Japan Keeping Me Humble: #4

WoopwoopThat’s the sound of da (fashion) police.

The junior high school’s chorus festival was a pretty fancy affair at a big concert hall, and knowing parents and the PTA were going I dressed in my best suit, my favourite handbag, wore my hair down and put on a bit of makeup.

A third grader came over, complimented me on my Kate Spade and advised:
“You look cute today Miss Carla, you should dress like that always.”


On the upside I told my friend Faith who found this hilarious and advised me to now announce myself as “いつも かわいい” / “itsumo kawaii!” (“always cute!”) which has somewhat become my catchphrase. It’s rude, so the bairns love it.

~ Carla


Japan Keeping Me Humble: #3

(If you don’t know what movie this is from we can’t be pals*)

Penne for your thoughts.

Recently at school I have been wearing my hair in it’s ‘usual style’ – down and flat ironed with a side fringe instead of the scraped-back high ponytail I’d been sporting since August.

However one student has told me that my hair looks like “spaghetti”, and a teacher asked if I am cold and using my hair as a scarf.

I think they’re hinting that I need to invest in a nice hair mask soon.

~ Carla

(*It’s from ‘The Princess Diaries’.)

Drinking · Food · Friends · Life · Osaka · Travel

Japanter 2.0: Grahame in Osaka

One of my biggest supporters when I announced I was packing my life into two suitcases and pissing off to Japan was my friend Grahame who lived in Fukoka 2011-2012 before moving back to the UK and becoming a big-shot barrister. (However you can still find his hilarious blog Japanter on your internets.)

However he’s come back on holiday a few times since then, this being the first with his bae, Nav so we agreed to meet up in Osaka, which is about 90 minutes outside Hamamastu on the shinksansen.

My co-workers were all very interested and nosy when I mentioned I was meeting up with my friend with a man’s name, I think most of them think I have a gentleman caller.
At least years of playing Ace Attorney (also watching the movie, anime and all-female musical) I know most of the important courtroom vocabulary.

Can’t order a beer for myself yet but I can use words such as “saibancho”.


I was also keen for a change of scenery, Hamamatsu is lovely and I’m lucky to live in ten minute walk into the city centre but it’s not really exciting per se. I’d previously been to Osaka twice and it’s always a lot of fun.

One of the things you’ll hear a lot is how quiet Japanese trains are. And while I have found this to mostly be the case, I found myself on the loudest shinkansen ever – accompanied by pretty much an entire carriage of the same drunken group who thought it was hilarious to run up to each other and sit on their laps.
If I wanted a rowdy commute believe me I’d have kept my old job in Sunderland.

Nevertheless I was pleased to arrive in Osaka, although I’d forgotten what a maze Shin-Osaka is, and was especially busy with everybody seemingly landing for the Rugby World Cup.

If Tokyo is London, then Osaka is Newcastle.

The people are loud and rambunctious and speak in a strong dialect. They have a very specific sense of humor, and a lot of Japanese comedians hail from Osaka. There are three bars on every block and by nighttime people pile out into the street, shouting and singing and enjoying the last few weeks of warm weather.
(I’m a Geordie, I don’t wear a coat until it starts snowing.)

A weekend with four cute boys? I’ve had worse tbh.

We met up with their friends Roland and Argyll who are just the cutest and have been ALTs for years now, so were very kind and allowed me to pick their brains.

We went for kushikatsu – a popular bar snack in Osaka, which is essentially deep fried stuff you can dip in tonkatsu sauce.

Honestly I think it could be hugely popular in the UK. Certainly better than crisps and peanuts.
We’re greedy and got through four trays of the stuff. Yum.

We naturally ended up in karaoke – just like the last time I was in Osaka, which is coincidentally the only time I’ve ever seen my sister absolutely plastered. It was the first and last time she’s drank sake.
Nadia now refers to the city as “the place of all bad decisions.” She’s not wrong.

I could have stayed all night but alas my hotel was a train ride away and it was already way past midnight and my carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin.
(AKA: the last metro was at 12:05am. I JUST made it.)

Bit embarrassing though the following Monday at school when my JTE asked me to tell the third graders what I did in Osaka.
Dotonbori!” I lied, and stretched my arms out like Glico Man.
“Ahhhh, sugoiiiiii!”

Indeed, it was sugoi.

~ Carla

Food · Hamamatsu · Life · Lifestyle

Groceries vs Eating Out In Japan

I thought it would be interesting to show the sort of things I buy in my groceries shop, and the price of food in general in Japan.

Now I’m going to be totally honest here – I actually hate cooking, and prefer making quick meals as long as they’re fairly healthy-ish.

Here’s an example food shop earlier this week.

♥ Can of beer: ¥250
♥ Vegetable oil: ¥170
♥ Packet of crisps: ¥97
♥ Frozen edemame: ¥320
♥ Rice crackers: ¥190
♥ Miso paste: ¥280
♥ Frozen broccoli: ¥170
♥ Button mushrooms: ¥175
♥ Eggs: ¥190
♥ Soy milk: ¥250
♥ Salad/sandwich chicken: ¥250
♥ Instant vegetable curry: ¥320
♥ Cup noodle: ¥120
♥ Frozen peas: ¥150
♥ Bar of chocolate: ¥160
♥ Peanut butter: ¥600
♥ Ketchup: ¥250
♥ Sushi set: ¥598

There’s a few other essentials I always have to hand:

♥ English breakfast tea bags: ¥600 (box of 120)
♥ Fresh noodles ¥20
♥ Tofu ¥70
♥ Soy sauce ¥120
♥ Sesame oil ¥170
♥ Mayonnaise ¥320
♥ Cereal ¥500
♥ Bag of flour: ¥350 (I like to make pancakes at the weekend)
♥ Nutella ¥400 (See above re: pancakes…)
♥ Frozen pizza ¥190 (Hangover purposes only. Mostly.)

My Saturday tradition if I don’t have plans – chocolate chip pancakes!

I also buy a huuuuuuge bag of rice every few weeks – a 2kg bag costs me around ¥2000+.

You’ll notice a distinct lack of meats and fruits in my grocery haul, and that’s because they’re both ridiculously expensive.
I don’t miss meat too much because I was a pescatarian for a few years prior to coming to Japan – so I only ever eat meat when I’m eating out.

Egg fried rice rice with mushrooms and furikake, miso soup and edamame.

The cost of fruit is a piss-take, though. Here are the average prices in my local supermarket:

♥ Punnet of strawberries ¥750
♥ Punnet of grapes ¥400
♥ Small bag of mikan oranges ¥400
♥ Small bag of kiwi fruit ¥400
♥ 1/2 a watermelon: ¥360
♥ 1 persimmon ¥300
♥ 1 peach ¥700+ (yes, really!)
♥ 1 apple ¥350
♥ 1 banana ¥90

It’s a shame I hate bananas, right?
Frozen fruit isn’t too bad – around ¥350 for a huge bag, but mostly it’s just frozen berries.

Fish is quite cheap, but I hate fiddling around with removing bones – so I rarely buy fish too unless it’s marked waaaaay down and can freeze it immediately.
I can usually find 3-4 fillets of salmon reduced to around ¥350.

As far as my cooking skills go – salmon, rice with furikake, miso soup, edamame.

However living in the city, for me personally I’ve found it’s just as cheap to eat out as there are so many quick eats options.

For example you can get:

♥ Corn dog ¥100
♥ Sandwich ¥250+
♥ Gyudon ¥500
♥ Karaage ¥500
♥ Omurice ¥600
♥ Curry and rice ¥700
♥ Yakitori ¥700 (for 5 sticks)
♥ Ramen ¥700
♥ Bento ¥800
♥ Burger and fries ¥800
♥ Sushi belt aprox ¥1000 (depending on how many plates you have.)
♥ Tonkatsu set ¥1100

5 yakitori for ¥700 at Tori Mero
Forever lured into this place with their ¥200 beers.
Karaage, omurice and a bottomless drink.
FYI: Japan has Denny’s and it’s GREAT.
Tonkatsu set at Wako.
Comes with unlimited rice, shredded cabbage and green tea.

This suits my lifestyle a lot more, but it’s completely up to you.
One of my close friends here also lives in the city but prefers to cook at home. Another pal says he hardly shops for groceries at all.

There’s also a few fast food places (no KFC tho????), but I’ve found they’re more expensive than back home.

If you like alcohol, a beer in my city costs around ¥500 a bottle or ¥700 for a schooner or pint. Spirits and cocktails start from ¥700-¥800.

Anyways I hope this has been somewhat interesting – if you’d like to see anything else, please just let me know in the comments!

~ Carla


New Year, Old Me


I know we’re already 21 days into 2020, however I always try to make ten goals for the new year.

Here are my resolutions for 2020:

♥  Improve my Japanese. I paid a fortune for a bunch of textbooks a few months ago, I’m not a natural at learning languages but I’m really going to try this year!
♥  Bring my own tea or coffee to work instead of stopping at the konbini every morning. (I showed my cute flask to my JTE desk mate who said “Yes yes – it is kind to your wallet and kind to the environment.” SO WHOLESOME.)
♥  Try to visit somewhere outside Hamamatsu once a month.
  Host another party in my tiny apartment.
♥  Drink more water.
♥  Read more books.
♥  Make new friends.

♥  Keep up my diary. (I’ve kept a diary most years since I was about 11 – I did really well last year and wrote nearly every day!)
♥  Go to a concert in Japan.
♥  Go back to Tokyo for a long weekend.
♥  Visit somewhere outside Japan on holiday.

How about you, do you make new years resolutions?

I try to stay away from tired old resolutions such as ‘lose weight’ ‘eat less _________’ because I don’t find they particularly enrich my life. BORING.

My goals are always stuff I can enjoy and look forward to in the coming year. Do recommend.

~ Carla

*I’m not actually divorced heh, Ross is just my fave.


Japan Keeping Me Humble: #1

This is going to be a series of bite-sized posts I’m calling JKMH (Japan Keeping Me Humble) documenting the hilarious things people say to me in Japan – from innocent faux pas and backhanded compliments to being downright rude.

I have a very self-deprecating sense of humour, so don’t worry – most of this isn’t stuff to cause me great offense. I’m mostly thick-skinned, and find it very easy to distinguish whether someone is being funny or just blatantly being a douche.

And so without further ado…

Japan Keeping Me Humble: #1

The Chair Necessities.

At my elementary school I have to sit with the bairns during lunchtime – this involves perching awkwardly on a tiny chair and squeezing behind an equally tiny desk. A small boy ran over to me enthusiastically and declared:
“Miss Carla big! Chair fall down!”
Thanks, kid.

~ Carla

Christmas · Drinking · Food · Friends · Life · Travel · UK

Flyin’ Home For Christmas

Hello! I’m sorry for the lack of posts in December – this was because last month I flew back to the UK to spend winter vacation with my family.

Are you even returning from Japan without bearing a bounty of Japanese KitKats?

Christmas Day as per was lovely and chill – my dad cooked as per, and my mam bought so much buffet food their fridge now makes a groaning noise when you try to close it.

On Boxing Day my sister’s boyfriend Calvin came over with a bottle of Asti and we played Mario Kart for hours.

My dad made my favourite dish of his – peri peri chicken with halloumi and sweetcorn fritters (which we ate catching up on Only Connect), I went to Starbucks with my mam and sister, played board games and video games with my sister and her boyfriend, went sales shopping with my mam, and had a cheeky Nando’s with extra cheeky on the side. (LADS LADS LADS!)

Cafe India in South Shields – my favourite curryhouse.
I had dhansak and she had korma – although korma is futile:
“Pete…are you eyeing up my bhunas?”

Indian food and a few too many glasses of wine with my best friend Claire.
I’ve missed Indian curry like nothing else, but my teacher friend has promised to take me to her favourite Indian restaraunt in Hamamatsu this month!

I also got to see her baby Ruby who has grown into a REET lil chunk in six months.
Claire actually text me this morning and told me she can not sit up by herself. It’s going to be strange to see her toddling about the next time I’m home!

June vs December. The cutest baby in Shields.

My favourite ice cream sundae from Minchella’s – I mean could I really have come home to South Shields and not had a Minchella’s? Thank you so much to Marie who treated me!!

The best burgers in Newcastle – Meat Stack, pints and a trip to our favourite drag bar Boulevard with my other best friend and head cheerleader Sam.

In between all this was just pure quality time with my family, and I’m so sorry to everyone I couldn’t get around to seeing!

New Years’ Eve was spent at my Uncle Paul’s as we do every year – I introduced the geriatrics (sorry) to Instagram filters, and we watched Craig David doing a really awkward DJ set.

The morning of New Years’ Day I flew back to Japan and I cried my eyes out.

I cried in the taxi, I cried in the airport and I cried when I bumped into my friend Rhiannah en route to some winter sun in Tenerife.

A tear-stained mess and Kween Rhi
I always order a ‘special meal’ on board – mostly because you’re guaranteed your preference and you are always served first!
British Airways’ vegan dinner was actually really good: sweet potato mash, bean stew and vegetables, salad with dressing, dried fruit, a fresh fruit plate and a roll with vegan butter. (The creamy pasta thing everyone else had looked RANK tbh.)
Lunch: spaghetti, vegetables, edamame in dressing and peach jelly.

I did struggle and have a wobble my first week back in Japan – for some reason it was much harder leaving after visiting, than leaving back in August. I think first time around I had so much to occupy my time – training, moving into my apartment, starting a new job, making friends etc.
But when I got back to Hamamatsu it was just me in my apartment for three days straight.

I’m doing MUCH better now though – I work best in a routine (I’m a Taurus!) and am getting back into the swing of life in Japan.

Anyways, I hope you all had a wonderful festive season whether you celebrated or just had a quiet one by yourself.

~ Carla

Life · Video · youtube

One Second Everyday: 2019

“And if these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it’s this: I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”

– One Hour Photo (2002)*

One of my 2019 goals was to complete a full year using the 1 Second Everyday app.

I’ve technically been doing it since September 2018, but 2019 was my first full year – January to December.

I really can’t recommend it enough – it’s free, easy to use, and it really does make you appreciate at least one thing everyday that is worth remembering.
(Photos work on the app too if that’s more your thing!)

It’s both wonderful and strange watching a year of your life (and a pretty crazy year at that) flash by in under nine minutes.
If you’re interested, you can check out my video below:

~ Carla

*PS: The quote at the top of this post is from One Hour Photo, in my opinion one of the most underrated films ever – please check it out, Robin Williams is incredible in it.

Apartment · Food · Friends · Life · Party

My Takoyaki Party

Well, I say ‘my’ takoyaki party – this is not entirely true.

I was out for sushi and drinks with my pals Haruna and Imada, and the conversation went something like this:

HARUNA: You like takoyaki yes?
ME: Yes of course, it is one of my favourite Japanese foods!
HARUNA: Have you ever made yourself?
ME: I haven’t, I wouldn’t really know how.
HARUNA: OK then, we would like to have a takoyaki party-
ME: Oooh really? That sounds great I would love to!
HARUNA: -at your apartment!
ME: …Wat?

So agreeing to host a takoyaki party – or ‘Takopa’ wasn’t entirely consensual, haha.
But nevertheless, I was eager to give takoyaki a go so we agreed on a date and time.

Takoyaki are ball-shaped snacks that are crisp and golden on the outside and soft and doughy in the middle.
They’re then filled typically with minced or diced octopus (tako – hence ‘takoyaki’), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger (beni shoga), and green onion (negi).
The balls are then coated with takoyaki sauce (it’s similar to Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with green laver (aonori) and shavings of dried bonito (fish flakes).

It was actually a very relaxing experience however for a host – Haruna and Imada helped me buy all the ingredients (and alcohol of course) and lugged it all back to my apartment.
And after we’d finished, Imada insisted on cleaning up, what an absolute LAD.

Of course a selfie under my Christmas tree was necessary!

This was back in December, so I also gave them their Christmas presents – I only give the classiest and most educational gifts:

“The Correct Way To Use Fuck” – it even comes with a helpful CD for pronunciation.

Eheheh. You can see more from this video by Abroad In Japan:

So yes, I think my first party (where I didn’t actually do anything) was a success.

The next one is going to be a ‘Nabepa’ – a nabe/hot pot party!
(Because there ain’t no party like a hot pot party…)

~ Carla