Monthly Archives: June 2014

10 First Impressions of Tokyo

Of course, we all know first impressions are usually incorrect. So take the following with a grain of salt. Following is a list of some first impressions I received when we first arrived in Japan.

  1. No one wears tennis shoes. 😦 All of the women wear high heals. All. The. Time. (This first impression ended up false—I’ve since seen 5 Asian people wearing tennis shoes, two New Balance, one Reebok, and two unknown.)
  2. There’s a lot of English, especially on signage. (However, the English is often poor.)
  3. People are polite, but their idea of polite may be different from ours. For example, I saw a man slip on the sidewalk, slick from the rain, and fall on his back. People hesitated in their tracks and looked—like, “Whoa! What was that?”—but no one offered to help him up. I think that in Texas, people would have responded with, “Are you okay, man?” and offered him a hand.
  4. Everything is close quarters. In Texas, we would call it cramped, but they make it look nice and make very effective use of their limited space (such as our pantry being under our feet in the kitchen).
  5. Many things are clearly old, but not ugly. Very little is dirty.
  6. Everything talks to you! “Attention. The walkway is about to come to an end. Please disembark safely.” (This for the moving walkway at the airport.) “Please stand in the center and hold onto the rail.” (This for escalators.) “Turning left. Please be careful.” (This for all vehicles.)
  7. Our area seems to cater to (1) white people and (2) rich people. I’ve seen lots of whites in our building, and our apartment has carpet, an oven, and a dryer. At the nearest grocery store, what Derek bought cost at least twice as much as it should have.
  8. Japan has lots of Nanny State signage. “Be careful not to get your hand caught in the gate.” “It’s dangerous to rush onto the train.” “Please don’t drop anything.” (This on an 11th floor balcony.) This extends to helpers, as one tiny intersection had five crosswalk guards.
  9. Everything is very quiet. People don’t shout or honk their cars. Even on the trains and subways, there are signs reminding people to put their cell phones on silent or turn them off and the only people whose voices you can actually hear are foreigners.
  10. CHIMES. EVERYWHERE. When a car is turning, it chimes softly along with the flashing light. At five o’clock every evening, a soft melody chimes out—where from, I don’t know.



Schaabling Free Mario Question Box Knitting Pattern

I may be dating myself by saying how much I used to love jumping on little brown, angry mushrooms while eating other brightly colored mushrooms and hitting boxes that produced coins and gifts in psychedelic colors with equally wild sounds. No, not an acid trip. Just Super Mario Bros.

Okay, so I’m a nerd. Or a geek. According to this graph, I fall more on the nerdy side of the scale, though knitting a Mario question box seems geeky. But I digress…

In honor of hours and hours of fond childhood memories, I knitted this and wrote up the pattern a long time ago, but never published it to my blog. So here it is!

Mario Question Box

Mario Question Box Pattern

Craft: Knitting

Yarn Weight: Any worsted or Aran in orange, yellow, and white

Needle size: US 8 / 5.0 mm

Other Supplies: scissors, tapestry needle, mesh plastic canvas (like this one)

Availability: Free


See colorwork pattern below. Select yarns in: Orange (O), Yellow (Y), White (blank).

  1. Leaving a 16-inch tail, CO 16 sts in Orange. Turn work.
  2. P across according to colorwork pattern, using tail for opposite Orange line.
  3. K across in colorwork pattern.
  4. P across in colorwork pattern. Use Orange working yarn and Orange tail for Orange sts. With Yellow and White, carry yarn across the back of the work. See this video for an example of how to do this.
  5. Continue in pattern.
  6. After final Orange row, BO all sts. DO NOT WEAVE IN THE ENDS.
  7. Make five more of these knit squares for a total of six knit squares. Steam-block the knit squares.
  8. Use the knit squares as guides to measure out four to six squares of mesh plastic canvas.* Using the yarn ends, sew the knit squares to the mesh plastic squares, and sew the squares’ edges together into the shape of a box/cube.  FIN.

*I recommend six; the box in the photo was made with four, and the two unsupported sides—see one of them on the left—sink in, negatively affecting the overall appearance.

Colorwork Pattern

Mario Box Question Box Colorwork Pattern



Happy knitting!


Touchdown, Tokyo!

Well, as you can probably extrapolate from the fact that I’m writing another blog post, we arrived safely in Japan as scheduled. Although the plane took off late, we actually arrived a tiny bit earlier than forecast. In this blog post, I’ll answer a few more FAQ’s from both before and after the move. In the next blog post, I’ll talk about our travel experience and my first impressions of Japan.

FAQ #8: What direction will you be flying?

Answer #8: We flew (from Texas) northward across Canada, westward across Alaska, and then back down southward close to the Russian coast. We landed in Narita Airport, which is the closest airport to Tokyo, took a train into Tokyo, and then took two more trains to arrive in Minato-ku, where we live.

FAQ #9: Huh? I thought you were going to be living in Tokyo…

Answer #9: Yes, we are living in Tokyo.

Japan is made up of four major islands. Each island is divided into prefectures (to for Tokyo Prefecture, dou for Hokkaido Prefecture, fu for Kyoto and Osaka Prefectures, and ken for the other 43 prefectures). Prefectures are further divided into cities (shi) and districts. Districts are divided into towns and villages. The biggest cities are divided into wards (ku). In English, the wards call themselves “____ City,” but in Japanese, it’s “_____-ku.”

All of that to say… we live in Minato-ku, Tokyo-shi, Tokyo-to, on Honshu (the “mainland” island). When mailing a letter or package, the address is simply “Minato-ku, Tokyo”—no need to write out “Tokyo-shi, Tokyo-to” or to specify the island.

FAQ #10: Are you taking the stroller?

Answer #10: No. It wouldn’t fit anywhere! We elected to bring the baby carrier/sling. Now that we’re here, I know we did the right thing. I’ve only seen two other women with babies, but both used baby carriers. Furthermore, there’s a lot of up and down (the nearest department store, for example, is in the basement of a building) with few elevators that I’ve seen—not a wheelchair-friendly place to live—and lots of stairs and escalators. Aisles are narrow with sharp corners that would be physically impossible to navigate with a stroller. Even the sidewalks are often prohibitively narrow.

FAQ #11: Did you forget anything?

Answer #11: Yes, baby wipes. Kind of a problem. We managed to buy more before running out, though. Also, I seem not to have packed any deodorant. Maybe I left it on a table near where I was packing. I’m using Derek’s for now and, I have to say, male deodorant is quite pungent compared to female deodorant.

FAQ #12: How did Ada do on the flight?

Answer #12: She did splendidly. She had no problems on either takeoff or landing and made lots of friends on the flight. She only took two brief naps in our arms.


Countdown to Tokyo

I’ve been asked by multiple people to give an update on Japan, so I’ve moved back some other planned posts in order to do so. I’ll also answer some FAQ’s I’ve gotten.

FAQ #1: Why are you moving to Japan?

Answer #1: Derek’s job. His company is providing a service for a Japanese company and they’ve been in the process of moving Derek’s team to Tokyo to make the job easier.

FAQ #2: Is his company paying for that???

Answer #2: <sarcasm> No. They expect us to spend more than his annual salary on all of the expenses associated with moving. </sarcasm> Of course. They will reimburse us for a certain amount of expenses involved and will pay for our housing in Japan, which is ludicrously expensive (imagine NYC on steroids).

FAQ #3: How long will you be there?

Answer #3: At least 2 years. Max length unknown at this time—maybe for life.

FAQ #4: Are you going as missionaries?

Answer #4: Not really. We wanted to, but then Derek’s job appeared and said, “Yo dog, I heard you wanted to go to Japan, so we put some Japan in your Japan plans.” If that makes sense to you, you win the magic kewpie doll. Which I learned two weeks ago is Japanese. And very freaky.

FAQ #5: What are y’all doing with your house?

Answer #5: We will keep it and rent it. Last week, we moved out of our house and into an apartment on my parents’ farm. The house should be listed by now.

FAQ #6: What did you do with all your stuff? Are you taking it all to Japan?

Answer #6: Our Japanese apartment will be furnished, including some kitchen implements, so there’s very little we will actually need. Furthermore, our apartment will be tiny, so we won’t have room for all our stuff anyway. We gave away almost all of our furniture and a sizable portion of our belongings. When asked how I feel about the move, my answer has almost always been, “I’m just mad at myself for keeping so much junk, because now I have to figure out what to do with it!” What we are keeping, we have placed in storage, for which Derek’s company will pay a certain amount. Basically, we trimmed it to the point that we won’t be paying anything toward storage.

FAQ #7: How do you feel about moving?

Answer #7: Well, now that we’re getting much closer to the date—less than a week away!—I’m beginning to feel the nervousness and stress people have been worrying about on my behalf. No tears yet. For the most part, we just want it to be over.