Japan Keeping Me Humble #18

Whiskey Business (Part 2)

I was showing my adorable elementary school sixth graders how to do a simple self-introduction:


“Hello, my name is Carla. I am from the UK. My birthday is May 12th.
I like peach. I like Famichiki. I like pandas. I like sleeping. Thank you for listening.”

All good until one of the boys piped up “Miss Carla. No whiskey highball?”

D’awww they know their ALT well! *wipes away tear*
Also, I’m starting to sense a theme, here.

~ Carla

Food · Friends · Personal

Another Birthday in Japan!

On May 12th I celebrated my second birthday in Japan.
Last year, we were in the throws of uncertainty about the ‘rona, and I was still working from home.

While Japan enters it’s *counts on fingers* fourth wave, cases in Shizuoka prefecture are still pretty low compared to the rest of the country. Nevertheless, we practiced vigilance and I kept my celebrations pretty low-key.

First, we had a cute picnic in Hamamatsu Castle Park:

I always take my birthday off work because from the ages of 10 to 21 I had some form of exam on the actual date, and I promised myself as an adult I would never ever work on my birthday again!

So because my birthday was once again on a weekday, I took a day’s 年休, relaxed in the morning then met my friends for cream tea and shopping:

We went to Afternoon Tea in Entetsu mall, and it was actually really great.

They had English Breakfast which can be a bit of a rarity in Japan. The scones were much smaller than the ones back home, but still warm, crumbly and delicious. One was orange and earl grey, the other plain.

The only thing I’d knock a point off for was that they was served with lightly whipped cream instead of clotted cream – you’d get thrown out of a cafe in the UK for that offense! ;D

Then the weekend after I went for dinner and drinks with the Cheezus.
Last year we had a pizza party at Felipe’s place, but as The Smoke Club in Hamamatsu has really good social distancing measures we thought we’d go out and enjoy ourselves.

A super extra-cheezy birthday at The Lord Nelson.

Because the gang are a bunch of top huns, they surprised me with not one but TWO cakes. They really know their audience. Matt also brought me an adorable peach rooibus gift set – thank you so much!!

As always, me and Felipe-chama never know when to stop so ended up at one of our favourite bars until the early hours. Usually packed on a Saturday, it was only us and the people behind us you see in the photo!

Last year I bought myself a Kånken backpack as a present, but haven’t really bought anything special this year – maybe I’ll buy Miitopia in a few weeks for summer break!

However – side-note – I’ve really been enjoying relaxing with some indie games lately:

The Longing (top), Stay (left) and Not Tonight (right).

Thank you everyone who made my 32rd birthday really special!!

~ Carla

Kyoto · Travel

Spring Break in Kyoto

Hello, I’m back!

As usual I tend to take some time away from this blog during breaks from school, and although I didn’t managed to go far in golden week, during spring break in March I managed to score a great hotel deal for Kyoto. (Before the fourth wave hit!)

I hadn’t been outside Hamamatsu since October and was eager to get out of the city.

I first visited Kyoto during my first trip to Japan back in 2014 (which was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday but didn’t quite work out that way, haha…), and although I still really enjoyed it, it was a very fleeting visit as I was touring around the country.
Also, I found myself pretty overwhelmed by the hordes and hordes of tourists.

My second time in 2017, I ended up getting sick for most of our 2-day stay so I stayed in our AirBNB while my sister went to explore. (I was super-proud of her for doing this, since her Google Maps didn’t work and it was her first time in Japan!)

However eager to replace old memories with new ones and international travel still suspended – it really was the best time to visit Kyoto.

Travel restrictions were slowly lifting again everywhere except Tokyo, so I figured as long as I kept my distance and used common sense I could enjoy a solo yolo to Japan’s old capital city.

Since I’d already done the major touristy stuff, I was free to just enjoy the city.

To save a bit of money, I took the highway bus for the first time.
It was actually really great with plenty of rest stops so I would definitely get it again as shinkansen prices are just a piss-take. However it did take a ride on the Enshu line just to get to the bus stop.

Since I was self-isolating this time last year, I completely missed the sakura, so was determined to see some this year. (Still no hanami, though. しょうがない!)

I would never usually go to Starbucks when galivanting about – but I made an exception for the Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya Starbucks as it is the first in Japan situated in a beautiful, old, traditional house.

It felt strange to sit on the floor while enjoying my caramel macchiato!

I did eat very well in Kyoto: the Ninenzaka area leading up to Kiyomizudera Temple is particularly great for street food.
The Nishiki Market was pretty great too, if a little overpriced.

Potato croquette, sweet potato fries and a candied octopus with quail’s egg.

I am of course still a sucker for anything kawaii, so had brunch at the Snoopy cafe:

Snoopy cafe au lait and Snoopy pancakes with ice cream, mochi and kinako.

I love craft beers and breweries so walked a little out of the way to the Kyoto Spring Valley Brewery, but it was very overpriced and the servers were kinda rude so I’d give it a miss.

I also found a lot of great vegetarian and vegan options in Kyoto – definitely a rarity in Japan.
(Unless it’s specifically marked as plant-based, be wary because it’s often still made with pork or fish stock.)

I stumbled upon Choice Cafe en route to my hotel, and I loved it so much I went back twice.

Both visiting Japan as a tourist and now living here, I don’t find shrines and temples very exciting anymore. Call me uncultured, but after a while it feels you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

However I made an exception for Okazaki Shrine, which is entirely dedicated to bunnies:

Unfortunately the aforementioned fourth wave has hit Japan as the government frantically try to find a solution to save the Olympics. So I’m glad I was able to travel when I could.

It was my 32nd birthday yesterday though, so hoorah for that!

~ Carla