Konnichi wa! Next stop: Tokyo, Japan

There is a bit of a gap from my last blog entry in Hong Kong but to recap:

Which brings me to now, 2 weeks after settling into Tokyo and starting work on October 1st.

Upon our arrival to Tokyo on September 21, a series of things had to get done right at the airport. At customs, I received a landing permit and also needed my residence card processed. Thankfully Wilton has status so that we could bring 3 extra luggage with us, for a total of 6 including carry on filled with snacks, cereal, siracha, medicine, chinese herbal teas, my pillow, and of course, ketchup. The rest of my stuff contained in 11 large boxes is still waiting in the Tokyo port (shipped from HK) until my permanent residence is finalized.

Wilton and I started off the weekend with a few short day trips outside of Tokyo.

Kamakura is located in the Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south-west of Tokyo. We visited the iconic Daibutsu which is much smaller than the Big Buddha on Lantau island in HK, hiked to Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine (where visitors go to wash their coins), and ended in the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shinto shrine.

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A special thank you to my husband who had to take time off from work before an important go-live to help me settle in. He will be coming again in a month to make my new place feel like home…and maybe help build the furniture :)

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Mo-chi!

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Only in Japan…would they use ridiculous photo ads like this to attract customers…

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The next city we explored was Yokohama which lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu. We went to the Nissin Cup of Noodle museum, the biggest Chinatown in Japan,  an outdoor shopping area called Motomachi, Minato Mirai 21 harbourside redevelopment, and saw the “the world’s biggest clock” on a ferris wheel.

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I so wish I lived in this decade that sold this:

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Customizing our own Cup Noodles including contents inside (left one by Wilton, right one drawn by me for my sis and andrew!)

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I chose eggplant, kimchi, cheese, some chicken character imitation thingie for mine.

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booooo to the lady holding a GAP bag!!!

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We were also fortunate enough to catch the Uniqlo Fashion Fes that happened over the weekend of 9/21-9/23. They overtook the Omotesando Hills area with runway shows, pop-up shops, cafes and exclusive goods, partnering with ten Japanese fashion magazines to prove that basics don’t have to be boring.

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Since I am coming to Tokyo on an expat package, the company hired relocation consultants to help us settle in. After a weekend of fun, it was time to get down to business with settling in. We started off with registering an address with the ward office of my temporary living which I will have to change again since I plan on living in a different ward. Then we set up a Citibank account which took A LOT longer than doing this in other countries. There are so many steps and checks that need to be done for a foreigner trying to open a bank account. Just attempting to put my English name in Japanese phonetic Katakana characters was a convoluted mess in itself. There really is no pronunciation sound for “yee” or “au” in Japanese so they were utterly puzzled by my middle and last name. What was even more ridiculous was looking for a phone plan for my iPhone. Local calls, no matter what phone plan, DO NOT come cheap in Tokyo. Even paying a hefty per month price for data plan does not get you free texts or local calls ($0.43 / min.).

Next we did property viewing for several different areas in Tokyo to look for my long term accommodation that the company will be paying for. There were places that looked like a bachelor pad made for single people near bars/party places, older but bigger units with 100sqm space, brand new properties smaller in size but with spa/golf range/gym amenities, but I ended up going with one that is a little bit farther from work but is located in an area with more local culture know for its great lifestyle, outdoor areas near a river for running, stores/shops/restaurants on a long pedestrian street, easy access to markets/convenience stores with affordable produce, and amenities on site with a lounge on 24th floor, gym, and 24 hour bilingual concierge service. Welcome to Kagurazaka:

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While visiting several different properties, I kept a log of what I call “foreign fails” that clearly show how uncultured I am having lived in Los Angeles almost my whole life.

  • Foreign fail #1: While looking at the view from one of the properties, I exclaim while pointing to an orange and white looking tower “Look, it’s the Tokyo tower!?” Agent politely replies: No it’s a self defense communication tower.
  • Foreign fail #2: I had to desperately go to the restroom and thankfully one of the property’s had a restroom at the lobby. I ran there and kept pushing and pulling the door to the toilet. When in fact, you are suppose to slide open the door.
  • Foreign fail #3: (After running into the bathroom) “It’s dark in here!!!” Light switches in Tokyo are on the outside of rooms.
  • Foreign fail #4: Almost all of the properties were characterized with lots of doors in the entrance leading to closets, storage rooms, the toilet, or separated shower. I officially attempted to exit the apartment through the storage closet door.
  • Foreign fail #5: Apartments here usually have a “fish grill” that replaces the ubiquity of the microwave in the USA. So we attempted to cook some left over Doraemon taiyaki in the fish grill and it ends up over heating. I start frantically waving my underwear to fan out the smoke. Wilton then points out that I could have just turned on the vent above the stove.
Weekend activities:
Yesterday I went to the National Art Center for the American Pop Art exhibit which had collections from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, Mel Ramos and others. I saw a can of Campbell’s soup called Hot Dog Bean. I really liked its description on the label “tender beans and little frankfurter slices.” It really made my day. I get amused by the most random things.
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Today I decided that I needed to get out and do some running. There is a popular 5KM circuit circling the Imperial Palace that I ran (about 6 miles total including the run from the short term accommodation in Roppongi. It was a delight getting to see a bit of culture on the left with the city on the right.

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I was also able to check out the one year anniversary of the Bicqlo store in Shinjuku. ‘BICQLO’ was born out of a collaboration between UNIQLO and Japanese home appliances/electronics retailer BIC CAMERA. The collaborative effort between the two companies aims to combine the know-how in each area of expertise for a one-of-a-kind experience with special events and products.

As a foreigner, I was able to finally grasp the special promotion going on with the BICQLO capsule game after observing the storm of Japanese people and asking the store staff with their broken English. Basically, customers with a purchase of over 5,000 yen between a certain timeframe will receive a BICQLO coin. Customers have a chance to win big prizes and special BICQLO items by inserting this medal in the UNIQLO Capsule Game as shown below. Because the store gamefied this entire process with capsule machines (SUPER popular in Tokyo), people were more driven to spend the minimum Yen required for the coin that would exchange whatever it is that popped out of the machine even if it was just a 100 Yen off 1000 Yen purchase. Genius.

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Shinjuku at night filled with shops, restaurants, karaoke/dart bars, huge malls

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Another edition of “Only in Japan”…

…would they use cute characters like Rilakkuma to promote glasses

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…would they have rows and rows of capsules that serve like easter egg surprises

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…is the space so tight that they need automatic bike parking that accepts your bike from a mysterious opening and parks it in an intricate underground parking

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