Hungry?

I’m currently out of Japan for a few weeks getting some stuff done halfway around the world.  I received some great news via email – my article on The Godburger was published.  If you want to read about a burger restaurant in Kanazawa, you can read it here!

Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Scariest Photo I’ve Ever Taken

Okay, maybe the title is a little intense…Seriously though, this may be the scariest photo I’ve ever taken due to size of the subject.  It was possible the largest I’ve ever seen, and the without a doubt, the largest this early in the season.  She was at least palm sized with her legs, possibly larger.

Here she is, the jorōgumo…

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jorōgumo on the streets of Obama, Japan.

If you want to read more about this colorful yet poisonous eight-legged giant, take a look at this.  And if you want to read more about insects in Japan, take a look at this one.

Life Goes On…

Paper Cranes in Nagasaki

Wow, the past two months have been super busy and the next two look to be busy as well.  Many things have happened.  I visited Nagasaki during my Golden Week Vacation, moved to a new (to me) apartment, and taken up some freelance work.

I’m also busy preparing for the next JLPT.  I did not take the exam in July as I knew I was going to be too busy to prepare.  So I set my sights on the December exam.  I’m spending a lot of time preparing – working on grammar, building my vocabulary, memorizing kanji readings…

Recently I wrote about visiting Eiheiji Temple.  If you wanted to read about it or take a look at some photos, you can find it here!

I’m going to postpone writing about snow monkeys and the Dosojin Festival until further notice.  However, I will be writing about my trip to Nagasaki in the near future.  I took a lot of pictures and visited the Penguin Aquarium while there.

Seoul, August 2016

Noryangjin Fish Market

Just so you know, this post is bit picture heavy – enjoy!

Seoul, South Korea

Last summer I decided to spend my Obon vacation in Seoul, South Korea.  Seoul is close and I figured it might be cooler since it is further north.  Nope, just like with Beijing it was not cooler and I spent a lot of time sweating.  Sweating and drinking cool beverages. Once again I found myself in a country where tap water is not regularly consumed.  This meant constantly purchasing things to drink.  Seriously, I think the bulk of my spending was on water and tea!

Seoul at night

For this trip I decided to use my ANA miles instead of paying full price for a ticket.  The dates I was traveling were during one of the peak periods (practically all of Japan was on vacation that week) which meant everything was waitlisted.  I really wanted to go so I used almost all of my miles and flew business class (which was not waitlisted) into Gimpo International Airport.  The roundtrip flight cost around $50 (this was for taxes/fees and was the same whether flying economy or business) and I had access to the lounge (except for the last leg Tokyo-Komatsu since there was not business class on that flight).

Lounge access is amazing.  The food!  The beverages!  Seats!  Tables!  Outlets to plug and charge your devices!  Seriously, having access to the lounge for the Tokyo-Gimpo and Gimpo-Tokyo legs of the trip was great.  It meant that I had a place to kill time comfortably during the layover from Komatsu.  It also meant that after traveling to Gimpo early in the morning (like before the sun rose early) I had a place to freshen up, relax, and grab a bite to eat before my flight.  On the plane was great too.  The seats were large and comfortable.  There was more legroom than I knew what to do with.  Yes, I used basically all of my points for a relatively short flight, but it was worth it!

Getting from Gimpo into Seoul via subway was pretty easy.  Finding the hostel was more of a challenge, especially since I arrived at night.  It was difficult to make out signs and which direction I was walking in.  Had it been daytime or even early evening I could have figured it out by finding the sun.  In the dark it proved much more difficult.  In the end I did find the hostel and checked in (just before the desk closed – lucky!).

View from the hostel

I stayed at the HI Seoul Youth Hostel and liked it.  There was a bakery/cafe attached to it that opened early and closed late.  This made getting breakfast or a snack easy.  The bakery was similar to the ones in Japan, but the drink options were different.  Both the bakery/cafe and the hostel had WiFi.  This made checking emails and looking things up easy.  The hostel also had washing machines.  I ended up using the washing machines more than I thought because of the heat.  The laundry soap I bought in Mongolia worked quite well.  The room I stayed in was large and had a bathroom with a a shower, a television, and a mini fridge.  It also is not that far from the subway.  I highly recommend staying here if you need an inexpensive yet nice place to stay.

Seoul at night

What did I do in Seoul?  Other than sweating in the heat?  I ate delicious apple mango bingsu at the Shilla Seoul Hotel, went to the Noryangjin Fish Market and bought too much seafood which I then tried to finish at a nearby restaurant.  I also went shopping in Myeongdong for skincare and visited Seoul Tower at night.

Inside the Shilla Seoul Hotel

Inside the Shilla Seoul Hotel

Highlight of the trip

The Noryangjin Fish Market was the highlight of my trip.  It is a large fish market where after choosing and buying some seafood you are ferried over to a restaurant which prepares the food for you to eat.  I’m sure there are ways around this but it was an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating.  I entered the fish market from above.  Coming down the stairs you get a great view looking down into the market.  Of course I stopped to take photos.  Before leaving Japan I had picked up a new lens which was perfect for this situation.

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

After entering the fish market I took my time walking around and looking at everything on offer.  Some of the seafood available I had never seen before.  Some I had never seen available alive.  While the fish market is awesome, if you don’t like seeing your food alive before you eat it, this is not the place for you.  After selecting what you’d like, it’s killed.  Some can be eaten right there in the market (I had bough squid which was made into sashimi – I ate it at the restaurant but could have eaten it at the market). In Kanazawa there is a large fish market (Omicho Market), but most of the fish are already dead (there are some live fish and most of the crabs/shellfish are alive).

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market

Myeongdong is a well know shopping district.  It is famous for skincare so of course, I had to take a look.  The streets were crowded and many of the shops repeat.  I ended up visiting a few different shops but my favorite was Innisfree.  Out of all the products I bought (mainly sheet masks), I liked Innisfree’s the best.  A notable second would be Skin79 Pore Bubble Cleansing Mask.  I was able to buy them in a multi pack and wish I had picked up more than I did!  But back to Innisfree.  The service in the store was great. In other stores I was often followed around or ignored.  Now, I’m not for shoplifting and know it needs to be prevented, but having someone breathing down my neck makes me uncomfortable.  This made shopping in the other stores difficult. I also prefer the layout of the Innisfree shop.  It seemed brighter and a bit more spacious than some of the other stores.  Looking and selecting items was much more enjoyable in comparison to the other stores.

Besides the fish market, I had also put Andongjang on my “to do in Seoul” list.  Andongjang is a Chinese restaurant.  I read about it on Chin Chai Jiak’s blog.  After reading about the sweet and sour pork I knew I had to give it a try.  The first time I went to the restaurant it was closing for the evening.  Armed with more information (like closing time, which subway station exit was the closest) I revisited the restaurant during their dinner hours.  I’m glad I did.  The sweet and sour pork was delicious.  It was flavorful and juicy, not too heavy or greasy.  As a bonus, the owner makes daikon kimchi.  I also make daikon kimchi and prefer it to the commonly found cabbage based kimchi.  I enjoyed a second helping of kimchi much to the owner’s surprise.

Seoul Tower and cablecar

Perhaps the worst experience of the trip was my visit to Seoul Tower.  Most people who know me know I don’t do well in heat or humidity.  Seoul has both during the summer.  After a long day I walked uphill (with my cameras and lenses) to wait on line to take a cablecar up the mountain.  The wait was long.  Very long.  And there were mosquitos.  I am very delicious to mosquitos. Seriously, everywhere I go they flock to me.

Anyway, the line was very long but eventually I made it up the mountain.  I figured it would be a simple task of waiting on a short line to get to the top of the tower.  Ha!  Not simple at all.  The line was over an hour long.  Looking at the time, I decided just to walk around (many other people were doing the same), take some pictures, and hop in a cablecar down the mountain in time to catch the last subway train.  After taking some photos and acquiring a collection of mosquito bites I headed to the cablecar. Where there was a line.  A line that was over an hour long.

Seoul from Seoul Tower

Seoul Tower

Seoul Tower

Reaching the bottom of the mountain I rushed to the subway only to find it was closed!  It turns out that it was a national holiday in South Korea.  This meant larger crowds than usual and early closing times for public transport.  This, in turn, meant that everyone else who had missed the last train was also stuck.  I did eventually get a taxi (a couple of hours later) and made it back to the hostel were I collapsed into bed.  Standing on the side of the road in the middle of the night in Seoul isn’t exactly the most fun.

I was also looking forward to visiting the DMZ but since I did not plan this trip far enough in advance there were not any open spots for the dates I was in Seoul.  Maybe next time?  Maybe I can make it to the top of Seoul Tower too.

Getting out of Seoul was a little challenging as well.  Remember, getting from Gimpo to Seoul was pretty easy by subway.  Also remember, the subway shuts down at night.  If I caught the first train I probably would have made my flight.  Well, maybe.  Instead I took the airport bus.  The airport bus started out okay.  I wasn’t getting on at the first stop so I figured that the bus wasn’t going to fill up completely before we got to the airport.  I also did not think the driver would cram as many people as possible into the aisle when seats ran out.  This meant that my seat mid-bus was blocked in.  When I tried to get off at the international terminal I couldn’t.  The driver let some people off and then continued on to the domestic terminal.  I was still on the bus and ended up at the domestic terminal.

I did make it to the international terminal with time to spare.  I had to go through customs to export all the sheet masks duty free. After checking in I made my way to the lounge.  I was serious when I said using almost all my miles for business class was worth it.  Despite being exhausted and having a stressful trip to the airport I was relaxed when I boarded my flight (well, as relaxed as someone who is afraid of flying can be).

Sauce at the restaurant near Noryangjin

Something new…

While I work through my backlog of photos and things to write about I’ve decide to move forward at the same time.  In April I created an Instagram account.  I don’t post on it daily but do update it semi-regularly, depending on what I’m up to.  All of the photos are taken on my cellphone.  While not my favorite camera, it does a decent job at capturing quick photos on the go.  Feel free to take a look.  My Instagram is @ladycaladium.

Yum, Yum, Yummy!

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As I prepare to write about my trip to Seoul in August 2016, I can’t help but think about how tasty this frozen treat was!  While in Seoul I visited the Shilla Seoul Hotel to try apple mango bingsu.  It was’t cheap (42,000 won or around $36 USD!) but was definatly worth it.

I first read about it while researching my trip.  I found a helpful site called Seoulistic which had a post about things you can only do in Korea.  Eating this dessert at the Shilla was the first thing on the list.  I decided to give it a go.

It’s sweet, but not overpoweringly so.  The red beans add a nice touch and compliment the mango flavor.  The serving is also massive and could easily be shared by a few people.  That being said, I ate every bite!

Golden Week (pt.4)

Welcome to the final installment of the Golden Week 2016 posts.

Street in Ulan Bator

Street in Ulan Bator

Just up the street from the hotel there was a bank where I was able to exchange my USD for Mongolian tögrög.  I never saw any coins (the Bank of Mongolia website lists coins as in circulation), only bills.  Because of the value of the tögrög compared to the US dollar is so low, I ended up with a large amount of bills.  Each bill had Genghis/Chinggis Khan on it.  Prices looked high but in reality were quite low.

Looking out my hotel room window.

Looking out my hotel room window

Ulan Bator was an interesting mix of the modern era and the soviet era.  At times it was like being some eighties movie.  Besides KFC (as seen in a previous post), I saw advertisements for Burger King.  I visited a shopping center that contained shops such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.  On my way to the Gandantegchinlen Monastery I walked through a ger (yurt) district.  The area was dusty and clearly polluted.  The city is simultaneously crumbling and rebuilding.

Ulan Bator

Ulan Bator

Mongolia is also going through some social upheaval.  Economically the country isn’t in the best shape.  Various forms of pollution have had an effect on how daily life is lived.  Water is undrinkable.  Although the air was mostly clear when I visited air pollution is a big problem.  The mining industry has problems, not creating the financial boom it was expected to.  While I was eating in a restaurant upstairs in a shopping center across from the government building there was a protest regarding the situation with the mining industry.

Protesting in Ulan Bator.

Protesting in Ulan Bator

The protest seemed peaceful.  After some speeches the people marched around the government building.  You can’t actually see the building in this picture.  The building is to the right, out of frame.  The speakers at the protest are facing the building on a stage (to the left, also out of frame).  It was interesting to watch the protest build as people joined the group.

I was unable to visit all of the museums and other sightseeing spots I had hoped to on my visit.  I arrived on a holiday so places were closed.  The second day of my trip was the day of the week most places are closed.  This means I was unable to see any of the famous dinosaur bones.  In the end I think I would like to visit Mongolia for a longer period of time in the future.

 

March 2017 Sumo Tournament

I was looking forward to attending the sumo tournament in Osaka this coming March.  I’ve enjoyed going the past couple of years.  It’s actually quite exciting, even up in the stadium seats.  One year I’m going to get a box.  These are expensive as you need to purchase all of the seats in a box.  The boxes usually seat four people but there are usually a few two seat boxes.

After the January tournament in Tokyo Kisenosato was promoted to the rank of Yokozuna. This is the first time in 19 years that there is a Japanese wrestler holding the top rank.  All of the other Yokozuna are Mongolian.  I knew this would make tickets harder to get, especially box seats.

What I did not expect was for all of the tickets to be sold out within about two hours of going on sale.  All.  Of.  The.  Tickets.  As in for the whole tournament.  All 15 days.  I’m disappointed as I really enjoy watching for the whole day, not just the last group or two.  It’s interesting to watch the crowd grow throughout the day.

I hope to go to the Tokyo tournament in May…

 

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Things to Look Forward to…

I’ve been busy with work and setting up my new laptop.  I hit a couple of snags with the laptop.  The first being that my external hard drive was not formatted for Mac even though I’d been using it with a Mac this whole time.  Something about old operating systems vs. new operation systems.

I managed to transfer all the photos to my other external hard drive (the backup) which was formatted for Mac.  It took a few hours to transfer all the files.  Then I formatted the external hard drive that I use regularly.  Note to self – get a third external hard drive to back up the back up since the first external hard drive is now just for new photos.

The second snag is photoshop.  I tried to download the software for the older version of Elements that is on my old laptop but it won’t work properly with my new laptop.  The program won’t recognize my camera type so I can’t open any of my photos in the program.  I downloaded a trial version of the newest Elements software and have access for the next 30 days.  I’ll see how I like it (honestly, I only use a few tools and they look the same as in the old version…) and decide whether or not to purchase the new version.

So what is there to look forward to?

•  I plan to finally finish my post about my trip to Mongolia by the end of February or early March.

•  I plan to write about my trip to Seoul after finishing Mongolia.

•  A post about snow monkeys after the Seoul post.

•  Then a post about the Dosojin Festival in Nozawa Onsen.

I still have limited wi-fi which means uploading photos can be problematic.  The new laptop is lighter than the old one though which means bringing it out to a place with wi-fi will be less of an issue than before.

Welcome to 2017…

Happy (very belated) New Year!

I spent the new year holiday in Nozawa Onsen.  Nozawa Onsen is in Nagano Prefecture and is worth the trip if you’re in Japan during the winter.  Between the snow and the onsens it is a tiny slice of paradise.  Oh, and yes, I saw the snow monkeys!

My time in Nozawa Onsen was quickly followed up with a day trip to Tokyo to pick up a new laptop.  The screen is much nicer than my old laptop which makes looking at photos fun.

Tokyo was followed by an event here in Kanazawa.  Every January the fire department holds drills.  This happens all over Japan and is an interesting experience.  I went last year as well.  The weather was better this year.

The fire department drills were followed by a weekend in Nozawa Onsen for the yearly fire festival.  This was the same weekend they were hit with a blizzard and recieved at least a meter of snow!

I’ve been traveling a lot, but not to new places.  Thinking about Golden Week (because, hey, it isn’t like I just had a vacation or anything), I’m considering staying domestic this year.  Maybe heading to a part of the country I haven’t been to. Traveling by train also sounds like a fun option.