Things That Keep Me Sane


When you live in the back end of nowhere in a country where you don’t speak the language you need a few things to keep you from losing it. Without a few lifelines I’d either end up either in an institution, or rehab. Or maybe a residential locked rehab programme.

The main tool of survival is food. I guess this is the same anywhere, but when you can’t read the names of foods in the supermarket or the instructions on the backs of packets, you need a little help.

As soon as I arrived I discovered the joy of my local convenience store. In Japan they’re called konbinis, and they sell almost everything. Frozen food, readymade food, drinks, cigarettes (most of them anyway), magazines, newspapers, porn, makeup, shampoo, cleaning products, underwear, socks, and lots of other stuff. Did I say porn? Yes, magazines. Real life and cartoons. Yes, manga porn. It’s right there beside the teen, house, food and baby magazines. My junior high school boys take great joy in telling me who has been caught reading “nasty magazines”.

But anyway. It also sells food. At home the convenience stores sell greasy artery-clogging crud. Plus junk food and the occasional bag of pasta. Here my 7-11 sells fried chicken, noodles, rice dishes, onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches and sushi. The sushi from the konbini is as good as any I’ve had at a restaurant at home. Given, I wasn’t going to the nicest sushi bars in the world, but still, it’s great to be able to buy good sushi at 4am for a few dollars. Konbini food is cheap. Maybe not US standards cheap, but certainly Europe-cheap. If you buy a noodle dish they’ll microwave it for you right there, give you a wet wipe for your hands and chopsticks. Excellent.

The next thing on my sanity list is the local library. Here’s a picture of it – just because I love it so much.


It’s actually a great building, three stories high, all glass and pitched roof and light. It has reading rooms, study rooms, giant widescreen tvs and headphones for watching movies, a conference room and really squishy couches. Obviously I can’t read the books (apart from the baby ones, which I borrow for practice in using a Japanese dictionary), but they have DVDs!! Hundreds of them! Which you can borrow for up to 15 days! All for freeeee! You can get 3 at a time, and most of them are Hollywood movies with an English language track as well as a Japanese dub track. Given, they’re not exactly new releases, but still. Freee! Getting a library card was a bit intimidating, but all I needed was my gaijin card. I go there about once a week and get 3 DVDs and a few kids’ books. I usually neglect to watch at least one of the DVDs, but whatever. If they had wanted people to watch Troy, they wouldn’t have made it 3 hours long.

The final thing that keeps me from drinking all the time is the Foreign Buyer’s Club. It’s a website run by some Americans out of Kobe and it imports food and other stuff from America and other places. It provides me with things that are impossible to get out here, like wholewheat crackers, proper brown bread, wholewheat pasta and cheese.

I am a cheese fiend. Soft, hard, white, red, blue, edam, cheddar, stilton, brie, gorgonzola – I love it all. I could happily sit down with a block of cheese and a knife and eat til it’s gone. Japan is not good for cheese. Most Japanese don’t like it. I hate to tell them that it’s probably because their cheese is rubbish. Greasy, tasteless, rubbery and boring. You might wander into a shop here and see camembert – don’t be fooled. It’s just processed crap.

So, I did some research and found FBC. I bought the stuff I mention above, and a kilo of sharp white cheddar. It wasn’t cheap, but I needed it. Like a Japanese person needs rice. FBC charges for delivery, and then extra if you buy cold items (like cheese) and extra again if you want frozen items (I bought frozen bread), and more still to become a member (1000 yen a year membership) but I just wrote it off as a sanity expense. I got through that kilo of cheese in two weeks. Alone. It was awesome.

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2 Responses

  1. What an excellent blog. So informative. I hope you have an amazing time in Japan.

  2. aw how i miss japan~

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