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Earlier I posted about getting tickets to the L’arCafe at the Space Shower TV the Diner in Shibuya.  My reservation was for last night and it was awesome.  Space Shower TV the Diner is a pretty cool venue all by itself.  I’d be interested to check it out on a normal night.  If I knew enough people, it’d make a good party venue too.  The entryway has a screen that’s built into the floor and extends up into the counter, which was L’arc en Ciel themed.  The logo moved a different way if you stepped on it.  It was really cool.

Ken’s outfit, 20th L’Anniversary Live.

Yukihiro’s outfit, 20th L’Anniversary Live.  So skinny!

Hyde’s outfit, 20th L’Anniversary Live.

Tetsuya’s outfit, 20th L’Anniversary Live.

The costumes from Day 1 of the 20th L’Anniversary Live were also in the entryway, as was the goods table and posters from various points during the band’s career.  Seats were assigned.  We ended up sharing our table with two Japanese girls, who were extremely surprised when we sat down.  They were cute, they knew all the lyrics to the songs and would occasionally bust out hyde moves at the table.  I would wager that everybody who was there went to the 20th L’Anniversary Live in May.

You really couldn’t argue that you weren’t getting your moneys worth here.  In addition to the dinner buffet and dessert buffet, this box was placed at all the seats.  Hyde’s and Ken’s were savory; Tetsuya’s and Yukihiro’s were sweet.  To be honest, I didn’t like Ken’s.  Yukihiro’s was my favorite.

There was a video playing showing various performances in the band’s career with added commentary by the band members.  When the band members were talking, you could hear a pin drop in the restaurant.  I was kind of amused by how quickly the place came back to life when the video ended.  Oh and this happened:

This is weird even for Hyde.

Everyone also got this free plastic cup.  Overall, the atmosphere and the food were very good (there was so much of it!).  So glad I was able to go.

Goods: L’arcafe glass and accessories tray.

So now I’m in Chiba until I return to America on the 9th, staying with the host family that I stayed with almost 10 (jeez, what a long time) years ago.  It’s a bit nostalgic.  We went to Chikura over the weekend and Kamogawa Sea World.

The beach was about 3 hours away from their house, so we drove down on Sunday and spent the first day at the beach before going back to the pension for dinner.  The next day we went to Kamogawa Sea World.

This sea turtle looks a bit small in this picture, but he was about the size of a car tire.

Beluga, dolphin and orca show, required viewing at these types of theme parks.  There was a seal show as well as aquarium set ups with all types of fish, otters and penguins.  There was an arctic themed area and a tropical themed area.  Although now I can’t look at sting rays without thinking, “whores…”.  Thank you this post by Amy O’Dell.

This is not a kids meal.  Repeat, not a kids meal and yes, that rice is shaped like a shark.

The beach up around Kamogawa Sea World was even more blue than in Chikura.  Gorgeous.

What, did you think I wouldn’t buy anything?  Shark magnet.  Discovery’s Shark Week starts on July 31st, but I’m going to miss it because I’ll still be here.  Sadness.  Teeth by Lady Gaga is being used in the promos…Andy Samberg is hosting too… ;_;  Shut up, you know you all watch it too.

I’m a bit of a Kansai fail.  I had never been to Fushimi Inari.  So I resolved to go there (and a host of other places that I really should have gone to before).  It was very cool; but the day I went it was unbearably hot.  Still, I managed to do the entire trail and then treated myself to some goods.

Second stop on the trip was Chongqing, a massive city on the Yangtze River basin.

It took about 2 hours via high speed train to go from Chengdu to Chongqing.  I was passed out most of the way, but the scenery was gorgeous.

Chongqing was full of stairs.  Full of stairs…

A Chongqing night cruise.  One of the rivers was too low to go down, so it ended up being fairly short.

1,000 year old rock carvings in Dazu.  They were massive.

Somewhere over China.  I don’t remember most of the flight from Chengdu to Hong Kong; I wasn’t even awake for take off.  After sitting down, the next thing I remember was the captain announcing that we’d be landing in 30minutes.  China and Japan are like night and day.  I prefer Japan for a number of reasons, but I definitely want to go back to China and do the big cities in the east–Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong.

There were really only 2 things on my list to do in china: spicy food and pandas.  At the Chengdu Research Center for Panda Breeding.

Overall, I was very impressed with the facility.  It seems more like a national park where you can just happen to view pandas than a research center or even a zoo.  The tourist kitsch is kept to a minimum; although I succumbed to the ultimate tourist kitsch.  Holding a panda for 1000yuan.  I still maintain that it was awesome.

The first half of the trip of China was spent in Chengdu, a city in the Sichuan province.

I highly recommend Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel.  I would stay here again in a heartbeat.  Very clean, nice staff, good tours.

Chen Mapo’s.  This is the supposed restaurant of origin for mapo doufu.  It was delicious and very spicy.  So much better than the Japanese version.

That is some guy’s hands.

Sichuan Opera in a teahouse.  The show was very good, but the part that most people come to see is the quick-changing masks.  I had a front row seat and it looked almost instant.

The Chinese tea market.

Right about now, I should be in transit to the hostel in Chengdu.  When I got into the JET Program, my two big travel goals were China and Korea.  Korea I was able to hit very early on (see these old post on LJ), but China took some time.  I had really wanted to go to HK, Shanghai or Beijing; but the girl I’m traveling with has already been there, so we compromised and will be going to Chengdu and Chongqing in the Sichuan area.  Spicy food and pandas…that’s all I need.  Also, we have a 6hr layover in HK, so I’ll get a small HK bonus.  Back on May 7!

Sunday was supposed to be a quick downtown errand-then get apartment things done type of day.  The agenda: get nails done, hit giant bookstore, sell old books, get mother birthday present; return home, do laundry and clean apartment.  It did not turn out that way.  Of course, nails were done.

My nailist was a super cute girl who was obsessed with Gossip Girl, so she was really excited when I said I was from NYC and wanted to know if it was really like the show.  I liked that we had a seemingly normal salon-style conversation, and not the usual bs I get asked when people discover that I am a foreigner.  I wish you could request nailists!

Neo-Mart is on the way to the giant bookstore between Gion-Shijo and Sanjo.  This store kinda sells everything and I’ve classified it the same way I do Loft: an オシャレ (oshare: trendy) lifestyle store.  None of what they have is essential and it’s mildly overpriced (though still affordable), but it’s trendy.  Some of it (like that lamp) is just weird.  What do you think the penguin thing is?  Turns out it’s a set of pots and pans that happen to form a penguin when you stack them.  These are the weird design quirks I’ll miss when I leave Japan.  NYC definitely has its share of design, but nobody out-weirds Japan.

All the way back in October, I stumbled upon a random flea market with Alyssa where I picked up a business card for a handmade jewelry store called ro-ji.  At the time, I had tentatively bookmarked a pair of earrings in my head for my mom’s birthday.  However, her birthday is April 8th and I was afraid if I bought them early that I’d lose/break/otherwise maim them.  Shocked I actually held onto the business card.  The business card had a map on it, but the store is hard to find.  Head down Ni-jo towards Higashiyama.  On your left you’ll see an AEON supermarket.  At the next small street, take a left and ro-ji is on your right.  There was a small sign on the street in front of the store and it is VERY small (think shed-sized).  If you hit the school, you’ve gone too far.  Also good to know is that the store is only open F, S, Su and M.  This was not stated on the business card, so it was lucky for me that I went on a weekend.  I coudn’t open this to take a pic since I asked her to wrap it, but these are the earrings I got, in gold.

Anyway, post jewelry store I was supposed to go sell the books when I realized…I had left the books at home.  Oops.  Now showcasing my absolute lack of knowledge of Kyoto, I decided to walk from Ni-jo to Demachiyanagi, where there was a good falafel place.  It was way past lunchtime and I figured since the sakura were blooming and the weather was nice that I could take it to go and eat by the river.  I had already walked from Gion-Shijo to Ni-jo, mind you.  Figuring that I must be up by the used bookstore (also a gross underestimate) I started walking north…..and kept walking….and kept walking….and finally hit the used bookstore much later.  At which point I realized that, no, this was not as close as originally thought.  And then thought, well, now Demachiyanagi must be kinda close (again, wrong).  About a half hour after this original ordeal began, finally I did arrive at Demachiyanagi station and got my glorious falafel (Falafel Garden Kyoto).  So basically I walked a little under 2 miles in total….but at least the scenery wasn’t bad.

There’s a little area up by Imadegawa St. where the river splits and there’s this peninsula/island thing that you can access via one of the bridges.  Being a gorgeous day, there were a ton of people hanami-ing and just generally hanging out.  While I was eating they were dj-ing untz untz music.  By the time I had finished eating, this band had taken the stage (can you call it that?).  They were cool, but a little new age-y for my taste.  I preferred the previous untz.

All in all, the day did not go as planned, but was very pleasant nonetheless, and made me think how different/enjoyable this year would have been had I lived in the city.  To be clear, I have not been completely miserable, nor do I regret coming here.  I accepted the big gamble that is the JET Program, knowing that I’d have zero control.  Kyo-town does have its finer points, but it’s this spontaneity and sense of randomness that I love about city life.

I finally committed to taking the JLPT; although whether I should take N2 or N3 is still up in the air.  N2 is definitely a challenge, but it’s the only level that employers really care about, so I bought the N2 books.  Hoping that by declaring this publicly it’ll motivate me so I don’t look like a chump when the results come out, haha.  I got all four books: reading comprehension, kanji, grammar and vocabulary.  I also have a drill book that I bought and forgot about awhile ago.  My biggest problem with the JLPT is definitely going to be kanji; my speaking level is so much higher than my reading level…and thank god there’s no writing, because with all my computer/cell phone use, it’s all gone.  Oh well, 頑張りましょうね!

The first time I came to Japan was in 2002 (with an excellent program called AFS) and, while it sounds cliche to say, it changed my life; so much so that I minored in Japanese in college and am here again to work almost 10 years later.  I may be leaving at the end of the this summer, but this is by no means the last time I will be here.  National AJET, an independent association that cooperates with the JET Program, created a facebook event called “Man (万) Up for Japan” which I thought was a good idea.  Man is 10,000 in Japanese, so the idea was that you would donate 10,000yen to Japan aid.  So I did in the form of the following charity items.  I had these sent to my house in America, so I don’t have any of my own pics.  I don’t claim to own these.  Donations can be made to the Red Cross here, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.

Ralph Lauren Japan Hope Polo, 100% of the proceeds go to the Central Community Chest of Japan, a part of the United Way worldwide network.

Kate Spade Japan Relief Tote, 100% of the proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.


Grew up in philly, used to live in nyc, spent a year in japan. I like shopping. Gotta figure out what to do with this blog now...