Tag Archives: Tokyo

Another catch up and a visit to an onsen during Golden Week

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Yet again I’ve been slow on the updates, though for good reason. The lovely new laptop I had brought out to me had a fit of selfishness and drank my cup of hot chocolate one evening so I’ve spent a little while laptopless again. I am now an expert a keeping myself amused without it. It was a good thing I decided I was going to read my way through the entire works of Terry Pratchett while I was here (thank you Kindle). So now I have yet another new laptop, and it has a snazzy Japanese keyboard, unfortunately I’ve had to transfer the settings into English so it actualy doesn’t work as a Japanese keyboard now but as a British one (going to involve a lot of stickers when I get back unless I switch it over when I get back).

So, things I haven’t yet talked about on here…

Despite it now having been a very long time ago, At the beginning of May we had a week of holidays that’s known in Japan as Golden Week. So, we had a sort of half term basically. Usually Japanese people go off on Holiday during this time, but as all the prices for travel and hotels etc go up during this period, us poor, exchange students didn’t really go anywhere outside of Tokyo and it’s immediate area. Though we still had fun. On the first day I arranged a trip to Oedo Monogatari Onsen in Odaiba seeing as a fair few of us hadn’t yet visited one. It’s a very tourist style Onsen and it’s set up to try and create a feel of how Tokyo would have looked when it was still Edo. We visited after six in the evening as it was a lot cheaper and spent about four hours there. I had a little drama where I thought I’d lost my shoe locker key (turned up in the lining of my bag AFTER I’d paid the fine for losing it, thank you refunds though) but over than that it was a really nice experience.

There was one main room of baths, there was a separate room for men, and they had a variety of types, temperatures, some outside and even a sauna and steam room. First of all we had to choose a yukata thing to wear around the Edo style street, so we went into the first changing room and took off everything but our underwear and then put the yukata on. After that we had a quick stroll around to find everything and then went to the main bath rooms. There were also over things offered such as massages, a sand bath, the doctor fish thing and so on, but you had to pay an extra fee for those. We’d all gotten over the whole ‘oh god we’re naked in front of each thing’ a while ago so there was no shame after leaving the second changing room being completely starkers. Seeing as this was a more tourist place there were other foreigners there, and luckily no one making a scene being all ‘people are looking at me’ blah.

Before we got in the baths we had to have a shower and make ourselves clean, so we enjoyed the very nice quality shampoos and soaps available and then got on with bathing. They gave us this little towel as well, which I didn’t really understand as it wasn’t big enough to preserve modesty and there wasn’t much point in drying yourselves in between baths, so maybe it was just to keep your hair out of the way. Dunno. But the baths were really nice, though some were a little too hot so we couldn’t sit in them for more then five minutes before you start to feel faint. Also the one hot spring bath they had there was about forty degrees and very brown, which I assume was due to the minerals etc in the water (at least I hope so). There was a bath of very cold water as well which you are supposed to use when you come out of the sauna but we just hopped in whenever we got too hot. Heh heh. I think one of my favourites was the ‘bed bath’ which is essentially a lie down jacuzzi. It was really comfortable and relaxing. After that we went back out of the baths, and tried the outdoor foot bath, it was quite cold out there so we didn’t spend too much time out there and also some of the pebbles and stuff they put in there, which I assumed was the stimulate circulation in our feet or something, were VERY painful so that one wasn’t our favourite. After that we had another wander around the street, ate an ice cream, drank some tea, Ollie bought a stress banana, and then we were all very sleepy at this point so we decided to head back. Definitley want to try and head to another Onsen before I leave and I recommend it to anyone if they get the opportunity to try it, just be aware that you get very sleepy afterwards so don’t plan too much stuff afterwards!

New Term at Hosei

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So we’re now halfway through the new term at Hosei, and it is becoming ever more apparent that my time here is running out, and doing so very quickly. This semester I’m still in level 3 Japanese classes, and am taking Japanese Theatre, Media and Modernity in Japan, Japanese Literature, a Shakespeare class and Task Japanese. So far I’m enjoying all of my classes, though I seem to be getting more distracted then usual. Guess that’s my own fault though.

We’ve even been on a couple of trips. For my theatre class we went to the theatre, and am going again on Saturday, but I’ll do a separate post for those as they’re worthy of some attention. And today we went to a print museum for my media class, which I didn’t have high hopes for, but when we got there I actually found it really interesting. We got to see replicas of lots of old monuments that were old/ancient ways of relaying information as well as getting to see all the print blocks for making newspapers/paintings and ukiyo-e (woodblock prints, think Hokusai). I want to go back again as I didn’t get enough time to look around, and if you go on special days you get to make you’re own print for free 😉 I likes making things I do.

Also we have a new set of exchange students joined to our ranks. We didn’t get any Australians which we were hoping for, but we have plenty of lovely new people instead so not really that upset. Haha.

And now I’m having to start thinking about my dissertation and collecting resources for it. Having emailed the Japanese Department librarian about my topics and if she knew if there would be any resources available for them I now have an idea of what direction I’m going in. So now just to get collecting… 0 resources down, 60 to go…… Wish me luck.

Playing tour guide and having friends to stay

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So, in March a couple of my friends flew out to Tokyo to see me. First to come Catt an old school friend from Tavistock and who I’ve known since Year 6. We’d both been to Japan together before as part of the exchange group run by our school (Tavi College, I love you despite, you know, the slight failing OFSTED thing…)  and so she seemed to be quite excited to come back and see Tokyo again five years on.

So, I had a new experience of not only hosting my friend, but doing so in a foreign country which made me feel very grown up and resonsible and OMG panic attack panic attack panic attack. Luckily Catt is very easy to please so I didn’t have to worry too much about ballsing it up. So she arrived at Narita to a lovely sunny day, and finding a slightly tired Jenny who had decided to get to the airport forty-five minutes before the plane landed, to find the plane had been delayed, and then that going through customs seems to take an age so ended up not seeing her friend until almost three hours after having arrived at the airport. It’s a hard life (I woke up at 6AM. 6AM!!! Being awake at that time should be illegal) After collecting Catt, we dumped her stuff at my dormitory, she gave me a load of goodies from home as well as my glorious new laptop. I survived nearly two months without a computer. I should be knighted. Took Catt to be fed at the ever trusty Jonathon’s (om nom nom pancakes) and then headed out to see the sights of Kasai (there aren’t many) checked her into her hotel and then hit up Harajuku. We wandered down the Takeshita dori, aka the street of insanity and clothes. However, the fashion in Japan lately is mainly garu, so everything is pastel with extra frills. Not really either of our styles. After going for adventures in a pastel and frilly floral land we emerged back at the station and went to go get some okonomiyaki which is just goodness in batter.

My memory gets a little hazy here of what we did exactly what day, been a couple of months since she was here. I’m getting old…. but I took her to see Hosei, we went to Yasukuni Shrine and the Imperial gardens, found another giant buddha statue somewhere in Tokyo, went to see my friend Izumi and his family on hina matsuri (girls festival) and got treated to some shabu-shabu (you have a pan of boiling broth and vegetables, and hold slices of meat in it until cooked and then gobble up the wonder you have just created), went to see the Ghibli museum, went shopping in the Disney Land plaza, went souvenier shopping in Asakusa, shopped in Shibuya, Odaiba and went touristy in Kamakura. We also went to see the Great and Wonderful Oz or whatever it was with Chiharu. A truly terrible film. Don’t watch it.

I’ve probably forgotten a few of the things we did, but still I did my best to show her a variety of things. She seemed to enjoy herself so I think I succeeded!

Inbetween friends I had a conference at Hosei with all my fellow sheffield-ites and got given a lot of information on a lot of things like dissertation and exactly what we need to know for the coming year. It was a bit of a wake up call due to having been taking my studies fairly easy whilst in Japan, but it was useful. Also got to go drinking with a load of British people again which was mahem I promise you. Izakaya rocks.

After the Sheffield conference I had a few days to myself and then my old uni housemate Abi came. I was a little worried about having Abi here, not because of her, but because where the hell was I going to find vegetarian food in Tokyo? Japan isn’t really a country that has vegetarian values, and unless it’s a really touristy place like Disney Land, a vegetarian option on the menu isn’t really an option. Also, Abi gave me a challenge. She wanted to see Japanese Nature. I live in Tokyo, where the only forests are made of concrete and the most wildlife are the odd pigeons that toddle around. So I set this difficult question to google and discovered a few things we could do. Phew! I took Abi to some of the same places as Catt such as Shibuya etc but also went to a couple of areas I hadn’t been before. For one we went to Tokyo Disney Sea, which was brilliant fun, if ever so slightly foot slaughtering. Found it a lot more fun than Disneyland as the rides were a little more teenager appropriate. One of the more terrifying rides was the Tower of Terror. I don’t like drops, and I point blank refuse to go on Oblivion at Alton Towers, so nope nope nope. However I thought I could manage this. Although when it came to our turn to ride, I suddenly came aware of the fact that I was bursting for the toilet. People who grew up with me will know, that I have never had a strong bladder. That paired with a ride that revolved around my worst ride concept of all time, well I feeling more than a bit skittish when I sat down to my impending doom. However I made it. Not only did I manage to enjoy it pee free, I didn’t scream in terror nearly as much as I thought. Also they had a fantastic Indiana Jones themed ride. It was so much fun, even more so that Sophie, Abi and I were getting rather into it while the Japanese people sat there in our fake jeep thing as though it was a real jeep and we were merely driving up the road in some pleasant hills. The waiting hours at Disney Sea for the separate rides are a bit longer than at Disney Land, so while I fully reccommened you go, be prepared to see queue times of three hours.

We also went to Mt Takao, my way of enabling Abi to see a bit of nature. Mt Takao is a couple of hours or so out of Tokyo, but is worth it if you want a day to escape the city. There are several trails which vary in difficulty and take you up various parts of the mountain. If you just want to go to the top and not have to hike up, you can get a cable car, but you know, wheres the satisfaction in reaching the summit then? Also there was a monkey park which we had been hoping to go to, but we got misdirected by a man who didn’t want to admit he didn’t know where the monkey park was and only found it on the way back down when it was closed. But it was a nice day in nature and clean air, and I even saw a real life tanuki which are actually quite cute unlike their creepy-giant-testicled-statue counterparts. I also managed to succeed in feeding Abi, with care we managed to find non-meat included items on menus and kept her from starving. Success!

While I won’t be offering my tour guide services on a professional level anytime soon, I now know I can convey people around a foreign city without getting ourselves totally lost. Achievement unlocked.

Been a while….

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Ook, been a a couple of months or so since my last blog post! There is a very good reason, one my laptop started showing syptoms of old age and I had assignments and exams to *ahem* study for (pleased to say, passed everything! Nasty Sheffield retake currently being held at bay) and then my laptop completely died at the end of January. Actually do a simple thing like open skype before it’d stop working. So I have been up to a bit since the winter holidays, here’s a quick summary:

Had Christmas in Tokyo with my sister, spent New Year eating nabe and Takoyaki and with all night karaoke, then went to asakusa for the first shrine visit of the year and then went over to one of teachers flats where we fed lots of lovely food, lots of our lovely friends who were only here for six months left us *weeps*, did aforementioned exams and assignments, slept a lot, Daishia, Sophie and I went to Nikko for a couple of days, slept some more, got ready for visiting friends, looked after visiting friends and had a conference at Hosei with fellow classmates from Sheffield and then collapsed in a heap in the mulch of my room which yets again needs a tidy and I’m yet again avoiding.

Also, the cherry blossoms have bloomed and then vanished, weather suddenly stopped being cold and spring seems to have arrived! England’s weather seems to have broken and is constantly snowing so I’m rather smug 8) And lots of new people have for us to make friends with! Whoot. Back to Hosei on Monday and the last four months of my time here will begin. Can’t believe how fast it’s gone!

Anyway, I shall go into a bit more detail on places I’ve visited in some other posts otherwise this one will end up being extremely long and I already ramble enough…

Oh, and I also turned 21! Yaaaaay.

The run up to Christmas!

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So it appears that this is going to be a monthly updated blog rather than the weekly one I had intended, but I’ve been so busy with uni work that I just never seem to have time! (more busy avoiding it rather than doing it mind…. though the pair of socks I’m currently making are flying along 😉 )

So recently in the life of Jenny: I have actually been conscious during two earthquakes now and so I can finally say I have felt an earthquake! Good thing or bad thing I don’t know, but still. The last one I felt actually made it onto British news which while I could definitely tell it was a proper quake and not just a tremor, I didn’t think it was big enough to actually be reported abroad. I have to say I was pretty unperturbed by it. I was more amused by watching the street light outside swaying to really be bothered by anything else. My friend who was having her hair cut at the time probably had more to be concerned about, but luckily the hair dresser stopped cutting while the earthquake took place. Could have been disastrous otherwise 😉

Something else that I’ve done this month was to go to Gonpachi, a very nice restaurant which anyone who has seen Kill Bill (I haven’t) should recognise as the scene where the main character has a fight with the Japanese girl was set in a location that’s design was based on  the restaurant. It was my friend Sophie’s 23 birthday so we all went to dinner to celebrate. The food was really good, though be careful of what you order as I at first chose a starter and what I thought would be a plate of beef skewers thinking ‘great I’m only spending £10!’ and got the starter and ONE beef skewer. In truth it was a very good bit of beef, but still… could have done with more as I ended up ordering the Unagi don as well (which was also very good, so I wasn’t too upset by having to order more food).

And the traditional Japanese dance that me Sophie and Daishia decided to go learn has finally resulted in us learning some of the dance. The first two sessions were orientation and learning how to put on a  yukata (which so far we all kinda fail at, and it doesn’t help that the three of us are too tall so we can’t really do the elegant folds in the middle or we’d be showing leg above the ankle. Scandalous! Also we don’t get to choose the colour of our yukata’s, so while I appear to be the only person wearing one like mine, it’s also a pale pink fairly similar to the colour of my skin so from a distance….. We all opted to learn the fan dance, and while it’s very elegant the prompts are interesting. ‘Ooo, you’re gazing into the distance because you’ve seen a big mountain’, ‘You’re tilting your head so because you’re looking at something beautiful’ (tbh, it’s more amusing heard in Japanese).

At the moment I’m getting myself ready for my two weeks off. We don’t get holiday until the DAY of the 25th of December, and I have an exam on the 24th! Tsch. But still, if you go to a country that doesn’t really do Christmas then what do you expect? Here Christmas is more like Valentine’s Day and is a couple’s day. I’m more looking forward to New Year anyway, and I’m hoping to find a fairly affordable yukata for it so I can do it properly! (talking of New Year, we were making New Year cards in class today, and it proved that if you give a bunch of 20 something year olds paper, glue and stickers that they instantly revert back into children) If anyone in the UK would like a Japanese New Year card, let me know and I’ll write one up for you! There is actually an ettiquette to writing these. They HAVE to be written in pen and in your neatest writing. If written in pencil it’s considered rude and as if you don’t regard the person you’re sending the card to very much. Sooooo, there goes the ‘I’ll write in pencil as my kanji still looks atrocious in pen’ idea…. And you have to include a New Year greeting, as well as a message that offers them the best in the coming year and then stick pictures of the animal that year it is next (next year is the snake!) and a ‘lucky’ object or something like that. But seeing as New Year is a much bigger deal here, it’s not really surprising that they have rules for these things.

Probably the highlight of my month, in all seriousness, was going to see The Hobbit. Thankfully it was released the same time here as it was at home so I didn’t have to wait for a couple more months, and that they show it subbed rather than dubbed (I could not bear seeing hobbits etc talking in Japanese!) and with the subs, it caused even more entertainment when we read some of the translations. What we deduced was that Japanese is definitely not a language that lends itself to Middle Earth. Tomo yo…….. 😉 But it was brilliant, Peter Jackson just managed to get it right. He changed things a little of course, but what he did change made sense to me and I love the way that he worked in the back story with the Necromancer. It was very clever and is useful to those who maybe don’t have a deeper knowledge of the stuff not included in the books know how LOTR came about. Though I won’t mention any spoilers and won’t get too carried away with it though I can’t help fan girling. I used to carry the book around with me when I was little and it was a very hard choice to leave my copies of LOTR and the Hobbit at home this year! *wipes forlorn tear from eye* But anyway, I digress and if you haven’t seen the film SEE IT IMMEDIATELY.

Anyway, that’s all for now! Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone (think of me when you’re eating your Christmas dinner with all the trimmings….) xxx

Nearly a month in…

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As of tomorrow I will have been four weeks! So far I’ve slept through more earthquakes, experienced a typhoon and probably know my way around shinjuku really well now!

Uni is going really well, though my language classes seem to be a bit on the easy side despite being the second highest. This weeks grammar homework is to switch dictionary form verbs into polite form. Something I’ve been able to do since I was 16… So looks like There is a lot of self study ahead if I want to get my JLPT 2 at the end of the year. The other classes all seem very interesting too. This semester I’m studying Japanese Thought, Culture and Society in Late Meiji and Taisho Japan, Classical Japanese Literature and Japanese Culture. These are all taught in English, apart from Culture where we have a really eccentric Japanese lady teaching us. She’s amazing!

Home life is going pretty well, but the Internet which started off slow is now pretty much non existent. Pretty sure the typhoon was to blame but it’s now ridiculous. Fee feeling tempted to complain to the dorm company as we’re paying   a monthly fee for this and it hasn’t worked properly for almost a week now.

Last Saturday was Celeste’s birthday so we went out for the day in Shinjuku. First we went to a cat cafe where you basically pay ten quid to go sit with cats for an hour. While cat’s aren’t my favourite thing, some of them were pretty cute. After that we went to ‘Sweets Paradise’ which is an ‘all you can eat’ cake shop. It was pretty awesome, though a bit cake overkill. So after eating a lot of cake we went to Meiji jingu, via purikura machines. Meiji jingu is a really big shrine, built in, surprise surprise, the Meiji era! There are a lot of trees and grass so it was a nice change of scene! There were a couple of Shinto weddings going on while we were there too, though I got told off for taking photos by a security guard, despite being surrounded by other people taking photos. I was little put out by that as I don’t know why he randomly picked on me. We then went home and got in our pj’s and got PIZZA! And beer. We also watched A History of Violence which was an absolutely terrible film. Don’t watch it. The dialogue made me cringe.

Also, I have a phone! A phone that makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time, but still a phone!!! Image

My sister coming to visit and starting at uni!

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Later that Friday evening my darling sister came to visit me! I went to meet her at Haneda airport after finding a really convienient bus service straight from Kasai to it. Although I got a bit confused when I got to the station as I couldn’t for the life of me see where stand 13 was. So I asked a lady whether she knew where it was, and instead of just saying ‘no’ she took me over to a group of girls, asked them if they knew, and when they didn’t, she took me to the information desk and asked them, and then pointed me in the right direction. How nice was that?! So after a relatively short journey to the airport (so much better than the journey from Narita to the dorms!) I was reunited with me sister! We went straight to Nishi  Kasai, where her hotel was, and walked around it a little, aka we got lost on the way back to the station. But we did get chatted up and asked to go for drinks by this fairly nice chap, but unfortunately I have curfew sooooo… 😉

The next day I went to meet Emily at Nishi Kasai and we headed to Iidabashi so she could see Hosei.  Then we went to Shibuya, and they had an H&M. Omg, EUROPEAN CLOTHES SIZES. So we got excited about that. We also went in 109, the fairly famous department store. It was loud. And cutsie. We didn’t stay that long. After that we were a bit tired and so headed back, though not before we got film for the awesome polaroid camera she got me for my birthday (my birthday was in January btw). We went back to our separate places for a rest and then met up again for dinner. I noticed a steak place on the way to the station, and remembered where it was as I know Emily likes steak. So, I found her, and somehow I managed to get lost. Again. Funny seeing as the steak place is literally on the way down the straight road from my dorm to the station. But the steak was good.

On Sunday we went for breakfast, along with Daishia and her friend, and I had PANCAKES. Nom nom nom again. Then we went to my dorms as Emily wanted to see them. After that we went to meet Izumi, who Emily stayed with when she went on the exchange. He took us to see Sky Tree, but we went in the building next to it as it’s free and still offers a pretty good view of the city. We then went back to his home and met Mizuki and Mikako there. Takumi came with us earlier. We were fed some very nice cake, though unfortunately at this point I was developing a head ache so wasn’t the liveliest I could have been. They then treated us to dinner, which was really good, and then they dropped us back home.

In the morning we met again for breakfast, I may have had pancakes again, shush! And we went and had a wander around Minami Sunamachi and then headed back to Kasai to get to the airport. Unfortunately the next bus wasn’t until too late a time so we had to get a taxi. However the taxi driver was really nice and didn’t seem to mind that we had no idea which terminal Emily had to fly from. We got there in time, and parted ways! She’s coming back in a month, can’t keep her away.

So I headed back and found myself in a quiet dorm as everyone had gone to a pool party. I hadn’t wanted to go, mainly as although being a ‘pool’ party you weren’t allowed to swim and that I would be getting there after the free entry cut off and I wasn’t paying! So I took the afternoon to chill, get myself organised and do laundry. It was actually really pleasant! I later went out to get tea with Rachel, and then came to find the others had returned and were playing spoons. I like spoons.

However the next day, I found my streak of being the only one without mosquito bites had ended. Lo and behold five beautiful red blotches had appeared! They’ve not been too badly itchy and seem to be reacting well to sudocrem. God bless sudocrem….

And off we went to uni! I hadn’t quite chosen which modules I wanted to do yet so I was going to any I liked the sound of. First was Culture and Society in Meiji and Taisho Japan, and having gone in thinking I wouldn’t do it, I came out with the opposite opinion. Me, Celest and Ollie took a trip to the uni stationary shop and picked up some supplies and then tried the uni canteen food. While being nice, it is a tad pricey for a student budget. After that was Japanese Conversation class. Which was okay, however we had the really really quiet talker from the interviews so we really had to pay attention! Which was probably a good thing. And after that was cultural diversity, which again was very good, but as I was running on 4 hours sleep due to jet lag once again rearing it’s ugly head, I found it hard to focus and had to keep myself awake!

Today I had Classical Japanese Literature, which seems like it’s going to be a fantastic class! But also like it’s going to be a lot of work. So as I really want to do that one I have decided to drop the other literature modules I was going to do and do some of the other cultural ones. Otherwise there would be far too much reading to do!  Also Japanese Composition went really well. However it does seem to be a lot of grammar we’ve done before, so it is a bit of a concern. Especially as McAuley emailed the other day and announced we have to pass JLPT 2 this year AND learn all 200 jouyou kanji. Great….

Later me and Sophie went to Shinjuku to try and find the Tale of Heike book that Nelson (the C.J.L professor) wants us to use. We found the amazing bookstore, going off station maps and my vague memory of going there once with my friend Emma five years ago on the exchange. It made me feel old… But once we got there, not only was the book not there but it was ridiculously expensive. So we decided to Amazon it later. I did however stand there drooling over a copy of The Tale of Genji which I really had to stop myself from buying. And then I found the pillow book and various other translations of the classical texts we’d been translating in Tranter’s class last year. I felt a bit sorry for Sophie who had to stand and wait for me to finish being a traditional story nerd. We then bought post cards so that it wasn’t a wasted trip.

We got back and had some really nice food. Got to love the free food provided by the dorm! We then looked at Heike Monogatari on Amazon, and decided to do a group order with Lera to save on shipping costs. However, even using the Japanese site, it turns out that the books won’t arrive until two weeks after the start of the course. So after some emailing, Tanaka, our ESOP coordinator, has offered to order them for us.

Also it rained today. My natural habitat 😉