The JLPT is coming

So, which of you folks are taking the JLPT during the summer session? To you, I tip my hat and wish you good luck in your academic endeavors.

To those of you who, like me, are planning to take it in winter… what are you waiting for?

Continue reading “The JLPT is coming”

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Done overnight: Kanazawa

In mid-May, I received a text from a friend out of the blue, asking if I felt like going to Kanazawa. I agreed, because hey, who wouldn’t like a brief getaway from everyday life? It was only after we’d decided on the dates and times that I paused and wondered, “What’s even in Kanazawa?”

Turns out, a lot.

Continue reading “Done overnight: Kanazawa”

Bouldering karaoke?!

There are lots of ways to spend your free time in Japan; roadtrips, bowling, taking one-off cultural lessons, and, of course, karaoke. If you’re downtown in any given city in Japan, you’ll run across the Jankaras, the Shidaxes, the mom and pop snack bars that offer karaoke, and a host of other options. Depending on your group size or even what you like to sing, the world is at your fingertips in terms of options.

While walking the streets of Kyoto, I’ve noticed that something else has been popping up beside the karaoke boxes: climbing gyms. You can go in for one-off sessions, or sign up for a monthly membership just like you would at a traditional gym. Whether you’re already a lean, mean, climbing machine or a newbie, there’s something available for you.

It was only a matter of time before someone mashed those two ideas together.

Continue reading “Bouldering karaoke?!”

Hokojima and Tojimbo Cliffs

Another year, another Golden Week come and gone. It always feels like it’s over in a blink, doesn’t it? Whether you spent your Golden Week relaxing, putting in extra time at work, or going on wild adventures, I hope you enjoyed yours to the fullest.

I’d like to share two adventures I had this year– a roadtrip to Fukui, and a bouldering karaoke room!

Let’s start with the roadtrip: Continue reading “Hokojima and Tojimbo Cliffs”

Hiroshima overnight, part 2: the bus’s near-great escape

Last time, on Stefanie What, our heroes had attempted a night bus trip with the mixed results of having an entire day to explore Hiroshima, but struggling with the urge to sleep throughout said day. We slept very well in that hotel room, which is good, because our next plan was to hit up Miyajima Island.

Continue reading “Hiroshima overnight, part 2: the bus’s near-great escape”

Hiroshima overnight, Part 1: Powerful and moving

Hello and welcome to a Throwback Thursday post! I don’t do these very often, but while perusing my past blog posts and my pictures, I realized that there are a few adventures I haven’t talked about here. Some may remain in obscurity for a while longer; others, like this one, grow more pertinent as travel season is upon us.

Yes, Golden Week is around the corner, and before we know it, it’s going to be summer. With all that entails. Cicadas, tour groups, and every flavor of ice cream you can possibly imagine. Among other things.

Today, I’d like to share with you part one of the tale of our overnight Hiroshima trip.

Continue reading “Hiroshima overnight, Part 1: Powerful and moving”

Hirano Jinja Hanami

You know, I thought I was done posting about the fleeting beauty of spring blossoms. I guess that’ll show me, eh?

We’ve been blessed with some gorgeous weather in Kyoto lately. Think 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and not a cloud in the sky. This is unusual because normally around cherry blossom season, we get one or two days of being able to check the sakura out before the rain knocks them all down. This time, we had almost an entire week of uninterrupted sunshine.

Which is fortunate, because if we hadn’t, I might not have been able to get to Hirano Shrine.Hirano small 003

This shrine was recommended to me by a student who was shocked I hadn’t been there before. After the student urged me to see the blossoms, I gathered a group of friends and off we went to investigate.

If you’ve been up around Kitanotenmangu Shrine before, Hirano is about a 5-10 minute walk away, and is free to enter. I’d recommend checking it out even if it’s not spring, because the grounds are pleasant to walk through. That said, I’ve found another new favorite cherry blossom place!Hirano small 001

Upon entering the gates, I was greeted with a row of food stands and spots for people to sit and enjoy a drink. The cherry blossom trees leaned over this row, looking for all the world like a natural 商店街 (shotengai, or covered shopping street). As you go from stand to stand, checking out the fried chicken, yakisoba, and other goodies on sale, you find yourself eventually at the front of the proper shrine itself.

When I first entered, I thought I would see maybe one or two large trees. I had no idea that there would be a garden full of blossoms. It was almost overwhelming; there were so many potential shots you could take with your camera. Hirano small 004

The only downside was that there weren’t any free spots to sit down and just enjoy the blossoms. All the ground space was pretty much taken up by stands and whatnot that fenced off “their” area; if you stopped in to sit for even a few seconds, a waitress would rush over to hand you a menu and ask you to order something. If you don’t mind walking–or if you don’t mind dropping 500 yen for a beer–this is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon or early evening.

So! That wraps it up for the spring blossoms for this year. Where did you go? What did you see, and do you recommend it?