My early ‘Year in Review’

Seeing as the holidays are right around the corner and knowing how people are so busy during this time, I decided to post my blog’s first ‘Year in Review’ early. ^.^

As I sit back and thing about everything I have done this year, I’d have to say that it has been fun. I’ve also gotten some bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s life right?

Travel

My travel log was super cool this year.

Going to Japan again, this time for my birthday, meant so much to me. Tokyo holds such a special place in my heart and I always feel like I’m home while I’m there.

When the tsunami hit Japan a few years ago, I remember standing in front of my tv crying and praying. Since then I’ve been there twice and knowing that I was almost unable to go at all, makes me treasure the island, the people and their culture even more each time I visit.

The Hello Kitty Convention in LA’s Little Tokyo was also another highlight for my travel log. I met a lot of awesome people there. It was nice to see that my HK induced craziness, was not mine alone. There.are.others. And they were there in droves. The convention sold out for all four days. I also got to finally see with my own two eyes, Yuko Yamaguchi-san, head designer for Hello Kitty over the last 30 years. When I think about all of the ill collaborations HK has done during that time, only two words come to my mind. Bow down.

Music

This is the first year that I have listened to 95% K pop music alone.

90% of that goes to BTS.

The other 5% goes to K pop songs that BTS listened or danced to.

The last 5% goes to American songs that BTS listened or danced to.

You see where I’m going with this right?

It was a BTS year for me. Between their new album ‘Dark and Wild’, the promotions for ‘Dark and Wild’, the various magazine spreads, the ridiculously cute Bangtan Bombs, their millions of tweets and everything else, BTS has successfully taken the spot as my number one group. I absolutely LOVE them. Every.single.member.

My feels were absolutely torn to shreds when BTS recently performed at the MAMAs in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. They didn’t win either of the two awards they were nominated for, but they stole the whole dam show with their off the hook performances. They SLAYED and I was so proud.

Food

I am a HUGE foodie. If the food is good, I.AM.THERE.

This past year, due to the location of my new job, I was able to explore a lot of new Asian restaurants. Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and a few fusion spots. Cucumber water…who knew??? Hello Kitty Maki, yes please!!!

The only reason I am even able to barely fit into my clothes as I type this, is due to the amount of ungawdly walking I have to do on my way to and from work.

Relationships

Bhahaha!!!

Who has time for that?! Certainly not me. All my time has been split between the above categories plus work and family. How could I possibly fit anything else in? Eventually, I’ll settle down but for now, I am happy in my space.

So that’s my ‘Year in Review’.

Geeze. When I write it out, it doesn’t seem like much but really it was so…so much.

I hope that you all have an awesome rest of 2014 and a very safe and happy holiday season.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read, watch or comment on my crazy posts!

I see your clicks from all over the world and I appreciate every single one.  \@_@/

We’ll start this shit up again in 2015!!!

XOXO

-IshaB

Isha’s Adventures in Japan – Sunshine City

After going non-stop for the first few days upon arriving to Japan, I hit a slump. There were so many places and things that I wanted to do but the real question was where to go next?

I did a Google search one morning of Things to do in Tokyo and Sunshine City came up. Sunshine City is located in Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo. It is a building complex that includes the Sunshine 60 building with an observatory located at the top, the Ancient Orient Museum, Sunshine Aquarium, a planetarium, a Prince Hotel, Namco Namja Town, J World, a convention centre, theatre, and a shopping mall. Basically everything.

We couldn’t take the Yamanote line, which we had passes for, to get there. Thank gawd the ticket machines have an English button. While walking under ground to get to the Tokyo Metro, Seibu Line, we passed numerous shops like L’Occtaine, Godiva etc. Another one of the things I love about Japan is their rail stations. The major train stations like Shibuya and Tokyo tend to be set up like underground malls. You can literally go there just to shop and eat, without even taking a single train.

It was a long but pleasant ride to the Ikebukuro stop. Once there, we followed the Sunshine City exit signs through the underground walkway. There was even a moving walkway half way through, like the ones found in the airport. There was a large crowd that was headed the same way we were, so we figured we were on the right track. Once we actually exited and went outside, the crowd immediately doubled in size. Then, there it was. Sunshine City! I thought there might be a yellow brick road. There wasn’t….

It is amazing to me how Japan has so many shopping districts but each is it’s own entity with it’s own vibe. I’ve traveled a bit so though I know I am biased towards Japan, I can’t think of any place else that I’ve been to that comes close.

The first store that caught my eye as soon as we got there was….drumroll please….Hello Kitty! I don’t even know why I did that drum roll. HK is practically an Idol in Japan. This would be our 3rd HK store in four days. Of course we went in but I was on my bestest behavior and only got a few things. – _ –

Our next stop was something to eat cause I was starving! What else is new? We went to Il Vigore and got some pasta which was hella tasty. The fact that they had a smoking section, that wasn’t smoky at all, totally made my day. I didn’t really want a cig but sat there and smoked one anyway, since I would NEVER be able to do that in Boston. EVER.

After eating, we headed up to the Sunshine Aquarium. The design was beautiful. I saw fish I’d never seen before, which is totally the point of going to an aquarium but most places don’t seem to get that concept. One of the fish that I saw was an Alligator Gar. For those of you who watch Jeremy Wade on River Monsters, this is his dream fish. Watching the horrendous size of it through the glass as it swam past my head was totally different from seeing him fishing for it on tv. Jeremy, you da’ man. I don’t think I’ll ever put a toe in a river. EVER.

Most of the fish were native to Japan and were either really weird looking, really big, really tiny, really creepy or really cute.  After we walked through the downstairs part of the aquarium we walked upstairs where they had the open tanks where the presumably safe fish were located.  It is also where the gift shop was. Ahhh. The gift shop. Where even the scary looking fish were transformed into cute plushies. Of course there were Hello Kitty items too. Much to my wallet’s horror.

From the gift shop, we went outside, thinking that was it. Nope. The sea lions, penguins, pelicans and a few other furries were outside. Sunshine aquarium is huge. I really wasn’t expecting to see as many different things as we did. I was very impressed and was in full paparazzi mode the whole time. It was also CLEAN. No dead-fish-out-in-the-sun-for-a-week smell. It took us a few hours to make it through the whole thing, inside and out. Plus they also had a show for the kiddies, but we didn’t stay for that cause it was time for dessert. Off we went to a cafe we’d seen on the way to the aquarium. This one had food too but it was the desserts that had caught our attention. Muhaha.

After dessert we headed back to the hotel. I was pooped and falling asleep on the train in Japan was definitely not on my ‘to do’ list. All in all it was an awesome day. If you are in Tokyo or going to Tokyo, Sunshine City is a must. It is very possible to go there for a few days and still not see everything. I will definitely re-visit on my next trip.

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Isha’s Adventures in Japan – Harajuku, Omotesando

Next stop Harajuku and Omotesando!

We were unable to make it to Harajuku on the Sunday after we arrived due to a rain storm so we went on a Monday instead. The reason I’d wanted to go on a Sunday is because that is THE day to be in Harajuku. Everyone is out and about. It is also the best time to see the girls that dress up in Lolita, Goth and various other cute but sometimes way over the top outfits.

Once leaving the Yamanote line Harajuku station, we went out the Omotesando exit, since KiddyLand was our first destination. A note for those of you who may be traveling to Japan…If you are supposed to take a certain exit to leave a train station, take that exit only! I learned the hard way on my first trip to Japan last year after just exiting the stations where ever. You will end up where ever and no where close to where you wanted to go. Even if it takes a few extra minutes, look for your correct exit.

Omotesando is another very popular shopping area in Tokyo for tourists and the younger natives. It has a similar set up to Akihabara in the way that you can walk down one side and then cross over and walk back up the other. Many people were also there taking pictures or just hanging out and people watching.

KiddyLand was as awesome and overwhelming as I remembered it. It was packed with people of course. Each floor is themed, not a surprise right? It has a Snoopy Town, Hello Kitty, Lego, LINE and a lots of others thrown in. It is so sweet and and cute, your teeth and eyes are burning by the time you leave the store. It was surprising how many guys were in there. Some were even by themselves. I guess they are used to all of the super kawaii-ness that comes with living in Japan. Or maybe they were just passing through to go to the Lego floor. – _ –  I did well this time. I managed to leave KiddyLand without having to auction off my plane tickets home.

We then went to a ramen shop that I’d also been to on my last visit, that I had been DYING to go back to. It is very traditional looking. The name is written in Kanji that I don’t know…sorry but I can tell you it is on a small side street after the Swarovski store. In that same side street, TGIFridays is directly across from it. It’s hard to miss. It has a sliding wooden door with a narrow wooden table and stools that borders the middle area where the cooks are making the food. Sort of like what you see in Naruto but a little bigger. Just like I remembered, it didn’t disappoint. I was absolutely comatose when we left.

From there we bee lined over to Takeshita Street aka Takeshita-dori which is a street for pedestrians only and is lined with shops, restaurants, etc on both sides. It is interesting to see how everyone automatically walks down the left side and then come back up on the right side. It’s almost like a people highway. Don’t stop, just take the exit (store) you want and get off.

I wasn’t really there for the clothing stores, I was on the hunt for a cafe. I absolutely love how many cafes Japan has that just sell desserts. The desserts not only look but also taste fantastic. It’s always nice to duck into one after a hard day of shopping. ~ _ ~ We ended up finding a really nice one and got some tiramisu, ice coffee and a coke. It was super yummy and a  tasty way to end our day.

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Isha’s Adventures in Japan – Akihabara

My next stop in Japan was Akihabara.

Akihabara, also known as Electric Town, was said to be originally known as a hot spot for buying electronics. Now it is also an awesome place to find all things Anime and Manga. The performance theatre for AKB48, a SUPER popular J Pop group, is also located here.

After leaving the Yamanote line train station, we followed the crowd to the main street and just walked down one side until the crowd and good stores thinned out. Then we crossed and walked back up the other side. It sounds like something that wouldn’t take long but there were so many fun stores, arcades and places to eat along the way, it literally took hours.

We stumbled across 2 places that I had seen online but that I wasn’t really looking for. The Gachapon store and Pasela Resorts.

Gachapon is basically the deluxe ‘Gucci’ version of the American 25 cent vending machines. It is called Gachapon based on the noise the ball makes as it falls out of the machine. The price of each one ranges from 100 to 200 yen, which is $1 to $2 US dollars. It may seem like a lot but the items in these machines are not your average, by any means.

Thank goodness I can read Katakana or I may have walked right past the side street the store was on. It had a good amount of people in it. Foreigners and also natives of Japan. It was hard to snap pics without someone in the background. It had wall to wall Gachapon machines. Everyone had their change in their hands, happily moving from one machine to the next. The machines have themes, so you can pick the theme that you liked, then hope you get the character based on that particular theme that you wanted. I counted five differently themed Hello Kitty machines, a LINE character machine, two Rilakkuma machines and then there were also various other anime etc (each show had it’s own one).

I ended up with 10 balls as my total count when I left. Everything was so CUTE! I got cell phone charms, a coin purse, a small Rilakkuma cell phone sized purse (yes…a purse), a Hello Kitty miniature fan and assorted charms to hang on my handbags. Handbag charms in Japan are a HUGE craze. It is not uncommon to see girls and women on the street with teddy tears etc hanging from their bags. This is also true with cell phone charms.

Pasela Resort’s concept is hotel themed in appearance but it’s actually place you can go for karaoke and is also well known for it’s honey toast. I walked right past it at first , then did a double take when I saw their food and honey toast display in the window. Food displays are also huge in Japan. It’s a good concept. Many places I ate at were because I could see exactly what the food would look like and the amount that would be served before I went into the restaurant.

In my ‘I’m-finally-gonna-eat-honey-toast’ bliss, I’d totally forgotten about the karaoke and was a little confused when the girl at the front desk gave me a leather envelope that had my ‘room’ number in it. We took the elevator to the 7th floor. There were many rooms and when I found 705 and opened the door, I was in shock. It was hella nice! Leather sectional seat, tv, sound system, AC, air purifier for smokers, chandelier, microphone etc. It was fully loaded. You could also place your food order through the tv or on the room phone.

The room was ‘free’ for an hour. Over that, I would’ve had to pay extra besides the cost of the food so we just had lunch and honey toast of course! The honey toast was good but not something I’d want to eat all the time. It was huge and would’ve been wasted if I had to eat it alone. There’s no way I could have finished it by myself.

I’ve ‘seen’ Akihabara in many different anime so I felt like I’d been there before. Japanese anime tends to use real locations of places in Japan in their illustrations. However, seeing it in person as opposed to animations of it was incredible. It is another place I would definitely recommend to anyone traveling to Tokyo.

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Isha’s Adventures in Japan – Tower Records, Shibuya

Though I made the very lofty promise before I left to blog while I was in Japan, I have still returned home with only one post to show for myself. In my sorry defense, I was usually totally wiped out by 7:30-ish pm JT (Japan Time) and could barely keep my eyes open, much less type.

So, to make it up to my lovely readers, I am going to do a series of posts called Isha’s Adventures in Japan. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did partaking in them.

This first one is about Tower Records in Shibuya. Usually one store is not enough to get a post out of me but this Tower Records was incredible.

The walk there was approximately 10 minutes from my hotel, but it felt more like 25 minutes in the Japan summer heat. It was in the 90’s the entire time I was there, except for one day. 0 _ 0

The store is massive! I could actually see the Tower Records sign on the top of their building from my hotel room in the day and at night.

While waiting to cross the street to get to the main entrance, there is a huge screen at almost ground level that was showing all of the latest artist and group promotions, including One Ok Rock’s new song The Beginning featured in the new movie Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, both of which were released while I was in Tokyo.

Yes, I bought a copy of their cd and yes, I saw the movie. Both were bad ass. Kekeke. Check out the movie trailer here with English subs and One Ok Rock’s official MV for The Beginning here.

There are approximately 8 floors total. I say approximately because I spent the most time on the K pop floor droolzing at all the cute boys and in the Rilakkuma x Tower Records Cafe stuffing my face.

For those of you who do not know about the cuteness that is Rilakkuma, check out the pics below. When a store in Japan says that they are doing a theme, they do a dam THEME. Rilakkuma was EVERYWHERE. Not just as wall posters but the food, drink coasters, glasses, EVERYTHING was  Rilakkuma. Plus there were Rilakkuma plushies all over the cafe. At each table, on the counters and there was a enormous life sized fat one by the cafe entrance. When you are near the exit of the cafe where you have to pay, there is a Rilakkuma shop, just in case you still wanted something else Rilakkuma to take home. I bought the coffee mug…..

There is an indoors smoking room in Tower Records on the 2nd floor outside of the Cafe, that is complete with sliding glass doors that open up like the space shuttle with one touch of your finger tip, AC, super shiny hardwood floors and high power ceiling vents to suck out the smoke. It was so clean, I would’n’t have even known it was a smoking room if it weren’t for the English sign on the glass. When you leave the room, the smoke does not leave with you. For someone like me who smokes, this was a total hidden gem inside the  treasure chest that is Tower Records. Especially since you cannot just light up a cig any where you want in Japan. We’ll talk about that another time.

The basement level of Tower Records Shibuya is reserved for their Super promotions. This area is usually blocked off to the public unless one of those promotions is ongoing. I’d just missed the BTS – Bangtan Boys promo by a few days, which I was totally bummed about, but saw all of the pictures online and it was something else. Pictures (big and small), cut outs for fan selcas, a monitor for video play back of BTS videos, more pictures, even more pictures….I could see why they block it off because it probably took forever to set it all up then take it back down.

In between each floor there are also more life sized cut outs of various artists, usually autographed. On the K pop floor, I took a picture with the group Vixx. More for my friend back home to see them than for me. I also bought some music magazines, which were top notch in terms of quality and size. Most of the magazines I’ve seen in Japan are an inch or more wider or longer than American magazines. They also usually have something extra in them. Like a poster, hand fan, stickers, face cloth etc that are based on the featured artist, actor or group in that edition.

There is also a t shirt vending machine, gachapon machines and a lot of other miscellaneous little displays scattered through out the store that caught my eye. The Tower Records theme merchandise was pretty cute too. Their slogan, No Music No Life, was all over the place.

I was in Tower Records for a few hours easy. It was well worth the walk in the Sahara Desert like heat. I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Japan that stays in Tokyo.

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Online in Japan….Finally!!!

Hey Everyone!

When I got to Japan, all of my ¨American¨ stuff had to be downloaded onto my Japanese rental phone.

Plus, getting the free wifi in my hotel room was more of a pain than it should have been.

Any-hue, I’m back and will be updating my Tokyo, Japan 2014  page.

New posts with pics have been added!

Stay tuned for more! ^ _ ^

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