Tag Archives: japan

SAS – Japan

So here it is: my first blog post from my first country! I have come to realize that due to time constraints I will likely only do one, long (good) post per country. For Japan, yea, I went to Tokyo and did all the pop-culture anime-nerd stuff, and yes, I freckin LOVED every second of it! Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku, Karaoke…Tokyo is just a magical place!
Anime

But for this blog post, I want to concentrate on Japan’s temples, food, and more historic cultural aspects. For more pictures and posts on the anime-aspect of Japan, please head over to my Instagram!

After Tokyo, I realized the group I was initially traveling with wasn’t the best(for me) – so to maximize my experience in Japan I decided to head back to the ship for free food and a free place to sleep while it traveled from Yokohama (near Tokyo) to Kobe (Osaka, Kyoto area) Most people travel over-land, but for those who travel with the ship you get special privileges. For example, they showed movies in the theatre room (“union”) and offered free fine dining for dinner.

I awoke the morning as the ship ported into Kobe, and another rush of excitement took over me. When we had first arrived in Yokohama, It took all I had not to cry happy tears. “I did it! Finally! I’m in JAPAN!” It didn’t take long before I was looking for every excuse possible to use my poor, hilarious Japanese language “skills”. My Japanese is horrible, folks, but it’s just enough to get me around and have small conversations. I loved every second of it, and although lost-in-translations happened many-a-time, it was still exciting and I did pick up more Japanese. – I wasn’t in Japan 10 minutes and I vowed to return. And if I may point out, Japanese people are so hospitable…I was a foreigner, clearly, but I didn’t *feel* like one. As much as I loved Korea and Morocco, I always felt like a foreigner because I was treated differently. It’s not that way in Japan. It made me feel guilty for not knowing more of the language.

I met up with an amazing group of SASERS (Semester at Sea Students) and we headed Kyoto way, with absolutely no plan (minus some ideas and basic directions to some possible hot spots) One girl we were with really did her research, in a sense she was the leader of the pack during this trip, and she did an outstanding job. There was never a rush, it was laid back, relaxing, and adventurous. Our first stop was the Inari Temple in inner Kyoto. My heart kinda stopped here. FOXES. SACRED FOXES. EVERYWHERE. I REALLY love foxes, so I was in fox heaven. Wolves too. The temple was beautiful, huge, red, and had many amazing attractions. From food stands, to little shops, to a beautiful walk-way within the temple itself, I was just in awe.
Inari
inariwalkway
Okami
It was crowded with locals and tourists alike – photos and clicks at every turn. I gave in and bought a magnet (plan to buy at least one magnet per country) and also got a fox plushie….I think I have about 10 foxes now…
foodstand

After Inari temple we headed to a crowded market place. It was a thin, extremely long strip of food stands and little shops. I sampled everything that was offered to me. From Mochi (rice candy), dango (kinda sorta like mochi), fish heads, octopus, I was overwhelmed and after bits of sampling I was growing more and more hungry for a meal. Starving and graving sushi, a SASER and I asked if we could have a sushi stop. You can go to the best Sushi joint in the U.S, I don’t care, it won’t compare to Japanese sushi. Looks the same, but the flavors are richer, stronger and just over all tastier. Expensive though…worth. Every. Penny. I mean, yen.

Squid
Sushi

And then I asked “So where are we sleeping tonight?” and we headed to our hostel. I was excited! I was with a group of 6, so I felt very safe, a mixture of guys and girls, and I would have my first hostel experience. I prepared myself for dirty, dangerous conditions….and then we got there. The bunk beds were clean (and sooo comfy!), the bathrooms offered towels and soaps, the lobby offered free drinks and treats and our one roommate was a backpacker traveling Asia from Israel – and he was awesome. Okay, what was I thinking? This is Japan. One of the cleanest, safest countries in the world. Can I just move here? That night our Israeli friend took us to a little noodle place for dinner. Between 2 and 4 dollars (depending on if you got meat or not) you tell her what you want, she slides the bowl to you, and you eat quickly standing up. After eating, karoke and drinks around! And I spent like 10 bucks trying to get a Pokemon plushie at a nearby arcade. I didn’t get it….Japanese arcades are evil. So many cute prizes that I just cannot win.

The following morning was a final breathe taking adventure – to Kinkaku-ji temple (Sorry for bad spelling) – a temple that looks as if it floats on the water. I can’t even get words to describe this, it was just so beautiful, and I got some of the best photos that I have ever taken at this place. The temple and its surrounding nature made it a hotspot for photographers. When you pass the temple you go up some stairs and at the top there are candles, Buddha and god statues, and a place to put the candles and watch them burn. But these candles were special, they read in Japanese things such as “Heart’s Desire” “Pray for cancer” “Hope for love”, you burn this candle to represent your hearts deepest wishes, and you ask Buddha to hear your desire, and hope for it to be granted. Can you imagine the emotion here? You are surrounded by so many people who are burning these candles with heavy hearts. As soon as I recognized where I was at and what people were doing, I was filled with tears. It’s beyond words.
kinkaku
candles

I headed back to the ship that night exhausted (my group stayed behind for some more nightlife, but I was pooped so I headed back via subway) the next morning I found myself with no plans on the last day. I found the Semester at Sea field coordinator, and she pointed me to one program that may have spots open: Hot Springs and Lunch. And sure enough, I found a student who was selling his ticket for half the price. That day I relaxed at a public hot springs. I soaked in water heated by volcanoes, and ate a tradition lunch of tempura, miso, sashimi, steak and pork (didn’t eat the pork. – quick side note, on a couple occasions I could not avoid pork in Japan. If I wanted to eat, at times I didn’t have a choice. Pork in Japan is tastier, but my stomach hated me for about 3 hours…for those who don’t know, I really don’t like pork. )

sashimi

And that ends it, I held back my tears as Japan faded into the distance. In the other direction awaits China, and through the fog – Vietnam.

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12 countries in 112 days: My semester at sea

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The MV explorer; my new home for the next 4 months!

 

Spring 2014 Semester at Sea blog!

Hey guys! Have not heard from anyone in a while, but of course this is because I have not posted in a while. I’ve been home, in Michigan, doing my usual university-work lineup. Nothing special, but as some of you may already knew, in one month I leave for a Semester at Sea!! My amazing experiences in South Korea and Morocco were simply not enough for this crazy girl. I am excited to blog about this amazing opportunity here on my little wordpress! Spread the word because honestly I want people to hear about this opportunity and be pushed to it as well in life!

Wait, what? Hold on a second Danni. What in the world is a Semester at Sea?
Well, put simply and quoting from the Semester at Sea homepage:
Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students of all majors emphasizing comparative academic examination, hands-on field experiences, and meaningful engagement in the global community. A wide variety of coursework from 20-25 disciplines is integrated with relevant field studies in up to a dozen countries, allowing for a comparative study abroad experience that is truly global. The University of Virginia is the program’s academic sponsor. Students from 250-300 colleges in the United States and the world participate on Semester at Sea each term. Credit earned is transferable to a student’s home institution.”

Let me get this straight: you’re going to be living on a ship?

You guessed it! I live on a ship in double occupancy cabins! There are classrooms, pool areas, salons, food courts, ball rooms, a library, book store, snack booth – you name it and it’s there, everything I need to thrive while at sea! Naturally in ports (and we are in ports an average of 5 days) I will be traveling around and staying in hotels and such. And host families! So far I have plans to stay with host families in multiple countries in order to get the full cultural experience!

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Picture of one of the cabins on board

And where exactly are you going?
(Briefly Mexico) Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco(Yay! Back to Morocco!!) and London! Possibly more depending on my budget (Might hit a few countries when I debark in London, but that’s actually unlikely)

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How can you afford this!?
Well, I can’t. If it was not for scholarships and a work-study I earned for Semester at Sea I would not be going. I received a merit scholarship, need based scholarship and was hired for a competitive work-study. I am awaiting on one more scholarship that is worth 10,000 through an honors society, but it is unlikely I will receive it. (Only one was available. And a girl mentioned to me since she is involved professionally with the program she will pull some strings, so I just applied for a good shot!) I am also taking out loans and emptying out my savings. Unless I get that last scholarship, I will be eating ramen noodles for a year after I return. Worth it.

Read more on my Semester at Sea on my wordpress at the tag https://elusiveambitions.wordpress.com/category/semester-at-sea-2/

If you guys have any more questions feel free to ask! I will be posting more about it as time gets closer! I also have a tumblr dedicated to Semester at Sea so feel free to follow me at
http://seathroughneweyes.tumblr.com