Samantha in Japan


Posted on: February 22, 2009

One of the English words that a lot of Japanese people seem to know and use often is enjoy.  The speaking partners I’ve met here– “Let’s enjoy tomorrow!” or “I really enjoyed today!” The actors who spot foreigners and decide to speak English (more on this later)– “I hope you enjoy such exciting show!”

Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere– enjoy. Luckily, I always do seem to be enjoying myself.

My week itself was fairly uneventful– just the usual monotony of classes. I’m a notorious night owl, so by the end of the week– after going out on the weekends and staying up during the week anyway, my body decided to revolt, and decided that I should sleep in late… two days in a row. Thanks a lot, boy. On Thursday, I woke up around 11:30. Seeing that time on my phone was not a pretty sight for my weary eyes; I only have two classes on Thursday, and the last one ends at 11:50. It takes 25-30 minutes to walk to school, so at that point, it wasn’t even worth rushing. Ah, well. I suppose I needed the extra sleep. But then it happened the next day, too. I set my alarm, somehow slept through it, and woke up about 50 minutes after my alarm was set to go off. I rushed around, throwing a quiet fit (trying my best not to wake up my roommate), got dressed, dashed out the door to put my shoes on, and what else do I see– but a bus sitting there, waiting!

‘Ah, that couldn’t be more perfect!’ I thought. I dashed on the bus, got out 220 yen (ALL bus rides cost 220 yen, no matter how far you’re going unless they’re really long ones you take big trips on; it’s so strange!), and the bus headed out. For the first time since I’ve been on a bus in Japan, we ran into traffic. By time I got to school, there was about 10 minutes of class left, so I made my way up the stairs in defeat, preparing to just turn in my homework late and explain the situation. My professor was massively, unexpectedly kind, and actually let me sit in on the next class (it was a language class, and the next class happened to be the same level I was taking)! Amazing. Sometimes I can’t believe my luck. I definitely don’t deserve it.

On Saturday, I had to drag myself out of bed again, because I was going up to the Kyoto Studio Park/Toei Movie Land. After a great deal of confusion in the train station (“Which way? Which way?” – “Umm… okay, up the escalator!” – “Okay, nevermind! Back down! OH! I SEE THE TRAIN!” – “WAIT, THAT’S NOT THE TRAIN, HANG ON!” <– this ensued for a good 15 minutes. The funny part: the people leading us around were Japanese! See– if even the Japanese can’t figure out this train station system… no one can!), we finally got to the Park.

Toei Movie Land focuses more around the filming of samurai-like dramas and movies, so there were a ton of actors dressed up in costumes like these all over the place. The guys pictured below were fighting just moments before I took the picture. Too bad I couldn’t catch them in action!

There were rows of different houses and sets all around.

This one was apparently used as a sake house–

Complete with barrels on the outside of the building.

Look! A lake … almost!

The miniature Nihonbashi was too cute.

Here’s one example of a set inside one of the houses–

This one was supposed to be a fire house.

One of the funniest attractions there was this little special effects corner. When we walked over in this direction, all we saw was this little setup of man-made rocks and trees, with a little gate in the far back.

I snapped a picture then. But there were people in the area shouting to stick around for another minute or so. Suddenly, the rocks and trees started moving back and forth, and water started rushing down them– to simulate some kind of earthquake, I think. I thought it was pretty cool, but then they suddenly started playing disco music, and the rock with the gate in the far back started rising up, only to reveal this–

While we were in Movie Land, we went to see two mini-shows. One was a performer, dressed up like a samurai, and demonstrating the use of a katana, with a little comedy on the side. Later on, we saw a short live drama, about 30 minutes long, featuring actors doing crazy acrobatics in the middle of an overdramatic script. No pictures were allowed though– sorry I couldn’t snap some! During the middle of the show, the lead actor came out for a little crowd interaction bit. He went around asking for peoples’ names in the front, and then… he spotted my group. It was just me, my friend (an American, who happens to be tall and blonde… an instant attention-grabber in Japan!), my speaking partner, and his friend, but he locked right on to me and the other American! As soon as he said, “Welcome, welcome!” my friend and I looked at each other like, “Oh god, we’ve been spotted!” He asked where we were from, so I shouted New York back to him, and then he repeated that we were from New York in Japanese, and the crowd applauded. He then said something along the lines of, “Welcome to Kyoto! I hope you enjoy such exciting show! We will make it… more exciting from now!” Awww. At the very end of the show, when all the actors took their bows and the curtain was dropping, the actor kept jumping around, waving at us, and shouting, “Thank youuu! Thank youuu!” in English.

I wasn’t quite sure where to fit this in, but here’s another photo from Movie Land. Pretty self-explanitory, and yes, for some reason, they gave my friend and I… the boys’ hats, too. Haha.

After playing around in Movie Land, we headed back to the Kyoto station, and decided to go up in the Kyoto Tower.

We got there just in time to catch the sunset!

The views were spectacular up there. The signs said that on a clear day, you could see all the way to Osaka from the tower.

I’m not so sure that Osaka was visible at that point, but I was able to spot a few temples and other popular attractions with the use of the telescopes up on the observation deck.

After the sun set, we headed back down into Kyoto, and we decided to go grab some yakiniku! That was quite the experience. Yakiniku is grilled meat, and the way that it’s served is rather unique. My speaking partner had found a good yakiniku place online, so we walked a bit to find it, and we ended up having to wait about a half hour to get a table, but it was well worth the wait. Interesting point number one: you take off your shoes before you go in! I know it’s commonplace in Japan in general, but it felt funny to do that at a restaurant. It was pretty cool, though– walking around this traditional-styled yakiniku restaurant with socks on.

So we got to our table, and my American friend and I both gawked at the grill in the middle of the table. At these places, the waiters bring out the meat, and then you grill it yourself. Just as we were settling in, the first huge plate of meat came in. The meat that they serve is cut up into thin pieces, so some of them almost looked like bacon strips. We played around with the heat settings, and then left the grilling up to the boys. I’m pretty sure I would’ve burned things way too much.

Over the span of the night, I’m fairly certain they served us every possible kind of meat under the sun. Since I’m a reformed picky eater, my philosophy concerning food here is, “Don’t ask, just eat.” So I didn’t ask for clarification on what anything was, but seriously, folks, we had everything. As soon as we thought we were done being served, another plate was dropped off at our table. Plus, we had rice, vegetables, ice cream… it was, just… NEVER-ENDING, in the purest sense of the word.

The above picture was just… a snapshot in time of the meal, very early on. If that looks like a lot of food to you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In accordance with the sheer volume of food we ate, our bill was pretty expensive for the night. The boys paid for most of it– oh, those kind souls. As we headed out of the restaurant at the end of the night, the boys admitted that they literally had no money left! My friend and I were concerned about them being able to get home, but everything turned out all right.

My advice to anyone planning on visiting Japan– go to a yakiniku restaurant at least once. The whole thing was fairly expensive, but it really is an experience, and, I say this as a person who doesn’t even really like to eat meat all that often– the food was delicious.

Just make sure to keep an eye on that grill if you go. We burned a few things here and there, but one of the most hilarious parts of the night happened when some flames were reaching up too high and growing way too fast for comfort; there was a small lamp hanging above our table, and it was getting way too close to that for us to just wait for it to go down. So the boys started freaking out from the fire, and they looked around for the tray of ice cubes they gave us at the start of the meal. Unfortunately, none of the ice cubes were left. My friend and I were in hysterics, watching the boys freaking out, so we were totally useless. But suddenly, my speaking partner decided that he would try to douse the flame by pouring his beer on it. As he picked up his glass, my friend and I shot up, flailing our arms to try to get him to stop. He looked up in surprise, as we were screeching, “Nononono!” and put the glass back down. Alcohol and fire do NOT mix well, silly! Then, he reached over and grabbed my emptied drink, picked out a few ice cubes, and tossed them on. The flame sizzled a little and backed off just enough for us to have enough time to wait for the heat to go back down. Crisis averted– narrowly.

So after Saturday’s excitement, I didn’t get much time to rest, because on Sunday morning, I headed off to Osaka once again. This time, we visited the Osaka Castle. LOTS of walking was involved this time around, too. I tried to snap a few pictures that captured just how high up this place is. It’s quite separated from the rest of Osaka as it is, but just… seriously, guys, this place was massive.

Here we are in front of the castle– it’s still quite a walk up to get into the building itself, and at that point, we’d already walked up a ton of stairs.

Here’s a better shot of the castle itself, taken from a scenic spot in front of the entrance. There was a little wall right there where a bunch of people had climbed up these steep steps to take a better picture of the castle, so I grabbed the opportunity to snap a picture from that angle.

After a whole lot of climbing, we made it to the observation deck. Most of it was fenced in to keep things/people from falling, but I managed to take this photo at a small opening. The gold fixture at the bottom is a part of the front of the building.

2009 is the year of the Ox in Chinese astrology, so the entrance in front of the castle was decorated with this little ox-shaped flower display.

Another view of the entrance area–

Please excuse the silliness, but while we were there, we just couldn’t resist posing for a picture at one of these…

Some random old woman came up and snapped a picture of us posing there, too. Weird, but… okay!

We didn’t really go into the city very much. We grabbed lunch and dessert over at the train station (you could seriously LIVE at train stations here, by the way. They have EVERYTHING– food, shopping, heat, and… obviously, transportation), and for the first time since I’ve been here, I had some completely Western food. Well, that’s a lie. I have had McDonald’s here, but that’s just boring old fast food. We found a pizza place, and I ordered a pizza carbonara. The second I took a bite, I was in absolute heaven. Oh, Italian food, how I miss thee…

For dessert, I had the biggest slice of strawberry shortcake ever. I was so happy to eat something with strawberries in it, because for the past two days, I’ve had an overpowering craving for anything with strawberries in it. And it’s not like strawberry-flavored things are hard to find here; quite the opposite! If you love strawberries and strawberry-flavored things, you’re in luck if you come to Japan, because they’re everywhere. But anyway, I was just happy to eat something with strawberries in it. I was tired of walking past cake shops and staring in at all the strawberry goodies!

At the end of the day, we went to purikura again. I mentioned the sheer insanity and speed of these things before, but this time around, I managed to get them sent to my computer, so here’s one of the pictures we took–

This one’s a little tame, but you can really go crazy with the clipart and decorations if you know what you’re doing.

Agh, tomorrow it’s back to the grind, unfortunately. Spring break is approaching fast, at least. I’m planning on spending a few days in Tokyo (we’re going to stay at a Capsule Inn! I’m sure I’ll have a lot to write about from that!), and a trip to Hiroshima during that week is in the planning stage, too.

But that’s it for now!

Let me just note that I got word from home that people were having a hard time figuring out how to comment on my entries. If you look at the top of each entry, there’s a box with the date in it in the middle of the page. It’ll either say “Comment” or “# comments” below the date. Click on that, and you’ll be taken to the comment section, where you can read other comments an fill in your own. Just fill in the blanks down there– name, e-mail, and comment are the only fields required. You can leave the website field blank. Then hit “Submit Comment” and there you go, it should be posted right away. If your comment gets interpreted through the automatic filter as spam, don’t worry, I’ll go in and manually add it. But otherwise, there shouldn’t be any problems with commenting. So really, don’t be shy, I love comments! 😀

8 Responses to "Enjoy!"

Well Samantha, you really are enjoying yourself. I love all the photos of you and your friends as well as the scenic ones too. That castle is gorgeous. BTW, did you tell the actors that pulled you out of the audience that there is a bit of theatre in you too. Perhaps, if you did, they would have had you singing to the tune of New York, New York…that was always one of my favorites.

So you have adapted to the hibachi style cuisine also. The food looked so good. When you get back to the USA, you might want to go to HIRO’s down in Albany or a BeniHanna’s (I”m not sure where the nearest one is). If your father won’t take you to a Japanese restaurant, I will. Japanese foods are one of my favorites. After reading your blogs, I woke up this morning (well it was more like noon), and made myself oriental pot-stickers and rice. They were so good but nothing like the authentic. Actually, the pot-stickers were frozen and I made them in a pan with some oil.

I can visualize the fire and flames while the boys were cooking. It reminds me of a Japanese restaurant we went to last year in Jupier, FL. Only there, the chefs do the cooking on these big hibachi’s in front of the starving customers. They deliberately make the flames go as high and as near as they can without actually buring a human. While Kelly thought that was quite fascinating and laughed, I would let out a yelp everytime a flame came near, which was the worse thing to do, because now the chef as got someone in the audience he can really scare. While the foods are deliciously cooked up that way, I really am not a fan of the flames. I can appreciate the excitement in that scenario. Throwing alcohol on the fire is like creating a little Molotov Cocktail. It’s a wonder he had any hair on his head left.

Gosh, spring break coming up in Japan. Some customs are obviously international. So you are heading over to Tokyo. WOW! I can’t stand all of this excitment. Watch out for Hiroshima. It is a plot to get all the American kids over there and make you feel humbled by the bomb that was dropped in the 40’s. They are probably going to try and spook you all out with pictures and film bits of this awful event. Kidding aside, that might be an emotional part of the semester. However, if the heat gets too intense, remind the guides of Pearl Harbor. Hiroshima was just a little payback (I hope these words are not going through a censor and that I cause a rift with international relations).

Continue to ENJOY. I really wish I could fly over. Take care.

Aunt Sandy

Hi Sam,

Thank you so much for all of the photos WITH YOU this time around. We love to see all of Japan, but it’s just that much more special when you’re in them.

The yakiniku reminds me very much of Korean cooking… the slivers if marinated meat are cooked in a similar fashion at the table and then served like a burrito in a large lettuce leaf, with the grilled veggies if you so desire. They call the dish Bulkogi. My best friend and I now use bulkogi as a term of endearment or encouragement. So BULKOGI for you, Sam.

I’m happy to hear you are so adventurous. I’d been blessed enough to travel all over Europe and even Russia when I was young and the best advise I had was, “don’t ask, just eat it”. I’m glad to this day I did, because I learned to open my mind to new experiences and some hellishly funny times.

I hope opportunities come for me to go abroad again. My love of travel never left me. I wish the same for you. ENJOY while you can and keep posting on this fabulous blog. You do us all proud.

da Mayor

well, you know what I’m going to ask- which one is your speaking partner???

Anyway, Japan looks AMAZING and I say we should go when we graduate from school, mmmkay?

Hi Sam: What a trip!! I so look forward to your postings. I ony wish I could experience it with you instead of through you!
Take some cooking lessons while you are there, I’ll be expecting an authentic Japanese dinner when you get home. The food looks amazing…I’m pleased that you are trying new things. Maybe we could meet up for Friday night coffee!!
Are you sure you are taking classes? Putting a lot of miles on those shoes! The photos are awesome, your look so happy-having the time of your life. Enjoy yourself. We miss you.


Hey girl, hey!!! I am so jealous that you get to travel all around the world! I’m glad you got my smarts to get you all over the place…:o) I must ask though…what’s with the two fingers being held up in all the pics? I hope it’s not a gang sign there! Anyway, I miss you to pieces. You look like you’re having a great time. Take advantage of it…trust me! If I had the chance…god knows where i’d end up! lol…Keep in touch, and keep posting pics…the ones with you in them are the best. I agree with Paula…friday night for coffee? I’ll make the trip! Love and miss you!

OMG this’s amazing I would love to come to Japan once

I was just reading the first comment on this blog and without even getting through the first sentence I knew it was my mom. Only my mom would tell you that Benihanna’s is like being at an actual Japanese restaurant. (Sorry mama it’s true). Anyhoo, I am totally loving this trip of yours. This is the closest most realistic virtual tour of Japan I’ve ever had and I really really want to go there now. I like your ‘don’t ask, just eat’ motto. Words I’m going to live by when I’m dining in Caroga Lake this summer. (Sorry rednecks, this is also true.) You look really cute in that blue kimono…but I’m not sure about that old man’s head in the hills. That’s a little bit creepy. I can’t wait until your next blog! What type of camera are you using? Your photos are terrific!

Well, hugs from balmy South Florida (:

Thanks for the comments, all.

@Aunt Sandy: You should definitely come visit me in Japan and see it all first-hand! 🙂

@”da Mayor”: Russia, how exciting! I’m a little jealous! If I wasn’t in Japan, and if it was an option for me, I think I would’ve ended up studying in Russia. The place has always fascinated me, too. Travel in foreign countries is really great, though– worth every penny!

@Tracy: The two fingers is… the thing to do in Japan, basically. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. Just a peace sign (or “piisu” as they call it here). It’s the “default” pose for pictures. EVERYONE does it. EVERYONE. I gave in to peer pressure.

@Paula: Uh-oh! Don’t anticipate an authentic Japanese dinner too much! I can’t cook American food as it is! 😛

@Robin: Haha, I’m glad you like my “online tour” of Japan! My camera’s just a regular Nikon– nothing too special about it. I can’t remember the model name or number, though, sorry!

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  • Isa: No, there can't be two ninja dogs in Kyoto. But in April it was in Arashiyama!
  • Paula: Hey: I'm so glad you are swine flu-free. A little over-kill, don't you think? Anyway, I'm so glad you are enjoying your last few days there. Live it u
  • Paula: There's no place like home, there's no place like home!!! Can't wait to see you...we are counting the days.


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