Saturday, 15 January 2011

New Life in Niseko - Are we in Japan?

Well, we moved to Niseko on 2nd of December last year. A month and a half have past since then, and we are settling in well to our new life in the country. I think Masaki did well with adjusting his life. And hand over of stay at home parent went very smoothly, too. Woody the dog is certainly having a better life here. All in all, we made a good move.

Niseko is a strange place. It is in Japan but it is not like Japan. I don't need to use Japanese most of the time unless I talk to my two Japanese colleagues. Many of our neighbours are non-Japanese. Even if they are, they are mostly from out side of Hokkaido. So, I feel we fit in to this community very well. We are far from unique for sure.

As for my work, for the first time in my life, I am commuting by car. More over, I am driving in the snow. Scraping the snow off my car every morning, every lunch time, every evening - basically almost every time before I drive. I have started to get used to it.

Although Niseko has more snow than Sapporo, I found day to day life here is easier than Sapporo because we drive everywhere we go. Down side is, because of it, we are more exposed to car accidents. Oh yes, I had my first car accident the other day. Well, it was not really a crash. I rubbed another car while reversing. The paint of my back bumper and the front bumper of the other car is scratched off a little. Now I am in a dilemma whether I should use my insurance to pay for the damage.

My company kindly provides a lift pass which can be shared among staff. This is a great benefit for me since I don't really want to pay for an expensive lift pass to go to the mountains due to the fact I am not a keen snowboarder.

Apart from those changes, we are still living in a little Britain at home, watching BBC on iplayer.

Internet is great! Can't live without it.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Moving Again

Although it has only been a year since we moved to Sapporo, we will move again. This time, hopefully for the last one for a long time. The place is called Niseko, two-hour drive away from Sapporo, where there are tons of snowfalls in the winter AND famous for the world class powder. Niseko was introduced on BBC Ski Sunday a few years ago as well. I would say the area is like "a little Aussie". When we visited there for the first time, there were more foreigners, mostly from Australia, than the Japanese. Since the credit crunch, the bubble has burst and the Aussie rush has calmed down but the resort is still attracting many people from the world.

I think it is a perfect place to live for my family; surrounded by the nature and has an international community. We'll find out soon!!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Bottle Fight

…not at a festival, but with Masaki. A couple of weeks ago, he suddenly started to refuse a bottle-feed. We’ve been using a bottle every now and again. However literally the day after we had a conversation with the Isle of Wight party gangs about the bottle-feed refusal he started rejecting it. Masaki must have heard the conversation and decided to go on a strike?! Funny thing is that he does not refuse it completely. The other day, I gave him some expressed milk from a bottle throughout the day. He was not totally happy but he accepted it. The following morning, he cried like hell even it gets close to him. Has he already got a mood swing? Some web sites suggest to use some apple juice to attract a bottle but I am not sure about the idea. I don’t want him to have a sweet tooth right from start. Having said that, when I tasted my breast milk – just in case it does not have funny acidic taste or anything like that – it was very sweet. If you use it for coffee you won't need any sugar, I will tell you!!

Bottle fight, to be continued….

Monday, 23 August 2010

Holiday is over

It’s almost been three months since Masaki was born. And summer is nearly coming to the end. As you can imagine, last three months has been a very busy and challenging period for me. As a 10 hour sleeper person, waking up few imes in the night was especially challenging. Thankfully, it reduced to once or sometimes twice now.

Having three weeks summer holiday from end July, Woody experienced full time new daddy life, which provided a fantastic opportunity for him to bond with his new born son, moreover, to understand what was going on while he was at work.

We tried to get Masaki into his routine during this period; decided that 7 o'clock is a good time for his bed time whether he likes it or not. Fortunately giving him a bath around 6 o'clock triggers the signal of bed time, therefore getting him to sleep is usually not too bad.
Spending full three weeks with Masaki, Woody now appreciates why I was not happy when he came back home at night and tried to wake Masaki up before. Obviously he doesn't do it any more.

This summer, we are experiencing very hot and unexpectedly humid weather in Sapporo, so that Masaki is having a bath twice or sometimes three times to cool him down and to avoid sweat rash. This works very well as he often goes to sleep afterwards, and what’s more, he hardly have sweat rash despite the heat wave.
 
 
 
DSC00256 At the end of July, we finally purchased a long wanted car. It's Subaru Forester, 11 years old S/20 Limited with cold region spec. & a sun roof. In spite of its age, the car has low mileage, and most of all, the price was exceptionally good (approx £1500). Initially I had a concern about fuel consumption however considering a luggage space and driving condition in the winter, now I feel we made a right decision. We love the fact it has an air conditioner as well. In the past, cars in Hokkaido are famous for not air conditioned inside. It was unnecessary back then. Increasing in average temperature every year, cars with an air
conditioner appears to be very common these days. At least we are very pleased with it.

Sapporo has many good size parks and rivers throughout the city. Our favourite river so far is Toyohira river which has a long cycling path, a water park, tennis courts baseball courts, fishing spots and so on. Only down side is "No fire" policy, so no BBQ there, boo.

Recently we visited Makomanai Park where winter Olympics was held in 1972, the year I was born!! It is one of the biggest park in Sapporo, including 3 km of jogging route, some nature reserve areas, a few view spots for returning salmons to the river in autumn and many more.

Bernard Square the dog cafe restaurant/dog-run is another fantastic discovery for this summer. As the cafe owner runs internet business from upstairs of the cafe as their main income, the cafe itself is almost as their hobby. Being a lover of Saint Bernard, he carefully planned the layout to be able to accommodate large dogs, whilst fantastic socialising spot for both dogs and dog lovers. Woody loves the place too, hanging out with other doggies - many of them are large ones - is a cool thing to do in the city of Sapporo, so he says.

As Masaki being so small this summer, we could not travel outside the city this year. Next summer, we are hoping to go for a longer distance and finding out more about Hokkaido.

Our summer holiday is over yet the highest temperature is hovering around 27/28 degrees during the day and quite humid in the evening. I can't imagine right how it was like four months ago when Shane visited us at the end of April. I was still wearing a full winter jacket then.

Nevertheless, pears and grapes start appearing in our local supermarket now. It's a sign of autumn. I am sure temperature will drop before too long and soon will be the snow world again.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Scar-Face

So, Woody had a fight….well, “Woody was attacked” might be a more accurate description.

A couple of days ago, we visited the local dog-run where it takes about 15 minutes from our flat by car.

Arriving slightly early in the morning, only few dogs were there at the time. Two Black Labradors were among those and were playing ball games and tumbling each other. My initial impression of them was they were active and love rough games.

That day, Woody - as usual - tried to get an attention from one of the Black Lab. They were running around together chasing the ball at first, and looked as though they were enjoying each other's company. However, once Woody mounted one of them from behind, the situation suddenly changed. The Lab started to attack Woody and did not stop. Yes, dogs usually tell off each other's unwanted behaviours but normally chase them off and stop - no harm done. They might use teeth as a warning but they don't bite unless they feel being attacked and need to protect themselves.

Woody tried his best to run away from the dog but the Lab was so persistent and looked as if he was going to kill Woody. Such an unexpected behaviour from Labrador. I was stunned and could not move. Woody (human) throw a ball at the Lab to detract but no effect. In the end, the Lab's owner grabbed her dog from behind and the attack was finally over - phew!

What was wrong with that dog??

I know Woody, in a way, caused it but many dogs mount to each other as a dominant behaviour or simply trying to get an attention. And Woody tried just once and the Lab snapped off!

Whilst the Lab owner intervene her dog's attack on Woody, one of the dogs' teeth seemed to have caught her arm and made her bleed. Intervene a dog-fight is so dangerous, but what can you do in that situation? I don't want to imagine what could have happened to Woody if the dog owner did not stop her dog, considering the Lab was a lot bigger/heavier than Woody.

" My dog cannot stop..." said the owner afterwards.

Did she know her dog could be like that?

Woody have been attacked by neighbourhood dogs a couple of times in London but those dogs were famously dangerous in the area and had a history of attacking other dogs so there was no surprise then. But this time, I cannot believe Lab could be like that.

It was so nice though, the other dog owners witnessed the incident in the park worried about Woody's injury, and one of them offered us styptic powder and disinfectant liquid.

Woody got three bites; on his nose, chest and back neck. Nose looked the worst and did not stop bleeding for a while.

We visited our vet straight after and gave him a jab and got one week worth of antibiotics. So he has to take it easy for a week or so. Cost us about £70. Ouch!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

At The Shop


“Can this fit to my car window?”

The man asked a shopkeeper at the till. He wanted to purchase a shade to fit his car window but was not sure it is the right product for his car.

“The best way is to measure your car window, here” the shopkeeper offered him a tape measure.

“Ok, will do that” replied the man, and took the tape measure and the product with him, and off he went to the car park.

I was there to purchase a Sat Nav at the time, and amazed about the whole thing. Interesting thing was the shopkeeper did not seem to concern at all that the man could walk away with the product unpaid.

Did I live in UK too long to think that?

Despite of my concern, the man was measuring his car window as suggested. Then, after a while, he came back to the shop. I could not help but keep my eye on him while he was out in the car park.

While the man was still not sure about whether it actually fits to his car window, he, at the end, returned to the shop. Both the shopkeeper and the man did not seem to cross their mind at all that there was a shoplifting opportunity or possibility at that time.


Since I came back to Japan, I have noticed most people leave video cameras and expensive SatNav systems very visibly in a car - though some of SatNavs are built-in so can't be removed. This is unbelievable in a very good way.

Trusts to other people still exist in this country and I hope it remains that way.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Japanese Gadgets

It is Holiday season in Japan. Temperature has been soared especially in mainland Japan. And even in Hokkaido we had experienced unexpected humidity and heat wave. Thankfully our car has an air conditioning.

Since the car has been picked up, we drove around Sapporo in order to accomplish our accumulated tasks which require a car. Our top priority on the day we picked up the car was to take Woody the dog to the local dog-run where we have visited a couple of times in the past when we hired a car. So, we thought we knew the way…but we didn’t. As a result, we got lost, pretty badly.

Every time we hired a car, Satellite Navigation system was used. It is very common; almost all cars in Japan have Sat Nav on board, even in a mighty Rover Mini!!
This is quite understandable as Japanese roads are not as systematic as western roads - not all streets &roads have names and street numbers may not be in order.
I always thought of myself that I was pretty bad with directions. Then, after I moved to London, I changed my mind. It wasn’t me; it’s the roads & transportation system in Japan!!

We started investigating about SatNav, imagining there are many good quality but cheap ones available in this country. Although I was right about many high quality ones are available, wrong about being cheap.
The price starts from £150 and easily goes over £700. It seems to have the different culture towards gadgets here. As all Japanese loves having fancy gadgets and don’t want having cheapy old fashioned ones, everything is reasonably high standard and also pretty expensive.
Considering that Japan has been in a deep recession for a long time, spending power on gadgets is not weakening. It’s Interesting. I think Japanese loves show-offs and some people could be quite snobby, too.

Well, despite we would love a SatNav in our car, to buy or not to buy that is the question.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

New Motor

Our car will be ready tomorrow morning for a collection!! After disastrous paperwork error done by our estate agency, we nearly had to wait for few more days.
“It will be ready by tomorrow morning” says the Mr car salesman.

Luckily he made an effort and minimised the delay – phew!

It’s a funny business getting a car over here in Japan. Initially I was imagining like enable us to drive off as soon as we pay for it but I was totally wrong. Sine I took my driving license in UK and have never purchased a car in Japan; I did not know anything about the car purchasing process in this country.

Over here, proof of parking approved by the local police is required for a car dealer to release the car. It makes sense as the space in Japan is so limited, AND this prevents many illegal parking.

Usually a car dealer will arrange it for you based on providing necessary documents to them. It should be quite straight forward process but somehow got complicated in our case.

Since we wanted Woody(not the dog!) as a main driver, we tried to submit all documents under his name. However, how to write "Woodason" was a tricky part. One document was written in English alphabet and the others were in Japanese alphabet. Our local police did not like that as it will be no tractability between the documents!!

When we tried to fix the alphabet problem and we re-requested our estate agency to issue another parking certificate in English alphabet, they made a mistake on our address, Doh

Fix one thing and another thing goes wrong!!

Anyway, while we were feeling a big disappointment that car collection had to be postponed to Friday, we received another call from the car dealer - saying they managed to fix the problem. Great!!

Hopefully no more issues no more delays. Touch wood!

Quick Note: It's Masaki's 2 months old birthday today.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Yubari Melon

Here is THE famous Yubari melon. It reminds me of my childhood summer time.