Tag Archives: driving

A Snowman or a Snow Rabbit?

With all this snow we’ve been getting this weekend, it’s looking like winter. But it’s early October, there are still leaves on trees and green grass. Today, I enjoyed driving to work on almost empty streets that were covered with snow. But in the afternoon, I went out to the supermarket and made this:

Just a tiny snowman. But up the hill a little bit farther, we saw this:

Snow rabbit? With the spruce cones in the face melting the snow, it looked rather creepy.

Has anyone made a snowman yet?


From Japan to Canada – Changing My License

After I came to Japan, I changed my Canadian driver’s license to a Japanese one. It took me about five hours one day, but it was finished. I had to get my Canadian license and five year driving record translated, but that was all. No tests were required. It was basically an exchange of licenses.

Now that I’m going back to Canada, I have to do he reverse. It’s a bit easier, because I won’t have to get my driving record here in Japan. I do have to get my license translated, though. And that’s the difficult part. According to the Alberta Motor Association, I must have my license translated by an approved translator. However, Japanese licenses are a special case. They must be translated at the Consulate-General of Japan, which is in Calgary. And that will require a little trip down to Calgary. Also, to get my license, I need to provide AMA with my address, which I’ll probably be able to give them once I’ve changed my address at my bank.

One of the most important things I need to do is get a car. There’s a very good chance that the job I’m going to be doing will require a car. So, I need my license as quickly as possible, and I will most likely be leasing a car.

But what kind of car? Something small is fine at first. Once we’re all settled and ready to buy a car, we may be looking at some smaller SUVs, or crossovers. I’m a bit partial to the Honda Vezel, which is available in Canada as the Honda HR-V. We may also consider the Subaru Forester. But in the beginning, we kind of have our eye on the Toyota Aqua, which is known as Toyota Prius c in Canada. Keep in mind that this is not actually a Prius, but a different model. It just has the Prius name in North America. And, honestly, I wouldn’t mind the Audi Q3 or Q5, that is if I had the money.

And finally, I really do miss driving in Canada. I’m sure my sister found it interesting being a passenger in Japan while I was driving one day.

140 Days Until Canada

Sounds like a lot of days, but it’ll be incredibly short. It’s been five years since I’ve set foot in Canada. I wonder how foreign it’ll feel. But we’re not going to just visit, we’re going to live there.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve missed. There’s actually a lot, though some more than others.

I miss Canadian forests. Japanese forests are more like rain forests and almost always green. At least around here. I want to see a birch forest again.

I miss driving in Canada. The roads are narrow and congested in Japan. I want Canada’s broad streets and easier to navigate cities and highways.

I miss certain foods, such as Old Dutch taco flavoured tortilla chips, pepperoni, New York Fries, Harvey’s, Panago, and KFC’s fries and gravy.

I miss hockey. Just can’t see it on TV in Japan.

I can’t wait to experience these things again.

If you have moved away (actually or hypothetically) from your home country, what would/do you miss?

Life in Japan: What Japan Needs from Canada

Having lived in Japan for ten years, there are quite a few things from Canada I don’t have access to at all.  Occasionally, I’ll be able to eat a real hot dog in Costco, find Marmite in Union, and A&W Root Beer in Carnival, but there are some things that are impossible to find here. This week’s question comes from stomperdad.

Besides family, what do you miss about Canada that you wish Japan had?

Most of things I miss are food.  There are a lot of similar fast food restaurants here, such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Burger King, but what I really want isn’t available here.

Harvey's burger and fries.
Harvey’s burger and fries.

I always loved going to Harvey’s. The ability to customise your burger is missing from fast food places in Japan.  And eating a Harvey’s hamburger was so satisfying.

I’m not a big fan of pizza, since I don’t like pizza sauce or tomatoes, but I loved getting pizza from Panago. Again, you can customise the entire pizza. It’s just absolutely wonderful.

Although you can get KFC here in Japan, the fries are totally different. I miss the fries and gravy from Canada.

And speaking of fries, I really want New York Fries and gravy, and maybe even poutine.

Moving away from the restaurants and into general food, I miss pepperoni (what we get here in Japan is incredibly hard and it’s called spicy salami), affordable cheese, Cheez Whiz, dill pickle potato chips, salt and vinegar potato chips other than Pringles, raspberries, saskatoon berries, and bacon. You can get bacon in Japan, but what’s here is thick and never crispy. I really want crispy bacon! I also miss Canadian Chinese food. What’s here is good, but I think it’s better in Canada.

Other things include using a debit card (Japan is cash-based), efficient banks, 24 hour ATMs (they close for the night in Japan), and roads that are easy to drive on. I also miss being able to watch NHL games on TV. Can’t get them here at all.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is what I can think of at the moment.

If you have any questions about living in Japan, please see the original post and leave your questions in the comments.

Human Behaviour Mysteries

As you may know, I live in Japan.  Japan is a country where people are often very orderly, queuing in neat lines for the bus, restaurants, or the train.  It’s a place where everyone apologises if they accidentally bump into someone, no matter who was at fault.  It’s a place where shop staff always say thank you.  Sounds so polite, doesn’t it?  It’s very orderly, isn’t it?

Well, I’ll tell you something, there are certain places where this politeness and orderliness break down.  I’m not saying this is a Japan only thing, as I’m sure it happens all around the world.  Here are some examples.

In trains, people sit or stand without making eye contact and minding their own business.  But when getting on or off the train, people become maniacs.  They rush for a seat and they push people out of the way.  For example, whenever I get off the train, there’s always someone standing in the middle trying to push his or her way on.  I have to push the person out of the way to get off the train.  Another example is when a pregnant woman was about to sit down on the seat and a middle-aged businessman rushed on the train, slipped behind her, and sat down.  She had nowhere to sit.  I was standing, so I couldn’t offer her a seat.  If this were Canada, other passengers would’ve forced the man off the train for being an inconsiderate asshole.  What is it about trains that makes people go insane?

Driving in Japan is mostly safe.  People obey the rules, usually.  The exceptions are at intersections.  It never fails that someone runs a red light or completely ignores the pedestrians trying to cross at a crosswalk.  Four times one year, I was crossing a crosswalk at an intersection on a walk signal, and someone had to be so oblivious to the pedestrian walking directly in front of them that they nearly hit me. That’s four times!  The worst was when a woman stopped 10 centimetres from me.  She refused to look at me or even apologise.  I stood there for about five seconds staring at her.  Not one acknowledgment of making a mistake.  As for running red lights, one guy nearly hit me and a teenager already in the crosswalk while driving on the wrong side of the road.  He was trying to go between us.  I could have kicked his car.  I should have.

Finally, we have shopping.  But not just anywhere.  Costco.  In most stores, people are fine, but in supermarkets, I sometimes have to ask people to move out of the way when I want to get past.  But in Costco, which is where I was today, everyone seems to move in random directions, walk incredibly slow, and block the entire way by parking their carts in the middle, perpendicular or diagonally to the flow of people.  And not just one person does this.  Three or four people gather in one spot and just stand there looking like they have no idea where they are.  I’m looking at them, but they don’t seem to notice me standing there waiting for one of them to move.  It’s not just double-parking, it’s quadruple-parking.  I always feel compelled to move to the side so others can go past me.  But why is it that shoppers in Costco have absolutely no common sense?

Writers have to understand human behaviour, right?  But what about in these cases?  I don’t think like these people, so I often feel completely baffled by what goes on in their minds.

Do you have any more examples?

Driving: Canada vs. Japan

Tomorrow, I’m renting a car.

As you may know, I live in Japan, though I’m from Canada.  I’ve been driving for 23 years, since I got my learner’s permit when I was 14.  Since 2005, I’ve been living in Japan, and I actually have a Japanese driver’s license.  It wasn’t difficult to switch from a Canadian license to a Japanese one, since there are agreements between the two countries allowing them to share driving safety records.  This means I can easily exchange my license and not take a test.  Americans aren’t so lucky.  They have to take the driving test.

So, as I said, I’m renting a car tomorrow.  I first drove in Japan in 2009, also a rental.  We occasionally rent a car to go shopping at Costco, which is what we’re doing tomorrow.  It’s just easier to transport everything by car, rather than by bus, train, and bus.

Are you wondering how easy it was to adjust to driving in Japan?  Some things were easy, some things I’m still not used to.  Let’s take a look.

The easy things.

  • Switching from right side of the road to the left was quite easy.  I was surprised.  No problems at all.
  • Switching from the left side of the car to the right was also easy to adjust to.
  • Using my left hand to shift from park to drive and reverse was no problem.
  • Traffic laws are very similar.  One major difference is that you can’t turn left on a red (like you can turn right on a red in Canada).
  • Mirrors fold in to protect them from other cars while parking.
  • Everything is in metric, which is what I’ve always used.

The difficult things.

  • Red light runners.  Too many.
  • Too many drivers are inexperienced, as they drive infrequently.
  • So many people stop on the sides of major roads, blocking half of the traffic.  I find this dangerous.
  • Too many people don’t signal when turning.
  • The turn signal and windshield wipers are switched when compared to Canada.  I’ve accidentally wiped the windshield when I meant to signal.
  • Parking.  People back into parking spaces.  Narrower parking spaces.  Ugh.
  • Navigating the mazes that are the streets of Japan is a monumental task.  You really need a navigation system, unless you know the way.
  • Pedestrians are frequently ignored.
  • Narrow streets and many blind corners.

So, I have all of that to look forward to tomorrow.  It’s no wonder I don’t drive often in Japan.  I can’t wait to drive in Canada again.  So much easier.