JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Lucky Owl Cafe; Dotonburi

Excuse the long pause between the travel posts, they take a lot longer to write and law school’s already catching up with me! Anyway, let’s continue on my first day in Osaka. After spending a couple of hours at Kuromon Ichiba Market, I made my way to Lucky Owl Cafe!

Lucky Owl Cafe

All sorts of weird cafes can be found in Japan, maid, robot, alpaca, just to name a few, but I picked owl cafe to go to, because, well, owls!

It took me a while to find Lucky Owl Cafe, because it moved location sometime last year, but only the old location was shown on Google map. After finally finding it however, the owls made it all worth it.
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You had to buy one drink, and there was a time limit of one hour. The waiter there was extremely helpful, and explained to me where each owl came from, how they look after them, and just some more random owl facts, which I’m all in for.

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The full lineup!

The owls were mostly quite friendly, and you can pet them on the beak! The hour flew by and it was time for me to say goodbye to the owls.

Before heading into Lucky Owl Cafe, I was quite concerned about the way that the owls may be treated in these types of places, however I was very happy to learn that they are cared for by the people at the cafe, and enjoy their limited time with people everyday.

Dotonburi

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Lucky Owl Cafe was on a side street in the busy neighbourhood of Dotonburi, aka where all the iconic neon lights, bridges, alleyways filled with restaurants and shops are found. I took my time and walked around pretty much aimlessly. These are honestly some of my best memories in Osaka, absorbing the energy of the city and enjoying being part of the hustle and bustle.

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I spent ages in Loft, a lifestyle store with a focus on stationery, which I bought plenty of haha. It was in the same building as Muji, and the things at Muji were comparatively cheaper than back home, so I finally bit the bullet and bought the aroma diffuser, something that I’ve had my eyes on for a while! I went into another drugstore as well, hunting down some more things on my list.

Dinner

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For dinner, I settled on a yakitori bar that I stumbled upon. It was very cozy and the food was decent. Although each skewer on its own doesn’t seem like much, it certainly did fill me up.

I got back to the hostel at around 11, and was knackered, but also so excited for the next  day because it was going to be Universal Studio time!

Spending Tracker

Drugstore: 5004JPY ~ 62.8AUD
Owl cafe: 1500JPY ~ 18AUD
Socks: 432JPY ~ 5.3AUD
Forever 21: 949JPY ~ 11.7AUD
Muji: 10047JPY ~ 125.1AUD
Loft: 2790JPY ~ 32.8AUD

Total: 20722JPY ~ 255.7AUD

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Le Petit Gateau

Le Petit Gateau is tucked away in my favourite part of the city, and serves one of my favourite cake in town. We stopped by for a quick dessert after lunch one day at, you guessed it, my suggestion.

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Lemon Tart – $8.50

Starting things on a simpler note, we ordered the lemon tart. This is such a classic dessert, and I loved Le Petit Geteau’s interpretation. The pastry was buttery and crumbly, and the lemon curd was tangy and silky smooth. Although nothing ground breaking, this is as good as lemon tarts can be imo.

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Brownie and Passionfruit Chocolate Gateau – $9.90

The precision of this cake never fails to blow me away, just look at how crisp the layers all are! The flavour profile certainly lives up to expectation, with chocolate brownie, passionfruit curd, and milk chocolate mousse layered on top of one another, and then the whole thing is covered with dark chocolate glaze, and topped with a mango jelly.

Five ingredients isn’t all that crazy when it comes to French patisserie I don’t think, however, these five elements all work in harmony, and brings the best out of one another. The tartness of the passionfruit curd and mango jelly balances out the richness of chocolate in its three different textures so well, making it a must order every time I visit!

There are still many more cakes and pastries I want to try out from Le Petit Gateau, it always takes me so much self control to not order a couple more to take home when I leave the store. But hey, given its accessible location, I’ll be sure to go back!

How to get there:
Le Petit Gateau is on Little Collins Street, which is less than 10 minutes walk away from Melbourne Central.

Le Petit Gateau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BLOG SALE | Nail Polish (OPI, China Glaze, Essie etc)

I’ve spent my holidays clearing out some of the things that I just don’t love/use anymore, and one huge category was nail polish!

I bought an Ikea Helmer to store my nail polishes a few years back, and over the years, it’s become overfilled with nail polish. This time round, I looked through every single one of my nail polish to make sure that first, it’s still in decent condition; second, I don’t have any dupes; and third, it’s still a colour that I will reach for.

After the whole process, I threw away 23 nail polish and kept 289. And out of the 289, I’ve decided to part ways with 103 through a blog sale! I have listed all of the nail polish in a Google Spreadsheet, including information like its brand, name, amount used, and the price. Check out the spreadsheet here for all the detailed information.

These are all the polishes that are up for grabs just for your reference!

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Oko Oko

Oko Oko is a small but functional restaurant that is located right next door to Melbourne uni, it does a range of okonomiyaki, as well as some classic Japanese rice dishes, such as curry katsu don and beef bowl.

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Chicken Karaage Oko Pancake – $10.9

For those unfamiliar with the dish, an okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable pancake, that has a lot of different veggies, and very little flour. It’s cooked up on a hot plate and formed into the shape, Oko Oko adds all sort of toppings onto their version of the traditional Japanese dish, and we opted to share the one with the chicken karaage. The pancake itself was thinner than I’m used, but the shredded veggies added some nice crunch to it. The karaage was nothing to write home about, but how bad can fried chicken be really?

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Pork Katsu Curry – $11.90

The dark colour of the curry sauce looked extremely promising, and the flavour was definitely there with this dish! The pork katsu was not all that substantial, but if you are in need of some extra protein, there is that fried egg up top, which I thought was a bit of a random addition. Japanese curry is a lot milder in flavour, and uses less pungent spices than say, Indian or Malaysian curry, and a big bowl of this is comfort food at its best.

Oko Oko doesn’t have the most authentic nor creative Japanese food in town, but I don’t think that’s where it aims to shine. With most dishes around the $10 mark, and its convenient location of being right next door to Melbourne Uni, it is an easy place for students to grab some food in between classes.

How to get here:
Oko Oko is located on Swanston Street, catch any of the tram heading out of the city from the Swanston Street side tram stops at Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #3 Lincoln Square, the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Oko Oko Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaprica

Kaprica has been a hidden gem close to uni for as long as I can remember. It is easily missable if you don’t know what you’re looking out for, but on any sunny day, there’s sure to be a crowd sitting outside, and that’s what gives away its location.1

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Provelone (Small) – $16.00

I’ve been here from time to time throughout my study, but is still yet to test every pizza on the menu. On this occasion, I went for the Provelone, which had the topping of artichoke, provolone, rocket and tomato. This was a very lightly flavoured pizza, and all four ingredients worked in harmony. I especially loved how the rocket cut through the richness of the provolone and the saltiness of the artichoke, and the tomato base lent every bite some acidity.3

The small pizza is very satisfying for one person, and doesn’t break the bank, which is why Kaprica remains popular amongst students nearby. I’m pretty sure we visited at around 3pm, hence the empty tables, but trust me, if you’re visiting on a Friday night, be sure to make a booking so that you don’t have to wait out in the cold.

How to get here:
Kaprica is located on Lincoln Square, catch any tram heading out of the city from Melbourne Central/Swanston Street and get off at Lincoln Square South, Kaprica is less than two minutes walk away.

Kaprica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shaanxi-Style Restaurant

It’s been a while since I’ve paid a visit to Shaanxi-Style Restaurant, it used to be a family favourite, especially when my grandma was here, but nowadays we tend do eat in a lot more often, and when we are eating out, there is an endless list of restaurants to try out, making returning to an old favourite something of a novelty.

I was craving lamb skewers after a day trip in the Macedon ranges, and no place does them quite like Shaanxi-Style, hence how we ended up having dinner here. Nothing much has changed in terms of both the decor and the menu, and by that I mean extremely minimal decor, but pleasant enough. The menu may be quite daunting if you are unfamiliar with Shaanxi cuisine, it’s heavy with spice, noodles, and all sorts of soups, and if you really don’t know what to order, at least there’s some photos on the menu to guide you.

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Special Pork Feet – $7.00

We had some trotters to start, now if you’ve never tried pork trotters, this may not be the best place to start. The trotters were braised in what is commonly known as ‘lu shui’, a master stock of kind, it usually has a mixture of soy, cinnamon, star anise, clove and cardamom, and what ever secret ingredient each restaurant has up their sleeve, the braising liquid is used over and over again, turning it into an extremely flavoursome concoction. This was served warm, which is something I’m not used to, since we always have it cold at home, giving it more of a bite. The skin and the tendon of the trotter were cooked down to a gelatinous state, and were a delight to eat.

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Lamb Noodle Soup – $10.90

Melbourne’s weather suddenly took a dip, and what better way to combat that than to have a big bowl of hot noodle soup?

This was the first time we had the lamb noodle soup, and the soup itself had a distinctive lamb flavour, with the addition, of bok choi, tofu puffs, black fungus and bits of lamb.

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I originally expected the noodles to be handmade, but unfortunately, this was not the case. The noodle lacked the bite that handmade noodles have, but it was quite moreish nonetheless.

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Lamb Skewers – $2.50 each

Onto the reason that we ended up in the restaurant at all, the lamb skewers! I will always have a soft spot for these in my heart, and on this night, Shaanxi-Style delivered again. The large chunks of lamb were grilled over charcoal, with a generous seasoning of salt, cumin and chilli powder, my favourite part about these skewers are the charred edges, especially with the more fattier bits, where the fat has gone completely crispy.

Shaanxi-Style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are sick of fried rice and dumplings, or just feeling a bit adventurous, then give it a go, then at least you’ll know for sure whether you are a fan or not!

How to get here:
Shaanxi-Style is located on Whitehorse Road, five minutes walk from Box Hill Station, which is on the Belgrave and Lilydale line.

Shaanxi-Style Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lux Foundry

Easter break came at a much needed time, and my friend and I made the most out of the one day with the good weather to do a day trip to Trentham Falls, which was really pretty! The walk was a little scary for me, but rock climbing’s just really not my thing.

You what is my thing though? Brunch, always brunch. Case and point, if I know I’m going on a semi-hike, then there’s only one thing that will get me out of bed that morning, you guessed it, brunch.

And that’s how we ended up taking a little detour, and went to Brunswick for some food before heading to Trentham Fall.

Good brunch places are definitely not in short supply on this end of town, we chose Lux Foundry because it has a very vegetarian friendly menu, which was perfect since one of us is a vegetarian.4

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Middle Eastern Breakfast – $17.50

Even though I’m not a vegetarian, and usually always go for things like bacon, pulled pork, pork belly, bacon, bacon, bacon, I wanted something on the lighter side on this particular occasion, and ordered the Middle Eastern breakfast. It consisted of two poached eggs, two falafels, beetroot relish, smokey baba ganoush, and the carb came in the form of grilled zataar flat bread.

The zataar meant that the flat bread was good enough to eat on its own, but even better when dipped in the ooey egg yolk, or some baba ganoush. The falafels were crispy on the outside, and had a good mix of spices inside to keep things interesting. The beetroot relish provided some acidity if you find the dish too heavy, which it wasn’t in my book anyway.

Overall, the dish worked really well together, and kept me full and happy on the hike, or as happy as I can be when hiking anyway.

21The beautiful weather on the day meant that we could seat in the courtyard, where we spotted/squealed over many people enjoying the food with their paw friends.

Lux Foundry has a loyal following, especially considering the fierce competition in the area, and it’s easy to see why, the half page menu was interesting enough, and the friendly service was highly appreciated. Give it a go if you’ve tried all the places on Sydney Road, and is looking for something that’s a tad bit more hidden away.

How to get here:
Lux Foundry is located on Hope Street, catch tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders St Station, and get off at stop #24, Lux Foundry is a five minutes walk away from the tram stop.

Lux Foundry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green Refectory

Green Refectory is somewhat of an institution on Sydney Road, and after all these years, I finally managed to visit it myself.

The menu is sprawled over the blackboards over the counter, and the glass cabinets are filled with cakes, pastries, and salads, you are definitely spoilt for choice here.

The service is minimal, find a table on your own, and order up at the counter, and you’ll be given a whiteboard with a symbol on it as your table number, and in a few short moments, the food will be at your table.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The atmosphere is the perfect sort of laid back, relaxing place, the type that make you feel like you can stay for hours, whether chatting away with a friend, indulging in a book, or getting some work done, and there were definitely people doing all those things during my visit.

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Skinny Flat White – $3.70

My friend and I met up at 9am, which meant that a coffee was definitely needed. The flat white was smooth and velvety, and the adorable old school saucer added a cute touch.

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Breakfast Stack – $12.00

Being a first time visitor, I thought it was obligatory that I order one of Green Refectory’s most well-known dishes, the breakfast stack. The tall stack consisted of a potato rosti, tomatoes, bacon, grilled haloumi, spinach, and an egg on top. The potato rosti was pretty much a mash, but it was tasty nonetheless, with bits of melted cheese throughout. The whole stack was tied together with a tomato relish, and although it’s truly nothing special, it had all the key ingredients of a good breakfast, and for a little more than $10, there really isn’t much to complain about.

Green Refectory certainly had a lot to offer, and although it’s definitely not your refined brunch, and does not have that many innovative dishes on offer, given its sheer quantity of choices, everyone can surely find something that they like. I heard it can get quite busy around meal times, but it really was a quiet and relaxing place when we visited at the earlier part of the day, and it is a place that I am likely to return to, especially since it’s literally right on the doorsteps of a tram stop.

How to get there:
Green Refectory is located on Sydney Road, get on tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders Street Station, and get off at stop #20 Barkly Square/Sydney Road, and it’s literally 10 meters away.

Green Refectory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oriental Spoon

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Oriental Spoon is amongst one of the oldest Korean restaurant in CBD, backed up by no evidence other than my memory. I was never really that big a fan of it, but after being turned away at three Korean restaurants, we finally admitted defeat and walked into Oriental Spoon at 9pm.

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Top: Bean Sprouts | Bottom: Kimchi

The banchans were placed promptly on our table. The bean sprouts were pleasant enough, but the kimchi was a lot sweeter than I’m used to.

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Top: Cucumber Kimchi | Bottom: Fishcake

The cucumber kimchi had the same sweetness as the standard kimchi, and the fishcake had a nice bite to it.

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Fried Chicken Combo – Soy and Sweet Chilli: $34.00

The whole night we were trying to hunt down some Korean Fried Chicken, so this was a no-brainer of an order. When the chicken was placed in front of us, it looked so sad and pathetic. There was only 10 pieces of chicken, and the pieces were quite small too. My Korean friend even asked the waitress if this was a full of half serving, and we were told it was indeed the full one, and the waitress looked a little embarrassed by the question, if that’s any indication.

Size apart, these were pretty disappointing taste wise too. My friend said they were no better than actual KFC chicken, which I had to agree with, there was barely any sauce, and the chicken were just not the crunchy and juice kind that I’m used to from other Korean restaurants.

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Jap Chae – $17.90

We also got the jap chae to fill us up, which is sort of like a fried noodle dish with sweet potato noodle, sliced beef and a variety of vegetables. According to my friend, the authentic way to make this dish is to cook each element separately, and then mixing it together, to ensure everything is cooked perfectly. The dish is meant to have a very light flavouring of soy and sesame oil, but this was not the case here at all. This reminded all of us of beef bulgogi, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not the flavour you have in mind when it comes to jap chae.

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The restaurant was reasonably filled up when we visited, and there was a range of customers. Given that Oriental Spoon has stayed around for years, and expanded during that time, clearly it’s doing something right, but I am unwilling to give it another go after this meal, especially because there are so many grean Korean restaurants around Melbourne.

How to get there:
Oriental Spoon is located on La Trobe Street, 5 minutes walk away from Melbourne Central.

Oriental Spoon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LAW SCHOOL| the s word

Yup, you guessed it, stress.

I never thought I’d sound like such a cliche, but I guess cliches become cliches for a reason?

I’m almost halfway through the first semester of my second year, notoriously known as the hardest semester in the entire degree, so I’ve heard anyway. There’s a number of reasons for that in my opinion, and let’s just go through that first so we can figure out where the stress is stemming from exactly.

1. Extracurriculars
As we all know, clerkship season is looming, which means this semester is the last four months you can try and cram as many as those coveted but oh-so-vague extracurriculars into your CV as possible; volunteering, student associations, part time work, competitions, anything under the earth that is even remotely law-related, the list goes on. Time management (buzzword on its own) has never been so crucial.

2. Study load
The subjects are notoriously difficult as well this semester, and although I don’t think anything is overly complicated right now, it is definitely a struggle and a half to keep up with the readings, whether you’re doing three or four subjects. In fact, I know many people, including myself, started falling behind as early as week two and three. With mid-semester assessments just around the corner, it’s really time to tackle those readings.

3. Improving your WAM
Again, clerkship clerkship clerkship, the worst word of the year. Most people found transitioning to law school at least a little bit difficult, and given that we all had the intelligence to get in, it really comes down to adapting to this whole new way of learning, and as a result, marks first year  generally does not reflect a person’s ability. However, those marks will come into play in determining whether you can get a clerkship position or not. Consequently, many people need to do extra well this semester, in order to pull up their average. Given point 2, i.e. the difficulty of the subjects, this is not an easy task to achieve.

4. Networking
It’s time to start networking, some of us may have started doing this last year already, or even in our bachelor degree, especially if you were in commerce. However, these events are on all the time now, whether held by the Law Student’s Society or law firms, and can take up a lot of your time and energy, and some can go on for as long as three hours. These events can be scary enough on their own, and the time you are at an event is time you are not spending on your readings, hence the falling behind.

5. Comparison
With LinkedIn becoming more and more predominantly used in the professional world, it becomes a place that you can research (and by that I really mean stalk) about the experiences your fellow cohort has had, what your lecturers did before teaching, or that HR person you spoke to, that grad on the panel that was just so Goddamn well spoken, and just about anyone in-between. And let’s be real, we all know that comparing yourself to others is one of the most pointless activities, but, we’ve all fallen down that rabbit hole, and end up feeling as though we are not good enough, because we don’t have a running list of experiences and achievements accumulated over the last two decades of our lives.

Let’s just leave it at those five things for now, and after reading that, I’m sure you can understand where the stress is coming from. All the things correlate with one another too, and often end up having a bit of a snowball effect. Let’s move onto a more upbeat list now, things you can do to somewhat deal with the stress.

1. Notice the changes
Of course, a healthy amount of stress and pressure is good for you, and some people even perform better under pressure. However, when everything’s completely whacked out of balance, that’s when things can go from meh, to bad, to terrible. That’s why it’s important to look out for signs in those moments that you are affected by the stress more than usual, and to deal with them promptly.

2. Speak up
There’s no magical week that all the stress is laid down on you, we all experience it differently, and that’s why it is really up to you, ultimately, to look after yourself. Friends and families are going to be there for you too, of course, but instead of waiting for them to check up on you, it makes things a lot easier (in comparison at least) to bring some of your problems to their attention.

I feel extremely uncomfortable speaking about this kind of things to a counsellor myself, but I know people who do benefit from more professional help, again, this will depend on how you operate as an individual.

3. Self-improvement techniques
There are a lot of articles on self-improvement out there, so that’s an option too. But make sure you’re not drowning yourself in information, give yourself some time to absorb everything, and try to adapt one or two things into your every-day life, and see if it is making a positive change.

4. Stop the blaming
A lot of the time, we are aware that we are acting irrationally because of the stress and pressure, but that realisation may make us feel even more frustrated and guilty, and we start blaming ourselves for the most minute things, like going out to that one dinner when we should have stayed home studying, not sleeping early enough the night before, and just being a crappy person to those around you because of the stress and pressure. There’s really no point in blaming yourself though, since that won’t get you anywhere.

For me, I like to think of things I can do right now to improve the situation I am in. And the most recent things I have done is start journalling, and trying out a new study technique called pomodoro.

As always, I don’t have all the answers for you unfortunately, do email me if you have any questions or just want to chat though. Let’s leave things with a quote from one of my all-time-favourite authors, and go from there.

Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?