Tag Archives: trains

Choose My Best Instagram Photos – Round 1, Group 38

I’ve finished adding Japan photos to Instagram, so it’ll be capped at 63 groups for the first round. Once we finish group 63, we’ll move on to the second round, which will be randomly sorted photos that passed the first round. It’ll basically be the same format.

But now, on to the 38th group. This time, you get to see trains, buildings, and darkness. Enjoy!

The rules are simple. I post 10 of my Instagram photos every few days, and you get to vote on your favourites. It’s multiple choice, so please vote for 2 to 4 photos (3 is ideal). Leave a comment saying why you voted the way you did. The poll comes after the photos.

Here are the photos:

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¥100 only

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Sotetsu train car 7

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Marker in the station

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Sotetsu Shonandai Station Staff

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Hina Matsuri is today

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Cyclist in the fog

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Remember 311

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Venus and Jupiter meeting

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Venus and Jupiter up close

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Walkways in the sky

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And now the vote. Please vote for your favourite photos (ideally 3, but anywhere between 2 and 4):

Please leave a comment with a reason for your votes. I’d like to know what works with my photography. Thanks!

It Snowed! And It’s a Mess

The first snow of the season. Doesn’t everyone look forward to that? I know I did, as long as it wasn’t too early. But in Japan, especially in the warmer areas, it’s not something to look forward to. Look.


It’s nothing but slush. To top it off, the snow changed to rain, and it’s causing trains to be delayed. I have to work today and take a train. Hopefully, it’s fine. I’ll be leaving early to get there.


The snow may look nice in some pictures, but believe me, it’s soaking wet. When my daughter was picked up to go to her nursery, she slipped on the driveway and got completely soaked. Good thing she has a couple changes of clothes in her bag.

Well, time to get ready for work and go.

Do you like snow? Do you look forward to the first snow of the year? Let me know.

101 Days to Canada – A Retrospective on Japan

It still doesn’t seem real. I’m here, in my apartment in Japan, and Canada seems so far away. It’s not just distance, but time, as well. When I first came to Japan, I had no idea my time here would be nearly eleven years. I’d intended on two. A lot of things happened, both expected and surprising. I’d like to look back on a few of those events.

Grocery shopping

This is one of the first things I did. I’m used to it now, but there are a few differences that surprised me. One is that salt is with the oil and soy sauce, not the spices. Took me a long time to find it. Also, packaging is a bit too much here. Large trays for a single piece of fish or meat. Individually wrapped cookies. And so many kinds of soy sauce, I had no idea what to buy.


I was expecting hot and humid, but I’d never experienced it for four straight months before. I remember walking home one night around one in the morning, and it was still hot and humid. But you know what? I love Japan’s summer now.


I’d always expected to feel earthquakes, and now I feel slightly desensitised to them. However, the big earthquake on March 11, 2011 is something I’ll never forget. You can read about my experience here (written just two days after the earthquake, and the entire experience was very fresh in my mind) and here (this second one was from this year and includes videos).


I knew that the train system in Japan was amazing, but I was expecting it to be difficult to use. On the contrary, it was quite easy. The only difficulty I had was with the Tokyo subway system, where nothing was in English. There’s English now, though. But I love Japan’s train system so much, it’s one of the things I’m going to miss terribly. I wish Canada would build a convenient and efficient system like this. Much easier than flying and driving all the time.


I knew about people jumping in front of trains before I came here. I just never thought I’d witness it.  And I did.  Right in front of me. It was just a couple days after I climbed Mt. Fuji in August 2005. Everything was in slow motion as it happened. You can read about that experience here. I still remember the entire thing very clearly.

Mt. Fuji

One of my highlights, and I did it early. The weather was perfect, and the view was amazing. They say you should only do it once. Well, I want to do it again! And the next time, have a better camera.

Teaching children

Before starting my English teaching job, I’d never really had any experience with children, other than having been one. But I was an unusual child, wanting to study, wanting to have my nose in a science book or encyclopedia. My first lesson was nerve-wracking. Now, I have no problems with kids.


I don’t like mayonnaise. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere in Japan. If I want a sandwich, I have to make it myself, or else I’ll get a huge glob of mayonnaise in my mouth. Ugh. I even wanted beef stew one day from Family Mart, and guess what I saw. Mayonnaise on top. What the hell?

Cold apartments

It’s damn cold inside in winter! No central heating, poor insulation, and a single air conditioner in one room. I used that air conditioner a lot when I was single. My apartment was tiny then.

Tiny apartments

My first two apartments were so small. My mom visited me after I’d been in Japan for a year, and she laughed the first time she saw my apartment. That was my first apartment, the one without internet. Nice view, though.

Ignoring the law

Japan is a safe country with law-abiding citizens. That is in most ways, they are. There are two cases where I see people constantly breaking the law. The first is smoking laws. I’ve seen people smoking in no-smoking areas, next to no-smoking signs, and even on train platforms and inside stations. The second is driving laws. People run red lights all the time, don’t signal, and don’t yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. I’ve been nearly hit by cars on six or seven occasions.

There’s a lot more I could say here. I think I could write a book about it. Maybe I will one day.

Did anything surprise you? If you’ve been to another country, is there something that surprised you? Share your experiences in the comments below.

The Evolution of Technology

Today, we were at The Railway Museum in Saitama, a place I’d wanted to go to for years. Finally, I went there. It was pretty interesting, and I could have spent a lot more time there looking around. What’s interesting is seeing how the trains changed over time. Old trains are fascinating, but so are newer ones.

One area showed the development of the Shinkansen (bullet train) over time. You could see how the speed of the train got faster over the years, as well as how the design became more aerodynamic. The technology kept improving.

I’m always interested in how technology evolves. I’ll be looking at space probes when I go through them for Quick Facts, though this will mostly look at the discoveries and science done. However, I want to look at specific advances in technology over time for individual technologies. For example, I’d like to look at how computers have changed, or how bicycles have changed, or how telephones have changed. I want to write about the various stages and provide examples. I think it’ll be interesting. It also makes me wonder about the future.

What do you think? Are you interested in how technology changes?

Life in Japan: Fitting In or Giving Up?

Japan has a far different culture than what I grew up with in Canada. There are so many things that are interesting, yet not always easy to understand or deal with. This week’s question comes from barnraised:

Do you ever find yourself just “tired”? Of trying to fit in, to please?

Occasionally. It’s not often, though. There are times that I get frustrated with procedures, but who doesn’t? That happened in Canada (government procedures, long wait times). But remarkably, I found it rather easy to fit in in many ways. My personality type is a good match for Japan, as I am an introvert who tends to enjoy being quiet. On the train, apart from being a foreigner, I look like everyone else with my nose in a book or looking at my phone. I have no trouble shopping, no trouble with work, and I even have no trouble getting my annual health checkup (I know the procedure). I can’t say I’ve become tired of much of anything, except for a few small things.

One is the politeness level in shops. I find the constant “Irasshaimase (welcome)” kind of tiring. But what I was used in Canada was that everyone said thank you, including the customer. In Japan, customers treat the employees without any kind of respect. No thank yous at all. The staff are incredibly polite, but the customers are not. They’re just totally indifferent.

On the trains, I get tired of how some people can be so impatient that they’ll push people out of the way or stand in the middle of an open train door while many others are trying to get out. And then there are the people who hog the priority seats and don’t give them up to pregnant or elderly passengers. This is not Japanese culture, this is commute-induced laziness and rudeness.

Although this is nothing about fitting in, I find it somewhat baffling how so many people in Japan seem to think only Japan has four seasons. And the “We Japanese” phrase that many people use give the Japanese culture a kind of Borg hive mind mentality that I just can’t get myself into. I’m an individual, and I don’t think or even want to say “We Canadians.”  And I actually find that most Japanese are very individual. It’s part of their education that they’re told to just go with what the majority say and don’t think for yourselves.  Creativity and innovation are suffering in Japan because of this.

But there’s one thing I have to say about living in Japan. No matter how long I live here, or even if I became a citizen, I would never actually fit in. Japanese culture won’t allow me to. Everyone will always say I’m just a visitor, and I’ll never understand what it’s like to be Japanese, or that I’ll never understand anything about Japan or Japanese culture. I could become the greatest expert of Japan, know the language and culture better than anyone else, live it exactly how the Japanese do, and yet, I will still be called an outsider who doesn’t understand anything. Also, my daughter, a Japanese citizen, will never be fully accepted by Japan as Japanese. She’ll always be considered a foreigner, even though she is Japanese! Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto has the same difficulties.

I hope that answers your question. It wasn’t easy to think of how I was tired of anything in Japan, but there were some things I just would not be able to do to fit in.

Have a question about life in Japan? Go here and ask 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?