July 2012 - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Volunteer Report from Minami-Sanriku: Day 1

6:51:00 PM

Today was my first full day as a volunteer for United Earth in Minami-Sanriku. This area was stroken by  tsunamis last year provoked by the great Tohoku earthquake, and it is still a long way to go before Minami-Sanriku can reach full recovery. United Earth is working on various projects in the area, and as a volunteer you get the chance to try out a vide range of activities that helps the locals getting their community back to normal. 
Although the direct damage of the tsunamis isn't that visible anymore, if you look more closely you can see the foundations indicating where there used to be houses. Some people are still living in the area, but most of them only have temporary housing. 
Ready for work! In the background you can see temporary houses.

We are about 30 volunteers here at the moment, and so we all get assigned to smaller groups, and I ended up in the mowing-group. There are a lot of overgrown lots in the area, and our job today was to clean up one of them. 
Part of the area we cleaned today. There used to be a house here before the tsunami came..
Getting rid of weed and sunflowers..
Statues that were found in the area after the tsunami
The biggest problem was that there was a lot of gravel on the lot, which made it quite a hard job to clear it all. And as the temperature climbed close to 35 degrees after our lunch brake the progression slowed down as well.
The work progressing slowly..
What we in Norway would call "bonde-brun"..!
Along with the weed there were also a lot of sunflowers growing on the lot.
Finished for the day.!
 We managed to clean up most of the area, but there is still a lot of work left to be done on the lot, so we'll go back tomorrow to finish the job! The first day is over, and I'm already exhausted. Haha.. But at the same time it was an awarding day, and I feel that the work we did really was appreciated by the locals too. 明日も頑張りましょう!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Ready for Volunteer Work in Minami-Sanriku (南三陸)!

9:24:00 PM
I left Kyoto this Friday heading for Tokyo, and after spending the weekend there with Yuma I continued my travels towards Minami-sanriku (南三陸) where I'll be spending a couple of weeks working as a volunteer. This is my second trip to Tohoku; I went to Ishinomaki-shi in the beginning of November last year, but this time I wanted to stay longer and be able to do more volunteer work in addition to gathering information I can use for my thesis.
After a long night in the night-bus from Shinjuku to Sendai I took a local bus going to Minami-sanriku's Hotel Kaiyo, and there I got picked up by the leader of the volunteer group United Earth, which I will be working for until the 10th of August. After a short stop at the group's headquarters we went to the harbor where I spent the afternoon helping some local fishermen with their work.

In addition to me there were also 9 other new volunteers who joined our group today. In the evening we therefore had a meeting explaining the work of the group, rules etc.
Information meeting at United Earth's HQ.
Tomorrow I guess the real work will begin, so today I'm keeping my post short and I'll go to bed early.. Oyasumi!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Last Week in Kyoto.. 又ね皆~

12:12:00 PM
After almost two years in Kyoto my time there as a student was finally coming to an end. As expected there was quite a lot that had to be done the last week; In addition to cleaning up all my stuff I had to go a couple of trips to Osaka to get the visa for Korea, end the Japanese health insurance and fix the rest of the payment for my contract with Softbank.

But there was also time to have some fun in between all the stress. Thanks to Kamui I had a really nice Thursday evening with a combined sayonara party for me/birthday party for Toji. On Friday it was time for another Melting Pot Party at Café Frosch, where I've been working part-time since April/May. Apple from Thailand was in charge for the food this time, and her Thai-food was really delicious. In addition to the food great friends and colleges made it an unforgettable evening. Here are some pictures from the party, and a video of the Japanese game Suikawari (スイカ割り: "Watermelon splitting game").

Thai Melting Pot Party @ Café Frosch
Kayo-san and Apple explaining the menu
Takeshi playing the スイカ割り-game
Video from the スイカ割りgame!
The スイカ割り-audience :p
Picture from the party taken from my friend Tomoya^^

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fuku Musume (福娘): The Children's Ebisu Festival 子供戎祭

5:18:00 PM

Adorable kids' drawings at the shrine
As a Fukumusume I got the chance to participate in the Children's Ebisu Festival in the Imamiya-Ebiu shrine this weekend. The "Kodomo Ebisu" is Imamiya Ebisu shrine's summer festival, and it is held annually around the last weekend of July. A lot of children come to visit with their parents to play and have fun, so the shrine is filled with a pleasant atmosphere. It is quite interesting how different the shrine looked compared to the Tōka Ebisu festival in January, one could almost mistakenly think that they were two different places..
My role on the first day was helping out by the fishing dam. The kids all got a rod which they used to fish paper fishes (and animals) with, and the kids could get candy if they were lucky and got a fish with the note 当たり on it.
Kids trying to catch the paper fishes!
The fishing dam
A somewhat blurry picture of our group of Fuku Musume-girls in action at the festival.

In addition to the fishing dam there were also a whole load of other activities for the kids as well. On the stage they were having dancing and balloon shows, and the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun. On the second day of the festival me and three of the other Fuku Musume-girls got the honor of opening the snow slide, and the rest of the day we helped out with one of the ballgames.
The snow slide at the Kodomo Ebisu Matsuri seen from the top!
Since I was working at the festival it wasn't easy to take a lot of photos though. I had to use my iPhone 3G, which just doesn't take that good pictures.. Here are some photos taken with my normal camera after all the kids had gone home:
Drawings made by kids used to decorate the shrine
The main temple in the shrine. 
The fishing dam after all the children have gone home..
The Kodomo Ebisu festival was quite fun to participate in, and it was nice to be back in the shrine too as I've got some good memories from my work there during the Toka Ebisu festival in January. The Imamiya Ebisu shrine sure has some cool festivals^^! Lastly, here is a short video from the festival:


Place Imamiya Ebisu Shrine (今宮戎神社)
Festival The Children's Ebisu Festival (子供戎祭り)
held annually during the last weekend of July
Access A couple of minutes walk from the Imamiyaebisu station
(今宮戎) or around 5 minutes from Daikokucho (大国町) station

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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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farewell Present!

4:41:00 PM
I got this from my friends from the GCP-program at school today!
Thank you so much 皆!I hope to see you all again in the future:)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hair Modeling for Lycée 第三回目

2:30:00 PM
Yesterday I had my last photo shoot with Lycée before I move to Korea, and they gave me a CD with photos from my previous photo shoot with them in Osaka a while back. I think that of the four photo shoots I've done for them this far, this is the one with the definitively weirdest photos. Haha.. Anyway, here are some of the (not too weird) shots^^:

Like I mentioned, I've been doing some modeling for Lycée earlier as well, and you can see pictures from my previous photo shootings (including more general information for people interested in doing hair modeling) in these blog posts:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shizuoka: Oodaru Onsen Amagisou (大滝温泉) Ryokan

6:19:00 PM
The Japanese ryokan Amagiso
My boyfriend Yuma and I had been planning to go for a trip together from the 14-16th of July, as he had gotten the Monday off from work. He suggested that we could travel to the ryokan (Japanese style hotel) Amagisou (天城荘), which also features the famous Oodaru Onsen hot spring. This hotel is situated in Izu (Shizuoka prefecture), and as Yuma had been there once before with his family he thought it would be nice to go there again with me.
On Saturday morning I left Kyoto with the Shinkansen, which even with a student 割引 costs 9700 yen. When you buy tickets for the Shinkansen you can choose between reserved and non-reserved tickets, and as I didn't really want to pay anymore I went for the non-reserved one.
But as the hard-working Japanese obviously wanted to use the opportunity this extra day off from work provided, the Shinkansen was stuffed with people. (Japan: the only country in the world where you pay 9700 yen for a train-ticket and you don't even get a seat >.<..)
Anyway, arriving in Atami ('logically' spelled 熱海...) I met up with Yuma, and we continued from there with the Itō-line (伊東線) to Kawadzu Station (河津). Our ryokan had a free pick-up service, so from the station we traveled with their mini-bus all the way to the Amagisō ryokan.
"Welcome, Yamamoto-sama!" ^^
The hotel was situated in a valley, with beautiful view of the river floating underneath. This river has various waterfalls, and the one accessible from Amagisō has been featured in a couple of Japanese movies including the one based on Murakami Haruki's Norwegian Woods (ノルウェーの森).
Our hotel room

View from our room

Having fun checking out the nearby waterfalls
Beautiful Japanese nature

The first afternoon at the hotel we spent checking out the nearby area, which included the pretty nature with a lot of waterfalls and the purchase of local (and pretty sour) oranges. After some relaxing hours in the onsen (the Japanese word for hot spring) it was time for Japanese style dinner which also was included in the price of our rooms.
One typical thing about Japanese dinner, is that you get many but small portions of different types of food. The picture below only shows a small portion of the food we got for dinner. I don't know about you, but I personally have to say that I love traditional Japanese food, so I was happily stuffed when we went back to our room.
Japanese dinner! It looks almost like art^^ 
 For our second day we had decided to go hiking in the nearby area, as Yuma had done some research in advance and found that there were some pretty good courses we could take. The course we had picked was supposed to take about 4 1/2 hours, and would among other things lead us to the famous Old Amagi Tunnel (旧天城トンネル) and a big lake up in the mountains. The only minor problem was that this course was situated a bit far from our hotel, and it was only accessible highway, so we had to take a bus to get there. In addition to having quite few buses running, the last bus leaves really early, so that meant we had to be careful so that we would make it in time for the last buss going back to our hotel as well. Each of us had to pay 550 yen one way, so it wasn't exactly cheap to be honest.
Although we had been a bit worried about how the weather was going to turn out, we were quite lucky; it was only slightly cloudy. In other words, perfect weather for a mountain trip!

The Old Amagi tunnel has been recognized as a cultural property of Japan
Entrance to the Old Amagi Tunnel
The Amagi Tunnel from the inside 
As we say in Norway: "Ut på tur, aldri sur!"
We saw some pretty big bugs while walking through the forest

Although it didn't rain during our trip it was quite foggy at times..
We had a great day walking through the forest, and both of us agreed that it had been a good warm-up for our trip to Mount Fuji in August. I'm so happy that I've got a super-sporty boyfriend! Haha^^

View from the onsen! Nice..
Back at the hotel we spent the rest of the day (and the next day as well^^) relaxing in the onsen. Like I mentioned previously, the Oodaru-waterfall (which actually is spelled 大滝, because waterfalls are known as "taru" by the locals). As the outdoor onsen here is situated right next to the waterfall you can enjoy the nice view while soaking in the water. Not to mention that the outdoor area is usable by both men and women as long as you have your swimwear on. This is actually quite unusual for Japan as one usually doesn't wear anything while in the onsen, and that the onsen thus are separated by sexes. I figure Amagisō thus is quite ideal not only for those of you who are looking for a romantic holiday, but also for those who are interested in a fun onsen-trip with friends. In addition to the outdoor onsen, Amagisō also had a couple of onsen-caves, and an outdoor-pool. I guess the tourist season hasn't really started yet, because in the afternoon we had the place all to ourselves most of the time (probably because the families with children all had early dinners).. Lucky! ^^

Testing the swimming pool!

Pretty pretty でしょ!

A statue in one of the caves... Hmm.. 

Amagisō also has some indoor onsen, which are separated by gender.
Having spent such a great weekend in Amagisō I almost wanted to drop going back to Kyoto and rather spend my last weeks in Japan at the ryokan. However, on Monday it was unfortunately time to pack our things and leave Shizuoka for this time. This is definitely a place I would like to come back to in the future though, everything from the food, our room, the onsen and the surroundings was great. It was a really romantic and funny holiday at the same time. And would I recommend it to any of you looking for a weekend trip while in Japan? Well, the answer is obviously yes. :)

Check room availability at Amagisou here

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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