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What A Difference A Day Makes! Odiaba & Joypolis FUN! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 12)

FWOOOOOOO! Today was AWESOME! I AM OVER THAT COLD and energetic AF! Back to my happy bouncy self, I was ready to take on the day and it’s a good thing that I was ready because the plan was to visit Odaiba and Joypolis!

The others wanted to leave a bit later than I did, and I was STARVING so I decided to take the half hour walk to Asakusa to get some ramen.

I walked past the Asahi building for the first time and saw the golden squiggly cloud thing? up close. Got a nice shot of the golden building and the reflection of the Tokyo Sky Tree that is nearby, too.

Look closely – you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree reflected in the black building’s windows.

 

The gold…. thing.

I had my heart set on Ichiran, which is not the greatest ramen – if you’re looking for something more “gourmet” or “complex”, this is not the ramen for you.

The sort of ramen that it is would be summed up as comfort food. It’s tasty. It’s hot. It’s noodles and gosh darnit I love me some noodles!

This particular location had table service as well as the usual counter service – I chose counter service because I tend toward being a hermit side anyway, especially if I am dining alone. It’s not that I hate people, but when I’m alone, I want to be…. alone!

It’s cute that they give you instructions at your “booth”. It’s basically a long counter with removable dividers between each seat – if you’re with someone, you can fold that divider in so you can see your friend.

In front of you is a wall, with a window at the bottom portion. There is a bamboo shade that get’s rolled down after your food is delivered to you – through that window. They will announce your order and slide your food to you, but all you see is someone’s hands and legs and then SWOOSH goes the shade and you have privacy once more.

Had to have the side soft boiled eggie, of course!

 

Delicious.

Ordered kae-dama, which is a noodle refill – a nice thing when you have more broth just going to waste. Here you can order a half or full kae-dama – half was just enough for me.

Here is a view of the whole booth – hither to fore, I’ve not been bold enough to step back and take a photo because there were others around on previous visits, but this time I went for it. Silly Boo.

Best dining option or best dining option? Eating out isn’t always about being social.

Best dining option, or best dining option? Eating out isn’t always about being social.

Right as I was finishing up my lunch, I received a text that the group was heading out soon, so rather than explore Asakusa I headed straight to the train station to spend a little more time on my own in Odiaba before they all arrived. I headed straight for the waterfront near the Statue of Liberty, since that was close to Joypolis and where they would be arriving. It was nice to sit in the salty air by Tokyo Bay and just relax for a while. I miss the ocean. I was really missing my tree friends and hiking back home – I was a bit homesick today, wanting my home comforts and my hikes in the woods. Not to say that I am not grateful to be here in Tokyo, because I most certainly am… a bit of homesickness is healthy and to be expected amongst the fun and adventure.

My feets and Tokyo Bay – in the background is the Rainbow Bridge and what you cannot see is the Tokyo Tower and also the building that I lived in during Spring/Summer 2015. Much reflection was had at this waters’ edge today.

Somewhere around a half hour to 45 minutes of quiet reflection by the bay was had, and then I met up with the group. They were hungry so we went to what amounted to a ramen food court at Aqua City – seriously awesome to have that much choice! I was only snack-y at that point so I had a few gyoza and called it good. They were delicious.

After lunch, we went to see the Unicorn Gundam at Diver City

Unicorn Gundam!

Then we wasted a little time in the mall as we were waiting for time to pass before 5 pm – Joypolis is discounted after 5 so we wanted to get the maximum value. Spent a little time at the Sanrio store:

Tihi!

 

Hello Kitty Gundam at the Sanrio store!

 

Adorable Paulina in an adorable hat

… and also a few minutes at Round One (no pics) before we went to Joypolis.

It’s discounted after 5pm, and discounted a further 300 Yen when you show your passport too – we were so excited to play!

There are three floors of fun. The first thing that we queued up for was the Halfpipe Tokyo. You strap in and stand on a board, two people per board. You are both facing opposite directions and the center of your board tips on an axis… as you swing in the half-pipe, you have to coordinate which way you rock your feet on the board in order to make your board spin as it swings in the halfpipe – it’s harder than it sounds to get both of you coordinated, since one of you has to rock forward and the other back, since you’re facing opposite directions. Communication is key!

Halfpipe Tokyo was a BLAST to ride!

Then we went on a roller coaster that is suspended above the first floor – I rode this one alone so the other 4 could ride together. It’s a rhythm game as well as a roller coaster… three buttons on the harness that goes over your shoulders and during the slow portions of the ride there are projection screens in front of you with circles scrolling to the corresponding buttons on your harness. You play against your fellow rollercoaster car-mates (if you have any) and your winning scores are displayed at the end of the ride… after you go through a series of twists and turns above the first floor! There is also an anime of sorts playing as you are challenged by the rhythm game. I have no idea what it was all about because I was paying attention to the rhythm of the music.

The Swedes riding the rhythm rollercoaster!

The lines for attractions were not very long at all, I suspect because it was a weekday – this was a very nice thing indeed.

One thing that I was most looking forward to was the Initial D 4 ride – you’re SITTING IN A REAL CAR and controlling the game with an actual steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and gear shift! This made my nerdy car racing dreams come true – it’s about as close as I will ever get to actually racing a real car, I am certain! XD

Yes, this is the car that I “drove” –

 

THIS WAS SO GREAT! Initial D! <3

More simulators that spin – this one was a race – two people per pod and again you had to coordinate to make it spin – this time it was a button on levers that worked sort of like tank control for directions that you drifted in a half pipe race course. That was really fun, but I’d say that the Transformers pod spinning thingie was more fun. (I don’t have a pic of that one)

These capsules SPUN – like A LOT

On the third floor was a bunch of interactive 4-d simulators and such, but we didn’t have time to experience them all. One in particular caught my eye… all because of a creepy doll:

Creepy doll is creepy… she lured me into an experience of terror.

I HAD to check this one out, and ended up going in alone… well, sort of. There were two Japanese teenage girls that went in ahead of me… The guide tells you the backstory of which I understood nothing, since I don’t speak/understand enough Japanese to catch the drift… you enter through a black curtain into a dark hall… there is a railing on your left side and you are admonished before entering to NOT let go of the railing, lest you stumble and fall… or be captured.

The hallway leads to a small table with a candle and some creepy looking objects… behind you in the hallway sounds begin to stir… the two girls and I all gasped at the same time and giggled together… then a louder noise made us all jump and suddenly the guide was there again, looking creepy and opening double doors for us into a dining hall that can only be described as… not the sort of place that you would want to gather for dinner.

There was a long table in the center: above you on either side was shelving set into the wall… a small railing in front of rows of dolls in kimono… similar in kind to the one pictured above. Soft light gently illuminated them, casting eerie shadows onto the ceiling.

In the center of the table sat a wooden statue, nestled into a circle of oddly shaped runes – the statue held a basket, presumably for an offering as it was facing what was at the end the room opposite the door from which we entered… a large life-size doll, with it’s insides exposed, sitting on a throne-like chair… collapsed, silent. Silk curtains billowed gently from windows un-seen… we were instructed to put on the headphones resting on the table in front of us. Of what happened next, I dare not speak… you must experience it for yourself.

I went on a couple more “rides” before Joypolis was closing for the day, loving what I had experienced and already eager to experience more! I hope that I can visit again while I am still in Tokyo


Snackventures With Paulina (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 13)

The Boys wanted to have their own adventure today. Paulina wasn’t feeling great after yesterday and I did not want her to spend the day alone, so I stayed with her.

She expressed the desire to have Okonomiyaki so it was decided that we should go to Monja Street near Tsukiji  – I liked that place that Chris took me to so much the other night, so we went there… but it was closed! Turns out that it was only open during dinner hours, and we were there shortly after lunchtime.

We roamed the street to try and find a restaurant that looked good – about half of them were closed, I’m assuming because it was after lunch and mid-week. This still left a good selection of places to eat monja or okonomiyaki… however, we got distracted by two melon pan bakeries so we stopped to purchase some… one was from a place that I had previously visited with Kyle in 2015 that I knew I loved, and one was called Tokyo Melon Pan, which I had not tried before.

I tried this back in 2015 and had to have another!

 

Tokyo Melon Pan – many varieties of melon pan there.

We saved our melon pans for later, in favor of finding our late lunch. Finally we settled on a place with an enthusiastic dude who asked us to come in – we chose to share a curry monja!

Curry Monja!

It was DELICIOUS and I’d definitely come back for food again! Part of the fun is cooking your own food but it was made even better by the guy who asked us to come in – he was very friendly and ended up talking with us about where we are from respectively and music – turns out that he really likes a Swedish band called Mando Diao! He was so enthusiastic and full of personality that we had to have our photo taken with him.

He reminded me quite a bit of Natsuki, Chris Broad’s friend and a frequent personality that appears in Chris Broad’s YouTube videos… awesome dude!

The monja was just enough to make us more hungry… but we saved our melon pan and opted to eat some cheap yakitori instead – again some food that I enjoyed with Kyle back in 2015 and wanted to try again.

Awesome Yakitori!

My memory of how good this yakitori is was spot on – very happy that we went here! Paulina seemed to enjoy it too.

We continued on our way… the ultimate destination being a place fairly nearby that serves takoyaki for a cheap price. On our way, we saw:

empty streets:


I felt the need for a selfie because my hair was sort of behaving. This is probably because the humidity was the lowest it’s been so far this trip:


The photo is blurry, and I am only just now noticing this as I’m writing this blog entry. Oops.

Police station was adorable – I’ve been meaning to snap a photo of this for the past three trips here:

Police station on Monja Street

On our way to takoyaki, we saw Tsukiji Hongwanji, a temple founded during the early Edo period in 1617. The original building burnt in the Great Fire of 1657. The current building was built by architect Chūta Itō – he was asked to build it in the style of Indian temple architecture and the results are stunning!


The temple was about to close for the day, so we only got to peek inside as they were shutting the doors to the shrine – perhaps I can fully explore the building another day.

Just up the block was the takoyaki place – Tsukiji Gindako – Gindako is actually a chain. I was hesitant to try them because I am not a fan of octopus, but Paulina talked me into trying hers… it was delicious!


Topped with a teriyaki type sauce, bonito flakes and a little mayo, it was great – the octopus was fresh, and was not chewy or super fishy tasting – it was just right! I’d eat it again.

Tummies full, we went home… I edited photos and a few hours later Paulina, Zack and I went for a walk and got CoCo Curry to go, ate at home and now I’m getting ready for bed. Paulina dubbed the day a “snackventure” and it was indeed!


Uh Oh, I’m Sick (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 11)

No fun adventures had. No plethora of photos. No good foods eaten.

I went to bed last night with a raging sore throat and hoped for the best, that I’d wake feeling better… but that did not happen.

Despite wanting to get out of bed and make the most of my day this cold was bad enough that it felt best to stay in bed and rest… I slept this day away, not waking until sometime after 5pm.

My throat is about half as sore as it was this morning, so there is improvement. Currently I am laying awake at 10 pm, editing photos because I am having trouble falling asleep… gotta get the photos ready to update to the past few days of blogs that I have already typed up and are waiting to be published.

Paulina was a sweetheart and walked over to Lawson to fetch a salad and a hot lemon and honey drink for me… that warmed my heart as well as soothed my throat.

Here is to hoping that I’ll be fully recovered on the morrow.

 


Tokyo Disney Sea – A Disney Day Is An Excellent Day! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 10)

DISNEY! DISNEY! DISNEY! We were SO excited to get up early this morning to meet Chris at the main gates of Tokyo Disney Sea… the guys decided to sleep in and meet us later in the day (those silly guys)… Paulina and I jumped on the train and we were on our way! Buuuuut our train was late and we missed our connection, so we ended up running a half hour later than planned.

BUT IT WAS OKAY BECAUSE WE WERE GOING TO DISNEYYYYYYY!

We arrived and Chris met us at the gates, tickets in hand so we did not have to wait in line – what a sweetheart! Into the park we zoomed, stopping of course to get a photo of Paulina at the big globe since it was not only her first time into Disney Sea, but ANY Disney park anywhere! A special moment that I am so glad that I got to share with her!

Paulina’s first time in a Disney park anywhere! She’s so happy!

 

A photograph of me photographing Paulina – photo courtesy of Chris Danford

There were cosplayers EVERYWHERE today… normally this is not a thing allowed in Disney parks but many people were dressed in costume (of all ages) so I’m thinking that it was one of those Halloween events that Disney puts on at this time of year.

6 Captain Jack Sparrows!

One of the things that I love about Disney parks is the attention to details… from the music everywhere you go to the tiny and oft missed details…. like on this small mosaic tile – Ariel!

There are small details everywhere you look, like on this small mosaic tile.

Disney really does it right.
There is beauty everywhere you look.
There are feasts for the eyes, ears, smell and taste. No detail seems to be overlooked, and this tradition continues at Tokyo Disney Sea.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

There were fun times for all! I think they MAY have loved the Indiana Jones ride.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Adorable merchandise everywhere…

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

… and happy friends too!

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

I wasn’t feeling well today at all and you can see it on my face – I think that I’m getting very sick, because as I write this my throat is hurting very badly – but I still had loads of fun with my friends!

A meal before Chris left us – he had to leave early, sadly.

Photo courtesy of Chris Danford

Beautiful places everywhere in the park. This is one of my favorite spots.

A short post tonight because I am feeling oh so badly… I really do not want to be getting sick! Ah well… to sum it up, the day was a good one and good memories were most certainly made.


Alone Time in Hamarikyu and Konatsu Lottery (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 9)

First things first… today was the day of the Halloween Konatsu lottery at FewMany in Loft, so back to Ginza I went… solo this time.

Leaving the house was delayed for a multitude of reasons, but it all turned out to be okay. There were only 20 people that had already arrived for the event and I was worried that I would not get a ticket because at that time, I didn’t realize that it was a lottery system and assumed that each number was drawn in order.

By 1pm, a quick head count told me that there were 120 of us gathered there and I was the only foreigner… I was most definitely not blending into the crowd with my tall stature and curly blonde highlighted hair. I wanted to make myself smaller and invisible because I felt very out of place at first, but after a bit I didn’t feel so odd because people were very friendly and of all ages too! People my age, seniors and even little children with their parents were there, and from all walks of life it seemed, too.

I was handed a number and was worried that I would not know what to do since I don’t read Kanji! (yet!)

My Lottery Number – it turned out that the message below simply says “Ginza Loft” HAHAHA!

Instructions were called out in Japanese – my cursory knowledge of conversational Japanese plus context helped me to mostly understand what would be happening and watching others when their numbers were called most definitely helped.

One person called, then two, three… four. There went my chances at receiving one of the limited Sugar Skull painted negora! That was sad but I still hoped that my number would be called for one of the Halloween pieces… I clutched my precious number 28 printed paper with nervous excitement… another called, then two more and suddenly the 8th number was called – “番号28” Ecstatically I waved my paper in the air and those closest to me gave a cheer and gave me shoulder pats of congratulation – I thanked them heartily and moved forward to claim my prizes, er chance to purchase things!

The amount of figures available was rather low, so I am SO thankful that my number was drawn! Out of the three available, I chose these two, which fit into my budget:

These two special Halloween edtion Negora from Konatsu – hand painted by the artist herself!

This photo was obviously not taken in Ginza Loft, but at a garden that I walked to afterward…

I needed some time to refresh myself today, and I felt that some time alone in one of my favorite spots in Tokyo would do the trick so I settled on walking to Hamarikyu Gardens which is right on the Sumida River and close to Tokyo Bay.

Tunes in my ears and happiness in my heart, my feet started toward the garden and along the way I was surprised to come upon the Nakajin Capsule Tower! I had no idea that it was so close to Hamarikyu and if I had known how close I had been so many times before on previous visits, I most certainly would have stopped there before!

The day was hazy but I still managed to get a decent photo:

Randomly found the Nakajin Capsule Tower!

Photographing this building has been on my bucket list for many years and it was on my definite list of things to see on this trip so to find it by chance was very satisfying indeed!

A little history of the building… Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa as a mixed-use building for both residential and office space… I’ve linked to both the architect and the page for the tower so that you can read more in-depth at your leisure.. apparently you can rent out some of the apartments to stay in but the list is long…. adding this to my long list of things that I would like to experience in life!

Close by were the gardens that I love so much… it was a haven for me on previous visits, a place for me to be near nature and recharge my spirit and today was no exception. This trip is so much more than hanging out with friends, photographing adventures and (in two weeks) attending language school. It’s finding my own self again and rediscovering what I need in life to feel whole, a task that has been in the background for far too long for me. Having days or moments of solitude are important to me, and days like today give me opportunity to turn inward and reflect in positive ways.

There are portions of the gardens that are open fields and each season they are planted with a new flowering plant… right now Cosmos are planted – the colors of Autumn are so beautiful and when the leaves begin to change I will visit again to capture that beauty as well.

Autumn Fields of Hamarikyu

This place is so special… around every corner is a new surprise and beautiful scene. There are moments that it is difficult to remember that you are in the middle of a big city because the garden plants and trees seem so dense and it’s a bit more quiet there.


The contrasts between an ancient garden and modern skyscrapers are one of my favorite things about this garden – even in the middle of the concrete jungle you can find repose.

Duck Blind on the lake – old hunting grounds

 

The Sumida river and boat lock that leads to Tokyo Bay and Odiaba.

After much strolling, photographing and long periods of sitting quietly, it was time to have a photo session with my Konatsu Halloween Shibara (Shiba/Kaiju) and Negora (Cat/Kaiju)!

Oooooo look out for that scary Negora! She’s gonna getcha!

 

Shibara looking stunning in Autumn colors!

I took quite a while to get just the right shots of these figures and then it was time to meet up with Chris for dindin!

We settled on going to Monja Street near the Tsukiji Market… not for monja though… we craved Okonomiyaki!

“Original Generation Monjayaki” is what Google translate says is the name of this restaurant is. XD

Chris had been here before on a previous visit and said that he liked it quite a bit, so I was eager to try… I was not disappointed! Every bit as good as Okonomiyaki that we had in Osaka last winter – so full of flavor and not too heavy, considering what the food was.

After our delicious dinner, Chris suggested that we get some cake dessert at a place in Ginza – he said that he had been to another location and enjoyed the desserts there… the name of that restaurant was Harbs, which tickled me quite a bit…. I suggested that instead of calling it “carbs” which would automatically imply some unhealthy food they dropped the “C” and inserted an “H” to stand for “Healthy Carbs” – sound logic yes? Of course yes! XD

Dessert was tasty but uuuugh a little too sweet on one of them. We had some sort of roasted chestnut pie which I thought was quite good and obviously made well, but way too sweet. The other selection was a Pear Tart, which was amazing and more to my taste… I might already have a bias because pears are one of my very favorite fruits.

Chestnut Pie in the foreground and Pear Tart in the background – at Harbs!

After the dessert we were a bit too full for our liking, and both of us were getting quite sleepy so we departed with happy hearts and full bellies. Here I am at home now, tired but unable to sleep and it’s almost midnight here – uh oh… I may have ingested too much sugar! (It’s going to be a long night, methinks!)


Livin’ The Life in Ginza… or at least pretending to! (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 8)

Four days ago I read that one of my favorite soft vinyl toy artists had a show at the FewMany shop in Loft – on the 6th floor and I hoped that it was still active.

It was with these hopes that I arrived in Ginza with Paulina at my side, and these hopes were crushed when I walked up to find that a new art exhibit had taken it’s place. I did have a consolation, however, because they had a nice selection of VAG gasha machines that I was very happy to find!

I dashed to the cashier and got change, dashed back to the machines and made my selections!

VAG (Vinyl Artist Gacha) Machine at the FewMany exhibit at Loft Ginza – Morris is “The Cat With Antlers” and I love him.

Konatsu Sea Otters!

I ended up with one new Morris, a duplicate Morris, two Konatsu special run sea otters (one of which I gave to a special friend) and one of those baby tart things that creep me out, but I have to get because I do love creepy things.

I got a new color Morris and another creepy baby tart – I don’t know the name of the artist or the piece, but I’ll find out!

 

I found an ICHI figure!!! I’m only newly familiar with this artist and I hope to see more!

Paulina and I decided to roam around, so we headed to the main street where all of the upscale stores are… we contented ourselves with taking photos of the buildings and not actually shopping haha! So that I am not posting a bunch of boring photos of buildings, here are just two:

Bulgari

Louis Vuitton

I made a friend while roaming around in Ginza – why does this Daruma have a mustache? We may never know, but he’s adorable regardless.

 

Snuggling up to one of the most unusual darumas that I’ve seen.

 

I LOVE THIS DARUMA!

Whilst roaming around we made plans to meet up with Chris for dinner and he also suggested that we go to the Ginza Six observatory… I am very glad that he did because that place was fantastic!

The views were awesome…

Paulina and I at Ginza Six looking at the Tokyo Skyline and Tokyo Tower


This rooftop was so nice – grass, trees and plants everywhere, water features and plenty of opportunities for photographs and selfies too.

Chris creepin’ in the trees to get a good shot of two Japanese girls taking photos of each other.

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

– photo credit to Chris Danford

 

Oh hey, a photo of me that I actually like! I am totally jealous of Portrait Mode on new iPhones.

Oh, I should post a few photos that I took:





After a long while taking in the beautiful views, we moved on to dinner. Since I was craving noodles, Chris suggested that we go to a place that specializes in Udon dishes that happened to be nearby… Tsuru Ton Tan Udon. I was excited to try a place that had udon as their focus, since I’ve never had Udon outside of pre-packaged meals or mediocre fast food.

This place was INCREDIBLE! Not only was the view great but the food was affordable and definitely high-end… I would expect the prices to be double for food of this quality back in the States.

I don’t remember what Chris and Paulina got, but mine was warm udon with mountain potato (it’s stringy goodness!) and a fresh eggie. – photo credit to Chris Danford




After dinner a sleepy Chris bid us a good night… Paulina and I continued on to UNIQLO to look for presents and Disney shirts, respectively.

After the partially successful shopping side quest we decided to go home… on our way to the station we heard the sound of some very hot cars coming down the street, and they stopped half a block in the opposite direction but needless to say we HAD to go see these awesome cars and I was blown away by two gorgeous Lamborghinis!

OMG THIS CAR! What a beautiful night in Ginza!


Thus ended our day in Ginza on what was definitely a high note! We took our tired feet back toward the train station and saw many a salary man also doing the same (and a few that were possibly drunk from post-work dinner and drinks!)

Happy smiling Salary Men: Two of the salary men were helping another that was a little drunk… and struggling to get down the street.


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!


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!