Sep 30, 2012

Autumn Postcards / 秋のカード購入

I bought some nice autumn postcards for my pals, so I should send them out before the winter arrives here. :) Today I would like to share our autumn with you. :)

This is Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that used to be our imperial capital for over the 1,000 years till 1869, and it is a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site.  The temple was founded in the late 8th century, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633.  What makes it really beautiful is that not a single nail is used in the entire temple (it's a very big temple!).  I've been there several times but never in autumn.  I hope I can see the temple surrounded by the beautiful autumn leaves like the postcard shows someday!
Beautiful Ginkgo avenue in autumn.  There is a beautiful Ginkgo avenue like this not too far from my work place, so I hope I can take some pictures once the leaves start turning yellow and share them with you here. :) 
Our autumn flower, cosmos. :)  What's your autumn flower in your country?
Another beautiful autumn view in Kyoto, Arashiyama region.
This one also shows the autumn in Kiyomizu-dera.
By the way, yesterday I was skyping with my host family I lived with while I was studying in Canada, and I was telling them that it was getting cooler here and few days ago the lowest temperature was only around 19C (68F).  They laughed and said, “Aya, don’t you remember how it was like here in late September?  68F is warm!  It can be 5C (41F) at night here right now! Soon we will have snow!” lol

It’s been a decade since I left there, so I totally forgot how it was like…yes it WAS cold there!  How could I forget!! :D  One day I went outside with my hair not completely dried after shower and  then touched my hair.  Guess what happened!  My hair "broke" like a branch go off from a tree...!  My hair was frozen as it was -40C (-40F), so they got broken esily by being touched!  I LOVED everything about Canada except their cold weather, and now you know why. ;)

How is the climate like in your area right now?





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Sep 26, 2012

Sightseeing in Tokyo / 東京観光

Last weekend, my American friends and I did sightseeing in Tokyo.  They just arrived in Tokyo few weeks ago to study at one of our universities, and I wanted to show them around before their university starts and they get busy.

We met up for lunch and had teishoku or a set meal.  Many Japanese restaurant have a selection of teishoku that is usually in a good deal, and it usually comes with a main dish, rice, miso soup, Japanese pickles and sometimes salad or desert.  This is fried fish teishoku.
Then we went to Nippon Buddokan (see more info here), Imperial Palace (see more info here) and then headed to Tokyo Tower.  We should have taken a train, but someone said we could walk so we did.  Wrong decision!  It was maybe about 6km from there to Tokyo Tower, and we got so tired.  My American friends are still young, both in early 20s, but hey I’m in 30s! lol  All of us got tired after a long walk, but I was even more tired on the following day.  Next morning, I woke up feeling like a broken robot walking like a duck.  We will take a train next time!

Here are some of the pictures I took while heading to Tokyo Tower.
National Diet Building
When we got Tokyo Tower, the sun was about to go down.  This is Tokyo’s symbol, Tokyo Tower built in 1958, 333m tall, at night (see more info here).  Beautiful, isn’t it?
We went up to the observation deck to see the night view of Tokyo.  I know I’m so bad at taking good pictures, but I didn’t know I was that bad! lol  I took lots of pictures, but this is the only one good enough to share with you. lol  Every time I took one, my friends laughed at me because it was so bad.  Haha.
After that, we went to a Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki restaurant.  Okonomiyaki is like a pancake containing variety of ingredients like seafood, vegetable, meat (you can chose which to have) etc., and there’re some different styles according to the region (see more info here).  This time we went for Hiroshima style one.  It was really delicious!!! :D
If your friend is visiting you from another country, what kind of food would you recommend him/her to have in your country? I usually first ask if there is anything they can't eat like my Singaporean friend didn't eat any Halal food which we eat a lot, my Canadian friend couldn't eat raw fish etc., and then decide where to take them for eating out. Most of my foreign friends liked Okonomiyaki, so I usually take my friends there. :)  Have a nice day!
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Sep 25, 2012

Outgoing letter/お手紙発送

My mailbox was empty for a while, but yesterday finally I received some nice letters! :)  I'm excited to have a posting of Incoming Mail later. :)  OK, these're the letters I posted today.  This one is flying to Sweden.  I was going to make the envelope to look like rain, but somehow I used it up side down...I have no idea what I was thinking when I was putting the address label to the envelope.
And this one is traveling to Lithuania.  I was hoping to find rose stamps to match the decoration but couldn't, so I just used flower theme stamps.  Hope she will like it.
My pile of letters is getting smaller.  I have few more letters to write though.  When you reply to your letters, in which order do you reply?  Do you reply according to the date you received?  I try to reply according to the date I received, but to those pals who live in far away countries to where the letters take longer to be delivered, I try to reply right away.  Sometimes, my letter to my Mexican pal takes like 1 month or even longer than that to be delivered.  As long as it arrives safely, I'm happy though. :)
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Sep 19, 2012

Tried Vegemite / ベジマイト

In my previous posting, I told you that my American friend just arrived in Japan tasted our popular food “konnyaku” that he thought awful.  Well, it’s not awful.  You just have to cook it before you eat it, but he ate it raw. lol
Anyway, after writing that posting, I remembered how I felt when I first tasted “vegemite”.  It’s a dark brown Australian food paste (for further info. please check here), and according to my Australian friend it’s a popular food in Australia.  One day she served this vegemite on a piece of toast for me, and I ate.  I couldn’t figure out what just happened to my tongue!  It was…hmm…sour-bitter-sour kind of taste (sorry, couldn’t find the right words), and I hadn’t tasted such taste before so was really surprised.  I tasted it again, and this time it was OK because I knew “that” taste was coming. :)
It's always such a fun to meet the brand new food, and I LOVE tasting new food.  And I love asking about food in my letters. :)  How about you?  Do you like trying new food?  Did you taste something absolutely new to you lately?


Sep 18, 2012

Outgoing letters/お手紙発送

Today I sent 3 letters to Croatia, Canada and Germany.  Hope they will arrive at its destination safely soon!
I found some nice washi paper so made some envelopes. :) Do you like making your own envelopes from some nice paper or magazine clippings? 

Sep 17, 2012

Outgoing letters / お手紙発送

Today I sent 3 letters to England, Indonesia and Vietnam.  Hope they will arrive to its destination safely soon.
My mailbox has been very "hungry" lately. I know it's 100% my fault as I've been behind with my letters.  I've been catching up with letters lately, so hopefully I will receive some letters soon. :)

Sep 15, 2012

Friend from US / アメリカから友達が来日

Last Friday, my American friend came to Japan to study at one of our universities in Tokyo for one year, and I went to the airport to pick him and his friend up.  After a long flight from Boston, they looked like zombies (LOL), but it was still so exciting to see them! :)  On the weekend, I helped them with their shopping.  They had absolutely nothing at their apartment, so they had to buy everything to start a new life here.  That's so expensive!!!  My family sent them our extra sets of futon (our bed), curtains, kitchen items etc, but still they had to do lots of shopping!  I used to study at college in Canada for few years, but there I was living with a Canadian host family so didn't need to buy anything.  I can't imagine if I had to buy everything right after I got there...Back then my English was SO poor and probably couldn't even ask for the direction...They're so brave!

They brought me some goodies from the States!  Well, I actually asked them to bring those for me.  This is my favorite North American food - Maraconi&Cheese!  I know some of you might be laughing right now, but seriously this is my favorite!  I had it very often when I was in Canada.  My host mom put sausages in there, and that was my favorite! :D
And these are also my favorites.  I couldn't remember the name of the brand, so I just told him "An oatmeal bar with some chocolate chips, and there's an old man's face on the package."  And he got me the right one!!!  Yeeeeei! :D  Now I have so many chocolates, so I have to be really careful not to eat them at once! lol
Yesterday, they called me saying that they ate something awful and wanted to know what that was.  It turned out to be one of our popular food Konnyaku that you need to cook to eat, but they ate raw, right from the bag!  It's like eating macaroni uncooked believing they're chips. lol

I really hope they will enjoy their stay in Japan and have lots of fun experiences like I did in Canada.  Like my Canadian friends helped me a lot while I was there, I hope I can do the same for them.  It's my turn! :D







Sep 11, 2012

Outgoing letter/お手紙発送

Today I sent out a package to my dear penpal in The Netherlands.  I enclosed her birthday present together with a birthday card (I love that birthday-cake-shaped card!).  Hope she will enjoy them.  She loves Moomin, and last month I found these Moomin magnets that came as a free gift.  It was kind of like a campaign for the promotion of a bottle water (Gerolsteiner), and if you buy a bottle of Gerolsteiner, you get one Moomin magnet for free.  I bought the water just to collect the magnets so that I can send them for her. :)  I hope she will like them. :)
I did some decolation inside the card.  I'm not that artistic, but I love doing it anyway. :)
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Sep 10, 2012

Trip to Hakone / 箱根旅行

Last month, I got two days off from work for my summer vacation (my Australian friend told me, “Aya, that’s not a vacation but just day off!!!” lol), and I went on a short trip to Hakone, 1 hour from where I live by the limited express train called “Romancecar”.  The name comes from romance seats or pair-seats that are without the armrests between the seats (does that make it romantic?!).  Here is the photo of Romancecar.
We arrived at Hakone around 10am and were off to hiking! :)  Hakone is less than 100km (62mi) from Tokyo, our capital, and famous for relaxing hot springs and beautiful nature.  If you come to Tokyo and get tired of the city, then you can have a break in Hakone.  It’s only 1.5hours by Romancecar from the city center! :)  We took the passage of the old Tokaido from Hatajuku to Moto-Hakone (about 2 hours).  It was really refreshing!  Some of the original stone pavement from the 17th century still remained, and they were beautiful. :) 
When we arrive at Moto-Hakone by the Lake Ashi, we were hoping to see the beautiful view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi, but what we saw was...THIS!  Ta-dah!!!
LOL!  We couldn't see anything because of the thick fog!!  If the sky is clear, this is what you can expect to see.  This was taken few years ago.  Lovely. :)
I stopped by at the local post office to buy some stamps, and here are the stamps I bought.  It shows the views of Hakone (special design).  Every time I visit somewhere, I try to stop by at their local post office to see if they have any special design stamps that shows their area. :)
It was too bad that we couldn't see the nice view, but maybe next time.  Hakone is not too far from my city, so I can always go there anytime I want (only if I get vacation!) :)  Did you do any traveling this summer?  How long was your vacation??  Hope you had a wonderful summer!





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Sep 9, 2012

Outgoing letter/ お手紙発送

This is a letter and belated birthday present together with a card for my dear pal in The Netherlands.  She likes animals, so I picked up some stationery with animal theme for her.  Hope she will like them. :D  I love this My Melody birthday card! :)

By the way, how do you keep track of your penpals’ birthday?  I write them down on my calendar, but I often forget to check.  I know, it’s totally due to my laziness…  What just happened was that I changed the calendar page from August to September and found out that one of my pals’ birthday was September 1st!  I missed it! :$  Or what often happens is that one day facebook reminds me of their birthdays (TODAY is such and such person’s birthday) which is too late to send a card on time. :$  I usually buy birthday cards whenever I come across nice cards that my pals might like, so I have the card ready in advance but often don’t make it on time which is so sad. :(  I have to come up with some good ideas to remind me of their birthdays few weeks in advance!



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Sep 7, 2012

Salty Watermelon? / 塩スイカ?

Quick question.  Do you eat watermelon?  If so, do you put salt to it when eating it?
Here, even though not everyone does, I think I can say it’s popular to put salt to watermelon when eating it (If any Japanese are reading this posting and think I’m wrong, correct me! lol).  It makes the watermelon sweeter. :)  The reason why I’m asking this is because the other day my Australian friend living in Japan found this Pepsi “Salty Watermelon” and told me “It’s crazy!” 
I tried it.  I thought it was OK (I wouldn’t say it was good though), but she thought this was wrong. lol  By the way, she eats a peach with skin, and that’s wrong with me.  It’s like eating someone’s hairy leg. lol
It’s always so much fun to see my country in her Australian/non-Japanese point of view because often many things I think normal or popular are totally strange for her while what I think boring can be super cool for her! :D  I love when she says, “Aya, look what I found!” :)

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Sep 6, 2012

"Day of Letter" / ふみの日

Do you have “Day of Letter” or something similar in your country?  In Japan, 23rd of each month is fumi no hi, literally means “Letter’s Day”, because 2 and 3 are read as fu (2) and mi (3) in Japanese that together sound the same as the word fumi which means “letter”.  And every year on July 23rd, Japan Post issues commemorative stamps with nice designs and also has some events relating to letter-writing to let people become more familiar with the culture of letter-writing.  These are this year’s commemorative stamps that I bought yesterday.  I'm glad that they weren't sold out yet. :)  I love them!

The one on the left is 80yen stamps (about US$1.25/0.80euro), and on the right is 50yen stamps (about US$0.65/0.50euro). 
These designs both come from Hyakunin isshu or literally “100 people, one poem each.”  It’s a collection of 100 poems by 100 different poets from the late 7th century to the 13th century.  Hyakunin Isshu is also known as a card game in which the players match the first part (the combination of 5-7-5 letters) and the second part (7-7 letters) of each poem (the cards look like these stamps with the picture of the poet and his/her poem written), and many of us have played this card game when we were kids.  I was always slow finding the matching card so don’t have a great memory about it though…T.T

I like cute stamps like Disney and Hello Kitty, but I also enjoy these kind of Japanese designs. :)  I hope my pals will enjoy them, too!



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Sep 5, 2012

Outgoing letter / お手紙発送

I sent out one letter today to my pal in UK.  I enclosed some pictures that I took in the last few months.  Hope she will enjoy them. :)
Do you like enclosing pictures in your letter?  I do, especially when I can't explain something in English.  Like this time, my pal asked me "How is the traditional Japanese garden like?" and I was like..."Hmm...please look at the picture!" lol  It's my quick solution to support my English. ;)


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Sep 4, 2012

Lots of stamps! / 切手購入

While I was away from penpalling, our post office issued many stamps of nice designs, so I needed to catch up with them!  Here are some of my new stamps.  I can’t wait to use them for my pals soon! :)

The one on the left is the commemorative stamps of "1300 Years of KOJIKI - Japan's Oldest Chronicle", and the one on the right is of "Ukiyoe Series No.1".  By the way, Ukiyoe is Japanese art, dominant in the 17th to 19th centuries, depicting subjects of everyday life.
The one on the left shows flowers/trees you can see in Tokyo, and the middle and the right show seasonal flowers you can see in Japan.
The one on the left shows famous festival in Osaka, and the other one shows views of my home prefecture Kanagawa.

These show the World Heritage in Iwate prefecture in northeastern Japan. 
And these are Hello Kitty stamps. :)  Many of my pals like Hello Kitty stamps, so I got few extra sheets.
Where do you usually buy your stamps?  At post office?  Online shop??  I usually go to a post office nearby my work. :)  There, people remember that I send lots of letters to abroad and buy may stamps, so everytime I go there and if they have some new reliesed stamps, they tell me.  :)

文通から離れている間に、沢山の記念切手が発行されていたので、色々買ってきました。今回購入したのは、「古事記編纂1300年」、「浮世絵シリーズ第1集」、「東京の四季の花・木III」、「季節の花シリーズ 第2集」、「季節の花シリーズ 第3集」、「ふるさとの祭 第8集 大阪天神祭」、「地方自治法施行60周年記念シリーズ 神奈川県」、「世界遺産シリーズ〈第6集〉「平泉‐仏国土(浄土)を表す建築・庭園及び考古学的遺跡群」、そして海外のペンパル達に人気のハローキティの「夏のグリーティング」です。

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Sep 2, 2012

Outgoing letters / お手紙発送

It's already 7pm on Sunday evening.  I always wonder why time flies so fast on the weekend!  Well, this weekend I magaged to write 3 letters. :)  I'm glad that I can finally post some letters!

The bigger envelope to my dear pal Milena in England, and the other one is traveling to Finland. :)
This is for my dear pal in Lithuania.  She just got married a week ago, so I enclosed a wedding gift for her.  Hope she will like it! :)
I hope they will arrive at its destination soon! :)


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