quark part 1: meet pinkie & panda

Every once in a while I get this burning desire to be more involved than I already am.  The latest:

‘Pinkie and Panda to Blog their way to the North Pole’

Quark Expeditions is looking for those involved who love to write and travel, with a love for social media to compete in “Blog Your Way to the North Pole.”

The prize is a $54,000 trip on the 20th anniversary expedition to the North Pole in June 2011. Crazy eh?  Throughout the trip the winner will blog, photograph, video, and document the journey with the hopes of educating those around the world!

Many of you already know that I love to travel.  That coupled with communication, social media, and marketing gives me even more love!


Here is the application:

In November 2010, Jillian Walker (aka Pinkie) travelled to Vancouver to speak at a conference for young women in business. In the midst of her workshop she met Jeremy Lim (aka Panda). This was no regular handshake or hello my name is… instead Panda was taking photos at light-speed, capturing an animated and excited Pinkie. Soon enough she learned that Panda was not only a photographer, marketer, and musician, but also the king of awesome.

Pinkie arrived back in Calgary and stumbled upon the Quark contest via Twitter. Immediately she knew she must enter, and Panda must be her +1. Why? They are both social media enthusiasts, ridiculously fabulous, and have mad love for travel.

Pinkie has travelled throughout Europe, Africa, Japan, and North America. Highlights include riding a camel named Princess in Tunisia and skydiving in Hawaii. Panda’s travel experience complements Pinkie’s, adding Central America, Hong Kong, and Thailand to their list of travel accomplishments. Panda’s most memorable travel experience was meeting (and making out with) his girlfriend, Coco the stingray, in the Caymans!

In addition to blogging at http://jillianwalker.wordpress.com and http://www.jeremylim.ca, Pinkie and Panda consistently tweet and engage with the masses. Pinkie’s passion is employee engagement and making a difference in this big bad world. Panda is known for his online marketing skills and capturing the big moments of the world, most recently at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

Why should you vote for Pinkie and Panda? Pinkie is highly entertaining; she’s bound to make the shipmates laugh with her ridiculous comments, and likely paint the nails of a polar bear or two. Panda deserves to be her +1 because he will keep Pinkie mentally stable, the ship singing along to the latest tunes, and contribute to blogging to the North Pole and back! Although they have only spent 15 minutes together, a few things are for sure – they both ooze passion, dedication, and a commitment to making Canada proud.

Pinkie and Panda’s extensive travel experience and knack for social media will allow them to take the North Pole by storm. With matching outfits, a camera, and at least a few bottles of pink nail polish – they are bound to have the time of their lives, while taking you along for the ride!

Follow us on Twitter at @jillianwalker and @jeremylim, join our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pinkieandpanda, and vote!

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Lim - www.jeremylim.ca

I would love your support and vote during this competition.  Every one can only vote ONCE, so it shouldn’t be too taxing on our friends, family, and networks!  I’ll ask if you can please spread this world about the competition. Email your friends, share the link on Facebook, tweet, blog, the works. Jeremy and I would love to place in the top 5 by February 15, 2011 – and we know we can do it with your help.


With all my love. ❤

PS – Regular Jill-type blogging to commence during the holidays… I’ve been MIA due to catching up on sleep and enjoying life without university. :)

international travel adventures part 10 – gala

Well seeing as I didn’t get home until 6:30am, today got off to a slow start.  The good thing though?  We only had to be at the Presidential Gala today, which wasn’t until 8pm.  I spent the day lounging… I went to the baths in the hotel (yen – onsen or whatever you call it) and my gosh, fabulous.

Eventually I made it over to the conference centre to get on the bus to the gala. I met up with JCI New Zealand and we headed over together (I had already got JCI Australia to save me a seat so I didn’t have to get there super early!).

The gala was wonderful (the gala last year was a disaster so my hopes were up!)… everything was organized, food was great, and we had champagne!  It was the first time this week I saw real wine, so that kept me happy too!  The gala is the last night of the conference, so the perfect opportunity to connect with all the friends made, think about your learnings, and one last night of fun!

Appetizers at the Gala

The girls: Marta from Poland, Me, Feven from Sweden, Julia from Australia

The Canadian Debating Team Plus the MIA Debater Erik

Gala Night!

AND then we went to an after party… Sam & Dave’s in Shinsaibashi? Something like that… I got home very late. Very late. It was a fun night. :)

Breast Cancer Awareness in Osaka, Japan. <3

And that concludes another JCI World Congress. Stay tuned for an additional post on what I learned while on conference and a few interesting tidbits about Japan!

Thank you to all the delegates – without you, this conference wouldn’t have been the same. <3

international travel adventures part 9 – action packed

Busy day today… JCI Morning Show 9-10am, Creative Young Entrepreneur Award (CYEA) presentations 10:30am-12pm, delegates luncheon 12-1pm, seminar training 2pm-6pm, Award Ceremony 7-9pm, and Dutch Night 9pm-onwards.

The theme of today’s morning show was “Impact the Future.” The morning show featured a speaker (and JCI trainer), Per Stilling.

Per Stilling is a JCI Senator and has been an active JCI member since 1998.  Working within the training field for over 10 years, Per focuses on increasing the output of individuals, groups, and companies.  He has trained several thousand employees on four continents and 27 countries.  He currently serves as a partner of Momentum, a company specializing in training programs. Per holds an MS in Business from Oregon State University, USA, and an MBA from ESCP-EAP in Paris.

Per is also my favourite person from Norway – and someone I went head to head with in World Debating yesterday!  Excellent morning show (as per the usual) – and the last one of the week! At the morning show, I purchased one of the shirts JCI was selling (with proceeds being donated to the UN’s Nothing But Nets campaign – so cute and soooo me!).

Official JCI Nothing But Nets Shirt!

From the Morning Show I headed to the Creative Young Entrepreneur Award (CYEA) presentations. CYEA works similar to TOYP (as discussed in last post) and nations nominate who they think meets the criteria listed – no requirement to be a JCI member, just top entrepreneurs in their country etc etc.  The awards committee then selects the top 3 to attend Worlds.  The 2010 nominees are: Ricky Wong from Malaysia, Jo Neilsen from Belgium, and Bradley Smith from Australia.

I watched the three presentations, and (in my opinion) Brad did an absolute fantastic job.  The results… will be announced tonight at the Awards Ceremony!


2010 CYEA Nominees & Judges

From CYEA I headed for a quick bite before off to the tradeshow and then to Patrick Knight’s seminar “How to Turn an Idea into Reality”.  Patrick’s seminar description:

Learn to create your own opportunities for your career, in JCI, and in life.  Luck doesn’t put you in the right place at the right time.  You need to look for openings, create opportunities, and be ready to capitalize on them.  In this course, you will learn to spot divine connections that can help you achieve your goals. You will learn the secrets of proactive promotion, out-of-network analysis of ideas and positive decision making.  Don’t be lucky, be better!


Exercise at "Turning an Idea into a Reality"

It was a great session with lots of ideas generated on how to improve the future.  Marta and I made a quick dash out of training to head back to my hotel and do an outfit change before the Awards Ceremony.  Fingers were crossed because JCI Canada was in line for World Debating Champions in both English and French.

We made it back to the Awards Ceremony just in time, and got seated with the rest of the Canadian delegates.  One by one, amazing people were selected for local, national, and international awards.  Unfortunately Brad from Australia did not win CYEA; instead Jo from Belgium won.

And then… World Debating Championships were announced for French speaking… all fingers were crossed and WE WON!




And then…the results were announced for English speaking… and WE WON!


Weeeeeee! So delighted!  Since I had won an international award at last years World Congress in Tunisia, Africa, all of my JCI friends were hoping that I could secure another one next year.  Maybe next year we’ll get the flag in the right direction! ;) The hope is that I will now go to JCI World Congress 2011 in Brussels, Belgium to defend my title.

From the Awards Ceremony, I made a quick change in the bathroom with Marta, and we were off to celebrate at Dutch Night! JCI Netherlands and Belgium were hosting an event at Osaka’s Creative Centre – dancing and fun to be had with all delegates.

A few pics from Dutch Night:


Patrick from JCI Quebec and I at Dutch Night


Someone left their bunny ears in the bathroom. :(



Dutch Night. :D


From Dutch Night, Wanye, Asma, Ismail, and I went to Karaoke in Shinsaibashi…. till 6:30am. No pictures needed, but their is video evidence. :)

international travel adventures part 8 – world debating

So this morning came early… real early…

I had talked to Erik last night at the Global Village re: World Debating this morning and we planned to meet up at 8:30am this morning to go over all that he missed this far (ie. point structure, JCI debating expecations, etc).  Well I dragged myself over to the conference centre nice and early – and he no showed.  So disappointing… sent a few panicked texts, hoping that he would show up before World Debating started at 10:30am.  I headed over to the JCI Morning Show… fun times. It’s kinda like Regis & Kelly, but without the celebrities, and instead internationally renowned business people.  Patrick Knight from JCI USA hosts the Morning Show, and today the speaker was Wayne Clark.

Wayne Clark is an economics graduate who has spent 12 years building his career as an internal communications and employee engagement practitioner.  He has worked extensively internationally in the design and delivery of complex people engagement programmes for global organizations. He is the Managing Partner of the Best Companies Partnership who help to produce the Sunday Times “Best Companies To Work For” lists.

The Morning Show is always entertaining – lots of laughs and a dance party, BUT guess what? It was actually my first time attending!!  After Wayne spoke, an Ambassador from the UN Foundation spoke to Nothing But Nets and all the money JCI had raised to end malaria in Africa!

JCI Japan raised the most amount of money for Nothing But Nets!

JCI Japan was presented with an award for raising the most amount of money for Nothing But Nets! I rushed from the Morning Show to World Debating Championships to meet our missing debater, Erik.  No luck on that front he never showed up and I had to find a replacement debater at the last minute.  Thank you Hassan from JCI Calgary.  English Debating was supposed to run from 10:30am to 5pm and French Debating from 2pm to 5pm (we had a French team entered too – from JCI Quebec!).

So I was quite concerned at 10:30am… well we had Hassan, the newest member to enter the team – who was absolutely not up to speed on JCI Debating and it was time to get started! Well thank you Miss Jillian Walker, because when we drew #’s to see who would go first, I picked #7, which meant… Team Canada gets a “bye”!  Odd number of teams meant we got to skip the first round and head straight into semi-finals.

The bad: we don’t get to practice our debating skills.  The good: we get to fluff our way through the morning and hope for the best!  JCI Netherlands went against JCI Hong Kong – and newbie debater Winnie Leung from Hong Kong showed them who was boss! Then JCI Norway went against JCI Turkey – and JCI Norway reigned as the best.  JCI UK had a unfortunate morning when one of their teams didn’t show, so they were down to 1 and went head-to-head with JCI Australia.  A fairly even battle, but JCI Australia won.

Semi-Finals went as follows:

2010 World Debating Championships - English Teams

In Canada’s first debate against Australia the topic was “a farmer loves his tractor more than he loves his wife” and we had to argue AGAINST.  The only way to sum up this debate was BRUTAL, BRUTAL, BRUTAL.  The topic was brutal. Our argument was brutal. Everything was brutal. I admitted defeat in the middle of the debate, knowing that we did a poor job.

As soon as it was over, Per from JCI Norway came over and gave us some feedback on how to debate better next time.  The scoring came back and Australia 801, Canada EIGHT HUNDRED SEVENTEEN. What the?  Some how… from a scoring perspective, we did better than JCI Australia – Woohooooo!!!

Who were we to go up against next? ;) JCI Norway (and all that helpful information they just gave us)!  The topic: “media is concerned only with the truth” and we were again AGAINST.  The topic was strong, the argument was strong, and Team Canada was ready to kick some Norway…!!  We had a room full of delegates cheering Canada on and everyone was very impressed with my 2 minute closing statement! [Results are announced at the Awards Ceremony on Saturday night].

Team Canada vs. Team Norway

It was a very long day, with English debating lasting over 8 hours.  It was back to the room for a quick change then off to JCI Japan Night at the Kyocera Dome.  JCI Japan Night was comprised of various local Japan chapters setting up booths, offering an opportunity to learn about each city/chapter/etc.  By the time I got there, most of the festivities were ending and I met up with Marta who wanted to head into Shinsaibashi for karaoke – this girl, was exhausted. I skipped out – giving attention to my headache instead of my singing lessons. :)

Me at JCI Japan Night after playing golf to win a Happi Jacket!

JCI Japan Night!

international travel adventures part 7 – delegates day

Just because I am getting a little mixed up, I thought it would be important to clarify that today is Thursday, November 4th and we’re 2 days into the JCI World Congress!

Today is Delegates Day! Every conference (apparently – I don’t actually believe JS who told me this haha), they hold Delegates day where we get to go out and have a little bit of fun with fellow chapters.

I headed to the conference centre to have a World Debating meeting before meeting up with everyone to head to Universal Studios (yes the venue for our day!).  More to this in the next post, but JCI Canada has entered English debating (on the global level) and we’ve never debated before!  I had planned a meeting with Eric Brideau (Most Outstanding Debater for French Speaking 2009), so the he could explain to the English team exactly what we had to do.  One of our debaters, Erik, no-showed on this meeting – and that stressed me out immensely.  You have to have 3 per team, including a Captain (which was me).  I told myself that I’d give Erik a talking to when I saw him later tonight.

Anyways, we had an amazing day at Universal. I had lunch with a few of the Aussies (Peter and Noel) and Matt and Joie from JCI USA.  Then I separated and met up with my JCI best friend, Marta, and two of the JCI Poland delegates – Lukas and Grzegorz. We went on ride after ride (and I hate rides!) and enjoyed the park.  Please note – I screamed my lungs off and held Lukasz or Marta’s hand on every ride. Universal Studios Japan was much smaller than I remember Disneyland to be – but absolutely so much fun.

I will sum up the day in pictures:

Getting ready for the 3D Spiderman ride!
JCI delegates super excited for the Spiderman ride ;)
Super wet after some water ride!
Hello Kitty in the Magical Starlight Parade!
Love love love to Universal Studios Japan!

I’m likely going to make a slideshow of all the photos/video from Universal Studios – as there is a ridiculous amount of great ones.  From Universal Studios, we waited for the bus (and it was really really! cold) to take us to Global Village Night.  This is the 2nd year for this event – and boy, it’s a ton of fun.  Every country comes together to show off their country (to some degree) and share nation information with the delegates.  Some people have games, prizes, others have candy, and snacks.  The night concludes with a DJ and the biggest dance party of the week.

Maybe here’s a good time to note how many outfit changes are required in a day – A LOT. Today there was only 2, but usually 3 to 4 (if you’re a girl that is!).  Please note that wet water rides at Universal Studios ensured that all Global Village night photos were less than attractive. :)

Too much fun – Patrick, Marta, Me, and Grzegorz
Global Village Night at ZEPP Osaka.

I was back to the hotel a little before 2am… why? Because tomorrow I am competing in the World Debating Championships for English speaking and I need to have my a-game on!

international travel adventures part 6 – port of osaka

Well today I had my morning free…!! Why? Because I signed up for a JCI official course called “JCI Networking” (trainer: Patrick Knight) – and it wasn’t till the afternoon!  There is tons of training to do at JCI World Congress but they offer 2 different types… 1) regular training that you can just show up for (usually a few hours long), and 2) JCI “official” training (register in advance, get JCI credit for, typically 4 hours to 3 days long).  As JCI Calgary is providing funding for me to attend this congress – that comes with the responsibility to bring back knowledge to the chapter.  I signed up for JCI Networking because I was truly interested in the course but also because the knowledge gained would benefit our local chapter!

So back to…. a free morning…! I decided I would get back on the Osaka subway for another try and head out to the Tempozan area of Osaka.  The Tempozan has Osaka’s aquarium, ferris wheel, and piers etc.  Because I am a water baby by nature, I thought a breathtaking, sunny day on the ocean would do me just fine!  It was a fairly simple journey, just a few subway stops away (and only one station switch).  Travel always seems much easier when you don’t have bags with you!

The Port of Osaka was absolutely gorgeous – a completely different side of Japan then I had seem thus far.


Tempozan area of Osaka

As soon as I set my eyes on the ferris wheel, I KNEW that I had to go on it! For 1000yen (and about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to use the machine), I was up up and on my way to seeing the sights of Osaka from the sky.

And the beauty of Osaka commences now… love love love.


Beautiful view of Osaka

It probably took 20 minutes or so to make the loop around the ferris wheel – and I have a bazillion pictures of Osaka, the water, and the sunshine!  From a top the ferris wheel, I spotted the aquarium!!  Osaka has a world renowned aquarium, so I thought why not check it out. I completely forgot that it was a statutory holiday in Japan and there were a lot of children that needed to be occupied.  What did that mean? A very busy aquarium!

The aquarium was gorgeous as well.  You take an escalator from the 2nd floor to the 7th floor and then begin.  You go around and around each floor and take a ramp to the floor below.  I saw penguins – for the first time ever, I saw penguins! They had exhibits for the Aleutian Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Japan Forest, and so much more!

A few of my favourites:




Jelly fish!

Me in a Mouth - Grrrr

From the aquarium, I went and visited the Tempozan shopping area, the piers, the pirate ship, and then back to the hotel I headed for an afternoon of training. I ended up covering a lot of ground in a few short hours – but that’s what happens when you’re motivated right?! ;)

I got back to the hotel for a quick change and then off to JCI Networking.  JCI Networking ran 2-6pm and went really well.  Marta and a few friends were in the class as well.  I was glad I registered for the class in advance because the waitlist was huge and the JCI trainers seemed all stressed trying to get everyone organized.  Like usual I offered up lots of examples and was an active participant.  In my opinion, four hours is way too long for this type of training – it could have easily been three hours.  The room was also 4000 degrees and yah it needs to be shorter!

JCI Networking is the JCI course on turning your personal contacts into lasting and productive connections and relationships. The course covers the principles and dynamics of networking, how to identify and use the opportunities when contacting people, what to do and say during any encounter with a potential connection and the follow up actions needed after meeting the person to keep adding value to the connection.

From JCI Networking, Marta and I headed straight to the TOYP Ceremony.  TOYP is the The Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World.  Each of the 10 nominees were selected from nations and then critiqued by headquarters.  We were here tonight to celebrate their achievements.


TOYP Ceremony

The 2010 nominees are: Emily Cummins (UK), Melanie Hennessy (Ireland), Dr. Gifty Immanuel (India), Maria Ingelsson (Sweden), Sabirul Islam (UK), Aki Nakaoka (Japan), Uyapo Ndadi (Botswana), Dr. Joseph Nkurunziza (Rwanda), Antti Pentikainen (Finland), and Dr. Mikko Wiren (Finland).

It is always a great ceremony.  Each person’s “story” was told through a video and then they came up to accept their award and give a speech.  Intermissions were filled with Japanese entertainment, dancing, etc.  After the TOYP ceremony ended, it was Asia-Pacific Nation Night at the Creative Centre.  We did a quick change into casual clothes and headed over to the buses to be shipped to our next location.  By the time I got there (a lot of people had skipped TOYP to get there early), the place was a down right disaster.  Messy messy and it seemed everyone had had quite the party.  Ended up spending a few hours chatting with Bridgette from Australia which was lovely.  JCI Australia and New Zealand had decided to head to a quaint Japanese bar they had found days earlier, so I headed there with them for the after after party.

A few hours and a lot of laughs with Peter and his new found friend, Yuki ;) … I was on my way back home for a night of good sleep before another big day tomorrow.



international travel adventures part 5 – congress begins

Well today is the first day of the 2010 World Congress.  After a few very rainy days in Tokyo it’s rather nice to enjoy the beautiful port city of Osaka.  I slept in this morning and then heading over to the Grand Cube to register for the congress and pick up all the things I would need for the week (itinerary of events, programs, lunch tickets, gala ticket, etc).

En route to the conference centre, I met up with some friends from JCI USA (Alisa Clum, Mike McCarty, and crew)… I didn’t really know where I was going as I was given a map in only Japanese characters so it was nice to see some friendly faces!

JCI WC Registration at Grand Cube, Osaka

I had booked a massage and reflexology at my hotel for the early afternoon – so a quick journey back to the hotel and off to the spa I went.  Fantastic would barely sum up the experience.  The lady spoke absolutely no English but (through hand motions) she explained to me that my legs were ridiculously tight and I (through English ha ha) explained to her that Tokyo and touring around had killed my body. :)

After a few hours at the spa, I headed to my room to get into semi-formal, as World Congress Opening Ceremonies were tonight!  The event was to be held at the Osaka-Jo (Osaka Castle), but the congress would transport us there from the conference centre. I met a wonderful girl named, Feven, from JCI Sweden on the walk to the buses and we became immediate friends.

The logistics of busing thousands of people to a second location is not so much fun.  Opening Ceremonies were started before we got there (Japan runs everything on time!), because the Prince of Japan was at the event – and he was on a schedule!!  Opening Ceremonies consists of speeches from JCI World President, JCI headquarters, and a presentation of all the National Presidents (or Chief Delegates) worldwide.  I was pleased to see that my Polish twin (yes, we met in Africa last year and became instant buddies), Marta Komosa, was on the stage representing Poland! So proud!

My Polish twin, Marta Komosa, on the stage at Opening Ceremonies (far left).

They had a few entertainment activities planned – crazy awesome tap dancers etc, and then we were off to JCI Japan’s Opening Night.  The event was held a short walk away from the Osaka castle, and the only downer – was that it was held outside (and it was freezing cold!!).  They had plenty of food, beverages, and entertainment – but again, it was cold.

JCI Japan Opening Night

I had an opportunity to reunite with my Aussie friends (shout out to Bridgette, Peter R., Mark, and Noel) and be my usual out of control self.  Marta and I had wanted to head out to a local Japanese pub after the event was over so we took a group of people through the streets of Osaka in search of a venue.  This was much harder than it seems… first of all nothing is in English (surprise, surprise)… secondly, the area of Osaka we were in was fairly quiet.  We found a nice little place and about 15 of us spent the next few hours catching up.

It didn’t end up being a late night… I walked back to the hotel with Tobias from JCI Sweden (another great friend I met in Africa last year).  We have a big day tomorrow – although today the congress officially “opened” … tomorrow is when the tradeshow opens, training begins, and networking is taken up 4000x notches.

I think today is November 2nd, but I could be wrong on that point. :)




international travel adventures part 4 – do gooder

Last you heard from me, I was on the Shinkosen from Toyko to Osaka… well I arrived to Shin-Osaka (my transfer point) fairly seamlessly.  When I got off the train, I was immersed in people… everywhere there was people – rush hour had began at this major Japan Rail (JR) connector line.

I needed to transfer from Shin-Osaka station to Osaka station – which I was told would not be too difficult.  A few escalators and elevators in the wrong direction until I finally landed at the correct platform.  A small wait and a I boarded the Japan Rail Kobe line to Osaka – finally, I’m almost there!

Little did I know... getting to Shin-Osaka was the easiest leg!

Unfortunately I didn’t know what I was in for upon arrival at Osaka station.  Osaka is VERY different from Tokyo… English is limited, access is harder (no elevators), and signage is poor.  I spent a VERY long time wandering the halls of Osaka station looking for the subway lines… The Japan Rail train lines and local subway lines are in two different areas. Finally an hour later I find the subway, cart my massive amount of bags down flights and flights of stairs to learn that the subway I need to take doesn’t leave from this station.  A man tells me that I need to walk to Nishi-Umeda station (5 minutes away) to then get on the blue line to Higobashi station.

I head out of the train station into pitch black and no English translators… I begin my walk – I walk and walk and walk. I finally end up in a pedestrian underpass no idea where I am or how I got there. Many business men are commuting back home and all the maps are in Japanese. After about 20 minutes, a man approaches me and says “hotel?”… of which I respond “APA”… he motions for me to follow him.  I’m thinking he’s pointing me in the right direction of the subway…


We walk…

We walk and walk…

And walk some more…

And an hour later I wonder if he is a good person and if I might die…

But then I realize I have no options…

So we walk…

And walk and walk…

Then over 90 minutes later…

We reach a subway!

Yes – Nishi-Umeda!!  I have no idea why it took us that long to get there or what route we took but I am grateful to the middle-aged man. I figure that he will abandon me now, but no – we get on the subway en route to Higobashi station.  At Higobashi he gets off to locate the correct exit for the “APA Higobashi” hotel… Exit 1! He walks me out the exit and into my hotel lobby, then waves goodbye.

I thank him (but secretly want to hug him), because he totally saved me from the dangerous (kidding!) streets of Osaka.

I check into the hotel seamlessly (hotel staff know a bit of English) and off to my room. I’m on the 13th FLOOR… isn’t that crazy… many hotels in North America don’t have 13th floors. The room is cute – trendy but small.  I was absolutely exhausted by the journey, so I was asleep pretty quick, but here are a few pictures of the room:

The Room!

Bathroom (Way Bigger than Tokyo Hotel).

My 1st Paper Crane!

And even though this is from the next day…. a sneak peek on the view!!

The View!

Tomorrow is the official first day of the JCI World Congress.  I will get up in the morning to meet my friend Tobias from JCI Sweden and then head to registration.  I booked reflexology for the afternoon and lastly will be Opening Ceremonies at the Osaka Castle.

Stay tuned! XO





international travel adventures part 3 – fish

Today… was exhausting.  I woke up bright and early to start my journey to the Tsukiji Market.  This market is Tokyo’s world-famous seafood market and it’s apparently quite the sight to see.

Yesterday I spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money on transit fare, today I used my open-ended day pass and only spent about 1000 yen. Funny how I get smarter at this city, just when I’m preparing to leave it.  Today was my last day in Tokyo and I still wanted to see a ton!

I had planned to meet up with Marta, Rui, Jean-Simon, and Patrick – but no one returned my text messages (shame, shame), so I was on my own! I travel extremely well by myself, so I was excited for the day ahead – I had a lot of ground to cover.

Free Hotel Breakfast - Sakura Hotel

The plan: take the Oedo line to Tsukijishiko to see the Tsukiji seafood market; walk to the upperclass fashion zone in Ginza; take the Ginza line to Nihombashi to see the Imperial Palace; take the Ginza line to Akhibara to see “Electric Avenue”; continue on the Ginza line to Ueno to take in temples at Ueno-Koen; last leg on the Ginza line would be to Senso-Ji, a grand old temple in Asakusa; and return to Shibuya to see the dog statue and check out shopping.

I managed to get everything done, if not more in 7.5 hours – but let me tell you, my whole body is a bad kind of sore.  I have never in my life climbed as many stairs, rode as many escalators, and walked the distance I covered today. I rode 7 different train lines (Keio New, Oedo, Ginza, Marunounchi, Hibiya, Tozai, And Fukotshni. I got off/on at 13 different stops (Hatagaya, Shinjuku, Tsukijishijo, Ginza, Nihombashi, Otemachi, Kayabacho, Akihabara, Ueno, Asakusa, Shibuya, Shinjuku-Sanchome, Shinjuku-Nishiguchi). I am tired just thinking about the logistics of my day.

The journey to the seafood market was quite straightforward (now that I’ve learned how to read maps and subway signs J).  Once arrival at the market though, mass chaos.  The market opens at 3am, so I’m not sure if that’s why there were no tourists around – but seriously… I was the only girl in the market, and the only white person. I frequently shrieked (from almost being run over) and gasped at the smell of dead fish. I walked the market for an hour, taking in how complex of an operation these markets are – a well-oiled machine. A few interesting finds…

Tsukiji Market

Dead Fishy - Massive Eh?

Octopus I think...

I then walked about 25 minutes to the Ginza district. Ginza reminds me of Robson Street in Vancouver or the major drag in Los Angeles – very posh, very Burberry, very fancy.  It was early in the morning, so most stores were closed, but a very nice rainy walk through a nice part of town. I think this is about when I started on my Starbucks hunt. We have seen a trillion Starbucks in the last 24 hours, but now today… NONE.

I took the train over to Nihombashi to find out that the Imperial Palace is not actually at this station. Slightly flustered and back to the map, I realize it’s at Otemachi station and head on over. I am greeted at the Imperial Palace (royal family lives here) by a sign that says “CLOSED”… yes on Mondays they are closed. Oops. A few quick peeks around and back to the station to head to “Electric Avenue”.   In my head, I totally thought Japan was cheap from a clothing and electronics standpoint. I must have been totally confused, because that’s definitely Hong Kong and not Japan. Electric Avenue is where you can buy discounted electronics – but the prices are very similar to back in Canada.

I had been wanting to go to Ueno but didn’t think I would have the time  – so I made the time, seeing Ueno-Koen was a new priority.  This area of Tokyo is absolutely beautiful with a fantastic hustle and bustle.  I strolled through the park visiting the island on which Benten-Do (temple dedicated to the Buddhist temple of the arts, wisdom, and sea) stands and Kiyomizu Kannon-Do (a red temple that relates to children and Kyoto).  I tend to forget about eating and hydrating when I “tourist,” so I bought a wafer ice cream bar from a vending machine and was on my way back to the subway.

A "Friend" from Ueno.

Asakusa appealed to me from the minute I started learning about Tokyo – but the distance from our hotel was substantial. I had planned out my whole day, so that I would end up at Asakusa. It was the home of Senso-Ji, a beautiful and grand old temple.  Sensjo-Ji has millions of visitors annually so the area was extremely busy. There was a quaint shopping street called Nakamise-Dori that led to the temple and I managed to snag my friend Cory a beautiful set of chopsticks.


Yesterday we were planning on going to Shibuya, but we ran short on time (after getting lost all those times), so I incorporated it into my day today. Shibuya is the home of the Hachiko Statue, and the tale of a dog and a professor making the daily commute to Shibuya station.  Shibuya is also the home to the craziest crosswalk system on earth (I took video – stay tuned).   Lastly, Shibuya has a store called “Shibuya 109” and it has a bazillion, seriously – a bazillion, floors of just young trendy clothes. Considering it was the end of the day, it was a fairly overwhelming last stop.

Lonely Planet recommends the following 16 highlights when visiting Tokyo:

Sumo Tournament, Harajuku Girls, Tsukiji Market, Golden Gai, Ghibli Museum, Roppongi Art Triangle, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Ginza, Electric Town, Meiji-Jingu, Shimo-Kitazawa, Ueno-Koen, Shibuya, Sumida-Gawa, Senso-Ji, and YoYogi-Koen.

In 2 days, I managed to hit 9 of them, and I would have done anything to see a Sumo tournament, but sadly out of season.

So I headed back to the hotel to grab my things and make my way to Tokyo Station to take the bullet train to Osaka.  Considering how sore my body was, I was DREADING the “commute” to Osaka. This involved taking the train from Hatagaya to Shinjuku, transferring lines to take the train to Tokyo Station, transferring companies and lines to take the train to Shin-osaka, transferring lines and companies to take the train to Osaka, and lastly, transferring lines and companies to take the train to Higobashi station (which is apparently walking distance from my hotel).

Jeesh eh? I am now on the train to Osaka – it wasn’t as complicated as it could have been, primarily because I chose to go before rush hour began. My bags are heavy – really heavy (or I’m weak… or both). More to come on heavy bags and packing tips in a future blog post. I will have to do all those transfers when I get to Shin-Osaka, but c’est la vie! It’s already pitch black, as long as I arrive before morning ;) I’m good to go.

Everything is small in Japan... my space on the train...

More importantly – I am starving and thirsty. It’s been hours since I ate and apparently there is no food or liquids on this train. I believe I have a “layover” at Shin-Osaka, so as soon as I have an opportunity to get some nutrients, I am taking a break!

What will it be today? Hot Lemonade? Eel? Panties in a vending machine?

Kyukyusha o yonde [that means call an ambulance – CAUSE I AM STARVING.]

Until next time… XO.

PS – I managed to see/do a lot in the past two days pre-conference.  The conference will be very standard during the day (training, etc) – and very unpredictable in the evening (nation nights, karaoke, and gosh knows what else). More Japan posts coming to a blog near you soon. :)


international travel adventures part 2 – tokyo

Well… I last left off hoping for the best… hoping I would make it to Tokyo alive. :)

Well the flight from San Francisco to Tokyo wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I slept the first half of the flight and then proceeded to work on my Policy & Strategy homework throughout the rest.  Oh yes, I totally lucked out and had 2 seats to myself!

An update on Typhoon Chaba… wellll, the whole plane felt like they were going to die on our landing. It was very windy and everyone was shrieking over the wild dips our plane was doing – dancing in the wind, one might say. Anyways we eventually landed.  I ended up getting to Tokyo about 2.5 hours later than I was supposed to – and just had my fingers crossed that Erik would still be waiting for me, and we could transfer smoothly to the hotel.

Completely unlike me, I didn’t prepare at all for arrival in Tokyo… I looked into everything else other than where we were staying our first few nights and how we would get from Narita Airport to the hotel.  Once I realized how late my arrival was going to be, I started to worry – I didn’t even know the name of the hotel for the immigration form – ha ha ridiculous.

Next thing I started freaking out about? My cell phone wasn’t working.  Even though Lonely Planet had told me that only 3G phones work in Japan, I completely forgot. So there I am in the baggage area (without my 3G on my iPhone on) – freaking out. How would I survive in Tokyo without a phone and without fluent Japanese?

Anyways made it to arrivals to see Erik patiently waiting.  In no time at all we were outside in the pouring rain waiting for the shuttle to Shinjuku station.  While in line, I made friends with a lovely man named Morris.  He proceeded to sit with us on the bus – he’s an inventor!! Polish-born, raised in Toronto, immigrated to Japan, has properties in Texas and Los Angeles. Bizarre.  Anyways he’s invented three cool things: a blood pressure thing, a cosmetics case, and a bicycle pump.  He also rents apartments to foreigners in Tokyo.  Very well-rounded man who kept us entertained and laughing on our hour-ish journey to Shinjuku station.

Upon arrival, we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  At this point in my journey, I had no idea that elevators existed at subway stations, so an exhausted little girl carried her suitcases (yes, please note the “s”) down flights and flights and flights of stairs.  We bought tickets for the Keio New Line (130 yen) and headed to Hatagaya – the area where we would be staying.

Our hotel is called the Sakura Hotel… conveniently located and very used to foreigners.  For the small price of about $100 CDN, we got a double bed (yes – one), a blowdryer, brekkie in the morning (coffee/tea and toast) and a room with the dimensions of 6 feet by 8 feet (maybe 10 feet if we’re including the bathroom.

Our Room at the Sakura Hotel - Tokyo


The original plans were to meet up with Marta and Rui for dinner, but with everyone’s flight connections and exhaustion calling – it just never worked out. Fast to sleep around 11pm, ready to start the next day.

We were up a little after 7am on Day 2 and made it downstairs before breakfast was over.  We took the Keio New Line to Shinjuku – and decided to explore.  Shinjuku’s east side is known for their red-light district and Erik was desperate to see it.  We started off exploring the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices, the Shinjuku-Gyoen (park) and then headed east to the massage parlours and mafia.  The area was extremely sketch – their were many pictures of men you could “rent,” suspicious looking people, and rather abandoned and dirty.  Good times, I tell ya! After substantially scarred, we wanted to go to Yo-Yogi to see a rockabilly band we heard about and Harajuku for some shopping.  We got lost about four thousand times trying to get to Yo-Yogi (much to do with us walking and not knowing which direction we were heading in).  After going forwards, backwards, etc, we finally decide to get back on the train – and head to Meiji-jingumae station.

Me in Shinjuku

From there we walked through the Harajuku area (and saw harajuku girls!!)  to shop. I found a splendid pair of white flats at TopShop on sale for 2600 yen (from 8900 yen)  – lovely, and you’d never find them in Canada. ;)  We walked through Takeshita-dori (teenybopper everything) to Yo-Yogi Koen (park) to see the Japanese rockabilly cats play up a storm.  They play every Sunday afternoon as long as it’s not raining and quite the sight to see.  We headed through the park to Meiji-Jingu, Toyko’s Shinto shrine.  This weekend was the shrine’s 90th anniversary so many festivities were occurring and the journey to the shrine was very entertaining. Picture “rock the bus” but with a shrine…

"Rock the Shrine" at Meiji-Jingu

We walked back to Meiji-jingumae station to train to Shinjuku station where we would meet Marta and Rui.  They were at Starbucks at Shinjuku.  You know how many Starbucks are at Tokyo’s largest hub which transports 3.6 million customers per day? I’d say in the double digits.  It took a VERY long time to find Marta and Rui – but finally, success.

A quick chat and we were back to our hotel for a quick change – as tonight was Halloween!!  I rocked the ‘80’s spandex and neon, while Erik dazzled himself in a horrifying ugly mask. The plan was to meet up with a bunch of others from JCI in Roppongi.  Roppongi is the touristy area where all the foreigners hang out – and it has quite the night life! Anyways, this would all be fine – other than I got lost. And I mean really lost. After a lot of $$$ worth of international text messages and about 1.5 hours of Jean-Simon trying to find Jill in the Las Vegas of Tokyo… I was found. :)

About 8 of us headed to a Japanese restaurant for eats and drinks.  It wasn’t too late of a night as the subway ends at midnight and cabs are quite expensive in Tokyo. We made it back to the hotel a little after midnight completely soaking wet (yes, raining again) and ready for bed.  Marta and Rui, and Jean-Simon and Patrick, all wanted to go to the Tsukiji Market in the morning.  Going to Tsukiji Market meant a 6am wakeup call – fabulous.

Signing off [I would say that in Japanese, but I really have no clue].