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 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.



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

Drinking · Lifestyle

Hungover in Hamamatsu

NOTE: The sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants has been banned for two months already in several prefectures in Japan – including Shizuoka, and looks like it’ll be extended until October. Just know that I’m absolutely clamming for a pint.

Just like the UK, Japan has a big drinking culture. From cheap beer to expensive sake, if you enjoy hitting the sauce then there really is something for everyone.

With inhibitions lowered, Japan transforms into a different place at night – akin to a session down the Bigg Market in Newcastle on a Saturday night.

The same people who go to work with their heads down, eyes fixed on their phones, nodding and bowing and agreeing and hai hai hai-ing all day really know how to let their hair down at the weekend. In a matter of hours these same people are shouting, screaming, singing, hugging in the streets well into the early hours.

Public transport stops pretty early in most cities – around 11pm-midnight, so your options are run for the last train, pay for an expensive taxi or – the most popular option – stay out all night until the first train home at 5am. (Karaoke is a good call for this. 24-hour McDonalds are commonplace too.) Most train stations even have guards stationed at the weekend to stop merrymakers falling onto the tracks.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve almost been steamrollered by a group of guys holding each other up, almost tripping over the most kawaii of kawaii girls puking in the street while their friend holds their hair back, or people flat out fast asleep in bars, on walls, in bus stops, on the pavement still in their black business suit.

As you can expect of course, the last train home is definitely an experience.
One of my favourites was a group of salarymen literally threw their colleague (who was wearing a silly hat) out of a train carriage presumably at his station. He waved and shouted a hearty おはようございます (“Good morning!”) as the doors closed. As the train pulled away, we all saw him fall backwards in the direction of a bemused guard, a look of elation on his face.

But as always – what comes up, must come down.
Even as someone who is a bit of a seasoned drinker (annoyingly, Felipe can still outdrink me) and a Geordie, living in Japan has blessed me with some of the worst hangovers (“futsukayoi” in Japanese…as I’ve now learned) in my life.

Thankfully, Japan is well prepared for such situations because of course they are.
Here are my favourite hangover remedies…

Before (and/or after): Ukon no Chikara

Famous Souvenirs from Japan: Ukon No Chikara (ウコンの力) - Easy Travel

As always in life, it’s all about preparation, preparation, preparation.

There are a plethora of little bottles of liquid cures in every conbini containing ingredients such as tumeric, vitamin C, B, and iron which are believed to help break down toxins and alcohol during the night.
They’re also pretty helpful the day after – but some are pretty gross tasting (such as Ukon no Chikara above, the top seller) and difficult to keep down after a particularly heavy night. Apparently.

During: Ramen

It’s very popular amongst Japanese drinkers to stop at a ramen place for a pick-me-up.

Personally, I can’t stomach a bowl full of rich broth and noodles while drinking (my drunk food is McDonalds) however at my last niji-kai before the ‘rona, I told my co-teachers I would just order a pop. But because they were all half-cut and eager to treat me, I suddenly found myself with five glasses of Coca Colas in front of me.

After: Pocari Sweat

ポカリスエット(POCARI SWEAT) ポカリスエット 500ml (メンズ、レディース、キッズ) 通販 LINEポイント最大0.5%GET |  LINEショッピング

My favourite hangover remedy is a cold bottle of Pocari Sweat, a delicious electrolyte drink with a terrible name. Similar to Gatoraid in the US and Lucozade in the UK it contains potassium and magnesium to rehydrate you. However unlike them, it doesn’t have a lot of carbonation or a strong taste – a little citrusy and a little salty which I appreciate.

It’s available in convenience stores, but most vending machines also have it – really easy to grab a bottle (or two) as I’m stumbling home.

Also trust me, it pairs perfectly with a few 7-11 hash browns. *chefs kiss*

So there you have it, you’re now prepared for a big Japanese night out.
After the ‘rona, of course. Stupid ‘rona.

~ Carla

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

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

Drinking · Food · Hamamatsu · Life

Life of an ALT: Monthly Budget in Japan

Here is my current budget as an ALT living in Japan – I thought this may be helpful for incoming ALTs to give you a ballpark idea of the cost of living month to month.

I’ve converted this to GBP correct as of January 2020.

♥  BASE SALARY: ¥ 215,000 (£1,500)
♥  INCOME TAX: ¥ 5,300 (£37.00)
♥  EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: ¥ 700 (£5.00)
♥  RENT/INTERNET/WATER: ¥ 45,000 (£315.00)
♥  SCHOOL LUNCH: ¥ 5,000 (£35.00)
♥  PHONE: ¥ 5,500 (£38.00)
♥  ELECTRICITY: ¥ 3,000 (£21.00)
♥  GAS: ¥ 3,000 (£21.00)
♥  GROCERIES: ¥ 10,000- ¥ 16,000 (£70.00-£112.00)

TOTAL DEDUCTIONS: ¥ 83,500 (£560.00)
TOTAL EXTRA SPENDS: ¥ 134,500 (£940.00)

This is around £940 extra spends for the month.
Of course you’ll have to pay for things like household amenities, but this money is mostly mine to use freely.

I don’t have a car in Japan, so I don’t have any pay towards that – if you are on a driving contract your company should cover your petrol/gas, but you’ll likely have to pay for the insurance which can be expensive.
My company covers all my public transport expenses to the schools – for me this is usually between 15,000 and 20,000 since I live a 40 minute bus ride from the city to my schools.

Having £235 extra money per week is really not bad at all.
I’m not saying you can go around spending like Elton John, but that more than covers eating out and drinks at least once a week!

If you have debts in your home country, I would really really recommend clearing these out before you arrive because they can easily eat into your budget. You’re coming to Japan to enjoy the country – not to be stuck in your apartment eating ramen noodles.

But let me also be the first to say how terrible I am at budgeting – I am a Taurus and it does NOT come easily to me.
My sister and uncle are very good at pinching the pennies, but I take after my mam – as soon as we get paid we’re straight to the shops and Starbucks and Pizza Express until we’re actually broke and counting the days until the next pay day.

But my budget strategy is quite simple – I try to stick to no more than £100 additional spends a week, then the rest can just stay in my account – which can be put towards fun albeit expensive activities like going to Tokyo or Osaka. Usually I come nowhere close to spending that.

Things like work drinks and fuctions can get expensive so it’s good to have money for those stashed away if you enjoy going – especially if you end up at karaoke afterwards and start feeling flash after a few too many sakes. Believe me, I’ve been there my friends.

Quickie money-saving tips:

♥  Don’t turn on your air-con/heater unless absolutely necessary. Or at least put them on at their lowest settings. Otherwise open the windows or put on a jumper instead. (This does NOT work in the brutal Japanese summer – treat yo’ self and turn it on!)
♥  Shop at budget supermarkets such as Seiyu.
♥  Go grocery shopping after 5pm when many items are discounted. Freeze discounted meats, fish and vegetables that are near their sell-by date.

♥  Hit up bakeries an hour or so before they closed, a lot will be marked right down.
♥  Avoid conbinis over supermarkets. Yeah the clue is in the name, but everything is way more expensive at the conbini from ready-meals to alcohol.
♥ Buy alcohol from Don Quixote or Bic Camera – big discounts compared to supermarkets!
♥  Buy some tupperwear and love your leftovers!
♥  Fill up on your school lunch – have seconds if offered.
♥  Need something? Daiso will probably have it.
♥  Eating out? Most restaurants have lunch specials so make that your big meal of the day!
♥  Invest in a rice cooker, I got this one from Amazon on sale for around £35.00 so keep an eye out for deals. A huge bag of rice at the supermarket costs about £10-£20 but will last you weeks!
♥ Wait until you have a decent pile of laundry before you do it! (My washing machine has the option of a quick 30 minute cycle so I just use that all the time!)

♥ Avoid drying your clothes in the bathroom with the fan, try to wait until it’s nice outside and hang them on your balcony.
♥ When travelling look into highway/overnight buses and local trains before taking the shinkansen which can be extortionate. The website Hyperdia is the best for trains.
♥ Also for travelling – look into hostels before hotels, they can be a lot of fun and I haven’t stayed in a bad one in Japan yet. Even a private room in a hostel can be cheaper than a hotel room, so don’t write them off! Just check the reviews! (I can not recommend J-Hoppers in Osaka enough, I’ve stayed there three times now!)
♥ Look into Facebook groups in your area for people selling off items really cheap – most councils charge a fee for taking items away so most of the time people will look to sell them for next to nothing.
♥  Check out thrift and second hand shops. Thrift stores in Japan only take quality items that are checked out before accepting. There’s a huge recycling culture here so you can find amazing clothing pieces. BookOff is a chain selling second-hand entertainment such as video games, electronics, DVDs and…erm…well, books unsurprisingly.

Have any other money-saving tips for living in Japan? Holler a gal down below!

~ Carla

Drinking · Food · School · school events

Life of an ALT: Surviving My First Enkai

I survived my first enkai!

There are apparently many kinds of Japanese ‘enkai’ – aka: drinking parties.

Japanese teachers work incredibly hard and long hours.
At my school the teachers are there between 7am-7pm.

I’m a lucky, lazy ALT who rocks up at 8am, leaves at 4pm and only teaches for between 3 to 5 hours out of my 8-hour shift.
So naturally there’s many an excuse for a booze-up.

In most schools, there’s an enkai after the Sports Festival – which makes sense seeing how long the teachers’ have planned and rehearsed the event, notably in-between their usual classes, marking papers, planning lessons, running after-school clubs etc.

I was asked within my first hour at my desk if I’d like to attend which put me on the spot a little, but wanting to be a happy, genki gaijin I’d agreed to attend.
However as the enkai rolled nearer and I looked up etiquette on the internet I’d managed to tie myself in knots about it.

Firstly, the dress code was vague.
“Dress up!” smiled my deskmate JTE but according to Reddit this could mean a full suit, business casual or formalwear.
I couldn’t really get a solid answer out of anyone for specifics so took a punt and chose the outfit I wore to my 30th birthday party. Better to be overdressed than underdressed, right?

The enkai was also ¥5000 (around £50), which sounded steep and took a hefty chunk out of my weekly budget – but when it was explained it’s all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink it’s fairly worth it.

Japanese food is expensive back home.
When me and my best friend Sam get together for sushi (our tradition ever since Sam moved away from the city) for a platter to share, as well as other little plates such as gyoza, edamame and takoyaki, two rounds of beers plus the tip we end up paying around £25-£30 each.
So not too terrible in the grand scheme of things – but I have heard of higher-end enkai racking upwards of ¥10,000 per head.

There was of course the language barrier. My Japanese is practically non-existent, and none of the teachers (allegedly) speak much English. It was set to be a long night.

The internet also advised me that we all had to sit on our knees with our toes curled inwards. I’ve had tendon issues in my left knee ever since I was 15 (I felt off the back of the stage during our school production of Godspell…), so knew that simply wouldn’t be possible and I’d have to sit cross-legged like the blokes.

However it all turned out absolutely fine. I don’t know if it’s my school or just this particular enkai – but it was very relaxed.
The male teachers were in t-shirts and jeans, the female teachers in “jeans and a nice top” as we’d say in the UK! One of the teachers was in a hoodie with trainers.

I’m glad though I’d made an effort and was greeting with cries of “Ahh kawaii!” from teachers who’d never really spoken to me yet.
I did look different than I do everyday at the school, where I wear my hair scraped back from my face, no makeup, and my ill-fitting teacher workwear.

One of my JTEs was going and I was hoping to sit next to her, but when I arrived we were asked to pick a card that allocated you a random seat. I was sat next to two female teachers, one male teacher and the admin girl I hadn’t spoken to before.
When my JTE arrived and saw my table was full she looked apologetic – but this being Japan we would have never asked to switch tables. Rules is rules is rules.

There were a lot of speeches from the chief organisers of the Sports Day, the organiser of the enkai and finally the principal who called “KANPAI!!” and the festivities could begin.

I’d read the most important thing was to fill other attendees’ glasses, but to do it with two hands. I’d been rehearsing with a large Coke Zero bottle all week.

However all the teachers – including the principal – filled glasses one-handed.
When I went around with the jug of beer and poured with two hands, I was greeted with appreciative cries of “Ahh, Japanese-style!”

I’d brushed up on enkai etiquette, but as mentioned before – it was all incredibly casual.
(We were in booths so no kneeling required!)

As the beer and alcohol flowed I was complimented on my chopstick skills (a standard compliment every non-Japanese person receives from natives. One mustn’t let it go to one’s head).
Everyone was amazed that I adore sashimi, and was gawked open-mouthed as I ate my raw amberfish and shouted “OISHIII” enthusiastically.

(I sent a picture to my Uncle who hates all seafood and he commented “Looks like Morrisons’ fish counter.”)

I’d also managed to get myself a little squiffy by this point.
The male teacher called for “beiru!” every time my class was empty. He offered me sake and I politely declined.

(The first and last time I had a night on the sake me and my sister ended up in a karaoke bar in Osaka with a bunch of random Germans singing “Barbie Girl”. We didn’t get out of bed the next day – missing our trip to the Cup Noodle Museum. Devastating.)

My dad’s catchphrase could practically be: “Get your money’s worth, pet!”
I think I made him proud. You can take the girl out of Hebburn.

Wor George would have been especially impressed with the male teacher sitting opposite me though – he got through five beers, two bottles of sakes and two whiskey highballs in two hours and enthusiastically egged us on to order more drinks – he got the other girls on our table on the cocktails.

Teachers who previously garbled they speak no English could suddenly make clear sentences. The male teacher apparently has a penchant for Scottish whiskies and told he he’d like to visit a distillery there one day.

After two hours, time was called, more speeches were made, there was a big clap and the party was over.
A group of male teachers who shyly ignore me usually shouted “KAWAIIII” at my pink Kate Spade bag (my dream bag and an extremely generous 30th birthday present from my sister in May) as I got up to go to the bathroom.
When I left they all bowed low and thanked me profusely for coming.

The general rule of thumb is “what happens at the enkai stays at the enkai” but it was a fairly tame affair with nobody being particularly loud or throwing the principal in the air (I’ve heard this is a thing that happens).

And back at school – the ice has somewhat been broken a little with some teachers who were otherwise are too shy to even acknowledge me in the teachers’ lounge. Others who chatted away to me at the enkai have retreated, but at least the olive branch has been offered.

Although I’ve started getting a hearty “OHAYO GOZAIMASUUU” reply from most teachers in the morning, which is hopeful.

And will I be going to my next one?


– Carla