Second last week of the year 2014

Yeyy finally my holiday started. Of course it doesn’t feel same as if I would be in working life and my holiday would start, but I am happy to have a break from school.

I started my holiday by getting a hair cut because my hair needed that really badly. My friend asked if I’d like to go to a hair dresser with her and of course I said yes. She knew a good place and most importantly she was able to help me to express my hair cut wishes. Most of the people working at the hair salon didn’t speak much English except the owner surprised me with his good English language skills. My Japanese hasn’t improved much but maybe I could had been able to get a some sort of a hair cut if I went to a hair dresser alone but I am very greatful that my friend took me to that place. The staff were really nice and getting the hair cut was a nice and interesting experience. Most interesting was that I suppose in Japanese hair salons there is one person washing your hair, one person doing the hair cut and in this specific hair salon the owner was checking once a while what the hair dresser was doing. In the end when my hair was being dried, there were two people blow-drying my hair hehe. While getting the haircut we were chit chatting in Japanese and English. That was fun!

This week I also spent my first Christmas abroad and I actually liked it. Although I missed my family and friends. On Christmas Eve there was a dormitory Christmas party, but on Christmas Day we had with our little group a “Christmas meal” during the day and in the evening we had a little get-together where also Santa came to visit us. We decided to go out for a Christmas meal because it would be too challenging to cook Christmas feast here for almost 10 people. So of course we went to have the feast to our favourite restaurant in Seta – Indian / Nepali restaurant Taj Mahal. That food is so heavenly good. In the evening we had lots of snacks and sweets. I also made Finnish rice porridge that is a traditional Christmas dish. Of course with almonds ;-)

During the weekend I ate takoyaki, and yesterday we went to party to Kyoto. It was my second time that I tried takoyaki and it actually is yummy. I just have a small issue with octopus that takoyaki usually consists. Takoyaki itself is really tasty but I can’t say I enjoy the chunk of octopus that is hiding inside the tasty ball. It is also possible to ask takoyaki without octopus but I wanted to try the original version. Bravely I ate all octopus. The flavour of octopus is not bad but just the looks and the texture… Later I tried takoyaki also without octopus.

Yesterday we went out to party in Kyoto. It was a good night even though we didn’t find a club with a proper dance floor. I really wanted to dance (even though I am a poor dancer) but it is almost impossible to find a club with dance floor that is open late (like until 3-5am). We tried Luca because we’ve been there once before but suddenly they had only one area open which doesn’t have the dance floor. Apparently there is a club called King Amila that is open late, and I also googled a club called Metro. The first doesn’t sound to be a good place and no one has ever mentioned about Metro. So now I officially give up for the search of a all-nighter good party place in Kyoto. Every person and every internet forum says that if one wants to party one should go to Osaka (if living in or near Kyoto). We had still a blast and one of the highlights were our selfies :-D

 

Couple of my friends from Finland are coming to visit me so I might not write anything here for two weeks. So Happy New Year!! :-)

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Becoming Santa

We almost stayed at home yesterday on Saturday night because the weather had been gloomy the whole day. It was raining hard but as soon as we decided we would still go to Kyoto the rain suddenly stopped! A miracle!

We started the evening by eating ramen in Ippudo. They have also vegetarian ramen which is heavenly good! Also my meat-lover friends have confirmed that the meat ramens are also extremely tasty. So if you don’t have time to search for the best ramen in Kyoto you can just go directly to Ippudo. I guarantee you will be satisfied. If only they would have also vegetarian dumplings.

After ramen we wanted to have drinks and explore the Kyoto’s nightlife district. We went to look for places in Pontocho (very symphatetic street) and Kiyamachi, and we found a few really cool pubs. First we went to this cute and cozy bar called Ishimaru Shoten. I loved the interior and the relaxed atmosphere they had. I will definitely go there again! After that we had drinks in Hamid’s Kebab Shop which was also cute and quarky. The name didn’t quite match with the bar which makes it hilarious. They were playing reggae music and yeah later I saw that they had kebab behind the counter. The bartender gave me his christmas hat as a present :-D I guess I was talking a bit too loud that I want to buy a christmas hat haha. Of course I had to wear it the rest of the night. After that I started getting comments from strangers like “Santa Claus” and “Santa-san”. Hilarious!

We finished the night in Kyoto by having the last drinks in Zaza pub (because all the other places were so full). It is said to be a good place for meeting new people.. That was a bizarre place! They played dance music, showed football on TV, and you were able to play darts and smoke shisha. I am not sure if I want to go there again..

Tokyo the Heartbreaker

I was in Tokyo last weekend and that trip was just perfect. I anticipated that trip sooo much and now it is over. Sigh. I fell in love with Tokyo! I have never been in a city like that before – extremely hectic and crowded. I have seen the traditional side of Japan in Kyoto and in Tokyo I saw the modern side. I love both but because of the big contrast trip to Tokyo was rousing.

After screening all the different options how to get to Tokyo we decided to fly there. There are night buses that cost around 5000-6000 yen (price depends on your luck) one-way and the travel time is 9 hrs. There are also different Shinkansen trains (bullet trains) and the cheapest one-way ticket is around 10 000 yen and the travel time is around 3,5 hrs. We decided to fly and the total cost (two ways) was around  15 500 yen (110 euros) and the one-way travel time is around maybe 6 hrs (if there are no hinderance).

We were in Tokyo from Friday to Monday which was enough for me. The city is so busy and even though we tried to take it easy the city wore us down. Surprisingly though the distances are actually quite tolerable. Districts that we visited were Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tsukiji, Odaiba and Akihabara.

On Friday we went first to Roppongi, and visited the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View Tower. The area is very modern and it is also known for its nightlife. In the Mori Art Museum we were able to visit the normal museum and with some extra fee we were able to also see a Tim Burton exhibition. One of the themes in the museum was relational art which was so nice. There were pieces of art from an artist, Lee Mingwei, who involves ordinary people in his art. For example his piece of art “Moving Garden” wants people to take a flower and give it to someone who they don’t know. I took a flower and gave it later to an older lady who was seemingly surprised and glad after receiving the flower. We also went to see the city view from the top of the roof (open space), and also from the inside of the Tokyo City View. Ahh.. The open space, cool breeze and the amazing view.. I want to go back.. Then we found a mexican restaurant where I ate a tasty nacho platter and thinking of it now makes my mouth water. Because I haven’t been eating much (or enough hehe) nachos, cheese or other spicy stuff the restaurant made the day just perfect.

On Saturday we went to the Shibuya area where I was finally able to meet my furry hero, Hachiko. That has been one of my highlights during my stay in Japan :-D Hachiko is situated next to the Shibuya metro station. Also Tokyo’s busiest square, “Time Square”, is in Shibuya. I’ve read that hundreds of thousands of people cross that one intersection every day. Later we continued to Shinjuku district and specially to the Harajuku area which is known for its crazy fashion people. Sadly we saw only few extreme fashionistas. We also visited the “red light district” which is called Kabukicho. That was so lame hehe! Maybe we were too early there because we were there around 6pm and didn’t see anything special. Just many “gentlemen clubs” and also places for women. Unfortunately the pictures and advertisement (pics of men) for women didn’t attract me.. I know I am picky..

On Saturday night we had a girls’ night out and decided to head to the famous nightlife area which is Roppongi. We took the last subway to that area and planned to party until morning and we were quite successful. I think the bar was called Muse and we stayed there until we decided to get something to eat and head back home.. Muse was very entertaining haha. I think that bar is called a “meat market”. I’ve never seen Japanese people show so much interest in us than there. And just in general we noticed that Japanese people in Tokyo are more eager to have contact with us and are not afraid to speak in English. Anyway that night we met lots of people and people who were interested to talk with us. Perfect night!

On Sunday we went to the “nerd district” which is called Akihabara and we just strolled around the streets and visited the consumer electronic stores. This might sound strange but we also visited a sex shop :-D it had many storeys and it was very inviting hehe. That was a strange visit.. I will not say anything more except if you find something similar just go in… After the nerd district we went to see the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba. The way to Odaiba with monorail was amazing! Very mesmerizing view!

On Monday I was the only one who fought strongly enough and woke up early to go to the Tsukiji market. Although I didn’t see the tuna auction the visit was interesting. I’ve read that one should go really early there because everything is over after 9am but when I tried to enter the fish market at 8:30am a guard was running after me saying that I am not allowed to enter… I was confused.. I tried to put my cutest smile on and ask kindly that where is the fish market and he pointed the direction I was trying to go.. then I asked that when can I go there and he said that after 9am. So I was very confused! Later when I went there I saw many signs that said that a visitor shouldn’t be inside the market area before 9am. Anyway I seemed to be almost the only foreigner inside, and it was very fascinating to watch the workers’ and the customers’ trading, and the fresh and living sea creatures were also interesting. I am surprised that I didn’t find myself under a forklift because they were driving around wildly.

Aahhh.. I just want to go back.. the atmosphere in Tokyo was mesmerizing and I definitely want to go back. Here are Tokyo’s pros and cons in a nutshell:

Pros of Tokyo

  • More relaxed Japanese people (superficial insight)
  • Modern buildings
  • Lots of buzz everywhere
  • One can just go and stroll around and be spontaneous
  • Big variety of clubs and bars
  • Many interesting museums (that I didn’t have time to visit)
  • Many interesting districts
  • English-speaking people!
  • People watching!
  • Metro system was easy to use

Cons of Tokyo

  • The streets are so lively and full of interesting stuff that it is hard to find places
  • Sometimes there are too many people in one place
  • A bit expensive restaurants (but not more expensive though than in Finland)

Some pictures:

I also recommend our hostel to people who like budget accommodation. Aizuya-Inn was very affordable and convenient!

So in conclusion, I loved Tokyo :-)

Relaxing Daytrip to Himeji & Kobe

Finland – happy Independence Day! This year I think I’ll miss watching the “the Castle Ball” because of the time difference. I’ll have to read tomorrow all the screw ups and check the best dresses.

Today I started my day by getting my bicycle back. You see we have this bicycle park near the train station.. and one of the parking lots is not open 24/7. There are few places for parking but the annoying part is that you can’t choose freely where you park your bicycle (you are told where to park). Next time I might ignore the instruction if they ask me to take the bicycle to the same place. Basically if you don’t get your bicycle before they lock the doors, you have to get it next day and pay a fee. This time I paid for a new parking day (100yen/day) which is not bad. Just a bit annoying..

This week has also included two other struggles. I had to finally go looking for a new deodorant because I used my old deo stick until I faced the truth that there is nothing left.. As buying any cosmetic stuff here, also buying a deo stick can be surprisingly challenging. Because I haven’t seen many familiar brands I decided to buy the product that looks most trustworthy and good-looking. Haha what a joke it came out to be! It smelled like ethanol! But because I am adventurous spirit and I didn’t have any other options I tried it. I am not sure but I might have got an allergic reaction from that deo stick.. and also on Thursday I had again small fever and a headache that didn’t go away even though I took a few painkillers. Today I decided to look for a new deodorant as long as I will find something that I can try without a fear of another allergic reaction. My criteria was to find a familiar brand, and I found Rexona’s deo stick. I paid 1008 yen (around 7euros) for that. If that won’t be good I’ll become a hippy and give up for deodorants.

Yesterday we went to Kobe and Himeji, which are 1h-1,5h away from Kyoto. To Himeji the train costed 2270 yen and from Kobe to Kyoto we paid around 1000 yen.. Basically we went first to Himeji and after that we visited Kobe. In Himeji we rented bicycles (for free) and visited Himeji Castle which is considered to be one of the most amazing castles in Japan. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Although Japanese people are in general very nice and helpful, I felt like people in Himeji were even nicer and cheerful. The city is quite small but inviting and the downtown was quite lovely.

Check the pics that I took in Himeji:

After Himeji we went to Kobe mainly to see the famous Illumination. I also liked Kobe a lot and I hope I can go there again before I leave Japan. So far every city that I’ve visited in Japan have been very different from each other. First impression is that Kobe seems to be very modern and has lots of European influences. One can find many European style restaurants and hotels. I saw many Italian, Spanish, French and German restaurants and I was also able to find Glühwein (“Mulled wine”) that tasted actually really good :-) and it warmed me up nicely. The weather is getting colder and colder! I guess the temperature would be okay without the freezing wind. My winter jacket arrived just in time!

Here are some pics from Kobe:

 

 

I definitely want to go back to Kobe!!! <3

But not before the trip to Tokyo which will be next week! Can’t wait!

Perfect weekend and perfect Monday

Last weekend was just perfect! Nothing really special happened but I was on a good mood most of the time. On Friday I went to an event which was organized by another university and they provided us with free bowling. We met some other foreign and Japanese students. Friday ended with a tasty platter of nachos, rum & cola and girl talk. Also the great result of the ‘equal marriage law’ voting made me happy and proud of my home country Emoticon Facebook Peace and Love If you want to know more about that read this.

On Saturday I had first a date with myself. Something that I haven’t done in Japan and what I need occasionally. Me time. I went to MOMAK which is the National Museum of Modern art. After that I walked to the downtown and had a soy latte which I drank by the Kamo river while enjoying the warm breeze and sunshine. After that I went to see the new H&M which was opened on that Saturday. I don’t know what was I thinking when going there because it was just packed with people.. but at least I found a shirt!

This was my favourite piece of art in MOMAK:
Yuzo Saeki’s ‘Back Street with Advertisements’ (1927)

This picture is from the MOMAK homepage. I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of this painting. There were few pieces that one wasn’t allowed to photograph.

After the great me time I went to a dormitory party and managed to stay awake and party all night. Perfect ending for the weekend! (On Sunday I was awake for 7 hours :-D)

And this day, Monday, started in the best possible way. I slept well, I got two packages delivered to my home, and my only class was cancelled! I got a present from my sweet friend ❤ and the jacket that I ordered a week ago. After I noticed that every shirt and jacket that I’ve tried here in Japan are too short from the sleeves, I decided to try to buy a jacket from an online store. This is the jacket that I got:

Bellfield Duffle Coat. http://www.asos.com

This weekend was just what I needed. Honestly, living in Japan hasn’t been as “easy” as I thought it would be. 99% of the day I feel ok and happy but then there is always a moment when something destabilises my good mood. A culture shock. Even still after three months. Almost everyday. But this is what I wanted when I came to a totally new environment and culture – an unforgettable experience.

PS Muumi mug collectors: do you think these Muumi mugs are worth of anything? KFC edition. :-D

Muumi mug, KFC