meiji shrine

In all its concrete and steel grandeur, it's hard to believe there's a single pocket of green to be found in the heart of Tokyo. Yet, you don't have to look any further than Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) for a slice of nature right next to the bustling streets of Harajuku. No matter how many times I visit, there's something so calming about that long stroll to the shrine's main entrance. If you ask me, taking in the lush green canopy and sounds of rustling leaves really is an experience comparable to no other.





You can't visit Meiji Shrine without stopping to admire the ever famous wall of sake barrels there. The sake itself is actually donated by breweries all over Japan, and has the purpose of being used in ceremonies and festivals. While the barrels may be empty, you can't deny that they're pretty darn photogenic! I always take a snap when I happen to be passing by.





When we visited, preparations were already underway for the inevitable crush of people that would arrive on New Year's Eve. In Japanese culture, most people will forgo partying to ring in the new year at their local shrine. Meiji Shrine in particular will often attract over three million visitors during this time, packing its grounds to the brim!





No matter what time of year you visit, there's no doubt there'll be a steady stream of visitors at Meiji Shrine. Surprisingly there was quite a lot of greenery when I visited, despite it being the dead of winter.







It's hard to believe that just a few minutes away you'll find Takeshita Dori, the epitome of Japanese teenage culture. As one of the country's busiest shopping strips I find it a tad overwhelming, if I'm being completely honest! It's a huge contrast from the more traditional side of things, but I guess that summarises Japanese culture in a nutshell. Until next time!
Posted by : Mani

new spectacles

Unbeknownst to most people, I actually have terrible eyesight and used to wear glasses on a regular basis. Even though I tend to reach for contacts these days I've been meaning to replace my old specs, but in all honestly? Glasses shopping is usually an experience I try to avoid at all costs. Being born with Asian features and a lack of a tall nose bridge, the fact remains – glasses that fit me are really hard to find in Australia! Most of the trendier styles have lenses that are way too big, and tend to hit my cheeks when they shouldn't at all. And after all that narrowing down, there's the problem of finding a pair that actually suits your style. It's frustrating, to say the least!

     

I always knew that I wanted to buy glasses in Japan, and after much dawdling I finally went for it. I settled for this half-rimmed pair from Jins, which I had been eyeing ever since I tried them on a few months ago. I absolutely love the retro vibe they give off and they kinda remind me of Ray-Bans, except a lot more subtle. Obviously everyone here has similar features to my own, so it was awesome being able to choose from a range of glasses that actually fit me 99% of the time!

Interested in getting glasses here? Above all, I would definitely recommend bringing your optical prescription with you. It saves you the hassle of getting an eye test, even if I did have to get my pupils measured with a fancy machine. Also if you're worried about the language barrier, don't be! Tourist-friendly cities like Tokyo will often have shop assistants that speak English.



After a grand total of thirty minutes, my glasses were done and ready to be worn! Super easy. These were about $110AUD with thin lenses included, a far cry from the eye watering amount I would've paid back home. I actually don’t feel uncomfortable wearing my glasses out and about, now that these ones aren’t all scratched up in the lenses. In fact, now I'm super tempted to reorder this exact pair but in black!
Posted by : Mani

cat cafe mocha

Ahhh, cat cafes. They're one of many things in Japan that may seem weird and wonderful to the rest of the world, but are super common here. To be honest when I visited a cat cafe back in Sydney, I thought I'd seen it all. However, my sister really wanted to visit one when she was in Tokyo, so who was I to say no? She's totally obsessed with cats, and I think my parents' refusal to adopt one has only made her more determined to become a cat lady when she moves out. Needless to say, she loved every second of the cat cafe experience!





The place we visited was Cat Cafe MoCHA (猫カフェモカ) in Harajuku, although they have a number of branches all over Tokyo. Kitties aside, one thing I absolutely loved about this cafe was the decor! It was full of natural lighting and had plenty of cosy corners to relax in.

      



There were so many cute cats roaming around the cafe, but can we just take a moment to appreciate this little guy?! As soon as I saw his grumpy face he instantly became my favourite of the bunch.
   

      

We stayed for a full hour in the cafe, although the time totally flew by! You can also pay extra for unlimited use of the drink machines here.





All in all, this had to be one of the most relaxing experiences I've had in a while. In a crazy (and sometimes overwhelming) city like Tokyo, I can definitely see why places like these have become so popular. Even if it's only for a little while, it's nice to take a break from the loud noises and bustling streets below. Stay tuned for more from my trip soon!
Posted by : Mani

autumn leaves

Japan is a country that appreciates the changing seasons like no other. From the various festivals to the types of food being sold in the shops, what time of year it is seems to influence every aspect of daily life here. Depending on what's in bloom, the same old places also take on a whole new life. Being my favourite season and all, I was definitely looking forward to seeing what autumn looks like here!



      

These pictures were taken a few months ago in November, which seems like forever ago now. On our day off my friends and I decided to visit the local park, which was full of gingko trees just beginning to shed their leaves. We were far from the only ones – there were lots of elderly people taking in the scenery, and even a wedding shoot going on in the background!





I definitely got a bit carried away playing in the leaves! If you ask me, autumn's one of the best (and most photogenic) times you can probably visit Japan. While the tourist crowds tend to be at their peak, the abundance of leaves framing the scenery makes up for it.



      

After quite a bit of strolling, we also came across some gorgeous Japanese maple trees. It's a bit weird to think that in just a couple of months, I'll be stepping back into autumn once I fly back home. While I'm not exactly thrilled with the idea of experiencing two winters this year, anything has to be better than the sub-zero nights we've been having lately!
Posted by : Mani

twenty seventeen

So this is embarrassingly late, but happy 2017 everyone! I don't know why, but the new year always seems to creep up on me. I've never been the type to do anything particularly special to celebrate, but my family did visit me in Tokyo over the winter holidays. On New Years Day we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, one of the few places that actually opens its doors on January 1st. Needless to say the weather was beautiful, and we even got to see Mount Fuji in all its glory. Definitely not a bad way to ring in the new year!



To be honest, I don't know how any year could top 2016 for me. It was the year I moved abroad to study in Japan, and experienced things I never could have dreamed of back at home. While my time here isn't over just yet, I have been thinking about things I want to achieve when I return to Australia. Although I don't have any grand plans at the moment, these are some goals I want to achieve this year:

1. Keep studying Japanese. Having spent so much of the past year improving my language skills, it'd be a total waste to forget it all once I'm back home. Even though it'll be a challenge, I definitely want to keep revising what I've learnt on a regular basis!

2. Visit as many new places as possible. There's so much of the world I haven't seen. Even if it just means venturing on more day trips, I really want to discover more places I've never visited before.

3. Finally get my driver's license. This is super embarrassing to admit, but after six years it's about time I'm held accountable!

4. Be more creative. Ever since I started living in a dorm, it's felt like forever since I last created something with my own two hands. Whether it's something hand-sewn or even a good old cake, I can't wait to get back into making things once I'm back in Australia.

5. Try to be more health conscious. There have been so many times in 2016 when I've felt completely overwhelmed, sometimes at the risk of my own health and sanity. This year I definitely want to start prioritising my health more, whether it's by remembering to take my meds or just scheduling in some more me time.

What are your goals for this year, if you even have any? As always, thanks for sticking around to read my ramblings, and here's to an amazing year ahead of us! I'm not quite sure what to expect from 2017, but I'm excited to find out what lies ahead.
Posted by : Mani