Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 10: O-sento Adventures and Making Dinner!

Friday was the day I was planning to make dinner! Yay!

Around lunchtime, I went over to Sunny Side bakery to get some garlic bread and goodies for my lunch! :) It was packed, of course, and they were so many delectable goodies! I got the rest of the garlic bread for dinner (5 slender baguettes) and then started looking around for my lunch! :) I got a mini hamburg sandwich, a pizza bread, the amazing matcha muffin, and a lemon cheesecake tart! I wanted to try different things, but I think I like what I had the first time best~ :) The pizza bread had corn in it! XD The muffin is still the best muffin I have ever had!

After shopping there, I walked across the street to Lawsons, a conbini. I bought a Japanese fashion magazine that came with a Hello Kitty bag and a Mameshiba book! YAY! Then, I walked back home. Tecola came back from work and asked if I wanted to go to the O-sento, which is the bathhouse. I was flustered, but I said yes since I didnt have anything else planned.

It was not too far away and the bathhouse itself was so nice inside! Very classy and fun atmosphere! It was not expensive either. I put my shoes in a locker and gave the key to the lady behind the desk. She then gave me a bracelet with a bar code that keeps count of what I buy/order. Then, I was escorted upstairs to the women's bath and shown my locker for my clothes. I wore the key as a bracelt too and, well, started to get ready! First I undressed, then went into the shower area, because you have to shower and clean up before bathing.

Yes, it was a little nerve-wracking at first. I was the only foreign woman and one of the youngest too. No one was mean though, so that was nice. I got a few funny looks, and one old lady smiled at me. :) The water was warm and there were a few different baths. My favorite was the private tub outside. The cool breeze felt really good!

After a while, I started feeling overwhelmed by the heat, and got ready to get out. I changed and dried my hair in the area reserved for primping. I then went downstairs, got a water bottle, and called Tecola to come pick me up. After a little while, he came and got me. We stopped at a secondhand store that had a lot of awesome things!!! I kind of want to go back, but if I did I would spend too much money! XD

The rest of the day I felt very relaxed and energetic because of the baths. It was really nice. :) I started dinner, and everyone enjoyed the pasta and salad! YAY! The garlic bread was delicious too! :)

Day 9: English Lessons~!

Thursday was a rather simple day, I relaxed all morning and was able to chat with Andrew! It was a lot of fun! :) Then, I got ready to go to Namba to speak at Mari's English lesson there!

Before the lesson, we went into a little shop next door to the school where they sold international food. I was going to make pasta for the family the next day, so we bought some pasta sauce and noodles! :)

At the lesson, we talked for a long time and I enjoyed speaking to the students. There were 4 people there; all four were older Japanese people who wanted to learn English since they had so much spare time. They were very kind and interested in who I am and what I had to say. One of the ladies even made me homemade sembei!!! That was so sweet of her! Like I've said before, Japanese people are so generous! :) We talked about literature, music, American concerts, and the Shinsengumi!

After the lesson, Mari treated me to some soft serve ice cream with caramel sauce and cookie bits drizzled on top in a waffle cookie! SO GOOD! Even thhough it was very cold that day! >.< Both Thursday and Friday were extremely cold days and everyone was surprised!

That night, I was supposed to speak English with some of Mari's students, but one never showed up and the other was too shy so he went home. We are going to do it in a couple weeks though, so that's good!

For dinner, we had pork cutlets and a radish salad made by Katoh-san, the nice Japanese housekeeper! It was delicious and I helped out a lot, which made me happy. Tecola's family are being so generous, so I like to help out as much as I can! :)

Day 8: Totoro Forest!

Even though I was kind of tired from the Kyoto trip the day before, I was super excited to go up to the nearby mountains with Tecola! We drove up these achingly green mountains, hoping for a glimpse of monkeys, but there were none to be found! Only signs telling people about them.

We visited Katsuo-ji Temple, which is famous for being a temple dedicated to people winning things! It is a working temple, and people go there to make wishes, so there are daruma and wishing placards all over! It is such a magical temple; perhaps my favorite out of the ones I've visited so far! :D

There were also the cutest little things that made me think of wooden dolls everywhere! Apparently, they are for wishing to. I couldn't stop taking pictures of them! XD I really can't wait for Andrew to come visit that temple with me; I think he would love it too~! It really made me think of a Totoro forest!!! So special!

It was funny because Tecola bought me a charm that was supposed to make sure I got married! Hear that Andrew? ;) lol :D It is a really cute charm, and even has a little golden daruma on it that has the name of the temple on the back, so I am so happy to have a souvenir! :D

As we left the temple after walking around and admiring the fish in the lake, we noticed a path in the side of the hill across from the temple. Tecola asked about it and it turns out that it is a pathway that goes over the mountain to Mino! Tecola and I were up for adventuring so we stared walking up the path. Even though it has stairs built in, it was hard going! The trees were magnificent and plentiful! Perhaps I will walk that path sometime, eh? :)

Day 7: Making New Friends!

This day seemed daunting at first because I had to navigate the train system myself, but it turned out to be very fun and adventurous! Being thrown into situations in a foreign country always makes one learn! :)

I took a train to Umeda to meet up with the daughter of one of Mari's friends. Her name is Yu and she is so pretty! I was a little nervous at first, but as the day went on we became friends~ :)

We went on another train to begin our journey to Arashiyama, a town in Kyoto that is very old and lovely! We got off at a town called Katsura and I had to use the bathroom. Much to my surprise and dismay, this bathroom was Japanese-style!! Which meant the toilet was just a sink-like hole in the floor....and one has to squat...needless to say I was not happy and didn't like it one bit! >.<

We made it to Arashiyama quickly and as soon as we stepped out of the train it was hot! Arashiyama is so beautiful! One of my favorite places EVER! There is a huge rushing river going through it that is so powerful and people walk and play along the banks of it! We crossed a bridge into the town part and I loooved how old it is! Lots of people and children on school trips were there, but it wasn't as crowded as Shijyo-dori. We went to see Tenryu-ji, a huge temple with a lovely garden! I bought some goodies at a sweets shop, and we walked around a bit before going to lunch. I ordered a soba set at the cutest restaurant! It came with cold soba, tempura, and the most amazing rice ever! The rice was stir-fried with seaweed, green onions, and maybe garlic! YUM!

After lunch, Yu-san wanted to take me to Kinkakuji and meet up with her friend at Kyoto station. Before heading on the bus to Kyoto station, I bought a roll cake sandwich with matcha flavored mousse. It was so tasty and sweet! MMMMMMM....I can't wait to go back to that stand! :) The bus ride was kinda long but easy enough. We met up with her cute friend at the huge Kyoto station and boarded a crowded bus to Kinkakuji.

Kinkakuji is an amazing feat-- It's so large and beautiful! The gardens are amazing and even prettier than the garden at Tenryu-ji! I bought some goodies at the little shops along the way and we talked about how the garden made us think of Totoro! Yay!

After that, we took yet another bus to Kawaramachi, a shopping arcade. We went in some cute shops and bought some fun things! :) Since I had told Yu-san I liked ramen, we went to Ippudo, which is a famous ramen chain!!!! OMG It was so good! I loved what I had! It was the red bowl, and so rich!!! XD I was in ramen heaven! The place itself is interesting because you sit at communal tables. It's not awkward at all though.

After dinner, they wanted to go to a cafe. I was getting pretty wiped out, but we had fun talking at a cool cafe. :) I took the train back to Mino and was so tired from the surprisingly super fun day!! :D Thanks you guys!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 6: Ramen Adventures!

Since I had a free Monday, I wanted to go try the nearby ramen place. On Saturday, I spent two hours walking around Mino, taking pictures and trying to find it. Mari told me the right way to go, and on Monday I set out to find it!

It was a grey day, raining slightly, and I took one of the girls' umbrellas just in case. It felt so cool to be walking around Japan, toting an umbrella on a rainy day. It was just so cute!

The ramen place certainly has character! Tecola thinks the kitchen is dirty, but I was brave and went anyway~ The ladies were super nice to me. I sat on a stool at a little bar overlooking the street. I ordered the #2 most popular item (according to their website), the Sesame miso ramen, and some gyoza. The gyoza were okay, I think I have had better. The ramen was rich and very miso-y! I enjoyed it, but it was heavy! It came with a special sesame paste, which was a tad bit spicy. I loved the crunchy, refreshing bean sprouts! It was a pretty cheap and filling lunch!

I ambled out of there and walked next door to a conbini. I got a green tea Kit Kat, yum! Also, I picked up some band-aids and cute little things for me and Andrew, hehe~ Then, for the rest of the day I rested and then played catch with Sei outside. It was a fun and relaxing day!

Day 5: Concert at Namba Hatch!

Even though I was pretty tired from my exciting surprise trip to Kyoto the day before, I woke up ready and excited for a concert!

And not just any concert mind you, this was an event called Over The Edge '10! There were 11 bands and some session bands too! I was really going to see one of my favorite Japanese bands, Girugamesh. I've always wanted to see them live, and this was my big chance!

The concert started at 1, so I got there around 12:15. I bought a peach yogurt drink at the conbini next door to the entrance to the Namba Hatch. I went up the escalators, and entered the concert! Yay! I dropped off a gift for Girugamesh, and went to go up to the concert area. A line of visual kei band guys greeted me and handed me fliers. I was so nervous to walk through them; that kind of attention is too much lol! XD

The girls (and a few guys) in the audience were for the most part very nice! It was fun to see all the different kinds of outfits, hehe~ I talked to one nice lady while we were waiting for the next band to set up. She was standing behind me, and I had offered her a little snack, which she declined. We had a cute conversation in Japanese and I was super proud of myself, hehe~ She was a Mama, so I was jealous! XD

I was there for a total of 8 1/2 hours.....totally crazy. Some of the bands were okay, but then some were AWESOME and really fun! Girugamesh were great, but they came at the end. I was pretty tired by then, and not as excited as I had been earlier. They were seriously awesome, thought it went by too quick! This just means I have to go to an entire concert by them!!

After I left, which was after Giru performed, I went back down and bought a Giru t-shirt and towel! Yay! You can't get that stuff in the states! ;) Then, I went to go wait for Mari, who nicely offered to pick me up! I sat on some steps outside, under a big dome thing (hard to explain, eee), and felt a bit sad. It went by too quick and I wished Giru had performed a bit longer.

Also, I think I was feeling lonely. Going to a concert by yourself can be a bit sad, especially when you are a foreigner. I kept wishing Andrew had been with me, because his observations would have been funny to hear! But, being in a foreign country by yourself is lonely, luckily I live with a nice family. That makes me feel better. If I was here in Japan as an exchange student, I think I would be depressed! I am excited to be here and experience Japan, but I am also looking forward to going back home and being with Andrew, my friends, and my family. I think things at school will hopefully get better too~ I feel more mature lately! ;)

Day 4: Surprise Trip To Kyoto~!

Saturday was an amazing day! So many adventures and surprises! Japanese people are extremely generous!

I spent the morning walking around Mino, trying to find the ramen place for lunch! I was going the entirely wrong direction after two hours, I went back to the house, planning to whip up something quick.
When I got there, sunburnt and with aching feet, Mari (my host-mother) was with one of her students. Mari is an English teacher and has many kind students of all ages! This particular woman, Morita-san, was dressed in a light pink kimono. She was so excited to meet me, and spoke very little English. Turns out she is the owner of a famous Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto known as Sa-ami. She invited me to go back to Kyoto with her!

I was ecstatic and very surprised by her generous offer. It was a wonderful chance for me to practice my Japanese, and I never bowed so much in my life, haha~ :)
After the 1 hour drive to Kyoto, she took me around and showed me Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Koen, and Shijyo-dori (the main street of Kyoto), and fed me zenzai mochi. It was all so beautiful and overwhelming! :D I even saw Maiko, which are apprentice geisha~

Sa-ami is in Odu Nobunaga's brother's house, so there is so much history behind such a place! It was beautiful; I love tatami and shoji panels~ After letting me shop myself for a few hours, I went back to the restaurant and she fed me a modified Kaiseki dinner FOR FREE! WOW! I couldn't believe it!! The food was wonderful! I ate everything!

I learned so much about Japan and Japanese people. It was that day that I realized that I am truly becoming immersed in Japan. I am now used to hearing Japanese spoken all the time. It was so fun! I met so many kind people at her restaurant! She even gave me some parting gifts!

Morita-san, thank you for everything! I will never forget my first experience in Kyoto! :)

Friday, May 21, 2010


Day 3: Friday, May 21, 2010

As I had mentioned in the previous post, I had not slept well the night before. I woke up groggy and not feeling well at all! It was probably some residual jet lag I had to get through. I went downstairs to eat breakfast after I had taken a shower, and was so tired I didn't want to "be Japanese today", which meant I felt so tired and out of it! Of course, that was silly and I snapped out of it right away. At 10 am, Tecola took me to COSTCO with him in Amagasaki, which was a city about 45 minutes away. I didn't mind the long drive because I got to look at the interesting scenery. Osaka is super developed and industrialized. There are so many tall buildings, and there are still old-fashioned Japanese style homes and businesses so those are fun to spot! Electrical wire runs above us, and there is so much of it!

When we got to Costco, the sun was shining a bit but it was ridiculously hot, ugh. Once we got inside, I felt a slight tremor of fear: IT WAS SO CROWDED. And here's the thing, Japanese people aren't so careful about walking around. They are really cutthroat, they drive like that too. There is a different sort of dynamic present and I had to learn it. They had a lot of American things, but also special fruits that are only availible here. We got some mangoes, kiwis, and mangosteens! Mangosteens aren't allowed in America, so I am excited to try it soon! Tecola also got me some goodies, like muffins and frozen macarons whch was super nice! What was interesting was that they don't bag your groceries. You can put your things in boxes of you want or just out your items in your car. One of the ladies helping us say that we spoke english so she practiced her english with us, haha. It's funny because a lot of the Japanese people I meet want to speak English to me. I still need to practice my Japanese though!

After shopping, we went to go get a hot dog! They were such a good deal; 200 yen for a long hot dog and a tall drink! I got lemon Fanta, which was all right. The hot dog was so tasty! :) Shopping at Costco in the heat and crowd took a lot out of us!
When we got home, I went to my room to relax. I was still feeling iffy from the night before, so I had no engery to go out and about. Later, I made a sandwich from the leftover chicken katsu, and it was good! I ate some frozen macarons for dessert, hehe~ When the kids came home, I watched a little TV with them; they are so shy! Sei-chan wanted to play catch with me, but she was too shy to ask! So Tecola asked me to play with her, and we had fun! Around 7, I went with Tecola to a department store shopping area nearby. He wanted to buy some shoes and get some groceries. The department store we went to was called Aeon, but it used to be Carrefour, when it was owned by a French company. The French style is still prevalent, especially in the wine section, hehe~ He bought some giant dried corn, which was good! You can't find it in America apparently! XD It was cool~

After shopping, he bought me ice cream at Haagen Daz! I got cookies and green tea on a cone and it was sooooo tasty and yummy! :D
When we got home, I helped prepare dinner. We had bulgogi beef, spinach, salmon sashimi, and rice. I tried the sashimi....and was not a fan. The taste wasn't that bad, but the texture got me! Eeeep! I enjoyed taking with Mari after dinner (Tecola's wife) and then I became sooo tired. I went to sleep and actually slept for a little over 7 hours straight! YAY!

What was interesting about last night was that one of Bruck's (the third son) friends from his school came to sleep over. He is half-French and half-Japanese. His mother is from France and apparently not doing so well here. Her husband beats on her!!!! D: Mari told me that happens a lot to wives, especially the wives of policemen. It's really tragic. The boy has a French accent when he speaks English and Japanese! He was really shy when I spoke to him in French, but answered me.

This morning dawned sunny, so hopefully it will be a nice day! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 2: Of Japanese bread and Namba Shopping

Day 2: Thursday May 20, 2010

Yes my friends, I got to go out and experience crazy shopping in Japan!!

First, lets start with my breakfast. I had a wonderfully fluffy and tasy slice of Japanese white bread with strawberry preserves, and let me tell you it is DIVINE. For some reason, it's so good! Then, I relaxed all morning because I was still tired and sore. At noon, Tecola's wife took me to a wonderful bakery called Sunny Side! It was sooooo good and cute! I met all these Japanese women, because Mari knows them all, and they were so nice and happy to meet me! Then, we went inside and I picked out some breads for lunch! OH MY GOODNESS there were so many wonderful things to choose from! We were in a hurry, so I wasn't able to take pictures, but I will next time! I chose a bacon gratin baguette, fried curry bread, matcha muffin with white chocolate, and an almond cream bread. WOW! The fried curry bread was hot and fresh, and the curry was rich with tomatoes, beef, and other goodies. The bacon gratin bread was very rich and filled with creamy sharp cheese and tasty chunks of bacon! That was my lunch, haha. :) I saved the sweets for later~

Driving through Osaka to go to Namba was fascinating. Osaka has some almost industrial parts to it, as well as tall buildings with interesting architecture. So many people bike; I saw many men in suits biking, which made me think they must bike to work. There are people everywhere!
We parked in a lot next to 2 or three love hotels, since it was cheaper. The people going into the hotels and coming out seemed like young couples having fun, but it was a little awkward! XD
We walked up some streets to the Namba shopping arcade, which is crazy and crowded! So different than any place I've ever been to! I thought it was rather exhilarating myself, but I know my boyfriend wouldn't like how crowded it was. ;) It was also really interesting to be in a place surrounded by people who don't look like you. I felt like I stuck out alot!
Mari teaches English once a week in a historic elementary school that hosts classes for older people. Its a funny place because it's in the heart of the shopping arcade! To get there, we walked down Namba Cafe Street, and I loved it! Such cute and clean cafes~ :)
I was free to roam and shop for an hour and a half, so I got to it! At first, I was shy about going into a store and buying something but in the end it was no problem. I got a few cute things, and a gift for my sister. I can't wait to go back and buy some takoyaki and ramen, as well as the cute tourist things haha! :D
I did get to go into the school, and I love how old it is! Thw wood creaks lol~ I am going to go to the class next week to answer questiong, but I went in to meet everyone real quick first. They applauded me when I entered the room!!!! XD It was so sweet and nice! I am really looking forward to going back next week!

When we got home, we were exhausted. I almost fell asleep upstairs, but lukcily Mari asked if I wanted to go to the store with her and pick up her daughters. I was happy to go! We drove through Old Street, which was so cute and narrow! The homes were so lovely!
After getting the girls, we went to a Supa, a supermarket. She let me choose some goodies to try, so I got Yuzu sorbet (Japanese citrus), rice gelato (!!!!), and black sesame rice crackers. I am excited to try all these goodies and report to you all! :)
Then, I helped make the salad and veggies for dinner. We had chicken katsu, and it was tasty! We also had Hijiki, a sweet seawead salad. Hmmmm, I ate it but it's not my favorite! Tecola also got me a special adapter plug for my laptop, so I can use it! Yay!!
After dinner, I was so tired I went straight to bed. Only to wake up at 4 in the morning. I couldn't go back to sleep....I don't like jet lag!

All in all, a super fun and exciting day!!!!

Day 1: Of Cats and Ofuro

Day 1: Wednesday, May 19, 2010.

First off, let me say that this whole experiences is UNREAL. Sometimes I can't believe I really am in Japan! I am living with a family friend and his family in Minoo, Osaka. Minoo is a fascinating city, because last year many more homes and businesses were built. Apparently, there were only bushes and trees everywhere; now, there are charming bakeries and cafes. More homes were built, which means that Minoo is full of people. Actually, Japan is full of people!!

I arrived on Wednesday at Osaka International Airport after over 13 hours of traveling. It was raning and very warm. I am definitely unused to the humidity here! I felt disgusting, was exhausted, and never wanted to ride an airplane again! I was warmly welcome by Tecola and his large, fun family! :) I had a lovely dinner of rice, grilled beef, salad, and miso soup~!

However, before I indulged in a home-cooked meal, I wanted to clean myself up. The bathroom is not connected to a toilet, like most American bathrooms. Their is a separate room with a ofuro (bathtub) and a shower. A sink is also in there too. The bath automatically fills itself, so Tecola turned it on for me. He said it would be ding when finished. I started washing myself, and was excited to go into the bath! However, somehow it had filled up to the brim, and I was so scared it would flood! It almost did flood, evidently, and I was so worried! I didn't want to ruin everything my first night here! Luckily, the shower worked easily and I was clean and refreshed~

Sleeping has been interesting, to say the least. I had immense trouble falling asleep that first night. Especially, when one of the four cats here decided to introduce himself and let himself in to my room! The cat was super affectionate, and laying on me, but I was trying to fall asleep and it didn't help, haha~

The first night was a bit overwhelming, and it's been hard for me to feel 100% again, but I'm getting there! :) Thanks for reading!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Leaving for Japan!!

Hello everyone!

I am leaving for the airport today to start my journey to Japan! I am so excited! Please be looking forward to pictures and details of my experiences! I will be in Japan for 6 weeks and will be back in the US on July 2.

Stay-tuned for fun stuff and thanks for reading!!! :)