Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

Merry Christmas and welcome to a very special edition of Tops Tuesdays where we take a look back at the top five best Tops Tuesdays posts of 2012 (click the image to see the original post)...

Friday, 21 December 2012

T.G.I.F.: Who cares? It's Christmas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Image Source: http://www.longcountdown.com/2007/10/25/japanese-style-christmas-cards/

If you are reading this, that means the Mayan apocalypse hasn't come for your soul (yet). Congratulations! 

Tomorrow I will be boarding a flight home to sunny Australia and as such, this blog will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks. I have a few posts scheduled to post here during the down time but don't expect too much. Normal posting will resume in the new year. 

This is the last you'll hear from me for a while so have a safe and happy holiday season guys! Bye!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

Japan has some strange customs when it comes to Christmas. Walk past any given KFC on Christmas Day and you will find an impenetrable line-up around the block for what the Japanese deem "Christmas dinner." Legend tells that a Japanese KFC employee overheard some westerners enjoying their fried chicken on Christmas Day and saying that KFC was the closest thing to a turkey dinner for foreigners living in Japan. KFC decided to milk this cash cow and starting an aggressive marketing campaign to Japanese citizens; KFC is a foreigner's first choice for Christmas dinner. Another example of Japan's complete inability to grasp sarcasm, but anyway...

You might also have noticed that Christmas cakes in Japan do not take the form of dense fruitcake that could easily substitute a doorstop, rather, Japanese Christmas cake is light and fluffy sponge cake with healthy servings of cream and strawberries. 

Image Source: http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.jp/2011/12/japanese-christmas-traditions.html

Christmas time in Australia is a time for family to come together, enjoy each other's company, and celebrate the spirit of the season, while New Years is usually reserved for couples to reflect on the past and reign in the new year to come together. In Japan, the sentiments of these holidays is reversed; couples enjoy strolling through winter illuminations or enjoying a romantic meal on Christmas Day, making it seem much more like a Valentine's Day style celebration, while New Years is a day to enjoy a family meal and welcome the new year among family and friends. 

Christmas in Japan can be mind-boggling and different but it certainly makes for an interesting holiday season (and the subject of a Tops Tuesdays post). Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Year in Review with Instagram

It's almost the end of the year and before I go on hiatus for my return to Australia for the Christmas period, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of my adventures this year with some of my favourite Instagrams from 2012...

T.G.I.F.: Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri

Over the next few days (from December 15th through 18th), the "Kasuga Wakamiya On Matsuri" at Nara's Kasuga Taisha (shrine) is being held. The festival has roots in 12th century Japan when the city was in the midst of a plague epidemic. You can see shrine maidens and adorable children in traditional costume offering up their prayers for good health and a rich harvest. Festivities reach their peak on the 17th. Click the image below for more details.

Image Source: http://narashikanko.or.jp/en/

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

It's peak season for mikan (or mandarins) in Japan. Mikan can often be seen as a part of a bentou lunch or enjoyed from the comfort of the kotatsu at this time of year. They are also a great way to boost your Vitamin C intake during cold and flu season. Get out there and enjoy them!

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheemstra/5391876719/

Friday, 7 December 2012

T.G.I.F.: Stargazing Party

If you are in Sapporo, Hokkaido, this weekend, you may be interested to know the Museum of Science is hosting a free Stargazing Party from 9pm and this is the final weekend to participate. Take the Tozai Line to Shin-Sapporo Station, Exit 1. Click the image below for more details (Japanese only)...

Image Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/british-breaks/britains-best-stargazing-spots-see-1242276

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

It's exam season in Japan so many students will be flat-out studying and many teachers will be flat-out marking those exams. Its a busy time of year but if you work in Japan as a teacher, you may have noticed your students' increased propensity towards the humble Kit Kat chocolates recently. This is because the Japanese pronunciation for 'Kit Kat' sounds like "きっと勝つ" (or “Kitto Katsu”), which translates into Japanese as, “I'm definitely going to win!” Obviously, chocolate is no substitute for studying but some students like to think of Kit Kats (with their many weird and wonderful flavours) as a lucky charm to carry into their exam with them. Good luck and "頑張って!" ("Do your best!") to all the high-schoolers and high school teachers out there this exam season!

Image source: http://blog.creamglobal.com/right_brain_left_brain/2012/03/kitkats-secret-to-success-in-japan.html

Monday, 3 December 2012

Travel Log: Autumn in Tokyo

It feels weird making this a "travel log" entry considering how close Tokyo is to Shizuoka, but Saturday I decided to check out some of Tokyo's best "koyo" (autumn leaf veiwing) sites while I got some Christmas shopping done...

Friday, 30 November 2012

T.G.I.F.: Chichibu Night Festival

December 2nd and 3rd is the Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival) in Saitama Prefecture. This festival is considered one of the top three mikoshi (float) festival next to Kyoto's Gion Festival and the Takayama Festival. The real treat comes on the 3rd day when the mikoshi, decorated elaborately with Japanese weapons and lanterns, transform into stages where kabuki is performed for onlookers. Click the image below for more details. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Travel Log: Kobe

A couple of weekends ago, I struck a course and set out for Kobe. My sensei back in Australia who taught me Japanese hailed from Kobe so I had been curious for years about this "modern city" she described to me. As it turns out, Kobe is a modern city largely due to the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 which destroyed much of the city and forced the citizens to rebuild their home anew with modern, earthquake-resistant structures. Kobe does not hold much excitement for the average foreign tourist in Japan but I was itching to try that famous Kobe Beef and I managed to make a memorable time of my visit. Check out some of my favourite snaps below!

Tops Tuesdays!

It's that time of year when you break out the kotatsu, dust off the kerosene heater, and start thinking about applying bubble-wrap to your windows to help with insulation against Japan's notoriously poorly designed modern architecture. It is still the koyo (autumn leaf) viewing season, however, the days are growing noticeably shorter and colder. Today's Tops Tuesday post is dedicated to the one thing that will enable me to survive the coming months, and (coincidently) from under which I write today's post... that simple yet ingenious Japanese invention... the kotatsu...

Image Source: http://prettycoolland.com/2093/everyone-needs-a-kotatsu/

Friday, 23 November 2012

T.G.I.F.: Thanks Giving

Happy Turkey Day! Even though Thanks Giving is not a celebrated holiday in Australia, or indeed Japan, you can still join in the festivities in Roppongi, Tokyo at the International Friendship Thanks-Giving Party tonight,  23rd November from  7pm (click the image below for more details). Enjoy your long weekend!

Image source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/food/view/four-seasons-hotel-tokyo-at-marunouchi-offers-thanksgiving-feast

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

I found this on Pinterest and think it would make an awesome addition for any anime fan's iPhone. This app tells you the time in a very NERV from the anime Evangelion: Neon Genesis layout. Full story here.

Evangelion vol.2 Clock iPhone app

On a side note, I was MIA last week due to a large 2-day ALT conference being held in Shizuoka for which my attendance was compulsory and the preparation for which took up the rest of my time. Normal posting will resume from now on!

Friday, 9 November 2012

T.G.I.F.: Ito "Butt-Pinching" Festival

You read that correctly.

At Otonashi shrine (音無神社) in Ito this Saturday you can enjoy the 36th annual “Butt-Pinching” Festival. Why the "Butt-Pinching" Festival? Well, because the festival involves a ritual where you are given some sacred sake to drink but before you can drink it, you must pinch the buttocks of the people around you. The festival runs from 6:30pm until around 9:00pm. Highlights include taiko (drum) performances and “booty sumo” (it's what it sounds like). If you are looking to see some of the weird and wonderful things that Japan has to offer, this event will likely be a memorable experience. Ladies, however, are warned that the likelihood of lecherous old men being in attendance is strong. You have been warned.

Otonashi Shrine is a 15 minute walk from Ito station (just follow the crowds). Ito can be reached by taking the JR Tokaido Line and changing at Atami. And if you are planning to stay the night, I definitely recommend K's House.  

I couldn't find a picture of the "Butt-Pinching" Festival so here is a picture of someone's butt. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tops Tuesdays: Top 5 Places to See Koyo in Japan

It's the Autumn season and all around Japan the colours are turning. But where are the best places to view "koyo" (Autumn leaves)? In no particular order, let's find out!

Friday, 2 November 2012

T.G.I.F.: Sengen Shrine Annual Festival

Approximately 53 days left until Christmas! Yay! This weekend, the place to be is Fujinomiya in Shizuoka Prefecture for its biggest festival of the year; the Sengen Shrine Annual Festival. On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of November in the area around the Sengen Shrine you can experience the usual fare of a Japanese "matsuri" such as food stalls around the shrine and some "mikoshi" (big floats).

The main event is on the 4th (Sunday) where all the "dashi" (huge floats with "taiko" drummers) congregate toward the shrine to compete against each other.

And here's a hot tip: at the main information desk near the shrine, you can get a "masu" (small wooden box for drinking sake). When you buy it, they will give you a map of all the free sake tasting areas nearby. One tasting per customer however I hear that if you compliment their sake you might be able to squeeze a refill out of them!

Click the image below for more information...

Shrine to be held on November 3: annual festival

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

Happy Halloween!! That's right, it's that time of year; tomorrow is Halloween and Japan is all a twitter! Japan has slowly been adopting this holiday into its own traditions (funnily enough this has coincided with the arrival of ALTs in Japan) and more and more you can see Halloween decorations and products becoming prevalent in Japanese pop culture. And just like everything else in Japan, Halloween is not going to be an exception to the weird and wonderful treatment that only the country that brought you vending machines panties and deeply-confusing anime narratives can afford...

Check out some of my favourite Halloween picks below...

Friday, 26 October 2012

T.G.I.F.: Halloween Parade, Kawasaki Train Station

Happy Halloween! Are you excited for a spook-tacular Halloween this year? Are you missing the Halloween celebrations from home? Well Japan is steadily adopting this western tradition into their annual events so luckily for you, you can enjoy all the festivities right here in Japan.

Of particular note is the Halloween Parade round Kawasaki Station, east side. The festivities begin at 2.30 and carry on until 4pm (the event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain). You can watch the procession, or join in by visiting this website to register. One group will depart from LA CITTADELLA and another from City Hall with the goal of reaching Kawasaki Station. As well as costume competitions, DJ Taku Takahashi (m-flo, block.fm), DJ Genki RocketsDJ SOULJAH, plus the winner of the Kawasaki Halloween DJ competition will be spinning tracks. Click the image below for more details.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Travel Log: Roaming in Southeast Asia (Part 4)

It was the same night as my run-in with “Brisbane” that found me returning to my hotel room quite alone having departed from my comrades at the bar. Having put myself to bed for no more than 10 minutes, it began. The most horrible screaming could be heard from the room next to mine. I was sure someone was being murdered...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Travel Log: FujiQ Highland

You may have noticed that last week we were unexpectedly minus one T.G.I.F. post. This is because I was no where near a computer last Friday (when I make the T.G.I.F. posts) because I was at FujiQ Highland on a school trip with my students. FujiQ Highland is a cluster of roller coasters in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. One of these roller-coasters ("Fujiyama") used to hold the Guinness World Record for the tallest roller-coaster (now the 8th tallest), and another has the Guinness World Record for the steepest decent ("Takabisha"). Although we were at the amusement park for about 5 hours, there was nowhere near enough time to do everything. We even missed out on the park's famous haunted house (set in an abandoned hospital, visitors must try to find their way out while dodging zombies!). If you ever get a chance, FujiQ is a must-see!

Check out some pictures below!

Tops Tuesdays!

Does anyone else see this ("Zeus," the new chewing gum range from Lotte)...

Source: http://jonellepatrick.me/tag/zeus-gum/

...and think of this...?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Travel Log: Fox Wedding in Numazu

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending and participating in a fox-themed wedding in Numazu. The wedding was being held at the fox shrine by the Kano River. Volunteers were asked to come along and have their faces painted like foxes then participate in a "fox parade." The bride and groom also had their faces painted like foxes. This was a real ligit wedding; a rare experience for foreigners like me to attend. This is largely because (if a foreigner is lucky enough to be invited) wedding guests in Japan are expected to pay the new couple between $100 to $300 as a kind of start-up money instead of giving them a traditional gift. This means attending a wedding tends to be limited to immediate family in Japan because it is just so damn expensive for us underpaid English teachers. But anyway, I was lucky enough to snag an almost front row seat so I could capture some amazing photos of the fox wedding for your enjoyment. Continue reading for some of my favourite snaps below!

Tops Tuesdays!

Corn-Man. This dude has been spotted off and on around Tokyo's Yamanote train line for the past 6 months but no one has been able to ascertain his purpose and what exactly his pet corn husk on a red dog leash means...

If you see him around, snap a picture and let us know! The mystery continues!

Friday, 12 October 2012

T.G.I.F: Festival of Lights, Yugawara Onsen

For those of you who missed out on the fireworks and festivals that make Japan's summer famous, this Saturday there will be an Autumn festival entitled "Festival of Lights" at Yugawara Onsen. The parades and festivities begin and continue from 7pm. As well as a drumming performance at 8pm, there will be fireworks from 8.20pm. 

Yugawara Onsen can be reached from Yugawara Station by shuttle bus. Yugawara Station is situated on the Tokaido Line. The nearest shinkansen station is Atami. Once at Yugawara station, take the bus bound for Fudonotaki (不動の滝) for 8 minutes then walk 1 minute to the onsen. Just follow the crowd. 

The Yugawara Onsen Facebook page has some pretty spectacular photos and videos if you want to see what the festival entails. Also, click the image below to visit the Yugawara Onsen website (Japanese)...

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Travel Log: Hanagasa Dance Festival, Ito

Last Friday night, I participated in the Hanagasa Dance Festival in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture. I was taken to a dress shop in the town of Ito and dressed in a beautiful black kimono and then briefly taught the necessary traditional Japanese dance moves I would need for the parade. Many different troops of people made up the parade of dancers who moved through the streets of Ito to the tune of a 25-minute-long traditional Japanese song. After the song, we took a five minute break and then began again. The parade route took a little over one hour to complete so you can imagine I was tired by the end! Enjoy some snaps below...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

I saw this floating around on Tumblr and decided that it would be totally awesome if it actually existed. The title of this sweet bread is "Black Melon Pan" (meaning 'black melon-flavoured bread'). Does any one know if and where it is being sold in Japan? Leave a comment!


Friday, 5 October 2012

T.G.I.F: Formula 1 at Suzuka Circuit, Mie-ken

If you have a need for speed or are feeling a bit fast and furious, this T.G.I.F. post may be just for you! This weekend in Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture (50km south of Nagoya), you can enjoy the thrills and excitement of a Formula 1 race. The race is being held on October 7th and you can purchase tickets by clicking on the image below. The best way to get to the Suzuka Circuit is to take the shinkansen to Nagoya Station and take the special direct limited express train ("Suzuka F1") to Suzuka Circuit Ino Station (takes about 40 minutes and costs 2,500yen one way). Seat reservations are mandatory. Also check out this link for more information.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

For this more sombre and serious edition of "Tops Tuesdays" I would like to share an article I have found on RocketNews24.com. Japanese author Haruki Murakami has written an passionate appeal to both Japanese and Chinese citizens for peace during the Senkaku Islands dispute. Currently both countries are waging a territorial war over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands which lie between the two nations. Racial tension between the two countries has been on the rise lately. Recently, a Chinese high school in Yokohama cancelled its Chinese celebrations and parade over fears of conflict with local Japanese residents. When Murakami--the author of such popular works as 1Q84 and Norwegian Wood--heard that books by Japanese authors were being removed from Chinese books stores, he wrote this plea. The team at RocketNews24 has translated Murakami's essay into English.

Below are a few excerpts from the essay of particular note:
"As a Japanese, as a writer, I fear that the dispute over the Senkaku islands, and even the recent troubles involving Takeshima, will do little but destroy the cultural world that we have all worked so hard to create over many years, and dig up the path that we have laid, brick by brick. 
"...[I]f we show restraint, and, however quietly, that we value, respect and continue to love what it is that we have achieved over many long years of hard work, then it is we who undoubtedly reap the rewards in the end."
It's a beautiful essay and you can read the full translation here.

Friday, 28 September 2012

T.G.I.F.: Get Your Otaku On In Kyoto!

T.G.I.F. indeed. It has been a long week for me and thank goodness it is over! Thankfully the weekend is here and this is what ALTs all over Japan wait for; the moment when you can clock off and go out and actually explore Japan. So what's on the card's this Saturday and Sunday?

Well, last weekend Kyoto kicked off Kyoto Cross Media Experience 2012, a 3-month-long celebration of all things anime, filmic and nerdy. It's Kyoto's fourth year to host the event and this year looks set to be just as satisfying as the last! The anime/media festival itself will run between September 21st and December 9th. Of particular note this weekend is a seminar titled "Kyoto Computer Gakuin," in which leading CG animators from Japan, Europe and Taiwan go head to head in what they are calling a "CG Animation Cup" tournament. This event starts at 3pm at the Great Hall of the main building of Kyoto University. It is open to the public to watch so come and help the judges decide who reigns supreme in the world of CG animation! Click here to visit the website and find out more about this tournamentDon't worry if you can't attend in person, you can watch the  official live streaming at Nico Video and YouTube

To find out more about the Kyoto Cross Media Experience festival and what kind of events you can attend, click the image below to visit the official website...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Travel Log: Roaming in Southeast Asia (Part 3)

Departing from Siem Reap at 7am brought us to our destination of Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh by nightfall. We were exhausted, sweaty and irritable (there is only so much listening to your ipod on repeat can do for your boredom). Dinner was served on the riverfront at the rooftop bar of the FCC (Foreign Correspondents' Club) where the geckos in plentiful droves watched us from the awnings and we could watch small fishing vessels chug lazily up the river. We would need energy and a good night's rest for what the following day held for us...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Travel Log: Sumo Matches at Ryogoku Stadium, Tokyo

Last weekend, and few friends and I headed out to the east side of Tokyo to catch some sumo matches at Ryogoku Stadium. It was a pretty amazing day with some stunning sights. Sumo really does incorporate and nurture its traditional Shinto roots. The pomp and pageantry of the whole day was just as exciting as the matches themselves. Check out some of my favourite snaps below!

T.G.I.F.: Shhhhh... "Niji Iro Ninja" Flash Mob

It's a secret! But word on the street is there will be a flash mob in Shibuya, Tokyo tomorrow Saturday the 22nd. The flash mob has been arranged to help promote the "Let's Dance Japan" movement, a group of people who oppose the Japanese government's recently strict enforcement of the dance ban in Japanese clubs. Yes, you read correctly, Japan has banned dancing. It's a complicated issue but you can get more information by reading this article at Stonewall AJET. Basically, during WWII the government brought into effect laws which prevented noisy and reckless behaviour in Japan's night-club districts and this included a ban on dancing. Japan's law enforcers have turned a blind eye to this law (largely due to its obvious ridiculousness) but lately, some have noticed that the dance ban is becoming increasingly and strictly enforced. It is thought that the clubs being targeted in particular are those which support the LGBT community.

If you want to participate in the flash mob and support this cause, here is what you need to know...

WHERE: Shibuya Station, Tokyo, near the Hachiko (dog) statue
TIME: 10pm
WHAT: Flash mob-style dance party!

As far as I know there is no choreography, just freestyle dancing. For more details on the event, click the image below...

P.S.: On a side note, apologies for the lack of posting lately. Work has been hectic and much more so than usual. I am contractually required to have one day a week without any lessons scheduled so I can do lesson planning and complete other jobs (I usually use this time for blogging too) but I haven't had a day off to do so for weeks. I will try harder to get back on track. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Travel Log: Roaming in Southeast Asia (Interlude)

Hello! I'm sorry for the lack of updates on this front. School started back this week and I am mysteriously busier than usual with teaching and helping kids with their college essays. I didn't get a chance to post last week so I will try extra hard to get an update in tomorrow on the 'Roaming in Southeast Asia' series. 

In the mean time, a friend of mine who also went on the same G Adventures tour has posted his super awesome pictures of our trip online in a public album and they so outshone any pictures I had taken previously that I felt like sharing his talent here with you guys. He is an amateur photographer but his photos are really good. Check out the online album by clicking here. Scroll down for a few of my favourite pics from his collection.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

Have a Fast and Furious fetish? Check out this video of an awesome night drive through Tokyo. So awesome in fact, this video makes my 'Tops Tuesdays' post this week...

Friday, 7 September 2012

T.G.I.F.: Sumo Season Begins...

September 9th through 22nd is the official sumo wrestling season in Tokyo, Japan. If you have ever wanted to watch enormous Japanese men in nappies push each other around, now is the time to purchase some tickets and get yourself ringside. 

Click the image below for more information on sumo wrestling from the official website of the Sumo Association, or click here to purchase tickets. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

So, I just found this on Tumblr and I have decided that it is officially the best thing ever. Foodies and wine buffs rejoice...

The "Wine Spa Pool" referred to in the image above is actually the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, a hotel and spa in Hakone, an area famous for onsens (hot springs) catered towards day-trippers from Tokyo. Onsens in Japan are pretty choice but when you consider the option of soaking in some hot mulled wine while knocking back a glass or two of the stuff, there is just no question. And that is real wine too those bathers are swimming in!

Further research revealed that the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun not only offers the option to soak in a wine onsen, but you can also choose from sake, coffee, and green tea options for your soak. Definitely worth a day-trip from Tokyo. Check out their website for more information. Happy Tuesday!

Friday, 31 August 2012

T.G.I.F.: Owara Kaze-no-Bon Festival, Toyama

September 1st~3rd celebrates the Toyama Bon festival, Owara Kaze-no-Bon Matsuri. This traditional folk festival welcomes the harvest season while 'appeasing the wind' and honouring ancestors. Much dancing and traditional folk-singing is involved. You can also see festival participants in traditional garbs and headdresses. Click the image below for more information...

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Travel Log: Roaming in Southeast Asia (Part 2)

Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed; 5am found us stuffed into a mini-van for a 15 minute ride in the pitch black to the famous temples of Angkor Wat. The early hour was necessary for us to watch the sunrise over the main temple. First, we stopped off at a tourist information centre to obtain our temple passes. Passes procured (part of which required peering blearily into the camera for a passport-style photo on the pass) we headed off to Angkor Wat.

To my surprise, no jungle trekking was necessary to hit out first location for the day. The filming location for the Tomb Raider movie was actually accessible by paved main road, a short ride from central Siem Reap. Crossing the large moat on a stone bridge layed unevenly in the pitch black was trecherous enough, then there was the tourists to deal with! Hundreds of them vied for the best position around a small pond to snap the sun as it rose over the monolithic temple, casting a reflection in the water as it did so. My Australian friend and I decided to avoid the crowds and chose an elevated position on the steps of one of the temple's outer buildings (which we later found out was originally the library) to watch our sunrise. Peaceful, the colours absolutely stunning, my camera does not do it justice...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

Hot to trot! This limited edition Pikachu Yellow 3DS LL sold out seconds after going on sale so you know its good! 

People reportedly lined up for 4 hours to get their hot little hands on this baby...

All that for a yellow rodent-like fictional character from Japan! Happy Tuesday!

Friday, 24 August 2012

T.G.I.F.: Hi Matsuri, Fujiyoshida (August 26th~27th)

Pronounced "hee" (not "hai"), the Hi Matsuri ("Fire Festival") of Fujiyoshida near Mt. Fuji promises to be a memorable occasion. From the official website...
"The Yoshida Fire Festival or “Yoshida no Himatsuri” is held every year on August 26th to appease the goddess of Mt. Fuji and to keep the volcano from erupting for another year. Yoshida no Himatsuri also serves as the closing ceremony of the Fuji climbing season. For this lively two day festival, named one of Japan’s three most unique festivals and celebrated for over 500 years, the entire community comes out to watch the burning of large “taimatsu” torches and the parade of two large Omikoshi (portableshrines) through the streets. The Fire Festival is one of Fujiyoshida’s most prized cultural possessions, and this year’s festival promises to live up to its reputation."
Click the image below for more details...


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Travel Log: Roaming in Southeast Asia (Part 1)

I arrived at Bangkok's international airport at 9pm, already braced for the intense humidity and dangers of Thailand's capital city's streets. After being waived through customs without being stopped at all, I located the taxi rank on the lower level of the airport having successfully navigated the barrage of taxi touts at the arrival lobby. Stepping outside, the humidity hit me like a wall of heat. A sign blinked at me: 'Welcome to Thailand.' I greeted the lady sitting at the registration desk for the taxi but had to wait a minute or two before she acknowledged my presence: I wasn't in Japan any more. The taxi driver guided me to his vehicle and, once seated inside, asked me a question in Thai (I knew it was a question because he was looking at me expectantly). "Uh, no Thai," I told him. He nodded. The lady at the desk had given him my hotel's address so off we went.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tops Tuesdays!

I'm back from my travels and it was amazing! Stay tuned because I'll be making some posts soon about my adventures in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. 

For now, please join me for another edition of Tops Tuesdays.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tops Tuesdays

Are you a huge Gundam or Evangelion fan? Do the following images get you pumped for a Japanese robot fight of epic proportions?
Gundam in #Odaiba #Tokyo. In 2011 a 1/1 scale Gundam Rx-87 was built. This mobile suit was 18m tall!     Evangelion

Well, look no further because the people at Suidobashi Heavy Industry have created a real-life battle mech called the Kuratas Mecha robot...

Friday, 3 August 2012

A bit of site news...

This Saturday, I'm hitting the airways for a two-week trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam! So this blog will be on vacation over the next couple of weeks. My access to the Internet will be sporadic throughout my trip so I will try to keep my Twitter and Tumblr pages updated if I can. I have a few scheduled posts set for the next two-week period but other than that I am MIA. I'll be sure to update you on my activities when I get back. See you in two weeks!

T.G.I.F.: Aomori Nebuta Festival

From August 1st through 7th, the streets of Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture come alive with the infamous lantern floats of the annual Aomori Nebuta Festival...

These stunning floats depicting traditional Japanese characters, warriors and celestial beings are paraded through town and have made this festival one of the most popular events in Japan. Every year, this festival attracts more tourists than any other nebuta festival in Japan. This festival truly is mind-blowing to see and a definite must on anyone's travel itinerary if you are heading to Japan during the summer. If you are not going this year but  are thinking of going next year, it is important to book your hotels and other travel arrangements well in advance (at least a year) to confirm your attendance as I can't stress enough how exceedingly popular this event is. Participation in the festival as a float carrier is possible; contact the organizers for more details (click the image below)...

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tops Tuesdays

This is the book that I mentioned last week in my 'What's the difference?' post and it is awesome. Definitely a recommended read for any non-Japanese living in Japan, people who are thinking about making the move and living in Japan,  or even people look for answers to the great question of race relations. You can buy your copy through Amazon.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Diary of a JET #9: What's the difference?

Coworker: Sarah-san. I wonder if you can help me?
Me: Oh, sure. What is it?
Coworker: I'm doing a lesson on culture shock for my social studies class and I want to show the students some examples. Have you ever experienced culture shock?
Me: Oh, well, I guess I felt a bit lonely and sad a few months after I arrived because I was away from my friends and family but I started to feel better eventually.
*It was about this point that I realized a look of confusion had fallen over my coworker's face.*

T.G.I.F.: Fuji Rock Festival 2012!

This weekend the hills are alive with the sounds of Radiohead, Owl City, and The Kooks. Fuji Rock is a 3-day event in Yamanashi-ken featured artists from around the world set against the back-drop of majestic Mt.  Fuji. Check out this awesome video promoting this year's event...

Most of the tickets are sold out so if you are going, have a fantastic time! Click the image below to visit the English Fuji Rock website...

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Tops Tuesdays

July and August in Japan means kakigori (flavoured shaved ice), summer festivals and--perhaps best of all--hanabi (fireworks). Most summer festivals close out the evening with a fireworks display. It is definitely a defining experience during a stay in Japan to attend one of these festivals in yukata (summer kimono) and enjoy balmy nights filled with fun, food and fire(works).  So this week, fireworks festivals make my Tops Tuesday post.

It is said that fireworks displays were once held in Japan on days of remembrance for the dead as a way of celebrating life. During the Edo period, fireworks were something that people of all economic classes could enjoy, promoting unity in the national psyche. Now, fireworks in Japan can be enjoyed by all walks of life.

One of the best fireworks displays in Shizuoka (if not Japan) occurs at the beach-side resort town, Atami. This Sunday, 5,000 fireworks will be launched to create one of the most spectacular displays in the area. Click the image below for more information (Japanese only)...

Here is another great website for locating fireworks festivals in your local area: http://hanabi.walkerplus.com/. This website has listings by prefecture, making it easy for you to find local events which include fireworks. Unfortunately it is Japanese only, but not too difficult to navigate for a Japanese-language novice. 

Have a lovely week!

Friday, 20 July 2012

T.G.I.F.: Sea to Summit 2012

We are right in the middle of Mt. Fuji climbing season and if you were ever interested in climbing this famous, majestic icon of Japan, this weekend might be a good opportunity. Sea to Summit is a charity event organized in conjunction with Oxfam. Every year an intrepid group of very fit people start at the beach near Fuji-shi and collect sea water which they then carry to the summit of Mt. Fuji in order to ceremoniously pour the water out at an elevation of 3,776 metres, all in under 24 hours. The aim of this event is to raise money for Oxfam. You may remember I posted a video last year of the 2011 Sea to Summit Mt. Fuji climb which I joined from the 5th station. Yes, it is possible to join Sea to Summit from the half-way point (2,3o0 metres) if you're not feeling up to the whole thing.

Mt. Fuji, Japan

I am told there are still a few slots available in this year's Sea to Summit team so hurry if you want to join. Joining requires you to pay a fee of 3,000yen, 2,000yen of which goes to the Oxfam charity. Sea to Summit will meet at Higashi-Tagonoura Station in Shizuoka Prefecture at 5:50am to begin the climb. Having reached the 5th station, team members will rest before continuing the climb at 9.30 pm with the aim of reaching the summit by dawn to witness the sun rise. 
Climbing Mt. Fuji is not for the faint-hearted or the seriously un-fit. It is an amazing experience to cross off your bucket list, but one for which you must prepare and take precautions. Dress appropriately, pack the right stuff, and (perhaps most importantly) bring lots of positive energy. 

Click the image below for more details...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Travel Log: Nara

As you can see, I've been hitting the road a lot lately! In just the past month or so, I been to Tokyo on a few different occasions (Harajuku, DisneySea, Hiratsuka), Shimoda, Osaka and now Nara. And it only gets worse; in a couple of weeks, I'm heading over to to Thailand to begin a 2 week road trip across Cambodia and Vietnam. I've got to learn to say 'no.' 

Anyway, I had never been to Nara before and despite sweltering temperatures it was a really amazing place. Check out some snaps below...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Travel Log: Osaka

If you were paying attention to my Instagram channel last weekend, you would know that I spent the long weekend in Osaka. I think I've found my new favourite city! I had been to Osaka once five years ago on a day trip from Kyoto during a long vacation in Japan but didn't think much of it at the time. But actually staying in Osaka and experiencing its amazing neon shopping arcades by night changed that perspective pretty quickly. Osaka is home to some amazing cuisine and some really laid back people. The Japanese way is the conservative way but as it was stinking hot, I noticed Osakans everywhere were adorning lighter and more risqué apparel than I was used to. And I loved it! It was like being back in Aus! Find out more of what I got up to after the jump... But be warned, this is going to be a long post!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tops Tuesday

On July 14th, director Mika Ninagawa's film adaption of Kyoko Okazaki's manga "Heruta Sukeruta" (Helter Skelter) was released in theatres across Japan. In the manga, Okazaki explores the dangers of beauty culture through her main character, LiLiCo (played by Erika Sawajiri in the film), a model who dabbles in plastic surgery and extreme dieting. The desire for perfection is slowly killing LiLiCo. Ninagawa's opulent sets and eclectic soundtrack combine to form a confronting assault of the senses. Check with your local cinema (in Japan, of course) for screenings of Heruta Sukeruta.

Friday, 13 July 2012

T.G.I.F.: Kumata Shrine Summer Festival

Osaka... the home of great food and great people. The weekend, Osaka is home to another interesting summer festival; the Kumata Shrine Summer Festival. This festival is the largest float festival in Osaka city and announces the coming of mid-summer. Of particular note is the parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) held on the 14th. Check it out! Click on the image below for more information...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Travel Log: Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival

Sorry to bang on about this... This is the last post about Tanabata, I promise! Its no secret I attended the Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival (which featured in both my previous TGIF and Tops Tuesday posts) last weekend. I wanted to share some of my snaps with you! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tops Tuesday

Last weekend I went to Hiratsuka for their annual Tanabata celebration. Tanabata festivals usually begin on or around July 7 and last up to August 7. So this week's Tops Tuesday post is dedicated to the wonder of Tanabata and its iconic paper streamers. I definitely recommend attending a Tanabata festival while in Japan; its an experience you will never forget.

(I took this image with Instagram. You can can follow me on Instagram by searching for username, "AussieOnTheIzu.")

Friday, 6 July 2012

T.G.I.F.: Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri

This weekend, of course, is Japan's famous Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival) and particularly noteworthy are the festivities in Hiratsuka which claims to host the largest (with the exception perhaps of the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri) festival of its kind in Japan. Tanabata typically celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively) who, according to legend, are separated by the Milky Way and are only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. The day is usually marked with community events, much yukata-wearing, iconic displays of colourful streamers, and plenty of food stalls. Think Valentines Day meets Mardi Gras... in Japan. The Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri takes place between Friday, July 6th and Sunday, July 8th in Hiratsuka. Click the image below for more details (Japanese only)...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Izu Life: Top 5 Little-Known Tanabata Festivals

Thinking of attending a Tanabata festival this summer? Here are some alternatives to the larger maintain-stay Tanabata festivals in Sendai and Hiratsuka that are worth checking out (click the image for more information)...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tops Tuesday

This shot was taken by the owner of GaijinHero.com and I thought it was too funny to pass over without mentioning it in a Tops Tuesday post...
Even Japanese Ninjas need some relaxing time in the park #onlyinjapan  (Taken with Instagram)
I guess even ninjas need to take a break sometimes! This shot of a couple of supposed ninjas taking a stroll was taken in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo. Have a great week!

Friday, 29 June 2012

T.G.I.F.: Nagoshi no Harae, Kyoto

Tomorrow various shrines around Kyoto will be participating in the Nagoshi no Harae ceremony, a Summer purification ritual in which visitors are invited to pass through a large ring woven of miscanthus reed to cast off defilement (kegare). Participating shrines in Kyoto include Kitano Tenmangu, Kamigamo Shrine, Fujinomori Shrine, Heian Shrine, Nonomiya Shrine, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Yoshida Shrine, Kuramazaki Shrine and more.

Click the image below for more details...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Tops Wednesday!

Sorry this is coming a day late! Happy Hump Day everyone!


Tokyo SkyTree
File:Tokyo Sky Tree 2012.JPG

Its all anyone can talk about. Having opened just one month ago, getting tickets for the newest tallest structure in Tokyo can be difficult so I'm sure most of us are looking forward to July 11th when it will be possible to purchase tickets on the day of the visit instead of through a lottery. Click the image for more information!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Travel Log: Tokyo DisneySea

This past weekend I went to Tokyo DisneySea with my friends (who were visiting from Australia) to celebrate their final weekend in Japan. We had a blast! I've been to Tokyo Disneyland a few times but this was my first time at the Disney sea park and it was amazing! You could wander through various "sea ports" around the world; from Venice to the American docks. The best parts for me will always be the roller-coaster rides, especially the Tower of Terror. Enjoy some snaps below!

Friday, 22 June 2012

T.G.I.F.: Korean Festival, Yamanashi-ken

This weekend there is a festival in Yamanashi-ken to celebrate the style, tastes and flare of Korean culture. Click the image below for more details...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tops Tuesdays: Archery in a Volcano

I found a link to this article (written by the amazing Ashley Thompson over at Surviving in Japan) floating around on a gaijin forum and decided to share this unique activity here for a Tops Tuesdays post. It is just what it sounds like; archery in a volcano. Looking for something unusual to do on your holiday? Always wanted to try your hand at a bit of archery? Want to stand in the open crater of a volcano? This could be just the right activity for you! And this particular dormant volcano (Mt. Omuro) is located on the Izu Peninsula which makes it extra special to me. Click the image for more information...

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