5 on 5 – August 2017

I’m happy to be back in my home state! I’ve been appreciating being close to family, American grocery stores, and blue skies. This month’s five on five was inspired by small town life in Texas. Being away has changed the way I view my hometown. What once felt claustrophobic now feels quaint and peaceful. America truly is a rich country.

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Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend.

♥︎K

 

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A Week In Tokyo – Day 4

Welcome to Day 4 of my Week In Tokyo series. If you want to go back to see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3, see the links at the bottom of the post.

DAY 4 | TOKYO STATION + GINZA+ SHINJUKU

Imperial Palace | East Gardens

Start your morning with a nice walk at the palace gardens. This is one of the many beautiful green spaces in the city. It is possible to book a tour of the palace but this must be done in advance. Tours are offered in Japanese and in English through audio headsets. The inner palace gardens generally aren’t open to the public with the exception being December 23rd, the Emperor’s birthday. On this day, the Emperor and his wife will make a public appearance on the balcony. If you’re a runner, this is a great place to get in your morning run. The loop around the palace gardens is about 5K.

Hours: 9:00 – 17:00

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Tokyo station

Tokyo Station is the busiest station in Japan. However, even if you’re not heading out of the city, this is one of my favorite places to visit because it’s so easy to spend hours wandering all the hallways in the station. You can go shopping, find amazing omiyage (souvenirs) for your family, and some many foods to EAT. I also love the architecture on the Marunouchi side entrance which is modeled after the 1914 brick design. It’s beautiful when it’s all lit up at night. Note: On my last visit it was under construction.

Shop Hours:  (Varies) Typically 10:00 – 20:00

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Ramen Street | Tokyo Station 

You can’t leave Japan without eating ramen. One of the most convenient and delicious places to find ramen is Ramen Street in the basement of Tokyo Station. Many blogs are going to tell you which place you HAVE to go to. But I say- just have fun! Depending on the day/time some places will have a long wait. So trust your gut (and nose) and go where ever you think looks the best. I haven’t been to a ramen shop I DIDN’T like on Ramen Street. Beginner’s tip: Orders are placed on the automated ticket vending machine before sitting down. Use the pictures to help you choose. Or do what I did and ask the person behind you in line for help. Then you give your ticket to the staff who will bring you your order.

Hours:  11:00 – 20:00 (Varies by store)

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Illumination Street | Ginza 

This recommendation is more seasonal. But I LOVE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. And in my opinion, nobody does Christmas illuminations as well as Tokyo. So I had to include this on the list. The illumination usually begins in late November and continues through early January. You can view these lights from Marunouchi Naka-dori,Otemachi Naka-dori, and elsewhere.

Hours: 6:00 – 23:00

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Ginza Shopping

If your style of shopping is high-end, luxury brands, then Ginza is the place for you. Every international designer brand has a shop in this neighborhood, from Chanel to Gucci to Kate Spade to YSL. It’s also a great place to go if you’re jewelry shopping for that special ring (like we did over Christmas). If that’s not your style, Shibuya or Shinjuku might be the place for you.

Hours: 11:00 – 21:00 (varies by store)

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Shinjuku Park

Shinjuku is a neighborhood in Tokyo that can keep surprising you with new things to do, day or night. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy some sunshine while enjoying a beautiful garden, head over to Shinjuku Park. It’s very beautiful and you’ll often see couple’s taking wedding photos here. There’s a small entrance fee of about $2.

Hours: 09:00 – 16:00 (Closed on Mondays)

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Robot Restaurant | Shinjuku 

The Robot restaurant became very famous after being featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. It’s become a tourist trap for foreign travelers ever since but you won’t see anything else like this in the world. With ticket prices around $80, it’s not the most budget friendly event, but if you can spare the expense, go and enjoy. You can save a bit by looking for coupons (in flyers or magazines around the city) or by buying tickets online. Insider tip: don’t order the bento meal they offer. It’s terrible. You can find something much better for half the price at your local convenience store.

Hours: 16:00 – 23:00 (4 shows per night)

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Sitting atop Toho Cinemas in Shinjuku is a statue of Gozilla. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to look up and check it out.

Hours: 24/7

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Zoetrope | Whiskey Bar 

After you’ve had your senses overloaded at the Robot Restuarant, cool things down by heading over to Zoetrope for a night cap. This whiskey bar is small and intimate with only 15 seats. There are silent movies or old Suntory commercials playing on the wall. There is a $6 fee to sit down and only whiskey on the menu. It’s a nice place to come with a date.

Hours: 19:00 – 04:00

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If you liked this post and want to see more recommendations in Tokyo, check out the links below.  Be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to receive guides for Days 5-7. Thanks for reading!

Day 1  | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

♥︎K

Japan Haul 2016

Finally getting back into editing after Chinese New Year. I finally put together a haul video I shot right after we came back from Tokyo. I don’t really like the word “haul” but I do like sharing all the cute things we bought in Japan. (Including a very important ring…) Hope you enjoy the video!

 

 

♥︎K

 

10 Tips on Buying an Engagement Ring

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Valentine’s Day is around the corner and I know some of you might be thinking of popping the question to that special someone. If you know me, you know that I got engaged this past December in Tokyo.

I told my fiancé that I wanted to pick out my engagement ring with him, so I was able to learn a lot about the ring buying process. I wanted to write a post to help guys who are feeling lost in how to purchase a ring. I wrote these tips based on my experience shopping in Tokyo, but overall I’d say you could apply these same ideas to ring shopping in America or any other country.

Let’s get started!

Tip 1: Study up on the 4Cs before you go

There’s nothing worse than feeling like a complete idiot when the jeweler starts spouting off jewelry jargon you’ve never heard in your life.

To prep for your visit, study up on the 4Cs. The 4Cs are Carat, color, clarity, and cut. These are 4 ways in which jewelers describe diamonds across the globe. Regardless on whether you speak Japanese, this is the universal language of the diamond world and will help you understand your purchase.

These 4 words are going to help you figure out the difference between the 4 identical looking diamond sitting in front of you with very different price tags.

There are plenty of websites out that can educate you on what these words mean. So before you go, take 20 minutes and google “ the 4Cs of diamonds”. Trust me. You will feel SO MUCH better that you know a little bit about what’s going on before you arrive. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Did you do that? Good. So now this brings me to tip # 2.

Tip 2: Know your priorities

Maybe you know your girl wants a 1 carat diamond. Maybe she cares less about the carats but is looking for a particular cut. Maybe she doesn’t mind a diamond with a little bit of color it. If you know where you can be flexible, this could save you a huge amount of money.

For example, the difference between a colorless diamond and a near colorless diamond to the naked eye are VERY subtle, even for a trained expert. But you could save yourself hundreds of dollars.

Also, jewelers know that people like even numbers, so if you’re willing to go just under 1 carat, say .7 carats, you can find yourself savings as well.

Similarly, if your lady is into something more unique and diamonds aren’t her thing, you can get yourself a large sapphire for the price of a small diamond.

Tip 3: Know your budget

This is a probably a given but you should know your budget before walking in. Not only will this keep you from splurging on something you can’t afford, but it will help the shop attendants show you great options in your price range.

Tip 4: Make an appointment

If you’re shopping during engagement season, the shops are VERY busy and which can leave you left waiting for a free shop attendant. This is a very big moment in your life so it’s okay to want someone’s full attention. Save yourself time by booking appointments in advance. Most stores make it easy to do online. Just look on their website for a button that says 予約, pick your store location, your time, and contact information and you’re done! If you need help figuring out some of the questions in Japanese, let me know and I can write a post on some of the useful vocabulary you will need.

Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to ask For Native Language

In big cities like Tokyo, shops know that they’ll have customers from out of the country who come may not speak Japanese. If you ask in advance, you can sometimes find a shop attendant who can speak English or Chinese. My fiancé is Chinese and we were able to get a sales attendant who spoke both Chinese and Japanese.

Tip 6: Look for discounts

Thanksgivings to Valentine’s Day is Engagement Season, the time of year when most couples get engaged. On the other side, summer is when more people are hosting and attending weddings. So, during the summer, engagement rings go on sale.

But summer isn’t the only time for discounts. We found that nearly every store we visited had a Christmas sale that began around December 1 till Christmas Day. We were able to save a TON on an otherwise expensive diamond and setting because of the Christmas deal.

TRAVELERS LISTEN UP. Depending on where you are, some jewelry stores will offer you a traveler’s discount or allow the purchase to be duty free. With a purchase this size, that could mean hundreds of dollars saved.

I know no one wants to take about savings when it comes to something as romantic as an engagement ring, but think of it as savings you could use toward a bigger carat size or a nicer cut.

Tip 7: Bring pictures

This is the most important advice I could give you. Even as a girl who spent many hours on pinterest looking at rings, once I was in the shop, I found it difficult to put into words the kind of look I was going for. Having 2 or 3 photos I liked as a reference helped the attendant give us a better starting point.

If  you don’t have any clue what your girl might like, snap a few sneaky photos of the jewelry she normally wears or ask her best friend to help you out. Who knows, your girl might have an entire pinterest board of rings all her girlfriends have seen but you have no idea exists.

Tip 8: Ask about insurance and protections plans

A ring is a big investment of your money and of course your relationship. Make sure it’s going to be protected. Ask what the store’s police is if the ring gets damaged, lost, or stolen. Ask what sort of cleaning and repair services they provide for customers after the purchase.

Tip 9: Leave about a month for the ring to be set and resized

In my mind, we would walk out of the jewelry shop the same day with our perfect ring. But if you want to choose your setting and your diamond (which you most likely will), most stores will need between a week to a month to get your ring set and resized for you. This is because a lot of the times they’re not doing the setting in house. It can take even longer if you’re doing any other more customized services.

Tip 10: Take your time!

It took thousands of years to make this diamond so don’t feel like you have to make your decision in a day. Don’t be afraid to step out and come back. The shop we eventually purchased from was the first place we visited. I came back later to take a second look before finally deciding it was the one. Visit lots of shops! Look online! This is your big moment so take all the time you need.

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I want to give a quick shout out to Ginza Shiraishi where we ultimately purchased our ring. We received really great service and an amazing discount on our ring which allowed us to get a slightly bigger carat size. I’m still crazy about this ring and find myself admiring how beautiful it is during quiet moments of the day.

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Whether you’re celebrating with your special someone, friends, or Netlflix + wine, I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s day.

♥︎K

A Week In Tokyo – Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of my Week In Tokyo series. If you want to go back to see Day 1 and Day 2, see the links at the bottom of the post.

DAY 3 | Odaiba 

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Take the Monorail

Today we’re taking you to Odaiba and one of my favorite ways to get there is by taking the Yurikamome line, Tokyo’s first fully automated train line. Land yourself a spot in the front car and take in the sights as you cross the sea. You can hop on at the start of the line at Shimbashi station.

Hours: 5:45 – 00:30

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Miraikan | Science museum

I enjoy visiting the science museum for it’s special exhibitions. Last summer, I went to a video game exhibit where you could play dozens of arcade games or preview a new VR game for the price of admission. From April to September, Miraikan will have an exhibit called “The Art of Disney”, with drawings, sketches, and behind-the-scenes materials. You can see what new exhibit will be on display during your visit by checking out the website linked below.

Hours: 10:00 – 17:00

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Gundam | Diver City Tokyo Plaza 

After the museum, head over to Diver City mall to check out the Gundam statue. Standing at 59 feet (18m) tall, this is the world’s only full-size Gundam statue. Even if you’re not an anime fan, it’s a sight to be held.

Update: I just read that the Gundam statue will be leaving Odiba after March 5, 2017. Fingers crossed that this only means the statue will be gracing us in another section of town soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Hours: 24/7

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Food Court 

Grab some lunch in the Diver City food court. I know you might be thinking, “Food court mall food!? That’s not why I traveled here!” But trust me. This isn’t Panda Express. The first floor offers an array of delicious options like tonkatsu ramen, takoyaki, Hawaiian food, and more. After lunch, you can go shopping or head to our next stop.

Hours: 10:00 – 22:00

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Joypolis 

Joypolis is an indoor amusement park but that label doesn’t do it justice. There are arcade games, rides, simulators, laser tag, food, and more! Nobody does arcades quite like Japan. Joypolis can be found in other cities across Japan as wel,l but usually on a smaller scale, without the rides.

Hours: 10:00 – 22:00 (Last entry 21:15)

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Venus Fort mall

With the mood lighting, painted sky ceiling, and the medieval European architecture, this mall feels like a Vegas casino. It’s a nice place to walk around, especially in the summer when you want to escape the heat. Venus Fort is part of a larger complex which also includes other attractions which we’ll talk about below.

Hours: 11:00 – 21:00

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Toyota History Garage

This mini car museum is located on one side of Venus Fort mall. Here you can view many historic cars from all over the globe. It’s not worth a trip to Odaiba just for this exhibit, but if need something to keep your boyfriend or dad busy while you’re off shopping, this a good place to drop them off.

Hours: 11:00 – 21:00

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MEGA Web Toyota City Showcase 

After you’ve taken your selfie with the car from Back to the Future, head over to the Toyota City Showcase. This exhibit showcases the future of Toyota technology and is much more interactive. You can play a few video games or try out the Toyota Winglet (think Segway only much more compact). Like the historic garage, this exhibit is also located within Venus Fort.

Hours: 11:00 – 21:00

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Daikanransha | Ferris wheel

Adjacent to Venus Fort is my favorite ferris wheel in Japan. I’m slightly biased because this is where my fiance proposed to me. It’s colorful and beautiful against a blue sky. You can choose one of the colored cabins or one of the glass bottom cabins for the 16 minute ride. I like coming during the day but it’s also romantic at night when you can see the sparkling city lights.

Hours: 10:00 – 22:00

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Statue of Liberty Tokyo 

For any American readers out there, you might enjoy this next spot. Outside of Aqua City Odaiba mall, there is a replica lady liberty that makes a great photo opp. Overlooking the bay, this spot is where you’re going to want to camp out to get a good view of Rainbow Bridge. Which brings us to our last recommendation…

Hours: 24/7

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Rainbow Bridge 

Stay till after dark and you can see Odaiba’s beautiful and iconic rainbow bridge. The colors will change depending on certain holidays or events. During the month of December, there are winter fireworks at Rainbow bridge every Saturday. This is one of the best places to view fireworks in Tokyo outside of the summer season. Check out the site below for schedules.

Hours: Sunset – 00:00

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If you liked this post and want to see more recommendations in Tokyo, check out the links below.  Be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to receive guides for Days 4-7. Thanks for reading!

Day 1  | Day 2 | Day 3

♥︎K

A Week In Tokyo – Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of my Week In Tokyo series. If you want to visit go back to see Day 1, see the links at the bottom of the post.

DAY 2 | ASAKUSA + UENO

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Asakusa Shrine | Sensoji 

Start your day at Asakusa Shrine and beat the crowds. This is one of the most beautiful Shinto shrines in the city. The entrance is marked by the Kaminarimon Gate and a huge red chochin lantern. In front of the shrine is an area of market stalls with food and souvenirs. The whole area is charming for tourists and locals.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo for New Year’s Eve, Asakusa Shrine is filled with thousands and thousands of people counting down to the big moment. It’s wonderful and exciting but also terrible if you hate crowds.

Shrine Hours:  Typically 06:00-15:00 (Temple Grounds always open)

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Sky Tree

Sky Tree is another great place to see a beautiful view of the city. In addition, there is a large shopping mall, an aquarium, restaurants, and more all in one centralized location. Be sure to grab your day tickets for the tower before heading into the mall. Day tickets do not have a specific time window so you may have to wait. Or save yourself time by purchasing tickets in advance. Having opened in 2012, Sky Tree is still relatively new so there will likely be a crowd to go up the tower.

Hours: 11:00 – 20:00

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Ueno Park

Ueno Park is one of my favorite places to drink a cup of coffee and people watch. Grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks and grab a seat by the fountain or under the tree and relax. If you happen to be visiting during sakura season, you’ll find Ueno filled with friends enjoying food and drinking under the beautiful pink blossoms.

Hours: 05:00-23:00

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Visit a Museum or the Zoo 

After you’ve enjoyed a coffee break, you can visit one of the many wonderful museums in Ueno Park like the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, or the Ueno Zoological Gardens. Most have entrance fees under 800 yen (about $8!) which is a bargain.

Hours: For most 08:00-17:00

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Ameyoko Shopping street

After you’ve become more cultured, take a break and do some shopping. Ameyoko shopping street is once of my favorite places to walk around. You can find everything from sneakers to perfume to spices along the road and alleyways. My favorite purchase I made here was my Japanese sukajan bomber jacket.

Hours: Varies per store

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Izakayas

All that shopping probably made you hungry. Luckily, Ueno is filled with many izakayas for you to choose from. This place transforms into a lively bar scene when the sun goes down. Izakayas serve Japanese bar food mostly in small dishes meant to be shared over drinks. I LOVE izakaya food. When I went to Japan in December, this was our first stop. Order a “nama biiru” (draft beer), any of yakitori (skewers), karage (fried chicken), edamame, a grilled fish, and potato salad. That will get you started in the right direction. There are izakayas all over Tokyo and I recommend visiting as many as you can. Tokyo Cheapo made a great beginner’s guide to izakayas that I recommend reading if it’s your first trip.

Hours: Typically last order around 23:00

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If you liked this post and want to see more recommendations in Tokyo, check out the links below.  Be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to receive guides for Days 3-7. Thanks!

Day 1  | Day 2

♥︎K