Last day of school……

Friday was my last day at Kanto Kokusai.
Other than the part when we got our test results back (I was really happy, hahaha), it was so sad. I had to give a little farewell speech in front of the class and I was choking up and it was pretty embarassing.
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Although it was a sad day for me, it was a happy one for everyone else…the last day before winter break. During cleanup (Japanese schools don’t have janitors so the students clean the chalkboards, sweep the floors, change the radiator filter…..), all the kids were totally goofing off and it was cute.
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Sitting on top of the lockers….
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Sitting on desks……
peace
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QUICK STORY TIME- there’s a recycling machine in the Kanto lunch court that will forever remain as part of my legacy. When you place a can in the machine, a 10 yen coin automatically pops up, which was totally fantastic in my eyes and I instantly became addicted to can collecting. My friends (above) and I formed a can cartel (hahaha) where we went on total can frenzies and saved the money. I think we made over 20$ worth of can money….which was achieved by trash digging, cutting tall cans in half to double our cheddar, and drinking mass amounts of Max Coffee and strawberry milk. (Although canned goods in the states have a bad rap, Japanese canned drinks are delicioussssss. I don’t know how I will live without vending machines selling canned cafe au lait everywhere 😦 )
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My homeroom teacher!
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Last walk to Hatsudai station….

It was a really bittersweet day, reflecting on a really happy, truly amazing time but acknowledging its end.

BUT!
AFTER SCHOOL (I had a half day) I WENT TO SOUP STOCK TOKYO!
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Soup Stock Tokyo, the namesake of my blog, is an aaaamazing and slightly too expensive soup place that is found mostly in train stations.
Their soups are literally amazing. Sooo good. Soooooo goood. Normally when I think of “soup” I think of being sick and eating boring chicken stock with lame steamed veggies floating in it (although I will admit, that kind of simple soup can be really delicious if made properly, albiet not too exciting). BUT SOUP STOCK TOKYO SOUP is sooooooo goood that I immediately forget that bland image.
I had lobster bisque. It had a more exciting English name but I forgot it. But anyways. Ingredients: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, lobster bullion, tomato puree, parsely, wine, tomoto, brandy, olive oil, spices, salt, milk, starch, crab bullion, butter, scallop bullion, pork fat, clam bullion, black pepper, black pepper, and honey.
SO
GOOD
!
CLOSEUP:

It was the first and will probably be my last time going this trip, but I was in heaven 😀

Sad day, good lunch.

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Neo Tropicalia

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So a while ago, me and my mom went to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo near Kiyosumi Garden, which I visited before. It was a not too long train ride but a really long walk there from the train station, so if you are interested in going, I would definitely recommend asking for the shortcut from the locals.
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The people are really nice and the area is really old world….tons of amazing shrines. Tons. Above, I’m praying at a shrine that is supposed to elevate my social status, hahaha.
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The museum itself was beautiful- really modern architecture and covered in these colorful decals that looked like stained glass.

OK SO THE MAIN EXHIBITS
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The main exhibit was called Neo Tropicalia and was basically all Brazilian avant-garde. It was totally amazing and really fun. One of the installations was this big labyrinth-style square of thick cardboard corridors, with each section divided from the next with a colored plastic screen….everything was brightly lit and the plastic would filter into the rooms so that you would go from yellow cardboard land to blue cardboard land to orange. For some reason it was really ecstatically fun to run through the screens and my mother and I went through twice. At the end of the labyrinth, attendants were handing out mango juice….that really good, thick, syrupy, sweeeeeet delicious juice from latin countries. MMMMMM it really made me miss San Diego.

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A big part of the exhibit was about Brazilian-inspired fashion, including designs by the legendary and totally awesome Issey Miyake.

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The guy who did the corridors, Hélio Oiticica, also did this section where you wear these freeform capes while listening to favela funky/tropicalia/samba mix music and dance. Pictures were technically not allowed and there were guards everywhere so I couldn’t take pictures (all the other ones I took were in secret, hahaha), but I wish I could have because seeing my mom dancing in a cape with huge headphones on was so cute.

Other notable sections:
There was this room that was totally trippily decorated and filled with beanbags in front of sensors, and if you wore these proper headphones and aligned with the sensors, your senses would be assailed by latin acid jazz, hip hop en espanol, and more tropicalia y the funky stuff of course. But if you went out of line with the sensors, you got a lot of static and sometimes intercepted signals from other stations, so most of the time I was in electric beanbagland, my ears in the Carnivale LSD spaceship from tokyo.

Other exhibits included talking plants…..graphic black and white prints….colorful pictures of urban planning….

AND AN INSTALLATION BY ERNESTO NETO!

I saw an exhibit of his in MCSD, and this one was even better because it was all white (not the spices you see above) and there were these really big beanbags that you could lay on and look up at the bundles from.

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…and of course the restaurant was really good : )
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I had amaaazing quiche!

ANYWAYS it was a totally rad, trippy, colorful exhibit and if you are anywhere near Tokyo it is a must-see!

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K-A-R-A-O-K-E

neeeeed i say more ?
(yes of course, you say)

This weekend, my friends from Kanto International were total sweethearts and organized a little going-away party for me in Shinjuku, complete with arcade going, purikura photobooth fun, and karaoke! I had never done karaoke at an actual karaoke place before so I was totally excited and a little bit scared, hahaha.

Despite all their planning, I woke up that day with a crazy mindsplitting headache, chills, and felt completely nauseous all day…the smell of food made me want to throw up. However, I bundled up and ran out to the urban playground to meet my friends anyways….

Once I met up with them at the train station my vision started going starry and my stomach was acting up and I felt like I was going to faint.  We all quickly dropped into Saizeriya, a popular chain Italian restaurant and I quickly recuperated.

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Two of the boys…
It was funny, but none of the girls ate (I was feeling pretty sick so I abstained) but all of the boys ordered tons of food, and they were laughing at us for not eating. We knew that the karaoke place that we wanted to go to only opened at 1 pm so we were trying to buy time, so the boys got tons of refills on drinks and we were pretty much seated loiterers for at least half an hour after they had finished their food, until we felt too suspicious.
After none of the girls eating and all of the boys eating tons of food, my gallant friends lead me to a drugstore and found me some medicine. They even offered to pay, which goes to show you how courteous people are here. “Well, you’re the special guest today!”, they kept saying : )

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Next, since we still had a lot of time to kill, we mosyed down to an arcade. First we took a roll of purikura, or Japanese photobooth pictures. I don’t have a scanner right now but eventually I will post the pictures : )

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KARAOKE TIME!
We then went to Big Echo, a huge Karaoke box. It basically operates and looks like a hotel where you rent a room by blocks of hours. Each room is lined with booths, with a huge center table in the middle, a big TV screen, a bundle of microphones, and several song-selecting machines.

We pretty much trashed the place.
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Here are two of the girls deciding which songs to pick. Songs were divisible by artist, language, popularity…..and there was an amazing selection! I didn’t even really look at the Japanese song selection, but they had an incredible variety of English songs- with bands from Enter Shikari to The Beatles (there were over 200 Beatles songs, for the record).

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Good times– these kids were so funny and charismatic once they got behind a mic. I have never seen people having more fun making fun of themselves…I absolutely loved their ability to just ham it up.
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AHAHA so this kid, who during class always sat behind me and was very polite, nice, and proper, got really into it and would dance to some of the songs…in a really awkward, adorable Japanese way. He also sang the same song, “Hisoukan”, three times- the official music video to it is below.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed more in my life during the 6 hours we were singing (oh yeah, I forgot to mention. We were there for 6 hours!!!!!). However, I was still feeling totally sick and slept through probably 2 of those hours…and only sang twice because my head felt like it was going to crack in half. I was so disappointed that I wasn’t feeling better because I would have totally shredded up those mics ;(

My song choices? I Will Survive (my official karaoke song since 8th grade) and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, of course! Total classics that I belted out at max energy, despite my dizziness.

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The group, minus the photographer…

All in all, it was so hilarious and amazing and quintessentially Japanese that looking back I barely even think about how gross I felt. It was a truly Japanese experience that I will never forget- the modern counterpart to being put into a kimono. I will miss these kids and this day made me love them so much more.

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Princess timeeeee

On Saturday, I was made into a Japanese doll by my Mom’s cousin’s mother-in-law, a beautician. Japanese beauticians are usually certified or at least trained to professionally dress people in kimonos and put them in a sort of paired updo. Big deal, you may think, but getting into a kimono is an ORDEAL that can take anywhere between half and hour to two hours. The whole process took me about an hour and a half.

The reasoning behind me getting dolled up is based on timing. The type of kimono that one wears is based on age, and marital status. Since I am a teenager and unmarried, I wear a furisode kimono, where the sleeves are very long and the colors are vivid. As you get older, you have to look more age appropriate, with less bold colors and eye-catching decoration. Also, once you get married or reach a certain age, your sleeve length gets drastically shorter. Everyone wanted to capture me in full furisode- before it was too late.

hurr

It started with the updo….me getting my hair done.

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Then the actually dressing began. It started with me wearing a really thin dress and getting padded and bound— my chest bound, and my waist padded. The whole point of a kimono is to look like you have no curves, so the body is manipulated to look really straight. I don’t think that I’ve ever intentionally tried to look flat-chested and fuller around the middle, hahahaha.
The picture is of me wearing an undergarment-type thin white gown. It’s basically underwear, it would be very unproper for me to go outside like that.

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haha

Gradually the layers started piling up. Here, I’m almost finished- my obi, or waistband, is being tied.

hurrrrrrrr

FINISHED! Here, you can kind of see my obi and hairdo better….

Since it would be a total waste of 2 hours for me to just go home after being so dolled up, my family and I went to Asakusa again (there’s a post about Asakusa waaaaaaay back). It was absolutely hilarious- I guess that half Japanese girls don’t show up in furisode often, because I had people literally taking pictures of me right and left- some people even asked to pose with me!

hahahahahhah

Some lady wanted to take a picture with me—she was hilarious and really cool (LOOK AT HER SHADES! hahahahaha) so I obliged.

haaaaay

Prowlin’ the streets

hay

monkeyy

Just chillin with a monkey (it was actually part of a performing act).

ANYWAYS it was a hilarious day, and although I thought that I was going to die with so much clothing on me, it was a great experience.

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CORN POTAGE!

corn1

(In the middle)

Japanese people are unhealthily obsessed with Corn Potage. I had never seen or eaten it before coming to Japan, but its a creamy corn soup that everybody loves. It’s even sold in vending machines. I don’t know, I don’t think that creamy soup with corn kernels in it could ever be popular back home.

corn2

My brother tried it on the way to Nikkou- straight out of the vending machine.
RESULT?
He said that it was really good, until he got about halfway through the can and then he felt really sick –the creaminess got to his head. “Never eating Corn Potage Again” was his conclusion.

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Nikko

A while ago, my mother, brother, and maternal grandparents all took a trip to Nikko. Nikko is a historic area of Japan…it is very beautiful, and was very
very
very
very
cold.

Sorry for the lackluster photographs- it was freeezing (LITERALLY. It was below 0 Celcius and we were walking on ice), and after one or two shots I felt like I was going to die if my fingers didn’t take refuge in my pockets to thaw out. Also, it was visually amazing but really hard to photograph because everything was so ornate. The architecture and decorative style in Nikko is heavily borrowed from China, as evidenced by pagodas, color use, and carving styles. Throughout early Japanese history, monks in particular were sent to China to learn about the culture and spread it among the Japanese. Japanese culture was very derivative of Chinese culture until around the 800’s, when “Cokufubunka”, or literally “National Culture” (exclusively Japanese culture) took off.

mon
Nikko was designated a world heritage center by the UN, as it is home to gorgeous waterfalls and some of Japan’s most historically important shrines.

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“The three monkeys (三猿)” (according to this guidebook we bought)

“The three monkeys are part of carvings on the lintels of the sacred stable. The carving is especially popular as monkeys which represent seeing no evil, speaking no evil, and hearing no evil. These three postures are derived from the “three major principles” of the Tendai sect.

water

A very traditional and important part of visiting shrines and temples in Japan is to cleanse yourself by washing your hands and drinking from the “holy water” (I’m sure its not called that but thats basically what it is). It may seem unsanitary to foreigners that we are all drinking from the same ladles, but it is the epitome of purity to us. Temple water is always very very cold, clear and extremely delicious.

tokugawaieyasu

This is the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun (general) of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled from 1600-1868. He was a very important historical figure in Japan and subsequently this memorial is covered in symbolism. I think that all you can see in this photo is a crane…a very important symbol to the Japanese people.

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HAHAH I just thought that this was very funny- it’s a vending machine that sells only green tea.
After going around the shrine and freezing our limbs off (I literally thought that my fingers and toes were going to fall off, I’m a true San Diego girl), we got some curry and then headed off to the Nikko waterfall.

karei

OH MY GOD they sold these amazing “KAREI PIE” (curry pies), which were so delicious after emerging from the cold. They were made of a super flaky crust and filled with warm, rich curry, kind of like an Indian samosa, but sweeter. I was in heaven.

tsurara

I took like 3 pictures total of the Nikko waterfall, all of which were totally blurry because I guess I was shaking like crazy- SO COLD! (Tokyo itself isn’t all that cold, well by San Diego standards it’s freezing, but Nikkou is in the countryside which is notoriously much much much colder). You can see icicles here.

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It wasn’t snowing but there was a lot of snow piled up. My brother was excited until he touched it and realized that it was basically unfluffy ice.

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The picturesque town of Nikko!

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“I can’t believe I ate gut for lunch”

So.
The other day, when me and my brother were holding down the fort, I was doing some shopping for the next day’s lunch…and saw a dish at the supermarket that looked pretty good. The contents looked familiar, connyaku, carrots, potato, scallions, and chicken in a stew-y sauce. I couldn’t really understand the label but bought it anyways because it looked like a typical type of dish that I really enjoy. It tasted pretty good too. The next day my parents came home, and I forgot about the little container in the fridge.

A while later, my mom came up to me and said, “Do you know what that little plastic container of food you had for lunch was?” I replied that I didn’t and she said, “Well the meat in it was chicken intestine….”

………………………………
My reply was a breezy, “Oh, so that’s why it was so chewy.”

Japan makes you so jaded to weird food.

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