Sunday, 22 January 2017

Moving forward

January isn't yet over, but already so much change has occurred to significantly shape 2017. 

Matt and I have decided to take a step forward into the terrifying world of adulthood. From April, when the contract for my Shimokitazawa share house room expires, I will move into Matt's beautiful wooden house in Ikebukuro. My commute to work will be halved, saving me an extra hour every day, my rent will be cheaper, my food will be more delicious (as I will be living with a talented chef) and, most importantly, I will be living with one of the most inspiring and wonderful people I have ever met. 

When we got to know each other last summer, we discussed his dream of working in science communication, and the importance of this field. In November, he started the application process to work as a science communicator at Miraikan, or 未来館, the National museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba, Tokyo. Now, I am so happy to say that he will be able to realise this dream, as he found out on Friday that he got the job! YAY! 

To celebrate, we stayed up Friday night to cook a massive lemon drizzle cake (OMG YUM, we used yuzu instead of lemon) and we also went to the museum the following day:

We took a tour around the museum riding on Honda's UNI-CUBs:

We checked out some optical illusions

I finally know what the back of my head looks like:

Headache creation artwork:

The most interesting thing about this optical illusion, was trying to understand how it was an optical illusion:

What is it like in the International Space Station? The museum has a replica Space Habitation Module to find out:

Conclusion: I do not want to be an astronaut. The toilet alone is enough to put you off.

That massive globe:

Matt outside the museum of his future employment:

And some sneaky okonomiyaki. Yes, I asked for mine without meat because I'm still doing this vegetarian thing for January. It's getting annoying:

Afterwards we went to see Anchorsong play at the Batica in Ebisu. What a talented creature:

I'm excited about this year. Now that I've got all my silly life-dramas in order and have established a stable situation with a wonderful support network (well, Matt and I have decided to look after each-other), I can finally put effort into working hard. I want to focus on my job, and finally, without any interruptions, start taking Japanese learning seriously. I need to tackle it. 

Thursday, 12 January 2017


We had an onsen weekend in Nagano.

Let me summarise what there is to see in Nagano:
Mountains, snow monkeys, onsens and Aussies on snowboarding holidays (OK I'm just vouching for winter).

It's pretty beautiful. The small town where we stayed reminded me of one of my favourite things outside of the major Japanese cities ...weird old abandoned and run down countryside stuff. Seriously, check out the wonky house, and petrol station.

On our last day we had 5 hours to kill before boarding the bus back to Tokyo. We found a looming cafe and made scarves. My sister has just opened a looming pop up studio in London, so in my absence from London, I was able to somehow feel a part of it.

With our creations:

The thing we enjoyed the most at the Zenkoji temple was throwing rocks onto a frozen lake:

weave that weave that weave that loom:

Petrol anyone?:

Its a snow monkey!

Jigokudani Monkey Park (Snow Monkeys), this means HELL VALLEY:

Vote for photoshopped Abe:

Wonky tonky house. Seriously, how many earthquakes has this probably survived?:

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


Hey! So here's something new to Zarbaraki, instead of just blabbering on about myself, with the help of my friend Tommy, we've decided to actually offer some advice for those about to move to Japan on the JET Programme. He's American, so please excuse the peculiar spelling. Without further-a-poo, please ENJOY:


I’d like to introduce myself to any of Zara’s readers who don’t know me. My name is Tommy, I’m from Syracuse, New York, I graduated from Villanova, and I am pretty much the embodiment of the American stereotype. In the summer of 2013, Zara and I both moved to Japan and began working in the JET Program in Ibaraki prefecture.

I was recently thinking about getting ready for the JET program, and adult life in general and wanted to write a brief post on this. There are tons of sites and blogs that discuss moving to Japan with things like resources for learning Japanese, tips on chopsticks, etiquette, and culture.  I wanted to focus more on that awkward time in between finding out I was accepted into the JET Program and when I actually left for Japan.

I graduated in the middle of May and didn’t fly to Japan until the very end of July. This gave me two and a half months to prepare myself. The first thing I did was start looking into how to create lesson plans. This is something that was definitely helpful in adjusting to my new position when I arrived, but I dedicated way too much time and worry to this in those summer months. There was plenty of time to pick this up after getting to Japan. I spent essentially the first month sitting at a desk in a near empty office, while students and teachers were on summer vacation. This would have been the perfect time to really focus on lesson planning with all the information and tools available in the office. In that regard I was a little over-prepared but that’s rarely a bad thing.

Probably the most important thing that I wish I had done in those two and a half months was figure out all my finances. I simply put it out of my mind like a moron, figuring I’d just go to Japan and deal with it later, once I started actually getting regular paychecks. This was a poor choice. I didn’t fully realize how much I would be paying monthly for student loans, how much interest I’d be piling up, and what a difficult process it would be converting Japanese Yen to US Dollars to pay these bills. If I had been more responsible I probably would have looked into services for refinancing my student loans and setting up a customized payment plan.

Keeping with this theme of being dumb with money, I also wish I paid closer attention to my budget and savings. I absolutely blew through cash in the first month in Japan. Paying for an entire iPhone upfront and furnishing an apartment (ask Zara about this haha) doesn’t come cheap. If I had planned a little better in that brief time before embarking to Japan I would have been much better prepared financially. There are so many great services and apps that make this so easy to do as well. Personal Capital has great free personal finance software tools, and there are apps like digit that track your spending and help you save extra money. There are essentially tons of options that I never put a single thought to.

The last thing I wish I had done was educating myself on current affairs in Japan. I spent tons of time researching culture, etiquette, history and so on, but I honestly felt like I had no idea what was going on around me when I arrived. Even just a basic understanding of current events in politics, sports, and business really help you get integrated into the new environment. They also provide so many opportunities to connect with other teachers and neighbors and build not only conversational skills, but friendships.

Thanks Tommy-chan!!!!

United by our ignorance towards Japanese current affairs, we became fast friends during our time in the land of the rising natto. 

Tommy (left) and Zarbarocky (right) in response to someone starting a conversation about Abenomics:


Home for christmas

So, how was your holiday? 

Hmm. To avoid the effort that comes with using actual word-sentences and press buttons, here's one of those lazy blog posts with pictures and accompanying nondescript captions to summarise. Woof.

Family turned goths:

Enforced poker with cousins:

Catching up with Ibafamily:

Hangover brunch on the first day of 2017:

Sibling love:

Mother turned geisha:

 New years celebration dinner:

With the Bristol vet:

 Winter wonderland:

Cousin Katie:

Bloody Aziz:

Mill Hill alumni annual Xmas eve tradition:

Christmas dinner:

Boxing day walk in Totteridge:

Xmas eve day with the Fulham lot:

The conclusion: punched in the face with jet-lag. But worth it.