Traffic accident stats

Just a small random thing:

Our local police station has an informative sign that displays running totals of traffic accidents.

The first column has the figures for the station’s jurisdiction, while the second shows totals for the entire prefecture.

From top to bottom, the numbers are incidents, deaths, and injuries for the year to date.

For reference, the population of our prefecture (Kanagawa) is about 9 million people.

This article from Japan for Sustainability notes that while overall traffic fatalities in Japan are low compared to many other countries, the proportion of pedestrians and cyclists killed is worrying. Over half of incidents also involve elderly people (over 65), which sort of makes sense given Japan’s aging population, but it also highlights another area that needs to be addressed.

Maybe I’m just a busybody, but I’m often concerned (appalled) by a lack of basic safety especially with regard to kids. I frequently see kids in cars without car seats, or loaded onto to the popular mamachari bikes without helmets or proper belting-in. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome that so many people (i.e., women) transport their kids by bike, but those heavily-laden bikes are quite unwieldy and potentially dangerous if used with just a bit of carelessness. Not to mention the people who cycle while smoking, texting, or sheltering under large umbrellas… Eek!


Clearly yakiniku

As a non-meat eater, I will never visit this neighbourhood restaurant, but I do appreciate the clarity with which it states its focus. It’s a 焼肉 (yakiniku) or grilled meat restaurant, which is noted about 20 times on the building, plus the cow image if you weren’t quite sure!

My Number

Here’s one for the bureaucracy file.

In 2015, Japan implemented a national registry number system called マイナンバー (mai nambā – that is, My Number). It’s sort of like a social security or social insurance number, but it seems like so far it’s mostly just used as a tax ID number. It can also be used for getting a copy of your ward registry. Since it has a picture, it’s an official government ID card.

The My Number mascot

Like many (most?) people, I didn’t realize that the My Number card has an expiry date. As a foreigner, my card expires at the same time as my visa. I’ve renewed my visa on time of course, but didn’t realize about My Number until a year and a half later. Oops. Fortunately it wasn’t a big deal since the number itself was still active; just the card had to be reissued at our ward office.

On my first trip to the ward office, I had to fill out a form with my name, address, birth date, and explanation for renewing the card. The government official very kindly helped me write that part. I also had to bring along a photo for the new card, taken at one of the many convenient photo booths found in any Japanese city.

I was then told that the process was done for the moment – I just needed to wait about a month to receive a notification in the mail when my new card would be ready to pick up. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy the process was, but then I got a call later that day: the official who helped me had neglected to make a copy of my residence card while I was at the office. Luckily, my hubby was allowed to just drop by with my residence card on his way to work the next day, which he kindly did on my behalf.

So, I waited a month and received my notification postcard. It instructed me to call to make appointment. I also had to bring along a form with my name, address, and two passwords for my My Number account.

I had to wait a bit at the ward office, but when it was my turn, the official took my new form and filled out another form herself, copying from what I wrote. Then I filled out the same form again from my first visit, with my name, address, and reason for getting a new card. Then, on another form, I wrote down my passwords again.

Next, it was time to pay. First, I gave the official at the desk 200 yen in cash. Then I had to buy stamps from a vending machine to the sum of 800 yen. (This is a common way that payments for government services are handled.) I was instructed to buy one 50 yen and one 750 yen stamp, but the machine was sold out of 750, so I had to get one each of 350 and 400 instead.

Then I waited about 20 minutes to be called to the desk again. I handed over my stamps and then typed each of the passwords twice into a computer. (Remember, I had also written these twice on two separate forms.) The last step was to sign another paper, and then I finally received my new card.

I’ll get to do it again in a year and a half, hurray!

800 yen worth of stamps to pay my fee

Train congestion

It’s a bit of a cliché to note that Japanese trains are crowded, but alas, it is all too true. A recently-released report found that there are “11 train lines that surpass the 180% congestion rate” (reported on

100% means that every passenger either has a seat or a strap to hold. Some lines reach almost 200% congestion at peak times, which makes for a miserable experience, to say the least.

Table snippet – click for more

Interestingly, the congestion has actually decreased overall since the 1970s, but some lines in particular are still very bad. I shudder to think of what will happen during the 2020 Olympics!

Funny font

Another one for the neighbourhood file. This is just a run-of-the-mill dry cleaning shop, but the striking red font on the sign always strikes me as rather sinister.

Not the font I would’ve chosen for a dry cleaner

In Japanese, a cleaning shop is a クリーニング (“kureeningu”).

The shop window also features another interesting “Japanese English” word: Yシャツ (pronounced “why shahtsu”), occasionally spelled
ワイシャツ. The origin is “white shirt”, but the meaning is a man’s dress shirt in general.

Parking backward (argh)

Cultural comparisons are a frequent topic of discussion in language classes. When asked about customs or aspects of daily life in Japan that I find surprising or strange, I like to bring up car parking behaviour. Almost without exception, Japanese people back into parking spaces, while in the other countries I’ve lived (US, Canada, Australia), it’s more common to pull in forward unless there is a particular reason to back in.

Although I’m now what is called in Japanese a ペーパードライバー (paper driver)—meaning that I have a license but don’t drive—I feel very strongly that backing into a parking spot doesn’t make much sense in most cases.

Driving backward is usually more difficult, so I think that it’s much easier to back out into the wider area of the parking lot, rather that back into a more narrow space. That is, it makes more sense to do the more difficult maneuver when you have more space to work with, not less.

My Japanese teachers have generally expressed skepticism at this reasoning, but I know I’m right. 🙂 I also have anecdotal evidence of my correctness from watching people try repeatedly to back into spaces rather inexpertly, whereas they could have just easily pulled in forward and saved an awful lot of time.

Everybody backed in

Interesting job: wedding celebrant

I often glance through job ads that are targeted at foreigners, and as is to be expected, the vast majority are for English teachers of various types. However, the following caught my eye, with positions available in several cities: wedding celebrant!

Western-style, or perhaps more accurately “Hollywood-style”, weddings are quite popular in Japan, and an important part of the package is an authentic American-looking celebrant. The job posting doesn’t state this, but they are almost certainly looking for middle-aged white males only. I suppose it must be interesting work!

For example: (copied from a Gaijinpot posting)
Wedding Minister – Okayama
Company: Deliart 株式会社デリアート [scroll down to see the celebrants currently employed!]
¥8,000 ~ ¥13,000 / Project
English: Conversational
Japanese: Conversational
Must currently reside in Japan
Wedding Minisiter – Okayama
We are looking for a person who can work in Okayama City mostly during weekends.
Permanent visa is the best and possibly resident in Okayama City.
Basic Japanese skill is required.

Neighbourhood snaps

A section of the old-timey shopping street

Japan, like many countries, has seen a huge increase of big box / chain stores while small, local, family-owned businesses decline. But there are still a lot of unique shops to be found in every city.

We live near a formerly famous shopping street, which still has lots of small specialized shops that somehow stay in business. Many of the shops focus on just one item, like tea, fish, senbei (rice crackers), watches, alcohol, clothes, or vegetables.

There are also quite a few shops that are generally quirky or that just strike my fancy. So I decided to take some pictures to post some here occasionally. To start, this is one of my favourites, a shop called Tip (I think): “Dog and Lady’s Fashion”, with clothes for both women and their pets.

A one-stop shop?