Pastry, Pens, and Pizza

Ray and I overslept and missed breakfast at our hotel. So we compensated by rolls and coffee at a nearby candy/cafe shop and cafe. The marmalade was great and the rolls were incredible. My coffee was a hot chocolate with espresso, drizzled with chocolate. The shop was a chocolate lover’s delight.

Lots of truffles in boxes, fancy pineapple shaped boxes, and more
Those cakes we’re enough to make one hungry even if you’d just eaten
Truffles, truffles, and more truffles

As part of the Christmas celebration, they made an ice rink with these little pelikans to help beginning skaters

More Christmas pictures
The pen and stationery store
Really nice staff. Pens were primarily Mont Blanc, Caran d’ache, Lamy, and Parker

Street food sausages and glühwein (hot mulled wine)
A bench made out of skateboards

We went back to the hotel for a while, and then, because it was raining pretty hard, went to an Italian restaurant a few doors down for pizza and beer. Their door had a master card logo on it but when we went to pay, they said no credit cards. Fortunately, we had euros. And the pizza was excellent.

Pocket full of Cash

person holding pink piggy coin bank
Photo by on

Crazy as it may seem, high tech Japan is a cash economy so heading to the country with only credit cards in your pocket is an imprudent idea.
Here are some tips we discovered in our research:
Make sure your credit cards have low or better yet, NO transaction fees.  Right now, my chase Amazon card offers 0% fees but check your cards rates before you leave.  Also, check on your ability to withdraw yen from atms.  You’ll need a 4 digit pin (check again on transaction fees) and will need to use an international credit card friendly atm.  Japan post has a ton and they even have an atm finder (search in play store under Japan post atm finder app). Another good option for atms and free internet is their version of a seven 11 (

person holding dollars
Photo by on

If you can, it’s wise to exchange some) dollars for yen before hitting the country.  Banks in Albuquerque mostly don’t offer this service.  Wells Fargo does (as of right now) but only for their bank account customers.  Charles Schwab has a good travel credit card as of today–these things change overnight.  Dallas Fort Worth airport has an exchange service but 1) we have a super short turnaround there and 2) exchange services tend to have less advantageous exchange rates.  Still,  we’ll have to either find an international card friendly atm at the N.  arita airport or exchange a small amount at the airport currency exchange.  Some bigger hotels will do exchange but at a not-so-great rate.  So most of our exchanges will be at post offices, or 7-11s, many times through the ATMs there.

We are going to the Japanese alps where we will be visiting rural areas, onsen, and farms.  We will get plenty of cash before venturing there!
In Tokyo and Kyoto, we’ll be more likely to be able to use our credit cards some of the time.  Surprisingly, stores that support credit cards often also support android pay and apple pay.  Go figure.

If I find any cool tips and trips during our trip, I’ll update this blog.

I ran across this excellent video which is worth clicking on. It was designed for the vlogger’s Canadian friends but the information applies to anyone.

My Cash Only Nightmare

person using laptop computer
Photo by on

Over a year ago, my computer and phone were simultaneously attacked, and for a time I had to do without credit cards while I worked through the steps to protect myself against identity theft.  That was an experience I’d just as soon never repeat, as I’d always taken a high-tech approach to paying bills.  After changing all my accounts to manual/snail mail access (because my phone was still infected), and closing out all computer access to credit card, stock, and other accounts, I went totally manual. Going from managing all my accounts in Mint to collecting hard copy receipts and using a manual ledger was enough to make me start grinding my teeth again, a bad habit I had overcome after leaving corporate America.  In addition to collecting and organizing a mountain of receipts, I had to write down every single electronic purchase, no matter how small – including my monthly magazine subscriptions for my Nook habit.  And since snail mail was irregular at best in  Albuquerque; thanks to a constant revolving door of substitute mail people, I had to constantly request replacement statements (and not by phone, since my phone still was owned by the folks from outer Uzbekistan or some other hacking epicenter.) Furthermore, I had to manually do the math to keep a running balance (since my computer was also still in virus land, despite being totally reformatted twice). So, I honed my math skills by doing my ledgers manually, and then checking them with a handheld calculator.  Those poor people who don’t own computers should be commended for maintaining any sanity or a semblance of order in their finances. While I did manage to keep all those ledgers (one for each credit card, the checking account, the savings account, my cash, and so on) relatively balanced, it took hours, and organizing and attaching the appropriate receipts to each statement, was enough to make me mainline chocolate and coffee.

Photo by Pixabay on

An  ill-timed pounce by my cat often sent an hour of receipt organizing flying into the air.  So what do people do who can’t use a computer?  Especially those whose math skills or memory capabilities are deficient?

Many months later, I am slowly surfacing into a computerized world again.  I have learned far more than I ever hoped to about the difference between http and https sites.  (If you’re logging in, you want a https site — think of the s as security).  I’ve also learned to check website certificates – something I didn’t even know existed in my blissfully ignorant past life.  Different vendors offer different levels of security, and it’s important to check for expired certificates, the possibility of hijacked certificates, and certificates that aren’t appropriate for what you want to do — such as a coding certificate for a site login.  Needless to say, all this certificate speak gave me an amazing migraine.  Excedrin Migraine, more chocolate and some wine was all that stood between me and a deranged run through the neighborhood.

I’ve also learned to click the Verisign and Truste seals to make sure that they are live to verify the site ownership, and to check for current review dates on McAffee seals. I still haven’t figured out the Go Daddy certificate system so I basically just avoid those websites for now.  I’m not crazy about their advertising approach, anyway, even though I like Danika Patrick when she’s driving a race car rather than shilling their products.

close up envelopes paper
Photo by on

During my adventure in cash-land, a friend recommended taking my monthly income, dividing it into envelopes: groceries, utilities, bills, and discretionary spending. While I can see that this is an effective method for many people, for me  it was a frustrating exercise in high finance, and advanced math. I was always at the store with an envelope that didn’t have quite enough money, or I took the wrong envelope with me by mistake, or needed to stop by to pay the utilities but had left that envelope at home.  Clearly, I was a failure at the envelope method of budgeting.

So now that my electronic life is returning to semi-normal, I’m glad to leave the cash-only approach to life and try a high-tech, no cash version.  Today, I used my Starbucks app on my phone to get a coffee, bought my groceries with a credit card, and paid my Comcast bill online.  Heaven!