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favorite things food shopping travel

Tokyo: Harajuku Style

Shopping in Harajuku

So another stop on the husband’s list: Harajuku! I really wanted to pick up some new duds, but they seemed to only have size medium out on display.

(In America that would work pretty well for me … but I am no Japanese medium. I’m a large or more? Unsure.)

I did find some “pants” that looked like they may have been long enough for me! If I extended the buckles fully. Though, maybe shorts plus … leg tubes? Don’t quite qualify as pants? Again: unsure.

There were plenty of crepe and sweet shops to be found, but the husband knew there was something even better to be had: freshly made potato chips with ice cream. So good.

Calbee shop in Harajuku. WORTH IT.

We got there pretty early in the day, before crowds got too insane, but it was already pretty crowded. Fun shopping – mostly window shopping, really. There are some odd finds, to be sure. But, I did come out ahead with a giant hair claw for my giant hair! Really, I should have picked up a few more. I guess I’ll just have to go back.

One thing of note: there don’t seem to be public bathrooms on that main shopping street. So we headed to the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku mall nearby: where I waited in a really. long. line. And the husband was in and out quickly. We did a little more window shopping (this place had … regular stuff) and enjoyed some time on the rooftop.

That evening we had “tickets” for the Robot Restaurant, so we made sure to make it back to the hotel for a break before our wild night out.

So: Robot Restaurant. We had seen an Anthony Bourdain where he was in Tokyo and he made a stop at the Robot Restaurant. He … had trouble finding words, for what, exactly, this place was. And so, of course, we put it on the list.

Before we left for Japan, the husband found their website. The … apparently geocities website. And filled out a form. And got an email, with confirmation of our tickets! That we would pick up and pay for before the show. Because, ya know, Japan and e-commerce? Not quite a thing. (Except for the Hip Hop Bus! Those guys figured it out!)

We read everything we could about the show from their website, and found a cryptic note about a dress code … but not what the dress code actually was. So I asked b2 to take a look at the Japanese version of the site, and he also found nothing about the dress code. So I asked him what the typical Japanese dress code for restaurants was. He thought long and hard and came back with: “Don’t be naked?”

So we decided to not go naked! Which is what everyone else also went with! So we made the right call. Disaster averted.

Night of the show, we found the ticket place and picked up our tickets, then headed down the street for the show. Right in Shinjuku! We were able to walk from our hotel.

One thing to know: this isn’t really a restaurant, per se. It’s a show. You are paying to see a show. You can reserve a sushi dinner box when you order your tickets, if you so desire. And they do have a cash-only snack stand before you enter the show. (We got sodas and fried chicken … bites? Actually pretty good.) And during the show, they roll snack stands in during intermissions. We got more drinks and popcorn during the show itself.

But the show! I don’t know if I have the words.

What I do know: It’s a really, really good time. We all walked out smiling. It is bright and loud and above all cheerful and fun. My FB post after walking out of it: “Pretty sure I was just some molly away from a rave.”

I’ll just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Categories
food shopping travel

Okinawa: Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle

On this glorious morning: we slept in. I scheduled us a sleep-in day, half-way through the trip because that is what you need half-way through a trip like ours. Okinawa is a tropical kind of place, so it would have been more practical to go out in the cooler morning and siesta away the afternoon, but … that is not what we did.

The in-laws had also arrived in Okinawa! They had flown in from Kuala Lumpur, so no real jet lag: maybe an hour or two time difference? We got together to make arrangements for the Hip Hop Bus the following day, and then headed out for our afternoon adventures.

Shuri Castle is listed as being on the monorail, so we bought monorail tickets and headed on our way. Got off at the Shuri Castle stop … consulted the google maps … wandered a bit … and oh. my. gosh. Okinawa is so humid and so hot, and the castle wasn’t particularly close to the monorail stop. We eventually found the castle walls, but then there was so. much. walking. to find the actual entrance.

And I am so glad we did! A month after we got home, the whole castle complex burned down.

Which happens all the time in Japan: the castle we saw was a rebuilt version from 1992, I think? But, still. It burnt down?? How crazy is that?

We toured the castle, it was nice and cool inside, and they had some nice museum-y displays. In one of the buildings on the grounds, we caught a show of traditional Okinawan dancing! Also, it was nice and air conditioned.

And I found some more Fanta!

Super tart. Did not finish.

We headed back to the hotel, and chilled for a bit before heading out for the evening (so much cooler once the sun goes down!!) on Kokusai Dori street.

We introduced the in-laws to Don Quijote, which is where we left them for the evening. It was their first exposure and so they needed some time to take it all in.

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food shopping travel

Osaka in a Typhoon!

Covered markets. On Typhoon Hagibis day.

So the hugely-slowed-down Hagibis arrived in Osaka. We had signed up for the optional tour to Hiroshima, but the bullet trains were down (because, hello, typhoon?!), so that was a no-go.

Which … the people on our tour just would NOT get. They were so complainy, and kept asking questions like, “Well, if the train is down, could we charter a bus?”

Now, the Japanese are not a fearful people. They are not known for backing down in the face of danger. But they are imminently practical. If there is a major typhoon with associated flooding happening? How ’bout you just all stay put till it passes?

Once Katy started using the word “hurricane” for all the Amurricans who didn’t understand what a typhoon was, they all seemed to get it. And then they flipped into the opposite direction, and were scared to leave Katy’s side. Ya can’t win with some people.

So in Osaka, the local trains, all running. Osaka was just … mild tropical stormy. Lots of rain, windy but not knock-people-over windy, and it was deemed safe enough by the local officials for the trains to keep running.

Katy offered to escort people to the train station, help them buy tickets, and take them around to see stuff.

Knowing that the people who needed such … attention … were the ones driving us bonkers, we opted to strike out on our own. We had our Suica cards, after all! So I found some covered markets: perfect for a rainy day! And off we went.

Unfortunately, the entrance to the covered markets: a few blocks from the train station. And so we walked with our new umbrella, got thoroughly soaked, and made it to the market!

Which was covered and dry! But also: all the shops were closed. Because, hello, typhoon? If the shop-keepers were coming in from out of town, it was likely their train lines were shut down.

And so we stopped in at a Don Quijote. Always a good time.

Discouraged that things seemed closed (and also a little worried, that if the locals weren’t out and about … should we be?) we headed back to our hotel.

Our hotel train station had a McDonald’s … so very probably it was a chicken nugget kind of night? Oh the fun of recording your trip 8 months late.

As a plus: the local trains in Osaka are super easy to navigate. I would love to go back someday! On a not-typhoon day.

Categories
food knitting shopping travel

Osaka with Gate 1

Bullet train!

We woke bright and early in Tokyo, and headed for the train station to ride the bullet train to Osaka.

On October 11, 2019.

Typhoon Hagibis made landfall on the eastern side of Japan – in the Tokyo area – on October 12.

I know it was a pre-planned guided tour, but we got really, really lucky with the timing of everything. (Had we been in Tokyo during the typhoon, we would have been safe and fed in our hotel: we just would not have been able to go do or see anything.)

So the bullet train!! Super fast, super smooth. Comfy, American-sized seats. Clean bathrooms. Would do again.

Traveling to Osaka on the bullet train!

Made it to Osaka, and had a quick stop at Kuromon market for lunch. Famous for takoyaki, deep-fried balls of dough with octopus. Probably like hushpuppies? But with more octopus? Do not know, did not try.

Instead we ate at Wendy’s first kitchen! A fusion of Wendy’s and … fast food Italian pasta?

Very sweet. Too much, even for me!

On a whim, I asked the husband to look up yarn stores nearby. Jackpot! The google tells me Masuzakiya is now permanently closed? Which is a shame, this place had gorgeous Japanese yarns. Like this beauty, made of linen, flax, and something that translates as “Japan paper.” No idea what I’m going to make with it, even still, but I had to have it! Still waiting for more of this stuff to show on up Ravelry so I can be inspired by others, but, no such luck. One day, this will be the perfect … something.

Next up: Osaka Castle, which is now a history museum. Take the elevator to top and work your way down. Great views of the city from the top of the castle.

Dinner stop was Dotonbori street, probably got some conbini food? More importantly, we stopped in Bic Camera for an umbrella. (In Japan, “camera” means … department store? As far as I can tell?) We had our eye on one umbrella, but after asking a helpful saleslady about what would be best for a typhoon, she redirected us to something a little sturdier.

Spoiler alert: It was not sturdy enough.

Last stop before the hotel was the Umeda Sky Building. Just a 5 minute photo stop, as the light was on its way out.

Our hotel was right next to the Shin-Osaka train station, the Courtyard by Marriott. Nice room in a good location, for our adventures the following day.

Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that the husband was not jet-lagged. He was not eating enough! Not being an adventurous eater, we had stuck to McDonald’s (chicken nuggets taste the same everywhere, y’all) and conbini food. Which had consisted of very carb-heavy snacks, mostly.

I run on carbs. Give me a western breakfast of bacon and fruit, PLUS a bowl (or two?) of butter-sugar rice and I am good to go until I get some lunch onigiri (ahem, more rice) and gummy candies, followed by dinner onigiri and chocolate.

This is Not Husband Food. From here on out, we made sure McDonald’s or Wendy’s was on the menu. And conbini purchases started including jerky. And cashews. And … fried chicken patties in a paper sleeve? Japan, man. Something for everyone.

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favorite things shopping technogeeky travel

Tokyo with Gate 1

Zojoji Temple and Tokyo Tower!

Short on time? Guided tours are a great way to see as much as humanly possible, as quickly as humanly possible, and Gate 1 Travel is a pro at it. I can’t compare them to other tour companies, as they are the only ones we have ever used. One thing I LOVE is that all of their tour guides are local. Seeing Italy? Your Roman tour guide will be accommodating but slightly aloof. England? A tweed jacket every day, seat assignments on the bus, meal stops are quick and comprised of recommendations for pre-made sandwiches. Scotland? Northface jacket and hiking boots, a lot of trust that since the tour group is comprised of adults, people can take care of themselves. Ireland? So much cynicism and distrust of the government.

And in Japan: our Japanese tour guide was very possibly the politest person we have ever met. But also, passive-aggressive and a little rude if you actually knew what she meant. It was hilariously awesome.

But I digress! Our first day with the tour group was a full day of seeing all the things in Tokyo. ALL THE THINGS.

First stop was right next door to the hotel, Zojoji temple. One of the beautiful things on the grounds were the Jizo statues: each statue represents a child who has died. These statues are often adorned with red hats and bibs, and they are protectors of the children who have passed.

Next stop was the imperial palace! Which you can’t get close to at all … so it makes for an odd choice for a tourist stop. Beautiful park and grounds, though. Complete with an ice cream shop! Very reminiscent of the DC mall, now that I think about it. (But no eating while walking in Japan! Also, no ice cream on the bus.)

Then it was back to the bus to head to Asakusa, with the Sensoji temple and Nakamise street. This stop was way worth it! So much so, we made sure the in-laws checked it out later in our trip. The temple was beautiful, and there was a lot of great tourist-shopping on Nakamise street. We only had an hour, so we went with a Conbini lunch.

Next stop, Meiji Shrine!! This one is a serious shrine, massive and beautiful grounds. It was a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the actual shrine. This one is also well worth it, and a great example of a Shinto shrine (vs. the Buddhist temples we had seen previously.)

In Japan, people follow Buddhist AND Shinto traditions. Our tour guide, Katy, explained that the traditions are so blended, in fact, that the average Japanese person often doesn’t know where one begins and the other ends. She only really learned about the differences in her tour guide training. But quick summary: you get married in a Shinto shrine. Funerals are at Buddhist temples.

Our last stop of the day’s touring took us to another one of Japan’s sacred traditions: shopping! In stark contrast to Nakamise street, Ginza district is very up-scale shopping. We ducked into the Nissan concept store, and also the Sony concept store. Where we saw a $3000 robot dog. A seriously awesome $3000 robot dog. And people were coming in, with their $3000 robot dogs, for $3000 robot dog play dates. Japan, man. Something for everyone.

For dinner, we stopped at a very. fancy. Lawson. And bought pretty much the same stuff we had been buying. Plus, an Olympics 2020 pin! Which … I guess now isn’t going to be a thing … does that make it worth more?

And then it was back to the hotel! Where the husband promptly crashed from exhaustion. Into his twin bed. At 7 pm.

Oh. you. guys. Our twin beds! So our first room at the hotel, I booked through hotels.com. It had a queen or king-sized bed, appropriate for two people. But while we were out and about in Akihabara, they moved our bags to our new room. With two twin beds. Because in Japan: it is more normal for traveling couples to have separate beds. So most hotels are set up that way! We had requested a double bed for all of our accommodations on our tour, but … they are only able to do that when there are rooms available. Which there were not at the Prince Tokyo Hotel.

And so … twin beds. (We had this happen to us before on a guided tour on our 10th anniversary and … it was the best sleep we got that trip. So … separate beds? Not the worst thing …)

So I probably wandered around the hotel, stocked up on snacks at Lawson, and played emoji blitz till I was ready to call it a day.

Categories
favorite things food knitting nerdly shopping technogeeky travel

Tokyo on Our Own

Prince Hotel PJs

The hotels in Japan all seem to come with Pajamas! Yukata, I suppose, but these are like extra long, button-up sleep shirts with 3/4 length sleeves. (Maybe they are full-length sleeves on a non-monkey armed person? Unsure.)

I of course had to try them out! And also there are slippers! They fit size 8 lady feet! They do not fit size 13 man feet.

Also: bidets. I had to work up the courage to try it, but, you guys? I think they are really on to something. They don’t understand how to sell a ticket online because they have been perfecting the bathroom experience.

Also: the hair dryer was incredibly underwhelming. I thought I had come to the land of my hair people (I have twice as much hair as your average human … and each strand is twice as thick … drying my hair is exhausting …) and so I was super excited about the hair dryer sitch. Alas, hotel hair dryers in Japan leave just as much to be desired as the ones in the US.

Breakfast at the Tokyo Prince Hotel? Awesome spread. Western food! Eastern food! Something for everyone at the buffet. So I did what any Asianish-American lady would do: served myself up a bowl of piping hot steamed rice, snagged some butter from the Western toast station, and added some sugar (meant for coffee, I’m sure) from our table. Breakfast butter-sugar rice! (Ok, so probably that has an actual name? I just know it as ‘how I like to eat rice at breakfast.’) Also I loaded up on bacon and fresh fruit. (Tip: fruit is really expensive in Japan. If you have a hotel breakfast buffet, take advantage!)

Y’all, I ate butter-sugar rice every morning we had a breakfast buffet. So good. Also a complete abomination? But so good.

Probably we stopped in the hotel basement Lawson (I LOVED that the hotel had its own Lawson!!) for some bottled water and snacks.

Before we headed out, we swapped out the husband’s sim card for a Japanese one. We had ordered it beforehand and had it shipped to us, just to make things easier. So we had internet and maps and access to google translate everywhere we went! Pretty awesome! And a world of difference from our 5th anniversary trip to Italy where we rented a blackberry so we’d have access to email. EMAIL. No internet. JUST OUR EMAIL. 10 years ago. The world is such a different place, in just 10 years!

Our hotel was a bit of a walk (15 minutes?) to the Hamamatsucho train station, but we had our maps, the weather was perfect, so off we went!

At the station, we struggled with the ticket machine for a bit. From his research, the husband knew we wanted Suica cards, and that we’d start out with $20 on them and add more as we needed it. The menus weren’t super intuitive, but we eventually figured it out and got our cards. (We later learned from another couple on our trip that you can order Suica cards ahead of time and have them shipped to you in the US. Probably for a nice up-charge, but, no fighting with machines!)

So we found the right train, hopped on board, and a few stops later we were in Akihabara. Nerd capital of the world, so, yeah, of course that’s where we started.

First stop was the Mandarake Complex, 8 floors of anime collectibles. Each floor was small, but crowded with … so much. Some of it I recognized, some of it I didn’t. Totoro, that fried egg with a butt, vintage video games, comics, just all completely unnecessary but oh-so-fun stuff! We stopped at a wall of capsule vending machines and found the perfect souvenir. Seriously, this little guy still goes with me everywhere I go.

Next up was Yodobashi Camera. So spacious! Floors and floors of department store goods, not just cameras. Also books, stationery, beauty products, refrigerators, phones, watches … if you want it, they have it.

Lunch at McDonald’s, nothing to write home about there …

And an owl cafe! Not sure why it’s called a ‘cafe’ (they do have a vending machine for drinks?) but they delivered on the owl front!

We rounded out Akihabara with a stop at Don Quijote. If Yodobashi Camera is spacious and classy, Don Quijote is … brash and cluttered? But you have to stop in, it’s like nothing else. The aisles are mazes, the store is floor after floor stacked on top of each other, you never know what you’ll find. It is claustrophobic, but also amazing! Snacks, toiletries, clothes, halloween costumes, toys, they got it!

We snagged some adorable toothbrush covers, they are open-mouthed cats that eat your toothbrush head when it’s packed away in your bag. But also, they eat the bottom of your toothbrush and stand it straight up on the hotel bathroom counter to dry. They are adorable and genius.

My fitbit history tells me that took us over 10 thousand steps, so we likely called it a day and headed back to the hotel to meet our tour group and for our Gate 1 welcome dinner!

We tried everything! Even liked some of it!
Categories
home improvements shopping texas

yeehaw and darn tootin: washer and dryer edition

I had entirely too much trouble locating the appliance accessories I needed. Thankfully, the delivery and installation process went much more smoothly.

The delivery guys called before hand, and they showed up right at the beginning of their delivery window. They were a little concerned that they had the wrong washer and dryer, as we didn’t buy a matching set. I assured them that we did that on purpose, as we picked out the Consumer Reports recommended machines, and those typically don’t come in a matching pair.

I showed the installer guy all the parts I had bought the day before, and he pointed out that I had purchased a 4-prong RANGE power cord. Not a dryer power cord. WTH?! (To the dad: that means ‘what the heck.’) What’s with appliances not coming with, oh, um power cords? Ranges, too? I had been so excited to finally find a 4-prong power cord (there were 3-prong guys everywhere), that I grabbed the first one I saw. Which apparently was for a range.

Luckily, as the husband likes to point out, I’m purty. So the installer guy had pity on me and threw in the right power cord. For free! Yay! Being a girl doesn’t always suck!

They had the machines installed in no time, and gave me the quick run-down on how the new-fangled machines worked. They set them both to do a short cycle, then told me they’d be good to go once they finished.

So I did what anybody would do if they had just bought a new washer and dryer: I ran out and bought something to wash and dry!!

I found the nearest Kohl’s, as they carry my favoritest towels. And I made sure they were on sale – there’s no reason to buy those towels at full price when they go 40% or 50% off every other week.

There was a Sears on the way, so I returned the extra washer hoses. And also a Best Buy, so I returned the range power cord.

I bought the towels to, um, you know, furnish the guest bathroom? Since we’ll soon be having regular guests! And then some jeans. Because¬†I live in the land of the deep fried butter now!

I ran a load of towels, followed by a comforter, a load of jeans, and a load of darks. Everything seemed to work! I kept forgetting to close the detergent tray in the washer, but there’s a pause button on the washer that halts the load and unlocks the door, so I was able to remedy the situation. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t notice that you forget – I hope that it figures it out for you and halts the load. I am pretty sure that I will find out at some point. ūüôā

The best part is, the washer and dryer both play a happy little tune when the load is done! So you can pretend that laundry is a joy and not a drudgery. We’ll see how long that trick works.

Categories
general complaints shopping texas

yeehaw and darn tootin: driving all over town edition

I dropped the sister off at the airport in the morning, giving her plenty of time to make it through any amped up 9/11 security. And then I had the day to myself, to accomplish one thing: buy hoses, a vent, and a power cord for the washer and dryer that were being delivered the next day.

The first Best Buy I stopped at had none of the things I needed, but they directed me to a store that would have them. I put in a major shopping effort at the Target next door (I bought at least one of everything), and unloaded it all at home before venturing out again.

I found the next Best Buy, but all they had was the dryer vent. So I bought that. And then they directed me to another Best Buy.

I had asked the husband to research me a microwave, and he found one. I passed a Sears before I found the next Best Buy, so I stopped in and picked up the microwave. And also washing machine hoses, since they had them in stock.

I found the Best Buy, and they had 4-prong power cords, so I picked one up. And also washer hoses, just to be on the safe side. In case Best Buy hoses are different than Sears hoses.

Mission accomplished! Or so I thought …

Categories
nerdly shopping technogeeky travel

procrastination: it pays off!

The husband and I have been planning a trip to Phoenix for months. We’ve carefully planned out our itinerary: a Star Trek Convention, an Easter Pageant, some theater (Nine), a Cowboy show, the Grand Canyon, the Phoenix Zoo, ¬†the Arizona Science Center, and the Pueblo Grande Museum. ¬†Do we know how to party or what?

We purchased the Star Trek tickets ages ago (priorities!), but I hadn’t booked the theater tickets or the cowboy dinner. ¬†It was on the to-do list, but I just kept putting it off.

I signed up for the Phoenix Groupon and Living Social emails when I knew we were going to be in the area, as that strategy paid off for our trip to Vegas last year.  (Half-price Gameworks day passes and Atomic Museum tickets!)

So, what should appear in my email inbox but a Groupon for the Cowboy show! ¬†Followed shortly by a Nine deal. ¬†I’m still holding out for Grand Canyon, Zoo and Science center deals. ¬†Here’s hoping I get lucky!

Categories
fashion shopping

5’10”, baby!

oooh, strappyI’ve always been wary of heels.¬† There is the discomfort part.¬† And then there is the wobbly-walking part.¬† I manage to trip over my own feet when I’m walking in sensible flats; better for me to stay away from extravagant heelage.

The husband’s company party is coming up this weekend, and in an effort to not embarrass him again*, I thought it best to invest in some appropriately flashy shoes.

I sent the husband a link to JC Penney’s ‘evening’ shoes, and asked him to pick out the ones he liked.¬† He was immediately drawn to a pair of 4″ heeled, 1″ platformed, super strappy, painful looking shoes.¬† I then asked him for a backup option.

Much to my surprise, however, I found that when I tried them on at the store, I could really walk in them.¬† Slow to regular speed, of course – there ain’t no obstacle-course running going on in these shoes.

It does take some, uh, serious finagling to get the shoes on.¬† If there had been anybody watching me try them on at the store, I’m sure they would have suggested I try a larger size.¬† But once they are on, they fit like a glove, and hence, no wobble.¬† My normal instinct is to buy my shoes half a size (or more too big) for, you know, comfort, but that has generally backfired for me on my past heel purchases.¬† Hence my tendency to stay away from them.

Now, these shoes are not comfortable by any stretch of the imagination.¬† I don’t know if I’ll really be able to wear them all night at his party – I may be saved by the fact that a large portion of the time I will be sitting down.¬† I did manage to wear them for about 30 minutes tonight, walking up and down two flights of stairs several times, without my feet complaining to me – but now that I have them off, my ankles are quite upset with me.

Better wear the ortholites tomorrow!

*I’ve never really embarrassed him.¬† What he doesn’t realize is that nobody even notices what I wear to his work parties.¬† I bet not a one of his coworkers (nor their wives) could tell him what I wore last year.