Gloomy winter

Hey everyone, we hope everyone has a nice January so far. This month is a little busy for both of us and due to the current weather, we don’t enjoy as many outdoor activities at we would like to but nonetheless, I want to give you an update of our ongoing projects so far.

A winter that is too warm

Do you remember me telling you that we prepare for the big snow in the last posts? The sad truth is, the snow never came. This is now the second month where snow is not to be found and official news channel already announced that this winter is way too warm to be normal. Even in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern prefecture and famous for its huge amount of snow, the temperatures are not as cold as they used to be. After a too warm summer now a too warm winter - it’s not only me who’s unhappy and worried about that. Even the Alps in the Toyama prefecture don’t have enough snow so that many ski resort places have troubles opening their slopes. It’s very unusual for this area. A colleague of Niklas who loves skiing told he had to drive more than 4 hours to get to a ski resort where he could ski without problems. We are also scheduled for a snow shoe tour at the end of the month but we have to wait and see, if we really can go as there’s not enough snow at the moment.

As you can see - no snow. Even in the mountains there’s not enough. Kind of sad and gloomy weather all day

The current weather in Kanazawa remains the same like the last weeks. Tons of rain and heavy thunderstorms with some short periods in between where it’s staying dry. Especially the heavy thunderstorms are really frightening, often the thunder is extremely loud and the storm is accompanied with hail and strong winds. Lucky for us, it’s mostly during the night so we are not outside when the storms hit. But, as you might imagine, I hardly sleep during a storm like this (the walls of our apartment are so thin…). So far, we gradually start to get used to the strong rain and accept the truth that the rain can always start out of nowhere. As the rooms without air condition in our apartment are very cold, we bought an additional heater so that I can work in my office without getting frost bites! The building structure in Japan does not help keeping the cold outside - on the contrary, as it was extremely hot in summer inside our flat, now we are freezing as soon as the heater (alias the air condition) is turned off! That’s definitely something I will never get adjusted too. I times like these, I really miss the German solid buildings and the central heating systems…

Here it is, warming my feet and my legs haha

Thinking about the progressing season, we are already looking forward to spring, which might come earlier than the last years. The dates of the cherry blossom blooming have been announced some days ago and it’s expected to start in mid March - also way too early, as winter is probably not going to be any colder in the upcoming weeks. At least, spring will come soon!

It’s study time

As the weather is so bad, we don’t travel around very much and focus both on our studies. Niklas is busy at university, preparing conferences, researching for his various papers and studying Japanese at university. In some days, he even has a talk at a local high school in Fukui city where he tries to promote mathematics as best as he can. Thankfully, it will be in English! For myself, I really challenge my brain capacity and my dedication to studying in this month. I started Japanese class at Machi Academy again to master the next level (B1, I am coming!) and I am so happy to be back again in class with Ishimura sensei. The class atmosphere with my fellow students is great and the level quite high, so we all have to be diligent to be able to follow. But I can tell you, I missed this!

On my way to class - again, a very gloomy morning

Studying together

Oh and by the way, we received or JLPT results from our test in December and we both passed it! I can tell you, we are very relieved!!

I also started an online course to get my TESL/TEFL (Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language) certification that will hopefully help me to get a good job at one of the private English schools in town. Next to answering a lot of quizzes I have to hand in assignments so I am quite busy fulfilling all requirements. So far, it’s very interesting and I have the impression that I really do learn a lot in all the various modules.

As some of you might have already seen, I started to write some articles for the website Taiken Japan, a site that informs tourists about various places in Japan. A lot of foreign residents living in Japan contribute to this page and now I started to write a little about Ishikawa prefecture. The next article about cool coffee places in Kanazawa is in progress right now and I hope it might inspire you if you are going to travel to Kanazawa and are looking for a good coffee place. You can find my first articles here and here.

Social life and other activities

Lucky for us, it’s not only hard study work this month! Whenever possible, we try and go out to meet with friends in order to escape the winter depression. You can imagine that days where it’s always raining and where its dark and gloomy tend to drag you down mentally, so you have to stay active and meet with happy people. Some days ago we have been invited to a very international party from one of our friends where we met a lot of new people, all aspiring MINT PhD students of a close by college who had lots of fun stories to tell. I really enjoy these international gatherings as I get to meet people from all over the world and learn about their backgrounds, beliefs and dreams which is often very interesting. One couple even has just gotten married! It was a very happy party.

I also visited my friend Hikaru in Takaoka (Toyama prefecture) and we had a nice afternoon with good food (I love Tonkatsu!!) and an interesting visit of the Nousaku factory store room. Nousaku produces tableware, jewelry, Japanese tea sets as well as Buddhist objects made of brass and bronze and is even featured in big art museums like MoMa in New York. The whole building of the showroom itself is amazing but in addition with the display of the various products it’s a spectacle for every fan of Japanese design. We had some coffee afterwards and I definitely plan to return! If you are ever visiting Toyama prefecture, this company provides you with a lot of good ideas for a gift or souvenir. ;-)

Perfect lunch!

Coffee place at Nousaku showroom

Also, I want to tell you about my expat network! Since last year’s fall, I have founded a network for international girls and tried to slowly build it towards a bigger group. The network runs under the Girl Gone International organization, a group of volunteers that has build communities in over 150 cities worldwide! I am proud to be part of it by opening the Kanazawa branch and very happy to organize the meetings and getting to know a lot of new and impressive girls! For our first meeting in this year, we went to the Yoshiro Taniguchi Museum, which is a museum about the famous architect Yoshio Taniguchi who is known worldwide for his pure Japanese design. He was responsible for the redesign of the MoMa building in New York! He was a resident of Kanazawa, therefore this museum was dedicated to his work. you can find his influence all over Japan and of course in Kanazawa itself: for example, the DT Suzuki museum in Kanazawa is based on his ideas about pure Japanese design. The highlight of the exhibition is the reproduction of the Japanese styled guestroom he had designed for an important building in Tokyo. Of course, friendly museum staff is waiting for your questions to be asked and always happy to tell you more about the displayed articles. Overall, it was a very interesting exhibition. Stunning view from the second floor of the architecture museums

Japanese styled guest room

Afterwards we went to Hoshoji Temple Café, a coffee place within an old temple building. The atmosphere is amazing! It’s a special place where you can sit and enjoy coffee or tea as well as Japanese styled sweets and cake. We had a great time there! I am always amazed by the strong women I get to know through the network and very happy that we all got connected in Kanazawa.

Coffee place

Outside the temple

And to all girls out there: check at Facebook if there’s a community in your home city or if you want to travel, check the main group here, you can always ask for travel advise for nearly every location worldwide. And become a part of the community there!

Upcoming plans

So what’s next? As mentioned before, we try to get our fair share of Japanese winter by going to a snowshoe hike, but we also plan to try going to Nagano prefecture (in the mountains) to visit the family of a my friend Sumie and to see some popular sights like the bathing monkeys. Let’s hope for some snow! I am currently planning a trip to Taiwan to visit my friend Kao (whom I met during my first language course, as you might remember). We had a great time together in Japan and I am super excited that I can visit her in Taipeh. Together with my two Japanese friends Hikaru and Rumi, we are planning to stay there one week and explore the country. At the moment, we have to check the reports regarding the virus outbreak to be sure that we can really go there, but let’s hope for the best! Sadly, Niklas cannot join us due to his university duties but I hope that this Taiwan trip won’t be the only one during our time in Japan. However, he will travel to Osaka for a conference shortly after my trip and spend some time in Kansai area. And, end of March, the next visitors are coming to Kanazawa. I am looking forward to telling you about all our new adventures. In the meantime, stay connected with us via facebook or instagram and contact us if you have questions or want to read about some specific topic!