Tuesday, September 11, 2012

岡崎花火大会2012:Okazaki Fireworks Festival 2012

So after Shinrabanshow, the visual kei fest, we spent a little bit more time in the Okazaki / Nagoya area.

And on Saturday night, there was the yearly Okazaki fireworks festival. Last year, I went in yukata with some friends, and it was super fun! So I was excited to go back with Guillaume and different friends this year.

Rachael came in from Gifu, Miho came in from Nagoya, and we met up with Carine and went over to the house of one of her boyfriend's friends for a bar-b-que.

The view of the fireworks from their mini backyard was wonderful, the people were super super nice (and the friend was super into punk, so we got to giddily talk about that for a while - I really don't know how I'm going to separate myself from Japan and being able to see Japanese music live whenever I want), and there was even a bit of vegan food!

I was really happy that we were able to watch them from a yard, because otherwise the area was so crowded there was barely room to walk, much less sit.

There were also quite a few kids there, so they had lots of small fireworks set up for us to do. There's this one that's apparently super popular in Japan and just sort of hangs down and only gets bright towards the very end. Of course, though, my lit part managed to always fall off and die before the very end, so I never got to see mine looking cool. :-(

The next day we decided to head into Nagoya for the day - despite it being Guillaume's 3rd time in Japan (and second time in Okazaki), he'd somehow never been to Nagoya.

We went over to check out the castle, which I also had somehow never been to before. I was happy to finally go.

We were unfortunately a little bit rushed, because we got there quite a bit later than we had originally planned and we had to meet up with Miho and Will for lunch, but it was still cool.

The gardens were really beautiful, and there was actually a lot of cool stuff to see both inside and outside the castle. There also seemed to be some sort of festival going on, so there were lanterns set up everywhere. It was really beautiful.

Then we met up with Miho and Will for lunch.

We of course had to do purikura - it was Guillaume's first, and I think he really enjoyed it.

We had a good time hanging around Sakae before heading over to Osu Kannon.

I spend a LOT of time in both of those areas, so it was cool to get to show Guillaume - I didn't really get the feeling that he was all that impressed, though. I thought it was especially cool this time, because there was a cosplay festival going on.

I still can't really figure out if this was a girl or a guy

We saw TONS of people dressed up in every possible anime costume imaginable. I literally had NEVER seen that many cosplayers gathered in one place, even when I went to the cosplay festival in France.

And with that, the end of our time in the Aichi area. 以上です。

Monday, September 10, 2012

アンティック‐珈琲店ー復活ライブ - An Cafe Reunion Lives!

So, I have a TON of other things that I'm supposed to be writing about - namely, my three weeks with Guillaume here, which were fabulous and fun and wonderful! BUT for some reason I just keep putting it off and putting it off, and this past weekend I went to Tokyo for the two most amazing days of my time in Japan - An Cafe's reunion shows in Tokyo!!!! They were SO AMAZING that I get giddy all over again just thinking about them. I imagine myself an old woman of, like, 80 or 90 or so (if I make it that long) thinking back to these two concerts and still being overwhelmed with happiness.

DAY 1: 大航海時代

So the first day of the concert was called daikoukaijidai, which means the Age of Discovery.

Even though I was going to the first day alone, Rachael and Martin were so kind as to head over with me early to wait in line to buy goods.

The line looked something like this:

We must have waited for at least 2 1/2 hours, and as a result, I was over to talk myself out of and then retalk myself into (not just once, but SEVERAL in a continuous cycle) the majority of the goods that were sold - as I was buying the goods, I was in a "talk myself into" state, and I ended up spending FAR MORE money than I would have liked.

On a happy note, though, I am SUPER happy with my purchases, several of which I am wearing now.

While waiting, there was a girl across from us that had a HUGE sign thing that she was getting everyone to sign for An Cafe. Of course, I signed it (twice :-P).

When I went in later, the big sign was hanging for everyone to see as they walked in. So cool! I wonder if they received it.
The live itself was amazing, even if I was sitting directly behind the band. Still, I was so close I felt like I could practically touch them. :-) I felt like if I could just find a way to reach out my hand a little bit further, I would be touching Teruki.

A picture I stole without permission from the An Cafe facebook site

They started off with Smile Ichiban Ii Onna, and of course, the crowd went absolutely CRAZY. I think that may be their most popular song.

After playing quite a few AMAZING songs (of course they were amazing, all of their songs are amazing), they did a skit which was absolutely HILARIOUS. Apparently, according to Miku at least, Yuuki thought of it. I guess it was supposed to be like a video game, and Kanon and Teruki were hungry, and Yuuki was supposed to have made food, but he didn't because Takuya didn't give him any ingredients with which to make food.

This is what I was sitting in front of!

And then there was a sea monster that was going to eat all 4 of them, but there were 5 of them, so they were confused. Miku did lots of fun voices and Teruki and Kanon's faces were absolutely PRICELESS. I SO hope they make a DVD of the show so everyone can see it.

I imagined the monster looked like a super cute nyappy character like this

And of course they had an MC section in which Teruki mimicked someone, Ganon, maybe? - I don't actually remember the name because I didn't know who it was, but it was funny nonetheless. Teruki is always funny. He also had lots of funny stories to tell about Kanon (which prompted Miku to say - you guys get along really well, are you maybe doing it?).

Anyhow, at sometime in there, they played Amazing Blue, and everyone got out their An Cafe blue light stars, and the entire crowd was BLUE - it was beautiful to behold!
They also played Jibun Setsumeisho (Self Manual) sometime in there, which is my favorite song from the mini album. They also played quite a few other songs from the new mini album - for one of them, I think it was Saku, Yuuki led us in an absolutely fabulous choreography (according to Miku, he'd spent the last 2 1/2 years coming up with it) - because I'm completely lacking in coordination, it took me a while to get it - but even though I'm completely lacking in coordination, I did manage to eventually get it. Fun times!

They encored with YOU and ended with Bonds (towels flying!), and it was absolutely beyond amazing - no words to describe the perfection!

DAY 2: 原宿奪還

Day 2 was called Harajuku Dakkan, which means Harajuku Recovery (or rescue).

This time I went with Rachael, and we got there a little bit early to walk around Harajuku - there were SO many people dressed up in An Cafe cosplay - I was sort of jealous. I wish I were capable of something like that. I always think I want to cosplay a member of An Cafe, but unfortunately fail.

It was super super fun to look at them all, though.

Me ready for An Cafe!!

When you first went in, there was a stand of the brand that designed An Cafe's clothes this time around, and they had one of those "be a ~insert whatever~" things for An Cafe, so of course Rachael and I took a picture! :-)

On day 2, they started off with Maple Gunman, which is absolutely one of my favorite songs. They also played quite a few other of my favorite songs this day - Kakusei Heroism, Snow Scene, and their last song before the encore - Cherry Saku Yuuki. I was, of course, thrilled beyond belief. There were only a few repeats in the set.

The setup when you first walked into the venue

For Teruki's mimicking MC, he imitated a famous Japanese singer (again, I don't know the singer, and I'm really bad with names, so I don't remember it) - I thought it was funny, but no one was really laughing. So Miku decided that we didn't know how to laugh and conducted a laughing practice session with us, which was hilarious beyond belief.

Miku's laugh is so pure and clear - we all couldn't help but just laugh with him.

They also did the same sea monster skit as the day before - while the beginning was exactly the same, they changed the end up a bit, so it felt fresh and new.

After several minutes of all of the fans screaming Mou Ippai (One more cup of coffee - it's what An Cafe fans scream instead of Encore), they encored with Bonds, and we all waved our towels around like crazy.

Then they ended with Smile Ichiban Ii Onna, the song they had opened with the day before. Somehow, it just felt right.
When An Cafe does something, they do it right, and that is all.

I can't even believe how much I enjoyed myself. I was reminded of why An Cafe will forever and always be my favorite visual kei band. They are just awesome, that is all. More awesome than all of the others.

I took the bus home Monday morning, and I spent the entire bus ride listening to their discography, from first album to most recent.
I'm listening to Amazing Blue now.

So yeah, best two days of my 2 1/2 years in Japan.


Friday, August 31, 2012

森羅万象 Tour '12 = Shinrabanshow tour 2012

So after hanging out in Tokyo with MikeyG, I rushed back to Okazaki for work and to meet up with Guillaume!!

He arrived on August 2, and for my day early birthday present, he agreed to join me to a visual kei festival, even though he was super jet-lagged, and it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!! I originally wanted to go because I felt like I NEEDED to see Ayabie before leaving Japan, but really almost all of the bands were amazing!


Or Guild in romaji, these guys were absolutely AMAZING! They did fun Nana chan poses, and it was super adorable - something they could only get away with doing in Nagoya. (It was actually at during the song in the video that they did the nana chan poses, but given that this video was taken in shibuya, they're not there). (watch until at least the second minute for music!!)

For those of you who don't know who Nana-chan is, you can see her in the above picture. She's basically a huge doll thing that hangs out right in front of the Meitetsu Station in Nagoya, and she's regularly dressed up in lots of different outfits - in the featured picture, she's dressed up as Naruto.

Anyway, Guild was definitely my favorite band of the night that I didn't previously know.


The lights were super flashy and all over the place, so every time I tried to look at the stage to watch them, I started getting a headache. Thus, they were super hard to watch.
They're on the heavier side of visual kei compared to what I normally like, but they were still pretty good. Much better than I was expecting.

Duel Jewel

They vocalist apparently had a throat cold and thus wasn't there. Which was. . .weird. In the beginning they were all just jumping around and having fun, and it looked like they weren't even trying to play their instruments. And then they had the singer's voice coming over a recording. It was just, as I said, weird.
Despite the weirdness, the music was totally awesome, and the bassist was maybe the cutest thing I've ever seen (but unfortunately, he seemed to know it). I've been listening to more of them since, and I'm totally into it!
I'd be interested to see them live again when they actually have a singer.


Another band on the heavier side of visual kei, they were MUCH better than what I was expecting. I'd even told Guillaume that when they came on, we could take a break, but in the end, that didn't happen. They were super fun - a little bit hard, but I totally got into it. I often judge bands by just one song, and this is totally a case of "I shouldn't have done that."


Of course, this was the best concert of all time (I remind people to beware of my tendency to exaggerate). I absolutely LOVE OVER ADORE them, but the show was even better than I ever could have possibly imagined. They played most of my favorite songs, and Yumehito, the singer, with the best voice of all time, was super cute with his explanations of songs and dances (and really expensive fans).
The only sad thing was that they just didn't play long enough (well that and that their t-shirt was really ugly, so I didn't want to buy it). And even though they're on tour now, I won't get to see them again before I leave Japan, because the day they play in Nagoya I will be in Tokyo seeing An Cafe.
Fingers crossed for a North American tour!


Stylized Gotcha6a.
YAY!!!! On the ticket, it said there would be a secret band playing, and I don't know why, but I kind of thought it would be Gotcharocka, and they were!!!! HAPPINESS!!!! They were playing as ハイパー (Hyper), but it was still totally them doing their songs, and it was wonderful!
Their songs were just as amazing live, and I'm so happy all those dudes decided to get together to form a group! Pure awesomeness.


I don't LOVE Kra (which I learned this night is actually pronounced kera), but I do like them quite a lot. And that is EXACTLY how I felt about their live as well. I didn't love love LOVE it, but I did like it quite a lot.
The singer has this amazing voice that seems like it can do pretty much anything, go pretty much anywhere. And a lot of their music is really pretty.
Maybe I would have been able to enjoy them more if Ayabie and Gotcharocka hadn't played just right before them

Anyhow, it was an AMAZING concert (during which Guillaume might have fallen asleep), and I'm SO happy that I got to go!!!! It's so sad for me to think that soon it's no longer going to be so easy for me to just hope over to Nagoya to see visual kei bands whenever I want.
YAY VISUAL KEI!!!! YAY PUNK!!!! (And as I write that, I am listening to kanjani8. Awesome)

And that's all for now, folks. 以上です。

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tanabata, the Zutazutaz, Eito Rangers, and Rurouni Kenshin

Today, I went to see るろうに剣心 (Rurouni Kenshin) with 佐藤健 (Takeru Satou), a movie based on a manga about a swordsman that takes place somewhere right at the end of the Edo Jidai, beginning of the Meiji Jidai.

While it absolutely looked like an amazing movie, I'll admit that my main reason for wanting to see it was Satou Takeru - I totally love him!

I'm so glad he was playing Rurouni, though, because the movie was absolutely AMAZING! It was action-packed but heart-warming, and I laughed, cried, and cringed the whole way through. If this movie ever makes it to America (or Canada or Europe or wherever) - highly recommended!

Now, let's go back in time a little bit to before I hung out with MikeyG in Tokyo. Two days before I left, I hopped on a train and met up with Rachael in Ichinomiya for the Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri.

Basically, it's a star festival celebrating the stars Vega and Altair - star-crossed lovers separated by the milky way, doomed to only meet once a year (on the seventh day of the seventh month).

The man and woman on each side were constantly turning but never looking at each other - I can't help but wonder if they did eventually meet, but we didn't stay long enough to check it out.

I'd been wanting to check out a Tanabata Matsuri since arriving in Japan but had just somehow never found the time. I heard the Ichinomiya one was one of the biggest in the area, so I really wanted to go. But what really drove us there was that alfabeto was playing the matsuri.

I've written quite a bit about alfabeto in the past, as at this point I've seen them more times than I can count. They of course put on an absolutely amazing show that totally made the festival worth it. They were up on a real stage, they seemed totally together, and they absolutely rock!

While we were there, we saw Darth Vader!

We also talked quite a bit to alfabeto's manager guy, who suggested that, if I like punk, I would like another band that he manages called the Zutazutaz.

They just so happened to be playing a free concert the next day at another festival, so I headed over to check them out.

Manager dude was right, and I absolutely LOVED them. I feel somewhat disloyal saying this, but I actually preferred them to alfabeto.

The singer was absolutely nutso, jumping and falling around like a crazy person. He even had a bag of beer that he passed out to everyone (and for a moment I thought he was even going to give some to the children) so that we could all kanpai (cheers) together.

When it was over, I couldn't help myself, and I asked if he was drunk, but apparently, he's just crazy. Totally loved it!

After the concert, I met up with some friends to go see Eito Rangers, the new Kanjani8 hero movie, about a future world where your whole life is decided by a test you have to take at the age of 6.

Needless to say, I LOVED it! Possibly the best hero movie I've ever seen! :-) The pseudo dystopian future was, in my mind, AMAZINGLY well played. And they totally played up the members (of kanjani8) strengths and weaknesses perfectly. Love!

I don't get to go to movies a lot here in japan, as they are ridiculously expensive, but I'm happy to say that I feel like I've picked well.

And that's all for this time, folks! 以上です。

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mikey G in Tokyo!!

So, at the end of July/beginning of August, Mikey G made a quick stopover in Japan on his tour of Asia, so I headed up there to hang out with him for an AMAZING two days!! I wish it could have been longer, but alas - work.

Anyhow, since I have SO much blogging to catch up on, Mikey G has graciously allowed me to just use the e-mail he sent about our time togehter - with pictures added in by me, along with commentary in italics.

Tokyo with Audrey

As I had mentioned, the first two days in Tokyo were spent with Audrey, and we had am absolute blast. I met up with her on Monday morning, and we had a whirlwind tour of a few parts of Tokyo. The first thing we did was head to Shinjuku, where we went to get me a bus ticket. There's an amusement park in Japan that I've always wanted to go to

(called Fuji Q Highlands, and me, too, I SO want to go. Unfortunately, I am a broke person and was even more of a broke person then)

, and apparently there are "cheap" bus+entrance combo tickets (cheap being about 100 USD, which is apparently half of what I'd pay if I took trains there), so we went to look for them. And damn, I was lucky that Audrey came along with me because nobody who doesn't speak Japanese would have ever been able to do this alone. We found the bus station, but we didn't see anywhere to buy tickets. Audrey asked someone, and we had to find staircase 8 and then booth 50. We ended up going up staircase 6, and then she saw a place that sold tickets, but there was no 50 there. When we walked in, she was told that they only sell same-day tickets there, and the advance ticket office was around the corner, through a random warehouse-looking door, up an unmarked flight of stairs, and in a random room where the people didn't speak a word of English. That's one thing that's different from the rest of the trip: Southeast Asia relies so much on tourism that most people speak English on the tourist paths, but Japan doesn't rely on it as much, so very few people speak English. It's an interesting dynamic. Anyway. everything worked out, I got my ticket, and we went to grab some lunch.

Seriously, though, I don't know how even Japanese people manage to find their way to this ticket counter, with how convoluted, confusing, and unmarked it was. Kristen and Shawn said the same thing about the lack of people in Japan speaking English, as did Guillaume. It's true that it's so much easier to have an awesome time in Japan if you speak a bit of Japanese.

We went to a restaurant where there's a machine full of buttons with pictures of food and prices, and you push the button of what you want, pay at the machine, and give your receipt to the waiter.

I've always wanted to eat in one but never been able to because they never have anything vegan.

They then bring out your food. It was somewhat amusing, but what was even more amusing was that Audrey and I were the only people there who weren't businessmen. Not even businesswomen. We walked past several more push button restaurants, and we never saw anyone inside other than businessmen. Perhaps because it's a fast place and they're short on time? Who knows?

We actually talked to Martin about this somewhat, and somehow, he NEVER noticed that there are never any women in these places.

After that we went to the Harajuku area and walked down Takeshita street, which is a popular shopping area for teenagers and 20-somethings. We went into an AKB48 store, which was interesting. Apparently AKB48 is this popular girl band group that has something like 98 members that are all teenage girls (more like fifteen years old as opposed to nineteen), and apparently people vote on who gets to be in the music videos (since not all 98 can be featured). But not just anyone votes - there's a minimum age to do so, and it's apparently quite high, so it's mostly 40- and 50-something year old men voting on which fifteen year old girls they like the most. It's really creepy, but equally amusing.

It's incredibly depressing, but the more I see them and hear them, the more I find myself liking them. And I even watched one of their graduations (they graduate from the band when they leave, which I assume is when they get too old) on TV the other day, and it made me cry. I might actually buy their new album, and I'm feeling somewhat horrified about this.

We also went into a store that's full of those machines that you put quarters in and get little trinkets out,

They're called capsule machines or gachapon

only these were a bit more expensive (a few bucks each). There were a lot of bubble machines, and Audrey got a keychain of the group ViViD, which is one of the visual kei (just Google it) bands that's tied for her third favorite visual keiband (SuG and Ayabie are also tied, with LM.C taking second place and An Cafe taking first). Not that you need to know her favorite bands, but it was super fun seeing this random bit of culture and how much she likes it. Audrey has absolutely fallen in love with Japan over the past two years, which is sad because she's moving to Montreal soon. But I think she'll be back someday :-)

After that we went to Meiji Jingu, which is a shrine, and wandered around a nearby park and got lost. I've seen so many temples that while it was amusing to see what a shrine was like, I didn't really have much of a desire to go inside or really take a tour. We also saw a group of Japanese people dressed up in some sort of traditional-looking outfits and doing a dance.

They had these big antler like things, and they were playing the drums, and it was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen!

It was amusing because they were interviewing the people, and Audrey told me that one of the older men was asked how the experience was, and he responded that he was hot and tired and ready for it to be over :-p

After wandering around and getting lost in the park, we went down a nearby street (Omote Sando)to find the Snoopy Store, and I was excited to find that they had Snoopy chopsticks. I've been wanting some chopsticks for home, and I wanted something from the Snoopy store that was definitively Japanese, so they were perfect!

Then we went to store featuring D-Boys, which is a group of guys who are actors with the same agency, some of whom Audrey is, of course, in love with. And as we were walking, we ran into a few girls who were dressed up as though they were Anime characters (cosplay), which was cool, but unfortunately I didn't get any pictures.

The guy on the left is Jinnai Sho, and he's my favorite D-Boy. He's in a move about to come out called Pole Dancing Boys that for some reason I can't wait to see!

After that we went to Shibuya and saw the famous intersection where millions and millions of people cross each day. Then we went into Shibuya 109, which is a very Japanese clothing/department store, and had a blast wandering around. The fashion was just amazing, which was one of my favorite parts of Tokyo. The teenagers and 20-somethings definitely have their own culture, with several subcultures, and it's just fascinating to people watch. It was amusing because Shibuya 109 is separated into men's and women's stores, but there were a lot of really feminine guys covered in make-up shopping in the women's store, and even the men's store had a lot of feminine-looking fashion.

Fashion is also totally one of my favorite things about Tokyo! I wish I could get away with wearing some of the things they were. . . but somehow because I am taller than most of them, I feel like I would just look awkward and gawky instead of cute. Totally love people watching, though, and trying to stop myself from buying clothes.

Afterward we met Audrey's friend Martin and went to Asakusa for dinner. Audrey pointed out the giant golden poo, which is supposed to resemble the foam on the top of a glass of beer, but it just...doesn't. We also saw the Tokyo Skytree, which is a new tower that was built solely to be an observation deck. It's kinda sad because it has no other use, and so it was a huge waste of money. Anyway, we grabbed dinner and then went back to our hostels to bed (I'm tired just writing about the busy day)!

It also seems like a huge waste of money to me, but it seems to be doing extremely well. It's still booked out for the next couple months, and for the time being, it actually seems to be earning a lot of money. Something I will never understand. . .

Then Kate joined us on Tuesday morning for a bit of sightseeing. We went back to Asakusa (with the giant golden poo), but this time we went to another part which is really the old part of Tokyo. We got to see how the shops used to be, and we went past a cool pagoda.

Afterward we went to Akihabara, which is the electronics district. We saw women dressed as maids advertising maid cafes (where you are waited on by women dressed as maids, who call you "master" and treat you really nice and whatnot), and then we went to the coolest store in the world, Super Potato! It's a store that focuses on old video games, like the Famicon, which is the original Japanese version of the original Nintendo. They have old games and systems, but also stuffed animals, lamps, and loads of other types of old video game paraphernalia. I wanted to buy everything, but I'm running out of money, so I abstained. I also don't need more *stuff*. But it was all such a part of my childhood that I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get anything. Next time, I suppose.

Me, too!!!! I want to buy everything every time I go into Super Potato. Unfortunately, money = issue. :-( I also noticed last time I went in there that the sign on Mario that Mikey G and I are blocking by touching him says さわちゃダメ, which means don't touch. heehee! oops!

After that we went to a convenience store because that's where the sell baseball tickets, and Kate and I wanted to see a baseball game here. And it was another situation where we were lucky to have Audrey with us because a foreigner would have never, ever been able to purchase them without knowing Japanese. So we get to the machine and see that there's no English mode. So Audrey goes in and hits about three buttons to get to the Baseball section (they sell tickets to other things, including other sporting events, Tokyo Disney, and loads of other things). So when we finally got to baseball and picked the correct date, there were four different options for tickets that even Audrey had trouble distinguishing. The first one we tried was for family tickets and only let you purchase a set of 3 tickets, but then we found the right option. But we still had to pick where we wanted to sit, and the first few we tried said that there weren't two seats together (but in Japanese, so Kate and I would have never known). Then we were finally able to find a section with seats together, purchase them, and print them out. It was such an ordeal, and very few people here speak English, so it would have been otherwise impossible to get tickets.

An ordeal, yes, but one that I for some reason super enjoyed. Anyhow, MikeyG enjoyed his baseball game so much that I will defo be heading to one myself before I leave!!

After getting tickets we got lunch, and after taking a while looking at restaurants, we found one that featured omlets with rice inside of them, appropriately named Omrice. We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were. After that, Kate split off to do her own thing and Audrey and I went to the Parasite Museum, which was small but very amusing. There was a guy and a girl there together, and Audrey pulled me aside and said that she didn't hear their full conversation, but the bit she did hear was the guy saying, "This brings back memories" or something of that sort. It was seriously hilarious - she said it so excitedly while pointing to one of the parasites in the glass. I'm pretty sure it was her and not him.They also had an 8 meter long tapeworm, accompanied by an equally long ribbon that you could play with to see how long the tapeworm really was. I had Audrey wrap it around her and model it for a small photoshoot, which is the sort of ridiculous fun she and I always have when we hang out :-) Yay! Super fun times! I can't wait to visit MikeyG in California!

After the museum I wanted to go somewhere to just relax (as my feet were killing me from all the walking), and so Audrey picked a park area called Yebisu Garden Place because it's supposed to be nice and because it was featured in a Japanese television show (Hana Yori Dango!!!!) she watches, and she had never been. We went to the place where Domyouji and Haruka (who is actually called Makino - I totally screwed up her name when telling Mike) met up for their first date and then later got married. It was funny because there were loads of people taking pictures in that spot, and we were wondering if the others were also super into the show or if there was some other reason. After that we met up with Audrey's friend Karl and his girlfriend and hung out at a cafe (but only after eating a delicious dinner at Little Heaven - mieum!!).

I was SO excited! I've been trying to remember to go there every time I go to Tokyo, but I just keep forgetting. While we were there, Mike and I also found a pharmacy in which we took our blood pressures. For some reason, this ended up being one of the highlights of my day. Good times, good times!

The next morning we grabbed breakfast, and then Audrey had to head back home. Sadface!

Sadface!, indeed! I had a great time hanging out with MikeyG in Tokyo, and I wish I could have spent more time with him!

One thing I wish I could have shown him while he was here, that I think I've posted in the blog before:

Anyhow, hope you enjoyed! Until next time, 以上です。

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hiking in Okazaki: くらがり渓谷 = Kuragari Canyon

So, I just got back from a 3 week vacation around southern Japan, and I have a LOT of catching up to do. So, if things go as planned, expect a bombardment of blog posts in the very near future!

In the meantime, let's go back in time.

A long time ago, I woke up one morning, and Chieko asked me if there was anywhere I wanted to go in Okazaki where I hadn't been because I needed a car.

After much thinking, I realized there really wasn't, so after a brief internet search for waterfalls (私、滝好きだもん) in the Okazaki area, we hopped in the car and headed to Kuragari Keikoku (keikoku = canyon).

I was extremely happy with my choice.

Even though it was super hot outside, there was a nice breeze comfortable shadows from the trees, so the weather felt lovely.

And the scenery was absolutely AMAZING!

I am a hardcore fan of lush, green areas, especially when they involve bamboo and trees covered with soft, green moss.

There were times when I really felt like I was in a Miyazaki film.

I find it really sad that all of the green space in Japan is slowly, steadily being destroyed. Somehow, the forest areas of Japan feel more majestic, more magical to me than in a lot of the other places I've been.

I was especially happy with my choice because there were literally waterfalls EVERYWHERE along the hike!

There were ones that were quite a lot larger than this one, but for some reason, I just found this one exceptionally gorgeous.

Other than hiking, I've also been doing a lot of farming since arriving in my homestay.

Me with two of the biggest zucchinis I've ever seen!

Chieko's parents live on a farm, and they seem to grow every type of everything you could possibly imagine.

Chieko's mom taking a break after potato picking.

We even went digging up potatoes one day, and it was SUPER hot and SUPER exhausting, but also inexplicably fun!

But let me just say - the smell of rotting potatoes is one of the most REPULSIVE, RANCID things I have ever smelled in all of my life of smelling.

We would be having a lovely, pleasant time digging (with me, of course, far too regularluy accidently plunging the pitchfork shovel thing INTO the potato instead of the dirt) when suddenly we would be accosted by a smell so awful that I almost threw up on several occasions.

Then we woul inevitably come across a potato so rotten that it had literally turned into this whitish brown oozy slimy goop dripping out of a rotting skin.

So gross.

Other than that, and the inevitable heat headaches, the farming has been super fun. I hope I get to go again at least a couple times.

And that's all for this time, folks! 以上です。

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kristen and Shawn Visit: Part 5: Tokyo aka THE END! :-(

After Korea, we hopped on a plane to Osaka, where we then hopped on a Shinkansen to Tokyo for the last part of our trip together (SOB!! They should just move here, I think, and I should never leave).

When we got to Tokyo, we immediately brought Kristen and Shawn to the capsule hotel in which they would be staying. I was staying with Martin in Shinagawa, so I had booked them a place close to there, and it turned out to be a host district
(if you don't know what a host is, use the picture for reference. It's like the Japanese dude version of a hostess, and they have awesome host hair and are super suave) - the place was literally crawling with hosts. I thought it was a great introduction to Tokyo for Kristen and Shawn! :-)

The next day, while Kristen and I slept, Shawn woke up super early and went to the fish market (apparently, he got kicked out about 5 times for being a foreigner there so early). When we finally all met up, we headed over to Akihabara for some doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant (and, of course, for them to check out the electronics distric).

I of course had to bring them to Super Potato to see all the old school games and to sit in the chair made of famcom games (which, unfortunately, was way smaller than it used to be - I guess it went through some trouble).

So, then we headed over to the Meiji shrine by Yoyogi Koen, and there just so happened to be two weddings going on. Guess we were lucky!

Martin and I of course had to make goofy poses outtside of the shrine. I feel certain that Kristen and Shawn also made goofy poses, but I don't seem to have those pictures.

After the shrine, we headed into Harajuku, where there were unfortunately no cosplayers. We really didn't get lucky on the cosplay/lolita front.
We did, however, get very lucky on the Takeshita street front. Sure, there were tons of people there, but SO MANY LESS than there ever have been before.
We were actually able to walk down the street and breathe at the same time. I even felt comfortable enough spending the time necessary to pop into a couple idol shops to look for hot visual kei boys (I found none. Sadness).

We then headed over to the Shinjuku/Shibuya area for a delicious (at least to me, maybe not so much to Krist and Shawn) vegan lunch at Pure Cafe, the Aveda cafe.
And then delicious chocolate soy shakes from Mr. Bean.

Since we were in the area, we of course had to go check out 109 - I feel like it's a total waste to go to Tokyo and not at least check out the insane awesomeness of it.

We made some new friends in front of the store who posed in our picture with us!

Kristen and I had been wanting to buy matching somethings, and we found some adorable t-shirts, so I officially made my very first 109 purchase (and not even from JSG, my favorite store there).

Us having fun in 109. Please note that I almost killed myself on the escalator trying to get this picture.

Making Mary-Kate and Ashley lips in the train.

That night, Martin and Shawn went to kaiten sushi for dinner while Kristen and I ate spaghetti chez Martin. It was so nice to eat in a house again, oddly enough, instead of hopping around from restaurant to restaurant.

Kristen and Shawn wanted to see the sky tree, so the next morning we woke up and headed over to Asakusa. We walked around a bit looking at the shrine and the fun other Japanesey stuff, and then we headed over to the bridge to check out the sky tree.

Kristen and Shawn think it's going to be a tourist success, but I'm just not so sure. I mean, it's ugly. And it's whole purpose is to be a tourist attraction. I don't get it. Maybe I'll have to walk up to the top and see the view if I ever want to eventually get it.

And there it is, right to the left of the really cool building that's supposed to look like beer.

Then Krist and I headed over to Loving Hut for (what I thought was) a DELICIOUS lunch! Shawn and Martin walked around Shinjuku and ate something else. Then we met up and got doughnuts (!!!! I'm seriously doughnut obsessed) and headed back to Martin's for a few minutes of down-time before getting back on the shinkansen to head back to Nagoya.
We ate delicious (once again, to me) Indian food, then Kristen and Shawn headed to their hotel by the airport, and I headed back to Okazaki for my first night sleeping with my home stay family.

Our stay in Tokyo was super short but super fun. Their stay in Japan was super short but super fun. I'm so sad they are gone!

I'm actually headed back to Tokyo this weekend again, though, to hang out with another friend coming into town. And then, Guillaume comes, and we're headed to Kyushu then Okinawa. So much traveling, so little money!

And thus, THE END of my adventures with Kristen and Shawn!