September 30, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — myyearinjapan @ 4:20 am

I found these berries outside of my apartment building.


Interesting multi-colored berries. I don't think I would eat them though.....

The Driving Test

Filed under: seikatsu — myyearinjapan @ 12:47 am

Foreigners who live in Japan are allowed to drive with their driver’s license from home and an international driving permit for up to one year. After that, you either get a Japanese driver’s license or you stop driving. The driving test here is especially difficult. Many people fail on their first try. In fact, many people fail on their 4th try. They are the lucky ones who don’t need to take the driving test. Those lucky few are from countries that have reciprocal agreements with Japan. Citizens of those countries don’t need to take a driving test to get a Japanese license and likewise Japanese citizens wouldn’t need to take a driving test to get a license in those countries. They only need to have an interview, where they are asked about the driving test they originally took to get their license. The lucky ones included most of Europe and Australia and New Zealand. The rest of us need to take the test.

The Prefectural Driver’s License center for my prefecture is located a bit off the beaten path. It’s not close to any public transportation, so I heard from a friend who took the test several times, that it was quite a pain to get there when he couldn’t get a ride. Train, train, walk, bus, walk. A 2 hour drive took nearly triple that by public transit.

The driving venter and the lake

The parking lot for the Driver's License Center is right the lake. And next to the Center were rice fields, even though it is technically located in the prefectural capital, the larget city in our prefecture.

I was not taking my Driving Test the day I went to the Center. I actually still don’t have a car. (Hopefully I get it soon though….I found a car three weeks ago and they said they’d get back to me with insurance info…..Still waiting for that…..) Another friend of mine was taking his driving test. Not realizing how long the process would take, he hadn’t started the procedure for getting a Japanese License until just before his International Permit expired. He had gone more than 1 month with no license. It took about 2 weeks to get an appointment for an interview, another week to wait for the results and another 2 weeks to get an appointment for a road test. But finally, the day of the road test arrived.

First, he was given an easy as pie written test, in English. Then, he waited for his turn for the road test. The road test is all done on a closed course. They schedule the test for people switching to a Japanese license from a foreign license on the same day, so everyone else taking the test was also foreign, like us. After passing the written exam, they handed my friend a paper with a drawing of the course and lines and arrows telling him where to go. They told him to memorize the route.  I was able to watch from the building while my friend took his test.

The driving course

The course, as seen from above. The testing car is off in the distance.

Crank Turn

Going through the crank turn. It's a really tight turn and if you go off the curb even the slightest little bit, it gets counted against you. 3 strikes and you're out.This is the easier of the two crank turns.

Supervisor watching

My friend's supervisor watches him take the test. His supervisor had been driving hiim to work everyday while he didn't have a license, so he probably was hoping that my friend would pass the test so he could get his life back.

The driving test ended and everyone who had taken the test went back inside to await their fate. The first person was called to the desk…FAIL. The next person was called to the desk…FAIL. The third person was called up….PASS. And finally my friend….PASS! Yay!

The End.

September 28, 2010

Dragonfly in the Office

Filed under: Inaka Life, Work — myyearinjapan @ 1:22 am

A wily dragonfly infiltrated our defenses and entered our office the other day. (Maybe this wouldn’t happen if we closed the window?) Several of my office mates jumped up to try and entice the little fellow to leave, but he was stubborn and stuck around our office for most of the morning, teasing everyone by landing on their computer monitors, only to flit away whenever someone reached out to grab him.


He wouldn't let anyone catch him, but he was perfectly willing to stop and pose for pictures.

Dragonfly again

The photoshoot continues. I think black is in this season.

Korakuen Garden

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 12:58 am

At the top of any visitors list when they go to Okayama city is Korakuen, famous for being one the the top three gardens in Japan. (Japan likes to count its best places in threes. Japan’s three scenic views, Japan’s three hot springs, Japan’s three famous castles. You can read more here. )

Just inside Korakuen

Just inside the garden


A bamboo grove within the garden


One of the streams that runs through the park.


At the back of the garden, we found a group of cranes.


A pink flower we saw at the garden


A pond in the garden

Okayama Castle

We could see Okayama castle, the city's other main attraction, from within the park.

September 20, 2010

Picture of the Day

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 11:55 pm
2 riders

A couple riding one bike in Okayama. They even posed for me by putting up a peace sign when she should probably have her hands on the handlebars to prevent a crash. I guess the fact that she doesn't need to do that shows her skill.

September 18, 2010

Nara’s Heijo Palace 1300 year anniversary mascot

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Kansai, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 10:49 am

Nara is an ancient capital of Japan. Located near Kyoto, it was the location of the capital of Japan from 710 – 784. And during that time, the palace was Heijo palace. That was 1300 years ago and now Nara thinks they might be able to make a buck by getting tourists to come pay to see it! So, to entice visitors o come to the palace and celebrate a bit of Japanese history, they’ve made a mascot.


His name is Sento-kun and he has antlers! Nara is famous for deer, but how did he get antlers? Did he steal them? Did he have to kill a deer to get them?


The antlers on Sento-kun. 'kun' is often added on the end of a younger boy's name.

September 17, 2010

What time does the cafe close?

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 6:07 am

I found this cafe in Okayama and it has some strange hours….probably.

Cafe Fossette

Apparently fossette is French for dimple.

Store hours

If you just glance at this sign, you might assume they have no specific closing time. They seem to just close "some time." But if you look at when they open, they have closing times! They close at 19:00, or 18:30. What does OS mean though? And if they having a set closing time, why say they close "some time"? Does close refer to days the store is closed? This sign confuses more than informs me...

September 16, 2010

Tomato Bank

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 12:07 am

While in Okayama, I came across a bank called Tomato Bank. I looked it up and apparently this interesting bank can only be found in Okayama prefecture. There is also another bank called Tomato Bank, which is based in China and has several branches in the Los Angeles area, but it seems that these two banks are unrelated.

Momotaro being a popular character in Okayama (as I mentioned in my previous post), the bank has decided to call it’s online banking system the “Momotaro Branch Bank.”

Tomato Bank

The outside of the Tomato Bank. They really seem to like tomatoes.

While poking around on the Tomato Bank website,  I came across their theme song, which is titled “I love humans.” You can listen to it here.

The first verse goes something like this:

♪The cute tomato flower blossomed again this year

With the bright smiles of my friends, my heart grows♪

♪I like the blue sea, and I like the white clouds

But above all else, I love humans.♪

(If you see boxes next to all the verses above, then your computer must not be able to read Japanese text! What you can’t see is musical notes.)

Tomato bank sign

Another view of the fabulous tomato bank.

Don’t all these tomatoes  make you hungry? It makes me want to eat shaskshuka.

September 14, 2010

Strange Momotaro

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 11:54 pm

Momotaro (lit. Peach Boy) is a Japanese folk tale about an old lady who found a child floating down a river inside a giant peach (similar to how Pharoh’s daughter found Moses). The old lady and her husband named him Momotaro and raised him as their son. Later he goes off with a bunch of animal friends and fights demons.

This story is usually associated with Okayama and references to Momotaro can be found all over the city. There is a statue of him in front of the main train station and many of the souvenirs from Oakayama also reference the legend. But by far the strangest representation I have ever seen of Momotaro is the glass figurine I found in the bathroom of a ramen shop. The entire wall was covered with copies of the same strange figurine.

Strange Momotaro

Momotaro is coming out of his peach. That's normal, but wait....he seems to be grabbing his...er...crotch area. Can that be right? Momotaro, what sort of naughty things are you up to?

A Day At Naoshima (Part 3)

Filed under: Domestic, Shikoku, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

This is my final post about Naoshima, the island famous for modern art that is found between Japan’s largest island of Honshu and its other major island, Shikoku. My first post can be read here and my second post can be found here.

I end my short tour of Naoshima with the pumpkins, the most well known symbol of this island.

Yellow Pumpkin

Most tourist guides or books about the island use this pumpkin sculpture as a symbol for the island, so it's no wonder that it is almost always surrounded by tourists clamorring to take a picture.

Yellow pumpkin

A close up of the above pumpkin.


Kids play at the beach next to the yellow pumpkin, as if giant pumpkins are always looming over beaches where children play.

Red pumpkin

The yellow pumpkin gets all the glory, but there is also a red pumpkin, right next to the ferry terminal at Miyanoura.

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