May 2012 - Vikingess Voyages

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Colorful Event: Day-trip to Uji (宇治)!

6:51:00 PM
At Ritsumeikan there is a club that is making events to bring exchange students and Japanese students closer together. This club is called “Colorful”, and every month they arrange different events for the students to participate in. This weekend they had set up a plan for a day-trip to a place south of Kyoto called Uji. This place is famous for various things, such as the World Heritage Site Byodo-in (平等院) which you might recognize from the 10-yen coin.
A 10-yen coin, depicting the Byodo-in temple 
Another picture of Byodo-in
Tamara and I went directly to Byodo-in, and met up with the others there. In total I think we were between 40 and 50 students attending the event, it turned out to be quite popular. Considering the weather, which was beautiful, it’s no wonder why so many decided to show up. Although I have to say that it was almost a bit too hot.. So after the sightseeing in Byodo-in almost all of us went to buy maccha ice-cream.!
A machine producing tea
You can buy green tea in different qualities
Uji is proud of its tea
Uji is actually famous for its maccha (抹茶), or green tea. Or more generally: products where green tee can be included, such as crepes, ice creams or takoyaki. You name it.
Time for green tea ice-cream
Starting point of the traditional Japanese streets
For those of you familiar with older Japanese literature you might also have heard of Murasaki Shikibu’s story about the romantic Genji (The tale of Genji/源氏の物語). Parts of this classical novel took place in Uji, and walking around in the area you can see statues depicting some of its characters.
Genji and one of his ladies
Totally random: a phone booth with a phoenix on top..
Another Genji-statue by the river
After the ice creams and sightseeing in the traditional streets it was time for luck by the river. We had a good time meeting new people, eating lunch and just relaxing in the sun. From time to time some tourist boats passed by, with Japanese obasans waving at us, so we had a little bit of entertainment as well.
Enjoying lunch by the river
When most of the other students went back to Kyoto we stayed behind with a small group of students who weren’t ready to leave just yet. We checked out the Uji-jinja shrine, and on our way back to the station we ended up in a store where a lady were making clothes out of old kimono. Her husband played a flute for us, and we felt they both went out of their way to make us feel welcome. After having tried on some of the kimono-clothes accompanied by some photos with the owners we finally decided to end the trip and go back to Kyoto.
Uji Jinja
Flute performance
Group picture with the nice Japanese lady
It was a really great trip, I’m already looking forward to what the club is going to plan for next month. Thanks to Colorful for a fun event!

A colorful group of students.. ^^

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Café Frosch's 3 Year Anniversary Party!

9:18:00 PM
On Saturday it was time for a 3-year anniversary party here in Kyoto at Café Frosh, where I work part time. It was a night that included "Fantastic live performers, delicious food and the unrivalled Café Frosch ambience". In other words, no wondering people were lining up outside the cafe already half an hour before it even started..
Café Frosch!
The Café Frosch logo is so cute:)
3 year anniversary flowers

Kayo-san is fixing the technical details before the party can begin
One of the items on sale for the evening: delicious fruit
..And not to mention the anniversary cake.. Which all of us wanted to eat straight away!
My co-workers doing their best to prepare the food for the evening
Performances in the café

Café Frosch was totally packed with guests!!
We even had a dancing performance!

Alex and My, the MCs for the evening!
Group picture after all the guests (and many of the staff too..) had left. お疲れさん〜!!
The evening turned out to be a great success (as expected;p)! We run out of the most popular beer in a blink of a second, and the food followed soon after as well. Great performances, great food, great guest.. What else can I say.?! I think all of the guest were both full and happy when they left that evening.
Thanks to Kayo-san and Café Frosch for a lovely evening:)! これからも宜しく〜☆

And finally: A video of Fuigodza, one of the bands who performed for us on Saturday:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

About Cheaper Grocery Shopping in Japan

3:48:00 PM
You can find a wide range of food on sale in Japanese grocery stores.
One thing that is really good about Japanese grocery stores is that they usually have sale on food which is about to expire. As a result customers who have a low budget, or just simply want to try something new but doesn't want to pay a lot for something they might not like, have the chance to enjoy a wide range of products at a lower price. Not to mention the environmental aspect of it: every day tons of food is being thrown in the garbage all over the world because the stores can't sell it. One can thus argue that it benefits the environment that the Japanese stores sell their nearly expiring groceries at a reduced price.
With the price reduction system its nicer to try out new things
Or, at least that's what I like to think.
About a month ago I moved to a new apartment, and the place couldn't have been better: I'm the nearest neighbor to the local Kyoto Coop grocery store. Although the prices of their groceries don't vary that much compared to their competitors I have discovered that they give pretty nice discounts at the end of the day. Every day between 7 and 7:30 pm some of the employees walk around in the store giving out waribiki for different kinds of products. They start with small reductions, but depending on the product things that haven't been bought by around 19:25 end up being sold for half price. One can thus save quite a lot of money (or alternatively affording to eat more than normally) just by going to the store at the right time. As a student living abroad with more or less no income it is particularly nice to be able to get a little price reduction, haha..
Yesterday I went to the Coop store at a quarter past seven to buy ingredients for dinner, and I looked at some chicken with a 30% price reduction. I wondered whether to buy it or not, so I went for a short stroll to see if I could find anything else I wanted to buy. When I came back, the price reduction of the chicken had changed to 50%.. Yay!
Whenever you shop in a Japanese grocery store, you should look for this sign, which says "half price" (hangaku)!
Especially nowadays with the yen being higher than ever it is really good that it is possible to get the food cheaper than usual by using this method. For busy people it can also have some advantages to check out the stores around the time they give out their offers, as you can find ready prepared meals such as Japanese bento-boxes and sushi for a fraction of the normal price. I wish we had such a system in Norway too, I really think it would have reduced the amount of food thrown away by the grocery stores.

What do you think? Should this concept be implemented in other countries as well?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hair Modeling for Lycée!

6:22:00 PM

During the last month I have had the chance to do a bit of modeling in my spare time: In the beginning of April I had a great day as a model for a wedding company in Kyoto, and I have also been doing some modeling for a beauty salon close to Kobe called Lycée. I got introduced to the owner of the company by one of my friends, who previously had been doing some modeling for them, and it seemed like they were quite interested in foreign models. You get styled up with a wig, which the hairdresser then arrange and cut to fit the style of the photo shoot. Although the modeling in itself is unpaid, participants can receive a free haircut!

It was fun to participate, although I have to admit that the style was quite far from the way I normally would dress up. Unbelievable what a wig and a little makeup can do^^ My friend was styled up really cutely for her pictures, while me on the other hand got a more artistic style. And you know, artistic styles can be.. Rather interesting. Haha.. But they do a lot of different themes for their photos too though, which not necessarily is as artistic as this.

Anyway, Lycée is always looking for foreigners who might be interested do modeling for them, so if you happen to be in the area and also are in the need for a free haircut, then why not.
If you're interested, then you can go ahead and contact them through their web page.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebrating Norway's National Day at the Embassy in Tokyo!

6:25:00 PM
Here in Japan people really love festivals, and you can find them all over the country in all variations. It is therefor not unusual that I get asked about festivals celebrated in my home country, and every time my answer is the same. If there is one festival you should not miss, it is the National Day on the 17th of May. On this day the streets gets filled with people; there are parades and food, people dressed up in their national costumes (bunad) and music in the streets.

In Norway the 17th of May is a national holiday, but as this isn't the case abroad the celebration of this day is usually moved to one of the closest weekend. For this year, the day was set to be on the 13th.
I had taken the decision on going to Tokyo to participate in the celebration at the Norwegian embassy, like I did last year as well, and had therefor booked tickets with the night bus about a month ago. Personally it was also a great chance to meet up with Yuma, who moved to Tokyo to work for Hitachi about a month ago. So in addition to the event at the embassy I also got the chance of enjoying his company for a couple of days! And then we're talking nice dinners, shopping and partying in Roppongi..
On Sunday it was time for the celebration at the embassy, and after I had dressed up in my bunad we left the hotel heading for Hiroo, the area where the embassy is located. On the way to the embassy Yuma made a funny comment about me looking very Norwegian in my dress. We spent some time on the train practicing self-introductions; I have been teaching him a little bit of Norwegian too, so we hoped he would get the chance to practice a bit. Learning Norwegian can be hard when there is nobody around who speaks it..
Time for speeches at the embassy
Further, living in a foreign country, especially when you come from a small country with few citizens, there aren't too many opportunities to interact with others in your own language. Arriving at the embassy it felt quite strange seeing so many people with blond hair gathered at one place (yeah, it's quite a stereotype, but being used to seeing "only" Asian people every day made all the Norwegians look blonde.. ><), not to mention hearing the Norwegian language everywhere around me. With that said, it was still quite an international environment with people from a lot of different backgrounds both idiomatic and culturally.
But although there were a lot of Japanese ladies present, it turned out the Yuma was the only Japanese man attending the celebration. Too bad, he had looked forward to see if there were any Japanese guys in the same situation as him; being in a relationship with a Norwegian girl. I guess we might be rather a rare couple.. However, we did meet a lot of nice people, both new friends and some I met at the embassy last year. I was almost overwhelmed to see the number of people attending: the number had at least doubled since last year. But considering the situation in Japan last year it really isn't that strange after all..
Delicious food... Yummy..
Besides meeting new people we also got the chance to eat a lot of delicious food! But not until after all the official speeches were done. There were of course two things that particularly were in focus: Last year's earthquake in Tohoku, and not to mention the terror attack on Utøya and all the Norwegian people. As the trial in Norway against the terrorist Breivik still is ongoing, and continues to affect people's daily life in Norway, it was a natural part of this year's speeches. Still, it felt quite strange to be situated on the other side of the globe with so many people affected by the attacks, especially since it has been almost two years since I left the country and lately rarely see any fellow countrymen at all.
17th of May parade in Tokyo
The rest of the day mostly included a small 17th of May-parade around the block (last year we didn't have any parade at all, because of the situation in Japan), some dessert and a small lottery. It is quite far to travel all the way from Kyoto to participate in the celebration, but it was worth the trip (perhaps mostly because I had the chance to be with Yuma too, haha xD). Next year around this time I just might be in Korea instead of Japan, so we'll see if I have the chance to participate or not.. Anyway, I survived the night bus back to Kyoto, so hopefully there will be more possibilities to go back to Tokyo in the near future on other occasions.

And to all other Norwegians out there, I'll start off a bit early with a hurra for søttende mai!
In front of a picture of the Norwegian King and Queen.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Night bus from Kyoto to Tokyo: The VIP Lounge

11:11:00 PM
Taking the night bus is a stressful experience. It starts already the moment you step out of your room heading for Kyoto station. There is something with the fear that something, anything, might go wrong, and you'll be left there without any chance of reaching your destination.
Standing outside Kyoto Eki in the evening waiting for the night bus can be specially unpleasant, with cold weather and a bunch of people rushing around you from every direction.

That is when it is good to have a VIP lounge.
Here you can sit in a warm room, relax while watching tv or surfing online, all without having to worry about loosing the bus. Today it seems I'm lucky, because the bus company I travel with, He120, has a nice lounge where I can chill out before the long night begin.

I hope the bus ride will be as comfortable as their lounge.. でもどうやろうなあ.. xP
I guess I'm happy as long as the bus driver doesn't fall asleep on the way.

VIP liner has their own lounges where you can relax before or after your trip
Entrance to the VIP lounge close to Kyoto Station

In the reception you are welcomed by the personel, ready to help you get on the right bus
If you arrive at the lounge early you can take the time to relax, and maybe watch some Japanese TV.

They also have a special makeup room for ladies only

Detail from the makeup room

For more information about Vip Liner check out their homepage here (English)

Hotel Booking:

Hotels in Tokyo
Hotels in Kyoto

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Modeling for Kyoto Weddings: My Japanese Wedding, or the day I (Almost) Married a Stranger

5:00:00 PM
I looked deep into his eyes, and he looked back at me. I was beautifully dressed up in a Japanese wedding-kimono with vivid colors, and flowers in my hair. Both of us were smiling broadly, and to a stranger it would seem like we were very much in love.
But I had never seen this guy before in my life..

The whole thing started a couple of weeks ago, when my friend Dan told me that he had a friend looking for somebody who could help him and his company, Kyoto Weddings, with a photo shot. More precisely, they were looking for westerners who could do some modeling for a bridal shot they would use to market the company on their homepage. I thought it sounded like a fun experience, so I didn't wait long with sending an email to the friend, Eric, telling him that I would love to help out. I was over myself with excitement when I got a replay saying that they wanted me to do the job. It was the beginning of April, and this time of the year is famous among both Japanese as well as foreigners for the pretty sakura (cherry blossoms) that are in full bloom in Japan, usually in the month's first couple of weeks. In other words, being a wedding model in Japan in April must be one of the coolest experiences a student in Japan could possibly get.
Photo shoot in a traditional Japanese room
A couple of weeks later I met up at Kyoto Wedding's main office in downtown Kyoto, ready to be styled up. The professional team was ready for action, and before I knew it they had fixed my hair, done my make-up and even dressed me up in the stylish wedding-kimono. I almost felt unrecognizable in the pretty kimono and with the flowers in my hair; I was like a little porcelain doll. I'm still amazed by how fast everything was done.. If I should have fixed all that myself it would surly have taken all day and still not look half as good. After the styling was finished the work of the day started with photos taken in the studio's traditional Japanese room.
After a little while I was joined by my groom-for-the-day; a tall and handsome-looking guy who turned out to be Swedish. Although it was a bit awkward doing romantic photo shootings with a guy I hadn't even met before, it turned out to be quite a funny experience after all. I guess it helped a bit that he was Swedish too, as it felt more comfortable being able to communicate in our own language (Swedish and Norwegian is actually pretty close, so unless you use a very strange dialect the other person will usually have few problems understanding what you are saying). That made the situation more relaxed, and adding that Marcus was a really funny guy he turned out to be a really great match as a one-day groom. Haha..
Me and my Swedish groom-for-the-day
After about an hour of photo-shooting in the studio we were escorted out of the building, where a special wedding limousine was waiting for us. Here you might think that a Japanese wedding limousine is like any other limousine, but there are in fact 3 features that are special to a Japanese bridal car, according to the description from Kyoto Wedding's blog:

1. There is a Chinese character for happiness painted on the car
2. Besides the doors, the roof of the backseats also open to make room for the Japanese bride's kimono and hood
3. To help the bride, there are reins on the back of the front seats for her to balance herself with

Ready for more photographing in the Japanese wedding limousine
From Kyoto Wedding's studio we drove towards an area in Kyoto called Gion (祇園), which among other things is famous for its traditional Japanese streets. This, and other places in the east part of Kyoto, was where we were going to do the photo shooting of the day, and with the cherry blossoms blooming and a light layer of clouds in the sky the setting was perfect for getting good pictures.
Walking down the streets of Gion it seemed like we had become celebrities in just a couple of minutes. We were basically stalked around by a group of people who wanted to take our photos, and this group mainly consisted of Japanese ladies in their 60s. It was quite funny, but embarrassing at the same time, when some of the local ladies asked our crew if we actually had gotten married, and they answered yes. Which resulted in a lot of congratulations from the viewers. If it weren't for the make-up on my face I would have been red as a tomato right then and there..
Also, we weren't the only couple walking around in Gion getting their wedding photos taken that day. There was a Japanese couple there too (probably not a fake wedding like ours), but with us around it didn't seem like they got a lot of attention at all. Which kinda made me feel a bit sorry for them, since they were the ones who actually was celebrating their wedding day.. I guess the people in Gion found it more amusing with foreigners dressed up in kimono than the real Japanese bridal couple..?

On the bridge on the way to the Heian Jingu-shrine 
We went around taking photos for a couple of hours before ending the day with a quick lunch back at the studio. It was a bit sad having to leave the pretty kimono behind and going back to my normal "boring" clothes. I had a really fun day being a bridal model for Kyoto Weddings, and this is definitely one of the most memorable experiences I have had during my almost two years in Japan. In the future I'll hopefully have the chance to get married for real, and if the wedding is going to be in Japan then I have no doubt about who I'm going to contact..

Thanks again to Kyoto Weddings for a fantastic day, and not to mention the beautiful pictures!

My groom-for-the-day Marcus and our team from Kyoto Weddings
More info about Kyoto Weddings and their services can be found at their webpage.!

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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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