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Hello everyone!

As some of you may know, my laptop decided to quit on me for the foreseeable future, so I am writing this at school before I head home for the day. Yesterday was election day in Korea, so I had the day off. I went to Seoul with a friend of mine (special friend? i dunnooo ^^). We had a great time, but when I arrived back home I had a terrible migraine. That migraine is still very present even as I type this. It put me in a sour mood today, and also stopped me from eating delicious Spaghetti during lunch time. Hopefully when I get home and have more rest, I will feel better. I’ll be ok 🙂

Anyways, you are probably wondering about the title of my new post! Well, on Sunday I had an Epiphany, so I wanted to share it with you, because it will prove to be a bit of a life changer.

Epiphany: n. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

This Epiphany happened while I was riding the bus home from Seoul on Sunday, as I usually do. Suddenly I was filled with a tremendous urge to change up my situation. Why, you ask? Well, the reality is that I am 25 years old (possibly the prime of my life), so I have decided that it is not in my best interest to stay in this rustic (yet charming!) little village. Instead, rather than dedicating my weekends to working around a terrible bus schedule, I will instead move to and work in Seoul! I have some options lined up that will  hopefully allow me to make the change I feel is necessary.

I should still be able to make my scheduled visit to Canada in July, and as far as a permanent end-date, I guess it is still up in the air.

Anyways, just thought I would share this with you, since it’s been so long since I have said anything at all! I hope everyone is doing really well back home and in other various areas. I will get to see you are soon, so I am really happy about that!

-Rossi

Good day everyone!

The last few weeks have been really great, mainly because I haven’t had a full week of class for a while. There were midterms at the Middle School one week, Sports-Day at the Elementary School on another, and even a special English Camp on another. But those were just minor days off, it gets much better. Two weeks back I had a field trip with the Elementary School! We went to 63 Building in Seoul. This was my first time seeing the building, so I was really happy about it. If you remember my Tokyo trip, the National Government Building has a spectacular view of Tokyo from the 45th floor. Well, 63 Building has a spectacular view of Seoul from the 60th floor! It wasn’t the greatest of days, what with poor weather and the hectic atmosphere of dealing with an entire schools-worth of children, but it was a great time! On the 60th floor they have an art exhibit with some really nice pieces as well as the fantastic view of the city. The building is so big that it also has an aquarium with some really beautiful fish, a pretty decent wax museum, and an IMAX theatre. The IMAX movie was pretty boring, it was about Natives in America, but the presentation was not very fun. The scenery was beautiful, and the natives were dubbed over in Korean, which was pretty funny, but none of the students really enjoyed it.

The best part about working at both an Elementary School and a Middle School is that I get to participate in both sets of field trips! Last Tuesday I was able to join the Middle School on their trip to Cheonan. On the way, we stopped in Yesan to visit the Memorial Hall of the Martyr Yoon Bong-gil. Yesan is very close to where I am currently living, this area is full of history! He was an anti-Japan activist and also an assassin! He went to Shanghai and carried out  a bombing attack at a Japanese Military celebration on April 29, 1932, killing  a General of Japans Imperial Army and also a Chancellor. He was transferred to a prison in Osaka and was sentenced to death in December of the same year.

After that, we went to the Nong Shim Factory in Cheonan to see how Ramyeon an other Nong Shim products are made. It was mostly automated, save for the quality control faculty who just watch the assembly line for anomalies. We had to wear lab coats, hair nets, and shoe covers and go throw an air cleaner before we went in, which was pretty fun. At the end of the tour, everyone was given a care package from Nong Shim, I took some pictures!

Oh my goodness, what could be inside!?

It’s a plethora of Nong Shim products!

After that we went to the Independence Hall of Korea, located in Cheonan. It was really amazing! Unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera on this field trip (brain fart), but trust me, it was a really beautiful place. You can google it if you are interested, more good history. Finally, we went to the seaside and checked out some old boats. It was more fun than it sounds hah! On the way there, the students wanted to have a Norae Bang session on the bus. The bus was outfitted with a whole Norae Bang system, so I decided to join them and sing some songs. I have a throat cold, but they still really liked it, so it made me happy hah.

All in all, I am really glad I got to participate in both field trips, even if it was basically babysitting. I could still enjoy myself and have many new experiences AND the students were great anyways so it wasn’t work at all. I can’t believe it has been over 10 months already. I am due for a visit back home very soon, but it will only be a short visit, because I signed a new contract to teach here for another year. Still, it will feel really nice to come home and see everyone, I can’t wait! I’ll post again soon, I promise!

-Rossi

Hey all,

I said I wouldn’t wait so long between posts, but here we are exactly one month since my last post! I apologize, but you’d be surprised how quickly time passes! So much has happened since then, but I’ll start with Cherry Blossoms. I haven’t had the chance to see too many Cherry Blossoms in my lifetime, so I felt really blessed to see them in my own city! Unfortunately it was not the greatest weather when they were at their best, so the pictures don’t really do justice to the experience. They aren’t really popping in these pictures, but trust me, in person they stand out so beautifully.

This is in Haemi, about 2 minutes walk from my apartment. The Cherry Blossoms continue for quite a while, even paast the Church I showed you last time. I officially visited the area two times, the first time was overcast and produced these pictures. The second time was much better but I didn’t take any pictures, just enjoyed the experience with a friend. The window of bloom-age is very small, maybe 2 weeks tops. After that, the trees shed the white/pink petals and go back to normal. The second time I went was near the end of the blooming period, so the petals were falling. It was like pink snow, very romantic.

Hopefully you liked the pictures, I’m not happy with them at all, even after spending a long time post-processing them. Last month I also attended a close co-workers wedding. The wedding was a mess of course (Korean Weddings), but both the Bride and the Groom looked great, and they had a good time, which is all that matters. After the wedding, a few co-workers decided to spend the day visiting a few of the beaches close by. So we drove around for about 7 hours, visiting 5 different beaches. It was really nice, one of them had a long dock with a lighthouse at the end. On the sides of the dock there were large concrete objects pieced together which looked very unique. There were also tons of old people getting Soju’d off their asses while fishing, with as many as 3 rods being used simultaneously, each! On our way home we stopped at an Observatory to look at the stars. I love space, so it was a nice surprise that they decided to visit such an interesting place. The second floor ceiling retracted to give a great view of the stars.

That’s all for today… I’ll try to do a couple posts in a row to get you up-to-date. Hope everyone is doing well, I am doing really well too!

-Rossi 🙂

Hello friends,

This weekend I’ve just been relaxing mostly, trying to rest off the cold I currently have. It’s pretty well gone now, 1 or 2 more days and I’ll be 100%. I had a good run; I haven’t been sick since I arrived here 9 months ago. This week I also began teaching my afterschool classes. Being sick plus taking on a heavy workload left me pretty drained throughout the week. But I really enjoy afterschool classes because I can plan them how I want. I have 6 extra classes per week this year: 4 for Elementary and 2 for Middle School.

I hear that in Canada the weather has just been amazing for the past week. Korea is playing catch up right now, we are only hitting mid teens right now. This weekend was particularly nice, so I went on another sightseeing adventure today. When I take the bus I always see a really nice church off in the distance, and today I finally went to see it. Here are some pictures!

I am so glad I finally walked out to see this beautiful church. It would always catch my eye in the landscape. Thanks to the weather today, the sky really helped to convey the churches light, airy atmosphere. It wasn’t too far away, maybe a 15-20 minute walk, and I figured since I was still sick it would be a nice, low impact adventure. In this area there are actually four churches very close together, but the others were surrounded by power lines and love motels so I decided not to bother taking pictures. I am unable to provide any background information about this church, though I know Haemi was an important place for the establishment of Roman Catholicism in Korea. Haemi was also an important place for the clashes that resulted from religious difference, which relates back to one of my first posts where I showed you pictures of Haemi Fortress.

Even though the city I live in is tiny, it still has a rich historical background. Being in the presence of such history always makes me happy, even though I’m not much of a historian. History is very taxing on me mentally. If I get myself wrapped up in the history of a place, it can really make me depressed. Contrarily, being physically in the presence of a historical place fills me with wonderful feelings and emotions. It’s strange, I guess I just have to enjoy the feeling and not let the historical weight wear me down.

A co-worker is giving me her mini-oven tomorrow at school. She said she never uses it so she said she wanted to give it to me. I’m not entirely sure what exactly she means by mini-oven though. It could be a toaster oven, microwave, or an actual mini-oven. I guess we’ll see tomorrow. I am crossing my fingers for an actual mini-oven, so I can have some baked goods haha. Either way she is being extremely generous, so I won’t be complaining no matter what (well, unless it’s a microwave, because I already have one ).

Today I realized that one of my students put a password on the calender and security options of my cell phone. I guess I have to make a new rule for touching my cell phone, and hopefully I can figure out what the password is on Wednesday when I get back to the Elementary School. I have no idea who did it, but whoever it is, is a little jerk haha. That’s all for now, I hope everyone is healthy and happy :). You have no idea how much I miss you all (unless you miss me a lot, in which case, you know exactly how much I miss you ~).

-Rossi

Hey everyone!

Wowww I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 full months since I’ve updated, I’m sorry! Honestly I just haven’t been motivated to write anything lately. I blame the weather mostly, it’s been too chilly to get out and have fun, so I’ve held off on anymore adventures until the weather gets warmer. I think this week is the beginning of nice weather; hopefully this time its a more permanent change. But I haven’t just been cooped up doing nothing everyday. On one of the better days during my vacation, I hopped on the bus and went exploring. I went to Daejeon, which is the closest major city to my location. I took some pictures, but the most important experience I took away from this adventure was seeing the Daejeon World Cup Stadium. This stadium featured a few games from the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Nowadays it is the home stadium of Daejeon Citizen, a K-League team. Just trying to imagine what it was like to be there 8 years ago during the South Korea vs. Italy game gives me chills. I remember watching that game from my television back in Canada while I was still in high school. To think now, I was actually able to see the stadium in person, it’s amazing to me. This adventure was actually done on a whim, so I didn’t really have a plan, nor did I know where anything was in Daejeon. With that being said, the city is pretty unforgiving to non-residents. Public transportation is quite under-developed, they only have 1 subway line, and access to that subway is nowhere near the bus terminal. With that being said, the stadium was the crux of my adventure. But I still had a good time, and in the end that is all that matters.

Last weekend I was in Seoul meeting up with some friends, and on Sunday morning (or was it afternoon hah) we decided to do some sightseeing. My friend lives in Seodaemun in Seoul, which is home to a very important historical landmark, the Seodaemun Prison. Basically, in 1907 while Japan occupied Korea, a prison was built. The prison was used to house Korean anti-colonial (read: anti-Japan) activists. Here, they were tortured, murdered, and generally treated as poorly as you can imagine. It was a very interesting place for its historical value, but it was also extremely sad to walk through. They had statues and figures portraying torture scenes inside the cells, and they don’t hold back at all. It was heartbreaking to see how poorly human-beings were treated during this time, and it’s even worse to think about how it wasn’t the first time something like this happened. More importantly, thinking about how dead set the world is on repeating these mistakes over and over again. This is why I try to keep myself out of politics and war, it makes me extremely angry. On a brighter note, we had a super-cool volunteer tour guide who did an amazing job of telling us the details of everything, despite his young age.

Two days ago (Saturday), I attended my Principals’ sons wedding in Seosan. This is the second Korean wedding I’ve been too, and it was very much like the first one. The ceremony is completely different to back home, so it’s really interesting to experience. As usual, I was the only foreign person, so I was getting stared at like crazy. I decided to suit up so I ended up having double exposure (well-dressed and foreign). Both the bride and groom looked great, and although you could tell the groom was nervous as hell, they both seemed to be having the time of their lives.

I am back into my school routine, this year I work Monday and Tuesday at the Middle School, then Wednesday-Friday at the Elementary School. It’s strange to see my grade 6’s from last year as Grade 1 Middle School students now. They still act like Elementary School students,.. until they get scolded by the teachers. They’ll get used to it soon I imagine. I played soccer with them during lunch today, so everything is great.

I have just over 3 months left, last time I posted I had just over 5 months left, funny how that happens eh? Sorry to delay posting for so long, I’ll try not to let it happen again. Hope everyone is doing well! Congrats to my brother for selling our place and getting a new one with his awesome fiance! I can’t wait to see you guys, and the new place, sorry I can’t help!

Until next time (which won’t be nearly as long as last time),

-Rossi

Day 4 – Ginza, Hibiya, Shiba, Hamamatsucho

My flight was set to leave at 4:30pm Thursday afternoon, so I woke up early and set off toward the Ginza district. Ginza is known as the upscale area of Tokyo, and is also recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. I’m not particularly interested in that aspect of Ginza, or any other place in the world for that matter, but it definitely brings about some nice architecture and a busy atmosphere.

Ginza feels immensely powerful and modern, I bet it looks amazing at night.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I had to explore Ginza at too early an hour to really get a sense of it. Most places open at 11am, but I was there an hour early. So while waiting for the city to wake up, I went to Hibiya Park. This is a large, beautiful park that bleeds into the Ginza district; it’s not a far walk, and many professionals can be seen walking through the park on their lunch break.

Honestly, I was very impressed with this park. It felt so quiet and peaceful, but also very inviting. When I sat on a bench to take it all in, a women sat a few seats down and started playing a flute. It was all very surreal, and the music worked perfectly to create an amazing atmosphere.

I know you were curious, so yes, there were many fish in this huge pond!

I could have spent all day in this park, there were so many different things to see! Continuing along, I came across an open-air concert area, but it was gated so I couldn’t take any pictures inside.

I wonder what kind of amazing concerts happen here.

Turning 180 degrees from the concert venue, there is a beautiful water fountain!

Beyond here you continue walking and eventually come across another large pond. This pond is more interactive; you can walk along a small bridge and there is also a nice veranda for sitting and enjoying the day.

I know, I know, enough park pictures. Sorry, I really liked it! Well, after spending quite some time here I headed back to Ginza. I ended up at an arcade because I wanted to play Street Fighter IV one more time before I left Japan, so I found a few machines. I didn’t stay long, and there were no challengers, so I soon continued exploring.

I didn’t get a picture, but one place I really wanted to check out was the Kabuki-za theatre. I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to go, but it’s definitely on my list of things to experience next time I go to Tokyo. I’ve always been interested in the theatre, but I seldom go. Experiencing an authentic Japanese Kabuki performance would be quite an experience, so I was a little sad I didn’t get to attend.

Another place I was looking forward to experiencing was the Sony Building in Ginza, so I headed there. The first 3 floors are basically the Sony “Showroom”, where they allow the public to enter and demo their new and unreleased technology. It was a very exciting place to be, and I am so happy it worked out. Sony is really pushing 3D technology in the home; 3D HDTVs displaying 3D movies, and even 3D Playstation 3. They had a unit rigged up with Wipeout HD in 3D, I am a huge fan of that game. I actually got to demo Wipeout HD in full 3D, and it was pretty fun. The 3D is a little obtrusive at times, but it was a pretty unique experience. I even got a compliment from the girl working there, because all of the other people demoing were terrible, and I rocked it! Oh Japan, the land where women compliment you based on your videogame skills.

Other floors were demoing new HDTV technology, which is looking terrific. OLED TV’s are so thin and sexy. They had some beautiful HD Video Camera’s too, which are weird, and really allow you to see all the wrinkles in your hands. Kind of gross, but amazingly clear. They had VAIOs of course, and even a shop where you can purchase products. I had read some people were disappointed with what the Sony Building had to offer, but I am satisfied; I had a great time!

I had a little extra time before I had to report to Haneda airport, so I hopped on the subway and headed back to Hamamatsucho. You might remember this district from Day 1, with Tokyo Tower and what not. Here, I decided to have lunch at one of the side restaurants. These restaurants are interesting, because you choose your food through a vending machine. The machine issues you a ticket, and you grab a seat. Then, the server brings you the food fresh. I had large ramen noodles with pork, it felt really fatty, but it was tasty. After lunch, I had just enough time to check out that temple I missed on the first night. The temple is Zojoji Temple in Shiba, very close to Tokyo Tower, as you will see.

Here is the entrance to Zojoji Temple.

Here is Zojoji Temple, with Tokyo Tower behind it.

Much like Seoul, Tokyo also fuses the traditional and modern. I feel that this picture probably does the best job of conveying this fusion. It is really wonderful to see a culture embracing their tradition, but also allowing for growth to occur. Temples such as Zojoji will forever remind Japan of their heritage, just as Gyeongbukgung Palace in Seoul with forever remind South Korea.

As you can see in the picture, at this point it began to rain. I had great weather for the entire time I was in Tokyo, so rain for the last hour definitely did not dampen my spirits. It also set the mood for the next area of Zojoji temple.

These are Jizo Statues.

They are dressed in childrens clothes and surrounded by toys.

In Japan, Jizo is regarded as the guardian of children, especially children who died before their parents. Since the 1980’s, he is also worshipped as the guardian of mizuko, or stillborn children. Statues of Jizo are often attired with children’s clothes. These are placed by grieving parents for their lost little ones, with the hope that Jizo will offer them protection in their journey through the underworld.

There are rows and rows of statues, each one signifying the death of a child.

Each statue has a windmill. With the rainy weather came a light wind, enough to blow the little windmills around. This created a chilling atmosphere; it made me very sad. I hope I never have to deal with that situation, but life is unpredictable.

Once I ran out of time, I headed back to Hamamatsucho Station. From there, I caught the “Pokemon-orail” back to Haneda Airport. All in all, this was an amazing experience from start to finish. I am so glad I finally got to visit Tokyo, and there are still so many things left for me to do if and when I make a return trip. I am grateful for the hospitality I was shown while in Japan. Almost every person I came into contact with was positive towards me and helped me to have the best time possible. There are definitely some pros and cons to vacationing by yourself, but I am happy with the end result of my troubles. Next time I would love to visit Tokyo with another person, so I can show them really cool places and share some new and unique experiences also.

I will talk about the Capsule Hotel in a completely different post, because it is pretty interesting, but I am tired now. I hope everyone enjoyed reading about my adventure and looking at the pictures I took. I’ll definitely go on another international adventure before my time is up in Korea, and you can be sure I will present it to you in a similar fashion.

With school starting up again on Monday, I’ll get back into the flow and start doing some regular posts. So, until next time!

-Rossi

Day 3 – Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara, Shibuya

I planned for a pretty busy day on Wednesday, so I got up early and headed from Shibuya to Asakusa. If you look at a subway map,  Shibuya is at the beginning of the Ginza line, and Asakusa is at the end, so I rode this particular line from start to finish! It only took about 30 minutes, not too shabby! So the first place I visited was Asakusa.

The most popular landmark to visit in Asakusa is the Sensoji Temple, and it was amazing! This is the entrance to the temple, then there is a long walkway devoted to merchandise, even at an early time it was really busy.

It is a beautiful atmosphere, but as is the case with most temples and shrines, it’s very touristy. I don’t want to flat out say the temples and shrines of Tokyo are tourist traps, because they have a real significant religious value, but… very touristy.

Also interesting is the surrounding area of the temple. It is extremely beautiful, and I really enjoyed walking through it and relaxing, not too many people ventured beyond the temple itself.

I’m a sucker for a good bridge, I have no idea why. I guess we can call it, Rural Idyll.

Especially when the bridge is overlooking an awesome Koi pond.

It was a very relaxing and spiritual experience, even with so many people there. Afterwards I was hungry, but the sushi place I wanted to eat at wasn’t open for another 45 minutes. So I decided to explore while waiting.

This is the Asahi building; They handle a large portion of the beverage industry in Japan.

The river seen here is the Sumida River, it runs through Tokyo, and while you can find some amazing pictures of it just by searching, here are some that I took.

So you have traditional boats on one hand…

Then there is this awesome tour boat! Next time for sure!

I had brunch at a conveyor-style Sushi place. Basically, each coloured plate has a set value, so as the plates pass by, you grab what you want, and then in the end they just tally up your total based on the plates. I had 11 plates, it ended up being about 1200yen, which is like $14-15. Not bad, and a fun experience! Seeing all that food pass by is so tempting hah. After filling up I headed to Ueno, which is 2 stops back.

Ueno is a really beautiful area, I wish I could have spent more time exploring, but I had many things I wanted to do there, so I had to stick to the game plan. My first stop was the Tokyo National Museum. In this area there is so much going on: Animal Museums, Science Museums, etc. There was so much to see just by exploring outside of the museums. Like this!

I didn’t take any pictures inside the museum, but it was extremely nice. They had archaeology exhibits, traditional Japanese exhibits (like Samurai Uniforms and weapons, and also Geishas and really beautiful Kimonos) I decided to stay in the museum for longer than I originally planned, but it was worth it; the museum was amazing.

Tokyo National Museum – it’s much bigger than this picture suggests.

Afterwards I walked through the park, and went to Ueno Zoo! It’s as if they knew I was coming, because the first showcase was the Red Panda! And they had four of them, all different colours! They are the most awesome animal ever, I want one seriously hah. Throughout the Zoo, all you could hear was girls saying “Kawaii!!!” which means “Cute!!!”, and yes there were tons of cute animals.

Go for it, little buddy *heart*

Also at the Zoo, I saw this guy:

Sumo wrestlers are one the many prides of Japanese culture, but it is not uncommon to see them randomly out and about the city. For a big dude, his significant other was extremely pretty, so they definitely carry that celebrity status, especially when you notice they are always wearing their robes instead of normal street clothes. They are very well-respected, I wish I could have seen a sumo match while I was there. Again, that’s what return visits are for!

After my relaxing walk through the zoo, I headed to Akihabara. If you are a nerd like me, then you know what Akihabara is all about. It was definitely my number 1 most anticipated place to visit when going to Tokyo, and it did not disappoint in the slightest! Akihabara is known as the Electric City, and as such, it is packed with flashing lights, tons of people, and loud music.

But the biggest attraction in Akihabara is the Otaku scene (Otaku is a Japanese word referring to people with obsessive interests; particularly anime, manga, and video games). It’s kind of a played out word nowadays, but it still applies to today. I was blown away by how devoted the stores are to indulging peoples obsessions. You can find absolutely anything video game related there; I spent a very long time browsing through their collections.

My point and shoot camera does no justice here, it is such a vibrant area.

At each street corner, there is a girl dressed in costume, handing out flyers. Excellent marketing for the type of crowd that frequents this area. I felt like I never wanted to leave this area, it was definitely the highlight of my entire trip. I checked out the arcade scene because I wanted to try Street Fighter IV on an actual arcade, rather than Playstation 3 like back home. So I went here:

It was awesome! The only downside is that you are allowed to smoke inside of places here, just like in Korea. So even though I was slowly blacking out from smoke inhalation, I played the Street Fighter IV arcade version. It wasn’t long before someone walked by and challenged me, and of course they won. It really got my adrenaline pumping to play against someone though, it was different from playing against my friends. I hadn’t played in over 7 months, so of course I was terribly rusty, and using the arcade stick compared to a game controller is completely different too, but it was still an awesome experience!

Look closely…. Name that Game!

Throughout the city they had gigantic flatscreen TV’s playing videogame trailers, gameplay videos, and the speakers were just belting out the soundtracks. It was amazing! And I got to see the Japanese retail copy of Final Fantasy XIII, I was really excited. In most retail stores in Japan, the game cost 8700yen, which is over $90 Canadian, but in Akihabara I found it for 6200yen, which is the same price as we pay for games back home. Too bad it is completely in Japanese, or else I would have jumped all over that. Places like this made me glad I came by myself, because coming with someone else who may not share the same interests really wouldn’t have been the same experience.

I had dinner at a Standing Sushi restaurant. There are no seats, you just stand at the bar area and tell the person what you want. Then he makes it right in front of you, super fresh. Then they place a leaf in front of you and serve the sushi onto your leaf. It was about the same price as the conveyor belt place, but the sushi was even better! At both restaurants, they knew 0 English, but they were still very nice to me and helped me order through the menu. I had about 20 pieces and was full.

After walking around a little longer, I got really tired (it was a pretty full day!), so I headed back to Shibuya. Shibuya is much like Time’s Square, there are tons of people, and the area never sleeps. It is also home to the famous Shibuya crossing, which is a massive. I didn’t get a great shot if it, but when the lights go red it’s basically just a massive amount of people crossing the street, it’s really amazing.

You can see the aftermath here. So many people!

If you look here, there is a Starbucks that overlooks Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the busiest in the world! I had a White Hot Chocolate that night, and I actually got a window seat! So I relaxed and watched the thousands and thousands of people walking by, reflecting on the day I had, among other things. At ground level, I watched a guy set up an entire drum kit, and then he started playing for the people walking by. He was alright, he seemed nervous, but people were positive towards him so it was great. He was singing at the same time, James Brown and stuff like that. After the hot chocolate, I went out and listened for a while, it was very nice.

I realized another thing about Japan pretty quickly too: They are absolutely in LOVE with Michael Jackson. The Blu-ray version of “This Is It” was just being released, and they had it EVERYWHERE! They had Playstation 3 bundles, gigantic billboards, music blaring in every store. Almost every person I saw in the music stores had a copy of it, amazing! I love the guy too, I didn’t expect it to be this intense in Japan. What a profound influence his music has had on so many people.

Small Regrets: Ryogoku is in the same area as Akihabara, Ueno, and Asakusa. But because of the action packed day I had, I was unable to go to Ryogoku to see the Sumo Stadium and the Sumo Museum. Also, in Ryogoku there is the Edo-Tokyo Museum. I was really looking forward to seeing these places, but you can only do so much with the time you have. I will definitely get there someday.

One more day to report, oh no, it is all coming to an end so fast! I hope everyone is enjoying the summaries and pictures of my time in Tokyo!

Next is Day 4 – Ginza, Hibiya, and Hamamasutcho. See you then!

-Rossi

Day 2 – Shibuya, Yoyogi, Omotesando, Harajuku, Shinjuku

I started the day in Shibuya. Shibuya is a very famous district in Tokyo, and with good reason: it’s amazing! Being the nerd that I am, I immediately set out to find Hachiko, a famous dog in Japanese history. His statue is a memorial for national loyalty and is also used as a popular meeting place for people. For more information just google Hachiko, he is very important in Japanese history. In 2009 the unoriginal American movie industry decided to adapt the story into a movie, starring Richard Gere (it was actually one of the movies on the flight). The nerd part comes from the fact that this meeting spot is featured in the game “The World Ends With You”, which takes place in Tokyo! I provided a picture of both the game and the physical statue.

I find things like this really interesting, I’m not sure if anyone else does. In the evening this area is filled with people, like in the video game picture, but I was there very early, so nobody was around yet. I continued walking around, absorbing the area and then had some breakfast. I decided to walk to Shinjuku, because it only takes an hour, and in between I could see Yoyogi Park, Omotesando, Meiji Shrine, and Harajuku; I could also try to find interesting things to see that most people wouldn’t get to if they just took the subway everywhere. Here are some of my findings!..

Some really nice artwork throughout the city. I have many other instances of beautiful artwork, but that would just turn this into a graffiti slideshow. I didn’t take any pictures of Omotesando, because it is just a shopping district with typical high-end fashion stores. They look the same wherever you go.

Once you arrive at the main area of Harajuku, it is really convenient to see other things. Yoyogi Park, Yoyogi National Stadium, Meiji Shrine and Harajuku area are literally across the street from each other. Yoyogi National Stadium is a very interesting piece of architecture, this picture doesn’t really do it justice. It’s massive, and very curvy.

Beside it there is a boardwalk which connects to one of the Shibuya Gates. Under the bridge I found more interesting graffiti, then headed over to Yoyogi Park.

This was a very beautiful park, filled with joggers, little students playing, people walking their animals. Yoyogi Park is also where people gather from Harajuku to hangout, display their crazy fashion styles, and just have fun. Unfortunately it wasn’t very busy at all in that aspect, maybe because it was Monday around lunch time. I did see an old man dressed in a black velour suit with gold accents, pop-locking to Michael Jackson though. It was awesome. I have read that Sundays are usually the best time to go to Yoyogi Park, because that’s when everyone heads out. Next time I guess 🙂

This is one of the main streets of Harajuku, and it is literally FILLED with clothing stores. Lots of different fashions are on display, but I wasn’t really wowed like I thought I would be. There were many people shopping and having fun, but I was pretty disappointed with Harajuku. I’ll definitely revisit on a weekend sometime, I’m sure it’s just the time of day I chose to check it out. Clothing isn’t terribly expensive either, it’s quite affordable really.

After walking around for a while, I went to see the Meiji Shrine. It was quite busy, as were most of the temples and shrines I visited, but it was very beautiful too!

These gates are so beautiful, and they are all over Japan

This is inside the main area of Meiji Shrine.

Then I headed to Shinjuku, which ended up becoming frustrating. I was specifically looking for the Square-ENIX Showcase, which is an official store that specifically sells videogame collectable things. And it is conveniently located near the Park Hyatt Hotel, which some of you may remember from the movie “Lost in Translation”. I thought I would check both places out, and I actually found neither of them, ughhh, personal defeat! But I made up for it by visiting the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings that are also located in Shinjuku. Government Buildings, why are those important? Well, you can go to the 45th floor of these buildings and get a 360 degree view of Tokyo! And it costs nothing! The view provided is breathtaking!

Yoyogi National Stadium, Park and Meiji Shrine, surrounded by trees

It really goes on forever, completely packed with buildings and houses

The best part about this view, and also the one thing that doesn’t show up on the camera, is when you look in the mountainous area. Behind the mountains is an even bigger, sexier mountain.. Mt. Fuji! It really is gigantic compared to the other mountains, it looks larger than life, even though it is so distant from where you are viewing it. In my next visit to Japan, “I want to go to there”.

Street View of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku – 45th Floor!!

There are two of these buildings connected thought a main lobby, so you can even go up both if you really want to. Sometimes there is a lineup, but when I was there I went straight up, no problem! They check your bags though, so be aware of that if you ever go. Keep the explosives at home crazies!

Well, I was exhausted from all the walking, and looking in vain for the place I REALLY wanted to see, so after dinner I turned in early. But I stopped here first:

There are tons of these places all over the place. They are many floors high, each floor dedicated to different types of games. The ground floor is usually the cheesy games like the claw grabbing games, pachinko games, just really loud, in your face stuff. It’s awesome! Then as you go up the higher floors you get your card games, actual arcade games, then at the top is usually something perverted, like hentai games.

I would love to go back and re-explore Shinjuku and Harajuku, I feel like I didn’t give them the attention they deserve. But I was really tired by the end of the day, so I must have done something right hah. As I made my way back to Shibuya, there was a band playing live outside of Yoyogi Park at the Harajuku Gate. They were a little younger  than I; A drummer, guitarist, bassist, and singer. They just carried their stuff over and had an impromptu concert for the people walking around the area. A crowd gathered and enjoyed themselves. In my opinion, they were OK, not great, but they looked like they were having fun, so it was awesome. Japanese rock music is pretty good if you’ve ever had the chance to hear any.

Next post is Day 3, which is another huge day! I visited Ueno, Asakusa, Akihabara, and Shibuya at night. I will also get around to talking about Capsule Hotels in one of the next posts. I think this one is big enough hah. See you next time!

-Rossi

Hello everyone!

As you know, I had my first visit to Tokyo, Japan this week. I stayed from Monday to Thursday. I had such an amazing time and I was able to see many many different places inside the city. It has been quite a memorable adventure to say the least. I have been thinking of the best way to present my vacation to you, and I decided that separate posts for each day will probably be best.

Day 1 – Haneda Airport, Hamamatsucho, Roppongi, Shibuya

While most people arrive in Tokyo at Narita International Airport, I decided to take advantage of the short distance deal between South Korea and Japan, allowing me to arrive in Haneda Airport instead. The difference being that Haneda Airport is only 15 minutes away from Central Tokyo, and a $4-5 Monorail ticket. Narita Airport on the other hand, is about an hour away, and priced accordingly. I knew I would be arriving at night either way, and I’m sure the Narita bus ride is beautiful during the day, but it’s useless at night, so I don’t think I missed much. The Monorail that arrived looked like this:

Pokemon Monorail, how awesome is that!

It wasn’t just the outside, the inside was also completely filled with Pokemon pictures!

I think this Monorail really made me think, “Wow, I am really in Tokyo now!”. After this cute little ride from the Airport, I arrived at Hamamatsucho Station. From here I decided to travel on foot, I was really excited and full of energy. About 10-15 minutes from the station is Tokyo Tower. This is a re-creation of the Eiffel Tower, except it’s actually larger. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower during the day, so I decided night would be the best time to see Tokyo Tower.

I took and spliced together two pictures to create scale.

As you can see, it is basically the same as the Eiffel Tour, but 13 metres taller. While I have physically seen both the Eiffel Tower and the Tokyo Tower, I have never been to the top of them. There are better places in Tokyo to see a view of the city, but I will save that for another day! Before I got to the Tower I passed by Zojiji Temple, which was really beautiful at night because it wasn’t busy at all. It was dark so I thought I would go back another time for pictures.

After seeing the Tower, I thought I would check out Roppongi, which was exactly what I thought it would be. Remember how I told you about Itaewon in South Korea? Full of foreigners and military-types, rowdy, disrespectful, no class? Well, Roppongi is worse than that. Seriously. There are sketchy dudes looking for guys that are traveling alone, trying to get them to go to “clubs” and spend a large amount of yen. And these aren’t Japanese people, they are mostly Nigerians, not sure why. If you travel to Tokyo, walk through Roppongi just to see it, because it is still an interesting place, but definitely go somewhere else for the nightlife scene. After the sixth or seventh guy aggressively tried to show me to where the party is, I decided I had seen enough of that area.

I kept walking to check out as much as I could in my first night there, and saw some really cool places. Like this club:

From my limited knowledge of Tokyo Nightlife, apparently Alife is the third largest dance club in Tokyo. Unfortunately it is closed Monday-Thursday (of course!), so I didn’t get to check it out. Next time for sure! I really dig the graffiti on the wall, and I found many more places with awesome graffiti while walking around the city. But you’ll see those later too!

I arrived in Toyko at about 11pm, so my first night was rather short. But I still experienced quite a lot in that time, this trip was jam packed! I think Roppongi was the low point of the entire trip, it sucks that it was basically the first thing I experienced. But I’m sure it appeals to many people, so to each their own.

After that, I headed to Shibuya, which was to be the place where I would be sleeping for the next few days.

I actually didn’t take this picture, I got it from the Internet, but I stayed here!

I will detail my Capsule experience next post, but it was a very positive experience! This concludes my first night in Tokyo! Hope you enjoy my write-ups about my vacation! Tomorrows topic will be Day 2- Shibuya, Yoyogi, Omotesando, Shinjuku, Harajuku, see you then!

-Rossi

Hello everyone!

English camp is finished now, and the last two weeks have gone by so fast! The students really enjoyed themselves, too. On Thursday the topic I planned was “Superheroes”, so we learned about different powers and stuff. Then the students made their own superhero and presented it to the class. Some of their ideas were extremely funny. On Friday, I continued the theme as we watched Iron Man, which most of them hadn’t seen yet. They loved it! The most impressive part about it was that for the whole week, we had 100% attendance, which is quite uncommon for these camps. So we had 27 students for a whole week! After the movie, my co-teacher and I had prepared a certificate for their completion of the camp. But I made the certificate myself 🙂

This is actually the prototype, we later changed  the student names to Hangul.

Today, I have been cleaning the apartment and preparing everything for my trip. Tomorrow at about 10:40am I will take the bus to Seoul, then work my way up to Gimpo Airport to catch my 7pm flight to Tokyo, Japan. I’m pretty sure I only have a Single-Entry Visa, so I have to stop at the immigration office inside the airport first. There, I can be granted access to leave and return legally. To be honest, this aspect makes me a little nervous. Hopefully it all goes smoothly, otherwise it’s gonna be a really short trip hah. To anyone planning on coming here with the intention of traveling elsewhere during your stay: The default option is Single-Entry, so unless you specifically state that you want Multiple-Entry, you will have a few small hurdles to jump when it comes time to travel.

I am really excited to be heading off on an adventure. This is my first major trip since I arrived almost 7 months ago, so it will be nice to experience a new place. As is the case with most people, when I came here, I intended on using this opportunity to see as much of the Eastern side of the world as possible. I burned my summer vacation because it was only 1 week after I arrived here, but I have a few ideas for the future as well.

The weather is comparatively warmer in Tokyo, but only by about 10 degrees or so. Still, a 10 degree difference keeps it from dipping below 0, so even at it’s worst, it is still much better than here, and Canada for that matter. That should make for a more comfortable experience walking around and taking everything in. I’ll let you know how everything went when I get back of course.

That is all for now! I return on Thursday, so you probably won’t be hearing from me until Friday. Until then, enjoy yourselves!

-Rossi

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