Showing posts with label culture shock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture shock. Show all posts

The Search for beauty products not Tested on Animals in Japan

Looking back at my sorry resolutions list, I noted that I hadn't done as much charity or ethical work as I could have.

I think some people will agree that it's difficult to try and actively participate in charity events in our busy schedules, as well as trying to donate on a regular basis when one slaps their hand to their forehead when they see this month's heating bill. Which is why, as I suggested in a previous post, one way of trying is by making it a part of our daily lives.

One of the ways we can do this, especially us women, is to think about what beauty and skin products we use.

Since there is a now an EU Official ban on animal testing since March 2013 it may seem safer to buy European brands, but it's difficult to say as animal testing is still legal in countries such as China, and some brands may continue to have their products tested there. As I found on this post at 'People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' website, we must beware of companies "concealing the whole truth from customers".

In terms of Japan, being in Asia, though appearing to have a few laws, things are rather blurred when it comes to animal testing. It was difficult for me to find some sort of solid source stating that animal testing is illegal or banned here, which leads to me thinking it isn't (one source here). If you clicked the link above for the post at the PETA site, you'll see that big Japanese brand 'Shiseido' eliminated animal testing quite recently, but it's only "mostly". Therefore, unless the company boldly states it is animal testing-free, background research is needed to find "cruelty free" Japanese cosmetics.

I will admit that, because at one point last year I wasn't earning a lot of money, I had to resort to cheap make up and skincare, one of them being the Korean brand 'ETUDE HOUSE'. I researched into this brand, and found that though "customer services claim that they don't test on animals, their head offices were unable to confirm further". Their uncertain response has made me certain that I won't be buying their products again, also as I hear that Korean beauty products sold in Japan are not safe (though I'll post about that another time).
You can find a list of beauty products that are cruelty free and sold in Korea at this website.

As a result, I have decided in myself that I will try and stick mostly to buying products which openly and confidently state that they;
  • have never tested their products on animals and do not plan to do so
  • uses organic, natural ingredients not containing any substance of animals in a way that may harm them
  • support fairtrade
The companies I have found to best fit the above are; The Body Shop, LUSH and L'occitane.
The ironic yet wonderful thing is that two of those companies are British!

Yet, everyone's skin type and make-up preference is different, as is mine. Although I wish to stick with these three, I would still like to find the best products that fit me. In that case, I will search for other products, but make sure I do background research. Check out this great link which lists all Japanese companies that are animal cruelty free, as it lists cleaning products, baby care products and even toothpaste!

It now leaves me looking at my still-in-use Japanese make up products with unease (especially as I found out that Kanebo still test on animals). When I think of money and waste, I don't want to throw it away, but I will feel a bit sick when I put my usual eyeliner on my eyelid. Though, when I think of the pain the animal went through, or how many poor animals were lost to create such product, I feel like I must use the product till the end for the sake of those poor souls.

Extra Sources;

Life update.

As somewhat promised in my previous post, an update post on my newly rock and rolling life, minus the drugs.

I will take on 2 part time jobs as of next week.

One is a teaching/childcare job, where I will assist in helping the development of young children with their parents and guardians from the ages of 0 to 5 through lots of singing, over-enthusiasm and basically taking on the role of a Disneyland entertainer. Because I write this blog publicly via an alias (though it is obvious to those who know me in person), I won't mention any company names, but it's one that originated in the States and they have schools/creches all over the world. Coming from a similar Western background to America (cough) I agree with the policies and teaching styles, and my bosses and co-workers are absolutely fantastic. I think they are, or will be, the best people I have ever worked with and I feel extremely lucky. The best part is all of us have backgrounds in Western countries and Japan, hence we switch between languages in our conversations without a thought and can relate to one another.

Sneak peek into my workplace...The other is a Wedding Singer job! And no no, not the type that are failed rock-stars whom fall in love with waitresses (I admit I haven't actually seen that film), though yes I realise it is quite an unusual job. Unusual being that it is probably only possible in Japan. I'm not entirely sure of the system with wedding entertainers in western countries, but the job I will be taking on here means I work for a wedding ceremony planning company which offers different themes for the to-be-wed Japanese couple to chose from, and I, having the ability to sing in English, sing songs at their ceremony according to their theme.
Truth is, it is very, very cheesy. But that's what Japanese weddings are, if you aren't aware of them. I was horrifically culturally shocked when I first went to a relative's one back when I was around 13. In a simpler sense, I help add to the "dorama" atmosphere of the wedding by adding some gag-worthy background music such as 'A Whole New World' or 'You Raise Me Up'. However however, I am not complaining, as thanks to the blatantly inauthentic style of Japanese weddings I have a dream job - being paid for my voice! I had always loved music and singing but never imagined pursuing it as a career, so the chance of being able to use my humble musical abilities through a part time job is wonderful.

I may add more detail to my jobs and what I do as I continue to hopefully update, as I haven't done a great job with that resolution already.

I sing a lot with my teaching job too, which means my diaphragm and stomach muscles will be having a refreshing workout! Bring on the flat abs! (I wish).

It's a new day, it's a new dawn...but not feeling so good.

First day of the fiscal year in Japan.
New employees, transfers within the office, the coming of spring (for our parts anyway, it's already half way there in the Kanto areas where the cherry blossoms were early this year), a great time to think fresh, start anew.

I'm 25 years old and I don't know what to do with my life.

Sadly, this is no April Fool's joke.

A troop of nervous Japanese youths have been scuttling in out of our office in their shiny new suits today. A bunch of workers have been transferred to other departments, as rotations within the workplace is strangely the norm in most Japanese companies. I should have tallied up the number of times I bowed in greeting.

For the Japanese in my workplace, this is it. The beginning for the freshly graduated new employees and a slight change for some of the current workers. But they will continue with this job for the rest of their lives. In Japan, once you're with a company, it's difficult, or at least, it seems frowned upon to drop it and consider a different career.

I on the other hand, in my current situation with my current contract, and also as the Western foreigner, have the freedom to do what I like with my life. 
Trouble is, I don't know what.

As I posted a while back, although I could technically stay for another year completing the maximum years of stay on my contract, I decided to leave due to being unhappy with my work conditions.

So, what to do when my contract ends in early August...

I want to stay in Japan. I can't give a solid reason why, but I feel like it's too soon to go back to the U.K.., something I will evidently do sooner or later. Though, having not gone back for even a visit for almost 4 years worries me in that I will find things too different and not want to go back after all.

COCO's Seafood Tomato Soup Spaghetti
I definitely want to go back to England if I ever have children.
Children. My gawd. The horror that thought even crossed my mind! But from what I've learnt and observed of the Japanese education system, I don't want my kids to grow up in a society where they're developed to be minimalists in what they can do and think. British education might not be the best in the world, but I enjoyed it to an extent and was able to develop an open mind; something that may have proved difficult in Japanese schools. 
Fair Trade Cocoa Chocolate cake & Herbal tea
(not a fan of chocolate cake usually, but this one was
moussey, had just over 100 calories & was fair trade)
I actually had a "talk about our futures" with my lovely American lady from the same apartment during a catch-up over dinner at our becoming-our-usual "COCO's" restaurant last night. It freaked me out even then that I talked about children, and I told myself off for verging dangerously on the traditional Japanese mindset of getting married and making babies in your twenties.

Speaking of the Japanese Education system, I've recently been watching an old-ish Japanese dorama called 'Dragon Zakura'. I'd seen the first few episodes a while back, and it was brought to my attention again as I used it in my studies for the 'Teaching Japanese as a Foreign language' course in Kanto last week. (You can view photos of some of my experiences in Kanto at my photo blog). The series covers what I think are a lot of issues within the Japanese Education system and perhaps even Japanese society, and there are some interesting approaches to teaching (the episode on teaching English made me smile). Plus, I've always liked the actor Hiroshi Abe, and his acting, plus the character himself is amazing. I haven't quite finished watching the whole series through myself, but I recommend it - I've learnt quite a bit from it, and it's provided me with a lot of food for thought.

A taste of Christmas.

It may seem a bit out of place for me to be talking about Christmas on New Year's of all days, but I'm behind in updating, and as there are technically still a few days left of the Christmas season, I think I can be forgiven. Just about.

Having been a resident for almost 3 and a half  years, I'm used to the oddly turned around, Valentines-version of Christmas, or rather Christmas Eve, in Japan. For those of who you are unaware of what Christmas is like here, Christmas Eve is a "couples night" for the Japanese, and so you're pretty much screwed if you don't have a partner to spend the night with. Mr. Billy Hammond explains it better here.

Last year, Christmas day fell on the weekend, however, it being a regular Tuesday this year, I went into work on Christmas day for the first time in my life. It was shocking for me deep down, but as the whole Christmas saga had died all around me, not that it was ever that lively to begin with, it didn't feel that strange, oddly enough.

In saying that, I did experience a few specks of Christmas here and there over the month.

First off, I had Christmas parties with the students of my English class that I teach once a month. The majority of my students are middle-aged housewives, bless them, and they all brought amazing home-made food. Aren't these snowmen bread the cutest?


Also, I always make time to squeeze in a visit to my favourite bar 'Melty' in Sapporo. Look at the adorable Santa ice-cream they presented to me as a little freebie ♥

Snowed under. Both body & soul.

Nope, I didn't take this, sadly. Click to lead to the site where I borrowed it from.
I have been pretty unhappy recently.

I'm generally a positive person all round and hardly ever get depressed, but these past few months have taken the last straw. In general, it's mostly little things which I've tried to ignore but they've built up inside me and I can longer hold it in. I think I'm starting to break down.

Of all the issues, my main problem is that I'm unhappy at work. I'm unhappy with some of the content of my job, but mostly with the workplace. I think it may have to do with me being "too British" and being unable to adapt to the Japanese work environment, but I think it also has to do with the current situation of my workplace in particular. I don't dislike my co-workers and think they are generally nice people, but when it comes to working with them, I hate it. I feel no support from them in terms of my job, and all they seem to do is pick at all the mistakes I do, which I of course understand, but they even tell me off for things I don't think I'm doing wrong. I'm not fishing for compliments, and I'm aware that they perhaps don't praise as much in Japan as they do in Western societies, but they don't even comment on the effort I put it when I'm actually quite proud of some of things I come up with. In fact, though my co-workers in my section don't say a thing, other workers in the office in different sections praise me instead! But what good is it if the people who work with you don't appreciate what you do?
This has led to my motivation to drop rapidly, which I am sure, shows in the office. And I don't give a damn, to be honest.

A year older, none the wiser.

Yes, I've started blogging again, somewhat. I hadn't meant to neglect it, I just hadn't had the time to sit down and write any entries. I'd start writing them out, then never finish them, and end up with a ton of draft posts. Which is why, as you may have noticed, I have begun to resort to "mobile (or cellphone, if you will) posts". Over at my Japanese blog, I post mostly using my keitai (mobile) which meant my posts were much more frequent as it's easier, and I find that I'm out and about more than sitting at home.
I thought I would do the same with this blog, and I find that Blogger lets you do mobile posts. They'll be shorter, as typing out long entries in English on a Japanese non-smart-phone would have my thumb shrieking for a break, but they'll have pictures though I have to edit them a bit afterwards. All in all, it'll make my Blog perhaps a little more interesting and productive, and most importantly, ALIVE.. I'll still post lengthy entries with real-ACTUAL-words-zomg from time to time, but in between, it is much easier to be a lazy-arse and text "Today I did this and this la-di-da" with my phone.

As one can see from my last few posts, if anyone has, my mum and brothers came to stay for a few days. On the day before they left, we went to "Shiroi Koibito Park" in Sapporo. Hokkaido is full of goodness when it comes to edibles, and "Shiroi Koibito" is one of their most famous and top souvenirs from Sapporo. And, as with any selling merchandise or food, they have a somewhat amusement park for it, which was, well, as the name goes, "Shiroi Koibito Park".

We iced cookies. See?


Old Blog Entry: meeting Korean idols

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

Ok. So basically I hung out with Yunho and Jaejoong of Dong ban shin ki (Touhoushinki/東方神起), had a barebecue, chilled, talked about releasing a new single together, then coming back to mine for laterz....

Yeah, in a dream.

But something very similar did happen yesterday.

I don't really know what the whole thing was about myself, but from what I gathered a unit or group of Korean popstars called 'G7' came to my humble yet tourist-y town in Hokkaido, in order to do some filming for a program they're currently airing in Korea.

Edit: I did some research on Wiki and it appears that the show itself is called "Invincible Youth", and "G7" is the name of the unit of girls put together for this show from different Korean popbands. Lookie here.

Due to my dire lack of Korean language skills I couldn't tell you what the program was called, but the plot seems to consist of skinny, flimsy girls getting their hands dirty and working in fields in order to learn about farming so they can build their own farm; though there was also a very tall and well-built sunglassed singer guy called "T-something" and a short, chubby but adorable and extremely funny comedian girl involved too. And so, they came to my town, Biei (notice the use of "my").
My mate who I love to pieces, Tina (who is Japanese but I gave her the nickname), lives on a farm with her family, and her dad is currently busy growing asparagus, potatoes and whatnot. I've actually helped with their asparagus one time, though it didn't involve any picking, just cleaning them up for them to be sent and sold. Anyway, as you can probably guess from my wave of blab, this Korean program and 'G7' were to spend a day at Tina's farm. Tina herself actually lived in Korea for about a year, and, being amazing as she is, picked up the language, which is 1 of the reasons I think the town board chose her as well as the fact that she works in the Town Hall (as do I). I didn't have anything to do with the filming at her farm which took place from the morning till the evening yesterday, but G7 held a mini concert last night near the ski-slope on a stage outside, minus the snow but including the bugs, and as Tina invited me I attended.

Oh, the concert.
It was really bizarre.
Firstly, there were quite a bunch of people there. Funny thing is, less than half of them were people from Biei, as the majority were fans of the Korean unit; both male and female, and both from other areas of Hokkaido and Japan. If you are as aware of Japan as I am, then yes, you're right in thinking that the hardcore fans from Tokyo etc were greasy middle-aged old men with towels and fans with the idols' faces and names splattered over them, with big cameras round their necks. There was the alternative type too - the strange, in their 20s skinny boys who wear cat ears or bear suits (yesterday consisted of a cow suit...connection with the theme of the show, I assume), with long hair, oh, and grease, of course. Apparently some of them even stalked the unit and were watching outside of Tina's house during the filming of the program. Scary.
And yes, I waltzed past such a sight of people lining up, ducking straight underneath the roped barriers towards the stage that was being set up, as I was friends with the "farm girl who caused the pop-stars to get dirt under their manicured nails" and got a backstage pass. Yay me.

It meant that we got first row seats, in terms of bums on grass, for when the show started, and I sorta felt bad for the actual fans behind us when I didn't have a clue who these people are. The show itself was alright. At least some of the idols could sing (which is what I do respect about Korean popstars, in comparison to most Japanese ones!), and there were 2 members who were amazing dancers. Other than that there were a few super skinny girls who jumped around being cute in tiny shorts and with their sickengly flat stomachs out (ok, so I admit I'm jealous of their abs, pssh) without singing and doing anime-like dance moves and batting their eyelashes. Those girls bored me. Still, as much as I hate girls who try hard to be cute (called "burikko ぶりっこ" in Japanese), when they try spouting random bits of Japanese they learnt in a Korean accent, I can sorta forgive them. They were all pretty and cute, some a bit too thin for my taste, but...I dunno. That was it. They were just cute. There was nothing to them. The music was kinda funky and upbeat though, so I think I'd like their songs but otherwise, I guess idols don't interest me. Only Korean boy bands; at least they have character! (their looks and height happen to be a plus )
There was one point when one girl was singing on stage (they all did separate skits), that 1 of the idols came and sat in front of us and cooed at her with a sign of love in Korean or something, and a camera-man zoomed to her side, sorta bowed his head and held up his hand in an apologetic manner at me, then leaned straight back on top of me with his camera in order that he could film this squealing idol. I just gaped at Tina, who said, "Yeah, they're Korean". I had to stay there for about 3 minutes with this guy's weight on my legs! At this point I decided to make the most of it and leaned forward and squinted through the small camera eye piece (as he was using the larger screen) and using gestures pretended to be the camera-man myself, haha. Another funny happening was when it was the last song with all the members on stage, and they told us to stand up. I'd been politely applauding and smiling at the show until then, but when I noticed that there was a camera pointed towards Tina and I, I mischievously decided to start jumping, screaming and waving at these idols who I'd been a big fan of and supported for lyke foreverz. Tina joined in, and we had about 3 cameras pointed at us, bwaha!  It was hilarious. I might be on a frickin' Korean TV now. Better ask for my autograph now before I get too famous, kids. The show will be aired in August, apparently, and the Korean stars are officially making their debut in Japan at the end of July.

After the show, we got 'backstage passes' again to join the staff and stars for a free barbecue. I would've talked to the idols when they came by had I been able to speak Korean as it would've been interesting, however, I was experiencing the language barrier that a number of people who do my job (ALTs) should encounter in Japan. But, I found that the T-something guy could speak English, incredibly well in fact, though American, and I actually had a bit of conversation with him. Wish I could've got a handshake with the cute lil' Comedian girl though. I also spoke the the Japanese staff from Sapporo, with 1 guy who works in the TV industry and is from Tokyo, and he said that Tina and I could visit him any time and he'd show us around his parts. Another connection towards my wanting to be an Interpreter in the Media industry, maybe? Might have to brush up on my Korean though. I have wanted to learn it for a while though, due to my TVXQ/DBSK phase 3 years ago.

Today the stars all fly back to Korea, and Tina and her father are meeting them at the airport so they can film the "tearful farewell".
Then, she and a bunch of the usual lot of us are having a "Glasses-themed party". Eating and drinking whilst wearing glasses, as a matter of fact. I have about 5 awesome pairs of glasses of a rare design, it's going to be hard for me to choose.

P.S. I ironically seem to update my blog on the few days it pours with rain, when we've been having hot sunny days recently!

Old Blog Entry: more End of Year parties

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

It's sunny and most of the snow has melted away!

And isn't Japanese cuisine amazing?
I had another Soubetsukai (送別会) end of year party yesterday. But this time, it was with my Board of Education, and I managed to steer clear of having beer or alcohol forced into my glasses like I mentioned 2 entries ago. Instead, I smiled politely and said I was drinking uulong tea, though they served it me anyway, and I was able to gulp down these amazing dishes. I still don't really know exactly what I'm eating (haha), but it tastes amazing. And when I do ask what it is, I no longer freak out...not that I really did in the first place, seeing as raw fish has become a favourite of mine for over 6 years now. But doesn't it all look beautiful in the picture? I do find with Japanese food, that apperance is everything. In yesterday's menu there were carrotts sliced in the shape of sakura flowers, with bits of pork balanced delicately and precisely on top of each other in patterned dishes and's a like a piece of artwork. Then there's good ol' England, who mash up potatoes into a big slushy white mess and stick bursty, greasy sausages in it, smother it in a brown, sloppy liquid (i.e. gravey) and call it "Bangers and Mash" (though it is a favourite of mine). The non-open-minded Japanese person would probably be horrified.

Though these "soubetsukais" may be translated as a "end of year party" in English, I wouldn't exactly call it a "party" as to its meaning in English. We do have "Farewell parties" in England, but that's all they are; parties. In Japan, all these work parties and sessions start with everyone arriving 10minutes before the time, sitting down neatly in place at the table, then speeches are made by the bosses and whatnot. As this was a "Farewell party", all those who were leaving had to each give a speech droned on and on... The funny thing is, when I look round the room, all the Japanese people have their heads down and are half-asleep or picking at their nails. Then, when the speeches are over and the drinking begins, the atmosphere changes completely, and it feels like a party. Another bizarre aspect of Japanese culture, from my point of view.

Also, this morning there was some sort of meeting at my BoE.
I don't actually know what it's called...but it was basically for the new teachers to be welcomed and introduced to for all the schools in my town. It was again, more speeches, and plenty of bowing. I swear, if I'd have counted how many times people bowed, it would've probably gone over 50! I had to bow and introduce myself too, along with the other workers of the Office, and when my name was called out, the guy read my English last name correctly, but read my Japanese first name incorrectly. Oh, the irony!

Tomorrow is the opening night of the pantomime, 'Aladdin'! Eeek! For some reason even thinking about it now gives me butterflies.

Old Blog Entry: Rules of a Japanese Party

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

April is the end of the school year for Japan.
Which means that were farewells from the 3rd year Junior High 中学 (like Year 11) students, Graduations ceremonies and..."End of the year drinking sessions". Ahem.
Hey, it's Japanese culture  Though because I'm not based at 1 school and revolve around 4, as well as my Eikaiwa 英会話 (Evening Adult English classes), I've had 4 of these "sessions" in a row. Which is probably why I haven't been feeling too well recently, eheh heh heh...
Yes, I enjoy my drink, and yes, I admit I like to consume myself with cocktails once in a while, but I could happily go without them, and I don't enjoy going overboard every night!
Yet, this, I find, to be another strange aspect of Japanese culture, is that when business colleagues, students at Uni or maybe even friends go out drinking, it's up to the senpais 先輩 ("elders" in the sense that they are a few years older and therefore have more experience in the workplace) to make the kouhais 後輩 (younger, less experienced... "newbies", if you will) drink up, even to the point that they feel ill! So there I am, being the youngest at all my workplaces, having flush-faced men, and women (but mostly men), in suits saying, "Are you drinking? Is that enough? Shall I get you another drink? DRINK UP!" The other thing that often happens in connection to this is that Japanese people, in a form of manners, always pour other people drinks (mostly the younger to the older generation and the women to the men). At first, I thought it was a good thing - England could do with regaining respect for the olders, but when it's alcoholic beverages and not green tea, and I only want one glass full and want to finish it, I really would not like someone filling my cup to the brim when I'd only had about a quater of it! I suppose the Japanese polite method would be to keep drinking as someone continuously pours for you, but my English stubborn side said,
"Hey, I can pour my own drink so I can chose how much I want to drink, and I'll only drink that amount and leave that extra amount you poured in for me without asking." Though not out loud, of course.
The same goes for food. Japanese people seem to love food and eating, though ironically about 3/4s of the girls are as skinny as rakes and complain about the skin resting on their skulls which they believe to be "fat".  They always want to feed you! For someone like me, who adores eating and food, especially Japanese cuisine, it's a trap!! I hate to whine here about dieting, but seriously, in the sense of being healthy and listening to how much your body actually needs and not wants, you are the only person who knows, so you know how much you want to put on your plate, not anybody else! Don't get me wrong, I find it really polite and well-mannered when someone kindly takes a plate and places food on it to give to you, but when they give you all the pieces of pork when you'd rather eat the chicken, it can be a little irritating.

...I didn't mean to rant. These things don't happen every time I go out and I don't despise it, but it can tug at my nerves at certain times.

On a completely different note; 'Gintama'.
What the heck is that, I hear you poor, uncultured people say? It's genious, that's what it is. I've pretty much gone into a lot more detail about why I love it on my Deviantart journal so I won't go into too much here, but it's basically a Japanese Anime (animation/cartoon) series that I've fallen in love with recently. I highly reccommend it if you like shameful, disgusting, ironic, making fun of everything and everyone yet strangely moral, tear-jerking storylines. I even ended up joining the fanlistings for all the characters that are available.

Aside of Anime; film - 'Sherlock Holmes'.
I believe it came out a while back in England, right? In Japan, it came out in cinemas last month, and I went and saw it without any high expectations, but came out of the screens loving it. At first I casually thought, "Ah, it's just Sherlock Holmes cast all modern, action-hero like with cool stunts and a bit of fun, right?" which to an extent, it was, but it had so much more than that. The whole setting, the characters, the storyline, the script - wow the script - it was definetely my kind of film. I guess I'm a sucker for witty, intelligent, British men, haha  I would like it in my collection when it comes out on DVD.

Tonight, I'm off for a weekend of rehearsals for the Pantomime.
It's our last rehearsal before the real thing which starts next Saturday, and continues 2 Saturdays onwards. It has come together, yes, but I'm worried that this last rehearsal isn't enough practice for the real thing. It's working our arses off time, methinks.