Japan

Things I’m Loving – July 2015

It’s time for me to play catch-up. Things got super busy before the Fall semester even started and once I got behind in posting, the job of getting back on track seemed more and more daunting. I’m still super busy but I’m going to try to post for each of the months I missed even though they’re so late. It’ll be good to remind myself that even though I sometimes feel like I’ve done nothing but work the past few months, there are always things to enjoy. 🙂

Nexus 5

Image source: www.amazon.com

Image source: http://www.amazon.com

My husband decided it was time for us to get new phones. The phones we’d been using were probably 6 years old. We got them when we first moved to Hawaii and then used them in Japan, too. They actually still worked perfectly fine…by which I mean they worked great for such old phones…but they didn’t support all the latest software and we’d kind of run out of storage on them long ago. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised my husband lasted as long as he did before looking at new ones since he tends to keep up with the latest technology. I’m a bit more of a “use it until it doesn’t function at all” type. But I admit, I absolutely love the Nexus 5 and wouldn’t dream of going back. It provides helpful updates on appointments, distances/times to destinations, news, interesting articles, etc. in a way that is much more seamless than I’ve seen with other phones. Very happy with this!

Awapuhi Wild Ginger Styling Treatment oil

Awapuhi Styling Treatment Oil

My hair is very fine and gets tangled very easily. When I went in for a cut, I saw a new stylist and she couldn’t believe how easily my hair tangled as she was working with it. She suggested this product to help smooth out my ruffled feathers. It takes just a very little bit to run through my hair while wet and like magic, it’s silky and smooth! I couldn’t believe how much it helped to keep my hair from tangling. And I love the wild ginger fragrance, too.

Let’s Speak English comic

My husband introduced me to this comic and it really cracks me up. It’s drawn by an American who is teaching English to elementary school students in Japan and chronicles some of the interesting experiences she has there. Often I’ll start laughing because many of the experiences she has remind me of my time there. I especially love the times she comments on things she finds odd about differences in customs because I’m usually sitting here saying, “That’s so true!” 😉

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Image source: www.amazon.com

Image source: http://www.amazon.com

I found this book to be both entertaining and motivating which I think makes it a great read. It includes many stories about the years Hadfield spent training to become an astronaut as well as his time exploring space. I loved getting insight into his perspective on the many challenges he was faced with and how his mind tackled the years of intense training for what most would find an impossible dream rather than a realistic goal. Hadfield injects a lot of humor into his stories which kept me smiling even when he was relating tense, life-or-death scenarios. I highly recommend this!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Image source: www.imdb.com

Image source: http://www.imdb.com

Oh, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. You amuse me so. This comedic TV series follows the officers of Brooklyn’s 99th precinct and the wacky situations they get themselves into. Each character is crazier than the next but somehow the writers balance it all out so I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Whatever it is, I know it’ll be entertaining.

That was July! Perhaps it’s just because the summer heat still hasn’t left us but I feel like it was just last week I was discovering these items!

Showa Kinen Park in Autumn

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of November! Living in Hawaii, seasons just kind of blend together and sometimes it doesn’t really feel like time is passing. (Then I check to see how long it’s been since my last blog post and I’m shocked!) I’ve been hearing about the beautiful autumn leaves (and now snow) from family and friends in Virginia so I’ve been feeling like I’m missing out on Fall. My solution: looking through my Fall photos from Japan! Last year we enjoyed a lot of time in Showa Kinen Park and the autumn leaves were simply gorgeous.

Lots of people visit the park during the peak season for the autumn colors. It’s a bit similar to the viewing of cherry blossoms in Spring except it doesn’t quite draw the same crowds (the cherry blossoms only last a few days so everyone is viewing them at one time) and you don’t have the picnics beneath the trees.

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Still, we tried to go on weekdays when there were fewer people. There was an exhibit the park presented with images created from flower petals and twigs from trees. These must have taken a lot of time! The first image is from an anime named Gatchaman Crowds while the second is a scene with fireworks and autumn leaves.

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The entire park was filled with beautiful autumn leaves so we just enjoyed walking down the various paths and enjoying the beauty while enjoying a hot chocolate from a vending machine.

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We even found some flowers blooming!

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The Japanese garden section had some of the most beautiful autumn scenery so we spent quite a bit of time there. There were some turtles enjoying the scenery and fading light as well!

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With that trip down memory lane, I’m feeling more in the spirit of the season! 🙂

Culture Day in Japan

I was just relaxing and checking the news after a busy day of class and work when I realized that today is Culture Day in Japan! Of course we missed all the celebrations this year but we were in Tokyo last year for Culture Day and had a great time at the celebration held at Meiji Shrine. Remembering that led to an immediate search through my photos to relive some fun memories.  (more…)

Memories of Tokyo Fireworks

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I know the temperatures are starting to fall in a lot of places but not here! The unusually hot weather that arrived at the beginning of the month seems to have decided to stay and if today’s hot, humid weather is any indication, we’re in for more. All this hot weather has me thinking back to the last festival we went to before leaving Japan: the Showa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival! (more…)

Returning to Hawaii & Reverse Culture Shock

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Just a little over a week ago, I returned to the US after living in Japan for two years. I really loved my time in Japan and the move back was somewhat bittersweet. I expected that I would miss all the things I loved about Japan (friends I’d made, delicious Japanese foods, exploring the country and culture, etc.) but I was also really looking forward to seeing friends and family, eating all the foods I’d missed, and just generally being home. And I was returning to Hawaii, a gorgeous place to visit and to live, so really there were a lot of positives, too. What I did not expect was to return to Hawaii only to feel completely out of place and almost a bit like I was visiting a new foreign country. I was completely surprised to feel this way and more than a little dismayed. This is what is known as reverse culture shock. I just read a very interesting post on the topic by Tokyo Five and posted my initial thoughts there in the comments but here are my thoughts after a few more days back in Hawaii. (more…)

Things I’m Loving – July 2014

I have not been posting very much lately and that is because we’ve moved! It is very hard to believe but our two years in Japan are over and we’re back in Hawaii. I was definitely sad to leave. There were just so many things I loved about Japan and there was always something new to explore. But we definitely plan to visit again and I know there are plenty of adventures ahead here in Hawaii. ^_~ Getting everything ready for the move (selling furniture, packing, etc.) was quite a bit of work so I did not get to post many of the sightseeing spots that I visited over the past few weeks. And at the moment we are still in transition and staying with a friend as we search for an apartment here in Honolulu. But worry not, I will still share about those final sightseeing trips in Japan as things settle down! For now, here are a few of the things I’ve been loving in July.

1. Mint chocolate chip ice cream

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It may seem like a strange item to pick, but mint chocolate chip ice cream seems to be a seasonal flavor in Japan and appears in most stores only in summer. As the heat and humidity increased in Tokyo, having a treat of cold mint chocolately goodness became a must for me. There are plenty of brands out there but my favorite this year seems to be Glico’s Panapp ice cream. So good!

2. ぷよぷよ!!クエスト (Puyo Puyo!! Quest)

This tile matching game with a card system RPG twist is so addictive! First of all, it’s very easy to start playing since the basic element is to simply touch and “pop” Puyo in order to make other Puyo fall into line with other Puyo of the same color. Once 4 or more matching Puyo connect, they are cleared. Unlike other tile matching games though, clearing the screen isn’t the only objective. In Quest, a player has cards to battle an opponent and clearing Puyo allows the characters on the player’s cards to attack the opponent (clearing blue Puyo allows the characters on blue cards to attack, etc.). Through defeating opponents, you collect additional cards as well as coins and other game items that can be used to level up cards. Of course you want to collect them all! And leveling up your cards gives you another objective rather than simply trying to clear the screen to get a high score. My husband introduced me to this and as soon as I installed the app on my phone I was hooked. And not only is it fun, but since it’s in Japanese, it gives me another fun way to practice my reading. So really it’s a study tool, too. ^_~

3. Summer fireworks

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When I think of summer in Japan, one of my favorite things is the tradition of fireworks festivals. We managed to attend the fireworks display at Showa Kinen Park just before we left and it was so much fun! There are plenty of food stands to enjoy and, once the sun sets, an entire hour of fireworks! I think I’ll have to do an entire post on this once I can get some photos of the yukata I wore off my husband’s camera. Until then, think of this as a sneak peak!

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Talk about a blast from the past, I originally watched this TV series when I was in high school and then missed a season or two once I went to college. I’d always meant to go back and watch it all and I’m really not sure what made me think of it but it became my trip down memory lane this month. Once we’d sold our furniture and appliances…and light fixtures!…there was not a lot of packing or cleaning we could accomplish after dark. So I ended up watching quite a bit of this series over the past couple weeks and enjoying the wonderful campy humor of the show. Plus it brings back memories of watching the show with friends. Ah, good times. ^_^

5. Upgrade to business class

By the time we made it to the airport on our last day in Japan, we were fairly exhausted. We had to be up early to get all the final cleaning done so we could put out the final bags of trash and recycling and then had several appointments with staff to cancel various utilities, followed by the actual apartment inspection. Then we had to get our final pieces of luggage (we used a shipping service to take 3 of the large suitcases to the airport a couple days in advance…such a good idea!) to the airport bus and spend two hours on the trip to the airport. So when Korean Air said they were upgrading us to business class, it felt a bit like a reward for all our effort that day (and the days before). My husband and I usually struggle to get any sleep on flights but maybe that’s because we never had a seat that reclined into a bed before! Now that’s the way to travel. ^_^

July has certainly been a very busy month and somewhat bittersweet with the move. I was sorry to say goodbye to Japan but there are so many things to look forward to here in Hawaii. I’m looking forward to seeing what August will bring!