Spotlight Travels: Japan with Monica Ramirez

 

Monica Ramirez
Monica Ramirez

Monica Ramirez is a professional dancer from Yuma, Arizona. She began dancing at the age of 7 where she studied classical ballet under a full scholarship at Yuma Ballet Academy. At the age of 13, she hung up her ballet sippers and began training in jazz, modern, and hip hop.

At 16, Monica began her teaching career as a dance instructor at Yuma Ballet Theater.  Once she graduated high school in 2007, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a dance career and immediately landed a spot in the “Christmas Fantasy Parade” at Disneyland. From 2007-2009, she taught hip hop classes at Retter’s Academy of Dance in Augora Hills, California, and was also training daily to prepare for an agency audition.

 

Pitbull Back In Time
Pitbull Back In Time courtesy of Monica Ramirez

After signing with Clear Talent Group dance agency in 2009, her professional career took off. Her first audition became her first gig dancing for Ester Dean and Chris Brown in their music video, “Drop It Low”. Since then, she has worked with some of the industry’s top choreographers (Laurieanne Gibson, Brian Friedman, Fatima Robinson, Tina Landon…), performing on television shows including THE X FACTOR, AMERICAN IDOL, THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, AMERICA’S GOT TALENT, THE GRAMMY’s, to name a few.

 

Jennifer Hudson Neyo American Idol
Jennifer Hudson Neyo American Idol courtesy of Monica Ramirez

During these performances and music videos, Monica has worked with countless major artists such as, Pitbull, Ke$sha, Rihanna, Drake, Chris Brown, Sevyn Streeter, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Ne-yo and more. In 2014, Monica began her acting debut on Hulu’s Original Series “East Los High” (S:2 E1, E12) as “Yvonne”. Within that year, she switched agencies and signed to Bloc LA where today, she continues to dance professionally.

 

Monica Ramirez
Monica Ramirez

Some of Monica’s other credits include: TWO AND A HALF MEN, DISCOUNT DANCE MAGAZINE, CELEBRITY DANCE COMPETITION JUDGE, DISNEY’S CHRISTMAS DAY SPECIAL, THE VOICE, SHAKE IT UP,  NUCLEAR COWBOYS, and SEVYN STREETER’S PROMOTIONAL U.S. TOUR.


 

Holly Dayz: What took you to Japan?
Monica: I was asked to dance behind pop artist CHE’NELLE for her upcoming shows there. I accepted the job and rehearsals in LA began immediately.
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Performing with CHE’NELLE
 
Holly Dayz: What were your thoughts when you found out you were headed there?
Monica: I was ecstatic! I had never been out of the country and I’ve heard so many great things about Japan. I’ve traveled all over the US multiple times over but I couldn’t believe I was finally going Over seas! It was surreal. It really didn’t sink in until I landed there.
 
Holly Dayz: Did many people speak English in the hotel, restaurants, and clubs?
Monica: Tokyo is actually very westernized. There are a lot of street signs in english and a lot of the younger people speak enough to communicate. Our hotel was booked specifically because it was a westernized hotel. Almost all of the employees spoke english… Broken, but understandable.
 
Holly Dayz: I know you traveled to Tokyo and Nagoya, did you see any differences between the two cities?
Monica: Oh yeah! Tokyo is so bright, busy and colorful. So much shopping and tons of people! It’s a bustling city!  Nagoya is busy but nothing compared to Tokyo.
 
Nagoya is Japan’s fourth most populated city. It is the capital of Aichi Prefecture and the principal city of the Nobi plain, one of Honshu’s three large plains and metropolitan and industrial centers.
 
Train map in Nagoya
Hours: 9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)
Closed: December 29 to January 1
Construction works cannot be observed on Tuesdays and Thursdays and during lunch break (12:00 to 13:00)
Admission: 500 yen

 

 
Holly Dayz: How did you get from one city to the other?
Monica: We took the bullet train. It was a 3 hour ride from Tokyo to Nagoya, but time went by so fast being with the other dancers and band members. The train was so clean, fast, high-tech and moved so smoothly.
 
Bullet Train. Pic courtesy of www.buffalochow.com
Bullet Train. Pic courtesy of www.buffalochow.com

The Nozomi, is the fastest Shinkansen (“bullet train”) between Tokyo and Hakata. Mt. Fuji will be on your right side as you go from Tokyo to Ossaka, about 45-55 minutes after you leave Tokyo. Nozomi services use N700 series equipment that can reach speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph). Check out more information and pictures at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html

 

Holly Dayz: How much was the bullet train?
Monica: I don’t even know. One of the perks of my career: All of my travel expenses are covered!

Holly Dayz: Was it a luxury train?
Monica: No, It was a public train but was so comfortable and clean. I can only imagine what the luxury car is like.
 
Mt. Fuji - View from train
Mt. Fuji – View from train

An easy way to view Mount Fuji is from the train on a trip between Tokyo and Osaka. If you take the shinkansen from Tokyo in direction of Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, the best view of the mountain can be enjoyed from around Shin-Fuji Station on the right hand side of the train, about 40-45 minutes into the journey.

Holly Dayz: Were there any amenities on the train?
Monica: Yes! The attendants pushed up and down each car with their carts, selling juices, water and bento boxes. I remember buying one. It had rice, shrimp, veggies and some sort of dessert. It wasn’t my favorite, but the presentation was beautiful.
 
Bento (弁当 bentō?)[1] is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.
A typical bento - courtesy of Wikipedia
A typical bento – courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Ekiben (駅弁?) (railway boxed meals) are a specific type of bento boxed meals, sold on trains and train stations in Japan. They come with disposable chopsticks (when necessary) or spoons. Ekiben containers can be made from plastic, wood, or ceramic. Many train stations have since become famous for their especially tasty ekiben, made from local food specialties.
A typical 1000 Yen ekiben, purchased at Tokyo Station - courtesy of Wikipedia
A typical 1000 Yen ekiben, purchased at Tokyo Station – courtesy of Wikipedia

Holly Dayz: Did many people speak English in the hotel, restaurants, and clubs?
Monica: Tokyo is actually very westernized. There are a lot of street signs in english and a lot of the younger people speak enough to communicate. Our hotel was booked specifically because it was a westernized hotel. Almost all of the employees spoke english… Broken, but understandable.
 
Holly Dayz: What was the name of the hotel? What amenities did they have?
Monica: Our hotel was the Ana Intercontinental. They had it all! Even a zen garden with koi fish ponds and small waterfalls.
 
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Garden in Ana Intercontinental
 

Holly Dayz: Did you get to experience the dance scene in Japan? If so how was it?

Monica: We went to a few clubs. One I distinctly remember was called HIVE. It was literally like walking into a bee hive. The floors and walls were covered in LED honeycombs that changed colors! Clubs in Japan go all out with their decor.
 
Holly Dayz: Does it differ from the dance scene here in America?
Monica: Yes! From the music to the dancing and people. It’s different, but in a good way. Everyone is super excited to see each other, even if you are complete strangers! There’s no cattiness, or people standing around watching. Everyone is dancing! That was a pleasant change of pace.
 
Holly Dayz: How are the fans in Japan compared to the USA?
Monica: The fans are so amped! The level of excitement and energy these people poses is off the charts! Fans in the states are great too, but no where as pumped as the ones in Japan.
 
Holly Dayz: What was your favorite thing to eat while there?
Monica: I loved the vegetables! The produce there is so fresh and full of flavor. I’m a carnivore at heart, but I could easily become a vegetarian if I lived in Japan. I also ate ramen every day, every chance I could get. The funny thing is that though I was eating till I was stuffed at each sitting, I was hungry almost every hour! Their food is so fresh with no added junk that your body processes it so easily. Very different from home.
 
Holly Dayz: Are there any restaurants that you would recommend?
Monica: RAMEN! Ha! That isn’t a restaurant (unfortunately) but it’s definitely something I would recommend trying. Seems simple but it’s like pizza. It’s easy to mess up and yet can change your life if done right. I’ve had noodles in other countries but none to compare to the Japanese Ramen noodle. Heaven. In. Your. Mouth.
 

Ramen (ラーメン) is a noodle soup dish that was originally imported from China and has become one of the mostpopular dishes in Japan in recent decades. Ramen are inexpensive and widely available, two factors that also make them an ideal option for budget travelers. Ramen restaurants, or ramen-ya, can be found in virtually every corner of the country and produce countless regional variations of this common noodle dish.

Popular Ramen types

Ramen are typically categorized according to their soup base, although variations that combine the different bases are not uncommon. The main types of soup are:

 

Shoyu (醤油, Soy Sauce)
Shoyu ramen soup is a clear, brown broth flavored with soy sauce (shoyu). The soup is usually made of chicken broth but often contains other meats such as pork, beef or fish depending on the region. Shoyu ramen is the most common type of ramen and is usually what is served when the menu does not specify a specific type of soup.

 

Shio (塩, Salt)
Shio ramen soup is a light, clear broth seasoned with salt. It is typically made from chicken broth, but may also be flavored with other meats such as pork.

 

Miso (味噌, Soybean Paste)
Miso ramen soup is flavored with soybean paste (miso), resulting in a thick, brown soup with a rich, complex flavor. The style originated in Hokkaido where the long cold winters spurred the need for a heartier type of ramen soup, but it has spread to the point where it can be found pretty much anywhere in Japan.

  (Ramen info courtesy of http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2042.html)

Holly Dayz: Did you have the opportunity to experience the different vending machines they have in Japan?
Monica: I didn’t. Although we drove by a lot of those “vending machine-like” parking lots.
 
Holly Dayz: What tourist spots did you visit?
Monica: I had to go shopping in Harajuku! I shopped the streets as well as the 7 floored mall. The fashion in Japan is insane and that area was a huge tourist magnet.
Harajuku
Harajuku
 
Harajuku (原宿) refers to the area around Tokyo‘s Harajuku Station, which is between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. It is the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for adults and some historic sites. Harajuku is not only about teenage culture and shopping. Meiji Jingu, one of Tokyo’s major shrines, is located just west of the railway tracks in a large green oasis shared with the spacious Yoyogi Park.
 
Holly Dayz: What was the coolest thing you bought in Harajuku?
Monica: I bought this really cool cow neck hoodie. Definitely a unique piece. I wanted to buy something I knew no one would have back in the states. The sad thing is that I didnt get to try it on. Some stores don’t allow you to. So when I finally did try it on back in the hotel room, I realized it was too big! I had to give it away as a gift.
 
Holly Dayz: Did you go anywhere off the beaten path?
Monica: No. We pretty much stayed on schedule and traveled in a group. We did explore the hotel and got in trouble for walking around in shorts and bikini tops on our way to the pool. They’re very conservative in Japan, apparently. Oops!
 
Holly Dayz: What time of year did you go and what was the weather like?
Monica: It was summer! The weather was humid and warm. Very much like Florida, actually.
 
Holly Dayz: Did you pick up any Japanese while there?
Monica: Yes I did! I learned “excuse me”, so I could bob and weave through the crowds, and I learned “yes”, “no” and “thank you very much”.
 
Holly Dayz: I know you are trained in many styles of dance, did you learn any different styles while in Japan?
Monica: I didn’t. Not unless jumping up and down, laughing and holding hands with Japanese girls in a club is a new style of dance. I did learn that!
 
Keep a lookout for Monica Ramirez, as her career is soaring!
 
 

9 thoughts on “Spotlight Travels: Japan with Monica Ramirez

  • January 1, 2015 at 9:40 pm
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    Thanks! Looking forward to reading your experience in Tokyo.

    Reply
  • April 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm
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    I think I have seen her work. Great interview and such an amazing opportunity for her!

    Reply
    • April 28, 2015 at 7:17 pm
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      You most likely have. She is in more and more live and video performances.

      Reply
    • December 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm
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      I had a little more time to go through your website a lot of good things, I hope you had time to through the recommended safari itineraries , in Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana
      talk to you tomorrow morning
      eddie

      Reply
  • April 28, 2015 at 9:29 am
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    These travel posts always get me so excited! I love seeing how others experience places and I dig your adding the additional information to go with her comments.

    Reply
    • April 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm
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      Oh I am so glad! Thank you!

      Reply
    • April 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm
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      Thank you so much! Oh that is awesome, I am sure they had amazing time.

      Reply

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