Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day 4 (Sunday, June 1)

Sunday morning found us washing our clothes. Though in Japan for two weeks, we carried enough clothes for only 5-6 days with the expectation that we would wash them. On Monday morning, we would leave for Hokkaido (Japan’s northern island) and then Tokyo, not returning until Friday evening. We planned to take only one suitcase for the four of us to make our travel easier. After washing the clothes, we hung them outside to dry, hoping for a good hot day.

The plan for the day was to split up. Mo, her Mom, and her uncle were going visit the cemetery and spruce up the graves of ancestors. As for the boys and I, we, with the help of Cousin Mina, were headed to a park north of Osaka and then out shopping for toys. The boys had each received a present of ¥5,000 from their great uncle and were looking to spend it.

The park was a long distance from the station, but we had visited the slide on our last trip to Japan and knew it was worth it. We carried cardboard to sit on as the slide hurts your rear. On the way, Mina noted a large black bird and asked, in Japanese, what kind it was. “That’s a raven, Cousin Mina,” Andrew responded in English. I paused at Andrew’s response. Had he understood the Japanese? Andrew had shown flashes of understanding Japanese before and I thought this was one of those times. It’s also possible that Mina pointed at the bird and Andrew just responded. Still, it made me happy.

I have pictures below. The boys went down several times. I only went down twice, ripping the cardboard each time due to my weight. Though parents often come down with their kids, the slide wasn’t designed for anyone my size.

After the slide, we headed back to the train station area to get some lunch. There was a food court at the station and we let the boys choose. As expected, the chose McDonald’s, opting for a Japanese-style happy meal.
We checked out a local electronics store close by, seeing what kind of toys they had, then headed out to another toy store Mina knew about. It turned out to be Toys-R-Us. Mo and I had only request of the boys: they were not to get anything in Japan that could be bought in the U.S. However, Christopher fell in love with a remote-control motorcycle and I let him get it anywhere. Andrew wanted to buy a game for his DS. However, the store couldn’t promise that a Japanese version of a game would work in an American DS and couldn’t accept it back if it didn’t. Eventually, we took Andrew to a store for used DS games so he could find something he could try out. Thank goodness it worked.
We returned home and packed. We tried to go to bed early as the next day, we would board an early bullet train bound for Tokyo. There, we would change trains, the first of three changes in a near 15-hour journey on our way to the northern island of Hokkaido and our final destination: Sapporo.
Got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling
One of the things I had to relearn in my visit to Japan was dealing with Japanese money. I am somewhat conservative when it comes to spending money. However, I do have a different mindset about coins and bills and the way I spend them. In Japan, the mindset has to readjust. For the sake of discussion, assume $1.00 = ¥100. (The “¥” symbol refers to yen. The rate was around ¥105 to $1.00 while we were there.) Japanese currency has six coins: ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500, and three bills: ¥1,000, ¥5,000, and ¥10,000. The four smaller coins are similar to a penny, nickel, dime, and a half-dollar. (Japanese currency has no quarter equivalent. Also, the ¥5 and ¥50 coins have holes in the middle.) The three bills are equivalent to the $10, $50, and $100 bills.
The problem is the two larger coins: ¥100 and ¥500. If you have the same mindset as I do, you might view coins as having minimal value. However, these two coins are the equivalent of $1.00 and $5.00. It’s hard to think of them that way, especially when they are weighing down your pocket, but you do.
What are your thoughts? Have you had similar experiences? Do you have the same coin vs. bill mindset that I do? Please let me know.


adriane said...

I studied abroad in Oxford, England in college, and had a similar experience. When I was there, a pound was equal to roughly $1.50, but the pound coins and two pound coins felt more like quarters to me, and I definitely think I spent more money as a result. I bought little things, like coffee and snacks and cheap books, feeling like I was getting a great deal, since it was only a few coins. But I did enjoy myself!

Tami Brothers said...

Woohoo! Mo does exist!!!

Love the blog posts. Really lets us see a different side of the world...


Walt M said...

Glad you both enjoyed the posts of Japan.