『GRATEFUL IN ALL THINGS』art gallery by Osamu Sato & Deconstructing LSD

If you’ve ever heard of the PS1 cult classic LSD Dream Emulator, then you might already recognize this art.  It was created by the game’s producer: Osamu Sato.  This trippy exploration game has gained quite the reputation over the years for its aesthetic visuals and for the fact that it rejects most common game principles such as having a clear objective for the player to accomplish.  At the start of the game the player is given a diary based on the dreams that director Hiroko Nishikawa recorded for a decade (see Lovely Sweet Dreams).  The music and environment changes completely based on your actions making it so each playthrough is entirely unique.  Depending on what objects you interact with, you can see very psychedelic dreams or dark and catastrophic ones.

Each time you do an action in the game (such as running into a moving object or falling off the map), your progress on the dream chart is recorded and a day advances.  The chart has four labels that produce different visuals: Upper, Dynamic, Downer, and Static.  Different cutscenes and pages of the dream diary will be unlocked depending on your actions.  There is a “Flashback” option in the menu where you can review your progress.

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The LSD Dream Chart.

Many players try to see the dark parts of the game by running off the map and “killing” their character, but this won’t necessarily produce a downer dream—sometimes an upper one is generated instead.  People have tried to write guides on this but how exactly the game evaluates your actions is unknown.  Still to this day there is much unknown about LSD…

Since the game was never officially localized outside of Japan, physical copies are quite rare and coveted.  LSD Revamped is a popular fan-made version of the game that tweaks the original in a more user-friendly way.  The web author describes it as:

“The genre isn’t adventure, it’s not action, and it’s not even an RPG. If I had to define a genre, it would be a ‘walking dream emulator’.”

Ironically during the same month that the original LSD received its full English patch via fan translation, digital artist Osamu Sato held his “GRATEFUL IN ALL THINGS” art gallery at B-GALLERY in Tokyo.  The exhibition is free and available from 5/25/2020 – 6/7/2020:

Osamu Sato is a graphics designer and photographer originally from Kyoto that has created digital art exhibitions and also worked as an artist for Sony.  He has traveled abroad and used many of his photos as design materials for his works.  He also produces music.  In his website biography it states his ideas are drawn from both consciousness and unconsciousness in his intellectual level.  These ideas are clearly reflected in this exhibition as some pieces appear to have a sense of identity.

“GRATEFUL IN ALL THINGS” is not only the name of this art gallery, but also his latest music album which I managed to purchase along with a T-shirt:

I am very grateful that I could make it to this exhibition.  I respect artists that reject the principles set before them and seek to create things in their own methodical way.   I hope to attend more of his events in the future and continue to deconstruct the human mind.

For more information, please see:

Hitch-hiking my way through Okayama, Japan

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Okayama Castles stands proudly on a summer morning.

Three years ago I decided to go backpacking through Okayama for the main purpose of visiting Washuzan Highland so I could ride the infamous pedal-powered roller coaster of terror through the sky, but I got sideswept into come crazy adventures in the city before I even made it there.  Some of these are too good not to share so I’m writing this story in three separate articles.

It all started while I was walking from Okayama Station to Jiyuu Kuukan, the net cafe where I was staying for the night because I didn’t have much money, when a Japanese guy around my age started talking me up.  Unlike most people I encounter in this type of situation, he wasn’t trying to hit on me (or at least he didn’t make it obvious).  He invited me out for drinks because he was taking the TOEIC [English proficiency exam] soon and wanted to practice his English.  He also noted that it was quite rare to see solo woman travelers here in Okayama, but I get that a lot wherever I travel.  It doesn’t really phase me at all.  I agreed to go out for drinks with him because well, I love drinking!

I didn’t really teach him much English because I don’t consider myself qualified (despite being an English teacher previously), but I did answer his questions and make him feel more confident.  He informed me he worked at a car company nearby in Kurashiki; a place in Okayama that I had planned on visiting.  In return for my English lesson (if you could call it that), he offered to drive me around Okayama since many parts of the prefecture are difficult to reach by just using the trains.  So the next day I hit him up with a series of destinations I had come up with.  Buckle up because this is a crazy ride!

Le Soleil Patisserie

My favorite dessert place in Okayama is hands down Le Soleil.  Their double-layered cheese cake (literally called double cheese cake) is the best cheese cake I’ve ever had in my life.  The whipped cream on top is immense, but not overpowering.  It melts like butter in your mouth.  They have tons of other delicious sweets and pastries available too.  What originally inspired me to come here was banvox’s birthday post:

He originally used to reside in or near Okayama so the chefs of Le Soleil sent him this giant cheese cake.  Since you can’t order this specific cheese cake in Tokyo, I made it a mission to try it here.  The bakery is conveniently on the way to Kurashiki so it’s easy to stop here even if you don’t have a car (though it may be a bit of walk, it’s not too far).

Access

88-3 Nakaobie, Kurashiki, Okayama 710-0013

Kurashiki

Kurashiki is the beautiful canal town of Okayama with a European aesthetic and design.  You can go for canal rides and browse the traditional shops that line the riverbed.  There are beautiful buildings covered with ivy in the Ivy Square and the Ohara Museum, which is the oldest Western art museum in Japan. I didn’t have time to check everything out but I did manage to take some awesome photos.  Being here was extremely relaxing.

While I was here, I convinced my friend try the local dish, takomeshi, with me.  Despite being an Okayama native, he had never tried it before.  This consists of chopped octopus with rice and is very delicious!  I forget the name of the restaurant we went to, but most seafood restaurants will have it or some kind of variation.

Access

Kurashiki Station is only 15 mins and 330 yen from Okayama Station (no car needed).

Yubara Onsen

My friend asked me if I wanted to go to a hotspring, and I said sure, why not!  Yubara Onsen is probably the most unique onsen I’ve been to because it’s outdoors, mix-gender, and open 24/7.  Plus it’s completely free unless you need to rent towels or swimwear.  The hotsprings are remote and secluded enough to where it pretty much has developed its own nudist culture.  Of course you can choose to wear swimwear, but be aware that many people will bathe naked.  Though once you start soaking in the hotspring, you completely forget about the other people and focus on the nature around you.  The backdrop of the mountains and the dam is simply breathtaking.  This was the first time I had ever bathed naked in a mixed hotspring but I felt very safe and welcome.

Access

Yubara Onsen is about an hour away from Okayama City by car, and 2 hours by bus (for 2600 yen one way).  Since the onsen is free, this is not a bad price to pay.

Makido Rainbow Caves

19875428_10212085236757604_8629948251575125813_nAfter a relaxing trip to the onsen, my friend and I decided to end the day with a trip to some psychedelic rainbow caves.  I’m not making this up.  I’ve been to caves all over Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, but I’ve never seen any cave as colorful as the Makido Caves in Okayama.  These look like something straight out of a Final Fantasy game:

They nickname this place the “Dream Palace” for a good reason.  Makido is a limestone cave brought to life with carefully placed illuminated lights.  These lights bring out the colors and beauty of the cave and make it a very fun place to explore.

For those who are looking for a more normal cave experience, Makido has you covered.  You can find a non-illuminated section of the cave by following the main route.  They have an area where you can throw coins into the lake for good luck:

It takes about 30-40 minutes to see everything here.  We walked around the cave twice so we could watch all of the changing illuminations.

Access

2276-2, Toyonagaakouma, Niimi City, Okayama Prefecture

This cave takes about 1.5 hours to reach from Okayama City.  Some of the roads are quite narrow so it takes a lot of concentration to navigate (fortunately I was with an experienced driver).  If you are going by train, you must first take the Hakubi Line to Niima Station then take a bus to get here which takes around 2.5 hours and is 2000 yen.

Final Thoughts

I could not wrap my head around how amazing this day was.  We had managed to see so many things and I felt extremely grateful for this experience.  I owe it all to my friend who drove me around!  Unfortunately I lost contact with him after this trip, but I sincerely am thankful for his kindness and hope he passed his English exam.

Here is a video I took in 2017 on Snapchat to commemorate my hitch-hiking experience.  I remember playing all of my favorite Nakata Yasutaka-produced songs for my driver:

Grand Adventures in Busan: Daewangam Park, Gamcheon Culture Village, and Jagalchi Market (Part 2)

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Shenanigans in the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village.

After missing the last bus to my hostel and staying by myself at a love hotel in Busan, I decided to make my way to the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village which is consists of historic houses and beautiful murals with awe-inspiring messages.  Originally in the 1950s this was a place where Korean refugees fled in South Korea, and the area was extremely undeveloped.  Now it has transformed into a beautiful place full of art and culture (hence the name).  Nicknamed the “Machu Picchu of Busan” this coastal village is the perfect place for a relaxing day of sightseeing.  There are a number of people that reside in the village as well, so tourists are asked to be respectful of houses outside of the map.

I decided to take a taxi to Gamcheon from my hostel, but Prepare Travel Plans has a good list of alternative ways to get here from Busan.  When I arrived to the village, I felt as if I had stepped into a storybook!  In fact, some of the stairs were painted with book titles.  It’s quite easy to get lost here because the buildings are extremely condensed, but I fortunately figured out my way around here by using the colored guideposts and English map from the tourist association.

I discovered a ton of interesting sights here like poop-flavored desserts, a statue from “The Little Prince”, animal-shaped dumplings, trick-eye art murals, locks that you can buy and wish for love with your partner, cotton candy cloud coffee, and all sorts of street food that was being sold in the alley.  If you buy a map (they are really cheap), then you can participate in a stamp rally that will guide you to all of the major sightseeing spots of the village.  I actually got lost at one point, but an elderly man pointed me in the right direction (even though we didn’t speak one another’s language).  It was extremely pleasant wandering through this town, and I am glad to see that it has turned into a source of happiness for people now.  The tourism here really does help the village, which is why I argue that visiting touristy places isn’t always a bad thing.

After a very colorful day, I decided to head back to central Busan and visit the Jagalchi Market which is very easy to get to because it’s in the heart of the city.  I recently watched Black Panther where part of the movie was filmed here, and it brought back so many memories!  I went late at night when not as many places were open, but I managed to find an amazing place that served me raw octopus:

It’s truly amazing seeing the large variety of seafood that is available.  You can select your food from the tank outside of the restaurant or you can ask them to choose for you.  I managed to break the language barrier by pointing at the octopus I wanted, and also used my translation app to order.  I noticed that outside of Seoul that not many Koreans speak English unless they have a reason to (such as an international career), but I still was able to get around find.  Busan is a very relaxing city compared to most found in Japan.  Tokyo is still my favorite city in the world, but I enjoyed experiencing life here.

I stayed here for only 2 days because I was short on time, but I recommend that people stay here for at least 3-4 days so they can see everything that this city has to experience.  There are a number of interesting parks and museums in Busan as well.  I will be publishing the rest of my adventures in Korea in the near future!

Desserts that will make your heart melt in Seoul (Vol. 2)

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

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:

Milky Bee

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!

Sulbing Cafe

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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

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~

Desserts that will make your heart melt in Seoul (Vol. 1)

Here is a collection of desserts that will make your heart melt in Seoul (Volume 1). ♥

Earlier I published Volumes I & II of desserts that will make your heart melt in Tokyo, so I figured I would do the same for my 2nd (3rd?) home which is Seoul.

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:

「 T A P E 」

Located near Itaewon Station, this bakery and cafe was the first place I stopped at on my most recent trip to Seoul!  CAFE TAPE is famous for its beautifully frosted galaxy cakes which resemble avant-garde paintings.  The cake I chose had a fluffy texture and truly tasted out of this world.  I also ordered an iced coffee to balance the flavor.  The inside of the cafe has a unique metallic decor which resembles a spaceship.  I was really impressed by the quality of desserts here and would gladly come back here again!

Stylenanda 3CE PINKPOOLCAFE

Pink Pool Cafe is a super trendy dessert bar located on the 5th floor of Stylenada (a popular cosmetics and fashion mall) in Myeongdong.  They feature a sweets buffet and a number of fashionable cocktails you can order.  Inside the cafe sits a swimming pool and deck chairs with neon signs you can take pictures of to your heart’s content.  I enjoyed eating the coconut mousse and pink cherry martini–both of them were made with high-quality ingredients.  Even though I came here in winter, I definitely felt the tropical vibe!

Haitairo

While wandering around Hongik University, I discovered the cutest little ice cream and coffee shop called Haitairo.  Though it’s famous for its ice cream made with fresh honey, I decided to try its hot menu items since I came here during the winter.  One day I tried the mochi with hot soy milk which was actually surprisingly good.  The mochi melted a bit liked marshmallows when I dipped it in the warm milk and had a really sweet taste.  I came back a few days later and tried the hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and an adorable smiling popsicle cookie.  This was my favorite because it not only warmed up my body, but also my heart.

Sona Dessert Cafe

Situated in the heart of Gangnam, Sona is a fancy dessert cafe that simply cannot be passed up.  The strawberry champagne ball filled with edible flowers is to die for.  I also ordered another seasonal strawberry dessert that was extremely elegant in its display.  Both desserts were very light so I could finish both.  Definitely come here if you are a lover of aesthetic foods like I am.

Banana Tree

Banana Tree was one of the first cafes to start the flower pot dessert trend with the adorable shovel spoon.  Now you can find this style of dessert in Tokyo and other big cities, but I originally tried it here in Seoul.  I enjoyed “digging in” to my miniature flower pot filled with delicious pudding.  I see from their website that they have recently added new flavors and designs, so be sure to check this place out if you are in Gangnam.

FRANK

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Last but not least, one cannot pass up the opportunity to try rainbow cake in Seoul!  I am proud to have tried both galaxy cake and rainbow cake in this country.  I decided to go to FRANK in Itaewon since it was close to where I was staying at the time.  I enjoyed the super powdery frosting and the delicious texture of the cake, much like I did at TAPE.  It’s hard for me to choose a favorite because every cake I’ve had in Seoul is flavorful and delicious.  I want to try them all!

Thank you for reading Volume 1 of my dessert recommendations in Seoul.  Volume 2 is now published!

Desserts that will make your heart melt in Tokyo (Vol. 2)

Here is a collection of desserts that will make your heart melt in Tokyo (Volume 2). ♥ For reference, please see Volume 1 here.

Sweets Paradise (Akihabara Branch)

 

Sweets Paradise is an extremely popular buffet-style dessert restaurant with multiple branches in Tokyo.  You can choose from an unlimited selection of multi-colored pastries for 70 – 90 mins.  However, the branch in Akihabara offers a take-out option with cake that looks like actual ramen!  Even the toppings are edible and have an extremely sweet flavor.  The “noodles” are actually just thick layers of frosting.  This is probably one of the most unreal sweets I have ever eaten (appearance-wise), but the taste was definitely worth it!

New New York Club

 

New New York Club became a meme because of its rainbow bagels stuffed with delicious cream cheese.  These bagels sell out fast so sadly I wasn’t able to get one, but they do have multi-colored bagels you can purchase too!  They still taste the same as a regular bagel despite their strange color, and I prefer them to most Japanese bagels because they are larger and softer in texture.  Ikumimama Animal Doughnuts is another cute bakery that is right around the corner from here!  Be sure to pick up some cute cat donuts if you still have an appetite.

Aoyama Flower Market Teahouse

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Aoyama Flower Market is a popular florist chain that is often found in Tokyo train stations.  Stopping here is convenient if you want to pick up flowers for a special occasion, but certain locations also have cafes with extremely aesthetic food too!  I ordered this delicious parfait with pink jelly and fruit that looks like a work of art at the Kichijyoji location.  They have a seasonal menu that rotates frequently, so be sure to check online to see what they are serving.  All of the food here has an extremely appetizing look and taste.

Salon Ginza Sabou

 

This upscale restaurant exploded with popularity when they released their infamous green tea boxes.  Under a thin layer of green tea-flavored chocolate topped with green tea powder that you break apart with your spoon, you will find the goldmine of all green tea desserts.  Watch my video and see Sabou’s website for more information.  Other restaurants are starting to copy this style of dessert, but this was the original place that invented it.

Liquid Nitrogen Kit-Kats

 

It’s no secret that Japan is infatuated with Kit-Kats.  Walk into any souvenir store and the first thing you will besides the obvious Hachiko-shaped sweets is corn, sweet potato, green tea, and other strange flavors of Kit-Kats.  The Kit Kat Chocolatory and Café offers a whole different level of strangeness with its liquid nitrogen Kit-Kats.  It was surreal to watch the Japanese waiter pour liquid nitrogen onto a platter where it would perfectly chill a sweet commonly found in the US, but it was definitely worth the experience.  You can customize your own Kit-Kats at this cafe as well!  There are a variety of unique toppings you can choose from and the menu changes its featured items each season.

Doubutsuen Ice Cream/The Zoo

 

Doubutsuen was another dessert place that exploded with popularity in Harajuku due to its cute animal cones.  I opted for the tripple scoop piggy the first time I came here.  Originally you would buy a ticket from the front of the shop that looked like a vending machine and they would make your cone for you behind the curtain, but due to the mass amount of people waiting in line on the street, they moved their shop to the end of Takeshita Street under the name “The Zoo” so they could serve more customers.  The ice cream here is not only cute but also delicious, so I highly recommend it!

Other Ice Cream Recommendations

 

Other ice cream spots I highly recommend trying are Edy’s Ice Cream for their cute customizable cones with unicorn and heart-shaped toppings, Milkcow for their rich and creamy soft-serve ice cream, Coisof for their black ice cream with crunchy colored toppings, and Godiva simply for their unmatched rich flavor of chocolate ice cream.  It’s hard to find bad ice cream in Tokyo, it really is!

Bonus: Rainbow Sweets Harajuku

 

Last but not least, if you are looking for brightly-colored photogenic food then I would recommend coming to Rainbow Sweets Harajuku!  This is right off Takeshita Street and attracts a lot of customers, but the food is all take-out so it doesn’t take much time to receive your order.  I ordered the rainbow grilled cheese and the rainbow ice cream.  These were fun to take pictures of, but the taste was so-so.  Instead I recommend trying the ice cream places I mentioned above because they have a way better taste.

Thank you for reading Volume 2 of my dessert cafe expedition in Tokyo.  If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments!  I will be make more volumes in the future!