5 Steps to Hanami (View Cherry Blossoms) in Japan

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Ah, March.  The prelude to Spring.  The light at the end of a long winter tunnel.

Or in Japan, it’s the start of one of the most prized occasions of the year:

Cherry Blossom Season.

Whatever high expectation you have for watching cherry blossoms in Japan (or better known as ‘hanami,‘ which literally means ‘watch flowers’ 花見),  Japan will not disappoint on this front.  It’s a magical experience.

While many tourists envision their hanami experience like an anime opening (think wind blowing in your hair as sakura petals brush past your skin), the reality may differ somewhat.  To get the kind of hanami experience you’re dreaming of, it involves more than hopping on a plane and finding a sakura tree–it will take a whole ‘lotta planning.

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Visiting Japan? 5 Reasons You Should Go to Nagano

VisitNaganoBlogCover

Chances are, most western travelers never heard of Nagano.  Maybe it sounds slightly familiar thanks to its hosting of the 1998 winter Olympics, which actually helped put Nagano on the map.  For the most part, howeverit still remains widely unknown.

Nagano is one of Japan’s larger prefectures located in the Shinshu region directly west of Tokyo (about a one hour bullet train ride away).  It is one of the most mountainous regions in Japan and is known for its snow, great peaks and amazing forests.

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How My Vietnamese Mom Forgot Thanksgiving

turkey

Growing up with my mom wasn’t easy, especially in rural, coal-mining Utah.  My mother was the only Asian woman in the entire town, thus meaning we were surrounded by white people (and a few Hispanics and Native Americans).

Growing up in such a predominantly white culture, I was raised to believe and practice in American holidays.  My  classmates at elementary school gathered with all of their relatives at a big table, carved the turkey, and watched the Macy’s parade.  They had large family gatherings with turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy–the works.

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Cost of Living: Los Angeles vs. Shanghai

Shanghai Los Angeles Cost of Living

One of my biggest forms of culture shock upon moving back to the United States was cost of living.  It felt like everything in the United States was way, way more expensive than Shanghai.

In my previous post, I calculated and compared the cost of living between Los Angeles and Tokyo, and I found that living in Tokyo could actually save you 10,000 USD per year compared to life in Los Angeles. I’m a huge advocate for living abroad to not only broaden horizons, but to also save money.

So how does life in Shanghai fare when it comes to cutting costs?

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Europe Highlights: Three Countries in Ten Days

Europe Highlights

So I traveled to three European countries in ten days.

And I highly recommend you don’t do it.

I’m a firm believer in traveling slow and enjoying the sights, but since I’m American and I only get a whopping 12 days of paid holiday per year, I had my limitations–so I made do.

My plan was to head to  Paris (for a bachelorette party), then Berlin (to see my good German friend) and, finally, Brussels for the wedding.

I only scratched the surface of each city/country, but here are the highlights:

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How to Claim Your Irish Citizenship (by descent)

How to Claim Irish Citizenship

It was a dark and stormy night in Shanghai.  J and I were wandering the streets when the grey clouds rolled in and the rain started to pour.  We were looking for an escape to hide from the cold and, hopefully, get a drink.

And like a gift from God, the Irish pub appeared in the distance.

We walked into the warm and cozy Irish pub and immediately waltzed to the wooden counter where we saw that familiar harp of Guinness calling our names.  J and I grabbed our Guinness and clanked our glasses together in cheers.

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America is Not The Greatest Country on Earth

America Needs Some Humble Pie

America Needs Some Humble Pie

I remember in grade school we had to stand up, put our right hand on our heart, salute the flag and say the pledge of allegiance every single day.  We looked up to the flag hanging near the chalkboard as our nation’s anthem echoed from the school’s loudspeaker and chanted the mantra of our great nation.

At school we were not only taught to be proud at the fact we were American, but grateful.  While no one ever distinctly said it to my face, I was educated that America was the best country in the world.

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The Perfect Weekend in San Diego

San Diego Picnic

As most of you know, I don’t really like Los Angeles.  It’s congested, crime infested, inconvenient and expensive. It still boggles my mind why anyone would actually want to live here, but I guess we all have our personal reasons (like myself).

Sadly, I started to become disenchanted not only with L.A., but with all of California.  My business trip to San Francisco was met with high hotel prices and countless encounters with aggressive  (and dangerous) homeless people.  Going to Orange County was a venture rife with traffic and expensive parking.

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5 Ways Travel Has Changed My Personality

Changin' through Travel

Changin’ through Travel

I know.  I disappeared for a month.

I wish I could say that I did something cool, like randomly bought a one way ticket to Iceland and partied in Reykjavik for 30 days straight–but alas, my life is not that exciting.  The last month was mostly sucked up by a web design class that taught me little, but did force me to build a website (I actually constructed a website for the boyfriend that should be up soon).  I also spruced up The Ruby Ronin a bit in hopes that it will inspire and motivate me to write on a regular basis.

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The Ethnicity Question

The Dreaded Ethnicity Box

The Dreaded Ethnicity Box

After years of being uninsured in the U.S. (and a few more years of having third-world equivalent healthcare in China), I finally received fully covered health benefits through my new job.  In fear of medical bills and non-preventative coverage, I went years without a standard check-up.  When I got my shiny new insurance card, I booked the first appointment I could to get tested for–well, everything.  After all, I was fully covered.

“It looks like your application is incomplete, Ms. Mary O’Connor,” the secretary smiled sweetly.  “You’ll need to answer a couple of quick questions before you can see the doctor.”

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