Sunday, January 30, 2011

Touring Kyoto: Part 1

I took tons of photos during the tour, so I'll be separating them into two parts. Our first stop was Ryoanji Temple. I was trying really hard to admire its beauty, but it was just way too cold because it was still early morning. The worst part was that we had to take off our shoes and put on slippers. U.U

There were a couple of old buildings along the way to Ryoanji Temple, including a small shop.

Looking back at the entrance to the main area.

This is the rock garden, which was said to be created at the end of the 15th century. In the spring, its background consists of beautiful cherry blossoms. ♥

Right next to the rock garden.

Tsukubai, the stone-wash basin for the tea room. It has an inscription that reads "I learn only to be contented."

On the way back, there was a lady giving out samples of hot tea. It was life-saving! (*´д`*) It was also delicious, so Take-chan bought a pack for me. ♥

Next stop was Rokuonji Temple. Its main attraction is Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion.

The 2nd and 3rd floors of Kinkakuji are covered with gold-leaf on Japanese lacquer. Absolutely breathtaking.

Thought this looked pretty cool. ^__^

I think this waterfall is called "Ryuumon Taki."

On the way back to the bus, we found a little shop that had all these vending machines next to it. This is normal to see anywhere else in Japan, but I was surprised to find them at a temple.

At the little shop, Take-chan got us these. I forgot what it was called, but it was delicious and warm! :3 It's basically mochi with the usual sweet red beans.

Our last stop before lunch break was Kyoto Imperial Palace. This is just one of the many gates surrounding the entire property.

Here's a view of Shishinden, the most important building on the palace grounds. It was used for important ceremonies of state, such as enthronement ceremonies.

The orange accents found on the walls surrounding Shishinden were so pretty.

This is Oikeniwa Garden, which is also located within the palace grounds. It looked so beautiful, even in the winter. ^__^

After Kyoto Imperial Palace, it was time for lunch. We had quite a bit of time to kill until the next half of the tour, so we checked out some shops. Look at these adorable wine decorations! ... Or costumes, more like. xD

And that's pretty much it for the morning portion of the tour! I'll be posting the second half in a few days. (´▽`) I also got an award from Elisa. Thank you very much! ♥

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arriving In Kyoto

Short post today! The morning after Take-chan and I explored Tokyo, we took the bullet train to Kyoto. It took about two hours to get there, and I got to see the more rural parts of Japan on the way! We also passed by Mt. Fuji-san, which looked absolutely gorgeous covered in snow. ♥

Cool centerpiece in the hotel lobby. We stayed at the Hotel Granvia Kyoto, which is conveniently located right next to the station.

One of the views from our hotel room: Kyoto Tower!

Another amazing view of the city with a lovely backdrop of mountains.

This is the view of Kyoto Station and the nearby shops, right as you walk out one of the hotel's side doors. Look at what we found...

A Mister Donut! (´▽`) Finally I would get to try the adorable bear donuts that I kept seeing on other blogs... ♥

Look at all of these amazing sweets... *__* It was only a matter of time until I sunk my teeth into one of those bear donuts. Oh, but guess what! The guy in front of us took the last strawberry bear! It was the one I really wanted to try, too! (*´д`*)

I ended up settling for a normal strawberry donut, which was delicious, just not as cute. xD And for some reason Take-chan and I slept for the rest of the day, which was fine because we signed up for an all-day tour of Kyoto starting the following morning. Please stay tuned for my next post! I'll be showing tons of photos from the tour. ♥

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exploring Tokyo: Shibuya, Harajuku, & Shinjuku

After a fun-filled day in Shibuya, I just had to go back the next morning! I wanted to really scrutinize all of the different stores in 109, and I totally lucked out! While we were at Liz Lisa, Take-chan spotted something. "Hey, isn't that a lucky bag?" I couldn't believe my eyes, but it was (and one of the suitcases at that)! I was sure that they were all sold out by then. However, Nan-chan explained that there were a few leftovers in other stores, so they sent them to the 109 store. There were only three! I was so happy to get one for myself! xD

おはよございます! On the way to the train station.

How cute! Matching fur jackets. Guess where they're headed... Same place as me! xD

After shopping for a few hours, we stuffed all of the shopping bags in a locker and started heading towards Harajuku. On the way, Take-chan got a shiny new letterman varsity jacket to match the one I was wearing from W♥C! (´▽`) Once we reached Harajuku, we bumped into Harry, one of our friends from Cali! He's currently going to school in Japan, so it was really nice to see him again. ^__^ After making plans to meet each other later, Take-chan and I parted with Harry and checked out a few shops before reaching Takeshita Dori. I would've taken more photos, but there were just too many people! We started to feel pretty claustrophobic, and we ended up not staying too long.

Heading towards Harajuku! It was freezing, but it felt so good to walk.

Stopped at a famous kabob place.

The biggest Korilakkuma I've ever seen! *__* Its head is so big that it's sagging off its body. xD

Kiiroitori! Is it too heavy for you, Take-chan? :3

Stopped to eat even more food! This takoyaki smelled way too good to pass up. There was also a long line, so you know it had to be awesome.

And it totally was! Best takoyaki I've ever had. *__* ♥

Finally reached Takeshita Dori in Harajuku!

Cosplay for doggies? This Asuka costume is way too cute! (´▽`)

Later on, we met up with two of Take-chan's high school friends for a dance session in Shinjuku, the same place we were meeting up with Harry. xD There's a certain office building that has tons of windows surrounding it, and a lot of dancers go there just to practice. It was so cold, though! (゚д゚) I don't how everyone could withstand it. Every time Take-chan would take off a layer, I'd put it on to keep myself warm! T__T

Killing some time at an arcade in Shinjuku before meeting up with Take-chan's friends.

Score! :D

More UFO Catcher goodies! Thanks, Take-chan! ♥

We also took purikura! ♥ This machine was my favorite while in Japan. It doesn't make your eyes look too big, and it automatically separates the stickers for each person! We don't have anything like that in Cali. xD Anywho, I'll be posting all the purikura I took separately since my scanner's not working at the moment. U.U

Saw this familiar sight while heading towards the practice spot. So pretty! ♥

Harry introduced us to his lockin' buddies! Even though we just met them, they were incredibly nice to us!

And that was pretty much our day. ^__^ After eating dinner, we had to go back to Shibuya to get all of the shopping bags from earlier and then head home. Tomorrow was going to be an early day...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shibuya 109 & Big Gyaru Me2

Hello, everyone! I'm sad to say that I'm back from Japan, but I had the most amazing time! (´▽`) Take-chan and I only spent about 10 days there, so we tried to visit lots of different places. It might've been too much because my poor Take-chan got sick while we were in Kyoto (probably from fatigue and the extremely cold weather). U.U But luckily, he had a speedy recovery! ♥

So my first impression of Japan: Nostalgic. Even though I've never been to Japan until that moment, there was something about Tokyo that felt so familiar and made me feel that this is where I belong. Plus the warm welcome and hospitality from Take-chan and his loving family made me feel right at home. In fact, I wouldn't have been able to go to Japan in the first place if it weren't for them! So for that, I'm very grateful... ♥ I even got two separate gifts from his parents and grandma for New Year's! All of which I spent at Shibuya 109, of course. xD

The day after we arrived in Japan was Big Gyaru Me2, and I had no intention of letting jet lag stop me. xD In a way, the jet lag sort of helped because I was able to wake up extremely early to get ready. I also got some shopping done before meeting up with the other gals.

Take-chan's dad was very generous to drive and drop us off right in front of Shibuya 109. It was the last day of 7 Days Bargain!

About to enter gyaru heaven... xD

First stop: Liz Lisa! This is Nan-chan, the sweetest shop staff ever! (´▽`) She helped me so much, making my first shopping experience at 109 very enjoyable. ♥

She's so cute!!! I just had to snag her outfit! I bought the same coat and boots that she was wearing. ♥

Next stop was W♥C. It was so crowded in there! (゚д゚) I'm lucky I was able to snap a photo with this shop staff. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask her for her name.

In front of W♥C! The mannequins' hands move slowly as if they're playing the drums. Take-chan thought it was so amusing. xD

Taking a break at SBY. Their treats are really yummy! ^__^

I felt bad that Take-chan was carrying all of my shopping bags, but he kept saying that it was fine. Thanks, baby! ♥

This is one of the shop staff from Golds Infinity. I totally snagged her outfit too... U.U The gals in 109 sure know their marketing!

After shopping, Take-chan and I went back to the entrance to meet all the gals for Big Gyaru Me2. I was very surprised to see a camera crew there! Little did I know that it was NHK's Tokyo Kawaii TV! (゚д゚) I'm so bad in front of video cameras... I must've said a lot of embarrassing things. U.U

With my Diamond sister Bambi and her pretty friend Heather. ^__^

I can't believe I met Sara Mari! She is hands down one of the sweetest gals I know, and she's absolutely gorgeous (just like in her photos)! ♥ A big thanks to her for organizing the meet!

More awesome bloggers! xD Bloomzy on the left and Lou on the right. ♥

Group photo! Look at how cute Sara Mari is! :3

After filming in 109, we met up with more gals and headed over to Eggnam for purikura. Here I am with the beautiful Theresa! Isn't her hair amazing? *__*

I also met Nicola and her lovely friend Katja! :3

And last but not least, Thanh Thao! She is so sweet. ^__^

Inside of Eggnam. It was nice that it wasn't so crowded!

Even their trash can is all glammed up. xD

Another group shot! This time with Tokyo Kawaii TV's camera crew. ^__^

After purikura, the camera crew treated us all to karaoke and non-alcoholic beverages! xD I sat at the same table as Charlotte and Rox. They sang YMCA! It was so much fun! :3 These two lovely ladies also helped organize the meet. Thank you both so much! ♥

Shiena was there too!

She was helping me find the song I wanted to sing. She must've done it about three different times because we couldn't figure out what version it was! I didn't know that there were so many. U.U

Shiena's pretty phone deco. ♥

Our last group photo with everyone! This was taken right outside the karaoke place. I wish there was more time in the day to hang out, but Take-chan and I had to leave. We were going to have an amazing dinner with his family. ♥

We took the train back home. It was my first time riding it! Even though it was crowded, it was a fun experience. ^__^

Sushi feast prepared by Take-chan's mom! She is such an amazing cook. ♥ This is just my plate... Everyone had their own! *__*

Salad. ♥

Apparently these were very expensive! I forgot what they're called, though.

Champagne too?! Man, this dinner kept getting better and better.

And it wasn't just any champagne. ♥

To top it all off, we had macarons for dessert! :3

And I somehow stayed awake for all of this. *__* It was just so much fun! My first full day in Japan was a major success. ♥ Thank you so much, Take-chan, for taking me around!