Tokyo Memories Day 10: Tebori Handpoke Tattoo with Horimitsu

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 10, December 23rd, 2019

My tattoo with Horimitsu started at 12, and was at his studio in Ikebukuro within walking distance from Sunshine City. As such, I left at 11:30 to give myself plenty of time- even still, when I reached the tagged spot on Google Maps, I couldn’t tell which building was Horimitsu’s. I found a wooden structure with some signage and a doorbell, but Google Translate didn’t really tell me what it said. I thought, well, this is mainly a residential area, so maybe it’s Horimitsu, or a business that can direct me to him.

Street-view from a skywalk

I rang the buzzer and waited. A hunched, tired looking old man answered, standing in his dark entrance, and I knew right away this was not Horimitsu’s studio… I blurted “Horimitsu desu…ka…?” and the man sort of smiled and said “ah… Horimitsu…san…” and beckoned me to follow him. He hobbled along with his back bent at an improbable angle, heaving himself up the couple of steps to the building across the street. Tucked there in a corner was a door covered in cool stickers. He told me to knock. Soon, Horimitsu answered amidst my desperate apologies to this kind old man: “Doumo sumimasen! Gomennasai! Totemo gomennasai, doumo arigatou gozaimashita!!!” The man told Horimitsu something, probably like “she knocked on my door so I took her to you” with a bit of a smile (likely translation? “another damn gaijin mistook my business for your tattoo place, jeez…!”)

After apologies from Horimitsu, I entered, and he bid me sit on his couch, where a coffee table sat covered in tattoo magazines, including the one featuring John Mayer on the cover with his Horimitsu tattoo on full display.

Master Horimitsu was quiet, charming, and knew quite a lot of English. We decided on the placement of my tattoo and he began with the linework, which is done with a regular tattoo gun. Right before starting he said “Okay… starting… prepare… my tattoo hurts more than other tattoos!” ok thanks, got it… ^-^’

His linework was indeed thick and a tad painful at times, but I think I did okay aside from a few grimaces. As he worked on my arm, we listened to Christmas jazz & chill music, and I gazed up at his impressive wall of stencils from previous tattoo designs.

After a while, maybe 45 minutes, he said “Hai. Tebori ne” and started tebori (hand-poke) method just like that. Amazingly, it didn’t hurt any more than any other tattoo I’ve had! I could hear the needles puncturing my skin again and again, but it wasn’t bad.

We chatted on and off through my tattoo- about Japanesed tattoo laws and the current court cases, Japanese food, Canadian weather and seasons, our pets, Dustin, teaching English in Japan, onsen etiquette, all kinds of things. He is a very accomplished and impressive man, but also very humble and kind. ❤ I gave him some maple candies, a card, and a magnet with my designs, and he thanked me.

The tattoo was over in just 2 hours! It really does capture the energy and cuteness of Tegan!

You can see my arm was breaking out- I think I was a bit too liberal with applying the creams to my other new tattoos >.<

I said my goodbyes to Horimitsu, and as I was standing outsite setting up my GPS directions he dashed out of the studio, patted my shoulder and said farewell once more, and ran across the road towards the old man’s house/business. I feel certain he was giving the man a gift (he had something in his hand) in apology for my earlier intrusion!

I walked a bit to the Ikebukuro Ichiran Ramen, where I enjoyed another bowl of delicious tonkatsu (no waiting in line this time!) and laughed at the bathroom that had something like 12 toilet paper dispensers mounted to the wall- you won’t run out of TP at this Ichiran!

I took a couple of detours before heading back to the hotel, spending a considerable amount of time browsing at Animate, where I bought some vampire comics and BluRay musicals. I also stopped at the Gakuen cafe for a drink or two and met a couple of nice girls from New Zealand, and chatted for a bit.

Later on, back at the hotel, Dusty and I enjoyed a great assortment at the buffet on the basement floor. The dinner spread was elegant and fancy, but my favorite was the dessert- cakes, squares, and soft-serve ice cream, plus a chocolate fountain!

Now I am doing laundry on the 6th floor and tidying up our hotel room -_- zzZZZzzzZZZ

Tokyo Memories Day 8: Seeing Friends, Matcha Cafe, Anpan, and Vampire Rose

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 8, December 21st, 2019

Another busy day! My morning got off to a rough start, as I was going to explore Ikebukuro a bit more but I suddenly developed severe heartburn while browsing doujinshi at Mandarake. I guess eating pudding and Christmas Cake for breakfast wasn’t the best idea?…

So, I booked it to a pharmacy, feeling worse by the minute, and managed to ask for heartburn medication. After taking it back to the hotel and using it, I curled up in a pathetic, sweaty heap on my bed.

It worked though! After healing up for a couple of hours, I headed out to Kagurazaka to meet up with Maika and Marie at Saryo Matcha Cafe. I got a bit lost (when don’t I?) but eventually found them, and after waiting outside for about 30 minutes (popular spot!) we got in.

We had so much to talk about- it was so nice to see them again. We got on really well (though Maikasan was terrified of my new spider tattoo!) and I got a delicious matcha latte, as well as my first ever anmitsu (AMAZING!). Maika gave me some chopstick rests that she made herself with leftover pottery clay ❤ so nice!

Marie and I, in awe of the lovely anmitsu ❤

Maika had to go, so Marie and I left for Ginza to meet up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe (Dustin didn’t feel up to dealing with vampires tonight…). Marie told me that she and Ritsu got married! I had no idea! AND they are expecting a baby! Wow! ❤

We had some time before our late reservation (8:30) so we went to Kimuraya and got anpan buns- I just ate mine now and HOLY! THEY ARE SO GOOD!

We met up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe, where we had various dishes to share, like roast beef, pizza, potato fries, and salad, but of course each of them had creepy names like “slave feed”, “sacrificial meat”, etc. It’s the Vampire cafe, after all!

Cutting Rose’s Love Letter Pizza.

I finally gave Rose-Sama the folder full of artwork I made for him. I was so nervous and stammered and looked down, but Marie said that he smiled and complimented my art, and proposed we take a picture together again. This time we took our picture in the hallway with the red blood cells on the floor casting an eerie glow up at us.

Earl Rose has me in his spell…

Such a fun night. It can be lonely as a foreigner in Japan, so it was very nice to meet up with some friends ❤

I came back to the hotel so late that I was locked out of the Sunshine City building and had to ask a security guard how I could get into my hotel (I had to walk all the way around the complex to access a separate hotel entrance o.o)

Tokyo Memories Day 5: Pigs and Kawaii Monster Girls!

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 5, December 18th, 2019

Today I remember Jonghyun, with love.

Today we got up extra early because I had made us an ultra-important reservation: the MiPig cafe in Harajuku!

We got to Harajuku early and first bought some eye wash and drops- my eye has been red and irritated the last couple days 😦 Then we sat at the tiny cafe at the entrance to Meiji Jingu (beautiful) and I got a tasty ice cream.

The MiPig cafe was even better than I’d hoped for. We booked an enclosed space, and the staff brought us 2 little pigs for our 1hr visit. Both of them almost immediately climbed into my lap and snuggled right into me! They were so sweet, gentle, and snuggly. Their names were Stella and Maple. We got a couple of tiny cakes and cafe au lait, but the pigs were truly the star of the show, dozing off in my lap. Amazing.

After MiPig, we high-tailed it to the Kawaii Monster Cafe, where we enjoyed wonka-esque colourful decor, fanciful foods, and a Kawaii Monster Girl performance. I got a picture with the girls afterward and they complimented my gel nails! ❤

I finished my Christmas shopping for Mom and Chy in Sunshine City, and then visited my old haunt the BL Gakuen Cafe where I met a kind British girl named Jasmine. We chatted for quite a while!

Tokyo Memories- Day 4: Akiba Fun and Meeting Pikachu!

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 4, December 17th, 2019

Today Dusty and I wandered Akihabara together, stopping at Maach Ecute (fancy o.o), Mandarake, Animate, & Kotobukiya. I had some really tasty taiyaki (bacon & egg, and premium cream) from Kurikoan, and later on we went to Akiba Ichi’s UDX Resturaunt area where we had delicious conveyor- belt sushi at Aburi.

I had a reservation for the two of us for the Pokemon Cafe near Tokyo Station, but Dustin was walked-out, so I went on a solo journey to Pokemon Center DX.

Farewell Dustin my love!
We could see eachother across the station platform XD

I bought some xmas gifts for Dustin and also the softest, fluffiest Pikachu stuffie! The cashier told me “please take care of Pikachu” in English.

Pika pika!

At 6, I entered the cafe, which is ADORABLE- cute Pokemon displays everywhere, themed food, and best of all a BIG PIKACHU WHO WALKS AROUND AND POSES AND DANCES AND SHAKES HANDS omg it was so cute when his ears wiggled!

Pikachu… what have I done? I’m so sorry T-T
When I shook Pikachu’s hand. Omg starstruck XD

As I was leaving the Pokemon cafe and waiting in line to pay, I noticed a cute little boy playing with my bag strap. He was looking at me and smiling. When I got back to the hotel I realized he had put his collectable Pokemon Cafe coaster in my bag! 😮

Each day I think my feet couldn’t hurt more, but then I crawl back to the hotel and night and prove myself wrong. Owwww… so much walking >.<

And so, I must now rest.

Tokyo Memories- Day 3: Two Tattoos, MewTwo, And Nintendo, Too

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 3, December 16th, 2019

I’m freaking exhausted but I need to get this incredible day down on paper before I go to bed! Today was tattoo day at Studio Muscat, so I headed out to the train station early to find the place (amidst some major construction in Shibuya). The train ride from Ikebukuro to Shibuya (around 7:50-8:20ish?) was INTENSE. I now know what it’s like to be squeezed into the train. I had never experienced it before, not even during our entire trip in 2017, but this was legit cram-packed. I had strangers intimately squished against me from every angle, and we moved and swayed as one big wave of humans. Something about it was sort of beautiful- everyone just stayed still and quiet and carried on with their routine despite having their nose pressed against a stranger’s armpit. The pressure against me from all angles reminded me of how a mother swaddles her baby- I was swaddled with and by humanity today.

So finally I made it to Studio Muscat and had wonderful sessions with Haruka (my tattoo of a cat resting on a traditional ball bell toy w. ribbon) and Eiji (my tattoo of a nephilia clavata spider). Both were very kind and professional, and thanked me for the cards I wrote them and the maple candies I brought them from Canada. I also chatted with some American tourists who came in to inquire about tattoos. 🙂

Catching Pokemon inside the studio as I wait for my appointment…

At some points I was cursing myself WHO’S IDEA WAS IT TO GET TWO TATTOOS IN THE SAME DAY?! (mine) as it was painful at times getting all stages of both tattoos done in one day with no numbing (the highlights of Haruka’s tattoo hurt like a BIIITCH) but I’m glad I got them done!

After my tattoos I visited the next-door cafe “Reism Stand” because I had the tattoo-shakes and needed to eat something. I got a hot cafe latte and some amazing, thick French Toast with apple and cinnamon.

Next, I headed to Shibuya to meet up with Dustin. I briefly perused Village Vanguard (a claustrophobic cavern of novelties and trinkets) and then checked out the Punyus in Shibuya 109 where I could actually find clothes that fit me!

Dusty and I headed to the brand new Parco building and had a lot of fun exploring the new Pokemon store– huge glass tank with MewTwo suspended inside! Poke-nostalgia! The store also features a new graffiti art theme.

The Capcom and Shonen Jump stores were pretty cool, too.

We waited in line for about 30 minutes (a line that extended down a winding stairwell!) so that we could browse the extremely popular new Nintendo Store! I went to the one in New York years ago (2007?ish?) on my choir trip for High School, but this one is apparently the first one in Japan! I spent a significant amount of money there o.o

Lastly, we explored the basement level which is full of unique and quirky resturaunts and cafes. We stopped at Tyffonium Cafe, a whimsical spot with a sort of steampunk-circus vibe. The cafe uses AR cards for augmented reality that can be displayed on your table using a tablet. Each parfait you order comes with a different AR card (which you get to keep!) that gives you a different visual show, each seeming to be based on/tie-ins to particular video games. I chose the “Tarot” parfait, and it was so strange and wonderful! It had a gummy ball, clear and round on top, and an umbrella of gelatin which draped over the parfait. I love textures, so it was FUN to eat!

My Tarot parfait
Dustin’s parfait

Japan Part 2: The Sequel- Tokyo Drift~ "Two Trips Too Furious"~ Christmas Edition

Happy New Year to all of my blog readers, and I hope you had a warm, cosy, relaxing holiday break.

Alright, sorry for the ridiculous title of this post, but that’s what I put on the first page of my new Japan trip journal, and I’m sticking with it!

My blog has been very crickety and tumbleweedy lately, but it isn’t because I’ve given up on writing. I was away for most of December on my second trip to Japan with my husband, and this time we stayed in Tokyo the entire time. I had a blast running around and doing all sorts of stuff, and like my last trip I kept a (paper) journal– no matter how tired I was when I crawled back to the hotel at the end of the night, I wrote down the memories from the day.

So, in a few days I will begin a series of posts sharing what I wrote in my journal, starting on January 14th 2020, a month since the first day of our trip, Dec 14th 2019. Expect lots of photos, videos, excited ramblings, and rampant fangirling, similar to the last time I shared posts about Japan!

Here’s a little teaser of just a small handful of the many things we did in Tokyo this time around! I look forward to revisiting each day and sharing it with you.

If you want Japan content NOW (it’s OK, I understand), check out these videos or this series of blog posts from my previous trip to Japan in 2017!

Why Japan? Motivations of a Traveler

From the time I began saving up my pennies and planning my first trip to Japan (Oct 2017), I’ve gotten 3 particular types of responses from my friends and family:

  1. OMG JAPAN!? FJKEANJACMJNDKFNJAKENLK TAKE ME WITH YOU
  2. Japan? Wow that’s gonna be an amazing trip for you!
  3. Why Japan?

What kind of reaction do you have when thinking of yourself or someone else traveling to Japan? This blog post is aimed more toward questions of the latter sort: those who don’t understand the origins of the intense enthusiasm that many non-Japanese travelers have for Japan, especially Tokyo.

As I am returning to Japan soon with my hubby (Christmas in Tokyo!) I’m getting more of these reactions from people again, including a new question:

4. Why Japan again? Didn’t you just go there? Why not go somewhere else?

and so I’ve been thinking that sharing my thoughts about vacationing in Japan would be an awesome blog post.

Streets of Ikebukuro during daytime.

A quick note: this post reflects my personal experiences and feelings as a foreign tourist in Japan based mainly upon one previous visit. I have not traveled around the entirety of the country, and I know that from region to region cultures, dialects, cuisines and customs vary widely among Japanese people. While I am very interested in Japan and enjoy reading Japanese literature, news, and so on, I am certainly not an expert on Japanese culture. Also, as a visitor on holiday in Japan I explore the country in a privileged way that is surely very different than how Japanese citizens experience living there day to day in a variety of ways.


It’s complex for me to explain on the spot why I love visiting Japan so much because there are so many factors at play- it’s certainly not just about anime and manga! Although, since that’s what comes to mind for many people, I guess I’ll start there…

Why Japan?

Anime & Manga Culture

The explosion of translated manga and anime into North America has found a very enthusiastic audience, resulting in a lot of new foreign tourists flocking to Japan to be closer to the source of their interests. Manga, which is the Japanese word for “comic”, is a format that presents stories of any genre and style, but which also often has uniquely Japanese humour, references, and settings throughout. Anime, similarly, is Japanese animation, often based on manga series. Both anime and manga are formats that are used to tell stories for every age and interest, so anime and manga fans are similarly diverse.

Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha is one of my favorite manga and anime series.

Anime and manga culture extends from comics and animated shows into video games, visual art, music, and many other aspects of life. Specialized museums in Japan focus on the history and impact of manga and anime, and I greatly enjoyed visiting the whimsical Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

Some popular manga and anime series even become scripted theatre/musical shows, or will have fan events with voice actors, pop-up cafes with themed food and drink, and so on.

A couple of pages from my Japan journal, featuring a few anime characters!

These niche interests are catered to avidly in the big cities of Japan, and pretty much not catered to at all in Canada aside from a sprinkling of yearly conventions, so it means that I am very excited about immersing myself in otaku hotspots like Akihabara and Ikebukuro!

Amazing Food And Desserts

I love sushi– sashimi, nigiri, maki, give it all to me! But Japan has a lot more than sushi to offer. Wherever you go you will surely find delicious meals of all kinds.

If you aren’t a picky eater, you will face tough decisions – not what to eat, but what not to eat, because you will want to try so many things! The distinct and savoury taste of umami was discovered by a Japanese scientist, and there are ample opportunities to experience this “fifth taste” while in Japan.

Japan is big on local and seasonal food, so every prefecture will surely have something special and delicious to offer any time of the year. Street food is also something to look for, and there are many different kinds to stumble across during festivals or in certain areas such as the walking paths toward some shrines and temples.

You’ll also want to leave room for dessert, though, because Japan serves up some seriously impressive treats: from traditional wagashi sweets to overloaded parfaits, gourmet chocolate, shaved ice confections, matcha ice cream, and taiyaki. You can’t go wrong.

Even the convenience stores in Japan are leaps ahead of the ones you’ll find in Canada, stocked with really tasty foods made daily.

These sandwiches are soft, delicious, and addictive.

Each Prefecture Is Beautiful In Its Own Unique Way

For this upcoming trip, we will be staying in Tokyo pretty much the entire time. However, on our last visit we did some bullet-train trips to other prefectures, and I found myself in the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. These are the sorts of places that make you want to soak every scene into your mind forever because you honestly can’t believe the beauty of what surrounds you. Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Gunma, Hyougo: each offers its own distinct charms.

Thinking back on my trip always gives me so many lovely memories of winding roads, crowded streets, temples, shrines, parks, quiet pathways, and scenic bridges. We didn’t even make it off the main island of Honshu, but from north-most Hokkaido to Okinawa in the south, Japan offers everything from snowy skiing to sandy beaches. Japan changes a lot with the turning of the seasons, so I know I will always have reasons to return!

The prefectures of Japan also celebrate different festivals, and specialize in unique types of impressive handicrafts, so there is so much to see and do wherever you might go.

Dancers in Ikebukuro
Autumn festival in Kinosaki.

Kawaii Everything

Anybody who knows me knows I am a sucker for cute things– especially animals and stuffed toys. Japan offers 100% more cuteness than Canada: informational signage, manhole coverings, kitchen tools, stationary, anything is a candidate for being kawaiified. The arcades in Tokyo have claw machines with quality items you ACTUALLY wanna win! Dollar stores and grocery stores offer items with adorable packaging and products, and many traditional handicrafts are also quite cute.

Prefectures and cities have their own mascots, most of which are super cute. I fell in love with Gunma-chan!

Gunma-chan.

Of course not everything is cute in Japan, but it’s certainly a lot easier to find cute versions of everyday things like stationary, dishes, and decorations– at least that’s what I’ve found in shopping destinations in the big cities particularly.

Hospitality

Aside from sleeping over at my grandparents’ or aunts’ house, I’ve never felt more taken care of than when staying at a ryokan (traditional inn).

We stayed in 3 ryokan on our last trip: Takaragawa Osenkaku in Minakami Gunma, Mikunia in Kinosaki Hyougo, and Sawanoya in Ueno Tokyo. Each was a lovely, relaxing experience.

The gleaming floors of Takaragawa Osenkaku.

Ryokan offer rooms and facilities with traditional touches, and provide yukata robes for visitors to wear during their stay. They are often located in scenic areas that are a joy to peruse.

Locations near hotsprings are often peppered with ryokan, as a special feature of many ryokan is their indoor and/or outdoor onsen bathing facilities fed with geothermally heated springs. Visitors always thoroughly wash and rinse their body from head to toe first, then enter the water and soak for as long as they wish. Traditionally onsen are communal, but some ryokan also offer private onsen that can be reserved. When a ryokan doesn’t have hotspring access, you can still soak in a deep ofuro bathtub.

Imagine tucking in to an elaborate kaiseki meal with hot green tea in a dining hall or brought straight to your room, then soaking in the ofuro or onsen and returning to your room to find cozy futon bedding spread out on the tatami mats for you.

Tokyo: Big City Life Done Right

Here are a few ways that I think Tokyo does city living right:

  • Public transportation is easy, cheap, and hella reliable
  • The streets generally feel very safe, even at night (this is due to a variety of reasons, but gun control is also very strict in Japan)
Streets of Ikebukuro at night
  • Shopping in Tokyo is amazing, whether you’re interested in quirky knickknacks, fashion, name brands, anything really. Certain areas cater to particular interests:

    – Jimbocho is the “book district” where you can find many shops selling used and rare books
    – Shimokitazawa is a great place to explore stores selling gently-used vintage clothes
    -Shin Okubo is Tokyo’s Koreatown where you can find Korean resturaunts, kpop merch, and some excellent skincare stores
    undefined
    – Ginza is a luxury district where name brands and expensive high-end shops are clustered
    – Akihabara is known as the centre of all things geeky, and Ikebukuro features similar sorts of shops, but with more focus on targeting geeky women’s interests
    – Shinjuku Ni Chome is known as Tokyo’s Gay district, with many LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, bars, and dance clubs

    These are just a few examples- there’s much more to explore!
  • Even in huge cityscapes like Tokyo, you will find peaceful sanctuaries and green spaces like parks, temple grounds, and so on.
  • While Japan has room for improvement with regards to equitable access and opportunities for people with disabilities, it is great to see yellow tactile ground surface indicators throughout big cities which help to direct visually impaired people situate themselves while out and about.
Yellow tactile ground surface indicators
  • Theme cafes can be found all over Tokyo, and they are really fun! I enjoy that even as an adult I can immerse myself in a playful fantasy for a while. Maid Cafes are the most famous, but there are also cafes based on game and anime series, Sanrio and San-x characters, and special themes such as the Vampire Resturaunt in Ginza.
With Vampire Rose in Ginza.

And so…

I could continue to wax poetic about Japan endlessly, but I will close here by simply saying that if you’re thinking about Japan as a potential travel destination I highly recommend it!