Going to the Happiest Place on Earth(日記#42)

Hi everyone!

Today I want to share about my trip to Tokyo Disneyland I took with my friends on the last day of Golden Week, May 6th. From where most of us were living, in Kawagoe, to get to Disneyland only took about one and a half hours one-way. It was also only 2 train changes and 900 yen or $9 each way. It’s actually really easy to get to Disneyland and Disney Sea by regular train, getting off at Maihama Station which connects by a walkway to Disneyland. To get to Disney Sea there is a Disney monorail which you can either buy tickets for or use your regular train pass to pay. It’s actually pretty fun because the inside is decorated in a Mickey theme. For this time though since I went to Disneyland we didn’t take the monorail.

Since one of my friends doesn’t like roller coasters we ended up going to Disneyland which is the tamer of the two parks. We actually didn’t ride too much, instead we basically ate our way through Disneyland.

 

Disneyland and Disney Sea in Japan are really great if you like to eat because there are so many seasonal and themed foods. For lunch we tried a newer restaurant where they had waffle sandwiches, followed by lots of snacking the rest of the day. I got my favorite food: Disneyland popcorn, then I also tried the little green man(ju) which were kind of like ice cream mochi but in the shape of the aliens from Toy Story. There are three different flavors: strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. After that we also ate churros. The churros in Japan seem different as they are not as wide. They are a lot skinnier and in the shape of Mickey, which was cute but I still prefer the American churros better I think. For dinner instead of eating at one of the sit-down restaurants we instead just ate a turkey leg.

For the actual rides they are pretty much the same as the American Disneyland so we went on Jungle Cruise (guide spoke in Japanese of course), Space Mountain (where my friend lost her wallet), the tea cups (where I proceeded to get extremely sick), followed by the canoe ride (where the girl two rows in front of me scooped the water right back into my face). I prefer more thrill rides rather than story rides so that part of the day was just okay, but going to Disneyland with friends was really really fun so I don’t really have any complaints. How could I? It’s the happiest place on earth!

I also forgot to mention in the beginning that the park was decorated for Easter. They had all different “usatama” Disney characters hidden all over the park and that was really cute. Usa is from Usagi or bunny, and tama is for tamago or egg. So they were all eggs with bunny ears that were themed for the different characters.

All in all it was a super fun day with good food and good friends. I love Disney and I was so happy that my friends and I were finally able to find a date where all of us could hang out together.

My next post will also be about a day out with a friend, but this time just a short rainy afternoon hangout with a friend I met while volunteering who is from New Zealand but is married to a Japanese man so please stick around!

As always, thanks for reading!

❤ Kira

My Mom Visited Me in Japan! (日記#41)

Hello again everybody!

This is my first post written after I returned home from Japan. I officially landed back in the US on July 30, 2017 and I will be at home until August 24th when I go back to school in Oregon to finish out my senior year of college. Even though I am no longer in Japan I still hope to finish writing and sharing all of the experiences and adventures I had during my 11 months I spent there (so this blog will not be going away anytime soon!). So, without further ado let’s continue with a new post which will take me one step closer to finishing out this year.

Golden Week in Japan is a pretty much weeklong holiday that is probably one of the only vacations many Japanese people will have throughout the year. For me, instead of traveling or going back home (which would be super expensive since many Japanese people probably travelled to Hawaii during this holiday), my mom actually came to Japan and visited me for a little over a week during the last week of April to the first week of May. Since it was over a week and we did a lot of things that I have trouble recalling now, I am just going to share some of the highlights of her visit in no particular order based on which pictures I have.

One of the most memorable things was probably eating. To be honest, from January to March when I was living on my own, I barely ate. I don’t know how to cook and I began to grow tired of eating alone so I began to stop eating other than what I needed to just get by. Since I did that lifestyle for over 3 months, even when I moved into my new host family’s house I was still unable to really eat. However, that changed once my mom came to visit me and I was finally “cured.” I kind of joked around saying that if I could eat a whole hamburger then I would officially declared myself recovered but I never realized how true it actually was. It was probably all a mental block so once I thought that I could eat I began to find joy in eating again and was able to eat normally (back to my bad eating habits).

We ate a lot of food so I’ll just insert pictures of that below 🙂 I took my mom to my favorite Japanese “fast food”–family style restaurants. Gusto, which is famous for hamburg, and Saizeria where I get my favorite “peperonchino” pasta and “karami chicken” which is basically spicy chicken wings. It may seen kind of silly, but my favorite foods that I ate in Japan were probably foods originally from other countries that were Japanified. As for my mom she really wanted to eat udon so we went to one of the small udon places where you order a ticket from a vending machine and then hand that over to receive your food. My mom also fell in love with the orange flavored water and smuggled how many bottles back home when she left.

 

We did do other things besides eating though including going to a Hawaii Festival in Odaiba, going to Venus Fort Mall, and also going to a Disney Art Exhibit at the Miraikan, all located in Odaiba. On another day we also went to Tokyo Station to eat at the underground Ramen Street and also to check out the Palace Grounds outside the station. It ended up being too hot for me to handle though so we quickly went back indoors.

Overall I had a really nice time and I was really grateful that my mom came to visit me. I was really homesick I think and having home come to me really helped. In the past I had only stayed away from home for about 4 months at a time but at this point it has already been about twice that amount, 8 months away from home with about 3 more months to go. Having my mom come was a lifesaver to me but I also hope that she had a nice experience in Japan even though I couldn’t take her many places since I had still had school.

I hope that in the future if I end up living in Japan again that my other family members can also come and visit me, especially my dad because he has never been to Japan and I would really like to take him to places like the tsukiji fish market, the restaurant where you catch your own fish and they cook it for you, and also lot of sushi places since it’s so cheap.

Well, I think that’s it for this post. Haven’t done a long post like this for a while probably because I lost my touch with writing in English but I am feeling a little better now after having been home for a couple of weeks. Please stick around for the next post which will be the grand finale of my Golden Week holidays, going to Tokyo Disneyland with my Japanese friends.

Thanks for reading!

❤ Kira

 

Kami Suki and Soba Making: Japanese Cultural Experience(日記#40)

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another post! This time I will be writing about the JSP field trip that we took to Higashi Chichibu on April 22, 2017 for a Japanese cultural experience! We “made” Japanese paper and also handmade our own soba noodles for lunch.

When we arrived at the Saitama Traditional Craft Center we got right to making our soba. It was actually kind of embarrassing because part of the process included stepping on the soba to knead it out but it was among good company so it wasn’t that bad.

We were also lucky because the lunch included tempura (that we didn’t have to make ourselves!). The soba tasted especially good after working hard to make it from scratch.

After we were all done with our lunch then we cleaned up and heading to another building to experience the paper making. We were lucky again that they made the process easy for us by helping us scoop the paper with the sieve and shaking it to help spread it evenly. Once they plopped our papers out of the wire frame then we got to decorate them with different flower petals and leaves. I am not very artsy so I basically just separated them by type of plant haha. I really love doing activities where you either get to taste or take home what you made so it was really perfect.

Once we finished decorating our papers then we had some free time to walk around the area. They had a nice garden with a sakura tree in full bloom that was especially pretty.

Once our exploration time was up we loaded up back into the school bus to head back to campus. It was a really nice escape from regular school life and a good experience. Very grateful to have had this opportunity!

Thank you for reading! The next post will be about my mom’s visit to Japan!

Take care~

❤ Kira

Searching for Sakura: Afternoon Walk with my Host Mom(日記#39)

Hello!

I seem to be on a roll with updating posts, but perhaps that’s going to jinx me. Anyways today’s post is going to be about walking around the neighborhood with my host mom in hopes to see some sakura at full bloom back on April 2, 2017.

My host mom likes to joke about how she is a Kawagoe-jin since she was born and raised in Kawagoe just like her family has for many generations. It is a really nice area to live in with a river nearby that seems perfect for a picnic, for walking a dog, or just chilling and relaxing outdoors.

Unfortunately the sakura were not quite in full bloom yet. This year the sakura seemed to be blooming late. They also had to compete with the gloomy, grey, and rainy weather. There were still a few blooms though so we spent a while having flower photoshoots.

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Another thing that was really cute was that there are free boat rides on the river. From what I saw though it wasn’t that popular as most people were probably waiting for the sakura to bloom. There was a cute old lady though who was taking a ride by herself.

After we ate some yakisoba that was being sold by one of the families who live in the area that turned the bottom floor of their house into a mini food stand, we continued walking to Koedo which is known for being “little Tokyo” to pick up a snack and then also to Hikawa Shrine where I fished for my fortune in the shape of a cute red tai or red snapper.

It was a short and sweet outing with my host mom within the first few days of moving into my new host family’s house on March 30th. My host mom and I get along well and I can’t help but thank whoever is looking out for me this year since I was placed well for my host family both semesters 🙂

Anyways, if you read this, thank you as always! The next post will be talking about the JSP field trip we took to Higashi Chichibu to experience Japanese traditional paper making and making soba from scratch! It was a really great experience so please look forward to the next post!

Take care~

❤ Kira

Yayoi Kusama Exhibit(日記#38)

Hi everyone!

I am back again with another post! This time to let you know about my visit to the Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul exhibit that was hosted at the Kokuritsu-Shin-Bijutsukan in Roppongi.

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Yayoi Kusama is a famous Japanese artist, well known for her dotted art style. Her art is displayed across Japan with her famous pumpkin sculpture displayed in Naoshima and most recently in the newly opened Ginza Six shopping complex where her pumpkin sculptures can be seen suspended from the ceiling.

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After buying our ticket and making our way into the museum the first thing that we did was check out the food. There are multiple cafes within the large museum. We were slightly limited since all of the cafeterias were crowded, but luckily by the time we got out food we were able to find a seat at a table shared with some other people. It was pretty good (as is most food in Japan. I don’t think you can really go wrong with most food in Japan).

Once we finished eating we made our way to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. It starts with an interactive piece where you are handed a sheet of dotted stickers and you are allowed to place them anywhere within the small room.

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Once you go through that exhibit you enter the main exhibit where you are not really allowed to take pictures. It was really interesting to see the changes and evolution in her art styles but also the continuation of the dotted style that she is well known for. Throughout the exhibit you get to see not only her art pieces but you also get to watch videos which tell you more about the story of her life.

After going through the maze of her different art works and sculptures you enter a large open room. In this room you are able to take pictures and many people were taking advantage of that. I really enjoyed the art pieces in this collection just looking at them visually, but even more than that I thought that the titles were very thought provoking. For all of the bright cheerful colors, the titles were often very dark and it made me wonder about what Kusama was thinking as she created these pieces. IMG_6491.JPG

I am really grateful that I was able to go and visit Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit during the time I was in Japan. Just one of the many experiences that I didn’t imagine myself having while studying abroad but am so glad I was able to do.

Thank you for reading! Next time I will talk about walking around the neighborhood with my current host mom during sakura season! Please look forward to it~

Take care!

❤ Kira

Visiting the Ueno Zoo!(日記#37)

Hello everyone!

Today I am going to talk about my little field trip I took to the Ueno Zoo on March 23, 2017. Ueno Zoo is located within Ueno Park and is famous for its giant pandas. Originally I didn’t want to go to visit the zoo because I have mixed feelings about places like zoos and aquariums, but in the end I decided to go an check out the zoo and the conditions of the animals firsthand.

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One thing I noticed when I first went in was that the zoo was full of families with kids and I was there by myself so it was kind of sad but I just told myself that this was for research purposes (and also called my grandma to keep me company while I walked around pitying the animals).

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Once inside, first stop was the giant pandas. Impression: they were not as giant as I predicted from a name like “giant panda” but at the same time I can’t imagine what they would look like if they were any more huge.

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There were huge crowds around the windows of the exhibit just watching the pandas chill and eat. Seems like a pretty good set-up to me.

After seeing the pandas then I continued to walk around the zoo determined to see all of the animals. Ueno Zoo is actually a fairly large zoo that is separated into two different areas. It was actually pretty nice and I wouldn’t mind going again, although I am not sure how happy the animals are living there. In particular the elephant habitat seemed to be way too small for the amount of elephants they had housed there and many of the other animals such as the different species of bears were all pacing around the doors of their cages.

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Just recently Ueno Zoo has become a big topic on the news because a baby panda was born for the first time in many years. It is still in the unstable period where the baby panda’s survival is not guaranteed, but it is looking good so far and soon there will be a public voting system to submit possible names for the baby. Sadly when the baby gets old enough it will be sent back to China as per the agreement of receiving the pandas in the first place.


tl;dr–The Ueno Zoo is a nice place to stop by if you are anywhere near the area in order to kill 2-3 hours. There are also multiple museums, temples, and a park nearby as well so it’s a place where you could easily spend an entire day.

When I was living in the Share House in Nippori, Ueno Station was only one stop away and therefore it became my go-to location for breaks. Since moving back to Kawagoe in Saitama I have only been able to go back once or twice but I hope to go again in the future since I have many fond memories of the Ueno area 🙂


If you read this long rambling post I appreciate it! Please bear with me as I get back into the groove of writing and communicating in English.

Next post will be about visiting the Yayoi Kusama Exhibit!

Take care!

❤ Kira

Final Countdown: 13 Days Left in Japan!

Hello everyone!

It has really been a while since I last posted so I apologize. I really intended to catch up as much as possible with my posts but the days just passed by and I couldn’t find any motivation to write about things that were already so far in the past. This isn’t an update on my adventures yet but I just thought that I should break my long no-writing streak by posting an update.

I have reached the end of my 11 month study abroad in Japan. Almost one year passed by before I even knew it and now I only have 12 full days left in Japan. I can’t believe it really. I did so many different things but still didn’t get to do all of the things that I wanted to. If I could redo this year there are many things that I would do differently as well. However, I don’t regret the things that I was able to do because things ended up this way.

This semester like usual I mostly just focused on school with the occasional excursion on the weekend to go into Tokyo to volunteer. The weather has also been discouraging me from doing anything even on the days where I have free time. Today was the hottest day yet at 98 degrees, which felt like close to 105 degrees. I cannot say that I would ever recommend anyone to come to Japan during this summer period unless you like humid, hot weather.

Since I only have 2 weeks left I plan to make the most of it once finals end tomorrow. Lined up for me in the next two weeks if things go as planned are a BBQ with my host fam in the backyard, going to a summer festival, doing an international exchange again at Showa Women’s University, making plastic food samples for my last JSP field trip, and going to Disney Sea. The weather is uncomfortably hot and just yesterday I think I suffered from heatstroke just staying home and trying to study for finals, but I am going to try my best to push through.

There was not really any point to this post and it was pretty disorganized as I have fallen out of the habit of writing, but I will try my best to pump out some more blog posts before it really gets too late and I forget everything. Even after I return to the US I will probably be updating this blog until I finish my posts through the end of this Japan Studies Program. It might take a while but if you are interested then please continue to stick around!

Thank you as always and take care!

❤ Kira

Hiking at Mt. Takao(日記#36)

Howzit!

Today’s post is gonna be super short! I just wanted to share about my experience hiking Mt. Takao with my friend on February 19th. One of the things on my Japan checklist was hiking Takao-san and even though I missed going during the autumn season, which is supposed to be super nice, it was still really beautiful!

It was a bit of a trek to get there with a train ride of about 1.5~2 hours, but it was so worth it. Once I arrive at the station I met with my friend who is from Norway and we were off! By the way, one of the perks of studying abroad in Japan that I never could have predicted before arriving was the amount of friends I would make here who aren’t even from Japan.

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Once we started the hike I realized just how out of shape I was and it was a bit of struggle but one we made it to the top it was so worth it. We were lucky and it was a clear enough day that we could see Mount Fuji. After multiple attempts to get a self with Mt. Fuji we decided to eat some soba. I don’t know what it is about eating soba after a hike but it was just so good. I also had soba in Ashikaga after hiking up the many steps to the Orihime Jinja shrine. I didn’t even used to like soba before coming to Japan but just like tea, it has now become one of my favorites.

After we ate our soba we began the much more leisurely journey back downhill, stopping on the way down to get the famous manju ( I believe) which is in the shape of the tengu (demon creature with the long nose). Since I don’t eat anko or red bean paste, I instead got an ice cream bar, to the amused looks of the Japanese people who were like “isn’t it too cold for ice cream??”

Once we reached the bottom we weren’t quite ready to head back yet so we went to this sketchy looking cafe that was actually really cute on the inside. It was called Mariposa and had a lot of different butterfly themed artwork as well as a little shop selling craft goods in the entrance.

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It was a cute little family-owned shop that wasn’t busy at all. Perfect way to pass the time and a great way to end the day. After hopping back on the train then parting ways with my friend the adventure to Mount Takao day was officially over. I wouldn’t mind going back there someday, hopefully during Autumn or cherry blossom season.

If you read this, thank you! I hope to have the next post be about my trip to Korea!

Take care!

❤ Kira

ESS Winter “Training” Camp(日記#35)

Hi everyone!

Today I wanna travel back in time back to January in hopes of eventually catching back up to May’s happenings. On the weekend of January 14-15th I went to a famous onsen town called Kusatsu in Gunma prefecture for the English club’s winter camp. I didn’t really know what to expect and in terms of planned activities it was pretty disappointing (because there were none), it was still the most snow I have even seen in my life so it was great.

The day started off with having my own amazing race moment because one club member was late to the meeting time and then we couldn’t find the bus stop when we were already late. The other members weren’t picking up their phone either so we ran in circles in the bus area just to find out that it was in  a completely different area. After riding in the bus for over two hours with a rest stop break midway, we arrived in Kusatsu!

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Even just arriving in the parking lot made me realize I had underestimated the amount of snow that we would be dealing with. The whole first day when we arrived I really wanted to go outside and play in the snow but I think everyone else wasn’t that impressed by it and just wanted to laze around inside. However on the second day I got lucky when we ventured out of the hotel to try and go see the famous onsen. According to what I may or may not have understood, the area that we went to see what the origin of the hot spring.

On our way there in the bus the traffic got so backed up that we ended up hopping off the bus and walking the rest of the way. I was definitely not wearing the right attire for walking in heavy snow (regular Nike athletic shoes and jeans) but it was still fun.

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Walking/sliding down the sloped roads was also exciting but also pretty scary. Eventually we made it to the little onsen town area and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The little cottage like buildings covered in snow made it seem like we were in a different country and even though the heavy snow had covered a majority of the onsen and we couldn’t see anything with the snow falling so heavily, it was still amazing.

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Even though my hands were freezing since I had to take off my gloves to be able to take pictures, it was so worth it to have these photos as memories of that trip. After everyone was done and ready to head back we started our slow trek back to the hotel in the snow. I don’t know exactly how long it took but I want to say it was around 30-40 minutes. We had broken off into little groups as everyone had their own strategies to try to walk to avoid falling. At one point some of the members even had to help push a car that had gotten stuck. I remember thinking that I don’t know how people can live in the snow. I wouldn’t be able to deal with having to shovel my car out of the snow each time I wanted to go out. I would be even more scared that the car would go sliding backwards down the sloping roads since it’s in the mountains.

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Luckily we made it back to the hotel safely–albeit a little red-faced and frozen. From that point on it was back to lazing around until it was time to get on the bus to head back towards Kawagoe.

Overall, although I kind of had regrets in terms of what I expected of a club camp, the trip was worth it in order to experience all of that snow with my friends. This is definitely going to remain one of my favorite memories of my time in Japan!

Thanks for reading~

❤ Kira

Life Update!!! 2 months left in Japan :-(

Hello everyone!

It has been over 2 months since I published my last post about my share house experience in Japan. Since then I moved back to Kawagoe and began attending Tokyo International University again for my second and final semester of the Japan Studies Program (JSP). I can’t believe that it’s been two months since I last posted. I am somewhat disappointed in myself for not keeping up the posts when I had gotten so close to catching up to real time, but it’s been a pretty busy past two months and when I had time I didn’t have energy or the motivation to want to write a blog post. However, in the past couple of weeks I have written and given a speech, spoken with my professors/advisors from Willamette who were visiting Japan, and also written a couple letters to my future self that all forced me to stop for a second and reflect. Now I think I’m finally back in the blog post writing mood so I am going to see how many I can crank out today before I lose it again! (It could also be because I am procrastinating on studying for my oral midterm exam that is tomorrow).

Anyways, this post is just gonna be a short one to update everyone on where I am at now without going into too much detail since I hope to write a detailed post later. I just want to say that I am alive and doing well. Busy with school since I am taking about 6 classes, still in the English Speaking club, and been doing a couple of extra things here and there like the speech that I mentioned as well as visiting the middle school where my host mom works. Besides that I have been trying to find another time to volunteer before I leave Japan but looking at my schedule just makes me panic realizing how my time is running out.

At this point I want to meet up with people I know that I may not ever see again after leaving Japan but it is difficult when I want to give 100% at school and they are all busy with their part time jobs. I also have the Japanese Language Proficiency Test coming up on July 2nd. This is my first time taking the real exam and I am trying for the N2 Level (second to highest). I took a practice exam yesterday for that level and I am not feeling too confident. Very grateful that TIU offers the mock test because it was really a wake up call.

Recently I’ve also been thinking about my future plans and what I want to do, then I realize that I still don’t really have a clue of what I want to do and then I just go crazy. I already know that in my immediate future I want to apply to the JET Program to teach English at a school in Japan. If my dreams are crushed and I don’t get accepted then I plan to find alternate ways to be able to work in Japan in the immediate future. During that time I hope to either find a career that I can see myself doing for a while or even consider returning back to school to get a Masters degree so I can become a teacher. Whether that graduate school would be in Japan or in the U.S, I definitely haven’t thought that far into the future yet. Honestly I always thought that I would live in Japan for 3-5 years after graduating from Willamette and then return back to Hawaii to find a job and live there for the rest of my life. Buuuuut now that I think about how long I’ll be living in Japan for and how I plan to study to get N1 certification it almost seems like a waste if I learn so much Japanese just to return back to Hawaii and then lose it all. At this point in time it doesn’t seem like a great investment so now I am back to the drawing board to see how I can possibly turn my interests into a career without having to waste efforts I’ve made thus far or giving up too many of the things I want to do.

For the time being I want to nurture the meaningful relationships that I have now while I can. I can already predict that I am going to have a hard time transitioning back to live in the U.S and perhaps I’ll even have reverse culture shock and realize that Japan is where I want to live forever. Who knows? I sure don’t.

Well! Sorry this was just a rambling post with no point. I have to get back into the practice of writing things that make sense to the people reading it. If you are reading this and have been following my blog this whole time I just want to say thank you for caring about what’s going on with me. I hope to have more interesting experiences to share with you in the near future!

Take care!

❤ Kira