Don’t do illegal stuff

I’m not sure why, but I just really get a kick out of this poster on the wall at my Japanese school, advising us students to not do illegal stuff. (Apparently these are areas where foreigners are particularly recruited.)


Rice cooker cooking

Did you know that you can make 焼きいも (yaki-imo)—roasted sweet potato—in a rice cooker? I put in a couple of centimeters of water and used the quick (30 minute) rice setting. It came out with a perfect texture.

JLPT again

I posted last December about preparing for and taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). I should have added an update that I passed, and went on to take the next level (N3, or the third level of five) in July. I received my results online last week and by mail today: I passed! (Although my score wasn’t super-great.)

The experience was similar to the last time, although at least the test site was slightly closer and I got to catch up with some folks I met in a previous Japanese class. Still, I was away from home for about 6 hours for 2 hours and 20 minutes of actual test. The most annoying bit is how the exam administrators count all of the test question books and answer sheets after each section of the test. Every test taker has a unique number, we’re seated in numerical order, all of the papers are labelled with these numbers, and they’re picked up one-by-one. However, the exam administrator still counts every sheet of paper (for 150ish participants), and in my classroom, the administrator kept losing count or miscounting. I guess this reveals my lack of patience, but still, it’s an excruciating 10-15 minutes post-test to sit and watch someone count, unable to touch one’s bag, phone, or water. Overall, it’s a very Japanese experience—precisely organised, but not particularly efficient!

A new alert

I wrote previously about the weather and disaster alerts that I receive on my phone. Well, today I woke up to a new one.

The graphic’s meaning wasn’t immediately obviously and I can’t read very well, but the words “missile” and “North Korea” jumped out straight away. The alert is advising people in northern Japan to take cover as missiles have been fired from North Korea. As far as I know, the missiles passed over Japan and landed in the sea. Who knows what will happen next. There’s not much else to say, except that North Korea-related jokes are in poor taste, and it’s all quite scary.

And if anyone is curious, the alert shown for Saturday in my screenshot was for summer smog. Not nearly so worrying!

Nice cream

This has nothing to do with Japan in particular, except in relation to the super-humid weather. But anyway, I finally tried making “nice cream”, that is, an ice cream-like substance made from just bananas.

I followed the basic instructions from Oh My Veggies. Essentially, you blend frozen bananas until they get creamy. I used a regular blender, which took awhile; I reckon a food processor might be easier, at least to get it started. I added just a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder and cinnamon. It came out very lovely, although maybe a bit too sweet. Next time, I plan to try adding a bit of 飲むおから (nomu okara) or smooth okara for cooking / drinking. Okara is a powdery by-product of tofu-making, and it’s delicious. I’m hoping it will make the nice cream a bit creamier and less sweet. We’ll see!


Homelessness in Japan

One striking thing about living in Japan, compared to everywhere else I’ve lived, is that it’s very rare to see homeless people. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, of course, and I’m interested in knowing more about the social attitudes about homelessness, and the economic, gendered, and ethnic factors that contribute to the problem.

This article from a couple of years ago discusses the history of a slum district (doya-gai) not far from where I live. It seems that homelessness has decreased significantly since 2002 with new legislation that supports people in finding housing and jobs, as well as welfare benefits. Perhaps there are lessons there for other countries. Since Japan is an aging society, though, the future of the welfare state is somewhat uncertain.

Anyway, the article is worth a read.

Gill, Tom. (2014). Skid Row, Yokohama: Homelessness and Welfare in Japan. From


For a long time now, I’ve wanted to take a picture of the exceedingly cool clothes worn by construction workers and other tradespeople. (Or rather, tradesmen in Japan—almost never women.)

I don’t like taking photos of random people on the street, but fortunately I came across a short article and photo gallery featuring nikkapokka (usually called nikka), described thusly:

Billowing outward below the knee, they taper sharply at the ankles. The pants are an adaptation of the knickerbockers worn by early Dutch settlers in New York, which later became fashionable as sportswear.

The photos also show jikatabi, which are split-toe shoes with rubber soles. Have a look!

Sun and rain protection

Japanese women are very much into sun avoidance, and as the weather heats up, the latest in protective and cooling accessories dominates the shops. The merchandise below, spotted in Loft (the department store Sogo’s best shop), shows the array of possibilities.

Out of necessity, I’m also a fan of sun protection, and whenever I’m out in the sun for a long time, I wear long sleeves, including UV protection shirts, a straw hat, big sunglasses, and often a parasol. (The latter are pretty typical here, so I can use one without looking ridiculous.) But I haven’t yet tried a veil…maybe I should so that I don’t stick out as a foreigner for once!

(Click to enlarge)

June is the rainy season, so the rain gear is also making an appearance.

No guitars in the toilet

As a rule, I don’t take toilet photos, but this sign is too amazing to pass up. (Found in a public washroom in a sort of health/beauty services wing of the Yokohama station Sky Building.)

The top says, “obey the rules and pass the baton to the next person”.