Friday, 31 January 2014

Takeshita shopping street

Takeshita street, known as the birthplace of many Japanese trends, is where every teenager in Tokyo migrates to on a Sunday. Although there are exceptions, like McDonald's, most stores on this street are small independent businesses. If you are looking for cheap trendy clothes then this is the place to come.

There is a reason why many trends originate from this street. Lots of clothing companies use it to test out new products, if they are popular then they will be mass produced and sold all over Japan. So that crazy looking dress that you just walked past, could be what everyone is wearing in 3 months time.

As well as clothes shops there are plenty of fast food places, especially crepe stalls. There is also a big candy store where the shop assistants wear cute pink outfits. If you go on a Sunday then you are likely to brush shoulders with all sorts, such as people engaging in cosplay.

The entrance to Takeshita street is opposite the Harajuku station. Some other places nearby are Omotesando, Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park.

The entance to Takeshita street


Candy shop

Costume shop

Massive plastic octopus?!

Entrance to Harajuku Street

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Okinawa Day 3: Taketomi Island

On the final day of our trip to Okinawa we went to Taketomi*, a small island which has been really well preserved. Apart from stunning beaches there were also lots of traditional houses, interesting statues and beautiful flowers. 

We set off from Ishigaki island early in the morning to beat the other tourists. When I say early I mean the first boat, at 7:30. To make matters worse it was a windy day, let me just say I was glad that I hadn't yet eaten my breakfast. 

However it was definitely worth waking up early, as we walked into the village we watched the sunrise. Also we were the only people walking around so it was lovely and peaceful. Our first stop was the Nagominoto Tower, 4.5 meters tall and positioned in the center of the village. If you are brave enough to venture up the steep and narrow steps then you are rewarded with great views of the island. 

We then took a 30 minute water buffalo cart ride through the village. The guide was really interesting, telling us about the history of the island and playing the shamisen. He had a stick which he rarely needed to use because the buffalo, called Yuki, knew the route off by heart. It was amazing how she could manoeuvre the long cart around tight corners and along narrow streets. 

After the cart ride we walked around for a while and went into a nice souvenir shop near the Nagominoto Tower. We also had a really delicious ice cream from a shop which once featured in a television drama.

In the afternoon we decided to rent bikes for one hour. Once we got the bikes we went to the west pier and Kondoi Beach. Absolutely beautiful. The sea`s colour was an amazing mix of blues and greens and the sand was actually small pieces of coral. At Kondoi Beach there were lots of cats, I assume it was because fishermen use the beach. 

Our last stop was a lovely little cafe. It was one of the few building with a second floor and the view was really nice. I could have just sat there for the rest of the afternoon people watching but it was time to get the boat back to Ishigaki Island and then the plane back to rainy Osaka. 


Nagominoto tower

Amazing tree roots

post office

View from Nagominoto Tower

Nagominoto tower

Cafe where a TV drama called Gokusen was filmed

Water buffalo cart

It`s a tiny village but it has it`s own petrol station

This isn't a buffalo just randomly walking through the street, there was a man leading it but you can`t see him in this photo

A little shrine we walked past

Coral beach

One of the many cats

The lovely cafe

 *Japanese Lesson #4: Taketomi-jima
竹 take- bamboo
富 tomi- rich
島 jima- island

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Weekly Roundup #1

This week I have been:

Reading: A Girl Like You by Maureen Lindley. I received it for Christmas and have really enjoyed reading it. It`s a historical fiction about a girl, Satomi Baker, growing up in California. Her American father signs up when war is declared and is sent to the base at Pearl Harbour, he never returns. As you might have guessed from the girl`s first name, her mother is Japanese. The story is about Satomi, a girl proud to be American, struggling as she is sent to live with other Japanese people in an American labour camp.

Listening: to Rather Be by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne.

Playing: Taiko drums! On Saturday we went to a Taiko drumming workshop with Taiko Lab. I really recommend it to people in Japan, they also have workshops in Tokyo and Osaka. It was so fun, plus great exercise!

Watching: Memoirs of a Geisha. I have actually never read the book or watched the film, but then I saw that it was on YouTube so decided to watch it. I enjoyed it but the ending didn't feel right in my opinion, am interested in knowing if the ending is the same in the book.

Buying: two calendars for myself! I had a space on my wall from where I took down last year`s calendar (which was 1920`s Vogue covers.) But I thought I would wait till the end of January to buy a new one because I am all in favour of a reduced price! There were so many good designs though that I bought two. One to hang on my wall, and one to put on my desk. The desk one you can see in the picture above, I really like the bird cage design and how there is space at the bottom for jewellery.

Hope you have all had a good week xxx

Friday, 24 January 2014

How to avoid disasters (the Japanese way)

In Japan there are lots of superstitions. One of them is that there are three years in your life which disasters are likely to happen. Last Saturday I went to the shrine which is for praying for protection from these disasters.

  • For women the disaster years are 19, 33 and 61. For men they are 25, 42 and 61.
  • You are supposed to visit the shrine the year before your disaster year to pray for protection and then the year after to thank the gods. Since I turn 19 next year I went to the shrine and did lots of praying!
  • People visit all through out the year but in January there is actually a special disaster festival. However we missed it because it started on Sunday. The festival is called Yakuyoke mairu, meaning the time to avoid disasters.
  • You could buy white arrows to keep and burn next year. On Sunday people started to burn the arrows which they bought last year. 
It was a shame that we didn't get to see the festival, but in any case it was a nice shrine to walk around. The shrine was called Iwashimizu Hachimangu and it takes about 20 minutes on the Keihan line from Kyoto station to Yawata-shi station. From Yawata-shi station you then take a cable car up the mountain and then walk for about 5 minutes to the shrine.

Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine

A dance with peoples white arrows.


With every step we take, Kyoto to the bay...

Love this song although have to admit that the reason I chose it this Friday is because the video is filmed in Japan! Carp, fish markets, salary men, school girls, ramen...
Rather Be by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Okinawa Day 2: Yubu Island

So, Yubu Island. This was most definitely one of the highlights of the trip because it was everything I expected Okinawa to be: warm(ish), beaches, pretty flowers, quiet, slow, colourful and just generally a lovely place.

After walking through the mangroves on Iriomote Island we decided to go to Yubu Island which is separated from Iriomote by a shallow, sandy sraight. We rode a water buffalo cart across to the island which was really fun. The guy driving the cart even sang a song and played a shamisen.

Some people only stay on the island for five minutes and then take the cart back to Iriomote but we stayed for half an hour. If you have time then I really recommend staying on the island and exploring as much as you can. There was so much to see that I could have spent 1 hour there if we had had the time.

People used to live there but gradually everyone moved to bigger islands and it was deserted. One family moved back and wanted to turn it into paradise and attract tourists. Once you move away from the shop and restaurant then you can see lots of water buffaloes, a butterfly garden, wild boar, goats and various birds.

In my opinion that couple did a good job of turning it into paradise, what do you think?

Our cart`s driver playing his shamisen

Do you see the guy walking along in the white boots? Our driver told us that he is the son of the couple who live on the island and he has nothing to do so he just walks back and forth all day!

Water buffaloes

Some kind of fruit, maybe?

managed to get so close to the butterfly's

I love the leaves of this plant, so colourful

A massive dream catcher


The old school, a memory of what the island used to be like

Song lyrics on the roof of the cart
Linked with Travel Tuesday on Bonnie`s blog, A Compass Rose