The year abroad adventures of a Scottish otaku in the North of Japan

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The next leg of my New Year trip was across to Jakarta – I was up bright and early (6.30am) in order to get the bus over to Narita airport, nice and quick due to the very sparse New Year traffic. Then my flight at 12.00 to Jakarta. I was fortunate enough to see Mt Fuji on the way out, as well as some of what I assumed was Malaysia, but in that general direction!

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When I landed at Soekarno-Hakatta Aiport, it was night time, humid and about 29 degrees. My only issue getting through the airport was having to wait almost half an hour for my suitcase – my fault for getting to the airport early I guess….I also went out the wrong doors of the airport, so had to double back to find Lizzy (who I was staying with). We took a taxi back into central Jakarta and I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for at least a year! I also got to make up for the lack of fireworks since I saw loads on the drive. Apparently they have fireworks almost every week!

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On my first real day in Jakarta, we just bummed around – taking the car to be fixed and building a stupidly complex Lego windmill (with a very active 6 year old and 4 year old).

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However, the real adventure started on the next day. We were all booked to go (via a speedboat) to stay on one of the thousand islands for 2 days. It did mean we had to get up at ridiculous o’clock to get the boat over, but that was cancelled out because I was able to sit on the outside, watching all the islands go by. I also got to count the ridiculously high number of flip-flops randomly floating by…..

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This is the name of the island – Tiger Island (although there were 2 cats, the island was sadly lacking in Tigers…)

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The best thing we could do on the island was go snorkelling in the nearby coral reef – there were some wonderful fish (one of which bit my finger), coral and even some sea-urchins! I also saw some of the weirdest coloured crabs – purple and green with really hairy legs….

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This also meant we had some of the freshest fish I’ve ever had, for dinner!

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I did kind of get munched on by mosquitoes (my eye swelled up at one point) but I got a decent amount of relaxing done, got to watch a storm rolling in and watched a beautiful sunset from the beach.

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I also got to meet this guy, who seemed determined to sit in my hair….

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Unfortunately, we had to leave on the afternoon of the second day. This boat trip was a lot worse than the first one – the sea was ridiculously rough (so we were constantly splashed with sea water on the inside) and the air con inside the boat was broken (so it was about 40 degrees in there). I felt horribly seasick so I opted for sitting outside and not throwing up on everyone…I had a layer of salt all over my arms by the end of the trip!

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The day after we got back was Sunday, which meant the main roads were closed for a few hours to cars and all the daft people who wanted to go jogging in 35 degree heat, were able to do so. It also meant there were a lot of bikes about, so the kids took their bikes and we went to the shopping centre.

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The best thing about the shopping centre was the fact that there was an ENORMOUS slide going from the 4th floor to the 1st floor. It wasn’t open when I was there, but only adults could use it and had to wear a crash-helmet!

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In the afternoon, Lizzy, Maggie and I went to have a crème bath – this is where you get some creamy stuff massaged into your hair and then it sits for 30 mins (it smelt like Tiger Balm….). We also got a mani-pedi which was very enjoyable!

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On my last day, we chilled out a bit and in the evening went to a Japanese restaurant. It was hilarious – they tried to do the whole ‘Irasshaimase~’ thing and got the shock of their life when I thanked them at the end in Japanese. I had great fun!!

Sadly, it was soon time to leave (my flight wasn’t until 23.40 so I had loads of time to kill at the airport), so I had to get the taxi to the airport. The airport itself was stupidly stressful: the check-in guy thought my visa was out of date, he charged me airport tax I thought was included in the air fare and then had to go through the stupidly complex security procedure (which they blatantly didn’t give two hoots about). However, I got back eventually…..

So, I finally managed to get this post up…sorry about the lateness! Next time will be the excitement of ice-skating and a whole lot of fire – so until then またね!


Yeah, sorry for the cheesy title – if it helps, I now have ‘It’s Chico Time’ stuck in my head….penance I guess.

So as you can probably tell, I’m a little behind in my blogging…..I blame global warming, or possibly the rather large workload I recently been dumped with! However, I have finally managed to find time to get these next few posts up. This one: the AIU festival.

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Now for those of you who have ever read manga, you know that inevitably a school festival will pop up somewhere – this is basically what it is. For those of you who have no idea what manga is, a school festival is like a fair/village fete crossed with a school concert – masses of food, masses of fun and a whole lot of organisation!

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(I’m in the back left corner of this one, honestly…)

As I’ve said  in my earlier posts, I became part of Campus Art and this is what we have been preparing for!

(Look, aren’t we lovely!)

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The theme of the festival was ‘GalaXy: connect the dots’, which followed the idea that, as the universe is ever expanding, growing and changing, so are we. Very inspirational. It also meant we got to draw lots of aliens and spaceships 😀 The festival also celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Akita International University.

We had two days of celebrations that included live bands from the Rock Band club, EAP dances (these are 1st year classes) and a speed eating contest….

I have to say, my favourite bit was all the food stands:

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There was:

– Yakitori (fried chicken)
– Taiyaki (fish shaped batter with red bean paste inside)
– Takoyaki (batter covered octopus)
– Yakisoba (fried noodles)
– Donuts
– Imomochi (fried potato with cheese in it)
– Churros
and so much more….my purse was complaining after a while, my stomach not so much!

The best part of the festival was definitely the night time bit. On the first night we had a huge bonfire, which we all sat around while some of the bands played on stage. The second night (the closing ceremony), we had a display of Kanto (a traditional Akita display, as mentioned in my last post) by our University Kanto team….I felt very involved in this as I got landed on at one point by several members of the team when one of the lantern stands fell over!

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This is my roommate, Chino, who is part of the drumming/fluting section of the Kanto team – only the men are allowed to hold the lanterns, so the women beat out complex rhythm for them.

After this spectacle, we walked back to the main stage (the paths were now lined with lots of tiny candles) to see the closing film – a very emotional production about wishes coming true, working hard and being a bit silly! Just as the video ended, what we think was a special effect (it was too well timed), a shooting star appeared! Even if it was a special effect, it still gave you an adrenaline rush! It was so cool! Then, just as were about to think all our hopes would be dashed, the announcers started a countdown and we got a lovely show of fireworks!! It was the perfect night for it – clear skies, very cold.

Unfortunately, after this we had to start the campus clear up, so Campus Art was taking down decorations until 3am. But do you know what made it worth it? These guys. They are nanaki, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more screaming girls in my life than for these guys….

Well, hopefully soon I should be uploading a little bit about an adventure into the mountains 🙂 Until then, またね!


So, the main event! (thereby losing all credibility on being punctual with my posts….)

We arrived at the Oga festival hall and the outside area had such a festival atmosphere (as we were to find out later). The show itself was an amalgamation of traditional Japanese dances and songs from all over the country (I initially thought it was just Akita, but as it transpired, it wasn’t). The program included:

– Folk songs from Akita

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– Sado-Okesa (a traditional dance from Niigata prefecture)

– A Lion Dance and Eisa (drums) performance from Okinawa

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– Namahage-Daiko (by far my favourite) which was a a drum performance by people dressed as the local demons/deities called Namahage

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Here is (hopefully) a video of the performance:

After the performances, we stepped outside to the sight of all the performers lining the entrance and applauding (shouldn’t it have been the other way around?). We were just getting over being overwhelmed by this fantastic group of performers when the fireworks started going off. Now these weren’t just ordinary fireworks – they were amazingly complex!

Even after this, we were allowed 20 mins at the festival outside where there was a giant (and I mean about the size of a double-decker bus) drum with people sitting on the top.

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On another side, there was a display of Kanto. This is a traditional Akita display where the males balance reeeeeally big bamboo poles with lit lanterns on them. It sounds easy, but these things way at least 9 kilos. The females beat a complex rhythm on a huge drum and play numerous flutes to direct the other males who are chanting.

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Next time: AIU Festival! またね!



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