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Friday, September 30, 2011

Japan, September Updates!

It's been a while since I have updated my blog, and I dearly apologize for that. >.<  It has been REALLY busy here, and now there is so much to say.  LOL

SOoo...  For the most exciting part....

I AM PART OF GACKT DEARS....AND...

BLOODY HELL I'M GOING TO HIS YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz LIVE ON OCTOBER 27!!!!!  

....

.....



:)   I wish I could make a bigger happy face... LOL


Alright, to the more fancy stuff....Getting concert tickets is sooo difficult here in Japan. In the US, it is so easy to secure a ticket for a concert, even if it is the day of you can still get tickets depending on who you are wanting to see. But here in Japan? HEEELLLZ no.  You have to register for the fanclub (and sometimes it costs big money...), you have to register for Lawsons AND their ticket sites, and THEN...you have to HOPE you can get a ticket before they sell out, EVEN if you are in the fanclub.  Usually, concert tickets in Japan sell out within seconds of them being released. So what happens first, is the fanclub members (and SOMETIMES general public), enter to win their tickets in a lottery.  Firstly, you can't find ANY information about how the lottery works. ANYWHERE. So I am going to help yall out if you ever encounter this problem.


This is envelope for tickets/fanclub tickets/ etc

DEARS Fanclub confirmation. This is what you receive at Lawsons after you register for the club at the loppi machine.


 
HOW THE JAPAN CONCERT TICKET LOTTERY WORKS:


With Lawsons and their Ticket site, you sometimes have the option to enter into a lottery to get your ticket(s).  The lottery is usually open to fanclub members only, or fanclub members first, but either way, it is a hit or miss.  It is completely random. Winners are randomly chosen and so are the seats. The good thing about this, is that the fanclub members don't get to steal all the good seats. The bad thing is, is that you could get the worst seating in the entire house.  But that is the least of your worries. At least you have a better chance at securing the ticket. 

Now here is where it gets hard to find information.  When you register with Lawsons and their Ticket site, you have to register what bands you are interested in getting tickets and information for. Your band may or may not be registered.

Also, when you go to enter the lottery, you DO NOT PAY UNLESS YOU WIN THE TICKETS.  This information can't be found ANYWHERE in English, I tried.  I just know this from experience. If you DO win the tickets, then the money is automatically withdrawn from your credit card. 

And now it gets even more trickier...If you win, you will receive a confirmation email from lawsons telling you what you won and how to go pick up your tickets as well as how much was drawn from your account.  The tricky part? Getting the tickets.

Go to a loppi machine usually found in Lawsons. The 100円 Lawsons do not carry the loppi machine (at least not that I can see).  The loppi machine is ALL in Japanese, so make sure you have a denshi jishou, a person who can read kanji,  know your kanji, or just be really good at guessing when you go to pick up your tickets. The machine will ask you for your four digit pin to confirm your tickets, will ask you for the 10 digit confirmation you received in your email, as well as some other information about you.  Here is the most important..do NOT forget your credit card you used to pay. This is how they check to make sure YOU are the one who won the tickets, and not someone who is trying to steal them from you.  So please do not forget:

1). 4 digit pin
2). 10 digit confirmation number
3). credit card used to pay


Also know your address, phone number, DOB, etc. This is useful information when applying for fanclubs too.

Once you have your tickets, you are good and set!!

If you do NOT win your lottery, it is okay because you have a chance to purchase them later on their release date. For this, I suggest you purchase them within seconds of their release time, especially if it is for a famous artist like Gackt, Ayumi Hamasaki, X-Japan, SMAP, Kumi Koda, etc etc.  These tickets sell out within seconds of being released, so be quick and be ready!  There are actually people who wait at the loppi machines or at the computer on the ticket site, waiting for the release time to get their tickets.

Also, Japanese are obsessed with their hobbies, especially when it comes to artists that they like. So they will follow their favorite artist to every live they have all over the world. They will also purchase tickets even if they have no intention of going to the concert.  I know...It sucks...GOOD LUCK!


NIHON BUYOU

Went to my first nihon buyou lesson tonight.  I have been dancing nihon buyou for 5 years now, but I wanted to continue to learn here in Japan. I love to dance, and I love performing, so I was ecstatic to be able to continue dancing here.  

It was sooo great! I made a really awesome friend who will be joining me in my lessons. :)  She loves the things that I like too! We have a lot in common.  She is from China, but lived in Japan for 5 years now.  She likes shabu shabu, karaoke, and enka. :)  She was really easy to get along with!!!!  I can't wait to hang out with her again. ^.^

The sensei is super nice! I got served beer, some snacks... XD  And then he told me that he will teach me a harder dance because I have been doing it for a while. He wants us to perform for a big festival at the end of October. SOOOO exciting, and a bit exhilarating too.  Nerve wracking is another good word to use, I think. lol

We learned a super short song tonight, and we are going to practice it a lot. :P 



TENSHI NO SATO 天使の里

Tenshi no Sato was absolutely gorgeous! The ride to Kyoto took a little long, because we missed our station and went to the wrong one. >.<  We then had to take the bus to Kyoto Station, and get on the JR line to Sato. Tenshi no Sato was right next to the station.  When you walk in, you are bombarded with beautiful gardens and traditional entranceway. Also bombarded with a tall, modern building in the middle of it all. . . 

When you walk in, you check in at the window. If you are a VS member then you don't have to make a reservation. However, if you do not have a Volks paid membership, then you have to make a reservation ahead of time before you can come, and show id when you get there.

The shop was in the basement, and they have all of their one offs for the limited event displayed!!! <3

Speaking on one-offs... O.M.G.  They have showrooms everywhere, and they display all of their best versions and one-offs ever. Along with the limited clothes etc. It just makes you want to pee yourself. O.O  It is so amazing!  You are not allowed to take pictures though.

We met up with three very WONDERFUL ladies!  They were so nice and helpful, and we all hung out and talked about dolls for a long while! 

When we went outside, we went to the gardens to take pictures. So beautiful.  I have taken tons of pics and some video, but I am going to only upload a few of them for now.





After our visit to Tenshi no Sato, we went to a resturant in Kyoto that was famous for their pancakes. They were expensive, at about 750円 to 1000円 for two pancakes and a drink. @.@  You can also add desert to your set (in the US we call it a "meal").

But they were DELICIOUS!!  The place was at a renovated onsen, and you could tell it used to be an onsen. :)  Because of this, we could not take pictures of anything except our food. I don't have pics of my food at the moment to upload. I will have to get them from my friend's camera. :)



I think that is all for now.  Classes are super, joined Kendo and found a guy I like... lol .. .  Joining naginata club (I hope to anyway!), along with Sado club. ^_^  SUPER BUSY!!!


Mimiru


Lawson Ticket Site
https://l-tike.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

Osaka: Relaxing Around

Today was just a relax day, and we all decided that after yesterday's excursion, that we should just take the day and rest and hang out in the area. We checked out the Book Off next to the school, and I ended up finding a manga that I have been dying to get my hands on. :) 

I have Kaikan Phrase (Sensual Phrase in the US) in English, but I wanted the original, unedited Japanese release of the series.  I ended up finding Volumes 1-3 of the thick, special release of the manga. A few volumes missing, but I at least started to find them. :)  They were only 105 yen, and I decided it was a steal. I am a huge fan of Mayu Shinjo and her artwork, and I was ecstatic to find the original Kaikan Phrase. :)

After the Book Off, we went next door to the hyakuya to get some more stuff for school. Nothing really much here.

Then back to the gyudon shop for lunch. I love the food there. It is sooo cheap and affordable and GOOD.

That was about all we did for the day. Tomorrow we have to go get our Alien Registration and National Health Insurance. :P We may go hang out at the Mos Burger just to get out of the dorms.

<3
Mimi

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Osaka: Nipponbashi and Volks

Today was super exciting!!!  Today was the day that we all decided to go and hunt out Volks, so that we can check out the famous Dollfie vender. And. It. Was. Awesome. 

But. Before that. ^.^

We found a place just like a SukiYa right here in front of the university. This was a HUGE relief, and their gyudon is epic. ^.^  It was really nice and refreshing to taste real gyudon again. 


*****
Next, we found ourselves in need to find our way to Volks.  Like yesterday, we took the Hyanku line to Osaka Station, and then we actually switched this time to the Midosouji line to Nanba Station. This was just the easy part though...
We walked for what seemed like FOREVER.  We ended up getting a little lost on Ota, because the directions said Ota Dori. But we didn't see the store. Finally I went to a hobby shop and got someone to show a map and direct us to the store. He was really nice and really helpful.  And before that, we couldn't find Ota, and a really nice man at the conbini (convenience store) showed me where to go.

Gundam shop located down the street from Volks.

And WHALA! We turn the corner, and walk a little ways a BAM! GIANT VOLKS SIGN RIGHT IN THE FACE! lol  It was hard to miss once you come up onto it.

Volks: Tenshi no Sumika (Osaka Showroom)
天使のすみか

The next hard part was going up the stairs.... seven flights... OMG.... But it was a good walk. 

When we got to the Dollfie Showroom, it was everything awesome. :)  All of Volk's best molds on display all around the room. :)  As standard, pictures are not allowed inside the showroom. There were two women working today, and I went to ask about how to do the Full Choice System for when I have saved up my money to come back...

And I got sat down and somehow ended up doing the FCS without really meaning to. O.O  I was really worried about money at first, because it cost me 89,400¥.  I was going to cancel and do it later (as intended), but it would cost me 10500¥ to cancel.  So I had Ashy come with me to withdraw my money from Nephelin so that I could pay for it.  We went back, and I began the wonderfully amazing process of getting my first Volks doll. :)

The nice lady spoke Japanese, but a little English, and we would communicate back and forth with computer translations and denshi jishou.  She was really patient, nice, and helpful, and she explained every step of the way.

She showed me the first section of the binder, which showed me all of the available molds for the FCS. Of course, I went with F-22.  I LOVE Kun, and have been wanting Kun for a little while now. F-22 is such an androgynous, cute and flexible mold that I immediate fell in love with it as both, a girl and a boy.  At first, I was going to begin making Ciel.  The next part was skin color, and then they showed me all of the available wigs. Originally, I was going to make Ciel Phantomhive, but decided against it halfway through and changed to making my original, Rogue. They don't have blue wigs, but I went with a lovely FCS only wig for the time being.

Then I chose the eyes. A really lovely blue, glass style.  Then I got to choose the eye size, if they are to be glued or not, eyelash color and type, and if the eyes and lashes are to be glued in or not. Next is the sex. Boy or girl? I went with my first SD girl. ^.^  With a jointed body type and everything else double jointed. Next is arm length.  I was going to get a case for the doll at first, but I decided to wait a while. I want to save for a violin doll case. They are soooo lovely and wonderful!

The faceup was one of my favorite parts of the FCS. I found a lovely faceup in the examples, and I took that and altered what I wanted from that. They have it just perfect. I can't wait to see it on the doll herself. I am sure she will be really lovely~!  I am worried that her eyes may be a little too black. I told them a little black, but I almost think the brown would be better. :(  I guess I will have to wait and see.

I figured I would wait on the clothing as well. I will get clothing at the Dollpa. :)  I am wanting to get another kimono. <3  I have mine with me right now that she can wear for now.

But that is the basics of the FCS. I can't believe I actually did it.  It is kind of only JUST sinking in. O.o  I should be able to pick her up around November 13. SO EXCITED.

We got to talking to the woman who guided me through my FCS. She has a little over 10 dolls! O.O  She said that her dad thinks it's too expensive, and then laughed about it. lol  I guess a lot of us doll owners who are younger can relate to that and see it as an inside joke. :)  I am really thankful to her. She was super helpful and VERY kind and patient.  :)

My DOD Twing-Key. I plan on making this character out of Volks F-22. ^.^ 


*****
We went to McDonald's on the way back.  We had a lot of fun people watching. :)  We were pretty amazed at the area. It was the super awesome electric/anime district of Osaka. It was all anime, game, figure and hobby shops.  Basically, the Akibahara of Osaka. :)  It was really cool, really big, and really busy!  Loved it!  TONS of maid cafes.  I heard Osaka was famous for some of their Maid Cafes.  Maybe we will go to one this year. :)

Wait for it....
CREEPER!!! O.O


The way back was tiring. The train switched tracks on the way back, so we had to pay extra and double back. It turned a 30 minute ride into a hour and half ride from Umeda to the dorms. @.@ 



But eh. It's Japan. It's big. It's busy. It's awesome. :)


<3
Mimiru

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Osaka: Orientation Day 2 & a Little Umeda

Today was perhaps the most nerve wracking part of orientation....the placement test. @.@  I do NOT test well, and I freak out during them. *cry*  But oh well. :)  Whatever happens happens. It was not a pass or fail.  The test did have different parts:  Computer (listening, grammar, reading, vocabulary), Written, Oral interview. Ganbare minnasan!

****
After the placement test, I had to go and visit with the International Affairs Office and my advisor to discuss how to go about getting a job and joining Kendo club.  I was curious because I heard that there was a weight limit to join certain clubs, and Bennett sensei was so funny!  He started to "freak out" and go: "Oh my! I didn't know that I had a limit weight on my club! D:  I wish I would have known about it before~!!"  LOL  He was really hilarious and helpful.  I also mentioned to him about me wanting to take his naginata class.  I love martial arts, and I am excited to continue to take martial arts here. ^.^
Not only did I get to mention that I wanted to join kendo to the instructor, but I also got invited to take nihon buyou dance lessons from one of the other professors at Kansai University. :)  I am VERY happy to continue to learn nihon buyou in Japan. <3   The professor was very happy that I learn and dance, and that I am interested in it. Nihon buyou is not as popular as it should be, and the society it is involved in is very closed.

****
Originally, we were going to go to Nipponbashi to find the Volks showroom, Tenshi no Sumika, but instead we hung out in Umeda for a while and grabbed some noms. We were famished by the time we got out of the placement tests and meetings, and then there was the ride to find a nice place to eat.  We were supposed to go to a SukiYa, but we were not quite sure where it was located, and we were too hungry to go and look. Instead we went to Mos Burger, which was still nice, but more expensive than the SukiYa.

Across from Mos Burger was the good ole' Animate store. ^.^  It was busy, but everyone was getting out of school and work, so of course it was rush hour.

I am happy to have been able to go back to Hep Five and get a new pair of earrings.  I have been missing a pair for a while, and Hep Five has awesome earrings for cheaper than what you can get in the States. I just decided to save my money that way and get them here. ^.^

In the basement of Hep Five, is a huge shopping center connected to the stations, some other malls and tons of food places.

The parfait at one of the many cafes was delicious! Minus the lots of fruit, but I don't particularly like fruit with ice cream and cake. >.<  But either way, it was lovely! 

****
People here in Japan are very friendly and accommodating. There are the few that discriminate, but it is not really much of a deal to me.  Discrimination is everywhere, it happens, nothing you can REALLY do about it except pity the person for their naiivety.

I guess that is all for tonight. There was really a lot that happened today, but after a long day beginning at 6am, it is hard to really want to write minute detail. @.@  Perhaps I will update this post and elaborate a bit more tomorrow. ^.^



Cheers!

<3
Mimiru

Friday, September 9, 2011

Osaka: Orientation Day 1

Osaka: Orientation Day 1


I will be the first to admit, that studying abroad is VERY intimidating and overwhelming, especially if you have not done it before.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it can easily cause a lot of stress, necessary and unnecessary.  Most of this probably has a lot to do with culture shock, language barriers, little number of friends in the beginning, unsure where to get started or how to ask, etc.  Even if you do know the language, it can still be difficult, especially when put in a region with a completely different dialect.  Kansai-ben(関西べん) is much different than what we deem as "standard" Japanese, and it shows when speaking and listening to others speak.  Some examples:

*Thank you:  arigatou ありがとう -> ookini おおきに
*I likesuki desu すきです -> sukkyana すっきゃな

It can be very different. Although, this also makes for an interesting, upcoming school year. :)






*****

Some tips for everyone if you decide to study abroad one day.

*find yourself a good support system IN and OUT of the country you are going to. A good support system will help you when you are feeling culture shock, depression, jet lag, or emotional.

*Budget and plan accordingly.  How much will it cost? What is the rate of exchange? How much for transportation and how often will you be traveling or using a transit system? Food? Rent? Extra? All of this should be taken into consideration. Rate of exchange fluctuates everyday, and will effect your budget. Find out if you also are able to get a part time job. This can not only help you budget your money, but will also enhance your study abroad experience and will look super on your resume. :)

*Bring extra shoes in case you need them. You won't always have time or money to just go out and buy new shoes. Bring an extra pair, especially if you plan on doing a lot of walking (such as in Japan).

*Make sure to have a list of emergency contacts in and out of the country. Be sure to have a list of doctors, hospitals, etc and find out what your insurance covers overseas. This is very helpful in case anything happens.

*Obey the rules/laws of both countries. Don't be stupid. You can't fix it.

*Get out and meet people! Socialize! Especially in Japan! This is a very important part of your study abroad experience. Meet people, make friends or even SOs. No use spending all that money to recluse yourself. ^_~  This is also a very good way to learn the language and culture, as well as help ease culture shock.


Those are just some basic tips. I will leave more from time to time. ^^  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at:

kirei-hanako@excite.co.jp   OR  mimiruriley@excite.co.jp


*****

We had orientation today beginning at 1, with a lunch at noon.  I am not much of an udon fan, since I prefer my noodles to be a bit crunchy and udon is as far from crunchy as you can get, but today's niku udon was delicious. :)  It was 280 yen for a large bowl. Can't beat that with a wooden stick. ^_~  

Orientation was kinda half boring and half interesting.  I mean, we were just reviewing a large packet of papers that we already read through a dozen times, along with some new info on cell phones and alien registration and national health insurance.  It is about as basic and important that you can get, but at the same time...it felt like it would never end. lol

I am thinking about getting a basic plan with an "au phone". It will be more affordable than others, and I can get unlimited calling to 3 other people. :)  But at the moment, I need to make sure I can afford my year here.  I am behind about $7000 and I have to come up with it somehow before I leave back to the States.  This includes rent and remaining tuition amount.  


*****

I am having some difficulties with coming up with the proper amounts. I can't ask my family for any more money since they don't have any, and I can't get student loans since I don't have a job (at the moment) and I don't have anyone who can co-sign.  I am really worried about finances.  I am not sure I will be able to come up with $7000 from working part time.  My work visa will not go through for another three months, so I have to somehow come up with the money for rent from that time outward until I can save up enough worth in rent.  Plus electric and linens utilities.  *sigh*  I wish I could get more scholarships.  I have been applying, but it is really competitive, and it is difficult for people who need the scholarships to actually GET them.  I'm a bit worried I may be screwed before I have to come back to the US.


*****

Well, all of that aside... I have to study a little while for the Japanese language placement exams tomorrow.  I have a feeling this is going to be another long day. @.@  It starts at 9am.  I really hope I don't have to start from square A. >.<  I will be greatly upset if I have to pay AGAIN for something I already know and already taken.  It is really frustrating.  I am worried about the exam, because I do NOT test well, and I get really nervous when it comes to taking a written or oral exam, ESPECIALLY an oral exam.  I am scared that my inability to test properly will flunk me into a language class I am already familiar with, proficient in and comfortable with.  I don't want to pay $40,000 to learn what I already know. >.<  I want to learn what I DON'T already know. :)  This is how I improve my knowledge and cultural experience. ^.^



******


Originally, we were planning to go to Umeda today, but we didn't get out of orientation until after 5pm. :(   So instead we picked up some needed things at the hyakuin 百いん (hyaku ya 百夜, hyaku en ya 百円夜, etc).

I'm a little hungry, but I am so sleepy and jet lagged. @.@  I am probably going to wait to eat until tomorrow after the exam. I think tomorrow, if the exams are not an ALL day thing, we will head out to Umeda to either the SukiYa or for some shabu shabu and treat ourselves before we no longer can. lol




Today was a pretty good day, I'll say. Long though, since I woke up around 6am. It is hard to believe it is only 8:30pm.  It feels SO much later. Once more, I blame the jet lag. :D

oyasumi nasai minna san!
おやすみなさいみんあさん!

Arrived: Osaka

Arrived: Osaka

Finally, after a looong process of applications, moving, and traveling, I have at last arrived safely in Osaka.

The plane ride was very long.  Overall it was a 17 hour trip. By the time we arrived at Kansai International, all 11 of us were ready to drop.  We went from St. Louis to Dallas, Dallas to Tokyo, and then Tokyo/Narita International Airport to Kansai International Airport. The first two flights were on American Airlines, and then we switched to Japan Airlines for the domestic flight.

We took a taxi from Kansai International to the dorms, however the total was nearly 200000 yen. I wanted to cry. That is a lot of money for the first day here. When we arrived at the dorms, they quickly got us settled into our rooms (the dorm manager was kind enough to help carry luggage).  Unfortunately, immediately after everyone got settled in, we had to have a meeting for paperwork.  I will tell you, no matter how much Japanese we knew (some of us are very fluent), being exhausted makes it very difficult to process what anyone is saying.


Dorm Main Hall

Shoe Lockers

Visiting Area

Desk in front hall
Umbrella area in front of door in main hall
Shoe box in front of door in main area (lobby)


There are plenty of others here in the dorm that are from the US, some from France and others from other places. There are a lot of Japanese students here as well. ^^

 The room is very cozy, and we have our own air conditioning (thank goodness!!!). Japanese air conditioning in main areas really sucks. It is really hot and humid, and the air in the building may only be one or two degrees cooler than outside. @.@  When walking into our own rooms, it is like walking into an ice box. lol

Dorm Room



Something that I didn't expect, was the culture shock when it came to the dorms. The rules are quite strict.

*Not allowed outside after 11pm. The dorms become locked. If we are locked out more than once, then our parents are notified and we have to write a log in a book.

*No guys allowed in the building.

*No eating in the dorm rooms, but for a fee, you can smoke. (I don't quite understand this part...)


And so many others, but those are the ones that are most important.  I do understand the difference in culture, thus the "parents being notified" part, but since we are from overseas, this may be a little difficult as well as pricy.


"Sign in and out" board


My name tag

I am still trying to figure out and budget my finances.  I have a few months' rent set aside, but I don't have too much more to spare.  I am kind of worried about the later months.  I do look forward to obtaining a few jobs, doing the Volks service, and tutoring. 

I am still trying to figure out what clubs I want to join. I am leaning towards Kendo and Archery club. ^.^


Since I came back, I am very happy.  It is very comforting to see places I have  been before, eat foods I love, get the exercise that is harder to get back in the States, and even enjoy a culture that I really love and appreciate. This trip, though stressful, is entirely rewarding, and I would never have done it differently, nor will I ever regret it.

I have orientation in a few. Then off to the Hyakuin (what the kids at Kansai U call the 100 yen stores) and then heading out to Umeda and Nihonbashi.  I want to check out Volks, at least briefly before the weekend. Maybe shabu shabu tomorrow or something as an arrival treat.  Plus, I also want to eat at the Sukiya.  I miss eating at the Sukiya.  The gyudon is amazing here.  I had gyudon at the Japanese festival, but I really wanted to gag.  It was not very appetizing. >.<  I love real Japanese food.




~Mimiru