Journal of Japan

This is a picture heavy post, where I share the photographs of my journal of travelling – it started slow but once I got into it (on the road) it got more decorative!

Should fire ruin this journal, at least I’ll have it in blog form, and you get to sticky beak!

Day 1 in Osaka
Day 1 in Osaka
Day 2 - still on about Osaka
Day 2 – still on about Osaka
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Getting colourful - back in Osaka after Suita City
Getting colourful – back in Osaka after Suita City
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Golden temple in Kyoto
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Trip to see SUMO! This crane was made by J2 (on tour) with a caramel lolly wrapper
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From Kyoto and the floating temple, to the day trip to Hiroshima
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Hiroshima day trip – the water colour was painted with the water of the river in Hiroshima ūüôĀ
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Moss garden in Kyoto in the various seasons. The cranes were from my pillow in the Ryokan, one was from our guide at Hiroshima.
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Ryokan in Kyoto…! And our menu had the Gion Festival float (bottom left) on it, WAY cheaper than any souvenirs!
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Left hand side is a trimmed fan handed out in a department store. The right is the business card of our guide in the north, showing the lonely pine tree that survived the tsunami. Top right is the lovely caramel lolly wrapper (again!)
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Day trip to Hanone to see Mt Fuji (but we didn’t) – the ticket stubs returned for recycling at the end were snaffued for my journal.
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The right hand side hides map of Japan – where I marked everywhere we went. The decoration on top is Osaka stamps that were in some guide book. Far right is my name in katakana from our Suita City day 1
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We had a week long rail pass, the green tickets are (free) seating allocations on trains. All our city based rail stuff, the tickets get taken
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Tokyo’s disaster park, and my last day in Tokyo – with shopping images. The plane stickers were a purchase in Japan too!
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The hirigana alphabet that my homestay’s cousin wrote out for me – bless her. I was trying to remember symbols that evening, by reading the paper, and pointing to a symbol and checking what sound it was.

Questions most welcome!

Souvenirs from Japan

So what did I buy in Japan? Aside from four tops/shirts for a number of multinational companies (Zara, Uni Qlo, H&M), I also bought a belt from Old Navy. ¬†That’s all par for the course – ¬†I have the time and the funds when on holidays to buy clothing.

Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me
Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me

However, I also bought

  1. Two packets of the same size of oragami paper Рall in blue tones.  I plan to frame some.
  2. A fabric hand towel
  3. An offcut of fabric, and 1m of a fabric I loved – I’m considering using them between the glass and the ‘wood’ of the coffee table.
  4. Maple leaf shaped cakes from Hiroshima, with the limited edition Maple flavour!
  5. Sheets of stickers of Japanese temples, and paper shapes, to add to my travel journal (upcoming post)
Paper to be framed
Paper to be framed
100 yen - an impulse purchase
100 yen – an impulse purchase
Fabric - not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!
Fabric – not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!

I also spent countless money on snacks! My my my, did I try everything and then some. ¬†I feel very unhealthy now! I enjoyed cream/custard filled puffs (three times), small pancakes packages with maple jelly and butter, caramel pop corn, pizza flavoured chips (crisps for Laura ;), strawberry yoghurt drink, little brownie bites, pineapple ring icecream, mango ice block (twice!), alcoholic lemon flavoured icey drink… There was plenty more, I assure you… these are what I remember! That’s right – rice balls (really triangular shaped), though the last one I had, well I was pretty sure it was my LAST one, I got a little over them.

I also brought home a sake bottle, as the glass was blue! It’s now sharing the trolley with a Bombay Sapphire mini bottle. Classy huh?

What’s your favourite of my souvenirs? ¬†Is there something you ‘always’ collect as a souvenir when travelling?

Day 1 – Japan

So, laziness, or insanely smart, I’m going to try and ‘recycle’ some of my emails to blog posts. ¬†It has been noted that my email style is a little ‘punchier’ than my blog content… so I suppose we’ll see if it’s loved or hated!!

At Sydney Airport

So… other than bruising my hand on one of the lesbian’s hand luggage falling over (matches her wife’s), seeing my boss and his wife, I’m all good.Had my maccas hot cakes, seen an awesome red/ruby coloured longchamp – checked, it’s made in China, but my blue one I’m carrying is thankfully French made.

The 'traditional' McDonald's hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
The ‘traditional’ McDonald’s hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
Plane food!
Plane food!
Tour might KILL (or teach me) patience… We’ll see.
New Osaka Hotel
I have wifi. I’m tired and it’s past bedtime and I’ve missed one meal. Room is tiny but private so this (semi) nudist is happy.
Plane was old but from Tokyo to Osaka was shiny and new and as big with first class! Who needs first class for a 45 min journey!?
Not so New - New Osaka Hotel... Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb.  Rookie error
Not so New – New Osaka Hotel… Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb. Rookie error
Sat next I 21 year old on way here, annoyed me. Rookie traveller he is!!
Food! I need food! No money in yen though.
Day 2 about to begin, we head to the sister city Suita and stay with home stays for two nights! The lesbians are staying together cause otherwise they refused to home stay.
Little J is the inexperienced 21 yo got left behind in the busy streets of Osaka after seeing the dragon boats . He’s a pretty entitled mummy’s boy so more or less blamed us for losing him not himself for his inability to follow the green fish wind sock that Hiro our guide whips out (definitely gay me thinks!)
G the leader is a bit dottery, so the lesbians and I whipped him into shape so we eat prior to midnight. You should see the gifts he’s got for our homestay families – yikes!!
There’s an older couple, four kids and grand kids called L&G. Apart from the lesbians they seem the most relatable for me. They’ve travelled heaps. She’s a bit disagreeable with big issues, or just contrary (after I mentioned the diversity of fashions the Japanese wear). Greg is far more fun and appreciates my engineer mind!
There’s a whinge-a-belle ¬†who’s a vego cause she can’t chew. She takes 10 minutes of fretting to buy a vending machine drink, worried she won’t like it, and of course in the end didn’t. She should have got water but she¬†doesn’t like mineral water, chose green tea. Anyone would think the $2 decision was mission critical! The lesbians and I split to ensure we wouldn’t enjoy her company at dinner after seeing her lengthy discussion at lunch!
The team - outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
The team – outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
There’s sisters her, in strata check business, constantly laughing. E’s 27 and definitely the more unhinged one but K keeps her sorted. Thy have locked themselves out If their room more than once already!
Then they Z, a Russian born in Iran who got refugee status in Australia after ww2. She’s a red wine drinker and whilst a little spacey, switched on generally! J is 32 never travelled but it doesn’t show. He has mannerisms and intonation like Teo but far more generous. The twins and I had cash flow problems the first night and Jordan readily volunteered to cover us. That being said despite reports to the contrary, international credit cards works but cash is king!
The tv is all in Japanese but in watching it nonetheless. Puts me in the mood for the day ahead. Sorta sad I couldn’t find a music station at least ūüôĀ
Yesterday we went to a castle/fort in the rain, then to Osaka history museum which was ok but very little English.
Osaka Castle - b picture (blame it on the weather?)
Osaka Castle – bad picture (blame it on the weather?)
Lastly we went to the aquarium which I want enthusiastic about but ended up loving! For a girl scared of swimming with fish, a 30cm Perspex barrier between us is ideal! There were penguins and dolphins but the killer whale was sick and AWOL. There were SO many toddlers there but also young dating couples. Despite this business I saw heaps! There was also the worlds biggest gift store!! (If you care for fish, I have about 10 posts worth of photos!
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
This country is incredibly kid friendly. Most toliet stalls have a wall mounted baby holder to sit there while mum pees. Then most ladies bathrooms have a small low mounted urinal for little boys! ¬†Even sinks are at lower levels. Staks of men’s rooms also show they have baby change facilities too. They are also uber blind aware – Braille on stair hand rails in addition to tactiles everywhere. Even pay phones mounted lower. Every public toliet also has old person rails in the stalls and around at least one sink. I think I recall reading about the aging population: they’ve certainly embraced the changes needed!
Dragon boating - incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Dragon boating – incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Ok time to zip up and head to the foyer. Smallest bag in the group for the trip – most will leave the bulk of their stuff here during our homestay but I can take most of mine ūüėÄ
There you go – first days of my trip!

Things this trip taught me

A souvenir shop's garden
A souvenir shop’s garden
  • If I pack three pairs of ‘pants’ (one skirt, two pairs of shorts) – then I need the same proportion of tonal knickers (cause I’m like that!). ¬†I didn’t have enough light toned knickers, but Uni Qlo to the rescue…
  • Synthetic pockets in my white shorts – need replacing stat!
Inside the moss garden
Inside the moss garden
  • I had the least luggage, but could have wedged in a few more light/thin t shirts of similar – not that I owned something I ‘should’ have packed
  • I’m incredibly well travelled, and actively seeking to learn and work things out. I did NOT like my discovery being short cut by a friendly helper I’m travelling with, but I love to teach when people are interested (like teaching Japanese characters to the girls)
Moss garden
Moss garden
  • I love to write – I wrote daily emails, AND a handwritten journal, which I bought some great scrap booking stickers for in Kyoto – mighty proud!
  • I’m not the most obsessed about wifi or internet! At least in this group of 12!
Gift shop after moss garden
Gift shop after moss garden
  • Handbags really are the best way for me to day trip – easy to get tickets out repeatedly, small and therefore light, and had a light bag in there for ‘shopping’. ¬†Someone pointed out it was getting rain in it, but seriously, it didn’t, and no zip didn’t worry me in Japan!
  • Runners are way more supportive than $4 canvas slip on runners.
  • The smell of cigarette smoke is pervasive, and smoking is still quite acceptable in Japan (with smoking rooms quite common). ¬†Three nights in a formerly smoking room was a little unpleasant :s
  • You are automatically charged for plastic bags at grocery stores, but at convenience and all other stores, it’s the default way to show you paid for something. ¬†If you mime you don’t want a bag, plastic branded tape is placed over all items’ barcodes!


As soon as I hit publish, I’ll think of more things! But that’s ok, blogs are living, I can update it ūüėČ

What did you learn from your last trip?

A selfie a day

I’ve often travelled alone. I’ve often not taken any photos of myself. With the BF back home, and this echo of friends in the past, I implemented a policy of ‘a selfie a day’. In reality, some days there are a few selfies, and other days there are none. But you get the picture:

At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
Floating temple in Kyoto
Floating temple in Kyoto
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Me with the O-Torii gate
Me with the O-Torii gate
That's hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
That’s hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn't believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn’t believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Hello kitty - at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Hello kitty – at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Moss garden in Kyoto
Moss garden in Kyoto
One of many Shinkasen rides!
One of many Shinkasen rides!

Do you have a favourite?

Japan’s differences in dot points

There’ll be many a post on my two weeks in Japan, but I thought I would start with the big difference I noticed and didn’t expect (like, obviously the language and alphabet is different!)

Lining up just so - no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
Lining up just so – no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
  • They are SO tidy – even though there aren’t many bins, you just don’t see rubbish lying around. ¬†I saw someone *clean* the pavers of an ice cream drop or two
  • There’s no paper hand towel in bathrooms, almost across the board. ¬†My eco conscious REALLY like this! ¬†Instead, men and women carry handkerchiefs or what we’d call ‘face washers’ (terry toweling) and use it to dry their hands, or wipe their brow…
  • Japan is HOT! Wow, there was 95% humidity some days
  • They are such obedient people – they line up either sides of the train carriages in pairs. ¬†Just such restraint.
  • Everywhere seems very visually cluttered – some many words in your face! ¬†Negative space in print isn’t something that’s used as much as it could be
  • They certainly love a cute uniform with a hat!
Cute uniforms (there's more photos like this of different women in different places - this one was at an Aquarium)
Cute uniforms (there’s more photos like this of different women in different places – this one was at an Aquarium)

Just a short post for now, but I thought I should break my two week posting drought!

Japan packing

There’s nothing I enjoy more than some photos collages, and doing outfits ensures I pack enough. And I can easily get up and get dressed.

Denim short outfits
Denim short outfits

If you’re bored (already) can play ‘spot the repeat picture’ :p

White shorts outfits
White shorts outfits

These don’t include the ‘plane’ outfit.


The plane will introduce jeans, a cotton sweater, a scarf, my trench… and some level of short and/or long sleeved shirt/s. ¬†And canvas slip on runners (often called Rabens here, which is a brand, though mine aren’t).

Outfits with the lime skirt (and one repeat)
Outfits with the lime skirt (sorry for the overexposure)

Oh and I threw in my white linen pants, cause it might be too hot for jeans, but in need of trousers?

Doing this helped me cut a long skirt I was planning to pack (nothing went with it, and I didn’t want to add what did). ¬†I also culled a pale blue blouse, as it was too similar to the linen one I’ve pictured. ¬†I photographed it!? I also had a baggy navy and white striped jumper, but it was likely to class with other stripes, and in reality, isn’t warm when I might need it to be. ¬†I also had a blue and white kaftan top, that I stole from mum years ago. ¬†It’d be great for a beachy holiday, but this, not as much.

What’s not pictured, but packed in my yellow carry on suitcase:

  • countless pairs of knickers
  • two bras (will wear the third)
  • bikini
  • leather slip on sandals
  • one book (the inside of the cover used to hide our modem!)
  • a duffle bag for ‘more’

What else, you asked? (you didn’t… my mistake!)

The other stuff!
The other stuff!

A lot of this I already carry around daily in my handbag! What’s missing, and will need to be packed on the morning:

  • deodorant
  • toothbrush
  • untinted lip balm (my handbag one has gone AWOL, so will use the bedside one on the trip)
  • wallet
  • phone & charger
  • snacks?! I did buy museli bars a week ago. ¬†They are eaten hmmm I don’t want a third grocery store visit in three days, maybe I’ll make snack buying a cultural experience.
  • current reading book

Things I’m up in the air about

  • Should I go buy white canvas runners (mine are black), they are $4 from Kmart, and undoubtedly slave labour?
  • Should I take my running shoes (and socks, and perhaps an outfit for running) – even if I just wear the running shoes for day to day? ¬†I won’t wear them with jeans on the plane, so I’ll have to pack them, and they are bulky?
  • Do I need more reading material? This might be an intense ‘tour’ with lots of talking, and little idle reading time.
  • Is taking a library book wise (I love liberating book space for other stuff!)?
  • Should I pack an umbrella – I often put it in the front pocket of my suitcase, and a few times, it’s saved me on arrival.

Now, I leave first thing Saturday morning, so tomorrow (Friday) night I need to

  • take out recycling (I’ve always been the rubbish person in this household, so best to leave with everything empty)
  • take the last of the compost to the community bin
  • empty bedroom rubbish bin (and weigh!)

That’s it – for now! You may answer some or none of my questions, or ask your own!

Japan trip in July

Yummo, titled "Salmon Pink" source: Louise Hawson
Yummo, titled “Salmon Pink”
source: Louise Hawson

My apologies, devoted and committed readers (hahaha), it’s been more than a week since my last confession post. ¬†But to break the silence, I have some VERY exciting news (which I alluded to in comment on¬†declutter)!

All the wonderful photographs are directly from Louise Hawson, and brilliantly talented photographer from Sydney who took her daughter Coco around the world last year, visiting two cities that I will. ¬†I was a diligently follower of her weekly posts, and have enjoyed her books thoroughly (52 Suburbs and 52 Suburbs Around the World). ¬†Seeing you probably don’t know her, please take the time to enjoy her site: 52 Suburb Around the World

For my cat loving readers! Source: Louise Hawson
For my cat loving readers! Titled ‘Ginza Cats’
Source: Louise Hawson

An opportunity came up through the State Emergency Service (SES) which I volunteer for to join another area’s group heading to Japan for two weeks in July. ¬†The other unit has a sister city in Japan. ¬†Plus, there are some pretty interesting and unique challenges that Japan faces regarding emergency management. ¬†The tour will only touch on ’emergency’ stuff on three occasions, and the rest of the time, we will enjoy being tourists complete with a tour guide.

I know I’ve said previously and repeatedly, that I’m not a fan of tours. ¬†However, in livetolist format, here’s why I am joining a tour

  1. My high school Japanese is limited to ‘hi, my name is Sarah, I eat cake’
  2. I don’t have a burning list of things I *must* see and do in Japan
  3. However, I’m generally intrigued by Japan and it’s unique culture
  4. I have a passion for disaster recovery, and hope to move my career in that direction
  5. Opportunities like this don’t come up every day (and when you’re without children/ill parents/huge debt)
Titled: snowmen and Sanat:: 1 source: Louise Hawson
Titled: snowmen and Sanat:: 1
source: Louise Hawson

So here’s a brief summary of locations and activities planned

  • 5 nights in Osaka and/or host city
  • Kyoto Gion Festival
  • 4 nights in Kyoto
  • Bullet train to Hiroshima
  • See a Sumo match
  • Stay in a Ryokan (the traditional Japanese matted room with a futon)
  • Meet a Geisha and chat after watching her dance
  • Visit tsunami region
  • Bullet train to Tokyo
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • Visit Disaster Prevention Park
Titled: travel back in time at 300 km an hour Source: Louise Hawson
Titled: travel back in time at 300 km an hour
Source: Louise Hawson

There’s naturally more than this, but these stand out as the ‘cool’ notable items!

I’m so pleased I continue to regularly save money, so that I can say ‘yes’ to things like this without great concern.

Do you want to visit Japan? ¬†Even if you don’t really want to, what’s one things you’d like to see or do whilst you’re there?