January 2013 - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January in Japan!

4:15:00 PM

This month in Japan has certainly gone by quickly!
After my participation in the Toka-Ebisu festival in Osaka I spent the first evening drinking wine and chatting with Yuma's parents until 2 am.
Last year they took really good care of me after I had broken my shoulder, and this time they helped me again in getting ready for the Toka-Ebisu festival. I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life.

The day after the festival in Osaka I went along with Yuma's father and three of his father's friends to Kobe's version of the Toka-Ebisu festival. We went to see the Imamiya shrine along with another local shrine, and after a round of local food and festival snack we stopped by an izakaya (Japanese traditional bar) where we had traditional Japanese food and drinks.

Fish for luck. Notice all the coins on and around the fish! (Although I have to say もったいない.. Haha..
Hanging out with Yuma's father and his friends (^o^)
An old poster from the izakaya we went to
Finally it was time to leave Kansai and reunite with my overworked boyfriend in Tokyo. You have probably heard about it already; people often work way too much in Japan. No wonder why it was necessary for them to come up with the word "Karoshi", which can be translated into English as "death from overwork" (過労死).
To put it short, Yuma spent the first week after the holiday by working overtime everyday. Which is not unusual, except for this time he even had to work until 5 am. Talk about efficiency at the workplace! ><
When I arrived things had luckily calmed down a bit, but of course he has been quite busy still. The same has been the case with me too though, I have been writing like crazy on my thesis the last couple of weeks. Since I have two of them to finish before the next semester is over, I certainly can't rest too much..

I have however had time for a little bit of fun here too, including catching up with some old SKP-friends from my first year in Japan (including Michelle, who blogs about her stay in Tokyo here).
In addition, there is this really awesome shared house complex owned by one of Yuma's friends called Ryozan Park, and we went there together for a Mochidzuki-Taikai where we among other things made.. mochi (Japanese rice cake). It was my first time going there, but apparently they do have frequent events there.. And the place looked so nice! (Although I'm not to sure what to think of that kind of creepy horse-lamp.. Lol..)
A collection from a Mochidsuki-taikai we went to in the shared house complex Ryozan Park
Last weekend Yuma and I also visited a place called Toshimaen, which is some kind of an amusement park. We went skating there for a couple of hours, and afterwards we visited a nearby onsen (Japanese hot spring). I have to say though, the most interesting thing about the amusement park was all the Japanese people doing cosplay all over the park! Apparently Toshimaen is a great spot for photoshots, and you can see so many strange people here^^ Some are cool, and some are.. Well.. A bit creepy too:p
Ice-skating in Tokyo's Toshimaen
So, anyway, my month in Japan is over, and I'm ready to leave for Korea tomorrow. Japan was kinda cold in comparison to the Philippines, and I'm pretty sure that Korea will be even worse! ...助けて〜w

I'm taking a 3-week intensive course in Korean that starts next week, and I'm really looking forward to improving my Korean! Yay! However, it seems that I will be back in Tokyo for a week in the end of February, since it seems like I will have a job interview with Rakuten then. This will be my fourth interview with them, so fingers crossed for a possible job offer coming up..
Anyway, I hope that you are enjoying the cold season as much as I am! I'm rounding off this blogpost with a beautiful picture of my home country Norway:

Picture from Northern Norway: http://www.nordnorge.com/en
PS: I'm from the south, and it never get as cold as this in my city ;p

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Working as a Fukumusume (福娘): The Tōka Ebisu Festival (十日戎) 2013

8:17:00 PM
Last year I got elected as one of fifty girls who got the honor of participating as a Fukumusume, a sort of shrine maiden, in the Tōka Ebisu festival taking place annually in January in the Imamiya Ebisu shrine in Osaka (you can find my Fukumusume blog posts here).
Although they elect new Fukumusume girls every year, they also let previous Fukumusume who volunteer for it come back to the shrine to participate in the festival, and working as a Fukumusume last year was such a fun experience that I couldn't avoid stopping by Kansai for a couple of days to take part in the big festival again.

This time I stayed with Yuma's family in Kobe, which is quite close to Osaka by train. As I mentioned in my previous post Yuma had already gone back to Tokyo to start working again, so this was actually my first time to stay with his family without him being there.
On the morning of the Tōka Ebisu festival I went with Yuma's mother to a 美容院 close by to his house, where they had agreed to help putting on my kimono and fixing my hair. Any of you with experience in putting on kimonos would know how difficult this is, and there is absolutely no way that I could have done this myself.
I have no chance at putting on a kimono myself.. Good thing there are professionals.
Arriving at the Imamiya Ebisu shrine a couple of hours later I was ready for another fun and unique experience. This time we were about 17 of the original 50 fukumusume who participated in the festival, and among the 17 we were two foreigners; my friend and fellow SKP-student India had also joined us, she actually travelled all the way from Canada to participate in the festival again!
Getting ready for the festival. This time we had to go without the eboshi hat though.

Ritsumeikan Fukumusume! Oh yeah! x)
外国人の福娘 in action^^

Participating in the festival felt a bit different from last year; First of all there had been an election of 50 new Fukumusume girls, and second-year Fukumusume usually don't get the chance to wear the traditional golden hat (the eboshi) worn by the other Fukumusume girls. Also, while the new Fukumusume girls have work from 9 am to 9 pm three days in a row we only worked from 11 am to 4 pm so it was quite relaxing compared to last year. This also gave us the chance to take more time after work to actually look around and enjoy the festival a bit more.
Money for good luck! 
For some reason I also ended up being interviewed by an NHK-program called "50 voice" (50ボイス), where they are doing interviews with young people all over Japan. However, as only 50 of the 100 interviewed people actually are included in the TV-sendt part I'm not sure if I'll be in it or not. After all they did interview the other Fukumusume girl too, so it is kind of likely that they will choose to cut one of us out. Which most likely would be me I think. Anyway, the magical date is the 28th of February! Although I'm not sure whether to look forward to this or not, I feel a bit embarrassed about it.. Among other things they asked me about Japanese men, and all I could think of then and there was the stereotype of the so-called sōshoku danshi (草食男子, or "plant-eating" men, which refers to men who are afraid to approach women etc etc). 恥ずかしい. Yet another reason why they probably would cut me out, haha.
Getting interviewed for NHK's TV show 50ボイス
Ahhh, the new fukumusume looks so dazzling with her shiny hat! I'm totally jealous! Haha^^
I also got the chance to have a chat with one of the new gaijin Fukumusume girls. Italian beauty and さすがに from Ritsumeikan ;D 
Well well. I got some good pictures (sorry for the overload of pictures of me in this post btw><) and a lot of great memories this year too. Not to mention that I had a lot of fun, and I'm already look forward to next years' festival!

Now I'm in Tokyo, where I'm staying until the 1st of February. Then it's back to Korea, where I'll be taking a 3-week intensive course in Korean at Yonsei University! ^^

Lastly, a big thanks to Yuma's family who once again took so good care of me:)
Place Imamiya Ebisu Shrine (今宮戎神社)
Festival Toka Ebisu Festival (十日戎祭り)
held annually on January 9th-11th
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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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Volunteering with Rise Above in the Philippines: Dental Mission!

6:40:00 PM
Yuma and I returned to Cebu on Saturday, and in the evening Yuma left the Philippines going back to Tokyo to work. Me on the other hand had still a couple of more days to go, and I had decided to spend my two last days volunteering.
An illustration of how to brush your teeth.
The NGO I had been working for, the Rise Above Foundation, was arranging a "dental mission" in the local area where they with help from dentist interns from a Danish university offered free dental checkup and services to poor people in the area who were experiencing problems with their teeth. My task was to assist one of the dentist to make the operations go more smoothly and efficient, which meant that I mainly gathered new equipment between each patient, held the flashlight while the dentist was operating and so on.
Me as a dentist assistant
To be honest the whole procedure made me feel a bit uncomfortable, I think a saw more blood in one day than I've seen my whole life (except for in movies of course). Tooth brushing is something that many poor Filipinos don't do, and in combination with all the unhealthy beverages people consume here it is quite evident that the average person's dental health is rather poor..
In other words, there were a lot of cavities and resultantly many teeth that had to be pulled out. And since I was the one to hold the flashlight I had to make sure that the ray of light hit the right spot even if I'd rather liked to look another direction. YUK.. Haha..
Doing the "hard" work of holding a flashlight for the dentist intern.
I'm really impressed by the work of the interns though, they did an amazing job. I think that such intern programs should be offered by more universities, because it gives the students valuable insight into other cultures, and not to mention that it can raise awareness among people about the life conditions of less fortunate people all over the world. One thing is to see it on TV, but another thing is to go out there and actually experience it for yourself.
And I have to say; with all those nasty teeth to pull out or fill in I bet the interns get more and tougher challenges and experiences during the one week working for the Dental Mission than they do during a whole year working in Denmark..
People waiting to get their teeth checked
Kids outside the school building who wanted me to take their picture

It was a really interesting experience for me to participate in the Dental Mission, and along with my last day at the Family Care Centre it was a nice way to end my holiday in the Philippines. My holiday might have come to an end, but I'm ready for more adventures back in Japan!

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Instaframe: Improving your Instagram Photos

2:03:00 PM
I have just discovered the application Instaframe, which can be used to put together your photos for beautiful collages, and have found it a really practical tool for combining with the Instagram application for even better pictures.
In this post I will present two ways these applications can be combined for an even more stunning photo experience.

Example one: Add color to your photos for a vivid sunset effect.

Original picture taken at Alona beach in Bohol
Step One: Add effect with Instaframe
The original picture was taken by the sunset, but as you can see the colors are not that deep. So I opened the picture in Instaframe and added the sunset effect.
After having been edited in Instaframe the picture has the characteristic Instagram-format and a deeper purple color

Step Two: Add Instagram effect!
Secondly I opened the newly saved Instaframe picture in Instagram, and added a second effect to the picture. Voila!
Finished editing! I love the dramatic color of this one x)

Example Two: Use Instagram to edit pictures before you make your collages with Instaframe. 

Here you can see the example of two original pictures, which I added to a collage after having edited them with Instagram.
Original 1: The Chocolate Hills, Bohol
Original Two: A Clownfish spotted during our diving trips in Balicasag

And this is the final result! Hope you like it!! ^^
Collage with some selected photos from the Philippines


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sightseeing in Bohol: Day-trip to the Chocolate Hills & Tarsier Watching

9:01:00 AM
On our last day in Bohol Yuma and I had booked a cab for the day to take us on a trip around Bohol to see the most famous tourists spots of the island before leaving with a ferry in the afternoon.
Some of the memorable sights we visited on our trip. Made by Instaframe & Instagram
Some of the sights on our list included the so-called Chocolate Hills, and a nature reserve where one can see one of the world smallest monkey called the Tarsiers. From our hostel situated near the Alona beach in Panglao island it took us more than one and a half hour to reach the famous Chocolate Hills, and on our way we also passed the huge Human Made Forest, where we stopped for a couple of pictures.
The Chocolate Hills
Enjoying the view of the Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills do look very interesting with their special formation, which apparently have been formed over millions of years in the distant past when this part of the island lied under water. Although they look very mysterious with their three-less surface I noticed that one of the hill was only completely bare on the side that faced the tourist view-point, while the other side was covered with trees. This made me wonder if the trees on the Chocolate Hills have been cut down by purpose to make them look more mysterious than they actually are..
Anyway, the Chocolate Hills is an alright destination if you want to take a closer look at the wild nature in Bohol, but if you don't want to waste hours in the car then I don't think you miss that much by not going. On the other hand, the Tarsier reserve is not that far from the Chocolate Hills, and if you are going on a day trip to Bohol's famous tourist spots there are honestly not that much else to see anyway so why not..

On our way back to the main road we stopped by the reserve where one can see the cute Tansier monkeys, who apparently served as a model for the famous movie E.T. These small creatures are another of many species in the Philippines who unfortunately are facing a possible future extinction due to loss of habitat.

A cute little Tarsier monkey <3
Apparently the Tarsier can die from stress if kept in captivate under bad conditions, so it is important to avoid using flash. These monkeys are only active during the night, so their eyes are big and bright to enable them to see in the dark. No wonder they don't like to be flashed by the tourists' cameras. Another thing that should be avoided, is talking with load voices when near the monkeys. Lastly, one be conscious when choosing which monkey park to visit, as some places keep them under stressful conditions making them face an early death..
The tarsier is so small it could fit into your hand..
The park we went to looked nice and tidy, and I believe measures were taken to ensure that the monkeys were doing alright. I hope the staff treat the monkeys well in the evening too, when the tourists have gone home..

After our visit to the park our driver took us to another place where they were keeping various species of animals. I don't remember the name of the place, but is was dirty, the animals were kept in small cages directly on the concrete surface of the floor. They had a couple of ostrich there too, and both had lost nearly half of their feathers. Seeing animals captive like that makes me feel really sad and uncomfortable, so I couldn't stand being there for long. We just snapped a couple of pictures with the big pythons and left as soon as we could. Not a place I would recommend to anybody, unless it was as a recommendation for action by animal activists><
A big snake which luckily already had eaten lunch that day.
There is not much else to see on the island, so after a short stop at an old Spanish church we asked our driver to take us down to the harbor where we were able to catch an earlier ferry departing from Bohol. Our day trip had been interesting, with the best part being the park with the cute monkeys. The rest of the sightseeing was, to be honest, only so-so. I suppose beaches and diving is the best part of visiting Bohol;)

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

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Diving in the Philippines: Balicasag - the Diver's Heaven and the Marine Sanctuary

9:03:00 PM
One of the activities you shouldn't miss out on while in the Philippines, is diving. There are many great diving spots all over the country, and you can see things like coral reefs, colorful fishes and even whale sharks while swimming in the ocean.
Yuma and I had also decided to spend a day to go diving, and we found that Panglao island was the perfect starting point for this trip. Staying close to the Alona beach we had no problems finding a good diving company, as there are literarily a whole bunch of them to choose from. We visited 3-4of them and listened to their offers, and finally our choice fell on a company called Mr. Diver. They offered us a diving trip to the Balicasag island, which is surrounded by great diving spots such as the Marine Sanctuary (Rico's Wall), the Cathedral, Diver's Heaven and Rudy's Rock. The price for the trip was 2600 pesos per person (plus 100 for the nature conservation fee), which included equipment and two dives.
The next day we found ourselves in a group of happy divers heading for the designated island along with our crew of dive masters and other staff. Our diving spots for the day was the Diver's Heaven and the Marine Sanctuary. Yuma had dived around ten times in total and I had only gone through three, so we got our own dive master to look after us during the dive. Since I got my diving certificate in February last year I was a bit nervous about diving again, but it did not take too long before I became adjusted to the underwater environment. Both of the diving spots had a great variety of colorful fishes, and we also were lucky enough to spot one sea turtle during both of our dives! (Apparently they are quite commonly seen there though)
As Yuma had brought his underwater camera we could capture the underwater world with some beautiful pictures:

I think both Yuma and I were very happy with our dives that day (maybe especially Yuma with all the photos he managed to get). I already look forward to a new destination with new dives!!

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

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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