Japan 2019 (Part 4: Hiroshima + Osaka)

We’re finally at the last part of my Japan 2019 adventure! (Click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 3.) It was so much fun writing and editing all the photos (all 140+ photos)—it’s as if I’m traveling back there again through my writing. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!

Day 9: Hiroshima + Miyajima Island

Out of all the places we’ve visited so far, I admit that I was most excited about Hiroshima. It was an entirely new place for me, and I’ve been wanting to visit the area for a long time. So after nine hours on the night bus, we finally arrived at Hiroshima Station:

The bus conveniently announcing our arrival.

It was another cold morning when we got down the bus; it was like an instant wake-up call for us! We walked to Hiroshima Station’s streetcar platform and headed for our hostel, J-Hoppers Hiroshima. We freshened up quickly and had a light kombini breakfast before heading for the Motoyasu Pier to board the ferry going to Miyajima Island. (While it wasn’t the cheapest way to get there, it was the most convenient way for us as our hostel was within walking distance to the Hiroshima Peace Park.)

We got seats on the ferry that face the windows!

What a peaceful sight.

What’s cool about this ferry is that it cruises slowly on the river, letting us enjoy the calm views, before speeding into the sea!

The Atomic Bomb Dome.

Forty-five minutes later, we reached the gorgeous Miyajima Island. We didn’t have any specific plans except to eat, take lots of nice photos, and walk around enjoying the sights. We were welcomed by a few deer friends:

Oh, deer!

Trying hard to blend in?

After saying hello to the deer, we spotted our first eat of the afternoon: curry oyster buns! Man, I love oysters and curry, and to see the two of them combined into one heavenly pouch made me really excited. I immediately bought one with no hesitation.

The verdict? I would gladly go all the way back to Miyajima just to eat another one of these. Delicious!

Continue reading “Japan 2019 (Part 4: Hiroshima + Osaka)”

Japan 2019 (Part 3: Kyoto)

Part three of my Japan exploration trip is here! (Click here to read part 1 and part 2!)

Last I left from the previous blog post, my friends and I were in Osaka getting ready to go to Kyoto.

Day 6: Kyoto Exploration + Kichi Kichi

We woke up to a slow morning and eventually made our way to Kyoto from Osaka via the express train. Luckily, our hostel, Kyoto Hana Hostel, was within walking distance from Kyoto Station, so (after a quick stop at the Kyoto main post office) we dropped off our luggage right away and headed to Nishiki Market for a late lunch/street-food-food-trip.

Immediately, as soon as we arrived at Nishiki Market, I found my first bite:

I got this large unagi sushi for ¥300! Yum.

After practically inhaling the unagi, we walked for about twenty steps when I found the next thing to eat: tofu doughnuts!

Six tofu doughnuts for ¥300!

After barely even entering the market and eating unagi sushi AND mini tofu doughnuts, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t last until we reach the end of the market, haha! Also, we had dinner reservations around 5PM and I didn’t want to feel too full for that later, so I exercised a little bit of self-control after the doughnuts. My friends and I decided to split the next thing we all wanted to try:

I can’t recall what this is exactly, but it’s like a pork pancake?

Moving on in the market, we unexpectedly found a Snoopy Chaya branch! I’m not a big fan of matcha (oops) but I AM a big Peanuts/Snoopy fan, so I went in and looked around.

Happy kid! I also bought a few souvenirs here, hehe.

Look at that Snoopy mochi! So cute!

We went on shopping and eating once every so often (at this point, I forgot to take photos of the fresh sashimi I’ve eaten and others–oops) before heading for Kichi Kichi for our reservations! A little backstory—I literally checked the website every Sunday at 3PM (that was the date and time when the restaurant will open reservations for a specific time when I was reserving) until reservations opened; so I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time, you could say! (I actually got the reservations for this on my birthday, Feb. 10! It was a nice birthday gift hehe.)

Anyways, back to Kyoto! We waited outside the restaurant early and was able to get the counter seats (we were the second group to be seated), which is a big deal for me as the restaurant alone could only seat eight people at a time.

So honored and happy to sit right across from Chef Motokichi Yukimura!

Continue reading “Japan 2019 (Part 3: Kyoto)”

Japan 2019 (Part 2: Osaka)

Part two of my Japan trip is here! (Click here to read part one!)

One night bus later, we arrived at Osaka! This marked my third time to visit Osaka, and every time I go back, it brings me warm memories. It’s the place where I visited Japan for the first time, after all! Every time I go back, I feel bubbly and excited—there’s just so much to do and see!

Day 4: Osaka Exploration

After a comfortable and smooth 7-hour ride on the night bus, we were welcomed by the cool Osaka morning as we got down the bus. We made our way to our hostel, Osaka Hana Hostel, where we dropped off our luggage and went to a nearby Mo’s Burgers for some breakfast:

The hot milk tea and warm cheeseburger definitely hit the spot!

After breakfast, we walked back to the hostel and freshened up for the day. This day was a free day dedicated to shopping and exploring; we didn’t have a fixed schedule, so it was nice to just take the city in. We walked to Dotonburi and enjoyed exploring the shops in the area. Eventually, with all the walking we did, our stomachs went empty once more and we decided that lunch would be a little “treat yo’ self” meal and headed to Daimaru.

So. Good. Everything was cooked to perfection—almost like a melt-in-your-mouth experience!

After lunch, we went to Tokyu Hands and Kawachi for some shopping (yes, my wallet felt particularly light after visiting these two places—HAHA!) Just outside the building, we were lucky to find such delicious ichigo daifuku for sale. Naturally, we bought one each:

Armed with bags of Tokyu Hands goods, Kawachi goods, and strawberry daifuku, we headed back to the hostel and checked in our room:

Futon beds are the best! Continue reading “Japan 2019 (Part 2: Osaka)”

Japan 2019 (Part 1: Nagoya)

After months of planning, researching, and booking, my friends and I finally went to Japan for our graduation trip!
I’m splitting up this 11-day trip into four posts, each focusing on one specific area of Japan—so come along on our trip as I look back and retell the story from my memories!

Six months ago (or even more), I told Nicole—one of my best friends—that I was itching to go back to Japan and explore different areas. Originally, my whole group of friends and I were supposed to go to Japan together. Unfortunately, not everyone was free to go, so we decided to push on with the trip with promises of future travel with everyone else instead. In the end, only Nicole, Alecca, and I were free to go.

After deciding on who could go, we talked about what areas of Japan we’d like to explore. Nicole, seeing that it would be her first time to visit Japan, voted for Osaka since she’s been dreaming of going to Universal Studios for the Wizarding World. Alecca, who’s visited Japan once in the past, was willing to go wherever we’ll go, and I wanted to explore Nagoya and Hiroshima. Searching up nearby places to visit, I came up with this route: Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Osaka.

Now that we had a clear route, we decided on a budget and the activities we’d want to do in each area. Since most of the funds (if not all) for the trip would be coming out of our own savings, we were on a budget for sure. I made an Excel sheet and worked on the budget for flights, accommodation, night buses, entrance fees, and more. Once the budget seemed reasonable, we bought our plane tickets. We booked our hostels and night buses. We bought tickets for USJ and airport express tickets. We exchanged our money and packed—the point is, we booked and bought whatever we could before leaving to ease on us spending yen once we arrived.

Fast forward to March 1 after months of careful planning and research, we were on the plane for Nagoya!

Day 1: Arrival (Nagoya)

(L-R): Nicole, Alecca, and I on the plane to Nagoya!

Chicken Sisig: one last Filipino meal before having eleven days of Japanese food!

Our flight landed earlier than expected, so took our time and rode the airport express to Nagoya Station. We embraced the cool air (which is such a luxury since I live in a tropical country) as we made our way to our first hostel of the trip.

Hostel Wasabi!

It was all our first time to try out a capsule hostel, so we were pretty excited! It was interesting to see all the different people checking in and hanging out in the lounge. My friends and I booked a female-only floor and we enjoyed how clean and quiet the floor was!

My little space for the next two nights.

We settled down, freshened up for bed, and rested for the day, excited for what tomorrow would bring.

Continue reading “Japan 2019 (Part 1: Nagoya)”

Instant Memories in Osaka

A little background: on my trip to Osaka earlier this year, I bought two instant/disposable cameras. I gave one to my little sister, Hannah (who is 7-years-old) and kept one for myself. I challenged her to take photos of what she found interesting or moments she wanted to keep. I followed this prompt and excitedly took photos carefully. I watched Hannah take photo after photo of everything. It wasn’t long until she ran out of shots. Not wanting to buy a new one, I gave her my camera to use up the remaining shots available.

After the trip, I was curious about the outcome of our photos and finally, finally after several months, I got the photos developed and scanned. I picked the best ones from the trip and wanted to share some of them here. [Note: none of these photos were color corrected.]

I took this photo just outside the Fushimi Inari Taisha—I love how the colors just pop out here!

Hannah took this photo—
I love how warm the photo feels and I like how the color pops out on the hair of the lady on the right!)

Continue reading “Instant Memories in Osaka”

Osaka Haul 2018!

As promised, here is my Japan/Osaka haul (please read my previous blog post about the trip to offer some insight on my purchases!) Whenever I travel, a handful of people ask me what to buy/what I bought/what to expect in Japan—to have an idea of what type of person I am (or what things I usually buy), here is my haul:

Music:

I dropped by Tower Records and knew immediately what I’m looking for—to my delight, I was able to find them! I grabbed a copy of Panic! at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor (I’ve been looking for a physical copy for a looong time; I love this album so much) and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (I am a total theatre nerd and I am proud Hamitrash—I think I’ve memorized at least more than half the songs so far? Hehehe.) Great finds + great buys!

Stationery/Art Supplies:

Next up, I bought these sticker organizers. I really had this one my ‘to-buy’ list and luckily didn’t have too much of a hard time finding them.

The lavender one is for sticker flakes—

…while the red one is for vertical sticker sheets!

I also bought a pack of 8 Posca paint markers (because I’ve been wanting to try them out for the longest time) and a roll of masking tape (I’m not sure if this is specialized for watercolor paper, but I’m excited to test it out!)

Next would be the washi tapes (oh, boy!)

Continue reading “Osaka Haul 2018!”

Osaka 2018!

A few days ago, my family and I went to Osaka, Japan. We stayed there from June 7 to 11, 2018—too short of a stay, if you’d ask me! Hehe. For this trip, I booked EVA Air (a 4AM-12nn flight, with a layover at Taipei for two hours.) I booked this trip months ahead and excitedly counted the days ’till the big trip; I was especially excited for this trip because it would be my little sister’s first time in Japan!

Day 1

Airplane food.

Sunrise up in the sky!

Fast forward to noon, we finally arrived in Osaka! I quickly claimed our Nankai Line Airport Express tickets and our Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan E-tickets as well from the HIS counter at the airport. (I booked both of these, amongst others, through Klook.com!)

We rode to Namba in comfortable peace and enjoyed the sights. Forty-five minutes later, we got to our destination.

The train looks so cool + futuristic, hehe.

Would recommend riding the rapi:t train (you can purchase roundtrip tickets!) If you book it online or buy the tickets there, you can get reserved seating. We made our way to our hotel, Ibis Styles Osaka, dropped our things off, and headed for Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan!

If you squint, you could see my dad, my mom, and my sister photobombing my photo. Huhu.

The aquarium was just gorgeous. I would totally go back just to spend a lazy afternoon staring at the majestic creatures behind the glass. Just look at these photos (although, the photos don’t do enough justice for the actual thing!):

Why, hello there!

Continue reading “Osaka 2018!”

Hokkaido 2017 (Part 1)!

This post is long-delayed, I admit, but it’s finally here! Yey!
The reason it took so long was the photos! I have a LOT of photos to share, so I’ll be splitting this blog post into two! 🙂

A few months ago, I went to Hokkaido with my family for a few days (August 31 – September 5, 2017). While I’ve been to Hokkaido in the past (Kushiro, to be specific), this would be my first time in Sapporo. I was in charge of the itinerary again and this is what we did:

Day 1: August 31, 2017

Our flight to Sapporo took a grand total of nine travel hours (including the layover)! We departed from Manila at 9 in the morning –

landing at Narita Airport by 3:00PM –

then flew off for Sapporo by 6PM and finally arriving at 8PM!

Phew! We rode the train to Sapporo Station and walked to our hotel, Hotel MyStays Sapporo Aspen, from there. We had takeaway dinner from the nearby Coco Ichibanya and headed to bed for another early start the next day.

Day 2: September 1

Waking up bright and early, we headed for Otaru.Otaru Station! It was such a beautiful day.

Otaru is so gorgeous and we were lucky to go on such a good day!

Just look at these flowers!

We arrived a little too early (I guess I was just too excited, woops) and most of the shops were still closed, so we walked around and took our time enjoying all the sights!

I love all the architecture and history of all the buildings here.

Coming to Otaru, I had a few things I knew I wanted to see and do (not to mention, eat hehe) – which I’ll get to in a bit.  Walking around, we encountered a small market that sold souvenirs, fresh Hokkaido sweet corn and melon, and dried seafood.

Sweet Hokkaido melons selling at ¥500 per slice! Expensive, but worth a taste. It’s so good.

Since all the stores were still closed, we headed for the Otaru Canal next.

There was an elderly man painting the canal and there were various artists selling postcards and their paintings of the canal on the side. I couldn’t resist and bought a postcard for myself.

Continue reading “Hokkaido 2017 (Part 1)!”

A Thousand Words

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. While I might be a better writer than I am a photographer, I agree with this statement. If you’ve been following my blog (or even if you’re a new reader), you’ll notice that I love including photos in all my posts – I think it helps tell my story the way I want it to be told through photographs. I sometimes let the photos do the talking to get my point across or for appreciation’s sake.

In participation with the #VantagePoint project, I want to share with you some of my favorites photographs. (The #VantagePoint project is by a startup company called light.co and they sell these really awesome compact cameras, which is unfortunately sold out (for now). As part of their marketing campaign, they shared the #VantagePoint project with me, which is basically me sharing a photo of my favorite location and the story behind it – which is what I love doing anyways.)

Since I took so many photos over the year, I thought that I’d showcase my top three photos from my travels.
(Disclaimer: please note that these are the top three best photos not because of aesthetic’s sake, but because of the memory that goes with it.)

1. El Nido, Palawan (Philippines)

This place took my breath away when I was physically there. Without a word, I made my way to the front of the boat and bravely took my phone out (despite my fear of it falling down the boat). I made sure the lighting was just perfect and waited for the moment to capture it. I assessed the positioning and symmetry with the grids. I made sure that there were different kinds of action happening everywhere that would make people want to look at this photo again and again. This was the highlight of my trip.

2. The National Museum, Manila (Philippines)

It was Independence Day when I took this photo and I went to the National Museum (one of my favorite places in Manila) to celebrate. When I left the museum, it was really windy and I looked up to see several flags proudly displayed out in front. It was really sunny as well, so I squinted, aimed my camera at the highest flag, aligned it to my grid, and shot. I waited for the right moment so that all the flag would show it’s entirety. I loved how the blueness of the sky made the colors of the flag pop out! I think this photo shows peace and nationality together.

Continue reading “A Thousand Words”

Sophie Makes: MUJI Naan (+ Curry)

During my not-so-recent trip to Tokyo, Japan last April, I bought a couple of things from MUJI. I got the usual stationary and some other little travel essentials. In Japan, though, I get the most excited about the MUJI food that they sell since most of what they’re offering is not available back at home. I was so happy to find a pack of handmade ready-to-make naan and couldn’t wait to try it out.

And so, I finally had some time yesterday to make them:

The instructions were unfortunately in Japanese so I tried my best to (“read”) translate and research on what to do. Luckily, I found this video of someone making it and tried my best to follow.

MUJI Handmade Naan (Serves 4) – 200g

First, I placed all the naan mix in a medium-sized bowl and poured in 100ml of water:

Then, I placed a teaspoon of olive oil:

I combined everything well, kneaded the dough for a few minutes, and covered it to let it rise (as shown in the video).

[Note: Nothing happened in the ten minutes I covered it to “let it rise”, so you can go ahead and skip to the next step.]

While I was waiting for my dough to “rise”, I heated up the MUJI Creamy Butter Chicken Curry.

After ten minutes, I took out the dough from the bowl, cut them into four pieces, and proceeded to flatten them with a rolling pin. I grated some queso de bola (“ball cheese” or edam cheese, in English) and stuffed them in.

While I was rolling out and filling the dough, I placed a medium-sized non-stick pan over medium heat (read that again, slowly) and drizzled some olive oil on the pan.

Once the pan was hot enough, I placed two of the naan bread on it and covered the pan (to trap the heat in).

I let it cook for around 3 – 5 minutes on each side (or until they turn golden brown).

Continue reading “Sophie Makes: MUJI Naan (+ Curry)”