Thursday, August 30, 2012

Golden Week Travels 3/3: Tottori

The last part of our Golden Week travels back in May was in Tottori Prefecture, west of Hyogo and Kyoto. Matt and I had already made it home from Osaka/Okinawa/Kobe, but wanted to do a little something on the weekend as a day trip and decided on the Tottori Sand Dunes.

According to good ol' Wikipedia...
The Tottori Sand Dunes (鳥取砂丘) are unique sand dunes located near Tottori City in Tottori Prefecture, Honshū, Japan. They are the only large dune system (over 30 km²) in Japan.

The dunes were created by sediment deposits carried from the Chūgoku Mountains by the Sendai River into the Sea of Japan. Sea currents and wind help bring the sand from the bottom up onto the shore, where the wind constantly rearranges their shape. The dunes have existed for over 100,000 years, but the area of the dunes has been steadily decreasing due to a government reforestation program following World War II.

Each year, around two million visitors—mostly from within Japan and East Asia—visit the dunes.

Fortunately, since we owned a car, we made the drive there ourselves and arrived in under two hours. Because it was a public holiday (Children's Day), the area was quite busy, but we didn't let that stop us. There's a fair amount of things to see/do there: a museum (which we didn't bother with, but in photos it does look cool), a snack area, camel rides, paragliding, and of course, the sand dunes themselves that overlook the Sea of Japan.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I finished my JET contract, said good-bye to the liftstyle we had built up over the last year, enjoyed re-visiting Tokyo with the husband (Honeymoon Part II!), and flew back to America. Being home has been surreal, especially since I hadn't seen my family and friends in over 12 months. My father said I should work on closing my blog, and I plan to, after finishing the backlog of posts, of course.

The month of July was a whirlwind of Matt doing job interviews via Skype in the wee hours of the morning and even traveling to the states for one, packing and shipping several boxes to send home, and fighting the beginnings of the harsh heat of Japanese summer. I'll take summer over winter in our village any day of the week, but I'm still glad to escape the oppressing heat and lack of central A/C. So what's the plan for us now? Matt was extremely lucky and had two different job offers in two different awesome cities, and he accepted the one in...

Austin, Texas

There's so many cool things about Austin! I never thought it would actually happen, since it was in our "Top 5" list of cities we would love to live in... and now it's our reality. From all the festivals and live music to UT being my #1 choice for grad school, we are both super excited to start the next chapter of our life there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

める の DAILY LIFE #8: Shades of Summer

Suddenly, I only have 8 more days left of work. I'm starting to wrap things up here, and say my good-byes. The last several weeks have been a blur of fun times. It's difficult for me to pinpoint specific events to blog about these days, since my life still feels quite ordinary. I guess that's what happens once you get into a comfortable routine. Although it's sad to see things ending, I'm also excited to be returning home to America next month. Had I/we decided to stay another year, it would be for all the wrong reasons. Move forward.

And so I'll leave you with another photo post, since the pictures say it better than my words ever can.

( Meru's Daily Life )
This post contains cell phone snaps from 6/1 - 7/9.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Golden Week Travels 2/3: Kobe

I suppose I should finish blogging about Golden Week before I write about our trip to Hiroshima . Okay. So after Okinawa we went to Kobe. This is because 1) we wanted to extend our trip, 2) we freaking LOVE Kobe. It would be kind of mundane to go into detail of everything we did, because it was basically a repeat of what we normally do when we escape the inaka for the city: go shopping, go eating, go drinking. However, one meal in particular definitely stood out.

"Eating Kobe Beef" is on many peoples' bucket list for Japan, and for us it was no different, especially since we live in Kansai. We aren't even what I would consider "beef people," and lofty claims about Kobe beef kind of make you wonder if it actually lives up to the hype. I sort of decided on my own that this would be our fancy dinner to celebrate our anniversary, but was a little weary about the cost. I decided to do my homework when it came to this meal. Nothing a little Google and Wikipedia can't help!

Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ) refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyū cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, teppanyaki and more.

Kobe beef is also called "Kobe niku" (神戸肉 lit "Kobe meat"), "Kobe-gyu" (神戸牛, lit Kobe cow) or "Kobe-ushi" (神戸牛, lit Kobe cow) in Japanese.

Despite many American beef products being labeled Kobe, authentic Japanese Kobe beef is not available for sale anywhere outside Japan, with the solitary exception of Macau.

After reading restaurant reviews, I settled on a place called Wakkoqu. It has detailed descriptions of the menu items, seemed foreigner friendly, and takes reservations online. The lunch specials were also very well priced considering how expensive this stuff can be (just check out their dinner menu!)

Did it live up to the hype? I would say say so! This was definitely one of the better meals we've ever had, and it was worth it for the experience alone. I recommend trying it if you are in Japan, but remember, if it's not from Tajima (right over the border from where we live!) then it's not the real thing!  (*´・v・)

Final Golden Week post soon to come! ♥

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

める の DAILY LIFE #7: Amanohashidate & More

Since I last posted, Matt and I have been staying busy, as usual. A few weekends ago we visited 天橋立 (Amanohashidate) which is only about 1 hour's drive or train ride away from our apartment. It's also the #3 scenic view in all of Japan! I had actually been there twice before, once for the kimono festival and another time for dinner at a ryokan (a story for another time), but Matt and I had yet to do Amanohashidate. I really recommend it to anyone in the Kansai Region. It's great for dates, hiking, taking photos, beaching it up in the summer, and of course enjoying the views.

I have some other pictures to share as well, so I'll just lump them all together in one post!


( Meru's Daily Life )

This post contains cell phone snaps from 5/19 - 5/31.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kindergarten: 素敵ですね!

Last Friday (5/25) I finally got to live my dream of teaching kindergarten in Japan! The setup for kindergarten here is a bit different than America. Japanese kindergartens, youchien (幼稚園), are supervised by the Ministry of Education but are not part of the formal education system. There are also childcare centers called hoikuen (保育園), which are supervised by the Ministry of Labor. While Youchien focus on academics and educational goals, Hoikuen provide care for infants and toddlers of working parents.

Children in Japan start elementary school when they are 6 years old, and since Youchien isn't part of that, it is voluntary. Typically they attend for two years starting at age 4, but sometimes as young as 3. Therefore, it's kind of one big mashup of what we consider Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten in the States.

I taught Preschool for one year and Pre-K for three years before coming here. However, I feel that American Kindergarten is the new 1st grade, and Pre-K (at least in Georgia) is the new "Kindergarten." For simplicity, I tell people here that I was a Kindergarten teacher in America... turns out I wasn't that far off from their definition after all! :)

Various adorable uniforms you might see in a Japanese kindergarten.

Back in March, I decided I couldn't take it any longer and made up my mind that I was going to set foot in a kindergarten classroom before leaving Japan. The ALTs in my area are already spread quite thin, so I think that's why we don't have kindergarten visits on top of our multiple elementary and junior high schools (currently I work at 8). While I enjoy working with older students than what I am used to, my heart and solid teaching methods are still back in my Pre-K classroom. Since "internationalization" is in my job description, I figured I could take the initiative and bring a little foreign culture to the local kindergartens.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Golden Week Travels 1/3: Okinawa

So, Okinawa: our main Golden Week destination.  This trip would also serve as our 4th Wedding Anniversary trip (which is actually April 19), since we like to travel around that time every year. There were endless options of course, but we ended up sticking with the main island because that would be the cheapest. A lot of the smaller islands also don’t have mid-range hotels; it was either dorm-style hostels or very expensive resorts. The resort we chose was Rizzan Sea Park Hotel on the main island and it also had several restaurants on-site, which was appealing to us since we could enjoy drinks without having to deal with driving.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring Cleaning

I have a new layout around here, which means I'm in the process of doing some spring cleaning on my blog! If you are a blogger in Japan (or will be soon) and would like to exchange links, please let me know! Or even if it's not your blog, that's cool too. I'm always looking for new JET / Japan blogs to have in my blogroll.

I also noticed that my posts the past several months have been more "me oriented" and not so much with JET. I made this blog for myself, to chronicle this chapter in my life and to keep family & friends in the loop, but I'm not opposed to making helpful articles as well. Is there anything in particular you would like to see? More about driving in Japan? More about what teaching is like? Misconceptions about living in the inaka? I have ideas for my next several blogs, but I'm open to suggestions.

Hope everyone has a great Friday and a lovely weekend! (`・ω・´)”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bike Riding in the Inaka

Traveling is nice. Traveling is fun. Traveling is also expensive, and even though we do it more here than we did in America, it only happens once every month or two. I think getting out and exploring areas nearby is just as fun as traveling sometimes, especially at the turn of the seasons!

Yep, more sakura. Deal with it.

About a month ago, April 14 to be exact, we finally had our first taste of spring up here in our town. I find it interesting that Japan, my area especially, is about a month behind the normal weather in Atlanta that I'm used to. (NOT counting the non-winter they had this year. Ugh. Jealous!) The lack of blogging from January through the end of March can definitely be blamed on winter, haha! So on this particular weekend, we were blessed with warm weather. I'll use that term loosely -- by "warm," I mean there wasn't 3 feet of snow and I couldn't see my breath when I got out of the shower that morning. It was sunny and 55 degrees.

That day Matt and I rode bikes around the bay on a whim. It took up most of the day because it covers 10-12 miles (depending on which roads you take), and we kept stopping to see sights and take photos. Keep in mind we live amongst hills and mountains, so it makes for quite a workout! There's actually quite a few interesting things out here, and I can see why this area has some tourists at certain times of the year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

める の DAILY LIFE #6: Spring Edition

How is it already halfway through May?! And how have I not done one of these since January? Oh well.


( Meru's Daily Life )

This post contains cell phone snaps from 4/1 - 5/15.

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