Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Do The Time Warp Again: Finally Home

Here it is! The final blog post. Jet lag sucks, but I am finally home! I just wanted to put up some pictures and relay the story of the epic plane journey....ugh.

So here's Osaka and Kyoto, Tokyo Disney Sea, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo in general with my family. Yay!

So the journey home...the plane ride back, 12.5 hours because we were flying in the jetstream, wasn't that bad...a little turbulent, but not really bad. I can't sleep on planes, so I wanted 5.5 movies instead. I watched Men of Valor, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Up in the Air, The Vow, Megamind, and half of Stardust before my eyes started to feel like they were falling out of their sockets. Unfortunately, there was still about an hour and a half at that point, so I restlessly tried to be comfortable for the remainder? Blah.

What was bad though was we had some kind of luggage packing problem before we left, so we left an hour later than we were supposed so, and because we were arriving in JFK this was a problem. It was a saving grace they didn't take our checked bags to put on the Columbus plane (somehow we didn't get checked in properly in Japan because we had two different bookings, so we had to wait in line again and stuff) because even if they did check us in properly we never would have made it through the ridiculous security and all the shenanigans to get to the plane. So we moved to a later, 7:15 plane (which the desk lady made it sound like she was doing us a huge favor by doing for free, because apparently an international flight being delayed has nothing to do with Delta and technically we should be paying a fee....ugh) and got some food and sat (I napped a bit) at the gate....

Then they announced they moved the gate, but luckily it was very nearby...although we didn't board until after the time we were supposed to take off anyway, idiot airport...

And then we were double-parked by a different airplane and then we were 16th in line to fly out, so we had to wait another half hour on that tarmac....

Then, when we arrived in Columbus, we had to wait another 10 minutes for an open gate (luckily, the flight attendant was the nicest flight attendant ever)...

THEN, when we got to the hotel, and walked up to our room, there was a do not disturb sign in the door. Mom and I heard movement inside.


So an adventure, as usual, but what an end right? I'm home!

Thank you all very much for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it!

The end!

Or the beginning?


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Final Countdown: Last Day in Japan

Well here we have it. Today was the last full day in Japan. Tomorrow we step into the time machine (plane) and return to the other side of the world. Here's an account of the day:

For starters, we slept in a bit, because the original plan was to spend the day in Tokyo and arrive in Osaka in the evening. Mom being mom, no longer wished to do anything in Tokyo because we were taking the shinkansen (bullet train), but since we had to check out at 2, she could not simply be in the hotel until our train ride at 7.

Me: ...

So, we had the fun experience of going to the train station and changing the train time to 3:30. No harm done, extra Japanese practice.

Because we arrived earlier (about 6), we had just enough time for a final purikura session and a nice donburi dinner. Julie and Mom had udon noodles with katsudon, which is pork, egg, and rice, and I had tedon, which is shrimp and rice, also with udon noodles. Yummm.

Then we played the great luggage game, and sorted all of the stuff into the various bags. Now, we are almost ready.

I will make one more post once we arrive in Columbus, mostly for pictures.

Here we go!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Train Game: Adventures in Tokyo

So technically that title is inaccurate because it should be called the Subway Game, but that doesn't rhyme, and they're basically the same thing here, so this is better. Today we spent the day sightseeing some of the things on the top of Mom and Julie's list. This basically meant we took a lot of subways to a lot of places to take pictures. Here we go!

The subways here have been a new experience for me. The last time I was here my hostel was off of a train station; naturally I got around with the trains. However, our hotel is based out of Higashi Ginza, a subway station. Ergo, we take the subways everywhere. Today, for cheapness and ease, we bought a day pass for the subway; this was no problem because the ticket machine happily had an English button. Woo!

We started the day kind of late, so we first set off for lunch. Mom really wanted to try omurice, an omelet with ketchup and rice inside that is sometimes covered with sauces. I googled around and found one nearby for lunch. It was a bit of a cafeteria style and not really a restaurant, but there was omurice to be had. Mom said it was "good" and Julie said it was "very filling" and "pretty good for cafeteria fare." Successful lunch.

Next, we hopped on the subway to the next stop, Tokyo National Stadium, which was a significant building from the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Julie, who has been to Rome, Beijing, and Seoul, likes to see venues or shrines to past Olympic events. Although the Tokyo National Stadium had no memorial, she was "glad I went to a place that was once used for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics." There was a bit of confusion, so we did not go to the building where the swimming was held, but this building hosted the opening ceremony, so it was awesome.

After a subway ride away, we arrived in Shibuya to see the largest crosswalk in the world. Julie said she "thought it would be bigger," but she "realized how big it actually was when we started crossing." Mom said "it's a crosswalk, it was busy." This is true. We also saw the statue for Hachiko, the dog who waited for his master who never returned from work. Sad.

The last time I went to Shibuya we walked there, so I have no knowledge about the actual station. Therefore, we ended up walking in a nice underground circle to the next subway. Woops! Finally, we made it to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for some skyviews. (Also on the way, we saw some advertisements for Tokyo as a 2020 Olympic candidate, awesome!)

Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so we could not see Fuji. Again. Sigh. Mom and Julie were sad, but Julie said "it was cool to see the skyline." She also thought the toy shop gift store on the top was interesting as well.

Another subway ride away was our dinner location, the Hard Rock Cafe, yummmmm. Not only did I get an awesome burger again, but we got potato skins. Victory. We also went to the shop too (the waitress gave me a card for some free pins, cute) and I got a jacket. Julie was sad but not surprised that at the store "they only had smalls, which are even smaller than normal smalls." When I have bought clothes in this country, I usually cut out the middle man and end up buying mens' sizes. (I really only bought One Piece shirts, but hey, I've seen 2 guys wearing my jacket, haha)

Finally, we come home. We were on the subway a lot today; therefore, Julie and Mom got a taste of the gaijin treatment. Sometimes on a train, Japanese people will get up and sit somewhere else; I have had some even change entire train cars simply because I am on the train. It is not meant to be offensive; it is a cultural attitude from lack of awareness. Julie has had this experience already in China. She said that "I don't think it's their fault. I'm not blaming them; it's not meant to be a slight." Mom, who had never had such an experience before, was a little "put off, but it was a culture issue so I understand."

Overall, there were many successful adventures had today! Tomorrow we return to Osaka!


The Dissonant Gaijin: The Battle of the Shrimp Chips

Almost caught up on the days! Yesterday everyone was quite exhausted from running around Disney, so we decided to take it easy and have a nice, relaxed day. We started out the day by taking Mom to Asakusa to see the temple with the giant lantern and shops (on the way, Mom used an Eastern toilet for the first time! Yay!).

Mom said that it was "interesting to see how people in this culture actively participate in their faith life." Julie was still preening about her 'best fortune' from a few days before; however, she read at the temple that you are not supposed to boast about your fortune. If you do, you lessen it. Fail.

Mom also had the privilege of seeing the Golden Poo for the first time. She said it was an "interesting conversation piece" and "gave new meaning to the word piece of sh*t." Heehee.

Next, we went to Mister Donut.

You read that right; the family has gone to Mister Donut. You know, I didn't realize I wrote about Mister Donut so much on here until Mom and Julie pointed it out. I really don't go there that often, I swear. However, because this was the final time at Mister Donut, I needed to use all of my points; unfortunately, all of the Mister Donuts I have checked are out of the mugs you can get. Boo. So, I got a bunch of little dishes with my points. Julie also wanted a little Pon de Lion washcloth, so I got one of those too.

Farewell Mister Donut. I will think of you fondly everytime I drive by Dunkin. :(

Next, we decided to hit up some karaoke because why not. This time, it was day time and I had a coupon, so it was going to be cheaper; therefore, more fun! Yay! This particular karaoke place had themed floors. One was "New York Prison Hip Hop" (I don't know); we were on the Russian Ballet floor. I took pictures of all of the floor names.

This particular karaoke session was awesome because we found the show tunes section on the karaoke machine and practically sang every one. It was really fun, except Mom get flipping out, saying the key was wrong, and changing it mid-song. Entertaining. It was also hilarious because us musically inclined people kept trying to harmonize with each other. However, no one knew which harmony everyone else was going to do, so we would end up sounding quite dissonant at times. I pity the people walking by the door; although on the other hand, some doors we passed were playing some pretty loud music.

Next, we took mom to the izakaya (Japanese bar) we went to with Julie's friend Mami earlier. We ordered a lot of good food, which Mom liked, but she was afraid to eat a lot of it because she forgot to bring her allergy meds, which is understandable. A few interesting things happened at the bar. First, there was an earthquake! It was only a 3 or so, but because it was my second earthquake (there've been so many more I'm sure, but I've only felt two) I was on the alert. The whole bar quieted when it began; I told my family to stuff it so I could listen if it was actually anything to worry about. But of course it wasn't, and the raucous salarymen in the smoking section kicked up their revelry and all was well.

Second, there were some shenanigans when it came to ordering the food. First of all, ordering food at an izakaya is always an adventure because I usually just point to something delicious. However, now it's a bit of a trick because I have to make sure I order food that everyone can eat. Luckily, they had an English menu so we successfully ordered some good food. However, it seemed that they had forgotten about our order of shrimp chips. No worries, that has happened before; I simply told the waiter about it and he replied they never put them in and it would be 3 minutes. No problem.

....A lot more than 3 minutes later, no shrimp chips. So I have to bother them again and somehow explain that I have already asked about this and it sucked. Fortunately, I got my point across and the manager apologized and we got shrimp chips. Thank goodness.

...Then, when the manager was leaving, he gestured to Julie's drinks and said something, to which she responded yes to. I wasn't listening; so I had no idea what she just agreed to; either more alcohol or water, we weren't sure. So then we had to wait and hope whatever that was came soon. Goodness. Luckily, it turned out to be water. Hoo.

All in all, an adventurous but relaxing day in Tokyo. More adventures soon!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Scrooge McDuck and Friar Tuck? Day Two at Tokyo Disneyland

Day Two in Tokyo Disneyland, yay! The family is sore! Here we go! Julie and I donned our ears and off we went! In the front of the park, we saw the following characters: Captain Hook, Friar Tuck, Mickey, the Fairy Godmother, Daisy, Donald, Pooh, and Pluto! Quite a spread! We also saw those cute Disney themed eggs all over. AND there was another band on main street playing the Festival of Fools, for the win.

We arrived a little later, so we immediately headed for the best ride ever, Pooh's Hunny Hunt for a fast pass, which was already at the 4:30 slot. Then, we set out for Mom's favorite ride, It's a Small World. That song gets really annoying, but she definitely enjoyed  it.

Next up, we went to PhillarMagic, which played the popular Disney songs in Japanese. I always enjoy that ride, Julie thought it was cute, and Mom said she didn't even have to take off her 3D glasses. There was a poor liiiiittle baby in front of us though, the dad had to take him out because he wouldn't stop crying. Poor dear.

Next, we went on Pinocchio's Daring Journey because Disney World has probably not had this ride for a very long time...for good reason. That ride was freaky. It was this speedy journey through all the freaky parts of Pinocchio, but at least it ended happy.

Then we rode the teacups! Mom wouldn't let us spin it too much, which is probably a good thing because I didn't want to spin it a lot either, haha. I got a couple good pictures there though.

Next we rode Snow White's Adventures, which should be more aptly named the Wicked Witch's Scary...Thing. There was even a sign in front that said 'Beware the Wicked Witch! Small children may be scared by scenes on this ride.' Okay, scenes, cool. And while we were in line, almost every little kid got off the ride crying. Fluke? No, this ride was frightening. Nearly all of the scenes were scary involving the Wicked Witch, including that frightening forest scene in the beginning. There was one happy scene on the whole ride; the thing even ended with the witch looking like she was pushing a rock on the dwarfs! Ridiculous. Julie said it was "horrifying" and Mom agreed.

After that adventure, we started to head towards food and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (also ran into a 'band' of pirates...literally. They played some good music, haha) We found an (Julie quote: adorable) Mickey meat bun for lunch. Then Julie picked up some Soy Sauce and Butter popcorn (blech) while Mom and I got awesome strawberry delicious crepes. Mmmmm. Regarding food, it was a bit difficult for us to find something to eat, ironically. Julie is lactose intolerant in Asia, and Mom has allergies, so it was quite a trick. Food is also a lot more themed in Tokyo Disney; for example in the curry area, there is only curry, or in one area there is only seafood type thing. Fun.

THEN we rode Pirates. Forgot about the hill in the beginning. Woops.

Then, we headed towards Tomorrowland, yay, where to my surprise, the Star Tours ride that was open a few months ago has been closed for remodeling. Upon some research, apparently the one in Disney World has already been remodeled to a new ride for a while, and this one is catching up. Boo no ride.

Next, similar to the way you can't look away from a train wreck, we went to see Captain Eo, which was just as hilariously awful as the first time. Julie said that "it was so bad I can't even...they even showed behind the scenes to prove that 'yes, we did do this, we're not lying.'" Mom took a nap in the middle and said it was "horrible beyond words." Julie also liked the Star Wars stock footage in the beginning. She also said this movie is like "what you would do on a writer's strike," haha. Goodness.

Then it was off to Toontown for some exploring of this kiddy area. (We also saw another band on the way there) It had Mickeys and Minnie's and Donald's house (Goofy's was under construction) but it also had a few rides. Julie wanted to take a picture with Gadget's coaster (from Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers) and while we were there, we saw Daisy and Scrooge McDuck! We tried to get a picture with him, but kept getting cut off by little people, so I have a picture of him.

Because we had some time before our Pooh fastpass, we went to Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, a ride were you get in the toon cab from Roger Rabbit and can spin around on a Who Framed Roger Rabbit themed adventure. It was very cute!

Next, we headed toward the Pooh ride, where we had a heart stopping moment because it was closed for some kind of adjustment. They assured us it would be open soon, though, so we set out to do some shopping around (Mom got some stuff at the Pooh store) and walked towards the Castle. In front of the Castle, we saw Wendy and Peter Pan, Prince Charming and Snow White, and Aurora and Phillip. However, because they were all definitely Westerners, we definitely did not take pictures haha.

In the Castle was an engraving store, and Mom wanted to buy a  picture frame with the date engraved on it. Of course, in this particular store, no one spoke a lot of English. Extra challenge! Ask and understand the explanation for how engraving works, how much it is, how long it takes, and what you want on it! Fun! It's all good though, because I finally found a shot glass in this country after months of searching. And now it has my name engraved on it!

At this point, Pooh was thankfully working, so we fastpassed our way up there. Such an awesome ride, Mom also thinks we need this ride in America. I completely agree.

It was time to shop! However, en route to the front of the park, we found a little well and waterfall entitled "Snow White's Grotto." This was more what I thought of being associated with Snow White than that effed up ride. It was a pretty waterfall (with Dwarfs in the shape of eggs!) and a well, which echoed the Snow White statues singing! Julie also posed (and sang) with it.

Then we went shopping! After looking through the housewares store, I realized I needed to head back to the Pooh store to get something I wanted, so I went on a hike back to the store (and picked up the Honey popcorn I had forgotten, mmm) and met Mom and Julie at the huge Emporium at the front.

(About the popcorn that comes in crazy various buckets, Mom thought they were adorable, Julie thought they were ridiculous)

Julie and Mom were both impressed by the covered shopping area in the front. Julie said that she was glad it was covered because then there wouldn't be "100 people shoving into a Coca Cola stand when its raining to be dry, and everyone wouldn't be fighting over ponchos."

Finally, we set up camp on a curb and Julie and I went to get hot dogs (which were really kielbasa) and we waited for the light parade. Mom and Julie loved it! Julie said the genie was "sick" in the good way, haha.

A few overarching thoughts from the family: Julie thought, like me, "that there would be more foreigners in Tokyo Disney." Surprise! Also, Mom said that she was glad that she "could have fun even though [she] couldn't understand the language." Both of them even felt like they were in Florida sometimes.

Overall, the family had a wonderful time in Tokyo Disney. Yay!


An Incredible Day at DisneySea: In Which Julie Posed with Things

Hello there! Disney had tired me out so much over the past two days that I had no energy to write. But we are coming down the home stretch, and if I fall any more behind I fear I may never catch up while I'm in this country, and that would stink, so here we go! We decided to do Disney the first two full days in Tokyo because doing Disney on Friday and Saturday was sure to be crowded, so we decided to go Wednesday and Thursday.

Good plan. It was definitely not as crowded as when I went, which was a definite plus. Although on the train ride there, Julie said that "instead of being run over by a pack of 6th graders, we were run over by a pack of businessmen." Also, because we've done a lot of the stuff in Disneyland in Disney World, we decided to go to DisneySea first because it would probably be the most tiring.

When we arrived, we noticed that the celebration theme was "Spring Voyage" and "Easter Wonderland." Upon closer inspection, it seemed to have began in the beginning of April, but it was still a bit strange seeing these (adorable) Disney-shaped eggs around (that was in Disneyland, but I digress).

Anyway, because the last time I was there the fast passes sold out almost immediately, we headed over to the awesome Indiana Jones ride to acquire a fast pass. Happily, because the crowd was not as ridiculous, there were plenty of fast passes to spare. While waiting for our ride time, we went to ride 20k Under the Sea, which Mom and Julie were impressed with.

A sad point of the day: the rollercoaster I had to skip last time, Raging Spirits, was closed. ::shakes fist::

Then, it was almost time for us to be able to buy another fast pass (I was amazed that we were allowed to so quickly) so we waited near the line at Journey to the Center of the Earth so we can get a fast pass (because I wasn't waiting any time for that which I waited 2.5 hours for last time).

Fast pass acquired, we set of to ride Indiana Jones, which the family loved. Julie said that Harrison Ford speaking Japanese was awesome; "a young hot animatronic Harrison Ford like only Japan can do." Both Mom and Julie were also impressed with the awesome animatronics in all the rides.

After this we started heading towards the Aladdin area; what better way to start the fun than by riding Jasmine's Flying Carpets? It was basically the Dumbo ride, but with carpets! Awesome.

One the way through Aladdin Land (Arabian Coast), we saw a few characters: Abu, Jafar, and Genie. We also took a picture with Jafar, which was pretty hilarious. I never know who is under the mask, so I was not sure which language to speak in :p

We were quite hungry, and we wanted to eat in Mermaid Lagoon, so we headed through Arabian Coast towards Triton's Kingdom, which easily stole the show.

::insert ecstatic exclamations from Mom and Julie here::

Also at this point, Julie posed a la Ariel with the rock in the front of the Kingdom. This begins the day-long adventure of "Julie Posing with Things." Mom was also (and still is) very emphatic that Disney World should have a Mermaid Lagoon as awesome as this.

Inside Triton's Kingdom, we had lunch (I had clam shaped bread ;p) and watched the Under the Sea show. Julie also went through the kids play area and posed with the statue of Prince Eric ('Eric, run away with you? This is all so sudden!'). Ursula would also show up in a mirror, and the scary shark would show up in the ship's window. In Triton's Kingdom, we also saw Donald, Goofy, and Pluto in scuba gear, which was cute.

Then we made our way back towards the volcano to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth, which has been ruined for me because I waited so long. However, it was particularly worth it because I forgot the little roller-coaster hill at the end and Mom was screaming and I was laughing and it was hilarious.

We then returned to Arabian Coast, where we rode the two-story carousel (Julie was ready to push children out of the way so she could get on a genie, which was one of the options you could ride). Outside, there was also an awesome band playing various Disney tunes. (We saw a lot of awesome bands actually, as you will see).

At this point, Julie posed with a fountain that had Jasmine on it. Yes.

Then we rode a Sinbad ride, which had a lot of singing and cool animatrons. I've never seen any Sinbad anything, so it was interesting. Then we picked up Julie some Sea Salt popcorn, and Mom and I got some Strawberry popcorn near Storm Rider, which we rode next. (Saying Storm Rider with a Japanese accent is really fun).

One thing we also noticed in Disney Sea is there was a huge amount of teddy bears. Why was this? In Tokyo Disney, there is an original character called Duffy the Disney Bear. I don't know why he was everywhere all of a sudden, my guess is because it was somehow tied to Easter? I don't know, but grown men were carrying around teddy bears everywhere.

After the ride, we were going to take the train to the American Waterfront (::giggle::) when on the way up the hill we saw a couple characters you do not see often: Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. It was awesome. We were determined to get a picture. So, we ended up taking a picture making muscle poses with Mr. Incredible. Mom enjoyed watching us pose with the characters, especially Mr. Incredible (Julie took one with Mrs. Incredible). She also enjoyed the tons of people who also took pictures of us when we posed with Mr. Incredible. We are in many random people's photo albums now, I assure you.

Once at the American Waterfront, we went to check and see what time the Big Band Beat jazz performance was. While perusing the showtimes, Cruella de Vil of all people storms up to a little girl in front of me and yells (in English) What are you staring at?? Scared the crap out of me. Jeez, the characters you see these days! I snuck a creeper picture.

Anyway, so we had an hour or so, so we were off to a boat ride tour of the park! But first I had to pick up the delicious Milk Tea popcorn I could not get before. Yummmmm. The boat ride was nice too. Then, we ate some fried chicken sandwiches in American Waterfront (which was karaage, Japanese fried chicken and not straight up chicken. Julie had chicken nuggets) before heading over to catch the Big Band Beat, which was AWESOME.

First of all, the whole thing, even the dialogue, was in English. Alriiiiight. Itwassoawesome. There was awesome dancing, and singing, and tapdancing, and a live band! It was wonderful. And there were Disney characters in it too! Mickey was fantastic; he could kick ridiculously high, dance, if he had tap shoes on I'm sure he could tap dance, and not only did he play the drums, he dueled with the drummer. It was awesome.

After this, I got an awesome Milk Tea gelato parfait. Yummmmm. Then there was shopping to be had. Julie and I bought ears to wear the next day. However, these are not the ears you are thinking of; they are little clips that you clip into your hair. Julie got Minnie ones, and I got Pooh ones. There are pictures.

We then set up camp around the lake to watch Fantasmic, still awesome and Mom particularly enjoyed. Then we sort of watched fireworks? They were behind a buildingish. Then we headed home. En route to the train, we saw schoolchildren that appeared to be leaving Disneyland, so hopefully we won't see them there? Score.

Day One: Complete!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Have Arrived! Welcome to Tokyo

So remember how yesterday everyone was knocked out by 9? Well it is 10, and I am so tired, so I am going to try to make this short, even though it probably won't be haha.

So this morning we got our gear stored and the other half gathered and boarded the shinkansen, the awesome bullet train bound for Tokyo. Unfortunately, again, it was too cloudy to see Mount Fuji. Sigh. But it was a nice ride and I had a little nap too :)

Mom said that the train was a "great way to see the country," while Julie (who is more awake) added the following:

"I highly enjoyed the shinkansen; I wish all of everything had trains as transportation. It was fast and efficient, and I could look out the window! I also noticed the quiet more on this train; Japanese people do not talk on public slightly felt like church."

Once we arrived and successfully reached the hotel, we were very hungry. And what was across the street? Dennys, yay! American food; sounds perfect right? Coincidentally, when I was here last, my friend Pat told me of how he found out that Dennys had drastically different food in this country. Interesting. So even though I warned them of this, we went there for a  late lunch / early dinner. It was very good! I had some omu rice that had some chicken, mom had "hamburger steak" with like 4 potato fries, and Julie had Steakdon (steak with rice  and sauce) and mini ramen.

Mom said that "Dennys was okay, my hamburger tasted the same. I also tried gyoza, which was very good!" Potstickers have been approved, yay!

Sidenote: Mom went to the conbini (convenience store) all by herself today! YAY!

Julie said that "It was definitely different; I thought there'd be more American food even though Rosie said it would be different. It was still good; it was interesting that the food had similar high calorie counts to the US, but had a larger selection of lower caloried foods."

Restaurant for the win, alriiiiiiight. Next, Julie and I met up with her friend Mami, who lives nearby Tokyo. Together, we went to Asakusa, home of Sensoji Temple with the huge lantern. We shook the little fortune box to get fortunes because they had English on them. Julie got the best fortune possible, while I got the worst one. Yay.

Julie weighs in on the event:

"I liked that I got the best fortune ever! I like that it's in the center of a city area, which is cool. There's an open market there, so I like the old time-y feel. However, it was clearly tourist pandering, it's not old at all period. Everything was built in 1960 or after, which reminded me that 
Tokyo completely had to be rebuilt and lost all of that legitimate old stuff. It was like a Disney-fied version of Kyoto, where actual old stuff exists."

Definitely true. A hilarious part of Asakusa is the view of the new Sky Tree, the tallest tower in the world, accompanied by the Asahi Flame, a monument atop the Asahi Beer Hall which is commonly referred to as "the golden turd."

Julie said its like "Tokyo's bad version of The Bean in Millenium Park in Chicago."

Here's The Bean:

Here's The Poo:

I tend to agree.

Finally, Mami, Julie, and I went to an izakaya, which is a Japanese bar:

"The food was a good deal price wise. They get you on the drinks though. It was interesting because it was a bar but a restaurant; there was no literal bar and all the areas were divided. Also, the bar menus were quite extensive."

So a nice fun day.

Tomorrow? Return to DISNEY! YAY!


Monday, May 28, 2012

That's a Mountain, Not a Hill: Exploring Kyoto's Temples

So I have forgotten to mention a few hilarious things. First was when we went to Church yesterday, there was a little book store where Julie bought something. In Japan, most of the time when you pay, instead of handing them the money you put it in a tray. Well, she forgot and handed it to the cashier, and she freaked out, and it was no big deal, but she says she started to think in Chinese to recover. Haha! (I also bought a bedtime story in Japanese here, awesome)

Second: The cleaning lady saw my teddy bear sticking out of my bookbag and assumed that a child was in the room, so she left us children's slippers and a children's toothbrush :p

So today we were awoken at 6 in the morning because I had shut the shoji curtain in an unfortunate way that let the sun in right in our faces. But this was not what completely woke us up, oh no. Mom was already awake, but was listening to her headphones at a volume we couldn't hear…unfortunately, when she started listening to the Phantom of the Opera, we could hear the aria quite clearly. So when I heard Sing for me! and the television wasn't on, I was quite confused. So was Julie. So yes, early morning.

So we get up, get moving, and get on the loooong train ride to head to Kyoto (its especially long because we are in Osaka) but no worries, it's just a train ride, not a car ride. Then, we got on the bus to ride to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion (another longish bus ride because Kinkakuji is out in the verifiable Kyoto Sticks) Kinkakuji is just as beautiful as ever, but we ran into a bit of an unfortunate problem. I was surprised at how empty main street Gion Shijo was when we got on the bus, but we quickly found all the people once we got to tourist attraction Kinkakuji. Today was unfortunately field trip day for all the schools in a 5 mile radius, so everywhere we went there were kids in uniforms everywhere.

So we swam through some children and saw Kinkakuji. You already know my opinion on the matter, so here's what Mom and Julie weighed in on:

Well actually here's Mom's opinion about everything, but its 9:30pm and she is passed out on her bed, so her opinion is a bit sleep-ridden:

 "It was really cool it was all cool it was different it was cool to see unique in its own right."

Words to live by, haha. But we did drag her all around the city today, just wait. So Julie says:

 "Kinkakuji was crowded; we almost got run over by a pack of 6th graders at every turn. The golden temple itself pretty I guess; I wouldn't want to maintain it. I liked all of the other buildings at Kinkakuji too."

There were seriously a zillion kids everywhere. But anyway, next by default, we went to Ryoanji, a famous Zen garden 5 minutes away from Kinkakuji. Honestly, I didn't want to take Mom and Julie there; it wasn't anything special and it was a waste of Mom's non-college-student energy. I really had no choice; as I said these two temples are waaaaaay out by nothing, and I never got to go, so I am glad we went. It was a very nice Zen garden (dripping with students) and the lake was very pretty; I wish I had more time to explore the little shrine in the middle of it.

The family weighs in:

(sleepy) Mom: "The zen garden was okay."

Yeah. Mom had a bit of a fail at the Zen garden. I didn't realize that the Zen garden was a place where you would have to take off your shoes, so I never explained how that particular practice is accomplished, but it's really not that hard. Everyone was taking off their shoes, and there was a sign on the little wooden planks saying no shoes on the board.

So what does Mom do? A.) Walk on the board with her shoes on. ::facepalm:: and B.) Proceed to take off shoes, but then throw them onto the board anyway. ::headdesk:: Not prepared for this, oops.

So Julie's opinion: "I don't understand Zen gardens, it's a rock; I liked the facility built around the rock crap. I felt so far away from Zen at the time that it's not even funny (with all the crowds and stuff). I got more peace out of the buildings than the gardens." 

As I said, I'd have done it before if I could. But we saw it, so all the better. Next, I wanted to take them to Kiyomizudera, which is a very very famous temple that actually had stuff to do and really nice shops to see. Sounds perfect right? That's what I thought; I thought it was the perfect slice of Kyoto culture and it could be seen all at one temple. I was very excited to take them there. I was excited to take them there as soon as I got there the first time.

The flaw in this plan? Kiyomizudera is on top of a steep hill. Julie will swear to you up and down that it was a mountain, but the internet calls it a "steep hill" and even when I wrote about it in my first blog about Kiyomizudera I called it a "ridiculous hill." It was paved a lined with shops and houses; when I think mountain, I think Mt. Hiei.

Big difference.

Needless to say, they were not happy campers and nearly spoiled all the fun at the top of the hill. They weigh in on the situation:

A tired Mom: *Mom had plenty to say about the walk up but none of it is publishable on this blog*

Julie: "Chloe's Adera [yes she called it that] was....::groan:: such a long mountain. I was not expecting a mountain, although I should have expected it because temples are always on top of mountains ::insert rant about back hurting and children everywhere:: Then, we get to the top and it looked like a Chinese temple. There was unique stuff to do, but it was still too crowded. It would be cool to see without a million people and not on a school trip day."

It was also ridiculously crowded. We were going to try to walk between the two distanced rocks that are for finding a relationship, but there were many school kids milling about and doing it as well….noooo thank you, haha.

We did go get some of the Water of Significance though! We drank from the sacred spring and everything; it was very nice.

And the walk down was much more pleasant. :) It was also adorable because while waiting to cross the street, a couple school kids said hello, and Mom said 'Konnichiwa' and they were so surprised!

After such, we get off at an earlier bus stop to pick up some crazy Kit Kats (one of the few places I knew offhand that had them) and take pictures of the Ichiriki Teahouse, a very famous (and still active) geisha house that I have walked by a million times and never taken a picture of. Woops.

After a train ride back to Osaka, Julie and I go search for food. Luckily, Osaka Station across the street is laden with food…we headed over to the okonomiyaki place, and it looked expensive, so we wanted to split something, which we were apparently supposed to do. Yay! Did we get okonomiyaki, a cabbage pancake of delicious? Not this time; we got Omusoba, which looks like Omurice (Omurice: omelet filled with ketchup rice with ketchup) except inside it had soba noodles and meat and onions and it had mayo and ketchup on top and it was beautiful.

Julie had some bonus thoughts about Kyoto and Japan in general:

"Kyoto was old time-y, not like the metropolitan Osaka; I liked the old buildings. There were lots of tourist shops which were a weird mix of tourist trap and actual legit old stuff. Also Japanese women dress like witches trying to hide in the Muggle world; they layer on random stuff that doesn't make any sense." 

There are some strange clothes. Well, now it is ten o clock and Julie and Mom are both asleep. I still need to rearrange my suitcases because tomorrow we are Tokyo bound!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

This Was Never Meant to Be Toasted: Osaka Funtimes

Let the fun begin! Good Lord. I say that literally because first item on the agenda was to fulfull Julie's wish to go to a mass in Japanese. It apparently being Pentecost today, sounds good! So I wrapped a banage around my tattoo and we were off!

So, we ride the subway over to Nakatsu station, where she found a Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the directions on the website were not specific enough once we exited the station, so we got a little lost. We did manage to find it though, we just missed the first reading. It was a very nice little mass though, once we found the floor in the little college building with the mass going on. They projected the songs and the phrases we could not read on screens, so I was able to follow some of the songs.

There was also a cute little picture about the Holy Spirit to understand the homily, haha. I did understand the gist by myself though, which was pretty easy being Pentecost. However, the wafer tasted....different. Julie said it tasted as if it was grilled, hence the title. (I said Grilled Cheesus, Mom said an ice cream cone because she had no problems with it)

After said successful mass, we jumped back on the train to head toward Osaka Castle, yay!

Mom: It's very striking when you first saw it, it's very huge! I am amazed people could make that!

Julie: As soon as we got off the train station, I was surprised that we couldn't see it until we got closer.

It does blend in until you turn a corner and Surprise! There it is! Particularly fun was Julie and I tried on the samurai outifts. Julie's had an obnoxious helmet. Yes there are pictures, haha.

Next, Julie and I took the epic train ride over to Fushimi Inari for some epic and awesome pictures. Julie made some videos running through the gates a la Memoirs of a Geisha, brilliant. My favorite part was seeing a brand new, painted gate. The black letters weren't even painted yet! We were getting chewed out by mosquitos though, so we didn't stay long.

(On the way home, Julie noticed the Starship Enterprise on top of a building. There's a picture; it definitely looks like it)

Dinner was some kitsune udon and some Inari Sushi in honor of the shrine, yum!

Big day in Kyoto tomorrow!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Purikura and Karaoke: The Tabaj Women Take Japan

So, if you haven't heard, my mother and sister have arrived in Japan, yay! After dragging the rest of my luggage across various transportation to meet them in Osaka, the fun began! First, Julie and I explored the Hankyu Station, looking at various shops and stopping for lunch for some donburi (rice and meat and egg) with some udon noodles.

(Side note: we also went on a quest to find Osaka's Mister Donut, mission acomplished ;p)

Later, the three of us went to HEP 5, the huge mall (with huge red whales) in Osaka. In there Mom and Julie enjoyed the Taiko Game as well as purikura. Purikura was quite fun; we did it twice. (Also interesting: after a moment of confusion in finding the decorating station, a worker dressed as Scream helped. Thanks Japan.)

We then wandered the mall, searching for some food. Mom tried ramen for the first time, she liked it!

The best part was the first trip to karaoke. 2 hours of awesomeness. The first hour alone consisted of solely Disney songs. WIN!

More adventures tomorrow!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Temples, Shrines, and Buses, Oh My! Crazy Day in Kyoto

So less than a week from now, my role in Japan switches from bewildered student to even-more-bewildered tour guide for my mom and sister. Fun! (Now when I get lost, Julie's going to heckle me haha)

Anyway, with this realization came the realization that I have one solid weekend to get everything I want to done. Considering most of it is done already, I didn't think this to be a problem. However, I still had a sizeable list of temples and shrines to see. I kept thinking, I'll have a free day soon, I can go see a couple then.

Weeeellll if my schedule is correct, this weekend was it. So this put me in a spot. There's so much I wanted to see! The problem with visiting temples and shrines is that 99% of the time they close at or around 5. With a zillion temples/shrines to see, I dragged myself out of bed by the Japan Clause: No sleeping in when I'm in a foreign country. Sigh.

Temples to see! The question answered was how many temples could we see in one day?

Answer? Seven. Let's do this, shall we?

Here's some pictures. The main reason I was able to see so many was because most of them were relatively close to each other, so I had it all planned out to see as many as possible.

First step was go to Kyoto Station, there were 2 temples nearby and I planned to work my way up where the ones I wanted to see were closer together. I lost a bit of time because sneaky sneaky Tambabashi (train station) had more than one kind of train leaving from the platform, and I got on the subway one by accident and overshot the station. (grrrr.)

I have also decided Kyoto Station sucks because its toooo big. I had to walk halfway across the whole thing to get on the right line. Gr. Sooo I finally get to Toji Temple (passed a bookstore by the way gotta stop seeing those) which has the biggest pagoda in Japan. Pretty awesome. I thought it was set up weird, the entrance was the exit and they were on the opposite side of the grounds entrance, but whatever. More walking for me (which I did a lot of yesterday, heckyes).

Did I mention the weather was perfect for picture taking? For the win Japan.

Next, I had to go back to Kyoto Station (joy) to jump on a bus for Sanjuusangendo Temple, which was next on the list. I also had the sideplan to figure out where to get a bus pass at Kyoto Station because I know it's possible and it'll be easier for me to find out without family in tow. Well I couldn't figure it out, and the bus lines were crowded so when I saw the bus I needed I just got in line. From the bus I saw a couple things that looked like ticket counters (the actual info desk was packed and I think that's for formal bus tickets anyway) so that could work. I just took the gamble the bus driver would have one and bought one from him before my bus stop. Win.

So Sanjuusangendo is this really cool temple that has 1001 statues of Buddhas and it was really awesome. Unfortunately, it was extremely strict. We take off our shoes in the beginning (that happens often haha) but usually you can take some pictures before you get to the really holy area. Not so! There were signs everywhere saying don't take pictures! We will check your camera! So I have 3 pictures of Sanjuusangendo's entrance! Yay?

Next I jumped on the bus to head northward to Kodaiji. I honestly had no super desire to go to Kodaiji, but it was literally a neighbor to Ryozen Kannon, so since it was better known, why not? I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot to do in Kodaiji! There was a pretty rock garden, many pretty regular gardens, buildings, and even bamboo! I was very happy to go there. There was also a nice little marked route, and I love when they have those so I can feel smart.

I could also see Ryozen Kannon through the trees, so I knew where I was going next! Ryozen Kannon is a very pretty temple with a huge Buddha and one of the tombs for the Unknown Soldier. Not only was the Buddha awesome, inside the Buddha were more Buddhas honoring each of the zodiac! I wasn't sure I was going the right direction when I started to climb the stairs to go into the Buddha, but it was alright!

Also, when I went to get my stamp the monk asked where I was from and about America and all sorts of stuff. Very nice, but seriously, next to nothing for three months, and all of a sudden I'm a popular gaijin! They must know my red-headed mother and pale sister are coming ;) (be ready guys)

Also, when I bought my ticket for Kodaiji, I got a free ticket for a little museum, which had cool pottery. It was difficult for me to find though, because the sign pointed to a pile of shops! It was above them, however, so I got it.

This is when I got only a teeny bit lost because of the buses (I've been doing pretty good with the buses!). I got on the correct bus for Heian Shrine, but I was going in the wrong direction. Woops!

Crises quickly averted, I found myself at Heian Shrine, whose grounds were huge. I mean it was pretty and all, but its selling point was its huge gardens. I peeked inside before forking over 600 yen to go in, and all I saw was a big pile of green. I've been fooled by gardens before, and I didn't want to pay for what may or may not be a garden. So I decided to skip it.

What's cool at this point? I filled up my stamp book, yay! But there's more! That means at the next temple, I needed to get a new one! I wanted to get this pretty one at Toji, but that wouldn't make sense because then I would have extra space in the other one still.

And what's the next temple? Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion that isn't actually silver, unlike Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which is actually gold. Because it is in a very touristy area, it was quite crowded. I was not happy, people were started to bother me with their shenanigans. If it was nice and quiet like the other temples, I might have enjoyed it more. This is not to say I didn't enjoy it, I bought it's book for goodness sake. However, I wish crowded Japan wasn't so crowded, haha.

On the way back past the tourist shops, I got pulled in by one selling delicious mochi desserts. The sign said strawberry chocolate, which is beautiful, but I saw Ramune (popular soda) and peach ones, so I got that instead. So good!

The final stop was Nanzenji Temple, my teacher's favorite temple. I was hellfire bent on getting there, which means I needed to find the right bus. I  knew I was close, but I wasn't positive which one was right. So, not having another penguin aquarium incident, I start asking people immediately. First time, wrong place. So I walk the way as directed, but I wasn't sure which part of the street to be on. So I accidentally asked a gaijin in Japanese which way, and she was confused and it was hilarious. Eventually I found out I was on the wrong side of the street, so I quickly crossed and made it for the proper bus to Nanzenji.

I also was able to accomplish all this because I kept hitting the bus stops at perfect times! Win!

Fun fact: Nanzenji's bus stop is a ten minute walk to the temple area. THANKS BUS STOP. So I fly over there, and it's about 4:15, I made it! What I didn't realize was that Nanzenji isn't one temple, it's a huge area of gardens and temples and tons of stuff. In my haste (and because I was surprised) I missed the main hall, but that's okay. I went to the gardens (which are near an aqueduct what) and climbed a Zen gate that was very pretty (we had to take off our shoes too).

At this point I was so tired. Another reason I could do this? Skipping food. So next on the list was getting home and getting some good dinner (omu rice:an omelette filled with rice. Yum)

Then I came home and fell over. :) The only temple I did not get to is Ryoanji; this is because it is in BFE next to Kinkakuji. No worries, it'll be a quick stop next to Kinkakuji ;)

So this week is exams and a presenation, which I can't muster myself to be worried about, which is concerning. Expect some interesting things once the Tabajs come to Japan!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Gaijin Hunted

This is a very unexpected blog entry. Today I just needed to go to the bookstore for my textbook and the Hanshin Tigers shop and then pick up my last manga and come home. Nice day requiring no shenanigans?

Oh nonono. Today was....different to put it lightly. Let me explain. One of my classmates coined the term 'gaijin hunting,' where Japanese people come and talk to us because were foreign. They want to practice their English 99% of the time, so who better right?

(PS on the train today, there were a million primary school kids, and not only was I foreign, I had my One Piece shirt on, so I got extra stares lol. Adorable. That's fine)

Anyway, so this has happened to me before. On the train to HTB I was photographed and gave essentially an autograph, I walked through the bamboo with the nice man in Arashiyama, and I didn't think those two could be topped, but today takes the cake. I don't want this one to be beaten, haha.

Today when I was in the bookstore, a man I'd guess to be about graduate school age came up and started to talk to me with the usual starting line of 'Where are you from?' because it's quite obviously not here. In America, you don't do this. But in Japan, it's okay, because that's just what people do. There's no harm, they're not rapists, and hey, I get to practice Japanese too, so why the hell not. So today, I was talking to this guy in the bookstore, he was very nice, he has studied in France and England and Poland of all places, so his English was of course very good.

And we were talking on the way out of the bookstore, and he asked me if I wanted to go to a cafe to talk and I figured hell, I had nothing to do, why not? So we went and I got to speak mostly Japanese which was good (I was trying to explain an anime plot in Japanese which was ridiculously difficult) and we got to talking about music. Then he was like, let's go to karaoke! And I was like now?

....Why not. So we went to karaoke for an hour, and that was interesting. I'm glad I know some Japanese music, because I felt bad picking really fast English songs. But we found a few in common, so it was fun!

Then he walked with me to the Hanshin store, and walked with me to the train station where we got off at different stops.

So by American standards? I just got gaijin hunted onto a date. By cultural standards, I got to practice a lot of Japanese and he English! Yay! By Japanese standards? I told Riyo what happened and she replied with, 'you got picked up for a date.' Sweet Jesus.

And it was fun! But weird. But fun! And weird.

I don't know okay? :p


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Different Kind of 7th Inning Stretch: The Hanshin Tigers

I love baseball. Although I was sad I could not go with Riyo, my roommate and I had an awesome time at the game of the popular Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers. Said team is one of the oldest, and I would say is as popular as the evil Yankees. They are supposed to be as good too (I say supposed to because of the'll see)

So we get there and its flooded with people bedecked in their colors, yellow and black (I should've worn a Steeler's jersey! haha) I did wear a yellow shirt though. We decided to shop after the game and headed to find our seats.

We found them with little trouble, and we were very close to the cheering section, which was nice. However, we should have bought one important thing before sitting down.

These baseball beatey-sticks are very important.

We noticed almost immediately. First of all, we were playing Hokkaido, which I am told should have been an easy win. Japan games usually have a fair amount of visitor fans too, but because Hokkaido is far away, they just had their own little cheering section. When I say little, they did fill a whole section with people with flags and a whole freaking band including brass, but they had fans too.

So the first pitch. Not the first batter, the first pitch was a home run. Great start. We were also concerned because the Hanshin fans were so quiet! We heard they cheered a lot, so we were confused. Then they came up to bat, and everyone with these bat things came alive. In the fan section next to us, there were conductors directing the cheers! 

We went to buy noise makers at the end of the inning, haha. They were a little distracting though, keeping time takes away from the watching of the baseball. I was also trying to figure out some of the lyrics to the chants, they kept repeating one phrase: Kattoubase (which I never properly heard in the first place at the game because it was loud) but said phrase means get a home run, which is cool.

Each player has their own unique chant, although the beats were relatively similar. It was great fun! Also, one of the players up-to-bat song was the happy Jpop song I rode the rollercoaster to, so I was excited. 

Unfortunately the Tigers were losing. They had a little rally later in the game, and they almost scored to tie it up, but the first baseman made a miracle jump for the final out. Ugh,

Some fun stuff:

Whenever there was a foul ball in the stands, the jumbo tronthing would have a picture come up and the announcer would say "Be careful of the foul ball!"

At one inning change, the mascots came out in the outfield and danced. Two of them did back handsprings down the outfield. In a mascot suit! 

When there was a pitching change, a little car drove him to the field. Because they can't run there.

What was most different? The 7th Inning Stretch (btw, no anthem in the beginning of the game, just a first pitch...duh) is not your typical stand and sing because everyone's been singing this whole time. So what do they do? Everyone blows up giant sperm-shaped balloons, waves them around, and then releases them onto the field. Yes. This is not my video, but someone recorded the happenings on YouTube. I almost didn't blow up the second one in time because my roommate kept making me laugh. The lady next to her gave her a thumbs up to ask if I was going to get it, haha. 

Oh Japan. It was awesome, even though the Tigers lost. (They don't let glass and cans in the stadium because Tigers fans get violent....hmm, what does that sound like?) We checked out the shops on the way home, but it was soooo crowded, I'm going to go to the store in the mall later. 

I love baseball. Go Tribe! <3


Ameripan: Universal Studios Japan

I never thought of a fun title for this one either, but I think that will be sufficient to describe the mix of Japanese culture and American atmosphere and music and signs that made up USJ, or Universal Studios Japan, which is a smaller version of the Florida one. Luckily, Riyo said it was not as ridiculously crowded as it usually is when we went, which is nice. Although waiting in line for a ticket was lame, but that usually happens.

So anyway, we get to the CityWalk, which if you have been to Florida is a line of shops and things before the park itself, and there are about 15 people dressed as Waldo from Where's Waldo. I think this is a great start to the day, haha.

Too funny

USJ also has a cool covered section just like Disneyland with one of the rollercoasters arcing with it. Heckyes. Speaking of said rollercoaster, our first stop was the musical coaster Hollywood Dream. I say musical coaster because similar to one in America, you get to pick a song that plays while you ride the ride. There were only 5 to choose from, but it was preeeetty awesome to ride a rollercoaster to a Jpop song. (The song I picked was sickeningly happy and I have become addicted to its beat haha)

Anyway, there are two big coasters in this park, both of which have lockers that for a 100 yen (which you get back when you get your stuff, unheard of) you can store your bags and things when you go on the ride. When I say things, I mean everything. Every single thing in your pockets needed to come out. I forgot I had my mp3 in my side pocket, so I had to go back and put it in the locker. They were very serious about you having absolutely nothing. (When I got up to the ride itself, I had to tuck my necklace in my shirt and put my glasses in a basket. Riyo also put rubber bands on her flats even though she coaster was not one where your feet were open) I thought all of this was ridiculously strict at first, but then I thought about it some more.

In Japan, people don't use pockets right. Men walk around with their wallets hanging literally halfway out of their back pocket; they can do this because this country is so safe no one will take it. However, no one's pockets are sturdy enough to actually hold anything on something such as a rollercoaster. Thinking this way, this makes perfect sense. Riyo also said everyone would try to take videos too.

So the rollercoaster was fun. It was also funny, one of the operators is a drinking buddy of one of my classmates because they come to USJ often, haha. The operators also clapped upon our return; this happened on a couple other rides too. Heehee.

I really liked the next coaster. (This time I completely emptied all pockets) This was an indoor coaster called  Space Fantasy, where somethingsomething you have to go use your energy to save the sun whatever happens. Sweet. They also took your picture before you got on the ride for the souvenir....alriiiight.

I really enjoyed this one; instead of a train there were pods of 4 in groups of 2 to go along the track...and they spun! So even though it probably wasn't going that fast, the fact that it was spinning sometimes made it cooler. Also, on the inside there weren't just starts, there were planets and little sunpeople and shiny things and it was really awesome. Space Mountain should be like this.

Oh yes. On the way to Space Fantasy we passed a huge line. Crazy long. The weird part was, there was no sign marking it as an attraction. Just a nuts line. Walking a bit further, we saw another huge line in front of The Mummy Museum with a little sign. This attraction is a brand new, limited time haunted house. Because of its popularity, you have to wait in the line by the Mummy Museum sign first and get a ticket, and then go wait in the other line for the actual haunted house. Dumb. I don't understand why the actual ride wasn't decorated? Needless to say, we did not wait forever to go in the haunted house. Gah.

It was about at this point where I started to realize the copious amounts of English was not meant to be understood, it was just meant to be a set piece. (There was a sign that said 'Keep off the grass' next to people on the grass and I was confused for a while) They also played a lot of popular American songs even though no one knew them to promote the atmosphere, as Riyo said. I thought it was very interesting. We also theorized that the popcorn exists because they think we eat a lot of popcorn. I then explained that was true for the movies, but not theme parks. Riyo was surprised, haha.

I was not amused however, when one of these English signs said 'Funnel Cake and Ice Cream.' I was so excited for funnel cake, and Riyo had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Stupid decorations.

Anyway, next was the Spiderman ride, which is the same (even English signs in the queue) except the ride itself is in Japanese. Still very fun. Next we hit up Back to the Future, which I am told used to be in Florida, but was taken out for the Simpsons ride, so by the time I went there for the first time it was already gone. I am also told the one here is the same; I definitely believe them because all the introduction videos were completely dubbed over. It was a fun ride though!

This dubbing was definitely a pattern. Rides that were the same were usually dubbed over. Although strangely enough, the safety video (just the safety one) for the Jurassic Park ride was not dubbed, but they still had a white guy be the speaker? It threw me and Riyo off when I noticed it was real, ahha.

Before we went on Jurassic Park (which is the same, you also don't get very wet just like Florida thank god) we stopped for a bit of food. We got a Hello Kitty meat bun and some maple popcorn! We hit the lottery there; all the other stands I saw were caramel and we got the maple. Win. It was delicious.

THEN we rode Jurassic Park. Oh, also, said safety video used a fat American as the example person who was doing everything wrong on the ride such as eating and smoking. I laughed. There was also an animatronic dinosaur walking around. Literally. I don't know.

Next was Jaws, which didn't need to be dubbed because they had people giving the tours on the boat, haha. We took a picture with the giant shark too; they usually let you take one picture with your camera and try to sell you theirs. But it was so expensive or I would have bought one. Boo.

At this point we went over to the Terminator show/ride! (On the way over we saw a showthing called Backdraft, an old ride from Florida about firefighters that I think I remember?) The Terminator show was...interesting. In the beginning, a lady (apparently a well-known comedy person in Japan) was asking people where they were from before explaining about the evil company. I was tempted to raise my hand and say I was from America, but I was intimidated by all the fast Japanese.

When we moved into the theater, it was half 3D half live show. I've only seen the first Terminator movie, so I was only half sure what was going on, but I understood a bit of the dialogue, which was awesome.

When we exited the ride, we had to walk through a gift shop of course....but it had One Piece stuff. Why, you ask? Well no where is safe for one. But this summer, next month even, a live action One Piece show is coming to USJ.

No fair I say. I made Davey (a friend who is staying til July) promise me that if he went he'd see it for me ;) Still. I was sad.

After questing in vain for some cool souvenirs (all the cool t shirts were for guys or too expensive) we stopped for some dinner. (Side bar: I noticed I like buying useful souvenirs. I buy too many cups and t shirts haha) We went to some random Italian food place that had some reasonable cheap pizza and MAC AND CHEESE BITES--

Let me explain. At college, after 9 o clock the only close places open to eat at are Sheetz and Taco Bell. I hate Taco Bell, so when we're hungry on Saturday night at 2 in the morning we go to Sheetz, and I usually get friend mac and cheese bites, and they are very delicious.

So imagine my surprise seeing them in USJ in Japan in an Italian restaurant. Yeah. I was so excited Riyo went and bought some as well! They were delicious. Sogood.

It was parade time! Because of course USJ has a light parade a la Disney. It was even "Alice in Wonderland," "Aladdin," and "Cinderella" themed! Of course they weren't the Alice, Aladdin, and Cinderella, but somehow they got the rights to those names. It was still a cute parade; I love theme park parades.

Then, as we were leaving (we also saw the Waldos, haha) we stopped at the Jump Store (because its a manga store, come now) and did some purikura. Because what is an outing without purikura!

Riyo also helped my buy some baseball tickets, whose story remains to be seen....

OH here's pictures!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Not a Ketchup Bottle: Kobe

By the way, that was my 50th blog post. Win. I also forgot to think of a witty phrase for Kobe's title, but luckily my sister handed it to me with this picture:
Which, unlike the actual tower, looks like a ketchup bottle.

Hence the above. So Kobe is just as far away as Nara except I am sure it's a different direction; either way there was a lot of trains. Even more so because the first order of business was the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world. I read online about an observation walk underneath that sounded awesome, so the bridge was first on the list. 

Unfortunately, the internet was misleading because it showed a huge path for the walkway. Not so! There was this little fenced and windowed in path that was definitely not as cool. However! Still cool, as it was a nice day and the view was wonderful. 

Next, we returned to the port of Kobe itself for some awesome pictures. The weather was even better then and there was lots to photograph. It was also easy to do so because Kobe port is only 3km long so it is very small and easy to walk around. 

There was also a Ghibli store in Kobe, which I was disappointed in because my favorite Ghibli movie is unpopular in Japan, so there is never any merchandise from it. Oh well, I'm sure it's just as well money wise.

The pictures are the best way to talk about Kobe. We also went to the Earthquake memorial, which is actual damage from the 1995 earthquake preserved as a memorial to the victims. It was a very serious place amongst all the happy port stuff. 

Next we stopped at a store called Village Vanguard, a store with craaaaaazy things. I have pictures :)

Afterwards, my friend heard about this Herb Garden nearby that was on top of one of the mountains, so we headed over to jump on the cable car. Unfortunately, the main part of the gardens was closed at the time, but the ride up to the top was still gorgeous. 

A lot of the stuff on top was closed too, but still. View. Awesome. And on the half hour the clock started chiming Disney style, which was crazy.

....Kobe sounds kind of lame without pictures. They'll be up soon! But I've got a bit of homework to do...

EDIT: Pictures!Arashiyama and Kobe!


I Think It's This Way: Arashiyama

So because there are only so few weekends left, and so much to do, I've been piling stuff on top of another to fit it all in, finals and tests notwithstanding (priorities change in foreign countries don't you know)

So on Friday I jumped on a train to head to Kyoto again (if you haven't noticed, Kyoto's a preeetty big place full of tons of stuff to do, just like Osaka) to Arashiyama! Home of fun things! (There's a monkey park too, but I really didn't want to go there lol)

Btw here's Huis Ten Bosch pictures!

First off, I knew there was a bus to Arashiyama somewhere, I've seen it around Kyoto, I just had to find the stop it went to. Problem: I forgot to bring the magical bus map with me when I left school. This is a very big problem, and since of course said bus didn't leave from any of the usual bus stops, I had no choice but to walk to the tourist place to get directions. I asked about the bus, but she said there wasn't one, so...

By the way, when I got to Arashiyama I saw the bus, so it definitely existed.

Anyway, she gave me directions to go via train. I knew this existed, but I wanted to do the bus because it would be cheaper. Happily (and ironically), by bus from Gion-Shijo (sort of my home base in Kyoto) costs the same. Great. So after that little time waster, I got on some trains and headed to Arashiyama, yay!

(PS talked to the travel lady in Japanese, very proud ^.^)

So in Arashiyama, you are pretty much on top of the mountains. Many mountainy pictures. There is also a famous bridge that is Arashiyama's well-known landmark. You could take boat rides on the river, but it was definitely cold (in May, very weird) so...yeeaah no.

I started to head for, you guessed it, a temple, which is a World Heritage Site and had what I'm sure is a very nice garden when everything is blooming! (It was still pretty) I was amused because I was blindly walking towards it like usual, and the bus stop said 'Tenryuji-mae' and I was like, oh yay, that will take me to the temple (the temple's name is Tenryuji). Then I thought about it...mae means in front of. The bus stop said literally, 'in front of Tenryuji.' I found it! Heehee.

So as I said, the garden was very nice and things, but what I really wanted was to find the bamboo grove, which I knew was around there somewhere. I even saw some bamboo from one side of the garden, so I knew it had to be close. I exited from the other side of the garden because it appeared to be closer to the bamboo, but I was tempted to ask to figure out the right direction.

I am so glad I didn't. I exit the temple, and this is what I see:


So I found it. And it was awesome. I enjoyed taking pictures, despite the annoying high school Japanese couple I happened to be following and kept blocking pictures >.<

So on the other side of this path there wasn't much but a train streetcarthing that costs money, so I turned around to walk back through the bamboo, why not? On the way, a man on a bike stopped me and asked me where I was from, and he spoke very good English. So we talked on the way back to the street; he was very nice! 

At this point I started heading back because I was meeting a friend for dinner and nomihoudai (literally: all you can drink). So I go to Kyoto, and find a Book Off (yay second hand manga store) but alas I forgot I had already gone to that one. (There is one book I need, it's a 2 part series and I'm not leaving this country without it)

Then I met my friend and we had a good time! 

But of course there's more!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sucker Punched By Japan: Huis Ten Bosch

Here's some pictures! I took a lot. Like, almost the same amount as 6 days in Tokyo:

Temples, China Town, and Mount Inasa

Penguin Aquarium

So let me explain. There are times here where I figuratively get punched in the face by Japan for various reasons. I underestimate Japan, do not expect something, or something is just so off the wall you just have to shake your head and say 'Oh, Japan...' This seemed to be the theme for this day.

I was hellfire determined to catch that bus to the Penguin Aquarium. So determined. I go to the stop they told me, and wait for the bus to come. 10 minutes after the bus is supposed to come (and after asking 3 different bus drivers who told me to go to East bus stop), I switched to said bus stop. The problem is apparently on weekends and holidays the bus goes to South bus stop, and normally goes to East. But the sign doesn't say so? I don't know, so I go to East and ask people there if this is the right stop, they say yes, no bus. Fed up, I go to the Information desk and told them I was waiting for a bus that didn't show up. She called the bus company who said the buses were fine....why can't I find this bus?

So I go back to South, and praise Jesus there's the bus. An hourish later? I asked the bus driver if it went to the Penguin Aquarium just to hear him say it did. :)

So I finally. Finally. Get to the freakin Penguin Aquarium, the cutest place ever. It's also Kodomo no Hi, or Kid's Day, so there's adorable kids everywhere looking at adorable penguins. There was also a little "virtual theater" which had a 3D interactive follow the penguin type adventure. Very cute.

There was also the smallest penguin in the world, aptly named the Little Penguin, heehee. I also stumbled on a pile of penguins being paraded to the beach just for cuteness sake. It was really fun :)

Need I mention I did all this in a half hour? Take that information desk lady ;)

Stupid bus.

So, mission finally accomplished, I return to the train station to figure out how to get tickets for the hour and 20ish minutes to Huis Ten Bosch, where one of the nice station ladies walked me to the place to buy to and return tickets. She also answered my thousand questions as to how long it would take, if it was reserved seating (it looked like a Shinkansen ticket) and what platform, etc.

So I get on the train, and people come and go in the seat next to me (it's a normal train, I was just on it for a very long time, haha) At one point, this nice older lady sits next to me; she speaks decent English. She began telling me (and showing me pictures) of the gaijin she met yesterday (one was very tall and one was black, I can see why she would take pictures). She also had them sign the back of her planner.

Then she had me take a picture with her and sign the back of her planner. Yes this happened. It was too cute.

So we arrive around 1ish, YAY! My plan was to make it by noon, so it wasn't too bad. It closes at nine, and although its a theme park, its not a theme park that really has anything to ride. Except the One Piece Pirate Ship, The Thousand Sunny. Oh yes. There were also a million shops and world markets and restaurants and things. So I bought the entrance ticket, and decided to skip getting a ticket for the Golden Week firework show/competition thing, called the Fireworks World Cup, until I get to the One Piece section, because apparently there were tickets to see them from the ship (I was sure they'd be gone, but you never know)

Funny story, the One Piece part of the park was in the free part of the park, so I didn't need to buy a ticket to the boring part....but I know I woulda done anyway, that's kind of the point of being there, haha. It wasn't that expensive.

So I hike to the opposite side of the park (PS, passed a dude in front of a table with Sminoff advertised....more on that later) where the ship is, and lo! Not only was the fireworks thing sold out as expected, all of the rides on the ship were sold out for the entire day.

No One Piece pirate ship.


Because I missed a bus, it altered the course of everything and no pirate ship. Grrrrr. I don't even know if I would take out the Penguin Aquarium for it if I knew that would happen. Penguins! Hmm. Also, I don't know when they sold out either. Even if I went straight there, they might have sold out before I got there, and then I would have had no pirate ship or penguins. I still don't know how to feel about this.

So, I took about a million pictures from 100 feet away from said ship, and then went into the One Piece shop instead. (I also found a normal ticket for the fireworks too) There was also a 3D show, which if I had thought about it, I would have realized it would be the same one I saw in Hirakata, but I didn't realize that until I was in the theater. Oh well! Still awesome.

So after giving the store a once over, I went to the restaurant portion and ate adorable (and very filling and yummy) food.

After this, I figured I should at least walk around the part I paid good money for. There had to be something fun and interesting in there! Lo and behold, I ran into the strange person with the little Smirnoff bar set up from earlier. It was a street show, and he called himself a "career bartender" and said something about America? I don't know, it was fun to watch and he was a good juggler.

One thing was odd though. As a part of his show, he kept asking people to cheer to make him look better so he could keep performing there is my contexted guess, which was good fun, but at the end he asked for tips! This makes me wonder if he was being serious. Also. You don't ask for tips in Japan. Service workers don't even get tips! I was shocked.

After this, I started to quest to find the roses! It was a rose festival right? Unfortunately, the pictures were misleading, and most of the roses were gone or dying. Boo. However, one of the spots did have a nice set of roses, just not as many as in the pictures. It was very pretty.

Next, because the place is named Huis Ten Bosch after the little palace Huis Ten Bosh on the far end of the "free zone" of the park, I walked over there to investigate. Of course, to go inside the gates of the palace it cost more money, and I was very moneyed out at this point, so I just took a couple pictures through the gates, haha.

Then I bought an ice cream and started exploring around the stores....and accidentally found another One Piece store, which happily had the same stuff in it, good. I also ran into a European Character Store, which had some nice omiyage (souvenirs) in it :)

Next, there was a World Bazaar filled with many delicious looking foods (no Kit Kats of course) and across from it was some connected shops contained foods from different parts of the world. In here I found foccacio bread and proscutto. It looked legitimately from Italy. I wanted it all! Luckily I was distracted (how was I supposed to get bread home haha) by seeing CRISPY M&Ms, which are not made anymore in the United States.

They were delicious.

So here's where some of the crazy begins. I leave the stores, turn a corner, and surprise! There's a little parade. It was...surprising, haha, and reminded me of the parades we put on in college for Homecoming. Yeah. So it was nearing the time we could get seats for fireworks (I mean we could sit anywhere, but I paid for a ticket so I could sit in the nice seats and not fight people) and I had a little bit of time to kill, so in one tent there was supposed to be the park's spring show. However, it started at 730, and since fireworks started at 8, I didn't want to stay and watch. Instead, I watched the warm-up act perform for a while (he was a good singer) and then headed towards fireworks! I sat myself down in a seat right in front of the Sunny and took pictures until it was time for the fireworks to begin.

....I am sure there was a very good reason for the bagpipes in the beginning. It probably had something to do with the competitor. Certain days during Golden Week different competitors put on fireworks performances, and somehow one is decided and they win something, which was explained in Japanese so I don't know. But yes. Bagpipes. Good reason I'm sure.

I greatly enjoyed the fireworks. A. Because they were in a fireworks competition called the World Cup, come now. There were fireworks that were hearts, and when they made the sound they changed into other hearts! And B. The music. I was one of maybe 5 gaijin in the crazy crowd, and I tried really hard not to burst into laughter at the music.

It started with Hey Mickey (You're so Fine) first of all. After that was Locomotion! Next? After All That We've Been Through by Chicago.


After that? One More Chance by the Jackson 5! Rounded off with You Raise Me Up (but not Josh Groban)

So that was definitely shocking, an 'Oh Japan' moment. At this time, it was 9 o clock, which I heard from multiple sources that closing time for the park was 9 o clock.

So why were all the bars saying drinks were half price and attractions still trying to get people to come in? I don't even know. First, I passed the castle-looking thing, and there was a projection on it to change its appearance, which was cool, so it looked like it had a hole in it which was counting down from 10.

What happened at 0? The castle burst into psychedelic technicolor and started playing groovy music with girls dancing. I kid you not. Then it exploded, was set on fire, and had a dragon before lighting up for the evening. Even though the park was "closing."

At this point, Japan was overwhelming me with craziness. So of course I walk a bit farther, and I find the Haunted area (haunted walk through museums and stuff) houses all lit up and blinking to music, just like some houses do at Christmas! What kind of songs? Scary ones? Nah. Go Johnny Go, Kokomo, Born to Be Wild, New York New York, Take My Breath Away, and Jeremiah was a Bullfrog just to name the few I heard before walking away in further astonishment.

But there's more! I was almost at the exit, when I saw lights (surprise) in the distance. I couldn't not check it out, and it turns out the shopping area's interior was lit up with a zillion lights on the ceiling.

...Why was it not closed!

Furthermore, I passed the rose garden, also lit up. I was expecting a show by the time I got to the train station. Hoo.

By the way, once I got off the train at Nagasaki Station (street cars were closed) I promptly started walking the wrong direction. Slick.

Then, I failed at sleep until I had to wake up at 5:30 to walk to the bus terminal to get to Nagasaki Airport for my teeny plane to Kansai, yay! Guess what I found in the airport?

KIT KATS! YAY! I was so happy. It was also funny that security just didn't care. I watched a couple people to figure out what's up, and you didn't need to put your shoes in a bin, or take out liquids, or your computer, or anything, just empty your pockets. I did get wanded though. Was it because I was a gaijin? More like I left my belt, necklace, watch, and ring on. I was tired. No problem.

After some confusion with seats (some silly people were sitting in my seat, I didn't tell them until the other people sitting there arrived haha) I dozed happily until I got home and train rode my way back.

Pretty good trip if I do say so myself ;p I wasn't happy coming home to rain and looking like an idiot walking home in shorts, but whatever. I also got a blister trying to shut my backpack the night before; I really should have brought a smaller towel because it filled almost the whole bag! I ended up tying one of my shirts to the top like a flag because it wouldn't fit!

I will put up Huis Ten Bosch pictures later; they are slow going because there are 350!


P.S. Yesterday, Riyo and I went to Sweets Paradise, an all you can eat dessert place. Oh yes. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Martyrs, Bomb Victims, & Penguins? Day One in Nagasaki

Here's the awkward part where the days blend together because I slept on a bus...

It wasn't that bad, although I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep properly. I do remember seeing Haus Ten Bosch, so that made me happy that I would be going there soon :p

So I got off the bus to a perfect day, which I was worried about because I saw some rain in some part of Japan on the way down and I only brought shorts. After figuring out logistical things such as how to get a day pass for the street car and how to get to the airport Sunday, I discovered something...Catholic?

I shouldn't have been surprised. Nagasaki was the port city during the isolation period, so of course there was Catholic stuff there. I went up a hill and found a place where people were martyred, and there was a small museum AND a Church too. Very cool. (In hindsight, I shouldn't have lingered so will see why)

Next, I headed over to the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park and Peace Monument areas, because my hostel did not have check in until 3. There was a lot to see! In the park, there was a monument in the epicenter and pieces of temples and churches that survived the blast. There was also a monument to the women and children there. Also, they indicated how high the ground level changed after the blast.

After snacking on sherbert shaped like a rose (really, it was 100 yen, awesome), I headed for the Atomic Bomb Museum. It was just as sad and powerful as the other one in Hiroshima, except it was a little smaller. My favorite part was the Peace Memorial Hall. It was very beautiful and serene, a place for you to reflect on war and the importance of peace. That was even better than the museum.

There was also another park with a peace fountain and a huge monument that was really pretty. There were also a ton of other statues donated from various places.

At this point, it was a bit after 3, and I wanted to find the bus for the Penguin Aquarium because what goes better with martyrs and bomb victims than penguins, right? So, I can't find it of course, and when I ask the information lady for help she says by the time I'd get there it would be 4 and it closes at 5. It's only 2 stories; I did the 8 story aquarium in an hour. Really. So I go to the bus stop anyway....and screw it up entirely. I'm pretty sure I didn't know what I was looking for and the bus passed right by me.

So this put me in a trick because penguins are a half hour one way and Haus Ten Bosch is an hour in another...but I planned to wake up and get to the Penguin Aquarium at 9 so I will get to HTB by noon. It closes at 9, and there really aren't rides, just One Piece, roses, and awesome fireworks for Golden it shouldn't have been a big deal.

(We will see about that)

So at this point I go to find the hostel and get hailed by a lovely old man and his adorable grandchildren (who proudly told me they were 5,7, and 9) It was so adorable, the kids here are more outgoing with the gaijin (another later in the day told me 'Hello' and I about died from cuteness)

This hostel was about 6x bigger than the other; it was almost like a regular hotel...except for the 8 people in bunk beds, but I was really only there to sleep. (Although that came back to haunt me, because almost everyone snored. One person even keened Moo in the middle of the night. Not kidding.) There was also a furo bath and hot water until midnight, so a quick Japanese style shower was interesting.

They also gave me a map of places to eat and things to do which was very showed me there was like 6 temples behind the hostel. I was like what. I only got to two of them because I had a half hour before they closed. Still! Awesome.

So with this newfound free time, I started to search the grocery stores and conbinis (convenience stores) for the crazy flavored Kit Kat bars. I could not find them anywhere! 3 supermarkets (on the way I checked the nearby Mister Donuts for the mugs I want to get with my points, no luck...they're sold out everywhere) and nothing! I seriously don't know how people find these so easily. I found big ones of what I think is green tea, but I know there are others out there and I would really like to find them.

At this point is made my way over to China Town for some yums. The regional food in Nagasaki is called chanpon, which from what I could tell was a huge amalgam of of noodles with seafood and meat and vegetables and seafood and bean sprouts. I think there was squid? Is it sad I recognize squid after only eating it once before? It was very good.

This was also the third time in the day that someone said I was skilled at Japanese from practically nothing. People who said so: person who sold me the street car ticket, the lady at the temple, and the chanpon seller) I did a lot of talking today, but everyone knew too much English for me to practice much.

Anywho, it was a very filling meal. Then, foregoing the conbinis along the way, I headed for the spectacular night view atop Mt. Inasa....along with the rest of Japan. (also almost went the wrong way because the sign was pointing the wrong freaking way grr)

I waited about an hour and a half (got chewed by mosquitos) to get on the teeeeeny cable car to go up the mountain. It also got cold in this time, which sucked. The lady behind me was very nice though! She asked me if I had to pee (politely) because cold body language looked like I-have-to-pee body language, haha. She also made sure I had a ticket and stuff, which was very nice (I had to go wait in the ticket line before the cable car with no one to save the spot, made me mad) But this lady was in a tour group, and from what I can tell the workers were trying to convince the group to go down the mountain on a bus so they wouldn't take up the cable car? Either way, they agreed and as a thank you they passed out awesome postcards to them....and the lady got two, and gave me one.

So nice!

So I get to the top....Wow. None of my pictures can do that view justice, at all, bar none. It was wonderful. And the moon was nearly full too. (This was Friday, and it was going to be full Sunday). It was so nice!

Then I hightailed it to the streetcar once I made it back down the cable car (took about a half hour) so I wouldn't have to walk the entire way back. I had to walk halfway back, because the cable car went down the wrong track, but I found it...eventually. (The streetcar went in a tunnel, so I couldn't follow the tracks completely! lol)

Not a bad day one! :) Picture soon, there's a lot so I wanted to get them on facebook first.