On the last day of my vacation, I decided to stop at a Ghibli-themed bakery on the outskirts of Fukuoka called Lune Lapin before flying back to Tokyo. This was yet another place that was recommend to me through my IG algorithms and it was definitely on point. Since this bakery is away from the central Hakata Canal area, it is a place that not many people may know about but it has the reputation for baking insanely delicious bread. After taking a combination local buses and trains, I arrived here at 10am on a Sunday morning when the character bread was just being taken out of the oven. As I entered the bakery I was greeted by a statue of a Laputian Robot and there also was a life-sized Totoro bus stop inside before the queue. Fortunately I arrived just in time to get a table and there was a lot of selection!
Though it was truly a tough decision on what to order, here is the bread that I chose to eat:
In my opinion, the bread filled with chocolate tasted the best! The Totoro and Jiji pieces had a lot of chocolate in them and almost tasted like freshly baked cookies so I would highly recommend them to everyone. The Catbus and Porco Rosso ones were filled with honey which wouldn’t be my first choice of filling but was also very sweet and addictive. The Calcifer one was filled with red jelly which I am not always a fan of, but it was only a small amount and the quality of bread was very high so I was able to enjoy it. I had probably consumed a lot of calories this morning, but I was going to a rave this night so I wasn’t particularly worried. This choice was 100% worth it.
The fun part about choosing the bread is each piece has a slightly different design so they are all very unique. For example, some pieces of the Totoro and Calcifer bread had their eyes and mouths open while other pieces didn’t. I liked the careful detail that went into preparing each one. Most pieces range from 200-400 yen so you can eat a lot for a small amount of money!
Here are some more photos I took of the interior decor. I was impressed with all the cells of Kiki’s Delivery Service they had hanging on the wall, plus the custom-made Laputa robots. Though this is not an official Ghibli Cafe, with all the merch they had I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have some kind of connection to the studio. Their collection was extremely immense and I am excited to see it grow:
Getting to Lune Lapin
From Fukuoka’s Hakata Station, take the Kagoshima Line to Ongagawa Station. Then you can either take a taxi or ride the local bus from the front of the station to Hakusaoki and walk to the bakery. This journey takes about 1.5 hours and costs 1200-1700 yen. It is a bit far from the city center but is worth the journey in my opinion.
Though the bakery is quite popular, people come and go a lot so no reservation is required. I would only recommend making a reservation if you are coming during a busy holiday or have specific bread that you wish to order. If you come in the morning there is much more selection available too!
Thank you for reading my latest article on one of the best bakeries that I’ve ever been to in Japan! In my final article in this series I will be talking about my trip to Sakurajima, a volcanic island in Kagoshima. This weekend I will be going to Kobe and Awaji so I will be starting my next article series next week. It sure feels good to be on the road and writing about my adventures again! I am excited to do a reflection post at the end of the year and look back on all of my progress. Thank you for all of your support!
Due to the nature of my job, I sometimes spontaneously find myself with consecutive days off so I try to take advantage of it by going on as many trips as possible. Since I had some web design clients to see in Nagoya, I decided to stop there first then make my way to Kyoto on a Tuesday morning so I could experience it with minimal tourism—the complete opposite of my cherry blossom trip in March! Though I thoroughly enjoyed my last trip to Kyoto because I was able to see the full moon with fully blooming sakura, this time I was able to see Arashiyama’s iconic bamboo forest more deserted than I had ever seen it before as well as hike to Daihikaku. If you want to travel throughout Kyoto without the interruption of tourists, then now is definitely the time! During my two day trip I spent a lot of time reflecting on myself and my recent projects which was very beneficial to developing my future goals for this year. I also managed to go to some nice cafes I didn’t have the chance to visit last time and snag a Miffy omelette sandwich from the Sakura Kitchen! Even though I’ve been to Arashiyama over 5 times, this view still amazes me:
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Path
The path to Arashiyama’s bamboo forest is usually always bustling with tourists, food vendors, and rickshaw drivers desperately trying to get your business, but last Tuesday it was practically vacant. I passed by a few old Japanese people on their way to the onsen, but the normally crowded paths were empty and I was able to capture some amazing photos with the sun peaking out of the bamboo stalks. The dream Japan aesthetic.
Witnessing emptiness of Arashiyama made me feel both lucky and melancholy. Seeing it in this state is a rare opportunity indeed, but it also felt like a ghost town. I hurt for all of the small businesses struck by the effects of the pandemic. Fortunately my favorite clubs, bars, and venues have all been saved by online fundraisers but I worry for the lesser known places that heavily rely on tourism. I hope my small contribution of buying food from local restaurants and writing about them can help in some way!
Another place I love walking through is the Kimono Forest near Saga Arashiyama Station! I remember the first time I saw it I was completely amazed. The colorful patterns and artistic water fountain really stand out and are extremely inspiring to me. Sadly I didn’t have time to rent a kimono this time, but I hope to rent one and do a photo shoot during my next trip here!
Cafe Style Resort Saganoyu: The Onsen Cafe
One of my coworkers posted about a lovely cafe in Arashiyama that had the same interior decor that you would find at a local hot spring, so I just had to go and see it for myself! Saganoyu is not only famous for its one of a kind onsen decor, but also for its pasta dishes and pancakes. I decided to order the trademark pancakes with the onsen insignia because that was the most aesthetic dish on the menu. The pancakes were served up American style with less fluffiness and more substance which I liked. Sometimes the souffle-styled pancakes just have too much air in them but these were extremely filling. While I waited for my order I decided to walk around the cafe and admire all of the detail that was put into it. I loved the mirrors and little shower heads attached to the wall as well as the vintage shoe locker! They also had some really good chocolates that look like gold pieces of soap. Definitely come here if you are looking for a fun and creative atmosphere!
During my first ever trip to Arashiyama nearly 5 years ago, I hiked to the spot with cherry blossoms and noticed a mysterious hut with bright awnings standing out across the river. At first I thought it was perhaps someone’s house as people own property in the mountains here, but during my last trip I Googled it and found out it was a temple called Daihikaku. Last week I finally made the 20 minute trek up the mountain to see it in person for myself and I can happily say that the view was worth it. From the windows you can see the Oi River and the beautiful mountains that surround Kyoto. Being up close to the colorful flags flapping in the wind felt surreal because I had previously only seen them from the opposite side. The temple also is unmanned giving it a feeling of solitude. I can proudly say I have hiked up both sides of Arashiyama now!
What makes this temple even more meme-worthy is that it has its own official manga you can read on your way up. The page I zoomed into almost completely sums up my initial experience here.
The expression of the girl who turns around and notices the mysterious temple peaking out of the forest was exactly the same as mine when I first traveled to Arashiyama many years ago. Even now sometimes it’s sometimes easy to forget that this temple exists, but when I remember it I always feel happy. ☺️
If you have the time and energy, consider seeing Daihikaku from both sides of the river because the views are unique and change based on the season. The fall is usually the best time of year to go because you can see the bright red leaves contrast against the river.
Every time I go to Kyoto, I like to try a new city hotel by the Kawaramachi River so I can drink by it at night and gaze at the stars. This time I stayed at Hotel Resol Trinity, which is an upgrade of the hotel that I stayed at on my birthday because it has its own public onsen and nicer rooms. Since I came randomly on a weekday I only paid 4300 yen for my “Hollywood” style room. I slept here for almost 10 hours because I was exhausted from hiking and work so I would give it a 10/10 for its comfort. You can definitely find cheaper options but this is first class for the discounted price.
After a spending a full day of hiking around Uji and seeing the once in a lifetime view of a full moon and fully blooming sakura at Toji, I was ready to start my final day hitting the last few aesthetic destinations on my list! Please see Kyoto Sakura Highlights Part 1: Byodoin, Go River, and Toji Temple for the first part of this article series. This article expands my recommended sakura viewing spots and also lists my favorite food and travel accommodations for the spring season.
Kyoto is a place that’s full of adventure and serene nature no matter where you go, but here are the places that I wouldn’t miss out on in late March:
If you are looking to experience some of the best scenery in Kyoto, then your best bet is to start at the Philosopher’s Path. The main path itself is actually not that long but it is lined with beautiful canals and sakura trees galore. The branching paths will lead you to many historic temples, traditional restaurants, and other exciting sights. One major point of interest is the Kaege Incline which is an old hill with railroad tracks that are now no longer in use making it the perfect spot for photography.
I recommend arriving before 10am or else you will run into tourists and wedding photography if you come during the afternoon like I did, but the experience here was definitely unforgettable! Everyone here stared in awe at the sakura petals that gently fell from the trees and drifted into the canals. I felt completely relaxed among the smiling people around me. I rented a kimono and took some of my best pictures in this area. For more information on kimono rental, please see my Yumeyukata Article.
If you keep walking down the Philosopher’s Path, you eventually will hit Nanzenji which I visited in the fall and also Ginkakuji. There are plenty of places in between those two temples you can explore too.
Admission Fee: Free Access: There are a number of stations and bus stops that you can access this path from, but I would recommend taking the Keihan-Keishin train line to Kaege Station so you can start at the Kaege Incline and work your way up!
Maruyama Park is undoubtedly one of the most famous parks in central Kyoto. It has beautiful sakura, a picturesque pond, several temples, and amazing food stalls. I spent my 27th birthday drinking sake here and I will never forget the blissful experience. This time the same place that I bought sake at in October was selling sakura champagne so of course I had to indulge–they sure know how to make money here! Anyway, the major draw here in the spring is the sakura illumination at night. There is a zen garden with a projection of koi fish that look like they are swimming when you first walk in through the main entrance. The stairs near the hall of Chion-in have a neon pink flower projection spread across them that slowly changes color. The lights are creatively placed beneath the sakura to create an eloquent pink and white gradient that bring out the highlights of the petals. You can also stand in front of some of the lighting to have sakura images projected onto yourself. Technology sure is amazing! I was also very impressed to see a temple completely illuminated in blue where a sermon was in progress. I was surged with energy from all of these beautiful colors and would highly recommend coming to Maruyama both during the day and at night because you’ll never know what you’ll find here!
Admission Fee: 1000 yen Access: Walkable from Gion Station and anywhere near Kawaramachi
The final destination on my sakura itinerary was Arashiyama! Here I visited the Moss Temple in the morning, ran into Goddess Madoka in the streets, and then went hiking in Nakanoshima Park to see a beautiful view of the Oi River and mountain sakura trees. The climb to reach the lookout point takes roughly 20 minutes and is very leisurely compared to the hiking I did earlier in the day. One sight in Arashiyama I always enjoy seeing is Daihikaku Senkoji Temple because it is very colorful and looks extremely remote up in the mountains surrounded by trees. You can climb up to it by crossing the river and hiking for approximately 40 minutes. The view from the window is incredible, especially in the fall. Besides the park, I would recommend checking out the area around Tenryuji because there is a dragon mural and a lot of beautiful sakura there too. There are also onsen and cafes all around Arashiyama so it is very easy to relax here. I am happy to have ended my trip in such a beautiful place!
Admission Fee: Free for the park, but most temples have an average price of 500 yen to enter. However, you can always stand outside of the temples and take pictures of them like I did! Access: From Kyoto Station, take the San-In Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This takes roughly 12 minutes and costs 240 yen. Most things you can reach by foot here.
No trip to Kyoto would be complete without sampling aesthetic food. I have been to many restaurants and cafes here, but these are my top recommendations from this trip:
Veg Out: This is a cozy vegan place near the Kawaramachi River that serves up amazing Buddha Bowls! These meals are monk diet-friendly and contain the perfect balance of vegetables and grain. Mine tasted a lot like vegan taco rice and I ordered some fig and coconut chips to go. This meal gave me the exactly amount of energy I needed and I am so grateful that I visited here!
Salon de Royal: This is a chocolate shop that my friend recommended to me that is also near the river. It has delicious teas and wine and features an original chocolate that is shaped like the Eiffel Tower specked in gold! I also noticed they were selling chocolate high heels here for 3000 yen. I definitely enjoyed the vibe of this place because it had an outdoor deck and would come back in the future for more delicious candy. I even took a sakura tart to go!
Arashiyama Street Food: Fancy yourself some traditional taiyaki stuffed with bacon and eggs? How about a yuba tofu flavored donut or ice cream? They even have Miffy bread here too! I cannot wait to see what ridiculous street food they have next time I come!
In previous times I’ve always stayed at guest houses or capsule hotels, but since my favorite capsule and spa is permanently shut now I opted for lush business hotel near the Kawaramachi River called OYO. The cheapest single room is roughly 3000 yen per night and it came with everything I needed for my adventure. The staff was friendly, the location was grand, and there was free coffee and tea too. Unfortunately I did not take any photos of the room because I ran out of time, but the ones displayed on Booking are pretty accurate. I would definitely stay here again, but I am also open to trying other options down the river because you never know what’s out there! I like staying in slightly different places each time because with a change of environment often comes newfound inspiration.
Despite the pandemic, this was the best and most intense sakura season that I have ever experienced. Last year when the pandemic hit, many parks were closed in major cities so I spent my time exploring new areas in Nagoya. While those areas were beautiful, they weren’t nearly as festive as Kyoto. I woke up at 7am almost every morning to hit every major spot, ate a large variety of food, and ended both nights with beautiful illuminations. By the end of the third day I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the shinkansen to Tokyo, but that is a sign of a trip well spent. For all my life I will never forget the sight of the full moon and fully blooming sakura!
I would like to come back to Kyoto next month to explore Uji more and also go to a cosplay event by acosta. And next year I have already decided that I want to spend sakura season in Nara with the deer!
My next upcoming trip is to Okinawa at the end of the month, and I am very excited to publish my itinerary! Thank you for all the positive comments on my recent posts and photos–I will continue to do my best to inspire people to travel in Japan once the effects of Covid become more diminished!
As I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping with my best friend in Shibuya, we accidentally stumbled upon the Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory Cafe on the 2nd floor of Shibuya Loft. I had heard about the new Kingdom Hearts rhythm game that had recently been released, but didn’t realize that there was a new cafe for for it. Additionally, I later read online that the story was told from Kairi’s point of view and featured a new scene at the end that set things up for the next game in the series. Though at first I thought the game sounded like a more theatrical Theatrhythm with KH characters, as someone who has played the series from adolescence and still loved the music I was sold. I bought the game for Switch and made a reservation for the cafe online for the following Monday evening with my friend.
The Kingdom Hearts Cafe in Shibuya Loft is running from December 11th, 2020 – January 11th, 2020, but the featured menu at the Square Enix cafes in Tokyo and Osaka are running until March 12th, 2021. To make a reservation, please see the Cafe Homepage (I highly recommend making a reservation).
The entrance to the Shibuya Loft KH Cafe is adorable and features artwork of the 4 teams and gameplay trailers on several large monitors. To prevent spread of the corona virus, you are asked to sanitize your hands and write down your order at the entrance as well as wear as mask until you are seated. We booked the final slot at 19:20 and were lucky because we almost had the cafe completely to ourselves!
The menu from this cafe has some magical entrees. We ordered Kairi’s Memories of Cream Stew that came with rice in the shape of a paopu fruit and Mickey’s Tuna Sandwich with his little emblem stamped on the bread. There were also rice dishes that bared a resemblance to the Agrabah and Neverland stages, but we decided to focus on the themed character dishes this time. We ordered the Friendship Strawberry Tea that came with a lot of fruit and a plastic cutout of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy and made a toast. Kingdom Hearts food is not only elaborate but also very good! Please see the full menu on the Cafe Homepage.
There are a lot of neat souvenirs available for purchase here, but some of these things were already previously available for purchase in the Square Enix shop. I would mainly recommend coming here to collect the coasters as they will only be available for the duration of the cafe. And most importantly; enjoy the music! All of the remixed songs in the new game sound really amazing!
My only complaint with this cafe is that they didn’t have a large variety of desserts like previous Square Enix Cafe collaborations. They had seasalt ice cream popsicles which are iconic to the series, but I really wished they had a cute music note parfait that I could order too!
For previous reference, here was the seasalt ice cream I had during the KHIII event at Artnia:
The little star-shaped sprinkles really added to the ambience and it was cool to be served ice cream on a mini platter. Definitely high-class service here.
I also ate Cloud’s sword during the FF7R event. Hilarious how this parfait is banana-flavored, of all things:
Though a lot of fans have mixed feelings about the direction that Nomura is taking the KH and FF7R series, both have been a huge part of my life since childhood and I look forward to going to more events for them now that I live in Japan. I am super excited for the next installment in the World Ends with You and hope to go to that cafe too.
As an avid lover of all things that are aesthetic, searching for unique restaurants and trying the most colorful foods around the world is one of my life goals. As far as Vietnam goes, I noticed most of the trendy bars and cafes were located in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh has a lot of upscale restaurants and fancy cuisine from around the world that I enjoyed trying, but Hanoi had the most photogenic food plus the famous “Obama Combo”.
Here are some of my favorite aesthetic restaurants that I discovered in Hanoi. Please see my first Ho Chi Minh article for some food recommendations there too.
The Unicorn Pub
“You have entered a different world… one filled with good times and specially-crafted artisan cocktails. Enjoy your journey through our exclusive, fun-filled menu found nowhere else on Earth!” -The Unicorn Pub
While walking down the narrow streets of Hanoi as a tourist, you’ll definitely draw a lot of attention from the locals. Food vendors with carts will follow you down the road, shop owners will yell and beckon you into their stores full of everything from bootleg designer bags to handmade accessories… At first all of the attention is nice but it gets hard to relax after a while. My favorite example is when I sat down at a restaurant with outdoor seating and a woman selling fried bananas tried to get me to buy them. I politely showed her my receipt and explained that I had already ordered food and I didn’t want any, but she started putting the bananas in a bag and tried to sell them for me for a discount. Even when I started to ignore here, she simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually the food that I ordered arrived and she finally left when I started eating, but man…
I understand that these vendors need business, but being polite with how you approach someone is important. Though I ate at some smaller food stalls to give them business, on my first night in Hanoi I decided to try an upscale bar called The Unicorn Pub to see what the atmosphere was like. And let me tell you; it was completely worth it!
The Unicorn Pub has by far the best atmosphere and original cocktails that I discovered in Vietnam. The bar owner is very kind and speaks great English. She came out and introduced herself and her staff to me and asked what kind of liquor I liked. I explained that I was an aesthetic food enthusiast (though I didn’t use that terminology exactly) and she already had a cocktail in mind for me. The very first cocktail I had was the Butterfly Cocktail! It was sweet and had a mix of fruity liquor and vodka with the adorable butterfly decoration on the rim of the glass. Next I ordered the Pho Cocktail which is a spicy cocktail that is exclusive to this bar. It takes a precise level of mixology to prepare this concoction, but the flavor is out of this world! I have never seen a drink prepared with such care before.
This bar draws in a number of foreigners and locals so it has a good mix of people. The guy sitting next to me was Vietnamese and was telling me all about Sapa village. I unfortunately couldn’t fit it in on this itinerary, but I’d really like to travel there in the future. He was sipping on some 38% alcohol which I couldn’t read the name of, so the bartender let me have a sip. I can’t even remember the taste but mixing liquors sure is an adventure in itself. Conversation flowed easy after that. I ended my night with some kind of lemon cocktail and walked back 10 mins to my hostel. I added all of the people at the bar on Facebook and I still keep in touch with them today. Fortunately the corona virus hasn’t spread as much in Vietnam and this bar is still in business! I’ll be sure to come back some day.
Egg Coffee at Cafe Giang
Egg Coffee is without a doubt one of the biggest food memes in Vietnam. It was invented in the 1940s while there was a milk shortage. The true recipe is unknown but it is said to contain egg, butter, and cheese along with a coffee base. Giang Cafe is one of the best coffee shops to try egg coffee in Vietnam. According to The Guardian, currently the son of the coffee’s inventor runs the shop. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered a hot glass of the standard egg coffee. It surprisingly didn’t taste like egg at all; it had a creamy coffee texture almost like a latte but much thicker. Plus I bet it’s still healthier than most drinks at Starbucks! I would recommend trying a cup while you are here because it’s quite satisfying.
The “Obama Combo” at Hương Liên Bún Chả Obama
Ah yes, another great meme. My friend informed me that there was a famous bun cha (pork and noodle) restaurant that Obama once ate at while he visited Vietnam. This had such an impact on their business that they added “Obama” to the name of their restaurant. Is Hương Liên Bún Chả Obama worth the hype? The ingredients in bun cha are undoubtedly delicious, but this restaurant is pretty standard in what it offers. There unfortunately weren’t many vegetarian options here but I had fun checking this place out and ordered my noodles without pork. The Obama Combo tasted good, but it was higher-priced than other places and I prefer eating pho. If you go, be sure you walk up all the floors so you can see all the framed Obama photos. It must have been the greatest moment of honor for this restaurant!
Aroi Dessert Cafe
Aroi Dessert Cafe is a cozy relaxing space that’s open 24 hours and serves the cutest desserts! I came here to charge my portable wifi and try one of their famous bear cakes. It was light, fluffy, and filled with chocolate. Exactly what I needed after walking around the city all day. In addition to cakes they have a large selection of coffee and fruity cocktails. It’s really easy to kill time here between planning your next move so I would recommend it! I recall the chairs being extremely comfy too.
Remember my story about the old lady who tried to sell me fried bananas? I narrowly escaped her by ordering this sandwich and showing her my receipt. Oh manh! A Spicy Perspective describes manh as “one of the most vibrant and delicious sandwiches in the world” and I can agree. Manh is usually filled with pork and fresh vegetables, but the stall I ate at in central Hanoi had a vegetarian option too! The pickled vegetables in the grilled baguette topped with mayo and spices definitely made my day.
Thank you for reading yet another aesthetic food article for me! I hope to take another trip to Vietnam when things start to calm down.
A trip to Nagoya is never complete without trying all of the delicious food available. This aesthetic food adventure takes us to many dessert cafes and restaurants that have just re-opened after the emergency state ended. We also drank at Meijo Park near Nagoya Castle which is one of the chillest spots I’ve found in this city with awesome scenery. All of the places I visited this weekend have a lovely atmosphere and I can’t recommend them enough!
I’ll be expanding this list as I find more places, but feel free to suggest any you recommend in the comments! Please see Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 for reference.
When I first saw the pink refrigerator door that serves as the entrance to this cafe, I was already enamored by its aesthetic. Amelia Cafe, located on the 3rd floor of the PARCO building in Sakae, has a large range of fulfilling dishes and beautiful desserts. I ordered the vegetable and seafood salad while my boyfriend ordered the massive curry that had a volcano of cheese fondue in it. I had never seen such a wild combination but it tasted amazing!! We also ordered the strawberry and Orea milk bottles topped with whipped cream and chocolate to go along with our orders. At that point we were already feeling full, but we couldn’t leave without defeating the final boss: The Rainbow Cake Pudding Parfait. It surprisingly had a light texture so we finished it off in now time. Hungry protagonist unite! Next time I come here, I would really like to try the waffles and tiramisu coffee drinks. The portions are huge but the food is actually quite cheap. This is a good place to eat with groups and also the ideal date spot. I’m really lucky that my boyfriend found this place!
Around the time that Animal Crossing for Switch was released, these guys popped up in my recommended desserts feed on Instagram. Though I don’t play the game because I value my free time, who could pass up the chance to try tanuki cupcakes!? Holland is western-themed desserts and confectionery shop near Kanayama Station in Nagoya. They sell individual sweets and customized cakes for a pretty affordable price. The tanuki cupcakes come in strawberry and chocolate flavors. They had both a wafer and cake-like texture underneath the frosting. Honestly they hit the spot after traveling over 2 hours here from Tokyo. I am excited to see what other fun cupcakes they design in the future!
Cafe One in central Sakae delivers breakfast of the champions with it’s signature nekopan. Or should I say breakfast of the champio-nyans? Whatever you want to call it, it’s mouthwatering and delicious. I had ice cream milk coffee that was decorated to look like a cat with a mustache and a cookie tail on the side. I instantly felt energized after consuming all that ice cream and sugar. My boyfriend ordered neko melonpan that had no face but was thicc and tasted amazing. I ordered the nekopan with almond eyes that was covered in peanut butter and marshmallow toppings with chocolate whiskers. Honestly is was a bit overwhelming but was also some of the best bread I had ever tasted. There are many flavors of nekopan available here so I’d love to try more in the future!
Dean & Deluca Deli
After consuming all of that sugar, we walked around for a while and decided we should eat something healthy for lunch. Not too far from Cafe One is the Dean & Deluca Deli where you can order sandwiches and fresh salad for a healthy meal. They offer juices, desserts, and takeout options here as well. I decided to get the vegetable salad with avocado, grilled pumpkin, potato, lettuce, quinoa, and carrots. It was a good balance to what I ate for breakfast and gave me a lot of energy for the rest of the day. My boyfriend had the chicken sandwich and said it had his stamp of approval too. This place is win-win for both vegetarians and people who like meat because it has a number of options.
Poket is a Hawaiin restaurant that just moved to the bottom floor of ASTIR Hotel in Sakae. They are relatively new but have a really vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. Poke Bowls are the specialty here which you can order with salad or rice as your base. I customized my bowl to include sauteed octopus and vegetables. For dessert, I decided to try their one of a kind “banana soft” which is vanilla ice cream that is carefully placed inside of a fresh banana. The result is extremely photogenic and Instagrammable. Bananas sure have evolved a lot! The drink menu has Japanese drinks, Hawaiin beers, and pineapple sours. I definitely felt like we were in a tropical place even though we are currently in the middle of the rainy season in Japan. I would definitely come back here again to try more variety of of Poke and see what other crazy desserts they come up with!
For once I wasn’t the one that found this restaurant—full credit goes to my boyfriend for taking us here. 杏ZU specializes in vegan Chinese food but has a non-vegan menu too. I decided to ordered the vegetables boiled with yuba tofu (vegan option). I also tried some Chinese wine on the rocks. It was bitter but tasted just right paired with the food. My boyfriend got a chicken dish that was served in a delicious rice cracker. What makes this place stand out from other Chinese restaurants is the seasoning they use in their cooking. I tasted a hint of lemon in mine and it was very healthy because they didn’t use any butter in it. I would really like to come back here and try some shrimp dishes in the future. This place will be on my watch list.
This mysterious restaurant popped up in my Instagram feed one day and got me thinking… just what is an Icelandic Market doing in Nagoya!? I looked at their menu and decided I would try their bread bowl with shrimp soup. The other choices were tomato curry and Nagoya spice because that’s totally what people eat in Iceland. Though not completely authentic, this was the best bread bowl that I’ve ever had in Japan! My boyfriend had a hot dog wrapped in bacon which he said was pretty good. This restaurant is about 40 mins from Nagoya Station and is quite small, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for something different. I definitely enjoyed the theme.
Situated next to Nagoya Castle, Meijo Park is one of the ideal places to drink or have a picnic. Unlike other parks and gardens in Nagoya, it doesn’t have an entrance fee and is open 24 hours. It feels like something out of an RPG because it has a giant windmill that looks like it holds secrets, a sundial that could possibly turn back time, and comically huge sunflowers everywhere. Not to mention the adorable stray cats. You could definitely use this place in a game map. Anyway, my boyfriend and I spent 2 hours drinking here before Final Fantasy VII trivia night at Critical Hit. We also tried the new Blue Hawaii donut at Lyrical Coffee Donut which was better than their matcha series. I later came back here to watch the sunset and see the moon before I left for Tokyo. This place has a wonderful aesthetic because all of the trees block the city lights.
That’s all the aesthetic food finds for this week. I’ll have more to write about when I visit Nagoya again later this month! Thank you for reading.
Apr. 27th, 2018 – I’ll never forget the day when I was strolling through Itaewon on my way to the club when I ran into a group of Korean guys who were pouring beer in plastic cups and passing them out to random people on the street. Not wanting to be rude, I happily accepted one and drank it with them. I noticed one of the guys in their group was dressed up in body armor made of cardboard and duct tape while the others playfully gave him commands. Since this was only my 2nd time in Korea, I wasn’t sure if this was something normal or a special occasion. Fortunately some of guys spoke English and informed me what was going on—this was a bachelor’s party. A very casual and spontaneous one, apparently. And I was invited! Lucky me~
Since I left America when I was 21 years old, I never had the chance to partake in any wedding parties since I wasn’t old enough to drink. Not many of my friends were mature enough to get married at that age either. Who would have guessed that my first time attending one would be in Korea with a bunch of guys I just met? I had booked a tour to the DMZ the next day, but I figured I could drink and relax for a few hours since it was my first night in town. And this would historically be a night to remember, because the very next day North Korea and South Korea agree to end war. But we wouldn’t know that until the next day…
After hanging out on the street and making conversation with random people, we moved to Awesome Lounge where they had reserved a VIP table. I had been to a number of bars and clubs in Itaewon before, but this was my very first time here. Everyone was extremely friendly and I was honestly having the time of my life. Perhaps too much fun. I remember drinking 1/3 of a bottle of champagne, pole dancing near the side of the VIP area, and losing my pocket wifi out of my purse which later cost me $60. Fortunately I woke up with my wallet and passport the next day though. The club was loud and dark enough so it was the perfect atmosphere to get belligerently intoxicated. South Korea is a very safe country so you really don’t have to worry as long as you can make it back to your hotel. I vaguely remember us going somewhere to get sashimi after the club. It was one of the largest sashimi platters that I had ever seen in my life and man it was amazing! I was happy that I took a picture so I could remember it.
After we finished eating it was near 2am so we happily parted ways. I made sure to thank them for the most lit night in Itaewon ever and wish the cardboard armor guy good luck in his future marriage. If this was just the bachelor’s party, I could only imagine how crazy the wedding party was going to be.
I drunkenly walked back to my hostel called Guesthouse Yacht. Not only is it insanely cheap, but it’s on a hill just over the main street with all the bars and pubs. The perfection combo.
Apr. 28th, 2018 – I woke up hungover but in an extremely elevated mood. I couldn’t believe how crazy my first night out had started. I was missing my pocket wifi, but I figured all the crazy memories from the previous night were more than worth it. I had successfully attended my first bachelor’s party (even though I was a girl) and lived to tell the tale. How often do you get to live out experiences like that?
Anyway, it was time to resurface to reality. I had booked a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Klook for $45. This tour will take you to the borders of North and South Korea, and you can climb through a tunnel to technically be inside the North Korean border. You can only come here if you book a tour as entry into North Korea is extremely restricted and there is a checkpoint in Paju. However, the tours are completely safe and you will be with an English-speaking guide at all times. Learning about the Cold War and seeing the Four Infiltration Tunnels (that were dug between the borders for a surprise attack) is a rare experience and I was grateful I got the chance to climb through them. The views of North Korea that you can see from the DMZ border are surreal.
My tour group was one of the first to visit after peace was made between the North and the South. I had only figured this out shortly before my tour bus came to pick me up as the news was announced early this day. I had planned this trip during my Golden Week vacation a month in advance and had no idea this was happening. Everyone was in extremely high spirits and it was a great time to be in Korea!
Here are some pictures I took of North Korea. It was neat to see it with my own eyes. With all of the stories of it circulating online you often don’t know what to believe. It looks like there’s an extremely forested area nearby from the border. You wouldn’t even guess that it was North Korea at first:
North Korea is apparently famous for its chocolate soybean candy. Or at least that’s what they want you to think. I tried some at the souvenir shop and it wasn’t my favorite chocolate, but it definitely had a unique taste to it:
Next we visited Dorasan Station (which leads to the capital of North Korea):
Dorasan Station connects the railway between North and South Korea. It is located within the DMZ and has been out of use for years, but serves as a symbol of hope that unification may be possible in the future. You can walk inside it and take pictures, but even though peace was made it will be quite a while before civilians can use it. Apparently goods are transferred through it now, but limited information in English is available.
I was very moved by this tour. Though North Korea has a dangerous reputation, I don’t want to believe that all of its people are bad. I met one Australian girl on my Herb Island Tour later who said she had volunteered there. I can’t remember the details of what she did, but she spent about a week there learning about the culture. Since I am American, I know it is dangerous (and likely still impossible) for me to go, but when it becomes more safe I would really like to do a volunteer program there. I hope in the future it continues to open its borders, as South Korea is a wonderful country that I hold dearly in my heart.
Here is a collection of recent aesthetic food finds in the Kansai region of Japan focusing on Kyoto and Osaka (Volume 1). ♥
This country has no shortage of of aesthetic foods so I will continue to share cafes that I stumble across in future posts!
While wearing a butterfly-patterned dress, I managed to find butterfly ice cream at AKICHI in Namba (Osaka) that perfectly matched my drip. This colorful little alley functions as both a photo space covered in murals and a nook full of bakeries and cafes. I tried the strawberry and vanilla milk-flavored ice cream from Deglab; the “soft cream laboratory”. Not only was it topped with an elegant white chocolate butterfly and edible pearls, but it was also mouthwatering delicious! It felt like a dream come true. There is also a tapioca shop and bakery upstairs if you are looking for other desserts, but the ice cream is some of the best in town.
There’s nothing like eating a bowl of noodles in Kyoto. Or a Mont Blanc ice cream dessert disguised as noodles, because that makes perfect sense. At Wagurisenmon Saori in downtown Kyoto, you can confuse your taste buds by digging into these dessert noodles with a spoon and tasting a thick layer of cake and ice cream below. Kansai cooking is nothing short of amazing:
The taste of this dessert was average due to the “noodles” being somewhat tasteless, but as an aesthetic food enthusiast I could not pass this opportunity up. Definitely try it if you like the concept, but regular Mont Blanc sold in French bakeries throughout Japan taste a lot better and are cheaper. I will never forget this experience though.
All of my Japanese friends that travel to Osaka continually talk about butter unagi (eel) sushi, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I’ve eaten eel many times and think that it’s tasty and a good source of protein, but the downside is it’s considerably expensive compared to other foods. However, Jinen Sushi offers a pretty good deal on their nigiri and sushi rolls and you can order them individually. I eagerly ordered the unagi butter and confirmed that it was worth the hype. Eel normally has somewhat of a tough texture, but the sticks of butter add a softness to it that you normally wouldn’t expect. Because you can only get this in Osaka, I ordered another round. In America butter is a normal topping found in mass quantities, but here it’s far less common so you really treasure moments like this.
Happy Labo Popcorn
While I was going to a show in Osaka one day, I noticed mysterious steam coming from a street vendor. Curious to see what it was, I was surprised to find that it was actually frozen rainbow popcorn that turns your breath white! Happy Labo Popcorn definitely has a unique theme going for it and sells some interesting ice cream too. Usually I’m not a fan of flavored popcorn, but when frozen it actually has a sweet but still mild taste. It’s definitely attention-grabbing and fun to walk around with.
I was browsing Instagram one day when I came across an orange on my feed, but it wasn’t just an ordinary orange. It was an orange (wait for it)… WITH A FACE. Not just any face, but it had googly eyes and mustache. Truly blessed with poise and perfect symmetry. Whatever it was, I had to order it. My aesthetic food journey took me to Cocochi Cafe in Kyoto which is a cozy dessert place near the Imperial Palace. I can proudly say that drinking orange juice out of an orange with a handsome face is one of my biggest life accomplishments. There is also a cute dog at this cafe that is happy to greet you!
JTRRD Cafe started out as a small restaurant in Osaka that eventually became so popular that it opened branches in Kyoto and Nagoya mainly due to its patterned rainbow smoothies. Unfortunately the day I went they were out of ingredients for the smoothies, but I still enjoyed the paprika curry and omelet rice (which I shared with a friend because the serving size was so big). It was probably some of the best curry I have ever tasted due to the way it was seasoned. Paprika is truly an underrated ingredient. Next time I come back to this area, I will make an effort to try the famed smoothies too!
By this point I’ve experienced a lot of unique desserts in Japan, but pancake skewers are a new thing to me. At Panbo Osaka, you can choose the size of skewer you want (which consists of mini pancakes and fruits on a stick) then add chocolate, sprinkles, and other toppings to flavor it. The mini pancakes are surprisingly filling, and the marshmallow at the top makes me feel like I’m at a campfire. Speaking of camping…
Picture a hammock cafe where you can relax and drink with your friends in hammocks. Now picture that same cafe with all you can drink alcohol. Welcome to Revarti Osaka, maybe one of the best watering holes in all of Japan. I’ve been to hammock cafes in Tokyo before, but they sure didn’t have the all you can drink option (maybe they will in the future, but this place was way more relaxed). I was brought here with my bartender friend from Space Station, and with a group of 4 people I’m pretty sure we only paid around 1500 yen each. They had everything from wine to high balls to vodka cocktails too so I indulged in everything. We also tried dunking crackers into chocolate fondue with huge marshmallows baked into it. This was by far one of my best drinking experiences in Osaka that was followed by a 12 hour party at club dapnia. A night I will never forget!
The Longest Softcream in Japan
At Long Softcream on American Street in Osaka, you can eat the longest soft-serve ice cream in Japan standing at a whopping 40cm. But be quick~ It will melt fast if you try to eat it during the summer. The irony is perhaps compared to the average size of American desserts, it’s not so long after all. The taste is pretty ordinary, but I bought it mainly for the meme factor. I will be writing more in detail about the wacky things you can find on American Street in the future because this is just the beginning!
BONUS: Individually Sealed Sliced Pieces of Bread
I can’t remember exactly where this place was, but the fact that it sells individually sealed sliced pieces of bread is simply amazing. All it needs is a side of unagi butter!
Thank you for reading Volume 1 of my aesthetic food journeys in Kansai. If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments! I will be writing Volume 2 focused on Nagoya in the near future.
For the past 2 weeks I’ve been invading Australia; starting from the southern picturesque city of Melborune to the charming countryside of Adelaide. Since a number of my Japanese friends have studied abroad or traveled to this country, it’s always been on my radar. Unlike my previous trips to Asian countries where I have a set itinerary for each day, this trip was a lot more easygoing and spontaneous. A friend I met at a beach party in Japan kindly let me crash at their place near the center of the city, so together we decided to hit the city while catching up and also experience the seemingly endless nightlife.
A lot of my American friends have asked me what Melbourne was like, and I told them: “Picture a cleaner, safer, version of your favorite American city with slightly less people, and that’s pretty much it!” One thing I notice about most Australians is that they are pretty laidback and travel more frequently outside the county than a lot of Americans do. Australia is very affordable to live in, and the tuition fees for education are greatly subsidized by the government compared to America. The only downside is that eating out is somewhat expensive, but on the plus side, there is no tipping like in the US.
This trip initially started out very rough because I negligently forgot to apply for my ETA to enter the country (I thought I could do so upon arrival), so Jetstar had to reschedule my flight a day later after I applied for it. Essentially all you need to do is fill out a form online and pay $30 to enter the country so it’s extremely easy, but make sure to do this before your flight! I have never had issues with tourist visas until this trip, but it was only a small bump in the road because I still was able to do everything I wanted.
Once I landed, I took the Sky Bus to Southern Cross Station to meet my friend. Immediately he recognized me due to my flamboyant blonde hair despite us not seeing one another for over two years. We first got some lattes at Mid Town Coffee which I highly recommend, then immediately proceeded to go day drinking at Melborune’s famous rooftop bar. The coffee and the White Russians somehow helped me fight off the jetlag as we walked around Chinatown and other parts of the city. What I liked most about Melbourne is that almost all of the downtown area is walkable and there are inexpensive trams available as well. The system is very easy to figure out.
Being in Australia felt like being in an alternate universe America. Instead of GameStop, they still have EB Games, which seems to have more selection and be far more superior. Forget about Burger King–it’s called Hungry Jack’s here. Porn Hub should cum and get their pizza. 8bit burgers is also a great place to eat out (I love their logo design). Lord of the Fries is not only a good pun, but they also has an entire vegan menu. Despite living in Tokyo, I tried a lot of Japanese places here that were a little expensive but overall delicious. Wagaya was one of my favorites due to its large sake list, but Japanese Gyoza Bar deserves an honorable mention. Those are just a few of the places that we visited, but there are many more!
My favorite dessert places were Chokolait, where I had amazing rainbow pancakes made with pavlova, and a cakeshop called Glace where I had an amazing mushroom pastry. They also had a really cute marshmallow one I wish I could have tried, but was too full!
There are a number of bars along the Yarra river that runs through the city, but my favorites were Storyville where I ordered Butterbeer, and the Croft where one of my Japanese friends DJed. They also have syringe drinks available that are very tasty and fun to share with others. All of these places had really friendly and welcoming atmospheres, and I even managed to make friends in the bathroom!
One event I recommend checking out is Delight because they run really fun music events with Smash Bros. tournaments at various locations in central Melbourne. I met some very nice people here, and was impressed with the quality of music.
One of my favorite memories in this city was drinking Korean sochu while watching Kenny Beats & Zack Fox with two friends in an office building. I felt like I was reliving my college days and it was extremely nostalgic. The above poster I shot inspires you to let go of your thoughts and embrace your surroundings, which is exactly what I did during this trip. It was really beneficial for my mental health.
Overall I was very impressed with this city and felt like I could finally escape from my high-stress life in Tokyo. Some people refer to Melbourne as the “hipster” area of Australia, but I think it has a lot more to offer than just chic cafes and murals like other places that have that label. I will be writing more about the art galleries and wildlife reserves I visited in my future posts so you can get a better feel about what this country is like, but I recommend that you visit it if you ever get the chance!
Have you ever had the urge to just straight up inject fresh Nutella into your mouth with a syringe? Well at Dex2Rose, one of Melbourne’s most unique gelato spots, you can legally do this without any shame. In fact, the syringe filled with chocolate and hazlenut spread actually packs a lot flavor you wouldn’t get by simply spreading it on food. Not only do they have Nutella gelato that seemingly defies gravity, but they also have crepes, waffles, cider, and other brilliant desserts. This was one of the silliest things I did while I was on my two week trip to Australia, and it was completely worth it for the meme factor.
Another unforgettable dessert I had was Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Ice Ccream at Milkcow. Who knew that by mixing vanilla ice cream and ground up Cheetos sprinkled with the “flamin’ hot” powder, you could get this beautiful creation:
The taste of this ice cream is a bit difficult to explain in words, so I recommend that everyone tries it for themselves! The ice cream was definitely still sweet, but the texture of the powder makes your mouth tingle for a bit at first until the ice cream hits your tongue. Regardless of the initial sensory processing disorder, this is something I’m really happy that I had the chance to try!
I will be writing about my experience traveling through Melbourne and Adelaide including stories about closeup counters with kangaroos, partying and playing Smash Bros. at the local bars, and all of the aesthetic food I had in the meantime! I am currently back in Japan writing and doing some freelance work, but I will be planning my next international trip for my birthday very soon. Thank you for reading, as always! ♡