Cheers!

Hi!

As some of you know, I finished and handed in my thesis last Friday! Halfway through I never thought I was going to finish, but I managed and am, honestly, quite proud. Just the thought of failing to complete it haunted me for many weeks and I would wake up at night stressing about some source or other.
       Needless to say, the day I handed it in was cause for celebration! I weight had been lifted off of me and I felt like dancing and yelling "FREEDOM"!!!. Me and my besties thus headed to our local favourite, the sake bar which I have described numerous times before.



My thesis will be published in the near future, although I don't know where (my uni has been very unclear about this). Doing research and writing it was one of the conditions for receiving this scholarship, so I should probably check with the JP gov about the publication. Meanwhile, I'll hold on to my own version as well ;) .

After numerous days of going to the bank, city hall, etc to finish all the administrative festivities that come with returning to one's home country, I went to lunch with a recent Japanese friend. By the way, getting 'in' the Japanese administration is exremely difficult, but getting 'out' is as easy as pie. (unless you really suck at baking, that is. But I digress.) We went to a place called "drink drank" today, which does fantastic smooties and great salads and galettes. My friend had called beforehand if they had something vegan-friendly, and amazingly enough they were willing to make me a vegan salad from scratch. It was kind of a thrown together weird one (which is common when meat eaters are faced with veganism), but very nutritious and very much appreciated. I had the best time and I hope she'll come to the Netherlands soon! (did I mention she can speak Dutch as well since she studied in Belgium?! amazing!)





Lastly, I also got a haircut. Y'all have to wait until I'm back to see it, but the experience itself was really fun. I went to my usual hairdressers with Catherine and they were so delighted to have their favourite European aliens in their salon again.



Anyway, now you're up to date again with what I'm doing here!

I hope you're all having a good week, and until soon,


Nathalie.

Saying Goodbye to Kyoto

Hello there!

In this crazy exam week where my thesis is due and I'm in the midst of prepping for my return home, I decided to take half a day when I didn't have class to go to the last big temple on my list to visit; Byodoin, the fenix hall.
      Byodoin is not near the center of Kyoto. It's actually situated in the city of Uji, which is famed for it's tea, and was the backdrop of ten chapter's of Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji).

It was pouring this morning and I was quite wet when I finally arrived at the JR station. I got breakfast first (vegan bagel, coffee) and took the train there. Luckily the skies cleared and I could walk without an umbrella to the temple itself, passing a statue of Murasaki Shikibu on the way.


I also took a route next to other temples but those were extremely disappointing, even though they seem important given the signs, their size on the map etc. Basically they were run down wooden shacks. hm.

After paying entry I was let in the park. It was beautifully kept, most of the buildings were repainted and the staff was very friendly. I paid an extra 300Y to get into the main hall, which supposedly had an English tour as well (not that I need it) but that was a joke (?) as in, no English anywhere. Nevertheless it was really cool to see the huge golden buddha statue which has been there since 1502 apparently.




After walking around I went around the pond and visited the museum quickly before heading out to the tea-area. I debated whether I should get Matcha tea or not (being frugal and all), but since Uji is famous for its tea and I LOVE matcha, I decided I would. I'm glad I did; it was the first time I had matcha cold, and the glass and goldleaf bowl made it very special.


I almost got lost on my way back actually, but two friendly elderly Japanese people guided me to the station. I had to bend down to talk to them, they were both hunched over from age!

I decided to go to Kyoto station, to find a cool cafe there to sit and finish the last of my thesis (rewriting werid grammar), which took me about 2 hours. I ended up working in Starbucks, where for the first time ever they asked my name and wrote it correctly in Japanese on my cup! It made me so incredibly happy!


All that working and staring at a screen made me hungry, and so I walked to Tokyo Soup Stock (yes, in Kyoto) and had the vegan soup with stone oven baked bread. It was so incredibly good! I have been craving soup for a long time, and although this wasn't the creamy soup I love so much for comfort food, it was still pretty damn tasty. What more could I wish for?


Cravings satisfied I made a last round of souvenir-shopping but ended it early since I was tired and just wanted to shower and go to bed. I still wrote this blog first though.


I can't wait to hand my final thesis in tomorrow. It's scary and offical, but then I'll finally be really done with it and I'm actually quite proud to have done and written my research in Japanese! I think it's going to be publish alongside the other scholarship recipients' theses, but I'm not entirely sure whether I'll get a copy of that as well.

Off to bed now!



Until soon,

Nathalie



Ise and ice-cream

Hi!

So, since I'm counting the weeks now until I go home, it's essential to check off the final places on my travel-list. One of those was Ise, which is a small town where Amaterasu, the sun goddess who is famed to be the creator of Japan, is enshrined. It is a shinto shrine, which are already usually quite simple decoration wise, but this was truly against all expectations. Due to the lack of excessive decorum, the deity's greatest creation, nature, was the center focus  wherever you went. The wood, the leaves, the stones, it was all magnificent in its' simplicity. I'm really glad I went, not only for my never-quenching thirst of temple stamps (yep, got two while I was there!) but also tnique shrine.

We actually didn't have the best start of the day. We already got up a bit late, the journey promised to be a long trainride and we hadn't had much sleep that week. Classes and theses and everything else school-related makes it hard to be able to wind down for both Catherine and me. Then I forgot to take my shoes from my room (we can't walk with shoes inside the dorm so we have to switch from slippers to shoes near the exit) and they weren't in my shoe box. Already late, I ran through 3 hallways up 5 stairs to get them but no, they weren't there. Turns out I had misplaced them and they were near the entrace in a "misplaced shoes" basket. Sigh. So, without breakfast, after this unexpected morning run, we headed to the station. Luckily I could get a shot of coffee but it wouldn't help. I think even a coffee-IV wouldn't have helped at that point in the morning.

Two and a half hours later, after also discovering I forgot the paper where I had written all the transfers on (but my photographic memory saved us yet again) we arrived in Ise.
After debating where to go we finally found a place which also looked vegan friendly and went in (we went to another place first but they didn't serve veggie only things....). The food turned out to be amazing and the staff was very friendly, even though I was mumbling incomprehensible Japanese at that point due to fatigue and 'hangry-ness'. This meal though was going to change our luck.



It took about 10 minutes for the food to make us go from moody zombies to happy tourists and we were quite ready again for some religious awesomeness. So. If everything goes wrong, get a solid meal and sit down a bit. Lesson learned.

Ise's grand shrine has an outer side and an inner one, and a cute little bus carried us back and forth when we needed. No English anywhere of course, and I only spotted two other westerners. Needless to say we felt quite the celebrity again. I'd like to say I'm getting used to it but sometimes I feel like wearing camo instead.



We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the outer walls of the actual shrines, so the above is an image to give you an impression. Can you see the simple structure, the lack of excessive decoration, and the unpainted wood? These shrines were built before any influence from Korea and China entered Japan and so this style can be considered truly Japanese. Every 20 years these structures have to be rebuilt and they leave open space right next to the existing one to do so.

After having seen the parks, temples, and beautiful scenery we went to the old village, which is renovated in medievel Japanese Style. Completely fake but still beautiful and the "authentic Japanese" most tourists are used to. We had a great time visiting the artisan shops, talking to some locals and shopping for some souvenirs.

I also stumbled upon a cat which reminded me of another cat currently residing in Amsterdam... any guesses?


The ambiance there was just lovely, the lanterns and little restaurants were so cute.





But let's get serious. Who cares about temples and history when for the first time in about 5 years you can eat ice-cream. Because it's made of Tofu. TOFU people. Who thinks of these things??
It was SO DELICIOUS. Here is proof;



And if that wasn't enough. I did yoga with a cat.



End good all good.



Nathalie

Early Goodbyes

Hi!

Today I met up with a old friend from high school for a delicious meal and some drinks!
I'm not sure whether I'll see her again before I return to the Netherlands again since we're both busy and live quite far apart, but we made most of the time we had and it was great, as usual :D

Friends who you can meet up with after months and years and carry on talking as if no time has passed are the best ones.

That's it for this post. Going to Ise tomorrow!

Nathalie

A day in Kyoto with Cats

Hey everyone!

This sunday I went to Kyoto with Catherine to visit a mutual friend's theatre performance. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside so we took one together outside. She's part of the traditional theatre group, called Noh theatre here in Japan. I highly recommended looking it up on youtube, it it is highly impressive and completely incomprehensible (whoops)



We also went to eat at one of my fav restaurants in Kyoto.For less than 700Y you can eat delicious chazuke which, as you can see above, is quite a lot and really tasty :D

According to Catherine, the Cat Cafe in Kyoto is something you have to stumble across since it's really hard to find... and we accidently found it! It was on our must-do lists but we really weren't planning to go that day. However, I say a sign with the kanji for "cat" on it, and upon closer view saw that that was the cat cafe!
So after waiting 20 minutes, we paid entry and cuddled with the cats.



The cats weren't really touchy or into the people, and I must say, I think they weren't treated all that well by the owners. They weren't cuddled softly but kind of hit on their fur and there were no toys whatsoever; you had to rent them if you wanted to play, but since it's so expensive no one does it. Hence, they don't get played with as much as they need.
All in all, interesting experience, but I'm not sure whether the whole idea of the Cat Cafe is such a good one.

Anyway, going to Osaka tomorrow for a few errands, and this weekend Ise is finally  on the agenda!

Lastly, I'm SUPER busy with my thesis, almost done but still far to go.

I'll keep you posted!

Nathalie

Reunion with friends!

So,

some of you might know that 3 years ago in France, Me and Kim met up with a Japanese friend from High School, and met a new French friend. We instantly became best friends and kept in touch throughout the years, emailing, messaging, sending pictures and even letters by snailmail. Last week, we were finally back together and it felt like no time had passed at all.

Except we were now able to drink alcohol; so we went to a beer factory. And a whisky factory. The father of our Japanese friend has a contract with the Suntory liquor factories so we were treated as special guests everywhere and received samples, bottles, etc of al the goods. Needless to say, we had too much fun!



And of course we also went to Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Lots of temples and lots of ridiculous moments!


That was it for now.

All the pictures were taken by Kim actually, so if you went to check out her blog, here you go; http://kimintokyo.blogspot.jp/

Best,

Nathalie

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Totsukawa Bus Tour

Hey everyone!

Today I just want to mention a bus tour I went on last weekend, together with the Nara Prefectural International Exchange Saloon. We went all the way down to the most southernpart of Nara prefecture, to the tiny, mountaineous village of Totsukawa.

The bus took us to the longest and highest suspension bridge in Japan, of which there are several scattered throughout the area. Totsukawa has almost no natural disasters, aside from landslides. The results of which were pretty visible in places where the mountain had a 'bald' patch. The bridge to me seemed like the perfect "earthquake training" wobbly and shaky but, unlike earthquake, pretty fun :D



Since I'm really into hiking, me and a friend hiked up to a viewpoint while the other's had lunch and relaxed. The view was amazing, the water was a beautiful cobalt and the extra excercise was nice after sitting in the bus so long.

We also went all up a few mountains, where a unesco trail crossed the street. There were literally 2 houses, and 1 bus a week that went up the mountain twice only on that day.... It was really beautiful but must be a lonely place to live as well.

I sneaked off a few times to get more alone time, since Japanese bus tours can be quite exhausting; the tour guide is ALWAYS talking, you have to keep on schedule all the time, you're always surrounded by people, etc etc. Me and my friends made the best of it and I loved the mountains! I don't think I've ever seen so many shades of green!! Sometimes the mountains seemed blue from a distance, so beautiful.

Also, don't mind our closed eyes in this picture; the light was REALLY bright despite the clouds.



I also sneaked a picture of a man working, when we were walking around in between the little rice paddies on the mountain.

The picture above is from the biggest cluster of buildings in the whole village, which is a bit spread out over mountaineous roads (one track, steep, slippery ones....). We stayed in a beautiful Ryokan which had onsen. I was really excited for the opportunity to try onsen, but for some reason I had an allergic reaction to the water (!?). Almost immediately after being immersed in the water my skin felt very tight, got red, etc. I stuck it out for 10 minutes and then jumped out to lather my body in any calming cream I had with me :'). Other than that, still cool to have tried it once. Also, how did I not know Onsen smell like bad eggs?

On a side note, a lot of you have asked when I will be returning to The Netherlands. I can't really tell you that much, but I will definitely be back halfway through August. Please give me some breathing room here, I've had quite a year here, and still over 2 months to go.

Best,

Nathalie

Family travels 1

Hi!

Long time no blog!
We've been travelling for the past two weeks and I'll be updating very picture heavy posts without too much talk ;)

First I want to show you the Kurobe-Tateyama Alpine route. It's not the first place we

went to but I've already edited some of the pictures (I need to resize all of them for the blog) so it's the first I'll post about :)

We first traveled by rapid train to Toyama from Kyoto, past Biwako Lake. The next day we took a private railway train (een mooi boemeltreintje) which took about an hour amidst rice-paddies and beautiful scenery all the way up to a




From that train we took a suspended cable car to another station, from which we could get a bus to the area with the snow walls. It seems tedious but it was good fun and really beautiful.




The snow here lasts until about June and reaches a height of about 16 metres. Because of the compressed nature of the snow layers (sediment-snow!) it doesn't melt from top to bottom but only from the sides where the heat of the people on the outside etc cause a bit of melting. It was chilly here but not too cool either, with a jacket or an extra sweater you're fine :)

After a few hours there with stunning views we headed back again to have a great meal in a restaurant/bar across the street from our hotel! (and a few too many beers ;) )



Next day we went to Kanazawa, so more on that later!

That's it for today :)


Nathalie

Semester Start II

Hi!

So, my first week of classes is coming to a close! Phew! In my uni (and I suspect all over Japan) you still have to register for courses on paper (!!) and before you decide which courses to take, you can 'test'-take them before entering officially. Oh, and there is never a case of "you cannot be registered for this course. It has reached maximum capacity" problem which is usually the case in Leiden or European uni's which are bigger than my teeny weensy Women's Uni.

Anyway, I'm taking 5 Japanese courses (Listening, Writing, Grammar, Grammatical Expressions in Writing, and Prep for the JLPT class) then I'm taking two French courses on the highest level available (I'm lovin' it!) American Literature and Poetry (so slow I'm not sure I'll continue....) and.... Japanese Law! The French and Japanese Law get me so excited you guys! I've always loved French and the oppurtunity to catch up is really nice, and the teacher is amazing :D Then there's the Japanese law, in which we will discuss Criminal Law, Civil Law, and the jury system of Japan. It's given by a real lawyer and he's actually a better teacher than any of the other lecturer's I've had so far! I'm a bit scared as to how I'm going to pass the tests etc (it's all in Japanese ofc) but for now, I'm keeping up and understanding everything :D
In addition to all of this, I'm also writing a thesis in Japanese, for which I'm now doing my research. So far so good, I think I'm on the right track source wise and rethorically so if I can continue this I'll be done sooner rather than later :)

In other news, my parent's will be here in about a week (eek!) and I'm really happy about that as well :) I will not be posting during the length of their stay and what I will post about our trip will be limited for privacy reasons, but suffice to say we'll be travelling cross-country and visiting some exciting, new, unknown spots!

Now, on to my French homework!


Nathalie