Monday, March 18, 2019

Cap City Half : Week Four

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend, and got to enjoy St Patrick's Day!  I definitely did, and also had a great week of training.  Here's how week four went- only six more weeks of training to go!


1 mile / 9:35
I had a busy day, but Dan and I managed to squeeze in a short run together.  It was windy and cold so neither one of us really wanted to run, but we got it done!


7 miles / 8:54 pace
Speed work day, a little earlier this week!  In the Kara Goucher plan, this is always one of my love it/hate it workouts.  It's called ice cream sandwich, and the goal is 2 miles at 15 seconds over race pace, 6 hill repeats, then another 2 miles at 15 seconds over race pace.  Since my goal pace is 8:20, I was planning on sticking around 8:35 pace.  Well, that immediately went out the window because I felt GREAT, and the weather was perfect!  My average paces ended up being 8:12 for the first two and 7:53 for the second two.  The hills were actually a great break and challenge in the middle of the run, but everything just flowed perfectly for this run.

Beat Fitness / 1 hour
Apparently I like doing a strength workout after my speed workout!  I actually felt really good for this workout, and just took it easy on leg exercises.  We did 5 different stations, and spent 7:30 at each one.  The exercises we did were- split leg dumbbell row, banded monster squats, front barbell squat, TRX pull-up, diagonal plank, bear crawl, rower, BOSU ball down/up, leg raise/v-up, hamstring plank curl.  We also ended with a tabata of burpees, star jumps, and crab walks. Great workout!


Rest Day


3 mile walk
It was a beautiful, warm day out, so I had to take Selma for a walk outside before my watercolor class.


Beat Fitness / 1 hour
It was a very special class because Dan came with me!  We were the only two in class and it was a lot of fun.  Great workout with a really intense burn out at the end (squat jumps, lateral planks, jumping jacks).


8 miles / 9:20 pace
I met up a little later in the morning for a long run with Jessie, and we did a great job!  Our pace was really consistent the entire time, then we decided to have a fast finish and ended our last mile in 8:09.  Really great run over all!


3 mile walk
Recovery walk with Selma at the park.  The weather was great and it was sunny out, so it was a great way to end the week.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cap City Half : Week Three

Hard to believe, but I'm now three weeks in to training for my next half marathon!  This was one of my most fun and diverse weeks of workouts that I ever had- it definitely wasn't a high mileage week, but I tried out so many different workouts and it was so great!  We also were blessed with some amazing temperatures, and I hope that means spring will be making its debut soon.  Here's how my week went!


5 miles / 9:35 pace
Cold run, but the sky looked incredible and there was a bit of sun!  I did a few loops around the pool by my house and got back to my car at around 4.65 miles, so of course I had to keep going to get to 5 of course!


Rest Day!


5 miles / 8:49 pace
I worked from home, so I was able to get in my workout during lunch.  The goal for this week's speed work was tempo- 3 miles at 8:40 sandwiched between a warm up and cool down.  It was a really chilly day and I just wanted to finish quickly, so I ended up a little faster- 8:21, 8:05, 8:00.  I felt so good the entire run though and was feeling smooth!

Beat Fitness / 1 hour
My favorite ClassPass studio just released a Groupon (3 months unlimited classes for $109) so I jumped on it and will put my ClassPass membership on hold for the next few months.  Today's class was pretty good- only four stations and a longer time at each one (2 rounds of 4:45 each).  The exercises were all over the place- Russian twists, bird dog, kettlebell snatch, twists, rotating dumbbell row, kettlebell swings, deadlift, and TRX pullups.  It was challenging but the time went by so quickly!


Rest Day for Watercolor class!


Beat Fitness / 1 hour
Another great class.  The format was the same as Wednesday's class, but the moves were different- step ups, dumbbell bench press, side / curtsy sandbag lunge, bar press, air jordan, true form run, BOSU ball supermans, and club lunges.  Class ended a little early, so Brian had us do a 3 minute tabata of 30 second burpee/15 second mountain climber.  That part of class was SO hard and I left really sweaty.


Cross Country Ski / 3 hours
I set out for the mountains early in the morning with Alexa and her boyfriend, and Dan!  We all rented skis, then went to Kooser State Park for some glorious ski conditions.  I had a ton of fun and was able to use some of the lessons that I learned from my first trip to do even better this time.  I even went down a few (tiny, but still hilly) downhills.  It was absolutely perfect!  We also ended the day by visiting two breweries (Helltown and Strange Roots) so it really was the best day.


8 miles / 9:37 pace
I met up with Jessie and Steff for this run at North Park, nice and early on Daylight Savings (bad choice!).  It was a beautiful day out, and it felt great to not have to bundle up to run!  Steff had 12 miles to do, so Jessie and I tagged along for the first 8.  Her plan was to run the first 4 miles, then keep speeding up every 2 miles.  We nailed our paces for the first two sets- 9:21, 9:07, 8:55, 8:46, and it made time go by really quickly to break it down into parts instead of just thinking of all 8 miles.

Hot Yoga / 1 hour
I wanted to sign up for a hot yoga class since I had a lot of hard workouts the past few days, and I usually find it to be relaxing and restorative.  That was NOT the case with this one at Stray Dog Yoga- the class felt super hot and sweat was just rolling off everyone the entire class (gross but true!).  While it wasn't the relaxing experience I was looking for, I still really enjoyed it and got a few good stretches and inversions in!  Great way to end a fun week of workouts.

What's your favorite kind of workout?
What's the weather like where you are?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Cap City Half : Week Two

I might sound like a broken record at this point, but hello from snowy Pittsburgh!  We got another 6 inches of snow last, so it looks like this upcoming week will be interesting in terms of training.  On a plus, last week was a great week and I crushed a few key workouts.  Here's how it went!


3.6 miles / 9:43
Nice  and easy loop around my neighborhood as usual!  It was chilly but sunny out, so it actually felt really nice.  There were a lot of people out enjoying the sun as well.


Rest Day!
I was originally planning on going to Beat Fitness, but Dan sent me a text and said he wanted to hang out.  So, we went to happy hour at BJ's and watched Free Solo instead!


5.4 miles / 9:08 pace
First official speed workout complete!  I met up with Jessie for the run after work, and Dan even joined us for the warmup.  We did 1 mile warmup, followed by 3x1 mile with a 20 second jog in between miles and a mile cool down.  The goal was to be between 8:30 and 8:40 per mile (which is 10 to 20 seconds slower than race pace), and we ended up crushing it.  Our miles came in 8:23, 8:24, 8:21.  We both felt great and had to hold back the entire time!


Rest Day!
Thursday is my watercolor painting class at the local community college, so I just came home, ate something quickly, and got going to class.


3 miles walk
Took Selma to the park for a little hike/walk/run!  We had a great time :)  When I got home I did a yoga video and some core.


9 miles / 10:00 pace
I ran with my girls at the Pro Bike and Run group run!  We had a great route that started in Southside, and went through Oakland and Squirrel Hill.  It covered routes that I used to take when I lived there, so it was nostalgic to run around there again!


Hot Yoga  / 1.25 hour
I tried out Amazing Yoga for an early morning vinyasa.  It was a really hard class, plus it was heated to 90 degrees, so I was really struggling!  I made it through though, and was proud of myself at the end.

2.5 mile run / 9:40 pace
Dan and I went for a run together, and I tried out a new pair of shoes (Sauchony Triumph- love!).  It was snowing / sleeting the whole time but I was having a great time.  Plus, we ended the run with beers at OTB with friends, so overall it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cap City Half : Week One

Week one of training is in the books!  Once again we had some crazy weather (huge snow storm, followed by an intense wind storm that left us without power for 10 hours), but I had a pretty good week of workouts.  Here's how it went!


4.5 miles / 9:48 pace
Nice and easy loop around my neighborhood.  There was some snow, but there wasn't much wind and it wasn't too cold, so it was actually pretty pleasant.  I ended the run with a few striders.

Dirty Dozen
The plan that I'm following has a core workout that's supposed to be done on Mondays, so I made sure to do all 12 of the moves right when I got home from my run.


Beat Fitness / 1 hour
Class was pretty intense today, and I left completely sweaty.  The moves we completed were- dumbbell pull-down, kettlebell squats, TRX row, barbell back squat, hip thrusts, bicycle crunch, True From treadmill sprints, wall sits, mountain climbers, and club swings.  It was challenging but great!


Rest Day!
We got hit with a HUGE snow storm, so I stayed home from work and didn't really do much of anything.


2.5 miles
The weather changed quickly, and all of the snow melted thanks to a nice, warm day.  Since it was so nice out, Dan wanted to go on a run as well, so we took Selma and ran together!  I did about 2 miles with Dan, then finished up a bit alone.


Yoga Glo / 1.25 hours
I met up with a friend to try out a new yoga studio in Shadyside- Yoga Love.  This one was candlelit and was super relaxing.  The flow itself was pretty challenging and moved really quickly.  I enjoyed it a lot!


5 mile run
I met up with Jessie for an early morning long run!  We did a lap around North Park and it went by really quickly, and I felt great.

3 mile hike
A few weeks ago, I joined a Outdoors club to meet up with other local ladies to do fun activities outside.  We met up at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve and had a great hike.


Rest Day!
Went to Top Golf with a few friends for two hours of golfing, but otherwise just relaxed all day and took it easy.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cap City Half : Race Goals, Plans, More!

Hello everyone from snowy Pittsburgh!  We've gotten a ton this morning- when I woke up there was nothing outside, but by the time I was about to leave for work, it was a complete blizzard!  Now we have a hefty few inches of snow, and it keeps falling.

Training for my next half marathon starts this week, and I'm really excited to get back in the training groove.  Last year my entire focus was on completing my first triathlon, so I'm ready to get back to running and chipping away at a new PR.

I will be running in the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio in 10 (more like 9.5) short weeks!  There are a few reasons why I picked this race, mostly because it's a flat course, good time of the year, and a few of my friends are also running it.   Plus, the post-race party sounds legit, with beer, pizza, margaritas, and carousal rids at the finish line.  So, I can either celebrate a good race or drink my sorrows away. Either way I win!

Once again, I am going to be following Kara Goucher's 10 Week Half Marathon plan.  I used this when I got my PR in Buffalo Creek and really liked it!  The combination of easy runs, long runs, and different speed workouts each week worked really well for me.  I liked how the speed work was all focused around race pace and had longer intervals (shortest being an 800, but most of them are more sustained effort).  It gave me a lot of confidence for race day and really helped my mindset!

I am also going to be training with Jessie for this race again.  We trained together for Buffalo Creek, and having her there to push and motivate me for speed workouts and long runs was so helpful.  I'll still do my easy runs alone, but having a friend there for those tough workouts is great!

Another goal for this training cycle is spending more time in the gym.  I'm going to be cutting my running days down to 3 or 4 days, instead of my usual 5 or 6, and using the extra days for cross training.  I have use Class Pass, but might actually put it on hold to get a 3 month membership at Beat Fitness to focus on strength and conditioning.  I've seen a change in my body from going there just once in a while, so I think if I went a few times a week it would make a huge difference.

I'm excited to go for a new PR in this race, and my overall goal is to break 1:50!  I'll be sharing my weekly workouts, and will also check in a few weeks from now to see how training is going and set my A, B, and C goals as well.  Here we go!!

Are you training for anything right now?
Do you like to train alone or with a friend?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Week in Workouts : It's Over

Preseason is officially over, and my next training cycle starts TODAY!! I had another solid week of workouts, trying out a few new things, and taking a bit of rest when I got hit with a mini cold in the middle of the week.  I'm feeling back to 100% and ready to get running!  Here's how my week went- 


Core Workout
I decided to start doing some home workouts during the week when I'm not going to a class or doing a run.  This workout was SO HARD and from the beginning my abs were on fire. 

2 mile walk
I took Selma for a walk around the park on a chilly, rainy day.  It wasn't ideal, but we had fun and it was still great to get fresh air!


4.1 miles
It was another cold and rainy day (one of those days where the temperature is right on the brink of turning the precipitation from rain to snow), so I wasn't really looking forward to the run.  I decided to just go out for an easy one or two miler, but of course once I was out there I ended up doing more.

Core Workout
After my run I did another core workout- this one was much easier but was tough with my sore muscles from Monday's workout!


Hot Yoga
I tried out a different yoga studio with my ClassPass- Stray Dog Yoga in Wexford.  The class was heated to 100 degrees and was vinyasa style, with lots of flows and balance moves.  I absolutely loved it, and the 75 minutes flew by!  My only complaint is that the studio was pretty small but absolutely packed, so I kept bumping into people or had to coordinate my moves with my neighbors. 


Rest Day!
I was feeling a little stuffy on Wednesday, and woke up with a ton of congestion and couldn't stop sneezing and coughing :(  I also felt like I had 0 energy, so I ended up working from home, skipping my first watercolor painting class, and spending Valentines Day resting.


2 mile walk
I actually had a happy hour after work and stayed for a bit without drinking since I was still feeling a bit under the weather, but afterwards I met up with Dan and Selma for a walk in the woods.  It was just what I needed!


5 miles
This run was just about getting it done.  I wasn't meeting up with friends since I had plans, so I just put on a good podcast and put in the miles.  Not the best, but I got it done!

Top Golf
For my sister's birthday, we ended up going to Top Golf for a few hours of golfing fun!  I've never gone to a driving range or done any kind of golfing besides putt-putt, so this was a completely new experience for me.  It was so much fun though, and actually kind of made random muscles that I apparently never use a little bit sore!  


1 mile walk
This day was kind of a fail in terms of working out.  I was planning on running, but slept in since we stayed out late with friends the night before, then we had to run some errands, and by the time I was getting in the car to go, it started hailing like crazy!  So, I just took Selma for a quick walk.

Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (Level 1)
I felt like doing a workout at home, so I pulled out some of my old DVDs.  Apparently I went through a Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels phase, because I have a ton of her stuff!  I decided to do the 30 Day Shred, which is 3 rounds of- 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs.  It was a fun workout that went by quickly!

What are you training for?
Have you ever played golf?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Day Trip to Nikko

The first day trip that we took in Japan was to a town north of Tokyo called Nikko.  I did some research about nearby cities, and was really interested in this one because of the natural beauty surrounding incredible UNESCO heritage sites.  There's even a saying in Japanese- "Never say 'kekkō' until you've seen Nikkō"—kekkō meaning beautiful, magnificent or "I am satisfied"-which just proves the beauty of Nikko.

Here's a look at my favorite things that I saw and ate during our day trip to Nikko!


The trip from Tokyo to Nikko was pretty simple, and we were able to take all trains run by Japan Railways, which is covered under our JR Pass.  Here is the route that we took-

JR Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya Station (this is a bullet train, which means we got there very quickly! We got reserved seats, but there are also unreserved cars if you don't have a Rail Pass and want to save money).

Nikko Line from Utsunomiya Station to Nikko (very cute, old fashioned train, but doesn't run very often.  Make sure you check the time tables so you can plan out your time wisely).

There are buses available from Nikko Station around town, but the walk is really lovely!  It's all uphill to get to the shrine areas, but the view of the mountains is absolutely breathtaking, and there are lots of shops and restaurants to stop in to break up the walk.

Shinkyo Bridge

This bright vermilion bridge, which in English means Sacred Bridge, signifies the entrance to the shrines of Nikko and is one of the first World Heritage Sites you'll see in town.  This iteration was built in 1636, and is considered one of the three finest bridges (and the oldest) in Japan.  You're able to cross for 500 yen, but you can also view it crossing over the rapids below for free!

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

If you continue along the water, you are able to take a terrific stroll past Kanman Park, a Buddhist temple, and a row of 70 stone statues.  The statues represent Jizo, a Bodhisattva who cares for the deceased and sick children, which is why he's commonly covered in children's clothing and surrounded by toys.

The main attraction on the walk is the abyss, which was formed by an eruption of a nearby volcano.  I can only imagine how beautiful the area must be in the fall, but even in winter it was terrific!

Toshogu Shrine

The main attraction in Nikko is the incredible Toshogu Shrine, which is supposed to be one of the most elaborate and grand shrines in the world.  It definitely lived up to the hype!  

The shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa Sogunate that ruled Japan for 250 years.  While the shrine started as a simple mausoleum, it was updated and enlarged into the current complex in the 1600s by Ieyasu's grandson.

There are so many small, incredible details all over the sprawling structures.  One of my favorites is right when you enter, where you can see the Three Wise Monkeys and an illustration of "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil".

Just look at that incredible detail!  This is how the entire complex looked and we could have spent hours just studying one building.  Well worth the 1300 yen entry fee!

Yuba-maki Zen

One of my favorite things about Japan and traveling to different cities is that most places have a regional specialty that they are known for.  In Nikko, this was yuba, which is basically the skin formed when making tofu, and can be prepared fresh, dried, or half dried.  We picked a place that specialized in different preparations, and got the set meal to try them all out!  Everything was so delicious, and I especially liked the miso soup, which had a more robust and intense flavor than what I'm used to.

Murmur Biiru Stand

We stumbled upon this little brewery and stopped in to try all the different flavors.  The owner was a really sweet guy who brews the beer in the back room of the shop, and also sells some beer that his friend in Utsunomiya makes!  While the beer wasn't incredible, it was a nice stop to make, and he was playing Napoleon Dynamite dubbed in Japanese, which made the experience even better.

Have you ever visited an UNESCO World Heritage Site?
What kind of cities do you like to visit?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Week in Workouts : Polar Vortex

We can just call this a cut-back week for running, because I definitely lowered my mileage!  We were hit with the Polar Vortex in Pittsburgh, which gave us temperatures below zero and no desire to leave the house.  I switched things up a bit this week though, including trying out a new outdoor workout.  Here's how the week went-


Total Body Conditioning
This is one of my favorite classes that I've tried with ClassPass, and today's definitely didn't disappoint!  The hour of class seemed to fly by, and by the end I was super sweaty and sore.  Loved it!


4 miles / 9:45 pace
I did an easy course around my house after work.  It started to snow pretty hard while I was out (hopefully you can tell in my shaky pic above!), but I powered through and ended up having a great run!


Rest Day!
Stayed home from work, didn't leave the house.  Brr!


Rest Day!
It was actually even colder than Wednesday, so I stayed home again.  Got a bit of cabin fever!


Cycle Bar
It warmed up quite a bit (wind chill got above 0), but all of the roads around me were really icy and not treated, so I decided to switch things up and go to a spinning class.  It was a while since my last one, but I missed it.  This class was a lot of fun and the playlist was on point!


5 mile run / 9:22 pace
I was actually planning on doing a longer run, but I did one lap around North Park and my entire body felt frozen (in addition to my eyelashes literally freezing my eyes shut a few times), so I cut my losses and called it a day.


Cross Country Skiing
A few weeks ago, I signed up for a class through Venture Outdoors for beginning cross country ski, and it ended up being the most perfect day to go!  We had a warm 40/50 degree day, but there was a ton of snow at Kooser State Park.  I've gone downhill skiing once, so I was really coming in as a beginner, but the class was so much fun and I caught on after about 30 minutes.  I definitely got a full body workout and also had a blast!

What's your favorite cold weather activity?
How was the weather in your area this week?

Friday, February 1, 2019

January in Review

If January is any indication for how 2019 will be, I'm in for a wild ride this year!  I started out the month by going to the emergency room (everything is fine- I thought my appendix was bursting and it turns out there was some kind of GI issue going around Pittsburgh).  Then, we had a girl I met during our trip to Hawaii and who is from Paris stay with us for a week which was a ton of fun. To end the month we a bang, we decided to trade in our used Subaru for a new one!

Let's hope that February is full of just as much fun, but hopefully not as much money spent or time in the hospital ;)  Here's a look at how my goals went-

Write on the blog more

Done and crushed this one!  I wrote quite a few posts which you can check out here-

It's been really great getting back to writing again, and I'm looking forward to continuing this in February!  I have more Japan posts to share, I'll continue doing my weekly workout recaps, and also want to do another Frugal February challenge (more on that below!)

Start training for the Capital City Half Marathon

If you read my weekly workout posts above you'll see that this one is also underway!  My official training hasn't started yet, but I'm well on my way.  My plan starts in mid-February, so I'll be sharing more this month.

30 Days of Yoga Challenge

I did pretty well with this.  I didn't do every day, but I'll keep going until I finish all of the videos from the challenge.  It was really fun and definitely different than past years'.  It seemed like the videos were a lot shorter and there was more sitting around in the postures at the beginning and end which I wasn't a huge fan of, but I still enjoyed it.

Read Two Books

I finished my two books, and even managed to hit my goal of one regular book, and one off of the Times Best Novels list!  My fun read was A Simple Favor, which had a really great plot and format, but seemed to drag on for a while.  I watched the movie as well which was really different from the book but also good!  From the Times list I finished Lord of the Flies, which was a very difficult book for me to read, but I got through it!  Right now, I'm reading The Perfect Nanny, which is extremely dark and twisted but engrossing at the same time.

Work on Japan Scrapbook

I made great progress on my scrapbook!  I organized my layout, and also got all of my pictures printed out from my trip.  So far I finished my pages for Tokyo and Kyoto, so I should have everything completed by the end of February.

Now let's move on to some of my goals for February!  I'm sticking to some more fun goals, since it's a short month and might be hard with the weather and training starting.

Try New Things

I want this year to be full of new adventures and stepping outside of my comfort zone, so I'm going to dive right into that in February by taking a class at a community college and joining an outdoors club.  Can't wait to share how they go!

Watch all the Oscar Best Picture Nominations

I'm not a huge movie person, but I always thought it would be fun to watch all of the Oscar nominees.  Most years have movies that I'm not super interested in, but this year has a few that I've been wanting to see and a few others that I haven't even heard of but sound interesting.  So, February will be about staying warm and watching more movies!

Frugal February

This was a challenge that I did last year, and it was a great way to kick off the year in a positive way.  Plus, this is the shortest month of the year so I can definitely go 28 days without spending money on frivolous things!  I will follow the same rules as last year, which includes:

NO buying breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, or snacks out.
NO online shopping.
NO Target!!
NO Netflix and Hulu. (I actually got rid of Hulu completely after this challenge, so now I'll just pause my Netflix for the month)
NO Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

What are your goals for February?
How was your January?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Week in Workouts : Brrrr

Another week of training is in the books!  I'm inching closer and closer to half marathon training starting, and I feel like I'm in a good place right now.  I haven't incorporated any kind of speed in yet, but I'm getting back in the flow of running consistently.  I'm even (dare I say) getting excited to put in the hard work!

Here is how my snowy and cold week of workouts (and daily yoga) went:


This was one of my favorite videos in this 30 day set.  There was a lot more movement which felt great, and the time seemed to fly by.

3 miles / 9:23 pace
I had the day off work, so I knew I wanted to get a run in.  It was only 7 degrees when I went, but there was zero wind and it was sunny, so it didn't actually feel that cold!  The roads were all clear, so I ended up having a very pleasant run.


Lots of deep stretches in this one.  Had to modify a few of the low squats because my knees felt a touch sensitive.


There were lots of side planks in this one, starting with modifications and ending with the full deal.  Nice workout!

4.5 miles / 9:34 pace
Random heat wave (up to the 40s) so I decided to squeeze in a run after work.  It was drizzling a bit but I didn't mind at all! Only downfall was the road was super wet from all the melted snow, so my feet were drenched and cold the entire time.  I really need to invest in a pair of shoes that are waterproof...


I actually did this right after I came home from Beat (see below), so it felt so good to stretch out.

Beat Fitness
If last week was my least favorite class at Beat, this would have to be my favorite.  We had four stations with two exercises each, which we did five sets of 1:30 at each with a 3:00 "burnout" at the end of class.  Each station was really fun- True Form treadmill run, banded side step, Bosu Ball squats, club swings, Arnold press, figure 8 kettlebell squats, weighted back squat, and plate clean press.  It was challenging, but went by so quickly and really pushed me.


Rest Day
Took the day off of workouts to hang out with friends after work!


Balance is one of my favorite aspects of yoga, so this was a perfect practice for me.


There were so many great hip openers and other stretches- just what I needed!

8 miles / 10:30 pace
This run was actually supposed to happen on Saturday with Pro Bike and Run, but the roads were icy and none of my friends wanted to make it out.  Instead we met up on Sunday to run at North Park, and ran through even worse snow!  It was horrible weather, but we had so much fun together and I never would have completed the run alone.  Plus, we got brunch after, so it was all worth it!

Friday, January 25, 2019

3 Days in Tokyo

Hi everyone- TGIF!  I have a huge post to share today- all of my favorite things that I did during my three days in Tokyo, which is the first city I visited in Japan.  It was so hard to choose just a few places to share, but I hope that this will help show the incredible activities that Tokyo has to offer.

I'll be sharing my six favorite activities / areas, as well as four places we ate.  Unfortunately, I'm not much of a foodie when I travel, and my main goal is to explore as much as possible and save on food.  I still hope my list is helpful for some random options to try, but to be honest- most of the time we just grabbed a quick bite at 7-Eleven or from the numerous street vendors around the city.  It seems like you can't go wrong with food as I loved everything I tried!

Here are my favorite things I saw / did / ate in Tokyo!

Mori Digital Art Museum

I visited this museum on my first full day in Tokyo, along with Dan and two of his coworkers, and we all agreed that it was one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had.  The entire museum is full of lights and projectors that transport you to different worlds- from an underwater oasis filled with brightly colored whales and frogs, to a field full of flowers that changed shape and color as you walked past. 
There were so many rooms to explore- my favorite was a mirrored room with thousands of lily pads that displayed shimmering lights one minute and tiny birds the next- as well as interactive exhibits that forced you to climb poles or go down slides.  It's definitely a place that you have to experience for yourself!

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

I knew that I wanted to get a good view of Tokyo (I love going to observation towers or decks when visiting new cities), and luckily our hotel was right across the street from one that just happened to be free!  We went during the day as well as at night, and it's incredible to see just how vast the city of Tokyo is.  All around us the town seemed to go on and on! 
I also enjoyed seeing all of the marketing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics around the building, which makes me want to go back next year to watch the Games.


When planning out our plan at the beginning of each day, Dan and I pretty much just decided on an area to explore, got off the subway or train at that stop, and followed whatever caught our attention.  I knew that I wanted to visit Harajuku after hearing so much about it (mostly through Gwen Stefani's Japanese phase in the early 2000s- I even bought all of the perfumes and CD's), and it was incredible!  There is a main pedestrian street at the entrance of Harajuku station called Takeshita, which is just crammed full of shops and food stands. 
An important concept across Japan, but was especially prevalent in Harajuku, is "kawaii", which roughly translates to "cute, adorable, and lovable".  There were lots of stuffed animals, cute t-shirts, Disney stores, and colorful foods.  We made a stop at an ice cream shop that makes animal themed cones, which is a perfect representation of the Harajuku spirit that we saw.

Meiji Jingu

There were so many things I loved about this shrine, including the fact that it was in the center of a huge, beautiful park located minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Harajuku and offered a welcome relief from the crowds.  On the way to the shrine, you pass by a huge display of sake barrels- which are there as an offering of the enshrined deities of Meiji Shrine.  The sake is donated from local brewers and used at ceremonies and festivals!  Besides the stunning buildings in the shrine complex (which are all free to visit), there is also a garden which you can explore for a few hundred yen.

Roppongi Hills

Since we were in Japan during Christmas season, I knew we had to visit some of the light displays.  Even though Christmas is not a recognized holiday like it is in the United States and other countries, I still saw lots of people dressed up as Santa, displays in windows, and decorations all over the place.  I was shocked to also hear Christmas music everywhere!  One of the most famous illuminations in Tokyo is located at Roppongi Hills, which is a really neat shopping, business, and residential area.  There was a Christmas village (modeled after German markets), an entire block filled with sparkling blue lights, and a little park with decorations as well.


This was another area that we decided to get off at the station and just explore!  Besides Akihabara (which is a very similar area located close to Tokyo Station), this is the other famous otaku district in Tokyo- an area dedicated to people with specific interests in manga and anime.  There were so many comic book stores, video game cafes, maid cafes, and more!  We actually played some games in one of the video game places, which had six floors, each dedicated to different types of games.  Everyone in there was INSANELY good- it was entertaining just watching them play Dance Dance Revolution or Pachinko (which is a game I never heard of before, but we saw hundreds of stores all over the country just to play Pachinko).  We played a much easier game that was probably meant for children but we had a blast!

Pokemon Cafe

This was actually the very first thing that I did in Tokyo after landing.  Dan met me at the airport (he was in town a few days before me after working in Guam, so I flew alone), and we had to run through the airport to activate my Rail Pass, get seats on the Narita Express to get into Tokyo, and make it to the train in time for our reservation since my plane landed 2 1/2 hours late.  It was really exciting- Dan kept yelling back at me "LET'S DO THIS AMAZING RACE STYLE" and we jumped into the train just as it was about to pull out.  The cafe is near Tokyo Station, so I left my luggage in a locker at the train station and made our way to the building. 
There was a large store with all kinds of Pokemon gear and toys, which we explored until our time slot started.  Once inside, we were seated in a themed section (we got Snorlax) and ordered food on an iPad.  I wasn't particularly hungry, so I just got a donut and latte, while Dan got a Jigglypuff Cheesecake and float.  The food wasn't particularly good and was one of our more expensive meals, but the entire experience was cute and the place was adorable- my first experience with kawaii!  We apparently missed out on the characters coming out, but I was just ready to head to bed by the time we finished eating.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Just a note- there are two parts of the fish market in Tokyo, the inner and outer market.  The inner market was recently moved, and this is where the daily fish auctions take place (you might have heard about a recent $3 million tuna that was sold a few weeks ago).  The outer market is what I visited, which is full of tons of street vendors and restaurants selling super fresh fish and sushi.  We came after most of the shops had closed, but I heard it's a great experience to come early for breakfast!

Okonomiyaki Monjayaki

In Japan, one of my favorite foods was Okonomiyaki, which is basically a savory pancake with all kinds of delicious fillings.  At this place, we got all of our ingredients in a bowl, and read instructions on cooking our own meal on a hot plate in the center of our table.  Not only was the food delicious, but it was also a really fun experience!

Tokyu Food Show

I mentioned in my last post how much I loved the food floors at department stars, and Tokyu Food Show in the Shibuya station was my favorite.  There were so many different types of foods from sushi to fresh bread to macarons!  It's a really fun experience just to walk around before (or after) you grab a train.

What do you prioritize- food or experiences- on trips?
Favorite foreign food?