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What I Learned on My Japan Vacation :)

4 Jun

ImageI’m back from Japan! Actually I got back a couple weeks ago, but I’m back in the blogging spirit.

My recent trip to Japan was simply amazing and further reinforces my view that if you want to go somewhere and can afford it, just do it! In years past I was always nervous about going back to Japan due to cost, possible language barriers, and worries about getting around. Turns out I was wrong on all counts! It was particularly special getting to take my husband to Japan and show him some of my favorite things from my first trip some 10+ years ago. Some things I learned on this trip:

  • Japan isn’t as expensive as people make it out to be. Food in particular was very reasonable, even in the heart of Tokyo. We only spent maybe $3-$6 each on meals generally. One of our ‘expensive’ meals was $9. It’s not 5 star dining, but it was always delicious and gave the chance to eat a lot of delicious Japanese food. Udon, ramen, and gyudon spots were generally our favorites.
  • Some things are expensive….like Starbucks (400+ yen). Why not enjoy a 144 yen 7-11 coffee instead? Coffee also tastes sweeter in Japan.
  • The train and subway system is not as daunting as it seems. All the signage is in English which helps, but not all announcements are made in English so you still need to pay attention. The subway line which we were closest to (Marunouchi) was a great starting point for exploration. If you’re at a hotel that has wifi, bring an iPad or other hand device to map out which lines to take for where you want to go. This was extremely helpful and saved a lot of planning time.
  • Don’t buy the spendy JR Rail pass unless you’re going to use it (like going to Kyoto from Tokyo). We didn’t buy one and mostly walked places or spent $1.60-$2.20 each time for the subway or train. We still spent way less than the rail pass would have cost.
  • Tokyo is huge! You probably already know this but if you really want to explore Tokyo give yourself a few days. It’s much more similar to a state than a city. Every area is different and has its own special attractions. Shinjuku, Ueno, and Akihabara were our favorite areas.
  • If you like shopping, save room in your luggage or pack extra luggage. We found so many great things and great deals we ended up having to buy bags to pack home all the gifts and souvenirs. If you like Hello Kitty, video games, anime, electronics, or Japanese things in general your head might explode from the vast amount of stuff to buy. The elaborately boxed candies and sweets are particularly nice to get as gifts and will take up space.
  • One of the easiest ways to get from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo is the Airport Limousine Bus (don’t let the name fool you, it’s just a bus). It’s $30 per person, but definitely worth the 90 min trip. No dealing with luggage at the train station! The extra bonus? They accept credit cards!!!
  • Bring cash if you can get a good exchange rate or use the 7-11 ATM machines (I’ll save the full awesomeness of Japanese 7-11s for another post). Credit cards are accepted at very few places. Japan runs almost exclusively on cash so be prepared!
  • Lastly, if you have time learn some Japanese, it will help a lot. Not everyone in Tokyo speaks English (contrary to what friends/ websites/ etc.. will tell you). I am 100% sure you will use it! If you can memorize hiragana/katakana that’s even better! One of my favorite parts of Japan was getting to use the Japanese I learned in college. I feel even more inspired to keep up with it.

I hope these ‘learnings’ can help anyone who is interested in visiting Japan. I’ll be sure to add other Japan posts in the coming weeks!

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Blue Martini @ the Bravern

27 Feb

A few weeks ago my husband and I had the honor of being invited to the Bravern’s newest addition, Blue Martini, for a VIP opening party (on a Wednesday no less). It seems that my following the Bravern via e-mail, Twitter, and shopping there has really paid off! Anyways, here’s how the night played out:

  • Arrive and there’s a line. People are dressed in cocktail attire as well (as the invite requests) which is a pleasant surprise. They even require the invite to get in, how classy!
  • Get into Blue Martini, which is pretty crowded, but we score a pretty nice table near the main window.
  • Check out the menu and see tons of delicious martinis, but oh how pricey, $14 and up! We decide to share one and keep our wallets from crying.
  • Nice waitress comes over and alerts us that all martinis are free (which is what we were hoping for all along).
  • Commence drinking many (too many) delicious martinis. I recommend the mango one.
  • Order food (margarita flatbread).
  • Drink more martinis.
  • Wait another 90+ min and still no food.
  • Head over to Wild Ginger to finally get dinner and make a fool of myself by laughing at literally anything….really….anything.
  • Wonderful (and sober) husband drives us home. In bed by 9 pm.

All in all, Blue Martini had wonderful drinks, but never getting our food was a huge let down. The kitchen should have been better staffed for such a large party. Also for the future, I likely won’t be attending any more weekday night martini shindigs unless I have the next day off.

 

PS: My husband still wants his margarita flatbread.

 

 

Home Style: Then and Now

30 Jan

Can you ever be too old for a trip to IKEA? I think not. Husband and I finally started the process of purchasing bookshelves for our upstairs loft area which is currently known as ‘college zone’. the only truly unfinished feeling space of our home. College zone is all very collegy looking….

Movie poster? Check!

Mismatch shelves? Triple Check!

Random trinkets? Of course!

All this stuff doesn’t exactly look bad per say, it just needs to be better organized. Currently, all our stuff is all on separate shelves which in no way match. It’s time to combine! We also got another shelf unit for our living room to add to the growing collection of Blu Rays and video games. I’m pretty proud of how our home looks as I have been with all my living spaces, but it’s fun to look back on how my style has evolved.

THEN (my first studio apartment in Seattle) 2007:

Contents:

  •  Sweet Toshiba TV/ DVD combo (it was seriously good)
  • The Euro Futon, my couch and bed. Yes, I slept on this for 2 years.
  • Saucer chair!
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s print
  • Eifel tower pinboard
  • 10 DVDs + every season of Sex in the City on DVD (I’m a gal in the city too!!)
  • iPod dock + iPod mini (in blue)
  • White tiger print blanket
  • Desktop PC with wifi I’m borrowing from the neighbors

NOW (townhome outside the city) 2012:

Contents:

  • Sony Bravia flatscreen!
  • A lot of DVDs, maybe as many as a family video store.
  • A real couch (Kasala), that can seat 4. Bonus: I have a real bed now too!!
  • Gas fireplace (dream come true)
  • Pretty faux orchid
  • iPhone and iPad
  • Crystal vases
  • Multiple windows
  • Husband + wedding photos 😀

Can’t wait to see what the place looks like in another 5 years!

The best coffee in Seattle is….

7 Oct

After working and living in Seattle for close to  5 years I’ve become crazy about coffee, especially trying local places (and no, Starbucks doesn’t count). After, drinking hundreds of cups of coffee, in my humble opinion no cup is as good as the one you can get at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square (171 S. Jackson St. Seattle, WA 98101).

Why it’s so amazing:

  • The coffee is super smooth and the taste….
  • The baristas do adorable foam designs, anything from leaves to hearts
Drink of choice: Latte
  • There’s cool art all about (it’s like a gallery and cafe all in one)
  • Excellent people watching
  • Free WIFI and lots of seating
  • It’s a block away from my office

Whether you’re local or not, if you ever happen to be in Pioneer Square, treat yourself to a cup!

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