Get Away to Goto

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As a birthday present to my lovely friend Jenni, a few of us decided to book a surprise ‘writers retreat’, a small break for us to get away from the world and write. We booked the trip for March, but due to unavoidable plans we had to push it back to July. This only increased our excitement, however, and by the time that July rolled round we were all in need of a break.

So, one Friday in July, me and Jenni rushed from work and hoped on the first ferry to Fukue, the largest of the Goto Islands. We were to stay at Smokey Cottage, a small cabin in the Hantomari area, tucked away in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by nothing but sea and forest.

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We were greeted by the ever lovely Renae, who had arrived earlier from the neighbouring island. The owner, Mr.Namio Sato was waiting for us outside the terminal and indulged us in conversation during the twenty minute car ride to his own personal haven.

We met his wife, Akiko-san, on arrival and after the official tour of our cabin, she treated us to a warm, delicious home cooked meal. It was wonderful!

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With an outside area protected by mesh to keep out the bugs, we were led through a heavy wooden door into a beautifully decorated open plan cabin. A large table took up a part of the room, with a wide bench that ran the length of the wall. The kitchen was the perfect blend of old and new and had everything we needed from tea with what appeared to be wood in it, to eggs for breakfast.

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The bathroom was by far the most interesting, with a traditional Goemonburo bath dating back to feudal Japan that had to be heated up before hand with fire by Namio-san. I couldn’t help think of Calcifer from Howls Moving Castle as I watched him feed logs to the ever growing fire. Encased in shell incrusted concrete, the metal basin barely big enough for one person. The aim was to get climb inside, placing the wooden lid at the bottom so as to not burn your feet. The first night none of us added enough cold water so it was pretty much impossible to enter and had to wash ourselves in the area outside, but by the second night we had got the bathing business down like pro’s. Perhaps we should thank the many glasses of Umeshu we had indulged in, but hey, who’s judging.

The first night ended with a few glasses of Umeshu and a quick catch up before me and Renae retreated to the bedroom, the latter of which was far too excited to be able to sleep on a real bed, while Jenny took the made up bench.

The next day would have a bit of a different pace. A few weeks before hand, Namio had e-mailed Renae asking us if we wouldn’t mind being filmed making Pizza in front of a camera crew. A bit weird right? I thought so too, untilI I learnt that Namio not only made his own salt, but also had stone pizza ovens out back and made his own from scratch. With the prospect of free pizza, there was no way any of us could refuse, and so, eleven o clock the next morning, now joined by Sophie, we were introduced to the Camera crew. Using the ingredients we brought with us from the mainland, we set to work making our pizza, the camera crew watching out every move, chatting to us as we went along. Being a vegetarian, I chose to try and make a tofu pizza, and idea which greatly intrigued the crew and gained me an embarrassing moment on tv. After filming us enjoying our pizza outside, the crew, along with Namio-san, Akiko-san and two of their friends sat with us and shared in our delicious Italain treat, followed by some home made cake.IMG_7742IMG_7744 IMG_7745Version 2IMG_7824  IMG_7825Version 2
 They were gone by mid-afternoon, and it was time for some writing. With no reception and a view of both land and see, it was the perfect place to write. Inspiration was in abundance. 

A few hours later we decided to stretch our legs. Leaving Sophie to work, me, Jenni and Renae set out on a little adventure, walking down a path alongside the sea, doing our best to avoid the sea cockroaches, or as I like to call them, ‘the creatures that time forgot’. They really are horrible, and theres always so many! I couldn’t get over how untouched this land was, and I half expected a dinosaur to pop out at any moment. They really could have shot parts of Jurassic Park here, I’m telling you. We even decided to practice out ‘Is that a…..dinosaur?!’ face.

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We spent the evening drinking, trying to drunkenly get a frog out of the bathroom, and loosing ourselves in deep conversations. I ended up passing out at around 3 am, Renae tucking me in where I slept like the sweetheart she is.

I was sad to say goodbye the next morning, or I would have been had we not discovered a gigantic huntsman spider in the bedroom. Nothing will smash your illusion of a perfect nature retreat like a freakishly large spider with legs as long as your fingers.

I didn’t realise how much I needed this little break until I was on my way home and back to everyday life. It was amusing, however, at how many people saw me and recognise me on TV. Even the people who work at the fishmongers on my street recognised me.

Fukue, as well as all the other Goto islands are absolutely breathtaking, and walking along side the sea surrounded by nothing but nature quieted my heart as I was hit with a sense of grandeur. A sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful to be where I was in that moment, so grateful to be living in such a beautiful and diverse country.


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The weather wasn’t exactly amazing by most peoples standards, but as a lower of rain and the gloomy, this was honestly the perfect weather and I feel as if I got to experience this beautiful little area at its most natural, and I honestly cannot wait to go back.

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If any of you are ever in Nagasaki and want to get out of the city for a little while, I high recommend this place!

Thanks for reading ❤︎❤︎

Self Care Haul

To take a break from the usual travel blogs of late, I thought I’d write about a mini haul of things I splurged on today. Well, I didn’t really splurge in the sense that it cost me a million pounds, but I did treat myself a little.

Recently, I’ve been insanely stressed and a little down. I’ve been walking around with this numbness in my pocket, unable to lose it. Everything that normally makes me happy gives me no feelings whatsoever as of late. If truth be told, the only emotion I’ve experienced in the last week or so has been raw stress. I have no idea where exactly it’s coming from, but it’s here and it’s weighing heavily on my chest, as if the entire population of Nagasaki were sitting on it.

So, as a little pick me up, Instead of getting off at my usual stop, after work, I rode the bus all the way to Nagasaki station and made my way into Amu Plaza. Until now, my opinion of Amu has been low, placing it behind Yume Saito and Cocowalk in terms of shopping and enjoyment, but thats all in the past! Walking around Amu on my own – something I rarely do due to mild social anxiety- I had a chance to glance around some stores, and discovered a hidden gem in Francfranc, my new favourite store!

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My first point of call, as planned, was Muji, where I was looking forward to finding an autumn scented candle to warm up my apartment and help me get into the mood for autumn. I was disappointed, however, with their small collection of candles, so I began looking for the second item on my list; a jewellery case. In the last week I stumbled upon EsteeButton’s youtube channel and blog. In one of her blog post she speaks of a clear case she got from Muji, along with velvet compartment dividers, and how good it was as a jewellery case. 

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I decided this could be a good invested since I manage to loose my earrings and tangle necklaces on a far too frequent basis. The box was heavier and much  more sturdy than I had originally thought, I’m so pleased with the outcome! It’s simple, clean beautiful, and best of all, translucent. I finished off my Muji shop with this shea butter handcream. Decently sized and pretty inexpensive at 600 Yen, it was a no brainer for me. I’ve heard whispers of Muji skin products for a while now, so I’m eager to try some out. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

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Now onto Francfranc, my new favourite place. With prices ranging from practical to a little expensive, it’s the perfect place to go if you want to splurge all your hard earned Yen, or just treat yourself to something nice without breaking the bank. Since Muji was a bust in the candle department, I had originally intended to grab a candle and dash, but something in the cup isle caught my eye. So, if theres one thing you need to know about me, it’s my love of tea. I mean, I LOVE tea, so I always make it a point to glance in the mug area. Little did I know I was about to find the most poiniant mug for me right now. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful ’N’ inscribed on the front and the quirky little groove. It was then I noticed the inscription on the back; ‘Nothing is impossible’. I wanted to cry a little. Just last night I was feeling as if nothing I do is good enough, as if aspiring to be a writeris a pipe dream that would only lead to heartache, so to see this written on a mug with my initial on the front, I had to get it.

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So, with my new mug in hand and my Insign Amber Must candle in my basket I went to the counter and checked out, more than ready to make my way home.

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I also picked up these lovely flowers on the way home for around 300 Yen.

Saving money is important, and I don’t belive money can buy you happiness, but sometimes it’s nice to indulge and treat yourself.

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Thanks for reading ❤︎❤︎

Elv Café; The Hidden Gem of Nagasaki

(Original article can be found here: http://en.japantravel.com/view/elv-cafe )

A quaint café located in the heart of Nagasaki City, Elv will capture your heart and remind you why you fell in love with cafes in the first place.

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My need for small, unique cafés could be perceived as something of an addiction. Without them, I feel myself growing anxious, laying in bed in the mornings wondering what I will do with my life, staring at my simple, hand-me-down kettle with a sigh of bitter disappointment. Considering the fact that I grew up in Britain, my love of cafés honestly comes as no surprise. Upon moving to Nagasaki, I made it my goal to find a café in which I could enjoy the peacefulness of my own thoughts and scribble away in my diary. I was worried at first that I would be doomed to spend my days in the ever-crowded Starbucks, unable to think a coherent thought that deviated from the path of ‘Damn, there are a lot of foreigners in here’.

That was when I discovered Elv.

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A small café, situated alongside Megane-Bashi and its ever-flowing koi-filled river, Elv can be spotted by its small sign and myriad of plants that guard the doorway. With its smooth music and earthy tones, you will feel at home the moment your foot steps through the doorway. For a vegetarian, opening the door to a café you know you are bound to fall in love with is always daunting, faced with the horrid truth that there’s a huge chance you may not be able to eat there. Thankfully, that was not the case with Elv.

Despite the menu being small, its various options are bound to tickle the fancy of anyone who decides to stop by for a bite to eat. And for those of you who appreciate the sweets over the savouries, the chocolate cake will most certainly hit the spot.

With the cold weather still nipping at your nose, Elv has a delicious and very effective way of warming you up. Hot wine! Appealing to the eye and taste buds, it’s a drink for all your senses. Coming in a glass that will bring the warmth back to your hands, this delicious beverage will slide down your throat with an ease that is welcomed. Just be prepared for the moment you look at your bill and realise you had four too many glasses than previously intended. “Just a taste,” my friends said.

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“But I’m not really a coffee kind of person, I would much rather a nice beer,” I hear you say? Well fear not, for Elv caters for everyone. Besides the usual staples, this wonderfully diverse café also has a small range of alcoholic beverages, its most notorious being Belle-Vue Kreik. Having heard many a good word about this cherry flavoured liqueur, I decided to give it a go. The tangy and unmistakable flavour of cherry danced along the sides of my tongue before sliding down with ease. Like an unsweetened cider, this drink is the perfect balance between sweet and tart.

With its eclectic art, smooth music and delicious food, this unique café run by the ever-welcoming George Nakamura will make you fall in love with cafés all over again.

Lets go to Unzen!!

After waiting for over a year for it to arrive, the Unzen flannel cabin party finally happened!

Being a block 10 event, the party brought in cool people from not only Nagasaki, but from Fukuoka, Saga and Ōita too. I had never been to Unzen before, and after seeing Emily’s video on last year’s party (a fellow Nagasaki JET), I just knew I had to go.

Clad in heart glasses, a flower crown (both available at Wego) and of course the required flannel, me and my buddy Aaron were all set to go! The bus journey was a little long, but absolutely worth it. The views were spectacular as we drove along the coast and winding roads sealed off by bamboo forests.  I wouldn’t be lying if I told you I got a little bit emotional. I was reminded suddenly of just how lucky I am. Japan is such an amazing country and I think sometimes I forget how beautiful and wonderful it can be. That’s why I love trips, they make me see how awesome my life is. And so, with good music, stunning views and pretty awesome company, the journey flew by!

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There was one stop, however, which cracked me up. Not far from Unzen, you can find a town called Obama. Not only was this town right on the sea, with steam coming out of the ground every which way, but it also had a very creepy statue of Barack Obama, which I felt made the place seem more complete. I’m sure you’d agree. It was an honour to have him wave to us on our journey!

The moment we arrived in the quaint, traditional styled City of Unzen, we were picked up by Emily and whisked away to our mountainous cabin resort. We had three cabins rented out and with hills, trees and an array of wildlife (in the form of Goats, horses and sheep, the latter of which I was very happy about, me being the proud Welsh person I am)  to keep us entertained. It was wonderful, and the feeling of summer saturated my skin. With three cabins to ourselves, I’m pretty sure we took over half the resort, which made me feel a little sorry for the fellow campers who were staying with their families. As much as I hate the phrase, I think of a bit of Gaijin Smashing happened, much to the regret of me and  the surrounding Japanese families. But truly, the place was idyllic and I was never more glad to be a part of block 10.

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With alcohol, a roaring BBQ and three cabins full of friends from all over Kyushu, there was little else to be desired. It became evident pretty soon, however, that I was not the drinker I one was, and have apparently left my party hat somewhere back in Wales. I didn’t even make it to 1 am, and was passed out in my pyjamas amongst the raving. Well done Naomi, well done.
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We spent our following morning eating homemade French toast on the veranda in the company of friends, everyone buzzed from the night before and basking in the warm spring sun.  I felt calm, at peace and more than ready for the day ahead of.  And so, clad in spring clothing and with a skip in my step, I set off to explore Unzen, my sense of adventure renewed.

With the smell of sulphur guiding us, Aaron, Christina and I decided to make the hells our first point of call, following the path between them as the earth bubbled and boiled all around us. As if it were breathing, the earth hissed and grumbled, spewing out steam from its core. Like stepping into the fires of mordor, the earth seemed alive, angry almost. Each hell has its own name and story and I wish we had had more time to read them all.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The path led us to a stone torii gate guarded by statues of lion like creatures. It was a beautiful sight, and for a moment I just had to stop and stare. The shrine was peaceful and beautiful, and deserted bar one demonic looking cat that watched over the shrine. I was reminded me once again of just where I was in the world and just how much I loved it. It may sound strange, but sometimes it’s easy to forget where you are and how much you enjoy your daily life.  I was more than happy for this overdue reminder.
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We concluded our little excursion with a visit to a homely little place called Kaseya Café. With a delicious array of bread and drinks to choose from, I was spoiled for choice! Which, if you are a vegetarian or vegan living in Japan, you will know how rare that is! Not wanting to leave the place of famous onsen boiled eggs without actually eating one,  I finally settled on an egg filled fried bread( I have no way of knowing if it was an onsen egg or not, but I can pretend that it was and feel a little better about the whole thing.) I decided to be greedy and add a soufflé-esque cake to my order, along with Unzen lemonade to wash it all down. It was pretty bloody delicious!

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At 13:00 on the dot the bus turned up, and we were transported back to our everyday lives. With the sound of The Lumineers lifting my soul, they bus journey sped by, and I was gifted once more with wonderful views. I went on to have a great evening with Chad,  filled with Chinese food and fireworks. My time in Unzen as brief, but I completely fell in love with the area and will 100% be visiting again before I leave Japan.

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A lot has changed

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皆さん、久しぶり!

Hello my lovelies, how are you all? Long-time no see, I hope you are doing well.

First, let me just say thank you for all your support up until now, it’s truly been motivational! I’m super lucky to have such cool people reading my blog. I promise to be a better blogger from here on out. ( I bought a ‘blog’ diary and everything! See, super motivated.)

So,  a lot has changed since the last time I was around. I’m pretty much still the same old seriously inept 23 year old, trying to be sassy while procrastinating 98% of the time. A few add-one and upgrades have been installed but I’m still kind of useless.

It all started on what was promising to be a typical valentine’s day, with a distinct lack of romance and far too much booze. Fate (aka, said alcohol), however, had other things in store for me. Having broken things off with the guy I was dating only a month or so ago, my heart was bruised and  naturally, I was feeling particularly fed up and frustrated with my luck. It was then, in a drunken haze that I suddenly thought to myself, ‘Why not make your own luck?’

And so, with a decent about of cocktails churning around in my stomach and seeping into my bloodstream, creating a chemical imbalance that resulted in something akin to courage, I confessed to  guy I had been crushing on for a while. 10 weeks have passed since then and this tiny act of bravery has led me to a cool guy with whom I can laugh, cry and just be a general tit with. It’s been so long since I’ve been in  a real relationship with anyone, and it’s still really scary. I still can’t get used to having  boyfriend, it’s just so weird. Weird, but good. Really good. And I guess ever since then, things have been getting better.

It’s not that my happiness relies on men and romance etc. It’s more to do with the fact that I’ve managed to make my own happiness, which is something I was always too afraid to do. It sounds simple, making your own happiness, but oftentimes it’s the simplest things that are the hardest. I’ve gained a grain of confidence and positivity and its left me wanting more.

Another changed that’s occurred, is my hair. For years I’ve harboured a secret love of short hair, always wanting to take the plunge, but never being able to follow through. The one thing I’m always complimented on is my hair, and for a long time I felt that cutting it short would directly cut its appeal. Like Samson, I found strength in my hair, like Rapunzel, I felt my hair defined me. However, she cut it short and it worked for her! And so, one Friday after a lovely lunch along Dejima Warf, I decided to pull a Rapunzel.

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Thanks to the wonderful and Talented Tajima-san, at Pandemic (a hairdressers I highly recommend for those of you in Nagasaki City), the transition from long to short was painless. I was hooked after the first chop! “Oh well, can’t stop now, or you’d look like a tit” was the actual thought I had. But for the first time in a long time, I smiled even mid cut, knowing I was going to love It. I was relieved when he came to cut my hair, and when I told him this he told me (with a sort of nervous but happy smile) that he had requested me when he saw my name. I was pretty much ecstatic. He’s talented, cute and it just gave me a sense of home for a moment, a feeling that can be hard to come by when you live in a country so vastly different from your own. For the first time in maybe seven years, I have short hair, and I’ve never felt better. Getting my hair cut is one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Yay for spontaneity.

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Work Is also going better. During the spring holidays I was more productive than ever and have found great joy in my new position in the staff room after the annual teachers shuffle. I feel good, and when I look up I can see blue skies, tall buildings and a clear view of two cute teachers. Windows always calm and inspire me and I feel more relaxed for it. My supervisor became the new 1-2 home room teacher in the whole shuffle and has asked me to help out with her class on occasions as a sort of unofficial sub-sub homeroom teacher, which is something I am so ready to do! I love those students so much, they are adorable. In fact the entire first year at that junior high are adorable! It really helps teaching in the elementary school that most of them come from. I’m pretty sure the amount of students I don’t know, I can count on my hand. I’m also starting to gain confidence and a better relationship with my colleagues! …I think…

I’m also writing articles now! I’ve been so happy getting back into writing, and taking it seriously this time around. I’ve been writing for a Japan travel sight and was even featured on one of the weekly news letters, which was amazing! I’ve even recently submitted something for a paper back in Britain. They gave me a feature and will even include pictures! This is all for free of course, but that really doesn’t matter to me. I am so insanely excited! I’m still nowhere near the level I want to be, but I’m determined to try hard every day until I get there. I’ve decided to take my blog and diary more seriously, and my hobonichi is getting fatter by the day!

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I’m still the same mess I was, just slightly improved. A newer model if you will; the same old vessel, just functioning a little more efficiently. I know that with the guidance of my amazing friends and the continuous inspiration my fellow amazing bloggers and other outside sources *cough*pintrest*cough* that I can finally, slowly start down the road that will lead me to the person I’v always wanted to be.

 Next Goal: Be tidy, trendy and trim.

Epiphany

Epiphany.
While looking through http://shichijyuuni.com ‘s amazing blog, I found myself wondering why my life wasn’t as exciting as hers. Why wasn’t I as stylish? why couldn’t I keep up my blog so efficiently? With all these questions and more, I read on, jealous. I realised In that moment, that I do this a lot. I look at pictures and read stories of other peoples lives and wonder why my life isn’t as fun filled and romance riddled. I kept wondering what the hell was wrong with my life.
Then it hit me. I’ts me.
I’m what’s wrong with my life.
And no, I don’t mean this in a, ‘Oh gosh, I suck, my life sucks’ kind of way, I just mean that I stand in my own way. There is only one person who can give you the life you want and that’s you. I think I’d forgotten this somewhere along the way. Perhaps it was last year, when I took a bit of a tumble and must have dropped it somewhere. Maybe I just never bothered looking for it again.
I over analyze everything and make things so complicated in my head that I make myself dizzy.
I tell myself over and over again that I’m an underachiever, that I can’t do anything and I will never be as good as (Insert name here). So I scare myself out of doing things I want to, out of trying hard for things I really want.  It’s idiotic really.
I used to study hard and show dedication for things I loved, but in recently years I’ve forgotten how.  I really want to learn again.
These last six months of living in Japan have really stripped me bare, and have revealed the worst parts of myself to me, and while I don’t enjoy seeing these parts of myself, I think it is ultimately a good thing. As Albert Einstein once said ‘Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.’ and I believe this to be true.

I’m back!

皆さん、久しぶり!
明けましておめでとうござます!今年もよろしくお願いします!
元気ですか?クリスマスはどうでしたか?
Long time no see!
Happy New Year!
how are you all my lovelies? Were all your Christmas’s alright?
I’m sorry I’ve been so inactive, I’ve had a lot of things going on and I’ve been worried. Like a fishbowl filled with far too many energetic goldfish (if goldfish can even be energetic that is), all fighting for food, my brain has been full of worries and thoughts, and my blog has had to be put on the back-burner. Despite writing for my on amusement, I’ve been almost scared to go near my blog, unable to even open the tab. But, I’m back! and more determined than ever to turn my blog into something I can be proud of!
I’m still debating on how much of my personal life I want to share, especially when it comes to things such as my love life and my trials and errors. What do you guys think? When it comes to a blog, is less more? Or is more better?
I’m still trying to find my ‘blog voice’ or whatever the more educated term for it would be, so bare with me while I stumble along this bumpy road of self discovery!
I will say, however, I have re-contracted! Another year in the wonderfully eclectic city of Nagasaki! While I do feel a lot of anxiety towards my decision for reasons that call me home, I’m very excited to spend more time with my friends, visit the rest of Japan, get to know my students better and drink tea at my favourite cafes.
Well, that’s all I’m going to say for this post, I plan to get out a few more today, perhaps!
またね!