Posted in YouTube Videos

Sakura and Steampunk

I’m playing a little bit of a catch up game here. I have a whole bunch of videos I wasn’t able to edit until recently. In this vlog, I go to a hanami party, I support my friend getting her lip pierced, and then I go to a Steampunk party!

A hanami party, for those of you who don’t know, are parties where you get together with friends (sometimes co-workers). You drink and eat under the sakura blossoms, take lots of pictures, and in general just have a fun time. I went to Midtown Park in Roppongi for this one, but I actually ended up going to about three.

My friend K really wanted to get her lip pierced, so we went to a piercing shop called “Extreme Body Piercing” in Harajuku. We decided to also show other people where it is so they can find it if they too desire to get a cool new fierce look.

And finally, the Steamgarden is an annual Tokyo event that’s for two days. Every year, people come to sell their wares, but apparently it’s also a really cool dance party! I wasn’t expecting that, so it was an awesome surprise. I’ll def be going next year!

Posted in YouTube Videos

My Trip to Bunny Island!

Between the old school year and the new, I set off to Okunoshima. Also known as Bunny Island, it’s a place that features adorable little fluffy rabbits for visitors to enjoy, as well as a Poison Factory Museum from World War II. I highly recommend going there if you get the chance!

Posted in Travels in Japan

Golden Week Adventures: To Kyoto!

It’s been awhile everyone! Yes, I know, sorry. I should’ve put out a post before I left on vacation, but I had literally NO TIME. From the second I posted my last article to now has been just non-stop, can’t stop, all the things!!!

See my friend from high school, Rebecca, came over to visit me. She’s super cool and going to be a doctor pretty soon. I’m still thinking of calling her Dr. Becky with the Good Hair, but then I’ll have to have my coffin with me when I do it (She’s never liked that name and it’s only gotten worse with time).

She wanted to go to a lot of different places in Japan, with my original list including fox village and cat island with a possible Hakone excursion. However, we only got about a week to do all the things. In the end, she decided the number one place to go to would be Kyoto.

And I agreed. Hakone in Golden Week is terribly, oppressively crowded. Fox Village and the nearby Cat Island up in Miyagi are a long trek from my area. With only a week, Kyoto and Tokyo seemed the best course of action. I had to be back in Tokyo on the weekend for Tokyo Rainbow Pride.

We headed off as soon as she touched down. Poor thing had already flown for over 30 hours and here I was forcing her onto a Shinkansen. I mean, it’s a comfortable train, but still added 2 hours to her already long travel time.

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“Proof of Shinkansen!”

When we arrived at Kyoto station it was pretty late, so I opted to just get a taxi and head for the apartment. I found this pretty cheap place through Agoda.com, an apartment that we could stay at near Kinkakuji for only about 3,200 yen per night (plus a cleaning fee). Wheat a steal, right? The place was really nice, too. My only worry had been that maybe the apartment would be hideous in real life, but instead it was just a typical Japanese show box apartment.

The next morning, we headed right out to Kinkakuji. The Golden Temple was a bit packed at the beginning, with a lot of tourists using selfie sticks to try and get some good angles. I expected as much, Golden Week meant that everywhere would be either packed or super packed depending on the time of day. I was just surprised that so many were there so early in the morning.

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Rebecca wanted to buy some charms and some yatsuhashi (famous Kyoto style mochi that’s in the shape of a triangle…that you can also totally buy at grocery stores, but shhhhh). She wanted to get some marriage good luck charms as well as some studying/knowledge charms.

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We also stopped by the fortune area. Omikuji are like lottery fortunes, you put 100 yen inside a machine and then a random fortune pops out. I think only in Kinkakuji and maybe a few other main shrines can you get the English versions. Usually, I have to give my fortune to the nearest Japanese person to read and translate. Rebecca and I both got the “Good” level fortune. There are actually several levels of luck with these that range from “Awesome!” to “Absolutely wrecked.”

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Via Next Stop, Japan

After Kinkakuji, we ran off to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. As it was getting to be around lunch time, high noon and very sunny at that, there were less people milling around. I like the Palace mostly for the gardens. In the spring there are cherry blossoms and in the fall the leaves change colors, so I definitely recommend those.

We stopped there for some udon, and discovered to my horror that Rebecca is a pod person because she didn’t like the udon. Everything I thought I knew about her is a lie. In case you didn’t know, kitsune udon and soba are a staple in Kyoto. Everywhere you do there is an udon and/or soba place.

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My version of fine dining

After resting up, we figured out the bus to take to Kiyomizudera. Just as an FYI, the bus schedules are a bit hard to navigate without Japanese translation assistance. I discovered much, much too late that there are actually bus maps in English available online through the Kyoto Tourism site. There’s also a whole PDF that you can easily download to your smartphone or tablet. Don’t use Google Maps, it’s all kind of wrong and confusing.

At Kiyomizudera, it was super packed again. Ladies were running around in yukata, kids were playing tag on the steps, couples were holding hands and taking selfie shots. Rebecca and I did the whole purification ritual before entering, and discovered unfortunately the main temple is under construction for the 2020 Olympics. There is scaffolding all around it for the foreseeable future. If you’re planning to go, just a heads up.

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Not terrible, but not as picturesque as normal.

After walking around, we waited in line to drink from the spiritual waters from the waterfall. Each stream is different, and you’re supposed to drink from the one you want and make a wish.

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The one on the left is for knowledge, the middle for love, and the last for a long life. 

I chose knowledge, because living long is fine and love is alright, but I would rather just be smarter in general. Rebecca chose the same, because future doctor, it’s kind of important for her.

After a full day, we walked around to find dinner and had a couple of drinks at a bar before heading back to the apartment. We planned to hit up the Fushimi Inari Shrine as well as Heinan Temple the next day before heading back to Tokyo the next day, with possibly squeezing in a tea ceremony if we could manage it.

We did one of those things, that being the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and that’s kind of my bad. The morning started off with us checking out and then getting on the buses. We were only supposed to transfer once to another bus in order to get to Kyoto Station to drop off our stuff. As it was, we transferred onto the wrong bus, and had to get turned around.

Once arriving at Kyoto Station, we discovered that everyone and their mother had taken the lockers. I managed to get lucky and find one, but then Rebecca had to do a baggage check instead. By the time we finally got on a train and hit Fushimi Inari, the day was already half way eaten up.

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Fushimi Inari Entrance

And of course, it was congested with people, so going up the mountainside of tori meant slowly meandering our way towards the top. I felt really guilty for getting us on the wrong bus, so by the time we got halfway up the mountain, we had to turn back so we could get to Kyoto Station for Heinan Temple.

But then I messed up again, and we went down a wrong path. According to the map it was supposed to take us back to the main area, but it didn’t. Instead, it brought us into the suburbs surrounding the mountain. We got lost, not for terribly long, but still too long in an already crunched timetable.

By the time we righted ourselves and headed back towards the station, it became fairly obvious we couldn’t do the other temple or a tea ceremony. Rebecca wasn’t super upset about it, she’s kind of really laid back like that, but if I ever do another tag along to Fushimi Inari, I’m going to just stay on the main paths. No adventuring out to short cuts, it’s not worth it.

Right across from Kyoto Station is the Kyoto Tower. We didn’t go up for the view, but instead did some last minute onomiyage (souvenir) shopping, because I needed some for my co-workers.

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At the base of Kyoto Tower there’s a mini-souvenir shop. You can buy Kyoto sweets and the yastuhashi I was talking about earlier, along with other specialty Kyoto things. I bought some matcha cookies, because Kyoto is pretty famous for green tea.

And from there it was back to Tokyo. All in all it was a good trip, but next time I will be better about planning for certain things. However, in the next post I’ll talk about our Tokyo adventures, and then of course about Tokyo Rainbow Pride, so stay tuned!

 

 

Posted in From Kentucky

A Salute to Transylvania University

I want to talk about a small campus in Kentucky. Established in 1780, its one of the oldest universities in the United States. Transylvania taught me how to not only have a voice, but also how to use it effectively. The professors engaged me in every subject, as it is a liberal arts institution, and so I became more aware and open minded than I’d ever hoped to become.

See, when I say engaged, I don’t mean they simply lectured and forgot about the students. I regularly talked with professors outside of my classroom. My friends at other colleges and universities complained they never saw their advisers or professors. Meanwhile, I constantly had access to both.

I talked with Anthony Vital for hours about how Wordsworth was an absolute traitor to the Romantic cause, and that’s why Byron was obviously the superior Romantic writer, if only in spirit.

I discussed with Scott Whiddon about the rhetoric of, not joking, dating sites and the whole language of advertisements in conjunction with selling a romantic narrative.

Martha Gehringer believed that I wasn’t a serious writer, but she supported my efforts in writing none-the-less, and thanks to her I knew about Strunk’s “Elements of Style” and “The Handmaids Tale.”

Elizabeth Corsun taught me to see through narrative structure, to read between the lines and see the history behind the words in a sentence.

From the Registrar to the whole Financial Aid Office to Herr Weber to Tay Fizdale to Mike Vetter (sorry I still became an English Major, sir) to President Shearer himself, I could pen a hundred different love letters to so many people on that campus. I even became a part of a Love Letter in a project helmed by Professor Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde. The love and support on that campus makes it one of the best places to learn in the country.

Every single moment I spent on that campus made me a better person, and I felt secure there to become that person.

And even outside of the classrooms, the staff were like family. I knew Miss Erika and Marcia from Jazzmans, the same Erika who is now also a hero. I got coffee and a lot of great advice from both of them, as they helped me through some tough study sessions in the cafe. When I heard that Miss Erika picked up a chair to wield off an attacker, I felt too proud for words. She was quoted saying, “These students are our babies. Nobody’s going to hurt one of them without a fight.”

I cried when I read that line, because I know she means it. She and Marcia are there for every student who needs them, in the good times and the bad. They are amazing women, and they are a part of what Transylvania so great, what makes it feel like a home and not just some dorms and old buildings.

I applaud Joy Henderson, how she stayed with the stabbing victim from the attack, holding the wounds until paramedics arrived. It takes a strong person to go into the fray to stay and help in an ongoing attack, not to mention courage. Her fortitude amazes me, as well as her caring so much for someone in need of dire help.

Campus security men and women are dedicated to helping students. You call them and they are there. These same people would drive me to my dorm in the dark of the night from campus parking and start my car if my battery died to go home for winter break. They tackled the attacker after entering the coffee shop, refusing to let him harm any more of the students.

To top it all off, President Seamus Carey assisted in the take down. Humbly omitting that fact from his letter to the campus, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming pride that my alma mater chose this man to represent us. A man who values the students more than his pride and ego is exactly what Transylvania is all about.

I am so unbelievably proud of my alma mater. I know that perhaps current students might not feel that way, with maybe their sense of security gone. Yet, the swift response from the staff to security to the administration all coming together to stop this senseless act of violence is astounding. I have to respect the actions taken by all of the people involved, and also recognize that these people were heroes long before this news hit.

Many will want to talk about the attacker, feed into a vicious news cycle that wants to give more focus on the violence than the school. I refuse to be a part of that cycle. Call him terrorist or by name, no one should be given fame for doing something so horrific. I would rather focus my narrative on the people who mean the most to me, and the ones who deserve recognition.

Everyday, Transylvania University endeavors to be the best place for its students to learn. From the classrooms to the cafes to the offices, this university is built on foundations of compassion as well as liberal education ideals. Not all people have felt as secure as I did, or as welcome. Every institution will have its faults, but I can honestly say that Transylvania was the best choice I could’ve ever made. Even years later, I’m proud to say I’m a Pioneer.

Hail Transylvania, thine own are we.

 

Posted in YouTube Videos

I Got Interviewed! 

As you are probably all well aware, I’m very much interested in LGBTQ rights, and as such I’m a part of the drag community in Tokyo. I’ve just recently been promoted from “that girl hanging out and doing stuff backstage all the time” to official position of Production Manager. Moral of the story kids, do enough free work for your friends and you’ll get a job (volunteer work of course).

Kara, the creator of the YouTube channel “Wherever With You,” decided to come to Tokyo Closet Ball to interview people about their performances. I ended up getting interviewed as well! 

If you like it, give it a thumbs up, and go subscribe to Kara on YouTube. Her videos are fantastic! 

Posted in Japan News

I Tried the (Kinda Over Hyped) American Cherry Pie Starbucks Frap

The American Cheery Pie specialty drink from Starbucks Japan is in high demand. People love it, as in love it. When I went to the bustling Starbucks on the 2nd floor of Shinjuku station, most people in line wanted the drink. The line stretched down the hall, crowding in front of a store or two.

I just wanted something cold to drink on my way back home, so I opted to finally give the American Cherry Pie a chance. According to a little graph written in faux-chalk board writing, this sugar rush has about five layers to it. The first is a pie dome, which is fastened securely with a ton of whipped cream to stay in place underneath. Then, there is the cherry compote layer, made from real cherries. Under that was a layer of just milk (or in my case soy milk). And finally, at the bottom was more cherry compote.

I actually got this drink pretty quick despite the long line. I sat off the side. Aesthetically speaking, the drink looked exactly like the picture, which meant it looked delicious.  I stuck my straw through the pie crust and swirled it around. And there’s where problems start.

See, the soy milk and cherry compote are fine. The mixture of the two together tasted very much like a cherry milkshake, and I was fine with it. But the pie crust, even if you break it up as much as I did, got stuck inside the straw every two or three sips. Honestly, the drink could be a choking hazard with those pie bits, I coughed a few times. It’s a shame, because honestly the actual drink part was perfectly fine on its own.

I noticed other people were having the same issues. At the bottom of everyone’s cups was a mess of pie crust some left over drink. One girl complained to her boyfriend that she should’ve just gotten the tea she usually ordered. A guy off to the side sighed and gave up halfway through, tossing most of it in the garbage.

However, I noticed a group of junior high school girls managed to outsmart all of us dumb adults. Inside of breaking the pie crust and mixing it in, they set the crusts off. As they drank it, they would munch on the pie crust like a cookie. I thought that was the most genius thing ever, and felt a bit ashamed that I didn’t think of it.

As I said before, the cheery drink part in and of itself is fine. More than passable as a sort of milkshake like beverage, but honestly not the best drink I’ve ever had in Japan (that without even thinking too hard probably goes to the cinnamon roll latte in MiuMiu in Shin-Okubo). The pie crust shouldn’t be crunched up with the drink, it’ll just clog up the straws, so eat it separately instead. Honestly, for a specialty it looks really neat, but in the end with the pie crust issue and the so-so OK taste, I would say it’s a bit overly beloved for what it is.

But then again, to each their own. As someone who isn’t exactly a die hard Starbucks fan, for me this was a one time try-out, so I’ll never drink it again. I would say I recommend this kind of drink to fanatic cherry lovers, yet at the same time I guess I could also recommend it to people who want something fruity and cold on a hot day. Otherwise, it’s not something I’d say go run and get right now! I’d just say be prepared for an alright experience, but not one worth repeating.