Japan Memories: Videos!

Last October was the 1 year anniversary of our 2017 trip to Japan, and I revisited all of the memories in a series of daily blog posts featuring my photographs and journal writings (check them out if you’d like, starting with day 1 here!)

I miss Japan very much- it’s like a reverse homesickness where I have a special place in my heart that aches to visit this far away place again. I am still thinking about Japan every day, and I convinced Dustin that we need to go back sooner rather than later- so we are going to spend Christmas in Tokyo this year!

When we went in 2017 we traveled around from Tokyo using a JR pass to get to Gunma, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kinosaki. We saw so many gorgeous places and ate so much amazing food. It was a fantastic trip.

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This Christmas we are planning to spend the whole time in Tokyo so that we aren’t moving from place to place so much (resettling into new inns and hotels, moving our luggage around) and we can just explore at leisure from our home base in Ikebukuro. There are so many spots in Tokyo that we have only barely explored, or not at all. I can’t wait. I even have 2 tattoo appointments penciled in with a studio in Shibuya!

Wish us luck! I’m saving all of my pennies… (well, figuratively- they don’t make pennies anymore in Canada…)


 

I finally made some videos with clips from our 2017 trips around Japan 🙂

These are just mashups of videos taken from my cell phone, my camera, and probably a little bit of Dustin’s cell and camera too. Some parts are a bit shaky but I kept them in because they were still cool memories. A few of these seem to be things that I didn’t even realize I was filming at the time… each video has a whole bunch of quick clips featuring some of the cool and beautiful things we saw in Japan.

Video 1: Tokyo- Ikebukuro, Ikebukuro street festival, Shinjuku, Shinjuku park, Shibuya, Shin Okubo, Harajuku, Ueno, Nagano Broadway, etc.

Video 2: Gunma- Takaragawa Osenkaku onsen ryokan (family run hot spring inn)

Video 3: Kyoto, Osaka- Higashiyama, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Universal Studios Japan, Harry Potter World, Kyoto Station, etc.

Video 4: Kinosaki- Mikunia onsen ryokan and ryokan town (hot springs town), autumn street festival, kaiseki meals, etc.

 

 

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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 11: World’s Smallest Museum of Ukiyoe, Boar Temple, & Exploring In Kyoto!

This is day 11 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 11, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 11, October 11, 2017

On my morning stroll I happened upon “The World’s Smallest Museum of Ukiyoe”, which I was hoping to visit (I didn’t realize it was just around the corner from the inn!). 

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Mr. Ichimura was sitting outside and invited me in. He told me to call him Ojiisan (Grandfather). The “museum” is the entry hall of his home. In these cramped quarters his magnificent prints lay scattered over the counter and the entrance floor where he sits. He showed me a few of the woodblocks he uses for his printmaking. (I counted at least 8 pieces for Hokusai’s wave!) 

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Ojiisan is a sweet old man. Between my basic Japanese and his basic English, we were able to discuss a little bit about his craft. He told me that some prints use watercolour, and some use oil. He discussed how Ukiyoe is an old tradition, how gradation of inks is important, and how a man visiting from London designed his English signage oustide: it reads “I open when I wake up and close when I must go to sleep. When I’ve had enough, the store is closed.” We agreed that it is quite funny!

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He was very humble, wanting me to understand that his part in Ukiyoe is in the printing of the inks only- he does not carve or design. Yet, the printings are impressive feats of many different layers, each of which must be pressed exactly in alignment, and featuring lovely gradation of colours.

As we were discussing and I was preparing to pay for some prints, a young man stopped by- I felt bad for making him wait as Ojiisan dealt with my prints and money >.< so I apologized. Ojiisan gave me a free extra print of purple flowers ❤ I got several prints as well for some gifts, for my journal, and to display at home! Ojiisan also gave me a paper with information about the Small Ukiyoe Museum and the craft of Ukiyoe.

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 I feel like being able to meet and talk with Grandfather was a special gift, and a it was a highlight of my trip for sure.

Now if this ain’t just the cutest lil duck you ever did see… (I’m obsessed with this duck print).

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After my Ukiyoe adventure, I got a “morning set” (eggs on toast) at a little cafe down the road.

Next, I visited the lovely temple across the street from our inn. It has images and statues of boars everywhere.

I bought a fortune and couldn’t get much out of it with google translate, but some of it sounded like ill omens, so I tied it to the fortune tree. 

Dustin and I did a bit of exploring in Kyoto together today. We checked out the Kyoto Disney Store (an employee there noticed my SHINee keychain and told me she is also a Shawol! It was exciting!), PokeCenter, and a few other spots. I got some Diabolik Lovers manga (!) from a bookstore. We had tasty sushi at a conveyor belt restaurant.

In the afternoon Dustin headed back to the inn and I walked to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. So many lovely artisan goods there! I got the attendant at the centre to call me a taxi since my feet were KILLING me after a long day of walking. I had a nice little conversation with the taxi driver who thanked me for complimenting Japan and he in turn complimented my Japanese. 

 

Tomorrow is day 12: Universal Studios Japan!

Japan Memories Day 10: Goodbye Gunma, Hello Kyoto!

This is day 10 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 10, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 10, October 10th, 2017

This morning I got up at 6AM and went for one last dip in the rotenburo. I thought few people would be up so early, but there were quite a lot actually. When I returned I was locked out of our room for quite a few minutes, standing in the hallway in my yukata, tapping incessantly on the door. I thought Dustin had left for the onsen, or was deep asleep not hearing me, and I was getting more and more peeved (trying to knock loud enough that he would hear me but not so loud as to disturb other people sleeping)- it turns out he was having a nice leisurely shower, oblivious to my struggle T-T

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I got a few more pictures of gorgeous Takaragawa before we returned our key and checked out. I told the staff how beautiful I thought Takaragawa was, and they gave us a free keepsake DVD. We took a shuttle bus through the winding roads back to Jomo Kogen station.

Now we are enroute to Kyoto ❤ I was getting a bit hangry from hunger and being hot and tired lugging around our bags again, but now I’m fed, aboard a comfy shinkansen, and much more at ease. We got ekiben (train bento from the station) and these fancy sweet cakes from Tokyo Banana!

 

Shinkansen (bullet trains) are great. They rocket you to your destination, they are efficient and on time, the seats can be rotated to face the way the train is heading, and it fits more people than an airplane while being more spacious and comfortable. Even the bathrooms are nice!

When we reached Kyoto we took a taxi to what will be our home for the next 4 nights: M’s Inn Higashiyama. I had paid in advance for the entire duration at M’s Inn, and this was the booking that caused me the most anxiety… after I booked it I realized that it has a very modern check-in system where there are no staff during most hours- you use a tablet to check yourself in with an emailed code, and your inn room also has a code for entry! I was worried that if we encountered an issue with codes or language barriers there would be no staff to help, but everything went smoothly!

M’s Inn has a deceptively small, simple, traditional looking exterior, but inside it is a spacious new building with many rooms and modern art by Junko Funada throughout. Our room is a blend of modern and traditional, with bed or futon option, a tatami & shogi screen area, a washer and dryer in one, little kitchen, toilet & sink room, and a shower/bath room. This place was a bit on the expensive side, but we feel it was worth it. Dustin is smitten with this little place.

 

Out one window we have a view of a tiny rooftop garden belonging to a neighbor. Out the other we have a view of a street where you can see many pedestrians coming and going, as well as a beautiful shrine! We spotted a woman posing for pictures in a lovely pink Kimono.

 

Tomorrow is day 11, World’s Smallest Museum of Ukiyoe, Boar Temple, & Exploring In Kyoto.