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

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! :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Japanese Kindergarten

Last Friday I taught at kindergarten for the second time. It was just as fun as the first time... maybe even more fun! Last time many of the kids were shy around me (though most of them warmed up to me once I had class with them) but this time they were excited to see me right away.

I was there from 8:00 to 3:30 and I only spent an hour and fifteen minutes teaching. Most of the rest of the time was spent playing with the kids. A few of the kids arrived a bit earlier than the rest and we spent a little while "cooking" cardboard doughnuts and cookies in the Hello Kitty kitchen set. As more kids arrived I was drug around a lot to look at different things. There were many times where I had kids pulling me in several directions at once.

One boy pointed to an object and said, "red!" I corrected him and pointed at the object and said, "blue!" Uhhh... it was yellow... lol... so much for teaching these kids English.

They pulled out a bunch of plastic food and asked me what each thing was called in English. They showed me a tomato and I said, "tomato." They started giggling like crazy. They started saying, "Toe-mah-toe" because that's how it's pronounced in Japanese. They just thought I couldn't pronounce it in Japanese. I tried to explain to them (in Japanese) that it's "tomato" in English and "toe-mah-toe" in Japanese, but they still cracked up any time I said "tomato." This happened with some other objects as well. It was pretty funny.

Eventually I actually did teach a lesson. My first class was the 5 year olds. We sang the Hello Song and played vegetable basket (which is the same as Fruit Basket, a popular children's game in Japan). Next I taught the 3 year olds. We played animal basket and sang Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Well, I sang it and they attempted to sing it. The words are too difficult for them, but they had a lot of fun and many of them still attempted to sing the song! I liked the 3 year old class better than last time. Last time several of the students were crying when I walked into the room and most of them didn't pay much attention. This time they all paid attention! :)

Next I taught the 4 year olds. When I walked into the room one of the boys had his pants and underwear down to his knees and he was laying face down on the floor. Once the teacher convinced him to get up and pull his pants back up, we began class. We pretty much did the same things as the previous class plus I read a book to them.

After classes were finished, it was lunch time! This time I ate with the four year olds. The students took turns getting their meals out in the hallway and carried them into the classroom. While this was going on I walked around and commented on how cute and cool their aprons were (they wore aprons to keep their clothes clean). One girl had a Sailor Moon apron. I haven't seen any little kids with Sailor Moon stuff because it's old, but I was excited. I pointed to the different characters and said their names and the girl looked clueless. Lol, I knew more about Sailor Moon than she did.

A few of the students fought over which table I would sit at but there was only room at one table so I didn't really have a choice. They still tried to pull my chair (with me in it) over to other tables though. I sat at a ridiculously small table in a very small chair. I'm short, but I still barely fit.

For lunch we had chicken, vegetables (cabbage, seaweed, and mushrooms), bread, and pumpkin soup. I got double servings of everything. The boy who sat next to me probably still ate more than me. He went back for 2 or 3 servings of everything. I was also surprised at how fast he ate! At my other schools all the students and teachers eat fast and I've sorta gotten used to that, but he was just soooooo fast though!

Eating with a bunch of 4 year olds is very amusing. Many of them showed me the super weird faces they could make. They would put their fingers all over their face, in their mouths, and in their noses, and pull their face into really crazy shapes. Some of them were pretty scary!

All the students are supposed to finish their food. Several of the students didn't want to eat the vegetables so the teacher walked around and shoveled the rest of the food into their mouths for them.

After lunch was cleaning time! We scrubbed the floor with washcloths. They just put their hands on the ground on top of the washcloth and push with their feet to scoot across the floor. I'm sure I looked pretty crazy doing this with all the tiny kids with my butt sticking up in the air, lol.

After that the students brushed their teeth and the teachers went through some announcements (I think) and then it was play time again! So I got to spend about an hour and a half making sushi out of clay and building cars of out of lego-ish blocks.

Then it was time for many of the students to go home. The parents picked them up. A few of the students stayed behind because it's also like a day care for the students with working parents. Then I had a meeting with several of the teachers about what to teach the next time I'm there. Sometimes figuring out things at the kindergarten is a little difficult because no one there speaks any English at all. But we still successfully picked a theme for next time... Christmas! :)

Right before I left, it was snack time. We had strips of sweet potato, vanilla wafer cookies, and tea. I loved it! :)

Overall it was a  lot of fun and the kids are SUPER cute! But, now I have a sore throat and a slight fever and I think I'm coming down with a cold. Whatever it is, I'm almost positive I caught it at the kindergarten. The kids are cute, but they are also gross. They pick their noses and cough all over the place and kept touching me and holding my hand. If I still feel like this tomorrow I'm probably not going to go to school. If I had junior high tomorrow it wouldn't be a problem, but I don't think I can handle elementary with this sore throat. :P

But maybe the experience was still worth getting sick... maybe...