The end of 2021

I think I join a lot of people in thinking time kind of stopped at the end of 2019. I can’t believe it’s almost 2022.

Before the end of the year, I thought I’d share one of my resolutions here: Keep writing and submitting short stories.

No matter how many rejections I get, I feel like I’m a rock going down a hill, and the only option is to keep rolling. So I’m hoping to spend as much of 2022 as I can writing more stories and submitting them. I’m hoping hard work will meet up with good luck and give me a hand.

To anyone reading this, I hope you have a safe and happy end of the year and ring in the new year while holding on to even the tiniest spark of hope for something.

“Boys and girls'” toys

Toys R Us in Japan makes a point of having mystery bags full of toys at the beginning of every new year that are clearly for “boys” or “girls.”

I’d like to take a moment to proclaim that I loathe the notion of “boys'” toys and “girls”” toys. I know some companies in America are trying to remove the idea of what kids are allowed to play with according to arbitrary societal rules, but that kind of progress is almost non-existent in Japan.

In Japan, there are hard-and-fast rules dictating that girls shall only love sparkly, cutesy, pink and/or frilly toys and boys shall only love gross, cool, and/or scary-looking toys.

Since my time of living in Japan, I’ve only ever seen one commercial that even attempted to destroy this ridiculous notion. A recent McDonalds commercial featured toys for the strictly girls-only anime show called Pretty Cure. It’s basically “Sailor Moon” for the kids of today, and it is only ever marketed toward girls that I’ve ever seen.

The only commercial I’ve ever seen that actually tried to show a boy enjoying “girls'” toys, though obviously it’s not perfect.

McDonalds tried to vaguely include a boy in the commercial, which I appreciated for the effort. They were also selling a selection of toy trains that, I think, included a girl in the commercial, though I can’t find the video.

Beyond that, though, most toy commercials are happy to tell you who they think should be enjoying their products. Most toy stores are happy to endorse the idea.

That means most of the people I have come across here have it firmly ingrained in their heads that anything seen as cute belongs to girls and anything seen as cool belongs to boys. I’m sick of it. I’m so tired of hearing friends confess to me that their little girl loves trains in the same tone that I would use to confess I stole something from a store. I’m tired of having to explain to my own kids that toys are for every kid. I’m sure they’re tired of defending their choices of toys to their friends, who waste no time pointing out what ones are out of the social norms.

Toys R Us in Japan, could you please, please stop sectioning things off into boys sections and girls areas in your store? Can’t you just mash everything together and say the toys are for everyone?

Toy companies, could you please make it more of a point to include boys and girls in your commercials for any toys you’re marketing?

Thank you.

The Guide

I’m happy to share here that I got another short story published.

Called, “The Guide”, it’s about a woman who helps lead people who have died to the afterlife.

I think it’s no surprise that there are millions of stories about what happens after you die. Rather than it being absolutely terrifying, I wanted to write a story about someone who wants to make the experience better, even though she’s feeling tired in an understaffed area of work. I think many of us can relate to that.

I think love can help make things seem less scary, even things we clearly don’t understand (such as death), and so I wanted to write a love story between someone who is not ready to feel hopeless yet and someone who definitely has.

I hope you enjoy it if you have a moment to read it!


As Christmas swiftly approaches, I’m hoping to donate a few things, which can often not be so straightforward in Japan. Here are a few places I think are good and pretty easy to donate to, though I know there are many more out there.


Second Harvest

Probably the best place to donate to, in my opinion, is Second Harvest. I very briefly helped pack boxes of food for them a long time ago, and I still think that someday I’d like to take my kids to one of their outposts again and volunteer. They’re open to monetary donations, volunteering and food donations. Visit their website for details.



Every UNIQLO branch in Japan has a box into which you can put old UNIQLO or GU (pronounced like the letters G and U, which sounds like the Japanese word for “Freedom.” I will forever read the store name as “Goo”, though) clothes you don’t want anymore. Don’t put anything in there with holes or that is obviously super dirty, but otherwise, they’ll take it. To read more about what they do with the clothes, click here.


I don’t know if this is accurate, but last time I checked their donation box, they will take anything. Only have one shoe? They’ll take it. They don’t care if it’s clothes from their store or not, either. You can also get a 500 yen coupon for donating a bag of clothes. Check here for details.


Children’s homes

Japan has wonderful places called 児童館 that roughly translates to a children’s home. This place uses taxpayer money to give kids a space to play, do homework, read books and just relax after school. It caters to younger kids, too.

They usually have events throughout the year as well, including Christmas parties, meetups for young parents and reading circles. As a young mom, I used to take my baby to the nearby children’s home all the time to let him play with the toys there and to meet other parents in the area. These places are amazing.

They do take donations, but you need to ask them in advance because every children’s home is different. I donated toys a while back that they said they would forward on to other children’s homes in the area. Many may have also changed this policy in light of the pandemic, so I would definitely ask them first.


If there’s a daycare in your area, you can always try calling them up to ask if they would like any of the toys your kids don’t want anymore. They also sometimes take books, but it depends on the daycare. It helps if you already have a kid at the daycare as I think the operators would be pretty startled to get a random call from someone. Also, again I don’t know if this policy has changed in light of the pandemic since I haven’t tried to donate toys recently to any of my local daycares.

Other items

The Salvation Army is also in Japan, and they have a couple of bazaars in Tokyo to which you can donate. You need to call them up first and explain what you want to donate. For details, please check here.

Throwing things out

Japan has a tradition of doing a massive cleanup of their homes before the year ends, and I happen to love joining in on this tradition. I know there’s spring cleaning, but nothing like ringing in the new year in a sparkling home.

That being said, it’s quite hard to throw things out in this country. Every city has its own rules of how you throw things out, and I think maybe the number 1 complaint I’ve heard from people about foreigners living here is: “They don’t know how to throw out trash.”

In the States, I lived in places where you could throw out cans and bottles right along with the regular trash. Not so here. Anywhere I’ve lived here, you just can’t do that.

Traveling in Japan and throwing things out

As a traveler, you will often come across garbage cans that either say もえるゴミ (burnable trash) or もえないゴミ (non-burnable). Again, the rules slightly vary according to where you are in Japan, but for the most part, I think of burnable trash as anything that is made of paper or any leftover food and such. I think of non-burnable as clean plastic (like from packages), metal, and bottles*.

*Sometimes there are trash cans that say カン (metal/aluminum cans so like beer cans) ビン (glass bottles) ペットボトル (plastic bottles like ones from vending machines or even the 2 liter ones). If you find these trash cans, then please sort your trash accordingly. 

Some train stations have one that says 新聞 (newspapers), and sometimes you can see businessmen (I've never seen a woman do this) brazenly stick their hands down into the trash to fish out a newspaper or take the lid off entirely and grab whatever they want.

For the most part, Japan isn’t huge on just having trash cans everywhere for your convenience. Sometimes you can find trash cans outside of convenience stores, but there are usually signs that say “Only for leftover trash from what you bought here.” For the most part, Japan expects you to carry your trash with you and throw it out when you get home. Sometimes you can find bottle recycling bins next to vending machines, at least.

Tip for traveling here: If you can, bring along a little plastic bag to act as a trash bag that you can stuff in your bag. If you do happen to find a glorious trash can (sometimes train stations help you out here), please take a moment to actually sort your trash.

If you don’t know how to throw something out, take it back to your hotel and ask the front desk people.

Living in Japan and throwing things out

My number one tip for living here: Ask your ward office or city office for a little brochure about throwing out trash, then study it. Post it up on your fridge or wherever you need to so you can get it down. It’s annoying, a tremendous pain, but this is a small island nation that doesn’t have many places to throw stuff out. So please do everyone here a favor and try to figure it out if you plan on living here.

Throwing out large stuff: One of the great challenges is throwing out large items like broken or old furniture. In a lot of places where I’ve lived, you need to call the local ward or city office’s garbage collection number (it’ll be on the trash brochure if you got one. Otherwise you’ll need to look it up online) and arrange a date and time for someone to come collect it. They will tell you how much it’ll cost to throw out. Then you go to a convenience store, buy a special coupon thing to attach to your furniture, and on the arranged date and time, you put your old furniture at the designated site with the coupon attached. I don’t know if this is the same process everywhere, so again, look at that trash brochure thingy for options or ask the local ward/city office.