Japan, Japan 2016

Japan 2016: Nagoya

It’s the last stop on my mini tour around Japan – after visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima, I moved on to Osaka, with a day trip to Arashiyama, and then headed over to Nagoya before returning to Tokyo.

nagoya - marceline smith

Since Nagoya is only an hour from Osaka on the Shinkansen, I had the option to spend some of the day in Osaka but decided to go straight to Nagoya. Once there, I found it easy to navigate with a similar subway system to Osaka and Tokyo so had no trouble finding my hotel in the Sakae shopping district. I stayed overnight so here’s what I got up to in my time there.

nagoya - marceline smith

Usagito Cafe

The main reason I added Nagoya to my itinerary was so that I could finally visit this bunny cafe and buy one of their trademark bunny ear mugs. It was everything I hoped for and more – baby bunny! – and I blogged about it in great detail last year.

nagoya - marceline smith

Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Visiting botanical gardens is a favourite hobby of mine so I wasn’t going to miss this chance. It was easy to get to – close to Higashiyama Koen subway station (which has a big supermarket with plenty Pocky and snacks). The zoo and gardens are connected so you have to pay for both and walk all the way through the zoo to get the to the gardens. I didn’t have very long before closing time so I only popped in to see the koalas and spend some time in the little shop, so I could buy something featuring their cute mascot.

nagoya - marceline smith

The gardens were lovely, especially the rose garden which was in full bloom and had some water features too.  The larger part of the garden is in a separate section across a road so make sure to keep your ticket handy. There are various sections to explore plus a big glass house. There’s a monorail connecting the two gardens if you don’t want to walk but the signs are all in Japanese and I couldn’t quite figure out the times and prices. If you have more time, there’s a big lake with swan boats, a Sky Tower and an amusement park (see top photo).

nagoya - marceline smith

Nagoya City Science Museum

This was a last minute addition when I realised the bunny cafe didn’t open until lunchtime. The City Science Museum was about halfway between my hotel and the bunny cafe so it seemed like a good plan. Even if you don’t go inside, it’s worth visiting the park as the building is really cool and there’s a big rocket to look at and a fountain. I did go inside and it was worth the entry fee as there’s six floors of exhibits including lots of cool space stuff for me. The signage is all in Japanese but I got along okay.

nagoya - marceline smith

There’s also a lots of stuff for kids with a huge water-powered machine covering two floors, lots of interactive exhibits and a miniature Nagoya with moving trains. If you have more time, and understand Japanese, you can book a visit to the planetarium or deep freeze lab. It’s a great place to wander around for a few hours.

nagoya - marceline smith

Sunshine Sakae

Only in Japan would you discover your hotel was opposite a Kirimichan ferris wheel! You can’t really ignore such an opportunity so I made time to visit. Sunshine Sakae is a shopping centre and also home to idol group SKE48 who make regular appearances. It also hosts temporary character cafes – there was a full Kirimichan restaurant and also a stand selling crepes. I did go on the Sky Boat ferris wheel which was only ¥500 and gives you pretty good views over Nagoya.

nagoya - marceline smith

It’s situated inside a huge branch of Tsutaya, which has books and kawaii merchandise, plus some gashapon. There’s also a big branch of Don Quixote across the street which had flavours of KitKats I didn’t have room for and then never saw back in Tokyo. So annoying!

I had a great time in Nagoya and wish I hadn’t waited so long to visit. I will definitely be back as I want to visit the railway museum, and also see the bunnies again! If you get the chance, go!

You can see more of my Nagoya photos in Day 13 & Day 14 of my Flickr albums.

Sales & Offers

Weekend Wrap Up


I was planning to go to the big book sale in Edinburgh today but the weather has finally turned and I can’t really justify spending all that time and money on a rainy day out. Instead I’m off to library to sort out my account and see if they have anything interesting in. It’s bee a very productive week updating my shop photography and it’s so nice to scroll through my shops now with everything matching!

Limited Time Shopping Offers

  • 15% off everything in my Zazzle store this weekend with the code MOMTHANKSZAZ.
  • 15% off my Kawaii Japan book at Lulu through Monday with the code LULU15.
  • Repeat customers get 15% off all my badge sets! Just login and check the cart page for the code. (How do you become one? Place an order in my shop and you’ll have the option to create a customer account for exclusive monthly offers!)

Ongoing Shopping Offers

  • $10 off your first order at my Society6 store with this link.
  • 25% off any 4 small vinyl stickers from my Redbubble shop or 50% off any 10!
  • 50% off your first personalised card at Thortful with the code TTSHUVNO.

News and Reminders

  • You can see all my free paper craft tutorials in one place now and there’s still time to make a bumblebee card for Mother’s Day if that’s happening in your part of the world this weekend. Sign up to my mailing list to be notified of next month’s tutorial along with news and offers.
On-Demand News

Window Curtains at Society6

society6 curtains

Society6’s newest product is pretty amazing – curtains! I had never imagined seeing my character on curtains but it turns out they look very cute. These Sakura are definitely my favourite and I would happily have them hanging in my home.

society6 curtains

This is not quite your full made to measure service as the curtains only come in one size, though you can choose to buy a single panel or two. It’s still a fairly affordable way to get some original curtains that you can put up in minutes.

society6 curtains

I’ve mostly just turned on the option for my patterns, but I did allow in a few individual characters because maybe someone needs Little Ghost curtains! The preview images are quite hilarious though.

You can check out my whole range at Society6 – prices start at $79 but look out for regular discounts and free shipping offers.

Creative Work, News

New Packaging & Product Photography

badge sets

My acrylic brooch packaging turned out so well that I decided to expand it to my wooden brooches and badge sets. I did briefly consider designing individual backing cards but with so many badge sets, a generic one seemed more sensible. It was a good plan as they look so cute all together.

wooden brooches

The wooden brooch packaging is similar too and since they’re half the size of my previous backing cards, it all takes up much less space and shaves a few grams off your order weight.

badge set

The only downside of new packaging is that I have to re-photograph all the products but at least the weather has been sunny for a whole week. Badges are so annoying to photograph as they reflect the light but I managed to get them all done.

busy bee organiser

Every summer I say I will update all my product photos so this year I have actually made a list and got through quite a few things at the weekend. I struggle a bit with lifestyle photos but I was quite pleased with this one of my Busy Bee Organiser. Tasks you never considered when starting a business: inventing fake to do lists.

Kawaii Japan book

My Kawaii Japan paperback books are also back in stock so I took a few new photos of those too. If you’re enjoying my Japan posts, this covers my first 3 trips and includes a whole load of writing and illustrations that haven’t been published anywhere else. The paperback is A Nice Thing to own (and I can even sign/draw on it for you), but it is expensive so ebooks & PDF editions are just £2-£3 a copy.

Japan, Japan 2016

Japan 2016: Arashiyama & Kyoto

We’re continuing my mini tour around Japan – after visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima, I moved on to Osaka, which makes a great base for visiting Kyoto.

arashiyama - marceline smith

While I’ve enjoyed my previous two visits to Kyoto, I find it quite tiresome as it’s hard to get around and mobbed with tourists and tour groups. I would still like to see some more of Kyoto’s big sights some day but this time I mostly skipped Kyoto for nearby Arashiyama.

arashiyama - marceline smith

I arrived at JR Sagaarashiyama station, which is a short walk from Tenryūji. There is a charge to get in, but you can choose either the temple or garden, or there’s a discount for both. Since it was mega hot that day, I chose both so I could stay out of the sun for a while. There’s lots to explore and lots of places to sit and contemplate the garden.

arashiyama - marceline smith

There are a variety of short walks that give you views around the pond and it’s always surprising what new things you can see from different points. It’s what I love most about Japanese gardens. It was very hazy and overcast, which isn’t great for photos.

arashiyama - marceline smith

I spent quite a while trying to photograph this butterfly – they move so fast!

arashiyama - marceline smith

The garden leads out to the famous bamboo grove where the plants seem impossibly tall. The grove is free to visit and always rammed with people which kind of ruins the atmosphere. It must be lovely without the crowds. It’s more enjoyable off the main path where you can hear the wind swishing through the bamboo.

arashiyama - marceline smith

After ticking those off, I went to the little Arashiyama station to book the Sagano Scenic Railway, a traditional old train with wooden seats and open windows that takes a scenic route along the river. It’s recommended to book in advance at busy times if you want to get a window seat and not end up standing in the aisles. I planned to visit the Gioji moss garden until the train left but after walking the seemingly endless paths in blazing sunshine I couldn’t handle it any more and retreated back to the station. If the weather is more helpful, there are lots of incredible looking gardens in the area.

arashiyama - marceline smith

I ended up with one of the best seats on the train – for the first bit the left side gets all the good views but then the right side has it for the majority of the journey. If you can speak Japanese, it’s worth asking to be on that side. You can move around the train to take photos but it’s much easier if you’re already in a good spot.

arashiyama - marceline smith

This was definitely my highlight of the day as the scenery is amazing with lush forests, bright turquoise waters, rapids, kayakers, bridges and a short pause at a tanuki themed station. The whole experience was just fun too, with the sound of the wooden train and the breeze through the windows. I took a little video of it too – don’t you feel relaxed now?

On the Sagano scenic railway, Arashiyama

At the end of the journey it’s a short walk to the JR station (though I thought I would die of heatstroke as there’s zero shade on the way) where I caught the train back to Kyoto (getting a seat before all the people coming back from Arashiyama!). I had hoped to visit a few places in Kyoto but spent way too long trying to find Poyon-ya (the bunny themed shop I’ve visited on both previous trips) before accepting that I was in the right place and it’s gone. So sad!

How to get there

Getting to Arashiyama from Osaka is really easy. The Shinkansen takes just 15 minutes to Kyoto but there are also local and rapid trains that don’t take much longer so I just jumped on the first one going, thanks to my rail pass. After that, it’s a bit of a hike across Kyoto station to catch the JR Sagano Line for Kameoka or Sonobe getting off at Sagaarashiyama. There are maps at the station, which have all the temples marked.

The Sagano Scenic Train runs hourly from 9am – 4pm and is closed regularly so check before you go. You can book seats at Arashiyama station near the bamboo grove – either one way or return. When you get off at Torokko Kameoka station you can walk to the JR station at Umahori to get back to Kyoto.

There’s lots more to see in Arashiyama too including the monkey park, Togetsukyo bridge  and a preserved Meiji period street so I would like to return in cooler weather.

If you want ideas for Kyoto, there are quite a few in my Planning For Japan guide.