January 2012 - Vikingess Voyages

Friday, January 27, 2012

Double Master Degree Program (DMDP) at Ritsumeikan University

10:28:00 PM
For those of you who are considering taking a master degree at Ritsumeikan University it might be interesting to know that this university actually offers a so-called Double Master Degree Program for anyone looking for an extra challenge.
Normally it takes two years at Ritsumeikan to achieve a master degree, but with this program you can get two master degrees instead by studying a year at Ritsumeikan and a year abroad.
Currently there are 7 universities in 5 different countries where you have the chance to go to with the DMDP. These include:

  • American University (USA)
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands)
  • University of Granada (Spain)
  • Lancaster University (UK)
  • Royal Holloway University of London (UK)
  • University of York (UK)
  • Kyung Hee University (Korea)
In addition to the chance to studying abroad in yet another country, this program will also make your education cheaper since Ritsumeikan offers a Kyotei-ryugaku scholarship for participants of this program, which means that half of your tuition fees for the year abroad will be covered by Ritsumeikan. And considering tuition fees being high, combined with the fact that it is more expensive to live in Japan than any of the countries listed above, it is quite a good deal if you have what it takes to go through with the program. Besides, it is also possible to do the program in 2 1/2 year if you feel you need more time to finish.

For more information about the program, check out this page.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Top Attractions in the World Heritage City Kyoto

6:00:00 PM
A couple of weeks ago I got contacted by an American director who was going to come to Kyoto in order to hold a speech at Ritsumeikan University's symposium about motion capture at the Biwako campus this weekend. He was looking for someone who could show him around in Kyoto during his days here, and I decided to take some of my time to help him out. For two days my new friend Bo and me went all over Kyoto, visiting some of the most beautiful sights the World Heritage City has to offer.

The Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)

The first place we visited on our sightseeing trip was the world famous temple Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), also known as the Golden Pavilion. Although Kinkaku-ji now is considered a Zen Buddhist temple it was originally a villa until it was bough by the shogun in 1397, and only later converted into a Buddhist temple. The Kinkaku-ji complex has had a pretty rough history including both wars and fires. Last time Kinkaku-ji had to be rebuilt was after 1950, when the temple suffered total destruction after having been set on fire by a monk. As a result of this, the current version of the Golden Pavilion actually only dates back to 1955.

How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Golden Pavilion from Kyoto Station is to take bus nr. 101 or 205. The bus costs 220 yen for adults and 110 yen for kids, and it takes you there in about 40 minutes.
Admission fee: 400 yen
Picture I took of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) last year, when the vegetation was a bit greener.. :p
The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)
You can try and toss your coins, and see if you are lucky.. 
One of the ponds in the Kinkaku-ji complex
Another detail from the pond
Japanese stone lantern 
In addition to good luck charms (and some "remove bad luck" charms.. xP) they also sell a vide range of other souvenirs at the site. 
..And of course, being a temple complex, there are also places where the religious visitors can pray.

Ryoan-ji (龍安寺)

Our second destination was the Ryoan-ji temple, which is within a short walks distance from the Golden Pavillion. The name of this temple literarily means dragon peace temple, and this temple is mainly known because of its magnificent stone garden. Just like the Golden Pavilion this temple is also considered a World Heritage site. In addition to the stone garden, Ryoan-ji also has a beautiful traditional Japanese garden, although I guess January unfortunately is a little bit off-season for that.. Anyway, Ryoan-ji is the perfect place if you need to sit down and relax for a little while; I'm pretty sure I could sit for hours just looking at that stone garden.. Haha..

How to get there: From Kyoto Station you can take bus nr 59 getting of at Ryoanji-mae (竜安寺前), or alternatively to Ritsumeikan University (立命館大学) and walk from there (+/- 5 min.). A buss fare costs 220 yen for adults, and 110 for children. Also, if you are combining the trip with a visit to the Golden Pavilion it should not take more that about 15 minutes to walk from there, or alternatively you can take a taxi.
Admission fee: 500 yen.

The pond in front of Ryoan-ji temple

The famous stone garden of Ryoan-ji has 15 boulders in it, but it is impossible to see more than 14 at a time
A bit of cheating.. This picture was taken during one of my previous visits to Ryoan-ji, when it was a bit greener..
Entrance to the main temple by the stone garden
Golden wall paintings. This picture is also from a previous visit, I suppose they might be keeping these in a dryer place when it's off season..
Roof of one of the temple buildings

The famous tsukubai (蹲い) showing the signs 召 (I), 唯 (only), 足 (sufficient) and 知 (know). This inscription has been interpreted to mean "what one has is all one need"
A lady writing calligraphy inside Ryoan-ji temple 
For those interested in buying calligraphy Ryoan-ji has a lot to offer.
Entering Ryoan-ji temple

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)

The second day of our sightseeing Bo and I visited one of my favorite shrines in Japan: the Fushimi Inari Taisha. This shrine dates back to 711, and is considered the head of the Inari shrines which consists of around 32,000 sub-shrines all over Japan. It is not a surprise that this shrine complex also is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Inari is considered not only the god of rice, but is also a god that brings along good luck and fortune for businesses. Thus, a lot of companies donate toori (red gates) to the shrine, and these gates then gets the name of the company inscribed on their backside. 

How to get there: From Kyoto Station you simply go by train two stops down the JR Nara line to Inari (稲荷), and the train costs 140 yen one way.
Admission fee: Nothing!
When entering the Fushimi Inari complex you can already see the first big toori.
The fox is used as a symbol for the Inari shrines, and the animal is believed to be messengers bringing good luck. 
One of the smaller shrines
Fushimi Inari Jinja is famous for its around 1300 toori gates. 
..and when you turn around you can see signs stating the age of the toori and not to mention the donator.
Toori dating back to the heisei-period
Japanese shrines usually have Ema (絵馬) where you can write about your wishes for the future etc. The ema at Fushimi Inari are however quite significant with their shape of a fox's head.
More toori from Fukshimi Inari Taisha
For people interested in buying their own toori they have a lot of different sizes to choose from, ranging from approximately  2270 to 16.900 dollars each.
A miniature toori is however probably buyable for a more reasonable prize

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)

The last temple we visited was the Kiyomizu-dera (which can be translated to Clear Water temple), a UNESCO World Heritage site famous among other things for its beautiful view of Kyoto. It is a Buddhist temple dating back to 778, but most of the buildings were totally rebuilt in 1633 by the 3rd shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa. Amazingly enough the structures are built without the use of a single nail. Another "funny" fact about the temple is that people used to believe that surviving a jump from the balcony would mean that one got a wish granted, and as a result of this 234 jumps were recorded during the Edo-period. Apparently about 85% of the jumpers did survive the 13 meter jump thanks to the cushioning vegetation, but there haven't been any jumping for years since the practice was forbidden in 1872 by the Meiji government.

How to get there: Take bus nr. 100 or 206 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi (清水道). From here you have you can walk or take the taxi up the hill in order to get to the temple complex.
Admission fee: 300 yen (for the main hall and balcony)
A monk by the entrance to the Kiyomizu-dera complex
Girls in their kimonos at Kiyomizu-dera
Every year they have light-ups at Kiyomizu-dera during autumn and spring, and this is a picture from my visit in 2010. 
Kiyomizu-dera: The view of the famous balcony with Kyoto in the background
On the way to Kiyomizu-dera you pass a lot of small cute shops. In some of them you can even try Kyoto's famous Yatsubashi (a type of Japanese confectionery/wagashi) for free.
One of the shops on the way to Kiyomizu-dera

We did manage to see a lot in these two days, however Kyoto do have a lot more to offer for those who want to check out this amazing city. Having lived here for one and a half year there are still a lot of places I have not seen yet, and I doubt I will have the chance to see all there is to see. But that is one of the charming things about Kyoto; there is always something interesting to discover. Finally, I have added a picture I took of a map showing different famous sites in Kyoto. Pretty, isn't it? :)
Map showing attractions in Kyoto (photo taken in Fushimi Inari Taisha)
Anyway, after having spent so much time sightseeing I'm kinda behind on my studies.. Better continuing working on my last report for this semester! Only one week left until spring break!!

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Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave me a comment or question below!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting a Re-Entry Permit to Japan

11:56:00 PM
It is only 3 weeks left till my next big trip, and so I have been busy not only with this semester's final reports and exams, but also with gathering information about various travel destinations and other technicalities.

One of the most important things you need to remember if you are studying in Japan, is that you need to get your hands on a re-entry permit before leaving the country, or else you probably won't be able to return any time soon.

Basically, to be able to get a re-entry permit, you have to fill out this form and take it to the immigration bureau.

They have to types of re-entry permits: a single-entry and a multiple-entry permit. While a single-entry permit costs 3000 yen, the multiple-entry costs 6000. In other words, if you know you are going to leave Japan more than once during your stay the best thing is probably to settle for a multiple-entry permit. Even though you don't save any money if you are planning to leave only twice, you still save some time and energy by not having to go back to office and fill in more papers.

In addition to going to the immigration bureau you also have to stop by a post office to buy stamps. Yeah exactly, stamps.. They use them to attach to your application form, showing that you have payed the fee. I guess it is kind of fancy with a 6000 yen stamp, but..? 
Anyway, for people who actually have a Japanese visa it should not be hard to get the re-entry permit. It is basically just to fill out the paperwork, hand it in, and you should be able to get the permit within 10-20 minutes. Voilà! For more information about the process, you can check out this page.
A re-entry permit stamp with the neat price of 6000 yen. By far the most expensive sticker I've ever bought..

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fuku Musume (福娘): Behind the Scene of Osaka's Touka Ebisu Festival (十日戎)

11:46:00 PM

The Imamiya Ebisu Jinja shrine (今宮戎神社) in Osaka, where the Tōka-Ebisu Festival (十日戎) takes place 
In the end of last year I was elected as one of 50 girls (out of almost 3000 applicants) to serve as a shrine maiden in the Imamiya Ebisu Jinja - shrine in Osaka during the famous Tōka Ebisu Festival which is being held from the 9th until the 11th of January. But it didn't end there. In fact, out of the 50 elected girls there was another round of competition where I was among the 4 girls who got the honor of representing the Fuku Musume girls as a so-called Fukumusume Daihyo (福娘代表, meaning Fukumusume Representative).
Me in front of a Tōka-Ebisu poster

Just being elected as a Fuku Musume in itelf is however a great honor, so you can imagine I was happy..! The Tōka-Ebisu festival is one of the most famous festivals in Osaka, and it attracts as many as a million visitors each year. Not too surprising, considering that the festival has been celebrated more or less annually since the Edo-period (Between the 17th and 19th Century).
In this blogpost I'm going to write about my experiences during the Tōka-Ebisu Festival.
Some of the items being sold at the festival
Imamiya Ebisu decorated with lanterns and pictures
But first, a little bit of background information. This festival is celebrated to honor the god of good fortune, known as Ebisu or Ebessan among people from Osaka. In order to get luck for their businesses and loads of money in the following year, a lot of people find their way to the shrine during these three days. Our job as Fuku Musume was to sell them lucky charms, which we then attached to branches of bamboo which the visitors had gotten for free in the shrine area before approaching us. Of course you are expected to speak to the customers in polite Japanese, preferably Keigo. There are however some set phrases which are not being used in a normal store; for instance you can greet the visitors with "yō omairi desu" instead of the commonly used "irasshaimase", and when they leave you simply make this phrase into past tense (yō omairi deshita).

Visitors coming to buy lucky charms
The days were pretty long: we had to meet at 8:30 in the morning and then we worked almost non-stop until 9 in the evening. That is to say, we did get one lunch- and one dinner break a day though, both 20 minutes long. Which is quite short and stressful, since it included both the time to eat and necessary toilet breaks. The Eboshi-hat and the cape are considered holy, so you have to remove them before you can use the bathroom or go to lunch, and it usually takes some time getting everything both on and off. Further, there are only 3 toilets, and often a line of girls who wants to use them. And trust me; waiting in line does not give you extra minutes for your lunch breaks. In other words, I'm pretty sure it is virtually impossible to keep the time limit unless you refrain from eating most of your bento. Fortunately they are not that strict with the exchange students group, but for the Japanese girls they are taking the time and keeping a record of the girls, covering all their meals on a big board. Either you enter as an exchange student or in the same group as the Japanese girls you better be prepared to eat fast..!
Cameras ready!
The first two days went by pretty fast; but as a Representative Fuku Musume (福娘代表) I got a couple of extra breaks to participate in TV interviews. Lucky! I mean, although it is fun with the work in general, the day can be a bit long since you basically do the same all day. And of course being interviewed is fun too^^.. The only difference I noticed in the work between Daihyou Fuku Musume and the other Fuku Musume girls is basically that the four Daihyou girls are the ones who talks with the press.
From one of the Fuku Musume TV interviews
On the second day they are also having a palanquin parade called Hoekago (宝恵駕籠行列), which are one of the highlights of the festival. However, unfortunately only the Japanese Fuku Musume girls got to participate in the big parade; us exchange students had a normal working day at the shrine.
Attaching lucky charms to a bamboo branch
I did meet a lot of friendly and interesting people during the 3 days of the festival. Some of my friends who came to visit me in the shrine could however not find me because of all the people (most likely I must have been on a lunch break or something, we are naturally not allowed to carry mobile phones during the working day so it's not exactly easy to contact people).. But besides our friends who came to support us, there were a lot of people who wanted to take pictures of us or shake our hands. Some people had seen me on TV and actually came only because they wanted to see me. One guy asked me where I come from, and when I answered that I am Norwegian he told me that it was perfect, because he was running an Italian restaurant.. Haha.. Well, at least I'm from the right continent! ;p In short, there is a lot going on during the three days of the festival! The last day I must admit was a bit long though, most of all because it was freaking cold! And because we did not do any interviews either.. The other days there were also a lot more people, so we did not really have time to get bored.
Anyway, here are some of my photos taken backstage:
Obi (帯)
Seen from the side. The hat is called an Eboshi (烏帽子)
The Fuku Musume girls waiting for their turn to start working
As foreigners we are quite lucky, because they have assistants helping us put on our kimonos..!!
The process of putting on the kimono sure takes time! Luckily there are some places where they offer courses in how to put kimonos on, and I definately think I should join one of those courses..
Some of the assistants going through the days schedule etc.
Group picture time!
Most of the Ristumeikan-組
The day might be long, but when you have people who are there for you it makes the time go by faster.
For those of you who might be interested in applying next year, all I can say is that you have to be prepared to work hard. It might be quite stressful at times, and the days are certainly quite long, but I promise you will have a lot of fun too! Zehi gambatte kudasai:)


Stands outside the shrine area selling lucky items

Recommended Hotels in Osaka

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
Superhotel Lohas Honmachi
Superhotel Lohas Honmachi
Khaosan World Namba
Khaosan World Namba
The St. Regis Osaka Hotel
The St. Regis Osaka Hotel

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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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