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Happy New Year (Year in Review) December 28, 2010

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Happy New Year (Year in Review)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-xi

With the year coming to an end, and the holiday season in full swing, I thought I’d give a little update into this blog. I have been blogging for over 2 years now. I started writing in August 2008 and have been at it every week ever since. For those of you who have never written a blog, or ever tried it, it’s a labour of love, but it is labour. It’s not easy to come up with new ideas, or to keep travelling the world, or in my case, Japan. I am always thinking of new things to talk about, and I have many things sitting on the backburner waiting to be written. To maintain a good blog, you have to actually write posts weeks, or months in advance. The reason I keep to a weekly schedule is because of time constraints. I am not earning any money from this blog, and I am doing it purely out of my own self interest. I tend to write several articles over the span of a month, in short bursts, and publish them over a couple months. This gives me enough time to relax. It has come to my mind that I might want to stop someday, but at this moment, I enjoy writing this blog as it’s still a good collection of my thoughts and a good way to remember what I did in my life and where I have been.

In the last year, I have seen a large jump in visitors. The last time I gave any stats for this blog, it was August 2009, on the one year anniversary. I missed the second year due to my personal schedule, so the following stats are for the last year and a half. The biggest month so far was in December 2009. I had 1357 hits that month, and it was probably due to the “Holiday” post. It had the most hits that month. Coincidentally, the best day of this blog was in December of that year with 75 views in one day. In terms of 2010 itself, as of writing this post, the biggest month was August at 1033 hits, and the best day was on November 13 with 74 hits which almost tied the record number. I had also seen a large jump in average hits. In 2009, I saw steady growth in hits, and by the beginning of 2010, I was averaging 600 hits a month. By April, the number of hits has been no less than 800 per month. That’s a huge jump from the few dozen or so when I just started this blog. If anything goes to show, perseverance pays off.

There are also a few other reasons for the jump in numbers. I started to promote my blog just a little more, and very recently, I listed this blog on a few ex-pat sites. I have also just been listed on InterNations which is an online networking site and Ex-pat Blog. I can’t say much about either of these sites as I haven’t had enough time to really go through them, but I don’t see anything bad with them either. It’s an interesting take on things and how to find new people. In the last year, I have also started my own Twitter Feed (@dru46) and my own business doing tours of Tokyo, and Japan. While I went in with high hopes, but VERY realistic expectations, I have not been discouraged. I have an average of a few hits per day on my tour site, and I hope to have it re-done in a professional manner very soon. In fact, this blog is going to be moving within the next year with a slight change. I decided to finally put some money into my company and try things out a little more. We’ll see if anything happens.

On a personal note, I’m at a point in my life where I need a change. I am trying to find a new job, away from teaching, and I’m trying to branch out. While I have been travelling around Japan extensively, I haven’t really networked enough, in my eyes. It’s time to move out and try something new. 5 years of teaching is a long time, and I’m sure there are more adventures that await me in the near future. If you know of anything, feel free to drop me a line. Again, I’m very realistic and never expect anything. 🙂 That said, please drop me a line dru.tang@hinomaple.com or leave a comment here. I’d love to hear what you think about each of these places.

Dru

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Happy Holidays (2010) November 23, 2010

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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Happy Holidays (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-x5

Happy Holidays (2010)

It’s that time of year again. November 1st has come and all of the Christmas decorations are being put up one by one. Within the first two weeks of November, almost all of the Christmas decorations will have been put up by most of the shops and Christmas songs will be playing in almost all of the shops. As in the past two years, I have mentioned that Christmas is a time for couples, drinking parties, and then a change into the New Year season where we enjoy time with our families and a lot of shopping. It’s a great time of year, but one that has a bit of mixed emotions for me. This will be my fifth year in Japan, and the fifth Christmas away from my family. I have gotten used to it, but the fact that I don’t have a Christmas tree, nor will I exchange presents makes it a little sad.

In the last year, I have learned a few new things about Christmas in Japan, and I have seen things change slightly each year. It appears that each year brings with it new traditions. Many children receive gifts on Christmas, but this usually stops around the time they enter school. Some friends will continue to give gifts, but this usually stops by the time they enter college. Unfortunately, the true meaning of Christmas is completely lost on most Japanese people. I have had conversations with various people about Christmas, and they tend to be surprised that in Canada, even non-Christians celebrate Christmas to some degree. The concept of Christmas is completely lost on them. While it is true that Christmas is currently a Christian holiday with Christian symbolism, I am constantly teaching them that the deeper meaning of Christmas is slightly different. I grew up in a Catholic family and raised going to a Catholic school. I had learned the Christian meaning of Christmas, but having grown up in Canada, I also learned the deeper meaning of Christmas. I prefer to think of Christmas as a time of family. It’s a time to get together and, similarly to Thanksgiving, give thanks to your family and show them how much you love them. I had mentioned that Japanese people tend to reverse Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s still very true. When I tell them this, many will understand for the first time, but many won’t completely understand. I find Christmas to be very easy to explain, but to understand it completely, it can be difficult.

The commercialization of Christmas in Tokyo is very rampant. Wherever you go, you will see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and various Christmas decorations. Unlike Canada and America, the huge sales leading up to Christmas are barely existent. It’s common to see a few sales, but due to the huge sales over the New Year holidays, it’s tough to put on big sales when people are waiting that extra month for the huge sales. In 2008, I mentioned the traditions of a Japanese Christmas. It was all about boyfriends and girlfriends. They go out for a date on New Year’s Eve and enjoy a nice Christmas cake. For families, or couples who have been together for a long time, it involves Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Christmas cake. Generally, the department stores are completely full on Christmas Eve, and there are long lines outside KFC. Many people pre-order their chicken and pick it up at the allotted time. It has never sat right with me. In fact, Christmas back home doesn’t really sit right with me as things are becoming over commercialized. In order to combat the lack of Christmas spirit, one of my favourite things to do is to watch a video commentary by Mike Mcartle, a local Vancouver reporter who does good will stories. He tells a good story on the meaning of Christmas and it has been running for years as a tradition on Christmas night. I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to enjoy Christmas in Tokyo, follow the links below for information.

http://youtu.be/4tVyHjtTbZA

Past blog posts:

Christmas 2009:  http://wp.me/piUxk-jM

Christmas 2008:  http://wp.me/piUxk-5H

New Year 2009/2010:  http://wp.me/piUxk-6c

Christmas Light information:

Christmas Light Locations (All of Japan): http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/

Christmas Light Locations (Tokyo): http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/list.asp?KenCD=13

Note: These sites are only in Japanese.  You can check each one individually if you can’t read Japanese.  The three boxes are, in order, “There is a Christmas Tree”, “There is an event”, and “There are fireworks”.  Unfortunately, the events will depend on the location, and I am not sure when the fireworks might be.

Here is a bunch of locations that I find interesting.  Unfortunately, they don’t usually change much over the years, especially now that the economy has been bad for the last few years.  Things may change in the next few years.

Lightopia 2010 (Marunouchi District @ Tokyo Station)

http://www.kouto-tokyo.jp/

This Christmas Illumination is pretty big.  It spans several blocks and includes the various buildings in the Marunouchi area.  Walking along Naka-dori or heading over to the Imperial Palace, you’ll see thousands of lights.  Naka-dori also has various art sculptures.  While the event is only for a week, the buildings along Naka-dori are still beautiful to visit during the season.

Caretta Blue (Shinbashi)

http://www.caretta.jp/

This one is not as amazing, but the wave of blue is stunning.  Be sure to go as a couple and get your fortune as a couple.  This was popular last year, so expect a line if you do visit.  Be sure to also head towards the old Shinbashi Station building as they have a Christmas train made of lights.

Odaiba

http://www.odaiba-decks.com/

While the link is for Odaiba Decks, the entire shopping plaza and the various hotels in the area have many light displays.  It’s still a couples location, but the tree is somewhat unique and the background is truly Tokyo.

Roppongi

http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/jp/index.html

http://roppongihills.com/

Both Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown have vast displays.  They have one of the best displays and they seem to add something new to it each year.  Unfortunately, things haven’t really changed over the years, rather they just get larger.

Shinjuku

http://www.odakyu.jp/terrace-city/event/index.html

Along the west side, you’ll be able to see various lights at some of the building plazas, but the main action is along Shinjuku Southern Terrace.  They have a huge display each year, but do be aware that it will be busy.  You can also visit Lumine for their roof top light display too.

Omotesando

If you like high fashion shopping, a stop in Omotesando is a must.  They have a large crystal tree inside Omotesando Hills and the entire street is lit up with Christmas lights.  If I remember correctly, they were the first to start the Christmas light trend in Tokyo.

Tachikawa:

http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/detail.aspx?SozaiNo=130061

The Showa Kinen Park is the only place this year with fireworks.  There may be other places that are announced over the coming days, but so far, I haven’t heard anything yet.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Happy New Year January 1, 2009

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Happy New Year” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6c

Happy New Year!!!

It is now 2009, in Tokyo.  This is the first year of my blog,  but my 4th New Year in Japan.  New Year’s in Japan is a very different experience compared to Canada.  I’d say that it’s much more boring.  Of course, if you have a lot of foreigner friends, and they happen to be in Japan at the same time, it can be fun, but generally, there isn’t much to see or do.  I recommend avoiding this time if you are planning to visit Japan.  There are only a few exceptions.

In Japan, you generally have 5 days of holidays before you head back to work.  This season, we’ll have 6 days, due to the orientation of the week.  Many people will actually have 9 days as Monday is also a holiday.  Traditionally, the end of the year is spent doing many things.  It begins on December first.  Many people go to bonenkai parties.  These are essentially the same as any other Year End Party or Christmas Party, however, in Japan, these are still a little different.  Some people will go to a party every week.  Others, just one.  The most I heard was someone had to go to a party almost everyday before the holidays.  These Year End Parties aren’t easy either.  While it may sound easy, you have to remember that you are drinking until you nearly throw-up, and quite often you go beyond that.  You also have to function normally at work the next day as well.  While you may think that these parties can be “skipped”, many times, people go to parties that their clients are holding.  If they don’t go to these parties, they could be seen as not being a team player, or not caring for their own clients.

The actual holidays start around December 30th.  The end of the year is generally a very busy time to take a train or plane out of Japan.  If you plan to go from Tokyo to Osaka, or Hokkaido, and vice versa, you will have a very tough time.  Prices are increased for planes, and chances of getting a spot on a Shinkansen could be impossible.   Everyone usually goes home at least once during the holidays.  The best people go home for the entire holiday, whether they want to or not.  The other major thing to do for the last two days of the year is to clean up.  Unlike North America, Japanese people do their “Spring Cleaning” at the end of the year.  In this time, people tend to just throw away old junk and clean behind the shelves.  Depending on the house, it could take a day, or it could take five days.

On New Year’s Eve, there are no parties.  If you are a foreigner, you can always have your own party, but if you are planning to go out, good luck.  Most shops close early, and almost nothing is open after 9 pm.   There is only one interesting thing to do, if it’s your first time in Japan.  Go to a temple or shrine.  Meiji Jingu is the most famous in the West.  Thousands of people go throughout the night and literally throw money towards the shrine.  Dozens of guards are lined up and the police work all night helping you be orderly.  There are other temples and shrines to visit, but I have never been to any of the major ones.  Visiting a local shrine is much easier, but not as exciting.  It does provide a very interesting insight into what could be normal for other Japanese people.

On January 1st, there is absolutely nothing to do.  Some major electronics shops and restaurants may open, but generally, just stay home.  After, you can enjoy the shopping bonanza.  The first two days after the new year is Japan’s biggest sale time.  It’s akin to Black Friday in America and Boxing Day in Canada.  The morning of January 2nd, there are usually lines of people waiting to enter every shop.  Deals can be had for almost everything.  If you are strong, and brave, you can easily enjoy the shopping and the hunt for bargains.  If not, try to go a week later.  Sales tend to last for the entire month, but pickings can be slim after the first week.  The first day is the best in terms of selection, and obviously things get worse from there.  There is another interesting thing you can buy.  “Fukubukuro”.  These are “lucky bags”.  Hundreds, if not thousands of people will line up  at various shops to buy these lucky backs.  To buy one of these bags, you can spend as little as 5000 yen and as much as 500,000 yen.  You will often get double the price you paid, but there is one catch.  You don’t know what you are getting.  They just sell sealed bags stuffed with goods and you have to hope you get something nice.  Recently, there have been more and more bags where you can see what is inside.  If you are worried about size, they usually have signs that say who they are for.  In most cases, only certain people buy them.  Most people don’t.

Once January 4th comes around, things return to normal, relatively, and people go back to work and enjoy working hard.

I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year.

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