KrissinKorea: 안녕Cherry Blossoms

April 20, 2019

It is with heavy hearts that Koreans and visiting foreigners alike wish the blooming Cherry Blossoms farewell. Cherry Blossom season lasts about 10 days in South Korea and it’s a pretty big deal. Stores like Art Box and Starbucks start selling merchandise and drinks inspired by Cherry Blossoms at least 2 weeks prior to their blooming. People from all over the world plan their visits to Korea and Japan in anticipation of witnessing this beautiful time of the Spring season. I was lucky enough to be able to walk just down the road to the main part of my campus to see some whenever I wanted to. Unfortunately the blooming period is over and all the petals are being blown away by the wind, which in itself is very beautiful to see. What was once a pinkish-white is now bright green—signaling that summer is on its way. Even though the time has passed, let me tell you guys about one of the most magical Cherry Blossom festivals I went to.

The 2019 Seokchonhosu Lake Cherry Blossom Festival in Jamsil was held from April 5th to April 12th. There was no entrance fee and anyone was welcome to enjoy the Cherry Blossom lined paths around the two, large, connected lakes. The two lakes are split by Lotte World, which is one of South Korea’s amusement parks. At the festival, visitors can bask in the awesomeness of the many cultural and musical performances taking place. Face painting, caricature booths, and experience exhibitions are also available for those who wish to participate. One of my favorite parts of the festival must have been the huge balls of cotton candy my roommate and I bought. They were way too much to finish, but we rose to the challenge.

When my roommate and I first arrived at the festival, one of the most impressive things we noticed was the amount of people in the area. Even though everything was so nice to look at, walking around without bumping into someone every two seconds was a real challenge. We tried our best to move with the flow of pedestrian traffic but many times people would stop abruptly in the middle of the path to take pictures or look around, which would cause a domino effect of people tripping over one another. Not fun. However, as the afternoon went by, more and more people grew tired of the crowd and started leaving, which was great news for the lot of us that stayed. This was the first time that my roommate and I were truly able to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms and got to take pictures of them.

Each Cherry Blossom tree is beautiful, but when you put them all together in clusters, they form huge bouquets that rise way above your head and extend for miles. The effect is amazing. Everything was great, but there was one moment that I remember the most and, as I am writing this, I still remember the feeling it gave me.

The air froze around us briefly before it came peacefully rushing past us as people kept walking by. The breeze hit first, making our hair and skirts billow along with it, but then came the gentle, snow-like falling of the petals. I stood in awe of the event before me and I managed to catch some of the petals in my outstretched hands. This only lasted about 15 seconds before it was over and the magic was gone.

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In your heart, there is a Cherry Blossom blooming

I don’t know the next time that I will be able to witness Cherry Blossom season again in Korea, but I hope that it is not too far away. I have truly fallen in love with the many things this country has to offer and getting to experience the coming and going of the Cherry Blossoms was one of the highlights of my experience so far. I look forward to seeing them again soon.


Naomi at Akita Week 5: Cup Noodle Coffee

October 7, 2016

Saturday night, about 20 bands auditioned in the Student Hall for the main stage for the AIU Festival we’re having this upcoming weekend. I don’t know how this school has so many musically talented individuals; they were all very fun to watch. The pictures above are of Saeki, singer, and Isshin, bassist. They’re in a band called チョゲ (Choge). There are 5 guys in the band and they’re all freshmen, meaning they just formed this band only a couple of weeks ago and they blew the crowd away. Hopefully they get the part!

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Here’s a picture of Patrick bringing me coffee. We have Japanese 300 together everyday. On Tuesday, after our reading class I have a two-hour break before our Kanji class. Lucky for Patrick, he doesn’t have to take the Kanji class since he knows more than what we’re supposed to know. I don’t know how he does it. Anyways, because he’s free, he offers to make me coffee all the time. The thing is he puts the coffee in his finished ramen cups. I think it’s the greatest thing. I just wanted to show you all how genius this idea is.

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On Sunday, some of the Colorado crew (Tristan, Kevin, and Chris) and I decided to explore in Akita City. We took a free bus from the AEON mall to Akita Station and then walked to Senshu Park. This park is the site of the Kubota Castle that was built in 1603. There was a bronze statue of Yoshitaka Satake in the middle of the park as well as the white castle called osumi-yagura, which served as the lookout and weapons depot. There was supposed to be a waterfall next to this castle so we were expecting something big and exciting. Instead, it was the smallest waterfall we had ever seen; it was quite funny actually.

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After walking around for 2-3 hours, we stopped by at Lawson (convenience store) to get some snacks and drinks. Kevin was hungry and couldn’t wait till dinner; we had an hour till Toshi picked us up anyways. We ended up going to Kaitenzushi to ensure Tristan could eat (he’s a vegetarian so going to ramen would’ve been a poor choice). It was super cheap, only 98yen for one plate of sushi! Some of us tried the horsemeat sushi because why not? It was very hard to chew and tasted like…well, nothing. All I could taste was the ginger. It was still nice to try because now I can admit that I’ve tried raw horsemeat! I had 11 plates, by the way. That’s 22 pieces of sushi. Well, 21 pieces. I split a plate with Toshi. We both decided to try something new so we had these thin small transparent fish. I can’t remember the name of it, unfortunately, but you just need to know that it tasted very fishy. I ended up covering the fishy taste with lots of ginger. It was a great time. We all had food babies afterwards though and couldn’t move.


Naomi at Akita: Horsemeat with Soy Sauce

September 8, 2016

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Successfully moved into my apartment (Global Village) for the next four months. I have been here for almost a week now and all of my roommate’s stuff is piled up but she has yet to be seen. I’m very excited to meet her though! There are two people to an apartment and we both share a bathroom and kitchen. A couple of cats, especially a grey cat, tend to walk around my apartment. We aren’t supposed to feed them but they’re so かわいい (cute).

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Our Welcome Dinner was full of study abroad/exchange students and first-year students at AIU. After a day of information sessions, we were finally able to grub. Kiritanpo Nabe, a famous Akita dish, was also served. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a picture but I’ll make sure to post one later. SUPRISINGLY, during this dinner, I spotted someone wearing my high school T-shirt. I ended up talking to him and he just graduated from Kubasaki High School and is now attending AIU. What a small world. After dinner, I joined him and his friends to play basketball!

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We ended up missing the train to the Omagari Fireworks Festival, Tohuku region’s biggest fireworks festival that was expecting about 760,000 people. Firework teams from around the country attend and compete to see who can put on the best show. It’s alright we missed it though because we ended up finding another festival at Akita Station. A man was walking a bunny on a leash. Yakitori (basically meat on a stick) and chocolate covered bananas were at every food stand. A professor was at the festival as well telling us about all the stores only walking distance away from campus. It was upsetting when we discovered he was actually a professor from Akita National University, not Akita International University. The six of us ended up hanging out at a gazebo till we had to catch the train to Wada Station and the bus back to campus. A very chill night filled with laughter over stories back from home – Slovenia, Belgium, Washington, Colorado, and Virginia.

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Our Kanto Club performed for all of the parents, faculty, and students after our matriculation Ceremony. Apparently there’s a famous Kanto Matsuri (Kanto Festival) held in Akita every year where performers balance kanto (long bamboo poles) with paper lanterns attached to the end. These students would take turns balancing the kanto on their heads, shoulders, and even backs, while adding more pieces of bamboo poles at the end of the stick. There were also other students to the side banging on taiko (Japanese drum). Unfortunately, one of the students was unable to balance the kanto and ended up running it into a tree!

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There was a break during orientation so I decided to take a walk and explore more around the school…we really are in the middle of nowhere. It’s so nice and peaceful. While walking, I followed an uphill, narrow path on the side of the road and almost ran into about three spider webs. Go Spiders, right? My school mascot back home is the Spiders, by the way. I walked until I hit a gate that led to the airfield – the Akita airport is only a 10-minute drive away. I ended up walking back to campus, but I must admit, the plethora of trees and beaming sun with Chance The Rapper playing in my ears made for a very nice walk.

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Three of my friends and I decided to go on a walk in a nearby park and ended up running into some very nice people. We attempted to hold a conversation with our broken Japanese and actually ended up talking for almost an hour while constantly being bitten by mosquitos. Guess how old Suzuki-san, the man wearing the red shirt, is…he even asked us to guess. We all guessed 70 years old. Turns out he’s 90 years old! He looks much younger than that – it’s probably the miso soup. Before we left, Suzuki-san forced us to take a can of horsemeat with soy sauce. We plan on seeing them again and getting ice cream together.


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