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7 posts categorized "Halee Haggerton"

07/28/2012

Summer Festival with SISEC!

At Sophia, there's a club known as SISEC, and it's purpose is to give foreign students along with Japanese students a chance to interact. It's been an amazing experience, full of opportunity, and I've personally made some wonderful friends through the club. I'm going to miss them all dearly. 

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One Sunday, the executive members of SISEC planned a summer festival! I've only been to a few smaller festivals, but this felt like the real deal to me- everyone wore yukata (a summer version of a kimono), there were traditional snacks and games, and they even put on a haunted house!

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We also made shaved ice (aka snow cones)- delicious! 

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We played a few games. In one of them, you have a paper clip attached to paper, and you have to use it to catch these water-filled balloon yo-yos; of course, the yo-yos are floating in a pool of water, so your paper string eventually breaks. It was a lot fo fun and actually pretty difficult to get more than one or two!

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Afterwards we went on a 2 hour cruise of Tokyo bay! There was a ton of delicious food and drink on board, and the views were gorgeous! We passed Rainbow Bridge and we could see Tokyo Tower and Skytree. 

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The last event of the semester was a blast. It was very bittersweet, though- it's so hard to say goodbye to all these amazing people!

If you are a potential student who wants to come to Sophia, JOIN SISEC! So many foreigners didn't join because they thought they would only be interacting with fellow English-speakers; however, the Japanese students easily outnumbered us 10 to 1. You are given the opporunity to make friends and interact with people who WANT to befriend you, and are willing to work through any troubles you might have using your second language. They are all amazing, and I cannot wait to come back and visit them!

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Visiting old friends in Nagoya

Over the weekend before finals got too rough, I had the opportunity to go to Nagoya in Aichi prefecture. During my high school years, I helped to start a sister-school relationship with another high school in Toyota (outside of Nagoya), and throughout that time I hosted 3 students and stayed with 2 of them, so I had 3 families I wanted to see. 

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My oldest friend, Chiharu, who I have now known for over 6 years, offered to let me stay in her house with her mother and sister. So, for a weekend, I bought a shinkansen, packed a bag, and headed to Nagoya!

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I first had reservations- should I go visit everyone? It's so expensive to travel, what if things are akward since it has been so long..... honestly, they were the most ridiculous thoughts. I am so, so thankful for Chi's hospitality and the opportunity to visit my friends. After all, who knows when I will be back??

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Friday night I met up with my second student, Miho, for dinner and some window shopping. She's a busy third year student in the lacrosse club, but she managed to make time for me! We ate miso-katsu, which is a local dish in Nagoya,  comprised of fried pork cutlet with a sauce made with miso and sugar (mostly). It is AMAZING, and if you ever go to Nagoya, PLEASE EAT IT. It might be my favorite dish in all of Japan. Seriously. 

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After the necessary purikura, or picture booth session, we parted ways and I met back up with Chi, who drove me about 25 minutes to her house. (Distance is so relative- I couldn't believe how far she was from the metro station!)

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Saturday Chi and I visited Toyota Minami High School, where she was a student and I visited twice as a member of the sister school program. She said afterwards that it was a little awkward and unusual for people to come back to school and visit, but because it was Saturday and most teachers weren't around, they were okay with us walking around (with a chaperon). I stumbled across a very old photo from 6 years ago hanging on the wall, of the first exchange ever- when Chi came to visit Texas! Afterwards we went to this amazing Japanese restaurant. They served traditional style set meals.  

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We went back home for a short break (during which I met her sister-in-law and niece and nephew). Then we left to go to a store in town primarily used for kimono shopping, dressing, and other preparations for the coming-of-age ceremony when girls turn 20. At this shop, Chi and I got to use an old-school spool and essentially make a coaster; however, we got a feel for the boring qualities of the job, and the employees showed us the string they used to make kimonos with- it would have taken weeks to make an entire kimono in those days! 

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At the store we also saw some gorgeous jewelry and browsed through kimonos, and I was forced to try one on. I treated it like my own miniature ceremony.

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That night, the sister-in-law and her kids came back for a takoyaki party! Takoyaki is really similar to okonomiyaki- cabbage, a flour-based mixture to hold everything together, a few other ingredients- however, it is ball-shaped and has octopus inside. This was my first time making takoyaki, so it was so much fun! I love to cook and bake, and I definitely want to buy a takoyaki tray now!

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Afterwards, Chi's older sister joined us in a nail-painting party. Her sister wants to be a professional nail artist, so she did my nails, and they were so gorgeous!  

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Sunday, my last day, Chi's mother treated us to the breakfast service at a popular local restaurant. We had delicious coffee, toast, and eggs before they saw me off at the station. It was so heartbreaking to leave them, they truly are my second family halfway across the world, and their hospitality is second to none. 

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When I got to Nagoya station, I met up with the mother from my third host student, Aiko- she is currently studying abroad in Canada, so I couldn't see her. I met with Aiko's sister and mother, as well as 3 other mothers from the exchange program. I was SO surprised! I remembered everyone's faces, but they ALL remembered me, and we so excited to get to see me (even if it was only for an hour).  They treated me to (more) coffee and cake, and every single one of them bought these tickets so they could come up to the shinkansen platform with me to see me off and help with my luggage. 

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They presented me with a cute package full of snacks and a gorgeous headband, and even bought me so cold water for the trip. I boarded the train, and they followed the windows to my seat, where they didn't stop waving/making hearts/sending me kisses until I was out of sight. I think I was crying the entire 1 1/2 hour trip back to Tokyo!

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The people I met during my trips in high school never stop surprising me with their kindness. These families are amazing people, and I am so thankful for their friendship and the ability to keep in touch with them. It's made me realize how hard it is to network and make friends and families in our global world- if I'm in America, I miss my Japanese friends, but when I'm in Japan, I miss my American friends. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with my emotions when I return (soon) to the states, as being here for nearly 5 months during school I've made so many amazing friends.

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I guess I'll just have to come back to see them again, won't I? (:  

06/23/2012

concert experience in tokyo

The hardest part about getting to a concert in Tokyo is buying the actual ticket.


Most concerts require a lottery of some form, and oftentimes you have to be a member of an artist's fanclub in order to enter the lottery. If tickets aren't all sold out by the initial lottery, you can usually purchase tickets online or at special machines located in convenience stores. And, if you are still unable to get a ticket- in the usual case, foreigners like myself- you may be lucky enough to find a ticket at a resale vendor.

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I stumbled across a chain with three locations- Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ueno- called Yokohama Ticket Get! that even had a convenient feature on their website that told you what tickets they had in stock, and which location you could find them at. 

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It was here that I was able to purchase tickets to see Big Bang, a highly popular group from South Korea with Japanese releases. The concert was held in Saitama's Saitama Super Arena, an outlier of north Tokyo, and the show was huge and completely sold out.

Before actually entering the arena, you could purchase concert goods. Popular items for Japan were towels with the concert and band name on them, tshirts, and pen lights- basically, eletronic glow sticks used to light up the stadium during the show.

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The actual concert was AMAZING. There were segments where the band talked, and each member had a solo opportunity. They responded amazingly well to the audience, and despite Japanese not being their native language, they were very well spoken. 

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To get an encore, the audience sung the chorus of one of their older songs, over and over and over, until Big Bang finally came back out. Of course they sung that song immeadiatly.

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I cannot recommend enough to go to a concert abroad. See someone from another country, and see how something as simple as a concert can be so different! My experience was amazing, and I would absolutely do it all over again- and I hope to, with a Japanese artist, next month!

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The stadium, lit up and blurry from all the movement of people waving their pen lights!

05/31/2012

Eclipse

Earlier this month, Tokyo experienced a rare annular eclipse, also called the ring of fire due to the ring of  light of the sun that remains during the eclipse. Tokyo has not seen an eclipse in 173 years, so this was not only a special moment for Japan but also for the world.

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This was my first eclipse as well! Similar to hanami, or sakura blossom viewing, a large amount of the dorm students went to the roof of our building at around 7:15am for a viewing party of the eclipse. Many people had special glasses that you were supposed to purchase and wear to protect your eyes from the sun's rays.

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With the naked lens of a camera, the brightness of the sun prevents you from seeing the entire eclipse. Luckily clouds began to pass overhead, so you were able to make out the actual eclipse (although we probably should not have looked directly at it- still dangerous and harmful to your eyes). 

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It was early, so there wasn't too much involved with our little viewing party- many people were still in pajamas, or eating breakfast; however, it was a very cool and unique experience most people will never get to have. Who knew it'd be halfway around the world when I'd finally get to see an eclipse!

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 I hope everyone else got a good look at the sun that day! Such a simple event in my life, but here in Japan everything is a party- viewing flowers, the moon, the sun. It's a great reminder to treat life like this back in America as well!

 

05/23/2012

魔法の国のアリス [Alice themed dining]

Recently I went to a little restaurant called 魔法の国のアリス, or something along the lines of Alice's Magical Country, with one of my very dear friends. This is a small chain (they recently opened their fourth location in Tokyo), and the entire restaurant is Alice in Wonderland themed.

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Themed dining is a popular attraction in Tokyo- examples of other themed restaurants include butlers, ninjas,  vampires, maids, and prisons. Because these experiences are viewed as an attraction, locations go very over-the-top to bring you the most unique experience they can- and Alice was no different.

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The menus popped out of this box, decorated like a scene straight from Alice in Wonderland. The restaurant requires that each person orders at least one drink and one food item. The drink menu was in the shape of a top hat with playing cards scattered on it- the drink names were on the playing cards, which opened to show you a picture of the drinks. The actual menu was adorable as well, and the food was all Alice themed. 

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We were served a small appetizer while we waited for our food.  The food itself was delicious- we both ordered a cheshire cat pie, and the flaky pastry dough was perfect. Of course we had to order dessert as well, and that came in the form of a cheshire cat-shaped parfait- smile and tail included!

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More so than the food, themed restaurants are about the experience. They want the customers to feel like they've entered a completly different world. It truly felt like I fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Wonderland, complete with a maze-like confusing layout and all of the important characters. 

I haven't been to any other themed restaurants, so I cannot compare them; however, I highly recommend  going to Alice. The waitresses are extremely friendly, the food is amazing, and the experience has left me gushing for the last two days. With jazzy Disney music playing in the background, I have truly had an experience  that I will never forget! 

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04/30/2012

Golden Week part 1: Izu Peninsula

Hello everyone!

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Golden week is a week where many company employees and students have time off due to Japanese national holidays. This year, today (Monday, April 30th) and May 3rd-4th are the holidays. For the first weekend, I went with a group of exchange students to the Izu Peninsula.

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We checked into your ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, K’s House Ito. We stayed in Ito for our three-night trip, and for the first day we took a bus and toured our area of the peninsula.

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Our beautiful room and ofuro, traditional Japanese bath

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We started off by taking chair lifts up to the top of Mt. Omuro, a dormant volcano. We were rewarded with beautiful sights of the coast by walking the circle around the top.

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Afterwards we headed to a suspension bridge and the Kadowaki cape lighthouse. We took a few detours from the traveled path, and ended up hiking over rocks to get to the shoreline. It was absolutely stunning!

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The next day, only a group of four took about an hour and a half bus and train ride to visit the seven falls of Kawazu. Unfortunately two of the seven were closed for construction, but the falls we were able to see were amazing!

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There was a section of the falls that had drinkable water- so refreshing! We went off the trail more than a few times, and ended up walking along the river’s edge to one of the bigger waterfalls.

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I cannot recommend visiting the Izu peninsula more than I already have! The views are amazing, and it’s a great change of pace from the Tokyo lifestyle.  Even if you can only go for a day trip- do it! Anyone and everyone in Japan should visit this amazing location. There s so much history, such as protected natural treasures, and life in the country offers an entirely different perspective on Japanese life. 

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04/09/2012

みなさん、はじめまして!

Hello everyone! My name is Halee Haggerton, and I am a 20-year-old International Business major at Texas Tech University (which is a good 9 hour drive north from my hometown in Houston, TX). For my major, I am required to study abroad; however, I would have chosen to come to Tokyo through CIEE regardless of my studies.

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A few of the dorm residents and I eating crepes in Harajuku!

My interest in Japan was spurred many years ago. When I was around 8 years old, I picked up one of my father's National Geographic magazines and thumbed through the photos. I was particularly struck by the beautiful and unique pictures from what I learned to be the country of Japan. It was from that moment on that I knew I wanted to visit the gorgeous, seemingly magical country. In my earlier years and throughout my teens, I soaked up different aspects of Japanese culture, and in freshman year of high school I begun taking Japanese language classes. In Sophomore year, I helped form a sister school relationship between my high school and Toyota Minami High School in Aichi prefecture, and had the opportunity to host three Japanese high school peers as well as visit Japan three separate times (for a total of 5 weeks over all three trips). This last year I helped form my university’s earthquake relief group, and through performing a Japanese dance all across town we raised over $11,000 that we donated.

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Ikebukuro at night

I knew that somehow I wanted to incorporate Japan into my future life, so I decided to become an International Business major and minor in Japanese language. This is what led me to choose to come to Tokyo- the huge epicenter of businesses is perfect for a networking businesswomen. One of my most important goals is to become fluent in Japanese, and I will definitely practice as much as possible while I am in Tokyo!

I am living in one of the dorms, DK House Nerima, and it’s fantastic. A few other bloggers have discussed the living conditions, so I won’t dwell on it, but I highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking about coming to Japan through CIEE. It is an environment where your effort determines what you get out of it! If you want to push yourself to socialize and practice your language skills, it’s a safe place to do so- the people here don’t care about your mistakes or misunderstandings, and the dorm manager is really kind.

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We really like to hang out in the kitchen!

Yesterday marks two weeks since we have all been in Tokyo, and as a collective group we have done a lot during these orientation weeks. I’m going to explain two major events I’ve experienced so far: 花見 (Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing) and カラオケ (Karaoke).

Hanami is very important to the Japanese culture. These cherry blossoms, called 桜 (Sakura), have a bloom that only lasts around one week. This short period of time is celebrated by everyone in Japan. Families and friends go to parks (or other areas rampant with the flowers) and picnic under the blossoms. There tends to be a lot of 酒 (Sake, a traditional Japanese alcohol), and many people bring outdoor games to play and large tarps to relax on. It’s a very calm environment, although very crowded. There were roughly 30 people in our group!

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Our hanami group!

A few of us tried 甘酒 (Amazake), a sweet and usually non-alcoholic drink made from rice and traditionally enjoyed during hanami events. It was extremely sweet with a hint of ginger, and served warm. I recommend trying amazake- I’d personally never tasted anything like before.

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The amazake we tried!

Karaoke is also an important experience, surprisingly so! When we think of karaoke in America, most people probably envision a bar filled with strangers on a particular night of the week, or perhaps a personal karaoke machine in your own home. In Japan it’s almost always very different- you go with a group of friends to a karaoke place (sometimes a building over 10 stories high!) and rent out a room by hour. Depending on the location, you can order unlimited drinks (also called 飲み放題- nomihoudai), otherwise you can pay for beverages and food. There’s a wide range of songs, from Japanese to American and many in between.

IMG_9334One of the Karaoke locations we have been to

I have gone twice so far, once in Shinjuku and once near my dorm. Both times have been great experiences. Using the little electronic remotes, we all found songs to queue up, and took turns singing everything from solos to the entire room joining in. Karaoke is a very popular hangout for not only younger people, but also for working class adults, too! Many businessmen and working women will go karaoke with their coworkers. It’s a sort of bonding experience, and after witnessing it firsthand, it’s understandable why karaoke is so popular.

IMG_9335Getting a little crazy with the dance moves at Karaoke!

Karaoke and Hanami are just some of the things I have experienced so far in Tokyo, and I look forward to blogging more about the rest of my semester here at Sophia University. Thank you for reading my post! Classes start soon, so hopefully I’ll have some more unique things to discuss with you all next time. またね!