February 28, 2011

New Years Sales in Osaka

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 10:28 pm

Very few places were open just after New Years in Osaka, but there were some stores open. My friends and I wanted to go somewhere or do something, so our only option was to shop!


Sign announcing the sale.


It seems like fur is really in right now. I wonder how much of it is real fur and how much is imitation fur.


More fur, and leopard print! But if the point of fur is to stay warm, then this outfit is a massive failure.


There's fur on the boots too. For the cheap cheap price of 6,520 yen (about 70 USD)! (Is that cheap? I dunno. I think they could be cheaper.) I like the squirrel sitting next to those boots.


Fur's in for men's fashion too.


There were many girls with megaphones entice people into their stores by promoting their store's sale. Look at the eyelashes.

sale girl

Another girl with a megaphone trying to get people to shop in her store. Check out those eyelashes and that bow! This girl actually asked me to take her picture.

February 25, 2011

DIY Ear Piercing Kit

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 6:16 am

I remember getting my ears pierced. Everyone had told me stories of the big metal gun like thing that felt cold against your cheek as your ear got ripped apart. But when I went into Claires that sunny summer afternoon, they had used a relatively small, white plastic gun to mutilate my ear. And it hadn’t been that painful. (The pain came later.)

It seems that know piercing one’s ears has gotten even simpler and the device you need to make a hole in your ear, even smaller. In Osaka, I found these DIY ear piercing kits. They’re slightly smaller than an ear and come with birthstone earrings pre-inserted. All you need to do is clean your ear and prick a hole. Cost:¥1,470 or about $15 per piercing. So about $30 to get one in each ear.

ear piercer

DIY ear piecring kit for sale in Osaka.

February 24, 2011

New Years Eve at Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 3:42 am

After visiting the Silver Pavilion on snowy New Year’s Eve, we headed across town to the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji (金閣寺).

The Golden Pavilion lives up to its name and is actually golden, unlike the silver pavilion. But, the Golden Pavilion is not an original. The first time I visited the pavilion, I marveled at the spectacular temple covered in gold leaf. Then I read the book Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which is a fictional retelling of true events. In 1950, a monk burned down the  Golden Pavilion. The current temple is a reconstruction dating from 1955. It’s still a great place to visit, but I was rather disappointed to find out it wasn’t original. I felt like I’d been lied to.

Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion seen from across the reflective pond. It wasn't very reflective with all the snow.


There so many people there that we could barely move. Here you can see everyone trying to get the same picture. Maybe we should just have one person take a picture and then share it with everyone.

February 23, 2011

New Years Eve at Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion

At New Years, it is tradition to go to a shrine to pray for the new year. Many people flood into shrines at midnight and for the next few days, major shrines are packed with people.

So, while staying in Osaka around New Years, my friends and I decided to go to Kyoto for a day. It’s only about half an hour train ride away from Osaka. very close. We figured if we went the day before the new year, we would beat the crowds. We were also planning to visit temples, not shrines. (Temples are Buddhist. Shrines are Shinto. )

But we failed in our attempt to beat the crowds. Everywhere we went was packed with people. Even though it wasn’t the traditional time or place to visit, it was still a time when most people had vacation from work and there were tons of people taking the opportunity to travel. Also, unlike Osaka, which had relatively warm weather, Kyoto was cold and snowy. We got caught in a snowstorm there. In this post, I have pictures from the first temple we visited, ginkakuji, the silver pavilion (銀閣寺). I visited this temple before a couple years ago in the springtime. You can see those pictures here.


Crowds on the walk to the silver pavilion


Reflection of the pavilion and crowds in a window.


Usually you can walk through many paths that go through the beautiful garden, but most of the paths were closed because of the snow.

silver pavilion

The silver pavilion with a blanket of snow.Why is it called the silver pavilion? It is said that they originally had plans to cover the exterior in silver leaf. (Emulating the Golden Pavilion, which is covered in gold leaf. ) But although the never did, the name stuck.


Bamboo covered in snow.

snow rabbit

My friend made a snow bunny! And then she found some berries for the creepy red eyes. Pretty well done, right? As soon as she put it down, tourists were stopping to take pictures of it.

Osaka Skyline at Night

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

I spent New Years in Osaka. Osaka is usually considered Japan’s 2nd largest city with 2.6 million people. Actually, the city that comes 2nd in terms of population is Yokohama, with 3.6 million people. But Yokohama is basically an extension of Tokyo, so if you look at the Tokyo metropolis as one entity, then the Osaka metropolis would be number 2. However, there is another way to calculate population that does place Osaka second. If you look at the number of people who are in Osaka by day, the city surges to 3.7 million. People commute in from bedroom suburbs and nearby cities such as Kobe. So, during the day, Osaka is bigger than Yokohama.

Osaka has a really different feel from Tokyo. Tokyo is the capital and the center of big business, but Osaka is more of a center of industry. It originally was built up as a city of merchants, so it was never high class. Osaka culture is all about food. And there is a lot of good food in Osaka. Osaka is often referred to as the nation’s kitchen (天下の台所). Some of the famous food of Osaka include Takoyaki (octopus balls), Okonomiyaki (lit. made as you like it, sometimes called a Japanese pancake, but also sometimes compared to pizza), and sushi.

While I was able to eat some good food in Osaka, I wasn’t able to do much sightseeing. In Japan, Christmas is a great time to travel because everything is still open, but New Years is another story. Almost everything was closed from December 30th through January 3rd. One place that was open was the Umeda Sky Building, which has an observation deck that offers a great view of the city. We went up there after dark and I took these pictures.

OsakaOsaka at Night

Another view of Osaka


Bridges in Osaka. Osaka is a port city. It sits on the sea and has many rivers running through it. That's what made it so perfect for becoming a major center for trade.


More of Osaka. Can you see the red oval just to the right of the center of the picture? That's a ferris wheel on top of a shopping mall.

February 22, 2011

Gimme Snowmen!

Filed under: Desserts, Food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 4:58 am

Going along with the snowman from my previous post, here’s a picture of my friend being greedy for snowmen.

gimme snowmen

Grabbing for snowmen shaped sweets for sale at a bakery.

Evolution of a Snowman

Filed under: Inaka Life, seikatsu — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:00 am

After one particularly large snowfall, a friend and I decided to make a snowman outside of our apartment building. As he slowly melted over the next week or two, he went through several transformations.

Next morning
The morning after he was made. During the night, someone moved him several feet to the right and put clothes on him. He even has a shirt and hat and an umbrella to protect him from additional snowfall. How fancy!

A close-up of our snowman. Ain't he a looker?


A few days later

After he lost his head, his upper torso became a replacement head. He still seemed somewhat snowman like to me at this point. Unlike American snowmen, who tend to be made of 3 giant snowballs, Japanese snowballs are made of 2. So, this snowman was just turning Japanese.

close to the end

With only one piece of snow left, our snowman no longer had a body. He looks a bit sad, doesn't he?

snow country

Okay, I'll admit that this picture is from a totally different place on a totally different day, but look at how much snow we got! Or, this different place got on this different day.

February 21, 2011

Hiroshima Children’s Peace Monument

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 3:54 am

Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She was about 1 mile away from the hypocenter during the blast, but did not sustain any injuries. However, ten years later when she was 12 years old, she suddenly became sick and was diagnosed with leukemia. Her family was told she would die within a year. While she was in the hospital, she started to fold paper crane because there is an old belief that you may be granted one wish of you fold 1000 paper cranes. According to the Hiroshima peace memorial, she completed her goal, but according to a book about her life, she never had enough paper to complete all the cranes. Sadako passed away 8 months after being diagnosed with leukemia.

After her death, her classmates started to raise money for a memorial. The Children’s Peace Memorial (原爆の子の像) was completed in 1958. Everyday, people bring thousands and thousands of paper cranes from all over the world to be placed at the memorial.

Sasaki Sadako

Sadako sits atop the memorial, holding a paper crane.

Crane Cases

Cases filled with paper cranes.

Kurashiki cranes

Cranes brought from Kurashiki, Japan. They wrote peace in green cranes.

middle school, elementary school students

Cranes made by middle school students and elementary school students.


Children's call for world peace. If you pray for it, it will come?

February 20, 2011

Traditional Toilet Instruction

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Interesting, Strange, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 11:39 pm

For those who have never encountered a Squat toilet, the traditional style in Japan, here are some instructions on how to use one.

Japanese toilet

I found these instructions in the bathroom at the Hiroshima Peace Museum. They get a lot of international visitors, so I understand their decision to put up some instructions. The picture is very informative!

February 19, 2011

Hiroshima Atom Bomb Dome

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 11:55 pm

Every Japanese elementary student recognizes the Atom Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. It is as famous in Japan as the Statue of Liberty is in the US. Not only do they study it in school, but they also see it on TV, especially around August 6th, the memorial of the dropping of the bomb. There is always a big memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on August 6th.

The building was first made in 1915. And before the war, it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (広島県産業奨励館). When the bomb was dropped in 1945, they were aiming to hit the T-shaped bridge located right near this building. The bomb detonated 600m (1,968 ft) in the air and 150m (450 ft) away from the Industrial Promotion Hall. Considering how close it was to the bomb, it was left surprisingly intact. And because of that, it did not get demolished during the initial clean-up after the bomb. Eventually, it was decided to keep the building and preserve it in its post-bombing condition. It now serves as a reminder of the destruction that took place in Hiroshima and the power of the bomb.

The very first time I came to Hiroshima, I remember walking past the atom bomb dome on the way to my hotel. At night, it get lit up and looks quite eerie. I also had not been told that we would walk right past the iconic building and was surprised to see the ruins in display. But as we were walking past it, there was a concert happening across the street at a stadium. With all this cheering going on in the background, here was this symbol of destruction.

Anyway, on to the pictures.

Atom bomb dome

The Atom bomb dome in Hiroshima.

looking at the atom bomb dome

Right after I took this picture of this guy studying the a-bomb dome, he turned around and asked me to take of picture of him in front of it.

Then and Now

Then and Now. A picture of the atom bomb dome as it looked before the bomb fell.

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