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Of All The Things… What Japanese Winter Looks Like   

Greetings to you all who read the Chit ChatCafe blogs and visit us! I’m Juliana, and I began working at CCC in summer,2017. I am from Finland, and I came to Japan in September 2016. I have alreadybeen in Japan for a year and a half! Basically this is my second winter here inSapporo, and I have plenty of experience with snow back in Finland, which hasmade my winter time in Sapporo very interesting. I had some expectations aboutthe Japanese before I came here, which I believe are similar to what other foreignershave thought of the Japanese people and the everyday life here. However, as Ihave spent more than a year here, I have realized that not all of myexpectations were met, and there is a surprising gap between how we handleeveryday things in Finland and here in Japan. I will mostly talk about commonthings like the snow and the houses’ heating systems.

Now, first of all, Finland is very coldcompared to Sapporo. On average, we have -20C , or -25C in winter. Some remoteplaces have -30C of freezing degrees. However, I always enjoyed my winters inFinland, because our houses are built to be very warm. We have three layers inour windows and thick walls with heat insulation, so it’s always +23C indoors.That’s why I was surprised to see in Japan that people have heaters. Why wouldyou need a heater if the house is warm by itself? Well, Japanese houses havevery thin windows and walls, so it gets very cold even indoors. I was verysurprised at this! Winter comes every year, so why not build better housesinstead of buying dangerous gas heaters?Of course there are many kinds of heaters such halogen and kerosene, but itnevertheless made me question the famous Japanese efficiency and thoughtfulness of Japan. Good houses are important, andseasons come every year.

Another thing that surprised me in the winterof 2016-2017 (and still does) is the way Hokkaido handles snow. The very firstproper snow that I experienced here in Sapporo was before Christmas of 2016. Iwas going to my part-time job at the Munchen Christmas Market in Odori, butsuddenly the way to the subway was full of snow. It was already past noon, butthe road apart from the car lane was full of snow, and I ended up falling overa lot. I was very confused. In Finland, that amount of snow would have beentaken out of the road by 08:00 in the morning by the city’s own snow plowers.But there it was, all the snow in Sapporo. Only a small, narrow path forpedestrians to walk on, and sprain their ankles in the bumpy snow. Even if mostof the snow is taken from the road, it still leaves ice behind, and walkinggets slippery. In Finland we use rocksand to make the roads easier to walk on, and so does Sapporo. However, here inSapporo it is up to every person to sprinkle the sand on the road, it’s not thecity’s responsibility. Most of the time, the amount of sand is nowhere nearenough in Sapporo. I was especially worried for all of the elderly people,grandmothers and grandfathers of Sapporo. It’s very difficult for older peopleto move around in winter, and if they break their bones, they may not be ableto walk.

In Sapporo, it is cold indoors, and walkingaround can be extremely difficult at times. Because of this kind of winter herein Sapporo, I have sometimes missed Finland. However, surprisingly, I like thequality of the snow more here in Sapporo. It’s soft, airy, dry, powdery. It’slike the ultimate winter wonderland. Nowadays in Finland, it’s not guaranteedto snow for Christmas, which is a shame. But here in Sapporo we get snow quiteearly, which feels good in December. A snowy Sapporo looks the best with themountains in clear view. This is what I like about winter in Sapporo.

How do you feel about winter here in Sapporo?

Juliana (Finland)

# by chitchatcafe | 2018-02-03 17:36

Beautiful Lake Toya!   

After living here for a little over two months, I’ve had surprisingly few low points! However, I do remember one week where I started to feel like a bit of a waste of space at work. Working with an entirely Japanese team means I feel quite guilty when they have to speak English around me. As if she could sense my gloominess, my supervisor/role model/all-around-wonder-woman offered to take me on a day trip during the next day off work. Leaving as early as we both could manage (sadly neither of us are blessed with being early birds!) we headed for Lake Toya via Lake Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu was incredible, and although the weather was a bit bleak it still felt magical. I could hear the theme song of Jurassic Park running through my head! But Lake Toya was definitely the highlight. It was so incredibly serene. I’d never seen anything like it before. I spotted a few people camping out on the beach beside the lake, which made me very happy. Wherever there is natural beauty, there will be some hippies! I then insisted that we climbed one of the active volcanoes – mainly to prove to my supervisor that she’s not too old (you’re never too old!), and we got to see some craters filled with murky blue water. As we climbed, being biologists, we were inspecting some of the fresh animal droppings. Twice we saw huge steaming piles of what I hoped was fresh bear poo, but my supervisor was adamant that no bears would be in that close proximity. (Days later, she came into work and confirmed my suspicions that it was in fact bear poo! Apologies to those who I already told this story. Bears make me very excited.) As we drove off, me and my supervisor were incredibly lucky to see two swans doing their mating dance. They both dipped their heads underwater in synchrony and waggled their bums in the air. It reminded me of Amelia and Abigail, two geese from a very incredible film – the aristocats (if you haven’t seen it, watch it as soon as you get a chance. It is of high importance as many people see this film as possible!). The drive home was long but I generously kept my supervisor company by falling asleep within 10 minutes. Overall, it was a beautiful day out. It’s impossible to be sad in Japan for too long!

Honor (UK)

# by chitchatcafe | 2017-12-09 16:28 | カフェ 英会話 札幌

Otaru Daytrip   

Greetings! Maddy here.

I’ve only recently started working at the Chit Chat Café so this is my very first blog. I spent a lot of time mulling over what to write about, especially since I haven’t been on any fun adventures recently- but then I decided I could write about one of my best memories from this summer 😊

Otaru is the loveliest little oceanside town, and I’ve already been down there about four times… and in August, my boyfriend and I took a daytrip to the Otaru Aquarium! First, we took a JR train straight to Otaru station, and even though there weren’t any seats left, we still got to enjoy the view of the countryside and the sea. Afterwards, we waited for a bus that would take us up the hill to the aquarium. It was a pretty warm day so we grabbed bought some cold & sugary drinks (blue Hawaii hehe) from a nearby vending machine.

Once we arrived, we got our tickets and then went inside to explore. We got to see all kinds of sea creatures, and I especially appreciated the jellyfish, the red octopus, and the tiny conger eels. Also, if you go sometime, don’t forget to check out the balloon lumpfishes (フウセンウオ) because they’re too cute to miss.

Next, we had lunch in the cafeteria and we both bought a sort of omelette curry that was shaped like a turtle :P (it was called カメの太郎くんランチ). Whether you are 5 years old or 30, I think everyone can enjoy a plate of turtle-shaped curry. After finishing up lunch, we went to see what marine animal shows were going on. We saw every one of them- dolphins, penguins, seals – but I have to say that the walruses’ performance could not be beat. The trainers would say “aisatsu!” and they would wave their fins at the audience. And they’d say “hazukashii!” and they cover up their walrus faces like they’re embarrassed—soooo adorable. I wish I had filmed it actually, looking back. Maybe I’ll have to go again.

Continuing on, next door to the aquarium was a mini amusement park which included a ferris wheel! Being on a cutesy date and all, naturally, we had to ride it. From the tip top we took a bunch of photos of the view. It was so beautiful, almost like a backdrop from a Ghibli movie (see below~).

Finally, we decided rather than taking the bus again, we’d ride the ferry back to central Otaru. We barely caught the last boat, and had to run down the port to board in time. This ferry ride was quite relaxing and the heat wasn’t so bad thanks to the sea breeze. We also got a glimpse of one of Japan Coast Guard’s ships which was pretty cool!

We wandered around the streets of Otaru a bit before going home. I always stop by the オルゴール堂 so we went there and tested out some music boxes and stared at creepy antique dolls for a bit. For dinner, we couldn’t really decide on a place in Otaru so we just went home and ate Kimchi Soondubu at Sapporo Station!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day spent with a wonderful person. Next time I go back, I want to see Otaru when it’s covered in snow and the canal is lit up with Christmas lights.


Maddy (USA)

# by chitchatcafe | 2017-11-16 15:34 | 英会話 教師 札幌

Living Nippon   

For the first time in all of my dozens of years on this earth, I’m the queen of my own castle. I am now living solo.

(In my apartment)

It is almost 7 months since I arrived in Sapporo.

And today, I have listed 7 things I learned about living alone and as an expat in Japan.

#1 Convenience stores
Convenience stores in Japan are awesome. Since I live alone, I find it a waste of time to cook for one. I usually get myself a meal on my way home from conveniene store. You can find almost anything there, and they're always clean, well serviced, and safe.

#2 Food
When I'm not eating conbini food -- I get out and treat myself to a nice Japanese restaurant. I like ramen, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, udon, soba, ebi tempura and the list could go on and on. I like Japanese food very much. Japanese food is great. It's healthy, tastes great, and is fun to eat. Though tons of choices, I was overwhelmed when I arrived how expensive it is to eat out in Japan.

(Food shopping!!! My favorite kind of shopping)

(Takoyaki to go for dinner)

(At Victoria’s — I love Japanese food and steak too!)

#3 Not safe
Sapporo is not safe, it is ridiculously safe. No guns. No drugs. There are some bad gangster folks downtown but there is not very much violent crime.

One thing that I have never seen anywhere else is that people in restaurants leave their wallets and expensive smartphones on the table when they go to the bathroom. And they would go together, so nobody in the party would be there to guard them and their money and expensive electronics would be out in the open unguarded.

Coming from a third world country -- I've never come across such great confidence in strangers!

#4 Job

Probably the easiest way to get yourself over to Japan is by getting yourself a teaching job there. Luckily, there always seems to be an abundance of positions available, because Japan always wants to learn more English. For some people, the job market isn't so hot in their home country, so getting a teaching job in Japan can seem like an attractive option.

It is all about your connections. Once you have a base of contacts and a group of friends you can relax. When people first arrive they typically befriend other expats or people who want to practice English, but making an inroad with the locals is the only way you are going to develop a strong work and social network. It is a bit of a struggle at first.

(On my way to school)

(Prepping for my class — but selfie first)

(Walking to school 🍁)

#5 Commuting
Compared to Philippines public transport, Japanese public transport is unbelievably awesome. (at least trains and subways)
Its subway and train systems are crazy convenient, accurate, and make getting around the city so much easier.

But taking taxi is a absoulutely expensive. Once, I was out late at night, I had no choice but to take a taxi. A less than 15-minute drive cost me almost 2000 Yen. I swore not take taxi again.

(Going home from school — I take JR line everyday.)

#6 People
Being polite doesn’t mean it must be fake or unnatural, it can be more of a lifestyle. Japanese people are friendly and polite, at least the the middle-aged generation. Old people may be curious about your background but might not know how to interact with you. Young people keep to themselves on their smartphones and electronics, as I'm sure most are in any country. People here are always ready to help you even though there would be a language barrier.

The Japanese are very friendly, and incredibly welcoming and I was so pleased to confirm this for myself! It's a very different world, and a country that I highly recommend to my friends to visit someday.
(Haloween party at the cafe)

(Random Saturday night at Susukino)

#7 Toilets
Honestly, I’m spoiled now. The welcoming feeling of a warm, toasty seat during your private time makes going to the bathroom in Japan a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Who knew you could have so many buttons when in the Philippines we just have a flushing option!

Shiela (Philippines)

# by chitchatcafe | 2017-11-09 19:55 | 英会話 教師 札幌


It has been a little bit more than one year since I left Brazil to study somewhere else. In this case, Japan. However, due to my summer vacations, I went back home for a month.

When going back home, I got to say I had mixed feelings. What to expect from a routine that is not mine anymore? Especially when I arrived and everybody else was doing something else. That was due to the inconvenience of vacation times that do not coincide.

Despite, I arrived in my city in the best possible moment to travel there. There's a festival every August that colors the city as the clothing of traditional dancer hats. When I was younger I did not care that much about this festival, to be fair. But ever since I started high school, and my school was in the very centre of this festival, I started looking forward to this time of the year.

This is my first experience as an expat. Even though I had some short-term experiences abroad, so far, this is a totally new (and amazing) experience I'm having in Japan. And because now I have this new viewpoint, I was a tourist in my own hometown. Unbelievable, right?

Of course, it is great to see family, old friends, classmates and the such, but it is as my heart is not completely there anymore. Some would say that your heart/soul is split and each little piece of it will remain in the places you went and had good experiences. A part of me is still there. But a part of me also feels I do not quite belong there anymore, maybe that I never belonged so well, maybe that I will never belong completely. Or maybe it is just an impression that I had while traveling half-way through the world to come back to Japan.

Below, there's a photo I took from the August festival. Hope you like it!

Fernando (Brazil)


# by chitchatcafe | 2017-11-02 17:27 | カフェ 英会話 札幌