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

Culture · Food · Friends · Hamamatsu

Orange Picking in Hamamatsu

The newest farmhand recruit.

Back in Autumn 2019, one of my favourite teachers at my elementary school Shirai-sensei gave everyone a local mikan orange. It was easily the best orange I’ve ever eaten, and when I told her so she delightedly explained they’re actually from her father’s orange grove.
(A term I only learned while writing this blog as I assumed oranges grew in an orchard – apparently not!)

A week later, she beckoned me over to her car after school, gave me a bag and told me I could take as many home as I could fit inside my backpack. While harvesting season was already over, she promised me the following year she would take me to see the oranges and pick some for myself.

And true to her word in October 2020 she drove me and my friend Haruna to see the trees, help harvesting them and bring some home for ourselves. The farm was originally her grandfather’s and her father took over five years ago, working with her mother and a few picking staff.

I also got to catch up with another of my favourite teachers who moved on to another school in March 2020 – she brought her husband and little daughter who was so cute. Her daughter definitely managed to pick more oranges than me!

I’ve only been raspberry picking in the UK, and strawberry picking last year. There’s something so wholesome about picking fruit straight from the tree or bush.
The grove grows two types of oranges – the smaller mikan is very sweet with no sourness at all, they remind me of the clementines my mam buys at Christmas. The larger, darker oranges are tart, but not at all bitter.

Although I live in the city, (I’m a bona fide city girl who has a mental breakdown if I’m too far from wifi or a soy flat white…) it was lovely to be out in the Japanese inaka for the day, living my best Ghibli-esque life.

I would have been grateful for even a small handful, but she very kindly gave us a huge box each to fill and we could take home as many as we could carry. We were also able eat as many as we could while we were harvesting!
(I taught everyone the term “eating on the job.”)

It was such a wonderful experience I would have otherwise missed if it wasn’t for the kindness of people I’ve met here.
Another precious memory I’ll treasure forever.

Not bad for an afternoon’s work!

We also noticed a tiny, quaint train station nearby so looked inside. There was a cute little gift shop and cafe inside ran by a sweet guy who spoke really good English.
It had a surprisingly hipsterish vibe and sold local crafts, beers and cookies.

Shirai-sensei told me a ticket inspector stands in the middle and manually checks tickets – even though it’s so quiet. Never change, Japan.
So cute! The art is by the Finnish brand Marimekko and is really popular in Japan right now.

Although we’d more than filled up on oranges, Shirai-sensei took us to a popular Italian restaurant and I had the best pizza and pasta I’ve eaten so far in Japan! (I’m half-Italian so hard to please!)

Shirai-sensei also wouldn’t hear of us paying, and told us it was her present for us. She is so kind!

Naples-style pizza.

And if I hadn’t been treated enough, Shirai-sensei gave me and Haruna presents from her recent trip to Kamakura. She picked out the pink earrings for me knowing it’s my favourite colour – they’re made from special sakura shells that are only found on Yuigahama Beach.

It was such a special, surprise gift and they’re absolutely perfect!

It was the sweetest day ever. It can be easy for me to feel disconnected to Japan when a lot of my trips have been cancelled over the past year due to the ‘rona.

But getting to do wholesome stuff like this reminds me of why I moved to this beautiful country in the first place. I hope we can all make more memories in 2021!

~ Carla

Food · Friends · Hamamatsu · Life

Summer Vacation

“It’s been a long, hot summer and it’s 95 degrees in the shade.”

~ Girls Aloud, Long Hot Summer (2005)

I took a break from this blog over summer vacation – thankfully I wasn’t called into school for any additional lessons so I was able to take the whole month off.

Sadly due to ‘rona being on the up-and-up again, all my plans – Tokyo, Kyoto and Gifu – got cancelled.
Depressing and disappointing – but hey, しょうがない!

While we’d been lucky so far in Hamamatsu from only having a few cases since everything kicked off in March, we had a cluster originating from some restaurants downtown near Zaza. While not a huge number in the grand scheme of things – our numbers went from 2 to 180 which had us all spooked. So I generally avoided the downtown area.

However in between ordering Ubereats and playing Fire Emblem I was able to have some – somewhat local – fun.

I met up with my friend Donna and we went to Pinco Picon, a French-themed cafe in Toyohashi – about a 20 minute train ride from Hamamatsu.

We were just going to have dessert, however we decided since it was the end of the holidays by this point we decided to treat ourselves to the lunch special for ¥3700. We were served six exquisite courses from appetisers to dessert – including tea and ‘fancies’ as my mam calls them.

You can see more on Donna’s vlog – she is vlogging every day for the next 365 days, aka: her last year in Japan. Please subscribe to her channel for her lovely, chill videos.

Me and my friend Haruna were originally going to have a road trip to Gifu, however we decided to stay within the prefecture so she took me to the famous tofu shop and restaurant Tofu Kanshiro.

The tofu and many of their soy-based products are made in-house. For their lunch special you can choose between fried and silken tofu. We chose the silken tofu, and were lucky because it was only 1pm and we got the last portion available for the day!
I was vegetarian for a few years before I came to Japan, and absolutely love tofu. I really enjoyed the gentle, subtle flavour.

We enjoyed chatting to the friendly owner who travels to the UK nearly every year to go to the Chelsea Flower Show.

The lunch special was very reasonable – only around ¥1200 and included a dessert pudding made from – you’ve guessed it – tofu!

They also served soy soft serve. I was too full by this point, but that didn’t deter Haruna who bought a cone, however it was sweltering hot that day and it started to melt as soon as we stepped outside!

After lunch we explored Ryugashido Cavern: a limestone cavern formed over time from 250 millions year old strata. The cave is 18 degrees year round which was deliciously cool and refreshing after a day in the sun.

It felt wonderful to feel naturally cool air for the first time in months. There’s even usually an area open where you can cool your feet in the waters, however due to the ‘rona this was blocked off.

There’s also a really nice gift shop selling local products – the gelato in particular was very popular, made from local Inasa milk and seasonal fruits. But I just bought some cookies and also these really interesting local pops I still haven’t opened.

Since most of my plans were cancelled I decided to engage in some retail therapy (I’m a Taurus after all!) and had some days at the mall – if nothing else to escape from the aforementioned sun.

Ashley has lived in Japan for years now and this was her first purikura experience.
Unfortunately it was a busy day so we didn’t get a lot of time to decorate, so this is the best we could do!

Quite a significant thing that happened this summer was I started cycling again after twenty years!

I inherited a bike from a leaving ALT, however it needed a little TLC from a local bike shop. However after a scrub down, a new chain and new wheels we were ready to hit the road. Sort-of.

It turns out re-learning to ride a bike is like – err – like riding a bike. I was definitely a bit wobbly my first few tries and nearly sent some oba-sans flying, but I absolutely love it – especially cycling on the riverside bike path near my apartment.

As a pedestrian I’ve noticed you aren’t really respected much by drivers here – cars have no problem taking a sharp turn on a red light and nearly plowing into you. But they’re seemingly nicer to cyclists. My friend told me this is because so many students ride their bikes so drivers are naturally more considerate.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like it’s the opposite in the UK – people will (mostly) always give way to pedestrians, but treat cyclists as target practice.

Finally – and somewhat a summer rite of passage in Japan – I tried my first kakigori, or ‘shaved ice.’
Ice is shaved right down to the texture of snow, and syrup is poured over it. You can also add extra toppings such as red beans, cream, ice cream and kinako which is what I had: a roasted powder made from ground soybeans that gives it a rich, nutty flavour.

Brown sugar is a popular flavour here at the moment – in everything from bubble tea to desserts – so this is what I tried and it was absolutely delicious, like a fancy snow cone. I can tell why it’s so popular in Japan!

Me and Haruna met up with our teacher friend who moved to another school this term and we both miss very much, she’s an amazing teacher who always goes above and beyond for her students.
At my elementary school once a month she would host a birthday party for everyone having a birthday that month and I was always invited. The birthday bairns got to wear birthday hats, while the other kids played the birthday song on their recorders and we all sang. They even toasted ‘kanpai’ with their little milk cartons – SO CUTE!!

She ordered the same as me, but Haruna chose a blueberry yoghurt flavour which was so lovely and refreshing – I’d definitely choose that one next time.

Another significant day over summer break was August 16th was my one-year anniversary in Japan, or Japanniversary if you will.
Sometimes I still feel like a deer in the headlights and some days it feels like I’ve lived here for years.
After giving it some thought, I think I do now have an end-date in my mind – so this is likely going to be the beginning of my last full-year in Japan.

I hope you’ll stick around.
As RuPaul sings behind a barrage of autotune – “this is the beginning.”

~ Carla

Friends · Hamamatsu · Life · School · Teaching · vlog

Life of an ALT: A Day In My Life Vlog

Bearing in mind I haven’t edited anything since I graduated ten years ago, I put together this little “day in my life” video that I filmed last month just for fun.

I love the no-talking, gentle style vlogs that are popular on Youtube at the moment.
But it’s my first time trying a video like this, so please be kind haha!! (っಠ‿ಠ)っ

Late last year I also did a blog post documenting my daily routine being more specific about my time at school if that also interests you.

~ Carla

Bite-Sized Japanter · Hamamatsu

Bite-Sized Japanter #4: Shrimp Town

My neighborhood Ebitsuka literally translates as Shrimp (エビ ebi) Burial Mound (塚 tsuka).

A local told me it got the name because in ye olden days, people used to catch shrimp in the Shinkawa river that runs through the area, remove the intestinal tract then throw the faeces into a giant heap. How nice.

He was very drunk at the time though, so take that story with a pinch of salt.

~ Carla

Culture · Friends · Hamamatsu

Strawberry Fields Forever

I was recently invited to go strawberry picking with one of my teachers and her family. WHOLESOME.

There are many places to go strawberry picking all over Japan, with many in my area growing the local “akihime” variety local to Shizuoka – known for their large grain and slight tartness.

We went to Shimano Nouen, which for around ¥1400-¥1800 (depending on the time of year) you can pick and eat as many strawberries as you’d like.
It’s also common in Japan to dip your strawberries in condensed milk so it comes with that too.

(In the UK have our strawberries with whipped or pouring cream – especially in the summertime so it was somewhat nostalgic for me!)

You can also take your photo outside with their mascot, Masaharu the Ichigorilla.
A combination of two of my favourite things: a photo op and a pun.
(“Ichigo” is Japanese for strawberry!)

Such a cute day.
Me and ******-sensei sadly won’t be teaching together in the coming school year, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to make lovely memories.

~ 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

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


Nukumori no Mori (Nukomori Forest)

I went to explore Nukumori no Mori, a magical forest about 40 minutes by bus from Hamamatsu city centre.

Looking like a little twee village pulled straight out of Ghibli, there’s also a restaurant, patisserie, an ice cream stall, tiny quirky shops selling home-made knick-knacks, an art gallery and an owlery (because of course there is.)

One thing I’m terrible at is describing places, so here’s just a bunch of photos. Enjoy!

– Carla