (piecework, cottage industry??) - second job? )

Section 13:勤め先・業主などの名称及び事業の内容 (Place & Details of Employment)
勤め先・業主などの名称  (place of employment)
 e.g. ~市教育委員会の指導課 (~ City Board of Education, Guidance Section)
事業の内容 (details of employment)
e.g. 市区町村事務 (Municipal (city) employee) OR 都道府県事務 (Prefectural employee--i.e. high school ALTs)

Section 14: 本人の仕事の内容 (Job Description)
e.g. 外国語指導助手 (Assistant Foreign Language Instructor, i.e. ALT)

Monday, September 27, 2010

十和田駒フェスタ 2010 Towada Koma (Horse) Festa

第17回 十和田駒フェスタ 2010 Towada Koma (Horse) Festa
Date: Sat. Oct. 16-Sun. Oct. 17
Location: 十和田市中央公園緑地 Towada Chuo Park
Time: 9:00*-15:00
Events: Yabusame competition (horseback archery); show jumping competition; children's horseback performance

(*the Yururira Towada site says 10:00-15:00 in some places, but after double-checking the Towada Horseback Riding Club site, I'm fairly sure the yabusame starts at 9:00)

I went last year and really enjoyed it! Yabusame is definitely a must-see Towada event!!

(I'm quite torn as to whether or not to go this year since Ofukanai, a junior high school I visit a lot this year has their school festival (文化祭) on the Saturday. And Sunday is the Kirita Festival so I definitely will be there and won't be able to see the Koma Festa on that day...)

Walking around before the competition...
Show jumping (one of my Kirita students!)
Children's horseback performance

Feel free to check out my Facebook photo album Towada Horse Festa 2009 for more photos if you're interested, although it's mostly just more of the same. =P

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do nothing vacation

Sometimes it's important to take a holiday just to take a holiday. ^_^

When I first booked this Friday (tomorrow, Sep. 24) off, I was originally considering going to Hiroshima. Then I realized that I probably wouldn't have the money or energy to do so between my trips to Takayama in Gifu (night of Thu. Oct. 7th to Mon. Oct. 11th for the apparently fairly famous Takayama Matsuri!!) and Canada (Dec. 23-Jan. 5 for Christmas vacation, then again in Jan. 21-24 for a friend's wedding). And besides, I already went to Hiroshima once this year when my best buds visited in Mar.-Apr.

But I never got around to canceling my holiday request, and in the end I just decided that it'd be good to take a break.

And so far, so good!!

Today the only "productive" things I did were doing the laundry (a load of darks) and going to taiko practice. Other than that I wrote emails, went on Facebook, and read Koko Be Good and stated re-reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Koko Be GoodKoko Be Good is the debut (full) graphic novel of Jen Wang (she has previously had short comics published in the first and second volumes of the Flight graphic novel series). I first became aware of Jen Wang's work back around 1999-2000 when I started reading her awesome awesome webcomic Strings of Fate (1999-2003) the archives of which are sadly no longer available online. =(

But anyway, Koko Be Good--buy it! From the inside flap: "Honest, wrenching, and sharply funny, Jen Wang's Koko Be Good is a stunning debut about human nature and the inhuman efforts we make to find ourselves."

The graphic novel is quite different from the original short comic of the same name (which you can read on her website, just look under Art→Comics)--but in a good way. For me it really resonated because, like so many of the characters in the story, I'm at a stage where I'm trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life. And seeing so many of my friends finding their paths and/or settling down and getting married/having kids, I feel a lot of self-imposed pressure to "not to get left behind or something." So the story really speaks to me and it's definitely a book I expect to be re-reading a lot (which is really important when you live in a tiny apartment with only a single bookshelf).

So yeah, back to my original topic...Sometimes it's really important to just take time to relax. This week, Kocho-sensei (at Kirita) mentioned that I've been less than "genki" recently and he asked if I've been really busy/working too hard. Right now actually isn't the busiest at work that I've been, but since I'm doing both Nihonbuyo (classical Japanese dance) and taiko (Japanese drumming) now, I guess I haven't had as much "do nothing" time to refresh myself as in the past, so I'm less energetic...

Plus, much as I hate to admit it, I *am* getting older. I really can't survive on just konbini bread for dinner and 4-6 hrs of sleep per night like I used to be able to...

But anyway, I'm definitely going to enjoy the rest of this long weekend by sleeping in, reading, surfing the net, taking naps, "studying" at my favourite cafe/restaurants and maybe even cooking!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

野菜のめんつゆ煮おかず Vegetables simmered in mentsuyu

[Note: Mentsuyu = Japanese noodle sauce/soup base]

Here are 3 great recipes for おかず  (side dishes) requiring little more than vegetables and mentsuyu--so they're all super easy and cheap to make!

にんじんのめんつゆ煮 (2人分) Simmered mentsuyu carrots (serves 2)

材料 Ingredients
にんじん... …1本   Carrot - 1
黒いりごま ……少々   Toasted black sesame seeds - a little
めんつゆ(市販品・ストレートタイプ)...…大さじ3~4 Mentsuyu (store bought, straight type) - 3-4 tablespoons

1. Wash and peel carrots and slice into very thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin slicer.
2. Put carrot and mentsuyu into a hot and bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat, cover and boil for 3 minutes (stirring occasionally).
4. Once carrots are tender, remove from heat, arrange in serving dishes and sprinkle with black sesame seeds

ピーマンのめんつゆ煮 (2人分) Simmered mentsuyu green peppers (serves 2)

材料 Ingredients
ピーマン......4個   Green peppers - 4 (Japanese green peppers are small--probably equal to 1 regular-sized North American green (bell) pepper!)
サラダ油......大さじ1/2   Vegetable oil - 1/2 tablespoon
めんつゆ(市販品・ストレートタイプ)...…大さじ4   Mentsuyu (store bought, straight type) - 4 tablespoons

1. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut in half again width-wise (approx. 3-4 x 5cm pieces).
2. Heat oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry green peppers until both sides are lightly cooked/browned.
3. Add the mentsuyu. When it begins to boil, cover and let simmer (occasionally turning the peppers) on medium heat for 3 minutes.

じゃがいもの甘辛煮(2人分) Sweet & salty simmered potatoes (serves 2)
(Forgot to take a picture! @_@;; )

材料 Ingredients
じゃがいも......大1個(200-230g)   Potato - 1 large (200-230g)
めんつゆ(市販品・ストレートタイプ)...…大さじ3 Mentsuyu (store bought, straight type) - 3 tablespoon

1. Wash and peel the potato and cut into 4 pieces (width-wise). Cut again into 2cm pieces (width-wise) and let soak in water 5minutes before draining.
2. Put potatoes, 1/3 cup water and mentsuyu in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. Once boiling, reduce to low heat, cover, and let simmer until potatoes are tender (~10min).

Incidentally, all of these recipes are from this Orange Page cooking magazine: 手間なし、きっぱり「即」ごはん (Tema nashi, kippari soku gohan--loosely translated: "No hassle, super quick meals").

Out of all the Orange Page magazines I've purchased (~7?), this is probably the one I use the most. I like it (and the other magazines in the series) because not only does it have pictures for each step of the cooking process, but it also shows how all the meat/veggies should be cut in preparation for cooking! The ingredients for all of the dishes are also quite common and inexpensive.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free mandolin performance

十和田マンドリンクラブ演奏会 Towada Mandolin Club Performance (Sep 25)
Location: 十和田市民文化センター大ホール Towada Bunka Center Dai Hall
Doors Open: 13:00
Starts: 13:30
Admission: Free!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


After my awesome  "おひとり様" day on Saturday, I thought I'd be going for a repeat on Sunday.

But instead I ended up having an equally good time meeting up with other Towada ALTs to catch the final parade of Aki Matsuri and then going for a drive and a sushi dinner in Hachinohe with a friend afterward.

Impressively enough, the master of the sushi place in Hachinohe  remembered my friend and I from when we first ate there way back in March! (I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but it's across from the police box near the アルパジョン (Arpagon) bakery.)

I suspect that he remembered us because both this time and the last time I was doing my usual thing and taking photos of all the food before eating. =P I got the impression that he's seen very few (if any) other customers take pictures of their food, so that probably made us memorable. I'm also assuming that was why we got a small plate of fruit for dessert as "service"!

So with my taiko debut on Friday night, my awesome day of solitude on Saturday, and a fun day with friends on Sunday, it was an extremely excellent Aki Matsuri weekend. 
Speaking of my taiko debut, here's a photo a friend took during the performance:

(I made a number of mistakes but it was so much fun I didn't feel embarrassed about them the way I usually would. Instead, the mistakes strengthened my resolve to practice harder so I can do better next time! ^_^ )

This weekend also promises to be a good one with the 中体連新人戦 (chuutairen shinjinsen - newcomers' sports tournament) on Saturday and the Kirida Aki Matsuri on Sunday. And Monday is a holiday, too!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

おひとり様物語 Ohitori-sama monogatari

[Side note: This post is completely unrelated to the 2-volume manga おひとり様物語 Ohitori-sama Monogatari by Tanikawa, Fumiko--a collection of short stories featuring women who are "by themselves" in some form or another. I simply borrowed the title! =P I really like the manga, though, so if you get a chance, definitely check it out!]

Particularly since coming to Japan, there have been days when I've regretted being the solitary, introverted type who can't handle long and/or extended periods of socializing with people (unless they're really really close friends). I've pretty much accepted that I'll never feel at ease at large JET events/ALT gatherings, but I've definitely struggled with feeling like an outsider among the more local community of nearby JETs.

Over the past three years there have been a number of painful moments where I've realized that I've been excluded from an outing/event organized/attended by seemingly all the other ALTs from my area. I know that I kind of set myself up for it since I tend to decline a lot of invitations (because being with large groups is draining for me) and obviously people get tired of constantly having their invitations refused and naturally start to give up on inviting me... But it still stings.

But anyway, this post is NOT about that.

Today was not one of the lonely, regretful days. Today was a day where I could revel in being おひとり様 (ohitori-sama, a.k.a. by myself).

I slept in a little (until 9:30am), then did laundry and puttered around the house until about 1pm. From 1pm-3pm, I enjoyed a leisurely lunch/study time at one of my favourite Towada restaurants, イッシン (Isshin).

It was rainy and slightly cool today, so the クリームシチュー (cream stew) really hit the spot! I followed it up with my favourite アーモンドココア almond cocoa.
Cream Stew (comes w/ salad & choice of bread/rice)

Almond Cocoa
Usually when I eat by myself I eat pretty quickly, but today I ate at a very leisurely pace since I was studying kanji and Japanese vocabulary for the N3 JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) at the same time. I don't know if my study was (or has been) particularly effective, but I definitely enjoyed doing it today! ^_^ (I think I may head back to イッシン for a dinner/study session tomorrow too!)

After イッシン I headed to Jusco for groceries. I was so full, though, I couldn't even begin to think about what I'd want to cook for the week, so I ended up just buying milk, yogurt, and some chocolate chip cookies.

Back at home I took care of some emails and otherwise bummed around until about 6:30pm when I decided to head out to see the Aki Matsuri 夜間運行 (yakan unkou, loosely translated, evening parade). I actually considered not going since it was raining and it really doesn't change that much from year to year, but やっぱり even in crummy weather it's something I can't miss.

Thankfully it was only a light rain as opposed to the torrential sounding rain I woke up to in the morning, so it really wasn't too bad walking out and sitting on the curb (I brought a tarp for that purpose) throughout the parade.
Plenty of spectators, even in the rain

Even when I saw all the other Towada ALTs go by with the Chuo Group mikoshi, I simply thought "I'm happy that they look like they're having a good time; but I'm definitely happier sitting here watching them!"

Doing the mikoshi carry once was more than enough for me. Even if I enjoyed (pardon the crude language) being dry humped by mostly drunk guys for an hour, I still wouldn't join again due to the religious conflict. True, the Towada mikoshi carries are mostly 形だけ (katachi dake = shape/form only), but it's still supposed to be a god's shrine that they're carrying. In my first year I didn't really think too much about the religious implications and just took it as an experience in "Japanese culture", but now that I know better, it's not something I feel like I should participate in.

After the 夜間運行, I slowly made my way back home, stopping to try out interesting street food. This year it seems like there was a lot of new B級グルメ (B-Grade Gourmet) food stalls, like 揚げもんじゃ (age monja, a.k.a. deep fried monjayaki) and ラーメンバーガー (ramen burgers--although I had one yesterday, not today). Not that I'm complaining, of course--I LOVE trying out new/weird/interesting foods! =P

So today's dinner was 揚げもんじゃ,  シャーピン (shaapin--my favourite festival food (as of last year)), and トルコアイス (Turko Ice (Cream)).
crispy outside, gooey monjayaki inside
The BEST シャーピン stall!
トルコアイス - It's stretchy!
Safe even upside down!
I was pretty impressed by the showmanship/salesmanship of the トルコアイス guy!

All in all, it was an extremely satisfying day on my own! ^_^ I look forward to a similar one tomorrow, with the mikoshi/parade/Ofukanai JHS Komaodori, etc. in the afternoon (starting at 2pm) and--unless something comes up--another meal/study time at イッシン!  (If I have the space, I may even go for a parfait tomorrow!)
Awesome イッシン parfait!
Oh, and I've uploaded my pics for viewing in my Facebook album Towada Aki Matsuri 2010.

Closing shot:
Coolest back of a float I've seen yet in Towada! GUNDAM!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Towada Aki Matsuri

Towada's biggest event is finally upon us! This Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the 十和田市秋まつり (Towada-shi Aki Matsuri, a.k.a. Fall Festival)!!

Selected Events:

Friday, September 9:
14:00~ Parade along 三本木大通り (旧国道4号線) (Sanbongi Odori - Old. Rte. 4)
18:00~ Mikoshi (Portable Shrine Carrying); Nagashi Odori (various dances: Yosakoi, Hip-Hop, etc.) along 官庁街通り (Kanchogai Dori)

Saturday, September 10:
19:00~20:30 Evening parade (floats, mikoshi, etc.) along 官庁街通り (Kanchogai Dori)
*There are also various performances during the afternoon

Sunday, September 11:
14:00~ Mikoshi, parade, Ofukanai JHS Komaodori (horse dance), etc. along 三本木大通り (旧国道4号線) (Sanbongi Odori - Old. Rte. 4)

Check out the following links (Japanese only) for more detailed information:
Website | Event Schedule | Road Closure Map

Taiko debut!

I started practicing with the 十和田水神雷太鼓 (Towada Suijin Kaminari Daiko) Taiko group last October. Almost a year later and I've finally gotten the OK to perform in public with them this Friday at the 十和田市秋祭 (Towada-shi Aki Matsuri a.k.a. Fall Festival)!

Even though I'm super excited, personally I still don't feel like I'm quite up to snuff for performing yet. Actually, this technically isn't my first time performing with the group; I went to watch a performance in April (on Showa Day) but there weren't enough "real" members of the group, so they asked me to join in.

At the time, I only had a couple of weeks of practice under my belt after an approximately 4-month long break from practicing (because I went to Canada for Christmas vacation, then Osaka in January, was crazy busy with graduation video/gift preparations and then had friends over for spring vacation). Needless to say I performed pretty badly. It also didn't help that the drum available for me to play on was at the front, so there wasn't anyone in front of me to take a lead from... I got a DVD recording of the performance, and it was quite painful (but also amusing) to see how terrible I was. Thankfully I was cut out of the shot for most of the video. =P

Anyway, since that experience I've been much more diligent about practicing so even though I expect I'll still make a bunch of mistakes, I'm a lot more confident about performing this time around. In fact, I'm really looking forward to it! (I even recently bought a Wii taiko drum/batchi set--just the drum and sticks, no game--so I could practice in my apartment at any time without unduly disturbing the neighbours. I'm such a nerd! =P)

This is probably the first time I've ever been able to honestly say that I'm looking forward to a performance. I actually really dislike performing in front of people, but when I went to see the group's performance in July at the 十和田湖湖水祭 (Lake Towada Kosui Matsuri) I thought performing looked like so much fun I really wanted to be able to perform with them.

I never expected I'd be able to do so a mere two months later, though. Actually, I suspect part of the reason I got the OK to join the performance is probably because it's a Friday and many people are probably working and unable to make it in time, so they need more members... ^_~ Regardless of the reason, I'm glad I can finally make my debut!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Japan Post Undeliverable Item Notice: Automated Phone Rescheduling

I've explained in a fair bit of detail the process of rescheduling a package delivery using the Japan Post website in my "Rescheduling Deliveries in Japan" post, but I just got a new-style "Undeliverable Item Notice"--it's yellow!--and decided to try out the 24hr automated phone service. It's even easier than rescheduling online!

1) Call the toll free number provided: 0800-0800-888
(Call 0503-155-3155 from a keitai *calls will be charged)

2) The voice will ask you to press a button (I couldn't catch exactly what they said, but I tried twice--once pushing the asterisk * and once pushing the pound sign # and both were OK)

3) *ア→ Enter the 9-digit number consisting of your postal code (郵便番号) plus the two-digit number next to it (種類番号).

4) Enter your phone number, including the area code, followed by the pound (# a.k.a. "sharp") sign

5) *イ→ Enter the 4-digit month and day code for the original of delivery, e.g. 3月5日→0305

6)*ウ→ Enter the 6-digit delivery notice number (お知らせ番号)

7) The number will be repeated back to you. Press 1 if it's correct or 3 to cancel

8) Enter the 4-digit month and day code for the desired date of redelivery, e.g.3月6日→0306

9) Enter the 1-digit code for your desired redelivery time:
   1: 09:00-12:00 (can be requested until 07:00 of the same day)
   2: 12:00-14:00 (can be requested until 10:00 of the same day)
   3: 14:00-17:00 (can be requested until 12:00 of the same day)
   4: 17:00-19:00 (can be requested until 14:00 of the same day)
   5: 19:00-21:00 (can be requested until 17:00 of the same day)
   0: No preference (can be requested until 17:00 of the same day)

10) Your requested redelivery date and time will be repeated. Press 1 to confirm or 3 to cancel

11) Finally, press 3 to end the call or press 1 to enter (new) information from another notice

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Behind the times

Most people probably have an image of Japan as a place for all things high tech. But after living here for a while--particularly in rural areas (inaka)--you realize that Japan can be surprisingly behind the times in some ways.

For the most part I try not to complain too much about things that aren't the same in Japan as they are in Canada. And I do love my life in Towada/Japan, but I do find these three things rather irritating sometimes:

1) Non-subtitled DVDs: 

This is probably my #1 pet peeve. I mean, it's a matter of equity, right? Why is it that people with hearing impairments have less selection when it comes to DVDs that they are able to watch and fully understand?

I can't imagine a DVD (unless it was a freebie or cheap $1 one episode thing) being released without subtitles in Canada. Heck, if a DVD was released with only English or only French subtitles there would definitely be complaints.

And the thing that really gets me is that DVDs of TV series (anime, dramas, etc.) in particular seem to lack subtitles even though when they were aired (on TV) they had closed captioning! I mean, clearly subtitles were produced at some point, so it's not like including them on the DVD would be a lot of extra work.

Apart from the equity issue, I find it personally annoying because even with just Japanese subtitles I can probably understand anywhere from 10-50% more with than without. (On the other hand, some DVDs do come with English subtitles--and I love the companies that produce them!)

2) Cash-Based Society

I find it incredibly frustrating to constantly have to go to the bank to withdraw money for grocery shopping, eating at restaurants, etc. It's especially inconvenient since you get hit with service fees for using an ATM before 8am, after 6pm (I'm often at my base school until 6pm!), or on weekends/holidays (when people are most likely to use more money).

In Canada people can get away with carrying very little cash (like $20) since they can use debit/credit cards almost everywhere (Chinese shops/restaurants are probably the main exception =P). In Japan, however, it's common for people to walk around with over 10,000yen ($100) in cash. I suppose I could apply for a Japanese credit card, but I've been "scarred" by my Tsutaya W-card rejections (twice!) and it's better for my budget to avoid buying things on credit anyway.

The lack of internet banking is probably a corollary of the whole "cash-based society" thing. Apparently Aomori Bank has started a bit of an internet banking service, but it seems rather limited in scope--you can't send money overseas through online banking, for example. I guess I should research a bit more and see if I can at least view transactions on my account online. It's a pain for me to constantly have to go to the bank to update my passbook to see if my automated withdrawals went through on schedule. (Since I keep track of my spending, etc. using Quicken such information is important to me.)

Ironically, though, when I go back to Canada I often forget to use my debit card instead of cash. Just goes to show that you can get used to something even if you don't particularly like it, I guess. =P

3) Local Information Offline

This is more a problem with Towada in particular (i.e. a life-in-the-inaka rather than a Japan-wide issue), but I find it extremely frustrating to not be able to find information on various local community events, etc. online. I mean, they all make big posters and such for the events to post in community centres, etc. so why can't they just put in a little more effort to convert them into PDF files and to post them online?
The Yurirara Towada website is great, but it usually doesn't have anything more than basic information about events until a week or two before the actual date. And since it's aimed at tourists, it often doesn't have information about smaller, more local events (like the Kirida Aki Matsuri, for example).

Even for events big enough to have their own websites, said sites usually don't go up until the two or three weeks right before the event. Since I'm the type who likes to plan things well in advance, I find this extremely frustrating. The lack of advance information is also frustrating for me as a blogger trying to make more information about Towada available in English in a timely manner.