Five Things

Another week is about to begin and, as one would expect, this means the weather is about to become lovely. For some peculiar reason, the best weather always seems to happen between Monday and Friday. One might argue that this is the result of a very selective memory, but I’m inclined to think that the universe likes to tempt people into skipping work.

This is why we have “sick days”, right?

Sunglasses at Light

After going without for more than a decade, I finally have a pair of prescription sunglasses to use when out and about in the sun. One of the last big purchases I made before leaving Canada back in 2007 was a $890 pair of frameless glasses that could transition from completely transparent to decently grey with UV light. These broke a few years later and, being rather financially constrained at the time, I picked up a simple pair of regular glasses that would get the job done. This is the same pair I use today.

There are a couple of things I like about having a dedicated pair of prescription sunglasses. Not only is it easier to look at things outside during the daylight hours, but these can act as an auxiliary pair should anything happen to my indoor glasses. Until now, I’ve been extremely careful to ensure the boy doesn’t damage my eyewear. Now, while I plan on remaining vigilant, there is less at stake from little fingers creating big problems.

Unhelpful Rhetoric

This week I was chatting with a couple of neighbours when we heard a fire truck followed by an ambulance race down a nearby street, sirens and PA speakers blaring. One of the men stated that the fire and police have been a lot busier in the area lately, to which another said — and I am quoting in English despite the Japanese that was used — “The change happened about the same time the last group of foreigners moved into town.”

I couldn’t resist. I had to ask how often the cops or fire department had been to my house in the last 14 months.

“Oh, you’re fine,” the neighbour quickly said as though trying to backpedal. “The problem is all the Brazilians.”

To which I quickly rattled off a bunch of high profile crimes that have been in the news over the last two weeks, all of which have been conducted by Japanese people. Legal immigrants to Japan generally try to follow they rules because the consequences of causing trouble is too great a cost. I’ll admit that my attitude towards immigrants in Canada when I was young and stupid was unfair1, but I will do what I can to help people understand that people who willingly choose to live and work in Japan are generally hard-working, law-abiding residents.

10,000 a Day

In the month of May my average daily step count was 10,005. The last time I saw this sort of number was when I was still very much into the idea of Quantified Self, which I had to abandon after the boy was born due to the over-complexities of recording activities that are interrupted thrice at a minimum2. That said, both the boy and Nozomi have been insistent this month that they have more time outside, and I am quick to support any reason to get some fresh air and sunshine. It’s nice to see a 5-digit number again.

The Mazda is Back

Last week the Mazda was returned with a new transmission and two new associated computers. Before the car had problems, I thought the vehicle was smooth. After feeling how the car accelerated and maintains speed now, colour me surprised. I’ve not enjoyed a ride this smooth in years. The car feels brand new.


As I eluded to earlier, I’ve recently started to track some of my numbers again. For the moment, tracking will be kept relatively simple with steps, heart rate at the time I wake up, sleep patterns, and body weight. A lot of this is quite automated, which makes it easier to get back into the swing. One thing I am looking forward to, though, is picking up an ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ at some point to better track my pulse and other metrics. If I plan the budget just right, Santa might place one of these devices under the tree this year. Two would be better, but likely isn’t in the cards for this year.

  1. I didn’t mind that people came from other countries. What frustrates me was the communication barrier, as not everyone was fluent in English or Québécois. I used to ask “If you can’t speak either of the languages, why are you here?” It was an idiotic and unfair question. As a settled immigrant in a historically homogenous nation, I understand the challenges that come with moving across the planet.

  2. This is why I had to give up tracking my sleep. I would be woken up at least twice every night, and three times on average. Try recording that into a phone application that expects a person to go to bed just once per night.

Five Things

Nineteen years ago the Nuwaubian Nation expected that the planetary lineup in our solar system would cause a "star holocaust", pulling all of the planets toward the Sun, incinerating everything, and ruining an otherwise lovely day. I remember hearing about this on a nighttime documentary discussing Nostradamus and other "doomsday" predictions some time around '93 or '941. This memory has persisted a little more stubbornly than others from that time period, probably as a reminder that the end of the world will not be foreseen by fringe religious groups.

That said, it's time for another list …

Irregular Heartbeats

Reiko and I both suffer from occasional palpitations and, while these do not happen with enough regularity to make wearing a medical heart monitor worthwhile2, their frequency does seem to be increasing. I've done a little bit of digging around online to see what sort of options are available for us to monitor ourselves and it seems the most recent Apple Watch3 has the simplest, most comprehensive heart monitoring software for the price. While I've not seriously considered an Apple Watch before, being able to show a doctor a series of ECG charts to aid in a diagnosis could very well mitigate future problems.

More research is required.

Green Fingers

Earlier today I was out in the yard, pulling weeds from the ground, and thinking about what sorts of plants I'd like to see added this year. Both Reiko and I agree that we'd like to have a tree, though it's location is still a topic of debate, and we'd like to have a small vegetable garden. What struck me today was how much I enjoyed being down at ground level to make the small plot of land around our house a little more presentable. While I don't know anything about taking care of flowers, bushes, and trees4, I would be interested in learning. Heck, this might be a good excuse to learn a new set of Japanese words. My speaking ability has seriously degraded over the last year or so as a result of working from home.

Pulled Strings

Last week the Mazda broke down and we were told to go rent a car5 for the month or so that the vehicle would be in the shop, awaiting a new transmission and ECU from Hiroshima. The best deal I could find for a month-long rental was about $32006, which is simply out of the question given that most non-commercial vehicles sit parked for the vast majority of every day. As a result, the family and I have resorted to using the bus when travelling more than 3km. This isn't impossible, though it does increase complexity when trying to plan around bus schedules and walking speeds.

Imagine my surprise when we received an email on Friday saying that a courtesy vehicle has been found and that we can use it for a couple of weeks. Last night around 9:00pm we received a "Plain Jane" Mazda Flair. This is very much appreciated, as it gives Reiko something to drive to work.

Excessive Footnotes

Sometimes when I see the number of footnotes at the end of my blog posts7, I wonder why I don't just write "mini-posts" that say the same thing as the footnote (with more detail and perhaps some pictures), and link to that. Occasionally these annotations are little more than digressions, but sometimes these could be expanded out into a post of their own. By going the route of having a series of detailed mini-posts, it becomes possible to have multiple blog posts pointing to the same reference point without there being a need for copy/paste. More than this, any update to the mini-post would benefit any future reader who might follow the link.

But then a blog might become a …

Personal Wiki

There are almost 100,000 items on going back to 20068, when I actually thought that a Synology box sitting on top of my fridge would be sufficient to run a website. A lot of blog posts have links to previous articles. Some social posts link to blog posts. Many social posts link to other posts across the system. The more I think about it, the more I wonder when a personal website tips the scale from being a traditional blog, to a non-collaborative — or semi-collaborative — wiki. Properly structured, a wiki would be an interesting way to catalogue a life.

This concept will need just a little more thought to organize.

  1. Not sure why, but documentaries on Nostradamus and future predictions always fascinated me as a kid.

  2. These are generally worn for 24~36 hours and not much longer. Hospitals can't just hand heart monitors out like they do prescriptions.

  3. The Series 4 Apple Watch is the most recent model as of the time of this post.

  4. I grew up on a vegetable farm, so know how to work with all the standard veggies one might find in a North American house. We had pine, maple, and willow trees across the property, but these were either for decoration or have been growing since before Canada was a country. My mum did try to have flowers a couple of times, but they tended to get lost in the weeds pretty quick.

  5. Generally people get discounted rates through their auto insurance provider if they signed up for this benefit, which increases the cost of insurance by about $60 a year. We chose to not get the coverage given that the car was essentially new and that car problems generally don't result in being without a vehicle for 30+ days. Oops.

  6. The estimate was 363,500円 for the smallest car with zero features.

  7. I say this knowing full well that this blog post has an arguably excessive number of footnotes as well.

  8. I don't count the very first chronological post as a start date for anything but my life outside the womb.

Five Things: Mazda Edition

The day started with little fingers dropping a 22 year old glass trinket, sending shards of skin-penetrating hazards across the floor … and it only got more expensive from there.

Being the second day of the family's 10-day Golden Week holiday, we wanted to head out to a nearby play centre called "Fantasy Kids Resort". There the boy would be able to run around and do what toddler's do best. If we were lucky, he might even remember some of what happened while playing around with the balls, or the blocks, or the slides, or the myriad of other things designed to give parents a bit of a break from saying "Don't do that!" and "Inside voice!". Unfortunately, we never made it the 16.3km because our relatively new car lost all forward momentum along the way. Reiko would step on the gas, the engine would rev up to 4,000rpm, but we would go nowhere. Interestingly, reverse worked just fine.

Fortunately, there was a gas station about 200 metres up the road where we could park the car in order to deal with all the hassles that come with a broken down vehicle. There was just one problem, though: the gas station was 200 metres up the road.

Being the optimistic dolt, I told Reiko to put the car in neutral and I would push the vehicle the rest of the way. This is apparently something that "nobody does" in Japan, given the way passing drivers gawked and slowed down as they overtook the newish Mazda Premacy that was limited to my sluggish jogging speed. However, after a bit of huffing and puffing, I managed to get the car to the nearby Eneos. The crew there was quick to help out, and they even performed a free diagnostic of the car to see what might be causing the problem.

Diagnosis: a loss of power.

No duh.

Then it was time to call the dealer where we bought the car, call the roadside assistance company we have a contract with to tow the vehicle to the dealer, and try to get things back on track.

Despite the stress and hassle, several things went quite well. The boy was relatively patient despite the obvious boredom that comes from being stuck at a gas station for 90 minutes. The service crew were incredibly helpful the whole time, even though the only thing we bought was a bottle of water. The tow truck arrived 20 minutes before we were told to expect it. The tow truck driver called us a taxi1, which then arrived two or three minutes later. And, fortunately, the first car rental place we went to had a car that we could hire for a couple of days.

We left the house at 10:30am and returned just before 2:00pm absolutely exhausted for all the wrong reasons.

But, as this is a Five Things post, there should be a list. So I'd like to list out all the things that bugged Reiko and I today when we were dealing with the Mazda dealership where we bought the car.

Our Warranty is Only Valid at the Selling Dealership

There are seven Mazda dealerships closer to us than the place we bought the vehicle. The reason we bought the car at the dealer we did was because of how hard it was to find a good, used Premacy2. We wanted to have the car shipped to the nearest dealer as we are already familiar with some of the people there and it would be much easier to pick up the car after it's fixed. Unfortunately, this option wasn't available to us as the manufacturer warranty that we received when we bought the vehicle is apparently best serviced from the selling dealership.

This expectation is stupid.

No Courtesy Car for a Month

Generally when a person needs to leave their car with a dealer or auto repair shop for any length of time, they're given a courtesy car. These loaner vehicles are usually the most basic sort of car money can buy, lacking any creature comforts. We don't need a glamourous vehicle while our car is in the shop, but it would be nice to have a vehicle. While we have been promised a car, we will not see it until May 22nd. As the calendar clearly states, today is April 28th.

A car company does not have a spare car lying around. I wonder if they still have our old Daihatsu Move.

ETA: June 6th

If waiting four weeks for a loaner wasn't bad enough, we won't have our own vehicle back until the first week of June. After a battery of tests, the mechanics at the dealership discovered that our transmission is shot. How a transmission dies on a car that's been driven for 30 months at most is beyond me. It's a family vehicle, not a sports car. We go to the mall to buy clothes and maybe have some lunch at the food court, not perform donuts and practice drifting in the parking lot. Regardless, a new transmission must be ordered from the Mazda plant in Hiroshima. The dealer has said that the average shipping time is four weeks, and this week the factory is shut down for Golden Week. There's nothing we can do but wait.

Hassles and happenstance aside, there were some good things, too.

Free Delivery of the Courtesy Car and Our Fixed Car

The dealership we bought our vehicle from is located a couple of cities over, and we're not going to rent a car at 7.200 Yen (about $70 USD, +/- 10%) per day for four weeks3. Getting there via public transit would also be quite the excursion, requiring about 90 minutes on the bus and 25 minutes on the train. Shipping a car from there to here would cost somewhere in the ballpark of 20,000 Yen (about $200 USD, +/- 10%). The salesperson who took our money for the Premacy offered to have both the courtesy car and our Premacy delivered to us at no cost, saving us the time, hassle, and money.

Very appreciated.

They Called Back

According to the website, the dealer closes its doors every day at 6:20pm. We were promised a phone call today to know what the problem was with the car and when it would be fixed. At 6:30 we'd heard nothing. The same silence was observed at 7:00 and 7:30. By 8:00pm we had given up expecting a call but, at 8:02, the phone rang. It was the dealer explaining what was wrong with the car and how they needed to perform a full battery of tests to confirm it was just the transmission rather than something else. Despite being the Sunday night before a national holiday, the sales person and two mechanics worked overtime to keep their promise.

This, too, was very appreciated.

Today has been a long day, and a bit of rest is in order. Fortunately, the problems that we faced today are comically light in the grand scheme of things.

  1. Our phone batteries were pretty much dead. The wife's phone was running on fumes, as she never charges the darn thing, and my work's flip phone's battery is 10+ years old and hasn't been used for an hour of phone calls since it belonged to the area sales manager who left the company in 2013.

  2. The car is no longer manufactured, which is a shame as it is a perfect fit for the family. The Atenza is too low to the ground for the boy's car seat. The Axela is too small. The CX series is shaped in such a way that Reiko wouldn't be able to put the boy in his chair.

  3. While it's true that I do earn a little more now than I did when teaching, this doesn't mean that money can be blown willy nilly on things like having a rental car parked somewhere within walking distance for 23 or more hours each day.

Buying a Car In Japan – Option Three: Mazda Axela

In this, the third installment of our “Shopping for a Car” series, Reiko and I decided to head to Gifu Mazda to see what kind of offerings we could scrounge up there. Having still been impressed with the Nissan Tiida, and less impressed with the overtly masculine designs of the Honda-series models, we were a little skeptical about what we might find with the less-popular manufacturer from Hiroshima. Skeptical, that is, until about 30 seconds after we set foot on the lot.

This dealership pulls out all the stops when it comes to offering great customer service. From having a salesperson run out to the parking lot to meet us and show us a prime spot to park our car, to having an overly attentive group of people who know when to back off and let the customers touch and feel the merchandise. These people know how to treat the consumer.

Outstanding Customer Service

The service that Reiko and I experienced at Gifu Mazda was really second to none. At Honda, although a person met us in the parking lot and showed us to the showroom floor, he didn’t really seem all that “sales-persony.” His language was sometimes far too casual (a big no-no in Japan), and his facial habits put my wife off on more than one occasion. While I have little trouble with this, it’s a pretty big deal considering the amount of money that we’re going to drop on the purchase of a new car.

Gifu Nissan, while offering great service at the end, was very slow to pick up on the fact that Reiko and I were actually looking to buy a car. Perhaps not on the same day, but certainly in the very near future. Any Japanese salesperson that sees someone rolling into the parking lot with a 10 year-old vehicle should know well ahead of the fact that we wish to purchase a car before the next Shakken season rolls around. In our case, it’s August of next year. After arriving at the dealership, we had to ask someone to see a salesperson, and it was almost like we were bothering them with our very presence. Perhaps they thought that we wouldn’t be able to speak Japanese (since I’m obviously not Asian, and some people seem to think that Reiko is from Indonesia or Thailand), but our racial appearances shouldn’t matter so much. Heck, when you’re talking about the difference between a 2-million yen sale, and no sale at all, what difference does skin or languages have to do with anything? Money talks. That’s all a salesperson should need to say when dealing with people who may not have the same ancestry.

Rant aside, the service was completely different at Gifu Mazda. After helping us to a parking space, we were shown to the showroom floor where we were immediately met by a friendly and open salesman. Reiko had already done quite a bit of research on what models she wanted to look at before arriving, and even had the specific colours picked out. After a quick discussion, we were back in the mid-day heat to look at the most expensive of Reiko’s selections: the 2009 Mazda Axela.

Ravishing in Red

The Mazda Axela is a sporty-looking car with lots of power under the hood. The model that we got to examine up close was a nice 16-valve 2.5 liter model with all the bells and whistles that you’d hope to see in a 21st century car. Car navigation, dual climate controls (a.k.a. ventilation flanges), 8-speaker surround, power everything and plenty of space for everyone in the family (in this case, Reiko and I … and the salesman. After the standard practice of sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running, the salesperson hopped in the back and suggested that we take it for a test spin.


This was the first time we had been offered the opportunity to check out the car completely before talking about money. Heck, Honda and Nissan didn’t even consider asking if we had wanted to test drive the Tiida, Fit, or any other vehicle we had received quotes on. Naturally, this would have been part of the second visit, but to be offered this within the first ten minutes of our arrival was quite a bit more than we had expected.

Suffice to say, we took this opportunity to give it a try.

Three other salespeople helped out by running up to the street to make sure that the coast was clear, and then we were off! For the next 2.2 km, Reiko and I were driving in comfort, while the salesperson behind us talked about some of the features and advantages the Axela had over some similar models. The car navigation kept tabs on our current location, the stereo sounded great, the ride was comfortable and, best of all, we had no trouble identifying the dimensions of the car while driving!

Why So Many Cameras?

One of the things that I really don’t like about many of the newer cars is the number of cameras that each model comes equipped with. Cameras to help you park. Cameras to keep tabs on the curb. Cameras to check if you can safely change lanes on a highway. It’s ridiculous! For 100 years we were able to park our cars without the aid of cameras, and now so many people are relying on a silicon set of eyes to help them do something that is perfectly possible with our mind’s eye. How hard is it to properly identify the dimensions of a vehicle you regularly drive?

Wait … after living in Vancouver for half a decade; I know just how difficult this can be for many people. That said I strongly feel that if you can’t determine the size of your car or truck, then you don’t deserve to drive it. People with this problem can either get a different car, or get off the road. When I see a car changing lanes ahead of me, the last thing I want to worry about is whether they’ll run someone else right off the road. When I park my car at the mall, I don’t want to worry about whether people will drive into the side of my car because they’re too busy focusing on only one mirror rather than all three.

Rant aside, with the Mazda Axela, Reiko and I both agree that cameras on this vehicle would be a stupid waste of money. It’s very easy to know where the edge of the car is at all times, and there’s more than enough visibility with the wrap-around windows that come standard on most every car.

Essential Accessories

After getting back to the dealership, we started discussing some of the options and accessories that we’d like to see in our car. Although it was a sporty model we had test-driven, Reiko and I opted to go with a sedan-styled car. Naturally, we asked for the navigation system (which we have both desired a couple of times in the last few weeks while making our way around unfamiliar places in Gifu and Aichi prefectures), rear spoiler, keyless operation, 19” chrome rims, 24-valve V6 with 6-speed manual transmission ….

Oh wait … that’s what I wanted, not what we decided to get a quote on.

Seriously, though, Reiko and I did opt to go with a sedan-style design as it offered greater visibility behind the car, though it does cost us a bit in storage space. We will definitely go with a car navigation package to reduce the stresses and unnecessary frustration that sometimes comes with going to new places in Japan by car, and we might just get some decent speakers, too. Although I would like to see some of the sportier accessories included, we might need to hold off on those as the base price for the Axela is just a bit higher than we had planned to spend for a nicely equipped new car. Perhaps if I can get my hands on a few hundred thousand Yen, then we can go for the fog lights, multi-color dash display, fully equipped steering wheel and 17” wheels. I know that Reiko would be just as happy driving on 15’s, but the 17’s look so much nicer and make the ride all the smoother.

The Bottom Line

After getting our base model all priced out, we’re looking at about 700,000 Yen more than we had initially budgeted for. The car is almost 3-million, but comes with a really nice warranty system and is designed in such a way that both Reiko and I would be quite happy driving it. One interesting thing to note is that Mazda offers a Buy-Back option on their leases. We can have the car for about 44,900 Yen a month for 60 months (with a 500,000 Yen down payment) and, so long as the car is worth more than 610,000 Yen at the end of the five years, they’ll buy the car back for the full value it’s worth. That said, if the car is worth less than 610,000 Yen for whatever reason, then we’d be out some money if we decide to return the car. At that point, we’d likely just buy it outright and then look at getting a new one if we were in the market for two cars.

After leaving the dealership, Reiko was ready to buy the car right then. However, she’d like to have her father come with us when we do sign the paperwork to make sure that we’re not being suckered into anything that is not necessary. Depending on how well this Mazda dealership performs this month, we might just be able to score some extra discounts: September and March are the two “performance months” were the different dealerships try to out-perform each other for incentive bonuses.

And why not? The service was top notch, and the car was quite a looker. Regardless of whether we go with the blue or the red, I know that Reiko and I will say the car looks good for years to come.

What do you think of the Mazda line? They’re not too popular in this part of Japan thanks to the proximity of Toyota, but they certainly know how to design sexy cars that inspire excitement.

Zoom Zoom…

title=" | Buying A Car in Japan - Option One: Niisan Tiida" href="" target="_self">Read Option One (Nissan Tiida) here.

title=" | Buying a Car in Japan - Option Two: Honda Fit" href="" target="_self">Read Option Two (Honda Fit) here.