My time as a tourist

My friends left yesterday back to Finland, which means that also my holiday and fun days are over for two weeks. Next 2 weeks will be all about finishing the semester and trying to survive from the assignment work load. I am slightly stressed but I refuse to be a nervous wreck.. I still have classes and I think the final assignments will take all my freetime. :-( Hopefully during my last week in Japan I can just enjoy the last days here.

So my friends were here for two weeks.. what did we do? Time flew fast but it feels that we did a lot. Some of my friends went also to Tokyo. In general we did sightseeing in Kyoto, and we also went to Kobe, Nara and Osaka. In Kobe and Nara we just strolled around and enjoyed the atmosphere of the cities. In Osaka we visited Japan Universal Studios, and that was one of the best things I have experienced in Japan. I felt like a kid again! I can’t believe how happy the park and the rides made me! We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Back to the Future ride, Jurassic Park ride, Spider Man ride, Terminator 2 show and to Space Fantasy ride. So in total we managed to visit six different places in seven hours. We queued a lot during the day but somehow the queuing was planned so that it wasn’t extremely painful. In the evening the waiting times for the rides were shorter than during the day.

My favourite rides were definitely the Spider Man and the Harry Potter ride. I believe both use 4K and 3D/4D technology. I was so amazed! Both were so amazing rides and I couldn’t tell when I was seeing “real” characters and when only images. I still get goose bumps when I think about the rides! Some rides were maybe a bit old and weren’t using the latest technology but they were “entertaining” hehe. Very cool place! You can see the whole area from here.

Here are some pictures from Japan Universal studios:

Here are some random pictures from Kobe and Kyoto.

We celebrated the New Year’s Eve in Kyoto, and I had a hard time to think how could we celebrate changing of the year.. I was sad that I wasn’t able to see fireworks that I usually see in Finland but at least we made Finnish potato salad (which was super yummy). The Japanese eat traditionally on New Year’s Eve a special kind of soba. We also ate matcha (Japanese green tea) flavoured soba and had matcha sake.

I thought that we should go and try to experience the ringing of the bell but as often here it didn’t go like planned. I thought that I found a reliable source that pointed out that in Nanzenji one could be able to ring the bell on New Year’s Eve night but for some reason it didn’t happen (at least not for us). The temple was closed when we went there.. Either it really wasn’t happening this year or we were there either too late or too early. After that we decided to head to Yasaka Shrine which was packed with people.. Next year I’ll buy lots of fireworks to compensate this New Year’s Eve’s weak celebration :-D

The annual Japanese Zodiac sign for the year 2015 is a sheep, and because of that there are many New Year things, like calendars, that have a sheep theme on them.

I hope my friends enjoyed their holiday. I was happy to have them here :-)

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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

Bohemian rhapsody

I’ve been here so far a month but it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for so long. Now that the courses have started and I have a some sort of a daily routine the time seems to fly. I have classes every day but on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I have only one class which is perfect start and end of the school week. For the first week we were able to go to classes and check what the teachers say about their courses and after the first week we had to enroll for the courses. I chose first 11 courses but I am dropping off two so in total I’ll have 9 courses. We will study all the courses through the semester and in the end of the semester we will have exams or reports. We have one class of 90 minutes every week. I have three courses of Japanese language so I am expecting to actually learn some Japanese during my stay here :-D

I remember reading earlier this year an article about the hardness of different languages and I remember that Japanese was in the category of “the hardest language to learn”. I can totally agree with that. So far the writing system is still a mystery to me but I become ridiculously happy when I am able to read something although I might not understand the meaning of the word. I get the same reaction if I understand what someone is saying in Japanese or if I spot a familiar word. I believe that I can learn the basic grammar quite easily and the pronunciation (you pronounce Japanese words the same way like Finnish words) but learning the words can be a struggle.

Watashi no namae wa Jaana desu. Watashi wa finrandojin desu.
My name is Jaana. I am Finnish.

Easy, right?

This week we will have another welcome party in another dormitory (there are five dormitories which equals five different welcome parties). Last weekend after the dormitory party we decided to stay in the city for the whole night. Our last train leaves from Kyoto Station around 00:30am and the first train starts to work around 5am so we really need to decide whether we want to go home early or stay up the whole night. After the dormitory party most people from the party went to a bar where you can sing karaoke. Before that we were able to lose one of us (still no one really knows how it happened) but we found him outside when were changing the bar to another place. Later we decided to go and rent a private karaoke room which is very popular here. People usually go there to sing or to sleep and wait for the first train of the morning. We did both :-D Mainly boys were singing and the girls were enjoying the show and sleeping a bit. There were also some small music instruments. The Japanese really love karaoke and singing, which was a surprise to me. Some even go and practice alone in order to improve their singing skill. So cute! I will be truly surprised if I will ever sing publicly.

Today I had a happy moment when we got gym accesses, yey!!! We had to take part in a “training room orientation workshop” which was held, of course, in Japanese but there was a person who was able to explain to us in English that how does the gym system work. It made me SO HAPPY. The Japanese part lasted 30 minutes and I could see that the instructor was also making demonstrations of how to use the gym equipment.. :-)
There will always be professionals who can help us if we want to ask about techniques and also a physiotherapist.

I am also planning to go to check out the basketball practices but I need some encouragement. I’ll keep you updated if I ever am brave enough to go and play.

Sorry no pics this time! Have a nice week :-)

PS. We had a small typhoon here on a night between Sunday and Monday. Because of it first two lectures were cancelled. It is usually a precaution when there are typhoons and if the typhoon is strong there might be more cancelled classes.

What’s up?

I am starting to feel that this place is like a home. Our own little crew consists of less than 10 people. We live in the same dormitory and there are also other foreign students (mostly Chinese) but we don’t really know them, and we have two helpful Japanese tutors who live also in the same dormitory. There are people from Indonesia, German, Canada, Italy, Romania, Thailand and Finland. We have a few courses that are only for us but in other courses there are also other students like Japanese.

We started learning Japanese last week which is very nice because my motivation to communicate in Japanese is pretty high. Outside university I haven’t met yet many who can speak English and in university the situation isn’t much better (some students speak well, luckily). So for example to find any information I need to learn some Japanese :-D I have actually managed altready to ask something in Japanese successfully! Yey!

The Japanese writing system includes hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana and katakana both have 46 basic characters and kanji has… I don’t even know how many characters! Now I’ve started learning hiragana and so far I maybe know about half of all the characters… *sigh*
So my advice is to LEARN hiragana and katakana before you come to live in Japan.

I’ve attended to couple of parties which have been really interesting experiences. I haven’t been yet in a club or a bar so I am looking forward to see what’s the nightlife like. Our problem is that if we go to party late we have to either take the train that leaves 0.30am or the next possible train that leaves around 5am. Last Saturday we were at one dorm party and there will be also four more including our dormitory’s party. Ryukoku University’s all five dormitories are organizing a welcoming party, and next party will be on Friday. It is just chitchatting, hanging around and getting to know to new people (with some drinks and food).

Yesterday (yes Sunday!) we participated in “all you can drink” party which might sound notorious. To my “fortunate” they didn’t have almost anything I could drink. As I am not so young anymore and I have sampled quite many different drinks in my life, I know what I should avoid. They are called cocktails with liqueur. To my “fortunate” the whiskey that they had wasn’t really to my taste and beer was always running out when it was my turn to order. Also they didn’t have gin although it was on the drink menu :-D so I just enjoyed the music and watched people getting wasted. There was live music which I really like. Doesn’t even really matter what kind of music if it’s played live.

The weather is still very warm (to me hot). The weather forecast says that during the day it is 25-28 degrees. We should be happy because normally it is a bit colder already. Some people are wearing already autumn clothing! I bet I am still wearing summery clothing when it is November.

One thing that almost makes me flip is that I get mosquito bites but it is impossible to hear the mosquitoes. And when you see them it is almost impossible to kill them because they are so fast!

I’ll end this post with a mosquito-themed haiku:

“All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
killing mosquitoes.”
Kobayashi Issa

Welcome to my home

Hi,

I thought I could tell a bit about my city where I live in and show you my new home. I live in Otsu-shi which is the capital of the Shiga Prefecture. Shiga is located in the east of Kyoto. It takes about 15 minutes to go to Kyoto by local train. There are +300 000 inhabitants in Otsu. First this place seemed like a small village but the figures tell that it is not that small. There are many huge malls but the downtown is quite small though.

Our university, the Ryukoku University, has campuses both in Shiga and in Kyoto. My campus is the Seta campus which is located in Shiga. It takes 20-25 minutes by bicycle to go to the university. I was kind of sad when I left Kuopio because in a twisted way I missed the hill that I had to overcome every time I went home. I should be careful what I wish for because there is also a pretty nice uphill when I go to the Seta campus :-D but it’s nothing compared to the Neulamäki hill.

I live with a Chinese girl, and this is how my home looks like:

I have both a fan and an air conditioner in my room which were very useful when the days were too hot to me. Now the weather is a bit cooler and bearable. :-) During the day I can still wear summery clothes but in the evening I need a jacket or a shirt.

I bought a bike which makes moving here in Otsu easier. To my great surprise it is hard to find a parking place for your bike in the downtown because you can’t just park anywhere you want. There are some places where you can pay for parking. You can also try your luck and leave your bike somewhere where it is not allowed. We tried it once and we got right away red tape on the handlebar. We thought we got a ticket but we heard that it is just warning that next time our bikes will be taken away… When we bought the bikes we had to register them also. And if you buy an used bike you have to register it into your ownership. Also if you ride a bike without the light on in the evening, you can get a ticket.

Happy bike owner!

Adaptation and settling down

Hey,

This week has been about adaption and getting some necessary things done like registering my address, ordering a name stamp (which we will use in stead of a signature), paying the rent & deposit and learning the general rules of the dormitory, buying a bike and a data SIM card. Next week we will have our orientation of the university and after that I hope “the normal life” will take over. Now I feel like I am in a blur stage because I don’t feel like I am on a holiday nor that I am at home. Never thought of saying this but I need to have a some sort of a routine :-b

I am overwhelmed about the SIM card options in Japan.. the right SIM card depends on what your needs are. One can have a SIM card that has both the internet and the voice call support or just the voice call support or just the internet. One can get a fixed contract or a prepaid SIM card.. and I think there are also some restrictions for tourists like not be able to purchase whatever SIM card. Also you need to check if the SIM card works with your phone. IPhones should work fine but one could have problems with Samsung phones.. I have a Samsung phone of course. Anyway, we will see during the weekend if my phone will work with the data only SIM card. I will let you know..

The grocery store is at the same time an exciting and a frustrating place. Buying the fresh food like vegetables and fish is quite easy, although I can’t tell what the different fishes are but at least I can recognize if it is fish or not. It gets harder with the packages. I am sweating here like a pig most of the time so I thought I found tissues that I can use for wiping the sweat off my face. The package said in English “powder sheet” which sounds encouraging. Well, they were wet tissues.. I also thought I bought sliced mozzarella cheese. I thought it is mozzarella because I could see the colour of the cheese and the package has Italian flag’s stripes and the package was in the middle of the cheese shelf. Well, still don’t know what that is :-D it doesn’t really taste like mozzarella or cheese and it doesn’t melt in the sandwich grill or in the microwave…

One thing that also surprised me is the recycling. You have to recycle everything and you have separate garbage bags for different types of waste. There are burnable garbage, non-burnable garbage, waste paper, plastic containers with a special recycle mark, cans, bottles, plastic bottles with a special recycle mark (PET), milk cartons & batteries and also door-to-door trash collection with additional fee. You can’t of course take the garbage bags out whenever you want because there are fixed days for the different garbage. And you have to take them out between 5am and 8:30am. This can be challenging!

2014-09-12 11.59.09

Japan’s biggest lake, Biwa, is a 5 minute walk away from our dormitory.

Notes:
◊ Japanese customer servants say multiple times “arigato gozaimasu (thank you a lot)” (which is the only Japanese sentence I understand from what they are saying)
◊ Japanese customer servants seem to talk a lot in Japanese although I don’t understand anything what they are saying, except arigato gozaimasu
◊ It helps a lot to know at least one word in Japanese if you want to find something or check if the product is what you are looking for
◊ The Japanese are starting to wear autumn clothes. It is around 29 degrees during the day. I am still sweating in my summer clothes :-D
◊ The cars drive on the left side
◊ The water is drinkable but the taste is a bit grassy and muddy.
◊ Chocolate is good, and the best beer so far is Asahi with silver label