Monday, June 26, 2017

Hokkaido 2017: Day 1 文化を習って、火山を見た。

Shiraoi Ainu Museum and Village アイヌ民族博物館

All huts face the same direction and bears are regarded as gods of the mountains.

Traditional Ainu folk dance

Shiraoi Ainu Musuem and Village

The first attraction we visited was the Shiraoi Ainu Museum and Village. The Ainu (Means 'human'.) people aren't really considered Japanese but they are the indigenous people of northern Japan. They believe that gods exist in all things, such as nature and animals, and that each entity comes from its own world and will return when it has completed its role. (source)

We were just in time for the Traditional Ainu folk dances, which happens every other hour. The hosts spoke only in Japanese but fret not, they have their scripts printed in a couple of languages which you can borrow. ◡̈ The songs and dances were really interesting and the village was incredibly tranquil and pretty.

(There's this section, though, where some bears and dogs are kept in incredibly cramped cages. ): You're not supposed to feed the animals but there was no one guarding, so there were a couple of visitors throwing food in and shouting at the animals to wake them up. )': Several complaints have been made online so hopefully, something gets done soon! )

Jigoku-dani 地獄谷

Earth boiling water.

Jigoku-dani (Hell Valley)

Next stop was Hell Valley at Noboribetsu. This was basically my secondary school Physical Geography dream come true. Hot steam vents (Fumaroles, I think.) and white clouds of sulphur smoke littered the entire landscape. It was the first time that I saw how 'alive' the earth, which was really cool. I could't stop staring at the little boiling bubbles the earth was cooking!

Shoyu (Red) Ramen from Ippontei 一本亭の醤油(赤)ラーメン

Ramen Ippontei

For lunch, Mum found Ramen Ippontei which was included in the Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2012 Special Edition. It's a really small restaurant, which closes the minute they finish selling what they have prepared for the day. When we went there, it was actually full house (Everyone was Japanese. We were the only foreigners.) so we had to wait for a little while, which was totally worth it. I ate the bounciest noodles ever, incredibly al dente! And the broth was so rich but wasn't too overwhelming... It was the best ramen I had during the trip. :D

The only thing is that the people (Family?) who run the restaurant only speak in Japanese but if I remembered it right, they have got a menu in English so you can just point to whatever that you want. There are pictures anyway, so.

But just in case, Google has this really useful app called Google Translate. Download it, click on the camera icon, hover over Japanese words and tadahhh! The app will translate them into English for you and it's pretty accurate.

Aboard the gondola lift at Usuzan Ropeway 有珠山ロープウェイ。

Going up Mount Usu, which last erupted on March 31, 2000. That's Showa Shinzan, a baby mountain. (more)

Lake Toya 洞爺湖 and Showa Shinzan 昭和新山

Clouds casting shadows on Lake Toya 洞爺湖。

Gin’numa Great Crater formed during the 1977 eruption. (more)

Usuzan Ropeway

The last attraction for the day was Mount Usu. It's an active volcano that has erupted 4 times in the last 100 years. We took the gondola lift up the mountain and the view at the peak was breathtaking. I don't exactly go for scenery but I was really wow-ed. It was just so beautiful... You could see the whole of Lake Toya (And how the clouds were casting shadows on it.), Showa Shinzan and the crater, which had smoke emitting out of it and I couldn't stop staring. It really reminded me of 君の名は and I was telling my brother that it would be life-changing if we could go over to the other side. Haha. We will literally go over to the other side if we go near it. Hahaha. Anyway, for the sporty ones, there are different hiking trails which you can take and each has its own duration and unique features. There are actually several blogs on the Internet detailing these trails, so Google away to find your best route! ◡̈

At the base of Mount Usu, there are several exhibits about the history of the place and of course, a pretty big souvenir shop. Hee. The souvenir shops that we went to on our trip sold mostly the same things and prices were consistent. Mum was looking out for certain snacks from Potato Farm but they were OOS. One of the sales people told us that it was because Japan doesn't have enough potatoes at the moment. :\ (more)

Standard Japanese-Western style room for 3-4 people.

The dinning area.

Pretty fireworks for the hotel wth.

The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort

And finally, we checked into the best hotel everrr! As mentioned earlier, Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc. did all the bookings for us so we really had no idea how grand this was. Thank you, Megumiさん, for including this into our itinerary! ♡ The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort, of course, overlooks Lake Toya and the service, food and rooms were a-mazing!!! The 3 of us were like, it would be very okay if we could just spend the rest of our trip in this hotel. Hahaha.

(Psst, if you're looking out for hotel deals, check out HotelsCombined! It compares prices for hotels across credible and top travel sites for you, so that you can get the best deal with just a few clicks.)

We were given the Standard Japanese-Western style room. And it had everything, including skincare from Shiseido, pyjamas and yukatas! Dinner and breakfast were buffet and the selection was so good... Gosh, best hotel everrr! Seriously. And oh yeah, there were fireworks at night. Like whuttt??! We, including the parental units, really didn't want to leave. (۶ꈨຶꎁꈨຶ)۶~~♥♥♥

But all good things have to come to an end and greater adventures awaited us. Like cakes and ice-cream. Hahaha. See you in the next entry! :DD


Hokkaido 2017 Diary 北海道の日記
Day 0: Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc.+ Arriving at Hokkaido (New Chitose Airport)
Day 1: Ainu Village + Volcanoes + Best Ramen + Best Hotel Everrr (Chitose → Noboribetsu → Lake Toya)
Day 2: Prettiest fields + Yummilicious cakes in Otaru (Lake Toya → Otaru → Sapporo)

(For more photos, please check out my Instagram @charlenejudith.)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hokkaido 2017: Day 0 北海道に着いた。

Lake Toya 洞爺湖

2 weeks ago, my family and I were in Japan for the very first time. Hokkaido, specifically. I was really excited because gosh, I have been trying to learn the language for about 3 years and maybe I could finally use it? *hopeful face* But... What a joke, I was terrible at it. Hahaha. Here's an example:

ガイド: Which language do you speak?
Me: Umm 英語と中学 chuugaku で話せます。(I speak English and middle school. Meant to say 'Mandarin 中国語 chuugokugo'.)
ガイド: ????????????!

Hahaha yep, that's 'Pre-advanced Japanese' for you. Hahaha. But anyway, I'll be attempting to blog about the entire trip in the coming weeks. Hopefully, I'll be able to sustain because we all know how terrible I am at travel entries (Just click on the tab above.). Heh.

Anyway, a quick shoutout before I begin... Dad didn't want to join a tour group because it would be too rushed and we couldn't go free-and-easy because you really need to drive in Hokkaido. So Dad went online and found Megumiさん from Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc.. Together with my parents, they came up with the itinerary for our trip. Her company actually provides their own itineraries but feel free to make changes. Mum wanted a couple of places to be included so we changed quite a bit and Megumiさん was more than happy to accede to our requests. Her emails were also very prompt and my parents really couldn't stop gushing about how good she was. :D It was expensive but everything was arranged and booked for us (No admin needed!), we got our own driver in a huge and comfortable MPV and we didn't have to rush at all. :DDD どうもありがとうございました!^^


Chitose Air Terminal Hotel エアターミナルホテル

Air Terminal Hotel

We flew via JAL and reached the New Chitose Airport around 8 plus at night. It didn't make any sense to travel a couple of hours to Lake Toya so we spent a night at the Airport Terminal Hotel. I shared a room with my siblings, which wasn't small and was very clean. The staff were incredibly friendly and patient too. And the breakfast buffet was a-mazing. Unfortunately, I deleted my photos because Apple kept telling me my iPhone had no more space but please take my word for it. ಥ_ಥ The food was simple but it was very well done. In fact, I think I had my best Japanese rice there. *nods seriously* (Lol. We didn't really look out for food places to go this time round.) So good. And I'm going to douse my rice in furikake from now on. :D

Lawson, 最高なところ。

Oh yeah, just a note! By the time we got our luggage bags and everything, most shops at the airport were closed or about to. So we got our dinner from Lawson, which is GREAT. Hahaha. My favourite place, besides the drugstores. Heh. It has everything. Bento sets, onigiris (YUM.), spaghetti, bread, snacks, SHISEIDO skincare kits (SHISEIDO, wth! We only have this at up class counters!), makeup etc. #haven (▰˘◡˘▰)

Watanabeさん's car, where I spent several hours sleeping comfortably.

When we went down to check out, Watanabeさん, our driver/ guide, was already waiting for us (He is always on time! Really good.). He prepared a bottle of water for each of us every single day and there were umbrellas and plenty of leg space and comfort. :D Also, he's very friendly and shared a lot about Hokkaido with us. He even sang to us during long rides and patiently taught us the song 'Suki Desu Sapporo 好きです札幌'. :D

See, I can't stop gushing over how good the people from Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc. is too! Haha. Anyway, it was about a 45-minute drive to our next destination and I will blog about it tomorrow. ◡̈


Hokkaido 2017 Diary 北海道の日記
Day 0: Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc.+ Arriving at Hokkaido (New Chitose Airport)
Day 1: Ainu Village + Volcanoes + Best Ramen + Best Hotel Everrr (Chitose → Noboribetsu → Lake Toya)
Day 2: Prettiest fields + Yummilicious cakes in Otaru (Lake Toya → Otaru → Sapporo)

(For more photos, please check out my Instagram @charlenejudith.)


Monday, June 19, 2017

My First Japan Beauty Haul 最初の日本で買った化粧品

(In an attempt to practise my Japanese more, I'll be translating my blog titles in Japanese. They are probably wrong so please correct me if you happen to know the language. ありがとう!^^)

So... This year's theme is 'minimalism' for me and I'm supposed to be on a permanent no-buying-(only-replacing) ban but it was a little challenging to leave Japan's drugstores empty-handed. I mean, have you seen those magical places??? I want to spend hours there like how Belle spends hours in the library. Heh. (I really tried to contain the shopaholic/ hoarder in me and bought only things that I know I will use frequently.)

First up, I got the famous LuLuLun Face Masks in Hokkaido-exclusive flavours, Lavender and Corn. These masks come in a pack of 7 because you're supposed to use them daily. Unfortunately, these contain fragrances so I just got a pack each to try. Since, you know, exclusive. Lol. This special duo set was found in one of the departure area's shops at the New Chitose Airport.

Next, is another pack of daily masks from Loshi Horse Oil. Japan has horse oil products everywhere and it's so difficult to pick because everything is in Japanese (And my Japanese is terrible. :\). But this specific golden one was recommended by someone on Dayre so I got it. If I remembered correctly, she said she had poreless skin the next day. Looking forward to that. :D Beside it is a red packet of Lishan Horse Oil Mask. This was a free gift because Mum bought a box of Lishan Horse Oil. *points below*

As mentioned earlier, Japan has a ton of horse oil products but the Lishan Horse Oil has some kind of an award sticker on it (Not Cosme.) so I asked Mum to get that. I think the more well-known one is the Son Bahyu Horse Oil, which I'm currently using for my lips, but you don't see that everywhere. For those who are curious, you can get the latter from Singapore's Tokyu Hands, at an inflated price. :\

The Flowfushi Mote Liner is another Dayre recommendation (The beauty community there is great!). It comes in black, black brown, brown and navy, the last of which I was really tempted but maintain, inner shopaholic monster. Maintain. I tried the liners in stores and once they dry, they really don't budge. Also, the brushes are thin and firm, which make drawing easy, especially for beginners.

Then, it's another box of masks (Haha.) but this one has a Cosme sticker on it and it took first place in 2016. I came across the Minon Amino Moist Mask on Reddit (Another super great community! In fact, the greatest on the Internet.) and it was in every single drugstore, so yep. Also, apparently, this is meant for dry and sensitive skin a.k.a me. :D

Here, I have 3 acne creams which Candice from The Makeup Box blogged about. Ever since Erycane was discontinued, I have been on the hunt for my Holy Grail zit zapper and hopefully, I find it in one of these. *fingers crossed*

The Shiseido Moilip is yet another recommendation on Dayre. Haha. And it's really, really good for dry weather. My lips were flaking pretty bad in Hokkaido and my favourite DHC lip balm wasn't working (Btw, this is dirt cheap in Japan. Like SGD5 dirt cheap. Wth, Watsons!). But just one night of this potent balm and tadahhh, relief and smoothness. ◡̈ It's a bit much for Singapore though. Not that it's uncomfortable or anything like that, but price-wise, it's a lot more than the DHC one.

Finally, it's a small kawaii bottle of Hyaluronic Acid which I got because there was the Cosme sticker (No. 1 in 2007, which is actually a very long time ago...). You can drop a little of this in shampoos, face lotions, lip balms (?) etc. to boost hydration.

And yep, that's my first Japan beauty haul! Unfortunately, I can't remember the prices but they are mostly below SGD20. I will be using them in the coming weeks so let me know if you have any questions! ◡̈

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