28 Jul 2015

Japan Flashback! Part 3: Hiroshima

It's time to continue the recount of my adventures in Japan! If you missed the first parts, go and have a look at Part 1 and Part 2!

Day 6: Travelling & Okonomiyaki

Most of our sixth day was spent on a shinkansen (bullet train), which was such a welcome relief as I was still feeling ill and my ankles had started to swell from the excessive amount of walking we'd done. We bought eki-bens (station lunches) before we left, and we all had a pretty chill time. I actually managed to have a nap somewhere along the way. Either that or I just passed out, I'm not sure.

In Hiroshima we were actually staying in a proper hotel with proper beds and individual bathrooms, which were definitely luxuries we'd taken for granted prior to staying in the hostel in Tokyo. We also had a TV in the room, so after arriving and been given time to rest, we tried to make sense of some of the Japanese television. It ended up being quite funny to just make up our own stories as we watched.

As it got dark, we went for a walk to the shopping district and had an explore. We also went to one to the fabled photo-booths, the effects of which are as scary as you've heard.

To end the day, we were all instructed to find Okonomiyaki places for dinner as we were going to a class to learn how to cook it the next morning. Okonomiyaki is basically a savoury thin pancake piled with cabbage and other toppings and fried. They are literally the size of a dinner plate and are so filling that I only managed to finish half of one.

Day 7: Cooking and Miyajima (宮島)

The next morning I slept in a little (whoops, a comfy bed will do that to you), and didn't have time for breakfast. But if there was any day to skip it, it was this day, because our first item on the agenda was our Okonomiyaki cooking class.

It was quite fun to try getting your pancake as perfect as possible and watching everybody else's attempts around you at the same time. We all sat down to eat our creations when we were done, and despite not having eaten, I STILL couldn't finish it. Seriously if you ever embark on eating okonomiyaki, make sure you take enough mouths to feed.

Progress shot!

After our strange sort-of-brunch, we got on our bus to get the ferry to Miyajima (宮島). Miyajima (also known as Itsukushima) literally translates as 'shrine island', and it's absolutely beautiful. You've probably seen a stack of photos of it around the place (yes, it's the one with the floating gate), and I can say that if you've ever thought of visiting, it's well worth it.

The tide was out during our visit, but the seaweed-covered banks were still beautiful, and we actually got to walk out and under the shrine gate, so it was probably better that it wasn't flooded with water. The view of the hills surrounding us were also absolutely gorgeous.

It was another day of walking, but it felt worth it (despite the perpetual sinus headache I remember having at this point). We walked all around the shrines, temples, shores and little shops, ate ice-cream and hung out with some of the famous deer.

After getting back to the hotel, we (and by we I mostly mean my history teacher who was accompanying us) made the last minute decision to go to a nearby baseball game. Baseball is a pretty big deal in Japan, so it was an interesting atmosphere to be in. I'm not a big sports person, so this was just about the first sporting match I'd ever been to in my life. As far as firsts go, baseball with your friends isn't bad at all.

Day 8: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Leaving for Osaka

Day 8 was a day that I will remember for as long as I live because it was such a impacting experience. We caught the streetcar to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and the first thing we saw was the A-Bomb dome. They had signs posted around it giving historical background, which was a good place to start before actually entering the Peace Memorial Museum.

I took a few photos inside the museum, but I've decided not to share them here. The museum really drove home the devastation, suffering and loss of life that was experienced after the dropping of the bomb and many years afterward. I think it's really something you have to experience as a whole yourself.

Afterwards we walked around to the memorial itself and to where some school children were gathered on a visit, speaking and learning about the history of Hiroshima and it's bid for world peace. It was a strange thing, to see the destruction that was caused by humanity alongside the good-heartedness of these people that live with this history. It really makes you hope that we can progress and make the world a truly better place.

Straight after visiting the Peace Memorial Park, we were off on another shinkansen to Osaka!

Hiroshima is my personal favourite city that I visited in Japan. It has such a rich history and a sense of openness and calm that was refreshing after the overwhelming mass that was Tokyo. Visiting Miyajima also definitely played a part. I've made it a goal to return at some point in my life.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of my adventures! See you next time!


24 Jul 2015

Favourites Friday #5

Welcome to another edition of it being Friday and me liking things. A few things have been happening since I lasted posted one of these - semester ended which means I've been on holiday for a month, and during that month I also had a birthday. I've been pretty happy and relaxed and have felt like I've been able to sit down and enjoy things. So here are the things that I have been loving:

1. Long Knitted Cardigans - It's winter down under, and I'm not a fan of freezing, so I've been digging into my pile of knits. I recently bought a long black knitted cardi from Bonds (that's unfortunately sold out), which I love. The above one is from ASOS, which I would love to own as well.

2. Books Kinokuniya Sydney - I've raved and raved about this frickin' book store a thousand times, and I'm gonna do it again because I've been there quite a bit recently. Every time I go I just don't want to leave. I actually think I could just curl up in a corner and live there. They house all my literature, comic and Japanese book needs. I'll be loving it till I'm dead.

3. Gold studs, of all kinds - I'm not a big flashy earring person, so naturally I own 5000 pairs of studs, especially now that I have more than one piercing in each ear. Gold has slowly become my favourite metal over the years. I just think it looks classy (and goes really well with black, the colour I wear the most, naturally). I get most of my studs from Lovisa because they're cheap and have some really nice designs to mix and match, but the above pairs are from ASOS and are similar to ones that I own.

4 - Parks & Recreation - Okay, so here is the part where I admit that this is the first time I've watched Parks & Rec (late again, I know). Parks & Rec is part of the Holy Trinity of shows that Michael Schur has worked on (the other two being The Office and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which are both incredible), so it's about time I saw it. It's so so funny, I've been laughing out loud a huge amount. I'm only up to the end of season 2, but I have a feeling that it won't take me long to finish the series.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - For those of you that don't know, Skyward Sword is a game for the Wii that was released in 2011. I've recently finished it for the second time, and I'm still in awe of how beautiful it is. I love the Zelda series, but Skyward Sword is such a magical experience. It's one of the longest games in the series, so it takes some dedication, but it's also pretty addictive and will probably have you playing it for 6 hours a day, even the second time around.

6. Sephora Pomegranate Face Mask - I went to Sephora for the first time the other week as it only opened in Sydey recently, and I've been quite impressed. I have really terrible skin that breaks out constantly, but the morning after I used this mask, it looked calmer and brighter. I was actually kind of happy with it for once. So naturally I went back and bought more. I need a whole stash.

7. Walk the Moon's album Talking Is Hard - I think we've all heard (and jammed hard to) 'Shut Up and Dance', and with good reason because it's a really good song. I went and listened to the whole album and was not disappointed - every other song on it is just as good, some are maybe even possibly better. It's great listening for almost every situation.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my favourites and check out some of the things I've mentioned!

Till next time,


20 Jul 2015

I Turned Twenty!: Some Lessons Learned & Advice

I did it! I made it though my teenage years. Barely.

I struggled with the idea of entering my twenties for a while because that little '1' at the beginning of my age had become a part of who I was, and all of a sudden it was stripped from me. I guess I find that scary, watching things that are out of your control change. But, after some reflection (everyones favourite activity, I know), I've now come to peace with it.

I came to the conclusion that there's no real reason that I would want to cling to my teens. I knew from before I turned thirteen that this particular period of my life was going to be hard, and parts of it definitely were. I've dealt with anxiety, depression, bullying, high school, university, my first job, several crushes (failed ones, at that) and a broken heart to boot. But these things were difficult because they mattered. I guess that what my teenage years taught me is that shit happens, and all you can do is learn from it. So here is some of the wisdom that I have gained:

Treat others as you would want to be treated - Seems simple enough, but sometimes it gets away from you. I've had some moments that I am definitely not proud of, but I think that after making those mistakes, I've not repeated them since. Practice being empathetic. Sometimes it doesn't come naturally, but it's rewarding, trying to make the world a somewhat less negative place.

Do (some of) the things that scare you - Being someone with social anxiety disorder, a lot of things scare me. One of the biggest of these fears that I've had to face is starting university. New place, new people, new experiences that I wasn't sure how to approach. It was essentially my absolute nightmare. But within a couple of months of just getting down and dealing with it one step at a time, I really started enjoying it. Now I'm not saying go and try skydiving because you're scared of heights, but taking on the things that scare you feels really good. Always remember to be proud of yourself for even the tiniest steps forward. It'll make it easier to deal with things in the future.

You're not obligated to put up with other people's crap - Throughout high school (and also beforehand) I was the type of person that thought just because I was friends with someone I had to be there for them no matter what. A lot of the time, if your relationship with someone is healthy and they care about you as much as you care about them, it's the right thing to do. But there are some people who will take advantage of you and keep you around until you inconvenience them. It's sad, but it's true. You're not bound by some code or contract. If someone is making you feel bad or isn't treating you with the respect you deserve, you don't have to stick around. There are other things for you to spend your energy on.

It's okay to be a little 'late' - I'm definitely a 'late bloomer', a phrase that I do not agree with for a number of reasons but that I continue to use for convenience's sake. If you're not comfortable, there should be no reason for you to feel like you have to do something because everyone else is, whether that's having your first kiss, having your first drink, being in your first relationship or any of the other 'milestones' that have inexplicably been deemed important for us by some strange adolescent powers that be. You should just chill out and do things when you're ready, and screw anyone that says otherwise. You'll probably end up with less cringe-worthy memories in the end, too.

I guess my final piece of advice would be to not be afraid to make mistakes, but as someone who is definitely afraid to do just that, I don't feel like I can pass that on. You're going to make mistakes whether you're scared to or not - the just happen. But hopefully one day you'll look back, just as I am, and see all the things you learned from them. Mistakes aren't so bad in hindsight. 

For those of you that are still kicking through your teens, good luck to you. I hope you take something from this post. And to those of you that have emerged from those murky waters, I look forward to joining you in trying to figure out what the hell we're doing all over again.

(Pictures above are from birthday found on my Instagram).


7 Jul 2015

Reading Wrap-Up: January-June 2015

Most of you probably know that I read quite a lot, whether it be for uni or leisure. I also like talking and reading about books; I've become somewhat addicted to book hauls and reviews over the years, because I apparently need more books to add to the hundreds I already own. As I'm quite interested in other people's reading wrap-ups, I thought I'd do one of my own. Maybe it'll become a regular thing.

Six months is quite a long time to leave between them, but I go through different periods of reading a lot because I feel quite relaxed, only reading things for uni, or not really reading that much at all because I'm stressed out and I don't feel like I have time. I think that only doing wrap-ups a couple of times during the year allows me to collect a decent amount of diverse books in my read pile, so these posts actually seem worthwhile.

In this wrap-up I've written a list of all the books I've read (including comics and the like) over the past six months, and my rating. I feel like I'm quite generous with ratings, and give them out based on what I'm into at the time and how much I enjoyed not only the story and writing, but the values of the books I read, considering I have to keep these in mind for class as well. Two and a half is the lowest score I've given, and I gave one five. I'd say that I wouldn't really recommend anything with three or lower, three and a half is "good", four is "great", four and a half is "amazing please read" and five is "as close to perfect as anything is gonna get".

I've also picked my top five favourite books from the list to write a little something about. Hopefully it'll inspire some of you to read them!

Books I've Read:

Dancing on Coral - Glenda Adams ★★½
Tirra Lirra by the River - Jessica Anderson ★★★
The Dreamers - Jack Davis (play) ★★★
The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides ★★★★
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn ★★★½
Manhattan Dreaming - Anita Heiss ★★½
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling ★★★½
Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil - Derek Landy ★★★★
Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer - Derek Landy ★★★★
Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked - Derek Landy ★★★½
The Maleficent Seven - Derek Landy ★★★★
Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men - Derek Landy ★★★★
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light - Derek Landy ★★★★★
Skulduggery Pleasant: Armageddon Outta Here - Derek Landy ★★★★
How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran ★★★★½
Are Men Obsolete? The Munk Debate on Gender ★★½
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins ★★★★
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath ★★★½
The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick ★★★½
Coonardoo - Katharine Susannah Prichard ★★★
Insurgent - Veronica Roth ★★★★
Allegiant - Veronica Roth ★★★★
Tales from Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan ★★★★½
Saga Vol. 1 - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples ★★★★
Sex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick - Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky ★★★★
Sex Criminals Vol. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop - Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky ★★★★
The Wicked + the Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson ★★★★½
美少女戦士セーラームーン完全版1- 武内直子 (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Complete Edition #1 - Naoko Takeuchi) ★★★½

My Top 5:

5 - Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The first thing I have to say about this book is "don't knock it till you've tried it". I know that quite a few bookish sorts have read and really enjoyed Stephanie Perkins' novels, but, as with all things aimed at a relatively young female audience, its probably not regarded super highly in all circles (unfortunately). Even I have a tiny voice in my head that says "are you seriously going to read this when you could be reading Jane Eyre/Emma/To Kill A Mockingbird/other highly acclaimed classic?" Yes. Yes I am.

I'm a pretty big fan of romantic mush, especially when it's well-written and believable and the characters are likeable. And that's exactly what this book is. It's just an easy read that will make you feel all fluffy inside. You may also pick up a few words in French as a bonus.

4 - The Wicked + the Divine Vol 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson

I've read more comics over the first part of this year than I have during the entirety of the rest of my life. I'm obviously not a comic expert, but I've dipped my toe, and I plan to keep on immersing myself. I'd heard of The Wicked + the Divine through Image Comics (who also publish Sex Criminals), and because it is written by the same wonderful people that put together 2013's Young Avengers, which I read and enjoyed.

It's about a group of gods that get sent to Earth as young people and are treated like celebrities, and the drama that follows. I've been getting a lot more into Greek mythology and such, so the idea of gods in a modern age is pretty damn appealing. McKelvie's art style is also really beautiful, so just flipping through it is a pleasant experience. I've gone out and bought the second volume now which I'm super excited to read!

3 - How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

This book is really a feminist staple. It should just be required reading, really. Moran covers so much in this book: sexism, puberty, motherhood, abortion and relationships to name a few, in such a funny yet genuine way. You'll feel like you've learnt a lot by the time you've finished. Give it to your family, your friends, strangers in a book store, just go nuts. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

2 - Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

This is one that I had to read for class, and it was the best book on the set list by far. Shaun Tan has quite the following, and it's so easy to understand why. Tales from Outer Suburbia is just that, a collection of short, illustrated stories set in the Australian suburbs. Some of Tan's illustrations are so beautiful and his stories so touching that I actually audibly gasped upon turning some of the pages.

It's by no means a very long or difficult read, but I devoured this in one sitting. There's no doubt I'm gonna purchase all of his other books at some point.

1 - Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy

Seven years after the first book was released, the SP series has been wrapped up. I only started reading it in 2013, but I've now read all the books twice (in the space of a year, no less), and this series has become hard for me to say goodbye to. BUT I can say with confidence that Derek Landy ended it in the most perfect way possible.

The series took a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes a happy ending seemed extremely unlikely (nigh on impossible), but he did it. I was so happy after finishing this book that I had to make an effort to calm myself down. It's one of the very few books I've read over my life that I can say I wouldn't change a thing about. So, if you've not yet read the Skulduggery Pleasant series, I urge you to do so. And now that I've finished it, maybe I'll stop blabbing on about it once every couple of months. Maybe.


So that was my reading wrap-up for the first half of 2015! I will of course keep reading throughout the rest of the year, and maybe I'll do another one of these. Let me know if you enjoyed it, and tell me your opinions on any of the books I've listed or your own favourite books so far this year!