Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beautiful weather is not good for my productivity

At least on the blogging/scrapbooking front. I mean I’d much rather be outside right now as it has been absolutely gorgeous since I got back than blogging or scrapbooking, frankly. XD; Which is probably good as I tend to act like a computer-hermit, but it’s not very good for my grand resolutions to keep better track of my life (and my Tokyo trip, even).

That being said, while I am slowly accumulating a lot of other things to talk about, I AM determined to at least blog about the trip in its entirety because it was so awesome and this way if I don’t end up scrapbooking for a year I’ll be able to look at my blog and go RIGHT THAT’S WHERE THOSE PICTURES ARE FROM.


Anyway so prior to the actual vacation, Kelsie, Edith and I had had several discussions with each other and various friends who had been to Japan about places we ‘needed’ to go see. Mostly, I wanted to know exactly how long we should be planning on spending in cities other than Tokyo, especially since we’d rented an apartment for the whole trip rather than for specific spans of time. From my girlfriends who had experienced Japan (or lived there) most recommended a day or two (depending on how much food I was planning on eating) and from all the guys… they really liked Osaka so they thought more like 4-5 days! We ended up only going for one day due to scheduling concerns (looming KAT-TUN concerts) and Kat’s whole seeing-a-dead-body-her-first-day-there story. But Osaka was so awesome, and we met such lovely nurses, that when we go back to Japan we’ll definitely spend at least a couple of days there.

Kaiyukan! And Minoru

What Kelsie and I both decided we HAD to see related to water; Kelsie really wanted to see the ocean and I wanted to go to the aquarium, to the point that I’d spammed her with website links until she agreed that yes, the aquarium did look pretty awesome and we should go. Minoru, Rika and Setsuko (and us) had one day transit passes that also included aquarium admission (these were adorable) so after lunch and Osaka castle we made our way towards the aquarium, which involved 3 different trains AND the subway… so I’m extra grateful for them because I don’t know that we would have been able to find it on our own.

The bay was lovely (and by the aquarium) and the aquarium was AWESOME. The water tunnel was not as long as I thought it was (apparently this aquarium is in Yokohama?) but still cool to stand underneath it and see fish swim over you (but this does not translate into pictures very well).

Obligatory picture of 'Kame'. There are a lot of these on my camera.

I did take picture of things OTHER than turtles, but for anyone that knows my fandom interests, I love turtles and take pictures of them, though I would never have one as a pet (the emotional trauma I would experience if it got hurt would not be worth it).

Iconic whale shark... it's on all the merchandise

I didn’t get a picture, but there were these creepy almost 2-Dimensional fish, and Rika, Minoru, Setsuko and I spent almost 5 minutes staring at them waiting for them to blink (not sure why) and when they did it was really gross… like not an eyelid closing more like a vacuum sucking the eye back into the socket… makes me shiver thinking about it. This is probably why I don’t have a picture. Kelsie was confused at the time because she heard all 4 of us go ‘EHHHHH’ really loud when the fish blinked, LOL.

After the aquarium we went for fancy desserts, although this was actually really close to Kaiyukan. Like everything we’d gone to, the attraction was very helpfully surrounded by a mall, LOL. And they were running a sweets festival.

That’s a snow ice sundae! Not even ice cream. Pretty and delicious <3. Ours was mango chocolate with mochi :D. Rika and Minoru and Setsuko had a green tea mochi snow ice, which was also delicious (and gigantic). In our battle to try to pay for ourselves we lost AGAIN even though Kelsie managed to hand money to the poor cashier first, Rika yelled at the cashier and made her give the money back so they could pay >_>;; Someday they will come to Canada and we will pay for them!

After the aquarium we went to Osaka tower for drinks and dinner and this weird type of gambling that I was half-decent at, but if we’d realized we could have redeemed all the little balls for candy we’d have done that instead of playing all of them >_>. Oops! Rika and Minoru seemed to think it was really funny to keep putting 100Y coins in the machine to prevent us from leaving. For dinner we had kuchikatsu and cocktails (or beer, for the truly Japanese) XD; which was delicious and deep-fried though at some point our guides stopped telling us what we were eating… and waited to see our expressions. Needless to say I *DID* eat everything… and so did Kelsie. But if she couldn’t finish something because it was gross I did, LOL.

Beef.... 'challenge'. This was not very comforting, and it tasted very odd.

And that was pretty much Osaka! So awesome! Oh, one more thing because we did end up talking about it for the rest of the trip. We had so much fun with Setsuko, Rika and Minoru that we ALL lost track of time and had to run for the subway in an effort to make our Shinkansen… we cut it very close, made it to the station with about 4 minutes to spare and then started sprinting for the gates… didn’t make it though as Kelsie nearly twisted her ankle from running in flip-flops and I was not going without her! So we ran up 2 flights of stairs, through Osaka station (which is big), through the gates (the security guard told us we could make it), up an escalator and arrived on the platform right at the ticket time… just to see the doors close. Because everything in Japan leaves RIGHT ON TIME. Breathing heavy from hauling ass, we went back down to exchange our tickets and saw our guides waiting for us! Rika and Setsuko almost cried because we missed the train, but we assured them it was OK, as we could book tickets on the train in 40 minutes and we weren’t paying for the individual ticket.

Needless to say we were VERY early for the the train the next time we took the Shinkansen, LOL.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wait, backtrack, not ready to leave Tokyo behind…

Just got the first half (!) of my pictures developed for hopeful scrapbooking this week (if I can keep myself motivated) and I am now struck with the urge to post about the trip although at this point it has already been over for 3 days. :(


Kelsie and I made it home safely, but not without like 3 hours of turbulence on the Tokyo – LA flight, and then frustration in LAX (again). But more on that later. As I’m sure most of my f-list knows, we spent the whole last week (just about) at the KAT-TUN concerts, and as we spent a LOT of time at Tokyodome we didn’t take nearly as many pictures… I mean other than the first day and then when all the KAT-TUN posters went up, but otherwise the amount of picture taking drastically decreased. But I haven’t really posted since before we went to Kyoto (and I don’t think I posted about Osaka at all) so … well let’s start with Osaka. XD;


Bento breakfast!


First off, this is PROBABLY when Kelsie and I started eating too much katsu-don, for the record. In any case, it was a very good thing that we had the JR Rail Pass which allows you pretty much unlimited non-NOZOMI Shinkansen use as we went to Osaka on a Saturday, forgot the rapid line didn’t run on weekends, and ended up missing our morning Shinkansen by about 10 minutes. Major oops. Luckily the nice officer at the ticket counter re-booked our tickets and reserved seats for the train immediately after so we had time to grab bentos (the lovely katsu you see there) and sit on the train waiting for it to leave.


Let me say, I LOVED the Shinkansen. Looked like a plane, almost as fast as one, and enough leg room. Plus, the trays didn’t move when someone leaned their seat backwards. Why can’t plane seats do that? I hate getting hit after meals when they haven’t cleared trays yet. Anyway, experienced the odd sensation of ear popping due to the speed I think… and then after the first hour I fell asleep. So totally missed Maihama and a few other stops in between after Shin-Yokohama. Oops.


Going so fast my ears popped... didn't get a good view of Mt. Fuji though, sadly!


Thanks to Kazumi, we were lucky enough to meet our guides in Osaka, Rika, her boyfriend Minoru, and Setsuko who Rika had described as her ‘English-speaking friend’. This turned out to be a GODSEND and the Public Health Department had been trying to call Kelsie and I to make sure we didn’t have any swine flu symptoms as Japan had just confirmed their first case… and of course it was someone who had travelled to Alberta. Setsuko was able to tell the agency for us (in Japanese) that we were feeling fine, and no, nothing ‘suspicious’ appeared to be happening (ways swine flu had at this point sidetracked my trip somewhat = 3).


Minoru, Kelsie, Me, & Rika @ Osaka Castle


Our tour guides were absolutely amazing ♥ ♥ ♥. We hiked to Osaka castle, opted out of actually going all the way up as it was about 35C and ridiculously sunny at this point, and then walked through the park before getting lunch as Kelsie and I had asked for something that was ‘really good in Osaka’. I would like to point out that it was VERY gratifying to see Minoru, Rika, and Setsuko take out maps. Kelsie and I no longer felt like losers for needing to pull ours out every 10 minutes in Tokyo. XD;




I liked Okonomiyaki which is weird as I normally hate cabbage and won’t eat it, but this was delicious and a lot of fun! Very odd to have beer with lunch but Setsuko reassured me that this was ‘very normal for the Japanese’ and I liked Japanese beer a lot more than Western stuff. Not that I’m a fan of beer. Okonomiyaki was very fun to cook and I managed to flip my pancake over with no splatters! Kelsie accidentally hit Minoru with a flying bit of cabbage but we all thought it was funny, and there were no stains, so it was okay. :)


I have a lot more to talk about / squee about but this entry is getting kind of long so it will have to wait until later. I’m still a teeny bit jet-lagged so I think I am going to take a nap! And then maybe go for a walk. :D

Friday, May 15, 2009

Best 3 Hours of My Life

KAT-TUN concert was AMAZING. Did not feel like 3 hours had gone by at all. Can’t even process what we just watched, but my brain is just like &hearts; &hearts; &hearts;

Memorable Highlights:

  • Opening with RESCUE and ONE DROP = EPIC
  • Kame free falling from the top of Tokyodome = heart stopping
  • Jin joining Junno for Junno’s solo
  • Ueda playing the piano – really well – and hitting all his high notes
  • My Angel, You Are Angel &hearts;

Didn’t like Jin’s solo – too distracting, wanted CARE, and/or a live Crystal Kay. Actually, we met the female back dancers after buying con goods in the morning strangely enough… Kelsie and I were sitting at the station and they wanted to look through the book. Very strange.

THEY ARE SO MUCH HOTTER LIVE. I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where does the time go? @_@

It’s already the 15th!! I’ve been uploading and posting pictures, but no blogging as despite coming home earlier (between 9-11ish as opposed to 10-1AMish…) I think Kelsie and I are still mostly tired and exhausted though this trip has been SO worth it. It’s been a busy last 5 days, at times frustrating. We had a wonderful day with Kazumi and Tomo again on the 10th, and then on the 11th Kelsie got tonsillitis and we spent 5 hours at a clinic… neither of us were in very good moods that day and we ended up spending most of the day apart (though she got to see Junno, and I went shopping so maybe we both needed the break). Found Tokyodome on the 12th, FINALLY went to see Kyoto on the 13th, and spent yesterday wandering around freaking out about getting KAT-TUN tickets (which ended up falling through but I got another set of tickets anyway :D).


So pictures only for now, as I have to get ready. First con tonight!!




Saturday, May 9, 2009

Too much to post about, not enough time to sleep…

Man I think I am like 2 days behind now (in posts AND pictures). The last 2 days have been fantastic, so maybe I will just do posts on each thing I want to talk about, but we have done SO much in the last 2 days… I think we are both running really tired but it is so worth it. And at least we are sleeping REALLY well at night, LOL.

Day 3 was our second day on our own, and while Kelsie and I had initially planned to do Marunochi to see the Imperial Palace and then Yokohama, our plans ended up changing when I tried to ‘reserve’ a tour time for the Imperial Palace… since it’s closed a lot in May for various holidays and all the ones we COULD make were full. Up early enough, so we decided to do Harajuku and Yokohama, but that eventually changed to Harajuku, Nishi-Ogikubo for an afternoon, and Shibuya as it was raining (always).

Thus the day turned into a Johnny’s-filled day. Obviously our plan was to (hopefully) FIND the Johnny’s store even if we didn’t get in because we were leaving late, take a peek at how much the tickets for the con were costing, and do a little bit of shopping. Also, to find the giant KAT-TUN billboard in Shibuya and take a gratuitous amount of pictures with it.

So how did Harajuku go…?


Awesomely! We had crepes for breakfast (which were huge, super sweet, and mine ACTUALLY HAD A SLICE OF CAKE IN IT) and then wandered around until we found Gokuradoh, and the shop owner there was nice enough to draw us a map directly to the store. About a 10 minute walk/hike later (Harajuku seems like it’s all hills) we saw the shop and a couple of employees in navy blue hoodies with the Johnny’s logo standing outside. I am pretty sure Kelsie and I started for a minute before the employees were like ‘Dozo…’ and waved us in. The shop was SO HOT inside but we ended up spending like 30 minutes in there anyway getting shop photos. No guesses as to who mine mostly are :P. The system was amazingly efficient *_*. Once we were done writing down all the quantities of the different sheets, I think it took the girl ringing me up a total of 7 minutes to enter the numbers, find the photos, count them up, and hand them to me. Totally ideal. Plus, the ‘embarassing yellow bag’ was small enough to fit into my purse :)

We spent another couple of hours in Harajuku just shopping, bought some paparazzi photos from Gokuradoh (which was equally hot, less efficient, but had a really cute [male!] shop assistant there to help us) before we headed back to Nishi-Ogikubo for lunch… as Kelsie and I were not about to haul all of the stuff we bought for another 6-8 hours before being able to put it down.

And then… Shibuya. I did eventually want to go clothes shopping (this still has not happened) but we were both very excited as one of Kelsie’s friends had gone the day before and had LOTS of pictures of the billboards (and random things, which you will see shortly).


Saw the KAT-TUN poster, and I think it made our day. And it suddenly hit that we were GOING TO SEE THEM LIVE. We took about a million pictures of the poster from different angles as we are both losers, but it was worth it. We then started our search for an HMV to buy the album, as they are having a 20% off sale if you buy two (which we would be). We didn’t find the album but what we did find….


Shige and Yamapi’s disco suits from the Koi no ABO PV. You can see Kelsie standing next to Yamapi’s suit, which holy cow, was a LOT shorter than we were expecting. This led to a search for the other 4 costumes as we were both wondering how tall (short) Ryo was if YAMAPI was only as tall as Kelsie…


Really short apparently. For reference, I am 155 cm (5’1”) and even taking into account the raised platform the costumes were on, Kelsie and I were pretty sure that Ryo’s suit’s shoulders were maybe JUST above mine.

So now, obviously, we are excited to guess at how tall KAT-TUN is in person, since NEWS is apparently more petite than we thought. :D

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Being On Our Own…

So due to unforeseen scheduling and weather conflicts, Kelsie and I ended up being completely on our own the whole day, which meant that (more or less) we were responsible for figuring out what we wanted to do, and how to get there. I’m sure this probably sounds really easy, but as we spent our first day lost in Shinjuku after a LONG flight, we were both a bit nervous… and yesterday Kazumi and Tomo pretty much planned our day and led us around, this was a big change.




I think we did pretty great! We found Ueno park (and zoo) on our own, had a really cheap (and cute) breakfast there, took a monorail (fun!) and saw the Zoo. We also went to Akihabara, which was less exciting and more exasperating than I thought it would be but this was probably due to several things: my interest in anime has waned, the sex/AV shops were creepy (and we seemed to end up near a LOT of them) and every electronics store we went into had lots of stuff but got unbearably hot as we went up more and more floors. Had a bit/lot of heartbreak seeing the new pink Sony touchscreen cameras… wanted one really badly but with the exchange rate the camera would have been about 500$ CAD without a warranty at all… so alas I will have to wait until they come here. I also really want a Japanese unlocked cell phone but I already knew that was not a possibility, so the heartbreak wasn’t as bad ;).




We also went shopping in Ikebukuro which improved BOTH of our moods greatly, and I found purses for my sisters, makeup for me, and shoes (for me). My feet were really swollen by the end… I am used to having to wear shoes for 14+ hours, and being on my feet for most of the day, but not in strappy shoes! I ended up buying sneakers and another pair of flats just so I could change them… tomorrow I am taking a break from strappy shoes.




We also made it home, stopping at Shinjuku station, without getting lost. Both of our feet hurt so we had planned to just eat at Shinjuku before returning to Nishi-Ogikubo, but were thwarted by busy restaurants and then accidentally going to a bar… that didn’t serve food. We ended up eating at ‘American Diner’ right at Nishi-Ogikubo station which was cute, tiny, and cheap… but the food and decor was an interesting mix of Italian/Irish. Also, our waiter was very cute :D.


Tomorrow the plan is for Yokohama and Marunochi!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today was the most amazing day ever…


SO amazing that my head is having a lot of trouble slowing down and processing all the information. Today was the first ‘real’ day of the trip as yesterday was either spent on a plane or on a train on the way to the apartment.

And it was AMAZING. Kelsie and I were up really early so we went exploring our little tiny neighbourhood which was SO quiet and had a nice breakfast at one of the many cafes near the apartment. We also did a bit of ‘essential’ shopping and managed to find about 6 different combinis… and then decided that we could both spend at least half of our vacation in combinis and be perfectly happy.

At 11AM, we met Kazumi at Nishi-Ogikubo station. I met Kazumi about 2 years ago at a CNSA conference; we were Facebook buddies since then and when I told him that I/we were going to Japan, he was nice enough to offer to meet up with me! I assumed that this was just going to be for lunch, and then Kazumi would send us on our way. Fortunately for Kelsie and me, I was very wrong. This made the day AWESOME. Kazumi was first WAY too nice about paying for food (coffees) and then explained the SUICA pass (finally!) and walked us through buying the passes (we learned that the ticket machines have English instructions). We then met up with one of this friends Tomo, who was very nice, very tall, and VERY skinny. And who immediately apologized that his English was ‘very bad’ though Kelsie and I would spend the rest of the day reassuring him that his English was actually very good (and better than Kelsie’s basic Japanese and my non-existent Japanese).

We went for lunch in Shinjuku which Tomo ended up paying for despite our protests and attempts to give him money; exchanged our train passes, and then started on the walk to Tokyo University, where Kazumi and Tomo are both working on PHDs… in nursing and pharmacy (Kelsie: They are REALLY smart, holy). At Tokyo University we got to tour the nursing faculty, meet one of Kazumi’s professors, meet several co-PHD students, and download and print directions for all of our ‘sight-seeing’ on the trip thanks to Kazumi’s kindness - we assumed that that would be it for the day with them and we’d be on our own. Very, VERY wrong. I think they both took our list of things we wanted to see as a challenge and thus took us to as many places as possible in one afternoon.

The list:

  • Inokashira Park (near Nishi-Ogikubo)
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Meiji Temple
  • Imperial Palace
  • Yokohama
  • Yoyogi Park
  • Ueno Park & Zoo
  • DisneySea
  • Shinjuku Green
  • Rainbow Bridge
  • Joypolis

The Districts:

  • Shibuya
  • Shinjuku
  • Asakusa
  • Harajuku
  • Ginza

We managed to hit all the districts, Meiji temple, and then Kazumi managed to track down someone to tour us around Osaka and we learned that Tomo worked about 5 minutes from Tokyo Tower…. and wanted to take us there!

Asakusa was AMAZING, Meiji shrine was fantastic even under construction, and then to meet more of their friends for drinks…

And the best part?


Actually… that part is also AWESOMELY COOL but I think I need another day to process and post everything…

More entries to come!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Transit…

So Kelsie and I survived our first flight to LAX, and we’re now past the second round of security and waiting another 2 hours for our flight… I suppose we could have spent more time outside but we both just wanted to sit and get it over with. Experience thus far: pretty decent, Air Canada flight was fine, the touch screens are interesting though it both took us a few minutes to figure out where to plug in our headphones… watched Marley and Me which made me a bit teary, but otherwise it’s been quite pleasant.


We also walked outside to get to our terminal, and holy crap was it hot. At least it felt a lot hotter than home, especially once we got off the air conditioned air craft.


Got a lot at Duty Free (much better selection than the one in Calgary) mostly Dior … :) of course. 2 Eyeshadow quints, 4 lippies… Kelsie pretty much laughed at me but it’s a much better deal than getting it at home! Not to mention I got quints that aren’t available in Calgary, 673 Earth Tones (which I’ve spent ages looking for) and 859 Graphic Lights.  They had the Pearly Lilas quint which looked Gorgeous but it was out of stock :(. The SA at the Duty Free was fairly sure they’d have it on our way home… crossing my fingers!


Also: ate McDonald’s for lunch which… blech. The fries were pure grease and while the chicken nuggets were OK, they were also much MUCH greasier than at home…



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On the other hand our SAL flight to Tokyo was pretty amazing. Cramped, but amazing. Hot face towels before lunch and a ‘light meal’ (which was also huge), pillows and blankets, and free liquor!\


Will post more and pictures tomorrow, time to collapse now!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Things That Happen at 4 AM…

Picture 010

If I happen to look at all awake in this picture it is because I am very excited that

[1] My Japan trip is on MONDAY!!!

[2] It is almost 5 AM as I type this so it means I get to go home in 2.5 hours. If you ever see my twitter, you will probably notice (or end up noticing) that I count down frequently.

I normally don’t mind working nights but it was SO HARD coming to work today knowing that yesterday everyone was sure I was going to get the night off… and I hadn’t slept at all today since it was beautiful out (and I weirdly had a lot of energy…) so I am, now, of course, exhausted. Not that it matters…. I still have to be awake and on top of things for these last 2.5 hours!

Working nights is weird. Even in a hospital, most units and departments tend to slow to a crawl as patients sleep, the exceptions of course being the Emergency Room and, where I work, the Intensive Care Unit. Some nights even we slow down a bit… you still have all the same hourly tasks but there isn’t as much of an urgency in the air. Tonight, not so much. 2 admissions later and I think my entire hallway is out of energy and running at half-speed…

So on my last break I went to a (usually) quiet hallway between the hospital and the medical school, stretched myself out under a borrowed blanket (they get washed after, no worries), stuck my iPod in my pocket and tried to nap… this was unsuccessful. I can’t sleep on nights. I did feel better having lain down for about 45 minutes but as soon as I got back my patient decided it was HER turn to make 3 different RNs run around… lots of fun.

Although as L, one of our MDs put it, at least the night goes by faster when you’re busy. I suppose for most nights I’d rather be busy than bored, but honestly at this point I’d rather be bored.

I’m really not sure where I was going with this. Just a random snippet into what my work-life is like sometimes I suppose.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Testing Windows Live Writer…

Finally gave into Yumeko’s requests for a travel-blog, but as she can’t comment on LJ I’ve started a blogspot account… seeing if this works so I can be lazy and only post once!