Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day (感謝祭)

Just a random note, but the day before Thanksgiving was also labor appreciation day (like labor day), or 勤労感謝の日.

As expected, there was no big celebration for Thanksgiving.  However, at Nanzan's World Plaza they did have a lot of information about the holiday, as well as a small craft for people who came in.  Really simple - you just had to write down what you were thankful for - but since you had to write in any other language but Japanese . . . some people struggled.

My dorm mates and I went out for KFC that night.  In a lot of Japanese people's mind, the connect KFC with Western holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I guess it's because it's not as common as McDonald's.  It could also be the fact that it's the only Western fastfood chain that serves chicken drumsticks, which is the closest thing we have here to turkey.  Yes, they don't sell turkey's at all here; if you want one, you have to import one through an independent supplier ahead of time.  ALTHOUGH, I did hear that the sports bar in Sakae was giving out turkey (it's called Shooters), but my dorm doesn't go out to places like that really.

Last night, I made apple pie with my dorm mates as well!  ^__^  Like always, it took me way too much time to make it.  We had problems with the dough (it wouldn't stick together), but the end results were fine!  Just wished we added more sugar to the dough or something to make it less bland.  >_<  I'll definitely remember next time to put in more butter and sugar and roll it out thinner.

So yes, that was my Thanksgiving celebration in a nutshell.  Like I said before, Thanksgiving is more of a historical American/Canadian holiday than a world-wide celebration.  I do hope you all are having a wonderful feast at home!  I wish I could taste Andrea's mashed potatoes and all of your delicious food!  My friend's homemade sweet mashed potatoes were fine . . . but it's just not the same.  >__<  ^__^

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S.  For everyone: if there's something you would like me to buy for you in Japan, please tell me!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ise Jingu (伊勢神宮)

Today, I went on a school trip to Ise Grand Shrine today.  The weather was horrid - it was raining all day and after maybe 10 or 15 minutes outside my shoes were already soaked through.

These are the running shoes I bought in the states, by the way, and already they are falling apart despite their steep price and promise.  >_< 

But anyways, the Shrine itself was beautiful.  It's history is well rooted in Japanese history and Shinto tradition.  This is the shrine that is rebuilt every 20 years to the exact measurements of the original.  Pictures weren't allowed at the actual shrine, but we could take pictures everywhere else.  However, looking with my own eyes at the shrine was a nice experience.

The rain, however, was the biggest concern of the day.  It prevented us from really exploring the area.  For the rest of the time I was there, I shopped a bit with my friend and had a nice lunch at a restaurant.  While I was shopping though, the wind picked up even more so the conditions were more like a typhoon.  It was so strong that the umbrella I just bought earlier that day broke.  T__T

So, just a quick update on life, to tell you all I'm alive.  ^_^  And that I'm very excited for upcoming trip in December!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Asuke and いなご

Yesterday, I went to Asuke again, but this time with a Japanese friend, her family, and another international student.

This season is the time of changing color of the leaves (紅葉).  It's a super famous and popular time of the year, because the trees are so beautiful.  There are even magazines that highlights the best places to see this, and Asuke is one of the best around Nagoya.  Right now, it's a little early to visit, but I heard that in about 2 weeks the place will be swarming with people.

Asuke is also famous for it's small traditional village where you can see artisans at work.  They make everything by themselves using old methods, which gives their products a different feel than the ones you can buy at the store.  In fact, some things you can't buy at a store either, which adds to the handmade item's value.

There was actually once famous workshop - I forget the name but I think it was the blacksmith's shop.  It's where they make knives or other sharp objects.  That place was visited by many famous people, including a band named EXILE and the Emperor himself.  I know this because I've seen the autographs and the pictures - it was pretty awesome when we found that out.

The most interesting fact I learned though was how the people in the area used to get their calcium in the old times.  My friend's mother explained it to me: apparently it was very hard for the people there in the old times to get calcium.  One of the ways they could easily get it though was by eating inago (いなご).  Depending on the person/dictionary you use, it's either a baby grasshopper or locust.  Anyways, as a souvenier, I bought my dorm a box of these insects covered in some kind of sauce and cooked.

Surprising, some of my dorm mates ate them, and some even were okay with the taste!  O_O  I was super surprised.  However, they only ate maybe a fifth of the box, and even our hungry neighborhood cat ran away from the box once I brought it out.  :-P

Kyoto trip

This week I had no school because of Nanzan University's cultural festival.  However, instead of attending that festival I went to Kyoto with two other international students!  ^_^

The main reason why I went on the trip was to actually see 2 of my friends from OSU - I made plans to meet up with them during the trip.  I also really wanted to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the main shrine for the kitsune god and well known for it's "1000 red gates".  Pictures are online on facebook, but it really is an amazing place.  It's only a little far from Kyoto's main downtown area, but you feel completely isolated from the rest of the world.  Walking up the mountain a bit through the red gates was a really relaxing time for me and my friends, but once we realized that we only hiked a fourth of the way up and that we had another 2 hours to go, we called it quits and went back to our hostel.

The hostel was another new experience for me.  When I was searching for places to stay, hostels were the cheapest places to stay in, even you had to share a room.  However, it worked out fine - the place we stayed at was very clean and nice, and the staff were very welcoming and accommodating.  My friends and I could lock up our stuff if we wanted to, and we had separate bunk beds.  Yes, we slept in the same room as strangers, but we rarely saw any of them.  Plus, in the common areas we got to hang out with other tourists and have a great time with them as well!  So I would definitely say staying at a NICE hostel is a great experience, and something to not be afraid of.

The sights around Kyoto were really beautiful, but the one drawback was transportation.  I realized during my last full day there that the buses are a lot more convenient to travel to historical sites, but it still takes a while to wait for one.  Taxis are too expensive to take as well, at least for all of my friends.  However, the journey to somewhere can be exciting as well, just because it's a new city with different people.  Traveling time was also my time to talk with the friends I haven't seen in a while, and catch up with them.

So even though I didn't get to see all the sites I wanted to, I still had a great time there.

I'm still planning on going one day though.  I really can just take a one day trip to Kyoto, which is what a couple of my dorm mates did actually instead of a 4day and 3 night trip like I did with my friends.  :-P  Plus, it can be cheap, depending on how you get there.