Tag Archive: Japan photography

I know, I know, le GASP. Today was the Kokura Field Trip run by AP House. As before, allow me to borrow a map for you to see:

The trip takes about two and a half hours by bus, counting a fifteen minute stop in the middle of the trip. AP House runs these trips twice or three times a semester, and offers extreme discounts to residents. For this one, the full price just for the bus fare and lunch would have been over 7000 yen–residents of AP House only pay 3000.

We were supposed to go visit a natural national landmark, an ancient cave, but because of typhoon season it flooded and we had to change plans. So, we went to one of the largest shopping centers in Kokura, also the home of the popular broadcast station for NHK Kyushu (Japan’s leading news and entertainment channels). Have a look:

We also stopped by Kokura Castle and its various surrounding monuments, temples, and to’rii (red gates).

After that, we went and had lunch at a hotel buffet, which was delicious. They had foods from all over the world. America’s? Fries and chicken tenders, of course. 😛 They also had a chocolate fountain, pizza (which was NOT pizza, though it almost could fool someone who wasn’t, well, raised in the pizza capital of the world), and roast pork. And many other types of food from Europe and South America; surprisingly, very little in the way of Japanese food (though of course rice was present and miso soup).

This is only one of two counters. The other one was too crowded for me to get a picture, though that was the one with all of the hot foods.

Finally, the best part of the trip had come. Travel to Mojiko Historic District in Kokura. There are many historic buildings in Kokura, but the Moji district is the largest collection of various Meiji-era structures. For those who don’t know, the Meiji era of Japan took place in the early 20th century and was marked by Japan’s sudden obsession with Westernization. Here are some of the many, many pictures I took of this district:

To end our little tale, how about a bit of a funny story? When the bus pulled over to drop us all off, everyone started heading towards the ferry. Even though it was pouring rain and I could tell just looking at this thing that the rough waves and rain would make it impossible to see anything at all. So, I decided to screw ‘mandatory’ boat rides and go wandering around Moji. I got some amazing photographs, went to the top of the observation tower (31 stories up!), and got so completely soaked that I squelched when I walked.

Anyway, that was great buuut *dun dun DUUUUN* I was found in one of the gift stores (dripping wet and grinning my head off at ‘fugu (blowfish) cookies’) and lectured soundly for not going on the mandatory ferry trip. So I shrugged and apologized and then launched into everything I did during the ferry trip… and instead of getting angrier or lecturing me more, she just went, “Man. We couldn’t see anything from the ferry! You probably made a good choice.” Then looked horrified that she’d *GASP* advocated rule breaking!

This was a good day.


So okay. This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. TO ALL TRANSFER STUDENTS: Don’t go to Ohanami. Take the bus to Beppu Park and take pictures yourself. Seriously, it is not worth the aggravation.

Here’s how it went: we descended en masse on the bus stop, took the buses to Beppu Station, walked to Beppu Park, and spent four hours playing stupid icebreaker games in groups decided for us at random. I only managed to actually get pictures of cherry blossoms once I broke away from the group and wandered around with Jayna and Alex and Kazuma and Martha. I mean… Ohanami literally translates to “honored flower sighting” so… why weren’t we doing any flower sighting?! It’s just more of APU trying to force us to make friends.

Granted. I want to make friends. But I prefer to do it on my schedule and in my way, not by playing incredibly awkward and stupid games (Link arms and everybody jump in! Then out! Then left!). In fact the friend I made today, Kazuma, we ended up meeting each other in the line before the groups were even sorted. He’s a L’Arc~en~Ciel freak like me. For those readers going, “L’Arc~en~Ciel, what?” Just. Watch this. Right now.

This. This is L’Arc~en~Ciel. Unfortunately Youtube’s taken down most of their music videos, but this is still a really good live.

Ahem. Anyway. Sorry, got sidetracked… it’s L’Arc~en~Ciel, what can I do? Have a gallery of the Ohanami ‘party’ (we managed to have a good time in BETWEEN all of the boring games):


So, afterwards, since I certainly wasn’t going home without any pictures of cherry blossoms, I decided to grab my photographer friends and hit the rest of the park, which is b-e-a-utiful. I mean, really, just gorgeous. Here, have another gallery:

So anyway, that’s Beppu Park. Once we’d taken six million pictures each (every time you turned around there was something else you just HAD to photograph), we headed back from whence we came and (you guessed it) dropped by You Me to check out whether or not international students could buy cell phones (you can’t. By the by. Not until you get your Alien Registration Card). But juust before we left, I snapped a bunch of pictures of this adorable child:

It didn’t really fit the theme of the rest of the gallery, but for some reason I love the way this picture came out. Anyway. That’s it for the long, long, Ohanami post I promised. See you tomorrow~.

So d’you remember about three posts ago when I was talking about the APU Entrance Ceremony? Well apparently that’s not the only one that you have when you’re a resident student of APU. Yesterday evening we were all led to Millenium Hall for the AP House Entrance Ceremony! Three speeches were given in mixed Japanese and English, and an eleven minute “DameDame” (bad! Bad!) Video was played to explain the rules of AP House. The security staff and the RAs were all introduced, too.

Afterwards, we were taken to the cafeteria, where a special “banquet party” had been prepared. This was very odd, at least, to me it was. Each floor got their own table (no chairs) and each table had plates of assorted international fare (the American food? French fries, of course). Each person got a pair of chopsticks, and you’d pick up one piece of food at a time and eat it. No plates, though I saw some people piling fries into an extra cup. And you wander around, steal other tables’ food, and talk to everyone. Have a slideshow:

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For whatever reason, we weren’t allowed cameras, but smartphones were fine. That’s why I had to take pictures with my iPod.


Entrance Ceremony!

So today we had the entrance ceremony for incoming first-year students and transfer students. First, let me just say that we got the most gorgeous day for this ceremony and for once I actually wanted to stay outside:

I took about four hundred pictures of cherry blossoms since now is the peak of the season. I will be taking even more pictures at Ohanami on Saturday, but for now, have a taste of the natural beauty all around Beppu.

After about fifteen minutes of taking pictures, a little man in a suit starting yelling through a megaphone on the steps outside of the building for all students to please come inside. So, we obliged, and Allana and I got seats in the second row.

Let me just say that in Japan, people are very concerned about getting a good seat. So at this point, it is about 12:00 PM, and the ceremony begins at 1:30 PM. Despite this, the audience was almost full by around 12:15. Lots of people wore traditional dress from their home countries or suits. I was completely under-dressed because I didn’t have the space in my suitcase to pack a fancy outfit that I would only wear once (I wore a nice dress shirt though); however, I found another few under-dressed students and sat with them so that I wouldn’t feel so inferior. At around 12:30 PM, the guys in my row decided that they were going to the local conbini (convenience store) to buy drinks and breakfast, and I joined them mostly out of curiosity as to what a conbini was like. Basically it’s a 7-11, but with freshly made lunchboxes stacked up where most American stores would have a deli.

After we returned, the ceremony finally began, with the school song and an introduction by the President of APU College:

He gave his speech in English and a Japanese translation showed on the screen behind him. Next up was the Mayor of Oita-shi, who did the exact opposite: gave a speech in Japanese while an English translation showed behind him.

Then came speeches from an APU Senior and two incoming APU students. Finally came the closing announcements. All told the ceremony took about a half-hour. But the fun part was watching the student groups perform. Here is another gallery of the different groups; all of them are culture and art clubs and their scope is as wide as the student body of APU itself.


You can watch the student performances on UStream here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/21583490

They are really, really cool.


Picture Tour of APU

Hajimemashou. APU wa Beppu ni daigaku no… ah. Suimasen? Ah, EIGO. Sou desu ne. You want English, huh? Fiiiine. This is the picture tour of APU that I promised. Are you ready? Let’s go! (the point of this is to introduce everyone to APU and to maybe help any new students find their way, as I was looost when I first got here) Anyway, it’s looong, folks, so fasten your safety belts and please keep all hands, arms, feet, legs, and tentacles down and inside the blog at all times.

First off, here is the “iconic” APU, the picture everyone takes. Seriously, they’ve even put little painted footprints where you should stand for this picture:

The feet look kind of like paws and are bright yellow. Stand, point, click. Easy-peasy.

These two buildings here make up the administrative section (left) and classrooms (right). They were the first to be built. The fountain is not on in this photo because it is only on from 11-4, and this was taken at 5, but it is pretty. Anyway, if you go right from this spot and then turn left, you will be here:

This is the bus stop, really nothing special. Bus fare to Beppu is 300 JPY one-way.

The bus stop, which is constantly busy with buses going everywhere from downtown Beppu (300 JPY for one-way with a CO-OP membership) to Oita City (fare varies based on day/sales). Now, from this picture, you turn left and see this:

This courtyard is behind the bus stop. You can see Millenium Hall in the background.

One of the courtyards. This courtyard in particular is in front of Millenium Hall, which you can see in the upper left corner of this picture. Millenium Hall is like an auditorium. Guest speakers come and presentations are given there. Now, if you go back to the first picture’s spot, the yellow feet, and turn left directly, you will see one of the most interesting buildings on campus:

A classroom building where Alien Registration took place and where the placement tests were held in 2012.

This is the classroom building known as “F Building.” Though the front is rather striking, the inside is just row after row of classrooms. Back at that same spot, turn around 180 degrees and you see the tiny rural town of Beppu:

Just a tiny little town, huh? Sleepy. Yes indeed. For Japan, anyway.

Also, if you look down from this spot, you see the amphitheatre and the sports field. Now then. Turn back around and walk to your right for about a minute, and you’ll see the cafeteria and money-exchange station:

This is just the cafeteria, not much to say here.

The cafeteria is behind this little shed where you can withdraw money from the ATM. I’ve checked, folks, and it accepts all major international credit cards. So, Visa, Mastercard, et cetera. Just check before you leave that your credit company is on the Visa or Mastercard network and you’ll be fine. Continue to your left from where this picture was taken and you will see the gymnasium, on your right-hand side:

The lighter building in the back is a basketball court.

Keep going and you’ll find the footbridge, from which this blog gets its header:

Following the footbridge, there are five flights of steep stairs. Be very careful, when it rains, the steps are extremely slippery. So be sure to either use the elevator or go slowly when the stairs are wet. Those stairs lead you directly to my home, AP House 1:

Ahh, home sweet home. In the bottom there you can see the AP House Fresh Market, which comes every Friday and some Wednesdays, and it offers all sorts of fresh produce, from bananas to broccoli to bok choy. All at very good prices too (about 80 JPY to 240 JPY). Highly recommended for convenience’ sake. Just be sure to say Arigatou Gozaimasu to the nice person selling you this food at such a great price!

Head inside and flash your ID Card or pink slip to the door guards, and they’ll buzz you in. You’ll immediately see the lobby, a pretty standard one at that, and if you turn right upon entering the doors you will find long hallways. And surprise surprise (we ARE in Japan, folks), a long line of vending machines:

Okay, so these aren’t really necessary for the tour. I just think they’re so cool. I highly recommend the Forever 17 products and the Milk Chocolate Salty Pocky. Yum, yum, yum. Now then. Ahem. Moving on. Proceed through the twisty hallway and up the stairs to the second floor, then turn right and keep going until you see the shared kitchens:

The APU shared kitchens are a little strange. A warning to the wise: The cooktops are IH, so they need special pans or you won’t be able to cook anything as the hotplates will refuse to get hot. Also, APU kitchens are not stocked with any supplies whatsoever, so if you have tools you really like to use at home (whisk, spatula, ladle et cetera), bring them with you. Also, always clean up the kitchen after you cook or the RA will give you that long, boring lecture about being responsible for one’s self and blah blah blah… (you get this ANYWAY even before you make a mess or even start cooking, but a repetition will occur and I imagine that it’s worse the second time around)

Dorm rooms line the hallways, and there are shower rooms and bathrooms on each floor (usually two rooms per floor). The laundry machines on my floor are in the shower room, and the machines can hold about four days’ worth of clothes, so they’re very small compared to American machines. Also, the washer takes twenty minutes but the dryer takes two hours, so plan accordingly (if you leave your laundry, it gets sent to Security, and I’m sure you don’t want them rifling through your delicates). The showers are pretty self-explanatory, right knob controls the pressure, left controls temperature. Don’t turn it up all the way or you’ll scorch your skin off. And the bathrooms are ‘normal,’ so don’t worry about that. Now then, a typical dorm room in APU looks like this:

Few things. One, the room key is needed to turn the lights on. Two, the chest of drawers tips over really easily, so put your heaviest clothes in the bottom drawer. Three, the shoebox that you can’t see, that is next to the desk, that’s for SHOES. Looks like a narrow bookcase but it’s for shoes only. The actual bookcase is to the left of the shoebox. While it’s not compulsory it’s recommended that you take off your shoes while in your room. Four, penultimately, the refrigerator has a small freezer and will stay on whether or not your key is in the slot next to the door… but things on the door of the fridge do not stay chilled as well as things inside the fridge, so keep this in mind. Lastly, and most importantly, the bed. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. The beds at APU are Traditional Japanese Futons. They are lower to the ground and the mattress is 2″-3″ thick. That pillow you see? That’s mine. I’d STRONGLY recommend you bring a pillow from home, as the one given to you at APU is a buckwheat shell pillow, and that can be difficult to get used to for newcomers to Japan. You will also get a comforter with a duvet (the duvet has a hole in the middle rather than the top, so you wrap it around the comforter) and a heavy quilt to keep you warm. Most new students use the comforter as extra padding at first, until you get used to the new sleeping surface. You will get used to it, I promise, but it may take up to a week.

So that’s APU. If you have any questions or if you want to see more pictures, comment below and I will gladly answer you.

But not now. Now, I’m going to bed. Oyasumi!