Friday, March 30, 2007

Inuyama Castle and Monkey Park

I had another day to go exploring and this time, I went to Inuyama with Gon-chan and Mai-chan. First, we met up at Nagoya station and bought bento boxes for lunch. Then we got on the Meitetsu train and away we went. Just a comment, I don't think the Meitetsu is foreigner friendly either, all schedules and train routes are in Japanese so thank goodness I had company!
Anyways, we got to Inuyama and headed straight for the castle which is the oldest standing castle in Japan and is one of the National Treasures. A lot of the structures have been destoyed but the main castle is still standing. This castle seems small for a castle even though it's 6 levels high. Still, I was excited to be in a real castle from 400 years ago. There is not much inside the castle but there were pictures of all the other castles in Japan. I wish I could visit all of them but that will be for another time in life. On the castle grounds we had a picnic lunch under cherry blossoms which were just starting to bloom.

Afterwards, we went to Monkey Park since the day was still young. To get there, we had to take a monorail. I got confused and thought that the monorail itself was $19 (1900 yen) but the price actually includes the park admission. Attractions in Japan are not cheap! Anyways, I saw a lot of monkeys and a lot of baby monkeys too. Sooo cute. Some of them weren't even in cages. It seems a shallow pond of water helps keep them on their little islands. That doesn't explain the monkey's that wander freely above your head on a suspension bridge though. Oh, and we got to feed the monkeys in monkey valley. There were a couple that would clap their hands at you to get you to throw food at them. Questionnable practice? Well, I had fun.


Monday, March 26, 2007

A day to myself in Osaka

I had to apply for a visa for when I go to Vietnam so I decided to do it in person at the Consulate in Osaka so that I could also spend the day looking around. I was kind of scared going by myself because I was using the local rapid trains which aren't exactly tourist friendly since all the timetables are in Japanese and you pass through the most remote places. I was lucky to come across an English site ( where you can search the trains you need to take in order to get you where you want to go. I only had to switch trains once going there and returning so I was lucky. Even then though, there was one time when I had 5 minutes to find my next train and I ended up hopping onto one just before the doors closed and I wasn't even sure it was the right train. Also, the trains get really full so going to Osaka, I had to stand for the 3 hours that it took to get there.

Anyways, I found a Vietnamese restaurant and was excited to finally get my fill of Vietnamese food. I haven't come across any in Nagoya yet. I also ended up buying a new camera. It's so sweet but I will blog about that some other day after I've gotten used to using it.

I also went to Osaka port where the aquarium is. Of course I had to go see more fishies and my favorite - the jellyfish! The main attraction of this aquarium is the whale shark which swims around in the main tank which you basically walk around in a spiral till you get to the bottom. When I saw it, the biggest of the sting rays was swimming with it like the two were buddies. It was cute. In the same tank are other fish and smaller sharks.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Baking 101

Hiroko and I went to a couple of cooking classes at ABC cooking studio in the Sakae Parco department store. It was so much fun and our treats were sooo yummy. Also, my apartment doesn't have an oven so I had not been able to practice baking for so long. This cooking studio is great. It's got all the supplies and a lot of space. You also get to see what other people are making too. Each instructor gets a maxium of 5 students so it's a really good learning environment and it's really cheap. Our intro classes were only 800yen or $8.00. The only drawback is that instruction is only in Japanese. That's where Hiroko comes in...

Hiroko decorating her strawberry cheesecake

Me mixing the cheesecake batter

Our yummy strawberry cheesecakes

Hiroko and I giving our bread dough some bench time

Our yummy Cafe-au-lait bread

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Modeling in Macau

Location: Macau
Time: From Dusk till Dawn
Models: David, Diana, JP, Liz and Serge
Level of Fun: Off the charts!!!

The Photo Shoot:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bento Boxes: Part 2

Shopping for a bento box is hard if you are in a department store basement and there are about a million choices for you to choose from. The store opened at 10am and right away, it was flooded with people looking to buy their lunch for the day. You can get cheap ones that come in foam boxes made to look like wood, or you could buy more expensive ones where the box is actually made out of wood and it's wrapped in a nice piece of cloth. The food is also more detailed, you get your vegetables carved into pretty things like flowers and leaves.

My bento box was a simple one that came in a foam box, but I chose one with lots of variety. I really love that wagon wheel looking thing. It's crunchy and absorbs flavour really well. Actually, I loved everything in here!
My friend chose a nicer meal that came in a two tier box. Ooo fancy. I got to keep his pink cloth though.

It's a good thing I didn't pull out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich while everyone else had their mouth watering bento boxes. And yes, that's right, peanut butter and jelly....which I found out that the interns from the UK and the States have never tried. Weird. Then I went into peanut butter and banana sandwiches and peanut butter and apple...ok so who is the weird one???

Kyoto with AIESEC members

Yesturday, I went to Kyoto with a group of AIESEC memebers (Mai, Miki, Shinpei, Gon-chan, Mineshi, Koichi and Aaron). It was so much fun. We left Nagoya on the JR train at 7:39am and got to Kyoto around 3 hours later. We bought bento boxes from the department store at Kyoto station for lunch and headed off to see Nijo-jo....a castle! The inside of this castle was absolutely gorgeous. We weren't allowed to take pictures which was a shame so I recommend that you go and visit if you're ever in town. This castle is about 400 years old, with some parts of it being newer as structures were added to it. Most castles in Japan were distroyed by fire and by the war so most castles are rebuilt and are not as old and authentic. The neat thing about this castle is not only its size but the floors were built to squeak when you walk on them so that no one could sneak around. Annoying? But hey, what can you do when security cameras weren't invented yet right?
After the castle, we went to a Jusco to see how they require you to pay for their plastic shopping bags to encourage people to bring their own re-usable bags. Like I said before, The Real Canadian Superstore does this in Canada and I just learned that it is already common in Finland. (Thanks Krista, I appreciate your email!). I thought this was going to be the highlight of the trip but it didn't really turn out to be that way. Some members bought the Jusco re-usable bags as souvenirs and we bought some items from the store to see how much they charged for bags. It was kind of funny. Oh and I bought some Cherry Blossom Ice cream which tastes like cinnamon ice cream.

Next we went to visit some shrines and temples. We walked towards Gion and visited a buddhist temple which is supposed to be where the origin of buddhism started in Japan...or Kyoto, or it was the head temple. I'm not sure. We went and watched a ceremony for a bit. I think there was a funeral prayer going on.

After that, we walked and passed by a shrine for beauty. Us girls stopped here to make a wish and bless ourselves from the fountain of beauty. Then we read some of the wishes hanging off the wishing posts. I read one that was in English about someone asking for a small ice age to happen in Europe. I guess they got hit with a heat wave or something. It was kind of funny.

We continued walking and went through a bigger shrine where the girls again got their love fortunes. Mine was translated by the AIESECers as something along the lines of, you are searching for love and there is a lot around, your lover is close and something something, put your faith in Gion and God and you will be blessed. Not only am I curious to know what my future is going to be, but I am also wondering how much of my forture was lost in translation.

We kept walking around some more and found a street vendor selling candied fruit. I think the girls took advantage of everything during this trip and we made out to buy ourselves some sweet indulgences. I had a mandarin orange one and I definately recommend it. I think it is my new favorite with the chocolate banana next. I've also tried the chocolate pineapple which was messy and candied grape, which had seeds!

We walked by a Starbucks and I had to hop in to check out their tumblers. The Kyoto tumbler was really pretty (it had shiny gold flecks on it too to emphasize the Golden temple I think). 5 of us walked our of Starbucks with new Kyoto tumblers and we got free coffee with them. Mmmm, white chocolate mocha. I couldn't finish mine because the next thing that we did was go to a dessert cafe. It's the second day in the same week that I overdosed on sweets. Oh well, today I shall be good.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Congratulations!!! I LOVE YOU AIESEC CALGARY

I got the most wonderful gift in an email today. It was a video made by my VP OGX, Peter, who was responsible for sending me away on my internship. It was his farewell message and a welcome message from the incoming VP OGX, Sunny. Also, I was awarded by the MD portfolio at the International Gala a few weeks ago, which I obviously couldn't attend, but thanks for thinking of me everyone. Watching the video almost made me cry, I miss you AIESEC Calgary

My dear friends who I want to congratulate:

Liz - for the outstanding SN award, I think the people in Hong Kong will have to agree with this, you are an AMAZING intern!
Kent - for outstanding OGX member, he's an intern himself living in Cairo but he still helps me out with my SN needs!
Amber and Godwin - for passing the last review board, more friends for me to visit abroad!
Serge - for outstanding ER member, you deserve this for being so passionate and caring AND you helped us win the spirit keg! Good luck for next review board!
Iris - for outstanding ICX member, for being the ENCANA manager and bringing in 12 interns, for representing Canada at the next International Conference
Laura - for outstanding CD member, for being the best Director of Intern Reception ever!
Vania - for outstanding CADA member, for becoming the next LCP

EB 06-07 - for an outstanding year and giving your leadership to help us win local of the year and the spirit keg
EB 07-08 - mostly newbies who I haven't met yet, I hope the high outcomes of the last year will be able to push you to exceed expectations in the next. Good luck!

Oh I almost forgot:
Congrats to Layial, Harshitha and Messalina for being selected for the CEED program.

I hope, I didn't forget anyone else!!!

White Day and Nagoya Aquarium

Today is White day and it is similar to Valentine's day, except it is the ladies this time who get pampered. My boss took me to a busy Italian restaurant for lunch as a treat and it was full of women. 1. The restaurant is close to a women's college and 2. The lunch set comes with a dessert buffet! So, I stuffed myself silly with lotsa sweets. My boss and I each had a plate full before the salad came, then after the salad came, and then pasta came in time because I was getting tired of the sweetness, and we finished the meal with as much dessert as we could fill the gaps in our stomachs with. Oh delicious goodness...well worth the discomfort when I had to go back to work.

On Sunday, I met up with Sarah again and we went to visit the aquarium. I LOVE the aquarium. I used to love swimming when I was a kid but I grew up to not be a good swimmer at all soo all that passion goes into animals that can swim.....minus the ones that can bite off a part of your body...toes included. My favorite are the jellyfishes. I'd probably pee myself if I was ever in the same water as one but they are so fascinating to watch inside a tank. I even went home and Wiki'd them. Nagoya aquarium is not bad although I haven't been to enough to make a comparison with anything. Worth a visit since there isn't much to do in Nagoya.

More Pictures:

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bento Boxes, Pink Mold and Grocery Store for the Elderly

...that's what the highlights of the rest of the work week consisted of. I should probably add blisters from my guitar lessons but that's really not that interesting.

Bento Boxes (Japanese lunch boxes): My 3rd guitar lesson was with Gon Chan who brought along a wonderful delight for lunch. A bento box made by his mom. It was really pretty lunch and I was really envious. First because I had to make my own lunches after elementary school and second, I never put in any effort for an elaborate lunch...though at one time I did experiment with mangos and mint leaves. Anyways, I asked lots of questions because I was really curious. Apparently, Gon Chan's mom makes him a bento box every morning and he is the only family member to get one. You're wondering so what? Well, looking at the details of his lunch, it looked like his mom made 3 or 4 different dishes packed into what looked like paper cups that you bake muffins in and she also decorated his rice with a sour plum or something to make it look like the flag of Japan. So much effort! I feel sorry for my future children because I openly admit that I am NOT a morning person!
The next day, Gon Chan brought another bento box with him and I just had to take another picture.
Pink Mold: I was only slightly curious at first to find that my Spam had turned pink after I left it in the fridge for a month. I wasn't familiar with Spam so I didn't think much of it when I threw it out. But a couple nights ago, I opened a jar of mushroom sauce that I had also left in the fridge for too long to find more pink mold. My conclusion? In Japan, mold is slimey pink and not fuzzy green. I will have to confirm that by leaving my bread somewhere to rot though. Stay tuned for that!

Grocery Store for the Elderly: So biking home from guitar lesson yesturday, I biked past a grocery store that had bananas outside for about $1 per bundle of 5. I was like score, turned my bike around and decided to do my grocery shopping there. (Produce is expensive in Japan and I haven't been getting my fill of fruits because of it.) Anyways, the grocery store already looked kind of sketchy, then when I walk in, I only saw old people. My first thought was, "I really hope I'm not trespassing into the elderly territory and that I don't need a senior citizen card to shop here." But I was already inside and I had a defence maneuver...speak English and people will leave you alone. I was craving fish so I walked over to the fish counter and looked at the selection. A cute old woman walked over to me to try to talk about the fish to me until I finally broke it to her in English that I couldn't understand her.

Instead of backing off, she got really excited. She kept pointing at me while talking to her husband and tried to give me advice on the fish still. I decided on some salmon because that's all I can recognise and I think she tried to tell me to cook it in butter or something. Anyways, I proceeded to pay. She caught sight of the Canadian flag I had stiched on my backpack and got excited again. Her husband asked how old I was and if I was in homestay or something, etc. I finally got out of there and with a 15 cent discount on my fish. :)

That night I happily cooked my fish. I don't think I did a good job though. It was dripping with butter and not in a nice way. Oh well, it was all fun.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rock and Roll

The theme of this week is Rock and Roll. Why? Well, Sunday started out with me biking to the "downtown" of Nagoya which I think is Sakae. It took me an hour and it was a gorgeous day. I was really at peace with myself. On my way though, I passed an old man riding in his wheelchair and on the back of his ride, he has a sign that said, "Too old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die". I thought that was sooo cute.

Yesturday, I went to an AIESEC event centered on the Philippines where we made some Japanese food and Filipino dessert. There were games (Musical Chairs and a Filipino game similar to it but partners have to stand on a piece of newspaper that shrink in size everytime), presentations, and problem solving. It beat being at work - my boss is out of town and he asked the AIESEC members to babysit me for the week.

The pictures tell a better story:
My Cooking Group minus Mineshi

Filipino Game

Anyways, after the event, I joined Gon Chan and Seko for some tasty ramen and a Bloc Party Concert, which goes well with my theme don't you think? I haven't been to many concerts (Edgefest in Junior High, Christina Aguilera in High School - don't ask why, and Black Eyed Peas last year) so yah, this was kind of new for me. There weren't a lot of people so I got to get really close to the band. The mosh pit was small but I still got pushed around between 2nd and 5th row. It was kind of dangerous. I started out in the middle but eventually ended up on one of the sides behind some short asian girls. It was great because I was right infront of one of the guitarists who I actually made eye contact with at one point. It's just so much cooler to have someone playing the guitar and looking into your eyes. Don't get me wrong though, there were no sparks there. Anyways, the experience was really cool and now I'm excited to go to another concert! As for the music...I have to admit, I had never heard this band before but I borrowed some cds from Gon Chan to catch up.

Today, I started my guitar lessons. My boss requested that an AIESECer teach me how to play the guitar so each day I get a new teacher. Why such an odd request? I think I am expected to start playing the guitar for work. The product that I am doing testing on is an optical amplifier and I'm guessing that I will have to see how well it works with an actual electric guitar. Fun stuff. My fingers hurt though. I don't know how much playing time I can squeeze in over the next few days. But, ROCK ON!!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Naked Festival and St. Patrick's day Parade

So my boss let me have Friday off so that I could go to the Konomiya Naked Festival (Hadaka Matsuri). This festival started in the year 767 and happens on the 13th day of the lunar calendar. What happens at this festival? A lot of men, wearing only white loin clothes, carry these big bamboo poles and charge throught the streets towards Konomiya shrine. When I say charge, I mean more stumble drunkenly. Some other stuff happens at the shrine but I didn't see any of it because we were in a bad location and I was too short! Someone did mention butt slapping to pass off your bad luck to these people but lucky for me, I didn't have any bad luck to pass off.


Today was a day of running some errands. I met up with Aaron at Osu Kannon and lucky for us, we caught a St. Patrick's parade complete with a marching band. It was kind of entertaining seeing Japanese people decked out in green and clover stickers, celebrating the day by congregating in front of a BUDDHIST temple. Aaron was also quick to point out a girl in a witches costume. Anything goes in Japan!

We also checked out a tattoo parlor. If you want a tattoo, don't do it in Japan cuz it'll cost you your good arm and the other leg. $200 for a consultation, then $600 for each session for anyone who is curious. Maybe that is just the one place we went to but I am no longer curious to find out.