Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Weird Things We Noticed in Japan

Ok, first of all, there are still smoking sections in Japan. As in, early 90s, would you like smoking or non smoking sections. As in, even if you're in non smoking, you can still smell the smoke. Waaaamp.

For a super technologically advanced country, the fact that everything is cash based is quite odd. Even major stores like McDonald's only took cash. I cannot fathom a reason for this, especially in touristy places where people might want to spend lots of money. But can't. Because they aren't carrying enough to pay for both souvenirs and dinner, which is also expensive in those areas.  And when they do have a machine, it's still an old "sign the paper" receipt. I guess I've gotten so used to the sign pads in Korea that I forgot what it was like to have to sign a credit card slip for a $2 purchase...

Paying for toilet paper. This doesn't happen all over, but it happened near a temple that we had paid for and also at a major train station in Osaka. WHY would I have to pay for toilet paper?!?! Isn't that, like, a right in a public bathroom? I can say a lot of things about various bathrooms that I've used in my travels, but I can't remember a time where I was left no option but to BUY toilet paper. Thankfully I always carry tissues and things. But still.

I forgot what "tax not included" shopping was like. In London, Europe and Korea, what you see is what you pay. If it says 5 pounds, 5 euros or 5,000 won, that's it. Hand it over and you're done. In Japan, if you're in a shop where tax isn't included (it is in many tourist places and shops), if you see something for 500 Yen, there's tax and then you get back a bunch of small and useless coins. And there's no smaller bill than 1,000 yen, which is almost $10. Which makes it super annoying when you have to dig around for 100 or 500 yen coins to pay for things.

Some guy on the train was leaning over us reading some clearly adult stuff disguised as a newspaper. Or maybe not disguised. Maybe it's normal to read erotica on your morning commute? I know that Japan is a little, er, more lax about that kind of... entertainment... But really sir? I don't want to see that you are reading comics involving naked women on the subway. It's awkward and gross. 

It's not all bad things though. Lots of things are cool about Japan, like how their bathrooms almost always have heated seats that include bidets. Listen folks. Life is too short not to use heated seats and to try bidets. 

Usually (Denny's being an exception), Japan successfully keeps the America in American style things, as evidenced by McDonald's mcgriddles of awesome!

People were crazy helpful, even with limited English. Usually when we were looking at a map, we would get help from a random passerby who happened to see our distress. We managed to figure out most things by ourselves (even tho the maps in Japan always orient themselves to where you're facing, not just staying standard north...), but when we needed help, it was there. One lady at the train station ticket desk even chased after us through the station to make sure she'd written the train information and times correctly for us. It was a beautiful thing.

We didn't get bumped, brushed, bashed or shoved nearly as often as we do in Korea, which was a strange change for us. It was sooooo refreshing to have people apologize if they bumped into us.

I can't wait to go back someday^^


This week, as I sat at my desk working on spring camp stuff, a new video came up on my newsfeed. I don't usually pay attention to new releases of groups I don't know, but this one caught my eye, and you can imagine why.

I'm not entirely sure of the reason for the title, but they definitely use the black/white motif the whole time. Apparently this group is making a comeback after almost 2 years (as in, an ACTUAL comeback, not just releasing another album and calling it a comeback like other groups). I find the song quite catchy, and may have to check out more music from RAINBOW later. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oh yeah! Osaka!

After returning from our trip to Nara, we decided that we still had enough time to check something off of our Osaka To Do list.

In the vicinity of Osaka station is the Umeda Sky Building. After our trip to Nara, we got off here and explored the area before heading up the tower just in time to see the sunset.

they do love locks here too

We stayed long enough for some spectacular night views. It's so different seeing cities in Japan from above, because there aren't any mountains in the middle haha. 

We headed back to rest up for our last day of adventuring.

Our first stop was Osaka Castle, which doesn't look much like the kind of castle most westerners think of.

It does have a moat!

from afar

we found it!

it was windy

celebrating the year of the ram/sheep. Hoping it brings me
lots of luck, since it's my year!

I wish I had decided to selfieception
selfies this whole trip

I love this one


being a selfieception jerk

After seeing the castle but skipping an inside tour, we headed to our next, highly anticipated, location, an owl cafe!

Here, for 1,000 Yen, you could get a drink and about 40 minutes hanging out with owls. The time slot is an hour, but there are lots of instructions that take some time to explain. For example, some owls are not for holding, and if you want to pet them, use only the back of your hand. If you wanna hold one, just ask the staff. If they poop on you, your bad, not the cafe's. Pretty simple. 

These guys were on a break, so they were
photo only

Sarah was the first brave owl holder of our trio.

Yep, you can have them on your head.
It doesn't really hurt

I was still a little nervous

this guy wouldn't stay still for long haha

definitely worth the trip

they were so cute and gentle 

this one was heavy and required a
protective glove

Hello there

It was soooo cool to be able to hold and pet the owls, and the time flew by. I highly recommend it!

On to the last destination we went!

people sometimes just are in kimonos and it
is awesome 

Some yen for you to see

5 and 1 cent coins
In Namba, a famous shopping area, we decided to refuel with Starbucks. But not just any Starbucks drinks. No, no. We did not go all the way to Japan to drink normal drinks. We instead decided to try the sakura latte and frappuccino that they were offering for the spring. I can't really describe the flavor. Sakura blossoms are cherry blossoms, but it wasn't overwhelmingly cherry. It was just sweet and delicious.

And pretty!


Outside, we headed into the shopping area. My old co teacher, Hae In, told me that I could easily find a famous landmark here, and that I should take a picture.

Idk why, but this guy is the landmark Hae In
was talking about. We found it!!

So, of course we took pictures with it!

We shopped a bit and decided we were hungry, so we stopped for a famous Osaka food, Okonomiyaki! They call it a kind of Japanese pancake, but I still can't tell you what's really in it.

Lots of varieties

we got beef

we didn't really know what it was

but we were ready to eat it

It was interesting and delicious. We then ventured out to Amerikamura, or American village. It's really just become a shopping and entertainment area, and Japanese pop culture and street fashion is highly visible. A while ago, maybe it was predominantly foreigners hanging out there, but now it's a good mix.

it had cute shops

We think TOP and GD ate at this crepe place?
 With our list of to do things mostly finished, we wandered back towards the station.

We had to see this guy lit up, so of course we stopped by.

Having only a few dollars left, we stopped at an arcade to spend it all. Our first stop, a purikura booth. After some missteps, a kindly young Japanese girl guided us through the process. It was so sweet. Basically, you pose a few different ways in one booth, then edit it in another. The pictures come out adorable and cutesy, and our eyes look huuuuuge haha.

and it gave a copy for each of us. Korea has
these photo places. I might need to go more,
it's hilarious and awesome!

We also won matching panda keychains from a claw machine.

Our money and energy spent, we headed to the hostel to grab our things, and then headed over to the airport. Because our flight was so early, we decided to be adventurous and to spend the night in the airport terminal. Don't worry, there were lots of people and even security guards patrolling the area!

At the airport gift shops, we found what we'd been looking for in the form of kit kats. So many flavors!!!

We settled on Sakura and Matcha (green tea)

I had also managed to grab a copy of Phantom
in Japanese, thanks to Sarah needing to go to
a bookstore for her dad. It's one of my favorite

airport lounging. They even provided blankets
at the info desk!

I couldn't resist one more box- strawberry
cheesecake! Soooo delicious!
Because we were at the airport early, and the terminal wasn't insanely crowded, we managed to get through fast and therefore didn't have to run to catch our flight! We were all so exhausted from the trip and the lack of sleep that we all basically passed out for the flight. Seriously, I barely remember it. Immigration was easy because I have a work visa, and soon we were back in my apartment, napping away and then sorting our souvenirs.

Waaaaaaaah what an awesome trip! I can't believe I finally got to go to Japan. I'm not sure what I had imagined about Japan, but the trip was awesome regardless. I learned a lot about the cities we went to, as well as acknowledging the fact that I know a lot more Korean. It was scary to go somewhere where I couldn't read or speak more than a word! But so many people were so nice and friendly, and we made it everywhere we wanted to go.

I'd love to go back someday!

Thanks for sticking with me through these long posts. I hope you enjoyed the overview of my trip!

I have a few more thoughts on Japan that I'll be posting sometime later, once I finish editing it. I'm sort of back to the grind at school for spring English camp, and the air has finally turned unhealthy, rather than TOXIC. Huzzah for that!

Stay with me for more adventures now that I'm back in Korea and a new school year is starting!!!

Stay warm, stay safe, stay happy :)

Back on my OST kick because this song was up on my computer when I got to work on Monday morning. Again, though I hated the drama, the OST of Secret Garden is gorgeous. This song, a sad love duet, is one of my favorites.