After the rainy season in Japan comes summer. And with summer comes the typhoon season. Typhoons (or as we call them, hurricanes) are common in this part of the pacific. They will often hit the coast and Japan has frequent typhoon warnings, especially Kyushu, Shikoku, and western Honshu, the main island. Okinawa, which is farther south and west, has even more trouble. These typhoons are often downgraded before hitting the coast, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any devastation. The high winds and heavy rains mean that mudslides and flooding rivers are fairly common with the advent of each typhoon.The most recent typhoon, Krosa, was downgraded to a Severe Tropical Storm before hitting Japan. But it still went right through Hiroshima, with winds strong enough for Japan Rail to stop Shinkansen service in JR West (everything to the West of Osaka). Boats and ferries to smaller islands off the coast of Honshu were also cancelled that Thursday. I know because I was originally planning to take one! Even if they happen often, they’re still dangerous. It’s concerning that one can get used to hearing about typhoons every other week. Now, I almost expect them to come up on the news.
Summer in Japan is the season of festivals (matsuri) and fireworks (hanabi). Right now I’ll talk about the festivals that go on all around Japan. They take place for many different reasons and celebrate many different things. The pictures you see are from a festival in Otaru, Hokkaido called the Ushio Matsuri. This is the tide festival that they hold to thank the ocean for the bountiful year and pray for the growth and protection of the city and its citizens. Matsuri usually last a few days and come with a parade of some sort (and occasionally fireworks at night). The participants in the parade vary by the festival. Because this was a tide festival, those in the parade dance to Ushio Ondo, and taiko drums feature prominently. Other Buddhist festivals include shrines (called mikoshi) that are carried in a procession by participants, while still other matsuris have dances such as the Bon Odori.These festivals take place all over Japan, and I can assure you that one will take place somewhere almost every week or weekend! There is a ton of variety and so much history behind each one. I think that this is one of the most unique things about Japan, and something that you would be hard pressed to find in any other country. I am trying to see as many as possible while I’m here, in order to get the full experience of Japanese culture!
Between Kamakura and Fujisawa of Kanagawa prefecture is a tiny Island called Enoshima. It is part of a long stretch of the coast known as a beautiful summer vacation spot, especially for the beaches and the view of Mt Fuji on a clear day. That stretch of coast especially attractive in the hot summer for the cooler ocean temperatures, even though it’s bloody humid - because honestly, so is the rest of Japan. As you come from Kamakura, either by foot or using the train, there are a lot of old temples that you can tour. Kamakura is known for the Daibutsu (literally big budda) and the numerous temple gardens. As it’s summer right now, the flowers are in full bloom, and are a must-see!Enoshima is known for the great views of the ocean that you can get from the top of the “candle” on the island, as well as the complex of caves that is said to have been the places where multiple monks reached enlightenment. Another thing it’s known for are the tiny, almost-translucent fish called shirasu. It’s somewhat related to anchovies, and is traditionally eaten raw like sushi. However the restaurant I went to had options to have it boiled or fried like tempura as well. Although I did try it (and liked it!) the taste and texture is not for everyone. I can always say that I’ve tried it now though!
I’ve been living in Yokohama while in Japan, a city I’ve never actually been to despite its proximity to Tokyo (a place I’ve been a fair number of times). Because it’s by the bay, it has beautiful views of the sea. I’m also super lucky, as I am living only a kilometer from the famous island Minato Mirai, which is a premier tourist destination. On my brief walks around, I have really enjoyed being so close to the water. When you hear the rumble of the waves as they rush into the side of the pier, it has a calming effect that I don’t believe anyone can deny. That, coupled with the vast views of the harbor, the bridge, and the ships as they float by, makes for a wonderful experience.
Ever heard of the rainy season? I have heard that it’s very common in certain parts of the world. However, I lived in America all my life, so I never had the chance to see or experience it for myself. Until now at least! Japan has this rainy season, which they call Tsuyu (梅雨) as I learned. I really had no idea when it was supposed to happen, but I arrived right in the middle of it! It lasts from after spring, right around May/June until midway through July.So far, it’s been characterized by cloudy skies every day. There’s been light rain at least once a week as well, sometimes accompanied by some pretty strong winds. I’ve already broken one umbrella, and I hope the count doesn’t go up! Still the temperature is not too bad, around 70 or 80 Fahrenheit and 24-28 Celsius. It’s much preferable to the actual summer temperatures. I’ve been told it can get up to 35 Celsius - which I have been too scared to look up so far, but I’m sure it won’t be pleasant when I actually have to experience it in August!
Japan is well known for its bullet train, the Shinkansen, but the country is very well connected through a lot of different train lines locally. It’s unbelievably useful in getting around (especially coming from LA, where one has to drive everywhere!) but it can also be super confusing if you don’t know exactly the direction you’re going in and what you have to take. For example, you can’t just know the train lines and the stations at which you will be getting on and off. At the very least, you should also know the terminus of the line in the direction that you’ll be going in. Ideally, you’ll also know if the train line offers express trains, and which stations those trains will stop at. This can also help in arriving at your destination quicker, because you’ll be able to take express trains as close to your station as possible.
Almost every house at Caltech runs their own ski trip. The members of social teams choose a weekend to reserve a cabin at resorts like Big Bear or Mammoth Mountain, and offer this accomodation for their members for the weekend for people to go skiing and snowboarding at these resorts. As I’m a part of two houses, Avery and Blacker, I get the chance to go on both - which I am happy I got to do this year! Usually I have fencing tournaments scheduled over the same weekends, and so I can’t go to ski. It was extraordinarily lucky this year that I got two trips. Freshman year, I could only go to one, and last year I could go to neither.
In Blacker Hovse, we have the tradition of waited dinner - we are one of seven houses who do have this tradition. Each night, we have student waiters who serve food platters (we eat family style) and get drinks, carry messages, and do other miscellaneous errands. Although houses will let any member wait, they must be trained before they are allowed to, and are paid by Caltech Dining Services for their work.
As a Vice President (a veep as we call them) of Blacker House (only one of three), I am a part of putting on something we moles call Alley Ordering. It’s a 1-2 hour event that we plan ahead of time, filled with fun and games. At least, we hope it’s filled with fun. This time around, it was Halloween themed. Qiao Qiao, one of our other veeps, came up with all the activities for people to do, even insisting on a turnip- and potato- carving activity - for old times sake. This is because before we started using pumpkins, all of the jack-o-lanterns used to be carved out of turnips and potatoes. With that in mind, it’s probably more apt to call our theme All Hallow’s Eve.
Perhaps others cannot understand, but as a college convert to boba, I absolutely adore the chewy balls of tapioca. I have a very specific consistency that I like: not too soft that there’s no bite to the balls, but not too hard that I get an uncooked tapioca center. However, I would rather get squishy boba than undercooked boba. Getting that perfect goldilocks consistency is typically about cooking time - and depending on the place, it’s really hit or miss. Even my favorite places in the San Gabriel valley - which has the highest frequency of boba places ever - can sometimes disappoint. Although, take this with a grain of salt, because I will sometimes go near closing time - when it’s more likely that boba has been sitting around for longer.
When I say we, I mean Blacker. At some point in the past that I have no knowledge of, some members of Blacker decided that it would be a great idea to build a potato cannon. And it was. It’s used for shooting out many different things at high speeds. However, potatoes seem to fit the best in the canister and are both cheap and plentiful. Hence, its name was born.
The Bay Area is a ridiculously picturesque place, and few places can beat Sausalito. It’s a small town that has intense vacation vibes, with small shops, a cute Main Street, views of the bay and a lot of ritzy houses. No wonder it’s swarmed by tourists. Like San Francisco, a lot of the houses in Sausalito are built on hills, so you can definitely get a little workout just walking about.
In an old abandoned church in San Francisco, there’s a blast to the past in the form of a roller rink. The Church of 8 Wheels is an old-timey place, with pews, a DJ, an open floor, and a lot of roller skaters. They’re open only on Friday and Saturday evenings, but there are quite a few people who come to skate. There’s a large range of abilities, from those who are completely new (they rent out skates) to those who look like figure skaters in their roller skates.
Originally this recipe was for peanut butter banana brownies, but because I am allergic to peanut butter, I decided to substitute something better: cookie butter. Because a large part of this recipe is the marbling, it was important that there was the color difference between the cocoa and the butter (cookie or peanut). You could also probably some other nut butter as well, like almond butter.
Facebook gives their interns so many opportunities to have fun. A really big event they hold is called Intern Field Day. Facebook had the same event last year, and the format of the day hasn’t changed much. The day is split into 3 parts, where each of the 4 teams that interns have been split into play against the other 3 in sports and games such as dodgeball, soccer, capture the flag, and other classic team games. The teams get points depending on their wins and losses, and whoever showed more spirit in playing their game.
It’s not a trip to the Bay Area without a trip to Din Tai Fung. I know that I have one in LA, but who can resist going to one of the best chains ever. DTF in the Bay Area is in the Santa Clara mall, which is much nearer to San Jose than San Francisco. The mall itself is a Westfield (interestingly, the same brand as the one in Arcadia) and is huge, with both fast fashion and high-end brands such a Gucci and Prada there. I went with my intern friends who also love Din Tai Fung.
Facebook treats employees extremely well - and I do mean treats in the literal sense! The team I am on, Messenger Growth, had their offsite in Half Moon Bay. Everyone who wanted to attend drove down or took a lyft. There were even some engineers from Seattle who had come down for work, and were able to join everyone on the team in going to the offsite.