Japanese Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes are packed lunch boxes or takeaway containers that are made out of wood, plastic, or metal. Bento boxes are often filled with cooked rice, meats, fish, pickled and/or cooked vegetables, and egg. They are usually made by parents to give to their children for lunch in school or sold as takeaway foods from restaurants or train stations. These bento boxes are often nicely decorated and look very cute. I’m not exactly sure if I would be able to eat from the bento boxes if they looked this cute!

Top Anime Words You Should Know

If you’re an anime fan, but don’t know any Japanese-here is a list of anime words you should know:

  1. anime Japanese animation/cartoon
  2. baka – stupid, fool
  3. chibi– small, short (characters)                                                          chibi
  4. gijinka – personification of animals or characters gijinka
  5. kawaii – cute
  6. manga – Japanese comic book
  7. neko – cat
  8. oishii – delicious
  9. onee-san/chan – older sister (-san is more formal as -chan is more affectionate)
  10. onii-san/chan – older brother (-san is more formal as -chang is more affectionate)
  11. otaku – someone who has an obsessive interest (anime, video games,  manga), usually a derogatory term
  12. sugoi – amazing, awesome
  13. sensei – teacher
  14. senpai – a person’s senior in occupation/school/etc.


Nabana no Sato: Japan’s Winter Wonderland of Lights

Enjoy winter without being in the snow! Located outside the city of Nagoya in Mie Prefecture, Nabana no Sato is a botanical garden that has been transformed from flowers to thousands of LED lights to create a winter wonderland. The beautiful landscapes the lights and flowers create make it great for couples and families to visit.

Nabana no sato tree

From November to March, you can walk through the illuminated gardens and tunnels once it gets dark. You first begin with the gardens. Once you walk through the illuminated garden, “The Sea of Clouds”, and crystal white archways, you feel like you have been teleported into your own fairytale.

nabana no sato garden

After the gardens, you will reach the tunnels. The glittering tunnels will seem like they are never-ending. Both tunnels are about 100 meters long and filled with millions of LED lights. The tunnels are most popular with young couples to stroll under the stars and take pictures.

nabana no sato tunnel

While walking to and from the gardens and tunnels, you can walk along the Kiso river and enjoy Japan’s biggest water illumination display. It is about 120 meters long that is outlined with interchangeable lights. The combination of the waterfall and lights create such a breathtaking site. Watch the rainbow flow with you as you go!

Nabana no sato river lights

The most popular attraction during the winter season at Nabana no Sato is the light show. Each year is a different theme. This year’s theme is Heidi. Previous themes included Mt. Fuji and Niagara Falls. You can watch the screen come to life as the show and music play right before you!

nabana no sato heidi

The light show attracts about a million visitors every year. The light show was created, because they wanted to have an attraction in winter as beautiful as their flowers in the spring. Visitors are usually local Japanese since Nabana no Sato is not a well-known attraction to people outside of Japan.

When I visited there about a month ago, Nabana no Sato really took my breath away. This was definitely one of my favorite places I visited and I recommend for anyone that will be in the Nagoya area to visit and experience this winter beauty.

Adventures to Nagoya and Kyoto

It’s been about a few weeks since I’ve came back from my trip to Japan and since school is canceled again because of the recent snowstorm, I decided to write about my trip.

Before even going to Japan, I had a layover in Beijing, China for 2 hours. Well that was a trip itself…While I was on my flight to Beijing, they decided to cancel my flight from Beijing to Nagoya due to the lack of people. So you can pretty much understand how worried and confused I was when I arrived to Japan. First off, you are not even allowed to stay in China for more than 3 days without a visa. Second off, I had to explain my situation to customs and the ticketing officers with the basic Chinese
I know which still led to confusion from the language barrier. And third off, trying to figure how and when I would be able to get to Japan while trying to find my suitcase.

All in all, after a few hours everything worked out. I found my suitcase, the airplane carrier I was traveling on was able to book me a (free) ticket and hotel room, and the next day I was able to fly to Nagoya.

*Note: when traveling, expect the unexpected. You’ll never know what will happen. Make sure you have enough money, a way to contact someone from home, and keep track of your belongings at all times.

When I finally made it to Japan and my friend picked me up, I felt like I was in a whole new world. Everything was in Japanese, smaller, and the very best-cuter. You could see mascots and pictures of famous anime characters from e.g. Pokemon or Love Live!


We were around Nagoya for about a week and then spent about 2 days in Kyoto. Even though I was only there for about a week and a half, we were still able to see and plenty of things.

The first day we went to the aquarium in Nagoya. There I was able to see not only fish but seals, turtles, penguins, whales, dolphins, and some really ugly fish (and I mean ugly).



Throughout the days in Nagoya, we did a lot of shopping, went to Nagoya castle, Nabana no Sato (a winter wonderland of lights, a science museum, and one of my all time favorites-the Pokemon Center.





Before New Years, we visited Kyoto for about 2 days. Each day we went to about 3 different sites. This included Kiyomizu temple, Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kinkakuji temple, and Sanjusangendo (Buddhist temple with 1000 statues). On the way to all the places, there were vendors and souvenir shops all over the place. One of my favorite things I saw at most of the shops were the amount of kokeshi dolls. If you’re not sure what kokeshi dolls are then you can read about them in my blog post here:






Visiting all the places was definitely a lot of fun. Another thing I enjoyed about being in Japan was the food. I was able to try so many different foods and desserts while I was there. And there’s so many I already miss eating. I tried tonkatsu (pork cutlet), okonomiyaki (vegetable pancake with meat and sauce), fried shrimp, loco moco (even though it’s technically Hawaiian), kishimen noodles with miso, different types of soups, real ramen with dumplings and rice, melon bread ice cream, cakes, strawberry cheesecake kit kat, and so much more!


All in all you can say I had a great trip. I’m so lucky and thankful to have such a good friend (who’s like my twin) to allow me to stay with her and her family and show me around like she did.

Japan is definitely a great place to visit and I highly recommend to go if you ever get the chance!

The Land of the Rising Sun

In less than  one week, I will be going on my next adventure to-if you didn’t get it from the title-Japan!

Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun since the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Japan-日本 (Nihon/Nippon)– literally means  “the sun’s origin. Then from “the sun’s origin” translates to “The Land of the Rising Sun. Also in the national flag of Japan, officially known as 日章旗 (Nisshoki), has a red circle representing the sun in the center of a white background.

Japanese flag

Anyways, I’ll be going to Japan for about a week and a half to visit a friend of mine I met in college. I’m really excited now, since the closest I’ve came to actually being in Japan was being in the Narita airport 3 years ago. This time I’ll actually be exploring in the cities of Nagoya and Kyoto-the food, the culture, and the language. The language part will be interesting since I decided to start learning Japanese this semester, so let’s see how that works out…

North South East West

It’s been about 8 months since I’ve last written anything in this blog. But you can’t really blame me once I tell you what I’ve been up to these days..

Since the start of the year, I’ve been to Oklahoma for Army basic training, Missouri for AIT training, back home to Pennsylvania, Wildwood Beach, New Jersey for vacation, Virginia and South Carolina for vacation and a wedding, to Boston, Massachusetts to study Chinese for the summer, and just recently in Maine for a short day trip. Soon I’ll be going back to West Virginia to start school again, and to end my year I’m off to Japan.

This year has definitely been busy for me, but traveling is what I do best. And I’ll find time again to post more about what I’ve experienced, the different programs that are out there, and so on.

Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina

Rainbow Row in Charleston

Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina

Boone Hall Plantation

Boston, Massachusetts


Ogunquit, Maine

Ogunquit Maine


Chopsticks are two long, thin pieces of wood. They are the traditional eating utensil to a few Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan . Chopsticks originated in ancient China, as early as the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC-1122 BC). It is said that chopsticks were originally created from twigs to not get burned when stirring soups and removing the food from the pots. Later in history when  the population in China grew, the people started chopping up the food so the food would cook more quickly. The chopsticks became used for eating, because these chopped up food portions were small enough to pick up with the chopsticks.

Not all Asian countries use chopsticks, which many people like myself (before recently) believe. People in India, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Central Asia mostly use forks, knives, spoons, or their hands for eating meals. Some countries, however, like Thailand only use chopsticks when eating noodles.

How to say chopsticks in:

Chinese: 筷子 ( kuàizi)

Japanese: 箸 (hashi)

Korean: 젓가락 (jeot-ga-rak)


How to use chopsticks (with the help of my Filipina friend, Jan):


1. Your middle finger should be resting between the two chopsticks. Your index finger finger should be lying on top of the upper chopstick, while your ring and pinkie finger should be supporting the lower chopstick. The lower chopstick should be in the gap area between your thumb and index finger. Your thumb is pressed on the upper chopstick.

2. To open and close the chopsticks, move your middle finger up and down. Your index finger and thumb will also move along.

Picking up food will be difficult at first, but with some practice you will be able to use chopsticks in no time!


How NOT to use chopsticks (with my friend, Jan):

One chopstick in one hand, and the other in the other hand


Spearing the food with the chopsticks


Also, never stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice! It is death-related in the Asian cultures and is also considered to be bad luck. Do not lay your chopsticks over your bowl or dish, or pass food with your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks.

When you are not using the chopsticks, simply lay your chopsticks to the side.



*Please do not take any of these pictures without my permission.


Struck By Wanderlust

Last Saturday night, I attended the local AFS Potluck Social. I was amazed when I first walked in. There were exchange students from all over the world: Italy, Thailand, Japan, Iceland, Belgium, Pakistan, Germany, etc. It was so fun to be able to meet these students and even meet returnees, volunteers, host parents, parents of students currently abroad, and several of my fellow Speedwell recipients.This night was an eye-opener. One day, I’ll be attending an event just like this in Germany. I’ll be meeting other foreign exchange students from all the world in Germany, and perhaps meet future German exchange students. And maybe, I’ll be giving advice to those nervous and excited exchange students.This night also was a reminder of my passion for foreign languages, culture, and travel. Speaking of travel, meeting everyone the other night made me think of my memories of traveling..
global flags

For as long as I could remember, my family and I would always go on vacation for two weeks in the summer. That’s when my love for travel started. The two states that we usually vacationed in was Florida and New York, because my relatives lived there (and we would always stop in North Carolina to visit more relatives when we drove down to Florida). For the past 17 and a half years of my live, I can remember at least vacationing or being (for whatever reason) in 16 states/districts: Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, Arizona, California. 

us map

However, it didn’t stop there. I also went to Canada (for about 2 hours), and my family and I had ice cream. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to South Korea and Germany during the summer. I left school about a week early (I had to finish my finals a week early), and my family and I (excluding my dad) boarded a flight to Japan. After we arrived in Japan, we later departed again to South Korea. I was so excited last year to go to South Korea. I remember counting the days down since January. Going to South Korea was all I would talk about. I never met my Korean relatives before, and it was the first time I met them. I spent two weeks in South Korea, and absolutely loved it. I went to Lotte World, Oeyeondo Island, Itaewon, Gyeongbokgung Castle, Namsan Tower, the beach, the Korean Folk Village, and quite a few other places. 


After I came back from South Korea, I had about ten days before I departed to Germany. Those ten days, I became even more excited for Germany. When it was the day to leave for Germany, I was completely stoked. I was exhilarated by the feeling of traveling again. I said my goodbyes to my parents and left for the airport with my German teacher and several of my German Club members (it was a school trip). We boarded the plane (about 8 hours later?) and headed to London. Then, we boarded another plane and headed to Germany. I spent about a week and a half in Germany. Two of those days, we stayed in Switzerland (we spent an hour in Austria and Liechtenstein since we had to drive through the two countries). All in all, we were in Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Munich, Heidelberg, somewhere in Austria and Liechtenstein, and Lucerne. Some of the places we visited were Munich’s town hall, Olympic Stadium, Dachau, Neuschwanstein Castle, Nymphenburg Castle, the Black Forest, the Rhein River, and Lake Lucerne (which was absolutely beautiful).


When I returned from my trip, life wasn’t the same to me. I missed traveling around, experience these cultures that were foreign to me, hearing the foreign languages everywhere, the delicious food, the people…I so badly wanted to return or go somewhere. That is when I realized that I was struck by wanderlust-a strong desire to travel. I also realized that I want to travel the world. I want to travel to all of the countries in the world. There are 196 countries in the world, however, and I only have so much time to live. Is it possible? Perhaps. But my goal is to visit at least 98 countries before I die-I would die happy if I accomplished this goal.

So far, I have only visited 9 countries. 89 more countries to go!
However, I still have plenty of time to travel around. Right now, I’m just going to focus on Germany. Oh the excitement of returning to Germany once again!

Study Abroad Scholarship Update

During this school year, I applied for multiple study abroad scholarships. When I first created this blog, the only study abroad scholarships I was planning on applying to were NSLI-Y and CBYX (I’ll go more in to detail about what these scholarships in a different post). My ambition is to be a German, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean linguist for the military or the government. So I thought these two scholarships would be perfect for me. My top choices for NSLI-Y were China and South Korea, and for CBYX-Germany.

However, I was rejected for the NSLI-Y scholarship. I didn’t receive the scholarship, I didn’t even receive an interview. But instead of crying about it, I strove to do my best for the CBYX scholarship. And that’s exactly what I did. I submitted my CBYX application and received an interview. It didn’t stop there though.

I also did some more researching on the internet, where I came across the YFU scholarships. I applied for 3 YFU scholarships-2 scholarships to go to Japan this summer and 1 scholarship to go to Ecuador, Argentina, or Uruguay for a year. I also received an interview for YFU.

Then, I came across a local scholarship, the AFS Speedwell Foundation, to study abroad for a year and the CIEE Leadership Academy scholarship. So I applied for the local scholarship, and picked my top 3 choices: Germany, Ecuador, and Paraguay. For the CIEE Leadership Academy scholarship, my top 3 choices were China, Spain, and Dominican Republic.

Moral of the story is to never let one rejection get to you. Sure, be sad and cry for a little while. But be sure to pick yourself up and strive to do your best. This was my last year (it was also my first) to apply for these scholarships. If I would have given up, I wouldn’t have received a partial scholarship for the CIEE Leadership Academy…or a FULL scholarship to study abroad  for a year (the local scholarship-Speedwell)!-(which is contingent upon my acceptance to my host country-Germany)

I’m still waiting for the results for CBYX and YFU, but I will most likely be going abroad regardless if I get rejected to these scholarships. Like my teacher said after I told her of my NSLI-Y rejection, “Things happen for a reason.” Yes. Yes they do.

I’m going to be an exchange student. I’m still in disbelief and shock (I found out last Thursday, March 21). But I am also so grateful. Ich bin sehr dankbar! Dreams really do come true.

White Day

해피 화트데이! Happy White Day everyone! Many of you may be asking, “What exactly is White Day?” Well my dear readers, let me explain.

White Day is celebrated on March 14, one month after Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. White Day (ホワイトデーHowaito-de)originated in Japan; it was first celebrated in 1978. It was started by the National Confectionary Industry Association on the thought that the men should give back to the women that gave them chocolate and gifts on Valentine’s Day. This holiday has not always been known as White Day. A candy company known as Ishimura Manseido also started to produce marshmallow treats for people to give on this holiday, which lead to the holiday’s original name, Marshmallow Day. Later on, confectionary companies started to produce white chocolate for this holiday and the name White Day was eventually given.

marshmallow heartswhite chocolate

On Valentine’s Day, girls and women in Japan give chocolates and other gifts to men and boys as an expression of love, courtesy, or simply, social obligation. Chocolates are put into three separate categories: giri choco, honmei choco, and tomo choco. Giri choco is obligatory or courtesy chocolate. For example, women would give their superiors and male co-workers giri choco (basically to any male that one does not have any romantic feelings for). Honmei choco is chocolate given to a man a woman loves or is serious about. Tomo choco is chocolate women give to their male friends (that they are NOT serious/in love with). Tomo choco, however, is not as common as giri choco and honmei choco. Handmade chocolate is usually preferred over store-bought chocolate, because of the thought, emotion, and effort put into the chocolate.

Then on White Day, the men who received chocolates are expected to return the favor and give gifts back (to “answer” or “reply” back to the women) such as white chocolates, dark chocolates, candies, cookies, marshmallows, jewelry, accessories, stuffed animals, and lingerie. There is a recited rule on returning a gift known as sunbai gaeshi/“triple the return,” the return gift should be twice or triple times the cost of the Valentine’s gift received. If a woman spends $5, the man is expected to spend $15. Or if a woman spends $50, the man is expected to spend $150.

Japan chocolate hearts

Japan chocolate

White Day gifts

In South Korea, White Day (화이트데이 Hwai-teu-deh-ee) is basically the same as Japan’s White Day except  chocolates and gifts are usually only exchanged between couples and lovers. School children, however, often give lollipops and other candies to their friends and classmates. When women and girls give men chocolates and gifts on Valentine’s Day,  the men return the favor on White Day. There is also another holiday that goes along with Valentine’s Day and White Day for all the people who did not receive any chocolates or gifts, which is known as Black Day (April 14) (I’ll make a post on Black Day later on). Anyways, gifts given on South Korea are commonly candies and sweets  (and of course, flowers). Chupa Chups lollipops are the most selling candies during White Day.

Happy White Day

화이트데이 캔디

화이트데이 헬로키티


이민호 화이트데이

This last picture of Lee Min Ho, I randomly came across on the internet. I thought this was pretty relevant. And also the fact that Lee Min Ho is very handsome…

If any of you are wondering (probably not), I did not receive anything for White Day. Mainly because, I do not know many people from my area who is particularly interested in the Korean culture, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, etc. that know about White Day (especially the young men). However, my dad did get me flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day so that makes up for it.