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

Tag Archives: gaijin

For one, I might actually get a blog post out on time! Get to the shelters, the world might just be ending….

This weekend, it was time for our other big ‘school trip’ – to the Oga Peninsula (up in the North of Akita Prefecture). Oga is definitely where the agriculture nature of Akita becomes fishing – we passed numerous docks with little fishing boats and fields where fishing nets were being untangled. Although our final destination was Oga, we actually took several stops through the journey:

1. Tenno Greenland

2. Mount Kanpu

3. Cape Nyudozaki

4. Oga City Concert Hall (for a special traditional performance)

What I liked about this trip, is that the organisers learnt from the last trip (e.g. giving us a 9am leave time on the posters, but on the itinerary 9.30). We also had a lot more driving between destinations, so had to make do with staring at the lovely scenery instead!

So, after an early start (we had to meet at the buses at 8.40), we were on our way with our first stop being Tenno Greenland. This is basically a large park/road stop that includes a stone age village (rebuilt near where it was actually excavated).

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As much as I enjoyed stretching my legs at the park, seeing the tour groups full of old biddies and seeing all the local produce (you have no idea how tempted I was to just go ahead and buy a mini chilli plant), there was something else that caught my attention even more! We saw a huge spider just casually sitting on the biggest spider web I’ve ever seen. I spent about 10 minutes just trying to get a decent photograph….it was definitely worth it, just for the look on my friend’s face when I showed her the picture!

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After not long, it was time to get on the road again and head towards Mount Kanpu. As we drove along the country roads, coastal scenery started to appear and it felt very like home. We had coast, big mountains and grey weather – it was definitely like a homecoming. As we got closer, I could see what I thought would be the hill, with a little viewing station at the top, and I was hoping that we would be taken to the top rather than having to trek up it. I was granted my wish when we started to make our way up the steep roads and saw the emerging coastal scenery (on both sides)! It was super windy at the top of the hill (again, reminiscent of home) and we were faced with a number of model plane fliers AND a man paragliding from the top of the hill to the bottom. I don’t think he expected a bunch of foreigners to crowd round him and then cheer when he got to the bottom.

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A great number of pictures were taken of the spectacular panoramic view of the little fishing villages and the mountains sitting faintly on the other side of the bay. I may have also had a go at rolling down the hill – I certainly acted my shoe size, not my age, but it was ridiculously fun.
We also had a lot of fun in the little omiyage (souvenir) shop, where the women who ran it gave us free snacks and tried to tells us everything in English. All I can say is bless them! It was adorable.

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After that, it was down the other side of the hill and on to Cape Nyudozaki (imagine me pulling a superman pose)! This is the point of the Oga Peninsula and, coincidentally, on the 40th Parallel. At the site, it has several stones lined up on the parallel and a lovely monument, just to let you know.

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We had our lunch at the edge of a cliff, scrambled down it to explore the rock pools and only then discovered there were stairs. It felt like a day at the beach – I had my boots off and was scrambling over the rock pools, I did some paddling (the sea was surprisingly warm) and we even saw what we thought was a sea hawk, just perching on the cliff. It was heaven (if only the weather was a little better).

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The high point, apart from the sea eagle, of course, was almost standing on (and thereby discovering) a praying mantis, just chilling in the grass. I’ve never seen one of these in the wild before, so it was certainly something to see!

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At this point, I shall suspend my story, as I have a lot of videos from the main event in Oga city! So for now, またね!


As of yesterday, I’ve been here a whole month and I’ve begun to notice little things – nothing important, just odd at times! For example: in the UK you’ll often have birds hanging about, or flying in little flocks. Here? Here it’s swarms of dragonflies. I’m sure they’ll disappear as soon as the weather gets cooler, but for the moment, they’re everywhere!
Anoter thing I’ve noticed, which I was kind of expecting, is the gaijin stare. Every time I get on a train, it’s the look that says ‘it’s a foreigner, I’ve never seen one of those before’. Or it’s the look from another foreigner that’s as if to say ‘what the hell is another foreigner doing up here in the middle of nowhere’. They blantantly missed the signs that said Akita International University…
It’s also rice-harvesting season at the moment, so all the elderly farmers are out in their miniature tractors and their floppy hats. Akita is a very agricultural country but the average age of a farmer here is about 70. Saying that, though, they seem to keep Japan in it’s rice as the region is famous for Akita Komachi rice.
Even though it’s only been four weeks, I think I’m starting to fall in love with this place – I think it’s the same tenderness I hold for Scotland. Akita is a lot more laid back than places like Tokyo and, although you really need a car to enjoy it, it’s surrounded by beautiful scenery. A part of my heart will definately be left here when I leave….
On that poignant note, またね…


Days to go: 31!

I’ve only been to Japan for a grand total of 4 weeks over the last 2 years, but there is so much I find myself missing while I’m back in the UK. Seriously, I get withdrawal symptoms the minute I get on the plane home. Attempting to copy stuff here just doesn’t cut it, either, it’s just not ‘Japan’ enough.

So in no particular order, my Japan cravings (which will be fulfilled the minute I get back into the country:

1. Osakan food
Ok, so I won’t be able to fulfil this one quite as soon as I get to Japan, but I’ll be working on it! Basically, some of the best food you will ever taste comes from Osaka – it’s the atmosphere as well as the food, since Osakan’s are ridiculously friendly! Some of the best Osakan food I’ve tasted is either Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki (and yes I know they’re not only Osakan but they are famous for them!).

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I’ve tried making Takoyaki (rather unsuccessfully with a Pop-cake make) and they didn’t taste as good as when I made them with my host-family last year…Octopus covered in batter and then seaweed/dried fish tastes better than it sounds. I can’t wait have Takoyaki in Osaka again.

2. Ranchipakku

These are basically little sandwiches that are sealed at the edges and contain a vast array of interesting flavours: maple syrup and butter, hamburger, curry, egg. You name it, there’s probably a Ranchipakku with it in! My favourite is the hamburger one, it’s so yummy (mostly because it was eaten at the top of Mt. Rokko)

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3. Manga at an affordable price/Book Off! stores

Book off. What can I say? I would live in this store if I could. It basically sells second-hand books and manga at ridiculous prices (100-500 yen), but the Japanese second-hand isn’t like the UK second-hand. We’re quite happy to give a book into a charity-shop/car-boot sale a bit crumpled, a couple of pages torn maybe. These books are in almost pristine condition!

4. Punctual public transport

If a train says it’s gonna arrive at 10.38, it will (unless someone has jumped on the tracks/there’s been an earthquake) arrive at 10.38. If the platform says the train doors will open at this spot on the platform, they’re gonna. Yes, there is the little issue of being jammed onto a rush-hour train, but hey! It’s fun, and you don’t have to hold on, just follow the flow of the crowd! Enjoy it (and it gives you and excuse to casually jab anyone in the ribs if they’re trying to grope you – yes, it happens!)!

5. The ‘gaijin look’

This can cover two phenomena in Japan. First is the obvious one – ‘gaijin’ is the slang for a foreign person and, outside of the capital, there aren’t that many about. Ergo, you’ll get stared at most places you go and it’s hilarious to watch people pretend they aren’t staring.

This is a great article about it: http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/10/03/fake-book-cover-why-do-japanese-people-stare-at-foreigners/

It’s also fun to listen to what people are saying about you (pretending you don’t understand).

The other ‘gaijin look’ is a less common, but no less funny, one. This is when two ‘gaijin’ catch each other’s eye (on a train/public place/etc.) and then fervently ignore each other in case you get asked for directions or something. It’s bonding in the worst way!

6. Colourful draincovers

These are a wonder in themselves (if you know where to look). Most places in Japan have their own unique design of sewer drain cover – they usually show a local landmark/speciality. I love it when I find a new one when I’m on some adventure.

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7. 100 yen stores

Comparing these to £1 stored here in Britain is like comparing roses to daisies, it’s just not the same…I love shopping in hundred yen stores, especially because they are such good quality – and a great place to get cheap presents!!

8. Gatchapon

What are gatachapon you ask? THESE are gatchapon. Those little vending machines that give you knock off plastic rings and swallow your one and only pound coin? Not in Japan. I saved up all my hundred yen coins and this is a fraction of the gatchapon I bought – there are pokemon ones, blue exorcist ones, hello kitty ones….they’re everywhere!

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9. Real Udon Noodles

Udon stand full of random people, steaming hot bowl of freshly made udon noodles, the sounds of slurping echoing around you. Nothing better and don’t you go comparing them to cup-ramen or I will hunt you down!

10. CC Lemon

CC Lemon is the most amazing drink, mostly since the bottle says ‘with the power of 100 lemons in it’ (the cans have less than this, but they’re still pretty cool). If they weren’t 300 yen a pop, I would probably drink them all day, every day, but ho hum!

CC Lemon! I’M COMING FOR YOU!!!



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