Thursday, 30 June 2016

BLOG -- Recap of June

June was a mix of highs and lows for me. And I felt both at their extremes. *sigh* While I welcome being extremely happy (since that is rare for me), I don't like feeling extremely low... it's so hard for me to get out once I'm there. 

Maybe some change is in order... but what? Hmmm...

Outings/Events in June:
- Saturday June 4 -- was very sad that day. Lol... no more details here. It's just to remind myself whenever I look back on this entry.

- Attended a co-worker's wedding. I wore a nice dress, but my shoes and jacket didn't match.

- Had "coffee" with a friend ("coffee" is in quotation marks, 'cuz we both ordered other drinks). It was our first time actually hanging out instead of being part of some huge social gathering and we chatted until closing time (10:30 PM). It was nice and very fun! :D

- Did an escape room for the 5th time (Escape Games Canada -- Crossroads room). We got out, woooooot! ~~~~

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn achievements / news: 
-My Dragoon is level 60, yayyyy.

- (Food): Strawberry Shortcake Donut -- This was another limited donut at Tim Hortons. The cream and strawberry filling was nice, but I found it a bit too sweet. Now I've tried them all! And I like the raspberry truffle donut the best.

- (Food): Sushi Tacos! -- It just sounded so weird that I had to try it. I had it non-spicy and I really enjoyed it

- (Movie): Now You See Me 2 -- Still fun, but I personally enjoyed the first movie more. Lula was a nice though slightly annoying addition.

- (Movie): Django Unchained -- Not bad.

- (Movie): The Departed -- I watched Infernal Affairs years ago, and was curious how this remake held up. It's good. Just like in the original, I really hate the last scenes.

- (Movie): Dorian Gray -- I watched this mainly for Colin Firth. I'll bet Colin loved delivering those snappy, cynical lines. It was a very good, interesting movie. I think if I was in Gray's position I'd make very different choices, though.

- (Movie): Eastern Promises -- A friend suggested this movie to me, so I had no idea what to expect. It was good, but I don't think I would ever watch it again. It made me uneasy at times.

- (Movie): Enemy -- This was really interesting, though quite creepy and intense.

- (3DS): Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure -- This is kinda like the Professor Layton games, but with rhythm games instead of puzzle games. I applaud its creativity and would recommend for at least one playthrough, but I have minor gripes, especially at the end.

- Nothing this month.

Playing (not all at once):
- (PS4): Dragon Ball Xenoverse
- (PS4): J-Stars Victory Vs+
- (PS4): Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below  
- (PS3): Borderlands 2
- (3DS): Story of Seasons
- (3DS): Fantasy Life
- (3DS): Shantae
- (GBA): The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition   
- (PSP): Persona 
- (PSP): Crush
- (PSP): Corpse Party
- (PSVita): Persona 4 Golden
- (Wii): Fortune Street 
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2 
- (PC): UnEpic  
- (PC): King's Bounty: The Legend
- (Mobile): Dragon Quest II

- (TV Show): The Walking Dead (Season 5 - Episode 12)
- (TV Show): Orphan Black (Season 3)
- (TV Show): Criminal Minds (Season 10)
- (TV Show): Six Feet Under (Season 1 - Episode 3)
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho (don't remember)
- (Anime): Log Horizon (episode 3)
- (Anime): K-On! Season 2 (episode 3)

- (Manga): Elemental Gelade by Mayumi Azuma (Volume 13)
- (Manga): Trigun Maximum by Yasuhiro Nightow (Volume 10)

That's it for June. Here are some pics I took this month.

 My Hatoful Boyfriend plushies came! I got these through backing 
this Kickstarter Project last year. They are so adorable. <3

I saw a ton of geese on a random day and decided to take a picture.

Salmon sushi tacos (non-spicy)! And lobster temari.

Ahh, Odin Sphere... what an awesome game. I still need to play this 
re-make, but have been held up with other games *sigh* 

I just saw these one day while cereal-shopping and figured let's give it a try.
It's pretty bleh, lol.

Thanks for reading! As usual, if you have any questions / comments about anything, feel free. :)

Happy Canada's Day for those celebrating Canada's Day; Happy early Independence Day for those celebrating Independence Day; Have a great weekend and take care for everybody :)

Friday, 24 June 2016

BLOG -- My trip to Japan V.2 -- ADVENTURE PART 1 (Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya)

So let's start with every area I checked out while my home base was in Nagoya... except for one place.



OVERALL THOUGHTS: I wish I could have spent more time in Kyoto. At least from where I was (around Saga Arashiyama station), I could feel this place having lots of beautiful scenery if I just had the time to get lost and explore.


Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

This was on my "to-check-out" list ever since my first Japan trip (about 2 years ago). Just the thought of being surrounded by tons of tall bamboo -- it was fascinating to me. I also thought the place would be secluded, but I was very wrong. Maybe there were so many people because it was Golden Week? 

In order to get to the bamboo grove easily, I paid admission to Tenryu-Ji Temple (500 yen). When I bought my admission, it was 4:40 PM. I was told that the entrance to the bamboo grove would close at 5 PM. So... I rushed! It was really too bad -- I could sense the serenity of Tenryu-Ji Temple as I walked, but I couldn't stop for a second. I had to make sure I got to the bamboo grove. Now, I believe there is a way to access the bamboo grove without paying admission to Tenryu-Ji Temple -- an alternate entrance -- but I don't know where that entrance would be.

Walking through the bamboo was... a wondrous experience. To me, it felt like I was being enveloped by calm, beauty, and quiet nature. My couple nitpicks would be the bugs (I should have expected that bugs would be close to that much nature) and there not being enough signage. When I was ready to leave, I wasn't sure which exit would take me closest to the station. I ended up following a huge crowd, hoping that they were walking to the right exit.

In the back of my head, I was thinking, What would happen if somebody got lost in here?

Overall, I would like to go back one day -- preferably at an earlier time so I could get lost, lol.

Another shot of the bamboo grove. These pictures just don't do it justice.

Somebody in the bamboo grove painting. Watching him 
paint for a bit was pretty relaxing.


Part of the Arashiyama area. I really like the old architecture.

Kyoto station.

An amusing advertisement in Kyoto station. I think it's trying 
to say "Don't keep the doors open!"
If it says something else, somebody please correct me, hahaha.

Another shot of the Arashiyama area. So much green!



OVERALL THOUGHTS: This is silly to say, but I mainly wanted to check out Osaka, because it shares the same name as "Osaka" (aka Ayumu Kasuga), my favourite character from anime / manga series Azumanga Daioh.

My overall impression of Osaka? *sigh* The subway system is pretty confusing. Changing subway lines is not as easy as in Tokyo. So when travelling to a certain place, I'd recommend looking up how to get there or you may end up back-tracking a bit.

Besides the subway system, Osaka was pretty nice. For me, it was half hustle-bustle, and half laidback. If I could, I would totally go back and master the subway lines.


The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

The ramen museum was really neat. There is NO admission fee, but a couple attractions require a fee. The thing I really wanted to check out was the My CUPNOODLES Factory -- this attaction that lets you customize your own cup noodles! While I was walking towards the ramen museum, I saw several people walking the opposite direction with customized cup noodles in air-sealed bags hanging from their neck. It's a really cute way to advertise for the museum, lol.

So let me lay out the whole process in the My CUPNOODLES Factory.

1. Get in line to purchase an empty instant noodle cup from a vending machine. The empty cup costs 300 yen. Yes, it's a bit steep for instant noodles, but you get to customize it! At the vending machine, you can purchase more than one empty cup.

2. Continue in the same line to reach a sanitation station. Time to sanitize your hands!

3. Once your hands are clean, tell the staff member around that area the number of people who will be designing the cups. So even if you are holding four empty cups, you say "one" if you are by yourself. Then wait until another staff member indicates there are seats available for you in the design station.

4. Design to your heart's content. One thing they stress is that you write down the date somewhere on the cup. The noodles expire in three months, so it is very important. Days can go by so quickly sometimes... For example, I still haven't eaten my cup noodles from there and it's getting to about two months now. (I better get a move on!)

5. When you're done designing your cup, head to the toppings station at the back. There will most likely be some line there. When it's your turn, hand the staff your cups. You'll get to turn a crank to place the noodles into the cup. Then you choose your soup base. Then you choose up to four ingredients. You can double up on some ingredients if you like. After that, the cups are given to another staff member who seals them in plastic.

6. Then take your cups and head to the air-sealing station. I actually have no experience with this, as I caught a sign saying that if you plan to board an airplane before eating the noodles, it would be best NOT to air-seal it. Being so high in altitude could affect the bag's compression and may end up warping / damaging the noodles and cup.

Another thing I checked out at the ramen museum was the Tasting Room. It's an area where visitors can purchase and / or try cup noodles that are limited or sold outside of Osaka. I'll go into more detail when I do my "Japan EATS" blog.

Overall, this museum was really neat and fun. If I'm in the area, I would definitely go back. Next time I might rent out a headset with English audio for the exhibits. Renting costs 2000 yen, but is supposedly refundable when returned.

A statue of Momofuku Ando.

A shot of the My CUPNOODLES Factory. The line to the left is the line 
to buy the empty cups. The area to the right is the design area. To the far back 
is the toppings station.

Two cups that I designed. Some of the cup designs I saw there were 
so elaborate and colourful. For me, I was just thinking of not taking 
so much time so somebody else could design.

The toppings station. The limited ingredient they had at the time was mini wontons. 
You can take a look at the toppings here.

Instructions on how to place the cup noodle in an air-sealed bag.

The station for placing cup noodles in an air-sealed bag.

An example. It looks so cute. Just imagine walking around 
with that dangling from your neck.

A giant exhibit of cup noodles. Mmmm... looks yummy...

A timeline of instant ramen for several major brands. This was really cool.

The very first instant ramen packages, wheee!

A noodle-making workshop (Chicken Ramen Factory). In order to be part of this, 
you have to register online and you must register with at least one other person, 
since the workshop requires working in pairs. So... 
somebody please come with me the next time I want to check out this place!

Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

So I mainly came here for one thing: to roam about Osaka in the olden days! Hahaha. While the exhibits are neat, the thing I really wanted to see was a small area that had buildings re-created to match an older period (Edo period). You can also rent a kimono for 30 minutes to wander around in more "fitting" garb. I wasn't feeling very well that day so I skipped on the kimono rental, but it was still a really cool experience. At some point, the time of day in that area changed to night, which made walking through the streets kinda creepy.

Admission was 600 yen.

Above view of the Edo period Osaka.

Ground level. It was still bright out at the time.

Edo period replica food in Osaka. The buns and meat look kinda yummy, lol.

DenDen Town...?

I have a question mark because I'm still not sure if I was successful in finding DenDen Town (Nippombashi). I had read online that DenDen Town was like a cheaper Akihabara. So I figured I'd find an area with a lot of nerdy shops. I found an area with some shops... but overall it was kinda underwhelming. If it turns out that I did roam around the wrong area (based off the above pic), somebody please tell me, lol.


So this shop is really cool. Daiso is a huge 100-yen shop, and there are a ton of them around Japan. I only found out about these shops because I gave myself a mission in Japan -- a mission that I couldn't fulfill in the end. That mission caused me to do a lot of research and seek out 100-yen shops. 

Simply, Daiso is awesome. Some of their products are priced above 100, but it's fine. There is a lot of useful and neat stuff. When I first stepped in, I thought, Ooo, maybe I'll be able to find some cheap, sturdy containers for my souvenirs. And I did. 

I ended up visiting many Daiso shops around Japan.


So this is a stationery / gift shop my sister recommended. There were some neat things, but I found some of the products a bit pricey. 


An area that was right next to the Osaka subway station. The architecture looks nice.

I just find all the "NO EXIT" signage amusing.



OVERALL THOUGHTS: Ahh, my home base. I didn't get to check all the places I wanted, but I did get to check out one thing. From what I saw, Nagoya is a very quiet place. There are lots of trees everywhere. 

As a home base it worked very well. Many places were just 1-2 hours away via shinkansen (bullet train), so I never had to leave the hotel too early.


Nagoya Castle

This was the place I really wanted to visit. Hahaha, well... any castle would have worked. I've never been and I've always wanted to explore a castle. Admission was 500 yen. It allowed entrance into Hommaru Palace and Nagoya Castle. 

Walking towards the two places was quite scenic -- most of the time. I'd be surrounded by beautiful trees for a while... and then modern vendor stalls would come into my view moments later. It wasn't a bad thing, but I was quite amused. It was almost like a clash of two time periods, haha.

Hommaru Palace was pretty neat. Most of the time you were peeking into restored rooms. I liked that the interior was kept in tact. Unfortunately I couldn't really say the same for Nagoya Castle. 

Nagoya Castle consisted of five accessible floors, three of them being museum displays, one being a reproduction of the castle town (that was cool!), and the top floor being an observation deck. It wasn't a bad experience (though it was super warm in here!), but I guess I was personally hoping for a more immersive experience. I wanted to really feel I was roaming around a castle. There were elevators that took to you to each floor, but I toughed it out and climbed the stairs. The observation deck was really nice.

Wild vendor stalls appear! What do you do??

The entrance of Hommaru Palace. Upon entering, you 
have to remove your shoes and place them in a cubby.

Peeking into one of the rooms in Hommaru Palace.

The entrance of Nagoya Castle. Walking towards the entrance was probably 
the most immersive experience for me, hahaha.

A model of Nagoya in olden times.

A shot of Nagoya from the Nagoya Castle's observation deck.

Akamon Street

So I stumbled into this area after checking out some shop for my boss (I'm not going to talk at all about that shop since going there did nothing for me). It was getting to noon and I thought, I should find something to eat... and so I wandered off in a random direction.

Turns out it was the right direction -- because I found this neat little area. If I could call Akamon Street anything, I'd call it the nerd place of Nagoya, but a very niche nerd place. I walked past shops that looked like it sold fan-made goods of various idols. Maybe they were official stuff, but it looked fan-made to me. There were also a few retro gaming shops, and one building that had multiple themed cafes / restaurants. 

It was weird and interesting. I would have stuck around a bit longer if I wasn't so concerned about a possible thunderstorm that day.

One of the themed cafes / restaurants. Supposedly that place would have 
a lot of hot guys, lol. I didn't check it out since it wasn't opening 
for another hour, and I was hungry!

JR Takashimaya

JR Takashimaya is a huge department store. My mission brought me there, and in the end it worked to my benefit (I will disclose my mission in a later blog). One store that I spent a lot of time exploring in was Tokyu Hands. It sold a lot of neat and quirky items, though sometimes it was a bit pricey.

I was actually very lucky to be roaming around JR Takashimaya that day because they had a pop-up shop promoting Detective Conan's latest movie. For a Detective Conan fan, it was like being in heaven -- there was so much merchandise around. 

I am personally not that big of a Detective Conan fan, but I do like the series a lot, and I do want to get all caught up one day. I think the relationship between the two main characters (Shinichi and Ran) is really sweet. Plus I love seeing Shinichi / Conan solving all the bizarre cases.

I was happy to see shoppers of varying ages browsing the pop-up shop. You just know that some of them grew up with the series, and that's such a nice, warm thought for me. 

Part of the pop-up shop. It was very packed.

A timeline of all of Detective Conan's movies at the back. This was really cool.

A standee.

Another standee.

A cool place to take a pic. If I could just photoshop myself in there... lol.

Some of the goods that was sold. I was tempted to buy the cylindrical one 
just for the container, but I resisted in the end.

Some of the pricier goods. Soo expensive!

Some ties. I was sooo tempted, but the price... I couldn't bring myself to buy them. ;_;


Neko Atsume plushies!!!! I would have tried for one if I had more luggage space.

Tonberry lamps!!! So... when these were first announced, I tried pre-ordering 
them from Play-Asia. Then months later I received an e-mail from Play-Asia, 
telling me that my pre-orders were cancelled because it was decided that 
the Tonberry lamps would be kept JAPAN-ONLY. 
And now... I see where they all ended up... in a crane game... teasing me... 
*tsk tsk, SE*... >_<+++

I took a pic of this mainly 'cuz my sister's husband is a huge Gunpla fan.

I watched an episode of this one day in the hotel. Even though there were no 
English subtitles, I understood just a little of it, and I liked what I saw. 
Oddly, it made me think of Kodocha a little bit (maybe it's the girl's pigtails?), 
so now it is on my radar to watch... probably years from now, lol. 
The anime is called "12-sai: Chiccha na mune no tokimeki".

A shot of the bridge I had to cross everyday to get to the hotel and to the subway. 
Where I'm standing is the subway's exit. Do you see the hotel? (It's the reddish building)

Yayyyy, Glay!!! <3 <3

That's it for Part 1. Thanks for reading! The next Japan trip-related blog will be devoted to Gamagori -- covering my entire day at Laguna Ten Bosch! Wooo, One Piece ship!! xD <3

If you have any questions or comments about any of these places I visited, feel free to say something in the comments box! :)