The Future of this Blog

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This blog was created for my Capstone class. While it might not be updated for a while, I will make it active again when I finally move to Japan! I can then use it to keep the “conversation” going between me, now in Japan, and my friends and family in America. I could blog weekly about my experiences and include lots of pictures! My family already loves the idea so I do think it will be happening! Before I get to Japan, I could even blog about my experience with getting a job and the process that goes with it. I am looking forward to what my future experiences will be and finally truly getting “outside” myself!

Japanese Food

I would love to take everyone on a trip to Japan so we could try some authentic Japanese food, but alas, that’s not quite possible. However, I would like to show you some different Japanese foods rather than just sushi.

Ramen

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More than just the ramen that we college kids buy at Wal-Mart, real Japanese ramen is delicious! Honestly, we don’t have the same flavor in America. The noodles are also very unique and thin. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get in America unless you import it online.

Tempura

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Tempura is seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. Not the most healthy, but delicious!

Miso Soup

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Miso soup actually varies in ingredients based on what region of Japan you are in. It is a traditional soup that is made of dashi stock and miso paste. (Miso is fermented soybeans.)

Takoyaki

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Takoyaki, also referred to as octopus dumplings, is just like what it sounds like! It is seasoned batter filled with diced octopus and other seasonings and sauces. It is one of the most popular street foods in japan. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but I always thought it looked good! It was my favorite food to make on Cooking Mama when I was little. 😛

Bento

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Bento boxes are hand-made single serving lunches, usually in a box container. They are very common for students to take with them to school for lunch. They are usually filled with rice, meat or seafood, and vegetables. There is also bento box art, which can be very elaborate!

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Udon

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Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle that is served hot in a mild broth. It can be topped with deep-fried tofu, fish cakes, chopped scallions, or other toppings.

Mochi

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Mochi is traditional Japanese dessert made of rice flour and filled with sweet bean paste. They can also be filled with other things, like strawberries. Mochi ice cream is also common.

Dango

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Dango is another traditional Japanese dessert that is a lot like Mochi. One special type is Hanami Dango, or Sakura viewing Dango. When it is sakura season in Japan, families commonly enjoy these while watching the sakura trees bloom. The colored ones are specifically for this.

Sushi

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I thought I would finish up this post by included the most well know dish, sushi! Unlike Americanized sushi, note that sushi has the rice on the inside and seaweed, or nori, on the outside. If you would like, take a look at this article on the subject. Sushi is supposed to be simple, in taste and ingredients, not a huge fancy thing. Common guys, Dragon roll? California roll? Not quite authentic names either. 🙂

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I’m not saying you can go and enjoy some sushi at your local restaurant, I think it tastes good too, even if it’s not authentic! But just be aware of what it is. Either way, Japan has some very delicious foods that are unique and different from what we are used to.

 

Music

 

Another reason that I got interested in Japan was the music! In this post, I would like to share with you some Japanese artists that I enjoy. I tried to include some different genres so you can hear a variety of songs from Japan! Without further ado, here are some of my favorites.

Sekihan:

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My favorite singer ever, here is Sekihan and his band SEKI-ROMA. SEKI-ROMA does hard rock and metal, but as a solo artist Sekihan does a very wide variety of music. Here is video from his concert DVD that I have. This song is also produced by Utsu-P, another artist I mentioned on my first post that is my favorite producer!

This video is super cute, and the song actually has a really good story, but unfortunately I couldn’t find it with English subs. Either way, a good song.

 

GOATBED:

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GOATBED is a techno duo known for the lead singer’s very unique vocals. The music is great and can be very upbeat or relaxing.

 

FEMM:

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FEMM is another Japanese duo, but this time two girls! The concept for their band is that they are mannequins so they act like that during fan meets. Their videos are all very unique and I love their songs! Their songs are actually sung in English for the most part.

 

Piko:

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Piko is a solo artist that is actually good friends with Sekihan and they have done many performances together. He is known for his very feminine voice and looks.

 

BABYMETAL:

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Ah Babymetal. These three cuties are the metal queens, and are growing in popularity because of metal fans in America! Just look at how big their crowd is!

 

And there you have it! I’m not saying that all music in Japan is like these artists, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites that I would think many people have not heard of before. As always, send me a message if you have any other questions!

 

Sources for the pictures used in this post are in my first post.

Types of Japanese Street Fashion

As I have discussed before, one of the big reasons I got interested in Japan is the fashion there, specifically the street fashion. I discussed street fashion in my literature review, which can be viewed here, but I did not get to talk about the different fashions very much. Here, I will discuss what makes each fashion unique and include some example photos.

Visual Kei:

Visual Kei is a fashion known for very elaborate hair and usually gothic or punk style outfits, and sometimes an androgynous look. As seen in the photos, the style can be more toned down, or full-out costumes. The fashion has been popular since the 1980s and is also a style of music. This music can be seen as a unique subgenre because it is not just the sound of the music, but also the look of the band that makes it Visual Kei. An example of the music can be listened to here. This style is known for its distinct looks, however, there are not very many rules to it.

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Gyaru:

Gyaru is an interesting fashion that is known for its over-the-top makeup, heavily bleached hair, and tanned skin. Many aspects of it are a direct rebellion against traditional Japanese beauty standards. Tan skin, blond hair, and sexy clothes are a part of the fashion, the exact opposite of what was traditionally thought of as beautiful in Japan. The fashion focuses on “man-made” beauty, like fake eyelashes and wigs, and challenges what is “pretty”. The fashion was the most popular in the 2000s but has since died out. A more extreme version of the fashion is called Manba.

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Mori Kei:

A style that is rising in popularity, Mori Kei, or “Forest Girl”, is characterized by long, flowing, and loose-fitting clothes, lots of layers, natural fabrics and colors, and very little to no makeup. This style is becoming popular because women in Japan love the natural look of it as well as the fact that it focuses on looking (and feeling!) soft and comfortable.

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Fairy Kei:

Fairy Kei is style that gets its inspiration from 80s girls’ cartoons and often features motifs of characters from shows like 80s My Little Pony, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, and 80s Barbie. It is a lot of fluff, sparkle, and general cuteness! The major brand for the fashion, and basically the creator of this style, is a shop called Spank! Here is an interview with the creator of the shop. It has some pictures of the inside of the shop and is worth a look.

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Decora:

Decora is a super fun style that focuses on bright colors and putting on as many accessories as you can! I don’t think I would ever wear it, but I love the look of it!! The pictures are pretty self-explanatory as to what the fashion is like. Bright colors of any shade and any theme. As you can see, some go for a pink look and some go for a primary color look. It is not just for girls, but anyone! One can be as simple or as over-the-top as they want with this fashion. It is just about having fun. View more pictures here!

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Lolita

Lastly, here is my favorite style of Japanese street fashion and the one that I actually own clothes for. Lolita fashion, which has absolutely nothing to do with the book of the same name, is all about Victorian era dresses and their aesthetics. Like those dresses, these ones also focus on modesty, high-quality fabric and craftsmanship, (which is what makes this fashion expensive) and ruffles! There are many rules to the fashion, included how to be modest for it, such as always covering knees and shoulders.There are three major substyles of Lolita as well as

There are three major substyles of Lolita as well as many more smaller styles.

Sweet:

The first substyle is Sweet Lolita. This is the style that I personally wear and like the best. As you can see in the pictures, it focuses on pinks, blues, purples, yellows, and other pastels, but can have other colors as long as it is “sweet” looking. Prints on these dresses are often sweets, cakes, fruits, unicorns, cats, and any other things that are cute!

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Here is a video that shows what the inside of the shop of one of the major brands of Lolita fashion looks like as well as how to coordinate an outfit! Give it a watch, it’s cute!

 

Gothic:

Gothic Lolita is pretty much the opposite of sweet. Colors for it are mostly black and it can also have white, red, blue, or other dark color accents. Print themes can be Halloween-ish, religious, or just a simple pattern.

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Classic:

Classic Lolita goes for crèmes, browns, and dark reds, blues, and greens. Usually, they just solid colors or they can have a floral print. This is a style that many Lolitas convert to as they get older and think that other styles are too childish.

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Other minor styles of Lolita:

There are many other sub-styles of Lolita. Pictured here I have Country Lolita, which is the girl in the straw hat. A fairly self-explanatory style. The one with shorts is called Kodona or Ouji, which is known as “boy-style” Lolita. The blue and white one is Sailor Lolita, and the girl in the fancy pink dress is wearing Hime Lolita, or Princess Lolita.

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I hope you learned something new from this post and I encourage you to go check out more pictures of these awesome unique styles! If you ever want to talk about these styles more with me or have any questions, just shoot me a message. I could talk about Japanese Street Fashion for hours!

More Thoughts from Japan

I have another interview as promised, this time from my friend Shoichi! Shoichi is from Tokyo, Japan. I was not able to interview him in person like I did with Natsuki so he graciously typed up his answers and sent them to me. Here are his thoughts!

What has been the hardest thing about moving to America?

English skills. Most of Japanese are struggling with English even though they have studied it for 10 years.

 

What is the most different thing about America (in comparison to Japan?)

Personality. Americans are more outgoing, talkative, and active then Japanese

 

What is the hardest thing about English?

Speaking. Japanese has a different accent and the grammar style that makes speaking English more difficult.

 

What is something that is normal in America but rude/different/unheard of in Japan?

Saying “Hello” with eye contact when you meet anyone, even strangers. In Japan, it is so weird and sometimes rude. Especially, staring stranger’s eyes is very rude and that looks [like you want to pick] a fight.

 

What is something that is normal in Japan but rude/different/unheard of in America?

Start to eat at the same time (We eat food when everyone sits down and is ready)

 

What was something you had to change about yourself or adjust to once you got to America?

Say “Hello” to everyone (It is so weird in Japan).

 

What is something you would tell people who are going to move to Japan?

[Be] ready to try to speak Japanese. Many Japanese are happy to see foreign people speaking Japanese even though it has many errors, and they are willing to help you if you have any troubles.

 

What would you tell someone to bring from Japan if they are moving to America for the first time?

Japanese food.

 

 

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Japanese Street Fashion and its Significance – A Review

Earlier this year I had to do a literature review for my capstone class, Outside: Your Self in the World. We were encouraged to pick a topic that had to do with our capstone project as well as deal with the theme of getting “outside” of oneself. For this, I focused on how Japanese street fashion is “outside” of traditional Japanese standards. In it, I look at:

  1. The History of Japanese Street Fashion and why it’s Different
  2. The Different Styles of Japanese Street Fashion
  3. The Subcultures of Japanese Street Fashion
  4. Japanese Street Fashion and Globalization
  5. Japanese Street Fashion and Feminism

Give it a read if you would like, I enjoyed doing the research for this. I will be doing a separate post of my own on Japanese street fashion that will go more into the styles themselves. I have posted the link to the document below.

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Thoughts on America

As promised, here is an interview I did with my friend Natsuki. Natsuki is from Oita, Japan, and moved here to Nebraska in the fall semester of 2014. Here are some of her thoughts about living in America and Japan in general.

What has been the hardest thing about moving to America?

The food! In Japan, there is McDonald’s, but nobody goes there. Here, it’s so common! [Talking about all American food] The taste in America is either sweet or salty. I miss Japanese food! It is really hard to adapt to American food because even some ingredients taste different, like eggs and milk, since we’re on opposite side of the world.

What is the most different thing about America (in comparison to Japan?)

No fish! 

What is the hardest thing about English?

Grammer. There are too many exceptions! “er” is a sound that we don’t have in Japanese and also “th”, so those can be hard to pronounce.

What is something that is normal in America but rude/different/unheard of in Japan?

Walking in your house with shoes on. I was so surprised to visit homes in America where they just keep their shoes on, even on the carpet. Even in schools [in Japan], there’s a shoebox area where everyone places their street shoes and then put on a type of Japanese slippers that are only worn inside.

Another is blowing your nose in public. You don’t do that in Japan. You just keep sniffing, and here, that’s rude! (laughs) 

[Here] they’re also very casual with teachers! Talking to college professors in Japan is very formal. Also eating with your hands, like with ribs and chicken legs. We don’t do that. Last thing, when Americans use chopsticks they often stab food with it instead of picking it up with the chopsticks. That’s rude in Japan!

What is something that is normal in Japan but rude/different/unheard of in America?

Homework over the summer. Also on certain days in summer you have to go back to school in Japan. We have week long seminars that we have to attend sometimes in the summer. Another one is slurping noodles is not rude, you’re supposed to.

Every teacher is dressed very professionally in Japan. Here teachers wear T-shirts or cardigans, but in Japan, teachers wear suits or very nice dresses.  We wear face masks a lot. [When you’re sick in Japan, you wear a surgical face mask.]

Bathhouses, Police Boxes. [Public bathhouses are very common in Japan, called Onsens.] [Small neighborhood police stations are on almost every corner in Japan, called Kouban.]

Girls can walk alone at night. You just have to if you’re getting off work late, but it’s a lot less dangerous than here. There’s also swim class in schools and in the summer. Every high school in Japan has it whereas here you don’t have it very often.

What was something you had to change about yourself or adjust to once you got to America?

Clothing style. My clothes that I brought were too fancy, or too girly. Americans wear hoodies and sweats and a lot of sports brands. No cute headbands! Like, I can, but I’ll stand out.  Everyone was staring at me on my first day because I was dressed all fancy.

What is something you would tell people who are going to going/moving to Japan?

People will stare, but that’s only because you’re a different race. It’s not bad, it’s only because they like your looks. They want to get to know you but they won’t talk to you first. Wear something other than jeans and T-shirts, there are a lot of formal occasions that will need nice dresses and suits. Americans have longer legs, so bring jeans that fit you! Shoes as well, ladies size of shoes only go up to 7 or 8 or so. Men’s are kind of like that, too.

[If you’re moving to Japan] Find landlord before you move. There’s a long process for finding a house or apartment and a lot of deposits to pay before rent even starts. Make sure to get a lot of Japanese yen [paper money and coins] at the airport or something, we don’t use credit cards and debit cards as often as Americans do. 

Something to bring from America for Japanese friends?

Reese’s! and English paperbacks are very cool. Like if you have them on your desk, everyone will think you’re so cool. Helps with homesickness as well, having something from your home country.

What would you tell someone to bring from Japan if they are moving to America for the first time?

Comfy clothes, doesn’t have to be fashionable. Bring all seasons of clothes [for this area] Japanese snacks and books [for homesickness]  Japanese games are cool here, people love looking at them. Lastly, make sure to get some American cash.

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Japanese Language Learning

I have spent a long time learning Japanese. It is a lot of work, and it is not simple. Here is a post about what I use, and what I have found since my Capstone project started.

What I use or have used to learn Japanese

To learn the first two alphabets of Japanese, I used an app called Hiragana Pixel Party. I did this way back in high school when I was starting out and I don’t need study these alphabets anymore as I’m fluent in that sense. Hiragana Pixel Party is an app that uses music and rhythm to teach. Here’s the obnoxious trailer for the game, but I promise, it is good and it’s what taught me.

It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Windows through Steam, Windows phone, and I think Android by now. It’s only $1.99 for the full version on your phone, which is a steal.

To learn Kanji, I use a website called Wanikani. Here’s an excerpt from a post I made before about learning Japanese that touches on WaniKani:

To give some clarification on how Japanese works, since I haven’t really gone over it, here’s a pretty helpful and easy to understand explanation from chromlea.com. Short summary from me: Hiragana is used to write words and the grammatical parts of sentences, katakana is used to write words that aren’t from Japan, and kanji, which are the big part of learning Japanese, are words or ideas. They can be words by themselves or be put together with others to make other words. A good example is “戸” means door and “口” means mouth, but put them together and “戸口” means doorway.

Japanese is somewhat simple in that way. Here’s one: “毛糸”, pronounced “keito” (keh-ee-toe). “毛” means fur, and “糸” means thread. So put them together and what do you get? “Wool yarn”!

Another fun one, “天気”, pronounced “tenki” (ten-key). “天” means heaven, and “気” means energy. So “heaven-energy” is “weather”!

But there’s also things like “切手”, pronounced “kitte” (kit–teh). “切” means cut, and “手” means hand, so put them together and you get… “postage stamp”.

Yeah, it makes no sense. However, WaniKani, (my main learning program), uses mnemonics to help you remember all those kanji and combinations to make new vocabulary. The way to remember that one is, “you cut your hand while putting a stamp on an envelope.” Once you spend enough time learning a word, you don’t have to use the mnemonics anymore.

Those have honestly been mostly what I use, I have other apps like Human Japanese and Mindsnacks on my phone that I paid for, and I also bought Genki, a popular textbook for learning Japanese.

Since starting my Capstone project

A few weeks ago, I had a good long conversation with my friend Natsuki about what I am lacking in Japanese and what I need to focus on. We talked for about two hours about what I need to practice more and what I could look into. The JLPT test, specifically the N5 test, is needed to get a job in Japan. It tests on your basic knowledge of kanji and vocabulary. We looked at what is on it and what I knew already. She also couldn’t figure out why I had such a hard time with conversations and we figured it out! I need to focus on grammar and sentence structure so I can learn how to form sentences besides the basics. I also know a lot of vocabulary words, but when I hear them out loud I can’t place what the word is. However, as soon as I see the kanji for it, I’m like “Oh! Yeah, I know that word.” So I just need to keep working on vocabulary until I don’t need to see it to understand what is being said.

After we talked, I found a website called renshuu.org that has free practice tests for the JLPT, and not just the N5, but also the N1, N2, N3, and N4! I have started to use this on a regular basis as well as WaniKani, which I already use every day. I also have a goal of working with my textbook more often and completing the worksheets that go with them.

My last suggestions from Natsuki was to start reading some Japanese children’s books. They would be simple enough to understand and they would give me a better idea of what sentence structure is like. Her other suggestion was to watch some Japanese TV shows or movies to hear Japanese out loud and get used to how fast they speak. I could do this with English subtitles to connect words, but I should also do it with Japanese subtitles so I can connect the words that I’m seeing with what is being said.

I’ve started doing all of this and continued with my studies throughout this project. I also have some Japanese books on the way for me to start reading. My original idea for this project was to have more conversations in Japanese out loud, but I have found that I need to do all this before I can begin that. The program I was going to use to video chat with people from Japan didn’t end up working as well as I had hoped so that ruled out that part. However, I am excited to see how this is going to go in the following weeks. Natsuki has been a great help and she has kindly agreed to continue to work with me on this Capstone project.

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My History with Japan

Almost everyone that knows me knows that I want to move to Japan after I graduate and teach English there. The question that I get afterward is always, “why?”

I have my list of reasons: I want to see the world, I want to travel, I want to get out of small city South Dakota and small town Nebraska, I really like the fashion in Japan, the language is very interesting, etc.  However, I haven’t really told my full story about why it’s Japan I want to go to.

Ever since I was 3 or 4, I have grown up on Studio Ghibli movies. Studio Ghibli is a very famous movie studio in Japan co-fonded by award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki. My very first one was Kiki’s Delivery Service,

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and later another favorite was My Neighbor Totoro. (Our family later had a guinea pig named Totoro because of this movie.)

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These are both only two of the wonderful Studio Ghibli movies that I grew up with. Please check them out if you ever have a chance. Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle are two other examples.

Having seen Japan in these movies, as that is usually where they take place, I always thought it looked like a beautiful country. I loved the look of the language, streets, art, houses, and the food always looked so good! So, just 4 years old, this was the beginning of my interest in Japan.

Later in middle school and high school, I discovered that I really like some of the music from Japan as well as the fashion there, especially Lolita fashion, a type of Japanese street fashion. Here are just a few of my favorite Japanese bands.

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Singer 赤飯 (Sekihan) and his band Source
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BABYMETAL Source
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GOATBED Source
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FEMM Source

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ピコ (Piko) Source

 

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鬱P (UtsuP), a Japanese heavy metal producer. Source

 

And here is Misako Aoki, the top model in Lolita fashion, introducing a piece for a video. This gives you an idea as to what it looks like, but there are many different styles.

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Obligatory selfie of me wearing one of my own Lolita dresses.

Later when I was a junior in high school, I decided to start learning Japanese. Originally I was just doing it for fun, but in my senior year, a friend of mine said she wanted to go to Japan after college to teach English there. I had never even thought of that! The more I started to think about it, the more it sounded perfect for me. I have also lived in Rapid City, South Dakota all my life and I have not been able to travel much. My family can’t afford big trips so I haven’t traveled outside of the states closest to South Dakota and I’ve never been overseas.  Learning that this was a possibility for me and that I would actually get to go somewhere has been another driving force. I have become a lot more serious about learning the language, getting to know the culture, and I’ve been fully enjoying it!

When I entered college, I marked that would like to get an international roommate, and I was paired with my now good friend Natsuki Sato from Japan! It’s been so awesome to get to know her and share stories. I will be posting an interview with her later about some of her thoughts on America and being a foreign exchange student.  じゃあね !