Tuesday, February 28, 2012

peace memorial day

The 228 Incident was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang government. The 228 refers to the date the massacre began, February 28, 1947. An estimated number of deaths range from 10,000-30,000. This event marked the beginning of the White Terror by the Kuomintang in which Taiwan was held under martial law for more than 38 years, the longest period of martial law at the time. It's weird to me that there is a Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei and probably other memorials dedicated to him in Taiwan, when so many people were killed or disappeared during his rule. The day now is recognized as the Peace Memorial Day and there are monuments in Taiwan dedicated to those who died that day. I need to check those out for sure.

I did nothing for my four day weekend. Absolutely nothing! I had plans but they all fell apart due to the stupid raining that occurred the entire four days of break that we got. So ridiculous. I hate the rain. I hate how during the week it is so sunny or at least clear and then when its the weekend, the rain keeps pouring down. So the entire weekend I just sat at home video chatting with friends and family back home and watching a lot, A LOT, of tv shows. Also there is a leak in the wall in a corner of my room. The water condenses on the walls and then gather at the base and then spread all over my floor so I have that to deal with. Yay...

Since this holiday falls on a Tuesday, the government allowed for Monday to be taken off also so citizens get a four day holiday. However unlike America, Monday is not a holiday and has to be made up. So that is why this coming Saturday (March 3rd) everyone has to make up for the fact that they got Monday off, this includes students who are required to go to school on Saturday. I can't imagine this every happening in America, telling students they had to go to school on a Saturday! Can you imagine anyone even taking that seriously? I wouldn't mind working on a Saturday if it wasn't for the fact that if I had known about this sooner I wouldn't have booked my flight to Japan that day. So now instead of losing out on five days of pay, I lose out on six. I deem that super BS. I wasn't notified beforehand that Saturday was to be a makeup day where I was required to work and because it's an official government day I get punished with less pay. Ugh whatever I'm just going to enjoy that fact that I only have to work three days next week and then I get two weeks of vacation in Japan!! I'll be staying with friends, one I've been friends with since middle school and haven't seen in ages! This trip will allow me to see if I would like working in Japan because it is definitely one of the places I considered working in.

I did a whole bunch of research on this trip and there are a lot of resources online. So much in fact that it was kind of overwhelming. I didn't know what to check out first and there was so much information about every facet of Japan from travel destinations to transportation. Just doing my research on how to get around Japan was giving me a headache since there isn't only public transportation but also private companies and then having to compare and contrast which one had better deals or which train went which destination and how much. Good thing they have such detailed guides on how to purchase tickets or even how to get on a bus since it is so different. Apparently in Japan people board at the back of the bus and exit from the front, which is also when you pay. Good to know. Both my friends live in the Kansai region which is where I'll be spending all my time, no plans to Tokyo - maybe next time, so I did some research on what kind of rail passes I should get. There are a lot of them and I suggest doing some research to see which one fits, some are only available for purchase outside of Japan. I settled on the Kintetsu Rail Pass which is a private railroad company and cost me $1550 NT. After conversion rate it is actually more expensive than if I had purchased it in the US ($49) or in Japan ($3700 yen). However you can only purchase this rail pass at the Kansai International Airport which I wasn't going to. The pass is pretty good for the price since it covers five days of unlimited travel on Kintetsu trains and I can exchange vouchers for up to three rides on the limited express trains. So the whole deal is that you end up purchasing a voucher for the rail pass in your own country and upon arriving in Japan you exchange the voucher for the actual rail pass. Well the only places that sold these vouchers were in Taipei, since it is the closest major city next to me. I woke up at 8am to head over to Taipei by HSR managed to get there by 10am and then managed to get to work by 12:30. Thank god for the HSR which made it possible for me to make a trip to Taipei in 30 minutes or there would have been no way I would have been able to purchase the vouchers. They were closed on the weekends and don't open till 9am.

In case anyone needs to plan a trip to Japan here are some websites that I found super helpful.

Kintetsu Rail Pass - I believe for my two week stay only in the Kansai Region that this rail pass was the best deal. I was debating on buying two so both my weeks would be covered....

Creative Travels - where you can purchase travel passes in Japan
5F, No. 137, Sec 2, Nanjing E. Road, Zhongshan Dist. Taipei City 104
tel: 02-2506-2566 (there are people who speak English)
hours: 9:00am-5:30pm they are closed for lunch around 12-1pm
directions: Take the MRT to Songjiang Nanjing and take exit 7. Immediately upon exiting the station make an about-face and at the intersection turn left (without crossing the intersection). Walk straight down Nanjing E. Road and it will be on your left hand side.
website: http://www.ctt.tw/index/default.aspx  (only in Chinese)

Hyperdia - this website gives detailed information about train timetables, routes, prices and transfers you would need to make from destination to destination; I used it to calculate if purchasing a rail pass was worth it and I will prob use it later to know what times trains are leaving

Japan-guide.com - a lot of information on what sights to see around the Kansai Area

There are a lot of information out there about Japan. In addition to the above I also used Wikitravel websites for each city I wanted to visit, which would then link me to other websites. There are an abundance of maps, suggestions, walking tours, and tips regarding different cities in Japan. So overwhelming but nice to have that information available!


  1. Hi Carol! Thanks for the postcard and reading my blog. I'm glad you enjoy it! I enjoy reading yours too. You update so regularly and your entries always make Taiwan sound like such an adventurous and delicious place to be. :)

    How ironic that you're visiting Japan soon. I'm visiting Taiwan at the end of March, lol. I'm sooo jealous you get two whole weeks to explore Kansai! I could never get two whole weeks off. To answer the question from your comment, if you're an ALT in Japan (Assistant Language Teacher - more like a teaching assistant) and working at a public school, it's likely that you might get 7 weeks of vacation. This is because you usually get a month off during summer (4 weeks), plus the national holidays (usually three weeks is standard in Japan - Obon Week during August, Golden Week during end of April and beginning of May, and Winter Vacation late December - as well as some random holidays here and there that usually fall on Mondays). As you know, AEON is an eikaiwa, so we don't follow the public school system. I get all the national holidays + 5 paid days off but that's it. It's hard for me to travel during any of those 3 weeks because they purposely make the plane tickets SUPER expensive during that time since they know everyone's traveling. It really sucks. >_<

    If you're looking to teach in Japan and you don't want this kind of schedule, I'd recommend going the ALT route. As you know, JET is one option but it's super competitive and you have to interview in America. It also takes up like one year of your life just to apply and hear back from them. (You make bank and get a shitload of paid vacation time though.) Another way to become an ALT is through a dispatch company like Interac. I'm sure you've already done some research on this when you thought about coming to Japan before. You get paid less at Interac than you would at a typical eikaiwa (about 20,000 yen less, which is approx. $200), but you get the benefit of a normal schedule and more time to travel. Downside is you probably won't be close to a big city and as you've alluded to before, being Asian is definitely a downside when attempting to work as an ALT (isn't that so f'ing annoying?).

    I wouldn't worry about public transportation in Kansai. Before I went there during my winter vacation, I was really overwhelmed by all the research I had to do about places to visit/ways to get around/etc, but once I got there everything became REALLY straightforward. The train lines are a lot easier to navigate than in Tokyo - they tend to go in straight lines rather than all the place and Japan in general is easy to navigate. If you plan to visit Kyoto, I'd recommend renting a bike (you can usually rent one for about 700 yen for the whole day) since the city is small enough to navigate using a bike. Yes you can also take the bus but the buses in Kyoto SUCK - they're kind of like buses back in America, where they only come once an hour and stop at random locations that are kinda far from where you want to be. Just a heads-up. I'm sure if you have friends in Kansai to show you around, you'll be fine. If you want any more tips about visiting Kansai, please ask! They're still pretty fresh in my head since I went there not too long ago. Too bad you won't be able to hit up Tokyo this time but if you ever come back to Japan, you're more than welcome to hit me up!

    Hope you enjoy Japan!!

  2. Also, one more thing - if you're thinking about working in Japan, it's good to know that living in Kansai and living in Kanto are really different. If you end up really liking Kansai and are seriously considering working there, your best bet is probably to hit up the ALT route or apply to eikaiwas like ECC (when I visited, I saw lots of ECCs). From what I could tell, all the other major companies are located in the Kanto area (AEON, Shane, Berlitz, etc.).

    Looking forward to reading those entries about your school!

  3. Carol! I'm so excited for your travels to Jpn! I studied in the Kansai region for 3 weeks in high school, so let me know if you have any questions. :) Where will you be staying? Osaka? Kyoto? I used the Kintetsu pass when i was there too. :) Jpn is surprisingly easy to get around and I felt safest traveling in Jpn.