Before I go on introducing all of the AMAZING ways to use Kakao, my pictures will be in Korean. I do not apologize for this for two reasons which are: 1. if you live in Korea you should at least be able to read 한글 /hangeul/ (the written language) out of the most minute level of respect for your host country, and 2. it is a great way to immerse yourself more into the language.
What is Kakao?
Kakao is a messenger that most Koreans use as well as most foreigners who come here. I have even had my family back home install and we use it to talk to each other. It’s a great way to get awesome technological perks without selling your soul to Apple (go, Team Android!). Just what all can it do, though? Well, that’s what we are here to learn.
When you get started with Kakao, it’s helpful to set up an account. All you need to do is input your email and a password then set up an I.D. That I.D. will be used so others can search you. If you do not want others to be able to search you, you can disable others finding you.
Also, in Korea at least, when you enter someone’s contact details like their phone number into your phone, Kakao will put them in your contacts.
In a world where people no longer send SMS (text messages) and their phones have more data than minutes, Kakao allows you optimal ways to communicate. You can message individuals or create groups. Apart from simple messaging, though, there’s a lot more you can do.
What can you share, you ask? The better question is what can you not share. Check out the photos below to see what you can share with people inside your message windows.
Photos, (short) videos, voice messages, contact details, your current location, or money are all the things you can send.
Voice and Video Talk
You can also use “VoiceTalk” to call people within the application or “FaceTalk” to video chat. This uses data of course and I recommend being on a good WiFi connection to do it.
The feature I learned most recently about and want to scream from the rooftops if the button labeled “지도” (maps). You can drop a pin of your location to a friend and wait for them to find you. Brilliant stuff, we have here.
Use hashtags to check information quickly or inputting information quickly to friends.
I manage a book club in my area and with that, comes a few features in addition to the ones listed above. Groups messages give the benefit of gathering opinions, dispersing information, setting up meetings, or getting votes VERY easily.
Customize Your Group Chat to Help Keep Visually Separated:
Or manage your group:
Even have it put directly into your Google Calender.
As you can see from the picture, Kakao has a lot of ways to entertain yourself, ranging from games to videos. There are also shortcuts to webtoons.
Businesses or other entities also use Kakao to keep customers and/or followers updated with current information or sales! This is done with Kakao’s “PlusFriend” (프러스친구). Love to keep myself updated from my favorite stores:
You can also use the “channel” page to look up current news.
I would be lying if I said I had used any of these features, but I know others who have and it is very convenient. The only one I will mention here that is gaining popularity is “KakaoTaxi“ (separate downloadable app).
Using Kakao Taxi you can actually call a taxi to where you are and they will head your way. Does it get any better than this?
Our trip to Kobe was seriously all about the food. Nara was more about the culture, but they did have some of the softest, most delicious mochi (rice cakes) that I have EVER had.
Kobe beef is famous all over the world. I remember signs growing up at fancy restaurants boosting to serve this coveted cow, but have also read it was all a farce. Either way, I never tried it before to know if hundreds were really duped or not. As for myself, I ate it here and I… just words fail me.We went to this place and it was phe-no-me-nal! Just like everywhere else in the world that has tourists, there will be some who just say something that people who don’t know better will believe. Here’s my bit of advice. Look for this award in the restaurant: This means that it is legit Kobe beef. DH and I went to eat lunch because it was a lot less expensive than dinner in the same restaurants. Here is the lunch menu: Does that say 10,000 Yen (approx. 100 USD) for Kobe beef!? Like I said… we opted for lunch because it was less expensive. We also ordered an S Lunch as well for typical wakyu (Japanese style beef) to compare:“S Lunch Menu” versus “Kobe Beef Lunch”
The only real difference is any meat that is set in front of you, but DH and I split everything, I even nicely let him eat half of my Kobe beef.
Wakyu: Kobe beef: The long, thin one is the Kobe:
Aside from the beef, the menus for both meals are essentially the same. Also, real hibachi cooking! Butter in beef form is the best way to describe the wonder that is Kobe beef. It was worth the 100 buck price tag for the experience in my opinion.
Akashiyaki (a.k.a. the original Takoyaki, or egg takoyaki)
After walking a bit about Chinatown, we were not hungry at all and so unfortunately we didn’t eat any of the interesting Chinese street food that was sprinkles every dozen feet or so away from each other, we went to a small place that serves a special kind of takoyaki.
DH did not do his research enough because as soon as I ate it I asked if this was just egg with a piece of octopus in it. He checked online and said, “Yep.” Despite this, it was good. I just can’t stomach a lot of egg at one time so he had to eat it alone.
I saw a review of a dango restaurant in Seoul a few months ago and had always wanted to try. Basically, dango are skewered, grilled mochi (rice cakes) in a glaze. From my guess the glaze was soy sauce and a bit of mirin, maybe a smidgen of sugar so it thickens up. I would have preferred some honey instead, but it was great none-the-less. Definitely something I plan to recreate at home.
This was a restaurant with high reviews on the Japanese “Yelp” app that my husband was using. I do not really like udon, never have and probably never will, but we went here anyways. (Spouses make sacrifices because they love each other, right?) There were hot and cold options of just about everything. This was eaten like soba, where you dip your noodles in the broth. Mine was a rich soy bean and pork broth. Not bad. Made me wish I liked udon more.
These guys are famous. If you are walking to (or from) Todaijidera and you hear men grunting like they are in a display of martial arts intermitten with smacking sounds, you are in for a treat. Look for the crowd and head there. This is where they are making up some nom-tastic green tea mochi. Get them while they are fresh and it will be the softest piece of mochi you have ever experienced.
Here’s the fun part of any trip: eating! Here are the places that we ate while in Osaka.
This place is famous with locals and features on a lot of Korean blog spots so we ended up here. They are known for their large meat portions on the sushi. It was definitely fresh and if you enjoy fish, very delicious!
I don’t know if you know this about Japan, but they really love their noodles and you will see in the food posts just how much. The famous places in Osaka to eat ramen are Kenryu and Ichiran. We opted to go to Ichiran and, boy, am I glad we did! Located one street over from the Glico man sign in Dotonbori, you will have to wait but it’s worth it. You can customize just about EVERYTHING when it comes to this soup from the amount of garlic, spicy sauce, part of the green onions, to the richness of the broth. I ordered standard all the way down and was pleased.A note about how to order. You order and pay before you are even seated. Walking in the door you are confronted with this machine before you even lay eyes on an employee: First, insert your money then press your options of what you want. Then you will be given a meal ticket. As you wait in line, on the wall (look around) there will be sheets of paper where you will pick the particulars of your personal bowl of soup. Then you will be seated in individual stalls. Place your meal ticket AND the paper with your soup information in front of you and someone will pick it up through the small window.They will leave you this sheet if you want to order more noodles, but leave enough broth if you decide you want more noodles!
??? (Katzu donburi) A favorite Korean food of mine is 덮밥 (Deop-bap), and Japan has its own version called donburi.This particular restaurant served theirs with fried protein and vegetables on top. De-li-cious.This restaurant is located in Den-Den Town.
Ajinoya – Namba location (Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba)
This restaurant is located on a side road in Dontonbori and you can see it if you are walking through the covered shopping streets.Hopefully, no one will be offended at my description but okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable omelet, with less of the egg and more of the vegetable. This place served great okonomiyaki. We also ordered yakisoba. Here was the completed okonomiyaki:
Pablo (Cheese tart)
This cheese tart was interesting. With your Amazing Pass you can get a discount with the TokuX2 tickets but we just bought it. There are two locations in Dotonbori and these things are huge. We took it back to our place and ate it. Worth a try one time.
A food stall in Dotonbori (Takoyaki) This is located one street away from the Glico man sign (what a great point of reference, huh?) but you can find a million plus food stalls selling takoyaki in Osaka. This place was great and tasty. They serve them up when you order. You can enjoy inside by the bar or as you continue sightseeing.
This restaurant was located a few streets from the Museum of Oriental Ceramics (also free on the Amazing Pass). We went on a Monday, which is a off-day for most places in Osaka for some reason or other, so he was only serving one style. Still good.To enjoy like the locals, you will be given tea and a cup of soy sauce. He will also give you some of the noodle broth which you can use to dilute the soy sauce if it is too strong. Before eating your soba, dip in the soy sauce and enjoy!
When you finish your meal, place your tray back on the counter to let the workers know you are finished eating.
Daruma (Kushi katsu)
Kushi katsu is essentially what in Korean is called 튀김, or battered and deep-fried foods, and it is good. As a southern belle at heart, I love fried foods so this was great. We went to this famous chain. There are two in the Dotonbori area and you will know you are there when you caught site of this handsome fellow: This is different from tempura where the batter is much lighter. You eat the skewered, fried delights by dipping them in a communal pot of soy sauce. The only rule of Kushi katsu club is this: ONLY DIP ONCE. You are sharing the soy sauce with everyone so no double-dipping.
My husband and I just returned from a week-long trip to Japan. It was incredibly fun and I thought it would be nice to share all the places we went as well as the information we found useful on our trip with you all. While Japan is most known for its capital Tokyo, located in the Kanto region, we went specifically to the Kansai region of Japan. (Fun fact: Kansai, or 関西, literally means “related-west” and Kanto means “related-east”.) We went specifically to four places: Osaka, Kobe, Nara, and Kyoto.
This will be presented in several parts based on the area that we visited. I hope that you find the information helpful. If you do, feel free to leave a comment letting me know!
This post is about Japan in general or travelling to Japan. For some, it might not be new but for an American who has lived three years in Korea, these were the things that I found the hardest to adjust to and would have liked to know before my visit.
General Information about Japan
The subway system in Kansai (and Japan in general) is very different from Korea. In my opinion, it is more complicated and difficult to navigate. It is doable, don’t get me wrong, but I think Korea has spoiled me so I found it difficult.
While Korea has rechargeable cards that you can use to access the subway, in Japan they use paper tickets. (Note: Cards are able to be used to tag in and out of the subway system in Japan, but travellers usually do not use them.) To get your ticket, look for the enormous map of the rail lines that you will see near the gates. Below are a row of machines where you can purchase your tickets. You can see this in the picture above. These machines have an English menu so don’t panic at first.
Your station will be indicated by a red rectangle. The first thing to do is to locate your subway on the map and look at the numbers indicated in black and red. Your fare is calculated by distance so once you see the station where you plan to go, look above it. That is the option on the screen you should press. Check out the picture below for an closer look at a subway map.
Once you print your ticket it is time to go to the train. Look at the overhead screens because they will indicate which platform your train will arrive at. (Sorry for not having a picture of these). Take your paper ticket that should look something like this:
Then head to the gates and insert your ticket in the turnstile like the picture below.
DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT YOUR TICKET. I did this once on my visa run and a kind woman had to chase me down to give me the ticket. It will come out the second slot. When you are disembarking from the train, the turnstile will simply “eat” our ticket so you won’t have to worry about it.
Japan drives on the left side of the road so in general, people walk and stand on the left side of pathways.
This is true for Osaka, but for some reason things were opposite in Kyoto. Just look around and join the rest of the pack of people to make walking easier for everyone.
Japan is a cash centered culture. You can use your card to pay but having cash is just better and makes things a whole lot easier. That being said, bring a lot with you. And when you pay, do not hand it directly to the cashier. There will always be a small tray sitting on the counter. Place your money there as this is the polite way in Japan to pay.
Tips for Travelling in Kansai, Japan
Bring a lot of cash with you!
This goes back to paying in Japan. Cash is just easier and will save you trouble in the long run. But beware…anything smaller than 1,000 yen (about 10 USD) is a coin. You will amass a lot of coins during your trip. I understood why coin purses are sold EVERYWHERE after this trip.
Buy a Pass and Plan Well
Seriously, Japan, these passes were a money-saving blessing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are a couple of options in the Kansai region, namely the Amazing Pass (1-Day and 2-Day) and the Kansai Thru Pass.
My husband and I decided to buy the Amazing 2-Day Pass which gives you access to several of the rail lines for free, free admission to the big tourist attractions, and discounts at other places. For more information, visit their website here. We did A LOT of things on the 2-Day pass and definitely got our money’s worth out of them, but in retrospect we should have switched to the Kansai Thru Pass after the Amazing Pass ran out to save us a lot on our following trips to Kyoto and Nara. Trains in Japan are definitely more expensive than Korea.
Stocking Up on Supplies
I use this same trick in Korea. Bottled drinks are way cheaper at a grocery store, so locate the Don Quixote, Harves, or any other grocery store for cheaper deals on water and such instead of the convenient stores of vending machines. It isn’t much but when you have a limited supply of cash monies, it really lets you spend your money doing fun things.
I thought Korea’s recycling was complicated…until coming to Japan. While Japan (also like Korea) doesn’t have public trash cans, they can be found in the subways. Be respectful and hold onto your trash until you at least get to the subway or your hotel. Something my husband and I did simply out of habit in our AirBnB was separate recyclables in a different bag with burnables in the main trash can. Just to save trouble for those who have to clean up.
At this point, many people know about AirBnB for renting people’s property or finding alternatives to guest houses. This was our first attempt at using the site and we were extremely pleased! Just be mindful that these places aren’t like hotels where there is a cleanup staff. Be nice, separate your recyclables and clean up when you leave. Be good guests.
The owner of the place we stayed was very nice and friendly. I just want to plug them here. Visit this link and check out this renter. Highly recommend!!
Google Maps works great in America…not so great in Korea. This is because Korea has it’s own version (Naver Maps) and trying to use Google will leave you in the general area of where you want to go, but not quite there. On the other hand, Japan and Google have a good relationship and you can get around by using it. It will behoove you to get a portable WiFi egg so you can use your phone without the insane roaming charges. Many AirBnB locations will give you one of the portable WiFi eggs in your room (if not all of them), so if you do book through this site ask the owner if one is provided. We just brought one from Korea.
In small places with a high counter where the cook puts your tray of food on it to give you your meal, it is also helpful if you raise your tray back to the counter to let them know that you are done with your meal. This is easier for them to reach.
For some reason, a lot of things are closed on Mondays and things start closing between 5-6:00 p.m. so be sure to check the times of when you are travelling and want to do those things to make sure you have ample time to explore.
Today I said something I didn’t think I would say ever again. Something that I have told others to never say, in fact, I may have even pleaded with a few people. What came out of my mouth after lengthy consideration? “No more reading on devices this quarter.” Then I held my breath just a little bit and I waited for the reaction. Not just from my students, but from the reading police, for my better sense to come yelling. For someone to bust through my door and tell me that reading is all about choice and that reading on a device counts just as much as reading a paper book. That to get students to read we should allow them to read any thing they want, as long as they are reading. That fan fiction counts as fiction as well.
This is an example of a unit I would give go my students. I chose to have students create a recording of themselves reading a story. If you have ever heard people read stories who are of a lower level–even in their native language–especially non-native speakers, they tend to read in a monotonous tone. No one would listen to stories or audio books if they were so monotone.
This assignment is great for all levels and ages, even for adults who have never really learned how to read punctuation (and believe me, they are out there). Students can even test the waters of their imagination by adding sound effects to their reading and creating different voices for the characters.
Even the most nervous student has time to practice and record in a private setting, so it’s an opportunity to hear even the quietest person in the group.
This audio file was created in Audacity. It is not exactly an intuitive program and takes some playing around. Other options for audio recordings include Garageband (Mac) and UJam.
The link for an example of a classroom blog space can be found here.
WordPress has so many great things that come with the free version (wordpress.COM) for a classroom blog to be functional. As you can see in my example, you can embed Google .doc files that will update on the page when you update the original document (see: Book Club), or Google calenders that can be set up for the class and updated via Google as well (see: Upcoming Events). Sidebar Widgets are great little add-ons that you can customize by activating. Here I have chosen to put contact information, RSS feed for the parent or student on the go, and a class chat room available through tlk.io. To use simply activate the widget, go to the website, and make sure that the Channel you create on the website is the same one in the widget details.
If you are wanting to do more customization, you will have to sign up for a wordpress.ORG website that supports the use of plug-ins.
This web blog is public, but WordPress has the options to make it private where you can invite people to join. Simply go to Settings>Reading and you can set up privacy preferences for your class.