I’m really sad right now. I don’t have much to say other than, if you have the chance to study in Japan, please do.

I wish I stayed for a full year. I don’t feel ready to leave yet. Furthermore, I wish I had prepared better and studied the language before coming. While I have learned an intense amount of Japanese, I know that my level is easy to lose if I don’t practice and improve. I want to learn more and more and take this experience with me through life.

Kyoto was a great location because it’s so bike friendly and full of culture. The past weekend plus has just been a hot sticky mess of Gion Matsuri which was a unique and exhilarating experience. Yeah, I hate the hot humid weather, but armed with an air-con and endless combini to run into, I’m not dead yet. Plus, I get scrumptious night market food, exquisite traditional cuisine, and elegant Japanese esthetic in return.

I feel better armed to write useful posts now that I’m almost done, but I’m also impossibly lazy. Here are some quick random suggestions:

  1. open a Charles Schwab bank + request the debit card well in advance
  2. living near downtown can suck… it’s nice to be up in Kitayama. Downtown is only a 30 min bike ride
  3. bring a router + extension cord
  4. pack loose covered clothing (the sun sucks)
  5. dress to impress
  6. learn Japanese for at least a year before coming
  7. stay for at least a year
  8. don’t be vegetarian
  9. Kyoto Sayonara Sales group on facebook is super useful
  10. buy a bike (used, but get the registration papers or you’ll be screwed)
  11. Pack food/perishables when you come to Japan so you have packing space on the way home
  12. book your tickets for golden week way way way way way before getting to Japan
  13. shop at Daiso or other 100 yen shops first
  14. don’t buy anything that’s not crucial during your first week
  15. learn about the culture, volunteer, find a job, talk to locals (even in English)
  16. buy tokyo banana, royce chocolates in KIX when you arrive. TRUST ME

Kate is stalking me.

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Dear Kate,

You’re really tall.

I had a lot of fun with you this past week and wish you wouldn’t leave! I feel like time just passes by so quickly whenever we’re in the same room. Plus, together, we have some kind of magical karma. I can’t believe that we saw both a Maiko and a Geiko. I’ve been going down to Shijo and Gion nearly every other day and only when I was with you did I get to see them.

I also can’t believe that you ate shrimp tempura and liked it! Seafood isn’t all horrible! Never have I been so proud of you. Oh, and the bananas. You beast. And of course we can’t forget the amount of meat you have consumed here. I did warn you that you wouldn’t really have a choice. The okonomiyaki was worth it, though, wasn’t it? (I really need to figure out how to make them as good as they do here.) Continue onwards with your food journey and try the tsukemen at Tsukemenya Yasubee in Shinjuku when you get to Tokyo. It’s the dipping style ramen that Vi was recommending to you. If you end up falling in love with ramen, go visit the ramen museum. Apparently there’s a limited time German ramen offered that is amazing.

Thanks for being my emotional and mental coach. Nothing that Darlene and Charlotte can’t fix, right?  Except, my inability to reach the flow state… and the insane amount of shoes I now own. I’m glad you’re always nearby when poop hits the fan for me. But also just plain glad that you’re always around. I swear that it must be the case that we don’t actually live in different countries. Stop stalking me, you giant. And stop having nightmares when I have nightmares. You really don’t ever heed my warnings about reading violent articles before bed.

Please don’t forget to send/post the pictures you have of us. We can’t have a gap in our love story photo series. Oh and you have to send me: Tiana’s play, your thesis, a guide to writing, $800, and your journal upon completion as well. Yes, you have to send me your journal. I have to upkeep my Kate-scribble-reading skills and study your technique so that I, too, can scribble faster.

Here’s a random list:

  • Yasukuni Shrine is the shrine that honors war “heroes”
  • Buy me a back up phone case (plzzz)
  • The lens is convex and projects the inverted image on the retina. Our brain uses our other senses to process the information. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our brain flips the image, it just is able to make sense of the inverted visual information in relation to our other senses that aren’t inverted at perception. But through experiments in perceptual adaptation (see George M. Stratton’s experiment) it has been shown that our brain can in fact adjust to changes in visual input orientation.
  • Emotion = physiological response & Expression of Emotion = brain activity processing physiological and external stimuli?
  • Weird Tokyo can be accessed via this guide: http://www.hellodamage.com/top/tokyo-tour-guide/
  • Please go to a host club in Akihabara for me. You’ll prolly need to make a reservation.


Caryn <3<3<3<3

I’m moving north. (+ navigate Kyoto like a pro)


Unrelated picture of me in my yukata. I wore it to for Hanabi (firefly watching) but we all took too long to get ready and missed the whole event. LOL -_-

So, that happened.

After some events, I have decided to leave my apartment for the student dorms. Everyone– from the UCEAP Tokyo Study Center, to the Doshisha staff– was extremely accommodating. Overnight, they have arranged for me to move into the dorms. Tomorrow, less 48 hours after contacting them, I will be dragging all my things across Kyoto and into Casa Kitayama. The Japanese efficiency that I had been previously unimpressed by has finally shown it’s strengths. I have heard horror stories about the lack of support from friends who had studied in different countries through UCEAP and am glad that I am spared from that experience.

I’m quite excited to spend my last month in Kyoto peacefully. ヴィーちゃん lives in Casa Kitayama, where I’ll be moving to. As we all know, I get on well with ヴィーちゃん so I’ve been around to Kitayama often. It’s truly a nice area. The dorm is nice as well! I love the fact that there are large windows in the rooms. All in all, the change in scenery is welcome.

Describing locations in Kyoto is not too difficult.

If you aren’t too familiar with the geography of Kyoto, here’s the reference points I use to navigate. I don’t regularly travel too far out so take my account with a grain of salt. I neglect a lot of interesting places. I know.

Daily life, regular weekend leisure activities included, take me no further south than Fushimi Inari area and no further north than Kitayama. Between Kitayama and Fushimi Inari, I divide up Kyoto roughly into a few reference points roughly from North to South, West to East:

  • Kitayama
  • Imamiya Jinja
  • Doshisha
  • Shiyakusho
  • Shijo/Sanjo (Kawaramachi-side is implied)
  • Gion
  • Kyoto Station
  • Fushimi Inari

With these points and the river I can describe the rough location of most places I go to or want to go to.


Explore: Nagoya


Daiki showing me around Nagoya

Nagoya w/ Daiki

This cool person to the left is Daiki. The awesome thing about Daiki is that I met him in at the hostel I was staying at in Barcelona. I went to Barcelona for the sangrias, but he came with a much more noble cause– as an architecture student. It’s amazing how friends can be made anywhere in the world! We met up over Golden Week to explore Nagoya, where he lives.

There’s not too much to do in Nagoya but we managed to pack the day anyway. We first went to the aquarium in Nagoya. It was quite a strange experience. There were belugas… I’ve never seen a living one before. It was sort of exciting at first, but my heart quickly broke for them. Their tanks are so small and bare. Likewise for the dolphins and killer whales, I really think that they deserve a better environment to live in. Those three animals, in particular, were used in entertainment shows. Their trainers were not unkind, but there is still a power dynamic that is in place only because those animals have such limited means of living by.

On a more positive note, there were a bunch of excited babies running. I love listening to toddler speech, especially in Japanese. It is so unbelievably adorable. I, one-hundred-percent, am a creep when it comes to cute kids.「もうちょっと見たい〜〜。」(I wanna look a little more)。 The adults, on the other hand, kept commenting on how tasty everything is. I was looking at the octopus on display. Low and behold, immediately I hear 「美味しいよ」。(That’s tasty). Talk about dark imagery. Worst of all, right next to the jellyfish exhibit, the museum installed a display of sauces and recipes for cooking jellyfish. Rendered me just about speechless.

Afterwards, Daiki-kun showed me the shopping streets of Nagoya, which are not too different from the Shijo-Kawaramachi streets of Kyoto. He tried to help me shop for clothes, but the current Japanese style is really far from what I wear regularly so I didn’t buy anything. I did however, buy some toys and catnip for 三毛 (“Mikke”) and 桜 (“Sakura”). They’re so annoying. I love them. Oh! and we had strawberry crepes. Yum. One of my favorite things to get in the hot weather.

Finally, Daiki treated me to omu-rice. That was my first time. I wish I had a picture, but I don’t 😦 . We spent the hour talking about cultural differences but mainly the educational system. I wanted to learn more about Japanese education. Mainly, why was it so easy compared to my expectations? Entire post dedicated to Japanese Education to come.


From and To Kyoto

The best option, by far is via bus. The only option I would consider is via JR Bus. It’s cheap and convenient. After that option, I’d go for the Shinkansen which is a lot pricier. There’s the option of Kintetsu, which I took, but it costs nearly the same as the Shinkansen and is a lot more cumbersome. I accidentally arrived back in Kyoto too late, and the buses were all no longer running… 😦

In Nagoya

Get the subway day pass!

Doshisha: Mid-Semester Update


Getting fat with Vi. Could not eat dinner after I ate the parfait and shaved ice. Someone call me a doctor please.

My study abroad experience at Doshisha has been a totally mixed bag of happiness and annoyance. I’m mostly annoyed that it’s going by so quickly and I haven’t done everything that I wanted to do yet. I wish I could stay here for the rest of the year, but all too soon I’ll be heading back to California.

In this post:

  1. Update on what it’s like in my classes
  2. Things I do outside of class
  3. Everything that sucks right now



My Japanese classes are so fun and relaxed. I slack off a lot. LOL. I never do my homework on time. I’m always trying to do it right as my sensei checks. There’s only 6 people in my Level 1 (actually 0) class and when we’re done, sensei says we’ll be able to pass N4. Haha not very high, but at least everything I learn is sticking because we go so slow and do a ton of practice. Kanji is my only weakness. Hehe. I got 12/20 on one of the quizzes… yikes. #WHYUSEKANJI. My listening and speaking skills are much better than my writing skill. If I strain, I can pick up 30-40% of what’s being said in an anime. I definitely don’t understand the full sentence, but context + vocabulary is doing me well.

I heard from the Australian kids that last semester there was only one person who tested into level 0. As a result, she was taught one-on-one for the entire semester. She learned more than all the other students who were in level 1 and 2. I’m so jealous ~~~ Our level 0 class is certainly smaller than the other classes (only 6 people) but we still move pretty slow.


For my electives, I’m enrolled in a war crimes class and just finished up an applied math class.

The war crimes class is super easy, but it upsets me that such a serious topic isn’t taken seriously. Most of the class is either: watching movies or doing group presentations (mostly regurgitation of the class readings). The topics are really heartbreaking: child soldiers, siege, genocide, sex slavery… to name a few. Every time I do the readings, I can’t stop. I start reading everything I can find online and end up crying or getting really depressed. You lose a little faith in the world when you read about how the international community can so easily turn a blind eye. Trust. Although the class isn’t the most challenging nor enlightening, it does give me leads to chase after. For that, I’m grateful towards this class. I haven’t really taken many liberal arts classes in college, being a computer science major. I wish I had.

For the applied maths class, it was listed as a graduate course, but it was definitely only undergraduate level. Even the professor, Dr. Moody Ten-Chao (visiting from NCSU),  agreed that it was only an upper division course in America. At Berkeley, the material fits into two lower division classes… lol.

We learned about least squares application to GPS, NMF in data mining, and PageRank in link analysis. It was nice for me, since I skipped around so much at Berkeley and I actually didn’t take this prerequisite. It’s been a while since I’ve taken and understood a math-y class. Gosh, I’m dumb. It was so fun! There was only 3 students in the class. Even after 4 years of UC Berkeley, I’m scared of asking questions in class. But, because the class was so small, it felt more like I was being tutored by a really funny professor. Naturally, asking questions came so much easier. If I could have redone college, I would go back and be less passive with my learning. Biggest regret 😦

Fun Stuff

アルバイト (Part time job)

I have a part time job as an English teacher at a language cafe. Long Island Cafe near Kyoto Shiyakushomae. They pay average (1000 yen/hr) for an アルバイト。It’s low pay compared to America, but I’m a dumbass who spent too much money in the first two months, so I must. Heartbreak is so damaging on the wallet. On the plus side, I have a great time teaching and learning from the people I interact with. It’s a great place for me to experiment with different teaching techniques that I’m too scared to try when I’m GSI-ing a class at Berkeley. (Wow. This whole theme of being scared of doing things at Berkeley is ちょっと。。。)

Koto Lessons

I had huge plans to take Japanese Zither, Koto, lessons all while I was here, but お金がありません。私はめっちゃ悪い。I took one lesson here. It was great! Unfortunately, I got super sick the following week until now, so I’ve had no further chances. I was going to keep trying to shove in a bunch more lessons, but I think it might be best to just wait until I’m back in California. I found some instructors for the Vietnamese Zither that I’m now keen to learn under. Plus, it’ll be so much cheaper since I know my tiger mama can bargain in Vietnamese for me. Cheaper is always better. Hmm, but maybe I’ll do a few more while I’m in Japan since the sound is so soothing.

Tennis Circle

Shameful picture of myself in my cute tennis outfit. hehe. 80% of why I like playing tennis is because of mini skirts. LOL I’m so tan.

Oh yes. I’m in a tennis circle, though my journey there was not as simple as I had thought it would be (see previous post). I got rejected from clubs last minute for being a ryuugakusei. It was frustrating since I had informed them upon introducing myself. Couldn’t they have rejected me earlier? Luckily, I did some intense Twitter stalking and found Imperial Tennis Circle (see the side note). They took me in right on their deadline, and actually everything worked out! Bonus, this club has stronger tennis players. It was a hefty 10000 yen to join, but worth it. Saki is my friend from the club and we ate lunch together last Friday!!! She’s going to study in Vancouver starting August~~

Side Note: Term to search on Twitter is “同志社テニスサークル” —> “Doshisha Tennis Circle”. Establishing contact with the club through Twitter was impossible!! I had to dig through, find a picture of their flyer, ask my Japanese friend to add the club officers on LINE, and then share the contact with me. LINE is what all Japanese people use to chat on, but there’s a stupid age verification feature that blocks me from adding people by their username.



Vi took a pic of me!

I hang out a lot with another Vietnamese girl, Vi, from UCSC. It’s crazy. She has the same name as my sister and was born in the same year. We sass at each other so much and it makes me miss my sister so much! We’re together a lot, but we’re also both here to immerse ourselves. Every lunch, we try to find Japanese girls to hang out with. Vi has much better fashion sense than me so she collects hella Japanese friends so quickly. Yaas, free friends for me by association ~hehe~. I feel like we’re always getting into crazy things together and scaring off all our かわいい 日本人の友達。(cute Japanese friends). Another great thing is that I’ll be going to Vietnam when Vi is going to go in August. We’re going to have so much fun.

An Underground Club in My Apartment Basement?


Speaking of crazy… the basement of my apartment is an underground club for rock. I found out just last weekend. What was it like to stumble into a mosh pit in my pajamas (aka a dirty t-shirt and shorts)? Maybe next time I’ll tell more… A blog wrote about the club (see Socrates) just this March. Funny enough, it took me two and a half months to find out about it– they have some intense sound insulation.

Sucky Things

Being Actually Sick

I am sick and have been for the past two weeks! UGH! Can you imagine? It’s such a bummer. I’ve been extremely sick twice in the past 3-4 months. I’m so sick (pun) of it.

Home Sick

fullsizeoutput_7d7Also, I miss my friends and family. I video chatted with my siblings and completely failed at taking the screenshot. Ahhh~~ I love my siblings. THEY ARE SO CUTE. SO CUTE. My siblings are cuter, funnier, nicer, stupider, smarter, lovelier, shorter, and cooler than your siblings. hehehehehehe~~~~

And, the food here makes my tummy hurt. Such few veggie options. And, it’s so hot compared to America. AND I HAVE NO MONEYYYYYYYYYYY. I wasted so much prior to and at the beginning of coming to Japan.

Weight Gain and Addicting Snacks

AND I GAINED SO MUCH WEIGHT  >_< 4 kg. I eat so many snacks all the time. I feel like I’m addicted to sugar. I have always loved Pocky, but I’ve discovered that Pocky holds no candle to きのこの山。I fell in love with the special Marugoto Ichigo (Whole Strawberry) flavor, literally questing to find the flavor in every. single. conbini. It was so difficult to find, so I told everyone how much I love the flavor. My friends banned together to help me and my roommate’s mom even sent me the boxes below. Each time I open a box, I lose self control, and I can’t help but finish the whole thing. If there’s one thing I’ll be glad about when I’m back in America, it’s that I’ll be able to escape this addiction.




Used Kimono and Yukata in Kyoto


Trying on a kimono… and then buying it. I’m thinking of wearing this for my graduation back in California. Or maybe the orange one? ARG. dunno.

I bought 3 formal kimono and 1 yukata… why? I have no idea. I think I’ll sell 2 of them off in America or before I leave. It was an impulse buy (めっちゃやばい!!!). Other than maybe for graduation, I probably won’t wear them ever. My favorite part about studying in Kyoto is the access to traditional culture. It’s uncommon to see people wearing kimono around the streets and I love it! I’m all wrapped up in looking at cute girls wearing cute kimonos and then buying them myself. I’m sad that I won’t have many occasions to wear them, though. One, my family would probably complain that I should wear more Vietnamese dresses (which I do…). Two, I need to be careful about cultural appropriation.

I’ll be writing about:

  1. My Yukata
  2. My Kimono
  3. Tips for Buying
  4. Where to buy

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