Japan 2014: University of Tsukuba

I can't put into words how excited I was when I woke up that day - it was our first full day in Japan! Sure, we had an "official" agenda since we were there as delegates from my University. But hey, Japan is Japan and Japan is awesome. (I know I just said Japan three times... okay, now four times!)

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Just a note, this post is photo-heavy!

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Of course, I just had to start with food ;) U.F.O. is quite simply my favorite instant noodles right now! I had this for breakfast for all the mornings of my entire Japan trip.

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My room's view isn't anything special like mountains or forestry - but I do love the clean lines from the parking lots and the low "skyline."

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Our agenda was to drive up Mt. Tsukuba, visit JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) which is basically Japan's NASA and the University of Tsukuba.

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We drove by a lot of beautiful Japanese architecture. The houses on the roads we passed by were more traditional that the houses you'll see in the city or in central Tokyo, for example. I just love the roofing of Japanese houses! I think I mentioned that on my first travel diary.

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At the almost top of the mountain, you can see Mt. Tsukuba's mascot, a huge frog. We wanted to hike up but we weren't prepared for it clothing-wise + it was going to be extremely cold at the peak.

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The view! It was a bit too foggy because we went during the last few days of winter but breathtaking nonetheless.

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We didn't stay too long at the top because we had a lot of other places to go to. Driving down, we passed by an area with a little bit of snow left! We couldn't just pull up on the side of the road so I had to settle for this picture of snow. My first snow experience will have to wait ;)

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On our way back to the main city, we took a detour into an old, rural town near the mountain. The entire town was hauntingly beautiful with all the old Japanese houses, stores and ancient shrines. I have a thing for history, especially Japanese history, so this side-trip made my heart sing!

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You'll always see a set of vending machines anywhere in Japan. Those machines sell anything from the usual refreshments, hot and cold drinks, cup noodles and even cigarettes!

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It was already past twelve when we got back to the city so we decided to have lunch at a famous curry restaurant chain in Japan, CoCo Curry House.

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Look at that thing of beauty! Curry is amazing especially during winter because it warms you up from the inside. I went with an oyster curry just because it's something I've never tasted before. It was Y-U-M-M-Y, おいしい, as Japanese would say.

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Oh you know, just tourists doing tourist-y things.

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Next up, we went on a short tour inside JAXA.

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This was inside JAXA's museum. It featured some life-size Japanese space equipment and smaller scale replicas of the spacecrafts they launched. I'm not a huge space person but this was just an amazing experience. We could even buy space food from the museum store!

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I didn't take a lot of pictures - wait, let me rephrase that. I took a LOT of pictures but only posted these few shots of JAXA because I wanted to focus heavily on...

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...the University of Tsukuba! Now, this University is just begging to have its photo taken. The architecture was just stunning - it fuses together modern Western elements as well as traditional Japanese touches.

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This University of Tsukuba was originally the Tokyo University of Education and is one of the oldest universities in Japan. It was relocated to Tsukuba City as part of the initiatives to decongest Tokyo by moving all science-related facilities to the well-planned city. It's known for its research in physics, social sciences, economics and (surprisingly) physical education.

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They had Starbucks inside the campus so of course, I had to go in!

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A man-made lake inside the campus. If you squint a bit, you might be able to see all the noisy ducks in the lake.

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I'm not a cat person but this was just too adorable not to post! Look at those organized, fat cats!

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Since we went there during Winter Break, most of the buildings were closed. We went inside a few buildings though and lucked out because the Art and Design building was open!

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Even if this university isn't famous for their art and design programs, they had an extensive line-up of art courses ranging from graphic design to traditional calligraphy.

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One thing that amazes me about Japan is how they still preserve and practice their traditions. Despite the fact that they are one of the most modernized countries in the world, they still touch base with their traditional roots. That's something we, Filipinos, can learn from them.

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We went inside the building behind the statue for an exhibit on the Nobel Peace Prize winners from the University.

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I'll end this set of University of Tsukuba photos with my favorite!

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That concludes the official agenda for the day. We went back to the hotel to rest and freshen up for dinner with the Filipino community on Tsukuba City.

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We decided to eat nomikai-style at Kushi Tonbo. Nomikai is a drinking party particular to the Japanese culture. Usually, salarymen (or 9-5 employees) would go for a nomikai at the end of their workweek as part of "socialization" with their boss and workmates.

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I know it doesn't look appetizing in the photo but it was so good! It was actually my first time eating shabu-shabu and I really liked the experience. There's something about kombu (kelp) in the water that made the thinly sliced beef, tofu and vegetables much more flavorful.

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That's it for Day 2 of my Japan trip! There were just too many pictures and this is the best I could do to narrow it down. I don't even want to think about the number of photos I took on our Tokyo day o_o

I'm so excited to post Day 3! If you've been traveling, link your travel diaries on the comment section. I love reading those!