December Link Love

Pressing pause for a  moment on my Melbourne photos to say hello to December!

Last month was a fun (and fast!) month filled with many friends visiting Tokyo. I got to hang out with friends from Kobe, San Francisco, and Canada (both Vancouver AND Toronto!). I have a couple of posts coming up about all that but I had a great time. I didn’t have an official Thanksgiving dinner this year (thank god!) but it felt like the whole month was a big friendsgiving celebration for me!

Now December is one of my favorite months because of all the merriness that ensues (whoop!) and getting to be with family (whoop whoop!). Although it is also one of the most exhausting months because merriness ensues in the form of bonenkai and I have to travel to be with family. Not that I don’t love a good bonenkai and a reason to travel. But when the bonenkai comes multiple days in a row, it can wear a girl down. And I know you’ve heard of the horrors of holiday travel, oh let me count the ways.

But the pros always far out way the cons, so it’s all good. I am really looking forward to this season of being merry, eating nabe, and ending this year with my family in Okinawa!

What are you plans for this holiday? x

——————————————————-Link Love——————————————————-

I wish I were a bird.

– Breathtaking in-flight safety video.

– What time is it?

– Track your new year’s resolutions on a Daruma Calendar.

My favorite movie during the holidays…maybe ever! (What’s yours?)

The Moonlight Kayak Tour and Melbourne Foxtel Festival

It’s been years since I last kayaked.
But what better time than now to give it another go? Especially when Kayak Melbourne provided such a unique tour of the city on Melbourne’s waterways! R and I chose the Moonlight Kayak Tour that would start at dusk in the Docklands and take us through Victoria Harbour, then up the Yarra River and ending near Federation Square.
R and I were pretty excited about this kayak tour. After spending some time at the Bathing Boxes in Brighton, we stopped by our Airbnb so I could change clothes because my delayed luggage was finally delivered. Then we hightailed it to the Docklands…and I mean we literally ran from the station because we were almost late.
One thing I always have a problem when I’m travelling is the time difference. I’m not talking about the jet lag. I’m talking about punctuality and how it varies depending on where or who you’re dealing with. In my tiny corner of the world, when you have a commitment, “on time” usually means 5 minutes before to exactly on the dot. Maybe it would even be okay to be within 5 minutes late. But any time after that, you either need to lie and say that you’re not feeling well or pray that your train will be delayed…because just being sorry will not make it right.
So when I go out into the world, be it somewhere else in Japan or overseas…I always expect everyone to be in the same “time zone” as me. Which is a mistake, really. Because people can be much more flexible with time, especially when associating with travelers, and some cultures are naturally a lot more laid back. I always wish I were one of those more laid back people.
Well, all this to say…we were running our butts off from the station because I was super worried if we were late at all, the tour would start without us. R was pretty sure we were fine but I wasn’t so sure, which is why I made us run. I mean, even the confirmation email asked us not to be late. Why would they write that if they didn’t expect us to be on time? But when we finally made it to our starting point (almost 10 minutes late!)…we were only the second group there out of the five groups that were taking the tour that day.
This happens to me ALL the time. I probably need to learn that sometimes time is not of the essence. Or maybe just learn to go with the flow and not be so uptight about punctuality when I’m travelling? It’s something I should probably work on, to be more flexible with the concept of time.
Anyways, once I knew we weren’t “late” and got my breath back, I was once again excited about going out on the kayak! And I am so glad we did! Kayaking is so much fun! To my surprise, I really sucked at it…but that did nothing to diminish my excitement. Ha! 
We had a fantastic 2.5 hour tour with a grand view of the sunset. I loved seeing the city from our kayak. We even got something warm to eat, which was great since it did start raining a bit at one point. But the sky held out on further down pour and we got to enjoy the night scene of the waterfront area as we made our way up Yarra River!
I really need to kayak more often! (Still not deterred by my lack of rowing skills…) 
But our night was still not over. Right after we said good bye to our kayak buddies, we turned the corner and stumbled upon Foxtel Festival Hub. Apparently it’s an annual festival with both free and ticketed events. R recognized one of the bands performing so we ended up getting to see both Kormac’s Big Band and Snarky Puppy perform live! Yay!
I’d never heard either of them before but instantly fell in love with their groove. Plus, they both had trumpet players, which is one of my favorite instruments. So so good! Needless to say our night ended on a high note!
Here are some photos:

Our meeting spot for our Kayak Melbourne tour down by the wharf.
Aren’t the kayaks so pretty?
This was our amazing guide Kent…and me putting on my life jacket. (Photos by R)
The colorful National Australia Bank headquarter building.
Making our way around the harbor…I may have sucked at rowing because I kept taking pictures!
The impressive Etihad Stadium is also the headquarters of the Australian Football League.
The sun was setting just as we made our way around Victoria Harbour. (Photo by R)
The sunset reflecting on the various buildings around the Docklands.
A view of the Bolte Bridge and its random decorative towers at sunset.
Yummy fish n chips were just what we needed to power our way upstream.
R holding down the fort, or kayak? We only got stuck once! 😀
We rowed past ANZ Centre, headquarters to Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.
ANZ Centre is the largest single-tenanted commercial office building in Australia!
Passing under the unique Webb Bridge.
Seafarers Bridge was another interesting footbridge we passt under.
Row row row your boat…there was something exciting about kayaking at night!
Our tour ended with a bang…or shall we say a ball of fire? It was a great way to warm up! 😀
Still excited from our kayak tour, we stumbled upon this!
Kormac’s Big Band is apparently an orchestra playing DJ Kormac’s tracks. I liked it! (Photo by R)
Australians are really tall…I was on tip toes the whole time! 😀
I loved Snarky Puppy! It was definitely “music to move the brain and booty!”
Had the best time! (So of course we had to take a selfie…) (Photo by R)

Shed 2, North Wharf Rd, Docklands VIC 3008
TEL: 0418 106 427 (or book online)
Moonlight Kayak Tour: 99.00 AUD

The Bathing Boxes by the Beach at Brighton

Our second day in Melbourne started out at the beach!
Due to my flight connection, my luggage didn’t make it to Melbourne when I did…so I had to spend a second day in the same clothes. Eek! (Note to self: always pack an extra set of clothes in the carry-on.) But I almost didn’t care because we were going to see the colorful bathing boxes!
The Brighton beaches are actually not in Melbourne but a beach-side suburb that is part of the City of Bayside. The bathing boxes, originally used by Victorian sun bathers to preserve their modesty, are located on Dendy Street Beach in a neat row along the shore. I loved seeing the different designs and colors, which apparently are strictly regulated by the Bright Bathing Box Association.
These bathing boxes aren’t just eye-candy for the beach-goers. They are currently an expensive commodity. My eyeballs nearly fell out when I saw how much these bathing boxes were being sold for. I thought, all this for a 2.4m x 2.0m x 2.0m box by the beach that has no electricity or plumbing?
But it’s a great way to raise funds, which the association is doing by building a few more bathing boxes to put on the market. And I can’t really complain because although I’m pretty sure I will never personally own a bathing box (you have to be a resident of the City of Bayside to own one anyway), I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more colorful designs at the beach! And we can always dream, right?
What would you do if you owned a bathing box? (I’d fill mine with large brimmed hats and books!) x
Here are some photos:
Brighton Beach Station is on the train line headed towards Sandringham Station.
Their train cars were huge (compared to Tokyo)!
I saw creative graffiti all over the place and Brighton was no different.
The beach was calling me to come swim…I so wanted to!
Pretty wild flowers were blooming all over the place…I love the start of spring!
Taking a photo of R taking a photo of the bay. 
It really was a beautiful beach made even better by the great weather!
Exploring the rocky area! (photo by R)
These rocks were a great place to sit and eat lunch!
I love how you can see the downtown area of Melbourne in the mist!
Turning the corner to see…
…rows and rows of bathing boxes along the shore! (There are over 80 of them!)
I could look out to sea all day long.
And there is no way you can keep your shoes on at the beach! (photo by R)
It was a really hot day so what better way to cool down than to step right into the water?
Look at the colors! So pop, so bright!
I loved the gradation of color on this bathing box.
Of course R is wearing an American flag in Australia…so we found a red, white and blue bathing box!
Beautiful combination of pastels and bold colors!
This is the view from between the bathing boxes.
Next time I come here, I will be in those deep blue waters!
Look! I even found a slightly Japanese-y bathing box!
I’d never seen bathing boxes before so it was really a treat see them for myself!
Learning to take selfies with R 😀

The Trip to Melbourne

So here are just a few (by which I mean, A LOT) of the photos from my days in Melbourne. I am constantly in the same predicament as Miwa…can’t seem to cut back on the photos. I just hope this post doesn’t make your computer or cellphone go into overdrive so that it keels over!
I can’t even begin to tell you how fabulous Melbourne is. Such a beautiful city. It’s the perfect cozy city with an abundance of nature surrounding it. Beautiful spring weather, beautiful buildings, and can I just take a moment to address the beautiful men with beards? 
I never realized how tiny the population of men with facial hair is in Tokyo until Melbourne. Maybe because it was the end of the winter season? I don’t know, but there was a lot of facial hair there. And oh do I love a good beard!
Anyways, enough about my new fetish. It’s an amazing city with or without the facial hair!
I think I mentioned that I was in Melbourne to attend my best friend M‘s wedding. I knew she was super busy (who wouldn’t be four days before the wedding?) but she came to pick me up at the airport with her fiance, who I also adore. It felt so surreal being with M in a city that wasn’t Tokyo but I was just so happy to have finally made it there to see her! A chance to see a bit of their city and getting to see their special day in person…really nothing could bring me down!
Did I also mention that I was travelling with my friend R from LA? We had been planning this for months and months and he flew into Melbourne via Sydney on the same day as me. I love when big plans like this come together! So worth all the hours of research (apparently I need to know everything from average monthly temperatures to historical timelines since settlement before I choose a place to stay).
Before this post gets any longer, I’ll just leave you with the photos. xx
Melbourne has coffee shops around every corner…another reason to love this city!
My friends R and M getting to know each other…so happy we could all be here together!
Here is the bride-to-be, as lovely as can be! xx
M showed us around the beautiful city of Melbourne!
The busy Flinders Street Station was the first railway station to be built in Australia. 
This is St Paul’s Cathedral, which used to be the tallest building in central Melbourne.
The Yarra River runs through the city and we saw a lot of people on boats and kayaks.
I’ve learned to resist the need to buy everything while travelling but this was one of the harder times.
We were too early for the Melbourne Cup but got to enjoy the promotional festivities!
Free champagne and mini cupcakes? Yes, please! 😀
Aesop is really popular in Japan now, too. Did you know they are a Melbourne company?
On our second day, we took the train to Brighton Beach!
My luggage was delayed so I didn’t get to swim here but I love the ocean (technically a bay).
Brighton Beach is famous for their colorful bathing boxes!
We did kayaking of our own on Yarra River…it was so much fun!
We stumbled upon a music festival, which we got tickets to. Live music is the best!
We were riding the trains like pros. I appreciate trains that make it hard to get lost.
Founds some stuffed kangaroos at the Queen Victoria Market on our third day!
Everything looked delicious and I don’t even eat sausages.
Wishing I could take some cheese back with me to Tokyo.
Of course, I had to stop in a couple of bookstores in Melbourne!
Melbourne is a very green city, despite all the tram lines criss-crossing the streets.
We saw the amazing graffiti on the walls of Hosier Lane on our way to the reception.
Our last day in Melbourne was spent in the city.
Eureka Skydeck 88 has a great view of the city.
Before I knew it, it was dark outside and time to head to the airport to catch our redeye.
Saying good bye to the fabulous city of Melbourne at Southern Cross Station. xx

The Flight to Melbourne

I am finally dipping my toes into my trip to Melbourne!
Can I just start out by telling you how little I packed (by my standards) for my nine-day trip to Melbourne and Singapore? I don’t even know how I pulled this off but my suitcase was so small that I could actually bring it on to the plane with me as a carry-on (although I didn’t). My first time using this packing method and it really worked! Yay me!
Also, have you ever taken an international flight out of Haneda International Airport?
I’ve landed here before but this was my first time flying out of Haneda’s International terminal (as opposed to Narita International Airport). Because there aren’t as many flights scheduled there, the whole process of checking-in your luggage and going through immigration is over before you know it. It’s the smoothest and quickest process ever!
But on the other hand…because people are so scarce, the inside of the terminal is quiet as a tomb. No hustle and bustle of people heading to various gates. No attendants calling out for people late to board. At times it was like a deserted airport or a very large library.
I’m not exactly sure which I like better, busy Narita or quiet Haneda.
Well, all that aside. I made it to my gate with plenty of time to spare, which is rare for me. I had time to charge my phone in preparation for the 7+ hour flight to Singapore and then the next 7+ hour flight to Melbourne, which was great. I slept through most of it and before I knew it, I was in Melbourne!
Here are some airport and airplane photos:
I’m still patting myself on the back for my small luggage (especially compared to before).
What do you usually eat as your last meal before travelling overseas?
My dinner at the airport. I usually miss rice while travelling so I got the ocha-zuke set.
This was delicious! I love ume-boshi with a passion!
My first time flying on Singapore Airlines….loved the wide seats!
Cold rainy days are the perfect time to travel miles and miles away.
Why I will always fly with Singapore Airlines when travelling in Asia Pacific…Haagen-Dazs for dessert!
I slept through the entire flight but woke up 30 minutes before landing to see this view.
Australia is HUGE!
I am always in awe of the view from an airplane window.
My hobby is to identifying the places I see…this is parts of the Greater Bendigo National  Park.
Google Map tells me the dark patches are part of the Pilchers Bridge Flora and Fauna Reserve.
This is Lake Eppalock, a man-made lake and dam built in the early 60s on Campaspe River.
I was really fascinated with this lake…I mean, look at that beautiful shape!
As much as I love to sleep on flights, I’m starting to enjoy the view from my window!
More (actual) Melbourne posts to come! x

The Kama-age Udon at Nagata in Kanoka

Kagawa prefecture is known as the “Udon Prefecture” in Japan.
The people of Kagawa eat more udon than any other place in Japan. Their annual consumption of udon is said to be 230 servings per person, which means an average of one serving every 1.5 days. This is almost twice the amount of the national average.
They also eating udon for breakfast and many of the udon shops open early in the morning. And did I also mention they have sanuki udon soft serve? And sanuki udon burger? That’s probably mostly for tourists…but you get the idea. They really love their udon.
After our week at my parents place in Ehime, my sister and I headed towards Okayama airport to fly back to Tokyo. On our way there, we stopped by Kagawa to see our friends and try out a local sanuki udon shop ourselves!
Our friends took us to Nagata in Kanoka, which I later found out is one of the most popular udon shops in Kagawa at the moment. There was already a looooong line when we got there. (Not that that would deter us.) Nagata in Kanoka is a kamaage udon specialty shop. Kamaage is a type of dish where the udon is taken straight from the udon boiler. It is usually in a bowl of its own and you eat it by dipping the udon into a separate bowl filled with tsuyu (broth).
It was a very hot day and you might think we were crazy to eat at a udon shop that only serves hot bowls. But once we got inside the building, the air conditioning was working in full force and it actually felt really good eating something warm! We were chatting away while waiting for our udon to come, but once it came…there was no conversation until the bowl was empty! It was that good!
Our friends actually don’t live in Kagawa either (they just come back for the holidays like me), so we’ve started this tradition of going to a different udon shop everytime we’re both in the area, which I love! This place is my favorite at the moment but I can’t wait to try a different place next time. So many udon shops in Kagawa…and so little time!
Do you have a favorite udon shop? Or a favorite type of udon? I’d love to know! x
Here are some photos:
Standing in the long line and getting more hungry by the minute!
My sister with our friends, D and K, in front of the entrance.
The place was packed…and of course the summer koshien is on tv this season!
The tsuyu (broth) for the udon was in this crafty pitcher.
We put sliced scallion and ginger in our individual tsuyu bowls.
Excited that the udon is here and also trying to pour the tsuyu without spilling.
A few seconds before we all dug in to the bowl of kamaage udon! Yum yum!
Here is our kamaage bowl after we all finished! Gochiso-sama-desu!
When we came out the line had gotten even longer and the parking space was packed!
We had a great time catching up with D and K, who drove us all the way to Utatsu Station.
At Okayama Airport, checking out our airplanes. My sister flies JAL and I fly ANA 🙂
Had to force myself away from watching Koshien to board the plane at the bottom of the eighth!
Above the clouds, heading back to Tokyo.

1180 Motomura, Konzoji-machi Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa
TEL: 0877 63 5921
OPEN: 9am-5pm (closed Wed/Thu unless holiday)