Sunday, July 29, 2007

Other side of the moon

I am not an expert on the way the universe works.... I know that when it is summer here in Japan it is winter in New Zealand, when the water goes down the sink in a circular motion in Japan it goes in the opposite direction to that in New Zealand, and when you build a house in Japan it should face south for the best sun, rather than north as it does in New Zealand (or have I got it around the wrong way again.....). Apart from that I am pretty much lost as to how things work. However, one thing that I have discovered is that no matter where you are the moon is full on the same day (well at least it is in Japan and NZ!). Tonight there is a beautiful full moon here and my NZ calendar tells me it is also a full moon in NZ. Just thought you'd like to know that... better than complaining to you about the heat again anyway!
Now I just have to work out whether the quarter moons etc. face the same direction or not.... maybe I could take off in my son's birthday cake to find out. Somehow it managed to stand up long enough to take a photo.... (it is a rocket, just in case anyone is wondering!).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cooking in Kitsuki

This morning I spent the morning with a group of 14 women and 2 men cooking New Zealand food, using ingredients which are grown in this region. At this time of year there are not so many that I can make off hand, but with a little bit of creativity we managed to make Citrus slice, Pumpkin muffins, Kumara and mandarin salad and herb mayonnaise. Fortunately we were doing it in a large cooking room rather than my small kitchen! Fortunately the airconditioning was on too.... it was 37 degrees today outside!

In an attempt to combat the heat here we have started freezing fruit... it makes great snacks and desserts! My personal favorites are grapes and watermelon. Cold and yum!
Tomorrow we will have my son's 5th birthday party.... I only hope the icing will stay on the cake long enough to cut it - I can just see it melting now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Over the past two days we have had two different sets of visitors. The first was another group of Koreans who were part of a bigger group that was billeted out to different houses in Yamaga. After the last experience of Koreans speaking no English or Japanese the children tried very hard to learn a little Korean... succeeding with "hello" and "thank you". Now they are saying it continuously and driving me crazy! Fortunately this time a few of the members spoke reasonable English so we could at least communicate the basics.

The next night a Canadian couple came to stay as part of their bike and hike tour with Joe. Fortunately the weather was great so I could get all the sheets washed and the blankets and futons aired out in between the visitors. I have discovered that the upstairs windows make a great sunning place for the heavy futons. Better than dragging them downstairs to hang them out!
Great weather also meant that we were able to eat dinner outside - tempura made from all the vegetables from the garden. I've just discovered that they are coming back to stay tomorrow night too after a nasty run in with a jelly fish today....

Friday, July 20, 2007


Oops - I got a little carried away with the length of the drivers licences here... the real length is in fact 5 years for gold licences (not 10 as I originally stated) and 3 years for the normal one. Thanks Warugaki Mommy for correcting me! Either way my licence will no longer be gold....

Thursday, July 19, 2007


After checking on the internet, I know I am definately not the only non-Japanese resident living here that has a problem with names, but...... today I was again reminded how difficult things can be. The problem stems from the recording systems they have here in Japan. For anyone interested here is a quick rundown (those who are not interested please come back another day!).
There are two main ways that Japanese people are kept track of:
  1. Koseki - this is a family register which lists all the members of a family - the head of the family and then all other children etc. in that family until they are married off and start their own family. One problem.... non-Japanese cannot be entered into this. Therefore, I am officially not a part of this, although I do get an honourable mention on it as the mother of my children and in the comments column I am noted to have married my husband. My name here is recorded as my maiden name.
  2. Juminhyo - this is a registry of current residential addresses maintained by the local governments. When you change addresses you must register again. It is possible under this system to be recorded in two locations at once - one for the family register and one for the current residential address. Unless of course you are non-Japanese resident in which case you can't be listed on the juminhyo either (well this is slowly changing, but until recently this wasn't possible).
So... reading the above you might think "hey, foreigners in Japan don't exist" and in a sense they don't according to the official Japanese documents. But to counter all this they have a different way of registering us - that is with an "Alien Registration" card. Even long term residents married to Japanese citizens are considered aliens. Of course you could apply for Japanese citizenship and then all these problems are resolved, but... in Japan after the age of 20 you can only have one country's citizenship, therefore I would have to say goodbye to my NZ citizenship.... something I don't feel like doing!

Anyway, back to the name problem... the big problem arose today when we tried to change my "cancer insurance" to a cheaper "family" plan. My Alien Registration card claims that I am Jo Sukimoto (sorry - still not fully comfortable putting all private info on the web!). The comment on the family register claims that I am Joe Bloggs. My health insurance card claims that I am Joe Sukimoto (note the subtle spelling changes). My drivers licence claims that I am Jo Bloggs. So I have 4 names here in Japan..... each one is needed for a different thing. The main problem with the insurance today was that if I wrote my health insurance name down, I would have no problem claiming money if I was admitted to hospital, but if I died it would be difficult for my husband to claim the money - as he would need to use the name on the family register. Of course the reverse then becomes possible too - money if I died, but not if I was admitted to hospital. Of course this put the insurance people into a flap and it still hasn't been fully resolved, but it makes me feel better having put the frustration down on paper.
Thanks to anyone who has read this far - I don't think I have made it very clear, but it is pretty confusing for me too!

Just as aside... there was a case in 2002 where a seal (yes the one that lives in the ocean) was given an honorary juminhyo (the thing foreigner residents are not allowed to have), which prompted protests from foreign residents who painted whiskers on their faces to prove their point. I think things have changed a bit since then!


Yesterday I had a nice little experience... I was cruising along at 68km / hour on the basically open road, when.... oh **** I saw the little man on his little chair with his little camera! Next thing I was pulled over by the next little man with his little flag and taken to the next little man in the back of a little white van and given a speeding ticket - less than 2 kms from our house! The speed limit here even on the open road is 50km/hour..... who on earth would follow that???? Even the highways have a speed limit of approximately 80km/hour. So now my gold drivers licence (which means I don't need to renew it for 5 years) will become a regular one again (needing to be renewed every 3 years..) and my bank balance will go down by 12,000 yen. Ouch! Mind you it is the first time I have been given a ticket despite speeding basically every day here for 11 years so I guess I shouldn't complain too much!

On a better note, we survived the typhoon with no real problems - the bee hives all seem to be still standing and the weeds seem to have protected the tomatoes from the heavy winds (I knew there was a reason for not getting rid of all the weeds!). For some reason even the crows have decided to leave the tomatoes alone for the meantime, resulting in many kilos every day.
We also had the guest house re-papered yesterday - cracks and muck all gone... for now!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Veges

The rain finally stopped for a day or so - enough to get some washing dried and some vegetables picked. As some of the first varieties of zucchinis start to wither away, some new varieties are just starting. These were grown from seeds given to me from a friend and are really cute, but I'm not exactly sure how to cook them!
The aubergines (eggplants) are also just starting to appear and with three varieties to choose from, I'm hoping that at least one of them will survive the upcoming typhoon.
That's right, we had one day of no rain and now we are right back into it - tonight there is amazing thunder and lightning and there is a big typhoon set to hit here on Saturday - we are all busy watching the weather reports closely!

Monday, July 09, 2007


I mentioned in a previous post that there are "snails" which become a problem in the rice fields. As it is STILL raining and I have nothing better to write about I thought I'd show you a picture of them. The red balls are the eggs and as you can see they attach themselves to the rice plants and as far as I can tell the eggs are not a problem in themselves. Of course once they hatch out it is a different story! I'm not exactly sure what the snails do, but from what I can tell they enjoy munching on the rice plants - not the nicest thing to do really! So every day at the moment my father-in-law is out scooping them out of the rice fields. Fortunately this year he seems to have given up on throwing them onto the road for the next car to crush them - the smell last year was incredible!

On a slightly better note I managed to get about 10kg of yellow plums in the weekend from a relative so we now have some great plum jam. Any orders welcome!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The huge amount of rain yesterday combined with the visitors over the weekend meant that I was unable to get into the garden to pick the veges for a few days.... a big mistake! Two containers of cucumbers, along with lots of tomatoes that have split due to the rain, enough beans to feed half of Yamaga, and of course zucchinis were waiting for me. Of course getting them was half the fun. Due to the rain some of the garden has turned into a mud pile - as I discovered when I stepped onto it to pick a zucchini..... I quickly changed into gumboots!
I have spent most of the day making pickles and chutney in an attempt to clear the kitchen floor of cucumbers. I've made 4 different varieties already, but can't seem to see a hole in the cucumber pile! Any cucumber recipes very welcome..... of course if you are close enough to come and get some you are more than welcome to your own cucumber pile. I know there will be more ready tomorrow!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More new friends

After our Korean visitors it was really nice to have a family come to stay who we were able to talk well with! We had a lovely family of 5 come to stay over the weekend and perfect weather meant swimming, vegetable hunting as well as outdoor eating was possible. The only problem was that the bugs also thought it was a great day to be out and about so we gave up on dessert outdoors and moved to the bug-free zone of inside!
It has been really nice watching how my children have started to get used to having guests and rather than hiding in the corner until they've gone home, they now make the first move to play and talk with the new guests. I hope that they will be able to make many new friends this way - especially considering how few children live in this area!

After no rain for a long time the skies really dumped it on us today - temporarily stopping the trains and turning the lawn and garden into a pond. Hopefully that will be the end of it for a little while.....