Japan Assorted

Odaiba, Tokyo:
Those boats are restaurants. Romantic, right?!
A big game arcade.
Sumo game which I played and lost (sad face).image[3]image[2]
Japan obligatory, purikura  (or in my language, “sticky photos”) where you can thin your face, enlargen your eyes, change their color and much much more!
Japan famous Kobe duo performing at Odaiba, Tokyo:
Tokyo art students’ exhibition. Is there anything more beautiful than seeing creativity at work?
First time trying Taco Bell (in Tokyo-go figure). Verdict? Good! Much prefer the soft tortilla to the crunchy corn one though.
I’m not sure if you know, but I take all of my photos with my iPhone so I apologise for the low quality of the night photos. I hope you can still see the purple reflection of the ferris wheel though.
Osaka somewhere:
Delicious Pakistani food and immaculate service. Click HERE for more details.
One last time at Osaka station:
My favorite, Moku Moku:
Suita Green Place, Oasis supermarket:
In other words, Japan has it all!

Osaka’s Top Ten Instagrammed Foods

Believe it or not, Osaka’s humble tacoyaki (octopus balls) isn’t that popular anymore. As Osaka’s hipster scene continues to grow, so do the number of foodie pictures from these super popular, you-won’t-be-able-to-get-a-seat joints.

Behold, Osaka’s hottest and most Instagrammed foods:

Mostly for their gloriously overfilled sandwiches but also for their super fluffy pancakes. Always busy but I guarantee it’s worth the wait. Takeaways also available. image[2]image[13]
2.  w a d 
Who knew ICE could look and taste so nice? If you’re unfamiliar with kakigori, it’s a Japanese shaved ice dessert flavoured with syrup. Though at wad, it isn’t a cheap food vendor buy. Instead, it is both prepared and presented with absolute class. No wonder locals just can’t get enough.
image[4]image[5]image3. SATURDAYS SURF NYC
Except in Osaka (and one in Kobe). This place screams “salty” for not only is it very minimalistic but also super hip.
4. Fielder’s Choice Salad Bar
Like subway except for salads and not like subway at all cos so much better. image[7]image[6]
5. Streamer Coffee Company  
I swear on my Mother’s life (sorry mom!), here is where I drank the best freakin’ coffee of my life. image[4]image-4
6. All Day Coffee 
Always Instagrammed alongside one of their infamous slogans: life begins after coffee, but first coffee and coffee and love taste best when hot.
7. Brooklyn Roasting Company 
Good coffee and everyone seems to speak English here. Also, the nicest outdoor patio with a gorgeous river view.image-46image-31imageimage[2]8. Smorrebrod Kitchen
Probably the most Instagram worthy of all. Located in the Osaka library building which (the library) is also worth checking out. These guys also do incredible cabinet food which are served on the most beautiful wooden boards.image[7]image[4]image[2]9. City Bakery 
For next-level baked goods.image[1]image-45image-4410. Camp Curry
For their vegetable packed curries, frying pan plates and shovel spoons.

A Speck Of Dust Inside A Giant’s Eye: Osaka At Night

I went to the most epic salad bar of my life for dinner last night and on the walk back to the station, I got lost having gone the opposite way and ended up in Shinsaibashi, Osaka’s main shopping area. I had been there before but never alone and never this late at night. When I finally arrived home after sightseeing (ahem shopping) for a while, my special friend (hehe don’t ask) asked me to describe to him my favorite sight of the night. This, with a few minor grammar adjustments is what I replied:

To be honest, I liked the look of the luxury dresses in Dolce and Gabbana but all I could think about when I looked at them was the image of the poor little staring boy recently rescued from the rubble in Syria. How can one nation and some people be so filthy rich (myself included) when others not only have nothing but live everyday in fear of their life?

I enjoyed walking through the busy city with my headphones on playing Dido. Do you know her? Her voice is really calm. I felt like my life was a movie. In a way, it was as if I wasn’t really there but viewing it all (the people, the lights, the concrete jungle) from the outside.

Tonight, I saw the most people I have ever seen in my life. There was just so many of them. I wondered about their life and their hopes and their dreams and their struggles. What made them smile and what kept them up at night. I thought of how interesting and unique we all are and how imperfectly beautiful.

I took delight in seeing beautiful women in fashionable dresses and high heels zoom past me on road bikes. Catching just a glimpse of their attractive face with their long straight hair dancing behind them in the night lights felt like the meet cute of a romantic drama. And of course, I enjoyed the heavily cologned businessmen carrying fancy briefcases, lit cigarettes and/or vending machine coffee who flashed me an attractive smile.

Japan is a very fortunate country. I only saw one homeless person the entire night. Everyone seemed happy. Or at least, I only noticed the smiling ones. They were either family members on holiday trying not to get lost or selfie-taking loved ones or Japanese themselves out for a Friday night. Again, because everything was so busy and so full-on, I felt I wasn’t actually there but merely observing from the outside. And for the first time in my life, I enjoyed being alone really really alone after a long time of wishing I had someone.

“…Is this you saying you don’t need no man?”

Haha no. It’s me saying I can handle waiting for you.

Osaka Must-Eats

In the past week, I have dined at two next-level contemporary eateries in Osaka which you OUGHT to know about and hopefully try out for yourself. The first one is Smorrebrod Kitchen  located in the Osaka library building and the second is NORTHSHORE a 10 or so minute walk from it. Both boast a mouthwatering menu, a beautiful ambiance, saliva-inducing sandwiches and citrus infused water. Oh how I wish I lived in this city so that I could go back again and again and again. Pleaaaase go in my place.

Smorrebrod Kitchen 
I ordered the fish set menu which happened to be shrimp that day. It came with a cold corn soup, a fresh crisp salad and a fancy shrimp dish (see below). To drink, I had homemade ginger-ale with real ginger. Mmmm. And citrus-infused water! The menu was in Japanese but the handsome waiter explained everything to me in English. I read food magazines and soaked in the positive ambiance. Just gorgeous. After, I sent my pictures to SK’s Instagram. They replied with: “Thank you for your message. I’m so happy. Come back anytime.” Don’t worry SK, I WILL!
I actually heard (well, read) about Northshore at Smorrebrod Kitchen (in a food magazine). So I guessed it would be popular but I didn’t realize that we’d have to wait for a table for about 40 min at 3pm! That’s not even remotely lunch-timeish! However, it was so worth the wait. In fact, I would even wait 3 hours. Yes, 3! It was that good. Ashleigh and I shared the egg and vegetable sandwich and the very berry pancakes. The tropical pancakes also looked good! The menu here was in English and almost all the staff could also speak it. The menu items can easily be shared but who can resist ordering one thing anyway? So good. Oh and the view! Oh the view. If there is anything I do before leaving Osaka it’s going here again!

The More I Live The Less I Fear

Do you remember Yasu? My ex-neighbour that was too shy to talk to me for a year but then became my best friend? Well, she came to visit me in the big city and we had a blast together and I showed her my new favorite places. In saying that, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of this (see below picture) which made me think… (don’t say I told you so!) that the countryside does have its benefits. For one, I am spending a lot of unnecessary money here. Mostly on over-priced drinks (oops) and it’s hard to walk past a top that’s been reduced by 80%! I also can’t help but feel body conscious with the crazy amount of advertisements everywhere. However, I still believe the more I live the less I fear.

Osaka Expocity

I chose to walk to Osaka EXPOCITY (a newly built amusement park/shopping mall featuring Japan’s largest ferris wheel) today. My GPS said it would take 1 hour and 19 minutes. When I told my Japanese friends, they were mortified. But “WHY” they questioned. You see, Japan has the world’s best transportation system. Their trains are so unbelievably convenient that it doesn’t make sense to travel another way. However, seeing as I’m a New Zealander (as well as a world citizen) I did what Kiwis do best and just tackled the journey.

As I walked and walked I thought and thought. Some good, some bad, some unnecessary. I thought about how I am quickly running out of money and how I should probably start budgeting and I thought about my family and how I wish they were going with me – in saying that, I was very very lucky to join my ex-colleague and her super-adorable kids.

As I neared EXPOCITY, I started seeing groups and groups of young girls and attractive young couples. Now I must say, Osaka has some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I think it’s because they make a big effort to look pretty. Which I personally don’t think is a bad thing! Their outfits are always on point and their hair and make-up lovely. But sometimes I forget this. I see them and their perfect straight hair and super slender figures and I feel too big. Today, when I finally arrived at EXPOCITY, for the first time ever, I did a thing. I looked down at my legs which I’m often criticising and I said out loud, like a crazy lady, I said, thank you. Thank you for being fit and healthy and thank you for carrying me. Then I had one hell of a day!
image[4]Food: natural granola, honeydew melon, dried mandarin and walnuts with almond milk for breakfast, frozen raspberry and condensed milk after my walk, soba lunch, almond-milk latte, fresh gelato – I had adzuki (red beans) and milk with matcha (green tea) and last, a simple dinner of wholewheat crisp-bread, raw walnuts, watermelon and goat’s cheese.

Last, about EXPOCITY: I would say take a lot of money. Everything costs. I loved the Ferris Wheel. A shop-assistant told me the night view is even better so I’m hoping to do that before I leave. It’s definitely a good place for young children… and of course, very busy so better to go at 10am when they open and have an early lunch shortly after before the queues get too crazy.

Make A List

If you haven’t heard of Dallas Clayton, you’re missing out (big time!) so please check him out here right NOW!

Welcome back! Isn’t he an unfairly talented guy? To me, he is a huge inspiration. I only wish to inspire like he does. Last night, when I was pondering my new found smile, I came across Clayton’s latest work of art:
How could I have missed something so simple? I mean, I was trying my best to live a good life, the countryside was so beautiful. I’d started new hobbies including cycling and yoga and made unexpected friends like this ojichan (old man) and yasu. But that didn’t mean I was actively engaging in activities I knew I loved. I know this sounds vain, I really do, but in this city, I am happy because I am filling my day with activities I know that I like. I am exercising (not sitting on my bottom for 8 hours straight in a suffocating room), walking walking walking (not driving for one hour to get groceries, alone), eating healthy, dressing pretty, writing in artsy cafes, appreciating diversity, purchasing freshly-made green smoothies and enjoying the odd glance from a boy. My new life makes me feel alive and it makes me feel young!

So how about you? What makes you happy? Painting? Drawing? The ocean? Cooking? Dining out? Road-trips? Building Lego? Dancing to the Beatles? Collecting fruit-stamps, watching old movies?

Are you doing it? Could you be doing it more?

Material Girl

Everyone has specific stuff they like. Some people like to spend their money on video games, some on cars, others don’t have any money to spend at all, I know this stuff. For me it’s salad packs and raw nuts. I am so happy here in the city. So happy to be around healthy foods and soy chai! So much so, that I’ve started feeling guilty about my new found goofy smile. I think, What’s the catch? I don’t want this chapter to end! I want to stay forever. Yuka, can I?

In other news, I have started learning a new tongue, the language of Manato-san:
Kan kan – rail way gate thingy
Mui mui – insect
Booboo – car
Bus – bus
Densha densha – train
Wanwan – dog
Jaja – sound of water
Naynay – no/finished
Juice – juice

Pictures from top to bottom: breakfast(homemade granola, banana, walnut, pistachio and cacao nibs), kale green smoothie, a quiet day at Umeda (Osaka station), city rooftop garden (12th floor), Studio Ghibli store, natural-food buffet at Moku-Moku farm on the 10th floor of Lucua (I had two plates AND dessert!), more city snaps, beautiful beautiful salad porn, a light dinner (goats cheese, smoked salmon, dill) and last, coffee with organic dark chocolate.

Time For An Apology

An apology and a thank you.

A big fat juicy thank you to my dear friend Yuka (first my older sister’s friend after doing a high-school exchange in rural New Zealand) for allowing me to stay.

I believe very few people can truly understand how happy I am to be here. Really, you may think me melodramatic or this an exaggeration, but I almost feel as if I’ve fled prison! My soul is rolling on the grass and my heart is breathing in mouthful after mouthful of fresh air.

Before beginning my apology, I’d like to say that no one forced me to sign up for the JET programme. As continuously reiterated to participants, each JET experience is different. This is because, as expected, the lifestyle and mannerisms of each student, school, Japanese teacher(s), contracting organisation and geographical location will differ – in both good and bad ways. Without getting into specifics, my experience happened to be extremely unpleasant (put politely). However, as you may have seen from my previous posts, I tried my best to make the most of it – my life. I made many friends of all ages and partook in various activities every-single-day. Again, no one forced me to stay, I could have left at any moment. However, I felt a strong responsibility to my students, colleagues and myself to see things through to the end. Even through the difficulties and even through the heartache. And though I made some unforgettable memories with my dear students and friends, I still finished my contract with a heart full of sadness. Sadness at mistreatment, of lack of apology and of prejudice. I felt disheartened because I felt I had so much to give. For goodness sakes, I was an ENGLISH major. English was my passion. English is my passion. Still, I was underutilised and unappreciated. I remember thinking to myself that if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience, it’s to never ever be unproductive.

As for my apology, again, I would like to first thank Yuka. For in the mere three days that I have lived in Osaka, I have felt more good energy and positive vibes than I had for a year and four months. I had so many back-to-back negative experiences that I’d convinced myself I hated Japan. I couldn’t understand how others were having a pleasant time here. Weren’t they being stared at everywhere they weren’t? Wasn’t the doctor refusing to treat them because he or she didn’t speak English? Weren’t they turned away every time they went to class? Weren’t they frowned upon for wearing a singlet, riding a bike, having their hair out?

Osaka is a wonderful city. I mean, I have only experienced a small part of it but what I have seen emits great spirits. People are always out and about. They have blonde, purple and blue hair. They sport tattoos and piercings alongside formal and traditional attire. Mothers ride their bicycles in floral dresses as their loose hair dances out back and their front seated toddler watches in amusement. Business men carry stylish briefcases and smell like heaven and young girls are so damn fashionable they put me to shame.

I would like to apologise because I based my perception on a small minority of Japan. Even though I knew it couldn’t all be like this, I still couldn’t really believe it. Osaka or city-life, whatever it is, has changed my awareness. I am so glad I could/can experience this side of Japan. I’ve decided I could easily live in this city, forever.