Tuesday, January 25, 2011

quick&important announcement!

sorry about my absence lately. i've been sick, had a disastrous haircut(pictures neverlater?), been super busy with work and been fighting a constant migraine.

BUT!!!! good news!


Yep, it's official. I'm now $755 more broke, but it's going to be well worth it.

I will be in Japan from March 11th until March 22nd.
I will have some things to do (ie: seeing my friend's graduation ceremony, visiting hosts, and stomping around Tokyo with Caroline and meeting up with Thanh Thao) but if you will also be in the Tokyo-area during this time and would like to meet up, let me know!!

I'm feeling a lot better so I hope to get back to all of your wonderful comments tonight and I have a couple more blog posts I want to get done this week.

And maybe I'll debut this hair that if you've been following my twitter will know has crushed my self-esteem, but I'm surrounded by wonderful and supportive people who have made it a lot easier to make due with♥

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

introducing: "hello nippon" and giveaway updates!

I made a new header and officially named my blog~!
this blog, from henceforth(unless I decide to change it again, huhu~) will be known as "hello nippon"!
I decided on this name because I was searching for something nifty with a hint of Japan in it (since this has become a Japan-related blog). Lots of people had ideas, which were all great, but I decided to go with "hello nippon" after everyone I knew said it was a nifty name.

In case you don't know, "Nippon" is a way to read the characters for Japan [日本]. There are actually two ways to read it, "nihon" or "nippon". "Nippon" is generally a more formal reading, but I thought it sounded better with "hello".

The scan is from the February issue of PopSister.

And now onto more important things~~~!
Giveaway updates!!!

Today I went online to fit Bellaire's shop and purchased some more things for the giveaway I am hosting!

Here are the new prizes!
Baby Mamegoma folder

Happy Sweets Ice Cream Cone letter set [12 Paper, 6 Envelope, 1 Sticker Sheet + Paper]
A Japanese style uchiwa - I bought the one on the right, with the butterfly and pink flowers.
Petit Amour chopsticks with case
Honoka long bentou box (I got the one in pink)
as long with these other prizes~~

Please check this post to see how to enter!!!
The deadline is January 31st at 11:00PM EST! 

I will update again if I buy any more items (which knowing me, I will~ hahaha!) 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

成人の日 or Coming of Age Day

(all images provided in this post can be found over at Tokyo Fashion. Please check out their website for updates on all the fashion of Tokyo)

On January 10th of this year, local offices all over Japan held 成人式(seijin-shiki) or "Coming of Age Ceremonies" to celebrate the young men and women who have reached adulthood, or the age of 20. At the age of 20, it is legal to buy tobacco or alcohol products, vote, and you are henceforth considered a full-fledged adult.

The original "Coming of Age Day" was called "Genpukku" for boys and "Mogi" for women. Boys between the ages of 11 to 17 (the median age being 12) were taken to shrines and given their first adult set of clothes. Also, their hair was cut into a more adult style. The equivalent for girls also included the presentation of adult clothes. (wikipedia)

Nowadays, it's a day that both Japanese and non-Japanese alike look forward to.
For Japanese girls, it's very special because they wear furisode, a special type of kimono worn by unmarried women with longer sleeves than a traditional kimono. This symbolizes they are unmarried and an adult, and thus, are available for marriage. The kimono is usually rented, however, because they are very expensive. Girls also usually get their hair done, in both traditional Japanese and Western styles. They also usually hire someone to help them put on the kimono because it is so difficult!!! Young Japanese men usually wear western suits but some still opt for the traditional kimono with hakama. Often, the young Japanese get special photos taken for their family to commemorate this experience.

Tourists and gaijin living in Japan alike often blog or post pictures from this day, as this is something exclusive to Japan and one of the rare occasions where you can see a large group of Japanese people in traditional Japanese kimono!

Local city offices typically hold the ceremonies in the morning. They invite all of the local residents who will or have turned 20 between April 1st of the past year and March 31st of the upcoming year to celebrate this special achievement and to congratulate and encourage them in their adult lives.

This national holiday was established in 1948 and was originally celebrated every year on January 20th. However, in 2000 the date was changed to the second Monday in January.

Following the ceremony, many young people pray at shrines and then party with either friends or family to celebrate, often until the wee hours of the night!

Links with articles on Seijin no Hi
Tokyo Fashion's 2010 Seijin no Hi pictures
Tokyo Fashion's 2011 Seijin no Hi pictures
The Hub Pages's artcle "The Celebration of Seijin No Hi" 
Wanna Go To Japan's Article "The day of coming of age – 'Seijin no hi'” 
Billy Hammond's Article "Seijin no Hi"
Pictures from Seijin no Hi at My Tokyo Dream
Article about a Seijinshiki on-location shoot at Graphic Noise
Short post with puri from Seijin no Hi from Mechanical Doll

And now some pictures courtesy of Tokyo Fashion!

 Does your country celebrate when someone becomes an adult? Have you ever witnessed Seijin-shiki?

and as a final note, (as I always have in my posts) I am like 90% sure I am returning to Japan for two weeks in March! One of my best friends said I could stay with him and his family! Yay for not having to book hotels!!
Will you be around the Tokyo area? If so, lets meet!!!!!!!

i have a giveaway announcement next :]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Things I Learned in Japan: getting misdiagnosed with the swine flu is not worth skipping school.

First, before I start, I want to let everyone know - I did a guest post over on Finding Tokyo's blog about the holidays in Japan.
Please check it out, comment, follow Hana, and leave us both lots of love! :]
I also wanna give a shout-out to my best blogger buddy, Caroline Josephine at Spooning with a Schoolboy. She's amazing, and recently did a very personal post concerning her struggle with feeling beautiful and loving herself. 

(btw, this post doesn't have our similar coat because I decided to do this post first).
I've also added a blogroll on the right side, so please check those blogs out!
Also, if you're interested in a link exchange, I'm going to be adding a links page, so let me know!

So, I wake up one morning in early December. I'm not feeling too great, but I really just don't want to go to school. No, I wanted to just stay in bed and veg. I get up, mention to my host mother that I don't feel good, that my head hurts, and that my throat is a little sore and ask her to take my temperature.

She does, it's not too high, but she tells me to eat breakfast and sends me back to my room. At around 8:30 AM, she tells me to hurry up, get dressed, throw on a face-mask, and grab my gaijin-pack(my passport, gaijin card, medical insurance card, and a set of 3 phrasebooks with "emergency" and "medical" sections in them) because we're going to the hospital. I'm like, wait, wait, wait - Only my throat hurts! But she insists because I had a "slight" fever. I knew, just knew, this was not going to end good.

Remember last December? The height of all the Swine Flu craze? Japan, the country with the government that likes to scare it's citizens into submission every chance it gets, was in full panic mode. People were urged to go to the hospital with ANY strange symptoms, to always wear face-masks, schools were being closed for it, my own school had a couple classrooms closed (meaning they were banned from coming to school for two weeks). But, my host family always talked about how ridiculous it was and that there was no reason to worry. Or so I thought...

We get to the hospital and a masked man comes out to greet us. The first thing he asks is why we are here. Then I hear it. "My exchange student may have the flu." We had to wait outside, clean off our hands with alcohol, and then after he had double checked with the staff, and we were led into a special "flu only" patient area. Great, leading us into the infected area. I started to protest, I even said, "I don't feel that bad. I kinda just wanted to stay home." She just assumed I was saying this, because she knows of my disdain for doctors, tests, medical treatment, and talking to strange people about my body in a foreign language, so she politely told me to be quiet and just wait for the doctor.

They do the height/weight/oh, you answered me in Japanese! your Japanese is so good/where are you from?/how do you like Japan/do you eat natto? thing before asking me to wait for the doctor. So, I wait. And I wait. And after like 20 minutes, this creepy old dude comes in, starts speaking really fast to my host mom and then leaves. My host mom tells me they're going to do a flu test and then we'll wait for the results and go home.

Now time for the test.
Anyone ever have a flu shot? I'm not sure how they do them in America because I've never had the flu, but in Japan it's borderline "cruel and unusual punishment" which is clearly a violation of article five of the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly (which Japan became a member of in 1956).

A flu test, Japan-style. (google images)
This is how it all went down....
A nurse walks in. She pulls out this long thing in plastic wrapping. She unwraps it. It's a giant Q-tip. She looks at me. "Stacy-san, gomen ne,"("Stacy-san, I'm sorry") is all she says before shoving said Q-tip up my nasal cavity. I don't even get my shriek of horror out before she pulls it out and quickly says, "Owari" ("finished"). My nose hadn't even began to recover before she dashed out of the room.

Another nurse came in with my host mom and said we were free for the next hour until the results came in. So we went to Saizeria. Saize was seriously my first host-mom and I's hangout. She got some kind of gratin and I got the Japanese equivalent of spicy chicken wings and pizza every.single.time.

We came back, and surprise surprise, the test was negative. However, because Swine Flu takes 12 hours to show up on tests after someone contracts it, I was still told to stay home from school and to take all these different medicines, which conveniently enough, did not contact a fever reducer. When we're in the car my host mom tells me the rules for the next few days.
  1. I must stay in my room unless told otherwise, so I don't infect my host-grandmother.
  2. No leaving the house for the next 48 hours.
  3. No going to school.
  4. No studying or videogames or computer, unless it's to watch movies.
  5. No bathing until my fever goes down.
I figure, okay. So no bath tonight. That blows, but tomorrow I'll just wait and see how my temp is and I should be okay, right? Wrong.

So began my solitary confinement.
The first day was alright. My host grandmother ate dinner before me and I was relieved of my duties to clean in the morning and to do the dishes after dinner.

The second day, I woke up. Took my temperature. It was 38°C, which is kind of high, but I was also ovulating during this time period. In case any guys are reading this and didn't pay attention during health class, I'll explain: When a woman ovulates, she often has a low-grade fever. A fever of around 38°C is definitely low-grade.
How I spent my days: fangirling over Johnny's!

This continued all day, and into the next day. On the morning of Day 3, my host mom said that if my fever goes down to 36°, I can bathe. I was feeling better, so when my host-grandmother wasn't around, I snuck out of my room to grab a drink. She came out, I went to make a dash for my room, and she said not to. She asked how I was doing, and after I said I was okay, she told me about how my host-mom was trying to get her to get a flu shot, but she was just baka because I didn't have the flu. Right at that time, my host-mom came home and when she saw the two of us in the same room, she freaked and scolded me for being out of my room, especially with my host-grandmother there.

I took my fever around 3PM and it was 36.2°. My host mom said, "You're good enough to shower tonight" but my host-grandmother turned on me and said, "No. You said 36°. 36.2° is not 36°." And that was that, no shower again.
later on in the year, but notice my Minnie mirror? and awesome deco'd phone? :]

By the next morning, my skin was dry and gross. I could feel the dirtyness on me and it was the grossest I've ever felt. My fever was 37.5° when I woke up. I could have cried. It was Sunday and tomorrow was school. If I couldn't shower tonight, I was not going to school. My host-mom couldn't understand why I was so uptight, so I explained to her the American view of hygiene: we bathe daily. You skip a day, you better take a shower the next night or else you do not leave the house.

As to be expected, my fever did not go down until 10PM when it was finally 35.8°. I asked excitedly if I could shower, but my host-mom said she had to "ask my grandmother in the morning". uuuugggghhh. I told my host-mother that if I could not shower tomorrow, I would die. She laughed and sent me to bed.

The next morning my temperature was the same so my host-grandmother said I could shower. So I asked, "Can I shower right now?!?!" and surprisingly, she said yes. So I took a quick shower and went to my local 7/11 and Cheerio to celebrate~! That night I took another shower and spent 45 minutes in the tub. I was never, ever so thankful to have a shower in my entire life.

So, I learned my lesson: never try to skip school because four days of being denied shower privileges is not worth it. Or, at the very least, never try it during flu season.

Have you ever been diagnosed with the flu? Did you ever have a flu test? What are any experiences you have with the medical care in Japan?

Thank you all for reading!
don't forget to check out:

I hope you enjoyed this post and also that you will come back for my post later this week about "Seijin no Hi" or "Coming-of-Age Day" which, this year, is January 10th (today in America, yesterday in Japan)!

良い一日になりますように , wherever this post finds you♥

Monday, January 03, 2011

Things I learned in Japan: everybody poops.

So, silly me forgot that all the Christmas fun doesn't end until after New Years, when my family has it's final get together, which means I'm not doing the Christmas haul until after I've gotten everything and can take pictures of it all.

**Note: this post discusses bodily functions, which some cultures might find inappropriate and some people might find gross. However, this is a cultural difference I definitely felt was worth discussing. Please bear with me!

I was often sick in Japan, from various colds, being misdiagnosed with the swine flu, and, needing a root canal(expect posts on all of these, haha!).

I had never had an major mouth problems, but I did have braces for a year and a half (from the age of 15 til I was almost 17). I take good care of my smile, especially since it's now worth over 5k, hahaha!

One day my face was swollen. My mouth hurt and I could barely eat or drink anything. I thought I was going to die. Little did I know, after I got a root canal it'd all get better, but that's besides the point.

While waiting for my host mother to return the nurse's call, she had me fill out the mandatory form for visiting the office.
At my school, when you went to the nurse's office, you had to fill out a form that asked the following questions:
Class you came from.
Your symptoms.
What you ate for breakfast.
How many hours your slept.
If you pooped this morning.

Yes, you read correctly. It asked you if you pooped, and if it seemed abnormal, to describe it.

At first I thought I read the kanji wrong, but after double, triple checking my electronic dictionary, I realized it was in fact asking me if I had pooped first thing this morning. 

I was shocked. In America, or at least, where I live, we don't talk about poop. It's not that we absolutely cannot mention it, but I guess we just figure it a personal thing and once you no longer need assistance in the bathroom, if it's normal, we just don't discuss it.

But there I was, in Japan, being asked about my poop cycle.

I am a very curious person, and even though poop is not something I prefer to talk about, I simply had to know why I was being asked this.(how un-Japanese of me, asking why~ haha) My nurse explained to me that, apparently, pooping first thing in the morning is very important for your body to get rid of all the toxins and waste left over from the day before.

She said that when people don't release this waste, it can make their stomach hurt, so when students come in complaining of their stomach hurting, if they answer no to this question, they are simply sent to the bathroom to "work it out".

She asked me if I had ever heard of this, and I answered "no", because, well, it sounded like another crazy Japanese health myth. However, last night I googled it, and it appears it may have some value. Go figure~ haha
Some comic relief - a google images result from searching 「お腹が痛い」 "onaka ga itai", or "my stomach hurts".

I thought maybe this was just something limited to that instance, but once time passed and I started to be able to follow conversations more, which made me realize some strange things in my friend's conversations. They talked about poop a lot. My one friend always announced to our lunch group when she was going to poop, everyday.

Another time, I had a stomachache the day after my trip to Nikko. My host brother and I are, and to this day, remain very close. But we never discussed anything too personal (ie: love lifes, personal problems, and especially not our bathroom business). So, when I casually mentioned that my stomach hurt, I was dumbfounded by his response: 「トイレに行けば?」"What if you went to the bathroom?" I was like, "huh?" Needless to say, I made a comment about just taking medicine and made a quick dash for it. Awkward moment almost avoided.

But, since we're on the subject of potties, lest we not forget one of my favorite things about Japan~!
toilets that make sounds!

yes, there are many toilets in Japan that have buttons on the side that allow you to play an (obviously fake) flushing sound while using the bathroom. Some even have music buttons! Some also come with heaters, which is something I looooved during the winter! haha

Picture of above-mentioned toilet seat. Taken from here
So, essentially, you can talk about your bodily functions but lest someone hear you while doing them!

Even though this is one of the things that makes me go "oh, japan...", I appreciate this because I do not want anyone to hear me pee! Since coming home, it's very hard or me to feel comfortable when I'm using a public bathroom.

By the way, I heard from someone (I think it was my Japanese teacher or one of my Japan-related books) that the reason they started producing toilet seats with these sounds was to cut down on water waste because women repeatedly flushed the toilet. Yay Japan for being more eco-friendly!

I'm a follower of the blog "1000 Things About Japan" and #156 is dealing with potty talk.  I really like this blog so please check it out! It's very interesting for those who have lived in Japan or are simply curious.

Now, this didn't really bother me as much as make me really wonder. Why is it that we Americans cannot freely discuss our bodily functions? Why is it that Japanese people, especially Japanese women, can?

I guess it's simply a difference in cultural norms, huh? What about your country? Does it differ person-to-person? Do you feel uncomfortable discussing it with others?

Also, while searching google for images, I also came across this site, which if you can't speak Japanese might still be interesting. But if you can, I'm sure you'll get some laughs out of it.

And last but not least, please check out my giveaway! It's open until the end of January and I'd really like as many people to enter as possible!

Thank you so much for reading.
Now time for bed!
お休みなさい, wherever this post finds you♥