Komeda Coffee – A Recommendation

So it’s 3:00PM. Time for tea. Or in this case, coffee. Nagoya-styled coffee. Your place of choice? Before you get comfortable and say, “Starbucks”, let me first urge you to “give Komeda Coffee a shot”.

Or “get a shot… of coffee… from Komeda…”

…I tried the pun thing. Maybe I’ll be more creative next time.

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Komeda’s Coffee is a great cafe that offers decently-priced delicacies from Nagoya. My favorite of which is the infamous Ogura Toast, which is basically a thick (and I do mean thiccc with three C’s) piece of bread, slathered with sweet, whipped butter and red bean paste. You can order this Ogura Toast thinly-sliced or thickly-sliced. But let’s be real, thick is where it’s AT.

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Their sandwiches are also excellent. I ordered a Fried Pork Cutlet Sandwich (no pic included) from them, which was quite sizable and tasted fresh. And, of course, I highly recommend their coffee (pic included way above).

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They’ve got coffee. They’ve got Ogura Toast. They even got fluffy, Shiro-Noir Danish pastries. For your viewing pleasure, the menu: http://www.komeda.co.jp/en/menu/index.html

Since Komeda Coffee started off in Nagoya, you can find them all over the Aichi prefecture, but I’ve also seen them around the Kansai area, as well. If you spot one, and if it’s remotely close to 3:00pm, I’d highly recommend popping in to scope out those sweet, sweet (and I do mean sweettt with three T’s, if that’s a thing) tasties.

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Negative Google Maps Reviews in Japan that Forget to Faction in Culture

I try not to be too depend on Google Maps reviews, just like I try not to be too depend on Amazon reviews. However, I will admit that they generally can influence the restaurants I choose to go to. Or the hotels I choose to stay at. Or the sightseeing I plan to do with a limited amount of travel time.

…Okay, so I guess I rely more heavily on Google Maps than I thought.

This morning, I had a breakfast date with an old friend in Umeda, Osaka. In general, I noticed that breakfast restaurants or pancake houses are more rare in Japan than out in the States, and I honestly had never gone out for breakfast in the Umeda area. Meaning, it’s Google Maps time.

I pull out that sucker and start looking for places to eat. Although I’m typically open to window shopping for restaurants, this time, I was limited on time and wanted to find a decent place for the two of us, and as a rule of thumb, I generally go for places with around four stars and up on Google.

Which is where I noticed a bunch of very good, reputable restaurants with some not-so-great reviews. I wondered what justified these reviews, so I started scrolling.

And this is where I started thinking a bit more education on Japanese culture might help people to think twice about posting ignorant reviews.

Now, to state the obvious, I won’t be analyzing any high-horse whiners, who post shitty things like, “they cut my sushi too thick, i like it thin” or “this shopping mall is a maze like constructed building, prepare to get lost” or “its too narrow!1! too crowded!” or “the staff didn’t speak english”. As we know, these don’t have anything to do with the restaurants, food, or service whatsoever, just the salty griping of a self-centered creep that probably shouldn’t have access to technology at all without proper respect. As a wise woman once said, “You can’t fix stupid.”

Anyway, disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to analyzing and interpreting.

TOO SMOKEY (at a shopping venue)
I understand this reviewers frustration, but it may not be the shopping mall’s fault, since smoking tobacco cigarettes are still a thing in Japan. When I ask around, though, I find that the times have been changing, and you’ll find less and less smokers as time goes on. In general, tobacco is now developing a bad image. Although you’ll still might be greeted in a restaurant with a, “Smoking or non-smoking?”, I also know that the amount of smoking sections out in public is dwindling. Also, honestly, I’m not sure what the vaping or electronic cigarette scene looks like out in Japan (can’t say I’ve looked), but I’m willing to bet that it may rise with the fall of tobacco, but mere conjecture on my part. I mean, cigarettes still make bank out here (you can buy these things in vending machines, for Chrissakes), so who can say.

THE LINES WERE TOO LONG, HAD TO WAIT (at a museum)
I see this every once and a while. Trust me, I feel cramped and tired of waiting. We all do. But in Japan, this is a cultural difference where we just need to put up and shut up. There are a lot of people in Japan, and we all are expected to wait patiently for our turn. You can see this type of line-forming very prominently when you line up to get on the trains, for example.

OPENING TIME (at a grocery store)
I saw a review once that complained about the late opening time of a grocery store that opened at 9:00AM. News flash, most places in Japan open around 9:00AM. Or 10:00AM. Or 11:00AM. Or if it’s a mom-and-pop shop, they can open and close and have regular holidays whenever they feel like it. And that’s okay.

I think in America we’re so used to having everything open 24-7, that when a place is closed, it’s a “major inconvenience” to us. Rather than feeling inconvenienced, just feel grateful that the hard-working grocery store employees can get the rest they deserve and come in to work at a decent time. Surely, we can wait.

THEY MADE ME HIDE MY TATTOO (at a public bath)
Part of me thanks this reviewer for their warning, but I’m not sure this onsen really deserves such a strongly-worded, negative review. At many public baths, you’ll find signs that say, “No Tattoos”. The meaning behind this is because, traditionally, having a tattoo meant you were involved with dangerous people, like yazuka. Understandably, they didn’t want to serve customers that potentially worked for the mafia, and also probably feared having them inside.

Of course, now times are changing, and more and more foreign people are starting to come to Japan to enjoy their hot springs. Meaning that – I sincerely hope around 2020 Tokyo Olympics – Japan will become more globalized enough to understand that tattoos are a fashion fairly common among foreigners, and cut us some slack. It depends on location, of course, but this is a changing phenomenon in Japan. Instead of whining about it, or getting mad that “they just don’t understand me”, please understand where they’re coming from, and just do as your told. “When in Rome…”

Ikumimama’s Animal Donuts – A Recommendation

Here is another example of Japan being really good at producing quality goods that are detailed and downright adorable.

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Ikumimama no Doubutsu Donatsu, everyone! If you are lucky enough to happen upon one of these little shops, I highly recommend giving these delights a shot. Even for those foodies without a sweet-tooth, the taste of these donuts are very light, as the ingredients used are very raw; the eggs, wheat, salt, butter, and not a whole lot of processed chemical bits.

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But enough about the nutritional facts, let’s check the spoils.

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Handmade with smiles in mind, these adorable snackies are all shaped like animals such as cats, bears, tigers, penguins, and depending on the day and season, they also have a great selection of seasonal goodies, which you can check out on their website.
https://ikumimama.com/

DSCN9551I’ve seen these shops pop up around Tokyo, and now I’m super thrilled to have finally found one in Osaka. If you come across it, just remember these words of Runa, “Give into the cuteness, feast, and be merry!”

8 Tips to Help You Out During Jet Lag

Just arrived back in good, cold Chicago, and now a new foe has appeared: Jet lag.

“West is best, East is beast” definitely rings true with me, as coming home from Japan really seems to mess with my body clock. Jet lag usually keeps its hold over me for about 2-4 weeks, but I totally understand that it can effect everyone in different ways for longer or shorter periods of time.

This week, I’d like to share with you a few tricks that help me oust nocturality and get my body clock up and functioning again.

  1. Drink water. If you’re anything like me, you may have issues hydrating after the 12-hour flight to/from Japan. Especially if you’re spending more time sleeping than drinking lately. I know this sounds elementary, but keeping hydrated helps me from waking up in middle of the night with desert-dry feet or a parched throat.
  • Stay awake all day. I KNOW this is not easy. But by all means necessary, drink tea, coffee, or whatever keeps you healthy and caffeinated to last the day. However, it’s really important NOT to load up on caffeine, especially towards the end of your day, when sleep is absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid sleeping in. Set an alarm. I know it’s not easy, but there is a lot of wisdom to be learned from “Early to bed, early to rise.” I strive to go to bed early around 9:00pm while I recover. Don’t figure, “Oh, I’ll just sleep until 3:00pm over the weekend, since I’m so exhausted.” This just makes it harder to adjust into the current timezone and easier to become nocturnal.
  • Stay social among the living. Another thing that helps me stay awake is with I’m surrounded with other people who are awake. Coming home to my big family has proven to be one of the greatest methods for staying awake.
  • Limit phone time before bed. I know we all do it, but sleep is more important right now than catching up on Netflix or Instagram. Some reconnection is good, but don’t let it keep you up until 2:00am. (If you’ve got a blue filter or something on your phone to help you with the harsh, bright lights in a pitch-black room, I’d recommend utilizing those, as well, since I know too much cellphone use at night generally makes me less likely to sleep as well. Just remember, “anything in moderation”, and health is your number one priority.
  • Get some light exposure. It’s very tempting to stay at home and feel the need to relax. But I’d also recommend a drive or just a quick walk outside or to Target or something to get your body some exposure to those fine, vitamin-D-filled rays.
  • Shower before bed. So I know in the West, we most of us generally take showers in the morning, so I tried getting back into that habit when I came back to the States. But what I noticed was as soon as I was done with my nice, hot shower, I felt relaxed immediately ready for sleep. If possible, try showering at night instead, to avoid those sudden napping urges.
  • Eat, but don’t eat too much. I know you missed that Chiptole, but sleep coma is real. ‘Nuff said.

To narrow it all down. Sleep, but not too much. Drink, and eat, but not too much. Stay among the living, avoid the late-night Netflix binges, catch some rays, and reset that body clock by staying awake.

Before calling it a day here, though, I definitely want to add that if you really feel like you need a nap, please nap. Just make it a quick one. If you ever reach a point when you get so tired, you feel sick or you might be nauseous (been there, done that), then please don’t overdo it, and get some rest. Again, health is number one. Be gracious when resetting that body clock.

If you have any other tips for getting over jet lag, believe me when I say they are greatly appreciated. (Help me!)

Sakura in Osaka – a Hanami Recommendation

‘Tis the season for cherry blossoms! If you’ve heard of hanami, then you know it probably has something to do with family, friends, or punch-drunk salary-men picnicking under the cherry blossom trees.

You’ve heard correctly.

To each person, hanami has its own different meaning. Some people prefer quieter, local areas, sharing a few snacks with their kids, friends, or special someone, while some people prefer to go out, get drunk, and get happy with a bunch of coworkers (depends how pushy their company is to attend, I guess). In general, everybody is just a lot happier, as they all break out of hibernation and get out to take pictures of their local sakura.

Things you can expect to experience around this week (give or take) of hanami are:

  • Seeing various food stands, selling takoyaki, ice cream, or mini castella cakes
  • Finding lots of random sakura pedals kind of scattered around the sidewalks
  • Getting some strong whiffs of sake/beer in more crowded areas
  • Getting some whiffs of other flowers that start blooming around this time
  • Seeing loads of different parks with their own festivals celebrating the season
  • A ton of birds, and some bugs starting to emerge into Springtime
  • Seeing lots of sakura-themed goods when shopping (probably the most impressive sakura collection I’ve seen so far is at Afternoon Tea. Check this shit out)
  • Seeing sakura-watching boats traveling up and down the rivers
  • Showing up in the background of tourists’ selfies

Just as quick as the season started, it’s already starting to end. It’s a shame that such beauty has such a short lifespan… But maybe that’s what makes them so beautiful? I guess the sakura means something different to each person, but to me, they kind of represent a beautiful, yet somewhat tragic similarity to life and life’s fragile impermanence. It makes me step back and appreciate things a little more. Makes me feel smaller and humbler in the whole scheme of things.

But then again, this could just be the long-awaited Spring talking, and making me feel all emotional.

Without further ado, I will now include photos of Sakuranomiya, Banpaku Memorial Park, Yodo River, Nara Park, and Osaka Castle – for your viewing pleasure. Although I’d recommend any of these places for next year’s hanami (if you can’t make it this year), I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Catching some early sakura at Banpaku Memorial Park:

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Osaka Castle:

Nara:

Yodogawa:

Sakuranomiya (my top hanami location recommendation for you):

Quick factoid side-note: As you can tell by the many photos I’ve included, the five-petaled somei yoshino, yamazakura, are the most common and popular wild cherry blossom trees out here in the Kansai area. They look more white than pink and have a very soft, cloudy appearance, especially when the sun hits them juuust right.

Osaka’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018 Results

So White Day, March 14th, has just passed me by. The day in which women receive a return gift from those they have given Valentine gifts to. Since I, too, participated in the Valentine gift-giving, this March 14th, I received some Mister Donuts from my wonderful boyfriend, who knows me so well.

To those unfamiliar with Japan’s “Mister Donut” shops, I beg you to try their “Pon De Ringu”. https://www.misterdonut.jp/m_menu/donut/ That stuff is fluffy gloriousness.

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This Valentine’s Day, I was fortunate enough to visit Osaka Hankyuu’s very own St. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018. There’s not much else to say, other than “Holy chocolates, Batman!”

There were lots of hungry consumers, and there were lots and lots of glorious chocolate stands, all of which had a different theme to them.

For example, there were the “cute” styled ones.

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There were “cool” themed car ones, which you could actually “take apart” and eat. Very creative.

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There were “Godzilla” themed ones, the largest of which cost 7,560en (about $75!).

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The most popular ones seemed to be the “sake chocolates” and the “animal” themed booth, which I had a hard time taking a picture of because of the extensive lines and crowds surrounding the poor stand and its very busy, underpaid part-time workers.

 

There were also very badass “outer space” themed ones, Foucher Olympus, and I’m telling you, I felt like the Chocolate King of the Cosmos, going back a second time to actually buy these (shameless Katamari reference). http://valentine.season-evt.info/foucher/

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I’ve searched the web to try and see if you could order these, but all I’ve found is, “There are no more products found for this product”, meaning they’re probably sold out… Which sucks, because I would definitely buy these suckers again.

They had a very mature, kind of sophisticated taste about them, most of the flavors dealing with an alcoholic beverages, like brandy, vodka, and more. Very quality, creamy, and light stuff. If I can ever find a link that sells these, rest assured, I’ll be posting.

All in all, I had a fun time at the Expo, contributing to the heavily-marketed Japanese Valentine’s Day. I’ve noticed that, to Japan, Valentine’s Day is really money-oriented, rather than the more traditional Western representation of a “holiday of love”. (Taking it a bit further, White Day can also be observed as another “Japanization of Western culture”, as it created the day – pessimistically speaking – to make some more money.)

However, when you think about it, gift-giving has ALWAYS been a big part of Japanese culture to begin with. And as a consumer, I think the products they deliver are very creative, and the holiday can be a lot of fun; especially the giving part. And with Mister Donuts, I mean, who can complain?

IMG Global Travel Insurance Review – STAY THE FUCK AWAY

So, it’s time to get real with you guys for a sec. I know this isn’t as light a topic as I usually try to tone this blog to, but this time, please let me warn you about this fraud travel insurance I came across.

I figured I would need some precautionary health insurance during my 3 months abroad in Japan. And so per recommendation from my current American health insurance consultant, I went with IMG Global (International Medical Group).

My honest review is this: IMGLOBAL IS A FUCKING SCAM, FRAUD, AND THIEF. PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE ELSE WITH YOUR BUSINESS.

During the beginning of my stay here, I had a few health issues that worried me. Namely, a travel diarrhea that evolved into severe constipation and an inability to sleep and eat (I know; I should’ve drank more water on the plane and ate more yogurt, but now is not the time for regrets).

My wonderful boyfriend took me to see a doctor, who took some blood and prescribed me with some drugs. Here, I paid everything out of pocket, because the doctor wouldn’t accept the IMGLOBAL ID CARD that was issued to me.

In the mean time, I sent IMGlobal a quick email, asking a few tips on how their file claim system works, to which I received their reply WE CAN’T FIND your information. PLEASE RESPOND WITH YOUR CERTIFICATE NUMBER, INSURED ID NUMBER, AND ITS EFFECTIVE DATE AND EXPIRATION DATE.

That’s a lot of information to NOT HAVE on your client, but okay, resent them the email with all those little information bits they were unable to find. Finally got a response after a few days.

Here’s where shit gets really dicey.

After I was feeling a bit better, I sent in my claim on their useless-ass website on January 14th. They told me they would let me know once my claim went through the Claims Department.

THEY NEVER DID.

I checked the website TWO MONTHS later, just to see if the claim actually went through.

It did. I was NEVER INFORMED by IMGlobal. And it said on the website that they had DENIED MY CLAIM. They would cover $0 of my $80.17. News to me.

I have a right to submit an appeal, but on the “Submit Appeal” website, NO CONTACT INFORMATION OR DIRECTION WAS GIVEN.

I immediately send them a very polite email to the generic address I had been using, telling them that I NEVER RECEIVED A DENIAL LETTER, and ultimately asking why they had denied me (as I have the right to submit an appeal). I gave them the claim reference number, I gave them my ID number, and asked for a prompt response.

THREE DAYS LATER (March 6), I got a response (their responses, in general, are VERY SLOW, usually DAYS OR WEEKS LATER):

“Unfortunately we are not able to locate the claim in question. Please provide us with a screen shot of your online account so we can research this further for you.”

What the fuck.

I send them screenshots, I send them doctor’s receipts. I send them all my original documentation I had originally posted on their website, all in attachments on my response email. (March 9)

I get a response (March 12), saying “An Explanation of Benefits, detailing claim determination and/or additional information required, will be sent to the address on file and will become accessible online, once processing is complete.”

IT’S BEEN MORE THAN A WEEK LATER, AND NO RESPONSE FROM THEIR “CLAIMS DEPARTMENT”.

IMG is a THIEF, is NOT COMMITTED to its clients, and when you google it, just look under the comments sections to find more horror stories. One guy actually wrote that his wife got hit by a car and IMG didn’t pay a penny!!

I’ve been had. And it’s a really, REALLY annoying feeling. So from here on out, I guess I’ll try harder not break an arm or something while I’m out here, because you can bet your bottom dollar, that I’ll be paying for it ALL OUT-OF-POCKET, NO THANKS to IMGlobal.

Needless to say, I’ll be writing an email to my American insurance consultant shortly upon my return to the States, asking her NOT to recommend this joke company to anyone else. Buyers and international travelers, please be warned.