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5 posts categorized "Jennifer Liang"

01/23/2012

visiting kyoto

Being a lover of all things green-tea/matcha-flavored, I was in absolute heaven when I went down to the Kansai region, especially in Kyoto. I stayed at a friend's place in Osaka and visited Kyoto on one of those days. My friend took me to a Buddhist temple called Kiyomizu-dera. To get to this temple, you pass through this road that is lined with endless shops filled with food, souvenirs, and handcrafted goods. The atmosphere bustled with excitement and the smell of outrageously awesome-smelling sweets. I swear I had never seen so much matcha-flavored food in my life. Smelling the scent in the atmosphere was enough to make my mouth water. Mmmm….anyway…moving on from my unhealthy obsession (YET healthy) obsession with green tea….

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The first thing I had was matcha-man, which is basically green-tea flavored buns. They were absolutely delicious! I would have another…but there was too much to try on this bustling street. 

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This was dessert (before dinner, of course! That's how it is supposed to be done). This was beyond delicious. It is quite an elaborate ice cream cone. There is matcha ice cream, with white and match  mochi, and red-bean paste, another one of my favorite things. This was just heaven in a cone! Really. 

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This was, of course, my favorite store of all the shops on this street. They had quite a bit of traditional snacks stamped or shaped in the form of Hello Kitty. I mean…it really does NOT get better than that. Come on…I was tempted to buy it all, but I restrained myself. It was quite difficult. 

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This is the Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It was absolutely beautiful and probably my favorite of all the shrines and temples I have gone to. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the breathtaking view you had from the temple and just the spectacular surroundings. See for your yourself! 

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This is the view from the veranda of the temple. The view of Kyoto is just…totemo sugoi! (excellent, basically, duh). 

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This is the view OF the veranda from the other side…to show you how crowded it gets at this temple.  It attracts a lot of visitors. 

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My favorite part of the Kiyomizu complex is probably the Jishu Jinja (shrine). And apparently it is the #1 tourist spot, which I guess makes sense if you take a look at how crowded it was from the picture of the veranda above. The Jishu Jinja is a love or matchmaking shrine, which makes it very interesting. 

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There were 2 "love stones". It is just as the sign says: if you can walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, you'll find love. If you get help, you will need help in order to find love. Something like that. An interesting concept. I thought it was cute. Many people just touched the stone, as if they will give them good luck in love. No cheating! You can't just touch it and not do the challenge of walking blind! There are no shortcuts when it comes to finding love. (Too cheesy? Perhaps. Oh well). 

I would highly recommend coming to visit the Kiyomizu-dera if you are in Tokyo. I think girls would especially love visiting the Jishu-Jinja for that "love thing". They have really adorable and famous omamori sold here, so I suggest buying that if you come. Everyone needs luck when it comes to love, right right? 

Okay, enough of that lovey-dovey business. That pretty much concludes my trip to Kyoto. It was less than a day and I realized that it was simply not enough. I had so much to explore. I did not even have sufficient time to browse all the shops that I wanted to look at along the way. Next time I come back, I will extend my stay for at least 3 days I think. It was nice to visit Kyoto and get away from the bustling chaos of Tokyo city life. And more green-tea than you can ever want! Go! 

01/19/2012

presenting...an epic movie trailer!

Well, maybe it is not so "epic", but rather it is pretending to be. =)

This past Wednesday was the end-of-semester celebration. We were all divided into groups to present certain topics of our experience here in Japan. I decided it would be fun to make some kind of video compilation from various videos that others and I have recorded over the past semester, for my group's presentation. 

The result? An attempt to make this past semester look like an up and coming "epic" movie! (Ha). I have uploaded it to YouTube, so I hope you all enjoy! 

P.S. The celebration was very bittersweet, but a lot of fun and fantastic. Everyone's presentation was absolutely great and entertaining and got to love the great food that was served there as well! A lot of great memories have been made this past semester and it is great thanks to everyone at CIEE for making it possible!!! Thank you!

 

 

 

11/29/2011

Happy Hiroshima Weekend!

This past weekend, the CIEE kids and I had the awesome opportunity to go to Hiroshima for the weekend. It is probably one of the best events by far. It was a fun-filled weekend with lots of cultural learning and was thoroughly enjoyable. It was really nice to get away from the modern city-ness of Tokyo and go to Hiroshima. Hiroshima IS a city, but is somewhat more laid-back and more "comfortable" than Tokyo. It was absolutely beautiful and a weekend in Hiroshima really just is not enough. 

We went to the Peace Memorial Museum the morning after arriving in Hiroshima. There was a lot to see and quite emotional. What was most surprising was how objective all the information and retelling of the story of Hiroshima was. After all, it is called the "Peace" Memorial Museum for a reason. Growing up with an American education, all you hear about is the "American's" telling of the story of the bombing of Hiroshima. Therefore, it was really such a great opportunity to be able to see the story told from the other side, especially for such a historic event as this. 

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These are 3D miniature models of the before and after the bombing. When you see the extent of the damage like this, it really puts the events of that day into perspective.

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The photo below is one of the exhibits that I could not forget. It says at the bottom: "A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence. I stood up, took my cap in my hands, and was about to catch the dragonfly when…" It was quite an emotional piece. 

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One of my personal highlights of the weekend trip, and the #1 thing I looked forward to the most, leading up to the Hiroshima weekend was: OKONOMIYAKI. Not just any okonomiyaki, but HIROSHIMA style. For those who do not know, okonomiyaki is a kind of Japanese omelette pancake, if you will, with various types of ingredients depending on what type of okonomiyaki you are making. The typical okonomyaki will always be made of eggs, cabbage, bacon, and some other [stuff]. But what is special about Hiroshima okonomiyaki is that they put noodles in their okonomiyaki and are supposed to be absolutely AWESOME-tasting. I think the photo below says it all.Mmmmm  =) Goodness. 

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Miyajima Island was phenomenal as well. Everything about it was beautiful and peaceful. The below photos are some of the highlights from the day spent at Miyajima. 

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This is the Japanese torii (red entrance gate) at the Itsukushima Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine.  

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This is just one of the many views into the shrine.

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The beautiful leaves that grow here during this time of the year are quite famous for the natural beauty. A lot of souvenirs are often made in the shape of these leaves, whether it be phone charms or cake. 

All in all, I wish I had more time, especially at Miyajima Island. There's just so much to see and so little time. I will definitely come back to visit Hiroshima the next time I get a chance. Until next time, folks. 

11/24/2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This isn'y very Japanese (clearly), but I thought it would be appropriate to write about this wonderful day! A day of fabulous cooking and stupendously delicious food. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, toast, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, cornbread...mmmm. 

It is that wonderful time of the year again, for those who are in the States. My family never really celebrated a traditional American Thanksgiving because my family is from Taiwan. Thus, we would have hotpot instead of turkey. Yes. No turkey. It's complete blasphemy, I know.  

No worries though, I did have the benefit of being invited to friends' houses for Thanksgiving on a few occasions and I was very grateful for that. I hope everyone will have an excellent fun-filled day of cooking and eating fantastical food. More importantly, being grateful for family, friends, life, and all the good things in life. And don't forget to be grateful for the bad because they taught you about the good and to appreciate it more. 

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Fortunate for the American kids, the international student club at Sophia University, SISEC, organized a Thanksgiving event. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday and (obviously) not celebrated in Japan, we held it a couple weeks early on a Sunday, rather than on a weekday during school. It was the most interesting and fun experience by far. Not only were there Americans who signed up for the event, but German, French, Chinese, and of course the main population: the Japanese. It was a very multi-cultural experience to celebrate Thanksgiving with such a diverse group. 

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But the cooking was the most fun. I am continually very impressed by the organization and effort the club puts into their events. Every member who attended was assigned to a group to cook 2-3 dishes. Luckily, there weren't any fires or burning down the building --> always a plus. 

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On the menu (from what I can remember): clam chowder, some other delicious vegetable soup, pumpkin pie, stuffing, asparagus wrapped in bacon, spinach dip w/ bread, sauteed carrots, german/french-style pizza, mashed potatoes, hamburger patties, chocolate chip cookies, THREE TURKEYS (for around ~50 people?!?!), and more! 

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Once we were all done throwing flour at each other's faces and flinging carrot peels...I mean, after we finished COOKING, we all ate to our heart's content. I really wish I had more room in my stomach for the awesomely DELICIOUS pumpkin pie that my group made. It is definitely was one of my favorites.  I was actually quite impressed by the groups in charge of the 3 turkeys and stuffing. The turkeys came out quite excellent, indeed! I would have more! 

This was my plate and the EPIC-looking pumpkin pie my group made: (my slice of pumpkin pie came later, mwahaha, you have to save the best for last!)

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Again, hope you all have a wonderful and phenomenal-food-filled day! And hopefully have as much fun as I did on this day =). 

 

10/26/2011

Hello from the Land of the Rising… Kawaii?

Hello all, Jennifer here. Jennifer Liang. I join CIEE all the way from Boston, Mass in the US of A. My family is from Taiwan (which has amazing food!) although I was born right in Boston. Rochester Institute of Technology is the school that I attend in upstate New York in the city of Rochester. It's a great school by the way. It allowed me to come to Japan! Points for that, right?! Duh. I am in my "5th" year of school so I could make time to come to Japan before I get my diploma. I majored in New Media Marketing, with a minor in Mandarin-Chinese.

Now…why did I want to study abroad? For me, it makes more sense to first answer: Why Japan? Always loved Japan since high school. Ayumi Hamasaki was probably the accelerator for that. And 8-9 years later, she is still my all-time favorite artist. After that, it was all Japanese music, dramas, anime, Final Fantasy, ramen (the real kind, not Maruchan from the states), green tea flavored everything, soda candy, shabu shabu, etc. As for the language, I simply love the way Japanese sounds as a language and in my personal opinion sounds pretty damn awesome and so I decided to also study a little Japanese during college. 

20110924_MaidCafe36Now that we got the boring part out of the way…JAPAN! It truly is the home of all things kawaii (cute). It is almost…sickeningly cute at times. One of the experiences thus far that is burned into my brain is my first MAID CAFE experience. Let me tell you…you will never experience anything like it. Being surrounded by more-than-healthy amounts of fluffy, pink, cute starry-eyed girls in ridiculously cute outfits in an atmosphere that made you feel like it was all rainbow ponies and marshmallow bunnies everywhere, really does something to you. The maid cafe girls smile like there is no tomorrow and you can't help but reciprocate it and by the end, your muscles ache from excessive amounts of smiling (yes, there really can be such a thing). 

 Some (interesting) tidbits: 

  • vending machines are ubiquitous, thus it will likely take all the pocket change you will have because you will always "need" a drink…additionally...they also have vending machines where you can get...cigarettes...or an umbrella if you need one
  • clear umbrellas are cheap and also quite ubiquitous. people are likely to buy umbrellas often just because they forget to bring it with them or lose it somewhere…like the train. (it hasn't happened to me yet, -phew-, but perhaps I spoke too soon?)
  • Japanese people (from small children to seniors) are very talented multi-tasked bicycle riders (umbrella, cellphone, iPod in one hand, and the other on the handlebar). I'd say thats expert level right there. 
  • Convenience stores here are truly the epitome of CONVENIENCE. Perhaps America could learn a thing or two from what it means to be a convenience store. Faxing, making copies, buying tickets to various things, school supply section, a variety of foods you actually want to eat for breakfast or a quick lunch/dinner. 
  • People (ages about 18-30ish for the most part) are extremely fashionable and well-dressed almost all the time. It really makes a girl self-conscious when you walk amongst model-like girls who look like they just popped out of a fashion magazine… 
  • high-tech toilets with a control panel with too many unnecessary buttons…
  • trash bins on sidewalks and in public places are uncommon and RARE…good luck finding one. 
  • in addition to the above note, you will likely be given anywhere from 2-5 different options of where to put the trash you have in your hands (combustible, bottle caps, non-combustible, etc), so be mindful of that! 

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  • quite common to see people of ALL ages listening to music on their mp3 players on the train…the percentage of older people with technology is definitely much higher here (what a surprise)
  • never in America will you see small schoolchildren crossing a huge intersection or riding subways/trains…I'm talking as little as 5 or 6 years old. That's how responsible little Japanese kids are here…@_@ (and they are also the most adorable little things ever!)

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  • if you like peanut butter…don't buy it in Japan! An 10 ounce jar can be around $5 or more…
  • Nomihoudai. Oh the holy grail? This kind of thing would never work in America, HA. Prohibition? I think not. You can drink an unlimited amount of alcohol for a limited time (both are different from location to location) at a FIXED rate. Average prices can range anywhere from about $12-$30~USD…for unlimited alcohol? CHEAP. 

Halloween is soon coming up and before coming to Japan, I was not aware they also celebrated it…but only celebrate it in the sense of dressing up and going to a party I believe. This is practically the same as in the U.S. once you reach past the point of going trick-or-treating. But it is also a fairly large event (holiday?) here as well which many people partake in. Cool! What better place to celebrate Halloween than Japan? It kind of seems fitting, no?

Thus far, I really have had such an incredible experience and it was all made possible by the CIEE program. We really are a "special" group =). It's always been one of my dreams to come to Japan and sometimes I still can't believe I am here…and I have been living in the wonderful city of Tokyo. It's truly one of the best places to be! Time to get work out of the way for this week and prepare for a fun Halloween weekend! Until next time...