topazera: Aiba Masaki with his hands pressed to his lips in extreme excitement (嵐: Aiba Masaki's face is stuck in :D!)
[personal profile] topazera
So, unfortunately, I haven't kept up with posting every week! What a shame! I really loved posting more frequently. I miss photoshop and lady posts and random screencaps! I've really been far more removed from lj than I'd like. BUT I do have a reason for the drop off as I've had a lot on my mind recently. Including some DEVELOPMENTS--

In chronological order, with some things of lesser importance in here to mix it up a little. Plus, pictures, I always feel like I need visual aids~ XD

1) It was my birthday last month and I officially turned how am I this old. :D It was a nice surprise though, my brother bought me a necklace! We're not big on present-giving in my family as of late so it was very unexpected. It's topaz-themed because he knows I have a stronger connection with my username than with my birthstone. AW! :D Here, I'll show it off:

It really is very me, I was impressed! ♥

Also, while we're at it, what I wore that day! It's pretty twee for me, subconsciously flying in the face of my age, maybe? :D :D

There is also a hidden cosplay reference, hahaha


With the raspberry bushes.


2) I got my braces off almost two weeks ago! I had them on for three full years, to the month. Oh, orthodontist, that original estimate of eighteen to twenty months was such a lie! Such a pie-in-the-sky dream! XD Unfortunately, that means that I'm now on to my adjustment period for my new retainers. I've got the old-school Hawley version and they didn't let me delude myself about how long I'll be in them this time: I'm supposed to wear them 24/7 for a whole year. I'm still having a bit of trouble with my speech, a lot of lisping. Though my family assures me it's better than I think it is. Still, it's going to take some getting used to. I completely adjusted to having something on the outside of my teeth but this covering my soft palate deal is a whole different story. :) But HEY, this is still much better than the time I tried to get Invisalign braces and cried for three days straight! XD The bar was set pretty low~ :D


Still going to have a goofy, gummy smile though~ Believe me, they tried to sucker me into further ways to they could fix me (and take my money) but they foolishly told me too much about the surgery. AHA, I am afraid of both blood and needles! Take that, periodontist who gave me a sneaky, free consultation! :DD


3) I got my Beautiful World DVD! IT WAS WORTH THE SOMETIMES INTERMINABLE WAIT. IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY. I'd kind of forgotten how much I wanted performances for the BW album songs! It's been a while since I was super into them! Aha, there was a period when I thought, for some unknown reason, I wasn't going to cry this time! That I was in control of my emotions! HAHAHA. Then Doko ni Demo Aru Uta happened. Oh dear sparkle, even having listened to the song and read a translation and gotten a lot of my feelings out previously (or so I thought) did not prepare me for how that song destroyed me. XD It's my current favorite solo from the concert. NINO MADE A PRETTY COMPELLING CASE THIS TIME FOR THE CROWN. (...Though I really should have remembered they sang 5x10 at the end of this, my destruction was really always guaranteed. XD)

I have a lot of various feelings about this concert but I just can't imagine trying to get them all down right now so I'll only summarize with:

I REALLY LOVE THESE PEOPLE. ♥♥♥


4) I've been really into The West Wing recently! I've never seen the sixth and seventh seasons and I decided now was the time to just roll through them both! A LOT OF OUT-OF-DATE FANDOM FEELINGS RIGHT NOW. I'd talk about them further but yes, I am type to worry about spoilers for a long shuttered fandom. XD

I've been distracting myself with American TV recently, BECAUSE my usual Japanese TV hasn't been nearly as distracting as of late due to my next news...

5) Most importantly but also what I've been nervous to actually talk about and make real, I am going to Japan for the summer. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh~ I've been to Japan once before but that was eleven years ago now! I was in high school and I went along with the Rotary Club who arranged everything for me, so it was really a whole different kind of experience. This time I'm going with my brother, we're aiming for moderately-inexpensive-by-comparison trip by doing a couple homestays and some hostels/dormitories. I KIND OF CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING AND WE LEAVE ON JUNE 13TH alsdkla;dfgl. But it's a good time, neither of us has commitments right now and we might as well do something memorable with the time!

I'm sure at some point I will be really excited but right now, I'm incredibly nervous??Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and have a minor panic attack. XD It's just so much to plan, trying to figure out where we're going to be and how we'll get there! This was a pretty last-minute trip that's mostly being arranged for my brother's sake and I'm just the companion. And planner. XD Plus, I understand more Japanese than I speak and I certainly can't read more than a few kanji so I'm still not sure about how I'll get around in day to day life! I'm especially concerned about transportation, both buying the tickets and figuring out how to get on the right stuff! Buses! I'm not very good at buses even when they are in English! I'm trying to tell myself that I can only take it a day at a time but it's hard not to worry in advance. :)

SO, if anyone on my flist has any Japan experience/will be in the country and wouldn't mind fielding an occasional omg I'm confused question, I'd really, really appreciate it? :D It would be reassuring to have a language-emergency contact. :) I know a couple people with be there, like [livejournal.com profile] felixkeep! Though I'm not sure if I'll be in the same place as anyone, I think we'll be spending a lot of time in the Kansai area. WOW, I'M STILL IN DENIAL THAT I'M ACTUALLY GOING. :D Any general travel advice would be much appreciated too! Really, I'm very open to anything. :D

SO YES, TO SUMMARIZE: JAPAN! JUNE 13TH-SEPTEMBER 3RD! I'D BE HAPPY TO MEET UP WITH FANDOM PEOPLE IF WE OVERLAPPED SOMEWHERE! I WOULD EXPLODE WITH JOY IF I COULD GET INTO EITHER THE ARASHI OR EITO EVENTS THIS SUMMER, IF ANYONE HAS ANY IDEAS FOR HOW TO DO THAT WHEN TICKETS ARE AS EXCLUSIVE AS THEY ARE!! AHHHHHHHHH~~~~ :DDDDD

Date: 2012-06-04 08:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sotayukari.livejournal.com
WOW!!!!! JAPAN!!!!!!!! I always wish to go to Japan. Just once is enough for me XD hope you'll have a wonderful trip :D

Date: 2012-06-05 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topazera.livejournal.com
Thank you! Yes, Japan is really the dream location to visit for me, I still can't believe I'm going! :D Hopefully it will work out for you too, someday! Life is long. ♥

Date: 2012-06-04 09:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] animefreak42.livejournal.com
Aww, the necklace is beautiful and your outfit is so pretty! <3 Happy belated birthday!

About Japan, yay! I just went for the first time with my sister this April, and it was incredible. We didn't have much Japanese to go off either (I probably have about the same jdrama/Arashi song phrases as you do, and unfortunately words like niji and egao don't actually show up that much in daily life >.<). Are you getting the Jrail pass? It was worth it for us because we traveled long distances, and it does make things a lot easier for ticket purchasing and such. If you're staying in mostly the same place it might not be cost-effective. There is a decent amount of English around, especially in touristy areas, and pretty much every sign at rail stations has English as well. Most of the ticket buying machines have English options, and in touristy areas there's usually a tourist information office with an English speaker to help you get places. I visited Kyoto and Osaka and there was plenty of English signage and English speaking tourist information people in both rail stations.

I checked a lot of resources in planning my trip, and I think www.japan-guide.com is especially helpful - lots of pictures and practical information (like tourist attraction hours and cost) to help you survive. There is a ridiculous amount of information there, so try to focus your efforts so you don't end up wanting to go everywhere! In planning a day of busy tourist plans, use hyperdia.com to find out how long travel will take and how much things will cost (if your plans are flexible you may not need to do this, but if you really want to see certain things, this is probably a good idea). Jrail covers everything except for NOZOMI / MIZUHO / HAYABUSA (SHINKANSEN) and Private Railways.

Also, investing in a phrasebook (even if you can't pronounce things, you can flip to something and point at what you're trying to say) and/or phone app with common phrases is probably a good idea. Japanese people are also super helpful, as you probably imagine - we were traveling with 2 Caucasian blondes so whenever we gathered around a map together for a couple minutes without figuring things out ourselves, a Japanese person would usually come over and ask where we were trying to go. Never feel like you're being a bother or don't know how to ask, they will go out of their way to help you and you can always do lots of pointing and gesturing. If the person speaking to you can't help, they will find you someone who can! Knowing some of the characters is useful, but you'll probably get places faster if you just admit that you don't really know and ask someone.

Be aware that Wifi access isn't very common in Japan (most everyone relies on cell phone data networks), and net cafes aren't as common as you might think. The hotels I stayed at almost all had ethernet connections, but either no wifi or lobby-only wifi. For us, that mostly just meant planning most of the travel ahead of time, bringing paper copies of things and downloading important docs to my phone. Since we traveled very far: Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto, Osaka, Koya-san, and Hiroshima on the main island, then out to various islands (Ishigaki, Okinawa, Iriomotejima), we carried only a large backpack with no electronics besides phone and camera. By the way, Hiroshima is freaking amazing! If you have time and the finances to get out there, it's totally worth it. The Peace Museum is an amazing experience and the area is beautiful. There's also good shopping there, and we had incredible okinomiyaki.

Feel free to ask me any questions! Obviously I won't be as much help as a native speaker, but I have been there recently and might have answers to embarrassing questions about what to do in a ryokan bathing area, or things like that. :) Also, no questions are stupid - I had to click around forever to figure out some things, so I would love to impart that knowledge to you and save you some time.

Date: 2012-06-05 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topazera.livejournal.com
Oh man, thank you so much for taking out the time to write all this! I really appreciate all the insight! You're the best! ♥

We looked in a Jrail pass but we're just not moving quickly enough most of the time to really get our money's worth. (Though we MIGHT have use for a JR East Special 3-day pass.) Maybe we should keep it in mind for shorter segments of travel, we still haven't worked out August yet! Thanks for reassuring me about signage and ticketing machines, I was worried there was going to be a whole lot of staring blankly at kanji and not knowing what it was asking of me. XD The only thing I'm not sure of still is if we need to book rail tickets in advance. Do trains often sell out?? I mean, I know a lot of them run frequently. (For example, we're planning on traveling from Tokyo to Shirakawa-go (well to Takayama by train and then by bus), Shirakawa-go to Osaka and then Osaka to Yamaguchi. While I've figured out pretty well how to do those things, I'm a little shaky on whether I needed to buy these things in advance or leave them to within a day or two of travel?

Yeah, I've been looking at japan-guide.com a lot! :D But I do wind up on all these spiraling clicks of places I probably aren't going to go. XD It's definitely been hard to prioritize exactly what we want to do, so most of our plans have just wound up being "whatever comes together". :) So far we're definitely spending a good amount of time exploring Osaka, Nara and Kyoto, then also going out to Wakayama (still near the area), Yamaguchi (hopefully going to Hiroshima and Hagi for a day or two!), and just a few days in Gifu. We have surprisingly little Tokyo time planned so far but since we fly in and out of the country, I'm guessing we'll hit it for a while before we leave? Thanks for the hyperdia reference, I think that's better than what I was looking at!

We have a phrasebook, I've been studying it in advance! I definitely wish my Japanese knowledge was a little more practical at the moment but the phrasebook is really reassuring. I figure just trying to speak in Japanese will help! And we might not stand out of much as two blondes but I think we'll still be effectively standing around and looking foreign and clueless. :) It's a little intimidating to be relying on the kindness of strangers but I'll keep telling myself that they'll certainly be people who don't mind taking time out of their day to help someone. :D

Oh! Thank you for the note about wifi! This is good, it was definitely something I didn't know but had been wondering about! Huh, well, we were considering maybe trying to get a Japanese cell plan for an iphone, considering we're going to be there for over two months. It's expensive but it would be nice to know we could access information if we get totally lost or something. Is that something that would have been helpful to you? We'd probably get one through Softbank, either from the directly or from a third party. I'm just not sure if it's worth the cash or if we can really do it the old-fashioned way, writing things down on paper and using physical maps? :D

Oh man, you went to Ishigaki and Iriomotejima?? Those islands look amaaaaazing! I was especially thinking that Iriomote just looked like the most spectacular place to see. Did you stay nights on the different islands? How hard was that part of the trip to arrange? I know that not all the hostels/hotels can be booked on the web, that was a little intimidating. And airfare just seems so expensive. I was looking at the air passes but it seems like all of them blacked out almost all of August and that's the time we still have unplanned. :\ I'd love more info on that leg of your trip though! :DDD

♥♥♥ Thank you SO much for the help! It's really stressful to plan a trip on this scale, to a country where I don't know the language and especially in a short amount of time. I know we're not going to be able to see nearly all the things we'd like to see but hey, there's too much in Japan to see everything in one trip anyway. :) I'm definitely going to be keeping you in mind for questions, having someone who's just been there is such a great resource and I'm going to use you so long as you don't mind! :D

Date: 2012-06-05 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] animefreak42.livejournal.com
I don't mind at all! It is definitely really stressful to plan out a trip like this. My sister and I have wanted to go for ages, and we ended up finally locking the trip in when her boyfriend said he wanted to go too. That ended up a bit of a mess though, since they broke up a while before the trip, so then his sister came along too to make things less weird... thus the two blonds. With all the uncertainty about how many people were coming leading up to the trip, we ended up having to do all our lodging booking in the last week before we left. And things worked out okay anyways!

Our trip was 2 weeks all together, and we spent 3 days in Tokyo, a day on Koya-san (a Buddhist holy mountain), two half days in Kyoto (with lodging in Osaka), a day in Hiroshima, 2 days in Yakushima, 3 days on Iriomotejima, and 1 day on Ishigaki. So basically, there was a week of fast moving tourism on the main island in Japan, and then a week of vacation time out on the islands.

We did most of our booking on booking.com, which worked fine for us. You book the place online (make a reservation with your credit card but don't get charged), and then pay in person once you get there. There were a few places, like on Yakushima, where the place we wanted to stay didn't have online booking, so we had to call (Google voice is awesome for cheap calls to Japan), and figured out booking over the phone with confirmation by email. If the website of the lodging place has an English version, than you're probably fine calling them and arranging things that way, though I personally preferred using booking.com so I would have a paper confirmation. Our cheapest lodging was in Tokyo, where we stayed with someone off airbnb.

About credit cards: While Westernized hotels, train stations, and malls usually take credit card, make sure you always have enough cash for the next place you're staying at and extra for food just in case places don't take your card. Smaller stores and lodgings may take only Japanese credit cards, even if they say they accept Visa and Mastercard, if they take cards at all. We found 7-11s very convenient - they are all over the place and their ATMs had English options and took most of our cards. You're probably safer with a big bank card (like Citi or CapitalOne) rather than a store credit card (like a REI card). Check with your card company to make sure your debit card can be used in Japan, and see if one of your cards has no international ATM fee if possible (and if there is a fee, make sure it's a per transaction charge rather than a percentage charge).

About trains selling out - I don't think you'll have much of an issue except with Shinkansen. To be honest, I might not be the best person to ask about this, since on the JR Pass my reservations were free, so I always got reserved seats while you might not want to. There are usually unreserved seats available, so you'll probably be fine, but if you have a pretty set schedule then you should buy the more expensive reserved seat tickets ahead of time. Make sure you get to the station ahead of time for the shinkansen - they only stop for a minute and arrive exactly on time, so there isn't much leeway for lateness.

When we did our planning, we basically picked one thing we definitely wanted to see, one thing we kind of wanted to see, and then left anything else that came up on an extra list of possibilities. You'll be there for a good long time so you'll get to really experience places better, and get more of the atmosphere! It's nice to have a list of must-sees and schedule those just so you don't miss something really important to you.

(continued in next post)

Date: 2012-06-05 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] animefreak42.livejournal.com
Kyoto was really beautiful - we were lucky to have gone when the sakura were at their peak! The Path of Philosophy, Bamboo Path, and Ginkakuji were our main stops, and they are all recommended. I don't know much about the other places, since we only stopped in Osaka for our lodging and food, though there is a huge mall attached to the Osaka Railway Station that would be fun to explore. We went there for two meals (there's an entire floor of just restaurants) and the food was yummy, though not cheap (lunch came out to around 5000 yen for the 4 of us?). There is definitely cheap, yummy food everywhere, though we didn't do that much budget eating since we had such a short time there.

Tokyo definitely has some great sights, though it's good to have more Kyoto than Tokyo for sure, lots more history there. All the main places: Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, etc, are easily accessible on the Yamanote line. Ebisu is on the line too, maybe you could take a picture at Ebisu Garden Place! In Akihabara, we spent some time in a crazy 8 story arcade and played 4 person Mario Kart where you actually drive! It was also a cool burst of culture, with lots of girls in the streets dressed in their maid cafe uniforms. It's supposed to be especially good on weekends since more people dress up. We went to our first onsen around Tokyo - it was more like a spa then an onsen you would see in Inuyasha or something, but it was very nice and relatively inexpensive (around 1500 yen per person?). It's on the map at Sugamo station on the Yamanote line (www.sakura-2005.com), and you can bathe nude with the Japanese women which is a cool experience (no tattoos allowed though). At the ward office in Shinjuku, you can get an amazing view of the surrounding area, and sometimes even see Fuji. Kamakura is a nice day trip from Tokyo, though since you're staying in Kyoto for a while you'll probably get everything there. If you're a Ghibli fan, the Ghibli Museum is supposed to be amazing, though if you're going to do that, get your tickets early since they sell out ahead of time. The Ghibli Museum website has instructions on how to use the machines at Lawson station to get tickets (the machines themselves are only in Japanese).

We decided against getting a phone plan in Japan only because it was a relatively short time and we wanted to stay off the grid. From what I looked at, it seemed pretty expensive to get data and calling for a phone, though I didn't look all that hard. If you're lodging with friends, you might be able to just make do working off their internet and getting a calling card in Japan for phone calls? Unless you and your brother plan on separating often, then phones would be a good idea.

Ishigaki and Iriomotejima were beautiful. We stayed at a resort on Iriomotejima where they have all these guided nature tours. We got the sweetest lady who spoke good English, and she took us hiking in the jungle. We got to slide down small waterfalls and kayak down the "Amazon of Japan". It was also pretty expensive, though we got a good deal on it. Iriomotejima was really hot most of the time, though Ishigaki had really nice weather (warm but not uncomfortably so). Ishigaki had lots of fun shops and yummy food - Ishigaki beef! We stopped through Kagoshima for a night too and got to see the active volcano, very cool. Booking hotels was pretty easy - we used jalan.net and booking.com. There were other lodging places that needed phone booking, but again, if there is an English website, you can probably book in English on the phone. Travel was more difficult since you can really only get there by plane and ferries. We flew Star Alliance into Japan, so we got domestic flights at 10000 yen apiece through the airpass (http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_common/fare/special/airpass.html). It took some time - I was on the phone with Singapore Airlines for around 2 hours over a couple days, but the end result was that we got 4 flights for around $500 (regular price would be around $1500). This was calling in a week before we left, so it's possible this will still work for you (though you do have to get it set up before you leave the country). I can tell you more if you want to pursue this further! PM me so we can Skype or IM to talk faster!

Date: 2012-06-04 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katrinaswift.livejournal.com
AWESOMESAUCE I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. Japan is such a great place....unfortunately I am teaching over in Korea, so unless you want hop over, I wouldn't be able to meet you~ ^^

I went to Tokyo last summer so if you have any questions about travelling there, let me know!

Date: 2012-06-05 12:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topazera.livejournal.com
THANK YOU. ♥♥ Aw, man, Korea is so close but so far! I mean, I'd love to visit Korea one day too and we're so comparatively close while in Japan... but planning that sounds exhausting. XD That's a good gig you have going though! ♥

Oh, thank you so much! I'm definitely going to keep you in mind, we should be in Tokyo at the very beginning and the end of our trip. :) Is there any particular place in Tokyo you really recommend going? It's a little overwhelming to pick out what to see, so I always like to check for suggestions. :)

Date: 2012-06-05 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] insipid-paragon.livejournal.com
Things I learned to use in Japan!*

1. You can sincerely and/or sheepishly "sumimasen" your way out of almost any awkward situation!
2. A smile! Totally the best, most international language ever! It sounds ridiculous, but I totally perfected what I called my "Japan smile." It was like 4 parts sheepishness to 5 parts friendliness to 10 parts willing to be corrected to... I think this is too many parts but whatever, throw in some parts for "sorry to disturb you" and "thank you for your kindness" and ymmv depending upon situation, and you got it.

I am so excited for you! It is tempting for me to declare that I am going back to visit EVERY YEAR EVER, but visiting makes me poor. :( So I will sit here, in my off year, and envy you! And hope you have a great trip! And if you are in any of my old stomping grounds, I hope you will give me a shout! (Nagasaki/Isahaya/Sasebo/Aino (is tiiiiiny, you will never be there, but if you are!!!) I'm always curious to know what others think of that area!




*Knowing absolutely no Japanese upon getting there... and only a miniscule amount more upon leaving 2 years later.

Date: 2012-06-05 03:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] insipid-paragon.livejournal.com
Also, though, your other news! Your necklace is super pretty and your brother clearly knows you very well! YAY BRACES REMOVAL, yay your gorgeous smile! Oh man but I hear you on the retainer. I HATES. I wore mine faithfully 24/7 for about 3 months and then... I started self-regulating. I think my orthodontist realized I was giving it as much as I ever would, though, and left me lecture-free and now I just wear it at night, although I do hate how much shifting I can notice just in the span of a day. :\ OH WELL. I like being able to speak clearly so much that it's totally worth it.

Date: 2012-06-05 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stringless-kite.livejournal.com
When/what dates will you be where? :) I'm going to Japan for two weeks from the 26th of June to 11th of July. So if your time matches with mine, let's meet up ;)
Edited Date: 2012-06-05 08:01 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-11 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topazera.livejournal.com
I thought I was overlapping with some people. :D There might still be a little swapping for me but I should be in the Kansai area somewhere. I'm currently planning to be in Osaka from the 26th to the 6th and then moving over to Kyoto for the rest of time you're there! :D

It would be fun to see some people I know-but-don't-know while I'm there! :DDDD

Date: 2012-07-30 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stringless-kite.livejournal.com
BAHHH. I looked @ this too late & now I'm back home :( Next time, hopefully. I guess that's what I get for not checking LJ/my e-mails often -_-"

I was in Osaka 26th-3rd. BLEHHH. Haha. I'm sorry :( I feel sad now. You're still in Japan now, aren't you? Where are you? :) Having a blast? I wish I could fly back. Haha.

Date: 2012-06-12 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tika-veilan.livejournal.com
The necklace is gorgeous. And Happy Belated Birthday! ;)

> I am going to Japan for the summer

Urgh, I hate all of you people who get to go to Japan. xD

> JUNE 13TH-SEPTEMBER 3RD

Insane! :O

Have fun on your trip! I know it's gonna be A-MA-ZING! d8Db

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