What to do when your cell phone breaks while you’re abroad? Send help!

Hey, guys!

I mentioned earlier that my cell phone died, more of self-destructed, so I’ve been left without a phone for probably about 2 to 3 weeks. In this time, I’ve had to overcome my millennialism and learn how to live without a cell phone. I have some tips for you!

“My cell phone broke, what do I do now?”

Well, you have a couple of options. If you’re an お金持ち人, a rich person, you can go down to your local SoftBank or any provider of your choosing and get a prepaid phone, which means you either pay for a certain amount ahead of time or you can pay for what you use. Of course, if you’re living somewhere long-term, you might just consider a plan.

“But wait, I don’t want to pay for all of that! My old phone was just fine, can’t I get it repaired?”

Why yes you can!

“Even if I don’t speak a lot/or any Japanese?”

Yep! Actually, there is a hand full of smartphone repair places in Tokyo that specifically cater to English speakers or have English speakers on staff. I went to LoreaTec and the guys I worked with were very nice and professional. Its location was a little odd.  To get to it, you take a back road behind what looks like an apartment complex. However, in Japan, it really isn’t as sketchy as it might be in the states. Finding places like that is actually a bit commonplace. I can say the place was legit. The man I worked with was a foreigner himself, so he spoke English well and could clearly communicate what was going on.

There was a catch!

If the phone you have isn’t a Japanese model, there is a chance that the parts they have will not be compatible. I don’t know if this is the case for most phone companies or not, but the parts for the Japanese Asus Zenphone 2 are completely different than the American version. It is possible to ship the needed parts, but it usually ends up costing more than the phone is worth.

I learned that when making the inquiry to set up an appointment, make sure to specify the origin and the model number that is on the inside of the phone so that they can better know whether they can help you before you get there. I took an hour train ride to find out they couldn’t repair my phone, but it ended up being fun anyway for reasons I will explain later but, for the sake of your time and energy, make sure you give them all the info you can before you get there.

Now there is a third option, but you’re not going to like it. You can just go without a phone. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’ve been really missing my phone, but maybe you won’t be in Japan for too long or you’re just really frugal. Don’t worry, your trip doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt. Here are tips for getting around without a phone:

Getting to LoreaTec was the first trip I made without my phone and it was only the second trip I made on my own. The first was me getting back to the dorms by myself and I’d already been shown one way. I had never been on that particular route before. I was going in blind (without my phone), but I used my brain and the computer that luckily still worked. Keep reading and I’ll teach you how. Google Maps is your savior. Both on the phone and off. Google Maps is pretty accurate in Japan for train schedules and walking directions. I haven’t taken the buses yet, so use it at your own risk as far as that goes.

One of the greatest things about the train system here is almost every train runs on a loop. The same train will come every so often. The longest  I’ve had to wait between trains is about 15 minutes, and that’s for less popular local lines. Regardless of what times are listed on your Google Maps sheet, you will likely still be able to use the instructions as written. This is different than with buses in the states where you don’t always know when the next bus will come. This is not the case with trains here. The exception to that might be for very late hours but I believe it doesn’t change that much. I’d say if you’re staying out until the last train, be sure your local lines will still be running. In all likelihood, they will be but check anyway and avoid taxi fare or being stuck at an internet cafe all night. More on those later.

Now that you know that the trains run in a loop, you should also note there is usually one going clockwise and another going counter clockwise. This is very convenient but it also means you need to pay attention to what stops the train is going. Often time google maps will tell you which line you need to go on to which stop but not what direction. However, there is usually a sign either at the platform entrance or on the pillar on the platform, which lists the stops the train will go to.

Most stations have this, but for the ones that don’t, there’s another trick. All the signs that say the lines name, will usually have in smaller letters below the big stops it hits. On google maps next to the line name it will list one of those stops. Oh, btw, all of the signs are both in Japanese and English typically, especially the farther into tokyo you go 

Alright, for some reason you can’t find the correct platform, maybe it’s a more rural area and there isn’t enough English or you are in the center of tokyo and it’s a huge station that you’ve gotten lost in. Never fear! Station attendant will happily help you. To find a station attendant simple find any entrance gate, next to it will be a window or even a small room and in there will be a station attendant that has access to all the info you need. Now, it is helpful to know some Japanese still, however, I have found most train attendants I’ve run into, know enough English to easily help you find the correct platform and probably every platform number until you get to the station you want to go. A good tip for this is to always have the name of the station you are going to, preferably written down, so you can show it to the attendant. This goes especially for those that may not have a lot of experience in Japanese as they likely won’t understand what you are saying if you say it with a strong American accent.

Great, you’ve gotten to the final station and have exited only to realize you have no idea where you’re going. Luckily, google’s walking directions are usually very helpful. I find that printing out the places to turn and a map with landmarks is the best way to go. You can find two corresponding store to help orient yourself and find street sign (which usually also have english in more populated areas) and find where to turn. Sometimes the street simply isn’t named, and landmarks can usually help with that, but sometime…

Great, now you’re lost. Now what? Well, the best thing you can do is find a コンビニ, or convenice store, like 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson, and ask for help. To make sure this is a viable option for you, make sure you write down the full address and name of the place you are headed too. This would be best to have both in English and Japanese. Generally, people at convenience stores are less likely to speak English, so having some Japanese if for the best but you can make it work even with simple questions. If you show then the address and say “すみません、これはどこですか。” (sumimasen, koreha doko desuka.) Meaning, “Excuse me (for the trouble), where is this?”. While certainly lack a certain amount of nuance or explanation, they likely will be able to pinpoint it on the map and show you can easy route there. Be sure to say thank you afterwards by saying “ありがとうございました”(ari gato gozai mashita), though even just thank you, they will likely understand.

Best case scenario, no one loses, breaks or forgets their phone, but the truth is happens and it’s good to be resourceful when you don’t always have access to the almighty google. It’s good to know your options in case you find yourself without your phone. Hopefully, you find these tips helpful. If you have any follow up questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I would love to hear your tips if you have experienced anything like this. Soon, I would like to give some tip on how to ride the train like a native. Some of these points will be rehashed but there’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to the train system. Thank you for reading! I will write again soon (hopefully).

Aja

 

 

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Okonomiyaki!

The other night I went out with some friends to Okonomiyaki. It was my first time eating the Japanese savory pancake. I believe only native in our group knew what they were doing but we had a great time learning the ropes for grilling our own food. The table we were sat at was a traditional short table with cushions around it. Typically you sit on your knees or crisscross but my legs quickly started falling asleep so I was the weird foreigner all sprawled out but they were very understanding as my legs are stupid long.

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Unfortunately, Mihi didn’t send me any pictures she was in, but she was taking this one so that’s something. The other two are Swan and Jihyung (AKA Kelly) 

 

Mihi, the native in the group convinced us to get the courses so we could try a bunch of different things. We got a few different kinds of okonomiyaki, something else I don’t know the name off and some yakisoba. It was all very delicious but I got full almost half way through. So much food. In America, we often stereotype the Japanese as eating less and it is true that their portion sized tend to be smaller but don’t be fooled, Japanese people can eat. There were two Japanese girls across from us and they put away almost as much food as the four of us did. I don’t know where they put it all. The first okonomiyaki was my favorite. Not a clue what was in it but it was so good. I always have so much fun going out with my friends. That was a really fun night. Lots of good conversation. We stayed there for almost 5 hours I think. We got there around 5 and didn’t leave until after 9. Time flew.

I look forward to going out with them again. I will, of course, write about it when I do. Thank you for reading. As always, I love to hear from you guys so please leave a comment. If you enjoyed, give this post a like and consider sharing it. I’ll write again tomorrow.

Aja

Birthday Dinner and Japan’s Italian Food

This was more than a week ago now, but I met a girl in one of my classes that introduced me to her friends and they ended up inviting me out to dinner. They said there were getting pizza so I said yes, naturally. They didn’t tell me until we got there that it was a surprise party for one of the girls, so I was even more flattered they brought me along.

P_20170411_171551First, they brought out some gnocchi that had some parmesan on top. I’m pretty sure they were basil flavored. They were great. Then we looked at the menus and there were some odd combination pizzas. Ones with fish eggs and mayo, and stuff like that. There were some normal ones too. I chose a simple pesto pizza and they chose a variety of other things. As Japanese people often do, we all shared so I got to try the P_20170411_174936assortment of Japanified pizzas. First came the margarita pizza another girl asked for. It was good. Though, I immediately noticed the very small amount of cheese that was on the pizza. This continued to be the case with all the pizzas, but this makes sense since cheese is very expensive here. Next came out the pesto pizza. It was great. I love P_20170411_172839pesto, and even without a lot of cheese, the pesto carried the pizza for me. Off to a strong start. So far everything is tasty and is fairly standard despite the distinct lack of cheese. The next pizza to arrive is this nicely displayed pizza. It has a bunch of some meat laid out with an egg in the middle. The meat was some form of pork. Back in America, I’m a half vegetarian, meaning I don’t eat mammal, but here it wouldP_20170411_174940 be difficult for me to be strict about it and I would have to miss out on a lot of classic Japanese dishes so I decided while I was here I’d let it go and eat whatever. I have to say the pork on this pizza didn’t totally make me regret being a half vegetarian. I figure I just haven’t developed a taste for it. I’m not much of a meat person anyway. The next one was a pizza similar to the margarita pizza except it had anchovies on it. I know

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Sorry for the blurry photo, not sure why that happened.

this is a classic in America too, so I tried it. It’s a margarita pizza with the flavor of fish. Not my forte, but I get why some people like it. Then we got something that looked nothing like pizza but it was actually pretty good. Gotta be honest, I’m not totally sure what was on P_20170411_173620it, but it was pretty and tasted good, so I didn’t really care. I think the most surprising thing of all was the pasta we had that night. At some point, we had spicy penne pasta which all of us agreed was very spicy. And a white pasta which had sounded good to me. What was in the white pasta was startling, to say the least. I had been eating it and it actually tasted pretty good. I was pleased with it until I realized the sauce was made out of tiny fish. I started seeing all the little eyes and thought about the tiny colorful fish I had as a kid and was a bit disturbed. I finished it though I felt a little weird after. P_20170411_180251

 

I felt bad that I was so surprised by all the food. I don’t know why but I was expecting something like Olive Garden or Cheesecake factory and it was not like that. Foreigners must come to Japan a lot and find themselves eating an unfamiliar version of Itailian food. The experience made me wonder though, how is American Italian food different from actual Italian food. I bet we’ve Americanized it, much like with have with every type of food we’ve appropriated. I wonder how Japanese people like the Americanized Italian food when they visit. Or better yet Italian food in Italy. Eating Italian food in Italy is one of my bucket list goals for sure. Japanese food is better in Japan so I can only imagine Italian food would work the same way.

P_20170411_181401After we had all eaten, the birthday girl got her surprised. The restaurant had put together a beautifully decorated plate with a little ice cream and cake on it. She was very surprised but I think she felt good that her friends had thought about her like that. That night was great. I had new food experiences and had great conversations with new friends. I definitely want to go out with them again. I really appreciated them taking me into their friend group. I’ve been very lucky in friendship here.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Consider leaving a comment below. If you enjoyed this post leave a like and if you really enjoyed, consider sharing it. Thank you for reading!

Aja

 

 

Harajuku! Off The Beaten Path

The other weekend a new friend of mine took me around Harajuku, which for those of you who don’t know, is a district that is huge for fashion subcultures and anything that isn’t Anime or Mainstream. It is very popular with many artists such as Gwen Stafani as she mentions a lot in her Rich Girl song.

Even Marilyn Mason is known to strut that territory when he visits Japan I learned. There’s a good reason for that. This time around I didn’t get any fashion shots, I will save that for another post, but I did get to go to plenty of cool places, some popular and some more for the locals.

 

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The first thing you see when you exit the station

 

After we got off the train and exited the stations we decided to get lunch as we were both hungry. She asked what I wanted and I said whatever. The first place we were going to go to was closed so she took me to this great 70s themed burger place. Whoever picked the music in this joint knew their stuff, bands like the Bee Gees and America, and even some Jackson 5. I was singing along to almost every song. If you want a sense of the atmosphere of this place, listen to I want you back by Jackson 5 while you read this like I’m doing as I write this.

 

P_20170409_130038While there I got a chicken burger and a mintP_20170409_131428 milkshake and it seemed artisen. The burger was so juicy and the mixture of the sauces and veggies on it were well thought through. It was delicious. The milkshake was another pleasant surprise! They used actual mint. There was not a drop of syrup in that shake. It tasted very different than the hyper sugary shakes you get in the states but it was so rich and still very sweet. It was great. I’d be curious to try their other flavors.

Next, we went to Kiddy Land! It’s a hot spot for tourists and foreigners but it was worth it. Four floors of plushies and figurines from lots of great media. I didn’t take too many photos as I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to, but you can get a sneak peak of what you can find in there.

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There’s something for everyone. There’s Disney, Starwars, Ghibli, and plenty of Japan original characters, some anime stuff and even some terrifying mascot character you can take pictures with. Lucky for me, it was already surrounded by kids so I skipped out on that. The place was a wonderland for kids and for those that enjoy youthfully sort of media. Sometimes it’s nice to escape into a Ghibli Film, what can I say? Another very interesting experience I had was going to the bathroom. That was the first time I ever saw one of those fancy smart toilets. It even had a flush sound button. Which I don’t quite get because I’ve heard it, it’s not convincing and who are you tryna trick anyway? The seat was heated which is both kind of nice but also a bit disturbing having been use to a cold toilet seat my whole life. I still have not tried the bidet, I have to admit, I’m mildly scared too, but I guess that’s an experience I should have. I’ll let you know how that goes someday.

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Next, we went to a mall that has a super cool entrance. It’s like going through the looking glass. Inside was even more surprising because the shops don’t have store fronts. They’re P_20170409_152420just open. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when one shop ends and the other begins, except they usually have different color flooring and internal walls. This really surprised me and my friend was amused by this. I said “Does this make it easier for people to steal?” and she explained to me that that isn’t a very big problem here. There’s a sense of trust between the Japanese, so they don’t feel the need to make shopping more difficult. Apparently, most malls are like this here. It was very nice. You could easily see what was inside and there was a nice flow between stores, overall if we could swing it in America I would say it’s a better way, but unfortunately, our culture doesn’t support the same level or trust or morality, ironically. You can kind see the open shop format in the Conan Cafe picture below. This trust and respect in this country makes it feel like one big neighborhood a lot of the

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Characters outside a Conan Cafe

times. I feel very safe and able to get help at any time if I needed. The shops trusting its costumers embodies that to me. It’s just an example of how it’s different here in a good way.

 

Lastly, we went to a Sushi restaurant. It was super cool. You order on a screen and it comes on a little platform that speeds down a track to you. It was delicious and not very expensive. I got P_20170409_200243quite a bit of food and didn’t spend very much. The sushi was amazing. I got some raw tuna on rice or tsuna nigiri and the fish here is so much fresher and way less fishy. It tried a bunch of different things but that was probably my favorite and I don’t normally like raw fish.

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P_20170409_122943We did so much more that did but I didn’t capture it all. This post would have been twice as long and I wanted to experience somethings not through a lens. Undoubtedly, I will make more posts about Harajuku. I plan to collect fashion pictures and street art photography. I will give you a taste of what I saw.

Look forward to the things to come. This post has turned out to be very long, so if you made it this far, thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed it. I promise to work on my photography.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add or have any questions, leave me a comment below! I love hearing from you guys!

Club Day!

Hey guys,

Sorry, I’m late getting this out. Club day was a bit ago now, but life happens and there’s no time like the present! You get to look forward to this week of catch up that will contain many interesting adventures.

Japanese colleges and universities take their clubs very seriously, maybe even more than classes. Classes here meet once a week, and clubs, usually 2 or 3 times a week. But I will talk more about the differences between American universities and Japanese universities in a future post. I’m still not sure if I’m going to sign up for a club. It seems like it’s expected but I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I should probably spend nights studying so I can travel. Nonetheless, the performances were amazing.

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Aikido Club

The first performance I saw was an Aikido demonstration. It was pretty cool, but most of it happened on the ground and I’m not athletic enough for summersaults.  I didn’t stay for too long because I wanted to look around. There were a lot of people handing out flyers advertising their club. From what I could see, these people were very active with the other students, but probably because I’m a foreigner they shied away from me more, and I have to admit in that crowd I didn’t mind it so much. It was very crowded. The event reminded me a bit of street festival in America, without of all the food trucks.

P_20170408_114930During this event, I also learn that the culture in Japan around being filmed or photographed is different than in America, so I did my best to be respectful. As a result, I didn’t get a lot of picture or videos of none performance based clubs. Luckily, the ballroom club and most performance clubs were ok with photos and videos. The ballroom club was amazing, and I was tempted to cave in a join. They were all so nice, but I realized I would have to spend money on costumes and give up two nights a week to practice. While I’m sure the club would be rewarding, my goal here is to travel and experience, IP_20170408_115314 need my nights for study and routine, plus, how seriously they take their clubs is intimidating anyway. I suspect it would be a lot of work, regardless. I got permission to use their videos in my vlog. They did use copyrighted music in their performances though so it might end up being more of montages. They were amazing, it was like going to a live street version of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’. But the crazy over the top performances didn’t stop there! There was a belly dancing club, that went more theatrical than the slow style of belly dancing. They costumes were wicked and they had a lot of cool moves. P_20170408_135312

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I’m not sure any American University or school cares as much about anything (other than money, maybe) as much as the Japanese schools take pride in their clubs. It makes a lot of sense though. Most of these girls have committed themselves to getting a job after graduation and the way they talk about it, it doesn’t seem that they look forward to it at all but feel they have no choice. I think clubs, for a lot of them, are they’re last chance to do what they love and if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll get picked up and get to do dance instead of a desk job. But that’s just me speculating. p_20170408_132401.jpg

P_20170408_131911Another performance I saw surprised me a lot! The Samba clubP_20170408_131904 went all out vegas. Japan is very open about a lot of its sexuality but I never expected to see full on festival style Samba, it was very cool though! Very energetic and eye-catching. They go all out, in costume and everything. It was quite the experience. If this is what school clubs are like, I can only imagine what a parade or festival is like. Definitely on my bucket list and I will be sure to document it for you guys.

 

 

P_20170408_131854Thank you for reading! As always, I love to engage with you guys,

P_20170408_131842 so if you have anything to share please leave it in the comments below!

Aja

 

Surprise! Public Bathing

Dear Readers,

I have noticed that there isn’t a way for those who aren’t on WordPress to subscribe. I apologize about that, I am working on it and hopefully, it will be available soon. So if you are interested in that, please keep an eye out.

Before coming to this school, I didn’t know what the bathing/showering situation would be like. Now, I’m not a personally conservative person. Nudity doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been to nude beaches and lakes before, so even after I found out that everyone showers and baths together, I didn’t think it’d be a problem for me at all.  Little did I know my cultural background had subconsciously affected me. I’m not a shy person but cleaning… all of me in front of other people is more daunting than I would have thought. I think partly my problem is I had a lot of questions and I hadn’t gotten close enough to anyone yet to ask them.  The bathroom (literally a bathroom, not like in the US) looks something like this. Now, this isn’t a photo of mine since I figured it’d be rude to photograph the bathroom without permission but this will give you an idea. Normally, I would only use my own pictures, this is an exception.

Everyone sits on stools and showers themselves. I’m sure for Japanese people this is normal, but coming from a culture where everything is hypersexualized and showering was something done in private, it feels super weird cleaning my junk in a room full of people. I also didn’t (and still don’t really) know what the proper procedure for that sort thing is here, but that’s the only option for getting clean so I’m figuring it’s normal here. I think this realization that I even have these reservations is very eye opening. I can see now I will probably learn more about myself on this trip than I have in my previous 20 years of life. I’m sure most American’s would have these same feelings when faced with this type of situation but really, psychologically speaking, this is probably way healthier and despite my shyness, I never knew I had, there are a lot of things I like about this bathing situation.

Firstly, the huge bath is amazing. It’s like being able to get in a clean hot tub without all the chemicals every day and it is normal. It helps you feel more relaxed and your muscles loosen up. It completely worth it. In addition, it becomes social time. While this is weird at first, it’s kinda nice. You can chat while bathing or while lathering up. I’ve actually met a couple friends through showering and bathing together. Some days are definitely more social than others, so you kinda have to read the room. And Of course, I miss having the shower as a place to escape to for some down time and privacy but honestly, it’s an easy trade for the ability to both practices my language and to get to meet new people. It also becomes a nice girl time, a kind of bonding experience. Plus, I believe it’s helping me with body positivity. The girls don’t look at me any differently, despite how different my body is from theirs. The atmosphere is very respectful. Plus, you get a more realistic image of human bodies. And really, unless you engaged in conversation with someone, no one’s going to be looking at you anyway, so that privacy is still somewhat there.

Regardless, I have every intention of shedding my American habits. I want to be able to shower comfortably with the rest of the girls and not even think about it. I think it will happen sooner than I expect. Actually, I’m going to go take a shower after I’m done writing this. But, I want to hear from you guys, what do you guys think? How would you feel about this situation? And, actually, I already have readers from all over the world. I would love to hear about your points of view. How does your culture see nudity and bathing? How do you think you’d fare in this situation? I would love to hear, so please leave a comment. In addition, I could probably go more in-depth on this topic so if you have questions or want me to talk further on this topic, let me know, especially for those planning to come study abroad.

Time to go get clean. Goodnight.