I stared at the hissing lake, a gray greenish color, spewing blasts of sulfur into the sky. It smelled distinctly like rotten eggs. The crater lake bubbled and roared. It was a scene straight out of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. However, instead of evil rings and dark wraiths, this Mordor was filled with tourists and small buses. People chatted happily as they began the trek around the lake. Nema and I opted to take the quieter path that led around the side of the volcano. As we moved away from the crater, the greenery enveloped us, a direct contrast to the bare mountain and seething lake.
I stood in the pre-dawn darkness outside of the Losman (Indonesian hostel) and waited for the bus. When I entered the bus, I was pleasantly surprised to meet two young European women about my age. They were both from the Netherlands and we chatted as the bus wound its way through the Indonesian countryside. The sky lightened and we could see the rice fields and terraces in the mountainside where the tea fields were. The sun rose above the horizon and the sky filled with color. I looked at Mt. Merape in the distance, Yogyakarta's famous active volcano, to see the sun hovering above its peak, illuminating the mountain and the countryside below. I gazed at the stunning beauty before me, imprinting the image in my memory. After about an hour of scenic beauty, the bus arrived at Borodobur, the ancient Buddhist temple site.
Japan has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia because of its ancient temples, breathtaking skyscrapers, and historic sites. But today, one of the highest drivers of tourism in the country is Japan’s pop culture. Polygon reports that Japanese animated movies like Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) brought fans to local destinations that wouldn’t have otherwise become tourist spots. Fans often flock to these real-life settings as pilgrims, following what the Japanese call seichijunrei, which literally translates to "holy land pilgrimage," though in this context it translates to "anime pilgrimage."
I am an avid backpacker, and like many people I prefer to spend less money on fancy hotels, and more money experiencing the beautiful country I am visiting at the time. I do, however, still like some comforts and it is always nice to find fantastic hotels at affordable prices!
Japan has long been a coveted destination for many people: The bright lights of the metropolis of Tokyo, the unique and delicious cuisine, the incredible level of technology; however, there is so much more to Japan than its urban landscape.
I haven’t had a school lunch for over a decade, and from what I remembered, it was mediocre at best. But boy oh boy am I glad to have the school lunches here. My middle school and all my elementary school has a school lunch service for the teachers, and the cost is well worth the delicious, seemingly homemade meal. For 255￥ per meal, which is currently $2.55, I get a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup or softer entree, another entree bowl usually containing some sort of meat, and a carton of milk, and it is absolutely the best school lunch I have ever had. I might as well be eating food that my grandma or mom makes at home.
Published about a year ago
If you’re looking for an adventure like no other, Japan is the place to visit. Japan has such a rich history that could be experienced through its architecture and customs. While there are so many places to visit in Japan, this article will tell you just a few of the best places and what they have in store.
Stepping into the airplane, I was nervous and yet could barely contain my excitement. I had been in plenty of planes before, but this one was different. Barely a year ago I had decided to take the plunge and booked a trip to Vietnam. I didn’t know what to expect. I know my family was nervous. I was for that matter. I had quite a few layovers; one in Vancouver, Narita, and finally Hanoi. It was difficult to navigate some of the airports, and I found myself going through customs and then back through security when I missed the turn for transfers. 😂 The heat and humidity is the first thing that hits you as you exit the airport, however. And then the sounds. The motorbikes, the language... it was all so intimidating. There are most definitely lanes on the larger roads and freeways, but they merely seem to be suggestions. Like an anxious crowd at Disneyland, motorbikes and cars weave in and out of each other, go up on the sidewalk, honk, and rush past the dizzying lights. It was truly a sight to behold. We were almost hit head on by a fairly large cargo truck, but I’m still here to tell the tale.
Ah! School is almost starting, and I'm already having trouble keeping up with writing about my life. Well, we left off on Friday, so on Saturday, I woke up at roughly 5AM right when the sun began to rise. Noticing that I had absolutely no food and not feeling comfortable enough with my lack-of-Japanese to go to a restaurant, I decided to bike to the grocery store, which was roughly half a mile to one mile from my residence. The smaller streets here have barely enough width space for one car and one bike, yet they are still two-way streets. In addition, there are really any sidewalks on the smaller streets, so I took my time getting to the grocery store to be safe and to not accidentally hit any pedestrians, which apparently happens more often than you would think (probably close to the number of pedestrians getting hit by bikes at ASU or bikes getting hit by cars). At the grocery store, EVERYTHING is in Japanese. Unless you have seen the packaging or food before, it is a hard guess of what an item is. Also, fruits and vegetables are so expensive; it makes it difficult for me to justify buying healthy food. And when I say expensive, I mean a small one ounce box of blueberries costs three dollars. Yeah, I know right?! In Japan (like every other country aside from the United States), you have to purchase plastic bags if you do not bring your own reusable bag. I love that Japan does this, along with a few other environmental initiatives like So-Dai-Gomi.
And just like that, my first week in Japan has past. This week was been nothing short of incredible. Backtracking, I don't remember too much of what had happened on Wednesday, my second full day in Himeji, but I attended my first community lesson at the Shirasagi residence on Thursday. The Shirasagi residence is where the other assistant teaching assistants (ALTs), JETs, and I live. It is currently summer holiday, but even on holiday or break season, teachers still go to school. In our case, instead of going to school, we teach community lessons at our place of residence. The lesson topics spans far and wide according to our individual interests. There is usually one primary teacher who teaches the lesson of their interest while the other teachers assist in facilitation of English language speaking at each table, and these lessons are taught twice a day during the weekdays. Going back to my first experience of a community lesson, I coincidentally sat in on a community lesson about product design (just when I thought I had gotten away from the torturous product design and development process engrained by the infamous ASU BME program). The teacher, Kevin, is an industrial engineering graduate from South Africa; he's a very nice fellow and has a twin brother, also an industrial engineering graduate, teaching in Sapporo, Japan. The lesson, context wise, was exactly as I remembered the product design process to be. The facilitation part of the lesson was interesting. While I have facilitated conversation on various topics in the past, facilitating conversation for the sole purpose of practicing a language was a bit different. The community members were very polite, and they spoke English well enough to communicate their thoughts. Most community members were a part of the older generation, but there are instances of younger students (possibly a daughter or son of a community member). Because my contract does not start until September 3, I do not need to attend these community lessons, but attending them beforehand made me less anxious to teach and facilitate future lessons and helped me get acquainted with the members themselves.
I came to the conclusion that I wanted to make a guide for navigating the fast-paced, exuberant, and often times peculiar world of Japan after my visit in May of 2018. It was not my first time stepping foot in the country, but it was the first time I visited Honshu, the most populous island. I traveled to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto with four of my friends, with only one of us being fluent in Japanese. For anyone who's thinking about visiting Japan, has previously been, or is just plain curious, here's my take on the trip.
I still can't believe that I'm in Japan! Everything feels so surreal. Today is my first full day in Japan. I woke up at 4 o'clock, and having slept six hours, I was ready to start my day. The sun had yet to rise, but because I wanted a fresh start here in Japan, I decided to begin with a new sleep schedule. Thus, during the four hours I had before meeting Mr. Kamata (my supervisor) to got to the bank to do more paperwork, I unpacked all my belongings, exercised, showered, read parts of a couple books, and wrote this post. Being told that there were no affordable, decent weight lifting gyms in Japan, I brought Casey's pull-up bar that hangs on door frames. However, because Japan's doors are slightly wider and protrudes from the walls less, the pull-up bar is basically useless to me. Thus, I was forced to improvise. For today's exercise, I jump roped (yes, I FINALLY used the jump rope I bought three years ago) for cardio, and afterwards, I did sets of regular pushups and sit-ups until the total reps equaled 75 for each exercise. Afterwards, I proceeded to shower and do the laundry that I hadn't gotten a chance to do while I was in Arizona. Thankfully, most of the machines are either intuitive on how to use them or have English notes indicating what each buttons does. Thus, doing laundry was fairly straightforward; there is only a washing machine, so when the clothes were done washing, I took them to the outside patio and hung them on racks. Lucky for me, I had moved into an apartment that was fully furnished, buying all the furniture and household items from the past teacher who lived here.