Japan Memories Day 18: Shibuya Scrambled Fashion, Revisiting Akiba, VAMPIRE CAFE and My Bloody Surprise!?!?!

This is day 18 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 18, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 18, October 18th, 2017

Dusty and I each took off for some solo activities today. First I headed to Shibuya to check out the famous Shibuya Scramble and Shibuya 109. The scramble was a big wave of people all crossing at once, although it was similar to some of the scrambles in Ikebukuro- just bigger! I saw some people doing a Mario Kart race.

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Mario Kart in Shibuya!

Shibuya 109 was a seemingly never-ending tower of fast fashion- it was overwhelming, and although I rode the escalators all the way to the top and did a walkaround of every floor, I didn’t buy one thing.

I also went to Akiba again, roaming and exploring. I ate a delicious crepe from Crazy Crepes and got some more ball-jointed doll supplies at Rajio Kaikan. 

Next came the highlight of my day- Theme Cafe #8: the Vampire Cafe in Ginza. Ginza is not an area that I would spend much time normally- it is full of expensive boutique shops that are intimidating- it’s hard to find a casual restaurant or a place to have a leisurely browse. However, the Vampire Cafe was one of the places that I REALLY wanted to visit, so I entered Ginza, feeling sort of like Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish- a meek geeky girl entering the land of The Stylish. 

The Vampire Cafe was a b!t<h to find. I’m glad I left early, as I was wandering around for about an hour trying to find it- it’s on the 7th floor of a hotel building, and the tall buildings in Ginza were throwing off my GPS, I think. 

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I arrived and was greeted and seated by two vampiric men in heavy eyeliner and hooded clothes. The place is decorated to the nines- blood cell pattern on the hallway floors, candles and coffins, skulls, satin, and vampire kitsch. 

I got a little booth to myself (Maika kindly helped me make a reservation but I doubt I would have needed it anyway) and my booth had a blood-red curtain that made my spot feel cosy and private. I was provided with a drink menu in the shape of a coffin featuring cocktails such as Dracula, Nosferatu, Carmilla and Necromancer. I ordered the latter.

The menu for food offered such delicacies as Van Helsing’s Dead Body (a meat dish), and several other strange meals. My waiter brought me a complimentary fried-lizard appetizer. (It wasn’t a real lizard… I think…)

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I ordered a “squid ink” pasta calamari dish that came with DEATH written on the plate in chocolate (?) powder and a long scythe. A crispy skull chip (?) also adorned my plate. 

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I had special drinks and desserts as well, such as Pumpkin Juice and Jack’s Pumpkin Head.

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The waiters spoke in theatrically low voices. I heard them chuckling about me (“something something gaijin something hahaha”). Yes, the awkward shy gaijin came alone. I HAVE NO SHAME! XD

So, i’ve been there for about an hour by this point, and i’m feeling a tad left down that Vampire Rose, the face of the establishment, hasn’t appeared. Oh well, I thought, it was fun anyway. But then I heard a couple of girls a few tables over squeeing about something. And then I saw his unmistakable lavishly dressed silhouette. 

I worked up the courage to ask my waiter if Vampire Rose’s CD was for sale (he is a visual kei artist, and the lead singer in a vampire heavy metal band!) which it was. So he said “chotto matte” (hang on a sec) and left me for several minutes of anticipation. And as i’d surmised, it was Vampire Rose who came to give me the CD. 

My blood-red curtain was thrown back instantly in a flash. I was caught off guard. He said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch. I said “good evening”. He said more things (in the deep, theatrical voice) to which I nodded and kept saying “hai. Hai.” (yes, yes) despite having no clue what I was responding to. He seemed to realize I was flustered and from then on he had a smirk plastered on his face o.o

I paid for the CD and asked if he would please sign it. He got a silver marker and wrote my name, his signature, and the date.

Then I plucked up the courage to ask “shashin wa… daijobu?” (a picture… is it alright?), since I knew that the cafe staff often took pictures with visitors. He said yes and when I stood up he placed his hand on the small of my back and steered me to the middle of the cafe.

I stood awkwardly beside him as a staff member took my phone for a photo. I was wondering what to do with myself for the photo (how does one pose for a photo with a vampire?) when suddenly Vampire Rose’s hand took a vice-grip on the back of my neck. It was… amazing XD the vampire fangirl in me sang out silently and I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks. He held on until the photo was taken. 

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As the picture was being taken I heard some girls exclaim “kawaii!”- I think at my fangirlishness over Vampire Rose. I can’t help it!~ I thanked the staff and floated back to my table to grab my bags.

So finally I am about to leave and I ask Rose where the bathroom is. He walks me a few steps and then points at a cluster of concave skulls in the middle of the crowded resturaunt and meets my eyes. I look at him like… huh!? And he smiles “kidding!” pointing me to the (real) restroom down the hall. I felt his smirk on my back as I escorted myself out. 

When I finally got back to our hotel in Ikebukuro some time later, I was buzzing with excitement as I told Dustin all about the Vampire Cafe. I sat on the edge of the bed, fangirling shamelessly to my husband, when I took off my shoes.

“Huh” I remarked- “the dye on my shoes must have rubbed off on my (white) socks?” Dustin looked over at my socks, saturated red.

“Wait. My shoes are blue”. 

I walked so much today that, by the time I reached the vampire cafe, my feet were literally BLEEDING ALL OVER MY SOCKS. 

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Tomorrow is Day 19: Hello Sawanoya Ryokan, Hantei Kushiage, Nakano Broadway, Queen Dolce Danso Cafe and Relaxing Ryokan Soak!

 

 

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Japan Memories Day 13: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Osaka BL Cafe, and Being Lost (Without a Care!)

This is day 13 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 13, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 13, October 13th, 2017

Dusty wanted to visit the Handicraft Centre in Kyoto (which I had already visited) so I set out on a solo adventure today.

I decided to walk to the Fushimi Inari Shrine first. It was raining, so I took a hotel umbrella. Walking the narrow streets of Kyoto with a bulky umbrella is not an easy task. I bumped a car, a boy on a bike, and a building before I got the hang of it. 

It was nearly an hour walk.  The quiet residential streets suddenly gave way to touristy shops and street vendors selling snacks and sweets. After partaking in some of these, I headed to the shrine.

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Fushimi Inari is definitely an impressive place, so I can see why it comes recommended so highly by travel books. Huge red tori gates layered along a winding path create the iconic look that tourists flock to. Wise looking fox statues stand guard.

Yet, a lot of the magic of the place was stunted for me by the masses of people blocking walkers by attempting to get the perfect selfie amidst the shuffle. I understand, it’s a special opportunity, but the result was that it was crowded to the extreme. I should have gotten up earlier and left the inn sooner if I wanted to beat the rush of people. However,  I really enjoyed going off the main path onto smaller, quieter trails that were MUCH quieter and just as lovely.

After Fushimi Inari I felt that I didn’t have it in me to go to Arashiyama, Nara, and the Golden Pavillion (the places I had originally planned) because I figured they would also be packed with people. So, I decided to go back to Osaka and explore. I visited a Loft store and I love their style philosophy of simple and basic yet good quality and chic items. I picked up a couple pairs of cute, affordable shoes. 

I visited a Super Potato and found a Diabolik Lovers game second-hand! By this point I was hungry and headed into the thick of Otaku Osaka, where I decided to be brave and visit… Theme Cafe #7 of the trip, the Osaka branch of Ikegaku BL Cafe!

The cafe was a bit hard to find (had to take an elevator to a 3rd floor of a nondescript building) and I lingered in the hallway for a moment looking up a restaurant phrase in my phrasebook. When I knocked and entered I think they had heard me in the hall because the staff were all sitting in perfectly arranged compositionally pleasing poses in the room! It was like I walked into a reverse-harem scene in an anime or something.

It became rather awkward because I was the only customer and, unlike the Ikebukuro branch, the staff barely spoke any English. I was the only visitor in the place for over an hour, so they were trying their best to entertain me as I anxiously picked at my curry rice which was shaped into a Mickey Mouse head. 

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Some conversation:

Me: “This (taxidermied) rabbit- I don’t know if it’s kawaii (cute) or kowai (scary)”

Staff: “The rabbit’s name is Christine”. 

Me: “Hi Christine! She’s beautiful.”

Staff “Christine is boy. Beautiful boy.”

One of the staff, who the others teased and called “big girly boy” had gorgeously manicured nails. They were impressive… I’ve never even had a manicure before ^-^’ 

We drew pictures on the napkins together. I drew Christine. They showed me some various ways to make hearts with your hands (thumbs and pointer fingers together, all fingers together, pointer and middle fingers together, 2 people’s hands together, over-head heart) and I invented a “Canada Style” heart with elbows together to form the bottom of the heart… (I made this up, but they liked it, and maybe it will spread? XD)

I got a Coupling Pocky before I left, which involved a scenario where the staff enacted out trying to read out the menu in English and arguing about the translations (I think!?) and of course ending in a tense Pocky battle of nosebleed proportions…

Before saying goodbye to Osaka, I checked out an arcade, Lashinbang, Animate, etc. I love how all of the Animate and Lashinbang stores have totally different inventory on different themes- it’s worth it to visit each one that you can, because you will find very unique types of selection at each one.

Then, heading back to Kyoto, I got TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY lost in the Osaka station. I finally found my train after getting help from several kind security staff… I got confused on the train as well, missing my stop and having to backtrack. Then I got off the train and unknowingly walked in the complete OPPOSITE direction that I intended for a bit!

Well, I made it back eventually, and getting lost is part of the fun of traveling 🙂 I feel very safe in Japan too, so I wasn’t worried (though my feet were killing me by the end of the night!)

Tomorrow is Day 14: Goodbye Kyoto, Hello Beautiful Kinosaki Onsen Town!

 

Japan Memories Day 3: Shinjuku Gyoen, Giant Spiders, and Square Enix Cafe!

This is day 3 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 3, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 3, October 3rd, 2017

Today was a wonderful day. I slept in until past 10 am! Both Dustin and I were much more well-rested today, so we decided to go to Shinjuku.

Although of course it is still crazy humid here, we were much more comfortable today because we weren’t lugging around extra bags and took a more leisurely attitude toward the day.

We set out to find Shinjuku Gyoen Park with the help of ever-trusty Google Maps. Near the station exit we saw some (shelter? aid?) dogs and donation boxes with a couple of ladies. I made a little donation and they thanked me and let me pet the dogs 🙂 

It was a 20ish minute stroll to the park. On the way we saw lots of high-end stores. The admission to the park was only 200yen per person (about 2 bucks). 

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The contrast from the park to the city, despite their immediate proximity, was amazing. We suddenly felt instantly calmer upon entering; suddenly we were surrounded by towering trees instead of department stores and quiet paths instead of busy intersections. Everyone in the park was relaxing- sitting on the grass, eating ice-cream, going for a slow jaunt around the park.

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Fun fact: Shinjuku Gyoen is featured prominently in Makoto Shinkai’s gorgeous anime A Garden of Words.

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Soon after arriving, we spotted a gigantic spider eating a bug on its web- one of the biggest spiders i’d ever seen. Some tourists came out of a path in front of us and I said “look at this massive spider!” They smiled and nodded. As we continued down the path, we realized that the spider we found was not a rare discovery- the things were everywhere! There weren’t any directly in our way, but one look to the side showed that these things stretch their webs along gaps on every side of the trail- a good deterrent from wandering off the beaten path!

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Here’s what we did and saw at the park:

  • got ice cream (Dustin got chocolate and I got vanilla soft cream)

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  • sat in the grass
  • saw tons of huge spiders
  • took a couple of pics together
  • found a white crane 

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  • startled some birds (accidentally)
  • heard our first cicadas
  • witnessed popping chestnuts(?!)
  • crossed a scenic bridge

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  • oohed and aahed over beautiful, hungry koi fish

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  • I peed in a traditional-style Japanese squat toilet for the first time!
  • we couldn’t believe how gorgeous the trees in the park were
  • stayed until closing (4ish)

After the park we headed to our first theme cafe: the Square Enix Artnia Cafe. On our way we passed:

  • our first DAISO (ok, we didn’t pass by- we stopped in, and Dustin bought some socks)
  • a huge group of smartly dressed office workers leaving work together
  • someone’s 2 pet rabbits 

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  • a large raven (?) cawing on a streetlight
  • plastic food displays (always cool)

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  • a cat themed establishment with lots of cat themed deco outside

The Artnia cafe was neat- more of a bar than a cafe. They had merch for Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, etc. 

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While the main draw for us wasn’t the food, and the merchandise felt a bit scant, the highlight for me was this impressive display room featuring glass and mirrors everywhere, and a huge crystal fountain surrounded by recognizable figurines being featured. 

Here are just a few of many displayed there when we went: Cindy, Sephiroth, Hatsune Miku, Sultana Nanamo Ul Namo, and Wolverine!

After Artnia, Dustin headed back to the hotel and I did some more evening shopping, picture taking, and exploring in Ikebukuro. I got a special edition Fate Stay Night drink from the stand next to Animate, as well as more gashapon and souvenirs and gifts. I also got some cute treats for us to try from Animate. 

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Tomorrow is day 4: SHINee Day, Harajuku Purikura Fail, and a Shiba named Hamu!

ALC, Jasper Municipal Library, impulse purchases, eating too much, and almost burning down our hotel room (?!)

On The Conference

The Alberta Library Conference has been a blast so far. Everyone is in a really good mood because we are in Jasper and the weather is absolutely gorgeous!

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^flags from recent Pride week, and the lovely mountains, which always remind me of The Lord of The Rings.

The conference is being held at the Jasper Park Lodge, which is super fancy (and has an awesome cafe with super passionate barista!)

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On Friday my manager and I attended a pre-conference where we learned about being savvy when talking to the media. I volunteered to be a mock interviewee (i’m trying to take opportunities to work on my public speaking, because it’s still a bit out of my comfort zone…).

We attended the First Timer’s Reception in the evening where they had tons of free books (unedited proofs and advanced readers copies) for us to take!

Yesterday I presented my session, There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone (Yes, Even You!). Although my nerves did suddenly appear and I felt my face reddening, I did enjoy sharing all I’d learned about graphic novels the past few months. I saw some familiar faces in the crowd, even a few smiling strangers, and a bunch of people have come to me afterward to give positive feedback and ask me about accessing my resources lists and presentation materials, which fills me with joy!

^Playing the ukelele during group-work to avoid awkward silence!

I had about 45 people register, which is wonderful! Like I’ve said before, even if one person finds some information in my presentation useful or interesting, then I am a happy woman. I hope lots of people were inspired to take a closer look at how awesome graphic novels are! When my session was over, I was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion, but the good kind.

Some other highlights of the conference:

  • Keynote speaker Scott Bonner, Director of Ferguson Municipal Public Library, on his experiences serving the community during turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri.
  • Adventures in Animation, where many practical ideas were shared about lively, community-focused programming

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^these feminist posters are so awesome!

  • Stand Up! Access to Justice, where I learned about recent and upcoming resources being created by the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta (CPLEA)
  • an author talk by Trevor Herriot, where he shared his passions about birds, grassland environments, Indigenous traditions and meeting places, and conservation
  • Keynote speaker Sheila Watt-Cloutier sharing her deep knowledge on the current condition of the Arctic and Inuit adaptation to a warming climate
  • Learning, Art and the Third Age, where we looked at the importance of art programming and created a quick, cool, group art project

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^colourful community art that took only minutes to create

  • Up With Voices: Zines, where we learned about zine collections and creation, zine workshop programming, and an exciting Indigenous zine project currently in the works

These are just a few highlights, but overall this conference has been amazing and I wish I could have attended every session!

Jasper Municipal Library

Of course we had to visit Jasper Municipal Library at some point! Thursday morning we got directions from a lovely woman at the Jasper info center. The library is a mix of modern and cosy. I am in love with the cute manga-style posters welcoming you in. A library staff told me they were created by a local teen for a program!

We also stumbled upon this adorable Little Free Library in town.

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Regarding Impulse Purchases

We had some time to explore the Jasper shopping scene a little bit.

I promised myself I wouldn’t spend any money on cheesy souvenirs, but we were exploring on Thursday morning and I fell in love with these finger puppets. A grown woman can spend her money how she likes, right?

Not pictured: the one I got for Mom for Mother’s Day 😉 SORRY MOM, IT’S A SECRET.

I also tried on some really expensive patterned pants in the Fairmont Lodge store, and of COURSE they fit me perfectly. Comfy + cute pants are tricky to find, so I got out my wallet resignedly.

Brookies, Lattes, General Facestuffery

On Wednesday evening when we arrived, we had a delicious meal at the restaurant beside our hotel, and a quick soak in the outdoor hot-tub, we retreated to our room for the night.

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^ My wellington was super yummo.

We also ate in Jasper town-site as well as the Jasper Park lodge buffets.

The Coco Cafe has the coolest bathroom design, and lots of funky art throughout.

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@mscocojasper #cafe #jasper #latte #breakfast #art

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At the Fairmont Fitzhugh’s To Go, I tried my first ever Brookie (Brownie/Cookie) and Cruffin (Croissant/Muffin).

The Brookie was the winner.

On Nearly Burning Down Our Hotel Room

On thursday morning, we knew we would have to talk to the hotel staff because our room was ridiculously hot. We had kept the air conditioning on all night but with no success. We talked with the hotel desk staff who said that the air conditioning wasn’t set up properly from the winter and that we shouldn’t use it. We advised them that it was emitting cold air so they basically said “oh, OK then, guess it’s alright”.

When we returned that evening the room was like the deepest steaming crevice of hell. Something was obviously messed up. We called the desk. A guy came up and urgently advised us that there was no exhaust hose connected to the air conditioning, so although it was providing cool air from the front, all of the hot air was escaping out the back directly into the curtains behind. “This is bad” he said. “This could have caused some damage.” My manager and I imagined having to call our library admin staff to advise them we’d burned down our hotel (this became a running joke for the rest of the shenanigans we got into on the trip).

Ah well, what happens in Jasper stays in Jasper.

It seems like Elijah Wood didn’t take up my offer in a previous post to crash the conference, unfortunately. IT’S COOL I’M STILL FANGIRLING FOR YOU ELIJAH 😀