Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thank you.

I'm very honoured, surprised and happy to have been selected as part of CNN Go Japan's Best English Language Blogs of 2010.

This is an amazing way to end this whirlwind year...

Thank you, CNN Go and thanks to everyone who has been reading about my adventures in Japan.

Happy New Year!!


Nara (a deer-heavy post)

My second jaunt to the beautiful, ancient capital of Nara, where deer roam free and temples abound. It's a short train ride away from my new Osaka home, so Sonia and I went there for an afternoon of wandering around, petting the tame deer (one accidentally ate my onigiri, along with the package... I feel a bit bad...), and just enjoying a nice, cold December day. We noticed that most people looked so happy in Nara, I think it's from being around animals and seeing children laugh and taking fun pictures. Although I think feeding the deer is the worst idea ever, I hope they're leading a nice life there.

Nara is also home to the largest wooden building in the world, the magnificent Todai-ji, which hosts the largest bronze Buddha statue. Nara can easily be done as a short day trip, it's a small city and walking around the train stations you can see most temples, shrines, and parks.

{I got the stamp.}

{Deer warnings...}

{I did NOT feed him on purpose... I was using the onigiri smell to attract them... then he just ate it}

Can you tell I love deer?

My life in Osaka.

{We were never being boring...}

Within a few days, I went from a completely empty apartment and being lost in my area to a fully furnished, cozy apartment and feeling like I'm a part of this madness that is Osaka... yet not fully grasping the fact that I am not here on holiday. Those past few days have been a whirlwind, between doing practical things and enjoying the holidays and my friends. Since I moved to Osaka, I...

... went to Osaka castle, which is literally ten steps away, and is massive and has beautiful running paths all around... located the supermarket, the Starbucks, and all five conbinis that surround my apartment... met Osaka's most stylish girl, who took me to all the little knows spots to get the best coffee/clothes/food/drinks and who hooked me up with some secondhand appliances- I love this girl, I think we'll take Osaka by storm... found myself a student to tutor privately... got lost (and found) at Umeda and Namba stations... stocked up on fresh foods for my new fridge (thank god no more conbini meals)... took advantage of the MUJI sales and got some nice furniture delivered to my door.... explored my neighbourhood and the depths of Namba.... found Taco Tuesdays night at a local watering hole... had friends over for an evening of tea and kotatsu... found the tastiest, cheapest izakaya.... watched my friend win a stuffed llama at an arcade... learned how to dispose of trash in my building.... had a washer and a fridge installed... no meltdowns.... updated my wardrobe and got some fun dresses and accessories... decorated my walls... had a fun movie night/sleepover... got very little rest and sleep...

{My room. Because it really is one room.}

{Hey, I built this shelf all by myself.}

I am loving my life here already. It's all so new and fresh and different. My life in rural Japan will always hold a special place in my heart, and I know things won't always be perfect here, but already I feel at home and ready for a new challenge.

I love Osaka so much!!! Did I mention that already?

Christmas in Osaka

Christmas.... where to start. Well, Christmas is not a meaningful holiday in Japan, even though they have all the songs and decorations. It's really difficult to get in the Christmas spirit so far away from the comforts of home, but I somehow managed to have a beautiful Osaka Christmas with friends.... among all the madness that is moving.

I was so thankful to have my friend Sonia visiting me from the north of Japan and stay with me for a while, and she's been a helpful and soothing presence during the whirlwind move and setting up a home. On Christmas Eve, we were both so exhausted that we just stayed home at the kotatsu table (more on that later, it deserves its own entry), eating take out food, drinking royal milk tea, and watching Christmas movies to the shimmer of Christmas lights and tea lights.

Christmas day was warm, sunny, and very, very Japanese.... it involved getting a group of friends together, going to a wonderful German Christmas market, making our own takoyaki, singing karaoke, taking some Christmas-themed purikura pictures (those photobooth sticker pictures), having dessert at Krispy Kreme, and stocking up on Osaka fashion at H&M. It was very non-traditional, but being in great company made things quite wonderful and unforgettable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Survival Skills

{Wednesday night in Osaka.}

Or, my first night in Osaka.

After an eventful last morning in Marugame, trying to get everything in order (while still being sick), I boarded the train to Osaka (Shinkansen... I had to leave my Marugame life in style), and started the madness that is moving into a new place.

I am loving my new apartment and the layout, it's a lot more open than my previous one. However, I realized that I'm starting from scratch, as I sat in my near-empty apartment all of last night, waiting for my luggage to ship. I do not have any appliances or curtains, or any kind of furniture. It's a pretty scary feeling, but I wasted no time making it a home. I also realized that those first moments in a new place and new city are all about basic survival skills, such as finding the supermarket, and finding my way back home. No internet... unpacking and cleaning to The Smiths.

I ventured in my neighbourhood for a late-night walk, and I found myself startled by all the sights and crowds. I think I've been deprived of city living for way too long, as I felt quite overwhelmed and excited by the countless cafés, shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. I know I will love it here, so much! It's so trendy and lively, and I've never been so close to all the downtown action, never before in my life.

I managed to pick up some essentials to survive those first few days, and the apartment is slowly becoming a home.

Thank you for all the tips I got for my throat, I'm feeling a lot better today.

I cannot believe I live in Osaka....

{Thursday morning... a bit better... makeshift curtains.}

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bags and more.

{Worst packing job ever.}

I don't know how I managed to pack my life in four bags, but somehow I did. It's insane how much stuff can one person accumulate over the course of a year. I'm sitting now in my near empty apartment, looking for last-minute things I forgot to pack (because there's always more).

To make matters worse, I found out yesterday I have a bad case of tonsilitis. Oh, and it hurts so much!! I made a stop at the doctor's office yesterday, and well, you gotta love Japanese clinics and their lack of privacy. The nurse took my body temperature right in the middle of the waiting room! I had to stick the thermometer under my arm, in front of some elderly people who were already startled to see a live foreigner. I also love how the doctor's office is pretty much out in the open. I know that it's normal in Japan, but I'm having a hard time getting used to this. Regardless the doctor and nurses were very kind and I left with some dubious looking medication. It hasn't been very effective so far, as my throat seems to be getting worse, but I'm hopeful. Anyone has tips for a very, very swollen throat? I'm a bit worried.

{Does anyone know what the white powder is? I'm supposed to swallow it.}

Back to packing... paying some remaining bills... waiting for my luggage pick up... seeing friends one more time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Year in Marugame

Farewell, Marugame.

The lone train station, its drunk men and delinquent students. Percy, our favourite ticket attendant. Running along the path of the beautiful castle. The view of the Inland Sea and the Seto-Ohashi Bridge. Bike rides in the rice fields. The smell of rice fields and the sound of frogs on hot summer nights. The ichigo daifuku shop. The covered arcade, to which we'd open the roof in the middle of the night. Under The Moon, having a glass of white wine in good company. Late night sesame ramen and double riding my bike with Mitch. Practicing Japanese with Shin at my favourite café... spicy ginger tea, and an escape. Picnics at the castle. The cherry blossoms viewing in the spring. Gossip Girl marathons and green tea ice cream with Isabel, and giant salads at The Dear. Dance parties, baking cookies, and gin tonics with Jonathan. Train rides and weekends in Ayagawa for homemade pizza and french toast, sleepovers and happiness. Takamatsu for coffee, shopping, and the sea view. Riding in the last train, the longest train ride ever. My favourite shrine down the street, where I'd go late at night. Martinis, cigarettes and musings with Daniel and Adam, staying up way too late and the drunken bike ride home. Crazy Takamatsu nights with Stephanie, photo shoots on Lion Dori. Vitamin water and onigiri for breakfast. Red wine and yakisoba in my apartment, watching Friends. The Sanuki Express bus with Isabel, the feeling of escaping, the stops at Family Mart. Sipping oolong tea with Mai, countless hours spent waxing poetics about life and love. The beautiful mountains of Shikoku. The cold nights. Staying toasty in my futon. The dark sea.

My best moments.

Marugame, you'll always be so special to me.