Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tokyo, Japan (July 19, 2013)


Hi everybody! So this is long overdue, but here's what our trip to Japan was like! We got to Tokyo on Friday. Originally, we wanted to go to three places: Shinjuku Garden, the Meiji Shrine, and Shibuya Station to see the statue of Hachiko the dog. However, time only allowed for two so we skipped out on the garden. On entering the country we had to take the subway, infamous for packing people in like sardines and men groping any girl they see. Well, if you take a look at this picture you can see that we didn't have that kind of experience at all.




Our first stop was the Meiji-jingu Shrine. We had to walk part of the way and I ended up getting to use what little Japanese I can speak. I asked a local cop: “Sumimasen. Meiji-jingu doko desu ka?” (Excuse me. Where is Meiji-Jingu?) and he said, “Asoko desu.” (Over there.) I was so thrilled at such a simple exchange. I’m easily pleased I guess. ;)



 So this “arch” or “O-torii” is the entrance to Meiji-Jingu. It’s a nice forest with a path to the actual Shinto shrine. It’s dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his empress who died in 1912 and 1914, respectively. According to our guidebook it was created as a symbol of imperial power and Japanese superiority. It was destroyed during WWII and later rebuilt. This o-torii by the way was made from 1500 year old trees from Taiwan!   





Here is the shrine. First, you must cleanse your hands and drink the water from the well to the left.


Definitely did not drink.



It was so strange. We saw a lot of businessmen walking through… as if it was a shortcut?


 After walking through the second o-torii you can visit the super expensive guest-shop that sells amulets for good luck, passing your exams, money, etc. All around about US $8.


Inside the next gate is what I think of as a “wishing tree.” You can “make a generous donation,” write your wishes on a wooden plaque and hang it around the tree.



Here are just some funny ones I saw.

 We didn’t write one ourselves, but there was a cheaper option where you write a wish on paper. Did that instead.



This building is where you can pray. No pictures were allowed and a guard was watching, unfortunately. What you do is toss come coins into a trough-like thing in front of you; bow towards the inside then the outside; make your wish; and then clap your hands three times. Very different from Buddhist temples!



I thought the wooden architecture of the place was fabulous! I took lots of pictures of the carvings.


When we were ready to leave it was starting to be sundown. My impression of the shrine was that it was very exotic compared to what I’m used to in Taiwan. I really liked the idea of cleansing yourself and the clapping seemed a little ridiculous. I’m glad I got to experience what it’s like to pray at a Shinto shrine. The place was so much more beautiful than the pictures- it just gave you a feeling of utter peace!



 So we said goodbye to Meiji-Jingu and set of for Shibuya Station where the famous story of Hachiko took place.




There was some kind of political event going on there and I don’t know what that banner was around H’s statue, but I really wanted to take it off. In case you don’t know the story, Hachiko was a really faithful dog who followed his master to this train station every day and waited there to escort him back home again. One day, when his master was at work he had a heart attack and died. So he never came back on the train to meet his dog. Hachiko, however, refused to move his post and stayed there waiting until he died. There’s been quite a few movies made after this story, including one with Richard Gere. I really admire that a dog could have that much loyalty to his master. I hope someday I can have a dog too! Here’s a picture from Wikipedia of the real Hachiko:




Later on in this trip we get to see his stuffed body (gross!) at the Natural Science museum. So stay tuned for that!


After Shibuya station it was too dark to do anymore sightseeing that day. So we went back to the hotel for dinner and… well… I accidentally had a US $200 meal! Albert had said I could have anything I wanted and I uh accidentally read the price wrong. I was never great at numbers but I thought I could handle converting Japanese yen to US dollars. Anyways, Albert knew how much it was and he said it was okay. Of course we shared it though! So this is my first time trying lobster:



So we had tepanyaki, where you can watch the chef fry your food on the metal counter in front of you. It’s really yummy, believe me. (However, it wasn’t as good as tepanyaki we’ve had elsewhere)



Dude, just looking at this picture makes my mouth water!


And this was dessert! Mochi and some jelly in a leaf and cherries!


Catch you later and I’ll tell you about the next day in Japan!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Studying Break

Hi everyone! I'm taking a Chinese proficiency test coming up November 2nd and 3rd, so I'm not going to post anything until after then. (Gotta study!!!) I have lots of things to show you about my previous Japan and China trips so I'll get to that really soon!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hong Kong in August

Finally I have some time to share my travels in China! First stop was Hong Kong, because I needed to get my Chinese visa there. PRETTY expensive, let me say... A Taiwanese person doesn't even need to pay US$3 to get their visa... I'm a little jealous.

We landed in Hong Kong late Saturday night (August 17th) but we went out for a Sichuan style dinner with our friend who was coming with us for a week in China. It was a nice taste of what was to come later when we trek around the Sichuan province. Our restaurant was in Soho and the area is nice and quaint. It's quite a shock to see so many non-Hong Kong-ese people there. Turns out most of the foreign population lives in Soho. The locals are extremely extremely friendly there though!

We spent three days in Hong Kong before heading off to Beijing. I got to go Salsa dancing for the first time in three years!!! And saw some neat paintings...portraits of Chinese women with jade-green backgrounds. Here's some pics!

Locals taking pictures of a 7-11??????

Inside of a restaurant

Got to sleep in.. yay!!!!
These are a couple small shrines to TuDiGong... the "earth god" often worshipped in Taiwan
In the airport, on the way to Beijing. This person was REALLY tired!


Here's a little video I made!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Hong Kong Life

Saturday night we flew into Hong Kong so I could apply for a Chinese visa on Monday. Sunday I had a great time salsa dancing. It was my first time in over three years. :'( today I applied for a visa and I will hopefully pick it up tomorrow. Then well be flying straight to Beijing!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A little announcement...

I'm engaged! I'm lucky- I get to have a celebration in Taiwan and in America. I'll share more details when I have some! PS- We're going to Tokyo for the weekend! :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

月下老人, the Taiwanese god of romance

A few months ago in Chinese class we learned a little bit about 月下老人, or "the old man of the moonlight." He is worshipped in many temples in Taiwan and I first got to meet him in Tainan I believe.

His legend is as follows:
In the Tang Dynasty a man named Wei Gu found an old man sitting under a tree during a full moon. This man was holding a thick book and a bag full of red strings. Wei Gu asked this man who he was and why he had those objects. Yue Lao (月下老人) said that in his book is the list of all the marriages that have been/are/will be, and the red strings are used to bind soulmates together. Wei Gu didn't believe in Yue Lao's power so Yue Lao pointed out a nanny caring a baby. He said that the baby will be Wei Gu's future wife. Wei Gu didn't like that idea so he ordered his servant to stab the baby to death. Years later Wei Gu ends up marrying the baby, because she wasn't fatally wounded in the attack.

Now people pay respects to 月下老人 in order to ask him to help find their soulmates, or to help improve their current relationships. In Taipei there is one famous temple near DiHuaJie called 霞海城隍廟. This particular temple is famous for a faster working 月下老人. So I went to check it out!

This is the temple!
The first thing to do when you want to pay respects to 月下老人 is to go buy supplies at the temple. You get fake golden money that will be burned in an offering, some coins with a romantic inscription on them (also to be offered) and two sticks of incense.

Special money for the god
You go to the main incense holder and bow a couple times towards the outside (in respect to God in heaven), then turn and bow twice towards the temple. Then you buy more supplies, this time you get a red string and a sugar concoction. The red string is the only thing you'll keep- everything else is given back to the temple for offerings. You take the fake money, coins, sugar and thread to where the statue of 月下老人 is placed and you stand for a few minutes silently introducing yourself and saying what you wish for. If you're looking for a romantic partner you say what you want them to look/be like; if you already have a relationship you voice your wishes towards that relationship. Then you bow twice and pay respects in the  same manner to the other gods in the temple.

This is where 月下老人is! Can you see him? He's on the lower left hand side.

At the very end you put your incense in the holder at the entrance to the temple and drink specially brewed tea and cookies. Then don't forget to take the red thread and holding it in your hand make a circle three times clockwise over the holder of incense. You have to keep this thread on you at all times after this, and once you get married you have to send special marriage cakes to the temple to thank 月下老人。
This is the incense burner at the entrance of the temple

This is the special Blessed Tea
My red thread is in this nice pouch and I keep it in my cellphone pouch all the time. ;)
So I found the temple a long walk from the nearest MRT station, no taxis were in sight that day. A lot of people were there and it was a really interesting thing to experience. I payed my respects to 月下老人 but I'm afraid he must not have understood my Chinese, because as soon as I left a local approached me and tried to ask for my phone number... Uh oh...

So what did I wish for and has my wish come true yet???? You'll see in the next entry! ;)

Here are some more pictures of the temple!
Even men came to pay respects! It's usually stereotyped that only women come here to worship.