Sunday, March 28, 2010

Girls' Day Out with Yeong Eon

I've mentioned Yeong Eon a lot on the blog, mostly because she's great, and also because she's the only person our age that lives in Ingu. I feel very lucky that we get to work with her and that we've become good friends. Last week we took our friendship to the next level by venturing out on the ultimate bonding experience: shopping! and coffee! We took the bus south to Gangneung where we spent several hours eating, shopping, talking, and taking pictures. I learned a little bit about what it's like to have a Korean female friend: it involves a lot of hand holding (Korean girls tend to hold hands with their female friends, Korean boys link arms or put their arms around their male friends).
We ate a delicious Ginseng Chicken Soup together:


Had really delicious lattes from the supposed "best coffee shop in Korea." They put a heart in my drink, so I'm willing to believe the hype.


Shopped and shopped and shopped

and ate street food, including Soondae (Pork intestines stuffed with pork blood and noodles). I'm not even going to pretend like it doesn't sound disgusting, but it actually tasted pretty good.

I learned that chipmunks are considered pets.

Then we went to a sticker photo booth and took some silly photos:

I have a lot of random photos here, from the past month or so.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nagoya

After leaving Andrew in Ashiya, we went to visit Matt, another friend who is living and teaching in Japan in a small town called Ogaki. I actually don't have any pictures from Ogaki, because there wasn't much to see there. It is a small, cute town that is know for the quality of it's tap water (that should give you an idea of the excitement that awaits any visitor to the bustling metropolis of Ogaki). We weren't in Ogaki to see Ogaki though, we were in Ogaki to see Matt. Matt is in a Japanese band and we traveled to the nearby city of Nagoya to see them perform.
Before the concert, we visited Nagoya Castle.



Jon pulled a stone to test if he was as strong as the men who built the castle. He was successful, but I'm not sure if that says much because I was also able to pull the stone.

Matt's band played at a venue called "Club Rock N Roll." Here he is before the show.

...and during the show.

During their last song, the keyboardist came into the crowd to let us know her opinion about trends.

So that's it for Japan! We went to so many places and saw so many people in such a short amount of time, that it was hard to write about all of them. I hope you got a decent picture of our trip. You can always look through all of the photos here to see even more of our adventures.

Again, I'm sorry about being a bad blogger lately. I will do better! Now that the trip blogs are under my belt, I can get back to telling you about the wacky things our principal and students do.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ashiya, Takarazuka, Osaka, and Kyoto

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit Japan was to see our friends who live there. Andrew has lived in Japan for a year and a half now, teaching English in a town called Ashiya which is close to both Osaka and Kyoto. Thanks to Andrew, we were able to see all of the interesting things the three cities had to offer.
First off, we went to a manga cafe. This is a place where you can rent a room for a certain amount of hours in exchange for free drinks and snacks, a computer, a TV, and all the manga you could possibly want to read. Strangely enough, I wanted to read zero manga (it didn't help that they were in Japanese), but Jon kindly found some Japanese fashion magazines for me.



The next day we went to Takarazuka where we found some pretty strange signs at a tea house.


I'm famous in Japan!
The main event in Takarazuka was the Takarazuka Revue, a famous all-women acting troupe that performs musical versions of western plays. We saw a musical version of "Hamlet." The only English was "To be or not to be" which was sung at some point in every scene. Here are Andrew and Jon waiting to go into the play.

In Osaka, we visited the shrine of the great warrior god "Mario,"

and the goddess of cuteness, "Hello Kitty."

We also found poop-shaped candy (this sort of stuff is popular in Korea too).


Kyoto is a great place to see Buddhist and Shinto Temples. Shinto temples can be recognized by the ever-present giant orange Torii gates. At Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, there was a path of Torii gates that stretched for miles.

Unlike many of the Buddhist temples that we've visited in Korea (which are free and are full of actual monks), both the Shinto and Buddhist Temples in Japan seemed to be more about procuring good health, wealth, and luck than any religious or transcendental experience. The shrines all cost money to enter and most of the traffic was directed toward buying different things in order to have temple priests pray for your wishes to come true.
Here are rows of Ema (votive plaques) and origami swans at Fushimi Inari, both used to make wishes come true.

More Ema:

Omikuji (Shinto ritual fortunes):

After visiting Fushimi Inari, we moved on to Kiyomizudera, a Buddhist Temple.

The main attraction here was the "Love Stone." A person is guaranteed to find their true love if they can successfully walk from one rock to the other with their eyes closed. Andrew successfully made his way with Jon as his guide.



Despite the stupidity (sorry) and hilarity of the Love Stone, the temple was very beautiful.


Later, in Kyoto, we went to "Cafe La Siesta" which was a Nintendo-themed bar,

where there were baskets full of video games,

and Jon had a drink called "The PacMan."

We had a great time with Andrew and did so many things, I can't (or maybe I won't because I'm too lazy) write about them all here. We were sad to leave him behind.

You can find lots more pictures here.
Next I'll post about our trip to visit Matt in Ogaki, Gifu, and Nagoya.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tokyo

Sorry for being such a lazy blogger lately! We started teaching last week, so I've been a little preoccupied. Hopefully I can remember our trip to Japan!

If I could sum up our trip in one word it would be: nerdy.

We saw soft drinks featuring videogames:

Played videogames:

And played with toys based on videogames:

On our first morning in Tokyo, we went to a tiny little cafe that was owned by an old man and his wife. Halfway through our meal, the wife came in and placed this turtle in a bucket next to our chair. Jon thought they might be planning on cooking it, but when the old man leaned over and talked lovingly to the turtle, it was apparent that it was actually some sort of pet.

Jon really liked playing with the origami.

A trip to Tokyo wouldn't be complete without a visit to Harajuku, an area known for girls dressed up in crazy fashions. Unfortunately "Harajuku girls" can only be seen on Sundays, and we weren't in Tokyo on a Sunday. I had to settle for a picture of me, in my normal clothes, where the girls usually stand.


We saw a lot of cute (and weird) stores. Unfortunately, another apt description of Japan is "expensive," so no shopping for me.




Another must-see spot in Tokyo is "Akihabara" or "Electric Town" the hub of all things nerdy/technological. Akihabara is full of arcades, manga shops, video game stores, and "maid cafes" (Creepy places where you are served by a girl in a maid costume).




The weirdest thing (ok, not the weirdest thing, but the weirdest thing I feel comfortable writing in my blog) that we saw in Akihabara were stores specializing in making custom dolls. Apparently it is a trend now for Japanese people (men and women, adults and children) to make these dolls and then buy them clothes and accessories. When I say custom, I mean custom. Everything can be chosen from hand size to eye color.



Here are some finished products:

The best part of Tokyo was visiting the Studio Ghibli museum, a museum displaying the work of Hayao Miyazaki a Japanese director who made some of my favorite movies (My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Spirited Away, etc..). The inside of the museum was really interesting and displayed different animation techniques and sketches from the movies. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside, and it was a rainy gross day so the pictures from outside don't look too great.
Here I am with a big Totoro:

Inside the museum's cute Straw Hat Cafe (looking like the Cheshire cat):


It's still as cold as ever here. We had another snow storm last week.
I'll post more about Japan tomorrow. You can find the whole album of photos here.