Valentine’s Day

February went by so quickly and it’s almost over. If I was back home in America, the stores would be filled with discounted Valentine’s Day candy. It’s interesting how these holidays differ between the two countries. In Japan, there is Valentine’s Day and White Day. Two separate days for girls giving boys gifts and boys giving girls gifts. In the U.S. everyone gives all of their gifts on the same day. Sometimes it’s chocolate, flowers, a homemade snack, or a nice card. And while it’s a popular day for couples to give each other gifts, you can also give presents to anyone. When I was a child in school, a lot of children would bring chocolate or snacks for the whole class and we’d write cards to our friends or family. In high school, students would probably still bring chocolates for their friends and teachers would sometimes have chocolates for all of their students. It’s fun to see how holidays are both similar and different between America and Japan. In a few weeks, it will be White Day and I’ll get to see another unique side of Japan’s modern culture.


- Yaya Campbell

Sweets Paradise

Sarah’s Blog Post 21: February 26, 2016

This past weekend, I went to Sweets Paradise in Shinjuku. I really enjoy sweet food, so I knew that I would enjoy all-you-can-eat cake. Sweets Paradise seems like a restaurant for older students and young adults. Parents probably wouldn’t let younger students eat so many sweets and older adults probably wouldn’t want to eat so many sweets. There is a location in Kichijoji, but I heard that it doesn’t have a buffet, so we went to Shinjuku instead.


At first, I got a whole plate of cake because that is the main reason why I wanted to go to a dessert buffet. However, I knew that I would get sick if I only ate cake, so I got some curry and pasta as well. Since it is still February, and just after Valentine’s Day, many of the monthly specials were Valentine’s Day themed. They used lots of hearts and chocolate. My favorites were the crème brulee pudding roll cake and the yuzu chiffon mousse cake. I wish I could have eaten more of those two, but after trying so many other types of cake, I couldn’t eat any more. It was surprising how fast I got full while eating the desserts.


Sarah’s Blog Post 20: February 19, 2016

Yesterday, I saw the first cherry blossom forecast for this year. I am very excited because my mom will be visiting me at the end of March, and the cherry blossoms are forecasted to begin blooming around March 26th in Tokyo. It is very lucky that she will be able to see cherry blossoms in Japan the first time that she visits. I was also able to see cherry blossoms the first time I visited Japan in 2008. This year’s “hanami”, or cherry blossom viewing, will be very nostalgic for me.

The other exciting part about cherry blossom season is the number of special sakura-themed products that stores and restaurants begin selling. One of my friends told me that Starbucks was going to release a sakura flavored Frappuccino. I was very excited to taste it and bought one today. It was great, but it tastes more like strawberry than sakura, and there are too many chocolate shavings in it. They get stuck at the bottom and don’t mix well with the cold drink. Yesterday Yaya and I also went to the monthly tea ceremony with the tea ceremony club. Iwatsu-sensei, Yoshida-sensei, Morita-sensei, and Ozaki-sensei taught us about “Hina-matsuri”, or girl’s day. Yaya says that they celebrate girl’s day a little differently in Hawaii. I don’t have any experience though because we don’t celebrate girl’s day in the mainland United States (all US states except for Hawaii and Alaska).

Plum festival

Over the weekend, I went to a plum festival in Setagaya. The flowers were pretty and I took a lot of photos. The trees weren’t fully bloomed yet but it was still nice to walk through the paths and trees. I also ate some food and I was happily surprised at the prices. The food and snacks were a lot cheaper than some of the larger festivals I’ve been to, so that was nice. Going to this festival made me excited for the spring season and the activities to come.


- Yaya Campbell



Sarah’s Blog Post 19: February 12, 2016

People from other countries are often surprised by the food models that restaurants in Japan display in their front windows. I remember coming to Tokyo ten years ago and being surprised by the fake crepes that I saw in Harajuku. They looked so realistic. In the United States, it isn’t very common to see food models in front of restaurants. The only place I have seen them is in Japantown in San Francisco. Restaurants in the United States usually only have pictures in their menus to show customers what they are ordering. When I researched about food models, I learned about Kappabashi-dori. I decided to go because one of my friends who used to live in Japan also told me that he bought a very good knife from Kappabashi-dori.


At first, I thought it wouldn’t be very big. When I arrived, I was so surprised by how many stores there were and how many different kinds of things I could buy. Many websites said that you wouldn’t be able to buy real food there. This is true because there aren’t many restaurants in the area, but it is also partially false because there are many shops that sell specialty food products like dried beans, nuts, sauces, dressing, and tea. It is very hard to find some of these things in regular grocery stores. I bought two tea cups that remind me of “tsukimi” and some cooking utensils. I think I might go back there this weekend to buy souvenirs for my family and some food for myself.



There was a holiday this past week and I wanted to do something winter related while I had the time, so I decided to go snowboarding. It was a bit more expensive than I would’ve liked, but I am not around snow very often so I thought it would be worth it, and it was. Before this week, I had only snowboarded once a few years ago so I am definitely a beginner, but I also used to longboard in college so at least my sense of balance is okay. It took a few runs for me to finally get the hang of it and by the end of the day, I was cruising along nicely down the slopes. I also had some fun with my GoPro camera and got a few good action shots. I’d like to do more snowboarding in the future, maybe do a few days instead of just one. I’m glad I got the chance to go and make the most of my winter experience.


- Yaya Campbell


Seeing Mount Fuji

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Mount Fuji! I just felt like taking a day to see something cool in Japan, so I hopped on a train and went to Kawaguchiko. The train ride took about two hours and it was really nice. The view outside was pretty, filled with nature and lingering patches of snow. When I got to the train station, I didn’t have much of a plan, so I browsed the brochures and pamphlets of what to do near the lake and decided to walk to the ropeway to go to the viewing point to see the mountain.

When I finally got to the top, it was an amazing sight! I was a little worried because earlier that morning it seemed a bit cloudy, but by the time I got to the viewing point the weather had cleared and only a few small clouds remained. I took lots of pictures and videos of Mount Fuji and the nearby area. I really like photography and took my time exploring the sights and trying to take good shots. I’m still editing my photos and I hope they turn out okay. I’d like to go back again in the spring and summer to see how Mount Fuji changes with the seasons. This simple day trip has showed me that if I want to see more of Japan, I just have to go for it!

- Yaya Campbell



Sarah’s Blog Post 19: February 5, 2016

I actually went to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi two weeks ago, but I forgot to write about it. This week, I really wanted to write about it because it was such a fun experience. Takashi Murakami is one of my favorite artists. He is well-known in the United States because he designed an album cover and music video for Kanye West. He also designed a line of products for fashion designer, Louis Vuitton. I was lucky enough to see a small gallery of Takashi Murakami’s work when I lived in Los Angeles. It was one of the most memorable experiences from living in Los Angeles. When I heard he was having a big show at the Mori Art Museum, I knew I had to go see it. My favorite painting at the gallery was a picture of cartoon shaped DNA. I also liked his version of daruma because it used very traditional Japanese colors. The simplicity set it apart from his other paintings.

The main work on display is called “The 500 Arhats” and was painted in response to the 2011 earthquake in Fukushima. I really enjoy the work of pop artists like Takashi Murakami, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Yayoi Kusama. Many of these pop artists have also influenced fashion. I think that it is great to see where fine art and fashion can intersect.