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July 15, 2014

Aisatsu When Moving


We’ve lived in Japan for 8 years this August. During our time here, we’ve moved twice but this is the first time we have ever done the whole hikkoshi no aisatsu, also known as moving greetings.

When you move in Japan, it’s usually polite (and an unspoken expectation) to greet your new neighbors and present them with a small gift. These gifts often come in the form of small hand towels, soba noodles, snacks from your hometown, etc. It’s the US equivalent to how one would go and meet and greet the new neighbors that just moved in by bringing a batch of homemade cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood except in Japan, it’s the other way around. It’s the newly moved-in neighbors who go around greeting the pre-existing neighbors and presenting them with a small gift.

Interesting, right?

We never did it when we first moved to Japan since we didn’t think we’d be here for more than a year and I wasn’t familiar with this tradition of aisatsu. When we moved into our previous home, we didn’t do it either since we only had one neighbor across the way from us and the neighbors above and below us were small offices. We also didn’t realize the importance of this tradition so we waved it off.

We decided to do aisatsu this time around because we have lived here longer and have a better understanding and appreciation for a lot of the things in Japanese culture. Plus, we have two noisy, rambunctious kids so we wanted to meet and greet our neighbors soon and create a good relationship with them so they don’t complain to the apartment managers about how noisy we are all the time. I’ve heard horror stories from other mom’s who have neighbors who constantly report them and it doesn’t sound pleasant at all.


After consulting with my friends about how to go about with doing a proper aisatsu, I bought some nice hand towels for the neighbors we share walls with (we’re the middle apartment of the 3 on our floor) and for the neighbors above and below us. We just went with the neighbors who border our apartments since it’s easier than going to all 30 apartments in the building. It also seems that it’s more common to just greet the ones near us than everyone.


We greeted our first neighbor to the left of our apartment over the weekend since we noticed his door was wide open. Kaylie was napping at the time so Jason and I stepped out quickly and rang his doorbell. He was not expecting us at all and we assume he was shirtless when he popped his head out from around the corner of this entryway. Either way, it was a slightly awkward greeting for everyone. He seemed a little confused over the encounter and Jason and I were a bit nervous over the first meeting. It went well though, I think, and we gave him our little present.

It wasn’t until after we had met him that I realized I should’ve put a card with our names on the present just so he’d know our names.

We greeted our neighbor on the other side yesterday night and this time, it went a bit smoother. We also had the kids with us, which seemed to have helped with the greeting since the guy living in this apartment has a 3 year old grandchild and overall seems not to be bothered by the noise our kids make. We actually talked with him a bit and he is a bass player for a jazz band. He also has a daughter who live nearby and would come to his apartment to give piano lessons during the weekday.

We have yet to meet the people below and above our apartment but we suspect that our neighbors downstairs might be using it as an office space and are therefore not there in the evenings. Our neighbors upstairs might be foreigners like us based on the nameplate on their mailbox. They were also out when we stopped by so hopefully, we’ll get to meet them soon too.

This whole greeting thing is quite interesting and I find it really nice since I get to meet the people who lives near us. I’ve encountered several other people who lives in our building too and have always offered a “good morning” or a “good evening” out of politeness. I hope that over time, we can build a nice little relationship with many of our neighbors just like the ones we had in our previous neighborhood.

February 9, 2014

It’s an Urban Winter Wonderland


We have snow!


Lots and lots of snow! In fact, it is the biggest snow storm Tokyo has seen in over a decade.


Luckily, the snow storm happened on a Saturday so we got to stay home pretty much all day.

It was definitely a very impressive snowfall. I believe we got over 22cm of snow and it was still falling when we went to bed Saturday night.

We watched it fall from our veranda. K was highly amused.



There was enough untouched snow on the ground that people were making snowmen on the street.


The four of us eventually went out to the back alley to play with the snow.


We had snow fights.


We built snowmen.


E ran around in the freshly fallen snow just because she could.


It was cold. Freezing cold but we had fun.

But because it was getting dark and colder, we went back home. But E wanted to continue playing, so what did we do? We brought the snow into our home.


The bath area is pretty cold since it’s next to our front door, so we dumped a bunch of snow in the tub and let the kids go to town. Jason even went back out to get more fresh snow to fill the tub.



Yea, it was a nice snow day. At this rate, it’ll probably be a snow week. At least E has a 4 day weekend so we don’t have to be out and about in this weather :)

January 21, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?


Have you seen the movie “Frozen” yet? We saw it when we went back to California for the holidays and now we’re all obsessed with the movie and the songs. It’s definitely got the Disney touch that has been missing for a while now (though “Tangled” was pretty good too). I just love the movie so much and can’t wait for it to be released at the theaters in Tokyo in March.

It’s also because of this movie that E has become a little bit more excited about the idea of snow.


It snows about once or twice a year in Tokyo and even though we’ve had been told we’ll be getting snow several times this past week or two, it never actually snowed in the city.

So when I got wind of the snow festival happening this past weekend, I figured it would be a fun family activity especially since we didn’t get to go last year (with me being all pregnant and stuff).


Apparently, everyone in Tokyo wanted to play with snow too because the place was packed with people playing with the snow that was trucked in from a snowy part of Japan. Yes, since it refused to snow in Tokyo, some people decided to bring snow to Tokyo for us to enjoy. The freezing cold weather helped keep the snow from melting, which was good since they had small snow sculptures along the street for people to admire. Unfortunately, it was still warm enough for the snow to melt a little and then refreeze as ice above the snow pile they had created for kids to play in.




E had so much fun touching the snow with her bare hands. She had gloves but didn’t want to wear them because she did’t want to get them wet. And yes, we did indeed build a snowman. A tiny one since the snow was really hard and we didn’t have anything to dig with. Plus there was just too many people there.



We even met up with several of E’s classmates and their families to play together for a little bit.


Yes, that is indeed Jason up in that photo wearing shorts. And no, he wasn’t cold wearing shorts in the freezing weather. :)

This was also K’s first real experience with snow. She spent the entire time strapped to Jason’s chest while he got into a snow fight with E’s friends.


I’m hoping that we’ll get real snowfall in February though. It’s a pain to deal with if we have to be out but it’s also really nice to enjoy watching from home :)

January 20, 2013

First Snow Day of 2013


Last Monday was a national holiday in Japan. However, instead of going out on a family outing, we woke up to a freezing apartment and to this sight outside our apartment

Yes, it was snowing. And pretty heavily too.

This is the view of the street below from our veranda

Now, those of you who live in an area that snows quite often are probably wondering “So what? It's just snow.” Yes, it's just snow but in Tokyo, we get snow like once or twice, maybe three times a year if we are lucky. So when it snows in Tokyo, it's a big deal for Tokyoites and it's all over the news and social media. It's also why we get made fun of by places like Hokkaido and other parts of Japan that gets a lot of snow every year.

But as nice as it is to get snow days, people in Tokyo aren't use to getting snow so you'd often hear stories of people injuring themselves from slipping or dying from the cold.

We've lived in Tokyo for over 6 years and this is the heaviest snowfall I've seen since moving here. It was pretty impressive to watch, especially since we got to spend the day in our warm apartment while watching the snow fall. E was most definitely amused by the snowfall. We spent some time outside on our veranda watching the snow fall onto our balcony and it fascinated and freaked her out that snow was so cold to the touch.

We did end up having to go out in the evening when the snowfall slowed down. We needed to make a trip out to the local Uniqlo to get a down jacket for E so she wouldn't freeze in this weather. All I can say is that walking on the snow while 34 weeks pregnant is a scary thing. Just trying not to slip or fall while traveling is nerve wracking. Plus, it was really, really cold outside.

You're probably wondering why we didn't get her a down jacket a long time ago since it's been cold for a while. Well, let's just say that it's a battle trying to get E to wear a thicker jacket everyday let alone buy one that would actually keep her warm. Of course, after she fell walking in the snow and got wet, it was much easier to convince her to wear warmer clothes.

Snow days. They're great and beautiful to watch in the comforts of your warm living room. Not so great if you have to travel outside in.


August 20, 2012

A Random Parade Encounter


One of the fun things about being a clueless foreigner living in Japan is that you tend to run into random parades and festivals every now and then. Today, I had one such encounter.

I spent my morning working on something for E when I realized that I needed to go to Yuzuwaya (think Michael’s or Joann’s Fabric) to pick up a few things to finish my project. I had originally planned on going to a bigger branch of the store that’s a bit farther away but I lost track of time and decided to go to the local one in Ginza instead.

What was originally a short half hour trip in and out of the store turned into an hour of crowd surfing.

When I arrived at Ginza, I noticed there was an unusually large number of people in the area for a Monday afternoon. I know it’s still summer break for a lot of kids but I didn’t think that Ginza was a big hangout for the younger crowd since its mostly high end stores for wealthy, older housewives.

After finding myself trapped in a massive crowd, I decided to stick around and see what the hoopla was. I didn’t have to wait long because within a few minutes a big red bus rolled by on the main street and everyone around me started cheering, taking photos and waving at the people onboard.

Being swept up in the moment, I began waving even though I didn’t have a single clue who it was I was waving to. Then I saw the posters and it dawned on me….the parade of buses everyone was cheering for were carrying the Olympic medalists who represented Japan at the recent London games.

Now, I was getting excited like all the people around me so I busted out my iPhone (the only camera on me at that time) and begin taking pictures and a video.


The parade itself lasted about 20 minutes but there was so many people there cheering the athletes that it took me an hour just to get to out of the area. It wasn’t until we were watching the evening news that I learned that approximately 500,000 people came out to watch the parade.

500,000 people! That’s quite a lot of people!

I was lost in this sea of people.

Even though I hadn’t planned on watching this parade, it was nice to have been there to witness it. I may not be a Japanese citizen but for that brief moment, I felt a lot of national pride as those buses passed by. It was the same feeling I had when we went to see the Emperor give his annual greeting during the new year several years ago.

Even though Japan didn’t win as many gold as it had hoped this time around, it was nice seeing how celebrated these athletes were for the effort they put into their sports and how much love they we given by everyone present.

The only other downside other than the hour needed to escape was that it was just too hot today. Plus, the store I had wanted to go to ended up being closed for today. But other than that, it was a pretty cool random encounter :)

December 9, 2011

Electric Town Akihabara


Yay! I made it to Alphabe-Thursday! Now that I have Internet access again and things have somewhat settled since our arrival, I can begin catching up with things though it will be a long while before I can get back to normal since I’m working solely off my iPad.

For this round of Alphabe-Thursday, I’ll be exploring various places in this urban jungle I call home (aka. Tokyo)

This week we are going to visit electric town Akihabara. I’m mostly doing pictures this week since I have E climbing all over me right now.


Akihabara is located on the east side of Tokyo, 2 stations up past Tokyo station.

This place is known mostly for all the electronic stores in the area. It’s also the area most known for having stores that sell anime goods, maid cafes and video games.


Almost most of the people who come here are men because of the stuff they sell here but they’ve been working on making the area more attractive for females too.

I’m not sure how much you guys know about anime or if you have friends or family who know about it but this is one of the places a lot of foreigners go to visit when they come because they are really interested in the anime/otaku (Japanese fanboy) culture here. In fact, they made a tour just to cater to people interested in this aspect of Tokyo.



Game centers where we get our hamster dolls.

The new series of hamsters.

A popular cafe based on a popular anime series about robots.

The robots.

A cafe based off this one popular girl idol singing group.

The top 11 girls from that popular girl group. There are a total of 50 something girls total.

Advertisement for a maid cafe where you pay money to be served food to by girls dressed as maid.

I’m not a big fan of being in this area much and I don’t come here unless I need to buy some electronics or eat Turkish kebabs. It’s an interesting place to take people here because the culture and the people here are definitely different.

This store is like the Target of electronic stores (if that makes any sense).

Hope you enjoyed this short trip to electric town akihabara!

Jenny Matlock