Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Valentine's Day Chocolate in Japan (Posted a few days late)

Hey everyone! So, this year I broke down and went forward with making homemade chocolate for Valentine's Day. As you may or may not know, in Japan, Valentine's Day is a day for a girl to give her love chocolate. She will get a return gift on White Day if the affection is returned, etc. Anyway, I really wanted to try to make my own, so I did.

I bought the silicon mold and the chocolate "pens" from Plaza. I bought the chocolate from Caldi. It really wasn't all that difficult. I thought I would share photos from the process beginning to end. I apologize for the poor quality pics. I used my cell phone.

 
 To start, the pens are actually solid chocolate stuff. So I put them in the pot with warm water to melt them. Once melted, cut off the tip. I didn't expect a miniature explosion, but that happened. Once the pens are melted fill in the mold with the details. I used strawberry flavor for the nose, and regular chocolate flavor for the ears and eyes. The stuff hardens back up pretty quickly.


 
Once the colorful stuff was done, I moved on to melting the chocolate. I used white chocolate. I don't own a double boiler, so I boiled a pot of water and then melted the chocolate in a metal bowl on top with the heat OFF. Don't get water in the chocolate. At all. It was a warning I found on the internet. Anyway, stir a lot. Like non stop. It took about five minutes to completely melt.


 
Mmmmm.... melted white chocolate goo. 


 
I just used a spoon to fill the mold. I followed some web advice and filled the molds up halfway, and then lifted the tray and gently tapped it on the counter, to prevent bubbling. I then proceeded to fill the mold up completely. Then tapped it on the counter again.

 
I put the chocolate in the freezer for about three or four minutes for it to solidify a bit. I then took it out and left it on top of the fridge for about ten minutes.

Here is the finished product! Some of the middle chocolates weren't completely hardened so they got a bit squished when I popped them out, but almost all of the chocolates turned out great. And they tasted amazing. Of course I did a taste-test. Can't give the man nasty tasting chocolate. 

And that, is my chocolate making escapade. :D


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tokyu Hands Yokohama (New Open), Some Change Soon, and DHC Update

Oh boy... I can't believe I said "New Open," but it now sounds weird to me if I say something like "Renewal Grand Opening," or something. Yikes. So, I love Tokyu Hands. It is one of my favorite stores in Japan. You can buy all sorts of things such as party goods, variety goods, arts and crafts stuff, cellphone accessories, household goods, etc. I'm not quite sure what to compare it to back at home. It's definitely not a Hobby Lobby by any means. Anyway, I was so excited that they were moving the store closer to Yokohama Station. Before it was a good ten minute walk. Now it is located on the 5th-7th floors of the MORE's building. While I love that it is much closer, and think it's neat that they do demos for some crafts, I am SOO SAD. They got rid of a ton of the sections of the store.  The previous store was a massive one, comparable to the one in Shibuya. Now, they have crammed so much stuff into three floors... well. I would take the old location any day. Mainly, because I enjoy putting together miniatures. And there was a particular section called "dollhouse" that sold the type I like. For example, miniature ramen stands, etc. It's gone. The only Tokyu Hands that still seems to sell it is the one in Shibuya. So sad! They also got rid of the majority of their furniture section, as well as their arts and crafts. They still have some, but its like a tiny corner, rather than a whole floor. At least they still sell paint and canvas... Yeah. So, I got all excited about it, to be largely disappointed. Of course, I still shop there, but yeah. Bleh.

I have been a bit stressed of late. I am going to be changing jobs and I am going to be giving my resignation this week. Not excited about that conversation at all. HOWEVER, my new job is in Tokyo! YAY! I will keep living in Yokohama for now, but I am absolutely excited about this job. No more ALT work for me. It's still education, but it isn't ESL. It will really allow me to work on a team, explore my creativity, and do some design work too. It also allows for some career advancement. So yay me! I hope I won't need to change jobs again. I am also going to be able to quit working part-time. I have really enjoyed my part-time work, but it's kind of a drag to go home, change, and go back out to work, even if it is only twice a week.

Oh, an update on the DHC face products I have been using. WOW. I have been using the stuff since late December and my skin has completely changed. For the better. Never turning back. My pores look cleaner, and tighter. The stupidly hideous fine lines on my forehead are nearly non-existent, and my face has almost completely cleared up. I seriously had horrible breakouts all the time. Now, it's just a zit here and there. I have definitely gotten my money's worth.

-Rizu

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

ちょこっとオアシス タワーポット: Chokotto Oasis Tower Pot Eco-Humidifier

Chokotto Oasis Tower Pot (image sourced from my Instagram)

みなさん明けましておめでとう! Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a safe/happy holiday. I enjoyed my two week break immensely and ate too much food. Today I want to talk about this fun little thing I bought a few days ago. What is this? It is a humidifier. Where Japanese summers are unbearably humid, the winter can be just as brutally dry. It is not only harsh on the skin, but it makes sleeping uncomfortable at times as my throat gets really dry when sleeping, resulting in morning sore throats that fade throughout the day. 

I knew I needed to buy a humidifier, but the cheapest ones I had been finding in the stores were running at about ¥4500 on the low end and upper ¥12,000 on the high. Recently, in stores such as Loft and Tokyu Hands, I have been seeing these Eco-humidifiers. You basically put water in the pot and then open it up. Here is a link to the product's website. This particular one only cost ¥980. You unscrew the top of the main dish (you can see the line on the bottom part) and fill it up about halfway (do not fill it up to the brim). Then you screw it back on and pull the tower up to standing. It is really quite attractive. There are quite a few differently designed ones which are quite cute and larger than this. I believe browsing the site you can check out the different options. You can also order a new filter (the blue part, and I believe are made of polyester) for ¥630. The packaging says it can last for up to 6 months before needing a new one. Back on track, the filter absorbed the water immediately. After 12 hours it still has a good bit of moisture to it as well. Sleeping overnight with it next to my bed has greatly improved my sleep. No more uncomfortable sore throat! I also notice that the general area around the pot isn't as dry either. I bring it down to my desk when I'm home using my computer. 

Overall, I am happy. It's not too expensive, attractive, and doesn't use electricity at all. It's light-weight and easy to carry around if you are going to travel somewhere. Also, it comes in green and pink. I wanted something just for near my bed, and it has solved my problem. I would say, however, if you are wanting to humidify your entire room or apartment, this might not do that.

I'm tempted to buy one of the more "plant-like" ones as they come with scented oil options to add a flowery scent. They might also have more humidifying capability as they are larger. I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to save some money on humidifiers. I couldn't find any English reviews on the products, only in Japanese. 

-Rizu

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DHCオリーブすべすべセット・Olive Essential Set

Hey guys! How are you? Today I am going to talk about the DHC Olive Essential Set. I recently bought the mini set to try out (available at 7-11 for ¥950). I have been suffering some pretty dry skin this winter and have been trying out different things to help relieve it. The kit comes with the face stuff as well as two hair product samples. I haven't tried the hair stuff mainly because I am happy with my current hair care. Isn't the package cute??

Basically, you start with the deep cleansing oil. You apply it to dry skin and use it to "wash" your face. I rub in circles for about 30 seconds including my eye area. Honestly, you probably shouldn't do that, but it removes my mascara no problem. Once done, I rinse with warm water. You follow with the mild soap. Lather up in your hands. I again gently wash my face for about 30 seconds in circular motions and then rinse. You follow with the mild lotion. This is a toner. Lotion typically means toner with Japanese face products. Don't ask me why. Anyway, it feels nice! I pat it on with my hands. Don't use too much. Last is the Olive Virgin Oil. You only need one or two drops. Rub in your hands to warm up and then apply to your face in a patting motion. I follow these steps, as the English website states that is how it should be done.

I am so far satisfied with this stuff. My skin has been reacting to a bunch of stuff lately and it really seems to be helping. I also use the Olive Virgin Oil in the morning before my make up. My face feels much better throughout the day. My forehead looked like dried paper in my mind before. Now it is more "alive" I guess you could say. Anyway, I plan to buy the regular set soon.

Well that is all for now. I am preparing for my Winter Holiday. Super stoked. Two weeks off (although it's more like one week with all the stuff I have to do...). Be safe everyone!

-Rizu

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Time No See (Not a Japan-related post btw)

I am so so sorry everyone for what has been nearly a two months' absence. Please forgive me! A huge reason for my absence was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which I ultimately failed by about 15000 words. I was a bit disappointed, but I did far better than I have ever done before. My lack of motivation is another factor. But, I think I was in a funk where I felt kind of stuck. I didn't feel like I had anything worthy of writing.

It wasn't only writing that I wasn't motivated in, however. It was many things. I spend a lot of time just counting down to the weekend and getting through the week. That's not a good way to think, in my opinion, nor the healthiest. I am trying to motivate myself to spend more time making art, studying Japanese, and improving my health. It's not the easiest for me. I have started off pretty strong with renewing my Japanese studies. I bought some textbooks, a new kanji app (iKanji for those who care. ¥500 and totally worth it), and downloaded corresponding anki cards for my texts. I have gotten to where I study at least an hour a day. I think I will start up some coursework with Kumon again as well (took a break).

The next step on my agenda is diet. I am trying to get back into cooking. Until this weird funk, I was pretty good about cooking every day. So, I am starting to get the pan back out and cook again. I have almost cut sweets out of my diet completely. I am super proud of that. It is so tempting to get an ice cream or a cake or something at the conbini. And I tell myself no. I don't need it. And I buy an apple instead. I allow myself some sometimes. For example when Aki brings omiyage from his mom or something. And I will DEFINITELY be eating Christmas Cake. I next want to cut out potato salad and heavy food. The most difficult part of this is that I absolutely LOVE anything salty and fatty. WHY!?!?! It is pure torture sometimes to turn down that delicious looking ピザまん.

I chopped off a lot of my hair today. I decided if I am going to try to better myself, a new look might help me out. I think I cut off about 7 or 8 cm. It was pretty long. Now it is about shoulder length and I love it. Speaking of "cm" it's weird. I find myself using more and more metric units on my own than Imperial. I almost never say inches or feet, pounds or Fahrenheit. I guess it is a combination of being in Japan and also have more non-American friends haha. The Imperial system is so cumbersome...

Well, I apologize to those who sat and read all that. I would call this a bit of a personal rant. My life itself is actually really good. I am financially stable, have an awesome apartment, an awesome boyfriend, and great friends. My family are supportive. Oh! I am an aunt now. My sister had a baby girl. She is really cute for a newborn in my opinion. I think I just went through a weird month. Not sure why. I'm sure most young adults go through weird funks once they've been working and in the real world truly on their own for the first time.

My next post, I think I will talk a bit about the awesome wedding after party I went to. And I may also talk about some make up, or something.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nogeyama Zoo, Nanowrimo, etc.

Today I will talk about Nogeyama Zoo. Yes, Yokohama has a zoo. And it's free. FREE. It was so much fun!! On Sunday, Aki and I went and made a visit there. This zoo is located a short distance from Sakuragi-cho Station. From the Blue Line, there are signs pointing you in the right direction for an exit (most of them said Nogeyama Park). It takes about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast you walk, and is uphill the majority of the way.

Upon arrival, you see immediately a gift shop and a sign for soft-serve ice cream. Of course you want to buy it after that treck (it was hot and humid). You are not obligated by any means to purchase ice cream, but it's only ¥350, and again, the zoo itself is free. For the season, they are featuring pumpkin. It is awesome and I highly recommend it. Did I mention there is a petting zoo of sorts?? No? Check out the cute photo of a baby chick down in my Instagram feed.

The zoo itself is not very big, but they have a pretty good variety of animals: giraffes, zebras, a camel, monkeys, condors, penguins, birds, and apparently lions too. But we couldn't see the lions. The petting zoo section has baby chicks, guinea pigs, and mice. Aki and I spent a good 15 minutes in there. We spent probably an hour there. I will definitely go again if I want some free baby chick therapy.

That aside, November is coming!! I know, I know, four weeks away. But I am going to participate in Nanowrimo this year. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Basically, you have a month to try and write a 50,000 page novel. I participated a few times in high school and college and failed. I decided to give it a try again this month, and I have an idea anyway so I may as well.

I'm also getting to go to a wedding party this month. I am going to the 二次会(ni-ji-kai), or after party. Which is fortunate in a way regarding your budget. If you are invited to the full ceremony etc., you are supposed to gift ¥30000 to the couple. Luckily, lots of young couples have the after party for their friends since they know most young working people tend to be on a tight budget. This results in a small ceremony and larger party. It's a nice way to involve everyone and the guests are obliged to pay only the party fee (in my case ¥7000). I'm super excited because of course my friend is getting married, but it's also at the Intercontinental Hotel and I get to dress up. ^_^ I am definitely going to be writing about this.

-Rizu

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ofuna Kannon and Pappa Pasta

So, this is the first real photo-daily personal adventure post I have made in awhile. I figured I was long overdue. Also, my blog hit 20,000 views today! Thank you so much to everyone who reads ^_^ I really, really appreciate knowing that people are reading what I write.




(Ofuna Kannon)

Moving on, on Saturday Aki and I went to check out the Ofuna Kannon. Some background as to what prompted this little adventure. I go to Fujisawa every Monday evening for a bit of side work. On my way there, my train of course stops at Ofuna Station. One day on such a trip, I saw this GIANT white statue, you can see it all the way from the train. Every Monday I kept thinking, "What the heck is that thing??" I knew it was a temple since it was obviously a Buddhist statue. Finally, I mentioned it to Aki one day that I wanted to check it out. It is only a few stations down from me so we decided to make a weekend treck out of it.

So what is the Ofuna Kannon? It is basically a temple dedicated to peace. The huge statue actually uses stones from the atomic bombings (I hate to link to Wikipedia, but here is more information on the temple). There are various votives and praying spots around the site. Most of the signs have an English translation so you can truly understand what it represents. I was pretty amazed by the entire place.

The temple is located in Ofuna as I mentioned. You can get to Ofuna Station by JR (Keihin-Tohoku line, Yokosuka line, Tokaido line, or Shonan-Shinjuku line). After inspecting a map at the station, we learned it was only five minutes away. That day it felt like the middle of summer. The humidity was practically unbearable (a typhoon was heading our way, I blamed that).

 This here is the entrance to the grounds. A simple enough little gateway. Just walk on up the hill.

 At the second gate, you pay a small fee of ¥300. They give you your pamphlets. They even handed me an English translation without asking.


Excuse the Photoshop. I wanted to try to bring out the flame a bit. This is actually fire that was burning after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They somehow transported this flame to the temple, and it has not gone out once since then. So basically, they have kept it burning since 1945.

You can see this fun little tower on your way up to the big statue pictured at the beginning of this post. Once you get to the top, you can see the Kannon and actually go inside from the back. My pictures were horrendous, so I chose not to post them. But there is another shrine, and hand carved little wooden statues inside.  You can actually carve your own statue for ¥1200 but they only do it once a month or something.

After our little adventure to the temple, we decided to go to a favorite restaurant of ours: Pappa Pasta. This restaurant is located in Konandai, where I used to live. It's been almost a year since I lived there, so we were super excited. Although, it was kind of a round-about way for us to get back home, we could luckily take a bus back to the general area of my apartment. We used to go here about once a month. If you take the Keihin-Tohoku line to Konandai Station, you go out the only exit and turn right. You walk about ten minutes down the main road. You will see a gym (CoCoKara), a Lawson, a 7-11, and a Picasso (small version of Don Quixote). It is on a corner on the right side of the road and looks like a regular old restaurant. But anyway, it is an AWESOME Italian place. 

This here is their Margarita pizza. It is sooo good! They have an open fire oven built into a brick wall. Only about ¥1100 for this. They also have a special menu that constantly changes. Aki chose some pasta from that, and we also got a gratin appetizer.

This here is from the Dessert Cary. For ¥100, you get a slice of anything from the cart. I got a strawberry mousse, and Aki got a regular cheesecake. All the dessert plates have these super cute drawings on them. It isn't too expensive either. For the appetizer, a pizza, a pasta (large sized), and two desserts, we spent ¥3700. Unfortunately, it was dark so I couldn't get a good picture of the outside. My good camera had died and all I had was an iPhone 4 to take pictures with >.<.

Well, that's all I have for today. Thanks for reading!! Until next time.

-Rizu

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Japanese Cooking


So today, I'm going to talk about my new favorite cooking website. Some of you may or may not have heard about Cookpad. I discovered it recently while I was browsing the web for Japanese recipe sites. I have been trying to cook more, especially on the weekends to save some money. There are many things I know how to cook from the States, but due to the lack of a proper oven or microwave, most of my cooking knowledge is useless. T_T LUCKILY I found Cookpad. They recently launched the English version of the website (maybe two or three months ago), and I have been loving it. The original version of the site (Japanese) allows people to post up their personal recipes. Then people rate them etc. The English version is still in beta I believe, but they already have translated so many recipes! And from what I've read online, it's being translated by real people, not something like Google Translate. What I love about this site is that there is so much variety. And it gives you recipes for stuff that people cook at home. I have very limited knowledge of home cooking here, so I am so happy. The picture above is some yakisoba I made. I actually modified a recipe from the site and threw what I wanted in it. I've tried several recipes so far, and they have all turned out great! So, if you're stumped on what to cook, give this site a look-through. ^_^.v

I'm also excited because this weekend I'm going to go check out this temple I spotted near Ofuna. It's basically a giant white Buddha statue up in the hills I can see from the train on my way to Fujisawa. So I told Aki about it and we decided to check it out. I don't know what this place is and I haven't searched Google because I want to discover it when I get there. Anyway, I promise to take pictures and write about it then.

-Rizu

Saturday, August 31, 2013

SANA - Pore Putty BB Cream

毛穴パテ職人 BBクリーム (Pore Putty BB Cream)
 
Last winter, I started experimenting with BB Creams. Japanese winters really dry my skin out, and makes it look just dead (in my opinion). I knew about BB Creams, but never really bothered with them. I just knew I wanted my skin to look better, and using moisturizer wasn't doing enough. I have a mixed skin type with an oily T-zone and pretty dry everywhere else, but winter just kills it. BB Creams kept coming up as did collagen. I actually will drink collagen drinks sometimes (there is one by Shiseido that tastes awesome!!), but they can get pricey really fast. So I finally looked into BB Creams seriously.

This is the second brand that I have tried, and I like it overall. You can visit the website here. The first one was sold by my local COOP store and I really didn't like it... Anyway, I have been using this one for about two months now and even with the summer heat it helps. It has SPF 50, and gives pretty decent coverage as far as concealing goes. If I'm having an especially bad red spot, I sometimes put concealer on first, but I usually don't need to (I tend to have a breakout here and there. Texas food KILLED my chin). At first, I didn't like this BB Cream. I thought it felt extremely heavy, but as I did more research into these creams, I realized I was applying too much. I was putting it on like a regular foundation. YOU DON'T NEED THAT MUCH. So now, I squeeze out about a pea-sized amount onto the top of my hand, and using my fingertips, apply a spot to my forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. Just five. Then I rub it in using circular motions and it really is enough. A little goes a really long way. If I need a bit more coverage on a red spot, I'll apply a little extra there. Then I set it with a translucent powder to give a less shiny look. Anyway, it now feels like it isn't there really. The only thing I really wish was that it was more waterproof. I guess with summer time it's an unavoidable thing, but with all the sweating, I feel like it comes off really easy. Granted I'm wiping my sweat off all day (gross right?) with a handkerchief so I can see the makeup on that by the end of the day. By the end of the day, my face coverage still looks pretty good, but if I'm having a breakout, you can tell more.

I'm still interested in trying different BB Creams until I find one that I love. So I will probably keep shopping around. I would definitely use this one again though, and am in no hurry to finish the tube. It's not too pricey and I don't remember the exact price, but the SANA online shop has it for ¥1260, which sounds about like what I paid for at Matsumoto-Kiyoshi.

I'm thinking my next post will be a review on an izakaya I like. I'm going there tonight. ^_^ Aki said I should write about some of my favorite restaurants etc. in the Yokohama/Tokyo area and I thought that was an awesome idea. So until next time!!

-Rizu

Friday, August 23, 2013

JP Bank Direct - Signing Up and First Time Log In

***EDIT 2013.8.29***
I previously said I would do a Part 2, but have decided to hold off on making a more detailed post with screenshots about doing a wire transfer. I have them, but I don't know how I feel about it... nervous I guess. If someone REALLY wants details on how to do the transfer, please let me know in the comments below, and I can talk with you directly. I might also do the Part 2 but instead of screenshots, just use booklet page numbers like I have done here in this post, since the booklet has pictures in it.
 ***END EDIT***

This is going to be a long post, so I have added a break into it so you can click if you want to read it all. If you are interested in using online Japanese banking, you don't necessarily need to be fluent, but you need at least some reading skills to do it, and some common sense ^_^. Read on.

So, recently I signed up for JP Bank Direct (ゆうちょ銀行ダイレクト), i.e. online banking. I think online banking in Japan can be very very useful, but very difficult for foreigners here due to lack of English support. For me, the closest bank to my house is a good 20 minute walk and can be a bit of an inconvenience if all I need to do is transfer some money (Forty minutes round trip to only do a bank transfer?? Yeah...).

Now, if you speak zero Japanese, you may need help signing up (i.e. bring a friend), but I went to the JP Bank and told them what I wanted to do. You can probably say something like this: 「ゆうちょ銀行ダイレクトを使いたいんですが。」("Yuucho ginkou direct wo tsukaitai n desu ga.") Basically saying I want to use the JP Bank Direct. They will give you a paper to fill out with your basic info, as well as bank account info. I'm not sure if you can write it all out in romaji, but you can ask them. Beside which, if you don't know how to write your address in kanji, then you need to learn it, or copy it from you Gaijin Card. Make sure you have some form of photo ID, a hanko, and your bank book. If you don't have it, you can't sign up that day. Make sure you write your name as it is on A. your ID or B. your bank book. Ask the staff which they prefer. Also, something that confused the hell out of me for a moment was that you get to choose a 6-12 digit pin number that you will need to remember (it's basically an online signature pin). Anyway, once you fill it all out, show the attendant at the number machine and they will make sure you filled everything out. Then they will give you a number to wait your turn. At the desk, they take your ID and stuff to make copies, etc. They will also make sure you hanko'd everything where it needs to be. That didn't take long. When the lady helping me out came back, she gave me copies of the forms I filled out and all my stuff back. IT TAKES ABOUT TWO WEEKS to process. Sorry, you won't get it right away. You have to sign off on it when it's delivered too so be aware of that.

Read on to learn more... sorry if it's confusing >.<