Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's at Kobe for three

Happy chocolate consumer day everyone! My Valentine's this year will most likely be kicking back, watching an action flick while chowing down on a mug cake, so I'll just talk about my trip to Kobe in 2011 for the Mt. Rokko Ice Festival.

A little back story: my friends and I wanted to go to the Sapporo Snow Festival which is held in the beginning of February, however with Japan's school schedule it requires you to take 年休, nenkyuu, or vacation time on one or more school days. Depending on your schools that would be okay, but since it was my first year as an ALT, plus already asking for days off during Christmas I decided it would be bad form to ask for more. While several Okayama JETs were able to go, my friends and I felt bummed that we couldn't/didn't, so we decided to screw Sapporo and go somewhere more local: Kobe! We discovered that on Mt. Rokko they have an ice festival of their own so we had our own little snow adventure.

After we arrived in Kobe, we took a brief detour and went to Ikuta Shrine in the Sannomiya area. The shrine is apparently connected to the god of matrimony so we went in honor of Ikuta Toma Valentine's Day.

Lots of couples & women buying charms that day...
We also hit Kobe's Chinatown and went to a Kpop store. Yes. A kpop store. In Chinatown. In Japan. Awesome.

Dude where's my Epik High?

We then made our way to the Rokko cable car and made our way up the mountain. Mt. Rokko is one of the 3大夜景, sandaiyakei, or 3 great night views of Japan so we spent the day looking at ice sculptures then waiting for sunset to see the view. Sadly I was freezing my butt off and couldn't stay out too long so I was lazy in my photo taking of the night view. I guess that's why there's Flickr.

This was pretty much my first time seeing ice sculptures like these and despite not feeling my body, I was really impressed with the art. They even sculpted games so people were ring tossing and kids were sliding on ice slides, it was crazy!

Ice purikura!

The next day we ended our exploration of Kobe with a trip to other iconic landmarks: the Mosaic shopping center and Kobe Tower.

Oh Kobe Tower, Skytree you are not
Within the tower there were trees set up where you can write and hang up a Valentine's message.

After going to the Sapporo Festival the following year, I have to say the Sapporo Snow Festival blows this one out of the water, but if anyone down south can't make it up to Hokkaido, and can stand the cold, then I would give Rokko-san a try. Even if you don't go for the ice festival there are other places you can visit on the mountain, like a botanical garden and museums of music boxes and cheese (separate museums).

Snow, mountains, towers...definitely wasn't a bad way to spend a Valentine's day. 

And now I leave you with this:

Monday, February 11, 2013

JET Adventures Stateside: Visit Japan @ SF

This weekend was the Visit Japan Campaign hosted by the Japanese Consulate of San Francisco. This was also my first time volunteering as a JET Alumni and I have to say I had so much fun I wouldn't mind doing it again.

The weather was perfect on both days for the event. Visit Japan was held in San Francisco's Union Square and was comprised of Japanese tourism agencies, food, tech and fashion companies. In the main tent there were performances and presentations, from taiko (including San Jose Taiko yeaaaa) to ikebana and traditional Japanese dancing. There was also a food sampling area where you can taste Japanese food and a cup of sake for $1. The event was relatively small, but it was a pretty good turn out and I was able to talk to a lot of people who were interested in the JET Program or were supporters of it. It was really awesome to see parents and other alumni members coming by and showing their support. Not only was I able to see my fellow Okayama JET girlfriends, but I was able to talk to people who can more or less relate to the experience I had in Japan.

Not bad for a trial run for this Visit Japan event. I think if there were more things for sale, even if it's just food would make the event even more popular. I had a few people ask me if there was food for sale and I was really surprised there wasn't any.

As a bonus, here's a clip of one of San Jose Taiko's piece. I can't believe I auditioned for this group. These guys are amazing.

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