2013 has been an even better year than 2012 for us here in South Korea, and we’re looking forward to an awesome 2014 as we move back to America early next year!
But before that, I had an amazing time fulfilling one of my major goals while living in South Korea: visiting nearby Japan!
I know my friends have been patiently awaiting this big blog post since it’s taken me a while to organize these 126 badass photos and experiences, so relax and enjoy these glimpses of our lives from June through October :D
Found this sign while I was out jogging around our apartment complex one day XD
The best Chinese-style spicy chicken I’ve ever had — crispy outside, soft and juicy inside, served with hot peppers and green onions. It’s the signature dish at Chai Wok.
Claw machine with a funny but disturbing picture on it XD
A Korean fusion restaurant that mixes rice, kimchi, beef, corn, and cheese into a gooey delicious mess!
Relaxing outting to a Korean beach. When the tide receded, a pathway emerged to some rock formations. Some people went out to catch crabs.
Fantastic seafood restaurant with, of course, an Engrish menu.
Koreans seem to serve sweet pickles with every non-Korean meal. My friend Hyun-Joo says it’s because Koreans find Western food too salty, but most Westerners I know think Korean food is a little too sweet XD
Also, every Korean salad I have has a sort of yogurt dressing, typically fruit or honey mustard. This was refreshing kiwi!
Crab meat pasta
Our cats love shoe boxes :3
And it’s Raziel’s 6th birthday today too!
Nick got me another Korean Baskin Robbins birthday “cake” for my 26th birthday! Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry sugar cookies surrounding vanilla, strawberry, and pistachio soft serve cubes piled on top of a big half-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream and half strawberry ice cream and topped with extra flavored chocolates!
I’ve wanted to visit Japan ever since I moved to Korea in 2011, and I finally got to in October, the perfect time for Halloween goodies — my favorite holiday — and the launch of Pokemon XY!
Nick was busy with very important work so I decided to go by myself. I was worried about going to a foreign country alone without in-depth knowledge of the language and culture, but I’m very glad I did because it was safe, super fun, and empowering!
My entire solo Tokyo trip was planned using online info and maps. It was all easier and cheaper than I imagined! All I had to do was look up places I wanted to see, directions for how to get there via subway, book a flight and a hotel closest to the most places I wanted to visit, and learn some basic Japanese phrases. I also organized all my travel essentials into my backpack so I’d have an empty carry-on suitcase to bring all my Japanese merch home in ;D
The only Korean Air flights from Incheon to Haneda Airport arrive pretty late, so I was worried I wouldn’t make the last subway at 12:10am. But immigration was fast and they didn’t even check my luggage — much easier than having to go through so much security in post-9.11 America, even on domestic flights.
I arrived at Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho quickly thanks to a comfortable and easily understood Japanese subway system — leagues better the Korean subway system — and remembering what the area looked like on Google’s Street View. The staff were very helpful and friendly, and the room was nice and quiet. There was even a great view of nearby Tokyo Tower!
I chilled out with some Japanese TV before going to sleep, but I was still so excited to go out and explore :D
Pokemon Center Tokyo, just around the corner of Hamamatsucho Station and Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho!
Two things I <3 about Japan: it's not afraid to bust out the geek and the cute, even at the same time, as you will see all over this post!
Pokemon XY just came out worldwide so I was super excited to see all the new merch!
I got there early in case there was a line and to have a good look at the place in all it’s Pokeglory before it was inundating with fans.
There were five Japanese people in the line before me and they were really nice. They asked to friend me on their 3DS systems, took pics with me, and this Pikachu fan posed for me :3 The line soon filled up, though, and it was almost time to go in!
Behold Pokeheaven on Earth!
Signatures on the back of the entrance display.
The whole place was done up with new XY-themed designs!
Sooooo much Pokemerch to choose from! I really wish we had all this in America too T^T
I chose Fennekin as my starter, but so far my faves in Gen VI are Meowstics and Pancham. No Meowstic merch yet, so I got a Pancham plush and lots of various other goodies :D I also got a special Tokyo-themed Oshawott charm to match the Fukuoka charm Nick got me when he went to Japan earlier this year ^.^
I quickly realized Tokyo isn’t just cool like other major cities around the world, it’s also very clean, much more so than Seoul and arguably a lot of American cities. There was hardly any trash anywhere and the buildings didn’t look run-down or dirt-coated. There also weren’t any crazy drivers running red lights or driving on the sidewalk like in Korea.
Welcome to Aqua City! This and the Pokemon Center were my two favorite places on this trip :D
Nice interior; Godiva chocolate store on the left.
Every country has it’s own overall fashion. In America, it’s always blue jeans, particularly skinny jeans and tight-fitting clothes now. In Seoul, it’s plain American 90’s clothing with solid bright colors and misspelled English words that make no sense. In Japan, the fashion now is sorta American/European “old-fashioned” in a classy, cute way. Most of the clothing stores I saw had stuff like this.
All the Hello Kitty and pink you can stand.
Studio Ghibli, Despicable Me, and other merch like…
… Mario, Zelda, Animal Crossing, Monster Hunter, etc!
No idea what these characters are from, but they were so cute!
A ton of stores all over Tokyo had some kind of Halloween decoration, particular Jack-o’-lanterns ;D
GEEKGASM! I <3 the Capcom store, they had so much Monster Hunter, Phoenix Wright, Resident Evil, Mega Man, etc merch! I spent more money here than anywhere else XD
I was very tempted to go here XD
Instead, I tried to eat only Japanese food so I could get a real feel for their cuisine. Most Japanese food I saw and ate consisted of tempura, noodles, rice, veggies, and some kinda meat. I don’t know how they stay so skinny with all those carbs and fried foods, but it’s all the stuff I like too so I ate a lot ;D
Toys R Us in Japan and Korea are very similar and not much different than the American versions, but there was one big difference…
… they had more variety of Pokemon merch XD
Of course, there were gachapon machines too! I was glad to find Animal Crossing ones :D
Next stop: Venus Fort!
The area’s also known as Palette Town. Pokemon-reference, anyone? XD
There was a cool jazz b-boy band performing, and I saw some cosplayers but they didn’t want their picture taken.
Venus Fort was pretty fancy inside! It reminded me of Metapolis in Dongtan, Korea.
One of the well-known chains of cute stores is Kiddyland. They had lots of San-X merch; hardly any Sentimental Circus, but lots of Rilakkuma. There was also Kapibarasan merch…
… and a ton of gachapon and claw machines in the back, including more Animal Crossing!
Omw outta Aqua City, I passed by a gargantuan Gundam statue!
I got out at Takeshiba Station and walked back to Hamamatsucho Station, where I got a great view of Tokyo Tower during the day, though it’s also pretty at night seen from my hotel ^^
Giant Pokemon XY ad at Hamamatsucho Station.
Tokyo Station Character Street!
It was longer than I expected. I think was standing in the center so I took a pic of one side…
… and the other and couldn’t see the ends!
The official Rilakkuma store!
Dragon Quest promos
You can’t go to Japan without expecting to see something weird XD
Adorable raccoon! I’d never seen it before but…
… its name is Rascal and it has a line of merch dedicated to it!
Shonen Jump shop
Shop with traditional Japanese gifts and treats
This shop always had a line of women next to it. As far as I could tell, it was a cafe with sweets.
Pretty self-explanatory; eat sushi while standing!
*gasp* Gundam Cafe! :O
Shit yes I went in there!
They had Gundam-themed food platters and drinks, alcoholic and non! I ordered something sweet, blue, and alcoholic and bought Nick a green Haro tin with chocolate sweets inside :D They gave me a Gundam coaster to put the drink on but I saved it for Nick instead.
Tokyo Station Ramen Street!
According to the Tokyo Station site, Ikaruga is the most famous ramen restaurant here. I can’t help but think of the video game Ikaruga XD This was one of the very few places without an English menu so I just ordered something random.
Inside Ikaruga was almost like a little bar.
Apparently I ordered ramen with ham and cheese in it. The broth was thick, but mixing it all together melted the cheese to make it even thicker.
Late night snack time! I didn’t really know what this place was except that the menus outside looked good, but it was kind of like a small bar with four different food counters inside that you could order from.
I just pointed to what I wanted and the guy brought me a sweet alcoholic grapefruit drink and a platter of various tempura!
I also stopped by a convenience store and ordered my first steamed bun.
Inside had tasty sweet meat that reminded me of Korean bulgogi.
One time for breakfast I had two little pancakes stuffed with maple syrup and butter :D
Sunday mornings in Japan mean Pokémon Get☆TV (formerly Pokémon Smash!/Pokémon Sunday/Weekly Pokémon Broadcasting Station)! To think Pokemon is big enough to get it’s own variety show… jealous!
Crazy intricate origami, like an archangel holding a sword (red in the center)!
Mega Mewtwo Y origami.
Talkin’ ’bout Mega Evolutions.
She will beat your face with her baby.
I think they had special guest stars on the show to talk about their favorite Pokemon and take quizes.
It was pouring down rain but it didn’t stop me from another 12-hour day of walking around and exploring ;]
LaForet is a famous shopping mall with as many different clothing styles as you can imagine. I was glad of the variety, especially after living in Korea for years where the fashion is literally all the same no matter what town, store, or mall.
One really great thing about my experience in Tokyo was everyone I asked for help happily obliged ^_^ Most signs had English translations and a lot of people spoke at least a little English, but even if there was a language gap, gesturing and being polite led to understanding.
As I was walking out of LaForet, I passed a girl who was wearing super cute stockings. I asked her where she got them, and she led me all the way down the road and a crowded clothing alley to the store. My shoes were so soaking wet, I could feel the water sucking at my feet every time I took a step, and I’m sure her shoes were the same, so it was extremely nice of her to take me!
I passed several Japanese-style Goth stores
Sign for a fancy restaurant down the walkway
Beware of EGL — Elegant Gothic Lolita. Super expensive and time-consuming style!
Crazy costume shop!
Another crepe shop.
Another Hello Kitty shop and more cute. The saw the guy with the blonde hair (wig?) a few times.
I stopped to eat here for lunch. It was a food court with several different food options.
I hadn’t had takoyaki yet, so I got this giant one with octopus, veggies, sauces, and fish flakes. It was a bit too mushy to enjoy, so I guess there’s a reason why takoyaki is typically small.
Another Godiva store, calling to me.
Fish and chips?! I broke my rule about only eating Japanese food while in Japan and went down to the pub.
Crispy, salty goodness! Japanese rugby was playing on the TVs.
Feast your eyes on some of my loot! I got so much I had to divide it all in a bunch of separate pics XD Here’s some of it in the next few pics ~
Pokemon Center Halloween 2013 clearfile and Pancham plush.
Super nice Monster Hunter 4 3DS XL pouch; Monster Hunter figure blind box in which I lucked out and got my favorite monster: Nargacuga; necklace with Fukuoka Oshawott, Tokyo Oshawott, and Tokyo Monster Hunter Melynx charms with my Halloween 2011 Oshawott charm; very comfy microfiber cat socks with little ears on the toes =^^=
Phoenix Wright shirt and Monster Hunter 4 2014 calendar. I’ve been a die-hard Monster Hunter fan since the original game on PS2!
OBJECTION!!! Jk XD I’ve also been an Ace Attorney fan since the first game and am excited to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 5 — Dual Destinies!
Halloween 2013 Korilakkuma plush and Rilakkuma socks, screen-cleaning charms, and a 10th anniversary glowing gachapon prize
Rilakkuma Re-ment food sets and Animal Crossing gachapon prizes (K.K. Song hand towel and Nooklings keychain mirror)
Microfiber/minky Kiki’s Delivery Service blanket!
Oddly adorable Monster Hunter Khezu plush, Monster Hunter stickers, Kiki’s Delivery Service Gigi plush, Pokemon Center clearfile holder, and cute stockings I wouldn’t have found without the help of that really nice girl!
Nice view while flying back to Korea — I <3 soaring over the clouds!
Life is so sweet :3
Thanks for looking!
Photos © Gally Lines 2013
Blog post © Gally Lines 10.31.13