MAIDREAMIN

December 11th is a day that I will never forget, because it is the day I went to MAIDREAMIN...a maid cafe in Akihabara with 10 of my coworkers. Yep, you heard me right...a maid cafe! what. 

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Monday was right in the middle of Final exams, so the students had to leave school by noon. Thus, freeing up the teachers to correct the test, plan for the next day, and also...go out to play!! HOORAY!! Mami sensei, the lady in the beanie, is a self-proclaimed (and others affirmed) Akihabara professional so she conjured up the idea for all of us to go on a fun tour there. 

For those who don't know, Akihabara, better known as AKIBA, is a part of Tokyo famous for two things : technology and anime. It is the hub of otaku (nerd) things and where all the serious gamers hang out. So let's just say, it's not my neck of the woods! 

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We took the Tsukuba express line from Kashiwa Tanaka station directly to Akihabara (easy route) and arrived around 1:30pm. I really loved traveling with all my coworkers. They are all so lively and curious about anything and everything so we chatted the whole train ride. 

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Alison also happens to be a Akihabara professional so here she is explaining a phone game to our coworkers. 

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We arrived in AKIBA and immediately I felt the sense of...otakuland! haha. 

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There are "gachas" all over Akihabara where people pay around 300yen to get a little toy. What do we even call these in the states? I forget!! haha. 

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It was a beautiful day and I was surprised to see the Gingko trees in full bloom still! 

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We stumbled upon some super old nintendo games which brought back a lot of memories. 

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I saw this dude walking in front of us and (admittedly) chased after him a little bit to get this photo. I mean come on...that simple clean style with that dope Adidas backpack!!! SWAG. I love Tokyo for all the cool people I get to see and the styles they evoke.

 

Ok...time for MAIDREAMING, the most popular maid cafe in the area! Thanks to Mamis expertise, we went to the OG cafe and got a nice big table to fit all 11 of us.

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Right after I snapped this, the lady looked at me and in a high pitched voice said, "oh! no photo of me in this dream land or else we will start melting." uhhh...what?? lol

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The best part was experiencing it with my coworkers, especially Kuwabara and Mashiko who are like dads to me here. It was so funny seeing them reading the menu and choosing what super cutesy food to eat! hahahaaaa. 

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The worker gave us all headbands to wear, all various animals, and Ikeda sensei really embraced his bunny ears!

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I told Alison she looked like Arthur...doesnt she!??

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Group photo!!! I love this so much!!!! Everyone was so down to try new things and embrace the weirdness of the cafe hahaa. We have to say "nyan" after every sentence to sound like a cat and it was hilarious. Like you literally have to say, "excuse me, can I have more water...nyan!?" Like a meow sound. HAHAHA and everyone did it with great enthusiasm. 

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If you bought the set lunch, you get a keychain as a souvenir. Also, they had a "DREAM JOURNAL" there that served as the guest book. A lot of people said they visited from the states and I thought that was funny! 

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For a lot of my coworkers, it was their first time to a maid cafe too! The funniest moment was when I asked Ebisawa sensei (in the white shirt) what she thought about it and she said..."this was my first and last time to a maid cafe" and that made me laugh so hard!! HAHAHA. 

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We ordered their ridiculously cute (and overpriced) food for the fun of it. The two pictures on the left are of OMURICE (rice omelet) with special designs written in ketchup. Pretty cute. And the top right pic is the curry Alison and I got...which comes in the shape of a bear! hahaa. And the bottom right pic is the Hamburg one of my coworkers got which is, in my opinion, the cutest of them all!!

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This might be my favorite photo from the day. I could see it on a journal article titled, "New leisure activities for overworked businessmen in Japan" ...right!? 

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My coworkers were kind enough to order me this cute plate!! Pretty impressive design. The funny part is it says "Amile" instead of Amie...which doesn't surprise me since here in Japan most people think my name is "Ami" or "Emily" so here they have just combined the two...AMILE! hahaha. 

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If you pay extra, you get this cute decorated Polaroid! I love this picture so much and I will absolutely treasure it forever. 

After our crazy experience in Maid dreamland...we stepped back into reality and spent some more time on our Akiba tour.  

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I took this pic looking out the back window of the maid cafe. It's funny how just one street off the main road, Akiba looks pretty bland and normal. But then...you step back into the madness and see...

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Gacha game central!!! This particular store is quite well known and has hundreds of these machines with all different characters to get. 

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Mami showed us a very interesting vending machine in Akiba which sells two strange things.... 1) fruit juice in weird flavors. They have DURIAN!!! ahhh!!! and 2) ODEN, a type of Japanese hot pot. Pretty weird that the oden comes warm and in a can...crazy!  

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More of the anime/comic craziness!

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I love how the streets in Japan are tiny, cozy and jam packed with so much character. I feel this way in every area of Tokyo and it really creates a magical, adventerous atmosphere everywhere you go. 

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I loved this DVD shop with paper flyers all on the outside making it look super old school! 

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We toured a few of the major shops where most of us were overwhelmed with the amount of merchandise they had. Alison and Mami were totally in their element though...they knew exactly where all the products were and what things were newly released. I also thought it was weird/funny to see my name on one of the displays! 

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And that, folks, wraps up our AKIBA tour and one of my favorite days ever!! I mean, if you would have told me a few years ago.."hey, one day you're going to go to a maid cafe in Akibahara with 10 of your Japanese coworkers" I would have laughed and thought you were crazy. And yet, here I am. And It happened. And it was a day I will never forget. 

SHIRO: COLOR

I spent yet another Saturday exploring Tokyo...this day unintentionally themed around color, mostly for the fact that I went to my favorite shop SHIRO (shiro means white in Japanese) and to a color art exhibit! 

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To start off, I met up with my two friends Kumi and Nathalie at Jiyugaoka station to go to Shiro Cafe, one of my favorite places in ALL OF TOKYO.

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Jiyugaoka is a short train ride outside the heart of Shibuya and it's a lesser known part of town that has a lot of charm. My good friend Yukiko brought me here earlier this year and since then i've been wanting to come back!!

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The best place in this part of town is BY FAR Shiro Cafe!! Shiro is my favorite Japanese cosmetics company due to their incredible aesthetic and beautiful, natural, Japan made products...so the fact that they combined their product store with a cafe that sells coffee and amazing food is just THE BEST!!! 

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The design is perfection. 

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We ordered hot coffee that came in beautiful blue cups... and Kumi and I got the onigiris! How cute are they? 

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We also ordered the seasonal pancake that was topped with the fluffiest cream cheese and tangy berry sauce. SO GOOD. 

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ITADAKIMASSSUUUUUU.

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After we ate, it was time to shop!! The building is two stories with the cafe and a few products on the first floor, and a lot more products downstairs. 

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The way they designed this place is just...LIFE GOALS. Kumi and I kept saying , "I WANT TO LIVE HERE!" 

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Shiro specializes in their Japan made fragrances and facial products. They also have laundry detergent, candles, fabric spray, soaps, etc. 

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They make incredible face wash, soap, and cream out of natural Japanese sourced material such as Sake, Konbu and Seasame. And how beautiful are the bottles??

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I never thought i'd ever want/need "hair mist" but SHIRO sold me on this one. It smells incredible!! 

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I want it all. 

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THANK YOU SHIRO FOR BEING AN AMAZING-BEAUTIFUL-WONDERFUL SMELLING PLACE!!!

 

OK, after dreamland, we headed back into the heart of Tokyo to check out an art exhibit in Aoyama. 

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We went to see an the exhibit by EMMANUELLE MOUREAUX titled "1000 colors recipe" at the Spiral building in Aoyama. 

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The store in the front of the SPIRAL building always had the cutest little stationary and gifts. On this particular day, a fashionable guy was making the most beautiful little potpourri bags with dried flowers. So Tokyo. 

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They always have various art installations in this particular building and for only 3 days or so, the 1000 COLORS RECIPE was up!! 

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WOW. SO COOL, RIGHT?!

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I was amazed at how perfectly aligned all the letters and numbers were. At every angle, the alignment was perfect. wow. 

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The show was in combination with a famous towel brand called  IMABARI which has the softest and cutest designs. If you filled out a survey after, you got a free hand towel! yay! 

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Last stop of the evening was at COUTUME, a fabulous cafe in Aoyama. Aoyama is the area right next to Omotesando. It's known for it's fancy cafes, luxury sports car headquarters (home to Tesla, Ferrari, Porsche just to name a few) and trendy people like this dude in an epic long coat! gosh...Tokyo ppl are just the coolest. 

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We had the most amazing pastries there which were are cute as they were delicious. It was a good energy boost for what was coming next for me and Nathalie...the 2017 TOKYO SANTA RUN!! Which I will have to dedicate another post to.

Yet another good day in the heart of Tokyo. I love this place so much! 

26

On Friday I turned 26! It was the last birthday i'll celebrate in Japan and one I will never forget. (Check HERE to see how I celebrated 24...and HERE to see 25!)

Three years ago, I remember sitting on the beach in San Clemente with my two dear friends Nati and Katelyn, and I told them, "I'd rather be the 26 year old that moved to Japan than the 26 year old that stayed safe at home." And when I spoke those words...26 felt an eternity away. It felt impossible to reach because there was this mountain of time in front of me.

But here I am...and I am 26. And three years has flown by. And God has been gracious to me every step of the way. 

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I headed to school on Friday and taught three classes. In 4th period the 3A students sang happy birthday to me and gifted me with a bunch of snacks and goodies and then, after school, 2A showed me this awesome chalk board sign they made! I love how they referenced Kyrie, Lebron and Steph Curry HAHA. They know I love basketball so I think they threw any (and all) NBA players they knew on the board. 

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The students gave me a bunch of candy and the cutest thing was they all wrote their names on whatever they gave me. Two of my favorite are below...

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Potato chips with my name and picture of me on it...and even better yet, ONE piece of candy with my students name on it HAHHAA. That one cracked me up. Not a bag, not a few, nope...just one singular piece. 

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After school my coworkers in the English office surprised me with amazing Costco cheesecake, a happy birthday sash, a lei and a notebook full of letters. AWWWW!! 

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My coworker Ikeda sensei gave me gloves from him and his wife...and also a VERY special gift handmade by his son, Kai!! Kai is in elementary school and had to knit a scarf in class...and he GAVE ME THE SCARF!!! *tears* That was the sweetest thing in the world. 

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Here are most of the English teachers I work with. These people are incredible and I love them very much. 

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After work my coworker and fellow Torrance native, Alison, and I went to dinner. We decided on Hawaiian food and ate a really yummy meal with hawaiian sun in fancy mason jars!! Alison is also the sweetest and got me a pen (to add to my pen keychain collection) from Okinawa and...drumroll...a STICKER BOOK! Yes. A book that holds all types of washi tape and stickers. I know it sounds childish...but for the an avid journaler and schedule writer like me...it was the best gift ever!! We've only known each other for a few months and she already knows me well!

 

I went home Friday night with a happy heart and a full stomach. God has truly blessed me more than I could have ever imagined. Celebrating my 26th at Ichikashi was a dream!! I slept well Friday night and woke up bright and early to head to...

TOKYO DISNEYLAND!!!

 

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I met up with my two good friends, Miri and Neath, and we headed to the park right when it opened at 8. As you can probably assume, Disneyland here is SO popular so often time the park gets full and they stop letting people in. So we bought tickets before and went right away to ensure we got in. Miri was kind enough to get me a Happy Bday sticker with my name on it! 

Fun note: My friend Neath is from Cambodia so this was her first time at Disneyland! Like, the first time in her whole life!! It added an extra layer of fun to the entire day because she was seeing everything for the first time. That was so cool. 

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First things first...breakky and coffee yumm. The special set with a chicken pesto Mickey shaped pastry and strawberry muffin was so good! Tokyo Disneyland food forsure dominates Anaheim Disneyland's food. And I laughed at this sign I saw when we walked in "FOR SAFETY PLEASE WALK" so Japan!!

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Disneyland goes ALL OUT for Christmas and we enjoyed all the themed stuff such as...the Christmas day parade and the warm apple cider in a cute Christmas cup! 

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One of my favorite parts of Tokyo Disneyland is seeing the vending machines! Yes, somehow they created these incredibly themed vending machines for all of us to enjoy. Gotta love the creativity of Japan. 

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I am a sucker for seasonal special deals and themed stuff...so of course I got every themed meal possible! haha. This one was a themed hotdog with green pesto sauce and red veggie sauce to be Christmas colors. 

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For as many people that visit TDL in one day...it never feels as crowded as Ahaneim Disney does. I think that's because the layout is so different. The roads and various areas feel much wider than the OG Disneyland, and on top of that everyone is so obedient and orderly that lines form properly and people are so polite when walking anywhere. Also, people are crazy fans here and will wait the entire day just to see one parade or show. They bring their little portable chairs, blankets, and bentos and sit all day. I've never seen that kind of commitment in the states! 

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We stayed at the park until it closed at 10...and had the best day. ahhh.  Neath has lived in Japan for a year and said this day at Disneyland was "the best day i've had in Japan so far!" and I was so happy to spend the day with her and Miri! God has blessed me with great friends here in Japan.

 

          As I reflect back on 25... I can say with confidence that it was the most formative year in my life thus far. I learned a lot about Japanese culture, teaching. independence, relationships, heartbreak (yep, it happened), devotion, worship, God's faithfulness and...myself. I journaled more this year than I ever have in my life (I think I went through at least 5 notebooks) and walked through some very deep things with the Lord. All along the way, God spoke clearly and graciously to me, giving me guidance on where to go, how to get there and what to do in the process. I am thankful for God's relentless love, unending faithfulness and undeniable strength, power and wisdom. 

A verse that covered my 25th year of life was Matthew 7:13-14

   "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that
leads to destruction, and many enter through it
But small is the gate and
narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it
." 

In my 26th year of life my goal is to continue on the narrow road, regardless of what society says, regardless of who joins me, regardless of the difficulty...because it is the road that leads to life, it leads to peace, it leas to freedom and ultimately it leads to Jesus!!