Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 2019 - Japan trip, 1 year in the house & Dylan

Following the hellish work month that was March, April was much, much calmer and in reality, we hardly did anything aside from our short Japan trip (which was nice in and of itself).

DreamV (NewlyMe) cross strap pumps in lavender
So, I totally caved and purchased another pair of these. Actually two...I got another pair in black aside from the lavender because the pair I bought in February is actually a little pinchy at 24.0 and I've been wearing them a lot, so I know that it will be worth it to get another hair in 0.5cm up. Anyway, I just really love the style and I'm so happy they come in so many different colors. I can already anticipate another pair in the mail next month wtf.
Truthfully, this lavender pair has a cooler/bluer tone to them than the lavender that's typically in Liz Lisa's color schemes which is a bit warmer, so I don't know exactly how useful they'll be for the outfits I was imagining initially, but I have a few other oneegyaru brand items that they'll definitely worth with!

Japan trip Spring 2019
I got my nails done at Salon Cherie again. I chose a $55 gel monthly special set.
This is the first time I've really ever gotten an all solid color full nail design, but because of my nail length at my appointment, I decided it was the best choice for what would look good during the trip. I usually choose something with closer to a french or gradient tip so the grow out doesn't look so contrasty, but I'm glad to try something different for myself even though the design is not incredibly novel (I'm not complaining for $55 though).

Bf and I went on Japan trip Spring 2019 from April 8-April 14. Because of the time difference/flight length, we really only had 5 days in Tokyo, but I think we were still able to make the most of it.
Highlights include seeing Ebony and Berri, sakura, Ueno Park, Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum, Nippori fabric town, strawberry picking, Ashikaga Flower Park and Amano Dry Goods Station.

I listed these both as purchases from in my Japan trip post, but I didn't show any worn photos because I didn't have any yet. As I mentioned last month, no super special photos - just what I can take myself when I have time!
Liz Lisa mermaid sweets parlor OP in pink, Liz Lisa (sunflower 4-piece) bow clips, DreamV cross strap pumps in white

Liz Lisa fishtail dress (2019 version) in deep pink, Flag J sandals

Miscellaneous updates
Bf and I had lots of leisure time after the trip, just spending time together and concentrating on nothing in particular.

We went to eat at one of our favorite restaurants and was able to get calligraphy done by a visiting artist in celebration of their 5th anniversary~!
Truthfully, I don't remember the translation that well, but I was trying to listen and focus when the guy was translating it instead of hastily trying to write it down and now I'm paying for it lol. I remember I really liked the sentiment in the moment though :)

Also, the beginning of this month marked 1 year of living in the house!
The small talk with a lot of my older coworkers and relatives has been "how do you enjoy being a homeowner?" I still really don't have a good answer for that. It's definitely had it's share of ups and downs. The positives are pretty obvious, but just as a reminder for myself, I guess some of the small issues/work that came up in just the first year - large AC unit needed to be replaced, reinforcing the wall in the back so it wouldn't collapse, centipede nest (wtf) under one of the palm trees, like tons and tons and tons of spiders in the garage, putting in new flooring in the kitchen, garage door opener wires cracked. Oh and we just discovered some small cracks/holes/damage to the concrete on the backside of the house which I think were caused by termites? [still to be resolved]

April 21st of this year was not only Easter but also the 10-year anniversary of my friend Dylan's death.
^^ This is the same photo I end up sharing every year. Past years' Dayre posts [2017][2016][2015][2014] that are amazingly still live if you want a little more in depth history so I don't repeat myself too much. 
As more time passes, he seems more and more of a distant memory which scares me a little. It's also kind of hard to believe that that it's been this long. Where would he be now if he hadn't passed? What would he look like? What would he be doing? If there's anything I can take away from this, is the reminder to be the best support than I can be to those around me. Although it unfortunately didn't end up changing the outcome with Dylan, I know that reaching out to others can make small differences. April 21st will always make me think about the importance of kindness and friendship.

I don't have much to speak for for purchases or activities this month as I didn't buy much due to my trip. However, there are a few items and activities that I'm looking forward to in May (or early June) that I'm hoping will pan out! Some of them have a bit of a waiting period attached and I'm reluctant to share too early but I'll definitely update as they are received/happen! Meanwhile, April just includes some anticipation 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Japan trip Spring 2019 - 5 days in Tokyo

My bf's mom and grandma had planned a trip to see sakura in the spring, and my bf and I decided to tag along! They had already picked the dates and a number of the logistics, so we were happy to just go with the flow and enjoy being in Tokyo in April.

Jump to a section:

Day 0 - Monday/Tuesday, April 8/9: Arrival 
We flew on Hawaiian Airlines as usual, but this was my first time flying into Narita instead of Haneda! This is the airport that my bf's mom is more familiar with and I was really interested to get a chance to see it with someone else leading the way.

We had an afternoon flight that left Honolulu just around 14:30. Boarding went really smoothly and quickly because the flight was so empty! My bf and I got upgraded to Extra Comfort based on our Hawaiian Airlines status from last year and even a row each to ourselves.
This was pretty fortunate because the flight ended up being 10 hours from take off to the moment we landed (not to mention taxing). I'm more used to a 8-9 hour flight and even though 10 isn't that much longer, I always exit the plane feeling groggy and headachey.

Once we got through customs and immigration, my bf's mom exchanged the vouchers she had for our roundtrip Keisei Skyliner tickets that she had purchased before we left. It also came as a set deal with a 72-hour Tokyo Metro pass. She made the seat reservations for the train we were about to catch at the same time while we waited with all the luggage.

The Keisei Skyliner is like the Keisei (private rail line) version of JR's Narita Express. It has mandatory reserved seating and goes directly from Narita Airport into Tokyo, stopping only at Nippori and Keisei Ueno.

The train cars are similar to shinkansen cars except a little smaller. There's a section in each car for larger luggage, but you can also put items on the overhead shelves or keep them in front of you at your seat.

After about a 40 minute ride, we arrived at Keisei Ueno station.

After exiting and passing one end of Ueno Park, we took about a 10 minute walk through the Ameyoko area to get to the hotel: Dormy Inn Ueno Okachimachi.
We checked in and then dropped off our bags in the rooms and went back out to search for dinner. The Pupuru pocket wifi unit that I ordered was waiting for us in our room.

We ended up at Isomaru Suisan which is a 24 hour seafood izakaya with a small grill at each table.

Luckily, by 11:00pm there wasn't really a wait and we were seated right away. They have a tablet ordering system which can be easily changed to English. Only problem seemed to be that the table was a little small for 4 people and all the things we ordered lmao. (I didn't even get a good photo of it because I had a hard time shifting around in my seat to get my phone out lol.)

Aside from the flight length, a fairly average arrival and settling in for the first night. Unsurprisingly, flying into Narita isn't that different than Haneda except that it's a little farther. Since we specifically planned to stay in Ueno, the Skyliner was a great direct option to get us exactly where we needed to be, even late at night.
The Dormy Inn in Okachimachi has 2 great features - free ramen for hotel guests from 21:30 - 23:00 and an unlimited use onsen on the 12th floor (separate for men and women). Bf and I didn't end up taking advantage of either of these features, but his mom and grandma definitely did! If you're looking for something similar, I would say it's worth it. There's a Family Mart just downstairs and many great restaurants in the immediate vicinity. It's also close to both Okachimachi and Ueno stations as well as a few other Metro stations as well. Only drawback was having just one small elevator for the entire hotel - we couldn't even fit all 4 of us with our luggage at the same time!

Day 1 - Wednesday, April 10: Ueno Park, lunch with Ebony, shopping in Shinjuku & Gyukatsu Motomura
So. much. rain.
Wanting to get an early start, we agreed to meet up at around 08:00, so we could get breakfast and then start the day.

We were able to quickly find a small breakfast place in a nearby hotel. I had some conbini items that I had purchased the night before so I didn't get anything from the restaurant, but my bf and his mom ordered pancakes and his grandma ended up with what was described as a "french toast bagel".

We had intended to go to Shinjuku Gyoen first, but because the weather was making us absolutely miserable, we decided to try for something indoors. Only problem was that there isn't a lot of indoor activities open at 08:40. Since we were near Ueno Park, I suggested one of the museums since a few opened closer to 09:30.

After a few wrong turns, we got to the park and took a quick look at a few of the trees with remaining sakura.

We didn't end up making it to any museums after the long walk over there, but did end up making the decision to go to the Tsukiji Outer Market. We started using our 72-hour metro pass and made our way to Tsukijishijo station.

Cherry blossoms just outside the station exit. 

Once we arrived at Tsukijishijo, it was just about time for me to head over to Shinjuku, so I made sure they were headed in the right direction and branched off.
Using the subway again, I found my way to Shinjuku. Trying to navigate the different stations in Shinjuku outside of the JR one (like the Odakyu, Sanchome, Keio, Toei, etc) is still one of the most confusing areas for me. Instead of staying on the subway, I hopped off at Yoyogi and transferred to a JR line, paying the separate fare JUST so I wouldn't get lost.

I ended up waiting at the West exit for Ebony and we headed over to an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant called "Alice in Magical Land" (魔法の国のアリス) which is a short walk away in the basement of a department store.

We arrived just shortly after they opened and had no issue being seated. They were also having a special for drinks at the time, so I decided to order something at 50% off!
We ordered and ate and caught up! It was so nice to hear about Ebony's accomplishments since the last time I saw her. I didnt get to see her in November, so it's been almost a year since we last met. I'm so happy she was able to make time in her schedule since my trip was so short this time.

We ate pretty quickly at the cafe and then quickly walked to Shinjuku Alta (it's STILL raining).

The Liz Lisa is tucked up on the second floor now and it's only 1 of 2 Liz Lisa stores left in Tokyo.
I decided to make a small purchase since I thought it might be something I could wear later in the trip. I took some extra time to try it on though because lately Liz Lisa's freesize has been really hit or miss on me (especially for waist fit and length having more inches than I would typically expect). After receiving a positive second opinion from Ebony, I made my purchase and we parted ways so I could meet up with my bf again.

It turns out, they finished up at the Tsukiji Outer Market and had made their way over to Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku. This one is part of the Takashimaya building on the south end of the JR Shinjuku station. Luckily this was a part of Shinjuku I was already familiar with so it wasn't so difficult for me to find it.
I met up with them as they were finishing up their shopping and made some small purchases myself.

On the way back to the station, we stopped at the Three Twins ice cream stall at the South Gate side of the station.
Even though it was cold, the ice cream was still enjoyable! I think they liked the mocha flavor the best of the three they tried.

My bf's mom and grandma headed straight back to Ueno from there, but my bf and I went to check out the Lumine 2 shopping area. I had previously purchased a free size ring from MoCA Tokyo and knew their only permanent listed storefront was in Shinjuku. Since I was right over there, I wanted to try to find it.
After taking a brief look in Maison de Fleur, we continued around until we finally happened upon it! It's not actually listed on the floor map because it's not a "real store" but more like a small stall. I don't have any photos of it because they specifically had a no photos sign, but if you walk around to the area with the Plaza, I think you'd be able to find it! I really love their Instagram posts and I think the staff really make the most of it and are great at showing the items. There were quite a few other customers there when I finally found it and it was a bit difficult to browse as a result. In the end, I didn't end up purchasing anything new though.

Mission essentially failed, we returned to Ueno and the hotel as well to meet back up with the group.

Once sufficiently rested, as it was still raining, we caught a taxi from the the hotel to the nearby Don Quixote in Ueno to start our omiyage shopping. (Ameyoko would have been a first choice if not for the weather.) This store is no different than many of the other Donki locations which is reasonably crowded and cramped with tons of goods and customers. Since we weren't intending to go out much after, I didn't mind grabbing whatever caught my eye.

When we were done, we stopped at another nearby grocery store to look for a few specific items my bf's mom had on her list and then headed over to Gyukatsu Motomura for dinner. Luckily, there were only a handful of people in front of us in line and we didn't have to wait long to be seated. We ordered 3x #1 set (regular portion) and 1x #3 set (larger portion).
This is my bf's and my second time at this location. If you're unfamiliar, this is a beef katsu that's served mostly "raw" but you have a small individual heating plate to use to cook to your desired doneness. It's super tender and really good, especially with the rock salt! His mom and grandma both really enjoyed it as well.

Post-dinner, we made our way back to the hotel and stopped at some shops along the way.

We called it an early night because we were so cold and miserable from the rain + a little bit of jet lag. Bf and I played only a couple games of Mario Tennis on the Switch before just anticlimactically falling asleep before 21:00 lmao.
Overall, not a super productive day because of the rain, but we took the time to adjust to being in Japan and just get some shopping done instead.

Day 2 - Thursday, April 11: Ichiran & shopping in Shibuya, Seirinkan, Cup Noodle Museum, Chinatown & shopping with Berri
We tried to learn our lesson from the day prior and had a little bit of a later start. Bf's mom and his grandma set out for Ueno Park to enjoy it in the clearer weather on their own. We got ready at a leisurely pace and then headed out for Shibuya.

Using Tokyo Metro, we're able to catch the Ginza line straight to Shibuya without any transfers (and included in our 72-hour pass).

We arrived in a familiar place and headed straight for Ichiran which was the only ramen restaurant I could think of off the top of my head that was open during the "breakfast hours".

There was no wait/line and we were able to purchase our tickets and then seat ourselves based on the vacancy map. The preference papers were already waiting on the counter when we got there which we filled out and ordered with immediately.

After breakfast, we visited the two 100yen stores in the area - Daiso and Can Do. There was a pair of rabbit scissors that my mom wanted me to look for, but unfortunately they were all sold out. Just the plastic tag hanging in its spot.

We also went to check out the Mega Donki in Shibuya because the Ueno one lacked a few things we were used to seeing.

(Also they had a fancy bathroom.)

(Meanwhile, my bf's mom and grandma had been at Shinjuku Gyoen after checking out Ueno Park. Here's a couple photos from her phone!)

We had agreed to meet up with his mom and grandma for lunch at Seirinkan, so it was just a quick ride to Naka Meguro for us. Luckily it wasn't much of a wait for just 4 people. We ordered 2 margherita and 1 marinara pizzas and it seemed like a good amount.

We also wanted to check out the sakura along Meguro River which was just a couple blocks away but super windy.

We left Naka Meguro and caught a train straight to Sakuragicho in Yokohama. Since our Tokyo Metro pass didn't cover the Yokohama portion, we had to pay for that out of pocket. From the station, we caught a taxi to get to

the Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum! Bf and I had just visited back in November, but thought it might be a nice experience for his mom and grandma as well since we both enjoyed it.

We signed up for the custom Cup Noodle workshop first and headed there right away.

Design your own cup

 Add the noodles to the cup

Pick your broth (4 choices) and 4 toppings (12 choices)

Close and heat seal!

Then package for safety.

Then we headed to the cafeteria on the 4th floor which has a number of different kinds of regional dishes using instant noodles.

I decided to just go for the straight mini chicken ramen, but they also tried the soft serve (curry flavor), pho, italian pasta, mi goreng and the laksa.

And finished exploring the rest of the museum!

After shopping at the gift shop, we caught a taxi back to Minatomirai station and then made our way to Motomachi Chukagai to check out Chinatown.

While they did some browsing, I got in line to get the popular xiaolongbao which always has a line.

My bf and his mom went a bit further in to get some of the Disney character soup spoons from the big souvenir store while his grandma and I stayed closer to the entrance for more shopping and then resting in the tourist center.

The train was empty on its way back to Shibuya.

Bf and I branched off as his mom and grandma headed back to the hotel to rest. I was intending on meeting up with Berri and bf was to meet with his childhood friend who we saw in November - both in Shibuya. 

Berri and I met at Hachiko and ran straight to Shibuya 109. We started at the bottom floors, stopping in whatever store had items that caught our eye, but eventually ended up in Liz Lisa where we both made a small purchase.

We continued to the top floor to take purikura.

We intended to eat dinner at a place Berri knew in Mark City, but it was closed by the time we finished shopping! I ended up dragging us all the way past Uobei which had a huge line and ending up at Yomenya Goemon, my old fall back in Shibuya. This ended up being a pretty good choice because we were able to sit back and relax and eat and even had the chance to meet up briefly with my bf there when his friend called it a night.

I started getting crazy tired around 21:30 and knew I had to call it a night or I'd never make it back to the hotel lol. Luckily, my bf hadn't wandered much farther than a bar down the lane and we met back up to head back to the station so he could take our picture.

We caught the Ginza line back to Ueno and finally got back to the hotel after a long, full day.

This day went better than the previous one simply because of the weather. It was still pretty cold, but we didn't constantly have to worry about getting wet and carrying around an umbrella. Bf and I didn't really experience too many new things this day, but were happy to introduce his mom and his grandma to some of our favorites. And I'm really glad they were able to see the sakura in the better weather which was a big motivator for the trip for them.

Day 3 - Friday, April 12: Ichiran in Ueno, Nippori Fabric Town, Ikebukuro, Sushi-ro, lost in Shinjuku and wagyu yakiniku
We headed out for breakfast!

Bf's mom wanted to try Ichiran and it's an obvious breakfast choice for us since they're early risers and not too many other nearby breakfast options. We went to the Shibuya location the day before, but tried out the Ueno location this day which is on the side of Ueno station. Again, likely because it was a bit earlier, we had no issues purchasing our ramen tickets and getting seated.

We then entered Ueno station and stopped at the Anderson (bakery) to quickly pick up some pastries.

Then caught the JR Yamanote line to Nippori station because bf's mom and grandma wanted to check out Nippori Fabric Town!

There wasn't a lot for my bf and I to look at in this area, so his mom excused us and we went off to Ikebukuro to let them browse leisurely without knowing we're just waiting around. We hopped back on the Yamanote line and then headed towards Sunshine City.

We stopped at Tokyu Hands to ask about a dip coffee that my bf's mom had really enjoyed after purchasing it from the Shinjuku Tokyu Hands and wanted to get more of, but apparently it's exclusively sold in that location only (in Tokyo at least).
It wasn't a waste of time though because now we knew we'd have to work going back to Shinjuku into the schedule and we also bought her a Mothers Day gift at the same time and had it gift wrapped.

We continued on to Sunshine City and stopped at Daiso (where I was still looking for a few things for my own mom)

and then eventually made our way to the Pokemon Center. I had a lot of fun looking around for some items that Rebby had requested and we picked up quite a few other omiyage items as well.

Also briefly stopped at Kiddyland to look for the last 2 items that Rebby had requested and was super happy to find them successfully!

On our way back to Ikebukuro station, taiyaki break.

We met back up in Nippori and then went back to Ueno together. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Sushi-ro for lunch. This seems like a pretty popular chain, but I've never been to one before! The check in didn't seem to have an English option, but I somehow clicked the right buttons to get a ticket to wait. We ended up having to sit for about 25 minutes before getting a table.
Ordering is done through a tablet and then the food arrives per dish on a track.
Bf and I agreed that Uobei is much better lol. Sushi-ro doesn't seem like a bad option, but for the price and quality/taste of the food, this isn't our first choice for keitan zushi.

While we were waiting for our table, my bf had gone back to the hotel and dropped off all the shopping items his mom and grandma had purchased in the fabric town. Since we didn't have too many packages to worry about, we were finally able to shop around Ameyoko.
(As usual, I didn't get very many photos of this since it's mostly just goods and candies that I'm too busy shoving in my basket and trying to avoid knocking things over rather than documenting things.)

At that point, my bf's grandma was ready for a break, so we all went back to the hotel to regroup. Soonafter, my bf and his mom and I headed back out. They went to Shinjuku to revisit the Tokyu Hands for the specific dip coffee and I decided to go to Harajuku so I could take a look at EATME which I had kind of been avoiding thus far.
EATME is a brand that I've been super interested in for a while but just couldn't commit to online shopping because of the uncertainty and the price point not being worth the gamble. I thought that if I could try a few pieces on in person, it'd be easier to pull the trigger not only on the spot but also online later.
Unfortunately....they didn't have any stock of the pieces I was truly interested in. I did make the move to try on a skirt and a dress so I have a better idea of the sizing which was meeting at least 1 of my goals, but I'm really sad there wasn't anything in store that I wanted to purchase.

Since my bf and his mom were still shopping in Shinjuku, I tromped over to Garrett's to get a few bags for us and some to take back as well.

Intending to meet back up in Shinjuku, I caught the metro to Shinjuku Sanchome, but instead of meeting up, we end up both getting lost in the process and while I started at the east end trying to get to them at the west end, they started at the west end and ended up at the south for some reason?? Anyway, I stopped in a department store grocery level to look for some stuff and this is the only photo I have during that hectic time lmao.

We finally all make it back to Ueno after we give up and just take the JR Yamanote line. We met back up with my bf's grandma in the hotel and then just head back down to go to Bouya which is a yakiniku restaurant that's literally across the street.

There's a bar on the first floor but small tables on the second. There was only one party of 3 in front of us, but we had to wait about 45 minutes on the curb for anyone to come out and free up the tables.

Finally got our order in.
The wagyu selections were really good! I'll also note that the staff at this restaurant seemed pretty functionally trilingual at least (Japanese, Mandarin, English) based on their interactions with various other tables around us.

Ended the night by getting ice cream from the conbini next door lol.
Bf and his mom intended to go out once more to either get the free ramen from the hotel or the tsukemen from another nearby restaurant, but everyone ended up calling it a night after resting for a while. There's something about stopping for a while that really slows you down lol.

Nippori Fabric Town was a big must-do for my bf's mom and grandma and I'm glad they were able to shop shop shop without pressure from us. Meanwhile, I was really happy with the shopping that Bf and I were able to do as well - especially the gift for his mother. Otherwise, not a super eventful day, but still somehow exhausting at the end of it.

Day 4 - Saturday, April 13: Ichigo no Sato strawberry picking & Ashikaga Flower Park
We were up bright and early and headed over to the JR Ueno station to catch the Shinkansen to Oyama. We had purchased our tickets the day before but the reserved seating was all sold out. Needing to sit in an unreserved car but wanting to sit together if at all possible, we wanted to be the first in line.
However....I think I grossly overestimated how crowded it was going to be and we didn't have any issues sitting together and we really didn't need to be there 45 minutes early wtf.

We arrived at Oyama station about 36 minutes later - no fuss, comfortable seats and we were able to sit together, no problem. Although local trains were an option and much less expensive, we chose to take the shinkansen for the convenience and time saving. (Local train would have taken about 65-75 minutes with constant stops and likely larger crowds.)

There is a taxi area very close to the station exit and we had no issue getting into one and giving directions.

We arrived at Ichigo no Sato strawberry farm after about a 15-17 minute taxi ride which cost about 2400yen for 4 people. This is one of many strawberry farms in the Tochigi area, but I picked this one because they took reservations (and had spots available), and the nearest train station was a major one that didn't require any transfers and didn't terribly disrupt our plans for the day. Although the taxi ride was a bit pricey, many of the other farms require a similar taxi ride + additional train fare and I think overall we saved some time.
Note - reservation system is almost entirely in Japanese although the website has some English translation. I'm not able to read kanji very well, but was still able to Google Translate my way through the registration process and it's not very complicated.

I had already made a reservation online the day before, so we simply checked in, paid (1080yen each but it varies by season and strawberry) and waited for our group time. Unlike Kawatsura Farm which I had visited on previous trips (Spring 2015, Spring 2017), there are two reservation time slots - Morning and Afternoon, and 2 types of strawberries - Tochiotome and Skyberry of which you must pick 1 for your reservation. When you arrive during the designated time slot, you will be sorted into a group. Your group will receive instructions then led to the greenhouse where you can pick and eat strawberries for up to 30 minutes.

I ended up reserving for Tochiotome-type strawberries instead of the Skyberry type because I thought this variety would be less popular and therefore possibly less crowded (which turned out to be correct). Tochiotome strawberries are a traditional staple of Tochigi specifically, so it seemed fitting to try these as well. The Skyberry is a newer breed (less than 10 years old) known for its size.
It seemed like the 30 minutes was more on honor system and most other guests left around the 20 minute mark. We stayed a bit closer to 25 with the last few families and then walked back toward the main building.

We had seen an advertisement for these strawberry pancakes before we picked the strawberries and were really eager to try them afterwards at the cafe close to the farm

It turns out these are Skyberry strawberry pancakes, so we really got the best of both worlds - unlimited eating and picking of the iconic Tochiotome strawberry and also trying the modern Skyberry strawberry with the pancakes.

We went to check out the gift shop shortly after that.

And then caught a taxi back to the station. There's a small taxi waiting area with a phone number you can call, but since none of us had an international calling plan, my bf's mom went to talk to the staff to ask if they could call one for us. Just as she went to do that, a taxi pulled up and we were able to just hop in though.

Back at Oyama station, the we found the tracks for the JR Ryomo line which would take us directly to our next destination. This train seems like it only leaves once an hour or so during non-peak times, so we were lucky that we didn't have to rush to catch it nor did we just miss it.
In fact, the train was waiting there at the tracks with its doors open and we were all able to comfortably find a seat before it started moving 7 minutes later.

A 35-minute train ride took us directly to Ashikaga Flower Park station which is a newly established station just for the park!

We walked to get to the main entrance which isn't hard to find. The road is lined with cherry blossom trees.

Purchased admission tickets for 4 adults. The price varies by the condition of the flowers. For this day in mid-April with the wisteria not in bloom, we paid 700yen each.

The park has free wheelchairs available for use near the entrance if you have someone who can't easily walk for long periods of time. We borrowed one for my bf's grandma so she wouldn't have to worry about being tired while getting around the park. We had already done quite a bit of walking and standing that day already.

I needed a snack since fruit doesn't really fill me up so I purchased some karaage lol.

And we started exploring the park! Unfortunately I don't know the exact distinction for many of these flowers, so I'll just dump the best photos.
Wisteria flavored soft cream!
There were a lot of beautiful arches and terrace areas that I can only imagine are even more wonderful when the wisteria is in full bloom. I think we may have missed it by about 2-3 weeks. The only upside is that the sakura trees were still in good shape though.

From the gift shop - Tochiotome strawberry KitKat from Tochigi

We returned to Ashikaga Flower Park station from the West gate of the park which is a little bit nearer but not as scenic which was fine for us.

Once returned to Oyama station, we still had to get our shinkansen tickets for the ride back to Ueno. Again, there were no reserved seats left available together (not even 2 together), so we got 1 reserved seat just in case for my bf's grandma so she would be able to sit down no matter what and 3 unreserved.

Since there was about 45 minutes before the train was to arrive, my bf and I ran around to the Daiso, Can Do and Don Quixote that are all in the department store near the station while his mom and grandma took a break inside Oyama station (without exiting). It didn't seem like we had very much time, so we were literally almost jogging while looking for a few items that his grandma was interested in and still searching for a few for my mother as well.

We ended up all waiting at an unreserved car for the shinkansen and riding separately (bf's mom and grandma in one car but separate rows, myself in another and my bf standing in between) until Omiya where a seat next to me opened up for my bf and my bf's mom and grandma managed to move to seats together in their car as well. No photos of that because I felt too self-conscious being in the middle seat between strangers for a while.

We returned to Ueno station and had a little bit of an issue with the shinkansen tickets at the gate. I had purchased them with the vending machine to save time, but really wasn't sure how they worked and to tell the station staff. We knew we'd have to pay at the gate, but since we couldn't communicate properly, I think there was a little bit of a back up. I'm really not familiar with the process since I usually only catch the shinkansen using my JR Rail Pass, and unfortunately didn't learn much this time either but it didn't seem to cause any real problems :|

Bf's mom and grandma went straight back to the hotel to rest after a long day, but my bf and I stopped to shop a little bit at the station since our trip was starting to come to a close. There were some omiyage type items that I really wanted and had seen earlier and we also got some cheese disk things from the bakery lol.

We got back to the hotel, rested a bit and then decided on dinner. First choice was the tsukemen restaurant downstairs from the hotel with the back up being an unagi bowl restaurant. As it turns out, the tsukemen restaurant had a bit of a line, so bf's mom and grandma went back to the hotel and my bf and I continued to try to get take out from a restaurant that his mom had looked up.

Long story short, it took us a while to find the restaurant because we weren't following google maps and then we waited for 20 minutes unnecessarily in the line to be seated (which had about 25 people in front of us and 25+ people in back). If you want to do take out from Unatoto, you do NOT need to wait in the line. I believe you can talk to the staff inside and then wait for your order outside.

About half an hour after finding the restaurant (and probably 45 minutes after initially separating), I finally make my way back to the hotel with 3 unagi bowls and my gyudon which I had picked up from Matsuya while we were trying to find Unatoto earlier. My bf had gone back to let his mom and grandma know about the delay.
When we were all seated in the lobby, we just started eating and no one even took a picture of the food, lol. I think they said it was good for the price but could have used more sauce though.

The night was still pretty young, so we decided to meet up with my bf's childhood friend and his girlfriend again in Shibuya. Their first choice restaurant was super crowded, so we ended up eating at a nearby yakiniku restaurant called Inoue.

After enjoying each others' company, we split at Don Quixote where my bf and I did a little more last minute shopping and then caught the Ginza line train back to Ueno.

I was happy that we were able to do two major activities that my bf's mom and grandma wanted to do this day - strawberry picking and Ashikaga Flower Park. It's too bad that the wisteria was nowhere near blooming, but that's definitely on a future to-do list! Since they added the Ashikaga Flower Park station, it's very convenient to get to, especially if you have a JR Rail Pass and can easily catch the shinkansen (unlike us lmao). I'd definitely look forward to visiting again during a slightly different season.

Day 5 - Sunday, April 14: Amano Freeze Dry Station, Maisen, last minute shopping & back to Narita
This was our last day of the trip, but we had most of morning and afternoon to spend at our leisure. My bf and I packed up completely and checked out of our hotel room, moving everything to his mom and grandma's room since they had late check-out.

First order of business was getting to an Amano Freeze Dry Station location. Nearest one to us was actually in the KITTE building near Tokyo Station. On previous visits, I've been going to the Yokohama location, but this one is a lot more convenient if you're staying in Tokyo.
We caught the JR Yamanote line to Tokyo station and then tried our best to get to the Marunouchi Underground South Exit. From there, there's even signs showing you which way to get to KITTE which is super useful. Amano is located on the basement level.
My bf's mom and grandma were desperately looking for a shijimi miso soup from this brand and had no idea they had an entire store for this brand of products. We had been randomly checking grocery stores because I didn't put 2 and 2 together to figure out this was the kind of thing they had been looking for. In any case, they bought a ton of stuff for themselves and for omiyage!

We decided on a lunch place and walked from one end of Tokyo Station to the other, passing these delicious smelling cheese tarts on the way.

Maisen is on the 12th floor of Daimaru which is connected to Tokyo Station which is easy to find from the underground level.
I'm really happy we were able to get some really good tonkatsu during this trip! It's one of my favorite things to eat in Japan. Bf's mom even ordered hers with a side of curry.

Once we had our fill, we got back on the Yamanote line and got off at Okachimachi. There's an organization of individual shops called Aki-Oka 2k540 that my parents saw on a tv show and recommended to us. It's just below the rail tracks between Akihabara and Okachimachi but slightly closer on the Okachimachi side, about a 5 minute walk down the street from the station, following the tracks.
Shoe store/brand that my dad had previously bought shoes from during a past trip in Kamakura that we spotted along the street

The area isn't enclosed like a typical "mall" but there's a sign to let you know you've arrived.

We first stopped at Tokyo Noble which is an umbrella shop that was featured in the TV show my parents watched. You're able to customize your own umbrella but it takes at least 30 minutes for the shop owner to do it. We didn't end up making any purchases here though.

We explored a few other shops in the area as well. The whole theme is kind of artisan-y.

At that point, we branched off to do some more shopping at a bit more mainstream places and my bf's mom and grandma were going to take a break.
Bf and I walked back towards to the station to check out the Uniqlo.

We made our personal and omiyage purchases and then made our way back towards Ameyoko

and continued past to get to OIOI which has a Seria 100yen shop on the 7th floor that I wanted to visit and also a MUJI in the basement level!

After making our last minute purchases, we met back up with my bf's mom and grandma at the hotel and rearranged the items in our luggage to get ready to go to the airport.
Once checked out, my bf's mom and grandma caught a taxi to Keisei Ueno station with their luggage. Bf and I walked there and just about perfectly met up with them outside the gate.

We still had the return trip ticket from our Keisei Skyliner passes that were exchanged upon our arrival, but still had to reserve seats at the station.

The trains run pretty frequently and to avoid rushing, we had selected the second train instead of the one coming closest to our arrival at the station. For your reference, the station itself is also not that big, so it really doesn't take very long to get to the tracks from the ticket reservation office. We had plenty of time and was able to see the train arrive and get cleaned before we boarded.

We got to Narita Airport around 40 minutes later. From the station where we unloaded from the train, it was a bit of a walk to get to the Hawaiian Airlines check in counter...where they weren't even open yet because we were so early lol. They don't open until 3 hours before the flight.

Bf and I were tasked to do some recon on the shopping and dining area while his mom and grandma watched the luggage and waited for check-in. I ended up taking a number of photos of the restaurants in the upper area before security. If you want to know what kind of options you might have to eat at a a small restaurant in Narita, here are some examples!
There were a decent number of restaurants and souvenir/omiyage shops including an Ito Ya and a small Pokemon Center. Two sushi restaurants were also present that I didn't take a photo of because we weren't interested in eating that at the time.

After checking in, we opted to try our luck in the gate area instead of going to any of the restaurants on the upper level. We passed through security and immigration and were in an area with tons of high end shops.

We ended up going all the way to our gate (which was pretty far, especially for my bf's grandma) and choosing the restaurant that was just across the gate seating area called Miso Kitchen. There was a pretty decent selection of menu items. We each got a slightly different set.

Even when we were done eating, the gate area wasn't very full and we didn't have any trouble getting seats and settling in before boarding.

Bf and I got upgraded to Extra Comfort again, but this time in the middle section of the first row in the back of the plane. Plenty of leg room, but not my favorite because I really like to have my carry on bag under the seat in front of me instead of in the overhead bin.
The flight back was just under 7 hours which was pretty good compared to what we had to deal with going over. I was still groggy until I was able to walk a bit and get past immigration, but overall not terrible. Since we arrived back on Sunday, we didn't immediately have to go back to work this time!

The last day was pretty low key and I'm glad we were able to get to the Amano Dry Goods Station since bf's mom and grandma loved shopping there so much! Getting back to Narita wasn't as daunting as I would have assumed in the past and overall, it was a pretty easy airport to go to and from, especially when staying in Ueno.

Liz Lisa mermaid sweets parlor OP in pink
Purchased from Shinjuku Alta on Day 1 with Ebony. I felt super lucky that Liz Lisa released this the Thursday before I arrived in Japan and I didn't have to fuss about whether I would get it online or not. With Ebony's stamp of approval after I tried it on, I felt pretty good about purchasing it. Pink was definitely my first color choice and I really love the overall print and design of this dress. The puff sleeves have just the right amount of volume without being overwhelming and luckily the waist and length aren't super janky for free size. (Although after wearing it for a day, I realized I think it would be more comfy with 2 inches taken in at the waist and maybe an inch off the length.)

Liz Lisa fishtail long dress in deep pink (2019 version)
Purchased from Shibuya 109 on Day 2 with Berri. I love the white version I purchased last year in July and had this on my WTB list going into the trip but in the lighter pink color which is new for this release. I ended up going with the deeper pink which I think looks different in person than in many of the advertised photos. After discussing with Berri, we decided the deeper pink suited my skin tone more although I generally liked the color for the regular pink.

Samantha Thavasa/Samantha Silva "Swingle-silva" necklace
Purchased from the Samantha Vega store in Shibuya 109 while I was shopping with Berri on Day 2! I've been admiring the Samantha Thavasa sister jewelry brands online for a while and have been meaning to visit a Samantha Silva or Samantha Tiara store in Japan for the past several trips, but just never made it happen. This was a great opportunity since they renovated the 109 Vega shop and with Berri encouraging me, I was able to pull the trigger for this necklace. I have been looking for something this size/chain length for a while now that's simple but cute that's not so overwhelming for daily wear and be used with almost any outfit. The stone in the center actually quivers/"swings" a bit, hence the name, and catches light beautifully. I've been wearing it nearly every day since I purchased it and completely love it so far.

I didn't really make as many purchases as I planned to. A big part was that I didn't see anything in stock in EATME that I really wanted and another part was that I didn't get to branch off and do too much personal shopping at my leisure like I usually do. I didn't even go down Takeshita doori at all. It was great to have a small opportunity with Ebony and the time with Berri in 109 - without which I might not have made these purchases at all lol. My priority this trip was definitely more towards omiyage and I'm not super disappointed.

Day 1 - Liz Lisa sweet latte OP, Liz Lisa peplum cardigan, Liz Lisa lace wedge pumps

Day 2 - Liz Lisa open shoulder sailor blouse, Liz Lisa sweet confiture skirt, Liz Lisa bijou cardigan, Liz Lisa lace wedge pumps

Day 3 - Liz Lisa message ribbon sailor blouse, Liz Lisa dress up doll skirt, Liz Lisa fur collar cardigan, Liz Lisa smokey color beret, Liz Lisa 3 ribbon pumps

Day 4 - Liz Lisa strawberry bonbon OP, Liz Lisa peplum cardigan, Liz Lisa strawberry ribbon barrette, Liz Lisa lace wedge pumps

Day 5 - Liz Lisa off shoulder blouse, Liz Lisa sleepy bunny sukapan, Liz Lisa bijou cardigan/Liz Lisa fur collar cardigan, Liz Lisa big ribbon beret, Liz Lisa 3 ribbon pumps

Liz Lisa is still my primary go-to brand for trips - in particular because I know the shoes will be reasonably comfortable for the amount of walking we do and the kind of heel height I want + all the items kind of match with each other. As much as I want to include some darker color outfits in the line up (even if it's just Liz Lisa's gingham cafe skirt in black), it just didn't make sense to try because my feet would die walking 6-9 miles in the black heels I have. One day I'll make it happen!
Meanwhile, since this trip was quite short and I didn't anticipate shopping much, I brought all 5 outfits with me from home - 2 dresses and 3 top/bottom sets, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 hats, and 3 cardigans. I probably could have done with just 2 cardigans but I thought the bright pink cardigan would be a nice option and I'm glad I did because the colors are a little monotonous without it. (I also changed into it at the airport on the last day.) I used my white Samantha Thavasa purse and fluffy circle scarf from Grandege every day as well.
The weather in Tokyo was SO MUCH colder than I expected! I brought some nude tights with me from home that I had purchased on past trips (never use them in HI because there's no need), but ended up buying 3 more to wear. I pretty much relied on the face mask, scarf and being indoors to keep me warm on some days when I really would have been better off with a real coat or heavier jacket instead of literally just a light cardigan and short sleeve polyester blouses.

Unfortunately, I didn't go into as much detail as I usually do for these kinds of travel posts, but that's also because I didn't end up doing as much research myself for this trip! It really was more of a go-with-the-flow and figure-it-out-as-we-experience-it kind of trip.
I also wanted to make sure that trying to document my trip with photos wouldn't get in the way of the experience, and, as a result, many instances of the trip are lacking visual aids. However, I still wanted to include the written log of what we did because I'm the kind of person who loves to remember mundane details! If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer  
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