Sewa Day in London

Yesterday October 5th was Sewa Day. Sewa is a universal concept, which involves performing an act of kindness without expectation of reward. It is performed selflessly and without ulterior motive. As a concept, Sewa in embedded in Indian traditions, and is actively promoted by different cultures and faiths – as the core belief is the same – to sacrifice your time and resources for the benefit of others without wanting anything in return.

Yesterday together with the SOAS Hindu Society we volunteered to help out at an event for the elderly people in the community, hosted by the good people at The Swaminarayan School in Neasden and the National Hindu Students’ Forum.

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We had live performances of music, dancing and comedy, and, of course, delicious vegetarian dishes. It makes me extremely happy to see how many young people were eager to participate in organizing this event, and I hope to see more initiatives like this within universities in London.

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The day wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the beautiful BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden temple), where we cleared our minds and souls.

All in all it was a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I recommend everyone who hasn’t seen the temple to go there because it’s an illuminating trip!

Thank you everyone who participated in the event!

Forever in search of sunrise,

Tokyo Gaijin

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Onward to the future

The wonderful Tokyo adventure has come to an end… But that doesn’t mean that the fun is over!

Starting September I’m going to take over the role of International Officer in the SOAS Student’s Union. I’ll be responsible for welcoming all the international students, ensuring their wellbeing, and of course, FUN!

Freshers’ week is bound to be the most fun in your university life, and the SOAS SU will make sure that all the parties are as wild as possible to make sure your school year kicks off to a great start!

That’s why I decided to continue updating my blog  with events and activities we’ll be running throughout the year: http://anaolanescu.blogspot.co.uk/

Make sure you follow it, this year SOAS is the place to be!!

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Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

 

Farewell さようなら

I’ve been contemplating what to say… (write) now that it’s all over. If I look back at the past year, I feel like I was in Tokyo forever. Maybe it was the distance, or the fact that I was all alone, but it kind of gave me a new set of wings, that I skilfully learnt how to fly with.

Before leaving Tokyo I couldn’t really grasp the immense leap that I took forward this past year. Not to sound overconfident, but before it, I think I was only an inception; a girl with a dream waiting for it to come true. Now, when I look in the mirror, I don’t even recognize myself; something’s changed.

It’s the people, the places, the experiences that I had, which pushed me forward to want more. I used to think that because I’ve fulfilled my dream, there’s nowhere to go from now on. But now that I’ve left Tokyo and I’m back (to the real world), it seems that there’s so much more to conquer.

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One thing your year abroad does to you, is that it makes you not be afraid anymore. After having to adapt to a whole different environment, study, work, and survive there, returning home seems almost too easy. In a way I could say that: if I made it there, I can make it anywhere, right?

Of course this new set of wings doesn’t come easy, only I know how hard I had to sweat to get them. But up here the air feels smoother, I think this kind of weather suits me; it’s got that scent that I’ve always been craving, called success. And this success was only possible thanks to the wonderful people who supported me during this time, the ones who put up with me on skype for all those long hours complaining, the ones who tried to make me feel welcome in Tokyo, and the teachers, who are undoubtedly the most sacred people in my life; without them I could have never got where I am today.

Japan was my sandstorm, which I faced, walked in, and conquered head-on so I can finally call my own. So this is not farewell, because I’m not gone. I’ll still be up here flying, doing what I always dreamt of doing and enjoying every minute of it.

On to another dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

日本での経験について何を書こうかな、長い間考えた。私はこの一年間を振り返ってみると、私は永遠に東京にあったように感じがする。多分距離のせいか、または一人で生活することか、それは私に新しい翼を与えるようになった。

この一年間の間に、新しい生活ではなく、新しい人生ができたように気がする。これは今まで、私の人生の中に一番大切なことだ!日本人の学生と先生のおかげで、貴重な経験を手に入れられるようになって、心からありがとうございました!

日本は私が直面している、私の砂嵐で、征服した。結局に日本のことを自分自身の物で呼び出せるようになった。

一年間の素晴らしい経験が終わって、寂しい…皆さんお疲れ様‼︎WICの皆さん大好き‼︎また会いに来る!お姉妹の大西大変お世話になりました!お姉妹なってくれてありがとうございました!10403502_560649937396446_5303065980234284545_n

今からも、永遠まで、よろしくお願いします!

また日の出、

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Summer cruise (納涼船)

今日は楽しい一日だった。なぜなら、日本にいる間最もいい友達と過ごしたから。2013年12月にスピーチコンテストに参加してから、ずっと班の皆と仲良くしてて、本当に喜んでいる。

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かわいくて面倒なこばりょうは多分、今皆知っているかも、私のペットだよ! ペットはいつも笑顔で冗談をしてて、でも本当のことはとても優しくて、頼りになるな人だ。

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かっこいいぽたぽた焼きを紹介してくらたのとしさいとうは私と同じように地理学をチャレンジして、将来にえらい人になるつもり。としはとても頭がいいし、いつも面白い戯け口をして、楽しい雰囲気を作る。

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素敵いいなななちゃんはアナウンサーぽいな顔と声があって、びっくりするほどエレガントだ!将来テレビに出てほしいなな!いつも手伝ってくれて、ありがとうございます!

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ポンポン甘いチャプチェーーーもちろんウンスだよね!私が知っている韓国人に限って一番かわいい女性に違いない!私が帰るまでに必ずチャプチェを食べに行きたい!よろしくね!

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同じ日に生まれて、とても大人らしいなもえもえちゃん!もえちゃんは頭すごくいいだから、将来首相になってほしい!必ず日本を帰るつもり!任せる!

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私たち班の子供、ペット以外もちろん、メグカットなんですけれども。メグちゃん、本当にいい子として、すぐ好きになったよ!持って帰りたいなー!バッグに入れたほうがいいかなー (笑)今度メグカットを世界に広めよう!

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私の御姉妹、めちゃくちゃ素敵いいな大西、なっちゃんボッス!なっちゃん最初に厳しいそうな顔として、ちょっと怖かったが、としの戯け口のおかげですぐなっちゃんのリアルな顔を見えるようになって、嬉しいです!この間に本当の御姉妹な感じがして、一人子にとってとても大事なこと。今からも、帰っても、永遠に御姉妹だよ!ありがとう!

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皆さん、この長い旅はそろそろ終わるだよね。。。でも、そうかと言っても、皆と仲良くしてて、いつまでも友達になるほしい!この一年間に本当に家族のような形で過ごしたね!また、面倒で乱暴なアナをこの長い間に我慢してくれて、心から本当にありがとうございます!

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Today I went on a cruise around Tokyo with my favorite Japanese people. In the one year I’ve spent here, they have been like a family to me, so I want to thank them for everything they have done for me, for putting up with my impossible personality and fits, and for accepting me in their community.

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I feel like the luckiest exchange student ever, because I’ve never heard of anyone until now to have such an amazing group of Japanese students become so close to them in such a short time. So I wanted to take this time out, and express my gratitude towards them. But it seems that there are some things that can only be said in certain languages, and that is why I chose to write in Japanese. We are, after all, all Japanese here, right?! 🙂

There are only two weeks to go, and so many things left to do! A lot of fun is on the horizon!

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

 

 

 

Romanian Festival in Tokyo (東京ルーマニア・フェスタ)

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Yesterday the first Romanian festival in Japan was held at Waseda University. As many of my friends know, because I have been talking about this event unceasingly for the past month or so, this was an event organised by the Waseda International Community Center (ICC) with the support of the Embassy of Romania in Tokyo.

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On this day the Romanian Ambassador Mr. Radu Serban not only did us the honor of attending the event, but also opened the event with a speech and a presentation.

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Together with the Ambassador, many members of the Embassy attended the festival. Along with them, highly regarded Romanian teachers of Japanese, as well as Japanese teachers of theatre honored us with their presence.

Following the Ambassador’s introduction of our country, Ms Diana Borcea enchanted us with a series of traditional folk songs, setting up the atmosphere for the following performances.

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Afterwards, me and my friend Alex, who is a Romanian doctorate student at Waseda, entertained the public with a fun quiz and a brief history presentation. Naturally, the names of Vlad Tepes (a.k.a Dracula), and Nadia Comaneci were the peaks of our presentation.

 

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Lastly, Alex, me and four other friends of ours from our salsa club prepared a short performance of traditional folk dances. And because our dances are very upbeat and fun, we invited the whole public to join us!

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And, of course, what kind of Romanian event would that be if there wasn’t any wine? After explaining in our presentation how we make wine in our homes, it was only fitting that we share some delicious Romanian wine with our guests! Along with that, we had some very authentic Romanian food, provided by two Romanian restaurants in Tokyo: Darie and La Mihai.

 

All in all it was a very successful event, with 104 guests, which was just above the room’s capacity. I enjoyed helping to organize it, and hope to have more opportunities to organize such events in the future!

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

 

 

Sleepwalking

As the temperatures in Tokyo are rising, so is my stress level. Today the countdown officially starts: 1 month left to go!

They say that if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. When it comes to summer in Tokyo, I think most people would choose the storm over sunshine in 90% humidity.

With that in mind, I decided to put a distance between myself and all the stress and uncomfortable weather; and since anywhere you go in Japan right now is hot, I took a more vertical approach to the matter; a 55 stories high approach. Today I climbed Mori building in Roppongi Hills.

As I look out over the sizzling city, everything seemed so small, including my problems. The megalopolis spreads out over the horizon, engulfing everything but the ocean. It alone stands impassive to the millions of souls hustling and bustling all around the narrow streets.

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Luckily (for me), the rain started as soon as I climbed to the top of the building. For the many tourists who were gathered there to enjoy the magnificent city sprawl, it was a great disappointment. But not for me.DSCF1118

Somehow, through the misty clouded haze that surrounded the skyscraper, I could see things clearly. In the cold air, on that sky deck, with the rain drizzling down upon us, as the other visitors hurried back inside, I couldn’t be any happier. This weather is just like home, it’s London! And somewhere in the back of my mind this song was playing on repeat:

Someday you’ re gonna realize you’ve been sleepwalking through it all
you’ve been sleepwalking, to get back home…

 

After enjoying the brightly lit up night view, I warmed up with a bowl of delicious hand-rolled udon, at the famous Kurosawa restaurant in Roppongi (饂飩 くろさわ 六本木).

Kurosawa is a traditional Japanese udonsobarestaurant just over the street from the Grant Hyatt. It was named after the great movie director Akira Kurosawa, and decorated with posters of his most famous movies. There are now four Kurosawa restaurants in Tokyo, all built in retro style to replicate the feel of buildings featured in his movies. The entrance, with its slatted windows, traditional wooden gate and flagstones, is modeled after a set in “Red Beard” (1965).

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I have to admit that the udon was delicious. I tried a dish specific to the Kansai area, with a very light broth and lots of veggies.

It reminded me of the chanko nabe  (ちゃんこ鍋) which is commonly eaten in vast quantity by sumo wrestlers.

Since it’s rainy season in Japan (tsuyu – 梅雨) and it’s very hot, the best thing you can do is relax with a pot of hot (or cold) udon, in a nice setting like Kurosawa restaurant.

From this day on the countdown begins!

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

Personally I think no 9 describes me perfectly ^_^.

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Chances are since you’re visiting our site, you probably already have an interest in Japan or other Asian countries. But have you ever had a friend who knows next to nothing about Japan, but you just have a feeling that they would come to love the island country given the right incentive?

If so, you may recognize some characteristic qualities of that friend in the following list written by Japanese blogger and all-around-life expert Madame Riri. This time, she’s come up with some common traits of foreigners who grow to love Japan based on her own observations from time spent abroad. 

Do you find yourself conforming to any of the following patterns?

View original post 1,174 more words

Waseda vs Keio baseball match 早慶戦

ImageYesterday, June 1st, Waseda students attended the most important event of the season: Soukeisen (早慶戦). It’s a baseball match between my university Waseda) and our biggest rival (Keio). Baseball is by far the most popular sport in Japan, something like football in England, so you can get an idea of how crazy people go here, especially given the rivalry between our universities.

Similar to Harvard and Yale, or Oxford and Cambridge, Waseda and Keio have been competing for decades in numerous sports and intellectual contests; but none is more fierce than this baseball game. Image

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It’s a two game series, Saturday and Sunday. Being the sports fan that I am, I only went on Sunday. The game was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Which apparently meant the group I was going with should meet at 7:30 a.m. Since I’m a foreigner and this is my first baseball game in Japan who was I to argue with that time.

But I should have. Because lining up took more than 2 hours (during which I got to hand out questionnaires for my dissertation paper *win*). So we FINALLY made it to the HUGE stadium; as I mentioned before I am no sports fan. In fact, I’ve never actually been to a real sports game, so this was my first time watching it live.

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One thing that was completely new, foreign, alien, shock etc… to me was the cheering. Apart from the fact that we don’t really have cheerleaders around in Europe, cheering in Japan is a whole different story to what I’ve seen before. No random shouting like you do at football matches back home. Far from it. Cheering here is more like a religion? Or a cult? I don’t really know what to call it, so I’ll let the video speak for itself.

Watch how the guy in the front instructs everyone on how to move, what to say and so on.

I was a bit flabbergasted; not only don’t I follow the crowd (in general), but to be made to cheer for an hour prior the game actually starting, or the players actually stepping on to the field is exaggerated to say the least.

Nevertheless, I put up with it, and watched part of the game as my Japanese friends tried to explain the rules to me. For my American friends the experience was much more enjoyable, but I can’t lie: I do miss a nice well-played football match.

Thank God the World Cup is this year, I can’t wait!

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

Journey to the East

Last weekend one of the three biggest events in Japanese universities’ year took place all over Tokyo. The Hyaku hai  百ハイ(literally 100 km hike), a two day hike from Saitama to Tokyo, was celebrated by thousands of enthusiasts from all over the city. From amateurs going at it at their own pace, to sporty enthusiasts rushing to cross the finish line first, Tokyo university students participated in yet another intense event meant to bring lots of people together under the same goal.  While everyone was roasting under the scorching sun, I on the other hand chose to relax and enjoy the nice weather in a more ‘friendly’ manner. So I decided to go to Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) instead. Roppongi Hills  is one of the best examples of a city within the city, because it’s literally a city on its own. From the top shopping centers to famous art museums (Mori museum) and TV headquarters (Asahi), not to mention the extraordinary overview of Tokyo, this place has it all. ImageImageImage   DSCF0897

In my opinion this is one of the most relaxing places you can go to in Tokyo on a Sunday and enjoy both a magnificent view and various exciting activities. That, of course, if you don’t mention Tokyo Port. It’s like Yokohama, but 20 minutes away from your house. The nice chilly breeze and cold matcha ice cream make Tokyo Port a dream on a hot day! Of course, for those of you who are more adventurous and like sailing (count me out), there are countless boats sailing from here either to nearby Entertainment city Odaiba, or to one of the numerous fabulous islands around Tokyo. Image DSCF0905 DSCF0902

I hope your weekend was at least as nice and relaxing as mine. If not, next time try going to Roppongi hills or Tokyo Port!

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin

Golden Week Part 2: Children’s day and Sumo statium 子供の日と両国

So…. this is part two of my Golden Week post, as you may know Golden Week comprises several national holidays, including children’s day (Kodomo no hi 子供の日) May 5th. It is a day to celebrate the health and happiness of children. 

Although it’s considered a holiday for all children, this day mainly focuses on boys, as opposed to Hinamatsuri which is girl’s day. Families with boys fly, “Koinobori 鯉のぼり (carp-shaped streamers)”, to express hope that they will grow up healthy and strong. The carp is a symbol of strength, courage and success. I took a few pictures of these wonderful flags around Tokyo and in the countryside Chichibu.ImageImage       10346732_10201089156350900_62965239_n

  On Children’s Day, there is a custom to take a shoubu-yu (a bath with floating shoubu leaves). Shoubu (菖蒲) is a type of iris which is said to  promote good health and to ward off evil. It is also hung under the eaves of homes to drive away evil spirits. “Shoubu (尚武)” also means, “martialism, warlike spirit”, when using different kanji characters.

Speaking of martialism and warlike spirits, today’s trip was to Ryogoku, where the national sumo stadium is. Although we didn’t go to see a sumo match, we had the chance to see sumo wrestlers and eat at their restaurant!!

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Famous sumo wrestlers and their hand prints at the train station in Ryogoku.

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The Sumo stadium and flags with all the sumo wrestlers’ names and sponsors, a very colorful way of advertising.

Next we took a trip back in time to Edo Period (1603-1868) where we strolled around a traditional Japanese garden, and met Tokugawa Iyeyasu (the first Tokugawa shogun) at the Edo Museum.

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Me and my Japanese family in the garden, you guys are the best! You made my Japanese experience!

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KobaRyou a.k.a. My Pet^^                                Toshi and Natsuki (we’re sisters!)

DSCF0709 One of my favorite things in Japan: red bridge

The rocks where we nearly fell… several times

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The Edo Tokyo Museum on the left and me and our club president on the right surrounded by azaleas.

The longest escalator I’ve been on ever (3 stories high!). The video below only captures half of it.

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Edo style performance stage and castle

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This is how sumo wrestlers eat! An authentic restaurant where we ate food prepared by the same people who cook for the wrestlers.

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Nabe, the food of the gods!

And with that my friends Golden Week has ended, amazing trips have been taken, a lot of food and drinks have been had, and tomorrow it’s off to the cruel reality: classes. I for one, have a Kanji test which I haven’t prepared for, so I’ll be catching up with you soon!

 

Till dawn,

Tokyo Gaijin