Thursday, March 23, 2017

Expo City Osaka (Expo `70 Commemorative Park)

LALAPORT - perhaps the biggest drawcard to Expo City is the enormous shopping mall. As stated on the website (here); Steeped in the spirit of Expo ’70, LaLaport EXPOCITY promises fun for everyone all day long, with attractions ranging from trendsetting global brands and exciting “accessible luxury” brands through leading select boutiques, sports and outdoor-living stores, to health and beauty salons, fashions for babies, children and youth, daily goods and services.Lalaport is home to hundreds (over 300) of stores including internationally known brands like Zara, G Star Raw, Diesel as well as Japanese brands, restaurants, a food court, a huge pet store and MORE!

NIFREL - The first facility produced by KAIYUKAN (Osaka famous aquarium), this is a one-of-a-kind attraction that allows visitors to experience the beauty and wonder of living creatures.
Based on the concept of connecting through the senses and featuring various artistic elements, this facility brings to life the wonder of living creatures and nature. Crystal-clear water, wonderfully colored fishes, and unique animals will enrich the hearts of children and grownups alike. English website here.

POKEMON CENTRE - Experience the world of Pokemon close-up and hands-on. English website here.

REDHORSE OSAKA WHEEL - Japan's tallest Ferris wheel (over 120 meters high). Admire panoramic views and nightscapes of the city of Osaka from its gondolas. Featuring amenities such as VIP gondolas outfitted as special luxury rides, this is a Ferris wheel with a higher level of sophistication than most, designed to offer riders excitement and amazement. Website here.

109 CINEMAS - This is the ultimate entertainment cinema complex, featuring 11 screens, the most of any such center in the region, including Japan's first "IMAX(R) WITH LASER" theater, featuring an 18-meter high screen, Japan's largest, and a state-of-the-art laser projector, and a "4DX" theater with motion chairs for a fully immersive cinematic experience. Website here.

ORBI - Orbi, a nature experience type entertainment facility produced by Sega in collaboration with the UK's BBC EARTH content production arm that invites visitors to experience the wonders of nature with their whole body, is coming to EXPOCITY in a further evolved form. Website here.

ENGLISH VILLAGE - Japan's first hands-on English education facility.
This is an "edutainment" facility that allows visitors to learn while having fun in an overseas study atmosphere against the backdrop of America's distinctive cities, regions, culture, history and so on.
It allows visitors to have fun while learning English in various situations, with a rich choice of content featuring diverse courses ranging in duration from one day to several days, for both children and adults. Website here.

* How do I get there?

Address: 2-1 Senribampaku Koen, Suita-shi, Osaka

Public transit: About 2 min. walk from Bampaku-kinen-koen Stn., Osaka Monorail

* When is it open?

Most facilities including shops and restaurants open at 10:00am. All facilities are open until 20:00 except the ferris wheel (open until 23:00), Orbit (open until 21:00), the cinemas (open until 25:00) and some restaurants (open until 22:00). The shops inside Lalaport are open until 21:00.

* What other services are offered?

The following information concerns Lalaport Mall...

Information desk : The information Desk is on the 1st floor. The Information Desk is the place to get directions (including floor maps), ask about lost children, page customers, and check Lost & Found.

Nursing rooms : Nursing rooms are located on each floor, including changing tables, hot-water heaters, vending machines for diaper changing sheets and drinks.

Multipurpose toilets : There are multipurpose toilets (ostomate-accessible toilets) on each floor. Pregnant women, handicapped and senior citizens, and customers with small children can use preferentially.

Smoking areas : Smoking rooms are located on each floor.

Coin lockers : Coin lockers are located on the 1st and 3rd floors.

Withdrawing cash from an ATM using a credit card : You can withdraw cash by credit cards issued outside of Japan at Seven bank ATM, including Visa, Plus, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Maestro, Cirrus on the 2nd floor. The ATM provides English user menu.

Other ATM services : ATMs are located on the 1st and 2nd floors. Banks include JP Bank, Kita Osaka Shinkin Bank, Ikeda Senshu Bank, Kyoto Bank, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Mizuho Bank, Seven Bank, Risona Bank

Call centre : A call center service in English and Chinese is available.
Inquires from Japan: 0120-355-231
Inquires from other countries: +81-3-5927-9321(English) , +81-3-5927-9320(Chinese)

Stroller rentals : Strollers can be rented (but not reserved in advance) for 100yen.

* What else is there in the neighborhood?

Near Expo City you can find Gamba Osaka soccer stadium, as well as a huge (and very green) park named Banpaku Koen,

Have a great day out!
Fran xx

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Morinomiya Qs Mall Osaka

Morinomiya Qs Mall is a large shopping mall located next to Osaka Castle Park. It boasts wide open spaces and healthy options for eating and shopping as well as a fitness gym and a rooftop walking/running track. It is often crowded with mums and their kids, as well as tourists taking a break from the nearby castle and museums.

Mall Hours
  • Q's MALL:  10:00am-9:00pm
  • 2F/Q's kitchen Food Court:  10:00am-9:00pm
  • Health Aid AIR TRACK:  Weekday/Saturday 9:00am-11:30pm Sunday/Holiday 9:00am-8:30pm
  • CENTRAL SQUARE Supermarket:  9:30am-12:00pm
  • EDION Electronics retailer:  10:00am-8:00pm
There are two car parking areas (east and west) for your convenience, as well as bicycle and motorcycle parking available. Discounts are credited to your parking ticket by presenting it to the cashier when you pay for goods/services within the mall.

Customers with children
There is a nursing room available on the first floor (near the supermarket).
There are diaper changing tables available in each of the restrooms.

Customers with disabilities
Five handicap parking spaces are available on the 1st floor near the elevator.
Special access toilets are viable on the first and second floors.

The mall is a short walk from Morinomiya train station.

What can I do there?
There are many cafes and restaurants (1F/2F) as well as an indoor food court (2F). Many of these cafes have healthy options and reasonably priced menus. 
Check out the website (here) for more details.

There are clothing, food, electronics, shoes, sports equipment and pet shops as well as a large supermarket in the mall.
Check out the website (here) for more information.

There is an indoor rock climbing park on the first floor for big kids as well as small playgrounds outside the foodcourt for little kids.
There is also a running track on the roof which is free to use for all customers.

Have fun!
Fran xx

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

GAP Japan now has maternity clothing

I received a typical marketing email from GAP Japan today and almost deleted it, then noticed the マタニティ word in the title! "Maternity"! 
Besides H and M, and a few other options (which I've written about previously here), there aren't a lot of choices for simple, flattering maternity clothing available in Japan.

So this is exciting!

GAP's maternity range includes tops, tanks, shirts, pants, jeans and more. There are pants/trousers with elastic panels on the sides, some with elastic waistbands and others with bump coverage.

They also have a range of active wear!
Prices seem reasonable and comparable to GAP's non maternity range.

Shipping within Japan is free if you spend over 6,000yen, and if you sign up to their newsletters, you'll hear about sales (which seem to be very frequent).

For now it looks like the maternity clothing line is limited to online shoppers, and you can access the page here.

Happy shopping!
Fran xx

Friday, January 27, 2017

Japan`s old wives tales for bringing on labor

We probably all know the old wives tales for bringing on labor in the west...

Spicy food, pineapple, dates/prunes, raspberry leaf tea, castor oil, walking, s*x, nip*le massage, acupressure, stairs and bumpy car rides and a few more.
How about in Japan?

The old wives tales or 陣痛ジンクス `labor jinx` that are common in Japan are...


Yakiniku - There does not seem to be any good reason for this, women in Japan tend to crave this grilled meat in their final weeks of pregnancy and then go into labor soon after.

Oronamin C - Although there does not seem to be any reason for this either, lots of women swear by this energy drink to bring on labor (be careful though, because it does contain caffeine).

Curry - Some people swear by spicy foods as a catalyst for labor. Mexican food or foods with hot chilis might help bring on labor. Be careful that these foods don’t give you indigestion in this late stage of pregnancy.

Raspberry leaf tea - This tea can strengthen and tone the uterus, and can help the muscles start to contract. Brew a cup by pouring 6 ounces of boiling water over one tea bag. Let it steep for 3 minutes. Let it cool and drink.

Moving around;

Walking - Walking can help stir the baby into moving downward in your body. Once the baby’s head puts pressure on the cervix, labor isn’t far behind. Try walking for 15-20 minutes. Getting out in the fresh air can also be beneficial.

Squatting - this exercise can open up your pelvis and encourage the baby to move downward. It can also strengthen the leg muscles which will help in the final stages of labor too, AND can help ease constipation and pelvic floor pressure!

Stair climbing - Walking up stairs will force your body to lean at an angle (about 40-45 degrees), which can help the baby move lower down in your body. Be sure to hold onto the handrail to make sure you are ascending the stairs safely.

Cleaning the floor - Getting down on all fours will help the baby into a good position. When the baby’s head puts downward pressure on your cervix, the cervix starts to efface, or shortens and thins out. Resting on all fours for 10 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help move the baby’s head into the optimal position.


Nip*le massage - Nip*le stimulation is another way to induce uterine contractions. Use your thumb and forefinger to roll the nip*le for 2 minutes. Give it a rest for 3 minutes. Continue this process for about 20 minutes. If you don’t feel any contractions, increase the rolling part to 3 minutes, with the rests lasting 2 minutes.

Interestingly, from what I have read, s*x is not recommended in Japan, because of the risk of infection or injury.

Since I am now 10 days away from my due date, I might just try my own mix of east and west!

Good luck,

Fran xx

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Akachan honpo (アカチャンホンポ) new point card

Akachan honpo (akachan means `baby` in Japanese) is a maternity, baby and kids` store that is famous in Japan for its large selection and reasonable prices.

There are branches all over the country, stand-alone-stores as well as stores inside shopping malls. 

Old card

New card

Akachan honpo has released a new point card and until the end of March, is offering some special bonuses for pregnant women (even for 2nd or 3rd pregnancies/children) who apply for a card.

I signed up for a new point card and received this bundle of items too. It contains an original design 出生届 (registration of a birth); a プレママ セット (mother-to-be bundle) containing samples of diapers, breast-pads etc in a cute eco-tote-bag; ポイント10倍スペシャルクーポン (coupons for increasing the points you collect on purchases to 10x); and a handy shopping guide for new mums.

You can apply for the new point card in store, or online (on your PC or smartphone here). If you apply online, you will receive an email with a special code which you must bring into the Akachan honpo store before the end of March 2017 to confirm your application.

The website (here) and information on the point card is all in Japanese, so you might want to put it through an online translation website or ask a friend to help you. 

If you plan to be in Japan for a few months or years, I would recommend getting this point card. You can use the points to discount future purchases and also receive some special discounts around your birthday and child`s birthdays too.

Happy shopping,

Fran xx

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I love Minne (not the mouse)

I have written in the past about my love for Etsy (an online shopping network for handmade goods around the world). I continue to shop at Etsy and still have a really great respect for all the amazing, talented people making clothes, accessories, toys, stationery, decorations and much more. I will have to do an updated post soon on some of my recent purchases!

But in the meantime I wanted to rave about Minne. Minne is Japan`s version of Etsy, where people sell the things they have made by hand. Of course (being limited geographically to just one country), the selection is more limited than Etsy, but shipping is very cheap and the quality of the goods (the ones that I have purchased so far), the packaging and the delivery time are second to none.

Minne is all in Japanese, so if you can't read Japanese, you might want to give it a miss. However, with my limited ability and the help of some online translation tools (talking about you BING), I have successfully searched for, bought, received and left reviews for several items.

Why shop at Minne?
I like to support small business owners, it is that simple! If I can spend my hard-earned yen buying something from another independent woman, a mother, or a student paying their way through college, I would much prefer that! Also it is pretty special owning/wearing something that no one else has! 

So what do you need to shop online at Minne? The list is the similar to the one I wrote for Etsy, so here goes...

1. patience and time : because of the huge number of merchants on Minne, it takes time to browse, compare, and select. If you don`t really know what it is you are looking for, this is bound to take even longer. My tip is to download the Minne app (free from the Apple store here) onto your smart phone, then (like me) you can browse while waiting in line, waiting for baby to fall asleep, waiting in traffic, riding public transport etc.

2. a keen eye : this takes time (and possibly a few failed purchases). First images of Minne were of crappy homemade doilies and woolen sweaters, people who were selling things that couldn`t be sold in stores or even at flea markets. In some cases, this is still true. There are hundreds of stores selling things that don`t appeal to my taste, or quality etc. Before agreeing to purchase something, please read the terms of sale, and make sure that if the item you purchase turns out to be less than expected, you can return it! If you have questions about the item, you can contact the seller easily through Minne`s conversation facility.

3. a credit card : To purchase items from Minne, it is easiest to have a japanese credit card. I have one issued by Citibank. But there are alternatives. You can pay by bank transfer, apple pay, or at a local convenience store (by printing out an order form and taking it to one of the listed stores). You can see the payment methods available under the item for sale. Here is one example I took.

**to safely shop online (anywhere), you should be very wary about who sees your personal information. Check reviews before purchasing any items, and double check your credit card information before hitting the `order` button. Is it risky to shop online at Minne? Honestly, there is no more risk than shopping online anywhere else. Giving your credit card (or credit card info) to anyone (merchants, shop staff, friends, family, or an online store) holds inherent risks, so please shop carefully!

What can I buy?
A quick look at the homepage will show you the wide selection of items... A look at the list of categories reveals...

Fashion (clothing)
Pottery and glass
Art and photos
Baby and kids stuff (clothing, accessories etc)
Soft toys and dolls
Pet goods
Aroma goods and candles
Flowers and garden items
Knick knacks

The last one is quite different to Etsy, and unique to Minne. You can order cakes, snacks and much more for delivery throughout Japan. Looks amazing!

I am relatively new to shopping at Minne and have made 3 purchases so far.

I bought a baby bonnet here, and a baby hat here, a set of covers/pads for the Ergo baby carrier here (pictures taken from the sellers pages). 

Two of the items were shipped domestically and arrived within 3-5 days. They were both packaged beautifully with hand-written notes from the sellers. The quality is extremely high and similar to something I would expect from a big shop, but all the prices were very reasonable (even cheap!!). I am super pleased.

The third item was shipped from France (by a Japanese woman living there), and hasn't arrived yet. She communicated that it would take up to 10 days, and since my baby isn't even here yet, I am in no rush!

Have you shopped online at Minne? What did you buy?

Happy shopping!

Fran xx

Decaf at Starbucks Japan

Yay Starbucks!
This is great news for pregnant or nursing women, or anyone who doesnt like the caffeine hit that comes with coffee...

Starbucks Japan has introduced (starting yesterday 11/1) decaf coffee drinks!

Check out the menu items below...

Decaf latte (hot/iced)
Decaf caramel macchiato (hot/iced)
Decaf cappuccino (hot/iced)
Decaf mocha (hot/iced)
Decaf white mocha (hot/iced)
Decaf americano (hot/iced)

And they claim that their caffeine removal process is chemical free, allowing the great taste and flavor to remain in the coffee. The process removes 99% of caffeine! Awesome!

Happy coffee drinking :)

Fran xx

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pregnant in Japan - third trimester essentials

I am now well into my third trimester with just 4 weeks (and 2 days) to go until my due date. I am feeing pretty good (all things considered) and am enjoying the last few weeks as a mama-of-one while it lasts.

Being pregnant in Japan is probably similar to anywhere else, but there are things that are recommended here that I will share, in case you are interested...

For the belly...
Japanese old-wives tales are still very common, and one of the most common things I hear is about keeping warm. Even those women who are pregnant in summer are encouraged to wrap their bellies, making sure the baby doesn't get cold. Keeping the feet and ankles warm is also very important and I have been told several times by well meaning doctors, friends and even strangers. 

So, there are a HUGE selection of belly wraps and supports available in-store and online. They range from simple fluffy waistbands to high-tech undergarments as you will see below.

This is the popularity ranking of belly-supports on a well-known website for expectant and new mothers here in Japan named Aka Sugu (here),

As you can see, some of them are like granny undies, and some just cover the belly, while others go all the way down the thighs. Some of them have built in support, others have velcro and straps which you can adjust to your growing belly. Obviously there is a wide price range too.

I have a pair of the Wacoal support underwear (similar to #3 on the list) and really like them. They also have the added benefit of smoothing out any lumps and bumps (not as tight as spanx, but great nonetheless).

There is also a wide range of belts and girdles for helping you get back down to your pre-pregnancy shape (if you so desire). Check out these products (from Aka Sugu too) for an eye-opening selection.

There is also a huge range of oils and moisturizers available (even some imported from other countries) for soothing itchy stretching skin and helping to minimize/avoid stretch marks.

I have used bio-oil during both pregnancies which I love and highly recommend. It is available online and I have seen it in some pharmacies and stores like Sony Plaza, Loft and Tokyu Hands which sell a lot of imported beauty items.

For health and wellbeing...
There are lots of de-caffenated drinks available including tea and coffee in supermarkets and import food stores.
I like rooibos tea, as well as de-caf green tea, and during my third trimester I have also started drinking Raspberry leaf tea which is supposed to be good at toning the uterus in preparation for labor and birth.
I found several brands Raspberry leaf tea at Kaldi import supermarket and online (at Amazon japan).

I really like the Pigeon brand of maternity/prenatal supplements and never found them to cause nausea or any other reactions. I am taking the folic acid/vitamin supplement as well as a probiotic. The cheapest ones I have seen are on Amazon japan. Check here and here for the ones I mentioned above.

Other things that are recommended during this time...
Pregnancy pillows - there are lots available in store at Akachan Honpo as well as online at Amazon Japan.
I have this one which I really like, and has the advantage of having uses after the baby is born too.

If there are any other products you couldn't live without in your third trimester let me know!

Happy shopping, 
Fran xx

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy new year and 明けましておめでとうございます!

This year is the year of the rooster in Japan, which is the second time I have been here in Japan during my `birth animal` year. Yes I am a rooster, and our second baby will be a rooster too!

The rooster is the 10th animal in the Chinese zodiac and it is said that `roosters` are unlucky during their birth year... it is advised for them to be extra careful during 2017!

Lucky and unlucky things for `roosters` are...

We celebrated our first shrine visit at Ishikiri Shrine and ate lots of yummy Japanese street food like takoyaki, taiyaki and yakisoba! 

I hope this year will be great for all of you!

Fran xx

Most popular baby names in Japan for 2016

It has come to that time in my pregnancy when we are discussing baby names. As we did with Aiden, I wrote a list of names (mostly English names) that I like, and then passed it to Yoshi who is thinking about how they will sound in Japanese (along with the Japanese characters that we could use).
It is a hard process, especially with girls names it seems!

Anyway, in my searches I came across the top boy and girl Japanese names for 2016 here...

The top boy names are...

And the girls...

Nothing too surprising there, but interesting that one name appears on both lists... Aoi.

*It seems that there are lots of different `popular names` lists out there, and I have already seen 4-5 with completely different names haha! Anyway it seems that the words for flora and fauna do seem popular (Hana = flower, Sakura = cherry blossom etc.)!