Anime · Video

Anime I Don’t Hate from Someone Who Hates Anime

It always surprises people when I tell them I’m not much of an anime fan.
It actually comes with the gaijin expat territory that you’re expected to be a bit of a weeb. I think I’m just missing the gene.

However, I have watched a few over the years, and here are the ones I didn’t hate…from someone who hates anime:

5. Gyakuten Saiban: Sono “Shinjitsu”, Igiari! (Ace Attorney)

Ace Attorney is one of my all-time favourite video game series, and the fandom had been whining and moaning for an anime for years and years.

Following the adventures of defense lawyer Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya Fey, the series pretty much adapted the first three video games practically word-for-word at times.
Unfortunately as someone who knows the series inside out that got a little dull for me.

STILL, there’s something about Ace Attorney that has such a special place in my chilly little heart I couldn’t not mention it here.
There is also a vastly superior live action movie, a stage play, a musical performed by an all-female troupe, and even a fan musical.

I do recommend the games though over the anime – especially the remastered versions for the 3DS or Nintendo Switch. OBJECTION!


4. Ouran Koukou Host Club (Ouran High School Host Club)

KISSU KISSU FALL IN LOVE.

Haruhi, a student at a the prestigious Ouran Academy accidentally breaks a $80,000 vase. To pay off her debt, she works as part of the Ouran Academy Host Club (who are originally unaware of her real gender), entertaining female “clients” with sweets and tea. It’s a good mix of serious and taking the piss out of the shoujo genre.

It’s been 15+ years and fans are still pushing for a second season. Keep the dream alive, everyone!


3. Sanrio Danshi (Sanrio Boys)

Sanrio Danshi follows the stories of five high school boys who bond over a mutual love for Sanrio characters.

Although it really is one long, pretty commercial for Sanrio goods (Sanrio Puroland gets plugged for an entire episode), it’s refreshing to watch something that shows boys with an interest in the kawaii.

The show’s message is that no matter your gender identity, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then it’s perfectly fine to enjoy whatever makes you happy.



2. Ore Monogatari (My Love Story)

Ore Monogatari takes the shoujo genre (anime with a target audience of teenage girls) and its tropes and turns them on its head.

Instead of the typical clumsy, awkward yet naturally beautiful and perky teenage girl who falls in love with an arrogant, emotionally unavailable, basic boy in her school – our hero is the gorilla-like Gouda Takeo who despite his outward appearance is the gentlest, most wholesome soul ever.

After saving the adorable Yamato from being groped on the train the two begin the purest, sweetest relationship ever ever ever.

Yamato is also an aspiring baker, and the show features some of the most mouth-watering animated food ever – it always makes me want to up my sweets game.

Also Yamato singing Happy Birthday is the purest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.



1. Yuri!!! On Ice

For someone who – again – says she doesn’t really like anime, Yuri!!! On Ice is actually one of my top five TV shows of all time.

Yuri!!! On Ice follows the story of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki who is on the verge of retirement after a series of losses, when he is surprised by his skating idol, the current champion from Russia Viktor Nikiforov who offers to coach him to victory at the Grand Prix Final, much to the disgust of his protégé – the up-and-coming Yuri “Yurio” Plisetski.

While I think we’re all hankering for a second season, there is a feature-length film coming out entitled Yuri!!! on Ice the Movie: Ice Adolescence. It was supposed to be released in 2019 but has been pushed back to a TBA date. Wahh.

~ Carla

Life · School · Teaching

Life of an ALT: My Last Days at School

Hi everyone!

I’ve been back in the UK for a few months now and already looking back on my time in Japan. I’ll write a longer retrospective in a little while, but in the meantime I thought you’d like to know about my final days at both of my schools.

Part 1: Goodbye, Junior High School…

For my last lessons at Junior High School, I asked my JTEs if we could keep it casual and was given the go-ahead. I did this quiz for all the grades – so I did the same lesson 12 times (16 including Elementary School, more on that later…) but the kids really got into it.

My JTEs were always pretty strict on sticking to the curriculum, so the rare times I got to stray brought big sighs of relief all around.
I think no matter where you are in the world, the phrase “no textbooks today, everyone!” while the TV gets wheeled in gets you a big round of applause.

The class clown in one of the top sets took the opportunity to ask if I liked his new haircut and if I thought he was an ikemen in front of the whole class. I really did dish it back to them, so I pointedly looked him up and down, looked thoughtful, then replied “meh…so-so” while everyone exploded.
“No, Miss Carla,” he insisted. “Very sexy hair!”

Every class had written me letters and cards and there was a little presentation at the end of the lesson. They then did a very formal thank you with a deep bow – always a bit jarring when they did this as mere minutes beforehand they were all giving each other noogies and wedgies and the middle finger. But very sweet.

I had one student I’ve taught from 2019 burst into tears. I finally managed to console her, then on a whim I unhooked the Yuri Katsuki gatcha charm from my USB that she admired every day and gave it to her. More tears!

I’m really not a big anime fan, but Yuri!!! On Ice is one of our favourite shows so we bonded over a mutual love of Yuri and Viktor.

Near the end of the day, the whole school gathered in the gym for a short farewell ceremony and to hand over to the new ALT who had been shadowing me all day. Typical Japan, a lot of pomp and circumstance over nothing at all, but I felt very loved.

I’d also been told 24 hours prior that I had to give a speech, which was really the last thing I needed to sort on top of all the moving stress – but I did my best.
“Don’t worry, it just has to be short,” said my co-teacher.
“It’s going to have to be!” I replied.

I was incredibly nervous and stumbled a little, but it seemed to get the message across.
Here’s what I said in my usual piss-poor broken Japanese..
(I stole most of it from various corners of the internet.)

Look at those tense shoulders.

下手な日本語ですいません。

皆さんとお別れするのは悲しいです。この にー年間、 オー世話 に なりました。 ありがとう ございます。○○中 の皆さんは元気で明るく積極的で,私もこの学校に来るのが毎 日楽しみでした。ミナーさん 新設 で、 渡し を 受け入れて ください ました。校長先生と教頭先生はじめ○○年間の援助をどうもありがとうございました。先生の皆さん特に○○先生、皆さんも本当にお世話になりました。先生方は忙しい合間をぬって,私の質問や疑問にていねいに答えてくれました. 頑張って、ね!新しい所で皆さんがいなくて、寂しいです!皆さんお元気で。

本当 に ありがとう ございました。

Hello, everyone.
Please excuse my poor Japanese.

I am sad that I have to say goodbye to you. You have been kind to me for the past two years, thank you very much. Everyone at ○○ Junior High School was so positive and energetic that it was an absolute joy to come to work every morning. Everybody has been kind and has accepted me.

I wish to thank the principal, vice-principal, and everybody else for all of your help during my two years here. I have become really indebted to all of the teachers as well, especially ○○ sensei and ○○ sensei.
No matter how busy you all were, you always found the time to answer any question that I had.

Good luck. I will miss you. Take care.
Thank you very much.

The message seemed to get through as I got a big ol’ applause afterwards, and my JTE told me she could some students were leaning forward because they were listening so intently. Bless them.

Unfortunately for the school, I had to leave mid-week as I had a whole bunch of stuff to do before I actually flew home and the teachers had their big meeting so there was no formal goodbye.

I managed to hand out my goodbye presents to the principal, vice-principal, and the JTEs and also take a few quick photos before they said goodbye and they went to the meeting.
There was nobody actually in the teacher’s room apart from the janitor who I have a big soft spot for (he was so accommodating when I was recovering from my operation and had some new dietary restrictions) so he actually saw me to the door.
I took my shoes from the cupboard in the genkan and put them in my backpack, took one last look at the lobby, gave him a final bow and a wave, and left the junior high school for the last time.

Just like Whitney, I get so emotional, baby, and was surprised that I didn’t cry.
“Wow, that wasn’t so bad…” I thought to myself, as I walked to my bus stop.

Cue, the next day…

Part 2: Goodbye, Elementary School…

OK, OK. So ending my contract mid-week wasn’t wholly an accident. I maaaaay have also timed it so I would have my final teaching day co-teaching at the elementary school with my best-friend Haruna.

FUN FACT: I actually enjoyed my commute! I got to school around 7:50am, so the bus was very quiet. It was a nice time to catch up with people from home due to the time difference, and also just play some tunes.

Usually, at elementary school, we followed the textbook to the letter, but because it was my last ever class, I showed Haruna the lesson I had done at the junior high school and she gave the OK to do a simplified version.

(The new ALT was shadowing me again and I think he was a bit put-out because it was his first time teaching elementary school and I think he wanted to see how a regular class was run. But that ain’t my problem, hun lololol.)

At the end of every class, I was presented with a preciously bundled lot of letters; scrawled “I love yous” and “I like English” among coloured pencilled drawings of Splatoon inklings, Animal Crossing villagers, Among Us crewmates and (rather worryingly given their age) Squid Game pink soldiers. Thanks, guys.

I made the mistake of telling Haruna about my speech from the previous day, so she insisted I give the speech again but just to the teacher’s room since it was after school club activities day and the bairns would be busy.
(I’d learned in Japan it’s best to keep your gob shut lest you be dragged into stuff like this, but I had a momentary lapse!)

It seemed to go over pretty well again, and my desk-mate who came to my (secret, shh!) goodbye party told me I spoke very clearly and sincerely.

Haruna had unfortunately missed my big moment as she was dealing with a parent (always means business when hops out of her trackies and puts her suit on…) and she suddenly hurled back into the teacher’s room, disappointed that she’d missed it. So I took her outside the teachers’ room and did the speech again for her. Andddd that’s when the tears started. From both of us. And they didn’t stop.

And so as the clock crept past 4pm, the time finally came for me to leave. I felt my heart in my throat as I packed my chopsticks, diary and mug into my kånken with a sense of finality. My usually messy desk (my friend Matt was appalled when he substituted for me) was empty except the textbooks and post it’s I’d left behind for the new guy.

As I stood up to leave, Haruna suddenly barked “Carla is leaving now!” and to my huge surprise, all the teachers stood up and applauded as I walked through the teacher’s room to leave. I think it was then that I started Kim K-level bawling.

For the final time, I turned, bowed and said お先に失礼します (“Sorry to leave before you”) and everyone replied お疲れ様です (“Thank you for your hard work”) and readers know that I was in bits.

Haruna and some of my favourite teachers followed me to the genkan to see me out of the building, waving and applauding as I walked through the gates and headed to my bus stop.

And that was that. A happy chapter of my life had closed.
Now the time had come to leave Japan…but that’s for another post.

~ Carla

Teaching

Life of an ALT: Interac Timeline

I’ve seen a few blogs over the years from incoming ALTs who have logged their Interac timeline and I found them really helpful during the initial application process.

Remember that everyone and every situation is different – however, these are my personal experiences as part of the Autumn 2019 intake as an applicant from the UK.

My experience does not take into account any restrictions due to the pandemic.
(Dates are shown day/month as is standard in the UK.)

17/01 – Completed application on Interac’s website.
24/01 – Invited to interview, received questionnaire to complete.
25/01 – Contacted my references.
28/01 – Emailed completed questionnaire and contact information for my references.
29/01 – Received request for my demo lesson with tips and guidelines. Confirmed interview date.
19/02 – Emailed my demo lesson video to Interac.
24/02 – Posted my full CV, visa photos, copy of passport, degree and TEFL certification to Interac.
26/02 – Attended group interview in York.
06/03 – Interac confirmed my application has been forwarded to the Tokyo office for consideration and I should hear back in two weeks.
21/03 – I followed up with the Interac UK office since it had been over two weeks, and received a reply the same day that they recently conference called with the Tokyo office who are experiencing delays.
11/04 – Placement offer received for the Kansai region from the Tokyo office which I accepted the same day.
12/04 – Email from Kansai office welcoming me to the company and advised I will receive more information shortly.
26/04 – Received contract and application for COE (Certificate of Eligibility) from the Tokyo office to complete and return.
28/04 – Completed and emailed COE application and contract.
29/05 – Chased Interac for training dates as I was eager to book my flight. Received a response the same day with the tentative dates, but that these should be 100% confirmed within the week.
31/05 – Received confirmation of training dates, accommodation, and location of the training centre. Also received information regarding a driving position, and I emailed back advising in my application I specified I would require a non-driving position. Received an email back within an hour apologising for the error and confirmed I would definitely be placed in a non-driving role.
06/06 – Booked flight to Japan.
18/06 – Received notification that my COE application has been lodged with Immigration authorities and will be processed in 3-6 weeks.
12/07 – COE arrived via Fedex.
15/07 – Dropped COE and passport off at embassy.
26/07 – Picked up COE, passport, and visa from embassy. (They’re usually unable to post these.)
07/08 – Received apartment information and phone contract to sign and return digitally.
17/08 – Arrived in Japan.
20-23/08 – Training.
24/08 – Mandatory drugs test and health check at a clinic. A helper from Interac (known as an IC) takes me shopping for essentials and I move into my apartment. Internet, gas, and electric are switched on.
26/08 – City Hall adulting with IC: sorting out national health, pension exemption, received residence card, open bank account, etc.
27/08 – Visit schools.
28/08 – Term begins.

As you can see, the actual process takes longer than you might think.
It took four months from my initial application to receiving an offer, and eight months from application to arrival in Japan.

So I’d recommend even if you’re still just thinking about it, get your application in early.

While Interac does hire year-round, their big intakes are for the beginning of Spring (late March) and Autumn (late August) terms. I would aim for these, you’ll be in a larger training environment where you can meet other ALTs.
If you arrive outside these times, chances are you’re covering for someone who has done a bunk and you may find it harder to settle in, arriving in the middle of a school year.

My suggestion: For Spring intake apply by September. For Autumn intake, apply by January.

~ Carla

OFF-TOPIC: This was actually my 100th post on TheGeordieGaijin. Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the years. Keep it 100, guys!

Drinking · EAT! Hamamatsu · Hamamatsu

DRINK! Hamamatsu : An EAT! Hamamatsu Special

I’ve mentioned before that in many ways Hamamatsu is the Sunderland of Japan.
(Osaka is the Newcastle of Japan btw.)

This is for so many reasons – but mostly that while as uninteresting it may be in general, nevertheless there is many a watering hole in which to spend your hard-earned (debatable) wages. Here are a bunch of my favourites…

Kagiya

Kagiya

Kagiya tends to be a favourite for a lot of people in Hamamatsu and is usually a 50/50 mix of locals and gaijin.
Most drinks are only ¥500 and they also offer bar snacks including pretty good cheap pizzas.
If you’re looking for a language exchange group: there’s one that meets every Monday from 7pm. It’s ¥500 entry and includes a drink.

The Lord Nelson

The Lord Nelson

My pal Felipe asked me if The Lord Nelson is named after my local in the UK. Doubtful. Nobody who visits Jarrow leaves with all their limbs intact.
Are you even an expat if you don’t frequent the local British pub? (There’s a chain in Japan called Hub, but The Lord Nelson is independent.)

There’s canny enough beers on tap, and an impressive selection of Japanese and imported spirits – especially if you like whiskey. Food is fairly cheap too, around ¥600 for decent fish and chips.
The staff are really friendly with a high level of English, and if you’re a regular you can sit at the bar and they’re happy to chat to you.

The Smuggler

The Smuggler

The Smuggler is another British pub…that has a pet owl and a cat. Do I need to say anything more?
The music selection is actually very authentic – they often play UK artists such as Robbie Williams, Take That, Little Mix etc. I haven’t ordered the food myself but I’ve heard it’s pretty bomb.

Transit

Transit

A cool standing bar which is particularly lovely in summer. A mostly Japanese crowd and a nice drinks selection including beers, wine and spirits.

No Name Bar

No Name Bar

Ahh No Name. It should be called No Shame Bar, being as it’s the place of all bad decisions.

Usually I can’t remember my own name by the time I’m stumbling out of here.
Good bottled and tap beer selection (I’m usually on the Sam Adams but their cocktails are only around ¥600) and the staff are all super-nice, especially the lovely Hassim. Tell him I say hello!
If you’re feeling peckish, there are some authentic Turkish bar snacks on offer such as shish kebabs.

Liquid Kitchen

Liquid Kitchen

Hamamatsu’s premier divebar, ran by an Australian nutcase named Marty. Pretty much exclusively an international crowd if that’s your thing.
I’m usually too steaming by the time I’m in Liquid to take a decent photo, so enjoy this one from their Instagram page of Felipe looking like a Mexican drug lord (his words).

Mein Schloss

Mein Schloss

I’ve done a full post about Mein Schloss here already, but drinks-wise if you’re into craft ales they have their own brewery and they’re all really good. I do recommend the food, but if you’re just looking for beverages they have a nice beer garden.

Beer House Tir na n-Og

Beer House Tir na n-Og

A bar specialising in regional and national craft ales. It’s pretty pricey – about ¥1000 upwards for a pint, but really nice if you fancy something different to most other bars in Hamamatsu. There’s also a small selection of bar snacks – sausages, peanuts, pretzels etc. Mostly a Japanese crowd.

Grindhouse Rock Bar

Grindhouse Rock Bar

Hamamatsu’s premier rock bar, which reminds me of my beloved Trillians back home in Newcastle. As you can imagine they often have a band on with reasonable cover charge. Usual selection of beers and spirits. A fairly mixed crowd, Grindhouse is popular with Brazilians!


There are of course so, so many more – but some I have completely stumbled into my accident and never been able to find again on Google Maps (the bar of requirement?). So I’ll leave the rest of the exploring up to you!

~ Carla

Life · Personal

Goodbye, Japan!

Me and Quentin Bear are in the middle of packing hell.

So I have big news.
Now that my friends and my schools know, I can announce that after two and a half incredible years…I am leaving Japan next month!

This isn’t quite the end of this blog yet – I still have some draft post that are half-finished, and I’m definitely planning on some more updates when I’m back in Blighty and fondly looking back on my time here. You’ll all have to put up with me for a little while longer yet!

I’m of course really sad to be leaving Japan, but I unpacked some of my feelings in this personal post a few months ago. And while of course I do have pangs of doubt every now and then, I’m fairly certain that it’s the right decision for me.

I won’t be The Geordie Gaijin for much longer…just a regular Geordie lass.
(Although I should actually confess something now – I’m actually a Sandancer. But shhhdon’t tell anyone.)

~ Carla

hospital · Personal

Hospital and Surgery in Japan

CONTENT WARNING: This post mentions hospitals, surgical procedures, needles and mental health. There are no photos except the one directly below.

Yes I’m still banging on about my gallbladder, haha!

I was in hospital for 14 days in total, and this was how the process was for me.
Out of everything that has happened this year, I didn’t have “spend a fortnight in a Japanese hospital” on my 2021 bingo card.

Yes, during my stay I kept a diary of sorts because frankly there wasn’t much else to do.
And as I always say, this blog is somewhat of a diary for me to look back on in years to come.

You can check out my brief introductory post here, and my post about Japanese hospital food here.

DAY 1.
After 3 days of pain and vomiting I went to a regular clinic who did some tests and said I must go straight to hospital with potential gallstones. Since my Japanese isn’t great, my company sends a representative to make sure I understand everything.

I swing by my apartment to quickly pack a bag, thinking I’ll only be away for a night or two – ha!

At the hospital I have an x-ray, CAT scan and ultrasound scan and am diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder and gallstones. The doctor predicts I’ll stay in hospital for two weeks which is a big shock.
The first week will involve fitting a drain and going on a course of antibiotics to reduce the infection, then the second recovering from the actual gallbladder removal.

Later, I had an emergency procedure where they fitted a drain that took away all the fluid that had built up. I was awake during this with only a local anesthetic – not even a sedative! It was really uncomfortable and a little painful (especially when he activated the suction – it felt like all my internal organs were being pulled) but was over in about 25 minutes.

I’m admitted to a ward and to keep the costs down I chose the basic 6-person ward. I hadn’t eaten for 3 days anyway, but the doctor puts me on a fast, although I can have water. I get an IV drip and start a round of antibiotics.

As I don’t have everything I need due to the unexpected admission to hospital, the nurse says I can make some online orders. I buy some essentials using Amazon Prime and order a pocket WiFi as the hospital doesn’t have any and I’m afraid of running out of data coming up to the end of the month. (My contract doesn’t allow for any “top ups”.)

DAY 2
My Amazon order and WiFi arrives. I have a chance to call home via Whatsapp and tell my family I’m in hospital. I feel suddenly very homesick and wish I was back home in the UK. Only some blood tests today.

I share a ward with a very old, confused lady who is up all night talking to herself and buzzing the nurses so I don’t sleep well the first few nights. The nurse puts me on sleeping medication.

DAY 3
No tests today. I can start drinking tea – a wonderful day! Starting to get into the swing of hospital routine.
The sleeping medication is crap so I ask for something stronger, which I’m surprised I’m given without a quibble.

DAY 4
Had another ultrasound. My blood tests have come back showing that the inflammation is going down. I start being able to drink a little carton of high calorie protein drink for lunch and dinner, but I don’t really have an appetite yet.
Starting to feel a little down, but a phone call with my friend Sam cheers me up.

DAY 5
MRI test – I felt a little claustrophobic, but it was OK. Changed wards for some reason, and way prefer this one as the patients are much quieter and I’m next to the door (as opposed to in-between two beds like before) so I have more space. But the constant footsteps and checks still keeps me awake. I wish the nurses would take care to be more quiet at night.

Some IV fluid leaks into my arm, leaving me with a big, hench, Popeye arm for 12 hours.
The surgeon visits and says that as my infection is going down, the gallbladder removal is unnecessary but I can go ahead of I want. I say I definitely want it removed and he tells me there’s an operation space in three days time.

DAY 6
No tests. I’m allowed a small lunch and dinner. I’m told I have an endoscopy tomorrow, which I really don’t want and discuss it with my doctor, but he explains it’s impossible to do the gallbladder removal without it so I decide to proceed.

DAY 7
Endoscopy, one of the most unpleasant parts of this whole experience. Although I take a disgusting medicine to numb my throat, the sedative they gave me is weak and doesn’t really work. I end up crying like a baby, and have a sore throat for the next few days. However I’m told that the result is clear and the nurses help prepare me for surgery the next day by giving me a gown (which interestingly folds over yukata-style) and some compression socks.
The representative comes back so we can go over information with the anesthetist and I can sign some forms.

DAY 8
The representative comes to see me off to surgery and returns afterwards to check with the doctors how it went so she can report back to the office – I also ask her to speak with my family, which she very kindly does.
Surgery begins at 11am and finishes at 1pm. It’s a little delayed as the doctor struggles to find a vein for my IV as they’ve been popping out all week and my arms are sore and swollen from all the needles.
I’m extremely sore and groggy after the surgery and am surprised with the lack of pain killers – I’m basically given glorified ibuprofen despite having 3 cuts in my abdomen and one right through my belly button.

I move into a room of my own for the night as there’s one free. I have a catheter which feels gross and I’m determined to get it out as soon as possible – the nurse tells me as soon as I can walk to the bathroom she can take it out, but I only make it as far as the seating area before my incisions hurt too much and I have to go back.
A kind nurse helps me back into my own pyjamas in the evening, even this small act makes me feel more human.
I’m surprised to have dinner served, but it’s all “claggy” food – a texture I’ve never been able to stand – so I hardly eat anything.

DAY 9
Back on the ward and I’m happy to have a bed next to the window. I’m very sore, but manage to walk slowly to the bathroom by myself (using the IV as a walking aid) so the nurse removes my catheter. I go for an x-ray, but the staff are kind of rough and impatient with me, despite being out of surgery less than 24 hours. But during my stay they’re the only staff I meet who I really dislike.
Because of the pain in my chest scar I get breathless easier so the nurses keep me on oxygen.

DAY 10
Supposed to be discharged tomorrow but I don’t feel ready as I’m still very sore, can’t walk very far and have some anxiety so I’m allowed to stay in hospital over the weekend. I’m so tired now of eating white rice for every meal and the staff are concerned that I’m not eating properly, so they send a nutritionist round.
Once I explain that I don’t usually eat rice every day – let alone three times a day – she understands and I’m allowed to buy some regulated snacks from the FamilyMart conbini on the ground floor.

I’m still a little breathless, but the nurses tell me my peak flow is normal and tick me off when they catch me sneakily using the oxygen. The nerve!

DAY 11
The surgeon visits. My scars are healing well and bloods are almost clear so I can go home on Day 14. I’m eating better so the nurses remove my IV and drip. I take a peek a look at my scars – one on my breastbone, two on my stomach and one through my belly button. They look very neat and I thank the surgeon for his very good handiwork.

DAY 12
Rest day but I feel kinda restless and depressed. I use the opportunity to catch up on my sleep.

DAY 13
Rest day. Very restless still but I’m allowed to take a shower and gently wash my hair which cheers me up.

DAY 14
The representative comes to take me home. We go through all my medications and I get an appointment for a follow up later in the week. I pay my hospital bill – around £440 – and go home.

I ended up spending another two weeks recuperating at home before going back to work. It was a bit of a struggle recovering from surgery while living alone – but I’ve about made it to the other end.

I’m about one month post-op now and the scar on my breastbone can still feel a little irritated when my underwear rubs against it, but my other scars have healed wonderfully. I’ve also still been pretty fatigued but this is slowly improving.

I also feel a dull pain if I’m moving about too much or vigorously – but both my schools have been absolutely fantastic throughout this entire thing and I’m still on a reduced schedule compared to my usual teaching hours.

I’m still a bit sore around the area where I had my drain, then the operation, but was told at my check up that this is to be expected as I was cut twice.

All-in-all, I did find the Japanese hospital experience very pleasant. The language barrier was the main issue for me – but this is my fault rather than theirs of course. But most of the doctors and nurses were very kind and understanding.

Because of Covid I wasn’t allowed any visitors (except the representative) so it could get pretty lonely and boring – thank God I thought to pack my Kindle and writing stuff.

Ahh well, if nothing else – it’s another funny story to tell when people ask “So what did you do in Japan, then?”

~ Carla


Life · Osaka

Universal Studios Japan in 2021

On the suggestion of my friend Farrah, I made a pit stop at USJ on my way back from Faith’s wedding in Kyoto.

I’m not a huge theme park kind of person, and I especially wouldn’t usually go on a weekend. But being that there’s still no international tourism and the park is still capped at 60% capacity, I though I’d chance it and I’m so glad I did.

One of the main draws for me was the fairly new Super Nintendo World area, the first of it’s kind in the world. I’m really glad we went for opening, because we got there at 9am, and by the time we got to the timed entry ticket booth, tickets were already sold out until 3pm.

Of course while we waited for 3pm to roll around we explored the rest of the park…

I found the flying Ford Anglia!

All attractions (except the new Demon Slayer ride) were under a 15 minute wait – so amazing! I’m not a big fan of rides as I get really motion sick, but I thought I’d be brave and go on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Know that I absolutely screamed my head off all the way around, much to the amusement of the bairns either side of me. (I ended up going on two more times, since there was no wait!)

The cast members are all amazing, everyone from characters to cleaners stop and wave at you – I bet they’re exhausted by the end of the day from being so cheerful.

I had a bit of a funny turn when I was in the queue for The Three Broomsticks. Embarrassingly I suddenly felt sick, dizzy and claustrophobic and when I asked a friendly witch that I wanted to leave the line, they sat me down at a table with a large glass of ice water and an ice pack. So kind – Madam Rosmerta should be proud of her staff.

Originally I thought I was just tired from lack of sleep and a bit dehydrated and did feel much better afterwards. However now I do think it was the start of my gallbladder going haywire. I was able to enjoy the rest of my day – the only downside being that I lost my appetite and didn’t get a chance to try most of the snacks I was eager to. しょうがない!

Its creator is a transphobic TERF but Hogwarts welcomes *EVERYONE* home.

I enjoyed the other areas of the park – the only place I avoided was anywhere I saw signs for Minions. Japan seems to have a blind spot for the annoying yellow wankers.

After a quick bite of some overpriced pizza…it was finally time for Mario.
Let’s a-go!

I treated myself to a Luigi Power-Up band which you can use to interact with the world around you and collect coins on the USJ app. Usually I’m not lured in with gimmicky crap you can just use in the park, but as it’s also an amiibo, it at least has another use.

I really loved the open area, reminiscent of the famous grassland-themed worlds with heaps of easter eggs to find. It was the only part of the park that was a little too busy for my liking, but it’s kind of to be expected.

I didn’t have a chance to have a close look at everything as there were a lot of excited bairns running about giddily, but I thought it was really great and inventive for casual and hardcore fans alike.

I spotted some cranes in the background too which looks like it’s the beginning of the recently announced Donkey Kong extension opening in the next few years.

Because I’m a giant kid, one thing I really wanted to do was go to the Mario and Luigi meet and greet – and know that I’m not even joking a little bit when I say that when I heard the announcement I practically yeeted kids out of the way to get to the front of the line. Not my finest moment.

Worth it tho:

We of course went on the two Nintendo rides – Yoshi’s Adventure and Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge.

I was originally going to give Yoshi a miss as it looked like it was mostly for little kids – but when I saw a big group of fanboys in their 30s mooching on ahead of me, I thought I’d give it a try.

It was so cute and full of easter eggs from various Mario games!

Sadly, I found the Mario Kart ride a bit of a let down – the inside looked very impressive with the walk-up themed around the various Bowser’s Castle tracks and cast members in cute pit-crew gear. But for the actual ride you have to wear these VR goggles and they didn’t fit on my head very well so I had to move around a little to make the 3D effects work.

When they did work though, it was pretty cool!

All-in-all I really enjoyed my day, and we managed to spend 8 hours in the park before starting to lag.

I’d really recommend giving it a visit, especially if you’re currently in Japan and before the park gets packed again.
It was only about £59 for a day ticket which was well worth it in my opinion!

~ Carla

Friends · Kyoto

Faith’s Wedding

I met my friends Sam and Faith my very first day of orientation when we were sat next to each other and we instantly bonded.

They say you don’t really make friends in training (mostly true…everyone else was rather odd) but I guess we were the exceptions. Unlike everyone else, Faith had plans to stay in Japan forever after meeting her Japanese boyfriend when he was an international student at her university.

By the time we were drinking in Sam’s hotel room on the final evening, there was already a special bond between us. (I managed to K.O. before they went out drinking…missing the chance to meet my bestie, Felipe!)

The Golden Trio on our sakura road trip earlier this year. Know that Sam said something incredibly vulgar to make us laugh like that.

After training, Sam moved further north east and after six months Faith went even further out to Shiga in the south, but we’ve managed to stay close. And when Faith finally set a date for her wedding a few months ago we were delighted to attend.

Due to the travel ban, Faith’s family were unable to make it over to Japan from the US, so the three of us were the only gaijin there. I was also the only (non-family) female in attendance which was so funny!

I’m glad I read up on Japanese wedding customs while planning my trip as some aspects are very different to UK weddings.

First, instead of presents it’s mandatory to give the bride and groom money instead. Asking for money is still slightly frowned upon in the UK, which I’ve always thought is kinda stupid – I’d much rather the couple spend the money on something they really want, rather than ending up with seven toasters – especially when most couples are already living together and have all the essentials they need.

(Saying that, the last few weddings I’ve been to, the couples have asked for money specifically towards a house deposit or to help pay for their honeymoon which I think is really nice. My friend Claire softened the blow by doing it in poem-form.)

You also have to prepare your gift in a special money card called a shugi-bukuro (祝儀袋). The bills have to be crisp and brand new, facing up and in specific denominations. (For example: the bills can’t be directly halved as it is a superstition that this symbolises the couple splitting up, the bills can’t add up to the number 3 or 9 as this is unlucky in Japan etc. oh it goes on and on.)
Furthermore, the card needs to be wrapped in a special envelope made of material called a fukusa. Silk ones can cost upwards of ¥3000, but I picked mine up for ¥500 because I knew I’d only be using it once.

White and red are lucky colours in Japan, but there are more modern ones available featuring Disney and Sanrio characters.
I went quite traditional and chose this one – I especially loved the crane on the bow, a symbol of love, honour and fidelity in Japan.

The dress code is also definitely more conservative in Japan. I’ve been to weddings in the UK where people have worn dresses that don’t leave much to the imagination and wouldn’t look out of place on Saturday night down the Bigg Market.
(It’s getting more common to go out drinking after the wedding ends, especially for younger people – I guess it’s the UK version of the nijikai!)

I asked my friend Haruna to show me some photos of recent weddings she’d been to, and most girls seemed to be wearing long dresses in quite muted colours – as with most Japanese fashioned pretty high-cut and covering the upper arms.

I had absolutely nothing suitable in my wardrobe (my friends often refer to my dress sense as “quirky”) so I had to do some shopping beforehand. I’ve never dressed more conservatively in my life, but it was kinda fun for one day, like I was playing the character of a classy lassy instead of a lairy Geordie bird. I even bought some fake pearls and matching earrings.

I looked a bit like a Tory’s mistress or a Republican running mate (I’m a socialist), but whatever. I like that I matched Sam’s navy suit.
(All the other male guests wore black suits, but I thought he looked lovely! It’s kinda frowned upon to wear dark suits at UK weddings – black suits are specifically for sombre events like funerals.)

It was a really beautiful, intimate ceremony given the circumstances, a perfect mix of western and Japanese traditions. And of course I bawled my eyes out as soon as the double doors opened and Faith gracefully walked down the aisle, beaming at Wataru waiting for her.

Afterwards during photos, the family gently nudged me and Sam to the front for pictures next to Faith.
It really is true – the expat life really does turn friends into family.

Being that the bride and groom are massive foodies, it came as no surprise that the food was an absolute highlight.

In the words of Michael Scott: “They say that your wedding day goes by in such a flash that you’re lucky if you even get a piece of your own cake.”
So, I was relieved to hear that as part of their wedding package, they could go back the following day to properly enjoy their wedding meal.

One thing that surprised me was in the middle of dinner, the groom’s childhood friends provided some entertainment in the form of a few rounds of the Mr and Mrs game (usually played at hen parties in the UK with smutty questions not suitable for polite company). Everyone at each table also had to stand up and say something nice about the bride and groom (thankfully, Sam did this.)

At the end of the wedding, every guest is given a present from the happy couple – Faith and Wataru’s was very on point: a bottle of champagne, chocolates and coffee. I told you they were foodies.

Thank you so much again for inviting us, Feesu. It was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience.

Sam took Polaroids throughout the day and presented them to the couple at the end of the day – such a lovely idea!

~ Carla

Food · hospital

Hospital Food in Japan

As you may have seen in my last post, I recently (and unexpectedly) spent two weeks in hospital with with cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder), gallstones and ended up having surgery to get it removed.

For the first few days I was given an IV and put on a fast – I wasn’t too fussed because I’d had no appetite for days already and been unable to keep anything down anyway.

Days 4 and 5 I could only have this high calorie protein drink three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It had a sort of yoghurty-texture and a sweet apple flavour. Not too bad, but after a few days I was sick of the sight of it.

Six days in, I was allowed to have actual food. Some days were definitely better than others, but I ended up taking photos and logging what I ate because frankly there wasn’t much else to do.

Nearly every meal came with some sort of rice and green tea. While I couldn’t get enough of the tea (I’m British after all!), I quickly tired of eating rice three times a day.
In fact they sent a nutritionist round one day as they were so concerned I wasn’t eating much of my rice…of course in Japan you are expected to clear your bowl. But once I explained I’m not used to eating rice so often, they understood.

Rice porridge, fish, carrots and onions, tomato jelly, yoghurt drink, green tea:

Rice, chicken meatballs, braised spinach, apple, green tea:

Rice, teriyaki fish, cabbage and tomato salad, spinach, orange, green tea:

Rice porridge, prawn dumplings, sweet potato, meat and vegetables, mixed tinned fruit, green tea:

Rice with furikake, miso soup, Japanese fish cake, egg salad, yoghurt drink, green tea:

Rice, silken tofu, pumpkin, brocolli, carrot, pickles, green tea. (One of my least favourites because it was all the same soft, claggy texture.)

Rice, miso soup, salmon, ham salad, green tea, milk (I forgot to tell the staff I can’t drink milk beforehand):

Rice, white fish, green beans, steamed sweet potato, aubergine, kiwi fruit, green tea:

Rice, fish, cabbage, mikan orange, pickles, green tea:

Vegetable curry and rice, salad, pickles, green tea. (This was luuuuush!!)

Rice and furikaki, pork, broccoli, daikon, green tea:

Oyakodon (egg, chicken and scallions on rice – loosely translates as “mother and child”), miso soup, pickles, apple slices, green tea:

Rice and furikake, fish, mixed vegetables, pickles, green tea:

Bread, margarine and peach jam, scrambled eggs, tuna salad, Yakult, green tea:(This was my last breakfast and it was SO good not to have rice for once!)

Know that I still haven’t touched rice since I came out of hospital.

While there were some hits and misses, it’s definitely healthier than the fare masquerading as food in UK hospitals. I remember when I had my kidney operation as a teenager I refused to touch the hospital food and instead survived on saltines and Lucozade for a week.

Unlike the UK, Japanese hospitals aren’t free (even with health insurance) but the meal plan wasn’t too bad at ¥700 per day (around £4.50 or $6.00USD).

~ Carla