Daily Life

Happy Halloween from Kiki

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Happy Halloween! After making a No-Face costume last year I wasn’t sure what to follow it up with. It’s hard to think of something that is so easily recognizable and that gets as much of a reaction. There was also the question of time, as in, not having enough of it. I do this every year – promise myself I’ll think of something awesome to be for Halloween and then realize it’s the week before and the best idea I can come up with is being a cat. So I decided to simplify and do something that would take less time and ideally no money… and success! I decided to be Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I had a blue dress and a blue shirt that were the right colour. My work happened to have a broom that worked perfectly for the costume and they let me borrow it. I had also seen a card / coin purse of Jiji (the cat) sitting on one of the shared desks in the office. I hesitantly asked to borrow it not knowing who it belonged too. Luckily it had been left by a graduated student a few years before and I was told I could keep it! I pinned it to a stuffed cat I already had. All that was left was t0 find a red bow which I bought at the 100 yen store (with tax… 108 yen, just over a dollar). All in all my last minute costume worked out very well and I plan on wearing it to work on the 30th… we’ll see how it goes!

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Japan in 12 Photos: A second year in review

Welcome to the second installment of a the year in review, you can see the first here.

Today marks two years that I’ve been in Japan. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. In some ways it feels like I just got here and in others it seems like a lifetime. I think back to my first night in Japan, lying awake in the hotel room and wondering what I was doing. I couldn’t have known what was in store for me and that one day Toyama’s mountain range would become a familiar and comforting sight.

August: Canada

Going home to Canada was a little surreal and also wonderful. We traveled all the way up to Montreal and back, I got to go to New York, and most importantly my aunt was able to visit Canada for the first time. It was an interesting experience to see my home through a new lens after being away for a year.

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September: School Stuff

September (and most of October actually) revolved totally around school. There were two big events, the speech contest and the debate tournament. Weekdays were spent staying late at school coaching students through arguments, pronunciation, and gestures. A year later I can probably still recite most of Maya Angelou’s “Still I rise”. Weekends were full of committee meetings and fortunately a million school festivals which only happen once every three years.

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October: Maibara

In October I used the long weekend to go to Maibara and saw their Kabuki festival, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Not only was I immensely impressed that kids under the age of 12 were able to wake up at 4 and perform traditional theatre all day, the community and spirit were really nice to be a part of.

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November: Osaka

In November I went to Osaka and had an awesome long weekend. It was crazy busy in the area because everyone was going to see the fall leaves. I missed out on that, but I did go to see Big Bang and had the time of my life… we were seated right next to one of the stage’s walkways that come down into the audience. We got noticed by two of the members and even caught a towel (but gave it away to the two girls in front of us).

 

December: Bali

I escaped the cold of Japan’s winter to go to Bali for about a week. I climbed a mountain and went scuba-diving – two things I wasn’t sure I could do but that I ended up loving. I loved the trip and had some wonderful experiences, made even sweeter that when I got back to Toyama I felt like I was coming home.

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January: Snowboard Season

I started going snowboarding semi-regularly and thanks to a friend who pushed me (not literally) my abilities and confidence really grew. I stopped being scared of the hill and learned to love powder. I’m lucky that Toyama has some great ski hills relatively close to where I live, and even luckier to have nice people to go with.

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February: … a blur and Ramen

February is always a month that I never remember. The fall is feels so structured, anchored by the season and the same annual events. Then January comes and the winter / spring feels like a blur. But the highlight of February for me was the ramen festival again. It makes me feel like I’m part of the community here while also eating amazing ramen… I can’t think of anything better.

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March: Shinkansen comes to Toyama!

I’m nowhere near to being a Train Otaku, but the arrival of the Shinkansen felt like a really big deal. It was exciting to see the construction that had been taking place almost since I arrived to result in this big, beautiful, fancy station. One day I will take it to Tokyo…

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April: Nagoya and Sakura

I went to Nagoya to meet the cool people of Asian Pacific Islander AJET and hang out a little. Trips to Nagoya are always so chill and relaxing. I love the bus ride and its view and the laid back atmosphere of the city. I caught the tail end of the cherry blossoms, which are always pretty but are extra special with a castle added in.

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May: Tokyo

I went to Tokyo for Golden Week, we were lucky to have 5 days this year. I had great Korean food, slept in the park, and went to Disney Sea (which is maybe better than Disney Land :O).

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June: the TRAM

Technically this isn’t a photo – but there are plenty of photos inside! In June I spent a lot of time working on my first project in layout / creative design. It took a lot of time and learning but I’m really happy with the end result especially since it’s created by people in Toyama.

July: Yukata

In July I bought and learned how to put on a Yukata for the first time (I wore it on August 1st, but that’s a technicality…). It was really nice of my teachers to take the time to show me how to do it and let me practice. I’m happy to say I can do it by myself now! I love summer festivals in Japan, they’re so laid back and have great food, but seeing everyone dressed up always makes it feel like a special occasion.

The Shinkansen comes to Toyama!

In the last year year or so I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the construction around Toyama station every week, the building dark on the inside and surrounded by fences and construction machines. I walked through the station for the first time on Sunday (the day after it opened) and was surprised at how moved I felt. It’s huge and beautiful and it feels like a really important moment for Toyama.

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The south entrance

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South of the station

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This is an image of most of the station. On the left you can see a sign that says “Toyama city” and the gate after that is for local trains and lead to the same tracks that we used before the new station was built. The big gate on the right is for the new Shinkansen.  (*^▽^*)

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Facing north: entrance to the local trains

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Facing east: entrance to the Shinkansen tracks

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The Shinkansen means an increase in tourism and and there is an entire new building attached to the east side of the station full of fancy omiyage. Here’s the new store that is in the station itself, which seems to have more budget friendly omiyage and souvenirs like key chains.

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Just one of the new shops

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Shinkansen swag!

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I know what you’re thinking, why is there a random patch of weird coloured tiles in the middle of the station? It’s actually some sort of holographic(?) tile that has different coloured lights shining on it from above. There’s also faint bird and nature noises playing that I could only hear when I walked through this area.

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On the west side of the station there is a little elevated area with tables where people can eat and study. There’s also this elevator from the future.

Toyamastation0128 Toyamastation0130On the east side of the station is the new terminal for the Toyama tram lines.
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And a new bathroom. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Toyamastation0138And after all that excitement I was back to my usual platform waiting for my train back. On the left is one of the older JR trains and on the right is one of the newer trains that have been here for almost a year. They used to only go towards Kanazawa but now they also make the trip east. The company running the main train lines in Toyama has changed. It used to be JR but it is now privately owned.

Toyamastation141While Toyama is not exactly a tourist destination, the Shinkansen means more and more people will be dropping in. There’s been major renovations to the buildings near the station, and even smaller cities have made changes like an increase in English menus and signs. It’s exciting to see Toyama growing and I can’t wait to take the Shinkansen somewhere, even if only the short trip to Kanazawa!

Winter in Toyama Prefecture

There’s something about the humidity in Japan that makes the cold feel much colder. I’ve spent a lot of nights huddled under my Kotatsu and days layered in heat-tech. Apparently Toyama used to get feet of snow in the winter, but in the last few years it’s stayed very tame. Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWhile we’ve had a few legitimate snowstorms this year, the snow has generally stayed minimal to nonexistent. Luckily for me, as a Canadian with lots of experience with snow I don’t mind the weather too much. But, I do miss having central heating… One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about living in Japan (or anywhere cold really) is to learn how to thrive in the winter. I’ve kept this idea in the back of my head this winter.

We’re lucky to have some amazing ski hills South in the prefecture. I went with friends last Saturday and I think it’s the best conditions I’ve ever had. There was a ton of powder from the snowstorm the day before, and almost no one on the hill. I’m not sure how that happened, but it made for an awesome day. It was also Valentine’s day and the man operating the top of the lift very kindly gave us all chocolate. ❤

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When it isn’t snowing or raining I try to walk to and from school. Last week I took a longer route home so I could walk along the water. There’s a strange feeling about seeing a shore or beach in the winter, at least for me. But it was really beautiful and made me appreciate the winter weather more.

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Winter #waves on my walk back from work. 🌊🌊🌊 #Uozu #Japan

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Snowy Sunday at Toyama Castle

Last week while I was away at English camp, Toyama got it’s first heavy snowfall blanketing roads and rooftops. It all melted away over the week but yesterday we got our second round. I was wandering around in Toyama city and took some pictures of the castle and the surrouding park.  There was still some fall leaves hidden away that are somehow staying strong in the cold weather.

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