A confusing day in Tainan

After watching the fireworks at Taipei 101 on New Year’s Eve my husband and I came back to our hostel to get ready for a day trip to Tainan tomorrow. Well, today to be correct because it’s January 1st.

After a few hours of sleep we woke up again and got ready to leave, making sure we had our train tickets. Leaving the hostel in the morning on New Year’s day, there weren’t many people out. But it was busier than I thought it would be. We walked the 10 minutes to the train station, and after figuring out the train schedule, we went downstairs to the correct platform. There was still some time before the train left, so we found a couple seats and waited with the crowd.

It was our first time on the high speed railway, and my husband pointed out to me that the trains are the same as the Japanese shinkansen. Just the older models that Japan wasn’t using anymore. We found our seats and got ready for the ride, which was less than two hours.

From Tainan main station we searched for the bus that would take us in to the city. I must admit, we were both confused about the buses and how to get into and around the city. We had a couple maps from the information centre, and decided to check out the Confucian Temple first. At least I think it was the Confucian Temple. This is what I mean, we were both confused a lot today. Wherever it was that we went first, the gardens were lovely to walk around in. Continue reading “A confusing day in Tainan”


5 Musical trucks in Japan

There are no ice cream trucks in Japan, but there are other types of musical trucks.

Growing up in Canada, I only had a few experiences with ice cream trucks. Most likely because I lived in the country side, and houses were not close to one another like in the suburbs. It wouldn’t be worth it for the truck driver to come all the way out to the boonies.

I saw them on TV all the time though, and I imagined what it would be like to hear the jingly song of the ice cream truck and run outside to see it surrounded by other kids looking for a cool treat.

So when I did actually here one near my house, I almost couldn’t believe it. Straining my hears to make sure I wasn’t just hearing things. Then when I was sure it was the ice cream truck, rushing to find some money and running out to the road.

The thing is, my house had a long driveway, and it was also on a corner. That means that by the time I had finished being sure what that sound was, gathering a few coins, and running barefoot down my gravel drive way, the truck had already driven past. Or I get the end of the driveway just in time to see the truck turn down another corner.

With an air of disappointment, I would look across the street at my neighbor, who had also rushed out at the hopes of a popsicle, only to be left in the wake of the dimming do your ears hang low. It’s not all bad though, a few times I did manage to catch it.

I’m thankful that some kind-hearted ice cream truck driver remembered that little farm kids also want to buy popsicles from a truck in the summer.

In Japan, I have not seen an ice cream truck, but I have seen other types of trucks. A lot of them are seasonal, and play music or have a recorded voice talking about what they are selling. I have a hard time understanding what the recording is saying though. It’s pretty scratching with exaggerated intonation. Without further ado, here are five different types of trucks that I have seen in Nagoya. Continue reading “5 Musical trucks in Japan”


A story about turning 31

My alarm goes off at 7:30. It’s been four weeks since I’d had to wake up so early. Yuck. In my head, I know 7:30 isn’t that early. But it is for me right now. Just coming off winter vacation, I still hav’t recovered from New Year’s Eve. Not that I really did anything for New Year’s Eve – I was in bed by midnight, after all. But somehow, I’ve still been on a schedule of sleeping at 2:00 and waking up around 10:00. I hit snooze and let my alarm go off a few more time. I don’t need to be up at 7:30. 8:00 is even enough time to get ready. Even 8:30. After playing around on my phone for a few minutes, I’m too hungry to just lay around any longer. I sit up and put my slippers and sweater, pulling myself away from the warm blankets.

I’m 31 today. The second year of my fourth decade of life. If I lived to be 93, today would be my one third mark. If I lived to be 62, I would be half way there. That’s a sobering thought. Should I be having a third-life crisis? A mid-life crisis? Nah, not yet. I’ll probably live to be 124, so today I’m only finished one fourth of my magnificent life. Maybe I’ll have a quarter-life crisis. I don’t even know what that is. Maybe I made it up. Maybe now is the time when I start to seriously question my life choices, not that I haven’t done that already. What have I accomplished? What have I learned? Did I take the right major? Why didn’t I study physics? Or information technology? Should I move back to Canada someday? What career am I going to have? Is it so horrible if I don’t want to have kids? Why am I so lazy? Wouldn’t it be ironic if I died exactly on my birthday? My husband doesn’t like it when I say things like that, but I think it would be kind of funny. Continue reading “A story about turning 31”


5 things I’ve seen on the train in Japan

These are not the regular things you see on Japanese trains, like sleeping or putting on make-up. They are things I’ve personally seen only once, and some of them I hope never to see again.

The trains and subways in Japan are a wonderful and marvelous thing. They run on a perfect schedule, down to the second when they should leave the station and be arriving at the next one. They are convenient and clean – almost no trash, and only occasionally weird smells. Passengers wait patiently on the platform in two lines, and they step to the side when the doors open so that people can get off before they get on. When my friend visited me from Korea, she was surprised that people did not just plow through each other to get on as fast as possible in the hopes of a seat. On the train, people sit nicely in their own little space, except for those who rudely take up two seats or manspread. Everyone else stands quietly, most people playing on their phones until their destination.

In my nearly seven years total of living in Japan, I have probably seen most of the amusing or strange things that you can see on a train. A few things that might seem strange to first-timers are not so odd for me anymore.

I’ve seen people sleeping, sometimes leaning on the stranger next to them.

I’ve seen wake up too late to realize that they missed their stop.

I’ve seen girls and women putting on their make-up.

I’ve seen people holding and drinking open cans of beer.

I’ve seen drunk people.

I’ve seen teenagers sitting on the floor.

I’ve seen a man on the platform talking into his hands and acting like the station master.

I’ve seen the train packed much too tight, and then see more people try and get on.

I’ve seen people give up their seat to an elderly person or someone with a small child.

I’ve seen station attendants assisting blind people to and from the train.

I’ve seen a man get escorted off the train because he was scaring other passengers.

I’ve smelt stinky salarymen coming home from a long day at the office.

I’ve smelled puke.

I’ve smelled toilet smell.

Thankfully, I don’t have any horror stories of my own. I have never experienced or witnesses any unsolicited groping or sexual assault. I have never witnesses a stabbing or other attack. And I’ve never seen a suicide.

There are a few things that I have seen only once before though. Some of them are milder than the others, and some are outright shocking.


In order of shock factor, I present to you 5 things I have seen on the trains in Japan. Continue reading “5 things I’ve seen on the train in Japan”


INAX Museums in Tokoname: painting mini toilets

Just outside Nagoya is a small, relaxing town called Tokoname. It’s famous for pottery production and is one of the most important kiln towns in Japan. A short bus ride from Tokoname station are the INAX Museums. This museum complex is part of the LIXIL corporation, which manufactures toilets and other home products in Japan. And toilets are made out of ceramic.

After lunch in the brick oven pizza restaurant,  I went next door to the main tile museum. There were displays of tiles from around the world and throughout history. Replicas of blue tiles from Egypt, peg tiles from Mesopotamia, European tiles, painted tiles, raised tiles, and tiles used in religious buildings.

My favourite was the inside of a dome of a mosque.  The top of the dome was open, as if the actual dome would be open to the outside sky. The lights were arranged and set to timers to and faders to gradually come on and then fade off from one side to the other side of the inside of the dome. It was meant to simulate the rising and setting of the sun shining through the open hole of the dome – sorry, I couldn’t get a good picture…

There is also a large used-to-be kiln on site. It has been turned into an office/museum with tables and chairs all nestled underneath the curved brick ceiling. You can walk around the kiln as well and see how the wares were fired. There was no one working there for some reason.

The area around the kiln has been converted into a second floor museum, with toilets on display. Again, they are toilets from around the world. Squat toilets from Japan and other Asian countries, seated toilets, and old wooden toilets with chamber pots inside. Some were even painted with colourful designs.

The mini toilet painting is only available by reservation. The toilets are about 10 cm tall and cost ¥1500. After they are fired they will be shipped to your address in Japan. I don’t know if they would ship overseas. You can download a template from the website, so can plan what you want to paint on it before you get there. There were also already painted toilets on display in the windows if you needed some idea of what to paint. They had everything from trees, flowers, mushrooms, monkey, to polka dots. Besides painting mini toilets, you can also make little mosaics and different tile crafts. Continue reading “INAX Museums in Tokoname: painting mini toilets”


31 things I’ve learned in 31 years

“Recuerdo siempre, que la vida es una sola.”

I don’t speak Spanish, but I think that means, “always remember, you only have one life.”

That’s my photo above. I saw the phrase carved into the outside wall of a hostel in northern Chile when I was 23. I had a lot of adventures on that trip, and to this day I still think about this photo and that carving…

It is my 31st birthday today.

I feel good about it. I can honestly say that I don’t fear getting older. I was excited to turn 30 last year.

As I complete my 31st spin around the sun, I have learned a thing or two. In no particular order, here are some of those things. Continue reading “31 things I’ve learned in 31 years”