What’s a Gasshuku?

On September 29, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, School Life, Travel, by 03. Aaron

Hey all! Last week was silver week here in Japan so during my time off I went on a Gasshuku (合宿) with my dance club! Went went out out into the mountains in Nagano, not to be confused with Nakano-ku in Tokyo! It’s a 4-5 hour drive there from Tokyo so we went by bus. Did you know that some Japanese buses have built in karaoke machines? I didn’t but I was glad I was sitting in the front because we got to sing out hearts out, probably to the discontent of all of our younger members(後輩)sitting in the back. We rented out pretty much a whole hotel in order to practice and have a lot of fun, which is pretty much what a gasshuku is !  We had about 200~250 people at the hotel for 3 days and 2 nights. The main reason we rented out the huge place is we have a big performance, the school festival (学際) coming up at the beginning of November.

There is a large gym there so we broke up into our respective groups based on dance-style and spend most of the our time from morning to evening practicing for the school festival. I’m a third-year member within the club so it’s up to me and the students in the same year as me to create the choreography and teach it to all of the new members. On the first night we mostly had a lot of people staying up late partying in small groups in various rooms. Late at night 4 of my friends and I snuck into other people’s rooms while they slept and drew on their faces and covered them in glitter, which seems to be a pretty common activity for my group. On the second night we had a lot more group activities! After dinner we crowded into a large hall and had a 2on2 freestyle dance battle for active members in the circle, meaning that battlers don’t know what the music will be but they have to do their best to dance to it. The judges were 3 people who have already “retired” from the circle in order to do things like job hunting. Somehow how my team was able to win the dance battle and we both received matching shirts from the hotel to celebrate our victory!


Afterwards we had a big drinking party (飲み会) in which the 3rd years were made to drink a lot because this is our last performance before we have to “retire” from the circle! It was a lot of fun! Somehow I was still able to move around for the last day of the gasshuku. There was no practice on the final day so two of my friends and I decided to climb one of the mountains overlooking the hotel because the weather was great and we could still move. It was a really rough climb because of the night before but the weather was great and the view made it worth it. At the bottom right you can see part of the hotel!


I think gasshuku are really fun and I wish I’d had a chance to experience them more before this. Either way it was a great experience!


はじめまして、I’m Aaron!

On September 27, 2015, in English, Self-introduction, by 03. Aaron

Hello, I’m Aaron Shaw from Kai’s 6-Morning class! I’m from North Carolina in America and this is my second time living in Japan. The first time was when I studied abroad at Sophia University for the 2013-2014 school year. I just graduated from university with a degree in Accounting in May and I came back to Japan to study at Kai this past June. I’m still part of a dance club at Sophia University from the time when I studied abroad there, so expect a few posts relating to club life/activities! Once I finish Kai’s level 8 class I plan to move on to graduate school here in Japan.

As you might expect most of my free time goes into studying for the JLPT/class and practicing dance. When I’m not doing one of those activities I tend to enjoy activities such as visiting onsen/sentou (public baths), going to karaoke, trying new restaurants, and going out drinking. I’m a rather social person so I don’t like spending too much time alone in my room. As a result I ended up choosing a share house as a place to live in! I live along the Seibu-Shinjuku line, which means that if I tell someone the name of my station they look at me funny because they’ve never heard of it! Luckily the area I live in is nice and quiet with all sorts of stores around.

Nice to meet you and I hope you enjoy my posts!

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Odaiba


TBS TV – Japanese Bread

On September 26, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, School Life, by 02. Christine


Do you remember my post about Wagashi? I praised Japanese sweets, even if they’re so different from the European ones. Despite the fact I often joke about preferring the italian food (because, c’mon, it’s one of the few things my Country can be proud of), I don’t really have any preference as long as it tastes good.

But when it comes to a foreign speciality rearranged to suit another Country’s taste, nothing can possibly go right. At least in my opinion.

Ladies and Gentleman, let the story about Japanese Bread begins!



So, basically, in June we got informed by KAI about a recording from TBS TV where we could have got free bread in change of sharing our opinion regarding it.

The thought of eating lunch without spending any money never crossed my mind, I swear I joined because… Because… Err.

Anyway, they collected us in front of school and we arrived in Akasaka, where the other participants were wainting inside a gorgeous lobby.


We had to write down our name and finished a quick test, then after TWO HOURS they started recording.



There were three tables, each one with a different type of bread: breakfast, side dish and sweet.


Breakfast one wasn’t so bad and I actually enjoyed it (maybe because I was starving), but the toast one was really thick and the baguette really chewy.
They told us it was to allow people of every age enjoying the bread, being really soft and easy to eat… to which all of us disagreed.”It’s so chewy it’s actually harder to eat, don’t you think?”
“Ahahah, no. Let’s go on.”

Okay, next one has become my worst nightmare ever.
Before the tasting, they explained to us that Japan uses to have sandwiches already done, with anything inside.



I already tried curry-pan in Akihabara and liked it, so can’t say anything bad about it except for being served cold, which killed the taste. But trust me, it was the only one I liked among the side dish type.

Because if you find a curry-filled bread strange, what about soba bread, seaweed bread and fish bread?

And what would you think about THESE?


Don’t get fooled by the nice composition: it’s filled with raw fish and something else.


“Excuse me.” I asked, pointing at the food. “What are these?”
The lady smiled, sweetly. “Go on, try a bite, they’re excellent! I don’t know if you are familiar with bread type, but this one is called focaccia.”

YouTube Preview Image

No. NO. NO!!!

I’m from Genova, where focaccia was born! You can’t say this to me, YOU CAN’T!

I tried to stay calm and explain why I couldn’t agree with them, but after that I was invited into have a try “because I assure you, the taste is identical!”

Well, in Genova we actually don’t put raw fish and seaweed on focaccia, but didn’t want to be rude and had a bite; it tasted like old bread full of olive oil… And other things.

So, let’s skip the pitoresque scene about the desperation of the three italian participants and talk about the last table: SWEETS.


My favourite table! Anpan, chocolate corone (not in the picture because they didn’t last a second), other bread filled with anko… I love red beans, so I really enjoyed everything… except for the fresh fruit sandwiches, but hey! Better than expected.

And let’s finish with the best: MELON PAN. The most popular in Japan, a crispy butter bread covered in sugar.

“Why do you call it melon pan if it doesn’t taste like melon at all?” I asked again, probably gaining the hatred of the entire japanese staff.
“Because of its melon shape.”
“Oh. And why did they choose the melon one?”

And I was silenced with a new type of melon pan… that actually really tasted like melon! Dreams come true!

“But if you call melon pan the normal type, what about this one?”
“It’s Melon Melon Pan!”

Oh, Japan…

And if you want to enjoy the video, it’s actually on Youtube! Our adventure starts from minute 27:35.

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On September 9, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, Travel, by 02. Christine

Osaka has been my second choice when I was still deciding on which city to study in, being Kyoto the first choice (and yes, I didn’t want to come to Tokyo at that time); the reason was pretty simple: I wanted to study the famous Osaka-ben, the dialect of the area, since it would have been useful for my future as a translator (please don’t laugh, I still believe I can manage it somehow. Kinda.)

And lifestyle should be cheaper than in Tokyo.

Funny enough, every guide or site I’ve been reading didn’t recommend Osaka as a sightseeing spot, but in the lovely memory of all the anime and manga that take place in this city, I couldn’t skip it. And luckily, I didn’t.


The hostel I’ve been staying in was near Umeda Sky Building: being quite extravagant, it’s really hard to miss! Better going on sunset time or in the evening to enjoy the view from the Floating Garden Observatory (800 yen).


Although being filled with skyscrapers, you can still enjoy the traditional Japan with numerous temples and the shrines; the most important one is Tenmagu shrine, where one of the greatest japanese matsuri takes place in July, but I missed it… So, I’m just telling you something about the one I visited.

–          Shitennoji: first buddhist temple in Japan, it’s been reconstructured a lot of time because of fires, earthquakes and the Second World War’s bombs (the same that destroyed almost everything in Osaka).


–          Isshinji: discovered by chance, it’s quite impressive thanks to its original gate, designed by the current head priest. Amazing!


Known as Okotsu butsu, “the temple with statues of Buddha made with bones of dead people”, because in 1887 a Buddha statue has been created with the relics brought to the temple. From that time on, they’ll make one statue every ten years.



Talking about tradition, let’s take a look to the very landmark of the city: Osaka Castle!


Wanted by the most important damyo of japanese history, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, it’s not as famous as Himeji’s, but I preferred this one, being transformed in a museum where you can learn almost everything about its history, especiallly about the Summer War of Osaka between Hideyori Toyotomi (Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s son) and the futur shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa.

The castle is surrounded by the greates park in the city.


Let’s go on with Tsuutenkaku (bless you!), “tower that reaches the sky”, with Hitachi’s brand on its body. At first, it was built following Eiffel Tower’s design (japanese really like that tower, don’t you think?), but during the Second World War it was disassembled to gain more metal, being already heavily damaged.


Anime and manga fans will be happy to hear about the “Akihabara of Osaka”:Nipponbashi, shortened as DenDen Town. My only regret is I couldn’t afford to buy everything.


Don’t forget about nightlife! Osaka by night changes completely and becomes colorful and lively! The well known district Dotonbori, in Namba, is full of restaurants and shops with the strangest façade you can think of!


A must-follow tip: try takoyaki (ball-shaped street food with octopus) or okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake filled with everything; these are the most popular food from Osaka!


And this is the end of my trip, my friends.

I skipped a lot, like Universal Studios Japan, SPA World and Osaka Aquarium, due to the lack of time. But be sure to visit Osaka, you won’t regret it!

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DISCOVERING JAPAN – Arashiyama and Uji

On August 30, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, Travel, by 02. Christine


Okay, I have to apologize to everybody because I totally forgot to publish this one before Kobe’s, so actually Osaka has to wait.
But I’ll be quick and painless, I promise!



A good and famous excursion fron Kyoto, you’ll have to go near the Ryoanji to take the Randen, the only electric railroad of the city.

After changing once, you’ll get to Arashiyama, famous location during spring and automn, It’s a nice city, but due to lacking of time I went straight to Tenryuji, one of the five greatest zen temples of Kyoto and a World Heritage Site (of course).


Next to the temple stands the well-known Bamboo Forest, the top attraction of Arashiyama; no picture can match up to the beauty of this place! And you can also find small shrines!





Let’s take a break with a delicious mitarashi dango before going to Uji!



If you love japanese literature, you surely heard about Uji, being the city where the last part of  Genji Monogatari take place. I still haven’t read it, so I can’t say more than this (shame on me!).

Actually, the reason I wanted to visit Uji is the Byodo-in, the temple pictured on the 10 yen coin, but I promise I’ll also read Genji Monogatari soon!

The main building is called Phoenix Pavillon because of its shape and you can visit the inside and watch the gold wooden statue of Buddha Amida. I didn’t went in because it was too crowded, but you can enjoy the temple from outside and the Museum with the temple’s treasure.







Beautiful, isn’it?

And that’s it! Next one is Osaka, I promise!

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