Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kawasaki- Daishi, Yokohama, and the Marine Festival

This past Monday (Marine day), I went to two different festivals (sort of). Monday was a national holiday for Japan known as Marine day. Marine Day according to Wiki:

"Marine Day" was declared a national holiday in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan. First observed on July 20, 1996, the Happy Monday System (ハッピーマンデー制度 Happī Mandē Seido?) legislation moved the date from July 20 to the third Monday of July from 2003.

I decided to take advantage of this and go to the "festival" being held in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama (or what I like to refer to as downtown Yokohama) and the wind chime festival being held in Kawasaki- Daishi.

When I got off the train, the environment was a little surreal. It almost felt like I was back in Kyoto. Kawasaki- Daishi is a very traditional area that is mainly comprised of the Heiken-ji temple complex. Every year, Heiken-ji has a wind chime celebration, and I toted myself out there to go see it.

The main shopping strip was pretty filled with people. Every where you looked, there was food and traditional items being sold alongside the wind chimes.

The temple complex itself was packed with people. This is a view of the complex looking down from the steps of the main temple building. You can see the smoke from the incense "cauldron" in the center of the image.

As with every celebration in Japan, there is a TON of delicious food being sold. I indulged in strawberry shaved ice and okonomiyaki (a type of egg omelette).

All in all, the wind chime festival was awesome. I only stayed for a couple of hours as there wasn't much to do, but it was still really cool to go see. I also compiled some short video clips together that I took while I was there.

After the wind chime festival, I headed south towards downtown Yokohama to see fireworks and the events being held at the Marine festival.

Monday was the last day of the 3 day long festival and there were supposed to be fireworks and a lot of performers and cool things going on. The fireworks never happened (they were cancelled for some reason) and there really weren't any events going on either. The official website, which can be found here:, lied. Not knowing the fireworks had been cancelled, I knew I had to kill some time to wait for them to happen. The Pokemon Center of Yokohama was having a little festival as well, so I decided to head towards Landmark Tower. First, I passed through Cosmo World, seeing as I had never been there.

Pictures weren't really allowed in the area (to my knowledge), but I snapped a quick one with my phone. I bought a cute little clutch that I now keep my phone and flip cam in alongside my key and passmo, and they were handing out free shitajiki (pencil boards) at the entrance. The Pokemon Center in Yokohama is just as awesome as the one in Tokyo. Also very cool is the Moe Garden shop next door and the Jump Shop. The Moe Garden sells all Studio Ghibli items and the Jump Shop sells all Shonen Jump things. Pretty cool and very moe. :3

After leaving the Landmark Tower, I stumbled upon another magic show going on (this was actually the 3rd one I saw in a day). Magic shows in Japan are quite different than ones in America. Here, they comprise of magic, balancing and juggling acts, and small feats of acrobatics. They also typically have some sort of balloon animal routine involved. I guess they are more like jack-of-all-trade shows, really. This guy had a huge audience though. I didn't really stay to watch. :/

After all of that, I waited around 2 hours for the fireworks to start, which never happened. The Marine show pretty much was a bust, but it allowed me to see parts of downtown Yokohama I had never been to before. I did take a series of videos though.


On July 9th, I visited my friend (and fellow AET) Matt in Hadano. Hadano is smaller city southwest of Yokohama. Matt and I got to know each other through facebook when we both found out we were going to be in the Kanagawa branch of Interac. We sorta had orientation/ training together and have off and on chatted on Facebook, but this was really the first time we were able to hang out and just talk.

This is what his area looks like near the station:

I arrived a little after noon and headed up to his apartment. View from near his apartment:

Matt made delicious banana and almond pancakes (I helped :3) and afterwards, we headed out to walk along the river.

The walk along the river was around 2 miles, but was quite beautiful.

After we made it to the train station, I realized my passmo (train pass) was missing. I paid for a ticket back to Matt's station anyway so we could talk to the guy at the Information desk there, but they hadn't seen it. So, we walked back to his place and I dumped out everything that was in my bag. My passmo really wasn't there. At that point, he had to go to his kendo class and I decided I'd take another walk along the river to look for my pass. After walking along the river again, I couldn't find it. I talked to another guy at Hadano station this time, and he told me that since my pass was registered as a Teiki in 2009, that it was registered in their computer system. He kindly helped me fill out a form and gave me a slip of paper to show to the Tokyu desk the next day in Yokohama. I ended paying 1,000en, but I had almost 5,000en on the card. So, I didn't end up losing all of my money that day. Thank goodness! All in all, the trip was worth it. I really enjoyed visiting Hadano and would like to go back there to go hiking or maybe go to an onsen.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tokyo Journeys

So on 6/25 I met up with Alison from We had a fun Tokyo shopping day. First we met up at the cosplay bridge in Harajuku (since she was coming from Kimitsu and I from Yokohama), wandered into several lolita and music shops and I bought a cute dress (MAM) because Closet Child was having a sale. :D

Afterwards, we went to Shibuya, shopped around a little there and got some food over at Outback.

I'm proud to say that the screens are now back on in Shibuya. The last time I was in Tokyo was only a couple weeks after the earthquake. Now, it feels like Tokyo has gone back to normal (as normal as it can I suppose).

The effects of the Tohoku tragedy are still quite present. At Hachiko crossing there was a nuclear energy protest that we stumbled across. There were hundreds of people there with signs and flags. I took some video too.

On a more random note Alison and I stumbled across this van in Shibuya outside the Tower Records. I don't even know why there was deer puppetry happening in the window.

The Tower Records was also decked out in AKB48 everything!
After lunch and shopping in Shibuya, we headed up to Shinjuku to check out the lolita shops and record shops there. I got an A Knot DVD (Dir en grey) from one of the shops there. Then it started raining and we parted ways to go home.

While walking around Tokyo, I found some graffiti too. Happy to see some Fairey.

All in all. I had a ton of fun. We are planning another Tokyo meet-up in August. :D

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feeling the heat

So here it is. I'm playing catch- up again. I'll just get right into things.

Rainy season has been pretty light this year, which might sound good to some, but other (such as myself) that just spells bad news. The rain doesn't just bring humidity, mold, and the dreaded ごきぶり (cockroaches), but it cools the otherwise hot summers in Japan. It has been pretty hot here (in the low 90 temps) in Yokohama some days. Doesn't sound so bad compared to the 100+ temps in Texas right now, but they have air conditioning in their buildings. Two little wall fans in each classroom filled with almost 40 students isn't cutting it. In fact, there is a rule at me school that they have to do mandatory tea breaks once durign each class to prevent heat exhaustion. Crazy. This is my first Japanese summer and definitely won't forget it.

The good news! I can wear more casual clothes thanks to the heat and the government's "Cool Biz" campaign. A lot of the teachers come in t-shirts and jeans (though you won't see me doing that). I can also bring a water bottle around the school and connect with other teachers and students by joining in the chants of "熱い” (it's hot!). I also now have this hot pink towel I dampen with water that keeps me cool and gives me bonus points for knowing some common Japanese knowledge of a way to keep cool in the summer. This will be over with soon and I can have cold weather again.

Also connected to the weather is the fact I've had a sunburn for almost two weeks. It sucks. I did, however, learn about buying sunscreen and Aloe in Japan and how vastly different the two products are from their American companions. First, I discovered both are very watery here. Aloe doesn't even come in a gel in Japan. It is more of some green, watery mixture. Sunscreen comes in an aerosol can or in a bottle. Remember those large bottles of sunscreen you can buy in America for around 4$? Think of the travel size of that same sunscreen and that is the normal size of the sunscreen bottles here. The cost runs about the same cost for 1/3 of the size (400¥ to 1000¥ pending on the store and brand). Through experimentation I've discovered the aerosol cans don't work for me. They are a waste of money (hence why I'm burnt). Nivea has become my staple sunscreen. It's not too runny here.

In other not related to summer news, I've started taking basic Japanese classes though Maxceed (Interac). They are every Tuesday night and are progressing quite well. Last week we learned から (from opening)and まで (to closing). After the lesson I made it a goal to try and find the Aloe I needed for my sunburn. The store clerk from Family Mart told me that they didn't have any Aloe, but Create (a drug store up the street) should sell it. Since it was around 9:00pm, I asked what time Create closed. Needless to say, I felt accomplished being able to use the lesson I had just learned less than 30 minutes prior and the store clerk understood me.

Check the next update for my Tokyo trip I took the end of June.

Monday, June 13, 2011

BOBO!!! ( ・∀・)

AH! It's rainy season! You know what that means? I have to get creative with doing laundry indoors! My clothes take about 2-3 days to dry pending on thickness due to the humidity, but at least they are getting clean! Fwooh!

In other news! Meet BOBO!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Official!!

It's summer time! Funky new teas like Green Apple and Brown Sugar Milk Tea are now out! Also- the Ajisai have started blooming! YES!

The Walk, Puzzle and other adventures

Last weekend I walked to Futamatagawa to see if the Seiyu (Walmart) had any summer clothes that would fit me and would be work appropriate. Unfortunately, I have a very limited working wardrobe (aka things that can cover my tattoo). Most summer things are low- cut V necks, which won’t do. It’s very frustrating. Anyway, when I was there not finding any clothes that fit properly, I looked around the rest of the store. I finally found a good metal tea pot and I also stumbled across something I thought would be time consuming…

I ended up buying an Alice in Wonderland puzzle. It was expensive, but I thought to my self “Hey, it’s 950 pieces. This will take me a while to finish. This will be worth the money.” By noon the next day, I had the puzzle finished. Boy was I wrong. The thing is huge too. It’s not like it’s a small puzzle. It was just easy. Now I really want to finish that stupid Snow White puzzle that I couldn’t complete while I was at Ringling. :C

On the walk on Saturday, I got sunburned. I’ve become so pale from winter and no longer living in Florida. I don’t mind it, I just hate sunburns. In other news, I’ve decided 2 very important things. I’ve figured out that I’m going to open up another bank account in Japan and that I’m going through Shinsei. I’ve also figured out that I’m buying a goldfish. I really miss having pets in my life. Goldfish are cheap, easy to take care of and most important they cute. I’m working on getting all of the supplies.

Something else of importance has happened to me recently too. I just started taking Japanese classes. Interac/ Maxceed just started offering classes this past Tuesday until March. We were told the classes will go through the summer too if we want. I will of course be taking two weeks off of the classes to travel around Japan with my family though. The classes are from 6:00- 7:30 every Tuesday night. Last night I got home around 9:00. I’m taking the beginner course and although I’m one of the most advanced students in the course, I really need the formal refresher. I also know that I missed a lot of the basics the first time I formally took Japanese and I’m making up for it now. There was a really pretty sunset from the view of the Radio Nihon building.

On an unrelated note, I’ve started trying to make some recipes from home. I made potato salad. My next task is to make tortillas for Tex- mex night. OH YEAH! I already have the ingredients.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yokohama. Holiday. Melon Slushies. Art.

Yesterday was Yokohama day! I’m in love with Japanese holidays. Since I don’t get 2 ½ months off for summer vacation, the mass amount holidays make up for it (mostly). Yesterday, I cleaned my apartment and balanced my budget. Fun times! It’s always fun trying to figure out the bare minimum one needs to survive monthly. I have monthly student loan payments to make, which amount for almost half my paycheck every month. Needless to say, it’s a buzz-kill.

On Wednesday, I did an hour of karaoke by myself. It was my first time to do it and I will probably do it more often. There aren’t many places where you can sing at the top of your lungs and not be embarrassed. In Japan I’m thinking there are 2 places (as an adult): karaoke and live concerts. The best part about my karaoke place is that it is all you can drink free soft drinks and they have melon slushies. SO GOOD. The price per hour is 280en too so it is a really good deal. I love the melon slushies! Here’s a short clip of me singing an Ikimonogakari song. I love them.

I also wanted to post a newsletter from the PTA I received this week. Most of it is blurred out because I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t show as far as privacy. This is a list of all the teachers from my school with what subject they teach. I’m the only one not blurred out. The two people with the little text blurbs are the principal and vice principal of the school. They are talking about how wonderful the PTA is.

Next week I go back to my other school (the one with the taiko club) and maybe I can get the students to film me being an idiot trying to learn the drums. Tonight, I stayed late at school to record the student’s listening tests. I also got to draw for 30 min with the art club. They were doing landscapes and this is what I contributed. It was fun drawing from life again. I haven't had a chance to do it in a while. Very good practice.

Also- check out the huge azalea bush near one of my schools.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Karaoke Passout

This past Saturday I was supposed to go see my friend Judy and her friends compete in the Dragon Boat competition. The Dragon Boat race is an annual competition in Yamashita park where people race in traditional dragon boats from Hong Kong. More can be found out about it here (in English):

Or here (in Japanese):

Since the race didn’t happen due to being rained out from the ever- encroaching typhoon (which I’m not sure has happened or not due to the lack of severe rain) everyone ended up meeting up at the karaoke place near Kibogaoka station. LUCKY! It was around 700en for around 3 hours. CHEAP! I’m super in love with this place. I took a short video of the fun. I had a blast! I love love love karaoke!

One of Judy’s friends sang a song called Secret Message and all of the characters were messed up on the screen too. We were dying. XD

After karaoke, we went to the house of Judy’s friend. Her husband made us this amazing meal. I felt like royalty. We met up with more people there too. I didn’t end up getting home until around midnight. Saturday was so amazing… so amazing I slept most of Sunday. :3

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I took a video of what I see on the train from Futamatagawa to Kibogaoka; just one stop. I had my phone pressed to the window to steady it, but most of the images are still blurry. I’m going to try and take the same video with my flip cam and see the difference in image quality.

And finally as a general update, here are some random images I’ve taken around town and a video in my apartment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After posting the last entry, I remembered that I never mentioned what my previous weekend was like. WELL- after going to the wrong train station to meet up with a fellow ALT, I ended up in Ebina for the first time. I arrived just at sunset and took some amazing pictures. Toho Cinemas is there, so I decided I'd see a movie. I settled on Black Swan. :D

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taiko sickness

Quite a lot happened last week. I got to see 2 taiko performances given by my JHS taiko club (that I’m a forever “new member” of) and I got sick. Though I have to say, for every new experience that I have, it seems I’m always behind my self-expectations. I was hoping I would know how to cook a lot of Japanese food, be fluent in katakana, and have some Japanese children’s books translated by this time in my mind but… I’ve been here over 2 months and I’m nowhere near completing any of those things (well the katakana thing is improving A LOT). I can now read a lot of foods and signs that I used to just look at puzzled. I am also learning where and when to purchase the cheapest foods in my area and what a good deal is (ie: getting a “loaf” of bread for under 100¥).

So back to the taiko thing- I recorded part of the ichinensei’s dance routine from my phone. I tried to record the encore performance that the sannensei’s did, but the file didn’t save properly. I was kinda bummed about that but I took 2 pictures also and a small video of what the little festival looked like too. I only stayed for about 2 hours, but I had fun and the students were glad to see me there.

The taiko performance happened on Sunday and on the Thursday before, after teaching passive tense to the sannensei’s, I got really nauseous and sick to my stomach. Around the same time, I started to get a headache and felt really clammy. I ended up leaving school early and sleeping the rest of the day. I went to work normal on Friday, but obviously wasn’t as energetic, drank a lot of water in between classes, and sat more than normal. After school Friday I slept and slept all day Saturday as well. I also loaded up on medicine for those 3 days. Tums and Tylenol Sinus. Yeah. I was feeling great! Actually by Sunday, I was feeling well enough to support my taiko club, but I’m glad I wasn’t asked to perform in any way. I would have probably vomited everywhere.