Friday, August 26, 2016

Adopting Peaches

I'm not sure if I've shared the news but a few months ago we officially adopted Peaches from our neighbour. Having two cats is so amazing and everyday I'm grateful to have these little fur guys in my life. Ever since the day Peaches came to visit me, she has been winning us over with her sweet antics and tough spirit. When we came back from Japan we put the question out to our neighbour to see if adoption would be on the cards and everything aligned perfectly for it to take place. 

Before that (even though Peachy was spending a lot of time with us) I was still trying to distance myself from her in case we weren't able to adopt her. I also wondered about loving a cat as much as I love Gremlin and if it was possible to share the love. I quickly found that there was definitely enough love to go around and how lovely it is to have two cats. As for Gremlin, he was super scared of Peachy at the start but their relationship quickly turned into a 'big brother/annoying little sister' bond. They play fight - a lot! and sometimes I have to break it up but they also share toys and never fight over food and just the other day I snapped this photo of them lying in the bed together (Peachy's paw touching Gremlin kills me!)

We call Peachy our public school girl, we found out she was born in a junk yard and has that tough girl side but she is also one of the friendliest and most loving cats I've ever met.  Whenever we have people over Peaches wants to be friends and Gremlin usually runs away and hides. Gremlin is our private school weiner kid, scared of lots of things and happy to let a little girl cat beat him up :p Together they are super cute and make life extra wonderful and happy!

Peaches is one of those cats who will come and sit ontop of anything you're working on, just because, you know, cats!

A month or so back, I was hanging out my washing in the garden and I spotted Peaches lying in a sun patch. I thought it was odd she didn't run over straight away (she's that level of friendly) but then I also figured she was enjoying her sun bake. Fast forward to me going out to bring my washing in and she hadn't moved - alert mode! I quickly brought her in, checked her and found a tick on her neck. By this stage, her back legs were already half paralysed so I raced her down to our vet. 

Oh gosh, I can't even begin to describe that experience. She could only do the smallest meow (because the tick had already paralyse her throat too) and she was doing horrible laboured breathing. I remember talking to her the whole car trip, telling her I was going to do everything I could for her and how I was trying to remain calm for her and just talk to her the whole trip so she didn't feel super scared. When I dropped her to the vet, the vet gave me the survival stats and they were definitely in her favour but there was still that chance. that horrible chance. This story has the happiest ending and after a few scary days of ringing up the vet for updates, I got to bring her home and give her a million hugs and kisses. We have since added a tick defense spray into our normal flea routine and make sure we check our cats thoroughly so we never have to go through that scariness ever again!

Peachy girl, you are the most wonderful and bravest little girl cat I know and I'm so happy and grateful you let us adopt you. I love how sweet you are and I'm so happy for you to be a part of our family :) :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A guide to Campervan around Japan

Firstly, yes it is totally do-able to campervan in Japan! I would recommend it for three big reasons 

save on accommodation


the ability to see lots of japan!

What you will need:
  international drivers license
  a van (we booked ours through camgo - more info below)
  money for petrol, tolls (if you take them) parking, onsens and miscellaneous things that pop up

other useful things:
  onsen app (came with our rental)
  michi no eki app (came with our rental) 
  a gps in your language (came with our rental)
  a quick briefing on petrol stations if you're not familar with Japanese:
  (this youtube video has helpful tips!)
  a rough idea of where you're traveling (so you can maximise your time and return your van on time)
  travelers insurance (we didn't have this and it cost us!)
A Japanese translator app on your phone (if you can't speak Japanese)
  a read through this guide :P 

Our Van Rental
We booked out van through Camgo and cannot recommend Kimi and his company enough! We had a few mishaps on our adventure and Kimi helped us out every step.  His philosophy is to have the most affordable rental in Japan which combined with great service becomes a winning combo  :) 

Kimi drop the van off to us and it took around an hour for him to go through all the paperwork and explain how everything worked.

Be aware that if you travel over a certain amount of kms there is an extra fee for having the van serviced.

BASIC COST - 15 days covering 4500kms
(excluding food, onsens and parking)

Campervan 109890 yen
Petrol 44360 yen
Tolls 16560 yen
TOTAL: 170810


The michi no eki app was a lifesaver, each night we'd open the app and see where the nearest michi no eki was.  A michi no eki is essentially a roadhouse, sometimes with nothing more then a parking lot and a restroom whilst other fancier michi no ekis, had food halls, info centres and small shops.  With 1000+ michi no ekis in Japan they were easy to find but on the rare occasion we couldn't, or the nearest one meant backtracking or was just too far away to get to, we parked on the sly. 

I wouldn't exactly recommend parking on the sly as we seemed to encounter a lot of no-parking signs in Japan and obviously this means you're putting yourself at risk of a penalty. We did on the flip side try to find the most legit parking we could. The first night we slept in the town hall parking lot (recommended to us by our Japanese friends) and we saw a lot of other cars doing a similar thing.  We also slept in a gymnasium parking lot, a park by the ocean and a few of other random spots. When parking on the sly we made sure to wake up super early and move on so we wouldn't cause any disturbances.

This is where the onsen app was great, every second night or so, we'd see if there was an onsen (bathhouse) close by and head there. There's lots of onsens in Japan so bathing will not be a problem although there's some etiquette involved with the process. Be aware you do need to clean off at the shower section before entering the bath and not to put your head or modesty towel under the water + just being overall respectful of others.  Also if you bring your own towel and face cloth/modesty towel the price is usually cheaper.  Some cheaper onsens don't come with soap dispensers, so I found carrying a bar of soap super helpful too!

Onsens will typically have a vending machine next to the front desk with the selections written in Japanese, I quickly learnt the symbol for person and took some educated guessed for the rest. Our first onsen had one price being slightly more expensive and since we didn't know this meant towel hire we hit the cheaper button and found out the hard way - luckily shirts make okay substitutes for towels :P We eventually hit up a 100yen store and bought our selves a towel and a facecloth so we could save the towel rental for the rest of the trip :) 

Another thing to be aware of is that tattoos in onsens are frowned upon and often forbidden due to their association with Japanese Gangs (yakuza). My tattoo being small didn't pose too much of a problem but just be ready to be turned away.  My Japanese friend recommended buying some tape and we did buy some but unfortunately the tape came off in the water.  It might be sensible to try and test out some tapes before traveling over and bring the good stuff with you!

Note: Above I referred to all bathhouses as onsens but only recently learned that 'onsen' is usually reserved for bathhouses with a natural spring whilst the word 'sento' references bathhouse's that just use hot water without a natural thermal spot to heat the water (although I believe onsen has become a common term for both types).

If you want to read a bit more about the onsen process, I wrote some more info at the bottom of this blog post here.

Our first petrol experience was horrible and we spilt petrol all over the station's floor (they don't seem to have the clicky noise like we do in Australia to indicate you're nearing the top). There's a bunch of different petrol stations in Japan, some do everything for you (god send) whilst others you have to go and try and figure out the machine (all in Japanese) until you break and try and find an attendant to help you. As far as we could tell, you also need to state how much you want to spend before filling up, pay the amount and if there is left over money, you take your receipt to a vending machine nearby which refunds you the change - very odd. My advice youtube some petrol station videos like this one, before heading over.

Easy, if you can work them in your own country I have no doubt you can work them in Japan!

A big part of hiring a campervan for our trip was to save money and see more rural japan - the stuff you miss via public transport. Doing toll roads we found equated to around half the drive time, but also were quite steep in price and cut out a lot of the rural sightseeing we were after.  We only did tolls once or twice when we needed to get somewhere by a certain time (penis festival anyone!) but that four hour toll trip (8 hours if we hadn't taken the tolls) cost us around 8000 yen. The GPS in our van had a nice easy feature to exclude tolls - which made life super easy!

Parking was an expense I wasn't expecting, previous trips had involved the sole use of public transport so it was a shock to learn we may have to pay to park and check out tourist spots. We found overall, it was only in the main city centers we had to pay for parking and in the end only added a small expense onto the trip - definitely wasn't a deal breaker. 

When we hit Osaka and Tokyo and Fukuoka city, I quietly wished we were on public transport, it was slow moving and stressful.  It's definitely something to be aware of and either accept or plan your holiday to avoid the major cities.  If your use to city driving in your own country this may not even be a problem - just something to consider.

Some things did go wrong on our trip, we left the lights on once during the day which resulted in a flat battery.  Just a word of warning, our van didn't make an alert noise when we pulled out the keys (but still had the headlights on) something we are used to with our cars in AustraliaYou will find yourself driving through lots of tunnels in Japan with signage to put your lights on before entering, so you'll be turning your lights on and off a lot (even during the day) and therefore quite quite easy to forget they may still be on when you stop.

When we did flatten the battery, we emailed our van rental who sent out the guy above and all was resolved in a couple of hours, so not a huge problem but just something to be mindful of!

We also had one of our indicator light bulbs blow so we headed to a Yellow Hat (mechanical shop) who gave us some amazing next level Japanese service.  Our Japanese translator app became super useful in this situation as we could type out the phrase ready to go, making the process quick and straight forward. 

The last and most expensive thing I did was back into another car, you can read more about it at the bottom of this blog post here but essentially that mistake ended up costing 70000 yen.  Although the van hire does have insurance, that amount was the excess I needed to cover.  Luckily we had the cash available to cover it as we had to pay up front. If that idea worries you, it may be worth considering travelers insurance.

  Everyone speeds 10-20kms over (there speed limits are quite slow in everyone's defense).

  You'll find other drivers pulling up in random spots - even if unsafe to do so 

  If traffic lights flash red you can go through them (well I hope you can) 

  Peeps put their hazards lights on to say thank you  (I loved this!)

  Different stickers on cars denote different things, learning, elderly and disabled  
  (Camgo provided a learners sticker which helped us be more forgiving to other drivers)

  Japan has super narrow streets but Japan also has narrow vehicles. 

  Pedestrians walk on opposite side to cars

  A michi no eki can be almost empty yet a car always pulled up beside us 

  The majority of cars are white, silver or champagne coloured (too random - yup!)

Thanks for reading the guide

Let me know below in the comments if you have any other questions :)


Monday, August 22, 2016

Japanese Kombinis and Food

Food was probably my least favourite part of the holiday just because I was trying to stick with my vegan aspirations and I found not being able to read labels made the process super hard. I'm sure there was a lot more I could of ate and a lot of things I ate that were definitely not vegan but next time I think I might put in a bit more research effort before heading over. Since we were on the road most of the trip, Kombinis became an easy breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner option, so this post is an ode to them :)

On a random side note, I was pronouncing the kombini above, like the drink sunkist (but more like sun-kus) when we got pointed out its actually pronounced 'sunks' oops!

Big icecream lamp

Mini stop

When Damaris and Dani visited Japan they made a post of all there snacks they ate in Japan, which I loved, I did a similar post of our Malaysia/Singapore snacks and so for this trip I also made sure to take lots of food photos (mostly on my lap) which I've put together below, gif style!

 photo food-gif.gif

Friday, August 19, 2016

Japan goodies

It's finally time to show you the things I picked up in Japan, our luggage was super tight so I definitely restrained myself most of the time, but I still wanted to buy a few cute things myself :)

Above is what I managed to fit into my suitcase and I'll show you some details below :)

I think I already showed you my small loot from Kishi station - on a side note, my pin collection is so pretty at the moment!

I call these my regional gifts and they include the Gunma (prefecture) sake cup with the horse mascot on the front (currently holding some pens in my room). You guys already know about the horse shoe crab origami and did I show you my handmade turtle keyring from the turtle station? There's also the ceramic rabbit from bunny island and the handmade cat I bought from the onsen we visited when we were stuck in Nagasaki. When I got home I discovered the cat was actually a peg, how cute!

Can't leave Japan without some stickers and a monster :) I used those stickers for a cute reason, which I'll explain in a second :)

Gremlin above is modelling the collar I bought for him, it's so cute, or should I say, was so cute! we go through so many collars and cat bibs because they just seem to loose them all the time!

You can see the cat collar again in my daiso loot collection! The book in the middle, I've filled with all the stamps I collected across Japan and my instax photos and those stickers above + fun paper miscellaneous thing I collected. It's such a nice little book and now I'm sad I didn't buy more of those books - only 100 yen each *gasp*

My sailor moon loot, so happy to see sailor moon merchandise in Japan!!

Our friend Teruko loaded us up with lots of amazing goodies, I love those sumo guy postcards which are currently hanging on my wall!

And how sweet is this tea towel calendar!

In nara dreamland we discovered boxes and boxes of old maps and park guides, so fun to see what the park looked like back in its heyday.

And lucky last my Gachapon loot. You can see above the two sushi cats I managed to find in Tokyo - definitely very popular and I was happy to get a cat donut as well :) :)

I'm going to do two more Japan posts before its back to normal blog viewing. I'm going to do a food/kombini post and also a campervan guide (including things that were helpful to us) for those who may be interested in doing the trip themselves. It's been a fun blog ride and on the flip side I'm also happy to update you guys on all the exciting things that have been going on, back in Australia too!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Film Photos of Japan

This post are my fav film shots I took in Japan, mind you I only took 3 rolls and 2 were already half used but I'm still happy I have a bunch of photos to share today with you guys. 

 You'll probably recognise a lot of these locations from my other Japan trip posts so I won't go over all the details but I will say, I used my canon 1000f film camera and three different film types. If you're curious about which film I used for what photo, you can individual click on any photo and it will take you to my Flickr page where I have the relevant tags. I tried a new technique this trip, where you rate a film (in camera) one or two stops under its rated speed and then have it processed at its normal speed. I think I will continue to do this because I found when scanning and editing the photos that they seemed to be lighter and softer, which is something I love about film. I also make sure I overexpose by two stops when I'm taking film too! 

Okay enough technical ranting, time for photos!

Portra 160 - kimono ladies

Portra 160 - business men and sakura

Portra 160 - digital b&w conversion

note: Those few black and white photos I digitally in lightroom oh and how great is that shot with Ben and those kimono dressed ladies!!!  I may of kind of stalked them for a photo and next thing you know Ben and I spent a good 15 minutes with the group taking there photos on everyone's cameras and phones.  I may even be in a few!