Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Family Adventure Day's 2-3

The second day we headed out of Tokyo to spend some time by Mt. Fuji. Dad had reserved a room in a 旅館 (ryokan: a traditional Japanese inn) and we were all pretty excited to experience a new part of Japan. I had only been outside of the Tokyo metro area once, when I went to 日光 (see post here) so I was really excited to go again. It took us a few hours of trains to get there, but it was definitely worth it!

View of Fuji at Otsuki station

After we checked in and before they gave us dinner, we decided to walk down to the 忍野ハ海 (Oshino Hakkai). These are 8 ponds that contain water that melted from the snow on Mt. Fuji, was filtered for several decades through the lava in the ground, and has come up as pure spring water. The area was gorgeous, and we all took a ton of pictures!

The area is a perfect spot to get pictures with Mt. Fuji!

After we had seen all the ponds, done some souvenir shopping, and tried a delicious red bean paste filled rice ball, we went back to the inn. The inn provided us all with our own 浴衣 (yukata: a light, summer/pajama type kimono) and we all had a lot of fun wearing them!

Sleeping on futon's!

The food they provided was all very traditional, so we ate lots of tofu, fish, seaweed and rice. 

At night we all spent some time soaking in the 温泉 (onsen: hot spring) and everyone loved it! The water is so hot though, so we all were exhausted and went to sleep super early. The next day we spent some time walking around by the station and then went to go see 浅間神社 (Sengen shrine) a local shrine. It was gorgeous, and everyone got really excited to go see 浅草寺 (Senso-ji) on New Year's Eve.

After the shrine we caught a train and headed back into Tokyo. We spent a little time wandering around 西荻窪 (nishi-ogikubo), the neighborhood we are staying in, but we were all pretty worn out from travelling and in was another early night for us. I am really glad that the family was able to spend some time outside of Tokyo while they were here! I wish I could bring my rosehip-hibiscus tea and go back to the inn! 

Keep an eye out for the next post! I'll post soon about how we went to Senso-ji temple for New Year's Eve, and other exciting happenings!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Family Adventures Day 1

The first full day that the family was here was on Saturday. We had a full day of touring some of the places that I spend the most time. First we went to Mita campus, and looked around there. My brother was surprised at my ability to always choose a small campus. Mita campus is even smaller than my campus in the US! We had fun walking around and looking at the buildings and statues around campus. I think dad is now tied on whether he wants to become a professor at my school in the states or here! Our next stop was Tokyo Tower. As close as it is to Mita campus I have never actually been there! It was really fun seeing the tower, and when we went up the view of the city was amazing! It was also my first time taking the bus; it was fun getting around on something other than the train.

View from Tokyo Tower, the Skytree in the distance

You can see 富士山 (Mt. Fuji) in the distance from this window

They have little observation windows where you can look down the legs of the Tower!

The fam in the Tower!

After Tokyo Tower we went to one of my favorite restaurants by campus, a ramen shop where you can get tomato ramen. I think it's a fun twist on a more traditional food, and was really excited to take the rest of the fam there. They all loved it and thought it was delicious, but it was a bit of a struggle trying to use chopsticks. This was their first full meal in Japan, and they have never really used chopsticks before, so maybe ramen was not the easiest choice. However, we all managed to eat the full bowl, and I think they had a lot of fun trying to figure out the chopsticks. Our next stop was down to Tsunashima to check out my dorm and the neighborhood I live in. There isn't much to do in Tsunashima, and we basically saw the whole area on the walk to the dorm. It was still really fun pointing out different things that are so familiar to me now. I've said before that my dorm room is very small, but I really noticed it when all 4 of us were squeezed in. I'm glad that normally I have the whole room to myself! After looking at the dorm we headed down to Yokohama to visit Pokemon Center and China Town. 

Ferris Wheel in みなとみらい (Minatomirai)

Ian loved Pokemon Center; all his childhood dreams finally came true! He bought a little Pikachu charm for his backpack. Now whenever we go somewhere cool we find somewhere for Pikachu to sit, and he posts it online as the adventures of Pikachu ^_^

Gate into China Town

China Town street. Most of what we saw were little trinket shops or restaurants. We kept seeing lucky cat statues, which apparently my brother and mom find extremely creepy! We also got some 肉まん (nikuman: a bun filled with meat) to try and it was a big hit. 

When we got back to the apartment we stopped at a little 天丼 (tendon: tempura over rice) restaurant which everyone really liked. Tempura is one of my favorite foods, so I was really happy that everyone else enjoyed it. Then we went home and had some belated Christmas cake! After that everyone was pretty exhausted, so we all just went to sleep!

That was it for the first day! I have a post coming up about our next 2 days when we went to see Mt. Fuji, so keep on the lookout for that! 

P.S. The tea of the day was Lemon Ginger ^.^

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Visit

Guess what?! In just 5 days my mom, dad and brother will be arriving in Tokyo to visit me while I am here for the year. I posted a few weeks ago about how I miss seeing everybody in the states. I absolutely cannot wait to see my family, and at least have a few friendly faces around me. Lately, so many of my friends here have either been talking about going home for the holidays or getting ready to go home after this semester. While I am by no means ready to go home, it has been making me a bit homesick. I wish that I could easily fly home for a week and see my friends and family that I miss, instead of not seeing them for countless months. That is why I am so excited to see my parents and brother. I have been making an itinerary of places that I want to take them, and it makes me so antsy. Pretty soon I will be able to join in the talk of how nice it was to see my family, how much better I feel, and how fun it was to show them around. Although they will not be here exactly on Christmas, we will still be able to have our own special celebration a few days later, complete with Japanese Christmas Cake. For a few of the days we are going to spend time at a traditional Japanese inn by Mount Fuji, and the rest of the days we are just going to explore Tokyo. I plan to take them to some places that I have already been to and enjoyed, and some that I haven't been yet. That way I can both play the tour-guide and have new adventures together with them. Since I am the only one who can speak any Japanese, I will really have to do my best to interpret everything for them, since there is no one I can turn to for help. Usually when I am together with friends, we all struggle to understand together with our limited language skills. Now though, I will be the only one with any understanding of what is going on. It will definitely be a fun experience! These next few days are going to be hard to get through, since I won't want to do anything as I wait for them to come. However, I know you are reading this dad, and don't worry, I will still make sure to do all my homework ^_^

P.S. the tea of the day is strawberry champagne tea, my Christmas gift from Siobhan ^^ 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Odaiba Island

Rainbow Bridge

View from Fuji TV observation deck

In Fuji TV building

View from Odaiba Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel all lit up

This past weekend I went with my friend Leo to explore Odaiba Island. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. It's known for being a very futuristic looking place. It did look really cool, but was a little sad because the whole place was basically just concrete. We had a fun day of walking around, eating, talking, and just hanging out. We went in a few of the malls, walked down by the ocean, and took a ride on the Ferris Wheel. It was pretty tall, and I got a little scared, but before I knew it we were back down on solid ground. It went faster than I was expecting, and I wanted to go back up again just to see the amazing view that we got of Tokyo! If you are ever in Tokyo, Odaiba is a great place to go for shopping, or just for hanging out with friends. This turned out to be a very short post, hopefully I will have a longer more exciting one for you guys soon!

P.S. the tea of the day is Lemon Tea -_^

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Wish I Was Home for the Holidays

Long time no blog! Usually when most people stop blogging for a while it's because they are off doing exciting things and just have no time. Not me. I don't blog for long periods because I have literally been doing nothing. I realized the other week that I was running out of money in my Japanese bank account, and I don't get my scholarship money for about another week, so I was trying to save money and not go anywhere. Then I realized that I have this magical thing called an American bank account, that still has plenty of money in it. So, I stayed in my room for no point these past few weeks. Sometimes I worry about whether my brain actually works. 

Now to the main point of this post!

As anyone alive knows Christmas is coming in 20 days! And Thanksgiving was just a week or so ago! I love the holiday season; home cooked food, snow, lazing around and doing nothing after the fall semester ends, seeing my family, seeing friends who don't go to my university etc etc. As much as I love the holiday season, this year it is making me pretty sad. Reading online about my friends going home for Thanksgiving and hearing what people ate, knowing that they are all going to be celebrating Christmas (and other winter holidays) with their families soon, it has really hit me what I got myself into when I decided to stay in Japan for 1 year. Don't get me wrong, I love Japan and I am so glad I am staying for another semester once this one finishes. I can't imagine leaving all my new friends after only knowing them for a few months. However, it is starting to hit me just how long I'm really going to be gone. This morning I counted, and I haven't seen my friends from my university for 6 months, and I won't see them for another 9 months. Over a whole year will have gone by by the time I see them again. I'm missing so many events and funny moments. I've basically lived with some of these people for 2 years. Going from seeing them every day to not seeing them for over a year is crazy. And they are not the only ones. 1 year will go by before I see my family (minus my parents and brother who are coming later this month). The holidays are a time that we spend with our family and friends, but I will not have that this year. That is why I am so grateful to my parents and brother for taking the time and spending the money to come see me. While they won't be here on the actual day of Christmas, I can at least have a late Christmas celebration with them. It will be a strange celebration; touring Japan and introducing them to new foods, but at least we will be together. I know not everyone is as lucky as me and their families are not able to come visit them. My advice to people studying abroad over the holidays is this: get a few friends, go buy a big cake (or any type of dessert really) and have your own party! (Also skype your family). After all, as my dad told me on Thanksgiving; the holidays are not about the food or the presents or the shopping, it is about being together. And while not everyone who is studying abroad can physically be with their family, at least we are able to see and speak to each other with technology! 

Enough of the sappiness.

My tea today was hot lemon tea. But I just have to explain about it. I did not make it, because Japan is awesome. In Japan they have vending machines that give you cold drinks (duh, everyone does that) but they also give you HOT drinks! Right? Best invention ever.