I spent time back in the UK over the new year, visiting friends and family so we could bitch about Brexit together. (Seeing those return fare prices now is painful.)
And I watched an epic live performance of the Avenue Q musical. It never gets any easier watching those puppets do stuff... even when you know the humans with their hands up puppet butts are calling the shots.
I did visit the 'Touka Ebisu' festival at Daikokucho's Okuninushi shrine for the first time (Jan 9th-11th). You know it's an important ritual when they put their umbrellas down in the pouring rain to bless you properly.
To look back, Feb was all about taking photos of food. Some are from Feb 1st, the day I fell down a wet flight of stairs then self-medicated with cake.
It can be argued I needed the comfort food. I renewed my work visa, that took mental energy. But I did find out I passed JLPT N2 on the 2nd try. That puts me at officially slightly dumber than a Japanese high schooler. On paper, it's a great achievement, and I'm sticking to that script.
Feb was also the month of V-Day: the lovey-dovey one, and the local group performing The Vagina Monologues in Osaka for the 2nd time. They'll be doing it all over again in 2019, if you're interested.
There was a lot happening in March. Nipponbashi Street Festa, a Lego exhibition here in Osaka, and a sake festival in Kyoto. It was like coming out of hibernation into the sunlight. I mean it, those first 2 months were cold.
I also had some friends visiting, and along with that came the chance to geek out. Yes, I took them to a maid cafe. Yes, we went to Nara and gawked at deer. Yes, we took purikura. These chances don't come along very often.
It was great weather for sightseeing, over the whole month. The sakura bloomed at least a week earlier than normal. Cherry blossom coverage should be in the April section! but there it was.
Moving house is stressful at the best of times. Add 'needing a Japanese guarantor' to that. I nearly tore my hair out... which would've meant me being denied for not looking like my ID card.
But somehow, I managed, and I kicked off April in a newer, bigger apartment. A solid accomplishment for the first half of the year. I'm allowed to be proud of myself for that, right?
Near the end of the month, I went on a guided tour of the Nishinari area's dirt cheap dive bars. Tiny, old and pokey places, with decent plates of food at prices you can hardly believe. Hey, when you've just splurged on letting agent fees and apartment cleaning, you scrimp where it counts.
Golden Week 2018 was a gourmet week: a gyoza festival, a meat festival, and a Fanta soda float event in Kobe. I won a case of orange Fanta for posting a pic of my float on Instagram. Yay!
Come to think of it, my pics from May '18 are very food heavy. And sugary. Pancakes, ice cream, chocolate, more pancakes. That's the good weather dragging me out to restaurants.
Mid-May's my Japan-iversary - my 2nd, this time. Took myself out for cheese fondue, that most Japanese of foods...
The heat was on. And by that I mean work stresses I won't go into. There was a sake-infused nabe hotpot party in June as well somewhere, maybe they cancelled each other out.
I wrote a Tanabata wish for a less stressful life, and hung it on a fake branch at a nearby subway station. We got a localised earthquake the next day. Next time I won't bother.
On a rainy, humid day, I took a trip to the UCC Coffee Museum in Kobe. It's an interesting, caffeinated ride - highly recommended if you're ever in Kansai. If there's something Japan's museums need, it's more free coffee tastings.
When there's an art exhibition happening over a whole floor of hotel rooms, you go look at it. I did, anyway. Without checking how much it cost to get in... but Art Osaka was worth paying to see, if only for a Doraemon drowning face down in a bedsheet.
Summer festival season was in full swing, including the mighty Osaka tradition that is Tenjin Matsuri. So many festivals, so little time. I got tipsy, sunburnt, and a bit pudgy around the waist.
Oh, the sunburn happened at a Canada Day event too. And when I went out wearing a yukata.
I upgraded my phone, finally - just not quite in time to get better pics of Nara's lantern festival. Remember when I said I wanted a camera with better night vision this year? Job done. Looks like I'm going again next summer.
Speaking of photos from August, the evidence shows I made the most of the upgrade. I went to at least 3 BBQs that month. Took a lot of artsy shots of the sunset off my balcony. And I stumbled on a mini plastic train carriage full of dung beetles.
The start of quote-unquote "autumn" was signalled by signs for warm yummy oden popping back up outside conbinis. Never mind that it was still damn hot outside.
My Mum paid a visit, which meant yet more touristy stuff. We sang karaoke together for over 2 hours. We got some caricatures drawn, and some badass kimono photos taken. I love my Japan life, but I miss my family a lot. This time the solo train ride home from the airport was tough.
That meant I needed something to keep me distracted. And what better to occupy my thoughts than a typhoon? A day of hiding indoors while the wind trashed it outside, ooh what fun.
A British Fair rocked up at the Hankyu Umeda department store. It brought me fish and chips, sausage rolls, Royal Doulton ceramic bowls, and afternoon cream tea sets. Don't tell anyone, but I cried into my battered cod (just a little).
Halloween was an interesting weekend, as usual. Except this year I realised I always miss the main event. It's crowded enough on the Saturday night, but the 31st itself - a Wednesday - looked insane. I only saw it on Instagram, sadly. That's something to discover next year.
To look at Japan the day after Halloween, you'd think Nov 1st was actually Christmas. All my pics of Christmas trees outside buildings are from November. I stocked up on mince pies and stollen before they all sold out. (They did. Before December. Ouch.)
On 'November's Christmas Eve', the 24th (nobody else calls it that), I visited an illumination event in Wakayama called Festa Luce. The trippiest light festival I ever saw. Like Santa ate too many rainbow sprinkle mince pie doughnuts and threw up over the side of the sleigh.
Red, red everywhere. But not Rudolph's nose this time - the burning autumn leaves in Arashiyama. We hiked up to the monkey park, trekked over a huge bridge, and spotted a tourist being caught defacing the bamboo. You don't get many days as eventful as that.
I was crazy busy with work, and buying Christmas gifts, and showing my face at Christmas parties, and prepping for the new year. It's been a pretty full-on month. And now it's already several days into 2019.
Have I ever written a year recap post this long? I don't think so. At least that means I got a lot done, and have a lot of memories to go with.