January 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spa World in Osaka!

2:09:00 PM
Yuma and a statue by the entrance to Spa World
On Saturday me, Yuma, Silke and Bano went to Osaka to spend the day in a place called Spa World not that far from Osaka Bay.
The entrance fee for Spa World normally costs between 2400-2700 yen for three hours, but right now they have a campaign going on so that you can enter the place for only 1000 yen and stay there for about as many hours as you´d like. This campaign lasts out March, so if you are in the area you should definitely go ahead while you have the chance;)
The four of us in front of the entrance to Spa World. I guess the guy we asked to take the photo wasn't exacly a photographer, but after all I´m just glad he didn't run of with my camera cause he seemed a bit shady.. heheemm..

Spa World actually consists of 6 floors; in the basement they have a relaxation room, then the first floor is the reception area. Then there is one floor for the European style baths, one for the Asian style baths, in addition to a floor where there are restaurants and a floor with normal pool area (water slides etc). If you want to exercise they actually has a gym as well!
This month the European style baths was open only to women, and the Asian style baths only to men. This is something that changes every month though, so if you go again at another month you can experience totally new surroundings..

A picture I took of the pool area. Unlike the European and Asian styled baths, the pool area is open for everybody independent of gender.
Here they also have two water slides, but you have to pay additionally 300 yen each time you use them. Me and Yuma tried out one of them once though, and it was great!

In the third floor they have a restaurant area with a wide selection of food. That is to say, you don´t get much for your money so I recommend bringing your own lunch. Note our typical Spa World clothes by the way! They kinda looks like they were made for prisoners, haha:)
In the third floor they also has a Fish Therapy bath where you can let the small fishes eat on your toes for the neat price of 1050 yen. Woho! :P.. Kind of interesting though, I might have wanted to tried it if it was cheaper..
Poor things, they probably don´t get much food..

I couldn´t really bring my camera inside the European spa area, so I´ve copied some of the pictures from Spa World´s internet page instead.
The Roman style bath

The greek styled bath

..and one with inspiration from Finland.

Finally, the view of Tsutenkaku Tower seen from outside Spa World.

We arrived at Spa World there at 12 in the afternoon and left around 6 in the evening, and still I would have liked to stay there longer. I am definitely going back next month to try out the Asian style baths..!!

UPDATE: Spa World is still running an 1000-yen entrance campaign, at least out December 2011. But for some reason they don't write about this in their English page, it is only written in Japanese.. However, non-Japanese also get to enter for the same price.

Related blogposts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pizza Tabehoudai @ Shakey´s

8:37:00 PM
On Friday me and some of my friends from iHouse went down to Kawaramachi in the evening to eat pizza at a place called Shakey´s. Here they have a pizza tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) that we had heard was supposed to be quite good.

At the entrance to Shakey´s

Pizza in Japan is usually quite expensive, so if you really want some pizza Shakey´s is a great option.

The price was actually only 892 yen, which is quite good considering that you can eat as much as you want. We did actually stay there for a couple of hours just eating.. Haha..
Shakey´s also has a lunch tabehoudai as well, which lasts to 5 o´clock and costs 600 yen.

Dessert pizza with strawberry..!
In Japan they tend to take popular western food and turn it into something unique that you certainly won´t find in the original country. This is a great example on that; a dessert pizza. Though it looks like a normal pizza it has cream instead of cheese, and the topping consists of strawberry, chocolate and confectioner´s sugar.
Though it seems a bit repelling with sweet pizza for dessert, it was actually really good, absolutely worth trying out.

Part of the pizza selection. When the plates were empty they filled up with new types, so there was always something interesting to choose from.

In addition to pizza they also has got other stuff like pasta, fried potatoes and salad. Not to mention that if you pay about 500 yen extra you get a nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) as well!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Completion ceremony at Ritsumeikan!

5:36:00 PM
My first semester at Ritsumeikan is over. I´ve had all my exams, finished all my reports and done all of my assignments for this time.

On Friday we had a completion ceremony for the students who has already been here a year/only are staying one semester. Though I´ve still got another semester left, I decided to participate as well. There is not that much to say about the ceremony itself, you have the usual formal speeches and everybody is dressed up nicely.

Vice-chancellor of Ritusmeikan; Monte Cassim, and our student representative.

But there were also some entertainment during the ceremony: The students who took the traditional arts course Shamisen (三味線) preformed some songs they had been practicing during the semester. Shamisen is the name of the instrument they are playing; a Japanese three-stringed banjo. I´ve added a video where they are playing and singing as well, feel free to check it out;)

After the ceremony we had a reception at school, with a lot of more or less traditional Japanese food. 美味しかった! Of course now that the semester is finished there are students who will be leaving for their own countries. Eki-chan is one of those who has finished her year abroad, and at the reception she, among others, received her completion diploma.

But we did not only spend the evening eating delicious food and listening to speaches. After the reception at school, most of us spent some hours of the evening at a Nomihōdai (飲み放題) where you can drink as much as you want for a certain prize, of course with a time limit to it. Though we only had 90 minutes to go we sure had a memorable night:)

Besides the completion ceremony at school we also had a farewell party on Saturday for the students living in iHouse 1, where everybody brought some food from their representative countries. It was both fun and sad at the same time; I´m particularly bad at saying goodbye, and it is always hard to let go of good friends.

So now I can finally relax and enjoy some weeks of freedom, though I´ll probably still be hanging around the library a couple of weeks more. I´ve prepared myself for the holiday by buying some crime novels by Higashino Keigo, and I must say it is great to be able to study by reading stuff I actually want to read out of interest.. :P
In the end of February I am going to travel a couple of weeks in Japan along with my family, and in March me and Adaora are going to Taiwan, Thailand and Cambodia.

Other posts about Ritsumeikan

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ritsumeikan Traditional Art Course: Ceramics

5:45:00 PM

Now that I am finished with most of my exams for the semester I´ve decided to write some short blogposts about the traditional art courses I have taken at Ritumeikan this semester; ceramics and calligraphy.

Out of all the courses I took this semester, the class in ceramics was by far the one I enjoyed the most. It was relaxing and fun, and at the same time we got to make really nice and unique objects which we could take with us home once they were finished.

The location of the ceramics classes was in Fujihara Togei Studio (藤平陶芸) close to Kiyomizudera, and it takes more or less an hour to get there by bike from Ritsumeikan. (If you look at it in a positive way it is an easy way to get to do some extra exercise every Saturday morning! Haha..)

In the class we got to make among others a tea-set, Japanese Chawan/茶碗 (a special tea cup style) and for one of the objects you choose what to make yourself.

The classes were varied; we learned to make the objects from the bottom and the result was surprisingly good! (Might have been because our teacher saved us every time things seemed to go out of hand)
And besides just the ordinary classes, we also had the chance to participate in a tea ceremony, which were held in a really traditional Japanese house. This was a great experience as well!

A picture of some of the objects we made. At this stage they had just been burned, which you can tell by looking at the color.

In the last class we got to see their original ceramics studio.
Me and my fellow students from the ceramics class gathered at the old Fujihara studio.
The last class we also had a small tea cermony with our teacher and the wife of the owner of the studio, where we drank tea using the Chawan we had made ourselves.

So finally a summarize of the ceramics class:
+ The teacher is great! He is really helpful and engaged in his work.
+ If you are on the verge of destroying your ceramics projects, sensei is always there to help.
+ You get to keep the things you make.
+ The classes are varied, so it never gets boring.
+ You get to try out traditional Japanese tea ceremonies as well.
+ It is easy credits.
+ It is simply FUN!

- The price. Yeah, it is a bit expensive. On the other hand, taking this course through Ritsumeikan is much cheaper than to go to the studio as a private person.
- It is a bit far from school, since the studio is situated close to Kiyomizudera.
- The classes are held on Saturdays in the morning. Do I have to say more?
Anyway, I have no doubt in my mind when I say that this class was great. It was absolutely worth both my money and my Saturday mornings.

I chose to make a flower vase as my 自由作品.
My finished tea cup

The entrance to the ceramics studio
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ritsumeikan Traditional Art Course: Calligraphy

7:58:00 PM

My first semester here at Ritsumeikan is as good as over now, so I´ve decided to make a couple of blogposts summarizing the traditional art-classes I have been taking this semester: calligraphy and ceramics.

What we basically did in our calligraphy class, was to copy the kanji that our teacher had written in preparation for us and try to make it look as much as possible like his.
You write the same kanji over and over again, either till you have used all your blank sheets, till the time is up or till you have one you are satisfied with. Either way you have choose one of the papers you have written, and turn it in to the teacher.
To be honest, this was basically the same process every single time, so even though the class was relaxing I did not really look forward to them.
For those who has little or no experience when it comes to kanji I guess this is a nice course though; you get to practice the stroke orders of the symbols properly and most of the kanji are quite basic. On the other hand, for those of you who have studied Japanese for a while; don´t expect the biggest challenges when it comes to learning new kanjis. I have to admit to you that there probably won´t be too many of them.
The kanji for Kyoto written in 3 different calligraphy styles. We could choose ourselves which style to write in.
The kanjis we used in class was 日本、夢、平和、鐵心、京都、忍耐、勇気、寿 in addition to some words in hiragana + the numbers 1-10 + 100 and 1000.
Hiragana practice! Yaay.. :-/
So to summarize this real quick:
+ Easy to relax
+ Easy credits
+ One of the cheaper traditional arts classes
+ You can learn stroke orders and basic kanji (for those without Japanese writing experience)
+ You can use the kanjis you have written to decorate you room! Not to mention that our teacher sometimes makes bigger kanji posters as well (like the ones on the picture above), and if you ask him he´ll give them to you.

- A bit repetitive
- Mostly basic kanji (for those who with Japanese writing experience)
Yuuki - courage
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Celebrating New Years in Saga, Kyūshū

2:10:00 PM
With Christmas came the winter break, and another opportunity for me to check out new areas of Japan. My friend Hisami had invited me to spend the holiday with her family in Saga, which is situated south-east on the island Kyūshū. So after a couple of lazy days in Kyoto we went to Fukuoka by night bus and arrived on the morning of the 29th of December.

Fukuoka (福岡) is the largest city on the island Kyūshū, and it is also believed to be the oldest city in Japan.

In Fukuoka we went to the outlet mall Evergreen Marinoa, where we could take a glance at (the remainings of) Japans biggest Ferris wheel: Sky Dream Fukuoka. It has been out of operation since September 2009, and rumors has it that it has been bought up by some Chinese people and that the whole thing are going to be moved to China. They were actually having people working on taking it down when we visited too..

Heading for year 2011, which according to the Japanese calendar is the year of the rabbit. Due to this, as you can see, the shops were filled with cute bunnies..!

A picture of Fukuoka Tower

Fukuoka actually has quite nice beaches! Though December might not be the ideal time for this beach, the temperature wasn´t exactly that high..

On the 29th it was also time for my birthday (another year gone by so fast..), and Hisami´s family surprised me with this nice birthday cake after dinner! Not to mention home made Japanese plum wine; 梅酒, which is うめぇ!Oh yeah.. Anyway..

On the 30th of December we went to Hisami´s grandmothers house. Here we made Omochi, お餅, which is a sort of Japanese rice cake. It is common for Japanese people to make Omochi together during the days before New Year, and this event is called Omochitsuki (お餅つき).

Hisami´s grandmothers house, and typical Saga landscape:)

On the morning of December 31st we went to see the tidal landscape of Ariake Sea. Ariake Sea is the largest bay in Kyūshū, and is said to be not more than 50 meters deep at its deepest. Because of the drastic tidal changes in this bay during the day, there are a lot of creatures living here that that you probably can´t find anywhere else in Japan, like mudskippers for instance. Besides this Ariake is beeing used for cultivating Nori (edible seaweed).
Another picture of Ariake. It looks really peacefull with the snow (though it was quite windy and cold in reality:P)!

In the evening I celebrated Japanese Oomisoka (大晦日) with Hisami´s family (Unfortunately I don´t have a photo of all of us while Hisami had to do the picture-taking).
Before a new year begins, it is a tradition to eat a plate of so-called Toshikoshi-soba (年越しそば). The meaning behind this tradition is that in the same way as the soba is long and thin, one´s life will be long and peaceful.

The first day of the new year 2011, and in Japan these days are usually spent together with the family eating and relaxing. It kinda felt like the days after Christmas Eve back in Norway, when you meet up with all the family members you haven´t seen in a long time.

Me, Hisami, her mother and cousin.

A so-called Shimekazari, which is hanged by/on the door to bring good omen.

On the second of January we went to a hotspring with the funny name Pokapoka Onsen..! This was my second time visiting a Japanese hotspring so I didn´t have that much to compare with, but it was really great. Besides the usual Onsen-style they had some different types of saunas as well. Absolutely worth a visit!

The entrance to the Onsen.

The last gathering with Hisami´s family. Once again, a lot of good traditional Japanese food, and a lot of fun as well.

Another Japanese New Years tradition is the giving of Otoshidama お年玉, or envelopes with money in it. Though Otoshidama usually is given to kids, I was lucky to receive some envelopes myself!!

On the 3rd of January we went to the Yutoku Inari Jinja (祐徳稲荷神社) - shrine for Hatsumode, or the New Years first temple visit. Though it wasn´t that far from Hisami´s place it sure took longer time than expected to get there; As you can see we weren´t exactly the only ones planning to visit the temple, and most of them got there by car like us. The temple was really interesting though, I found the style and the atmosphere quite different from the temples I´ve visited so far in Kyoto.

People.. Everywhere.. My friends who spent their holiday in Tokyo said that it wasn´t that many people there, probably because a lot of Japanese people travel back to their villages to celebrate the New Year with their family (which includes going to the temple..).

Notice the nice colors of the temple! :)

People waiting for their turn to pray.

And lastely a picture of a so-called Fukubukuro (福袋), literary "lucky bag", which simply is a bag you buy without knowing its content, and if you are lucky you get something nice (the fukubukuro on the picture is just a random one I came over by the entrance to the shrine). I´ve heard that when this trend started the shopkeepers usually only included things they wanted to be rid of. But recently though, it has become more common to see part of what the bag contains (like pictures of the different style, but with the colors being unknown) so that you can make certain you won´t get disappointed, and the quality of the stuff is usually really good too (if you avoid shady places of course:p).
I actually bought a fukubukuro myself; I payed 5000 yen and got a jacket, a scarf, tights and three sweaters. Only the jacket alone used to be 10 000 yen, so I feel that I indeed was lucky!

On the evening of the forth of January we traveled back to Kyoto by night-bus again from Fukuoka. I had a great time, but now it´s time to get back to everyday life again, which means studies. From now on all the final exams are coming up, so I just might be a bit busy the upcoming weeks.. Ohh well, at least it´s not that long till our next holiday here, since the spiring break starts in February..!

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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