Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Job hunting in the US

I have been a looking for a new job here in the US because my current job is ending this month. I actually had never done job hunting seriously either in Japan or in the US. I found it very hard. (I cannot say if the job hunting methods here are different from the ones in Japan because I don't have any experience.)

I sent a lot of applications, and I had eight interviews at six companies. In the beginning, I didn't know how to do well at interviews and I made a lot of mistakes. However, I'm getting used to it. I learned a lot of things about job interviews here.I believe that I'm doing much better now. I often have good feeling after the interviews.

However, I still haven't got any offers so far. I am waiting for responses from two companies. Especially one of them, because I had a second interview, and we already discussed a starting date. I don't think I did something bad at the interview. 

That's what I am still confusing about. At most of my interviews, interviewers say that I will hear back within a few days or weeks, but they never respond to me by then. Even if I write a follow-up letter, I don't get responses. I don't know what it means. It's really frustrating. 

I read a lot of articles about "no response after interviews", and I understand that it seems to be "normal" now. 
Ok... it's not only me. But it is impolite, isn't it?

Anyway, the waiting game sucks! It makes me depressed. 

I hope I can get an offer soon.

Friday, September 23, 2016

American English, British English and Japanese English

Now, I am studying American accents using CDs and books. When I talk to American people, they usually understand my English. Some native speakers say that they can recognize every words I speak. However, it looks like the TOEFL requires more than that. I should speak English more like American native speakers. So I am studying to improve my accents.
Nevertheless, I am still dissatisfied with it.

A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to England. It was my first time to visit there, so I enjoyed seeing around a lot. There are many different things and cultures from American and Japanese ones. They were interesting for me.
English they are using is also different. I could not understand what they said, and I asked them to repeat it. Since I did not think that British English was very different from American English, I was afraid that my listening skill had become worse. However, when I came back the US and talked with an immigration officer, I understood her completely. So I was relieved that my listening skill was still ok. I understand that American English and British English are different, even though they are both English.

What I want to say here is, there are many types of English, such as British English and Indian English. Even in the US, people in northern area and southern area speak different English. Then, why they do not accept “Japanese English”? Chines English, Russian English, Spanish English, …? Of course, if people cannot understand the English, it is a problem; but if people understand the English with a little effort, it is just a variation, isn’t it?
What do you think?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Difference of the health insurance systems in Japan and the US

Since I was studying for the pharmacy exam and learned about the health insurance system in the US, I would like to talk about the difference between the health insurance systems in Japan and the US. I thought that it was interesting. ( I will not talk about the affordable care here.)

First, the Japanese insurance system is much simpler than the Americans one, All Japanese people are provided insurance by the government, which is pretty cheap. So when they go see doctors, they just have to pay 30% of the total costs. However, only about 50% of Americans enroll in health insurance, because it is very expensive. Even though there are Medicare and Medicaid for special needs, most of insurances are private and each insurance company covers the medical cost differently. People have to pay for part of the cost as deductible, coinsurance or co-pay.

Secondly, Japanese people can go to any clinics and hospitals they like. This means, there is no primary doctors in Japan. However, Americans usually have to go see their primary doctors first (although it depends on HMOs or PPOs). Primary doctors recommend specialists for their patients, if they need more medication. Therefore, it takes more time and effort for patients to get treatments.

Finally, American insurance companies authorize for medical services. Physicians need to obtain approval from their patients’ health insurance plans to prescribe a specific medication for you. This is called prior authorization. Prior authorization is a technique for minimizing costs, wherein benefits are only paid if the medical care has been pre-approved by the insurance company. Japanese insurance does not have such a system, so people can get any medication as they want.

I think that the Japanese medical system is better, but government medical cost have been increasing, which is a big problem. Health is the most important thing in life, so we should think about medical care.

Monday, April 11, 2016

TOEFL is more than an English exam

I have to take TOEFL which is a test often used for measuring English skill of non-native English speakers applying for universities in the US. Even though I am not going to a school, I need it to become a pharmacist here. It is very important for pharmacists to have good communication with patients and doctors so they need to use English fluently. I agree with that. However, TOEFL is very tricky. I heard that even average native speakers can get score 80 out of 120. Many international students are required to get around 80 for entering their universities and over 90 for some good graduate schools.  I am required score much more than that.

In the test, you have to listen to university levels of lectures for 5-10 minutes each and then answer questions about the lectures or write those summaries and your opinions. Please think about it. Do you remember all the details if you are not familiar with or not interested in the topic? Can you write a good essay within 20 minute?  Can you make a good one-minutes-speech just right after you asked to state your experiences or opinions about something? I cannot do that even in Japanese.

This is more than just an English exam. I have to prepare for it seriously.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Changing my career~ I want to be a pharmacist in the US

Becoming a famous scientist was my dream when I was a college student and even younger. So I went to a graduate school, got my PhD in medical science and came to the US to do research. Since then, I have been working as a biomedical researcher for more than ten years in the US. I wanted to be a scientist because I thought that I could help people by discovering new drugs or treatments for diseases. In a reality, however, I do not feel like I am helping people. Although I made some important discoveries in basic science, I think I made them just for my own satisfaction. I was disappointed and decided to change my career to something that could let me help  help people more directly. Since I have a pharmacist license in Japan, I started thinking about transferring the license to the US so that I can work as a pharmacist here.

For transferring my pharmacy license, I first have to take an exam called FPGEE, foreign pharmacy graduate equivalency examination. Since I graduated my pharmacy school more than 15 years ago, I do not remember anything I learned from the school. Besides, there are many more medicines sold now and there are different health care systems here from Japanese ones, so I have to study new things, too. Of course, I have to learn everything by English!

Anyway, I still wanted and started studying. I still have my research job, so it is hard to do both of my work and pharmacy study. But I study at least two hours per day for weekdays and six hours per day for weekends. I work hard! It is not easy but actually I found myself likes studying those things.

Eight months later...

I finally took the exam last week. It was extremely difficult! I even felt like I was taking the wrong test. All of the questions were very different from what I expected. Materials I studied never covered those questions. They seemed to come from other planets!
I was so discouraged. I studied hard, but what was that? I am going to fail the exam... How should I prepare for the next time?
Actually, everyone who took the test is saying the same things.

Anyway, I have to wait for the result for eight weeks. Cross my fingers...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Japan for the first time in 7 years!

I went to Japan for the first time in 7 years.

Many people ask me what I miss about Japan besides family and friends, such as food. My answer is... nothing. I am used to American life style and I can get most of the things I want even in the US. There are Japanese restaurants and Japanese stores.I can read Japanese online, and I can watch the Japanese news.

So I didn't know what I should do when I went back to Japan.

However I enjoyed visiting Japan. I already forgot about many things in Japan and also thought that many things have changed since I left. So I was totally like a foreigner who is visiting Japan.
I found interesting things by looking at everything through "foreigners' eyes", and I took a lot of pictures as a tourist, too. So I would like to talk about it!

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Amigurumi is a Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals. Since they are so adorable, I wanted many worldwide people to know about the culture and started making amigurumi here in the US.
I am still not thinking to make money by selling them  but I am happy if amigurumi makes people happy.

There are just some of them I made...

I designed and handcrafted all of those animals.
Please check out more cute animals in my little store "TreeTownBear" on Etsy! :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

I am scared of going to Japan!?

I have lived here in the US more than 9 years. Since I came here, I have been to Japan only one time, 6 years ago. I actually don't miss Japan so much. I feel comfortable with living here, even though I still have a problem with my English. I have more friends and activities here. I can also get a lot of Japanese things and cook Japanese food here, if I want to.
But my parents in Japan miss me. They are getting old, and I think I should go visit them in Japan. I also want to bring my boyfriend with me. He is interested in Japan. So I'm planning to go to Japan this year, though I still haven't decided any details yet.
I'm excited but also a little nervous because Japan is like a foreign country' to me now. I'm completely used to American culture. I forgot many things in Japan and I don't know how it has changed. I will be embarrassed to do something wrong in Japan. I might not know how to take a train or how to buy stuff, like if you go to foreign country for the first time. I can speak Japanese fluently, but I am afraid that I might ask strange questions. I look Japanese, so they will just think I'm stupid.
Oh well... it's still exciting. I will find many interesting things in Japan.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Lately, I eat American sushi every Friday evening at a Japanese restaurant with my boyfriend. We call "Sushi Friday!" I didn't eat sushi that often in Japan, though many American people think we eat sushi mostly everyday, like we think American people eat hamburger every meal. But we usually eat sushi on special occasions such as celebrations and parties. One of the reasons is Sushi is expensive. Another reason is sushi is not home-cooked meal.
One of the frequent questions from American people is "Can you cook sushi?" Actually, only chefs can make sushi. It looks pretty easy to make it, but sushi chefs train making sushi for many years. A really good sushi costs a few thousand yen (more than $10), just only for one nigiri sushi! I have never eaten such a sushi though. We can get cheaper sushi from supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan. Also there are sushi-go-round restaurants where the plates with the sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant, and they are reasonable.
However, there are a lot of other good dishes in Japan. You should try ones. I'm sure you love them!

Friday, January 31, 2014

"What are you waiting for?" ~ funny culture difference

This is a story when my Japanese friend came to the US for the first time.
My American friend and I took her shopping in his car, and then we dropped her at her apartment. After she got out of the car, she was standing by the car and watching us. My American friend said " what is she doing?" He was waiting for her to enter the apartment.

It was funny. I told them it's a culture difference. When American people dropped someone off, they wait in a car until that person enter a building. On the other hand, Japanese people do the opposite. A person who gets dropped off will wait and see off his/her friend until the car is gone, perhaps while bowing. This is the Japanese way of showing their gratitude toward a person who gave them a ride. However, the American way might be more reasonable because the person who gets out of a car might face a danger or lost/forgot their key for their building.

Anyway, if you don't know about this difference, funny things might happen. Both of them would have been watching each other and waiting forever...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Japanese people live in a "rabbit hutch"

Many young people may have dreams of acquiring a house in urban areas where opportunities and amenities are concentrated. However, realizing the dream is difficult in Japan because of a problem with space. To resolve this space problem, Japanese have changed their lifestyle and culture.
Japanese live in cramped conditions because of shortage of living space. Indeed, the country is small and three-quarters of its land area is mountainous. Another reason for cramping in Japan is the concentration of young people in urban areas. In fact, more than half the population lives in the south coast of Japan’s main island from Tokyo to Kobe. In this area, the central government, almost every large industrial institution, universities, major publishing and communications groups are located. This concentration of opportunities and amenities cause young people to live in urban areas, and huge numbers of Japanese have migrated from rural to urban areas. Although the government tries to devote a share of resources to creating jobs, academic facilities and entertainment in urban areas with provincial cities, most Japanese youngsters still continue to dream of living in cities.

Because of the shortage of the living space in urban areas, finding space is difficult and young Japanese typically have to live in a small house deserved to be called a “rabbit hutch”. Even if people live in such a “rabbit hutch”, the housing cost is expensive and tends to be lower the far away from a central area. Therefore, young Japanese have patience to live in small houses at a distance from a central area and have a strong incentive to undertake long commutes. The crowded trains and buses for interminable hours allow people to get an affordable small room in an unheated apartment building.
In the  “rabbit hutch”, they have a trouble with how to fit all household equipment into a small space. This cramping shifts the way Japanese decorate and equip their homes, the way they live and behave at home. Although they do not have enough space, people are avidity acquiring appliances, and the appliances they want have changed as technology has advanced. These appliances have changed their lifestyle to be more convenient and westernized than before, for example, most of Japanese sleep on a bed instead of the floor. Another major change is the composition of the Japanese diet because cooking equipment has also changed. The Japanese diet was traditionally better balanced, but along with eating habits toward western-style foods and greater variety, the number of children who are overweight have increased and they are inferior to prewar kids both in strength and in their ability to do physical exercises.  Furthermore, the changing equipment has also reduced the wife’s work at home and they devote to work outside, social and recreational activities.
A “rabbit hutch” has not only a problem with space but also has social effect and is causing family transition.  One of the social effects is that the number of elderly Japanese who live with their children is steadily dwindling. Even though elderly Japanese want to live with their children, many younger Japanese desire to live in a modern house in urban areas, and maintaining a home large enough to accommodate two generations is financially impossible. As a result, many elderly Japanese live in rural areas by themselves or settle in retirement communities. In addition to separation of elder people and young people, the members who live in the same house also tend to separate. Because privacy in such a “rabbit hutch” is impossible and many Japanese people do not have private rooms and gardens, children go to commercial playgrounds, outside facilities, libraries or tutoring schools. Recently, the reliance on outside facilities has increased, and housework has been reduced because of appliances and people tend to go outside; as a result, the members of family go their separate ways.  This fragmentation might be eroding the traditional group orientation of Japanese so that youngsters have individual choice and they are more interested in self-gratification as the goal of life than caring for other people.

Consequently, most Japanese want to live in urban areas even if this means living in a small house because urban areas have more opportunities and amenities than rural areas, and this desire induces change to their culture and affects traditional social interaction.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

People can talk to strangers

Do you like to talk with strangers? I think that it depends on the person, but it's also related to their culture. I live in the US and American people whom I don't know often talk to me. I often see people talking with strangers in the same elevator, and I often see customers and cashiers making small talk at stores. They compliment style of strangers on the street. It looks like they could say whatever they want in any situations. They are just chatting rather than talking about very important things. They seem to enjoy it, or at the very least they don't care.
On the other hand, Japanese people don't talk to strangers unless it is necessary such as asking directions or other questions. They even think that talking to strangers is impolite sometimes. They think that it bothers other people. Perhaps they don't want to interact with other people? Or they are just nervous about it? I don't know, but if you started a conversation without a reason, it might be weird and make them uncomfortable.

What do you think? Which do you prefer? I like a culture which is allowed to talk with strangers freely, but... I'm actually nervous about it. It's conflicting! I am trying to talk to people. If I meet you by chance, can you talk with me??

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What do you think about online dating? -different perspect between the US and Japan

Online dating is getting very common here in the US. Many of my friends are using or have used it. We often talk about online dating openly. If someone is looking for a partner, we recommend that they try online dating. Some people still say that it's not natural, but I think that it is one of the ways to meet people in current society.
On the other hand, it's not common in Japan. Many Japanese people think that online dating is bad. I think one of the reasons is there are a lot of bad news about online dating and people think it is dangerous. They are afraid that

I had been using online dating, and I found a nice partner through it and have been getting along with him for a year. There is the only problem when people ask the question how we met each other. I don't want to say the truth to Japanese people because I'm afraid they think I don't have a moral. However, my boyfriend is an American and does't know about my feelings at all and says the truth!

Oh well... No one cares how we met each other if we are doing well now, don't they?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cherry blossoms and Japanese people

Here in Michigan it is still cold. We even had snow a few days ago. We have a long winter this year. I look forward to seeing many flowers blooming. Yesterday I took a walk in a park which has a big cherry tree, but I couldn't see any cherry blossoms yet.

Cherry blossoms are kind of important to Japanese people. There are many cherry trees here and there in Japan. Japanese people really like cherry blossoms. People think that when the flowers bloom, spring has come. we have parties under the cherry blossoms, which are called “Ohanami”.
Again, We have many cherry trees, but we have to compete to get good places. So we save our seats early in the morning and keep sit there until the parties start, usually at night. This role is done by the junior of positions in the company or the group…

We often eat traditional Japanese food, and drink sake and beer there. We also eat sweet Japanese dumplings called “dango”. Some people do karaoke or party stunts. Then we don’t see the cherry blossoms any more… We have a proverb “hana yori danngo” (dumplings rather than flowers) which means that dumplings (substance) is preferable to beautiful things like flowers (appearance)that we cannot eat.

I miss the crazy Japanese culture...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Valentine's day! -Japan vs the US

Did you celebrate it? I made chocolate (see pictures) and give it to my boyfriend and a few of my friends, too. I got a cute stuffed squirrel holding a flower made of chocolate.

Japan also have a Valentine's day. But the way to celebrate the day is different between the US and Japan.

In Japan, only women give chocolates to men, but not the other way. They give expensive and thoughtful chocolate to their boyfriend/husband. Woman is traditionally not allowed to declare her love, but only the valentine's day is exception. They also give small chocolates to many men, like their male friends, colleagues and bosses.

Do you think men are lucky?
Actually, the answer is "NO".

There is a day called "white day" in Japan. It's on March 14th, one month after the Valentine's day. It's the time that men return presents to women. You are supposed to prepare a present three times as expensive as the chocolate you got!

How lucky women are! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

What did you learn first when you started studying a foreign language?

I started learning English in a middle school.

What we learn first is " This is a pen" while we point out the pen. We also learn at the same time "This is not a pencil." Isn't it funny? We never use these sentences. You know if it's a pen or a pencil when you see it. Then we next learn "Is this a pen?" Are you making fun of me!?

Another thing we learn is this conversation.
" Hello, Taro. How are you?" "I'm fine, thank you. And you?"
Well, I don't think they are wrong. But because everyone learns just this pattern, if you ask Japanese "how are you?", everyone makes exactly the same answer. If you ask "How's it going?" or "How are you doing?", Japanese people would be confused. "I'm not going..." " I'm doing... I'm talking with you..."

I also learned " How do you do?" which I have never used or heard since I came to the US.

As time passes... learning English is getting more popular and important. Now children start learning English in elementary school. I think English education in Japan should be changed.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The education race

The Japanese educational system may be the most effective in the world, even though the government provides fewer funds for education than several other countries including the US. For example, Japanese factory workers are more educated than American workers and the illiteracy rate is very low in Japan. Furthermore, Japanese youngsters get higher test scores than children of other countries. These achievements are not because the government spends much money on education. In fact, only five percent of Japanese GNP is devoted to public education whereas six to eight percent are devoted in other countries. The Japanese educational achievement depends on their effective education system.     
One of the reasons why the Japanese educational system works well is that Japanese schools are more consistent than American schools in what they teach and how they teach. The Ministry of Education in Japan distributes a very detailed curriculum, and specifies exactly what subjects should be taught and what materials should be used. This uniformity in education is acceptable to Japanese based on their culturally ingrained reluctance to be different from others because of their very homogeneous country. Therefore, everyone from slow learners to good learners can get the same education in elementary and junior high school and all students desire to learn at least basic skills to keep up with others, although the children are afraid to lose their individuality in the consistent education system.
Another plausible reason for the high educational achievement in Japan might be that academic competition for getting admission to university is very severe. This competition begins in kindergarten to get into good primary schools. Admission to good primary schools generally provides success to good junior high schools and good high schools followed by good universities. To help children succeed on their competition, Japanese parents hustle them into supplementing regular schools called jukus, which are aimed at children who are already doing well. Jukus are necessary for the competition because only how the applicant does on the entrance exam matters but not other characteristics, such as wealth or personality for getting admission to a public university. Even though Japan has numerous numbers of universities including many more private universities, most major corporations, institutions and the government invite only graduates of selected universities. Indeed, the status that a Japanese youngster ultimately achieves in life is determined by what university he manages to get into.  However, even though Japanese youngsters desperately do everything, only two out of three applicants win university admission, and the remainders are relegated to obscurity. Therefore, many students endure great mental stress imposed by this educational competition, and some of them have nervous breakdown. Thus, the Japanese academic battle might be effective and very severe but it comes at a cost. 
However, despite the effectiveness in Japanese education, there is at least one point in which Japanese education is less efficient than American education. Most universities in Japan do not give opportunities for youngsters to pursue individual interests. Indeed, many youngsters are put into large classes whose studies are rigidly prescribed and Japanese professors are not dedicated for education. These environments make youngsters lose their motivation to study in university. Even more important, Japanese youngsters think that university is the only time that they are likely experience genuine personal freedom, while American youngsters find themselves working harder. Japanese professors also do not regard if students attend classes and study hard. Because Japanese industry does not require specialized skills of youngsters but they are measured by the university entrance exam, the admission to university is a kind of liberation in Japan. In addition, graduate schools in Japan are generally small and not good so that Japanese universities play a smaller role in the national research than American universities. As a result, Japanese who need graduate study are much more likely attempt to go abroad than Americans.   
The other problem of Japanese education is bad teaching of the English language. Even though Japanese students learn English from junior high school through high school, they learn the grammatical technicalities of English but not speaking skills. Therefore, most Japanese do not speak good English. However, the bad instruction in English has been changing and the number of the young Japanese people who can speak good English is increasing with the advance of globalization. 
Thus, the Japanese education system might be effective but it also has several problems, and this system is based on their cultural elements such as the desire to obtain a secure position in a company. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I got a green card!

Finally my green card was approved. It was a long process. I'm so excited!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Harvest party - How do you celebrate fall?

I threw a party last weekend. I often have parties with seasonal themes. The theme of this party was "harvest." So I made decorations and dishes related to harvest or fall. I collected dried leaves, hay, wild flowers, acorns and pine cones at parks and bushes, and bought a pumpkin, squashes and corns. I decorated whole my apartment with them. I cooked Japanese dishes and seasonal dishes using squashes and sweet potatoes. We prepared hot spiced apple cider, too.

My American friend made Tsukimi dango. Do you familiar with Tsukimi? and dango? Tssukimi, literally moon-viewing, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. We display decorations made from grass called susuki and eat rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the full-moon. He did not know about Tsukimi at all, but he looked into Japanese harvest party online and found out about it. He made Tsukimi dango. Even though he had never eaten dango before, it was just perfect; both how it looked and how it taste. I got susuki-like grasses from a bush, and served together.

It was like a party blended American celebration with Japanese traditional celebration for harvest. People enjoyed the decorations and dishes at the party.
How do you celebrate this season?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Birds are dumb?

Do you think birds are stupid? I do not think so. In fact, the smartest parrot in the world named Alex had the abilities of a five-year-old human. He knew 150 words, he could distinguish between many shapes and colors, and he could count numbers. It is obvious that parrots are good at speaking. But Alex was not just mimicking, he understood the concepts. He could communicate with humans. Unfortunately, he died about four years ago. His last words were " You be good. I love you" It made me cry, but the stories of Alex made me feel happy.

If you are interested in Alex, there are many  . Or you could read the book "Alex & Me" which was a bestseller in 2009. I read through the book and I was really impressed with Alex and the scientist.

I have a cockatiel as a pet. He is not as smart as Alex the parrot, but my bird is also called Alex. Actually, I named it after the smartest parrot. Alex is so cute and friendly to me. But he cannot speak any words and sing songs, even though I am teaching him as hard as I can. I thought he was stupid.

Someday, I found out that he loves peanuts. When I was eating them, he came to get one and eat it. Within a few days, he remembered the sound of the container of peanuts being opened. Whenever I open it, he comes to me immediately. I put a peanut on the red lid every time. He picks up it from the lid. He identifies the sound!

The other day, I bought peanuts in the same container except it has a green lid. He listened the sound of the container opening, and he came to me as usual. But I put a peanut on the green lid, he suddenly froze in his tracks. He looked at me and climbed on my shoulder. He seemed to tell me “ It’s a different color”. So I put the peanut on the red lid again, and then he got off my shoulder and ran directly to the peanut on the red lid. Great, Alex, you can identify colors!

I think that he has more potential that I still have not found yet. I want to find it. He might be smarter than I thought. Anyway, Alex is so cute. Here is a picture of him.