A Self Titled Life- Everyone’s Story (Day 10) ((It’s the final countdown))

Welcome to my last blog post. I will get home today by way of trains, planes and automobiles. I’m on the airplane right now that left from the Narita airport in Japan and is headed for JFK in New York. The arrival countdown reads 3 hours and 4 minutes until we touch back down to Earth. Believe it or not, we shaved some time off this trip compared to the last one. A whole 5 minutes. When we took off the countdown was 11 hours and 57 minutes so look at all that progress! I’ve watched a few movies, wrote a final paper, and about two hours ago I tried to write this blog post. Then I gave up and watched another movie. I finally got around to watching the Amazing SpiderMan Movies- highly recommend. Anyways, I have just enough time to write a blog post before I watch the last movie I’ve been saving. That’s the great thing about these posts- all you get to see is the final product so it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to muster up the words to write these posts or how many personal early morning dance breaks I take in between paragraphs. So for this post I’m throwing in all the honorable mentioned photos that didn’t make the cut the first time around.  I laughed while picking most of them out.

the devil

HI. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS LITTLE MONSTER. One day I bought these individually wrapped cookies and I kept them in my pocket to eat throughout the day, so I called them pocket cookies. This little boy’s mom took our picture and he threw such a temper tantrum (throwing rocks) so I tried to present him with an extraordinary pocket cookie and he hung his head so low that it almost snapped off his neck. Then he finally took the cookie AND VIOLENTLY HAULED IT FULL FORCED INTO THE GROUND. I actually gasped out loud. I just, I had to walk away. I had to leave the scene. I couldn’t control myself around that kind of inexcusable behavior. wow. Just WOW. (breathe, Ally, breathe.)


This was the shrine of a thousand and one buddhas. I got the picture the day after that blog was posted and well here you go.


According to my Mom, one needs a college education to work this toilet. It looks like you could use the bathroom while participating in a medieval torture chamber.


This was a vending machine full of crepes. What more do you need to know.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want to say or how I want to sum up all of these blogs along with all the things I’ve done in the past ten days. I’ve put a pretty substantial amount of time and effort into these blogs. I’ve dedicated a few hours a night to writing them all and I’m really happy that I did. On the bright side I know my mom reads them all so at least I have an audience other than myself. I have this tendency to buy a journal before a trip so I can write about all that happens and then I get on the trip and never open the book. At least I’m consistent. Well, the same thing happened on this trip. (In all fairness I had the journal long before I knew I was going to be blogging the trip. I’ll save the journal for spring break so I can neglect to use it then too.) I’ll admit though, I always did these posts late at night and sometimes the thought of having to stay up and write a blog as well as find pictures was enough to make me reconsider all of my life choices. However, I would remember nothing about this trip if I didn’t have this blog. Squat. We just did so much it was hard to keep up with it all so it’s really cool to have it all in one place with pictures. How nifty. Maybe even swifty.


I have absolutely no idea what is going on.


Somebody call Vogue.


The Kabuki Theater. The theater, the lovely theater. The picture was better but there is actually a bus that barged into my picture.

Today was a pretty nonchalant day. Although we did participate in a traditional tea ceremony and we got to wear kimono, drink green tea- the whole shabang. We wore these socks that look like goat feet. There one little part for your big toe and then another little part for your other toes with a divider in the middle. It’s like wearing mittens on your feet. (side note- thank the heavens for spellcheck because I spelled kimono ‘camono’. I had to google it to figure it out. Hello, I go to college.) It was interesting to see/ participate in all of these traditional customs that are part of the Japanese culture. Not just the tea ceremony, but also to visit places like Old Tokyo or any of the temples. America is such a young country and we don’t have a lot of these kinds of long-standing traditions. At the same time, that’s what I love about America. We don’t have a lot of traditions. It’s kind of a make-it-up-as-you-go society. In my family we have this birthday hat that looks like a cake with candles on the top. It’s not an American tradition , but in my family you are obligated to wear this hat on your birthday when you blow out the candles. These are the kinds of traditions that I love. You get to create your own traditional origins and pass them down to whomever you please. I really took the time on this trip to appreciate the world that I live in just a little bit more. I really think that going somewhere new and learning about someone different teaches you more about yourself than anything else. I like that America is loud and that we have rules but generally ignore all of them. I like that no one is the same and people aren’t afraid of being bold just because they want to be. I feel like America is made of a lot of brave people. We tend to look at differences as a positive attribute rather than a negative divide between people. Okay, hi. The plane is rocking back and forth and it’s getting hard to type so I’m going to finish this in the JFK airport. (See what I mean? You would have no idea I even stopped writing. The internet is a magical place.)

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Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus.


I’m wearing the goat socks in this picture.


To the windooow, To the wall! (to the wall). Stop singing I’m with my Mother.













IMG_1098 -PLEASE right-click this video and open it in a new tab. You’ll understand. I promise. It’s legendary.


Guess who’s back, back again? I’m in the airport and determined to finish this blog. I don’t really have a favorite part or thing that happened. Although my least favorite was the deer that tried to mull me to death. Besides that I think the people I met were my favorite part. It was just so exciting. So get this- I was able to visit Japan, present at an international symposium, make international friends, escape an almost tragic wildlife death, wear a kimono, and create my own blog all because I took a class by accident. It wasn’t so much an accident as it was ‘i couldn’t get into any of the classes I needed and this class happened to be open at the time so I took it’. That’s pretty bananas.


The animals from hell.


STOP. My American is showing.











There were purple trees on the streets. Like, hypothermia trees.

These past ten days have been some of the most incredible times in my life. I don’t really know how to say thank you for all that has happened. I’m so grateful to have gone to Japan. I’m also so grateful to all the students at Kansai University who were so sweet I still don’t believe they’re real. I’m so incredibly grateful that my Mom was able to come on this adventure because frankly, she’s a wizard. I’m so so so grateful I was on this trip with people who were not only willing to try new things, but excited to do everything possible. I’m also grateful she had a camera that took beautiful pictures and then emailed them to me every night. I’m so thankful that the Japanese people were so kind and willing to help in any way that they could. I’m grateful all the plane rides (thus far) have been solid trips and safe trips. And finally I’m thankful for all the sock stores that Japan had. I’m telling you, my future sick ass sock Saturdays are going to be killer.

IMG_1126 _This video is of the doorbell in out hotel room in Tokyo. First, I don’t think I have ever stayed in a hotel room with a doorbell. Second, this doorbell sounds nicer than the doorbell to my house at school, which sounds like a taser. Right click the link and open the link in a new tab!



My one true talent in this world is snipping terrible pictures of my Mother. She fought back on this trip.


But so did I.


Then she kicked my ass. (If I’m being honest, I actually prevailed in this battle, but the picture I took is so great I refuse to put it on the internet. I’m keeping it forever. Mom, you can have this one. Congratulations. You’ve come far, young grasshopper.















I don’t really know what else to say here. I’m excited to have had the experience because had I not taken this class, none of this would have ever happened. This experience has made me a more conscious communicator and a more educated international traveler. The most important thing I have gained from this experience is that there is no rule book to life. You can plan and plan and plan some more but, there is no way to know what is going to happen. The world is a crazy place and there’s no way it’s ever going to make sense. Maybe it shouldn’t. I like not knowing what is going to happen in an hour, or tomorrow, or in fifty years. All I know is that I’ll always be Ally, I’ll always have sick ass socks, and I went to Japan.

It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s also been ten days.

Thanks Japan for all the adventures. I’ll miss you dearly, but hello America, I’ve missed you more!!

Stay weird forever more.


Ally Costanza

Current wish- that Tyler Oakley would be my best friend.


International traveler

Feral wildlife survivor

Sock enthusiast

Future cat lady.

A Self Titled Life- Black and White Re-runs (Day 9)

I woke up this morning with the goal of ditching the city life in Tokyo. It’s a cool city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s too much like any other city. It’s has lots of people, buildings, cars, but not the dirt. I realized the other day that the streets don’t even have as much as a cigarette butt on them. There also is an extreme lack of garbage cans. And by extreme lack I mean none. Another side note- there are hardly any benches here. There’s nowhere to just sit and rest for a minute. Sometimes I’m so tired I genuinely consider laying on the sidewalk 1. because there’s nowhere else for me to go 2. it’s clean and 3. no one can stop me.

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This entire country looks like ‘Divergent’. I won’t let it go. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse.


Out of ten days, today was the only day it rained. We got pretty lucky.













IMG_1004 This is a video of what the train station music is. The little jingle I talked about. It sounds like it’s straight out of Mario Cart. It works best if you right-click the link and open the link in a new window.

So we went to Old Tokyo (at the request of the bassist we met last night in Starbucks.) It really was the raddest place. It was local shops and bakeries that lined the streets. Walking around was like going back to what Tokyo would have been like 40-50 years ago. The first shop we went into was dedicated to cats. Excuse me, it was fantastic. I went into a bakery and ate this asparagus and bacon pizza that probably changed my life for the greater good. Old Tokyo was filled with all the things I hoped I would find while in Japan. I found vases, tea cups, and even wooden painted earrings (which I didn’t exactly imagine prior to coming to Japan, but what are you going to do.) It was filled with things that are a little out-of-place and unique. Walking around the streets was like escaping what is to become apart of what was.


We were in this little tea shop and found Twisty the clown.

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There is one vending machine for every four people in Japan. I just happened to stumble upon one with Dr. Pepper.


This was someone’s walkway up to their front door.

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Stopped in this delicious bakery (with the pizza) and it had all of these superhero figurines. Lights would love it here.


Passed by this shop with hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Geez, it was beautiful.

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The cemeteries are just really impressive here.

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This sweet woman worked in the bakery we stopped in. When we asked for her picture she just giggled and couldn’t believe we wanted her picture.























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Street view of Old Tokyo.

After leaving the 1950s, we took a train to Takeshita Dori which was this giant outdoor shopping mall/street/hoopla of people. I think a lot of the things you could buy there you could probably find in a lot of places. It was more for commercial shopping. BUT they did have a sweet sock store where I did, in fact, buy some pretty nifty sick ass socks. I’m pretty stoked about them.


Just a casual street sign.


We stepped foot in the most MASSIVE Starbucks I have ever seen. It was enormous. This was just a small section of the outdoor patio. Claire, we’re moving.


The view for the customers was of the downtown city. We saw the store because of the logo imprinted on the windows six stories up.











What I liked about Takeshita Dori wasn’t the shopping, but the place itself. It seemed like the only place I’ve seen in Japan where people seem to let their hair down. People seemed to walk a little more to their own beat instead of the same beat as everyone else. Also, their was a lot of street art all around. Street art is my favorite kind of art, especially to take pictures of. It was almost like visiting a little piece of America while still being in Japan.


It’s hard to tell but this sign looked like it was made out of thousands of balloons.


This is amazing to me.

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This actually might have been in Old Tokyo but I’m not positive.


This was actually the first piece of art I saw.


IMG_0981 Walked by a store and I was SO excited to hear Fifth Harmony all the way in Japan. That’s all this video is. If you open it I would again,be best to open the link in a new window.

It’s pretty hard to believe this was my last full day here. Sometimes I go on trips and they fly by so fast I feel like I never even left home at all. This trip wasn’t that way at all. We’ve been gone for ten days but it feels more like 10 months. It seems like 30 years ago that I spoke at the symposium which is crazy because I’m only 20. On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday I was on that airplane pretending I wasn’t crying over every movie I watched. I feel like I was able to see so many incredible things, meet so many people, and learn so much about a new place that I didn’t have time to think about all the time passing by. This trip and this place was worth every second of time spent feeling like coming to Japan was just a simple thought or a shot in the dark.


My people in Japan.

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Google Japan. It’ll be so strange not to see this for a long time.


Took a shower and the window of mirror in front of the sink was designed to resist fog. Japan is on point 300% of the time.


Stay Weird.


Current temperature- I’m sweating to death in this sweatshirt.


A Self Titled Life- Safest Haven (Day 7)

I think so far every blog has been about ‘my favorite day’ and then I get to the next day and have a new favorite thing. Well, I’m keeping the trend. Today was my favorite day. We went back to Kyoto (there were no deer, praise the heavens) and visited two of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever stepped foot in.



How does one even caption this picture?


This looks like a little smurf house by a stream!


The leaves on most of the trees are so small compared to a lot of the leaves in America. They’re like mini leaves.


I could live in these gardens. Also- there were no bugs and/or spiders. So honestly.. I could live here.


The first place was called Kinkaku-Ji which was the temple of the Golden Pavilion. The second was the Ryoanji Temple. Both of these places were these beautiful outdoor garden/trails filled with nature. It reminded me a little of central park and how there’s this big, bustling city a few feet away but in the park, you’re almost in another world removed from the rest. Even though it’s winter here, it looks like fall. It’s really hard to go on and on about this because there’s nothing to really describe if someone has never seen it. I think it’s one of those see it for yourself to understand it type of things.


I think the scenery around the building was more impressive than the actual pavilion itself.


I’m hands down the worst selfie taker. I really haven’t had a lot of practice.


This place was seriously amazing.


There was this little cluster of statues with a metal bowl in the middle and I banked a coil into the bowl on the first shot. It’s not as impressive unless you know that I have not a drop of aim. I’m hoping it means my wish will come true because I liked what I wished for.


What not to wear- Guard edition.
























I feel like this blog post would be kind of short if I ended it there, so I made a list of all the different things that are unique in Japanese hotels. One thing is that there are full-sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles in the bathroom. When I asked why (because in America there is no way this would happen) it’s because the Japanese people know that no one will steal them. This is a very honorable and trusting culture. Also, the peephole in the door is a good 5-6inches lower than it is in American hotels. It is probably to accommodate any height differences. In both the hotels we’ve stayed in, they provide pajamas for you to sleep in. Hmm.. what else. Oh! You also get a packaged toothbrush, toothpaste, and q-tips in the bathrooms. Last thing- they take care of the stuffed friends you bring along on your trip. (These are just my perspectives/observations from the two hotels I’ve stayed in, so I can’t say this about all hotels in Japan but just for these particular ones.)



I look forward to coming back to the hotel to see Hillary. I can’t get over how cute this is.















Side note- There is a different song that plays when the train comes into the station and the very beginning sounds like the opening scene in ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. Most people wouldn’t remember that, but I’ve seen the movie seven times. It’s getting ridiculous.


So apparently on Christmas there are lines and lines of people at KFC. That’s certainly one way to celebrate the holidays.


The Costanza’s play the ‘punch bug game’ but finding a yellow punch bug automatically means you win for the day. My mother finds one in Japan. She won. She smoked us all for the rest of eternity.














We’re heading to Tokyo tomorrow morning but I’m honestly sad to leave Osaka. I’ve had so much fun here and met quite a few unforgettable people. I really hope to come back here someday. I know that when I do I’ll have people to visit as well as places I know I’ll want to go. I really don’t want to leave just yet.

Bye Osaka. I’ll miss you dearly.

Stay Weird.


Current wish- That my suitcase would repack itself.

A Self Titled Life- Some Time (Day 6)

We explored a city called Nara today. Compared to Osaka and Kyoto, it was a more residential area. It was quieter and had a slower pace to it. When we got to the city we walked down this street full of shops and visited two different temples. The first place was Kofukuji temple. It had a gigantic five tier pagoda and when I tried to get a picture in front of it, I looked like an ant. Just a teeny weenie tiny little human. What’s really crazy is that it was built and restored BEFORE the thought of America even existed.


See what I mean? Peanuts. The entire temple didn’t even make it into the picture.


One of the streets in Nara. Really cool place.














Before climbing the stairs to the temple grounds, there was a cemetery and each headstone had a cup of tea in front of it.


There was another purification station at the temple but tell me this doesn’t look like Mushu from Mulan!














The pagoda was honestly a really impressive structure.

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Serious. Very serious people.


The temple of  Kofukuji. There are a lot of orange temples in Japan.












The second place we visited was the shrine of one of the biggest Buddhas in Japan. Let me tell you, it was enormous. The temple was called Todai-ji and for the record, seeing a giant Buddha was the entire reason I was stoked for this trip. It was mammoth. The temple itself is the largest wooden structure in the world. Basically, there was nothing about this temple that wasn’t impressive. The statue of the Buddha was probably taller than a football field. I’m going to put some pictures but they’re not even close to how incredible it was. I’m telling you- if you ever make it to Japan, you have got to make it apparent to see the temple of a thousand Buddhas in Kyoto and the Buddha statue in Todai-ji temple in Nara. Point, blank, period.


The largest wooden structure in the world was renovated to be 33% smaller than the original. Believe me, you would never know.

This was my favorite. My entire life has led up to this Buddha.


This is the scale of the actual buddha’s hand on the statue.















I cannot get over this Buddha.


Even the decor statues around the Buddha were incredible.













Nara was such a chill place that these two enormous structures just rest in the middle of the city. That seems nuts to me to just live by these incredible places and see them everyday. Okay, but the equal best/worst part of this city is the deer. Yeah, the deer. Probably hundreds of deer run amuck throughout the city. I’m not kidding, people buy biscuits and feed the deer. They pet the deer. They take pictures with the deer. They get bullied by the deer when they run out of food. Then the deer go wild and shred your bag to get into the food you didn’t even know you had. Besides the dirt, aggressive behavior, and mass amounts of poop, the deer are just grand.


The deer booked it into the streets and the cars slammed their breaks. There are powerful creatures ruling Nara, without an iron fist (deer don’t have thumbs.)


Throughout all of Japan the sewer heads have been so intricate. Nara included.













I seem to be a little angry about the deer- I’d say we aren’t friends. I tried to pet a deer and I was almost died in the process. It’s like the episode of Spongebob when Gary hangs out with Patrick to get the cookie in his shorts. “HE ONLY LIKED ME FOR MY SHORTS.” That was my day with the deer.


I worked up the guts to pet the deer, and it tried to kill me.


I’m not kidding when I say that beast gnawed a hole through my bag..and my heart.













I’m really banking on there being no deer tomorrow. Although, when we were standing in Nara park all of a sudden ALL of the deer just took off together in a herd towards the forest. It was like a combination of an olympic marathon and the stampede in the Lion King. Truthfully, if I never see a deer up close again, I wouldn’t be too upset about it.


They sell shampoo in bags at the drug store.


Just hanging’ out with the boyfriend.




Maybe it’s because I think regular cemeteries are cool, but the cemeteries in Japan are a whole new level of amazing.











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These guys were slamming these huge wooden hammers into this green candy dough while chanting. The candy has an acquired taste and it’s one that I don’t have.














Stay weird.


Current snack- peanut butter and crackers

A Self Titled Life- Make Up Your Own Steps (Day 5)

Hi. Guess what? So much has happened today I don’t know where to even begin. I’ll start with an edit from yesterdays blog. I have made an incredible amount of friends and met so many new people but I did not mention everyone in the blog post from yesterday. I kind of felt bad about that. I also didn’t mention my FAVORITE part of the symposium which was when I found out Manami (our partner) listens to Paramore and Fall Out Boy. I’m aware these could be average facts for most humans, but for the human, (me) they’re game changers. Manami and I are now best friends. It happened. It’s real. She might not even know.

I'm going to throw away all of my clothes and pack my suitcase with these candies. You don't understand. I'll be bringing so many home.

I’m going to throw away all of my clothes and pack my suitcase with these chocolates. You don’t understand. I’ll be bringing so many home.

I have no idea what we are doing but I really love this picture.

I have no idea what we are doing but I really love this picture. Taken across the tracks of the subway station.











Moving swiftly along. TODAY we did some pretty incredible things. First, we went to Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto which was like a temple trail. I’m not entirely sure how to explain this without being incredible disrespectful but there was this orange temple and then smaller ones all around it. Then you could follow these trials that slowly worked itself up a mountain with more private and serene temples. I guess they could be compared to checkpoints on the way to the top. What was really cool was the bamboo growing in the forest alongside the trail. We actually never made it to the top but what are you going to do.

A lot of the walking paths i the beginning of the trail were under these tall orange beams.

A lot of the walking paths at the beginning of the trail were under these tall orange beams.


The opening building to the Fushimi Inari shrine. The color was so bright, I loved it.


After a tsunami hit Japan, people from around the world sent paper cranes and they were hung around the walls in one of the shrines.

People could make wishes to the whomever then believe will hear their private wishes.

People could make wishes to the whomever they believe will hear their private wishes.

Before you enter the shrine you are asked to purify yourself with these instructions.

Before you enter the shrine you are asked to purify yourself with these instructions.

This was the purifying station.

This was the purifying station.

The architecture was incredible. We didn't even make it inside before we took a million pictures.

The architecture was incredible. We didn’t even make it inside before we took a million pictures.

The water was so cold..or maybe that was the purification working.

The water was so cold..or maybe that was the purification working.









































After that we took a train to a different part of Kyoto to see the temple of one thousand Buddhas. This was easily the most amazing thing we’ve seen on this trip. You have to take your shoes off at the door and put on slippers that the shrine provides for all the guests. You walk into this long room and there are seriously no less than a thousand gold statues lined up for what goes on for what seems like 70 miles. They’re all a little bit different from the one next to it, but the rustic look and the detail is incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen before. The first thing that immediately popped into my head when I saw them was the chess game in the Harry Potter movie. Totally different, but that’s the vibe I got. In front of the rows and rows of statues, there are I think 12 different stone statues of the deities with descriptions of where they are believed to have come from and what they symbolize in the Buddhist religion. Some of the statues had crystals for eyes and it made it look like they were living people trapped inside stone cases. (A little like Mr Krabs when he’s trapped in the ice in The Spongebob Movie.) Anyways, in the middle of the 12 statues there is this enormous Buddha that looks like it is floating in the air. It was easily two stories tall. The entire thing in unable to be described with pictures or in words. If anyone wants to ever see it, I’ll just have to bring you back to Kyoto. It’s worth the flight, I swear.


In both the temples I was so intrigued by the way beliefs brought people from all walks of life together.


The slippers we wore in the shrine. If anyone walked past my boots I took off they probably died on the spot from the smell.














While I loved the two places we were able to explore, my favorite part of this day was afterwards when we were lost on the train So we board a train back to Osaka (where the hotel is) and until we get off the train, I honestly had no idea if we were even heading remotely in the right direction. Long story short- 4 hours later we made it back home. It was supposed to be a thirty minute trip. Between you & I, I thought I was going to die in the Japan train station. I could see my end and I’m lucky to be alive. You’re lucky I’m dramatic, otherwise this blog would be all about facts. The thought bores me.

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In the Kyoto train station there was a Christmas celebration with a massive tree, music, and a holiday lights show.

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This tree in the Kyoto train station was probably over 8 eight stories tall. We kind of stumbled along this display unintentionally. I’m so thrilled that we did though.

All in all, it was a good one. I’ve been throwing around the idea, in my own head, that I could see myself one day living in Japan. It’s such a stunning country filled with the kindest people. I don’t have to take into consideration the fact that I dress differently because I would stick out anyways so why try to avoid it. I do think there are a lot of things in the culture and society that would clash with my own personality and beliefs. Honestly, who knows. Right now my number one place to live is Africa where I can ride a giraffe all day, everyday. THAT would be the life.

I shouldn't be invited anywhere professional. I'm just not cutout for the serious life.

I shouldn’t be invited anywhere professional. I’m just not cutout for the serious life.

MY FAVORITE SNIPE OF THE TRIP. Even in spiritual places, cracks are invited.

MY FAVORITE SNIPE OF THE TRIP. Even in spiritual places, cracks are invited.











Get ready for whatever lies ahead tomorrow.

Stay weird.


Current seating arrangement- tucked in bed.


A Self Titled Life- Find the Words (Day 4)


The symposium was today so we headed over to the University at about 9 am. (I’m getting really good at using the subway. I probably could get to somewhere really cool then get lost and never find my way home.) The symposium went well and we had about seven Kansai students present with us on stage. The audience really took an interest in the student responses and thoughts on our personal COIL experiences. I think our participation might have really influenced some of the other attending professors to participate in COIL themselves, which I love. I mean without COIL I wouldn’t be sitting next to Marissa on a hotel bed in Japan typing this blog post. (For the record, Marissa is only pretending to type hers next to me.)

Made it to the University! Its pretty beautiful.

Made it to the University! It’s a pretty beautiful place.

At the Symposium with Maho and Marissa.

At the Symposium with Maho and Marissa.











Thats a fine looking crew.

That’s a fine-looking crew.


List of the student presenters at the symposium.

List of the student presenters at the symposium. It’s no big deal.






I felt like a very big deal. My name tag paper was even taped to the table. (I did steal it. I'm bringing it home)

I felt like a very big deal. My name tag paper was even taped to the table. (I did steal it. I’m bringing it home






After the presentation we took a tour of the University with some of the students in the class we worked with. The campus is so big compared to Oswego and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s winter in Japan but it’s about 50 degrees and most of the trees look like it’s fall, so the campus is full of color. We passed by students outside who were interpretive dancing in a group on the sidewalk. Also, there were students with their instruments just jamming in front of one of the buildings. Kansai has around 27,00 students. I feel like if most of the Japanese students didn’t commute like they do, the lines for the showers would take about thirty-seven years.

The holiday drinks at Starbucks are unique in Japan too. (Also apparently they are really very sweet.

The holiday drinks at Starbucks are unique in Japan too. (Also, apparently they are really very sweet.

PAULINE AND MEG. I FOUND A MCDONALDS. too bad its in Japanese and  I couldn't read it!

PAULINE AND MEG. I FOUND A MCDONALD’S. Too bad it’s in Japanese and I couldn’t read it!


We left the University and headed down to the ShinSaiBashi-Suji which is an ENORMOUS outdoor shopping mall. The beginning of it looks like the Time Square of Japan. There were these Christmas lights that hung from the beginning of the street all the way down to the end. By the time we got there I was wearing these high heel dress shoes. (Let me give you some background info- I don’t wear heels. That’s enough background.) The problem was that I couldn’t buy a cheep pair of shoes to change into because most shoes come in three sizes- small, medium, and large. So it’s safe to say I bought no shoes. Also, most of the traditional Japanese clothing stores have sizes called feminine and male. It’s just one size for each. So again, I bought no clothing. But that’s okay! I bought two cool pairs of socks and a blueberry face mask. We put the face masks on and we looked like we are on our way to our Blue Man group auditions.

ShinSaiBashi-Suji was incredible. Almost better than New York.

ShinSaiBashi-Suji was incredible. Almost better than Time Square in New York, but not quite.

I had sushi for the very first time tonight with Sophia! If I'm going to have it anywhere, might as well be in Japan!

I had sushi for the very first time tonight with Sofia! I figured if I’m going to have it anywhere, might as well be in Japan!

This donut is the reason for my existence on this earth. It was some some sort of salted caramel nut slice of heaven.

This donut is the reason for my existence on this earth. It was some sort of salted caramel nut slice of heaven.

These boots were in a sm, md, lg store and they made me think of Hayley Williams. So naturally, I took a picture.

These boots were in a sm, md, lg store and they made me think of Hayley Williams. So naturally, I took this picture.

The international gang. (left to right) Maho, Jenni, Marissa, Me, & Sophia.

The international gang. (left to right) Maho, Jenni, Marissa, Me, & Sofia.













We went to the shopping center with Maho, Jenni, and Sofia which were three of the Kansai Students. (Maho is from Japan, Jenni is on exchange from Australia, and Sofia is on exchange from England.) I truly feel like meeting them was the entire reason COIL should be brought to other classrooms and people. You not only learn about cultures and whatnot, but it gives you the opportunity to meet and create relationships with people you would otherwise never meet. If I never took this class or participated in COIL I wouldn’t have made these friends or learned as much as I did. I’ve taken more away from this single class and this single experience than I have from anything else I have done in my entire educational career. This experience has given me such a wider perspective on the world and a better understanding of the people who live in it. Maybe it’s fair to say it didn’t give me the understanding, but really the curiosity to learn by going places to talk and ask questions. There’s so much to learn that can’t be found on google, which seems insane, but I think it’s true. I said it yesterday but I’m going say it again (because this is my blog and no one can stop me) I am so grateful for this experience. I have international friends that I can talk to and meet up with one day in the future. Or they can come to America and stay with me. If it wasn’t for COIL I would have never had the opportunity to meet these remarkable people. This semester might be finished but I think the doors and relationships that this experience has opened up to me are going to stay with me for a long, long time. I’m hopeful it will be forever.

Did you think I'd forget my favorite day of the week? Happy Sick Ass Sock Saturday- Japan Edition! #SASS

Did you think I’d forget my favorite day of the week?! Happy Sick Ass Sock Saturday- Japan Edition! #SASS Japanese socks are like mittens for your feet.

Every day the nice lady that cleans our room tucks Hillary into my bed. She's probably such a sweetheart.

Everyday the nice lady that cleans our room tucks Hillary into my bed. She’s probably such a sweetheart.












Stay Weird.


Current face smell- Catastrophe Cosmetic Blueberry


A Self Titled Life- Sleepless People (Day 2)

Made it to day 2! Its 4:36 pm in Osaka, Japan on December 4. It’s very strange to be around 11 hours ahead of everyone back home. We also kind of lost a day when we got here because of the time difference. On the bright side it’s almost 5 am in New York but I feel like I am pretty adjusted to the time difference. Going home on the other hand and readjusting, is going to be a killer..

These signs are imprinted all over the streets in Tokyo. It seems like a really clean, eco-friendly city to be in. Theres a lot of people but not like New York City.

These signs are imprinted all over the streets in Tokyo. It seems like a really clean, eco-friendly city to be in. Theres a lot of people but not like New York City.

After walking around last night and walking back to the train station this morning, I realized everything is so clean here. The streets, trains, subways, stations, and the people too! Everyone also seems to dress in nicer clothing. Maybe that’s because it’s a Thursday morning and people are on their way to work but nevertheless, there have been quite a few dress shoes and heels. Oh and a lot of black clothing. I should fit in here.


Some of the signs in the Tokyo train station. There actually is a lot more written and spoken English than I thought there would be!


I swear these were pulled right off the set of ‘The Giver’



On the train into Tokyo last night and getting on the train this morning, first of all, there always seems to be a million people. Second, the doors open and this little Mario Cart or Wii game sounding jingle  plays in the stations. Everyone is frantically running in different directions trying to get on the train and off all at the same time and there is the adventure jingle playing in the background. If it had words they would say “on your mark. Get set. GET ON THE TRAIN MORE IT OR LOST IT” I almost want to give the people I’m with a high-five for leveling up in the game of getting on the train and not being left behind. It always makes me think of ‘Home Alone’ when they’re booking it though the airport to make their flight. Also, I sat next to this man on the train  into Osaka this morning and it turns out he lived in Minneapolis for 7 years! I’m not from Minneapolis nor have I ever been there, but I thought it was pretty exciting.


just some casual tubes of cream cheese


I thought this was so interesting. Its cream of pumpkin soup. I didn’t know this even existed.











Besides being impeccably clean, it seems like a lot of the advertising is in the stations and on the subways. Tokyo seems like an average city (comparable to New York City..sort of) but there is so little advertising on the streets and on the buildings. It’s all inside the stations which is kind of interesting. There’s also vending machines on the streets. Just free-standing machines every few feet filled with teas, waters, and other kinds of things.


I’m surprised at the number of Christmas trees and decorations I’ve seen. There was a giant tree outside of the Tokyo train station. Not as big as the Rockefeller tree, but what is?

We’re on the train heading to Osaka (where the students and the symposium is) and the homes that are all along the side of the mountains have an islandy vibe to them. There were also quite a few baseball fields along the way.




Visited a grocery store in Osaka. Melon is like an edible treasure. These cantaloupe were around $30 and there were ones with gold bows in individual boxes for $50.


Rice crispy treat tubes.


There was no way I would have passed up the opportunity to take a picture of the packaged octopus. I wish I could come up with some kind of octopus pun for this caption.


There is dried squid in the grocery store! That’s really cool.











We visited this rad little grocery store (I wish I could remember the name) but they had some of the coolest things in there. It’s so crazy to think how different things are for people around the world. Like in New York how going to the store and picking up a watermelon is no big deal but how for people in Japan, watermelon is a rarity. Or how there is such an abundance and variety of fresh sea food to buy here, as compared to other places that only have a limited packaged variety to choose from. It’s not really ‘how the other half lives’ its more along the lines of you don’t truly understand something until you experience it for yourself. I feel like it’s not until you see somewhere new that you find a new appreciation for it. Maybe it took for me to fly halfway across the world to realize that people aren’t really all that different. Sure we have different cultures, customs, and foods in our grocery stores, but we’re really not all that different as people. As soon as you stop looking at all the little things that make people different, you can finally see that we’re not. There’s a bigger picture out there and its much bigger that I could have ever imagine.


Stay Weird.


Current read- ‘The Bell Jar‘ by Sylvia Plath

A Self Titled Life- Head In The Clouds (Day 1)

Dec. 2, 2014

We’ve reached the 8 hour mark. Well 8 hours and 9 minutes to be exact. There is this nifty little clock that counts down to the time of arrival. Whoever thought of this deserves a round of applause. It seems like a lifetime ago that the we were on the runway in Detroit and the countdown was at 12 hours and 2 minutes until we arrived.

I’ve watched two movies so far ( actually the first was a documentary but details, details) The problem is that I cried through both films. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic. It wasn’t like hiccupy constant whale cries, more like little sniffles and eye rivers here and there. The poor man next to me must think I’m a loony tune which honestly matches the past two weeks I’ve had trying to prepare for this trip. Moral of the story, I guess I can’t argue with the guy. He has some gripping examples to support his claim.

You know, it’s not even fair to say these past few weeks have had me acting like a lunatic. It wasn’t like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it was more like I was a chicken born without a head  in the first place. Mass chaos. I can’t argue that it was like the calm before the storm, because it’s actually clear weather. I didn’t think these few weeks would end, let alone I would ever be sitting on a plane on my way to explore and present at a symposium in Japan. That’s bananas.

Maybe I should introduce myself- hi. I’m Ally and I’m using a giraffe neck pillow right now. If you’re going to be reading these blog posts you may want to know more than my name and my wildlife neck support. So here’s 7 facts that have nothing to do with anything at all:

1. my favorite season is winter

2. breakfast for dinner is a top-notch meal

3. my favorite holiday is Halloween

4. cats are fantastic

5. my favorite movie is The Breakfast Club

6. my initials are ACDC

7. 7 is my favorite number

To get into some serious business, the reason I am on my way to Japan is to present at an international COIL symposium that is held in Osaka, Japan. This semester I took Intercultural Communication (COM 422) and we participated in COIL which is Collaborative Online International Learning. We were able to Skype and work on a project with a class of students that attend Kansai University in Japan. At the beginning of the class if someone had told me I would be boarding a plane and meeting the students, let alone presenting at an international symposium I wouldn’t have believe it. I don’t believe that I’m sitting on this plane right now. It’s the real deal. Who would have guessed it?


I think that’s all i have to say for now. Since I won’t be posting this until later tonight or whenever I have wi-fi, I might add some more later. HEY! 7 hours and 53 minutes until the time of arrival!! WE’VE MADE IT TO 7! (which is still my favorite number if you didn’t remember.)

Stay Weird.


Current Jam- ‘White Noise’ by Pvris. The entire album. Highly recommend.

My Journey In Japan, Part One

(NOTE: This is one of those blog entries that I probably should’ve started working on much, much sooner. Perhaps one could consider this a testament to the amount of adventures I’ve been having as of late?)

As I write this, I’m not currently in Oswego. Or in New York State. Or even on the North American continent.

Nope, right now I’m in the middle of a semester abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata-shi, Osaka, Japan. I’m only halfway through the semester, and I already have found it to be the most worthwhile experience of my entire life. This is the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was in middle school (and probably even before that), and is the culmination of over a year and a half of diligence, hard work, and perseverance.

Eleven years in the making, and I'm finally here...

Eleven years in the making, and I’m finally here…



I’ve got so many stories to tell about my adventures thus far in Japan that I’ll need more than one post to talk about them. But first, let’s talk about two things that have been fundamental in making this even possible in the first place: choice and responsibility.

This is my senior year. I plan to graduate in May, which means I have a little over a semester and a half before I’m expected to go out into the “real world” so I can “make something out of myself.”

As a Creative Writing major, I get a lot of comments from people asking me what I plan on doing after undergrad with that kind of degree. These comments often have a somewhat derogatory tone to them, as if I’ve somehow wasted all my money on something completely worthless.

Now, this is the part where you’d probably expect me to say something along the lines of, “The Creative Writing major is actually super-versatile, thank you very much,” and then drone on and on about how I could be a technical writer or a PR manager, both of which are rather profitable jobs.

Fortunately, that’s not what I’m gonna do. Instead, I’ll tell you the absolute truth.

The truth is, I don’t know what I plan to do outside in “the real world.” I sure as hell don’t want to spend my life rotting away inside a cubicle at a job I hate just because somebody else told me to. That’s not me; it’s not my kind of environment. Sure, it’s secure, but it’s also boring as hell. As Joseph Campbell (whom I’ll probably get to talking about in a later post) once said, “There is no security in answering the Call to Adventure. Nothing is exciting if you already know what the outcome is going to be.”

Now, where does Japan come into all of this?

Well, it’s simple: I’ve wanted to go to Japan since I was a little kid. Over the years I’ve heard a variety of people say a variety of things about the variety of reasons why it would be impossible and/or stupid to go to Japan.

“It’s too expensive.” (Nah, it wasn’t really.)

“Someone like you wouldn’t survive a week over there.” (Try eight. And counting.)

“You’re too stupid to get into a university over there.” (Honors Program with a 3.3 GPA.)

“What’s the point? You’ll just end up owing boatloads of money over nothing.” (See below.)

“Stop being irresponsible, Tom. Just graduate and get a job like everyone else. Worry about Japan later.” (Again, see below.)

Well, if this post is any indication, in the end I didn’t listen to them, and I’m so glad I chose not to. The truth is, this semester abroad wasn’t just the best decision I’ve ever made, but the most NECESSARY, as well. I’d been exposed to too much cynicism to that point, and I needed to break free.

[*cue minor tangent*]

You see, I hate cynicism. It’s probably one of the worst qualities to find in a person, as it more or less translates as a sign of laziness and apathy (which are two equally terrible character traits). I especially hate when I hear my fellow classmates back home (many of whom are juniors and seniors) whine and moan about how “the last four years have been worthless” and “I still don’t know what I want to do with my life” and “[Insert name here]’s got a degree in [Insert Liberal Arts major here], so he’s gonna be flipping burgers when he gets out of here.”

Here’s the thing: people who say that kind of stuff seem to have missed the point of college; they act like all they need to do is attend class during the week and party during the weekend and they’ll somehow magically figure out who they are and what they want to do. They neglect opportunities like study abroad or clubs and organizations, saying that they’re just a waste of time. School is work, and to them, work should always be separate from play.

And then when they realize they were wrong, they blame it on their parents and other adults who told them that getting a degree was the only important part of their college education.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

See, the thing that so many of those cynical students seem to forget is that college is about learning to make your own decisions, as opposed to following the will of someone else. Thus, whining about how you gained nothing from college is a sign that you didn’t learn how to think for yourself. That’s a skill you often can’t fully learn how to use in a classroom setting; you can only apply it there. You have to learn about yourself and the world around you by actually getting out and being there.

[*end minor tangent*]

Which is where I turn once again to my experiences in Japan. I’ve known for a while that I probably won’t become a full-time writer; for one thing, it’s been hard to come up with something original, and for another, I have a rather short attention span that makes writing for significant length of time somewhat difficult. (Which is why it’s actually kind of weird that this post is as long as it is…)

[*cue another minor tangent; don’t worry, kids, it’s all relevant in the end*]

But I do know one thing: I love stories. I love telling them, I love reading them, and I love learning about how they work. And I also love games; playing games, talking about games, and learning the science behind games.

And I know that I can take these two bits of knowledge and tie them together. And I know that by tying them together I can see the world from an entirely different perspective. And from that perspective I can find things to do and make that can change the world as we know it. Things that take my creative writing and cognitive science backgrounds and turn them into the impetus behind a force of good.

Knowing that, I feel there’s only one choice I can make, because I have a responsibility to myself (rather than to the people around me) to do something extraordinary with my life.

And the best way I can think of is to pursue cognitive video game studies in graduate school.

[*end minor tangent*]

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Man, does that Tom Kline likes his tangents. But trust me when I say that this all ties together rather nicely.

Because when I first came to Oswego as a freshman, my parents and high school teachers had already told me that I had a responsibility to study what interested me, because in doing so I’d learn to appreciate the gift of choice that came with that opportunity. And so I became a Creative Writing major and Cognitive Science minor, and somehow ended up in Japan.

There, we’re back on track.

Now, having finally come to Japan, I’ve been rewarded for my self-faith and conviction by being granted so many other opportunities while being here. My birthday, September 19th, was the day of the Jugoya full-moon festival in Kyoto, and I got to go to a celebration at Shimogumo Shrine. That night, the full moon was said to be the prettiest full moon of the year (in contrast to a similar festival in May, which is said to be the most powerful full moon of the year).

It was a great night.


What’s more, I spent the next four days in Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show 2013, which was an industry expo similar to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, held every summer in LA). Unlike E3, however, the last two days of TGS are open to the public.

The ticket for TGS 2013


While I was there, I got to play a bunch of crazy games that might not even come out in America.


This guy was from a Sega game for the Nintendo 3DS that had something to do with fighting using Japanese yen. I barely understood what was going on. At the end of the demo they gave me a box of tissues that looked like a 10,000 yen bill. Japan, people. Video games.

And my favorite part of the trip was getting to meet a bunch of independent game developers. These are two-and-three-man studios who come together to make games on their own terms, free from any corporate meddling. They often make more avant-garde games with interesting mechanics that in turn can influence the rest of the games industry.

Here’s me with the guys at VisionTrick, who are working on a game called Pavilion for the PS4 and PS Vita. There’s an interview with them that I’ll post soon. They were pretty awesome.

Rickard Westman(left) and Henrik Flink (right) of VisionTrick Media. Talking to these guys was really, really cool.


And here’s me with Henry Fernandez and his brother, who are working on FluffEaters, a mobile game for Android and iOS devices. An interview with them should also be going up in the near future:

Me with Henry Fernandez (aka Henry Kun), left, and his brother (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment…), right. These guys were also really cool to talk to.

It’s great to talk to these developers because they operate on a more easily-approachable level; they make games, but they’re not Shigeru Miyamoto or Cliff Blezinski (from Nintendo and Epic Games, respectively). You can go up to them and talk about game design and playing games without feeling like you’re speaking to a suit (or, in the cases of Miyamoto and Blezinski, a legend). In a way, these guys are artists who are making their dreams come true by creating something unique for others to experience and interpret and learn from. They could’ve gone and become businessmen, rotting away at a job they hate, but instead they decided to do something awesome with their lives.

Thus, we’re not really different at all: I love games, they love games. I’m in Japan at the Tokyo Game Show experiencing the insanity that occurs within, and so are they. And most importantly, I’m here because I never gave up on my dream, and neither did they.

That week alone was one of the greatest and most life-changing periods of my entire life. And none of it could’ve happened (or at least, not to the extent that it had) outside of Japan. If I hadn’t made the choice of going to Japan now while I’m still an undergrad, I’d be letting down so many of the people who got to where I am today.

But that, friends, is a story for another time. Until next time, stay tuned for more coverage from the Land of the Rising Sun!