Thursday, July 29, 2010

End of July

This week.

Summer school. Long hours but cute kids. Green tea ice cream. Gossip Girl late night marathons with my best friend. Art galleries. Tea parties. Green tea cake. Takamatsu nights out. Iced coffee. Train rides. Bike rides in the rain. Goodbyes.

I don't want this week to end.

(Even though I had a cockroach meltdown on my front porch, chasing an intruder with an umbrella, panicking and crying until a kind neighbour came out to help me... and I did have another meltdown on the phone with the gas company, but let's forget about those... really, I realize that my Japanese is not THAT bad after all).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kansai Love

Yet another jaunt to Kansai, this time to say good bye to a dear friend in style... Japanese style. Our little getaways are always a blast, and this one was particularly epic. It was everything we had imagined, and perhaps a little bit more.

Osaka

Early Saturday morning bus ride to Japan's craziest city. The much-anticipated stop at Family Mart to stock up on sweets (hello, MUJI marshmallows) and cold green tea. We spent a completely girlie day in Osaka, having iced coffee and raiding H&M, then going back to our hostel to try everything on and have a little fashion show. We met the Mikes for dinner in Shinsaibashi, where we indulged on Mexican food and margaritas, before taking Osaka by storm.

I finally met the lovely (and tall!!) Michelle, and her friend Lindsay. It was great- it felt like we already knew each other (well, I've been reading her blog for two years), and I was so excited to welcome them to Japan. I had no doubts we'd get along and have a fantastic time, and we definitely did. We had a typical Osaka night: drinking and dancing at a club in Namba, then on to karaoke for god knows how many hours. After some hilarious nineties renditions and countless sodas (don't ask), we exited the karaoke room at sunrise. The early morning was spent at the Osaka Zoo (don't ask), listening to a distressed seal and wanting to run away as fast as I could.

Isabel and I headed to our dingy hostel, which was the worst accommodation I've ever stayed at. Our favourite hostel was already booked up, and so were most places since a big festival was taking place. We barely closed our eyes for an hour before getting told we had to check out by 9am. Ugh. That Osaka morning was one of the roughest we've ever had, just roaming around the city, exhausted and dirty. Seriously... mixed bathrooms?! NO.

Thankfully, the trip wasn't over, and we hopped on the train to Kyoto. I cannot believe it costs the exact same amount to get from Osaka to Kyoto than it costs for me to get to Takamatsu from Marugame. Sigh.


















Michelle, I hope you and Lindsay loved Japan, and thank you so much for meeting me and coming out for a night in Osaka with my friends!! I'm so happy we got to meet, and have such a fabulous time together in Japan.

Kyoto

Kyoto, my love. This place is soothing and magical as ever. I cannot explain why, but Kyoto makes me so happy, and I can't ever feel bad there. Our first few hours in Kyoto were spent sipping green tea frappucinos at Starbucks, and lugging our heavy bags around in the heat to the hostel. Our charming youth hostel felt so luxurious after staying in that Osaka nightmare! After some much-needed showers, naps, and ice cones, we got dressed up and headed to the Gion district. It was a beautiful and peaceful Sunday night, spent walking around the wonderful streets of traditional Kyoto, taking pictures and remembering our best moments in Japan, feeling so exhilarated but nostalgic at the same time.









Isabel, you were the best travel partner, and I don't want you to leave. Thanks for all the amazing memories, they will always be so special to me. Japan won't be the same without you.

Thanks for being such an amazing friend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kansai bound!


{First thing that will be consumed when we get off the bus!}

After a Marugame-tastic week exploring our local area and indulging on cold beverages to survive the heat wave, Isabel and I are heading to Kansai for the weekend, to celebrate her last weekend in Japan. As excited as I am for this trip, it's very bittersweet. I know we'll have the best time and create even more fun memories (just like every time), but I hate to think it's the last Japanese weekend trip we take together.

Yet, we have so much to look forward to: looking for some pretty dresses, hanging out with many of our friends, meeting fellow blogger Michelle, causing trouble in Osaka, eating Mexican food, dance the night away, and re-visiting the magnificent Kyoto, and hopefully coming back with heaps of green tea sweets.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Sunday in Kobe

Remember my last trip to Kobe, back on a cold and rainy day in February?

{Kobe, February 2010}

It definitely was a blast with the boys, but this time around it was a hot, sunny day, and a Kobe vacation with the girls. After nearly losing my mind last week and feeling sickly, a Sunday escape to Kobe seemed like the perfect way to recover. And it was!

Kobe is the most charming Japanese city: it has a very European flair, and the tree-lined streets are filled with bakeries, sophisticated boutiques, and sidewalk cafés. I cannot think of a better place for a girlie getaway, with Isabel and our lovely Japanese friend Yumi. The weekend was all about finding the best cafés, sampling cakes, shopping, people-watching (Kobe is, in my opinion, the best-dressed city in Japan), refreshing Gin & Tonics in tiny Japanese bars, and staying out all night... and falling in love with Japan all over again.


{I never hop on a bus without some Japanese sweets.... Mmmmmmm}


{Delicious Yuzu fruit drink. Yuzu is a popular citrus fruit in Asia}


{Kobe at night, with Karaoke rooms Lost in Translation style}



{The girls}




{The cakes}


{A trip would not be complete without a lunch at MUJI café! Yum!}



Thank goodness for those weekend trips!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breakfast on the train


Those little pre-made peanut butter sandwiches look delicious, but they're not! It's not real peanut butter! Only a sweet, peanut-flavoured cream substance.

A few days ago, Isabel and I were discussing the blogging world, how everything always seems so perfect and fun for other people: scrumptious meals, stylish clothes, exotic trips, lovely dates and wedding cakes. My friend Vanessa also brought up this issue a while ago. It made me think, do I also give out that image of perfect fun and exciting living abroad conditions?

Honestly, this past week I've felt like I've gone crazy. CRAZY. Completely suffocating in this place that is so isolated and rural. Having a hard time breathing properly in this humidity blanket. My usually cozy studio apartment feeling more like a cage. Heavy rainfalls for five consecutive days. Grey and run down little Marugame. Wondering what I'm doing here, and where I'm heading next. Dreading the next few weeks, when all my closest friends here are leaving Japan... for good. Lots of worrying over small and big things.

I've realized that you have to be slightly crazy to throw yourself in this kind of adventure. Overall, the fun times definitely outweigh the bad times, and all those fun little trips and exciting Japanese weirdness make up for the loneliness, isolation, and frustration that come with living in a foreign land. Cheers to all my friends who have lived abroad, who have survived the madness of a place you don't always understand, and don't really belong.

I still feel so fortunate to be here and be experiencing this adventure. And luckily, I'm surrounded by amazing people whom I've developed close friendships with, and fun fun little trips are coming up very, very soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hiragana, Katakana, oh my.


Sad but necessary.

This lovely, childish Hiragana (and Katakana) chart is now a part of my room. Actually, I bought two of these at the 100 yen store (did I ever post about how fabulous those shops are?!) and put one in my room and the other one in the... bathroom.

I know all my kana by now, but once in a while I still confuse some similar characters. It drives me insane, so those colorful charts have been quite helpful memorizing everything, and even learning new words. Fun, fun!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sayonara


{Laundry, please}

Still too tired to write a proper post (and post pictures... I do have some fun ones) about the Sayonara party that took place over the weekend, but it was a fairly good time despite the roughness of the wilderness... which included sleeping outdoors on a wooden deck under the pouring rain, dubious bathroom facilities, lots of drunkenness, and being stuck on an island.

The highlights included swimming in the ocean, a campfire and s'mores, songs on the guitar, grilled foods, the big bow on my bikini top, red wine, sea fireflies (planktons) and getting to see everyone together before a lot of them return home.

The next morning was a rough awakening, after getting about one hour of sleep, tossing and turning on the deck and sharing a small blanket with other freezing bodies... but definitely good memories.

I came to the following realizations:

*I (maybe) (perhaps) too old/not cut out for that kind of drunken fest.
*Being stuck on an island really freaks me out.
*I love swimming!
*Boys like bows.
*S'mores is the best food. Ever.
*Yes, I can remain stylish and sophisticated on a camping trip.
*Two outfit changes were unnecessary. So was my soap.
*Always pack your own blanket.
*Don't leave bits of pineapple next to your blanket. Flies!
*Hide your food. Hungry inebriated people in the night!
*I can survive in the woods and crank up the uncouthness.


I'm still not sure how I feel about it all, but it was definitely a fun summer night, and I have a newfound love for my little futon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Friday night in Marugame



Last night I had the most fun I've had in a long time. After a loooong day at work (why do kindergarteners take off their clothes randomly?), I met my friend Mike (from training!) at the station. He lives in Kyoto prefecture, so we try to see each other every month or so.

We had a good old Marugame time. The party started at my place, with silly music videos and cheese and crackers. Isabel joined in the fun, and we all headed to the only nice bar in Marugame, for Gin Tonics and White Russians. The friendly owner even shared a bottle of wine with us. I then showed Mike the best ramen shop in Marugame, where we feasted on the noodles with delightful kimchi. We ended the party at 3am, sitting on the dark stairs of the museum, listening to the silence of dear old Marugame (and a distressed sounding kitten in the distance).

I love simple, fun night like that, in good company. Isabel, what am I going to do without you?!

Now, I'm off to some island off the coast to go camping.... oh dear. I think I'll be the only girl sporting red nail polish and accessorizing her bikini. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Limited Edition

When you live abroad, you go through extremes: a fun activity can make you feel completely exhilarated, while a not-so-fun experience can make you feel like it's the end of the world. I forgot how exhausting this roller coaster can be, and how small things can be blown to proportions. Sigh. It's all part of the experience of living in a foreign land I guess: as exciting as each day can be in a beautiful land like Japan, some days can make you completely lose you mind... aka today. Help!!!

If I was a guy I'd probably drown my worries with cheap beer from the nearest watering hole, but girls tend to work differently. To cheer myself up and to cheer up this post, here's some Japanese loot I've been picking up lately, and for some reason this never fails to make me happy about living in Japan.


Uniqlo tee. I fell for the 'only available in Japan' tag.




Oh, Uniqlo. I love how they always team with different designers and come up with adorable and super cheap tees, like this one from Japanese star Hinano Yoshikawa. I don't know who she is, but she is famous and makes cute stuff with giant bows. I think everything I wear lately features a big bow. I'm turning Japanese.

As tall as three apples... ハローキティ




Hello Kitty always brightens up my day (after all, one of the reasons I moved to Japan. Kidding!). Especially when it's in my shower, and in the form of a scrub. Don't you love how the cat shows how to use it in the instructions on the back?

Who needs five shades of nail polish? I do.

Japan has loads of fantastic local skin care and cosmetics, and I like trying new things. One of my favourite brands is Canmake Tokyo, for their everlasting Fur Lash mascara, gel eyeliner, and non-chipping nail polish. It's very cheap, has cutesy packaging, and great quality.

**Note to my fellow girls in Korea: you can find this brand at Olive Young, I used to buy it back in Seoul.


Hmmm. sometimes I wonder if it would be cheaper to just drink??

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On my own

It's the first time I live alone for so long. I've always had roommates (and a live-in boyfriend in Korea), which I very much enjoyed. Roommates are fun: cooking dinners together, drinking wine and venting about your day, movie marathons, sharing clothes and beauty products, and impromptu dance parties while folding bed sheets. There is also a not-so-good side: missing food (who ate my cookies?!), sharing chores (can be unequal), and not having much privacy.

I have a love/hate relationship with living on my own. A lot of the time I get really bored and lonely. Fortunately most of my friends live nearby, so I can just hop on my bike to go visit, or have them over for tea or brunch. Since I've been in Japan I've gotten used to living on my own, and appreciate it more and more. Even though it's not always easy (I would love a live-in boyfriend when I see a cockroach or when I have to sort my trash), I made a little list of good things about living alone.


{My little space}

*Sleeping in laaaate
*Staying up all night talking on Skype and watching silly movies
*Eating chocolate in bed... and various other snacks
*Walking around in my underwear (classy)
*Taking ages in the shower
*Making French toast at midnight (I swear it doesn't happen too often)
*Singing and dancing whenever I please
*Having company stay over whenever
*Not having to tidy up if I don't feel like it
*Leaving dirty dishes in the sink
*Going for runs and bike rides late at night
*Decorate however I please

I realize this list makes me sound like I complete slob, which I promise I'm not!

Anything else you can think of?

*In other news, Japan is HOT. Insanely humid and stifling. An otherwise boring muggy day was made more exciting by team killing a cockroach at Isabel's (bastard was hiding), Febreezing my apartment, eating cherries, a ballerina skirt, and going out for lunch to a beautiful traditional Japanese café we found in Marugame.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Milkfed

One thing I LOVE about Japan is getting free stuff with the fashion magazines. I'm obsessed with Sofia Coppola's Milkfed line (only available in Japan), so I was thrilled to pick up a cute anchor summer tote.



My mirror is DIRTY! Time to clean up.