Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Spa Time

I finally managed to find a spa that does waxing. It's called Boudoir and it's located in Tokyo's Harajuku area and run by an Australian woman. Got myself a brow wax, lash tint, lash curl, manicure, and pedicure. Just like the Finishing Touch Spa back home! Only downside is that it's really pricy. You don't even want to know how much all that cost me. However, the brow wax I received was the best looking brow waxes I've ever had. They also offer bikini and brazillian waxing. A rare find here in Japan.

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posted by am at 12:08 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Doctor! Doctor!
Winter has hit me hard in terms of health. I've spent most of winter with a runny nose and coughing up a storm. Nothing to horrible, but enough to be bothersome. However, I recently experienced my very first sinus infection and after spending 3 days with a pounding headache, weird face pain, and runny nose, I caved and decided to see a doctor.

Janet had told me about a doctor in the area who speaks some English so I decided to stop by their office. I, being ever unlucky, happened to go on a day when said English speaking doctor was out. So after the mandatory 5 minute 'panic because there is a foreigner here and we can't speak English' moment they directed me to the nearest ear, nose, and throat doctor. Yes, that's right, you can just go straight to the ENT doc. No need to get a general practitioners rec so that your insurance company will cover it. You can just go.

So I went and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the receptionist could speak a decent amount of English. She was great and helped me communicate with the doctor, who also knew a bit of English, but not much. I sat in the waiting room for about 5 min before going in to see the doctor. I gave him a note that my JTE wrote up for me with the kanji for sinus infections and told him that was what I thought I had. He asked me a few simple questions about my runny nose, cough, and face pain and agreed that I had an infection.

I was really worried about whether he would agree or not because most of the going to a doctor in Japan horror stories seem to start with the doctor disagreeing with the patient over what is wrong. That and all my teachers were convinced that it wasn't a sinus infection but rather, allergies due to the fact that it was allergy season and the sakura were in bloom. Even after explaining that I didn’t have allergies, they were still 100% convinced that's what is was. So I was extremely happy when he was like, yep, sinus infection.

After giving me a basic check over.....the standard blood pressure and eyes, ears, and nose check......he then did what has to be one of the most awkward things that's ever been done to me in a hospital. He essentially stuck a rod up my nose, wiggled it around, and then did it a second time through the other nostril. It didn't hurt per se, but I didn't exactly enjoy it. It was kind of like checking for strep throat, but up your nose instead. After that he sprayed some medicine up my nose and then sat me down in front of this strange machine thing. I'm still not quite sure what is was supposed to go, but it had a tube coming from it that you stick up your nose and then breath in. I personally felt it did nothing but make me look like a retard for approximately 2 minutes.

After that I got 3 different med scripts. One antibiotic, one for pain, and one for my runny nose. I returned a week later for my follow up and the doc said everything was looking pretty good. I had to agree with him as I felt much better after starting the meds. He gave me a few more scripts and said I didn't have to come back unless my sinuses started acting up again. Yay for being healthy once again!


posted by am at 12:08 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Gimme some sake!
Immediately following the Yuki Matsuri was the YETI sake brewery tour. The brewery we went to was actually in Yamanashishi, so I didn't have to go far at all! The tour itself wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It lasted for maybe 10min tops and was all in one big room. Was still pretty interesting though. We all got to taste sake at different stages in its creation and look into the big vat where is does......whatever its supposed to do. After the 10min tour, the rest of our time was spent sampling various sake at the brewery's cute little restaurant/bar thing. The restaurant had a very log cabin, Colorado coffee house, kind of feel to it, which I quite enjoyed.

Anyway, this event just helped me confirm my love of any and all things sake. I should really go visit that brewery again some time. Also noticed an interesting looking shrine on my way there that I might want to check out one day.

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posted by am at 12:06 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, February 15, 2008
Snow Festival
The Yuki Matsuri (aka. Snow Festival) was a festival I knew I wanted to go to before ever arriving in Japan. Plus it gave me a good excuse to go and visit Hokkaido. So I planed early and went with a fairly large group of people from my prefecture. Got a fairly good deal too! It was snowing when we arrived in Sapporo, but that was the only time it snowed while I was there. It was a bit disappointing as Hokkaido is known for its cold weather and snow and I was expecting way more snow than I actually saw. But, at least the weather was nice for all the sight seeing I did. From the airport, we took a train to Sapporo itself and then a cab with this really cute heart light to our ryokan (aka. Japanese style hotel).

The ryokan was really nice. The lounge area was comforatable and the staff spoke some English, which is always helpful. They also gave us some coupons for various restaurants in the area. Plus, while we were putting away our bags, one of the employees, all decked out in a kimono, came and served us green tea and chocolate mochi.

After getting settled in, we used some of those coupons the hotel gave us and hit up a ramen shop. Sapporo is well know for its ramen and as I love ramen, this worked out quite well for me. I ended up eating a tasty butter and pork ramen. The only thing disappointing about it was that I wanted to try a bunch of different types of ramen but the serving size was so huge that I could barely finish the first, and thus only, thing I ordered.

After that we hit up the town and ran across a rather busy street with a bunch of ice sculptures. There were a few that you could even be a part of, like this one made to look like a castle. Seemed to be a big hit will all the kids. After that we ended up doing an all you can eat/all you can drink deal at a karaoke place.

The next morning we got a bright and early start. Checked out all the massive size snow sculptures and various smaller snow and ice sculptures. There was also a cute ice slide for the kids.

Can't go to a festival without picking up some food, so a bunch of us got panda shaped meat buns. There was also a reverse panda (like the picture, but switch the black and white parts). The revers panda is a popular icon in the area in the large numbers of avaialble merchandise was any hint. Besides food the only thing I picked up while in Hokkaido were a hello kitty sapporo ramen ketai charm and a snow festival 2008 hand towel.

Hokkaido is famous for its crab, so the next day we hit up a crab restaruant. The ryokan people helped us make a reservation and provided a coupon too! The place was really nice and the crab was great! There was an insane amout of variety in what you could order with carb. Crab sushi, sashimi, gratan, plain, cooked, in a salad, tempura style......etc., etc. The only downer was that it was super expensive. Thank goodness for the coupons.

After that we went back to look at even more snow scupltures. They seriously seemed to never end! Also watched a few people jump on the make shift ski slope they had. Couldn't resist taking a picture of some guy who was standing next to use also watching the skiers and snowboarders.. The hair!

Hokkaido is also famous for it's Ghangais Khan (aka. lamb meat) so that night we went to and did and all you can drink, all you can eat lamb deal. After that we hit up a karaoke place once for a few hours and then headed back home.

There wasn't much time between waking up and having to go to the airport on the last day so we just bummed around the city. Myself and Elaine ended up hangging out while the others went out for some kind of famous soup. We went up to the top of some building and rode the ferris wheel that was there and took in the scenery. It was a nice relaxing way to end my Hokkaido trip.

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posted by am at 12:07 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Winter Party Canceled!
After a lot of build up and gingerbread house making practice, the winter party that I was supposed to help host was canceled. Apparently not enough kids signed up for it to be worth holding, so they decided to cancel the whole thing. I felt really bad for the kids who had signed up and were looking forward to it. And felt a bit peeved that I'd spend so much time preparing for it and then it didn't even happen. However, the woman from city hall who was in charge of putting it together invited all of the ALTs who were going to host the event out to lunch and treated.


posted by am at 12:01 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, February 4, 2008
My turn!
Monthly events are held by the City hall in my town and often times those events have an 'international' theme. The event for February was a traditional Japanese cooking class aimed at international members of the community. Hence, I went. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting.
In my own cooking classes at school, it's very hands on. The kids get to try pretty much everything. This event was more of a demo than an actually class. All we really did was fry the fish. Everything else was done by the chef that was running the class. It was still pretty interesting though. We started out with this giant sized white fish and had pretty much eaten the whole thing, in various ways, by the end of class. It started with some sashimi, then a bunch of it went in the miso soup, then some of it was deep fried, other bits were baked, and then we each got to pan fried our own slice. I also got to try out my Japanese cooking wear for the first time. Apron....check. Bandana....check.

I also got to meet a bunch of new people, mostly older women and housewives. A few of them even exchanged contact info with me. We'll see if they actually get the courage to call! There was also a woman there who runs her own English school up in Makioka whom I'd seen at a few of the International Center events and finally got to meet.

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posted by am at 8:16 PM | Permalink | 0 comments