Afterwards we walked through a few department stores and markets before calling it a night. See pictures below.
着(ki)- means to wear 物(mono)- a thing. Kimono translates literally into something to wear. And guess what, I got to wear one!! I do not claim to be an expert on kimono but I would love to become one! The kimono is the traditional clothing in Japan and while most people now wear silly western clothes, I have still seen many women and even some men wearing kimono in and around Tokyo in the past two months. Kimono, as far as I know, are still commonly hand-made fabrics some with extremely rich and beautiful fabric and exquisite designs. Therefore kimono are also very expensive.
Another style of kimono is a yukata. This is a much thinner clothing article worn in summer to help keep cool and in most onsen areas (but NOT in the onsen, but I guess I will be getting to that in my next post). This may be the variety of kimono that I end up buying for myself due to being a much lower price. So if I do, you will get pictures of it when I do so. For now, here are group shots of Cincinnati students wearing kimono (not all are pictured at any given time).
I know there are other varieties, but I do not know enough about them to share here. The kimono I wore was what I believe to be a typical one and had MANY layers. It probably took about 15 minutes for a professional to dress me in it and then I also needed help getting out of the kimono afterwards (due to the number of belts tied around my waist).
The guys in the pictures here were in what we were told are typically wedding kimono for men. The next two slideshows are photoboming small group photos and candids thanks to Tamura-senpai, respectively.
After donning kimono and taking them off, the group headed back to Shibuya station where most students headed home but Anthony and I decided to go wander around Shinjuku a bit because we were so close. While there we went up in the Metropolitan Building. This is one of the only or the only free place to be high in a building and look out over Tokyo. We were very fortunate and made it up in time to catch Mount Fuji in the sunset.
Afterwards we walked through a few department stores and markets before calling it a night. See pictures below.
As a child, I made a lot of jewelry (you can ask my mom if you don't believe me) but I never really carried on my jewelry-making skills when the jump from plastic beads to jewels and stones occurred so I have not made anything I can wear in a very long time, but Incul helped me fix that problem! With friends and classmates in tow, I visited a jewelry-making store where we all were able to make silver rings! Please follow along with my explanation in the below slideshow of photos!!
After we made our rings, we had some free time before we met up to take a ferry to Odaiba! Odaiba is an island made from garbage (like strategically dumped into the sea to make a piece of lang that didn't before exist...) that has any office buildings, a few malls, something presented by Toyota (I don't know the name, sorry), a huge Gundam statue, and a mini representation of the statue of liberty.
And we finally made it to Odaiba! As a group we of course had to do pictures and then we went to see the tiny statue of liberty (my joke was "I have a keychain of the statue bigger than this thing!") and the huge Gundam statue. Then we split ways. I'm not sure where most of the people went but some of the UC boys went to find the "Tokyo Teleport" station (actually a place) and Henry, Anthony, and I decided to check out an area suggested by Tamura-senpai. It ended up being a Toyota historical museum, an indoor mall designed to look like an outdoor mall, and a Toyota showcase hall.
Overall, Odaiba was a pretty cool place. And it turns out that my work is quite close to it, so I might be visiting again!
Incul is short for Intercultural Institute of Japan (my language school). I'm participating in a 3-week winter course with them and each day after we have class from 10-13:10 we head out to explore Tokyo together!
This week began with a trip to the Disaster Prevention Center. It was right next to the fire department so I took a picture of the fire truck for William Bick's kindergarten students to see!
The building is pretty cool too! So in the disaster prevention center we watched a movie about the three largest recorded earthquakes in Japan's history, learned about fire safety and had a Taiwan vs America how to get out of a burning building without dying from smoke inhalation competition (I think we tied at slight casualties but no deaths level), practiced using fire extinguishers, and went through an earthquake simulator. I don't think I want to be around when a magnitude 7 or higher occurs...
It was educational, but I really wish we could have been taught in English because I couldn't understand everything our guide told us in Japanese.
The next day was 節分 (Setsubun) which is the last day on winter here (the beginning of February). Because of this, after class everyone went to the first floor of the building to throw 豆まき (mamemaki; soy beans) at Oni (demons) while saying 鬼は外！福は内！(Out with the demons, In with good luck) and then eating the number of beans as our age. It was quite fun.
After Mamemaki festivities, the winter course group went to Koiwa to watch and enjoy 茶道 (a tea ceremony).
The next day, I finally made it to Meiji Jingu. Meiji is the Shinto enshrinment of the souls of Emperor Meiji and his Empress. It was completed in 1920 and is a very popular shrine to visit in Tokyo. Around New Years it is so crowded that one can barely move and people cannot even make it up to the coin toss area of the shrine (according to my friends who went earlier in the trip). At the beginning of February it wasn't quite so crowded. Due to the proximity of Harajuku's Takeshita-Dori, we went there when done touring the shrine. Honestly, it wasn't what I was expecting and felt a little cheated due to how little street fashion was being represented that day.
After Meiji, I went home to prepare for my interview the next day. Word of advice: don't schedule interviews at 4am. It's a really weird time of day to have an interview and I thought I could tough it but I was too nervous to sleep before the interview and too exhausted after it to go to class the next day.
Because I hadn't used my rail pass to go to the school and it was expiring that day I decided to make it worth it and went shopping. FYI clothes and shoes run much smaller in Japan than in the USA. When I find a place where an LL isn't tight on me and shoes that fit, I will probably be shouting it from the rooftops (you might even hear me back in Cincinnati).
Then Friday I had my last day of class for the week. There were no planned activities for the winter course, so we all went to get curry at the Indo-Curry place down the street and ordered an extra naan in addition to our meal (that included naan) and in the process confused the crap out of our waiter.
Later that night I had Cameron and his guest over for dinner! I learned that my apartment can cozily accommodate three for dinner, but definitely no more! We made pasta (with chicken liver....) and then enjoyed some tasty ice cream (from the biggest container I've seen sold in Japanese stores!). Enjoy photos of food and other random things I neglected to mention above!
まったね～！Until next time everyone!
The first time I was in Tokyo, I went to Tokyo Dome City with my tour group to see Tokyo Dome (where Tokyo's baseball team plays and many concerts are held) and then check out the attractions: a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and some other rides etc. The group I was with wanted to ride the only roller coaster there but it was closed, so I was VERY excited to return and see if it was open.
After getting our tickets (covered by our school fees so I am not sure of the price), we went to check out the attractions! Tokyo Dome City actually has quite a few attractions I wasn't aware of. For example, our first was a 3D adventure "ride" and then afterwards we played a game that included memorizing pictures, making our way through a small mirror maze, and then through a bigger maze of hexagons to find the items and our way out! Then we found a haunted house that really scared Tamura-senpai and myself but I don't think it frightened anyone else.
Even though it was too cold to ride any water rides (in my opinion), we decided we wanted to ride the ferris wheel and roller coaster. Unfortunately due to the weather the roller coaster was yet again closed and I really hope it opens back up sometime before I leave. We did get to ride the Ferris wheel though. Henry, Cameron, and Amber went up in one of the cars while Tamura-senpai, Anthony, and I went up in another. Some awesome things about the ferris wheel: it has a music player in it, we saw Mount Fuji, it was enclosed so we didn't get too cold.
After our ride in the Ferris wheel we decided it was time for lunch and someone decided we should go to Bubba Gumps so hey, why not! After lunch I had my first Baskin Robins (maybe ever) and it was delicious. Before leaving I went on a ride similar to Boo Blasters / The Scooby Doo shooting ride at Kings Island for those of you who go there where you try to shoot targets for points. The first time through, I almost made it onto the day's scoreboards! But my second time through I didn't have nearly as much accuracy in my shooting.
Last Monday to kick off the winter course at the Intercultural Institute, we met a group of kids from Taiwan and went to Ame-Yoko and Ueno Park together. Due to the street being called other names, I didn't realize until I was walking down Ame-yoko that I had already been there!
According to our teacher, the Ame (アメ) is short for America and Yoko (横) means shopping street. Ame-Yoko has origins as the first "American-style" shopping street to show up in Japan after World War II. While this style shopping street no longer exists in America (that I know of), there are many in Japan.
Walking through Ame-Yoko midday in the winter is not too terribly difficult, but during the summer months and especially on weekends it is teeming with people to somehow find your way around. It's almost a challenge to see how many stores you can spot (over 500 I believe) and definitely a challenge getting to the shop you want to stop at. Shoppers can find virtually anything in Ame-yoko from fresh meats and vegetables to clothing to imported snacks and coffee beans.
After browsing the many many treasures of Ame-Yoko, we made our way to Ueno Park. On my first study tour to Japan, I was able to visit Ueno park on my way to Tokyo National Museum, the oldest and largest museum in Japan. This year, I was actually able to walk through the park to see the remains of Kaneiji Temple including the still-standing Pagoda, Kiyomizu (pure water) Kannon Temple, Toshogu Shrine, and Bentendo.
A side note about religions in Japan: temples are places of worship and the homes of Buddhist gods, shrines are the places of worship and areas of enshrinement of Shinto gods. These two religions have lived in harmony in Japan for many years as they complement each other well in objectives (Buddhism about the way of death and Shintoism about the way of life). Because of this harmony almost every large shrine complex includes a small temple and vice versa.
The next day after class, we traveled to Asakusa for some of us to revisit Sensoji (Temple) and for some, to experience it for the first time. Asakusa and Sensoji were actually my responsibility to research before we went there on my first trip to Tokyo! While my efforts combined with my adviser's got us lost that day, my second trip ran quite a bit more smoothly.
Asakusa's Sensoji, typically referred to as "Sensoji Temple" (the "ji" stands for temple everyone...), is the oldest temple in Tokyo. After making their way through the 雷門(kaminarimon, Thunder Gate), tourists and locals alike mix together in the crazy shopping street: Nakamise Dori. Here we browsed shops, ate senbei (a rice cake snack?), and enjoyed fried Monja.
I tried matcha and sakura monja (green tea followed by cherry blossom). They are delicious and I HIGHLY suggest that anyone traveling down Nakamise Dori try at least one of the monja's. The shop on the right towards the end of the street is superb. The staff even asked me (in Japanese <3 ) where I was from and when I told them Ohio-shu, the man put a paper in front of the lady's face and removed it and she said "Ohayou!!" (which is good morning in Japanese). Quite a fun exchange.
And then of course, once we made it out of the shops, we entered the grounds of the oldest temple in Tokyo and it was just as amazing as I remembered it. I promptly made my way to an おみくじ (Omikuji, fortune) station and dutifully paid my 100 yen, shook a container, pulled my number out of it, and found my fortune. Luck was on my side this time though! I got good fortune. According to our guide, 80% of Sensoji's omikuji are bad luck.
I then proceeded to wash my hands, waft smoke at my lungs (in hope to heal my asthma issues, oh the irony), and then made my way up into the temple to pay my dutiful 10 yen coin in exchange for a prayer. I feel like a local. (Random thought to research: some places I have gone to have bells to ring and others don't, yet the method of praying is always the same: toss in your coin, bow and pray, clap twice, bow again. I wonder if shrines have bells and temples don't.)
The next day we went to the Imperial Palace again. I don't have any new pictures, but be sure to check out the school's Facebook for the photos from that day and all the other trips. It was interesting to see the grounds not covered in thousands upon thousands of people and to walk through the remains of the old palace site.
Then on Thursday, after taking many pictures of Skytree, I finally got to visit Skytree! This is the newest viewing tower in Tokyo and the tallest in Japan as far as I know. It's a bit expensive, but it was included in our school fees, so that was awesome! Below are my pictures of the city that never ends, except when it hits the ocean, but even there Japan has built multiple islands (some out of trash) in an effort to expand into the sea as well.
It seems like because of Valentine's day they were trying to be all lovey-dovey like Namsan tower was, but I don't think they constantly have a love theme going on in the tower. (But Janelle, if they had a mailbox, I would have sent a postcard this time)
I also got to walk around outside the bottom of the tower (forgot to take my artsy, "I'm at the bottom of a tower and looking up" photo, but oh well) and that night I made myself yaki-soba and had some mochi with kinako on it, so please enjoy some more food pictures, you're welcome.
The next day, Friday, it decided to snow it Tokyo. I was not a happy camper when the weather went from rain to snow and back to rain again, but with Ohio's weather patterns I should be accustomed to that by now. We didn't have an activity for the winter course because the whole school was invited to make kites!
The word for kite in Japanese is 凧(Tako). Another meaning (with different Kanji of course) of the word "tako" in Japanese is octopus. So naturally, I had to draw an octopus on my kite! Also, if you want to see the AMAZING artwork of some other students, please check out the Intercultural School's Facebook Album.
That is all for now, there is much more of my journey to share but this post has taken so long to upload that I am going to share it all in tidbits! Sorry for the delays, hopefully I will be caught up soon!
Until next time, Morgan.
*PS if a word is green, that means I have linked some content to my blog (usually the corresponding Facebook album) so click on them!