Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Feature From the Very Far East

Konnichi wa (Hello)! Today you are in for a special treat, because instead of the usual ramblings from the Quilting Queen, you get something much, much better...a treat from the far east!  It's Hollie here, coming to you straight from Sasebo, Japan.  I was asked by my mother, the Quilting Queen, to be a guest feature and post on her blog.  Although I haven't quilted or sewn in quite some time, we both thought it may be fun for me to provide you lovely readers a glimpse of my life here in Japan.  

I have lived in Sasebo, Japan, home to Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo, for two years now.  My husband, a Navy Corpsman, received orders for  Naval Branch Health Clinic Sasebo in September 2012, and our two kids and I were lucky enough to tag along.  Some days living overseas can feel like a blessing and a curse, but we try and make the most of it.  It has been a great opportunity to experience some culture, show our kids a whole new world (literally), and grow closer as a family.  

Since I possess no known talents, the best I can do is share with you a "day in the life of."  So, sit back, relax, and enjoy...

Every adventure would not be complete with  my trusty side-kick, Kameron (aka Kam).  He is also so my super adorable son.  One thing about Japan is even if you park, be prepared to do lots of walking.  Another thing about Japan is you can go ahead and say "good-bye" to your personal space and be prepared to have your bubble invaded.  If I have errands to run out in town (that is, not on the American military base) I typically wear Kam in a baby carrier, as pushing a wide American stroller in a packed restaurant or shopping center is super inconvenient.  

Today I am heading to the Ginza, a shopping arcade full of restaurants and shops, to grab some coffee and hit up the "100Yen" store.  It's just like a Dollar Tree, BUT MUCH, MUCH BETTER.  Everything in it is only 100 yen, (which given the conversion rate, is approximately $1).  

It was raining out today (which is pretty typical) and although the Ginza is only a fairly short walk from my apartment, I did a very American thing and parked closer to where I needed to go.  My car is that little white jewel on the end.  I still feel like a clown driving it.  Here in Japan you back into your parking spaces, I haven't quite figured out why...I'm assuming it's because spaces are tight and other drivers aren't accustomed to spotting others drivers who are backing out of spaces, therefore it's a preventative measure to avoid accidents.  Regardless, let's all take a moment and celebrate my stellar backing skills.

You can pretty much find anything you need in the Ginza.  My favorite restaurants are here, several grocery stores, and if I could squeeze my ginormous American body into their petite sizes, clothing stores as well.    

A drugstore.


We even have a Claire's (my daughter's favorite).

It's typically this crowded.  Imagine weaving a stroller through this mess.

Mister Donut (a doughnut shop).  

I already know what you're thinking, so let me just go ahead and put to bed any suspicions that I am a professional photographer.  No, I am just a sarcastic housewife who clearly needs to take a few lessons on how to capture better pictures with an iPhone.  

Finally- the 100 Yen store.  I would take a picture of the front of the store, but it's inside the 7th floor of  a building and so when you get off the elevator, there is no sign, you're already inside the store.  Which brings me to another cultural difference:  in Japan, the stores are stacked on top of each other, there just isn't enough space for everything to be on the ground level.  

This store has EVERYTHING.  On this particular day, I was on the hunt for craft supplies for my Girl Scout Daisy Troop that I lead.

Domo arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you very much)!  The best part about Japan (in my very humble opinion) is the SERVICE.  I have never been to a store or restaurant and had bad service, and I don't even speak the language.  I cannot imagine how annoying it is for them to try and meet my needs when I don't even do them the courtesy of learning the language!  

While I was walking back to my car, I managed to snap a few pictures of the things I found to be so very strange and different when first moving here. 

There are vending machines EVERYWHERE.  I probably passed several dozen in my fifteen minute walk to the 100 Yen store.  And even that estimate is most likely conservative.  

The selections with the red tags are actually served HOT.  Crazy, right?  We have both Pepsi...

...and Coca-Cola!  Yes, coke wars are international, too.  Coke is also winning here, too.

You can also grab your pack of smokes on the go, as there are tons of cigarette vending machines, too.   When you become of age, you can just slide your ID in the slot and it will verify you are old enough for the purchase.   

There is virtually zero litter here.  What's even more mind blowing is the fact that there are no trash cans, either.  Instead, citizens are supposed to carry their trash with them until they come upon a recycling disposal, then separate their trash into the appropriate bins.

Coming from a nation where most simply toss their trash out their car window on their way to work, this whole trash disposal system was so amazing to me.  And the people actually do it!  It's all they know!

There is also no crime!

Notice these bikes and mopeds are chained to nothing!  And yet there they sit, undisturbed and free from vandalism, until their owner returns.  There have been several occasions when I have taken a  stroller and left it outside a store while I shopped or dined.  It is always there waiting for me when I return.  It will be very hard to readjust to the zero crime factor when returning to the US.

Finally, my last stop of the day, Starbucks Coffee.  It's so wonderful that there is a Starbucks here cause a girl needs her coffee!

Isn't she adorable?  The women here are so beautiful, and with such sweet dispositions. 
Sumimasen, venti white mocha,  onegaishimasu (Excuse me, a venti white mocha, please).

The best part!! Instead of spelling your name wrong on your cup, they draw a cute picture.  I am assuming the curly haired doll is actually my son, and I am the smiling blob-haha!!  They LOVE my son here, I don't know if it's because he's a baby, or that he's adorable, or his great hair, or if it's because he's an adorable baby with great hair, but they eat him up!

I hope all of you have enjoyed my little feature on the Quilting Queen blog, leave any questions or something you would like to see featured in the future.  I was going to present to you all a dining experience, but I will save that for later (that is, if you will have me again).  

Matane (See you soon)!



  1. A very interesting post, thanks for sharing!

  2. Loved this post this morning! Kam is just too adorable! Gorgeous pictures! Hey! You did a great job backing in to that tiny space! Looking forward to your next "visit"
    This was a wonderful idea " Quilting Queen" it has been a treat to follow your daughter for a day!
    Hugs Marg.

  3. Thanks for a very interesting post Hollie. The 100 yen store looks amazing! I hope you will post here again soon.

  4. What a fun post!! I love learning about other cultures! The lack of green growing stuff - especially grass - is really a shocker in the high population density areas in Asia. I got to visit my daughter in Seoul, Republic of Korea, when she was stationed in that country. I am looking forward to your next post about life in Japan! Funny how we expect to have the same values and customs in every country and we are so wrong! With so many people crammed into such a small area, manners are so very important and then when you are trying to get on the subway, you just bash your way on there with everyone else! Your personal space bubble certainly has to shrink!!

  5. Hello Hollie. I really enjoyed your post. I have never been to Japan but it looks like a fascinating place. Thanks for sharing a day in your life with us.

  6. Loved reading this - more, more, please!

  7. Thank you Hollie !!!! You need a blog too ! My life in Japan.
    This was a great idea Doris ! I loved reading Hollie's story. Do it again !


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