On my way back to Atami after meeting the friendly capybara at Izu Shaboten Zoo, I couldn’t help but notice an advertisement on the train with a picture of illuminated capybara in a garden full of LED lights (much like the photo I took above). I was completely captivated by the image. What was this magical place with LSD visuals and sparkling wonder doing in rural Japan? Being the spontaneous adventurer that I am, I had to investigate!
With a quick Google search, I discovered that it was Izu Granbel Park, located adjacent to the capybara zoo I went to earlier that day. Fortunately the park was open until 9:30pm, so it made the perfect after party location for my trip. I immediately got off at the closest station and rode the Ito train line to Futo Station. On the way I bought a mini bottle of wine from the nearby Family Mart and walked 20 minutes to the park (because illuminations are way more fun to watch with alcohol).
What’s hilarious is that Google Maps directs you to the back entrance of the park (which was closed when I reached it) so I had to jump a small fence to get inside. However, my efforts of navigating a dark and solemn back road to reach my destination would be rewarded with a brilliant lightshow over a global atmosphere of twinkling bulbs:
I had definitely fell down the capybara hole and landed in some strange wonderland. When I walked through the back entrance, I was greeted by giant neon candies and an endless field of glowing flowers as far as the eye could see. Upon descending a hill in that area, a sea of radiant fish and a luminous backdrop of Mt. Fuji greeted me (only in Japan). When I turned to walk up towards the front entrance, I stumbled upon a garden of lollipops with capybara and red pandas frolicking in them. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a photo opportunity here with literally every step. This felt like something that I had made up in a dream because it was so bright and beautiful!
This was the best illumination I had ever seen in Japan. Previously I had visited Aichi’s Floral Oasis, but this park’s lightshows were much more elaborate. In addition to the global atmosphere of lights, they also had a mini zoo with gerbils and other small animals. In the summer there is a waterpark and various rides open too. Besides the LED (LSD?) capybaras, my favorite attractions were the Tunnel of Dreams and the unexpected dinosaur exhibit. There’s also a glowing pirate ship and pirates restaurant that is dog-friendly. If I had a dog, I would definitely bring them here!
This park really expanded my mind and put me in a good mood, so I would recommend it to everyone that visits Shizuoka! You’ll find that the illuminations outside of the city are much more fun to see, plus this is probably the only place in the world where you can see real capybaras bathe at hotsprings during the day and illuminated ones at night. A real fantasy come alive.
Address and Admission Price
Address: 1090 Futo, Itō, Shizuoka 413-0231
Entrance to the park is only 1300 yen (much cheaper than what I’ve paid to enter other illuminated parks).
Since no trip to a foreign country is complete without experiencing its nightlife, I decided to check out a few unique cocktail bars and venues in Taipei and Taichung while I was traveling in Taiwan earlier this year. Through going to music events in Tokyo, I was fortunate to have met my friend Hojo who not only manages tours and bookings for foreign artists, but also curates in own events in Taiwan with CUSTOMS and DJs music that transcends genres (see Hojo’s SoundCloud for reference). In Asia it’s generally easy to find bars and spots to socialize, but the scene I found here far exceeded my expectations.
At Taiwan’s venues, particularly at FINAL, the entrance fee is affordable, the cocktails and music are top-notch, and you can actually sit down with people and socialize. A big issue with some venues in Tokyo is that they are too crowded, and although I am a club enthusiast I sometimes find it hard to relax even when I really enjoy the music. People in Tokyo have a tendency to seek stimulation (and I am guilty as charged), but it’s very easy to get drained from the steady flow of events. However, in Taiwan I never had that issue. Each night I went out I was able to find the perfect atmosphere for whatever mood I was in, meet a lot of new friends, and make awesome memories that make me want to come back here in the future.
The Fucking Place (操場)
The very first bar I went to in Taipei was called The Fucking Place. This place became a meme when Trekkie Trax toured here because one of their members got legendarily lit, so it’s been on my bucket list for quite a long time. This bar is close to a lot of clubs in Taipei, so it makes the ideal pregaming spot. But why the name, you ask? Hojo explains it all in his Tweet below:
操場 = Cao Chang = Fuck Place or Place for fucking, and it's a pun because if you say Cao with the flat tone it's like Playground or Exercise field and if you say it with the 4th (descending) tone it becomes "Fuck"
True to its name, Fucking Place’s atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. They have a large selection of hard liquors and you can ask for your own favorite cocktail combination too. I drank whiskey mixed with milk and reached the perfect level of drunk among good people.
The upstairs of the bar is also worth checking out because it has a mini gallery that will perhaps expand in the future:
By far one of the best venues I’ve experienced in Asia is FINAL in Taipei. I was at here 3 different nights during my 12 day stay in Taiwan because each night had a diverse variety of music. This club has always been on my radar because a number of my favorite artists from Japan (including Carpainter and Onjuicy) have performed here, and Hojo also runs his own events here. Each night I connected with different friends from around the world so I would say the scene here is very international and friendly.
By chance, Night Tempo and Neon City Records were doing a large show here on the first Friday of 2020 during my trip, so I was extremely lucky to see them here. I have been following Night Tempo since college and attended his first HMV show in Tokyo, but recently haven’t been able to attend his events in Japan because they sell out extremely fast. Fortunately I was able to get door tickets here and catch his amazing 2 hour performance while catching up with my friends in Taiwan.
Night Tempo’s style has really changed from sampling old Japanese songs to producing Showa era idol music and recently working with famous vocalists like Anri and Mariya Takeuchi. He played at Fuji Rock last year in addition to touring many Asian countries and America as well. I have met some of my best friends through his music, so I always try to catch his events whenever I can:
The very next day, Hojo hosted CUSTOMS featuring IVVVO who I met, and other aspiring international artists with a lot of talent. As I have heard from my friends who previously attended CUSTOMS events in the US, this one was nothing short of amazing. Each artist played whatever style of music they wanted, and no one could predict what was coming next so it was fun. One of my favorite moments was captured below:
WAITING FOR TONIGHT OHHHH WHEN YOU WOULD BE HERE IN MY ARMS @theRealHojo Taipei’s music scene really do be like this sometimes, folks. And it’s completely awesome!!! pic.twitter.com/1To6AYgaPc
I would recommend FINAL to everyone because it plays and caters to all tastes of music. The scene is here is one of the best I’ve come across in Asia and I look forward to seeing who else performs here.
While I was in Taiching, I decided to check out this bar called The Cave because it was the other venue in Taiwan where Night Tempo toured. I came here on a weekday so no live performer was playing, but I really appreciated the ambient atmosphere and the carefully mixed cocktails the bartender crafted for me. I ordered one that looked like cotton candy and was coated with honey, and another delicious cherry one that was both delicious and high in alcohol content. This was one of the best bars that I have been to in Taiwan, and I highly recommend it to everyone. It was very cozy but perfect for the mood that I was in.
Afterwards, I decided to go on a walk to the nearby Taichung Park Pavilion. I really appreciated the vibe of the neon lights and how bright the pavilion shone at night (I think it looks prettier at night than during the day). Additionally I ran into so many cute dogs that were being walked here, so it was a real delight.
On my very last night in Taipei, I went to a small lounge called Round4 recommended by Hojo. Since it was a weeknight it wasn’t very crowded, but the bartenders gave us the best hospitality. A bartender named Jimmy came out and talked to us, and also made special coffee cocktails that I’ll never forget. I really like it when the bartenders make an effort to connect with their visitors, so this is a place I’d like to drink at again because it has good vibes.
Which raises the question…
Will I return to Taiwan in the future?
Since it’s right next door to Japan, I would say there is a very high chance that I will return. I had a phenomenal time both experiencing the night life and spending time with nature in this country. There will be a music festival held at a temple this year that I am considering coming back for. Once the dates are decided, I may buy another plane ticket depending on my schedule. The life of a traveler who also loves clubbing is never complacent.
After spending the whole week of Christmas partying in Tokyo (I saw Trekkie Trax perform 3 times and also met Mall Grab who was on tour from London), I took the first flight to Taipei on new year’s day to begin my aesthetic adventures in Taiwan! I spent January 1st – January 9th exploring the country from top to bottom; climbing mountains, clubbing with friends, and trying the most interesting food I could find… Which lead me to this famous toilet restaurant chain in Taiwan and many other amazing things that I’m excited to write about!
Why travel out of Japan after New Year’s Eve?
Since most companies in Japan start their holiday on the last Friday of December (which was the 27th this year), it is actually cheaper to fly during the first week of the new year. I bought my roundtrip ticket through Scoot airlines for $250. Because I had been out drinking all night at Japan’s largest club, ageHa, I went to the wrong terminal twice but fortunately found my way there after some time. The airport employees were giving out free sake shots in the departure lobby to celebrate the beginning of the new year. Ironically the person that handed me one had also traveled to Michigan (my quaint hometown) and spoke almost fluent English. Already this year was off to a crazy start!
Though Tokyo is an awesome destination for partying during or before New Year’s Eve, usually the first 2 weeks of January are pretty quiet. Most of my Japanese friends go to their hometowns to spend time with family during the new year’s holiday, so my timing with this trip was perfect. I had the chance to experience a lot of inspiring music events and also say goodbye to everyone I care about before I departed. This left me in a good state of mind for the things that were yet to come. Taiwan is not affected by the new year because most people observe the Chinese New Year (later in January). My friend informed me not to come here during this time because most things will be closed.
Waking up in Taipei
After my 4 hour flight, I awoke in Taipei with only a mild hangover. The first thing I noticed was how much warmer it was here than in Tokyo (I only needed a light jacket as opposed to a winter coat). I also realized that although I don’t know any Mandarin Chinese (which is widely spoken here), I could still recognize a lot of the characters and figure out what certain places were from my kanji studies. There is a lot of English support around the city as well. The metro is easy to use (you can purchase a refillable card or single trip tokens), and it honestly feels a lot like Tokyo with less crowds and annoying tourists. I felt relaxed during most of my trip which is rare for me (usually I am always in a rush or on the go).
Eating Hotpot out of a Toilet Bowl
As per tradition, I always dine at the most meme-worthy restaurants my first night in any new country I visit (take the Unicorn Cafe in Thailand, for example). Taiwan is no exception, so I decided to try the Modern Toilet Restaurant near Ximen Station. Ximen is near the main Taipei Station and has a ton of trendy shops, claw machine games, tea shops, and delicious street food so I recommend checking it out. It was the perfect first destination for me.
Promising “Crappy Food” and “Shitty Service”, the Modern Toilet did not disappoint:
It’s amazing how popular this restaurant is between tourist and locals alike. With the lively atmosphere, toilet bowl seats, and hilariously themed menu items that you can share with your friends, I can see exactly why it is. I had to wait 10 minutes to get in, but the staff were extremely friendly and accommodating (despite advertising shitty service). Most of the dishes they have on the menu are hotpot, but there are a number of à la carte and dessert menu items as well. I settled with the vegetarian hotpot and the chocolate shaved ice.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the hotpot since I’ve had some of the best nabe in Fukuoka, Japan, and this simply couldn’t compare. The ingredients were fresh and service was good but the taste just wasn’t as delicious as how they make it in Japan (and other Asian countries). I was informed by my native Taiwan friends that this isn’t the first place you should try hotpot, but it is worth coming here for the experience.
The shaved ice, on the other hand, was beyond delicious. They topped it with condensed milk, Oreos, marshmallows, cornflakes, and a scoop of chocolate ice cream so I actually enjoyed this more than Japan’s shaved ice (which is just ice with a light flavored syrup). For a themed restaurant, the portion sizes were quite large and affordable so I would recommend coming here for the humor and meme factor. I’ve seen poop-shaped food in other countries, but eating out of a toilet bowl takes it to a whole different level.
Looking for more stinky food?
If you haven’t yet gotten your fill yet, hop on over to the nearby night market and try some stinky tofu! It really isn’t that bad considering you just ate hot pot and chocolate ice cream out of a toilet bowl. I promise.
Look forward to the rest of my Taiwan article series and have a happy new year!
Korea will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the first country I ever felt truly “lost” in. When I first visited Japan during my study abroad trip, I already had a basic grasp on the language and had the ability to ask for help and directions if needed. Other Asian countries I’ve been to like Hong Kong and Thailand attract a great amount of foreign business and tourism, so there’s always some English guidance even if you don’t speak the native tongue. Korea also attracts a number of foreigners, but it’s not really a place known for its beaches or resorts so outside of Seoul (and even within the city) there is limited English support.
Korean people are very educated and usually have a basic understanding of the English language, but those who do not go on to higher education usually don’t have much of a reason to study it (much like Japanese people). Knowing absolutely no Hangul before coming to Korea made me experience an initial language barrier for the first time in my life, so I had to learn to think quickly on my feet and also always have my translation app at hand. It was a bit frustrating at first and I regret not taking more time to learn basic Hangul, but not comprehending any of the language also made my trip a fun challenge while learning about a new culture. I am very fortunate that people here were extremely kind to me. An example: When I was too jetlagged to figure out how to get back the deposit on my subway card, a kind Korean man helped me work the machine so I could receive my change. After he suggested we exchange contact information in case I needed help. I sensed now ill will from his actions so I did so. I am happy that I can feel safe at all times in this country.
Getting back to the story, I have visited Korea a total of three times: Once during the new year of 2018 visiting Seoul and Busan, again during 2018 for Golden Week exploring Jeju Island, and once again in 2019 for eye surgery (I will talk more about my operation next year).
In this article I would like to talk about one of my favorite glitches in the human paradigm fashion/avant-garde galleries: Adererror. I stumbled upon this place while hunting for aesthetic things near Hongik University, and boy was I in paradise! From cassette tapes to “Dad fresh markets”–this place had it all!
Dad fresh market!
Dad fresh market?! you ask, wondering if they are selling actual paternal figures at this display. Fear not, because “Dad” actually stands for Day After Day which is popular designer soap brand sold on the first floor of this store. I am sure the English-speaking visitors get a kick out of this when they first see it (I sure did).
Here are more fantastic sights of the latest 2019 display:
The neon blue “THE BLUEST BLUE” sign immediately made me think of in the blue shirt. I opened a closet to find 3 TVs flickering with images of owls. One room was filled with a broken popcorn machine. Another room was completely upside down. Was that an iPhone glued to the bathroom door? And who put the plant in the bathtub!? All these sights made the Dad fresh market seem like a normality.
The 2018 display also raised some questions:
FLOWRS. IN. URINALS. SOAPINTOILET. Using tissue boxes as wallpaper? Plants climbing ladders. Mattresses chilling with speakers. More neon signs and pressed pink rocks. What is the true meaning of “Day After Day” anyway? Add all of these questions with my inability to comprehend Hangul, and you have complete sensory overload. The best part was that I was enjoying every second of this. Being in a foreign country without having any idea how to speak the language, and stumbling upon a place as unique as this–it was like a fantasy come true.
Clothing aside (which I was almost too memorized to look at, but I did do some browsing), Adererror is a masterpiece. And to think this was just the beginning of my wild adventures in Korea. TO BE CONTINUED…
Here is a collection of desserts that will make your heart melt in Seoul (Volume 2). ♥
Volume 1 was published yesterday. I will be writing a full article series on my experience in Korea within the next coming weeks.
Here is a collection of places I stumbled upon which I highly recommend:
Zapangi is by far one of the best not-so-hidden gems in Seoul. The entrance to the cafe is disguised as a pink vending machine door that you must find the handle to enter (fortunately, it’s quite easy to do so once you get up close). Inside the cafe you will be greeted by a magical assortment of neon signs and rainbow desserts. I highly recommend the mermaid cupcake–the tail is just way too photogenic to give up! I also ordered a rainbow ice smoothie which really hit the spot. I wish I would have had more room for the unicorn donuts, but alas, I was full. I recommend coming here twice if you have enough time, because there are just way too many cute desserts to choose from!
Thanks Nature Cafe
If you have internet searched popular cafes in Seoul, then likely this one has already popped up. Thanks Nature Cafe in Hongdae is infamous for not only its flower tea, but also its fluffy sheep (named Sugar & Honey)! The sheep are kept outside in a pen and are free to pet as long as you order something from the menu. This makes waiting way more fun! You can make a reservation in advance using their website, but I just walked in here without one when I came here in early 2018. Watching flowers bloom inside of your teacup is an experience I highly recommend seeing:
While shopping in Myeongdong, I saw a number of people holding this beautiful flower petal ice cream. Not wanting to miss out on this aesthetic food experience, I had to stop by and try it for myself. Milky Bee features ice cream and gelato cones that you can customize to your liking. If my memory is correct, I ordered green tea, vanilla, and strawberry gelato to make my cone look like a lovely bouquet. It was almost too pretty to eat, but I ate it anyway!
If you want to try the famous Korean shaved ice (called patbingsoo), my recommendation is going to one of the Sulbing chains. They have the most options as far as flavors and toppings go. I ordered the strawberry cheesecake shaved ice, and even in the winter I thought that it was beyond amazing. The strawberries tasted so fresh and the cheesecake helped balance the flavor. I’ve decided I like Korean shaved ice a lot more than the ones sold in Japan, because it has more substance to it and tastes a lot better. Fortunately a number of Korean dessert cafes have been popping up in Tokyo lately, and Harajuku even has its own Sulbing branch!
REMICONE is a uniquely designed cafe that resembles an ice cream truck in central Gangnam. There are way too many beautiful sweets to choose from, but I decided on the cotton candy ice cream milk and the moon cupcake (I joked about how this is actually Night Tempo in cupcake form). There was a mango macaroon ice cream cup that I really wanted to try, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to. If you come to this cafe, please try all of the wonderful desserts for me!
Urban Space Cafe
Last but definitely not least, I recommend that all of my fellow lovers of aesthetic things check out Urban Space Cafe. Relive your childhood memories by diving into a ballpit and lounging in inflatables with a menu of crazy cocktails. I ordered some strange concoction that was served to me in a mini shopping kart, and I liked it so much I also ordered a cocktail with sparklers in it. Came here alone? No problem at all because there are tons of teddy bears that you can use as your date. I had so much fun taking photos under the neon lights and swimming through the ballpit. This is true Seoul Cafe culture. The original cafe I went to was in a remote district of Seoul, but they recently moved it to central Myeongdong so you can access it more easily now.
Thank you for reading my 2nd Volume of recommend desserts in Seoul! This is all I have for now, but I will be sure to update with more recommendations in the future.
In my next posts I will be writing about Jeju Island, the DMZ, and some of the gardens and art galleries I visited in Korea. Please look forward to my future posts~
At the beginning of the month I traveled all the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima in order to attend two events that were part of Pasocom Ongaku Club’s Night Flow Album Release Tour. The first was held at Mondo Cafe in Fukuyama, and the second was at a food and music venue called ONDO in central Hiroshima. in the blue shirt—who is one of my favorite indie electronic producers in Japan—was also a part of this Hiroshima tour so I was ecstatic to go on this trip!
Hiroshima is typically a place where people go to visit historical sights, so before my arrival I had no idea what the nightlife was like. I was pleasantly surprised to see how interactive the music scene is here. Not only did the quality of music and talent of the artists exceed my expectations, but I also have fond memories from both events because they connected me with a lot of different people. I also had the experience to see rare parts of Japan, so coming here was worth all of the time and effort.
In my previous articles, I covered how to travel around Hiroshima and Fukuyama, so in this article I will be writing a detailed report on the music producers that I saw here.
Who is Pasocom Ongaku Club?
Pasocom Ongaku Club (パソコン音楽クラブ in Japanese; also stylized “Pasocom Music Club” in English) is a unit formed in 2015 focused on creating desktop music (DTM) of the new age. They have an adorable dog mascot named Maron (マロン) that appears in a lot of their photos and merchandise. Pasocom Ongaku Club have performed at numerous venues in Japan and utilize modules and digital synthesizers like the Roland SC series and Yamaha MU series to create 90s style music. They have also participated in music production and remixes with other artists, commercials, and a wide range of other activities. ⇢ Official Website
A Brief Timeline of Pasocom Ongaku Club’s Releases:
2015: The unit was formed and started uploading DTM tracks on their Soundcloud.
2017: Released their first major album “PARKCITY” on Maltine Records. Also self-released a miscellaneous album “SHE IS A“.
2019: “Night Flow” and “Night Flow Remixes” were released with critical acclaim. Arranged “Pokémon Shiritori” (ポケモンしりとり)━the ending for the latest Pokémon anime based on the games Sword/Shield. The group of children singing the lyrics to their song are called “Pokémon Ongaku Club”.
One of the most popular Pasocom Ongaku Club songs out right now is “reiji no machi” which features lovely vocals by Inoue Warabi:
I first saw Pasocom Ongaku Club in 2018 at a music/Q&A event called “ゆパ交流戦” in Osaka. I was very impressed by their music production method and how they sang through what looks like a talk box to record some of their vocals.
Saw Batsu, in the blue shirt, ゆnovation and Pasocom Music Club in Osakadai night at an underground music conference. It was very fun, I had never seen someone play a show with a melodica before!!!! 🎶 #ゆパ交流戦pic.twitter.com/8sNjGP7YKc
The event was held again this year  with a slightly different lineup. I could not attend the event this year because I was in Korea, but the highlights were uploaded to in the blue shirt’s YouTube channel.
Who is in the blue shirt?
Born in 1991, “in the blue shirt” is the solo project of a trackmaker named Arimura Ryo who currently resides in Osaka. He started creating music in 2012 and also has managed sound production for commercials and web advertisements. Released his 2nd album, “Recollect the Feeling” in April of this year. Recently he has been organizing a recurring trackmaker/DTM workshop event called “Potluck Lab” and working on his own vlog series tentatively titled “Travels in the blue“. ⇢ Official Website
in the blue shirt also released a remix of “reiji no machi” on “Night Flow Remixes”:
The First Night: At Mondo Cafe
After seeing all of Hiroshima’s major sights, I arrived at Mondo Cafe in Fukuyama around midnight. This was my first time ever going to a music event in Hiroshima so I was a bit nervous by myself, but I was happy to see that some of my friends I had met at Kyoto Metro were here too! It had been several months since I had last saw them so drinking together and catching up was a very pleasant time. Some nice boys from Hiroshima also bought me drinks and I was grateful for their hospitality.
Though I didn’t know many of the local Fukuyama DJs, all of them had great talent. The night was a mix of DTM, disco house, electronic, indie, and funk music. During the event I tried to make conversation with other people, but the music was so good I didn’t want to leave the dancefloor!!
Pasocom Ongaku Club’s set consisted of their own custom intro, hit tracks Night Flow, and some nostalgic tracks from PARKCITY like “oldnewtown”. It was very refreshing to see how much they had improved since I first saw them over a year ago! I recommend their music to everyone.
in the blue shirt’s set consisted of many different genres; his own songs released on Sensation of Blueness, Recollect the Feeling, and toward morning were mixed in with songs from other international artists. He also played “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” by KYLE, “Nishio 2” by Lemaitre, and “Whatever You Want” by 95 Royale━which is one of my favorite house tracks of all time! This is one of the best in the blue shirt performances I had ever seen!
By the end of the night I was filled with happiness and inspiration from all of the amazing tracks I had danced to that night. It was extremely hard to sleep, but I managed to get a few hours in before the next event on Sunday.
The second event was on a Sunday evening so it started early around 6pm. Much like Mondo Cafe, this event space was very homey but well-suited for the event. Most of the people from last night also came here, so I had the chance to talk to some of the DJs and also see my friends again. I was very grateful for everyone’s kindness and the hard work put into this event. It felt more like a house party than a club event!
What made this event extremely unique was that Pasocom Ongaku Club dropped “Pokémon Shiritori” in one of their sets for the very first time. The composition of this song is brilliant because they sampled the Pokémon Center healing SFX. You can see the video I captured of it (this is one of my most-viewed videos):
Additionally, the VJ here was very talented. The series of flashing logos and animations was the perfect level of stimulation for this kind of event. The lighting at Mondo Cafe was ambient and soothing, but I liked the way ONDO was set up even more.
in the blue shirt’s set was once again filled with a high level of energy and precise mixing of multiple genres. This set had his famous song “Seven Bridge” on it that made the club go insane as well as several tracks that I did not recognize. I am now even more excited to hear the new EP he is working on! I was really fortunate to talk with him and buy one of the few remaining vinyls of Recollect the Feeling. He signed it with my name on it too! I left the venue with a very good feeling.
Afterwards, I went to a lovely Chinese restaurant with some of my female friends. It was so nice to catch up after all this time had passed and share these moments together.
〒730-0026 Hiroshima, Naka Ward, Tanakamachi, 6−3, 音戸温泉ビル
Traveling around Japan for music events has been extremely rewarding for me. I’ve learned much about the world, the people, and the culture of different prefectures of this country through music, and I’ve still got much to learn! I go to clubs and events in Tokyo almost every week, but the atmosphere of the venues in Hiroshima and Kyoto are much more welcoming. The artists and listeners are able to connect so much more freely with this type of event. I will cherish all of the memories that I made here.
I do not have any big trips planned for the rest of the year, but I am planning to go to Nagoya in 2020. Please stay tuned for more updates, and thank you always for reading. ♡
Over the weekend I traveled to Hiroshima Prefecture for the Pasocom Ongaku Club Nightflow Tour at two locations in rural Japan. The events touched my heart so I will be writing a detailed report about their music in a future post, but first I wanted to point out two amazing places I found along the way while backpacking!
Next to Hiroshima Prefecture lies Okayama Prefecture, which is less than an hour away by shinkansen (bullet train). I have traveled here before to explore Kurashiki, a famous canal town that attracts a lot of tourists, but here are some other off the beaten path recommendations I have for those who are visiting the area:
Shinju: The Okonomiyaki Serving Robot Restaurant
In this area of Japan, okonomiyaki–a pancake usually served with bacon, fried noodles, and vegetables–is an extremely popular dish. The name “okonomiyaki” literally means “to one’s liking” so you can usually customize your order with other ingredients (such as seafood) or ask for a vegetarian version as well.
At Shinju, the extremely hardworking “NUMBER-ONE-ROBOT” will serve the ingredients you order directly to your table so you can cook the okonomiyaki yourself! Wearing an adorable Disney hat and greeting you in a friendly tone, this robot does everything it can to make you feel welcome:
I decided to order the seafood okonomiyaki set with noodles. I’ve had this dish before, but it’s been a long time since I prepared it on a hotplate myself. The kind staff taught me the correct way to flip the pancake batter on the noodles to create the perfect okonomiyaki. If you are unsure of how to do this, they will be sure to assist you (it’s actually quite easy once you get the hang of it):
After about 10-15 minutes of cooking, we ended up with this delicious result:
Not only is okonomiyaki delicious, but it’s also the perfect hangover food. Overall the service here was above average and the staff even sat down and talked to me for a while. I told them all about the event and how much I enjoy backpacking in Asia because it’s generally very safe to travel here.
The joke of the day was how the robot here resembled the robot on the Pasocom Ongaku Club Promotional flyer (drawn by Satoshi Kurosaki):
This was the best okonomiyaki restaurant I have ever been to, so I recommend it to literally everyone!
Remember when the dinosaurs invaded rural Japan? I remember, because I was there!
On the way back to Hiroshima for the 2nd event I was going to, I decided to stop by Kasaoka, Okayama, because it is the closest major city near the border. Here I was elated to find a park full of dinosaurs outside of the Horseshoe Crab Museum! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go inside the museum, but I had a ton of fun photographing the dinosaurs in the park (which is free to visit).
I really find it odd that someone decided to put these dinosaurs all the way out here in rural Japan. What inspired this park, and are there deeper secrets buried here in Kasaoka that are waiting to be discovered? I will be searching for more places to visit like this in the future because I simply find them fascinating. There’s so much more to discover in Japan than simply Tokyo–epic finds are literally everywhere.
On my last day in Cambodia, I decided to take a walk to the Imperial Palace in Phnom Penh and try some aesthetic food at the cafes nearby. What an amazing trip this was! I had the opportunity to visit the killing fields and learn about the brutal history of Cambodia, rave in a jungle on Koh Rong, volunteer with bears, and also see the historic temples of Angkor Wat. I ended my trip by coming to the capital city to see how it has reshaped itself since the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Phnom Penh reminded me of a smaller Ho Chi Minh City because there were a lot of motorcycle commuters and international travelers with tiny shops that lined the streets. It was a bit harder to traverse on foot compared to Siem Reap with all of the traffic, but it is definitely worth checking out.
Since I had done a lot of traveling in this country, I spent a lot of time relaxing in my room at Lovely Jubbly Villa, which I highly recommend staying at. They have an excellent bar by the pool with a happy hour every night and the staff are extremely friendly. Plus the panda mascot is so adorable! The perks of coming during the off season is that it is very easy to make friends and go out with the Cambodian locals here. My hotel was able to help me book cheap tuk tuk rides and a ride to the airport, and they had cheap tours you could book the day of. It was such a pleasant stay and I was sad to leave, but 10 days here was enough for me to see everything that I wanted.
Overall I was extremely impressed by the warmth and friendliness that everyone showed me here. Most people that come to Cambodia have already been to Thailand and are looking for a different experience. I was able to meet a lot of cool people that inspired me to travel to other Asian countries as well. It’s amazing how much this country has built itself back up since its destructive civil war in the 1970s.
If you have any questions about traveling to Cambodia, please see my original itinerary, or feel free to ask me in the comments.
After my wild night of raving in the jungle of Koh Rong and frolicking on the beach until the early hours of the morning, I still couldn’t sleep so I decided to take the first ferry from Koh Touch to its sister island Koh Rong Samleom. This ticket cost about $8 and there are 4 ferries that depart from Koh Rong daily depending on the boat service you choose. I decided to get off at Saracen Bay because it has the prettiest beaches and most bars and accommodations. M’pai Bay is more lively at night and attracts a lot of backpackers with its parties and cheap accommodations. However, Saracen Bay and the other parts of the island are quite relaxing and carefree in comparison.
The atmosphere here during the day was definitely more quiet and reserved than the main island, but it had a lot of restaurants and places you could stop for a massage as well as snorkeling equipment available for you to rent. Wifi is scarce here due to how remote this island was, but I was able to score it for a bit from a local restaurant I ate at. It was definitely the cleanest area in Cambodia I had been to and I was very impressed with all of the great views:
Similar to Koh Rong, this island also hosts jungle parties on Friday nights and Half Moon Parties during certain times of the year. Though I wasn’t able to attend one here this year, I’d really like to come back and go in the future. I loved staying at Treehouse Bungalows on the main island, but I would like to trying staying here in the future so I could get to know more of the locals. The island really has a great vibe and is off-the-grid so you can definitely make it your own. I just went here as a day trip, but I wish I could have stayed longer. It was great to relax here and reflect on all the crazy things that happened the night before.
For more information on Koh Rong Samleon, please check out the island guide from Don’t Forget to Move!
When caught up in work, stress, and a maze of relationships, it’s often easy to lose sight of yourself and forget what is important. Though I love living in Tokyo, I find it often hard to relax here and there is an endless amount of events occurring which really places a lot of pressure on my life. Spending 4 days on the small Cambodian island of Koh Rong in Koh Touch, a small village that only stretches for about a mile, really taught me taught me some valuable lessons I will treasure for life.
It was here where I went to my first old-school rave in the jungle and learned to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life. The villagers were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me despite the fact that I ventured here completely alone. My time here really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently. Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before. I am still trying to find the proper words to convey exactly what happened, so I am just going to start from the beginning and write it all as I feel it.
The night began I as I wandered from my treehouse from around 9pm to a local bar called Karma, just because it had a lot of pretty murals, dank music, and was the designated pre-game spot before the rave in the jungle. The best way to find out where these places are at is by word of mouth (simply by asking someone that works at the bar what’s going on for the night). Here I met a crazy diverse group of people (one banker, one bar owner, and one government worker) who I really hit it off with so they ordered me some happy cookies, shots, and some Turkish coffee (which is just really strong, delicious tasting coffee) to keep me awake. We all just had the same vibe–this was our first time in Koh Rong and we wanted to go out for the night but didn’t know what to expect–so we stuck together. Fortunately all of us were experienced travelers who had done the Fullmoon Parties in Thailand already and were looking for something different. And an absolutely insane night full of neon lights, fantastic music, and important self-discoveries was ahead of us!
If you haven’t heard, the main reason that people flock to Koh Rong is because of their weekly beach parties on the un-ironically named Police Beach. In addition to the vivid nightlife, there is a ton of unspoiled nature and beaches to explore. The reason I love Koh Rong is because unlike other places, it usually only has one event going on per night such as beach parties, bar hopping, or game nights between small groups of people. There is no competition between events and everyone that shows up is generally friendly and looking to have a good time. I did not encounter one unpleasant person while on this island. I came during the off-season in October, but the weather was still sunny with only mild rain. It was perfectly suited for me because I never felt like I was missing out.
We arrived almost at the start of the party because we were already buzzed and ready to dance. I wasn’t extremely familiar with any of the DJs but they did a great job of mixing really classic techno songs. I liked the venue because it had an indoor area that protects you from the rain, lounge chairs where you can relax and smoke joints, and nicely-sized dancefloor, and an outdoor area where you could relax on the beach but still hear the music. It wasn’t anything fancy because it was partially in the jungle, but it was perfect for what it was. I have been to many clubs in Asia so I was looking for something different like this.
Basically anything goes at this party–it preserves the old rave culture that is lost to Japan and many other places. If you’re looking for something, then you’re likely to find it if you make friends with people beforehand. I also loved the fact that wild dogs would roll up to the party and fall asleep on the ground (they were friendly and nice). While I was at this party I really had a lot of fun twirling on the dance floor and running across the beach. I felt relaxed, energized, and full of life. It reminded me of being in college again, so I messaged some of my old college friends and told them I was thinking of them while I was there (since it was day time in the US and they were awake we had some great convos).
I stuck with the group of people that I had met earlier, but also was in my head for the most of the night. To be honest I don’t remember a lot of things, but I was able to reach a level of thinking where I could compartmentalize my stress and anxieties and manage them a lot better. That in itself made the entire experience worth it.
When the clock struck 6am, we climbed down to the beach and watched the sunrise. It was breathtaking. The sun looked like a red beady dot that was emerging from a sea of clouds, just like how we were all slowly trickling out of the jungle to the beach. Earlier that night I had put a lot of effort into my appearance but at this time of morning I didn’t have a single care in the world. I felt like a mermaid as I swam in the cool water.
When the party ended, I didn’t go to sleep. I ran back to my treehouse and blasted my favorite songs from my balcony. I met one of the bartenders on the way walking his dog and we had a lovely conversation. Then I waded in the water until the first ferries arrived and sailed off to Koh Rong Samloem Island (which I will cover in my next post). Overall, this was one of the best party experiences I had in my life, and I am so grateful I made the decision to come out here.
Compared to the beautiful islands I traveled to in Thailand, this was like an off-the-grid, undiscovered, party paradise that only the true backpackers make it to.
It’s not as if Thailand lacks an authentic culture…but the country, especially its islands, has been inundated with foreign tourism for so long that it’s far more difficult to forge sincere connections than it was on Koh Rong.
The biggest issue with islands in Thailand is that they are sometimes overcrowded with tourists so it’s difficult to partake in genuine Thai culture while you are there. Plus because their Full Moon parties attract a large number of tourists, there are always other smaller underground parties going on at the same time as competition. If you are only in Thailand for a short time, then it’s really impossible to hit up all the events. However, at Koh Rong you never have the fear of missing out and can really learn from the culture of the people there. The parties take place away from the hotel area so you can easily escape them if you need to. There is a sense of peace and balance on Koh Rong that you’d never find elsewhere. From what I’ve heard, Thailand used to be like this in the 80s, but this kind of culture is starting to fade away with the huge tourist boom. However, I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to travel to both countries and make friends.
Will I come back to Koh Rong to resurface to reality again in the future? Perhaps one day. Next I have my sights set on the Philippines and Indonesia which I likely will traverse next year! But this has been my best island experience by far so I likely will try to go again. Thank you to everyone for reading my heartfelt post.