Saturday, December 13, 2008

A small word about small change...

Since Jenn left today and I have lost access to our Slingbox to watch US TV (technical, network issues back home), I'm trying to catch up on some stuff that I've been meaning to post...

I never carried change back home. I would come home at the end of the day and drop my change in a large, glass jar in our office. It went in and never came out. I cashed in several hundered dollars in coins before we left.

Things are slightly worse here in Japan... they have larger denomination coins here, so you get more of them. The smallest bill is 1000 Yen (a good rule of thumb conversion is that 100 Yen = $1). The coins of Japan...

From Left to Right:
  • 500 Yen - The most coveted of Yen coins. I refer to it as an umbrella coin (all the convenience stores carry umbrellas for 500 Yen if you get caught in the rain) or the Starbuck's coin (it will get you a grande pretty much anything at Starbuck's).
  • 100 Yen - Still pretty functional. Very useful for vending machines, which are everywhere. A bottle of water will cost you 100-140 yen.
  • 50 Yen - Kind of cool with the hole in it. Useful, worth carrying. I will pick a few of these up when I walk out each morning.
  • 10 Yen - Discussed further below. Not worth carrying, as is everything from here down.
  • 5 Yen - Practically worthless. Vending machines won't take them. Easy to confuse with 50 Yen coins.
  • 1 Yen - Much like the US penny. You feel cheated when you get them back. Made of some space age material that feels like di-cast metal. It feels like it should float.

The 10 Yen coin has become the bane of my coinage existence. It seems like everyday I come home with a handful of these things. But you have to carry a bunch of them to buy anything, so they are not worth the work they require to haul them around.

Fortunately, the Japanese have provided a solution to this problem:

Yes, a beer vending machine.

As you look at the first picture, our apartment would be 90 degrees to the right around the corner. So door to coin drop, this is about 60 seconds away. Next to it is a cigarette vending machine. It's interesting that for cigarettes you need a special card to prove that you're 18, but you can just walk up and get beer.

Note the very ample selection - a variety of premium and lite beers, 12 oz. cans and tall boys. And it is actually cheaper than the convenience store down the street from it (the Family Mart).

So how does this solve my 10 Yen coin problem? Well I periodically gather up a bag of 10 Yen coins, grab a grocery bag and head over there and stock up. As was the case on this evening (Kirin Zero is my personal favorite):

The alternate title for this post was "The greatest vending machine in the world..."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

We Wish You a Merry Christmas...

We wish you a Merry Christmas...
We wish you a Merry Christmas...
and a Happy New Year!!!

So, I am heading back to Texas tomorrow and then John joins me a week after that. I have to say...very excited to be visiting my family. Not to mention that I LOVE Christmas time. In preparation for the big visit John and I had a whirlwind weekend of Christmas shopping and light viewing last weekend. We even went to a Christmas concert put on by the church that we go to. I have to say, one of the most interesting Christmas concerts I have ever had the opportunity of going to. It was fantastic, but as John pointed out...we realized after song #2 that there was little chance of hearing the regular and beloved songs we were familiar with. While the song entitled "Away In a Manger" gave all indication of being one of the classics...not so.

When I got out our very few Christmas decorations including our little silver fiber optic Christmas tree in the picture, I was a little sad. John and I always go pick out a live tree together and then spend a day picking out the best places for our decorations and putting lights on our house. It's like a fun surprise every year to look at our wonderful ornaments that have been packed away for the year and get to pick the perfect place on the tree for them. Well, I have to say, I have a whole new appreciation for our little tree and I will never take it for granted ever again.

However, while our apartment might not be full of all of our favorite decorations, I must say that Tokyo has not been a disappointment. Christmas is everywhere. Everything is decorated, just like at home. There are all sorts of Christmas trees and light displays. One of my favorite things about Christmas is the lights. I love lights....all colors, all places, all lights and I have to say that here in Tokyo they side with me. John and I decided the best way to express our Christmas greetings to you would be to share with you some of our favorite Christmas decorations...Tokyo style.

We want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Until next time....Jenn & John

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just a Walk in the Park

The day after our wonderful Thanksgiving celebration, John and I woke up a little groggily to get the day started. I had the beginnings of a cold coming on, but we got up and put everything back in it's place, put some things in the know the drill the day after a party. And then I decided that I needed to go ahead and take down my Thanksgiving decorations and put up the Christmas decorations. Please note that I have a ton of Christmas decorations at home, but we only brought a few things to put around for the holiday.

My friend Kate had just lent me some of her Christmas CDs to listen to, so I fired up one of them and guess what comes on as I'm looking at my five sad little Christmas decorations....."I'll Be Home for Christmas"....needless to say, in my pre-cold, post-party state of mind I totally had a little girly breakdown. I realized just how ready I was to go home for the holidays. Poor John, he had no idea how to make it he comes over to help me "decorate" our pint size silver fiber optic Christmas tree, which did get me laughing and then he decides that the weather is just too nice to miss out on, so we need to go for a walk.

We decide that the weather was so nice this would be a great day to take in one of the really big parks in the city...Yoyogi Park, which is a metro ride away. We had been there once before during the week and it's beautiful. That day there were just a handful of other people strolling along the many paths inside. So when we got there we were in for quite a surprise.

At the entrance to the park we were greeted with an offering for Free Hugs...spread a little love around people.

Then we hit the Dancing Elvises which were a riot. I mean they were really getting into it....rock and roll kids....rock and roll. Of course, the music was in Japanese, so we didn't understand it, but you could get the drift. The hair was priceless.

John and I then stroll down one of the paths...we see like 15 people under one tree that's changing colors trying to capture the perfect picture. This isn't one of the locations people suggest to see the foliage, but it was still really pretty there....especially coming from Texas where the leaves are typically green or dead.

There are people was insane how many people were just all over the place. Practicing their instruments (we heard the diggory do, trumpet, bagpipes), dance routines, theatrical performances, bartending get the idea. It was madness and pretty awesome. Then we headed over to the dog park within the big park. We walk up and John says, "this is just like home"....while I chime in, "except these dogs are all clothed". We saw sweatshirts with hoods, skirts, a French bulldog with a scarf, and one poor dog had shoes on all four legs, but the best was most definitely the family of pooches dressed in their Santa costumes. John said that they must be the toughest dogs in the park to be dressed like that....too funny. Just a regular walk in the park in Tokyo.

Needless to say my melancholy quickly cleared up and I was thoroughly entertained by it all. Of course, now my cold is full fledged and I'm confined to the house and lots of sleep (yes, I'm accepting all pity), but yesterday was perfect and any time that I'm a little sad...I'm going to take a look at this picture and remember that the world is really a funny place.....
Until next time...Jenn