Monday, August 29, 2011

Nikkozan Rinnoji and Taiyuin Reibyo

Our last stop for the day was Rinnoji and Taiyuin Reibyo, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu. By the end of this Nikko trip, hubby declared his quota for temples and shrines full for the next several months LOL!

This Sanbutsudo, or Three Buddha Hall, the most famous out of the 15 buildings within the Rinnoji complex. It houses three very large gold plated statues of Amitabha (如來佛祖, Amida Nyorai, Phật Tổ Như Lai), the Thousand-Arms Senju Kannon (千手觀音, Thiên Thủ Quan Âm) and the Horse Head Bato Kannon (馬頭觀音, Mã Thủ Quan Âm). You can see more pictures of Rinnoji here, and you can read more about the Horse Head Kannon here.

If you are wondering, yes, this is just a hollow building encaging the actual temple hall. From all the sources I've seen and read, this hall used to be "free range" like all the other halls and only recently was there such an ugly roof covering it. Perhaps they meant to shelter it from the weather? There are gold plated statues inside, after all. Then again, it's been there for centuries, no? Why covering it up now? Also, photography is no longer allowed inside the enclosure, where as it seems like people were able to take pictures before.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Futarasan Jinja

Moving on to Futarasan Jinja after Nikko Toshogu because, well, they're right next door to each other. No, really, next door.

Perhaps the most famous (if not then definitely most visible!) part of Futarasan Jinja is this beautiful Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge) over the Daiya River. This is the very first thing we saw before even crossing the street intersection to start climbing up the mountain where the other shrines and temples are! And gosh it was utterly gorgeous, especially with that crystal clear water below. I would stand there all day and stare at it, though I'd probably be toasted and burnt to a crisp after an hour or so under the bright sun...


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nikko Toshogu

On our third day in Nikko, hubby and I split up with my sister and her friends again. We went off to see the famous World Heritage temples and shrines while she, K. and Y. headed off to Tobu World Square. Hubby and I had a great time marveling at the gorgeous temples and shrines. Though I have to admit that due to the approximate and sometimes out right blending of locations, after a while all the buildings started to meld together and, at least for myself, I couldn't tell which was which anymore. Blasphemy, I know ^.^

This map here shows the network of the temples and shrines system in Nikko, all of which are World Heritage Sites. It seems pretty clear from the map that each of the temple or shrine has its own area, right? Wrong. The map should have been color-coded to show which building belongs to which complex, because they're really kind of...all over the place. For example, the small cluster of buildings at the bottom right of the map actually separately belonging to Futarasan Jinja (Shinkyo, Hongu Jinja), Nikko Toshogu (Otabisho), and Nikkozan Rinnoji (Sanjunoto).
***Map from Nikko's Official Website, where you can also see a list of all the Nikko World Heritage temples and shrines along with their pictures.

Nikko Edomura - Edo Wonderland (Picture Heavy!)

I'm continuing on with our Nikko trip recently. Despite the blah experience with Ayasa Hotel, our first day was not all lost with Takimibashi Suspension Bridge. The Nikko trip got much much better after that, thankfully, and our second day at Nikko Edomura - Edo Wonderland was nothing less than memorable and fun. You can read reviews of Nikko Edomura at TripAdvisor, or just click around on their English website I linked to in the previous sentence.

On a side note, while googling around for english information for Nikko Edomura I found yet a Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, also called Edo Wonderland, very similar but is cheaper (admission is about half that of Nikko Edomura!) while seemingly much newer, larger, more detailed Edo theme park located in Hokkaido ^.^ See this website for detailed pictures of the Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura. Of course, getting to Hokkaido will cost an arm and a leg by itself, so if you're in Kanto, your best bet is Nikko Edomura.

Ticket booth at Nikko Edomura

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ayasa Hotel and Yamaguchi Soba

On my previous Takimibashi Suspension Bridge post, I mentioned that hubby, my sister and I had a difficult time navigating Kinugawa Onsen. From all the information source we had, it was never clear to any of us that Kinugawa Onsen is an onsen town and not a specific onsen. Particularly the foreign language pamphlets and brochure, they all have beautiful pictures of these outdoor baths along with the name Kinugawa Onsen or Kawaji Onsen (yet another onsen town in the vicinity), but never a specific name of any hotel/ryokan/onsen where we could find the baths pictured.

Getting off the train at Kinugawa Koen Station, with the map outside we finally realized we were in the Kinugawa Onsen town. To make sure our understanding were correct hubby picked up a different brochure, this time in Chinese, and it was clear as day to us in that version that Kinugawa Onsen is a town! Uhh...they couldn't put together a clearer, at least less vague, brochure in English but they could in Chinese?!? Har? I was so incredulous I had to google again to get to this Kinugawa WikiTravel page when I got back to our hostel, Sumica Guesthouse, later that night.


Ayasa Hotel - theck out their official website and read Ayasa's reviews on TripAdvisor.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Takimibashi Suspension Bridge

The next several posts will be on the "pilgrimage" trip to Nikko hubby and I had promised my sister ever since we arrived in Japan. It was her lifelong dream to go there with us (yes, I'm being sarcastic) and you'll see what I'm talking about when I get to that post ^.^ Just try very hard not to giggle at her inner otaku when you're there, mmkay?

But first let's get the touristy stuff out of the way, shall we? On our very first day at Nikko, we took a train up to Kinugawa Onsen to, well, visit an onsen. Here is where things got really tricky: on the Wikipedia link I just gave, the web in general, the various brochures, maps, pamphlets and whatnot we got about "Kinugawa Onsen," even the directions from the host of the awesome hostel we stayed at, Sumica Guesthouse, it was not exactly clear to us what this "place" is. Perhaps we were all silly tourists, but it did not dawn upon us until we got off the train that this "Kinugawa Onsen" we are looking for is actually an entire town! So really, "Kinugawa Onsen" should be understood as "onsens at Kigunawa" rather than a specific onsen named "Kinugawa." I confirmed this later that night googling for "Kinugawa" and finally found this Kinugawa WikiTravel page. Anyway, in this Kinugawa Onsen town, there are numerous hotels and ryokans with their own hot spring baths and a few other hot spring bathhouses that are open to the public with just an entrance fee (rather than requiring room-booking for overnight stays).


InRed July 2011

This InRed July 2011 issue comes with a Mary Quant tote bag that's just too cute to pass up ^.^



Monday, August 22, 2011

Yojiya Iebaeni Gift Assortment

Supposedly, the one thing every tourist must do when visiting Kyoto is to get a souvenir gift from Yojiya, a rather well known cosmetic brand founded in 1904 and has a cult following all over Japan. Their most famous and popular piece is the aburatori-gami, or Oil Blotting Facial Paper. You can read all about the history of Yojiya and their aburatori-gami on their English site.

No, hubby, my sister and I didn't go to Kyoto. This Yojiya Iebaeni Gift Assortment was actually a goodbye gift from a Japanese teacher to my sister on her last day of school. My sister isn't into skincare or cosmetics at all, but knowing I'm all about makeup she generously offered this gift set to me instead. In the end though, I only took pictures of it and plan to bring it back to her on my next home visit. It is a goodbye gift after all, and even if my sister doesn't use it she can still keep it for sentimental purposes as she will surely look back at it fondly. And I suppose it's paper. It's not going to go bad anytime soon.


Otaku dorkiness

A total random post here ^.^

My sister is a huge anime/manga/drama fan of both J and K entertainment, and when I say she's a huge fan, I don't mean just reading or watching but also collects figurines and other collectibles. When there's a good opportunity, she would even dress up in a costume.

So while she was here visiting with me, we went up to Tokyo to shop for anime/manga collectible things. I happened to find a box set of 3 Gintama figurines for cheap and snatched it up for her as a gift xD


Allie Extra UV Protector (Perfect Alpha)

I didn't review Allie 2010's Precious Barrier Protector WaterTouch N because, as I said, they seem to revamp the formula annually, each time with the product's name getting more and more convoluted and confusing. And plus I didn't notice any obvious difference in terms of texture or how the formula worked in comparison to its previous incarnations, the 2009's Precious Barrier Sunscreen WaterTouch as well as the 2008's Comfortable Sunscreen EX WaterTouch.

Allie 2011's Extra UV Protector (Perfect Alpha)

Allie 2011's Extra UV Protector (Perfect Alpha), however, is something else. Of course the very first noticeable different is the packaging. I don't quite like this change, to be honest. The bottle looks larger and clunkier, being rectangular in shape instead of the sleeker and smoother oval bottles in the older versions. I guess that gives you the illusion that there are more products inside, but nope, it still contains only 60mL, only in a bigger bottle. Not sure why they did that.

Pelican Deitanseki Clay & Charcoal Facial Cleansing Bar

Knowing my sister was coming home from Japan, my family emailed us for special requests of the things they would like to get but can't find at home. Like my sister's friend who asked about green tea soap, my aunt requested charcoal soaps, which she credited me for getting her into when I gave her a bar of Max Sumi Haigou Sekken Charcoal Soap way back when I first tried them. She said that bar cleared out the stubborn black heads on her nose, and she was so amazed she showered with it, whereupon it proceeded to also cleared out the bumps on the back of her upper arms, just like the green tea soap did for my sister's friend's husband. So my aunt wanted more of these miracle soaps, and although she said that 1 bar I gave lasted her forever, this time she asked for 2 packs for a total of 6 bars to ensure they will last forever and a half LOL! xD


Pelican Deitanseki Clay & Charcoal Facial Cleansing Bar

***Picture from Pelican Soap Japan.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cow Brand Milky Body Soap

I ran out of body soap a while back and came across a random section of Cow Brand Milky Body Soap at my local drug store and thought, hmm...Cow Brand Milky Body Soap, sounds more like a dairy product than soap but hell, I'll try it. Well, one whole bottle later, I googled Cow Brand and bought a couple other things too ^.^

This Milky Body Soap comes in 3 fragrances: Mild Flower, Fresh Citrus, and Fresh Soap. I have the Fresh Soap, and I have to say it's a better body wash than the Kracie Naive line and I've tried 3 different Naive body washes in Peach, Grapefruit, and Aloe! Being a Japanese made body wash it's still pretty runny, but at least its thickness is better than the Naive line, I would say somewhere in between the Naive line and Dove Beauty Moisture Body Wash. It does foam a lot, but it actually feels like a creamy wash, not just a...erh...foamy one. The Fresh Soap scent doesn't really smell like soap in my opinion. Rather, it's more like a milky lotion scent with a splash of fruit, a nice scent over all.

Sorry I forgot to take pictures of my bottle, so it's just stock pictures from Cow Brand's website for this post.


Fresh Soap scent

Hada-Labo Gokujyun Olive Oil Cleansing

I finished up my bottle of Skilabo Cleansing Oil a few weeks ago and finally got to bust open the Hada-Labo Gokujyun (super hydrating) Olive Oil Cleansing bottle, which I was dying to try out! And plus my local drug store had a promotion where each bottle comes with a small deluxe sample tube of Gokujyun Hyaluronic Facial Cleansing Foam, so all the more incentive and I had to try this.



Pizza Pizza Part III

One of the more "American" things we like to do with our family is pizza and a movie, no? It's even better when my sister was here because then hubby and I have more excuses to order more things we otherwise just can't eat by ourselves :P



More Domino's Meat Lover's Pizza.

Goodies from Shizuoka Part II

My sister used to be a JET in Shizuoka, which is only about a 2.5 hours by express train or 1 hour by Shinkansen away. So we visited each other back and forth more often than not. Each time we visited, she would have goodies for us, knowing I would take pictures of them and post on this blog ^.^ These are the last of them, now that she has left with promises to visit sometimes in the future while hubby and I are still in Japan.

In my previous Goodies from Shizuoka post, I mentioned the omiyage industry in Japan and it mostly comes in the form of food and snacks with whatever ingredients that the region is "famous" for. Below are a few more for Shizuoka, though mostly in the form of their baked sweet pies in various flavors.

Sakura Ebi Senbei


Healthy Snacking Part II

Sorry for the lack of posts in the past couple of weeks. My sister came to stay with me prior to permanently moving back to the US of A after her JET contract terminates. So we've been going around doing lots of fun stuff together. And yes, loads more pictures are coming and I'll be posting them soon now that she'd left T.T

Anyway, I finally found the exact brand of seaweed snack that a little girl had introduced to me - Torobe Oshaburi Konbu - at a foreign food shop, ...which is kind of weird since this is not foreign food at all...



Friday, August 12, 2011

La Maison

Hubby and I have been to La Maison twice with two different groups of friends, and both times we had such a great time just hanging out and chatting! I'm not sure if La Maison should be called a restaurant, because while it does serve hot food like pasta and soups, its main attraction is drool-inducing and elaborately colorful variety of fruit tarts served usually in a set along with a drink (tea, coffee, etc.). That is to say most people don't come to La Maison for dinner. Instead, they come for dessert with friends after lunch/dinner, to read with a slice of tart and a cup of tea, to study, to relax, etc.

Me, M., and my sister


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Visee Aqua Shining Eyes

Also among the liquid/gel/cream eye shadows bunch I dug out are these Visee Aqua Shining Eyes. I've also had these for a while now but as you can see, they are still sealed and I haven't touched them at all! These have also been discontinued, and while it's too bad I didn't get more darker colors when they were still available, I think I have a good selection to play with.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Canmake Liquid Shadow & Base

In my current liquid/gel/cream eye shadows craze, I dug out a few things, among which were the 2 Canmake Liquid Shadow & Base, which I bought more than a year ago but stashed away and didn't touch until now. Too bad these are now discontinued, because they're kind of nice!

These are liquid eye shadows, though they're thicker and not as watery liquid like Stila Floating Eye Shadow. They can be worn on their own or as a base to layer other eye shadows on top. Upon application, they have a cooling sensation and dry rather quickly. Texture wise, they're thin and blendable, but again they dry quickly so I apply them in small amounts using feather strokes. By themselves they do crease on me, but like the Stila Floating Eye Shadow, if I layer other eye shadows on, particularly the powder ones set them really well, then they stay on all day and won't budge even in the heat and humidity. Funny how that works, huh?

- 02 Crystal White: this is a nice pearly white, it doesn't have any iridescent shimmers but it's not a harsh bleach white nor is it silvery. And thank goodness it's very sheer and the shimmers are on the fine side, so it's not glittery either. It's basically a sheer pearly wash that is good for brightening up the eye area, and I use it as base on my upper lids as well as to highlight the inner corners on the lower lid, taking Julia's suggestion.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Body Shop Ice Blue Shampoo

Been using this Body Shop Ice Blue Shampoo for the past couple of months after I ran out of my clarifying wash twice a week, the Sunstar Tonic Shampoo. The bottle doesn't claim any clarifying property, but it did say the menthol shampoo will leave hair fresh and soft. Close enough ^.^



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dinner in Shibuya

So hubby was introduced to a fellow grad student, G., who is on her way to Taiwan for the year but is stopping by Japan for the summer. She invited us and another of hubby's classmates, S. and her boyfriend M. to dinner in Shibuya with her and her friends A. and B. So despite it being sooooo hot out and I wasn't too thrill to be stuffed into a train for the ride uptown, we went out anyway because we were told G. had lived in Taiwan before and are going back next month. Since we're heading to Taiwan next, why not meet someone with experience and hear all about it?

I wore this for the night, and yes, the picture was taken right outside the door of our new apartment on the 2nd floor of the same building. Thank goodness it's twice as big as our last apartment, so we finally got some room to stretch our legs. And since we're on the 2nd floor now, we've got tons of natural light too, versus the cold, damp, and dark corner that was our last apartment. Ick. Wouldn't live there again even if the landlord paid us to!
- Hat: Banana Republic
- Neck scarf: Express
- Shirt: Banana Republic
- Camisole: Aeropostale
- Bag: Nine West
- Belt: Express
- Shorts: Express
- Tights: Uniqlo
- Socks: Daiso
- Shoes: Nine West

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cloudy Saturday

Man it's been so gray and cloudy these days, though not as rainy as it was. It does rain, but it only sprinkles a bit and then stops. Hubby and I went out with his colleagues K. and E., the same people who introduced us to both Ko-cho in Chinatown and Arisan in Sakuragi-cho.

This is what I wore out ^.^

- Hat: Banana Republic
- Shirt: Banana Republic
- T-shirt: Aeropostale
- Camisole: Aeropostale
- Bag: Nine West
- Belt: JCrew
- Shorts: Express
- Tights: Uniqlo
- Socks: Aeropostale
- Shoes: Relaxis Aqua Shut (my rain boots!!!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Etude House Moonlight Shimmer Blusher

Using these Etude House Moonlight Shimmer Blusher reminds me that I've been wanting to try a bunch of other Etude House stuff, especially items from the Peach Collection that came out a couple of years ago, of which I've only used the Peach Tint Blusher #01 - Watery Rose. Yes, I know those items have been out a while now and I better get my act together before they're gone for good :(


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Liniere July 2011

Finally, my July magazines - Liniere July 2011 issue, which came with a set of 2 Nimes x Les Olivades quilted pouches.



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rimmel Shiny On Powder Eye Color

Browsing through the Plaza store at the top floor of the Yokohama Sotetsu Joinus (a multi-level department store), I came across these Rimmel Shiny On Powder Eye Colors. Having found a new appreciation for the sheer and sparkly eye shadows, thanks to the Lavshuca Eye Color Select palettes, I played with these for a while and decided I must have all 4 colors, 01 - Gold, 02 - Silver, 03 - Pink, and 04 - Taupe.



Monday, August 1, 2011

Nira Niku (Pork and Garlic Chives)

My neighborhood Chinese restaurant makes this dish called Nira Niku (Pork and Chinese Chives) that's so simple yet delicious, and after ordering it several times I was determined to try and make it at home. It took me a few times to get it just right, but the result was pretty close to what they served at the restaurant.


Keawjal (Thai Cuisine) Part II

Happy August!!!

Went back to Keawjal for lunch recently and to my utter delight, they served up cendol!! Cendol (bánh lọt, 珍多冰) is a popular dessert in Southeast Asia that is sadly only found along with larger population of Southeast Asians (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) in places like California and Texas. It is made of rice starch with green coloring and flavor from the Pandan leaves and is usually eaten in a concoction of coconut milk and palm sugar, though it makes appearance in a wide variety of puddings and sweet dessert soups in Southeast Asia.



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