Monday, August 15, 2011

Japan, May 2011: Kyoto

In my third day in Kyoto now. Everyone else went to Osaka for a lunch and to hang out, but I really didn't want to take the train all the way back to Osaka. I had some things that I needed to get done here in Kyoto before I missed my chance.

So...To Gion I was off. I had some places marked to search for the following items:

*Shiro Nuri (maiko/kabuki oshiori for Nihon buyou)
*Katsura wig cap (still have yet to find. :()
*Kimono/Yukata and accessories

The places I had marked to get to were:
*Gionya (shop in Gion which sells maiko makeup)
*Nishiki Food Market
*Pontocho, Hanamikoji-dori, Gion kobu
*Chicago (a kimono shop nearby the Nishiki Food Market)
*Takashimiya Department Store (to hunt for Kimono items)
*Teramachi-dori (the electrical street that features a bunch of stuff for anime/manga/games)
*Shijo-dori (shopping district)
*Aeon Mall (for yukata)
*Higashiyama (traditional markets are here)

I left at about 12:30 this afternoon, and I first headed towards the first kimono shop that was advised to me. However, I couldn't find it. >.< It was only about a 15-20minute walk, but I couldn't exactly find the actual shop. It was supposed to be on the 2nd floor, but of which shop?

As I was looking, these thee Australian men stopped me, and asked for directions. It was a bit nerve wracking, since they kept taking pictures of me while I was trying to help them. O.o one of them complimented on my braids. I was a bit uncomfortable, but I was happy to be able to help. They didn't know any Japanese, but I told them that there were quite a few in Kyoto who knew a bit of English, so they could always drop in and ask.

O.o I stopped into this omiyage shop and was confronted by this nice old man.

This nice old man had me sit with him and make origami. lol He taught me how to make origami cranes, and we did it a few times.  He told me that the kimono shop is now a hat shop, and that the kimono shop closed down. This made me sad, but I still had several others listed on my list. ^_^ He gave me a handful of origami paper as a gift, as well as the cranes we both made. He was so kind! I ended up buying a little okobo phone strap from him in the end. ^_^

Since the shop was closed down, I decided to head towards the Aeon Mall, but decided to turn back the other way at Kyoto Station and get over to Gion instead.

The train fare was only 150 yen, and about a 5 minute ride from Shichijo Station to Gion-shijo Station. Only two stops.

After arriving, i went straight to find the Gionya, where I could get my makeup.

I only really wanted to purchase the shiro nuri, and not the rest of the makeup, but somehow I ended up getting half of a full set. O.O I got the base wax, the shiro nuri, red paint for lips and eyes, sponge, brush, and brush for the red. OMG I spent about $80 there. MUCH more than I intended, and it put me back further in funds than I planned. This was no good, but the makeup was needed. It is nice to have my own set, instead of having to rely on sensei's makeup.

Now. Off to find kimono.

I learned that it is best to NOT try and purchase a kimono from a department store or mall. O.O Tabi alone were $30 or $50. I looked around, but didn't actually buy anything.

I was starting to feel a bit sick, so I stopped and ate at McDonald's. 2 Shaka Shaka Chicken, a vanilla shake (which I didn't drink) and a large coke. The soda here is not nearly as carbonated as the soda in the States, which is wonderful! <3

Then I headed back towards Gion, skipping Shijo, Higashiyama, Teramachi and the Nishiki Food Market. I can go there tomorrow with Kris.

When I went back to Gion, I decided to go and visit the Hanamachi areas. I skipped Pontocho today. I am extremely tired and exhausted. I feel a little sick right now, so I decided to go when I felt better. But, I did get to see two maiko. I didn't take pictures, because A, my camera was in my purse. And B: she went straight from the door of the ochaya to the taxi. There wasn't time to take a picture and I thought it would be best to just see her with my own eyes.

She was wearing a lovely pink hikizuri. <3

I didn't wander much, so I didn't get to experience all of the hanamachi or gion. I am desperately wanting to visit some of the temples in Gion. <3 I think I will go either tomorrow, or when we get back for Kansai Daigaku.

On my way back to Gion-shijo Station, I stopped into this little shop that sold Kanzashi and other accessories for maiko/geiko, kabuki actors and kimono wearers. I wanted so bad to purchase kanzashi, but I instead bought tabi I so desperately needed. I prefer the stretch tabi over the standard tabi. They look nicer, and they are much better for dancing than the stiff, cotton ones.

This pretty much marks the end of my Gion trip for today. I am back at the hotel, and had some chocolate ice cream and a soda. So thirsty. I can't get enough to drink.

Yesterday, us four girls on the team went to an onsen in the old Geisha district. It was a wonderful experience. I was VERY nervous at first...Im not really good at being naked in front of people I don't know.  But it was a great bonding experience with my team mates. ^__^ I am glad I decided to go! (I almost didn't....)

At the onsen, I decided to step onto the scale for the first time in a while. The doctor's office weighed me at a horrid 190lbs. I have been struggling so hard with my hypothyroidism, and losing even FIVE pounds is a nightmare. I had struggled to lose just 5 pounds for the past year. And yesterday, I discovered that in the course of three weeks, I have dropped down to 184lbs! That's almost TEN lbs! It really helps me keep going and motivated to get back down to what I was at the beginning of last year. I miss being 130lbs, and I miss being 115lbs. My thyroid problems have caused me to gain so much in such a short time, that it is so hard to want to do the things I love. I can't wear kimono in the shape that I was (hopefully I can a little better now!). None of my kimono fit me correctly, especially around the hip. This makes it hard for me to dance.

All of the exercise and portion eating is forced on me here. And sometimes I hate it, and sometimes it is really painful (especially when you are on traveling half of Japan on foot). But all of this is really good and healthy for me, and it is getting easier to watch what I eat. Here in Japan, even their fast food is not as greasy as American fast food, or as large in portion size, or as pumped with chemicals and hormones as our food is. The food is so much healthier, and much more tasty! I am NEVER eating Japanese food in the States again! haha

I am so much more motivated now than I was before!

I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive of me these past couple years! Through my health problems, my relationships, my dancing, my life and especially, my cosplay. Without all of you, I could not still be here today doing what I love! Every one of you keeps me motivated and happy, and I hope that we can continue with the motivation and happiness!

I love you all so much!

Thank you everyone!

I need to figure out how to get my stuff home. O.O Our advisor said NO LUGGAGE, so we had to somehow fit all of our stuff in a carryon. Bad thing is, this doesn't make room for newly bought items. O.O What to do!? D:

I love you all!!


Japan, May 2011: Yokohama to Tokyo

 (I wrote this as I went along :)  Please note that these were written when I was still in Japan, but I was slow posting them here on blogger. XD  They have been up on Deviant Art since I wrote them though. I wish I could post pictures, but I only have them uploaded to facebook at the moment.  When I get them up to photobucket or flickr then I will get these blogs updated!)

Sooo! It is soooo cool here! :D And it is very easy to get around! Most people know English, so we can stop and ask for directions. ^^ Also, most every important sign is translated to English. :D The airport is the easiest place to navigate, and the security is sooo nice! There are police boxes (kaban) here that we go to if we get lost, and they direct us where we should go. Security and police are everywhere! The police are wonderful. They are very helpful when you need them!

Most people are very nice. But every now and then you get someone who does not like foreigners. We have had several people make comments in Yokohama...But Tokyo is so different.

Sooo...we took the trains on the 20th to get to Yokohama....

But the older gentlemen seem to get a kick out of us. lol On the night of the 20th we were standing on the sidewalk, and this old guy came up smiling. lol He looked at me and bowed, and I bowed back (cause its polite) and he nodded and smiled again. The others were blocking the way, and so he pointed to let me know he wanted through (still smiling lol) and so I let everyone know. Then he bowed again smiling. lol He figured that none of us could understand Japanese, so he used hand gestures. A lot of the citizens who don't know English are like that. They use gestures politely to try and communicate, and it works. We haven't had a problem at all yet.

We were next to China town too. Its right down the street from us as well as a convenient store. The store is soo neat! All the Japanese foods we buy in the states are like, $5 cheaper! As well as drinks. Got some water and tea and a cup noodle to eat and drink yesterday. I will have to bring you home some snacks! :D They are like, only .50 here. ^^

There was this bottle of water that was 2 liters, and only cost 105 yen!!  SO CHEAP! :D

I forgot my flat iron. :( My hair is going to FRIIIIIIIZZZZ!!! T.T

We had a cat follow us from the train station in Yokohama to the hostel. LOL Miranda was telling us about the animals in Japan. Apparently the animals are "sketch". lol Like they are more than just animals. XD Like the cat that followed us about a mile, ravens that follow and caw like they are trying to be sexy, and dogs that understand more than we think. XD She says it can be creepy sometimes.

Saw some women wearing kimono too! It is so nice to see people so involved in traditional culture. It keeps it alive and living. ^_^

I am not too worried about navigating the airport alone. Staff is super nice and speak excellent English, and EVERYTHING is translated, including terminal directions. If I can't get hold of Masako, I am thinking I may take a taxi to the airport, so I don't have to worry about getting lost or changing trains or being by myself getting there. I was talking to the hotel manager here about it, and he said that taxis are cheaper than the bus, but a little more than the train, but not by much. So I may just do that. It solves the getting lost or being late part easily. Plus, I can call them a day ahead of time and schedule a taxi to arrive at a certain time. So this way I won't be late either. ^_^

Since I have been here (only 3 days), we have already had several tiny tremors from earthquakes. They are so normal in Japan though. It was pretty neat. My first ones that I didn't sleep through ever. lol

Been talking to some of the Japanese about the disaster too, since it IS the research project. The radiation in Tokyo is not as much as an x-ray. Everyday, we are all exposed to radiation. Whether we realize it or not. This situation is really no different, it is just KNOWN that the radiation is there. Western media tends to take Japanese and translate it wrong sometimes, or interpret it wrong, so it does not come out the way it actually is. Recently, there was an article about the standards for children and schools when it comes to radiation. The English article covers that the standards have been raised to where children must go to school under extreme radiation. But the original Japanese article is not like that. Originally, there was NO standards regarding children and radiation and when they should go to school. So finally, the government needed to create standards because there was none. These standards can only be based off of the standards for people who work in radioactive areas, because these are the only standards to base on. School properties and playgrounds are measured, as well as measured for radiation. If they are at a certain level, then they are not fit for people or children.

In an interview I had earlier, she told me that Japan should focus on making English an official language, because most of the world speaks it. This way, when media is done on certain things, there are no misunderstandings or misinterpretations. She feels that it is highly important for this to be done.

(anyway...back to my blogging. xD)

We didn't go to Kamakura.D: But we did get to see a little bit of Yokohama! :D It was fun! Went to China Town, and there was sooo many cute little shops. I bought a hand towel at one of the shops! ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY CUTE! It has Sakura on it! And it is pink! <3 Most public restrooms don't have hand dryers or paper towels because it can be unsanitary, so people bring their own means of drying their hands and even tissue for using the toilet. Japan is very clean and very focused on sanitation.

On the sidewalks, there are huge, yellow lines with bumps and other things. These are to help the blind and those who can't see very well navigate. It is so wonderful! And definitely helpful to those who can't see! :D

There are a lot of Male/Female restrooms! They are very common, and I have seen them everywhere so far. There are Male and Female restrooms too, but also just as many Male/Female. NEAT! :D

What else...hmmm...

OH! AND THERE WAS ALSO A LOLITA!! Been seeing a lot of gyaru. This is just in Yokohama! I couldn't wait until we get to Tokyo where the fashions boom! :D OMG I am very excited!
I have a pic of the lolita. (Im pretty sure it was a guy). It's wesome!

I had this one guy come up to me to practice his english. lol He was so nice. ^_^

We are going to go find a hyaku en ya (hyakuin). Its the Japanese equivalent of the dollar tree. We need some stuff for the research that we have to go get.

Converted some of the money. Conversion rate sucks. Lost about $200 due to the conversion rate. But I have at least $100000 yen on me. Also, their machine couldn't take some of the money cause of the bills (because they had ink on them). So I have an extra $60 in US cash. I can exchange some of the other bills if I need it for the hotel or cab. But I am going to hang on to it for now and use what I have.

I had my first REAL Japanese dish! I had gyoza. It was delicious! I even ate the sauteed onions and the rice! I actually ate a huge bowl of rice! Instead of water, they give us Mugicha to drink. I love mugicha! The bowl of gyoza was pretty big, and only cost 280 yen for a big bowl. It was really filling. I think I am going to do just fine. ^_^

Been practicing some of my Japanese. I have to when we go to the store or at a restaurant. Most of them speak English, but its nice to practice Japanese anyway. ^_^

One of the cafes in Tokyo was where we went to relax. Here is how the conversation went with the cashier.

M: aisu tei-- ga arimasu ka?
H: Hai arimasu.
M: aisu tei--onegai shimasu.
H: saizu?
M: mijiem.
H: Hai. san hyaku ju (310) en.
M: *hands money*
H: *gives change* arigatou gozaimasu!
M: arigatou gozaimasu!

So basic...but it is amazing that I can really get around and talk to people better now. ^_^ Makes me super happy to be able to use Japanese IN Japan, rather than back home. Here, we are FORCED to use Japanese, because it is only right. ^_^ In the US, we have all these expectations of foreigners. Here, they don't EXPECT us to know Japanese though, so when we DO speak it, many tend to be impressed and a little happy. It is a good feeling to know that you can communicate cross-culturally. ^_^

We went to the Imperial Palace gardens today!!! So SO beautiful!! I think we are going to do a tour of the palace sometime next week. We had a nice dinner tonight at a restaurant.

A lot of things are actually pretty cheap. I got a full course meal (salad, big pork chop, miso soup, drink, sauce and big bowl of rice) for 810 yen. About $8 if you want to think of it as US money. Also, there is no additional tax added to the prices. The price is what you see. So if something is 100 yen, its 100 yen, not 107 yen. It seems like the tax is already included, so you get prices such as 810 and 105 yen. Its awesome. There was a HUGE 2 liter bottle of water for only 105 yen! THATS SO CHEAP COMPARED TO US 2 LITER BOTTLES! O.O Its crazy! lol I'm loving it. ^^

I have noticed a HUGE difference in culture and fashion from Yokohama to Tokyo. In Yokohama, we had some Anti-foreigner comments from people, and not as many people spoke English. Here, we see MANY foreigners and more people are more kind to us. There is a huge cultural difference. But Tokyo is very international too, so they are more used to dealing with foreigners on a regular basis.

As for fashion..As soon as we got to Tokyo, we saw young people everywhere! Couples booming and fashion! :D We immediately saw a girl with BRIGHT orange hair and wearing punk lolita clothing! :D There is so much to see here! At night, there is a lot of lights! :D Its lovely!
I also got to see Tokyo tower from a distance! :D

I am getting used to some of the food. Earlier, we went to a Chinese restaurant in China Town in Yokohama, but I didn't eat there. The food didn't even look good. >.< And it was SUPER expensive. Like 1200-10000 yen. Crazy. And the waitress sucked. She made a rude comment about foreigners (even though she was Chinese), and treated us a bit with the cold shoulder. Miranda got so mad. >.< The girl was Chinese, and had no right to talk about foreigners. But it happens.

You know, being here made me realize...that in the US, we have so much privilege being White. We don't realize the things we do or how we treat those who are not white, until WE become the minority. This is the reality in every country though. But I am not unhappy here. I am really loving it, and I am starting to feel more comfortable with the culture and speaking in Japanese.

I hope to hang out with my friends soon! I haven't seen Junko or Manami or Masako in a long time! Manami, Junko and I are already planning! ^__^ I miss them all so much!

This is all I have for now. ^_^ I will probably blog more in a day or two!!! :D



Hello everyone! It has been an awfully long time since I have take care of my blog here, but I have been super busy with sooo many things!

I have MANY updates, including some blog entries from my time in Japan in May!  :D


Silver Aura of Dawn Cosplay has raised the $1500 goal for the Japan Relief Fund!  I want to thank EVERYONE who has donated to this cause!  You have helped many people begin the right path back to their lives!  Thank you so much for helping to this cause!


Since my last update, I have been able to complete a couple cosplays. : )   Nevermore Summer Court version, Nevermore, and Anise Yamamoto from Barajou no Kiss!  Here are some images!

Barajou no Kiss
Yamamoto Anise
Generation III: War

Summer Court
Generation III: War

Winter Court
Generation II: Salvation

I actually have some updates for Ciel Phantomhive, but those are going to have to wait a little longer until I am done photoshopping them. :-)

My cosplays are going to temporarily be put on the backburner until I am ready to cosplay again. I will be going to Japan beginning on September 7, 2011, and will not be back in the States until sometime in July 2012.  This is a very exciting trip opportunity, and I can not wait to make full use of it!


Many of you know that I will be heading off to Japan for my study abroad experience!  I will be leaving on September 7, 2011 and I will not be returning until sometime in July 2012.  Plus please do not worry! I still intend on blogging and keeping everyone up to date! :D   I will keep my deviant art updated as well as my facebook! 

Deviant Art
Facebook  (feel free to friend me!!)