Saturday 29 January 2011

The cake that broke the gaijin's back.

I cannot even begin to describe how accurate the title of this post is. I'll try and put it in to words, but I almost feel like just leaving it at the title it's so fitting.

However, before I go on my personal rant, I should mention that it is my little boy's birthday today and I can hardly believe that it's almost 3 years since my world was turned upside down with our little unplanned surprise, 2 years since I went through the hell of childbirth and that that tiny, squirming noisy thing has turned into a walking, talking cheeky little bastard who has brought me more joy than I ever could have expected or imagined.

Right, sappiness out of the way! And on to how FUCKING FUCKED OFF with Japan I am right now.

I've always been a big defender of Japan whenever haters would rant, I love(d)? Japan so much. But recently, and especially today, I am so keen to get out of this country it's making me physically sick.
I guess it's been a gradual thing, being single is quite easy living here, just yourself to worry about. But after you get hitched to a native and pop out a little halfie, things can get a lot more difficult. I guess starting a business could be added in there somewhere too. Also, maybe the fact that I haven't been on a proper holiday in over 4 years (ie. Not in Japan or Australia) is probably a contributing factor too.

Ash's birthday party is tomorrow, and Japanese kids don't have big arse birthday parties like we do in the west so it's so much more of a pain to organise, but I thought I had it down.
First problem- My house is so fucking tiny that the 3 of us barely fit in it, let alone 20 other people. So Sassymoo being the awesome friend and Auntie that she is, offered her beautiful house as a venue. Awesome!! But even that got me feeling disappointed in myself. How can we live in a house that tiny that we can't even have a fucking birthday party??
Next problem- Birthday party goods are actually quite hard to find here, as in napkins and party hats and lolly bags. But my mum sent me a whole heap of these with cars and dinosaurs on them, so that one fixed too.
Next- FUCKING DESICCATED COCONUT!!!! Mother fucking coconut only comes in tiny little packages and it's the stringy coconut used for decorating tops of things. I just want some coconut for the love of god is that really so hard?? Yes, apparently it is.
And finally- Getting a big enough cake for all the guests. I would love to make it, but my oven and my budget really don't stretch that far...

The cake. The cunting cake...

There was only one option when it came to the cake, and that was costco. Every other cake in Japan is tiny and overpriced, which would mean I would have to buy at least 3 or 4 of the fuckers to feed all the guests. Costco do big arse party cakes with decorations and shit so this option was perfect. Perfect, but annoying that it was the only one at the same time.
So Ryota and I toddled off to costco first thing this morning to order pizza and cake for the party. When we got to the cake ordering place, I spy in tiny letters at the bottom of the ordering sheet "48 hours notice for custom cakes is appreciated" I then read the Japanese, which didn't translate as "appreciated" at all, but more like "One minute less than 48 hours and your fucked mate." So Ryota went and asked two different people and they both confirmed that we were in fact, fucked, as it would be 24 hours notice and not 48. He apologised and grovelled and pleaded but they flat out refused to do it. This fucked me off no end, just fucking bend the rules and we'll know for next time!!! Of course, ultimately it is my fuck up and I can't blame anyone for that, but it's not as if they're spending hours doing these cakes, they're stock standard design, all that differs is the writing on it. I then got sick of being nice and ripped in to the guy, offered him a bribe but ended up storming off, telling him the English was shit and they should get a new translator. Harsh and uncalled for, as wasn't that poor bloke's fault, but fuck me I was just so angry.

We then thought that we might be able to get a cake with nothing written on it so we could write on it ourselves, but the guy (looking pale at the sight of the angry gaijin again) said they couldn't do that either. So I sucked it up and had to come to terms that I was going to have to get a fucking cake without Ash's name on it, which isn't really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things I know, but just made me want to scream and fucking pull my hair out that I couldn't even give my son a proper party or a proper cake made for him. Another extremely annoying point, the boy cakes that they had on the shelves to buy, all had Happy Birthday written in Japanese, to which I said very loudly "I don't want any Japanese writing on my cake!" This was harsh too, but it's true, I want it to be in fucking English. I speak English! Most people at the party speak English, fuck off with the Japanese!

This really was the last straw for me, I've been feeling it recently with Ash's kindy as well, I can't read the kanji on the letters he brings home and would be totally useless with things like the PTA, not just because of language barriers, but because I don't know the systems that just come naturally to Japanese mums. Ryota couldn't understand why I was crying my eyes out explaining this to him, he kept saying "But you're a great mum!! Some mothers don't even feed their kids properly or play with them at all!" Which was a very nice thing to say, but totally irrelevant, I had to try and get through to him that I have a level of parenting that I need to keep, nothing to do with what other people do or what is normal in society, it's my personal level, and at the moment, the fact that I can't do things and control things, is honestly fucking killing me. Ryota finally got it when I explained it to him with a surfing example. Bloody simple surfers... I said this: Some people don't really care about their board or wetsuit, they leave them sandy, full of scratches, slung in the car until the next surfing trip, and this is fine for them. But Ryota takes very good care of his surfing gear, everything is always washed and dried out and then handled very carefully. I explained to him that this was his level of expectations for his gear, just as my level of mothering is with Ash. He was actually quite nice to me after that... Should try comparing everything to surfing...

Ryota then raised the point that other things would be difficult if we moved to Australia, and this is true, I don't think going back to Australia will solve all our problems at all. However, I feel the problems would be more manageable for us there. For example, all things to do with Ash ( ultimately the most important things) would be handled by me, in my native language, where I know how things work. Things that would be a shit for Ryota would be manly things, like car insurance and shit, which would be manageable. I told Ryota that most dudes don't want to organise their kid's birthday parties or join the PTA and fair play to them, I love doing things like that, but I really do feel so powerless here.

Dare I say...

I think it's time to leave Japan.


  1. Dare I say... I have been thinking that for the past fifteen years or so. And I'm still here. It isn't always easy. All I can tell you is, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will get to make the move. Follow your heart. But for now.. Happy Birthday!

  2. I completely agree with a lot of what you are saying. There are so many basic things that you just never seem to be able to find when you really want them!
    In terms of the PTA etc. I personally think we are at an advantage in not knowing the system. After being bullied into being the stupid PTA chairperson at my children's kindy I soon learned that although there are very set ways of doing things there are also many people who want to change the systems, but as they are Japanese they don't feel they can do anything different. Us "foreigners" however can make suggestions that are listened to, make zillions of mistakes without people thinking twice about it and basically change a few things that would otherwise continue in the same outdated way for the next 100 years. That is my experience anyway... hopefully things will pick up for you soon - I'm sure you will have a great party with a fantastic cake!

  3. next time you go home or get a package from home get some cake decorating pens - they are HEAPS easier to use than the pathetic Japanese ones that leave the writing like like three year old has written it. Bloody costcos for not bending a bit and at least giving you a cake with no writing.
    I'm sure the party and whatever cake you sort will be fabulous. And that you'll be posting a 'dare I say...' post again in five years and ten, and fifteen... :)
    Have a great day tomorrow.

  4. Even in australia, I could never work out the system at my son's school. Like they'd send a notice home saying they were having a bbq and I'd turn up expecting to buy food but all the other mums would have known that (somehow... telepathy maybe) and would have prepared picnic food. Arrgghhh I'd have been totally screwed in a different language.

    And seriously, why could they not sell you a blank cake? Jeez!

  5. I understand how you must have been peeved off at the staff in costco. I hope you managed to get a cake for the party. For my daughter's birthday last yr, in the absence of a decent sized oven, I made a huge cheesecake as we had a ridiculous number of guests round for a party. Perhaps too late for this year...

    Too long in Japan...I know how it is with the hoikuen stuff. My hub leaves everything to me and I get frustrated at muddling through each language and cultural obstacle they throw at me. But I do think that being a foreigner is an advantage sometimes because we can play the "zenzen wakarani" card. Nobody seems to question my selective understanding of Japanese either! Though dealing with endless hoikuen letters really does stress me out some days too. Seriously, who really has the time when they are in full time employment?

    I hope your "Nihon Boke" phase passes. Starting a new business must be a hell of a stress on top of raising a child in a foreign country.

    Have a lovely party tomorrow.

  6. We must be phsycically linked or something, because I just wrote a "get-me-out-of-here" post today, too!

    I have no one to blame but myself, for not staying in San Francisco, but hindsight is 20/20.

  7. The Costco staff sound stupid. How hard would a plain cake be? I hope the party goes well.

  8. It's like you want to take really good care of your surfboard but it's made of a material that needs special compounds you've never heard of to maintain. AND all the instructions are in a language you don't really understand. AND you're taking it out surfing in a spot you've never been before surrounded by locals who surf there every day. AND you need to provide your surfboard with lots of extraneous doodads (such as towels and bags of varying sizes) that need to be made, labelled (in the foreign languge) and folded neatly. Then washed, dried and reassembled daily. Plus other doodads you've never heard of for special events you've never heard of. And if you get it wrong, you fear that you or your surfboard may be ostracized by the other surfers for the next decade or two.
    Okay, so I've never actually surfed.
    But I have two kids in kindy who bring home at least 20 papers to be read and 26 items to be washed, dried, and reassembled every weekend. About two thirds of that on other days. I feel your pain!
    Happy Birthday!

  9. I can't imagine how hard and frustrating it would be to live in a foreign country. Hopefully the birthday party was a success.

  10. Hi! I'm de-lurking to comment on this one. My theory is that since it's us women who do just about everything we could probably make things easier on ourselves by living in our home country. That way, at the very least we might be able to trick ourselves into believing that our husbands would help more if not for the language issues/if they knew how things worked! And if things all went pear-shaped there would always be violet crumbles and lamingtons on hand to cheer us up!

    Anyway, I hope Ash's birthday party was awesome and that Ryota was suitably impressed!

  11. I feel your pain! Life in Japan is frustrating as hell at times for an Australian woman -you're doing the right thing by writing about it and getting it all out.
    Happy Birtnhday to Ash. He's lucky to have you as a mum.

  12. Hi, I hope the day turned out alright in the end, you didn't sound too bad on the phone! Wish I could have come, I needed to get my A in G sooner. Fail.

    You can get large packs of coconut, but it's the longer stuff, but it does the trick, I get it in Fadie's, the coffee and restaurant supply store, you must have something like that up there.

    I would have got the cake and one of those crappy wiggly icing pens GW was talking about and some boxes of marble candy and squeezed the wiggly icing all over cake and covered it with the marbles or sprinkles or something.

    But I know that's not the point. Doesn't matter what it is actually, we all get to that point sometimes, when something drives you over the edge and you just need to rant and rave about the WHOLE country!!! They come and go, I can't remember what my last one was, it was only last week though...

  13. "He was actually quite nice to me after that... Should try comparing everything to surfing..."

    Fucking genius! I woulda got that one. I wax my board all the time when I'm back home in Waikiki.

    Use that angle whenever you need. I bet it works almost everytime :)

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