Horn Head, Donegal – the top of the world

Horn Head, Donegal – the top of the world

One of the things I love about waking up on a Sunday is not having plans; nothing to do, nowhere to go. It’s not that I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything, I just don’t want to have anything planned in advance. Just to wake up on a blank page and see where the Sunday takes you. Which is exactly how I woke up last Sunday.

Breakfast in the jim-jams, peruse of the papers, bit of a listen to Sunday with Miriam, nice and eezy. Then I look out the window, across to Muckish which we are lucky enough to see from our house in Letterkenny. ‘I wonder what that day is going to do’ I say to Christine who’s already done a bums n’ tums class, the shopping, the laundry, cut the grass and fixed the door of the shed. Well not quite, but she has been down and up the town already. She’s much more productive than me anyways. ‘Looks alright’ she says ‘Will we go for a spin somewhere?’ 。

So after throwing a few ideas around: Glenveagh (was there recently), Sliabh Liag (bit too far for a last-minute trip), we decide on Dunfanaghy. ‘Dunfanaghy has everything’ according to Christine. ‘Gorgeous beach, the golf course, lovely cafes and restaurants, live music in the pubs, the Shandon spa nearby and the drive around Horn Head. It’s a happening wee town’ she has me sold.

At around 1 o clock, we are ready to go. I put a few of the supplements under my arm as I’m going out. ‘You’re not bringing the paper are ye?’ she asks with disgust . Apparently not, I put them back down quietly. Row number 3,722 averted.

Dunfanaghy has everything’

We arrive in a bright and bustling Dunfanaghy, park up and head straight for the beach. It’s cooollllddd and windy but lovely and fresh once we get going. There’s loads of people about: on the streets, outside the cafes, on the beach, on the golf course. Indeed we had to duck once or twice when walking back through the golf course, dodgy enough I tell you. I got a coffee and Christine got a burger from a wee van outside the golf club and we enjoyed them under the sun which was warm when you were sheltered from the wind. Was able to take the gloves off like.

A wild place where fairies and goblins lived I always thought.

Then we got on the road again, and drove along The Wild Atlantic Way up towards the aptly named Horn Head. We can see Horn Head from our home-house in Carrigart and looking across at it as a child, it always held an air of mystery for me. From our house, it appears in the distance as a big arc-shaped mountain, (a horn if you will) standing solid, constant, formidable, weathering the North Atlantic storms. A wild place where fairies and goblins lived I always thought.

On the way up, up, up to the viewpoint, catching the view of Tory Island was really special. The sun was splitting the rocks by now and we got a perfectly clear view of the little island, some nine miles out to sea, another place full of fairies and goblins you might say.

Keep watching til you see Tory

We came on down again and on round to the main view point at Horn Head. As Christine says in the video, the video doesn’t capture it. Standing at the top of Horn Head, the top of the world, really takes your breath away. You know that feeling when your stomach lurches? This drive has a lot of that and goosebumps.

Main viewpoint from Horn head looking out at the wild North Atlantic
Christine going in to local tour-guide mode pointing out all the beaches

So it was one of those couldn’t-have-went-any-better-if-you-had-planned it Sundays. Probably-would-have-been-shite-if-you-had-planned-it Sundays.

But my pictures, videos and words don’t come anywhere close to capturing the experience, the thrill of driving around Horn Head, the breath-taking natural beauty of it, heaven on earth. It has to be experienced to be understood.
One for the bucket list.

My dramatic make-up transformation: Before and After

Before and After

Putting on make-up correctly is an art. It requires, skill, creativity, vision and experience, as well as the right tools and products. Just like Monet, Van Gogh and Da Vinci, the make-up artist also takes a blank canvas and attempts to realise their vision, whatever that vision might be, sometimes beautiful, sometimes indeed frightful, depending on the mood of the artist and the task at hand. I had the pleasure recently of being the canvas, on which my friend and make-up artist extra-ordinaire Emma, was to try out her vision of a beautiful, fresh bridal look.

Day-to-day I usually wear a little bit of make-up: a dab of foundation, pencil on the brows and a slick of lippy, but that’s usually about as far as I go. Over the years Emma has taught me little tricks, like applying coconut oil to your lashes to make them long and luscious, or when doing the eyeliner ‘flick’, to hold a piece of card up to your eye at an angle and draw the ‘flick’ along it, but when it comes to more advanced techniques like contouring I’m totally lost.

It never ceases to amaze me how effortlessly glam Emma ALWAYS looks so I was excited at the prospect of getting equally glammed-up and experiencing how it’s done first-hand.

So on Tuesday evening last, I hopped in the car after dinner and headed down to her little studio in her lovely home in Ramelton, Donegal.

She cleansed me first with a refreshing cucumber cleanser and as I tend to have dry skin, she also moisturised and primed my face with a hydrating primer.

She mixed two foundations together to get the perfect shade for me and when she started painting it on, I have to say it felt like a lottt!!

With so many products in different textures and finishes, creams, gels, powders, liquids as well as colours to choose from, I was curious about how and where to start and how to know what will look good, so I asked Emma.

‘Everybody’s different’ she said. ‘As soon as I meet someone I’m looking at what they’re wearing, their hair, their accessories, getting a flavor of their personality and I’m immediately putting a look together in my head’.

After applying the foundation, she then set it with a powder. She worked with an artist’s style palette, which was also a mirror, dabbing her paint brushes in her chosen product before painting them on to my face. It was cool to see her at work: focused, skillful, inspired.

Next was the eyes. Apart from pencilling in my brows, I don’t do anything else with my eyes as I have always believed that eye make-up doesn’t suit me. But the way Emma did it, it looked amazing. She went smoky with the eyeshadow, used a gel liner in my upper eye-lids before adding lashes. She finished them with a cream highlighter in my inner eye, a simple technique that really made them pop. The eyes were the most dramatic for me and proved that it’s not that eye make-up doesn’t suit me, I was just never doing it right.

After that it was contouring and blusher and the look really started coming together. We finished with a shocking pink lipstick by Rimmel, a beautiful shade, which really gave the look the wow factor. But for something a bit less daring, Emma recommends a pink or nude lip.

Overall it took a little under an hour. And I couldn’t believe it when I looked in the mirror. I felt so glam. I wish I’d also been wearing a glam dress to finish the look, but there will be plenty more chances with dinner dates, drinks with friends and summer garden parties to come xoxo ❤ .

If you’d like further information, a list of products used or to make a booking with Emma, contact her here at Emma Gordon Make-Up Artistry .

Emma Gordon, Make-Up Artist

Hiroshima’s commitment to Peace, Love and Baseball.


Love and Peace sign in Guesthouse Lappy. One of many Love and Peace signs throughout the city.

6th August 1945 at 8:15 in the morning. That’s when it happened. About 600 meters above the Hiroshima Cultural and Arts centre, American bomber plane Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb, the first ever nuclear atomic bomb to be used against human beings in the history of warfare.

We all know this date, we know the atomic bomb happened because we learn about it at school from our history books. We learn dates, and place names, the names of the people in power, the politics. But coming here to Hiroshima, to the very site where the bomb was dropped, seeing for myself the place where all those innocent people were blown apart, sorry to use such a graphic expression, is something I couldn’t have learned from any history book.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, I exited the south side of Hiroshima station and looked for the sign for what is now called The Atomic Bomb Dome. I could have taken the public streetcar for 10 stations, but I wanted to walk. I could have used a map, but I didn’t want the distraction. Instead I just followed the street signs. Without the distraction of a map, my phone or the hustle and bustle of getting public transport, I just walked silently, clearing my thoughts. At certain stages there were signs indicating the distance from the A-Bomb Dome: 1.5km, 1km, 500m. As I was getting closer, I could sense a resistance in my body and I walked even slower. The heat was sweltering.


The preserved ruins of the Hiroshima Culture and Arts Centre, now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome.

Eventually, after about a 40 minute walk under the strong summer sun, I came to it. The Atomic Bomb Dome, as it’s now called, previously the Hiroshima Culture and Arts Centre, the building 600 metres above which the atomic bomb was dropped, instantly killing everyone inside and thousands nearby. Over 140,000 people were killed by the atomic bomb, about 70,000 directly from the blast and another 70,000 from injuries and radiation illnesses. The original target of the bomb is said to have been the nearby Aioi bridge, easily recognizable from the sky because of its T-shape. The original Culture and Arts Centre building was known for its dome at the top, which was green, the shape of which you can still see. The remains of the building are now preserved and protected by a security fence preventing entry. There was an argument to demolish the building because of the painful memories, but it was decided to preserve it, as a memory of the atrocity that happened, as a memorial to the people who were killed and as a symbol of Hiroshima’s everlasting commitment to peace, and an end to nuclear warfare now and forever.

When I got to the A-Bomb Dome, I stopped outside, went to my knees and said a prayer for the repose of the souls of those people that were killed, many of whom were mobilized children, who had been recruited to work in factories due to labour shortages during the war. It was a busy Friday afternoon so there were lots of people around. When I got up, a smiling couple asked me to take their picture in front of the Dome. `Sorry` I said. I wasn’t exactly in a smiley ‘picture-taking’ mood. Lots of school kids were also milling around, taking notes and chatting with each other.


Mourning the lives lost in the atomic bombing, we pledge to convey the truth of this tragedy throughout Japan and the world, pass it on to the future, learn the lessons of history and build a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.

After spending a while here, I went on to the Peace Memorial Park, a large and beautiful park containing the Peace Memorial Hall. As I entered the hall, I followed a path surrounded by high grey walls going in a circular direction. It felt quite claustrophobic in here. It led to a room where the walls are tiled, one small tile for each person who was killed. In this room there are also individual photos of each person who was killed and a searchable database to look for people. I stayed a while and looked at many of the faces. Then I went to the Peace Memorial Museum and watched videos of survivors telling their stories, many of them parents telling about their children who were killed.  They described vivid and frightening scenes of bodies floating in the river, eyes bulging out, people screaming and calling for each other, the smell of hair and skin burning. I won’t forget them. I cried and prayed for the people who were killed. And for the people who experienced it but survived, left behind with horrific memories.


Panoramic view of the Hiroshima, burnt to the ground by the A-bomb.

When I got back to the guesthouse, I was still in a very quiet mood, having not really talked to anyone. My host Yasuko san, a kind woman of about 50 or so was there and asked me how my day was. I told her about going to the A-bomb dome and my sadness must have been very obvious. Yasuko-san however took a different perspective. She told me she is thankful that so many people from other countries come to pay their respects, but she doesn’t want people to dwell on being sad. She wants us to celebrate the survivors who rebuilt the city into what it is today, a city that is fiercely dedicated to peace and love. Everywhere you go in Hiroshima there are signs of peace and love. It’s written on buses and buildings. Streets, parks and shops are named after peace. There’s a Peace Bell, a Peace Boulevard, a Flame of Peace. There’s a Peace Clock Tower that chimes at 8:15am every morning, the time that bomb hit. She said she is proud to be from Hiroshima, born and bred here. She said we should never forget what happened, but rather than feel sad, we should feel grateful to the survivors, her parents’ and grandparents’ generation, who with a fighting spirit did not wallow in their pain. They took courage in each other, in peace and in love and rebuilt the city. It’s an amazing spirit. The spirit with which they also fiercely support The Carp baseball team! Go on the Carp!


Of course she had family who died as a result of the A-bomb. And while talking about this she burst into heavy tears. She said it’s hard to talk about it, that many people couldn’t really talk about it, can’t really talk about it. Instead they just move on relentlessly. But we should talk about it, by talking we face our emotions and free them. By talking we pass on history, her-story, who’s story? The real stories of the people who died and survived the atomic bomb.

Claire, a girl who has lived in Hiroshima for 13 years, whom I met and chatted a while with, told me that there are times when elderly men and women sit around the a-bomb dome area in the evening and talk to anyone who will listen. Maybe they are trapped in their memories and cannot move on. It was only 74 years ago that this happened. There are still people alive who directly experienced the a-bomb. But as time goes on, there are less and less people still alive who were directly affected by the bomb. As new generations come up, we can only understand what happened by stories. And we should listen to these stories.

We should listen to these stories and remember the horror of the a-bomb, so that it never happens again. We should use the memory of the a-bomb to remind us to live peacefully, to remind us to love each other, to fight against war, but to fight with with love and peace. The only thing that can beat hate and war is love and peace. Along with the people of Hiroshima, I commit to this.


The lovely Claire and beautiful daughter Sumi-chan and dog Beemo.




What can I get ya? A bartenders challenge to try everything on the menu: Daiquiri – simple, classic, sexy!

Gona take a break from beer for a while (just on the blog, not in real life, God no) and up the ante a little with a boozy cocktail. Mainly a Daiquiri, made by our resident cocktail maestro, Victor from Sweden.


Im actually writing this post from our Rokkaku pub. Man in the Moon has four pubs in Kyoto (and 1 in Tokyo) and I work at the Rokkaku branch as well as the Kyoto station branch here in Kyoto.


So heres Victor doing his thang. Recently he’s so creative with cocktails, knocking out all sorts of original mixes, not on the menu. One to watch, this one.


But I decided to go for a Daiquiri, which is on the menu. As Victor says himself: Daiquiri is just rum, sugar and fresh lime, simples. In the correct quantities, shaken to perfection, served in the right glass, its the cocktail of cocktails. How does it go so wrong sometimes? Maybe because people don’t appreciate the simplicity and mess with the recipe, trying to make it something more complicated.

でも私はうちのメニューからダイキリのことにしました。ビクターて言うたことは、ダイキリのことが:RUM、ライムとシュガーだけなんです、シンプル!なんでたくさん人変わりたいかな? このままちょうどう美味しいです!


Which is a shame, because its perfect in its simplicity. Anyway this Daiquiri was delicious; boozy and with a good kick to it, its pretty much just alcohol after all, fresh, more-ish and it went to my head, in a good way. Id had a long day and Im not used to cocktails. I admit it made me a little tipsy.


I drank it with the lovely Daniela, there she is, our French belle. She’s on a Mojito.


Day: Who knows!
Drink: Daiquiri
Price: ¥900
Verdict: Simple, classic, sexy; the Gucci of cocktails. And boozy, so drink it slowly.
Atmosphere: Lively for a Tuesday evening. We had our regular English night event so there was lots of energy in the bar. There was a football match on the tv, a friendly between Japan and Paraguay in advance of the World Cup. I drank it with Daniela who was also having a cocktail. Inspirational-vibes.


Day 5: What can I get ya? A bartender’s challenge to try everything on the menu. The Premium Malts – Local Kyoto Beer

So this is a local Kyoto one! Its called The Premium Malts and its actually not on the menu, a little exclusive here. We do have have a Japanese beer called The Malts which will be coming up soon. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s much of a difference in them.

Technically Kirin Heartland should have been next on the list but I don’t like it so I might be procrastinating a little. I`ll get there. Its definitely next.


Meanwhile heres the pic of the Kyoto Premium Malts.


Hiramatsu-san in the background, Christina behind the reji. I had just finished my shift, and it was about 12 midnight. Wed had a fairly busy, steady evening so I was well ready to sit down and have a beer.

Davide finished at the same time so we drank it together.


We were in a roguish kind of a mood. There was a big group of German guys in, Paku had just arrived and he got the music going. We Will Rock You came on and lifted the roof, table thumping, foot stomping, air-punching – it was a racket.

I took a good sniff of it first actually and it smelled really fresh. I don’t know why, I just wanted to enjoy every bit of it. The moment the first drop hit my throat I realized how thirsty I was and took a big gulp. It was good, lemony actually. Christina tried it too, what did she say? Fruity I think.

I drank it fast and it quenched my thirst.

Acting the lark with Hiramatsu-san – Guinness badge buddies.


Day: 5
Drink: The Premium Malts – brewed in Kyoto (bottle)
Price: ¥800 (little bit more than the others – craft beer dakara)
Verdict: Lemony – thirst quenching
Atmosphere: Worked the evening shift, got off at 12 midnight. Was a fairly busy evening and I was thirsty! Drank it with Davide, the rogue! Big group of German lads in having a hoolie.







Days 3 and 4: What can I get ya? A bartender’s challenge to try everything on the menu! Kirin Beers

When I say Day 3/4, I should mention that this means Day 3/4 of the challenge – but the days are not necessarily consecutive. I can’t drink everyday, that’d be a whole other challenge. So I had a couple of booze free days since the last post and now I’m back and rearing to go again. So rearing that Imma tackle 2 drinks in this post.

Namely The Kirin Beers! Don don don! I don’t like Kirin beer you see.

So here goes, first up is:

Kirin Lager

Wasn’t looking forward to it. Wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. But it was actually quite good. Better than I expected. 期待しえてより美味しかったです!That’s always the way isn’t it. Expectations totally effect your experience of things.

I’d only tried Kirin on draught before and I definitely didn’t like it, regardless of the circumstances. I am learning that sometimes loads of things can effect your experience of things like who you’re with, your mood and all those sorts of things. But I’ve given Kirin draught a good couple of goes and I always don’t like it. (is that different from I never like it?).

But apparently I like it from the bottle. That`s the opposite of the norm right. Draught is usually better than bottle. Fresh is always better no?

Atmosphere-wise, had been working with Anna all day and we shared it in the last 15 minutes of our shift. There she is the trooper. She’s dosed with a sore throat and everything but she`s soldiering on.


Day: 3
Drink: Kirin Lager (bottle)
Price: ¥700
Verdict: Better than I expected, would drink again.
Atmosphere: Been working the day shift with Anna all day and we shared it in the last 15 minutes of our shift.


Day 4

Next up: Kirin Ichiban Shibori (一番搾り)

kirin ichiban

The other day a customer sitting in the corner of the counter motioned me over with his hand. It was a pretty busy evening, quite noisy in the bar and he said ` something something something shibori `. Thats what I heard anyway. An oshibori is a wet tissue we give out to customers to wipe their hands before eating or drinking.

Like this:oshibori.jpeg

So I go like, aw you want an oshibori? He was with 2 friends, and beside them there was another guy sitting with his wife and they all completely burst into hysterics. At which point I realized I must have made a mistake and copped on that he was asking for Ichiban Shibori. The pronunciation and meaning is exactly the same, I might add. Hardly that ridiculous a mistake to make. Well they found it hilarious anyway which left me pretty embarrassed. I guess I won’t make that mistake again. Fuckers.

So heres the meaning of Ichiban Shibori. Ichiban means One or First. Shibori means like to squeeze or press something (so like thats what you’re doing when your cleaning your hands with the tissue right?).

The reason this beer is called ichiban shibori is that it only uses the first press of the wort. Whats a wort? Good question, I had to look that up myself. Its the liquid thats extracted during the brewing of beer or whiskey. Most brewers use the first and second press or extraction of the wort, but Kirin Ichiban only uses the first and its the only major brewer that does this.

Its a 100% pure malt beer. Typically, 100% malt beers have a strong and heavy taste, but, when brewed only from the first wort the flavor is smoother, and this is the pure flavor of the malt.

Ooh I actually am starting to learn stuff now. Cool.

I realize I haven’t said much in the way of my own personal opinion on the taste but I don’t remember now! Was rushing to meet Makkyo after work so just kind of knocked it back to be honest.

Day: 4
Drink: Kirin Ichiban Shibori (bottle)
Price: ¥700
Verdict: Smooth and easy to drink
Atmosphere: Worked the day shift and drank it towards the end of my shift. Was meeting Makkyo right after work so my mind was elsewhere 😉





Day 2: What can I get ya? – A bartender’s challenge to try everything on the menu

I actually woke up for work this morning (10-18 shift) feeling a bit groggy from yesterdays beer (full disclosure: also had a sneaky gin and tonic so that might have contributed) anyways I said to myself that I won’t drink today, Ill just go home after work and Ill continue the challenge the next day.

But that was just the morning head talking. Come 4 o clock, somebody suggested a round of baby guinness (swear it wasn’t me) and next thing I know I’m lining up the shot glasses and calling kanpai! So when it got to 6 o clock and clocked off,  I was ready for bottle beer number 2: Sapporo Black Label. Actually its number 1 on the menu, but if you read yesterdays post you’ll know that it sold out just before I finished my shift, and today, I got the last one! So that will give you an idea of its popularity.

So here it is: Sapporo Black Label (Takumi on the reji – couldn’t resist getting him in)


I was surprised by how much nicer I found it than the Sapporo red star, yesterdays beer. It was more refreshing, with no heavy aftertaste and it didn’t make me burp.

So I really enjoyed it. And Dakota joined me for her Otsukare drink (after work drink), there she is the little babe. So that made it extra fun.  And I was looking forward to Nanae coming at 7 to go for dinner together. I hadn’t seen her in ages so I was really looking forward to seeing her. Double yay. And I’m off tomorrow. Triple yay. Do these things affect your experience? I think they probably do.

Anyways its a thumbs up for the Sapporo Black Label.

Heres the summary:

Day: 2
Drink: Sapporo Black Label (bottle)
Price: ¥700 – same as Sapporo Red Star.
Verdict: Light, refreshing, no aftertaste – better than Sapporo Red Star.
Atmosphere: Otsukare drink (after work drink). Drank it with Dakota, looking forward to meeting Nanae for dinner, off tomorrow. All round happy vibes. Makyo, Davide, Takumi and Kei working. Anna-chan also here, been working together all day and had a great catch up with her.

What can I get ya? – A bartender’s challenge to try everything on the menu: Day 1!!

30223163_10210801740431620_519825342_o.jpgI’ve worked in Man in the Moon, Irish pub in Kyoto since October 2016, about a year and a half now, and its such a fun job. We have fun while we work and of course end up drinking…a lot.  So I drink a lot of beer, the occasional red wine, I’m known to be partial to the odd gin and tonic, in the wee hours one for the road often turns into a whiskey. I suppose I knock back a jaeger bomb or baby guinness now and then too when the craic is good. Okay so I’ve tried a good few things. But I feel like I always just drink beer. And when customers ask me to recommend something, Id like to be more fluent in talking about our menu. I have always been one to value personal experience so Ive set myself the challenge of personally trying everything on the menu, in order that I can give my own opinion when people ask about stuff. Orrrr its just an excuse to drink and pretend Im doing important research for my job!

Anyway….basically menu-wise we have beer; bottled and draught, cocktails; spirit based and liqeur based, whiskey, wine, and because we are in Japan we also have sake, umeshu and shochu, a few non-alchohol drinks and that about covers it.

So Im gona start at the very beginning, as Fraulein Maria says, a very good place to start.

Page 1 on our menu is beer and and it starts with Japanese bottled beers.

As it turns out, the very first thing on the bottled beer menu, Sapporo Black Label, sold out just right before I finished my shift haha! Its popular and we had a busy couple of hours. So Im actually starting with the 2nd thing on the menu, which is Sapporo Lager Red Star.

Here it is. And Im washing it down with a packet of Tayto. Or is it the other way about? We don’t actually have Tayto in the bar, mores the pity, but it just so happens that an Irish guy, Adrian, came to the bar last night (I wasn’t working) and brought me some Tayto. He comes to Japan regularly and I met him the last time he came. So thank you Adrian!


Sapporo is actually my staple but I usually drink it draught, and drinking it from the bottle is a somewhat different experience I have to say. Im not drinking it from the bottle either, Im pouring into a glass, don’t really like drinking from bottles. Its the same size glass that I drink the draught from though; 3/4 size but yea it tastes different.

How can I describe it; its stronger that the draught. Its nice like, cold and fresh enough, but its kind of heavy. Theres a long aftertaste. To be honest, its making me burp.

I think thats about as technical as Im going to get with this one.

Okay heres the summary:

Day: 1
Drink: Sapporo Red Star (bottle)
Price: ¥700 – 安い!!its cheap. especially when you compare it to the draught, which is ¥900 for about the same amount.
Verdict: Would drink it again but only if there was no draught
Atmosphere: Just finished my shift. Its about 7 o clock. Davide, Christina and Paku are working. We had a nice group of Auzzies in who were on a group trip so I did my `kanpai` (cheers) with them!

Alright then there we go. It`s started!!. 始まりました!!

The midnight bus to Tokyo


We’d been talking about getting a run to Tokyo for ages and this week we finally got around to it. Here’s the lowdown.

  • We took the Midnight Bus: It’s an 8 hour run so people literally recoil when you tell them you’re taking the midnight bus. ‘Why would you do that to yourself?’ they ask. Well the other options are:
    1. Shinkansen – super fast bullet train, get’s you there in about 2 and a half hours, but it’s really expensive – ¥26000, the equivalent of about €200 – fuck that.
    2. Fly: But there’s no airport in Kyoto so it would be an hour and a half train to Osaka airport, then the flight which is short obvs, but then arriving into an airport and having to get a train into the city. Too much hassle!
    And to be honest, I loved the midnight bus! We had a swift one in the Moon first of course and boarded at 22:10 for 22:20 departure on Wednesday night. They were those seats you can recline pretty far and your feet are raised up – nearly like a bed. We had blankets, eye masks and neck pillows. Comfy. I slept nearly the whole way, I’m such a baby. Can’t say the same for Dora though. Apparently the guy in the next row was snoring and farting – ick!
  • Arrival: We arrived in Shinjuku at 08:00 to a live and kicking Thursday morning in Tokyo. Everyone rushing to work haha! Lines of blank-faced people in black suits and white shirts, marching to their doom. Dum dum dum! The Tokyo Rat Race – freaky.  I never wanna be part of that. But it was a beautiful, bright, fresh morning (much cooler than stuffy Kyoto) and we took ourselves off to a nice little cafe for breakfast. Can’t remember the last time I went out for breakfast. 21584682_10209434128442175_1526542451_n
  • Then it was off to Akihabara: A weird place. The home of technology in Japan – anime, video games, people dressed as Minnie Mouse on an ordinary Thursday morning. It’s like a real life anime or you feel like you’re in a video game or something. It’s cool – electric city it’s called. I had to get a new phone so this is why we came here. But it was no easy feat. I won’t even go in to how useless and unhelpful the guys in BIC Camera were. Japanese customer service is bullshit if you need them to do anything that’s not in the manual. Suffice to say that a wee Indian man called Bidura in a second hand shop saved my life. Thank you Bidura you little gem.
  • Accommodation: A wee hostel in Shimbashi with heavier security than Alcatraz: heavily bolted metal doors, and we had to wait in a tiny enclosed corridor and knock a boarded window to get to speak to the staff. We arrived at 15:00 an hour earlier than check-in time, which was off manual, so no siree we couldn’t check in till 16:00.
  • So we decided to go have Dinner: All we wanted was a place that served wine (for me) beer (for Dora) veggie food (for me) and um.. normal food (Dora) . Is that awkward? Apparently it is. We walked around for ages with no luck so eventually just went into the nearest place. I got wine so I was happy enough and Dora got beer, but it was Kirin which she hates. Food-wise we ended up with chips, salad, tofu and seaweed. Is that dinner?
  • The Concert: I have zero interest in K-Pop (sorry Dora, rock!) but Dora loves this band FT Island so I said I’d go with her. I’m such a good friend. Never a more civilised concert have I ever been to. 3000 people queuing patiently outside in designated groups, waiting for their turn to go in. So mannerly. There was a bar but we were the only ones drinking. The bar staff were glad to see me coming – I made a few trips out to them. Dora stayed in rocking out. The crowd was mostly obachan (old ladies) ourselves included and by rocking out I mean waving your right hand forward and back in the air while holding a little light. I actually pissed off 2 obachan while on one of my laps around the venue. I made the mistake of trying to push between them  – they had a good spot up the front leaning against a bar. But they sent me packing. They were taking no shit from me – fair fucks to them. I laughed.  The band were pretty hot (Korean like) and decent craic and I could actually understand a good bit of what they were saying – yayyy. I probably enjoyed the chat more than the music.
  • After the concert we took a train to Shimbashi to find Man in the Moon, our Tokyo branch. We got some decent food there and met the lovely staff who gave us a proper Moon welcome. Diego arrived at 00:00 to ‘close’ the bar but that’s really when we got going! It was so good to catch up Diego – I miss you!! Thanks for a great night and a horrible hangover!21849203_10209489192058731_664560458_n21691002_10209434136642380_1539045842_n
  • Getting home: It’s a bit of a blur. Don’t ask me what time it was. We made it to the street we were staying on, without Google Maps and everything but then couldn’t figure out the rest, so got a taxi about 100 metres. I also vaguely remember eating soba. But I only remembered it the next day when we walked past a soba shop and smelled the soba. I didn’t say anything to Dora at the time. Still haven’t. Some things are better left unsaid.
  • The next day: Worst hangover ever. But Dora was fine. Grrr! She went off sightseeing but I couldn’t face the packed trains and queues everywhere – horrendous even on your better days. I made it to Harajuku and walked around there – got a pink lemonade served in a light bulb – quirky. Walked around the beautiful and peaceful Meji shrine – a gorgeous quiet, woodsy, holy place, you don’t expect to find in the middle of a city. I also took a nap in Yoyogi park. After that I started to come around and went off to meet Dora in Asakusa. It was evening by this time and we walked around the shrine and enjoyed the beautiful breeze by the river. Dora took some cool pics here. In fact all these pics are Dora’s.
  • Panic stations at Shinjuku station: So the bus back to Kyoto was due to depart at 22:35. We’re still dawdling around Asakusa at 21:00 looking at the moon. ‘We’d better start heading back around 21:30 I say’. ‘Sure’ Dora says, cool as we like. So we get on the train at Asakusa at 21:30 bound for Kanda. Change at Kanda for Shinjuku and arrive at Shinjuku train station around 22:10. Plenty a time you’d think. Wrong! We had to pick up Dora’s bag from the locker she left it in. But where did she leave it? Shinjuku station is M-A-S-S-I-V-E and C-O-N-F-U-S-I-N-G. Dora had even taken a picture of the locker, but we still couldn’t find it. So there we are running around the station up the escalators, down the stairs, over to the central gate, back to the south gate, Oh my god, it was like a maze. At one stage I thought we were just gona have to leave it. But then Dora asked one of the station staff and eventually found it.So now it’s like 22:25. 10 minutes till the bus departs. And this is Japan – that means 22:35 not a minute sooner, not a minute later. And we’re still not sure where the bus departs from. We race to the south entrance. Turns out the bus station is in a totally different building across the road. So it’s up the escalators again, searching for our platform which turns out to be ages away. We’re both sweating like pigs at this stage and with the hangover and everything, I really need a drink! Not that kind of drink! A fizzy one.  It’s 8 hours to Kyoto like. And hey hey there’s a konbini next to our departure platform. But the queue is out the door. Literally about 30 people deep. I grab a banana drink and start queuing. Dora goes to find a loo. The queue is going really fast but I know the time is a ticking and the bus is not a-waiting. I’m so thirsty I start drinking my banana in the queue. Consider just making a run for it. Come on to fuck people. 22:33 and I’m at the cashier. No I would not like a bag. Meet Dora coming out of the toilet and we run to find our bus. 22:34 and we’re on. Very very Giri-giri! (Giri-giri = Japanese for ‘a close call’)

Photo credit: All by Dora 🙂



Going to the toilet in Japan – Hashtag bumwash


Of all the things I could write about Japan, why am I going to write about the experience of going to the toilet? Nay, rave about! What is so remarkable about going to the toilet in Japan that warrants a whole blog post?

Well let me see.

First of all the toilet seat is warm when you sit down. Yes indeed, because there is an in-built heating system that keeps it warm all the time. Take a seat and relax won’t you, your throne awaits. Comfort is key.

Next a series of flushing sounds come on. The toilet is not actually flushing. No no, as well as heating, there is also a sound system built in to the toilets. This is to disguise any noises you would not like anybody to hear. Whatever they might be. (ahem). There is also a button you can press to control the sound, turn it up, down, whatever. In fact you are presented with a whole range of buttons when you sit down.We’ll get to them in a minute.

So you go ahead and spend your penny or your pound or whatever amount of money your business affairs in the bathroom requires.

And then you come to those bamboozling number of buttons on the ‘arm’ of the seat, for want of a better word. In fact yes, it is a sort of an arm. What the Jeff are all those buttons for? Well one of them is labelled おしり, pronounced ‘oshiri’, which if I’m not mistaken (and you do want to be careful with translations in this, ahem, area) I believe translates to ‘buttocks’. Press this button my friends, and your ass is washed for you. The first time I experienced this I laughed so much I cried. I had to get up and see where this spurt of water was coming from. There is a little spout that comes out and up from somewhere inside the toilet bowl and jets out water. Again you are in control and you can adjust the pressure and temperature of the water to your liking. You might want to move about a bit to get the angle right but this is a hilarious experience.

Let’s see what else. There’s more? Yes.

The button next to the おしり is labelled ビーデ which is ‘bidé’ and this button also has an image of a woman on it. Helpful. Sorry guys, this one is for the gals only. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some fellas use it for the ‘testiculating’ fun of it. Geddit? No, that was a bad joke. So again it’s a spurt of water from a different angle for the ladies.

In one of the airport toilets, there was actually a blow dryer too, that dried your bum for you to while you were still sitting there. I shit you not, pardon the pun. But I haven’t seen the dryer gizmo anywhere else.

Okay so you’ve all the business wrapped up and you’re sufficiently tickled clean. Up you get and flush. Flushing then sets off an automatic tap in a little sink just behind you, for you to wash your hands.

Amazing, it would nearly wet the tea for you. I never want to go back to a boring aul normal toilet.

And actually the truth is that it doesn’t end there. There’s a few more buttons but I don’t know what they do. More fun to be had.