Monday, February 20, 2012


This post is about trash. Sorry.

Dealing with garbage in Japan is a more complex ordeal than it is in the states. Once upon a time, I saw the world through a black and white lens of "garbage" vs. "recycling." It was a simpler time... *sigh*

Since living in Japan (with detailed trash-sorting guidelines), every object that passes through our front door sends me into a refuse-induced panic: is it burnable? Non-burnable? Glass? Aluminum? PET plastic? Other kind of plastic? Cardboard? Corrugated cardboard? A mixture?? How am I going to get rid of this?? Why do we need all this stuff?? How did we become such gross over-consumers??

It all came to a head over the past couple of weeks when (after each of us living away from home and all our "stuff" for months on end came back to feel smothered by piles of useless crap) we decided to clean out our whole house and get rid of all the junk bogging us down. So we cleaned. As we purged our way through years worth of randomness stored in the house, we accumulated a large pile of non-donatable trash that we weren't sure how to get rid of. By the end of the week, the guest room temporarily and necessarily became "the garbage room." Then we moved it all to the garage and could barely fit our car next to the giant pile. This was garbage of a magnitude above and beyond the garbage threshold of our twice-weekly $30/month pickup service.

There was a simple solution in the end (although it required calling our mean crazy landlord which is quite possibly my most dreaded thing to do in all of life). We booked a special garbage appointment. Our garbage was examined, we were given a quote (7000¥, roughly $93 today), and once we paid, we were free from our detritus burden.

Back home, we would have shoved everything in a dumpster and called it a day. It would have been easier. And cheaper. And goodness knows I wouldn't have minded not stressing out about GARBAGE REMOVAL for several days. However, next year around this time I'd probably be going through this whole thing again, dumping loads of junk I'd accumulate over the coming year. That definitely won't be happening here. We're very set on not piling up on stuff we don't need. So there's the whole life lesson, change of perspective, thinking about your actions affecting the planet side effect. Maybe this will help us learn to lead organized, less "stuff"-driven lives. It's definitely for the best in the end.

But... garbage, you are annoying. And that's what I have to say about that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sapporo Snow Festival 2012

The Sapporo Snow Festival was one of those checkmarks we wanted to be able to cross off our list of big things to do in Japan before leaving. Check! We put together this little trip at the very last minute, and with train tickets in hand, we set off for the 7 hour ride (from Honshu to Hokkaido via the undersea Seikan Tunnel) to Sapporo.

This is what everything between Misawa and Sapporo looks like in February.

So being in Sapporo and all, dinner upon arrival was naturally at the Sapporo Beer Factory's Bier Garten. We traipsed ourselves through an insane blizzard following malfunctioning phone gps directions back and forth between random streets until we finally found the place, essentially in human-icicle form. Our 100 minutes of all you can eat and drink grilled meat, veggies and beer were very well earned that night. I will say that the grounds were gorgeous, and the snow added some very lovely ambiance. I guess that stuff is good for something...

On to the festival:

It was cool! It was really, really cool. As in -5˚c at the warmest time of day. It sort of hurt after a few hours. Yet we saw what we wanted to see in between trips back to the hotel to defrost. There were several LARGE snow sculptures and countless medium and small-sized ones. There was an international competition with teams from cities all over the world. There were snowboard daredevils. There was ice skating. There were pretty lights and cute characters and happy smiling people.

And then there was food. Oh, there was food. And hot mulled wine. I guarantee you nothing has ever or will ever taste as good as that wine did that particular day.

Fun little trip! There's a bajillion more pictures (click on any of the ones here to get to the album) if you want to see all the other sculptures. Corey's headed back to Hokkaido in a couple weeks for a snowboarding trip, but this was probably it for me this time around in Japan. Glad I got to see a little slice of Sapporo!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Back to Normal... Plenty of Japan Adventures to Come!

Corey and I have both been back in Misawa for a couple of weeks now and are very happily settling into our normal lives here once again! It feels gooooood to be home!

What have we been up to, you might ask?

First of all, Corey came home from his deployment in Djibouti (arriving a few days after me). YAY!!!! We've been soaking up together time. A lot. Actually I can't think of anytime we've been apart in the past 2.5 weeks... except like, in the bathroom and stuff.

We've been snowboarding (in silly facemasks... well, one of us at least).

We've been playing games.

We've played in a blizzard.

We've been catching up on our shows on our new TV (Our old one's picture turned neon green while we were away. Go figure.)

We've taken a train trip to Sapporo (more to come on that later).

We've been HAPPY!!!!

We've also found out that we are definitely for sure going to have to leave Misawa at the beginning of next year. INSERT BIG GIANT SAD FACE. Corey had been trying to find a way to stay for a while longer yet, but it just aint happening. I don't even want to think about leaving AT ALL... but since we have to, this year will be all about soaking up as much as we can before we have to say goodbye. Stay tuned!