Monday, April 16, 2012

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kawasaki- Daishi, Yokohama, and the Marine Festival

This past Monday (Marine day), I went to two different festivals (sort of). Monday was a national holiday for Japan known as Marine day. Marine Day according to Wiki:

"Marine Day" was declared a national holiday in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan. First observed on July 20, 1996, the Happy Monday System (ハッピーマンデー制度 Happī Mandē Seido?) legislation moved the date from July 20 to the third Monday of July from 2003.

I decided to take advantage of this and go to the "festival" being held in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama (or what I like to refer to as downtown Yokohama) and the wind chime festival being held in Kawasaki- Daishi.

When I got off the train, the environment was a little surreal. It almost felt like I was back in Kyoto. Kawasaki- Daishi is a very traditional area that is mainly comprised of the Heiken-ji temple complex. Every year, Heiken-ji has a wind chime celebration, and I toted myself out there to go see it.

The main shopping strip was pretty filled with people. Every where you looked, there was food and traditional items being sold alongside the wind chimes.

The temple complex itself was packed with people. This is a view of the complex looking down from the steps of the main temple building. You can see the smoke from the incense "cauldron" in the center of the image.

As with every celebration in Japan, there is a TON of delicious food being sold. I indulged in strawberry shaved ice and okonomiyaki (a type of egg omelette).

All in all, the wind chime festival was awesome. I only stayed for a couple of hours as there wasn't much to do, but it was still really cool to go see. I also compiled some short video clips together that I took while I was there.

After the wind chime festival, I headed south towards downtown Yokohama to see fireworks and the events being held at the Marine festival.

Monday was the last day of the 3 day long festival and there were supposed to be fireworks and a lot of performers and cool things going on. The fireworks never happened (they were cancelled for some reason) and there really weren't any events going on either. The official website, which can be found here:, lied. Not knowing the fireworks had been cancelled, I knew I had to kill some time to wait for them to happen. The Pokemon Center of Yokohama was having a little festival as well, so I decided to head towards Landmark Tower. First, I passed through Cosmo World, seeing as I had never been there.

Pictures weren't really allowed in the area (to my knowledge), but I snapped a quick one with my phone. I bought a cute little clutch that I now keep my phone and flip cam in alongside my key and passmo, and they were handing out free shitajiki (pencil boards) at the entrance. The Pokemon Center in Yokohama is just as awesome as the one in Tokyo. Also very cool is the Moe Garden shop next door and the Jump Shop. The Moe Garden sells all Studio Ghibli items and the Jump Shop sells all Shonen Jump things. Pretty cool and very moe. :3

After leaving the Landmark Tower, I stumbled upon another magic show going on (this was actually the 3rd one I saw in a day). Magic shows in Japan are quite different than ones in America. Here, they comprise of magic, balancing and juggling acts, and small feats of acrobatics. They also typically have some sort of balloon animal routine involved. I guess they are more like jack-of-all-trade shows, really. This guy had a huge audience though. I didn't really stay to watch. :/

After all of that, I waited around 2 hours for the fireworks to start, which never happened. The Marine show pretty much was a bust, but it allowed me to see parts of downtown Yokohama I had never been to before. I did take a series of videos though.


On July 9th, I visited my friend (and fellow AET) Matt in Hadano. Hadano is smaller city southwest of Yokohama. Matt and I got to know each other through facebook when we both found out we were going to be in the Kanagawa branch of Interac. We sorta had orientation/ training together and have off and on chatted on Facebook, but this was really the first time we were able to hang out and just talk.

This is what his area looks like near the station:

I arrived a little after noon and headed up to his apartment. View from near his apartment:

Matt made delicious banana and almond pancakes (I helped :3) and afterwards, we headed out to walk along the river.

The walk along the river was around 2 miles, but was quite beautiful.

After we made it to the train station, I realized my passmo (train pass) was missing. I paid for a ticket back to Matt's station anyway so we could talk to the guy at the Information desk there, but they hadn't seen it. So, we walked back to his place and I dumped out everything that was in my bag. My passmo really wasn't there. At that point, he had to go to his kendo class and I decided I'd take another walk along the river to look for my pass. After walking along the river again, I couldn't find it. I talked to another guy at Hadano station this time, and he told me that since my pass was registered as a Teiki in 2009, that it was registered in their computer system. He kindly helped me fill out a form and gave me a slip of paper to show to the Tokyu desk the next day in Yokohama. I ended paying 1,000en, but I had almost 5,000en on the card. So, I didn't end up losing all of my money that day. Thank goodness! All in all, the trip was worth it. I really enjoyed visiting Hadano and would like to go back there to go hiking or maybe go to an onsen.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tokyo Journeys

So on 6/25 I met up with Alison from We had a fun Tokyo shopping day. First we met up at the cosplay bridge in Harajuku (since she was coming from Kimitsu and I from Yokohama), wandered into several lolita and music shops and I bought a cute dress (MAM) because Closet Child was having a sale. :D

Afterwards, we went to Shibuya, shopped around a little there and got some food over at Outback.

I'm proud to say that the screens are now back on in Shibuya. The last time I was in Tokyo was only a couple weeks after the earthquake. Now, it feels like Tokyo has gone back to normal (as normal as it can I suppose).

The effects of the Tohoku tragedy are still quite present. At Hachiko crossing there was a nuclear energy protest that we stumbled across. There were hundreds of people there with signs and flags. I took some video too.

On a more random note Alison and I stumbled across this van in Shibuya outside the Tower Records. I don't even know why there was deer puppetry happening in the window.

The Tower Records was also decked out in AKB48 everything!
After lunch and shopping in Shibuya, we headed up to Shinjuku to check out the lolita shops and record shops there. I got an A Knot DVD (Dir en grey) from one of the shops there. Then it started raining and we parted ways to go home.

While walking around Tokyo, I found some graffiti too. Happy to see some Fairey.

All in all. I had a ton of fun. We are planning another Tokyo meet-up in August. :D

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feeling the heat

So here it is. I'm playing catch- up again. I'll just get right into things.

Rainy season has been pretty light this year, which might sound good to some, but other (such as myself) that just spells bad news. The rain doesn't just bring humidity, mold, and the dreaded ごきぶり (cockroaches), but it cools the otherwise hot summers in Japan. It has been pretty hot here (in the low 90 temps) in Yokohama some days. Doesn't sound so bad compared to the 100+ temps in Texas right now, but they have air conditioning in their buildings. Two little wall fans in each classroom filled with almost 40 students isn't cutting it. In fact, there is a rule at me school that they have to do mandatory tea breaks once durign each class to prevent heat exhaustion. Crazy. This is my first Japanese summer and definitely won't forget it.

The good news! I can wear more casual clothes thanks to the heat and the government's "Cool Biz" campaign. A lot of the teachers come in t-shirts and jeans (though you won't see me doing that). I can also bring a water bottle around the school and connect with other teachers and students by joining in the chants of "熱い” (it's hot!). I also now have this hot pink towel I dampen with water that keeps me cool and gives me bonus points for knowing some common Japanese knowledge of a way to keep cool in the summer. This will be over with soon and I can have cold weather again.

Also connected to the weather is the fact I've had a sunburn for almost two weeks. It sucks. I did, however, learn about buying sunscreen and Aloe in Japan and how vastly different the two products are from their American companions. First, I discovered both are very watery here. Aloe doesn't even come in a gel in Japan. It is more of some green, watery mixture. Sunscreen comes in an aerosol can or in a bottle. Remember those large bottles of sunscreen you can buy in America for around 4$? Think of the travel size of that same sunscreen and that is the normal size of the sunscreen bottles here. The cost runs about the same cost for 1/3 of the size (400¥ to 1000¥ pending on the store and brand). Through experimentation I've discovered the aerosol cans don't work for me. They are a waste of money (hence why I'm burnt). Nivea has become my staple sunscreen. It's not too runny here.

In other not related to summer news, I've started taking basic Japanese classes though Maxceed (Interac). They are every Tuesday night and are progressing quite well. Last week we learned から (from opening)and まで (to closing). After the lesson I made it a goal to try and find the Aloe I needed for my sunburn. The store clerk from Family Mart told me that they didn't have any Aloe, but Create (a drug store up the street) should sell it. Since it was around 9:00pm, I asked what time Create closed. Needless to say, I felt accomplished being able to use the lesson I had just learned less than 30 minutes prior and the store clerk understood me.

Check the next update for my Tokyo trip I took the end of June.

Monday, June 13, 2011

BOBO!!! ( ・∀・)

AH! It's rainy season! You know what that means? I have to get creative with doing laundry indoors! My clothes take about 2-3 days to dry pending on thickness due to the humidity, but at least they are getting clean! Fwooh!

In other news! Meet BOBO!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Official!!

It's summer time! Funky new teas like Green Apple and Brown Sugar Milk Tea are now out! Also- the Ajisai have started blooming! YES!