Internet makes life easier – or not?

I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking about how studying abroad would be without Internet. I remember I started using Internet when I was maybe 10 years old.. which means 17 years ago! Back then I used it just for playing some online games and chatting with random people (Finns, remember the KissFM chat? :-D). Nowadays I use Internet for so many things. It has become even more important communication mean to me than my mobile phone.

I can chat with my friends almost any time I want, and skype whenever we find time for it. The time difference is making skyping harder than technology. Although I am physically far, I don’t feel that I am mentally that far from my friends because of the easiness of communication. This makes me wonder that how hard was it to stay in touch with your friends and family before the era of Internet when one was living abroad. You were writing letters and postcards and trying to call to your family when you thought they might be available? And you paid a lot for your phone calls?

Staying in touch might had been hard back in the days but you were more free, right? Isn’t that nowadays something what we want too? I guess people going abroad want that nowadays too but there are more distractions than before, thanks to Internet. You want to be at the same time cut out from the “normal world” but then again stay in touch with your people.. right?

Before my takeoff from Finland I was a bit sick of Internet. Being honest, I think it had taken control over me and people around me. It was everywhere! In my phone wherever I went, in my friends’ phones, at home in my computer and at work in the work computer. It is too easy “to just check something quickly” from the Internet and then stay surfing there for hours.

When I arrived to Japan I thought that I’d get Internet on my phone – of course. I would have wanted also a Japanese phone number but when I noticed that the only option was to just get Internet, I started thinking that do I really need it. Maybe this can be my chance to learn out of the habit of checking everything from the internet, and actually look around me and try to connect more with the environment. Sometimes there are moments when I’d like to have Internet on my phone but most of the time I feel relieved that I do not have it. I am more relaxed.

Back to the main topic. How cool and more exciting could this exchange experience be without the newest communication technology? How different would this experience be if I weren’t so easily connected to my home country? I would love to hear stories of people who went to study abroad before the Internet existed.

Anyways.. Guess what I am missing a lot and I can’t get it..

.. Karelian pies and Finnish buns!

Karelian pies, I miss you.

Finnish buns, I miss you too.

I am a big fan of food so I made a list of the things I reeeally miss and can’t get (too expensive or can’t find) here:

  • Karelian pie
  • Finnish style bun
  • All kinds of cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Dry Apple Cider
  • Quark

But I will survive :-D Going grocery shopping isn’t so awful anymore! Although buying cheese makes me sad quite often. It is possible to find some special cheese but they are usually very expensive. The only cheese that is affordable is the “processed cheese slices” (in Finnish: sulatejuustoviipale) which I can’t normally stand. Thank god we have a sandwich grill…


Onsen beats sauna

Before coming to Japan and also in Japan I heard many times that I’d have hard time finding an onsen, a Japanese “spa”, where I could enter because I have tattoos and tattooed people aren’t welcomed to these places. Those things got into me and I didn’t even think about what kind of an experience going to an onsen could even be. Well, I managed to find quite easily a place that doesn’t exclude tattooed people. The onsen where I went was Funaoka onsen. I went with a friend who has also tattoos and although we have read that it is ok to go to this place we were terrified when trying to enter the onsen. So my companions in misfortune: at least in Kyoto it is not hard to find an onsen where you can enter with your unwelcomed tattoos. I’ve understood that foreigners with tattoos are not that bad as Asians with tattoos.. for me it is a relief but in general that is sad. Tattoos are art. But I will not go into that now….

I have never been a big fan of just floating in the water so I wasn’t specially interested in an onsen because of the spa but more because it has a big role in Japan’s culture. You go there to relax and let your body soak in the hot natural spring water. Funaoka onsen has many different baths, e.g. wooden bath tub, cold bath and electric bath. The electric bath was very bizarre :-D Of course I ended up there by accident and I was literally shocked because I got small shocks. Awful feeling when you get shocks out of nowhere. Didn’t enjoy that bath that much but the other baths were amazing. They even had a sauna which got me in beforehand really excited but in the end I didn’t even want to spend much time there because the bath water is hot. My face was as red as tomato after the bathing!

So what do you need when you go to a Japanese onsen? You need soap, small towel and self-confidence because before entering the bath you need to properly wash yourself and you bath naked. And don’t be afraid of doing something wrong because the Japanese will help you when you look like you have no idea what to do!

Funaoka onsen is said to be one of the best in Kyoto, and I will definitely go there again! You can’t take photos there but you can check Funaoka onsen’s photos here. I can take photo of my lobster face next time.

Now it is the best time in Kyoto to go to see the autumn leaves. We went yesterday to see the autumn colours in Ishiyama-dera. During this time there are many temples that are open late and they have illumination. All I can say is WOW! So beautiful.. I missed earlier the Finnish autumn because of the beautiful autumn colours but I can say that the Japanese autumn colours are also amazing. I took some photos but my phone’s camera isn’t good enough to capture the amazing view:

It is so strange.. It is almost the end of November and I’ve seen so many butterflies this week :-) at the same time I have a Christmas decoration on my window.

Haikus are surprisingly interesting

We’ve also studied here about haikus that are Japanese poets. I never really cared for poets because I couldn’t get anything out of them. They seem just to contain beautiful words and nice constructions. But haikus –  they appealed to me right away. Haikus are not really about the choice of words. It is rather about writing a descriptive image where the image can represent a feeling. One should write about their real experiences and not from imagination. Haikus usually include 17 syllables but we wrote haikus that have either 17 syllables or three lines.

Here’s one famous haiku for an example:

The old pond
a frog jumps in
sound of water

Furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

– Matsuo Basho


And then here are my haikus that I wrote for a course assignment:

A falling momiji (= autumn leaf)
Looking for its place
Perfecting the bed of autumn leaves

A letter in my mailbox
Ripping the envelope open
Like I used to open Kinder Egg

Mirror reflection
River like a canvas
True aquarelle painting

I have to write another 10 haikus for another course but I am actually excited about it. :-D never thought I’d get excited about writing poems..

Japanese Bambi

Yey I had the Japanese language mid-term exam today. The semester is officially in midway which makes me a bit sad and happy at the same time. This means that I’ve been here already for 2,5 months and I still have 2,5 months time to explore Japan. At the same time it means that I am almost done with all the courses that I need to study for my degree. But don’t get too excited I still have a master’s thesis to write when I return to Finland…

Anyway I was pretty happy after the exam because I studied quite a lot for it and I think it went well. After the test I realized that I’ve been studying Japanese language only for two months and I am able to say many things in Japanese and write a bit. I may not understand it much but at least I’ve learned something. :-D I even know around 45 kanjis (not my favourite part of studying the language).

I have been quite busy this week with school stuff and I still have few things I need to do during the weekend. This weekend I plan to go to see the autumn colours and maybe try to go an onsen. I found one option where one can go also to a sauna!! I reeaally hope I can go and warm up in a sauna because the weather is getting colder and colder. Luckily we have sunlight for at least 12 hours during the day. I hope the days won’t get much darker…

Last weekend we went to Nara. Nara is around 45 minutes away from Kyoto (by train) and it costed around 600 yens (like around 4 euros) to get there. One of our teachers told us that Nara and Kyoto were the only cities in Japan that weren’t bombed during the Second World War because they had so many World Heritage areas. Nara is also famous of the deers because they live in the city. Legend tells that a god (Takemikazuchi) arrived to Nara riding on a deer and since then the deers have been regarded as heavenly. I thought that there would be only few deers but the tourist area was packed with deers.

If you travel to Nara bring water bottles and snacks with you because we found it a bit challenging to find convenience stores in the touristic area of Nara. It is reasonable that they do not sells snacks there because once you are eating something the deers want to get to know with you (or more speficially with your food). Also it might be wise to look for a restaurant in before hand. We just went there without any recommondations of local restaurants and ended up after a restaurant search eating pasta in some cafe. It was the saddest pasta I’ve ever eaten. I ordered a creamy pasta with three or four different mushrooms.. reality was that the pasta was small and I could barely see or taste the mushroom(s) but the at least it was creamy as the menu promised.

The deers were so cute and interesting though. Although the deers were nice one should still be careful because they are still wild animals. They can attack you if they want to! You can also buy special cookies and feed the deers but I didn’t want to do it after I saw how the cute deers turned into little devils. Once someone showed they had a cookie the deers became a bit aggressive and some deers started biting pieces of cloths and rubbing their heads on the cookie holders with a demanding look on their faces. Some had a little more delicate approach and bowed for a cookie.

I really loved the deers and the Todaiji temple with the huge Buddha. Here are some pics from the trip to Nara:

Next we plan to go to Kobe and to Tokyo.