Sunday, September 7, 2014

Japan Trip: Osaka

Playing: The World is Ugly-My  Chemical Romance
Reading: Metamorphoses by Ovid
After our day trip in Kobe, Tina and I head off to Osaka for a three day visit. We of course did the touristy stuff like visiting Osaka Castle, which is probably Osaka's most famous attraction. The garden around it is pretty and is a nice area to walk around. If you're planning on going inside the castle, know that it's more of a museum than a castle. I expected it to still be a castle like the ones I've visited in Europe, where you can see each and every room, but that's not the case.
After Osaka Castle, we took a quick trip to Kyoto so that we could experience Gion Matsuri, one of Japan's most famous festivals. Tina and I even brought yukatas all the way from America to wear to it. Highly recommend Gion Matsuri, if you're ever in Kyoto during July. It's just a lot of fun to get a taste of Japanese festival foods (Bacon wrapped onigiri, scallion/mayo pancakes, and kara-age? Yes, please!), play all of the games, and watch everyone walk by in their beautiful yukatas. Disclaimer, Tina and I don't know the three girls in the middle of the photo. We just wanted to look like we were actual, Japanese teenagers.
The next day, Tina and I met up with a friend of ours, who moved back to Japan three years ago, named Marika. We met up with Marika at America-mura to go shopping and do a round of purikura. If you ever get the chance to do purikura, you must do it. Purikura is basically a Japanese photo booth that alters your appearance by smoothing out your skin, enlarging your eyes, lengthening your legs, etc. and it's so funny to see your photos afterwards.
Although Marika visits America-mura often, she told us it's kind of a sketchy area. Consequently, we gave up our dreams of finding cheap clothes there and walked over to Namba Parks, which is an architectural masterpiece of a shopping center. You must take a walk around the winding buildings, resembling Antelope Canyon. After you're done walking through Namba Parks, sneak into the tallest office building or hotel, go to the top floor and admire Namba Parks' twisting roads and patterns from above. You won't be disappointed.
Tina's and my favorite part about Osaka was Dotonbori at night time. Everything lights up and it looks like a stereotypical snapshot of Japanese life - crowded streets, bright lights and the whole deal. Not only that, but there are tons of great places to eat at and plenty of arcades to keep you busy all night long. If none of that interests you, at least get a photo with the famous Glico Man sign!

P.S. I'm officially living in New York now and I promise a post soon about what I've been up to. New York (and NYU) has spoiled me so far and I love all of the opportunities here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

winter appropriate

Playing: Beware the Dog-The Griswolds
Reading: The Human Comedy by William Saroyan
Preparing for my move out to New York was kind of hard mostly because I have no idea what to expect from New York winter. California winters are all pretty mild as in I can wear a tank top with a denim jacket and feel just fine. During my hunt for warmer clothing, I had to pick up a few jackets and sweaters. The quilted jacket I thought would help dress up my jean outfits and the holographic overlay on the geode sweater is what got me. Both are from Zara.
I also picked up a baggy BP sweater, an ASTR scuba skirt, and a Topshop cropped sweater all from Nordstrom. I've been relying on the cropped top and skirt combo lately, so I'm hoping that with a pair of warm tights and a good pair of boots, I can pull the look into colder weather.
While in Japan, I didn't pick up a whole lot for myself. The only other things I bought that aren't pictured is some food and stationary. I'm super psyched about the CC Cream and the perfume-shaped phone case, which is the only one I could find without the Chanel name on it. (Chanel doesn't make these, so all of the ones you see are fakes. I liked this one because it wasn't trying to be something it's not.) The Wego cropped sweater is a nice shade of Slytherin green like the BP sweater and the Topshop crop top is really easy to pair with everything. In terms of shoes, I got an odd pair of sneaker platforms and a pair of ugly yet great Bershka boots.
Back to the winter appropriate clothing. I walked into Nordstrom with the intention of getting a pair of Hunter boots, but walked out with a pair of Valentino boots. The Valentino pair had a deeper tread than the Hunter pair and let's face it, the Valentino ones are prettier too. Even though they aren't lined, I'm hoping that I can wear these when it snows too. Maybe a thick pair of socks will help with that?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Japan Trip: Kobe

Playing: The Weekend-Priory
Reading: After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Between Hiroshima and Osaka, Tina and I spent a day in Kobe with our friend, Alex. Kobe is obviously most famous for Kobe beef, but most of the places serving Kobe beef ranged around 3,000 - 4,000 yen. Since that was out of my spending range, I still visited the famous Steakland but opted for the Large Toast Steak Lunch. I know that meat is more expensive in Japan than it is in the states, but I still felt like it was pretty expensive for a few cubes of steak and to get filled up on rice/veggies.
Within walking distance of Steakland is Ikuta Shrine and Tokyu Hands, which are both great places to walk around whether you want to visit another shrine or go shopping. Ikuta Shrine itself was fairly small but it was worth walking around because of its proximity to Kobe's main tourist attractions and because of the small forest behind it, which houses a fortune teller and another shrine.
The main reason we went to Kobe was to take a look around Chinatown, which is also within walking distance of Ikuta Shrine and Steakland. Although Kobe's Chinatown was smaller than the other ones I've been to, I did like how clean it was. Unlike other Chinatowns, all of the food looked safe to eat and it did not reek of trash, which other Chinatowns often do. Tina and I were shocked at how large the portions were and how most meals were under 500 yen.
These pork buns from Roushouki in Chinatown were by far the best thing I ate during my trip. We waited in line for 30 minutes, figuring a long line meant good food. The long line theory worked. These buns were served right out of the steamer and were incredibly juicy. As soon as we finished off our first round of buns, we immediately got back in line and bought more.
Before boarding the train for Osaka, we visited Harborland, which you can walk to but I highly recommend taking the subway. Harborland is home to the Anpanman Museum and multiple shopping centers. It's a great place to walk around even though it's not exactly unique to Japan. If you can, try to go when it's dark out to see the ferris wheel and Kobe tower lit up. If you were to visit Kobe, I would recommend spending an afternoon there instead of a full day. Eat in Chinatown and explore the area before taking a look at Ikuta Shrine. Then head over to Harborland to look at the Anpanman Museum, shop a bit, watch the sunset, and eat dinner.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Japan Trip: Hiroshima and Miyajima

Playing: Cecilia and the Satellite-Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Reading: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (Very odd.)
After our time in Fukuoka, we took a Shikansen to Hiroshima, where we spent three days. On our first day there, Tina and I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Hiroshima Peace Park, which is what Hiroshima is probably best known for. The museum itself is historically important, I understand, but a lot of the content is rather disturbing because it deals with the effects of the atomic bomb and shows rather graphic photos (and artifacts) of the effects. If you're into history, go take a look, but I wouldn't advise it for children.
We ended up meeting up with our friend, Alex, at our hotel before heading off to Okonomi-mura. Okonomi-mura is a building dedicated to the popular fried cabbage pancake called okonomiyaki with stall after stall of okanomayaki restaurants. At all of the stalls, you sit at a counter, while your food is cooked in front of you. If you're there, you have to order the okanomayaki with noodles in it because Hiroshima is known for its noodle addition.We chose the specific booth we ate at because it was the only one offering okonomyaki made with udon.
The main reason why we stopped off at Hiroshima was so that we could take a day trip to Miyajima, an island popular with Japanese tourists for its shrines and wild deer. Although Miyajima is most famous for Itsukushima Shrine, I personally preferred Daisho-in Temple. The temple sprawled throughout Miyajima, up hillsides and over small streams. Pretty much everywhere I looked was picture perfect.
During high tide, the three of us took a rowboat out to look at the torii, the red arch, that made Itsukushima Shrine famous. The rowboat tour cost 800 yen and the tour is only offered in Japanese. Luckily, I had Tina and Alex there to translate for me. If you can't speak Japanese (or don't have a handy dandy translator), but still want to go out on the ocean to get near the arch, you can try renting a paddle board or wait until the tide is low enough for you to walk to it.
Other than the beautiful shrines and temples, Miyajima had excellent hiking trails and streams to run through. The three of us spent most of our day running up the mountain side and gallivanting through streams to the point where the three of us suffered sore muscles for the next day or so. We only stopped exploring when the sun started to go down out of fear of missing the last ferry back to the mainland. Miyajima also had deer roaming around the whole island, meaning you can go feed deer during your time there too.

PS Don't miss my Japan trip giveaway! Tons of cute beauty products and accessories could be yours. Only 3 days left!

Edit-The giveaway is now closed and Mindy Fan of Broken Eggshells won. I will be contacting you by email shortly.