Monday, 30 November 2015

Weekend Trip Part 1: Minamata

Hey everyone! I have loads of news to share with you! I graduated from Infini on Sunday, and before that, I took a trip to Kagoshima with my mom and bro. And since we were making our way down south of Kyushu, I decided that we should stop by Minamata on the way there. Partly because it's good idea for the bro to learn more about the Minamata disease, and because I wanted to go back to Minamata after seven years (we went there for ROCs).

Our first stop was the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum. Getting there was a bit tough though - we stopped at the Shin-Minamata station, and ended up having to wait about an hour for the bus. But at least the bus stopped just outside the Museum, which was nice.

When we went in, we saw a traditional fishing boat made by the president of the Minamata Disease Victim's Association.

They're actually closing this exhibition down at the end of the year, so that they can renovate it and present the new version next April. So it was a good thing that we managed to come now, or I'd have absolutely no recollection of the place.

By the way, there was a lot more English materials here than I expected. Not only were there well-written pamphlets, the lady played an English video specially for us, and most exhibits have English translations, and videos have English versions. So there's absolutely no need to worry about not understanding what the disease was about.

After we finished touring the museum, we decided to take a taxi to Fukuda Farm/Spanish Village. I don't think there's a bus (and if there's a bus, it stops 15-20 minutes away from the farm), so the nice lady at the reception desk got us a cab.

Isn't it pretty??

The farm is situated on top of a hill, and has a lot of pretty buildings! There's a bakery, a few restaurants, a jam shop, and this is the mikan picking season (but it wasn't open that day, because it was drizzling).

The view though. Seriously.

We opted to have lunch here, since it was pretty troublesome to get here. My bro got the bacon steak, and for the first time ever, he couldn't finish the bacon. So my mom and I polished the remaining pieces off.

The two of us got their paella set, which apparently requires a minimum order for two people. It was in several courses though, first there was the soup course, which was carrot soup:

And then we got some delicious bread:

And then the main dish - a seafood paella in a large, large pan (tasted so good!!)

Before we finally got dessert - fruit jelly with fruits!! By the way, the bread was also baked in house, and I think some of the fruits were grown in the farm too.

All the while, we were sitting in this lovely room, with these cute flowers all around:

After lunch, we went to the jam shop, where I've been waiting for the past seven years to get my hands on their honey butter. The honey butter is seriously the bomb, even my friends still think about it. Sadly, I don't have a happy ending to tell - they discontinued production (why didn't someone tell me, I'd have gone down and bought everything)

The people were really nice though. Since I didn't have that honey butter, we just bought some sweet potato jam and a sweet potato jelly thing for my granddad. While we were paying, I asked the lady to help us call a cab, because I have no idea what the local taxi numbers are.

But to our surprise, the lady didn't call a cab. She got a colleague of hers to send us to the station for free!!! I honestly thought we had to pay a fee, since we didn't buy that much, so when they told us it was free, I was like O.O

We felt like we should have bought more.

After this, we headed to Kagoshima, but that is a post for another day(:

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

I tried to go see the momiji but...

... they were still green.

So basically on Sunday, my mom and my bro (who are visiting) and I decided to go to Kawachi Fuji Garden (the place I went to during Golden Week). The momiji looked really pretty in the brochure, this was a good season, and Sunday was pretty much the only day we had to go. So after Church, we headed straight to Hakata and boarded the train.

First, we stopped by the nearby onsen for lunch:

locally produced agedashi tofu!! Really delicious
And then we made our way to the gardens.

Sadly, this was the sight that greeted us.

It was really pretty though. I enjoyed hiking through the place, although we kept thinking that it would be so much prettier if everything had already turned red (oddly enough, there were already a lot of fallen leaves).

I think it's the unusually warm weather. Today was the first day I had to wear a winter jacket, which is weird for the time of the year.

Anyway, we stopped and rested for a while, took a few pictures, then we found a few leaves that had turned red. Obviously it was time to spam pictures.

Although most of it had to be closeups, or you'd immediately see it was mostly green.

Not to mention warm filters placed over the photos.

It was like, I kept thinking if I walked just a bit further, I would see a stretch of red. But that never happened. The red was here and there, but not together enough. This turned out to be the best photo I could take:

But all in all, I'm pretty glad we got to take the trip to Kawachi Fuji Gardens. It was pretty, just... not red enough. But it was pretty.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

九大祭 (Kyudaisai)

My mom and bro came yesterday, and since the Kyudaisai (Kyushu University Festival) is today and tomorrow, I brought them to the Kyudaisai today! And because I have always very conveniently found reasons to travel during the festival, this is also the first time that I've been there XD

Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera even though I charged it. So only phone photos today.

To be honest, I didn't really expect much from Kyudaisai (you can totally tell I'm not the rah-rah school type, even if I have a lot of school pride for my primary/secondary/JC schools). I only went because of two things:

1. My friend and her band were performing
2. For some reason, I bought tickets for grilled ramen from my senpai.

I totally expected to be done in an hour or two. I did not expect it to be this interesting!

So first, the things we planned:

My friend and her band performed three songs! And she's really good, although the instruments seemed to be a bit too loud - they tended to overwhelm the vocals.

After that, my brother saw some advertisement for a video-game booth, which happened to be next to where the bands were performing, so we went there!

It was 100 yen for 4 tickets, but since my brother is still in primary school, he got an extra ticket free.

And here's a random shot of the school grounds:

When he finally finished, my mom and I were finished so we went to eat the grilled ramen, which sounds like an oxymoron. I think they sort of fry the ramen on the grill with the soup, so the end product is like dry instant noodles - delicious, but if you're the sort that doesn't like strong tastes, you may find it salty. My mom and I loved it though.

After Ramen, we decided to go see the magic cafe. It was 300 yen for a magic show, one drink and one cookie/muffin. I don't have any photos cause I was too busy watching, but the magic was amazing. The magician at our table specialises in coin and card tricks, and it was really fun. My bro loved the magic tricks XD

We also heard about some live-animal exhibit thing, so we went to see that! They have some quiz thing going on, but I was too lazy to hunt for the answers and just went to look at the pretty bugs (they had some sea animals too, and some snakes and some frogs)

We were almost ready to leave after that. But first, my brother wanted to go to see the survival game, so we went to the sports hall! We kinda got distracted though. First, there was the origami:

No cutting involved, apparently.

Then my mom and I got an impromptu lesson on how to perform emergency medical help. They were all medical students in that club, and the student who taught us had really good English. I could just stand at one side and watch.

In retrospect though, we should have bought the survival game (shooting targets) tickets first, cause there was a thirty minute wait. They had a bunch of air guns on display and some army uniforms you could try, but that didn't really fill up thirty minutes. We ended up reading.

After that, we went to see the juggling club, where we got to try out some sort of thing, and then we finally were ready to leave. By then, it was past two. I'm actually glad that I got to go to the festival once before I graduate. Next year... unless there's a good reason, I'll probably spend it travelling again :p

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Story of Eustacia and the 和食検定

If you have me on Google+, then you know that some time back, I got a piece of paper that says that I have gotten the third grade (三級) for the introductory level (初級レベル) of the 和食検定 (washoku kentei).

The 和食検定 is basically a test of your theoretical knowledge of Japanese cuisine. Alas, it does not include a practical component, so this in no way means I can cook delicious Japanese food. It just means that when I sprout of random facts, I have a piece of paper that implies that I have a a 71% chance of getting the fact correct (although the fact that I remembered the fact would make that percentage higher, I think).

So the test is divided into three levels, of which, I took the easiest. And from the three grades you can get, I got the lowest. But I'm just happy to pass. It was a one hour test, with 100 multiple choice questions, all in Japanese, so I was basically racing through the whole thing.

Speaking of the test, the reason why I took it was... odd, even for me.

Basically, I was at Infini and was flipping through some of the books they have on display. I saw the textbook for the introductory level and really, really wanted a reason to get it (it was half in Japanese, and half in English). So I figured, if I took the test, then I'd have to get the book. Not the best of logic, but that was my main reason for taking the test.

The day of the test also happened to be the day of a company meeting in Osaka, like I mentioned in the job hunting update post. I was actually worrying about how late I was going to be as I was making my way to what I thought was the exam venue - Infini.

When I got there though, I was informed that this wasn't the test venue. Ooops. And I realised that I had forgotten the admission card thing. Double oops. But, being the kiasu person that I am, I actually arrived there 40 minutes early. We found out that the venue was in Hakata, and I hopped into a cab and made my way there (it turned out to be really close - thank you, Fukuoka, for being such a small city). When I got there, there was a bit of a problem finding the place, but I got there, and received a substitute admissions card too. Problems mostly solved.

By the way, there were only 5 (well, there were 6 seats prepared, but only 5 people appeared)  people taking the introductory course, and I think most of them were working adults. I was totally the odd one out.

After the test, I basically rushed to Hakata station, which turned out to be a 5 minute walk away. That's even better than my finishing school, which required me to change trains once and would have taken 20 minutes. So I got to board an earlier shinkansen (although after that, I got a little bit lost in Osaka due to about 3 similarly named buildings).

Ok, so this isn't really a story after all. It's more of me rambling on about how the test went and why I took it. Despite my silly reasons for taking the test, I'm quite glad I was impulsive enough to do it. I enjoyed learning about Japanese cuisine, and it was a fun challenge.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Job Hunting Update: 懇談会 and other stuff

So today, I got a job-hunting booklet from the school and I realised that I haven't given an update of how the job hunting has done since... the suit post, if I remember correctly.

It's not just a schedule/notebook. They have advice too. 
Anyway, I haven't been doing much. I had an internship during the summer (with Aso Group again), but apart from that, I've only been to two 懇談会 (kondankai), which as far as I can tell, is an informal meeting and way for you to get to know the company, and vice versa.

Interestingly enough, for both meetings, I was nominated to go by my seniors.

The first meeting I went was for an M&A consulting company, and it was based in Osaka. It was also the day of my 和食検定 (a theory test on Japanese cuisine), so it was literally a "take test, board shinkansen" moment. I was, however, still half an hour late.

Although the invitation said personal clothes were allowed, I was counselled by my teacher to wear a suit. And that advice was spot on. When I went into the room, I saw that everyone was in a suit. Everyone was also a guy, but I've accepted my fate that all small groups I'm in this year are going to be male-dominated.

Since I was interrupting the conversation, I didn't really know when to jump in and didn't talk as much as I wanted to. I did ask a few questions, and give my opinions, but other than that, I was pretty silent. Much quieter than the other students. It was only at the end, when people found out that I was from Kyushu that I actually made an impact (and then they found out about the 和食検定, which probably gave me the impression of a rather strange person.

The second meeting was held in Fukuoka, so yay, no travelling. It was also for a game company, so this time, 'casual clothes' meant casual clothes. Even the company representative was in casual clothes. It was also over dinner (unlike the first company), so I got a nice meal out of it.

But more importantly, I would really like to work for the second company (or at least, I know that I want to apply to know more about it). I'm loving what I hear about the company culture - from its focus on learning, to the relative lack of hierarchy, and the ability to move around the different departments. Plus, the people seem really nice (although that means I'll have to work with my senpai - he's a nice guy, but I don't want people to think I chose a company where I know people).

Apart from this, I'm also applying for different winter internships, but they haven't progressed very far. One hasn't come back with the results, and the others are only at the pre-entry stage, if they happen, it'll be next year. So I'll have to be patient.

Right now though, I have to figure out how to answer the question "What is the one thing you worked the hardest at during your student years".

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Saga International Balloon Fiesta Guide (Part 3)

My class ran 3.5 hours late yesterday, so I wasn't able to blog, but I'm here today, ready to finish talking about the Saga International Balloon Fiesta (SIBF)! Today, I'm going to be talking about the events around and near the SIBF.

Right next to the launch area itself were the official food stalls, then a bunch of other stalls. There were actually shows and stuff, and I really, really liked the Dog Circus. It was a bit hard to take pictures, because I had a cold then, but this is what I took:

This dog is seriously IMBA

The show was actually way more impressive than any of us expected. Although it was partly the dogs and partly the trainer. Like, WOAH.

And they made sure to emphasise the fact that these are rescue dogs and that they don't mistreat the animals.

Top of the world
And near the bus stops, there was this scarecrow exhibit. Before you scroll down to the next thing, trust me, this scarecrow exhibit was... very unique. I went there with one senior and a friend, and then when I brought my other seniors and classmates there, everyone reacted very violently (partly because of our zemi). We all took tons of photos, but we couldn't upload them at all.

Because you see... the first few scarecrows were political. They were for/against the changing of the constitution, and then against the TPP. And then there was the 'most popular scarecrows' contest thing, which I think just adds a new dimension to it.

Since we very specifically had a talk on topics you should not blog about (not to mention the lecturer was also part of the Net team), I'll skip the political scarecrows and just show you the one that I voted for:

It's the guy on the left. Nothing controversial about him. 

There were actually a bunch of events going on in Saga, but I only managed to make it to one other place - Higata Yoka Park to look at the Shichimenso flowers! The park is along the Ariake sea, and the flowers are... I have no idea what they are actually.

It costs 100 yen to take the special bus directly there, and they were having a sort of festival when we arrived! But we sort of already got used to the festival stuff, so we walked straight to the shoreline... and saw an opportunity to touch some sea creatures!

I think this is a mudskipper 
I don't even know what this is.

I'm sure people like them, but not my zemi-mates and I. We just took photos and very quickly left.

Shichimenso flowers
To be honest, I sort of expected the flowers to be redder. But at least I saw lots of mudskippers in their natural habitats - and learnt how to very gingerly walk in mud as to not splash too much on my tights.

After we had enjoyed the flowers and mudskippers and the occasional crab, we walked around a little. There was this cool thing were people were roasting rice - a sort of popcorn?

And then, we found THIS:

Yes, I went on it. I can say that the first drop is practically 90 degrees. So sitting down at the top is scary, but once you fall, it's really exhilarating. I was so unglam shrieking as I slid down. I don't know how my classmate stayed silent.

And I saw this very interesting swing too!

It not only goes up and down, it also goes round and round. I really, really wanted to try this. But the two girls wouldn't get off. (Actually, this playground is suitable for older kids too haha)

Oh well, I'll just have to bring my brother or sisters here.

And that's it for the SIBF!! Next year, it's the international championships (or something like that), so it's gonna last for ten days! If you're in the area, you should definitely drop by at least one of the days.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Saga International Balloon Fiesta Guide (Part 2)

Ok, it's time for the afternoon activities! Basically, the afternoon activities differ depending on the day and weather conditions. First, the non-balloon stuff.

On two of the days, there was the Honda Bike Trials, which was way too cool. The show was held twice - once at 11 am and once a 2pm. The riders did wheelies and Jack knifes and a bunch of other tricks. Let me see if I can upload the video.

I actually sent the video to a few of my classmates who ride motorcycles. One replied with a "I wonder if I can do it", and the other didn't reply because it was in a group line and he was like 'I think it's for me but there's no way I can do it bye'.

Towards the end, they actually called for audience participation, but on the three times they did it, only the volunteers were selected TT.TT Basically, they asked for three people to lie down so they could jump the motorbike over them. I wanted to do it, along with my senior and my friends - we wanted to take a 360 video, but the first time I raised my hand, they weren't looking in my direction, and during the second time (after we asked the volunteers what the perfect spot to stand in was), it started raining so they didn't call for audiences.

Wait, there was one more time, where they asked people to try their balance on the bikes. Most people only managed for like 3 seconds, but there was this little boy (I think he was like 5?) who went over 5s. The guy was like "talk to me later, kid". So cool.

Anyway, photo that I took:

Also, I don't think I shared a photo of the outside of the Net Team's container, so here's a photo!

We had quite a few people come to ask us questions, so we wrote out the day's schedule, and at the very bottom, added that we accept gifts. We actually got quite a lot of snacks over the five days. Thank you kind twitter people!

Another thing that happened were the huge, huge kites. Like, the whale was huge.

Of course, that means that it couldn't really fly that well. Poor whale. I guess it can only swim freely in the sea.

On the last day, the non-balloon activity was Yabusame!! It was way too cool!! The only thing is that they closed off the area, even to people with vests like mine, because the camera shutter sound would scare the horses (apparently last year, one rider was thrown). And me being short, means that I can't really stand behind the crowd either. So the compromise - stand directly in front of the rope barricading everyone out - I checked with one of the official photographers, and she said it was probably ok.

One of the few good shots
Most of my photos turned out rather blurry though >< Everyone was travelling so fast! I think I had two good photos - and I gave one to my friend for the official blog.

And now, the part that everyone is waiting for - the afternoon races! To be honest, the weather wasn't cooperating very well in the afternoon (definitely check the weather forecasts if you're trying to decide between the morning and afternoon balloon races!) and in the end, we only held the race on the first day. On the last day, we had something called the "Key Grab Race", where the balloonist launched from somewhere else, then tried to descend and grab various keys. Honda was giving a scooter, and I think there were other prizes like konbu and balloon goods up for grabs.

The first team that got a key was a team from Hungary! And since we were uh, stuck inside the area (we were told to move, but we couldn't move the camera), and because the pilots crash landed, I managed to run up to them and get a photo. Turns out we got stuck in a very good spot.

The second team was from Russia, and the other three keys were left unclaimed. It's still amazing though, since the last time the race was held was four years ago, and then, no one could grab a key.

A lot of the balloons went very close to the grandstands though:

And now, some pictures from the one and only afternoon race:

While I find it cool to watch the balloons fly in, I really like watching them take off too.

The rule for going in was "no being a nuisance", and I swear I wasn't. I grabbed this shot real quick.

On the last two nights, we had the lighted balloons! There was some fancy name for them, but I forget. On the second last night, the wind had died down enough that we could raise the balloons too!

It was amazing walking around. The balloons lighted up according to the music, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves.

At the end, there were fireworks but I was too far away so this was the only shot I could take. It isn't very good.

On the last night, the wind was way too strong, so we had the burners-only version, which was cool, but not as cool as the full version.

But I managed to talk to some of the people a little more - I found out that other volunteers were from Miyazaki Uni and Saga Uni and stuff. Way cool, but since they weren't part of the net team, I didn't get to meet them. Also, Miyazaki university has a hot-air balloon club O.O

And that's the afternoon/night activities! The next part will be the non-balloon but still related stuff XD