Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August Favorites

I guess I haven't even made a post like this but maybe it should be a thing starting now.
Here are a couple of my new favorite things from the month of August!

Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea


Everything about this game is amazing.  It's a RPG-type game with a cute story about a witch named Wadanohara.  I haven't gotten to this part yet, but the website gives a warning for violent images and implied sexual violence so be careful to consider it before playing.  You can download the files for free here and play on your computer!

Love Live: School Idol Project

I don't think I have been this invested in an anime series since Kuragehime.  This anime is my new favorite because it's all about girl power.  It's about a bunch of girls who form a school idol group to save their school.  None of it is motivated by attracting a guy or something that a guy wants.  Actually, I can't even remember seeing a guy in this anime.  Even the student council is all girls!  I love the animation style too.  It's mostly just a fun series to watch.  I was honestly kind of sad to find out most of the fanbase in Japan is old dude idol fans but... whatever.  I think more girls should be watching this.  It looks like it's free to watch on Hulu in America but I could be wrong about that.  Either way, it's easy to find a place to stream it.

Hot Pepper Beauty

This one only applies if you live in Japan.  Hot Pepper Beauty is a website and magazine that offers deals and discounts for beauty services including hair salon appointments and manicures.  Even though the website is entirely in Japanese, it's much more convenient than booking an appointment via phone if you aren't fluent in Japanese.  If you book appointments through their website, you can earn points to use later on.  I used this website to book an appointment to cut my hair and it was really easy for me to find a salon near me within my price range.

梅酒 (Umeshu)

梅酒 (umeshu) is Japanese plum wine and it's my current drink of choice in Japan because it's really sweet and usually doesn't have a strong alcohol taste.  When you order it at a bar or restaurant, they usually offer it served a few ways but I always choose ロック (on the rocks).   Sometimes they put a Japanese plum in your glass too and it always tastes amazing because it's been sitting in the wine.  ˚₊*(ˊॢo̶̶̷̤ .̫ o̴̶̷̤ˋॢ)*₊˚

Strawberry Yogurt Facial

I'll be the first to admit that I have no self control when it comes to 100 yen shops.  I saw this cute packaging on this facial mask and decided to try it out.  It looked and felt like I covered my face in strawberry yogurt and I loved every minute of it almost as much as I loved how my skin felt afterward.  It actually came with two packages inside so I can do it twice! Truly looking forward to covering my face in "yogurt" again in the near future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Melody Cafe and Shibuya Shopping!

I am so happy that I finally made it to one of the kawaii themed cafes in Parco!  My friend Natalie and I got to the My Melody Cafe at around 11:15 am, 15 minutes after it opened and the wait was already about 2 hours long but we happily got on line and stayed there for the whole 2 hours.  We were the only non-Japanese people in line and I was kind of surprised.  The two hours passed very quickly and when we approached the entrance of the cafe, one of the staff members allowed us to place our orders in advance.

me and My Melo-chan

Is this a good look for us?

We decided to just order dessert food because it looked cuter.  We did not plan this in advance so lunch became dessert.  I never claimed to be a health blogger.  That being said, I would not recommend this route without eating something in advance.

We both ordered this iced latte.  It was really cute but also kind of strange.  The top layer was this thick, strawberry creme and the coffee was just the part with ice underneath.  The cream on top just kind of stayed there like it was floating in the cup as we drank the coffee part.  But we eventually mixed it in and it tasted pretty alright.  The stenciled My Melody character tasted like it was made of powdered dried strawberries.

I ordered this cute roll cake with strawberry creme that tasted like what was in the latte.  It also came with the fruit decorations and the themed cookie.  It wasn't outstanding but it looked really cute so I wasn't mad.

Natalie got this parfait that was really cute!  I tried some of the strawberry flavored popcorn and it was really good.  She said that there was some kind of jelly in the bottom of it.

We also got to keep the placemats and coasters that came with our food.  There was a souvenir shop and special limited gacha toys but we didn't get anything.  I think that it was worth the wait just to have the experience but it's not like the food was particularly outstanding beyond aesthetics.  I'll basically do anything for cute food, obviously.

Since we were already in Shibuya, we decided to go to 109.  If you don't know 109, it's one of the most famous malls in Japan and has many brand name stores.  Some of the stores there include Swankiss, Punyus, Kokokim and Fig and Viper.  We made a point to walk through the whole mall.  I don't have any photos because many stores in Japan are very strict about photographing their products.

I mostly did shopping for my friends' birthday gifts so I can't post photos of those because they're a surprise.  Today was kind of sad because there was a lot of clothing on sale but none of it was anything I liked all that much.  However, I did buy these amazing tights.  They were kind of a splurge at 2,000 JPY but they were the last pair and I would never see then again if I didn't buy them so...

I can't wait to wear these when it gets colder!!

At nearly every store we went into, someone who worked there saw my shirt and said "Sailor Moon, kawaii!!!" I had a nice conversation with the guy who was working at Swankiss and a girl working at Liz Lisa.  Even when I was outside, a guy who was advertising for an izakaya yelled "月に代わって、お仕置きよ!" (in the name of the moon, I will punish you) after me.  So embarrassing.

We made a point to find the Galaxxxy store too and I hadn't been there in 2 years since I was last in Japan.  I found that they had different things than what was listed in their online shop.  There was a jacket I really wanted but I couldn't justify the purchase even though it was on sale.  I was really into the video game themed clothing and things today.  I think that's my new aesthetic interest.  I aspire to be some kind of magical pixel space girl.

For dinner, since we needed to supplement our dessert for lunch, we went to Uobei sushi!  This is an amazing hidden gem of Shibuya.  It's one of those sushi places with plates that are 100 yen (~$1) but the difference between this restaurant and others is that the sushi comes directly to you after you order it instead of you picking it up off a conveyor belt.  It's really fun!  I actually learned about it from my friend Elleanor.  She shows clips of it in this video here!  It should have been super crowded given what time it was and the price of the food but we didn't even have to wait.  I think most tourists don't know it's there because it's on a side street.  Another cute thing about this place is that when you order a certain amount of sushi, a rock, paper, scissors game comes up on your screen and if you win you can get a coupon or a coin for a sushi keychain gacha machine.

We also went to LOFT which is this amazing store that sells all kinds of toys, stationery and electronics.  They didn't have the Rilakkuma toys we wanted but they had these.

These big Tara McPherson bunnies are the best and they reminded me of home because I miss working at her gallery/store.

Fuchiko toys are so funny and strange.  I'm kind of obsessed with them but I haven't even bought any yet.  This display was amazing.

Of course no day is complete without purikura.  I somehow managed to salvage this shot from my crappy flip phone, truly a miracle.  They're much easier to access from a smartphone.

Then of course, I had to get on a crowded train home and stand almost the whole 2 hours because my stop is last and no one knows that by looking at me so no one offers me a seat.  It's always the worst and I feel so tired from walking at the end of the day, but I always somehow manage to get a second wind when I get home which is why this post happened.

I'm sorry it was just iPhone photos today!  Carrying my DSLR around all day can hurt my back/shoulders so I don't want to do it all the time.  Thank you for reading and of course if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them here or in my

Monday, August 18, 2014

シャーベ Strawberry Milk Drink

I made another little YouTube video of a food product I picked up at Daiso.
Check it out and please make sure to subscribe.

 If you have any questions or ideas for videos, let me know!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Matsuri Season

Summer in Japan means lots and lots of festivals (matsuri)!  Japanese festivals are so much fun.  I went to the big one in my city a few months ago but there was another one at the local castle.  It was the same day that I got back from Gunma and although I was exhausted from traveling that weekend, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend a few hours at a festival.

One of the big events at a festival is the carrying of the mikoshi (神輿) shrines.  This Shinto tradition involves carrying portable shrines (mikoshi) which are said to be the home of a spirit.  The people carrying the shrines are often chanting or singing.  I love the way the mikoshi look.  Some of them are rather extravagant.  At this festival, a lantern festival, there were mikoshi that looked like giant paper lanterns.  Maybe they weren't really mikoshi and were just built in the style of one... I'm not sure.  A man I stood near tried to explain it to me and he made it seem like those were just for fun for this particular festival.

At this festival, I actually saw some foreigners help carry one of the shrines.  I don't see many foreigners where I live besides the people I already know so it was surprising to see that.  Usually they're carried by people of a variety of ages.  Sometimes young kids tag along and walk next to the shrines and chant along with whoever is carrying them.

As I read on the ever trustworthy Wikipedia, my city, Odawara, has a unique way of carrying the mikoshi.  "This is a peculiar way of shouldering in which multiple mikoshis meet and run (Holy Dash). The shout is 'oisah;korasah/koryasah.' and there is a song called a 'Kiyari | 'log-carriers(fisherman's) chant' The bearers do not sway the mikoshi. In this 'united' style, the mikoshi uses the full width of the road, moving from side to side and turning corners at full speed."  I can't say how it specifically differs from everywhere else in Japan because I haven't seen it done outside of my city.

I took some video clips of it this time and compiled them into the video below so you can see what it's like.  I chose not to edit out the part near the end where the group is standing around chanting slowly and getting set up because I think it's interesting to watch what they do before they actually move the shrine.

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed to my Youtube account, you totally should because I plan to use it a lot more!

I arrived when the mikoshi parade had started so I decided to head to the main festival area afterward.

All the food stands and vendors were in the park area around the castle.  Some popular festival foods include yakisoba and kakigori (shaved ice) but there are an endless amount of things to choose from.  I actually got a kakigori that was shaved ice and frozen strawberries with condensed milk topping.  It was so good but I didn't get a nice photo of it.

I walked around some more and found this man who was making candy shaped like various animals.  He was very nice and spoke English pretty well too.  He told me that he works for the company Moog that makes synthesizers but does this candy making as a hobby and that only a few people in all of Japan know how to do this!

He was so nice that he made me a rose-shaped candy for free!  He just decided to make that one without asking me but Rose is actually my middle name so that was kind of cute.  I tried to be careful with it but one of the leaves actually broke a little bit so that was sad.  I hope I can see him again at another local festival.  Maybe I'll ask him to make me a dolphin next time.

The castle area looked so pretty at night, especially with all the lanterns.  It's hard to photograph that kind of thing but I tried anyway.

I hope that I can go to another festival before the summer is over.  I think there are some festivals year round but it seems that they're more popular as a summer activity.  I want to see the Snow Festival in Sapporo but it's so far from me so I don't think it will happen for me this year.

Have you ever been to a Japanese festival?  Are there any you've heard about that you would like to go to?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gunma Trip

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went with our friend's family to Gunma prefecture.  Gunma is an inaka (countryside) area of Japan.  The family's house that we stayed at was really in the middle of nowhere.  In most places I have been to in Japan, it's easy to find a train station or convenience store.  Where we were, it seemed like there was nothing for miles!  It honestly reminded me of the setting in 隣のトトロ (My Neighbor Totoro).

We arrived late on Friday night and went to bed shortly after we got there.  On Saturday, we got up early to pick vegetables from the farm property next to the house so that we could use them for tempura for lunch.

I found this cute little frog among the crops.
Besides the farm property, the grandparents lived next door it a really old, traditional style Japanese house.  We got to see the inside of it and it was really cool.  Gunma seems to be a pretty traditionally oriented area so we did an interesting thing for lunch that day besides picking the fresh vegetables for tempura.

For the main part of our lunch, we had nagashi somen!!! It's something I really wanted to try in Japan after seeing a funny scene abut it in an anime called Nichijou.  I'll just let you figure out what it is as you read as not to ruin the surprise.

In order to have our nagashi somen experience, we first had to cut down some bamboo... and then cut the whole thing in half.

Then, we cleared out all of the partitions...

This whole process probably took about an hour or more and it was hard work to do in the sun but definitely worth it for the finished result which is...

So basically you attach a hose to the end of the bamboo and put the somen noodles in it so that everyone else can try to catch them before dipping them in the tsuyu soup.  It was a lot harder than it looked, especially when they didn't put a lot of noodles at once.

I did my best.
So much somen!

It was really hot out when we did this, but eating the noodles from the cold water was really refreshing.  I thought it was so much fun and would love to do it again even though setting it up was a lot of work.

After lunch, we went to the river nearby so that the kids could swim.

This looked like so much fun and I wished I had brought proper clothing so I could go swimming.  Instead I just stood in the water for a few minutes.  It was surprisingly cold even though it was ridiculously hot out that day.  I think the water came from the mountains so that's probably why.

Later, we went to an onsen (bath house) in the mountains for a few hours.  It was really nice to sit in hot water pools outside and have a beautiful view of the mountains and river around us.

After dinner, we played with fireworks.  Maybe "sparklers" is a more accurate term.  I've seen these in stores here a lot lately but never tried them before.  It seems like each package comes with a few different colors/types.

I actually took like a billion photos, most of which were 300x better than these, but I don't want to post the ones with their faces displayed clearly without the family's permission first and only Chris has their contact info so these will have to suffice.

I had so much fun on this trip.  It was nice to get what felt like a super authentic Japanese experience compared to anything I could ever plan on my own... almost like the homestay I never had!  Most people who visit Japan don't ever make it to inaka places like Gunma but I think that to have the truly accurate Japan experience, it's important to leave Tokyo and spend time in the Japanese countryside too!