Day 2 + 3

After staying up late with Joe-San on Monday night, we woke up around 11am and headed out to Senkouji Temple in Hirano. On the walk to the train station from Joe's house it was nice to see the shopping arcade open and full of life. In Japan, arcades are long strips of shops & restaurants, mostly owned by small business owners selling anything from convenience store items, flowers & plants, blankets, towels, souvenirs, clothes, etc. I'd venture to say there are probably never less than 100 shops.

Shopping arcades generally look like this. Also, you must constantly be on the lookout for bicyclists who speed through these walkways. 😖 

Shopping arcades generally look like this. Also, you must constantly be on the lookout for bicyclists who speed through these walkways. 😖 

Anyways, once we made our way to Hirano, it was mostly a residential area, which was nice because we could witness the day-to-day life for Osakans. Such as a little boy who clearly forgot to put out the garbage and had to chase the garbage truck down the road and then beg to be let into his house after failing to complete his task. There was also an older woman paddling her bedding as it dried over her back porch bannister. Another thing about Japan is they usually dry their clothes outside on their porches rather than have dryer machines.

When we arrived at Senkouji it was definitely one of the most unique and beautiful shrines I've seen, even in my last trip. There was absolutely no English on any reading materials, so I imagine it's mainly for Japanese folks. The temple was created sort of as a museum to teach people about the consequences of their actions and to give you a fortune if your decisions in life will lead you to heaven or hell.

So scary!! 

So scary!! 

Ultimately, the real lesson was that you are in charge of your own fate. Because I can't read Kanji, I couldn't do the quiz that would tell me my fate, so I'll just assume I need to live my life in a way that is good to others. :p My favorite part of this temple was the weird underground room that had small statues around a beautiful backlit glass floor. It reminded me of the fairy fountains in Zelda and I just imagined the Great Fairy rising up in laughter.

Please give me Farore's Wind or Din's Fire. Also, could you heal my sore ankle?

Please give me Farore's Wind or Din's Fire. Also, could you heal my sore ankle?

After we left Hirano, we headed to Dotunburi, a large shopping area on the river. When you've seen so many shopping areas in Japan, they stop being exciting. Though I still enjoy the search for unique Gashapon and food. We ended up eating some kushikatsu, deep-fried veggies & meats before embarking on a twenty minute tour of Dotunburi on the river.

LINDSEY!! Check out the climbing wall in the middle of the building in the city! I wish I could climb it with you!   As for the Glico running man, no one really knows the history, but Glico is the company who makes Pocky.

LINDSEY!! Check out the climbing wall in the middle of the building in the city! I wish I could climb it with you! 

As for the Glico running man, no one really knows the history, but Glico is the company who makes Pocky.

This was a nice break for me because the night before I started to feel pain on my right foot/ankle. Honto ni (truthfully), my foot has hurt since day one, but I can't really let it heal because there is too much I want to see in Osaka and Kyoto. I will relax it when I get to Tokyo. After our river ride, we shared a bowl of ramen with Kobe beef. You pour the hot soup over the Kobe beef slices to cook it. The ramen broth was pretty good, could be a touch saltier, but the Kobe slices were just okay to me, honestly. I still prefer chashu pork, though.

Kobe beef cooking in ramen broth.  

Kobe beef cooking in ramen broth.  

After sharing a bowl of ramen we headed to Osaka Bay Area to go to the Osaka Aquarium, which is the second biggest aquarium in the world. I know the saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas, but I beg to differ--it seems everything is biggest  in Japan. Besides boasting a huge aquarium, it also had a huge boat, the Queen Elizabeth the second that I could almost swear was the Titanic. There was also the Tempozan Ferris wheel which was even bigger than the one we rode the night before.

I meant to get a photo of this huge Goliath of a boat, but it seems I was distracted by the smaller boat with lights. 

I meant to get a photo of this huge Goliath of a boat, but it seems I was distracted by the smaller boat with lights. 

While I've been to tons of aquariums, being the daughter of a marine biologist, what made this one unique was that rather than having hundreds and hundreds of different species, each exhibit was focused on a different region of the world and created with the depths that said species were used to swimming in. For example, the area for otters would span about 2 floors, where as the area for seals was 3 floors, and for whale sharks and larger rays and hammerheads was about 4-5 floors. The main tank which housed those rays, sharks and larger fish apparently held 5,000 tons of water. Due to my foot hurting so much, I sat and watched them swim around for about 15 minutes, wishing so greatly to be able to breathe underwater so I could just sit there in the water and watch them endlessly. In fact, it seems I enjoyed this tank so much so, that I didn't even take a photo of it. Oops!

Once we wrapped up our aquarium visit, we headed to Umeda where we were the night before because we wanted to visit the sky garden on the 40th floor. It was lovely, though the name was misleading as there wasn't really a garden, just a 360 view of the city, but that was pretty nice too. Joe-San, our AirBnB host sent us a message to try a delicious Udon restaurant that is famous to tourists and locals alike. So we headed over to the house and met Nick, a Korean gentleman (that happens to take great photos) who was just checked into the home that day. Together we all headed over to the restaurant (I'll get the name of it later). As always, Joe-San was a benevolent host, driving us to our destination, and ordering his favorite item. He has known the owner for about 18 years and the owner and his wife treated us all kindly. We enjoyed chatting with them while they cooked our curry udon meals. They asked us about the election in America and who we would vote for, explaining we were fans of Bernie, the reasons why, and we all had laughs on behalf of the ridiculousness that is Trump. Finally our food arrived and it was even better than I expected. I will admit I was never a fan of udon, but this was curry udon perfection. Not too spicy, noodles the right firmness, and little pieces of fried seaweed and negi.

  By the way, this amazing meal was being enjoyed by us at about 2am. Don't you wish you could eat this in America after a few too many drinks?

  By the way, this amazing meal was being enjoyed by us at about 2am. Don't you wish you could eat this in America after a few too many drinks?

Anyways, while I was absolutely exhausted and sore, I can't think of a better way to end the evening than with good food and new friends.

Nihon niha Bōken!

Ok, I'm finally posting the beginning of my adventures in Japan (Nihon niwa Bōken). After scrambling all day to make sure I had everything I needed for my trip, I had a meal with a few of my favorite people, petted Rusti bun goodbye and was whisked away to Canadaland by my best friend, Lindsey. After arriving at the airport, I worked on my newest piece for the What's Up! April cover while waiting for the plane. I also worked on it in the Taipei airport and while in transit between Narita airport in Tokyo to Osaka. I am still working on completing it from in Japan which is great because it was highly inspired by my last trip to Japan. I'll discuss that once I can release the finished art. :)

Anyways, after about 20~hours of travel, we finally got to Osaka Station where we were picked up by Joe-san, our host at the AirBnB we chose based on fantastic artwork alone.

Joe's super cute & silly AirBnB listings!! 

Joe's super cute & silly AirBnB listings!! 

We knew immediately what fun it would be to hang out with him and from the moment he picked us up at the station, we were off to enjoy the ramen I had been craving for so long! He ordered us a spicy ramen which I was a little worried might be to spicy, but it had a miso flavor similar to that which I prepare at home with just a little extra spiciness than I would usually add. It was exactly what I wanted after such a long trip. We didn't stay up too long to socialize on Sunday night, just long enough to get unpacked and find the convenience store and shower.

Joe ordered us a couple bowls of spicy ramen and it was everything I could hope for. 🍲

Joe ordered us a couple bowls of spicy ramen and it was everything I could hope for. 🍲

The next morning, Joe planned out an itinerary with a bunch of the things Ian and I wanted to do. He and Tatsuya, his friend, picked us up and brought us to Osaka Castle. There we walked to a local train station to get the Shoryū/Amazing Pass. This pass granted us free entry to tons of places as well as free subway rides for two days. Initially, he had us on a crazy fast schedule, but we decided to take it slow and really explore the area of Osakajo. After walking up the Osaka Castle, reading the history and appreciating all the ARTifacts (sorry, I couldn't help myself, but they really did  have some incredible art), we walked around to see a view of the city. From the top I discovered there was a garden area below and I do love me some Japanese gardens! We snacked on some karaage & Kobe beef, talked to a local, and then were off to explore the garden and turret houses. I should note that between talking to the local and grabbing a snack, I found my first Gashapon machines! If you don't know what Gashapon is, it is basically my greatest obsession and money waster in Japan. Remember those toy machines in grocery stores with crappy toys/candy. Japan does it way better. It also costs a lot more (¥200-¥400 per capsule gift), but I just can't seem to control myself when it comes to these silly things.

After exploring the turret houses, we wandered over to the history museum which was closing up, and I discovered the HQ for NHK Osaka which is where Domo was created as a mascot for. We finally hopped over to Umeda to explore HEP-5 in hopes of going to the giant carousel.

The beginning of the gashapon collecting.

The beginning of the gashapon collecting.

We wandered around looking for yummy foods. The problem with walking around for food in Japan, however is that you can wander for hours. Not because there isn't any to be found, but there are almost too many options. 😖  After dinner, we shopped around and although I had insisted I wouldn't buy anything at KIDDYLAND, I was paralyzed in excitement, actually hyperventilating when I saw the huge Sailor Moon display (see cover photo.) It could very well be one of the happiest moments in my life. 😂 Needless to say, I knew I would be going overbudget on buying things, sooo I used my credit card instead. After about 45 min of browsing Sailor Moon merchandise, asking Ian if I want "this? Or this?" we finally left and made our way to the top of the HEP 5 building to ride the Ferris wheel. I won't lie, it was a little  scary riding a Ferris wheel that was hundreds of feet above hundreds of people shopping and above a train station, but it was a beautiful sight. We finally grabbed some dessert with a large chocolate cake parfait and then made our way back to Joe's house.

 

We asked if he wanted to hang out and were up til about 3am chatting. We even did a FaceTime with his children and wife who were next door while he was drinking with us. Our language barrier is sometimes difficult but I think we definitely have an amazing friend in Joe. He is very kind, has an interesting history, and is open-minded and friendly. I am looking forward to years of friendship. So that's essentially day 1-ish.

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Super Tuesday

I know you think I'm going to talk about politics, but I'm not. Really, I just want to talk about how super my Tuesday has been personally.

First of all, today was the first Tuesday of the month. I love first Tuesdays because at my job it means we have a work meeting. I know, I know, most people hate work meetings, but at the office I'm in, it's really just an excuse to take a break at a local hotel restaurant and eat lunch together. We take this time to discuss what we accomplished in the last month, our upcoming goals until the next meeting, and maybe laugh about clients we consider "red flags." Sorry, but if you're a difficult client in any industry, you're probably going to be mentioned among coworkers from time to time.

Anyways, the point of this meeting is to allow us to reconnect, reflect on successes and plan for additional success. Think of it as a monthly workplace Thanksgiving! This is something I think everyone should do in their lives on a regular basis, so this is my mission to you:

Give it a try. Once a month, take a step back for a couple hours and evaluate your goals, whether they're personal or business-related. Take yourself and/or a trusted confidant out to lunch. Discuss or write down all the accomplishments you've achieved in the last month--this will likely be a gratifying experience because we don't always see our successes daily, but when you look back at the bigger picture, you'll find you've done so much!

After you give yourself a pat on the back, go ahead and figure out what your goals for the next month are. If there are any goals that you didn't reach last month, don't beat yourself up. Consider why you didn't reach your goals (not enough time, not implementing enough social media presence, distractions, health, etc) and then create a new plan of attack.

Since I've already reflected on how super things are for me, let me share my successes with you. In the last month I have been able to secure more client work in my freelance design business, which I am about to dive into full-time. I even updated my social media profiles and website, and created a blog despite being ill. This week is my last week with the company I've been working at for almost two years. I will still be helping out the company, but on a freelance basis, which I'm very thankful to have the opportunity of, as well. And finally, I just released my first EP, Incoming Transmission with my band, Tin Foil Cat, and recorded vocals on a song with a local musician, Daisy Propane. As I said before, I'm so thankful for having such a great month.

And this upcoming month's goals? A trip to Texas to work with one of my main clients. The official beginning of my full-time freelancing design career. Finishing up a cover design for the April issue of What's Up! Magazine. A trip to Japan towards the end of the month through May where I plan on working on art, meeting musicians and other awesome creatives, train in my Kung Fu, and focus on my business goals. Be sure to follow me on that journey; I'll make sure to keep you posted, particularly in the ramen department.