Friday, October 31, 2014


Small joys! I found this in my local supermarket one day. It’s pre-made Taiyaki (たい焼き) that you could buy and heat up at home. I used to eat Taiyaki in the Asian Culture Club in my College and I loved it. I knew you could buy it in Taiyaki shops over here, but pre-wrapped in the supermarket?!? Heck yes, I’m excited about that!

They’re a lot like pancakes or waffles, but with red bean paste inside them. They’re really delicious treats and I like them for breakfast or desserts especially.

Anyway, find a reason to smile today!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shinkansen Travels

A bit of a shorter little post this time. Japan is known for its high-tech advancements in technologies. One of their greatest inventions and advancements is their train system. It is fast, efficient, and ON TIME. ALWAYS. (So much so that if it’s late by a minute, you complain even if you’re used to trains being thirty minutes late back in your homeland). At the pinnacle though of this achievement is the invention of the Shinkansen (新幹線), also known around the world as the Bullet Train. Reaching speeds of up to 320 km/hour (about 200 MPH) in transit and up to 581 km/hour at it's highest test speed, the Shinkansen is perhaps the best way to travel throughout Japan. 

The Shinkansen is pricey, yes (sadly), but it is worth every yen you pay. I’ve ridden on the Shinkansen now four times: once from Hakone Park to Tokyo, once from Okayama to Tokyo, once from Tokyo to Kyoto, and finally on a return from Kyoto to Tokyo. It is truly a luxury. Fast, on time, and efficient, they are well taken care of machines, both inside and out. You get to location so quickly you can hardly believe it!

You can get reserved or non-reserved seats for the Shinkansen. And while there is a smoking room, smoking is prohibited elsewhere in the train (thankfully for those of us who get sick around smoke).  The trains are also cleaned out at the end of their route every time. Their operation is so smooth that once the train begins to move, you don’t even notice that you’re moving, much like riding an airplane, but with a lot less turbulence in a storm. Oh and sometimes small bits of food service for those who forgot to buy a bento at a stand in the station before getting on the train! (Not generally food, but perhaps a snack or drink at least).

You can purchase tickets in advance or buy them the day of. Reserved seats are more expensive of course, but that’s the price of guaranteeing sitting with family or friends. Often there are rows of three or two. You really don’t need to speak Japanese to buy your ticket. I often use google maps to figure out where to pick up the train (Shinkansen included), then at the station the Shinkansen starts at, I go to the Shinkansen ticket counter and say ‘京都に行きたいです’ (‘Kyoto ni ikitai desu’), and they’ll proceed to help me get to Kyoto via the Shinkansen. Getting to the right platform is also a piece of cake as all of the signs have English subtext. Also, on the train, announcements are in both Japanese and English.

In short, the service on the Shinkansen and for the Shinkansen is fantastic. Riding the Shinkansen always makes me feel like royalty: important, valued, and at ease, knowing that I’m completely well taken care of on the train. If you can, use the Shinkansen while in Japan! It’s an experience you won’t regret!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

07 Ghost Shelf

Hello once again!

Time to share a short little second in life over here in Japan. A while back in Ikebukuro (池袋), I ran into this shelf in the Animate Honmise (Main Store):

My favorite manga series is Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara's "07 Ghost", so needless to say, I was giddy inside. I have gone back a few times since and can attest that this shelf still exists as I've seen it in passing (I would buy from it if I didn't already have all the volumes in Japanese as it is). Similarly, there are many manga series with tons of shelves like this in these stores. I will write about further adventures in various Animate stores in the future, but for now, I'll just leave this here. Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Japan: Kin

"Japan: Kin"

Taken on my trip to Kyoto, Japan (京都日本) of the famous Kinkaku-Ji (金閣寺), also known as "The Golden Temple" or "The Golden Pavilion". 

The title I choose comes from the Japanese word/Kanji " 金 ", read as "Kin", which means "Gold". This places literally was covered in Gold, so much so that it was almost to the point where you wondered if you were really looking at a real place. 

This is the first photo in my "Kyoto Series".

I shall try to get more up soon from this trip, but for now, I hope you like it!

Wrapping Courtesy

Hi everyone!

This is probably going to be that weird post that you never expected to see, but I had to post about it because I was so thoroughly floored by it. (Boys beware, this is a girl's thing). Often times in the US, you go to the supermarket/pharmacy and the cashier stuffs everything into bags, not caring what is seen and not seen. Now at this point, you're probably used to this, as was I. So I was completely taken aback when this happened.

Above is a photo of the bag given to me at the pharmacy. In comparison to the rest of the bags given to me, it was not see through and it didn't look like a bag that had come from that store. So why did they give it to me and use this bag? Because in addition to buying tissues, paper towels, etc., I also had to pick up some feminine hygiene supplies. So when I went to check out, they noticed the pack, set it aside, and neatly put it away inside this different bag so that no one would see my feminine hygiene products or realize it was from any store in particular. Talk about courtesy wrapping! It was (and continues to be whenever I happen to go in for the same item) such a nice gesture that I just had to share.

Do something courteous today!


Hi guys!

This is just a mini-post to show a little piece of what I saw on Tanabata (七夕) when I went shopping in Omiya (大宮) in Saitama that day. Inside the Lumine, in a small overpass bridge, they had these beautiful decorations out where you could write your wishes. Pretty isn’t it? (きれい、ね?)

Anyway, I hope you are having a good day! Ja,

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cherry Blossom Lunch

Hello again!

Another post with more pictures than text. In the spring time in Japan, I was lucky enough to be able to take my lunches outside. Near my work place, there is a mini-park with benches where I enjoyed eating my food and watching the trains go by. Sometimes I would see my students walk by or older women walking their adorable dogs, some of which would come right up to me, lie down, and expect a belly rub. But the best part of that spring was when the Cherry Blossom Trees in the park started to bloom and would softly fall around me while I ate lunch. It was so peaceful and stress relieving. But even more so, I just liked being in a small, beautiful place while I ate my lunch.

(The beginning of the bloom) 

(The end result!)

Hope you liked the photos!

Okayama Castle

Hello again!

I wanted to share one of my first adventures from living in Japan today, primarily my first trip to a castle, specifically, the Okayama Castle. I went in the middle of winter, so the weather was clear and crisp. No snow, but cold enough for it. I ended up taking a bus since I didn’t have a real map or internet access and didn’t want to get lost, but I found that it is possible to walk there from Okayama Station (岡山駅).

Okayama Castle or 岡山城 (Okayama-Jo) is known as one of Japan's famous "Crow Castles" due to it's black exterior. There were also many beautiful young ladies dressed in 着物 (Kimono) for 成人式 (Seijin Shiki; A Coming-of-Age Ceremony for young adults who reach the age of 20 and gain full rights of citizenship within Japan) when I went with beautiful white, fur wraps. In contrast to the castle, they stood out like beautiful white pearls.

Okayama Castle’s exterior, from what I've been told, has a high resemblance to its original design when it was first built. The interior however has mostly been redesigned like a museum, housing many things from the era of Okayama Castle’s glory, a beautiful view at the top, and a small little gift shop inside. I was slightly disappointed by this because I really wanted to see a castle with a preserved interior as well, but there was one thing that made up for this. One of my favorite things about the Castle was the top, where you could look out over all of Okayama. You also could see a wonderful view of the mote/river and Korakuen (後楽園), a park adjacent to the mote, which I visited after my visit to Okayama. 

While it wasn’t technically the season for Korakuen, it was still very beautiful and scenic.

One of the things that I remember most about Korakuen was where I first saw the covers around trees that protected against birds and bugs trying to destroy the trunks. There was also a small little area with beautiful birds that you could see and in the pond, you could clearly see the massive Koi fish.

Okayama was a very interesting place itself. From the window of my hotel, I could see Bullet Trains or Shinkansen (新幹線) coming and going from Okayama Station (which by the way, had my favorite waffle shop Manneken that everyone needs to go to at least once when you visit Japan). You could go shopping many malls and there were back streets you could walk down and find good food in wherever you went. 

(forgive my low quality iTouch photo here)

Okayama was also the first place I experienced the beauty of Fabric stores in Japan. They even had the impossible to find metallic gold bias tape, which, if you sew, you know that can be a hassle to find in the States. In many shopping malls they also had jewelry making supply shops, something I didn’t expect. I’m not much of a jewelry maker, but I was so amazed by it I had to take a picture of one of them.

Finally, much like in the States, there was always a book store to be found nearby. However, unlike stores in Japan, they also had nice little displays of Black Butler (黒執事 ) related books in prep for the upcoming movie at the time. Marketing done right.

And those were my adventures in Okayama! Overall, a very nice place to visit with a beautiful Castle (and who doesn’t love a castle?). See you next time!

The Bracelet

Hello everyone!

One of the many beautiful things that I've found about Japanese Culture is how people are so honest when they find things lost out in the open. Often times, if you loose something, you can retrace your steps and find the item sitting close by, often placed somewhere easy to spot by a passer by.

On my way to church one day, I found this beautiful example. I sat down waiting for my train and when I looked to my side, I saw the sight pictured below.

On the platform, someone had lost a bracelet. Now when you loose a bracelet, it generally drops to the ground, maybe gets step on but others, or falls to the side of the road never to be seen again. This bracelet though was obviously picked up and hung on the railing here to wait for its owner to return.

What a beautiful thing to do!

Have a wonderful day,

About "Japanese Pop Culture"

Let's face it. The Japanese have a rich traditional history and culture that always astounds and amazes us. BUT that's not all that catches our attention. Today, Japan is a thriving Pop Culture center with fantastic singers and actors, stunning animation (Anime - アニメ), and the latest and greatest in technology (just look at the live concerts for Hatsune Miku). 

It's a shame that we don't see more of it in America, because so much of it is AWESOME and the range is incredible. And I'll admit, it's a huge reason as to why I adore Japan. So my hope is to share experiences and some of the sights I see while here. From concerts, to musicals, and stores catering to these pop culture phenomenons. You'll find all of that right here. d^_^b

About "Photography of Japan"

Japan is Beautiful. Plain and simple. And this wouldn't be a blog about "Beautiful Japan" if I didn't show WHY it's beautiful. 

As a film major, I love both film and photography. Before coming to Japan, I would often work with my friends in photography projects. Often times they would play the role of photographer while I would play the role of the editor using Photoshop or Lightroom. And while I didn't play photographer often, I still enjoyed the role whenever I got the chance and took some classes pertaining to it.

Now that I'm in Japan and on my own, I want to use all of those skills to show the world why I believe Japan to be a beautiful place. So instead of telling you about it, this page will simply be a place for pictures of Japan.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"In The Heights" at Bunkamura

(Long time no see!)

Playing a bit of catch up right now admittedly, so I figured the best place to start would be near the beginning. Living so close to Tokyo has allowed me to go to many musicals, plays, and concerts since my arrival. One of the first that I went to was the Japanese Rendition of "In the Heights" (インザハイツ).

Before I begin, just so you know, this post is going to talk about both the Musical itself and my experience going to said Musical ie. what was the same and what was different in comparison to Broadway, what it was like going to a Show in another country, what I could understand/not understand, what I enjoyed or didn't enjoy, etc. as well as advice I would give to a foreigner going to a musical in Japan.

A bit of background, "In the Heights" is a Broadway Musical that takes place in Washington Heights (Manhattan) and is about a man named Usnavi who dreams of leaving "The Heights".  It's a wonderful musical with beautiful colors, themes, and Dominican influenced music. The original English version also includes various Spanish-lingo within the dialogue and music as well. So how did it translate into Japanese?

In a word: Marvelously.

The Japanese Production starred such names as Micro, Ayaka Umeda (Former AKB48 Member), Chihiro Otsuka, Motomu Azaki, and Yuya Matsushita. (I was also delighted to see one of my other favorite stage named Takuya Uehara starring in it as well). For me, the draw was Singer Yuya Matsushita, who I had wanted to see for... 5 years. So when I heard he would be in Tokyo starring in this musical, I had no choice, I had to go. However, the entire cast was excellent and just wonderfully talented, which I think led to a very successful and fabulous show (more of which I'll talk about near the end).

"In the Heights" was performed the Bunkamura Theatre in Shibuya, a straight shot back from the Hachiko Exit. Bunkamura was a beautiful theatre; very classy and large, perfect for a show from Broadway. Getting tickets for this show proved to be a very different process in comparison to what I was used to though.

Often in America, we go through Broadway websites, or even the show's homepage itself and pay through PayPal or via Credit Card. In Japan, this was my first time experiencing the magic of Ticket Pia or E+ (ePlus). From the Musical's webpage, you go to either of those two sites mentioned above and purchase your ticket through there (you have to make an account first). Now, unfortunately since coming to Japan, one thing I lack is a Japanese Credit Card and a PayPal with 円 (yen) on it. So how do I pay for my ticket?  I register for the ticket, receive an email with a payment number on it and bring it to the local Lawsons / Convenience Store (Konbini / コンビニ). There I pay for my ticket and they print it out! Right then. Right there. Magic! Well not really, but this convenient system is available to most people and used often in Japan.

So the day arrives and I traveled into Tokyo to Shibuya, making sure to check my map for the Theatre before I go as well as the exit I should use at the station. Small note, I recommend if you go to any event in Japan to check and double check your map and the location of the event before you go. Addresses in Japan are VERY confusing sometimes, especially in Tokyo which, unlike Kyoto, is not on a grid system. If you know the station and which exit you should take, that will find that to be a lifesaver sometimes. Thankfully in this case, my exit was the Hachiko exit (a very famous one that I will talk about perhaps in another post).

And then there it was, the Bunkamura!

A little about this particular performance and dress code. I applied the same rule of thumb that I always do with Broadway shows. Dress nicely. No jeans. No T-shirts. Dress pants or a skirt and a nice top. And I'm glad I did. Not all events in Japan are like that, but I have found that the same rules of thumb that you would apply in America apply here. Rock concert? Ripped jeans, ok. Opera? Wear a nice dress. Broadway Musical? A nice skirt and stockings does wonders.

At Bunkamura they displayed "In the Heights" theatre location right at the entrance, both in Romaji and in Kana. I found this to be something that many theatres do (though if it's a Show from Japan with Kanji, they will generally display the Kanji over the Kana).

I got there early and got in line. They scanned my ticket, gave me some fliers, and all of a sudden I was inside a hustling bustling crowd (same thing as Broadway guys). The only thing that I did not get was a pamphlet, which I would have to buy. It happened to be that I did want to buy some items before going to my seat, so I had to locate the line and the store. I have found this to be the same with every performance I've been to so far. You can look at items from afar, but the line will likely always be long and you should look for an assistant at the Theatre or Arena to help you find the line (it likely wraps around some places; my first mistake here, not realizing that they wrapped the line to other places that you can't see). But they were gracious and helpful and showed me where to go, for which I greatly appreciated their help.

I was one of the few foreigners going to this particular performance, but not the only one. The Japanese staff were very helpful and understanding. They clearly guided me to my seat. Particularly at Bunkamura, I found the staff to be very gracious and extremely helpful. 

A different element to Theatre/Concert going that I've found is that you generally DON'T get the option to choose your seat. It goes almost like a lottery. You apply for a ticket and the seat you get is what you get. Sometimes you can choose a "Premiere Seat" or a "Regular Seat", but it depends from location to location. When you get your ticket, it will tell you where your seat is and if you're lucky and able to read it, you might be able to go to the website of the theatre and find the seat chart and see where you need to head to. If you can't read your ticket and don't know where to go, just ask someone working there. 

And then, surprise! I was there! And I was able to watch it. Now, to be fair, my Japanese at the time (I've improved since coming) was not enough to get me through the whole musical and understand everything that was being said. Beforehand, I read a synopsis online of "In The Heights" which helped me understand what was going on significantly. 

However, one of the beautiful aspects of theatre is the ability of the actors to display what they're saying and how they're feeling, through their actions (they are after all, act-ors). If I were just to listen to the music and the narrative without seeing this, I probably still would have been very lost. But with the Synopsis, the Actors themselves, and what Japanese I did know, I was able to follow, understand, and enjoy the musical through every minute of it.

So if you are going to a Musical/Play in Japanese or in any other language that you don't think you will understand, do NOT let the language barrier stop you. Read the synopsis before you go (making sure to know what occurs in each act and if you can, what the musical numbers are) and you will likely enjoy the Musical/Play regardless.

(above shot courtesy of JapanTimes)

As I said before, the actual performance itself was fabulous. But I do want to elaborate on that. It was not just fabulous, it was beautiful, vibrant, raw, and full of emotion. Motomu Azaki, who played Abuela Claudia, brought a powerhouse of vocal strength to the musical. Similarly, Micro, who played Usnavi, brought a culturally rich vibe to the performance with his singing and acting. While there are many in the cast that I could talk about, I must also mention Takuya Uehara. He was perfect for his role as the Piragua Guy. In the past, he has played various serious and comedic roles, and I loved him in this one. He always brought a smile to my face when he got on stage.

Finally, my main reason for going, Yuya Matsushita, who played Benny, did an incredible job in giving a deep emotional center and real feeling to the audience. Just a disclaimer, no I am not being biased. If he had not done a good job, I doubt that I would have understood, nor been able to feel exactly what was happening through out Benny and Nina's love story. Thankfully I did, and I was able to enjoy watching the subplot of the beautiful young love story within the musical.

For a full review on "In the Heights" in Japan (not written by me, but one that I think is pretty accurate), visit this website:

So overall, I would call my first trip to a Musical in Japan a success! I am lucky in that I have been to one since then and have many more to come! I will write of those soon. Thank you for reading!

About "Japanese Language and Culture"

Everyone knows that Japanese Language and Culture is different and unique. I see it every day when I walk down the streets to work. As a constant mix of the old and new, Japan constantly surprises me. I can go to a major hub of commerce and then walk five minutes to find myself in the presence of an old Shinto Shrine.

Furthermore, wherever you turn, there's a mix of Kanji, Kana, and Romaji. While Japanese is not my native language, it was my minor in college and I find it to be very fun, beautiful, frustrating at times, and also a rewarding way of communicating with others. 

Here I hope to outline my personal discoveries and impressions on Japanese Culture and Language.