Jun 16

Surviving in Japan: How to find Tylenol in Japan

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

I’ve previously showed you how to find ibuprofen in Japan, but what about acetaminophen? Otherwise known as Tylenol. Though Tylenol itself is a bit more difficult to find in Japan than ibuprofen (I can’t find it in my local drugstore but I can find it in the drugstore in the closest major train station in my area). You can also find it online quite easily. Though, keep in mind that other brands of medicine in Japan also contain acetaminophen, but many of those brands also contain caffeine (カフェイン), occasionally aspirin (アスピリン), and some other active ingredients, which may or may not be exactly what you want.

First things first: acetaminophen in Japanese is アセトアミノフェン.

And, Tylenol is — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

Jun 8

Surviving in Japan: How To Find Ibuprofen in Japan

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

This is for all those die-hard Advil fans out there, like myself. Though I try to use any kind of drug sparingly, at least once a month I find myself growling for drugs (I’m sure you can guess which “once” I’m referring to, ladies). And then I take two. Sometimes three. No matter how tough I am the rest of the month, I run to the drug cupboard with my proverbial tail between my legs.

Yes, I admit, I did bring a large bottle of Advil with me when I first came to Japan, and last time my mom sent me a care package I asked for some Advil. It’s almost like a comfort drug – you know, comfort food. The very sound of it just puts you at ease. Advil. No pain. Ahhh…

Anyway! What if you have no Advil, because you’ve completely emptied your bottle, and in extreme I-NEED-DRUGS pain? Fear not, you (or someone in your place if you’re unable to move due to said pain) can find ibuprofen in Japan. Probably most, if not all, drug stores and pharmacies will carry it. The amount of ibuprofen in each pill is typically the same as regular Advil. Although, be forewarned, they often put caffeine in the pills too. Why, I don’t know. Perhaps they think a boost of energy will somehow kick the pain out of you. In any case, it’s not less effective, but keep in mind gel caps are harder to come by, if that’s your thing.

The word to look (or ask) for is — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

Jun 1

Surviving in Japan: 40+5 more ways to survive the rainy season

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Bleak, gray, rainy season, or 梅雨

The rainy season (梅雨, つゆ) has arrived.

Apparently beginning 12 days earlier than last year in central Japan, according to tenki.jp, and also earlier than normal in southern Japan as well. Though it doesn’t feel all that humid yet. I typically associate the rainy season with tropical jungle-like humidity that makes you feel like you’re living in a sauna.

Don’t be fooled though – it will likely sneak up on us before we know it. For now, my pregnant self will enjoy the moderate temperatures and bearable humidity levels.

Oh, and for those who may not know, it doesn’t actually rain constantly during the rainy season in Japan – it will either spontaneously downpour or sometimes rain for a while in variations between sprinkling and heavier rain, with some breaks here and there.

Before coming to Japan, being from Seattle (U.S.), I rarely, if ever, used an umbrella. In fact, it’s usually quite easy to tell the difference between locals and tourists in Seattle for this very reason. (Everyone thinks it rains there all the time, but it doesn’t – it’s just cloudy most of the year).

So I came to Japan with no umbrella, figuring I could just buy one somewhere easily (but in no hurry). Except that my friend and I got caught in the rain on our second day here. Not Seattle drizzle we were familiar with. A downpour. Sheets of rain.

As we were outside with no cover, we were instantly soaked (as if we’d fallen into a pool or something), and spent the next 10 minutes or so running from building cover to building cover to the nearest convenience store to buy an umbrella. (With bystanders laughing at us good-naturedly, of course).

Of course, by the time we bought the umbrella and walked out of the store, the rain stopped. That’s Japan for you. Everyone gave us strange looks when we entered the hotel again, dripping all over the floor. Lesson learned: During the rainy season, Always. Carry. An umbrella.

So, in honor of the arrival of this year’s rainy season, I pull from the archives:

40 tips to survive the rainy season in Japan

There are also some good suggestions in the comments, so be sure to read those as well!

And of course, a few more to add:

41. Forget number 4 on the previous list – with all the energy conservation we should be doing, go out instead and share the A/C instead of using it at home. (Although with the temps the way they are right now there really isn’t much of a need for A/C…) — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

May 28

Surviving in Japan: How to Find Anti-itch, Insect Bite Medicine

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

This post is a follow-up to A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan, for those who try in vain but perhaps still end up with itchy, annoying bites (I know the feeling…). My first apartment in Japan was constantly bombarded with mosquitoes, as it was next to this swampy water pool. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep them all away. (Although I’m convinced I seem especially attractive to them – they go after me far more than my husband!)

I visited a drug store in the first month after my arrival in hopes of discovering some anti-itch cream, the kind you use for mosquito bites, but without any idea of what exactly to look for or what it was called. After browsing the walls and aisles of various items, still unsure of what to get, I asked one of the store employees for help. I looked up mosquito in the Japanese-English dictionary on my phone, showed her the result, pointed to some of the red welts on my hand and arm, and asked if they had anything for that. Fortunately for me at the time, she understood right away and led me to the anti-itch/insect bite medicine, pulling out a box of ムヒ (Muhi), which is a common brand here in Japan.

So, to help you in your search for anti-itch/insect bite medicine, and perhaps save you some trouble of finding what you need at the store, I’ve included some necessary words to know, and some of the common ingredients you’ll typically find in these types of medicine.

Words to Know

When searching for anti-itch, insect bite medicine, look for these words:

虫さされ      むしさされ       mushi sasare                insect bite (may also see as 虫刺され)
かゆみ                                    kayumi                           itching

Though the brand and item name are typically most prominent on any packaging, you’ll likely see 虫さされ and/or かゆみ somewhere on the box/bottle.

Depending on your personal preference, you can find anti-itch, insect bite medication in various forms, including the following:

gel          ジェル
lotion    ローション
patch     パッチ
cream   クリーム
liquid type 液体 (えきたい) (usually this rolls or dabs on)

If you want something “extra strength”, try looking for the following words, or something with “EX”: — CLICK HERE to read the rest of this post.

May 17

Surviving in Japan: A Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

That wonderfully hot and humid time of year is upon us – summer. And of course, the rainy season and along with it, mosquito season. I still remember my first apartment in Japan, next to a large drainage pool area where I can only guess thousands of mosquito eggs were hatching every day. And then they show up at 3am – that high-pitched buzzing whine in my ear as I attempt to sleep.

Since being in Japan, I’ve struggled with the best ways to control them, and though not every solution is always 100% effective, hopefully some of these options may help you get through the summer with a few less uncomfortable, itching bites and restless nights.

Words to know

First of all, wherever you’re looking for mosquito repellents or related items, you’ll probably want to know some of the following words and terms:

蚊                               か                               ka                         mosquito
虫                        むし                           mushi                  insect
虫よけ or 虫除け     むしよけ                  mushi yoke         insect repellent
防虫                          ぼうちゅう              bouchuu              protection against insects
忌避                          きひ                           kihi                       avoid, evade
殺虫剤                      さっちゅうざい     sacchuuzai          insect killer/insecticide
蚊取り                      かとり                      katori                   “remove mosquitoes”
天然成分                 てんねんせいぶん tennen seibun     natural ingredients
室内用                     しつないよう          shitsunaiyou       indoor use
屋外用                     おくがいよう          okugaiyou            outdoor use


Ingredients in Insecticides and Insect/Mosquito Repellents

You’ll generally find most insect repellent products in Japan fall into one of two categories (although a few will be part of both):

Natural mosquito repellents usually contain oils such as citronella (シトロネラ油), lavender (ラベンダー油), lemon eucalyptus (レモンユーカリ精油), and other essential oils. Some may also contain pyrethrum (a certain kind of flower), such as the natural mosquito coils, in which you’ll want to look for these kanji: 除虫菊. Many natural products will use 天然成分, though, keep in mind some of these still contain some chemical or harmful ingredients – so best to check the ingredient label if that is something you’re concerned about.

Chemical mosquito repellents/insecticides: Nearly all of the chemical repellents and insecticides contain pyrethroid, which is a chemical imitation of pyrethrum. You’ll typically find ピレスロイド系 in the active ingredient list, sometimes in parentheses, as most of the ingredients listed among chemical repellents are pyrethroids of some kind, even if the name is different. Though pyrethroid is considered safe for general use in certain amounts by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. (and of course, considered safe in Japan as well), it doesn’t make it necessarily healthy, especially if you have respiratory problems – so feel free to read up on it, learn more about it, and decide for yourself if it’s something you feel comfortable using. Also, please remember to take appropriate precautions when using any product with pyrethroid – try to keep areas ventilated, wash your hands/skin if you come in contact with the chemical surface, etc.

The other chemical commonly used (in body/skin repellents), and which I’ve also mentioned in the skin repellent section, is deet (ディート), which you may already be familiar with.


Important note: when looking for the following items at your local daily goods store or home store, keep in mind that some of the insect repellent items for your body are actually located in the pharmacy area, while the others, such as insecticides and other insect repellents, will be located in another area, most likely under: 殺虫剤.


Electronic Vapor Repellents — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

May 16

JET Alum Authors: Ari Kaplan – “The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career”

I recently learned of yet another JET alum author, Ari Kaplan (Hyogo-ken, 1993-94) who practiced law for nine years at a big firm before setting out on his own and, among other things, writing The Opportunity Maker:  Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development which became a big hit in the world of lawyers and especially among law students facing an increasingly uncertain job market and career prospects.

It turns out Ari, who speaks regularly at legal career events, has a new book coming out soon on the theme of “reinvention” intended not just for lawyers but for all professionals re-thinking their careers in a society where the ground increasingly seems to shift below our feet.

For more information about Ari, visit his website at www.arikaplanadvisors.com.  You can also see media coverage of him on WGN-TV Chicago, in the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog and in the Houston Chronicle


May 11

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

deodorant, JapanIf you’re coming to Japan, you will probably hear someone lamenting about the inability to find any “real” deodorant here. When I heard this before coming, I promptly bought a 4-pack of my favorite kind (which I hadn’t even used up after two years). Yet, for those trying to save luggage space, unless you are REALLY attached to your deodorant, let me reassure you, it IS possible to get deodorant in Japan. And no, I’m not even talking about typical Japanese stuff – I haven’t tried any of it (as everyone often says it doesn’t work as well). Though, many of the Japanese brands do use aluminum as a main ingredient, which is the active ingredient you’d find in anti-perspirants anywhere.

So, before I lay out your options, you’ll need to know the Japanese word for deodorant when searching: デオドラント. This may also be shortened to: デオ. You may even see something with アンダーアーム (underarm).

A few other words to know:

stick: スティック
mist: ミスト
cream: クリーム
spray: スプレー
bar: バー
gel: ジェル

how to find deodorant in Japan: — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

May 3

Surviving in Japan: Yellow Sand in Japan – How Does it Affect You?

Surviving in Japan: Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese."

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Weather reports recently (May 2011) mentioned an increase in 黄砂, kousa starting today and continuing over the next few days over much of Japan, which I mentioned on Twitter and heard many replies from people wondering what exactly yellow sand is and why it’s important to know about, so I wrote up the following information:

Along with the prevalence of spring-time pollen, there’s another annual annoyance that often affects Japan, known as “yellow sand”, “Asian dust”, “yellow dust”, or a more official term, Aeolian Dust, and in Japanese as 黄砂 (こうさ, kousa). This dust is stirred up by the wind from deserts in Mongolia, northern China and Kazakhstan, and carried in clouds over China, North and South Korea, and Japan. Seems relatively harmless, but supposedly this dust has also been found to carry a variety of toxic particles, such as heavy metals, sulfur, viruses and bacteria, asbestos, and other pollutants. As far as I’ve been able to find, Japan doesn’t seem to have experienced many health problems due to this dust (please correct me if you know otherwise), though South Korea has reported adverse health effects, particularly in those with respiratory problems. The dust can also decrease visibility, stain laundry, and cause other problems.

Just to clarify, this isn’t necessarily something you need to worry about on a daily basis during spring, but it might be good to be aware of for when it does occur, particularly if you live in Okinawa, Kyushu, Chugoku or Kansai (though it can apply to other regions). If it does appear in significant amounts, you may want to think about hanging your laundry indoors and possibly wearing a mask outside, especially if you have allergies and/or respiratory problems. I’m not a medical expert, so definitely look up “Aeolian Dust” and “health effects” so you can gain a better idea about how it might affect your health, because as I said, the information about adverse health effects in Japan seems to be sparse.

The U.S. Consulate of Naha (Okinawa) issued this statement on April 28, 2011 about dealing with Aeolian dust, particularly if you have health issues:
If you suffer from allergies or have a pre-existing respiratory problem such as asthma, emphysema or other forms of chronic respiratory disease you may want to consider limiting outdoor activities when high dust levels are present.
– Wear glasses instead of contacts
– Close windows
– Wash exposed skin after returning indoors
– Wear long sleeves
– Cover mouth and nose
– Do not drink or eat food outside
– Drink water frequently
– People with lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion

Now, I want to introduce to you two tools you can use to determine the levels of “yellow sand” in your area on any given day, and also how to look at predictions: — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

Apr 26

Surviving in Japan: 6 Ways to Deal with Allergies in Japan

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Surviving in Japan: Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese."

Are you going to Japan, or in Japan, and wondering what to do about your allergies? I know the feeling. I’m allergic to mold and dust mites, which are especially hard to escape in Japan.. Last winter they somehow managed to debilitate me while allowing a little virus to invade my inner ear – labrynthitis. Labryawha? It’s a deep inner ear inflammation. Makes you dizzy, lightheaded and generally unable to move. Some people get vertigo, and motion sickness. Anyway, that all aside the point – you can read the full story here.

*Note: This post is about nasal allergies and rhinitis, rather than food allergies. Please also note I am not a medical professional, and if you have severe allergies you should seek a doctor’s advice and appropriate medication and/or treatment.

Allergies are quite prominent in Japan – with a large number of those suffering primarily from pollen type allergies. So if you too suffer from rhinitis, you will find a very allergy-friendly (so to speak) country in Japan. A few ways to deal:

1. Wear a mask – Folks in Japan wear a mask for a variety of reasons, but most notably to keep allergies in check or to prevent the spread of whatever illness they might currently be carrying. Personally, I avoid wearing the mask because it annoys me, but just saying.

2. Allergy meds – I won’t go into too many specifics, as those with allergies probably already use specific kinds of medicine. My doctor in the U.S. primarily prescribed me Flonase (a nasal spray), which is available in Japan, so if you use Flonase, you can get a prescription here as well (and much cheaper at that, with the national health insurance). Whatever prescription you have in your home country or whatever OTC meds you use, bring the info to a doctor in Japan to find what you need (or a similar alternative). You can also get Claritin by prescription here in Japan. The Japanese pronunciation is: クラリチン.

3. Drink beni fuuki (べにふうき) – a very strong, concentrated green tea. The taste is quite bitter compared with regular green tea, because of the concentration, but studies in Japan have shown that those who drink it have less histamine response – due to the higher number of catechins. Available in supermarkets and online. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

Apr 19

Surviving in Japan: How to do a Furikomi (Bank Transfer)

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese"

I’m going to assume you already have a bank account in Japan. And perhaps you signed up with GoLloyds to transfer money to your bank accounts in your home country, or you made some online purchases, or even have a bill that needs to be paid by furikomi (bank transfer). So now you are at the bank, panicking in realization that the stupid ATM doesn’t have a “transfer” button in English (usually only withdrawal, balance inquiry and deposit). I’ve been there, too.

You can of course, ask the bank employees to help you, but they are only available during business hours, which often end at 3 p.m. Not the best news for those of you (probably most of you) who are working during the day. Or you could take someone with you who can read kanji. But what if those said kanji-readers start to passive-aggressively hint that they are busy and would just love to help but don’t know if they can? Ok…. you think. I guess I’ll try to do it myself. After my constant barrage of questions within a two week duration, I decided to figure out the transfer thing myself – even if it took me ages. Two days and two ATM visits later, I succeeded.

Oh, and try not to sit in front of the ATM the first time you try this with a long line of folks waiting behind you for their turn with the machine. (Avoid after-work rush hour). They may not show it, but they are burning with rage inside, thinking you are clueless, and why would you be so stupid as to do this by yourself?, and that they have families and dinner and shopping and things to get to. And yet, soon enough you will be impressing the socks off all of them, and standing behind them in line thinking the very same thing.

*Note: Some of the information here may not display on the ATM you use, although most of it should at some point. The placement may vary slightly, as may the color and size of buttons. Just look for the particular kanji here, and you’ll be all right.

**Remember to bring along the information from GoLloyds, or the online retailer, or the bill, or whatever it is you have furikomi information for.

Some of this information may or will include:

Account/beneficiary name (for GoLloyds type transfers): 受取人 (うけとりにん, uketorinin)

Financial Institution (the “receiving” bank, or recipient): 振込先 (ふりこみさき, furikomi saki)

Bank name: 銀行名 (ぎんこうめい, ginkoumei)

Branch name: 支店名 (してんめい, shitenmei)

Account Number: 口座番号 (こうざばんごう, kouza bangou)

Remitters/payers name: 振込人名 (ふりこみじんめい, furikomi jinmei)


other words to know:

furikomi (bank transfer): 振込 (ふりこみ) – sometimes this is preceded by お

bank: 銀行 (ぎんこう, ginkou)

account: 口座 (こうざ, kouza)

regular deposit: 普通預金 (ふつうよきん, futsuyokin)

confirm: 確認 (かくにん, kakunin)

correction: 訂正 (ていせい, teisei)

amount: 金額 (きんがく, kingaku)

cancel: 取り消し (とりけし, torikeshi)

go back/return: 前に戻る (まえにもどる, mae ni modoru)

cash: 現金 (げんきん, genkin)

*When doing a furikomi, keep in mind there should be a cancel button on every screen if you need to stop the process at any time (say, a line 20 people long are standing behind you, starting to invade your personal space). You’ll see confirm and correction typically when entering information.


how to do a furikomi (bank transfer)

I just want to apologize in advance for the lack of quality pictures – I had a mad horde of folks surrounding me from behind, waiting for me to hurry up and finish as I discreetly and hastily snapped photos with my iPhone.

1. Make sure to choose 日本語 (Japanese) on the main screen, instead of English (unless the ATM you use has a transfer function in English, then you won’t need to worry about the rest of this tutorial).

2. Press お振込, the polite form of “furikomi”. (Some ATMs may just say 振込). In the picture it is the button on the bottom.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.

Apr 19

National AJET’s “Life After JET”: Sabrina Venture

National AJET shares former JET participants’ experiences – and a little advice – with current JETs in their new monthly interview, Life After JET.  Contact lifeafterjet [at] ajet.net to be featured in future posts.


This month, we caught up with a recent JET-Alum, Sabrina Venture. Before JET, Sabrina was a painting major looking to pay off her student loans. As such, she took a job with a Police Department as a dispatcher. She “sought out that job since it had governmental security and lots of perks (never a parking ticket!), good pay, and offered an education pay program.” However, after two years, she was burnt-out — “too many people dying and too much drama and sad stories” — and looking for a break.

That’s where JET came in. Sabrina moved to Kyoto for a year in 2009. She “would have stayed on the JET program but [she] had a fiancé waiting for [her] so [she] returned to the states. [She] took a month off for [her] wedding and applied to other agencies to go back to dispatch.” By then, she was feeling less burnt-out and found a position in a quieter area. “It’s a smaller agency, quieter than New England, and [she’s] living in an adorable apartment right in downtown.”

Sabrina tells us a little bit about her transition back to her previous career in the States (and how she’s infused it with a little of her Japan-experience) and how she keeps her creative juices flowing…

NAJET: Have you experienced any reverse culture shock since coming back? (You’ve probably been keeping busy with the wedding and finding a job and everything, so maybe you haven’t had a chance to worry about that!) If you have, how did you deal with it?

Sabrina: Culture everything-is-cooler-in-Japan shock. I dunno. I really, REALLY miss the beauty of the natural surroundings. I don’t miss the crowds in downtown. I can also go back — maybe not with JET, but there are other ways to get into Japan. I don’t consider JET my one and only shot at time in Japan and knowing I can always go back helps keep any culture shock in check.

NAJET: You’ve returned to a career that you had before JET, does it feel different? I know you said your time on JET helped you get over some of your burnout — but is there anything else? A new perspective?

Sabrina: I returned to the same career — but not at the same place — and I had to take a pay cut due to financial restraints in the county. That sucked. It still sucks. But I DO have a job, and a nice place to live, and while I’m not swimming in cash, I have enough to cover my needs and still save. My time in JET helped my remember to appreciate the things I do have and relax about things I don’t.

I think that before I left I was really focused on the bottom line and early retirement — I was so focused on earning as much as possible that I worked in neighborhoods that were dangerous and dirty. After JET, I’m more focused on the non-monetary aspects to quality of life — I consider things like population, crime rate, natural beauty now instead of just money.

Click here for the rest of the interview.

Apr 14

Surviving in Japan: 7 Words to Know When You Have a Cold (in Japan)

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese."

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Here are some essential Japanese words you might want to know if you come down with a cold in Japan.

I tend to stick to more natural remedies when possible, but when the symptoms are bad enough, I head for the drugs (medicine). Although, and some of you may already know about this, eastern medicine, or kanpou, is used in Japan.

So where do you find cold medicine? The best places to look are your local daily goods store and/or local pharmacy – called 薬屋 (くすりや, kusuri ya) or 薬局 (やっきょく, yakkyoku). 薬 (くすり, kusuri) means drugs/medicine. Now, let’s look at some of the most common cold symptoms and the corresponding Japanese so you know what to look for (or ask for) when seeking out cold medicine in Japan.

Read More

Apr 7

Surviving in Japan: How to Find (Good) Toothpaste in Japan

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

Another one of those “living in Japan” myths claims that Japanese toothpaste generally doesn’t work. Or that it doesn’t contain fluoride. And some folks go so far as to insist this is one of the main reasons why Japanese people have bad teeth. (I hope you realize this is a generalization, and not one that I came up with nor believe!) Of course I bought into this myth, although a few people mentioned something about Aquafresh toothpaste, and brought four tubes with me from the States. Nothing wrong with bringing toothpaste with you, but you certainly don’t need to waste luggage space on it. So let’s delve into toothpaste.

Japan, toothpaste

The toothpaste I’m going to examine here is Aquafresh, although some other brands offer similar ingredients. I browsed a local daily goods store and discovered that about two-thirds of the products listed fluoride as an active ingredient. Granted, most toothpaste probably did lack fluoride years ago as well as other ingredients of “modern” toothpaste, but it seems that many brands have caught up now. So first, some words to know: — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.


Apr 4

Surviving In Japan: How to Find Out How Fast Your Laundry Will Dry

Ashley Thompson is "Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese"

Posted by Ashley Thompson (Shizuoka-ken, 2008-2010) of Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese and Lifelines columnist for The Japan Times.

You probably already know that most people in Japan hang out their laundry to dry. Drive or ride past apartment buildings on a sunny day and you’ll see clothes, towels, blankets and futons hanging from bars and draped over the rail. And what could be better than to have the sun dry and naturally remove odors and stains from your items? It’s a wonderful thing. Well, at least when you don’t have the strong winter wind like here in Shizuoka attempting to throw your stuff over the ledge (I’ve gotten quite clever at coming up with ways to keep things from blowing off the balcony).

And you probably also know that you wouldn’t hang clothes outside if it’s raining or looks like it’s going to rain.

But what if you could know how fast your clothes might dry on any given day?

There’s a neat tool on various weather websites that determines a “laundry index” or 洗濯指数 (せんたくしすう, sentaku shisuu) – essentially it tells you if it’s a good day for hanging out laundry or not and how quickly certain items will dry.

For this example I’m going to use tenki.jp, though you can find the laundry index on Yahoo and other sites as well (and they are all the same so I can’t say one is better than another).

First, go to tenki.jp, and then click on 指数情報 (しすうじょうほう, shisuu jouhou – sort of like “index information”), as in the picture below. (There’s actually a map of Japan in that blank gray box but it didn’t show up in my screenshot for some reason.)

Laundry Japan


Next, choose 洗濯 (せんたく, sentaku, laundry). — CLICK HERE to read the rest of the post.


Mar 15

Earthquake: Perspective From Japan

Written by Dipika Soni (Ishikawa-ken, 2003-06). Dipika currently works as an in-house translator for PFU (a Fujitsu company) in Kahoku-shi, Ishikawa-ken. She is also the vocalist for the Japanese hardcore punk band DEGRADE.

“How can we help?” is the most frequently asked question I have been hearing over the last few days. For my neighbours in the small coastal town of Hodatsushimizu in Ishikawa prefecture, situated on the Sea of Japan, the horror of last week’s tsunami which effortlessly wiped out whole towns is only too poignant. Friends in my local JET and foreign communities are struggling to understand the truth of the situation due to the disparity between the seemingly down-played reports in the Japanese media and sensationalist approach to reports by certain western press. However, everyone is ready and willing to help in whatever way they can. Also eager to help are family and friends around the globe, who are constantly being bombarded with shocking headlines and devastating images of the disaster, causing tensions to run high as my presence in Japan makes them all the more connected.

When the earthquake struck shortly after 2:45pm Friday March 11th, I was sitting at my desk at work, when I started to feel a strange dizziness. It wasn’t until a minute later when other colleagues mentioned the same that we realized we were experiencing a tremor. Registering at only magnitude 3 here in Ishikawa prefecture, the earthquake was largely unfelt, with most people only noting a slight swaying and a seasick-like feeling. However, the length and number of aftershocks indicated the seriousness of the situation at the epicenter, as confirmed by the news reports that started to come in.

Like everyone else around the country (and world) we followed the news in disbelief and shock, uncertainty and a feeling of helplessness taking over. As the extent of the disaster began to unfold over the following days, these feelings have only intensified. While things remain calm and ‘normal’ here in Ishikawa (we are all going to work and have no shortages of food/water/electricity/gas), the nerves of the Japanese, foreign community, and family & friends back home are being tested daily. Although we are not directly affected here, we are all suffering from mixed feelings of fear, confusion, heartache and love for a country that is our home. For all of us now, remaining positive in the face of so much sadness and uncertainty is key.


How Can We Help?

[Donate Money]

This is the most effective and encouraged way to help. Various different funds and suggestions of organisation accepting donations have been doing the rounds. For direct donations to specifically address JET needs in affected areas, AJET has set up the AJET Relief Fund. (There are other recommended relief efforts supported by AJET also listed on the site).  Also, the JET Alumni Association (JETAA) is organizing a large fund raising effort as well.  Details to come.

Other suggested ways to donate:

  • British Red Cross
  • American Red Cross
  • Nippon Foundation CANPAN Project
  • Save the Children
  • Non-Believers Giving Aid
  • International Medical Corps
  • AMDA International
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Be careful to donate through official channels as reports of criminals using this tragedy for monetary gain are already being reported.



    Planning is underway to assign volunteers once official groups can be coordinated. People are urged to stay where they are until official groups are in place. (The strain on limited supplies and infrastructure in the affected areas is already too great and unorganized volunteers would unfortunately cause more of a hindrance rather than a help).

    Volunteer information once available will be posted on JetWit as well as on http://ajet.net/. Various groups that you can join have been set up on facebook, such as this one: I am/will be in Japan and want to volunteer in Tohoku


    [Give Blood]

    Check where you can donate locally. Here’s one resource listing blood donation rooms: Blood donation rooms etc. Do make sure to check if you can actually donate as there are strict rules. Here’s a good source of info on this: Who can and can not donate blood in japan


    [Save Electricity and Don’t Over-Stock Supplies]

    As scheduled blackouts are in place for most areas in the North-East, the whole country is being encouraged to save as much electricity as possible. Over stocking of supplies is being discouraged as panic has lead to stores selling out in the Tokyo area, raising concern that this will cause further strain on supplies needed in the worst stricken areas.


    [Offer Your Couch]

    A group has been setup on CouchSurfing where people in Japan can offer their homes as temporary accommodation for those affected by the earthquake. Check here: http://www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=39703


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