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Sea Fireworks Festival in ATAMI

It's summer time! It's that time of the month where fireworks and yukatas take the center stage!Last Friday, we were invited by my aunt to spend the weekend in Atami. They have a lovely house there so we had an awesome place to stay for three days. One of the things I love about Atami is it just gives off that calming and relaxing vibe, unlike the busy city-life in Tokyo. Days are lazy and people aren't always in a hurry. Another thing is that they showcase amazing fireworks displays. Every year, Atami holds the 'Atami Sea Fireworks Festival' 10 times throughout the year. Luckily, we were there to witness one this summer. If you want to know more about this festival, just click this link: Atami Fireworks Festival Sched.Fireworks are one of the top eye candies for me. I love seeing them light up the sky, make explosions of illuminating confetti, and how they slowly fade away makes you wonder if there's even more. It just makes you want to live the moment and enjoy it before it lasts. Here are a couple of GIFs I took all the way from our Aunt's rooftop. We were a bit far, so some of the videos might not give justice to what we have witnessed. Still, it didn't make the fireworks any less beautiful and mesmerizing as they really are.I also captured this short one that made me say, 'Awwww'. What cute little shape can you see?Finally, one of the best parts...I hope this will be just one of the many fireworks displays I'll be able to witness. I am still on the look out for our next hanabi viewing, maybe this time it'l be somewhere in Tokyo. I'd also want to try wearing a yukata for that full hanabi viewing experience. If you have any suggestions where to watch next, don't hesitate to leave a comment below:) Til then, I'l just leave you staring at these magical views.with love and pixiedusts,RedhairedAlice 

Hello, countryside life!

We officially got the keys to our countryside house after 4 years in Tokyo. And with views like this, I'm excited. A slower pace of life (hopefully!) in a more relaxed setting is just what the doctor ordered. Also, our house is dog approved and he settled in right away. I'm so glad some of the rooms are tatami mats - I feel like they're very kid friendly compared to harder flooring!Are you a country or a city dweller? If you had the choice, which would you rather? Before moving to Japan I lived in a town of about 100,000 people (I guess you could call that a small-ish city) and it was a good size. I would say it had enough to keep you occupied, but still had a nice quiet pace of life when you needed it. Plus, I only had about a 10 minute drive to work there daily - can't beat that!

Testing out Amazon Fresh in Tokyo

We have officially moved out of our old place and right now we are staying with my in laws in Tokyo until we head to Niigata in a couple of weeks. It was the perfect chance for us to test out Amazon Japan's relatively new offering, Amazon Fresh. Right now it is only available in certain wards of Tokyo - but they are looking at expanding that further. We ordered diapers and wipes for our little ones, fruit and veggies, some salmon, yakisoba noodles, as well as shampoo and conditioner.Here's a picture of one of the bags (the fruit and veggies already were packed away in their rightful places!)The presentation was really nice. It felt like an upscale supermarket that we were purchasing from, with everything in large Amazon Fresh bags with modern branding. The quality of all the fruit and veggies was excellent too, which was something I was initially a bit skeptical about.To use Amazon Fresh you will need to be an Amazon Prime member (3900 yen annually) and there is a 500 yen charge per month for having the Fresh service active on your Amazon account. They do have a free 30 day trial for both of those things if you want to give it a whirl. They also had a coupon code for 2000 yen off your first Fresh delivery - not a bad deal!Another thing to bear in mind is that any deliveries under 6000 yen will incur a delivery fee - we specifically ensured to go over that to avoid paying a fee!Would you use Amazon Fresh if it was available in your area?

Great view to the Sendai downtown

After stoppting at Sendai just for one night, I´ve wanted to use the chance to see a little bit of the city. Sendai is the biggest city in Tohoku and the best place to see that is from the observation deck of the AER Building.The AER building is a small shopping center just next to Sendai Station. You have to go to the 31 floor of the building to the observation deck. But watch out there is no way to go there at the shopping center. You have to use the elevator at the office area in the same building to go up. From the 31 Floor you will have a great round view over the city. Also many couples using that spot for a date.After visiting the observation deck I would recommend to walk around the big shopping streets around that area!

Japan by the Water: The Inokashira Pond

There are a lot of things to do and see at Inokashira park. They have the Benzaiten shrine, animals, free street shows, the famous shaved ice (which I am yet to try because my students had a lot of good stuff to say about that) which is also perfect this summer and of course, the pond! I’ve read that Inokashira Pond’s name meant either “source of the water supply” or “well that supplies the most delicious water.” The first time I visited the park was during spring. I think it was the best time of the year because the park had endless instagram-worthy spots!  The park is home to about 460 cherry trees and is really a popular spot for cherry blossom sight-seeing. I thought seeing cherry blossoms there would just be like seeing cherry blossoms during my usual train ride but it was way beyond I expected because the view became even more stunning at the pond. We went there to have our first Hanami experience and the place was packed with people! I personally wanted to try the swan boats, feed the ducks and get the full cherry blossom experience by floating peacefully in my own little swan boat while cherry petals are blown off by the wind and would slowly make its way swirling onto the lake. But I guess my dreams were nearly impossible. If you want to try their famous boat rides during spring, be sure to come early because the queue seems to get endless and the place just gets too crowded with tourists even during the night. Nevertheless, the breathtaking cherry blossoms, the calming lake and good company will make it all worth it! Ofcourse, just like most of my adventures, the day had to end with ICE CREAM! I tell you, I think we’ve already tried most of the ice cream found in convenience stores and I can’t believe how many gems we've found in there. I might just write a blog about it soon especially now that its summer! Anywaaaay, going back to Inokashira park, I had one of my fave flavors- Choco Mint! (although they were also serving sakura flavored ice cream, I still felt I needed to be loyal with my favorites.) It was still actually cold at that time, a smooth transition from winter, but we still enjoyed our cold treat! Inokashira Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and I think it’s packed with a lot of activities. If you want to know more about it, you can visit the site here: http://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.jp/seibuk/inokashira/index.html( External link ) . The park is free of admission so you can visit it anytime! If you want to just enjoy the scenery and the relaxing pond, here's how to get there:From Shinjuku station, take the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji station which costs about ¥220 yen for about 15mins train ride. If you’re up for some exercise, the park is just about 10mins or less walking distance from Kichijoji station. If you want to save the walking inside the park then you could take buses no. 01-06, 12 or 13 just across the JR exit and get off at the Koen-iriguchi/Bunkaen-mae bus stop. It’s only a 6minute ride that would cost around ¥220. Have fun and let me know how the shaved ice tastes like!:) (seriously)-RedhairedAlice

Morinaga Pineapple Caramel

For the first time I saw Morinaga Caramel in Okinawa Pineapple flavor, so I gave it a try.It was good, like the regular caramel, but with a nice pineapple taste that sort of lingered. My husband said it tastes the same as the normal caramel flavor - the pineapple isn't overpowering for sure.I got this for 108 yen including tax. Have you seen this or any other local Morinaga Caramel flavors?

Seven Methods for Not Dying During Summer in Japan

Seven Methods for Not Dying During Summer in Japan, as loosely interpreted from Paloma free paper. *The actual title is more like 'Seven Ways to Protect Your Body When it's Hot Out.' I needed this reminder to take care of myself, as I'm not going a very good job lately. (The daily kakigori only helps so much.)The article is divided into two sections: Indoors and Outdoors. Outdoors 1. First, use a 'cool towel' or similar product to keep the back of your neck cool. There are a couple big blood vessels on the back of the neck that provide blood to the brain. Keeping those cool helps us feel cooler. A wet handkerchief or an ice pack (we can get them for free when buying cold foods sometimes, or at 100 yen stores) wrapped in a towel work great as well. 2. Avoid wearing clothing with dark tones, but cover your arms and legs with lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. When the sun hits our skin, it makes us feel hotter. It also sometimes results in sunburn. Lots of women in Japan wear 'bike sleeves' and cover up well. If you're going for a tan, be careful and don't forget the sunscreen when you have exposed skin. Another reason I prefer long sleeves and pants during summer is because when you step inside, it's easy to feel cold after a while if stores or trains are strongly air conditioned. 3. Wear a hat or use a parasol to avoid direct sunlight. Find hats with ventilation, like the woven straw 'basket hats' that are popular now, or partially mesh ball caps. Parasols are versatile during the wet season, but I've never seen men using them, and they're no fun when you need both your hands free. 4. Fourth, drink plenty of water, but also get enough salt. There's a balance of salt and water that the body likes to maintain, so if we don't have enough salt, in correlation, we don't keep enough water in our bodies. This is why some sports drinks contain salt and you can see salt lemon candy during summer. Indoors 5. Next, block sunlight coming through windows with an outdoor filter or curtain in a dark color. Some people use affordable sudare (rattan blinds) and tie them up so they can have a shady balcony and keep the house cooler. Others plant fast-growing vines like goya or morning glory under a net angled over their windows for a natural curtain. This helps to keep the indoors cooler by absorbing the heat before it gets inside. 6. Then, air-con and fans can be used moderately, to reduce the temperature inside when it's uncomfortable. A large difference in temperature between indoors and outdoors can shock our bodies, but when it gets up to body temperature (35 degrees Celsius) outside, we have a risk of heat stroke. I've found that using the air-con just to remove humidity helps a lot, without having a super low setting. In fact, the highest setting for our air conditioning is 30 degrees, and it feels really comfortable compared with around 35 degrees plus high humidity. 7. In the early morning, spread water on the ground outside outside the entrance to your home or on your balcony. I see people hosing down the streets sometimes and know this helps, but it also seems wasteful. Keeping it to the area just outside of openings makes a little more sense, so when there's a breeze, the water will act as a natural air conditioner. (I haven't tried this, although I do water my balcony plants in the morning, so could give it a try.)Did you learn anything new? Do you use any of these methods? Which ones work the best for you? 

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