May 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ritsumeikan Flower Arrangement / Ikebana (生け花) Class

12:12:00 AM
In addition to the Japanese confectionary class (Wagashi), I'm also taking Ikebana, or flower arrangement, this semester. This is a class which Ritusmeikan offers, and which is exclusive for exchange students.
The classes are being held in Missho Kaikan (未生会館) in the western part of Kyoto, and this place is a part of the well-known Misho-ryu Sasaoka School.
Sooo.. Without further ado, here are some pictures from the Ikebana-classes we have had so far:
From our first Ikebana-class
One of the really nice things about this class is that we get to take the flowers with us back home after the class is done. Here are the flowers from the first class we had, and the vase on the picture is one I made last semester in my ceramics class (陶芸)

Second Ikebana class
Our teacher explaining the technicalities of Ikebana
This style is called Seika (生花), and is from the Japanese Edo-period
In Ikebana it is usual to use flowers that hasn't fully bloomed yet, so that one can enjoy the sight of the flower at different stages.

4th Ikebana class: Moribana-style (盛花) arrangement with Sunflowers (ひまわり)

Above: How to arrange flowers in Moribana-style

Close-up of the flower bowl

Moribana-style (盛花)

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ritsumeikan Traditional Art Courses: Japanese Confectionery (Wagashi)

6:22:00 PM
Every semester Ritsumeikan offers some special traditional art classes which are aimed at exchange students following the SKP program. The classes offered vary from semester to semester, and the traditional art classes offered during the spring semester is Shamisen (三味線), Ikebana (生け花) and Wagashi (和菓子). Wagashi is the word for Japanese confectionery, and this is something especially Kyoto is famous for.

I have to say though that I wish we would make more sweets in this course:p.. So far we have had around 6 classes, but only made sweets twice. Also, we don't learn to make the sweets from scratch. Of course I realize it would have been quite unpractical if we were to do it that way though.. Anyway, enough about that. We get to take the sweets we make with us home, and they are great gifts.!

Our teacher explaining how to make sakuramochi
For making sakuramochi (桜餅) we divided red bean paste into small balls which we then wrapped in mochi rice. Just as easy as it sounds like. (^_^)v
Red bean paste almost covered by mochi
Alex and mochi.
After rolling the mochi so that they are nice and round you just wrap them in two sakura leaves, and voila!, there you have a finished sakuramochi..
Sakuramochi ready to be eaten!
A random pic from the wagashi studio. These are used to make wagashi-sweets with pattern. 
第二回 Chimaki!
The second type of Wagashi we have made so far this semester is Chimaki! We used mochi this time as well, though this time even the shape of the mochi had already been prepared for us. What we was going to learn, was how to wrap the mochi in bamboo leaves (ささ -> 笹). Which actually was a little bit tougher than what it sounds like, but quite a lot of fun too. I've also added a video if you want to take a closer look at how to do the wrapping.

Mochi ready to be wrapped..

 Our teacher demonstrating where to place the mochi on the bamboo leave

Here is a video showing the wrapping process more detailed.

This is how it looks like when a mochi has been wrapped in bamboo leaves.
But one mochi is not enough for this style though; you need to wrap three of them which you afterwards bind together to make the final chimaki.
After wrapping three mochi in bamboo leaves our teacher showed us how to bind them together.

And there you have it: Chimaki made by me, Alex and Ericka.

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Weekend in Tokyo II: Night at a Capsule Hotel, Bunad, backpack and 17. mai

12:50:00 AM
After a long Saturday in Tokyo, it was finally time to get some sleep, and I had pre-booked the night at a Capsule Hotel in Asakusa near the Kaminari-mon.
Finding a Capsule Hotel was actually harder than I would have thought, because most of them are only usable by men. But after spending quite some time searching I found one called Hotel Asakusa & Capsule (ホテル浅草&カプセル) that had rooms for women in addition to the ones for men. I found it through Rakuten travels, and the (student)price was 1800 yen for a night. (Arriving there I found out that the price actually is 2200 yen unless you book the room in advance;))
The Capsules are like small boxes, and at first I was a bit skeptical looking at the tiny entrance to my room: I had to crawl on all fours to get in.

Looks more like a prison than a hotel. My room was number 518, and the entrance was almost the same size as my backpack..
But inside the size of the room was a lot better than what I had imagined, and it even had a small locker and a TV (though it was 100 yen/hour to use it).
My bunad and my hotel room.
The small locker and the entrance to my capsule-room.
In addition to the room, you also get access to a common bathroom and a room that has an onsen (温泉is the Japanese word for hot spring, but of course these ones don't have real onsen water though).

Me by the entrance to the capsule I slept in.
Anyway, check-out time was 09:30 so I had to get up a little earlier than what I would have liked. Getting ready for the events at the embassy later the day I got all dressed up in my bunad (Norwegian folk costume) and hit the road.
I had a lot of time to kill, and since the famous Kaminari-mon was right by my Capsule Hotel I decided to take a walk over there for some sightseeing.
The famous Kaminari-mon 雷門
..and a close-up.
I guess I must have looked a bit strange walking around in Tokyo in my bunad, but on the other hand, after seeing what some people actually wear in Harajuku I think you need a lot more to surprise the Japanese people. It still was kind of fun.
I spent some time walking around in the area before changing direction and heading for the embassy down in the Hiro-o area of Tokyo.

I walked around all day in my bunad, which was kind of hot in the warm weather.  Here by the Tokyo Sky Tree (under construction)
At the embassy everything was ready for a fun celebration.
The only thing out of the normal was that usually there are normally some parades being held where people are carrying Norwegian flags while singing songs and marching in the streets, but due to the earthquake in Sendai in March the 17. mai-committee had decided that the arrangement would be a little bit quieter this year than usual. In other words, there weren’t any parades this year. We still had a really good time though; with Norwegian pølse i lompe, waffles, buffet with Norwegian food and cakes for dessert. And of course, some speeches and some traditional 17. mai songs like the national anthem Ja vi elsker.

The 17. mai committee giving a short speech
..And not to mention pølse i brød/lompe, which is a must when celebrating 17. mai.
Another picture of my bunad. The design of this one is typical for my hometown Bergen. 
Kids organizing their lottery tickets
And a second buffet: this time for cakes! :)
A picture of the King and Queen of Norway
Outside the embassy
Tokyo Station by night
 After a nice and busy weekend, it was time to go back to Kyoto again. I took the underground to Tokyo Station and spent the rest of the evening doing pretty much nothing, waiting for the night bus to take me home to Kyoto.

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Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

Weekend in Tokyo I: Sightseeing and haircut in Harajuku

12:07:00 AM
In order to celebrate Norway’s constitutional day I went to Tokyo for the weekend to participate at the 17. mai event at the Norwegian embassy. The National Day is at the 17th of Mai, but for practical reasons the celebrations were held on Sunday the 15th. I left Kyoto by night bus on Friday the 13th and arrived in Shinjuku, Tokyo, at around 7 am.
To be honest I was tired after the long trip and did not feel like going on sightseeing. After all I had already been a trip to Tokyo already and seen a lot on the stuff in the Shinjuku area, so instead of going sightseeing I went to a couple of parks in the area. The first one wasn’t that interesting; it was small and in front of a little temple there was a tiny village for homeless people.
The second one was the Shinjuku Imperial Garden (新宿御苑) where one had to pay 220 yen to get in. This one was a lot bigger and was a lot prettier to. But to be honest, most of the time here I spent sleeping on various of the benches. The weather was lovely and I did not have much energy at all, haha..

Anyway, after spending some hours in the park I continued south towards Harajuku.
When I went to Tokyo last time we did stop by Harajuku, but we didn’t have enough time to see a lot, so I wanted to take a closer look at the area this time. Though quite frankly Harajuku is most known for people going around wearing a little bit ..special clothing and fashion.
One of the many shops with rather special clothes for sale in Takeshita Street.
Takeshita Street
Kawaii (cute) is definitely cool in Harajuku. I'm not quite sure if I think this is cute though.. :p
Harajuku Station on the other hand does actually look quite nice.
Harajuku fashion..(?)
 I did however have another goal with going to Harajuku: I was going to get a haircut! Which actually was my first time to the hairdresser since I came to Japan in September. Before going to Tokyo I had already done some research on the internet about hair salons in town, and found that Chie Funakura-san, who worked at Watanabe Hairdressing, was supposed to be really good with western hair. She was even awarded best hairdresser in Tokyo by the Australian Harper's Bazaar, so I did feel quite secure with my choice. 

Watanabe Hair Salon was situated in Harajuku and was quite easy to find. After going down the overly crowded Takeshita Street you just turn left, walk till you are in front of the Starbucks cafe, cross the road and continue to the left up Harajuku Street till you see this sign on your left hand side.

My hairstylists Kento Utsubo-san and Chie Funakura-san and me, taken after the haircut.
The service at the salon was really good; in addition to the normal hair cut I also received some shiatsu head massage! Not to mention that I got to practice my kansai-ben (関西弁 - kansai-dialect) with one of the other stylists; Kento Utsubo-san. He is a really funny guy! 
(Still, it is not a problem for those who doesn't speak Japanese to go here, since they do speak English as well.)
I am really satisfied with my new hairstyle. It feels a lot lighter now, and of course it looks much better too. I think it is important that you feel relaxed and that you can rely on the hairdresser, and that is just what I did at Watanabe Hair Salon. It is also a good thing to know that there is a place I can go to again when I need another haircut. I guess I'm a bit peculiar about my hair, so I always need to be certain that I'm in safe hands. Haha..  

The address to the salon is Sun Beauty Harajuku B1, 3-25-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. In addition to this their telephone number is 03-5411-5633.
Watanabe Hair Salon

After the haircut it was time to get going again (it was quite a busy day!), and this time my plan was to meet my friends Reiko and Teruko, which were exchange students at my university in Bergen a couple of years ago.
I met them at the Shibuya station, and we went to a cozy place called  Sakuragaoka Cafe (桜丘カフェ), where they in addition to delicious food also had a couple of goats outside the cafe one could feed/look at. I've added some pictures of the restaurant as well:

Outside of the restaurant they had a cage with two cute goats in it.!
Now this is what I call kawaii:))
Me, Teruko and Reiko having dinner at the cafe
The cafe! Nice atmosphere, right? :)
Thanks to Reiko and Teruko for a great evening:D!
After the dinner I traveled to Asakusa, and here I slept at a capsule hotel. You can read about this and the rest of my Sunday at the Norwegian embassy ++ here.

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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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