Halloween

I didn’t expect Halloween to be so big here, but the costume contest was a HUGE deal. Groups went all out on their costumes and performed little skits that related to their costumes. Because the event is so big, trying to see isn’t so easy if you don’t show up almost 2 hours prior to show time.

I had class until 6:10 and the contest began at 7:30. I walked straight from class to the stage, and it was packed.

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As for myself and my boyfriend, we dressed up as Yoko Ono and John Lennon.

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After the event, we hoped to go to a Halloween party to meet Japanese students, but the sign that said we needed tickets in advanced was in Japanese, though the rest of the advertisement was in English. Slightly let down, we decided to grab a drink and hopefully meet new people at a local club or bar.

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Still nobody there, we left and ate sushi.

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Anytime is a good time for sushi.

Jidai Masturi

The actual day of Jidai Matsuri, October 22. Jidai Matsuri is the festival of ages that celebrates Kyoto’s history put on by the Heian Shrine. (The shrine from my previous blog.) The parade takes awhile to watch, as it covers the span of when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. We were able see participants playing traditional Japanese instruments and wearing traditional Japanese clothing from the different eras of Japan.

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Unfortunately, it was raining and cold the day of the parade. Standing outside for two hours just didn’t seem as appealing as it did before. So we took breaks from the crowd and cold rain by looking around in book-off.

Book-off sells used video games, books, comics, dvds, and cds- all for a discount price. Most of the comics were 100 yen, and a used nintendo DS was only 2400 yen (or a little less than 24USD).

After the parade we ate at our favorite chinese restaurant, then headed back to Hirakata.

Next: Halloween

Accidents Happen

So before Halloween, I accidentally went to Kyoto. Let me explain: I thought Jidai Matsuri was on October 15, but it is on October 22. After I found out I was there wrong day, I decided to take a break from studying for midterms and enjoy the afternoon. My friend and I sat along the river after buying some bread and snacks from the conbini (convenience store) and fed the ducks. A few unexpected visitors showed up though…

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I’m not sure what kind of birds these are. They look like some type of crane, but I cannot say for sure.

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And of course, the pigeons.

 

After relaxing by the river, my friend and I walked to the Heian Shrine. This is the shrine that holds Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages). We figured it would be less crowded the week before rather than during the festival.

Walking towards the shrine, there are huge tori gates and we crossed a bridge.

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The shrine was humbly elegant.

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I don’t have a picture, but a group of shyougakusei (elementary school students) were there on a field trip. They all approached me, which was slightly overwhelming,  saying “Excuse me! Excuse me!”. After they had my attention, they weren’t sure what to say in english, so their sensei (teacher) told them to ask to if it was okay to take a picture with me. The bravest little girl tried and said “picture?” Seeing how excited they were to interact with a foreigner really made me happy, and I wish I had a picture of the adorable experience.

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After that encounter, I bought postcards and a piece of wood to write prayers on and leave them in the temple.

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We ate dinner at a 330 yen restaurant and got a window seat with a nice view of the city. Overall a relaxing evening if I do say.

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Next: the actual day of Jidai Matsuri

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.

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.

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

 

My Life Abroad

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