After watching 5 games and having two cancelled due to heavy rain this season I finally watched a winning match – against the Giants no less!

The Yomiuri Giants are number 1 in the league and Hanshin Tigers are number 2, so it was an important game.

Before the game we stopped by the Hanshin department store Tigers shop to buy balloons and I picked up a new shirt in pink!

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The game started at 6 but we headed over early to take in the atmosphere at about 4.30pm.

We saw the infamous Hanshin dog!

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She wouldn’t look at the camera for me! Too cute!

About 5.30pm we took our seats and watched the opening ceremony, they had the ceremonial first pitch by veteran player Tabuchi and the cheerleaders danced with Lucky.

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Our seats were really good, right inline with the batter. As usual the Hanshin fans were really welcoming and when we got our first home run we all jumped up and high fived!

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The 7th inning balloon release!

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We were lucky to be introduced to this lady, the Tigers oba-chan. I hear she travels to every Tigers game around Japan!

The Giants didn’t even get one home run and we won 3-0! Woohoo. To celebrate we set off more balloons!

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We sang every Tigers song in turn, and then did it all again!

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At the end they named the best player of the game, there were two actually Iwata and S.Oh and they gave a small speech and interview.

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On our way to the station a large crowd of fans were gathered under the bridge singing Tigers songs together in the dark so we stopped and joined in for a while.

Then at the station we bumped into some fans we met in June when we went who remembered us, one said he couldn’t believe we’d won and I’d been there as I’m such bad luck!!

I hope we can go to another game before the season finishes! A special thank you to the lovely lady who got J the tickets, I had so much fun, thank you!

As part of the Space Series mega release there was a special area open in Chara Park Umeda (details here).

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There were lots of space series goods, sky tree items and a few other San-X characters, an area to make window stickers, face painting and keychain making.

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By the time I arrived about 2:45 the line for meeting Rilakkuma was already full. But I could stand in the crowd and watch!

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Can’t say I’m a big fan of the Dr.Yellow series so I didn’t mind too much.

I bought a few things, but largely resisted going crazy with the plushies. I just got the JAXA guy (my fav!).

My small haul -

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I filled in a quiz and got a free fan! :D (Actually I saw completed copies behind the counter and copied the answers C, C, D to get it!).

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I love this series!

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I had a quick trip to Tokyo at the weekend, just 18 hours!! I met with Sarah, Sarah and Aviva and we went to the Tower Records Rilakkuma Cafe in Shibuya.

It opened at 10am, and we arrived a little after that, we arrived from the right hand side of the shop, and looking at the cafe on the second floor we were surprised it didn’t look full. The sign said it was the exit of the cafe so we walked all the way around to the other side, then spotted people sitting on stools by the entrance. We turned the corner and there were more people, around that corner were more people queuing up the stairs….and more….and more…! Omg. The queue ended on the 3.5F staircase. There were about 75 people in front of us.

It’s a good job we love you Rilakkuma!

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The queue move steadily, and despite the heat and our hunger we made it to the front of the line 2 hours later!

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In the cafe!

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The cafe itself is already nice and it was lightly decorated with Rilakkuma posters, banners and plain plushies of different sizes. Personally I would have liked more Rilakkuma!

I ordered the curry alone for ¥1500 as did Sarah, and Aviva and Sarah got the cake set. The cake came straight away almost and the curry not long after.

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He’s relaxing in a sea of curry sauce on an omelette pillow! He tasted pretty nice, an average curry rice with added cuteness.

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There was an hour limit for tables, so we didn’t hang around much after eating and we had to get to the tea party with Misako Aoki for dessert!

I’ve worn yukata a few times in Japan, but I never feel that confident in it, I wish I could put it on professionally.

At Gion matsuri about half the people are in yukata and they all look stunning, perfectly pressed and coiffed. I decided to get professional help and found the website for Yumeyakata.

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They had a special Gion festival offer to have full yukata rental for ¥3500 and better yet you could keep the yukata afterwards. Seeing as an average yukata can cost this much anyway it’s a very good deal!

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The shop also offers the option to have an up do for ¥1500 more, so I decided to get that too.

Reserving was easy, I just filled in the online form in English and got confirmation via email right away.

The store is just one subway stop (or 15min walk) from Kyoto JR station, and easy enough to find.

On the first floor I had to take my shoes off to enter and register at the counter. I got given a receipt and ushered up to the second floor. Here there were racks and racks of yukatas to choose from.

I took about 10 minutes choosing as there was so much choice! I wanted one with a type of stripe in it, and not too light. I couldn’t choose between two but one of the many staff members was on hand to give me advice. She also helped pick a contrasting yellow obi for it.

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After that I took my selection to the till and paid (¥3500 + ¥1500 + tax) then went up to the next floor.

The third floor was the dressing floor, a smiley lady helped me with my bags, opened my yukata and gave me a slip to change into. Then started dressing me. It took about ten minutes from start to finish, and another lady came to tie the obi.

Onwards to the fourth floor to choose a matching purse or drawstring bag and check in my other bag and clothes.

After that I was directed to the 5th and final floor for hair!

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Someone was available and started styling right away. You can choose between 6 styles for medium to long hair. I chose the middle left style as I can’t French braid to save my life.

Then all the way back down to retrieve my husband and choose some sandals from racks and racks of them.

My transformation took 40 minutes which I didn’t think was bad at all, including choosing, paying, getting dressed, transferring my belongings and having my hair styled. The husband thought it was too long though. Lol.

The staff were really friendly, efficient and the service great. I was the only westerner I saw but I didn’t feel uncomfortable and some of the staff spoke a little English, but I got by with my very basic Japanese.

The final result!

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At Gion festival and walking around Kyoto.

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About 8.30pm I returned to Yumeyakata to get changed into my normal clothes and return the obi, bag, under garments and sandals. A kind lady folded my yukata neatly and presented it to me. The yukata had an original price tag of ¥7500 and I got it for free!

Sorry there aren’t any pictures of inside, but of course people were getting changed and it was private. In any case I had my hands full choosing and getting ready! I had a positive experience renting a yukata in Kyoto and I highly recommend it, especially for a festival!

Aizen Festival is one of the first festivals of the summer in Osaka. It lasts from June 30th till July 2nd, but we only visited on June 30th.

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The festival started with a parade from Tennoji to the shrine, it celebrates the pretty girls of Aizen and the cutest ones are carried to the shrine!

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There was a really fun atmosphere, and lots of smiling and singing. Although most of the crowd were middle aged men.

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At the shrine the girls posed for photos and then carried on singing and selling good luck charms to people.

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We stayed for a while, people watched and browsed the stalls.

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We had a great time and it was a nice warm up for the bigger festivals in a few weeks time.

Aizen festival at Aizendo: http://www.aizendo.com/festival.htm

In June you can visit baby deer at Kasuga Shrine in Nara.

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It’s only ¥300 to enter.

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Some are kept in the arena and others at the back in separate areas.
There was a small display explaining about the work they do taking care of the deer.

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And you could feed some!

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Aw this guy was so wobbly on his feet!

The event is over now but you can visit again next year, and there are still lots of young deer wandering around Nara park at the moment.

July 7th was the Tanabata festival in Osaka. We visited Shitennoji Shrine and the Okawa River.

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For ¥100 we made some tanabata wishes and tied them to the bamboo. There wasn’t as much going on as last year (not as many food stalls, no dancing or performances) so we didn’t stay long.

Later in the evening we went to the river light up event, it’s meant to make the river look like the Milky Way.

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Blessing by a priest.

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Waiting to start.

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The lights were thrown from boats from 7:20pm.

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Every way you looked you could see lights that went on for ever!

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We paid ¥1500 on the day to enter the restricted area and make a wish by throwing a light in. The queue to throw (or roll down a bamboo ramp to be more precise) was huge but only took about 30 minutes to get to the front.

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At 9pm the people on the boats got fishing nets out and start to scoop them all up again!

Shitennoji Shrine http://2014tanabata.wagamachi-ooe.jp
Okawa river event http://www.osaka-amanogawa.com

A few weeks ago I headed back to Yamazaki with J for the Yamazaki Whiskey tour! I did the paid tour back in October but it was Js first time. We could only go on a Monday and the paid tour was unavailable, we could only participate in the short free tour.

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When we arrived we were told there was a special surprise for us, a journalist from the Kyoto newspaper wanted to follow us on the tour and do a small interview!

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In the whiskey library.

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The tour was almost the same as last time, maybe just a little faster, no time to linger. We had the English audio guides to listen to but the descriptions were pretty long and before we could listen fully it was time to move on.

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We had to stay behind a few times for photos for the journalist, and we did some awkward pointing and posing.

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At the end of the 30 min tour was the free tasting session!

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The guy in the bottom left above is the reporter!

Because of our special participation we got extra whiskey! And a gift of a coaster made from old whiskey barrels. Thank you!

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To make a reservation for a tour you have to call in advance.

http://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/

We randomly came across a sign for an observatory deck on Akashi bridge the other day.

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It’s the longest suspension bridge in the world!!

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It was only ¥250 each so we decided to go!

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There is a 45 meter drop to the sea.

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Eep!

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Looking across to Awaji Island.

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Maiko beach to the left.

We timed our trip just right as when we were leaving a whole bus load of tourists were arriving! We only stayed 25min but it was enough and it was fun!

After that we took a short walk to Maiko beach to relax and dip our feet!

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Another fun day out in Kansai!

I finally made my way to the recently opened Kobe store!

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Kobe and Kobe tower.

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The Kobe Rilakkuma store is part of Kiddyland in Harbourland, 2F unit 4. Take a train to JR Kobe station and it’s about a ten min walk.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

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