Vaping in Japan - How to Find Nicotine Vape Juice
While enjoying my dinner in a nearby Tokyo food court, I spied an older gentlemen smoking what appeared to be a conspicuous metallic cigar. Upon further introspection I ascertained this to be 「電子タバコ」--better known as electronic cigarettes or "vape" to English-speakers. I had heard of ecigs before, but always thought they simply burned the tobacco using an electric heating element. Instead, this man was exhaling rapidly-evaporating fog--giving off a contradictory image of both James Bond the cool smoker and James Bond the medical device-using asthma patient. What entranced me the most was that he wasn't polluting the surrounding area with cigarette smoke. His foggy respiration was virtually scentless and dissipated almost instantly, which is why "smoking" ecigs is more accurately called "vaping."
I personally don't share in Japan's affection for smoking, as the fumes bother others in the area. However, vaping appears to be a welcome compromise for this tobacco-loving country. If the fine people of Japan could smoke to their hearts' content without bedeviling adjacent non-smokers (like me), then everybody wins. We'd be one step closer to achieving that utopian fantasy we've always dreamt about.
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Life in Japan - How to Find English Keyboards
You're a foreigner living in Japan, and you're in the market for a computer with an English keyboard. To your chagrin perhaps finding that laptop with an English keyboard proves rather taxing. Or maybe you're forever stalking the elusive desktop English keyboard. Some find luck wandering the snaking streets of Akihabara, seeking that rare shop selling overseas laptop models. Japan is mostly Japanese people, so I guess it makes sense that most computers come with Japanese keyboards. Fair enough. Here are my suggestions for relieving the arduousness of this task. When it comes to this hunt, I personally don't bother with brick-and-mortar shops, so you'll notice that most all my solutions below involve online shopping.
SIM-Only Mobile Providers in Japan
Most often referred to in Japan as an MVNO, which stands for "mobile virtual network operator," the following is a potentially-growing list of SIM-only mobile providers that resell services on one of the major Japanese mobile networks: NTT Docomo, Au by KDDI, or Softbank. While the big three Japanese providers will usually force you into an over-priced 2-year auto-renewing service contract inseparable from the bundled phone, MVNOs can and will sell you just the SIM card and service. Most resell NTT Docomo, and I have yet to see one that resells Softbank; however anything is possible as Japan looks as if it is finally embracing SIM-only solutions.
Life in Japan - Beating Mosquitoes and Biting Midges
I live on the second floor of a central Tokyo apartment building. The advantage of this? I enjoy a brief daily elevator ride (or welcome stair climb) and can escape the building quickly in case of an emergency--I can literally jump off my balcony if necessary. The disadvantage of this? Mosquitoes and biting midges host wild vampire parties at my place during the scorching Japan summer months. Despite my fine-meshed screens and personal policy of only opening the windows when absolutely necessary, they still get in. Dammit. Given how aggressively I'm targeted, my American blood must be the finest, first-class epicurean indulgence for a suckling mosquito muzzle. Here is my series of mitigating measures for dealing with Japan's biting pests.
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