Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tokyo Meiji Shrine: Coming of Age Day

January is a fun time to visit Japan because there are so many festivals you can attend!  During our short week in Japan, we got to visit the Toka Ebisu festival (see my previous blog) in Osaka, and on January 13th, we happened to be at the Meiji Shrine during the "Coming of Age" day, a celebration for girls turning 20 years old (kinda like our equivalent of Sweet 16 I suppose).

The path to the shrine was packed with visitors and worshippers.  With people, of course, there is always food!  Halfway to the shrine we found this little area where you can purchase snacks and other goodies.  Nothing keeps your warmer than a hot steam bun on a cold day.  Mmm...

The shrine was very busy with locals that day. I'm not too sure what they are lining up for, but I think it's something to do with making wishes for the coming new year.

I'm thinking these girls are either very happy because of all the attention they are getting, or very annoyed cause they kept being interrupted by tourists wanting to take pictures with them.  Do you see the guy in the middle with the thumbs up?

Event: Coming of Age Day
Location: Meiji Shrine
Cost: Free!
Overall impression: Personally, I would prefer visiting the shrine on a normal day, when it is more peaceful and quiet. Because of all the locals visiting the shrine for worship, tourists were not allowed inside the building on the day we went, and we end up wandering outside at the courtyard.

Other Japan trip reports


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tokyo DisneySea Day Trip

Ever since we got engaged at DisneyWorld in Florida inside Cinderella's Castle, Disney holds a special place in our hearts.  Naturally, we couldn't resist visiting Tokyo Disney, even though we're only in Tokyo for 2 days, and Disney would take up one of those precious day.

Tip: check out the Disney crowd calendar before your visit to find the least busy day and avoid long line-ups! It is generally a good tip to avoid the weekends, but we end up visiting on a Saturday, and it wasn't *too* bad.

We started our day early and arrived right when the park opens, but by the time we got to the entrance, there is already a long lineup forming.

On hindsight, we should've pre-purchased the ticket from a Disney store, because it turns out we had to wait for almost 45 minutes at the ticket booth if we don't hold advance tickets, while everyone with tickets already move through the line fast.  (FYI - tickets purchased in train stations are NOT the "actual" tickets - you'll still have to line up and exchange it for the real thing.  So buy your tickets from actual Disney stores!).

Tip: purchase your Disney tickets in advance at a Disney Store.

By the time we got through the entrance, half of the fast passes were already gone.   :(
We went against the crowd and rode 20,000 leagues under the sea, which was recommended by reviews I've read, the reason being it's a ride you can't find in other Disneys.  Well, it was a disappointment.  Boring ride with Japanese narration, so we had no idea what was going on.  :(
So far, not a good start!

The park is primarily catered for locals, with very minimal foreign visitors, which probably would explain why they don't have anything in English.

I find it cute that teenage girls would wear their school uniform even though it's a Sat and they obviously don't have school!

Funny hats are a huge hit in Disney Sea, especially these funny looking horse hats.  :)

Oh look - it's a horse riding a horse!

If you've had churros in North America before, I highly suggest you try the Japanese version - rather than the usual cinnamon and sugar, they flavour their churros with …. strawberry milk! It's not what I was expecting, but yummy none-the-less. It's lighter and sweeter, and somehow felt very Japanese (I can't explain it).

For lunch, we tried out the curry dishes at Casbah Food Court - not very authentic, and it was definitely "Japanese curry". From a marketing perspective, it makes sense, since they are catering to the Japanese taste buds.

I love the mickey head on the stir sticks.

By far the most popular ride is Toy Story - fast passes were gone within 30 minutes of park opening, and by evening, it was still a 150 mins wait on standby.  We didn't end up waiting since we figured it's the same as the one in DisneyWorld and we've been on that ride multiple times.

Definitely visit the Toy Story area after sunset, the entire area is lit and is very magical.

After our non-authentic lunch, we decided to try out the Japanese restaurant (Restaurant Sakura) for dinner. If the park caters to Japanese locals, it stands to reason that they must be extremely good Japanese food to please the locals. We arrived at 5:30pm, before the crowd gathered.

It was a great choice - the food, although slightly on the pricey side (but hey, it's Disney, what'd you expect), was flavourful and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had the chirashi and some fish (sorry I forgot!).

Here's another tip: try to get into the dinner restaurant before 5:30pm, since by the time we were done dinner (around 7pm), there is a huge line-up outside.

At the many merchandise stores located throughout the park, we went hunting for the perfect memorabilia for our wedding. When we came across this Mickey and Minnie, we just couldn't resist. It'll look fantastic at our signing table, don't you think?  :)

There you have it, our DisneySea trip!

Other Japan trip reports


Sunday, March 23, 2014

St.Patrick's Day Cake Pop

- 1 box of Betty Crocker french vanilla cake mix (432g)
- Betty Crocker chocolate frosting (450g)
- Wilton dark green candy melts (340g) - from Michaels
- Wilton shamrock mix sprinkles (70g)
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup oil

Equipment and other ingredients:
- Cake pop sticks (50 sticks) - I got mine from Target
- 9" round baking pan
- Ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to measure out cake pop sizes

1. Bake the cake as per the instruction in the cake mix.
2. After cake has cooled down, break the cake into crumbles.
3. Mix in some frosting to the crumbles (I used half the can but found it to be too sweet).
4. Shape resulting mixture into cake balls.
5. Melt candy melts in the microwave.
6. Dip the cake pop sticks in the melt, then into the cake balls.
7. Dip the whole cake pop in the melt.
8. Add sprinkles.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Osaka Aquarium Day Trip

I love aquariums!  I'm not sure why, because I'm not really an animal person, and I don't really like visiting zoos.  But there is just something about being inside an aquarium that gets me excited.  So when we were in Osaka, we spent a day at the Osaka Aquarium, which is one of the largest aquariums in the world.

Right from the start, actually before we even entered the aquarium, we were greeted by a "march of the penguins" outside the building.  It was the cutest thing ever, to see them waddling around outside.  :)

I think they are every bit as curious about us as we are about them!

I don't know how many people work at the aquarium to keep the place running and clean, but once in a while we see workers in scuba gears cleaning the tank - it was kinda fun to see them swimming about and interacting with the visitors (we waved at them, and they wave back).  I guess it provides the employees with a perspective of what it's like to be in the other side of the tank on display?

I have no idea what half of the aquatic life forms I see in the aquarium are… but I honestly don't care.  It's not like I want to be an expert in marine biology or anything. After walking around the aquarium for a few hours (the place is pretty big), we were tired (and hungry).  I guess this is a common occurrence with most visitors, because right at the halfway point, there is a cafe with a beautiful harbour view.

We ordered takoyaki, but it wasn't really that good… we should've followed everyone else and have the green tea ice cream. Anyways, back to the aquarium...

One of the highlights for me personally (other than the penguins), are the jellyfish.  They have a whole floor dedicated to them, and it is just darn fascinating to watch them move around.

Other Japan trip reports