Sunday, August 5, 2012

Final Daze

The last few weeks have been filled with mixed emotions and a frenzy of activity. Doctors appointments, final exams, packing and last moments spent with good friends who I may never see again face to face. These last few weeks were not without happy moments though, festivals, concerts, karaoke and laughter also filled my days with memories that will last the rest of my life.

There are so many more things about my trip I wanted to share with everyone online, but as life got more hectic I focused more on the experiences rather than documenting everything. But I have more than enough pictures and memories to continue writing about my adventures for quite a while, even after I return home.

Japan is amazing, interesting and very strange. It's just like anywhere else in a lot of ways and yet there are so many things that make it so unique. Nagasaki is beautiful and vibrant, alive with old and new culture and so many things to see and do. I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here and expand my worldview.

So now I am here at my last day in Nagasaki, with only a few days left before I return to the US. I am happy to be returning to the familiarity of my home and family but there are definitely people and things in Japan that I will miss. So I bid farewell to the land of the rising sun, it's quirks and beauty as well as its faults. And I hope some day I will be able to revisit this wonderful land and discover what new adventures await me in the future.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the land of the Kimono

One of my all time favorite things about Japan has to be the textiles. Japan has such a rich history of textiles usually seen in the form of the iconic kimono. While I've been here I've done several presentations on the history and culture of the kimono. I also took a class were I was able to see and learn how to wear a kimono for myself. One of the most amazing things about this historical garment (aside from the amazing textiles) is how simplistic the design is and yet how versatile it can be.

A traditional kimono is made from a single bolt of cloth which is a specific width. It is then sewn in four long panels with two long sleeves and diagonal lapels. The design is such that all kimono are meant to fit almost all Japanese people (this is assuming of course that a person will not be very wide in the hip area). The kimono is wrapped around the body always with the left lapel over the right and cinched in place by several ties. It can be a bit tricky to get the fabric to lay straight but the benefit to this style is that the kimono can be adjusted for most heights. Once the kimono is firmly in place, the obi (sash) is placed on the waist just under the bust and tied in an elaborate knot at the back.

There are a lot of different types of kimono and obi and since they have such a rich history there is a lot of symbolism and meaning to the colors and patterns on the textiles. There are also different types of kimono for different seasons, ages and genders. The basic shape is almost always the same but the variations in the fabrics, colors and length of the sleeves determine when and by whom the garment should be worn. There are also many different types of obi and a variety of different ways they can be tied from simple bows to an elaborate knot that looks like a rose.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Best Souvenir

So I haven't blogged in a while because this trip is turning out to be more of an adventure than I expected. It started several weeks ago when I started getting sick to my stomach. I kinda had a feeling there was something going on but I wrote it off as the flu. But all that strange food I blogged about earlier started smelling and tasting disgusting to me. I could hardly eat anything but bread and fruit. After a solid week of this, with no other flu symptoms I had a pretty good idea what was going on although my husband was skeptical.

I went to the store and bought myself a pregnancy test, which was an adventure in and of itself (thank goodness for the ability to show my phone dictionary to the employee to help me find it). I came home all nerve wracked only to have the test result be completely blank...a defective test. *sigh* So the next afternoon it was back to a store, and this time I bought two. And this time they were undeniably positive within very little time waiting.

Haha, so the adventure continues! I'm experiencing morning sickness and other signs of pregnancy and I'm in a foreign country as a student. Thankfully I am married, have my husband with me and am old enough to be going through this without any guilt. I've been seriously blessed with new friends who are really helping me through this time.

Last week a friend helped us go to a ladies clinic where I have confirmed most definitely that there is a living being growing inside me. I saw the heart beating on a monitor and it was the most amazing experience. So although I am certainly feeling some homesickness, I have to say that this is going to be the most awesome story for me to tell to my kid in the future. Three cheers for my Nagasaki baby!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Food from another world

Ok, so this is a post I've been putting off because I have had so many strange things. I can't even describe what half the stuff is I've tried. And while I know that my host mother is trying to keep our meals more western styled, they are still very very unusual. Some of the food is fantastic (although it's usually the sweets) but most of it is just...different. I never understood why people always raved about eating bread all the time, but I've figured it out, it's the safest most filling, least revolting food in Japan. Regardless, here are some of the many pictures of food that I've eaten so far:

A typical breakfast

Chocolat de Tomato?? thanks...

Sakura mochi, Yum!

Curry Rice, super popular here in Japan.
It's not spicy like Indian curry, it's very sweet.

Breakfast: A ham sandwich and
french toast (with sugar on top instead of syrup)

They call this a hamburger, the sauce is sweet.
The blue bowl has veggies, some of which is bamboo shoot.
The black bowl is a chicken salad with strawberries.

Breakfast, some sort of sweet egg salad

At a bread store

McDonald's teriyaki burger with egg...
It was actually pretty good.

I only vaguely guess what this stuff is...

Toppings on rice on the bottom,
the blue bowl is bamboo shoot and beef
tempura veggies and cold noodles

Anpan Man

Japanese Pizza, broccoli and ham
there is no real cheese in Japan...just white gooey stuff.

The plate with the flowers is pasta with meat sauce

This fish has huge teeth...
I was told the bigger the eyes, the better the fish.

Mochi for Children's day.
The fish represent the koi that fight to swim upstream to spawn
and the hope that the children will inherit that strength

Chirashi Sushi.
Various toppings over rice, it is sooooooo good!!

The top left is a crab salad (I think), the rest are mostly veggie dishes.
The bottom two have bamboo shoot that was harvested
on a mountain near my friend's house, this meal was amazing!

Fresh bamboo shoot

Lemon ice, isn't it pretty?

Italian cream pasta with spinach and bacon

Hamburger with potatoes and other veggies, yum!

Steak and a few corn kernels, Brian was craving meat.

Tempura veggies, chicken and shrimp

McDonald's shrimp filet burger
I'm so sad we don't have this in the states, it's awesome!

Sort of like chow mien?

We went to this place for Brian's birthday.
It was an all-you-can-eat in 70 minutes.
You use a touch pad to order whatever meat you want
and you get to grill it yourself. We stuffed ourselves silly.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ships and Hanabi

One of the great festivals I've had the good fortune to experience was a Ships Festival. Large old fashioned sailing ships came into the Dejima pier and all around the area was food and music. The ships themselves were incredible, I didn't realize how HUGE they could be.

During the afternoon we walked around and looked at all the ships, and watched dance performances. The festivals bring in a lot of people from all over so it was really crowded. In the late afternoon we met up with some friends and decided to go have kaiten sushi. This type of sushi consists of a bunch of little plates on a conveyor belt and you grab whatever you want and are charged by how many plates you have. It can actually be a really cheap way to eat sushi and you have a lot of options. 

Corn sushi...??

 After dinner we headed back to the pier and the ships were even more amazing than before. They had all been strung with lights and as the sun went down the whole place glowed, It was really beautiful.

 But the best was yet to come. We settled ourselves in a big park overlooking the water and when it was dark enough watched an absolutely incredible fireworks display over the glittering ships.