Mar 31, 2012

Kansai Trip, part 3

Didn't get around to finishing this post as fast as the others, but here it is now!

Tuesday was my last full day in Kansai.  We met up with J's friend who we were supposed to meet up with on Sunday.  We went and had some kaiten-zushi (conveyer belt sushi) for lunch.  The main thing Himeji is known for is Himeji Castle, but since it's under construction it was closed and hidden from view by the huge box things they construct around buildings here that are under construction.  There was a big picture of the castle on the front of the box, i guess so you could get a little taste of what it looks like.  Anyway, the point is that Himeji Castle was out of the question, so instead we went to this really nice Japanese garden that was right next to castle instead, and got lots of really pretty pictures. :)





Yaaaaay, gardens!
I'm gonna wring your neck!
Pretty blossoms~
A very nice garden, we didn't even get to see all of it.  We went and met up with one of J's coworkers, and then the four of us headed to some small-ish mountain nearby.  It was really pretty cool, at the top there was this huge play castle, so we goofed off and explored.

F*** you castle!
A monument up on the mountain
J's friend then drove us to this really awesome little cafe called Loft.  From the outside it doesn't look like much, but then you walk in and the atmosphere is amazing!  Not to mention the decor and the whole set-up.  The food and drinks were also definitely worth going for as well.  Glad to have someone in-the-know to bring us to that awesome little place.  :D

Stepping inside- gotta really watch your step!
Saying 'ello to the little fishes in the entrance
Loft-seating
View from our table
Looking down, more fishies swimming about
Oops, didn't mean to leave J out of the picture.. D:
A very very delicious maple milk tea~
Some fresh spring rolls
J's coworker was pretty beat, so we took him home, and the three of us remaining decided to go get a bunch of snacks and rent a movie.  Ended up watching The Magic Hour, which was a bit of a mind-trip, but still entertaining.  To be honest i'm not too big on Japanese films but this one was still enjoyable.  

That was my last day, the next day i had to get up early to catch the first of 7 trains home.  Like i mentioned before i had the Youth 18 Ticket, which meant i couldn't take any shinkansen or special express trains, all local trains.  First train left just before 9am, and i finally got home to my station just before 8pm.  It really wasn't too bad, except for hauling my luggage from train to train.  Having a rolling suitcase would've made the trip a lot easier.
Thinking about taking a trip back to Kansai during Golden Week, but we'll see.  Apparently traveling during Golden Week is expensive and a bit of a pain, but i feel like it'd be a waste to not do anything fun on my few days off!

In other news, i now have a new roomie!  One of my friends from UW who just graduated is going to be working with me at the daycare.  She got here just a few days ago, and having company during the night is pretty nice. :)  Off to a year-end nomikai drinking party with everyone from work tonight, as April marks the start of a new business year.  Woo!

Mar 25, 2012

Kansai Trip, part 2

Sunday, J headed back to Himeji after we checked out of the guesthouse.  I meandered around the Kyoto Station for a while before i met up with my friend Tosh.  We found a place to eat, had lunch and chatted before he drove me out to Himeji to meet up with J again.  It was quite a long drive and by the time we got there we were ready for dinner, lol.  J's friend was supposed to come too but he couldn't make it so it was just the three of us.  We went to an Asian restaurant, i got spinach and cheese curry with naan, J got bibimbap, and Tosh got some pho.  After that we went to an arcade to play around.  I decided to try one of the claw machines because i wanted to get this little plush Stitch phone charm.  Came soooo close on two of my three tries.  First time i nabbed him but he slipped through, then the second time i was sure i had him, but as the claw was lowering to drop the Stitch into the little prize chute, the claw shook and Stitch went flying out to land back in the pile.  We were all like, Whaa did that just happen?!  Damn waste of money.. :p

My snack while waiting for Tosh- special Uji tea melon bread!
Had Uji green tea filling, i think there were red beans in there too.  Yum :)
The guys playing the rhythm game
 It was getting late so Tosh dropped us off at J's place before he drove himself home.  I think J and i watched Youtube videos then started watching Mrs. Doubtfire dubbed in Japanese before i passed out.

Monday afternoon we headed in to Osaka to meet another of our UW buddies, T-chan!  T-chan said he really missed Mexican food since he hadn't had any since he left Seattle, so that's what we decided to do first- get some Mexican food!  The place he had originally looked up was closed for another few hours still, and J was famished since he didn't eat anything for breakfast, so we decided to hunt down the same place i had eaten at before- El Pancho-  as J had eaten there before as well and we both agreed it was pretty good.  J described it as "a Mexican cave", which sounds about right.   
As soon as we walked into the restaurant, T-chan remarked "So many foreigners!"  To which i replied, "That's because we all miss Mexican food!"  Which is true.  I think most foreigners here will admit that one of the things they miss is Mexican food.  Good Mexican food.  And this place is pretty damn good, if expensive.  We were there before dinner, meaning Happy Hour!  Drinks were all 1/2 off, and i got a huge lunch set for pretty cheap.

SO HAPPY for Mexican food!  Though it might not seem like T-chan is too into it
Ghostly J and our happy hour drinks!  The guys got Coronas but i opted for a margarita.  It was little, but powerful...
My huge "Vegetarian & Healthy" lunch set!  About $10 for soup, salad, and plate full of veggies, refried beans, guacamole, tortillas, quesadillas, chips...  Mmmmmm
We walked around some more after we ate, played around in an arcade, then looked around in a Tower Records for a long while before we called it a night.

Whew!  This is getting pretty long and i still have another whole day to post about, so i'll end it here and try to finish up this trip series in one more post.

Mar 24, 2012

Kansai Trip, part 1

So my trip began the Friday before, on the 16th.  Had work that day but brought my duffel bag and backpack to work so i could go straight to catch the highway bus after we clocked out.  Would've preferred to take the Willer Bus down, but i would've had to catch it at Shinjuku station and i didn't think i'd have time to catch a train out there right after work so i opted for a bus that left from my station.  Definitely not as comfortable as the Willer buses, hardly slept and would wake up at least every hour with a terrible crick in my neck.

Sign at Uji Station
Finally arrived in Uji, Kyoto around 6:30am Saturday morning and then hopped a train to take me to Kyoto Station.  From Kyoto Station i had to take a bus to the guesthouse (same guesthouse S and i stayed at last year!).  There were a couple other foreigners on the bus carrying luggage and they ended up getting off at the same stop as me.  Wondered if they would be staying at the same place, but as i tend to walk really fast i left them in my dust.  About 10 minutes after i had arrived at the guesthouse though, in they walked as well!  I don't really walk that fast, i'm pretty sure they had a little trouble finding the place..
We both sat at the table in the kitchen area and chatted.  There were a lot more people staying there than last time, i was surprised.  But again, i guess it's not too surprising as last year was just after the earthquake and, despite being at the other end of the country away from all the tsunami and nuclear happenings, tourists just weren't keen on coming here.  Anywho, we chatted also with a few of the people that came into the kitchen for breakfast before i decided i really needed a shower and we all parted ways for the day.

After i was cleaned i decided i wanted to go visit my favourite temple- Kiyomizu.  I didn't go past the part where you have to pay, but instead i enjoyed looking in the shops all along the street leading up to the temple, and around the temple grounds that everyone had access to.

You can see Kyoto Tower off in the distance

Was lured into a souvenir shop with a sample of some hot green tea and also got to enjoy tons of samples they had out of different Japanese sweets.  Sat down next to this guy to enjoy them.
Another cool little street around Kiyomizu
I found Totoro waiting at the bus stop!
Some trees starting to bloom
After i looked at all that i could look at, i headed over to the shopping district in Kawaramachi.  As i was wandering the streets my ear caught wind of some festive music, and not just any music- it was an Irish jig!  Surprise surprise, I had discovered a little St. Patrick's Day festival in the middle of Kyoto.  :D  The song that starts off in the video you might recognize if you've seen a certain well-known movie about a certain well-known ship that sinks (may or may not have struck an iceberg).  Sadly i had just caught the tail end of the festival, but i did get my Bailey's fix and looked at the tables of stuff they had set up before they started packing everything away.  Was glad to get a little St. Patty's celebration in for the day as i thought i'd have to go yet another year without getting into the spirit.  St. Patty's has always been big for me, what with considering my very Irish heritage and all..


(Apparently any country is willing to adopt a holiday that promotes drinking and shenanigans)

Went back to the guesthouse in the evening to drop off the gifts that i'd bought and freshen up and relax a bit before heading back to Kyoto Station to meet up with J, who was coming all the way from Himeji after a full day of work!  We stopped by the guesthouse for him to drop off his stuff before walking to an izakaya to meet our awesome little K-chan!  :D  We ate and drank and talked for a few hours, and gave K-chan an early birthday present before he had to go and get some sleep so he could be up for work in the morning.  Sad these things never seem to last long enough.  :(

Mah boys!  :D

Yum yum brownie dessert
Making K-chan look pretty with the flower from my drink
Yeah, the drink that the above flower came from?  Pretty fantastic.  But only in looks.  The taste was just so-so.

video


So that was my first day.  Pretty hectic and exhausting, and very long, but definitely very worth it.

Mar 21, 2012

ただいま~

Just got back Tokyo after a little 4-day trip to Kansai for the weekend.  Tuesday the 20th was a holiday (春分の日, the Spring Equinox) so i asked for the day before and the day after off of work as well.  Though all of today was spent in transit from Himeji to Tokyo- 11 hours on trains, with 7 transfers!  My shoulders are shot from hauling my luggage around.  I think my next investment will be in a little travel suitcase with wheels.  My duffel bag is old as is tearing on the side around where the strap is.  I can see that being disastrous, like the time when my suitcase that i came to Japan with lost its handle when i was moving from Kansai to Tokyo..

Anyway.  I suffered though an 11-hour trip back home today because i went the route of the 青春18切符 (Seishun Juuhachi Kippu), the "Youth 18 Ticket".  It was only 11,500yen (about $115) and it's good for 5 full days (doesn't have to be consecutive days but has to be within the time-frame the tickets are good for)  on regular JR trains.  You can get them at any major station, just go to the みどりの窓口 (Green Ticket Window?) and you can buy them during the sales period from the automated machines if you're paying with cash.  It pretty much paid for itself on the trip back from Himeji, and plus i used it a couple days while in Kansai so it was definitely worth it.  Still have a couple of days left to use so i can use it on some trips around Tokyo this weekend or next. :)

Going back to Kansai really helped my spirits and it made me realize how much i really want to be there instead.  Tokyo's a nice place and there's lots to do, but it turns out i really am a Kansai-person.  Although i like my job here now and love my babies, i still wish i had been able to find a job there in the first place.  After all that happened in the last month i was left just feeling a little... blah.  But after arriving in Kyoto the first day, despite a pretty sleepless night on the highway bus, i felt really refreshed and uplifted being back.  Would like to go back again at the end of next month during Golden Week, hopefully!  

Will try to get a post up tomorrow about the trip.  Will probably be quite long and full of pictures!

Mar 12, 2012

This Is A Fashion Post, A Post Full Of Fashion

Had a bit of a shopping spree on Saturday.  I went back to the same recycle shop as before, i seriously love that place.  Spent about 2 hours in there though because i'm such an indecisive shopper and i almost always end up with buyer's remorse- either i regret buying something, or regret not buying something.  Didn't happen this time though, go me!  Here's my haul:

New bag!  I only ever own one bag at a time.. i think it's too much of a hassle to have multiples and have to load stuff from purse to purse.  My trouble is that i have a hard time finding one the perfect size- it's either too big or too small.  Last one was too small and all my stuff was wedged in there and i'd go to pull out one thing and something else would fly out with it.  This new one is a little too big, but i prefer that.  I can at least fit a little umbrella or water bottle in there if need be.  And i liked it because it kind of looks like those Lesportsac bags.
My mom says they look like Girl Scout badges.  I like the chihuahua one.  ;)

Was trying to steer away from T-shirts since that's pretty much all i had in my wardrobe before, but this one was too cute.
I love the pattern.  :D
Tank top!  I like it because it's mostly pretty plain and simple, and it's long.  I have a longish torso so shirts often end up looking too short for me.

A light sweater (would you call this a sweater, actually?  I don't know..)
..but i loved the little stars on it! 
Wasn't too big on the bow on the front, but i like tank tops and i love stripes. :)
Denim skirt to wear over leggings 
New jeans!  One of my 5 pairs finally got a hole in the knee.. i think they were like, 6 years old but they were my most comfortable and best-fitting pair.  It's hard for me to find jeans that fit because my legs are not only long but very twiggy, so even if i find pants that are long enough they usually end up all loose and baggy around the thighs/butt.  I was worried about finding pants long enough (and actually with wide enough hips too, considering the petiteness of many girls here), but surprisingly these fit perfectly and are really comfortable.

Also needed some accessories*.  Three bracelets and...
...a necklace.
 So, the grand total for everything?  ¥5400, or the equivalent of $54USD (i'm not taking into account the exchange rate because i didn't have to exchange any money, lol)!  It actually could've been almost half that, but the grey sweater with the stars that i couldn't pass up on was ¥2000, but everything else was only ¥500 a piece, the necklace was ¥300 and the three bracelets together were ¥100.  Bargain shopping ftw.  Isn't it fashion?



*Anybody else play Barbie Magic Hairstyler and hear Barbie's voice say "Accessory Salon!" whenever you read the word "accessory"?  Just me?  ...I love that game.

Mar 11, 2012

Three-Eleven

Everyone's posting their "Remember 3-11" stories.  I don't really have much of one, as i was just watching it from afar, but you can read my thoughts at the time.  I don't really know what else i can say.  There are still so many towns in ruins and displaced people living in shelters, but things are progressing little by little.
I found the Japan Quake Map, which has recorded earthquakes that have happened since March 11th.  If you go to that link it will start showing a visual of the earthquakes as they happened.  It gives me chills.  You can tell without a doubt which one The Big One is.
I'm not sure how i would've reacted if i were here then.  Natural disasters have never seemed to faze me much, and having never dealt with earthquakes before i came to Japan i've never really had a reason to fear them.  Even now, though i feel them multiple times a week and have felt some pretty decent-sized ones, i usually just get an adrenaline rush and watch the things around me shake, and then usually check the Japan Meteorological Agency's earthquake information to see where it occurred and what magnitude it was.  Even when they happen in the mornings while i'm sleeping, if i wake up i just kind of lie there while being rocked back and forth before rolling over to go back to sleep.  Still, trying to imagine one of that magnitude is, to me just... unimaginable, and my thoughts are with those still deeply affected by the loss that the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear scare that happened just last year.

Mar 10, 2012

Old Friends and Food

I was going to make mention of my 100th post on this blog, but it ended up being about Diesel.  Which is fine, he deserves mention on my 100th post.  But now, on to the 101st.

Last Sunday i got to meet up with an old friend of mine from high school.  She was here just traveling, so we met up in Shibuya to spend the day together.  We first stopped in to a Doutor Coffee shop because they were advertising their sakura latte.  Ash got the sakura one but i just went with my usual matcha latte.  Did have a taste of it though and it really just tasted like cherries.  Granted, i've never eaten an actual cherry blossom so they really could just taste like cherries..  I think once they start blooming this spring i'll go and eat a blossom and probably get weird looks from people.
After chatting over our lattes we then went to Loft.  I love that store and seriously i go to the one by my place nearly every single weekend.  We spent a good long while in there where she showed me their selection of toothpastes, since she wanted to get some to take back as souvenirs.  There were sooooo many flavours it was crazy.  Everything from regular mint, to things like rose and apple and even curry (here's a list of them all!).  I'm not daring enough to try something like curry-flavoured toothpaste but i did want to try one.  I settled on pumpkin pudding because i like everything pumpkin.


The verdict?  It's not bad.  I was put off a little at first because of the color (same color as our dogs' toothpaste), but it wasn't bad.  I hadn't used anything but mint toothpaste since i was a kid, so it was a bit different.  I still prefer mint.  Or rather, the 100-yen salty baking soda mint flavoured stuff i've been using since i ran out of the stuff i brought here with me.
After that we popped into the Muji store, since i love that place too and being in there makes me wish i had my own house to furnish.  Kinda like how Ikea does as well.  By then we were pretty hungry so we went to one of those 270-yen izakaya, where almost all the food and drinks are 270 yen.  We stuffed ourselves and after we left we walked past the jail-themed restaurant The Lock-Up and i kicked myself for not thinking of going there instead.  Went there once on my trip here in 2007 and it was lots of fun.
The night was still fun though regardless.  We walked around some more looking in different shops before going our separate ways.


Now, i thought i'd post some pictures of some of the snacks i've eaten recently.  Nothing weird or too exotic really, but maybe someone will find it interesting.  I dunno.

Gouda cheese rice crackers i bought at the Muji store.  They were good, tasted similar to white cheddar Cheez-Its

Peach yogurt cereal.  A seasonal flavour of the brand of cereal i always buy.  In the summer they had melon-flavour, which i wrote about, and strawberry not that long ago.

Tiramisu from the Sunkus down the street from me.

Probably one of the best tiramisu i've ever eaten.  It was amazing, with no overpowering coffee flavour.

Looks better than it tastes.  Coulda gone without getting this one during my sweet binge at Sunkus.

What was this called?  Something like Sweet Strawberry Sand(wich).  This one was pretty good.  Reminiscent of a powdered jelly-filled donut.


Now, those last four things were consumed over the span of 2 days, which totally goes against my New Year's Resolution of cutting back on sugar.  It's been a rough month or so though and i needed my sweets.  But aside from this binge i've been doing really good actually about not eating sugary things.  Really the only added sugar i've been eating since i made my resolution has been a tablespoon or two of honey in my morning oatmeal, and a bowl of cereal at night for my dessert.  Not bad for a sugar fiend like me.

Now last thing- Doritos.  They do carry regular Nacho Cheese but i haven't found Cool Ranch.  These however i got today at the 100-yen Lawson.  It's butter soy sauce flavour.  Not bad, but i still prefer my regular Amurrican ones!
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