Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tokyo Disney at Halloween

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Ryan and I decided to check out Tokyo Disneyland this weekend since he had never been before and I was excited about all the Halloween decorations and atmosphere for October. It was insanely crowded, and quite a bit hotter than I'm used to for October, but it was still good fun. It's hard not to have a magical, imaginative time in a place so colourful and detailed and bursting with thematic personality. Everyone in Japan comes to Disneyland with serious purpose. There are matching couples and groups of friends all decked out in costumes and outfits- all totally disney themed. It's like a parade in itself just walking around. The food and snacks are also definitely the best.

It's fun to visit the different disney parks and take note of what tried and true familiar things stay the same, and then where the subtle differences are. I've been lucky enough to visit most of them on family trips and school trips: Anaheim when we were living in Arizona, Paris when we were living in Geneva, Orlando on a lucky spring break trip from New York, and Tokyo last time we were living here. They all have their unique perks. There's something extra cute about all the details in Tokyo Disney though- especially how the holidays are so hyped and festive. There were pumpkins and jackolanterns everywhere, and lots of torn orange and black tapestries and plenty of amazing pumpkin treats

It was so crowded that even though we got there at 8am, we didn't make it into the park until 9, and by the time we got a fast pass for the Haunted Mansion and used it at 11:30, all the fast passes for everything else were gone for the rest of the day, and all the lines for the rides were two hours or more of a wait. So this time around, we rode Peter Pan and explored Tom Sawyer's Island while waiting for our Haunted Mansion fast pass time, then we got to cash that in and finally experienced the fabled Nightmare Before Christmas makeover I've been so curious about for years. Afterwards we mostly just wandered around the different lands exploring the nooks and crannies and sampling the snacks unique to the park.




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I really like that here in Tokyo Disney, Tom Sawyer's island is the still in its original form and hasn't been usurped by that pseudo pirate travesty like in California. It's such a fun exploresy place to get lost for a while- and I kind of love the bygone era- first wave disney flavor it still retains. It's also by FAR the least crowded area of the park, and we had so much fun clambering over the fake red rocks, sitting in tipis, scaling rickety rope bridges, and check out tree houses of our dreams. I also just really love the wood raft ride back and forth between the island and the main park area, especially when you get to pass the huge Mark Twain steamboat or see the canoers row by.

Also, two of my favorite rides, It's a Small World, and Thunder Mountain were closed for the day, so that was a huge bummer- but I guess the lines would've just been too long anyway. All in all it was probably the most anticlimactic visit to Disneyland ever- we definitely rode the least amount of rides this time, and Ryan started feeling sick around 5, so we just went home, which leaving disney at 5pm!? I have NEVER done that before) was a kind of sad end to the day, but at least we had the time to see the Haunted Mansion redesign for Halloween and eat mickey waffles, which were two things I hadn't tried yet and had always wanted to.



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

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Being in Japan during October has made me feel super nostalgic for the kind of Halloween I'm used to celebrating. It's my favourite holiday, and I've always gone all out with filling up the month with movies, music, decorations, treats, activities, and outfits to get in the mood and relish the spooky halloweeny vibes. This will be my first year with no trip to a pumpkin patch, and maybe my first time not carving a pumpkin if we can't find one- and the total lack of candy corn has really been getting me down.

All those fun traditional October things like farm fall festivals, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, carving parties, spook alleys, new england historic cemeteries with perfectly gothic mausoleums and headstones, and treats like apple cider donuts and brach's candy corn and pumpkins are nonexistent here. They do have a lot of their own kind of halloween treats, trying to get into the holiday, but I've noticed it's mostly just the wrappers and packaging that have orange and black or ghosts and pumpkins, and once you open the product, it's just the same inside as always.

Anyway, usually I'm super productive and inspired during October. Last year I was busy all month, making, creating, crafting, baking, cooking, experimenting, photoshooting, decorating, etc. I felt so inspired by my surroundings- the fall and halloween vibes in new york are great- and I had a new idea almost every day. There are plenty of factors why I'm nowhere near as productive this time around- I've moved to a new place- I don't know anyone or have any connections, it's still green and hot here in october, Ryan has started a job where he's gone all day and night, the culture here just doesn't celebrate the holiday in the same way, and I generally feel very stuck here when it comes to looking for and buying things like craft supplies, brooms, halloween or photoshoot goods, etc. No inspiration is coming to me and the means to carry out any inspiration I do have feel limited... So I've been looking back through my archives and reliving some halloween glory days.



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I though it could be fun to share a compilation of photos I've done in the spirit of Halloween. Some photos are from New York, some from Boston, and some from Utah, all within the last three years. Some were at halloween events or locations and some were themed ideas I hatched up and took at home or nearby parks.We really did have some great Halloweens. There were so many amazing historic places to visit and so many fun themed activities- especially between New York and Boston. And I'll never take pumpkins and candy corn for granted again.



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Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy October at the Owl Cafe

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Something about Harry Potter always feels pretty Halloweeny to me- I know it's obviously about witches and wizards and magic and castles and and boasts plenty of dark and gothic scenery/vibes etc- that seems fairly quintessentially Halloween. You get broomsticks, you get scary bad guys in hooded cloaks, you get giant monstrous spiders, you get ghosts and their death day parties, reanimated corpses, and some pretty dark magical murders. When October rolls around I always find myself wanting to plough through all the books and movies to 'get in the spirit' of the Holiday. This year I'm multitasking by listening to the books on tape while I knit so I can hopefully finish my mustard sweater in time to wear it for this season.

I think I just really love immersing myself in the atmosphere of JK Rowling's world. She's so wonderfully descriptive and ever since I started reading the series when I was 11 I've always loved the imagery of the huge sprawling maze of an old castle, lit by candles and torches and filled with friendly ghosts and secret passageways and hidden nooks and crannies and the most interesting magical secrets. The movies did a great job of bringing it all to life, and I especially love the festiveness at Halloween that comes across in both the books and the movies with all the beautiful ambient decorations and perfect setting.

Another thing I always found charming about this wizarding world was the humans' relationship with magical creatures- especially owls. As a kid I was always obsessed with animals and wanted to be surrounded by as many pets as possible, and longed to befriend all kinds of wild animals, I was totally enthralled by the idea of having this cute little best friend owl that would be free to fly around but would always come back because of this special loyal bond. When I got wind that Tokyo had opened a few owl cafes, I felt like it would be the perfect festive October outing. And I even still had my gryffindor scarf...



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So when I was researching owl cafes, I knew I really wanted to visit one that had a barn owl. Barn owls have been one of my very favourite animals for a long time- like, my patronus would definitely be a barn owl. There used to be a pair that lived in the old wood barn on the farm property belonging to my....I think it was great uncle? Whenever we would visit my grandpa's cabin in central Utah, we would always stop at the farmhouse and barn on the way up the mountain. I loved watching the barn owls swoop in and out of the rafters and sleep huddled up together in the old wood beams. I thought their faces were the cutest thing, and they've aways seemed kind of ghostlike to me. I found this cafe called Cafe Baron, named after Baron, the owner's barn owl, and it was the best fit for what I was looking for.

The cafe was small, quiet, and simple, tucked away in a little side street in Koenji, a cutesy suburb in Tokyo. The owner was very kind and soft spoken, and you could tell he loved and had a great relationship with his two owls. He had them trained super well, and you could barely even feel their touch while holding them- they gripped so gently with those sharp talons. The great grey owl was hilarious- he kept hopping from chair to chair in big awkward leaps, and when he walked along the floor his movements looked like some comical puppet come to life. I was pretty excited because he was the same type of owl as Errol, Ron's owl in Harry Potter. You might recognize that cartoony feathered face from the movies. He was a very curious guy, and a lot of fun to watch. We ordered hot drinks in cute wooden owl mugs with owl biscuits and a mont blanc (chestnut cream) pastry. The quality of the drinks and treats were top notch and really exceeded our expectations. We thoroughly enjoyed the flavours, and appreciated that nothing was too sweet.

Baron the barn owl had me captivated as soon as we came in the door with his adorable charming little face, huge round eyes, and peaceful demeanor. He would hang out sometimes on a perch or a shelf, or a shoulder, and then suddenly and completely silently drift off to a new location when he got bored- and seeing him swoop and fly back and forth was stunning. I could have stayed all day watching him and enjoying lovely owl themed treats, and I'll certainly be back.



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Happy October and Halloweeny Times!