Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 13 – Something about Japan that reminds you of home?

When I was in grade school, they did an "experimental spelling" program with my class. To this day I can't spell worth shit. Also, I apparently thought clouds = leaves when I was in first grade.
The definition of "home," for me, is a place where I have a bed to sleep in and a closet to put clothes in. I've never liked living out of a suitcase, so as soon as I move to a new place, the first thing I do is get my clothes put away and a bed made up for myself (no matter how temporary both may look). One of the most frustrating things about my study abroad experience was staying in a room that didn't have a place I could put my clothes away in. Although I stayed in that house (with the most wonderful host family) for six months, I lived out of my huge suitcase the entire time.

Since this post is about nostalgia, I only thought it appropriate to show pictures from "way back when" I was about as good at English writing as my junior high school students, hahahaa
I've also never been one to get terribly attached to places I live in. During my childhood, I moved 5 times. Add that to changing living spaces every year in college and finally my major move to Japan and you can see that I've never had a very stable place to call "home." Of course, this has been fine with me! I love traveling around, moving to new places and discovering new things about where I live. My moves have also never been quite as dramatic (always the same school district or close when I was younger and my campus was small, so it really wasn't much of a move each time) as the one I did from Chicago to Japan. I know that this prompt is about what's something that reminds you of your home country in Japan, but the word "home" always strikes a chord with me. I feel like life is a constant battle about where one should call "home." Japan has become home just as much as Chicago is my home.

So. Something about Japan that reminds me of home. My answer is going to be really abstract and can be described through an anecdote:

A few days ago I was over at my friend Nat-chan's house having dinner (as I usually do Tuesday nights) with her, her boyfriend, and my friend Yukiko. Whenever we make dinner together, we all prepare dinner together, then sit down and watch some sort of movie/chat/watch youtube videos/listen to music. This last Tuesday, we watched some of the Lady Gaga Monster Ball tour DVD Nat-chan got cheap (because it was in English) and they had be translate some of her dialogue (difficult, to say the least). Once we got tired of watching her strut around stage, Yukiko pulled out the Famicon and we all started playing the original Mario. For all of us, the game is so nostalgic of childhood (even though I'm the youngest of them all) and it had been awhile since any of us had played the game. Even so, there's that deep-rooted memory of the jumps, moves, and secret boxes you're supposed to get that had still resided in all of us. This feeling is what reminded me of home.

All through childhood and high school, me and my friends would sit around and play video games together. I'm not much for video games, but I appreciate the classics like Mario and Donkey Kong, and I've always been a fan of hack-and-slash or racing games. However, sitting around with my friends here while playing nostalgic games brought me the warmest feeling of "home" I've ever had. It was so comfortable and familiar that I didn't feel like I was in Japan, in America, or really anywhere at all. I was in a good place with good people, enjoying something that made us all laugh and remember what was fun about being a kid.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 12 - Describe a fail!gaijin moment/gaijin!smash moment.

Describe a fail!gaijin moment (where you did something wrong or completely misunderstood because you couldn’t ~read the air~ or just plain had no idea what you were supposed to do because you weren’t born and raised here). Describe a gaijin!smash moment (where your foreignness was to your benefit).

While I have friends who like nothing more than to yell out, "Gaijin smash!" and proceed in committing some sort of social faux-pas, I try my hardest to blend in, follow the "rules," and not increase the amount of stares I already get on a day-to-day basis here in the countryside. With that said, like anyone else who isn't a native to Japan, I do have my moments where I let my foreign-ness aid me in slipping away from awkward/complex situations. We all know that feigning ignorance can be much better than having to deal with life sometimes, right? ;P

However, above all of the subway-ticket-mishaps and awkward-lunch-time-incidents in bigger cities, there is one thing about being a foreigner in my particular region that has finally shown me more of an advantage than not. I am a novelty. This is nothing new, of course. Many foreigners are seen as novelty items and get special treatment/tolerance because of their "exoticism." The reason random people go out of their way to talk to us and/or buy us drinks/dinner is because some people seem to think talking to a non-Japanese is novel enough to allow such behavior. Okay, great! Free dinner and drinks!

This type of treatment, however, is not what I'm referring to. Surprising to even myself, as a member of a half Japanese band (two members of LeeWay are American and two are Japanese) who can speak Japanese, we have rendered ourselves enough of a novelty in order to get some pretty special treatment, considering even the punk scene here in Japan is heavily reliant on the sempai-kohai caste system that perpetuates through everything in this country.

A photo a friend took of our show~<3
Anywhere me and my friend Matto go, we are invited everywhere by nearly anyone we meet. As soon as people find out we're in a band, they invite us to play a show with them, go along to a show with them, go drinking with them, crash at their house... the list goes on. To top it all off, this subculture of amazing people doesn't look at us like we're alien monsters (for the most part). When people notice we speak Japanese, we are 9 out of 10 times immediately accepted into the discussion (of course, it helps that by now, we know a good portion of the people involved in this subculture in a variety of cities around Japan...).

Looking vicious
While most of these people are genuinely amazing individuals with interesting things to say, and more often than not experience with traveling abroad (for band tours and such), I think that they also realize we are not permanent fixtures in this country. They realize that our home is called America, not Kochi or even Japan, and before we escape back to that country, they want to hang out and have a good time. Whether or not Japan is the place I'm going to stay forever, I appreciate the fact that people will drop the rigid social structures (like the sempai-kohai system) and make some sacrifices in order to get to know us in the short amount of time we're here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Live @ Crowbar

After-party, everyone hung around the live house and we sang to Arase's acoustic playing.
This past Saturday marked the first show my band, LeeWay, has gotten to perform! Everything about the night was spectacular, and I don't think I've been to a better show than that one (and I'd say that even if my band hadn't been playing). The line-up was amazing (three great Tokushima bands and two great Tokyo bands), everyone was in a good mood, and the place was the most packed I've ever seen it!

We went fourth in a line-up of six bands. At first, we were all kinda nervous about it because that meant we'd have to hold off on the drinks and just let the nerves build up over the course of three other bands.... but honestly once we got up on stage to start setting up and tuning, the nerves just kind of melted away and our set went amazingly. The bass player from FOUR TOMORROW even jumped off the stage and started crowd surfing!!

FOUR TOMORROW went second. Second time I've seen them and they were amazing <3
 After the show, instead of going out to an izakaya as usual, we all stayed at Crowbar and had a birthday party for the guitarist from THE MADWIFE (the band that set the show up in the first place). Everyone sang happy birthday and there was a very very cute cake presented~ Afterward, we all stood around the stage, singing songs to acoustic guitar (the best part of this genre, pop punk, is that even in Japan, everyone knows English songs like Weezer, Jawbreaker and Blink 182). Perfect perfect night.

Our set~
Tuning before hand
Those "speed red" glasses (originally our drummer's) really got around that night. Me with Spalding from What-A-Night's
Sea's b-day was also Saturday so we took her along to the show <3
THE MADWIFE went after us
Kana fell asleep on an amp after the show
But during the show, she showed off speed red too
ELMOC, being amazing as usual
Hikko was sooo drunk she fell over onto stage once, into the crowd once, and into an amp once <3
More speed red
After the show, presenting Ayaka with flowers and cake for her birthday.

Friday, January 20, 2012


If anyone watches mid-day television (I only occasionally get to when I'm allowed to take my lunch breaks at home), there is an afternoon show that features a panel of popular "talent" who, depending on the day, try and guess the top 10 most popular celebrities/celebrity couples/sports senshu/things among a certain demographic of polled people (more often than not, this demographic is women ages 30-50). The talent get point cards for every right answer, and the "winner" usually gets to taste-test some sort of food that they introduce near the end of the show.

The other segment that they often feature on the show is the "誰かに言いたいトップ5ランキング" (I suppose you could translate it as "The 'You Want To Tell Someone' Top Five Ranking") and as the name suggests, it is a top five ranking of something that someone wants to share. This top five ranking can and has included anything, from top five Tokyo all-you-can-eat buffets, to top five most beautiful snowy onsens, to top five most popular Mr. Donuts donuts. It's a pretty fun segment to watch, and the talent always react amusingly when they get to try the no.1 ranked steak or nabe (if you can get past the annoying audience scream "食べたいいい〜良いなあああ〜” the entire time).

I decided I want to do a 'Top Five Ranking' of my own on this blog, and have decided to post my 'Top Five Gotta Tell Someone'-s every once in awhile. This first one was spurred on by a segment I saw on my favorite morning TV show ZIP today. They were talking about non-alcoholic drinks and how their production and popularity have increased dramatically over the past year. I myself have noticed the varieties of "non-alcoholic beer" increase in the past months, as well as the CM's for them increase in frequency and variety. Anyway! Without further ado I give you my first 'Top Five Ranking':

Top Five Stupidest Non-Alcoholic Drinks
and why (in my opinion)
five = least offensive while one = most offensive

5. Non-alcoholic Sake: While amazake has a pretty low percentage of alcohol to start with (if it has any at all), Sake with no alcohol seems absurd. You can't call it sake if it has no SAKE in it! Even so, I see it given out at festivals all the time to children and adults alike. It seems too traditional and deep-rooted to really make much of a fuss. Plus, I think it's pretty tasty :)

4. Non-alcoholic Beer: I don't understand why anyone would want to drink beer when it has no booze in it to at least make the awful taste worth while.... but I give this a little more credit than most things. Nothing else tastes like beer, and if you really truly like the taste of beer (I'm talking about normal, shitty beer. not yummy micro-brews), then I suppose this is a good option for when you want the taste and not the inebriation. (I have had the Suntory all-free and Kirin free before and I think they're both actually not terrible)

3. Non-alcoholic HighBall: In the English speaking world, a High Ball is a clasification of drink, made with soda and a certain type of liquor in a high ball glass.... in Japan is seems to be exclusively whiskey and water/soda water/flavored soda. I've never tried one of these fake ones.... but really. Why would you want to reproduce the taste of whiskey in cheap soda? It seems idiotic, and judging from the color of the liquid in that bottle, should probably just be called ginger ale instead.

2. Non-alcoholic Wine: Sparkling grape juice. That's all it is. All calling it "wine" does, is make adults not feel like children on New Years Eve. Wine is fermented grape juice. Grape juice is non-fermented grapes. If you're so embarrased about having a soft drink with dinner, ask for it in a wine glass or champagne flute. Don't go around calling it "non-alcoholic wine" when it's juice.

1. Non-alcoholic Chu-Hi: This makes me the angriest of all of them. How companies get away with calling shitty-tasting soda "non-alcoholic chu-hi" and jacking up the price absolutely floors me. I also don't understand why anyone would buy something like this. Unless you are trying to get a contact-high (or drunk in this case) from the mere fact that you are drinking something called a "chu-hi," I'd give up and just buy a CC Lemon. It tastes better AND has the added bonus of vitamin C.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

J-Festa: Winter In Japan

Winter in Japan... while the phrase immediately brings to mind images of warm kotatsus, heated blankets, mikan, illuminations, and hot-pot (nabe) galore, it also brings to mind something a little different: 酒 (sake). No, I'm not talking about the numerous winter-themed drinks that have come out around this time, like apple-cider chu-hai and sparkling umeshu. No, I'm not talking about fighting the cold winter air with a cup of atsukan (hot sake), hotto wine (hot wine), or amazake (usually hot, sweet sake). I'm talking about 忘年会/新年会 season (bonenkai/shinnenkai).

Standard nomikai food. Sushi, fried food, sashimi...
 With this being my second consecutive winter in Japan, up until now, I have had my fair share of enkai (drinking parties). I've been to 送別会 (soubetsukai: farewell parties), 歓迎会 (kangeikai: welcome parties), 終業式/始業式飲み会 (shuugyoushiki/shigyoushiki nomikai: end of school/beginning of school drinking parties), ゴッコン (gokkon: group dates), and regular nomikai/enkai type of festivities. While drinking with your co-wokers/classmates/friends is all fun and good, I think that all of them pale in comparison to most bonenkais. For me, I went to two types of bonenkai this year. The first was more or less a normal nomikai with the added bonus of gifts! Teacher included, my Japanese class gathered at Kochi's busiest restaurant bazaar (Hirome Ichiba), donated 2000 yen each to the group tab, and brought a general present that we thought anyone would like. The night went pretty typically; lots of beer, fried food, polaroid pictures, present opening, and good conversation (as well as getting to hear our Japanese teacher speak English for the first time!!!). All-in-all, a good way to end a year of studying and the completion of the JLPT N2 (our class is called N2 class because we were all studying for that goal or the N1).

Some of our N-2 Class and three teachers in Hirome Ichiba.
Small Izakaya in Aki we went to.
The other bonenkai I attended went a little more typically of bonenkais here in Japan (and on the tame side, if you ask me!). All the teachers from one of my junior high schools got together at a local izakaya, donated 5000 yen to the group tab and gift buyer, and settled in for a night of drinking and Christmas-themed games/gifts. We all had to choose a seat number from a hat when we entered our assigned room, which also decided the teams we were a part of when the game portion started. After a kanpai and some chatter, we used our fuzzy minds and were put to the task of solving a variety of paper puzzles. The teams that finished fastest were given preference for choosing from the gift pile, so after a few puzzles we averaged out the wins/losses and let the first team go and choose gifts. I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed there was no teachers dressed-up in drag or song and dance like one of my other friends got to experience... (where her male teachers dressed in school girl outfits and did a play) but we all went out for Karaoke afterward and got our singing in elsewhere.

And there you have it. My experience with the collectively drunkest period of time Japan will ever be during the year: winter. Anyone else have fun bonenkai/shinnenkai stories to share? ;)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gotouchi Foruma Postcards

WARNING: Nerd alert.

I'm not much of a collector.... I don't really have the motivation to collect things like a lot of my friends do. Yukine collects rubber stamps from castles, and I have friends who collect cards, coins, postage stamps, figurines.... lots of different things that show where they've been etc. That being said, in my opinion, Japan is a quite the collector's society. There are soooo many things that have the potential to be collected, things I never would have thought of! Most local post offices have regional postage stamps/postcards you can collect, every prefecture has some sort of mascot (if not every city in Japan) which in turn has a toy/sticker/cell phone strap, hello kitty has an endless supply of collectable items including cell phone straps and toys associated with each region of Japan (and to be honest, the globe), there are rubber stamps you can collect and put into specialized stamp books, the mere existence and continued popularity of pokemon/yugio... the list goes on.


I guess you can say I collect live flyers and tickets from shows I've been to (since I like to post them around my house for decoration).... but other than that I do have one collecting guilty pleasure... and that is Japan's Gotouchi Foruma Postcards (ご当地フォルマカード) which translates to be "Regional Form Cards". If you're living in Japan and have never heard of them, here is the website. I suggest going to your local post office and picking up a few of these amazingly-designed items. Each prefecture's post offices sell three form cards, and each card has something to do with a famous place/person/food from that particular prefecture. For example, Kochi's three cards are: Sakamoto Ryoma (Ryoma den, anyone?), naruko (noise makers used in dancing the traditional Yosakoi dance), and the Kochi Fighting Dog (not sure of the history of this.... but it's a thing here).

The difficult thing about collecting these cards is, when I go on trips, it's usually during a) holidays or b) the weekend. One of the more annoying things about Japan is the hours kept by banks/ATMs and post offices. During the week, they are open from about 9AM until 6/7PM and on the weekends, 9AM-Noon (if they are open at all. Why an ATM closes EVER is beyond me). Because of this, it's been difficult to collect some of the cards that I shouldn't have much trouble acquiring if post offices were open normal hours on the weekend (such as the Tokushima ones, since I go there basically every weekend).

Anyway... that's the end of my nerd rant about postcard collecting. I feel a little embarrassed about the whole thing... but the way the cards are designed is so neat that I don't mind trying to collect them when I go to a new place (I've gone sooo far out of my way looking for post offices that sell these things...). I've been trying to get the Kyoto/Nara/Osaka ones for awhile, but my timing has never been right. It would be amazing to be able to collect all of them... but who knows if I'll get around to every prefecture. :\

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 11 – What do you find most overrated and underrated about Japan?

I've always been one for hearing bad news before some good news, so let's talk about what's overrated about our beloved Japan before we move onto greener pastures, shall we~?

Technology. When I saw the word "overrated" I thought it was going to be difficult to think of what I wanted to pin point. In all honesty, it took about 5 seconds for that single word to pop in my head. For instance, if you are an American with zero knowledge of Japan, I feel like one of the first things that comes to mind when asked about the country will come from the following list:
  • Anime
  • (kinki) Porn
  • Ninjas
  • Robots
  • Sushi
  • Samurai
Robots of course meaning, Japan's "super advanced and completely unique" amount of technology (which occasionally includes robots). Cars, MP3 players, cell-phones, washing machines, point-and-shoot cameras, (robots) you name it! Japan has tons of electronic/appliance brands that are shipped around the world and are used by every persuasion of human being. Popular youtube and internet videos feature humanoid robots walking around and talking, or that cute little one that fell over when trying to get up some stairs last year. If you've seen any Japanese car commercials recently, ECO cars where you can "mantan" (fill-up) your tank at home are getting popular, as well as the recent car convention that featured cars you could control with a smartphone or change the color/image on the outside.

But the fact that it took me 6 weeks to get internet in my apartment, makes me shake my head at all of that flourish and fancyness (and robots). Yes. 6 WEEKS. And it's not even that great of internet either! It stops working when it rains. I think I've made my case.

An onsen in Kami-shi, only about 40 min from my place. It overlooks a gorgeous river.
Onsen. I think one of the most underrated things about Japan are onsen, or public baths. It seems very roman and a little unhygienic (the word "public" just doesn't ever bring clean images to my head), but is honestly one of the most amazing experiences that I don't think a lot of people go out of their way to take part in, or even know about.

If you've never visited an onsen, you might be thinking "Public bath?! I have to be naked in front of other people?! How awful!" Which is what most of my foreign friends living here have said to me if they have too many body issues. What girl doesn't have a few body issues? For me, all that is pushed to the side when it comes to onsen. How could you be worrying about the shape of your thighs when you are surrounded by old, saggy women (or men, if you aren't female) with bent backs and wet towels wrapped around their heads?

I love going to the onsen, spending 30 of more minutes massaging shampoo and conditioner into my hair/brushing my teeth, and then sitting in the outdoor hot baths with the cold winter wind blowing against my face. If you're a person afraid of the potential non-cleanliness of a public bath, I really wouldn't worry about it. Those places are being constantly cleaned by small old ladies (or robots), and the natural spring hot water replaces itself every hour or so. The water is also usually so hot (between 40-50+ degrees celsius) I can't imagine that many micro-beasties have a chance to live long in them. The other cool thing about onsen is the "specialty baths" offered at most. Some have special minerals flowing through them, some are super hot, some are super cold, some have crazy water jets ready to pummel your calves and lower back, some have stones lining the bottom you can walk on, and some have (kinda scary) electrical currents running through them (for health, is what I hear...).

If you got anything from this splattering of thoughts, I hope you got the idea that my cell phone is not a teleportation device (or robot), but a trip to the onsen is well worth your time (and 500 yen)!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Birthday Cake Cake Caaaake~

Yesterday was Matto's birthday, so in preparation for celebrating today, I made a cake! Matto being a vegan, I put my vegan baking-pants on and made this PPK chocolate cake (although the recipe says cupcakes) with a slight alteration to the mousse. Vegan chocolate chips are hard to come by in this region, so I subbed them for melted peanut butter :D I will post the recipe and the steps I took to make it below~

Chocolate Mousse Cake, PPK

For the mousse:
1 cup melted peanut butter

12 oz/350 grams extra firm silken tofu
1/4 cup plain soy milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray/vegetable shortening

Prepare the Mousse:
1. Crumble the tofu into a blender. Add the soy milk, syrup and vanilla extract. Puree until completely smooth. Set aside.
2. Microwave the cup of peanut butter, stirring occasionally and keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.
3. Add the peanut butter to the tofu and blend until well combined, use the spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender every so often.
4. Transfer the mousse to an air tight container or a bowl covered in saran wrap and let chill for an hour.

Prepare the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180C and grease a cake pan with some vegetable shortening or cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.
3. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the soy milk mixture and blend well.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain.
5. I made a small layer cake, so just split the batter evenly into two cake pans.
6. Bake 20 minutes, until a toothpick/knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

To assemble:
1. Once the mousse is chilled, use a frosting spatula to spread the mousse between the two layers of the cake. After putting the layers together, completely cover the top and sides of the cake with the mousse and keep in a cool place until serving.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 10 – Something about Japan that sets it apart from anywhere else.

With my recent trip to Korea and around Mie-ken behind me, I think this is the perfect time to write about the 10th prompt in the "30-Day Japan Meme." As always, leaving Japan even for a short while (a four day jaunt in Korea even) gives me some perspective on the country I live in, and when I come back, I rediscover what I like and don't like about my daily life here. More often than not, I'm ecstatic to be back on the clean and orderly streets of Japan.

I'm a city girl through and through (which is why living in the country-side of Kochi can be draining and exhausting... not at all lively around here), and have to say that Tokyo and New York are my favorite cities in the world (thus far). When deciding to visit Seoul for a couple of days, I was wondering if I'd fall in love with that city too, with it's expansive subway system, variety of cultural gems, and cheap shopping at every turn. Not so much the case, however.... The subways were too big and wide (if you wanted to transfer to another line, oftentimes you spent most of the time walking to the next station underground), people were pushy and rude, and the shopping wasn't all that exciting (though I did get to indulge in a little Forever 21 shopping spree...). I missed being in the country where I understood the language, the foot-traffic patterns, and knew what to expect of customer service and politeness between strangers.

Source. Look how happy they are to help! With neck ties and all.
What sets Japan apart from other places? A lot of things... but I think that the predictability is what I like best at times (and hate at other times). Perhaps more specifically, the predictability of customer service. I know what to expect when I go to the grocery store, and I'm not going to get glared at by the teenaged cashier just because he/she's having a bad day. I know that the post man will always come back at 5:30 when they miss delivering a package of mine. I know that the trains will leave at their scheduled times, I will be notified of a coming train, and I will clearly be told where that train is going/what type of train it is. Even if the train is late, I will be well-informed as to why (unlike in Chicago, where the reason will never be known or conveyed to you).

For me, while I like unpredictable things and being spontaneous, I like my day-to-day life and essential things like going to the store/bank/ATM/post office, to be systematic, predictable, and informative. It's calming and reassuring to know that the combini down the street is open 24 hours a day and I can pay my internet bill any time I please. At the same time, the systematic-ness of Japan can get irritating when you make a mistake. Take for example, my recent trip to Korea. I had to buy a bus ticket to and from Osaka. In the process of my trip, I managed to misplace and/or lose my ticket home from Osaka. When inquiring at the help desk the morning of my departure, they told me I needed to re-buy my ticket, a thing that I had clearly paid for since they had my name and phone number registered in their computer system. I feel like in the US, when you make a mistake, people will more often than not be forgiving and let you slide by. This however is not the case with the type of customer service you get here in Japan. You can whine and cry all you want, but the system is the system, and sometimes you must pay in order to get organized, reliable service.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back To Life

AHHH a nearly perfect line-up of amazing bands that I will *probably be going to see (a few complications may stand in my way...). Mall said that he'd take me and Matto along with him on the drive up to Tokyo, so if it's possible, hellz YES I'm along for the ride! Of course, judging from the live's he's performing in that weekend, this most likely means driving up Friday night to Saitama (where they have their first show) and then going back down to Hachioji to hang out. Rough sounding-drive (11 hours to Tokyo, I don't know how long to Saitama...), but totally worth it to see WHAT-A-NIGHT'S last show until May.

Anyway, other than being back to work and back in Kochi, I wanted to write about my last day of vacation in Mie-ken with Yukine. We ended up taking an early train out of Matsusaka to Nagoya, since it's only one and a half hours from her place (and the trains are so warm and easy to fall asleep on...). Since my dear friend Yukine has recently picked up an obsession with castles and collecting castle stamps (I did not even know something like that existed), we went to Nagoya castle first. The outside of the castle is absolutely gorgeous, but the inside was a real disappointment. Instead of being one of those old, creaky castles where your feet freeze because you have to wear the provided slippers, and the staircases are so steep one wrong step could probably kill you.... it was one of those re-done castles that had a museum inside of it and central heating (LAMEEE).

Lame-ness aside, after our castle wanderings, we ate some Nagoya meibutsus and tried Kishimen (a flat noodle) and miso katsu (delicious~). They had a huge castle teishoku that we split and got served the noodles in two separate bowls (after Yukine spent ages sticking her extra 10 and 50 yen coins into the ticket machine). First time I've eaten a flat noodle in Japan!

Later, we wandered over to Osu-Kannon to check out the shrine (still packed with hatsumode visitors) and gobs of used-clothing shops in the area. There were streets and streets of shops selling used everything and it was hard to pull away from some of the cute dresses and sweaters I found (was running low on funds at the time). I did, however, find the local record shop and picked up a couple of super cheap 12 inches to add to my collection~ (Goofy's Holiday, Water Closet, 29 band comp CD, and 30 band comp double EP).

Upon arriving back to Matsusaka, Yukine took me to a well-known beef restaurant that sells 1万 200gram Matsusaka steaks and treated me to a delicious teishoku <3 Don't know how it compared to Kobe beef (since I've never tried any), but it was simply to-die-for. What a wonderful way to end an 8-day holiday~