July 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, July 31, 2011

LA: Adventurers Hotel

1:54:00 PM
Here in Los Angeles I'm staying at a place called Adventurers Hotel. It is centered at Century Blvd not that far from the airport. It is a bit far from everything else though to be honest, but luckily they've got a couple of services that makes staying here a bit easier.
First of all they have a free shuttle bus that takes you to the hotel or back to the airport for free.
When I arrived I asked the lady in the tourist information for help, and she called them for me. After having called for pick-up you have to go out of the main airport building and turn right (if your flight was from abroad) and there will be a place where all the hotels have their shuttle services. Just stand there and wait and they will be there sooner or later (it does take quite some time so just be patient)
The shuttle bus has the hotels logo on the side so it should be easy to spot.
Also, the shuttle bus can drop you off at the metro if you want. The only problem is that the number of shuttle busses are limited, and that they are popular as well. As a result of this you probably have to wait up to half an hour for a shuttle bus if you are unlucky, and you might also end up not getting a seat on the shuttle bus when it finally arrives.
I must say though that all the drives I've had has done a great job, they are so nice and friendly. I do however think that they need more drivers in order to make the system go smoother.
The receptionists are a little bit more stressed out I think, probably because of people who are calling them from the airport who sometimes seem a bit confused about where to go for the shuttle bus to pick them up (I overheard a conversation where the receptionist was talking on the phone, desperately trying to explain to the guest that he/she had to ho outside to the shuttle service area for the bus to pick her/him up)
Still, when I asked about how to take the bus back to the hotel from Hollywood and the receptionist answered me that she didn't know because she had a car (which she said in a way that made it sound like only stupid people would use buses) and that I should ask the bus drivers instead it made me feel like the service wasn't really like it should be (I mean, when you work at a hotel you should be able to tell your guests how they can be able to get back to the place.. If she felt the bus system was lacking she could have given me an alternative.

Besides this, however, I did not have Ny negative experiences. The hotel area is quite big, and they have a pool, a restaurant, bar etc.
And like I mentioned earlier they have a lot of free services that really makes the place good.
You get a free champagne a day (if you are over 21) at the bar, and they serve free dinner and cake at certain hours, free popcorn all day long +++..
Today I was having my free dinner at the restaurant, but still the waitress came and asked me if I wanted a glass of water. So even though you get food for free you still get the service as well. Of course it is not a 5-star meal, but it is free and good (enough).

Ok, I guess that's all I have to say for now! Like I mentioned in my previous post I'm typing on my iPhone, which makes uploding photos and editing what ive written a bit difficult. I will fix this as soon as I have access to a normal (free xP) computer..!
Tomorrow it is time for my next flight! I'll probably spend a couple of hours at Venice beach before going to the airport though. Better get up early tomorrow.. See you later!

LA: Sightseeing in Hollywood

12:42:00 PM
 Hi everyone, here comes my first blogpost from Los Angeles!
I arrived in America two days ago after a veery long trip (Kyoto - Tokyo by night bus, and then Tokyo - Taipei (Taiwan) - Los Angeles by plane. Arriving in Los Angeles it took me about 2 hours getting through the security procedures, and then another thirty minutes waiting for the shuttle bus to pick me up.
It was a fairly long and tiring trip, but then again I got to relax a couple of days in America before I'm heading towards Bolivia so I'm happy none the less:).

The Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman's Chinese Theatre up close
Yesterday it was time to explore the city, at least the touristy areas.. To be honest, I'm not that fuzzed about celebrities and stuff, but I guess being in LA it is something I just had to check out (This is actually my second time to LA though, me and my family stopped here during our roundtrip in America about 8 years ago).
Along Hollywood Boulevard you can see people dresses up as various famous movie characters, like Jack Sparrow..!
Michael Jackson's star is still one of the most popular stars on Hollywood Boulevard
 This time, however, I had bought myself a Hollywood City Pass, which made it a easy for me to decide what to do. I started out doing one of the Kodak theatre tours, which I already had experienced once before with my family.. 
The entrance to the famous Kodak Theatre
This time I have to say that it was better though, cause a group of the dancers from Circus de Solei were practicing for their evening tour at the stage, so we had some good entertainment. Not to mention that the guide told us a lot of interesting facts and stories from the Oscar shows and everything, she seemed to like her job a lot.!
The square next to the Kodak Theatre

View towards Hollywood Boulevard
 After my little visit to the Kodak theatre the next post was a tour with the Starline busses giving you a tour to Beverly Hills etc where the stars has their homes.
Though of course it is a bit limited what you can see, because most of the houses are hidden by huge walls and hedges.
The gate to Ringo Starr (The Beatles)'s home.
Poor celebrities, I felt like we were on safary and that they were the animals we all wanted to see.. :p Anyway we did see one more or less famous guy but I have already forgotten his name.
View from the car
We also drove through Rodeo Drive, which is the street where celebreties likes to go shopping.
We also passed the Beverly Hills-sign..
And this was the closest we got to the Hollywood-sign. Did you know that the sign originally read "Hollywoodland"?
Checking out the view of Los Angeles
The last thing I did was to check out the Madame Tussauds. It was alright, but I have already been to the one in London so I guess I wasn't overly excited about it. Haha.. I might be mistaken, but I got the feeling that the one in London is a bit bigger..
A Marilyn Monroe-statue from Madame Tussauds in front of the entrance to the metro
Anyway, I had a free ticket through the City Pass so at least I got the chance to use it.

There was another ticket as well for another kind of round trip, but it was getting late and I decided not to bother. I think it was a pretty interesting day, and I am definately glad I had bought the City Pass in advance.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


9:07:00 PM
Today I finished my last exam at Ritsumeikan, which means that I've completed the SKP - Study in Kyoto Program (If I didn't fail any of my exams..). It has been a great year, I am really happy that I decided to go to Kyoto.

But now it is time for new adventures for a while: tonight I'm going by the night bus to Tokyo, and tomorrow my plane leaves for Los Angeles. I'll spend a couple of days there before I'm off to Bolivia where I'm going to spend my holiday at an orphanage. I'll be back in Japan in the end of September to start my master degree studies though..!

Anyway, I'll try to update my blog with pictures and stories from my travels.

See you guys later:)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Yamaha Summer Camp!

11:53:00 PM
This weekend I have been in Mie-ken (三重県) working at Yamaha English School's summer camp teaching Japanese children English!  Most of the adults participating in the camp were already Yamaha staff members except for me, April and Jimmy. (And actually, my friend Ericka was supposed to do this job originally, but since she eventually found out she couldn't participate after all she recommended me instead. So a big thanks to you, Ericka!)
Some of the kids who are waiting for the camp to start
We started of Friday morning at Kyoto Station, where we welcomed around 230 kids ready to practice their English. At first they were quite shy, of course, but they seemed eager to learn at the same time. The kids were around 8-11 years old, and some of them had even been to the summer camp a couple of times before.
Some of the boys
On the train to Mie-ken we spent the time talking to the kids, asking them about their names, their favorite colors/animals/food and so on. And the kids were trying to collect "power-power cards", which they got from us after the conversations were finished. This made the kids even more eager to talk to us, and got rid of their shyness as well.
 After the train ride, which lasted about 3 hours, we arrived in Mie-ken where there was 5 buses waiting for us. Our destination was the hotel Nemu no Sato (合歓の郷), which is not only a hotel but more like a tiny village (sato means village actually..) where they have different kind of activity areas such as a water-park, onsen, golf +++. It is actually quite cool! And not to mention its like heaven for the kids, haha:)
April and Jimmy in the back of the golf-cart taking us from the main hotel building to the building we were staying at..
 Shortly after arrival it was time for the weekends first camp-activity: The water park! Check out the water slides! You bet both we and the kids had a great time. Me and April went water-sliding with a couple of the kids, and the time flew faster than I would have though.

One of the lifeguards are taking a break. I guess he needed one, since the bunch of kids was about to arrive..! 
Aaand here we are! Probably more than 90% of the guests  using the water park at this time was kids from the Yamaha summer camp..!
 In the evening it was time for dinner and entertainment, and the Yamaha teachers did the acting (I played a dog, haha).! The play was roughly based on Toy Story (at least the characters), and the point was to teach the kids about the environment at the same time as they got to practice their English. I think it was a great success; the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot!

Group picture! All the staff members did a great job..!
We ended the play outside after dinner was over; and to make it even more exiting for the kids there was both a fireplace and not to mention fireworks! I'm pretty sure the kids slept well this night.. And the staff got the chance to relax a bit and to check out the onsen too.

 But the camp was not over yet; we still had Saturday to go! For this day my group started out with outdoor activities where we first taught the kids about the principles of reuse, refuse and recycle! The kids had already practiced vocabulary such as can, pet bottle, plastic bag and so on, so it seemed like they did not have much problems following the simplified explanations.

 The second post of the program was crab fishing. To be honest I was a bit skeptical when I first heard of this, but there was actually quite a lot of crabs hiding in the small rivers so it was a great success as well. Though none of the kids actually caught the crabs they did manage to lure them out from behind rocks etc., and it was fun watching the crabs eating the bait as well.

The kids being entertained by Johnny the Cowboy. Yeeha..! The kids really loved him!
 For the second day the kids had been divided into 6 groups since they were so many, and since my groups started outside we ended the day with the indoor activities.

"Barbie" and "Duzz" talking about clean energy
 And at the end of the indoor activities the kids got to see the end of the play we had started on the day before.! With the help of the kids hard work through the different activities we managed to bring the robot Bokumo back to life ;p..

The kids lining up for autographs on the train back home.. They were so cute;)
And so, after lunch, the end of the day and the camp was there. We left Nemu no Sato heading for the train station, and from the train station we travelled back to Kyoto. It was a very nice weekend, and if I'm lucky I'll be able to participate next year as well.
Now it is only a couple of days (and 4 exams) left till the summer holiday starts! 頑張らなくちゃ!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

About Seiki-classes at Ritsumeikan

12:26:00 AM
This semester I have been taking classes as a so-called seiki-student at Ristumeikan.
This might sound a bit mystical, but seiki is just the Japanese word for normal or regular (正規), which in this case means that I can take regular classes at Ritsumeikan with the Japanese students.

Personally I took
-3 obligatory seiki-classes
-2 Japanese Culture-classes (Ikebana/Flower Arrangement and Wagashi/Confectionery )
-1 Seiki-class for exchange students (Japanese Economy)
-3 classes with the regular Japanese students.

As a seiki-student you do have quite a lot more options than a regular student, or even a regular Japanese student, cause you can take almost any class you want. Unfortunately there are some courses you can't take though; I'm specially talking about other language classes besides Japanese. Personally I wanted to study other languages beside Japanese, but it seems Ristumeikan doesn't allow that.

But in general, like I said, it is pretty much up to you which classes you want to take. There are 3 obligatory seiki classes, which is grammar, listening and reading. In other words, the same as in the regular SKP program. And then there are some seiki-classes specifically designated for exchange-students. These are classes conducted in Japanese about various topics, the only difference between these classes and regular classes you take with the Japanese students is that.. There are no Japanese students..?
And the other thing I have noticed is that the seiki-classes for exchange students demands a lot more work than regular classes you take with the Japanese students (but since I only took one of these classes this semester I'm not sure if this is applicable for all classes).

The regular classes I took this semester was: a class about International Relations (国際関係学), a class about ethnicity and racism  (goes under 特殊講義) and Sustainable Development (持続可能な開発).
So far I haven't had any problems regarding my classes, and I've even got relative good grades on the tests I've had which is kind of nice when "all" the others are natives. In all these classes I am the only Western student, but I've heard some of the students speaking Korean so I guess I'm not the only foreigner at least. Not that it matters, really..
i have to say though that my classes are quite big, so the chances of making new friends aren't really that big I think, unless that is one of your goals. I've got so many nice friends at Ristumeikan already, so I must admit I don't take it that seriously.

Anyway, for those who wants advices considering choosing seiki-classes, I would recommend reading about as many different classes in the online syllabus as you can, and find some classes that is based not only on the final exam, but also on for example attendance, reports or small tests beside the final exam. The first couple of weeks you are free to try out as many classes as you want, so have fun! ;p
You can find Ristumeikan's online syllabus here (The class code is written at the end of the url in each of the pages for the different classes).

授業: 持続可能な開発

Other posts about Ritsumeikan

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Gion Festival - 祇園祭

11:34:00 PM
The Gion Matsuri is one of Japans most famous festivals, and it takes place in Kyoto in July every year. The festival lasts for weeks, with new things happening every day, which is a good thing for me since I have been quite busy writing reports the last couple of days.
But this morning I finally finished my last report for this semester, so me and Yuma decided to go into town and enjoy the festival.

After spending some time hanging out in the city we headed for Yasaka Shrine. We were lucky with the timing, because we just arrived in Gion when one of the parades were about to start, and we managed to get good spots as well. The Gion Matsui is really popular, there were so many people it was almost impossible to move..
The parade is about to start
Waiting for the 祇園祭-parade to start
There were quite a lot of people participating in the parade..

..And there are some children who are participating in the parade as well, though most of the participants are grownups..
After having watched the whole parade we continued our towards Yasaka Shrine again. Though there was a lot of people on the sidewalk there was no cars on the road, so we took the easy way..
Yasaka Jinja is of course also quite crowded during the festival..
 At the Yasaka we met up with Asami and Tomoya, who also had been hanging around town for a couple of hours. We first decided to find a place we could eat ice cream, but ended up in a Mexican restaurant instead.
Yuma, me, Asami and Tomoya in front of Yasaka Jinja
 Mexican food is not that common in Japan actually, at least not in Kyoto; you have to go to special stores where they sell foreign food in order to find it. But there are some Mexican restaurants in Kyoto though, and the one we went to was called the "Mexican House Vicuña" - メキシカンハウス ビクニャ near Sanjo.
Time for dinner and Mexican beer!
Waiting for the dinner
 The dinner was really good, and there was even live music in Mexican style! The only thing that kind of annoyed me a bit, was that the service charge was not included in the price of the dinner, cause it usually is in Japan.. But anyway, we had a good time and the music was great as well.
A picture of the restaurant
 When we got out of the restaurant we run into another parade on the way to the place we had parked our bikes. Lucky! Seems that the Gion Matsuri never ends:).. A great day, and I'm already looking forward to celebrating this festival next year as well. Then I'm going to wear a yukata for certain.!

Our last glimpse of Gion Matsuri: a Mikoshi (神輿)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nattō 納豆アイス Ice Cream!

9:47:00 PM
For those who aren't familiar with nattō, we are talking Japanese fermented soyabeans.. In Japan it is quite common to eat nattō, specially with rice, but for some reason it seems like nattō scores high on the list of Japanese food foreigners tend to dislike.
I must admit though, that I think nattō actually is very 美味しい! It is cheap, good and nutritious, and though it is a bit sticky I don't understand why people dislike it that bad.
But I guess when it comes to nattō you either love it or hate it.

So, anyway, as you perhaps already knew they tend to make a lot of sweets and stuff with rather strange taste we perhaps wouldn't think of back home. I've already written about the desert pizza at Shakey's, and this is just the tip of the ice berg. The desert pizza was a success, but there are a lot of other Japanese snack that aren't that successful.


So, talking about weird deserts; Today at school I got to try out Kyoto's new specialty: the Nattō ice cream.! In other words, vanilla ice cream with fermented soya beans.. For some reason it just sounds terribly wrong.
But it was actually not that bad. It tasted kind of good actually, in a strange way. Now that I've said that, keep in mind that I actually like normal nattō, so it is far from certain that you'd like the ice cream unless you already like the fermented soya beans. Anyway, it is worth a try! Or..?
fermented soya bean ice crem!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Things you can do with a 1-yen coin

6:59:00 PM
-The coins are made of aluminum, and therefor it is actually possible to use scissors to cut them into pieces.. (but if you are that desperate to get rid of them, you could always put them in a charity collection box or something;)

-The size of it is 20 mm in a diameter, so if you line up 5 of the 1-yen coins then voilà, you have 10 centimeters. Absolutely great for measuring if you don't carry around a tape measure ;p..

I did not have more than 3 coins available when the picture was taken though..

-In addition to this, the one yen coins weight is 1 gram, so if you have enough of them you can use them as weights.

-Aaand, since the 1-yen coin is so light it can actually float on water.  Yay.. :)

Floating 1-yen coins

Monday, July 4, 2011

Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 1!

11:22:00 AM
For people studying Japanese the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) can be used as a way to measure your language skills, and the levels arrange from 5 to 1, where 1 is the highest. To be able to get a decent job in Japan (besides teaching English I guess) you need to at least have passed Level 2, but most places they won't employ you if you haven't cleared the JLPT Level 1.
And of course, being the highest level of the test the content of this level is particularly difficult.

After having studying kanjis and vocabulary for weeks now, I finally had the JLPT 1 test yesterday, and as expected there was a lot of hard questions in it. At least the first part of the test, where your ability to understand written Japanese is being tested, can be a bit confusing so one needs to stay focused.
I have been studying Japanese for 3 years now, but still the test is quite hard. This is partly because quite a few of the questions in the test are about things you normally don't use at all in daily Japanese.
For instance you have a lot of set phrases where you have to know the exact expression to be able to answer the question. I even asked my Japanese boyfriend about a couple of the grammar points and expressions that was written in my N1-book, and he told me he never had heard of them.

Here are some examples from one of the N1 practice books I used:
歯に衣着せぬ - はにきぬきせぬ - means to speak frankly
梨の礫 - なしのつぶて - means to not get a replay
匙を投げる - さじをなげる - means to give up (cause the situation is hopeless)
The point is, unless you are familiar with the expressions it is not really that easy to tell what the correct answer could be. A typical question would be something like "(薬 / 梨 / 花 / 衣) のつぶて" and then you'd have to pick the correct word. For some of the sentences in the JLPT I guess this is possible without even knowing the main word, if you get the context. But in sentence like these, that is easier said than done.

On the contrary, the listening-part of the test was easy. Almost too easy.. Perhaps I was being fooled or something, perhaps it was all trick questions which were meant to fool me so that I would think that the answer was easy, when in reality the answer was something completely different and my listening skills suck. The listening questions somehow doesn't seem fit for level 1, at least not when you compare them to the reading part of the test.
Personally I think that the readings could have been made a bit easier and the listening-part a bit harder for the test to be closer to natural usage of Japanese..
Anyway, the result won't be released until September anyway, so I guess I've got other things to concentrate on. Exams up next! O.o

Kyoto Daigaku, where the JLPT test was being held
There was a lot of foreigners at the University, presumably people who wanted to take the JLPT. 

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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