Author: Cindy

Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okunoshima

Three weekends ago, ya girl went to Hiroshima.

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Hiroshima had been on my Japan travel bucket list for several reasons, chief among them history, okonomiyaki, and bunnies, but squeezing in trips outside of Tokyo within a 2-day timeframe was a challenge like any other.

Saturday brought about too much rain for my flimsy $2 drugstore umbrella to handle. Between visiting Miyajima Island versus Okunoshima Island (Rabbit Island), the latter seemed like a better option in the rain.

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The train station at Tadanoumi — a far cry from the city life in Tokyo and Hiroshima

I took the Shinkansen from the Hiroshima station to Mihara, switched to the JR Kure line from Mihara to Tadanoumi, walked a few minutes to the terminal at Tadanoumi Port, and then boarded the ferry for a 15-minute boat ride to Okunoshima. If I choose not to include the amount of time waiting for the hourly trains during the transfers, it took a little over an hour. However, door-to-door, I’m looking at over two hours of long transfers and hoping that my phone and external battery would last me the better part of the day (thankfully, it did). But hey, I used to commute 90 minutes each way to-and-from work, so I should have been used to it, right?

Anyway, work may have given me many perks and benefits, but work has never graced me with the presence of hundreds of cute bunnies.

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Okunoshima Island is a small island off the coast of Hiroshima that is host to hundreds of feral rabbits. (Mind you, these cuties are absolutely tame and the exact opposite of what feral implies.) The exact origin story of how the bunnies populated the island is shrouded in vagueness, but either way, bunnies have taken over Okunoshima so much so that one step onto the island and you will be approached by a colony of rabbits.

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After feeling peckish, I ventured back into Hiroshima before the sunset. Dinner that night was at Koshida, where they serve my favorite food: okonomiyaki.

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Okonomiyaki — besides having the incredibly distinct honor of being MY FAVORITE FOOD — is a savory pancake, often made of eggs, flour, cabbage, and meat, and topped liberally with bonito flakes, an okonomiyaki sauce not unlike Worcestershire sauce, seaweed flakes, and Japanese mayonnaise. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, however, is a slightly different beast, as:

(1) the ingredients are mixed
(2) there are more layers of cabbage that uncooked okonomiyaki resembles a literal cabbage patch
and
(3) they cook it with noodles

THEY. COOK IT. WITH. NOODLES. The only thing that could make a savory pancake even better? MORE CARBS!

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It goes without saying that I scarfed this bad boy down within minutes.

While it may seem that my culinary adventures in Hiroshima would be over after having peaked at okonomiyaki, Hiroshima is actually rife with really good food options. The next day had a pretty decent weather forecast, so I finally made it to Miyajima Island, an island known for its forests, temples, and Great Torii Gate. While I witnessed and appreciated all three things, the first thing I did as soon as I got off the ferry was eat oysters.

Protip #1-#1.5: Hiroshima is well-known for their oysters. So much so that Glico makes Hiroshima-oyster-flavored Pretz, which is good, but I’d still recommend eating the real thing over the Pretzed-up version.

Protip #2: Kakiya grills some damn good oysters.

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Hiroshima, or rather Miyajima Island, is known for momiji manju, a red bean cake shaped like a maple-leaf. In fact, these cute little cakes are so well known and synonymous with Hiroshima that the Kit-Kat regional flavor is a momiji manju.

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While tourists (and deer — see above) normally overpopulate the main street of Miyajima, the number of people dwindled by the time I hiked the upward ascent to Miyajima’s peaks. You’ll find that the island itself is a juxtaposition of verdant forest and the blue ocean tides that surround it, should you choose to venture ahigh.

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The rest of the day was a quiet afternoon spent at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. A sobering testament to the city’s past, the park is home to the two Peace Bridges, the Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Cenotaph, and the ruins of the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall.

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I’d rather be in Tokyo, I’d rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh

tl;dr I’m in Tokyo. This blog is ten years old.


Hello!

So for those of you who keep up with me on another social media outlet (or any other medium, really, like IRL), you might know that I’m in Tokyo (!) for the summer.

I’m working as a UX designer, and so far my experience has been good, if not a little routine:

6AM: Wake up at this hour, every day without fail, FOR NO REASON AT ALL other than the fact that my body clock is a bitch???
6AM-9:30AM: Make a futile attempt to go back to sleep. Suck it up.
10AM-7PM: Work.
7PM-9PM: Grab dinner with my limited Japanese skills. This is usually ramen or soba or some other noodly variant.
9PM-11PM: Watch a World Cup game. (Interchangeable/negotiable, depending on the match)
11PM-12AM: Get ready for bed, but debate internally if I should watch the next World Cup game
12AM-2AM (?): Decide screw it, I’m watching the match! Sometimes I can stay awake through the first half. Sometimes.

That said, it’s not my first rodeo when it comes to Japan, though it’s my first time being here for more than 2 weeks. Hell, the last time I was living abroad for more than a few months was back in 2008, when I studied in Beijing during the summer. Fun fact: this blog started because I needed a way to update my friends on my whereabouts with LiveJournal being banned in China. It feels weird coming full-circle a decade later, but here we go.

Anyway, I’ve been here for ten days. I don’t think I’m quite settled yet, though the amount of times I have eaten an egg salad sandwich from my neighborhood Lawson or run to the 7-11 in search for a workable ATM show otherwise. I haven’t even used my camera yet. But that’s ok — I’ve got a good amount of time to explore this city and country (I’m lookin’ at you, Hokkaido and Okinawa).


Let me tell you, being in a country whose national team just landed a hard-fought win in the World Cup is An Experience. I remember going to a block party in Vila Madalena the night Brazil defeated Chile in the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup, and to this day, that memory wins all the awards for the biggest moshpit ever. Anyway, Japan had just scored an upset defeat over Colombia, and — well. Pandemonium descended upon Tokyo. I just so happened to be coming back from a watch party in Shibuya, which may or may not be THE BUSIEST INTERSECTION. Just imagine the amount of crowds in Times Square but with a fraction of the space. This photo was taken right before I decided I actually valued my phone and quickly stowed it away before a throng of drunk and (rightfully so!) excited fans could knock it out of my cold, dead hands.

Here’s a live recording. Turn those speakers up for full effect.


Udon noodles with grated yam at Kokuwagata. Despite (or even because of???) the slimy texture, I am ridiculously endeared to grated yam. The name is a pretty poor descriptor of what it actually looks and feels like (who knew that yams, when grated, would turn mucuslike?!), but this was delicious.


Speaking of yams, the KitKat Chocolatery sells purple yam KitKats, and yes, they are as delicious as they are purple.


This is Yodobashi, also known as the world’s largest electronics store. I poked my head in here last Sunday because I needed to replace my broken Fitbit strap, but alas, the world’s largest electronics store didn’t have my size.

getting into the weeds #latergram

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gorillaz!

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On Friday, I went to the Gorillaz concert, where they premiered their new album, the Now Now. Also, I’m really impressed by how punctual the concerts are. Case in point: The show was done at 9PM. 9PM! Even after the encore! A concert schedule that actually agrees with my old-lady sleeping habits is downright revolutionary.

Minnesota: Minneapolis and the Mall of America

Note: This post reflects my travels from May 2017. I am currently living the grad student life in the good ol’ South Bay. Prior to that, I spent a good 5 months travelling. My first endeavor of my funemployment period was an ambitious 2-month roadtrip to visit all the (US) states I had never been to and everything in between. Yes, it’s been a while, and I’m slowly documenting my travels (keyword: s l o w l y).

Technically, we had already hit Minnesota by the time we made it to Fargo, as the Fargo-Moorhead area rests nicely on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, but without further ado:

Just the facts:

STATES: Minnesota
NICKNAME: The North Star State
FOOD EATEN: Leftover food, breakfast at Al’s Breakfast, pho at Pho Hoa, Indian/Nepalese at Namaste Cafe, cupcakes from Nadia Cakes, coffee from Spyhouse, ramen at Zen Box Izakaya
GOOGLE MAPS ILLUSTRATION: Prince, because WHO ELSE?
PHOTOS: HERE
DATE(S) VISITED: May 16th-19th, 2017

As somebody who had grown up in the Midwest, I actually hadn’t made it out to Minnesota before. “GIRL, how have you not been to Minnesota?!” people would ask exasperatedly when they noticed that it was on my States I Hadn’t Yet Visited list.

Me: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That said, I’ve always heard pretty glowing reviews about the state, especially from those who live and have lived there, and Minneapolis (where I stayed for the 3-4 days) has a charm of its own, cold and drizzle and all.

After being flanked on all sides by Mother Nature and her environs, it felt damn good to finally be in a city with six-digit populations!!! Even though the drive from Fargo led to a pretty intense downpour, which escalated into a thunderstorm. Even though I faceplanted and skinned my elbows while running through the rain to grab my belongings out of the car. This was obviously the Midwest’s way of welcoming me back into their fold.

After catching up on sleep, the first morning in Minneapolis was kickstarted by a hearty breakfast at Al’s Breakfast, famous for its blueberry pancakes and its building size so cozy that NYC-sized closets feel palatial by comparison.

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No joke, this place is packed tighter than a can of sardines, and the line starts at the very inside of the store, so you can jealously stare and glower upon everybody sitting and eating their pancakes, while you stand in wait.

To Al’s credit though, the line dissipated pretty quickly (unlike the lines in San Francisco, COUGH), and Grace and I snagged two barstools within 15 minutes. No sooner did we step inside were Grace and I treated to a meal of the corned beef hash and blueberry pancakes so comforting and filling that we felt like the Pillsbury Doughboy by the time we left.

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We took a comfortable stroll around Dinkytown (and later, the U of M area) to walk off our blueberry pancake food-babies and take in the industrial sights and sounds of the city. Because it was raining on/off and we had a comfortable 3-4 days to kill, we spent most of our time meeting up with folks and eating. But mostly eating.

A few highlights:

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These are momos from Namaste Cafe. Momos are meat-based (we had bison!) Nepalese dumplings that you typically dip in a tomato-based sauce, and I will forever sing their praises. We also had spicy potatoes, garlic marathi, and almond chicken, and let’s just say after days of eating straight-up carb-loaded American food with where salt is the spiciest ingredient, it was so satisfying to have a break in between. My taste buds cried.

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This was ramen from Zen Box Izakaya, aka the ultimate comfort food on a cold, drizzly day. My love for ramen is woefully not very well-documented, but rest assured, this was so good.

However! We did other things besides stuff our faces with food. Minneapolis, perhaps by virtue of being host to MCAD, has a pretty bitchin’ art museum: the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). And get this:

Membership was free.

While I appreciate free shit as much as the next person, what made the MIA pretty bitchin’ was actually its (– look surprised –) art.

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del toro exhibit = 10/10, would go again ☠️ #gdtatmia

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We immediately made a beeline for the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, which has various art from his movies, from Hellboy to Pan’s Labyrinth (my forever fave, FIGHT ME) to Crimson Peak. Sadly, this exhibit was curated a good few months before The Shape of Water had even been released, but we still spent a good amount of time poring over the dark magical beautiful gothic romantic fantasy aesthetic of del Toro’s works.

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👼 #gdtatmia

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The snaps below aren’t del Toro, but rather, other works we found while wandering the MIA.

🐼🌼🌺🌸🌹🌷💐💠

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finally made it to mt. rushmore! ✌️

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Fitting, considering that I was just at Mt. Rushmore only a few days prior to taking this photo.

By the very last day of our Minnesota adventures, my Midwestern raised-in-the-90s teenaged self was curious about the Mall of America, because that place is a gargantuan representation of my childhood weekends of hanging out at malls. 11-year-old me would have loved MoA. Now, I get that millennials killed the shopping malls, just like they killed a lot of other culturally irrelevant things we knew and loved so dearly, but my past self would have hated me if I didn’t go.

That, and I needed new eyeliner.

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