Monthly Archives: June 2016

Adventuring Ikebukuro

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This weekend, my friend was going to Ikebukuro and invited me to tag along. I’m glad I did because it was much better than I had expected it to be. When people think of the anime industry in Japan, most people immediately bring up Akihabara. However, Ikebukuro has a sizeable anime presence as well, which I didn’t know about before studying abroad. Granted, Akihabara has a lot more stores, cafes, and other places to see, but Ikebukuro has its own must-sees as well.

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During our trip, my friend and I explored the sights and found many interesting stores. My favorite store was K-Books, which believe it or not is not a book store. There, they sold mini anime posters, figures, key chains, and more for as little as 100 yen. I was astonished by how great the deals were there. I got a few neat keychains of Chopper’s pirate roger from One Piece and Deidara from Naruto, two of my favorite anime characters. I wasn’t able to find these anywhere else I’ve been to so far, so I was really happy. By the way, I’ve slowly been accumulating a large amount of anime-themed key chains from all of my trips throughout the summer. At this rate, I’m going to have a large collection by the time I head home.

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Before leaving Ikebukuro, we stopped at an interesting food stand. I never found out the actual name of the food, so I’ll do my best to describe it. It was basically a giant dough ball stuffed with eggs and some sausage bits with your choice of sauce and/or topping. It honestly tasted really weird, but in a good way. I didn’t exactly like my topping (I was trying kimchi for the first time as well), but the dough ball itself was pretty good. I also surprised the cashier by being able to order my meal in Japanese. It looks like Elements I is finally paying off.

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Overall, Ikebukuro was an amazing experience. I wish we were able to see the Pokémon Center while we were there, but I didn’t find out until after we left that the Pokémon Center was inside the mall. For those of you who don’t know, the Pokémon Center is the largest Pokémon-themed store in the world. Now that I know exactly where it is, I would like to go back there before I leave. Luckily, Ikebukuro is only two subway stops away, so I won’t have a hard time getting back there.

Before I end this post, I would like to give a shout out to my little cousins, Ashley and Emily, as well as my Aunt Lisa, who sent me letters a few weeks back. It was great to hear from you guys. Thanks too to all my family and friends who are following along with my experience in Japan. It means a lot to me. Until next time, Sayōnara from Japan!

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Asakusa and Japanese Food Culture

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Today, we went to Ueno to pay my first visit toAsakusa Temple, or Sensō-ji. That area also has a street selling all kinds of Japanese kitchenware, which is a necessary part of Japanese food culture.

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A top view of Asakusa Temple

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It is said that the smoke of incense in this temple could protect you from illness

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We met a group of middle school students. They are asking us about the impression of Japan in English.

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Amanda really likes Omikuji. Can’t wait to find out her fortune.

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Japanese girls wearing Kimono in the temple

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Ningyo-yaki, a snake cake in Japan. The shape is like human faces.

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Street decoration for Tanabata festival, asian valentine’s day. This festival is also celebrated in South Korea and China.

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A lantern store selling all kinds of lanterns for restaurants. The words on those lanterns are all about food, such as alcohol and sushi.

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These knife is only for soba noodle.

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These delicious-looking things are only the samples for actual food. In Japan, restaurants always put these samples outside rather than pictures.

Exploring Gunma

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IMG_1108This week was a tad stressful with four tests over the span of seven days, but luckily, I was able to have some fun on my trip to Gunma. Gunma is an area with many interesting shrines, gorgeous views, and relaxing onsen (hot springs). Out of the three Temple-sponsored trips I’ve been to so far, this one had by far the most interesting environment.

 

First, we went to Takasaki Kannon, a place filled with beautiful shrines and statues. I’m not quite sure what religion was being practiced, but the center of the area had a statue of what I assumed to be a goddess that was several stories tall. My friends and I were able to go inside the statue, where there was a museum-like display of statues representing the history of the religion. If only I knew more Japanese!

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Next, we took a steam train to Ikaho Green Farm, where we saw many different animals from sheep, to dogs, to cows, to even goats. My favorite animals there were the bunnies, but I just like cute little critters. While I was looking at the bunnies, some of my friends chipped in and rented a sheep. It was hilarious to see them walking a full-grown sheep around the farm. I also got to try ramen for the first time while I was there. I was really excited since I had been meaning to try ramen for a while, and I absolutely loved it.

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After the farm, we finally arrived at Onsen town, but before we went to the hotel, we stopped at a ridiculously long staircase. I like to call it the Stairway to Heaven because it had the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen at the top. I also like to call it the Stairway of Doom because it was a difficult time both climbing up and down. First, there’s 365 stairs to another temple with shops and food stands along the way. This is fine. Then, the real challenge begins. Behind the temple, there is a forestry mountain with stairs to the peak. I later found out that from the temple to the peak was roughly three miles long. Since I don’t exercise too often, I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached the top. However, the view at the peak was well worth the effort. Not everyone was able to make the climb, but I could tell that those who did were not disappointed.

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That night, we finally made it to the onsen. I like dipping in the onsen, but unfortunately, I get dizzy really fast when exposed to high temperatures. The fact that there was no cold bath didn’t help. After almost falling over (twice), I had to get out. Other than that, the hotel was a nice time and gave me a chance to rest after all that climbing.

The next day, we left early to see more amazing mountain views, see a few more shrines, and visit Kawagoe Town, a town with many authentic shops that sold stuff like dolls, beans, and more. The thing that stood out to me the most though was the Daruma Doll Shop, where we were able to make our very own daruma. The shop must’ve had hundreds of darumas, some big, some small, some gigantic, and some golden. My daruma didn’t turn out exactly like the model, but I think I did a pretty decent job. While making darumas, we learned that they were used for granting wishes. One eye is painted when the wish is made, and the other is painted when the wish is granted. Sorry, but my wish is a secret!

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Overall, Gunma was a very enjoyable place to visit. I saw many amazing things, bonded with friends, and brought back many souvenirs. A trip like this was just what I needed to get through my midterms. And now that those are over, I have much more free time to go on even more trips of my own. Until then, Sayōnara from Japan!

Gunma: Out of the City

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This time, we had a chance to visit Gunma, a city on the northern side of Tokyo. Unlike the modernity of Tokyo, Gunma is much closer to nature.

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Takasaki Kannon, which was built thirty years ago.

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Standing inside the Kannon, we could see Tokyo.

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In Ikaho Green Farm, Li Xie’s attention is only for this bunny.

 

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Li, Julie, and Ray are enjoying being children in the farm.

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Great view in the countryside.

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Harlan Shrine is hidden in this forest.

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People are tasting tea in a little shop on the way back from the shrine.

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Beautiful goldfish in the shrine

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A part of Misuzu Falls. The water fall is too high.

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Being happy to be in Japan and having this chance to see somewhere outside of Tokyo!

Walking around in Kawagoeshi

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Kawagoe has an area is called “little edo”, since the buildings are still like they were in the Edo period. Last weekend, we went to the Little Edo to feel the old Tokyo.

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My host mother is helping Amanda put on her yukata for a walk outside.

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Finished! So pretty! Thanks for my host mother letting us borrow her yukata and for the hand made flower too.

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These Japanese style boxes are actually lunch boxes.

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Neat setting in Izakaya(居酒屋)

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A knife store in Kawagoe. I was surprised by the elaborate carving on them.

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An udon restaurant called Marukamejima (丸亀製面) with traditional settings.

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The building in Edo period.

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This is Amezaiku, candy craft in Japanese. The girl is try to blow the candy.

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The currency in Edo period.

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This is a bank in Edo period. It has got some western styles.

Higurashi’s 10th Anniversary Event

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IMG_0891This weekend, I ventured to Skytree for Higurashi’s 10th anniversary event. For those of you who don’t know what Higurashi is, it’s an amazing anime filled with likeable characters, lots of mystery, and some shocking twists. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for the sake of spoilers, but I highly recommend it to all anime fans who are into the horror genre.

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The event was located in Skytree’s main department store. The building was huge! I doubt I’ll see anything taller during the rest of my stay in Tokyo. It had some interesting stores too, like a store filled with samurai armor and a store full of banana-themed products. Luckily, the building was easy to navigate despite its size, and I was able to find the event without a problem.

The event itself was amazing! There must’ve been over a hundred screenshots of memorable scenes from the anime, and there was even some Higurashi fan art towards the end. Various scenes from Higurashi were depicted, including the Furude Shrine, the Oyashiro Festival, Hinamizawa River, and more. My favorite room by far was the classroom. Out of all of the rooms, it was the most accurately depicted and even had almost the exact items from the anime in each character’s locker. I was really impressed by the effort put into this event and was able to pick up quite a few souvenirs on the way out. I’m extremely glad I came and will be on the lookout for more events like these in the future.

As a side note, on Saturday, my friends took me to an udon place they found in Shinjuku. I’ve had soba a few times while I’ve been here, but never udon, so I was excited to go. It turns out I like udon much more than soba. I tried the curry udon, and it was fantastic! I’m glad my friends were able to find it because it was on the other side of Shinjuku from where I explored during my previous two visits. It seems like I discover something new every time I go there.

Yesterday, my group for Elements I prepared our script for our oral midterm. It’s shocking to me how quickly the time has passed. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here long at all. I guess the old saying is true: “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Lucky for me, my friends and I have many more trips planned, both in and out of school, so I’ll be able to do plenty more as I approach the midpoint of the semester. Of course, you’ll hear about all of my adventures as they come along. Until then, Sayōnara from Japan!

Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibition

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IMG_0606As I mentioned last week, I went back to Shinjuku on Sunday to see the Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibition. Coming to the event, I thought it was just going to be a display of Japanese flower arrangements. I can’t really say I was wrong, but it was so much more than that. It didn’t feel like I was looking at flowers, it was more like seeing true art. There were over 50 works on display, from a simple vase to an elegant display across an entire room. I personally enjoyed the large, flashy artworks because they looked really cool. My favorite piece was an explosion of red and white thin bamboo sticks shooting out like a firework. There wasn’t really much to it other than that, but something about seeing it up close really grabbed me in. I took way too many pictures to fit in one blog post, so I’ll just show my top five favorite flowers.

I was also extremely lucky to come to the event right when the mascot, Ikeru-chan, showed up. I didn’t know who she was before I got there, so I was very surprised to see a giant green flower right in front of the elevator. Apparently, Ikeru-chan only showed up for limited times during each day, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. It was a nice bonus to an awesome day. Overall, the Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibition was extremely impressive. I’m really glad Temple was able to provide free tickets to the event, and I hope more opportunities like this come up in the future.

The Video Gamers Club is hooked on a new card game this week. Most of us just call it Card Monopoly because that’s basically what it is. Each player starts out with three coins and two starter properties. Each player then tries to buy more properties as more cards are drawn to either earn coins from the bank or steal coins from opponents. When a player gets enough coins, he or she can buy an upgrade card. These upgrades range from rolling dice in one turn to being able to earn 10 coins by not making a purchase during your turn. The winner is the first one to buy all of his or her upgrades. It’s a strange game (and it must sound even stranger without seeing the game firsthand), but it is a lot of fun and possibly my favorite game I’ve learned while in Japan. I may be a bit biased though, since I somehow won every game I’ve played so far.

I am really excited that my favorite anime of all time, Higurashi, is having an event this weekend to commemorate its 10th anniversary. I’ll get to see a recreation of the anime’s setting, Hinamizawa, and get a lot of exclusive merchandise. There’s no way I’m going to miss it! I’ll talk more about it in my next post, but until then, Sayōnara from Japan!

Discovering Designs in the City

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Last Saturday, we went to Shibuya and Harajuku with our design professor to view several galleries. However, the gallery is not the only place that would help develop our ideas. We have already learned a lot only by walking around in that area.

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The Statue of Hachiko (ハチ公像) outside of Shibuya station

 

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Busy Shibuya area

 

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We are in one of the those tall building to get the better view of Shibuya. There is a model of the area.

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Tom is discussing photography with Professor Shinya.

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Chris is taking a picture of this cool street view.

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Tokyo Plaza

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We are in another store called Nomadic Life Market for more design ideas.

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Walking around in Harajuku

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A building in Harajuku with extremely organized structure.

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Chris and Tom just got out from the gallery.

Going to Shinjuku!

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Now that I’ve gotten used to living in Tokyo, my friends and I have started to explore more of the city. Lucky for me, I’ve made some friends who really know about the events going on this time of year so that I won’t miss out on anything. For example, last Sunday, I went to my very first Japanese festival in Shinjuku. I knew a little of what to expect by seeing festivals portrayed through anime, but going to see the actual thing was a comIMG_0574pletely different experience. There I ate new, amazing food, saw an interesting shrine, won some cool prizes, and even saw the Sasaki Osamu Band perform Yes Man, a parody of YMCA. It was truly a wonderful night. Going to the stands also gave me a chance to try out my Japanese. It still needs some work, seeing how I accidentally ordered sweet buns instead of a pork bun (they were tasty though). I’ll have plenty of time to improve on that, especially since it seems like Elements I runs at a very quick pace. Thankfully the course hasn’t gotten too difficult yet.

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Since my last post, I have also been spending some time with the Video Gamers Club. Surprisingly, the club is about a lot more than just playing video games. Sure, when a large amount of members are together in the club room, everyone gathers around to take turns playing Super SmIMG_0597ash Bros. for the Wii U, but most of the time, the other members play board games or just talk and have a good time. The games played are very interesting, and I doubt any of my friends would know how to play them back home. I’ve been to the club three times so far, and I’ve already learned a few card games and even Mahjong, which always piqued my interest. I’m glad I finally found a group of people who knew the rules to teach me how to play. The Video Gamers Club has been a fun way to pass time, and I already feel like I’m making new friends there.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see much of Shinjuku other than the festival, but I heard it is a great section of the city on its own, so I definitely want to go back there to explore. Luckily, I’ll be able to later this week when I go to the Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibition. This is an event that shows the art of Japanese flower arranging. I’m not sure exactly what to expect, but I feel like I’m in for a beautiful display. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures to put in my next blog.  Until then, Sayōnara from Japan!

A Journey in Kamakura

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Last weekend, my host mother brought us to Kamakura. Over there, we saw and felt a more traditional aspect of Japan.

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Before we went to Kamakura, Okaasan (mother) taught us how to wear yukata, a type of kimono. We tried several times to wear it properly.

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We need to clean our hands and mouth before we get into Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) .

 

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We got lost on the way to the shrine. But it was wonderful to see such a wild and beautiful forest.

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On the way to Enkakuji Bentendo (円覚寺弁天堂)

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Worshiping Buddha

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Ray is putting a coin on the Shinzo (the statues of gods) and making a wish.

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The mural in the temple has an image of dragon.

 

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The bell Ogane represents a type of Bonsho, Buddhist bells . The bible is engraved on it.

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Observing what we should do in a shrine.

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There are many turtles in Japanese shrines. It is said that turtles present some special meaning of luck and happiness in Japanese culture.