re: Merry Christmas!

Deck the halls with boughs of holly fa-la-la-la…

For most people, the month of December indicates a slew of festivities and a brief respite from the world of work. For myself and most other students, December is a frightening month full of coursework deadlines, exams and revision. Complimenting 2016’s gifts, this year I also have the pressure of applying for jobs, to secure some sort of stable future after I graduate. Quite a stressful way to spend the holidays, but alas, the things we must do.

In any case, I’d like to take the time to thank everyone who reads/follows this blog! Whether you celebrate it or not, hope everyone has a great Christmas break. Take the time to relax for a moment and enjoy the luxury of just doing nothing before scaling the mountain of work again. My housemates and I celebrated with our own little Christmas dinner about a week ago, so it feels a little strange to be doing it again with my family, but I’m excited to return home and have one guiltless day of eating food and watching movies!

re: travelling with friends

A conclusion to Japan.

When travelling with others, there comes an inevitable point where things become a little tense. Personalities clash and even offhanded remarks can touch a nerve. Luckily for us, this was our last day in Japan, meaning we could soon part ways and decompress. However, if this happens in the middle of your trip, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own for a couple of hours or even the day. Providing you’re able to keep in contact with each other and stay safe exploring, it’s a great way to diffuse the situation and make the most of your trip abroad. People are often reluctant to do this, after all, it can be daunting being alone in a foreign place and you planned to go travelling together, right? But sometimes you just have to take time for yourself, be a little selfish and enjoy your time alone!

On a less preachy note, our final day in Japan started in Harajuku, where we treated ourselves to the Monster Café. The interior of this place is amazing, like stepping into a psychedelic Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. There’s four different themed areas that you can choose to be seated in, although it’s worth booking in advance to secure your favourite! Once seated however, you are free to explore the rest of the café, so don’t worry if you can’t get the table you want.

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Food here is more for novelty than taste, you can get rainbow spaghetti or rainbow burgers, but as we had already eaten breakfast, we went for the ice-cream (a tiny disappointing scoop). Our timing was pretty spot on when visiting the café as the ‘Monster Girl’ show started not too long after we ate. It was pretty exciting as I had no idea it was going to happen! It was fun to see the style and make-up of the girls and once the show was over, you were free to take pictures with them. If you’re going to do a themed café, I would recommend this one for its uniqueness and charming design!

When in Harajuku, you must also try the crepes! There are plenty of stalls to choose from, each with a display of 100+ different flavour combinations. The one I always go for includes, matcha ice-cream, strawberries, red bean and mochi balls – I don’t think there exists anything more perfect. To round up the rest of the day, we trekked all the way to Ueno in search for a Japanese souvenir jacket. Finding the shop was tricky, but we eventually stumbled upon it and I nearly fainted at the price! Despite having some money set aside to purchase one, I really couldn’t justify buying one this time around. Instead, I chose to live vicariously through Wesley’s purchase (19,000 yen, roughly £130, dayuuuummm).

Consequently, having quite an ample amount of cash leftover, we decided to go for teppanyaki – a style of cooking that uses an iron grill. The slices of beef we ordered were delicious, the only negative was that there wasn’t more! It was a nice meal to end our trip with, even typing this out now makes me so hungry.

re: soba, so good

cat cafes, fireflies and soba.

Meeting up with my friend Hazel (who chose to study abroad in Tokyo!), we visited her favourite cat café. Although there were many cute, exceedingly fluffy cats (and a kitten!), the space itself was pretty small and so visitors to the café were all politely vying for seating space and attention from the cats. The staff there were super considerate and if you did manage to get a seat, they would often relocate a sleepy cat onto your lap to love forever. With streaming eyes, my visit to the cat café was a short stay, since I was stupid and forgot to take my allergy medication with me.

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It’s like looking into a mirror.

I know I just wrote about having lunch a short while ago, but everyone else was hungry so we stopped by a 100-yen sushi place for second lunch. I love 100-yen sushi and I only wish I ate more of it during my trip! The quality is good, at least much better than the western equivalent Yo!Sushi (second on my list of hated Asian chain restaurants after Wagamama). Speaking of cheap deals, a trip to the 100-yen store resulted in me disregarding my already overweight hand luggage and going a little crazy on stationery – another thing that’s much better in Asia than the UK!

Later in the evening, we took a train to the outskirts of Tokyo for a local firefly festival. Huge crowds surrounded the small stream where the fireflies were released into and having never seen a firefly before it was pretty exciting to spot at least two dancing in the night. Sadly, the festival didn’t culminate in fireflies magically lighting up the vicinity like some whimsical Disney movie, but it was fun to experience the atmosphere of a local festival. Since it was very family oriented and held in a quiet neighbourhood, most stalls, including the delicious looking food vendors, were starting to close by 9.00pm, so we had to catch the train back into Tokyo for something to eat.

Luckily, Hazel knew of a cheap soba place open 24 hours so we all headed there and even though there was only 7 of us, we filled the whole restaurant. I’m not sure if my perceptions were skewed by hunger, but the soba was amazing! Costing only 530-yen for a bowl of soba, rice and some sliced pork belly (there are even cheaper options), this was the most inexpensive and satisfying meal I’ve had in Tokyo so far. Keep a look out for the small unassuming restaurants!

Apologies for the lack of photos in this post, I went on a massive purge through my photo library a couple of months ago and it seems nothing was deemed worthy enough to keep. Why do I do this to myself.

re: Kyoto to Tokyo

a rearrangement.

Arriving in Tokyo in the evening, we were immediately on the hunt for food. An attempt to search for something other than ramen resulted in… ramen. I was happy because ramen is my soul food, but Wesley was starting to get a little sick of it by that point. Wandering around Akihabara at night was interesting to say the least. With many girls dressed in maid/school uniform and business men milling about, it was hard not think of the YouTube documentaries/features on this subject. On a lighter note (ish), we wandered into an arcade where Wesley won a Neko Atsume plushie on the first go, then proceeded to spend at least 1000 yen on trying to win a Pikachu plushie.

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The next morning, we split off into two different directions, Wesley, to Tokyo SkyTree and I to Mori Art Museum. I’m biased, but I’m championing going to Mori Art Museum over SkyTree for a couple of reasons: a) you don’t have to wait in a huge queue for hours b) view strange and thought provoking (or not) pieces of art c) have access to the sky deck for an alternative view of Tokyo. In the time I made my way around ¾ of the museum, Wesley was still in line for the SkyTree! Having made my way round, I went up to the sky deck to view the city from atop. Essentially a huge helipad, there wasn’t many people here, which was nice as you got to enjoy the view without vying for the best viewpoint.

Having some time for lunch, I stopped off at a ramen shop where I got to place my order via machine! I love the culture here where everyone casually stops by a restaurant on their own for lunch/dinner I wish it was more of a thing to do in western countries – eating alone can be fun and relaxing! While we’re at it, can we just bring authentic ramen shops over to the UK too? Recalling the memories of ramen makes me crave it so much!!