Saturday, December 12, 2009

DMZ pictures

Move to Sinchon; trip to the DMZ

I got a winter camp in the south of Seoul, so I will be in Korea until January 21. In anticipation of the winter camp, I moved down to a place in Sinchon, and I love it! Sinchon is a great neighborhood. There are three universities nearby, so there's plenty of 24-hour convenience stores and bars and restaurants and karaoke and coffee shops and cute little clothing and shoe shops. I absolutely adore living here. It has completely changed my view of Korea. Nowon was super boring and completely residential, and super far away from everything. Sinchon is very central, I can get most places very easily and quickly. It's still about half an hour from where my winter camp will be, but it's worth the commute.

In other news, I went to the DMZ today. I went in a big tour group, so it was totally safe. We toured two of the tunnels that the North Koreans dug towards Seoul in anticipation of a surprise attack on the South, and we also visited the remains of the old Labor Party headquarters. We visited the train station that used to go into North Korea before the service was stopped, and we also visited the "Freedom Bridge" that South Korean POWs crossed over from the North into the South after the armistice. There was a ton of propaganda about uniting the two countries again, and the words "freedom" and "peace" were peppered all over the place, even as we were learning about infiltration tunnels and visiting a site where a train station was bombed and reading about incidents like when two American soldiers were cutting down a tree that was blocking the view into North Korea (on completely legal ground) and North Korean soldiers came by and killed them with their own axes.
There were binoculars to look into North Korea, but there wasn't actually much to see. There's a propaganda village set up to make it look like the North is more prosperous than it is. You can see the fence that separates South and North Korea. There were guards all over the place, and strict rules about where you could and couldn't take pictures. As we were entering the zone, a guard caught one of the people on our bus taking pictures of the guard station, and she had to get off so that he could erase it. You weren't supposed to take pictures in the tunnels, but I think that some people managed to get some anyway; once they're posted on Facebook I'll take them and post them here. You weren't supposed to take pictures of the signs warning about landmines either, but again, I think some people managed it. You could take pictures of North Korea in the distance, but you had to stand behind a line a certain distance away from the edge of the observation deck for some reason.
The tunnels were interesting; there are four, but we only went to two of them. One of them was supposed to be big enough for entire troops as well as tanks to come through; the others for troops and smaller arms, such as cannons. We had to wear helmets when we went in though, because the ceilings are so low and jagged. Even I had to duck a lot going through, and I am pretty short. I can't even imagine whole troops going through, in the dark, and with explosives in the walls too.
Our tour guide had an uncle who ended up on the north side after the division, and his family hasn't heard from him since. Apparently during the Clinton administration, South Koreans were able to visit the demarcation line and reunite with their family in the North briefly; there were even talks of Kim Jong-il coming south to talk with the South Korean president. However, after Bush took office and declared the Axis of Evil, the visits stopped and North Korea completely closed up again.
Anyway, I will post pictures as soon as people have them up on Facebook. I also have pictures from an ice-skating trip I took a couple days ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Moving again, and pictures

So it looks like I will be moving yet again! This time, I'm coming back to the States - Hawaii, to be specific. I can't wait to get out of Korea~ Still undecided about specific dates; waiting to hear from a winter camp here that I'll probably take if I get it; 2.7 mil for 18 days is pretty good money. It will be a pain to have to move if I do get it, since I can't stay in my apartment past Dec. 15 and anyway the camp is two hours from where I live now, though. If I don't get it, I'm looking to move out by the 8th.

That's about all that's going on here at the moment; just packing and waiting right now. Meanwhile, here are some random pictures from the past year. Halloween here in Seoul and a few pics from photoshoots I did in Tokyo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pictures from Tsushima

Some pictures from the trip I went on to Tsushima, a Japanese island only about three hours from Korea by ferry. It was super fun and pretty. We went biking, kayaking, swimming at the beach, camping. I had some delicious sushi, and was v. happy. Japanese style sushi is kind of hard to find in Korea, and I'd been craving it! We watched the sunrise from out our hotel window on the second night, and then had a traditional Japanese breakfast of rice, fish, pickled radish, kinpira, a hard-boiled egg, and green tea. It was a nice break from all the super spicy food in Korea. Also, it is official that I like Japanese food way more than Korean food.
The exchange rate was in my favor like woah when I exchanged my yen; 70000 yen turned into over 900000 won. That should last me until I get paid, lol.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Moving... again

Looks like I'm going to have to change the name of this blog. I'll be leaving Japan at the end of July. I'm very sad to be leaving all my friends and my house and my roommates, but in the end I'm just not really making enough to live comfortably here. The current plan is to go to Korea; the cost of living there is much lower and the teaching salaries are much higher. I've already had a job offer from a school on the outskirts of Seoul (it's probably about the same distance from central Seoul as my old apartment in Komae was to central Tokyo). They'll provide a private, furnished apartment within a ten minute walk from both the station and the school; the only thing I'll have to pay is utilities, which aren't all that high (even high-speed internet + TV is only approx. $17/mo). The pay is 2200/month, the hours are 2-9pm M-F. I'm still waiting to hear on a couple other potential schools, but in the meantime I'm getting all my paperwork ready for Korea. I plan to continue studying Japanese while in Korea; of course I'll have to start studying Korean as well now, though. The area of Seoul that the school I've had an offer from is in is to the north; you can find information on it here: (copy and paste the link).
Anyway I'm at work right now so I have to go; have a class in five minutes. I'll do another post with my pictures from my trip to Korea once I have some time at home.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Ok, these are all super tiny because apparently you have to actually save the picture full-size from facebook, saving the thumbnail doesn't automatically save the whole picture. I'll post another blog with full-size pictures soon. For now, think of this as an appetizer while waiting for the main dish, lol. I'll also actually talk about Korea in the next post. For now though, I'm super tired and should get to bed...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Odaiba beach party

Some friends and I went to Odaiba the other day and hung out at the beach for a while. I'm in a skirt because I had to go to work directly after, lol. Check out that nice shirt I'm wearing, though ^.~
It may look like I'm about to actually hit the birdie in some of these shots, but it's probably a misleading impression. I swear I remember that I used to be okay at badminton, but I swung and missed the birdie probably 80 percent of the time, lol. It was fun anyway though, the wind was kind of strong that day so no one was exactly in top form.
As you can see, we didn't even have a net; we drew lines in the sand marking out quadrants for each of us (Naoto's not in these pictures because once again he was taking most of them. He did play with us quite a bit though).
Look at us all diving and probably all about to miss actually hitting the birdie! It was a really fun day, and I was sad that I had to leave early to go to work. I was also annoyed, because I didn't even have any classes and it wasn't even a regular shift - I was covering for an absent teacher - but even so they wouldn't let me out of it. I had to go in and do nothing from 5:30 to 10 because they're so anal about not letting anyone out of their scheduled shift for anything, even if there's nothing to do. At least my paycheck was a little bigger this time around... I really need something else to supplement it though.
But - I think I'll be able to get to Korea in June, barring unforeseen expenses. I was looking up flights earlier today at work, and I can get there for under $300 round trip. I can stay with my friend Jon who moved there this month, and the currency exchange is really favorable for yen right now and Korea is supposed to be super cheap anyway, so if I give up some shopping and eat cheaply and always do cheap nights out, I think I could make it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


We started off the day at Ueno by eating some massive crepes. These things were seriously gigantic; mine was strawberry and kiwi, and there was also custard and whipped cream and a little chocolate straw and a wafer and a piece of sponge cake. They gave you a little spoon to help you eat it because it was so big. None of us could even actually finish one, lol.
There's a little shrine at Ueno park with a balcony area with a nice view of the cherry blossoms below. This thing was a little statue that you poured water over for luck, then afterwards got a little cup of sweetened green tea.
Here we all are standing at the edge of the balcony area; you can see some of the cherry blossoms behind us and the lanterns strung along to light the park up for nighttime picnics.
Here we are at a table for lunch; there was an area set up with food vendors and picnic tables for people who hadn't managed to grab a space under the trees. I took this picture with my camera trying to get us all in the shot, which is why it's at an odd angle and our heads are cut off a little, lol. We had yakisoba and ikayaki for lunch (fried noodles and fried squid. festival food vendors are always very healthy here; other options were takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (sort of a japanese pancake fried and made with all sorts of stuff in it); 'yaki' basically means 'fried' and almost all the food was a variation on that theme, haha).
Anyway that's it for now; I still have some more pictures so I may do another post. I went to Chidorigafuchi and Nakameguro as well as Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno park, but I haven't uploaded the Chidorigafuchi or Nakameguro pictures to my computer yet.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hanami time

First batch of cherry blossom pictures! I have a ton more, but I haven't finished going through and sorting and resizing, so I'm going to do a couple different posts.
These first two pictures are from Ueno; I have a lot of pictures from Ueno since my friend who's a photographer was with us and took pictures of us all day, haha.

These last ones are all from Shinjuku Gyoen; my friend and I went and had lunch in the park last Thursday. It was a little windy and the cherry blossoms weren't in full bloom yet, but it was really nice anyway. The weather has finally been warming up, so it was great to be able to go outside and have lunch with blue skies and cherry blossoms.
Along with the Ueno photos, I also have some pictures from Chidorigafuchi and Yasukuni shrine, and also Nakameguro. Chidorigafuchi is probably the prettiest place in Tokyo for cherry blossoms; they line the moat surrounding the imperial palace and are just gorgeous. I'm going to try to go there again this week with another friend, since I heard you can rent boats during the day and ride under the blossoms out on the moat, which seems like it would be super fun, plus the view from the moat is probably even more fabulous than the view from the path along the moat : ) Anyway, I went there this evening with a friend to see the night view with the cherry trees all lit up, then we went down to Nakameguro to meet another friend and have dinner near the Meguro river, which is also a really nice cherry blossom spot with a good night view.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Check out my super bargain coat! This is all you're getting for now because it's late and I need to go to sleep, but I figured I'd go ahead and post these before I forgot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I went home for Christmas, and it was very nice. So nice, in fact, that I wished I had stayed longer when I got back to Japan! January was a fairly tumultuous time, since the cafe I had been working at closed and I had to find a new job quickly, and also for the first couple weeks of January my friend Kat from high school was visiting, so lots of things were happening at once.
I went ice skating with Kat at an outdoor rink in Minatomirai, near Yokohama. It was super fun, I hadn't been ice skating in a while but I picked it back up quickly and we had a great time. It was super cheap too, only 1000 yen for entrance + skate rental. I tried to go back a couple weeks later with another friend, but unfortunately it was closed due to bad weather, so we ended up just having dinner and doing some karaoke instead.
I also went to see Kabuki theatre with Kat, for the first time since I've been in Japan. We went to the Kabukiza theatre in Ginza, which is really cool-looking. I have pictures, which I will post to my photobucket account eventually. We only saw one act (full Kabuki plays can run for four or five hours!), since that way it's cheaper and less time-consuming, and also you can rent earphones with English explanations of the action. I recommend it for the next time anyone visits me here ^.~
We also visited the beer museum in Ebisu, where you can get a sample tray of four different types of Yebisu beer for only 500 yen. We split the cost and shared the tray, so now I can definitively recommend different types of Yebisu beer, haha. The museum has all sorts of weird beer-related items for sale in the gift shop, including beer chocolates and beer jelly. Kat bought some beer chocolates as a souvenir, and I tried one, and it was... interesting. Not bad, but kind of weird.
I managed to get another job by the end of January, and I'm working there now. It's an English conversation school similar to Gaba, except that you get paid (a very small amount, but at least it's something) for lessons that you don't teach, and the general atmosphere is overall much better. The students are all women, and of the four locations three are very close to me, so it's been pretty good so far. Right now jr high school students are on break here, I believe, so at the moment I'm not doing the jr high teaching; I think that the new school year starts in April. I'll probably look for another part-time job in the meantime, just to cover my bases and make sure I have enough for rent and train fare and hopefully a little extra for shopping and going out, &c.
Speaking of shopping and going out! I went out with some friends last weekend; we went to my friend Junko's house because she has a Wii and a karaoke game as well as Wii fit. We did a bit of karaoke and a bit of Wii bowling, then in the evening we went to the big Marui sale in Ikebukuro. I wasn't planning on buying much, if anything, since I'm pretty poor at the moment, but I found the greatest bargain while I was there! I spotted this nice white coat, and since I've been wanting a new coat lately I went over to look at it, to keep it in mind for when I got some money again. But! Then I spotted the price! Only 3000 yen, marked down from an original price of over 17000! So I went ahead and bought it, since it fit perfectly and looked fantastic, and bargains like that are a rare beast indeed here in Tokyo. I will endeavor to get someone to take a picture of me in it and post that to my photobucket as well. An epic bargain like that ought to be documented, haha. (Also, it really does look fantastic on me ^.~)
I've been taking advantage of cheap and free things to do lately. Last Sunday two of my roommates and I went to the annual Japan Media Arts Festival, held at the National Art Center in Roppongi. It was really interesting; there were some cool short films as well as photography, and some games, and there was this one exhibition where there were a bunch of pipes set up like a harp and bubbles were released that created music when they hit the pipes. There was another exhibition where you could play with your cell phone; there were two screens, one on the ground and one on the wall. On the ground screen were lures with the names of the players; if you went to the web address displayed you could type in your own username and a lure would appear on the bottom screen with your name. Then you used the buttons on your phone to move your lure and try to catch a fish. If you caught one, a fish would appear on the screen on the wall with your username and swim around with all the other fish that other people had caught. And the best part was, the whole exhibition was free, haha. I'm glad I went, it was really cool.
I also went that night to all-night karaoke with some other friends. There's a place in Shibuya where you can get "free time", which is basically midnight to 5am, for only 1000 yen. You can bring in your own drinks, too, which is great because the drinks at most karaoke places are a bit on the expensive side. So we sang all night, and then I almost lost my voice. I was worried at first because my job involves a lot of talking, but it ended up being a good conversation starter in my lessons. Almost everyone in Japan loves to do karaoke, so when I mentioned I lost my voice doing too much karaoke, that immediately got the students talking and asking questions, which is a good thing.
Anyway I'm going to head for bed now! If I remember anything else cool from the past couple months I'll try to post again, and it might take a while but eventually I'll get some pictures up too. Ja mata! (until next time!)