Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

19 posts from August 2012


The Happiest Place in Japan: Tokyo disneyland

This ticket is mine. All mine! 
The trip to Disneyland finally happened today!!!!  I hate to use a cliche, but it was definitely a magical experience! Initially I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to Disneyland or DisneySea, but after today I know I made the right decision. I'll just have to come back to visit Sea another time!

Inside Disney Station! 
The entire CIEE group met at school and took the train to Disney Station together. That was where we received our tickets and split into Team Land and Team Sea for our monorail destinations, and then split up into our groups for the day. The monorail was adorable, even the little hand rails hanging from the ceiling were mickey shaped!  The ride wasn't very long and we very quickly arrived at the gates. Of course we all ran in and started the awesomeness immediately. Our first mission was to pick up fast passes for Space Mountain. Even though we arrived decently early, it was so popular that our assigned return time was past 3pm! Since there was plenty of wait time, we moved on and went on our first ride: It's a Small World!  I took a video of a short portion of it; in case you're interested in hearing what it's like in Japanese.
We also were given a handy tip about nearby Splash Mountain. No matter how large your group is (at that point we were 7) always say you're a single rider. They let you go in the fast pass line and you turn an 80 minute wait time into an 8 minute wait time. You won't be sitting with your friends, but it's totally worth it for not having to wait in that awful line!

I'm such a card! Did end up eating
dinner inside here later.
We explored every one of the souvenir shops and eventually three of us bought various forms of head ornamentation. I say it that way because we went beyond the typical mickey ears (which EVERYBODY was wearing!) for something a little more unique. My personal choice was Stitch nom noming my head. I definitely tried on quite a few before choosing, but this one seemed the most me.

Once our fastpass time arrived, I took a quick picture of us rushing through the line at Space Mountain. I couldn't believe how fast we got through everywhere! I think Tokyo Disney has a better understanding of the phrase "maximum capacity" than the US counterparts. Though perhaps it could be because (fun fact) they aren't actually owned by the Disney Corporation. They pay for the right to everything so they can have different rules! For example, if as an adult you show up to Tokyo Disney in costume, nobody cares. If you pull that in the states you'll be kicked out faster than you can say "Security".
 Cinderella's castle not only served as the main focal point of the park, but also the main event stage for their Natsu Matsuri event shows. You have to participate in a lottery to get tickets to the seated area, so we only saw part of the afternoon show, but we definitely snagged tickets to the night time main event!
Disney food was also sort of different, and yet sort of the same. Instead of Mickey shaped ice creams, they had Mickey shaped fruit pops and frozen mango. And don't hate, it's so hot and humid that ice cream would probably make most people sick while conversely the fruit based items cool you down enjoyably. There were still ice creams available, just not on the carts. Even the lunches and dinners had their own Japan twists. My lunch at pizza port was definitely a slice of Mozzerella and Crab pizza. Now THAT is unique, yet delicious!
Even though we're way too old to ride most things there, we took a detour into ToonTown. We wanted to see the Mickey Mouse fountain!

Even though this park is smaller than the Disney in California, it was the perfect size for a one day adventure.

Just past 7 it was time to go watch 'Soryo Kobu The Final'. That's the name of part 2 of the big Natsu Matsuri show up on the main stage. At this point it was just me and Lauren. Our lottery spot secured us some pretty great seats, second block center. What we didn't realize was that this show gets you WET. Not just little sprinkles of water. I mean massive cannons spread throughout the castle and stage. At one point I was trying to film a part of the performance when the cannons went off, all you can see at the end of the video is the camera dropping as you hear me scream. It was kind of hilarious. The show was really fun! The characters danced and there was a lot of audience participation! Also the water cannons felt amazing in the heat.

After that show, we met up with Liza and Andrew near the front of the park. The four of us got a spot to watch the 'Tokyo Disney Electrical Parade'. It was about a 25 minute show which I filmed all of but am not able to upload here today due to internet constraints.  That was probably the best Disney parade I've ever seen. It was just so entertaining and fun!!

When all was said and done, we left the park smiling and feeling like little kids again. I took SO MANY PICTURES! This has been the best day of the entire trip! All in all, I think I'm going to have to come back to DisneyTokyo. Though my next trip may have to be to explore the park next door; DisneySea!


The Road To Midterms: Balancing School Life and Tokyo Fun

Many summer session classes have field trips; some optional, some required, some in class, some afterwards. During the first full week, my class to a field trip to tour the Tokyo Stock Exchange. 

Even though it was technically after school, we still had to end class early in order for everyone to arrive by the scheduled tour time. We were perfectly allowed to take pictures, but we weren't allowed to use flash so it was difficult to get many good images. I won't know for sure what all turned out until I look at the pictures larger on the computer, so for now check out my fancy schmancy visitor badge.
We had a special private tour scheduled for the class, so this is something I never would have been able to see if I had simply been in Tokyo on my own. We learned quite a bit about how the stock market works in Japan, as well as how the TSE runs on a daily basis. It was very interesting and it was a fantastic opportunity brought to us by the campus. 
The next day, I hopped on a train after school, transfered at Kanda, and went back to Akihabara to do what I had been planning since June: go to MaiDreamin. MaiDreamin is a Maid Cafe in Akihabara with multiple chains of the cafe throughout Akiba. There's like 6 of them on this one street and they're all super successful. Why? Because they are AMAZING! This isn't like the 2 other Maid Cafe's I've been to before. This was by far the most spectacular service I have had anywhere in Japan.
When I walked in, I was given my own personal maid, Mariko, and my presence was announced to the entire shop (of course, everybody applauded. It's part of the ambiance). I was referred to for the entire time as either "Princess Jennifer" or "Master". Okay, a little creepy in English, but in Japanese it was adorable. Mariko asked me about where I was from and talked to me about lots of things. Another one of the maids came around when Mariko was busy and made sure I understood everything that was going on since it has been discussed that my primary language is English. They thought my Japanese was cute! My treats were a chocolate bear parfait named kuma-chan and a white peach tea.   2012-07-31_14-07-43_658
After I got my food, all the lights were turned off and exchanged for party lights for the "Live Show". It was so adorable, the maids danced and even sang a little! They got the audience involved, clapping and joining in on a part of the dance. We also got various colored glowsticks to play along with. The whole experience was just pure sugary fun! It costs a little more than others I have been to, but honestly the quality makes it 100% worth it and I would recommend MaiDreamin to anyone planning to go to a Maid Cafe. If you ever go to one with me, we'll definitely be going to one of their branches!

The next day after classes the Sophia Summer Office sponsored a trip to the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. I had been here before, but this time was different because we had a presentation about the shrine from some of the priests, as well as we were able to watch an official ceremony. I wish I could've taken photos during the ceremony because it was quite beautiful, but photography is strictly forbidden in that particular part of the shrine. Luckily the outdoor areas were photographable, so I was able to get some shrine photos; just not of priests or preistesses because they ask you not to.

Now an especially cool fact about the Meiji Shrine is it's location. You walk outside and are literally at Cosplay Bridge. Even with it being already pretty late in the evening (just past 5pm when all was said and done) we couldn't be in Harajuku without going back down Takeshita Dori for a little mini shopping trip. 

Our next summer session activity was going to Noh. Noh is a type of masked performance play. I was a little nervous about going because I'd heard a lot of poor reviews of the art form. Things like "It's really slow", "It's boring", and "I fell asleep". But of course I try to experience everything, and I had never seen a Noh play for myself, so I was up to try it. I was so pleasantly surprised! The first few minutes I was worried, it seemed to be starting out slow; but very quickly I was drawn in and the hour and a half performance felt as if it had taken only a few minutes. The minimalist nature of the staging makes the actors have to draw you in on their own, and the whole performance really does pull you into it. My only comment on Noh is that the masks are REALLY CREEPY. I mean just downright scary. The good news is that only main characters wear them, so it's okay. We saw "Aoi no Ue" which is basically an episode from The Tale of Genji. I have never read Genji, but it is very famous and after seeing this performance I may have to read it because I would love to hear the rest of the story. I really wish I could've filmed part of the show, or at least taken pictures. Sadly photos were not allowed once the show began. At least I was able to capture a few shots of the stage.
After the show we all went in search of food. The Noh theatre was in a haute fashion district, so there wasn't much to eat in that area. Luckily for us our train transfer was in Shibuya, so we just hopped over there and looked for somewhere to eat right in the center of all the action! Once we found our way out of the ginormous station and around to the proper side, we crossed the road at Shibuya Crossing and started to check out the back areas behind Shibuya 109. There's a lot of shopping in that area, but there's also a TON of food.
Corn soup: one of my favorites
We looked around and around trying to decide what sounded right for the night. Finally, I spotted a sign that said pancakes. Pancakes have been brought up for various reasons over the past few days so I saw the sign and thought immediately "This is the place!".
My awesome pancakes of delicousness
 I pointed it out to the group and we all took the elevator up to the 8th floor where the restaurant was located. As soon as we saw the big menu setup, everyone else decided it was definitely the place. Everything was as delicious as it was adorable! Also, since their pancakes are thicker, they were extremely filling and they incorporated dessert into the dinner experience. I haven was able to have some corn soup! It's one of those silly little foods that I love in Japan but hadn't found yet this year. It wasn't a big day for pictures, so basically all I've got is food pictures. I'm sure you don't mind, they're cute! 



Before I Jump In, A bit about Me エヴリーン (Evelyn)


Hajimemashite!  My name is Evelyn Cooke, a rising sophomore marketing major at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  I am only 18 years old, which makes me the youngest in the CIEE group (luckily I have met one 17 year-old in the summer session at Sophia University that understands my struggle) so I have a pretty unique experience.  I live in Staten Island, New York so moving to Tokyo didn’t seem like it would be too much of a culture shock as I am accustomed to the hustle and bustle of big city life.  That's what I THOUGHT.


You may be thinking, wow a rising sophomore studying abroad already?  (or not lol)  So, I would like to start by explaining why I decided to buy a $1,700 plane ticket to go halfway across the world.


            As the youngest child of mostly males, I learned early on to appreciate the entertainment choices of my brothers.  This led me to finding much appreciation for Japanese anime, games and toys.  Continuing this interest, I began to volunteer at an annual Japan Day event held at Central Park in Manhattan which introduced me to the real culture.  Here is where the dream of one day seeing this beautiful country first-hand was created. 


            During my first year at Howard, I decided to fulfill my language requirements by studying Japanese, (my older sister had taken Chinese and my inner child strayed away from wanting to be a “copy-cat” even though I admired her choice) It was during this class that a recruiter from a popular game company, Namco Bandai (responsible for things like Soul Caliber, Tekken and Pac-man for you gamers) came and told the class about summer marketing internships right here in Tokyo.  Unfortunately, to apply, you need to know more than how to count and introduce yourself in Japanese.  So, to prepare myself for applying in the near future, I decided that covering myself in the culture and language was the best solution.


            While my school doesn’t make studying abroad very easy to do, in the long run, taking classes at Sophia University will help me to continue to learn Japanese.  I have come to realize that language courses I have taken move at a much slower pace than what I need to become comfortable with the language any time soon.  Taking not only language courses, but a business course as well will provide me with credits and everything I need to know to get around Tokyo at a basic level.

CIEE was the only choice for me!

I chose more specifically to come through the CIEE program because I had the option to stay with a Japanese family which would allow me to learn the structures and manners of the culture first-hand.  Also, this program seemed to be the freest in terms of allowing for time to explore and see whatever it is that interests me about Japan.


I am here to have fun, put aside my American ways, and enjoy all that this country has to offer.  I was nervous at first but to those interested out there that sound like me, hopefully my story will give you all you need/want to know.  


This is my first time blogging so I hope I don't put you to sleep, I will try not to ramble on about myself anymore lol

In case you were wondering:

List of other Namco Bandai games -

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial Day


During our first days here in Japan, we got to know one another by asking various questions like place of origin, name of and year in school, and the most interestingly answered questions, “Why Japan?” Many have come as Manga heads, Anime fans, Lolita lovers, or just to satisfy a craving for an extreme change in scenery. Despite all of our specific reasons, I think it is safe to say that we all truly love Japan as a country and what it has to offer.

In the midst of the blissful touring of the countryside and the packed trains and streets of the vivacious city, the natives live their lives from day to day, just like any other year.

As a home stay student, I am a witness to the daily life of the average Japanese family including the holidays.

Today, my okaasan shared with me the importance of this date. Today, Aug 9th, marks the Memorial Anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Just three days before, marked the Memorial Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. My mood was brought down to a somber, contemplative murmur. Cherry Blossom Festivals, fireworks, and the playful cosplay of Harajuku are only the surface cultural novices of this long established country. As awful as the bombings were, Japan is the country it is today because of it. Hundreds of thousands of people perished that day and the days following, and as some of you may know, many victims still suffer from the damages of the nuclear bombings including severe burns and radiation poisoning.

 On Aug 15th, 1945, Japan surrendered, ending World War II. Being here in Japan offers me a much different perspective on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As the mention of the bombing is consistently disheartening, I take the time out to remember those days and be glad of the progress this grand country has made, and that the doors to this country are still wide open to foreigners like us.

The bombing’s of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are just as much a part of this culture as Manga, Anime, Cherry Blossom Festivals, Geishas, Samurai, and Ghibli animation, and I feel as Japan immersed students, we should acknowledge the history the same.

For those of you who believe in a higher power, let us pray for the victims that are still affected by the bombing, and for those who don't, please offer a sympathetic heart. ♥



Japanese People are so polite! Until they get on the train 8-/


So as a joke, I submitted a Facebook status that ready “Random, but I'm thinking about creating a t-shirt that reads "I survived Tokyo Transit Rush Hour” Unsurprisingly, many people left comments sharing my pain. All who left comments said that they would be proud to wear the shirt, while others left more detailed comments like my favorite:

“Ahh good old Tokyo rush hour. Gotta love the feeling of being pushed, shoved, stepped on, booty bumped, elbowing of body parts, stampede "rush" out the door (when everyone is going to the same place anyways.), being pushed/forced in the train like I am about to get kid napped, and of course the sudden stops that sends everyone flying across the whole train, Ooo and of course the glares! Yea I can saw I survived that! I would be proud to wear that shirt:)”

She pretty much summed up most of what goes on, on the train. Whether you are staying for a month, a semester, or a year, taking Tokyo public transit can wear heavily on your body and mind. I have just a few tips that have worked for me during my short time here:


  1. Always leave about 15 minutes before your estimated travel time. In the event you need to step out of a crowded car and wait for a less crowded one, you have allotted the time to do so. Also, things like “accidents” happen often and may also delay most trains.
  2. To avoid getting smashed into a corner far away from the door (possibly smothered by larger man) stand strong in a position you have chosen on the train. Plant your feet shoulder width apart and let everyone pass you. They will be just fine.
  3. If unidentified objects brush parts of you that you are not comfortable with (and it will happen) DO NOT HESISTATE to turn around and assess the situation. It may just be a briefcase or woman’s’ purse. IN THE EVENT that it is a pervert who is trying to be slick, turn all the way around and face him (happened to me and this worked). Look him in the eye till he clearly feels uncomfortable, no need to say a word.
  4. If a “tight fitting situation” is just more than you can handle and you are not the “confrontational type” remember, you have allowed yourself enough time to get off at the next stop and wait for a less crowded train. (Cars towards the front are usually less crowded. Cars towards the middle or close to stairs are most packed) I advise you to not suffer through it for it will wear on you mentally and physically sooner than later.
  5. For women, there is always the Women Only Car, which is usually packed, but chances of another woman acting inappropriately towards you are slim. However, getting off and on the trains are done just as aggressively by women and men alike.

Besides all the drama, Tokyo public transit runs and operates very efficiently (despites its evident lack of a maximum capacity limit). Most trains run every 5 minutes or less, and the express lines stop at all major stops including Yotsuya. I hope I have helped many future and current students attending CIEE. Japan is a wonderful place, however, the politeness stops when the Suica card is scanned. ;)


Sado – Japanese Tea Ceremony

Hello, blog readers!

I have a double whammy I’d like to share with everyone. I recently got to experience a tea ceremony demonstration from my host mother and sister at home, then followed up with another one from Sophia University as an optional event. It’s the difference between the two that I’d like to share with you, sorta’ to see the two sides of the approaches to the same traditional event.

Let’s begin with the tea ceremony I experienced at home.

It was pretty straightforward. Okaasan showed me the different tools used to prepare the tea, such as the chasaji, or “mini spoon” made of bamboo used to scoop the tea, the chasen, or whisk you mix the powdered tea with, and the chawan, or tea bowl, which you drink the tea in.


Macha is the specific Japanese powdered green tea that has a slightly bitter tang. It’s delicious, really. So Okaasan took out her tea tools, but she let my Imoto-chan take the lead and show me how it’s done. I was informed that the tea ceremony is a class you take in Jr. High school, while my host sister Imoto-chan took me step-by-step through the motions.

Firstly, using the chasaji, only two scoops of macha are used to make roughly 1/3 of the chawan’s capacity in tea. You then pour hot water onto the macha, and use the chasen you vigorously mix the contents until it’s an even darker green. Then, you lift the bowl by placing it on your left palm and using your right hand to turn the bowl clockwise twice.

Okaasan explained that this is done to appreciate the design and pattern on the bowl, or the shape of the bowl (chawan) you are about to sip tea from. Then you drink while your hands are held the same way. After being dubbed nekko-jita by Okaasan for being unable to drink my macha that hot (and lolled at a little—don’t worry, I can eat spicy food which leaves my host family in awe, so I got a laugh, too) I was shown how to wipe the portion you sipped from and then rotate counterclockwise in the same method. It ended just as abruptly, and was pretty informal.

   While Okaasan had me at the dinner table with Imoto-chan, and a fascinated Otooto-kun watched along, the demonstration at school didn’t really involve me as much, nor did it get into the motions of the tea ceremony so much. Rather, it was all an explanation about the aesthetics of the tea ceremony and the psychology behind it. A faux tatami room was set up to add to the mood.

TeaCeremony (30)

We observed the making of the tea from scratch, using very traditional methods, all the while the movements of the oba-san making the were constrained and deliberate, all radiating discipline. We had an announcer giving us the play-by-play of what she was doing. I kept mentally comparing it to Okaasan’s pouring hot water out of a hot water heater, and the four of us just sitting and laughing around the table, (me attempting to drink super hot tea), to what I was watching now. Although the aesthetics that were explained to us said that this ceremony was supposed to be one of relaxed airs and easy communication between the teishu (host) and the kyaku (guests), it was a far cry from Okaasan’s kitchen table.

TeaCeremony (45)

We watched the wrap up with the guest thanking everything (not just the host, but the tea growers, the tea, the tea cup, the displayed wall scroll and the ikebana) and I didn’t get the same explanation for why to rotate the tea cup, to my surprise. Then the oba-san cleaned up everything on the spot in a very traditional way, and we all got to taste the macha they’d made behind the screen, along with a famous tea sweet called Momoyama from the Yamanashi Prefecture popular for such tiny cakes.

I liked this ceremony as well, but I feel like what we were shown was more of how it was done, old school. I guess the way Okaasan showed me would be more of the modern spin on a very, very old tradition. It still kept the idea and purpose behind the tea ceremony—to relax and enjoy one’s company and scenery—but it was done with less rigidity and more silliness.

TeaCeremony (80)

Those cakes were so darn cute! I learned that you eat the sweet before you drink the tea, to equalize the bitterness. And it didn’t hurt that an adorable little kid was shuffling about serving them on a tray. Kawaii desu ne?

TeaCeremony (76)

Thanks for dropping by, bloggers! Until my next omoshiroi event, Ja matta ne!





Tai-ko: the Great Drum

Bloggers! Long time no read :D

Let’s talk Taiko, traditional drums of Japan. This blog’s subject will surround one totally fantabulous instance: my visit to the Taiko Labs.

Anybody who’s interested in music, this is absolutely the place for you to visit. You don’t just have to be a drummer to check this out—heck, I’m only a violinist and this was Ah-May-Zing! It’s not only awesome music and a jaw-dropping demo, but you get to play a taiko drum and feel what the drummer does. This drum is pretty big, and pretty tough to hit. If you’re not careful, those bachi you play it with will recoil and pop you right back!

Like any other aspect of the Japanese culture, this requires a good bit of discipline. Honestly, not just anyone can be a Taiko drummer. And man, it really is an art form as much as exciting music.

The first sight I laid eyes on when entering the sound-proof studio was a small river of large taiko drums.

TaikoLab (4)

We had a nice instructor who took us through the motions of playing a simple pattern, then adding complications with having only half of us play, then half the room play one chorus while the other half played the second part, then switch off. We even had a moment where some of us drumming next to each other had to switch to each others’ drums between beats, then hurry and switch back. It was fantastic, and a ton of fun. I loved the energy that our instructor brought into the room, and the sound of the drum vibrating thorough everyone was exhilarating. It made you want to play and be a part of the fun. The shouts in particular added to the mood. We chanted “So-re, so-re, so-re!” periodically through playing, in time with the beat.

The closest possible thing to that kind of thrill that I’ve ever experienced is, like, being in the student section of a college football game, while your team is winning. It’s that kind of rush that keeps you all moving and shouting together. It actually brings a strong sense of unity, playing together like that.

Then our instructors came out to give a demonstration.

And basically, playtime was over.

TaikoLab (36)

Watching them perform left me speechless. I could only stay behind that camera of mine and stare. In particular, the man in the center of the above picture, Tanaka Masayoshi. He wrote two of the three songs performed. And seriously, this guy is unbelievable. If there’s anyone out there who truly loves what they do in life, and is as serious about it as they like it, it’s Masayoshi-san.

…Your entire world narrowing and to the skin of that drum face… How much of his life went into loving, understanding, and working with that instrument, though it’s just a drum?… The force with which they were beating those taiko left me with baited breath, waiting for when it would finally break… I thought of the meiji shrine and the large statues of fuujin, god of wind, and raijin, the god of thunder. The way that he played, making the room shake—I could feel the vibration through me, if that makes any sense. Kinda’ like standing next to a bass speaker and feeling vibrations hit you. That was incredible and powerful in a way that’s tough to describe. I do know one thing, though. The three of them out there?

Tonight, they were the gods of thunder.



Sensoji Temple, Asakusa—Oldest Temple in Tokyo

Saikiin doudesu ka, blog readers?

I got to drop into Sensoji Temple on my escapade through Tokyo, and I’ve brought some of my experience to share with you. Hopefully you’ll benefit from it—maybe learn something or two? For starters, it's a temple, which means it's based around buddhism, not shintoism. Shinto has shrines. Buddhism has temples. Got it?

Good, on with the show.

Sensoji Temple (36)

The most famous feature of this temple is the trademark giant choji or joji (paper lantern), right inside the Kaminarimon gate and always a bright read, though the name on it may change depending on the sponsor who donated the lantern. Across from the main temple building is the ablution pavilion and a large (and I mean, large) basin filled with sand that has something curious smoking out of it. If you observe the locals who actually know what they’re doing, you’ll spy them wafting smoke onto themselves. This smoke is thought to cleanse your impurities and help you towards perfecting yourself.

Things to see/do:

TempleAttempt ablution (watch the locals who know what they’re doing)

TempleThe beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the main shrine building/architecture

TempleStroll through the many stalls/vendors

Ideal souvenirs: Charms from the shrine for good luck and money, and being more beautiful, etc. These are unique to this shrine, and range anywhere from 500 yen to 1000+ yen. Inside each of these is a little kami which will help you’re wish come true, allegedly (if you believe in this sorta’ thing), and you can find daruma dolls, joji, tenugui, maneki-neko, samurai swords (fake, people! They’re fakes!), sensu, uchiwa, fuurin, yukata and their other accessories, both for men and women—you name a traditional souvenir, they’ve got it here! It’s a one stop shop for those things that are classical and authentic to Japan which people will love back home.

   A major tip as you shop: you will need at least a good two hours here, and that’s if you’re a speed shopper. I recommend visiting all of the stalls, or at least as many as you can, before you make a purchase of anything. A lot of times, the stall across the way or even down a few feet will have what you want in a better selection, or more than 200 yen cheaper. It’s a good way to find what you want without paying a hiked price for it.

   It’s also very interesting to see how religion and capitalism mesh together here in Sensoji. You have the shrine and the holy stuff, then you have street vendors with their various wares. The people here are very nice too.

   On the way back out I got a better look at the two famous gods that protect the temple. One is fuujin, god of the wind, and the other is raijin, god of thunder (shown below, respectively):

Sensoji Temple (106)

Sensoji Temple (107)

They’re pretty fierce looking statues, aren’t they?

Hope you get to visit this place. It’s flavored with old Japan, and definitely worth what it takes to get here and spend the day. I give it four stars! Until my next post, ja ne~ bloggers,


Hanabi Matsuri--These aren't your Gramma's fireworks

HanabiMatsuri (53)
Genki datta, bloggers?!

   I'm here to share my experience at the Natsuo Hanabi Festival near Asakusa with my host family. This was some time in late July, which is, of course, the month made for fireworks :3

   Otoosan was there to pick me up after school activities were done, and then our Odyssey began. Between the two of us, my knowing little Japanese and he knowing about as much English, it was an interesting start through the busy streets.

   For starters, we stopped by a combini (convenience store) to stock up on drinks before we decided to tackle the train ride to the area around Asakusa and the Sumida river. My fellow blog readers, if there is even one bit of advice you garner from me, please let it be this ancient Japanese wisedom:

「Always buy drinks from Convienience Store」

  Because seriously, when we actually got there and the hawkers were on the street sides selling, they were charging pretty high just for water, never mind soda and alcohol--all of which you can get from your local combini (with better selection and more variety) for MUCH cheaper!

   But I digress. So we stocked up on drinks (I love the macha green tea they sell) and we dove through this THICK crowd of people all headed for a spot to watch fireworks. It was too easy to get lost in that sea of people on the street, then bottle-necking to the station, then being a thick crowd in the metro too, which seemed to carry over into the trains themselves.

   Think of sardines, neatly layered together in a small tin can...


   ...Now give those sardines yukata and bags and brief cases, and give that tin can wheels while you set it on a track. There you have the Japanese Metro system at peak time. Otoosan was generous and stood in the way so that I had a seat and not some weird stranger looming over me, while he was in front. We tried to make small talk, and he told me an anecdote about my younger host sister, (whom I will call Imoto-chan) who used to be deathly afraid of fireworks and cried on her first Hanabi because of the loud sounds. We also discussed the finer points of footwear (geta vs zori) and how to properly wear yukata plus accessories; all in our part English, part Japanese, part some form of wordless/sign-language communication. It was actually a lot of fun.

   Once we reached our station (bear with me, getting there was really half the adventure) his back became my beacon as we literally squeezed through this oceanic mass of color and noise and cameras. The Omowari-san (police) were standing on small taiko-drum-tower like stands, calling out with mega phones and, even at one point, forming a human chain with linked arms to assure people weren't going to flatten them.

   Finally, after we got to the section of the Sumida river where my host family saved themselves the best view of the fireworks out of the barges from the river. We were up front and center, and I could even see the new Tokyo Sky Tree. Okaasan was there with my younger host bro, whom I'll call Otouto-kun. We ate bento Okaasan made for us while sitting on a picnic blanket right by the river.

It was fantastic! These fireworks were truely a spectacle. I mean, we think the 4th of July is cool in the states. Even Carowinds couldn't pull off something like this.

HanabiMatsuri (64)

I truly believe I wouldn’t have been able to experience Hanabi Matsuri the way I did, with as much fun and in such a unique and VIP location, had I not been with my host family. Because of them, I had one of the best nights of my stay in Tokyo so far. I got to experience the fireworks the way a Japanese family would, and this insider ticket made the night even more special for me. The langauge barrier didn't matter--awe is universal. We laughed and ooh-ed and aah-ed at the different displays, ate delicious bento (I now have a deep love of pickled plums) and snapped pictures of each other in turns.

HanabiMatsuri (128)

It was a night to remember. I couldn’t have done it any other way. If you’re ever in Japan in the summer, make SURE you go to Tokyo, and if you have any local family or friend you can tag along with, so much the better. Make certain you go see the fireworks during the Hanabi Matsuri festival!

Those fireworks are worth the experience. Of course, then it was back into the subways… 


Till next time, bloggers! Ja matta ne~