Final day of autumn

Kasuga Shrine, located a matter of minutes walk from our house and littered with autumn leaves.

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Thankful

I’m from Australia and I live in Japan. Neither country has really appropriated Thanksgiving, and thus I do not celebrate it.

Still, I like the idea of giving thanks. I’m aware that the occasion is bound up with all sorts of questionable historical connotations, but I just want to focus on being thankful for the moment and the things in particular for which I’m feeling gratitude right now.

I’m thankful for this odd little house we’ve been residing in since late May. I was profoundly upset to leave our old apartment, but I’m so glad we’re here now. We’re closer to our local major train station and near a bus that runs frequently. We have a bamboo forest just outside and even a random raccoon dog roaming therein, and we have two stray monkey cats half-living with us. The move was hard, but I’m glad of it now.

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Neko Neko and Mark Two are grateful for their food, especially if that means there is more of it forthcoming.

I’m thankful for my body and my health. I really am. The former hasn’t always done what I wanted it to and pregnancy was exhausting, but generally speaking, it has surpassed all expectations this year. Right now, I am enjoying feeling something like myself again, the strength and energy in my limbs flowing again when I walk. I remain a little shocked by the fact I grew a baby, pushed it out, and am almost completely recovered from it, and whatever mixed feelings I might have about breastfeeding, I am impressed by my body’s ability to nurture another. I’m thankful for the medical institutions and people that have made and continue to make all of this possible.

I’m thankful for my family. My sister and my parents, my mother in particular, have been so supportive. My in-laws… well, I don’t have to cook right now care of my mother-in-law, so there’s that. I’m always, always grateful for R, for being precisely who he is and a wonderful partner.

This year, I’m so very grateful for Mr. K. He’s the baby I wanted so very badly and he’s just… he’s made our lives so much busier and harder, and he’s likely to wake up crying and demanding milk any minute now, but he’s made everything so much richer too. There’s so much to say about so many things to do with him, but I can’t really convey just how much that little person means to us.

Finally, to whoever is reading this – thank you for doing so, particularly if you’re a regular who is sticking with me through this quiet phase while I get used to having a baby. It’s much appreciated!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Frito Lay Pizza-la Italiana Corn Chips

I like snacks. No, really, I like snacks a lot. In these posts, I’ll post some of the interesting snacks of the moment that I’ve found hereabouts. Because it’s me that’s doing the eating, I admit we’ll probably err more on the side of sweet things, especially chocolates, and after much pondering, I’ve decided I’ll only post things that I’ve actually enjoyed.

Today, we have an exception to my usual rule – a savoury snack!

Snack: Frito Lay Pizza-La Italiana Corn Chips
Purchased: November 20th 2015
Found at: Family Mart (and likely other convenience stores)
Price: ~ 180 yen

Frito Lay Japan , just like Frito Lay around the world, produce a wide variety of chips. Included in this are all manner of corn chips and, periodically, they do collaborations with one of Japan’s major pizza franchises, Pizza-La, to produce flavours of corn chips based on particular pizzas from Pizza-La’s menu.

The current range that I spotted were these Italiana flavoured ones. Italiana pizza is basically a tomato and cheese pizza with some onion and bell pepper thrown in and olive oil on the side. These corn chips borrow their flavours from that particular combination

The flavour is a curious mix of something decidedly pizza-ish and your typical cheesy corn chips, but it was quite pleasant. I’m not typically a chip person, so I’m not sure when I’ll have them again, but it was a nice change and recommended if you are a corn chip and/or pizza-loving person!

All the toys, all the genders

tshv-barbie-and-ken

The style of Barbie – and, naturally, Ken – that I grew up with.

The internet got rather excited this week when a Barbie commercial for the limited edition Moschino Barbie, born of a partnership between an Italian fashion company of the same name and Mattel, featured… a boy.

Then we all came crashing back to earth as we discovered that the whole thing was initiated by the fashion house rather than Mattel, and that the ad itself was intended to be a parody. Sigh.

Still, something is better than nothing. For years, people have been carrying on about the evils of Barbie and dolls generally in promoting gender stereotypes that limit little girls, and self-proclaimed experts have been quite happy to publicly proclaim that girls should be playing with toys traditionally considered for boys instead.

Yet what happens is that, once again, something for boys is considered inherently superior to things for girls and that does nothing to address gender stereotypes. Instead, perhaps we ought to consider that toys and other things targetting for girls have as much value as those for boys. I read an article about exactly that, the idea that liking”girly things” isn’t something to be ashamed of.

I’m going to admit it straight-up – I wasn’t really interested in Lego or cars when I was a little girl. It wasn’t that I was discouraged from it by any stretch; I just wasn’t into them. What I was interested in was my dolls… and the huge, elaborate world my sister and I created for them. More often than not, we played out things that we had read in books (right, fine, usually it started with things I had read in books) and got lost in our imaginary world. Everything from boarding schools (Malory Towers) through to modelling contests (the Babysitters Club, maybe?) through to throwing the dolls in the pool so they could go to the beach (not sure) was done. Far from thinking this was a waste of time, I think it did a lot for our creativity and helped us understand the world.

Also, it was fun.

I’d like my son to grow up being fine with playing with whatever kid’s toys he chooses – it’s part of why I agreed to his pink bouncer seat  (though he’s sadly coming to regard it as “place I get put when I’m crying and somebody needs to rush off to attend to something else for a few minutes”, but that’s another story) – and that he doesn’t have to like or dislike something based on what colour it is. I’m hoping that this will help teach him to regard people as people first, not as whatever gender they identify as… because if we want genders to be valued equally, we need to get rid of this idea that one gender’s things are silly and pointless while another’s are invaluable just because.

Decorative manhole covers

chiba manhole

I spent what seemed like a lot of my pregnancy feeling, to be blunt about it, pretty pissed off with the world around me. Homesickness was – and is – an issue and I became rather bitter and jaded about living in Japan generally. Little things, like posting here about the things that get under my skin and making myself find things I like about the place, helped some.

In the first week of November, to coincide with Mr. K’s arrival and my shellshocked exit from hospital into a new life that revolved around a tiny, demanding person, my mother came over to stay with us. It was the first time she had visited Japan (she promises it won’t be the last, but we shall see) and it was awesome. She was exactly the support I needed and I only wish she had been able to stay longer.

Not only was she great personally, she also brought a fresh pair of eyes to my surroundings and helped me to remember the little things that are curious and different and nice about this place, from the size of the cars to the bamboo forest outside our little house and even the prefecturally specific, artistically decorated manhole covers like the one pictured.

It hasn’t quite un-jaded me, but it has helped to be reminded of the good things.

Snacks in Japan – Royce Tirol Chocolates

Image care of Ex-temts

I like snacks. No, really, I like snacks a lot. In these posts, I’ll post some of the interesting snacks of the moment that I’ve found hereabouts. Because it’s me that’s doing the eating, I admit we’ll probably err more on the side of sweet things, especially chocolates, and after much pondering, I’ve decided I’ll only post things that I’ve actually enjoyed.

Snack: Royce Tirol Chocolate
Purchased: November 15th 2015
Found at: Family Mart, 7-11
Price: ~ 45 yen

Royce Chocolates are quite a fancy chocolate brand in these parts. Originating in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan’s very chilly northern island, they typically sell chocolates in elaborate gift boxes with an interesting side range of chocolate-coated potato chips.

Currently, however, Royce are doing a collaboration with Tirol, the maker of small, square chocolates that are typically sold at convenience stores for 20 or 30 yen. Thus, we have Tirol-sized Royce chocolates, retailing for just under 50 yen per square at the big-name convenience stores.


Each tiny square is made of smooth milk chocolate, the exterior giving way to a wonderfully creamy interior, made with “nama” (fresh) cream and a splash of brandy, the latter taste one I didn’t even notice until I took a closer look at the packaging.

I’m not sure how long this particular line will be around, but they’re definitely worth trying while they are!

Our New Baby

Photo taken by my mother

This is Mr. K, born just a couple of days late on Thursday 29th October 2015, weighing 3685 grams and quite a lot more sedate about the whole birth experience than I was.

You would think 40 weeks and 2 days was more than enough to wrap my head around the fact I was growing a person, but apparently not. A happy sort of shocked was the dominant emotion in the wake of his birth. Now, nearly two weeks later, I’m getting used to having him around and falling ever more in love with him, but I still can’t quite believe R and I (and our doctors) made him.

The whole adjustment is continuing so I might be a bit quieter than I was for awhile longer 🙂