Capture Japan: Itsukushima Shrine

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Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima

I would contest that Itsukushima Shrine is one of the most breath-taking and beautiful shrines I’ve visited in Japan till this day. Erected in honor of the three daughters of Susanoo no Mikoto (the god of storm and sea), the shrine sits upon the Hiroshima Bay. At high tide, it creates the illusion that the shrine is floating on water. Luckily, we were able to visit during high-tide, so I could snap this picture! The shrine is also considered so pure that no births or deaths on the island where it was built (Miyajima) are permitted, and those who were close to labor or where death was imminent would be sent away. In any case, it’s definitely a gorgeous place to check out if you get the chance!

Taste Tokyo: LoyKratong Resort

LoyKratong Resort, Harajuku

I came across this cute little restaurant while wandering around Jingumae in Harajuku. Despite the mocha pictured above, it’s actually a Thai restaurant best known for it’s fusion cuisine. Located on the 8th floor of the Ice Cubes Building (which is conveniently the same building as the H&M Harajuku store), the restaurant overlooks a beautiful view of the city! The elegantly styled modern Thai/oriental decor certainly adds a pleasant and relaxing ambience to the dining experience. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to taste their food; however, I will say they do make quite a delicious mocha latte!

Capture Hawaii: The Royal Hawaiian Hotel

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The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Honolulu

One of the best perks of being a resident of Hawaii, aside from the beautiful beaches and sunny weather, is its resort hotels! When I was in high school, one of my favorite past-times was leisurely walking around the various hotels in Waikiki…and if I was really lucky, my family would have a staycation, and we would get to spend the night for a couple of days! The Royal Hawaiian’s signature pink buildings were always a treat to visit, especially around the holidays. The hotel puts out decadent and elaborately designed Christmas trees and decorations for the holidays. Definitely worth walking around if you’re in town!

Taste Tokyo: Boulangerie Mont-Thabor

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Boulangerie Mont-Thabor, Azabujuban

The one thing I love about Tokyo is its plethora of little bakeries scattered around the city! The Japanese have always admired the French for their aesthetic tastes and culinary arts, so it’s no surprise we can see a lot of French-inspired Japanese bakeries and patisseries in Tokyo. My all-time favorite bakery is the Boulangerie Mont-Thabor, located in Azabujuban. I used to frequent here often when I lived in the area, but now I only drop by occasionally for a sweet treat. It was also featured on the popular TV show, Sekai Banzuke, for its Hokkaido Milk Bread, which is my favorite (it’s quite delicious)! Made with the famous creamy and buttery Hokkaido milk, the bread is filled with layers of thin sweet cream between the soft warm bread. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you get the chance!

Capture Japan: Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Yamanouchi

If you’re ever in Nagano, I would recommend visiting the Snow Monkey Park in Yamanouchi! It’s hidden away up in the beautiful mountains in Nagano prefecture. It’s about an hour from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station by train. Yudanaka is known for it’s onsen or hot springs, so there are many cute Japanese inns scattered around the area. From Yudanaka Station, there is bus that will take you up to the Snow Monkey Park (about 15 minute ride). After that it’s about a 15-20 minute hike up the mountain the find the elusive hot springs full of adorable snow monkeys! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hike up all the way up to the hot springs, but I was able to find one little monkey hanging around the base. Very adorable! …but be careful as these cute monkeys are quite strong and can be a little vicious if provoked. It was still definitely a great trip out there!

 

Taste Japan: Homemade Soba

Countryside Teuchi Soba in Yamanouchi

On our way up to visit the snow monkey park, we passed by a small soba or buckwheat noodle specialty shop …in the middle of nowhere. The restaurant was small and cozy, and really gave off a true inaka or countryside vibe. The soba was all handmade and fresh, making it extra delicious on a hot summer day! Soba is definitely one of my favorite Japanese foods. It’s such a simple dish, but I never get tired of eating it. Plus, my grandparents used to say it’s relatively healthy for you (although I’m not sure how much of that is backed by science, haha). If you do get the chance to try soba in Japan, please go to a regular soba shop, as the convenience store soba does not do the dish any justice!

Taste Hawaii: The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood

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Happy Hour at Signature, Ala Moana 

If you’re ever in town and looking for a bar with a beautiful view, I recommend The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood restaurant found on top of the Ala Moana Hotel. The steakhouse is famous, of course, for its delicious high quality meat and seafood. Occasionally they serve a Wagyu Tomahawk Longbone on the special menu (which is my recommendation along with the truffle mashed potatoes)! In any case, the restaurant has a stunning view of the harbor, which is even more breathtaking at sunset. Sipping cocktails, overlooking the beautiful Hawaiian sunset… now that’s my ideal way to spend Happy Hour after work!