23 April 2017


Hey everyone,

I'm very excited to continue my The Japan Diaries series - you can read all the previous installments here.
Or skip to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

My plan when I arranged to go to Koyasan was to go to the mountains for a cleansing experience, to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. 

This turned out to be more difficult when I had to be up at 7am to start packing and get ready to leave. My head was throbbing. I should have turned down that last sake from Mr Yano

And to make matters worse, when I checked my phone - Hurricane Phanfone had hit again in the night. It had mostly gone over Tokyo and we got the backlog.
Trains had been thrown off a little. I was worried as I had several changes to catch.

My worries were unfounded however. Delayed trains are simply unacceptable in Japan.
By rush hour, everything was running as usual - like clockwork.

They say part of the adventure to Koyasan is getting there and that's certainly true.

I caught the train from Osaka Namba to Gokurakubashi, then caught the cable car up to the mountains. It really was beautiful, feeling miles above the trees.

Then unfortunately, as soon as I stepped off the cable car - the heavens opened.

The high altitude wasn't helping my hangover, so instead of fannying on trying to find the right bus and fret I was getting off at the wrong stop I hopped in a taxi and it was the best Y2,500 I spent.

I was both excited and also a little apprehensive about staying with monks in a temple.
But Hayley had recommended the Souji-in to me, insisting it was one of her favourite experiences in all her years visiting Japan.

I was greeted by a monk, who bowed and politely pointed at my feet. I'd forgotten to take my shoes off standing on the steps, whoops! 

He took me to the reception area and we sat opposite each other crossed legged on piles of pillows while he took down my details, advised meal and prayer times and explained the rules.
(Very simple and common sense: no raised voices, speaking in hushed voices, showing respect for the monks and others, no flash photography etc.)

Another little monk then gave me a pair of slippers which were absolutely massive on my size 5 feet and I kept slipping all over the place on the polished floor which was quite embarrassing.

He gestured to the dining room, prayer hall, onsen rooms and then to my room.

It was definitely suitable for several people - separated into two rooms with a sliding door.
On one side was a little table with a kettle, cup and saucer plus nori sheets and a sweet mochi to nibble. A yukata was neatly folded in the corner.

The other room was my bedroom with huge open windows with a beautiful view of the zen gardens and a futon with lots of heavy blankets. 

Unfortunately the rain showed no signs of stopping, spoiling my plans to wander around the grounds and the village so I fell into a deep, wonderful nap, and slept soundly under the heavy blankets.

I set my alarm on my phone (vibrate only of course so I slept with it in my bra!) to wake up in plenty of time for dinner, when I changed into the yukata.
I felt a bit immodest with just my underwear underneath, so I put on a vest/singlet and a pair of black shorts.

Just as I was wondering how I was going to find the dining room, or if I was going to be served in my room as a single guest - the little monk who showed me around came and let me to the hall.
(I didn't chance the slippers again and just wore my socks. I still slipped on the polished floors like a fool.)

The other guests were all fellow Westerners when I stayed, and we were separated by a small privacy screen which I appreciated.
Dinner was Shojin Ryori - traditional vegan food eaten by the monks.

Shojin Ryori
This was my breakfast, I unfortunately forgot to bring my camera along to dinner!

I'm not a particularly picky eater (surprise, surprise), and found everything absolutely delicious:
Miso soup, soft gelatinous tofu, pickled ginger, tempura vegetables, greens in a sweet sauce, soy beans, nori and rice.

A monk I hadn't seen before with trendy black glasses came along with extra nori and served me a huge pot of green tea. I thanked him as he set everything down in front of me. He paused and said:

"Excuse me miss, may I ask you question?"
"Of course."
"You are English girl, yes?"
"Yes, I'm from Northern England."
"Ahh very good. I enjoy the cooking of Jamie Oliver."

And there you have it.
50,000 miles from home, sitting in a yukata in a temple talking about Britain's favourite celebrity chef with a monk. That's one for the grandbairns.
I laughed and called him Jamie every time I saw him the rest of my stay.

After dinner the rain had weaned and I finally had a walk around the temple.
I considered going to the onsen but I couldn't remember which one the monk had said was the male and female and honestly couldn't cope with the embarrassment of choosing the wrong one, so I missed out.

I never did visit an onsen during my visit, which was a bit of a shame - I've put it on my list for my 2017 trip, however.
(My sister is not looking forward to this.)

The beautiful serene grounds which smelled especially wonderful after a night of heavy rainfall.

After an early night, I woke up refreshed and ready at 6:00am for prayers.
These are listed as mandatory in the house rules, but they're hardly going to come in and force you out of bed if you don't fancy it.

But I don't see why you would miss it out after going all the way there.
I walked to the prayer room myself - a large room full of gold Buddhas, incense, scrolls and a huge gong.
I got lost in the long, warbling chanting in the perfumed room lead by Jamie, a truly amazing experience lasting about an hour. 

Breakfast was served straight away - almost identical to the previous evening's dinner, but without the tempura and a smaller portion which suited me as I don't have the biggest appetite first thing in the morning. 

After being bowed out by the monks, and ensuring them I'd had a wonderful stay I started my long journey back to Tokyo.
It must have taken me about six hours and I was absolutely knackered after being on trains all day.

Mind and body cleansed, but you have no idea how fast this was shoved into my face as soon as I hit Shinjuku:

Muchos love,

9 April 2017


Hey everyone,

It's been a year. Almost a year. Eleven whole months.
If I was pregnant (I'm not) I could have had a baby in this time (I haven't).

I don't know how I fell off the wagon, and I truly miss my little space on the internet.

I feel like I lot of people who have been blogging for a while (I've technically been blogging since I was 12 - and since I was 19 here!) I've been feeling quite burnt out.

The blogging bubble has burst. People are moving over to YouTube. Are we yelling into the abyss?
Is it over?

Who cares say I? I hate not writing.
I mean I've been journaling lots this year. Sort of. Well I missed for for the whole of March.
But I have been journalling nonetheless.

So hello!
Let's measure, measure a year. (Seasons of LOOOOOOVE... etc)

I'm still at my same job in travel admin. The lasses are loud and lovely.
We've celebrated engagements, hen parties, a wedding and three babies - plus another on the way!
And Rhiannah still thinks a quail is a baby whale.

I've also been lucky enough to go galavanting since the last time we spoke.
The perks of working in travel!

I've already mentioned we went to Barcelona last May for my birthday which was wonderful, but reckon I should mention it here too because WHY NOT.
I've completely fallen in love the city and am already planning a return trip next year.
It was rainy and overcast but me and Bradders still managed to eat ice cream every day.

Then me and my sister visited Budapest in August which was amazing.
It was one of my bucket list destinations, and did not disappoint.

It was also SO cheap which was a welcome surprise
I think I only spent £120 over five days, and that included eating out three times a day, drinks, public transport, souvenirs and entry to the thermal baths.

The most lethal margaritas ever.

Finally for his Christmas present, I treated me and Papi B to a long weekend in Berlin in January as Newcastle has just reintroduced a direct route to Berlin!

I got an absolute steal on an agent rate at the hotel which was about a ten minute walk from Alexanderplatz.


I ticked another thing off the bucket list - the Ramones museum!

I expected to only look around for an hour or so as Papi B hates punk, but they have a bar and we ended up staying there all afternoon slowly getting pissed on German lager and watching Ramones concerts on repeat.

Bury me there.



Me and Bradders are also going to Krakow in November!

She got engaged last month, and has already booked to get married in August 2018, so there will most likely not be an annual ~galz trippp~ next year as she saves for her wedding and honeymoon.

Nick got down on one knee in a park in Amsterdam.
I've been telling people it was outside the Sex Museum hurr hurr.

Family-wise, all is well.

Papi B celebrated his 60th birthday. He was thoroughly spoiled.
I asked him if he feels 60. "I feel about 19!" He said.

Aww. Papi actually likes and wears the novelty t-shirts I bring him back from holiday!

It's also Italian Catholic Mother's 60th this year.
Her pals have cajoled her into having a big joint party with them all and she is trying everything possible to get out of it.
Again, goals.

My sister Nadia is finally graduating from uni in June after four years.
(Five years if you include her "sabbatical" - aka: a year of sitting on her bum watching Gilmore Girls.)

We're also booked to go to Japan this October, to celebrate her finally being free from the shackles of Dissertation Hell. Staying in Tokyo for a week, then a few days in Kyoto and Osaka.

It'll be my third time, her first and we can't wait.
I need to write up a few more Japan Diaries, as I've been really proud of that mini-series.

From my 2015 visit.

I've previously stayed in Meguro (above, right) but for a change we are staying in the Minato area, near the Tokyo Tower.

Somehow I've managed to book us in an AirBNB next to an Irish bar and the rest of the street is full of Izakayas.
I don't think I'm going to remember much of this trip.

I DIY-d these ridiculous shoes a few months ago and it's finally getting warm enough to wear them, woo!

I have so many posts planned: beauty, fashion, travel, food and of course our favourite around these parts - miscellaneous.

I'm planning a little quick series called TOP 5 which are quick little posts which should only take five minutes or so to read.
I have about twenty posts already drafted, I just need to pull my finger out and actually get started!

Again, I've missed you all so much.
So *puts mug down* how have you been...?

Muchos love,