Japan Travel Guide – The Ultimate Itinerary Planner
We’ve been to Japan a few times now, and before each trip we always try and do some research, so we have a good plan of where we want to go and what we want to do. This can be very time consuming; searching websites, double checking sources, finding out important details are wrong, doing some more research, and so it goes on. This is where a guide would come in handy. The Japan Travel Guide – The Ultimate Itinerary Planner is a great source to turn to before (and during) your trip to Japan. They’ve done all the research for you!
Authors Christopher Crane and Emma Chan have interviewed dozens of expats and experienced travelers to give you all the information you need for sightseeing, fin and interesting experiences and great food. The guide focuses on five areas: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Okinawa. You get tips about traditional and modern Japan, eat and drink, festivals and the cherry blossom viewing, with descriptions, tips and useful information, adresses, opening times prices and more.
Find out about the The Zen Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, a masterful example of Zen landscaping. Learn about the Waterfight Festival in Tokyo, where people fight each other with rotten tomatoes, oranges, colored pigments, and everything in between. Read about Yamachan in Osaka, one of the best takoyaki restaurants.
This is a very useful guide. We found information about well known must-see spots, but we also found great information about things we’ve never heard about before, the hidden gems you really don’t want to miss. The next time we plan a trip to Japan we will sure turn to this guide.
At the moment you can get Kindle edition of the guide for free on Amazon.
A very good friend of mine is a collector of Asian collection dolls. She introduced me to her hobby, and through her I’ve learned quite a lot. There are lots of different types of dolls, brands and manufacturers. From the world famous fashion doll Barbie to the more unique (and very expensive!) so-called ball jointed dolls of the highest quality. Then there are the in between dolls. The dolls are not toys, but are seen as collectibles or as a piece of art. Some collectors buy the dolls as they are, others modify them to make them their own. There are even specific artists who make a living on modifying and painting the dolls (doing “faceups”) and turn them into amazing creations. This industry is big in Asia and, of course, big in Japan. In this post I will introduce you to one of these collector dolls, and it is the Pullip doll.
The Pullip dolls
Pullip is classed as a fashion doll, originally from South Korea. When Pullip was first launched, it was marketed by the Japanese company June Planning. Nowadays the dolls are released by a company called Groove.
The Pullip doll is about 30 cm tall and has eye mechanism that allows the eyes to move and blink. Each month a new doll is released, and each doll is unique, often being a part of a specific theme along with previous and future releases. A popular set are the Sailor Moon themed dolls. Another on going series are the Rozen Maiden themed dolls. Sometimes a doll is a collaboration with a brand, like Japanese clothing brand Innocent World and Hello Kitty.
Where to buy Pullip
I’ve found a few places in Tokyo where they sell Pullip dolls. Kiddy Land in Harajuku, Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza och Radio Kaikan in Akihabara. I’m sure there are more shops, but those are the ones I’ve stumbled upon when I’ve been in Tokyo. If you want to buy online, there are quite a few places to get them. Ebay or Amazon is a good start.
Collecting Pullip as a creative outlet
Itis common tobuy a Pullip second hand, or get a Make ItOwnkit (which is a nude Pullip with no clothes, hair or painted face)to workwith it.You can changewigs and eyes, carve the face to change it’s features andpaintthe face (faceup) to make it look completely different. It is alsopopular toreplacethe bodyto a more disposablebodyof the brandObitsu. Many collectors also make their own clothes and other types of accessories for the dolls clothes.
“I think the biggest misconceptions about doll collecting is that it is for kids.” says Pullip collector Kiki from Canada. “The reality is that doll collecting is often paired with other things such as clothes making, photography, customization, set design, etc. I believe that very few collectors actually play with their dolls like they did when they were five. So in this sense, doll collecting is no different from other forms of collecting (i.e. stamps, coins, model cars, etc.) except I will go out on a limb and say that doll collecting is even better because it often pushes collectors to become more creative and artistic.“
Kiki got into Pullips after first seeing a picture posted by @tokyofashion on Instagram in late 2012, from a window display at Matsuya Ginza for Groove’s annual Doll Carnival. “I’ve always been interested in big-headed dolls and Japanese traditional clothing and it just so happened that the Pullips in the photo were all wear kimonos. I started to research more about them and fell in love with them.“
TimmiLynn Johnson is also a Pullip collector. She’s from Minneapolis, and got into the dolls after her twin sister came across Pullips while searching for information on Blythe dolls, and then told TimmiLynn about them. “I bought Jaldet to customize but when I got her I thought she was too pretty to customize.” she says. “There are quite a few of my dolls that I am really found of.“
TimmiLynn and her Pullip collection.
The Pullip doll community
Doll collectors meet other like minded collectors both online and in real life. They share their hobby, ask and give help and advice. “It is great to see that there are other people who are as enthusiastic about dolls as I am.” TimmiLynn says. “I also really like seeing owner photos and reviews. I have fallen in love with dolls that I originally didn’t like. The doll community is a good resource for all sorts of doll related questions that I might have.“
Kiki has the same experience. “Everyone I’ve met so far has been incredibly friendly and helpful.” she says. “Many of the experienced collectors are always willing to share tips and tricks that they’ve learned and I’ve made quite a few friends from the community. Overall, it’s very inclusive and relaxing place to be.“
If you’re interested in the Pullip dolls and want to learn more about them, here are a few places I think is a good start.
Pullip Style – Link: Pullip Style
Web shop based in the USA and discussion forum.
Pullipsandjunk FAQ – Link: Pullip FAQ and Pullip release list
A very thorough FAQ where you can find all the information you can think of about Pullips.
Omocha Crush’s reviews on YouTube – Link: Omocha Crush on YouTube
Angela is a serious collector and goes through each doll in detail. You get to see exactly what you get before you buy.
Omocha Crush Pullip and Doll HQ – Link: Omocha Crush on Facebook
Angela also has a discussion group on FaceBook where people share photos, ideas and ask questions. It’s a “safe, happy place for Pullip and doll lover’s to post pics, ask for advice, and promote their favorite links to dolly goods.”
Many thanks to Kiki and TimmiLynn for taking their time to tell me about their hobby.
Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year there is a cherry blossom festival (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”) in central Stockholm, Sweden, organized by the Japanese Association. For the public, it’s a lovely tradition to go there every year and experience a little bit of the hanami spirit even though Sweden is far away from Japan. This year the cherry trees were just beginning to flower and it was a nice sunny day. The festival was packed with people, it seems to become more and more popular each year.
A taste of traditional Japan
During the festival there were lots of stalls where you could see some of the traditional side of Japan.
Furoshiki – traditional wrapping cloth you use to wrap your gifts or goods in. Both sides of the fabric are decorated with beautiful colours and patterns.
Bonsai – Growing trees in small pots to make them grow into miniature size. The bonsai trees come from the Swedish bonsai association club, bonsaisallskapet.se. Even though none of the trees were for sale, the club members that had brought them along were very happy to talk about all things bonsai.
Origami – Folding paper and sculpturing it into shapes.
Shodō – Japanese calligraphy. This seemed to be one of the more popular stalls, where you could get your own zodiac animal sign in calligraphy, beautifully hand painted.
Kimono – A traditional Japanese garment. At the festival you could try it on to see what it’s like to wear. This was another one of the stalls that we had seen before which seemed to be very popular. We also saw lots of people walking around with kimono and yukata.
Grace Buchele Mineta is an author, blogger, freelance writer and YouTuber from Texas, who now resides in Tokyo with her Japanese husband.
We first came across Grace (Texan in Tokyo), the author of “My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy”,and her husband Ryosuke through our love for all things Japanese. In this particular case our first encounter with Texan in Tokyo was their YouTube channel. We stumbled upon the channel after hearing other J-vloggers (Japanese videologgers on YouTube) talking about them. After watching a couple of their videos we added them to our subscription list.
The YouTube videos are a part of her blog, Texan in Tokyo, where she posts a mixture of personal essays, videos and comics, all from personal experience, or as she puts it on her own blog, “a window into the life of my husband (Ryosuke) and my entertaining and wonderful life in Tokyo”.
My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy
This is the second book from the self published author. The book is an autobiographical collection of comic strip styled shorts about her and her husband’s life on a day to day basis and informative text snippets about Japanese culture and life.
As we were already fans of Grace and Ryosuke, it was great to read the comic styled book, with them both in. It was like watching some of the videos we had already seen on YouTube, but done into comic strip form. But you don’t have to have even heard of them before to fall in love with the book itself. It’s a charming, quirky and sweet look into their relationship. After reading the first couple of pages it is easy to get hooked. You can’t wait to see what Ryosuke gets up to on the next page, because he always has something crazy that he is up to.
I found the book was an easy read, since it’s comprised of many short and comical comics, which is great for a person like me who hate to read page after page of text. You don’t have to be a Japanese fanatic to enjoy this book, but of course it does help. I am now looking forward to reading the first book, My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy, which is available on Amazon, along with her new book.
Get the books on Amazon, and check out her website to continue following Grace and Ryosuke.
For the next couple of days you can download both books for free. Check the books on their Amazon page below for more info.
4TE (pronounced forte) are a new Japanese influenced j-pop girl group. They have just released their first single M O R E. Their music has a very Japanese vibe to it and really reminds us of the j-pop girl group Perfume and Japanese electro group Capsule, both produced by Yasutaka Nakata. The main difference is that 4TE are not from Japan. Not that you would know that they are not from Japan, since the group has captured the essence of what a j-pop group is in their music, both in style and language.
4TE are based in the southwest of the USA. Because the girls are not situated in the same location the rely on the internet to run the group, where they all work together on every aspect – from the music to the group’s image and concepts.
4TE consists of Chii, Jenny, Micchi, and Mei.
Chii is a Mexican-American singer and songwriter, studying audio engineering and vocal performance. She has her own YouTube channel with over half a million views and she is the winner of the “Singer Search Award 2013” hosted by NHK World.
Mei is a Chinese-Indonesian-American actress, singer, and songwriter. She received her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance at the Azusa Pacific University. She currently lives in Osaka, Japan, where she works at Universal Studios.
Jenny is a Colombian-American singer and songwriter. She has studied music studied, visual arts, graphic design and taken studies in sound engineering and entertainment technology. She has taken part in countless bands and online musical projects with various Japanese and western genres.
Micchi is a Filipino-American dancer, trained in tap dance, hip hop, jazz, flamenco, and contemporary ballet with a focus in Classical Russian ballet. She’s been invited to several anime conventions, such as Anime Matsuri, Omnicon, and Shimakon, under the dancing duo “Aquakia”.
The first single and music video: M O R E
The music video and first single M O R E was released on January 4, 2015. We’ve listened to the single a few times and watched the video a couple of times so far and we think it’s really good. If you’re into Perfume’s music, then I’m sure you will love M O R E.
With the first single M O R E being a strong first release, we are excited to see what 4TE will deliver next. If their next song is as good as their first, maybe the next time Perfume are in the US you might just see 4TE as the opening act.