Category Archives: Tokyo

TUJ Activity: Gifu Overnight Trip

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Last week, on Thursday and Friday, TUJ sponsored a trip to Gifu, a mountainous area in central Japan. We had many stops, even to an onsen, and it was well worth going.

Here is our first stop: Matsumoto Castle. This is considered a cultural and historic landmark in Japan, and was breathtaking in person.

Here is our first stop: Matsumoto Castle. This is considered a cultural and historic landmark in Japan, and was breathtaking in person.

We arrived at Matsumoto Castle first on our trip. Even though it started to rain, TUJ student Dina Pakstis couldn't help but enjoy how beautiful the castle was.

We arrived at Matsumoto Castle first on our trip. Even though it started to rain, TUJ student Dina Pakstis couldn’t help but enjoy how beautiful the castle was.

Temple Japan student Carlos Casademont realizes just how big the castle is. And this was just the gate!

Temple Japan student Carlos Casademont realizes just how big the castle is. And this was just the gate!

Temple Japan students Megan Smith, Dan Foster, Carlos Casademont, and Dina Pakstis all pose with a samurai and the mascot of Matsumoto.

Temple Japan students Megan Smith, Dan Foster, Carlos Casademont, and Dina Pakstis all pose with a samurai and the mascot of Matsumoto.

We were greeted right outside of the gates by a staff member dressed as a samurai. It looked quite heavy, but none the less amazing!

We were greeted right outside of the gates by a staff member dressed as a samurai. It looked quite heavy, but none the less amazing!

With many of the places on this tour, we discovered that you always have to take off your shoes (as would you normally in any home). Thankfully, they provided slippers if you didn't like to walk in your socks.

With many of the places on this tour, we discovered that you always have to take off your shoes (as would you normally in any home). Thankfully, they provided slippers if you didn’t like to walk in your socks.

The view of Matsumoto from one of the higher floors of the castle. Our trip also included entry to the Matsumoto Museum, which houses many artifacts found in the castle.

The view of Matsumoto from one of the higher floors of the castle. Our trip also included entry to the Matsumoto Museum, which houses many artifacts found in the castle.

TUJ student Rachel Schifman admires some of the artifacts that were found in the castle.

TUJ student Rachel Schifman admires some of the artifacts that were found in the castle.

Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, Rachel Schifman, Dina Pakstis and even myself were able to make it all the way to the top of the castle, even though the stairs were incredibly steep!

Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, Rachel Schifman, Dina Pakstis and even myself were able to make it all the way to the top of the castle, even though the stairs were incredibly steep!

A statue in Matsumoto featuring multiple toads. In Japan, many toads are considered a sign of good luck.

A statue in Matsumoto featuring multiple toads. In Japan, many toads are considered a sign of good luck.

Our next stop after Matsumoto was drastically different. It had managed to drop about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, and there was lots and lots of snow! This shot was taken in the Otaki Limestone caves. They were very wet!

Our next stop after Matsumoto was drastically different. It had managed to drop about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, and there was lots and lots of snow! This shot was taken in the Otaki Limestone caves. They were very wet!

Make sure to wear waterproof shoes when going through here. The cold, rain, and overall dampness of the cave made most of the students really look forward to the onsen that evening.

Make sure to wear waterproof shoes when going through here. The cold, rain, and overall dampness of the cave made most of the students really look forward to the onsen that evening.

Outside of the cave, it was clear that there was a lot of water around this cave. These icicles were huge!

Outside of the cave, it was clear that there was a lot of water around this cave. These icicles were huge!

TUJ student Dina Pakstis was chipper as always, even though it was absolutely freezing outside. "Those icicles are awesome!"

TUJ student Dina Pakstis was chipper as always, even though it was absolutely freezing outside. “Those icicles are awesome!”

These statues greeted us on our way down from the caves to our starting point. There were at least 15 of them, and their size is deceiving; they were close to two feet tall!

These statues greeted us on our way down from the caves to our starting point. There were at least 15 of them, and their size is deceiving; they were close to two feet tall!

Our last stop that evening was the onsen in Gifu. It was such a joy to be in a place that was so warm, heated floors, and of course, smelled like sulfur. No, it's not someone's sandwich or any smells from the bus, but quite literally the onsens smell like sulfur. I had never known this, so I honestly thought that it may have been my lunch.

Our last stop that evening was the onsen in Gifu. It was such a joy to be in a place that was so warm, heated floors, and of course, smelled like sulfur. No, it’s not someone’s sandwich or any smells from the bus, but quite literally the onsens smell like sulfur. I had never known this, so I honestly thought that it may have been my lunch.

The onsen here was divided into a men and women's area, each of which had many baths to choose from. It was so great that they were open all night, so you could go whenever you liked!

The onsen here was divided into a men and women’s area, each of which had many baths to choose from. It was so great that they were open all night, so you could go whenever you liked!

The onsen provided everyone in their room with yukatas to wear to and from the onsen. They were incredibly comfy and kept you warm.

The onsen provided everyone in their room with yukatas to wear to and from the onsen. They were incredibly comfy and kept you warm.

The onsen actually had two restaurants, one of which the TUJ group ate at. We were given a traditional Japanese meal each day, which had some amazingly tasty entrees.

The onsen actually had two restaurants, one of which the TUJ group ate at. We were given a traditional Japanese meal each day, which had some amazingly tasty entrees.

Unfortunately, we had to depart the onsen the next day. Here is the entire TUJ group, all refreshed from a nice soak in the onsens.

Unfortunately, we had to depart the onsen the next day. Here is the entire TUJ group, all refreshed from a nice soak in the onsens.

Our next two stops were to towns in the Gifu and Hida areas. This town was very small, and had many historical buildings in it. The scenery, however, was truly amazing. You could see snow-capped mountains all around.

Our next two stops were to towns in the Gifu and Hida areas. This town was very small, and had many historical buildings in it. The scenery, however, was truly amazing. You could see snow-capped mountains all around.

While the group was in one of the towns, a group of men were fixing one of the hay and grass roofs of the homes. This type of roof was used quite often historically, and is amazing that they still use it today.

While the group was in one of the towns, a group of men were fixing one of the hay and grass roofs of the homes. This type of roof was used quite often historically, and is amazing that they still use it today.

Kay James, a Temple Japan student, poses next to some painted figures outside of the shops. One of the faces is actually made up completely of kana characters!

Kay James, a Temple Japan student, poses next to some painted figures outside of the shops. One of the faces is actually made up completely of kana characters!

Tiny bits of spring were coming into the little town, despite the snow. The streams were flowing at full speed, indicating that the snow would soon be melting.

Tiny bits of spring were coming into the little town, despite the snow. The streams were flowing at full speed, indicating that the snow would soon be melting.

Kay James, a TUJ student, admires a giant ice home. "It's still cold!"  (I couldn't tell if she was talking about her ice cream, or the ice home...)

Kay James, a TUJ student, admires a giant ice home. “It’s still cold!” (I couldn’t tell if she was talking about her ice cream, or the ice home…)

Our last stop was another town, in which we were given a tour of one of the historical government houses, in ENGLISH. Here was the gate to the building.

Our last stop was another town, in which we were given a tour of one of the historical government houses, in ENGLISH. Here was the gate to the building.

The TUJ group listens to one of the staff members discuss the history of the government building.

The TUJ group listens to one of the staff members discuss the history of the government building.

Here was one of the larger rooms in the government building. We learned that the tatami mats had different meanings. The nicer mats were made for the rooms of the higher positioned ranks, while the weaker mats were made for servants areas.

Here was one of the larger rooms in the government building. We learned that the tatami mats had different meanings. The nicer mats were made for the rooms of the higher positioned ranks, while the weaker mats were made for servants areas.

Kay James, Dina Pakstis, and Megan Smith walk around the halls of the government building.

Kay James, Dina Pakstis, and Megan Smith walk around the halls of the government building.

TUJ student Nick Watanabe stops to get a perfect shot of the government building.

TUJ student Nick Watanabe stops to get a perfect shot of the government building.

This garden featured the symbol of the family here, which consisted of a wave pattern in semi-circles. During the tour, this pattern was seen many times around the building.

This garden featured the symbol of the family here, which consisted of a wave pattern in semi-circles. During the tour, this pattern was seen many times around the building.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. Once you go in the onsen, you will never want to get out. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience more of Japan, but on a budget and with friends!

Tokyo Disney Resort!

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Recently, I was able to go on a trip with a group of friends to an iconic place in not only Tokyo, but in the world:

The Tokyo Disney Resort

The resort is super easy to get to, and it’s only about 30 minutes away from the Shirokane Takanawa (the station right near Temple Japan’s Azabu Hall). The resort also offers discounted tickets for students, which I happily purchased.

When exiting the JR Subway station nearest to the Tokyo Disney Resort, you'll have to board the Disney Monorail to travel to the parks. It's not difficult to find, especially with it's Mickey Mouse shaped windows.

When exiting the JR Subway station nearest to the Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll have to board the Disney Monorail to travel to the parks. It’s not difficult to find, especially with it’s Mickey Mouse shaped windows.

Goofy was so happy to get a shot with the TUJ students Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, and even me! Goofy was wearing his DisneySea attire.

Goofy was so happy to get a shot with the TUJ students Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, and even me! Goofy was wearing his DisneySea attire.

Goofy waited for 5 minutes until America rotated into view on the globe, so that he could correctly point to where Temple Main Campus was. His guesses of China, South Africa, and the Philippines were a bit off, but he finally got it right.

Goofy waited for 5 minutes until America rotated into view on the globe, so that he could correctly point to where Temple Main Campus was. His guesses of China, South Africa, and the Philippines were a bit off, but he finally got it right.

Disney Tokyo Resort is made up of two parks: DisneySea and Disneyland. Here is DisneySea, which is based off of the model of Walt Disney World Orlando's Epcot. This park does not feature all the countries of the world, and also incorporates many water rides.

Disney Tokyo Resort is made up of two parks: DisneySea and Disneyland. Here is DisneySea, which is based off of the model of Walt Disney World Orlando’s Epcot. This park does not feature all the countries of the world, and also incorporates many water rides.

Temple Japan students Megan Smith and Carlos Casademont stop for a photo in front of Disney Sea. This is the largest park in the Tokyo Disney Resort, and even has a giant volcano in the middle!

Temple Japan students Megan Smith and Carlos Casademont stop for a photo in front of Disney Sea. This is the largest park in the Tokyo Disney Resort, and even has a giant volcano in the middle!

In Disney Sea, it's name implies that it is more water-based, so it would be necessary to add an Ariel section to this park. Here is Ariel's castle, which has a huge area inside with rides and games.

In Disney Sea, it’s name implies that it is more water-based, so it would be necessary to add an Ariel section to this park. Here is Ariel’s castle, which has a huge area inside with rides and games.

TUJ student Megan Smith successfully found her future boyfriend, Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid." She was quite smitten when she found him.

TUJ student Megan Smith successfully found her future boyfriend, Prince Eric from “The Little Mermaid.” She was quite smitten when she found him.

One of Ariel's collectibles in her cave in Ariel's castle.

One of Ariel’s collectibles in her cave in Ariel’s castle.

In this playground in Ariel's Castle, they reenact the scene from "The Little Mermaid" where Ariel sings in her cave with her collectibles.

In this playground in Ariel’s Castle, they reenact the scene from “The Little Mermaid” where Ariel sings in her cave with her collectibles.

TUJ student Carlos Casademont rings the bell in Ariel's cave, just like in the movie "The Little Mermaid."

TUJ student Carlos Casademont rings the bell in Ariel’s cave, just like in the movie “The Little Mermaid.”

In the Tokyo Disney Resort, you can journey on a quest to find all the hidden Mickey's around the park. This one here was difficult to find, but we found him hovering just over the keystone.

In the Tokyo Disney Resort, you can journey on a quest to find all the hidden Mickey’s around the park. This one here was difficult to find, but we found him hovering just over the keystone.

Disneyland would not be complete without Cinderella's Castle. In the Disneyland park in Tokyo Disney Resort, it features most of the same things from Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Orlando.

Disneyland would not be complete without Cinderella’s Castle. In the Disneyland park in Tokyo Disney Resort, it features most of the same things from Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Orlando.

TUJ students Carlos Casademont, Megan Smith, and myself got a shot in front of Cinderella's castle just before they closed off the pavilion for a parade.

TUJ students Carlos Casademont, Megan Smith, and I got a shot in front of Cinderella’s castle just before they closed off the pavilion for a parade.

One of the biggest movies from Disney currently is "Frozen" which Japan is still absolutely in love with. Until the end of March, Disneyland is hosting many Frozen oriented aspects of the park, including games, food, and balloons.

One of the biggest movies from Disney currently is “Frozen,” which Japan is still absolutely in love with. Until the end of March, Disneyland is hosting many Frozen oriented aspects of the park, including games, food, and balloons.

In Disneyland, there are two main parades that happen during the day. This parade happened around noon time, and featured most of the princesses and even Minnie Mouse.

In Disneyland, there are two main parades that happen during the day. This parade happened around noon time, and featured most of the princesses and even Minnie Mouse.

Woody isn't eating people, it's just a ride! This is the entrance for one of the Toy Story rides in the Tokyo Disney Resort, specifically Disneyland. On a busy day, the lines can get up to 3 hours long!

Woody isn’t eating people, it’s just a ride! This is the entrance for one of the Toy Story rides in the Tokyo Disney Resort, specifically Disneyland. On a busy day, the lines can get up to 3 hours long!

The Electrical Parade at any Disney Resort is a sight to see! Sadly, the only resorts around the world to still host this parade are Walt Disney World Orlando and Tokyo Disneyland.

The Electrical Parade at any Disney Resort is a sight to see! Sadly, the only resorts around the world to still host this parade are Walt Disney World Orlando and Tokyo Disneyland.

Each of the floats in the parade were incredibly intricate, and consists of thousands of lights. Most of the floats featured the characters sayings, and all were in English.

Each of the floats in the parade were incredibly intricate, and consists of thousands of lights. Most of the floats featured the characters sayings, and all were in English.

Sleeping Beauty graced the parade by leading the way around the park. Her wings didn't just only glow, but they moved as well!

Sleeping Beauty graced the parade by leading the way around the park. Her wings didn’t just only glow, but they moved as well!

Iconic characters like Sully, Mike, and Boo from "Monster's Inc." even made it in the parade. However, they were about 10 times larger than in the movie.

Iconic characters like Sully, Mike, and Boo from “Monster’s Inc.” even made it in the parade. However, they were about 10 times larger than in the movie.

Overall, the trip was amazing! I definetly think it is worth it for any Disney fan. I would advise that there are very long lines, and all the attractions are not always offered in English, but it is easy enough to understand. I hope to go again someday!

A Must-Visit in Japan: Daibutsu

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If you could pick only one magnificent sight to see in Japan, make it Daibutsu!

If you could pick only one magnificent sight to see in Japan, better make it Daibutsu!

The first of my posts on the top “must-visit” places in Japan is Daibutsu (大仏) aka Great Buddha, which is a term used in general to represent each of the several large Buddha statues scattered throughout the country. The one featured above is the one I visited and although it may be recognizable to you, it is not the most well-known daibutsu — this being the one that resides in Todai-ji in Nara. The photo above shows Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏) in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture — an Amitabha Buddha that towers over 13 meters. The trip to see this daibutsu, especially on a pleasant day, is an enjoyable one; the whole area surrounding the Buddha is open and the sun beats down on the grass, the steps, the pebbles and the temple. What surprised me the most — besides its unbelievable height — was the discovery that it was hollow inside, an aspect of the statue that probably allowed for easier construction and maintenance throughout the Me & Buddhacenturies. For a small fee (I believe around 100-200 yen) you can take a short walk through the opening to the right of the Buddha and walk up a set of stairs to check out the dimly lit hollowed feet and chest area. Drop your head back and you can admire the opening of the neck and squint to check out the head at the very top. The inside is a tight space and only a few people can cram inside to explore the tiny room, but it is full of extra tidbits on the construction and maintenance of the otherworldly structure — an experience definitely worthy of your spare yen (plus you can say “I’ve been inside that Buddha!!”).

When I returned home, I decided to explore online a little, and thanks to every college student’s best friend Wikipedia, I discovered even more ridiculously cool facts about the Kamakura Daibutsu. According to Wikipedia and many other resources, the statue, constructed of bronze, was born by man’s hand in the 1200s (the Kamakura period), but this was only after its wooden predecessor, which was destroyed in a storm some years before. The Buddha was also at one point covered in gold (!), and housed in several buildings which were also broken down by storms, but now it stands without the cover of a roof. When you go inside the Buddha you can see the giant plates of bronze layered underneath using a technique called ikarakuri, and while there I also learned of the types of repairs — to places like the neck and base — that the statue underwent over time. Check out some photos I took of this iconic Japanese figure!


A view from inside the Buddha: here we're looking up at the hole that is the neck, and over the railing there are two windows on the back side of the statue.

A view from inside the Buddha: here we’re looking up at the hole that is the neck, and over the railing there are two windows on the back side of the statue.

Here is a shot of the Great Buddha that shows you just how big it really is. From here you can also see the intricate base, which was previously broken and repaired.

Here is a shot of the Great Buddha that shows you just how big it really is. From here you can also see the base, which was previously broken and repaired.

People waiting to sniff some of the incense at the foot of the statue.

People waiting to sniff some of the incense at the foot of the statue.

This arch marks the entrance to the temple grounds where the Great Buddha stands. The street light is such a strange contrast from the gorgeous traditional style of the arch!

This arch marks the entrance to the temple grounds where the Great Buddha stands. The street light is such a strange contrast from the gorgeous traditional style of the arch!

Kotoku-in, the Buddhist temple where the Daibutsu is housed.

Kotoku-in, the Buddhist temple where the Daibutsu is housed.

A beautiful bridge near the entrance of Kotoku-in that is too old and delicate to walk on!

A beautiful bridge near the entrance of Kotoku-in that is too old and delicate to walk on!

Some of the small gifts in the Kotoku-in gift shop. The sleep mask on the bottom right says "Kamakura!!" with an adorable emoticon face!

Some of the small gifts in the Kotoku-in gift shop. The sleep mask on the bottom right says “Kamakura!!” with an adorable emoticon face!

Check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, it's well worth the little extra money it takes to get there and it can lead to a whole day of shopping and exploring. There are many small shops and restaurants to check out -- have fun!

Check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, it’s well worth the little extra money it takes to get there and it can lead to a whole day of shopping and exploring. There are many small shops and restaurants to check out — have fun!

International Women’s Day and Japan

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Sunday March 8th was International Women’s Day (IWD), but I’m sure there were many women who, unfortunately, didn’t take much time out to reflect on this holiday. According to a website dedicated to keeping the tradition of the day “alive and growing,” internationalwomensday.com, IWD has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It aims to “inspire women and celebrate achievements,” and encourages support from not only women and men, but also global corporations who want in on the special day. The site also notes that the “tone and nature of IWD has… moved from being a reminder about the negatives to [being] a celebration of the positives,” a powerful view reversal that great movements would do good to follow.

This study abroad blogger was asked to scout out and participate in an event that marks this commemorative day in Japan. Sadly, Japan is not one of the few countries that takes great strides in making the occasion known, and thus there was only one event in Tokyo of note: a fundraising event in Shibuya hosted by two groups called FEW (For Empowering Women in Japan, a women’s networking group) and Lighthouse (Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, which focuses on human trafficking and modern day slavery in Japan). The event was an evening of musicians, poets and speakers using art and words to celebrate IWD and Japanese women.

What sounded like a fun, inspiring and absolutely perfect night, took place on Sunday from 7:00-10:00pm, a time that, unfortunately, conflicts with the restrictions put upon young women like myself residing in a dorm. This very fact brought me, on Sunday night, to reflect on the concept of restricted Japanese dorm hours, a typical safety rule for Japanese dorms, which only applies to females. As an American woman experiencing a new culture, a new belief system, and a new way of doing things in Japan, I was of course a little disappointed with the 11:00pm closing time that all residents were expected to meet — we would get locked out from 11:00pm until 6:00am if we couldn’t make it back through the sliding doors in time. The 11:00pm closing time is reasonable, but as our Temple tour guide on our first day at the dorm sympathetically noted, it restricts women’s activity while still enforcing a sense of protection.

Japan’s women are very different from the women of other backgrounds and other cultures, but they are still lacking a great amount of freedoms, just like many women in America and around the world are, even in modern times — the freedom to express themselves without harsh judgment from society, the freedom to lead beautiful lives without objectification, abuse, attacks…

Yet, in keeping with what IWD’s website notes, it is more important to look at how far women have come; in Japan, much has changed for the better. I hope that organizations like FEW can continue to support women in their personal and professional goals, and can keep International Women’s Day a celebration that more and more people each year will recognize and take action to commemorate.

Visit IWD’s website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com
Visit FEW’s website: http://www.fewjapan.com

Days Go By

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This is the display of the hina dolls in Nakajuku! Families set up more than just the emperor and empress dolls and their display will incorporate peach blossoms, which begin to bloom in Spring.

Towards the end of February, the community center in Nakajuku displayed their hina dolls in the window, marking the quick approach of the Hina-Matsuri, or Doll Festival. The Hina-Matsuri festival, celebrated on March 3rd, is commonly referred to as “Girl’s Day” because its annual purpose (whether practiced privately at home or publicly at community festivals) is to wish daughters good fortune and health as they continue to grow up. Although March 3rd has passed, I just flipped my desk calendar to March. I tend to be rather absentminded about changing the months on my calendar and when I remember to, I’m usually very happy to be one page closer to summer break. This month, however, was a bit different; before I came to Japan, I read blog posts from past student bloggers and a common revelation among them was how quickly their semesters passed. I understand that now. There are still mornings when I wake up, look at the time and feel my heart tumble right into my stomach because it’s way past the beginning of orientation, a mandatory event for all S.A. Students. I then remember that it’s been nearly sixty days since I had to attend orientation, but among the daily commutes, busy weekdays, and overflowing weekend endeavors it’s easy for sixty days to feel like one week.
Friday wrapped up my mid-term crunch and I spent the weekend celebrating and relaxing with friends. On Saturday, I finally took the train out to to Tokyo Station, which housed many, many restaurants and shops. The station had a lot to offer so I spent the afternoon wandering around, knowing that if I got lost in the maze of hallways, I could look up at the directional signs and find the correct train line.
 
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I had complained about not being able to find my favorite character, Kagome Higurashi, who I will be cosplaying later this month, on the fourth floor of Animate. A whopping five seconds later I looked down and spotted her.

Sunday evening I battled the gloomy weather alongside my friends in Akihabara. We walked as quickly as possible from store to store in order to lessen the damage that puddles would inflict on our shoes. The rain, however, was easily forgotten and our shoes dried within Akihabara’s Mandarake (a store selling used manga, doujinshi, anime, and memorabilia) as we scoured display cases and bookshelves for our favorite serializations. In these types of stores, I’ve learned, concentration is a necessity. Although there is organization on a macro level, trying to find something on a micro level (such as a specific anime, manga, figure, or film) tends to be a challenge. We braved the rain again in order to jump from Mandarake to Animate, another popular anime-based store in Akihabara. On the fifth floor, Animate has a cosplay store and my friends and I spent our last moments of the evening sorting through cosplay items for the upcoming convention, Anime Japan 2015 (March 21-22, 2015).
In addition to Anime Japan 2015, I will be going to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo Disneyland, TUJ’s Gifu overnight trip, and the Shōnen Sunday Festival this month. On top of all of these events is the first blooming of Sakura in Tokyo which has been predicted to happen on the 25th. There is so much to do this month that the last two have seemed like the prequel to my semester. It’s fair to assume that March—the entire month—is going to be like when I packed my suitcases back in America: jam-packed, heavy, but one-hundred percent necessary, and bound for somewhere great.

Welcome to Japan: 5 New-Student Tips & Tricks

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Study Abroad Tips & Tricks

Before arriving in Japan as a student studying abroad, I didn’t fully know what to expect: I didn’t know what kinds of necessities I would buy for myself or my room, the types of shops that would be available in Tokyo, the food options I would have, the best ways of surviving a subway ride… There turned out to be more than a few things I wish I had known before stepping off the taxi and walking into my room at the Kitazono Women’s Dorm, and some insider info I wish I had heard before waltzing into TUJ for my first class in January. After more than a month in Japan, I found the answers to all of these questions, and the answers to new questions that arose as I adapted to life here. I’m sure there will be many more before my last day in Japan, but I’ve compiled a list of some things you might want to keep in mind before you study abroad at Temple’s Japan Campus.

1. The Subway

The subway system in Japan is very efficient and clean — nothing like the ones you’re used to in Philadelphia, but unlike in Philly it’s ok to push and nudge people around; in the early mornings and evenings the cars are literally packed with people heading to and from work. People turn around and give a little push to pack themselves in to catch the train. As there’s no “it’s full so I’ll get the next one,” I often times find myself wishing I had worn more layers because sometimes it does get stuffy and heated in the subway cars from all the people inside. Also, if you miss your train, there should be another heading in the same direction within five to seven minutes at most stations. This is helpful to know before you panic about getting somewhere on time — in Philly the subway trains can sometimes run pretty late and mess up your schedule, but for the most part its timing and the frequency of its trains are comparable to that of Tokyo’s subway system—Tokyo just does it cleaner!

2. Food

If you’re an adventurous eater at home in America — or even if you’re just a typical consumer of the culturally diverse food “melting pot” of America — you’ll be able to find what you like upon arriving in Japan, for sure. There are a few things that I’ve noticed, however, about the food options here. Cereal doesn’t seem to be a big thing in grocery stores and in Japan in general, but you can find a few (usually five different styles of cereal) at your larger grocery stores and maybe a box or two in specialty/local snack shops. Pancakes and waffles that you can normally get at a diner in America are a little difficult to find and popular pancake/breakfast places like Eggs N Things are expensive (there’s not really a comparable Sabrina’s or Cafe Lift in Japan!). It is also true that if you’re American you will find that the portion sizes are smaller, and thus you might also argue that food here is a little pricier when considering the amount of food you get when it arrives at your table. If you are a picky eater, you’ll be able to find pizza places, lots of Italian restaurants and French bakeries, and you can always shop for meals at a grocery store, but if you often find yourself in the mood for American-style diners, you might run into some difficulties. Diners are a little on the expensive end, though they do exist (Jonathan’s and Denny’s), but their menus feature a lot of traditional Japanese dishes. Overall though, you should not have a problem with finding food you want to eat, but I would encourage you to try traditional Japanese meals as well!

3. Money

Unlike in America, a lot of daily transactions are done with real cash. The only big difference is that coins are used more in Japan so everyone carries coin purses. If you purchase one thing when you set foot in Narita Airport, or as soon as you get a free day to explore after moving in, let it be a coin purse because you cannot function without one in Japan! Using cards to get money out of ATMs should not prove difficult, but it is true that certain convenience stores won’t accept foreign ATM/debit cards — 7 & I Holdings (7 Elevens) though usually always have machines that will take your card no problem.

4. Girl’s Dorm Necessities

For those staying in the Kitazono Women’s Dorm, after you settle in, you’ll need to buy toilet paper and cleaning supplies for your bathroom (toilet, bath, and mirror cleaner, etc). I recommend packing light and also leaving room for things to bring home, but there is a ton of space in your dorm room for storing clothes. The only thing I didn’t purchase that I could have at the 100 yen shops are hangers, because there is enough space for me to fold and store clothes on shelves. The dorm provides you with around four or five hangers, which are perfect for the few dresses I brought along with me, but if you need more things hung you can easily find hangers for cheap.

5. Shopping

There are plenty of convenient places to get anything and everything you could possibly need while in Japan: convenience stores that have everything down to underwear and toothbrushes, Uniqlos (fashionable, bright simple clothing stores that are everywhere in Japan) for last minute coats or jeans and the like, niche stores and souvenir shops, trendy fashion boutiques, 100 yen shops (dollar stores that have everything under the sun), and more. Especially near the women’s dorm, you’ll never find yourself needing to run out to another station or area to find a 7 Eleven, a coffee shop, or a clothing store — it’s all right around you. Just budget and try not to buy too much stuff! One thing that is hard to find, however, is deodorant — the specific kinds you’re used to in America. You’ll find that most stores carry lightly scented spray deodorants, not so much the solid stick or gel types, and at that there aren’t many brands to choose from. Keep this in mind, and if you want to you can always bring a stick from home in your luggage; most sizes fit the maximum amount of liquids/gels/etc that you are permitted to pack! And don’t forget to pack light. Although you’ll have a lot of closet space, you’ll want to leave room in your bags for awesome Japanese fashion and souvenir stuff to bring back home!

Places Around Tokyo: Tokyo Tower and Ueno

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Looking for places to visit in Tokyo but want to also save on money? Recently, I was able to visit Ueno and Tokyo Tower in the Tokyo Metropolitan Prefecture, and was able to do just that.

One of the most iconic buildings in Tokyo is, of course, the Tokyo Tower. This is only a few stops away from the TUJ campus, and really let's you see all of Tokyo. The best part is a ticket only costs ¥900.

One of the most iconic buildings in Tokyo is, of course, the Tokyo Tower. This is only a few stops away from the TUJ campus, and really let’s you see all of Tokyo. The best part is a ticket only costs ¥900.

Christmas lasts forever here! Tokyo Tower was featuring their Winter Wonderland display all the way until the end of February. They even had an entire display synched to holiday music.

Christmas lasts forever here! Tokyo Tower was featuring their Winter Wonderland display all the way until the end of February. They even had an entire display synched to holiday music.

TUJ student Carlos Casademont couldn't believe how pretty the observation deck was. "When I looked outside, it made me realize just how HUGE Tokyo is."

TUJ student Carlos Casademont couldn’t believe how pretty the observation deck was. “When I looked outside, it made me realize just how HUGE Tokyo is.”

Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958, making it one of the oldest modern structures in Tokyo. In 2011, the tower actually took some slight damage from the 3/11 Earthquake, but was soon repaired afterwards.

Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958, making it one of the oldest modern structures in Tokyo. In 2011, the tower actually took some slight damage from the 3/11 Earthquake, but was soon repaired afterwards.

Tokyo Tower has a whole floor of restaurants, many of which have a ticket order system. This lets you order your meal through a machine, and have a ticket given to the chef to make it. This can be very useful and less stressful if you are still hesitant with the language.

Tokyo Tower has a whole floor of restaurants, many of which have a ticket order system. This lets you order your meal through a machine, and have a ticket given to the chef to make it. This can be very useful and less stressful if you are still hesitant with the language.

Ueno, north of Tokyo, has an abundance of shallow ponds, parks, and museums. Here, the Tokyo National Museum is reflected. Although no pictures are allowed to be taken inside, these buildings hold centuries of valuable culture and immaculate history. This museum also offers discounts for students with IDs, making the entrance fee come to ¥410!

Ueno, north of Tokyo, has an abundance of shallow ponds, parks, and museums. Here, the Tokyo National Museum is reflected. Although no pictures are allowed to be taken inside, these buildings hold centuries of valuable culture and immaculate history. This museum also offers discounts for students with IDs, making the entrance fee come to ¥410!

One of Ueno's largest ponds is filled with lively tulips, a little odd to find in the month of February but was a pleasant insert into the harshly horizontal landscape.

One of Ueno’s largest ponds is filled with lively tulips, a little odd to find in the month of February but was a pleasant insert into the harshly horizontal landscape.

Ueno's larger pond really scales the Tokyo National Museum. It's huge (and that's only one of the buildings)!

Ueno’s larger pond really scales the Tokyo National Museum. It’s huge (and that’s only one of the buildings)!

Ueno has a side completely different from it's parks and museums. These tiny streets are filled to the brink with stores, many of which happen to be resale and discount stores, drawing in large crowds with their low prices.

Ueno has a side completely different from its parks and museums. These tiny streets are filled to the brink with stores, many of which happen to be resale and discount stores, drawing in large crowds with their low prices.

Here where some of the merchants in Ueno. Unlike some quieter marketplaces, like the ones in Itabashi near the dorms, these streets are loud. Vendors will call out to customers to come in and buy things. You will hear occasional english bits as they try to entice you to buy their wares.

Here were some of the merchants in Ueno. Unlike some quieter marketplaces, like the ones in Itabashi near the dorms, these streets are loud. Vendors will call out to customers to come in and buy things. You will hear occasional English bits as they try to entice you to buy their wares.

Although Ueno may be a bit further than Tokyo Tower, both of these places are must sees on any map of Japan, and definitely are worth it, without emptying your wallet.