Japan: Transportation

One of the things I was most excited about when moving to Japan was public transportation. We don’t take the train a much as we thought we would, since driving is sometimes a better deal for more than one person and sometimes even if it isn’t, with weather or time it’s the better choice. But we still take the trains a lot!

Japan is known for its super efficient, on time train system. But I’ve lost count of the times train have been delayed (and I don’t even use them every day!) – however, not having used public transport much elsewhere I can’t compare it to other places and how often their trains get delayed!
The trains are very clean and quiet, with most people keeping to themselves… which is great, unless you’re a pregnant lady with a toddler trying to get a seat. Even by the priority seats it can be hard to pull someone out of their phone or sleeping enough for them to notice you’re someone that really does need a seat! S often gets lots of attention from elderly ladies and school girls, and sometimes manages to pull a smile from a businessman too, though.

One of the big pluses of the train system is that most signs are in English as well as Japanese, so finding your way around in stations and knowing which train to take isn’t usually that difficult. And there are apps that are very helpful for finding the most efficient way to get from A to B or knowing your options in case you miss a train or your train is delayed or your train car disconnects for maintenance (rule #1: if everyone in your train car gets off… GET OFF).
They do get very crowded during rush hour, something we have tried to avoid as much as possible.

For the most part, train stations are stroller-friendly, with elevators in most major stations, but we tend to babywear most often since it takes up less space on the train and means we don’t have to search for an elevator or deal with carrying the stroller up and down stairs if we can’t find an elevator. If I’m by myself I definitely leave the stroller at home, especially now that S is older and does well sitting on her own on the train.

My pregnant lady train tag… because the toddler wasn’t enough to make people give me a seat!

We also decided to take a trip on the Shinkansen just to try it because we probably aren’t going to make it to Kyoto or Hiroshima. So we took it from Tokyo to Odawara, which is about 30 minutes. It picked up the most speed between Shin-Yokohama and Odawara, though.

Between Shinagawa and Shin-Yokohama it felt fast, but mostly just smoother
than the regular trains.
Then after Shin-Yokohama we got up to check out the bathroom and that’s when
things really got moving. At first I thought it was just due to us being in
between cars in the bathroom (something I remembered from trains in Europe),
but when we walked back to our seats it was clear we were going way faster
than earlier.

Leg room! The shinkansen are very spacious and comfortable, with reclining seats and everything! S absolutely loved our ride (probably mostly because she could eat and it wasn’t crowded). I liked the experience and am glad we did it, however, I really didn’t like how fast it was going. I couldn’t settle down and felt overwhelmed by the speed. Some people say they can’t tell how fast it is, but I really could and didn’t like it.

selling Ekiben – another reason we took the Shinkansen! Some more info on them. I wasn’t interested in spending a lot (Shinkansen are expensive enough already!) and most of the bigger ones didn’t look that appetizing to me at that time, so we got a snack box for 400Y with 2 onigiri and a few other little bites. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of it and none of the option seemed any more special than bentos from the department store, but maybe they would have been more interesting outside of the Tokyo area.

We got to Odawara, and I had heard that a few of the Nozomi (the fastest
ones) go through every hour, so we hung out on the platform to wait for
some. One zipped by almost as soon as we arrived, and another before our
train left, but our train was in the way so I couldn’t get any videos, so we
waited a little longer. S got really scared whenever one came by, and I
don’t blame her because it was loud and they seemed to come out of nowhere.

Driving is also an experience here! Being on the other side of the road is actually the easiest part!
Streets are narrower than in the US and often filled with bicyclists and pedestrians, making it so that you often have to go into the middle of the road to pass by them or parked cars, and most people do so without slowing down, so it can be really nerve-wracking, especially in areas where you are also having to watch for pedestrians popping out of nowhere.
But on the toll roads that’s not a problem so those are much less stressful, although juggling directions, toll tickets, and cash can be a struggle and I much prefer having someone else up front in the car with me than going by myself!
Google Maps is a lifesaver, but still does mess up sometimes or we misinterpret it… but so far we’ve always gotten where we were planning on going eventually!
They are also big on tunnels here, and in the mountains some were as long as 10 kilometers!

Domestic air travel: the Japanese airlines are very nice (though I haven’t flown their budget ones), and they often have a LOT you can do at the airports. The New Chitose airport in Hokkaido even has a chocolate factory inside! They also have lots of play areas for kids and bathrooms and nursing rooms equipped for diaper changes and going to the bathroom with kids in tow.


Japan: Nihon Minka-En

Before we knew we would have the time to go to the Western side of Japan to see thatch-roof houses and farmland where they originally were in Japan, we had planned to go see a variety of houses from all over Japan at Nihon Minka-En (more info). But even after we made it out to see the “real thing” I still wanted to see what this museum was like, so some friends and I went and spent a rather hot day walking around and looking at the houses.

While it didn’t have the same peaceful feel as Shirakawa-Go or the farmland and countryside surrounding it, Nihon Minka-En had much more variety and about the same amount of information on the houses. It was still a pretty place, set in a larger park, but the atmosphere was so different. I would recommend it as a way to see more of traditional Japanese culture and architecture closer to Tokyo, but would say that if time allowed the Takayama area was much better for people wanting to see thatch roof houses specifically.
If you’re looking for a mix of houses, like those in Shirakawa-Go and those in Kawagoe and other older towns, Nihon Minka-En is highly recommended.

Some photos:

However, it’s not quite as stroller-friendly as Shirakawa-Go.

Japan: Tokyo #3

We heard about a Studio Ghibli Expo going on in the summer in Tokyo and went to check it out with some friends, as likely our last Tokyo trip, at least before the baby is born. We hope to go to the Studio Ghibli Museum before we leave, but that’s not downtown Tokyo.

Riding the train into Tokyo (that’s sweat from being in the carrier, not a diaper leak!)

The exhibit was enjoyable, but there wasn’t a lot in English. It was mostly posters and various other memorabilia, but Miyazaki’s desk was there, and the Cat Bus, and air ship from Castle in the Sky.

And it had a great view of Tokyo from Roppongi Hills.

They had a themed cafe, but it was expensive and didn’t have much to choose from, and we had walked past a doner kabob place, so that’s where we got lunch.

And then to somewhere between Harajuku and Shibuya for Dominique Ansel treats, with a stop at a thrift store to get Yukata on the way.

We skipped the corn…

And they were out of Cronuts…

But they were NOT Japanese-sized portions…

(their only-in-Japan pastries)

It wasn’t really hard to decide, though… the frozen s’more was an obvious choice.

Especially after they scorch it.

Ezra’s ice cream

Cookie shots

Me? Teach Piano? – Book Review

About the Book (from Amanda)
“You play piano? Could you teach my daughter?” The parent looks too desperate to turn down, yet your thoughts run wild. “Me? Teach piano? I can barely play myself! Do they know what they’re trying to get themselves into?!”

“Me? Teach Piano?” is a simple guide to clear up some of your questions as you learn a down-to-earth approach to creating piano policies, interacting with students, and choosing the correct curriculum. This booklet contains ideas, suggestions, and advice based on Amanda’s experience.

I wish I had had this when I first started teaching piano! I’ve written more about my piano teaching journey here, but to sum it up I started teaching my little sister and neighbors heard and so I ended up with more students, not really being a pianist myself, and only having had experience with the books my family had. There was a lot of floundering and learning things by experience that Me? Teach Piano? could have helped me avoid! I really could have used the section on different curricula, as well as about having a studio policy and tips on writing and implementing one.

Me? Teach Piano? focuses more on the practical side of things than on ideas for engaging distracted students or creative ideas for helping them understand new concepts or review things without getting bored – struggles that were bigger for me than the practical side as a teacher, but beyond the scope of a booklet.

The booklet is easy to read, perhaps more like a blog than a book, and full of good, practical tips from Amanda’s experience. Sometimes that differs from my preference or experience, but getting another perspective was helpful and may be just what someone else needs!

My only critique is that the way she uses “cadence” isn’t the technical theory definition but just a chord progression (she seems to mean teaching students how to find/use I-IV-V in any given key).

You can get the book on Amazon here! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teaching piano.

About the Author:
Amanda Tero is a Christian music teacher, currently residing in Mississippi. She has played piano since the age of seven, studying classical performance, theory, and arranging from various teachers. She began teaching private piano and violin lessons in 2007, equipping church musicians with a balance of classical and hymn education.

Connect with Amanda
Website: http:// withajoyfulnoise.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/withajoyfulnoise
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/wajnmusicvideos
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/withajoyfulnoise/
Blog: http://www.withajoyfulnoise.blogspot.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AmandaTero
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/amandatero


I had to open our outside closet to get something out, but every time I’ve opened it in the past there has been some creepy-crawly right there. So with it being summer and knowing that the bugs that come out in summer are even worse… I decided I needed boots on to open the door.

S took this photo and said “toes!”

I love living so close to the water because we see how drastically it changes with the weather.

Sometimes I let the fox out of the house!

Two friends and their babies and I went to Nihon Minka-En, an open air museum type thing of houses from around Japan. We wanted to compare it to Shirakawa-Go. But it was HOT and we didn’t have fans, but a kind older man that worked there gave us some and these beautiful grass grasshoppers.

More photos from the museum coming in another post.

It was a hot day, but not too unbearable. And then our stroller broke while pushing it uphill. Thankfully I had the Ergo in the basket since it was a bit of a walk back, and the stroller was still pushable.

Kombucha slushies on a hot day!

I really wanted pizza but I also had white beans to use up, and found a yummy recipe on the Kitchn for a white bean pizza.

A Doctor Who inspired shirt I had made. “You’ve swallowed a planet!” Unfortunately the planet isn’t big enough to really work. Oh well…

Baths are still not cool but puddles are great!

Shinkansen adventure!

We took it from Tokyo to Odawara, just because we wanted to experience it. More coming in a later post!

I went to see Don Quixote near us and when I got back showed S some clips

S sneaking food…

We found a dead Japanese beetle and S loved it (she loves all bugs, which sometimes freaks me out when I hear her talking to a bug… not all bugs here are good!).

Testing out the baby’s car seat.

In Roppongi for a Studio Ghibli Exhibit… giant spider was not a part of it.

Followed by Doner Kabob, since all the ones near us closed recently.

Waiting for treats at Dominique Ansel. This is her latest stance.

33 weeks!

favorite recipes// pumpkin poblano chili // popsicles // pumpkin custard // pineapple chicken salad wraps // single serving chocolate cake // raw brownie batter (minus espresso powder) // crispy smashed potatoes // plantain waffles // harvest spiced chicken stew // spinach & white bean pizza //  1 minute chocolate raspberry cake // healthy peppermint patty smoothie (I love the idea of adding coconut flour to smoothies!)

best of online// practice technique for getting up to tempo // enjoying chapel messages from Csehy // Birth Story (Ina May) // Thoughts on Islam (James White) // children who bite nails/suck thumbs less likely to develop allergies // The worst ISIS attack in days is the one the world cares least about // Psalm 42 – Satisfied in You // creating a plot

reading of late// a lot of Homeschooled Authors books // some Douglas Bond

what brings joy// seeing the Tokyo Ballet do Don Quixote // all of S’s antics // exploring Japan

The Munchkins//
S is growing up like crazy. Saying so many new words and putting them together, climbing everything, showing early signs of potty training readiness, sleeping in a big girl bed… She loves belly buttons, baby dolls, papa, reading, golego (bananas), dubadub (kombucha), popsicles, swinging, pushing chairs and strollers (which she informed me are for the baby)… making friends everywhere we go.
Baby is still growing well and continues to be active. We have newborn diapers, car seat, and converted the crib back… so we’re good to go… but I’m more than happy to wait till late September.

Some quotes:
“If we are all going to be destroyed by [terrorists], let that [attack] when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about [terrorists]. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” (On Living in an Atomic Age, 1948, C. S. Lewis)

“God has appointed some to eternal life but not others… [Augustine knew that] God’s foresight is the same as his memory and understanding… he does not observe things by thinking of them one by one, but embraces everything that he knows in one eternal, unchangeable, and inexpressible vision…’ In Bray’s summary, this makes the issue of ‘foreknowledge irrelevant, since it is only compatible with a time-and-space framework, which does not apply to God. [Predestination is] an eternal phenomenon – as valid in the past as it is in the future, since both are comprehended in the overarching and eternal present.” (WORLD Mag)

Writing Update

I had hoped around this time to be posting a release date for Love Victorious, and it seemed for most of the year that it was going to be ready for release before the baby was born (my goal). I did my editing of it and sent it off to a few people to look over, and in the meantime started reading through Hope Victorious with the plan of starting to edit that.
But as I read Hope Victorious, I started seeing a lot of deep problems with it, especially as I read feedback on Love Victorious. For a while I felt like Love Victorious was salvageable, but Hope Victorious was not. As time went on, I started seeing a lot of more problems with the writing in Love Victorious, thanks to people who were willing to give me true and honest critiques from a writing perspective.

I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about writing and discussing my stories with Ezra and Megan.
One of the big things I realized is that lately writing (mostly the editing) has just been work and stress, another “to do” instead of for enjoyment or a sense of “calling” (too strong of a word, but can’t think of the right word). I think I was working on stuff to get it done on a certain timeline – timeline being S dropping her naps in 2-ish years, and feeling like I needed to do something with my stories because of all the work I’d put into them in the past that I didn’t want them just ending up only on my computer.
I’ve struggled with that sort of thing before, and I think in part it’s due to a combination of being task-oriented and stuff like “Do Hard Things” – I want my life to count for something… but have to really work to remember that the most important “something” is not my list of accomplishment but loving God & loving others (the greatest commandment).

That, combined with plot holes, flat characters, and a variety of other things have led to today’s update not being that Love Victorious will be released on x day but that I’m putting those stories aside.
Someday I may pick them up to re-write them – not just overhaul like I have done multiple times, but to really sit down and start again from almost-scratch – but I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time and energy to really do that properly, and so many of the flaws are so deeply ingrained in the story, because even though my writing grew, I kept going back to try and fix the same thing over and over… like trying to touch up an old painting instead of just re-painting it or moving on to something else.

My writing has grown so much since 2006 when I first created Edaled and started writing the Victorious trilogy. I have learned so much, and lately some of that is when to put things away and move on. I am not done writing at all… definitely not! But as my time for writing decreases, I want to put my effort where it will really be worth it, so am focusing on my blog and a few other projects. I will also be trying to “study” creative writing more, since that’s something I never really did, and then take what I learn and put it into practice, with new stories and editing some short stories and more recent longer ones (like Javi’s Cafe).

Honestly, having let the Victorious trilogy go has felt really freeing. I do have to be more careful not to waste time during nap time now, but I don’t think I realized how much of a burden it had become and how little my heart was in it until I decided it wasn’t time for them right now. And hopefully all of this will lead to posting more writing on my blog and ApricotPie!

HypnoBirthing: Comparing other methods

Whenever I read a book about birth, I often find myself thinking “that’s just like in the Bradley Method” or “Ina May says the same thing!” There often are a lot of similarities in natural birth books. Much of this has to do with the influence of people like Ina May Gaskin, as well as Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, who influenced Ina May, Marie Mongan, and Dr. Robert Bradley. His book is “Childbirth Without Fear,” which I read while pregnant with S. It was geared more towards birth providers, but was still very interesting and focused mostly on the fear  tension  pain connection.

HypnoBirthing, Bradley Method, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth all center on the fear/pain connection, with part of that including being informed about birth and your options and what is actually medically necessary, as well as building a positive birth culture. TV and movies most often portray birth as dangerous, frightening, and painful, which influences people’s view of it, although the media portrayal of birth was influenced by the medicalization of birth.
I was surprised the first time I read about how our culture views birth, since my mother had four natural births and didn’t talk negatively about them or about pregnancy, and that mindset was further solidified for me by my mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law before S was born.
But it brings up a good point – why don’t we teach our daughters and talk to our friends positively about birth? The opinion of friends and mothers are huge in how a pregnant woman looks ahead to birth, both things that are said in passing and the often lack of any sort of mentoring and teaching in that area.

Some more similarities: a focus on learning to relax your body, visualization, finding good positions to labor and deliver in, and pre-birth exercises to prepare your body. They also talk about pain and how our expectation of what labor will be like greatly affects it (because I had learned through Bradley method to really assess pain and think about whether or not something was painful or just uncomfortable, the only time I would say I was in pain during labor with S was the second half of pushing). All hold that our bodies are designed to birth, and one thing that is not always clear but implied in all is that birth pain doesn’t say flee, but relax, and with that, to remember that the pain of contractions is not BAD but is GOOD and is your body working to get the baby out!
Some of the differences:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is not a method like HypnoBirthing and Bradley are. It is a collection of birth stories – not picture-perfect or all the same, but very truthful and raw yet still positive, and then chapters on birthing naturally. There is a lot in there to help you prepare and be informed, but not a lot towards practically practicing for labor.

HypnoBirthing was covered in detail above so I won’t go into it more here. The biggest difference is that HypnoBirthing is less physical and more mental, and that they don’t have you actively push.

Bradley Method goes into the physical processes more than HypnoBirthing, and the visualization in Bradley Method is also more physical – imagining what your body is doing rather than imagery of a flower opening, etc. I couldn’t stand the side-lying/lateral position recommended for labor, and after labor felt like we didn’t really use the method in general, but everything on pregnancy, preparing your body for birth, the husband’s role, and the physical side of what is actually happening in labor were all SO helpful to us, as were the emotional road map (the only way we had any idea I was in transition), and the Six Needs of a Laboring Woman (since then I’ve read numerous articles that support this, especially the darkness part).
My personal preference would be Bradley Method, but would want more info on different labor positions, emphasis on the power of reminding yourself of truth, and breathing the baby out instead of pushing.

However, they all fall short regarding spiritual preparation for birth.
I read “Redeeming Childbirth” during both pregnancies, and while there is a lot I really don’t like about the book, the overall message of viewing difficulties in pregnancy and birth as a time to grow in your relationships, particularly with God, and worship Him is very true and important. I re-read it after reading HypnoBirthing, hoping it would be the “renewing your mind” part I was looking for, but I found that aside from the big-picture ideas, it was even less helpful to me than it was when I read it while pregnant with S.
But I think that learning how to focus on God in birth or any other painful or difficult circumstance is not something that can be taught like a birthing method, as it is so much more individual, and applies in whatever kind of birth you’re having.
Some things that can be helpful to encourage that mindset:
– having a birth playlist of Christian music (I didn’t use this in labor with S, but it was so helpful with minor complications afterwards and also for struggling with postpartum depression)
– verses or phrases up where you will be laboring or for your labor partner to remind you of
– Praying and journaling through fears and worries, and then having truth to remind yourself of when those fears come on, in or out of labor.
In many ways, I feel like this is the “Christian HypnoBirthing” – renewing your mind, by submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth. And if you’re going for a natural birth, it can easily be paired with techniques found in HypnoBirthing or Bradley Method.

Ultimately, our goal should not be a natural or painless birth, but to birth in a way that turns to God for our help and strength, no matter what our circumstances are.