Thursday, May 26, 2011


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If you´re ever in Kyoto on the 21st of any of the non-winter type months, get your butt over to Toji (東寺) for the Kobo-san flea market. Toji is the temple with its famous 5-storied pagoda, images of which show up in a lot of Japan travel literature.


The temple itself was designated by UNESCO as an “Ancient Treasure of Kyoto” Heritage site. I’m not 100% sure if that means it equates with a regular old World Heritage site, like Nikko or Himeji castle, but it’s still pretty cool.


The flea market is really good! You can find just about anything there, from mountains of used kimono (going for about upwards of 1000 yen, cheap!) to tea sets, jewelry, old coins, toy robots, you name it, they probably have it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. I got a kimono set for 3000 yen because the lady was impressed with the fact that I could haggle in Japanese. I also picked up some vintage beads and a homemade sinobue. I ended up spending about 7000 yen including transportation and food for the whole day. Not bad!


The flea market is named after Kobo Daishi (the posthumous name for Kukai) Who is said to have invented the syllabic Kana writing system (yay!), as well as founded Shingon Buddhism.


There are also lots of yummy Kansai-type foods at Kobo-san. Mmm.


Of course, scythes for all you grim-reaper types.


To get there, from Kyoto Station take the Kintetsu line to Toji station and walk up the street for 5 minutes. You can’t really miss it with that huge pagoda. You can also take the bus from Kyoto Station that says its going to 東寺東門 or 東寺南門. Either way, make sure you get there early enough to beat the rush. Happy shopping!

Monday, May 16, 2011


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Happy birthday, blog!! Have some cupcakes! I’ve been keeping this blog up for 5 years now! I can’t believe it! I started keeping it as a way to keep in touch with people while I was studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai. You can even go back and read the very first post I ever wrote to help my family understand what exactly a blog is. I guess I’ll mostly talk about the cosmetic changes I’ve done to this blog. However, I will say that my content has become a lot more accessible to more readers in the past few years. Most notably, it has transformed from personal journal-type writing to all sorts of different content: photos, recipes, notes on language and culture, but still maintaining a kind of travel scrapbook type feel. I really like what my blog has turned into, and it’s a creative outlet that I enjoy.

old layout image

Here was the first design I made for the blog waay back when. I used a woodblock print by Ando Hiroshige and broke it up into the little strips and faded the ones that would be behind the text. Prettyyy cool!

Since I didn’t bring my own computer to Japan with me, I didn’t always have one readily available to upload and edit photos on. This is why I didn’t use many photographs to illustrate my study abroad posts. I have a feeling that I’ll be rooting through a lot of those photos and posting them now that I’ve had a chance to really reflect on the experience and, most importantly, edit the photos ( ´∀`)

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I’ve posted this a couple times before but I kid you not that this was a complete coincidence. I still can’t get over it. I took this photo on a class trip to Nara while we visited the Nigatsudo. Apparently Kawase Hasui thought this was a nice view as well. I was going through an old calendar of mine (Japanese Woodblocks 2004, to be exact) when I noticed this image was almost the exact same view of the lanterns of the Nigatsudo with the Daibutsuden in the distance. You can seven see the railing and the mountains in the distance are the same. I decided to go with the silhouetted lanterns as a nice symbol to represent my Japan blog. I also moved away from doing the entire design myself and started using the wysiwyg editor on blogger, with a few of my own tweaks here and there. It just made my life easier since I’m not a programmer.


I also made a couple of headers for different “columns” I intended to write regularly (and did so for a decent period of time) to mimic the style of the main header.


I kept the bright colors and Arial bold font. I however did not keep up with the columns regularly. Σ(´∀`;)

Now that I’m not IN JAPAN anymore, I had to change the name, but I still wanted to keep this as a nice outlet to share all things Japanese, so I decided to keep the lanterns in my logo, but add a Japanese name, ichi go ichi e. I toned down the bright purple color and changed to a rounded-ish handwritten-looking Japanese font.


So there you have it. 5 years of blogging! Here’s to more writing, photos and amateur web design!!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Using Google 日本語入力

When I initially found out that Google had produced a Japanese IME, I was pretty excited to try it out. I installed it in November of 2010, and I haven’t used any other IME for writing in Japanese since. Of course, I’ve used the default Microsoft IME that just comes along with Windows 7, which hasn’t really made any significant improvements since I first started using the Microsoft IME back when I was still using Windows XP. I’ve also used ATOK, which seems to be on every computer I’ve ever used in Japan. I’ve always disabled ATOK in favor of the Microsoft IME, but since downloading the Google IME, I’ve been more than completely satisfied, I get CRAZY EXCITED every time I use it!!


Google IME gives you suggestions. Way more suggestions than any other IME. It also gives suggestions based on what you’ve previously typed. You can turn that setting on and off as you like, but I quite prefer it, especially if I’m writing Katakana words.

Another great feature, as you can see in the video, is that it suggests the year in various formats.

For example, you type ことし(this year)
suggestion 1 is 今年 (lit. this year)
2 is 2011 (the numerical year)
4 is 平成23年 (the imperial year)
I really like that it automatically suggests the imperial year, which is always so difficult for me to remember, but is important to know for certain kinds of official-type documents.


Wondering what that katakana word is in English? Nooo problem!! Type ラジオ and you will get the English “radio” as your 6th suggestion.

It also suggests less-commonly-used Kanji for commonly used words like “France” = フランス = 仏国

Making special characters is easy. For a heart ♥, type はーと.
For any of the following types of star, ☆, ☆彡, or ★ just type ほし.

Last but not least, and my most favorite thing about Google IME, is that it has over 500 kaomoji to choose from!!!


For the huge selection, you can type in your onomatopoeia word, like ワオ, or you can type かおもじ to get the full list and choose from the 500+ suggestions.

The only thing that I miss from using the Microsoft IME is the IME Pad, which lets you physically write out the Kanji or its radical on a little notepad, and look up the correct character from there. Its helpful when I know the shape (or root radical) of the character, but not the reading. I keep the Microsoft IME around in case I need to use this feature, but since the Google IME has so many helpful suggestions, I rarely use this anymore.

And in true Japanese style, there’s a comic about what exactly an IME is, how it works, and it features the developers! Very cute.

As for me, I really enjoy using this application over my pre-installed Microsoft IME. If you’d like to try Google 日本語入力 You can download it at this address:

Happy typing!

Monday, May 2, 2011



Amanohashidate, or, the Bridge to Heaven, is another place I visited during my West coast of Japan adventure in the spring of 2007.  To get there, we took a bus from Kyoto Station. It took about 3 hours and we went through about 18 tunnels.


Here’s the Chirimen silk factory, with its sign welcoming visitors to Amanohashidate. The Tango peninsula is famous for its production of this type of crepe silk, which is used for fine kimono and other items.

In the Edo period, Shunsai Hayashi traveled the length of the country and considered Amanohashidate to be one of the three most beautiful views of Japan, otherwise known as 日本三景 (nihon sankei). The other two, in case you’re wondering, are Miyajima and Matsushima. Since then, they’ve been considered to be places that people should go and see at least once in their lifetime.


Massive pine trees, twisted by the wind, line the isthmus. Some of them are very old and have been given names. like the one pictured above.


There’s a neat rotating bridge on the southern end, here it is opened to let a barge pass through the tiny outlet.


You can take cable cars up either side of the bay to get both views of the bridge to heaven.


Looking toward the interior of the bay from the Northern side.


The view of Amanohashidate from the northern side, closest to our hostel (Amanohashidate Youth Hostel). Which I and my travelling partner highly recommend, with their fantastic western-style breakfast (they alternated between western-style and Japanese while we were there… the Japanese breakfast was OK, but we really REALLY liked the heart-shaped eggs).

kansai gaidai cell pics 034 kansai gaidai cell pics 031

Heart-shaped eggs!! And not-so-heart-shaped eggs… but still good.

♪~(´ε` )

People say that if you look at Amanohashidate upside-down, you will see a bridge to heaven. So, I tried it.


Hmm. maybe not from this side.


I still don’t know... what do you think?