| Creatures | Bathing Apes

Travel questions often find their way to us via Twitter or our inbox these days. While we are not experts, It makes us happy to share our experiences and also give our honest opinion and advice to fellow adventure-seekers. 

Recently, we've had a few questions about  Jigokudani in Nagano which may be a bit difficult at the moment owing to volcanic eruption in the prefecture but nonetheless, it is certainly a place to note for future adventuring! 

Jigokudani is a place of steep cliffs, towering evergreens, steamy horizons and bubbling hot springs and though its name translates as 'hell valley', it is home to some charming monkeys. 

Japanese Macaques sort of dither about their lives. Chilling in the hot springs. Staring at their reflections in a nose to water fashion. Chewing on yummy things that they find. Grooming each other or just sat staring into space (considering world peace perhaps), they are infinitely fun to watch. Being in Jigokudani allows you the privilege of walking amongst the monkeys and being able to observe these fascinating and intelligent creatures up close. 

How to get there:
You can jump on a buss from either Yudanaka Station (will take 10-25 mins), or Shibu Onsen (will take 5-10 mins)or Nagano Station(will take 40 mins). Or, if you like walking, you can walk from Shibu Onsen, it will take about 45 - 60 mins if the weather is good.

Where to stay:
We drove to Yudanaka from Tokyo  and stayed in a traditional Japanese inn in Shibu Onsen. You can see our post on Shibu Onsen HERE.

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| Tea | Pleine Lune

There are teas that we drink in gulps to support us as we go about our daily grind, and then, there are teas that are meant to be sipped. Slowly, so that they luxuriate  on the palate and take us to a tranquil place of higher enjoyment. 

Mariage Frères Pleine Lune is one of my most favourite flavoured black tea blends. The first sip is a cascade of almond and then blueberries, cinnamon and vanilla come to life in a rich but refreshing bouquet. There is none of that artificial flavouring that jolts the senses out of a daydream, instead it is a masterful blend that soothes you into a slower pace.

"Inspired by that heavenly body and the real of dreams, this poetic blend combines fragrances evoking the feast of the full moon: fruits, rare spices and the sweet taste of honey. A true moonbeam". Mariage Frères.

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My teacup sits on a Limoges saucer and is a vintage find that I came across in Tokyo earlier this year. It is made by Noritake and dates to 1968. I bought it because I like its light translucency and it has such a lovely form that sits so well cupped in my hands. The fact that it is emblazoned with the Noritake mark may also have influenced my decision to bring it back to London. At just £6.00 I think I may have got myself a right barrrrrgain! 

USEFUL LINKS | Mariage Freres Website |  
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| What I Wore | 97%

There are a great many characters in a great many books that inspire me in many ways. There are even a few that inspire what I may choose to wear. Take Grace Makutsi for instance, secretary to Precious Ramostwe from the very respectable No1 Ladies Detective Agency. I happen to think that besides Mma Makutsi's record breaking score of 97% at the Botswana Secretarial College, her highly-strung often opinionated views and her natural awkwardness, she also happens to be a pretty sharp dresser. 

Shirt was bought about 5 years ago from GAP. Men's cardigan from Uniqlo.
Prescription glasses with frames from Chanel + lenses from Paris Miki London.
Ballet flats from Emmy Twenty.

Mma Makutsi was so perfectly portrayed by Anika Noni Rose in the wonderful BBC television series so much so that whenever I wear a shirt paired with knitwear, I always think to myself......

"Eh! I want to dress just like Mma Makutsi! I want to look like 97%!"

If you enjoyed these pictures, please visit Coco & Vera blog (one of my most favourite blogs)where I am mooching about London feeling very 97%. I will be so happy to see you there!

If you fancy learning more about the imitable ladies of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency, there is a great episode available on Youtube HERE.

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| Ideas | Sockless

One of the best wardrobe discoveries I made this year was a spray. Stepping out in summer with socks on is not really my style so the Pedag Silky Touch Barefoot Spray brought comfort to my ever marching feet.

Leather T-bar sandals from ASOS.  Leather ballet pumps from Emmy Twenty.

The spray is created to protect feet from friction by wrapping them in a fine and invisible web of silk. They make wearing ballet flats and sandals in summer much more comfortable not only by lessening any rubbing but also by providing a deodorising effect.

The lovely people at Supreme Shoe Care sent me a can to try out on my adventures this summer and like everything sent my way, I really put it to the test. It came with me to Porto where we walked up to 7 hours a day, to Greece where I lived in flip flops and even right here in London where I use it with trainers socks for my missions through the city. The spray costs £8.95 which is such a good deal for such an excellent product. Grab one HERE

Psssst follow on Twitter where they are regularly available to provide leather care advice. Give them a shout HERE they know their stuff!  

USEFUL LINKS |Supreme Shoe Care Website| Supreme Shoe Care Twitter 

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| Home | Fog Linen Trays

The day that this pair of Fog Linen landed on my table was a happy day indeed! 

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Fog Linen is a Tokyo based company who specialise in a variety of household goods many of which as made of linen (which I love). These mini trays are designed by the founder Yumiko Sekine. They are made in Japan using  fine Lithuanian linen coated which they coat in a tough poly-resin. The trays are lightweight, resilient, easy to clean and really versatile. 

I use them far more than I initially ever thought I would. I put them to use during my tea breaks, use them to hold my tools as I am sewing and even for keeping condiments together on the dining table. I am looking forward to see in how they age and hoping that I get year of use out of them.

You can get them in the UK from Ruby Roost

If you are visiting Japan, there is a Fog Linen shop in Shimokitazawa.

USEFUL LINKS | Fog Linen Work Website in Japanese + English | 

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| Photo Diary | Tatami Ishi

Even though it's not our anniversary, a little stroll down memory lane is good for our soul. Today we are thinking back to July 2010 when we got married. I announced it on my blog like THIS. We then hot-footed it to Japan the very next day. The plan was to celebrate our nuptials afresh with family and with friends that we live so far away from.

We did squeeze in a few days alone where we escaped to Kumejima which is one of the many sub tropical Okinawan Islands. Okinawa has a special place in our hearts because this is also where Hiro proposed (and gave me the shock of my life). It was so unexpected. I was speechless. Actually, I don't think I ever said yes! 

At one point during our retreat in Kumejima, we found ourselves awestruck by the extraordinary sight of Tatami Ishi.....

Tatami Ishi is rare geological formation of over 1000 connected pentagonal and hexagonal rocks. It was formed around 20 million years ago when a concentration of Andesite-type lava cooled and splintered into these columnar joints. Years of erosion from the waves has worn and nearly leveled the rocks flat.

Geology aside, this is such an awe-inspiring place. I remember thinking how nature is a formidable artist with boundless amounts of imagination and patience.

How to get there:

Tatami Ishi is located on the south coast of Ou-jima which is connected to Kumejima via a short bridge. The rock formations appear just behind the Bade Haus Spa and are best visible at low-tide, so talk to locals and find out when is the best time to go. We got there by taxi but there are other ways SEE HERE.

P.S. It is worth popping into the Bade Haus Spa gift shop to buy a tub of beni imo (purple sweet potato) ice cream. It's creamy yet delicately fragrant with an elegant finish that just hints at sweet potato.

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| Beauty | City Faces

Despite beauty blogging taking a back seat on our blog, I still like to put my rather extensive assortment of cosmetics to use. Lately I've been thinking how my makeup varies from one city to another. So.... I thought it might be fun/interesting/different to chart my typical "out and about" face paint habits from one city to another:

MAC Russian Red/ Rouge Bunny Rouge Sheer lipstick in Murmurings. Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua. ADDICTION custom eyeshadow compact. La Rose de Versailles black eyeliner.

NARS Orgasm Illuminator. YSL Rouge Volupte Perle #115

Sekkisei BB cream. Nars Copacabana Illuminator. Bobby Brown Concealer. Dejavu Perfecct Liner in Black.
Esprique Blend Dimensional Eyes in A-4.  Suqqu Creamy Glow Lipstick in Saebana. MAC Skinfinish in Candlelight. Shu Uemurs Ultimare Natural Mascara.
Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadow in Angelic Cockatiels.  Chanel lipgloss in Gold Shine. Shu Uemura Miracle Cherry Blush Tint.
Burberry Soft Satin Lipstick in Bright Plum. Hada-labo BB Cream. Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush in Orchid Rose.

Does your travel makeup bag vary as much from one place to another? I think it is quietly telling about how a location can have such an effect on my view of myself and how I feel I need to adjust/dress up/feel comfortable...maybe?

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| Everyday People | House of Spices

Where I grew up in Africa, we do not often call the sun hot. We call it fierce or severe. We say "jua kali".

One day in Stone Town when it was jua kali, we found ourselves completely lost in the maze that is the Capital of Unguja (also called Zanzibar). Drowsy with the heat, we came across a man sat outside a brightly coloured shop. The man said to us;

"Rafiki, come into my shop and have some tea. I have good tea and I have air-conditioning".

However, we were on a mission to find a particular street market, so I replied most politely....

"Baadaye Bwana! We are going somewhere but we will be back. I promise you".

And so it was that we went to where we wanted to be. Before long and after a lot of haggling, we grew thirsty and so returned to the shop where we found the man looking somewhat forlorn and despondent. Then, when he saw us he exclaimed...."Waaaaah you really came back! You kept your promise! You must be really good people. Asante sana for keeping your promise". 

And that is how we ended up in the House of Spices hiding for a while from the jua kali drinking carom tea,ginger tea and spiced iced coffee.

USEFUL LINKS | House of Spices |
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| What I Wore | Japan Stories

One of life's certainties is that there is often more to something than just what meets our eyes.

Mask from Japan. T-shirt from Uniqlo Japan. Linen trousers were handmade. Flip flops from Havainas.

For example, this handmade papier-mâché fox mask. Though it is striking as an object in its own right, awakens thoughts from Japanese folklore where the Kitsune are often represented as tricksters, shape shifters and intellectual creatures capable of great wisdom and magic abilities. According to Shinto belief, Kitsune play an important role in serving Inari, the god of rice, fertility, agriculture, tea and sake. This is why kitsune statues are often found close to shrines.

The T-shirt features a traditional Japanese pattern known as chidori which features many tiny plover and translates loosely as 1000 birds. Chidori was believed to be an auspicious symbol for the warrior caste of Japan. Today the Chidori are regarded as an emblem for perseverance and the conquering of obstacles.

There are stories behind patterns of everyday things. We like to think of these as subtle forms of encouragemnt and reminders of our heritage from past generations. 

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| Night Lights | Dom Luis Bridge

The Dom Luis bridge of Porto takes on a different mood at night. A sort of emanating ebullience really quite different from the spirit of its more austere daytime face.

USEFUL LINKS | More of our Night Light Adventures | Scenes from the Bridge By Day |

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| What I Wore | Dress Up and Goat

Don't you ever have one of those days where you just want to get a bit dressed up and hang out with a goat? Nah? Actually neither do I. But Hiro said it would be fun and it was going okay till the goat tried to take a nibble out of my shoe. 

Skirt from Reiss. Top and Shoe from ASOS. Clutch from Aspiga. 

These days, I don't wear skirts as much as I used to. Yet my rediscovering of an unworn skirt in the back of my wardrobe before we holidayed in the Greek Islands seems to have rekindled my love for them all over again. Finding forgotten clothes again is much better than shopping I think.

This is my entry into the marvellous Mis Papelicos' Share in Style. Check out all the other entries HERE.

Location: Zakynthos, Greece.

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| Photo Diary | Notting Hill Carnival 2014

Burn out stripe top from ASOS. Backpack from Size? Eastpak, Shorts from Warehouse, Trainers Nike Air 90's
Cap from New Era, T-shirt from Ridley Road Market.

We go to Notting Hill every year for the sound systems, the caribbean food and the good vibes. The air fills with the smells of the jerked everything edged with a touch of ganja. The sounds are intoxicating and the streets shake under the thumping speakers and the riot of rumps-a-shaking. 

We think of the wind rush veterans who settled in London from the Caribbean. We celebrate their rich roots and thank heavens that they brought their musical heritage (and food) to London. Trinidad & Tobago for carnival and Jamaica for the sound system. 

And when carnival ends we want to shout for a pull-up and come again selecta. 

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| Photo Diary | Ameyoko

It felt right and good to find ourselves back in Ameyoko again earlier this year. We trod through the market with friends, Hiro always a few paces behind us all taking photos and me chatting in my usual slightly wild animated way that makes people look at me with both eyebrows raised.

We stopped to snack on some fried sho lon po which I'd never had before. Just looking at these photos again makes me want to go back and demolish a plateful.

Ameyoko is a thriving market in downtown Tokyo. It's a loud, busy and spirited place full of bargains, street food stalls and enough to keep shoppers, hagglers, people watchers and foodies busy for hours.

Its energy reminds us a bit of a few markets here in London (Ridley Road & Brixton) which makes us love Ameyoko even more. 

How to get there: Go to Ueno Station or Okachimachi Station and you can't miss it.

USEFUL LINKS | See our previous trip to Ameyoko HERE | 

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