Transform Your Nerdy Self

I never cease to be amazed by the crazy illustrations around Japan. I think this is a sign to download some Japanese “SIMS” like game. What’s so weird about it, is it seems to be sponsored by the City of Gero.


It makes me so happy to have my best friend along for this unexpected journey.

(pardon the mush, but it IS Valentine’s Day)

…taken at a random rest stop last summer.

Cycling in the snow

Pedaling in the snow #NBD

Japanese driver’s license


I’m Official













FINALLY made it back to Gifu to take “the test” after having the initial document review last October.

Left Gero around 6:00 am, made it to the Gifu Police Station for the 8:30 appointment. It started with document submission, vision test (had to take off eyeglasses – what?!), and a 10 question written test (very basic, need a 70% to pass). Then came the driving portion. The course had to be memorized, and to paraphrase the Gero Driving instructor “forgetting the course doesn’t necessarily fail you, it only gives you more opportunities to fail”. That was the information the universe needed to hear because RC missed a turn. There was an audible gasp from the viewing gallery. The car stopped. He looped back around and continued on the test.  Soon after that, the instructor got out of the car to check his tire at a stop sign. Another gasp from the crowd. “He walked back into the car smiling and shaking his head – I was 1″ away from the line.” There isn’t any parking portion of the test, though RC is pretty fabulous at parking “Japanese style” (reversing backwards into really small parking spaces).

After the test was over the test-takers (RC + two others) were ushered back into the waiting room.  10 minutes later Camacho-san was having his picture taken for his Japanese Driver’s License (the picture looks like a mugshot “they told me not to smile”). A few minutes later he was listening to a brief “Rules of the Road” talk and then he was official. Whoo-hoo!

Thanks to Narita-san for all of his help with the studying and preparation! As a side note, failing it would have really sucked. It’s another $100 or so for the test and a 4 hour round trip from Gero to Gifu!

Monkey Cam

If you ever need a pick-me up, check out the monkey camera from Jigokudani Yaen-koen. It makes me smile every time.


Grocery list

FYI we do eat food. Here is a typical shopping list

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Grapefruit/oranges
  • Lettuce
  • Pineapple
  • Red/yellow peppers
  • Sweet potatoes (purple)
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocado
  • Salmon
  • Ground beef
  • Pork chops
  • Beef parts
  • Spaghetti sauce/noodles
  • Ramen
  • Eggs
  • Edamame
  • Tater tots/french fries
  • Butter
  • String cheese
  • English muffins
  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Almonds
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Saltine crackers
  • Rice
  • Pizza
We recently discovered that the (cash-only) grocery store in Takayama has cheddar cheese, tortillas, and wine.

Look how colorful

Tonki: A 73 year tradition













Shiro and I were out in Tokyo once again for business. We kinda have a thing going that when the other person helps each other out we say, “You owe me Tonkatsu” basically meaning “hey, I did you a favor you owe me dinner”. Being Puerto Rican, it’s only natural that I would have fallen in love with Tonkatsu, a deep fried, breaded pork chop. You can find Tonkatsu pretty much every where in Japan, and it’s a very safe meal for those who aren’t too adventurous.

So dinner was on me this time, and Shiro had been telling me about this Tonki place: the best place for Tonkatsu… or so they say. He claims they have been in business for some 70 years. I wasn’t sure what to expect, after getting off Meguro Station it was a short walk,  kinda squirreled away off the main street behind Meguro Hilltop Walk tower.

From the outside, it is underwhelming to say the least, however the line was practically out the door. Once we got in we stood in line and slowly started seeing progress as the line moved forwarded.

Ojiisan’s were holding the place down- all dressed in white. The head chef is running point calling out to everyone in line, figuring out what everyone wants, and how many are in their party. They only sell variations of portions – Tonkatsu is their only dish. We finally sat down after 30 minutes or so, the place was packed. The tonkatsu was excellent. It definitively kinda has a Soup Nazi thing going on.. but I definitely recommend it!










SnOw it begins

The quick trip to Takayama last night involved crafts, ski stores, hamburgers, and snow. (cont’d)

At the counter waiting for the deliciousness to arrive

… the deliciousness in the making.

The accumulation of this season’s snow.

Quiet streets

Gero Driving School

The course

From all accounts on the world wide web, passing the driver’s test the first time doesn’t seem to happen all that often. “Driving Schools” are a HUGE business in Japan -around $3,000/person. (Of course, you wouldn’t know that there were such high standards for getting a driver’s license because the general population of this island doesn’t drive any better than the US). We didn’t go to the driving school, but we did spend an hour at the Gero Driving School driving around on a course “similar to the one in Gifu”.

Takeaways from the Gero Driving School:

  • Drive slow on the inside of the course, but not too slow on the outside.
  • Pump the breaks (3x) prior to reaching a turn. (?!)
  • Exaggerate your mirror check/blind spot checks.
  • Don’t hit things. You immediately fail.
  • It’s OK to drive with your blinker on if you are going to turn in the next 3 minutes.
  • If the test administrator has to use the emergency break you fail.
  • There is a specific order for moving the seat, locking the door, adjusting the mirrors, and putting on the seatbelt… but I can’t remember the order…hmm.


Q: “What happens if you miss/forget a turn during the exam?”

A: “Nothing. Loop back around and try again. It only gives you more opportunities to fail”

If you are interested, check out the Japanese road signs. Word on the street is that the not-as-populated prefectures are more lenient, so I guess that’s another plus for living in GP.

Taking the car for a spin

Here we go again!

Back in Gero after a day of traveling. cont’d

Peace out OR.

Snow on the tarmac at NRT

NC mtns from the tarmac

Steerage on ANA


Oooo! Found the most accurate site for the weather in Gero. Looks like we are in for another cold winter.

Panda cat and friends

Here are some random cat pictures. Meow!

Panda cat on his soapbox

Panda cat goes for a ride.

Vicious panda cat attacking MD

The mangy pregnant cat in Tokyo went straight for Ray-san

…and here are some of our faves!