Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Written Oracle

Visiting a shrine in Japan is a must! It's really fun, especially if you read manga or watch anime because you are able to experience what you read or see. But before I was able to enter however, I had to cleanse myself by the well right outside the entrance of the shrine. It was basically just rinsing my hands and gargling the ice cold water from the well. After that, I was able to get myself omikuji for 100 yen, which is a 'written oracle' or fortune. People who receive bad luck or those who want to improve their luck can tie their omikuji on the racks. I got excellent fortune and had the option to keep it with me. But as much as I wanted to keep my fortune as memorabilia, I also really wanted to experience tying my fortune on the rack, and so I did.

There were also some racks filled with wooden boards and writing one them. I don't quite know how that works. I can only infer that people can buy those wooden boards from the shrine (the Rilakkuma sold for 500 yen per piece), write a wish on them and hang it on one of the racks. I should have just bought the Rilakkuma board and brought it home with me, ha ha. While I was there, I was also able to witness a little procession. Never did I expect to see shrine maidens, but I did and just look how pretty they are! Do shrines sell these costumes?

Oh, and some trivia: I learned from my tour guide that when entering a shrine or someone's home, it's common courtesy to not step on the line seperating the inside from the outside. If I remember correctly, he explained that the line is where the god flows. Something like that.. :3

Monday, June 25, 2012

What a wonderful world

So.. Guess what I've been doing? Not studying, that's what. Instead, I am playing this amazing game that my boyfriend introduced to me called Dragon Nest. The resolution and graphics aren't that great since I took them using my laptop, and the game is HUGE. I don't even have enough RAM for it to function properly, but thankfully it still works. Aside from the beautifully constructed environment and the super cute characters, the game also has an interesting story, and it's different for each character, too. If you've got a computer that can handle this game, I suggest you start downloading right now! It's only about 2.4GB or so, ha ha ha.. 

The South East Asian site is here in case anyone might want to check it out. :3

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear to my heart

It had been a long day of sight-seeing and touring. When nightfall had come, I had arrived at the final stop for the day: the hotel. And despite my fatigue and weariness, I could not resist snapping a few photos of the beautiful area that surrounded the hotel. Dark, isolated, and cold. Hands down, this was the most wonderful evening I had during my trip to Japan, and the best hotel I had stayed in as well, Hotel Fukuhara in Shikaribetsu, Hokkaido. The hotel is in the vicinity of Lake Shikaribetsu and the Daisetsuzan National Park.  There were even igloos across the hotel which had a bar inside, but unfortunately, it was no longer open for visitors because the ice was melting. Although I couldn't visit the lake because it was too dangerous to come when the lake is frozen over, nor could I visit the igloo-bar, there was still a lot to do.This was the first hotel during my trip that had an onsen, a Japanese bath. And aside from this, I enjoyed a buffet dinner --- all Japanese food! I enjoyed several plates of salmon sashimi, tempura, chawanmushi, and best of all, I ate slices of tender beef that I cooked on my own. With all that food in my stomach, I had enough energy to partake in a nighttime snow tour, and that's exactly what I did.

Please forgive my messed up face. But here is a photo of me before leaving for the snow tour, dressed up a pink snow suit that was rented out by the tour guide. I was actually wearing several more layers of clothes underneath it, preparing for the coldest of colds. The tour started with a trek from the hotel, following an icy path towards the forest which wasn't very far away. Our tour guide, Charlie, wanted my family and I to get our eyes accustomed to the dark, because after a certain point in the trek, there was no light whatsoever. Nothing but the stars, the snow, and the trees. I don't quite know how long that trek lasted, but I enjoyed every second of it. There were times Charlie would make us keep quiet for a few moments, as we listened to pure silence, and if we listened hard enough, our own heartbeat. He also told us about the owls in Hokkaido, and what sounds they made, which was sort of funny.. Buu buu, said the owl, ha ha! And after that, Charlie also surprised us with a delicious cup of hot chocolate that he had in his jug. He made us guess what color the cup of hot chocolate was in absolute darkness. I wasn't able to guess correctly when he took out his tiny flashlight, but I just continued to enjoy my cup of hot chocolate in the snow and darkness. On the way back to the hotel, my siblings and I started playing on the large mounds of snow nearby. During that moment, that night, we were all kids again. And finally, I went to sleep in our traditional, tatami room. What a night.

Forgive me if my posts have been longer than usual. I want to encapsulate every wonderful memory I had in Japan, every detail I can possibly remember. This day most especially.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Norwegian Wood

In my mind, the Norwegian Wood is a magical place, where there are trees that surround you from all directions, asleep as the days of winter pass. Where it is quiet. Where one's footsteps digging deep into the layers of uncompacted snow is the loudest sound that can be heard.Where a fox's trails can be found, but not followed. Where the remnants of a woodpecker's breakfast lay on the ground. Where the snow wafts softly and quietly, caught in one's eyelashes from time to time. Where the breath becomes visible for a fleeting moment. Where the trees are scarred by water that freezes inside them, releasing a loud cracking sound, if you are lucky enough to catch it. Where the wind is still and the branches are unmoving. Where one can make her first snow angel. Where the trunk of a fallen tree becomes something you can lean on to rest. Where taking a single step can send one's leg falling deep into the snow.Where the cry of an unknown bird can be heard from afar.Where the temperature in the atmosphere is -15°Celsius or lower. Where perfect snowflakes fall gently onto one's wool gloves. Where the tip of one's nose becomes red and numb. Where one can have a cup of warm coffee, no matter how bland or bitter. Where one could read a book.Where one could stay for hours, deep in thought in the Norwegian Wood.

These pictures were taken during my trip to Japan, in Hokkaido, but this is how I would imagine Norwegian Wood to be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweet Home

A place where I feel content, where I am happy, where my soul needs nothing more and nothing less, where my troubles vanish, where I am completely at peace. I love the bucolic areas of Japan, even more so when everything is covered in snow. Everything was so simple; it felt as though I had found equilibrium.

I took these pictures in the Dried Flower House of Farm Tomita. There was a little cafe where they sold lavender-flavored ice cream. It's a bit strange to be eating ice cream when the weather outside is ice-cold, but it was absolutely divine. The taste was sweet and tangy, but very light. Eating and tasting soft-served ice cream in Japan is a must, there are so many favors to try! There was also a gift shop that sold goods made with the lavender produced by the farm, like lotion, perfume, and soap. And lastly, the dried flower house, of course! I have no decent photos of it, sadly. It was a giant, wooden room with bouquets of dried flowers in an array of colors, dangling from th ceiling, covering the walls, doors---everywhere! In just a few steps, you can go from winter wonderland to an autumnal haven. Oh Hokkaido, my sweet home.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Greenhouse in Farm Tomita

One of the places I visited in Hokkaido was a flower farm located in Nakafurano, called Farm Tomita. Early April probably isn't the best time to visit since the weather is still very cold and there is still so much snow. Normally, the vast fields of unadulterated snow are filled with streams of colorful flowers. But during the winter time, Farm Tomita keeps their flora inside a greenhouse, so anyone can visit at any time and still enjoy a beautiful array of flowers, including lavender, poppies, and marigolds.

Visiting the farm early in the morning was just amazing, The greenhouse was very cozy. I could have spent hours inside there, just looking at the flowers and sitting on a bench. It would have been absolutely amazing to sit there with a book and a cup of coffee, different from the usual coffee shop, ha ha! I was a little bit sad because I was expecting the room to smell like lavender, but the lavender was still in the process of blooming. So instead, the air was cool and crisp, and very fresh, as if the little greenhouse was a box of spring. There was also a little brick well covered in moss. I was taken aback when I read a sign that said "Do not feed the fish." There were fish in that well!