Moving Internet House

Hi readers, as I mentioned in my last post, a couple changes are happening here in the ArishaInTokyo online world.

One of those changes includes the blog moving to its own personal domain (YAY!). I decided to make the move because I wanted to have a lot more control over my site. has been great, but I wanted to move to a self-hosted wordpress blog.

You can now find the new site at This site will remain up for a little while longer, so if for whatever reason you’re particularly attached to the layout, you can see it for a few more weeks. All content, images, comments, etc. have all been moved over to the new site, so no data has been lost.

In December I’m going to use a site redirect so that if you come to this URL, you’ll automatically be taken to my new home on the web.

For people subscribed to the blog: if you are an e-mail subscriber, I have already automatically moved your subscription. If, however, you follow my blog via wordpress, you may need to subscribe again. For whatever reason, I can’t take my wordpress subscribers with me when I move.  Apologies for the inconvenience.

I hope you all enjoy the new site! I’ve got lots of new content ready to go up, and I’m excited to share it with all of you! Thanks for reading!


P.S. There’s a new video up! Check it out!

Posted in Stuff and Things | Leave a comment

Ch-Ch-Changes (and Koalas)

Hello, readers!

Just wanted to let you all know that there’s some happenings in the works. I know the blog has been pretty dormant for a while, but it’s not because I haven’t been up to something!

Please check out the YouTube channel for a few new videos. Additionally, there’s going to be some changes occurring on the blog/website front within the next week or two, so stay tuned for that! Thanks for reading, as always! Here, enjoy a video about a chocolately snack food.


Posted in Stuff and Things | Leave a comment

Teacher’s Log, 9/28/11

Teacher’s log, day 28, month 9, year 2011.

Started with madness, as all Wednesdays do. Manager had to chat with the five year old boys and promise stickers for good behavior. 15 minutes later they’re alternating between giving each other horseback rides and screaming “I love you! I want to kiss you!” while running circles around me. The sounds still echo in my brain, along with the sting of my continuous face-palming.

Girls’ class came next, joined by two new test-accomplices who looked at me like I was a brown unicorn; somehow magical and different, but probably best left untouched. New boy hacked, coughed, and picked his nose incessantly. High fives stopped immediately. Got punched a few times. Littlest one is still the smartest. Maybe we learned something today.

Older, private student talked at length about her vegetable garden and seasonal foods. Together we discovered “typhoon” comes from the Chinese “Tai Fung,” and we suck at Chinese.

Not a Lotus Root

Also, I discover I can't draw Lotus Roots.

“Interviewed” a 7 year old girl. Kid hid behind her Mom the first 10 minutes. Refused to look at me. Can’t wait to teach her in class tomorrow.

Elementary twerps next. Newest one still in haze. Whiniest one won’t admit his English has actually improved. Strongest one struggles to stay awake. Controlling class schedules to coincide with ability levels would be nice.

Pubescent boys class horrible, as expected. 50 minutes of deafening silence and four teens “sneaking” looks at my chest. Worst kid had his last lesson today. Nobody surprised. Maybe if I threw a pile of boobs at them they’d be interested.

Last two kids exhausted and funny. Studying for tests they’ll do well on next week. Two weeks from now they’ll complain about their A- scores.

No casualties today, though another teaching object was lost into the void (a gap between a wall and a desk bolted to it). Tomorrow, we go again!

Posted in Teacher's Log | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Little Things #6: Wi-Fi and you (in Tokyo)

I’m writing this post as an attempt to both provide information to readers and to rant. I’ve recently had the experience of attempting to connect to the internet out in public here in Tokyo, and it hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world. The majority of my problem stems from the fact that the battery on my computer is apparently shot, and so I have to carry my charger everywhere and plug in my computer if I want to use it.

I digress.

In a city as famously technologically advanced as Tokyo, you’d think there would be Wi-Fi on every corner of the city. People’s heads radiate with it (maybe that’s just the cesium), and you can beam a coffee straight to your cup in the station. But alas, no, such magic does not exist here. The reality of the internet sitch in Tokyo is that most people connect to the internet via their phones. Japan has nationwide 3G, and most folks connect to the internet to check their email, download music, etc. using their fancy handsets. As a result, there isn’t such a strong demand for a nation-wide (or even city-wide) wireless network.

As a person without a fancy smartphone (my phone is a dorky pre-paid model because I’m cheap), this can present a problem when trying to work outside the home.

I’ve come to realize that I suck at working from home (at the moment, at least). My apartment is furnished with only a crappy futon and a refrigerator at the moment, so I have no comfortable place to sit and work. My ass can only handle so long sitting on the hardwood floor of my kitchen. In the past, when I’ve written blog posts, etc., I write everything down on paper in a notebook at a cafe or restaurant, bring it home, and type it up. I still like to do this, but I’ve got some new projects in the works, and being able to be mobile with my computer is becoming increasingly desirable.

While Wi-Fi in Tokyo isn’t everywhere, it’s at least somewhere. There are, of course, internet cafes that are designed for internet connections. You pay a designated amount for the time you anticipate using the facilities, and you have access to a computer, a comfy place to sit, and often times a shower and reading material! Some even use internet cafes as makeshift hotels when they’ve missed the last train. Handy in a pinch, but the stereotypical user of an internet cafe does make me cringe a bit (apologies to all non-stereotypical users of internet cafes). Besides, I already have my own computer.

Another option is to purchase a service from one of the big electronics shops in cooperation with cell phone providers like docomo, softbank, or AU. It’s a small device you can attach to your computer via USB. Once configured, you can use your computer to connect to the nationwide 3G (rather than Wi-Fi). Some new laptops even come bundled with this service. Handy. This is not a free service – usually, a small monthly payment of $10-$20 is required, depending on the company. For those who require mobile internet on a very regular basis, this may be a good option.

Other options include signing up for one of the many Wi-Fi providers. Again, the major cell phone carriers have plans you can sign up for (that include a monthly payment similar to the one above). Alternatively, I’ve discovered one plan (HOTSPOT) that I’m using today to bring you this post! HOTSPOT is a pretty simple plan – you can either choose to subscribe to their monthly service, or to use what they call their “1 day passport.” This passport can be purchased at any Family Mart convenience store at a green kiosk known as the “Family Port.” 500 yen (roughly $5-$6) gets you 24 hour internet access at any place that has access.

I know, sounds stupid.

Before I went out to get my pass, I looked up online the places with HOTSPOT access. Interestingly, most of the places are at station entrances and exits. There are also, however, many cafes on the list. So, I took a 10 minute stroll from my apartment to the Tully’s Coffeee near me, found a place close to an outlet, and set to work. When you purchase the pass, you take the receipt you get from the machine and bring it to the counter to pay for, like any normal item. The cashier will then give you a printed sheet of paper with the information you need to login written on it like this:

Prepaid HOTSPOT Wi Fi from Family Mart

(If you’re reading this post within 24 hours of the time it was posted and at a location within Tokyo that has HOTSPOT, congratulations, you just got free internet!)

I created a new wireless connection on my computer with the WEP key and the ESS-ID (which, for me, was just the connection name). When I finished that, I opened a new browser window, where I was automatically taken to the HOTSPOT homepage to input my username and password. From there, I was connected! I had one small hiccup where I had to tell my laptop to automatically update the IP settings for the connection, but other than that, zero problems. I don’t anticipate using my laptop too much more outside my home for the next month, otherwise I think I’d go for the monthly plan.

As a last option, you can also look up a place with free Wi-Fi access. Yesterday, I tried out the “Wired Cafe” chain. There are a couple here in Shinjuku, and several more throughout the metro Tokyo area. Cafe patrons have free access to their Wi-Fi, but sadly, as I found yesterday, there are very, very limited numbers of sockets for computers. I’m guessing this is to prevent people from taking up space for hours after purchasing a coffee. If you’re feeling daring and want to find a free wi-fi place of your own, I found this Google Map – it supposedly shows all the places in Tokyo where you can get free Wi-Fi access. Use at your own risk!

While it would be more convenient for me to have city-wide internet access, I think it’d be more convenient for me if there were just more places with publicly usable outlets. Of course, I understand the reasons why they are so limited. Now that I’ve found a way to get my out-of-home access, though, I think I’m set for a while.

Though I do now find myself wishing for a shiny new phone or computer.

(If you have any questions about the companies and plans introduced here, use your Google skills. I’m feeling lazy. You can do it!)

Posted in Little Things | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Mobile Blog: Wrap it up!

We encounter packaging everywhere. We complain about it, but we need it, to some degree. Much of our packaging is designed to be eye catching and exciting to attract the eyes of consumers, but there is an added element to this in Japan.

Japan is notorious for politeness and a rigid sense of formality. This applies to work life, home life, and everyday interactions. Observing the proper rules and customs in a given situation is important.

These two concepts come together in the practice of gift giving. The picture below is a small gift (earrings) I bought for our receptionist as a thank you/goodbye present on her last day of work with us last month.

I would have been content to just use my words to thank her, but she gave me a nice, designer handkerchief, so I was obligated to reciprocate.

I went to the department store and chose the earrings, then told the cashier it was a gift. She had me pick out a ribbon color, and then went to work while I waited.

She removed the earrings from their display and put them in a small plastic bag, which she taped shut. Next, she assembled a small box (the one in the photo) and put the bag in. After that came the addition of the ribbon. She then presented me with the smaller paper bag (to “give the gift in”) and a larger plastic bag to carry everything in. To recap: that’s three bags and a box for a pair of earrings the size of my thumb.

Interestingly, there is no extra charge for gift wrapping. Department store staff may ask you to choose a color or style, and then, voila, it’s done! Many times I’ve purchased sweets for friends and family, and every time the staff automatically adds the wrapping.
While I think this is a neat and aesthetically pleasing service, I could do without the excess. One small box with some ribbon would have been more than sufficient for the gift I purchased.

I suppose there’s always the option of telling the staff you’d like something different, but the confusion that often results from staff being asked to think outside the box (forgive the pun) just isn’t worth it. That topic alone is a post/rant I’ll save for another day!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Mobile blog: Drinks that are not for children

With the advent of summer comes a flurry of beverages. Many of the drinks you can find in Japan are seasonal; they are only available at certain times during the year (much like egg nog in the U.S. in December).

This summer brings a variety of new flavors with bright, interesting designs. This wouldn’t be a problem, but because the drinks contain alcohol, I do find myself somewhat concerned for the welfare of unwitting tourists.

Take a look at the picture below. These are four drinks available all across Tokyo. All of these drinks contain alcohol (about 3%-4%). They’re all in eyecatching cans in a variety of designs, and if your Japanese kanji knowledge doesn’t include the word for “alcohol,” you might end up surprised (and a little silly) after purchasing any of these.

The leftmost can says “apple” across the side, and is apparently supposed to be an apple juice-like drink for summer. The blue “lifeguard” can gives consumers the impression they can enjoy alcohol and an energy boost in the same can. The last two are mild, tasty fruit mixtures – perfect for a day at the beach.

One thing they all have in common is the Japanese word for alcohol: “sake,” or “酒.” If you see this on a beverage, outside a restaurant, on a menu, etc., this connotates an item (or items) that has the potential to make you intoxicated.

Yes, for those wondering, “sake,” the word we use in the west for Japan’s rice wine, is actually the word for alcohol. The word for “sake” as westerners are familiar with it is “nihonshu” (knee-hone-shoe) or “日本酒.” It literally means “Japan alcohol.”

Now, armed with this knowledge, readers, go forth, taste, and send me your recommendations for tasty summer beverages!

This blog post has been entered as a part of the Japan Blog Matsuri for July, hosted by NihongoUp!

Posted in Mobile, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Test post – Mobile blogging!

Hi readers, I’m using this post as a test to check out’s mobile blogging feature. I don’t have an exciting smart phone, so I have to blog via my phone’s email.

I have some new content prepared (regular content) that I will have up soon, but also thought quick blogging on-the-go would be an interesting experiment.
If this is working correctly, there should be an image of an adorable turtle I drew last week somewhere in this post.

Looking forward to some real updates soon!

Posted in Mobile, Uncategorized | 2 Comments