Finally June! -- Visiting Houston
Once again, I've slacked off a little on posting here...
I've been busier than expected recently, but that also means I finally have some content worth sharing!

So first things first...

I got some unexpected time off from work, so I've been able to take a break since around the middle-end of May (to be specific, around the 19th, but its still on-going until the middle of next week). In that time period, I decided to take advantage of my free days and attempt to do various fun activities.

HAKONE

First of all, I decided to come back to my home town for about 10 days, mainly for a class reunion. However, before coming back I decided at the last minute to try to go to Hakone for a day.

Unfortunately this trip ended up being a misadventure...

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Going to Hakone from Tokyo for a day should be relatively easy and only take an hour and a half. Not only that, the trip consists of a concourse already designed for travelers that only takes about 2-4 hours to do.
However, the countryside of Japan is something I'm still totally unfamiliar with so I went on the wrong train not once, but a few times...Basically, I took the right train but at a certain point I guess the tracks split off into two directions and I went the wrong way!

Long story short, that wasn't the only time during the trip that I took a train going the wrong way, and by the time I actually ended up at the top of one of the mountains in Hakone to start the real sight seeing everything closed down!! When I say everything, I mean everything! In the end I took those few pitures above and had no choice to go right back where I came from. It was completely disappointing...


KYU-FURUKAWA ROSE GARDEN

After the Hakone "trip" I was still determined to do something fun with my time off, so about a day or so later I went full out!
Early on in the day I made my way to the Kyu-Furukawa rose garden. Its only about 20 minutes away from where I live and it seems it was nearing the tail end of the rose season in Tokyo, so I thought it might be interesting to see. After all, they also boast a huge beautiful mansion at this place!

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Click the thumbnails for larger images

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This place was absolutely beautiful! The main display is the house which was used by the British embassy for a short time after World War II, but now they use it as a museum, cafe, etc and the outside has not only the European style rose garden, but a typical Japanese park/garden as well. I took pictures of that too, but they just didn't turn out as good as the rose garden photos. Anyway it was totally worth the short trip!

Afterwards on the same day I went to Odaiba for a short time to do souvenir shopping for some of my friends in the US.

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I also went to the beach as you can see...(´~`ヾ)

HOUSTON

The next day, after an extremely long flight I finally made it back to my home town!

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Basically this time around a lot of things have gone by really fast and its all sort of a blur to me.
In fact, as I'm writing this, I have to leave for the airport to return to Japan in a few hours!

Anyway, although I said my primary reason for going back home was to go to my high school class reunion, I really wanted to go on a short vacation too. Actually I'm not even sure if "short vacation" is technically the right word... my mom and I went to Galveston for two days total, but Galveston is a small island off the coast of Texas and approximately an hour away from where we live in Houston. Thats not really a true vacation, is it? However, we got a hotel to stay the night so we could do a few activities.

The first day we arrived close to noon, so we went to a popular seafood restaurant next to a famous landmark in the area.

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This landmark is known as the Tall Ship ELISSA. She was built in 1877 and traveled all over the world. Eventually she was docked in Greece and purchased by the city of Houston where she remains. The picture collage above shows the various rooms and the exterior of the ship, so you can walk on board and look around, but it doesn't actually set sail. However, the staff told us she sails around in the harbor area once a year for volunteers and people involved in keeping her in pristine condition.

For those who don't know, Houston is located at the Gulf of Mexico, so for those who are familiar with books and movies about pirates (might I say Pirates of the Caribbean?) may realize this gulf had a lot of activity in regards to those kinds of stories. After all, we really aren't located all that far from the Caribbean! I think the Flying Dutchman used to come to Galveston? If I'm not mistaken...

So we took a tour of the Tall Ship ELISSA and then boarded a smaller boat to check out the vicinity and came across several interesting sights!!

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The first half of the boat ride was used for dolphin sighting, but to our surprise the dolphins came right up to us! They were super friendly and did flips and such. The crew was equally as surprised as the rest of us because apparently something like this never happens. Actually, I kinda think it was because we were a pretty active group on board. The crew said if we make noise the dolphins might be attracted and get closer and apparently it worked!

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We also to see other types of ships and areas with historical significance, but I think my favorite was from this picture above. Its a half sunken ship! It was a concrete ship designed and created during World War I and used during the US Civil War. It remains today as part of the Texas Antique collection, but its pretty cool for tourists! I had no idea something like this existed.

Continuing on,
after our tour we went on to the hotel and the beach!

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We were worried it might rain, but actually it turned out to be a beautiful day!

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I haven't truly been to a beach or tried to go swimming for a long time, so it was extremely refreshing! Even though I went to the beach side of Odaiba only days prior, I didn't really get the experience to relax or go in the ocean. Galveston doesn't have the most beautiful beach in the world, but it was still a lot of fun!

The next day however, was a completely different story...

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It was pouring down rain with thunder.
hmm...doesn't that sound like something Mana always talks about he wish he could go see? Sometimes he talks about wanting to record the sound of thunder at the sea. This would have been a too perfect opportunity!
Regardless, it definitely wasn't a relaxing day for the beach, but we had other plans anyway. My goal had been to see the Bishop's Palace...

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Its a Victorian era house that overlooks a Catholic cathedral on the opposite side of the street:

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The house was owned by a wealthy family in the late 1800's and as you can probably guess by the name of the house and it's location, a bishop lived there too.
Oh, and did I mention, its haunted??(人´∀`)
Galveston island is famous for ghosts!!

But does that stop me from going inside and investigating? NOPE.

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As expected, the house was stunning! I think describing it does no justice, so I took a lot of pictures...

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As earlier, please click the thumbnails if you want to see bigger pictures! I think its definitely worth it for these!

They even had a sanctuary in the house that I completely fell in love with!

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Its probably pretty uninteresting, but I took pictures of myself as well...(´~`ヾ)

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The Bishop's palace and the cathedral were the last two places we visited before making our way back home, but they were totally worth it!! Honestly, I could go on and on with so many more pictures but I don't want to spam this blog too much. (^^;

The next day I attended my class reunion finally, but it ended up falling a little flat. Of course I was happy to see some of my old friends for the first time in many years though!

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Hopefully they don't mind me sharing this picture (´・ω・`)
but I was so happy to see them again! I had more friends who wanted to go, but most everyone dropped out at the last minute. We were kind of the outcast gothic kids in high school and it seems we haven't changed one bit! We all laughed about it when we saw the exact same situation unfold as it did when we were in high school. It was a little shocking to me, but some people I talked to seemed to know quite a few details about my life nowadays. I guess thats social media for you...(*ノωノ)
It also entertained me a little that one of my friends said "I really thought you would show up wearing Moitie!!!"
Just like how it is for many of you who read this blog, I even have sort of a reputation among my old friends for my love of Moi dix Mois, Malice Mizer, and Moi-meme-Moitie. I think Visual Kei, and particularly anything Mana related is probably the first thing that pops in the mind of many people who think of me... Its not really surprising, but it is funny to hear from friends I've known since childhood! (except for one friend who thinks of me as a pokemon master...why!?) I guess its just an inevitable fate I've created for myself, isn't it?


Well, with that being said, its not much longer now until I have to start making my way back to Japan.
I really wanted to write something about the ESP Mana guitar event coming up in only a few days but I think it will have to wait for another day. It hasn't even happened yet but theres already so much to talk about! I'll do my best to update about it soon!


Sarah