Days 22-31: The End of an Amazing Journey

Day 22

Nagano

Took an adventure on the bullet train, just because we had two days left on it. We didn’t want to waste it. Ate at this famous chain we didn’t know was famous until we left and saw like 6 stores of the same thing. They led us from one location to another to seat all of us. Ate chicken wings and miso eggs since Nagano was famous for their chicken wings and miso. Had to sneak onto on of the last trains since the lady gave us the wrong information, so we missed our last train. We all pretended to sleep in case they tried to check our ticket. I was ready to pretend to be a Vietnamese speaking tourist. LOL, one of the biggest adventures of the trip. We made it back safely, luckily without being caught.

Day 23

Yokohama

Went to the ramen museum but didn’t eat their ramen since it was quite expensive. Went to Chinatown. Their Chinatown was a lot neater, more Chinese-inspired architecture than the LA Chinatown. Ate Chinese food which was pretty decent. I dropped a porcelain spoon here and broke it. -__- Typical Cindy, I know. Our friend busted out her Cantonese and was our translator for the night. Our group had to separate towards the end to make traveling easier for our sick friends. Yet another sleepover!

Sleepover

Day 24

Odaiba

Odaiba is a fake island in Japan. Vacation area. Lots of cutesy stuff. Went to the Jump Shop. And their mall. Technically, Jump Shop inside the mall. Saw cute puppies and kitties in the mall pet shop. Saw a pretty decent band who sound better live than on the CD. Went to Joypolis. I got a number one spot on this jumping arcade game! Friend played lots of claw machine and won something each for our friends who stayed behind. Went on the world’s largest ferris wheel. We made it on one of the last rides! It was very slow and not scary but breathtaking scenery.

Day 25

DisneySea

Think Disneyland…under the sea. Prince Eric wouldn’t take a picture with us, even though we were waiting for awhile. He kept taking pictures with the little kids (which I understand) and the Japanese girls (which I don’t understand since we were waiting before them). The decorations for the theme park is really nice, really intricate. I actually felt like I was in a new world, not at a theme park.  I have to admit, the rides here are way less intense than the rides in the US. Except for Journey to the Center. The ride was…not to spoil it for anyone, unexpectedly…surprising. The food here is cheaper than Disneyland food. The prices is actually the same if you were to eat outside the theme park. And the food was awesome! Strawberry and milk tea popcorn, maple churro, seafood rice cheese thingy. And we saw a not-so-ordinary janitor who apparently does magic tricks and give magical hi-fives. We thought all of the janitors gave these magical hi-fives, but when we tried, they only got confused. LOL. Sadly the water show was modified due to rain and wind but it was still pretty nice. And some of our friends abandoned us…they didn’t even wait 30 minutes. What jerks! Luckily, we all got back safely.

Day 26

Tsukiji Revolving Sushi

Awesome really fresh sushi. Revolving. And the chef gave us an extra piece when we ordered from him. He was adorable. I hate 9 plates…worth $27 by myself. What a pig, I know. But it was soooo DELICIOUS!

Day 27

ICC

This cool technology center. Saw art stuff with technology. Like this train with a light that went around a track and showed us a town with shadows. And a room designed not to bounce sound. And a room with sensor light that light as you walked. And a thingy that recorded but then kinda played certain parts, again and again, and it was kinda messing with your mind.

Family Dinner

Bought food and ate together in our room. It was our first family dinner. Somehow, we made one of those fake families in Japan. Our friend melted a pan and made a permanent burn mark on our stovetop.

Day 28

Yoyogi Park

Highlight…crows the size of my forearms. They are HUGE!

Shinjuku

Shopping around.

Harajuku

Shopping around.

Karaoke: Take 2

Wore pajamas to karaoke to see people’s reactions as part of an experiment for class report. Got laughed at by the workers there. Knocked over a rack of magazines. Made things worse. They tried to rip us off but used what little Japanese we knew to get the price from $24/person to $14/person. Karaoked from 11pm til 5 am with unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks with snack bar.

Day 29

Akihabara

Gundam Cafe! Broke umbrella due to high winds. More cosplay and sticky-pics. And of course, shopping for last minute souvenirs.

Ueno

Discovered a capsule hotel, love hotel, and night lady escorts. This is a businessmen area. Ate uncomfortably at a revolving sushi place with all men so I thought it might have a men only restaurant. But they didn’t kick us out so oh well. Search for green tea soft serve that failed.

Day 30

Farewell Dinner

Went to a hotel near Disneyland for our farewell dinner. Goodbye speeches, more good food, and pictures. Mini-graduation like thingy where we all got a certificate and parting gifts.

Fireworks

Trouble deciding between arcade, clubbing, fireworks, karaoke, sleepover. Mini-party before we decided to go play fireworks in the park. Yay for sparklers and other stuff that went in the sky. Don’t worry, we didn’t burn down any trees. I got tons of bug bites. We ran around since we were afraid we would get caught.

Final Sleepover

Stayed up all night to talk one last time before goodbyes.

Day 31…=[

Airport and Goodbyes

Took us forever to leave our hotel and say goodbyes. Ate McDonald’s at the airport and ordered a free smile. Decent tasting shrimp burger. Drank Aquarius (since it was my sign) which tasted like Gatorade. Tried to meet up with friends at the airport but missed them. Almost stayed another day but when we decided to take up the offer, other people already did so it was too late. Almost late for our airplane but kind souls let us cut so we made it in the nick of time…we were running like crazy people to our gate. Reminded me of Home Alone 2. Watched 3 movies of the plane. Ate good airplane food. Go Korean Air. I highly recommend them. Good service, food, choose own movies to watch/games/music.

Other Notes

  • I love Japan! Hopefully, one day I can go back there. I miss it but I’m also ready for new adventures.
  • I was afraid to go their on my own, but I’m glad I did. I felt like it made me stronger, learn lots of stuff, and make awesome possum friends on my own.
  • Everyone can go. I feel like everyone can find something to love in Japan…whatever it may be.
  • Thank you Japan for allowing us foreigners come invade your country. LOL. You gave us an amazing experience.
  • Thank you very much to the amazing program coordinators, professors, Japanese students, fellow travel-study students who made this journey more wonderful by always lending assistance and just their companionship. =) You are all phenomenal people!

Days 15-21: Only a Third of the Journey Left =(

I am increasingly considering Japan, especially Tokyo to be my home. I’m gonna miss it so much when we leave.

Ghibli Museum

The stuff here are so cute. Sadly, we couldn’t take pictures inside. Watched a short about a dog that was lost trying to follow his schoolgirl owner. We still snuck some pictures though. The detail in the animation amazed me. The artists really put their all into their art.

Okinawan Food

Food from a small island off Japan. Unique food like this seaweed that tasted like bubbles popping in your mouth. Our professor bought alcohol to drink with us. How awesome is that. I didn’t drink except for a taste of the special beer. It tasted like any other beer to me. Not tasty. Also had this really soft, smooth tofu. I liked the feeling of it in my mouth. It felt like…a cross between tofu and pudding. And tasty taro ice cream that went with this sweet bread.

Karaoke

Karaoke from like 10pm til 3am the night before our Kansai trip. We figured we could sleep on the 5 hour train ride to Kansai. Had all you can eat dessert and drink bar with a chocolate fountain, marshmallows, donut holes. And they gave us Pocky sticks and popcorn towards the end, maybe since we were there so long? Our awesome Japanese speaking friend dealt with them when they tried to overcharge us. I conclude that Bohemian Rhapsody and the Backstreet Boys brings everyone together!

Kansai Trip

Hiroshima

Peace Memorial was very depressing, but very worthwhile. The section about mothers looking for their children was especially touching to me.

Nara

Saw cute deer everywhere. They are quite aggressive. One of them ate the roll sheet while the program coordinator was taking roll. LOL. Saw the giant Buddha and made it through Buddha’s nostril for good luck.

Kyoto

Kiyomizu Temple

Breathtaking scenery of city and forest area. Did the love rock walk, wishing water stream and balcony scenery. Love rock walk is when you walk between two rocks with your eyes closed to see if you will find love smoothly. I did it really fast and feel like I cheated since I peeked a tiny bit at one point when my group said to slow down. I hope that doesn’t affect it. Also drank water from one of three streams in order to make a wish. Back in the day, it was to wish for love, success for school, and longevity–you could only choose two.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Walked through about 300 of the 5000 gates. Got bitten by the bugs. Seriously, that’s all you need to know.

Other Notes

  • Ate a raw quail egg. It didn’t really have a taste. Kinda slimy, I guess.
  • Pictures are all posted on my facebook. I’ll only update with words here now.
  • Ate really awesome stone fried rice. I think it was the best fried rice I have every eaten. The rice was moist on top and kinda crispy on the bottom. The flavors a little sour vegetables, salty meat, egg, all blend really well in your both.
  • I gave up on pescetarian diet for the trip. I decided to just eat ’til my hearts desire.

A Hodgepodge of Memories: Days 7-14

I’ve been really busy with school: two essays, a midterm tomorrow, and tons of field trips but I’m loving every moment here in Japan. Doing a day-by-day thing is kinda hard now since I don’t remember sequences of things but it really doesn’t matter what I do when. Here is the highlights of days 7-14:

Lock-Up

  • Haunted jailed theme restaurant where we celebrated Judy’s birthday.
  • Scary with things popping at you and a masked guy staring at you. Lots of fun screaming lungs out.

Mt. Fuji

  • Only three of us went.
  • It was raining and windy–the coldest I had ever been in Japan.
  • Since it was foggy, we couldn’t really see Mt. Fuji. Only a blurry outline. But what we saw was really beautiful.
  • We couldn’t go on the motorcoach up because of the weather and went to a lame art museum that took less than 20 minutes to explore.

Edo-Tokyo Museum and Sumo Restaurant

  • Field trip with Professor Hall.
  • Saw lots of models of life in the Edo Period. Pretty cool. Note: Edo is the name of Tokyo before it became the capital.
  • Went to a sumo restaurant with served huge size portions. Four people must share one to finish…even with four people it was hard to finish. Professor Hall miscalculated and paid the difference for us. He is so kind and cool to want to hang out with his students. The warm soup was packed with seafood. Miso based. Delicious!

Tanabata Festival

  • Festival about two lovers who can only meet on July 7th. The day was foggy and rainy so the lovers didn’t have a bridge to cross to see each other. Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanabata
  • I played the goldfish game and won a baby goldfish that was given to a little kid.

Food

  • Mister Donut: Delicious green tea donut with green tea cream and red bean filling:
  • Sweet Paradise: Dessert buffet. Easy to eat a lot of the cakes sine they are not as sweet as US sweets. Most of the cakes was delicious but I got this really bitter one. Eww.
  • Random Japanese-Spain fusion bar: Delicious Spanish pizza with salmon and mayo instead of tomato sauce.

Other Notes

  • Americans are a lot louder than the Japanese. A LOT!
  • Eating out everyday is fairly cheap. And almost everything I have eaten is delicious.
  • The Japanese are very polite and very willing to help you, even if you didn’t ask for help.

Since I’m working right now, I’ll try to update with pictures later.

Japan-Days 3.75–6-Damn School

Day 3

Shibuya Crossing

  • Just saw pretty night lights for half an hour since had to catch subway before it closed.
  • Did nothing besides walk around.

Day 4

  • Found the XXX section of Don Quijote, a discount chain in Japan. Right next to the kids’ CDs. LOL.
  • Ate fried rice as Sunny Mall. Japanese fried rice is a lot more moist.

Harajuku

  • Shopping district for young people.
  • Bought a crepe. Harajuku is famous for them. Delicious!
  • Forever 21 and H&M here are similar to the ones in America fashion-wise. Pricing is a little more expensive but in the context of Japan, it’s around the same price.

Back Near the Hotel

  • Went to a bar—Billy the Kid. Expensive steak house. Funny experience with the language barrier. Asked what “Meki soup” was. The waiter deliberated with the other guys in the restaurant for 5 minutes and came back with one word…spicy. And it was. I got corn soup and a tequila sunrise. Corn soup was good. Tequila sunrise tasted like OJ with a little alcohol.
  • We all bought bento, drinks and went back to the hotel to watch J-dramas.

Day 5

First Day of School

  • Fell asleep in class.
  • Lots of reading and work for the anime class. NOOO!!!
  • Classes have more projects than tests.
  • Professor is a nice guy.

Ginza

  • Pokemon Center was a disappointment. Sold merchandise only. No Pokemon history.
  • Sony Store had lots of cool technology. Sadly, photos not allowed but someone in the group kindly went outside to take a photo for us.
  • Sanrio World had lots of dead characters that we haven’t seen for awhile. Cuteness galore.

Day 6

Kabuki

  • AWESOME! Had headphones to understand the basic plot but sadly lots of the jokes couldn’t be understood unless you knew Japanese. 
  • Very funny one about a man with an overbearing wife who tries to sneak to see his mistress. Tells his wife he will mediate in his room but tells servant to pretend to be him.

Ninja!

  • Ninja Restaurant. Ninja training where I hit my head. Basically, go through this dark passage. Food really expensive for small portions. Ordered Ninja noodles which were more like Ninja chips. Long fried sticks. Menu was a ninja scroll. Ninja magic show. Took a picture with our ninja. 

Mexican in Japan

  • Tried Mexican food in Japan. Ate cheese and lettuce tacos. The Japanese can’t do Mexican food at all. It was like mozarella cheese blocks with shredded lettuce and hot sauce that tasted mild on a soggy shell. On another note, the waiter was very quick to refill my cup. I had to put a napkin in my cup to prevent him for filling it up with more water. 

Other Notes

  • Everyone here is very stylish, even the guys. Makes me feel underdressed everyday.
  • It’s freaking hot and humid. Never again will I go out with jeans. I felt like there was a thick layer of sweat between me and the jeans. Eww.
  • My feet are huge. Even in the largest size, I can’t even get my foot in the shoe.
  • Starting to get lots of reading, projects for school. Updates will be shorter with only major highlights. Camera also acting weird! Don’t know if can update with pictures.

Japan-Days 2 & 3-Getting My Geek On

Okay, I realized that doing actually paragraphs is taking way too long. I’m gonna do bullet points instead so it would be easier and I would actually stay up to date.

Day 2

Tokyo School of Music

  • Amazing! Seriously makes me wish I followed my dream, although unrealistic, of getting involved in the performing arts. Maybe not a performer myself but a behind the scenes person?
  • State of the art equipment.
  • Everyone is so kind and welcoming.
  • TALENTED people.
  • Gave us an introduction that actually made us want to come to school.
  • Singing, dancing, food! =)

Around Town

  • Some students took us around town to tour the area.
  • Many places to explore.
  • Cost of living is…=[

Arcade

  • Pachinko is HUGE here. It’s a type of gambling game with balls falling. I didn’t try but no one in our group knows, even after help.
  • Basically, teen through middle-age men gambling arcade games or pachinko. People here are hard-core. Very intimidating. There’s a sign-up list for this game kinda like DDR but with your games. And people move so fast you can’t even see their hands.
  • Ice-cream claw game. Need I say more?
  • Camera battery dead.

Day 3

Today we went on a bus tour of Tokyo! The following places are areas of the tour.

Bus Tour of Tokyo

Imperial Palace

  • We couldn’t enter since it’s restricted. Can only go certain days of the year with pre-planned tours.
  • Saw random swans, turtles, etc.
  • I didn’t get any picture with me in it.

Tokyo Tower

  • One of the places to see Tokyo.
  • Modeled after the Eiffel Tower
  • Made a wish there at a Shinto Shrine. Supposed to wish for things like high grades since it’s a high place. LOL.
  • Also wish on paper thingy for the star festival.

Senso-Ji Temple

  • Covered self with incense before going in. Incense on head for smartness, face for beauty, purse for money. Did all three.
  • Got my fortune. Good fortune even though it’s known for giving bad fortunes. =) My fortune in a few words: Red clouds move, my arrows get the target, watch out for a deer that runs far, don’t be greedy. Translation: Hopes come true, know about myself, sickness recover is hard, finding lost things is hard, person I’m waiting for will come, no problems with moving/building house, small worries about travel, no worries about marriage and employment.
  • Tried a potato dessert thingy after seeing lots of people get it. Very sticky but tasty. Like the crunchy outside.

Ueno & Akihabara

  • Place where the bus dropped us off.
  • Former black market after WWII.
  • Akihabara reminded me a lot of Timmy. One day I shall take you here!
  • Akihabara known for otaku (geek) culture, cheap electronics. Didn’t find anything I liked for anyone though.
  • Went to a maid café. Awkward since I was one of the only 4 girls. Didn’t really know how to interact with the maids. Tried to talk but she barely knew English and we barely knew Japanese. Cost 500 yen for 90 minutes there. Ouch. All had to order something. The guys were loving it though. They don’t let us take pictures with them either. But an experience worth it just to say I did it. One of the girls with us who knew some Japanese said that one of the maids said, “Help me!” to the other maid because of the guys. They were loud and cheering the maids on so I guess they felt embarrassed. Sorry to them.
  • Tried to win Timmy a K-On figure at the Sega arcade. Lost 200 yen instead. Sorry Timmy, I tried to be the man. Weird since all the guys were going for it but no girls. LOL.
  • Took sticky pics in cosplay. LOL. Sadly, could one choose one picture to print though.
  • Ate ramen for dinner. Ate meat again. Tasty!
  • Came back using the subway without being lost. Thank goodness for the other girls or else I would be who knows where.

Other Notes

  • I am a freaking giant here. I am taller than most people, even the guys.
  • I am freaking fat here. Couldn’t fit into the cosplay undershirt or the skirt.
  • No one wears shorts here. Most girls were skirts. Another way to be an oddball.

    Japan–Day 1.5–Airport and Hotel

    Hey guys! Here is my first entry about Japan.

    I woke up around 7am-ish to shower and eat. Left the house around 7:45am with my mom and my uncle who my mom dragged along in case she got lost. Apparently, he is an LAX expert and it seemed that he got on my mom’s nerves while telling her what to do. LOL. Went to check-in, met a guy also going on the trip. Hung out while getting ready to go. Found other people, hung out with them. I accidentally confused someone from UCSD as someone going to the trip, but hey…new friend.

    Korean Air was pretty nice. Good list of movies, lots of them newly released like Bounty Hunter, How to Train a Dragon, Dear John and Asian and European movie too. I watched Shutter Island but it was hard to hear with the change in whispers and yelling which hurt my ears so my next two movies had subs. Shutter Island was pretty good with the mystery and wasn’t too creepy in my opinion. Twist was unexpected but reminded me of a movie I shall not mention or else it would ruin it. I love psychological thrillers so it fit for me. Also watched the Korean movies Wedding Dress and The Actresses. Wedding Dress made me laugh and cry so hard. I bet the blanket from the airline is now salty with my tears. The Actresses was interesting as a mockumentary type movie about actresses which I thought was a witty look at actresses. I heard the meat-eaters food was good but the vegetarian food was not. It was bland (lunch) or salty (dinner). It smelled good though. But I had a stomachache afterwards. =( So 2/5 stars for both. Salad for lunch was fine but the coleslaw for dinner was bitter. I want to change to the meat eater’s meal, just pick out the meat or something. And they have a choice from two options too. And their dessert is better. It’s cake while I only got fruit.

    Arrived there and then met some of the coordinators. All seem cool. I didn’t really get a culture shock. To me, it was kinda like New York. I have the same lost feeling, but added onto it the fact I don’t understand the language. We were confused about which subway to go on, but luckily we made it to the hotel safely, even with the transfer. We thought the coordinator would go with us, but they only told us where to go. We had the biggest group of 18 people, so at least if we got lost, we got lost together.

    Got to the hotel. It’s really nice. Really green. =) Unpacked. Some other people went to karaoke but my roommate and I were too tired. Bought some food but had to borrow money from her since I had no yen. Bought food with chicken. Gasp. I couldn’t read anything so yeah, accident. But the food was about 400 yen and it was pretty decent. 3/5 stars. I like the crunch and flavoring but the little radish thing on the side was ehhh. Chicken was cooked well. Rice was soft.

    Completely crashed even though I had planned to shower.