Sunday, 29 June 2014

Happiness is... #8

... realising that your student's mother stamps totoro stamps onto your pay envelopes. 

d'awww, now I can't throw them away! 
This semester is the first semester where I'm actually working (more than once a week). It's pretty interesting having to juggle work, school and leisure time.

Friday, 27 June 2014

How To Renew Your Student Visa

Time is definitely flying past me. And one way time slapped me in the face to let me know that this is my third year in Japan (so fast? I still feel like I just came!) was by having my visa come close to expiring.

If you've been following this blog (hello! Thank you!), you should know that I've been driven to tears in my attempt to renew my visa. So, to help all you awesome kouhai's out there, I'll be sharing with you my mistakes so that your visa renewal application (when you have to apply). is much smoother.

Mistake #1: Applying at the wrong time. 

I actually tried to renew my visa in... March. Yeah March. I wanted to get a new handphone, since my current one is giving my loads of problems, but Softbank refused to sell me a phone unless I had more than 2 years on my visa. <- This is a whole 'nother topic for another post.

But then, I found out: You can only apply to renew your visa three months before your visa expires.

Mistake #2: Not informing the school

I basically made a lot of wasted trips to the immigration office. There was that one time where I went too early, and the other time where I went there and found out I needed the school to stamp on a few documents for me. And that's when I realised - I really need to inform the school.

Digression: I don't actually mind the wasted trips because the immigration is at the airport, which is less than half an hour from my house. And I like airports anyway. For you Tokyo people, you don't need to go to Haneda or Narita (thankfully), I heard that the offices there are in Tachikawa and Shinagawa.

What you need to bring to the school:
- 1 Photo (taken within 6 months)
- Your student card (学生証)
- Passport
- Gaijin card

*Note: This may vary from school to school, so do go and ask*

You'll have to go to the International Student counter to apply. Remember, it may take a few days, so don't leave this to the last minute.
You probably have a place like this in your school. 

Other things I needed to get at school on my own were the certificate of enrollment (在学証明書) and academic transcripts (成績証明書)
Look at them, all official looking. 

If you're at Kyudai, you can do that automatically at these machines in the office:

I find it super cool! All you need is your gakuseishou. 
By the way, my school actually left out one section, which meant the office had to mail back the application form, I had to refill it in, and submit it again. So, check to make sure things like dates are all filled in.

What to bring (my mistake: not having the appropriate stuff)

Actually, those were my two biggest mistakes. They were annoying, so be sure you avoid them and you'll be find.

Now, for the application process itself.

The application process actually took less than an hour. I arrived about 1 hour 10 minutes after office opened on a Thursday (you may want to go on a Weekday that isn't Friday to avoid the crowds). All I had to do was to submit the forms and write my address on a postcard that will inform me of the results.

The results are supposed to come within two weeks (assuming that there are no problems).

And once the results come, well, congrats! But don't forget to bring the following four things:


1. Passport (also see item 4 of the picture, my application receipt was stapled in my passport, so I'm treating them as one item)

2. Gaijin card.

3. Revenue stamp.

Wait, what's a revenue stamp? What kind of stamp costs 4000 yen?

Top right: Revenue stamp
I saw the word stamp, so I merrily went to the post office to get it. For reference, the revenue stamp is called 収入印紙 (shuunyuuinshi). I actually didn't know what it was called, since my card was in English, so the post office people had to bring out their dictionary to check :p

I read online that you can buy them at Post Offices (which I can confirm), the immigration bureau (probable, since the lady there asked me if I needed a stamp - either that or it's somewhere close) and certain convenience stores (I have no idea about it, so if anyone knows, please tell me so I can update this post).

All I needed to do was bring the four items above to the immigration department, wait a while, and voila, a renewed visa!

Reference/Extra Information:
English guide by the immigration department. 
Immigration office:
Fukuoka - Fukuoka Airport. Check the opening hours here. 
More about Revenue Stamps

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The World of Yamamoto Nizo Exhibition

Quick question! What do Princess Mononoke, Fantastic Children or the Girl Who Leapt Through Time have in common?

Well, they're all films that Yamamoto Nizo has worked upon as an Art Director. And right now, there's a special exhibition at the Fukuoka Asia Art Museum called The World of Yamamoto Nizo: Master of Japanese Animation (link actually leads to an English page, so go click and read if you're interested)!

On Monday night, my friend Kaori invited me to go to the exhibition with her on Tuesday, and I'm so thankful that she invited me!

Outside the Ticketing Booth.
Tickets were 1200 yen for us (adults). They're a little cheaper for school-going children, but I've forgotten the price ^^;

Outside the exhibition area, they had a small photo-taking spot!


It's basically a small woods like place that looks really really like the setting of Princess Mononoke.
Me and Kaori <3 Thanks for giving me permission!
The exhibition itself was really good! They had over 200 pieces of Yamamoto Nizo's works on display. What I noticed was that his depictions of light are really accurate (ok, I guess all good artists are like that, but this is the first time I noticed!)

In addition to the artworks, there were two places where they showed videos - one video where he was teaching a group of children in Nagasaki how to paint (lucky kids!) and another where he was painting a picture and talking about how he painted.

What I found interesting was that he's worked on a variety of projects. Apart from the uberfamous Ghibli movies (and non-Ghibli films and animes), he's also created two apps, drawn posters for his hometown, and for the March 11 earthquake.

One of his apps is called 歩き屋フリルとチョコレートきしだん (arukiya furiru to chocore-to kishidan - Frill and the Chocolate Knights), which is a picture book. It looks gorgeous!


Another app is a Four Seasons app, and part of the proceeds to go charity (I can't find a video for it, though it is mentioned in his website).

The last part was the obligatory gift store, and uncharacteristically, I bought a lot of things (mostly postcards and two prints).


One of them is for my friend, but the rest will be given away at my birthday party this year :D Yup, I'm making preparations that early!


If you're interested in finding out more about him, he has a website. It's all in Japanese, but you can click around and admire his beautiful pictures :D

Monday, 23 June 2014

My First Kabuki Show!

Sometime back, I blogged about 船乗り込み (funanorikomi) and mentioned that I was excited to watch my first Kabuki show. Well, yesterday was the day! Thanks to KUFSA (Kyushu University Foreign Students Association), I got to watch 劇団やまもも (gekidan yamamomo - Yamamomo acting troupe) for free at 那珂川 (Nakagawa).

Before the show. 
Once we arrived, we we brought to a room where they had some snacks and drinks for us. There, they gave us a brief summary of the play (in both English and Japanese) and chose the people who'd give flowers to the actors later.

Guess who volunteered?
Me! 
We also received our tickets then ^^
Ticket and flyer/summary
Here's a slightly clearer view of the flyer. 


The show was divided into two parts. Part one featured traditional Japanese dances and songs.
Pre-show excitement! 
 Sorry for the really small pictures >< I wasn't sitting very close to the front.

Traditional song and dance
 The 'highlight' of the first part was this lady, who was the guest star. She sang three songs, and while they weren't normal Jpop, they were actually really nice.


I found one of her songs on Youtube!



These type of songs are probably not going to be on my regular play list, but it's nice to hear a new genre now and then.

Part two was the actual play. The play is called 瞼の母 (Mabuta no haha). I'll be telling the plot alongside the pictures, but for a full version of the story, I found this webpage. Click on the link to read the story in detail.

The story starts with Hanjiro, as he runs away from some bad people. Unfortunately, they come after him.

The three gangsters and Hanjiro (with his mother and sister)
 When it seems like all hope is lost, his friend (and protagonist of this play) Chuutaro comes and fights the three robbers.
Fighting under the sakura tree
And he ends up killing one of them. He writes a letter to take the blame and leaves, giving Hanjiro a second chance at life. 

The guy on the left is super funny! 
One year later, in Edo (Tokyo), Chuutaro finally finds his mom, the owner of a place called mizukuma.

 Unfortunately, she denies that he is her son and makes him leave, never to return. After that though, she regrets it, and with her daughter, goes to search for Chuutaro.


However, some of the bad people from earlier one lie in wait for Chuutaro, and after a fight, he kills both of them.

Can you see him hiding?
So when his mother and sister come looking for him, he hides behind some reeds. When they leave, he goes away all by himself.

Despite this story having a sad ending, it was actually pretty humorous. The actors had some funny lines and the audience burst into laughter quite a few times. In fact, we were laughing even before the play started. You see, the play starts with a song, which ends with a very dramatic おっ母さん (okkaasan). Almost immediately after, the entire audience heard a little kid mimic okkaasan and everyone burst into laughter (there were actually quite a few kids there).

After the whole show, it was time to give the actors flowers!

I think almost all of them got at least one bouquet. 
And after the show, the actors went outside to talk to the us. It was really fun, and I got to take a photo with the actor I gave the flowers to!


The actors were really nice to all us students, and other students even got to try on the headpieces and play with the sword.

My friend and the actress that plays Chuutaro's sister. She's so pretty! 
The actors did a great job too! They're amateur actors, but they spent three months rehearsing. And they rehearsed every night! I actually thought they were professionals because they conveyed their emotions to the audience very well.

Although the Japanese was pretty difficult (I understood maybe half of it?), I somehow understood and enjoyed the play, thanks to the summary and an introduction before each scene. I don't know if this is the same for all kabuki plays, but it was a lot more accessible than I expected. This was a really fun experience(:

Thursday, 19 June 2014

MacDonald's Japan World Cup Menu (Part 1?)

It's officially World Cup season! While I don't really keep up with football or sports, World Cup is one of the few sporting events that I actually watch (the other event is World Cup). Thankfully, NHK streams the matches live, so I can watch them from the comfort of my home.

Assuming, that is, I manage to wake up.

Why are the matches always held in such inconvenient timezones?

But anyway, in honour of the World Cup, MacDonald's Japan came up with a pretty cool menu. I first knew about it when my cousin messaged me to tell me how jealous she was that I could actually try the things on the menu.

MacDonald's Japan 1 - MacDonald's Singapore 0

However, I realised that MacDonald's Singapore actually screens the World Cup matches. If the MacDonald's here did that, I would definitely spend a lot of time there during World Cup season.

MacDonald's Japan 1 - MacDonald's Singapore 1

So it's currently a tie. But, this is irrelevant to how the menu tastes anyway. For a full menu (in Japanese), you can click on this link. I've tried quite a few things on their World Cup Menu, and I'm impressed enough to want to try more.

(By the way, there is also a coupon campaign, but I'm too lazy to participate. Oops.)

The first meal - I'm lovin it* (*it = french fry package cover haha)
 The first meal, which I actually had a while back, would be the German Burger Pork Schnitzel and Italian Risotto Ball.


The German Burger Pork Schnitzel. This was actually better than I expected. The mushroom sauce was really good, and even made the onions taste good (and I don't like vegetables). I would say that the sauce is what makes this stands out.

The risotto balls.
 The risotto balls were awesome! They're definitely my favourite thing on the menu so far! They have two flavours:

Squid Ink - which was just black.

I may have had more than one nibble before I remembered to take a photo. 

And tomato - definitely a hint of tomato in here

Slightly more self-control here. 
I love both because come on, their friend balls of rice stuffed with cheese. You cannot get any better than that. CHEESE.

And from my meal today:

Creme brulee McFlurry
 The Creme Brulee McFlurry was quite good, although I've forgotten what creme brulee is supposed to taste like, so I'm not the best judge. I really like the caramel taste though! And the caramel bits in the ice-cream were a nice touch!

Chicken Cordon Bleu burger
 I must say, I was most excited for the Chicken Cordon Bleu burger because I love that dish! However, the burger wasn't a chicken patty stuffed with ham and cheese, but rather, a chicken burger with ham and cheese.

See? Nothing in there. NOTHING. 
It's a good thing the cheese sauce was good, because that saved this burger.

I'm curious, what are the Macdonald stores in your country doing for the World Cup? Anything special? Do share with me!

And now, I'm going to mentally prepare myself for tomorrow's morning's match. The two teams I support (England and Japan) both lost with the same score in their first matches, so I'm hoping they redeem themselves in their next matches. Again, they're playing on the same day and again, I can only watch England's match and the first 10 minute's of Japan's match.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Movie Review: Dimensional Sniper (Detective Conan Movie #18)

Because my life has been settling down lately, I don't have anything interesting to share (I haven't gone anywhere interesting). I'll be writing about my clubs soon, like Magdalena suggested (I'm still deciding on which club to write about, since I barely go to any of them. Whoops). So since I went to watch the 18th Detective Conan movie today, I figure I should write about it.

Found the poster at Detective Conan World, actual poster by the company.
Oh, and to let you know, watching this movie was surprisingly troublesome. The theatre only shows it once a day, at 8.55am. My friend and I actually planned to watch it together, but last week I woke up late and this week she woke up late. So I ended up watching the movie alone. Me and about four other people in the theatre.

I guess no one else could wake up either.

Woohoo, finally! 
The movie itself was fantastic! At first, I thought the movie would make some progress on the Black Organisation, but it turned out to have no relation to that. The only new information was about the identity of Subaru Okiya, and it more or less confirmed one of the fan theories I support!

Ahem, ok, a proper synopsis. Basically, Tokyo is being terrorised by a sniper. The public thinks he's killing people indiscriminately, but the Police and the FBI know better. They suspect an ex-SEAL named Timothy Hunter, but as the case goes on, who the real culprit is gets more and more obscured. Of course, Conan is on the case, this time aided by Sera, a relatively new character with a few secrets of her own.

In this movie, Conan basically becomes a superhero. He does all these death-defying tricks, and somehow still doesn't die. It's slightly more realistic than say, Prince of Tennis, but then again, Prince of Tennis basically laughed at the laws of physics, so this isn't saying much. I think that the normal anime series treats Conan's physical capabilities better, because he is, essentially a teenager in a child's body and thus has all the physical limitations of a child.

Another random observation is that there was a lot more English used in this movie than normal. But then again, one of the top suspects is an American (ex-SEAL) and so are quite a few of the victims. I was really pleased to see that the English-speaking parts seemed to be voiced by actual native speakers, unlike Jodie-Sensei and Vermouth, who speak in Japanese-accented English.

If you get the chance, you should definitely watch this movie. Actually, if you don't even know about this series, then it's time you start. There's a lot to catch up on, so if you're the sort looking for something to consume your days, you can start with the manga (I actually reviewed it, so click on the link if you're interested :D), anime and multiple movies and OVA's out there.

Movie Trailer:


P.s. I just realised that Kou Shibasaki, who starred in Detective Galileo, one of my favourite J-dramas, sang the theme song of this movie! Guess what song I'll have on repeat for the next few days?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Kyushu University Year 2

Hello readers. We're taking a break from the regularly scheduled posts about my life in Japan to look at (focus on a few random things anyway) life as a student in Kyushu University. This is really for my juniors like +Inas Wafiya Haryanto (poor Inas, I always tag you because I talk to you the most) who will be deciding which university to pick later this year. And of course, if you're thinking of coming to Kyudai to study, this post might come in handy for you too! 

Ok, so we're now past the halfway mark in my first term of my second year of Kyushu University, so I think it's time for an update on how life in Kyudai is (if you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll be sure to answer them/create new posts).

Lessons
Last semester, I attended a QREC course called Technology Marketing II. We used this software called Markstrat which MBA schools also use, and it was basically a really fun course. You can read more about QREC here. I know I've mentioned this class in the previous post (along with another class), and the teasers must be killing all of you good students out there, so rest assured, I'll post a review of the class soon.

*crickets chirping*

No one wants to hear about my fun classes? Too bad, I'll probably still blog about it anyway. More information is always better when you're making your university choices.

And with good news, last semester was also the first semester where I had 全休 (zenkyuu) which is a full day without lessons! I managed to schedule it on a Monday too, so I had a three day weekend for the whole semester. How was this possible? Well, I took the mandatory TOEFL and scored high enough to skip several (but sadly, not all) English modules.

This term, I'm taking Bahasa Indonesia in the Hakozaki campus! In fact, I'm spending a lot more time at the Hakozaki campus, which is run down but very convenient to go to, so I've got a 乗り放題 (norihoudai - ride all you want) subway pass. There are student prices, so it's much cheaper than buying the one-day pass all the time.

Campus
I mentioned the Hakozaki campus in my previous paragraph. "Wait a minute" you say "I thought you were at the Ito campus!"

Well, that was last year. From this year onwards, I'll be spending more time at the Hakozaki campus. In fact, from the second semester of this term onwards, I'll probably be spending all my time there, and won't have to go back to Ito!

Hakozaki campus in Spring.
If you're wondering how that looks like, I went sakura viewing there, so here are the pictures.

Misc. Things
I can definitely say that this semester has less work than the previous years. I'm told that the first semester of the second year is the semester with the least amount of lessons, and so far, it's holding out to be true. I did, however, join a lot of things*, so I'm probably busier than I was last year. Oh the irony.

*things: "things" here mean quite a few clubs, and baito (part-time work). I've had my profile up on a few sites since the end of last year, but it's only been this semester that I've started getting more requests. I'm teaching about three times a week now, but it does vary on when my students (and I) have time.

One other thing that I feel compelled to add is that Kyudai actually mailed my parents (in Singapore) my results for last year. I don't know if that's normal for all universities, but it was a shock to me and my family. Good thing I always tell them my marks, so it's not like they had any unpleasant surprises when they looked at my grades :p

My dad is super impressed with the school because of this though.

If you're still curious about how life in Kyushu University is, you can look at my first post about Kyudai, and an update about the second semester at the links.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Mitaka Ghibli Museum Review

My book review of A Geek in Japan reminded me that I wrote a review of Ghibli Musueum. Once, a long time ago (so about two years?) for another site. Unfortunately, I can't find that site (if you do know what site it is, please let me know!), but I did save a copy of the review. So here it is, enjoy! 

How many of you are Studio Ghibli fans? You know, the company that produced Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro (among many other excellent films)? Well, if you are a fan, you have to make your way to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka at least once.


The view as I went into the museum. 
First things first: Tickets. After a botched attempt to buy tickets a week before Golden Week, my friends and I learnt our lesson and bought our tickets way in advance. I’ve heard that the guideline is to buy your tickets at least a month in advance.
Ticket bought from lawson
But even with a limited amount of tickets, the museum is still very crowded. The museum is basically built like a very (big) charming house and has a cozy feel to it. It consists of three levels and has exhibitions, a cinema, a small play area and of course, a gift shop and a cafe.

This staircase was cramped but still fun to climb!
When we arrived at the museum (we walked but there’s actually a bus from Mitaka station. Just follow the signs), we were greeted by none other than Totoro! It’s actually a sign of what the museum is like – fun with lots of attention paid to details.

Tickets please! 
Included in the ticket price is one movie screening at Saturn Theatre. The small movie theatre screens an original short film about 3 times an hour. When I was there, I watched a movie based on My Neighbour Totoro. It may be that the film caters to small children, but I found the Japanese to be very easy to understand, and anyway, you don’t actually need to understand Japanese to appreciate the movie (there aren’t any subtitles, unfortunately).

The exhibits are basically a behinds-the-look scenes at how a movie is made. There aren’t any rides, but the attention to detail is amazing. Be prepared though, to shuffle through the rooms in a line with many other people. Another exhibit (I’m not sure if it’s permanent) was one on fairytales, with lots of beautiful pictures of (mostly western) fairytales as well as a few translations of Andrew Lang’s fairytale books.

For younger children, there is the Cat Bus Room. The Cat Bus Room is basically a small play area consisting of a giant “Cat Bus” from the movie My Neighbour Totoro. Unfortunately, it’s only for those in elementary school and under so those young at heart (like me!) can’t play on it.

The gift shop is small and quite expensive. But there are some really lovely gifts there (like cookies and candies and shirts).

My favourite part of the museum were the small surprises that came from painstaking attention to detail. From the bathrooms that don’t look like bathrooms:
Isn't it adorable?

Seeing Chihiro and Haku (Spirited Away) on the stained glass:

My first, and fave Ghibli movie! 

“Doors” that appear at random places:



And coming across a pump that worked:


And of course, a window full of sootballs: 



They all add up to a magical experience.

Details:
Address: 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 1881-0013
Closest Station: Mitaka
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 (Straw Hat Café is open from 11:00 – 19:00 but customers are not permitted to enter after 18:00), closed every Tuesday, Year-end and New Year’s holiday.
Price:           
Age 19 and over – 1000 yen,
Age 13-18 – 700 yen,
Age 7-12 – 400 yen,

Age 4-6 – 100 yen.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Owl Cafe Fukuoka (Review)

Japan has made the cat cafe popular. Recently, owl cafes have become popular. While I've never been to an cat cafe before, I've been to the owl cafe in Fukuoka three times (in my defense, I was bring people there). If you're in Fukuoka, this is definitely a place you should visit (unless Singapore suddenly starts an owl cafe)

The cafe is located near Canal City at Nakatsukawabata. To get there, you have to get out at Nakatsukawabata (中津川端) station, take the exit towards canal city and walk down this path:

The decorations change according the the seasons. 
All the way down, just before you see the escalator to canal city, you will see the shop (it's next to a tea shop, which is next to Hana Hostel).

The sign of the shop. It just says "Owl shop" in Japanese
The cost is 1000yen for one (non-alcoholic) drink and slightly less than one hour with the owls (although it does seem like you can come in halfway through a session and spend less time with the birds. You can leave earlier too).

For alcoholic drinks, it's 1200 yen.
One important thing to remember is that reservations are required. You can make them on the same day, so you can conceivably go there, make a reservation, head over to Canal City to eat with Moomin (yes, it's that restaurant that seats toys with you - all customers get Moomin, not just the lonely ones) and then come back for your time with the owls.

Make sure you get to the shop five minutes before the appointed time.

When you go in, you will be guided to the second floor where your order will be taken.

I think this table is so cute! There are plants growing in the middle! 
 These were our drinks: You have to leave them at the table when you're petting the owls, so it may be easier to order something that you can take with you when you leave the place.

Again, cute cup *squeal*

Before anything happens, your have to sanitise your hands with the hand-sanitiser on the table.


By the way, the sheet on which the hand-sanitiser is resting is a guide on how to approach the owls. If you don't speak Japanese, an English guide is available upon request. However, the briefing is done only in Japanese.

The wall, decorated with these cute owls *more squealing*
Before you get to go down to interact with the owls, there is a briefing about how to stroke them and which owls you are not allowed to bother (basically, those that are resting). In addition, you are not allowed to take any videos due to privacy issues, although you may take as many photographs as you like.

And as you can expect, I have many many photographs of the owls (and with the owls too).  They are just too adorable!

This owl disagrees. He's giving me the =.= face. I guess he isn't amused.
All the hours have names, and feel free to ask the staff questions about them! You can see that staff really cares for them(:

Owls that you can play with are on this ledge
The staff will help guide the owls onto your arm/shoulder/head. Unfortunately, for the larger sized owls, you can only put them on your arm. You can, however, put the smaller sized owls on your head (and risk getting poop in your hair - I hear it's a good conditioner) or shoulder (and risk getting your shirt pooped on)

WHAT DID YOU SAY? I WOULD NEVER
Ok, for me, I've never been pooped on. A few people close to me have had a few close calls though.

I may be tiny, but I rule this human! 
 I've learnt that different owls have different sizes.

*crickets*

What? I didn't know that different breeds have different sizes. Before I came here, I assumed that most owls looked alike and had the same size.

My pretty cousin and the bird

By the way, you can buy an owl at this shop. However, whether you can afford the owl, and whether you can bring the owl back home is another matter.

Are you going to buy me? 
Links:
Osaka and Hakata Owl Cafe Blog (Japanese only)
Hakata Owl Cafe Facebook Page

I previously mentioned the owl cafe in this post, although it doesn't have as many photos as this one.