Friday, 26 November 2010

Christmas Time in Tokyo VS. Christmas Time in Newcastle.

Update is needed.

So this post is probably going to seem a little premature, considering its only the 26th of November and there are still what like, 29 shopping days left till Christmas. But England has SNOW! And everyone is so excited and feeling all Christmasy and I'm feeling a little left out!!

So I received this picture yesterday from Chris ♥. If It looks like it was taken right by my house. How exciting, all that snow!!
So much snow at home in Newcastle <3

I then had a lovely conversation with a friend of mine yesterday about which Wellies (a word the Americans here find hilarious) she should buy to combat the bad weather. I even heard that some schools and roads were closed, I think England's been caught a little bit off guard by this, apparently the earliest snowfall in 17 years! Surely it can't be as bad as last year. Still its nice to see that England is getting ready for Christmas. 

It's a little different here in Tokyo. As you know, I'm currently in the middle of my 秋休み (akiyasumi -autumn holiday). The colours on the trees are beautiful right now so many people spend their free time visiting beautiful scenic areas. This is a photo of Nikko National Park.  Nikko is famous for its beautiful autumn foliage (or 紅葉-momiji). I was actually planning on travelling here for autumn break but it turned out to be too expensive and quite difficult and we didn't have enough people to go.  It's now past the peak time for viewing the autumn colours, but I hope I can visit here sometime anyway. If your interested in seeing more pictures, click here for the website I got this image from, it has a lot of nice pictures.

紅葉 at Nikko

The weather here is still very mild, a nice 15 degrees usually and most days I go out without a coat. A little different to England's cold snap right now.

I received a few other photos from home this week. This time from my mammy. They were photos of Fenwicks Window. For those who aren't familiar with this; it's a mechanical shop window display in Fenwicks which tells a Christmas story. They have it every year and its kinda a big deal because there are only a few Fenwicks stores within the UK, Newcastle's being the biggest and the only one to have the window display. I remember a few years a go the story was a bit ridiculous and involved aliens, but this year it seems very traditional. From what I can see it looks like its based on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer?

Though there are a few Christmas Trees here and there, Tokyo does not have anything like Fenwicks window.

Actually Christmas is celebrated quite differently in Japan. On the whole its seen as a couples holiday. I have heard my female Japanese friends here talk of how めんどくさい(mendokusai - bothersome) it can be if you are alone at Christmas, because everywhere you go there are couples holding hands and smooching. URGH!
Kids still receive gifts in Japan, but they don't give them; as the gifts come only from 'Santa' (I recently discovered its very Northern to just say Santa...but you know what I mean... Farther Christmas/Santa Claus/ Saint Nick). Also instead of Christmas Day, the main celebrations seem to take place on Christmas Eve.

A Christmas cake in Japan is not a boozy fruitcake topped with marzipan and icing, which can feed you for the whole year. A Christmas cake in Japan is basically a strawberry shortcake that's eaten on Christmas eve; plain sponge, whipped cream and topped with strawberries. We are contemplating buying one for our flat from Cozy Corner, take a look...

They're cute right.
Thanks for reading :) x

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Nothing can cheer you up like a package from home :)

Thankyou Mammy!!

歩こう、歩こう、私は元気...err, ok maybe not

Thank god this week is finally over. We have the day off tomorrow for a 'reading period' and it being my first reading period (Edinburgh never gives me one, although some other courses get to enjoy a nice midterm week-long break), I would love to spend it how students are supposed to spend their reading periods; getting inappropriately drunk. (or so I'm told) But unfortunately I'm probably going to spend the day in the library working, or if this cold persists, working from my bed. I have two exams next week, one on Monday and one on Tuesday and thus far I have not had the time to prepare for them due to the fact that I've had a bit of a beasty cold and exams every day this week.

Right now I'm currently in bed feeling very poorly and very sorry for myself. I finished my speaking test today and it did not go as well as I would have liked. Keigo (honorific/humble Japanese) is a complete bitch! So I came straight back and rested. I am always in two minds about sickness...I'm always either thinking 'hey, its not that bad suck it up and keep going' or 'omg I feel terrible right now, I need to get to bed and stay there until this gets better'. I'm sure everything I've been doing this week, while I've been soldiering on has gradually been making me feel more ill so now I'm going with the later approach.

thats all very boring...

Last weekend, when I didn't feel like my tonsils were trying to crawl out of my throat and escape, I went to the Ghibli Museum. I know a few people who read this might not know what that is so the quickest way would be to show you...

What you just watched is a short clip from My Neighbour Totoro (となりのトトロ)in which the main character Mei finds Totoro. This is one of the most popular films made by Studio Ghibli. It was actually realised in 1988, which I was pretty surprised at. While I love Ghibli, I think The Little Mermaid (1989) is far superior in terms of animation. I always thought Totoro was a lot older until just last week. Nevertheless I have really fond memories of this film, the first time I saw it I was sat in my host family's lounge in Komatsu. I was so tired, and I remember they kept saying I could go to bed but I really wanted to finish the film.

If you didn't already know Studio Ghibli, you might now be wondering what's so great about going to the museum. Actually its pretty exclusive...

  • The number of tickets which allow you into the museum are limited so that the museum doesn't become too crowded and ruin your experience. 
  • The tickets are only available to purchase at certain convenience stores using a certain machine.
  • Tickets must be purchased in advanced, once you have bought your ticket you will find out the designated time in which you may enter the museum. There are several times throughout the day when you may enter but if you miss your time slot, too bad.
  • The Ghibli Museum has a small scale movie theatre inside in which they show short films which are EXCLUSIVE to the museum. 
We weren't allowed to take photos inside but here are mine from the day
Outside the Museum

Totoro admitting people to the museum. It was a lush day!

Check the sunshine!!

dont know these people...these a photo of my infront of here somewhere...

Some of the museum's buildings.

And again...

Waiting to get into the many kids.

The Cafe

There was actually a bit of a western theme, felt like I was in beamish! lol

Wholegrain rice and katsu curry :)

Awesome plate!

This was the most amazing cake ever!


My flags.

If I was taller this photo would have been nicer.
You can hopefully see the autumn colours in the trees in that last picture there. The trees are just starting to turn a lovely warm orange colour. Its still around 15degrees most days here...I here in England there is snow...what a shame! haha!

Thanks for reading :)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ueno and Ameyoko

This weekend a few of my friends and I took a trip to Ueno. This was my second time visiting Ueno, I'd been there as part of my Ramune class but that time it was raining and I didnt take an umbrella so I didn't enjoy it to much. This time it was nice and sunny and we were going shopping ^.^ yay!

We started off at Ameyoko. Ameyoko is a busy market street in Ueno, just behind the station. It sells a lot of fresh Japanese food, a lot of shoes and a lot of bags. I heard that it also has a lot of spices which are hard to find in Japan but I didn't find them while I was here. I'm fine with my cumin, thanks.
Ameyoko's entrance.

Busy shoppers checking out what Ameyoko has to offer.

I took this photo for my flatmate. She loves Rilakuma and I love Mameshiba. Also...CHRISTMAS MAMESHIBA!!

Will you buy....will you buy...will you buy my FRESH FISH!!

You can see how close we are to the train tracks right there.

A shop assistant trying to lure people in.
Something you don't see everyday, this is 酢だこ (pickled octopus)

Train tracks again.

 There are two stories about how it got its name; one suggests that it is short for 'Ameya Yokocho' (candy store alley) and the other claims that the 'Ame' comes from アメリカ(America), because a lot of american goods were once available here on the black market. Nowadays, you can still find American goods. I actually managed to find some zoo books and some rattlesnake heads but there were also guns, cowboy attire and even a t-shirt featuring Tweety Pie dressed as some sort of gangster. 
American goods at Ameyoko
Afterward we headed into Ueno park. Ueno park was founded in the Meiji period by a Dutch Doctor. When asked his opinion on whether he thought the area should be a Hospital or not, he suggested that a park would be a better idea as they already had everything that was needed for an excellent park. Thanks to him, Ueno park became one of the very first public parks in Japan. 

We were lucky enough to catch a few events going on, I think there must have been some sort of festival or celebration.
We watched this girl, skip whilst on a unicycle.

And we saw some 'british' people.
I think they were a comedy act, they were actually very funny. Water came from the top of their umbrellas and they shouted ridiculous things in English. 'Tenki wa very very very warui!! Oh they don't even understand Japanese!' was one of my favourites. Tenki means weather and warui means bad lol.

We also saw some acrobats. One of them made a tower out of 6 chairs then did some crazy handstand on top and the other had a pile of bowls on her head while some guy spun her round. I didn't get any photos of these unfortunately.

We also checked out the National Science Museum while we were here. It was pretty cool, I would recommend anyone who has the chance to go. They had dinosaurs and of course this made me happy. Also its free if you have an ICU student card so that's always a plus :).

Oh, and I'll leave you with this photo, taken outside my local KFC. The colonel is getting ready for Christmas already.

Thanks for reading :)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Homesickness. Lesson 1: How to keep your mind off it.

 Most likely due to my quiet weekend, I have acquired a little bit of homesickness. It was a total surprise to me but when it hit it hit hard. I wanted to eat a cheese savoury stottie from greggs, go shopping at the Metro Centre, walk the dog along the beach at Seahouses.I wanted to have a cuppa and a Tunnock's Tea Cake (not from newcastle but still northern!) And wanted to party in the third best European city for Nightlife, I wanted a skittles!  I swear being homesick turns you into some sort of obsessive, I don't usually want to eat pease pudding watch Auf Wiedersehen Pet! Still I've enjoyed listening to a bit of Sting and Mark Knopfler.


I looked out across
The river today,
I saw a city in the fog and an old church tower
Where the seagulls play.
I saw the sad shire horses walking home
In the sodium light
I saw two priests on the ferry
October geese on a cold winter's night
And all this time, the river flowed
Endlessly to the sea.


Pronunciation:  /ˈhōm-ˌsik/
Function: adj
:  longing for home and family while absent from them
home·sick·ness Function: n

On a more serious note, yeah, I miss my home and I miss my family, friends and my boyfriend that is true, but the way this seems to have effected me the most is by stripping me of my self confidence, some once everyday tasks have now became quite a challenge to me and I have found my self relying upon people from home for comfort quite a lot. Nevertheless I am determined to push through and overcome this obstacle. I'm going to try and turn this into a learning experience. 

Upon hearing I'm homesick, a lot of people have offered words of advice, one of the most popular ones which surfaces time and again is: 'keep yourself busy and keep your mind off it'. Luckily, something has been happening here at Global House recently that should do just that...


The game takes place over three days and it started at midnight yesterday. There are 41 players, each with a target, you must 'kill' (or tag) your target and make sure you get a witness to the assassination. Then your team receives points. The team with the most points wins, sounds simple I guess. So far its bloody terrifying! I've heard many stories of how in previous years people have assassinated their targets, hiding in cupboards, jumping from balconies and climbing through windows. All I can say is wish me luck.

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

October's Adventures

Ahhh!! ごめんあさい!!(SORRY!!) It seems that I haven't written anything here for quite some time. This week at ICU has been very busy. Though I haven't had midterms like most of the other students, I have had two speeches and a Japanese speaking test. TGIF, right? "So what have you done lately except school work?" I hear you beg. Well guys, what haven't I been up to!

One of my favourite recent adventures happened one quiet Saturday night not so long ago. I was just chilling out in my room when I received a text from a friend asking if I wanted to check out a local Matsuri (festival). Why not right? I had nothing else to do. So we quickly got a little group together and headed out. The matsuri itself was surprisingly not far, it was actually on the same block as our campus.We walked into the shrine but it was pretty quiet

As there werent many people there we thought that maybe we had got the time wrong, we considered going to a local conbini and getting some snacks or even just going for a walk around the area untill more people came and just as we were about to leave an old man approached us. He wore a blue jacket, (there must be a japanese word for this but I dont know it) and I guess that meant he was running the festival because there were a lot of old men dressed like this running around.

You can see them here, the kanji on the back of the 'jacket' says Matsuri.
He recognised one of the girls we were with who had visited the shrine earlier that morning as part of a class field trip and he invited us all to sit down. Then he brought over two huge bottles of beer and two plates of onigiri and dished it out to all of us. We were a little worried about how much this was going to cost us but we drank the beer and ate the onigiri and thanked him, for fear of being seen as rude 外人 (foreigners). When he returned a few minuets later with おでん (a popular Japanese winter stew) and handed them out we had to ask if there was a price for this special treatment but he told us it was free. After that I guess we couldn't complain lol. 

The old man and his festival friends gathered round us asking the same questions over and over in Japanese: Where are you from? America? Do you study at ICU? At least we had plenty of practice answering the questions correctly. After some time the conversation turned to the activities at the festival, the men started telling us about something that was about to happen which would involve bananas. As they were speaking Japanese in a form we had never heard before ( i guess it was very informal male language) we had had some trouble understanding them up until now but when we got to the bananas we couldn't help but think WTF! We thought we might have to bang bananas on a drum, or buy all of the bananas. Then we gathered that we had to shout 「はい!!百円」 (yes! 100 yen!) and then bang our hand on something. We did not understand in the slightest so we tried to explain to the lovely old men but I think they took this confusion to mean that we had no money and the next thing they knew they were pooling together to give us 100yen each. What the hell was going on?!

Finally the time came for the banana game and the men took us over to this stand.
My main concern was that if I did something wrong, I wouldn't be able to afford all those bananas.
Another old man to the left of the stage noticed we were 外人(foreigners) and offered further explanation by shouting: 「はい!バナナ、バナナ!分か? OK!」 which roughly translates to 'Yes! banana, banana, do you understand? OK'. Except we definatley did not understand. 

In the end it turned out that this game was a mock auction, in which the host would tell a story to distract the audience and then shout out random prices and the fastest person to raise their hand and accept the price would pay that price. The trick is to listen out for the low prices and avoid the high prices. It was fun once we understood and I think our group alone walked away with at least 60 bananas. 

Most Matsuri have a great selection of traditional Japanese fast food. 

This guy right here is making Takoyaki, its sort of like an octopus dumpling. Its tastes really good!
And this is a Yakisoba stall.
 The old men had fed us well with onigiri, oden and yakitori but I still had some Takoyaki because its awesome. Very had to eat 8 in one go though!

By this time the matsuri was getting pretty busy!

I've only been to two matsuri so far but they always seem to have a kids game slightly resembling hook a duck.

So what else have I been up to recently...hmm, nothing much. I guess I should just end my post here. Oh wait I went to Disney Sea. but you don't want to hear about that right? Haha can you tell that I'm still super happy that I was able to go? 21 years of life and I'd never been to Disneyland until last week, I honestly can't say I would have enjoyed it more as a child because tbh it was pretty frikkin awesome.

If that photo doesn't look like an advertisement for Disneyland I don't know what does!

We had to get up at 6am, to leave campus for 7 and get to the park at about 8.30 but it was well worth the early start. The park itself is split up into several sections, the themes are; Venice, 1920s America, Medieval times, Arabian Nights, The Aztecs,  Mermaid Lagoon, Cape Cod and Mysterious Island. The attention to detail is absolutley amazing, I hope you will be able to see from the photos. 

This is the castle area, can you see the big tower in the distance? That's the tower of terror - Disney's drop ride.

This is the central lake where all the shows are performed. You can see 'Venice' on the other side.

Part of 'Venice' and part of the Volcano

The Tower of Terror - 199ft of fun? I guess :|


We managed to go on four rides while we were there; Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Tower of Terror x 2. I had never been on a drop ride before the tower of terror and though the first time wasn't to bad the 2nd time left me shaking so I think maybe twice is enough for me. If you cant really tell how tall it is in the photos its 199ft. To put that into perspective, I heard that if it was 1ft taller it would need to have lighting on it so that aeroplanes would be aware of it. ...yeah. I have to say I did enjoy the other rides though.

We had fun doing other things too. Apparently the thing to do at Disneyland in Japan is to buy character ears and walk around wearing them all day, I went for princess Minnie.

Another thing about Disneyland over here is that they like their popcorn, in all different flavours and in different sized and shaped containers (that people don't mind paying £15 for lol). I opted to try the curry flavoured popcorn which is offered in the Arabian Nights section of the park, it was actually really good so much so that I might even try making it at home in the future. Curry powder + popcorn = tasty snack! They have other flavours to try in the park like black pepper, strawberry, chocolate, milk tea, caramel, etc. I tried the chocolate and milk tea but they didn't really compare to the curry. Next time I want to try strawberry!

Heres a few more pictures of my day at Disney Sea. My camera ran out of battery pretty quickly so a lot of these have been 'borrowed' from a friend :)

With some lovely friends of mine, another reason why we went last week was to see the Halloween decorations.

This actor was awesome. Terrible English accent, awesome insults.

We got to see one of the shows while we were there, how realistic is this unicorn please?

The Hercules Gospel Singers!
So that's all my adventures for now. Thanks for reading :) x