18th August 2019: 500 points at Swallowtail {Japan, summer 2019}

I asked D****e to come with me to Swallowtail at Ikebukuro [池袋] once more because I can’t do them alone (yet). Hopefully next time. We got a very nice butler who wanted me to choose my teacup as I had already visited five times (500pts), but I always have my tea iced, so I wouldn’t be using a cup. That was a bit of a communication problem (≧▽≦).

I had a great salmon and salad set (though I pushed the pepper away, because… no thank you), and analysed the butler types. There was one so tall that the poor thing had to get backpain all the time from pushing the carts. There were the kawaii bouncy ones, broad manly ones, and one wearing lipstick. I guess catering to every trope out there.

Afterwards we sang some karaoke and then went back home until it was time for dinner. It was a quiet, unwinding day.

Walked distance: 12979 steps / 9.28 km.

12th August 2019: The Surviving Fuji thing? Think twice {Japan, summer 2019}

We didn’t sleep in, because why would we? We had only climbed a mountain – a volcano – the day before. We went to Shinjuku [新宿] for an avocado burger at Kua’aina, and then we did a sweep over Tower Records and Tokyu Hands.

Then we went to see the Amano’s Fantasy Art Collection [ファンタジーアート展] exhibition / sale at Shinjuku I-Land Tower [新宿アイランドタワー].

Later we sang some karaoke and then had a bit of a Hokkaido dinner – kanimiso yummy!

Walked distance: 16580 steps / 11.8 km. And every damn step – especially on stairs – hurt. Throughout the whole day, legs were on fire. But my back withstood, which was good. We whined a lot about being sore though, because we could (≧▽≦)

5th August 2019: Vampire Rockstar… I mean Vampire Café {Japan, summer 2019}

After doing laundry (sweaty clothes and lingering smells of smoking rooms), I met up with B**** around Nakano [中野] station for lunch (and on the way I saw yet another long jacket that I loved at a great price, so all in all jacket success).

We did some karaoke and then she tagged along with me to the Vampire Café in Ginza [銀座], which was pretty fun, but that needs to be done in groups so you’re in the main area and not the tiny booths to the side, because then you miss all the atmosphere. Another thing off the bucket list! The ambience of the café was amazing, and the food was not bad. Unfortunately, our waitress was not in the mood to deal with the poor-Japanese-skills customers. As there were two of us, we had one of the little booths. They closed the curtains to give it a casket-y feeling (I’m guessing). We ordered a set for two, Mankitsu Course [満喫コース], literally “Enjoyment course”, and a couple of cocktails – a ブルッドオレンジジュース “blood orange juice” and a ブルッドオレンジサワー “blood orange sour”.

Collage. The two-people booth is surrounded by red curtains, and the food is gothic-looking. The cold sausages have been stylished to look like roses, as has the salmon in the salad. The pasta has a black cross and a grim reaper drawing along the word Death. Ice cream scoops have little cookie legs so they look like spiders. A general shot of the room shows a coffin-looking table with a chandelier on top

Food consisted on:

  • ハム 盛リ合わせ: Ham assortment, more like sausage assortment with biscuits.
  • シーザー サラダ: Caesar Salad, really nice but not “Caesar”, it had a salmon rose.
  • ガリック トースト: Garlic toast, in the shape of coffins, really adorable
  • イカスミ パスタ: Squid pasta, surprisingly good and with an adorable Grim Reaper presentation.
  • ハーブ & スパイス - チキン Herb & Spice Chicken, flambéd at the table
  • 2色アイス: Two-colour ice-cream, strawberry and vanilla in an edible cookie mini-bowl with little spider legs and glazed-cherry eyes

The meal, including drinks, was actually cheaper than I expected when divided between the two of us. The whole atmosphere was rather quiet because the velvet curtains drowning the sound from other customers; the ambience music was creepy music-box like, but very faint. I might want to come back, or maybe not, Jury’s still out.

Walked distance: 15168 steps / 10.8 km, again somehow.

24th August 2018: Friends! {Japan, summer 2018}

In the morning, I went to the Shōbō hakubutsukan [消防博物館] or Fire Museum, in Yotsuya [四谷]. I blame my last binge on Chicago Fire for the curiosity bug to bite on that one. It was strangely interesting, but the helicopter was closed due to wind and rain – also the problem with kid friendly museums is… kids overrunning you and parents cheering for them…

Then I met B**** in Shibuya [渋谷] for sushi, and that was awesome, until we were done. Then we saw the shrimp and fish being beheaded alive in front of us. That was a shock (O_O)! After that we went for ice cream, window shopping, karaoke and dinner in Shinjuku [新宿], in MyLord building next to the station, which was really convenient and surprisingly good (and well-timed on our part). Okonomiyaki! This was my masterpiece!

(Added a lot of katsuomi to it afterwards (≧∇≦) )

10th August 2018: Pretty Lights, Strike 1 {Japan, summer 2018}

I stayed in bed for most of the morning, and had conbini lunch at home. Mid-morning I received an email informing me that my things had arrived in Haneda and would be delivered the next morning. This confirmed what I suspected, that luggage had stayed in London due to the check-in issues, and left me free for the day, although I would have to fill an insurance claim or two.

Luggageless, and thus cameraless, I did not feel like going out to do tourism, though I did have a couple of places I wanted to visit, so what to do? Obviously the first hunting incursion of the day – first Shinjuku [新宿]’s Closet Child and Pure Sound, and then I headed off to Harajuku [原宿] and the Laforet Building, then I came up Takeshita Dori [竹下通り] where I bought a pair of sunglasses and fell in love with a couple of shoes (until I saw the price. It was an impossible love).

After that, D****e and I met up with M***chan at Meguro [目黒] to go to the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo [ホテル雅叙園東京] and dinner afterwards. Hotel Gajoen is a huge luxury complex in Meguro, with corridors that go on forever, fountains, bridges and jaw-dropping prices. That should give you a clue that dinner was not had there.

The hotel organises cultural events around their one-hundred step ladder, and this summer it was holding the WA NO AKARI × HYAKUDAN KAIDAN Illumination Festival 2018: Wa no Akari, The Aesthetics of Japanese Illumination [和のあかり×百段階段2018 ~日本の色彩、日本のかたち~]. This was an exhibition of interpretation of Japanese art using lights, and it was very beautiful.

Would you like to catch a glimpse of the luxuriousness of the place? These are the lobby toilets:

Since obviously we could not afford to have dinner there, we went for nikuzushi [肉寿司], which is basically sushi with meat, raw or cooked, instead of fish to a place called, of all things, Nikuzushi, in Ebisu [恵比寿] (albeit this is apparently a chain, so there are several of them around the city). This was unexpectedly yummy.

Afterwards we did an hour of karaoke and headed home.

1st (and 2nd) August 2017: Running out of time! {Japan, summer 2017}

This was my last day and I had to make the most of it! First I went to Shibakoen [芝公園] and Tokyo Tower [東京タワー], because that always keeps the sadness at bay. I went up the tower and I finally gave in and bought the stamp rally booklet. I should have done it before. The Tower was being visited by a primary school class. Ho boy.

Then I went to Iidabashi [飯田橋] using the Shibakoen subway station. The day before I had hired a private lesson to have a teacher explain Japanese conditionals to me. That was very productive. Finally I was off to Shinjuku [新宿] for yakitori and karaoke with B**** and D****e to say goodbye for now.

Finally, I half-packed because I apparently forgot half of my stuff atover there, and went to bed. At 2:02 in the morning there was the only noticeable quake of the trip, quite a big one. In the morning, I headed off to Narita Airport, checked-in my luggage, and once again, it was time to go back to reality.

11th July 2017: Ueno on the first full day is a thing {Japan, summer 2017}

I headed off to Ueno because I wanted to wander around the zoo. Don’t ask me why, but it was what I felt like doing. First I dropped by the Shinobazunoike Bentendo [不忍池弁天堂] where I got the shuuin and I entered Ueno Zoo through the new Benten gate. The zoo had not changed much, I think, but I saw things I did not remember seeing the first time around. They have moved the petting zoo to something closed, probably to fight off the heat.

I had lunch at the zoo around 1:30 pm, then continued my way towards the upper part of the zoo. There I was observed by a bird of prey and it made me feel like food XD. I stayed at the zoo until 16:30 I did not get to see the baby panda because it is too small to be up and about.

Then I headed off to Shinjuku [新宿] which was a convenient place to meet up with D****e for dinner and an hour of karaoke. I did some shopping as I waited – and for some once, that was not (only) fandom related. I was in Kinokuniya getting myself some Japanese books (because as I passed N4 I have to continue studying). Bummer. We also stopped by a random electronics shop which had a big Yoshiki poster. That’s always nice to see.

4th January 2017: Takao-san, the tengu mountain {Japan, winter 16/17}

For some strange reason I got into my head that I wanted to go to Takao-san [高尾山], a mount not too far away from Tokyo, in the city of Hachiōji [八王子]. From the summit of this 599-metre mount you get pretty sights… if the weather is clear. Which of course, was a no-go. D****e decided to tag along, so off we headed to “climb” a mountain – more like hike it up and then down.

There are different routes or trails to go up and down Takao-san. The “easy” route (trail 1) is paved and is the most walked. You may either hike it up completely or take the ropeway halfway. D****e hiked while I struggled my way up.

Mount Takao is said to be the dwelling place of Tengu and Daitengu, and about three-quarters up there is a Buddhist Temple, Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji [高尾山薬王院].

From the top of the mountain we got to guess Mount Fuji Fuji-san [富士山]. But it was there, and I have proof, albeit it has been a bit ‘enhanced’… Sorry that it does not look any natural, but here you have the original and the manipulated image:

Coming down Takao-san, we took trails 6 and 4, because D****e wanted to do the suspension bridge, because… reasons that I shall never understand. (Un)fortunately, we did not run into any tengu or related yōkai. On the bright side I did not break my neck \(≧▽≦)/. That is always a plus. Oh and we ate warm dango.

After that we met up with B**** for some karaoke and later on D****e left while I went off with B**** to have some quite amazing sushi down in Shinjuku [新宿].

2nd January 2017: Visiting the Imperial Palace {Japan, winter 16/17}

At roughly 9 am, we headed off to the Imperial Palace, the Kōkyo [皇居] for an audience with the Emperor. Sounds impressive, but so did several other some 80 thousand of people. We were going to the so-called “Visit of the General Public to the Palace for the New Year Greeting” (Kōkyo Shin-nen Ippan Sanga [皇居 新年一般参賀]) to wish the Emperor Nappy New Year.

We arrived in the Imperial Palace area maybe around late 9.30s. First we got our flags to wave. Then our bags were checked, then there was a pat-down to make sure that we did not take anything dangerous into the palace. The weather was nice and sunny so it was not too cold, and it was nice. We ended up at the beginning of one of the lines so we had a nice view of the Nijubashi [環境省] Gate, which is usually closed. Then we walked up the gardens until we got to the main building. We were not allowed to stop to take pictures, so excuse random angles and compositions.

We made it to the grounds just in time for the 11:00h audience. We got to see the adult members of the imperial family and hear the emperor speak for a couple of minutes. There was cheering and flags.

After the audience we got to walk down the gardens, and take pictures and think that everything looked awfully mundane for an Imperial Palace. There were traffic signs and the max speed is 30… I don’t know, it was a weird feeling.

Afterward we visited Itoya in Ginza [銀座], which is a huge stationary shop, and I wanted all the things. Afterwards we had some Australian beef and then we headed off to Shibuya [渋谷], where there was Taco Bell (because reasons) and karaoke with B**** and a donut afterwards. The order might not have been exactly that one though (⌒▽⌒)☆

27th July 2016: I could not miss an aquarium {Japan, summer 2016}

I mean, visiting aquariums is like a second nature to me when I’m in Japan. It seems that each has something that I really love but had not realised it before.

In this case I headed off to Tokyo Sea Life Park – Kasairinkai Suizokukan [葛西臨海水族館] in the namesake park, Kasairinkai Koen [葛西臨海公園], in Edogawa [江戸川], especially famous for keeping a tank of yellowfin tuna (all of which died unexpectedly last year and had been replaced though) <・ )))><<.

The aquarium is mostly an underground complex, accessible through the main dome in the middle of the park. During my visit it was full of parents with young children. For some reason, Japanese people believe that children must love fish? I don’t really understand… ~(・・?))

Before class I went to Tokyo Daijingu [東京大神宮] in Iidabashi [飯田橋], which is surprisingly quite small, and I think it has something to do with finding love?

At night I met with my new friend M. to try to find a cat café we were interested in and somehow did not manage to find, but we turned that into dinner and karaoke – Joysound, to watch the VAMPS special message v(^_^v)♪.

19th July 2016: Oopsies {Japan, summer 2016}

After doing some studying in the morning, I was to meet B**** for dinner. I went to Iidabahi [飯田橋] early and bought some meat buns (nikuman) for lunch – the most delicious nikkuman I’ve ever eaten are sold in a small Chinese shop there.

Unfortunately B**** and my carefully-laid out plans were forced to change because she had a gas inspection in her new apartment also known as the apatosaurus. However, we were able to go for some okonomiyaki and monjayaki .

After lunch, we headed off to karaoke. All in all it was fun and plans were remade.

July 2nd, 2016: Starting off with the right (bruised) foot {Japan, summer 2016}

I have to admit that even if we took off late this was the smoothest flight from Europe that I’ve had to Japan. We left Frankfurt with about an hour’s delay and arrived about 40 minutes late. However, best landing ever. The plane was cold, but I am not going to complain considering the time that the heat made me sick. I prefer huddling up in the blanket. I kind of slept for a few hours, which was good, but I really don’t like when they just tell you to put your window down because it’s bedtime. Oh well.

This trip, I have been showing some of Tokyo to T**y, so a lot of the ‘we’ that skip refer to him and me.

The first day was a bit of a bit of everything one, and even a week later I’ve got bruises from hurling the suitcase up and down the stairs. After lunch with B**** in Shibuya [渋谷] (to get my Internet from her, too), I headed off to Shinjuku to get my keys. This time I was staying for a month and I could not impose for that long on any of my friends so I decided to rent a small apartment via an agency named “Sakura house” which rents places to foreigners for a long or short stay in Japan, starting at one month. As my stay was 28 days, it made sense to use their services.

Sakura House is located in Shinjuku [新宿] and that is why I headed there. The procedure was completely in English, and not difficult, but long, as it included all the specific info for an apartment rental. It is not as quick as checking into a hotel.

The whole process involves reserving a room online and paying a deposit, then signing a contract and paying at least the first month at the place. Afterwards they give you your keys, give you specific instructions and then you’re off on your merry way.

I was staying in an area called Komagome [駒込], 15 minutes away from Ueno and 20 away from school. Right downtown, and what I spent in location I would save on transport, or so I hoped.

After signing and getting my keys, I took T**y to his hotel and we got horribly lost on the process. In the end it all had a happy ending thanks a nice car park guard and after checking him in, we headed off for sushi and karaoke with B**** (^_^v)♪.

After that, I braved the Yamanote on my own to get to Komagome, and was lucky to get my station exit right, so I could arrive home in good time to have a shower and get some sleep because the next day I had to wake up early.

1st September 2015: Downpour Shibuya {Japan, summer 2015}

D****e and I headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to check out the idol shops, but I wanted a quick visit to Meiji Jingu [明治神宮] to get the calligraphy from there. I had never been able to find out where they did it, and it was good to have some Japanese-speaking person around. We were surprised to walk into some kind of religious parade I still have got to research.

Afterwards, through a downpour, we had a look at Takeshita Doori shops. When it was almost noon we headed off towards Hachiko in Shibuya [渋谷] as we had agreed to meet a friend for lunch – shabu shabu in Shibuya’s Nabezo and then headed off to Cosmo Planetarium Shibuya [コスモプラネタリウム渋谷], which is a really neat place with very comfy chairs that lean back… yep, you guessed it, I zonked out. In my defence, I shall say that… all Japanese and a talk about gravity and I was getting dizzy with the 3D screen…

After a quick visit to Tower Records for a magazine I was looking for (and in the end got a wrong one, but oh well…) we had yet more karaoke (in a huge room) and eventually headed off home to have some CocoCurry.

30th August 2015: Up and down, Trains and fandom {Japan, summer 2015}

After laundry – which was kind of urgently needed, we headed off to Odaiba [お台場] to try to get some kushikatsu. Unfortunately by the time we made it there, there was no space any more, so we ended up in a Korean place. I’m not particularly fond of Korean food, except when it’s grilled meat, but it was late and food was needed, and I found something cheese and vegetables. Oh, well.

After that we headed off for some UFO hunting again (Chupacabra, you guessed it), and later to Shinjuku [新宿] to check out two fandom / goods second-hand shops: Pure Sound and Closet Child, where I found a few interesting things, and others that I filed away for future reference.

Then there was karaoke before heading home, and we tried the McDonald’s avocado burgers on our way back. That… was a rather underwhelming experience I guess. Not bad, but not particularly good XD.

28th August 2015: Matsushima and Sendai {Japan, summer 2015}

The day started in Matsushima [松島], the Pine Islands, where there are… lots of pines. And temples. We paid the small fee to cross the bridge to the biggest island, Oshima [雄島] and headed off there, to just walk around it. There were pines and other trees, but I am no tree expert, so… I could identify the pines… However, there were nice views and it was a good way to start the morning, even if I was not feeling 100%, as I had a small accident coming out of the station that ended up with me sprawled on the floor. Not fun.

This bridge survived March 11, although a smaller similar one was destroyed. In general, the area was quite spared by the tsunami.

A walkable bridge with concrete ground and vermillion guards that crosses the bay towards a rocky island with small pines

View from Oshima into the bay:

A view of the bay. There are pine branches in the foreground, and two small rocky islands with more pines

After the main island, we visited a few of the temples around. First, Zuigan-ji [瑞巌寺], which has some really cool cave altars.

A standing Buddha in front of a cave sanctuary.

Entsuin [円通院] – Mausoleum of Date Mitsumune.

Main building of a temple. It's made of wood so old that it has turned white-grey

Back in Sendai, our first stop was the combini Ōsaki Hachimangū [大崎八幡宮], also known as the Black Shrine, as it was supposedly erected to enshrine the kami of war. It was ordered by Date Masamune, who was a very important figure in the history of feudal Sendai.

Shrine, built in black with golden decoration

Though we did not make it to Date’s mausoleum, we did see the sculpture erected in his honour up on the ruins of Aoba-jō [青葉城]. Here are the Date Masamune memorial on the ruins of Aoba Castle

Statue of a samurai, riding a horse. The samurai has a crescent decoration on his helmet. The horse is mid-step, with its front right leg bent

View of Sendai from Aoba Castle:

A view of the skyline of Sendai with a line of trees in front of it

Afterwards, we headed back to the station as we had to catch the 19.30 train, since we had an appointment in Ginza [銀座] at 22.00. We had a reservation for VAMPS Joysound special karaoke booth, which was normal karaoke, but in a room decorated with VAMPS stuff and a special video, along with some themed drinks. Just one of those cute fandom money-drainers activities.

The Vamps karaoke booth and theme drink

21st August 2015: Shibuya and Shinjuku {Japan, summer 2015}

I was to meet with D****e in Shibuya [渋谷] as she was coming directly from Haneda that day and we had arranged to meet in Tsutaya – there would be Hachiko meeting point later on, but we wanted something covered, just in case the skies opened.

As it takes a bit to get from Satte to any place downtown Tokyo, I organised myself to be out of the door with enough time to find myself a shrine to visit. Because yes, I can find shrines anywhere in Tokyo and beyond and after a while walking through skyscraper-type buildings, I turned a corner to the Konnō Hachiman-gū [金王八幡宮], which I had not been able to find the previous year due to an Internet failure. I’m still torn about going to Yasukuni Shrine, by the way, which would have been another of my options. On one hand, I would like to come back and get a calligraphy seal; on the other, it would feel like condoning the whole thing Yasukuni means and… I don’t know, I think I have to think harder about that, especially with Abe’s whole revisionist attitude. Meanwhile, this is Konnō Hachiman-gū (which was being repaired so loop-sided picture not to bother the workers), and the little Inari altar located next to it.

Once the shrine fix was achieved – come on, it was my third day already!! – I headed back to Shibuya [渋谷] to meet with D****e and as I walked back I saw something I had not noticed before, as it had been on the opposite side of the direction I was heading. However, now I could see it straight ahead.

The L’Arc~en~Ciel’s L’ArCasino billboard. Pictures happened. Maybe some inner fanbying too. Did I mention I love my new camera? Cause I do, a lot.

After a while doing experiments with the zoom, I headed off for the Tsutaya floor we were going to meet in, and barely had the time to check out the stuff before she arrived. Afterwards we headed off for the Book Off (which… is changing names?) because we could, and afterwards to the BIC Camera so she could pick up her own SIM card.

She wanted to check out a Shinjuku [新宿] kimono store to see if she found VAMPS’ bat yulata, but we were out of luck and it was already gone. And then there was karaoke, because for some reason there’s always karaoke with her in Shinjuku?

And then there was home and CocoCurry. Finally CocoCurry ♥

11th August 2014: Microwaved bread is a thing {Japan, summer 2014}

The day started started late due to jet-lag and and on and off night and once again we set off to try and of a tea ceremony in Ginza [銀座]. However, for the second time it did not work out, due to the hotel we had selected had stopped doing it for the summer. Not fun.

We headed out for a late lunch and ended up at a place that tried to be a weird version of a British pub, called “The Ginza Lion” which had some nice set dishes that came with a choice of bread or rice. We both chose bread and we received a baguette piece with butter. Amusingly enough, the bread had been… microwaved. Not toasted but microwaved. I am guilty if having microwaved bread before when I was trying to defrost it. Jokes ensued, and I was there to write a blog post on why microwaved bread is a thing. It is, of course. Will mark trend, I am sure.

Afterwards we headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to cavort idol shops, which are always fun. However, there was an unusual crowd due to the release of Kanjani8 stuff, and some of the shops were too crowded to browse in peace.

From Harajuku we walked down to Shibuya [渋谷] for a couple of hours of karaoke (NEWS version of Weeeek is easier once you have gotten used to the GreeeN one, too). Then we went to The One Hundred Yen Yakiniku to eat barbecued meat and veggies and called it a day.

29th June 2013: Tea Ceremony and Nakano Broadway {Japan, summer 2013}

We attended a tea ceremony in the New Otani Hotel, a small event for tourists that was really nice on the geeky traditional kind of way. The lady was very friendly and did her best to be understood in English, so I did not feel off at any point – only sore as my hip seems out to kill me lately XD”

Later on there was Nakano Broadway [中野ブロードウェイ], where lots of money was spent, and Shibuya [渋谷] yakiniku and karaoke, although I was so tired that reading was kind of impossible XD”

15th July 2012: A very Japanese Sunday {Japan, summer 2012}

The 15th started with a visit to Inokashira Kōen [井の頭恩賜公園] and the temple in it, Inokashira Benzaiten [井の頭弁財天] overlooking Inokashira Ike [井の頭池]. I still find it amazing how the parks in Tokyo can completely drown everything that is going on around them, especially train and car noises. It’s like going to the country or something, within a few minutes of a train station. Inokashira Park was full of people walking, a drawing class and a small flea market.

A bright red shrine at the end of an equally bright bridge

However, the respite did not take long and we threw ourselves back into the busy streets of Tokyo, heading out to Shibuya for all you can eat shabu-shabu. No words, really. Just on nom nom nom nom.

Shabu-shabu restaurant. A broth pot stands in the middle of a table with two services, and two trays of meat are on the side

After lunch and a not-so-quick trip to Mandarake, we headed off for Nakano Broadway to burn the credit card, snoop around idol shops, and buy a lot of stuff.

A shopping gallery

We had a a sushi dinner a sushi dinner (here, fyi, sushi is fish with rice, not rice with fish on top), at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, where you could also order. And when you did, your sushi came in a mini-Shinkansen (Sushinkansen!)

Sushi moving in a conveyor belt-like structure

sushi being delivered in a small train-like structure that moves on the conveyor belt

Close up of prawn sushi and green tea

Finally, the day ended in a karaoke place.

A karaoke screen reading Passing by like Lady Godiva. On the bottom-right corner, there's someone's hand holding a microphone