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!)

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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).

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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 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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Japan Memories Day 18: Shibuya Scrambled Fashion, Revisiting Akiba, VAMPIRE CAFE and My Bloody Surprise!?!?!

This is day 18 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 18, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 18, October 18th, 2017

Dusty and I each took off for some solo activities today. First I headed to Shibuya to check out the famous Shibuya Scramble and Shibuya 109. The scramble was a big wave of people all crossing at once, although it was similar to some of the scrambles in Ikebukuro- just bigger! I saw some people doing a Mario Kart race.

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Mario Kart in Shibuya!

Shibuya 109 was a seemingly never-ending tower of fast fashion- it was overwhelming, and although I rode the escalators all the way to the top and did a walkaround of every floor, I didn’t buy one thing.

I also went to Akiba again, roaming and exploring. I ate a delicious crepe from Crazy Crepes and got some more ball-jointed doll supplies at Rajio Kaikan. 

Next came the highlight of my day- Theme Cafe #8: the Vampire Cafe in Ginza. Ginza is not an area that I would spend much time normally- it is full of expensive boutique shops that are intimidating- it’s hard to find a casual restaurant or a place to have a leisurely browse. However, the Vampire Cafe was one of the places that I REALLY wanted to visit, so I entered Ginza, feeling sort of like Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish- a meek geeky girl entering the land of The Stylish. 

The Vampire Cafe was a b!t<h to find. I’m glad I left early, as I was wandering around for about an hour trying to find it- it’s on the 7th floor of a hotel building, and the tall buildings in Ginza were throwing off my GPS, I think. 

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I arrived and was greeted and seated by two vampiric men in heavy eyeliner and hooded clothes. The place is decorated to the nines- blood cell pattern on the hallway floors, candles and coffins, skulls, satin, and vampire kitsch. 

I got a little booth to myself (Maika kindly helped me make a reservation but I doubt I would have needed it anyway) and my booth had a blood-red curtain that made my spot feel cosy and private. I was provided with a drink menu in the shape of a coffin featuring cocktails such as Dracula, Nosferatu, Carmilla and Necromancer. I ordered the latter.

The menu for food offered such delicacies as Van Helsing’s Dead Body (a meat dish), and several other strange meals. My waiter brought me a complimentary fried-lizard appetizer. (It wasn’t a real lizard… I think…)

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I ordered a “squid ink” pasta calamari dish that came with DEATH written on the plate in chocolate (?) powder and a long scythe. A crispy skull chip (?) also adorned my plate. 

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I had special drinks and desserts as well, such as Pumpkin Juice and Jack’s Pumpkin Head.

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The waiters spoke in theatrically low voices. I heard them chuckling about me (“something something gaijin something hahaha”). Yes, the awkward shy gaijin came alone. I HAVE NO SHAME! XD

So, i’ve been there for about an hour by this point, and i’m feeling a tad left down that Vampire Rose, the face of the establishment, hasn’t appeared. Oh well, I thought, it was fun anyway. But then I heard a couple of girls a few tables over squeeing about something. And then I saw his unmistakable lavishly dressed silhouette. 

I worked up the courage to ask my waiter if Vampire Rose’s CD was for sale (he is a visual kei artist, and the lead singer in a vampire heavy metal band!) which it was. So he said “chotto matte” (hang on a sec) and left me for several minutes of anticipation. And as i’d surmised, it was Vampire Rose who came to give me the CD. 

My blood-red curtain was thrown back instantly in a flash. I was caught off guard. He said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch. I said “good evening”. He said more things (in the deep, theatrical voice) to which I nodded and kept saying “hai. Hai.” (yes, yes) despite having no clue what I was responding to. He seemed to realize I was flustered and from then on he had a smirk plastered on his face o.o

I paid for the CD and asked if he would please sign it. He got a silver marker and wrote my name, his signature, and the date.

Then I plucked up the courage to ask “shashin wa… daijobu?” (a picture… is it alright?), since I knew that the cafe staff often took pictures with visitors. He said yes and when I stood up he placed his hand on the small of my back and steered me to the middle of the cafe.

I stood awkwardly beside him as a staff member took my phone for a photo. I was wondering what to do with myself for the photo (how does one pose for a photo with a vampire?) when suddenly Vampire Rose’s hand took a vice-grip on the back of my neck. It was… amazing XD the vampire fangirl in me sang out silently and I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks. He held on until the photo was taken. 

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As the picture was being taken I heard some girls exclaim “kawaii!”- I think at my fangirlishness over Vampire Rose. I can’t help it!~ I thanked the staff and floated back to my table to grab my bags.

So finally I am about to leave and I ask Rose where the bathroom is. He walks me a few steps and then points at a cluster of concave skulls in the middle of the crowded resturaunt and meets my eyes. I look at him like… huh!? And he smiles “kidding!” pointing me to the (real) restroom down the hall. I felt his smirk on my back as I escorted myself out. 

When I finally got back to our hotel in Ikebukuro some time later, I was buzzing with excitement as I told Dustin all about the Vampire Cafe. I sat on the edge of the bed, fangirling shamelessly to my husband, when I took off my shoes.

“Huh” I remarked- “the dye on my shoes must have rubbed off on my (white) socks?” Dustin looked over at my socks, saturated red.

“Wait. My shoes are blue”. 

I walked so much today that, by the time I reached the vampire cafe, my feet were literally BLEEDING ALL OVER MY SOCKS. 

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Tomorrow is Day 19: Hello Sawanoya Ryokan, Hantei Kushiage, Nakano Broadway, Queen Dolce Danso Cafe and Relaxing Ryokan Soak!

 

 

Japan Memories Day 6: Maid Cafe, Dollification, THE BEST BEEF EVER, Crushing the Crane Game, and EARTHQUAKE!!!

This is day 6 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 6, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 6, October 6th, 2017

How has it already been almost a week in Japan!? I’m so glad we made this a long trip because it is flying by so fast! 

This morning I went back to Akiba. I wanted to try a Maid Cafe! I went up to the first maid I saw, who was for Theme Cafe #5 of my trip, Maidreamin! I asked her in Japanese where the cafe was located. She said “Ah, the cafe, this way!” and guided me down the road, brandishing her pumpkin puppet all the way (pumpkin is “kabocha”, she told me. She called the puppet kabocha-chan). She passed me off to another maid who directed me to the elevator that led to the cafe. She waved me off, dancing cutely until the elevator doors closed and I rose to the 6th floor. 

 

A maid seated me and explained the menu. I ordered a full set: a combo with omurice, melon soda, a green tea turtle parfait, choice of an exclusive item ( I chose a folder) and a song of my choice for the maid to perform, plus a commemorative photo (Polaroid). 

Everything was cute from the maids to the music to the food decorated in front of me. When serving something to me the maids would teach me a simple chant before eating (something like “Delicious! Delicious! Moe-moe!”) with hand gestures.

 

A maid also put cat ears on me for the duration of my visit. Certainly a memorable experience!

 

After a maid danced my chosen song (from Love Live rhythm game) I told her in Japanese that she was a great dancer and she acted so happily. (note: I can still recall the catchy theme song of Maidreamin that they would play periodically… it’s something you can’t forget…)

After the Maidreamin experience, I went back to Rajio Kaikan and bought the supplies to make my own doll. (It was crazy expensive, but “it’s not every day you’re in Japan” afterall…) I took her home and put her together to look like me. Cutting her hair took a while and getting the eye decals on properly took several failed attempts, but now I am quite happy with her!

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Later in the evening Dustin and I ventured out into the rain with our hotel umbrellas and sought out dinner. We thought we were entering a ramen place, but it ended up being a fancy spot with expensive beef. We got some aged imari beef and it was SO RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. Melt-in-your-mouth. Surely the best beef I’ve ever had (an expensive treat!)

 

 

We finished off the day with an hour or so at the arcade, trying our hand at the crane games and the drumming game. We managed to snag quite a few toys and plushies (though we went back to the hotel with considerably less yen…) 

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I think I felt my first earthquake a few minutes ago while writing this! The hanging lamp swung and it felt like someone HUGE was stomping around above us for a few moments. WEIRD!

Tomorrow is day 7: Unexpected street festival, BL cafe, and visiting friends old and new!

Japan Memories Day 5: Akihabara, Eorzea Cafe, Pokemon Centre, and meeting up with a friend in Shin Okubo!

This is day 5 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 5, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 5, October 5th, 2017

Today was another busy, fun-filled day. Dustin and I had our reservation for theme cafe #4: Eorzea cafe, so we headed to Akiba. We were a bit early, so we explored the Animate there until the cafe opened. Despite a couple hiccups with our language barrier, we were able to order successfully and enjoyed the cute menu items and recognizable music and decor from FFXIV.

The cafe provided a tablet for us to order from. When we ordered drinks we got special collectible coasters. There was even a Cactpot event where an announcer pulled cards to determine which tables won prizes! 

We had a great time exploring Akiba and visiting iconic shops such as Mandarake, Rajio Kaikan, and Super Potato.

Dustin doesn’t want to go to a maid cafe, but I do! A maid handed me this on the street- so cute! I’ve heard some maids sing songs to make your food taste better… wonder if it works?! 😉

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Near the top of Rajio Kaikan there were these beautiful jointed dolls you could design from scratch and customize with different outfits and accessories. I thought they were adorable but Dustin said he thinks they are a bit creepy! I might go back and buy one sometime… 🙂 (note: I did!)

We headed to Pokemon Centre Ikebukuro next, where we found SUPER cute Pokemon goods! I got a chirimen (Japanese cloth) Pikachu! Dustin got a really cute Slowpoke. 

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After the Pokemon centre we took a taxi back to the hotel (the driver was so nice!) and I freshened up to meet Maika in Shin Okubo (Dustin’s feet were killing him by this point, so he stayed behind to relax). 

I waited for Maika at the station, and when she found me she gave me a big hug- she’s so sweet! We walked and talked about our travels, our jobs, Japan, Canada, food, everything. We randomly selected a Korean restaurant that looked good. The inside was papered with kpop posters. I ordered a kind of korean onion pancake thing. We shared some foods, and when I looked to some big jars near the window and remarked “MAN, those olives are HUGE”, Maika said “oh, they’re plums!” Turns out it was a house-made alcohol so we ordered some. It was sweet and tasty.The owner even gave us a couple plums from the jar to taste. YUM.

Before we left, the owner saw me take a photo of his SHINee poster, and he got SO EXCITED to meet a SHINee fan from Canada. He took my picture with the poster, exclaiming “Beautiful!”. He was especially excited when I said that Key is my bias member of SHINee and then he showered me with candy and packages of nori! He was pleading with me to come back again. I think I will at some point if I get a chance. (note: I never did have a chance to go back to the restaurant on this trip, as I couldn’t find it when I was back in Shin Okubo again- I wish I knew the name of this place!)

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My mystery restaurant ❤

Maika and I stopped briefly at The Saem where I squeed over SHINee advertisements and bought a few skincare items. Then we searched until we found an arcade that had a Taiko Drum game that I had mentioned wanting to play, and we played several rounds (including Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “Pon Pon Pon” and Totoro songs!) I tried my hand at a crane game in an attempt to win a bunny plushie, but after 3 tries I decided to save my 100 yen coins!

It was so wonderful to meet up with a friend in Japan, as it can feel quite lonely sometimes to be in a place where you are very much an outsider with only a rudimentary understanding of the language. I had a lot of fun with Maika tonight.

Tomorrow’s post will be day 6:  Maid Cafe, Dollification, THE BEST BEEF EVER, Crushing the Crane Game, and EARTHQUAKE!!!

 

 

Japan Memories Day 2: Embarrassing Myself in a Konbini!

This is day 2 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 2, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 2, October 2nd, 2017

We woke up quite early this morning after sleeping for hours and hours. The konbini (convenience store) beside our hotel was closed until 10am, so we wandered around to find food. We ended up at an adorable bakery where we shared a delicious quiche-ish sandwich, melon bun, grape bun, and sesame cream horn. All of them were so good; we drank apple juice with it.

 

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A lot of businesses are featuring decorations and special items for Halloween! I love Halloween, so I am in my element.

After eating we went to the konbini to buy a few essentials (sunscreen, etc.) and I had a very embarrassing moment. I was waiting to pay for my stuff when suddenly Dustin grabbed me by the shoulder and steered me forcefully away. I was like WHAT THE HECK DUSTIN!?!? But apparently he had been calling my name repeatedly because a man was trying to get my attention due to the fact that I had unknowingly cut in line. Oops! I didn’t notice there are little arrows on the floors and designated areas to line up, and I didn’t see that there were customers standing in the middles of the aisles waiting to pay! I was so embarrassed and worried about bothering the staff and customers.

We took our purchases and headed back to the hotel to get ready to check out and head to Ikebukuro, and Dustin starts feeling nauseous. We aren’t sure if it was humidity, jet-lag, or the Poccari Sweat drink he had, but he ended up puking and feeling gross the rest of the day, unfortunately.

We checked out and headed back to Akiba station, where I grabbed some adorable bunny-themed souvenirs and gifts. By the time we reached Ikebukuro Station Dustin was in need of Tylenol, so we went to a drug store in the station and I attempted to get some for him with my attempts at speaking Japanese. It went something like this:

Me: “Ibupurofen wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have ibuprofen?)

Cashier: *puzzled look*

Me: “Tairenoru? Adobuiru?” (Tylenol? Advil?)

Cashier: “eeh…. Nihongo?” (Um… in Japanese?)

Me: *rubs head with pained expression, trying to show “headache”*

Young Guy Behind Me in Line: *stifled chortle* “You need Tylenol? *explains to cashier in Japanese*

Me: “DOUMO ARUGATOU GOZAIMASU!!!” (THANK YOU SO MUCH)

What would I do without the kindness of strangers? Thank you random dude! 

We made the trek to our hotel, Tokyu Stay Ikebukuro, where we were able to drop off our bags but couldn’t check in until 3pm. So, Dustin looked up a random sushi place and we went in.

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Streets of Ikebukuro near our hotel.

We almost turned around and left because it was a very tiny conveyor belt sushi place and all the seats were already taken by locals, but we were seen and greeted with “Irashaimasu!” (Welcome!) and were directed to a waiting area bench where we sat for a few minutes until some spots freed up. 

It was SO TASTY! We ate a lot of sushi for a good price. The intimacy of the little sushi-ya was lovely, and the staff were very helpful. I fumbled with the hot water dispenser (for tea) but staff noticed right away and showed me how to use it.

At one point, Dusty and I each chose drinks at a vending machine. He chose one with blue packaging called “Aqua” or something, hoping it was plain water. I chose one, “I Lohas”, with green packaging, hoping it was flavored water, but both of our selections were the opposite of what we wanted, so we traded!

After lunch we headed to Animate: a 7 floor behemoth store of otome stuff, official merch, drama cds, adorable plushies and figurines: so many things to explore, it is amazing! It was nicely air conditioned inside and we were sweating SO MUCH at this point after having hauled our bags around that morning. My back felt so wet I thought something was leaking in my backpack! 

We headed back to our hotel with our bags full of gashapon (coin-machine toys) and other cool stuff.

 

After a glorious shower, I headed back out to get our advance-reservation tickets for the Eorzea cafe at a Lawson Konbini- my friend Maika kindly did the online reservation for us! A helpful Lawson staff helped me figure everything out on the self-serve ticket computer.

I went back to the “Otome Road” area and visited Lashinbang, a 6 floor building with lots of unique items. There’s just no telling what you might see on the fabled otome road- stores and floors full of niche, quirky, sometimes blush-inducing items. I got some Diabolik Lovers and Amnesia doujinshi (fan-made comics)!

 

After that I decided to wander a bit and ended up at Tokyu Hands: seemingly endless floors of everything from camping gear to stationary. I got lots of stickers and gifts, including my most exciting find yet: flipbooks! I adore these creative little things!

Before heading back I went to Family Mart, as I was starving and basically out of cash (I actually had to cancel a few items at Tokyu Hands…). So, I got onigiri (rice ball), egg sandwiches, and fried chicken for us. All were good. The chicken was gloriously greasy!

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I loaded up on oil blotting sheets kuz the humidity is no joke!

As I was walking back to the hotel it began to rain, and most people had umbrellas at the ready (except me). However, the rain was actually refreshing and didn’t bother me as it gave me a different look (hey, i’m not a sweaty tourist, it’s just rain! Really!…)

People were scooting around, trying to avoid the rainfall. As I neared the hotel a few guys were standing talking and all had umbrellas. One looked at me and ‘tut-tut’ted as if to say “aw, poor thing”. I felt like he was going to approach and offer his konbini umbrella to me, but I didn’t want to be a nuisance so I speed-walked back to the hotel!

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This is one of my favorite pictures from our trip.

 

Tomorrow is Day 3: Shinjuku Park, Giant Spiders, and Square Enix Cafe!

 

Japan Memories Day 1: Hello Japan!

It was one year ago that Dustin and I went to Japan, and it’s a trip I still think about every single day. Japan was the most exciting three weeks of my life, and I’ve been waiting for the 1 year anniversary to revisit my journal from that time and share my experiences and special memories from Japan.

So, starting with day 1, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 1, September 30th and Oct 1st, 2017

We boarded our flight to Narita from Calgary around 12:15! It was a big plane. I watched most of a Japanese movie about a Shogi player (“March of the Lion” or something?) but it was so sad T_T and I was too tired to finish it.

I tried to sleep several times with a variety of styles of inflatable travel pillows, but to no avail! We were served a lunch set at the beginning (ish) with noodles, potato salad, a hard and dry bun, mini water bottle, and a tasty brownie. Near the end of the trip, we got a dinner set of chicken or beef rice paired with a fruit cup.

When we were over land finally prior to landing, it was the most beautiful and varied aerial view I’ve ever seen from an airplane:

  • deep green rippling mountains
  • rivers
  • valleys where towns are nestled
  • beaches
  • ships
  • windmills
  • islands

I spotted a large, tall statue (a Buddha?) a few minutes before we landed.

Flying around Canada gives aerial views of mostly flat, uniform land with systematically organized residential areas in perfect rows, but comparatively the aerial view of Japan reminded me of a circuit board- clusters and pathways that are interesting to behold, and that may seem random but surely have a meaningful organization of their own.

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We landed and entered Narita airport, following the stream of other tourists and travelers until entering a large hall that was busy and a bit intimidating. Luckily, the information desks were immediately visible and a kind woman explained to us how to go where we needed to for exchanging our cash, getting our pocket Wifis from the airport bank, and submitting our JR orders for JR passes. 

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First we exchanged our CAD for yen. The exchange counter had cute little origami figures offered for visitors to take!

We narrowly avoided a HUGE lineup at the airport’s JR office (probably because we didn’t have any checked baggage to wait for after getting off the plane) but we did still have a decent time to wait. It was OK though, because they had air conditioning (THE HUMIDITY IS REAL) and lots of info displays and pamphlets to read while waiting.

The woman at the JR office booked our seats on the Narita Express and then we were on our way. We followed the signs to the train station and waited 20 mins. I got excited when I saw my first Japanese vending machines glowing in the underground passage and bought a couple of drinks! The Tsubu Tsubu Sangaria had yummy jellies in it.

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The Narita Express was clean, air conditioned, and had roomy seats. Dustin pointed out that after the attendant did his walk-around every few minutes, he would turn to face the passengers and bow. 

As the Narita Express carried us to Tokyo Station, we couldn’t believe how cool the trees looked- lush and thick. We passed traditional looking houses and huge apartment complexes. We could see Tokyo Skytree for a moment and appreciate how MASSIVE it is. I got the willies just looking at it from afar.

At Tokyo Station we transferred onto the Yamanote line to go to Akihabara. By this point it was CRAZY RUSH HOUR. Holy crap. We were expecting it, but it was still overwhelming. The train to Akiba had cute commercials playing on the screens for Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem stuff!

When we got off in Akiba it was packed, and by this point we were exhausted. We took a couple of minutes figuring out which exit to take. I saw my first glimpse of the SEGA building on Akiba strip- there was a girl in cosplay advertising enthusiastically for something, and she had blue hair. 

Finally, we found our first sanctuary: Hotel Washington Akihabara. We would be staying in Ikebukuro for a large portion of the trip, but for the first night we would stay here.

When I checked in at the desk the woman slid a tray to us with two rolled cloths on it. I was like… um… for hands? And she said yes. They were warm steamed towels. Nice!

Our hotel room is SO CUTE and provided unexpected amenities like plastic hairbrushes, toothbrushes, teensy toothpaste tubes, pyjamas, vacuum-sealed sponges, a razor, even cute little cotton slippers you can take home with you! 

We showered and gladly went to bed right away. The window beside the bed offered a great view of the entrance to Akiba station and a busy intersection with a crosswalk. 

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First impressions of Japan today: 

  • Wow, aerial views of Japan are stunning
  • Wow, people here handle my passport like it is a sacred prophecy 
  • Yes, it really IS that packed during rush hour!
  • There are advertisements all over Akiba, and instructional info also often features cute characters
  • If you accidentally get in the way of a pedestrian they may suddenly spring away from you (at least, if you are greasy gaijin like us… ^-^’)
  • People are so well dressed 😮 and neutral colours reign supreme. 
  • The humidity! Oh, the humidity!
  • Everywhere is so clean

Tomorrow’s post will be Japan Memories Day Two… EMBARRASSING MYSELF IN A KONBINI!!!