Sunday, 17 May 2015

There Were Supposed To Be American Students

So yesterday, instead of having a nice Saturday at home, I was at school from 10.30 am to about 10pm. Why? Well, one of my zemi's had a special session.

That seems extremely unconnected with the blog post title, so I'll explain it now. You see, we were originally supposed to be having a combined session with some university students from America. My friends prepared their presentations in English and everything (my group was told not to present, because even we don't quite understand what Industrie 4.0 is about yet). I spent most of my Friday helping them correct their slides and script and all that.

But then on Friday night, my friend messaged me telling me to check my phone. Turns out the American students won't be coming because they got in late and won't be able to wake up at 5 am to take the 6.30am train here. I'm actually not sure who was more disappointed, my friends, who were slaving over their presentations and worrying about having to speak in English, or me, who was correcting grammar and worrying how I was going to do simultaneous translations for groups of people. Either way, it was an unpleasant surprise, but my teacher decided that the English presentations would go ahead, without the Americans, so at least their effort wasn't wasted (the worrying about talking in English thing, though, totally wasted).

So yesterday came and went. It turned out to be a really interesting day. I spent the morning listening to my friends present and reassuring them that "it's fine, don't worry, it's all under the time limit". As for the afternoon, after the student presentations, we had two guest speakers, both my teacher's school-juniors (I think). One of them is a civil servant who's currently working in the digitalisation department in Fukuoka, and he talked to us about his experience in the public service. He even spent 3 years in Hong Kong! It's not relevant to me, but I found it interesting, especially the last part, when he talks about Fukuoka's future plans - it sounds a lot like Singapore's Smart Nation plan to me! I wonder if Singapore and Fukuoka will be working together.

The second speaker, who was invited ahead of time (the first speaker was invited on Friday night to fill in the spare time created by the absent American students), gave a presentation on the Internet. He's apparently an expert on flaming (being flamed on the Internet), and does a lot of other cool stuff, one of which is being able to make and sell fireworks (unrelated to the day job though).

This would be the time to mention that I was taking photos for this, but after the presentation, I'm more reluctant than ever to upload them here. You might have noticed, but the photos here are either of me, or of nature. Sometimes, my family and friends appear, but it's rare. The reason is that when I was in TUFS, the principle of never uploading photos of people who have not given consent made quite an impression to me. So, if you see people here, there's a 99% chance that I've already asked and gotten their permission to put their photos up here.

So, I've always done this, but didn't really understand why. This lesson helped me to understand it a bit better - I think on the whole, Japanese people are much more cautious than Singaporeans online. This is a generalisation, but hearing advice to never put your photos on public, only stick to non-controversial stuff, don't write a blog unless it's about what you ate for dinner or something equally non-controversial, and to make sure you never make anything public, I kinda understand why even in videos for dance covers, you can see dancers wearing masks.

Apart from general how to keep safe and some things about stealth marketing, the lecture also touched on how the Internet can turn hatred into something positive. The last part of the lecture looked at certain examples of, well, I can only think of the phrase "positive trolling". One of them, is the 日本鬼子 (Chinese: riben guizi - Japanese devil) phrase that popped up during one of the anti-Japan demonstrations that occurred in China a few years ago (around 2010, if I remember correctly). Even though the Japanese knew they were being scolded, they decided that this was also a girl's name, and thus, Hinomoto Oniko was born:

Image from
That more or less confused the Chinese-internet since it's not a normal reaction, and I guess things simmered down? I'm not too sure, because I was laughing pretty hard.

The second thing I remember is what the teacher caleld the Ikemen Japan Incident that took place in 2005, although I can't find anything about it on the Internet. Basically, Japanese users pretended that the words "Ikemen" (a handsome guy) and "moe" (it basically refers to a cute girl), with the result that someone repeatedly called the Emperor of Japan "Ikemen" and "Moe" in an attempt to insult him. Not exactly something that builds better relationships, but I found it funny.

Oh wait, I finally stopped searching using the words "Ikemen Japan" because it just gave me J-drama, and finally found two results. They're both in Japanese though, but if you want to read about it, you can do so here and here.

After the two lectures, we went for dinner, which was why we ended really late. I took pictures of almost all the dishes, but I don't think anyone wants to hear a blow by blow account of what I ate (do you?). I'll just post one photo of a dish I thought was... interesting.

This may look like an ordinary squid, but what you can't see in this picture is that it's actually moving. Well, not the sliced bits (thankfully), but the head and the tentacles were. I think I just stared at the dish, and waited for someone to try eating it first.

Oh, and the moving parts were later turned into black tempura:

Tasted good. Still don't know why it's black. Squid ink?
The talking to the speakers part was interesting (especially since one of them had an Apple Watch, so I got to look at some of the functions), but my favourite part was talking to my zemi-mates. I didn't really know them before this, so any chance to get to know them better is a good for me(: I'd really like to have a good two years here.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Book Review: Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy by Phyllis Birnbaum

It's time for a very rare book review! Anyway, I requested this book from NetGalley because it's an aspect of World War II that I haven't heard about before, I mean, I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a Kawashima Yoshiko in any of my textbooks.

Kawashima Yoshiko (born Aisin Gioro Xian Yu; 愛新覺羅·顯玗) was the daughter of a Manchu Prince. When she was very young, she was sent to live in the home of one of his Japanese supporters  - Kawashima Naniwa. And then things get very, very murky. Kawashima Yoshiko wasn't averse to embellishing her life story, and it's hard to tell which of her exploits are true, and which are just tall tales. And yes, she had a lot of exploits - at one time, she was called "Commander Jin" and led her own troops. She also had an espionage career, although it's hard to tell what she actually did. And sadly, after World War II, she was tried as a traitor and executed by the Nationalist Government.

This book was a bit vague about timelines. While it does loosely follow chronological order, for the first few chapters, at least, the author looks at the different people who were in Kawashima Yoshiko's life to figure out what she was like, and what she did. So if you're not familiar with events of WWII in the Asia Pacific, you may get very confused by references to certain incidents.

While I would have preferred a more chronological account of her life, and a bit more explanation about that period of time, I can see why the author chose this method. Kawashima Yoshiko may have courted media attention, but her story changed to suit her needs. By talking to various people (or their descendants), the author managed to come somewhat close to to truth.

For me, the interesting part of this story was in the discrepancy between how Kawashima Yoshiko saw herself and how others saw her. She was brought up to think her destiny involved restoring the Qing Dynasty to power, but to others, she was just a pawn for the Japanese (and indeed, she seemed to be very Japanese in certain aspects). She may have thought herself a Joan of Arc, but others saw her as a nuisance that should be eliminated. And in the end, she was done in by sensationalist novels about her. I find that tragic, that your life be ended by what the creative fiction that someone created about you. It just shows how hard it is to discover who the real Kawashima Yoshiko was.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in WWII in the Asia Pacific. To avoid getting confused, you should have a basic knowledge about how the war broke up, how it went on, and how it ended, that way, you can focus on Kawashima Yoshiko instead of having to constantly look at timelines to see what was going on when and where.

Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for a free and honest review.

If you want to get it from Amazon, here's the (affiliated) link: Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kawachi Fuji Garden (Guest Video)

Hey everyone! Remember my recent (two posts ago recent) post about Kawachi Fuji Gardens? Well, unbeknownst to me, my cousin was taking videos, and she put together a vlog!

I love the way she tells the trip(:

Hopefully, she continues doing this!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Kyushu University Year 3 Start of Semester 1

I can't believe I'm already a third year student (and it's the last day of Golden Week, where did the time go?). That means this is my fourth year in Japan, and that next year will be my last year... And yet, I still feel as though I just arrived :p

Apparently, this is me. (Drawing done by someone
from my zemi)
Anyway, now that I'm in my third year, I'm officially in ゼミ(full name: ゼミナール (seminar), but I'm just going to alternate between zemi and tutorial). A small digression here, when my cousin was over, I was talking about this to her and it seems like Osaka Uni has a different system, so if any of the Osaka people are reading this, would you like to contribute a piece about how your uni is like? Ok, back onto topic, I'm in zemi now; or to be accurate, I'm in two zemi.

My main zemi is Ootsubo sensei's class (Corporate Finance), and my sub zemi is Jitsuzumi sensei's class (Internet and the Economy). Each teacher specialises in one area, and that's what I'll be studying for the next two years. Oh, and a bunch of other classes, because I still have about 50 more credits to earn before I can graduate. I don't even know how Rena plans to get all her credits by the end of this year.

And in one of those amazing coincidences that make me feel like I'm back to robotics club in AC, both my zemi's have very few girls. In fact, in my main zemi, I'm the only one (oh hello Robotics Club 2.0). We've also had one zemi trip/overnight stay, and ok, having your own room is cool and all, but it's also tough being the only girl.

But on the whole, most people are nice.

Since I'm on the topic of zemi, I guess I might as well rattle off what I've learnt in choosing zemi (your experience will probably be different, but oh well, as a reference):

  • Make sure you're interested in the subject (duh) and that you have something to learn from the teacher.
  • You can't decide who your current batch is, but you can talk to the seniors and get a feel of whether or not you can take two years in the class.

 Actually, I think that's the two most important things. Other things people do consider would be "does this zemi help with my job prospects" and "how tough/rigorous is the zemi". I'm pretty sure I should have considered the second question as well, because last month, I ended up having to write 4 reports in 4 days. When I was talking to my friend, she mentioned that she was surprised I even took that sub zemi because it's very rigorous. And, I missed that memo (ok, the hint was: no one there had another zemi, and no one from another zemi was there).

Lastly, things I have done so far:

Go Hawks! 

  • Homework (lots of it)
  • Make chocolate tarts (that is a result of the homework - I make sweets when stressed)
  • Go to my first baseball game (and I had to make everyone explain everything to me)
  • Go on my first overnight trip with my zemi (ok, it wasn't that bad)

Ok, evidently my brain still isn't working to well because this is really just disjointed ramblings at this point. I also feel the need to mention that unlike this year, I don't have a day without classes this sem (I'm making up for all the credits that I got last term that I found out doesn't count towards graduation).

So yeah, this term year is going to be a tough one. But obviously I still want to blog, so to end my post, here are two questions:

1. Who would like to guest blog? (This question is for MEXT scholars, especially those in other universities)

2. What do you want me blog about? (This is more important, hence the bolding) What part of school life, of life in Japan in general, learning Japanese/surviving a life of studying in Japanese do you want to know about?

Feel free to let me know in the comments, or email me through the widget on the right ^^

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Kawachi Fuji Garden (河内藤園)

Hey everyone! We're in Golden Week now (which means about one month of school has passed - yikes!), and I've got a bit of breathing room. So today, I'm here to share with you guys some photos and info about Kawachi Fuji Garden, which is a place I've been meaning to go for a really, really, long time.

But the garden is only open twice a year - at spring and at winter, so I normally miss the correct season. This year though, my cousin Charmaine came down from Osaka University to spend a few days with me. And go to Kawachi Fuji Garden; that was our main plan.

How to get there:

The cheapest and most direct route (that I could fine), involves taking the JR Kagoshima Main Line, which has its own Wikipedia page, from Hakata (博多) Station to Yahata (八幡) Station. There's also the Super Sonic and the Shinkansens, but those are more expensive and involve a transfer at Kokura. So, my recommendation is to take the Kagoshima Main Line heading towards Kokura. (By the way, Yahata is one stop in front of Space World, which means you could conceivably go to both places in one day). The cost is 1110 yen, and you don't have to buy any special ticket.

From Yahata Station, you have two options (that I know about). One is to take the free shuttle bus to an onsen called Ajisai no Yu (あじさいの湯). The onsen is below the garden, you have to take a short walk up an incline. The other option is to pay for a taxi, which costs about 2600 yen. Which you choose really depends on the time you go and return.

My experience:

Since we went on the first day of Golden Week, it was really crowded. Well, the crowd at the garden was expected, but my cousin and I did not expect the traffic jam that came our way. What was supposed to be a less than 30 min ride took us almost 3 hours. We boarded the shuttle bus at 9:50 and halfway there, encountered a jam.

It's this, stretching for a few kilometres and barely moving. 
Because we were told that there was still a ways to go, we sat in that bus until we hit the Kawachi Reservoir. Since it was already 11:30, and Google Maps told us it was only 2.6km from the reservoir to the gardens, we decided to just get off and walk.

On the way to the garden! 

The good news is that the view was really pretty from the reservoir onwards. The bad news is the distance, which is still pretty far. But, we did get there much, much earlier than the bus, so that's a huge plus.

When we got to the garden, there was a queue. No surprises there. But the queue moved pretty fast, and we got in within five minutes. The entrance fee is 1000 yen, and totally worth it. The place was as pretty as the pictures I saw on the internet!

No filter
Also no filter

The garden is basically a series of tunnels. Most people went into the one right in front of us (leading to the right), but my cousin and I went to the middle one. It turned out to be a good choice, because it was relatively empty and let us take photos like this:

When we went to the "main" tunnel, it was basically full of human traffic.

But despite the crowd, the place smelled pretty sweet. I'm not the type that notices the fragence from flowers, but these were pleasantly strong, and didn't give me a headache.

Oh, but with the scents come the bees. I tried getting a photo, but this is all I could do:

Last two photos: My cousin and I!

My pretty cousin D 

I really recommend this place if you're ever in Fukuoka during Golden Week. Yes, it's crowded and quite inconvenient to go to if you don't have a car, not to mention the short window of time that you have to go, but it's magical!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Treading Water

Hey everyone. I know I haven't been blogging regularly for quite some time. It's not that I've forgotten about this blog, far from it, but that after the holidays where I had nothing to say, school turned out to have so many things going on that I'm barely treading water.

Right now, I have 4 book reports due in Japanese, which means I have to read four books (and search for 3 of them, because they're out of print), then write four reports by the end of this month. I've only finished reading 2 books and writing 1 report. Yeah... barely treading water as it is.

Three of the books in question. 

I have lots to say about tutorials and the start of the 3rd year, but I don't think I'll have the time until after Golden Week.

Sorry, and thanks for being so patient!

(If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments below or drop me an email using the widget in the right sidebar)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Huis Ten Bosch: Bye bye One Piece Boat

Ok, I'm finally here with the second part of the Huis Ten Bosch update. This time, instead of a new attraction, I'll be talking about one that is closing down soon.

As you may know, Huis Ten Bosch has quite a few One Piece attractions. It's quite strange, because Huis Ten Bosch is essentially a model of a Dutch town, but hey, I wasn't the architect. One of the two big One Piece attractions is the One Piece day cruise, which is closing in less than 20 days to go to a Huis Ten Bosch clone in Aichi (I checked the homepage, it's a clone). And since my friend was here, and we have friends in common that would go insane if they knew of the ship, we decided to just splash out, take lots of pics, and then tag everyone in the photo.

Sorry I didn't realise the picture was blurry. But yeah, the ticket. 

I almost didn't get on the ride though. We went to the game museum before the ride, and I lost the ticket there. Whoops. It took a lot of searching before it was found (and thankfully, there weren't that many people in the museum itself). But yay, disaster averted.

Ok, I tried to rein myself in, but there is still some photo spam. Enjoy, One Piece fans!

When I sent one of my friends pictures of this, he demanded to FaceTime immediately for a virtual tour. And then he asked to see Boa Hancock, who wasn't even on the ship.

I think this was the library in the original show? But they replaced it with cartoon pictures of sea creatures.

The boat is basically built like the anime, which is pretty cool. The lower deck is all shut in, but if you like Chopper, Sanji or Usopp, then it's the place for you. I prefer the upper deck though, for the fresh air and the sea view.

The boat ride is only 20 minutes though, so it's extremely short! They do sell food, and like drinks in a collectible mug, but it's really expensive and I'd rather have the food back in the Huis Ten Bosch (which is actually cheaper, though still expensive)

Most popular guy on the ship

For some reason, this reminds me of the cranky snail from SpongeBob Squarepants

The amazing thing is that my friend didn't spend all his time in this room. 
The view was pretty amazing too. I've never seen this view before.

Ok, back to the ship.

Nah, the view.

I've been resisting going on because it's pretty expensive, especially after you pay for lunch, the entrance tickets, etc (ok, comparatively, it's not that bad, but additional expenses stress the wallet). I'd say it's more for the One Piece fans, and I hope they get a normal, short cruise, because that alone is pretty fun.