Saturday, November 07, 2009


(Grandmas and Grandpas)

I kid you not, that one out of every third person I see in the gym when I go at night in my weight lifting area, is a grandpa. And I wouldn't be surprised if, at any time, he could kick my ass in weightlifting. Or muscle building. Or running. Or life-longevity.

Imagine, if you will, 70-year old men with thick leather weight belts, pressing and squatting free weights without spotters.

Imagine, if you can, your grandpa doing the same. I mean, really. Could he? I know neither of mine could (no offense, Grandpa...).

These guys are nuts. Every time I go over to the free weight area to do dumbbell lifts (which, compared to what these guys can do, is pretty puny), I just stare. And stare. And stare some more in disbelief.

Last week, for example, I watched a man (who had to be pushing 80-years old), use a chair to climb up, and with pull-up wrist straps, wrap his wrists to the top bar of a free weight stand before kicking the chair away and doing 30 pull ups and inverse crunches. While hanging from the bar. He then simultaneously unstrapped his wrists and jumped down.

Raise your hand if you think you could do that (as I keep both hands on the keyboard).

Conversely, behind me in the glass-walled studio (which, isn't at all awkward, by the way), are 100 oba-chans (grandmas), pumping their legs up and down, sweating their wrinkles away. 50-, 60-, 70-year old women, keeping up to Ne-Yo and Lady Gaga on the overhead speakers, kick, push, step, up, up, up.

Usually that's about the time I head over to Starbucks for a venti-sized latte.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

My pot of gold

My pot of gold looks like a tin can.

In fact, it is a tin can. It is a big, gold, tin can.

And in this tin can holds my new obsession - ¥500 coins.

¥500 coins, which roughly exchange to about $5, are easy to collect, and even easier to spend. Until you're on a mission to save them, and then they become, again, an obsession.

In the last 9 months, in any circumstance, I will go out of my way to tip the register so that my change includes a ¥500 coin. I constantly carry extra change so that if I find myself in a situation in which the till rings up ¥615, I can pay ¥1115 (and get a ¥500 coin back). I've even gone so far as to pay a ¥2913 bill with ¥3413 (so I can get that ¥500 coin back).

And what do I do with these coins?

When I get them, I pop them into the shiny little tin can container whence they belong.

And what do I do with this container? Well, I save, save, save! The containers, which come in different sizes, when full, can hold between ¥100,000 ($1000) to ¥300,000 ($3000) depending on the size, and are easy to fill when one is diligent.

Which I am.

Now, on one end, this means that every cup of coffee at Starbucks, or every meal at Mc Donald's, or every cup of noodle at the convenience store literally costs twice as much (because as instead of paying just ¥400 or so yen, I keep the other ¥500 as if I've spent it and and put it away).

But, on the converse, I save heaps and heaps of coins, which add up. Which is great. And diligence is key. When I started this last March, I was able to save up ¥95,000 before I went to Europe. And I was incredibly super diligent upon coming back to Japan - between landing in August and leaving for Vietnam, I was able to save ¥70,000.

A pot of gold for me? A piggy bank for grownups?

Yes. And worth every cent. Literally.