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Laid Back Day (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 7)

It was just one of those mornings where I did not want to do or think about anything important… so I didn’t. Well, sort of.

Our AirBnB has been cozy but also not healthy – the entire bottom floor has a moisture problem, which I am certain is perpetuated by tennants not taking good care to ventilate the place and the owner not properly cleaning. The shower area was a disaster… mold and mildew everywhere, and I don’t mean just a little… A LOT.

Cleaning supplies were purchased… and I spent almost two hours yesterday morning just scrubbing the shower and tub area.
T W O  H O U R S. It’s a small area too but there is tile and every single tile grout surface had mold. I was really tired after that so I took a shower and rested, then tidied up in one of the living areas. For someone who doesn’t have kids, I surely get into “mom” mode a lot.

The guys had been out at Karaoke the night before and all had hangovers… Paulina and I made plans to meet up with Chris for lunch at  A Happy Pancake – a restaurant that serves soufflé pancakes! I have been seeing videos for a couple of years about them… Simon and Martina’s video on YouTube stands out as the one that REALLY made me want to try these pancakes. You can watch that here:

Paulina and I took a train to Omotesando…

I snuck a photo of sleepy commuters on the way to Omotesando.

we had some time to kill before meeting up with Chris so we decided to walk around the winding backstreets of the area to look at the trendy shops where you can find all manner of things… from used clothing to high end fashion and every item in between.

When in Omotesando, do what the Omotesandians do.

One of our destinations was B-Side Label, a store that I always make a point to visit when I am in Tokyo… their stickers are all made right there, and the artists that provide designs are all local as well so this makes me feel good about purchasing items there.

Every trip into this store is a sensory bombardment, from the colorful stickers and products to the employees filled with personality and friendly conversation… once again I forgot to actually take photos IN the store but here is a photo of the outside!

Here I am with two of my furry friends outside of B-Side Label.

As per usual, I had a difficult time choosing exactly what labels would be coming home with me and to make the choice an even more difficult one, they had limited run Halloween editions of some of their favorite designs as well as new Halloween designs – that’s mostly what I purchased, since one they’re gone… they’re gone.

The stickers that I picked up today at B-Side Label… these were a very small selection of the ones that I wanted most!

After spending a long while at B-Side, we wandered toward the main street toward Kiddeland and found some… unusual stickers on the pedestrian overpasses – this is one of the things that I enjoy about Omotesando & Harajuku… random stickers and grafitti.

Looks like some random couple wanted to leave a more personalized mark on the sticker colelction!

 

“look at all of these stickers!…. oh.”

We browsed Kiddeland and then heard from Chris that he had arrived near the location of the soufflé pancakes, so we met him there.

My soufflé pancake at A Happy Pancake had a beautiful berry compote – a little too sweet but definitely complex in flavor.

 

Foreground: Pumpkin Raisin – Left Berry Compote – Right – Hot Chocolate – Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

A Happy Pancake did not disappoint! The atmosphere was bright and refreshing – despite being on the basement level of a building, the green theming and large wall displaying photos and videos of outdoor scenes and plants set the mood for happy interaction – the three of us had a lovely time talking and consuming delicious foods.

I have never tasted a pancake quite like this – it’s texture is indeed similar to a soufflé but a bit more heavy… it has inspired me to try this out when I return to Vancouver in December… having never made a soufflé of any sort I cannot predict if my outcome will be a pleasant one or not but I have eaten enough soufflé to know if it’s actually good or not!

After pancakes I was craving some good coffee. Chris did a quick search online and found a trendy pour over place nearby. We walked to our destination and waited a half hour before we realized that this was more of an experience than anything… one person to guide you through the process of choosing your coffee and educating you on it’s origins… one person to make the coffee. There were six people ahead of us and it took 3 a half hour to get their coffee so we decided to look elsewhere and possibly come back to this place another day.

This was the entrance… literally a short square door to a teeny staging area.

A new place for coffee was found fairly quickly… and just up the street a few blocks. It turned out to be a blessing because both the coffee and the chai that we tried were amazing – neither needed sugar added, a sign to me that this is superior coffee indeed.

Coffee and Chai for us… the doughnuts looked delicious but we had just eaten sweet things so perhaps next time we will try them too. – Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Drinks at Higuma Doughnuts x Coffee Wrights were excellent! I definitely want to come back here and try the other drinks that they offer.

Chris departed after the consumption of coffee and chai, Paulina and I continued on to Harajuku in search of a store that Paulina wanted to visit called Alice on Wednesday.

As the name suggests, it was indeed an Alice in Wonderland themed shop, very cleverly decorated… lots of cute things here but nothing that particularly spoke to me. I’d like to have this table though:

Such an adorable table! I think my apartment needs this in it. 😀

Browsing done, we went to Takashita Dori, the main street in Harajuku. It was getting late and as it was a weekday, many shops were closed so it was not too crowded with people, which is a pleasant change from the usual.

I don’t remember the name of this store that these stairs lead down to, but I do remember from three years ago that this is a second hand clothing store that was pretty awesome.

Sparsely populated night street of Harajuku.

Since businesses were starting to close, we decided to call it a night and took our tired feet home.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Was Open! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 6)

Cooler weather has arrived, though it is still warm and still quite humid. It feels great to me until the mid-afternoon, when I really start sweating and my hair freaks out. I swear… I just cannot look good while I’m in Japan in any other season than winter… naturally curly hair and humidity do not mix well so I get about half a day looking okay and unless I take pains to wash and actually style my hair in the afternoon, then it becomes a wild and woolly mane that is out of control. Because I do not like to fuss over my appearance for more than a very short while, I choose the wild hair rather than look my best. I wonder what this says about me as a person?

My compatriots woke about an hour after I did and we did not take too long to relax this morning since we wanted to make it out of the house and to Shinjuku with time enough to enjoy the park before it closes at 4pm. 

Paulina, Fredrik and I went to our station (Hikifune) and jumped onto the train to Shinjuku. I had expressed the desire for a proper coffee as did Chris, so I looked online for a good place to go… and found a Blue Bottle Coffee right next to Shinjuku Station – oh the joy! They have really good coffee and I was surprised to see that they expanded from Northern California into Japan! 

Chris suggested that he pick up the coffee, since he would arrive shortly before we would, since he was only coming from Shibuya. He also surprised us with some tasty pastries from a French bakery that was right next to Blue Bottle, which we saved to eat in the park. 

Yes, we finally made it into Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – wooooooooo!

I took SO MANY PHOTOS but I was not alone… Paulina is also a photographer and Chris has gotten the photography bug so it was nice to not feel rushed to move on when I was busy composing nice shots. Prepare yourself for a very photo heavy post today!

This was my second time in the gardens… the first being back in June of 2015 when Chris and I lived in Tokyo for 3 months. On that first visit I was solo, and spent the entire very hot day there. It was 91 degrees F with 90% humidity, and this time it was much cooler, and about 10% less humidity – much more pleasant weather for certain! Regardless of the weather, I feel like I could visit this garden over and over and never tire of it. I am VERY much looking forward to when the leaves start changing their colors – this is one of the gardens that I will definitely be going back to!

The 4 of us strolled the garden and stopped at a large field to enjoy our tasty French treats, and then strolled more…

We had quiet times

 

We walked a lot – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Chris roaming in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Taking closeups of…. something.

Photographing me photographing a tree – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Wandering Boo. – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Views like this make me want to move to Tokyo.

Those are my feets with smushed fallen Autumn leaves.

 

…. and silly times

 

We felt compelled. – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Fredrik… STAHP! (DEUTSCHLAND!)

Caught in the act! – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

It’s THIS way!

Chris demonstrating exactly what this sign means… complete with stick!

Somehow this moment just… happened… and it was glorious.

WHA! A wild Fredrik suddenly appears!

 

and selfie times.

 

Happy people in the happy greenhouse!

We happy!

Happy! – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

 

But mostly, plant times.

 

We liked the greenhouse. – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Something was interesting! It was probably that brown plant that I was fascinated with. – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

– photo courtesy of Chris Danford

I love the greenhouse in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden!

Just a little bud… I’m sure it will open soon!

I risked life and limb for this shot. – Photo Courtesy of Paulina

I wish that I knew what sort of plant this is…

Potted plants in pleasing arrangements.

The upper level in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden greenhouse.

I want to know what this plant is also!

This tree is going to look SO nice with Autumn color!

Why yes, this plant WAS FUZZY! Yet another that I desire to know the name of.

 

Oh, and cloud times too. So many beautiful clouds.

A couple was having kimono times. I’m pretty certain that we got better photos of them than they did of themselves. Thanks, Kimono Couple for giving me a nice photo subject!

 

Thanks for providing excellent composition, Kimono Couple! I think that we had better photos from you being there than the selfies that you two ended up taking. 😀

 

Garden times with my special friends was so needed, and what a sharp contrast to the inner turmoil that I was experiencing the day before! I was feeling completely opposite emotionally and while physically I still wasn’t great, I was much better in comparison.

We were all pretty hungry at the end of our garden visit. Chris suggested Gyukatsu Motomura, another beef katsu restaurant. This place was special! At the table are pots made of pottery that they light up so there is an open flame in each pot. Each person gets to choose their own pot, which is topped with a slab of pottery – this slab gets VERY HOT… 

We actually cooked our meat on these!

The gyokatsu is breaded and quickly deep fried, then sliced up and served with many sides. You take slices of the breaded beef and place them on your hot slab of pottery where it sears the meat – you get to choose how well or not well you cook your meat! 

The accompanying sides were delicious: Pickled vegetable, miso soup that I think may have had a beef base instead of fish, sweet mochi with what seemed like it had a syrup either made out of light molasses or maple, rice with barley and mountain potato which was in it’s stringy form of goodness – I do love mountain potato and on top of rice! OH YUMMERS! Two sauces were included as well… one that seemed like garlic and the other a sesame of some sort? 

After dinner a very tired Chris said adieu… Paulina, Fredrik and I went to Flying Tiger, a store that has origins in Denmark. We found all manner of quirky and useful things! I was after a nail brush and a sleeve for my MacBook…. I found what I needed! A Llama MacBook sleeve came home with me, and I don’t even find the pink background too annoying! x

In Flying Tiger – they had all sorts of fun things.

 

The three of us then went to Akihabara to meet up with Joy and Zach, who had been in arcades all day again… Fredrik left Paulina and I for a boys night out of karaoke with another friend from Sweden – Paulina and I went to a few arcades and then dragged our weary bodies back home with the intent to go to an Onsen in Asakusa, but once we were still and comfortable at home, we decided to not go anywhere. 

I called it a night fairly early – no plans as of yet for the morrow except to find some useable wifi so that I can upload some photos to my blog posts!

Know Your National Holidays… (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 5)

Once again I woke before every one else in the house – around 6:30 am. I was not feeling well, and I noticed that my limbs had swollen even worse and my face was very puffy… I assumed it was due to some digestion issues of a rather uncomfortable nature  – things have… not been moving for a few days. Walking has been very uncomfortable due to all of this swelling and it has me quite concerned. 

Again I was ready to upload my blog to the website, but discovered that my photos were not uploading… finally I received a message that the server was taking too long to respond and it seems that the wifi included with our AirBnB has been throttled. I’m assuming that the 4 others have been using it as well because I’m certain that although I use my own fair amount of data it’s not enough to cause a throttle! 

I tidied my closet, straightened some things in the living room and caught up on messages…. at noon I was still waiting for the gang to get going and out of here and it was, quite frankly, making me very tense and upset. 

We decided to meet Chris in the afternoon but the group decided to first stop for Yakiniku for lunch – we went to a place called Kuidon, which I believe is a chain. We had a private booth with our Korean style bbq table and for just over 1,200 yen I had a feast!

 

Grillin’ dat meat!

We had a private room at Kuidon Yakiniku – a very nice experience and a very nice value.

Bellies satisfied, we moved on to our train and headed to Shinjuku, with the intent to go the the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden… we enjoyed walking the streets and found some beautiful street murals and funny signs.

 

Part of a mural in Shinjuku – I need to go back and get a panorama of this because it was awesome.

 

We even found a pop up cafe for FIKA! (Fika is a large part of Swedish life… basically it means to have a coffee and a pastry, often a cinnamon bun… but it’s much more than that as it’s a relaxing social time to reconnect with people and relaxation) We wanted to stop for fika but the shop was closed. 

We soon arrived at one of the gates to the garden – only to find that it was CLOSED! As it turns out if there is a national holiday that falls on a monday, then the next day the park is closed. Needless to say we were all quite disappointed… I messaged Chris to let him know that our next plan was to visit the Artnia store at the Square Enix headquarters.

There are SO MANY THINGS that I would have loved to purchase from that store… so much temptation. It’s a special place… sadly, all of the special figures in the museum portion of the building were all empty as the figures were on loan to another exhibit elsewhere in the city.

 

Artnia building at the Square Enix headquarters – a must visit for me each time I visit Tokyo.


After Artnia, we went to downtown Shinjuku and the Monster Hunter Cafe! They charged a 500 yen cover charge per person… despite the cute theming of the cafe I still feel like it was overpriced and we could have enjoyed a peek and a few photos from the doorway just as well without spending that plus the cost of drinks. Gotta say though, Capcom is being smart with all of this promotion and cashing in on the popularity of this game series – well done, Capcom… well done.

 

This Palico was big – a little over a third of my height. Monster Hunter Cafe.

 

After Monster Hunter Cafe, Paulina split off to go home and rest, Joy went back to Akiba for DDR. Chris, Zach, Fredrik and I wanted honey toast, but the restaurant was closed for the night… we did find out that a Tex-Mex bar upstairs also served the honey toast (apparently the building was one large hotel resort thing so the menu was universal to all eating spaces)

Honey Toast is a big loaf of bread, hollowed out, toasted and drizzled with honey… then filled with ice cream and fruit and other sweet toppings. These absolutely cannot be consumed by your self, or even two people… two honey toasts for 4 people was even too much – I think that in retrospect I could have been satisfied with just one shared amongst 4 of us as it was so sweet and filling. It was delicious but I think that now that I’ve tried it, I probably will never have it again. Also of note: It’s tasty, but nothing worthy of your palette… simply novel and interesting.

 

Honey Toast – I’ve got this out of my system now. Never again. (too sweet)

 

Chris was very tired so he said goodnight… Zach and Fredrik and I roamed around Shinjuku a bit longer to see all of the beautiful lights and then we headed home. There were good moments in the day but overall I was rather unhappy and decided that when I want to be active I will just split off on my own and not worry about the group – we can always join up again later. I discussed this with a few of them and they weren’t upset at all and in fact encouraged me to do so.

 

Shinjuku is beautiful at night – I was definitely feeling the Lost in Translation feelings today.

 

I love the detail on the street gates? posts?

 

I am a very active person, and I do believe that my style of enjoying a vacation most likely differs from the average person… I don’t sit still much so taking the day in such a slow manner drives me a bit crazy. 

Many personal things also bubbled to the surface of my mind as well, and I was finding difficulty to keep a happy attitude, all things considered. I think that tomorrow I will get some “me time” and visit a shrine to cleanse my restless spirit.

Technology Fails, Anxiety and also Fun Times (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 4)

A veritable cornucopia of experiences this day most certainly was, as my emotions got tugged to and fro for a variety of reasons and circumstances that were largely beyond my control.

Not to say that I was emotional, as I largely was not but rather to say that things evoked internal emotional responses that were, to say the least, trying and frustrating to a person who just wanted to get things done and organized and out of the way so that she could fully enjoy her day without the thoughts of things needing to be done hanging over her head.

Goodness was the start of my morning – despite being drunk the night before (only my second time ever in my entire life) I was NOT hungover! I drank quite responsibly and for every ounce of alcohol that I consumed, I also drank an ounce of water, possibly more. I slept really well – definitely not having a sneak attack of jet lag woo woooo!

The first order of the day was to finish writing my blog post from the day before as I most definitely did not finish it that night! Second thing to do was to get my new (old) iPhone 7 set up… this is where things started to go south and without going into all minutiae, I had to re-set passwords and download my old profile… this took  F O R E V E R. Also… my MacBook simply would NOT transfer all of my previous day’s photos onto itself for some unknown reason – it’s very frustrating and sad that my iPhone won’t properly communicate with an Apple product… I expect this behavior when I plug it into my Windows PC, but not with Mac! I have had a long history of having to deal with this tedious file management so rather than try and try and try again to get the Mac to take the pictures, I simply emailed the ones that I wanted to myself, downloaded them onto my computer and inserted them into my blog post. Done and done.

Having all of this take literally my entire morning ( I had been up and about since 6 am) I was feeling stressed and very anxious… that anxiousness ended up permeating my entire day, I am sad to say, despite my best efforts to “let it go”.

At noon I finally gave up on getting all of the apps fully restored onto my iPhone. The Swedish Crew and I headed to Shibuya to see what we could find. First stop: Hachiko, of course! We had to say Hello to the OD! (the Original Doge)

We visited Hachiko! It wasn’t too crowded so we were able to selfie with him quickly.

 

Paulina mentioned wanting to see The Scramble from above so after crossing The Scramble ourselves, we went into the Magnet by Shibuya 109 (Shibuya Men’s 109 re-branded building) 

Up we went to the 7th floor, where there is a Fatburger and an onigiri bar (I can’t even imagine how many varieties they serve!)… it’s a cozy atmosphere there with loads of seating away from the main eating areas – I might take my computer there to get some work done!
(I forgot to snap a pic – later)

I really liked this open space leading to the Shibuya Crossing viewing platform.

Mural at the Magnet viewing area… my hair was still halfway decent at this point of the day yay!

 

Outside we went, and got a very nice view:

Twuuuuu Wuvvvv!

Da Boyz

Joy swears that he wasn’t actually trying to give me rabbit ears, that he was just doing a peace sign.

It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that we had almost an exact duplicate of a photo that we all took together in Stockholm 3 years earlier awwww! <3

 

Then one of them noticed that there was a way to have your photo taken from above with the scramble below as well – it was 1,000 Yen so we all payed a part to get these photos! You scanned a QR code with your phone which takes you to a website – you have 100 seconds to snap as many photos as you want by tapping your phone… we all looked up at what we thought was the camera but turns out that we all looked at what would be the spotlight that turns on at night and not at the camera itself – how silly we all felt!

Bird’s Eye view of The Scramble… with us looking in the wrong direction oops.

In the lobby of the Magnet building there was a Hello Kitty photo op… the sign said to be sure to use your flash which we thought was not necessary, but then when we looked at the photo, the black background had turned into a nice collage – that was cute!

We were all hungry (except for Joy) and so we went around the corner to Genki Sushi because it was fast and cheap – not the best sushi of course but to a hungry belly it’s all the same anyway, eh?

From there, the guys split off from Paulina and I. We girlies went to Loft to explore a bit… I showed great restraint by not purchasing a single thing, though many things both needed and just wanted called out to me… I remained steadfast and just looked. After Loft we spent a little time on a side street being silly:

I can’t even

 

A rare sight… an empty train! Mere seconds later two people joined us in this car.

After along while we left, found some unusual KitKat flavors to sample and went home for the night. While out I discovered that my phone data had been throttled… apparently when my iPhone was being set up, for some reason it used my data instead of wifi, which it isn’t supposed to do… so now I have 4 more days of only having enough data to use my maps and nothing else!

We met up with da boyz in Akiba… played some games and then went home.

 

 

 

Chill Day in Asakusa (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 3)

I barely remember falling asleep last night. As I lay my head on my pillow I wondered what time that Joy and Fredrik would make it back home after their evening of tasty beverages of the adult sort. I knew that I needn’t worry, so I closed my eyes and apparently, fell immediately to sleep.

I had doubled my bedroll to give me more comfort and that seemed to do the trick. I remember only waking once that night so a very solid night of rest was had! I woke refreshed – at 6:30 am to find that Zach was already awake… Joy and Fredrik had shown up sometime in the middle of the night and I never heard them come in. Turns out they made it home not terribly long after I had retired for the night myself.

Both of us went downstairs and consumed the foods that we had bought the night prior in preparation for this morning’s need for breakfast and talked for a while. I did some photo editing and posted the link to my blog post from the day prior to Facebook, organized some photo files and caught up on news. Zach was playing a game on his Switch and then I remembered that I had packed mine as well so I relaxed and played Breath of the Wild for quite a while.

It was now around 10 am… Joy, Paulina and Fredrik were still fast asleep. I busied myself with more tasks on my MacBook and coordinated a meet up with Chris for that day.

Chris was going to take around 40 minutes by train to reach Asakusa, where we decided to meet up for some sort of good food to eat… we decided to walk there since it would only take about a half hour to reach Asakusa station and the weather was beautiful despite being rather humid.

Walking to Asakusa – typical average Tokyo neighborhoods are very quiet.

I saw the Tokyo Skytree along the way.

Art on the Sakurabashi Bridge in Tokyo on the way to Asakusa.

Once in Asakusa we decided on eating GyuKatsu at a tiny restaurant close to Senso-Ji – again you sat at the counter and could watch them prepare your food, which I find infinitely fascinating.

GyuKatsu – Beef Cutlet in citrus sauce with shredded daikon.

Food adventures continued on Orange Dori in Asakusa… this is a street lined with old shops and tourist traps alike, and alive with plenty of events almost year round. It is often packed with tourist both local and from afar and it is not difficult to see why with the variety of things to see and purchase there.

We personally were seeking sweet treats… our diligent search was rewarded at a place tucked into a building from the early 20th century… I wish that I knew the name of the place because it was quite cute. They tried to keep a style reminiscent of the 30’s or 40’s European-ish decor that was quite charming! We sat in comfy chairs and shared three desserts: Sweet Potato Ice Cream Sundae and a Matcha Ice Cream Sundae… also a red bean dessert that was just okay and not spectacular.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream and Matcha Ice Cream sundaes… along with some sort of red bean dessert that wasn’t as good.

 

Oh yay I look quite tired and my hair is quite angry about all of the humidity – so much for perfectly straightened hair!

After treats we headed to Akihabara to meet up with Joy and Fredrik… but before we did, one more treat right next to Yodobashi at the Akiba Station… Croissant Taiyaki at Gindaco… it was filled with roasted chestnut paste did not disappoint! That croissant crust was delicious and the texture would have been perfect if it hadn’t been just a little too done. The chestnut filing seemed a little too sweet but I have to wonder if perhaps my opinion about that was affected by the consumption of our other sweet treats not long prior to this.

Chris needed to go get some studying done so he split off from me and Zach and the two of us went to a store called Animate – my main reason for going was to find a few Persona 5 items and they definitely had a nice selection to chose from! A few things may have made it into a shopping bag and came along with me.

We met up with the guys and sat across from that Dragon Quest Lawson again… Zach went off to do something, I don’t exactly know what and I sat with Joy and talked a fair amount about all sorts of important matters as we do… then Zach came back and Fredrick showed up – Chris messaged and it turned out that he had been sitting perhaps 100 feet away when he messaged asking where to meet up with us!

We settled on going to an izakaya that wasn’t terribly far away – I do not recall the name of the place and apparently forgot to check in on Swarm so I can’t find it now… you will understand the whys of this thing as you read on…

Toward the beginning of our evening at an izakaya – I was only a little tipsy at this point.

We laughed and talked and ate… I had a yuzu shochu, which is plenty enough to get me tipsy… ordered more food and Chris had a bottle of warm sake brought out with glasses for everyone… one glass later and I was definitely feeling it and was getting just a little more silly than usual… Joy didn’t enjoy the warm sake (he prefers cold) so I drank his down too.

Another round of warm sake came out, another cup poured for me… then I finished the last cup after my last chicken and leek yakitori… things were definitely a bit wobbly for me after that, but I was having a gooooood evening! It was decided that we should go to the amusement center in the Donki building down the street for some DDR and ufo catchers – everything was so hilarious that I could not contain my laughter… in the photo below, I remember watching Fredrik try to win an adorable Shiba Inu stuffed animal, but for the life of me I cannot remember what was so funny!

“You’re not drunk… I’M drunk… why is this crane game so funny?!” haha

Joy tried to win a prize… the Shiba that I wanted – psh. That was not pleasing because he did (but I was also happy for him)

Joy won this Shiba – on the first try. That’s an expensive stuffed toy for only 100 Yen!

 

I played for a shiba too… I won a little baby shiba! Not certain how I had my wits about me enough to win this haha.

Wan Wan! I won a little shiba in a shiba hoodie on MY first try!

At this point Chris decided to leave because he was very sleepy as he is having a difficult time adjusting to the Tokyo time zone on this trip, poor guy. I then tried my hand, I mean feet at Drunk DDR… I did surprisingly well according to Joy, who mentioned that I was impressing the local Japanese guy at the machine next to me. I attribute my accuracy to the fact that I only played charts that I practically know by heart so that took any of the alcohol hinderance away from the equation.

Three rounds of DDR later, I cut myself off for fear of falling off of the pad or dehydrating myself too much. Silly Boo, Joy and Fredrik all had a merry ride home on the train and a relaxing early Autumn walk home. Excellent excellent day!

Akiba Antics (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 2)

This morning found me well rested after a full uninterrupted night’s sleep on my bedroll – our AirBnB has traditional tatami mats on the floor of our bedroom – the five of us share a common bedroom area that has space enough for 10 people to lay comfortably if there are two people per bedroll.

I awoke at 4:30 am to find Joy up and ready to get some breakfast… we took the short walk to Lawson’s to get coffee and breakfast foods while the others stayed in bed.

It was so great to sit and talk with Joy after three years of not seeing each other in person – I wish that we lived closer… it can be so difficult when dear friends live so far away. After talking with Joy for quite a while, he decided to go back to bed while I was not sleepy at all so I decided to shower and then soak my aching muscles in our wonderful deeeeeep bathtub.

About the time that I was finished relaxing, Zach and Fredrick awoke, and Joy followed shortly. The guys went out to run an errand with Zach and I stayed behind with Paulina… they returned and we all laughed and talked for a great while as we decided what we wanted to do for the day.

You have been blessed by the Suntory Lemon Man!

It was decided that we would go to Akihabara to play games at a gaming center for the most part and also check out some shops but since we were all very hungry we started looking for food immediately. Go!Go! Curry sounded good, so we stopped there for some comfort food – I ate the small tonkatsu (pork cutlet) plate and even that amount of food was actually a bit too much! This Japanese curry chain regularly has a contest for people to completely eat a ridiculously large amount of tonkatsu with rice and curry – it’s impressive to see their wall of photos with people who have actually completed the challenge!

Me and the Sweet Swedes at curry lunch.

Bellies full and satisfied, we moved on. I have them convinced that next time they crave curry that we should go to CoCo Curry to see if they like that the same or better… I have a definite favorite but I did not reveal that to them for fear that it may affect their opinion one way or the other!

While walking to the area with the most arcades we kept coming on shops that sell collectible figures… we stopped in two or three and spent a bit of time when my friends decided that perhaps we should stop getting so distracted and get to the arcades.

A Sega arcade was the next stop where there were many rounds of UFO catcher plays – we met up with Chris there. He was kind enough to share his stash of SIM cards with me so now I can roam freely without having to find wifi hot spots… they are abundant but rather flaky at times for connection if you are moving about quite a bit. Thank you, Chris! having all of the data GeeBees is definitely better than relying on flaky WeeFees! XD

At Sega Arcade

Everything is cute in Japan.

Tokyo Leisure Land was the destination because they have a large selection of rhythm games… which we did not get to right away because a couple of my friends (*cough* Joy and Paulina) became obsessed with winning a couple of figurines from a redemption game… after some tries they did win! I made myself content with winning a few small prizes, including a squishy orange Slime from the Dragon Quest (I have a slight obsession with these adorable characters!) series of games and a little plush kitty with a mustache.

YES! DDR in JAPAN!

Paulina won the Alice figure she was after!

My sweet squishy Slime! I won one for Chris too

We spent a few hours at this spot – time passes quickly when you are having so much fun and in such good company! Some rhythm games were played as well, but I did not partake because I felt that I was already sweaty enough with the humidity, which was around 80% yesterday. My poor hair is lamenting this weather – it seems that Japan will never allow my hair to look nice while I am here because my curly hair reacts so poorly to high humidity. Ah well it’s okay! I can still have fun whilst looking like a goof!

After the arcade we came upon the Dragon Quest themed Lawson store! SLIMES EVERYWHERE! I need to back to get better photos and a video of this place – very cute theming!

I FOUND IT! The Dragon Quest themed Lawson in Akihabara!

Late in the afternoon Joy and Fredrik broke away from the group to go home and take a nap… Paulina, Zach, Chris and I went on to a wagyu beef restaurant called Roast Beef Ohno… it is a small restaurant which I guess only seats up to 30 from a quick glance about this small restaurant. Part of the seating is at a couple of tables but the main portion of seating is at the L-shaped bar that borders the kitchen so you can enjoy watching your meals being prepared.

The menu selection is small… literally just the wagyu donburi bowl or the Australian beef donburi but you do choose the portion of rice that you receive. I opted for the small portion.

Wagu Donburi is delicious!

My dinner was accompanied by Oxtail soup – yummy.

The printed menu offers instruction for how to best enjoy your meal, first starting with tasting the meat on it’s own, then mixing your egg and dipping the meat in that and the small trail of Japanese mayo, then trying the pickled vegetable (which I think was cabbage) with a bit of mountain wasabi and cream cheese in addition to your bite of meat. However you decided to combine your tastes, this was a superior donburi for certain! I think that I could eat this meal a couple of times a week and not tire of it.

Instructions for how to best enjoy your meal.

I had requested that we go hunting for some gatchapon (Japanese capsule toys) so Chris did a quick look on Google Maps… on our way there we ran into Joy and Fredrik, who had initially said they were going to go home and take a nap before karaoke with a friend… they never made it home because the made a side trip to a Maid Cafe – Paulina and I were a little cross and disappointed because we wanted to experience that with them, but overall we heard some great stories from those two and I’m glad that they had so much fun. Once again we parted from Joy and Fredrik who departed to go find some Japanese libations and Chris continued to  guide us to a store filled with row after row of gatchapon dispensers! They had signs everywhere that asked customers to please not take photos so I respected that while I was actually in the store. Once I was in, I remembered that I had visited this exact place on my very first day in Japan in summer 2014!

I found two of the VAG series that I was looking for! Morris!

On this visit I found some of what I am diligently seeking… dispensers that sell the VAG (Vinyl Artist Gacha) series! These are special limited edition gasha designed by some famous vinyl toy artists. These particular figures are quite detailed and usually have the distinction of having one or more parts that are moveable so that you can pose your figure! They are 500 Yen so more spendy than the average of 200 – 300 Yen, but definitely worth the price.

I was surprised to find one the winter 2018 releases still available! I am now the very happy owner of two Morris figures, which is a cat-deer combination… a design by Kaori Hinata, also known as Hinatique. http://hinatique.pupu.jp/ – such a talented artist! My keen eyes will continue to keep a lookout for more VAG dispensers on this trip for sure.

VAG (Vinyl Artist Gasha) figure Morris in the two variants that I most wanted!

Our happy hearts and weary bodies decided that it was time to head home. Zach, Paulina and I said goodnight to Chris with wishes expressed to meet again for more fun tomorrow… we rode the train back to our station, Higashi-Mukōjima, and walked home. Soon, bedtime and blessed sleep.

 

 

Planes, Trains and Dying Batteries (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 1)

Literally the only pic I snapped yesterday… and it was accidental… forward facing camera oops for the win.

This trip started out about as ordinary as it could be… I fussed over packing my necessities, then unpacked, sorted and re-packed… about 5 times. I stayed up late the night before my flight to acclimate my sleep schedule to that of where I was traveling to. I made a loose list of places I would like to see when I visit. I hopped onto a plane and had an un-eventful, and even pleasant flight with no one sitting in the seat next to me.

Then little things started to unravel… my sinuses decided to become swollen and painful… the line at immigration was looooong – it took more than an hour to get through when usually it’s no more than 20 minutes. Lines looked long for train tickets…. and then I learned why. One of the express lines was not functioning due to “electrical failure”… another of the local lines was not running either so I decided on the Narita Express, which I would normally take anyway (but wasn’t going to this time because it wasn’t a direct route to my end destination).

The line to purchase those tickets was L O N G. Like wait for 45 minutes long. Ticket bought, I proceeded to the platform to wait for my train to be cleaned from the prior run.

Boarded train, settled in… time to go! Train does not go. Five minutes later: train does not go. Announcement says that the track is being cleared of something… my heart sinks because I think that it must be a jumper. Five more minutes pass… then another 5 and another 5. In Japanese they ask us to disembark the train and go across the platform to another one… we all do so and sit there for another 15 minutes.

Train is a local one so it stops at every station. Soon we come to Chiba, where we are told to get on yet another train, which apparently everyone else in Tokyo was also getting on to. It’s raining. It’s humid. People are grumpy and shoving onto the train like they’re packing a sardine tin. I feel guilty for having so much luggage, especially when I actually prefer to travel very light. Aching muscles and exhaustion were making me really grumpy… you get the idea.

I made it to the neighborhood where my friends had rented an AirBnB only to have my phone die right as I got the the block where it was supposed to be… EVERY door on that block had the same number so I was confused as to which one I was supposed to enter! Eventually after waiting for my phone to charge enough to turn back on (and it ended up not turning on for another 15 minutes) I knocked on a random door  – a very kind older woman answered and her face lit up when she saw me, which was a reassuring comfort that I really needed at that moment. In very broken Japanese I told her that I was looking for an AirBnB and she knew right where to take me to – she waited until Paulina let me in before she left my side! What a kind woman!

All in all it took me 5 hours from when I left immigration to make it into the AirBnB… exhausted starving and half drenched from a soaking rain I dropped my bags and then immediately walked down the block to a Lawson’s to grab some snacks… that was actually just a few minutes ago. I am completely exhausted and at this writing I can barely keep my eyes open so it’s time to wander upstairs to my tatami mat and lay my weary head to rest. Day 1 of Japan Autumn Trip complete!

Dropbox vs Google Drive – A Frustrated Photographer’s View

As with anyone who deals with a large amount of photo and video media I have a fair amount of trouble managing all of my files, especially since disciplining myself to properly sort said files once I am home from whatever photography excursion I have been on has largely been a task that I have failed in.

Often I am not intending to go on an excursion with the express purpose of taking photos and video but inevitably this is what I do… I have that wonderful device called a smartphone with me everywhere I go…. lo and behold, I return from wherever with many photos and videos. “I will just sort these out later” I say to myself and the digital files upload to my iCloud and Dropbox.

I was pondering this very conundrum this past weekend as I had holed up at home because I was not feeling well and was exceedingly bored. I decided that whilst resting I would be productive and finally sort all of my photos and videos into properly dated files, and perhaps also by subject matter or location. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey that would lead to nowhere but frustration.

Dropbox has been a tool that I have used for years and thought nothing of sitting down at my PC to do a little folder housecleaning. I logged on to the website and began my task, quickly noticing that everything was taking a LONG time to click through. Checking a box of a file to move… 10-30 seconds for a checkmark to appear… okay, well perhaps my computer is lagging for some reason… click out of the browser and into a program – no problem. Try another website… fast as fast can be… go back to Dropbox, click “move files” – two minutes before any sort of indication that there was something affected.

4-1/2 hours later and I had barely made a dent in my organization – I was left with frustration and a long but friendly email to Dropbox was written. In the meantime, I am not one to let grass grow under my feet as I wait so I looked to my Google Drive account, where I also have a few files stored.

Three years ago I had moved away from a trial run with Google Drive to Dropbox again because at the time Drive was not an effective way for me to move my digital media from my phone or my camera – it was unreliable and tedious, with the app often hanging and then crashing which made it un-usuable for my particular needs. I had hopes this time that perhaps a few things had been improved and I was not disappointed!

Google made a Drive app specifically for photos and videos and oh my have I been pleasantly surprised! Fast reliable transfers and it even sorts things by date and location, along with a proper way to search for your photos whether it be by that date or location but also by person! It finds photos of people and asks you for their names so you can search by name too! That part is simultaneously awesome and a little creepy as well.

After the app backs up all of your photos, it asks you if you would like it to also delete the media from your phone – 32,524 media files still remain there because I cannot bear to delete a one of them… maybe tomorrow!

Addendum: There is so much more to the Google Photos App that I want to talk about, so look for a proper review soon!

 

Boo is BACK!

WELL HELLO THERE!

Last year my domain lapsed… a long and uninteresting story for you, Dear Reader and I will spare you that misery.

Sufficient to say that what seemed to be a minor miracle happened in the form of my BEST FRIEND and SWEETHEART Chris revealing that he had retained my domain AAAAAND had my archived posts! JOY OF JOYS! My backups had been lost on an external hard drive that failed two years ago and ever since this domain lapsed I had been lamenting the loss thereof, but now NOW I can relieve all of those memories in blog form once again!

My plan going forward is to update here weekly and possibly more often if I feel inspired to wax long about some topic or post a bazillion photos. Speaking of photos, I do have a Mini Rant: Instagram is starting to displease me more and more as they have introduced more of the Facebook-like features such as only showing you the most popular photos in your feed and not having photos in chronological order. My own photos visibility has DRASTICALLY shrunk as well… my posting habits had slowed down quite a bit and for the first few photos I posted in the past couple of months my photos were receiving above average likes… mostly from random people and not my followers. Now, I am receiving BELOW average… usually I receive around 20 likes but for the past two or three I have had… 7 – 15 likes.

Seeking attention or popularity is not what I am all about regarding Instagram… I just want to connect with other photographers but it seems that the algorithm is specifically designed to under-expose your posts to prompt you to post more content which would in turn might motivate users to open the app more often, thus increasing the probability that you will interact with their advertisers. Shady in my opinion, but effective because human nature is, if nothing else, quite predictable.

Aside from FaceBook’s disagreeable tactics in regard to Instagram, that app has also become a place where everything is a cookie-cutter copy of certain styles and content. I am tired of the buildings, food and fashion all under white-washed filters. To be fair, when this style was first gaining popularity (particularly with VSCO app users) I did give it a fair shake and it wasn’t for me… I know that some very much like that aesthetic. The intent of mentioning this style is not to poke fun at people’s preferences but rather to point out that there is more and more of the same sort of photos being published on Instagram and not the creative variety that was prevalent in the early days of the app.

Noticing the sameness has caused me to take a thoughtful look at my own Instagram grid and I think that perhaps my own photography could use a boost of creativity so I am making it my challenge this spring and summer to push my creative boundaries in regard to my photography and video editing along side regular blog posts – keep your eyes peeled for more content here soon!

Day #76 – A Photo A Day 2013

It’s late! I’m just now getting around to posting today’s pic, one that I snapped two weeks ago when I was roaming around San Francisco. (I miss my new home! Returning there in two days yay!)

San Francisco has no shortage of interesting things to look at and in turn, for me to photograph. 😉

The Holy Cow Mascot

The Holy Cow Mascot

This cow hangs above the door of The Holy Cow Nightclub – when I first moved to San Francisco, this cow was one of the first things that greeted me but then he was a metallic gold! I walked past here hoping to get a better pic than I did last time, but now he’s such a lovely shade of neon pink that I didn’t mind that the gold was gone. 🙂

I used Tangled FX and Photo FX to edit this photo.