Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 Omachi Budou Festival

This past weekend, I attended a two-day Budou Festival in Omachi. It was basically two days of seminars featuring different Japanese martial arts: iaido, kendo, naginata, and judo. Budou means the old Japanese martial ways, and strives to perfect unity of mind and technique. When studying budou, discipline is encouraged, technical proficiency is advanced, you become physically stronger, and your mind is perfected.
For me, I felt really fortunate to have had the chance to experience another part of traditional Japanese culture. Many highly experienced sensei (teacher/s) were present at the festival and shared their passion for martials arts with us. Our judo sensei was even 7th dan! Dan is a ranking system used in Japanese martials arts to mark one's level. I believe 10th dan is the highest.
After the first day of the festival, we had a nomikai that night, and ate tons of food and drank tons of beer. Rounds of beer were passed out every fifteen minutes! Several glasses of beers and one Chu-Hi later, someone managed to round up the troops to go on a "lake run." Apparently, the previous year, some drunken people convinced a bunch of people to jump into the freezing cold lake near the youth hostel we were staying at. It was actually Alex and another person, as I found out later. Reluctantly, I joined the rest of the crazy drunkards who were determined to jump into freezing cold waters again. We walked over to the lake, and the boys started removing ALL articles of clothing! They were going in naked! I wasn't about to go that far so I decided that jumping into the lake in my underwear would do. The water actually wasn't too bad. I imagined that it would have been much more colder, but it was alright. After we got out of the lake, a lot of people (mainly the boys) couldn't seem to find their clothes. Someone thought it would be funny to run off with people's dry clothes and hide them. Some people were ready to kill. We searched the entire area, where it was absolutely pitch black, and later found people's clothes tied onto the outside railing of some random person's house.
The second day of the festival started off with a late wake up, thirty minutes before the first seminar, meaning no time for breakfast. I was tired from a bad night's sleep (lots of noise during the morning), sore from the previous day's activities, and slightly hungover. I somehow managed to face judo in my useless state. It turned out to be really fun, and I learned some really cool judo techniques that I could see myself using in self-defense.
The Budou Festival really made me appreciate traditional Japanese martial arts even more. I have a better understanding of their history within Japanese culture, and each martial arts' significance. I know Matsumoto has some dojos in the general area, so sign me up ASAP!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time to whip out those masks!

Swine Flu has officially reached Tokyo. Great. I'm going there this weekend. In a city of 35 million people, one of the largest cities in the world, and my bad luck, I feel like I am bound to get it. I know it sounds pessimistic, but I really do have the worst luck sometimes! So how can I avoid it? Well, I've come up with a small list of ways to potentially avoid the virus:
Off to the metropolis on Saturday! Wish me a safe and healthy trip.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Calling all chocolate lovers...

I present to you: Missha "Facial Choco Cacao Scrub." I know, I couldn't believe it either. When I first laid eyes on this magical item, I had to do a double-take. I was convinced that they had filled up a cosmetic jar with some kind of thick, rich chocolate mousse. I smelled it and it was DIVINE. I bought one, took it home, and tried it out for the first time tonight. It was like smearing chocolate all over my face and rubbing it in. I was really tempted to eat it! They also have a "Black Sugar" scrub, but I prefer this one.

This exfoliating facial scrub is made from real, natural cacao that is indeed edible. Cacao contains natural properties that aid in keeping skin's elasticity, therefore promoting younger looking skin. So chocolate really is good for you!

For those of you who don't know, I have recently developed a curiosity toward Japanese skin care and cosmetics. The product packaging here is super cute. However, I can't read a freaking thing on the labels so most of the time, I have no clue what it is! It just looks nice. I am really curious to try out a few new products while I am living here. I know that the Japanese are very conscious about having healthy skin, so I hope to find some stellar products in the future. I've also noticed that when it comes to cosmetics, Japanese cosmetics seem to compliment my skin tone nicely ("yellow" undertones).

Anyway, thought I'd share this wonderful product with you. Now I have something to look forward to whenever I exfoliate my face!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I am back from Kyoto! What an amazing trip. It was short but sweet: 3 days, 2 nights, but I was very content with everything that we did there. There is so much to see and do in Kyoto, there was no way we could have done it all in three days--but that just means that I'm going to have to go back there.

On the first day that we were there, we did most of our sightseeing. We visited Kinkaku-ji, the "Golden Pavillion," which was built in the early 1200's. It was built by a shogun so that he could live there. Kinkaku-ji is surrounded by many gardens, which make it serene and peaceful. They even had a tree that is shaped like a ship, which I found interesting. Kinkaku-ji has three floors, and each floor has a different style of architecture: the 1st floor is a kind of palace style; the 2nd floor is a style of the samurai house; and the 3rd floor is Zen temple style.

Next, we headed over to Ryoan-ji, the "Peaceful Dragon Temple." This was built in the 15th century, and is supposed to one of Japan's masterpieces. It is a simple Zen garden, with fifteen rocks laid out in different areas of the garden. From any angle that you look at the garden, you won't be able to see all fifteen rocks. I tried looking at it from several different angles and it's true. No one really knows the what the garden represents, but many believe that the artist left it up to individual interpretation.

That night, we were exhausted from our crazy schedule (we had to catch a 6:05 A.M. bus from Matsumoto to Kyoto), a total of six hours on the highway bus. After a short power nap, we decided to venture out to Gion. This district is known for its a shopping/nightlife, and also a popular "geisha sighting" area, however, we didn't see any geisha.

The next morning, we went back to the Gion area because I had an appointment to get dressed up in a kimono! I was so excited to do this! Ever since I'd heard about the chance to wear a kimono in Kyoto, I really wanted a chance to experience this. The kimono rental place was called "Yume Kyoto." My rental package included a kimono & hairstyle of my choice. The process was interesting: first, you put on kimono "lingerie", which is basically a thin white cotton robe. After the lady practically tightened the robe so tight that it was impossible to breathe, I knew that wearing a kimono for the seven hours wasn't going to be exactly comfortable. Next, I had to put on another robe with a collar (I opted for a white one), and went through more tightening and securing in place. Several more layers, tightening, fastening, stuffing, and fifteen minutes of torture later, I was wearing a kimono. I can't deny that it looked great, but it was hard to move around since I my torso was super stiff. They styled my hair, which took another 10 minutes. There was a photo album with different kimono hairstyles, which in my opinion, kind of reminded me of prom up-do's, but I just wanted something more plain and not "out there." Lastly, I got to choose a purse to carry around for the day (that reminded me of the "Sex & the City" movie with the rental purses), and slippers. Traditionally, Japanese people wear kimono slippers slightly smaller than their actual shoe size, so walking carefully and taking smaller steps was necessary--especially for me, someone who is accident-prone, if you know my history.

After that, we went to a J-League soccer game. Alex had convinced us (more like forced us) to watch Kyoto vs. Yokohama while we were in Kyoto. What were the chances that Kyoto was having a home game at the time that we were visiting? We sat on the Kyoto side, and it was packed with Kyoto Sanga supporters. Every time I go to a soccer game, I love seeing the crowd shouting and singing songs to support their team. Here in Japan, in the stadium section dedicated to hardcore fans, you'll usually see drummers, people with megaphones, and people waving huge flags in support of their team. Kyoto Sanga ended up winning with a score of 2-0, which was really cool. The goals were pretty sweet too. It also ended up raining, which sucked, because we had our kimonos on. I ended up buying a Kyoto Sanga raincoat because it was the only thing available in terms of rain protection. After the game, we went back to Yume Kyoto to return my kimono. I was kind of sad that it was time to take off the kimono, but they gave me some discount coupons for next time so I am definitely coming back there!

The rest of the day, we went back to our hotel and relaxed for a while before eating dinner. We didn't realize how hungry we were, and decided that somewhere close by was the best option since we were starving. We ate at a Chinese restaurant and decided on doing the buffet. It was definitely worth our money. I probably had three or four rounds, and that wasn't even including dessert! After dinner, I was feeling pretty lousy. I shouldn't have eaten as much as I did because I was ready to go to bed. We went for a walk along the river, in search of some cool bars, but didn't find any. After returning back to our hotel rooms and watching some silly Japanese shows, we all retired.

The last day was really laid-back, and we didn't do much of anything. We woke up and took advantage of the hotel's breakfast buffet, then went back to the Gion area to buy some omiyage
(gifts). I had no idea how it was possible, but after two buffets in a row, I managed to fit in some matcha soft serve ice cream, the best in town. They have cues for this place, but luckily we got ours right away. By mid-afternoon, we were on our bus back to Matsumoto. Exhausted from our three day adventure, we crashed on the bus ride back. Kyoto is truly an amazing place, and I absolutely recommend going there to all of my friends who visit Japan!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Golden Week plans

Spring time is amazing in Japan. I think this is the only time of the year that actually BEATS Hawaii. No joke. Everything is green, green, green, with flowers of brilliant shades of pink, purple, and yellow popping up here and there. I am really loving this weather, minus the heat (23 degrees celsius). Ha, you'd think that I would be okay with the heat, being from Hawaii and all.

On another note, Golden Week a.ka. "vacation week" has begun! That means I am Kyoto-bound in two days! It will be my first time visiting the "culture heart of Japan" and I wish it hadn't taken me this long to make the journey down there. For those of you who don't know, Kyoto is a blend of traditional and modern Japan. I've heard such amazing things about the city. Apparently, the U.S. had considered dropping an atomic bomb on Kyoto during World War II, but then decided against it. As a result, it has an abundance of pre-war buildings and architecture.

Oh, and before I go...

Look at this line-up for Summer Sonic '09! Ridiculous...I have been wanting to see all of these acts for a while now. I can't believe they are all coming to Japan. It has definitely been a while since I have gone to a concert. In Japan, they have two very big summer concerts: Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic. I looked at the line-up for Fuji Rock and wasn't really impressed...though, I do wish that M83 was playing at Summer Sonic instead because I am dying to see them live.

Kyoto photos to come when I get back!

Apparently the link that was sent to me was last year's line-up. I scoped out this year's and it sucks.