A Foreigner’s First Haircut In Japan

As I sit here watching Japanese infomercials I thought that I should write about my first (unaccompanied) haircut in Japan.

We have lived here almost 3 months and I needed my hair cut in January. The on base salon was booked and I didn’t know where else to go. My friend Itsuka took me to DOT, the place where she gets her hair cut in Fussa. She translated for me and got me a temporary membership card.

I had a picture of a past haircut on my phone so I showed the stylist and let her go to work.

Be prepared- razor/thinning is popular here and there was much more hair on the floor than I expected. The rest is kind of fuzzy because I was so nervous.

The stylist seemed excited about my natural curls and wanted to style it that way so I didn’t see it straight until the next day when I straightened it myself.

My nape hair was longer than I liked so I took office scissors to it. You would think I knew better since this summer I played hairstylist when I got frustrated with my sideswept bangs and cut them off, making them blunt. Not my best idea, but I had them shaped up by my stylist in Oklahoma and they eventually grew back out.

It’s mid-February now and it was time to get my hair cut since it was growing out strangely because of my most recent scissor attack.

Itsuka couldn’t go with me because she had prior obligations for the next few weekends, but she was kind enough to make me an appointment online and added a note to blow my hair straight.

I took a printed picture this time of a Japanese cut and went to my appointment.

While I do know some Japanese I don’t know any hair salon vocabulary so I was just as nervous as I was the first time I went. Doki doki!

I handed my paper membership card to the person behind the counter and was given a key for a locker to hang my jacket and purse. I was the first person that morning so I was seen right away.

We discussed the picture in simple Japanese and he began. First he sprayed my hair with water and then started cutting. He then blew my hair dry and I told him I liked it. He said in English that he wasn’t finished, so I felt pretty silly.

Then he got down on his knees and focused intently on making my nape hair even (did I mention that I can’t cut a straight line?)

He cut, and cut, and cut, then he blew it dry (again). I said I liked it (again) and almost put my scarf on. He took my scarf from my hands and gestured to the sinks. Apparently I wasn’t finished.

He put a towel in my lap and a young lady put a gauze-like fabric on my face and began washing my hair with water only. I was guided back to the chair and both she and the male stylist started co-drying my hair with their fingers.

If you have never had 2 different people finger dry your hair at the same time you are missing out. It was relaxing and I tried to enjoy the feeling rather than think about how it compared to the service we get in the states.

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The picture I took with me to the salon

He blew my hair dry a third time, which surprised me. In America you get it styled once and that’s it.

He took such care to re-shape and razor out the remaining bulk as he styled my hair. I even felt confident enough to ask for the nape hair to be a little shorter, and he complied.

In the end it was a bit shorter than I orginally wanted, but it ended up being the perfect hair cut experience overall.

The best part? It cost 1890 yen (roughly less than $20 USD) without tip because tipping is not customary here.

Try to be brave and go to a Japanese stylist, even if you don’t know much or any of the language.

Take a picture of the style you want, point to it and say “kore kudasi,” or you can even show with your finger how much you want cut off.

*A kind Japanese reader pointed out something I should have. I was taught that “kore kudasi” is not grammatically correct, but that if you’re foreign the Japanese people usually know what you mean. However, the correct phrase is “kore ni shite kudasi.” Thank you for reminding me to say that my previous phrase wasn’t grammatically correct, and for telling me the correct phrase, Marshall!

Cleaning Pillows With The Miracle Laundry Whitening Solution

With the 3 feet of snow around here I got a little obsessed with trying out cleaning recipes so the next day I tried the mattress cleaning recipe on our even-more-sweat-stained pillows.

I wish I had a before and after to show you, but the before was pretty nasty so at the same time I’m kind of relieved that I forgot to take one. Just know that these pillows were a few years old and my husband sweats at night.

I spread towels on the kitchen floor, mixed up my little potion, and went to work. I mixed it up 3 more times and tried again. Very little impact. I was confused because this had worked just yesterday on the mattress.

Then I felt the pillows. They had this weird non-normal texture. It wasn’t quite sticky, or oily, but it was something that felt organic and that shouldn’t be there.

I assumed it was sweat and body oil so I decided to try out this pillow cleaning method that I had pinned for a while but never had the time to try.

The process is basically:

  • Fill the washer 1/3 of the way, then add solution and agitate to mix it together
  • Add pillows
  • Agitate for 5-10 minutes
  • Flip pillows
  • Agitate the rest of the cycle
  • Let washer finish the cycle
  • Dry

Before that I knew I had to do something about the weird organic layer on the pillows.

I followed a similar process. I filled the washer 1/3 full with hot water and added 1 cup Parson’s ammonia and let it agitate.

Then I added the pillows, one on each side of the washer. I let it fill up all the way and poured another 1/2 cup ammonia on top of the pillows.

I let it agitate about 10 minutes and turned the pillows over and let it agitate the rest of the cycle.

The pillows sat for about an hour and I turned them one more time at the 30 minute mark.

After the cycle finished I started the Miracle Laundry Whitening Solution.

I had no powdered dishwasher detergent on hand so I thought I would bite the bullet and try it without that ingredient (spoiler alert- it works just fine without it.)

I filled the washer 1/3 of the way and added 1 cup detergent, 1 cup bleach, and 1 cup borax instead and let it agitate.

Then I added the pillows and let the washer fill the rest of the way.

I let the washer agitate for 5-10 minutes, turned the pillows over, and let it finish. I did not let it soak because the directions didn’t call for it.

The directions did say to run a second rinse but I skipped it because they didn’t feel soapy and I already felt bad enough for using so much water.

I put the pillows in the dryer and I’ll be darned if they didn’t come out so white that they were blinding, and that is no exaggeration. My husband couldn’t even tell which pillow was his anymore. He told me that he always knew by the sweat stains. Nice, right?

If you get a chance, try this and see if your pillows come out brighter than your eyes can handle!

 

How To Get Sweat Stains Out Of A Mattress

Our sweat-stained Bellagio mattress has plagued me for 2 years now, but I never was brave enough (or had the time) to try anything I had researched online to fix it.

We got snowed in the other day here in Tokyo so I thought it would be a great day to try to clean up the stains.

I first tried a diluted bleach spray. That worked a little to lighten the stains, but it also spread out the stain quite a bit.

Then I did something you should never EVER do. I looked under the sink and found Clorox clean up+ bleach. I tried a test spot and it brightened right up so I quickly went to town spraying it all over.

About 10 minutes later the pin-tucking points along the mattress had turned brown and the stains were still there. It smelled strongly of bleach, even though I had windows open and an air purifier going in there.

I used ShamWows on the mattress top to try to get up the remaining dampness. When that didn’t help I decided to sprinkle baking soda and corn starch all over the mattress, close the door, and get back to researching.

This meant we had to sleep on the couch for 2 nights while the smell dissipated, but luckily our Ikea pull-out sofa bed is comfortable.

The next day the smell was gone so I vacuumed up the mess and started over. I found a recipe on the Rudy Family Ruckus blog  that saved my (snow)day.

Check her post out for comments and tips from other readers, but the basic recipe is:

  • 3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
  • 8 ounces Hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 drop dish soap

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Get a big spray bottle, pour the mixture in, shake it up, and use it right away. Shake it up occasionally as you’re spraying.

If your bottle gets clogged like mine did take the sprayer off and put it in water, then keep spraying until it is clear. Reattach it to the bottle with the mixture then go back to work.

I had to make 3 batches because my mattress stains were all over (because we rotate the mattress ever so often) but it worked as described.

I would have trouble believing that this simple mixture worked had it not brightened up our mattress right before my eyes.

It didn’t make our mattress look right-out-of-the-plastic new, but it looks like-new.

I would have kept going for a 4th or 5th application, but I ran out of hydrogen peroxide.

I bought 3 32 oz. bottles and we’re supposed to get more snow this weekend, so maybe I’ll give it another go.

Dyson Ball DC24 Review

I have toyed with the idea of buying a Dyson ball vacuum for a few years now but I could never justify spending over $300 for a vacuum cleaner…until I used one.

I looked after a neighbor’s cat a few weeks ago and she had a Dyson that I used to clean up one of the cat’s messes. It was like the first time I ever used an iPhone. I knew what my next big purchase would be.

Then I got busy with work and school and forgot about it, but my thoughtful husband continued to price Dysons on Amazon for me. We are living in Japan now with a military APO address so not only does it take forever for things to get here sometimes sellers won’t ship to APO so that adds another variable into the price-checking mix.

He found a refurbished unit for $279 shipped and that makes this thifty lady very happy.

It arrived yesterday after about 2 weeks and I’ve been playing with it today.

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The difference between the Dyson DC24 and my Hoover Elite Rewind are obvious just from seeing them side by side.

The Dyson is smaller, lighter, and more agile. The Dyson’s handle telescopes to make it even  more compact when you store it away.

I can hold the Dyson off the ground with 1 finger; I can barely hold the Hoover off the ground  with one hand.

The suction is strong, though I wish I had remembered to vacuum with the Hoover then go  over it with the Dyson to see what the Dyson picked up.

The color was a coincidence since David just went for the least expensive ball model on Amazon with Prime shipping, but the red is nice. The Hoover’s finish is more shiny, though (get it together, Dyson! People like shiny things!)

Pros of the Dyson:

  • Light
  • Nimble
  • Quiet (my cats don’t even wake up when I use it)
  • Compact
  • Easy to empty

Cons:

  • No retracting cord
  • Shorter cord than I’m used to
  • Smaller canister

From Amazon:

Dyson DC24

  • Ultra-lightweight and compact – weighs only 11.65 lbs. and wand compresses for easy storage
  • Patented Root Cyclone technology ensures constant suction as you vacuum
  • Expelled air has up to 150 times less mold and bacteria than the air you breathe
  • No extra costs – lifetime washable HEPA filter and no bags to buy
  • Tough, see-through polycarbonate Clear Bin empties with the push of a button Motor mounted in ball for a lower center of gravity and increased ease of steering

Hoove Elite Auto-Rewind

  • Bagless upright vacuum cleaner with powerful 12 amp motor
  • 14-1/2-inch-wide cleaning path; 7 height settings; air-flow indicator; HEPA filter
  • Headlight; 24-foot auto-rewind cord; stretch hose for extended reach
  • Crevice wand, dusting brush/upholstery tool, and pet-hair tool included

The verdict? If you want something light and nimble and can cough up the cash for a Dyson ball then go for it because I’m very happy with this purchase.

Our First Impression Of Japan

*This is a draft that I never finished-we’ve been living in Japan for almost 3 months now.

Here is our first impression of our new adventure, originally written December 1, 2013

We’ve moved to Yokota Air Base, Japan and it is amazing, even though we arrived the day before Thanksgiving and all the offices were closed.

The 12 hour flight was manageable. The cats were in cabin with us and didn’t cry at all except for takeoff and landing when the pressure changed. Otherwise they were quiet and slept un-medicated. I was quite sure we would have to give them bendryl or something but they wouldn’t take it and still slept. I put them in the empty seat in our row and opened their kennel lids to pet them. Erik crawled into my lap under the blanket and since it was an overnight flight it went unnoticed. That made for a nice cuddly flight except for he is so heavy that he put my legs to sleep a few times.

We knew Japan was going to be awesome when we got off the plane and the luggage was waiting on us at the carousel. We had to go through immigration so we seemed to be the last to get our bags. In America you wait for 30 minutes for your luggage to get out to you, but here they were ready before we were.

We hired a chauffeur so we could come from the airport to the base with the cats. The regular shuttle doesn’t allow cats and we didn’t want to put them through additional stress. It took about 3 hours to get from Narita to Yokota with traffic and we fell asleep a few times but stayed awake long enough to see the Rainbow bridge and Tokyo Tower.

The next morning we had got a tour and had a traditional Thanksgiving lunch with some friends we knew from Little Rock Air Force Base. We went home to sleep off the jet lag shortly after.

It’s Monday now and while I’m still waking up at 3 am or so I no longer get tired at  4pm.

Friday we drove around Fussa and had our first taste of conveyor belt sushi. We had a stack of plates, a beer, and soup and it only cost $20 between us. It was just as delicious as the expensive places we would frequent in the states and was a fraction of the cost.

Saturday we went took the train into Akihabara (Electric City) and Harajuku (a trendy/cute shopping district) and had a wonderful time. Once we got out of the Akihabara station I felt like spinning around in the street like Mary Tyler Moore.

The Akihabara I saw was made up of a lot of duty free shops, anime, electronics, and adult gifts/movies. The stores there are 5-6 levels so we got quite the work out. I did not go up to the “adult” stores even though I wanted to simply because there were no other women anywhere and I didn’t want to upset any of the Japanese men.

I was waiting outside for David and Austin in front of what I now believe to be a porn store only because some of the nerdy Japanese guys stopped and stared, giggled and looked up the staircase (which had an anime girl image on the steps) so I’m going to have to be more careful. It was hot pink so I just thought it was a cutesy store that hadn’t opened up yet (the front was still closed up)

I LOVE the train. Everyone is quiet and it is very peaceful. We ate in the train station and it only cost $6- which still will continue to amaze me.

Harajuku was very cool, but I only saw one Harajuku/Lolita girl. They had adorable clothes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $50 on a coat.

I used a floor toilet in the train station and I must say it was a lot easier than I expected. There were bars to hold on to and toilet paper so that was a definite plus.

We headed back to Fussa because all the restaurants were closing to prepare for dinner so we visited CoCo’s (curry) for the first time. They have English menus. It was delicious, and I don’t like curry or spicy things. I got the mild base, but it was had just enough spice to be tasty without burning my mouth.

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Mario Cart IRL

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Hello Kitty in Akihabara

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Akihabara

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Akihabara

 

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Kappa Sushi

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Underwear capsule machine (new, not used. I’ve been told those are rare)

 

Review Of Beqa Lagoon Resort Beqa Island Fiji

I rarely write reviews unless it is really good, or really bad. I am pleased to share our positive experience with you, the Internet.

This summer we went on a once in a lifetime dive trip to Beqa Lagoon resort on Beqa Island, Fiji. We went back and forth on if we should go because of the cost and the fact my husband got military orders to Japan around that time, but we’re so glad we did. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I could write pages but I’ll try to hit the highlights.IMG_2909

We went with our local dive shop’s group of 12 and there were about 10 other guests outside our group. This gave us a very low key vacation with an exclusive feel to it. I’m unsure if it is true, but I heard there was a 2 year wait list to vacation here and after our experience I would not be surprised if that were the case.

I was most impressed with the kindness and warmth of the locals who worked at the resort. We were welcomed by the staff at the shore with a traditional welcome song and were given fresh fragrant garlands. When it came time to leave we were sent off with a goodbye song and flower throwing tradition. You toss a flower into the sea as you depart the island and if the flower comes back to the shore you are said to be destined to return. I actually cried when we left. I’ve been on many a vacation and was never moved enough to cry when it was time to leave.

In fact, usually I’m ready to get back to the daily grind and see our 2 fat cats, but this time I found myself wishing the vacation would never end. I imagine it was mostly because I knew that same daily grind and packing for the move to Japan awaited us back home and there would be no freshly cut papaya every morning, no “bula!” when you greet people, and no sarongs back home.

It took me almost 2 months to get over my Post Vacation Depression Disorder. I wore my sarong at home after work for weeks afterwards and moped around the house wishing I was back in Fiji. I argue that this is a real thing that people experience when they go on wonderful vacations and am in no way making light of PTSD. I just couldn’t think of another way to describe it and later realized it sounds similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dining:

The food was fabulous (best resort food I’ve ever had, actually), and the staff and level of service were impeccable. They knew your names within a few days, which blew my mind since we aren’t used to that kind of service in the states.

I rarely eat desert but had it every night. We dove hard, so I figured my body could handle the extra calories. They had lean and vegetarian options.

The soups were delicious. The fish tasted wonderful. The steak was to die for; it was perfect- I wanted to lick the plate.

Accommodations: 

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We had a single bure and it felt very private and romantic. The bed was comfortable and the linens felt clean and soft. We even had a few geckos visit and chirp at us. Oh- and be on the lookout for the mongoose!

Just be sure to bring the right kind of adapter for your electronics. There is internet, but you have to pay for it. It was so refreshing to be unplugged from Facebook, email, and the web. People actually talked to each other during meals and we only used our phones for pictures.

The only thing I would have liked to have was better water pressure in the shower, but it is an island resort so I’m just thankful there were modern conveniences at all.

You could throw a rock and hit the water from our hammock so one of my favorite things was waking up and falling asleep to the waves softly crashing at the end of our “yard.”

Diving:

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The diving was spectacular. I have never experienced anything like it and look forward to the other amazing dives in our future. We have dived at Playa del Carmen but Fiji was the perfect place to start our scuba diving bucket list.

The dive crew was very experienced and took us to wonderful dive sites. How they keep up with everyone, I”ll never know. I felt very safe in their hands.

The night and shark dives were a lot of fun, but we got just as many great pictures, video, and memories from the other boat dives. I even got to pet a shark while it was eating!

One of our dive masters even grabbed shark teeth for us at the bottom of “The Bistro” site that I turned into necklaces that look pretty awesome.

Massages:

I took advantage of the complimentary welcome foot massage while David took a nap and the massage therapist was friendly and had a great sense of humor so she was delightful to talk with.

Later in the week we treated ourselves to the Beqa signature massage and that was a wonderful and relaxing. The therapists are professional, kind, and experienced.

General reviews:

Some other reviewers have said the property was showing signs of wear, but roofs were being re-thatched while we were there. Other than some patchy roof thatch (for decoration) I didn’t notice any signs of wear and neither did the members of our group who went last year.

The Fire Walkers and fashion shows were really interesting and neat to watch. I felt like they do a lot of the hype for the tourists, but the guys seemed to have a good time and were very kind.

The Fijians have a communal society, so you want to be sure to donate to their Christmas fund if you want to tip because tipping individuals isn’t customary there, with the exception of the dive crew. We tipped them and left our unused alcohol with them.

There were some non-divers there and they said they had a wonderful time doing things on the resort or going into the villages so there are things to do even if you don’t dive. But–it’s Fiji. Some of the most amazing dive sites in the world are in Fiji..so dive there if you can!

How To Shave On The Cheap Using Safety Razors

I looked all over the internet and found very few articles written for women about shaving with safety razors so now a little over a year later I thought I’d write a quick and dirty safety razor review for the ladies.

You’ve probably read or at least seen the “How To Shave Like Your Grandpa”  articles that have been circulating on the internet. My husband David read one on LifeHacker and decided he’d make the switch.

He’s in the military and has to shave every day so he does the whole bit- lather, big soap brush, safety razor, etc. When David does something he goes all out.  Butterfly safety razor

If you live in a household where more than one person shaves or shaves as often a he does the price of shaving can get out of hand. 1 pack of 8 blades is about $20 last I checked!

To compensate for the outrageous cost I ditched the lady razors almost 10 years ago just so we could stop buying 2 different brands of blades and I tasked myself with trying to find bulk buys on eBay and Amazon. Bargain hunting on the same thing that often can get kind of old.

Then there’s the problem of having all those razor handles lying around because sometimes it is cheaper to buy the handle and blades together than just the replacement blades by themselves. That’s just wasteful, IMO.

When David switched our shaving costs dropped dramatically. Instead of $20 for 8 blades we were getting 100 blades for less than $13.00. That’s savings you can shake a stick at and I LOVE to save money.

David started earlier than me (January 2012) and we still have about 20 blades left of the 100 we originally ordered.

Aside from the savings I noticed his shaves were better and his skin was smoother so I took the plunge and decided to buy a safety razor, too.

I was worried about cutting myself on it because of an accident I had as a child with a similar razor blade setup so I wanted something with a long handle that was safe to use and clean.

I found this one. Butterfly open design, long handle, sturdy. I love it. It delivers a shave closer than any of the gimmicky made-for-women razors I’ve tried over the years.

I thought this non-curved razor wouldn’t be able to go over my knees and ankles very well, but it’s been a year and I’ve yet to cut myself. If you know me personally you know that’s a big deal because I’m really clumsy.

Protip: don’t shave sideways or you’ll cut yourself. Shave in vertical strokes and don’t press too hard. Let the weight of the handle do the work for you.

It took some practice and I missed some spots early on, but once you get used to it I think you (and your bank account) will be glad you made the switch!

Do you shave like your grandparents? Let me know how it has helped your skin and budget.