Thursday, July 21, 2011

Week #5

Last weekend (July 16th) Ryan and I hopped on a bus and traveled 3 hours south to a big city called Kita-kyushu City. In the city, a drum festival was being held where people would celebrate by eating food and banging on drums. The moment Ryan and I got off the bus at 2 o’clock in the afternoon the sun was scorching hot and causing us to perspire more than what we wanted. We walked around the festival area for a bit, but not much was going since the festival technically didn’t start until 4. To get away from Japan’s humidity, we found a mall close by where we could buy food. After eating, we walked around the mall for awhile but we found nothing that interested us. Many of the stores in Japanese malls are expensive, and I rarely fit into anything the stores have to offer. As Ryan and I moped around the mall we eventually made our way to the 5th floor where we thought we may find a movie theatre. To our luck we did find a movie theatre and we were both curious to see if the new Harry Potter 7 part 2 movie was playing. We found that it was, and to our luck again it was playing in 15 minutes in 3D! Now Ryan and I pondered whether it would be a good decision to skip 3 hours of the drum festival. Here were our thoughts…
 Drum Festival Positives                                                                Drum Festival Negatives
*Eating Japanese Food                                                  *Missing the wand scene between Harry and Voldemort
* We wouldn’t have wasted our $30
* Experiencing Japanese culture we would not get in Iowa

We thought about our options for about 1 minute and came to a decision. Our decision of course was to skip most of the drum festival and go to the Harry Potter movie. Before buying our tickets we made sure to ask more than once if this movie was in English because we were not going to pay to see Harry Potter speak Japanese the entire movie. Harry Potter ended up being an extraordinary movie with two thumbs up! I loved every minute of it and it was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.

After the movie Ryan and I still had about 2 hours before we left, so we did get to experience the drum festival for a little while. By experiencing it I certainly mean eating all different types of food the festival had to offer. The first food I ate was like a pancake made of cabbage, flour, eggs, and water. This pancake is called okonomiyaki (meaning “what you like”) and you can either grill or fry it. Mine was wrapped on a stick and it tasted pretty good. It was not a type of food I would eat every day though. Minutes later I purchased a chocolate covered banana with a face design that I thought was cute. A little later I bought a green slushy and fried chicken on the stick. The foods you could choose from at the festival can ranged from grilled octopus, to fried/grilled chicken, okonomiyaki, French fries (very expensive!), to fried squid. One of the most interesting stands at the whole festival was a place where you could buy huge bugs and keep them as pets. I didn’t think people actually did this but later I sat by a little boy who had a huge bug by his side ready to take home as a pet.

                                                                      Eating the Cute Banana

                                                                         Eating okonomiyaki

                                                                          The bug store

Ok, enough about the food; I will now actually talk about what people did at the festival. The festival was like a parade where teams of people dressed in kimonos held big drums and sang a chant. Each team wore different colors and each team I believe banged to a different song. Each team walked through the middle of the festival and it was neat to hear the music and see all the different people carrying their very large drum.

                                                                  Ryan in the drum crowd
At about 7:30, Ryan and I headed back for the bus to end the day. Even though we didn’t get the full experience of the drum festival, we still got our share of food, Japanese music, and of course HARRY POTTER!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Week #4

Over July 10th and 11th I traveled my way to Miyajima Island which is about 45 minutes from Iwakuni. Ryan, me, and three other counselors hopped on a train and then sailed on the ferry to get to the island. Right when we got there I had a “Snow White” moment when I was approached by a family of deer. The intercom people on the ferry warned us that these deer were wild, and they will eat anything you have in your hands. The intercom people were not lying when they stated this. Ryan and I were holding Miyajima maps in our hands and the maps instantly vanished when we approached the deer. They literally ate the maps right from our hands.  After the deer encounter, my group and I walked our way over to the Torii Gate. The Torri Gate is famous for having the illusion of floating on top of the water.
                                          Snow White Moment

After we were done taking pictures by the gate, we ate and then decided to go for a hike up Mt. Misen. I thought to myself that this Mt. Misen would be pretty easy to climb since I was able to conquer Mt. Fuji last year. I soon discovered that this mountain was a little tougher than I thought. It mainly steep stairs the whole way, and I found myself using the sweat rag a lot more than I originally thought. Once 30 minutes passed by, I looked slightly above me and saw two shrines and some people. I thought I conquered this small but difficult mountain, but unfortunately I was wrong. Ryan informed me we still had about 15 minutes of stair stepping (climbing). As I was climbing I kept encountering these little Buddha statues. These little Buddha statues helped keep me motivated to complete the climb. After about 15 minutes, Ryan, me, and another counselor completed the Mt. Misen climb. The mountain had an amazing view on top, and it was worth every bit of sweat and pain for me. We could see the Pacific Ocean and surrounding islands around Miyajima.

                                                                          On the Top!

The hike to the top of the mountain was overall very pretty with the waterfalls and the nature. Ryan and I even took pictures with a waterfall which was an adventure in itself to climb to. After the climb, we went shopping around the town for a little bit. The town had little shops with souvenirs galore. You can buy anything from key chains, to statues, to very unique hats. The last stop we made through the streets was the Fish Doctor. The Fish Doctor is a place where you can place your feet into a small pool and tiny fish will grasp your feet and nibble on your dead skin. When I first put my feet in the pool it was very hard for me to relax and let the fish nibble on my feet. As time went on, I relaxed and let the fish eat their dinner for the day. After the fish feet massage my feet did feel very smooth and I commend the little fish for making my feet look a little prettier that day.

After all the excitement with the deer, hiking, and fishies we made a decision to call it a day and head home. It was an overall great day in Miyajima and maybe one day I will come back and visit my fish and deer friends.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Continue of week #3

I want to continue talking about my week 3 in Japan, so here it is. Sorry it is late but my computer is broken again so I have very limited computer time :-(

I cannot talk about Japan without talking about the VENDING MACHINE! The vending machine has taken over Japan and there is no turning back. Vending machines are everywhere in Japan. You could be walking in a dark, dark, alley with no cars, stores, streetlights, or people and there would be a vending machine. They are on almost every block and every stoplight in the entire country of Japan. You cannot escape the VENDING MACHINE! If you have at least 150 yen ($1.50), you will never go thirsty in Japan. The vending machines have drinks that you would never think to drink as you are walking down a street. The drinks can include coffee, all different juices, energy/vitamin drinks, sodas (mostly Coke and Fanta though), tea, and other drinks that look interesting. The drinks can come either hot or cold. There are not only drink vending machines in Japan; you can also count on food vending machines. They have machines that will spit out ice cream, noodles, sandwiches, ramen, and more. Other machines can offer you batteries, disposable cameras, toilet paper, and much more.  My goal this summer is to become a professional vending machine taste tester and try all different drinks in the vending machines. If you want to research more on the Japanese vending machine, check out this site:

Let’s move on and I want to continue talking about my weekend in Hiroshima. As I was saying in my 3rd blog, after the 4 hour baseball game Ryan and I ventured our way to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which surrounds downtown. When we arrived to our destination, we instantly saw the A-Bomb Dome. The A-Bomb Dome is what remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall after the atomic bomb attack on August 6, 1945. The dome is one of the few buildings to remain standing from the bomb. It was pretty magnificent to see, and I have never thought I would actually visit the place where the Atomic Bomb went off. I remember learning about the atomic bomb in school, and I never thought in a million years I would be visiting this historic place that changed our world so deeply. I guess you never know what you will do in life, but keeping dreaming and keep exploring.

The next area we visited was The Children’s Peace Monument. This monument was built with donations from school children who were touched by Sadako Sasaki’s story. The area has a statue of Sadako holding a crane above her head and the statue has a crane inside. There are millions of cranes from all over the world from people who want to promote peace within the world. It was amazing to see all of the cranes people have made over the years, and how people have created beautiful pictures with all of the cranes. If you have not read Sadako Sasaki’s story, I suggest you read it to become more familiar with the affects the Atomic Bomb had on the people living in Hiroshima.

After visiting the Children’s Peace Monument, Ryan and I started walking around the park area. The park was very peaceful and beautiful. It is covered in trees, and even though it is close to the city you cannot hear the loudness of the city. As we were walking around the park, we saw a green hill that was fenced in. The hill was where people’s ashes were placed after the bombing. I took a picture of the description so you can read for yourself about the hill.

The last area we walked to was the Memorial Cenotaph. It is a saddle-shaped monument that contains the names of those who lost their lives as a result of the bombing. When you look through it, you can see the A-Bomb Dome. If you want to learn more about the Memorial Park, go to this site:

 Well, that is about it for today but I am sure I will have more to tell you in the future. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying American food! (I miss it so dearly)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Week 3

Hello again! Today has been an epic day because my computer is working again! I had a little scare yesterday when the screen was only white. I did a little cleaning today and now my computer works!
Let me begin this third blog by discussing my weekend. On Saturday night after work, Ryan and I walked to downtown Iwakuni to check out the area. We made our first stop at the 100 yen store. The 100 yen store is equivalent to the $1 store in America, but the good thing about this store is it has 3 floors! The 100 yen store has anything you can think of including clothes, cosmetics, toys, school supplies, dishes, food, games, bags, garden equipment, bathroom supplies, sports supplies, and even souvenirs. Ryan and I started at the 1st floor and 2 hours later we eventually climbed our way to the top floor. I knew I made a mistake that night because I only brought 1,300 yen ($13) and I still had to use money to eat, and of course I needed to eat. My purchases included swimming toys that I will use for my future swimming lesson classes. Oh, and I also finally purchased a fork because only owning a spoon in your room can be a little tricky with eating pizza and microwave pasta dinners.
The restaurant Ryan and I ate was a buffet style restaurant. You were given the option to pick which food you wanted to eat. Each item of food was on a plate with a set price. The food included fish(the fish still had an attached head and eyes), fried shrimp, fried fish, noodles, fried squid, and other food I did not trust to eat. I went for the safe choice and picked the fried shrimp, salad, rice, and soup. The shrimp and the rice tasted amazing. I believe Ryan also enjoyed his food because unlike many Japanese people, he went up for seconds.
On Sunday Ryan and I traveled by train to Hiroshima for the first time. We arrived in Hiroshima around 11 am, and the baseball game we purchased tickets for did not start until 1:30. We decided to kill some time and walked around the town for a bit. Of course “walking around” meant finding a place to get food. After spending 1,000 yen ($10) at the Lawson’s convenient store, we started making our way to the dome. We eventually came across a market area where people where selling food. Right by the market there was a seating area, so Ryan and I made the decision to sit and tailgate a little before game. As we were “tailgating,” music started playing (one flute and one drum) and a lady dressed up in a Japanese custom came out and started dancing. She unfortunately didn’t dance long because a dancing dragon came out and ate her. It was a pretty neat experience watching the dancing with the Japanese music. This Japanese tailgating experience is a little different from the one I am use to back home. First, people at home usually do not grill squid to eat before the game. And 2nd, people don’t usually watch people in customs dance to one flute and a drum. I am use to Dan David’s horse song, “Jump Around” that he always plays at UNI tailgates. Overall, it was a great tailgating experience for Ryan and me.
After tailgating we decided it was time make our way to the game. The one of the many things I like about Japanese baseball games are the options of bringing your own food and drink in the game. When you get to the stadium, all you have to do is pour your drink in a paper cup and you are good to go. Once Ryan and I got to our section, I began to feel a little out of place. I did not see one American around me, and everyone was wearing a Carp’s shirt, Carp’s hat, and even Carp’s sandals. I believe in the section we sat in, 99% of people were all wearing Carp clothing, and owned two small Carp baseball cheering bats. I finally realized that Ryan and I were sitting in the Carp’s Cheering Section. This is the section in the stadium where you sit by die hard Carp Fans. Once the game started, I discovered that every time a Carp player was up to bat, our section would bang their bats and cheer in the Japanese language. At first I was a little uncomfortable being the only person without a red shirt and cheering bats, but Ryan reminded me that no matter what I was wearing or doing I was probably going to look out of place being that everyone around us was only 5 feet tall. Once I realized this fact, I began to join in on the fun and cheer with the Japanese people! I had no idea what we were saying, but I was having a great time and I really enjoyed myself. One thing I learned about Japanese people after two summers is they are very quite people until it comes to baseball games. They love to cheer and they love to cheer loud. The baseball games are quite different from American baseball games, and I hope at the end of the summer I can experience another Japanese baseball game. Next time I will bring more money, (I only brought 5,000 yen), and maybe purchase a Carp T-shirt. They are quite expensive ($3,000=over $30), but I wouldn’t mind fitting in a little more with the Japanese people.
Well, that is all for my blog today. After the four hour baseball game, Ryan and I went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial where we saw the Atomic Bomb Dome and walked around the Peace Park, but I will tell you more about that experience in another blog. I hope everyone’s 4th

Ryan in front of the 100 yen store

     The food we could choose from the Japanese buffet restaurant  
           Me attempting to eat fried shrimp with chop sticks

                            Ryan tailgating before the game  

The Japanese lady dancing with the dragon before the game

                                  Carps baseball game at Hiroshima  

                        Die Hard Japanese Carp Fans