Archive for April, 2014

Television I have recently stuffed in my brain.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

There’s some good TV out there right now, much of it streaming. Now when I come home instead of flicking betwixt two sub-par programs (Giant River Fish! Dwarves Having Dwarf Babies! Serial Killers’ Favorite Lunch Meats!) I now am delighted to snorf down something of quality. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of bad television out there. With good there is always bad. It just seems like the scales are tipped more in the favor of good for once. I’m going to run through everything I’ve watched recently. Before I get to TV series, I would like to recommend the episode of Nature, the show on PBS, that was on the Japanese snow monkeys. There is one path into the area, and I took this photo on that path:


In the documentary, you will see the same shot. Not similar kind-of-sort-of. Identical. It’s funny. Also, the episode spawned one of my favorite animated gifs of late called “Mmmmmmnope.”


Okay. TV show reviews.

1. House of Cards on Netflix. I’ve only seen the first season, but it’s very good. Really good. Like a dirty grimy West Wing. It’s beautifully filmed and it makes Washington D.C. look like a bizarre Wizard of Oz-type place. There’s intrigue and plotting plotting plotting, I find it totally engrossing. Robin Wright’s costumes are fierce every damn time. She is not a spring chicken (though she takes impeccable care of herself) but she manages to look amazing every time she’s on-screen. It’s nice to see the girl from The Princess Bride portraying the sexiest shark in town. My only problem with the show is the woman who plays the President’s Chief of Staff is supposed to be Cuban-American, but she’s clearly South Asian, like Indian or Pakistani, and she has a tinge of an accent from there. Seriously? This is America. We have a gazillion Latin people, I bet some of them are women and might be actors. We couldn’t hire one of them? It’s a little thing, but I find it sometimes takes me out of the action. Other than that, super-great show.

2. True Detective on HBO*. Oh my God. I’ve watched this series twice and I may watch it again just for kicks. It’s like a series of oil paintings in a row that take you on a journey. The main stars are Woody Harrelson and Matthew MacConaughey. My initial reaction was, “I had no idea those two stoners could act so well.” They are magnificent. I’ve never been on the MacConaughey train during all those rom-coms he starred in. I mean, I could see he was handsome, but I didn’t really care. Guess what? I care now. He done acted the hell out of his character. His character is GLOOMY. I mean, bad things have happened to him so he has every right, but still, wow, pessimist is an understatement. Here’s a disturbing thing I discovered: If you watch True Detective and Rust Cohle (MacConaughey’s character) goes into one of his down-in-the-dumps speeches, you should think, “What a looney-basket spouting crazy thoughts.” That is the correct response. That means you are healthy and well in the head. Here’s an example of one.

“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight – brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

I not only understood everything Rust Cohle said in the entire series, I agreed with him. Entirely. Ohhhhh dear. That’s not good. I feel like that should be on a psych eval (“Do you understand and agree with everything Rust Cohle says?”) and if you say yes you don’t get to be a police officer or elementary school teacher or whatever.

Final thoughts: the baddie at the end is scary as hell and gets scarier the more times you watch him. Ugh, he is the mayor of Creepytown. The actor said he would go home and cry after shooting his scenes because he had to think like his character thinks and he didn’t want to. That’s a bad bad villain.

3. Sons of Anarchy on FX. Such high hopes for that. I know several people who like that show. I started watching it and I was totally into it. The actors are great, but either your show is based in reality or it’s not. I’ll explain. In the pilot episode of the show a preemie baby is born and is in the NICU. And then over the next six or seven episodes, like, thirty characters die. No joke. Seriously. Bodies droppin’ everywhere. At that point the lead actor says, “I’m excited to take my son home, he’s been in the hospital for a month.” So I am to understand that in the time period of a month in a not-especially populous area of California tens of people have died in violent ways, including an FBI investigator, and everything is running as usual? I don’t care how many cops you have on your payroll, someone somewhere is going to notice that. This is not the favelas of Brazil. Then the hardships keep coming at a rate that prevented me from suspending my disbelief any further, so in the middle of Season 3 I politely bowed out. This character gets blown up and this other character gets raped and this guy’s wife is shot and on and on every episode… Too much. I can’t no more.

4. Rick and Morty on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network). Weird. That show is weird. I really like it though. You remember back in the 90s before the internet there wasn’t a whole lot of weird television made available. You pretty much had Liquid TV on MTV and that’s it. I ate that kind of stuff up. I didn’t necessarily like all of it, but I loved that it was being made. One of the shows being made at that time was The Maxx. I adored that show. If you watch it now it seems kind of dated, but I had never seen anything like that. And I get that same feeling from Rick and Morty. It’s bizarre and fun and involves going to different planets and alternate dimensions. Here, watch the opening credits (the music is a clear homage / ripoff of Dr. Who):

The first season just ended, so when it (hopefully) shows up on streaming Netflix and you need some oddness in your life, check it out.

5. The League on FX. I don’t care about football, and I extra-super-duper don’t care about fantasy football. However, the cast of this show makes it a jolly good show. They are all immature dorks wearing adult-man suits (and one woman, but she’s kind of token) who are all professional stand-up comedians and actors in real life, so they improv their lines a great deal and it’s awesome. There’s a quick-wit quality you get from The League that I don’t think you get from a totally scripted show. And while many of the plot lines relate to football, many of the plot lines relate to personal events going on in the main character’s lives, so I can still follow along. I’ve watched all the seasons and I shall continue watching despite my complete ignorance of who’s a running back or wide receiver or kicker.

*Alternate title: Matthew MacConaughey Smokes All The Cigarettes In The World Ever.

Addendum – May 12th: I forgot to include Shameless and Oz. Shameless is on Showtime and it is crazy. I cannot figure out for the life of me how they got this show made. It’s about a family living in a poor neighborhood in Chicago and it… there are children on this show. Children. I have watched scenes where these children see a profoundly naked homeless man, their mother who has slit her wrists due to bi-polar disorder, drugs and sex and stealing and oh my God, how are these child actors dealing with this? From this description it sounds like the show is a debbie-downer but it is not. It mainly revolves around how all these people are keeping their head up and making their own lives through the hardships that come upon them, and the show’s damn funny. I highly recommend it but under no circumstances should you watch it with children or the elderly unless you want to explain things to them. Here’s the opening credits to give you an idea.

And here’s a brief overview with the cast.

Oz on HBO. This show is pushing twenty years old but I never saw it. Snorth recommended that I check it out and now I’m two seasons in. I do not want to go to prison. No no. Not that I wanted to before, but now, I totally do not want to go to prison. People are really really mean there. It’s a great show, kind of dated by today’s standards of television-making, but thoroughly engrossing. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much male nudity on a show. I really pleased by that, not because I have a penchant for male jingly-jangly, but we are constantly seeing ladybits on television nowadays and I like that this attempts to even that out a bit. And I like that they aren’t afraid to kill off some characters and introduce new ones. It keeps it feeling fresh.


Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

I did stuff in New York which was good for m’brain! And I only paid for one of them! I don’t know if anyone paid attention or cared, but a few weeks ago was a weekend where New York was slathered in art and art-related activities, the primary branch of which was the Contemporary Art Fair down at the piers. It filled two piers, that’s how much ahhhht there was. I tend to get very angry when I am exposed to contemporary art (see this post to understand why) and it was a $40.00 entrance fee to get in, so I was not going. But then Neenernator called and said she had done the retouching work for this advertisement:


And in addition to getting paid, she received two free tickets and would I like to go with her? I have a policy that when free tickets are presented, I should go because who cares if it sucks? It’s free. This policy has worked out very well for me so I went. Lo and behold, I hated very little of the work shown! It’s a Christmas miracle. I will now discuss the one piece that made me want to slaughter not the artist, he’s just trying to make a buck, but anyone who considered buying it. Death. I wish death upon you, art-purchaser.


It was a paper towel dispenser mounted on a wall. That’s it. It wasn’t bedazzled or nothing. And based on the prices of some the pieces of art around it (more often than not, there was no price tag because gallery owners be pretentious) the towel dispenser was between $7,000 and $20,000. That’s just a guess. Maybe it was a giveaway at $3,500. That’s not the point. The point is EFF YOU.

The thing I liked about the art fair was, for most of it, even if I didn’t like the art I respected the process that went into it. I saw a giant disc painted with tiny gray dots in concentric circles and while I don’t really want that in my house it clearly took a long time to paint all those dots and I commend the artist for investing the time. I would say that was the case for most everything I saw. Here’s some pieces I liked (most of the pictures pulled from the internet and not taken by me BTW):

No surprise here, a large (approximately 4′ x 5′) painting of a plaid squirrel. It was $7,500, but it doesn’t matter because it was sold anyway.


A mobile where the glass in coated with something that reminds me of the 80s. I love how the skylights of the pier, when filtered through, look rainbow-licious. This feeds right into my Lisa Frank desires.


The marble Island of Manhattan. It was AMAZING. There bridges were there, the buildings were there, it was phenomenal.

marble-ny1 marble-ny2

The paintings that were used in the brochure Neenernator worked on. They were made by putting oil paints in a frosting bag and then squeezing them all over a canvas. I wanted to lick them but I think that kind of thing is frowned upon (or encouraged, who knows, art people are weird).


There were some Nick Cave costumes. I’ve spoken previously about how much I love Nick Cave’s work, and now I finally had the opportunity to walk right up to them and examine them right up close. That was great.

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These stitched fabric doorknobs.


This figurine. Rock that whale tail, little feller!


This yarn tractor.


And these clouds painted in stages on twelve panes of glass giving the impression of three-dimensionality. This idea I might steal. You should too, it’s a great idea.

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I may go again next year (if Neenernator snags another free ticket, it is not worth $40 to me) and see what there is to see.

The other thing I did recently was see “All The Way,” the play on Broadway about President Johnson starring Bryan Cranston. It was so great IF (I made that if capitalized for a reason) you like historical drama. Did you think the movie Lincoln was gripping and fascinating? You’re going to love “All The Way.” Did you think Lincoln was sooooo dull and tedious? You’re going to not like “All The Way.” I was riveted for several reasons: one, I find history really interesting because it happened, it’s not fiction. Second, my complete lack of American history knowledge worked for me because all the reveals were shocking surprises. Wait, Martin Luther King had extramarital sex?!?? J. Edgar Hoover was gay?!? The South used to be Democratic?!?!! Quelle surprise (pour moi)! I went with my father and since he’s 83 he totally remembers LBJ and he said Bryan Cranston was spot-on. In addition to the show being excellent, the production design (set, lighting, AV) was phenomenal. There were moving set pieces and syncing video and flashing lights that were critical to conveying plot points to the audience, and they were all perfect and tight. It was impeccable. I highly recommend going. Favorite line: “Nothing comes easy. Nothing bad, but also nothing good. When a carpenter builds a barn, if wood could speak, it would be screaming.”

o-ALL-THE-WAY-facebook 85395 ATW Bryan Cranston

This is Charta!!!*

Monday, April 14th, 2014

*I think I’ve used that one before. I don’t care. I like it. I’m using it again.

First, a random collection of charts I’ve seen on the internet:

2014-04-07-59e8604 1688692_10152138290329754_874161226_n 1975081_10152363742612994_1925787722_n romo-threatdisplays-pictumblr_n1nvueL7QC1qa0uujo1_500 Y58L YBM7 enhanced-buzz-3864-1390444491-16 292014023047 2220140211111 tumblr_mnoj9rYPhc1qbze77o1_500 owl-plumage

And I’d like to draw your attention to Gemma Correll. I like her stuff a great deal. I hope to see more of her awesomeness in the future.

701063_1465989_lz enhanced-17804-1395856756-7 enhanced-17849-1395857812-23 enhanced-18963-1395858013-4 punday-12 tumblr_mzt0xhBOiv1qhlsrfo1_500 tumblr_n2xzabHnZO1qhlsrfo1_500

And in case you’re wondering if she really looks like the girl in the fourth image, yup, yes she does.


Things I have liked recently.

Friday, April 11th, 2014


One star book reviews. I especially appreciated this one because I often hate classical books:

“The evidence is mounting. I am a philistine.”


2. I didn’t ride on it the last time I was there, but there’s a Bug Carousel at The Bronx Zoo! I adore the dung beetle bench. If I ever got married, me and my beau would need to take fancy wedding pictures on the dung beetle bench.

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3. I now want to make see-through stickers and put them on things.



4. I received some spam as I do on a regular basis. I was going to delete it, but before I did I noticed that it was sent from someone who’s name was “Breast Nexus.” Is that not the greatest name from a steamy romance novel? Seriously. I typed “Breast Nexus” into Google and got this:


Wow. Okay. This photoshop then immediately had to be made.


My kitchen. Progress!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

All the cabinets are in! Boom! One thing down. Now the rest of this never-ending journey continues – the countertop, the backsplash, the plumbing. I’ll keep you in the loop.

kitchen1 kitchen2

Japan 2014, Part finished.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Okay. Here’s the company that I took my tour with:

And here’s the itinerary for the winter tour.

Winter Highlights – Snow Monkey & Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival Tour

Helpful tips that I have accrued:

1. Bring a ton of yen. It’s a cash-based country and there are very few ATMs. For my two-week vacation I used about $1000 (10,000 yen). I also bought a whole bunch of stuff so you may use less, but it’s good to have it on hand.

2. Wear slip-on shoes. If you visit places of interest, there is a good chance you will have to take off your shoes. It’s a pain in the kiester to tie and untie them because more often than not there’s no place to sit or anything so you end up doing this awkward hopping dance in an attempt to get the shoe on your foot. Also, try not to have socks with holes in them. Japanese people think that’s impolite.

3. On escalators, hold on to the opposite side than in the U.S. if you’re standing still. They drive on the opposite side of the road, so you hold on to the other side of the escalators.

4. Leave lots of time to get anywhere. The train stations are huge and confusing with multiple floors and an enormous floorplan. You will get lost a great deal. Budget in time for that. Try to grab as many maps as you can wherever you are. They are a lifesaver. Did I mention most streets don’t have names?

5. Schoolchildren will walk up to you and ask you if you can answer some questions. Do not panic. This is a common school assignment. They will ask you about three very basic questions (“Where are you from?”) and more likely than not they will struggle to understand your answer because they are in their first year of English. Then they will ask to take a photo with you. That’s it. No biggie.

6. Sometimes when you ask for directions Japanese people will run away from you. It’s not because you are gross. It’s because even through they understand you and know where you want to go they’re ashamed of their pronunciation of English. They know they get the “R” and “L” thing wrong and they don’t want you to hear them talk. If they don’t run away they may give you directions only using their hands.

7. Try very very hard not to say “no.” You have no idea how difficult this is. It’s like trying to not think about pink elephants. The Japanese think that the word no is super-offensive, so you have to use work-arounds. I saw a girl visibly recoil after The Moomins said no to her. I used “I’m afraid not, but thank you,” while bowing copiously and making an I’m-so-sorry face.

8. Bring a washtowel with you. Many bathrooms don’t have towels or dryers so most everyone has a tea-towel in their purse. (I did what I do in the States which is wipe my hands on my cotton t-shirts, classy 4ever).

9. People don’t eat and walk simultaneously so there are surprisingly few trashcans. If you expect to have trash, bring a small plastic bag with you. There will be garbage cans and recycle bins near large banks of vending machines so you can wait until you get to one. But like on the street? No trashcans.

10. If you order sushi and the waitress says, “Wasabi?” say no. They will slather your sushi with wasabi on the inside so you can’t scrape it out and your head will go up in flames. Learn from my mistakes (I did it twice).

11. Okay, how the subways work in Tokyo. You go down the stairs in your station and you go up to the ticket machines. Above it will be a giant graph. You find the station you are in and the station you wish to go to. Depending on the distance the prices will be 160 yen, 240 yen, etc. You punch the number of tickets you need and the corresponding yen amount for each ticket (the buttons are really simple like Fisher-Price) and little raffle tickets will come out. You go up to the ticket turnstile, shove the raffle ticket in the turnstile and it will pop out after the spinny bit. Save that ticket. Do not throw it away. You will need it to exit at your destination station. There’s a turnstile to get out. You shove the raffle ticket in there and the machine eats it. Then you can leave.

12. If you forget everything else, the three things you mustn’t do under any circumstance is stick your chopsticks upright in your rice, go into an onsen still dirty or with soap on you or have the nasty soles of your shoes touch anything it’s not supposed to touch. Be nice to everyone and speak softly. Everyone knows you’re a big dumb foreigner, they’re going to set their standards low. You’ll be fine. Have fun.

Here’s a great video of mascots dancing. Because Japan.

Addendum: This is cool. Japanese demons that get you while you’re on the (heated) toilet.

Japan 2014, Part 13.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

It is astonishing how quickly your habits can change over a period of two weeks. Over the two weeks I made a concerted effort to eat what everyone else was eating, like soup with noodles and local vegetables and delicious little slime-covered mushrooms:


And on the last day I didn’t even bother with the eggs and bacon and cereal. On my breakfast plate is hijiki salad, two pickled plums, white rice and those slime-shrooms. Not in the picture but also being consumed: green tea and miso soup. I actually wanted these things over the typically Western dishes. Japan had broken me completely.


Also consumed at the final breakfast, this:


Not bad. A little burn-y due to the vinegar, but not bad.

Anyway, back to the tour. The second-to-last night we were left to our own devices and a few of us decided to go to Shinjuku, the Times Square of Tokyo. Our hotel was relatively close to Shinjuku in a cool area. The Moomins and I had a room overlooking nothing, but the guys across the hall took this photo of their view.


So the younger members of the tour (myself included) headed off to the bright lights of Shinjuku.

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Where there was the most segregated smoking area ever. It was in the middle of the main boulevard. “Go there and smoke! And feel shame in your corral of cancer!”


And a cab with this on it went by. Eeeg. Dear Lord, if that isn’t the uncanny valley I don’t know what is.


The group decided we wanted some sushi and all of us were pretty cool with any kind of sushi, so we found the most packed place we could (usually a sign of goodness) and ordered the $80.00 platter. I’ve never been so extravagant and ordered the big platter so I tried to forget it was being split six ways and felt fancy.


It was fancy. And delicious. The main difference between Japanese sushi and American sushi is the taste. Even basic sushi there tastes better. The tuna has a real flavor, did you know that? I didn’t, not really. It’s quite nice. And the spicy tuna thing, it’s not there. It’s a uniquely American thing, like California rolls. Uni (sea urchin) shows up a bunch more which is upsetting because it tastes like low tide. Luckily the group picked the platter that was uni-free.


I saw on the wall that one of the specials that day was “deep-fried tuna cheek” and I was like, “Hell, that sounds thoroughly weird and possibly amazing. Imma get that.” So I did. And it was nice. Tasty. Not life-altering, but I definitely didn’t regret getting it. The left bowl has salt, the right bowl has mustard.


Shinjuku. It’s a vibrant area with all kinds of activities open late into the evening. I walked past a store with this monster on the outside.


I have no idea what that store purveys. Video games? Bath products? Don’t know, don’t care. I was creeped out and didn’t bother to stick around and investigate.

We went into a toy store that was many floors and I ended up buying a myriad of these intensely weird action figures from some Japanese TV show, a show like Power Rangers. I mean, how could I not? Look at them, they’re so varied.

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We also went to a six-floor bookstore Kinokuniya. I insisted on this because that sentient toilet book had been haunting me and I would come home with regrets if I didn’t make one final effort to find it. This bookstore had a whole floor devoted only to children’s books, so I had high hopes. I navigated through the aisles until I made it to the elevator and went to the top floor. Before I bothered one of the people working there I figured I’d give it my best shot looking on my own. There were many books laying out so I could see the covers (the spines, of course, were undecipherable to me) and I came to the realization that for such a closed-in culture, the Japanese have WAAAAAY too many books on poop. Seriously. These are the poop-related books that were laying face-up. Who knows how many more were stacked so I couldn’t see them. There was this one which had a corresponding set of playing cards:

poop-book1 poop-book2

There was this one, I assume about all the magical textures and shapes:


This one had the protruding display you see there, the cheeks really come out at you. After leafing through it I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s called “Let’s Learn About the Magic of Dad’s Ass.” Not joking. That’s what the book appeared to be about.


Monster wiping. No clue. Didn’t look through it.


After perusing the best that I could and coming up empty-handed, I went to the checkout girl, got out an envelope and a pen from my purse and said, “Okay, this is what I need. There’s this toilet *drew the toilet* and he’s got a Dali mustache *drew the mustache* and he’s going through the forest *drew the forest*.” For added explanation I made a little skipping gesture while swinging my arms to convey merrily going through a forest. After the shopgirl had stopped laughing at me she called her co-workers over and had them look at my sketch and when they had pulled themselves together she held up her hand telling me to wait while she looked on the computer.


After a few minutes the checkout girl said, “Ah!” and turned her screen towards me. There he was, my gamboling toilet-man! She went to the shelf and lo and behold, there wasn’t just one book about him. There was a sequel as well. I bought both. Here are pictures from the original.

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One last thing from Shinjuku: Look at this spooky entrance to something on the second level. That is off-putting.


One of the final activities on the tour was going to Odaiba, a man-made island with some crazy modern architecture. First we took a boat over with some great signage inside.


When we arrived, I was impressed with the Fuji building directly in front of me.


Has everyone seen all the X-Men movies? Everybody know Cerebro? Doesn’t this look like this contains Cerebro? I think it totally does.

There was this building as well. Fun story behind that one.


According to Kimi-San that yellow thing was supposed to stand upright and look like a flame but it was too heavy so they left it laying on its side. Kimi-San said everyone thought it looked like a turd, so if you ask a taxi driver to take you to “Turd Building,” this is where he will bring you. I’m sure the architect is thrilled about that. I personally think it looks more like a sperm, but whatever.

This is the Rainbow Bridge connected Odaiba with Tokyo. Yes, that is a scale model of the Statue of Liberty left over from 1999, “The French Year of Japan.”


When the bridge was built rainbow lights lit it up and it was very beautiful. It was so beautiful, in fact, that drivers kept looking at the lights and crashing. So the rainbow lights are only turned on for special occasions. Here’s a picture I found of what it looks like lit up.


Also on the last day we went to the Imperial Palace. Outside was a statue of a famous samurai. I liked it because it had great and powerful motion.


And also because little birds had made a nest in the hollows of the horse’s tail.


We visited the Sensoji Temple, one of the only temples I got to see with big ole pagodas. It was a lovely temple, albeit a bit crowded.

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Here are people shaking those containers with the numbers and opening the corresponding drawer to get their fortune. I mentioned how that works earlier.


Off to the side was this statue. The informational plaque didn’t have any English, so when I returned home I looked it up. All I could find out was this sentence.

In Sensoji area, it is built to comfort spirits of mothers and children in Manchuria towards the end of WWII.


I stood respectfully in front of it for a minute or two. I didn’t know what it was for, but the fact that people had covered her with shawls and bibs and a hat made me realize that this was something painful and important to people. Her lips look stained, like people have been kissing her. I felt like it deserved a minute of my time, even if I didn’t know why.

Additional photos:

A fugu restaurant. I did not eat there. I do not care how well you prepare your pufferfish, I don’t need to die in such a lame manner just for a thrill.


This is the sign from the Cattleya Coffeeshop in Gion, Kyoto.


Teeny plants in a wall. The Moomins said in South Africa they’re called “fairy gardens.”


A rickshaw. It’s more of a novelty than a real mode of transportation, but cool to see nonetheless.


A store that only sells seaweed and seaweed products.


A store that only sells sweet potato and sweet potato products.


Some kitties I saw hanging out on a sign in Ginza, one of the fanciest shopping districts.


The exterior of an old established Chinese restaurant in Kyoto. One of the only examples of typical European architecture.

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And outside the hotel near the airport, a pretty garden and some fantastic koi fish.

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That’s it. That was my trip to Japan. It was everything I had hoped for and I cannot wait to go back. In my next entry I’ll link to the itinerary of my tour in case you want to take the same one (I recommend it) and helpful hints that I discovered along the way.