Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Trip to Korea

In early April, a group of older friends and myself took a three day trip to Korea. This had long been planned by some of the older ladies, but I just happen to be lucky enough to return to Busan a second time. I was also particularly fortunate that this particular group of friends is an enthusiastic group when it comes to food.
This trip really was three days of non-stop shopping, eating, shopping, eating, and eating while shopping. I most enjoyed going through the Korean markets, and eating the traditional Korean-style set meals. Korean traditional meals have so many dishes! Maybe for our one lunch, you are able to eat between 30-40 different types of food in one sitting.

After eating every meal, we would walk around and visit local historical landmarks, or walk around the local parks to watch the end of the cherry blossom season. We also made several stops to local shopping districts where you can see hundreds of small shops all lined up next to each other.

Since this was only a three-day trip, there is not much to post about. It was nevertheless, a fairly fun trip! I hope I am able to go back to Korea someday soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Early Spring

During the month of February, not much happened. I think it really is too cold to do much traveling, and usually the laboratory is particularly busy since graduation in Japan is usually in March. Many students have to prepare to graduate, and the students remaining have to prepare for the new incoming students in April.

March, however, is spring break and also my birthday! I had a much more eventful month during March. Unfortunately, since my birthday was in the middle of the week, I couldn't do much on the actual date, but my friends were so kind enough to take me on a day-trip around the Itoshima-Karatsu area.

First we had lunch at a historical restaurant, which is famous for its traditional Japanese cuisine, made from only natural ingredients. This is appealing to people who do not want to eat artificial preservatives, and whom enjoy eating only local produce.

 After eating that much food, my friends drove me out to a great sight-seeing area, where we could walk off our heavy lunch. It is famous for its unique igneous rock formations. The unusual shapes are caused by lava suddenly cooling in the ocean, causing the resulting rock to form the geometric shapes.

We also went to another sight-seeing spot on the beach, which has a local land mark. The rocks were called 'The Standing God Rocks' but no one really knows why. They looked like a normal pile of rocks to me. However, there was a friendly beach cat, that came to say hello.

In late March I attended a conference in Tokyo where I presented a poster. This had been my first time to go to Tokyo without family, so it was a little nerve-wracking since the public transportation and cityscape is extremely complex. Luckily, the other students who attended the conference had a little more experience getting around than me so we were able to enjoy our time inside and outside the conference.

 One of my lab members even received an award. However, perhaps the most entertaining part was meeting the graduated seniors of my laboratory, who were now living in the Tokyo area. Some of them I know, but some of them were new faces. It was a great time, as usual, except afterwards we had to get up early to attend the last day of the science conference!

Next, I will post about my early April trip to Korea! Until then~

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

X-mas and New Years

The winter holidays weren't that great for me, at least in the beginning. This was the first, and probably only time, I returned to the USA during my time in Japan to spend the holidays at home. Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, two days before my plane ride home, I was hospitalized my first time (and hopefully last time) in Japan.

Around 2 a.m. I started feeling sick to my stomach, and after 3 hours of being sick, I got so dehydrated I started passing out, and woke up on my bathroom floor with a bloody nose. Needless to say, this is really scary when you live by yourself and know you can't go to the hospital by yourself. I had to call my good friend at 5 a.m. to drive me to the nearest clinic, but since it was closed (hard to believe a medical place would close) she had to call me an ambulance to take me to the nearest municipal hospital. I am so lucky to have such good friends, who took care of me this whole time. If I didn't have them, I would have been much worse off.

 I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the hospital, until they cleared me to go home. The following day I flew to the USA from Japan. It was an exhausting few days but I can't sleep in airplanes, so I didn't really sleep until I got home.

However, the time at home was great! I was so fortunate my two good friends joined me this time, and we had a great few days together in Tennessee before they returned to Japan. I stayed an additional week just to rest and buy the things I needed before I headed back to Japan. Of course, I want to thank my wonderful family, and friends who made this a great winter vacation for me. I wish I could have stayed longer, but it's just not possible with everything I needed to do when I got back.

Sorry for the short post, but not much happened during this time period! I'll post more soon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Halloween and Thanksgiving... sort of.

October and November passed by so quickly. My family always says, right after Halloween it's one holiday after another. Even in Japan, this is not an exception.

As usual, I held a Halloween Party in the Dormitory of the university. This year, I did not think I was going to be able to secure this room to throw the party, since all the lab members who use to live in the Dormitory had graduated or returned from their exchange program. Luckily, another international student was really kind and helped me quite a bit for setting up this party. For that reason, rather than it just being my lab members, we had other international students as well as domestic students. Even some undergraduate students offered to help me out, which was really appreciated when the party happened.

Thank goodness my family sent me Halloween decorations and candy, otherwise it would have been a little disappointing. The decorations I had bought the year before were thrown away when my lab members did the yearly "Osouji - Cleanup". Also as usual, a lot more people came than what is expected. I was estimating around 20-30 people and close to 40-50 came by the end of the night. I think it's because word of mouth travels much faster than e-mail. But, I think it is always a good case for international students and domestic students to get an opportunity to interact. If there were no such events, I honestly do not think they would ever try to talk to each other. Plus, the games were quite entertaining (though hard to organize) with many people:

 The result was good, but next time I think I will have to get a megaphone in order for people to hear me. It's hard to organize large events when your voice does not carry.(If anyone wants me not to use their picture, let me know and I will take it down).

After this party, the following weekend, I attended a part time job held in Kita-Kyushu for an international conference. It was a good experience, but the first day I went the train was delayed! It was quite terrible being late for such an important conference, so I felt awful. Luckily, since it was beyond our control, the teachers were not too unhappy with me and the other student who also had to ride the same train.

I didn't take any photos at the conference itself, but I took some photos of some famous places in Kitakyushu. My favorite are the statues at the Kokura station of famous manga characters.

Sadly, there was no Thanksgiving dinner for me! Instead, during the week of Thanksgiving I attended a Hakata-ori exhibition with a friend. Hakata-ori, or Hakata weaving is a famous textile weaving in Fukuoka (http://www.kimono.or.jp/dictionary/eng/hakataori.html). They are most famous for making obi, or belts, for Kabuki actors. Since I did weaving during college, to be able to see such an exhibition was very exciting for me. Sadly, due to privacy policies, I was unable to take pictures of the weavings, other than the temple where the exhibition was being held.
My next post will be about Christmas and the New Years season! Quite a few good (and bad) things happened, so it may be an interesting post.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kyoto and Nokonoshima

I apologize for not posting sooner. Despite me having a dull prediction for September and October, a lot happened unexpectedly. This along with school restarting, delayed me from editing and posting photos of what has happened to me over the past two months. Plus, I took over 200 photos, and those took a looooong time to reformat and adjust to be small enough files to easily upload. On top of that, I recently graduated from Master's to Doctorate level! While I no longer have any regular classes, I am expected to publish papers before I graduate, as well present at several conferences... and that takes a considerable amount of prep time.

So, allow me to start off what happened during September. During the first few weeks, nothing much happened. I mostly was in the laboratory during the day, and if the weather was good, I would walk home and look at the rice fields. However, my friend was away on an internship, and as a result of this she managed to get free hotel anywhere for two nights. Since this was a rare opportunity, she asked me if there was any city I wanted to go, that way we could travel together. Both of us had been mostly in Kyushu during our stays in Japan, so we both ended up choosing to go to Kyoto. Kyoto is a fairly famous destination for tourists because of it's historical sites and beautiful landscape, and we went for more or less the same reasons. This was really a last minute trip, so I scrambled to get prepared and make reservations for everything. Luckily, with the help of my friend, we managed to get it all done in time. We were there for four days and three nights, and still only did a portion of what we wanted.

The first day in Kyoto, my friend was spending her day in Osaka, so I wandered by myself around Kyoto Station. I had traveled by Shinkansen, so it would be easier to manage my luggage, and I wouldn't have to worry about being late to an airport. However, I am prone to getting lost, and since my friend is the one with the smart phone and Google-maps , I stuck very close to Kyoto Station. The area actually has a lot to offer, including some famous shrines, temples, and gardens.

Sadly, most of the buildings were undergoing reconstruction, so I only posted the photos where the construction is not visible. Also, while the garden was indeed very nice, I probably went a the worse time of year to visit (other than winter). All the flowers were finished, and it was not cool enough for the leaves to change colors, so it was mostly just a lot of green plants. I am sure if I had gone recently, it would have been much more enjoyable with the changing of the autumn foliage.

The next two days were exploring some of the more famous and historical temples and shrines. While we went to the Heian Jingu first, sadly due to an event being held there most of the temple was covered with chairs and an outdoor stage, so we could not enjoy it thoroughly. There was, however, a giant robot there, so that was something unusual for sure. Afterwards we visited two more temples, one of which had tanukis inside the temple grounds. Tanuki look a lot like the North American raccoon, but are actually a different species altogether. The pictures I got of them are not good, but my camera is not made for long-distance shots. Finally, I was also able to see the Nishi-jin weaving center! That was a dream come true, as you could see the looms, and the various methods how the silk and eventually weavings were made. There was even a kimono show which displays some of the more modern-style kimonos.

The last day, we went to one of the most famous places in Kyoto, the Inari shrine. The shrine is for a fox-god who is associated with harvests and grains in general.There were no foxes sadly, but lots of stray cats who live in the shrine. It's a HUGE place, and is well known for its many gates. I thought the gates were of deep spiritual meaning, but when you get there, you can actually buy one for $10,000. A lot of companies had their names written on them, so this was surprising. I also found a restaurant that made really tasty ramen and kara-age! You know food is important to me.

That evening,after finishing our trip to the Inari shrine, we returned back to Fukuoka, exhausted, but with good memories.

In the beginning of October, I was quite busy getting my visa and other papers renewed since now it has been two years since I came to Japan. TWO YEARS! Time really does fly...yeesh. October also means fall classes start again, so I knew it would be only a short time before I was too busy to do anything else but lab/class work. For this reason, I wanted to go visit the island of Nokonoshima. I had been there several times before during the summer season, but it is most famous to visit during the fall due to its blooming cosmos flowers. My friend and I made a day trip of it, and visited the Nokonoshima Island Park. There we could see the cosmos, enjoy the cool fall weather, and have a picnic with a great ocean view.

Since this is the last week in October, I will try to post about my Halloween Party in next month's post. Usually, my lab members and I have a very good time, and this year some international students will also be joining us in celebrating Halloween!

I look forward to posting again soon.