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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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.

Fairly good fortune

Now it happened what I was afraid of. I got sick! I caught a cold and my nose is running and someone is tickling my throat. Here people wear masks to either protect other people from getting sick or they are trying to protect themselves from getting sick from others. I was wondering before that if I get sick should I wear a mask as well.. but I just can’t. Just the image of me wearing a mask seems bizarre and ridiculous. I hope no one is afraid of me or think I am disgusting when I am blowing my nose or sneezing… I try to do it secretly.. :-D

Anyways I am glad that I didn’t get sick when my friend was here visiting me. I was very happy that she came here although it made me a bit homesick afterwards. I miss my amazing friends! She was here 4,5 days and I think we were able to see lots of things. We spent half a day in Osaka and the rest of the days in Kyoto and Otsu. The best thing we did was definitely having a “photoshoot” in a special photobooth. 99% of the instructions were in Japanese so we had a blast while trying to succeed to modify the photographs and try to get them printed. We got two sheets of photographs which costed only 400 yen (2,9 euros). Here’s the result:

Beauty Photoshoot

The decoration got a bit out of hands but it was so much fun. We have also now very weird alter ego names due to the fact the we panicked and just pressed some buttons (Japanese characters) in order to get something on the screen. That’s how we became Seshike & Suekonefu.

In Osaka we visited the Pokemon Center, Osaka Castle and Shinsaibashi (the shopping street) which according to some people and internet pages are the main attractions in Osaka (in addition to the Universal Studios Japan). I was so surprised how “silent” the city was because it is the third biggest city in Japan. But later we found out that the main action was under the ground. I’ve never experienced such a thing that there are more people underground than on the ground! During the daylight the city didn’t impress me but I’ve heard I should experience the nightlife so maybe my next visit will be directed to experience the bars and the clubs of Osaka.

In Kyoto we visited the Golden Pavilion Kinkakuji, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Heian Shrinethe Bamboo Forest, the Gion area and the downtown. I knew that I wouldn’t be the best guide here but I was surprised how challenging it actually is to move around the city. It is hard to manage time and sometimes even the public transportation. When to go and where to go… This is definitely the most challenging place so far in my life where I really can’t understand anything around me, the signs, the language, and so on…. Although living is at times a bit tiring and challenging here, it offers memorable experiences and adventures :-)
And we saw five Geishas!!! I don’t know if they were Geishas or Maikos (“Geisha students”) but we were so lucky. At least once I am in the right place in the right time.

I have also managed to use my nonexistent Japanese language skills and had even a small conversion which didn’t last long but encouraged me enough to believe that one day I might be able to actually communicate in Japanese in complete and clear sentences, haha.

I made a mistake and bought a ticket of fortune forecasting. How depressing :-D It says that I should give up about love, haha. Apropos… Let’s all cross our fingers and say a little prayer that hopefully the two nice persons are still ahead and that I haven’t met them. And that I won’t lose anything…

Fairly Good luck 2 Fairly Good luck

Here are few pictures from last weekend (Kyoto & Osaka):

Tomorrow we will have a Halloween party! My “costume” is still a work-in-process.. I couldn’t find today what I was looking for but I am hopeful that I’ll find it tomorrow.. Hopefully I succeed finding it and hopefully I will succeed in what I am trying to do :-D

I’ve been also surprised how excited the Japanese are about Halloween. At least having parties with the Halloween theme because I saw already last weekend many people wearing Halloween costumes in the nightlife.

Anyways.. Happy Halloween everyone :-)

Calf muscle exercise & golden shine

Konnichiwa!

We visited last weekend Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kinkaku-ji temple (“The Golden Pavilion”). On Friday we conquered the mountain Inari which became also a calf muscle exercise. OMG how much my calf muscles hurt the next day AND also on Sunday. Funny thing about the name Inari is that there is also a town in Finland named Inari and in Japan it is the god of rice. I don’t know why but there was lots of cats in the mountain. I am not a big fan of cats but the kittens were adorable. The entrance to Fushimi Inari Shrine was free but to Kinkaku-ji the entrance fee was 400 yens (less than 3 euros).

We went all the way to the top! It took us around 50 minutes.

On Saturday we visited the Kinkaku-ji temple is also called the Golden Pavilion. Basically there was a small garden, the temple and too many tourists aggressively trying to take a photograph of themselves and the temple (that’s at least how it felt). Of course I joined the others and was able to get a picture of me and the shining temple. We also saw koi fishes (they are so awesome!!) and turtles.

In Kyoto it is very easy to visit the tourist attractions because there are many buses that leave from the Kyoto Station and go straight to the attraction. Funny thing about the buses is that you enter the buses from the middle part of the bus and hop off from the front. You also pay when you are leaving by putting money to a machine that automatically counts whether you put the right amount or not.

A slightly awkward tourist

Hi,

I’ve been here almost four days and little by little I am getting used to the idea that I will spend the next five months here. Somehow it has been hard to grasp the thought of me spending next few months here. Maybe it is because the environment is so different from what I am used to. But I really like it here :-) no big culture shocks or irritations so far.

The locals have been really nice! So sweet and helpful although not many have been speaking English (except our super nice tutors). The communication with the Japanese has been a mix of words of English, Japanese and hand signs. 

Other things that I’ve noticed so far: the streets are clean, you can see many people wear Kimonos (the traditional Japanese garment), green tea has been utilized in many products (cake, chocolate, ice cream, and so on), at tourist sites you can taste many products and Japanese queue like the Finns (yey!!). I didn’t expect to see so many people wearing Kimonos because I thought it is a very special garment that is worn rarely. Japanese wear a Kimono when they have special occasion (e.g. a date or a classy party) or when they just feel like dressing up and going for a stroll.

I also found some things where I need some practice. I found that sitting at a low table is extremely difficult and painful for me, haha. Add to that a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. I got a new meaning for hot. I sweat like a pig.

We went to visit Kiyomisu temple that is one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. On the way to the temple there are many stands for tourists that sell lots of kitsch, souvenirs and sweets. I didn’t try yet but the most fascinating was a cucumber on a stick. Also sweets made of potato was quite strange but actually really tasty.

At the temple one could pray for lots of things in many ways and of course I also tried to pray for a wish. I paid 4 yens (0,03 euros) for that wish. At the temple one can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and putting it in the water where the paper and the problems will fade away. There was also a Jishu Shrine which is called “the Cupid of Japan”. There young singles can pray for a boyfriend or a girlfriend in many different ways which will bring love to their life. I didn’t try that, yet! :-D

 

 

And I found an adaptor that works, yey :-)

-Jaana