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