Miyajima

Firstly, my apologies for not blogging as quickly as I’d like to, but midterms are now over!

Now, about my time on Miyajima island. Miyajima is about an hour train ride from Hiroshima via the Sanyo line. Then from the station, the ferry station is about a 10 minute walk that’s precisely straight. There is an odd underground pass on the way to cross the street. Japan seems to have a knack for building underground.

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The underground pass wasn’t boring though. There was pretty artwork to decorate along the way.

Once at the ferry station, I timed my arrival perfectly and was able to catch the departing ferry. The ride is about 15-20 minutes and I got to see a beautiful view of the fog atop the mountains of Miyajima island.

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Once on the island, I got to meet it’s spoiled ‘wildlife’ inhabitants. Deer!

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The deer are everywhere, and I say ‘wildlife’ because I believe these guys are pretty well domesticated. Though I did watch them aggressively grab peoples’ bags for food, that was the most wild thing they did. I was also able to pet them. They were very tame creatures, and in the event one were to charge, I assume the island staff or somebody has cut all the male deers’ horns.

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On Miyajima’s shore is the beautiful Tori Gate. It was beautiful and huge! Though, as a cultural note it may seem very plain to the average non-Japanese, but this is the beauty in Japanese architecture. Things are not meant to be completely ornate as one would see in other Asian cultures, but that there is beauty in simplicity. Therefore a lot of Japanese architecture may look similar, though it is somehow different. It is a deep concept I have come to love and appreciate about Japanese culture.

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I was able to read the first picture, which says peace. There is so much kanji to learn, so I was pretty excited about being able to read it. These little posts were all over the island. ‘和平’ was on our way up a hill to a temple. We had to take our shoes off to enter, but there were slippers provided.

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In the temple, there was a donation box of some sort and a large box with numbered drawers than contained little papers with prayers/poems. I got one after putting money in the box, then folded and tied it in the temple.

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I’m not sure what the paper said, but I would like to think the number I chose was for what I needed.

After the temple we went shopping a little before heading home. I wish I had more time on the island and will definitely try my best to go back.

Halloween is soon, so stayed tuned! Until next time.

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Saturday in Hiroshima

Hi everybody, and thank you for reading my blog! The past few weeks have been quite relentless in school, but now the first exams of the semester are done. Today, my classes were cancelled due to the typhoon weather. I’ve caught up on much needed sleep, and thankfully have time to tell about my trip to Hiroshima this past weekend.

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My companion and I left from Osaka at 7:30AM Saturday morning for Hiroshima by bus. We used Willer Express, which turned out to be extremely affordable (¥5,100~ one way). The bus was also fairly comfortable, so I had no trouble sleeping the entire trip, but not without an eye mask.

We arrived in Hiroshima at 1:30PM. My first impression was how much smaller Hiroshima is than Osaka, though I prefer smaller. More people spoke English to us than during a typical trip to Osaka, so Hiroshima seemed to be more popular for tourism.

At 3:30, my dear friend Saki arrived by train. Saki went to my university for two years, and now I’m here in her country. Seeing her was wonderful.

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First we spent time in the peace park.

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This is the A-dome where the nuclear bomb was dropped.

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This is the statue commemorating the story of “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”

“Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the A-bomb when she was two years old. Ten years later, she entered the Red Cross Hospital with radiation-related leukemia. Believing the old tale that folding a thousand paper cranes would make her wish come true, she tried steadfastly to recover from her illness by folding paper cranes. Despite her valiant effort, her brief life ended after an eight-month struggle. Sadako’s death triggered a movement to build a monument to all the children who perished due to the A-bomb, and the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in the Peace Memorial Park using donations received from all over Japan. Today, the story of Sadako has spread across the world and her paper cranes are considered to be an international symbol of peace.”

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These are a few of the paper cranes art works submitted this past August 6th (the date Hiroshima was atomically bombed).

After the park, we went to the Peace Memorial Museum. I had not originally intended on going inside, because I thought “What could they possibly display to be that interesting?”. I was extremely wrong in thinking that. meltingskin

This is the only picture I took. It was at the beginning of the museum- a depiction of a school girl stumbling about between life and death, her skin melting away. I was engaged the entire time, thus I did not take any other pictures. The museum was moving and I found myself at times holding back tears. I definitely recommend visiting it to anybody ever in the area.

Afterwards, Saki took us to eat Hiroshima style okonomiyaki! Yum!

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We also got to see the castle from afar, which was ironically also Saki’s first time to see Hiroshima castle.

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Around 10PM, Saki left us to return home. What a day it was, and I cannot wait to see her again.

That night consisted of Karaoke and hanging out with local Japanese we met. They did not know much English, so I got lots of much wanted and needed practice.

So far, Hiroshima has been my favorite place of Japan. I hope to go back soon, and cannot wait for the opportunity to do so.

Up next- My Sunday at Miyajima island, so stay tuned.

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Feel free to leave them below or my email lucyjw3@gmail.com

Hirakatashi Escapades

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After a long week of classes, my fellow Marshall colleagues/friends decided to have a night out at Hirakatashi-eki. We ventured the walk and found ourselves at a nice restaurant: Doma Doma. I enjoyed grilled potatoes with some type of a creamy squid dipping sauce and margherita pizza. The pizza in Japan is in fact different from Pizza in the US, but is nonetheless delicious.

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The crust was chewier and there was not nearly as much pizza sauce.

After dinner, we went to karaoke. It was my first time at karaoke, so I was a little apprehensive. The purpose is not to be a good singer, but to have fun with your friends; We did just that. After 3 hours of singing, we contemplated watching the sunrise at the river near Hirakatashi-eki, but found ourselves much too tired to stay. It was the most fun I’ve had on a Friday night in a while, thanks to great company.

Saturday, I decided to do things around my room like cleaning and catching up on sleep. That night my friend Shelby and I went to a local restaurant chain named Seven Gods.

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Seven Gods gets its name from the Seven Gods of Fortune in Japanese mythology. It has a cozy atmosphere with an extremely friendly and bilingual staff. The staff and other Japanese patrons were eager to learn about my friend and I, as well as help us with our Japanese conversation skills. The owner had us write down our name and hometown on a paper then pin it to a map of the US in the restaurant. I highly recommend this restaurant for exchange students in the Kansai area.

Sunday, my friend Michael and I decided to venture around Hirakata and grab dinner together. Our nostalgic selves ended up walking across town to find KFC, but it was worth the walk.

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Since KFC is in a bigger neighborhood, we also found some cheap places to do shopping at a later date. My favorite being Daiso. Daiso is a hyakuen (100 Yen) store, which is the Japanese equivalent of the US dollar store. In my humble opinion, the hyakuen stores in Japan offer more variety and slightly better quality that the dollar stores of the US.

Monday was day of respect for the aged, but was also Michael’s birthday. We met up with our friends Yukino and Yuki, who came to our university last year for study abroad. We got lunch at the italian restaurant on campus, then went to Karaoke again.

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Yukino had to go to work, so Michael and I went grocery shopping at a supermarket near the station. We got steals of deals on food, for example: I bought peanut butter for ¥150, which everywhere else I looked it cost about ¥350. For now it’s back to the bump and grind until my next adventure.

Also, here’s my friend Michael’s blog on Tumblr http://xmaikerux.tumblr.com/

He takes lots of awesome pictures, as shown above, so his blog is more than worth a look.

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A Saturday in Umeda

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This past Saturday, my friend and I decided to travel to the big city: Osaka. More specifically, we spent our time downtown, AKA Umeda. 

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I did not realize how big Osaka is until traveling from Hirakatashi Eki (station). Hirakatashi (where I live) is in the outskirts of Osaka, and takes between 20-30 minutes to get to the Kyobashi station. Kyobashi is significantly closer to downtown, but still we had to switch from the Keihan line to the JR Osaka Loop to get downtown without walking excessively. We had trouble trying to find where to buy our JR line tickets; As usual the answer was right in front of us (or the ticket machine in this case). 

It rained most of the day, which was no surprise. Yet, neither of us thought to bring an umbrella. My friend ended up purchasing one and graciously sharing with me. 

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Though it was rainy, a lot of the streets we walked were covered, with the exception of crosswalks. We walked around taking in the streets until we found a relatively cheap place to eat. Unfortunately, our goal of finding cheap food lead us into a sleazy bar where they try to scam foreigners. The servers were bringing us food we did not order, and my friend and I were getting irritated quickly, because we had been warned about this kind of behavior. After telling the servers twice we did not order the food they kept bringing, we decided to cash out and leave ASAP. It’s something to worry about here, because if we were to drink at a bar like that, they typically try to take advantage and overcharge for things not ordered. (I am not downtalking Japan in ANY way; I love it here. It is just a cautionary tale.) 

Brushing off one of the few bad experiences I’ve had here, we tried to find an arcade and instead found ourselves at a Pachinko Casino. I guess it is technically an arcade for adults, that is more complicated and wastes more money. 

 

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We wanted to see what all the hype was about since Pachinko is a pretty big deal here. An attendant helped teach us how to play and took us to what he said was the “easiest” game. It was still way more complicated that a skill crane. We played a few games, but neither of us were much into it. We mostly watched how intently the others were playing.  Players were able to redeem tokens for prizes, like an arcade, but instead it was items such as jewelry, alcohol, message chairs, etc. Before we left the same attendant offered to take our picture in front of the Casino’s logo, and he walked us outside. (He was so nice and patient with us!) 

Afterwards, we went to a nice restaurant to grab a drink before heading back home. What a day! 

 

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I hope to go back to Umeda in the near future and learn the streets, though I’m living rather frugal for some bigger trips as well. 

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Questions or Comments?

Leave them below or email me at lucyjw3@gmail.com

 

First Week of Classes- It’s Hump Day!

A rainy Monday kicked off the semester, and thankfully my schedule on Mondays allow me to finish at noon. So with all the free time, what better to do than errands?

I recently moved into the same room as a fellow classmate from Marshall, but moving caused my address to change. When my residency changes, I have to make another trip to city hall and get a lovely stamp proving where I live and that I live there legally. 

After the rainy ride to city hall, I stopped by the grocery store near my seminar house called Top World. Food in Japan can be pricey if not adventurous, though I’m sure the same applies for food that is local in any region. Rice, noodles, and fish are typically my go to foods at the store, as they are relatively inexpensive. I like to buy vegetables to put in the mix as well, but I have not bought any fruit yet. The apples and peaches are huge, but there are usually about 2 per pack and can be rather pricey. 

On the way back to my seminar house, I made a first attempt to ride my bike while holding my umbrella; I failed. A lot of locals are able to do it and make it look easy, but it was not easy steering down the narrow streets for me with one hand. Though I did not wreck, I ended up walking my bike back. I finished the day with some boring chores around my room and cooked. The first day of classes at Kansai Gaidai was then in the books.

Tuesdays are not so laid back compared to Mondays. My first class is at 9AM; My last class ends at 6:10PM. The classes are not back to back, but it still makes for a long day. I’m currently registered for: Level 3 Japanese Speaking, Level 3 Japanese Reading and Writing, Intercultural Communication in Japan, Japanese Business and Society, and Mind in Yoga, Buddhism and Daoism. My classes have been enjoyable thus far, but I know Japanese Reading and Writing will be the most challenging for me thanks to all the kanji. 

Now it’s Wednesday, another easy day (and hump day). Other than my 2 classes, I plan to study kanji most of the day. I look forward to traveling this Saturday and cannot wait to share my experiences, so that helps me stay motivated through the week. Until next time!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about my time here, please leave them below or email me at lucyjw3@gmail.com

My Trip to City Hall

Once I arrived in Japan I was issued a Resident Card, which I have to carry with me at all times. Well it turns out, I still was not completely legal until I registered my card with City Hall. Registering my card is also a University requirement. Today, I finally made the trip to city hall with my fellow classmates from Marshall.

City Hall is near the Hirakatashi City Station: a short bus ride from campus that costs about $6.00 round trip. My friends and I easily found City Hall, then were done within a few minutes. We also visited the ginkou (bank) so I could exchange money. Exchanging money was slightly more difficult, but together we knew enough Japanese to accomplish what we needed. The workers were also extremely helpful and polite. 

After we were finished with our errands, we decided to explore the area and find some place to eat. We stopped at a little restaurant named 私屋.  

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This is the machine where we inserted yen and pressed the button for what we wanted. The machine printed tickets with what we ordered, then we gave our tickets to the server. She kindly brought us cups of water and our food, which was ready very quickly.

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My kanji skills are nowhere good enough to know for sure what I was eating, but it contained tofu, a little pork, some vegetables, and broth. I added ginger, soy sauce, hot pepper, and the egg. Itadakimasu! 

 

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After we finished, we rode the bus back to Kansai to complete a few more errands. On the way back to our seminar house, I showed Michael and Kiersten the short cut, which also has a Shrine we stopped by. After asking a local if it was okay to take pictures, we entered the shrine and enjoyed the serenity. 

 

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I will enjoy riding by this quaint shrine everyday. For me, it is a humble reminder that peace can be found anywhere if I choose to find it. 

See more cool photos at https://plus.google.com/photos/108391115129100094050/albums/6052559836539079777

My Travel Experience to Japan

I reside in West Virginia, so the trip to Japan was rather long. There are some major airports in my state, but it is significantly cheaper to drive a couple hours to Columbus, OH. (About $800+ cheaper)  

Once in Columbus on Friday at 9AM, my flight was delayed. It was later cancelled at 10:30. My entire plane route had to be rerouted, because I paid for a ticket that was with a different airline in Japan. I left my family at 10AM, so I sat in the airport all day until my flight for LA departed around 5PM. I was extremely frustrated, as well as mentally and physically exhausted once I arrived in LA. After LA, I had a layover in Honolulu which mostly made up for the fact I was arriving almost a day later than I had intended. I did not get to see much of Hawaii, but I’ve finally been (even if it was only 2 hours). Then about 8 hours later, I landed Osaka jet lagged and glassy-eyed.

Finally thinking my bad luck was over, my luggage was torn and broken all over at the baggage pick-up. At this point, all I could do was cry. Maybe that’s immature, but sometimes a good cry can make somebody feel better; and it did. After recollecting my frazzled self, I bought my bus ticket to Hirakata-shi station. From there I got a taxi, and made it to my seminar house. Once settled in, I knew my bad luck wouldn’t last forever. 

This is my third day in Hirakatashi, and I’m having the time of my life already.  

Traveling can be very stressful at times, and I would hope nobody went through as much trouble as I did. My best advice to staying calm is sit back and let the ocean carry you; it’s not something you can control. A little fish said it best: Just keep swimming. 

What would you like to read about in my blog? Let me know in a comment below or email me at lucyjw3@gmail.com

My Life Abroad

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