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First of all, I want to say that I’m so excited to be going on another vacation at the end of this month. Although I have proclaimed many times in the past that I’m a lover of traveling, I am getting a little burnt out from all of this back-&-forth flying & packing/unpacking. I am extremely appreciative & grateful that I am able to travel (regardless if it’s near or far), I’d just like to say that here & now. I love what I do, & I want to express my sincerest & humblest of gratitude & appreciation.

During this past long weekend, when most Americans were celebrating Fourth of July/Independence Day (also jokingly referred to as #Amexit on the Internet), Jian surprised me with an impromptu road trip to Los Angeles. He was somehow itching to go on a long drive, & he was throwing out random ideas like driving to Portland, Oregon or perhaps Las Vegas, Nevada. While I was all for driving to Portland, I didn’t want to spend too much time driving & not enough time exploring the city. So, I threw out the random idea of driving to Los Angeles. It’s far without being too far. Jian absolutely loved the idea, & we pretty much pulled this hair-brained idea out of our derrièrs at the absolute last minute.

Once we had our weekend mapped out, we pretty much had one goal in mind, well, actually two goals: 1. to revisit all of our favorite hang-out spots from our college days, & 2. to visit the California location of Lady M Café. Yes, our minds were pretty much blown away when we found out Lady M Café opened a location in Los Angeles. Our minds were blown even more (if that’s even possible) when we found out that this shop was only 5 blocks down the street from our hotel. Needless to say, being a huge cake lover, I made several trips to this shop, & I do not feel one bit guilty for eating so much cake.

What makes Lady M so special? Well, they specialize in various delicate cakes, but their absolute specialty & signature cake is the infamous Mille Crêpe Cake…a cake so delicate & delicious that I would do just about anything for a slice of this creamy crêpe heaven.

What is Mille Crêpe cake? Well, it’s a French invention, but has been popularized around the world by the Japanese. It’s basically a stack of thin crêpe sheets with thin layers of soft cream in between the sheets of crêpes. These cakes, in more recent years, have expanded from the traditional vanilla flavor to other flavors (i.e. matcha, coconut, chocolate, etc.). My favorite flavor will always be the classic vanilla flavor.

lady m los angeles

This is a sample of the various cakes we bought for our friends. From Top Left: coconut crêpe flavor, Courrone du Chocolat, matcha crêpe flavor, strawberry Mille Feuille. Bottom Right: signature flavor.

Over the years, Jian & I have tried various forms of this cake, but we could never find anything as comparable to the first place we ever experienced this golden unicorn of cakes.

la voie crepe cake

Café la Voie in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo is where we first encountered this cake. It is so beautiful & delicious, I nearly burst into tears every time I eat Mille Crêpe cake at this café.

harbs choco crepe cake

HARBS is also another famous high-end cake shop in Tokyo that has their own crêpe cake recipe. I tried this chocolate explosion just to compare the flavor to the original. This one is very, very sweet, so proceed with caution if you’re not a sweets fan. This cake was also particularly dense, which I was not used to.

We’ve had various crêpe cakes from here to there & everywhere in between. Some of the the chain coffee shops in Tokyo have Mille Crêpe cakes that are also as delicious as the high-end cake shops. Chain shops like DoutorExcelsior (which are like the Starbucks & Peet’s equivalent in Japan) have some of the best inexpensive crêpe cakes.

Back in the States, I’ve had my fair share of ups & downs with this elusive cake. Many years ago, there was a Japanese restaurant that had opened in Japantown. The pastry chef that worked at that place specialized in Mille Crêpe cake. Jian & I were so ecstatic that there was finally a place near us where we could eat this cake again. Sadly, after 2 years this restaurant closed & the pastry chef moved on.

There have been other American restaurants all over the city that have attempted to serve their version of the Mille Crêpe cake (eg. Café des Amis, Cockscomb, & Hog&Rocks), but somehow they weren’t able to quite grasp the light, airy, soft texture of the cake. Some of the cakes were just too dense, too hard, too sweet, too dry, &/or too over-the-top in avant grade flavor for such a delicate cake recipe. I just cannot wait until I go back to Japan at the end of this month & will be able to try the original cake recipe once again. Yessssss!
In other news, like I’ve said in my previous blog, I’ve decided to decorate my new backpack, & I’ve already begun the process. So far, I’ve only added two things to my backpack, a keychain & a pin, but I’m in love with the progress.

hellolulu chain

I chose this Rilakkuma bird keychain because it fit with the yellow color scheme of my backpack. Also, I liked how it was a small discreet size without being too tiny to notice.

hellolulu pink

I chose this Victory V hand emoji pin because I using this emoji often on all of my social media accounts. It’s my favorite emoji icon to use.

Well that’s just about all I have to say for now. I’m sorting through all of my things to pack for my next trip. Three weeks will really sneak up on you fast. Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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Whenever I visit Japan, I usually go in the Summer or Winter. (Maybe I like to torture myself with the crazy weather.) Each time I come home, I always bring back a new & interesting cultural experience, or reminisce about my favorite ones that I wish we could observe here in The States. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Nippon again for a long time, so here I’ve compiled a short list of the things I miss about being in Japan.

  • No matter how late you go to bed, you will always wake up at the butt-crack of dawn (around 6am-ish). I’ve tried the sleep-in thing, & it doesn’t work, even if you don’t have jet lag.
  • Their TV commercials are so much cooler & funnier compared to ours. We may not quite understand most them, but they are still highly amusing.
  • When you walk into a shop or a restaurant, you will be greeted by the entire staff no less than FIVE times. Even if they’ve already seen you, they will greet you again (& again, & again).
  • If you wake up & head out early enough, you can catch a glimpse of shop workers getting ready for the day’s work by reciting cheerful chants & receiving a rousing pep talk from the store manager.  (Watching this in person really amazed & pumped me up as well.)
  • The breakfast sets (served until 9:30am) are so delicious & divine.  The portions are ample & the prices are very reasonable.
  • Beware of walking around Harajuku too early in the morning, you might be looked upon as a spy, or a crazy person for waking up so darn early.
  • Obviously, being in the land of sushi, you’ll find sushi restaurants everywhere, ranging from basic kaiten to gourmet Michelin star rated.  So far, I haven’t encountered a sushi joint I didn’t like.  Pretty much all sushi you’ll find is delicious no matter if it’s a hole-in-the-wall joint (which are the most fun to explore) or an expensive 1-month advanced reservation restaurant.
  • The street vendor food (especially ones at Kaminari-mon at Asakusa street) are so fresh, delicious & tastes just as good as eating at a dine-in restaurant.  Don’t forget to try the cola flavored shave ice!  (I also miss the fresh-off-the-grill senbei from Kamakura.)
  • I really miss those 1am karaoke sessions that last into the wee hours of the morning… Big Echo is one of the best places for karaoke. They have the most up-to-date song selection I’ve ever seen…& the kitchen is open 24hrs. Booze + karaoke + tambourines with friends = Pure Bliss.
  • I’m not into teen flash fashion, but I really miss shopping in Shibuya on the weekends.  That’s when they block off the streets to cars so people can walk on the streets. This is the same in Ginza on the weekends…but I can barely afford the cookies at the patisserie, let alone shop at Mitsukoshi or Matsuzakaya…
  • Harajuku (especially Takeshita street) is wall-to-wall packed on the weekends, but I love the high energy feeling & the bustling atmosphere. Omotesando street is the best place to sit, slow-sip your coffee & just people watch.  Especially with the trees lining the street, it really gives off a serene feeling even though you are in the middle of a popular shopping district.
  • I love it when, regardless how small or large the shop is, the store clerks always pay careful attention to even the smallest detail in wrapping/packing your purchases.  Don’t think of it as excess rubbish.  Think about how much care & warm feeling was put into packing your goods. Not only do the store clerks want your packages to look good, but they want them to be taken care of, especially if you’ll be shopping for long hours…they’ll even put ice packs in your bags, so your delicate food items won’t spoil.
  • I love how on rainy days, all shops will tape plastic slipcovers over all your shopping bags, so that they don’t get wet from the rain.  It’s small things like these that really touch you & make you feel warm & appreciative.
  • I take public transportation to work everyday, & it’s right then where you encounter a lot of really rude & arrogant passengers: people who cram their bikes or strollers on packed train cars, or place their bags & such on the seat next to them even if seating is crowded.  It’s so refreshing to see people in Japan exercise restraint & politeness on their public transportation systems.  Everyone puts their cell phones on quiet mode, so that the phone won’t ring loudly & disturb others. Passengers also refrain from making phone calls while on the train. Most of the younger generation are well aware of loud music echoing from their headphones & keep the noise down out of courtesy…& this is just scratching the surface. I miss the Japanese public transportation system in general.
  • Most, if not all, people who drive cars use their turn signals & strictly abide by all traffic laws (especially the No Drinking & Driving law).  This is much more than I can say compared to China. Just kidding.  No, really.  I’m serious.
  • Getting stuffed on homemade foods & sloshed on booze with your close friends & family is so relaxing & enjoyable… It’s a warm feeling that cannot be properly described.
  • I enjoy watching fat dudes with awesome top-knots & giant ceremonial “thongs” push each other around on a tight stage in a centuries old sport.
  • I also love watching dudes dress up as women & playact one line every 5 minutes in a 6 hour performance that could rival any Broadway show in New York.
  • I love how even the smallest of items can be practical & make sense. No matter if it’s as large as a sofa or as small as a paper clip, Japanese people will find a use & a purpose for the item.
  • I really miss late-nite snack runs to the local conbini, or 3am ramen munchies…Those things really hit the spot sometimes. In terms of late-nite ramen runs, I’d suggest trying Ichiran at least once. The raw garlic add-on alone will blow your mind.
  • Even weirdoes get some love. Whether it’s the Rockabillies twisting in Yoyogi park, or the cosplayers acting emo on the Harajuku bridge, or the OL’s & Ri-man’s boozing it up & talking loudly over a rousing after-work meal, or the misunderstood pervy Otaku in Akiba who lust for the LovePlus+/Mirai-chan body pillow & a Gundam garage kit…everyone gets some lovin’ & acceptance.
  • Where else in the world can you sit down at a restaurant & they serve you beer BEFORE they serve you a glass of water. I’ve been to a few Izakaya restaurants where they immediately serve you a glass of ice cold beer (at $3 US bucks a pop) & you have to request a glass of water.
  • I also miss the cakes & the afternoon sweets hour that comes right after lunch & just before the shop prepares for dinner. High tea is a tradition that dates back centuries in many countries around the world, & I wish we could adapt something like this in the U.S. Trust me, it would really reduce a lot of our stress.

Well everyone, our short trip to Tokyo has come to an end.  We are now in Guangzhou, China visiting my companion’s relatives.  Since pretty much everything Internet-related is banned here in China (even Word Press), I’m not sure I’ll have much opportunities to post regular entries.  So, I’ve decided to just wrap up my series of Tokyo travel entries with a photo highlight reel of our last days in the land of the rising sun.

We got to experience a lot of different architecture, like this Hotel Gracer with it’s amazing striped façade.

Stopped by the Nissan showroom in Ginza & got to see this custom-made GTR designed specially for Olympic Track & Field gold medalist Usain Bolt.

I made a trip to my favorite clothing brand’s flagship store in Ginza. 12 floors of shopping heaven! For me, it’s UNIQLO all the way…

A common ritual whenever I visit Tokyo is to have an afternoon cake set. In this picture, I had a tiramisu cake with a drip coffee.

My must-have food while in Tokyo is the famous Mille Crêpe cake. I can never get enough of this cake, & I never miss an opportunity to have a slice (or two, or three).

Speaking of cake, I finally got to try the very famous HARBS cafe. What a delight!! This picture was taken at the Lumine 2 shopping mall in Ginza.

I tried their Crêpe a La Carte cake with layers of chocolate, custard & whipped cream filling. The slices were huge…just the way I like it.

My companion ate the Mille Crêpe cake, with banana, cantaloupe, kiwi & apple fruit filling. This was an interesting mix of fruits & custard.

Oh & speaking of cafes, we stopped by Akiba on our last full day in Tokyo & just happened to pass by the official AKB48 cafe. For those of you who don’t know, AKB48 is an extremely popular female singing group from Japan who sing mostly anime-genre songs. They are considered an idol group, as each band member is a pop idol among all of their super fans.

We also stopped by the Gundam cafe, which was right next door to the AKB48 cafe. In case you don’t know this one either, Gundam is a very popular, very legendary, very long-running robot anime series. (This is like the equivalent to Robotech.) Not only are the various anime cartoons/movies popular, but the DIY plastic model hobby kits are also extremely popular all around the world. I have also made a plastic Gundam model kit myself.

Also got to experience some extravagant architecture all around Tokyo. Here is the Bvlgari (Bulgari) store in Ginza. It has a diamond-like snake wrapping around the storefront like a diamond necklace. The snake is one of the animal symbols of the Eastern zodiac. In the Asian community, 2013 will mark the Year of the Snake.

We also got to experience a lot of Christmas decorations being displayed all around town, like at this Cartier shop (also in Ginza), which looks like a wrapped gift. It seemed a bit odd to us Americanized folks to see Christmas decorations so early on, but I guess since the locals in Japan don’t celebrate a Thanksgiving type holiday, right after the Halloween decorations are being put away, the Christmas stuff goes up immediately.

Well, that’s it for now.  I’ll try to post some pictures of my stay here in China.  So far, there hasn’t been much things of interest to see…unless you like pictures of mega shopping malls & high-rise apartments that look like they came from a cheesy 1990s movie set.  Otherwise, cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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