Saturday, 31 October 2015

Saga International Balloon Fiesta Days 1 and 2

I'm writing this as we're waiting for news about whether the afternoon competition of Day 2 for the Saga International Balloon Fiesta can be held. The wind's been rather strong since this morning (we actually cancelled, then resumed the morning competition), so it's a bit hard to say whether we can hold this afternoon's competition. I'm hoping so though, because this morning netted photos like this:


But, since I don't have much time, I shall hold back on the photo spam (though I suspect I'll still share way too many photos).

Anyway, since yesterday, I've been spending my time in Saga. My main role is to take photos and upload them to Instagram (incidentally, you can check out the official Instagram here). So it's basically a rush to take photos, then a lull between events as I edit and upload the photos. And write my essay.

I honestly think coming to Saga has made me more productive - and also able to ask people infinitely more capable than me for help. Since coming, I've managed to finish my analysis (in R language!), and have written out 2.5 parts out of 7 for the essay (and I think I'm only supposed to do 3 or 4, since it's a partner work).

Oh no, I'm listening to the announcers now, and they say if the wind doesn't die down, they'll have to cancel the event).

In any case, a photo from yesterday:

The balloons being inflated
One good thing about volunteering is that I can go into restricted areas, which lets me get much closer to take photos. Or take photos of the balloons against the sun, as it was the case this morning, because the sun rose from behind the audience.

The grounds are pretty cool too - I saw a minion scarecrow near the bus stops:


Today also had more events than yesterday, I saw some awesome kites, and a really cool bike demonstration by Honda bikes.


I should really stop now. I think the official announcements are coming soon XD

The rest of the festival will probably be like this: me dropping in when I have an extended period of time (and have no more brains to deal with my essay) to give updates. After the whole thing, I'll make a huge huge post of "Eustacia's Guide to the Saga International Balloon Festival" or "My Volunteering Experience" (which do you prefer?) with more details and photos.

And if you prefer to read things as they go on, my Dayre is updated around the same time I update my Instagram. It's seriously a live-blog kind of thing, so not everything will make it here (and not everything from here will come from there), but there are snatches of updates there.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Zemi Paper Update

I'm writing this from the 公民館 (community centre) in Saga. I arrived this evening, because for the next 5 days, I'll be helping out at the Saga International Balloon Fiesta as part of the Net Team!! So you can probably expect almost daily blogposts :D

And unlike yesterday, I can finally give an update as to what I've been doing for my third year zemi paper (for the main zemi, at least).

As you may or may not know, the topic my partner and I chose was CSR. To be more specific, we're investigating the link between foreign investors and the percentage of women in management positions, as well as the link between women and firm performance. For our data on women managers and number of women in the company, we used this:

My constant companion for about 3 weeks. 
Apart from this, we took data from Nikkei NEEDS.

And then, there was the problem of how to go about analysing it. My teacher had very specific requirements, but none of the papers we looked at used this method. So we had to visit him a few times, try to propose an original idea, and get shot down. Finally, on Monday, he gave us the go-ahead to use the method we first proposed. PROGRESS.

I had planned to have finished the analysis by last night, but when we imported the final piece of data, we realised that it was in bits and pieces. So basically, we had to add total up the foreign investors for 306 companies, one by one. Hence the stressed and short post yesterday. Sorry ><

But, because I had Bekah, who is awesome with excel, we managed to split the work between three of us and finished around 2 in the morning.

Today, I spent the morning trying to figure out how to carry out multiple regression for 17 input variables in excel. Long story short, I can't. I need to use R language, which I know next to nothing about. One afternoon of staring as youtube videos brought me as far as how to transfer data from excel to R.

And this is where coming to Saga comes in handy. I'm currently rooming with my classmates and seniors in the community centre, and one of my seniors is good with R. He did a little research, and within 15 minutes, found the formula I need. So in the end, I managed to analyse all 8 data sets in half an hour (well, prepping took some time too)

Looks like being volunteered for this was a good idea. I can start writing the essay tomorrow! For now, I need to sleep, because I need to wake up in about four and a half hours.

Saga station. I'm super excited for tomorrow! 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I was going to blog today but...

... my essay didn't want to cooperate. 

Hey everyone! As you might know, I have a third year essay to finish - and there's less than a week to go. I thought things were going ok, and was going to give everyone an update, but then we ran into some data problems.

I'm going to Saga tomorrow, so I need to fix everything tonight. No updates, sadly.

If things go well though, I'll be updating from Saga - I'm going there to help out in the Saga International Balloon Festival, so expect lots of photos!

In the meantime, have a photo of yogurt flavoured water. My friend got it, and she let me try a mouthful - it's actually good, tastes like a version of calpis!


Monday, 26 October 2015

Visit to Tsuiki Air Base

Yesterday, I woke up at 6 am to go to Tsuiki Air Base. Apparently, there was some sort of open-house day thing going on, and my zemi gave me the opportunity to go there for free. Obviously, I opted to go.

The first thing I saw on the bus was this sign:

I'm guessing this is normally used for non-civilian purposes
And then, I realised that I forgot my camera. And to think that I charged the battery the night before and everything. And then my seniors realised that none of us brought a camera. I guess we would have been a bit sadder about it, but then we all fell asleep, because it was a three hour ride.

When we got to the place, the first thing we did was to walk around and look at the airplanes!


It was actually pretty cool, although I was really curious as to why people were marking out spots. I would find out the real reason later.

So after we made one round, we decided to go queue at the cockpit area. We honestly thought that we were going to be able to sit in the plane, but then we found out the queue was to just climb up and have a close look at the cockpit.

...

We still queued.

The cockpit
 The plane we queued to see was the F-2, a plane that was jointly developed by America and Japan. And it costs a lot of money. It's really fast though.

F-2
The other plane that we did not queue up for (the queue was fine, because we all started reading, but we agreed - no more queues) was the F-15. I think that was the more popular plane because:

1. It's apparently popular with ladies
2. This is its last year at Tsuiki Air Base. It's moving to Okinawa soon.

The F-15. Apparently, it reminds me senior of an eco-car? 
 By the way, have a look at the queue:


After that, we sort of wandered around the place a little, and saw a few demonstrations (missed a few though), and got to handle these: 

The English name escapes me, but they were heavy! 

After that, we went back to the square, and I realised all the people who were lying down weren't just taking a nap, they were reserving their spots for the airshow. But it wasn't too crowded, so we found a spot at the back and sat down to eat and wait.

The show was totally worth the wait. It kind of reminds me of Singapore's NDP parades, only these planes fly way, way closer to the ground. I really wished I had my camera.


These planes are the T-4, and they can release smoke. So they actually drew a few pictures, like Mount Fuji:


 And a heart:

A star, and a few others, if I remember correctly. But what I found really cool would be the 'stunts', flying really close to each other, and flying upside-down, and doing both at the same time.


I think it was a really good thing that we had clear skies, although I felt it got a little cloudy by the end of the performance.

By the way, although it was really cold in the morning, it got hot by noon. This weather... it's so confusing.

So after the airshow, which was the main attraction, we had about 40 minutes left. We went to see the VADS drill, but I figured since I had about 10 minutes, I would go look for....


NEKO BUS!

Unfortunately, I couldn't ride it, because I'm not a primary school kid. Also, I uploaded this photo to Facebook, and as proof of the power of Ghibli and Totoro, it got way more likes and comments than my normal instagram photos. Then again, I would probably pass over a picture of planes for this. LOOK AT ITS SMILE XD

Too bad it couldn't fly.

By the time I got back to the VADS location, the drill was already in progress. Since I'm still not sure about what VADS is, I won't comment on anything. But once the drill was done, we sort of slowly made our way back to the bus, stopping to get a hashimaki on the way back.

And then, another three hour bus ride back.

I still don't really get why this was offered as part of my zemi (although only three of us went), but I don't regret going. The show as really cool, and I got to see the nekobus! Plus, I talked to two of the senpai's that I don't really talk to, which is always a fun experience.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

First Company 懇談会 (Kondankai) in Osaka

As you all know, I'm intending to work in Japan. And so, on Thursday, I went for my first 懇談会 (kondankai) for an M&A company in Osaka. My senior sort of nominated me, so I figured it would be good to take a look at how they do things, even if it was inconvenient to go to.

By the way, this is way ahead of the official schedule, I think. But, I heard that for 外資 (gaishi - foreign companies), their recruitment schedules start much earlier, so if you want to work for them, you'll have to start earlier too.

Due to circumstances, I had to arrive late. And it didn't help that I couldn't find the place - why are there two similarly named buildings in Osaka?!?!

So I walk into the room, and freeze. Everyone there is a guy O.O Something has to be wrong with my luck this year - I run into this situation way, way too much. But, I do my best to sort of blend in, and drag a chair to the end of the table.

I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow account, so here are the things that I learnt:

  • Come with questions prepared. I read up on the company, and what they did, but I completely forgot to prepare questions about the job and what I wanted from it. Other people were asking about the kind of employees they wanted, and making intelligent comments about the working environment and how hard the company expects them to work, and all I could come up with "Is there the chance of working overseas?" (answer: Yes, but you need to have really great English, which is really tough. My reply: Um, actually, English is my mother tongue...)
  • You have to learn how to join the conversation. There was this flow to it, like after they talked about character, they moved on to the role of English in the company, and yeah, it was tough for me to figure out how to join in. I'm not sure how the conversation changes, but it does and it was tough trying to figure out how to do it. I did manage to make one follow up comment, but most of the time, I was kind of quiet, trying to figure out how to make a good impression without hijacking the conversation/interrupting the flow like I did with my first question (like, they answered my question, and then reverted back to the topic at hand). 
  • Which brings me to the next point: Learn how to ask the questions. I noticed a lot of them started with "This relates to ____ earlier" or "On a related topic". If they were changing it, there was probably something else they said. I need to brush up on these conversation starters, to make things smoother.
  • I need to learn how to be less shy/self-concious. Ok, this might negate some of the things that I said earlier, but I don't know if a few of my lessons are just excuses for the fact that I was tongue-tied. I need to speak more (which will make anyone who knows me in real life laugh). 
But, after the whole thing, I came away thinking that M&A analysts are pretty cool. The three people there clearly like their job, and the enthusiasm was infectious. It's not in the area that I want to work in, but the job sounds interesting, which is my other criteria for whether I should apply. 

Since it ended at 8, I decided that instead of having to rush home, I should stay a night with my cousin. YAY! (Her house is huge :O)



P.s. People, I finally got a Dayre account! I'm hoping it's going to help me come up with blog ideas. Plus, when it comes to the Saga International Balloon Festival (Official Instagram Person here!), I thought it'd be a good way to remember everything that has happened. I want to blog on the day itself, but if I don't have enough time, at least this will let me remember what happened. So yeah, if you have a Dayre account and you're interested in reading my unfiltered thoughts, add me please? 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Kyoto Trip Day 2

Yesterday, I blogged about my first day on my first trip to Kyoto! And now, for Day 2.

In the morning, I had a big breakfast, also known as the smartest thing I did that day. Then, it was off to Toji to put the kimono on!

Teramachidori, Wagashi Making, the Show and Going Home

Teramachidori

Because I had my rehearsal on Saturday, I didn't have any rehearsals on Sunday. But for some reason, I was in the first batch that had our hair done and kimono put on. So that left me with about... 5 or 6 hours, I think, of free time.

What to do?

Go meet friends! I mentioned that Nicholas was visiting from Tokyo, and Min lives in Kyoto, so I got to meet the two of them. I brought along one of my new friends too, from my batch. We basically had matcha in Kyoto Station. After that, we (my new friend and I) decided to go to Teramachidori, because my senior really recommended it.

Getting to Teramachidori though, was not easy. First, we made our way to Takashimaya, where there was some limited edition sweets that my friend wanted to buy. It's basically high class pocky, and it tastes awesome. I bought two boxes too, for omiyage.


I also saw some fancy eclairs, which I think is the same as the ones I heard were in Tokyo and really wanted to eat but couldn't. Unfortunately, I didn't want to risk dirtying my kimono, so I settled for taking a photo.


Then, it was time to find Teramachidori!

Obviously, we got lost.

First, we got distracted by a pretty river.

And I took a few photos. 
 Then we just got lost in general. But after asking for advice, we finally managed to make our way to... the next street. Where there was a shop with what looks to be an airplane. I have no idea what it sells.


And Mr. Potato.

Finally though, we found the place.


But it wasn't quite what we were expected. We wanted traditional Japanese goods, but this has quite a lot of modern stuff. And pottery. But we decided not to buy pottery because it would have been heavy. We did, however, see a two shops which sold what we wanted. I managed to get the bestie's belated birthday present, so all that's left is to mail it to her!



Wagashi Making(和菓子体験)

We met two other friends at Teramachidori, and made our way to the Wagashi making! Thankfully, we had found a place that accepts same-day reservations.

But, when we got to the workshop, we found that it was 90% school kids on a trip. Talk about standing out like a sore thumb!

Our workspace
The experience was really fun, and I have a new appreciation for all the makers of wagashi. It's really tough, and that's no joke. You have to work very quickly, to make sure the materials don't dry up, and moulding it into a certain shape and blending colours look easy, but aren't.

I'm pretty sure it's obvious, but can you tell which is mine? 

The second part of the experience was to watch the teacher (a professional sweet maker, who's also a woman - a rarity!) make a few sweets.

 She was AMAZING.

And apparently, she could tell we didn't rent our kimonos XD

Tada. 

The last section was the eating part! We were served matcha, and another type of sweet. I think it's an award winning one. It was this baked bun, and it was really good!

I would get so fat if I lived in Kyoto

We were also encouraged to eat our sweets, because freshly made sweets taste different from those you buy. And she was right - it's way, way softer than the normal sweets. They actually have a kit, and I wanted to buy one, but it doesn't last very long, so I abandoned that thought.


Oh, and they also gave us a graduation certificate - one per group. So we all took photos, and it was enough for me.


Kimono Fashion Show in Toji

After we finished making our sweets, it was time to go back to Toji to prepare for the show! Thankfully, there was a direct bus.

Waiting. 

When we got back, we had our faces touched up, and then we headed to the tents.

The big backdrop is the stage. 
And happily, my scene had the best seats - right in front of the TV! So we got to watch the whole show, from start to finish.


And for some reason, some of the staff were wearing really cool clothes.


There was a briefing, and then we were given one last chance to go to the toilet and stuff. I went to take photos (obviously). Although I must admit, I was quite worried because I hadn't practiced at all that day.


And the pagoda-thing:

And then it was time for the show to start! There were performances by the special guests, and when the first models came out, we all gasped and cheered. That led to the model-teachers and the director commenting that "You do know you're all going up, right?".

Oops.

We were like "Oh yeah. We ARE."


Everyone trying to take a look at the show. 

Since I'm Scene 6, we were to get on rather quickly. It was nerve-wrecking, especially since our song was so upbeat, and every song up to then was rather... dignified.

But, when the time came, we just went on stage, and I tried not to jump up and down or act goofy. And I think I succeeded, because the teachers said that I did well.

Thanks so much for teaching us! :D 

The rest of the show was just sitting down and watching. I was supposed to go on in the finale, but the finale started ten minutes before I wanted to leave. You see, I was very silly and placed my luggage with the hotel. That meant I had to go to the cloakroom, get to the hotel, repack the bags and then go to the station. So I needed a bit more time than the other contestants.

But everyone was very nice, and they let me leave early.

random photo of the light up
Going Home

I hadn't really eaten since breakfast (sweets and tea don't count, according to people I've asked). So I was starving! But I did receive two onigiri and some tea. Sadly, after one, I felt so full I wanted to throw up. I guess this is another reason why you don't wear a kimono for a three hour shinkansen ride home.


It was really boring, and I basically amused myself by playing with the apps on my phone. +Turkka Hynynen can attest to how strange my selfies turned out hehe.

Because this is the last train, I arrived in Hakata at around midnight. I was tired, my luggage was heavy, but it was still a surprise that I managed to fall down an escalator. I don't even know how that happened, since all I did was get on and stand there. But thankfully, I only fell past one person before someone caught me. And it probably helped that I was, well, I wasn't screaming, but I was sort of going "ahhhh". Best I could come up with was "involuntary sounds of distress", which sounds awkward even to me.

At any rate, someone grabbed me and got me back on my seat, while two other people got my luggage. The only thing I could say was "sorry".

Really, thank you awesome three people who helped me!

The rest of the way home was uneventful, and I quickly got out of the kimono, took a bath, and went to sleep. Then woke up for first period school.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Kyoto Trip Day 1

So as you may know, I went to Kyoto over the weekend! It was super hectic, but fun all the same. It was actually not the best time to go, since my essays and all are due, but hey, I signed up for this last year. So looking at posters in train stations actually help.

Day 1 - Kiyomizudera, Dinner with Maiko and Geiko

I reached Kyoto at about noon, having boarded the 9am shinkansen. It was too early for check-in, so I left my luggage at the hotel and made my way to Toji, where I got to put on a kimono!

I'm loving the obi!
Since I'm there for the Kimono fashion show, I had a rehearsal going on in the evening. But, there were a few free hours, so I decided to get back to the hotel and see if I could go anywhere.

Luckily, while I was at the train station, I met someone also at the show and we decided to go to Kiyomizudera together! We were at the same hotel and from Fukuoka, so we got along well. There was a bus from Kyoto station, and we managed to get on it before it left. Running in a kimono is no joke :p

By the way, the buses are 230 yen, no matter what the distance is.

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizudera is what I call 人山人海 (people as many as the mountains and seas). And this is the off season. We made our way up the slope and around the place. But you know, once we reached the top (but not at the place yet), we decided to stop for tea. It's supposed to be getting colder, but it was pretty hot, so I got some cold matcha, with the sweet of the day.



Refreshed by the quick break, we started walking around the place. It's a pity that the momiji trees are still green, but Kiyomizudera is still a beautiful place. I didn't have enough time to edit my photos yet, so enjoy them in their unedited glory! 

The entrance

They actually have a set path, which is very long. But just after you pass the main hall, you get to the place where those famous photos are taken. This is where the panorama function of my phone comes in handy (ok, so there is one edited photo)



Can you imagine what it'd look like if it's all red? Or during sakura season? I totally want to come back to Kyoto and brave the crowds.

And since I wasn't alone, I had my new friend help me take a photo :D


I actually had to be at Toji by 4 (the paper said 5, but they told me 4), but uh, we were running a little late. And it didn't help that I was too busy stopping to take photos like this:


Oh, at the end of the walk, they had this three waterfall thing. People were lining up to drink (?) Gargle (?) from the water on it. I'm not sure why though... Anyone knows?


Since this is a major tourist area, I took a cab back to Toji and was only 15 minutes late. Or 45 minutes early, if you count from when the rehearsal actually started. It's a good thing the cab wasn't too late.

Rehearsal

I found out my song at the rehearsal. It's...


Yup! I was so shocked that I know the song haha. And it turns out that as number 2, I have to stand in the centre of the stage. And be the first to walk down, along with number 1. O.O

Nervous much.

Actually, not than. At that point in time, my main concern was getting to the dinner on time, because we were running late. So I was a bit rude and asked if we could go early. The answer was no, cause there were too many of us, but they did delay the starting time of dinner, and helped us all get cabs to share.

Dinner (前夜祭)

The dinner was basically what I was looking forward to the most! I was told that I would be going see maiko and geiko so I was super enthusiastic.

My seat - there's a letter from the president
My table had three other people, and I found out that one of them was my roommate! I was pretty worried about whether I could get along with a roommate, even for a night, so it was good to be able to get to talk to her in a more relaxed setting.

We ate something called 京料理 (Kyoto cuisine), and it was good! From what I know, this style emphasises the seasonal aspect of the food. At any rate, it was beautiful and tasty.

The first course - I couldn't eat the ginko, but thankfully, it wasn't cooked with the others
I took lots of pictures, but I decided not to spam. Just one more, of the fish. The fish was good, but hard to eat.


Oh, I found out something interesting. There was something written on the chopstick holder thing (the paper holds the chopsticks together). My roommate was very curious what it meant, so she asked a server, and it led to the owner coming to explain it to us. Apparently, it's a word written to represent the month. 


Halfway through the dinner, the two maiko and one geiko came!!!!!

It was fun. We were actually at the back of the room, so it was hard to get a photo. I had to go to the front to get some nicer shots. Hehe. I hope I didn't get bother the people in front too much, nearly everyone was trying to get a shot.


The maiko performed two dances!


If I remember correctly, the geiko was on the shamisen. It was an interesting experience.


After the whole thing, there was a group photo, then the maiko and geiko went around the room. We managed to get to talk to the two maiko, and even received a name card! According to the roommate, you're supposed to put it in your wallet, and it'll attract money because まいこみ or something like that.

She looks like a painting! 
 When the maiko came, I got a picture with them! Well, I got a picture with both, but in the other picture, the roommate is inside, and she does not want her face on any social media sites. So, just this one:


We actually got to talk to the maiko for quite a long time. She explained things like why she only paints her bottom lip (she's in the first year, so she can't paint the top lip) and her hair ornament, which changes according to the month, so you can tell when you took a photo with a maiko. The month, anyway. And also more, like about her obi, which is 6m long and hangs down the back, and even the obijime (not sure if there's a different name for this one)

Her obijime. Apparently, it differs on your Ookiya (house) or something like that.
Totally an informative conversation. She was actually telling us that it was very girly, because most guys normally just ask her age and stuff like that. But I guess because we were all in kimono, we were more interested in that aspect.

After that, it was time to go back! I shared a cab with the room mate, my new friend, and another new friend, a girl in my scene (For the show). The cab driver was totally nice and showed us this awesome place, which was lit up really prettily!


After I got back, I finally checked in, took out my contacts and began the slow process of getting off the kimono and getting it ready. Then, off to bed, because I had to wake up insanely early for Sunday.