Golden Week

Golden Week! A magical collection of four public holidays that fall within the space of a week, so that everyone gets a mini-holiday to rest at home! To play! To see the world!

The links to all my Golden Week adventures are at the bottom. But first! What holidays are actually in Golden Week? And what are you supposed to do on each of those days?

Showa Day (昭和の日): 29th April

Emperor Hirihito | Gaijin Pot

Emperor Hirihito | Gaijin Pot

This was actually only called Showa Day from 2007. Before that, it was known as Greenery Day (see below). Made to celebrate the birthday of the Showa Emperor (Hirohito 裕仁), who reigned from 1926 to 1989, the whole point of the celebration is for Japanese people to reflect on the unsettled events during his reign, and not to glorify the emperor.

Some places do have parades and festivals on this day, I’m sure, but I didn’t see or hear about anything… so I assume it’s not widely done.

Constitution Memorial Day (念日): 3rd May

As the name suggests, this is to celebrate the creation of the Japanese Constitution in 1947. Nothing happens today either except encouraged reflection on the meaning of democracy and Japanese democracy and the Japanese government.

Midori no Hi | pelican-travel

Midori no Hi | pelican-travel

Greenery Day (みどりの日 ): 4th May

Originally celebrated on the 29th before it was changed back to Showa Day, Greenery Day encourages people to go out and appreciate nature and the natural landscapes, and to be thankful for the blessings that they have. Historically, the Emperor’s Birthday holiday on the 29th was renamed to Greenery Day after his death to acknowledge the Showa Emperor by referring to his love for plants without actually mentioning his name. Once they decided to revert back to calling the 29th Showa Day, they put Greenery Day onto the 4th, which was previously just a generic public holiday to extend Golden Week.

Children’s Day (こどもの日): 5th May

Carp flags on Children's Day | nippobrasil

Carp flags on Children’s Day | nippobrasil

The only day in Golden Week where special things actually happen! Children’s Day (previously called Tango no Sekku 端午の節句) used to only celebrate the personalities, happiness and the future of boys, but the government changed this to include boys, girls and parents in 1948.

To celebrate, families fly one carp-shaped koinobori flag each for the father, the mother and every child in the family, and can also display a Kintaro doll riding a carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, as they both represent strength and vitality. In addition, mochi with red bean paste centres wrapped in oak leaves or with a glutinous rice paste wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf are served.

Even though it’s supposedly a week, I guess the other three days are optional holidays… but for sure, most businesses give the entire week off for their workers anyway, so Golden Week it is!


To read the rest of my Golden Week adventures…

Golden Week: Yamaguchi
Golden Week: Dontaku
Golden Week: Kyushu~!

Golden Week: Yamaguchi

I decided to hop on the bus after class and go visit my friend in Yamaguchi for a day as Golden Week started because I had no plans and because yay for impromptu trips! Besides, from Fukuoka, it only takes a ¥3100, three hour-ish bus ride to get there, so why not? Seeing more of Japan is always a win~

I later found out that apparently international students get a discount that I didn’t know about, so I could have only paid ¥2700. Sadface. That could have been lunch money.

Anyway, I already knew Yamaguchi was a quiet place, so when we went exploring during the day, I knew that I wouldn’t really be seeing many other people. But still, the emptiness surprised me. For a supposed important town, having the streets as empty as one of the outlying towns near Fukuoka felt a little surreal.

The only place where I really saw a considerable amount of people was when my friend took me to see a football game between Yamaguchi FC and a visiting team (my first live sports match!). It was actually so exciting. I was a little bored as the game started (what is sports what is teams what is ball) but then the first half ended with the visiting team on 1-3, so the second half got really aggressive with lots of action and running and shouting and injuries and switching of players, and then the home team won 4-3, so everyone was cheering and clapping, and the marching band went ballistic. And they hadn’t stopped playing tunes and doing chants during the entire two hours I was there.

And because the football game was the first thing I went to that day, when I arrived in the actual town centre and saw no one… This was the emptiest town I have ever seen so far in my twenty-one years of life.  I’ve never felt so potential-zombie-apocalypse empty, ever.

Then my friend took me exploring Yamaguchi, and that was when I fully realised that Yamaguchi is really not a place you go to for any sort of commercial activity. You go to Yamaguchi to ramble down its little streets and paths, to walk along the rivers and streams, and to stumble upon little-known shrines, all meticulously well-kept and photogenic.  Although there were practically no people, this made everything so serene and peaceful and pleasant and if I wanted to go somewhere to retire, I would move there in a heartbeat.

We also managed to find what we suspect is the dubiously rich people area of Yamaguchi, because their houses were beautiful. Oozing traditional Japanese charm, roof tiles gleaming, gardens on point, the weird trees with flat discs of branches and leaves, These were definitely not just any old Japanese house.  These were legit.  And definitely encapsulating aesthetics that I want in the future. #futurehousegoals

If you really wanted to go and meet people, or go and play at night, you would have to be nearer to the university and Yuda onsen, because when we were in that area looking for dinner, I saw more people walking around there than I did downtown.

My friends later told me that most of the commercial activity was an hour bus ride away from Yamaguchi where the airport and the main JR station were located. But I could get that in Fukuoka.  But the vibe of Yamaguchi? Definitely worth feeling, just for a day.

First month reflections

I arrived in Japan exactly a month ago from today, but it simultaneously feels like I just got here AND that I have been here forever .  It’s weird… and I don’t know what to think about this, but whatever.  I am coping with living out of home for the first time, I am coping with living out of the country for the first time, and my room is still super presentable and not a total mess at all.

Major accomplishments, in my opinion.  I am coping, and I am surviving, and I am having one hell of a time doing it.

So… What have I learnt in this first month living in Japan?  What sort of life secrets have I discovered?

First of all, budgeting is nearly impossible.   Even though they sent me a form that listed all the expenses I would have to pay whilst I’m here, even though I had figured out previously weekly and monthly budgets and all, this DOES NOT help at all.  There are so many hidden expenses when you get here that I am crying at how fast my cash is going.  Examples: bedsheet costs, things that you need for your dorm like soap and bathmats and detergents, field trip costs, textbooks for Japanese class, student-organised welcome parties that will cost you ¥¥¥¥¥…

But all in all, it’s worth it.  All the money I have spent so far, I have not regretted at all.  A few tips that I’ve picked up from the older exchange students and other peoples are:

  • Write down all your expenses so you at least know where your money is going
  • Go to one big event a week. Unless the second event is something you promised to go to or else forfeit your first child, one big yen spending event a week will still get you heaps of funtimes and parties.  After all, everyone else you’re hanging out with are students living on budgets too.  So chances are you may be missing out on some massive party in town, but someone else is having a movie night in their room, and that’s fun and FREE.
  • Control your food money a week. In Fukuoka, food is cheaper to get than in the other big cities like Osaka and Tokyo, so it’s not hard to get a good feed for maybe 500 yen per main meal.  If you want to know what the standards for an expensive meal are…
    • Lunch: over ¥1000
    • Dinner: over ¥2000

This does not include snack money hehehehe

  • Alcohol is really cheap. Don’t go too crazy on building up your liquor cabinet.  EVEN IF THE ALCOHOL IS JUST STARING AT YOU AS YOU MAKE YOUR WAY FROM THE BREAD AISLE TO THE VEGETABLE SECTION, DON’T DO IT.
  • And if you like shopping, go on one trip a month. Everything is cheaper here, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to go out and impulse buy every time you walk past the store.  So dedicate one day where you know you have money to spend and then make it raaaaaaain.

Moving on away from money…

Japanese is hard.  Talking in Japanese is hard.  Unless you make time to go and speak to Japanese people on a day to day basis/have done exchange in Japan before and so you’re used to conversing in it, having Japanese thrown at you 24/7 is confronting.  Just watching anime or dramas all day is not enough, because being able to understand what they’re saying 100% does not equal to being able to respond to what they’re saying 100%.

I mean, I studied for three years before I came here (albeit not really studying as hard as I should have anyway…), and that was just enough for me to have enough vocab to be like ‘Where is ___?’ or ‘One ramen please’.  There are a lot of little phrases that you just don’t learn in class, and for you to pick up conversational every day Japanese, you’ll need to have lived here before.

What I think really helped me with my speaking confidence (which is still close to zero…) was that Kyudai has a tutor system where a local Japanese student is assigned as your tutor and is supposed to be your new best friend slash mother slash personal assistant slash Godsend, and for the first few days I was here my tutor was amazing and took me to all the places around the dorm and took me out to eat, and hearing what she was saying helped me kind of slide into conversing in Japanese.  Additionally, she went to high school in America, so it has been very easy for her to explain things to me so that I know what to do next time I need to deal with it.

Something else that also helped as well was that when I went on my #tokyolo trip, the friend that I was with most of the time did not speak Japanese at all.  Since I somewhat knew what I was doing, I ended up being the main speaker for the entire trip with no one to rely on to help me translate.  Especially because I had just gotten to Japan and was still like ‘What is Japanese can you eat it’, being forced to approach Japanese people to ask for directions, or to order food really made me think of how to communicate, and I think that made my brain transition into ‘YOU CAN JAPANESE’ faster than if I had not gone on the trip.

And in regards to keigo… no one cares.  They know you’re an exchange student the minute you open your mouth, and they don’t expect you to use it at all.  As long as you know enough keigo to understand what store people are saying to you when you buy things, it’s enough.  If you do use it, that’s just bonus brownie points for you, and you may or may not give off the impression that you’re fluent and so they stop speaking any English to you.  So unless your Japanese is actually somewhat fluent, don’t do it.

I mean, everyone is really friendly in Japan.  I apparently live in a sort of dangerous area in Fukuoka, but I am still perfectly safe if I go on a snack run by myself to the conbini down the road at 4am in the morning.  The other exchange students want to get to know you, local students may be shy because they can’t really English but they still want to get to know you… put yourself out there, and you’ll definitely make friends.

One friend once told me to ‘never say no’ when I’m on exchange.  If someone invites you to things, don’t say no.  This led me to a bar trivia the second night I was here, a comedy night followed by 飲み放題 (all you can drink) the third night I was here, movie nights with the older students, cooking parties with host mamas, drinks, dancing, karaoke…  You can say no, especially if you have an ICS assignment due soon, but it’s a lot easier to get to know people if you’re around and hanging out all the time.

And it’s fun.  If you think this violates my ‘one big event a week’ thing, it doesn’t, because errbody else be poor as well, especially because a lot of them are older exchange students who have been travelling it up and definitely have less money than you, the freshly arrived student, to spend, so I haven’t really missed out on any big events yet~

I’ve learnt this much in one month… let’s see if I still agree with anything I’ve said here in another month’s time.

#tokyolo: LaQua Spa

We were drained, we were tired, we were spent.  We had given all our energy to TVXQ and the red ocean.  And then… we were greeted with an oasis in the midst of the city for our distraught souls.

The night before, we had decided to go to check out LaQua Spa (next to Tokyo Dome) because supposedly they had so many therapeutic things in their waters, and because you could stay there overnight and we wanted to try staying overnight at an onsen once.

So we went forth into the rain, entering the lift, and when the doors open, a quiet lobby greeted us.  Shoes off, following the other silent people to the counter, we were greeted with friendly concierges who gave us a locker key and directed us to another counter inside the ‘women only’ area.  We had to choose between three designs, and having chosen an orange top-and-pants combo (sadly, they had no yukata option) in a bag with towels, we got changed and had a bit of an exploration.

The Spa complex had three levels; levels dedicated to onsen and bathing, levels dedicated to sleeping and resting and lounging about, levels with food, with massages, with treatments. It was all very modern and high-class hotel feeling, and people were polite and stayed quiet, not wanting to disturb their neighbours.  But since the whole point was soaking our souls away, we went back to the locker areas, stripped, showered, and got into the baths.

The water was gloriously hot.  The water was slightly salty from the minerals.  The steam made everything softer and more welcoming.

I never wanted to get out.

It wasn’t my first time in an onsen, but it never gets old, bathing naked with a whole bunch of other naked women in waters that are supposed to purify your skin and all that, with everyone just minding their own business and not intruding in anyone’s space. LaQua had an indoor and outdoor area so we tried both (the outdoor one had really hot water, so we went back inside pretty quickly), there were sauna with different temperatures from 45, to 70, to 90 (the 70 was the best, the 90 one was actually an oven), and little things like cold baths and mist showers and stuff made everything better.

And when we decided to get out and get dressed, the spa had hairdryers and lotions and moisturisers and heat-protective sprays.  There were even cotton buds and cotton pads to guarantee that you could look after your skin and hair after your bath to make sure you end up looking like perfection.

After we prettified ourselves up to 1000%, we made our way downstairs to the lounges and found ourselves comfortable armchairs in the women’s only room, and slowly, we drifted to sleep…

The next day, when we made our way out of LaQua, still half asleep and trying to figure out our next move, we realised that more people stayed overnight at the place than we thought.  A lot of office workers and middle-aged women were there, making their way out of the onsen with neat suits and cleaned-up hair.

Or maybe they got to LaQua early in the morning, and prepared for their day by soaking in the baths.

But who knows? If you ever feel like spending a night somewhere comfortable and relatively cheap, just go to LaQua.  They actually have everything you need, and it’s worth the experience.


#tokyolo: impressions
#tokyolo: Lockup
#tokyolo: TVXQ

#tokyolo: TVXQ

Featured Song: Believe In You, TVXQ

I love the ocean.  I love the ocean in all its moods and colours.  When the wind tosses the water up high and the waves come crashing down; when ripples of water lap at the sand and over your feet; when the clouds slowly turn turquoise waters into a dark blue grey.

Waiting for the concert!! |diary of a dysaniac

Waiting for the concert!! | diary of a dysaniac

But I love the ocean the best when it is red, filled with screaming fangirls of all ages (and I mean of all ages) with matching light sticks, waving them to the same beat, chanting fanchants that I chant but don’t actually know.

It felt like I was in a cult.  But let’s be real, I’ve been a Cassie the minute Mirotic dropped back in 2008.  And I regret NOTHING.

I mean, the whole point of #tokyolo was TVXQ.  And even though the TVXQ duo aren’t my favourite members, they are still DBSK, and their skills and their strength and their charisma were everything I imagined it to be.  Maybe even more than what I imagined.

Everything, from their dancing, to their singing, to their costumes, to even their awkward Japanese gags, everything made me fall in love with them again.  I never saw the two as the strongest singers in the group, and I never really cared about them as much as I did the members who are now in JYJ.  But apart from their starting song, which was so cringe I couldn’t even, every moment was as strong and as synchronised as if they had always been a duo.  Both my friend and I felt all their energy and amazingness even from where we were seated, a little bit too high to be considered close to the stage, but close enough to still see them in their all their awesome amazing sublimity.

Our lightsticks! |diary of a dysaniac

Our lightsticks! |diary of a dysaniac

This was still not close enough for some of the fans though, because we saw so many people holding little binoculars.  At some point during the concert, when I glanced over to my right, the entire row of people next to me had their binoculars up and staring very very intently at Yunho and Changmin.  I never thought people actually brought binoculars to concerts, but here you go.  Japanese fangirls do.

Something else that Japanese concert-goers do is wave their light sticks in unison in the air, without singing and dancing and all that.  I knew it from all the concerts I’ve watched online, but it was still bizarre to see 50,000 light sticks being waved in unison in real life.  And it still didn’t stop me from singing along and bopping around like a tween at their first music festival.

There were also moments when the concert organisers would tell us to switch off our light sticks so that our light watches could glow in a different colour (usually blue) for the ballad sections.  The effect of the colour change was profoundly beautiful, and by the end of the concert, all the feels and the things were making fans bawl their eyes out.  Including me, but instead of bawling at end of concert feels, I was bawling at my two most favourite DBSK ballads, arranged and sung by two people, but in my heart was being sung by the five in their perfect harmony.

TVXQ With 2015 blue ocean

TVXQ ‘WIth 2015’ | diary of a dysaniac

And once Yunho announced that they were going to take an indefinite break and implying that they were enlisting for their two years of military service towards the end of the concert, the bawling turned into a sobfest that actually threatened to turn the red ocean into a real ocean.  Not that we knew what was happening at the beginning when he was speaking, since my friend can understand only basic Japanese and my brain had switched off when he launched into a lengthy speech.  But we figured it out, once the sobbing from the encore ballads turned into ugly crying all around us.

Whoever did the setlist really knew how to make everyone open their floodgates, putting ballads before and after the announcement.

Whoever did the setlist also knew how to make everyone feel happy again, since they sprung two super upbeat surprise encore songs during the credits onto all of us.

Ultimately, in the end, no matter how they felt, I don’t think people could have left the stadium feeling dissatisfied and angry and depressed about anything

I mean, we will always wait for them to come back.

Because we will Always Keep The Faith.

And once they come back, we will be waiting.  And hopefully by then, both my friend and I will have enough money to actually buy a concert varsity jacket.

TVXQ 'Tone 2012' | tvxq5vnn

Wish I had a clear red ocean photo of my own! TVXQ ‘Tone 2012’ | tvxq5vnn


#tokyolo: impressions
#tokyolo: Lockup
#tokyolo: LaQua Spa

#tokyolo: Lockup

The sign on the street is inconspicuous.  Black and red in the midst of other colourful signs.  ‘Lockup‘, it declares.  It doesn’t look at all scary, and it certainly does not invoke any sort of trepidation or anticipation for what you should expect upstairs.

So up you go.  The elevator dings, she presses ‘5’, it zooms up… and you’re there.

The doors open.

And all you see is a dark dungeon space with blood red floors.  There are two doorways.  The one on the right has a door. Wooden, light-filled, laughter drifting through the doors as people enter and exit.  The other, on the left.  No door blocks your view of a long, dark corridor.

You look at your friend.  She looks at you.  This is more than you anticipated.

“It looks fun! Let’s go!”  Her eyes are gleaming.  She said earlier she has wanted to come here for a long time.  And you swallow a gulp and smile tightly.

“Sure.”

And off you go, two girls linked arm in arm, down an unknown passage with empty jail cells along the side.  You know it’s fake, but chills still creep up your spine as you stride past all these half open iron doors.

The corridor seems to be unending.  Your friend clutches your arm a little tighter.

“This is getting creepy.”

BANG!  You both jump, you scream, you clutch at each other, and you start exclaiming as rattling chains start to sound.  You reach a door that looks like a sci-fi electronic door, and you both push it open, hoping that you have finally reached the bar.

But no.  That would not be enough of a thrill now, would it?

Instead of being greeted by the sight of a restaurant, you see nothing.  It is completely pitch-black.  You clutch at your friend, making sure she is still there, and the door swings shut behind you completely.  Sudden lights blink on and off, flashing just enough to show you the way.  Dark empty spaces are all around you.  Mirrors deceive your way.  You cannot see anything except what is revealed by the flashing lights.

Your grip on your friend gets tighter, and she is practically hugging you to her.  The only other way to tell that she is there is because you are both screaming over the groaning, creaking noises of the maze.

You both turn a corner, hoping that it is finally over, and it is! The door is right ahead.  You both start to hurry towards it, squeezing through a one-man passageway together so you are never separated, getting back out into a more open space, when a light flashes beside your friend.

A white, bloody head stares at you, before the light blinks off, and blinks on again.

You both practically burst through the door, exclaiming loudly, laughing in relief, that it is all over.  You have made it to the bar, and upbeat J-Pop music is playing loudly and cheerfully, helping calm your still-beating heart.  But it is quiet, and you cannot really see any waiters around, no customers around.

You both wander around, hoping to find another living soul, and finally, a stray waiter walks past with empty glasses.  She asks if you’re going home, and you try to say that you just got here, but you can’t.  All your Japanese has left you, and you cannot for the life of you remember how to even say anything coherent in English, let alone in Japanese.

Thankfully, another waiter comes, and somehow they figure it out, and lead you back to the exit of the mirror-maze, where another waiter, this time cosplaying a police woman, comes out and handcuffs you before leading the two of you to your table.  Your friend is laughing, she takes a picture, the police-waitress half closes the door to your ‘cell’, and all seems to be well.

You have survived.

And so you both look through the themed menu with drinks that seem like they were created from failed high school Chemistry experiments.  You both choose, you both order, and just as the drinks arrive and you have both taken pictures, the lights go out.  You scream.

And you KNOW this is not a power-outage.

They aren’t stopping with just a terrifyingly terrifying entry.  They are going to scare the shizz out of you whilst you eat your meal.

A siren begins to sound.  Chains rattle, doors grate open, and more cosplaying workers come out, shouting warnings through megaphones.

“Prisoners have escaped!  Be careful and stay in your cells!”

UV lights come on, and you look at your friend in terror across the table.

And the door to your table opens.

You scream, thinking that it is a monster, but no.  It is a waiter, bringing your two other friends to your table because they want the key back to the hostel room.  And they are exclaiming about the bar, and complaining about the whole thing, and they cut through the terror and bring back some normalcy.

They are also sitting between you and the door, and therefore protecting you from anything that may come through the door.

Because things do come through the door.  Workers in long white robes come in, leering at you in masks.  They peer through the door, peer through the window, and every time they do so, one of the newcomers starts exclaiming really loudly.

“You really look good in that mask! You are so handsome!”  And that makes you laugh, and slowly your terror subsides.

Soon, but not soon enough, the lights come back on, and the J-Pop starts again.  Your drinks are mediocre, but you and your friend don’t really care anymore.  Maybe you get scared too easily.  Maybe other people come here and think it’s fun.  But regardless, you down your drinks, you all get up to leave, and you escape from that place, quickly walking through one last red-lit corridor as you follow the pair that came late back to the lifts.

Your arms are linked firmly with your friend’s, and you don’t let go until you step back out of the lift into the well-lit streets of Ikebukuro.


#tokyolo: impressions
#tokyolo: TVXQ
#tokyolo: LaQua Spa

#tokyolo: impressions

So far, in these last two weeks since I came to Japan, I feel like I just keep getting underwhelmed by Japan.  I was underwhelmed by Fukuoka, and then I was underwhelmed by Tokyo.

Yeah.  I was underwhelmed by Tokyo.  Tokyo, the land of colourful craziness and seas and mountains of people.  Tokyo, the city that never sleeps.  Tokyo, the place where all these American celebrities love to go because ka-ka-ka-kawaii.

But I felt none of that when I went to Tokyo… the only times I got super excited was when TVXQ happened and when we stumbled onto this cosplay/lolita shop in Harajuku and I was in cosplay heaven.

I already had kinda expected to not really see much of Tokyo, seeing as I was only there for three days, and the main reason for my trip was for TVXQ and for my friend’s 21st.  But still.  It was so underwhelming.

Maybe you’ll think that I was being harsh because my two friends and I were staying somewhere far away from all the action and stuff.  And we were admittedly staying in a super ‘cozy’ hostel we found on AirBnB, but that hostel was super close to Shinjuku, one of the main stations of Tokyo, so it couldn’t be location.  I don’t know.  I just feel like Tokyo was just like Hong Kong, except they speak Japanese, and people are nicer and more polite and dress more colourful and eclectic.

Also, Tokyo sleeps so early.  For Fukuoka, I expected it to sleep somewhat earlier, since the city is smaller.  But when my friend and I went to walk around at night because we wanted to do something exciting, the last trains were still at midnight, and everyone was going home.  And midnight is so early for a city to wind down when globally, Tokyo is somewhere that supposedly never sleeps.

Anyway.  I still had a lot of fun, and it was still amazing.  It just wasn’t as exciting and as different and OMGSH THIS IS SO GREAT as I thought it would be… I blame animu for bringing my hopes up SO HIGH that real life doesn’t cut it anymore.

STILL!  Everyone! Come to Japan! Go to Tokyo! I promise it’s fun!! :D :D :D :D :D

Just don’t expect too much.  Japan is weird, Japan is amazing, but in the end, it’s just another country.  The people living in it are ultimately still human beings, and so yeah.  Come.  Fall in love with the place.  But don’t fall in love with the idea of Japan.


#tokyolo: Lockup
#tokyolo: TVXQ
#tokyolo: LaQua Spa