Traveling to Tokyo using the Bus

With Tokyo only 2 hours away, it would be a shame to not venture into the city during the weekend.  Lucky for interns, it is very easy and cheap to take the highway bus to and from Tokyo!

Step 1. Go to the online website (which is in English)

The site should look like this

Ibaraki and Tokyo should be in the “to” and “from” sections.  The route should be “Tokyo –> Hitachi”.  The bus stop for Tokyo should always be Tokyo Station.  There are two choices for the bus stop from Ibaraki.  “Shintanakochi” is the stop interns use when they arrive from the airport but without a car it is a little difficult to get to.  I suggest using “Ishinazaka”.  This stop is just up the road from IC and can be easily walked to.  If you are living with a host family in a town other than Omika, from “Ishinazaka” you can walk to Omika Station and catch a train home.

Step 2: Picking and paying for your ticket  

Once you put in your ticket information, you can search for available buses.

Different bus selections will pop up for the day selected

The tickets are displayed from earliest departure to latest.  (Be careful! Japan uses a 24-hour clock).  Once you find your desired departure time, there will usually be 3 options to chose from.  “Hayauri” tickets are early booking seats and are only available if tickets are reserved at least a day in advanced of the trip day.  They are a little cheaper at ¥2100  and are what I usually choose when I’m picking tickets.  The normal price for a one-way trip is ¥2460 and is the next option.  The options in the red boxes are special ladies-only seating if anyone is uncomfortable sitting next to a man.  Options or the whole bus may be sold out if you try to reserve late so make sure you get your tickets in advance.

Once you have made your selection, the website will have you give your email address and will send you a reservation confirmation and a link for payment. !!!MAKE SURE YOU PAY!!!  Your reservation usually has a time limit of 10-30 minutes.  If you do not pay within this time limit, the link becomes a dud and the whole process must be started again.  I recommend paying right away to avoid any headaches.  Once you pay online, they will provide you with a printable electronic ticket.  You will need to print it and hand it to the bus driver when you board the bus.

An example of a ticket

Step 3: Returning

After you have had your fun weekend in Tokyo, it is time to return and get ready for Monday morning.  Returning buses always leave from Tokyo Station from the Yaesu South Exit.

Japanese public transportation is always on time so do NOT be late.  I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to navigate the maze that is Tokyo Station.  Once you find the buses, it might seem a little intimidating with buses leaving every 10 minutes and masses of people running around.  No worries though since you left yourself at least 10 minutes to find what dock your bus will be leaving from….rightttt?  They have electronic screens at every docking pillar that lists the next three departing buses.  Find the correct departure time and look for 日立駅 (Hitachi Station).  If you really can’t find it, try asking one of the station attendants who are wondering around.  I am sure they will gladly point you in the right direction.  Once you find your bus, there will be 10 minutes of boarding time before you are finally off and on your way back home! The return bus will always stop at Shintanakochi (新田中内), but if you are getting off at Ishinazaka (石名坂 – the next stop), remember to push the button telling the driver that you want to get off. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at Taga station and will have to find your way back to Omika.

Being an intern at IC has allowed me to fully appreciate Japanese public transportation.  It is so easy to use and much cheaper than back home.  During your time at IC, make sure to utilize it.  Enjoy!

Kashima-Jingu Shrine

Check out my vlog to see just how beautiful the Kashima-Jingu shrine really is!


The Kashima-Jingu shrine is dedicated to Takemikazuchi, the ancient god of thunder and martial arts. After the Father of Japan, Izanagi, beheaded his own son as a punishment, it is said that Takemikazuchi sprung from the blood that splashed onto the rocks from Izanagi’s sword. With Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi was also born. Both gods are revered and respected as gods of martial and military arts.


This shrine is the oldest shrine in the entire Kanto region and is one of the Three Shrines of the East in Japan. It is assumed to have been founded in 660BC, during Emperor Jimmu’s first year.

The entrance of the shrine, the Romon, is one of the largest gateways in Japan! It is also considered to be an important cultural property and is one of many important aspects of the shrine. There are many historical artifacts stored within the treasure hall inside the shrine. One of the artifacts is Japan’s longest and oldest sword. Unfortunately, I was unable to go into the treasure hall so I didn’t get to see the sword.

Gateway to Kashima-Jingu Shrine
The bright red gateway showed us exactly where we needed to go.

In some parts of Japan, deer are considered to be messengers of the gods and are admired greatly due to their significance in the Shinto religion. Deer are sacred animals and can be found in the “deer park” in the Kashima-Jingu shrine, among a few other places around Japan.

Sacred Deer in Kashima-Jingu Shrine
The deer park in the Kashima-Jingu Shrine.

After wandering around the shrine and immersing yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds the shrine, you can buy an amulet (omamori) as a lucky souvenir. The ones I saw said “Traffic safety” and “Good luck on exams”. The omamori are made by women who work at the shrine. At the Kashima-Jingu shrine, they wear the traditional styled clothing of the red skirt and white top.

More omamori
Even more omamori! Buy all the luck you can!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I will try to be posting every other day on my personal blog so follow me to keep up with my adventures in Japan!

DCE Intern: Home Stay with Ibaraki Christian
I recommend brushing up on your Shogi before travelling to Japan. This is a game similar to checkers and chess. It helps if you know kanji before hand but the more you play the more you will become familiar with this unique game. Cllick the image to see the rules.

Before you become an intern at IC you are given a choice of living with a home stay family or living in an apartment. Both choices have terrific benefits during the internship.

I jumped at the opportunity to stay with a family during my two month stay in Ibaraki for my internship at DCE. I am learning to speak and write a new language with the parents, I eat delicious foods around Ibaraki at places like Mito, Kasama and Hitachi, and I have introduced their son to ukulele. Visiting different attractions have been incredible such as the Mito City Tower.

The family have a study school on the property. The mother works hard to teach students English, mathematics, science, history, geography and much more. I read manga like Naruto for a break while enjoying milk and Japanese snacks. This provides an extra teaching opportunity with younger students.

The ritual every morning for my home stay family is centered around the breakfast table. I am thankful for every meal. Each and every morning you wake up, you say good morning and thank the family for cooking the meal. On weekends we go out to see my host brothers soccer game. It helps to be interested in soccer, and show a genuine interest in the interests and hobbies the family enjoy doing too.

I asked another intern, Martin Chan about their home stay experience. He compares the quality of the food as a feast, better than a restaurant. My home stay family are accommodating and kind.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity. I have been given the opportunity to understand what it is like to live like a Japanese person day to day.

What are Students like at Ibaraki Christian?

Many applicants wonder what the students at Ibaraki Christian University are like. After all, as an intern you spend most of your time working with students in small groups during chat hour, one on one for English homework help and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) preperation, and in English Conversation Classes every week.

Future interns might be afraid that the students won’t be very friendly, won’t be interested in talking to them, or so on. But I can absolutely reassure you that this is not the case.

Students playing Pictionary while waiting for cookies to bake in Chat Hour.

After asking each of the current interns and one of the teachers to give me one word describing the students at Ibaraki Christian, we came up with this list:

  • Adorable
  • Hardworking
  • Shy
  • Wonderful
  • Sweethearts
  • Friendly

The students can certainly be quiet and reserved during chat hour, and there will be times when you have to sit and stare at each other and wait until they finally feel so uncomfortable that they say something. But if you put in the effort to get to know the students, do fun activities with them, and above all, be patient with them, they will slowly become more comfortable and more active in trying to speak with you. It’s rarely that they don’t want to talk with you, but simply that they’re nervous about talking in English.

Students playing Lizzete’s Battle Royale Game!

They’re also more than happy to make friends with you! Be warned, students have very busy schedules–if you ask them what they’re doing on the weekend or on a given evening, the answer will more often than not be something like “studying for my three tests next week”, “working at my part time job”, “going to a make up class” or so on. But if you ask to hang out, chances are they will want to when they have time.

Interns and students enjoying dinner at CoCo’s.

I’ve gone to Licca-chan Castle with a student and her mother, gone out to karaoke with students, gone shopping with students, gone out to eat with students, gone sightseeing with them, gone to cat cafes with them, and even gone to Tokyo for a day trip with them. Each and every time was a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Miho and Brianna when we visited Hananuki Dam.

You don’t have to worry about not getting along with the students when you come–only how much you’ll miss them when you leave.

Ibaraki Christian Kindergarten

October 17 & November 7, 2017

On these days, Onaca, Lizzete, and I (Brianna) had the pleasure of attending Ibaraki Christian’s very own kindergarten! It was an experience to go down in the books.

We made our way with Rory to the facility, to be greeted with utmost kindness, and of course cuteness by not only the staff, but some kindergarteners as well! Like most Japanese schools, we must take off our shoes. We could either sport the facility’s slippers, or our very own indoor shoes. After a brief tour of the facility, we were instructed to wait until being greeted by the respective kindergarten teachers. Once greeted, we were led into the classroom, only to be swept away by those oh-so-cute faces of the kindergarteners! We can justify this, they were NOT shy.

On the first day, October 17th, we were to teach the 4-year-old classes, Nozomi (hope) 1 & 2. To kick things off, we instructed them to gather and sit in a circle. Using our bodies and arms, we made a circle. They understood, and did as so.  The three of us introduced ourselves, and got quite the reactions, some I will not forget. Lizzete and I gave shortened versions of our names; Liz and Bri. When Onaca (AH-NAH-KA) introduced herself, we were received with giggles–I believe they heard onaka (OH-NAH-KA), the Japanese word for stomach. It was quite funny.  Moving along, we wanted to get the children moving (heh, see what I did there?). We began with Total Physical Response (TPR). We gave them commands such as: stand up, sit down, touch the floor, point to the door (ooh, that rhymes! I’m on fire!), stomp, and clap. We ourselves did it along with them. To be silly, we consequentially made them stand up, only to sit back down shortly afterwards. They got quite the kick out of that. Onwards, we gathered round back into a big circle and introduced them to body parts with pictures: head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. For head, we had a picture of Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece. He was quite a hit. We then closed with “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” and the “Hokey Pokey” and said our goodbyes.

The second and final time, we got a better understanding of the kids and how to use our time. Unfortunately, it is a process and will take much more than two times to perfect our lesson.  This time, we were with the Ai (love) 1 & 2 class. These were the 5-year-olds. Even though a year older, they were still not shy.  We pretty much did the same lesson, with minor revisions and better management of time. The 5-year-olds, however had a significantly greater retention of the vocabulary that was presented to them, and were much more responsive.

Overall, it was a great experience!

Bunkasai: The Culture Festival (Fall 2017)

Friday afternoon’s festival-goers.

We had a long weekend last week–no school Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday! The long break didn’t make for an empty campus though. In fact, it was more packed than ever! Why, you ask? Well, because it was the bunkasai! Or, in English, the culture festival.

The culture festival at Ibaraki Christian is a huge undertaking that all of the college clubs, the high school, junior high school, and kindergarten participate in. Wednesday was used for preparation and set up, Thursday the college opened their festival activities, and on Friday everyone’s activities were up and running for the day. Continue reading “Bunkasai: The Culture Festival (Fall 2017)”

Going to Hitachi Seaside Park


A picture of the kochia at Hitachi Seaside Park
Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki

When I learned that Ibaraki Prefecture has been ranked the least attractive Prefecture for five years in a row, I wondered how this could be. I thought, we have mountains and beaches, the Fukuroda waterfall, the amazing Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival, and we’re not too far from Tokyo. It only began to make sense to me when I learned that Ibaraki is well known for its natto, the smelly fermented soybeans that Japanese people, but very few others, love to eat. If natto is Ibaraki’s claim to fame, perhaps the prefecture does not have much else to offer. Continue reading “Going to Hitachi Seaside Park”

English Chat Hour: Sweets Edition!

There are a few things in life that I am particularly passionate about, and one of those is food. While I appreciate any kind of well made food,  I particularly love sweets. Cakes, ice cream, cookies, candy, cupcakes, puddings… You name a sweet, chances are I’ve probably eaten and/or made it–and if not, sign me up to try it.  Honestly, it wouldn’t be too big of a leap to say that when I get a hold of a particularly delicious daifuku my face looks a lot like the Sweet Tooth Salaryman Kantaro’s (さぼリーマン甘太朗) when he indulges in a delicious dessert.

Of course, one of the best parts of being a sweets enthusiast is sharing all those tasty treats with other people! I particularly wanted to share some of my favorite sweets from America with the students at IC, so I asked students at Chat Hour if they would be interested in learning to make something. The five girls at my table were incredibly enthusiastic about the idea, so I reserved the small kitchen on the second floor of the cafeteria building for last Friday during 2nd hour.

Continue reading “English Chat Hour: Sweets Edition!”

IC English Speech Contest 2017

In the morning of last Friday, I believe I had a little glimpse of Japan’s future…

It was the 65th Ibaraki Christian English Speech Contest. In a busy yet rather smooth morning, many junior high school and high school students walked in with their teachers and parents. Indeed, there were many nervous faces. But, I could clearly see that they were ready to take up the challenge of speaking in front of a large crowd, using their second language. Of course, some were maximizing their final minutes to practice with their teachers to gain some extra confidence.

There were 5 events: Junior high school recitation, Junior high school and High school pronunciation, Junior high school speech, and High school presentation. As an “English-as-a-second-language” (ESL) learner myself, I could resonate with the challenge of overcoming the influence of our mother tongue, to pronounce English words accurately. I was particularly impressed with the high schoolers who did presentations. They’ve internalized their contents. Despite unexpected hiccups and interruptions, they were able to rise above the occasion and delivered their presentations with confidence.

This event was particularly valuable for us interns who were interested in Japanese culture. This was definitely not a social event where people from different schools meet and mingle. They were here to represent their schools, to compete. The formality, the atmosphere, the tension – these things might have recalled some of my high school memories in Hong Kong. Sorry for being a bit nostalgic. Three years in an American college probably has made these memories a little bit blurry…