From the mind of LaCole

Posts tagged “Japan

Vending Machines In Japan [Video Documentary Project]


The Aftermath – Returning Home

Who knew that two and a half weeks would pass by so soon? I love Japan, everything about it. This was definitely an item on the bucket list and an experience of a lifetime. I love how the program was structure and how many cities and places we visited. If money wasn’t an issue I would have loved to stay a little longer. I feel if I had visited Japan on my own I would not have seen or experience all that I have in two weeks. I also made great new friends, without this program I would have probably never met this people and they all attend MSU.

My trip home was smooth as ever, other than me having to forfeit my tripod (tear). Customs was easy and polite and the flight seem a less in time than going. Landing back in America, reality had set in, I’m home. While glad to be home, I was already missing Japan. Landing in Detroit Metro Airport I felt this wave of different vibe than the Japanese gave off. It was quite sad; going through customs the workers looked depressed and uninterested in serving you. We then had a layover from Detroit to Lansing and I notice other things too.  Like how overweight the country is and how much we eat here and America but don’t exercise. Also the levels of happiness seem lower.

From Tokyo to Osaka and back, Japan has taught me so much about their culture, technology, and lifestyles. It put American in a light I had never seen before, because I had never be out of the country and only heard stories. Japan has to be one of the best countries there is to visit, and I haven’t even traveled the world yet, but hopeful I will after college. But honestly, I don’t think any other international trip will compare with Japan. I had so much love for Japan even before landing on its land, and every day the love grew stronger, that I know one day I will be back.

I really do miss Japan.

You won’t know what steak is until you visit Kobe, Japan

If you want the best steak you’ll ever have in life, it’s time to book a flight to Kobe, Japan. I am a steak lover so it would be unheard of if I didn’t try the world’s famous Kobe beef steak. As part of our visit to Kobe City University and our Kobe city tour, the Kobe beef dinner was optional. But to Dr. C’s surprise, everyone in the group was willing to dish out money and try the steak. My excitement to try it was through the roof, while my wallet was probably crying.

As said from the Wikipedia website, “Kobe beef refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, teppanyaki and more.” It is said that farmers higher workers to massage the cows backsides to improve the meat quality. If that’s not high-class then I don’t know what is.

They cook the steaks on these metal plates and covered with onions. They place the metal plates on a grill and cook on an open fire, while the chef sprays a liquid to increase the fire for cooking. When they serve the meal it is so hot and spewing oils, so they give you a full body bib for safety.

Usually when eating steak, you expect for there to be a fork and a steak knife. Not here, all you need are CHOPSTICKS. Yes, chopsticks, the meat is so juicy, so tender, that you can cut and eat with chopsticks. When I tell you that it was the BEST STEAK OF MY LIFE, I mean it (and it was cooked medium well). No extra seasoning, no A1 sauce, no nothing it was fine just the way it was, and that’s how a steak should be. And worth every cent of yen I spent.

Now in America, I’ve had my share of not so expensive steak to top tier expensive steaks, and none have compared. Either they need seasonings, or A1 sauce, or the meat was too tough to chew. I honestly can say that when visiting again (in the future), I will have another bite or three.

Take me out to the ball game! (Japanese Style)

Back in America I would never get excited to go to a baseball game, but in Japan I was. Dr. C made it sound like it was way better than the baseball at home. This would be my first baseball game I’ve ever been to, go figure it’s in another country. I don’t know what it is like to be at an American baseball game so it is hard to compare, but I had a great time in Japan.

It was the home team, Tokyo Giants against the underdogs, Orix Buffalos playing in the Tokyo Dome. Dr. C told us that he expected this to be a blow out game with the Giants winning with far more points than the Buffalos. We had really good seat in between home and first plate and very close. We were seated by the older crowd and they didn’t cheer as much. The game started off slow with Giants having a run in the first inning and Buffalos didn’t get their first point till the fourth inning. Both teams’ crowds cheering sections were live the whole game. They didn’t stop cheering the whole time, they even had special chants, I wish we learned at least one. The Giants section even brought out a huge sign with pictures of star Giant players.

They even had beer girls walking around serving the many types of beer in Japan. And something the Americans do have it cheerleaders! Yes the Tokyo Giants have a team of cheerleaders to cheer them on.

As the game progress, the Buffalos out of nowhere in the ninth inning start scoring run after run and the underdogs win the game! The final score was Tokyo Giants 1 to Orix Buffalos 4. I had a very fun time at the game and after this; I am willing to go catch a game at Tigers Stadium to see what American baseball is all about.

Mo Mo Pasmo!… Transportation in Japan

Walk? Bike? Car? Subway? Which way would you move around Japan? The clear winner is: Subway! Throughout all my travels in Japan I rode the subways for most of it. Everywhere we traveled the subway took us there, company visits, malls, restaurants, clubs, we were everywhere.

When first arriving and taking the trains I was a little confused and lost, but after the fourth day, I was riding the subway like I lived there my whole life. The subway is like an underground city. Once you walk down the stairs it’s a place of its own. There are shops, fast food, restaurants, and businesses.

When traveling on the subway we use little cards (credit card size) to enter and exit the trains. Japan Rail (JR) is the owner of all trains in Japan and each section holds their own cards. In Tokyo they are called “Mo Mo Pasmo” or “Suica” cards. While in Osaka we used “ICOCA” cards.

It made things much faster and much easier, all you had to do is scan the card at the ticket gate on the way in to the trains, and scan on the way out of the trains. You could even scan the card while still in your wallet. There’s no fuss with money and tickets, or losing them. When low on balance the ticket gate will tell you and there are designated areas for refilling your card. You can even use them for buses and above ground trains.

From sun up to sun down we were either riding a bus or a train to travel, I became so use to it, and it was like a way of life. But I did miss my car back in America and driving. Being in another country and using their main use of transportation made me see how different it is for Japanese and Americans. When Japanese need to be places they will take the subway, but if I needed somewhere to be I would get in my car and go. The other subway I have used was in Washington D.C. and the volume of people will never amount to the number of people in Japan.

I would never in Detroit, Pontiac or in East Lansing take public transportation, unless it was extreme emergencies. But in Japan, I wouldn’t own a car; I would ride the subway or ride a bike.

O-ko-no-mi-what?… Okonomiyaki, the Japanese Pancake

While in Japan there is a new culture, new language, new people and new food. And In Japan I was open to try just about anything once because it’s an experience of a lifetime. While in Hiroshima, Dr. C. explained to us we would be trying something called a “Japanese Pancake.” I was hungry, and excited to try something new.

We walked up to a small restaurant with bar-style seating, with just enough to fit the whole crew. You sit facing the cook and a huge iron table, and you watch him make your meal.

The correct term for the meal is Okonomiyaki (O-ko-no-mi-ya-ki). From readings, there are two main cities to make the dish, Osaka and Hiroshima. And these two cities make the dish in different ways, we had the Hiroshima way.

We sat down and they gave us a menu; the menu from what I remember serves only the pancake, but it comes in different varieties.  You can have the plain pancake with the usual, or you can add items like cheese, squid or shrimp, maybe even octopus.

Most of the student ordered the regular okonomiyaki, which consist of the pancake, chopped cabbage, yakisoba noodles, thinly-sliced pork, an egg and the special okonomiyaki sauce.  I ordered one of their specials which added squid and green onions to the meal, I would have tried the shrimp also, but it cost a little more.

To make the dish they start by cooking the “pancake”, and then add of a heaping pile of shredded cabbage.

Third, they put on the layers of meat depending on what you ordered.  Aside from the pancake and cabbage, the chef begins to cook the yakisoba noodles.

Next, he cracks a egg and fries it on the iron table. After the egg is cooked the pancake and cabbage are flipped over and placed on top of the egg.

Last, it receives a spread of okonomiyaki sauce (like a Worcestershire sauce and barbeque sauce together) with seasonings and mine was topped with green onions.

Hands down, the best and my favorite meal in Japan, I cannot wait to visit and eat this again and try the Osaka version.

Please and thank you are the magic words!

Arigato gozaimasu! They say good service is hard to come by, but the Japanese do it with so much finesse that it’s embarrassing how rude Americans are. Even with the language barrier they are still very helpful people. They do not get upset or turn away when they don’t understand you; they try their best to serve you. From asking for directions in a part of town to ordering McDonalds their politeness is overflowing. On a visit to Ginza on my own I was trying to find a chopstick store, so I stop to ask the police station on the corner. With the little Japanese I knew and the little English he knew he was still able to help me make it to the chopstick store. The Officer even pulled out a map and mapped out the directions to get there. In America if that was to happen, the officer would probably get frustrated and may even give the wrong directions. I have heard stories of normal Americans visiting New York City and getting lost from directions from the people who live there.

Ordering from McDonalds I received the best service I’ve ever had than in American and I could actually call it “fast food.” The workers were so attentive, happy, and polite and had no problem waiting on you to order or pointing at what you wanted. Having been to many McDonalds in America you know that the service is terrible and the food will either be at its best or its worst. And the workers in America will get upset and frustrated when they can’t understand someone foreign. Even without the language being a problem I have had terrible service.

Living in Japan for two weeks and living in America for 21 years and witnessing the difference in how I was treated is amazing, but makes me feel shame at the same time. Americans, we have to do better.

Even your butt will thank you… Japanese toilets

Every time I went to the bathrooms in Japan, I felt like I was living in the lap of luxury. After two and a half weeks living in this country I have to say the toilets were well apart of the study abroad experience. Everywhere I went there were “high-tech” toilets; from our hotel to the malls and even the shrine bathrooms had these toilets. There are so many options to choose from on one toilet. There is a button for flushing sounds with volume buttons to suit you. You have your spray button and bidet button for posterior cleaning (still don’t know the difference between the two), and water pressure buttons for the flow at which the water sprays. In addition to the ways of cleaning your posterior there are two ways of flushing; one for liquids and one for solids. But the best thing about these “high-tech” toilets is the HEATED seat, yes heated seats. I’ve heard from past study abroad students about them, but to experience it was great.

Back in America, we would never phantom toilets being this “high-tech” in our homes, let alone in a mall or in shrine bathrooms. American toilets are just moving into the two flushing system of saving water (there are a few on campus) and only people willing to spend money on bidets have them; but in Japan they are the normal way of using the bathroom.

On the other hand I did observe another type of toilet, the traditional Japanese toilet. I saw this toilet for the first time while visiting the Golden Pavilion in Nara. Jessica and I had to use the bathroom while there and it was the only style toilet to use. I did not try it, and never will, even with the instructions provided it is all foreign and I would like to keep it that way. Although it was my first time seeing the toilets after two weeks, I’ve been told they are on the trains we travel on also. These toilets remind me of camping in the woods and having to use nature as a toilet and that’s not something I want to use inside of a building.

From one extreme to the other toilets of Japan are winning over American toilets, if possible I would love to have one in my future home.

Strike a pose… Japanese Fashion

The fashion of Tokyo is something I absolutely LOVE. There are so many different styles to choose from; styles from back in the 80’s to style current for today. One main thing I notice is the fashion difference between the sexes. The Older men in Japan wear suits from sun up to sun down. No matter how hot the weather is outside they have on full suits, and their variety of clothing does not stray away from this norm. The women on the other hand have all the fun with fashion, but there are the business women of Japan too.

From Harajuku to Lolita the choices of fashion are endless and I love to see the different styles. Traveling to Shibuya and the Harajuku district were the perfect places where the merging of styles occurred. You of course had your school kids and the many school uniforms. The men dressed in suits like I mentioned above. You have the hip-hop fashion of bright colors and 80’s style. The hip-hop Japanese women here will tan their skin until they are very dark and perm their hair to become as “black” as possible. Then there are the Lolita’s; they come in two forms – one dark and the other bright colors all tied in with lace. The dark Lolita’s are on the edge of Goth (with wearing black), but they wear lots of tutus and lacey dresses. The lighter Lolita’s were the same but in bright colors and patterns. The Goth’s of course wear all black with addition to plaid, spikes, chains and platform boots. So far I have not seen a lot of them; maybe I’m in the wrong district (lol).

There are also the causal everyday clothes. They make baggy clothing look good and presentable and without looking like a slob. The women love to wear tights, stocking or socks with their outfits. Also the women love to walk around in heels all day long that would never last long in America. I’ve also notice that the Japanese like to cover their whole body. When it’s hot weather outside, I am the one to wear as less clothes as possible. Here in Japan, they will cover up from head to toe; long sleeve shirts, jackets, tights, knee to thigh-highs, or socks. Back in America the clashes of the different styles would not fly. Americans are a very “what’s in” type of culture. They will follow the trends that are “happening” and if you’re not wearing what’s current then you’re the loser.

Some quick things I learned about Japanese fashion:

–          Women love tights, thigh-highs, and socks with ALL outfits.

–          Men love suits.

–          Women wear heels since birth.

–          Women love to wear wigs.

–          Face mask are normal to see here (let’s people know you are sick)

–          Baggy clothes never look sloppy.

–          Hats are a main accessory (I bought a few also).

–          They layer clothes, even in 80 degree weather.

From here to there…Oh the places you will go

I have flown in airplanes before and it’s nothing new to me. I’ve had short 45 minute flights to my longest four hour flight to Las Vegas. But this flight to Japan would be my longest at 13 hours, I didn’t know what to expect or if it would actually feel like half a day has passes. For the most part it was a smooth ride (of course we hit some turbulence); it actually felt like about 7 hours instead of the full 13. Throughout the most of it I either slept or was eating what they gave me.

We had about three meals. The first meal was a sliced beef with rice and veggies, shrimp with cocktail sauce, salad, bread and O.J. Then we had a mid-flight meal/snack which consisted of a mini turkey sub, an apple, milano cookies, and water. The last meal before we landed was fruit, bread and butter, O.J., and shrimp fried rice. The meals were pretty good and I slept very well on the plane, it was time for landing.

First Meal

Landing in Japan it didn’t quite hit me yet that I have finally made it to a country I’ve been trying to visit for I don’t know how long. *crosses item off bucket list* First stop was to pick up luggage, next we went through customs. It was easier than I thought. On the plane they had given out dismemberment papers in which I had already filled out. They have you step up to the counter and they take your finger prints and a picture of you. After that they give you a visa and you’re on your way, you can officially enter the country of Japan. After going through customs I finally met up with Dr. C. and the rest of the study abroad student. It was time to travel to our first hotel, Hotel Asia Center of Japan.

Traveling from the Narita airport to the hotel will be one experience I will never forget. The trip took about three hours and there was a lot of fast movement and STAIRS. And boy where there stairs, mixed with I didn’t know where I was going or when it would end, I would have the biggest woman biceps by the end of the night. Fast forwarded and we make it to the hotel, thank gosh cause I was dying if heat, thirst and rest. We got our room assignments, made it up to the rooms; I took a quick shower, changed and was ready for my first night in Japan.