Monday, May 7, 2018

Japan 2018 * Day 12-14 * Tokyo + Shopping Haul

We arrived back in Tokyo in the afternoon and I was craving for Ramen, so we approached the famous Ramen Street in Tokyo station, but there were long lines at every restaurant. I searched for a different restaurant which was about 1 km away, so we walked there with our heavy backpacks, trying to find it for about 10 minutes in the labyrinth of a train station, only to find out that it had an even longer line. Still super hungry we decided to bring our backpacks to the hotel first before searching another Ramen restaurant, and on our way we found one super close to the hotel with no line at all ~_~'''. The Ramen bowl they served was huuuge, with a lot of toppings and especially a lot of chasu (pork belly slices) [which in my opinion are the best thing about Ramen].


In the evening we decided to try our luck again with plum blossoms and visited a temple. And indeed it was full of blooming trees, so beautiful! *o*


On my last day in Tokyo I met with my japanese penpal Mikako <3. We wanted to see a Space x Sailor Moon exhibition and went to a space museum at the Tokyo Dome. In the beginning we entered two different rooms with some projections on the wall and floor. Especially the second room was amazing, it had a huge projection on the floor and they showed a journey through the space, and it felt like you were actually flying though space! Then we wanted to see the Sailor Moon exhibition, but it turned out to be a very small corner with only some posters ^^'''

Afterwards we went to a restaurant for lunch! We decided to eat Monjayaki with karashi (spicy cod roe) and curry flavour. It is similar to Okonomiyaki, but the batter is much more liquid and doesn't really get firm like a pancake, and you eat it directly from the hot plate. We spend around 3 hours at the restaurant and mainly talked about differences in Japan and Germany I think. But then I wanted to meet with my mother again, so we parted our ways. It was really great to meet with Mikako and I'm happy that I also have a friend in Japan <3




On my way back to the hotel I had to cross Akihabara and spontaneously decided to make a stop there and go shopping at Donki for a last few items. Since I also talked about Maid Cafés with my friend, I got in the mood to visit one, and when I saw that the @home Maid Café had a special theme with My Melody, I just had to enter! The maids were sooo cute and I was even lucky to see a performance where the maids were singing and dancing. I also decided to take a set where you could play a game with the maids. It was this crocodile game where you have to press the teeth until the crocodile bites you, and the Maid was really good at acting scared haha. This time I also wasn't the only female guest, there were quite a lot of female guests (maybe because of the My Melody theme?) and some of them were also really fans of the Maids. One of the Maids even was a foreigner!


Afterwards I was hungry and to be honest I enjoyed some alone time, so I decided to not meet with my mother and go to a restaurant alone ^^'''''. I was craving for japanese curry so I searched for the nearest Coco Curry, since I thought that it's a chain restaurant and the curry can't be that bad. However it tasted horrible in my opinion, at least the cheese filled hamburger steak was good ^^''''

On the next morning it was already time to fly back to Germany. We decided that arriving at the airport 1 hour before the flight should be enough, however I underestimated the size of the airport, so in the end we were really rushed, since we also had to drop off the rented pocket wifi at the post office, buy some food, buy a last souvenir and try to get rid of our coins.

As a last thing I want to show you my shopping haul hehe \(*o*)/ Nearly all of my Lolita items were 50%+ off!

Gift from Mikako <333
Btssb "Kumya's Glittery Milky Way" and "Kumya's Snowy Kingdom" (for ~40€ each!)
Btssb "Sweet Heart Shoes", "Antique Ribbon Shoes", "Sweet Angel Pumps"
Btssb "Kumakumya Mini Rucksack", "Fondant Chocolat Nounours Collection" necklace + earrings, "Sophie Bear Ear hairclip", Usakumya tissue box cover (found at Closet Child; it was a novelty good so not possible to buy at Btssb)
Maxicimam cutsews
stickers, letter sets and washi tape from some stationery store and Daiso
Metamorphose "Swan Cameo Emroidery Bag", Ladurée lipsticks, Majolica Majorca eyeshadow, the famous rose foam face wash, Gonoturn face mask (I bought it because I had fear it would be really cold in Minobu)
My fabrics again (bought at Mihama Cloth and Tomato)
Angelic Pretty "Heartful Lyrical Bunny" towel and pin, "Dolly Naname Ribbon Headbow", "Merry Bear Mini Hat", "Creamy Cherry" necklace (now I have the full set ^-^), and an older headbow from Closet Child
Fooood: Tokyo Banana, some delicious Omiyage cookies, Calpis Candy (my favorite drink ^^), Curry sauces, rice and noodle sauces, pickled Sakura blossoms

Thank you for reading~ <3

Japan 2018 * Day 10-11 * Minobu

Our next destination was Minobu, a small town near Shizuoka. We wanted to stay at a temple ryokan again, and the one we found seemed perfect as online reviews wrote that the owner could speak english, that it would be close to Mount Fuji and that it would have great food.

The only cherry tree we saw during our trip and which greeted us at Minobu station ^o^

On our way to Minobu we took the Fujikawa Express train which had the most amazing view of Mount Fuji ever! It drove really close to Mount Fuji, we had perfect weather (blue sunny sky with barely any clouds), and the train had huge windows! (Unfortunately I didn't took a picture of it because I wanted to enjoy the view and take pictures on the way back, but then the weather was so bad that you could barely see the mountain ;_;).

After arriving at Minobu station, we had to change to a bus which would bring us further up on the Mount Minobu. Then we had to walk up a very steep road to finally reach Kakurinbo, the temple ryokan. Actually it was more of a house where the family of the owner - a monk - lived and where they had some guest rooms. When we arrived, the owner also just arrived by car and quickly showed us around. Indeed he could speak english well, however he was very busy and couldn't stay long. When he asked us if we have any questions, I answered no because I thought I would see him later again (some online reviews wrote that the owner would explain the dinner to them and gave them suggestions for sightseeing). However we didn't saw him again during the rest of our stay, and the family / staff couldn't speak english at all, so we couldn't ask any questions. It was not a problem or anything since we could have used google translator for important things, but I was too shy to ask them anything ^^'''. The family / staff was extremely lovely though, even if we couldn't communicate much, you could feel that they care a lot about their guests!


Cute neko in the garden *o*

It was only 2 hours until dinner time, so we just stayed in the room and waited for it. During this time I could already experience something truly japanese: freezing. Even if Japan is a very developed first world country, there is something that they don't have, and that is insulation and central heating. And in addition to that, the ryokan was a traditional japanese house, meaning the walls and windows were even thinner and air was blowing through every gap. We had a gas heater that could bring the temperature up to 20°C, though since it was gas (you could literally see the gas flame in it) we couldn't run it the whole night, and as soon as we would turn it of, the temperature would go down pretty quickly again. In the morning it was 8°C in our room, and while we did had very thick bed sheets, at some point in the night I might or might not have googled if there would be any free hotel rooms as I didn't wanted to freeze for a second night (our 2nd night was much warmer though since we turned on the heater in the floor and room next to us as well).

But now it was time for the dinner first and OMG it was sooo amazing! It was a traditional japanese meal, everything was homemade and mostly vegetarian. My favorite dish was probably the homemade Natto (usually slimy fermented soy beans, though theirs wasn't slimy at all) with crispy Yuba (soy milk skin that can also be deep fried). Though everything tasted amazing!



In the evening we went to the onsen which was a red wine onsen (but they didn't pured in a bottle of red wine; it was made from some red wine salt). It made your skin really soft.

Even if I barely slept that night I woke up quite early, and usually when you stay at a temple ryokan, you can also attend a morning ceremony at the temple. However we decided against it, because it was freezing cold, and you would have to climb up a mountain in the darkness at 5:30 am, plus we didn't even knew exactly where the temple was. So we waited until breakfast, which was traditional again and also very delicious.


Afterwards we wanted to visit Kuonji, the main temple for the holy mountain Minobu (in buddhism, some mountains are seen as holy and are worshipped by certain buddhist sects). In order to reach it you were supposed to use the "staircase of enlightment", which had 300 huge, steep and uneven steps. Surprisingly I wasn't dying at all when I reached the top, I only had problems with my blood sugar, because it was too early in the morning and my body is not used to sport xD. On the top was a big temple with several buildings. It was really beautiful and had an amazing atmosphere. There was also a monk that was loudly praying with a drum, and he didn't stop for the whole 3 hours we stayed there! When we entered the buildings, a monk saw us and told us to wait. Then he ran away as fast as he could! We were confused and thought we did something wrong, but then he came back with some pamplets in english with information about the temple.

The staircase of enlightment with cedar trees
One side of the temple

It was also possible to drive to the very top of Mount Minobu with a cable car, however I'm afraid of hights and also of cable cars, so only my mom went up there. She told me that there was snow and that you could take a glimse of Mount Fuji!


Then we wanted to leave the temple, but this time we choose a small path next to the stairs. At the bottom is a short walk lined with beautiful huge trees. I was so amazed by them that I felt the urge to hug one :D. Later I read online that these were 1000 year old cedar trees?!

We also were hungry and searched for a restaurant to have lunch. We found one which served traditional soba and udon.


After lunch we wanted to see more temples. Minobu is very small and not very famous, so there was not a lot of information online about it. On google maps I saw that there were tons of temples and shrines, but in reality many were just some statues or tiny houses. In search of something to do we went up and down the one street of the small village so often that we already felt bad and had fear that people would see us and wonder what we were doing there ^^''''. Funnily the village is so small, it has only one street, no supermarket, but tons of Omiyage (souvenir) shops. One of the houses also had a dog on a leash outside with a sign that the dog loves petting. Of course we pet the super cute dog (sorry no picture) *o*

Many houses were decorated with cabbage flowers. I find them very beautiful!

Actually my mom bought some Omiyage from the top of the mountain, so we decided to sit on a bench in the sun and eat the cookies. After a while I was kinda bored and wanted to go back to the ryokan to wait for dinner. However it was much colder inside than outside but we didn't wanted to go down and up the steep hill again, so we stayed and just turned the heater on ^^'''.



On the next day we left the ryokan quite early in the morning after breakfast, and on our way to the bus station we had a surprising experience: there were monkeys everywhere! I was a little scared at first, but the monkeys run away as soon as they saw us.


Can you find the monkey? *o* (The other ones ran away too fast to snap a picture of them)

Thank you for reading~ <3

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Japan 2018 * Day 5-9 * Kyoto + Uji + Osaka

Our next destination in Japan was Kyoto. (This post won't be in chronological order but more devided by 'topics' ^-^)


Shinkansen
We travelled there with the Shinkansen. Of course we also bought an Ekiben (train bento) before entering the train, you can't travel by Shinkansen without one! I made sure to choose the seats on the correct side of the train to be able to see Mount Fuji, but you really have to run quickly to secure a good seat haha! On my last trip I didn't knew about this, so this time was acutally the first time I saw Mount Fuji. It is so beautiful and I couldn't stop looking at it while we passed it!



Hotel
Luckily we could book our favorite hotel in Kyoto again: Grand Bach Hotel. I really love it because it kinda feels like a luxury hotel but it's still affordable. It has an amazing traditional japanese breakfast, japanese style rooms, free tea and water bottles in the room, free tea and coffee in the evening, even a soup at night, music from Bach playing everywhere, and an onsen (no I don't get paid for saying this xD). On my last trip I was too afraid to use the onsen (because you have to get naked in front of other people), but this time I didn't had a problem with this at all, and I used it every day, one time even in the morning!


Food
On my last trip I didn't spend much time with the culinary side of Japan, but this time I made sure to try aaall the foods possible haha. On top of my list were traditional japanese desserts, and some of the cafés with such food were actually in traditional japanese houses!

I also wanted to try different sakes, and I found a sake bar whose owner could speak english. We tried 3 sakes there, and I could have tasted more but it was 500yen per tiny glass. The owner asked us for our preferences and chose each sake very carefully.

Kakigori (shaved ice fluffy like snow) with Matcha sauce
Matcha parfait
Matcha soba, Matcha parfaits, iced Matcha teas
Matcha ice cream, Matcha fuji cakes, Dango, Matcha tea
Dango with a sweet smokey soy sauce and Kinako (soy bean flour)
Taiyaki (fish waffle filled with custard)
Kakigori with a sauce made from fresh strawberries and condensed milk
Gyoza (dumplings), Karaage (fried chicken), Omurice (omlette filled with rice)
Yakiniku (meat that you grill yourself)

Ume season
While I was a little sad that I would miss Sakura season in Japan, I was happy when I found out that February is acutally Ume (plum blossom) season! Our hotel also had a beautiful map with all the Ume spots in Kyoto, however....... none of them were blooming yet when we were there. They should've been blooming but the weather was probably too cold yet. However from time to time we did stumble over a tree with plum blossoms, sometimes with only a few open buds, and it was funny that at every blooming tree there were people stopping and appreciating the blossoms or taking pictures of it. So while Ume is not so huge and famous like Sakura, they are still a "thing" in Japan (just like in Sakura season, you can buy a lot of Ume-related products during Ume season).



Maikos
On this trip I was also so lucky to see real Maikos for 2 times! At least I'm 99% sure they were real. The first one was not actually in full attire but in her "daily wear". We were walking through Gion (one of the Geisha districts) quite early in the morning, and this girl has worn the typical Maiko hairstyle (Maikos have to make this hairstyle from their real hair, and because it's so complicated they wear it 24/7 and only go to the hairdresser once per week). She wore a simple Kimono, no make up, and was walking quite fast and alone (tourists usually wear make up, colorful Kimonos and walk slowly in groups and with a camera in their hands).

The second time we saw two Maikos in full attire! At first I thought they weren't real because they were walking through the most touristy spot in the middle of the day (they usually work in the evening), and there was a photographer who took pictures of them from every angle possible (but it was probably just an annoying stalker tourist). I think they were real because they were walking out of a house in a tiny hidden street (which we only walked into because we were visiting a café there), then they were accompanied by a woman who bowed really deep when she kindly refused requests for taking pictures (dressed-up tourists would often say yes), then they were walking quite fast again and they were wearing no dangling Kanzashi (Maikos are always associated with dangling Kanzashi [flower hair accessories with petals that dangle in your face] and thus all the tourist spots dress you up like this, however they only wear them in their first year).


Sightseeing
Of course we also visited some temples in Kyoto. This time we didn't went to the typical tourist spots, but more visiting any temple we saw from the bus or came across. At some point we acutally decided to just sit in a bus with a good route and leave it when we saw something interesting. We also strolled through the historic part of Kyoto, as this was my favorite part of Kyoto the last time, and I loved it again. We might have walked there at least 3 times, also in search of some restaurants and shops hehe ^^'''

We also visited the Kyoto Railway Museum. I'm not a huge fan of trains but I do like trains, which is partly also because there are two really good NHK shows about trains. The museum is really well-made in my opinion, if you are a train nerd it would be heaven for you. I found it nice that you also could go inside the trains and train cabins. However most information is in Japanese, so there might have been some things that we even missed. For example you could do a simulation how to travel the Shinkansen, and a simulation of a ticket automat, but because of my lacking japanese skills I wasn't too sure about how to do it.



Uji
On one day we decided to make a trip to Uji, the green tea capital of Japan. I expected a lot from it and already saw myself rolling back to Kyoto stuffed with too much green tea food and suffering from an overdose - but in the end it was quite underwhelming. I read online that there were supposed to be a lot of green tea shops, cafés and restaurants, however in the end the selection was very small (you can find much more in Kyoto itself). There's also not a lot to do in Uji itself, actually it only has a temple - a quite beautiful one though.

But we also found something interesting, which was something like a very short version of a tea ceremony. It was in a authentic traditional tea house / tea room. Before entering, we got a pamplet which described in english how to do the tea ceremony. Since it was for tourists, I thought that they would tell us what to do while they were doing the tea ceremony. But actually they didn't told us anything, they just did all their steps and we tried to awkwardly following the stuff we read (like bowing and turning the tea cup). Also there was an old japanese man which was talking the whole time with the staff. On one side he was nice since he could speak english and sometimes explained us stuff, but then again he was talking the whole time so there was no real atmosphere. Still I was able to try a delicious matcha and wagashi (japanese traditional sweets).



Osaka
On one day we made a trip to Osaka. It's super close to Kyoto, only 15min with the Shinkansen or 20-30min with local trains. The only reason I wanted to go there was for shopping hehe ^^''' I can really recommend Osaka for shopping even if you also visit Tokyo, because the shops are less frequented there and might have many things that are already sold-out in Tokyo. For example I found two super cheap skirts at Btssb (for ~40€!) which I didn't saw in any store in Tokyo. To my misfortune both the AP and the Metamorphose stores were closed, but I had bought enough stuff already anyway xD. Also nothing catched my eye at Closed Child and Maiden Clothing.

I also visited a store for Koto and Shamisen. I looked it up online and thought it was a huge store with tons of instruments and you could just casually walk in like in any other store, but when we entered, the shop was tiny and the lady asked us what we where looking for and then directly run to the phone to call somebody. She was so quick that only after she made the call I scrambled all my japanese skills together and told her I didn't wanted to buy something, so she had to call again and say I didn't wanted to buy ^^'''.

Then we went eating at Pablos, my favorite cheese cake shop! This time I chose the cheese cake with actual cheese in it :D! My mom had it on our last trip and she liked it, but I didn't really liked it this time ^^'''.



I could write much more but I think I covered the important stuff.
Thank you for reading ~<3

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Japan 2018 * Day 1-4 * Tokyo

Hello dears!

From 15th to 27th february I was in Japan again! Originally I wanted to travel during Sakura season, but because of university and some stupidity on my side I had to spontaneously change my plans in mid-january. Since I didn't wanted to wait anymore and flights and hotels were so cheap in february, I decided to travel at an earlier date, so I did all my bookings just 3 weeks in advance!

On this trip I spend more time with eating and shopping than sightseeing, because most of the things on my To-Do-List are nature related, but nature doesn't look so pretty in winter (and the beautiful snow spots are hard to reach without a car as well) ^-^'''''


Tokyo (Day 1-4)
This time I decided to take a flight which would arrive in the afternoon, because I can't sleep at planes and this way it is easier to deal with jet lag. We also flew with ANA this time. I liked the food much better and they also had a better service with drinks compared to Lufthansa, however most of the TV program was in japanese D-: So I think next time if I have the choice I would rather fly with Lufthansa again, because 12 hours can be reeeaaally long if you don't have anything good to watch.

When we arrived at Narita airport we were directly greeted by the infamous reporters of  YOUは何しに日本へ?("Why did you come to Japan?"). It was impossible to run away from them haha, but I really didn't wanted to be interviewed because I looked like shit, so I didn't put any effort into the interview. My mom had a lot of fun though xD

Our hotel was located in Hamamatsucho, close to Tokyo station, Ginza and Tsukiji. I found it very convenient since you could reach a lot of things by foot.
Since we arrived so late in the afternoon, we couldn't do much on our first day except eating dinner. I was really in the mood for Ramen, so we went to the famous Ichiran Ramen, which was very delicious!


On our first morning in Japan we decided to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market to have a fresh fish breakfast! After strolling through the streets we just decided for a random restaurant, since the food at all restaurants looked similar and had similar prices. I wanted to eat kaisen don (a rice bowl topped with sea food), and while the sea food was great, the rice didn't tasted so good, and I felt the portion size was too small for 3000 yen (it looked bigger on the pictures).


After our breakfast and checking out all the delicious shops at the outer market (somehow we completely missed the inner market), I wanted to visit the Nippori fabric town. You can find tons of shops for sewing and crafting there, and the selection is huge, almost overwhelming, so I decided to only look for fabrics there, especially fabrics with Kimono prints. The prices were also very cheap, only 4-8€ per meter.


Then we went for Starbucks Sakura hunting! One of my friends wanted to have something from the famous limited tumbler edition, and it took us several shops to find both items. And of course we also wanted to drink the famous sakura latte, or to be more specific the "Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino". Unfortunately the taste was disappointing, it did not tasted like Sakura (but later I found out that Sakura blossoms barely have any flavor anyway), it tasted more like rose flavor and it was incredible sweet. Actually I could not finish it.



Afterwards I went to Shinjuku and Harajuku for Lolita shopping! I visited both Closet Childs, Bodyline, Marui One, Laforet, Maxicimam and the Btssb head shop. I was surprised by how many items I could find which were still on winter sale, and not even the kind of leftovers nobody wants to have. I bought most of my items at Btssb, because first I love Usakumya and Kumakumya, and second SHOES! Btssb is one of the few brands that has my shoe size (and I'm not only talking about Lolita brands, I mean cute japanese / asian brands in general), and since japanese girls have small feeds, basically all shoes were still available in my size and 50% off! Since I also spend a certain amount for not-on-sale items (a new Kumakumya <3), I got these cookies as a gift! Funny story, the last time I went to Japan, I also got a cookie as a gift from Angelic Pretty xD


In the evening I was looking forward to a hot bath to ease the pain in my feet, so I bought a totally overpriced pink glitter bath bomb at Lush. But unfortunately the stupid bath bomb stained the whole bath tub pink!!! So I scrubbed it for over half an hour and it still wasn't completely clean. I gave up and prayed that the cleaning lady wouldn't see it (to this day I didn't got a bill so I guess she didn't saw it or could clean it with better utensils ^^''').


The next day in Tokyo we went shopping again, this time our focus was on stationary, and I tried to find a cheap hair straightener. I had to visit several electronic shops until I could find one for under 2000yen. Also we visited the Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. The entry is free and from there you have a great view over Tokyo! Tokyo is sooo huge *o*


Of course every evening we also bought some stuff at the konbini. There was also a Starbucks Sakura Latte version at the konbini, which was unfortunately as disappointing as the previous one we drunk ^^'''



Thank you for reading~ <3
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