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Samantha
Samantha

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Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
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https://www.city-cost.com/blogs/Samantha
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Samantha's Activity

Gokiburi Season begins!

It's starting to get warmer here in Tokyo and that's great! Everyone is getting out from under the kotatsu and enjoying the nice weather. Everyone... Including the COCKROACHES!!Theres no denying it... Japan has a serious cockroach problem! Unless you live high in a mansion (and even then, the dudes FLY!), you're likely to see a few cockroaches trying to make themselves at home in your place. Now is the perfect time to take matters into your own hands and gokiburi-proof your home, before it's too late!But, if it's too late, and you're already infested... One of these CHO KAWAII roach hotels could do the trick! They're large in size, so these would be best for when you've seen more than one small cockroaches in your house... If there's one tiny cockroach, there's gotta be more!! (The really big ones are more intimidating in appearance.. But the small ones are much more worrysome!)This spray is great for when you see one, and want to introduce it to its maker! Just spray the cockroach. But beware, it propels them! Just keep spraying, don't give up!! Best places to keep cockroach traps:★ Inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets, under sinks★ Near windows you open often (feel that fresh breeze!)★ Near doors★ Behind and under furniturePut those babies everywhere! Finally, if you have pets, use common sense. Keep your traps in places your beloved furry friends can't reach. I don't want to know what happens when Fido chews up too many roach poison traps on a midnight splurge. Happy bug killing!

  • Living
  • Tokyo

Owl Cafe!

Today I went to an Owl Cafe in Ikebukuro! Owl cafes are the new "hot trend" in Japan, and are popping up everywhere. In the nearly seven years I have lived in Japan, this is my first time being inside any kind of animal themed "cafe." As they are very popular, I needed to make a reservation before going. I simply emailed the cafe with my name, phone number, party total and day/time I wanted to visit, and got a confirmation through email a few hours later. The system was very easy to understand: You make a reservation and are allowed to stay for 1 hour. A drink is included with the entry price. The entry price is around 1000-1500 depending on where you go. The drink selection wasn't anything to rave about, (sparkling water, sparkling tea and mango milk tea - all in pet bottles) but you don't go to an owl cafe for drinks anyway. If you arrive late, you don't get any kind of discount on your entry fee, and you don't get an extension on the time either, so it's important to not be late. The Owls were so cute! I was content just looking at the Owls up close and lightly petting their feathers. I felt like I didn't want to disturb them too much. There were some rules to follow which were shown to us in English. The staff was very nice and handled the Owls with care. A nice European woman also worked at the Owl cafe I visited, who spoke English, so there weren't any concerns about communication. The Owls seemed content and well cared for! Most places don't allow small children inside for obvious reasons, so this wouldn't be a good place to take small children. Older kids or teenagers should be fine, though. If you're considering visiting one with kids, ask before you go, and use good judgement. I knew it wouldn't be a good place to take my kids so I had a friend watch them while I went. Everybody took turns having Owls perch on their arms. There were tiny Owls and huge ones that require a glove. Sometimes the owls don't want to perch on you.. Don't feel bad if they fly back to their spot! Also, if you decide to let one on your arm or head, be advised that they might poop. It happens! (Not to me, thank god)Overall, the experience was very fun and memorable! I recommend everyone try visiting one at least once. The owl cafe I visited is called Ikefukuro. For more information, visit the website: www.ikefukuroucafe.com

  • Living
  • Tokyo

The Search For Santa Claus

For me, Christmas is one of the most important times of the year. It's extremely important to me, that my kids get an experience similar to what they would back in the US. Part of that is meeting Santa, telling Santa what they want for Christmas, and having their photo taken.It can't just be any ol' Japanese lady or white English teacher, though.. Oh no. I take Christmas seriously. As they say, "go hard, or go home." And I take that to heart when it comes to my kids and Christmas in Japan.So every year, since my son was 2 years old (he is now nearly 6, with a 3 year old sister) we have made a trek across Tokyo in hopes of meeting the REAL SANTA. It's rough out there, though. I tell ya, Japan loves it's lines. It's a national pass-time, as I'm sure you know by now. Meeting Santa means you line up outside of the establishment where Santa is visiting, usually early morning, and waiting for your ticket to meet Santa. But hey, the event is usually free, so I really can't complain too much.. Last year, and again this year, Santa will be in Ochanomizu. I'm not exactly happy about it.. It's not the most kid-friendly part of Tokyo. Last year we had to stand in line for quite some time, and then wait for several hours in an open outdoor square. While it's still too early for snow, it's definitely cold outside. Not my idea of a great time, but I need that time honored tradition of a photo with Santa. To find out more information about when and where you can meet Santa, visit his website at: http://santaclausvillage.jp/fureai/

  • Living
  • Fukushima
  • Tochigi
  • Tokyo
  • Osaka

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Japan

Today is Thanksgiving and for many American expats and immigrants in Japan, it's a time of year when we begin to feel a little homesick. It's something I am feeling, myself. So how does a lonely American expat go about celebrating a favorite holiday tradition from home, says family, food, and of course, football?Here are some tips to help you get your fill.☆RestaurantsSeveral restaurants around Tokyo and other large cities in Japan have Thanksgiving dinners available for order.ANA Intercontinental Hotel Cascade Cafe Buffet Style Thanksgiving dinner served for five days (November 26-30), complete with Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and other favorites. Prices from ¥6,020 for adults, half price for children (ages-4-8) and special senior citizen discounts.Hard Rock CafeThanksgiving dinner plates from ¥1,800 are served at this restaurant in Roppongi, Ueno and Yokohama locations around the end of November. Whole turkey with trimmings can allegedly also be ordered through December! Ask restaurant staff for more details.☆Do it yourself & Pot-luck Is there really any other proper way to have Thanksgiving? Some of the best memories are made in the kitchen with friends and family, or waiting in anticipation for that bird to come out of the oven! Many expats in Japan swear by shopping at high-end, foreign directed markets such as National Azabu, Costco, and Nissin... But if you don't live near any of these stores, don't fret! Most of what you need can be found in your own neighborhood or online!Niku no HanamasaWhole turkey has been spotted at Hanamasa by myself and many others, plus many other Thanksgiving staples. Check the website to see if Hanamasa is near you!Kaldi Cranberry sauce, cream of mushroom soup (for green bean casserole!) and stove top stuffing have all been spotted in Kaldi, a common chain store in train station shopping centers and shopping malls across Japan. However, proceed with caution! Kaldi's stock changes rapidly, without notice. Any other local supermarkets are likely to have a few things that can help you whip up some holiday favorites.If a pot-luck with friends in Japan is in order, it shouldn't be too difficult for each person to find the proper items to make at least one dish! Sharing is caring. ♡☆Football and Macy's Thanksgiving Day ParadeFor many, what is Thanksgiving without Football? It may be difficult to watch the Thanksgiving Day games, live on the big screen while drifting in and out of Turkey-induced coma, but if you can plan ahead and record on a DVR, NHK's BS1 often shows NFL games in the middle of the night. Record and listen while you relax after your dinner for that sweet at-home feeling. (I don't even like football, but something about having it playing in the background just feels so right.)And who can forget the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? But how can you watch it in Japan? Perhaps using a VPN may allow you to bypass NBC's region lock, but chances are good that you may be able to watch it with a live stream over YouTube! Of course, if you want to watch it live as it happens, it will have to be at 11:00pm. To me, it's worth it! Another thought: Play the recording for your kids the morning of the day you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving to instill American tradition! Why not?☆FaceTime or Skype your family and friendsIt's especially important to take time to contact family back home during the holidays, no matter what country you come from. Even if you cannot afford to go out to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, or cannot have a Thanksgiving feast at home, seeing the smiling faces and hearing the voices of your loved ones means so much. Finally, if you are really battling with the blues this time of year, don't be afraid to reach out. Seasonal depression is real, and it can hit expats especially hard. Happy Thanksgiving!All images credit:Image (top): Cheryl / License / FlickrImage (center): Wookeon Park / License / FlickrImage (bottom):joiseyshowaa / License / Flickr

  • Living
  • Food
  • Shopping
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Aichi
  • Osaka

Taco Bell!!

A rumor circulated for the last year about Taco Bell re-entering japan, but finally my wishes have been granted!! Now my only question is... WHERE!?

  • Food

Adopting a Pet in Japan

I love animals. Having a pet in my home just feels natural for me. Every time I walked past a pet store, I would look in, longingly, at the abundance of cute, and thinking how much I would love to bring one of these creatures home with me. But getting a pet in Japan can be a somewhat complicated process... It is Japan after all! And adopting a pet is a big commitment, no matter how you look at it. If you are like me, and are considering adopting a furry family member into your life, this is a great post for you!Before adopting a pet, please consider how long you will be staying in Japan, if you will be able to bring your pet with you if/when you depart Japan, if your current home even allows pets, and if you can afford the cost and time most pets demand. Adoption ProcessPet shop or NPO re-homing?Japan has it's own Humane Society groups, but it's most well-known English compatible non-profit organizations are Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) and Japan Cat Network. ARK, for the most part, works out of the Kansai area. However, they hold events in other parts of Japan frequently, have a chapter in Tokyo, and can help you find a pet that is a perfect match for you. Similarly, Japan Cat Network can help you do the same. All re-homed pets are in dire need for a new, forever home. Adopting from one of these organizations is the most humane way to bring a pet into your life in Japan. You do not "buy" these pets, but there are some fees such as immunization fees, initial health check fees, transportation fees, and a few others that must be paid upon adoption. Please contact either organization if you are considering pet adoption or perhaps even being a foster parent for an animal. As for pet shops, there are several options, such as Kojima Pets, Coo&Riku and Aeon Pets. These companies offer pure-bred cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, ferrets, fish and more. Bringing a pet home from one of these shops, especially cats and dogs, comes with a high price tag, typically around 300,000yen. These pets come with a sort of "warranty" (in the case of a pet becoming sick or passing away within the first year), pedigree papers, free or discounted health checks, and other bells and whistles. Most of these shops will not have information in English, so if you cannot read and understand Japanese well, buying a pet from a pet store can be somewhat of a struggle, as there are many documents, agreements, and additional services offered from these shops, so please bring a trusted friend or family member who can speak Japanese if you are considering adopting from a pet store. Vets, Vaccines and Insurance and Pet hotelsKeep your pet healthy and happy!Upon adoption, most pets are up to date on their vaccinations. Vaccinations, especially for dogs, are required by law. When you adopt a dog, you must report it to your local municipal office (kuyakusho, shiyakusho).  You can keep your pet up to date on their vaccinations by taking them to a veterinary clinic (動物病院) of your choice, regularly. As pets are very popular in Japan, there are many options for veterinary clinics. Keep in mind though that most vets do not speak English, and so it would be a good idea to use a translation service, or bring a friend or family member who can use Japanese (Or ask us here on City-Cost, we would be happy to help!). And just like people, pets should have proper health insurance (ペット保険). Veterinary bills can reach high numbers very quickly for even something small. Pet insurance usually costs about 1500-3000yen depending on the size and breed of your pet, and the plan you choose. Again, pet insurance is usually not available in English, so it would be advisable to ask a trusted Japanese speaker for help. You can compare insurance prices and premiums easily on Rakuten. If you have auto insurance or home insurance, the company you have insurance through likely offers pet insurance as well, so that is also a good option.Many veterinary clinics also offer other services such as grooming and pet hotels. Pet hotels (ペットホテル) can be useful if you need to take a trip but cannot bring your pet with you. Keep in mind that pet hotels can charge quite a lot of money; Anywhere from 3000yen to 10000yen per day depending on the pet hotel and the type of animal. Leaving/Entering Japan With a PetPets are family!It's possible to take some pets with you in the event that you must leave Japan permanently, depending on the laws and regulations of the country you will move to. Most pets in Japan have been micro-chipped, and this microchip will contain all vaccination and health information for your pet. If your pet does not have up-to-date vaccination and health records, or is not chipped, taking your pet may not be possible. You can get more information on the entire process on the Animal Quarantine Services website. You may also be able to bring your pet with you if you are moving to Japan.As you can see, there are many things to consider when adopting a pet in Japan, so please be sure to do plenty of research before making such a commitment. If you have more advice for potential or current pet owners, please tell me.

  • Living
  • Shopping
  • Money
  • Medical
  • Tokyo
  • Aichi
  • Osaka

Ordering Pizza Made Easy

If you’re anything like me, living in Japan for long periods of time can bring on certain hunger pangs from time to time for food from back home. One of my favorite things to order is pizza, but I have heard many complaints about how home delivery pizza is too expensive, difficult to order or just doesn’t taste good, due to weird toppings or combinations. Of course Japan is well-known for it’s mayo and corn pizza, but getting a meat lovers is totally possible! In this entry, I’m going to share my expert tips for ordering pizza!As far as home delivery pizza goes, by far the best choice for nationwide chains is Domino’s Pizza. While it might not be your FAVORITE pizza company, it is the most foreigner-friendly company. Several years ago, Domino’s Pizza rolled out an all-English version of their website. Ordering online instantly gives you a 5% discount. Another great thing about ordering online are the additional discounts you can receive. As you start to order from time to time, Domino’s will send coupons to you which you can use on your next order. There is a time limit on these coupons but if you order at least once a month, you will have plenty. These discounts are called “Surprise Coupon!” and will take 15% off, but it only works for pizza. As if this 20% wasn’t enough, Domino’s also almost always has a “2 for 1” special where, if you order online and then visit the store for pick-up, you can get 2 large pizzas for the price of 1. That is an insanely good value! Even better, on rainy days, Domino’s sends additional coupons to your e-mail, as most folks don’t like to go out for lunch when it’s pouring. Many people, like my husband for example, almost always order one of Domino’s “Specialty Pizzas” which are loaded with (usually strange) toppings, and the price for these pizzas is, in my opinion, unreasonably high. I find it better to order using the “Build Your Own Pizza” option. Usually when I order pizza, I just want something fast, warm, cheap, and filling because I’m feeling lazy and my family is hungry. If you don’t NEED a bunch of different toppings, just ordering plain cheese or pepperoni can result in a super cheap meal! Sample situation: You, and your 5 year old son are having a lazy day on a chilly, rainy Sunday. You’re both hungry, but you haven’t got much food in the house so you decide to order pizza. Your son loves pizza, but is a picky eater, so you order a regular crust medium pizza with pepperoni as the topping. The basic cost of this pizza is ¥1,455, but with your online order you receive 5% off, and you have an additional 15% off surprise coupon. You check your e-mail before placing your order to see if Domino’s has sent you a Rainy Day e-mail and in fact, they have, for free chicken nuggets and french fries no less! You add that coupon to your coupon box as instructed in the e-mail, and low and behold: A medium pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets and french fries delivered to your door for a grand total of: ¥1,163!! In addition to these great values Domino’s offers online, you can enhance your savings by using your Rakuten or T-Point/Yahoo! account during check out. Rakuten points and T-Points are a whole other story for a different article, but they are a great way to save even more money on many different types of purchases in Japan. If you use either, you can use your points to pay for your order with Domino’s. Personally, I usually have no less than 2,000 T-Points at any given time from purchases at various stores buying my daily things, so essentially you can get your pizza for free if you use this system. We here at City-Cost hope you find this article useful for your daily life in Japan, and if you have any other great tips for saving money or finding English-speaking services, please tell me

  • Living
  • Food
  • Shopping
  • Money
  • Tokyo
  • Osaka

Keeping Warm in Winter Without Breaking the Bank

Most of Japan has fairly temperate winters, but when temperatures start to drop down to freezing levels, you may be struggling to keep warm with the obvious heating devices and may feel frustrated with how high your electricity and gas bill can become. When traveling outdoors by foot, something we all must do on a daily basis no matter the weather, you can keep yourself warm by purchasing a pack of small stickers that are placed in your coat lining called “HOKKARON” This small sticker is one time use only but will stay warm for nearly 8 hours. There are also smaller versions and non-sticker versions that can be used in your pockets or shoes!Japanese houses and condos are known for having poor insulation. Using an aircon can keep one room heated, but much of the heat will escape through the walls and windows. Aircons only heat one room, and the cost of running one can add up if used for extended periods and even higher if your aircon is an older model. Many people in Japan like to use smaller oil or gas heaters and kotatsu, or Japanese heated tables to keep warm during the winter months. Heated electric blankets and carpets are also very popular for home use. When sleeping, try to keep your aircon off if possible. Utilize timers on aircons if you feel you absolutely need the aircon on. Absolutely never use an oil or gas heater at night time, for obvious reasons, it is a fire hazard! Department stores and clothing shops sell thicker pajamas and socks that truly do make a difference. Old fashioned style hot water bottles can be bought at grocery stores and drug stores. Place one at the foot of your bed for a time before you get in can make cold winter nights much more cozy.As for the badly insulated house? Much of your heat will escape from windows, especially large sliding glass doors. So how can you stop this from happening? All home centers set up insulation product corners at the beginning of each winter season. The most popular types are bubble wrap, stop panels and boards that stick to the windows. These can also help with extra condensation that builds up. Door stops to lock warm air in and thick curtains can also make quite a big difference. Of course just using an old fashioned blanket and house coat/robe are great options as well! Have some tips for keeping your house warm or information about the subject you would like to share?

  • Living
  • Shopping
  • Hokkaido
  • Tokyo
  • Aichi
  • Osaka

Getting a Mobile Phone in Japan

Mobile phones, and more recently smart phones are an essential part of daily life. But do you know how to get your own mobile phone in Japan?To create an account with a mobile service provider, first you must visit one of the many retail locations. Service can only be set up in-store, and newcomers to Japan may find this frustrating and even a little scary because most store staff do not speak English. But do not fret! With a little research and preparation, you can make the process relatively painless for both you and the employee assisting you. Here are a few easy steps you can take to set up your mobile phone service in Japan!Step 1Research companies and decide what sort of plan you would like to use over the Internet. There are several providers in Japan; SoftBank, au, and docomo seem to be the most popular choices. All of these services do have english language websites that can help you decide what sort of plan you want, but some have more English support than others. Docomo ( https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/ ) and SoftBank ( http://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/ )both offer detailed instructions and plan information in English on their websites, while au ( http://www.au.kddi.com/english/ ) doesn't seem to offer as much information. SoftBank is one of the only providers that has a list of stores with multilingual staff support on their website, but they are only located within central Tokyo. Due to this, it seems that SoftBank is a preferred choice among foreigners living in Japan. Nonetheless, be sure to read the payment plans carefully if necessary, or ask a Japanese friend of family member for help. Japanese mobile services can differ greatly in some ways in comparison to your home country. Varying times when free in-network calls can be made, who they can be made to, mail fees, roaming charges and more. Step 2.Once you have decided which provider and plan you want, you must gather all of your documents as required by the company to register your subscription. All providers will require identification, such as your alien registration card, Japanese drivers license (if you have one) or your passport. Generally, you can not get a new subscription contract if you visa has 90 days or less until expiration, so keep that in mind. Also, do not make photocopies of your identification papers, only originals will be accepted. It might not be a bad idea to bring a utility bill in your name as well, if you have one, just in case. Your insurance card can also be a good form of back-up identification. One of the most important points is that your addresses match. If your address on your alien registration card or any other form of identification is different from your actual address, your subscription will not be accepted. If you think you might have some trouble communicating, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a print out of the plan you would like from the website so there is no misunderstanding. Step 3.Finally, choose your payment method. The most common way to pay for your monthly phone subscription is by credit card or direct bank transfer. Your Japanese bank account cash card, PIN number and possibly your ink an (all of which must be in YOUR name, not your wife, husband, or anyone else!) will be required and the balance will be deducted directly from your account monthly. If you want to purchase a device on your subscription, you generally must pay up-front for it when using your bank account as payment. Payment plans for new phones or tablets require a credit card. Usually, there will be a one-time registration fee as well, but sometimes companies will offer campaigns where the registration fee is waived. You can find this information on the website as well, so be sure to take note!In conclusion, setting up your own account with a mobile provider can be fairly simple if you are willing to do a little homework and preparation beforehand.Do you have any advice or tips about opening a new account for a mobile phone service, or perhaps a recommendation? Help educate others by commenting or writing a post!

  • Living
  • Shopping
  • Money
  • Tokyo
  • Aichi
  • Osaka
  • Hyogo

Five Ways to Make Your Life in Japan Easier

Most folks who come to Japan often have a hard time adjusting at first, and with good reason. Some of these struggles can continue on, sometimes years after first arriving in Japan. There are a few things you can do to remedy this, and with a little bit of work on your part, you can make the best of your situation and enjoy all of the great things life in Japan has to offer. We have compiled a list of five things you can do, but there are plenty more!1. Learn JapaneseIt seems obvious, right? But it's easier said than done. Learning a foreign language for some comes easy, but for many of us it can be a daunting task. But don't fret, you do have options! Self-study books can be nice, but perhaps try checking your local ward or city office. Many "kuyakusho" and "shiyakusho" offer free or very inexpensive Japanese language courses once a week. If you want to speed things up a bit and have a larger budget, try enrolling in a Japanese Language School. A 6-month course of daily lessons could have you chatting your neighbors up in no time. Speaking of neighbors, try forming friendly relationships with people in your neighborhood; getting out there and just trying can make a huge difference. Simple phrases and playing charades will only get you so far!2. Acquire a Taste for, and Learn to Cook Japanese FoodWhile you may have constant cravings for your usual favorites from back home, buying or making many of these dishes can be a pain at best. Many of the ingredients used in the foods you are used to eating absolutely do exist in Japan, but for a price. You may even have to go to a special international grocery stores to find familiar brands and items. That's all fine and dandy, but it adds up quickly and can be a serious pain! Japanese food is delicious, healthy, and easy to make in most cases, plus it's totally inexpensive! There are lots of great recipes to be found on the Internet in English. Absolutely do try to eat foods you love from home from time to time, but don't try to make it everyday. Adding Japanese food to your weekly menu a few times per week could save you some serious cash, and take you on a whole new culinary adventure.3. Invest in a BicycleWhether it's an inexpensive pre-owned bicycle, mamachari or high end speed bike, having a bicycle can make your life much easier in Japan. Bicycles are great for getting around your local neighborhood, doing grocery shopping, running errands, dropping the kids off at school or daycare, or just making a quick midnight run to the convenience store for some munchies. Walking everywhere can become quite tiresome after a while, because it can take some time to get to where you need to be and carrying heavy items such as bags of groceries adds even more annoyance. With a bicycle, you can cut your daily neighborhood travel time to half, at least, and hey, it's great exercise!4. Create a Support NetworkLife in Japan and everything that comes with it, from all of the great things we love to all of the things we *ahem* don't love, can be a very unique and life changing experience. Often times, family and friends from back home will not truly understand your feelings, joys or complaints about life here, although they may try. Other people who are living here too know how you feel, because they've been there. Often times, it helps to let it all out to someone who understands, and those who have been here for a long time can offer much needed support and advice when you need it most. These friendships can last a lifetime - Friends who are there for eachother during the most trying times tend to stick together and in many cases become like a second family.5. Have an Open MindWhether you came to Japan because you had always dreamed of being here, married a Japanese national, or arrived here through a company transfer, your own mindset is something that can make or break your time spent in Japan. Being exposed to a different culture - even one you may have thought you knew much about before arriving - can bring out the worst in some people. Confusion, doubts about yourself and life as you know it, resentment, isolation and misunderstanding circumstances are common with initial culture shock and many of these feelings can stay with you and become exacerbated over time without a proactive decision to keep an open mind. It's completely normal to think things are funny, pointless, nonsensical, gross, or just plain wrong. Just remember, most people do not like everything about their own home country, either. The grass is always greener, live and let live, so on and so forth. Make the most of your life, no matter where you may be!

  • Living
  • Hokkaido
  • Tokyo
  • Aichi
  • Osaka
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