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.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Japan Trip: Fukuoka and Dazaifu

Playing: Take My Advice-Wild Party
Reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
We took a flight from Okinawa to Fukuoka in the middle of Typhoon Neoguri, which was mildly terrifying for me. Luckily, we got to Fukuoka safely and we were the only Okinawan flight to not be canceled that day. Tina and I heard that the typhoon was supposed to follow us to Fukuoka, so we crammed in some sightseeing on our first day in Fukuoka, thinking we wouldn't have the next day. Our first stop was Fukuoka Tower because we heard that it had a spectacular view and I have to agree. Fukuoka Tower offers views of the ocean, of multiple rivers and of Fukuoka itself for a price much lower than that of other towers like Tokyo Skytree.
Once again out of fear of the typhoon, Tina and I felt the need to do all of Fukuoka's most famous activities the first day we were there. Apparently, Fukuoka is well known for ramen, so we tried Shin Shin due to its high ranking on Trip Advisor. While Shin Shin was inexpensive at 500 yen a bowl and the food came out quickly, I wasn't overly impressed with it. Everything about the ramen was pretty standard.
Fortunately, the typhoon didn't come on our second (and last) day in Fukuoka, so we took a day trip to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, which is rather beautiful. Other than the flocks of snap-happy tourists, Tina and I both enjoyed the temple plus the area around it.
By way of an elderly local, we discovered Komyozenji Temple, which is extremely easy to get to from Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. You literally turn down one street and walk straight. (Ask any of the locals and they should know.) While we were at this temple, we found a map detailing other touristy places to look at like a pagoda, so go try that out. You'll get to see some things that are still touristy, but not touristy enough to attract all those snap-happy tourists I aforementioned.
Before heading back into Fukuoka, Tina and I got lunch along the main street leading from Dazaifu Station to Dazaifu Tenmangu Temple at a quaint restaurant called Oshinagaki. The beautiful garden located in the back was the main feature that attracted us to this specific eatery. We both ordered the mixed soba plates, which featured regular soba along with pickled plum and green tea soba. Although it was a bit pricier than I would've liked, I enjoyed my dish and would go back.
Before I leave for New York, I wanted to host a worldwide giveaway for all the things I bought for you guys during my time in Japan. If you win the giveaway, you will receive:

  • 1 Rilakkuma Tote Bag
  • 3 Bath Bombs in Yuzu, Lavender, and Pine Tree
  • 1 Face Mask in White Rose
  • 1 Lip Mask in Peach
  • 1 Pack of Point Pads in Strawberry
  • 1 Rilakkumagazine
  • 2 Matcha Green Tea KitKat Bars
  • 2 Pompom Hair Scrunchies
  • 3 tokidoki Pins

To enter, here are the rules:
  1. You must be a public follower of this blog and comment below with your name and email.
  2. For an extra entry, you may blog about this giveaway and comment with the link to your post that mentioned my giveaway.
  3. For an additional entry, follow me on Instagram @this_is_audrey and comment below with your Instagram username.
This means that there are three entries available. Step 1 is the only mandatory one, but to do steps 2 and 3 you must do step 1. The winner will be announced on August 15 and will be chosen by a random number generator after I add up all of the entries. The winner must respond to my email within four days (August 19) otherwise I won't be able to mail the prize because I will be too busy moving across the country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Japan Trip: Okinawa

Playing: Ten Days Gone-Jack's Mannequin
Reading: Wherever Issue 1
Hello everyone! I just got back from Japan last night. During my month-long trip, I spent five days on the southernmost island of Japan, Okinawa. Admittedly, Tina and I didn't do a lot of research on Okinawa other than a castle or two plus the aquarium. We just assumed the beach would be easy to get to because that's what Okinawa is most famous for. However, it took us close to an hour to get to Bibi Beach from our hostel, which was two streets over from Kokusaidori
While we were there, we did try taco rice and Okinawan ramen multiple times, since Okinawa is famous for both. The taco rice was decent at most of the places, but you can easily make it yourself at home. Just make tacos and replace the shell with rice. The ramen there was pretty mild in terms of flavor other than the thick slabs of pork belly in it.
We had originally planned to do mostly beach activities, but as I mentioned before, it was too far away, so we ended up visiting a lot of other places like the Tsuboya pottery district. The pottery district is pretty much one long street that leaves you at the mouth of  Heiwa Dori. Although it was nice, it wasn't anything exceptional. I recommend wandering off the main street in an attempt to find the studios of those who actually make the ceramic gifts being sold along Tsuboya's main street. Tina and I were able to find one and the guys working there offered us seats so that we could stay and watch.
Shuri Castle was another super touristy attraction that we visited. It had an incredible view and at 700 yen, I can't complain about the price. Like most of Okinawa though, it didn't leave me speechless. For the most part, Okinawa felt like an extra hot Hawaii with Japanese influences at times.
Churaumi Aquarium was my favorite thing that I saw during our trip there. It had a large variety of sea life and a museum section dedicated to all sorts of preserved fish like megamouth sharks and oarfish. The aquarium is most famous for its whale shark tank, which is incredible and you should definitely go watch during feeding time, but I also really liked the park surrounding the aquarium, which had even more tanks along with dolphin shows. It took us around two hours to get there and cost 6,000 yen round trip on the bus system. It really bothered me that it took forever to get anywhere in Okinawa, since everything was spread out, and that it cost a minor fortune to get places.