Travels in Japan: Tokyo 東京 (October 4, and 14-15 2017)

Takeshita Street in Harajuku district, Tokyo

Takeshita Street in Harajuku district, Tokyo

October 4, 2017 Harajuku and Shinjuku

Youthful energy in Harajuku district, Tokyo

Youthful energy in Harajuku district, Tokyo

Vibrant, youthful, and trendy are some of the words that describe the Harajuku district of Tokyo. We spent some time wandering and taking photos of Takeshita Street before our 4PM reservation at the Owl Village and Cafe. The street was packed with young people, who were enjoying themselves after school or work. The street was crammed with shops and little cafes, selling crepes and other sweet treats.

As it neared 4PM, we headed to the Owl Village and Cafe, located in a nondescript apartment looking building. We had to take an elevator up to the fourth floor, where we were welcomed into the cafe. The cafe has a tatami mat area and a mini bar, where you are allowed to enjoy your soft drink that comes with your reservation (in 2017, it was about 1500 yen per person for 1 hour). The courteous staff member checked us in and then gave an orientation of the rules and expectations of the cafe, such as how to pet the owls and how to take a photo without scaring them.

After we finished our soft drinks, cleaned our hands with hand sanitizer, and slipped on the slippers we were provided, we were allowed in the special room where the owls were resting. One of the participants had paid an additional fee to feed the owls and fed the owl a delicious treat (as shown below).

A happy participant feeds a barn owl

A happy participant feeds a barn owl

Continue reading

Travels in Japan: Himeji (姫路) (October 3, 2017)

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Attraction List

  • Himeji Castle
  • Koko-en Garden

Located west of Osaka is Himeji (姫路), the second largest city in the Hyogo Prefecture of the Kansai region of Japan. If one takes the Shinkansen, it is only a short trip away (less than an hour) from Osaka. We chose to visit Himeji for its magnificent Himeji Castle. Stark white and imposing in appearance, the castle befits its other name: White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo).

Another view of Himeji Castle

Another view of Himeji Castle

Just past the Otemon Gate, we walked into an enclosed area called the Sannomaru. Here one can get a picturesque view of the castle with cherry trees in the foreground. During cherry blossom season in early April, many visitors would flock to admire the beautiful castle among the flowering pink of the blossoms. Continue reading

Travels in Japan: Kyoto 京都 (October 1, 2017)

Kyoto Tower at night

Kyoto Tower at night

Attraction List

  • Kyoto Tower
  • Kyoto Railway Museum
  • Kinkakuji
  • Nijo-jo
  • Gion-Shion

About 15-20 minutes westward of Osaka, if one takes the shinkansen, is the classical city, Kyoto. Popularized by the stories of geisha and samurai, this city served as the capital of Japan from 794 (Nara period) to 1868 (beginning of Meiji period). Many temples and shrines still stand today and are important relics of Japan’s history.

We spent a day in Kyoto, so we had to pick and choose where we wanted to visit. Upon arriving at Kyoto Station, one can see the modern Kyoto Tower in the distance, rising at 131 meters tall. On a clear day, one can see Osaka from the observation platform in the distance.

Kyoto Railway Museum

Kyoto Railway Museum

From Kyoto Station, we walked west about 20 minutes to the Kyoto Railway Museum, a must-see for any train enthusiast. Opened in April 2016 by JR West, the museum is considered one of Japan’s best railway museums.

The museum showcases various types of trains from the steam locomotives to the electric trains to the shinkansen (bullet trains). One can follow the walkways underneath some of the trains to see the internal structure of the trains. There are also exhibits of the railway uniforms and tools as well as interactive exhibits, in which one can pretend to be a train conductor or try the train simulator. In addition to the museum, there is a roundhouse with turntables from 1914 that houses some steam locomotives.

After spending a couple of hours here, we exited the museum to grab lunch at a nearby café.

Once we had our fill, we took a taxi to Kinkakuji, as the subway system in Kyoto was not very convenient. Continue reading

Legacies: Antholozine Kickstarter Launching on March 3rd, 2019!

EDIT: Kickstarter is now live!

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My writing piece has been submitted! Help support the Kickstarter for the Legacies: Antholozine! It will be launching at noon EST/9 AM PST on Sunday March 3rd! There are 100+ pages of art and writing from fellow Asian American creators. Don’t miss it! Continue reading

Proud to Be Part of Legacies: An Asian American Antholozine

I just wanted to announce that I will be contributing an autobiographical story to Legacies, an antholozine “written and illustrated by Asian American creators that capture the diversity of the Asian-American experience.”

Check out the artists and the writers.

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Travels in Japan: Osaka 大阪, Kansai (September 30 to October 4, 2017)

Courtesy of T.Kambayashi (Wikimedia Commons). See https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Osaka_City_Map.png

Courtesy of T.Kambayashi (Wikimedia Commons). See the original page.

After a brief stay in Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka (大阪) located in the Kansai region of Japan; the journey took about 3 hours westward. We had the First Class Japan Rail tickets but had forgotten to reserve our seats in the First Class section of the train. We were lucky that one of the train conductors allowed us to sit in the reserved First Class section, as there were not many people and we were carrying a lot of luggage. The seats were quite comfortable, clean, and spacious. An attendant provided us with some refreshments, snacks, and a wet towellette. The time passed quickly as we made our way to Shin-Osaka station– one of the central Japan Rail (JR) stations.

With luggage in hand, we transferred to the local train line to the newer Bay Area, facing Osaka Bay. The overall train ride took about 45 minutes from the main city center. The hotel we stayed at was Hotel La Raison (now called Quintessa Hotel Osaka Bay as of 2019), a fairly new luxurious, Western-style hotel located in Cosmo Square (train station). The room was quite spacious and comfortable.

The Bay Area of Osaka has many nearby attractions, including Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and Cosmo Tower. We were lucky that Hotel La Raison offered a complimentary shuttle service to these attractions (except for Cosmo Tower, which is within walking distance) and to the JR Osaka Station. See the main website for the shuttle bus schedule.

Tip: If you have the Pasmo card, you can use it to travel on the local train or bus transportation system in Osaka. Just remember to add more money to the card as needed.

Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji district)

Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji district)

September 30, 2017

Attraction List:

  • Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji district)
  •  Shinsekai (Tennoji district)
    • Tsuenkaku
  • Nipponbashi district
  • Namba district
    • Dotonbori 

Once we settled down and relaxed for awhile in the hotel, we headed out to the Tennoji district, the older part of Osaka. We first visited the Shitennoji Temple (photo above), one of the oldest Zen Buddhist temples in Japan from 593. Although the buildings were renovated, they still have its spiritual charm. Just beware of the mosquitoes that surround the pond near the side of the temple. Continue reading

2019 Resolutions

Sunset at the Monterey Tides Hotel, Monterey, CA (11-3-18)

Sunset at the Monterey Tides Hotel, Monterey, CA (11-3-18)

Between lapses between working and daily life, I reflected on what I learned from 2017 and 2018, and what I can do to make 2019 more fulfilling and better. Since 2017 and early 2018, I dealt with health issues related to work stress and work environment. I also participated in my local pharmacy association activities and eventually was elected as a board member in 2018. In the summer of 2018, I took on a new role at work and was challenged due to having to balance administrative duties, managerial duties, and workflow. Throughout all of this, I co-wrote a web serial with Taki called Gathering of Heroes series: Anhu and tried to find time for hobbies and relaxation. I supported quite a few artists (thanks to sleepyriceball‘s influence) and indie game developers, such as Zeiva Inc and roseVerte. I visited Shandong province, Henan province, Nanjing, and Beijing in September 2018.

Ultimately, I realized that my health is important and reducing stress is the key to improving my health. In 2019, I hope to continue to improve my health and continue growing as an individual.

  1. Exercise 3-4 times weekly (running, walking, hiking).
  2. Read regularly and complete Popsugar 2019 challenge. [50% on the 2018 challenge]
  3. Do 1 continuing education assignment every 2 weeks minimum.
  4. Write something this year.
    1. Complete writing piece for Legacies Anthology (due in February 2019). Near completion, March 13, 2019 due [COMPLETE!]
    2. Complete travel journals for Japan, Korea, and China (2018).
    3. Write a new story(?).
  5. Participate in Inktober 2019 or an art challenge. [canceled]
  6. Learn Mandarin Chinese.

 

Site Updates – Photos

Just a friendly announcement, the photos on this blog are not showing up due to Flickr’s change in policy. Beginning January 1st 2019, the free photo accounts will be limited to 1,000 photos. I plan on updating each of my posts to either remove the photos or reupload them to another photo site, such as Google photos.

Thank you for understanding if some photos do not show up any longer.

Xiu