Saturday, February 28, 2015

Baked Cheesecake Kit Kats

You read that right...bakeable Kit Kats! They're Bake 'n Tasty Mini Kit Kats to be exact. A kind stranger translated the package for me when I bought them. Last year they came out with bakeable custard pudding Kit Kats and I was sad to miss them. Fast forward to last Monday and I found the boxes with three mini packages at a convenience store for less than ¥150. I bought two boxes so we'd be able to taste test them "raw" and after they were in the oven.

We don't have a toaster oven so I put them on a foil-lined cookie sheet and under the broiler for a few minutes. They darkened fairly quickly so keep a close eye on them. There are instructions on the back...they don't do me much good, even with Google Translate, so I stood in front of the oven with my daughters diligently watching.

We let them cool for a minute or two, I snapped a picture and they were scarfed down! My younger daughter preferred them before they went into the oven and my older daughter and I loved them after. Not only did they taste like cheesecake, the texture was spot-on. The cookie inside wasn't crunchy...they were perfect! We'll be buying more if I can find them again...I looked in five or six stores (including grocery stores) before finding them.

I found the commercial for them on YouTube. If you subscribe to Pass the Chopsticks and receive it in your email you may need to visit this post directly in order to view the video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sakura Scented & Washlet Toilet Paper

We love the toilets in Japan. The Toto Washlet is something I've wanted since I first sat on one here in 2008. There's nothing like sitting on a heated toilet seat on a cold day or in the middle of the night. The first time I had that weird feeling that someone had just gotten up leaving the seat warm. I wrote about toilets when we lived here in 2009; click here to read it

While out and about last week I came across these packages of TP. The blue one on the left has double absorption and is specifically made to use with washlets. The pink one is seasonal with sakura (cherry blossoms), has the flower print and is even scented! We found blueberry scented TP before, but never sakura. 

The only English on the pink package reads, "Elleair is made with the finest quality and ultimate softness to bring comfort back into your life." Between this awesome TP and the heated seat, I'm pretty comfortable! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Royal Doritos at Family Mart

I was out and about yesterday exploring and came across these Doritos. Wasabi & beef and shrimp & mayo. Which would you prefer to try? Both of these are limited editions, so get 'em when you see 'em! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nothing Says "Romance" Like Domino's Pizza

Domino's Pizza in Japan has a special running this week for Valentine's Day. If your significant other doesn't like chocolate...or really likes pizza, check this out. For ¥1300 or about $11 USD, you can get a medium heart-shaped cheese and pepperoni pizza. 

If you order a large pizza for ¥3000 they'll throw in the heart pizza for free. All of the details, including the coupon you've got to use, can be found here. The offer ends Saturday. 

Valentine's Day in Japan is a little different than in the United States. Traditionally women give men a gift on Valentine's Day and in return, on White Day (March 14th), men give a gift to said women. 

Back to the pizza...another option is to get 50% off a pizza worth ¥3000 or more and if you do that, you'll get another coupon for White Day. Oh la la!

The second coupon below is for those dining alone. If you'd like, when the deliveryman shows up with your pizza, he will conduct a "kabe don" or wall pound. Just like what you see in the picture. Romantic? Hmmm....maybe in the movies!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Buying a Car on Base

Car for sale at the Lemon Lot
Most people on base drive around a 10 year old car. Some people go nuts and buy cars you can't get in the a Nissan Skyline GTR. There isn't much point to it since most roads are limited to 60 kph...that's a whopping 37 mph. The Japanese cars tend to have lower mileage compared to the U.S. For example, the 2005 car we bought for me has about 60,000 km on it which is roughly 37,000 miles. The Japanese have to pay for mandatory inspections (called Shaken) and higher fees on these older cars which can make owning them expensive, so a lot of people just end up getting new cars instead. We don't have to pay these fees under the Status of Forces Agreement, so it makes sense to drive the older cars since they've got plenty of life left. 

There are several places where you can get a car. The easiest is from the MWR  "Lemon Lot" on base next to the commissary and Youth Center. People PCSing out as well as spouses who work with used car dealers sell their cars here. There's also a Facebook page called Yokosuka Auto Resale with car ads. You could buy a car out in town if you'd prefer. Another option is to get in touch with one of the dealers and ask them to find you a specific car if you know what you'd like. We've bought our cars at the Lemon Lot both times we've lived here. The turnover is quick so keep that in mind when looking around. 

The purchase process is fairly similar to the U.S. Call the number on the ad, test drive it and negotiate a price. Most of the cars are between $2000 and $4000 USD. The cars we've bought have had to be paid for in U.S. cash, so if you bank with USAA make sure to move money into Navy Federal to withdraw. It helps to look for cars that have already passed base inspection and have about two years of Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI). JCI is liability insurance that is attached to the car. If the car doesn't already have it or it's expiring soon, you have to pay for two years of insurance up front. From memory two years of JCI is about $300-$500 depending on the car. A base inspection costs about $40 USD plus cost of needed repairs. 

Yokosuka City Hall
Once you put down a deposit or buy the car outright, the seller should give you all of the paperwork including the bill of sale, title, JCI, inspection and some others we couldn't read! Your first stop is the insurance office to get your own personal insurance (different than need both). It's in the same building where you got your license. You could also go out in town to other insurance offices. It used to be cheaper out in town so we did that last time, but the base has a new contractor selling insurance with competitive rates. They speak perfect English and know the base insurance rules which makes things simple.  It was about $300 for a year of insurance.

If you don't already have it, you'll need a parking certificate to prove you've got a spot to park the car. We got ours from Housing when we signed the paperwork accepting our house. If you haven't done that yet the Navy Lodge can provide it as well. The process is different if you'll be living out in town. We haven't had to do that so I don't know specifics. 

If the car has never been registered to a service member before (buying from a dealer in town or on base) you'll have to go to Yokosuka City Hall (10 min walk outside the gate) to get a temp plate. Bob had to go through this process with my car three weeks ago and his car last week. They're used to sailors coming in so they've got signs in English and some employees spoke English as well. It cost ¥750 and is good for five days. 
A convenience store inside Yokosuka City Hall
Next stop is the Vehicle Registration Office (VRO) which is also in the same building as insurance and licensing. They'll review all of the paperwork and make sure everything's in order to go to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Yokohama for registration. LTO is similar to what we know as a DMV. VRO will also give you a temporary base pass and a slip of paper listing all registration fees you'll have to pay. Ours was just under ¥20,000, so about $180 USD. This is on top of the price of the car. If you had to get a temporary plate the car will have to be driven to the LTO to have the permanent plate attached. They are put on with special screws and can't be removed. If you bought your car from another service member it'll already have a military plate (called a "Y plate") on it, so only the paperwork has to go to LTO. 

You can go to LTO on your own if you'd like but it's confusing and intimidating for new arrivals...especially if you've never driven off base before. The majority of us pay about $50 for an "LTO runner" to do it for us. They advertise in the base paper and on the Yokosuka Auto Resale Facebook page. They'll take your paperwork and drive your car if needed. Round trip highway tolls cost ¥2900, so your share will depend on how many sets of paperwork are being taken. Our car was back within a couple of hours which is worth every penny of the $50 we paid. 

Once the LTO runner is back your temp plate will need to go back to City Hall. Our runner returned it for us. Once that's done head back over to VRO with all paperwork and they'll check it over again. If it's good-to-go you'll get base stickers. 

I realize this sounds daunting, but we bought our car on a Wednesday night, went to insurance/City Hall/VRO Thursday and had the LTO run done Friday morning. By lunch we were street legal with our own plates! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

License to Drive

I wanted to cover what it takes to get a drivers license and buy a car. Since it's our second time here it was a little easier, but it was bewildering our first time around. What I write is from our experience. 

Getting a license is fairly easy for military under the Status of Forces Agreement

(SOFA) when compared to getting an actual Japanese license. Google it sometime if you're up for some interesting stories about passing a driving test in a country where you can't understand the language. For us, it's part of the initial check-in during the week long Area Orientation Brief/Intercultural Relations class. Make sure your U.S. driver's license is valid and current because without it you won't be able to drive here or even take the driving portion of the test. Florida has been letting Bob drive on an expired license since he's in the military, but he had to renew it before we moved here.
They passed out driving manuals on the first day of AOB so you've got the week to study for the written test. It covers signs, parking regulations and practices that are unique to Japan. If you're motivated you can find it on the CFAY website. The instructors come to the last day of the class to give the written exam. The first three hours of the day are spent teaching the book and going over some safety rules. The test took approx 35 mins and was multiple choice. The briefing covered just about everything on the test so pay close attention. People who scored 100% on the test got first dibs on scheduling their driving test for the following week. Bob did...go figure! Everyone else
made a mad dash to the front of the room to sign up after that. So you may want to sit front and center that day. Hint, hint.

Plan on the driving portion taking an hour for both the test and paperwork and bring your US license, orders and family entry approval with you. We scheduled our test together and had a third person with us along with the instructor. We drove around the base and had to back in to a parking spot. It was fairly easy but prepare yourself to turn on the wipers instead of the blinker since they're on opposite sides than we're used to. If you pass you'll be issued a SOFA license that you'll have to carry along with your stateside license and military ID.

My next post will cover the car buying process.