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! (Or, start with day 1 here)

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

Check out day 4, Akiba Fun and Meeting Pikachu, here!

Tokyo Memories – Day 2: Feeling Fancy in Harajuku

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! (Or, start with day 1, here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 2, December 15th, 2019

I woke up at like 4am so I decided to go to the 6th floor and do our laundry (***note from current day Shauna- if you’re wondering why we already had laundry to do on day 2… I packed VERY LIGHTLY). There were hardly any English instructions in the laundry room and I couldn’t find any laundry detergent, so I used some hotel hand soap… then I used my translation app and I’m pretty sure the machine I used says “no detergent required”… -_- I used the all-in-one washer/dryer and all the other ones said to use detergent so I didn’t imagine… hope it won’t cause any problems!

O hai thar

I can’t get back to sleep T-T Today I have a hair appt. and my first ever nail appt. so I am excited!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WOW. I had a really fun day! I went to Harajuku early so I would have plenty of time to find Nail Salon Avarice and Sozo Hair & Make. As such, I had time to explore a little, so I bought some gifts for people at the big Daiso on Takeshita street and I also got a couple of PomuPomuPurin items at Sanrio Vivatix.

Once I located Avarice (it was in a tricky location) I had over an hour to kill, so I decided to visit a cafe. I found a really cute one just down the road from Avarice called Hiroman’s Coffee, and it was a great choice: not too busy (since it’s away from the main tourist area) and so cute- vines cover the top of the exterior, and inside are lots of dainty and sweet decor. They also had cute parfait and snack options, so I got an “animal pudding” (pudding stamped with a cute pig, with a dot of whipped cream, a maraschino cherry, and berry sauce). I also got a strawberry iced milk with tapioca, and a cup of coffee. ❤

My nail appt. at Avarice was so cool- the place is on the second floor of a multi-purpose building, and when I stepped inside it had a very cool, laid-back vibe: cement walls decorated with “souvenirs from our clients”, mostly from trips to places like Mexico. 2 women were having their nails done as I entered, and after I was seated they put The Holiday (one of my fave xmas movies!) on.

Akira, who I’d made my appointment with, is an award-winning nail artist with 10 years experience, and he blew me away with what he did for me. 3 hours of insanely detailed, skilled work. I asked for nails inspired by the works of Yamamoto Takato, and he did it! Skulls, vampires, ethereal eyeballs, deadly flowers- gorgeous.

nails by @aki.laccio based on the artworks of Yamamoto Takato

With 5 minutes to spare, I ran across the street to Sozo Hair & Make for my hair appointment. It was the best salon experience I’ve ever had. Yusuke washed my hair and gave me a scalp massage, then before cutting my hair massaged my shoulders very well (I was stiff from sitting for 3 hours prior!)

He gave me the hime (“princess”) style cut I’ve been dreaming of for months. I haven’t had a haircut in over a year (since I was saving $$$ for this trip) so it feels good to have a fresh cut <3. Yusuke was meticulous, and also made me feel relaxed.

The assistant was a girl from Vancouver who was very friendly and we chatted about Canada, my nails, the YMM wildfire of 2016, and other stuff.

I asked Yusuke if he could recommend someplace to eat, as I was pretty hungry by this point, and he told me about a ramen shop called Hajime, so I stopped there for a bite. I got soup all over my white shirt ^-^’ but luckily it came off pretty easily for the most part.

I finished off my day picking up some souvenirs from Oriental Bazaar (traditional handicrafts) and the big Kiddyland store on Omotesando. The Omotesando Christmas lights seemed to go on forever- beautiful!

I caught a train back to Ikebukuro and thought I could figure out my way back to Sunshine City, but I ended going in circles a few times. I definitely gave my legs a good workout today.

Check out Day 3, Two Tattoos, Mewtwo, and Nintendo, Too, here!

Tokyo Memories – Day 1: Ikebukuro From Above

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.

Today’s post also includes the day we arrived, and then gets into our first full day in Tokyo!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day .5 December 13th, 2019 (arrival day)

We’ve finally arrived in Tokyo for the trip we’ve (okay, mostly me) been planning and prepping and dreaming all year. We had an overnight layover in Edmonton last night, then were up bright and early to head to Vancouver and finally Narita Airport.

Goodbye Canada!

As I write this we are riding the Narita Express train, which will whisk us to Ikebukuro where we will be staying (convenient if you have lots of luggage and want to avoid the busy train stations).

For this trip we’ve decided to stay in Tokyo rather than making additional trips around Japan. Our last trip in 2017 was AMAZING, and we had the time of our lives visiting onsen in Gunma and Kinosaki, exploring Kyoto, and so on

BUT

this trip we want to focus on the many, many things to do, see, and eat in Tokyo. ❤

We’re staying at the Sunshine Prince Hotel. Tonight we checked into our hotel and then pretty much fell into bed after a quick shower. zzzZZZzzzZZZ

This fancy butler dude was there to greet us upon our arrival at Sunshine Prince…

Day 1, December 14th, 2019

We started off our day with some konbini sandwiches and snacks, then headed out to do some shopping and exploring. It’s very busy in Ikebukuro today! The Pokemon centre was overwhelmingly packed full of people.

The shoes I packed have already destroyed my feet >.< and it’s much warmer here than we were expecting, our hotel room is very stuffy. But hey, we’re in Tokyo, I really can’t complain!

I don’t know if I have jet-lag or what, but I feel sort of weird today, like I’m in a state of depersonalization? I guess I can’t believe I’m finally here again. ❤

I got to visit a Rilakkuma store today, and WOW it was amazing. I spent a lot ^-^’ but I guess I was saving up for a long time so it’s ok, right? o.o’ The best thing I got was a big plush Rilakkuma and Friends xmas tree: it’s pink and beautiful and has little plush characters and xmas ornaments all over. So, in a way we have our own little xmas tree in our hotel room with us 🙂

Tonight we finished off our day by visiting the Sunshine 60 Observatory on the 60th floor of Sunshine City. We could see out to the night cityscape and played with some optical illusions and trick mirrors. I also tried out a VR experience where I got into a large cannon and it felt like I was being shot out.

Afterwards we had sushi on the 59th floor, and it was so fresh and delicious -_- mmmm. I complimented the sushi chefs (“oishiikatta!”) and they were very thankful. And then I was thankful because one of them came running after me as we were leaving and caught me at the elevator– I had left my phone on the table! >.<

Now we are tired, sore, and well-fed, and so ready for bed.

Check out day 2, Feeling Fancy in Harajuku, here !

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!

Edit: Day 1 of Tokyo starts HERE! 🙂

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!

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.

20171014_030226

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.

 

 

Japan Memories Day 22: A Day of Sighing, Awkward Taxi Situation, and Last Fun at Narita

This is the final day 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 22, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 22, October 22nd, 2017

Today is a day of sighing. A few sighs of contentment (one last soak together in the big tub, tenpura and shaved ice at the airport), but mostly it’s sighs of sadness to be leaving Japan. I am looking forward to seeing my friends, my dogs, and Dad of course, but this is the only time I’ve never felt the weird ache of homesickness while travelling- just pure enjoyment. I may have had a few more quiet tears as well…  T.T

We packed and prepped until checkout time, when Sawanoya summoned a cab for us. I gave them some candies and one of my paintings. Our taxi driver was flustered trying to fit our luggage into his tiny car in the pouring rain, and we didn’t know what we could do to help, but he finally managed eventually. Although we thanked them repeatedly and expected them to go back inside, the staff of Sawanoya all stood outside the entrance of the ryokan in the pouring rain, bowing to us until our taxi was out of sight. Such a lovely family, and a welcoming ryokan. 

We took the Skyliner from Ueno station to the airport and ate some delicious aforementioned food, bought sweets for the long plane rides ahead, used up the rest of our coins in the gashapon machines, and bought a few last-minute gifts and souvenirs.

And well, here we are. Narita airport is the most fun and interesting airport I’ve ever been to, but it’s still an airport… meaning we have to face the fact that we are leaving. 

20171022_163638

We are on our first plane now. We’ve had delays already due to the extreme wind and rain, so it looks like we will miss our connection in Vancouver? Oh well, we’ve finished our trip so I don’t really care at this point. I joked that I’d love if the typhoon stranded us here… of course, we’d have to go home eventually, but I have to say, Japan has been the trip of my life and I definitely, definitely want to go back again someday! ❤ 

20180928_00044_001

Japan Memories Day 21: Last Free Day in Japan, Revisiting Favourites, Trouble at Yodobashi Camera, and Lunch with Friends!

This is day 21 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 21, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 21, October 21st, 2017

Our last free day in Japan. I can’t say “it went by soooo fast!” because having 3 weeks here ensured that we had enough time to explore and enjoy our trip without it feeling too short. It feels like forever ago that we left from home and arrived at Narita airport, but still I have a hard time saying goodbye. 

Today was an emotional day for me and I found I went to tears easily just thinking of leaving Japan and how this has been my dream wish trip for so long. 

So, today Dusty and I revisited a few of our favourite spots together. After ham and eggs at the Sawanoya and a quick bath each, we went out into the rain again.

Together we revisited Akiba and played rhythm games and a Walking Dead crossbow-shooter at Akiba Taito Station.

We returned to a few shops, including one of Dustin’s favourite finds,  Yodobashi Camera, which he’d been wanting to show me for a while. At Yodobashi I was looking for a simple handheld CD player so I could listen to my new drama cds and music cds on the plane ride home. While I was examining the different walkman models on display, the alarm went off- the security wire on one of the walkmans was loose. A security guard appeared INSTANTLY, seemingly out of nowhere. I didn’t know how to explain in Japanese that the alarm system wire triggered because it is loose, and that I wasn’t trying to steal the walkman! A staff member was understanding and fixed it right away, but I was impressed with the security at Yodobashi!

Dustin got me some Japanese PS Vita games (Diabolik Lovers, mainly) for my Christmas gift <3. After Akiba, I headed out to meet Hazuki for lunch- Dustin wasn’t feeling up to it (or… he’s also shy with meeting new people, I don’t know!)

20171021_152044

The metro was a bit confusing, so I was a little late ^-^’ but we went to a delicious resturaunt where we had sushi and sashimi (I can’t remember the name of the area at the moment…). I met Hazuki’s friends Tomo and Momo who were very kind and friendly and easy to talk to. We chatted and had a really great meal. 

I gave them some maple candies from Canada and one of my tiny Northern Lights paintings- coincidentally we had talked about the Northern Lights during lunch, so they were interested in the painting! They helped me find my way back to the JR lines afterward. 

I went back to Ikebukuro and visited Lashinbang and Animate one last time, picking out some more CDs for the plane ride home. I made the mistake of taking the stairs instead of the elevator all the way to the top of Animate. I ended up as sweaty and gross as our first day in Ikebukuro, and I felt bad for the people who had to stand in my armpits on the back train back to Ueno!

The night involved bathing, crying in the bath, packing, crying while packing, being very tired, and carefully applying eyes and mouths to my doll heads so I could spray them with Mr. Clear (“Matt” Spray) finisher in the morning (I don’t know if I can bring the aerosol can with me on the plane).

20171022_003142
Not creepy at all…

I stayed up too late and went to bed sometime after midnight. Who knows what time it was when I actually fell asleep… 

Tomorrow is the final day: A Day of Sighing, Awkward Taxi Situation, and Last Fun at Narita.

 

Japan Memories Day 20: A Magical Day at Ghibli Museum!

This is day 20 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 20, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 20, October 20th, 2017

Today was a magical day. We finally went to the Ghibli museum in Mitaka<3 

What a special place. Being huge Studio Ghibli fans, it was one of the “must go” places for our trip, and since the regular tickets for the month sold out the DAY they were released online, we had to book a tour package. We paid a lot of extra money for a bus ride to the museum from a hotel in Shinjuku and a “tour guide” who gave us some tips and info while on the bus. Still, worth every penny! Our guide took our picture at the entrance to the museum but the “tour” ended there- the creators of Ghibli Museum want it to be a place of exploration and discovery. 

DSC00250

Ghibli Museum has a rule of no cameras or phones to be used inside for photo taking (outside is ok). I’m very glad, because knowing me I would have been trying to take pictures of all of the wonderful things inside, seeing them through the screen of a device rather than my own eyes. It was lovely to just enjoy every moment without the urge to snap pictures everywhere. I did purchase a couple of photo books from the Reading Room shop to help me relive the special memories of Ghibli Museum. 

The museum is so wonderful, certainly the most memorable and awe-inspiring “museum” I’ve ever visited. Some rooms were open and airy, with frescoes of Ghibli inspiration and stained glass windows. Others were crammed full of so many interesting things- antiques, relics, storyboards, paintings, sketches, film strips, art and sculpture, shadowboxes, eye-trick illusions, hidden messages- that you could spend all day examining the details.

One favorite exhibit of mine was a special limited-time interactive display room with focus on food in Ghibli films- humble, everyday meals that are rendered in realistic, mouth-watering detail and even carry significance in the plot. 

I was also transfixed by the giant zoetrope, a spinning lightbox, which had Ghibli figures inside in various transitioning poses so that, when spinning, it creates moving images (Totoro hopping, a bat flying, etc.) 

We visited the takeout cafe window outside and had hotdogs, springrolls, ice cream, beer (me), and applejuice (Dustin). 

20180928_00042_001

Visitors to the Ghibli museum are given the special opportunity to watch an original animated short film in the Saturn Theater. These films are not available anywhere else, as Ghibli museum wants them to be another special part of the magic for visitors. The films are rotated regularly, and the one that was playing this October was Koro’s Big Day Out, a film about a dog who escapes while looking for the little girl who left for school and gets lost in the streets of Tokyo- it had a happy ending but I cried during most of the last half. I hadn’t cried in FOREVER! In fact, I had started worrying that my anxiety medications were stifling my ability to cry, so it was a bit of a release for me. I felt thankful to Studio Ghibli for showing me I can still cry!

Dustin took my picture on the rooftop with the robot from Castle in the Sky.

DSC00254

We visited the main gift shop, Mama Aiuto, which the bus tour guide had told us is both a reference to characters from Porco Rosso as well as a cheeky moniker that pokes fun at how kids will plead “Please, Mama, Help!!!” when they see the exciting goodies inside. The shop was cram packed. I bought a Koro stuffie to ease my heart (I was still sniffling from the film) and I couldn’t help but pick up a bunch of other little things- postcards, pins, bookmarks, and plushies to remember this special place by. 

20180928_00041_001

We departed on a very cramped yellow Ghibli bus back to the station and on to the Ryokan. I’m very exhausted now, both from a very stimulating day and from the last few late nights, so I am just catching up on journal writing and plan to have a bath, relax, and get a good night’s sleep!

20180928_00040_001
The museum tickets are made from real film reel pieces!

Tomorrow is Day 21: Last Free Day in Japan, Revisiting Favourites, Trouble at Yodobashi Camera, and Lunch with Friends!

 

 

Japan Memories Day 19: Sawanoya Ryokan, Hantei Kushiage, Nakano Broadway, Queen Dolce Danso Cafe and Relaxing Ryokan Soak!

This is day 19 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 19, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 19, October 19th, 2017

This morning we squished all of our stuff into our suitcases (the expandable duffle-bags we’d brought in our carry-on were too awkward and bulky to carry in stations and on trains, so we invested in some hard roller luggage) and we lugged our way to the station in the pouring rain. It looks like the weather will be rainy for the rest of our visit, and Okinawa is currently at risk of being hit with a super-typhoon 😦 

With roller luggage it wasn’t too bad getting through stations. Then we taxied from the station to Sawanoya Ryokan. We arrived very early, so we stored our bags with the kind staff and went out in search for food ❤ I had a place in mind- Hantei.

Hantei are known for their kushiage, and after eating there, we know why. Dusty and I both agreed that it was one of our best meals in Japan. Light, deep-fried foods with crisp outer layer. Mmm!!! I told the staff their kushiage is saiko (the highest) and they were very happy- they don’t need to know it is the ONLY kushiage i’ve ever had! XD

Next we headed to Nakano Broadway together, a nerd paradise we’d been planning to see but hadn’t gotten to yet. It was like a 4 story labrinthe of cramped stores where some gems were hidden. We got some (crazy cheap, probably bootleg?) figurines, and I found a store (a lashinbang) with a great deal on drama CDs!

nakanono

After Nakano Dusty was all shopped out, but I still had energy to explore, so I headed to another cafe I was curious about: Theme Cafe #9: Queen Dolce Danso Cafe. At Queen Dolce, the staff are Danso girls who crossplay as handsome Ikemen! Another fun, fascinating, only-in-japan experience. 

Here is a video about Queen Dolce by @suppinjapan for anyone who is wondering what sort of place this might be!

I used a coin locker at Akiba station to store my shopping bags and headed toward the cafe. The streets of Akiba felt completely different in the darkness of night- not scary or anything like that, but different all the same. The rain pounded down and girls from maid cafes stood on the sidewalks in their dresses and raincoats looking rather miserable and cold, but still smiling at passersby and doing their best to promote their cafes.

I walked on, and I have never had more stares in my direction than that afternoon- it was chilly and rainy but I’d forgotten my sweater at the ryokan and was wearing a shirt with open shoulders. People kept doing double-takes and saying things to their companions like “Ah! Gaijin!… Samui!” (Ah! Cold, foreigner!?) and cradling their elbows. I wished I could reassure them “I’m from Canada, this is nothing! Really, i’m fine!” but I didn’t want to cause a scene…

After some issues with google maps again, I found the cafe- once more, this place was tucked away on the third floor of a nondescript hotel/office building, so it was obvious to anyone interested that I didn’t just stumble upon the place- I’d sought it out for sure!

At first my venture into the cafe was suuuuuuper awkward. I had been planning on having a simple meal at the cafe as it had been a long time since I’d eaten at Hantei, but as it was late afternoon the Danso cafe had stopped serving food. So, I ended up sipping cocktails and munching on cheese pretzels as I sat at my lonely table. The staff weren’t comfortable with English so we weren’t able to communicate very well, so at first I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and thinking WHY DO I GO ALONE TO THESE CAFES AHHHHH…

Eventually a spot opened up at the bar counter and I sat down beside a girl who spoke English quite well and made a new friend 🙂 we shared pictures of our dogs and our dolls, and discussed kpop, travelling, all kinds of stuff. 

Eventually, with my new friend helping translate between us, I was able to communicate with the staff more and we had fun joking about Canada, Japan, and communication problems with the other bar patrons. So, it ended up being fun 🙂

Each staff member has their own signature cocktail at Queen Dolce, so when you order it you get a laminated photo of that Danso Butler. They also offer instant photos in fun poses (such as KABE DON) so I got some pictures with them to keep a memory of this unique experience!

20180928_00039_001

I got back to the ryokan and had a calming soak with Dustin in one of the big tubs. Not an onsen technically, but relaxing in its own way- not so hot as to be overwhelming (so you can soak longer) and deep. It also has a window that can be opened to let out steam and let in fresh, cool air, giving a view of a small pond, plants, and fish swimming lazily around. The small bath has an owl statue staring in at you, while the large one has a frog staring away.

20171021_084848.jpg

This ryokan is very charming and the owner is a sweet old man- I bought the book he wrote about his experiences running a ryokan with his family that has actively welcomed foreign visitors for many years, and I’m really interested in reading it. I can only imagine the shenanigans and cultural lessons learned on both sides, as even in these short three weeks I’ve experienced so much immersive culture shock, happiness, embarrassment, and more feelings than I can describe. Japan is incredible. 

Tomorrow is Day 20: A Magical Day at Ghibli Museum!