Monday, 30 May 2016

Close-ups of sakura

As I mentioned before, this year I was too lazy to take any close-ups as I already had taken so many. My Facebook friends have already seen all these, but I'll share it anyway for those who are in Facebook, so you can notice that the somei yoshino type (the most common one, 2nd photo) is not the only type. All of these were taken in Kyoto in April 2014.


I believe this is a Somei yoshino sakura.


At the Kiyomizu Temple.




Bonus: Kyoto's Kamo river is simply beautiful.

Hanami in Hitachi

After the hanami weekend in Tokyo, it was time for hanami in Hitachi on Sat April 9th as the season here is usually a bit later than in Tokyo. This year though the sakuras all over Japan were apparently ahead of the average year schedule. There are several cherry blossom forecasts (桜予想) to follow, but these forecasts usually appear quite late for tourists to have any gain of it for their trip planning. I think best guess would be being in Japan during the first days of April and actually staying a bit longer in one place to assure you are there during the full bloom. I was lucky enough to spend one month in Kyoto two years ago in April thanks to our school for reorganizing the period system and leaving me without courses during the new 5th period.

On the 9th there was a Spring festival at our work place in Hitachi. Me, Anthony, Ed, Aidan, Alan and Mathilde decided to go and see it. Also generally no photos are allowed on the company area, but today was an exception. Though I actually think the prohibition applies only to the work related stuff so I've taken photos of the trees also before when they were in the early blooming stage. This post will again contain a lot of photos so I'm only posting full bloom ones.

The day was the first really warm one in Hitachi this spring and while we were walking from the train station to the company, many of us hoped we would not chosen jeans to wear in the morning. I even got a slight sunburn...

The road to the company which the bus takes everyday.




The festival.
Anthony and Aidan enjoying their time.
Entertainment for kids. That guy was the most stereotypical anime bad guy I've seen in a while, but that itself made it fun to watch haha.
Trying out the festival sake ("nihonshu" in Japanese as "sake" means alcoholic drinks in general).

Mathilde and Ed represented Europe in the "loud-voice-competition" (which also had kids as participants). Ed won and got 10,000 yen (~80 euros) worth of gift cards for shops. You were supposed to shout some phrase: Ed shouted a basketball cheer in Lithuanian and there was a guy who was leading for a while with はらへったー! meaning "I'm hungry!". :D
After the company festival, we headed for lunch near the station and then to Hitachi-shi for some more sakura. I could only make a short stop there as I had to go for a drinking party with my yosakoi teammates in Mito. No photos from there unfortunately, but I just love how my teammates (all Japanese) love my English pronunciation haha. "Say this, say this." "Waaa, so cool!" :D

Hitachi Civic Center
Hitachi Heiwa Doori

Bonus story about sakura: Japanese people also seem to love special/limited edition stuffs, so during the sakura season you'll see season special sakura flavour drinks or some green tea bottles and beer cans getting a seasonal cover with flowers.

Cherry blossom latte

Friday, 20 May 2016

Daily life in Hitachi and general updates

How are you doing?

A small update of what has been going on lately and how's the daily life here as the blog posts appear months later than the actual thing happened.

- I'm generally doing fine (yay).
- Living in Hitachi is good. More about it below (trying to keep the list clean).
- Got addicted to a melonpan they sell here every Wednesday, it's too good! This one actually has melon in it and they bake the melonpan in the van so when you get it's fresh and fluffy. Yummy!

I got melonpan with Jess every week and I'm now trying to send her the weekly melonpan photos. :)

- Got new friends from Malaysia (Jess and Adrian) who were also doing an internship in Hitachi and living at the same dorm. Their internship was also an 8-month one, but it ended in April and they've already gone home by now. :(

Adrian, Anthony, Jess and me. It feels like this photo was taken ages ago even if it's only been a month.

- Got some new friends from the new employees. Though they are all foreigners haha.
- Spent a wonderful Golden Week holiday with my fiancé Tuukka in Kyoto while meeting friends.

Stayed at Gojo Guesthouse where I worked one month as a helper in 2014. From the left Kaji-san, Miwa-chan, me, Tuukka and Nao-san.

- Joined a yosakoi team at the end of January and keeping up quite well. Got an expensive costume (around 35,000 yen ~280 euros), but I love it. Had my stage debut a month ago and the first yosakoi matsuri/festival/competition is coming this weekend. In June I'll also participate the Yosakoi Soran Festival in Sapporo, which is the biggest yosakoi festival in Japan. Last year there were 270 teams, 27,000 participants and around 2 million visitors. Woopwoop!

My costume <3

- Starting playing taiko didn't turn out well as I went to a basketball practice in Jan and got a ball to my finger... The finger was not broken (did x-ray), but it's certainly not ok. It took almost three months to heal to partly ok. Even now, after four months, it hurts occasionally, but it's getting better. I could start taiko now, but yosakoi takes so much of my free time. The practice and performances also collide with the practice of one local taiko team whom I spoke with, so I guess I can't do it after all. :'( Have to play a lot of Taiko no Tatsujin instead!

General opinion about living in Hitachi


After the initial shock of "there's nothing here!" I came to realize I have all the most important things here: a supermarket and a 100-yen-shop next door, a couple of konbinis, a huge pharmacy store and a 24-hour book store on a way to the bus stop, an electric-appliance store half-way to the station and a train station relatively close. The train station could be closer, but it's still within a doable distance. And btw there used to be a station right next to our dorm, but they closed it ten years ago... That's why now our dorm seems to be in the middle of nowhere. There's also a really nice bath (onsen) only 2 km away from the dorm which even has a sea view. :) Here we also have both sea and mountains near and I really mean they are near. Though not as near as the mountains and river in Hitachi-daigo. We also have some restaurants, 100 yen per plate sushis and other ones as well as a Starbucks (here?!). The restaurants and Starbucks are not right next to our place, but within a doable distance with a bike.

From the bus stop.
Anyway, at first I was thought I would get bored here and was thinking what am I going to do with all the free time I have. But my schedule was quickly filled and I don't have problems with free time anymore, haha. Also once I got used to living here I realized how this is a lot like Finland. There's nothing much where I live in Finland even though I live relatively near the Helsinki (the capital) city center. From here, Mito, the prefecture capital, is quite close as well (30 mins by train), though it could be a bit more lively there's nothing much there either. For a short stay like mine, this place is a really nice one to see a different side of Japan. Not sure if I would like to stay here permanently, even though I love my yosakoi team and the melonpans and I'll be sad when I have to leave.

Daily life


My normal weekdays go like this:

* 6:30 - wake up
* 6:50 - get out of the bed after a couple of alarms and cursing why I have to get up (I'm not a morning person)
* 7:30 - leave the dorm and bike to the bus stop or half the way
(if it's a day for yosakoi practice, I'll leave a bit earlier, bike to the nearest station, leave my bike there so that you'll get home faster in the evening and walk to another bus stop)
* 7:50 - get on a bus (there's only one to go with in the morning)
* 8:20-8:30 - arrive to work
* 8:50 - start working
* 12:00 - a 45 min lunch break
* 15:00 - coffee break
* 17:20 - day ends, going home
* 17:40 - take the bus home
* past 18 - arrive home, get groceries on the way, do laundry, iron shirts, clean up, cook, try to update blog, study Japanese, read books, watch series (currently I don't have any), practice yosakoi choreography from videos or accidentally get lost in the internet and find out it's already 22:00. I need a lot of sleep (like 8-9 hours every night), so I'm trying to go bed early. It rarely happens.

Or if I'm going to a yosakoi practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays

 *17:20  -  walk to the station
*18:00 - take a train to Mito
*18:30 - arrive to Mito, get dinner, play Taiko no Tatsujin
*19:40 - practice starts
*21:30 - practice ends
*22:04 - take a train back (this one or the one before if the practice ends a bit early)
*22:45 - arrive home, take a shower and go to sleep

Or I might have a Japanese class on Tue from 19:00 to 21:00. As the yosakoi and the Japanese class collide, I'm trying to do them every other week.

Weekends


I don't even remember when was the last day I took easy at home. Generally since mid-April I've been busy and will be until mid-June mostly because of yosakoi and my fiancé visiting. In yosakoi we have an all-day practice (10:00-17:00) almost every Sun in a place that takes my 2 hours to go to. If I have free Saturdays (no practice or festival or holiday), but I usually spend them either by going somewhere with friends or writing the monthly reports for Vulcanus.

Follow me on Instagram

Keeping up a blog is hard when on your normal days nothing happens and on the days you do something you'll have like 300 photos to choose from.

So I decided to to share you my Instagram account, which at the moment is only starting, but which seems easier to update as you can do it on the go.

For ones, keeping a post short, here's a link: https://www.instagram.com/katainjapan/



I'll try to update often and if nothing special happens, I'll post some other photos from my stay in Japan. :)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Hanami in Tokyo

During the first weekend of April I headed for Tokyo to see the sakura, cherry blossoms, as the season is slightly earlier there than in 1.5-hours-north-of-Tokyo-by-express-train Hitachi/Ibaraki.

I was in Kyoto two years ago for one month and it happened to be April. Thus I have way too many closeup photos of the cherry blossoms and I was too lazy to take any anymore. I might post some from the two years just for you to see them, but this time it's only general hanami, flower watching, photos around Tokyo.

I travelled to Tokyo as usual on Friday night after work and stayed with my lovely host family. On Saturday I planned to meet friends for having a hanami at Ueno Park, which is one of the most popular places for hanami in Tokyo. Hanami itself greatly reminds me of the Finnish May Day picnic on the first of May (Vappu). Except that we don't have the beautiful flowers. But the basic idea of having a picnic and drinking with friends is the same.

Changing trains at the Ueno station on Friday evening and I wasn't the only one.
Entering Ueno Park
Aidan and Anthony.
Aidan, Kashimoto-sensei, Aidan's friend, Jose and Aidan

Everybody has the blue sheets to mark their spot.
Some people had even prepared tables from cardboard boxes.
A lot of people (this was not the peak yet).
One silly photo...
...one basic "me&sakura" photo...
...and one group selfie.
Thousand origami cranes (senbazuru 千羽鶴) are supposed to grant you your wish.
Chidorigafuchi
The best view from this side was blocked.
So many people.
Entering the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.


Tying a not-so-luckly omikuji.
Naka-Meguro during the night.
Our small group started to split after visiting Chidorigafuchi and in the end only me and Aidan visited Naka-Meguro, which was packed with people. The view would most likely have been better if we would have continued following the river further, but I was too tired of the crowds to even play with my camera and take decent photos.

Sunday was a rainy day so I spend it indoors with my host family. Me and Yuka, the daughter of the family who's a year older than me, took it easy and laid on the electrical carpet (it's waaaarm and so nice) while watching TV. A nice relaxing day after one a bit more tiring one. ^^

Relaxing with Kuroe, the younger one of the family's two dogs.