Tag Archives: travel

Tokyo Times Part Three: Japanese Street-Style!

Sorry for the gap between this post and the last… I’ve been unexpectedly crazy busy at uni. Most of the other exchange students seem to be doing ok with the work load (aside from a couple of poor souls), but I somehow ended up with seven assignments (most of which I’ve still yet to start), and had a couple of weeks of panic after returning from Tokyo.
I’m still not quiiiiite on top of things, but I’ve set aside some time to myself tonight, after slaving away for the past two days on a movie report. I finally finished it this evening, so in celebration I baked a cake and will spend the next couple of hours going through photos and planning for my trip to the beach at Omimaiko tomorrow! The perfect chance to relax after a long and busy week!

Anyways, back to the real topic of this post!
I’m up to the third and final edition of my Tokyo-trilogy from my trip there last month. So far I’ve covered the Tokyo Sky Tree and Moomin Cafe, as well as the Mori Art Museum and Hatsune Miku pop-up cafe. Now we’re up to the reeeaally fun bit…

Shopping.

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No trip to Tokyo is complete without it. Filled with massive department stores, side streets and crazy fashion, this place is a must-see for any retail-enthusiast.

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The famous Shibuya Crossing

Being massively into Japanese fashion myself, I naturally spent most of the trip in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku with my new English friends (who all conveniently had similar interests). We busted our wallets with piles of clothes from Closet Child and accessories from Paris Kids and Swimmer. We roamed around the basement floors of Laforet in search of frills, got some amazing tattoo stockings from Avant Garde, tried on and bought shoes in Tokyo Bopper (except for me and my slightly-above-average-but-giant-here feet), then got photographed for the blog, and again later in Shibuya 109 for the Glavil blog, among countless other exciting things.

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Emma and Rebecca as they posed for the Tokyo Bopper blog

Probably the most fantastic thing about the whole experience was meeting and running into a bunch of famous and semi-famous Tokyo personalities! Here are some photos of the trip.

_DSC011740 _DSC011639Met the lovely Yuka from 6% Doki Doki! This brand is a long-time favourite of mine, so it was super-nice to see one of the lovely faces behind the brand in person. I love how the shop assistants here often double as models for the brands they work for.

_DSC021268Went to starbucks where the lovely young lady working there complimented my outfit and secretly wrote this on my cup. Best start to a day in Shibuya. ❤

AND SO MUCH GRIMOIRE!!_DSC021770_DSC021971 _DSC022273 _DSC022575 _DSC022976 _DSC023477 _DSC024482 _DSC024080 _DSC023979 _DSC024181 _DSC024683 _DSC024784 _DSC024986 _DSC025087 _DSC025188_DSC022474Once again, I couldn’t resist the selfie…

Next up we went over to the Parco buildings in Shibuya, and guess who we ran into!

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JUNNYAN!!!
This guy is one of the founders of the Harajuku fashion walks, and started up the Pop-N-Cute events in Harajuku. He also gets street-snapped a lot, often appearing in Fruits Magazine and on the Tokyo Fashion website. His style is always so colourful! (So proud of myself for mustering the courage to ask for a photo. Eeee! Thank you Junnyan!)

Outside Parco they were actually holding some kind of fashion competition, (which might explain why there were so many fashion-personalities around) where you could go and be photographed, then have image uploaded to google plus for all to see. The image with the most likes by the end of the competition wins something (can’t remember what). Anyways, we were just keen to get a free photo, so Emma and I gave it a go!

935657_10151439320243321_1815662078_n 970675_10151439320098321_2073418169_nIt was a great day!

As we walked away from the area, we also saw designer Kumamiki wearing this adorable yukata she made! We didn’t realise it was her at the time as we were at a distance, but after seeing her uploaded on the Tokyo Fashion website I recognised her! An adorable documentary was made about her that I remember watching and adoring early last year or the year before. Look it up on youtube. She’s just the sweetest darn thing!

We finished the trip off with a visit to the Omotesando Q-pot flagship store and cafe. Holy moly was the shop amazing! And I’m pretty sure I was nearly in tears at the cafe (massive Q-pot fan here). Will definitely be going back there with my sister next month.

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Although I must admit that the shop felt a bit more like a pop-up than a proper cafe, it still had a lot of charm, and so many adorable decorations! The food was pretty darn good too (at least as far as Japanese cakes though). The macarons were just about perfect, both visually and in flavour, and it was my first taste of real chocolate since coming here. The icecream, although having a delicious burnt-caramel flavour, was not at all as creamy or as rich as icecream should be. But unfortunately this is the reality of dairy products here, as their milk is kinda like water… But it was still lovely! Next time I’ll definitely be going for one of those cheese-shaped cheesecakes. GENIUS!!!

Anyways it’s very late so I must be off! Hope you enjoyed this update! I hope to do more soon.

 

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Tokyo Times Part Two: Love at The Mori Art Gallery

Next up on my Tokyo Adventure was The Mori Art Museum in Roppongi!

The museum is having their 10th anniversary this year, and are currently holding a special show as part of the celebration.

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We were all pretty darn excited about it! And honestly I think it was one of the best art exhibits I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. There were works by Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, Giorgio de Chirico, Araki Nobuyoshi, and countless other well-known names, as well as some lesser known ones (who had equally as compelling works). The theme of ‘love’ may seem simple at first, but really it’s incredibly complex, as there are so many stages and sides to love, and everyone experiences it differently. There’s the love of a spouse, of a friend, of family, of an object or an activity. Really you could put just about anything in this show and it could somehow be justified! But the way they curated it was incredible! It was like each time you entered a new room you would walk into someone else’s love story, and were encouraged to join in with their experience. Some parts were beautiful, others sad, and some utterly hilarious. By the end my emotions were so conflicted I didn’t know how to feel, and I walked out in a kind of bewildered daze.
Now that to me is the sign of a good art show! (I even bought the catalogue as a memento)

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One of the most memorable works for me (among many!) was a work by Sophie Calle from 2007, titled Take Care of Yourself. (Sorry, no images as it really has to be witnessed in person) In this instance the work had a whole room dedicated to it, in which text, photographs, and videos were scattered across the walls at different sizes and heights, encouraging the viewer to take in the entire space. When you first walk into this room, you’re supposed to pick up a sheet from a stack of paper to the right of the entrance, and read it. It is a breakup letter. You soon learn that each image, video and piece of writing displayed in the room is culmination of the reactions of different women to this same letter. Sophie Calle, upon receiving this letter from a previous lover, did not know how to interpret or process it, and so sent it to hundreds of women around the world, asking them to do it for her.
It is such a simple idea, but so incredibly interesting to view. Some people responded with anger and others with humour – some with sadness and others with laughter. Then hearing the reactions of people around you while they read the letter themselves adds further to the atmosphere and complexity of the work. Brilliant stuff! If you’re in Tokyo between now and September 1st you should definitely check it out!

Lucky for us, there were even areas where you could take photographs!

YAYOI KUSAMA TIME!!!

_DSC012643_DSC013947_DSC013045_DSC013646I’m sorry guys, I just had to do a selfie and a group shot! I couldn’t resist the mirrors! SO MANY MIRRORS!! From left to right is Casey (me), Rebecca, Emma, Wing, and Reina.

Actually Emma (who has a pretty sweet little blog here) managed to get two free tickets to this exhibit because her sculpture sensei had a work in the show! None of us could believe it! Her name is Nishiyama Minako, and her installation work is in the second room of the exhibit.
Here’s a picture of it:

 

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(Image from here)

Titled The PINKU House, the work is a kind of life-size fold-out doll-house, made of plastic material (similar to that of a children’s jumping castle). Although the work is very kawaii (cute), innocent and childlike at first glance, there is a slight sense of suggested eroticism in work. The bed is positioned in the centre of the scene, protruding out towards the viewer, almost as an invitation. The red hearts and roses are also common symbols of romance and sex, and of course the artificial nature of the plastic fabric gives the sense of a cheap hotel room, or more specifically a Japanese love hotel, where people rent a room for a few hours to fulfil their sexual desires until their time is up, at which point the room is cleaned and prepared for the next couple.
When I saw this work it was installed in a black room with lights that made the house appear as if it was glowing slightly. This gave it an eerie quality, and amplified the slightly disturbing nature of the work. It was very successful I think!
Hopefully Emma will introduce me to her sometime soon. I very much enjoyed this work! The image above simply doesn’t do it justice.

Anyways, I’d best move on.
Here are some more photographs of the show (from the rooms we were allowed to photograph in)

Tsumura Kosuke: Final Home and Final Home: See Through

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One of the really interesting things about this show is that it not only included beautiful artworks, but also included photographs, films, and characters seen in Japanese pop-culture, raising them to the status of the other artworks in the show. I absolutely loved this! So often people turn their noses up at manga drawings, fashion photographs, or clothing designs and co-ordinates, dismissing them as worthless repetitive commercial items, but this so often is not the case. So much creativity, imagination and skill goes in to making a good manga or an amazing outfit, and I for one believe it should be given the greater respect it deserves. And this show did it for me. Right next to Yayoi Kusama’s work was a wall of Japanese street-snap photos from Fruits Magazine, and at the end was a room playing a video of a Hatsune Miku concert, with dozens of small screens scattered in front of you with different Hatsune illustrations. This was the point where I nearly cried. It was unlike any show I’d ever seen before, and I am so happy I get to go again with my sister in July.

After the show, we went to the observatory to check out the view of Tokyo!

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_DSC017557Emma and Reina lookin’ lovely on the 52nd floor!

By this time we were all STARVING as none of us had had breakfast! So lucky for us there was a Hatsune Miku themed cafe/restaurant set up just for the exhibition! AWESOME!!!

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_DSC019563 _DSC019964_DSC020566_DSC020065_DSC018860 _DSC019362There was also this wall in the cafe covered in stickers! Most people wrote love messages or drew their own little Hatsune’s. We were given some stickers too! But by the time we finished eating we’d forgotten all about it. Oops.
Anyways, for those of you wanting a review, in short the food here wasn’t special. It was kinda like the usual packet curry you get at a cheap restaurant, only decorated cutely. But like the moomin cafe the drinks were delicious! I got some-kind of lemon-lime cocktail with the zest cut out in the shape of stars. Very cute.

After this we went on to Shinjuku for some shoooopping!! Next up with be my final Tokyo post, and boy is it gonna be a big one! For those interested in Japanese street fashion, definitely stay tuned!

Tokyo Times Part One: Tokyo Sky Tree and The Moomin Cafe

I know I’m skipping ahead with this post, but I just spent the most amazing 5 days and 4 nights in Tokyo over the weekend and I simply must post about it before my memory fades! It was like living in the dreams of my 14-year-old-self – shopping in Harajuku, meeting famous faces, getting street snapped, going to themed cafes, and seeing one of the most incredible art exhibitions I’ve ever had the privileged of witnessing.
In fact, it was such an intense few days I think I may have to split it into three posts… (sorry!)

So here’s the first one!

First of all I guess I should talk about how we got there.

Now most foreigner traveling to Japan with the intent of moving around the country normally get a JR pass for a set amount of time (usually sold in increments of 1 or 2 weeks). Depending on how often and how far you want to travel, the JR pass can save you a lot of money! But unfortunately for Emma and I, a JR pass was not an option, as they are only offered to short-stay tourists, not exchange students like us. So we had to pay the full amount for the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. Luckily we got a small discount from our university, but it still came to over $100 AUD. A little steep for me… Emma’s friend Wing, who had been staying in our dorms for a week, was the lucky one with a JR pass. Jealous!

_DSC000517 _DSC000316Here’s Emma and Wing on the Shinkansen! We took the Hikari, which took about 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to Tokyo from Kyoto. The Nozomi line is faster, taking only about 2 hours, but because the JR pass isn’t valid on the Nozomi trains, we decided to take the longer trip to save Wing some money. (More for shopping with! Yay!)

The train was very pleasant. Clean, bright and very spacious! I sat next to a lovely Japanese man who spoke to me through most of the trip, telling me about his family, his trips abroad, his work, and a few interesting facts about Japanese culture. I had some nicely wrapped homemade brownies in my bag at the time, so I gave him one when I got off the train, and he gave me his business card (which I can’t read. Little bit of a fail, but sweet none-the-less).

581859_10151434309648321_1650448593_nMe with ma ticket!!

After the train we met up with two of Emma’s friends, Reina and Rebecca, and the five of us went for lunch. Rebecca had to leave at 1pm, but the rest of us ventured on to our hostels for the evening! Both were located in Asakusa. Emma, Reina and Wing stayed in Khaosan Annex, and I stayed in Asakusa Smile (as there were no rooms left at their place). I don’t know about their place, but the building I stayed in was quite nice and clean, with a nice little kitchen and very bright, clean rooms. I was staying in a 4-bed female-only room, and the young ladies who stayed with me were lovely! One was from Germany, one from Japan, and the other I believe was from China (but I’m not sure). There was wifi included,  toilets on every floor, and they gave you a free drink ticket to use at their bar! Also the staff actually lived there as well, so if you needed help they were always there. And it was only 25 AUD a night!! The only downside was that there appeared to be only one shower for the whole hostel (which holds about 20 people I think), and they forgot to leave fresh sheets for two of the beds in my room. Also they had no locker facilities, so I had to leave my small suitcase in the room and carry all my valuables with me in case of theft. Luckily the girls in my room were lovely and I trusted them enough not to worry too much.

Here are the websites for the hostels we stayed at if anyone is interested.

http://asakusasmile.com/index.php

http://www.khaosan-tokyo.com/en/annex/

If you ask me, they were both a little far away for my liking, as all the things we wanted to see were in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku, which are on the other side of Tokyo and took about an hour to get to. The cost of the trains as well made it not really worth it, so I would recommend figuring out where you want to spend most of your time, and find a hostel near there, even if it means paying a little extra per night. It will save you a bunch of time! Tokyo is huge!

Anyways, enough about the hostel!
Once we settled in, we went to the Tokyo Sky Tree. There seemed to be an anniversary of some-kind so there were a bunch of special promotional items being advertised and sold.

We also found a poster of this crazy guy, who Emma felt the need to imitate in a rather… disturbing manner.

_DSC002018Oh Emma…

But our real reason for going to the Sky Tree was to check out the Moomin Cafe!!

_DSC002819Wing manages the Moomin shop in London, so she was having the time of her life in there! Photographing everything and looking at all the goodies in the gift shop. It was super-adorable so we all decided to sit down for coffee and sweets.

Look who came to join us!

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From left to right is Emma, Reina, Me (Casey), Wing, and MOOMIN!_DSC004021Little My decided to join us too!

_DSC004122Our waitress was super-lovely and kept bringing over more toys for us to play with.

_DSC004824 _DSC005025 _DSC005927 _DSC005426The foooooood!!

Now everything in this place looked absolutely amazing and adorable! But in all honesty the food wasn’t the best… It looked great but the pancakes were cold and dry, like they’d been sitting there all day, and there was barely enough syrup to cover one pancake! The fruit was sweet and delicious though (like all Japanese fruit), and the berry-flavoured coffee I had was probably one of the best coffees I’ve had in Japan so far. It was actually creamy! And not filled with that sickly sugar syrup stuff they put in everything here! I was very pleased. Also, the little baked-custards came with a complimentary mug! Just like the ones above. Each design varied slightly, with differences in the shape of the handles and the images printed on them. So lovely!

After eating we mucked around a bit with the toys and hats.

_DSC004323 _DSC006128 _DSC006229 _DSC006530On our way out, Wing mentioned to the staff that she was the manager of the London Moomin Shop, and they all got really excited and decided they wanted a photo with her! Then they gave us all a limited edition 1st-year anniversary badge each! It was so lovely!

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After that little bit of excitement we roamed around the mall attached to Sky Tree for a while. We found a Q-pot stall, the Jump store, Rilakuma shop, and many other nice little places.

_DSC007734  _DSC007031Q-pot even had gacha pon machines!! You put in 500 yen and got a special pin. You could choose to try for a special ‘Sky Tree themed’ one above, or go for the normal one below. I went for the normal one, and got a yellow heart badge with Q-pot written inside. I love it!!

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Then the Rilakkuma store and Jump shop!_DSC0088113_DSC008035By the time we finished at the mall we were absolutely exhausted… so we went got some food from the local seven eleven and went back to our hostels for the night.
But I did get a nice night-time shot of the Sky Tree before heading back to my temporary home!

_DSC009636So there you have it folks! Day one in tokyo!
It only gets more exciting from here. Next up, the Mori art Museum and observatory, the and Hatsune Miku popup cafe!

Living in Iwakura

I don’t think I’ve written much about the place I’m staying at the moment, so before I go any further I’ll tell you a bit about Iwakura! Well it’s on the Northern Edge of Kyoto, surrounded by mountains and forrest. It may seem a little far out from the city on a map, but really the subway only takes about 20 minutes to get way downtown to Kyoto Station, and the area is so calm and scenic and peaceful I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, especially as a student! It’s far enough away from the city to avoid too much distraction, and the dorm I’m living in is conveniently located only a 10-minute walk away from my university. It has all the essentials, such as convenience stores, grocery stores, parks, home-ware and gardening shops, bakeries, cafes, restaurants (there’s a great Indian curry place near the subway station!), and many more places worth noting.
Here are some photos around Iwakura!

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Just outside the dormitory

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The Eiden line line train runs straight past the dorms and the school.Iwakura_20130410_01057

This little guy and others like him guard the streets. I call them “The Iwakura Watch”.
Iwakura_20130410_013615 Iwakura_20130410_014518 Iwakura_20130410_015321Iwakura_20130410_015422 Iwakura_20130410_015623These were from back in early April during hanami (cherry blossom season). This is the river that runs down to the Kokusaikaikan subway station. I walk or ride my bike past it almost everyday. Such a lovely spot. The crickets have begun chirping at night now too! I feel like I’m living in an anime… The area reminds me of some of the scenes in Niea_7.Iwakura_20130410_016726I’m not a creep I swear! These kids were just too darn adorable!
Iwakura_20130410_017430 Some flowers I found in a parking lot… of all places…Iwakura_20130410_017931 The main business area of the town. It’s always a little busier around here, and there are plenty of restaurants!Iwakura_20130410_018332Iwakura_20130410_018533 Iwakura_20130410_019036

Hey there Iwakura Rangers! Protecting the streets as usual I see!

Iwakura itself is really lovely, but the dorm I’m staying in is a completely different story…
I don’t have enough time or patience right now to explain in detail how horrendous the university dorms are, so I’ll save that for another post. But just to give you an idea… here are some photos I took of one of the windows in the kitchen…

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Yup. Most of those back specks are bugs… You don’t even want to see the floor…

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And my creepy hallway on the 5th floor.
Just last night I discovered a mukade (centipede) just near that vacuum cleaner. Lucky this was only a small one (about 12cm), but I hear they can grow to about 30cm! And it isn’t even summer yet! Time to tape the windows people!

Believe it or not it gets much worse than that my friends.
If you’re planning to study at Seika in the future, I would definitely recommend finding your own accommodation if you’re staying for longer than one semester. Four to six months is about all I would be able to take of this place, possibly a year if I really had to… but it would not be pleasant…
On the plus side though, it’s a great way to meet people, especially if you don’t speak much Japanese. There are always plenty of other exchange students around, and often they put you all on the same floor together (at least they did for me!). It’s like a constant party up here on the 5th floor! I think within the first 3 days we were already getting noise complaints… Oops.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Will update again soon with images from the Aoi Matsuri and a trip I had to Kiyomizudera with three friends from my class. Plus I went to a student-run fashion/music parade, and went back to Osaka a couple of times. Plus I’m going to Tokyo tomorrow… BUSY BUSY!!! Still need to get my Nara films developed as well… damn…
Alright better get to work!
I’ll leave you with some outfit snaps of Emma, Wing and I from our Osaka trip.

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We are oh-so pastel!

Glamorous Days

At Seika I’m enrolled in a video class that teaches the basics of Adobe Premiere and introduces us to a number of different styles of video.
Because the class was in Japanese, I had some difficulty these past two weeks trying to understand what our latest projects were . We could choose between “Observe” or “Behavior and Happening,” which I gathered to mean either doing a documentary, or a kind of performance piece and filming it.
I chose to do a kind of documentary of a weekend out in Osaka with my two new friends Emma and Wing. We’re all pretty into Japanese fashion, so we made it into a kind of “Lolita’s exploring Osaka” thing (even though we weren’t wearing that much extravagant clothing. Oops.) But we did eat limited edition Innocent World pies from an adorable shop and shopped until our feet were ready to fall off!
Here is the product. Please enjoy:

Here is the website for the Cafe and the info page about the Innocent World collaboration:

http://gourmet.walkerplus.com/169079056001/

http://innocent-w.jp/15th/info_e.html
If you’re in Osaka at the moment, I would really recommend this place. The cakes were amazing and the strawberry tea was even better! Not to mention the decor! THE DECOR!

Toji Market Day

Almost a month ago now a couple of friends and I went to the Toji Temple Markets. This flee market is held only once a month, on the Toji Temple grounds in Kyoto, on the 21st of each month. Lucky for us, this time it fell on a Sunday, so we didn’t have any university commitments to attend to! やった!

So I bundled up my trusty film camera, dropped a couple of colour rolls into my bag, and off we went!

toji009editUnfortunately it was a bit of an overcast day, and at times it did rain a little, so some of the images are a little grim-looking. But this may have been a good thing, as it kept some of the crowds away! (Also, please ignore the dust on the photos. They were just quick scans)

If you are ever in Kyoto at this time of the month, and would like to visit the markets, I would definitely suggest coming early in the morning! Especially if the market is on a weekend. We got there around 9 or 10am, and by the time we left around 1pm, the crowds were so dense we could barely move, and the atmosphere in general became far less pleasant. (Geez some of these Japanese grandmothers are fierce!)

Anyways, here are some of the lovely foods and goodies we found there.

toji006editDried Strawberries (I got some crystallised ginger from one of these shops. So good!)

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Hand-printed bags (I really wish I’d bought one!)

toji010editClay Animal flower-stands

toji016edit Fat Cat Hangerstoji019edit An array of Japanese antiques, statues and ceramics! Beautiful!toji023edit Traditional Maskstoji030editBeautiful fabrics toji013editAnd of course delicious-looking food! toji035edit toji037editThis place was my favourite. The line was quite long, but they looked so darn good I just had to have one! And they were only 100 yen each!!
Sandwiched between the two pancakes was sweet red bean paste with a small piece of chestnut. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I absolutely love Japanese sweets! So this was a definite highlight for me. A Japanese man even walked past us and tried to explain that these are “very rare” (said in Japanese). I’m assuming this little shop must be quite famous among the locals, as it was the only place with a line!

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There was also a small area at one of the wooden temples where we could pray. People were throwing coins into a wooden box before praying, then before they descended the steps, many people would try to rub the smoke from these incense sticks into their hair, clothes and skin. It was very peculiar to watch. When I asked my Japanese friend why they were doing this, she said “it is good for your head”. She then proceeded to waft the smoke over her, telling me it would be good for her studies. It seemed a little strange, but wanting to experience as much of the culture as possible, I gave it a go too! (Actually it smelt quite nice)

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After battling the crowds for a few hours we finally came to the end of the market. A lot of it was just food and Japanese candies, but if you look hard enough you can find some real gems at these markets! There are heaps of second-hand yukatas and kimonos for only 1000 yen (about $10 AUD), which would be great for anyone looking for gifts, or even for crafters looking for cheap good-quality fabric. I definitely recommend it!

My Trusty Travel Tool

I must apologise to those of you following my blog for my absence these past two weeks. My darling macbook had a little bit of a fit and stopped working on me for a few days (which I suspect may have had something to do with an influx of travel photographs. Oops.)

Anyways, I appear to be up and running again for the moment! I have a bunch of events and projects ready to post about. It’s simply a matter of finding time to write them. I have my first body of work due for Printmaking tomorrow so I’ve been a bit busy trying to pull the whole thing together (the story of which deserves it’s own post).

The final work will be up on my other blog hopefully sometime this week if you’re interested:
http://caseycrockfordphotography.wordpress.com/

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of my trusty pink bike, and a little info on how bikes work in this strange country…

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I bought this pastel-pink beauty at the local hardware store for 8900 yen, plus another 500 yen for registration. The system here with bikes is so different to Australia, and possibly every other country in the world! They are treated more like cars in that they have a kind of license plate in the form of a sticker that you can use to track your bike when it’s stolen or (in my case) abducted by the local police for illegal parking.
If you get caught in this situation in Japan look for a nearby sign from where your bike was taken, with directions to the nearest impound. You bring along your bike key and your ID, and pay about 2300 yen to get it unchained from its sad bike-prison. You also have to fill a form with your name, number, address, etc… This proved a touch difficult for us foreigners, but we managed.
If you want to avoid this, I suggest not parking around train stations between 8am and 6pm, especially on weekends! There is often cheap pay-bicycle-parking at these locations, or you can alternatively find a nearby supermarket or fast-food joint with a carpark and try your luck there. Most Japanese bikes have an inbuilt wheel lock, but to be extra safe I’d buy another loop lock and chain it to a post. According to the Japanese people I’ve spoken to, this tends to deter the police and potential thieves (not that there is much crime in Japan to begin with.)

For a society that uses bikes as such a key form of transport, the road-rules surrounding them are surprisingly vague… and are rarely enforced. It seems bikes count both as pedestrians and vehicles here, riding freely on both the footpaths and roads. I still don’t understand who has right of way at an intersection, so I tend to only cycle on the quieter streets now. Some rules such as not being allowed to cycle with an umbrella or headphones or intoxicated all seem to be ignored, and even more shockingly no one wears helmets! Children under a certain age are required to by law, but after that age you can cycle as fast as you like with as little protection as you want. It’s a little scary if you ask me… but at least I won’t have to worry about helmet hair!