Sunday, November 14, 2010

Salon for Black (Brown) Girls (Women) in Tokyo

Dear Readers,

I have been on a hiatus...I know. So finally, I have good news for black women/brown girls living in Japan (Chiba, Funabashi, or Tokyo area) who need a reliable, professional, and amazing hair salon.

"Simple and Natural for Your Hair"

The salon uses amazing products. My stylist is Japanese and she was able to take my hair from a natural state to bone straight.  The prices are very affordable and reasonable. It was less than what I paid on the US military base and much closer to my home.

3rd Floor 5-9-3 Minami Aoyama
Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107-0062

Telephone: 03.3498.9113
All Staff Members Speak English

Also this salon has branches in London and NYC.

I enjoy each trip to the salon. My hair looks amazing and included in the service is: a free massage and all you can drink green tea, and lots of pampering. If you are lucky you may receive free samples. And discounts.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UNIQLO The Westerner's Answer to Affordable & Trendy Clothoes

Hello Friends. Sorry it's been a while. I have a holiday day this week. It's called Golden Week. Basically major businesses and schools shutdown for a week. So, everybody's has time off. On the plus side, with everyone having the same vacation it's easy to get together with friends. On the other hand, ticket prices sky rocket, and major attractions such as Disney Land are over crowded. (Side Note: I'm going to Disney Sea tomorrow for the first time tomorrow. It's peak season so I'll let you know how it was).

Back to Uniqlo, Uniqlo is affordable and fits reasonable well. As a westerner finding the right fit can be difficult . And shopping is can be challenging if you live outside of Tokyo. Fortunately, a Uniqlo store  can typically be found in major train stations and even small towns. For months, I was unaware that there was a Uniqlo in Chiba station and even several stores in nearby towns. Imagine, I was rotating the only 3 long sleeve shirts I packed when the weather transitioned from summer to spring. Please learn from my fashion faux pas and suffering.

Additional Shopping Tips

One of my personal fave's is H&M. The price is right, the clothes fit well, and it's always on trend. H&M is great for work, basics, and partying. As of April 2010 H&M is only found in Tokyo (Harajuku & Shibuya). In Harajuku, you can also find Forever 21, Zahra, high end luxury boutiques, and vintage stores, etc Harajuku has lots of side streets where you can find amazing items and discounts-so please explore.

Also, I tend to forget that Shibuya has great shopping. I often forget that there is a huge H&M there. Shibuya has a large Uniqlo branch and endless shopping.


Is the luxury capital of Tokyo. Here you will find all major luxury brands, as well as an amazing Hello Kitty Store.

CHIBA Prefecture

In Chiba prefecture I recommend shopping at Sogo  and Parco department store. The train stop is Chiba. Also at Soga there is great shopping. Also there is a place called Lala Port that has great western shopping. At Makuhair-Hongo there is a fantastic outlet mall.  At Funabashi, you will find IKEA and a Costco is nearby.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Unlocking the Japanese Beauty Secrets

Japanese women are beautiful, generally lean, and have beautiful skin. I aspire to be in the business of beauty so of course I have been asking my local friends about their eating habits, skin care regiments, etc.

I have discovered that  the Japanese beauty secrets stems from a healthy diet. The Japanese diet consists of high protein, low-fat, low sugar, and is rich in antioxidants.  My friend Rie told me that miso soup would make me more beautiful. So of course the next day,  I went out and bought Miso soup paste. Now, I try to drink miso soup as often as possible.

A typical Japanese breakfast consists of  green tea, rice and drink miso soup. Miso soup is soy based which is rich in antioxidants.  Green tea is also rich in antioxidants and there is no sugar added to the tea.

The Power of Green Tea
I have noticed that the drink of choice is green tea either hot or cold. Even my young students claim their favorite drink is green tea. Shocking.

I have eaten dinner a couple times at my friends parents house and the dinner typically consists of: rice, miso soup (sometimes with mussels), sushi, and a ton of veggies. The drink of choice is usually water, green tea, or some type of wheat based drink all sugar free. Followed by fruit as desert or Japanese sweets.


Japanese sweets aren't typical sweets. These sweets are usually made out of beans. I was very skeptical at first. I didn't believe that a bean based desert could be delicious but I was wrong. The sweets are both healthy, rich in protein and satisfies my sweet tooth.


Nato is fermented soy beans. This is a very popular snack.  It's typically eaten with rice or on toast. I have learned to love nato. I believe NATO is the equivalent of peanut butter. While, many Westerners-present company included-like to spread peanut butter on everything: toast, apples, etc. The Japanese prefer to eat soy beans. It's low fat and rich in antioxidants.


Sushi, salmon, and other seafood is ridiculously cheap here compared to the States. I can get a sushi lunch box at my local supermarket for $2.40. After 6pm sushi is reduced to $1.40. This is what I usually buy after I finish teaching for the day.  Bento boxes (salmon, veggies, rice, etc) is also $2.40 at my supermarket and then reduced to $1.40 after 6pm).

It is very cheap and convenient for me to eat healthy here. The only catch is most days I am still teaching 7pm. So whenever, I can I try to take advantage of the evening deals.

Lastly, beef and chicken are more expensive than seafood. As a result, most families don't eat beef or chicken very often.  And people try to eat a well balanced meal of protein, vegetables, and fruit. My friends have informed that schools have a chef to ensure that students eat a well balanced healthy lunch. I was really surprised and impressed to hear this.

It's easy to be beautiful in Japan.


This post will highlight a salon I'm in love with. I love this salon because of the name. FAKE. Isn't this the best name for a salon? Like Lady Gaga says "I love things that are fake." :)

This salon is located at Mobara Station: Chiba Prefecture

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Search for a Church Home

Firstly, I'm so sorry that I have been MIA from this blog. I have been thinking about all the stories I want to share. I have also been sorting out  balancing my work and becoming fearless again. 

The bible states "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." My grandmother always used to quote this line to me when I was growing up. And she was right. My family instilled the importance of spirituality within me and I have always carried Jesus in my heart.

When I decided to move to Japan I didn't really realize how difficult it would be to find a church. I took it for granted that I could always find a church whenever I need one.  I googled churches within my prefecture but everything came up in Japanese. There was no info in English. I was frustrated. I figured I would have to go to Tokyo every Sunday to attend church.

One day, I went to the local gym with one of my friends. She was offering me a free trial lesson and showing me the location of the gym. I had no idea there was a gym in the same building that housed the supermarket. This is one of the many reasons why I need local friends.

While at the gym, she introduced me to one of the trainers Michie. Michie was very warm and friendly like most locals. When I was getting ready to leave she  offered to take me to her church. I was very happy.  For weeks, I have been scouring the internet for a church. Usually, I am the one asking. It was like a divine intervention.

She gave me her card and told me she would give me a ride to church anytime. Later that week I emailed her and asked her if I could attend church with her the upcoming Sunday. She confirmed and she picked me up in front of the local McDonalds 9:30 on Sunday.

The church is located near Kamatori station and it has 3 branches. The other locations are by the following train stations Honda and Toke. The name of the church is Oyumino Alive. It is a Presbyterian Church. The service is bilingual. The congregation is made of Japanese, American, African and Australian members. 

It was a great service. One of the most powerful moments came at the end of the service when one of Pastor's son gave a presentation about the missionary work he is preparing for. His name is Jonathan Iverson, his wife's name is Maggie and they have a young child. Jonathan Iverson is completing seminary school at RTS and afterwards he and his family will move to India to become missionaries. Jonathan said "It's an Honor to Go." He was inspired by the story of a man named Kumar who lived in India. When Kumar became a christian he wanted to have a connection with other christians but that was hard for him to do in India. As a result, he found a christian chat room on the internet. It was there he met a man named Paul Taylor who lived in Texas. Paul Taylor shared that story with his local church the one that Jonathan Iverson belongs to. 

Iverson's discovered that there was a need for Christian missionaries in India. He said for the most part, the missionaries in India are Catholics and he believes Protestants should also have a presence there.  His goal is help train the existing Preachers in India. He wants to share his theology education. Although, he is aware of the danger involved he  knows its safer for a Westerner to preach the gospel. He believes "it's an exciting time to be a missionary in India."

I was really inspired by the Iverson's faith and dedication to God. They are leaving the world they know in America to go out and preach the gospel in a foreign country. This was my first time meeting missionaries. I always thought missionaries were crazy people. I could never be so fearless. Yet, if it weren't for missionaries I would not have a church to attend in Japan.  One of the congregation members told me 10 years ago this church did not exist. And now I can attend 1 of the 3 locations all within 20 minutes of my home.

Thank God for missionaries!

Oyumino Alive
Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 13, 2009

The French Connection

The Japanese have a love affair with all things French. Before Japan, I taught in France and then vacationed in Tunisia. Thus, my french radar was pretty high.  I first notice the french influences during my flight to Japan. My dinner had a few french staples: a croissant, brie, and my desert was a french pastry.

The french influences are scattered throughout Japan. From Nagoya to Chiba I noticed there were bakeries featuring french deserts,  salons with french names, and many department stores had french titles. Most department stores obviously carry many french designers.

Louis Vuitton seems to  be designer of choice for women. Most women here seem to own at least one Louis Vuitton item. I even joked that it's illegal to be a woman here and not own Louis V. I have some photographic evidence to back up my claims.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Banking Crisis & Pure Kindness

Every time I feel like I am not adapting to this country and I am on the verge of giving up the locals kills me with kindness.


Tuesday, October 6

A month or so had passed and I still had not received my debit card. I went to my bank at approximately 9:00am. I tried to explain my conundrum to the bank clerk with broken Japanese and my iphone translator.  The clerk had no idea what I was talking about.

It's 9:00am, I need my bank card so I'm trying to work out a way to tackle this problem. I have only 1 true friend in the area that speaks Japanese a fellow teacher. The problem is I know she sleeps in and, moreover, I didn't want to constantly call her with my problems. Then I remembered that my company has a branch called Native Tanto. This department hosts bi-lingual staff members who are here to help assist us with day to day problems.

I dial Native Tanto but I get no answer. So, I call another department Schedule Control to find out what time Native Tanto will arrive. I find out Native Tanto does not open until 9:30am. The operator asked if I needed help. I give her a quick explanation. She then offers to take my number and have a Japanese staff member call me back to help with translation.  So a take a seat in the bank and wait.

Twenty-five minutes later. Schedule Control calls me back. I explain my problem to the bilingual speaker and then I hand my phone to the clerk, explaining I have a Japanese speaker on the line.  So the bi-lingual speaker acts as the middle man as the clerk and I speak to her back and forth via the phone.

Ten minutes later, I find out that the debit card was mailed to me but got returned because I was not home to sign for it. Now, I had to fill out a new form in Kanji (yikes!) and sign it with my inkan. (An inkan is a stamp that I had made that acts as my signature). In Japan an inkan is required on official documents, to open bank accounts, etc.

I thank both the clerk and the bi-lingual speaker. I run home-luckily I live about 5 minutes away. When I arrive home I grab my inkan from the safe, passport, Alien Registration Card, and my personal information that is translated into Japanese.

I walk back to the bank and struggle to fill out the form. This is  the first time I have attempted to write Kanji. Some minutes later I fill out the for and take seat. My wait time is about 5 minutes.  When approach the counter, the clerk reviews the paper work, tells me everything is ok, I breathe a sigh of relief and go home.

I'm so happy that I took the initiative to follow up about my debit card. And I was grateful, that the people in my company were willing to help me with my personal problems.


Several days later, I  received the details for my Go Lloyds account.( Go Llyods is a service that allows you to transfer money from a Japanese account to foreign accounts. )  I subscribed to this service in order to pay my US bills, student loans, etc.

Here's the problem. I had yet to receive my debit card. I had my passbook, which although quite high tech is limiting.  However, the letter I received from Lloyds stated that I could make transfers from any Japanese bank. I could make the transfer myself from the ATM or I could have a bank clerk assist me as long as I handed them the  letter that was in the welcome pack. One side of the letter is in English and on the other side is Japanese.  The letter was very comprehensive it had all the information I needed to complete the transfer.

1:30pm Friday, October 9
So I head to my bank with my passbook and Lloyds letter in hand. I figured it was easier for me to just complete the transfer myself. I put my passbook in the machine to start the transaction. However, the machine keeps spitting out my passbook. This is a first because I have never had problems with the passbook.  So, I try a different machine but the new machine still does not accept my passbook. Now, I'm worried.

I go inside the bank and try to explain that my passbook isn't working. The clerk does not completely  understand what I am trying to say. I think she picked up on two words : ATM & PASSBOOK. So she just follows me to the ATM machine.  I put in my passbook to show her the problem. She now gets it. She tries to do it herself but to no avail.

So, we both head back into the bank. She explains the problem to her colleage. (Her colleague is the same woman that helped me on Tuesday). They motion for me to hand them my passbook and to have a seat. Apparently, there is a problem with the chip.  So they do some fancy things on their internal computer. They replace the chip on my passbook and tell me "Diajobu" which basically means its ok.

I go to the ATM and test it out. It works! YAY. Next, I needed to do the transfer. I'm reading the information in the welcome pack and I'm looking at the machine but the info is not matching up. Then I notice in there is an exception in fine print: Transfers can be made at any Japanese ATM EXCEPT for Post Office bank accounts. Which surprise, surprise,  is the type of account I have.

Across the street from my bank is another local bank's ATM. I go to the ATM but I can't read anything. It's all in Japanese-naturally. The reason I have a post office account in the first place is because the Post Office ATMs are one of the handful of Japanese ATMS that are bilingual.  So I just start pressing random buttons. Finally on the screen it signals that I can put in my passbook. I put in my passbook but it gets rejected probably because it's not my bank.

So, I ponder again...Then I remember that the letter says that I can make transfers from any bank. I'm too embarrassed to go to back to my bank. So I go to a bank that is about 10 minutes away by foot.


I arrive at the bank. It's empty. Great-no line. I hand the clerk my letter and he says OK. The clerk at this bank speaks a bit of English. He starts the transaction, but a few minutes later, he walks and explains something to me  in Japanese and broken English. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because the clerk then tries to use  his Japanese to English dictionary. I still don't understand so I told him I will try to get a Japanese speaker on the the phone.

I call Native Tanto to get help. I explain my problem to the representative. But he tells me that based on his experience with Lloyds I won't be able to complete the transfer without a debit card. I told him that the letter stated it is possible for me to complete the transfer at any bank even without the debit card. He tells me that's unlikely. I feel like I'm getting nowhere so I thank him for his time.

I'm pretty resilient so I don't want to give up. I have very few choices. So,  I call up my friend. I ask her if this is a good time to talk. She says yes, I give her a quick summary and ask her if she could translate for me. She says YES. (Thank goodness-bless her). So my friend tells me that the bank doesn't feel comfortable completing the transfer without my debit card. Without the debit card the bank won't be able to track the transfer. Cash does not provide a paper trail. The bank advises that I go to my bank to  complete the transfer.

The last place I want to go back to is my bank. At this point, I'm frustrated so I give up.  I thank the staff and walk out of the bank. I plug my earphones in to listen to some calming music


I'm jamming to my music but I hear someone shouting  behind me. I turn around it is a one of the bank clerks. She explains to me in PERFECT English that I should go my bank and try. My bank is 10 minutes up the road. I explain to her I'm not sure if I have time because I have a train to catch at 3:00pm. She tells me I should try because if I do the transaction before 3:00pm I can have the money posted to my US account today-due to time difference.
(Side Note: I actually really need to make this transfer because I have due dates approaching. So you can see why I'm stressed).

I tell the clerk that maybe I'll just try on Monday. She explains to me that Monday is a National Holiday, which I wasn't aware of because I'm actually scheduled to teach on Monday.

I told the clerk that nobody at my bank speaks English and it is difficult for me to explain what I need done. She then offers to write me a note that I can take to my bank. (Bless her!) So we head bank into the branch. She writes me  a note. I thank her. She walks me to the door and points me in the right direction of my bank

I look at my watch it's 2:30. I have to get to my bank and I still need to go home because I left my lunch at home. I packed a lunch cause I'm on a tight, tight budget. So, I do what any desperate person would do I take off running in the direction of my bank


I arrive at my bank out of breath. I grab a number. I wait anxiously for my number to be called. I hand the same clerk I  have been dealing with all week the translated letter from Lloyds and the note from the other bank. She understands, we walk together to the ATM. She inputs the info. She asks me to check everything. I do a quick scan and say OK. It's 2:42. She hits a button and accidentally wipes out all the info. And has to start all over again.

At this point you know I'm about to have a heart attack. But I can't give up, I've come too far. It's 2:45 everything is completed. Yay! I walk out the bank as calmly as I can and sprint home.  I get to my apartment at 2:48, which is a record, grab my lunch box. And rush out the door. My train leaves at 3:07 and is a 10 minute walk way.

I have to stress that I cannot be late for work. I'm on probation until the end of the month. If I'm late I can be fired. So I HAVE to make the train. Lateness doesn't fly in Japan.  So, I put on Beyonce's Get Me Bodied-it always got me going on the treadmill and run as if I'm on fire. I make it to the train platform at 3:05. I sit on the train, sweaty out of breath, and say a silent prayer to God.

I completed my money transfer and I'll make it to work on time. Thank God for the kind locals and my friend. Without their help I would be lost.  So, this is an example of how kind and customer service oriented the Japanese are. Every time I feel like I want to give up Japan wins me over.

Next Posts: My hospital trip, The Japanese's Love Affair with All Things French & Roppongi