Saving my 500s

I remember owning a football-shaped “piggy bank” when I was a child. I’d save my weekly allowance, birthday money and loose change in order to fund my video game addiction. The last time I checked it, I think there was still a fake diamond earring that I’d found in Las Vegas, some badge pins, and a few football coins from an Alan Shearer World Cup. I think I had three Nicky Butts and two Terry Sheringhams. But as soon as I had a bank account, my days of hearing the “ding” from coins hitting my tin “piggy bank” were over. Instead it was all about that magic “virtual” money, baby.

Yet starting this year, the piggy bank has returned. I’ve been saving my 500-yen coins in a glass jar. Strawberry jam, if you wanted to know. Essentially whenever I buy something and receive a 500-yen coin in my change, I hold onto it and stick it in the jar. And that’s it. With 500 yen equating to about £3.35, it’s a good amount to be saving and not something that you worry about.  Plus they’re gold in colour, so it’s like real treasure.

It seems to be a fairly common way of saving money in Japan as most people here still use cash over card.  I paid for my wife’s engagement ring with a wad of cash, like some cockney geezer. In fact, there are still a large number of shops and restaurants that won’t accept credit and debit cards. Even online purchases can be paid in cash when delivered, which is a fantastic service.

Anyway, in a couple of months I’ve easily managed to save 25,000 yen from saving my 500-yen coins. My Irish mate who introduced me to this way of saving cash, actually used his coinage to fund his trips back home. It’s a simple and effective way to save a little extra each month, and one that can be a little addictive.

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Miyajima in Autumn

Autumn is my favourite season. It’s cool enough to leave the house, baseball season is thankfully drawing to a close, sukiyaki is the dish of choice and Japan looks beautiful in the autumn colours.

My wife and I decided to head off to Miyajima for the day. It’s not quite the time when the leaves have turn their autumn shade, but we just fancied a day out.  It’s 15 minutes on the train then 10 minutes of the ferry, so it’s fairly close. And as has become the norm over the last couple of years, the train was rammed full of tourists and backpackers. 

Continue reading “Miyajima in Autumn”

And the award goes to…..

During the graduation ceremony at one of my schools, the principal handed out student awards ranging from “Highest Attendance” to “Best Group Leader”. As we clapped and cheered, I started to reminisce about my academic days. And that’s when “it” reared it’s ugly head again. I left primary school with a bitterness that still inanely lingers some sixteen years on; I never won the school’s “Music Award” during my six years there. Continue reading “And the award goes to…..”

“Flipping the bird” in Japan

As I was walking back from the supermarket, an elementary school girl sped past. She smiled at me and then proceeded to cheerfully give me the middle finger. I wasn’t shocked, it was pretty funny seeing an innocent little girl flipping off trees, cats and cars. Remember that scene near the end of The Bean Movie where Mr. Bean is casually giving everyone the finger? (See above) It was essentially like that…..except a lot more innocent and Japanese. She must have been in the first or second grade of elementary school.  So I thought about telling that it wasn’t a nice thing to do. But… Japan…bearded foreigner…small girl…talking…not the safest of options.

Meanwhile I often see school kids and teenagers swapping Japan’s stereotypical “kawaii” peace sign (V-sign) for the reverse version (palm facing inwards). It’s constant use by bands and TV personalities trying to be “cool”, like everything, has made it the new pose of choice for many. Now for Americans, this gesture is pretty harmless. But from a British perspective it’s another way of “showing the finger”. I kind of way of saying “f••k off”. So you can imagine my reaction as my entire class posed for their class photo.

 

My Thoughts on The Last Jedi

This past winter break, my girlfriend and I had our annual visit to the cinema to see the latest Star Wars entry. If I’m being brutally honest, this time felt more of a chore than a genuine wish to see the next instalment of my childhood franchise. And after watching The Last Jedi, I’ve been left bitter and disappointed towards Disney’s treatment of Star Wars. Continue reading “My Thoughts on The Last Jedi”

……Damn Jet Lag

I’m currently writing this at four o’clock in the morning with the sun yet to rise. I got back from a three-week vacation last Wednesday and the jet lag has unfortunately set in. As I’m not blessed with the ability to sleep on planes, the eight hour difference between the UK and Japan was been made even worse. Adapting to UK time wasn’t a problem three weeks ago. But getting reaccustomed to Japan Time has been increasingly frustrating. I just about managed four hours of sleep yesterday, but it’s still been a stressful mess.

A friend once stated that the general rule of thumb is that for each hour of time difference between destination and starting point, that will roughly correlate to the number of days required to get over the jet lag. Well, it’s been nearly a week and while it’s certainly getting better, it ain’t over yet. School starts this Friday, so I shouldn’t have any trouble getting up. But whether I’ll be able to stay awake in class is the real question. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Time To Lose Some Weight!

In an attempt to control my ever-growing stomach, I’ve decided to restart my “jogging” routine and start to control my diet. Though it’s not an aggressive, “superhero” lifestyle change, I hope to lose a few kilos over the next couple of months. The late autumn and winter season are a gourmet delight in Japan with a custom of comfort cuisine. And as a result, I’ve let myself go. I weigh myself daily on the scales, though I’m constantly adjusting the dial settings to make sure it’s “100% accurate”. And I can tell you that I’m a little shocked. This isn’t the worst shape I’ve been, but that’s not something to be proud of.

It was bought to attention when I recently visited my girlfriend’s house during the Golden Week holiday. With nothing to do, we decided to take advantage of the bigger kitchen and bake apple pie. I was handed an apron, a lady’s apron, to which her mother commented that it looked like the equivalent of a man-baby’s bib. The usual questions of weight were thrown around like my days at school, I smiled it off but deep down it was  a rather embarrassing moment. The pie turned out fantastic by the way.

I’ve cut down on the amount of sugar that I’m eating. Soft drinks have been booted off the shopping list, and dessert has unfortunately been limited to once a week. With temperatures reaching 30°C already, it’ll take some self-control not to visit the ice cream section of the supermarket. Jogging at night has proven to be the best option, as I can avoid the summer heat and the embarrassing gazes from high school students. My chubby tummy or “pon-pon”, as my girlfriend has dubbed it, dances like an anthropomorphic lava lamp while I struggle uphill. Hypnotic, if not a little reminiscent of those “Belly’s gonna get you” adverts for Reebok. We’ll just have to see what happens in the coming months.