yakiimo is heaven

It’s warm now as May approaches. So I wasn’t expecting roasted sweet potato (or yakiimo in Japanese) would still be sold – they’re usually around during the colder months. But when we saw a man eating his yakiimo passionately on a bench near the grocery section in Ito Yokado, I also craved for one; which had Mayumi laughing and saying “yappari!” (I knew it!). 😀

Happy me the big ones are available again this time!

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Yakiimo is so sweet it’s like candied sweet potato. Roasting it on the stone however, brought out its natural sweetness.

Ah. Love.

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Yui had her share of the goodness as well, had it with her oatmeal. Like Mommy, like daughter I think. 🙂

I used to hear yakiimo jingles on speakers attached to the trucks of yakiimo sellers. They’re very seldom seen nowadays and that yakiimo are now more frequently sold in supermarkets. I’d prefer buying the traditional way though albeit Ito yokado probably has the best yakiimo in the region. 😀

on Japanese honesty: Family Mart and my 500yen

Two weeks ago, we dropped by the Family Mart nearest our place to get something printed (yes, we still haven’t bought our own printer!). Thankfully there was English instruction on the printing machine so I was able to follow through the instructions. Thing is, it was designed that you drop your coin first before proceeding which is unlike other printing machines in malls and techie stores. So it was only after I dropped my 500yen that I learned that the machine can’t print PDF files, only jpeg files. Disappointed, I cancelled my request and with a frown went out the store, my mind working on re-planning our itinerary for the day with my parents as it was heavily dependent on that document to be printed.

Because my mind was preoccupied, I totally forgot about my 500yen coin, still in the printing machine coin slot. When I remembered about my coin an hour after, it was with a pang – it’s gone for good for sure.

I hadn’t thought about it thereafter and only remembered it when my sis in law and I (and yui) again dropped by the convenience store last Tuesday. With a smile, I suggested to Mayumi to ask the staff if they’ve noticed some coin that was left on the printing machine a couple of weeks ago.

The staff had an eager yes for confirmation and without hesitation gave us our 500yen. Wow.

Wanderlust

Proof of how much a wanderer I was during my single days stint in Japan – happened to look at a list of famous sites in Japan and I realise I have been to all of them, and other places besides. And no, they’re not located in the same region.

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Diaper talk: Combi’s Sangenic and garbage collection

Garbage segregation is strictly implemented here in Japan. Every household has a copy of the daily garbage pickup schedule – what type of garbage gets picked up at certain days and at what time. And if you’re a delinquent and your combustible garbage is with PET bottles, trust that the garbage dudes definitely won’t pick it up.

The schedule differs with every area. in ours, burnables/decomposing garbage and plastic wrappers/cellophane/styro and similar stuff gets collected twice a week at Mondays and Fridays (albeit burnables should be in a different garbage bag as the plastics). PET bottles are on Tuesdays, big boxes and old magazines/books (should be neatly tied and bundled together) every second Saturday of the month, und so weiter. And oh, it’s required that you use see-through garbage bags, well, sometimes, it’s out of courtesy as well.

During winter, spring and fall, the decomposing garbage getting holed up inside your house is just fine. The cold ambient arrests the bacteria that would otherwise cause foul odour. It’s a different matter though during summer when it’s hot and decomposing garbage could fester fast. Thankfully, we don’t cook much nowadays, especially during the workweek so it’s not torture at all.

However, I can just imagine how used baby diapers would reek after four days of being held up in the garbage can. Or rather, I really don’t want to imagine at all.

Hence, I am convinced that this special diaper trash can made by Combi is really a boon for parents in properly disposing their baby’s poop.

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The “contraption” is actually a bit complicated when we tried to check it out – Mayumi and Hubs had quite a good laugh about it as we explored how it is used. But basically, it uses a disk of partitioned cellophane. When you throw away the used diaper inside, the opened partitioned cellophane will “candy-wrap” the diaper as it goes to the bottom, leaving a newly opened cellophane gaping wide open to receive yet another used diaper.

Supposedly, the “candy wrapping” and good trash can seal can eliminate the odour seeping out of the trash can. Hopefully. Let’s see how it is in a few months’ time or should I say, next summer.

we’re now informed; a pregnancy registration experience

If truth be told, during the first few weeks of pregnancy, I had to make peace with a lot of big differences of prenatal care here in Japan as compared to western countries and in the Philippines. To name a couple, no maternity hospitals/clinics are open on Sundays (as are some other hospitals for sickness except for those hospitals designated for emergencies) and that maternity hospitals here as a general practice don’t prescribe prenatal vitamins. Yes, even folic acid.

I felt that there was disparity on how one of Japan’s most pressing problem is its ageing population owing to lower birth rates and yet we didn’t feel any government support on the pregnant population. One would have thought that Japan would step up on this pressing issue. But there seems to be no action.

Apparently though, we’re just uninformed. The Japanese government of course had already taken action. No, they don’t give out vitamins. But they give support alright.

When we visited the ob-gyn last month, we were advised to go to the ward office/city hall to register our pregnancy. I thought it’s just as brief as when we go there for alien registration which usually takes just about 10 minutes max. But it took me one hour this time! Why so?

The ward officer had to explain to me everything he gave me in this package after I had filled out the necessary forms.

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In the package, one of the things I was giggling is this.

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Supposedly I’d attach it on the sling of my bag to earn me a seat on the train. Unfortunately though, as is typical with most Japanese who doesn’t have a culture of staring at other people, most of them are so busy reading their books or with their phones that they don’t notice the woman in front of them wearing the badge. The badge only earned me a seat once. Nevertheless though, I’m happy just wearing the badge.

What the hospital really wanted me to get from the ward office though is the boshi kenko techo (母子手帳) or the Mother and Child Health Handbook.

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The ward office employee asked me if i wanted the Japanese or the English copy. Of course I chose the English one. Inside the book are pages used to contain information of your history prior to pregnancy, your record during pregnancy (the checkups you had, weight gain, tests you undertook and even dental checkups) and record of your baby’s health after birth (the developments, the immunizations administered).

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Since it contains all the record of the immunizations of the baby, obviously I need to keep this handbook with me until baby is well into kindergarten. Or thereabouts.

The guidebook that came with it was really helpful. It showed some advise on how to take care of yourself during pregnancy, your diet, who to ask for help in your area etc.

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I was most thankful though on the section which tells about the law and your rights at work.

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It was clearly stated that it is prohibited by law to dismiss from work or discriminate pregnant women or women who gave birth. They even gave a contact number if in case you meet some problems.

The government really had to take care of that fact. Otherwise they’d find themselves in a worse predicament than they are now what with women deciding to work instead for self fulfillment.

Now this is sweet. The guy in the ward office gave me these two pads.

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The one in the left I should bring with me during my prenatal visits. This booklet contain slips of ¥4700, ¥7000 and ¥12000 which will subsidize the expenses incurred during our checkups. In our last checkup two weeks ago, I had to take all the routine tests. And even with our company insurance and the ¥12,000 slip, we still ended up paying ~¥10,000. So really, the subsidies helped. Without the ¥12k slip, we would have had paid ¥22,000!

The other booklet on the right contain slips for every immunization that baby needs. I just take out one slip designated for a particular immunization and baby would get it for free.

These two booklets however are given only once so if you loose it, you can’t ask for another one again.

By the way. These subsidies are only acknowledged in hospitals in our area or in some hospitals outside Yokohama which are approved by the Yokohama city government. Meaning i can’t use these slips in Tokyo if ever I decide to have my checkups there. The same goes for Tokyo-issued boshi techo and subsidy slips.

I was also advised on the parenting and birth classes available in the area and the schedule. They have no English classes however. I just might have to request hubby to translate during the class! Haha. I’m still hoping though we’d catch an English class, even if it’s in Tokyo.

I was also advised that once I’ve given birth, we should register the birth within two weeks so that baby and mommy can enjoy more privileges (will share more next time).

Anyways, the government does care after all. 🙂

Excited to see baby again on the monitor in our next prenatal visit! Hope you’re growing healthy and fine baby.

my sweet potatoes

I’ve always loved sweet potatoes ever since we were kids and we’d snack on it. Goes without saying that I associate them as well with happy childhood memories. That and the other merienda food that our parents prepare for us for the 3o’clock snacks.

But when I tasted the Japanese sweet potatoes, I was even more hooked! They were just so creamy and sweeter. They’re usually sold around here, roasted, sitting atop very hot stones. Holding hot sweet potatoes on a cold winter (they are more usually sold around here during the cold season) is like a happy thing, making you smile like a kid with his cotton candy.

And oh, did you know that sweet potatoes are considered super food? They’re rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C (which is not just for a healthy immune system but also plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation; helps accelerate wound healing, produces collagen which helps maintain skin’s youthful elasticity, and is essen­tial to helping us cope with stress), Vitamin D for a happier sun-shinier you, Iron for more energy and better red & white blood cell production, Magnesium the anti-stress and relaxation mineral, Potassium to help regulate heartbeats and nerve signals, Carotenoids for better eyesight.

For the more thorough details on the benefits of sweet potatoes, click here.

Every now and then, I’d buy sweet potatoes when we do our weekly groceries. When earlier, I saw a big pack of small sweet potatoes, I just had to buy even when it was a big pack because the small sizes would make it easier to cook and consume. I don’t have to cook everything all at once.

We were surprised though when we peeled our potatoes after I had it steamed.

It’s violet!

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It being violet, it probably doesn’t have the carotenoids usual in their orange counterparts. But they’re still sweet and creamy alright and probably still contains all the vitamins and minerals sweet potatoes have. Will boil more, tomorrow. 🙂

Fuji-san

Wasn’t able to photo capture Fuji-san the other morning when the snowcapped mountain looked so clear and powerful. Thankfully I had the time to capture Fuji-san during sunset. But was so surprised how the mountain looked so small on the photo when it certainly looked so looming for us in actuality.p Probably I need a professional to capture it as it is. 🙂

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Shake Duo

Hubs requested that we drop by Book Express for his book shopping fix on our way home from office. It was a good thing this duo was doing a performance in the open space in front of JR Sakuragicho Station. They were pretty good! Hence I had a good time as I waited for hubs. I noticed though that most of us who were watching were women.

(sorry for the shaky cover on the first minute. I dropped my PET bottle and had to retrieve it haha 🙂 )

They were giving away flyers for their upcoming concerts; their first album is selling at ¥2500 yen.

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In fairness the vocalist’s voice was good and blending with the backup was good as well. Beatbox man was pretty good too! No wonder many were hanging around to watch them instead of the usual handful of watchers for other singers on other days.

Hope to hear more from you guys.

Mikoshi in Gumyoji

Hubs and I doesn’t really keep ourselves updated with the community billboard hence it came as a surprise to us when we went out the house and met some Mikoshi-costumed people and heard the boom of drums a few minutes after.

Right around the end of August, just when the peak of summer has just passed and temperatures have started to drop a bit, Mikoshi (神輿) parades are held all over Japan. The Mikoshi is actually a sacred palanquin where the spirits or diety of that particular festival are ceremoniously enshrined. Mind you, the mikoshis really are elaborately designed.

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The Mikoshi is carried around by the people taking part in the parade.

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The sacred palanquins are preceded by the drums, announcing its passage.

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I once participated in a Mikoshi parade back in 2007 and interestingly enough, it was also here in Gumyoji. I can’t say though that I’d do it again. We didn’t wear tabi (足袋 or たび or the traditional Japanese socks) though like what this year’s participants did.

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And it seems more elaborate this year because the priest paraded with the group.

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Yeah there’s a high probability that I just didn’t notice the priest parading with us back then, laden as we are with the Mikoshi (yes, it is heavy!). But I do believe this year’s Mikoshi is more festive, more passionate, more feverish than it was years before. I could think of one reason why it is so but whether I’m right or wrong, it makes me happy that this kind of tradition that has been around for centuries is still going as strong as ever.

Bunko and Obon

We were pretty much holed up inside our home the whole day. Hubs was pretty busy cutting up his books, scanning it and uploading in his Dropbox application so he can retrieve it in either his iPhone or iPad with the ibunko app. By scanning books, we can save up some room in the house (if a person buys an average of 10 books a week, you can pretty much imagine how his house looks like) and he can read them whenever or wherever he likes. Of course his favorite books won’t be dissected.

So since he’ll be cutting books, you can imagine how big his cutter was. Honestly though, I didn’t imagine the cutter to be as big as this! I was pretty confused with the size of the box when I was signing the delivery form.

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And I was pretty impressed with the scanner Hubs ordered from Amazon. It can scan a back to back paper in just a second, without having to flip the paper to scan the other side like the one we had in the office.

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Fruit of Hubs’ labor today. From iBunko App

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Bunko by the way is a small sized paperback that’s pretty popular here in Japan.

Having had stayed inside the house the whole day, we were surprised that outside our the house, a festival was ongoing in the open field just a few steps from our apartment. Thankful that we had to go out for dinner, otherwise we would have missed this traditional Japanese event.

Obon Odori (お盆 盆踊り) is one of the summer festivals in Japan. Obon is the Buddhist tradition of honoring the dead and it involves Odori or dancing. Most of the participants (basically our neighbors) were wearing their summer kimonos.

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It’s a good time for neighbors to bond as well.

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We dropped by the Obon Odori when we were on our way out. Later, laden with heavy purchases from the grocery, we were able to catch the last part of the Odori for a (very) short video.

Happy weekend everyone!

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