Trip to Japan!

I recently went on a trip to Japan, and decided that it will be a great topic for my first vlog.  But first, I have to get beautiful.  Then, I have to edit.  Then, I will post.  But for now, I have my script that needs to be reviewed!  Any editors out there?

아녕하새요!  Hello everyone!

I recently went to Japan for 5 days.  It was an incredible experience, and I already want to go back!  Today, I’m trying out my first vlog to tell you about my trip.  I hate that word, vlog.  It gets stuck in your mouth, like at the back of your mouth and just sits there.  Maybe I’ll say video log instead.  Video diary?  Eh.  I need a cool name, possibly with a slogan.  I also have some very smart and imaginative friends, so please, help me find something better than vlog.

Also, before I start, I wanted to dedicate this video to my Gram. I haven’t skyped her in a looooooooong time.  And, she’s sick right now, so I just wanted to say 보고 슆어요, 사랑해요, and 빨리 몸을 회복하세요, I miss you, I love you, and get better soon!  That goes for you too, Auntie Bo!

So Japan!  I went to Tokyo for this particular visit.  Essentially, I left the 2nd biggest city in the world, to visit the 1st largest.

Let me assure you that just because Seoul and Tokyo are both huge cities in Asia, culturally, they are not even close to the same.  Please keep in mind I’m just going to be relating my experiences to the best of my perceptions and abilities.

After arriving at the airport, we took the express train to Shinjuku, which is kinda in the middle of Tokyo.  That’s where our hotel was.  We flipped a quick 180 at the hotel, because by the time we got there, it was time for dinner.

What does one eat while in Japan?  SUSHI !!!!!

Nothing against Korean sushi.  Sushi is sushi and it’s 맜있어요!!  Delicious!  But that sushi in Japan was amazing.  And it was a cute little place with the conveyor belt that goes around, and you can just pick off the plates that you want, and the sushi chefs are right there in the middle- It had 좋은 분위기!  Good atmosphere.

Later that night, we went back to our hotel, and I discovered we had our own hot pot and 녹차 (green tea)!  So of course I had tea before bedtime.

The next day, we went to the church.  This wasn’t a total holiday, we did have some work to do.  The reason we went to Japan was to renew our tourist visas in Korea.  Since we don’t make money, we have a 90 day tourist visa, which means my partner and I have to leave every 90 days.  By leaving the country and coming back, we automatically renew the visa.  But we also went to Japan to meet the congregation there, and see what another part of the Community of Christ is like.

After stopping in at the church, (more on them later), Renee and I took off to see some sights.  First stop: the Meiji shrine.  The Meiji shrine is a Shinto shrine.  Try saying Shinto shrine 5 times fast!  So I’ve done a little research on the Shinto religion, and here’s the nutshell that I got for you.  In Shintoism, the basis of their religion are spirits called kami: k. a. m. i.  This particular shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife.  It was originally constructed in 1921, but destroyed during the WWII air raids.  So they rebuilt it in 1958, with donated public funds.  So while it’s not an ancient history site, it’s very special to the Japanese people.  Because they paid for it!!!

So at the shrine, you wash your hands before you go in (if you’re a respectful tourist or a practicing Shintoist).  There are these huge walls that enclose this big open courtyard.  On one side, you can see inside where the spirits are supposed to be.  I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but NO pictures were allowed.  So I immediately had respect for that place, and I learned later that it was the spirit’s area.  In one corner of the courtyard, there was a place to write prayers/wishes/dreams on a board, then you could hang the board up.  There were all kinds of languages, and of course I read a few. All the while we were touring this place and snapping photos, there were people coming, bowing as they entered, and going up to the spirits place and bowing there.  It was a nice reminder that this place is holy to many and fully functioning.

Here are a few quick facts that were told to me to help me understand Japanese culture.  They widely claim to be unreligious, at about 67%.  Then there’s Buddhism that claims 22%.  Christianity boasts a whole 2%.  The rest are Shinto, Muslim, and other.  But Shintoism and Buddhism are so intertwined with each other and Japan’s history that they can’t be separated.  It’s not black and white.  For example, the majority of unreligious people in America celebrate Christmas.  They’re celebrating all right, but not Jesus.  Even many Christian Americans would say that they celebrate family, and getting together, and being generous, and love, instead of just Jesus’ birth.  It’s a part of the culture to celebrate Christmas in these ways.  Same in Japan.  Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism are so inbedded in the culture that the unreligious 67% are in this gray area where there’s much more religion then an outsider might think.

After the shrine, we went to Harajuku.  Harajuku is the young people’s fashion street of Tokyo.  This is where the magic happens.  Fashion is also one of the most striking surface differences between Japan and Korea.  In Korea, most people want to blend in with the crowds, be generally the same, and form the fashion culture of Korea together en masse.  In Japan, they want to stand out, they want to be seen, they want to show off individually.  This was definitely the place to buy your clothes to do just that.  I actually bought some socks there, these are my favorite.  And this scarf.

After harajuku, we went up to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.  They say you can see Mt. Fuji from there, but by the time we got there it was dark.  So we didn’t see it, but the city was absolutely stunning at night.  The lights went forever in every direction.

Later in the week, we got to see Mt. Fuji anyway, so it was a win/win!

On Sunday, we had a wonderful church service.  The congregation in Tokyo is small, but God is definitely there.  I was blown away with the kindness I experienced.  I had my birthday in Japan, and they took very good care of me.  I also had the pleasure of getting to hear some of congregation member’s personal stories, and they were very powerful.  The kindness in that group really touched my heart, and I have to say they are certainly very precious to the Community of Christ and also to God. Thank you very much for your hospitality and kindness! Doumo arigatou gozaimas!

To wrap things up, I also saw Asakusa, a famous Buddhist temple, and the Tokyo skytree.  The skytree is actually the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure.  It didn’t open to the public until May of last year, so it’s pretty new as far as world tourist destinations go.

That was my trip to Japan in less than 10 minutes.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve been drinking a lot more 녹차, green tea.  감사합니다, thank you for watching and listening!  Please, help me come up with a name for this project so I don’t have to call it my vlog.  There may be a prize involved for the winner, so leave your suggestions!

안녕히 계세요!  Goodbye!


Top 10 Do’s in Korea

If you have limited time in Korea, or if you want to immerse yourself in the culture as quickly as you can, here are the biggies on my list!  There’s also quite a lot of potential here for videos to follow.

1. EAT.

Not only is the food amazing, but Koreans love it when you eat their food.  Eating well is part of the culture.  They may even call you beautiful if you eat well!

Don’t be afraid of the street food.  Some of it smells horrible (and I can say that, because a lot of Koreans agree with me), but it’s pretty yummy.

Most westerners love Galbi, which is Korean barbecue- cooked right in front of you at your table!  But don’t miss bibimbap, kimbap, kimchi, and dakgalbi.

I hope you like rice.

When you are full, say you’re full.  Then eat more.  It’s a compliment to the chef.

One of the first questions a Korean will ask when I meet them for the first time is “Do you like kimchi?”  To that, I usually respond with “네, 당신은 스파게티를 좋아해요?”  (“Do you like spaghetti?”)   If it’s a child, they always laugh.  If it’s an adult, they get my point.

2. Ride the bus.  Take the subway.

3. Stay up late.  Get up early.  Work hard if you’re here to work.  Play hard if you’re here to play.  Do both if you can handle it.

4. Bow respectfully.  When you meet someone, when you are leaving, when you want to say Thank You, sometimes even when you want to say sorry.  In Korea, you can get away with a low head nod.  In Japan, make sure it’s a full bow.

5. Pay attention to your gender roles. (Come at me with your comments, but this is very important!  Maybe more on this later)

6. Push your way through the crowd.  Just don’t push that senior citizen.  Chances are they’ll push you first anyway.

7. Shop in the street markets, but don’t let your blonde hair get you ripped off.  Barter if there’s no price sticker.

8. Bring gifts.  Look up what’s appropriate and useful.  (Actually, a lot of sites say vitamins and alcohol, but I usually bring sweets or food items.)  Give to your hosts, people you meet, coworkers, friends.  When you leave, buy gifts again.  You’ll get gifts, so you want to be prepared to reciprocate.

9. Pass things with two hands, and receive them with two hands.  Especially money.

10. Observe.  Learn.  Be able to coherently share and communicate.  If you go back to wherever you came from, people will bombard you with questions, and your answers will be taken as fact.  Make sure you’re not BSing because most people will never venture out of their own little worlds to see the big world like you have.

*BONUS: Ok, this was supposed to be a top 10 list, but I think there’s one more thing that’s really important.  A smart phone or equivalent.  Search the app store for Seoul/Korea specific apps, and go crazy!  Definitely download a subway and a bus app, but also KaKaoTalk if you’re planning on staying more than a few weeks.

that went well.

I would like to take a moment and pat myself on the back.  It’s been more than three months since I posted anything.  And I have just deleted the last 7 posts after reading them again.

Rest assured, I have not stopped breathing.  Or thinking.  Or even writing.  I still write! Just not here.

Actually, here’s the low-down.  I want to start one of those “expat” blogs.  I live in Korea at the moment, and several hours a week I spend online reading blogs and watching vlogs.  It helps me learn about the culture here, and confirms things that I’ve noticed myself.  Actually, I already keep a collection of stories on Facebook notes for my friends and family.  Now, I want to have a few of those stories more public.  And possibly do a few videos.

So I need somewhere to write out my scripts!  A vlog with scripts, you say?  Yes, because I’ve watched hundreds of vlogs by now, and you can tell which ones are scripted and which aren’t.  I would say a good half of the unscripted ones are a complete waste of time.  I don’t want to take that chance.

I also think my experiences could be interesting to more than just people who know me.  Maybe someone else out there wants to learn about what it’s like to move to a new country.  Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s freaking awesome.