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This is the finish of my blog. It was incredible fun writing it and even more so living it. I am also planning of making a book out of this blog to keep as a memento of this year, which I will remember forever.

If you haven’t read it yet and whish to do so in the correct order (which is always kind of difficult with blogs), here is a link to the beginning page (in Norwegian), and here is a link to when I started writing in English around Christmas.

I can whiteout doubt say that this has been the coolest, most fun and best year ever in my life so fare.

I do have definite planes to go back to Japan in about two or three years, to study the language that I fell in love with (along with the country and its people) while living here. I will probably write a blog again then and I am planning to do it in Japanese of course :P

For anyone applying for the YSEP program or wondering about taking a year in Japan, I can recommend it from the bottom of my heart.

Life is an adventure ^_^

And now, finishing it all of, the YSEP 2008-2009 graduation photo! Skilfully made by Supanut Mungrakchon. You can find me in the bottom left corner.

ysepCollage

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Last date in Tokyo

Thursday 13/8 – Friday 14/8:

Taking the shinkansen back to Tokyo early the next day, I parted ways with dad and Ina to return back to my dormitory and finish of packing and cleaning out the apartment. Dad and Ina headed of to the Roppongi area for their hotel there, and later I learned they spent the rest of the day sightseeing on a boat around Odaiba.

Finishing of the apartment and late minute packing took almost all day, only interrupted by a quick lunch with Kojiro at a family restaurant. It was probably also the hottest day I had experienced so fare in Japan, reaching around 35 degrees and crazy humidity if I remember correctly. The heat of the Japanese summer hadn’t bothered me as much as it had many of my other YSEP friends or as much as I first feared, coming from a cold country as Norway. It’s a bit like being a lobster I learned, you get used to the heat if it comes gradually.

Anyway, finally finishing of around evening I could meet Kojiro again for our last date in Tokyo. He was taking me to Roppongi, and he was very secretive about it. Arriving at a huge mall we found our self a nice dinner waiting for something I still didn’t know what was. Afterwards we went outside and sat down on the grass in a little park together with a small gathering of other people. Something was definitely going to happen, and I heard the word “hanabi” on the speakers, concluding happily that we were gone see a firework. Then someone said something about getting wet, and I wasn’t so sure anymore.

When it finally started I got really startled and awestruck. Huge lighted pillars of water shot up in the air creating a spectacle very close to northern light. The water clouds floated true the air accompanied by music and a herd of laughing children running after them to catch the falling water. Mizuhanabi or water firework it was called, and it was magical <3

mizu hanabi 1

mizu hanabi 2 mizuhanabi 3 mizu hanabi 4

Afterwards we headed of to Roppongi Hills and spent the rest of the night in a really cool top floor aquarium, with bar lounges and a spectacular city view, including Tokyo Tower, that evening with a special beautiful blue light. There Kojiro surprised me (again) with some really cool gifts, including an iPod full of all his Japanese J-pop music that we had been listening to on our driving dates, one of the nicest gifts I have ever gotten I think ^_^

KojiroAndMe Tokyo Tower

Not always sure how I thought about Tokyo, huge gray monster or place of wonders, I had seen the benefits of living in a big city, one last time before leaving.

aquarium 2 aquarium 3 aquarium 4

aquarium 5 aquarium 6 view

aquarium 8 aquarium 9 aquarium 10

That night I slept over at Kojiro’s house, to wake up early the next morning and get driven to the airport by Kojiro. His family surprised me with a beautiful yukata purse (Kojiro had been carrying all my stuff in his pockets the few times we had gone to hanabis, and they had noticed of course). They also filled up the purse with delicious breakfast onigiris for our trip. I surprised them in return with hugs, a very non-Japanese custom, which they weren’t used to I could tell :P

After that there is not much more to be told except that saying goodbye at the airport and leaving Japan was sad, much more than I had expected. My only comfort was knowing for my self that I will definitely be back.

Kyoto and Nara day four

Wednesday 12/8:

ひさしぶり!

Ok, the fourth and last day in Kyoto we spent mostly in Nara actually. Beginning the day as usual with breakfast I managed to remember and bring my camera to the table and take a picture of dad in his cute pink yukata :P

breakfast

Afterwards we headed for Nara to meet some deer. But before that we meat some cool looking turtles, and had a great lunch (I had finally convinced dad and Ina to eat big lunches around 12 and late dinners at night).

lunch1 turtle lunch2

Then it was time for deers. We walked around in this huge park with tons of temples, pagodas (the high towers with lots of stories), lanterns and of course deers.

We saw Todaiji Temple, the worlds largest wooden building(!) with Japans larges Buddha inside. It was pretty huge I can assure you. There was also a hole in one of the pillars of the building where small enough people could crawl true to attain Nirvana. It had it’s own “help people that get stuck trying, by dragging them by the arms” person employed, so I skipped that experience. Has to better ways to attain Nirvana.

temple

model buddha pole

Further up the park there were less people and more of a forest, full of lanterns, more deers and a temple with great view (that dad and Ina missed because of a telephone conference and the lack of good mobile coverage in Japan. You would assume Japan has good signal coverage, as mobile country number one, but that is not the case, just so you know.)

temple1

temple2 temple3

shrineMaiden

This is a shrine maiden I think they are called. They work at the shrines selling stuff, keeping things neat and chasing away deers with umbrellas if needed, which is exactly what happened after I took this picture. You can see the umbrella in the left corner of the picture :P The deer had had stuck itself behind the fence.

Anyway, the deers were all super cute and pretty tame, and a little dangerous looking at times, at least those with horns. There were more than enough of them, about 1000 or so, and you could by crackers to feed them for fun. I got a whole bunch of them at the same time when I passed out my last crackers and one of them bit me in the side for thanks, smart animal as he was going for my pockets.

deer1

deer2 deer3

deer4

On the way back from Nara we saw Kyoto station again, and went up in Kyoto tower just next to the station to see the sunset. Afterwards we ate dinner along Kamo river again, dad and Ina putting down veto for Chinese food, in need of something familiar to eat after countless food experiments with me that vacation.

Kyoto tower

Tuesday 11/8:

The second post of the day was Ginkaku-ji, or the Silver Pavilion. Since seeing the golden one last time I visited Kyoto, it was time to do the silver one. I knew it wasn’t gone be as grand as the golden one, not actually being silver colored, but it was close to the Philosophers Walk that I also hadn’t seen yet, so it was practical.

The silver pavilion garden was beautiful and serene and had a nice view over part of Kyoto. The silver pavilion in itself was ok, no silver coating and in addition it had some restoration work in progress.

garden1

sandGarden

Kind of wonder how you make this thing, and how it would look if it rained.

pavilon

After the silver pavilion we walked the Philosopher’s walk, a cherry tree lined canal walk, also beautiful and serene. Probably even more so in the cherry blossom period or maple season, but that’s true for all of Kyoto.

walk

Coming to the end of the canal, we extended our walk all the way back to our hotel in Gion, so quite a lot of walking that day, but it was worth it. Following the river literally all the way back to our hotel door, we discovered even more lovely city landscape, not part of tourist Kyoto, but still just as pretty.

flower

That night we ended up in a cool okonomiyaki/other grill food place in Gion, along the small river we had been following all day. I was happy to get to eat my last okonomiyaki in Japan, and Ina and dad was happy they got to eat some simple but delicious grilled shrimps and other meat.

resturant

Before finishing of I would like to show you this picture of Kamo River and all the romantic couples sitting in almost military equal distance from each other, giving an illusion of privacy. It continued up as long the eye could see on both sides of the bridge, kind of crazy.

riverCouples

Tuesday 11/8:

Our third day in Kyoto was gone be a busy one. I had still lots of places to see on my to do list, and not much time left.

The first post of the day was Fushimi Inari, a mountain of thousand red tori gates, and on of my biggest recommendations if you are going to Kyoto.

Ok, back to Fushimi Inari. The whole thing was really an experience, like a magical forest. Besides the countless tori gates there were lots of fox statues with red scarves, the deity of money, agriculture and industry if I have gotten my homework right. True the age’s people have donated the tori gates to the mountain and written their prayer on the gates for them to come true.

tori2

fox1 fox2

It was actually a small distance walking, and a hot day. Halfway up we stopped at one of the many small eating-places, to try some fox udon for luch.

lunch

After that Ina had to give up on walking any further, part because of some bad shoes. Dad followed her back, while I continued further up. Unfortunately, five minutes after splitting up I came to the first viewing spot of the journey. In addition the path levelled out to be not so step anymore and it took you further into the forest.

I met less and less people from no one also, so there were probably more people giving up as well, which is to bad, since the best part really is the last 20 minutes or so. I took a ton of cool pictures, got to see the top, and headed back to our hotel to meet up with the others.

cat1

shrine tori3

top cat2

tori1

Monday 10/8:

The next day we were woken up to nothing less than an earthquake and a typhoon at the same time! The earthquake was the biggest one so fare, 6.9 in Tokyo city. Unfortunately (I know I should say fortunately, but I can’t help thinking earthquakes are exiting, as long as no one gets hurt. Don’t have them in Norway you see), we were in Kyoto and not in Tokyo, so I only barely noticed it half asleep 5 or 6 in the morning. Just like my first earthquake in Japan I mumbled “jordskjelv” (earthquake in Norwegian) to the others and rolled over to sleep some more. Dad and Ina didn’t notice at all.

The typhoon wasn’t much either, just a normal rainstorm, without any wind. Don’t think I have ever experienced a real typhoon in Japan yet, only near misses. The rain wasn’t serious, but a big hindrance for our sightseeing plans. We ended up waiting it all out, playing bowling, shopping and taking purikuras of all things.

At last the rain stopped, and we could start our way up eastern Gion to Kiyomizu temple among others (Kyoto really has a lot of temples and shrines!).

We also stopped on the way for my last, and dad and Ina’s first green tea desert. I was delighted, not so sure about dad and Ina.

Eastern Gion was beautiful. Last time I visited was nighttime, at the yearly light festival in Gion. Daytime proved to be just as lovely.

beautiful1

beautiful2 beautiful4

Yasaka Pagoda

beautiful3

monk1 yukata1

yukata2 monk2

Here is a picture of Kiyomizu, an over thousand year old wooden temple in the hills of Kyoto.

kiyomizu

There is also a small love shrine next to Kiyomizu.

shrine

After the Gion sightseeing we went and saw a small Japanese culture show with different traditional plays, tea sermonise, maiko (geisha) dance and so one.

maiko

For dinner that night we were able to find a not to expensive restaurant along Kamo River with available tables for eating outside on the pavilions over the river. The place served Kyoto dishes, something I had been looking forward to try. No one spoke English, so I got to use my Japanese but they did have English menus for us. Also, we sat on the floor, no possibility for cheating this time.

resturant

Eating outside was great and a first for me in Japan, as restaurants and cafes in Japan don’t usually have outside tables, at least not in Tokyo.

Kyoto day one

Sunday 9/8:

It was Sunday, and time to head of to Kyoto. We were taking the shinkansen (fast train), and it was the first time for me. For some reason I had got it into my head that the shinkansen was leaving from Shinjuku, and not Tokyo station, but luckily we had put in enough slack time to correct that error. It would have been an expensive error to do, for the shinkansen is amazingly fast and practical, but also suitably expensive.

bento

Here is my shinkansen bento. Delicious eel in layers true the rice ^^ Dad and Ina didn’t eat anything, as I hadn’t managed to convince them to change to Japanese eating times, with big lunches and late dinners.

Arriving in Kyoto we headed for our Japanese style hotel of four days in the city. In Tokyo Ina and dad had stayed at a western style hotel, so now I were gone introduce them to the Japanese version.

It was a great hotel, in the middle of Gion district, not very costly but still more expensive than anything I have ever stayed at in Japan so fare. We shared a room, which is the costume here, paying per person, not per room. There were tatami mats, yukatas, slippers, green tea, futons that we had to lay out for the night and the whole package.

hotelroom

We made it a slow day, tried out the yukatas and had a tea brake in our new and “exotic” surroundings. Afterwards we went for a small stroll true the streets of Kyoto, starting in Gion.

gion

Crossing Kamo River, which hosted a small festival at the time and also had the summer eating pavilions of the Pontocho Alley restaurants out.

kamoRiver

We visited Pontocho alley and headed back to Gion again, where we ended up eating at this cool place, which should be known for anyone that has visited Kyoto, don’t know the name though, sorry. Ina and dad made a brave try to eat the only dish the restaurant served, which I also don’t know the name of, sorry. Some kind of Japanese style fast food omelette (raw egg was optional for tourists), with konnyaku, octopus, sauces and other jummy stuff.

resturant

ina dad

Ina had by now worked out a system, and were at all times carrying a fork in her purse. A knife, and it would have been a foolproof plan.

The last challenge of the day was bath time. In Norway most people shower in the mornings, only making an exception if you have been exercising, or if it has been an unusual hot summer day (the last one not happening that often). In Japan you shower and bath at night instead, a habit I have gotten quite fond of and brought back home to Norway. Why wake unnecessary early in the morning and stress with showering then, when you can get all that done and finished with the evening before, and loaf around in your comfortable pyjamas the last few hours before going to bed.

Anyway, the hotel had the normal public bath facility available, but also private once just across the hallway of our room. Dad was up for the challenge of Japanese style bathing, and I sent him there after giving him sufficient instructions in bathing etiquette. It went without problem and we could all go to bed, or futons I mean, probably the real last challenge of the day for those used to a bit softer bedding.