Tag Archive: photography


…-sigh- Well, I guess all good things must come to an end. That’s right… Quarter Break’s over. My lovely, lovely trip to Kyoto and Osaka has ended. And now, I’m back among the mountain people.

Don’t get me wrong; Beppu’s a lovely town and the people are wonderful here. It’s just that once you’ve gotten a taste of the big cities of Japan, those places with 1200 years of history and 36-story department stores, you begin to realize what the average Japanese means when they say “Oh, Beppu’s just a small rural town.”

We took the ferry, the only ferry, that leaves every few days out of Beppu and takes a leisurely thirteen hours to get to Osaka. Fare is pretty cheap on the lowest class, and if you have a Co-Op card, you can get one round-trip ticket and one one-day pass to Universal Studios Japan for 16900 JPY. Of course, be prepared for the Japanese lower class, which is known as the “Tourist” class. Your life vest IS your pillow. You share your room with up to 35 strangers, and you have a two foot by six foot rectangle of floor to call your own. If you’re lucky, you can stow your luggage on the overhead shelf. Now, luckily, most of the time, your room will not be full. You can steal any unoccupied beds’ mattress pads (they make APU’s mattresses look like fluffy soft things). On this ferry, there is a restaurant, but it’s expensive and the food is not good. So, stop by the Family Mart before you board and grab a bento box to eat later. Do not buy anything from the hot vending machine. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t.

Once you get off the ferry, you will be in one of the main stations of Osaka. From here, you can catch either the subway or the train and find your hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Mikado near Shin-Imamiya station. This is a popular place for college students, as it’s 2100 JPY a night and air conditioned, with deadbolts and without bedbugs. I was happy.

Here is a ‘Western-Style Room’ at the Mikado.

Hey, for 2100 JPY a night? This is niiiiice. Trust me. Hotel Mikado’s even got a non-smoking floor, so my room didn’t stink. The only things you can’t see in this picture are the small TV and refrigerator that are on that black shelf to the left of the doorway. All in all, when you’re on a budget, it’s perfect.

The first day, we just went shopping in Osaka and wandered around the more famous districts, those being DenDen Town (an electronics wonderland) and Doutonburi (shopping and nightlife district–dress to impress) and American Town (Not very American. But, an honorable attempt):

The second day, we hopped on the JR express line for Kyoto. It’s 590 JPY one-way; make sure to buy all your tickets in Osaka, or you won’t get the discount. Kyoto is by far my favorite city in Japan that I’ve visited so far. Everywhere you go, there are shrines and sacred gardens and beautiful scenery. This coexists with some of the most modern architecture in the world. Truly, a beautiful sight:

After a whole day in Kyoto, we had the lamest nomikai (drinking party) ever (yet, somehow, it was still a lot of fun) back at the hotel and collapsed in our rooms. And then Monday, we went to USJ.

Now, I love theme parks. So I may be biased. But USJ was awesome. It’s a pretty small park, but that’s okay since the hours are weird (10 AM – 6 PM) and you only get one day pass with your ferry fare. And hell, they had L’Arc~en~Ciel synced to a roller coaster. Oh yeah, that was possibly the most awesome coaster I’ve ever been on. Here’s a few pictures (Gee, I took a lot this time, huh?):

Why, yes, that IS a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company. …in Japan… Yeah we were (o_O) too. But, we DID eat there, and it was amazingly delicious. Amazingly. Especially the gigantic cookie sundaes. Nom. Those were apparently designed to each serve four people or so. Our party was five people. We ordered four of them. Somehow, nothing was left over… we freaked our waitress out with that stunt, poor thing…

In any case, the trip was so amazingly lovely. I definitely want to return to Kansai at some point.

INSIDER TIP: When in Kyoto, find a bike station and rent a bike for the day. It’s much faster than the trains and you can literally park them ANYWHERE where it makes sense to, since the locks are built into the tires. Plus, it’s 1000 JPY for 24 hours. Not bad at all.

…And about the title to this blog. Blame Ashley. Um… she started calling us all “yamajin” (mountain people) because APU is on top of a mountain and well… the name stuck. ^_^;

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I have just gotten back from the Nagasaki Peace Tour, an extremely competitive field trip by the AP House Staff. Over 200 applied; only 38 survived. I was one of the lucky ones. They told us we were fighting for justice, but it was a lie. They told us we were protecting our countrymen… lies, all lies. THEY TOOK ME LEG.

Okay, okay, sorry. No more unsavory war veteran jokes. In all seriousness, this trip was very enlightening and an excellent experience. We went to Nagasaki by bus. For those unfamiliar with Japan’s geography, have a map:

Takes about four hours to get to Nagasaki from Beppu by bus. I mostly listened to music and took pictures of the surrounding countryside. When we arrived, we checked into the Chisun Grand Hotel, a really nice hotel in the heart of Nagasaki:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have two words for you: REAL. BED. <3.

Now then. The actual trip itself led us first to the Peace Museum, located about 150 meters away from Ground Zero itself. A short history lesson: Nagasaki was the second (and to date, last) city decimated by a nuclear weapon. The weapon’s nickname was Fat Man. It contained 8 kg of plutonium and had the destructive force of 120 tons of TNT. Take a good, long look at this:

Got it memorized? Don’t cheat. Really look at it, and hold it in your head.

Okay. Is it in your mind? Good. Look at this, now:

After visiting the museum and seeing pictures like these, among others, we were brought to both Ground Zero itself and to the Nagasaki Peace Park and given guided tours of each by the son of a survivor of the bombing. Here is the Ground Zero memorial:

It’s a simple black monument, centered directly over the exact place where the bomb exploded over six decades ago. This obelisk is directly in front of the Atomic Bomb Museum, which contains many examples of the damage caused by the bomb. Within the first 500 meters of this spot, the death rate of unprotected citizens was 100% (the flames carbonized human flesh in literally milliseconds; I will spare you the pictures). Those who did not die on the day of the bombing, who were exposed directly or even indirectly in many cases, died soon afterwards of an ‘unknown sickness,’ which is now known to have been radiation poisoning.

The Peace Park is another testament to the lives lost during the war, and not just from the atomic bomb. This park celebrates the importance of peace in all matters, not only nuclear war. It features thirteen statues, twelve of which are from Eurpoean countries and America and one of which is from China. The most famous, of course, is this one:

The one from China is perhaps the most beautiful, in my opinion, though. It says on the back, “Peace” in Chinese, which ironically is the same as in Japanese except for the characters being switched. “Peace” in Japanese is “平和” or “hey-wah.”

The reason there is a fence is because the statue was actually vandalized when it was still new (this is back in the eighties). Of course, Japan apologized profusely to China and then took steps. And when Japan takes steps… well. The statue now has 24-hour security lights, four different cameras, motion sensors, a wrought-iron fence, and three foot thick hedges with sharp pointy things in them all around it. You ain’t getting in there. 😛

After the Peace Park, we went to the famous church. It was also destroyed in the blast, and in fact, one of the original bell towers’ tops is still embedded in the earth 35 meters from the church (blown there at 280 m/s). The bell was blasted from the dome and more or less melted. Here is what remains of the tower:

The other side of this structure is the dome, almost unrecognizable because it is so deeply buried in the earth. This was our last stop before we ate lunch (at Chinatown [it’s a real place, I promise you]) and took our walking tour of Nagasaki. Er. Fair warning. When a Japanese person says “Let’s walk around Nagasaki” they MEAN “Let’s walk around the ENTIRE BLOODY CITY and wander up random hills for six hours and go alllll the way to the top of the mountain to look at creepy giant fish.” But it was still fun. Have a few pictures of Glover Garden, the Japanese equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg:

When we got done sightseeing, we attended a special lecture given by Hirose-sensei, an English teacher who survived the atomic bombing. He was only 15 years old at the time, working in an office in Mitsubishi’s factory. He was only two kilometers from the hypocenter (Ground Zero) at the moment of the bombing, 11:02 on August 9th, 1945. He told us his story.

After this, we all had dinner at the Nagasaki Dejima Wharf Restaurant:

I ate sashimi. And liiiived. I REPEAT: I ATE SASHIMI AND LIVED. The dish you see in the picture contains many different kinds, and the round pearl-like things are the specialty–eel eggs. A bit squishy. I’m not a big fan of thesquid, as it was extraordinarily chewy, but I do like octopus. Nagasaki is gorgeous at night, and is ranked as one of Japan’s top night-scapes.This is not a picture I took, as I was not in Glover Gardens at night, but it is just one example:

This would have been taken from the balcony of the house in front of this koi pond. Almost… ethereal, in a sense.

After we returned to the hotel, we crashed for about seven hours and then were awake again and ready to go help the high school students on their 10,000 Signatures Campaign.

The sign says “High School Students 10,000 Signatures Campaign” and refers to the year-long goal (every year since 1997) of getting 10,000 or more signatures and sending them to the UN. Each year, delegates from this group hand-deliver their petition to the UN, and each year, they have met their goal of 10,000 or more signatures. At this particular campaign, we got 382 signatures in two hours. Oh, and a news special. Yaaay being on TV shouting at people in Japanese. You may not think that 382 is a large number: I didn’t at first. But think of this. There are 52 weeks in a year. Fifty two times three hundred is fifteen thousand six hundred. Quite an impressive number.

Then, we were released from all duties, events, et cetera and given time to explore the station’s department store. I went and bought castella (カステラ) for a souvenir for my friend and some other souvenirs too. Castella is a Nagasaki specialty cake, sold just about everywhere in the city. It’s basically a cake that tastes, astonishingly, like a sugar cookie. It’s a tad bit difficult to describe. Of course it comes in sixteen different flavors, but I like the classic one.

After we had our precious thirty-five minutes of free time to shop, we all walked back to the hotel and boarded our charter bus:

And, now, I am back on top of the mountain. Sadness.

I do believe in the message that was being sent. At no point was America debased or blamed or insulted… nor was any other country that participated in World War II. No, the message here was not to hate or to point fingers; but to learn from past mistakes and to grow more wise because of them. We must all work together to create a peaceful world–a safe world. It won’t be easy. But we can do it. I have to believe this. Call me an optimistic fool if you like.

There is a tradition in Japan, and I shall end my extremely long post with it. If you fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish will be granted. In the museum and indeed all over the memorial sites, there are many strings of paper cranes. A hundred thousand cranes, a hundred wishes, all for peace. I will leave you with this last image.

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~.

These People Are TOUGH.

So yeah, four posts in a day, I know, I know. But I seriously have a good reason this time. Promise. Okay then.

Apparently the good citizens of Beppu are so effing hardcore that they don’t even remark on it when the volcano their town is built under dribbles molten earth down its sides like a messy toddler left alone with a bottle of milk. In fact almost no one seemed to even care! I extrapolate that this is because they are jaded to volcanic activity and that this minor eruption didn’t even register as “abnormal” to them. I want to emphasize that this was normal volcanic activity and that no one was put in true danger because of it. Anyway…

Here’s what happened. I was bored, alone, in my room, mostly because I was hiding from the singing people in the kitchen… and I decided to duck outside to take a walk and get some photos of the city at night (I love nighttime cityscapes). Beppu is just as beautiful at night as I’d suspected when I first came to Japan, see?

But before I could take this picture, I noticed an oddly glowing streak of red on the mountainside. My thoughts went sort of like this: “Hey, I wonder what that could b–HOLY CRAP IT’S LAVA.” My head whipped around as I searched for a native to tell me what to do, but before I could panic and completely make an idiot of myself, I realized something. No one cared. No one around me was paying any attention to the giant rivers of molten rock flowing steadily down the mountain. I racked my brains and couldn’t think of anything to do in this situation because it was never mentioned in the evacuation and emergency procedures booklet we were given at the term’s start. So I calmly examined my options and chose the one that made the most sense: Running to the other end of the campus to get a better vantage point to take pictures (I suppose I have no survival instinct whatsoever). Anyway, I got all the way to the outer edge of the campus’s furthest parking lot and got some pretty cool shots. See if you agree with me when I say that this part of Nature is both beautiful and dangerous:

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!