December 31, 2016

Senior Year: Winter Break in the Land of the Rising Sun

So I am not Jennifer. I am her first born Pride and JoyTM (and Stress) that has been given full permission to hack the blog for the sake of updating everyone on an incredible experience I was blessed to have recently across Japan.
So I will attempt to tell my story as sequentially as my scatter-brain can manage. We left the islands at around 2:20 pm, and after an 8-hour flight, we finally arrived at Narita (na-REE-tah) airport at around 7 pm December 15th, rode the bus to our hostel in Asakusa (a-SAH-ku-SAH), and turned in for the night. But the real action started the next day. We all woke up after a deep(?) sleep at 6 am, packed our costumes, bought breakfast/lunch at the local Lawson's (kind of like 7-11, although Japan has those as well. Surprisingly, it's easier to find a Lawson's in Japan than it is a 7-11, or at least it was for us), and loaded into the bus to our first show at Waseda (WAH-seh-DA) elementary school. 
For those of you who don't know, Waseda is an expensive private school much like MidPac, except for the fact that instead of ending at high school, Waseda also has their own extremely famous/popular college. They've got a pretty good reputation for hosting international students and providing them with English classes for degrees like technology, communications, business, etc., so anyone interested in studying abroad should definitely look into it. (Also, yearly tuition is most likely cheaper than your local school's in-state tuition, which is great when considering flight expenses). 
Off topic, I know, but senior year trains you to hook up your fellow anxious teen. Anyway. The bus ride was long, but provided me with many wonderful photo opportunities. To all the fellow art snobs in the house, Japan has wonderful juxtaposition between urban and natural settings. 

(these next two are my favorites)

I don't really have any pictures of costumes from the school or the performance...or any performances for that matter....or do I?
*After checking to see if our photographer posted the photos of our trip/performances yet*
Nope. I don't. I'll get mom to post some photos when the website does update with our costume pics. 
We were lucky enough to have a second gig that evening, this time much more high-class. If you've ever stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, it means that you have more money than I can probably dream of ever having, because this hotel is famous for being the swankiest, most expensive hotel in all of Tokyo. That's saying something. 
So, as you can imagine, performing on stage for guests in the "Sakura Ballroom" was pretty cool. Knowing that my class was taking a trip to Japan to dance, MidPac took the opportunity to host an event for all the alumni of the school that live in Japan today. After the performance, we were allowed to mingle with the guests and grab a plate from the buffet. So naturally I ate gourmet ice cream and played with little Japanese babies of the alumni for a good hour and a half. 
The next day was a Saturday and we were all anxious to see what the "surprise" was on our schedule. About 8:30 in the morning, we had arrived at...

I'm gonna dedicate this experience to JD. As soon as I found a group, we headed straight for the castle to get some good photos...
...and then, went on the two rides he is all about. 
That's Pirates of the Caribbean by the way. 
I know. Only 2. I can explain.
a) We had a total of 2 hours at Tokyo Disney.
b) It was up to us to eat brunch on our own time, because our next meal wasn't until about 6 pm and it would take us about 4 hours to get to the location of our show that evening.
c) The lines. Oh god, the lines. 
d) Shopping.

My meal for the morning consisted of coffee, a small salad, and a bowl of pork curry over rice! Yum! After that, it was time for a quick group photo, and we were off!
Our performance that evening was with a very popular Japanese hula class, from cute grandmas to cuter little girls. There was even a class of students our age! Afterwards, we went out to eat shabu-shabu with them, and it was d e l i c i o u s.
The girls were very fun, and yes, I am still in contact with a few of them. 
Ok. Sunday. Our last day in Tokyo before we took the evening train - shinkansen (shin-khan-SEN) to Shin-Osaka (shin o-SAH-ka). So we decided to head to the traditional market to get some souvenirs and be tourists. For me, it meant another opportunity to take some cool pictures. 

Notice something interesting here? I'll zoom in.
My greatest regret in life may be the fact that I did not buy these. 
My teacher had one more surprise for us: an owl cafe. Basically, you pay a little entrance fee, get one free drink, and then while you enjoy your coffee, you pet owls! I just wish I could have known that almost all of the photos I took were blurry... but I did get a couple. 

This guy was cool to look at as well. This cafe didn't just have owls, it had lizards, chinchillas, mice, and a bunch of other cute critters. 
We took a bus down to the train station and stopped halfway in between to grab some food that we could eat on the train for dinner. Our stop was in the middle of a very urban area - the Tokyo that everyone sees when they look it up in books or online. 

I love that Tokyo has so many bright colors despite how urban and technological it is. 
But I digress. I managed to get some more photos from the window of the train of some more agricultural parts of Japan before it got too dark.

By the way, look at what we found at the train station:

"This is a joke, right? Like this has to be a joke," - 2016

Osaka had a nice youth hostel for us to stay in that evening before we did another high school performance in Kobe (KOH-beh). I must say, the students were so excited to see Hawaiians at their school. It was really fun to talk with them. Afterwards, we got to participate in some classes and see some clubs before we had to take the trip back home. That, unfortunately, took the whole day. One more night at the youth hostel, and we were packed and ready to go and stay at our next destination by 7 am the next morning. 
The last hotel (yes, hotel) we were staying in was in Fukuoka (FU-KU-oh-oo-KAH), But since our train ticket wasn't until the evening, our teacher planned for us to be tourists at Hiroshima Memorial. 
On the way to Hiroshima, we noticed a beautiful traditional building standing in the middle of a lake. Our tour guide told us that this was Osaka Palace, one of the most famous historical landmarks in Japan. Our bus driver was very sweet and allowed us to stop and take pictures along the lake. 

We eventually did reach the memorial, but my teacher had asked us not to take pictures so that we could focus on experiencing the atmosphere and the information that the memorials and museum had to tell us. Our official photographer did take pictures of the site, however, so when he updates the school website, I'll try to post them.
Now, Hiroshima is also famous for a certain dish: okonomiyaki (oh-koh-no-mee-YA-kee), which translates more or less to "grill whatever you like". Our group walks up three flights of stairs to this hole in the wall place and sits at the counter to watch the chef make us a delicious dinner. It was essentially a crepe, some cabbage, ramen noodles, fried eggs, and some delicious sauce that I absolutely could not tell what it was. But it was good. 
The chef was so fun too! He asked who we all were, and once we explained that we were hula dancers from Hawaii, he immediately did a little hula parody and told us that he likes watching Hawaii-50! 
The dinner was enough to hold us over until Fukuoka, which is kind of like a less dirty Tokyo. I must say, the people are much more friendly and hospitable in Fukuoka than in Tokyo. Not to say that anyone was rude, just that people were a lot more open to talking and being friendly when meeting us. 
We finally got to our hotel, and at this point, my camera was low on battery, and I was too dumb to find my charger in my suitcase, but here is a picture to give you an idea of how traditional and beautiful the place was:  
We had one final performance at a theater in Fukuoka with another hula class, and it was probably one of the most fun performances I've ever done in my life. A professor of music at Waseda University came down to perform his traditional flute to one of our pieces, and the crowd stood on their feet to dance and sing along with us when we sang Christmas songs!
I guess I haven't mentioned yet that our class was able to make some money off of these shows, and was able to pay for most of our meals when we went out to eat. The final show easily made us $3000. So we went out into the city to party!
The evening was filled with laughter, delicious food, great scenery, and amazing people. It was a wonderful ending to an amazing experience that I will never forget. 

- Olivia