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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ikitai! I want to go!

I wanted to name this post "Places I Want to Go" but I'm not sure how to say that in Japanese. I'm sure I could figure it out pretty quickly, but I'm lazy at the moment. So... it just says "I want to go."

Anyways... this is a listing of many of the places I want to go. I'll start with the ones I have planned for the near future and then list places that are a bit further away and may or may not visit. Then the last few will be places that are very far away and I most likely wont be able to visit (at least not all of them).

Oh, and of course I didn't take any of these pictures. They're all stolen from places around the internet. Hopefully I will have pictures of my own from many of these places in the future! :)

Tokyo ni ikitai (I want to go to Tokyo).

So, the first place I plan on going after getting paid is Tokyo, specifically Akihabara. I've already been to Tokyo, but I didn't make it to Akihabara I plan on buying a new camera at the Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara. It's the biggest camera store in the world. The camera I want is sold at a nearby store in Mishima (though last time I checked they were out of stock) but their price was really high. It's like a price difference of 120 dollars. It's crazy! I can take the shinkansen to Tokyo and back and still save money. Plus I'd have a lot more fun!

I want to get my camera before I do much more traveling, so I have a nice camera to take pictures with. :)

Soon I want to go to Kamakura, which is between here and Tokyo. Here's some info about it taken from "Kamakura became the political center of Japan, when Minamoto Yoritomo chose the city as the seat for his new military government in 1192. The Kamakura government continued to rule Japan for over a century, first under the Minamoto shogun and then under the Hojo regents. " Blah, blah, blah... okay that sounded a little boring like from a text book, but now you know it is old and has some sort of historical significance. Maybe I should learn more about Japanese history? Either way, I want to go because there are cool temples and shrines and trails through the woods. See the pretty pictures?

Okay, now for a place not quite as old, but still pretty awesome. Disneyland!

I want to go to both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. :)

I have to go to Kyoto. Pretty much everyone that comes to Japan goes to Kyoto. Here's some information (from about why it's important:
Kyoto was Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. It is now the country's seventh largest city with a population of 1.4 million people and a modern face.Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and spared from air raids during World War II. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today."

Oh, and I don't just want to go because it's THE place to go in Japan. I also want to go because I really do think it looks awesome!

One of the places I really really REALLY want to in Kyoto is Kokedera, a very very pretty moss garden.

I want to go to Kyoto both during the summer and in the fall. I've heard it's very beautiful in the fall!

Near Kyoto is Nara. I want to go and feed the deer, like this woman.

It has a cool ferris wheel, a ramen museum, and Chinatown! It's close to Tokyo so it's not far!

This area is north of the Izu Peninsula. There are a lot of hot springs and you can walk around areas with a lot of steam coming up out of the ground. It looks cool!

I don't have a specific reason for wanting to go to Osaka really. Well, it's just crazy so I guess that's why.

The Yamanashi Prefecture is north of Mt. Fuji. It has an area known as the Five Lakes (well at least that's what it's known as in English) and has great views of Fujisan.

Climb Mt. Fuji
I really want to climb Mt. Fuji and see the sunrise. I've heard that it is a strenuous hike, but you don't have to like really climb or anything. So you have to be in decent shape, but not like train a lot to do this or anything like that.

Okay, now for the places that are way out of the way and expensive to get to... they're so cool though... I want to go!

Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido, the most northern island of Japan. Every February (I think...) they have a snow festival with MASSIVE snow sculptures. I have no idea how they make these!

This island is one of the most southern islands of Japan. It would be very nice during Christmas break! There are pretty beaches and an awesome aquarium.

I didn't find out about this place until today when I was looking around "Yakushima is a subtropical island off the southern coast of Kyushu and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is covered by an extensive cedar forest that contains some of Japan's oldest living trees. Trees more than 1000 years old are affectionately called yakusugi (a combination of Yakushima and the Japanese word for cedar, sugi), the most ancient of which may be over 7000 years old. "

It's so far away! Though not as far as Okinawa, but I'd still have to take a plane. I doubt I'll get to go, but it's soooo pretty!

This tree is known as Jomonsugu. "
Jomonsugi, the main attraction of Yakushima, is a giant cedar tree which scientists estimate to be 2000 to 7200 years old. Said to be the oldest tree in Japan, it dates to the Jomon Period from which it gets its name. It is not very tall, standing around 25 meters high, yet it has a massive trunk about 5 meters in diameter. "
2000 to 7200 years old is quite a range, haha, but either way... this tree is OLD!!!!

Well, there are many more places I want to go, but these are all at the top of my list. Oh, and there are more places on the Izu Peninsula I would like to see but I forgot to list them. I will try and visit as many of these places as I can! Hopefully you will see many pictures in the near future! :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Things I Miss and Things I Don't Miss

Things I Don't Miss

  • Driving: Even though the bus here is pretty inconvenient (the last bus to Toi leaves the train station at 7:45 PM, it's expensive, and takes fifty minutes to reach the station) I still don't miss driving. I can use my time on the bus and train to study Japanese, sleep, or just enjoy the scenery. When I took the slower, cheaper trains to Tokyo the trip took about four hours in total, but it didn't really feel that long. If I take the bullet train I can be there in about two and a half hours! The train makes traveling so easy. If I wanted to go to Tokyo tomorrow I could just hop on a bus to the station and go. I don't have to buy tickets ahead of time like I would for a plane ticket.
This map just shows the rail coverage of Japan Railways,
but there are many more local railways throughout Japan!
  • My Bed: I don't miss sleeping on an actual bed. Here I sleep on a fairly thin futon on the floor, but it's very comfortable! Plus, the covers I bought for it are Hello Kitty with strawberries. SUPER CUTE :)
  • Working at Walmart: Duh. I probably didn't even need to list that one. Would I rather unload trucks and stare at cardboard boxes all day or teach Japanese kids and play games with them? Hmm... let me think...
  • Being Short: In America I was short. Here, I am average size! Though I think I am still a little on the short size for my age group. There are a lot of old people here and they are really short. But still... I am not unusually short!
  • Food: I do miss a few things (a couple slices of Papa John's pizza and some mint chocolate chip ice cream would be pretty good), but in general I haven't been having like horrible food cravings or anything. In the grocery I can find basic things that I recognize like fruit and vegetables. Though I do eat some strange things. Lately I've been eating pasta with hot sauce. It's good though!

  • Forks: I don't even own a fork. I don't remember the last time I used one (oh never mind... I do remember. It was when I went shopping in Gotemba like a month ago). I don't have anything against forks, I just don't miss them. Everything I eat I can eat either with chopsticks or a spoon.

Things I Love in Japan
  • Scenery: I haven't seen a lot of Japan yet, but the scenery around here on this peninsula is super pretty! I can see mountains from my windows and can walk to the beach in about 2o minutes (plus I see it from the school everyday!). The shore is super pretty. This area is only 30 minutes away by bus:

  • Cute Stuff!!! There is tons of cute stuff in Japan. From bank mascots to candy packaging... there is so much cuteness! It's perfectly acceptable to have cutesy stuff danging from your cell phone even if you're an adult. It's awesome. My newest charm is... a Mt. Fuji cat!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Kotatsu: In case you have missed one of the many times I have said I love my kotatsu... I LOVE MY KOTATSU!!!! It's a heated table. It's awesome. Which reminds me... I love sitting on the floor in general. At home I didn't really like sitting in chairs that much when I was working on something. Whenever I would work on crafts I was usually on the floor. Now I have a table that I can use while I'm sitting on the floor... and it's heated!!!!! :) :) :)
  • The Randomness of Japanese Television: I don't usually understand what's being said, but I usually don't need to. For example I was just watching a guy jumping on a trampoline on stilts. Do I really need to understand the audio? Probably not.
Things I Miss
  • Dryers: I miss having a clothes dryer. When I do laundry here I have to do it early in the morning so that it can hang outside all day to maybe dry. Sometimes it's still a little damp at the end of the day. I have to plan when I do my laundry more than in the US. Back home, when I was running low on clothes, I could just do laundry and then dry my clothes and had clean clothes ready to wear pretty quickly. I can't do that here. I also have to watch the weather reports here to do laundry. It rains a lot so there are many days I can't do laundry.
  • Baths and Real Showers: Well, I do have a bath tub but it's pretty old and I just don't think it would be all that relaxing and I'd probably just feel gross. I miss regular showers because here I have to hold the shower head and that can be a bit annoying. Though, I do like my water heater. I have to turn it on right before I use it, but the water heats within seconds. It's super hot! I have never turned it all the way to the hottest setting. I think it might shoot out flames. I also have to then turn the heater off and turn off the gas when I'm done. It's an old water heater. Newer ones have sensors so that they shut off during an earthquake. Mine doesn't have that so I have to turn it on and off manually so that it's not on during an earthquake. But even though it's ancient, it works super well!
  • Being Able to Read Everything: In the grocery store this can be pretty annoying. I don't know what a lot of things are, I can't read the ingredients, and I don't know how to cook stuff. But I have found some things with really good picture directions (like different rice seasoning mixes and curry mixes) so some things are okay. The grocery store is the only place that I mind being illiterate (well, I can read a little). With other things like the bus and the train it's not a problem. As long as I memorize the kanji (the many thousands of symbols) for the places I'm going I can pretty easily read timetables.
  • Just Being Able to Throw Things Away: When I throw something away here I have to make sure to sort it correctly. The main categories I have to worry about are burnables, recyclable paper, plastics, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and glass. But there are many more categories. There are about 15 or more in total. I have a calendar with color coded days and different categories of trash are thrown on that day. I have a whole booklet about trash.

See, for example on blue days I can throw away aluminum and steel cans, electronics, batteries, and cardboard, but it all still has to be kept separate.

There is an index in the back. It's in Japanese though. However, I did successfully find "toilet brush." It had "toire burushu" or something like that written in Katakana (a Japanese phonetic alphabet).

Oh, and all the plastics have to be washed. I have to wash all my plastic wrappers, which is even more annoying than having to separate them. This trash system is probably a really good system and I'm sure it wastes a lot less than other countries, but it's still annoying to have to do.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Day At Kindergarten

Yesterday I got to teach at a kindergarten. Though I spent more time just playing with the kids than actually teaching. My schedule even had "play outside" written on it. Awesome. :)

I arrived at the kindergarten around 8:00 but the kids didn't start arriving until a little before 8:30. Once they started arriving I went out in the hall and greeted some of them that were running around and playing. Most of them were pretty shy at first and just stared at me. However, one boy ran up to me and grabbed my hand and dragged me up the steps. Then he dragged me back down the steps... then back up again...

Soon I had a meeting with the teachers. Like at most Japanese meetings I didn't understand most of what was said. I understood the most important part for me though and understood the times I was supposed to teach each class.

I didn't teach my first class for about another hour so I went to the five year old class and played with them (it was raining so we didn't actually get to play outside). They were still shy but I did manage to get a few of them to say hello to me. Many of them were sitting at a table folding origami. I pointed to some of the things they had folded and said what they were in English, such as "heart" and "star." Then when I started folding a crane that really got their attention. After just a couple folds they all knew what I was making.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to teach. First I got them to say "hello" and "good morning." As a class they were much more eager to speak English. Then we sang a hello song. Then I taught them the names of colors in English. A few students already seemed a little familiar with the English color names, but most of them didn't seem to know any of the colors. One student in particular was really good at English for his age. When the other students said, "White-o" he turned around and said, "Noooo! White!" I wonder how he's learning English because it's working very well!

After teaching them the names of the colors it was time for a color game! We played a common Japanese childrens' game called Iro Oni. I played music and the children danced around. When I paused the music they had to freeze and I would yell out a color. They had to run and find something in the room with that color and touch it.

They had a lot of fun with the game! Before lunch one of the boys from the class got on the intercom and talked about English class and I heard him say that Iro Oni was fun. :)

Next I taught the three year old class. The lesson was only fifteen minutes. It's probably good that it was only fifteen minutes because it was tough to keep their attention for even that long. When I first walked into the room a couple kids were already crying and many of them seemed distracted by their parents (it was a special day that they have three times a year when the parents come and watch the classes). I also sang the hello song with them and then I taught them animals. I'm not sure if they really learned the names of the animals, but they had fun running and jumping around acting like the different animals.

Then I taught the four year olds. I did the same things with them as I did with the five year olds. After that I went back to the five year old class for lunch time!

When I went back to the classroom they were not shy around me anymore. They were all pulling on me and trying to get me to sit at their tables during lunch. Two boys were arguing over who I would sit with. They played janken (paper, rock, scissors) to decide. The loser accused the winner of cheating and then they began punching each other and another little boy quickly jumped in between them and pushed them apart. One boy started crying. I thought it was pretty amusing, and so did the teacher.

I ended up sitting at a table with three girls and a boy. The two girls next to me were super talkative even though I didn't understand most of what they said. They didn't seem to understand that I don't know Japanese. They looked very confused when I didn't understand them. Though I did understand some of what they said. They talked about Heartcatch Precure, which is a popular girls' anime right now.

I figured I might as well put a picture of it. It's cute! Plus, this post needs pictures!

Anyways... the lunch was very good! I had a cheese sandwich, some soup with meatballs and carrots and potatoes, asparagus with little bits of ham, and pears. I don't usually like asparagus at all, but it was actually pretty good. Though several of the students didn't want to eat it. They're supposed to eat all their food. The teacher tried to get them to all finish their food. One little boy kept putting the asparagus in his mouth and then spitting it out. Another kid was just licking it.

After lunch they all brushed their teeth while the teacher played some really cheesy sounding song.

Then it was time for more playtime. I read stories to them. They kept bringing me books and asking me to read to them. I looked at the pictures and made stuff up. I also made stuff out of clay with the kids and had several of them dragging me around to show me pictures they were drawing. The boy who was good at English pointed at a lot of things and said what they were... mostly animals and food but it was pretty impressive!

At the end of the day they all sat at their desks and the teacher reviewed the day with them. She said various names of colors in Japanese and got them to say the English names. I could definitely tell a difference from the beginning of class that morning. So I think they actually learned something. Then a student went up front to lead the formal phrases they say at the end of class. It was the boy who was good at English. When they were supposed to stand he actually said "stand up" in English!

I followed the students to the front of the school where the parents came to pick them up. As the parents came and the students left, I said "sayonara" and then gave a high five and said, "goodbye!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Walking Around Toi

Today I spent the day in Toi. I don't have any money to travel anywhere yet so I took advantage of the nice weather to walk around the residential areas of the town. I went on some of the smaller streets that I hadn't been on yet. They looked pretty much how I expected.

Then on another street I found a shrine.

Then I found a temple. It was nice and had some ponds and pretty plants and stuff.

Off to the side there was a parking lot, which was mostly empty, and a stone staircase going up the hill. I could see a cemetery further up the hill and I figured that is where the staircase led. Towards the top I could continue taking the stone staircase to one part of the cemetery or take a short grassy path to another part.

The cemetery was a lot bigger than it looked from below. It was a lot like a maze and it was tricky to find my way through it.

I eventually made it over to the area you can see in the picture below. Then from the top of that area I could see even more of the cemetery!

The views at the top were really pretty!

I saw beer cans on a lot of the tombstones (I'm not sure what they're called in Japanese). I need to look up stuff about Japanese cemeteries to find out the meaning of some of the things I saw. A lot of the stones also had small brooms and bottles of cleaning supplies tucked away behind them. I guess when families visit the cemetery they also clean the tombstones.

There's the ocean!

I was really surprised that I had not noticed this cemetery up on the hill yet. But then I noticed that it's mostly hidden by bamboo.

After the cemetery I went to the beach.

I stopped in Seven Eleven to get some water and a snack. I got some grape ice cream. It was kind of icy like sherbet but had a creamy taste like ice cream. It was very good though!

Then I followed the main road and found out that there is a large sidewalk along the road.

The views were really pretty along this road!

I shortly made it to a small town just north of Toi. That area is called Odoi, but I'm not sure if it's actually a separate town or not. I actually saw one of my students there.

I made it to the beach and was about to head back but then I saw this sign for a hiking trail. The map showed that I was on it and I wanted to figure out where it led next. However, I wasn't really sure where to turn and ended up at the end of a dead end street. I was about to turn around when a little old lady was coming towards me and saying something to me.

I couldn't really understand any of what she was saying. She kept pointing at my cell phone (I had it in my hands because I had just been taking pictures). She seemed very confused and I think she thought I was lost, especially since she had seen me get to the end of the dead end road and look around before turning around. So I tried to explain what I was doing there in my very broken Japanese. I said "sampo" which means a walk. Then I said, "umi" and "sasshin" which means "ocean" and "pictures." She didn't seem to understand at all.

Then she told me to wait there. She hobbled into a nearby building (a hotel I think) and I could hear her yelling, "Konnichiwa! Konnichiwa!" Then she came out with a man with her. He came up to me and seemed confused. He asked if I was okay. I said I was. He asked if I was taking a walk. I said that I was and was taking pictures of the ocean. He laughed and then turned to the old lady and told her that I was okay and that I was just taking a walk. She didn't seem to understand him either. Then he realized she was hard of hearing. So then he was speaking very loudly into her ear and had to repeat himself many times. No wonder she didn't understand me.

I'm not sure if she ever understood because she continued to keep saying the same thing over and over to him. He continued talking to her for a little bit and he smiled and motioned for me to go on. I think he was keeping her distracted so I could leave.

I headed down another street to try and find the trail. At a distance I saw that lady again though so I just turned around.

There's the map of the trail I never found.

I was pretty tired of walking by then anyways, so I headed back to Toi.

Here are a few more photos: Around Toi

I just added them to an older album. The new pictures start with photo number 45.