How Many Towels Does One Person Need? (A Hotel Adventure)

Like most people, I haven’t been in a hotel in about two years (the photo you see is from 3+ years prior). But necessity pushed me into the unenviable position of having to book a hotel room for a few days during the height of travel season. The necessity? My air conditioner breaking.

That’s another story.

My stay in the hotel has reminded me of a lot of things. What it feels like to use facilities that aren’t your own. How nice it is to have someone else doing the cleaning for you. The awkwardness of timing yourself so that you don’t have to share an elevator with anybody else. That sort of thing.

And, of course, the cleaning wars with the housekeeping staff.

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Misty Mountains and Hobbit Holes: Hobbiton!

When I was seven years old, I got a basket for Easter from my grandmother. I remember it was pink, with a chocolate bunny, a couple of jelly beans… and my own paperback copies of The Hobbit, as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I read through Bilbo’s adventure, but couldn’t commit to Frodo’s (“Where the heck is Bilbo? I want more of him!” I thought sullenly) until I was a bit older. Even so, J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories have stuck with me. Am I a hardcore fan? Hahaha no, I’ve never read the Silmarillion and if you ask me to compare the minutiae between the recent movies and the books, you’ll get a quizzical smile from me at best.

But fantasy as a genre is something I grew up loving, and when I learned we could take a day tour to Hobbiton from Auckland, I was completely on board.

We signed up, not through the Hobbiton website, but through a separate tour company. It was a package deal where we could also see the Waitomo Caves in the afternoon, but you and I both know that’s not what you’re here to read about. Or look at.

So let’s go.

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Milkless tea and a day-long train adventure: The Northern Explorer in New Zealand

During Golden Week, I went to New Zealand for the first time with my parents. With no experience in the southern hemisphere, we scrambled to find out what to add to our Must Do List.

When I suggested the Northern Explorer train, my mother’s eyes lit up, and my father shook his head in resignation. He already knew that this was happening. My mother and I have talked about doing long train rides for ages, from the Trans-Mongolian Railway to The Canadian (Toronto – Vancouver), so this was an inevitability.

The Northern Explorer is a train that runs from Auckland all the way down to Wellington (or vice versa), and slowly winds through all sorts of beautiful landscapes along the way. Today, I’ll share what a day on this train felt like.

…. Hashtag not sponsored.

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Requisite awkward “It’s been a while!” post

Boy howdy, it’s been a hot minute since I last wrote anything on here.

How’s everybody been doing? I can’t say that I’ve been hit with writer’s block entirely, but it sure did focus on this blog for a while. Which is a shame, because a bunch of neat things happened over the past few months. Thankfully, time is relative and just because I’m not writing about it the very second it happened doesn’t mean I can never mention those things, right? Right.

So! Here we are, on the requisite “What I’ve been up to so you can look forward to reading the deets” blog post. Once we get over this hump, everybody, we can get back to our regularly scheduled “Stefanie, WHAT?” and “Stefanie, WHY?” posts.

Let’s sum it up in bullet points:

  • I went through my annual “Ugh, March” slog
  • I’ve been slowly but steadily pushing through “The Demon of Lonely Isle” by Edogawa Ranpo in Japanese. Very slowly. You don’t want to know what my Kindle is estimating my “finish” time to be.
  • I hiked Fushimi Inari for the first time in ages
  • I went through a bonus “Ugh, April” slog
  • I played some drums at a temple!
  • I found out a thing I wrote will be put into a printed copy of an anthology, and
  • I went to New Zealand

I’m especially excited to share my New Zealand experiences with you, so over the next couple of weeks look forward to posts about things like Hobbiton, the cities I visited, the tours I partook in, and the differences in language I couldn’t help but notice.

Meanwhile, here in Japan it’s already 28 degrees Celsius on a given day (it’s May), and I’m already hearing people begin to practice the Gion Festival music. I suppose now that the Aoi Festival is over with (as of May 15), everyone is gearing up for the next big thing.

For now, I shall leave you with a picture from my hike up and around Fushimi Inari Taisha. Talk soon!

Done in a day: Kagoshima

I don’t go through my old photos nearly as often as I should. There are a lot of gems in there, and many of them fill me with a rush of nostalgia. The other day I was browsing through my summer vacation photos and I stumbled across when I spent a week or so in Kyushu, an island south of Honshu in Japan that is home to boatloads of delicious food and sightseeing places that people rarely manage to put on their “to see” lists when coming to Japan.

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Luck Dolls and Trust Tests

We had quite a week here in Japan; on Monday the Kansai area experienced an earthquake that left several injured and at least 4 dead. I was fortunate in that I live in Kyoto and was not on a train or anywhere near the epicenter when it happened; the worst I endured was a sudden, loud BANG followed by the sudden rocking of my apartment building–though I will say, that left me huddled in my doorway for several minutes after, eyes wide, clutching my phone.

After that, getting out of the house and enjoying things to take my mind off of the potential for aftershocks was a necessity. So when a friend suggested that we go and check out Daruma Temple, I readily agreed to the outing.

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Hiroshima overnight, Part 1: Powerful and moving

Hello and welcome to a Throwback Thursday post! I don’t do these very often, but while perusing my past blog posts and my pictures, I realized that there are a few adventures I haven’t talked about here. Some may remain in obscurity for a while longer; others, like this one, grow more pertinent as travel season is upon us.

Yes, Golden Week is around the corner, and before we know it, it’s going to be summer. With all that entails. Cicadas, tour groups, and every flavor of ice cream you can possibly imagine. Among other things.

Today, I’d like to share with you part one of the tale of our overnight Hiroshima trip.

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