Missouri State University
Blog Away!
Study Away Students Blogging Abroad

Karaoke In Japan

So, if you’re like me, when I was in America we didn’t have Japanese style karaoke places where I live. I always wondered what Karaoke would be like; would I get shy, would it be expensive, what songs would they have, could I drink, what food was available?

[youtube=http://youtu.be/pyfEXAgNg0w]

I will attempt to share what I have learned in the three months I have lived here regarding karaoke, because it turned out to be a really fun, and great bonding opportunity with friends!

 

It depends on where you go, what time of the day, and which day of the week you want to go sing your heart out. In Japan, the walls are pretty thin, so it’s not like you can just belt out Utada Hikaru whenever you want. Or maybe that’s just me. For those on a budget, during the week, and during the day is the best time to go. This is before people get off work and the rates increase for the night time singers. They charge by the hour, I think about 2-3 hours is a good amount of time. However, I’m sure if you have a coupon, the rates could get even lower. Each karaoke place may also offer 飲み放題(のみほうだい)nomihoudai or bottomless cup, all you can drink rates, a simple soda and ice cream bar, costumes, and food! I am sure there are some more amenities that are offered. I just don’t have the experience of going there yet.

For me personally, I like to go for about 3 hours with some friends, my favorite place offers a soda bar, 飲み放題 nomihoudai, and food. But we usually just choose the soda bar, and order a plate of food to share. If I want one drink I get it. I’m all for the cheapest possible option because I’m a college student!

For the first question I had in America, “Would I get shy?”. The answer is yes and no. At first, you may think you need to be the world’s next Mariah Carey. The reality is, you aren’t going there to be a superstar, you are going in order to have fun singing with friends. My first time, I was overwhelmed by just BEING in Japan so I didn’t sing that much. However, the second time I went out for karaoke, I just went with it, and had lots of fun. You won’t always be on key, or know the words, but neither will anybody else, so let yourself go and enjoy the experience! The best part is, I always look forward to singing at karaoke now.

“Is it expensive?” This is also a yes and no answer. It all really depends on the place you go, and what you want to do. For me, I would rather just go and have fun, I don’t really care about having fancy food or dressing up. I pay anywhere from $10-$20 every time I go, and that’s everyone paying for their share equally when I go to karaoke. If you get nomihoudai, from my experience when we accidentally got charged, it was about $40.

“What songs do they have?” EVERYTHING. They offer Korean, Japanese, Popular American Pop songs, and even some old stuff! I personally always sing some Disney, Utada, and a mix of whatever I’m trying to learn in Japanese. Karaoke can really help with your reading skills if you let it! So try some songs in Japanese!

“Can I drink? What food is available?” YES! You can drink as long as you’re 20 and over. Don’t drink if you’re underage, you can get in trouble. As far as food goes, there are lots of finger foods, ramen, pizza, fried foods, etc. Some places even offer nice desserts! I go to a place that has soda and ice cream included in the price, so we make melon soda floats all the time. The food has always been of edible quality too!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Lmg5gTWRwvo]

If you have any questions about karaoke, leave them in the comments, I’d be happy to answer!

ーブリタニ

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School Trip to Kanazawa Part 2

This is a photo heavy post, so get ready!

For this part of the trip, we were headed to Shirakawa-go Village. It is a world cultural heritage site. The wiki can explain in FAR more detail than I can, so definitely check it out! And possibly listen to this video as a narration of the blog post as well.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/YTFBlyuCuFI]

 

The time we visited couldn’t have been more perfect, as the sun slowly set over the horizon, it made for beautiful photos view o the scenery. I could have just stood for hours and taken photos and enjoyed the peace and quiet. But alas, I was on a culture trip, so we had to move along faster than I would have liked. It was just the right temperature here as well. Not to hot, not too cold. Fall in Japan really is one of the best seasons to visit.
IMG_1933IMG_1930

IMG_1926IMG_1921IMG_1918IMG_1916IMG_1915IMG_1908IMG_1907IMG_1904IMG_1897IMG_1896IMG_1895IMG_1894IMG_1893
IMG_1892

The next stop was the Kenrokuen Garden. Which supposedly has perfect balance. I can believe it, as this was another location I would have liked to have spent more time in. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t believe a man made garden such as this exists. I will let the photos do the talking, as well as the video I posted above. I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I wasn’t really listening to the tour guide at all, because I wanted to take in the park through my own eyes.

IMG_1959IMG_1951IMG_1946IMG_1942

If you have any questions let me know! I would love to answer them in the comments!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School Trip to Kanazawa Part 1

Hello! Sorry It has been so long since I’ve posted! Finals came up really fast and took over.

Because I’ve left you guys hanging, I will queue up some posts and have them ready for everyone to read.

So, to begin, I’m going to link you guys to Wiki articles about the two areas I travelled to just to give you an idea geographically where they’re located. I currently live in Tokyo, so this was quite a bus ride. First, here are the Gifu and Kanazawa links. To be honest, before we left I thought these locations were a lot closer than they actually are. However the trip was enjoyable and the driver was perfect! We had a very energetic and “Genki” tour guide as well!

The first night, we left VERY early. I had to wake up at 4 and leave by 5:40am. Our tour bus didn’t leave till 7:30 am, however we all had to navigate Shinjuku Station! Which is one of, if not THE, biggest stations in the world. We all left, sleepy eyed, but really excited to see everything this trip had to offer. It helped that I sat with really chill people too, the trip wasn’t stressful at all.

IMG_1823

The two elements I was most excited about were the history we were about to see, and the beauty of the Japanese countryside. We were set to be in the alps of Japan, and on the drive there we even got to see Fuji-san, or Mt. Fuji.

IMG_1813

Studying something, and seeing it with your own eyes are very different things, as I keep repeating in my posts. Watching the scenery gradually change from metropolitan to farmland from the bus was comforting, as it reminded me of home. I hadn’t seen mountains in a while, in fact, since visiting my mother in Alaska. So when the mountains creeped up over the horizon, I was plastered to the window. They were snow capped due to the fast approaching winter season, and Mt. Fuji was beautiful. Most of the time they looked as if they were chiseled from a piece of driftwood, as the trees had brown and red hues similar to that of stained wood. We also got to see the sunrise and sunset from the bus, which lit the mountains on fire. It was beautiful.

IMG_1822

IMG_1825

IMG_1829

IMG_1830

There was plenty of time on the bus to sleep as well, and sleep I did. The ride had reclining seats, storage for bags and souvenirs, and cupholders. It was honestly better than the economy class on an airplane! Some of us had downloaded Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby the night before, so there was plenty to keep us busy. I didn’t end up playing, as the scenery was captivating.

IMG_1834

IMG_1835

IMG_1837

Our bus tour’s first stop was Takayama! We stopped to enjoy some nice warm Ramen, which was delicious. It had the traditional long, thin noodles and tasted like heaven.

IMG_1839

After that, we visited Hida-Takayama Town. There are streets there that were preserved from the Edo Period of Japan onward.  It’s referred to as “Little Kyoto in Hida”. We saw traditional shops and merchants, as well as huge cedar leaf balls hanging outside sake shops. These are called “Sake-bayashi” or “Sugi-tama”. They hang these when new sake is ready. It begins as a green ball of leaves, and as the leaves turn brown, this shows how aged the sake is to the customers outside.

IMG_1844

IMG_1845

IMG_1846

IMG_1851

IMG_1850

IMG_1848

IMG_1847

IMG_1852

IMG_1853

IMG_1854

IMG_1855

IMG_1856

IMG_1858

IMG_1859

IMG_1860

IMG_1861

IMG_1863

IMG_1867
IMG_1872

IMG_1874

IMG_1876

IMG_1875

IMG_1877

IMG_1878

IMG_1883

IMG_1884

IMG_1886

IMG_1887

IMG_1889

IMG_1890

Here is a video if you’re interested in the area! I am working on a second part to this trip for a new post, so please look forward to it!

If you have any questions about the area, what we saw, or the photographs, shoot me a comment!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Top of Tokyo Sky Tree: Meeting My Pen Pal For the First Time

S__16752664

 

That girl on the left above is my pen pal. I wrote my first letter to her 4 years ago. My Japanese was horrible, I could only use Hiragana and Katakana, my Kanji was illegible, and I could only say, “Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m in college.” I never imagined I would actually meet her in real life.

Now, my language skills are still subpar, but every day I can understand more, my world is opening up, and I’m meeting new people all the time. My pen pal and I made plans to meet at the Skytree train station. I was so nervous that day. I was sweaty, stuttering, and forgot nearly all the Japanese I learnt already. Then, all of the sudden, “Excuse me…” AHHH! It was her! My pen pal! Finally I had met her after all these years. Now, I know that this isn’t the custom, but I gave her a big American style hug! She had brought a friend along and I am so happy that I could meet more people. They are the nicest people I’ve ever met and I hope that the language barrier becomes smaller and smaller as I learn more and more. There were many times where we would walk in silence, just enjoying the moment until we warmed up to each other. I was so happy when we started talking!

First we walked around the various shops and made small English mixed with Japanese conversation. Their English is really good! They also taught me many things about Japanese as well. Plans were made to go into the Moomin Cafe, we waited an hour or so to get in, but we were waiting for our turn to go to the top of the Skytree, so it all worked out perfectly.

The cafe was warm, and we were greeted kindly. They helped me order so the waitress would be more comfortable, and then we got to take photos with silly hats!

S__16752665

S__16752667

S__16752679

S__16752677

S__38019099

S__38019098

S__16752682

S__16752681

Of course all the food was Moomin themed or shaped into Moomin Characters! It was so cute, and scrumptious! I highly recommend this cafe if you have any extra money. The dessert was pumpkin flavored and even though we were all really full, we ate every bit! Trying on the hat was fun, as was chatting about boyfriends, college, etc. even if I could only say things in broken Japanese. I’m pretty sure when they asked when my birthday was I said、「20月」which means 20th month! We all had a good laugh about that.

S__16752669

S__38019102

S__38019103

 

 

 

I took so many photos and video, but I want to cherish it for myself, I hope you understand! So for now, just have these various iPhone snaps we took throughout the day, as well as my video about Tokyo Skytree. Thank you for listening, and I encourage everyone who lives in Tokyo to visit Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, or a tall building to see the view of Tokyo for themselves. It really puts into perspective the city you live in. You are part of a community as a foreigner, even if you don’t feel like it or see it all the time. It really hit me at the top of Tokyo Skytree that I was in Japan, meeting people that I feel like I’ve known forever. The tears were definitely under the surface and I constantly had to swallow the lump in my throat as I looked out over the horizon and watched the sun set. I think I said thank you a million times that day. I will never forget meeting her for the first time at Tokyo Skytree, and now this place will hold a happy memory for me every time I visit, or see it in the distance in Tokyo. Thanks to my new friends for a beautiful day, and a relaxing train ride home. I will never forget it.

Thanks for reading and listening. If you have any questions, as always, stop by the Study Away office and tell them Brittany from Japan sent you!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

 

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

KCP International School BBQ!

IMG_1721

Hey everyone!

In light of MSU’s International Education Week, I will try and post a few times on this blog to help show you an international student’s current point of view from Japan!

Recently my school held a school wide barbecue! That means faculty and students worked side by side to cook food, play games, and have a good time. It was a lot of fun.

We started off by meeting really early in the morning on a Friday, something many students may not have wanted to do, but it was so worth it. We all took the train to a park and BBQ’d at their specific area dedicated to cooking. Earlier in the week we had to work as a class (none of whom have English as their first language) and buy ingredients. It was a challenge, but fun! I really got to know the personalities of my classmates. I think that was part of the exercise too. It was my job to marinate the chicken for the American food portion of the menu, and bring tableware.

We burned some chicken, dropped some food on the ground, and maybe started a few fires, but it was fun!

IMG_1722

IMG_1727

IMG_1729

IMG_1731

IMG_1733

IMG_1734

IMG_1737

IMG_1747

IMG_1751

 

IMG_1749

 

At the end of the day, we all turned into children and played in the park. I was exhausted when I got home, but it was worth it and I slept really well! I hope you guys enjoy the photo and videos. It was a really good bonding experience with my classmates, and staff. The teachers were all very energetic and spoke to us in Japanese. It is really good practice, and helps you form a bond with your teachers that translates well into the classroom dynamic! I helped grill the chicken, but we found out one of the members of our group helps her family cook. She was more than willing to step in and it was awesome to collaborate!

If you decide to come to KCP, you will definitely feel right at home! We all contributed food items from our own countries and participated in a cooking contest. Our class didn’t win, but we had lots of fun working together and participating in some games. I really encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, you never know what you’ll experience! Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about attending KCP feel free to swing by your advisors office or the Study Away offices. They are really helpful, and they are part of the reason why I am in Japan today!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

National Diet Building, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Buddhist Temple, and Asakusa Tour

IMG_1551

Get ready for a long post!

Every weekend that I have a culture class trip, I am surprised by what we are shown. As you’ll see from the photographs and video, Asakusa is very much where old meets new. The political hub of Tokyo is right next to an Edo period castle and the Imperial Palace. We weren’t able to go to where the main buildings are, but we saw the gates, and the moat surrounding the vast area housing the Imperial Palace. As it is said in the video, there used to be two large moats surrounding this castle, but the one furthest from the center was filled in. As you can see, I was pretty psyched to see all of this up close, as was the group! If you go to MSU, you can earn credit by attending the lecture beforehand, and writing a paper on your experience in English.

 

If I need to be perfectly honest, watching the video play back and post these photos brings some tears to my eyes because I’m constantly reminded how much my hard work at university has paid off. Every time I see something new, or something that I have only heard about or seen pictures of before, I get really overwhelmed with gratitude. Especially for the Gilman Scholarship which I am so grateful to have received.

This area was a really popular place for joggers, and there was even a marathon taking place as we walked through the beautiful scenery. I really enjoyed a break from the bustling city life I experience during the week with my classes, and liked just strolling along looking at all the interestingly shaped trees and of course capturing some 木漏れ日(komorebi). Or the light that filters through trees. Everything we discussed in the lecture, and the pre-departure meeting, we got to see and experience hands on!

IMG_1560

IMG_1570

IMG_1576

IMG_1580

 

Seeing the wide open spaces within a city was refreshing, and the air smelled really nice amongst the trees. There were many people enjoying the lovely warm air that day.

From this statue, we took the metro train and traveled Sensoji Shrine. It’s a Buddhist shrine, and I had studied Buddhism and Japanese religion in the states so I was very excited! I did my videos in two parts because the shrine was too beautiful and I wanted to show you guys everything! (Note: I posted the wrong shrine in the opening title of the video. It’s actually Sensoji Shrine)

 

IMG_1591

IMG_1598

IMG_1600

IMG_1603

IMG_1616

IMG_1624

IMG_1629

IMG_1635

IMG_1643

IMG_1644

IMG_1645

IMG_1648

IMG_1651

IMG_1656

IMG_1662

IMG_1666

IMG_1673

IMG_1674

IMG_1676

IMG_1679

IMG_1681

IMG_1692

IMG_1701

 

The smells were of incense and smoke, food and excitement. The sounds were old music, and coins clanging as they were dropped into the donation area and prayed over. I caught many people in sincere worship, and it was an interesting thing to see and secretly capture. Can you see when I find them in the video? One couple was sincerely holding incense and praying, and another, praying and wishing over a donation.

Of course no trip to a temple is complete without a fortune! I got a bad fortune, but I kept it as a souvenir! Is that bad luck? Of course, but my new friend I’ve made through KCP tied hers up in traditional Japanese fashion so it would be blown away. I enjoyed walking around and asking things in Japanese for practice. It’s insane how fast you pick up Japanese, not just at KCP, but just constantly being surrounded by it, makes a world of difference! I highly recommend attending KCP if you are willing to work hard and improve your Japanese Language proficiency.

Lastly, we spent a calm evening by the water, and viewed Tokyo Skytree, Asahi Beer Building, and the fire spirit building! I hope you watch the video and feel the same feelings of peace that I felt. It felt very surreal.

I want these videos show you just how beautiful this place really is, and inspires you to visit one day! I want to go back and sit, enjoy the sounds, and have some food next time.

Thanks for listening! And as always, if you have any questions, stop by the study away office at MSU and tell them Brittany sent you, or leave them in the comments!

 

-Brittany

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

KCP Japanese Language School! Trip to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Takeshita Dori.

Hello! It’s nice to meet everyone! My name is Brittany and I am going to KCP International Language School through Missouri State University for Japanese Language and Culture Credit. I have an Individualized Major in Japanese Language and TESOL. I will be in Tokyo, Japan from October 6th – June 20th 2015. I hope I can share my adventures with you!

To start things off, our first culture trip was to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori street! Let me share some photos from each location!

IMG_1483

There were many traditional weddings taking place that day.
IMG_1480

Entrance to the shrine.IMG_1465

Wine offerings.IMG_1460

Peaceful streams and forests.IMG_1457 IMG_1453

Torii Gate.IMG_1485

Ema Votive Tablets. Write your wishes to the gods!IMG_1486 IMG_1492 IMG_1495 IMG_1497

IMG_1499

Harajuku!
IMG_1505

Takeshita Dori!
IMG_1521 IMG_1525

Purikura (Picture Club; photo booths)IMG_1529

Crepes.IMG_1531 IMG_1535

Colorful Graffiti!
IMG_1538

 

We went to Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s one thing to study this in your classroom in America and see photos. Its a totally different thing to actually be there. We stepped off the train and walked to Harajuku. The Shrine is just a short walk from there. Everyone had their cameras out before we even saw it.

This shrine is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a booming, modern fashion district. While at the shrine, the dull roar of the city melted away as we walked on the long gravely path to the shrine’s entrance. I remembered what I had studied in America, how this shrine houses the largest wooden Torii gate in Japan. Seeing it in person was outstanding. It was so beautiful. We all walked to the left, bowed, and then began our walk to the shrine. I’ll let the video do most of the talking here, as I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. Keep an eye out for things you’ll learn in Dr. Berkwitz’s Chinese and Japanese Religion class. I was able to appreciate the shrine more because of what I learned in his class.

Remember that album in the 90’s from Gwen Stephani? “Harajuku girls you’ve got some wicked style….”. I was just a wee lass when that had come out, but ever since then, I’ve been curious as to what she was talking about. Saturday October 11, 2014 I found out. Our school took a culture class trip to Harajuku and Takeshita Dori street (sounds like kindergarten, but we are all 19-30 ish). I nearly cried when I saw it. You see photos of it in magazines, and videos of the endless outfits and fashion, seeing it in person however is an entirely different story. I don’t think I put my camera away the entire time we were there. I’m such a girl.

The whole street was colored with the rainbow, and peppered with girls and guys dressed in clothes that expressed themselves. I felt like, in a country that prides itself in how conservative it is, and how orderly and clean things are, this area is an oasis for young people searching for their voice. Imagine a mall that’s outside in your home country. For me, in America, we have closed malls for the most part. Big buildings, with lots of shops and kiosks. Takeshita Dori has open shops, shop girls yelling about their latest clothes, and discounts, and food. Head inside a small door, you could find yourself in a big shop. Head into a basement full of purikura machines, and you’ll find young couples, girlfriends, sometimes boyfriends cramming themselves into purikura booths to make memories. And you’ll most definitely always see somebody dressed in a way you want to dress.

Before we went to Harajuku, I told my new friends that even if I didn’t have money and we didn’t do anything else, we HAD to do purikura together. Its a rite of passage! I feel like no friendship is real until you take photobooth photos together! 2 of the 3 girls had never done it before, one of those three being me. So we paid our 400 yen, took some goofy photos, and then drew silly photos and put stickers on them. We all got copies, and I felt so happy I could cry. When you work really hard for something, and your dream finally comes true, it’s very overwhelming.

I hope you feel the happy energy from my video, and it makes you smile! I want everyone to have this experience sometime in their lives.

Thoughts? Let me know!

-Brittany

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged , , | Comments Off

London Town!

Hello my name is Meghan Grabowski.  I am studying abroad in London this semester through the Missouri London CAPA program. I have been in London for a couple of weeks now and I must say I am really enjoying it! I have never really been out of the country before so I was prepared to feel totally culture shocked.  Honestly though the transition has been pretty easy.  London is definitely a good place to start for your first time out of the country.  No language barrier. That is not the only thing that made the transition so easy though.  I have been placed with a  great group of people.  I feel like I have known some of them forever.

 

They are an adventurous bunch, which is what I wanted/needed.  One of the first nights we traveled down to the Monument and then went to Tower Bridge and walked along the Thames.  We have walked through Regents Park and walked up Primrose Hill twice, as well as having a picnic.  We also went to the Tate Modern.  This is a modern art museum which is not my cup of tea, but if you are into that sort of thing, my roomates liked it.  Most recently we went to the Thames River Festival and saw a parade.  I feel like I have done a lot yet nothing at all.  There is so much to do and see in London it is incredible. Even in your neighborhood.

I am currently living in a flat in Camden with two girls.  They boys in our program are in the room above us.  It is nice having everyone so close.  The Camden markets are really cool.  There are so many things.  I know things is a broad term but there is honestly just so many trinkets and objects.  Even some yummy looking food.  I can’t wait to seriously go and shop there.

I have only had two of my classes so far.  My other two start tomorrow and I am anxious to see how they go.  Especially International Economics.  My Shakespeare class is pretty interesting though.  I am also in Roman Britain and the teacher is pretty cool.  We will see how the classes progress and if they are still interesting.  Well I suppose that is all for now.  Here is to more adventures!!!

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Tagged | Comments Off

Life’s a Beach

Hola! While my Springfield friends rejoice in the 60 degree weather, I thought I’d rub the fact that I am in Puerto Rico in just a little more with some pictures of the beach. I have visited five different beaches so far, and I usually get to go once a week. For the beaches in San Juan (where I live), I have to ride either a bus or a train and a bus to get arrive which can take about an hour. As you can see, though, it’s worth the wait!

 

Escambron
Playa Escondida
Playa Escondida otra vez
Escambron
Not a Beach!
Playa Escondida
Posted in Student Blog Posts | Comments Off

Firsts of Many

Buenos dias! Yesterday marked four weeks of me living in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in honor of my first month here coming to an end, I thought I’d share some of the other (many) firsts I’ve experienced here.

First time flying.

First time on a plane.
First time on a Puerto Rican beach.

Taking the train for the first time.

First view of Old San Juan.

My first waterfall!

I’m sure that I’ll experience many more firsts in the coming months (and hopefully some seconds and thirds and fourths). But for that to happen, I have to get out and away from this computer screen and go find those experiences, so for now, adios!

Posted in Student Blog Posts | Comments Off