Friday, June 26, 2009

Meiji Shrine - Meiji Jinguu (明治神宮)


One of the last things I did in Tokyo and in Japan was visit Meiji Shrine and the emperor's garden.

Tokyo was getting boring to me by this point. I like the city life and all but I feel like there are two sides of Japan shopping and cultural attractions that also have shopping. It might be like this everywhere but anyways...

Going to Meiji Shrine was a really nice change of pace. Being there felt like I wasn't in the city at all but in a different place. I could not see many skyscrapers or hear cars. I went on a rainy day so everything was wet but felt refreshing. Being at the shrine felt like every other shrine I went to in Osaka and Kyoto but it was still nice because it belonged to the emperor.

(A wooden torii)

(I found one skyscraper in the distance.)

I also went into the emperor's garden. There is a famous flower that blooms only when it rains but it didn't bloom when we went. Not many things were blooming because we went too early in the season.

(nani nani's well...)

In the garden there was this pond with huge koi fish. My boyfriend manage to summon them with an interesting hand trick.

(If he could...I think he would love to catch one and eat it.)

Although the gardens were nice. It would have been nice if we went during the blooming season or during fall. I probably need to go back there again someday.

(random house that we could not go inside of)

Reverse Culture Shock

My first instance in dealing with reverse culture shock was in the San Fransisco Airport. I forgot how rude people can be especially in airports. I was so used to the Japanese style service which is something unforgettable and under appreciated. My luggage ripped on transport in Japan. So I had to haul my broken luggage across the freaking terminal trying to find someone to help me. It was stressful because I had a connecting flight in less than two hours. In Japan, I felt like they would had a bag in their pocket and some tape at the bag check in for cases like mine but not in America. After what felt like forever, I found someone nice enough shove my crap into a plastic bag and send it on its merry way to Boston. Come back Japan!

My second instance of reverse culture shock was at my local branch trying to exchange my remaining yen to dollars. Something about being called honey and the casualness of my conversation with the bank teller struck me. In Japan I would be expected Keigo or honorific language (which I can't understand anyway) but in America its a bit rude but also warming I guess.

The fact that I can understand everything in English is also disappointing. Maybe that is also a part of reverse culture shock.

I also have yearnings for Japanese TV. It is just as bad as American TV but I find it much more amusing. I'm trying to find a way to watch Japanese TV again through my laptop.

What is this? - kore wa nani? (これは何?)

The last picture should give it away. My friends had a hard time guessing but its...


I found this next to the toothpaste section in Don Quixote which is a huge Japanese variety store.

Engrish Part 5

I'm still in summer procrastination mode. I can't believe that it has almost been month since I left Japan. I have been busy traveling for the past two weeks so that explains lack of updates. I started working on my Study Abroad scrapbook finally (thanks to the help of my friends.) I just finished writing my Homestay evaluation thing. Anyways, this is probably the last of my engrish section. I'll post more if I can uncover some hidden gems in my 1,000+ of Japan.

While in Kawagoe City, I found this store.

(Perverted little thoughts)

My sister requested an engrish shirt for a present and after of hours of looking I found this for her. This was at the Hirakatashi Izumiya shopping mall.
(I'm sure this is what my sister is thinking about sometimes when she sees me)

I wish I took a picture of this shirt...but I found a shirt that said "TOLERANCE: I have to put my energy into something a least." It made sense and it sounded terrible.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kawagoe City - Kawagoeshi (川越市)

Backpost. Just a few more posts to write and I think I covered everthing I did in Japan. I'm going to post another Engrish section, the reverse culture shock I'm feeling, my full evaluation of the Kansai Gaidai Program and my honest opinion and observations, what I wrote in my Thank You cards and gifts I'm sending to Japan. So I still have something to keep myself busy this summer.

Another one of the many places I visited in Japan was Kawagoe city which is in Saitama Prefecture. This is the city where my boyfriend went to school. It feel really good and mushy to see the kinds of things my boyfriend did and saw in his high school days. Kawagoeshi (Kawagoe City) is trying to attract more tourists. It is trying to advertise itself as "Little Edo" for some reason. My boyfriend said that Kawagoe used to be a major city back in the day until Edo (present day Tokyo) came along. (...what is this? and why was it there?)

One of the most interesting part of Kawagoe City is this section called "Kashiyayokocho." It is a street full of candy shops. The best part is that all the candy and snacks are cheap. I felt a bit sick pigging out on so much candy.

(I didn't see these kinds of shops in the major cities. So this was a refreshing sight.)

(From this angle...this part of town seems like part of an old Japanese movie)

I think after this we wandered to a temple...probably Kitain temple. After going to Kyoto so many times all these places start to look alike. But I got my birthday fortune!

My boyfriend wasn't that enthusiatic to translate for me. I'll probably translate it myself this summer. All I remember was that it was very general.

In the same area there is a famous site called gohyaku rakan statues. I'm not sure what a "rakan" is but gohyaku literally means 500. You have to pay to get in but I wasn't in the mood to look at statues so I just took this picture through the gate.

One really random place we went to was this house musuem. It was just a typical Japanese house and you could walk inside it to see the what a house looked like in the old days. It was a really short diversion but I guess worth it. I really like the view into the street from the second floor of the house. One thing was really amusing is that while walking in the hallway my boyfriend walked straight into a hanging lamp. At 5'7'' or 170cm he is average height so he would have been considered tall in ancient Japan. I'm 5'0'' or 152cm and I manage to walk under the lamp fine. I was gloating when I took the picture.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunlight - nikkou - 日光

Another backpost.

During my second time in Tokyo my boyfriend parents, A family, decided to take me to Nikkou in Fukushima ken which is one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Like Koyasan, Nikkou is an actual town as well as a tourist site. It is apparently easy to get to from Tokyo but wouldn't know because A family drove me there. We woke up early to go to Nikkou. So I mainly slept during the ride there. When I finally woke up, I saw some pretty stunning scenery outside the car window. The fun part was the car ride up the mountain. I never thought roads could curve so much. It was dangerous but a lot of fun. I have a video of that somewhere.

When we got to Nikkou, on of the first things we passed was the picture below...

One of the most iconic symbols of Japan; a red bridge (which you could not go on,) the mountains in the back, and a flowing river. Very beautiful.

Nikkou is also considered another sacred spot of Japan. At one point in Japanese history, Nikkou was more important than Kyoto. A family told me that one main difference between Nikkou architecture than Kyoto's was color. Nikkou's building have more vibrant colors like this building above.

One thing I noticed about Japanese shrines is the money making aspect of it. I have been to a lot of shrines in Japan and I noticed a lot of monetary transactions that goes on. If you want to make a wish pay 500 yen to write you name on a wooden placard to hang. You can also buy charms and talisman to give your business good luck, pass your exams, and to protect yourself and your car from traffic harm. All under 1000 yen.

I met a guy who was Buddhist and was disgusted by this aspect of religion in Japan. I'm not particularly bothered by it because these places cannot survive by donations alone but every time I'm about to enter a 'sacred' part of a building I feel like I'm a market. The monks will be waiting inside waiting to sell you something.

At Nikkou, I found this interesting because I took a tour of a shrine. At the end of each segment, the monk tour guide told us what we could buy. The last part of the tour consisted of me listening with a group of people to a priestess telling us the wonders of prayer beads and the different kinds (all of course on sale.)

Sake is an important part of Japanese religion. They are offerings to the gods. Usually, there are a lot of barrels of alcohol at shrines. My boyfriend joked that Japanese gods are drunkards and alcoholics.

(One of the strangest statues I saw...looks like its pooping.)

So Nikkou is more colorful than Kyoto.

For lunch, I had something called yuba and it is basically somehow related to tofu (pictured on the upper right.) A family warned me that it is a taste that most foreigners don't like. I thought it tasted fine. I would not mind eating it again. The soba was delicious though.

After exploring most of Nikkou, we went to a neighboring town which is famous for a its scenery. Driving to the town we passed through a giant torii and after than was a spectacular view. It looked like something out of a nature mountains and a huge blue lake.

After we parked the car, A family pulled a surprise. They paid for a rental boat and made my boyfriend row me around the lake. It was funny and slightly romantic. Although it was a bit cold, the view from the middle of the lake was beautiful. My boyfriend didn't really know how to control the boat and we when farther from the shore than expected so we ended up returning late. We originally went to see the waterfall but it was too late to go at the time.

I wanted to see the waterfall because I have never been to one up close but oh well. The boat ride was a sweet surprise:)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sweet red bean paste - anko (餡子)


When I was at my boyfriend's house, I mention to his mom that I liked anko which is sweet bean paste. Anko is an essential ingredient of Japanese desserts. The taste is very, very sweet. I heard that I lot of people actually don't like it.

So my boyfriend's mom tried to teach me to how to make different kinds of Japanese desserts. The first is a dessert that is pretty much a ball of anko covered by red beans with a shiny coating of something. To make it we just made balls of anko and rolled half of the ball in red beans. Then coated with this liquid mix that made it shiny.

Basically it was....TOO SWEET. Amasugiru! It tasted good with tea though.

(Not the finished product...)

The second dessert I like a lot more. I had it before. It is called Sakura mochi. We had to use a special kind of rice (name I forgot but begins with a d) and color it pink. The rice is really sticky and we had to coat the anko ball evenly with it. My boyfriend's mom made it look easy but it wasn't. After that you had to put this slightly bitter tasting leaf over it. I like this dessert because the taste is not overwhelmingly sweet like the first dessert.

(This was the trickiest part because coating had to be thin yet able to cover the entire ball.)

This was a fun activity. The real challenge is to see how much can I do on my own.

Karate Match - Karate Shiai (空手試合)

A backpost.

Awhile back when I was really busy, I forgot to mention that I went to my ototo's karate match. The competition was in Kyoto.

My okaasan told me that my ototo is very good at karate. He goes to practices twice a week. Last year when he was six/seven he manage to advance to the semi-finals but lost because his opponent was much bigger than him.

(My ototo is somewhere in here.)

This year he didn't get very far in the competition because his 2nd round opponent was the kid who want the tournament last year. He was really upset. Later in the day, we were able to see his karate teacher compete. He won! All his students were really excited.

I was a little bored on that day because I again didn't know everything or many people but I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Animoto video 2

This is the second part of my adventures in Japan. It covers the umeboshiyaki party and my first two trips of Spring Break to Osaka and Kobe. Enjoy...I chose the song out of random. I hope its good.

Tokyo National Museum - Toukyou Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan (東京国立博物館)

This is another back post from my weekend in Tokyo. I went to the Tokyo National Museum on the 17th which was my last day in Tokyo. The museum is in Ueno Park. It also has a zoo but also a large homeless population.

The museum itself has many buildings. When I was there they had a special exhibit on Cartier Jewelry. It wasn't very interested so I didn't go in.
(The main buliding)

There were a lot of pottery, kimono, samurai armor, swords, and other artifacts. I wasn't really impressed unfortunately. A museum in Japan felt like every one I have been to before. I just liked walking around with my boyfriend. I thought the gift shop was interesting. I found some good omiyage there.

The picture above is probably what I liked best out of all the things I saw that day. Apparently, they are the zodiac. It took me awhile to guess. I like the way they are arranged it reminded me of broadway.

After the museum my boyfriend took me to the emperor's palace. You can't get into the palace. There are buildings around it. My boyfriends has no idea why people come to this place but a lot of tourists come by to take pictures. He took me there to take tourist pictures too. -_-

(Looks like any other moat to me)

Walking back to the station, we also saw Tokyo tower in the distance.

And that is everything I did on my Tokyo Weekend.

Tokyo Weekend 2 - Toukyou no shuumatsu 2 (東京の週末)

This is a backpost. I went to Tokyo for a weekend on May 16-17th.

After Tsukiji, I wanted to check out Akihabara (秋葉原.) The literal translation of the kanji is the "Field of Autumn Leaves" which sounds really nice but hides the sketchy nature of this part of Japan. This is Otaku central full of figurine, anime, video games, manga, electronics, and porn/hentai shops. We saw a lot of maid cafe and shops too. Here we saw a lot of tourists taking pictures. While walking through the streets of Akihabara, I felt that the male to female ratio was reversed. There were so many similar looking guys walking in packs.

(Random shot of Akihabara. )

Basically floors upon floors of shops. Like the one pictured below.
(A few blocks in
This is a random sex shop we ran into. The wares were so blatantly obvious with the mannequins in the front and on the first floor. In Akihabara, they don't allow photos in the shops. My boyfriend and I decided to wander into a figurine shop. The further we got up the building the more x rated it was becoming. It wasn't so bad but my boyfriend was clearly uncomfortable. I was started to become uncomfortable because I realized that I was the only girl in the building. I wondering if I was making the other guys on the floor uncomfortable by being there....

I originally wanted to buy a denki jisho in Akihabara but in the end I didn't. For now my DS will suffice and my Japanese friends are human dictionaries anyway:)

The next place we visited was Asakusa (浅草) or "Shallow Grass." We were really lucky because we got to see Sanja Matsuri! My boyfriend and I had no idea what was going on or what Sanja Matsuri is. There was a crowd outside of the gate. People were carring this carriage thing and making a lot of noise.

(Sucks being short)

Inside the gate where all these booths selling food and snacks. It looked a lot of fun even though it looked rainy. All I needed was a yukata. While eating, we were fortunate enough to see another procession. This time a lot closer. There were three of them and I got a video of at least one.
Asakusa is really nice. It is one of the few places in Tokyo I want to come back to. I wish I knew more about matsuri and the cultural significance of it.

Animoto Video 1

This is a small glimpse of my Spring 2009 semester it Kansai gaidai, Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. Animoto is a site that creates a visually dynamic slide show of your photos paced to music. At Kansai Gaidai, my Prof. Garr Reynolds introduced the class to this site. I thought I give it a shot and the results are pretty good. I think I might be addicted. I have over 2,000 pictures of Japan. I'm going to try to put them in chronological order for the animoto videos. I have no idea how many I will make. It costs $3 for one but I figure the costs are worth it. These are memories I want to share and keep forever. Enjoy the videos:)