Thursday, 25 April 2013

Another little Cat Cafe

Shimonoseki and the Kokura area seems to have recently had a rise in the number of Cat Cafes. I love the idea of them. I've been to a few since being in Japan, often I come across them when I least expect it. Julianne is the person who knows the most about cat cafes in the area, so she took us to a new once which she discovered quite recently. She has been there since all these cats were little baby kittens. She took us there, and it was huge, and not too busy to be honest. There were lots of different cats, especially cute ones with little folded ears. They were adorable, and they were great to play with, and they enjoyed sitting in the sun. I liked this little white fluffy one the best, he was pretty sleepy and playing with some other girls who were there. I took lots of pictures of all of them. We had some nice free tea and coffee, and it was a great break to relax after the aquarium!

We got to pet a penguin!

The great thing about having friends that Japanese is that they can find out more about petting penguins and dolphins. We wanted to sign up for
the penguins, and we were the last group that got to do it that day (only 4 groups can do it in one day!) Our Penguin was adorable, and named Potato.. We got to touch her, feed her and take lots of pictures with her. It was so fun and such a unique experience that we got to have!

Shimonoseki Aquarium

I have been to Shimonoseki Aquarium before, but it was when I first came to Japan, in September. It's been a long time since then, and I think last time, I came all by myself! So this time, we had a good time wandering around and looking at all the exhibits. I really liked the beautiful jelly fish and the fugu exhibit, but they also have a really beautiful tank where you can see all the penguins swimming. We sat there for quite some time, just watching them through the huge, two story glass walls. It was very nice and not busy, for once, which was really great. The penguins are really fun to watch. While we were there, they also had penguin outfits you could try on, so naturally, Sarah and I did. We laughed hysterically for a long time and lots of Japanese people took our photos! They thought we were hillarious! But we were giant penguins after all! We had read that we could sign up to see some of the animals up close a little later, so we signed up to do that after.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A London Bus!

We all met and got some breakfast, before waiting at the station for the bus to the aquarium. Its a nice ride, along the sea, which is really very beautiful. Right near the Aquarium, was a London Routemaster bus. In Shimonoseki, there is one which they used to use as a tourist bus around sights in the city. I've never taken it, but I have seen it driving once. Instead, it seemed to be parked near the aquarium. To be honest, I love red buses, although I barely have ridden on in London, and if I have, they are much more modern versions. James and I found one in Nagoya (which was a cafe) and this one, and both were vintage versions, in great condition. I love how beautiful it was and it made me miss London so much! The girls and I took turns posing in front of it because I was as excited as a little child! I cant wait to go back and see them all the time!

Tiramasu for breakfast

In an attempt to get ready to go to Thailand for Golden Week, I headed by myself down to Fukuoka to do some shopping. Sadly it was raining, I was alone, and I wasnt successful in finding anything new to wear. In the evening, I headed to Ube, and got Pizza (honey and cheese) with Lonna. The next morning, we got up relatively early, and went to meet Julianne and Sarah down in Shimonoseki. Shimonoseki is home to one of the very few (read 2) Starbucks in all of Yamaguchi, so we went there for breakfast. My Tiramasu frappuchino was certainly delicious!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Hello Kitty Donut

This week, Lil and I managed to finally get some to have coffee together, and we decided on Mr. Donut. We got proper hot tea too, which was lovely and refillable. I think in all, we drank about 4 pots of it! We also had some Hello Kitty donuts, this one has orange cream on it. It was just a little donut pop, but pretty adorable! I will say though that it is cute and a nice gimmick, but I miss the Sakura flavoured donuts a lot right about now!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Playing some music in a Temple

We werent quite sure if the guy really meant it when he said we could play the instruments at the temple. They are very ornate and usually only played by people that work for the temple, or monks. But no, we got to go up on the stage and shrine area and try them all out. We played the drums, the cymbals, a stringed instrument, and a confusing clangy steel instrument. He taught us how to do them all and then we got to play al together to make some great music!

A great Temple experience

A little farther down the road, just before we were going to turn back, we discovered yet another temple. Well, origionally, we weren't quite sure what it was, so we had to ask. The nice old lady we asked said, yes, it certainly was a shrine. She went off to get the guy who runs it. He was very nice and gave us a whole tour, and he even spoke English. Pretty great English too! We learnt a lot more about temples and religion in Japan in about an hour, much more that I ever knew! It was a really fun experience. We were the only people there too, so it seemed like we had our own little tour! I really enjoyed the one room which was basically a beautiful greenhouse inside, all of the walls were huge windows and it was full of lovely brown dark wood. We took some photos there, as well as in front of the lovely lake with some cool stone lanterns before we went inside the main temple area.

A tiny temple

Not too far down the road from where Josh lives is a little, tiny temple. It barely takes up the corner of the street, and is quite unkept, which is a kind of strange sight to see in Japan. We figured that it was a shrine for new mothers, as it had little plaques with mothers and babies. It was kind of sad to see it in such disrepair.

A walk through Ando-cho

Saturday night we had dinner with the boys at an All-you-can-eat Brazillian place. The next day was a pretty lazy day, I made Josh breakfast in bed, and then we watched some movies. It was nice and relaxing, but the weather was gorgeous so we knew we needed to get out of the house. We decided to just take a short walk around the area where Josh lives.

The opening of H&M

On Saturday, I went shopping with Sophie with the aim of finding something nice to wear in Thailand. I was completely unsuccessful which was a real shame, but we did manage to go to the opening of the new H and M in Shinsaibashi. There are already 2 huge ones, and this one is equally huge! But so nice and they even had a red carpet!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cute little Hikonyan

The best part of Hikone is the cute little samurai charachter cat which they have there, named Hikonyan. I didnt think we really would get to see him, but they had a special performance! We arrived at just the right time, and got to see him! He came into the room and posed for photos, and played with a flower and a rice cracker. It was pretty adorable, and everyone was oohing and aahhing because he was so adorable!

A rainy, rainy day in Hikone

We headed up to Hikone on Saturday to meet Sam. The rain was pretty terrible. So after getting rain ponchos, we got pretty wet walking to the castle. The castle wasnt very big, but the cherry blossoms were just beautiful. If the sun would have been shining, it would have been so beautiful there. There were lots of weeping type ones over the castle walls and along the river (or moat I should say) which surrounded the castle.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A random little shrine

When mum visited, she said she had seen a cute shrine with Sakura trees from the bus. I never was able to find it, but thankfully, Calvin knew the one that she was talking about. It's very close to my use, but not somewhere I would walk past any given day. It has a little pond outside the main entrance, with lots of koi and a nice little bridge over it. I love traditional Japanese bridges, I think that they are both beautiful and useful! Compared to the Bristol suspension bridge, Its such a differing style! The main temple didn't have anything special inside, that we could tell, but there were nice stone lions guarding it. We didn't stay at the shrine long, but it was nice to finally get there, and there were a few Sakura trees over the car park. It really made me want to get out and about, and explore Hagi a bit more! Who knows where we might go n an adventure next week if the weather is good?

Playing in the Sakura trees

I always want to get up into a Sakura tree and take my photo surrounded by all the flowers and I think it would be fun too. However, most trees are much too high, and I'm not really a tree climbing kind of girl. Thankfully, however, while we were walking among the Sakura trees which line the river in Hagi, we found one with a low trunk and lots of easy branches to climb!

Sakura in Hagi

I was pretty lucky on Monday. As I was heading home for lunch, I ran into all the other ALTs. They only work half days, and we're going to a great little Thai restaurant near my school. It was so yummy, and it's only open at lunchtime, so it was quite a treat! For some reason, Calvin wasn't with them, but he called me after school. We often run errands together, so. Did some errands and then he took me to a place he had read a book in the afternoon, this really cool place at the edge of town. I never would have gone there if he hasn't had a car. The Sakura were amazing there, and lined the river on both sides. It was really a beautiful sight, and they went on for ages and ages! I took lots of pictures, which was great because the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I think I am falling a bit more n love with cherry blossoms, especially the shape of the tree! They really are pretty where there are lots of them all together!

Wetzels Pretzels

Osaka has lots of western food, you just have to know where to look for it! I really had a desire for American food, so we stopped at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream. Later on, we were walking through the streets when we came across an anti-foreigners rally. It was very very heavily policed, and they never shouted at us, but I felt really uncomfortable. After, we went and got a good pizza pretzel from Wetzels Pretzel, which are amazing! And have much more salt than Auntie Annie's!

Heading into town

Part of the reason that I was in such a rush with the Easter eggs was because we had to catch a train. On Sunday's, there are only a few buses to the train station every hour, but there are lots of trains! I took this nice photo of the Sakura near to Josh's local bus stop. I thought it looked really pretty! We were lucky that that weekends weather has ended up pretty lovely, despite rain being forecast. We headed into Osaka, and den-den town, the kinda anime, electronics district. I really wasn't enjoying it. Is nothing like Akihabara in Tokyo, so instead we went to get some curry for Josh and when we arrived, the small restaurant was full. A couple at a booth ( which usually seats 4), were sitting across from each other as you do. When they saw us arrive, they told the server they would move over. They had one side of the booth and we had the other. Usually in Japan, people wouldn't give up seats like that, unless it was a place where it was common. This curry shop isn't often crowded, and it was such a nice gesture!

Painting Easter eggs

On Sunday morning, I had this really good idea to paint Easter eggs. After all, it was Easter. But, I had bought watercolours, and they didn't stay so well. After funny attempts from Josh to stick on the googly eyes with superglue, drying the eggs with a hair dryer, I eventually made this cute little bunny with stick up ears! I thought it was pretty cute too! I made a chick one too, but it didn't dry so well! Josh was such a good sport about it, even though I was rushed, and I made a big mess of his kitchen. Next year, real American Easter egg dye kits....

Caramel Cheesecake with friends

I was so happy, because Josh managed to get a hold of our friends Sophie and Russ, and his friend Caitlyn, and we were all able to meet up in Nara to have dinner. Josh and I had a half hour to spare before meeting them, so we did a half an hour of karaoke ( never knew you could do that!). We ate at this lovely little cafe, where the quesadillas were to die for! Nice and spicy and not soupy! They had warned me to save room for dessert and Im glad I did! It was so yummy! I had a caramel cheesecake, but they came in all sorts of different flavours!

Our date in the park

I had such a nice time in the park, but then again, I always do. I especially love Nara in the spring, when everything is pretty and lovely. We had lunch at a don-don place, and then headed into the main area of the park near Todaiji. The park was really busy, full of lots of tourists and other foreigners also with the same idea as us. I could see why, it was a beautiful day. We were lucky enough to meet up with Julianne and her Mum, who was visiting from America. It was nice to see her, as I havent seen her in ages. Eventually, after feeding some deer, and admiring the sakura, we moved away from the main part of the park. It was an area where I had never been before, with a nice pond, and bridge and pavillion. We stopped there for a while, admiring the flowers and just talking, before wandering over to a huge expanse of grass. It seemed a lot like the Quarry park back in Shrewsbury! I really liked it, and it was surrounded by pretty sakura trees. One of my favourite trees was by the pond, and thankfully, there was a nice large rock right in front of it that I was able to use as a tripod. So, I ended up with this cute photo of me and Josh in our matching burgundy sweatshirts!

Sakura at my favourite Shrine

On Friday, I got out a little early and got to Josh about 2 hours earlier than usual. I was so happy about that! We celebrated by having date night and watching Tron. On Saturday, I slept really late, and then we headed into Nara Park before we were meeting out friends for dinner and Karaoke! It was so nice to see the sakura in full bloom here. I especially love the sakura against something, like a shrine or a specific background. But this torii gate, in Nara Park is one of my favourites, and I love how it looks with the sakura against it! I'm not quite sure what the sign on the gate said, or even the name of the shrine, but its very small and nice and popular, especially during sakura season.

Mikans and Sakura

After Hagi Castle, we tried going to another shrine, but even though we drove around for a long time, we couldnt find a way in. So, instead we went looking for some more trees in Hagi Old Town. I had seen some more Sakura trees near to my school so we went over to check those out too. Its a pretty weird place to plant sakura trees, behind the interenet power station, but nevertheless, they were really pretty! They were the weeping variety, which is pretty in a different way. And one of the trees was very pink! Next to the tree was another tree, a mikan tree. Hagi is really famous for oranges, specifically summer oranges. And they are huge!We took lots of silly photos with an orange we found, and the trees and the sakura! It was funny being silly! Thank goodness none of my students were around to see me eating the sakura instead of the orange!

Some pretty awesome photographs

I was feeling a little down after Mummy left, so Calvin came around on Monday, and we went to Hagi Castle to take some cool photos with the Sakura. He had just bought a new Kyudo (Japanese Archery) bow, and wanted some photos so we had a great time taking photos in the sun and in the sakura forest behind the castle. It was starting to get a little dark, so it wasnt as long as it could be, but the photos were so cool!