Top 5 Buys from my Tokyo 2017 Trip (and Packing Tips)

It’s kind of hard to believe, but it’s been almost three months since I’ve come back from my trip!  We had such a fabulous time, so it was really really hard for me to come back to reality, and go back to my daily routine of work, work and more work.  Luckily, I have many fond memories of the trip, and I’ve been able to reminisce while writing these posts, and looking through my photos.  I also have several daily reminders from the trip that have been incorporated into daily life, and I thought I would share my favorites with you today.  For this post, I chose five products: 1) a hairdryer by Panasonic, 2) Hand mixer by Muji, 3) Kanebo’s Suisai Beauty Clear Powder, 4) Coffee mugs by the Traveler’s Factory and Blue Bottle Coffee, and lastly, 5) assorted clothing items by Journal Standard.  In the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to really road test each time, and now I’ll show you some photos and share my thoughts about each item.  Towards the end of the post, I’ll answer the question probably burning on everyone’s mind (ha!)… how did I get it all home?

1) Panasonic Hairdryer

I’m not going to lie… I kind of had my heart set on the über cool Dyson hair dryer. But, my hair stylist recommended one by Panasonic.  Since hair dryers lie directly in his area of expertise, I took his advice. And boy, am I glad that I did!  For half the price of the Dyson, I am now in possession one of the best  hair dryers I’ve ever used.  The model I bought is the Panasonic EH-CNA98, which has Nanoe technology (you can read more about Nanoe here) This hair dryer promises increased volume and shine, and I was more than happy to become a believer.

There are several settings on this new model, including different three different speed settings (lowest to highest- set, dry and Turbo) a several temperature settings, including hot-cold, scalp skin and nanoe.   For some reason, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the “skin” option, which is the coolest temperature setting.  Why do you need to blow dry your skin?!  One day, when I was drying my bangs (or fringe) it finally hit me.  Duh. Use this setting to dry your bangs, and you don’t have to worry about burning your forehead.  (I admit, I also use it to dry off clay masks, such as my new favorites, from Dr Jart, if I’m really in a hurry).

I use this dryer every single day, and I can’t recommend it enough. My hair is more voluminous and shiny than before, and I could swear, it works faster than my old hair dryer. It is a bit heavier than I expected, but I can hold it for about 10-15 minutes without my arm getting tired. This hairdryer also folds up neatly, and the cord can be wrapped around the nozzle.  You can easily fit this into a drawer in your vanity, or bathroom cupboard.  I hang mine from a 3M hook on my bathroom wall, using this grey loop that’s attached near the handle and power cord.

A note on the shopping experience for this hairdryer.   I bought mine at Labi, in Shinjuku.  Labi is seven floors, and they sell all kinds of electronics, including beauty-related appliances.   Unfortunately, our shopping experience was hindered by the pushiest sales associate I’ve ever met. She followed us the entire time, recommending products that we didn’t need or want, and was actually not helpful, because she couldn’t describe the features of the products that we did want.   Tips that I have for shopping for electronics in Japan is, it always helps to do your research beforehand. Make sure you have a photo of the model that you want saved in your phone (in case you don’t have wifi in the store, and can’t access a photo online). Also, ask the salesperson to take the item out, and plug it in to make sure that it works before leaving the store.  That way, you won’t be unpleasantly surprised in in case the product doesn’t work, after you’ve schlepped it all the way home in your suitcase. 

2) Muji Mixer

I’m a bit surprised, but this mixer has gotten so much use. I think part of the reason is that it’s small and compact enough to keep in an everyday, easily accessible drawer, so it’s not a lot of work to take it out.  I use it at least weekly for my baking projects.

For more details, you can read my review here.   By the way, I’ll be sharing more baking projects soon, so please stay tuned for additional updates about this mixer.

3) Suisai Beauty Clear Powder, by Kanebo.

I read about this cleanser here, and made a note to pick them up while we were in Tokyo.  I liked the idea of a gentle, foaming exfoliating powder, that was individually packaged.  Most of the exfoliators I have come in tubes, and they usually dry out before I can finish (or get tired) of them.

I was actually not prepared for how small these would be!  Each container of product is only about 1 centimeter.  However, their size makes them quite handy to take on trips.  

Each little pod contains about half a teaspoon of white powder~ shake out onto your palm, and then fill the little container halfway with water, and mix with the powder.  These little pods pack quite a lot of punch for their size~ I use these about once or twice a week, concentrating on my forehead and nose.  I imagine these would be extremely useful in the hot and humid summer days which will be upon us soon (groan).

4)  Mugs from the Traveler’s Factory and Blue Bottle Coffee

Unwittingly, I’ve started collecting mugs of assorted shapes and sizes from places that I’ve visited.  (This is probably why none of the mugs at my house match) I love having daily reminders of my travels, and each and every mug definitely gets a lot of use. Plus, they are often great conversational starters for when guests come over.

The latest two I’ve added to my collection is one from Blue Bottle Coffee, which is the perfect shape and size for a matcha latte (the instant kind! The size stops you from pouring in too much water :D).   The second is one from the Traveler’s Factory. I love the thick, chunky shape, which is smooth to the touch, and retains heat well.

5) Clothing from Journal Standard  

I was quite prepared to not buy clothes in Japan. I’m probably a foot taller than the average Japanese women, so I imagined that it would be hard for me to find the right fit and size. My guess was about 85% right,  and I didn’t bother buying clothes, until I happened upon Journal Standard on the very last day of my trip.  I vaguely remember my friend Peter recommending this brand to me a long time ago, but I didn’t have time to go in during my first trip here. Admittedly, I was drawn in by the buy 2, get 10% off sign, and I decided to go in and see if I could find anything I like.

I’m so happy that I did, because I think I discovered my store. You know, that store where you could picture yourself wearing about 80% of the merchandise. The clothes at Journal Standard are classic, but with a twist, made with high quality fabrics, and have lovely silhouettes. Plus, most importantly, the shopping experience here is wonderful. The sales assistants leave you alone to shop, but then are friendly when helping you find a different size or color. They also helped me fill out all the tax free forms, and automatically deducted the amount from the total. I bought quite a few clothing items here, and I wore each item constantly through the cold days we have been fortunate to have here in Taipei. They were worth every penny, because I feel happy every time that I put them on.  (I also found out that they also now have a store in Taipei. The prices are comparable to the ones in Japan, and sometimes fluctuate depending on the currency rates.  I’ll be enthusiastically waiting for their summer clothes!).

Are you curious about how I got all my shopping home?  And most important of all, did I make my luggage allowance?  My secret is, I love, love, love packing.  If unrestrained, I will probably pack my friends’ suitcases for them before we flew home.  I took a group of students on an overseas trip once, and I actually had to sit on my hands to stop myself from “helping” them pack on the last night.  Is there such thing as a professional suitcase packer? If so, please let me know because I would love to have that job!

My number one tip is, maximize use of space. For example, I bought two Oxo pop-up storage containers at Tokyu Hands (which are exorbitantly expensive in Taiwan, but comparable to U.S. pricing in Tokyo, plus I received a bit of tax back).  I used them to corral all the loose, fragile, or potentially messy items. For example, in one of the containers, I packed my coffee mug from Blue Bottle. I also packed two tubs of Japanese butter (which I’ve always wanted to try but are SO expensive in Taiwan… but are a normal price for butter in Japan). I kept them cool in my hotel fridge and packed them at the last minute and hoped for the best. My rationale was, if they melted and leaked, at least they would be contained inside a leakproof container.

Other potentially fragile items included my onigiri lunch boxes (I didn’t buy two for myself! I bought one back for my friend Peggy) I lined the bottom of the container with a dishcloth, which served as some cushioning.

I also tucked in some other small items, such as earrings and stationery items, so they wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

 

If you’re wondering, what is my obsession with these cloths? I found the best ones in Japan. They are “tengui” towels, and are cotton gauze on one side, and terry cloth on the other.  They are lightweight, sturdy and dry quickly.  They are pricier in Taiwan, yet quite reasonably priced in Japan (probably because they are a normal, everyday household item) with tons of pretty colors and patterns to choose from.

Then pop on the lid, and the entire box is ready to go inside the suitcase.

My second tip is to bring an extra, soft, squashy bag.  The last two trips, I’ve used this bag from Le-Sportsacfor luggage overflow.  I find that having this extra bag is particularly useful for dirty laundry. I can’t stand mixing in worn clothes, with unworn ones in my suitcase when I’m traveling, so I find that I just toss in all my dirty laundry in my extra bag.  I don’t usually even bother repacking it, and I just check it in with my suitcase.  When I go home, that is the first bag I immediately open. I start a load of laundry and then feel extremely virtuous and efficient. (While the rest of the packing waits until I get over my post-vacation blues).   For future trips, I’m thinking of upgrading to this foldable tote by Muji, which can be hooked onto your suitcase handle, and looks a lot neater and streamlined. 

Muji foldable travel bag. (Original image source: muji.com/tw)

 

Muji foldable travel bag (Original image source: muji.com/tw)

 

Muji foldable travel bag. (Original image source: muji.com/tw)

My last tip is, if there is a luggage weighing machine avaible in your hotel lobby, make sure to use it. It’s always better to find out early if your luggage is overweight and make adjustments before you get to the airport. One useful discovery that I made was that there is a small post office right across the street from Sunroute Plaza, the hotel that I stayed in.  So if you are really over your luggage limit, it might be worth it for you to send some of the stuff home by regular post. I imagine it is much more economical than paying for overweight luggage, or courier services at the airport.

 

So, you must all be waiting with baited breath, did I make my luggage limit? Both bags checked, came to a grand total of:

Just barely! With a bit of room to spare.  I also managed to also squish in my winter boots into my suitcase-  one packing tip I never agree with is to wear your heaviest shoes on the plane.  Such a pain to take on and off when you are going through security!

I’m a little sad to say that this post concludes my coverage of my trip to Tokyo. Thank you so much for following along these past few weeks. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them!  It’s very likely that Japan will be an annual holiday destination, so please let me know if you have any suggestions for my future trips.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more about baking and meal planning, so please come back soon.  As always, you can also follow me over at Instagram, to see more of what I’m up to.

Enjoy!

Note: This was not a sponsored post. I paid for all items with my own money. Experiences and opinions expressed are my own. 

Choosing omiyage at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan

One of the last things that I always do before leaving Tokyo is to buy omiyage (souvenirs) at the airport. In this post, I thought I would describe some of the omiyage at Haneda Airport, so you can have some more information about what is inside some of those pretty boxes.  During my first trip to Tokyo, I had no idea what to buy at the airport.  I saw people buying lots and lots of colorfully wrapped boxes, but I wasn’t sure what was in them.  I think I ended up buying a box of Tokyo Bananas and some matcha flavored Kit-Kats before hopping on my flight.

During the following years after my first trip to Tokyo, I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of omiyage~ and now I have a much better idea of what to bring back for family, friends and colleagues. Here are the items I brought back this trip, from Haneda Airport:

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In this post, I’ll go over the way that the box is wrapped, and some of the main ingredients, and of course,  most importantly what the treats look like and taste like.

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Hello Tokyo! Number Sugar and Spiral Market in Omotesando

One of the new (to me) discoveries I made on this trip was the discovery of the Omotesandō (表参道) area.  I never expected to love it so much, but I really do.  The streets are dotted with lots of fun, quirky little shops, and it’s also an interesting place to people-watch. In addition to visiting the Nezu Museum during this trip, I also discovered two other gems that I would make repeat visits to next year: Number Sugar and the Spiral Market. 

Number Sugar is a confectionery store that specializes in handmade caramels.  They have 10 flavors that are made fresh, on site, daily.  However, after exiting the Omotesando subway station, it was a bit of a wild goose chase.  On paper (or on Google Maps) the streets of Tokyo are labeled by district (chōme), block (ban) and house numbers (gō).  Theoretically, this seems clear enough, until you realize that there are hardly any visible street signs!

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Hello Tokyo! Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku, Part Two: Kitchenware and Bento Boxes

As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, one of the best parts about shopping at Tokyu Hands is the sheer variety of items that are available. Plus, everything is displayed in an accessible way, so you can look at them to your heart’s content.   One of the appliances I was looking forward to seeing up and close and personal was the…. cue music and spotlight here… the Balmuda toaster oven.  (It’s only recently become available in Taiwan, and on a very limited release). Sigh. I’ve been obsessing about this kitchen appliance since I saw this video.    During this trip, I was seriously thinking about buying this and just taking it home in my suitcase.  But my goodness, this oven is heavy! It would have been the height of impracticality to lug it back to the hotel, and then risk it going through the rough and tumble of the luggage carousel.  

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Itoya Stationery Experience, in Ginza

Itoya is located in Ginza, the very posh area of Tokyo.  The first time I was there, it was undergoing renovations.  I’m happy to report the renovations have long been completed, and now,  visually, the store is stunning. It is now an impressive 12 floors, each organized by theme, such as Letter, Desk, Travel, Home, Fine Paper, Craft, with a cafe on the very top floor.

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The display in the storefront is hundreds of pencils “floating” in the air.

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku, Part One: Stationery

A trip to Tokyo would not be complete, unless you visit Tokyu Hands. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s basically an emporium of Japanese ingenuity, filled with gadgets, lotions and potions, and everything you never knew you wanted until now.  Tokyu Hands is definitely not just a tourist destination, because I observe that Japanese people shop there too.  The stationery floor is usually filled with office workers and teenagers (I imagine the stationery section must be one of the most satisfying forms of retail therapy after a long day of work or school).

The branch that I visited is the Shinjuku store, located in the Times Square Building, and it’s just a two minute walk from the New South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station. If you only have time for one visit, I would advise allocating at least one to two hours here, because the store is 8 floors. It’s sensory overload, but in the best, possible way. My advice is to shop there about an hour to an hour and a half before the store closes at 9:00 pm.  The crowds have thinned out considerably by then, so you have plenty of room to browse, and there is hardly a wait for the cashier, or at the tax return counter downstairs.

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During my first visit to Tokyo Hands a few years ago, I was completely overwhelmed. I think I may have had a mini-melt down in the belt buckle/ leather laces section (why was I there again?!). Since I was staying nearby, I divided up my visits over the 5 days that I was there, which made the experience much more productive (and rational).  I only zeroed in on the items that I was especially interested in: beauty and cosmetics (3rd floor ) stationery (8th floor) , and kitchenware (4rth floor)  and just limited my browsing to those three floors.  For clarity purposes, I will divide the coverage of my Tokyu Hands experience into two posts: stationery and kitchen gadgets

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Hello Tokyo! Visiting the Traveler’s Factory, in Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

My enthusiasm for the Traveler’s Notebook was sparked by my friend Peggy, who introduced me to the entire line during a day trip to Taichung.    That was the moment I fell in love with everything about the notebook, the design, the layout, and mostly, the versatility.  Since then, I’ve been really lucky to see the celebration of their 10 year anniversary, and even to find them all the way in Hong Kong.  A trip to see the Traveler’s Factory in Tokyo has always been one of my dreams, and it was during this trip that my dream finally came into fruition.

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