Jenna in Japan

My Random Adventures in Japan

Jenna in Japan

My Random Adventures in Japan

Jenna in Japan

My Random Adventures in Japan

Jenna in Japan

My Random Adventures in Japan

Jenna in Japan

My Random Adventures in Japan

Friday, December 3, 2010

Labor Day!

Tuesday of last week was Labor Day so I had the day off. On Monday night I went out to eat with the teachers from the elementary school. I've been to several similar events with the junior high school teachers, but this was my first time with the elementary school. I'm not sure what the occasion was though. Maybe it was to celebrate the end of all the board of education observations they've had over the past couple of weeks.

We ate at a restaurant in Matsuzaki, which is about 45 minutes south of Toi. I had a really good time and really enjoyed a lot of the food. I had some sort of chicken, salad, tamagoyaki, udon, crab, and some sort of Korean dish that is similar to okonomiyaki. I also ate oyster for the first time. It wasn't as gross as I expected. I didn't really dislike it, but I don't want to eat it again. At the end we got homemade vanilla ice cream... oishii! (delicious!)

Several of the teachers told me about a field trip that some of the students had gone on that day. They went to a sea park and watched a dolphin show. During dinner, a couple of the teachers did a reenactment. The one woman pretended to be the trainer and the other pretended to be the dolphin. Hahaha.

After dinner we headed to a nearby place for karaoke! It was different than other karaoke in Japan. It was a very small place (just one room) and there was a small bar and then on the side were some tables and couches. So we all sat on the couches, but there were other people that we didn't know at the bar. I hadn't seen karaoke like that in Japan yet. It's usually in private rooms. Though the whole place was so small that it didn't really feel that different.

The teachers wanted me to sing a Beatles song. We picked Hey Jude. Well, they called it Hey Judo, lol. They really got into the song.

During one of the earlier songs the woman running the place started playing a tambourine and then handed another one to another teacher. I had a great time even though I didn't know a lot of the Japanese songs (though another teacher and I sang First Love by Utada together!). The atmosphere of singing karaoke with the other teachers was a lot of fun! I was cracking up during the last song when one of the teachers started dancing dramatically. He did a lot of big sweeping arm movements and even a few spins.

 The next day was Labor Day and I decided to go back to Matsuzaki. I hadn't really been able to see the area very well in the dark, but it looked like there would be a lot of great views of the ocean during the day.

Matsuzaki is just a little bit south of Dogashima, which I've been to before. So I planned on going to Dogashima first and then to Matsuzaki. I walked to the bus stop but then decided to take the next bus which was only a half hour later. So then I went to get something to drink from the vending machine by the park. One of my students from the kindergarten was there and ran over to me when he saw me. He asked me what I was buying. I said, "tea" and pointed to it. He insisted on pushing the button, giving me my change, and handing the drink to me. It was really cute.

Then I went and looked at the schedule again and the next bus actually didn't go all the way to Dogashima. I headed back home to wait for the next bus. But then I ended up missing that bus. It was getting later and I wasn't sure if it would be worth it anymore at this point, but I finally decided to go.

The road down the coast is really pretty!


I had planned on just taking a few pictures at Dogashima and spending more time around Matsuzaki. But the boat was running (it wasn't running the first time I went) so I took the boat ride. It takes about 15 minutes and goes around the little islands and even into a cave.

There was rain off in the distance and it looked really cool.


Here are a couple pictures taken inside the cave. The water was so blue!!!!



There's a hole in the top of the cave. I didn't get a very good picture of it in the cave, so here's a picture from above.


The boat ride was a lot of fun. The part where we went into the tunnel felt like a water ride at an amusement park. The cave and the crazy blue color of the water made it look a little fake (but in a good way) and I felt like a waterfall would start pouring down or a fountain would shoot off any second.  

After the boat ride I walked around a bit, but then it started to rain a little bit. :(



It was also getting dark so I didn't have the chance to go to Matsuzaki. I spent some time in the gift store and 7-11 while waiting for the bus. The 7-11 has a really weird black and white sign. When I saw it, I felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. It looked photoshopped even though it was real life.


While, in the gift shop it started raining harder. I could have bought an umbrella at 7-11 for just a few dollars, but I already have 2 umbrellas (I also bought two in Tokyo. One I forgot in Starbucks and another I left at the hotel because I didn't want to carry it home) and was OK with getting a little wet. But as I crossed the street back to the bus stop, it started raining even harder and I got really wet. I was freezing during the bus ride back home and then had to walk in the rain some more to get to my apartment. :( But then after changing clothes I sat at my kotatsu (heated table) which was awesome. :) My kotatsu will probably be one of the things I'll miss the most about Japan.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kyoto Koyo

Last weekend I went to Kyoto for the second time. I wanted to see Kyoto in the fall to view the Koyo (the Japanese word for fall leaves).

I headed there on Friday night with my friend Aneeka. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and then went back to the station to get dinner. I had ramen and gyoza. :) When we got back to the hotel we explored the fire escape stairway and saw Kyoto Tower.

Kyoto Tower Night

While looking for a place to have dinner we saw a lot of cake and parfaits. We were good though and didn't buy any sweets. But after climbing the stairs (all five floors... so tiring! Ok... not really...) we decided we had exercised enough to go back and get some cake! Haha. Yeah, we hadn't really exercised much at all, but it was enough of a reason to eat sweets!

I got a slice of a fruit tart and we sat on some steps in the station to eat. The station is already decorated for Christmas. This tree has lights that are synchronized the the music being played.

Kyoto Station Christmas Tree

Fruit Tart

The fruit tart was really good! Well, except for the one piece of grapefruit. Grapefruit is used in too much mixed fruit stuff in Japan. Ick.
We stayed at the Capsule Ryokan. The capsules have tatami mats and look a bit more traditional-ish than a regular capsule.

Capsule Ryokan 2

Capsule Ryokan

The next morning I got breakfast from a nearby bakery. The one in the back was called a Pumpkin Pot. It was bread with pumpkin and ham inside. It was good, but the pumpkin was a bit weird. I love how the pumpkin tastes, but it just doesn't match the rest of the stuff.

The other piece of bread was similar, except that it had so much more. I discovered something new with each bite. I'm probably leaving something out, but from what I remember it had pumpkin, hot dogs, corn, onion, cheese, tomato sauce, and mayo (luckily just a tiny bit). It was a weird combination, but it all went well together except for the pumpkin. But that was delicious when I ate the pieces separate.

Japan Bakery

After eating breakfast, I headed for the Gion area to meet up with some other friends to do a maiko makeover. Maiko is an apprentice geiko (a Kyoto geisha). It was a super fun experience! I had my makeup done, was dressed in a kimono, and had a wig put on. It took a while, but it was totally worth it! We all looked so different when we were done! It was crazy!


Yes, that's me!!!
Gossip Maiko

If you want to see more pictures of me dressed as a maiko, please check out the link at the end of this post.

If you are interested in having a maiko makeover, I definitely recommend this place (Yumekoubo). It's a bit pricey, but it's not really expensive when you consider the time it takes and how much you get. I think the best part of the price is that for 9975 yen you get the makeover and then they take 20 pictures and put them on a CD for you. You don't have to pay for overpriced prints to get the pictures. They even let us take pictures ourselves while we waited to have our professional pictures taken. Also, when we were finished with our makeup and getting dressed the women who dressed us gladly took several pictures of us with our own cameras.

Here's the website for Yumekoubo:

After finishing the maiko makeover, we ate lunch at Sukiya. I had the three cheese gyudon. It was rice with beef and of course cheese!

3 Cheese Gyudon

After lunch we went back to our hotels to put our stuff away. Outside the station there was a guy sitting with a little kitten. It was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute! I petted it for a while. I wanted to steal it!


We headed towards Tofukuj, a temple that we had heard had nice fall colors! Unfortunately, we got there just a little bit before four and it was about to close. So then we went ahead to Fushimi Inari to walk the trail there.

I had been to Fushimi Inari before, but it was a completely different experience at night. It was a lot quieter and the torii gates made really neat shadows.

Fushimi Inari Night

We didn't climb the whole thing, but we did make it to this lookout point that had a nice view of Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Skyline

Originally I had wanted to do the entire trail, but I was glad that we stopped where we did. I wasn't that tired, but I was hungry. I was ready for dinner! :)

We went back to the Kyoto Station area and met up with a couple other friends and had dinner at the mall under the station. After dinner we went to karaoke... fun!

The next morning we went back to Tofukuji. The fall colors were beautiful!


Tofukuji Fall

I was very impressed with Tofukuji. I had read that it was the place in Kyoto with the most fall colors at the time, but that it wasn't at its peak yet, so I wasn't sure how much to expect. I've seen pictures where pretty much all the trees have changed. It wasn't at that point yet, but I think it looked awesome with some of the trees still green. I got some really nice photos. I love the contrast of the red and green.

After Tofukuji many people left for Arashiyama but a few of us went to Fushimi Inari. A couple of the guys hadn't gone the night before and Aneeka wanted to see it in the day. I love that place so I was happy to go back as well. I saw it in the daytime with Lauren but we didn't have a whole lot of time. I'm glad I got to go back during the day because I'm really happy with how this picture turned out.

Fushimi Inari

The guys continued on the trail and Aneeka and I headed towards the area around Kiyomizudera. This is a picture of Inari Station. I like how it kind of matches Fushimi Inari.

Inari Staion

Aneeka was looking for a certain type of dish for her mom (though unfortunately she never found it). I enjoyed wandering around the streets of shops. When I was at Kiyomizudera before, Lauren and I were on a tour and didn't have a whole lot of time to just wander around. I bought a kokeshi doll at one of the shops. I will take a picture of it at some point. It looks really cute together with the kokeshi doll I bought in Asakusa in Tokyo.

Both of us were wanting crepes so we went to a park where she knew there was a crepe stand. I don't remember the name of the park, but there was a nice pond and I saw many ducks. :)


By Kiyomizudera there was a cool cemetery with a view overlooking Kyoto. I love how Japanese cemeteries look. Though I still think my favorite is the one in Toi because of how it goes into the woods and overlooks the ocean.

Japanese Cemetery

We were going to go to Nanzenji Temple, but on the way there we saw the big Tori gate on the street leading to Heian Shrine. That was my favorite place last time I went to Kyoto and I wanted to see the garden again in the fall. So we went there instead.

Heian Shrine Stepping Stones

Unfortunately there weren't that many trees that had turned colors, but there were a few. I like the picture below. I have a picture taken at this same spot from this summer. It's nice to have the same picture in different seasons.

Heian Shrine Garden Fall

Looking back, maybe I should have gone to Nanzenji because it would have been different, but I still really enjoyed seeing the Heian Shrine garden again. I didn't know anything about Nanzenji, but I looked it up on the internet later and it looked really cool and the pictures showed a lot of fall colors. Oh well! I will be back again!

We went back to Kyoto Station and began our trip back home. I got really sleepy on the Shinkansen and had to try really hard to not fall asleep. I didn't want us to miss our stop at Mishima!

After spending two hours on the shinkansen and half an hour on the Izu Hakone train, I arrived at Shuzenji. I had about half an hour to wait until the next bus, so I went and got dinner at 7-11. It was pretty awesome, especially because it was nice and hot! I also had warmed peach juice. :)

7 11 Food

There are a BUNCH more pictures HERE!!!!!!!!!!! CLICK HERE!!!!!!!!!!! There are a lot more pictures of all the places I went and also of my friends and I dressed as maiko! :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cute kitties! Let's drink tea! Happy Halloween!!!! I'm sick... :( It's Culture Day! Let's pick sweet potatoes!


On my way to Toi Kindergarten, a cat walked out in front of me on the sidewalk. I was excited to see a cute cat. As I passed by, there was another cat and two little kittens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sooooooooooo cute!

Last Sunday (Halloween) I went to Shuzenji temple to go to a tea ceremony thing. It was a lot of fun! There is a lot of stuff to remember in the Japanese tea ceremony. You have to hold the cup a certain way and you have to turn the pretty design away from you before you drink from the cup.We took turns making the tea and there are a lot of rules to that as well.

There was a beautiful view of the garden from the room where we had the tea ceremony. 


I also learned that Shuzenji Temple is 1200 years old! 


Another great thing about going there was that I met the other ALT working in Toi! Afterward we went shopping and ate dinner together. It's nice to know another ALT living so close by! 

When I got home I celebrated Halloween. Well... kinda. I have worn a costume every year (except when I was really young) and I didn't want to break the tradition. So, I put on a costume and took some pictures. 



I made a purple cat plushie the previous weekend. It's one of my favorite plushies. :)


Uhhh... I tried to get an action shot but it didn't work out...

Then I ate Halloween treats (well, sorta) while watching the Thriller music video.


The bag on the left is some Halloween candy I bought at Tokyu Hands in Tokyo. It wasn't very good and I only ate one piece. It was just sweet, but I still enjoyed the festive look. :) The doughnut was awesome. :) I got it at Mr. Donut in Mishima when shopping with the other ALT. The Fanta was good too! It's apple! The doughnut and soda were filling so I only ate a tiny bit of the Pocky. 

My throat started feeling a little sore that night but it wasn't too bad. When I woke up on Monday morning it was worse. I went to school, but I didn't feel that well all day. I didn't feel horrible, but my throat started feeling worse and I didn't have much energy. That night I started feeling a bit feverish.

 When I woke up in the morning I felt a little better, but still pretty bad. I decided to call in sick to work, mainly because of the sore throat. I didn't want to teach several elementary classes with my throat feeling like that. So I called in sick and then went to sleep for about 3 more hours. When I woke up, I felt much better! My throat still hurt, but not that badly. I even called my boyfriend and talked for a couple hours with no problem. I started craving ice cream and wanted to go out and get some, but I couldn't. The grocery store is right next to the elementary school and I didn't want anyone to see me since I was "sick." I felt a little bad about calling into work, but I really had felt bad in the morning!

The next day was a holiday (Culture Day) so I didn't have school anyway. I went to Mishima to do some shopping. When I walked out of Mishima Hirokouji Station I saw a festival. 





The guy dressed up in a panda suit dancing with the kids was random.

I bought some super cute Hello Kitty postage stamps at one stand. Since I made a purchase I got to turn a wheel until a colored ball came out. The different colors were for different prizes. Mine was purple so I won a Doraemon figurine, haha! Doraemon is a popular character among young Japanese children. He's a robotic cat with no ears. I haven't taken a picture of the figurine, but here's a pic of Doraemon.

Then I went to Sun To Moon and bought a few things at Uniqlo and then walked to some other nearby stores. At Tsutaya I bought Beauty and the Beast on DVD. It's fun to watch it in Japanese! :)


That salon is intense! Reflesh! That sounds scary! 

I recently ate my Miso Kit Kats that I bought in Shirakawa-go. The first one I ate pretty much just tasted sweet. Though when I ate more than one I could taste the miso flavor and it wasn't very good. They weren't the worst Kit Kats I've had though.

They come in a neat box. You can mail them. The back of the box is kind of like a post card. 




I also recently tried Mont Blanc Pepsi. Mont Blanc is a type of desert made from chestnuts. I don't like Pepsi, but I still wanted to try this. As soon as I opened it I could smell the chestnut flavor. The drink was very sweet. I liked it pretty well (much better than regular Pepsi) but I probably wont buy it again. There are other drinks I like much better and plenty of other interesting drinks for me to try! 


Yesterday at school one of the teachers was telling me that he grew sweet potatoes and that many people were coming to his house to pick the potatoes. At some point I must have agreed to go (my Japanese is horrible) because later he told me that another teacher would be at my apartment at 9:30 to pick me up. 

I wasn't really looking forward to it (getting up early to pick potatoes is not appealing), but I ended up having a lot of fun! I met a couple other foreign English teachers around Izu, the weather was beautiful, and I got to eat a lot of good food! Digging up the potatoes wasn't really that fun, but it didn't take that long. Oh, and I was also excited when I saw that some of them were the kind that are purple inside!





There was a pretty river nearby!


The chairs were sooooo tiny! 

This game was not just for kids. It was for foreigners too!


This cat was soooooo sweet! Cute and pretty too! :)


That's what I won from the ring toss game. It's lemonade, some packs of nuts and crackery things, and some sort of sweet stuff that kind of tastes like eating packing peanuts. The fruit wasn't part of the prize. I don't remember what it's called, but it came off some shrub. I ate one while I was there and it's really good!

I came back home and went for a run. I ran to 7-11 and bought hot peach juice and a cheeseburger. I ate that on the beach while watching the sunset. 

So yeah... this was a random post... just like the title. My life is filled with all sorts of randomness right now and I love it! :)