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

Engagement Ring Shopping

If you know me (or at least follow me on Instagram) you’ll know that I recently got engaged to my the greatest/sweetest/kindest/silliest guy I know.

He proposed to me in Japan while we were there on vacation. Japan is the country where we met and fell in love, so it was so special having another life changing moment there.

We skipped the traditional route and picked out a ring together. The idea of choosing this first big purchase together as a couple felt very romantic to me.

But I’m not much of a jewelry girl. I only wear necklaces or earrings other people have given me. I was so amazed seeing all the beautiful rings out there.

I made a video to share our special day. Check it out!


♥︎K

11.11 – Chinese Black Friday

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Today is 11.11 which has two significant meanings in China.

First, today is single’s day or anti-Valentine’s day. 11.11 was picked because of all the ones in the date. Most single young people use this day to get together for food or drinks.

Second, today is China’s version of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The very popular online shopping site Taobao hosts it’s largest sale of the year where you can get products at half price. Brands such as Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Gap, Nine West, and more have products available. We even saw cars on sale! How crazy is that?

But you have to be quick. People have been preparing their carts for months leading up to this day. When midnight hits, you have to be ready to click buy.

There’s even a gala leading up to the big day with appearances by well known stars. The gala is a mix between a variety show and QVC where online users can participate by voting on certain actions the stars will do or purchasing the items the stars are showing the audience.  David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, and One Republic were in attendance.This year Katy Perry was set to  headline the event as a “global ambassador” in Shenzhen, but pulled out because of “family matters”. After watching the Louis C.K. Portlandia episode, we all know what that really means…

11.11 is the biggest online shopping day in the world, far exceeding Black Friday in America. Last year, 91.7 billion RMB was spent on Taobao’s Double 11 day. That’s over 13 BILLION U.S. dollars in just ONE DAY.

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Needless to say this day is a BIG DEAL here in China and many man hours are spent preparing for this event. I found a short video (in English) on some of the behind the scenes prep.

This year we picked up a few sweaters ($22),  puma sneakers ($59), cute sweatpants ($14.50), and a 4 foot decorated Christmas tree (only $2.94!).

There’s still roughly 10 hours left for today’s sale. Head over to www.taobao.com to browse the deals.

 

♥︎K

Hello from China

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Hello friends! It’s been a while. I disappeared from the blog all summer but I’ve returned now from a new location- China! That’s right. I have said goodbye to Japan for now and have moved to China to be with my love. I never thought I would move somewhere for a guy but alas, I should have listened to the great advice of my best friend Justin Bieber, never say never.

I’ve been wasting a lot of time debating whether I wanted to do vlogs or blogs and instead of actually TRYING either of them, I did nothing. It’s been way too easy to put on an episode of a TV show and zone out on my days off than to push myself to create or write or read something that inspires me. A blogger I follow and respect dearly said herself that when she consumes more than she creates she feels “blah” and I am struggling with the same problem.

So here’s to trying to be better about observing and writing about adjusting to life in China. And sharing it with you!

 

♥︎K

Life Lately

DSC_0213So much has happened in the last 3 months. My half year contract in Okayama came to an end. I said goodbye to all my schools. I said bye to all the amazing friends I made in Okayama.  I went on an amazing week long trip by local train from Okayama to Kyushu with my boyfriend. I visited my Chicago friends in Nakatsu. I moved from Okayama to Tokyo. I left Interac. I started a new job at an international kindergarten. I saw sakura season for the first time in Japan. My boyfriend moved to Shanghai to start a new job. I traveled to China for a weekend to visit him.

And that’s the short version.

DSC_0395I can’t believe only 2 months has passed since I came to Tokyo. It’s been tough getting used to this new city alone. Life in Tokyo is much more hectic than life in the countryside. And without my support system of friends and my boyfriend, I’ve been struggling to adapt. Tokyo can be isolating and stressful. It’s the kind of experience I expected to have when I first came to Japan….only it’s 6 months later.

DSC_0515.JPGNow that I’ve adapted to my new situation, life is going more smoothly. I’ve got a routine going at my new school. I’ve made a few new friends. And I know the difference between a local and an express train (and which one stops at my station). The once unsolvable Tokyo subway system no longer feels like such a mystery.

DSC_0498.JPGNow it’s time to start looking forward. In August I will have been in Japan for one year. I’m excited for a new chapter to begin and for new adventures later this year.

♥︎K