Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kyudaisai 2013 and Christmas Lights

This year, the student festival weekend 'Kyudaisai' was particularly lucky to have good autumn weather. The previous year it had been much colder and raining, so this year I was able to enjoy it much more than before. However, I think because of this fortunate good weather, the turn-out was particularly overwhelming! It is because of this reason I have so little photos of the events, because I had almost no time to stop and take photos because there was also a line of people behind me or in front of me.

Kyudaisai is mostly student-run tents selling food, goods, or games to help raise money for their various clubs or activities, or just to raise awareness of their organization. Needless to say, all I mostly did both Saturday and Sunday was eat festival food. This year I also went to the student run maid-cafe which was interesting to say the least. I honestly think it was meant more for men to go to, but the cake and coffee there was quite tasty, so I cannot complain.

There was also a various number of performances including singers, dancers, acrobats, and even comedians. I think the comedy was lost on me (I cannot understand that kind of Japanese), but each culture has a unique flavor to their comedians and what they find funny. Many of my friends who are not Japanese say that even though they understand what is being said, in their cultural context, it's not considered funny. I wonder if the same is true for Japanese people watching American comedy movies.

This weekend I also had experiments, unfortunately, so I didn't get to do as much as I wanted. Maybe next year I will be able to enjoy it more... however, experience tells me I will probably be busy next year too. But, in the end, I had fun.

The following weekend after Kyudaisai, I was invited to attend a Christmas music concert in Tenjin with one of my  good friends. Her husband is a skilled piano player, so he was taking part in the concert this year. The concert was only an hour or so long, so afterwards we walked around the downtown Tenjin area to look at the illuminations. Unlike in the USA where people wait until after Thanksgiving to put up Christmas lights, Japan's Christmas-season extends from right after Halloween up until the end of December. Therefore, all the big stores in Tenjin already had all their fancy decorations up.

They were very beautiful, and we managed to get many photos this year since it was not raining, hooray! Maybe the most famous out of the Christmas light areas, or 'illumination' areas is known as Tenjin Hikari Square... literally Tenjin 'Light' Square. They always come up with new decorations every year. This year they had a whole lot of disco balls.... I have no idea what that has to do with Christmas, but they were very beautiful at night.

After seeing the Illuminations, we returned home quite tired from walking around so much. Maybe in the following weeks, I have many parties to look forward to. I hope to post more soon!
P.S. I finally finished a blanket I started when I first came to Japan. 1-year in the making.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Summer Vacation II and Halloween

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay, but I finally have a new laptop (the old had to be mailed back to the USA) and have figured out how to function (somewhat) with Windows 8. This new version really is not the most user friendly, but at least now I know how to get to my files, and so forth. To catch up with all the events that have happened so far, I will make this post really long and full of photos. I'll first start off with finishing what I did during my summer vacation, then continue on with some fall parties I attended.

During the last few weeks of September, my mother and brother came to visit me here in Fukuoka. However, we were only in Fukuoka a few days. Much of the time they spent here was meeting our relatives in Kagoshima and Kumamoto. This just happened to be a great time for my mother to visit especially, because some of our relatives just happened to have a new baby. During our stay in Kagoshima, we were not only able to see a traditional naming ceremony for the new baby, but also was able to see a traditional Japanese festival.

The tying of the rope was just the first part of the festival. The second part was a giant tug of war, where more than 3000 people participate to win! Of course, besides seeing the festival, we also went to many other places, including a famous seaside location, an traditional Japanese armory, and finally to a family dinner finishing off with the tug-of-war festival.

After all this activity my mother took a break, but my brother and I went with one of our relatives to visit Kagoshima city. There we had delicious Kagoshima ramen and a shiro-kuma (white bear). Both were so tasty! We also went to a museum which taught about the Meiji Restoration era, which was also interesting to see. However, for the first time I was able to see Mt. Sakurajima up close (during the winter it was too cloudy to see clearly) and it was actually quite frightening. I have a hard time believing that the Japanese living in Kagoshima are so calm, going about their daily routines, when there was an active volcano a few miles away erupting ash into the air! I was told it blows ash into the city almost everyday. Sometimes people have car accidents, because the volcanic ash prevents them from being able to see when driving.

After Kagoshima we went to see our relatives in Kumamoto, though our time was much shorter there. So, since we only had one night and one day to spend together, we just had a nice family dinner and a visit to Kumamoto castle. My brother was really happy to see the performing samurai at the castle, but my mother was more happy about being able to see her relatives. I think it was really a great trip to be able to reconnect with parts of our family, who we otherwise would have not been able to meet, if I had not come to Japan.

But sadly after a little under two weeks, my family had to return back to Tennessee, USA. I really miss them, especially during the holidays, but I know I can always talk to them online when I need to. Plus, I have plenty of family here in Japan to keep me company if I need it!

So, of course, once summer is over school started back up again. The start of the fall semester also means the laboratories receive new foreign students. This year we received two new students from China (both girls) which brings the total number of foreign students in my laboratory to four! As a sort of welcome party to our newcomers, a few students and myself planned a big Halloween part for all our members. It was a lot of preparation, but when we finally had our party, it was a ton of fun!

 I am glad we had some fun, because shortly after everyone became very busy. The next big event happening at the school is the student festival: Kyudaisai. I hope to be able to take some interesting photos of this event to show you all. Last year my Japanese was so poor, so it was difficult to communicate with people at the festival, but this year I am much more comfortable talking with Japanese students.

To all my friends and family in the USA, please have a Happy Thanksgiving! Please know I miss you all, and I miss the food!