J-horror movie location: The Grudge 2!

Maybe you noticed that I put this entry under my Places I recommend category, but I did that just because I don’t have a Places that will give you nightmares one. If you’d rather watch 10 hours of Dancing with The Stars than one horror movie, sleep with a light on, wouldn’t go to a haunted house in an amusement park even if someone handed you a suitcase full of money — I have bad news. I definitely do not recommend a trip to the place I am going to show you today. However! If you passionately watched Goosebumps or Are you afraid of the dark? as a kid, Paranormal Activity is like a bedtime story and you think Sadako (Samara) would actually look no different than a regular teenager if she trimmed her bangs a bit — hop on Seibu Ikebukuro or Seibu Shinjuku Line and go visit Tokorozawa!

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The Grudge House

〒359-1116 Saitama-ken,
Tokorozawa-shi,
Higashichō, 15−15

One of my students made this map for me and it was actually the only source of information I used to get to the destination. I found two blogs with more detailed directions, but somehow I liked the idea of following the map, it felt like some sort of treasure hunt, that whole sense of adventure stuff.

BLOG 1

BLOG 2

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Before going on your Grudge-ghost hunting adventure, it’s a good idea to fill your belly with something delicious. My friend and I found a rather shady looking restaurant and didn’t expect much, but OH MY GAWD WAS IT DELICIOUS! It was hands down some of the best ramen I’ve had in Japan! 

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Back to the spookiness…

It was my first time to wander around Tokorozawa. I don’t want to scare you or discourage you from visiting this place, but it was one of the most eerie looking towns I’ve ever been to. Once I left the bright commercial street full of people, I found myself surrounded by all these scary looking houses, with dark windows, rusty gates and rooftops with a thick blanket of ivy covering them tightly, as if no one had lived there for at least a couple of years.

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(This super creepy house was used in the movie too!)

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There it is! One of the scariest houses in the history of Japanese cinema!

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I’d like to congratulate the movie makers of The Grudge. The location they chose was just perfect — I mean, just look at this sinister looking neighbourhood. When I was there, I felt shivers down my spine… even now just looking at these pictures is giving me goosebumps!

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What’s there? Just a normal looking house one could say. It did look quiet innocent, but to be honest I just couldn’t look at the windows for more than 2 seconds. I might look super brave in these photos, but don’t let your eyes deceive you. I was terrified! My heart was pounding and every unidentified sound made me flee in total panic!

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This is it! The haunted Grudge House! Is there really something going on? I checked it for any potential haunting, and it seemed ‘clean’. And how exactly did I check it? Caution, creepy things are coming.

So, as we read on Wikipedia: 

The Grudge describes a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. The curse is an entity created where the person died.”

The Japanese really do believe these things. Ever heard of jiko butsuken? Let me explain it shortly. Jiko butsuken apartments have little to no chance of being rented despite super low rent. Basically they are houses where the previous residents died of some unnatural reasons: murder, suicide, drowning etc. There’s a whole website dedicated to these kind of apartments → Oshimateru (English version). I checked out this place and apparently it doesn’t carry any creepy history, but who knows…

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The fact that the curtains were left open and there were live chickens (or some other birds) in that cage you see in the bushes was really weird. Seeing garden furniture and various objects randomly placed all over the backyard made it look as if there wasn’t a living soul there. But it definitely looked like there was a soul of some other kind.. Would I go inside? Oh hell no! Nope, nope, NOPE!

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CAUTION! There are infrared cameras set up by the entrance to the house. Apparently 4 daredevils got into the house and snooped around. One question: why would anyone try to go in there? Why would anyone go there at night??? (Infrared camera suggests there might have been attempts like that)

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And here’s another spot used in the movie — DUDUDUMMMMM…. The bridge!

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It was just a regular bridge, but I found it somewhat spine-chilling to be sitting in the exact same spot, where we could see Kayako with bloody stains splattered around her.

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Have you watched any of The Grudge series? I remember I watched it with my roommates at a summer camp when I was 16. There was a curfew and we were supposed to be sleeping by 10 pm, but watching a horror movie at midnight seemed so rebellious, I’m sure you know what I mean. Little did I know that nearly 10 years later, I would see the place with my own two eyes! Whacky!

Would you go visit the house? Would you go in if you could…?

Thanks for reading (and enjoy your Ju-on adventure!) ♥

Traditional Shitamachi Kissaten — Sunny Cafe in Asakusa!

There are a few websites about Japan I follow. I stay pretty faithful to GaijinPot and actually not that long ago I read this blog entry over there about kissaten = traditional Japanese cafes (→“Kissaten: A slowly dying part of Japanese culture”). I agree with the author, big cafe chains like Starbucks, Dotour, Tully’s etc. are more visible on the streets of Tokyo than those little cozy places, where you can still feel the inimitable Showa atmosphere. Saying ‘more visible’ might be an understatement even — some people here seem to be living on nothing more than Starbucks everyday, it’s always full and there’s always a line of at least 10 people. And that’s a shame. Why? I absolutely love Shitamachi Tokyo (the less fashionable, older part of the city) and what I love even more is finding those adorable kissaten, often located in some absolutely picturesque neighbourhood, with red paper lanterns, old rusty bikes, old posters with charming ladies dressed in kimonos…

Here’s one I have visited a few times and that I love going back to whenever I’m in Asakusa.

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Sunny Cafe in Asakusa

〒111-0032 Tokyo

Taito-ku, Asakusa, 2 Chome 

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This adorable tiny cafe is in the middle of something that appears to be a newly build shopping arcade with super touristy stuff. I like such places though, because Japan has the cutest souvenirs ever!

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Actually there’s tons of adorable items in front of the cafe too. I’m really glad I didn’t walk past it thinking it was just another souvenir store among hundreds of those in Asakusa.

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When you step inside, it’s as if you suddenly found yourself in the Showa era. Time-worn furniture and decorative items, old posters with geisha holding a can of cold beer…

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You can really relax here, read a newspaper or watch news on TV while sipping on a cup of coffee. Patrons of kissaten are often elderly people who live nearby and come by every now and then for some juicy gossip, a conversation with the hosts or other customers or for the feeling of nostalgia Starbucks cannot give them.

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You might think that the menu isn’t impressive — and I can confirm it. We can find tea, coffee, maybe juice. Sandwiches and pound cakes. Sometimes curry. Prices might be a bit steep, yes. There’s no Venti size or fancy stuff like wraps, tortillas or sakura flavoured cheesecakes…

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…but what you will find here is the authentic atmosphere of Japan.

I admit I do enjoy hanging out in Harajuku or Shibuya and other hip areas of Tokyo, but what will always be “the real Tokyo” for me is Shitamachi, beckoning cats, the smell of tatami mats, that lovely mish-mash of old and new.

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I do recommend Sunny Cafe, of course. It’s a little charming cafe in the heart of Asakusa. But that wasn’t the main point of this post to be honest. What is it then? If you’re visiting Japan, be sure to stop by a kissaten. Any kissaten! Go explore, the area around your hotel might hide real gems! Price-wise it’s no different from Starbucks really, cafes in Japan rarely have wifi anyway, so it’s not like you’re gonna miss out on something and you’ll see the traditional, nostalgic side of Japan…. The best Japan. 

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Thank you for reading♥

One day trip — Oshino Hakkai 忍野八海 in Yamanashi Prefecture ♥

There is one question I get asked even more often than “How come you live and work in Japan?” (which by the way I answered here←) and that’s “What do you recommend to see / do in Tokyo?”. There are endless websites with bucket lists, must-go spots etc. so I don’t think I can tell you more than you can find on your own, even if your Google searching skills are limited. However, if you searched “What to do while I’m in Tokyo” and Google decided to show you my blog, here’s my recommendation:

OSHINO HAKKAI 忍野八海

(*which is actually not in Tokyo)

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How to get there?

It’s super easy to get there and trust me, it’s totally worth the two hour bus ride. I know it might not be the most convenient form of transportation for those with terrible motion sickness (like myself), but the views from the bus window will make it up to you! They’re spectacular!

All you have to do is:

* go to Shinjuku

* find the Shinjuku Bus Terminal (map and more info)

* buy a ticket to Oshino Hakkai (here’s a timetable and some more info)

* get on the bus…

*… get off at Oshino Hakkai station and have a great day!

 I visited this amazing place when the cherry blossom trees were still blooming… Lucky me!

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Oshino Hakkai is a lovely little town located at the foot of the majestic Mount Fuji. It’s a place with picturesque views on literally every corner. It’s pretty quiet (even with countless groups of tourists) and simply perfect for those tired of Tokyo’s dynamic character.

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Beautiful!

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What is Oshino Hakkai famous for? You can read about it → here ← but if you’re feeling particularly lazy, I’ll summarize it for you in a few words. The name says it all — Hakkai 八 海 (which literally means ‘eight seas’ but) could be translated here as ‘Eight ponds’ and this is exactly what’s special about this place. Eight ponds with crystal clear water coming straight from Mt. Fuji. The water has this amazing azure colour (just like the sea, hence 海 in the name I guess) and the koi fish just add even more beauty to it. 

The place is full of cool things — just look at these traditional thatched houses! I had the opportunity to stay in the house you see below about 2 years ago, when my parents visited Japan. The houses are authentically old and spending a night in a place like that is definitely a great experience.

Ice cream!

If you ever find yourself in this magical place, I highly recommend trying some delicious ice cream. And there’s so many flavours to choose from! I decided to munch on the ultimate Japanese flavour — matcha ice cream!

Soba!

You can’t come to Yamanashi Prefecture and not try soba! I guess it’s the water that makes it so delicious — even the most basic type of soba, without any toppings, is to die for!

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Satsuma-age!

Surimi fish cake with scallop, mayo and lots of other ingredients (here’s some Wikipedia for those more interested in the topic)

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Here’s an idea for those who want to get the most out of their day in Oshino Hakkai. Find a taxi station in Oshino Hakkai and hire a cab! It’s a bit costly I admit, but you get what you pay for — convenient transport, great service and a guide who will take you to the best viewpoints and tell you a bit about each of them!

CAUTION! I have terrible motion sickness, especially in cars — a private tour is a great thing, but if you can’t stand winding roads up hills, think twice before hiring a cab. I managed to complete the tour without a bigger accident, mainly thanks to the super nice and understanding Mr. Taxi Driver, who stopped every time I felt dizzy.

1 hour ride → ¥6500

2 hour ride → ¥13000

 Here are some of the scenic spots Mr. Taxi Driver took us to…

 What can you do right before hopping on the bus taking you back to Tokyo? Shop for souvenirs! There’s a wide selection of absolutely adorable accessories, cute Mt. Fuji, Hello Kitty in kimono, Mt. Fuji chocolate cookies, countless cat accessories, funky KitKats available only in Japan etc. Loooots of absolutely kawaii things you won’t be able to leave behind.

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Have you ever been to Oshino Hakkai? No? Be sure to put it on your bucket list when you come to Japan!

Thank you for reading ♥

Shibuya’s Genki Sushi!

It’s been a while since I last documented one of my sushi adventures. I mentioned that in April and May I may have or may have not consumed mountains of sushi, but unfortunately didn’t give any info on where you can get some of this raw fish deliciousness. I won’t be selfish and I’ll share some fun sushi spots around Tokyo. I have already described my impromptu sushi adventure in Omotesando some time ago, so today it’s time I showed you one place in Shibuya I frequently visit. 

GENKI SUSHI in SHIBUYA

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ADDRESS:

 24-8, 1F, Leisure Plaza Bld.,

Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku,

Tokyo, Japan, 150-0042

MAP: *click here*

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Upon arrival you’ll get a card with your table number. Find your seat… and you’re ready to order! Genki Sushi is not really a kaiten sushi = conveyor belt sushi restaurant. You place orders using a screen and your food arrives on a tiny plate. Super easy! You can choose whether you want wasabi or not, which is actually great because I’m not really into wasabi‘s pungent taste. 

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THE MENU ( ←click on it)

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 Albacore tuna with black pepper

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Tuna with onion and spicy oil

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 Salmon roe and cucumber

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 Spicy salmon

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 Salmon

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 Shrimp with avocado, onion and mayo

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Salmon with onion and mayo

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Shrimp tempura

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 Egg

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 Dried gourd shavings maki

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 Firefly squid

(if you’re not exactly a fan of food with eyes and tentacles, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one…)

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  Cheap sushi chains often have games you can play using the screen used to place orders. I hardly ever win anything, but this time I gave it a go and won this voucher I later exchanged it for a tiny salmon roe sushi ♥

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 Would I recommend this place? It’s really touristy and the ratio of foreign and Japanese customers is probably like 7:3, so if for some reasons you don’t like that kind of place — don’t go there. They do speak English, but if you start speaking Japanese to them, they won’t pretend they didn’t hear it and they won’t continue speaking English ← and that’s definitely a good point. There’s not much interaction with the staff needed, so if all you want is a cheap sushi place with a super easy ordering system — it’s a good place to go!

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Thanks for reading!♥

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Kimono in Asakusa — the ultimate hanami experience!

What would you consider to be the ultimate Japanese experience? Climbing Mount Fuji? Eating fresh sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market at 4 am? Staying at a traditional hot spring hotel? Attending a tea ceremony? I guess all of those things could be considered the ultimate Japan moment, but I can’t say I can check them all off my bucket list yet. There’s one thing, you cannot do properly anywhere else in the world and I’m proud to say I have done it a few times already. And I absolutely love it! Getting dressed up in kimono is always a great experience for me. It’s like a ritual, every piece of kimono, even the smallest one, has its own particular function and it has to be arranged in a special way. Not to mention it looks simply spectacular and is one of the most beautiful and elegant outfits a woman can wear.

This March I had the pleasure to wear it again, and cherry blossoms in full bloom are definitely what made it even more special!

It’s an unforgettable experience, and I really encourage you to try wearing a kimono at least once. (Gentlemen, I’m talking to you too!) If you ever find yourself in Asakusa, head over to Sawadaya Kimono Rental shop. You can choose among hundreds of beautiful kimonos and two amazing ladies will dress you up and they’ll even do your hair! They have offers for couples too — if walking with your partner around Asakusa looking all fabulous is not your definition of the perfect date, then I don’t know what is. (I’ll give some more details about the place at the end of this post!).

Anyway! Today I wanted to share some beautiful moments of my ultimate cherry blossom experience in Asakusa captured by the amazing Boong (The Beholder Photography)!

🙂

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 Full-body shots. Check out that fantastic kimono! Everything matched perfectly and even my tabi socks had roses embroidered on them.

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The stunning Chika-san! I think I’ve mentioned her in some of my blog posts a few times. If it’s your first visit to my blog (hopefully not the last) I’ll write a few words about her just for you. We met just a few months after I came to Japan and at first I was Chika-san’s Polish teacher. I still help her study, but what we basically do is hang out in all the cool Tokyo places, as Chika-san is a native Tokyoite and she knows it better than anyone. She was the one, who came up with the idea of dressing up in kimonos.

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Chika-san chose a simple yet elegant kimono, which nicely balanced my rather flamboyant and elaborate kimono set-up. Notice adorable cats on her obi belt! The paper fans we are holding used to belong to Chika-san’s mother, who was a dancer. They were in fact a bit time-worn, with chipped edges and scraped parts, but that’s exactly what made them even more charming.

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Sawadaya Kimono Rental Shop details!

Here’s their website → click here

and their blog → click here

You can also see the blog post documenting my first and second visit to the shop:

December 2014

March 2015

Kimono rental plan (¥5400 per 1 person,¥9800 per couple) → click here

They don’t speak English, but I guess they can reply to e-mails if you use the help of good ole’ Google Translate. All you have to do to make a reservation is give them your details:

* name

* the day and time you’d like to come in

* how many people (boys & girls) the reservation would be for

Caution! If you’re 30 minutes late, they cannot guarantee they’ll be able to dress you up as there might be another customer waiting, and trust me — putting on a kimono takes time. Sadly, there’s no English version of their website, so if you don’t speak Japanese and have any questions, I’ll try to help you — just leave a comment!

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Thank you for reading! ♥

Stepping into the world of Ghibli in Seoul ♥

I am not going to ask whether you like Ghibli or not— I think assuming you do is safe enough. I remember I may have mentioned a few times that Spirited Away occupies a very high position on my personal list of best movies I’ve ever seen. It was the movie that showed me the genius of Miyazaki and the pure beauty of Hisaishi’s musical compositions. I fell in love and knew I needed to see more. There’s something about Ghibli Studio’s creations that will take you back to that time when you were a carefree child, chasing butterflies (or frogs and grasshoppers like myself). It will make you smile and feel all warm and cozy. It will make you wish Totoro lived in that bush across the street, Arrietty’s world was real and Kiki delivered your daily mail.  Or it will leave you speechless for a while, with tears streaming down your face. The beauty hidden in their movies is undeniable. 

If you had a chance to find yourself in the world of any of those movies, you’d definitely take it — right? I had that chance and I took it! This February I found myself reliving the adventures of my favourite Ghibli characters in I’Park Mall in Seoul. Life-sized dioramas, scenes recreated with the highest precision, unique installations — what else could I ask for?

Ghibli exhibition in Seoul♥

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Howl’s Moving Castle

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this movie. It’s an amazing piece of creative work, but what else can I write about a film directed by Miyazaki with Hisaishi’s music? The castle model was fantastic and yes — it was actually moving! 

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I loved this diorama! Culcifer’s warm light really gave off that cozy atmosphere we see in the movie.

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Sophie, Turnip-Head and the beautiful meadow.

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Princess Mononoke 

Many people I met said their favourite movie is Princess Mononoke, so I’m actually a bit afraid to disappoint you… Of course, there are no words of criticism I could say about the Miyazaki & Hisaishi duo — the movie is breathtakingly beautiful and the music is out of this world… BUT! I’m not a big fan of the movies where Ghibli tackles environmental issues. I cannot really find the exact reason why I feel this way about them, but well, I’m just being honest here. I still think it’s a movie everyone should watch. 

Life-size figure models combined with a movie projection, and the epic OST playing in the background. Simply amazing.

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PomPoko

If you read what I had to say about Princess Mononoke, you might have already guessed what I think about PomPoko. I won’t bash it, I wouldn’t dare do that to a wonderful Ghibli Studio creation. It’s just not my favourite film plot-wise, though it’s still quite worth watching to learn more about rich Japanese folklore. And to understand why there’s so many raccoon dog figurines creeping around outside Japanese restaurants. And why male figurines have such big hmm… “pouches”.

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I absolutely loved this diorama! Japanese culture is one of the most fascinating things ever — there’s a reason I have a maneki neko and a daruma tattooed on my body. I’d love to have these in my future house.

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 My Neighbour Totoro

I’m sure you know it and you love it! Seeing life-sized scenes from this heart-warming movie made me as happy as a kid in a candy store! Although I watched the movie as a 20-something, it did make me want to go back to the time I was a wee lass imagining that there has to be some magic creature living in the corn fields I saw from the window in my room (yes, there really are corn fields and a forest with boars surrounding my family house). And the story is even more interesting if you heard that urban legend about what My Neighbour Totoro is supposedly really about…

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Totoro’s big belly was moving up and down, making him look so real! And the tiny Totoros were the most adorable thing ever.

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  Spirited Away

I could talk for hours about how amazing this move is. If you haven’t seen it — please do! Everything about this movie is perfect — breathtaking scenery, music that will touch your heart, numerous links to Japanese folklore, history, and society. The movie makes you forget about the real world, the animation is a piece of fine art. Just watch it. And check out my blog post about Jiufen — a town in Taiwan, which is said to have served as a model for the magic world of spirits and ghosts Chihiro got lost in. 

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Let me just tell you how detailed the figures were! Yubaba’s wrinkles and hair looked so real, I felt she’d scold me for staring at her! Awesome work.

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Everyone loves No-Face and it’s still a mystery to me. You might disagree, but I think he was in no way a positive character. First he was a raging customer at Yubaba’s bathhouse, then he tried to bribe Chihiro into being friends. I guess we all feel sorry for his lack of communication skills that made him lonely and miserable.

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Porco Rosso

I’ve heard many people saying “animation is for kids”. I wish they gave Porco Rosso a go — I bet my bottom yen they would change their mind. Adult, witty humour with some political and historical context — it was great to see it as a part of this exhibition. 

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At the end of the Ghibli journey everyone could leave a tangible proof of their visit and draw their favourite character (or one that was the easiest to draw).

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Here I just wanted to mention my Ghibli favourites that haven’t been given their own dioramas in the exhibition. 

Kiki’s Delivery Service — a sweet story about a young witch named Kiki, growing up, seeking independence and her own identity

The Cat Returns — as a cat person, there’s no way  I could not mention this animation with a lovely story!

Ponyo — Ponyo has to be on the 3rd position of my TOP 3. I just love the story and I think that Ponyo is the most lovable character ever.

The Secret World of Arrietty — when I was a kid, I had lots of dolls and I would sew little clothes and make little accessories for them all day. Then I would imagine that there were little people, who used my little hand-made items and this has to be why I like it so much.


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Although I mainly mention Spirited Away as Ghibli’s absolute masterpiece, the movie that won my heart and will always be my number 1 is… Grave of the Fireflies.

It will leave you speechless. It will make you cry. It will squeeze your heart, leave a bitter gulp of sadness in your mouth, make you re-think your priorities. It’s as heart-breaking as it gets. It is hands down the saddest, the most eye-opening, the most painful movie I’ve ever watched. Every minute of it will stab you with the feels dagger, straight in the heart. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but that’s the whole point — this movie will show you that war is a disaster, the most inane thing in the history of humanity. No matter the reasons or the involved parties. Do watch it if you haven’t yet.

 ↓

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What is your favourite Ghibli movie? Why?

Thank you for reading! ♥

6 cafés you have to check out when in Seoul!

I rarely make a detailed plan when traveling, and so I always end up asking others for their recommendations (theme restaurants and cafes recommendations are always appreciated!). This time, however, no one helped me out so I had no other choice but to do some online research and find some cool places by myself. Seoul is a real mecca of coffee shops — believe it or not, but Seoul is also home to the largest number of coffee shops IN THE WORLD. There’s a coffee shop literally on every corner! Starbucks? Meh, I have it here. Coffee Beans and Tea Leaves? Another chain with shops every 100 meters… I wanted something fun, something that would make a nice blog post. I checked a gajillion websites, ventured out, got lost a few times — and I managed to compile this little guide with some fun cafes to visit when in Seoul.

So if:

* you’re a woman in her 20s ✓

* you like coffee / waffles / cakes ✓

* you’re into social media ✓

*  you like taking photos ✓

* you like cute / fun / unique places and theme cafes ✓

* you happen to be a fan of BIGBANG ✓

…feel free to use my little cafe guide and enjoy your time in the amazing city known as Seoul 🙂

 

 Thanks Nature Cafe 

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Where? Hongdae Station2F Woodo building, 363-5, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu

→MAP←

What’s special? As you may have noticed by now, I’m a big fan of themed cafes and any type of pet cafes. I have visited a cat cafe, an owl cafe, a rabbit cafe, so how could I miss a… sheep cafe?! Yes, that’s right — a sheep cafe! Well, you won’t find them hopping around the tables, but sleeping peacefully outside in a special area separated from the cafe. They’re very clean, well-groomed and I’m sure they’re professionally looked after! The cafe offers delicious coffee and a wide range of waffles with various toppings, so a good idea here would be trying out their rich menu and then snapping a few photos with the fluffy residents. It was -11 degrees when I visited the place, so understandably the sheep — Anna and Elsa —  weren’t the most energetic that day and they slept in their boxes. It was a really cute place though, and I really recommend it, even if you’re a big fan of sheep!

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Dog Cafe Bau House

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Where: Hapjong Station, 394-44, Sukyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

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What’s special: I just wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t visited another ‘pet cafe’ I read so many positive reviews about. Imagine a typical cafe, but with a dozen or more dogs, coming in different sizes, breeds, shapes and levels of energy as permanent residents. Before I went there, I had imagined a few toy poodles and breeds considered cute and fluffy in general. To my surprise, what I saw was pups running all over the place, and let me just tell you, they weren’t the tiniest ones for sure! And let me just add that the bigger the dog, the friendlier they were! But if you expected to be greeted by a hoard of pooches jumping all over you — you’ll be disappointed. They see so many people everyday, they seem kinda bored and the only way you can get them to play with you a little is to feed them. CAUTION! Expect a poop here and there from time to time.

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Cafe Talk

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Where: Nonhyeon Station, 723-15 Banpo Il-dong, Seocho-gu 

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What’s special:  If you’re a social media enthusiast, you will know LINE and KakaoTalk and you probably use at least one of them. They both were produced by a Korean company Naver, and while LINE turned out to be a hit in Japan, Koreans mainly use KakaoTalk. I went there because I expected it to be ‘themed’ the way Japanese people understand ‘themed cafes’ = themed food, coffee art, character plush toys everywhere, some merchandise and long looooong lines. And what did I actually find? No queues whatsoever, in fact I was one of the 6 customers, which might be a good point for some, but let’s say Japan got me used to something quite opposite. The cafe did have some Kakao Talk inspired interior and apparently there was also a small store, but when I visited the place, the store was closed. Bummer. Coffee, food and waffles were not themed. But you might have more luck if you decide to visit the place. Well, at least now I can check going to a Kakao Talk cafe off my bucket list. 

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You Are Here Cafe

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Where: Hongdae Station, Donggyo-ro 25-gil, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu

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What’s special: I bet 90% of my readers will know the place, but just in case, let me tell you a few words about it. This cafe belongs to Canadian YouTubers Simon and Martina Stawski (Eat Your Kimchi), who have been living in Seoul for a few years now, they’re wildly popular and I enjoy watching their videos about Korea — check them out on YT, they’re fun to watch. What will you find there? Speaker’s Corner, where you can tell the world what you think about whatever is trending right now (Speaker’s Corner on YT); EYK merchandise and some Korean study materials like textbooks, vocabulary cards etc.; study room, where you can stay for a few hours and study some language; delicious coffee and cakes! I am not a fan of cakes, so you have to trust me here — please try their Earl Grey Cookie Pie! It goes really well with their latte! The place isn’t crowded, it has very cozy interior and you might actually get a chance to meet Simon and Martina!

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AND.here Cafe

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Where: Hyehwa Station, Jongno-gu, Dongsung-dong, 31-14 

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What’s special: If you’ve been following me for some time now, you’ll know that I am a hardcore fan of BIGBANG. And if you’ve ever been a fan of a boyband, you’ll know that sooner or later you’ll have your favourite member — trust me, it WILL happen. This cafe happens to belong to my super favorite — Seungri! Of course I had to come here during my stay in Seoul — I’d come here even if they didn’t have much to offer. But they actually do! You’ll find a corner with photos and autographs of Seungri and other YG group members, some merchandise and presents other VIPs (BIGBANG’s fandom) brought for their idol. There’s a huge stuffed gorilla Seungri got from T.O.P, KRUNK bears, Seungri’s CDs and even if you have absolutely no idea what I’m on about right now, you’ll definitely enjoy getting a cup of coffee there — it’s a really cool place!

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Traditional Korean teahouse Gahwadang

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Where: Anguk Station, 16-1, Samcheong-ro 4-gil, Jongno-gu

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What’s special: We all have places we like going back to, or we plan to go back if we only get a chance. I remember my first visit to Korea in 2013 — my friend Eunji took me and my Japanese friend Kumiko to this lovely teahouse… and I fell in love with it at first sight! It is really popular among Japanese tourists and that’s no surprise to me. Japanese people love cute places with a touch of tradition and history. Add amazing tea and homemade rice cake sweets and you’ll understand what’s the hype about. The place is adorable — an old Korean house, really warm and cozy, hidden in the narrow streets of Samcheongdong. Be sure to add it to your must-go list, when you find yourself in Seoul! 


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Which cafe would you like to visit?

Thank you for reading ♥