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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!


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.

 

 

 


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.