Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo was the highlight of my trip – it’s the big city! Packed with people, shops, and food – that’s my kinda place!

With over 13MM people living here, there’s always people everywhere. Shops open late in the morning at 11am and do not close until late into the night. I took charge as tour guide in Tokyo because there were many must-see items on my to-do list.

We took the bullet train from Hokkaido to Tokyo. Once we dropped off our luggage and checked into the hotel room, we set off to find food and shops. We headed over to the Shibuya district to do some night time shopping and dinner.

Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. All lights turn red and pedestrians flow into the street. It’s almost chaos!

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We had dinner at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant nearby the crossing, which was the coolest restaurant we’ve been to! Basically you sit down, order your nigiri sushi on a tablet, and they shoot out plates of sushi to where you sit. To feed 7 adults here was only $60. Can’t beat that!

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After dinner, we shopped a bit at Shibuya 109, a large mall with over 100 boutique shops with the latest trends (basically one huge Urban Outfitters). And on the way home, I had to take a picture with the Hachiko statue. This faithful dog greeted his owner after work, everyday at the subway station. The owner died at work but the dog continually went to the station to greet his owner everyday for 9 years after his death. I can’t get myself to watch the story of Hachiko but it warms my heart.

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The next day was an epic one!

We woke up, got breakfast, and headed over to (it’s my dream come true), a cat cafe!!! More well known cat cafes in Japan have 30-50 cats, and you can enjoy a light snack. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but once you do, it’s basically heaven.

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^^^ This one is located in the Shinjuku district. It’s two stories, and you can sit and play with cats for an hour. After an hour, you pay for each additional 15 minutes.

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Japanese people love their cats! We saw some cats going for $10k at a pet shop. Lots of Scottish Folds, and I even learned about a new breed called a Munchkin cat. Muchkin cats are characterized by little short legs. Think corgi but for a cat!

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Don’t laugh but I want to say that this was one of the highlights of the trip!

We did a bit of shopping at Harajuku. This is where you’ll find people dressed up in cosplay and some extreme fashion styles!

Harajuku

Then we looked for beauty supplies – isn’t this a crazy shop?

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And we went to Akihabara to look at gadgets. It’s an entire district filled with all kinds of technology – you can literally find anything tech-related here.

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To top off the night, we went to a Yakini restaurant (DIY BBQ). Little did we know, we would come across wagyu beef. We ate ourselves silly with 4 plates of Wagyu, 2 plates of pork, 1 plate of lamb. It was by far the best meal during our entire trip.

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^^^^ Just look at that marbling!

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^ Grillmaster MG ^

The next day was the big typhoon. Lots of news publications said it was going to the best worst typhoon based on the last 14 years, but fortunately for us, it died down and it was only a half day of rain. We kept it safe by shopping at the malls near our hotel. That stormy and rainy night meant that I needed a warm bowl of ramen for dinner.

We found a place nearby, where locals line up for food. My in-laws (they really are the best) said they were fine with standing in the rainstorm for ramen, and so we did!

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The waiters pass you menus in line and take your order while you’re standing. Once you get into this tiny shop (basically can hold only 20 people), they place your food in front of you, and you slurp your noodles quickly. Japanese people eat so fast! As we’re eating, two groups have already gotten up and left. I would say that we ate fast, but clearly not as quickly as the locals. So much pressure to eat quickly!

But OMG… this was the best ramen I’ve ever had. Period.

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DSC00672Aren’t you craving a big bowl of noodles now?

The food in Tokyo is amazing. Any little shop that you find will have quality food. If you love shopping, this is also the place to be! There are so many shops and so many different fashion styles. People-watching, alone, is a great reason to come to this city.

Have you been to Tokyo before? If so, what did you do? If not, what is your must-see?

Wish I could live there,
Jay

  

Hokkaido

I’m back from my trip to Asia! I love traveling but those long flights are pretty killer… Our total travel time to get to Sapporo was 23 hours, ouch. It’s worth it to see how cultures are different in different countries.

Over the next three days, I’m going to be posting about my trip. We started out in Sapporo and slowly made our way south via a tour bus. Then we took a bullet train to Tokyo and ended in Hong Kong before coming home. Today will be all about Hokkaido.

Hokkaido is in northern Japan, with Sapporo as its capital. It gets cold, with snow in the winters, and this prefecture is also known for produce and meat. It’s where a lot of good seafood comes from! This is going to be a major photo dump – here we go!

Canal
^^^ Otaru is a beautiful little town. It really reminded me of Europe. Isn’t this a cute family pic?

Glass Museum
Japan has some awesome handmade trinkets – specifically this tourist town was known for glass and music boxes

Shopping
We shopped at many outdoor and underground malls

Ski Jump
We went to a ski jump museum on the tour.

Look at this amazing view! Looks so scary though – Don’t think I’ll be trying ski jumping ever…

Ski Jump View

We also went to see the Ainu people, an indigenous people of Japan. We learned about their culture and way of life. They are bear hunters and also have Shiba Inu dogs to help them hunt.

Lower Caste

Bear

Bear

We also went to a Hot Springs area while the sun was setting to end the day. Such a beautiful view.

Hot Springs

Hokkaido is known for their hot springs and public baths. And incase you’re wondering, yes, you have to go naked! Basically you have to shower there for a good 15 minutes or longer before you can soak into the public baths. They are typically gender separated, and all you get to cover up is a little face towel. The baths are filled with mineral water, at the hottest temperature of 43ºC which translates to 109.4ºF. So hot!!! You literally soak in for a few minutes and then immediately go into a cold water bath. All this helps with your circulation and increases blood flow so it’s beneficial for your body. Awkward at first, but it gets easier!

The next day we ventured to Lake Toya, a volcanic lake in Hokkaido.

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And then we got on a boat!

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Look at this amazing view!

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Later that evening, we went to the top of Hakodate to watch the sun set and the city come to life.

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We went to Towada-Hachimantai National Park to see the Fall colors. We missed the changing of the leaves to red by one week but we got to see a few Fall leaves.

Bridge

We also took a little hike – Hokkaido is so green

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Waterfall
^^^ Waterfall selfie

And now Lake Tazawa. Legend has it that a princess desired eternal beauty. A god told her to drink from these waters but she drank so much of the water that the Goddess Kannon cursed her and turned her into a water dragon. Then a prince caught a large fish from these waters and developed an unquenchable thirst. He continually drank the water and was also turned into a dragon. Eventually these dragons fell in love and their passionate love prevents the lake from freezing during the winter months. Also, the princess gets jealous of couples that takes pictures at this lake, which ends relationships…

We took the chance anyway!

Lake Tazawa

Lake Tazawa

Those were some of the main places that we visited. Here are some fun shots from the Hokkaido portion of the trip.

The sewer tops at the fish market were so cute! Lots of great seafood comes from Hokkaido – scallops, cuttlefish, crab, fish.

Fish Market

Remember when I said that produce is a big thing in Hokkaido? Look at the size of this apple!

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Some of the hotels we stayed in were Wester style (your typical hotel), but there were a few that were Tatami style. It’s a traditional Japanese-style room with straw-like mats and no shoes allowed.

Traditional

While you go out for dinner, employees come and make the beds for you:

Tatami

Dinner
^^^^ Traditional Japanese meal in our kimonos

We wore kimonos every night to dinner – look how cute my little Mingus is!

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Dinner
This is what a traditional meal would look like – all prepped for you. Coolest thing? Look at that ice dome that holds my sashimi!!!

We also ate at a lot of buffets for breakfast and for dinner.

Breakfast
Look at my breakfast tray! Ahem husband… I expect this caliber of breakfast every morning!

Then there are these adorable pancakes that you can pick from during dinner. How could you eat such artwork?

Pancakes

We found a little shop that made fresh mochi – one of MG’s favorite desserts so we had to buy one. You pick a skewer and then add your own paste (miso or black sesame, or red bean). Just for fun, if you choose a skewer with a red tip, you get another free stick! Of course MG gets lucky. He had two servings of these things! You should have seen how happy he was when he found out he won.

Mochi

The roasted mochi from the temple was my favorite dessert!

Roasted Mochi

Tea ceremony
We also went to a traditional Japanese tea house where they served green tea and a sweet cake.

Cow Tongue
And one of our last snacks… grilled cow tongue. My in-laws are the cutest!

Hokkaido is a rural area of Japan, definitely not a city-life feel. Lots of greenery, lots of farms, and not much to do after 8pm. It was such a fun experience to see differences in lifestyle and learn about the Japanese culture.

Have you been to Hokkaido before? What did you do? Is this on your bucket list?

Come back for Tokyo tomorrow!
Jay
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We took a tour by Signet Tours through Hokkaido

  

Packing Light: Fall Edition

We’re leaving tonight! I can’t believe the day is finally here. Japan, here we come!

I couldn’t have asked for a better year for traveling. First Europe in the summer (Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London), and now Asia during the Fall. This time around, we’re going to Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most – sashimi and sushi. I can’t wait to eat myself silly! I’m also ecstatic about shopping in Japan. I packed light but brought a huge suitcase to fit all my potential purchases (that’s the way to do it!).

Follow me on Instagram (user jayscup) if you want to see pictures while I’m on vacation. I will not be posting on my blog until I return so if you want to see what I’m up to or what I’m eating, follow me on IG!

Remember when I did the packing light list for the summer? I got some great feedback from you all, so here’s my Fall edition! It’s a great list for 2 weeks, weather ranging from 45 -65 °F. Such a range calls for lots of layers!

I’m obsessed with Madewell jeans as of lately (swooooon at the fit and quality). I’m also very fond of ankle boots right now! Just a tip, a girl should always have a chunky necklace to dress up any outfit. Now here’s my 2 week packing list:

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Jcrew jacket // H&M biker jacker // Jcrew puffer vest // Madewell perfect chambray ex-boyfriend shirt in ferrous wash // UO cuddle up sweater // Zara sweater // Zara cotton t-shirt // Target long sleeve // Target vintage v-neck // H&M camisole // Target tank // Madewell skinny skinny jeans in Madewell rinse // Madewell skinny skinny jeans: rip and repair edition // Piperlime Pim + Larkin ribbed knit mini dress // H&M patterned dress // Asos chelsea ankle boots // Piperlime Sam Edelman petty boots // Nordstrom Halogen Kayla flat // Target paisley scarf // UO open knit scarf // Jcrew Factory scalloped necklace // Jcrew Factory tote bag // Tilly’s fleece lined tights // F21 Beanie // Target Totes floral umbrella // Target metallic clutch

Don’t forget your undies, socks, sleepwear, toiletries, chargers, technology, and flight entertainment (tablets, books, snacks, pillow). These differ for every person so pack what you must!

When packing keep in mind a few key rules:

1. Pack neutrals – They are classic and never go out of style. Plus, they match with everything!

2. Each piece of clothing should be able to stand on its own or match with something else. Chambray is best for this! I can wear it as a button-up shirt, a cover-up with a tshirt underneath, a sweater over with the collar out, or as a shirt underneath my vest. That’s 4 outfits with 1 shirt!

3. It’s not the time for a fashion show. I get it! You got these cute printed pants that match with your chic sandals. But let’s be honest here. That’s one outfit… Show that off when you get back home. Packing light means packing smart!

Now if only I could pack these guys since they are already in the suitcase voluntarily anyway…

Kitties

What do you think? Am I missing anything? Are you going anywhere for vacation during the cooler months? If so, where?

See you when I come back and follow me on IG!
Jay

  

Prepping for Japan

Eep! We’re leaving on Friday for Japan! It’s coming up so fast!

This year has been quite an eventful one so far – first we spent 3 weeks in the summer in Europe, and now we’re off to Japan for 2 weeks. I’m so blessed to be able to travel with loved ones and make memories along the way.

This week, MG and I have been prepping for our trip.

We got our shots on Monday (the travel nurse recommended Typhoid and Flu shots for the both of us). Ouch! Typhoid really hurts. We looked so silly coming out of the clinic with bandaids on each arm. Too bad at this age, you don’t get candy…

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FYI – if you travel overseas, get the typhoid shot 2 weeks prior to your trip. That’s when the vaccination actually kicks in. At least we’ll be covered the last half of our trip!

Since you don’t get candy anymore after shots, we treated ourselves at Target.

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We bought a bunch of munchies for our long plane ride. Those Outshine bars were obviously for a late night snack! My favorite snacks – Cheetos!

We even got haircuts for our trip! I was getting so sick of my long hair. No oomph anymore, and I just continually put it into a ponytail, blegh. So here’s to change! Short and sweet!

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I have to curl it in the morning now, but I’m liking the new texture! Also for those of your wondering, my skin is slowly healing. I still have acne, but it’s not as bad as before. Now I’m in the stage of whitening the dark spots. Any advice?

Of course a load of jeans also go into the washer, as we are finalizing the packing list. Always turn your jeans inside out when they go into the washer. Then hang dry all your jeans so that they do not shrink. Welcome to the jean sale…

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And the best part of prepping – MG did not want to bring his large laptop while traveling. Our iPad is first gen, and our secondary tablet does not have an attachable keyboard. So his biggest desire was a Microsoft Surface.

He made his desire known at 4pm on Tuesday. After picking up our dry-cleaning at 6:30pm, we headed over to a Microsoft store and dropped some money. Now MG has a new toy! When he first asked me and I said yes, he was shocked. He didn’t expect me to say yes to such a large purchase. But why not? Let’s be spontaneous today!

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It’s so pwetty! It’s going to be a great tool for when I need to design graphics. I can’t believe you can open Microsoft Office and all the Adobe Creative Suites with the Surface. It’s a computer but in tablet form; amazing. I’m a Mac user myself (I’m using one to type this post), but Microsoft is really stepping it up!

Come back for my packing list on my next post. I have some fun items that I recently purchase for our Japan trip!

What do you do to prep for a big trip?
Jay

  

Tea Ceremony & Shopping Trip

Weekends seem to go by so fast. Dinner on Friday. Run a few errands, and it’s already Saturday night. Go to church and take a nap, it’s Sunday evening and you’re prepping for Monday already. Don’t you feel the same?

Friday night was date night. MG and I went to Cheesecake Factory, and I totally forgot how delicious this place is. First off, that dark brown bread is YUM. I’m pretty sure I had two full loaves, oops? Then I reunited with the White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, and we found ourselves in love again. So maybe date night wasn’t actually with MG, it was with Cheesecake!

My church was hosting a women’s event on Saturday. I had breakfast with a few girlfriends, and afterwards we headed over to Hakone Estate & Gardens in Saratoga for a tea ceremony. This garden has quite a view!

Hakone Garden

The tea ceremony is a traditional Japanese event, usually a casual time for the family to serve guests. The Japanese culture is extremely detailed, a very big contrast to American traditions. I always feel like I’m on the go all the time and things move so fast. But the Japanese culture is very particular, and I am impressed at how they appreciate the little things. For instance, before you drink the cup, raise it because it shows appreciation to everyone who has prepared the tea. Also, the tea cup has a front and a back. The front should be facing you in the beginning. When you are about to drink, rotate your cup 180° so that the guests are now looking at the front. When done, rotate it again so that the front is facing you. This is so that you can appreciate the artwork on the cup. Now that’s meticulous.

Tea CeremonyThe powdered tea is shipped from Japan. You whisk the powder into hot water until it foams. In those three sips of tea, there are 3 oranges worth of calcium. Pretty cool right?

Of course no weekend is complete without shopping! Especially since it’s October that means 1) I need to start prepping for the Fall (yay dark jeans, boots, jackets, and scarves!) and 2) summer sales! As you might have been aware, I am a JCPenney shopaholic (my love also described here). Look at my awesome goodies. You’ll definitely be jealous when you see how much I paid for things!

Clothes - deals!White tee for $3. Levi’s shorts for $5. Cute pencil skirt for $5. This pencil skirt is perfect for dressing up with a fancy shirt or dressing down with a t-shirt. 

Peephole dress
Peephole dress for $14. Adoring the print and color of this dress.

Faux Leather Jacket
Vegan faux leather jacket by Joe Fresh for $49.

I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket for this Fall season, but I can’t justify spending $300-$500 on a jacket. I simply can’t though I really wish I could. This jacket from JCP is the perfect find for me. Great cost and a great looking jacket. I’m excited to put the dress and the jacket together with some cute boots. Now… where to find those boots?

Don’t forget that if you shop at JCP, there are coupons every weekend. MG also bought some things, and we spent over $100, which means I also get a $20 discount. Have I enticed you to check out JCP yet? Are you also craving cheesecake now?

What did you do this weekend?
Jay
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Joe Fresh Vegan Leather Jacket