Japan Trip: Part 2

Thanks for tuning back in and welcome to Part 2 of our Japan trip! This one is even more photo heavy than the last one, I think, so maybe that'll make up for how much text I put in these blogs. I do go more into detail about the Tokyo Metro in a moment for those of you that are interested. I know most of you tuned in for food recommendations, so I also have a few more great spots for you in here.

Speaking of food, Tokyo 7-Eleven is seriously amazing. I wish ours in the states were so nice.  They were always so clean and the "to-go" food was surprisingly really good. We had a few late night snacks/meals/ice cream bars while we were there. 

I forgot to mention in the last blog, but we ate at a conveyor belt sushi spot numerous times during our stay in Japan. There are two similar locations that we went to--the main one being Genki Sushi in Shibuya.  It's a very short walk from the Ginza and Fukutoshin lines/Shibuya Crossing.

The other spot is Uoebi Sushi. A little further down, but if one has a long wait, you can easily pop into the other. They have pretty much the exact menu/system going, just different names. 

Very cheap, delicious sushi with quite a few vegeterian options! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alright, I'm going to try to breakdown the Metro as easily as I can. There are multiple companies running the Metro system, so you have to purchase multiple tickets if you want to be able to easily to get to some destinations. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is go to the Ueno station (G16) and purchase a 3 day tourist pass.  We didn't do this until the end of the trip (out of sheer laziness,) but we wish we would have--it would have saved us a decent chunk of change. 

The 3-day pass costs only a little bit more than the 1-day pass. I think 1500 yen for a 3-day and 800 for a 1-day. The 3-day pass covers the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines and makes travel really simple. 

We stayed in Asakusa and depending on which way we walked from our hotel, we got on G17 or G18. We took the Ginza line for most of our stops. We took Ginza to Ueno and purchased our 3-day pass there. We could only buy a 1-day pass at the other stations near us. 

For our JR pass (which took us to Kyoto and Osaka,) we had to go to Tokyo Station and go to JR Pass West Office. We took Ginza line from G17 (Inaricho) to G14 (Suehirocho) and then took a JR line to Tokyo Station. This was the fastest route and since we didn't have our JR pass yet, we paid maybe 200 yen a person for a short, one way trip to Tokyo Station.

Once in Tokyo Station we went to the JR Pass office to get our passes. We bought a 7-day pass and that was 29,110-38,880 Yen a person (depending on what type of seating you chose.) This gave us access to the Hikari Shinkansen which took us to Kyoto and back and Osaka and back during our stay. A one way ticket for the bullet train is 13,080. So, it was definitely worth the price of the JR pass to go ahead and get it. 
We didn't end up going back to Kyoto for one more day like I'd wanted, but we were SO exhausted by the end of the trip, it just wasn't worth it to us haha. 

The travel was the most expensive part of the trip. We got a great deal on our flight and even with the JR passes, this trip was a lot less expensive than our Paris trip last year. (Which I will blog about soon...I just took SO many photo and I'm still overwhelmed haha)

Tokyo Subway Map!

After being completely worn out by our Kyoto trip the day prior, we took an easy day and visited the Maxell Aqua Park. Entry was 2200 Yen a person and they allow reentry with that day's pass.

This aquarium was beautiful. They had light shows, interactive fishtanks displays, two amusement park rides, and little soundscapes. The Aqua park has 350 species of some 20,000 marine creatures and performances that change depending on time of day or night.

We love Zoos and Aquariums. If you've seen any previous travel blogs or my instagram stories, I'm sure that's obvious. This one is up there on my list because of how cool some of the displays and tanks were. (And how clean everything is compared to the amount of people that it sees every day.) Honestly, one of my favourite parts about Japan was how clean they kept public bathrooms. 

One of my favourite part about aquariums is the jellyfish. This definitely was no exception. You come around the end of a hallway and turn into this dark room with floor to ceiling mirrors and incredible lighted tanks and fixtures. I could have stayed in here for a really long time. What can I say? I like coloured lights and floating creatures. 

Next up was the arena area! We arrived just in time for the dolphin show. The dolphin show was about 20 minutes long and had the creatures and the trainers performing for the audience. There was a water and light show included and the dolphins leaped so high into the air and created monstrous splashes, soaking the first 4-5 rows of the audience. 

The animals were highly intelligent and really enjoyed making splashes and watching the audience squeal. I've never seen an aquatic show before, but I'm sure this one tops most. 

Right after the arena was a small opened area for another show! We made it right before the Penguin show began. The employees brought out two penguins from their enclosure and rolled them out on this "grassy" platform. They danced for the audience and kept playing with each other.

They ended up racing and doing tricks for everyone while the audience kept yelling "KAWAIIIIIII". One of the penguins cheated and skipped all of the obstacles so he could hit the bell first and get the treat. 

They spun and danced for us while we stood under a constant water mist. This show was much shorter than the Dolphin one, but entertaining. 

When you move to the next area, the space opens up to a penguin, seal, and otter exhibit, with some of the large water tanks visible in the back.

The otters were super playful and one kept trying to be in front of the other. He was crawling on him and kept trying to get close to everyone at the window. They had a huge area to run around and a tubing system that led them from a water tank to dry land to a bed area and more.

Next to them was a seal they happily swam around and did little tricks for those watching.

The penguin enclosure was clean and had little to no smell. I normally hate the penguin area at zoos and parks because of how much it smells, but this one was clean and "penguin fragrance" free. 

On the way to the huge water tunnel, there was a wall area with diaphonized specimen and other preserved creatures. I looove diaphonized creatures. It's quite cool.

Next up was the aqua tunnel that had all kinds of sea creatures swimming around and above you. We sat and watched all of them swim about and made weird noises at the sharks. (Here is what makes us laugh)

Next to the tunnel it was something like a reptile room with lizards, turtles, snakes, and a random capybara.

The aqua park wasn't a huge place, but it was very entertaining, clean, and indoors. Totally worth the ticket fee (which is quite low, anyways.)

We did more wandering and shopping and stopped for some shaved ice near our hotel. This was not like your typical shaved ice/snow cone. The ice was shaved super thin and was accompanied by ice cream and topped with strawberry syrup. Delicious. We shared one because the serving size was monstrous.  

While we were in Japan, I found some new favourite treats. Kirin Lemon is an amazing soda. It's a super carbonated lemonade that is tart and sweet. Peach Fanta is the hands down the best Fanta with Orange Fanta next in line.

Gongcha has really amazing boba tea. They gave us a gift for waiting in line and we need up going back to them a couple of times. Their boba was really good and the tea had such a strong, delicious taste to it.

I also found this ice cream wafter bar called Choco Monaka Jumbo in the 7-Eleven. It is amazing. 

If anyone knows how to get Kirin Lemon and Chocolate Manaka Jumbo to me, please let me know. I even emailed Kirin Lemon about it haha. They said it's too expensive to try to sell in the US, which I understand. I still want it sooo bad. 

We spent the rest of the day wandering about and ended up at this amazing "hole in the wall" ramen place that had meat free ramen! No fish broth or anything. I was so happy Jonathon found this spot. It is Kyushu Jangara Ramen in Akihabara

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Veg Ramen! Finally. <3 It can be vegan if you don't include the egg. 

Full and exhausted, we went back to the hotel to sleep and prepare for our long trip to Osaka the next day!

View of Mt Fuiji from the shinkansen.

View of Mt Fuiji from the shinkansen.

We got ready early this morning to make our way to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka!
The trip is about 3 hours by bullet train, so we stopped by 7-Eleven for breakfast and took it with us to eat on the way there. (It is acceptable to eat on a bullet train, just not normal trains.)

We made it to the park right after opening and the park was already slammed! On a weekday, too. I had only ever been to The Wizarding world of Harry Potter (at a Harry Potter convention) so I'd never really been to the rest of Universal, and Jonathon had done all universal, but no Harry Potter.

Our first stop was the Wizarding world. We wandered through Hogsmede and stopped into all the shops. We waited in line for the Wand Experience and Jonathon was chosen! 

When we were done with that experience and went into Ollivanders, the associate showed us the want that "chose him," and it happened to be the wand that I had chosen for my self 8 years before. Fate ;P

I don't think I've ever seen so many people in a theme park before. All the rides had ridiculous wait times. Someone said that during peak visiting season, rides could be 500 minute‽ 

Our first stop was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey where the wait was 2.5 hours+ long...and we waited the entire time for it. We were all the way in Japan after all. May as well! 

Thankfully, it was a cloudy day. The temperature wasn't bad and the sun wasn't beating down on us, so the wait wasn't miserable. It's such a cool ride, I just wish the wait hadn't been so long! 

Once we exited the Forbidden Journey, we stopped to get some butterbeer. We enjoyed the beverage and once finished, we headed out of the Wizarding world to check out the rest of Universal. 

By then, we were quite hungry, so we stopped for some overpriced park food. I had a pizza slice and he had a hotdog. Nothing special. We spend some time wandering through the park and decided to ride the Spiderman Ride. That was about a 90 minute wait. The ride itself was totally different from the Florida one! The was one ride I did get to ride before. 

By then, our feet were just aching from all that standing, but there was one more ride we wanted to experience! I wish we could have ridden more, but the wait times were just insane on all of the rides, we wouldn't have had enough time even if we stayed open to close at the park. The express passes only work once and for one ride only (or if you buy the pass its 4 rides) but that line was just as long and those passes sell out before/as soon as the park opens. 

Our last ride was a relatively new one (2016), The Flying Dinosaur. It is steel flying roller coaster found only in Universal Japan. It locks you into a prone position and is the longest flying roller coaster, currently. That was also a 2.5 hour wait. It felt like FOREVER. But once we got to the ride, it was dark out and we got to fly through the air and view the park from above at night with all the lights on. It was very cool. I was anxious about the ride for no reason whatsoever...but I'm no wuss. I made myself do it.

After we completed that ride, I really wanted to go on one more, but we didn't have time. If we waited and then took the 3 hour ride home, the station's trains would have stopped running for the evening and we would have been stuck! 

After we left the park, we stopped at an awesome popcorn stand and got giant bags of popcorn for dinner that we ate on the train ride back. I don't think my feet have hurt more in my life haha. I welcomed the 3 hour ride back. I just wish they turned the interior lights off. 

The next morning I was craving eggs, so we went to Eggs N Things--A popular Hawaiian themed breakfast spot. We went to the one in Ginza since we hadn't been in that area yet. We got a balcony spot with a lovely city street view and stuffed our faces with giant portions of breakfast food. (We definitely didn't eat lunch after this. SO much food)

We got their strawberry pancakes with whipped cream tower and eggs Benedict. I had the vegetarian option and Jonathon had seafood on his. Delicious. 

We spend a god bit of the day exploring Ginza and going back to other areas of Tokyo. When it came time for dinner, Jonathon found a place called Kuriya located in Shinjuku and right next to the Godzilla head. 

The restaurant was located in a tiny basement room. It, of course, was vegetarian friendly, but it also was smoker friendly, so there was a bit of a cigarette smell since a lot of the customers chain smoked while they ate. It wasn't as smoky as Paris was. They had vents, so it was bearable. 

I think the place was run by a couple? It was a woman and a man and they were running the entire place. I think cooking, too. I think the man tried to shoo us away because they were full, but we said we could wait and after about 15 minutes, we were seated and the woman seemed very happy to see us, and if she was faking it, she was an excellent actress.

The food was delicious and came out fairly quickly.  Jonathon had a ton of different meats on skewers and I had a delicious radish salad with Japanese herb plum perilla dressing and I also got an item that was Camembert cheese and pumpkin lightly fried. So yummy. 

After dinner, we hopped on the Ginza line and went to Ueno to walk down Ameyoko. Ameyoko is a busy market street the used to be a black market following World War II. There was a Taito Station over there (gaming) that had a Hedgehog plushie we kept trying to win for my mother-in-law. She asked for a Japanese hedgehog, so we tried to get her one! Fake or not. But, it wasn't happening. Jonathon almost got the hedgehog and as soon as it went over the drop area, it fell and went back to the starting position.

We saw lots of shops there - gaming, clothing, candy, fish..etc. but it was late, so most of the stores were closing. We walked up and down for a bit and then went back to the hotel for the evening. We ended up coming back to this spot later in the week.

The next day, Jonathon found a place that had these crazy popular jiggly/fluffy pancakes in Harajuku. BUT, they are complicated to get. They only serve 20 of these orders at a time and they serve them at 11, 3, and 6. The seatings are set 15 min apart, so even if you get a ticket for the 11 o'clock serving, you might not be able to eat until 1 or so.  We were a 20 minute or so train ride away and were not feeling that much waiting and hanging around. You'd have to queue up early enough to even get one of the tickets, so we decided to go and get their other gourmet pancakes instead.

The place is called Cafe & Pancake Gram and is located in the middle of Takeshita street. We got there and had to wait about 45min or so for a time slot to be seated, so we walked around and found an AMAZING outfit shop nearby.

I had been on the quest for an all gold outfit after being invited to Kat Von D's 10 Year Anniversary party for her cosmetics brand, Kat Von D Beauty. I only wear black and gold is not my color, so I was struggling with something.

We walked in this shop and it was full of these amazing, handmade, one-of-a-kind costumes. I tried on one of the futuristic gold ones up front, but it didn't flatter my arms, so we wandered in the back and found this perfect outfit on a mannequin. We asked if I could try it on, so I dressed down in the middle of the store, and it fit...shockingly. I'm huge compared to Asian standards (especially in the bust area.) Jonathon haggled with her tiny bit and we purchased the outfit. It was more than I wanted to pay, but it was for a special event and it was so unique, it was worth it.  

The shop has no internet presence, unfortunately. The woman makes one of everything and she became popular because there were/are some Japanese pop stars that liked her designs. I wish I could order from them from the USA...I would love to have more of the costumes. I don't think I was supposed to share photos, but since they aren't online anywhere, I wanted to share a few. 

The photo below is the outfit I purchased from her. It was a lightly boned corset and pleated skirt. It had big shoulders with fringe attached to them. So cool. The headpiece was made by my dear friend Sarah and the boots are Jeffrey Campbell Big Litas that I sewed boot covers for. 

I'm so happy we found this place because now I have this super cool, unique outfit from Japan. 

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By the time we were finished in that amazing store, it was time for our slot at Cafe Gram. J and I both got their Tiramisu Pancakes which were DIVINE. Something that I would definitely consider a dessert, not breakfast, but it was still so good. It was super rich and creamy. Definitely a sugar overload.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to Ueno to check out the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo. It was very cheap to enter, about ¥620 and we spent pretty much the rest of the day here. 

Most of the exhibits had English on them, so we were able to read about what the were seeing. I didn't write any of it down, because that would make this blog 300 pages long, so I hope that these images are enough for you! This place was really cool and consisted of two buildings with multiple floors and huge rooms with displays in them. 

After spending many hours at the Museum, we met up with an old friend at Ueno Station. He is originally from Texas, and we met him at Dragoncon in 2010. He moved to Japan a year or so ago and we hadn't seen him in a really long time, so it was nice of him to take a train down and visit with us for a couple of days before we headed home.

After we met up with Chris, we headed to a fancy little spot that has yakiniku/Japanese charcoal BBQ so they could have wagyu beef. I think it was Toraji? I didn't write it down because I didn't expect there to be anything I could eat. Surprisingly, there was something on the menu that I could eat! They had multiple salads and the option to get raw veggies that you can cook on the grill. They both got a meat platter and got to cook their own meat. 

The next day, we took Chris to a lot of the same places we visited when we first got to Japan. That meant going back to the Purikura booth and Kiddie Land. We got more Gudetama merch, this time keychains.  Jonathon got one with meat, and I got one with veg. Sheer luck. 

Once we got our Harajuku fix, we headed to the Nezu Shrine to see the Azalea Festival. I think a lot bloomed super early this year, so it looked like we are at the far end of the festival's time. Not as many blooms as there could have been, but it was still a beautiful place. The Shrine grounds were lovely and they had lots of stalls up for food and games.

We walked the grounds and went through the small Torii gate tunnel. The guys got food and I watched the kids play some of the games in the stalls.  When we were ready to leave, there were women quietly moving about on a stage. I stood and watched for a moment and then more came out and music started playing. I wish I knew what it was, but I did include the short video down below. It was so beautiful.

Here’s a short clip of the women performing. I have no idea what it was for, but I was awestruck.

There was a small shinto shrine on Chris' list that he wanted to see, so we took a train over to it. I honestly do not remember the name of it. I'll ask him and edit this if I hear back. It was secluded from the main road and was in the middle of tall, modern buildings. It was strange coming upon it since it didn't quite look like it fit in. There was no one there, which was really nice, so it was quiet and calm.

After the shinto visit, we were hungry so we went back to Genki sushi. (I think we ate here 5 times? 🤷🏻 It's good and cheap!)

The guys ate a ton of different sushi rolls. I ate more avocado rolls and I fumed at some really rude foreigners who were acting rowdy and clipping their GoPro on the belt that the sushi rode on. 

We wandered about Shibuya and Asakusa and enjoyed our last evening in Japan. 

This was our final day! Bittersweet. I was so ready to come home and eat Beyond Burgers and American breakfasts haha. We had just enough time to visit the Ueno Zoo before we started our long journey back home. 

We got there right at open and the zoo was insanely packed.  I really wanted to see the baby panda, but you have to have purchased tickets and won a special lottery to be able to do so. We did wait in line to see the male panda! By the time it was our turn to get close and see him, he had moved and hidden from everyone. So, these are the best shots I could get. 

The zoo was pretty neat. Lots of exhibits you'd normally see in your average zoo. Most of the animals were really active. Especially the nocturnal ones.  I did get a few photographs of those, but they aren't the best. The room was pitch black with just a tiny pinpoint of red light, so I did my bet with no tripod and a very slow shutter speed. 

There are two photos where a bat has food on her chest and she's hanging there and eating it. Sooo cute.  

It definitely was a really hard to get good photos in Japan, especially at the attractions because of the amount of people EVERYWHERE. I'm still not over that. So many people everywhere. People queuing up hours before something opens. It was pretty crazy.

We finished the east side of the park and headed over to the west side of the park. It was a 5-10 min walk or you could wait for a while and take the Zoo train. We walked. 

I was excited for the vivarium. It had skeletons, reptiles, snakes, fogs..etc. (and a penguin right outside) The pig nosed turtle was probably my favourite just because of how strange he looked. I always love seeing all the frogs and lizards.

There were more nocturnal exhibits and other basic zoo animals. We got to see an Aye Aye up close, and it's definitely as bizarre of a primate as you read about.

We finished up the Zoo and it was time to say our goodbyes. We headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and said goodbye to Chris and made our way to the airport.

I should have mentioned in the first blog, but we flew Singapore air to and from Tokyo and flew Alaska to and from Portland to LA. Singapore Air gave us a very comfortable, smooth flight (that might have been because of my medicine though), the staff was incredible, and the vegetarian food wasn't that bad. 

Alaska is always good. The might not have the newest interior, but they have some great pilots and I prefer to fly Alaska when I'm flying in the states.

If anyone is interested in a cost breakdown, just let me know and I can edit that in. I just don't want to spend the time if no one is interested!

Photo shoot from the airplane window

Photo shoot from the airplane window

Thank you so much for reading or viewing. I hope this was helpful to any of you that are interested in Japan, trying to see if you can eat in Japan, or just like looking a pics. I'm sorry it took so long to put up...I take way too many photos. Ha. 

I'm working on a short blog for our recent trip to Yellowstone, and that'll be up soon (: 

xx

Japan Trip: Part 1

Every year, around the end of April, we take a trip out of the country. We started this with our Elopement to Ireland two years ago, and continued it with Paris, France, last year and Japan this year. The last two years, we moved right at the time we got back from our little holiday, so I was never able to sit down, edit pictures, and blog about our trips.  (ehhhh. I should probably do that even though it's been so long.)

To view the images in this blog, tap or click on them to bring up the full view! Putting them all individually would make this blog post even longer than it already is. (;

For our trip this year, we flew to Tokyo, Japan.  I'm absolutely terrible at event/trip planning and it's a talent of Jonathon's, (he gets it from his mother) so he picked out our hotel and planned some of the things we were to do. I'll be linking a lot of places that we went to or ate.  I am a vegetarian, so I know many of you will be interested in what I ate while I was there. I learned to say, "I'm a vegetarian, no fish, beef, pork, chicken." 

For lodging, stayed in Asakusa, a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan at the Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International. Right near the heart of Tokyo and just a short walk to two train stations. 

The hotel was located on the 5th floor of a little shopping center and was conveniently located between a 7-Eleven and a Don Quixote, not to mention all the shops and many food spots.

The staff was welcoming and spoke English. Our room was on the 12th floor, very tiny, but very comfortable. We had a beautiful view overlooking the city and a shower with the best water pressure on earth.  Our room also came with a Handy Phone which allowed us to have free internet and international calling during our entire stay. This was such a great amenity and saved us some $$ since we didn't need to use our international cell plan. 

What a beautiful view from our hotel room.

As soon as we got to our hotel, we showered and went to explore Asakusa for a little bit before dinner and much needed sleep. We wandered around all the little shops and stopped to eat Taiyaki, which is a fish shaped snack filled with red bean paste (and we got a sweet potato one.) Super yummy! We walked around more, I was too tired to snap many photos, so there aren't many from the evening we arrived. We went to dinner and then went to bed!

The next morning, we got up and were ready by around 6:30am. Went to look for things to eat and see, and realized nothing opened until 10/11! Crazy.  The streets were quiet and everything was closed.  We decided to go get our train tickets for the day and head to Harajuku. I'll get more into train passes later on.

We arrived at Harajuku and went wandering! Harajuku was about a half hour train ride from where our hotel was.  Not a bad trip and the trains were super easy to deal with. Much easier than Paris, but some of the railways were owned by private companies which meant buying separate tickets if you didn't get the tourist 3 day pass at a specific location. 

Since most of the shops were closed, we walked up and down the streets, taking in the sights.  We popped into Daiso, a famous 100-yen shop, to look at the goods and waste a little time.  After Daiso, we went to the Purikura station in front of it and had some fun with the machine.  I didn't realize the images they gave you were so small, so I'm glad I snapped a few photos of the computer screen. ;P

After we became our anime dream selves, we headed to LaForet.  It was raining for most of the morning, so we were surprised so many people were still queued up outside EVERYWHERE.  Who lines up an hour before a mall opens? Seems so crazy to me. 

Once LaForet opened, we went to browse all the shops.  I LOVED seeing all the Lolita fashion and wished I was 1. cute enough to wear it and 2. had that much throwaway money.  Everything in LaForet was insanely priced, but a lot of it was our style.  We wanted more minimalist streetwear clothing while we were there, but weren't feeling the prices at LaForet. 

Unfortunately, most of these shops have a no photography policy, so I wasn't able to take photos while we were in there. ): 

Our next stop was Hedgehog Cafe HARRY in Harajuku! We got there shortly after opening and didn't have much of a wait. This place was awesome. The animals were so lively and interactive and the price was good.  You got a 30 min time slot for 1400 yen a person with a few hedgehogs and a free beverage while you were visiting.

The workers were super friendly and spoke to us about the animals and their care.  They even have a nap time area for the hedgehogs so they can get some rest and stay stress free. 

After the hedgehog cafe, we were starving, but not quite ready for lunch that minute. We found a place nearby that had really cheap gyozas (Harajuku Gyoza Lou), so we stopped by for a quick snack. Jonathon got the 6 gyoza special (just 290 yen) and I had Japanese cucumbers with miso paste. After our bellies were a little less angry, we went to Kiddy Land-- a 5 floor store filled with toys, dolls, Hello Kitty, Snoopy..etc SO cute.  We went in here to browse and I might have gotten a little too excited to see Gudetama, my favourite Sanrio Character. I got a huge, soft,  squishy plushie and we left to do a little bit more walking and then lunch!

Lunch was the Harajuku Kawaii Monster Cafe.  We went to the day/cafe version since it was noon and it's a completely different atmosphere. The cost is 500 yen a person and you have to each order a beverage. This place was sooo cool. Definitely felt like a fun fantasy world-- "Like a party thrown by monsters in your closet." 

Lunch wasn't bad, but not as good for the price. We were here for the atmosphere though, not amazing food.  Our beverages were super sweet.  Mine was a carbonated fruit soda that tasted like gummy bears and my rainbow pasta was like a garlicy pasta with a little spice. Jonathon had a teriyaki bowl. We walked around the cafe and took some pictures and had fun time with all the lights and music. 

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After lunch, we took a train to Shibuya since it was pretty close to Harajuku. We walked to see Shibuya crossing and as much as I hate to admit, it wasn't as cool as everyone always makes it out to be. It's just a really busy intersection. It was rather comical to see EVERYONE vlogging or taking photos while they were trying to walk.

We went to the second floor of the Starbucks at one of the streets to get a better view in a less busy area.

We spent a lot of time in Asakusa throughout the trip.  It was such a quaint little area full of food, shopping, and sight seeing with less crowds than other areas. Tokyo is very industrial and somehow manages to make street snapshots look so nice. 

Every time we walked back to our hotel, we passed an owl cafe. There were adorable girls outside in animal kigurumis and they would have owls on their shoulders or other animals hanging out with them.  The birds looked happy to just be hanging out, so we decided to go in.  

Our mistake.

Once in, you walk in to this tiny area upstairs that had the worse "zoo" smell. You can't see anything except some fake trees and the cashier area. We pay for the visit and walk through a little half door/fence and my heart just sank. There were two otters crying in a cage with NO water. I'm not sure if they were crying because the humans give them treats, but it still made my heart sink.

We'd paid about 30 dollars to get in, so we decided to just continue and hope it got better. It was a small room with a ton of owls chained to a post.  The girls at the entrance were sooo deceiving. I snapped photos of all the beautiful birds and made sure not to get the chains in there. I honestly didn't want to have to look back at that.  I may or may not have been crying a bit at this point. 

You were allowed to pet the owls, they just had rules. No touching the face, use the back of your hand...etc.  Jonathon and I pet and spoke to all the birds to give them a little affection. 

They had a few lizards, turtle, and birds in cages too, and those also weren't in a habitat that I would consider great.

We'd looked up the Hedgehog cafe and it had glowing reviews. I deeply regret not researching this one. I think it was just called "Owl Cafe Asakusa" 

Anyways, sorry about the sob story.  Definitely don't be an idiot like me who gets caught up by the cute animals at the door and research the animal cafe you are going to. 

I want to hug all these birds haha.

In the evenings, we wandered around Asakusa. I find that Tokyo is so much more beautiful at night because atmosphere all the lanterns and coloured lights make. I was also on a mission to find street cats to hug, but I only found one over here and he was a fat cat, quite happy to be by a restaurant. 

Asakusa is the home to Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple that is one of Tokyo's most significant. It is next to a beautiful 5 story pagoda, the Shinto Shrine, and Asakusa Shrine, and it is surrounded by shops for trinkets and noms.

We dropped by on one of our evening walks so we could see it lit up against the dark sky. We walked up to the O-mikuji stalls to donate 100 yen and receive an o-mikuji, a fortune written on strips of paper. You donate your money and gently shake a box that contains a bunch of sticks with lettering on it.  You match up that letter/phrase to a drawer and pull your fortune from it! We got a good fortune.  When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple/shrine grounds.

Finding breakfast in Tokyo is hard! It seemed that everything was sweets/ice cream or fish/soup/salad. By the end of our journey, I was dying to have a good American or Irish breakfast haha.

While looking for breakfast spots, We found this amazing melonpan shop a street or two down from our hotel. Asakusa Kagetsudo Honten. It was open before 11, which was amazing haha.

Melonpan is a Japanese sweet bread that is a bread dough covered with a thin layer of crisp cookie dough.  So yummy.  It melts in your mouth.  I got the ice cream stuffed one (great, healthy breakfast, right?) and Jonathon got the plain one.  We tried both but I definitely liked the ice cream one, because ice cream..duh.

We actually ended up coming here a couple of times, but the first time, one of the shop people welcomed us and asked where from. They get so excited when we say USA. "Someone from USA came to my shop!" is the reaction. He asked to take our photo and yelled "Kawaii!!" the whole time. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Right next to the melonpan shop, there is Asakusa Kingyo--which is a goldfish themed shop. You can buy cute goldfish accessories or scoop your own goldfish! Goldfish scooping is a game where you try to catch goldfish from a tank using a tool called poi. You can take the challenge as many times as you like until the poi rips. We didn't partake, but the shop was cute. 

Also, we saw lots of cute pigeons. 

After our "pre breakfast" melonpan, we went back to the shrine grounds to look around during the daytime. We stopped by Yogodo Hall. This hal is for enshrining Buddha cooperating with Kannon.

Legend has it that two fishermen caught a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, in their net in the Sumida river. Realizing the importance of the statue, the head of their village made a shrine dedicated to Kannon in his own house, where he displayed the statue. A few years later, the statue was enshrined in what became the Sensoji Temple.  Priest Shokai Shonin decided that the statue should be hidden from people, which is still in effect today. 

150 year years later, a monk named Ennin created a replica of the original statue so that people could worship it... this move is one of the reasons this area is so developed now.  In 1994, a dedicated hall was build to honor him and that hall is the Yogodo Hall.

Yogodo Hall

Beside this hall, there is a pond full of koi fish and contains the oldest stone bridge, which was made in 1618.  It is blocked off so you cannot walk on it (for good reason,) but you can see it from the path.

We spent a little while at the shrine grounds before we went off to get real breakfast. 

Brunch was at a little spot called Suke6 Diner. The atmosphere was very "LA" and it was one of the only places I saw egg and avocado toast on the menu. I had avocado toast with a poached egg and Jonathon had bagels and lox with smashed potatoes. Yummy and I was so happy to have egg and avocado haha. I love ice creams but not for breakfast.

We walked around by the Diner, which is right by the Sumida river. Across the Sumida is the Asahi Beer Hall, a building that looks like a giant glass of beer with the "Asahi Flame" (which just looked like gold poop). The Asahi Beer Hall is referred to as "poo building." (*I apparently didn't get any pics of this, so these two images are from online. Credit at the end of this blog)

We didn't go in, we just wandered past it to see the city.  

Next stop, Akihabara. The weeabo district of Tokyo lol. Akihabara is basically the otaku center and a shopping area for video games, anime, manga, computer goods..etc Lots of figures decorate the shopping windows and there are maid cafes everywhere. 

We spend a lot of time here wandering around and shopping (for Monster Hunter goodies, figures..etc)
A lot of these places didn't allow photography ): but I took as many pics as I could. Sometimes I snuck a few with my phone. I wasn't too worried about being disrespectful since they weren't sacred areas/shrines..etc 

There are lots of Sega stores in Akihabara. We walked in to every one that we saw, but the one we spend the most time in was Sega Akihabara 1st. The 6th floor had a ton of VR games and even an open area where you can play a VR shooter game. I know people joke about Asians, mainly Japanese being the best at video games, but holy hell these guys were good.  We stood back and watched many play some of these games with expert skill and some of them had the fastest hand movements I've ever seen. Quite phenomenal. 

The streets of Akihabara are covered with gachapon, capsule vending machines. You put money in, twist, and out comes a little toy, plushie, figure..etc. I did one of these and got a cat umbrella toy that I hooked to my backpack.

The MOST IMPORTANT part of our Akihabara visit: Cat Cafe Mocha. This area was like a giant living room filled with cats. I was SO happy. The animals were so kawaii and super friendly. I think I managed to pet every single one of the cats that they had there that day. I don't remember the price, but it was cheap. The cheapest animal cafe we went to on the trip. Maybe 2 yen for 10 min? Something like that. We stayed a lot longer than 10 min.

I loved the treehouse cages for the cats to hang out in. It was definitely a really cool area. You could tell that the workers loved cats.  They snuggled with them, clipped their toes, and cleaned ears while we were there.  All the animals seemed very happy. 

We spent a lot of time wandering the shops, and by nightfall we were famished.  For dinner, Jonathon found a spot for okonomiyaki, which is essentially a delicious dinner pancake. Delicious Japanese comfort food.  They were vegetarian friendly and we both left with very fully bellies. 

The name of the place was Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro and it was a fun and delicious experience. You walk in, remove your shoes, and walk across the old, wood floor and tatami mats to your very own teppan which you will be using to cook your own dinner! ( with help/ supervision, of course. I sure didn't know what I was doing)

I had okonomiyaki with lots of cabbage/veggies. I cooked mine first with oil instead of lard and Jonathon had a dish with noodles, using lard and some help from the staff (;

The teppan kept the area warm, but we were by an open window so we had a cool breeze throughout the entire meal. It was such a lovely experience. 

If you cant tell, I really enjoyed the streets in the evening.  Everything looked so pretty once the skies got dark.

We walked a lot around Asakusa in the evenings.

Next day! I think? We did so much in so many different places, I might be getting mixed up, but whatever. I'm just going in order of the images I shot ;P

We got up early like normal and went to the Meiji shrine in Shibuya, right next to Harajuku (Meiji-Jingumae.)
Right when you walk up to the area, you come across a massive Torii, a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at a Shinto Shrine entrance. 

This particular Torii was crafted Japanese cypress and is one of the largest in Japan. The tree that was use to create this gate was over 1500 years old!

It was surrounded by greenery (100,000 trees, as a matter of fact) and such a beautiful piece to welcome you to the shrine. There is about a 10 minute, very tranquil, walk from the entrance to the Shrine. We didn't enter the shrine grounds but we walked all the way through the woods and stopped to look at the greenery and the really beautiful painted Sake Barrels.

These colorful barrels are referred to as kazaridaru. These barrels are a beautiful, decorative display giving honor to the gods.

We spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Meiji-Jingumae. We didn't bring too many outfits for this trip--mostly streetwear--because we were planning on buying clothing while we were in Japan. What we found is that clothing here is ridiculously overpriced.  We went to a lot of the second hand shops in Harajuki and there were plain Walmart Hanes tees being sold individually for ¥9000 (about 82 American dollars.)

When we were in LaForet, I found so many outfits I wanted to buy, but I think I would have spent 1,000 American dollars on just three pieces..and I am not about that life haha.

 

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For our next meal, we chose Matsubara An. It is located on the fourth floor of a shopping area (near Nike) on the main Harajuku Shopping Street. Matsubara-an’s calling card is its teuchi soba-hand created buckwheat noodles.
We were seated with a beautiful view of the keyaki trees and the boulevard below. They were vegetarian friendly, but you are limited to cold soba dishes since the hot dishes contain fish broth.

The staff was very friendly, of course, and we had an endless supply of buckwheat tea, which is nutty and delicious and I think I drank 6 cups of it.

I let the staff know I was a vegetarian and could not eat fish, chicken, pork, beef..etc and she helped me with what options I had.  I ended up choosing a cold soba dish and tempura vegetables (tempura Japanese sweet potato is my fave)
The noodles were so amazing. You can definitely taste the difference from their handcrafted noodles to your basic, cheap soba noodle.  Jonathon had this specialty duck noodle dish and he said it was probably the best thing he has ever eaten. Period. He said the broth was absolutely incredible and he actually finished everything, including the broth (he's not much of a broth guy, so he definitely liked it ha)

We let our feet relax for a bit while we enjoyed lots of tea, noodles, and the street view, and then we went back to exploring the streets of Harajuku. We went in some really incredibly strange shops that I was dying to take photos of, but wasn't allowed.  If I had unlimited funds, I would have come back with some badass, albeit weird outfits. (I actually did come back with one for the Kat Von D party I went to a few days after we came home) 

After some window shopping, we stopped for some coffee at a little cafe called Reissue. Reissue is famous for their latte art! They draw incredibly detailed images on coffee and even do jiggly 3D art. I really wanted a bunch of 3D cats, but they didn't have decaf coffee (I don't drink caffeine) so I just went with a nice gingerale instead. (Each visitor has to buy a beverage, so I had to get something.) The coffee does cost about $10 if you want a design on it, but do it, it's worth it haha.

Jonathon decided he wanted a photo of Theodore or Lizard on his coffee, and then chose to use the photo of Lizard where I gave her a top hat.   

It was AMAZING. The girl did such a good job on the design, Jonathon didn't want to drink it.

We spent the rest of the evening walking around and then traveled to a Tokyo Harley store to purchase a gift for my father. After that purchase, we went back to the hotel to snack on 7-Eleven treats and rest for our long travel the next day. 

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On our way to Kyoto

We purchased a 7 day JR pass and went to spend the day in Kyoto! It's a little less than a 3 hour ride from Tokyo to Kyoto. The ride was smooth and the scenery was nice, so it wasn't a bad journey.

Once we made it to Kyoto, we were famished and ready for the upcoming walking. We stopped at a small restaurant on the busy street where we both had some soba noodles and buckwheat tea. A big step down from the previous meal's soba, but it was still delicious, because we were starving. After that lunch, we grabbed some street vendor ice cream and then headed to Fushimi Inari-taisha. 

This is one of the locations you definitely need to get to as soon as it opens, but since we weren't staying in Kyoto, we got there early afternoon. It was slammed.  In fact, all of Kyoto was slammed--didn't really bother me in a "social anxiety" kind of way lot a lot of crowds can do, it was honestly more irritating than anything.

The Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine was really cool. It is famous for it's thousands of vermilion torii gates which follow a network of trails behind the main shrine grounds.

This is the most important of several thousand of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Inari's messengers are thought to be Fox, so you can find many fox statues throughout the shrine grounds

At the very back of the shrine ground, you find the entrance* to the tori gate covered trail which starts with Senbon Torii, aka "thousands of torii gates." The hike to the mountain summit and back takes about 2.5 hours, but you can turn around whenever you please.

We walked up past the first opening and found another area at the top of a steep hill.

To the side of the main building in this little area, there was a pedestal with a rock. The sign tells you to make a wish,  close your eyes and make a wish and decide if your rock will be heavy or light. If the rock is what you wish it to be, your wish will come true. I snapped a photo of Jonathon doing this.  I wished the rock to be heavy, since I figured it was, and I was right ;P

We did not go to the summit, as we had a lot more hiking/walking to do, but we did stay here a couple of hours.

Next on our list was the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. We actually came here twice since the first time was so packed and crowded, but I will add images from both trips in this little spot.

This is one of those things that you just cannot capture in a photograph. Standing in the midst of this bamboo grove was a crazy feeling. We did manage to capture a few quiet moments, and it was otherworldly. 

We walked all the way to the end and found ourselves in front of the water next to the Arashiyama Mountains.

There were many people riding in boats along the river and we took in the view as we headed to our next destination, the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

We crossed the rivers via the Togetsukyō bridge and made our way to the Monkey Park.

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The Iwatayama Monkey Park has over 170 macaque monkeys live in this reservation atop Mt. Arashiyama.

It was ¥550 yen to enter and it's about a 20 min walk from base to top. 

You have to hike up a steep, but paved and covered forest trail to get to the reservation. For my out of shape, asthmatic ass in humid 80 degree heat, it was a tough hike. I was beet red and puffing like the big, bad wolf by the time we made it to the top, but it was worth it! 

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Once we arrived to the top, there were monkeys everywhere! You get to walk and sit around them, and if you go into the special indoor area, you can even feed them! For a very low price, too. Only ¥50 for a decent sized bag of food.  We got a bag of sliced bananas and a bag of peanuts

The monkeys are not in cages, or fenced in. There are signs that tell you what to do and not do, so you don't aggravate the monkeys, but they were very well behaved and obviously used to humans.

At the top of the mountain, you also get this beautiful, wide-angled view of the city that is just breathtaking.  

We spent some time in the feeding area getting close to the monkeys and handing them treats. It was such an amazing experience. Especially seeing the babies up close!

After enjoying our time at the reservation (and let me cool down from the hike,) we headed back down the mountain to shop around Kyoto and enjoy some Peach fanta and lemon soaked Kyuri Asa-zuke (Japanese pickled cucumber on a stick.)

Time for dinner. We were sooo hungry after all of that hiking. Jonathon found a place a few train stops away that had vegetarian gyoza! I was so excited to be able to actually eat some gyoza while in Japan. 

There are two Gyoza Chaochao locations.  The one that the gps takes you to does not have the vegetarian options, but they have a second locations about a 15 min walk away. The first location had a fairly long wait, but thankfully we didn't have to wait to be seated at the second location. The staff was friendly and SO energetic. They were excited to have us there and I was excited to devour some gyoza.

We ended up ordering and then ordering again when we finished the first serving. We were hungry, the price was good, and wanted to try everything.   We had a very happy bellies when we were done. 

After we ate, we got back to the JR line and rode the nearly 3 hours back to our hotel, we made it right before the trains closed for the evening. We got some snacks at the glorious Japan 7-Eleven and Don Quixote and crashed from exhaustion. Another busy week ahead!

That was our first week in Japan. I'm sorry it's SO much text, but I apparently don't know how to keep things short. I hope you enjoyed the images and I'll try to get part II out soon, but it'll be just as long as this one, so it may be a little bit. 

If you'd like to check out more from this, I have two instagram highlights set up on my profile that you can click on and watch! 

Thank you for reading. (:

 

xx

Alise 


*Asahi Brewery photo is from Yuta Sakaguchi from Ambassadors Japan. Asahi Beer Hall golden poo image from Jeremy Carver on Flickr

*The entrance parallel Senbon Torii shot is from Japan Air  (Too many people and a 35mm lens made that shot impossible for me ha)

Vegas Trip

Last week, I got to pop over to Vegas!  Jonathon had work duties, so I came in after and we toured around for a short bit.  Here is a little gallery of some shots I took while we were there!

Some are camera, some are phone.  Most of these are snapshots, but I know you guys always enjoy the zoo/aquarium pics, so good or not, I like to take them for you! Tap or click on the image to open the full size.  Let me know in the comments if you'd rather me post them individually so you can see them all without tapping.  It would just make a much longer blog post to scroll through.

We visited the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. It was a very short "exhibit," of sorts, but it was quite enjoyable.  We got there as soon as they opened, so we didn't have any crowds or noisy kids running about.

We wandered up and down the strip, stopping through each of the casinos and people watching.  The Bellagio was set up for Chinese New Year with the most beautiful decorations. 

We Ubered (use alisec86ue for your first ride free) to and from all of our locations and one evening we went down to Freemont. This place had so much energy and was full of people.  We walked all the way down to the Container Park where we found a shop that sold vegan jerky (it was made of cactus!)

I'm obsessed with the mantis at the entrance.  It shoots fire from its antennae. Freemont felt more like the "party area." Or at least it did for a normal weekday. Lots of very inebriated people and very drunk white girls dancing in the most comical way. We don't drink, but it's definitely entertaining watching people dance under alcohol's influence.

They had a band playing and then on the hour the entire ceiling lit up with a lightshow.  

We also went all the way back to the strip to check out The Venetian and walk through the mall connected to it. There was an asian nightclub/restaurant there that peaked our interest, so we went back there the following evening. 

We had purchased the 3 for $57 attraction combo for the Share Reef, Bodies exhibit, and the Adventure Dome.  The Shark Reef was shown at the beginning of this post and the Bodies exhibit allowed no photography. We'd been to a Bodies exhibit before, but it's always so interesting and both of us quite enjoyed seeing it again. 

We Ubered to the Adventure Dome to find out they were closed on Weekdays...so an irritated me pitched a polite bitch fit when we got back to the Luxor Hotel ticket booth to get our tickets switched to something else--which ended up being for the Titanic Exhibit.  

The Titanic exhibit was a lot more entertaining than I thought it was going to be.  It had actual artifacts from the ship and a small, but gigantic portion of the ship on display. There was a giant room that was below freezing that contained a massive block of ice that you could touch/interact with.  This exhibit also said no photography, but since I wasn't going to be disrespecting any of the deceased, I might have snapped a few shots.  

We did so much walking, my sneakers gave me blisters! I wanted to go to the Coca Cola store so Jonathon could try all the weird and disgusting sodas around the world.  I had done this when I was very young at the Atlanta Coke Museum, so I wanted to try it again. We ordered the Float and Soda Flight and made ourselves sick on the sugar.  Most of the international flavours weren't for our tastebuds (especially Beverly..RIP my tongue) but it was fun to try them all...even immaturely mix them all together to taste the combination. 

The trip was short, but I don't know how much longer I could have survived in that air. The shroud of cigarette smoke made the both of us sick and destroyed my skin haha. It was nice to get back home to our vehicles and food and clean, pure Oregon air and water. 

Thanks for reading! <3

Rouge and Rogue Lashes Review (Dragon Brushes, Favourite Styles..etc)

Rouge and Rogue, formerly Black Magic Lashes, has been a part of my makeup routine for a couple of years. My first blog about them was in 2016. I'm revisiting to show you their new items, styles, and more pics!

I remember the first package I received from them and I was blown away by everything!  I'd never seen a company take so much time into their packaging and design. I've been hooked ever since.  

(**If you don't want to read the whole blog post, my coupon code is AYCARTER)

(Seriously, how beautiful are these!!)

(Seriously, how beautiful are these!!)

Rouge and Rogue introduced their Dragon Brushes last year! The dragon brush collection is a mystical collection that contains 9 makeup brushes with gorgeous, black dragon scale handles and super soft, fiery red bristles. Each set comes with a matching pouch that fits the brushes perfectly! (They are vegan and cruelty freeee)

There at 9 brushes total.  Five of them are face brushes and four are eye brushes. These are SO soft and so far, I haven't had any loose bristles. Also, I haven't managed to stain them yet with a dark shadow, so that's a win! 

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On to the lashes, Rouge and Rogue carries some of my most favourite lash styles, which I will show a few below. They are all well made and last many times. I've worn some over 20-30 times and even when washed, they dry nicely for rewear.  Their band isn't hard and super thick, but it's not super flimsy.  

I have hooded and downturned eyes, so I usually have to trim my lashes to get them to work for me, but most of these work "out of the box" for me with a couple exceptions --Luminarra, Lady Killer, and Slayer--I had to cut these a little bit to fit my eye shape better.

Look how nice and fluffy Miss Fury is!

Look how nice and fluffy Miss Fury is!

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My all time faves are Alpha Girl, Fetish, Paradox, and Riot! (I love them all, but I wear these the most for everyday stuff)

Here are a few of my looks that use Rouge and Rogue Lashes:

If you want to snag any of these for yourself, be sure to use my coupon/discount code: AYCARTER to save some money! If you have any questions, be sure to comment down below or shoot me a message on instagram. <3

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***To maintain transparency, I want to let you know that this blog post is not sponsored.