Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Midterms and Normal Life

Hey all!

So it's been awhile since I've posted. There just has not been too much to write about. I'm really in the swing of things at the moment and there just isn't much to tell. That isn't to say I'm not having fun, I'm just not doing anything people would find exciting to read. I am having quite a fun time! I'm getting used to this new lifestyle. I am considering making a short "day in the life" sort of video. It's funny, I have gotten so used to things over here. I have had people from home and visitors from the USA ask me what I miss about home or how things are different over here, but I honestly can't say what's different anymore. I mean there are changes, definitely, but the small things I just can't remember. It just feels normal now. The weeks have been flying by and it's already midterms. Well, sort of. Unlike at home, there is no official midterm week (neither is there a spring break at the end of them). Last week we had a midterm presentation in my pronunciation class. In my Japanese society class a few weeks ago we had a review class of what we had done so far. In Kanji class we had a midterm test. This week in Japanese class we have our first oral test and first test in general (not counting vocab quizzes). In society class we are also starting our midterm presentations. Meanwhile in my literature class (and of course my other classes) we aren't doing anything different. It's kinda weird. It doesn't feel like I've been here that long, yet it's already June 14th!
I think one of the classes I like the most is my "traditional japanese arts" class. It is really interesting. The only thing I don't like about it is that it is completely in Japanese, and the students in the class and I do not really get along (so nothing new!). For awhile we were doing flower arrangement, which was a lot of fun. It was cool to see how flowers could become works of art. We just finished doing Karuta, which is a Japanese card game. I really enjoy the game, but it's not a game I could really play in America, simply because of a lack of people who could actually play it. The game has two sets of cards, ones that you pick up, and one that you read from. You have all the pick up cards scattered on a table and then you have one reader. They read the passage on the card and you have to find which hiragana on the pick up card. So, if you don't know hiragana it's kinda hard to play. We talked about another game in that class that you don't need to speak japanese for, so I'm hoping to find that.
Another kind of interesting (although I hate the class) class is my Japanese literature class. The only interesting thing I find in the class is the diversity in people. Our teacher is a lady from Germany and she speaks german, english, french, and japanese (maybe more). We have a fair amount of Americans, but we also have a few french people and two japanese people in the class. Everyone speaks English in the class, but since it is not their first language, they are allowed to answer in whatever language they prefer. So when our teachers asks a question, the Japanese ladies will answer in Japanese and then our professor will explain in English. Even though I do not really like the class (the teacher is just kind of mean and the subject matter is not that interesting to me) it is an interesting class to observe.

So that is basically everything that has been going on recently. Its the rainy season, but so far it hasn't rained much...


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Unzen Field Trip!


This past weekend we went on a field trip to Unzen national park. It was a way to get the freshman as well as new students together before the start of classes. The JASIN students (my program) and NICS students went first, as we did a little sightseeing before hand. We left early in the morning, around 8:50am. We loaded onto the bus and took an hour long journey to a little area with a beautiful view of the sea! They also sold fried potatoes and Castella Ice (castella cake with ice cream in the middle). After that we drove to a place where we ate lunch, that was also the site of a Volcanic natural disaster in 1993. The lunch was Japanese style, and I’m not sure what each food was. The houses that were at the location had been unearthed from the volcanic lava and are still buried. It was really interesting to see the raw destruction, yet the houses were still pretty much intact. After lunch we went to a museum about the volcanic eruption in 1993. It had a simulation room, as well as different explanations of volcanic eruptions and a cute little puppet show! It also had a beautiful view of the sea. Once we left there, we went to Shimabara castle. We were only there for about 45 minutes, but it was still cool to see the castle. They also had samurai gear that we could try on, which was a lot of fun. Also around Shimabara castle, there was a samurai village, although most of it has become more modern. It has a stream of water flowing down the middle of it that people used to be able to use. Some of the houses are still there, or have been replicated to look like samurai houses, complete with thatched roofs! After that we went to the hotel, which looked like a normal hotel on the outside, but on the inside it was a ryokan, complete with hot springs. We checked in, but then we went to a gym in town for icebreakers with the Japanese freshman. They were interesting activities that included matching number, balancing balloons, and popping the balloons. Then we headed back to the hotel for a traditional Japanese dinner. Afterwards was freetime. The gai dai staff had set up Karaoke and some games. We also had a chance to go to the hot spring in the hotel. The hot springs are so good for your skin. They did smell of sulfur, and the whole town did. It was part of having natural geysers within the city. We also were allowed to wear the Yukata that the hotel provided. Everyone thought that the hot springs would be awkward (as it is a public bath, although it is separated by gender, being naked around a bunch of people you just met can be weird), but it was a nice experience. We all just relaxed and socialized, at least that is what the women did. I’m not sure about the men.
The next day we got up early for breakfast and then had some free time to do what we wanted. If it hadn’t been so rainy and foggy, we would have been able to go to the top of the mountain. My friends and I went to see a temple with a mysterious carving. No one knew who it was or who carved it. Then we went to some of the natural geysers, but because of all the fog, it was hard to see anything. We had lunch at the hotel, and on our way home we stopped at (no joke) Obama. It is a town with a public foot bath. The water is really really hot though, so I could only keep my feet in for about a minute at a time. It was a really enjoyable trip!


Friday, March 31, 2017

Host Family!


I have been slacking a bit with blogging, but I have just been so busy! I'll try to do a little catch up, but my facebook photos should also explain a little! When we were in Kyoto, I got to see the outside of Nintendo! It was really cool! (Even though it was just a big white building...) I got to go to a studio ghibli store which was in a really cute little village! After Kyoto, we went to Fukuoka, which is in Kyushu! We only stayed there for a night though, but we tried this delicious restaurant that served you 10 courses! The sashimi we had was quite delicious and extremely fresh. How fresh? Well, the fish was alive before we got to the restaurant! The next two days we traveled around Nagasaki. We went to Glover Gardens, as well as the Peace Park and the Hypocenter of the Atomic Bomb. The hypocenter was very powerful. The destruction that occurred from the blast that killed thousands of innocent people was just horrid. I can write more about this, but I do not wish to anger anyone with a differing opinion.
After our last day in Nagasaki, we traveled back up to Fukuoka so that I could meet the rest of the JASIN (Japan Studies in Nagasaki) program students! Most of us are from around America, but we have a handful of students from France. A few of the American students had started a groupme chat (a sort of instant message app), so a few of us knew each other once we got here. It was kind of nice knowing people beforehand, as some of the awkwardness that comes with meeting someone for the first time. As with large groups, people tend to find friends with some and not as much with others. Generally though they are all pretty nice. We are all in the same boat, so to speak. We all try to help each other out.

Nagasaki in general is pretty nice. It is in the mountains, so like most buildings are part of a mountain. Kind of like West Virginia, but way more populated and smaller buildings.
As part of my commute to and from NUFS (Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies, also called Gai Dai by the locals) I have to take 2 different buses. My host mom went with me today on the way there (this whole week and next week are orientation), but when it came time for me to go back home I got a little turned around looking for the bus stop, so I asked the locals! I was told that they would be really nice, and they sure were! I asked a girl, who seemed about my age, where this bus stop was. She had me follow her, even though it was the complete opposite direction from where she was originally going. Then she asked these two older ladies if they knew where the bus stop was. They seemed to know (the language barrier was a bit hard), and they led me to where it was. The girl left at that point, going to wherever she was going to before. The two ladies walked me down to the bus stop and checked the times for me! They also read me the Kanji slowly, so that I would understand! Then they waited with me until the bus came to make sure I got on the right bus! I cannot believe how sweet that is!!!!!

So, my host family! My host mom is in her 60s, and she is super sweet!!! Her house is up on a hill, and has a really nice view of Nagasaki (I will try to get a photo sometime!). She is a vegetarian, although she eats fish (I think) and eggs. All of her meals are very healthy, as she cares about a healthy diet a lot!! Dinner last night was this warm egg custard with a whole bunch of things. It was also served with rice (which had seaweed, carrots, and other things in it). We also had snap peas, tomatoes, and for dessert, sour and sweet oranges (that was how she described them). For breakfast we had toast with margarine, a banana, tomatoes, 1 egg with mushrooms, and some other things, but I can't really remember. Tonights dinner was Shumai (I think), lotus root, spinach, miso soup, carrots, some kind of bean, and brown rice. I am really liking all this healthy food. Between the food and the amount of walking we do, we all joke that by the time we leave Japan, we will all be super fit and lose a bunch of weight!
My room is kinda tiny, but I really like it. My bed is a futon (not like a couch bed) on top of wooden pallets. It is taking some getting used to.... My floor is tatami mats, and she has given me a shelf (some decorations are on it), a desk with a cork board, a little lamp, and a calendar from tokyo disney land! The doors have a pretty design with flowers on them (I think). When I imagine a Japanese house, this room is what I imagine. It is very nice.
Japanese and American homes are quite different in many ways. Japanese homes have a place where you take off your shoes and put on slippers, the toilets are way different (and are never in the room with the bathtub), and the shower is outside the tub! I actually really like it. Their style of bathing saves so much water. I have yet to take a bath here, but I will soon! In order to use hot water, you have to push a little button to turn it on, and then turn it up a little. Another interesting fact about Japanese homes is that most Japanese homes do not have dryers! They usually hang their clothes up to dry outside or in a seperate room, even when it is cold out! They do have laundromats with dryers, but if you want laundry done in home, it all has to be hung up. According to my host mom, it kills bacteria better by drying in the sun. Its crazy how different it all is!!

Well, that is all for now! Tomorrow I have the Entrance Ceremony for NUFS!!!!


Links to my photos on Facebook:




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kyoto! (Day 1!)


Today we left the Ryokan and Hakone (😢 ) and went to Kyoto! We took a bullet train which lasted about 2 hours down to Kyoto! Along the way we got to see Mt. Fuji! It was so pretty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We saw it for a good 5 minutes. I got tons of photos and videos of it.

When we got to our hotel,  couldn't believe how big and beautiful it was! There is even a chandelier in the elevator. Oddly enough, there is a church that the hotel was built around just in the hotel. Apparently it is a popular wedding location. We walked around the town a little bit. It is odd to see a mix of the old and the new. For example, 2 minutes from our hotel is a perfectly pristine little temple, but surrounding it are skyscrapers. It seems so out of place, yet its a really nice place to be. It is quiet and serene.

I got to try a Japanese Onigiri (rice ball). It was only 100円 which equates to about $1.00. It was super yummy. We also stumbled upon some really cool shops. There was a bento shop that sold all sorts of bento boxes and supplies. It was super cool. We also saw a geisha walking around since we went to a geisha district. One of my favorite stores that we went to was called "Loft". On the main floor it had these cute little sushi plushes. I might have to go buy some of them soon. They were just too cute!!!!!! On the bottom floor was a whole bunch of anime stuff. I found some posit notes that I may just have to get! Kyoto's specialty so far seems to be laquer. A lot of the things are quiet pretty, but also quite expensive. For dinner we went to this place where you cook your own meat. It was quite spectacular. They gave us little slices of meat and a little grill to cook it on. We also got some veggies to go along with it. For dessert we went to a crepe place called Marion crepes. I got blueberry cheesecake crepe.
Cooking at the restaruant

The crepes

The church in our hotel


Sushi cuteness!

That is all for tonight!



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Second day at the Ryokan and time in Hakone


So today was a more relaxed day. The beds that we have in our room here at the ryokan are kind of uncomfortable, as they are just mats on the floor. I had trouble staying asleep, so I woke up at 4:55am.

I slept in the yukata they gave us because they are just so comfortable! I'm not sure why it is so comfy, but it just is.

Taking a bath at the public bath was a lot easier once I learned what it was I was supposed to do! It was also easier when there were no other people there. It seems like such a foreign thing, to bathe with strangers, but here it is just expected. The hot springs are really nice too. They have such a good effect on the skin! They have made my hair and my skin so soft!!!!! I believe that the little booklet that came with the room said that the hot spring baths (one outside and one inside) had alkaline and calcium sulfate, respectively. The stones they were made of were also "healing" stones used by the chinese. I am really getting used to bathing this way. It is also way more environmentally friendly than how we do it at home in the USA. First you rinse off with the tub water, then you get into the tub of your choice. The hot water just feels so good. I never thought it would feel better than a hot tub, but its like 1,000,000 times better! After a good soak in the water, you go over to the shower head (which is a separate part). You lather up and get your hair all washed. Once you rinse off with the shower head, you then get back into the tub until you are ready to get out and get dressed.
The shower part

The tub part (hot spring)

Although the photos above are not the public bath, the principal is the same (its our private bath).

After our baths we had breakfast, which was quite interesting.


Mackerel (?), soft boiled egg, Natto, and other things of which I have no clue

I learned that I did not enjoy Natto. 

After having some tea, we went on a bus to an area of Hakone with a lot of cute shops. The weather today was rainy, so there are not very many photos, although the mountains looked beautiful with the low clouds. I bought a little music box (I love those little things) made from this wood that is a specialty in Hakone. When I bought it, the lady handed me a little pastry filled with creme called Yunotamago. It was very yummy (we ended up buying a whole pack later on). We had lunch at a little food court, in which I had ramen. It was a cute little place. The little town we were in had so many cute little shops. We also saw a machine that made these little cakes filled with white bean paste and were stamped with the hot spring symbol. 

The little machine that made the hot spring cakes

The Yunotamago

My little music box

The inside of the yunotamago

The yunotamago wrapped

Currently we are waiting for dinner at 6pm. This is all I will write for now!


Here is the link to my photos:

Monday, March 20, 2017

My First Couple of Days


I haven't written since I came here because I have just been so tired after all of the trips we have been taking. Who knew I'd go to bed at 8:30pm???? I blame some of it on jet lag. I'll give a brief explanation of what we did each day.

We flew into Tokyo. The plane ride over was sooooooo long, 12-14 hours long. On the plane, it was mostly Japanese people, and all the announcements were in Japanese. The flight crew wore cute outfits, which were different to the ones that you typically see in American flights. They gave us a few different meals and snacks. First they gave us some rice crackers, as well as towels to wipe your hands. For "dinner" they had a choice of chicken or fish (not an Airplane! reference) with noodles, veggies, and a roll. It wasn't really that good, but it was airplane food, so what would you expect? They also had little sandwiches that had tomato, bacon (?), and lettuce on them. For "Breakfast" there was yogurt and I think scallops? I can't really remember. They had an assortment of movies on the flight, so I got to watch "Doctor Strange" and "Fantastic Beasts and where to find them". There were also some games, but they were pretty boring. The flight attendants had asked us why we were coming to Japan and we explained to them that I was studying there after traveling around for a little bit. Near the end of the flight a few of the flight attendants brought us a bag and some "bouquets" made of candy. In the bag was a little inflatable plane of the one we were on, complete with flight number and decorated with hearts! They also gave me some cards with common Japanese phrases for me to use. There were also an assortment of other things from the flight, like some keychains and such. It was super sweet!!!!! Once we got through customs we had a car take us to our hotel in Tokyo. Tokyo is SOOOOOOO big!!! There are tons of little shops and restaurants down every alleyway. Once we got to the hotel we were exhausted and went to bed. Our toilet (trust me, toilets here are interesting) has the little jet that you always hear about. It's really weird.

I woke up really early (5am ish) from jet lag. We went to breakfast at the hotel which was an odd mix of things. It had sushi, it had eggs, and it had pastries. There were even grapefruits with straws in them! It was good, but odd. We had a guide that took us around Tokyo named Mike. He was originally from New York, but he ended up liking Japan so much that he decided to stay! In the morning We walked to the temple that was 10 minutes from our hotel. It was so pretty!!!! There seemed to be some kind of festival or something going on because the temple was super crowded and there were people in all sorts of outfits carrying sacred looking objects and playing instruments. Mike taught us how to purify ourselves at the handwashing area outside of the temple and then he showed us how to pray at one. You bow twice in front of the offering table, clap twice, pray, and then bow again. There was a buddhist temple and a shinto shrine. That praying was at the shrine. Also at the shrine were statues of Lion dogs, one with its mouth open, and one with its mouth closed. It represented the Alpha and the Omega. Since there was some kind of festival going on, there were tons of vendors. We got to try a crab stick (like actual crab meat on a stick!) and Takoyaki. Takoyaki are little pastry balls filled with octopus. The takoyaki was not very appetizing. While traveling around Tokyo, I learned a few things. 1) There are vending machines EVERYWHERE!!!! Most of them can be payed for by using the same card you would use for the subway. They have an assortment of drinks, from water to coffee to cola! 2) Very few Japanese bathrooms have a way to dry your hands. Most Japanese people carry around handkerchiefs to dry their hands with instead.
We went to a garden that had been the playground for Shoguns, and had a 300-year old pine tree. Each tree there was styled and groomed so immaculate that it must have taken so much work to do. We even got to see some cherry blossom buds. For lunch we went to the fish market and went to our first Japanese sushi go round. It was so crowded, yet so good. Half the time I didn't even know what I was eating, just that it was delicious! They also had an interesting way of dispensing green tea. There was a little bottle with Matcha in it that you pour into your cup, and then you push a button and hot water comes out. It was so good!! We went to Shibuya crossing, one of the most busiest crossings in the world!! It was so crowded. We went to a shopping area that had so many anime and manga things!!!! I have never seen so many in my entire life! We also went to Akihabara, the anime central of Tokyo!!! There were 9 story stores just filled to the brim with anime stuff! For dinner we went back to our hotel for some sushi bowls. They were delicious!

We got up early and ate some breakfast at the hotel again. Then we were off on our day trip! We went to a town called Nikko, which is about 2 and a half hours by train from tokyo. The only way I can possibly think to compare it is like a little Nashville, Indiana. There were tons of little shops and restaurants all around the city. It was also up in the mountains which means it was so pretty! We went to Nikko to see some more temples and shrines. It was about a 20 minute walk from the station but man was it worth it! Everything there was so beautiful! Once we climbed up what seemed like hundreds of stairs, we got to the base of the temple. That was where we saw the Pagoda. There were also little shops that sold blessings from the temples. I ended up getting lots of little ones. Nikko was a day of lines, lines to get up to the temple, lines to go higher, lines to go in the temple, lines to leave the temple. We made our way up (super duper high, higher than the tokyo sky tree) to the grave sight of the person who ran the temple. Then we went through a temple, but we were not allowed to take photographs. Because of the language barrier I was not 100% sure what was going on, but I believe we got blessed by the people at the temple. We went to another temple and were told about the dragon painted on the ceiling and about the chinese zodiac. After seeing all these amazing temples we made our way down to get some lunch. We stopped at a place along the way. I had ramen which was simply amazing. There are no words to describe how delicious it was. On our train ride home, we had stopped for a long period of time. Since they only made announcements in Japanese, we had no idea what was going on. It turns out that we were 8 minutes ahead of schedule, so to fix that we had to wait awhile, so we didn't mess up the schedule. At our hotel for dinner we had okonomiyaki, a dish from Hiroshima. It was like a pancake filled with cabbage and noodles. It doesn't sound good, but it was.

Today we left Tokyo to go to Hakone! After one more quick breakfast at our hotel we took a Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Odawara, and then a bus to Hakone. Hakone is so beautiful. It is in the mountains and is so quiet. Its nice after the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. We went to Lake Ashi, where you can sometimes catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji past all the clouds. We went on a boat to go see this, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see it. Oh well. It provided some beautiful photos, so I'm not too upset about it. We went to a restaurant around Lake Ashi and I tried Oden. It was.... Less than pleasant. The broth was not too bad, but just trying to figure out what exactly was in this bowl was quite an adventure. The toilet in the restaurant was also quite odd. I opened the door to wash my hands and the toilet seat opened up on its own. It's like its sentient. So weird. Then we went on a cable car ride up a mountain to see where this volcano had started to erupt in 2015. It reeked of Sulfur, but was pretty cool to look at. Our hotel we are staying in tonight is a traditional ryokan. It has an onsen (hot spring bath) and they serve some traditional food for dinner. Our room is also covered in tatami mats, we have a Kotatsu (heated table), and our beds are on the ground. Its like a really tiny house. They also gave us Yukata, a sort of robe that you can wear around. Its so comfy!! I took a bath in the public bath here at the hotel. It was kind of awkward at first, but it felt so good! The hot water is so refreshing and relaxing. The dinner was kind of weird. It had a lot of flavors I was not used to, or that I just didn't like. There was a cooking pot on the table that we made our own food in, and the staff brought us different foods, such as a crab cake, sushi, and ice cream. It was definitely an interesting experience.

Even though it is so early, I am going to go to bed soon. I am exhausted from all the traveling around, fun as it has been. I'll leave it with a few notes: 1) 99% of all dogs I saw in Tokyo were tiny and had some form of clothing. 2) 7/11's are big here! Also, if you haven't seen my photos, go do so! https://www.facebook.com/clare.impicciche/media_set?set=a.10208587414259461&type=3&pnref=story


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Heading over!!


I am currently sitting in the Indianapolis Airport waiting to get on the plane to Chicago. It has currently been delayed (for the second time) until 3:55. We are hoping that our connection will not be in danger when we get to Chicago, since there is such a delay. We originally had a 2 hour delay, but at this point it is probably going to be an hour or less. I am still very excited for the trip, but just trying to get out of Indy is hard. So much for a smooth flight. Oh well. I also learned that airport stores are SOOOOO expensive. We got a few snacks (since the flight to Japan is ~14 hours) and it cost $45! Just for some chips and candy. I am excited to explore Tokyo's airport as I have heard its got some awesome stuff for gifts and such.

It is kind of interesting to see what people do in the event of a long delay (my sociologist is showing). A lot of people have been talking on their phones while having their earbuds in, talking to work associates, family members, and friends explaining their delay. A lot of them are also sleeping, since there isn't much else to do. The lady behind me is English and has been complaining on the phone about how the snow in Newark (which is where the plane was supposed to come from) was two days ago so it shouldn't be an issue. Its not bad to listen to her accent when she's complaining though. She's got a nice accent. She is on a different place, but yet I feel her frustration about having a delay.

Flying has always been kind of troublesome for me since I get motion sick from a lot of things. Being on a place for 14 hours seems like a nightmare. Luckily I have plenty of dramamine, so hopefully its an uneventful and sleepy flight. Chicago (if we ever get on the plane) will only take an hour to get there, but it's still pretty nerve wracking. I'm wondering what food I'll get to try on the plane. On my flight to England they served us ravioli which was not too bad, for airline food. I'm wondering if it'll be regional, or if its just a standard food on all airlines.

I'll update more if I can later!