Posted in Travels in Japan

Our Last Day: Tokyo SkyTree!

In the morning after Tokyo Rainbow Pride adventures, Rebecca got to sleep in and pack while I headed off to work. I only had two classes in the morning, so I could ask off for the rest of the day. I’m really glad my school was so understanding. Around noon I picked her up and we headed back into Tokyo for one more small adventure before she headed off back to the good ol’ USA.

I chose the Tokyo SkyTree for a few reasons. One being that I’d never been to it, and two because it’s a staple for Tokyo tourism. Also, in Tokyo SkyTree Town there was a Ghibli Shop, and Rebecca wanted to try and grab some things there before heading home. So it was a win-win all around.

When we got there, I was shocked to find there wasn’t a line. Usually I would hear stories of people having to wait hours to get in, but I guess since we waited until after Golden Week was over and on a Monday afternoon, not a ton of people wanted to go there. We bought our tickets and went straight up the elevator.

The view was spectacular! You could walk around and have a 360 view of all of Tokyo. Just nothing but city all the way into the horizon. It was a clear day, but unfortunately we still couldn’t quite see Mt. Fuji. I’ve been told under just the right conditions that you can.

To my surprise, Tokyo SkyTree had a new exhibition featuring the “Attack on Titan” anime. It was called “Attack on SkyTree,” so of course I took the opportunity to take pictures with a Titan. There was also an Attack on Titan Cafe on the lower level, so we stopped by there so I could grab up some Levi swag.

We journeyed through the two top levels, looking out over the landscape. I suffered from a hit of vertigo that through me through a loop once or twice, but I survived. Rebecca was brave enough to go over the glass floor, but…I was not that brave.

I am terrified of heights, so that’s not the kind of thing I can do. Sorry, not sorry.

After we went through Tokyo SkyTree, we headed downstairs to the SkyTree Town to the Ghibli Store.

Th Ghibli people yelled at me for trying to take pictures inside, so I can’t show you how cute it was, but trust me. There was a Calcifer skillet that I wanted to buy, but I know me and I know I’ll never use it. It’ll just sit there in my kitchen being adorable and taking up space. Rebecca got some Princess Mononoke items, of which there were only a few. It’s unfortunate that the more adult films don’t have a lot of merchandise. Lord knows there was enough Kiki’s Delivery Service in there (I nearly bought another Kiki’s apron).

It was a nice short and sweet little trip. We ran over to Shinjuku for some last minute souvenir shopping at Don Quiote, and also so I could point out that yes in fact we do have Godzilla in Tokyo.

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And then it was time to say goodbye. I took her to the Nartia Express (NEX) area in Shinagawa. We hugged and said goodbye. It’s always bittersweet to see old friends when you know it’ll be so long before you see each other again. I’m glad that we managed to do so much in just that short week, but I wish we could’ve done more.

Until we see each other again! Matte ne!

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

Tokyo Rainbow Pride Festa and Parade!

For the Saturday and Sunday of Golden Week, I volunteered to organize the Stonewall Japan booth. Pride events are our biggest draw in, both in terms of members as well as donations. However, I couldn’t do it all on my own. That’s where the awesome Stonewall Japan volunteers come in! We had a blast doing face paints for people, networking with other pro-LGBTQ+ organizations, and in general just talking with new people about Stonewall Japan.

For me, it involved a lot of phone calls and email responding, too. I never realized until I did this event just how much work people behind the scenes had to do. I was non-stop moving from nine in the morning until six thirty in the evening. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t have enough face paint to get through the day, so I had to run over to the DIASO and buy more. Takashita Street DAISO is crazy busy on a normal day, but with thousands of people attending the event? It took forever.

It wasn’t all work though, I had a one hour lunch break where I met up with Rebecca. We went to this place called The Taproom, which served some really awesome craft beers as well as good food. I chose the quickest thing I could think of for them to make, which was yakitori (chicken sticks).

Right after lunch was over, I was running right back to the booth to make sure volunteers managed to find their way to the booth. Unfortunately, a few people got lost, so I had to direct them as well as call people to find the picnic that was set up in Yoyogi Park.

It sounds like I’m complaining maybe, but I did enjoy it. I was just so exhausted! After having gone to Kyoto for two days, then running around Tokyo the day before, working as a volunteer on the weekend running around yet again was just hard! Don’t get me wrong though, being a part of Pride was well worth all of the stress. I liked feeling I was being a part of a good change in things socially here in Japan.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take as many pictures because of the working things. I ended up just staying near the booth until breakdown at six thirty. Immediately after that, I got in line for the best pancakes ever! If you haven’t been to Cafe Gram, you really should. They have the fluffiest pancakes you’ll ever eat.

Rebecca and I managed to get the last order of them (see photo left). In order to get these fluffy pancakes, you have to show up at certain times in order to get the pancake reservation, and then wait another hour or so before you can eat. They only make these pancake in limited batches. We got the last order of the day, how lucky is that?!

The only downside is that you’re not allowed to share orders, so Rebecca had to buy something too. She chose the apple pancakes, which were not a bad choice at all. There were also kiwis and oranges between the pancakes, which was delightfully tangy and sweet all at once.

When we finished eating breakfast for dinner, we got also the last reservation for the Harajuku Owl Cafe!

I don’t know how we got this much luck, but it was awesome! The owls were super tame, very calm, and a joy to pet. That’s right, you can pet most of them. However, one spotted owl (bottom left in the photos) would like to bite at you rather than let you touch him. And there was a tiny angry owl you could pet, but he wasn’t pleased about it so much.

However, the larger owls were totally fine with getting picked up and petted.

When our hour was over, we had to run yet again. Stonewall Japan was doing a bar crawl that night in Nichome, and I wanted to catch up with the group just to say hello. Most of my friends intended to stay out all night, but I couldn’t do that as I had to get up early for the booth and parade prep the next day. Still, I did manage to meet some new people as well as see some old faces I hadn’t seen in a long time.

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The Bar Crawl in Nichome is a lot of fun, and I really do wish I could’ve stuck around, but I was about ready to drop as it was.

The next morning, I got up early and prepped before getting on the train. I had decided months ago that I was going to do a really silly cosplay. Rainbow Brite was a staple of my childhood, and I mean a spunky girl with rainbows and magic, what’s not to like? So I got all dressed up and headed out.

Before I headed out with the Stonewall group, I made sure volunteers were set up at the booth with everything. I also took an opportunity to get some pics with various drag queens at the event as well, because hello fabulous!

Stonewall met up for a group photo around eleven so we could all walk together to the float area right after. Thankfully, a lot of people showed up to support the walk, even though it was a super hot day and the march was not a short one.

Pre-Parade

We actually waited just in the sun for a good forty five minutes before we actually started marching, it was a bit tough, but when we did start marching it was magical!

We managed to get behind a DJ float, which meant we got pumping music the whole way through! It was so amazing to see the support lining the streets. Everybody was cheering and waving, high five-ing people as they walked onward, and I swear there were way more camera people than the previous year.

The walk took a good hour long trek from Yoyogi Stadium, to Shibuya Crossing, and then back around through the Shibuya main highway area, and then we returned to Yoyogi Stadium. The police were allowing traffic to flow, so unlike in New York City and other Prides, there isn’t a standstill to let the parade go without a break, which is part of the reason for why it took that long.

We broke records yet again for both attendance in the Festa and the Parade, with over 6,000 attendees. How cool is that?! Here’s hoping these solidarity efforts will make some effective changes sometime soon. I would love for marriage equality to come to Japan before the 2020 Olympics. As it stands, I’m not sure it will happen, but at events like Tokyo Rainbow Pride, I have hope.

I’m proud of what Stonewall managed to accomplish that weekend, even though there were bumps along the way, it all managed to work out. Hopefully, next year will be even better.

After six(ish), Rebecca and I headed home to go plan out the last day of her vacation. We wanted to get one more sightseeing spot squeezed in before I saw her off to the airport. And so we chose the obvious one: Tokyo SkyTree!

Posted in Travels in Japan

Golden Week Adventures: Back in Tokyo!

In continuation from the other Golden Week post, Rebecca and I headed back to Tokyo after our three days in Kyoto. We woke up early and headed off to Ginza to meet up with a mutual friend, Keni. We wanted to eat at a well known sushi restaurant called Sushi no Midori. The seafood and fish are brought in fresh there everyday, so as you can imagine, it was supremely delicious.

The lunch menu allows for a more than reasonable 2,000 yen plate of sushi, all freshly made by the chefs on order.

These plates came with ten different kinds of sushi. A maguro (tuna) roll, a long eel sushi, ikura (fish egg), different cuts of salmon and tuna along the top, oyster, ebi (shrimp), kani (crab), and sweet eggs. Honestly, it was the best sushi I’ve ever had in Japan, and the price couldn’t be beat.

Rebecca and I left aft our sushi lunch for Shibuya. Of course, we did our obligatory pictures with Hachi as well as the Shibuya crossing.

But the main event for this adventure was Cat Cafe Mocha. Nestled on the 7th floor down the street from Shibuya crossing is an adorable little cat hideaway.

Although most of the cats were just sleepy kitties, there were a couple of very chill cats that allowed petting and sought out human attention. Of course, the people who bought the extra snack packs got more love than us snack-less humans.

As adorable as the cats were, I really like the layout of the cafe itself. There were so many cool looking cat trees were the cats could leap up to nap, and the neat birdcage like places for them to sleep above the customers. The stairways also had these nooks with small doorways for cats to walk in and out of. Basically, everything was designed in the place with cats in mind, and I enjoyed that architectural idea put into practice. When I’m an old cat lady, I’ll keep this place in mind for my home layout.

After we spent a good couple of hours in there, Rebecca wanted to head over to this specialty green tea restaurant.

Green Tea Restaurant

1899 Ochanomizu makes everything in their restaurant with green tea. They even have a selection of green tea beer, which was what she wanted to try out. We ended up getting the darker variety of beer along with a savory seasonal green tea egg custard recommended to us by our waiter.

The green tea beer was bitter on top of bitter, which somehow worked out deliciously. Even though the hops were a bit poignant in that combination, it was still refreshing and settled well on my tongue. The egg custard’s green tea was more of an under-taste, really the saltiness kind of cut through the bitter aspect of the matcha.

It was already a full day, but oh we weren’t done! I was set up to volunteer for Tokyo Closet Ball that night (because I like to stress myself out, apparently). We zipped over in a taxi from the restaurant to the venue Gyoen Sound in Shinjuku.

Tokyo Closet Ball is a drag and also off the wall sort of entertainment show. This particular show was a part of Tokyo Rainbow Pride Week.

And boy-howdy, did it ever! The performances were phenomenal. We even had an Austrian drag queen come as a guest performer, and she was AMAZING! We had a fantastic rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as some great LGBT comedy in between with the M.C.s Tatianna and Eric Shaw, and even a little burlesque featuring the Pride flag!

By the end of the show, Rebecca and I were exhausted. Having been run ragged from hiking through Kyoto, we were all set for sleep. We would need it, because the next day we’d be up in Harajuku for the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Festa!

Posted in YouTube Videos

Sakura and Steampunk

I’m playing a little bit of a catch up game here. I have a whole bunch of videos I wasn’t able to edit until recently. In this vlog, I go to a hanami party, I support my friend getting her lip pierced, and then I go to a Steampunk party!

A hanami party, for those of you who don’t know, are parties where you get together with friends (sometimes co-workers). You drink and eat under the sakura blossoms, take lots of pictures, and in general just have a fun time. I went to Midtown Park in Roppongi for this one, but I actually ended up going to about three.

My friend K really wanted to get her lip pierced, so we went to a piercing shop called “Extreme Body Piercing” in Harajuku. We decided to also show other people where it is so they can find it if they too desire to get a cool new fierce look.

And finally, the Steamgarden is an annual Tokyo event that’s for two days. Every year, people come to sell their wares, but apparently it’s also a really cool dance party! I wasn’t expecting that, so it was an awesome surprise. I’ll def be going next year!

Posted in YouTube Videos

My Trip to Bunny Island!

Between the old school year and the new, I set off to Okunoshima. Also known as Bunny Island, it’s a place that features adorable little fluffy rabbits for visitors to enjoy, as well as a Poison Factory Museum from World War II. I highly recommend going there if you get the chance!

Posted in Travels in Japan

Golden Week Adventures: To Kyoto!

It’s been awhile everyone! Yes, I know, sorry. I should’ve put out a post before I left on vacation, but I had literally NO TIME. From the second I posted my last article to now has been just non-stop, can’t stop, all the things!!!

See my friend from high school, Rebecca, came over to visit me. She’s super cool and going to be a doctor pretty soon. I’m still thinking of calling her Dr. Becky with the Good Hair, but then I’ll have to have my coffin with me when I do it (She’s never liked that name and it’s only gotten worse with time).

She wanted to go to a lot of different places in Japan, with my original list including fox village and cat island with a possible Hakone excursion. However, we only got about a week to do all the things. In the end, she decided the number one place to go to would be Kyoto.

And I agreed. Hakone in Golden Week is terribly, oppressively crowded. Fox Village and the nearby Cat Island up in Miyagi are a long trek from my area. With only a week, Kyoto and Tokyo seemed the best course of action. I had to be back in Tokyo on the weekend for Tokyo Rainbow Pride.

We headed off as soon as she touched down. Poor thing had already flown for over 30 hours and here I was forcing her onto a Shinkansen. I mean, it’s a comfortable train, but still added 2 hours to her already long travel time.

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“Proof of Shinkansen!”

When we arrived at Kyoto station it was pretty late, so I opted to just get a taxi and head for the apartment. I found this pretty cheap place through Agoda.com, an apartment that we could stay at near Kinkakuji for only about 3,200 yen per night (plus a cleaning fee). Wheat a steal, right? The place was really nice, too. My only worry had been that maybe the apartment would be hideous in real life, but instead it was just a typical Japanese show box apartment.

The next morning, we headed right out to Kinkakuji. The Golden Temple was a bit packed at the beginning, with a lot of tourists using selfie sticks to try and get some good angles. I expected as much, Golden Week meant that everywhere would be either packed or super packed depending on the time of day. I was just surprised that so many were there so early in the morning.

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Rebecca wanted to buy some charms and some yatsuhashi (famous Kyoto style mochi that’s in the shape of a triangle…that you can also totally buy at grocery stores, but shhhhh). She wanted to get some marriage good luck charms as well as some studying/knowledge charms.

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We also stopped by the fortune area. Omikuji are like lottery fortunes, you put 100 yen inside a machine and then a random fortune pops out. I think only in Kinkakuji and maybe a few other main shrines can you get the English versions. Usually, I have to give my fortune to the nearest Japanese person to read and translate. Rebecca and I both got the “Good” level fortune. There are actually several levels of luck with these that range from “Awesome!” to “Absolutely wrecked.”

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Via Next Stop, Japan

After Kinkakuji, we ran off to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. As it was getting to be around lunch time, high noon and very sunny at that, there were less people milling around. I like the Palace mostly for the gardens. In the spring there are cherry blossoms and in the fall the leaves change colors, so I definitely recommend those.

We stopped there for some udon, and discovered to my horror that Rebecca is a pod person because she didn’t like the udon. Everything I thought I knew about her is a lie. In case you didn’t know, kitsune udon and soba are a staple in Kyoto. Everywhere you do there is an udon and/or soba place.

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My version of fine dining

After resting up, we figured out the bus to take to Kiyomizudera. Just as an FYI, the bus schedules are a bit hard to navigate without Japanese translation assistance. I discovered much, much too late that there are actually bus maps in English available online through the Kyoto Tourism site. There’s also a whole PDF that you can easily download to your smartphone or tablet. Don’t use Google Maps, it’s all kind of wrong and confusing.

At Kiyomizudera, it was super packed again. Ladies were running around in yukata, kids were playing tag on the steps, couples were holding hands and taking selfie shots. Rebecca and I did the whole purification ritual before entering, and discovered unfortunately the main temple is under construction for the 2020 Olympics. There is scaffolding all around it for the foreseeable future. If you’re planning to go, just a heads up.

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Not terrible, but not as picturesque as normal.

After walking around, we waited in line to drink from the spiritual waters from the waterfall. Each stream is different, and you’re supposed to drink from the one you want and make a wish.

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The one on the left is for knowledge, the middle for love, and the last for a long life. 

I chose knowledge, because living long is fine and love is alright, but I would rather just be smarter in general. Rebecca chose the same, because future doctor, it’s kind of important for her.

After a full day, we walked around to find dinner and had a couple of drinks at a bar before heading back to the apartment. We planned to hit up the Fushimi Inari Shrine as well as Heinan Temple the next day before heading back to Tokyo the next day, with possibly squeezing in a tea ceremony if we could manage it.

We did one of those things, that being the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and that’s kind of my bad. The morning started off with us checking out and then getting on the buses. We were only supposed to transfer once to another bus in order to get to Kyoto Station to drop off our stuff. As it was, we transferred onto the wrong bus, and had to get turned around.

Once arriving at Kyoto Station, we discovered that everyone and their mother had taken the lockers. I managed to get lucky and find one, but then Rebecca had to do a baggage check instead. By the time we finally got on a train and hit Fushimi Inari, the day was already half way eaten up.

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Fushimi Inari Entrance

And of course, it was congested with people, so going up the mountainside of tori meant slowly meandering our way towards the top. I felt really guilty for getting us on the wrong bus, so by the time we got halfway up the mountain, we had to turn back so we could get to Kyoto Station for Heinan Temple.

But then I messed up again, and we went down a wrong path. According to the map it was supposed to take us back to the main area, but it didn’t. Instead, it brought us into the suburbs surrounding the mountain. We got lost, not for terribly long, but still too long in an already crunched timetable.

By the time we righted ourselves and headed back towards the station, it became fairly obvious we couldn’t do the other temple or a tea ceremony. Rebecca wasn’t super upset about it, she’s kind of really laid back like that, but if I ever do another tag along to Fushimi Inari, I’m going to just stay on the main paths. No adventuring out to short cuts, it’s not worth it.

Right across from Kyoto Station is the Kyoto Tower. We didn’t go up for the view, but instead did some last minute onomiyage (souvenir) shopping, because I needed some for my co-workers.

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At the base of Kyoto Tower there’s a mini-souvenir shop. You can buy Kyoto sweets and the yastuhashi I was talking about earlier, along with other specialty Kyoto things. I bought some matcha cookies, because Kyoto is pretty famous for green tea.

And from there it was back to Tokyo. All in all it was a good trip, but next time I will be better about planning for certain things. However, in the next post I’ll talk about our Tokyo adventures, and then of course about Tokyo Rainbow Pride, so stay tuned!