Golden Week Adventures Pt. 1

Well, it’s Golden Week here in Japan and it’s time to go on some adventures. On a budget of sorts since I’m running a little low on cash right now. Anyways, Golden Week is a set of national holidays in Japan on April 29 and May 2-4. Usually this means you get around a week or so off. This year I have to work in the days around it which makes it a little awkward.

So, to start off my adventures on the 29th I headed into Kyoto to meet up with some other ALT’s. We mostly just explored around the Gion and Sanjo areas of Kyoto, which is the main shopping and entertainment area of the city. They have a large maze of covered chopping streets that we had a good time wandering through. There was also a cool Cat and Owl Forest inside these shopping streets. Another ALT and I decided to check out the Owl Forest which was really cool. The owls were super soft and friendly. Some of them were super tiny too! I was having a bit of a Harry Potter nerd moment while I was there because of a couple of the owls.

On the Saturday I adventured back to Kyoto in the morning to check out a show with some other ALT’s. There is a very famous Geisha performance every spring called the Miyako Odori that runs from April 1-30th. So, we managed to get tickets for the last day. The Miyako Odori is the oldest and longest running public performance done by Geisha in Kyoto, it has been performed since 1872. The dances were quite beautiful and featured around 40-50 geisha dressed in beautiful kimonos. Sadly there were no pictures allowed but it was a really amazing experience that I would highly recommend.

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Later that evening it was back to Otsu for the Shiga Welcome Party with the other interac ALT’s. It was held at a local place called Round 1, which is a complex that includes a large arcade, a sports area, a movie theatre, karaoke rooms, and more. We spent time in the sorts area which includes bumper soccer, roller skating, batting cages, table tennis, karaoke rooms, an arcade, and more. It was super fun and only cost us about $25 a person for around 4 hours. I am definitely planning on going back there some time because there was just so much to do.

Sunday I spent recovering from the fun weekend and now I have three more days left to adventure. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet though. I would love to travel and explore more but money is a little tight till the end of the month. Oh, and it’s supposed to rain for 2 out of 3 days. I may just spend the time relaxing and recovering from my cold.

Until next time everyone!

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Surviving your first Japanese Concert

What can you do when it’s a rainy day and you’re on the Internet? Maybe buy a concert ticket? Well that is what I decided to do when I was bored one rainy day.

Now, buying a concert ticket in Japan is not an easy thing to do. Especially if you live outside the country. I luckily live here and so it’s a little bit easier. The hard part is navigating the ticketing sites, which don’t always respond well to google translate. So, after signing up for an account on one of the ticketing sites I was able to slowly navigate my way to buying a ticket to the concert that I wanted. This process was slow and required extensive use of the google translate app on my phone. Eventually though, I bought the ticket. The cool part? I hadn’t actually paid for it yet. Japan has a pretty cool system in place where you can pay for things at the convenience store. You just select the store you prefer and then head there and show them your number and they’ll print it off for you and you pay for it there. It’s super convenient if you don’t have a Japanese credit card, which are notoriously hard for foreigners to get.

So the ticket was bought and paid for, and all that was left was to wait for the concert that weekend. What concert? Well, in the past year or so I have become a fan of a certain anime that features male idol characters, and has a ton of songs to go along with it. The cool thing is that the voice actors, called seiyuu, are the ones performing all the songs. So because of that show I became a fan of several different seiyuu. Now, not only do these seiyuu do the voices in various anime and video games but many of them also have singing careers and have their own bands or singles. The concert I was heading to was for a favorite voice actor named Morikubo Showtaro. He has some pretty awesome music, I would totally recommend checking it out, and I was really excited to see him.

So the concert was at a pretty off the beaten track place in Kyoto, at least in terms of touristy areas, and it was pretty small. Kyoto isn’t exactly the go to place for concert, unlike Tokyo or Osaka. So this concert was standing room only and maybe only 800 people. Now, I’d looked up online when the merchandise booths opened and I arrived a little early to check out what kinds of merchandise there was. I was surprised at the amount of fans I saw there with merch from previous shows. So I bought a few things and then checked my purse into the coat check since you aren’t supposed to bring large bags and things into the concert. After that I intended to get some food but halfway there I realized that I’d left my ticket inside my checked bag like an idiot and so I had to go back and get it.

Because I bought my ticket last minute I ended up waiting until almost last to get in to the concert and so I was standing at the back. Thankfully, being just over average height here has its advantages as I could easily see the stage even from the back.

The show itself was great! There was a ton of songs, with little breaks for Morikubo to talk to the audience in between. As for the concert itself, the fans are defiantly more reserved than concerts that I went to back in Canada. They mostly stay in one place and there is no real dancing besides some serious arm waving. The exception to this was the group of girls at the back of the concert who where full on head-banging the whole time, whipping their long hair around like crazy for most of the songs. It was odd and I was hit by their hair more than once but at least it was a bit of a breeze?

All said and done the concert was super fun and an experience that I am so glad that I had, especially in my first few weeks of being here when I was just sitting around most days. I am really looking forward to getting to see more concerts this summer and the rest of the time that I am in Japan!

 

Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Well after the week of training it was finally time to head to my home city of Otsu, in Shiga prefecture. It was a very busy week with moving in and I had to get all sorts of things sorting like buying things for my apartment and getting a cell phone. My apartment is small but I quite like it. It is just enough space for me right now. We’ll see how I feel about it in a few months.

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I really like the neighbourhood that I am in as well. It is very much residential and like a suburb but it’s quieter than some places. I am also a very quick walk to trains and groceries. Also, to one of my schools. I am hoping that won’t be too much of a problem if kids find out where I live.

In my first week I did a little bit of sightseeing around my neighbourhood and Otsu but I mostly took it easy and worked on making my apartment home. I did go down and check out the lake briefly though.

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I also made a late afternoon visit to Omi Jingu shrine. It was very cool and I was nearly the only person there at the time. I look forward to going back there in the summer because they have a cool festival that involves horses and archery that I want to check out.

Meet the new folks!

After a weekend in Tokyo I hopped on to the Shinkansen and headed off to Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka for a week of training with Interac. I was really looking forward to meeting others who I would be working alongside. Oh, and speaking again. Because I realized shortly after arriving at training that my weekend in Tokyo was probably one of the quietest in my life. Besides facetime with my parents I am pretty sure I didn’t say much at all besides some very, very broken Japanese that was accompanied by much pointing. But hey, it’s not every day that you realize just how well you can get along in a country where you don’t really speak the language.

Training lasted for four days and kept us pretty busy from around 9 until 6 almost every evening. We had a pretty fun group though and many adventures ensued outside of training time. There were 6 of us newbies heading to Otsu city and we had a great vibe going on the whole week of training.

Capping off the training week was an awesome night out for ramen and karaoke. It was my first karaoke in Japan and man was it a total blast. Not only was I over the moon about all of the songs that they had (all of the songs that they don’t have back home) but we also had our room invaded by some very friendly and very drunk Japanese business men. Apparently this doesn’t actually happen often but we had a blast getting to know them. And it proves that you really don’t need to speak each others languages to get along in the end. Oh, and I totally wowed them with my Japanese singing skills for the like 3 songs that I know.

On the weekend we had a bit of time off before leaving since most people were heading out on Sunday morning. I was one of the lucky few that was leaving on Monday. Anyways, we had to be up really early on Saturday for a chest x-ray but after that we were free. In the afternoon, me and some of the other girls headed out to Hamamatsu castle to check out the sites. It was a really pretty day and there was even a branch or two of cherry blossoms that had bloomed early.

On Sunday everyone took off in the morning and there was a small crew of about 8 of us left. A few of us decided we wanted to check out the beach and so we hopped on the train for a bit of exploring. The stop we were directed to was actually pretty far from the beach and we had to go on a bit of a detour because of a bicycle race or something that was going on.

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We found the back eventually though and it was cool, even though it was a bit of a grey and gloomy day. We even stumbled upon this cool seafood market of some kind where they grilled fresh oysters right in front of you. That was actually a pretty cool experience and I tried my first oyster. It wasn’t too bad.

That was it for the Hamamatsu adventures though and the next day it was back on a Shinkansen towards my new home in Otsu!