Monday, July 30, 2012

Neighborhood Obon Festival 2012

I thought I'd end the month of July with this post ^.^

This year, our neighborhood's Bon Odori (Obon Festival) was on the last weekend of July, 2 weeks later than last year's. Hubby actually saw a flier advertising it this time, so it didn't catch us by surprise like it did last time. We went out there pretty early, about 30 minutes after it had started and the lines for snacks and drinks (yakitori, yakisoba, hot dogs, beer, shaved ice, etc.) were already out the park's gate!

Watch a video I took of the festivity while standing in line for yakisoba ^.^

I'd say this year's Bon Odori was much more lively than last year, which was a bit more solemn due to the earthquake and tsunami occurring just a few months back. Lot of kids were running around, kicking up a storm of dust but no one minded, except perhaps those who were eating ^.^' Watch this video I took of the opening dance.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kamatora Delivery

Urgh. I'm behind on my posts again. Sorry! I'm catching up now since there are some fun posts lining up for August ^.^

Kamatora is a brand new addition to our delivery-only list, serving somewhat traditional Japanese food cooked in a steel bowl coated with non-stick teflon on the inside. We were so excited when we received their menu flier we called to order just an hour after the flier dropped LOL! Let's just say pretty much everything on their menu is drool-worthy, check it out for yourself via their official website, by which you can also place delivery orders. The lunch selection is small, only a handful of choices, but the set meal is much more filling than it looks.

The coolest part? They actually deliver the food in real tableware, just like our favorite Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant! Each set meal comes with its own wooden lacquered tray. The main entree in the steel bowl encased in a wooden holder and lid, a few slices of pickled vegetables (they just love pickles here in Japan, and I do too so it works out perfectly ^.^), and another lacquered tray of condiments with shredded nori, chopped scallions, and grated real wasabi. For what, you may ask? See that thermal pot? It's *not* tea but rather dashi. Hubby and I were totally fooled the first time we ordered, only to find out upon pouring each other some "tea" into our tea cups that this "tea" looked and smelled suspiciously broth xD 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Clinique All About Eyes

I completely forgot how long it took me to use up the tiny .17 fl oz. (5mL) GWP jar of Clinique All About Eyes Rich last winter and, on a whim, started using this same size .17 fl oz. (5mL) GWP tube of the "regular" All About Eyes. Well, okay, it wasn't a whim but really a safety measure to all the new sunscreens I'm trying out lately. 

I have combination skin that's dry around my eye areas, my cheeks, mouth area, and chin but is oily on my eye lids and t-zones. Very annoying, and tricky. Earlier in the trial phase of the Mentholatum Skin Aqua UV Sara Sara Milk, I skipped moisturizers because I liked the sunscreen's matte finish better, especially since it lasts a couple of hours longer than the semi-matte finish with moisturizers underneath. I did not skip eye cream however, given my eye area is extremely dry (aside from the oily lids). When Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Ultimate Youth Eye Cream was not enough to counter the alcohol in this sunscreen, I traded it for this Clinique All About Eyes. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sparklers in Zushi

After the week in Tohoku, the summer seminar hubby took part in came to an end. One of the professors, S. sensei decided to throw a barbeque at his home in Zushi to send the students off with a smile. I was invited to join them again and couldn't refused. Spending time with the students in the previous week I had made friends with a couple of them ^.^ 

On the left is S. sensei with his youngest daughter, A-chan, who had taken a liking to my lace-up oxford heels. She said she wanted to be a princess xD On the right is C. who followed princess A. around in her heels and made sure she wouldn't trip and all. Aren't they both just adorable? It made me so very nervous to see A-chan who's barely 2 stumbling around in those shoes, but I guess that's why being a parent makes one brave. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tohoku Trip Day 3-4 - Kamaishi, Iwate, Part II

***Disclaimer: Please note these posts are retold as interpreted. They also reflect my own personal views and opinions and not those of the seminar,  its professors and lecturers,  or affiliations. In addition,  these photos and stories can be quite tragic and gut-wrenching,  so proceed at your own risk. Some of these photos I did not watermark,  because I feel it would be a good thing to pass them on.***

So after a very, very long bus ride, we arrived at Hourai Kan, a ryokan where we spent the next 2 nights. Both the ryokan and its okami-san (manager, in this case, the inn owner) have an incredible story to tell as the ryokan was a designated tsunami evacuation center due to the area's history of tsunamis. On the middle left window on the 3rd floor is a sign that says, "Tsunami Evacuation Center."

The Kannon statue in Hourai Kan's 1st floor lobby. This gorgeous room was ours. It is on the 2nd floor and was submerged as the tsunami rose all the way up to the third floor of this building! Needless to say, the first floor was completely destroyed. The reason this ryokan was a designated evacuation area for tsunami because no tsunamis in the past had ever reached this far up the area.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tohoku Trip Day 3-4 - Kamaishi, Iwate

***Disclaimer: Please note these posts are retold as interpreted. They also reflect my own personal views and opinions and not those of the seminar,  its professors and lecturers,  or affiliations. In addition,  these photos and stories can be quite tragic and gut-wrenching,  so proceed at your own risk. Some of these photos I did not watermark,  because I feel it would be a good thing to pass them on.***

On the third day we took a long (5 hours?) bus ride to Miyagi's neighboring prefecture, Iwate to visit a town call Kamaishi, also hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Before leaving Sendai though, we made a brief stop at the Sendai castle park to see the ruins of the Aoba Castle

The actual castle was burned down in the fire bombing of 1945, but bits and pieces of its outer wall and the watch tower still remains. We didn't wander off that far though. Because the castle was built on top of a hill, so the watch tower is way off else where. Watch a video I took of the view atop this hill where the castle used to stand. That is a gigantic Buddha statue in the far distance (see video). Being up that high really makes you feel like king of the hill, doesn't it? 

Gokoku shrine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tohoku Trip Day 2 - Onagawa, Miyagi

***Disclaimer: Please note these posts are retold as interpreted. They also reflect my own personal views and opinions and not those of the seminar,  its professors and lecturers,  or affiliations. In addition,  these photos and stories can be quite tragic and gut-wrenching,  so proceed at your own risk. Some of these photos I did not watermark,  because I feel it would be a good thing to pass them on.***

On our second day, we visited Onagawa, another town devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

The sight was eerily familiar - it was mountains after mountains of debris.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tohoku Trip Day 1 - Ishinomaki, Miyagi

Over the past several weeks, hubby has had the pleasure to take part in a summer seminar that focused on the economical impact of March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Japan. The highlight of the seminar was a few days' trip up to the northeast with an NPO to visit some of the towns hardest hit by the disaster. With some luck (and a really kind professor), I was allowed to tag along and join hubby and his students in broadening our horizon. 

***Disclaimer: Please note these posts reflect my own personal views and opinions and not those of the seminar, its professors and lecturers, or affiliations. In addition, these photos and stories can be quite tragic and gut-wrenching, so proceed at your own risk. Some of these photos I did not watermark, because I feel it would be a good thing to pass them on.***

Our trip started with a nice Shinkansen ride with a bento lunch featuring Sendai's regional specialty - cow tongue ^.^ The green roll is Sendai miso wrapped in a shiso leaf, which hubby and I already tried early on in the year at cook book party.  The cow tongue is underneath it, and while the thought made me squirm a bit, it was actually not bad!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biore Perfect Oil

After the let down that is Fasio Oil Cleansing EX, I happily moved on to this Biore Perfect Oil since it was on sale at my local drugstore. To be honest, after so many oil cleansers, unless one is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad (like Fasio) I stopped noticing the difference ^.^

That is to say this works well like an oil cleanser should. It has a really nice scent, a fruity mix of apple and peach fragrance. It's not too thick or too thin, not too slippery silicone-y either. I do notice that I have to use more of it, like 4-5 pumps for my face and underneath my chin, but this could be because the pump itself doesn't pump out that much at once. It rinses clean though and doesn't leave behind any film, at the same time doesn't make my skin squeaky either, which means it's not stripping. My face doesn't feel dry or tight afterwards, though I'd give this credit to the humidity and not so much the oil cleanser :P

That's it. Short and sweet review for a product that does what it supposed to do.

Happy Bath Day Rose Enrich Milky Body Gel

It took me about a week of daily use to get through half this travel size 30mL Rose Enrich Milky Body Gel bottle. It came from the Happy Bath Day Precious Rose Limited Edition Gift Set, which also includes the Rose Enrich Body Soap (300mL) and Rose Enrich Hand Cream (20g).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Candies! Part II

Found a couple more interesting looking bags of candies at the local groceries. Check out these CUCU (stands for Cute Cube) Candy, don't they just come up with the funniest names?

I still couldn't find my sister's favorite ume candies, so I randomly picked two bags of umeshio (salted plum) candy along with a bag of Kishiri Crystals in Lemon Mint flavor.

See my previous Candies! post.

HABA Lift Up Serum

From the HABA Non-Additivism Mook Summer 2012, I decided to try this Lift Up Serum since it's just a small 1mL satchel. I was curious to see what this squalene business is all about, plus I thought I would finish up the small satchel quickly so I can move on to other things. Boy was I wrong.

This serum is very moisturizing on its own, which makes it more suitable for winter use, especially when it's hot and humid right now. Normally, a serum is supposed to be layered on top of lotion (toner) and underneath moisturizer. However, this one being already so potent layering another moisturizer over it turns my skin sticky first and then oily. So now I just use it by itself during daytime, after the Hadanomy AquaPlacenta Concentrated Mist and it's been great at keeping my skin balanced. I can't comment on the "lifting" effect though, as I haven't noticed any.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant Part III

Hubby and I have always known our Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant delivers, but we never tried them. Whenever we go there we always order their ramen and honestly I can't imagine ramen being delivered - what a mess that would be, or so I'm guessing. 

So when we did try their delivery, we ordered fried rice instead and look what came ^.^ They actually delivered the food with real tableware! How cool is that? Hubby asked the delivery man how we would return the plates to them, and he said to just leave them stacked outside our door and he would pick them up on another delivery round (they're really popular around the neighborhood). We did as told, and what do you know, the washed plates mysteriously disappeared from our door steps a couple of hours later! And we didn't even hear the delivery guy coming up the stairs right outside our door to pick the plates.

Now if only restaurants in the US would do this, especially the mom-n-pop places that are popular in certain neighborhoods, there would be a whole lot less of styrofoam trash piling up in the world. Of course this involves a sizable amount of public trust, which is one of the best things about the Japanese society. Ahh...there are times when I just love this country ^.^

See my previous posts:
Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant
Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant Part II

HABA Non-Additivism Mook Summer 2012

HABA Non-Additivism Mook Summer 2012 is my first mook in a very long time! HABA (Health Aid Beauty Aid) is an additive-free skincare brand that I've seen around but never had any interest in trying, only because I don't know what's what to try, really (there's only, like, a gazillion other skincare items to try in Japan!). HABA products are also available in the US via an official online shop, in addition there are a decent number of reviews on Makeup Alley so you can read about them there as well.

HABA skincare is free of paraben, fragrance, mineral oil, colorant, and petrochemical surfactant, which makes them suitable for sensitive skin. That said, this brand uses a marine life ingredient as one of the major components of their products, so HABA is definitely not "vegetarian" brand and I'm not sure if this also means it's not a cruelty-free brand. If you're squeamish about animal-based products, HABA (and probably the vast majority of skincare and cosmetics out there) is not for you. If you're willing to try and are reading up about HABA products on Makeup Alley, be aware some of the reviewers give them low ratings solely because of this marine-life ingredient, which is equivalent to saying a hamburger is bad because it's made of beef, which is not exactly helpful per se ^.^'

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mamonde Moisture Skin Softener and Emulsion

Among the various skincare samples I'm trying out, this pair of 5mL/ 2 fl oz. Mamonde Moisture Skin Softener and Emulsion stands out. Mamonde is a Korean brand by Amore Pacific, which also owns Laneige, SulwhasooInnisfree, and Etude House. There are several different lines of products from Mamonde, but the samples I have are from their Moisture line

Mamonde Moisture Skin Softener and Emulsion

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fasio Oil Cleansing EX

I finished up the bottle of Naive Makeup Cleansing Oil a while back and started using this 30mL travel sized bottle of Fasio Oil Cleansing EX. It came in the Visee Eye Color and Liquid Eye Liner Set I got from Don Quijote over the winter. 

Visee Eye Color and Liquid Eye Liner Set

This set includes a small 2.5mL tube of Fasio Mascara Easy Remover, a mini 70-sheet booklet of Kose Selectly Glitter Aburatorigami Oil Blotting Paper, a Visee Glam Glow Eyes palette in BR-3, and a full size Visee Liquid Eye Liner in BK001.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Only in Japan... Tokyu Hands Edition Part VI

Last of the hilarious stickers hubby and I found at Tokyu Hands ^.^

The Japanese says, "Shimura, behind you!" This is a quirky tribute to an old game show in which the title character, Shimura, is standing on stage facing the audience. He knows someone will sneak up to scare the living daylights out of him but he doesn't know when so it's up to the audience to shout this phrase out loud to warn him. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rosette Cleansing Paste

I mentioned I was getting bored of the giant 250mL bottle of The Body Shop Passion Fruit Cleansing Gel. Well, I was, and I was bored enough to pick up this tube of Rosette Cleansing Paste when I saw it on sale at my local drugstore ^.^ 

There are now 3 types of these cleansing paste available, the green tube Kaidei Smooth with sea clay for deep cleansing, the pink tube Hakudei Lift with white clay (I'm guessing kaolin?) for firming, and the yellow tube Ghassoul Bright with Ghassoul clay (also known as Rhassoul or Moroccan red clay) for brightening. Kaikei Smooth and Hakudei Lift are both unscented and without colorant or mineral oil. The Ghassoul Bright is also without colorant or mineral oil, but it is scented. I bought the Kaidei Smooth. I figured it's summer and my skin could use some deep cleansing action, thanks to, you know, all the humidity-induced sweating and whatnot.

Rosette Cleansing Paste - Kaidei Smooth

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mos Burger Part II

I remember a "Mexican" restaurant in Minato Mirai hubby and I visited late last year that smelled suspiciously like Indian food. Hell, our friend Mos Burger here took a step further, coming out with a seasonal offering of Naan Tacos, which are tacos served on naan bread! Both flour tortillas and naan are made of, well, flour, so if you don't sweat the details, it's close enough.

Mos Burger Naan Tacos

Mos Burger Naan Tacos Marine
***Pictures from Mos Burger JP.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Bath Day Precious Rose Rose Enrich Body Soap

In addition to the Tsubaki Limited Edition Shining Water Gift Set, another nice (and impulsive) deal I got at Don Quijote was this Happy Bath Day Precious Rose Limited Edition Gift Set. I've been curious about this Happy Bath Day line but am not about to drop 1,050yen on a 300mL bottle of body wash anytime soon. If I were to spend that money, I'd rather buy goat's milk soaps on Etsy!

But the funny thing was that right next to those bottles, a bunch of these gift sets were on display for only 798yen with tax! Not only the gift sets contain the same 300mL bottle of body wash, they also come with travel sizes of the Hand Cream and the Milky Body Gel. Who the heck would pay more for the individual bottles? Not me ^.^

Happy Bath Day Precious Rose Limited Edition Gift Set, with Rose Enrich Body Soap (300mL), Rose Enrich Hand Cream (20g), and Rose Enrich Milky Body Gel (30mL)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Allie Extra UV Gel Mineral Moist N SPF50+ PA+++

Just restocked my supply of the trusty Allie Extra UV Protector Perfect Alpha, which has been reformulated again earlier in the year into Extra UV Protector Perfect Alpha N, with the "N" differentiating the 2012 from the older 2011 formulation. I probably won't review this 2012 formulation unless there's a significant change in texture and/or finish. I probably won't get to this sunscreen till a while later anyway, as I'm determined to try out a few new things before retreating back into my good ol' familiar turtle shell.

One of those new things I'm trying is this Extra UV Gel Mineral Moist N SPF50+ PA+++. Hell, I'm trying something new for the body, the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF30 PA++, so why not try something new for the face too, right? It seems Allie has been trying really hard to push the Body UV Mist SPF26 PA+. There are tons of these gift sets with a mini bottle of Body UV Mist going for only 2,058yen with tax, and although I'm not too thrilled with the mist myself, I'll use it on a cloudy day for a trip to the groceries if they're so hell bent on giving it to me. I sure wouldn't go buy a full size though, not when it hasn't been reformulated and is still not photostable!

Allie Extra UV Gel Mineral Moist N and Extra UV Protector Perfect Alpha N Gift Sets with mini bottle of Body UV Mist SPF26 PA+, each 2,058yen with tax.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Only in Japan... Tokyu Hands Edition Part V

More funny stickers!

The Japanese says, "Bring me some beer!" Is it me or does that guy look like Bruce Lee?

The smaller Japanese text at top left says, "Take care to close up your door and your zipper." 
The larger text below says, "Check your zipper." Yes, make sure the sun doesn't shine through your window ^.^

Monday, July 2, 2012

More desserts at Denny's Part V

Yeah, more Denny's ^.^ although this time around I wasn't too excited about their seasonal dessert offerings. It's that time of the year folks, you know, when every freakin' thing comes in matcha flavor! Don't get me wrong, I love matcha. What I don't love is how they love to pair matcha with anko. I am not a fan of anko. At all. It's so, very, extremely, sweet. See how the 3 out of 4 dessert items has anko in it? And that's only because I can't see much of the 4th item, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was anko in the middle of that matcha cake-looking thing in the ceramic baking cup. 

***Picture from Denny's Japan.

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