Monday, December 30, 2013

Osaka and Hiroshima trips

Hi all from Fukuoka. Yeah, I was back to Fukuoka after two trips to Osaka and Hiroshima. Two unforgettable trips in my life and I had much of fun with them. Well, let’s start with my trip to Osaka.

We, including 1 Japanese, 2 Vietnamese (my friend and me) and 1 Indonesian, left Fukuoka on the 22nd morning by plane and reached Osaka around 1pm. After meeting another Indonesian at the airport and spending nearly 1 hour on train, we five got our hostel which is old and small. Next, we all went to Umeda which is one of downtown cities in Osaka to see the sky building. Umeda particularly or Osaka as a whole is very bustling with lots of people moving on the roads, which made us overwhelmed and even felt like we were in Vietnam or Indonesia. We headed to Umeda Sky Building after escaping from the crowd. Umeda Sky Building is the twelfth tallest building in Osaka and one of the most recognizable landmarks. As Christmas was very close at that point, Umeda Sky Building was decorated beautifully with a huge Christmas tree and light images on the wall along with small shops selling Christmas decorating stuff, food and drinks. To get in the building, guests have to pay usually 700 yen but we used a coupon so we just paid 630 yen per each. From the top of the building, we could see the entire view of the city with sparkling lights. There is a floating garden that is a neon - decorated cycle walk on the top of the building. They also a have photo taking service which you can take photos with the city view as your photo background by your own camera or the building staff’s camera. If you take photo by the staff camera, you can choose either buy the photos with 1000 yen per each or not buy them as it’s optional. For us, the building is similar to Fukuoka Tower but better. After the building, we went to eat an Osaka specialty called takoyaki which is a ball – shaped Japanese snack made of wheat flour and octopus inside. It’s one of my favorite foods in japan. I ate the ones with spring onion which cost 490 yen for 6 balls. Then we were back to the hostel as we were tired and needed to have a rest.

Xmas tree at Umeda Sky building

Takoyaki with spring onion

We went to Universal Studios in the next day. We had the sixth who is a Thai girl. It was my first time in Universal so I was very excited and eager to try every game. The ticket was 6600 yen which is expensive but reasonable. Roller coaster was the very first game we played. There was a bit scary for novices like me but I loved it, even played it twice. But my most favorite game in Universal was Spiderman as it is my most favorite superman movie. And like roller coaster, I played spiderman ride twice and could even play it ten times I thought. We spent a whole day at Universal, played many games from roller coaster, Jurassic to some kid games and watched rock and roll show and parade. Our day was finished by our dinner with okonomiyaki which is another Osaka specialty made from wheat flour, soba (a kind of Japanese noodles), eggs and cabbage. It was another day I stayed as a kid, played every game that I had dreamt. We can’t refuse to grow old like Peter Pan does but don’t let the kid part in your soul gone. Live with it and nurture it as the tough life leaves you high and dry sometimes but the kid part can bring joy back to you.

Universal for the first time

The crew at America village in Universal

At Elmo place

The day after, the Indonesian couple left for Korea and the Thai girl travelled with her parents so we were down to 3 people. Three of us went to Shitennoji temple which is the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in Japan. There was nothing much, except for a tower which has been standing for thousands years, even weren’t knocked down by earthquakes. Then, we left the temple for Osaka Castle which is the most famous spot in Osaka I think. The castle was beautiful actually but the weather that day didn’t want to support any visitors as it kept cold and raining, so it somehow ruined our day and the castle beauty. Another reason was we were very tired and sleepy so we couldn’t enjoy our visit at that day. We spent the rest of our day in city center and illumination places. That day was Christmas Eve so we bought a small cake and enjoyed it all together at an illumination place in the cold. It might be the coldest Christmas I have ever had. 

Osaka Castle

Shitennoji Tower, which has been standing for thousands years despite of earthquakes

Our last day was dedicated to Osaka Aquarium which is considered as one of the largest public aquariums in the world. However, it was a bit disappointing as we expected to see some special habitats but it turned out to be ordinary ones. One more reason was the entrance fee is not cheap at all, 2300 yen for an adult. When having only a few hours in Osaka, I decided to go to Shinsekai, another famous place in Osaka to see a tower and try kushikatsu which is Japanese deep – fried kebab. Kushikatsu can be made from pork, beef, seafood and vegetable. The Japanese girl and I ordered a vegetable kushikatsu bento with 580 yen. We were back to Fukuoka around 7pm by plane and reached the dorm around 10.30. My Osaka trip was over.
During 4 days in Osaka, subway was our choice for transportation. We spent lots of money on it, around 5000 yen because we didn’t know the existence of Osaka Unlimited Pass card that offers unlimited use of trains and buses with 2000 yen for 1 day travel and 2700 yen for 2 days travel. I don’t really like the Osaka trip much actually, but anyway I did the trip and experienced Osaka, lifestyle, food and views there. I also gained travelling experience for my next trips. The trip is not the one I expected, but it’s still worth in its way.

I got back to Fukuoka for 1 day, then off to Hiroshima the day after with my Vietnamese friend. We reached Hiroshima after 4 hours on bus. The very first thing we did in Hiroshima was buying ticket to go snowboarding on a mountain the day after. Next, we ran to another place to purchase a 2000 yen 2 - day trip card which offers unlimited rides by tram, round trip ferry and round trip ropeway. We wanted to see Itsukushima Shinto shrine which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on Miyajima island and Mt. Misen where you can see the entire view of the island. But to go there you must pay 150 yen for one way tram, 170 yen for one way ferry and 1000 yen for one way ropeway, which cost more than 2000 yen if you go round trip. That’s the reason why we bought the 2000 yen card, and the card appeared very helpful and convenient. 

The 2000 yen trip card
Itsukushima is also known for the floating shrine as it was built on the coastline so when the high tide comes, the shrine appears to be floating on the water, which makes the shrine become one of the most unique and gorgeous shrines in Japan. With its beauty, the shrine attracts lots of tourists including Japanese and foreigners. When we came there, there were many people walking around, taking photos and being fascinated by the stunning shrine. 

Shrine gate

My friend, Huong, at the shrine
After the shrine we walked for a while to the ropeway place and took ropeway to go up to Mt. Misen. The island was covered by fog, which looked fantastic. I was supposed to take photos of it but my suck camera didn’t work well. It was much more fun since we saw snow on the top of the mountain. We both could cry for being happy as it was the first time ever we had seen snow in our life. On the way back, we stopped at some souvenir shops to buy momiji cake which is specialty here as omiyage (souvenir) for people at home, then tried Miyajimi buns with beef and eel inside, which were damn good. We also talked to a nice Thai couple whom we saw on the tram on the way to the shrine. We got our hostel around 7pm. It is a small but lovely and new hostel called Hana Hostel located near JR Hiroshima Station. We booked a twin room with bathroom inside with 3400 yen/person/night. There are a living room on the 1st floor and a common room on the 5th floor where you can watch TV, read books, use computer and do talks to other backpackers. The hostel even offers free tea and coffee. Moreover, it reminds me of the house in my volunteering organization in Vietnam. I could say I love it! We finished our first day with okonimiyaki (again) (but Hiroshima style is much better than Osaka one) at a small food shop of a nice Japanese couple (we even did a small talk to them in japanese). 

Momiji cake with matcha inside - my favorite refreshment here

Hiroshima Okynomiyaki with seafood, egg, cabbage and soba

We planned to go snowboarding on the second day but we bought wrong tickets, then after discussing, we ended up cancelling our snowboarding plan and changed to visit the city. We did a walk to Hiroshima Memorial Park via an imported food shop where I found tons of Vietnamese ingredients from noodle, rice papers, chili sauce to coffee and lotus tea. The first spot popping up in Hiroshima Memorial Park was A-bomb Dome which serves as a memorial to the people who were killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. Before being demolished by atomic bomb, the building functioned on art and education exhibitions.  The ruin looked very solemn and stunning in the lovely sunny weather. Many people came here, paid tribute and took photos of the ruin. Up next was Memorial Museum where displays and explains everything about the bombing event in Hiroshima. Then, we had lunch with tsukemen, another Hiroshima specialty after helping some New Yorkers order their meals as they spoke English while the waiter didn’t understand that language. Tsukemen is actually cold boiled noodle with spicy sauce. We ordered a set including tsukemen, fried rice and gyoza which is Chinese dumpling with 1,150 yen. It was another yummy meal I had in Hiroshima. 

A-bomb Dome

selfie with Huong in front of a - bomb dome


In the afternoon, we went to see a garden which was built 4000 years ago if I remember rightly. The entrance fee is very cheap 250 yen/ adult and 150 yen/student. The garden was very beautiful with tea ceremony houses, a pond in the middle and many bonsais around. An old volunteer showed us round and did small chat with us. I, with my humble Japanese, couldn’t understand him properly but I somehow got what he said. It was a lovely place to end our trip. Around 4pm, we went to Hiroshima Bus Center and took a bus to go back to Fukuoka, finished our 2 day trip and my second trip in winter break personally. 

At the japanese garden

Thanks the sun, I got a stunning photo

Tram - our transportation during 2 days.

Hiroshima is a historical city with stunning views and friendly people. With historical value, the city has attracted lots of tourists including Japanese and foreigners to come and see. There is a mysteriously close relationship between me and this city that I don’t know but it makes me feel I’m in love with it since the first time I saw it. I wish I could stay there longer. To be honest, I prefer my trip to Hiroshima to one in Osaka. There is a question having been stuck in my mind is what I really did in Osaka. I don’t have the exact answer, just feel disappointed. However, my Hiroshima trip is completely different. Maybe I could do whatever I want in Hiroshima, from choosing place to stay to means to travel. Everything. I got a good travel mate whom I’m not very close to but we worked with each other very well, especially there was a consensus between us. That’s all I want for a trip. 
It’s true to say “Travelling forms a young man”!

This would be the longest post I have ever written so far. Thank you for reading it or even only seeing the photos. Will be back next year! Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tasks, Presentations, Field trips and Parties.

Hello world,
Couldn’t update blog regularly as I was overwhelmed by tons of homework, presentations and other activities in the past month. I had things to do every day, sometimes I didn’t even know where to start as there were many things needing to be done. But finally, they are all over and now I can relieve and think about my trip on winter break. 

Well, in the last two weeks of November, we went to see Sumo as I mentioned in my last post. It was very exciting! Like you see your favorite football team play and enjoy every moment of the match. Can’t explain with my humble English, you’ve gotta go and see! I took a video but can't upload it on here :(

We also went to Fukuoka City Museum for our field trip. Nothing much except for the costume corner where we tried on costume of asian countries. There were Áo dài and other traditional clothes of Vietnamese ethnic groups but I tried the Korean one - hanbok. Another field trip was visiting shrines and temples in Hakata which is one of two downtown cities in Fukuoka. After that, two friends and I went to Canal City for lunch and window shopping. Around 5pm, we left for a Vietnamese restaurant in Hakozaki after meeting a Japanese girl in Tenjin. But none of us knew the way well so we walked around that area nearly 1 hour and found the place after almost getting lost. It was nice to meet Vietnamese there, but the food was not the one I expected. It didn’t look like and taste like the one I often eat. Anyway it was fine as I am in Japan, not Vietnam. But my friends seemed to enjoy their meals (the Thai girl ordered spring rolls with noodle, the Japanese girl ordered a set including Pho and spring rolls).
Me in Hanbok, with Indonesian friend

Doing fun
Posing with momiji in front of the museum
Phở Hanoi in the Vietnamese restaurant
Katsudon - deep fried pork with vegetable and rice - my lunch in Hakata
I saw my host family in late November and earlier December. There were only me and host mother in the meeting in November as her kids were busy with homework. She took me to eat sushi and visit Kashi and Hakozaki shrines after. Both of them were nice but I prefer the Kashi one. It took me time to walk around Kashi shrine, but I could see people life in peaceful surroundings and enjoyed lovely nature. In the meeting in December, we, including the host mother, her kids and me, went to botanical garden and zoo. I had much of fun with them! The kids were very lovely. They sang Arashi and Big Bang songs all the time on the way to the garden. I don’t know many Japanese songs but at least I could join them to sing “Fantastic Baby” by Big Bang, which was very funny. After having lunch at the botanical garden, we went to see animals in the zoo and played some games at a theme park which is located inside the zoo. I don’t remember exactly when I last played in a theme park, but I did do it again at the age 21 with those lovely kids, and I even felt asleep on the car on the way back. Ahhh, stay young!

with host mother in Kashi shrine
with host family's kids
At the theme park - forever youuuuung!

Botanical garden

There were a couple of parties held a past few weeks. With more than 100,000 yen we made by selling green curry and cookies in a school festival in October, WJC students and JD mate had a party with karaoke in Tenjin. After that, some of us went to see light illumination decorated for Xmas and New year before going back to the dorm. There were many people going to see and take photos with the illumination and so did we. We took lots of photos and really enjoyed it! It was another weekend I went hard!

with friends at the light illumination place
Light illumination
Last week WJC students held an early Xmas party as after Friday we will be on our own way for winter break. People cooked tons of food. 3 of Vietnamese students including me made Bánh cuốn (rolling pan cakes) and one made chiffon cake. Another night having fun and being full! Felt like I could get 3 kilos I have lost so far back. 
Xmas party with tons of food

I had a presentation in Japanese on Monday this week. The topic was about Fukuoka and Hanoi yatai. We were very worried about that presentation as we are beginners, our Japanese is limited and it is really challenging for us to talk in Japanese in front of many people whose Japanese is much better than ours. But we all did well.  Japanese tests were also finished yesterday and today. Eventually I get everything done! Now, it’s time to relax and go! Osaka and Hiroshima, here I come! 

After presentations
with teacher and classmates

Một người bạn đã viết cho tôi thế này: “Being away from home has it struggles but when you get home and look back on this time you will ask yourself did you live the experience to the fullest potential? Make sure the answer is yes”. Đúng thế, tôi yêu từng khoảnh khắc tôi đã và đang có ở đây, cho dù đó là vui hay buồn, tôi đều trân trọng vì tôi biết tôi không thể có được những điều đó ở những nơi khác. Chỉ có ở đây, Nhật Bản này, xa nhà, với những người bạn không hẹn mà gặp, với những cảm xúc ấy.