Sunday, 1 May 2016

23/02/2016 - Shinjuku

Since we had already been to Shibuya and Harajuku, we wanted to go to Shinjuku - the other major ward in Tokyo. We had kind of high expectation because of Shibuya and Harajuku already, but we still tried to stay casual about going. Although, we discovered that Shinjuku was a really different experience than the other places. While Shibuya and Harajuku were lively and full of shopping, tourists and everything in that aspect; it took a really long time to get beyond grey buildings and pachinko parlours beyond the station. Meals being the most difficult option of our day, I think in the end we found a really traditional style soba restaurant which we went to first before venturing too far - there weren't very many options down the alleys we chose, though (still tasty!).

Once we went under a large bridge, it was suddenly big buildings, brights lights and lots of people. I saw a lifesize Godzilla peeping over a building and girl group music videos being played on massive television screens. We briefly looked around before trying to find the cat cafe - which is why we came to Shinjuku in the first place. We read that it had over 50 cats and was one of the best cat cafes in Tokyo.

We found it tucked in a little corner and we had to reserve a place, but eventually we could go inside. There were cats everywhere and it was honestly amazing. They all played over two floors and were really lazy. There were seating areas you could sit and read, and some people had cats sleeping on their legs. I was really jealous. But, I got to pet enough cats anyway. I've discovered that I really love animals who struggle breathing.

We were in Shinjuku until quite late and hadn't eaten dinner, so we decided to go home and eat somewhere on the food strip near our apartment. We walked past a ramen place and we all felt like ramen. But, to our surprise they were selling dumpling ramen (something we've never found in Osaka). We all got a bowl and it was so big and delicious. I thought I wouldn't finish it all even though I was so hungry. However, I managed to finish everything and I felt so good after. It was a really fun day.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

22/06/16 - Birthday

We had already spent a day in Tokyo, exploring Shibuya. George arrived and we met up with Kazu because he was in Tokyo for a day. That night we celebrated the start of my birthday on the stroke of midnight. George and Rhiannon started to sing happy birthday and they got out some presents that they got me! I felt so happy. They got me really nice things and I feel like they know me so well. I also got to (finally) open the package from the family and that was so nice as well. I love birthdays!

We started the day in Harajuku. I had always wanted to go there, so my excitement was literally overwhelming me. Since we left kind of late, we just got a breakfast/lunch after doing a bit of shopping in Harajuku. We went to the most popular ramen place there, which I wanted to go to through some research beforehand. It was really nice food! I love any ramen place that gives you extra noodles.

After that, we continued looking around Harajuku. We went to the store that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu apparently likes to shop at. We even came across a million second hand stores. They were all surprisingly very expensive, though. I think the most exciting place in the whole area was Harajuku street. There were so many tiny shops all crammed next to each other and a million people trying to get into them. I really wanted to get some Calbee chips while being there - since I had heard a lot about them. They're normally sold in stores as potato sticks, like they're deep fried but dry. But, when you buy them in store they're hot and fresh! They were seriously good. When we were standing outside eating them, we actually somehow bumped into a friend of ours! It was so strange because the chance of running into someone in one of the largest cities in the world feels near impossible. But, it happened! We hung out for a little bit before they went off to do their own thing. Further down the street we saw probably the 50th crepe stall, and Rhiannon and said how badly she wanted a Harajuku crepe (because they're really famous). I didn't really want a very sweet one because what I have learned from Japan so far is that they love their cream, so I got a custard cinnamon apple crepe. I made such a good choice! It was super delicious. We left Harajuku around 5pm after George booked dinner for us in a phone booth. It started to rain a little bit but thankfully it stopped really quickly! Afterwards we took a train to Shibuya.

Shibuya at night is the best! It's super lively and there's always music playing. One thing I really wanted to do on my birthday was to go karaoke where Lost in Translation was filmed. We booked it to go after dinner - but, unfortunately we didn't realise how much time we had to kill until our booking.

We stood around for a while outside 7/11, slowly realising we were in the love hotel district. Since we had a fair amount of time before our booking, we tried to see if we could get in earlier anyway. So, we went up the dodgiest looking elevator ever and got off on this floor where everything was basically pitch black. The place we were going to was called Alcatraz ER - a prison hospital themed restaurant. At first we were kind of scared that something would pop out at us, but thankfully nothing did. We were just lead to our 'table' which was in a prison cell - which was super cool. They locked us in and told us if we wanted to order anything we had to rattle the cage with a stick. The food was designed to look really gross, but it was actually pretty tasty! And I got to drink alcohol from a blood bag so that was interesting. Personally the service wasn't amazing, but we had a good time anyway.

I definitely think the highlight of the night was going to karaoke. We asked for the window room and
went up to the 9th floor. We could literally see so much from our view and I felt like I was living in the movie. We sang for an hour only because it cost so much money to go there, but it was so worth it. We got back to the apartment late and it was really got, but once we turned on the air con and started watching TV we all felt that we had a really good day. I'm really glad I got to spend my 21st in Japan with some close friends. So much fun.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

20/02/16 - Tokyo

This year I turned 21 years old, and since I was going to spend it in Japan anyway, I thought I would spend it in Tokyo with two of my closest friends. Rhiannon and I left for Tokyo a day earlier than George (since he was still spending time with his parents), and I couldn't have been more excited. We decided to take the Shinkansen there - which was much better than our alternatives of 8 hour bus and plane ride. We took the slowest Shinkansen, so it was roughly 4 hours to get to Tokyo. The Shinkansen was amazing. We had so much space and it was great considering the amount of things we brought. We hoped to see Mt. Fuji on the way there, but it was too foggy so we couldn't see it! It was really disappointing, but I still had hope for the way back. 

Eventually we arrived at Shinagawa and it couldn't have been worse conditions. We had hoped that the weather had gotten better than the morning (which was grey at best), but unfortunately it was bucketing down with rain. Trying to navigate with no umbrellas in the rainiest weather possible was so difficult. But, it made us appreciate our apartment so much more. 

When we got inside, it was a really nice surprise. We were a little worried that it would be very different from the photos, but luckily for us it was so much better! There were two comfy looking beds for me and Rhiannon right under the heater. It seemed perfect. Since we were so hungry, we decided to find somewhere nearby to eat. 

Matsuya, which is one of my favourite chain restaurants, has a similar chain to it. It's called Sukiya, but I think I would describe it more as SukiYUCK. I think every time I have been to this restaurant it lets me down in some kind of way. But, my experience there on the first night in Tokyo was definitely the worst. We both ordered a hotpot for dinner,  and for a while I was enjoying it. However, I couldn't seem to enjoy it anymore after finding a large black hair in the broth. Of course I complained and got a new meal, but I couldn't really enjoy the second meal.

Rhiannon and I tried to find a karaoke place nearby, but it was kind of difficult! We found a few, but their prices were so steep. I couldn't believe it! Eventually we found a place on a side street that was cheaper, but still a bit pricey. We went for an hour and to be honest I always feel good after a good karaoke session. But, I think Rhiannon and I were just excited to go back to our rooms and sleep after the long day we had. I was excited for the rest of our time there. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

08/02/16 - Minō

I think in the beginning of my exchange, everyone was going on so many day trips to see different sides of Japan. However, somewhere along the line we stopped going on them, as we have totally adjusted to living here. So, a bunch of us decided to go on a trip to Minō.

Minō is a place where it's kind of empty. I would describe it as being quite traditional. But, we weren't there to see the town, we were there to go into the mountain area and see the waterfall. Walking there took at least 2 hours, but it was such an amazing walk. Nature in Japan is so different from Australia. It's peaceful, beautiful and everything looks a little different. Though, some of the walk was ruined by loud construction - but didn't put a hamper on our day at all.

Once we reached the waterfall, it was suddenly so much colder. We felt a sense of achievement for reaching it, but also we felt that it was totally worth the uphill battle. And, while I thought the waterfall was so peaceful and beautiful, my highlight of the day was seeing my first monkey! It was just sitting on the branches above us - I was obsessed with it. Then, walking back we saw even more monkeys just jumping around in the trees. It was such a fun day, and I think one of the first days in a while where the weather was really nice.

I'd love to go back!

06/02/16 - Kaiyukan Aquarium

George, Kazu, Rhiannon and I finally went on a trip to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It's one of the biggest Aquariums in Japan. There are 8 floors - you start at the top and then walk in a spiral down seeing every angle of each tank. There was a really enormous tank in the middle which had whale sharks and the biggest fish I have ever seen! And, I probably could have watched the seal's swim forever. I can't remember how long we were there for, but it was dark by the time we went out. I'd actually forgotten that there were Winter Illuminations on at the time, but it was a nice surprise! They were really beautiful (much like every light display in Japan so far). I didn't get very good photos though, unfortunately. Afterwards, we decided to go on the massive ferris wheel that was close by. We could see pretty much all of Umeda and USJ from the top. All around, it was a really fun day and I really want to go back there.

Friday, 19 February 2016

03/02/16 - Jūso

For the lack of adventure, George and myself decided to do some exploring. We've realised we don't really see different places so much anymore. I think it's because we have gotten used to living here so - maybe it's lost some buzz? Either way, we weren't going to let settling in take such a negative effect on us. Before going out, we had decided a time and that we were going to do something. However, we didn't really know what we would do. Ideas were thrown around while we waited for the train and eventually we just decided to get off at Juso and explore the neighbourhood.

We had literally no knowledge of anything in Juso so it was kind of exciting to see what it's about. However, upon arriving we realised there wasn't much there. We walked around for maybe 5 hours? Found some really weird stores and had strange interactions with shop owners. One of the strangest was walking into what looked like a second hand store, and then no one greeted us - this was a first in Japan. Instead we heard babies crying and felt we needed to leave very quickly. In the end our adventure lead us back to Umeda where we ate omurice for dinner. I liked seeing new neighbourhoods, but I think mostly what we got out of our day at Juso was that there wasn't much there.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

27/01/16 - Grimes

I spend a lot of off time in my room, and lately I've really enjoyed just listening to music and relaxing. I'm the type who would usually rather watch TV by myself, but I think I've felt so energetic lately that music feels better. So, my friends one day mentioned that Grimes was doing a concert in Osaka sometime in January ages ago. While I hadn't really listened to her before, I really wanted to go to the concert. So, I started listening to her and I found out that I love her! Her new album is literally so fun to listen to. So, I started getting really pumped for the concert. 

On the day of the concert, I got ready at home and headed over to Kazu's house to "prepare." Obviously, what I mean is, to pre-drink and watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians before the concert. Since it was Kazu's birthday, we ate some cake and sang Happy Birthday too. About a week or so beforehand, all of us going (Rhiannon, George, Kazu and Misaki) decided that we would spray paint our hair weird colours on the night! I went with pink and the others decided to do multiple colours. Spray painting your hair in a tiny enclosed bathroom with no air filters is not something I would recommend in the future. It's like the oxygen left the room and spray paint replaced it! 

We finally left and we were so pumped. On the way, me, George and Kazu met up with Misaki and Rhi. I think we sang Grimes the whole way there. Just before heading to the concert (which was all the way in Shinsaibashi), we went to the park so Rhi and Misaki could spray more colour into their hair. Our main priority was finding a locker before going in, knowing that there aren't many. But, while trying to find a locker we bumped into a seriously rude Irish person. She apologised, but we still gave her looks whenever we walked past her. It didn't matter in the end because there were lockers inside, but we honestly were put off by her comments.

The venue was quite small, but still there were way more people than I expected to be there. We had to buy a drink while entering, but Kazu and George decided to buy out the entire shop. They probably had like 15 Smirnoff Ice's with them - some were stashed in their pockets because they couldn't hold them all! Regardless of how much they were holding, we all managed to get near the front. 

Before Grimes, her supporting act played. She's from Taiwan I think? Since she's featured in the song Scream by Grimes, it seemed appropriate that she was playing with her. I think her music is... Interesting. But, we could get down to it, anyway! 

When Grimes arrived, I swear we all lost our minds! She came on so strong, and we were just so excited. All of us talked about what songs we wanted her to play. We all wanted her to sing Kill V Maim, but I really wanted her to sing California. Since Kazu and George were very drunk - they didn't seem to realise how loud they were. During one of her speaking breaks, they started singing California. It was so embarrassing! Appreciate the effort to get the song played anyway. It didn't, but not a big loss. She played so many off her new album and they were all good! But, hands down the best song was the encore, Kill V Maim. I've not danced so hard, and sang so loud in a really long time. I'd give a lot to be able to see her sing that set live again. 

On the way out, we got dinner at a place nearby. It was really yummy but I definitely ordered too much food! Lots of regret, but at least it was good food. All in all, the night was amazing. Made us all really want to see more concerts, and have more nights like that. Perhaps next time we will get something a little easier to wash out of our hair, though!