Purikura Fun!

So I’ve become a Purikuraholic.

Purikura also known as print club is a photo booth machine, and there are photo booth machines all over the world but I don’t think anything comes close to purikura. In Japan, purikura is hugely popular. I have seen complete floors filled with purikura machines. They are all different and they offer you all sort of ludicrous things: from being able to add bubbles and stars to your pictures, to changing the colour of your eyes and adding extra long eyelashes! When I was in Hiroshima I saw a group of girls coming out of their purikura photo session wearing the highest heels, the most amount of makeup and the highest hairdos I have ever seen in my life!

My favourite machine is in the shopping mall in Niihama, and you can pretend to be sitting on a paper crane or you can pretend to be coming out of a watermelon. And as with anything in Japan even purikura can be a struggle as the machines ask you to choose from a number of options and since we don’t understand Japanese we just click all over the place or wait for the machine to choose for us, so quite often we finish with the oddest backgrounds. So although I really wanted the paper crane background, I am yet to figure out just how to get it.

My friend Alexa really likes to do purikura and at first I didn’t really see what the big deal was, but after spending over an hour at purikura last wednesday, I have come to the conclusion that I love it and will probably be one of the main things that I will miss once I leave Japan. I am posting some of our creations!

Keeping you posted!

Advertisements

Hiroshima+Miyajima: Take Two

I spent last weekend in Hiroshima and Miyajima.

My friend Alexa is leaving Japan next week and had been wanting to go both to Hiroshima and Miyajima for some time now since she had never visited before, so I said why not? I mean we both just came back from holidays, we both have no money, and we both have a need to keep moving, so we caught that bus, and left on our weekend adventure.

I really like Hiroshima. Last time I was there I went only for a day so everything felt super rushed, but this time around we walked, saw and took our time doing everything that we wanted to do. We went to the Atomic Bomb Museum which always leaves me in absolute tears, and always reminds me of the need and importance of living in a world without nuclear weapons, and that the fear of nuclear weapons should not be taken for granted. Hiroshima is a constant reminder of the destruction and horrors of war, while at the same time it also astounds me that a city that was literally completely annihilated was able to rise above everything and become the vibrant and cosmopolitan city that it is today.

After the museum, we walked around the park and went shopping. I considered everything that I got last weekend as “birthday presents” and that’s the way I’m keeping it. For dinner we had my all time-favourite Japanese food: Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. After dinner we decided to go watch a movie as it was pretty chilly, but somehow I believe Hiroshima is not much of a happening place on a Sunday night because it was 8:30pm and the the movie theater was closed! I have never seen a movie theater closed so early on a Sunday night. So we made the best of the rest of the evening and finished up playing cards and drinking wine in our room. Just perfect!

On Monday we went to Miyajima which has to be one of my favourite places in Japan. I think is just so beautiful and always get a chuckle from seeing children and adults running away from the cheeky deer (although this time around a deer tried to get into my backpack!). This time I saw a deer eating a kleenex that a lady had just used to clean her nose. Miyajima is also just great for photos! We had so much fun just taking pictures and walking around.

Keeping you posted!

My 24th Birthday

You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. -Bob Hope

Yesterday I turned 24 years old. All the way until the age of 18 I felt that life moved pretty slow, but since then the years are just flying by! Yet, I’m loving my 20s and I have never wished to go back to any other time in my life. On the contrary everything keeps getting better and better, although the children think I’m a dinosaur.

I had a lovely birthday. I woke up early and went for breakfast at Sarah’s. Afterwards we went to Kompira-san a shrine about 1.5 hours from where we live. To get to the shrine one needs to go up 735 steps! It was totally worth it, as the view from the top is just spectacular. On our way down we stopped for some Udon, as the area is famous for it. I barely made it back for work though!

My adult class brought me a cake and a present, which I thought was extremely nice of them. I also got for the first time a big orange as a birthday gift! I think it will take me several weeks to finish it, as it is about the size of my face. I thought it was really funny but just seeing the look of excitement on my student’s face as he gave it to me, made me think of it as one of the best gifts I have ever gotten.

After work I went to Sarah’s for dinner and cake. It was one of the most lovely birthdays I have had and I was completely overwhelmed by all the phone calls, messages and emails from people all over the world. To all of you : THANK YOU.

Keeping you posted!

Shinkansen!

I have finally ridden the world’s famous Shinkansen!

Before leaving for Japan many people spoke to me about the Shinkansen, so I thought I’d tell you about my own experience. The Shinkansen also known as “the bullet train” is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan. These trains can go at a speed of up to 300 km/hr, so yeah they are super fast!

I took the Shinkansen from Okayama to Nagoya and it took a little less than 2 hours to make the trip. To me the Shinkansen felt like a plane on the runway that never takes off. I never get dizzy in trains, buses, cars, etc… but I began reading a book in the Shinkansen and had to stop because it was making me feel funky, and not in a good way. Also once inside you don’t really realize how fast is going until you focus your eyes on something outside and realize that 5 seconds later is no longer there. For example on my way home I realized that we were passing by Himeji castle, which I have been wanting to see for some months now, so I reached to get my camera and by the time I took it out of my bag Himeji Castle was no longer around!

By far one of the most fascinating things as far as Japanese technology is concerned! Sorry I was only able to take one picture, I almost missed my train so I only had time for one quick shot, but hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to ride the Shinkansen once again.

Keeping you posted!

The Roof of Japan – Nagano

Happy New Year’s everyone!!  A new decade, how exciting is that?

I spent my New Year’s in Nagano. To be exact I was in Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort approximately 1 hour outside of Nagano. I went on a 4 day snowboarding trip with some of my co-workers and had a fabulous time. The resort had amazing hills and I took full advantage of them all (except black diamonds, they still scare me). My favourite run was one that took you on a 5K ride along the forest of the Japan Alps. It was so beautiful and so much fun!

Is also very interesting to be in a country that experiences the same kind of climate as your own, but they deal with things in a much different way. For example, there are no trucks to clean up the snow, instead there are all these little canals on either side of the sidewalks and that’s where the snow eventually ends up. Also the roads are heated so the snow melts much faster than back at home, but somehow while the roads are heated, the houses are not! So every room has a heater that keeps your room nice and toasty, but still no central heating.  The town was beautiful and very different from the town where I live. I have truly loved the experience of seeing different parts of Japan and how each Prefecture is so unique in its own way.

After our snowboarding trip I went on my own to Nagano where I spent 1 full day just exploring the city. Nagano is a super cool city! I can totally see why it was chosen to host the Olympic Games back in 1998. It is both cosmopolitan and traditional and is easier to navigate than let’s say Osaka. I joined hundreds of Japanese people at the Zenko-ji shrine for the New Year’s festivities and had a great time doing so. First of all there were hundreds of people there! So you walk all the way to the entrance of the shrine and wait to be allowed in. Once you are allowed to go in, you push your way through to the very front, where you throw your coin (or in some cases  1000 Yen bills) and say a quick prayer… and I say quick because the whole time you are being pushed from all sides. Afterwards I walked around the temple and went into a New Year’s service. I had a bit of a mishap in there though; a monk came up to me and told me something I clearly didn’t understand, but I did get the fact that I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t know what. Yet, all the Japanese people around me kept staring at me, but not one single one of them could explain me what was the matter, so I came to the conclusion that I probably shouldn’t be wearing my hat inside the temple, so I took it off and hoped for the best. I totally guessed, but the monk never came back.

Now I’m back home and tomorrow is back to work, but I feel refreshed and ready to see all my students again.

Keeping you posted!