The Bucket Fountain

State of Matter just published a short story of mine called “The Bucket Fountain.” About a college kid coming to terms with his own death, I had intended it to be a fantasy story with a mixture of horror in it, but maybe I’m just not cut out to write horror because it comes across more as fantasy and a bit goofy than anything else.

I’ve also noticed the tendency for horror stories to end in despair and tragedy, at best, so maybe the fact “The Bucket Fountain” gives some sort of closure makes it more fantasy than horror.

The story is actually a companion piece for “The Guide,” which I had published last December.

I wrote “The Bucket Fountain” first and then “The Guide”, which is why “The Guide” kind of brushes over the events of “The Bucket Fountain” and then talks about what happens next. If you have a minute, I’d personally love it if you read “The Bucket Fountain” first and then “The Guide,” but obviously it’s up to you.

I’m a huge, huge fan of crossover stories, which is why I tried my hand at making a few. It’s probably why I love the MCU so much.

How like life that characters cross into each other’s stories all the time, and I love the kind of mental puzzle it entails to have everything still somehow work out on a kind of timeline. While I know the MCU isn’t perfect in this regard, I still marvel (no pun intended) at how they can keep an overarching story going and make it so much fun to watch play out on screen. I think it must help to have such a treasure trove of comics to choose from.

I hope to write more crossover stories since they’re so much fun to write, and I’ll be sure to let you know what short stories connect with what.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

I know I’m extremely late to the party, but after waiting for the rental fee to lower on Amazon Prime, I finally watched this movie last night.

I’m a huge fan of almost all movies Marvel has made through the years, but I don’t think this movie was as amazing as the reviews made it out to be. It was a good movie, I think, but it didn’t hit me the way some of the other works have. I think it followed a superhero movie formula a bit too much.

I think maybe I’m in the minority when it comes to Marvel movie preferences, though – I loved the Eternals while knowing full well that this was definitely not your formulaic action superhero movie. I loved that about it. I also loved every Marvel TV series that has come out on Disney Plus. I think I’m the same as the majority in loving WandaVision the best, though. What a great series.

Maybe my problem with No Way Home is there weren’t as many plot twists as I had wanted. Peter Parker wanted to “fix” all the villains, and he did. The multiverse almost came crashing down, but one spell seemed to fix absolutely everything (Side-note: Does that mean everyone across the multiverse has forgotten every Spider-Man’s identity?). From the Doctor Strange 2 trailers (I haven’t seen it yet), it seems like it wasn’t quite the quick fix the end of No Way Home makes it out to be, but the ending still kind of irked me.

Also, nitpicking here but how is Peter Parker able to get by when his legal guardian is dead and Happy has no idea who he is? I would’ve loved some sort of brief explanation about how Parker’s been surviving and how he has any money for an apartment.

What I loved most about this movie is how it really helped further along the character developments of the other two Spider-Mans. There was even a brief note about how horrible Spider-Man 3 was. I liked having the superheroes have time to just talk about how they’re dealing with things and how they feel about situations rather than the plot just focusing on them punching people and saving the day. Most of these action movies force the actors to convey depths of emotion on their face for a split-second before the next action sequence. I liked that this movie gave them some downtime to just talk.

I would love to see the three of them have a movie together again, and I hope I’m not alone in that.

Finally got to watch it!

Gardening adventures

I thought I’d give a small tour of some of my garden.

Blueberry bushes

I’ve been growing blueberry bushes for years now, and I have yet to see “the Great Harvest” a friend of mine who has blueberry bushes keeps boasting about. The first year was maybe four blueberries, then the bush was neglected for a week while I was away in the summer, and it died. Cue a new bush, more disappointment and now, this year, finally we have what might possibly be the beginnings of glory. I have no idea, but as I adore blueberries, I’m never going to give up trying to grow my own. Japan charges you about 600 yen for a little pack of blueberries, and I just can’t bring myself to pay that much.

The promise of tea

A tea tree

This is my first year trying my hand at growing a tea tree. Apparently green tea leaves and my beloved oolong tea all come from these leaves, and I thought it’d be fun to try growing my own. Apparently you need to leave it alone for two years, pruning it back in the winter and getting new growth (the new growth is what you harvest for tea). I’m patient; I can wait.

Too many cantaloupe plants

Cantaloupe vines

Cantaloupe is another fruit that costs a fortune to buy here. You can pay as much as 4,000 yen (about 40USD) for a particularly nice one. Tiny cantaloupe, however, go for about 500 yen. Thus, I have resorted to growing my own. I tried last year, too, but I started too late in the season and watched my vines thrive, then die as the air got too cold. Now I’m starting at what I hope is the right time, but this time I put too many seeds in the same pot. I’m going to wait for them to grow a bit more before thinning them out a lot. I think if I can get even two cantaloupe out of this adventure, it’ll have been worth it.

What people here are looking for in a condo

Many people in Japan choose to buy a condo for a variety of reasons. While it means sharing walls, floors and ceilings with neighbors, condos nowadays are trying their hardest to give you a reason to choose them over a house.

Here are the top ten amenities people in Japan want from a condo nowadays, according to a free Suumo (a real-estate agency here) magazine I picked up:

  1. Being able to throw out trash any time.
    • Many new condos have set up dedicated trash rooms where you can throw out your trash, recycling and other stuff anytime you want. Otherwise, you have to follow the strict schedule given to you usually by your apartment or the city for when you can bring things outside to be thrown out or recycled.
  2. Package storage
    • For anyone who works outside of the home, it can be really annoying to get a slip in the mail announcing you missed someone delivering a package to you. You usually have to arrange for another pickup and hope you don’t forget to be at home then.
    • Be annoyed no more, for many new condo complexes have postal boxes just for packages. Some condos are even wired so there’s a notice inside your condo for when there’s a package for you waiting in one of the boxes.
  3. Having someone pick up your trash for you
    • Some people’s condos are quite far from either the place outside where you’re supposed to leave your trash or from the dedicated trash room, and that’s where this service comes in. There’s a little box in the hallway or near your front door where you stick your trash in, and someone comes and gets it for you.
  4. A bicycle port
    • Many people here use bikes quite a lot, so having a nice space to park your bike that includes a roof over the bikes and security cameras so no one steals your bike is quite revered here.
  5. Having a concierge
    • They can help you reserve shared spaces in the condo, lend you tools to fix something in your condo and help you figure out any problems you might be having.
  6. Supplies for a natural disaster event
    • Considering how often natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons seem to strike here, you’d think this would be higher on the list, but I think people here just get used to having to deal with it as it comes. Still, I think the condo having supplies on top of the supplies I’ve personally prepared is a bit of extra security I can appreciate.
  7. A newspaper delivery service
    • Many here still subscribe to an actual newspaper, and it can be annoying going all the way to the mail room every morning to get the paper. This service means your paper will be at your front door every morning, much like America up to about the 1990s.
  8. A nice playground nearby, or one just for your condo
    • As you are basically expected to lock into a 30-year-loan, many people who buy condos are young families. Young families mean little kids with lots of energy who need to run around, so it’s nice having a park right outside for you to use.
  9. Having a dedicated space for shopping carts
    • It might be nice living near a store, but who loves hauling back heavy bags of groceries and other stuff? Some condos have solved this dilemma by creating a space where you can drop off a shopping cart right outside your condo.
  10. Having rental bikes or bike-sharing programs
    • Sometimes you want to have a bike, but parking one at a condo often means paying a monthly fee. I can see how having a rental bike service or a bike-sharing service might be handy for people who only use bikes on occasion.

Buying a house in Japan

I’ve never bought a house in Japan, so I can’t give you all the details you’d need to actually buy one, but I can share with you what I’ve learned from friends who have bought houses here.

First, houses here don’t really go up in price. They’re like cars in that usually they depreciate as time goes by. Reasons for this include people wanting the latest in their homes so they usually buy an old home and then just tear it down to build a new one. Some people are starting to warm to renovating, but I think it’s still more common to tear down and start over on the land.

Houses are also usually shoved right next to each other. That means you might be able to stick your hand out the window and literally touch your neighbor’s house.

The current trend is also to limit outdoor space to sometimes just a driveway. The closer to a city you get, the more this proves to be the case, especially for new builds.

Why, then does anyone even buy a house here?

I think the main driving forces are two factors.

  1. Eventually you will be able to pay off the mortgage, usually around retirement, and then you can feel more secure knowing you’ll have a roof over your head in retirement.
  2. Rental apartments here are known for having thin walls. Condos also have their own set of rules they expect you to follow. This can all be suffocating as societal rules here are pretty strict all on their own, and living in a rental or in a condo means those rules follow you home. Living in a house means you don’t have to worry about bothering your neighbors when your kids jump and run around inside or about playing music too loudly and whatnot. You can also design your house however you want (depending on what you can afford).

If you want a bigger house with more outdoor space that won’t set you back millions, I recommend the countryside. One of the major drawbacks is being far from the comforts of a city, not the least of which being medical facilities. Something to keep in mind.

Another option is buying an abandoned house. With the fallen birth rate and declining population, Japan has a huge problem with “akiya” (literally “empty house”), and you can usually get a really good deal on one. Akiya come with their own set of problems, however. I think if you want to look into getting one, I would recommend watching videos like this one to learn more:

I loved watching this guy renovate his own akiya on his videos.


Taken from Yahoo Japan’s earthquake information site.

Japan has a long history of living with natural disasters. The nation has to contend with typhoons, volcanic eruptions, tsunami and earthquakes way more than any country should have to.

Last night there was yet another big earthquake here. The recent trend for these major earthquakes, for some reason, is for them to occur late at night. This one struck at around 11:30 p.m.

Where I am, I first got a notice on my phone that there was an earthquake up north in Miyagi Prefecture. I didn’t think much of it, though. Earthquake notifications grace my phone so often I react the same way I would to a weather forecast. It has to be a big earthquake to really grab my immediate attention.

A few minutes after the notification, however, the power went off in my place. That’s never happened before. I was suddenly thrown into complete darkness and utter quiet.

Then the ground began to shake. It feels like you’re on a table that someone is strong enough to move back and forth in a swaying motion.

The earthquake lasted about a minute, with the swaying of the ground gradually slowing until it came to a stop.

The power didn’t come back on, though. I found flashlights and checked around the place for any damage. Finding none, and breathing a sigh of relief, I picked my way through the dark and silent home until I got to the front door. I wanted to know if the entire area was affected by a power outage or just me.

Darkness greeted me outside, and a kind of quiet I hadn’t expected. I was assuming I’d see other neighbors out curious like I was, but it was like everyone had been abducted. I started thinking about zombie apocalypse movies that I think must have scene likes this. The quiet, the dark, the lack of nightly sounds like people coming home late from work. There was nothing. I quickly went back inside.

It’s amazing how events can completely change your train of thought. Not twenty minutes before, I’d been about to sleep, thinking about the day ahead. Now, I was wondering if the power would ever come back on, if I would need to evacuate, if I had enough dry food to survive, cursing myself for not buying more bottled water. Would there be a bigger earthquake? The swaying earthquake could’ve just been a prelude to the main destructive symphony.

Luckily, so far, where I am seems fine. The power came back on at 4 a.m. Everyone here is going about their lives like nothing even happened last night. I think maybe people living here are just so used to natural disasters that it has to be catastrophic to bring their lives to a halt.


So many events in life can be like a body slam into an alternate timeline. One second you’re doing all right in a relatively peaceful reality, the next you’re in complete survival mode. It made me think of how so many people in the world have had this happen to them, and how the two modes (what I like to think of as “Thriving mode” and “Survival Mode”) can be switched so abruptly.

Before you buy or rent in Japan

If you have plans on living in Japan long-term, there are a few things I think might be worth considering before making any solid plans.

Everything here is tiny compared to America

  • The average apartment and condo here has one bathroom; the average house has one and a half baths.
  • Counter space is usually one small counter, and that’s if you can make the space for it.
  • I’ve never seen a walk-in pantry here, though I’m sure they exist somewhere.
  • There is no laundry room that I’ve ever seen. It’s usually part of the whole bathroom unit (outside the shower room area).
  • Don’t expect to have a massive fridge. The best you can hope for is maybe what would be considered a small fridge in America.
  • Walk-in closets here mean you get to step into the closet and stand there while you look at your clothes. There’s no real walking around in the closet, despite the fact they’re still calling it a walk-in closet.
  • Storage space can be scarce. Some of the older builds especially somehow don’t see the need for things like an extra closet to store things like vacuum cleaners. Be prepared to get creative and scale down your stuff.

It can be hard to find a place to rent/buy if you’re a foreigner and not married/dating a Japanese person

  • Most landlords and real estate people in Japan, especially in places where foreigners like to live like Tokyo, are incredibly wary of foreigners. They see on the news that we’re all alike in that we like to be super noisy, wild and inconsiderate of those around us. They think we’ll waltz into the property, trash it and just dance back to our home countries.
  • I’m sure there have been some people who have done this, and I hate these people because they make it harder for the rest of us foreigners to live here. I hate how Japanese people just group us foreigners all together, too — if one of us non-Japanese does something wrong, it must mean all foreigners are doing it.
  • If you don’t have a Japanese spouse/significant other, things are going to be hard for you. You have to have a guarantor to do much of anything like renting. If you have a Japanese company sponsoring you, they might be able to help. Otherwise, you can see if the ward office/city office is able to help you figure it out.
  • Bring a Japanese friend with you to the real estate agencies. The agent will likely talk only to your Japanese friend, but they might be more willing to let you stay somewhere, too.
  • Having a permanent residency visa goes a long way in buying a house/condo, though it’s still not easy. Be prepared for lengthy red tape.

Buying a house or a condo is like buying a car

  • While in America perhaps you can buy a house/condo and see the value go up as you put time and effort into renovations and such, in Japan people usually want to have a completely new build. That means houses/condos depreciate over time like a car. The land the house sits on could potentially go up, but the house probably won’t.
  • People usually tear down the house when they buy it and build a new one on the property.
  • There is a small but growing trend of people renovating houses, but it’s still not super common, apparently.
  • Condo renovations are a thing, but that doesn’t mean your condo will go up if you’ve renovated it recently. People want to re-do things to their own tastes, and they take that into consideration when giving you a price.

Expect a lot of up-front costs

  • Whether you plan on renting or buying, expect to have at least one month’s rent/payment saved up. At least. It all depends on the property you’re looking at so be sure to read the fine print (usually in Japanese) or ask the real estate agent for all the possible costs involved.
  • Up-front costs include insurance, taxes and paying your real estate agent. Rentals also want one month’s rent as collateral for any damage you might do to the rental.
  • Taxes on houses can be apparently quite abhorrent so keep that in mind when thinking about a house.

Dune and the third-person

I finally got to rent the latest Dune movie on Amazon Prime.

I’ve never read any of the Dune books, so I was walking into the movie only knowing that Star Wars took the idea of spice in the desert from Dune.

I have to say the movie was fantastic. At times it had some clearly trippy moments and a few moments where I just didn’t know what was going on, but I have to say I loved it. I can’t wait for Part Two to come out.

Curious about the source material, I started reading Dune. Probably what I take away the most from what I’ve read so far is how author Frank Herbert uses the third-person narrative to float around among his characters and write what they’re thinking and feeling. I know the main character is Paul, but that doesn’t stop Herbert from telling me what his mother is thinking and such.

I also love to write in the third-person just for this perk that comes with it, though I’ve had a few friends tell me I’m not allowed to do this for some reason. For the first-person, I can completely understand why I’m restricted to writing about how only one character thinks and feels, but third-person shouldn’t be as restricting.

Therefore, I think if someone says to me again, “You can’t just go from one character to the next and tell me what they’re thinking and feeling — stick with one character only, even if it’s in the third-person”, I’m going to graciously point to Dune.

Third-person writing!

Asian Pear Trees

The bigger of the two Asian pear trees I found

I love how I can have a little garden at the back of our home, but given that our backyard is all concrete, my only option is potted plants. It has its good points (I can move them anywhere), but one of the big drawbacks is that I have a love of trees.

I’ve tried to satiate my love of trees by getting into bonsai, and while I have a nice little collection of them growing, my heart is set on growing fruit trees.

Specifically, Asian pear trees.

I grew up eating nothing but the Western variety of pears, and I have to say that personally I’m not such a big fan. I know plenty of people adore them, but I’m just not one of those people. I thought I’d never love pears. That is, until I tried an Asian pear.

In Japan, they’re called nashi, and they are a delight.

I have wanted to grow some forever, but pear trees don’t belong in pots. They are beasts that will consume all the soil they can get their hands on.

Still, there are such a thing as dwarf fruit trees, so I thought I’d look around for some.

We went to a home center (basically a hardware store and a general store like Walmart all rolled into one) and found a pretty nice-looking pear sapling to grow.

The woman working there had patience for me to ask about three questions before she started snapping responses at me. However, she was quick to point out I would need a different variety of pear tree next to the one they were selling in order to actually get any pears. I knew this already, having researched about pears beforehand, but I just nodded.

Despite the fact most pear trees need two varieties, the home center only sold one type. It wasn’t even a dwarf type, but I wanted to give it a try. The tree has enough branches that I think maybe I could even get fruit this year from it. The temptation was all too real.

More hunting unearthed another tree variety at a different home center, though it’s little more than a stick in the ground. This one isn’t a dwarf either. They seem to be available online, but who knows what you’ll actually get? I know people love online shopping, but I think I’ll always love in-person shopping so I can actually see what I’m buying before I buy it.

At one point we stumbled across a gardening store run by an old man. He almost laughed when I said I was looking for pear trees (“Wrong season! Try the autumn!”) and was quick to say, “Now, you’re planting them in the ground, right? No pots?” I didn’t want a lecture from him, so I just said, “Yes, of course, in the ground.” He seemed to visibly relax as he went on and on about how three pear trees can take over his entire greenhouse if he planted them in the ground there.

He said most of the little sticks in the ground you get at home centers won’t give you any hope of fruit for three years, at best. I just nodded and tried not to think of my little stick of a pear tree.

He eyed me and, with a laugh said, “Well, I mean you’re a foreigner so maybe you could get away with going to a pear orchard and asking them for some pollen for your bigger tree.”

I don’t know anyone who just grows fruit trees for fun in their backyard here, apart from mikan and persimmon trees. Those things are everywhere.

My probably misguided thinking is that I can try to bonsai these fruit trees. That means diligently pruning them in the winter and trimming their roots every so often in the winter to keep them from getting pot-bound (where the roots just go round and round in the soil).

I’m not looking to start an Asian pear business, and I’d be delighted to just get a few pears a year, so maybe, just maybe this is possible.

In the world of fruit-tree-growers, I am what is considered to be “a hopeless wreck”, and I’m sure any proper gardener reading this post will wipe a tear from their eye in pity for the fruit trees I’m about to probably massacre, but I’m going to try this thing. I’ll keep updates on here for anyone vaguely interested in getting a glimpse into the misguided optimism of a novice gardener.