Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Japan Trip 2015/2016: Day 1 - Heathrow Airport, Zurich Airport, Narita Airport and HARAJUKU!

IMG_0459

Hello everyone! I hope people still remember me haha! I'm finally ready to start blogging about my trip to Japan! I returned on the 15th January but since then I've been sorting my business out, it was my birthday on the 4th February, I traded at an event on 6th February and I've been sorting out all my photos and editing them all! I wanted to edit them all to keep track of everything before I started posting. Over the course of these posts I'll document my trip, activities, sights, food and drink, purchases and give as much information and tips that I think will be useful!

So far I've been uploading my photos to Facebook but by being more in-depth in these posts, I almost feel like I'm reliving the experience again~ *0* Needless to say, my trip was absolutely wonderful, breathtaking and I look forward to going again! For those who don't know, I went from 29th December 2015 to 14th January 2016, for just over two weeks. I went on my own and I stayed with a Japanese woman and her daughter for a sort-of homestay (more on that later).

After spending a couple of days preparing and packing luggage, I left Derby for the longest and furthest trip of my life so far on 29th December 2015 at pretty much exactly midnight! I got a taxi to the bus station, then a National Express coach to Heathrow Airport Terminal 2. Even though East Midlands Airport is closest to me, it's easiest and cheapest to fly to Japan from London, I think.

IMG_0332
The first photo I took on my trip: an awful quality selfie on the coach to the airport! I tried to look as composed in the photo but I was starting to freak out inside. Even the coach driver said 'Don't worry, calm down, take your time' when I was getting flustered finding my coach tickets and dealing with my luggage. I was one of two people on the coach when it started its journey, but naturally more people got on at other stops. For information, it cost about £45 for an open return to Heathrow Airport from Derby. I chose my set departure time but for coming back to Derby, I could pick whatever coach I wanted, just in case there were any delays or problems getting back. It took about 5 hours to get to Heathrow Airport.

The last time I went to an airport was last year to go to Belfast. It was East Midlands, so even though I expected Heathrow to be far bigger and scarier, checking in and getting through security was straightforward. I arrived about 3 hours before my flight was to depart, so I first got a green tea at Costa, read over some Japanese language print outs I'd brought with me, then checked in, waved goodbye to my luggage (with my fingers crossed I'd see it again at Narita!) and made my way through security.

IMG_0335
Very festive Christmas tree at Heathrow after security!

IMG_0336 IMG_0337
Heathrow after security. On the bottom floor there is a large duty-free area with lots of make-up counters, but I didn't get great service there so I didn't buy anything.

IMG_0345
Although I didn't buy any make-up at duty-free, I did top up my worn make-up haha! I wore a lipstick from No. 7 and topped up my powder from Max Factor.

IMG_0346
I decided to treat myself to my last English meal for over two weeks - a full English breakfast! However, as I was soon to realise, my appetite was beginning to diminish due to nerves and a bit of general anxiety.

My flight announced that it was boarding so I made my way to the gate and got on the plane. I flew with Swiss Air to Zurich first, my flight was at 8.50am. As you will see with the service and food I got, I absolutely recommend Swiss Air 100% and will fly with them again!

IMG_0355
Good-bye Heathrow, and good-bye England! See you in two weeks!

IMG_0359
You always have to take cloud photos when you're on an airplane!

IMG_0372
I didn't expect any food or drink on the short haul flight to Zurich but the air attendants gave everyone a chocolate pastry and drink shortly after setting off! They then continued to give us free drinks throughout the flight. Bear in mind the last time I flew, I went to Belfast with FlyBe and being a budget airline, you had to pay for any drinks and food so I was prepared to not drink or eat anything on this short haul flight! I knew at least one meal was included on the long haul flight from Zurich to Narita though!


IMG_0373
Being a smaller plane, there were no seat-back TVs on the Heathrow-Zurich flight but they played Tom & Jerry cartoons on the overhead screens haha! Better than nothing!

IMG_0381
Hello Zurich! So foresty! My boyfriend told me I'd see the Swiss Alps but I didn't, I'm disappointed haha. I have no idea where they are in relation to Zurich Airport.

I had to go through security again at Zurich and it turned out I had to get a little shuttle train to another part of the airport, which was pretty fun! Again, very straightforward to go through security but I didn't find the shops in Zurich Airport nearly as interesting as Heathrow. The overall look and feel of Zurich Airport is nicer though! All black and chrome, shiny floors and metal parts, very sleek looking!

IMG_0393
Good-bye Zurich, next stop - Tokyo! I still didn't really believe I was going to Japan!

IMG_0402
On the Zurich-Narita flight, one of the first things played on the seat-back TV screens was a Japanese advert for Pocari Sweat, an ionised energy drink. This was my first 'this is a flight to goddamn Japan' moment! I wanted Pocari Sweat as my first drink then! It was tasty, not too sweet or sugary!

IMG_0403
Our first meal on the Zurich-Narita plane. Silly me forgot to take off the lid to photograph the food... >_>;; It was seasonal salad, a bread roll with butter and Swiss Gruyère cheese, and for main course it was fried chicken with chive and soy sauce, rice, shiitake mushrooms and green beans. For dessert, a plum cake with white chocolate mousse. I was a bit of a picky eater in the UK but since the start of my Japan trip, I aimed to throw picky eating out of the window and try to eat everything! I didn't normally like mushrooms but everything here was absolutely delicious, I didn't even notice the mushrooms really.

IMG_0424
We flew over some mountains! We actually flew over Moscow and Siberia, but I think it was dark when we went over Siberia.

Swiss Air had a selection of films and TV shows to watch on the TV screen in front of you. They had a few new-ish releases so I watched the new Mad Max film. Some of the other selections weren't great but if you were a James Bond fan, Jesus Christ, you'd have been in heaven; they had every James Bond film available to watch! I haven't watched much James Bond if I'm honest, so I didn't partake in 007.

It started getting dark and I aimed to get most of my sleep on the plane so I went to sleep on and off for hours. We were served breakfast around 7am, which I forgot to photograph - it was a very tasty Swiss-style Bernese Rosti, which is grated and fried potatoes, with cheese, bacon and scrambled eggs. We were also given a bread roll with butter and jam, a yoghurt and fruit salad.

As we started flying into Japan, I saw something that instantly hit me with 'Holy shit I'm in Japan'...

IMG_0425
Can you see, just to the centre left of the horizon? It's Mount Fuji! It was a lot clearer in real life, it literally took my breath away. For a second, I thought 'No, it must be another mountain' but it couldn't be! Many mindblowing thoughts were had during my trip to Japan - one that hit me here was 'I'm going to a theme park at the base of that mountain! I'll be right there!' If you don't know, I get very poignant and reflective when thinking about travelling, experiencing these new things in a new country, being so many miles away that it almost doesn't feel real! So I'll post some of these 'poignant thoughts' when I feel them XD

IMG_0428
Fuji-sannnn~

IMG_0445
I'm here! Narita Airport, and technically Tokyo! I had been saving and planning for over a year, and finally it was here. A very interesting thing is that, at the beginning of the Zurich-Narita flight, the announcements were made in English, German then Japanese. As soon as we touched down in Narita, the announcements switched to Japanese, English then German!

The flight landed around 9.30am on 30th December 2015. Due to the time difference, you technically lose half a day, but you get it back when returning home! I loved this flight as I was able to sleep on the coach to the airport and then the long haul flight, then I arrived in Japan in the morning ready for a full day of activities (well, half a day by the time I got to central Tokyo). However, if you're not great at sleeping on public transport, it might be worth it travelling a day earlier and arriving in the afternoon or evening so you can have a full nights sleep in Japan first.

I went through to the baggage claim, which is always an 'experience'...you want your luggage to be put out first, you start thinking every suitcase is yours, and as more and more people take their luggage, you wonder if you're ever going to see your luggage again and start praying! Thankfully my suitcase was there, and I went through customs and immigration. A Japanese customs employee asked me why I was coming to Japan, and for a second I panicked - why was I coming again?! I couldn't tell her 'shopping' hahaha! It's one of those situations where even though you're not guilty of anything, you suddenly feel like they're judging you! I eventually said 'travel' in Japanese (got to start using Japanese right away!), and she asked me if I had friends in Japan, in Japanese. I said yes and she said my Japanese was very good and I could proceed. I was super nervous, and I already knew that Japanese people will compliment your Japanese even if it is very basic haha. There were some instances where I was literally following a comversation/some information being told to me, saying 'Yes' and 'Okay' in Japanese, and they'd say "Your Japanese is very good!" haha! XD From now on, unless otherwise stated, all conversations I had were in Japanese. They weren't necessarily in 100% fluent and conversational Japanese though, don't think I'm bragging! Sometimes all I needed to get along was the individual words of importance.

I went through to arrivals in Narita Airport. The first thing I had to do was pick up my Pocket WiFi at the post office in the airport. I asked where the post office was and got directed by a police officer, then picked up my Pocket WiFi. I had pre-ordered it about two weeks before I left for Japan, from Global Advanced Communications, who I recommend for Pocket WiFi! It was about £40 to hire it for just over two weeks. You can pick it up at the airport post office, or it can be delivered to your hotel or accommodation, or picked up at a convenience store. They give you a pre-paid envelope to post it back before you leave. You can do this whenever you like, but I think the best way is to post it back at the airport, so you can make use of the WiFi as long as possible. There are post boxes everywhere in Japan including Narita Airport.

IMG_0446
My Pocket WiFi! I got my boyfriend to buy it for me as part of my Christmas gift. I was actually thinking about doing without it before that, but now I can absolutely tell you I don't know how I would've dealt without it. There were so many times I needed Google Maps, to be able to communicate and other things. I know many convenience stores and coffee shops have free WiFi in Japan but I think I would've been in a bit of trouble more than once if I didn't have my Pocket WiFi with me.

IMG_0447
Shop snap of Samantha & chouette gallery, which was a store very near the post office in Narita Airport. It was my first time practicing shop snaps in Japan.

After I picked up my Pocket WiFi, the next thing I had to do was get a Pasmo or Suica card, which is a electronic travel card you top up with money, a bit like an Oyster card in London, or a Mango card in Derby. It doesn't matter which one you get, they both work pretty much everywhere. I chose a Pasmo card solely on the fact it was silver and pink rather than green and white like a Suica card haha.

Funny tidbit: I stopped to use a water fountain and couldn't get it to work (we don't have them much in the UK), and a police officer ended up showing me how it worked...how embarrassing haha!

IMG_0453
I ended up taking way too long to get a Pasmo card. After asking where I could get one, I was told to go downstairs to where you get trains into central Tokyo. I had to get the elevators, go down a long corridor and get the Pasmo card, then go all the way back because the coaches into central Tokyo were on the ground level. Then, as I went to purchase my coach ticket, I realised I could've got my Pasmo card at the same counter... So, a word of advice: If you're getting a train into central Tokyo, you can go downstairs to the basement level and get your Pasmo/Suica card, then catch the teain. However, if you're getting a coach into central Tokyo, then you only need to go to the Keisei or Access Narita ticket counter on the ground level, where you can purchase both your Pasmo/Suica (I'll use Pasmo from now on, but I mean either one) and bus ticket at the same time.

I got the coach into Tokyo because it takes about the same time as the train, if not quicker, you don't need to worry about your luggage as the driver stores it in the luggage compartment under the coach, and it's a lot cheaper than the train. The train costs around £18 but the coach only cost about £6. Also bear in mind I am using the conversion rate that was used when I was in Japan. The rate was a bit better than it is now, meaning things were slightly cheaper than if you were to go now. The rate was around ¥170 to £1.

IMG_0448
Whilst waiting for the coach, I came across my first vending machines in Japan! Yeah!
IMG_0449

IMG_0450
My first vending machine drink - more Pocari Sweat!

IMG_0452
The view at the bus stop.

The coach ride was very pleasant, quiet and peaceful. I saw Tokyo Skytree glittering away as we came into Tokyo, which was another great moment for me! The coach dropped me off about 3 minutes away from the Yaesu North Exit of Tokyo Station. From there, you can get many trains to many other parts of Tokyo. I was very fortunate - I was staying in Harajuku so I was able to get the Yamanote line straight there, and check out Harajuku straight away!

Before I left for Japan, I was constantly worrying about not being able to understand as much Japanese as I wanted to, and not being able to get around as easy. I'm happy to say that I felt very proud when I could understand the train announcements in Japanese. Yes, the words 'Tokyo', 'Harajuku' and such are the same, you just have to listen out for them, and yes, the announcements are in English afterwards but it was nice being able to understand the other parts in Japanese, and feeling more interactive with the culture and language rather than if I turned up not understanding a lick of Japanese.

 IMG_0455
After I arrived at Harajuku, I was immediately greeted by cute make-up billboards! Yes, this was definitely Harajuku, or just generally Japan for that matter!

IMG_0457

IMG_0458
Before leaving, I actually said to my boyfriend 'I know Japan is not as stereotypical as everyone thinks. I know they won't have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu round every corner!' - how wrong I was! ;-) To be honest, I think this was the only Kyary advert I saw during my entire trip.

IMG_0459
The world-famous Harajuku train station! To be honest, I didn't realise this very well known entrance is the Omotesando exit, I thought it was the Takeshita Dori exit because of how renowned it is. I exited through this part because it's the only part of Harajuku Station with an elevator.

IMG_0461
After I arrived in Harajuku, the lady I was staying with, Hiromi, was meeting me at the station. Whilst I waited for her, I saw the famous Takeshita Dori entrance! Again, this was a moment where I thought 'I've seen this monument so many times in photographs, and now I'm here standing in front of it!'! As I was staying in Harajuku, it became my home and I walked past or through Takeshita Dori every day I was in Tokyo. *0*

Info on my accommodation: As I mentioned before, I stayed with a woman, Hiromi, and her daughter, Ayaka, in Harajuku whilst I was in Tokyo. I found her on a homestay website. Due to many things, my stay with her was definitely a homestay experience. She took care of me, we ate meals together (she is a nursing student at the moment and was on a winter break), watched TV together and more; I got to enjoy many authentic Japanese experiences I wouldn't have had by staying in a hostel or hotel. She was so friendly and accommodating, I really recommend staying with her if you are interested in a homestay experience. Here is her homestay profile.

IMG_0465
Hiromi took me to her apartment and showed me my private room. I slept in a traditional Japanese room with tatami mats and a futon. I was given a closet, dressing table and mirror, safety deposit box and air conditioner. She has WiFi in her apartment and you can cook meals, have a shower or bath, do laundry and come and go when you please. Obviously it is more friendly than staying in a hotel or hostel so it's more of a considerate stay.

After I got changed, freshened up and started unpacking, I realised that I had only left one thing behind in England - my bag containing my make-up brushes and blusher! ;w; Thankfully, I knew I could head right into Harajuku and pick some new ones up!

IMG_0466
This was the make-up store on Takeshita Dori that I visited first. I bought powder, contour, blush and two eyeshadow brushes. I now use them as my travel brushes so I'll never forget my main brushes again!


One half of the D'or shop (source)

I didn't want a flat foundation brush, the kind that are available everywhere and that you use to 'paint' on your foundation; I like the brushes designed for buffing or stippling for better and more even coverage. I ended up in Laforet, Harajuku's department store, where there was an Etude House and I bought a densely packed foundation brush good for buffing and stippling.


Etude House in Laforet, photo taken from the Laforet official website.

After I bought some make-up brushes, I headed straight to Closet Child! My motherlandddddd~ <3 However, the most embarrassing thing happened ever whilst I was there. It's my first day in Japan, my first visit to Tokyo. My first visit to my beloved Closet Child, land of cheap second-hand Lolita clothes. I started browsing a rail full of dresses. There were tons of dresses on this one rail, too many, I personally thought. As I browsed, the whole fucking rail collapsed in a heap on the floor. All the dresses, in a heap on the floor. Anyone in the shop jumped out of their skin and immediately turned in my direction. I apologised so much and tried to help but the shop girls were like 'We're sorry, no no, it's fine'...what else could they say? 'Sorry, you'll have to pay for all of those!' So yeah, a great start to my trip but I had to think - if that was the worst thing that should happen to me throughout the trip then I'd be glad!

strawberryskies:

Check out Closet Child Harajuku on Google Maps
The first floor of Closet Child Harajuku, dedicated to Lolita fashion. (source) The second floor is dedicated to Gothic and Punk items, and the third floor is Otome and casual J-fashion.

IMG_0467
Walking around Harajuku at dusk after escaping Closet Child.

IMG_0469
Tempura Tendon Tenya - a chain tempura restaurant I wanted to try! The Harajuku one always had a line outside though.

IMG_0474
Since leaving the airport I hadn't had anything to eat, but I wasn't feeling that hungry. I knew I should eat something though so I stopped at Koi-Taco for takoyaki! They were nice but again, due to nerves and anxiety I don't think I enjoyed them as much as I could've.
IMG_0475
I had a quick look in Bodyline but I wasn't really interested in it just then. I took a photo of how packed it was on Takeshita Dori though! I think it was more busy because of the New Year holidays. I didn't realise how busy it was until I looked at this photo, then I was like '...Damn!'

IMG_0488
I travelled halfway across the world and I STILL managed to bring fucking jewellery supplies with me haha! A rogue jump ring that stowed away in my suitcase!

IMG_0489
I came home to Hiromi's apartment where we ate dinner together. She made a very tasty curry and apple for afterwards! Japanese apples are huge, way bigger than in the UK!

IMG_0486
Here are the make-up brushes and blusher I bought in Harajuku! I also got a new black liquid eyeliner because mine was running out and I meant to swap it for a new one I had back home. I got a foundation brush from Etude House in Laforet, and then the rest of the items were from D'or on Takeshita Dori.

Here are my purchases from my first day in Japan! Other than make-up and brushes, I only bought from Closet Child haha. I found soooo many great items, including one of my dream dresses! I couldn't believe it when I saw it hung up, I immediately grabbed it!


Alice and the Pirates blouse in grey


Metamorphose Dark Night Guardian JSK in grey and Alice & the Pirates Monochrome Rose Garden in white (Lolibrary lists the colourway as white but it's definitely grey - I wouldn't have bought it if it were white!)


Alice and the Pirates Lock the Pandora's Memories vest in red (again, Lolibrary says red but it's more of a fuchsia to me!)


Metamorphose Secret Laboratory JSK in Amethyst - I've never seen this print before (whilst saving for Japan, I didn't look at any new releases so I wasn't tempted to spend money) but it's gorgeous and made for me haha!

It was so so amazing to be able to see all these amazing clothes in Closet Child and even better, be able to try them on! The AliPi blouse doesn't have shirring but it fit me fine, same with the vest. I tried them on sort of knowing they weren't going to fit but it was so nice to be surprised. I probably wouldn't have bought them online as I wouldn't have thought they fit.

There you have my first day in Japan! Wow, it's such a long post...I hope it has a lot of good information and links in it though. I think because it's my first day and I had to fly there, my next posts will be a bit shorter. If you've stuck with this until the end, go have yourself a drink and a snack, and stay turned for my second day in Tokyo when I went to Shibuya and Daikanyama!

Monday, 28 December 2015

2016 Lolita Fukubukuro / Lucky Pack Information

I'm writing this post as I wait to go to bed. I have to go to bed a little later according to the Jetlag Rooster app I have on my phone, in order to reduce the effects of jetlag when I arrive in Japan! I get the coach to Heathrow tomorrow at around midnight, so this time tomorrow I'll be on my way to the airport, eek!

As I've been preparing for my trip, I hadn't seen much information on fukubukuro, or lucky packs, sold around New Year time all around Tokyo. I was most wanting to find information on Lolita and Gyaru brand lucky packs so I did a bit of Google-Fu and found some information I thought to share here!

If you are looking for lucky pack info for a specific brand, it's best to head to Google.jp and enter the brand name along with 福袋 next to it. The brand name can be in English or Japanese, I tend to find.

Shinjuku Marui

I'm pretty sure this is across all the Marui buildings but obviously it will vary brand to brand. Shinjuku Marui's will have a Winter Sale with lucky packs in store, as well as other bargains, from the 2nd January, 10am onwards.

Shibuya 109

Shibuya 109's lucky packs go on sale on 2nd January from 10am onwards. Their general winter sale will start on the 9th until the 31st January.

LaForet

LaForet's lucky packs and winter sale start on 1st January until 3rd, although the winter sale will probably go on throughout the month.


Although they are not my style, here are some pre-filled lucky packs from brands at LaForet:

Ank Rouge on 4F

The Ank Rouge lucky pack is on sale for 21,600¥, with the contents being worth 65,000¥.

jouetie on 4F

The jouetie lucky pack is on sale for 8,900¥ with the contents being worth 35,000¥.

Lee Shop on 3F

The Lee Shop lucky pack is on sale for 10,800¥ and the contents are worth 40,000¥.

Some of the more interesting brands offering lucky packs this year are:

E Hyphen World Gallery Bonbon: Two lucky packs at 10,800¥ and 12,960¥. You can reserve these lucky packs over the counter before they go on sale.
Algonquins: Three lucky packs at 15,000¥, 25,000¥ and 50,000¥. They are available to reserve by phone or over the counter.
Ghost of Harlem: One lucky pack for 10,800¥, available to reserve by phone, over the counter or online here.
Angelic Pretty: One lucky pack for 32,400¥, only available to reserve over the counter.

Atelier Pierrot are selling a few lucky packs too. It's not clear whether one is online only or not, but there is one for sale at 17,000¥ plus tax that contains 40,000¥ worth of items. You will either get a skirt+blouse or cutsew+cape+accessories. From 9am in their LaForet store they are selling lucky packs at 10,800¥, 16,200¥ and 21,600¥, worth 28,000¥-32,000¥ containing 7-9 items, 35,000¥-45,000¥ containing 8-10 items and worth 53,000¥-60,000¥ containing 8-11 items respectively. Source

Atelier Boz lucky pack information:
Regular lucky pack for ladies: 20,000¥ containing a blouse, mini skirt and tie.
Regular lucky pack for men: 23,000¥ containing a blouse/shirt, pants and tie,
Special skirt lucky pack for ladies: 39,000¥ containing a jacket, blouse, mini skirt and one accessory.
Special pants lucky pack for ladies: 39,000 containing a jacket, blouse, short pants and one accessory. 
Special lucky pack for men: 44,000¥ containing a jacket, blouse/shirt, long pants and one accessory.

Baby The Stars Shine Bright lucky pack set #1 featuring the print Hello Dear Bunny's Little Enchanted Room:
B40HP098-misako1
19,440¥

Set #2:
B40HP098-misako3
19,440¥

Alice and the Pirates lucky pack set #1 featuring the print Kitten's Wonder Night Tea Party:
P12HP098-misako1
19,440¥

Set #2:
P12HP098-misako2
19,440¥

Set #3:
P12HP099-misako1
19,440¥

Set #4:
P12HP099-misako2
19,440¥

Here is Metamorphose's lucky pack featuring the print Secret Eden:
福袋
10,800¥ including tax

Personally, I am quite picky in my fashion taste so I don't think I'll be partaking in any lucky pack purchases! Instead, I'll head along to the general winter sales shortly after! I am off to bed now to finish packing and preparing tomorrow!