The days of fluffy rain are slowly coming to an end in the land of sushi, which means one thing, drunken parties in the park. These drunken park parties are more commonly known as Hanami and coincide with the blooming of the second most magical thing in Japan, cherry blossoms. Being a certified Japan expert, and having spent a total of one spring in Japan, I feel I am exceptionally qualified to give you all the insider hints as to the best cherry blossoms spots (how to see them and how to partake in a bit of public drinking). However, I’ve unfortunately only been qualified as a certified expert in the areas of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji and Takasago. I wasn’t interested in taking the elective of Tokyo, so I only have information for there from google, which I trust you all know how to use. However ,despite from my lack of education in all areas of Japan, I do know about the best areas of Japan, so let’s jump right into Melissa’s Guide to Cherry Blossoms.
Today marks 25 years of the world being blessed by my presence. The day of my birth was a momentous occasion, with almost every Australian cracking a beer, or three, to celebrate my arrival. My birth was so important, they commemorated the moment by gifting me an exclusive silver spoon and declaring the day a national holiday. Yes, they might have labelled the 26th of January as Australia Day, and claimed its roots somewhere in antiquity, but I know it’s really a celebration of my amazingness. After all, Australia wasn’t truly a great country until I came into being. And now that I have left Australia, well it’s really started to go downhill once more. Actually, that raises a good question; If I was god’s gift to Australia, why did I leave?
It’s as simple as this, as much as I was doing for Australia, Australia wasn’t doing much for me. The only thing Australia had provided for me was friends, family and epic sunburn during the summer months. And as much as I appreciated two out of those three things, to quote a certain Disney character, I wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere. And although Australia has an abundance of wide open spaces for exploring, the lure of foreign lands was too strong. So, with a Disney medley playing in my head, I headed for the land of sushi and Hello Kitty for my current adventure. However, it’s still just an adventure and I’m still uncertain about my place in the world. At 25 years of age I’m having an identity crisis. So, move over midlife crisis and make way for the millennial quarter life crisis.
There are things you instantly associate with Japan. Things such as sushi, geisha, robots, the widespread inability to speak English and, all things kawaii. For visitors to Japan, these are things to gape and exclaim over however, having lived here for almost a year and a half, these things now rarely make me miss a beat. But even I occasionally find myself laughing over something saying, that is so Japanese, hence this new series has been born. Only in Japan… is going to be a photo series, where I show you something that made me take pause and realise I am indeed living in Japan.
The first in this series is this Hello Kitty Car Park, I found in my wanderings of Osaka. Please enjoy.
When it comes to Japan there is no greater symbol than the giant that is Mt. Fuji. Standing at 3776 metres tall, this monolithic volcano even has its own emoji (🗻). Not even Mt. Everest can make this claim to fame. For millions of people, this is a bucket list destination and, as I bought my bucket from the same 100yen store as those other people, it’s a place I’ve also wanted to visit. Well, 2018 is the year to make my dreams a reality, or some stupid resolution like that, so I went to see this mountain for myself. Here is Melissa’s Guide to Mt. Fuji.
A cooling breeze drifts through my open window, bringing with it the scent of the fragrant Kinmokusei trees and the distant strains of repetitive drum beats. This can only mean one thing, autumn has come to the land of the rising sun. Unlike the pictured Japan, autumn does not start with brilliant coloured leaves, but instead starts with something just as interesting, and just as worth seeing, Autumn Festivals (in Japanese – Aki Matsuri). For the first few weeks of October, instead of cars driving down the street, you can see massive Yatai carried by groups of scantily clad men. On certain days, you can watch elaborate religious parades, and if you’re lucky, you can watch a Yatai fight. Thankfully, I live in an area famed for its Autumn Festivals, and I consider them to be one of the best cultural experiences Japan has to offer. Therefore, I’m obviously going to provide you with a Melissa’s Guide to Japanese Autumn Festivals*.
USJ, which is how cool people say Universal Studios Japan, pulls out all stops to celebrate Halloween in style. There’s themed food, attractions and best of all, a zombie apocalypse after dark. Although this is a simulated apocalypse, I did pick up some handy tips for the day ‘I am Legend’ will occur and we’ll all be faced with flesh eating monsters. Welcome to Melissa’s guide to surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.
A little over year ago now, I received a phone call. As I was supervising a class of first year students in a chemistry lab, I left the phone call to go to voice mail, while I rushed to ensure the laboratory wouldn’t be blown up by my students’ slight incompetence. The class having finished with no one minus an eyebrow, but many complaints about my marking of lab reports, I finally checked the message on my phone. Expecting a telemarketer, I was surprised to hear a gruff voice, belonging to a man I had met once before at a job interview. The voice informed me that he might have an opportunity for me, and could I please call him back as soon as was convenient.
A few months ago, I was invited to a dying event. The exact invitation read;
Do you have an interest in dying? Would you like to join the Takasago dying event held on the 27th of August?
Obviously, I’m always keen on a bit of death, so I said yes. And if that invitation had been correct, I’m sure this would be a very different blog post. However, lost in translation moment, the invitation was actually for a dyeing event, not a mass sacrifice. That also sounded interesting, and came with less chances of arrest, so again I said yes, and yesterday attended the event.
The event was to showcase a traditional method of fabric dyeing using indigo dye, which was either invented in Takasago or somewhere nearby. I did receive an information pamphlet and even attempted to translate it (using the cheats methods of google translate), but I couldn’t understand it. Where ever it was invented, there is a group of ladies in town who still practice this method and were obliging enough to show a group of Japanese, and the token me, how it’s done. So here is a step by step Melissa’s guide to indigo dyeing, as guided by someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
This isn’t a Melissa’s guide. This is a quick post to say something slightly profound and totally full of wisdom.
I’m not living your dream. I’m living my dream.
It’s official, I’ve been in Japan for 6 months. What started as an unexpected opportunity has turned into a hectic whirlwind adventure and I wouldn’t have it any other way, or would I?
I would be lying to you if I said my life in Japan was perfect. It can sometimes be overwhelming, confusing and embarrassing. However, it can also be amazing, exciting and a great learning experience. I just sometimes wish there was a handy guide book on how to make the transition into living overseas a little easier. So, being a legitimate expert after living in a foreign country for 6 months, I decided to write the guide book for you.
So, here is Melissa’s Guide to Transitioning to Life Overseas.