JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Osaka Castle; Kuromon Ichiba Market

My first day in Osaka was packed full of activities, and it’s a bit photo heavy, so I’m going to split the day into two separate blog posts!

Osaka Castle

It was raining the entire day, but when you’re  travelling, that’s just something you gotta deal with unfortunately. My first stop was Osaka Castle because I wanted to beat the crowd, it was around half an hour walk away from the closest station, but the walk was very scenic and serene, and I had the ugliest yellow raincoat on to protect myself from the rain.

The castle itself was magnificent, and inside, there were eight levels. It is recommended that you go to the eighth floor first, and then make your way down. There was one level dedicated to artefacts from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, another to the life of Hideyoshi, the lord that was responsible for the construction of the castle.

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Kuromon Ichiba Market

After that long walk, it was time to hit up a market for some food, aka one of my favourite things to do while overseas. I marked down Kuromon Ichiba Market as one of my must-visits the moment I heard about it, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Full of food stalls, random nick-nacks, and fresh produce, I happily spent a couple of hours eating my way around the market.

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Kobe Beef

There are a number of stalls that sold Kobe beef, I picked one that had a large selection of cuts, and was more akin to a butcher shop that locals would frequent. The meat were simply grilled on a hot plate with a light hand of salt and pepper. The moment I took the first bite though, legit died and gone to meat heaven. The meat was so tender yet flavoursome, it’s really something that you have to try at least once!

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Uni

Next, I went to get me some uni, aka sea urchin. Again, I picked a stall that was reasonably priced, and had a range of sizes. After you pay for the seafood of your choice, the uni is prepared in front of your eyes, and then handed to you ten seconds later, it really doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Uni is an acquired taste though, so be prepared for something that’s a little slimey and soft, and very, hmm, ocean-y LOL. If you are a fan of uni already, then make sure you get your hands on these!

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Takoyaki

Takoyaki was next on my radar, do you see the pattern of hot and cold yet? Anyway, Osaka is famous for takoyakis, so I did have high expectations already, but these little balls of heaven blew my mind away.

I’m going to list down three reasons why they are the best things ever, because lists are fun.
1. They were piping hot, and when I say hot, I mean it, I burnt the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t wait, but hey, worth it.
2. The outside was crispy and the inside was so god damn creamy, like legit, the sticks they give you are pretty useless because of the gooeyness inside, so the balls literally just collapse when you try to pick them up, which means you gotta think fast and act even faster in order to shove them in, hence the high chance of burning your mouth.
3. There are legit little octopus pieces inside each ball!! Okay scratch that, they’re not little at all. Because of the creaminess of the batter, the octopus pieces have even more of a contracting texture, making it all-so-delicious.

Have I sold you on these takoyakis yet? Please please please, get some when you’re there. The ones in Melbourne suck so much in comparison, and to think that I used to like them, urgh.

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Tuna Sashimi

The fatty tuna sashimi is another must-eat in Japan, but seriously, everything in the market is a must-eat imo. There’s a stall in the centre of the market that specialises in tuna, and the chef is literally slicing up the sashimi right in front of you. I got the one with three types of tuna, and they were all great in their own ways, but of course, the star of the show was the toro, aka tuna belly, it literally melts in your mouth!

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Wagyu Beef

I wanted to try some wagyu as well, but damn it, I should have gone to the same stall that i got the Kobe from. The skewer was a lot smaller in size, and only a fraction cheaper. That being said though, the beef was still really tasty, and the splash of soy highlighted the umami.

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Croquette

To finish off, I got a random croquette thing, which I also regret tbh. I thought the croquette would be fresh from the fryer, or at least heated through, but it was cold and sad. Although it was still really crunchy, but that was the only good things about this.

And that is the end of my food-venture! For now anyway haha, Osaka is known for being the food capital of Japan, and I can definitely see why! Kuromon Ichiba Market showcases the outstanding produce that Japan has to offer, and is a great place to sample a range of different things in one go. Most of the market was undercover as well, which makes it a great place to visit on a rainy day too.

Spending Tracker

Lawson: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Public transport: 420JPY ~ 5AUD
Osaka Castle ticket: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Osaka Castle Coin: 730JPY ~ 9AUD
Postcard: 50JPY ~ 0.6AUD
Kobe beef: 1555JPY ~ 19.2aud
UniL 1500JPY ~ 18.5AUD
Takoyaki: 450JPY ~ 5.6AUD
Tuna: 1500JPY ~ 18.5AUD
Wagyu: 1000JPY ~ 12AUD
Croquette: 100JPY ~ 1.2AUD

Total: 8045JPY ~ 98.7AUD

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JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: University of Tokyo; Yokohama: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

University of Tokyo

My friend is currently doing her Masters in University of Tokyo, so of course, on my last day with her, she took me on a personal tour after a quick breakfast of oden from 7/11.

I think visiting universities is something that doesn’t get as enough attention in the travelling community, but I personally find it very eye-opening and enjoyable. We took a stroll around the campus, and it was really impressive! Although most of the buildings were more reminiscent of a Western style, the Akamon, aka the Red Gate, is something that was retained from the Edo Era.

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Waterfall (!!)

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Lake opposite the waterfall (!!)

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Akamon

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

After visiting University of Tokyo, it was time for me to take my first Shinkansen to Yokohama! I had only one place on my list to visit in Yokohama, and it was the Ramen Museum to no one’s surprise.

The museum had three levels, and the bottom floor was set up like traditional Japan in the 1950s. The ordering system is quite simple, there’s a vending machine outside each ramen shop, and you press the button of the item that you want to order, and then insert the cash, take the ticket, upon entering the restaurant, hand the ticket to one of the waiters, and then wait for your ramen to arrive.

There was a total of 9 ramen shops, and I aimed to try three of them, but unfortunately was full to the brim after two, first world problems I know.

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Tonkatsu Ramen from Najima-Tei

The cloudiness of the soup meant that there was a ton of depth to the soup, and the ramen itself was perfectly al-dente. The only negative though was there the soup was extremely salty, which meant that as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t drink all of it.

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Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

I also tried the spicy miso ramen, since it’s something that’s not as commonly found in Melbourne. After mixing the spicy miso paste to the soup, it did help cut through the richness of the soup, which I didn’t expect! I think this ramen was more akin to traditional ramen, where there is a layer of oil on the soup, and you have to kind of stir the soup around if you don’t want the oily bits.

Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

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Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

Hokkaido style ramen was featured here, known for being thick and slightly curly, it had a bit more bite to it than the thin straight kind that I’m used to.

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I arrived in my hostel in Osaka at around 8pm, and was so tired, so instead of my original plan to visit Dotonburi, I decided to stay in the hostel and just have some down time, write in my travel journal, figure out how to buy Universal Studio tickets online, you know, all that good stuff.

Spending Tracker

7/11: 635JPY ~ 7.8AUD
Drug store: 6365JPY ~ 79AUD
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum Ticket: 310JPY ~ 3.8AUD
Ramen from Najima-Tei: 750JPY ~ 9.3AUD
Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten: 870JPY ~ 10.8AUD
Lollies from the traditional lolly shop in the museum: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Postcard: 411JPY ~ 5AUD
Osaka accommodation: 8900JPY ~ 106AUD
Universal Studios Ticket: 7400JPY ~ 89AUD

Total: 25781JPY ~ 312.4AUD

 

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market; Asakusa; Shinjuku

Tsukiji Fish Market

First things first, we decided to have a sushi breakfast (!!) at Sushisei, my friend said it had great reviews, and the line outside proved its popularity. The wait wasn’t all that long though, and we were seated at the sushi bar, definitely the best seat in the house imo.

I went for the Omasake set, and seriously, best sushi I have ever had. The freshness and the quality of the seafood was unbeatable, and one of the reason of why I love sushi so much is that although undeniably decadent, it’s still very light, leaving you feel satisfied, but never overly full after meal (unless you choose to have 10 plates at a sushi train restaurant of course, which I did later down in the trip).

The chef prepared the food with such precision, and was extremely friendly, he was telling us about Japanese alcohol, and after hearing that I have never tried plum wine, he even offered me some to try!

Sushisei
4-13-9 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3 3541-7720

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Omakase

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Chirashi

After the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time, we strolled around the market, there was plenty of fresh sashimi if you are still feeling peckish, and a large range of fresh produce for locals to purchase. Dried food also seemed quite popular, there were black beans, kelp, teeny tiny crabs (!) amongst other things. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Asakusa

We headed off to Asakusa next, and if you want a good bird’s eyes view of the area, including Tokyo Skytree, then definitely head up to the top floor of the information centre!Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 preset

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The street that leads towards Senso-ji was filled with shops that sells snacks, drinks, crackers, and other bits and bobs, and I had a great time browsing/eating my way through it. One thing to take note is that in Japan, even street food is eaten in an orderly manner, and by that I mean once you’ve bought something, you have to eat it within the proximity of the stall, and throw away whatever rubbish you have in the bins provided.
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Senso-ji sat at the end of the main street, and it was packed full of people! My friend and I decided to try out the omikujis, and both of us got the great curse, which meant we had to tie them up to leave the bad luck behind!

We took a side street to walk back to the station, and I spotted a melonpan shop, and oh my goodness they were AMAZING!!! It’s kind of like a turned up version of a pineapple bun, where the exterior is super crispy, and the inside was soft and chewy, it may not sound that great on paper but trust me, it was amazing. I got it with cream inside but I’d advise against it, the cream kind of overpowered the subtle sweetness of the bun itself.

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Shinjuku

Just to get some shopping out of the way, we headed off to Shinjuku, and of course, we went to Zara aka my happy place. I feel like Zara in Asia is so much cheaper in comparison to Australia, and I really had to put my self-control into test in order to only pick up a few things.

After some more shopping and browsing around, we had dinner at Marumo, a restaurant that was in the food court level of the shopping centre we were in. I got the hamburger on rice, what I imagine to be Maruko’s favourite meal (man I miss that cartoon), and yup, ended the day in food coma.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Spending Tracker

Sushisei: 2500JPY ~ 31AUD
Sweet black beans: 700JPY ~ 8.6AUD
Daifuku w/ strawberry: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Omasake: 110JPY ~ 1.4AUD
Agemanju: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Melonpan: 350JPY ~ 4.3AUD
Grilled scallops: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Crackers: 1800JPY ~ 22AUD
Zara: 4870JPY ~ 60AUD
Uniqlo: 2145JPY ~ 26AUD
Marumo: 1480JPY ~ 18AUD

Total: 14995JPY ~ 184.1AUD

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: Tofuro

Narita International Airport → Tokyo

After I arrived in Narita Airport, I made my way to B1, where the Skyliner was located, buying the ticket was pretty simple, I bought a one way Skyliner ticket and the three day subway pass. I also exchanged my JR Pass at the JR office, located on B1 as well. After that, I was all ready to go with my Skyliner.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I arrived at my friend’s house at around 5pm, and she had picked an izakaya for us to have dinner, so after a quick change of clothes, we headed out to Ginza.

Dinner at Tofuro
1-10-6 Ginza | B2F Ginza 1st Bldg., Chuo 104-0061, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3 3563 3033

Tofuro is a slightly more up-scale izakaya, with lots of private booth and different sittings, the whole place was very serene, with pops of red contrasting against dark wood. There was even a bridge over a tiny creek!

The food was quite delicious too, featuring lots of local produce around different regions of Japan, including Aomori, where my friend is from!

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Little fishes for us to snack on

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Tamagoyaki

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Fried Tofu

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Grilled Squid

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Soba Set

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It was a great way to start off my time in Japan! After dinner, we went to three (LOL only in Japan) convenience stores, and bought lots of snacks and lollies, as well as a permanent marker LOL, seriously Zebra can do no things wrong.

Spending Tracker

Drink from Family Mart: 149JPY ~ 1.8AUD
Stamp (I sent out the postcard when I was flying out from Tokyo): 70JPY ~ 0.9AUD
Skyliner + 3 days railway pass: 3500JPY ~ 43AUD
Public transport: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Tofuro: 2683JPY ~ 33AUD
7/11: 803JPY ~ 10AUD
Family Mart: 216JPY ~ 2.7AUD

Total: 756JPY ~ 93.1AUD

JAPAN 2017 | 9D9N itinerary

At the beginning of January, I went on a three weeks trip to Japan and Korea, having been to neither countries before, I was extremely excited!

Over the course of the three weeks, I took an obscene number of photos (naturally), and I thought long and hard about how I should document my experience, and I’ve finally decided to first, start off with a brief overview of my entire itinerary, and then go into details about each day in separate posts. Unlike my previous travel posts where I separated things that I did and food that I ate, they’ll be mashed up into daily posts this time round, just because, well, I think it makes more sense that way. I will also include a spending tracker after each post, and I’ll be working out a more detailed log, basically summarising what I spent my money on, and how much I think is reasonable when travelling in Japan and Korea.

A few things to note before I start, I went during the middle of Winter, I was on my own most of the time, and I wasn’t really on a budget, but I didn’t splurge either. There will be some additional posts that address tips when travelling around these two countries, best way to get around Japan, and things like that and how much money I actually spent (yes I was super OCD and recorded everything down).

Okay enough rambling, here’s my itinerary for the nine days I spent in Japan!

Day 1: arrive in Tokyo; having dinner with a friend in Tofuro, Ginza

Day 2: Tokyo: Tsukiji Market; Asakusa; Shinjuku

Day 3: Tokyo: University of Tokyo; catch the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yokohama;
Yohohama: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum; catch the Shinkansen from Yokohama to Osaka

Day 4 part 1: Osaka: Osaka Castle; Kuromon Ichiba Market

Day 4 part 2: Osaka: Owl Cafe; Dotonbori

Day 5: Osaka: Universal Studios Japan

Day 6: Catch the Shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto;
Kyoto: Kinkakuji; Kiyomizu-dera

Day 7: Get from Kyoto to Naoshima (took a few trains and ferries, hence ‘get’ instead of catch the Shinkansen, if only);
Naoshima: Bennesse Art Site Naoshima

Day 8: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Kichi Kichi Omurice; catch the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo

Day 9: Tokyo: Shibuya; Shinjuku; Harajuku; spend the night in Narita Airport (yay)

BULLET JOURNAL | 2017 goals

I started  bullet journaling in July, so I’ve been at it for 6 months, I’m still making changes here and there to make the system work better for me. I will be doing an in-depth post about the setup I use, and changes I’ve made, but today, I thought I would share with you my goals for 2017, given that there are only three days left in 2016.

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No, I don’t have the world’s prettiest handwriting, so let’s not focus on that.

Basically, I have 7 big categories that I want to work on to make 2017 a good year: accountability, sustainability, organisation, learning, experiences, hobbies, and cooking – yes this is sort under hobbies but no it deserves its own category. And under each of those categories, I listed things that I want to get done, or habits that I want to start forming.

Goal setting is something that helps me stay motivated, because once you know what you want to achieve, and when it’s something more tangible with action steps, it makes it much easier to accomplish, rather than having something general, such as “I want to be a better person” – what does that even mean?

What about you? What are you rituals at the beginning of each year? What do you want to get done in 2017? How was 2016 for you? As bad as it was for seemingly everyone else in the world?

 

NOTD | Essie Starry Starry Night

Starry Starry Night made its debut back in 1997, and since then, it has become a cult favourite, and a lemming of literally every nail fanatic I know. When Essie announced their Retro Revival collection, no one was surprised to see Starry Starry Night making its comeback, but everyone was beyond excited.
Three Coats of Starry Starry Night w/ One Coat of Poshe Topcoat
Three Coats of Starry Starry Night w/ One Coat of Poshe Topcoat
Three Coats of Starry Starry Night w/ One Coat of Poshe Topcoat
Excuse the excessive number of photos, but it’s so hard to capture the glitter in the nail polish! Starry Starry Night is a deep blue jelly polish with silver glitters through out, because of the jelly nature of the polish, the silver glitters appear to be both blue and green, and that’s what makes this an amazing polish! It does kind of remind me of Deborah Lippmann Across the Universe, with a similar colour scheme, but obviously the glitters are a lot smaller, and the base is much more opaque.
I love this polish, and am so happy that I finally got my hands on them without forking out over $100 on eBay. Apparently there are some differences between the comeback and the original version however, but regardless, this polish is gorgeous in all its glittery blue glory.
Side note though, the polish started chipping on me barely a day after application, which is quite odd. I’m willing to overlook it and maybe try it with a different topcoat, otherwise I’ll just suck it up anyway since the colour is too pretty to pass.
Where to buy:
Priceline stocks Essie nail polish, I buy all mine from eBay though, usually from the seller beautyzone2007, but I bought this particular polish from honeybee1909.

NOTD | OPI Bubble Bath

4 Coats of OPI Bubble Bath + Topcoat

Here’s a nude you can send your man #WasteHisTime2016. I really don’t get how that hashtag blew up, but anyway, back to polish. This is probably the closest thing I’ve found to a pinky nude for my skin tone, just for reference, I’m a NC15. But of course, nothing’s perfect. And the downfall of this gorgeous nude – it’s OPI Bubble Bath btw – is its formula. It was just so damn sheer, and not in an even way either, which meant I had to apply four coats.

Nail polish story time. Apparently back in the days Bubble Bath was more white, in a milky off white kind of way, but it has since transformed into this pale pink/nude colour. It was a big controversy at the time, and people were mad. The Polish Addict made a comparison post here.

Where to buy:
I purchase my OPI polishes on eBay usually, my two favourite sellers are beautyzone2007 and enchantedbeautyspot.

PHOTO DIARY | Taylor Swift 1989 Tour Melbourne

Taylor Swift, whether you like her or not, you can’t deny that she’s one of the most influential singer-songwriters of our time. Who knew that the curly haired country girl from Love Story would become the chic as human being that rocks a full glitter jumpsuit and red lipstick like nobody else? Her 1989 Tour just ended, and I was lucky enough to score a ticket to one of the three sold out shows in Melbourne.
Vance Joy was the opening act, and my gosh, he was amazing. His vocals were so on point the whole time, and it was extremely heart-warming knowing that he is a fellow Melbournian. In fact, I’m considering going to his show next year after this.
And of course, the one, the only, the T-Swizzle that we were all waiting for made an appearance like no other, and began her hour-and-a-half extravagant performance. Urgh, she’s so perfect, look at that hair, look at those legs, seriously man, how is this even legal.
There were numerous costume changes, and her heels were insane, I don’t understand how she walks in them, let alone dance. But she did it, ’cause she’s Taylor, just doing normal Taylor things, you know?
1989 was definitely a drastic change of musical style on Taylor’s part, but I’ve gotta say, it’s probably my favourite album of hers, in that I enjoy most of the songs in the album. I Know Places is my favourite, just in case you care, Ryan Tedder never disappoints.
As you can tell, I was sitting pretty darn far from the stage, in face, I was in the third last row. This brings me to talk about the one thing that I didn’t really like about this concert, the pricing of the tickets. Six different VIP packages from memory, the highest being around $600. I think this was a pretty inconsiderate move, knowing that most of the Swiftys out there are on the younger side of things, and probably wouldn’t be able to fork out all that much. The mosh – aka VIP A or something, was not even half filled, showing just how ridiculous the pricing is.
Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed everything, from yelling every words to Trouble, to being mesmerized by Taylor’s face, it was definitely another unforgettable night!

Oh and, happy belated birthday Taylor!

PHOTO DIARY | Imagine Dragons Smoke + Mirrors Tour Live in Melbourne

You know how sometimes, you go to a concert, and it completely changes your perspective on the artist or band? This is definitely the case with Imagine Dragons. I mean, I always did like them, Demons and Radioactive, being two of their most well-known songs, are some of my favourite songs too. But the sheer amount of energy each member exemplified throughout the concert seriously made me fall in love with the band.

 

I always knew how much music could mean to someone, even though I was never one of those people. But yeh, Imagine Dragons is definitely something special. They changed my opinion about some of the songs that I didn’t really like all that much before the concert, Polaroid for example (no hate please). I am sad that they didn’t performs Dreams, Second Chance, and my absolute favourite song of theirs – America. But oh well, win some lose some right?

 

 

The crowd was great too, or maybe because I was second row hehe. Dan did come off stage for a bit, and literally everyone lost their shit. I TOUCHED HIS ABS OMG CANNOT STOP FANGIRLING. Seriously though, I may sound like I have my shit together now (not really), but all I could do was fangirl during the entire concert. Dan’s just so full of energy, and the song themselves really got the crowd going.

 

They’ve only released two albums, but to be honest, there’s not one song that I don’t like. Sure, there’s some I enjoy more than others, but they all have something special. Some of the lyrics though, really resonates with me.

 

 

This is one of those concerts that as it finishes, you start appreciating the band so much more, and you know you’ll be at the front row when they return. I seriously can’t wait until they release a new album, and comes back to Melbourne again!

 

 

If you haven’t listened to Imagine Dragons, give it a go, some of their songs do take a few rounds for you to get into it, but once you do, trust me, you won’t be able to stop. And if you’re going to a show during their Smoke + Mirrors tour, you’re gonna have an absolute blast!