tokyo day two (i should probably go faster)

I could have happily spent our entire trip in Tokyo and still not seen everything there is to see. We did a ton of things in the 5 days we had available, and the things we didn’t get to will be waiting for us when we return. We know better now, too: book in advance. Always book in advance.

One of the top items on my list was to visit the National Art Centre in Tokyo, specifically to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. The museum was close to our Tokyo base, so we enjoyed a ridiculously beautiful walk through Aoyama Cemetery on a gorgeous spring day to get there. The museum and exhibit were amazing, and I’m so glad we managed to fit it into our schedule. The Infinity Room was hands down my favourite piece, but there was so much to see! Ed and I took so long in the Kasuma exhibit that we didn’t get a chance to check out any of the other exhibits going on, and apparently we missed some equally great ones. There was no time in our trip for a return visit to NAC, so that’s another reason we need to go back.

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imma live here now.

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giant hall, giant art, dapper man

After the museum, we hopped on a train and headed .. somewhere. We desperately needed to find food, but it was more difficult than anticipated – many restaurants in Japan are open for lunch, then close at 1430 to prepare for dinner. We arrived after 1500, and finding a) a place that was open and b) could accommodate 14 people was nigh impossible. We eventually managed to find an open place, but had to split up into three groups. One lost child and some really good curry later, it was time to explore the Sakura Festival going on a block to our right:

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stupid beautiful tokyo!

I bought Pink Zima, because I was in Japan goddamnit. Sabrina had some sakura champagne, and we roamed the canal gaping like tourists at the pretty pretty pink trees. We saw hot dog bros, strawberry everything, sexy time girls, pretty little mochi on sticks, and thousands of people. I think it was a Monday, but it was packed with bodies – can’t imagine what it would have been like on a weekend (but I’ll go find out and report back).

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Like all places everywhere, there was a huge line so we didn’t stick around to see what they had

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siiiiiigh

That evening, there was an epic thunderstorm over our house. It was incredible, and so cozy. We ate experimental Japanese snacks and candy while listening to the pouring rain and thunder. It was pretty fucking magical.

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like a boss.

day one: tokyo

I have several friends in Japan right now, and the pictures they’re posting are making me sad and wishing I was there too. This in turn is making me feel guilty, like I’m forsaking my beloved London for another country. While I’m fully aware that it’s possible to love TWO (or more) places, you can only really live in one place at a time – so where’s my heart? Is it in London or Japan? I’m living in a Sweet Valley High book, except instead of choosing between handsome, sensitive, steadfast Brody and handsome, hot-headed, impulsive Chad, I have to (hypothetically) decide between beautiful, comforting, elegant London and beautiful, intriguing, inscrutable Osaka. What’s a girl to DO?

Luckily, I woke up this morning homesick for London, so I guess I don’t have to decide right away. Also, all of this is entirely in my head – it’s not like I have an opportunity to relocate to either Japan or the UK, but I can pretend it’ll happen some day. And I do love a good list, so I’m amusing myself by itemizing the pros and cons of each location while I wait for documentation to import. It’s the little things.

We spent the first 5 days of our trip in Tokyo, staying in a house in the Minato district. It was a great location: nestled in a maze of cool houses, two blocks from a magical 7Eleven, around the corner from a train station, and more. Much of our first official day (which was Sunday the 2nd, as we didn’t make it to the house until around 8pm the night before) was spent exploring the area: we found a Tokyo Swallows game about to start, a newly-opened Shake Shack, an enormous cemetery lined with cherry blossoms, an architecture museum, and so much more. In the evening, we went to Akihabara to see the fabled Electric Town for ourselves. I spent many yen trying to win something from the numerous claw games (spoiler: I failed), the kids explored every floor of Animate, and we had our first (and best) bowl of ramen in a tiny joint down a dim side street:

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in his noodly name, ramen

It was an excellent (and exhausting) first day.

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6 floors of delicious chaos

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MEAT (and a cat cafe, in which the cats were girls)

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something for everyone: the second floor was a cat cafe, the third floor a shooting range, then a bar/karaoke club, maid cafe, and night club

on japan (part 1)

Things I Will Miss About Japan (alternative title: things to import from Japan):

  • ROBOT. TOILETS.
  • .. with taps, for convenient and eco-friendly cleanliness!
  • Vending machines EVERYWHERE, with recycling bins attached – so you can always find a drink, and always recycle the empty
  • Canned/bottled milk tea
  • Vending machines that deliver hot canned coffee and tea
  • Ticket restaurants! Pay up front, present ticket, receive food.
  • An amazing country-wide rail system that runs with eerie efficiency
  • Tokyo Banana! It’s delicious.
  • Gashapon! You do not want to know how much money I spent in vending machines in Japan, and not just on water/milk tea/corn
  • Tiny 600cc city cars. It’s like a scooter with walls!
  • Wet rooms and the art of sitting down in a shower. Makes for good, warm sleeping (even if you shouldn’t).
  • Japanese 7Elevens. “7Elevens are universal”, I foolishly thought before our trip. “You’ve seen one rancid hot dog at 3am, and you’ve seen them all.” Oh, how wrong I was. Japanese 7Elevens are EVERYWHERE and they are AMAZING and they are the true epitome of “convenience store”.
  • Onsens! More on this later.
  • Baby wall seats so you can put your baby down while you pee or wash your hands. It’s genius, and I don’t know why we don’t have them in North America. I don’t even HAVE babies, but I can immediately see how brilliant this idea is. Travelling solo? Don’t have someone to hold the baby while you do your bathroom business? WALL SEAT. Baby is safe, happy, and most importantly, off the bathroom floor while you allow a robot toilet to blast your nethers with warm, pulsating water. It’s like a gentle hug for your anus while you make silly faces for your wall baby.
  • In Japan, roaming trucks play jaunty tunes. Is it an ice cream van? A truck that delivers red bean paste and soy sauce? No! It’s the garbage/recycling truck, playing music to announce their approach! Forgot to set the trash out? No problem! When you hear the familiar tune, you can rush outside with your neglected waste. Smart *and* hilarious! Also, ice cream vans aren’t necessary because ice cream vending machines are totally a thing that are wonderful and so much cheaper in Japan.
  • Speaking of ice cream, you can buy soft serve waffle cones in the freezer section of convenience stores (including my beloved 7Eleven). They’re delicious, and like ¥130 (just over $1US/$1.50CDN).
  • Solar panels everywhere. If a tiny mountain town in the middle of Japan can have solar panels atop almost every damn building, why are we still arguing about them here?
  • Whiskey Ice. You can buy bags of crystal clear ice meant for whiskey sippin’ (or in my case, water) everywhere.
  • Cream puffs the size of my hand (which is admittedly small, but still large in terms of the mighty cream puff)
Things Japan is Missing:
  • Diet Coke
  • Me (don’t be jealous, London – I have so much love to give)
  • Every hotel room shower cap in a 4-city radius (sorry Japan, but I need them when I dye my hair)
  • The automatic Canadian reflex to apologize when you bump into someone (there are so many people in Japan that being walked into is just a way of life)
  • Escalators in most train stations – I have never walked up and down so many goddamn staircases in my life, but damn if my calves don’t look great

Things I Missed from Vancouver:

  • Cats
  • Soft beds/pillows
  • Being naked all the damn time
  • Bacon

Things I Will Miss, Period:

  • Being on vacation
  • Travelling with friends
  • The stillness of Takayama
  • The hustle of Tokyo and Osaka
  • The jaw-dropping beauty of Japan in full cherry blossom season
  • Vending machines

Trip Highlights:

  • The amazing lunch with an equally amazing view in the Tokyo Skytree
  • The show at the Robot Restaurant
  • Stumbling upon a Sakura Festival
  • Staying in a ryokan
  • Having an onsen completely to myself
  • Osaka Castle Park
  • The small bit of Kyoto we saw
  • Shibuya Station and the Scramble, where I got my Jet Set Radio Future and The World Ends With You fangirl on
  • The Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the National Art Centre in Tokyo
  • .. especially the Infinity Room
  • everything.

Things I Regret:

  • Not having enough time in Kyoto
  • Resorting to American food when exhausted
  • Not attending Kanamara Matsuri
  • Coming home
  • Not buying more gashapon items
  • Vending machine corn chowder

Things I Drank Instead of Diet Coke:

  • All the water (Japanese tap water is delicious)
  • Milk Tea
  • Canned cream puffs (okay just once)
  • Water
  • Pocari Sweat
  • Coke Zero (gross)
  • Coke (even grosser)
  • Coca-Cola Plus (Coke with fibre. Why?)
  • Water
  • Melon Fanta
  • Orangina
  • Qoo
  • Mango in any form I could find
  • So much water

Devastating Life Lessons Learned:

  • I will never be a flight attendant.

Hope you’re not tired of photos from Japan, because I’ve only been posting pictures taken with my phone. There are still the camera pictures to go through. #kimlichiwa

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in and out again

As is tradition, when you return from one trip you must immediately book the next. We’re going back to Ireland! More on that later, though – here’s all about London.

I had a great time, even though I was sick and had to work and was very cold and had many internet issues. Still, London. All of those things are minor annoyances when you’re in your favourite place in the world.

That being said, next time I think “hey I should go somewhere in January”, please remind me that most people would go someplace WARM, as opposed to some place colder than the place they left. London was surprisingly frosty, and in my delirium (I was so sick) I kinda forgot to bring a coat. I don’t wear a coat in Vancouver (mostly because I do not go outside), so I should be fiiiiiiine in London. And I wasn’t, at all! The first day I went outside (still sick), I had on 5 layers of cardigans (because that’s all I brought) and I froze my vagina right off. It was cold. Luckily, I had internet and money, so I bought a coat and arranged for it to be delivered the next day. It wasn’t the warmest thing I’d ever put on, but it did the trick and I spent the rest of my time in London delightfully warm-ish and also plaid.

The last time I did London solo, I was gone for over three weeks and found that to be too long a time to spend inside my own head. This time I was gone for just two weeks, and it was perfect – I missed Ed and the cats and general human contact, but I wasn’t despondent in my lonely despair. This is good information to have, because now I know I can be all “lol bored going to Germany now bye” yet retain the majority of my sanity.

So, what’d I do in my two weeks of me time?

  • Wandered Brick Lane for hours, taking pictures of graffiti and finding my favourite piece again to test my location memory
  • Visited Spitalfields Market
  • Watched the sunset from Sky Garden
  • Attended the Women’s March on London
  • Took a canal boat from Little Venice to Camden Lock, wandered the market, drank SO MUCH orange juice
  • Did nothing (was sick)
  • Went to the V&A (three times)
  • Visited the Saatchi Gallery
  • Explored the area around my flat, which included squares Sloane and Duke of York
  • Saw many Sloane Rangers (hah!)
  • Went to the Natural History Museum and spent a lot of time in the earthquake simulator as practice for Japan
  • Met up with Jen of Oxford and had Lobster Rolls!
  • Bought every damn pair of leggings from Primark – sorry, everyone else
  • Went to the waterfront by the Tower of London and took several thousand photos of Tower Bridge all lit up at night
  • The V&A is open late on Friday nights; discovered it turns into a bizarre nightclub with live acts and fancy people going WOOOOOOO
  • Got locked in the V&A courtyard and had to literally scratch at the door to be let back in (aka stand and wave at people until someone made eye contact, then played charades until they realized I was trapped) – luckily, that courtyard is one of my favourite places on the planet (albeit much more so when it’s warm and I’m not locked outside) so I didn’t mind all THAT much
  • Discovered that eating grilled pieces of halloumi cheese with a spicy-fruity sauce is fucking amazing and that’s all I’m going to eat from here on in
  • Had many adventures with the Travelling T-Rex
  • Portobello Market! Love this place. Wandered. Did not buy boots, but did buy pearls. I am so fance.
  • ASTRONAUTALIS SHOW WOOOOOO I’d been wanting to see Astronautalis in London for some time and it just so happened that he was playing London while I was there so I went to the show and remembered to stand on stage right and it was so awesome and YAY
  • Chinese New Year! Went to Chinatown and watched dragons and crowds and got totally soaked in the rain.
  • Seven Dials. Accidentally bought four boots.
  • Covent Garden! London Transport Museum is awesome! Also, Shake Shack. So good. Missed Ed.
  • Finally visited Tate Britain!
  • Waterfront, this time by the London Eye. Took many photos of Big Ben, the parliament buildings, and the Eye.
  • Science Museum! No cosmonauts this time, though. Still cool.
  • Ate fish and chips (but only once, on my last night there)
  • Had an amazing fucking time
  • Finally shook off my terrible flu/cold thing
  • Rekindled my need to live in London for a while

.. I did a lot of things. I walked a terrific amount, so much so that my watch and ring were both very proud of me. Had some fun shopping, which caused issues bringing stuff back even though I tried really very hard to be good. Honestly, I didn’t want to come home: I wanted home to come to me. I missed Ed and the cats and having hot water and water pressure and loads of internet, but dammit .. I want to be in London. Especially now that Vancouver is fucking covered in frozen white bullshit. Yes, the UK gets winter too, but some things are easier to manage when you’re where you need to be.

Half of my pictures can be viewed here. The other half will be uploaded shortly, but I experimented with not hauling a camera around with me and looking like a tourist, but using my phone instead. I have some extremely good iPhone lenses that extend the abilities of the already-amazing iPhone 7 Plus camera, and it was nice to be able to wander around with fewer things to carry. I don’t think I’m going to repeat this in Japan because I’m going to want to capture every damn thing ever, but for a place I know very well, it was nice to have options.

It was a really good trip, yo.

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i love this place.

out tonight (meow)

Tonight I am going Out. It doesn’t really matter where, and it likely isn’t what you’re picturing – but I will be Outside and it will be dark and cold and probably pretty awesome because I’m in London, and almost everything is awesome here.

I’ve been working remotely (err, even more remotely) this week, which basically means I’ve been keeping some pretty strange hours. I’ll usually wake up in the morning, work for a couple hours, go out for a bunch of exploring and museuming, then come back and work in the evening so I can get some hours in while the NA peeps are around. It’s not a bad arrangement, but I am really looking forward to closing my laptop as soon as my 8am meeting is done and heading to the waterfront so I can gaze lovingly at some fancy structures while dodging Aggressive Shrek and tourists with poor (selfie) stick control.

Since I decided I was going out tonight, I’ve had Out Tonight stuck in my head. I do want to hit the street, but I will refrain from wailing at the moon like a cat in heat because who does that (certainly not this Canadian with severe social anxiety – plz do not look at me unless I am on stage with my boobs out, thx). Other things I will probably not do even though my body’s talking to me, it says “time for danger”:

  • Commit a crime
  • Be the cause of a fight
  • Put on a tight skirt
  • Flirt with a stranger
  • Go some place sick
  • Refer to myself as “chick”; dance in the flames
  • Prowl
  • Be a night owl
  • Take your hand, we’re gonna howl

In retrospect, I have less in common with an HIV-positive Hispanic-American club dancer and drug addict than I thought.

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brick lane street art by @lorazombie

some things are bigger than your fear

I woke up this morning in pretty rough shape*, but I forced myself outside for one (historic, epic, vast) reason. I don’t think the marches outside of Washington DC had been planned when I booked my trip, but that’s the glorious thing about so many people coming together in solidarity – it’s global. Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of women and men marched around the world today to demand women’s rights and protest against Trump and all he stands for, and it was a powerful thing to see. I’ve been on the verge of awed tears all day long (which is kind of exhausting, to be honest), and I wish that I could have been more evolved in the event .. but there are limits to what you can expect from yourself when you’re a) still sick but powering through as best you can, b) terrified of crowds, and c) traveling from afar with no room in your bag for poster board. I’m happy that I made it out, though.

*: I forget to eat when I’m on my own. Forgetting to eat when you’re sick (or, you know, ever) is a bad idea. I promise to be better to myself from here on out. Myself is pretty neat. Myself deserves at least a whole meal per day.

Pictures from today coming soon! In the meantime, enjoy this brilliant drawing by Shing Yin Kor:

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role model. (art by shing yin kor)

the comforts of home

I’m here and in one piece! I have internet access! I’m trapped in my flat!

The flight to London was uneventful and kind of dull, but I did manage to sleep a little. My ride was waiting for me when I finally made it through customs, and I was in my room by 5pm local time. Hooray!

The room is beyond tiny, but it’s perfect for my stay. I haven’t had a chance to explore the area yet (beyond the Sainsbury’s down the road), and while I’m relatively well-rested and ready to explore, I can’t leave my room because my hair is wet.

When I booked this trip, I was kind of in a rush and didn’t do all the research I normally do. If I had, I would have realized that the place I’m staying is missing two things: free wifi, and a hair dryer.

The place charges £10 a day for wi-fi. I’m already paying $10 a day to use my Rogers plan while in the UK, so I wasn’t about to pay an extra £140 to have computer internet during my stay. However, I do have to work next week, so I need internet access. Unable to sleep three nights ago, I googled upon these guys and for £61 (£30 of which is a refundable deposit), I get 6GB of wi-fi for my stay. I arranged to have it delivered this morning, and it just arrived. Problem 1: solved!

The second problem is why I’m currently writing from my room instead of being outside: there’s no hair dryer in the room. My hair takes 3-4 hours to dry on its own (more if it’s at all humid), and it’s freezing outside. I can’t leave my room until my hair is completely dry, which may happen just before dark at this rate. The front desk has promised me that housekeeping can lend me a hair dryer, but they haven’t shown up yet – so here I sit, damply. I want to go outside. I’m hungry. It’s gorgeous and sunny and I have things to do. My hair is stupid.

As I was typing that last sentence, housekeeping showed up with a hairdryer! Problem 2: solved! k, I gotta dry my head and go outside. BYE!

lonely in advance

I’m going to London next week, for two weeks. I’ll be working for half the trip, and exploring the city/revisiting favourites the rest of the time. As you can probably imagine, I am excited. I may already be packed, even. I could leave now!

As excited as I am (don’t let the lack of exclamation points fool you), I am presently allowing myself to wallow in the sads. I figure if I can get the sads out of the way now, when I’m in London I’ll have nothing but happy excited silly times because frankly that is what I do best.

Here’s why the sads: I’m going to be lonely in London. I’ve realized that while I love exploring and seeing things and experiencing Diet Coke in different time zones, it’s a thousand times better to do those things (and more) with someone else. I asked Ed if he would come with me for even part of this trip, and he didn’t want to – rumour has it he wants the alone time so he can have affairs – so I’m going to be all by my lonesome and that is making me sad. I am a selfish creature: I want to have excellent adventures, but I want to have someone to share them with. I have the “someone” part down, but he’s not interested in accompanying me (for a variety of reasons). I reluctantly get it – not everyone is cut out to hop on a plane for 9 hours to go to a repeat destination just because they weren’t kidding when they said they didn’t want to be in North America on inauguration day – but I’m still sad about it.

Clearly I’m just going to have to save more money between trips, and pay someone to be my travel friend.

Okay, off to be sad for a bit. I’ve got a few more days to be sad, and then I will make a list of Things I want to Do while Adventuring.

happy place

happy place

 

2778 words about ireland

I KNEW there was something I was forgetting to do – write about the trip. I’ve been incredibly scattered (more so than usual) since we got home, for reasons I am vaguebooking about. All will become clear soon, but in the meantime: hey, we went to Ireland!

Our flight(s) there were long but uneventful, with the exception of some EXTREME TURBULENCE between Toronto and St. John’s. Seriously, I have never experienced turbulence like that. It was fucking terrifying. People screamed, like in movies! Me, I almost ripped the back off the seat in front of me because I was gripping it so hard. Scary stuff. F——, would not turbule again.

We arrived into the Dublin airport just after 7am local time on Friday morning, and made our way through customs. Because of the early hour it was easy to grab a cab – lucky for us, since there was a bus strike going on and options into the city were limited. We were at the door of our AirBnB around 8:20am, perfectly on time.

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