Sunday, 22 October 2017

Nihonbox Review - October 'Halloween' 2017

NihonBox is a monthly subscription from Japan filled with a plethora of exciting objects, including licensed goods from anime and video games, traditional items and snacks. Each month you'll receive 7-10 surprise Japanese goods.

This a review of October's Halloween Box.

Price: $32.49USD monthly. (Discounts for longer subscriptions).
For my fellow Australians I paid around $50 this month, including shipping (obviously this is subject to change due to currency rates).

Shipping: Varies depending on location.

Items: 7 in total (bag of sweets, counts as one).

What's inside?

As is my personal preference NihonBox includes a pamphlet that details the items within (along with possible variations) and introduces the month's theme or focus.

Japanese Kitsune Mask - $5
Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox and this particular mask is a traditional and religious representation of what's known in Japan to be a contradictory creature. The mask is quite well made (apparently sourced by a artisan who's been in business over 50 years) and a novel take on the Halloween theme. At first I didn't think much of this item but, to be honest, it's grown on me. I'm going to suggest my husband wear it to the Halloween party we're planning to attend at the zoo and then I might find somewhere to display it in the house. See me and my Poseu below!

Trick or Treat Candy Bag - $5
Within the confines of this cute orange bag were a selection on Japanese candies: including cola gum (that turns your tongue red), very apple tasting snacks, a corn soup Umaibo, pizza chips and a truly delicious (as all things Fujiya generally are) Peko-chan cookie. Seriously if ever visiting Japan do not pass by that store within getting yourself something, you won't regret it. This was a really enjoyable and well curated selection of treats that was heartily enjoyed in my household.

Halloween Pokémon Gashapon
The thing about Gashapon is what do you actually do with them? I always buy them by the dozens (because they're cheap and cute and I can't resist) but really they don't have much of an actual use, do they? I've heard suggestions for using them as zip pulls or curtain cord danglers. Perhaps I should start utalizing them as such (goodness knows I've got tonnes just sitting in storage boxes). Suffice it to say I've a very love/hate relationship with these little collectables. I'm disappointed that, in this instance, I got literally my least favourite of all available variations. Who even is this guy?! Oh well...

Kumamon Sweet Potato Fries
We have a similar thing here in Australia called French Fries (only difference is they're potato, not sweet potato and, really, nicer). My husband called it before we even tried them. Though boasting three air-locked bags within the box the chips still tasted as you'd expect: like cold, crunchy and kinda stale chips. In other words, they weren't great.

Stuffed Slime Tissue Box Cover
This is my second favourite item within October's box. It's big (obviously it needs to be to hide a full size tissue box within it's depths) and really cool. I've not played Dragon Quest but I am a huge, huge fan of Akira Toriyama (I love Dragonball) and his art style. I also love having nerdy things which transform everyday items and add a touch of geek chic to the house.

Studio Ghibli Notebook
The trouble with notebooks, especially in the age of ipads and tablets, is what do you actually use them for these days?! I barely write anything at all with pen and paper therefore this item to me is kinda void. I got the Kiki's Delivery Service option. I might use it... Maybe.

Dragonball Lanyard Accessory
So, as I just mentioned, I love Dragonball. I was so, so, so excited to get this awesome lanyard attachment, which comes with a extendable pull cord. I use a lanyard for work and I have been stuck with my boring corporate generic one simply because the pull cord was indispensable and I've yet to find something to replace it with. No longer. I was only very slightly upset when I realized I could have got a Dragon Radar version. There were certainly others I wanted less (the pull cord is so much better than the key holder). Plus Frieza is such an iconic figure: I remember watching those last 5 Minutes on Namek for A LOT of episodes! To be honest I could have received this and the Slime Tissue Box Holder and I would have been fine with that.

October's NihonBox is such a massive hit for me. As I just said two of those items and I'm golden. I also really loved the mask, upon further thought, and the Halloween candies. Compared to some of the other boxes coming out of Japan Nihonbox offers better value for money (these things aren't all just collected from the local Daiso) and I think a much better curation and effort. I think, with this one box, it's gained a genuine place in my heart. It may even be my favourite box. We'll have to see what's in store for next month, though, before I commit completely.

The spoiler's for November's box include Pokémon, Totoro, Dragonball & One Punch Man. I seriously LOVE all of those fandoms so I cannot wait.

If you'd like to sign up for your own NihonBox, which I heartily recommend, click here. Clicking this link will give me a referral credit that, apart from making my day, will help me continue reviewing all these wonderful boxes!

Monday, 16 October 2017

lookfantastic 'Indulge Me' Beauty Box - October 2017 Review

lookfantastic's beauty box is a monthly subscription box of skincare and cosmetics shipped worldwide from the UK.

"Each month you'll receive a box packed full of beauty products with a guaranteed worth of over £40 (approx. $65AUD). These products are carefully selected by our beauty team, and with YOU in mind! From cult classics to completely new brands you have not heard of before, you are sure to discover new beauty treats within our box." - lookfantastic website

Below is the review for October 2017's Box, the Indulge Me edit:

Price: $20.50-$25AUD monthly (depending on length of subscription)
Note: lookfantastic allows you to sign up for a 12 month subscription (saving you cash money) that you pay monthly, not in one lump sum.

Shipping: Free international shipping.

Products:6 Items (2 Full Size and 4 Samples).

What's inside?

Every month lookfantastic includes a brilliant little booklet, detailing the items within, along with beauty related articles. It also includes what I consider to be a throwaway Elle Magazine (it's 75% ad space).

Skimono Hand Mask Intense Nouishment - $18 (Full size)
Look, honestly I'm not totally convinced as to the benefits of masks (hand masks even less so). That said I know I don't take good care of my hands and, with a young child, no dishwasher and a hand apathy that leads me to purchase hand cream and rarely use it I was more than willing to give it a go. So I imprisoned my hands within the cooling cocoon of wetness and waited 30 mins with baited breath and... I guess my hands looked slightly more hydrated. Maybe? If it did do anything the effects, unfortunately, did not carry over to the next day and my hands returned to their prior listlessness. But I enjoyed the experience. Very novel. There's no way I'd pay $18 for one of these though. See inta for my before and after.

Bean Body Coconut Coffee Bean Scrub -$6 (Sample 50g)
You know us Australians love our coffee and have therefore, apparently, decided to beautify it. The pack advised allocating this to trouble areas therefore I immediately put it to use on my tummy area which, sans baby, has become a little lacklustre (to say least). I loved the immediate coffee scented wham you get from opening. I'm a morning shower person and I think I'll use a little bit of this each day just to wake me up. The pack advises leaving for five minutes and I was in and out in probably two so I likely didn't benefit from the full effects. Nonetheless immediately my skin felt literally silky smooth. I was amazed. My husband also used it, on my recommendation, with mirrored results. Suffice it to say I love this product and would absolutely purchase it.

Modelco Instant Radiance illuminating Under Eye Concealer - $20 (Full Size, Exclusive)
I don't usually have concealer as a one of my go-to's (on a regular day I have a five minute mascara, eyebrow and blush beauty routine) but this product might just convince me to change. Wow! The attached booklet suggested using it under the eyes (which is a particular problem area for me these days due to my newborn's sleeping habits) and there was an instant brightening, lightening and gloss that transformed me. I love this product and will definitely be using it from here on out. Below is a before and after.

Ciate Wonderwall Mascara - $10
This vegan-friendly, paraban-free Mascara offers brilliant volume and length and doesn't clump. A good general mascara to add to your routine.

Lancer The Method: Polish - $20 (Sample, 30ml)
This is an exfoilater apparently intended for every day use, with a sand like consistency and super fresh smell. I found it somewhat harsh, especially when left for several minutes on my face, and would only use occasionally, if at all as it was quite stingy.

Monu Skin Firming Fiji Facial Oil - $10 (Sample, 30ml)
I pretty much only like to change up my night skincare routine (my day routine has been the same for 10 years and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future). Therefore I dedicated this facial oil to my end of the day wind down. So this is quite literally an oil with a very strong floral scent. I don't like the consistency at all and, what's more, it turned my entire face bright red and was a tad stingy. My skin isn't normally overly sensitive but whatever was in the potion clearly didn't agree with me. This is the only real miss for me in this month's box and, due to the extreme reaction, was binned after use.

Verdict? This month's lookfantastic box was a mixture of both hits and misses for me. My highlights were the truly divine coffee scrub, the concealer and the mascara. For a $20 box I received approximately $84 worth of product, which is exceptionally value. As always, the brilliant part about these boxes is sampling brands you weren't aware of and things you perhaps wouldn't usually buy. lookfantastic is a brilliant subscription for both beauty amateurs, like myself, and connoisseurs and I would highly recommend it to woman around the globe.

If you'd like to sign up for your own monthly lookfantastic click here (this will also help support me reviewing these wonderful beauty treasure chests!)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Sailormoon Exhibit & Chibiusa Cafe - Mori Art Gallery, Roppongi Hills (May, 2016)

I've travelled a bit in my life time - solo, with friends, family or my husband - and there are a few steadfast rules I've tried and tested that almost always guarantee smooth sailing and amazing memories. One of my Number One Travel Tips is to have vague plans in mind (things you want to see and do) but not so stringently and down-to-the-second that you can't add in a few (or even a lot) of spur of the moment happenings. It's those random occurrences (decided at the last minute) that are often the highlight of you and your parties trip and leave you with the strongest, most long-lasting and wonderful memories.

It was following this Golden Rule that Josh and I ended up, on a warm Tokyo spring day, at Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills on a trip down the lanes of nostalgia that promised great food, great views and a whole lot of fun.

Luckily for us (me especially) our trip to Japan in May last year happened to coincide with a Sailor Moon exhibit. Sailor Moon was one of the first animes that captivated me and won my heart and therefore a gateway for me to the many intricate and interesting wonders of Japanese culture.  Like many Australians of my vintage I watched it before school on Agro's Cartoon Connection and, later, on Cheez TV (does anyone else still miss Jade and Ryan?!) and it remains, to this day, one of the better memories of my childhood. So when I found out that the exhibit was on it was a given I must go.

Entry to the exhibition (which was set up on the 52nd floor of the tower) included sprawling views of east Tokyo from the observation deck, along with along the perimeter of the exhibition.

The highlight was the absolutely brilliant Chibiusa pop-up cafe. We arrived around 5pm and joined a line of similarly inclined diners. A decent way to gauge good food in Japan is the size of the line waiting patiently outside (though be warned Japanese shop owners are well aware of this proclivity and I have been tricked before: a thoroughly ok buffet restaurant in Diver City, Odaiba lured myself and a friend in with its long line, only for us to discover a very empty restaurant and the extremely sub par food). We waited about an hour and a half (being Disney and theme park fanatics has made us champion waiters). In this case the wait was worth every second. 

Luck truly smiled upon us when the cheerful waitress led us to our seats. A couple had just departed a prime window-adjacent spot featuring sprawling views of Tokyo. We were overjoyed by our fortune and settled in for a relaxed meal. As we enjoyed our food and drink we watched the sun set and twilight descend over the city.

One of the highlights of the meal was, of course, the fact that it was Sailormoon themed. Unfortunately, several items had sold out by the time we visited (I would have loved to try that truly splendid looking burger) but we still were able to snatch up some pretty and tasty grub. Not only did the food and drink look nice but they were also really quite delicious (perhaps one of the benefits of being a high class establishment with gourmet chefs going nuts with a theme!)

As for the exhibit itself I would mention that this particular space isn't massive and therefore anything you see within is somewhat compressed. For me the highlight was seeing the delicately sewn Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion outfits. I did mention a potential grab and go scenario to Josh but, unfortunately, the logistics of such a scheme were not in our favour.

The Mori Art Museum holds exhibits quite regularly (which span the width and breath of pop culture to fine art) and the attached 'The Sun Cafe' also regularly offers themed fare. I would highly recommend a trip there if there happens to be something on display that tickles your fancy.

Currently they're celebrating Weekly Shonen Jump's anniversary and therefore have an exhibition showcasing numerous anime and manga series' (along with a truly inspired looking burger menu). It's also worth nothing that, if you're a shopper, like myself, the Sailormoon exhibit featured a hoard of exclusive merchandise and any other pop culture exhibit would likely boast the same. If I was in Japan at the moment that's the first place I'd be headed: for the views, food, culture and amazing ambiance Mori Art Gallery is sure to deliver with every culture packed punch.

To see what's currently happening click here.

Or for information on the Weekly Shonen Jump exhibition click here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

KiraKira Crate - 'Halloween' October 2017

KiraKira Crate is a monthly Japanese beauty subscription box curated by the makers of Japan Crate. Every month it promises 6-8 full size beauty products that showcase the best and brightest of Japanese cosmetics and skin care. This is a review of October's Halloween crate.

Price: $29 USD per month.
I purchased my first month's box via Groupon. Though it was only available for purchase via Groupon's US site I was still able to have the box shipped to Australia (as shipping is free worldwide). This is a great, less expensive way to give KiraKira crate (and also Japan crate 'Premium' option and DokiDoki crate) a try before you commit. Purchase from Groupon for $19USD here.

Shipping: Free Worldwide.

Items: 6 Full Size Items.

What's Inside?

Every month KiraKira Crate comes with a small, colour booklet detailing the month's items, sharing subscribers social media posts and providing tips and tricks on how to use the items. It also has information and tidbits that are theme related. As you may already know I love when companies go to the effort to provide booklets such as these as I think it adds to the overall feel and quality of the box and subscription.

Yuzu Skin Lotion - 500ml - $5
This liquid lotion, boasting yuzu citris extract and hylaronic acid, claims to be an 'ultra-moistorizer, must-have item'. The scent is similar to supermarket moisturizers and it has the consistency of water. I've used it on my décolletage for several days and have noticed no difference whatsoever. I'm going to dedicate this Aussie summer as a sun balm for it's apparent cooling effect but honestly am unsure as to its actual effectiveness.

Purple Glitter Eyeliner & Mascara - Malibu Beauty - $1
Let me start off by saying I'd be shocked and amazed if this wasn't from Daiso or another 100-yen store. Cheap and nasty are the words I'd use. I personally won't be using this, it's a throwaway item in the literal sense.

Yokai Face Mask - Pure Smile - $4
So, I think the vast majority of face masks do nothing. But they're fun, particularly when packaged in such novel form. See me enjoying being a wonderfully grim Yokai on Insta.

Orange Bubble Bath & Body Wash - Little Cat - $1
This is a very sweet little item and, honestly, who doesn't enjoy a nice bubble bath?! Though very orange smelling initially it didn't translate in the bath unfortunately.

Green & Yellow Face Paint - Malibu Beauty - $1
I get that this box is supposed to be Halloween themed. But, seriously, this item is kinda blah! Much like the eye duo this will probably be gifted or binned and is likely of dollar shop origin.

Eyebrow Shaver with Mirror - $3
This is probably my favourite item of the bunch partly for nostalgic reasons and partly for practicality. My friend Liz introduced me to these after an extended trip to China with her Chinese fiancé. Though that initial introduction ended in disaster (somehow I managed to delete my right eyebrow) I think these eyebrow shavers are endlessly useful and, for lazy beauty addicts like myself, much quicker and easier than painstakingly plucking wayward brow hairs. This one is also just the right amount of sharp, which is sometimes lacking on cheaper versions.

Verdict? My pricing is based on my experience of Japan and the general quality and usefulness of the items themselves (in other words it's educated guesswork). By my logic there's about $15 worth of items for a box that normally cost you $29. My pricing might be a little harsh (maybe) but boy, am I glad I bought this on Groupon for $19. Do I think it's worth full price? This month certainly wasn't. Not only was it terrible value but it was mostly throwaway or cheap stuff, which is annoying as there is plenty of great value cosmetics available in a Japan.

A note: The one thing I would say is that, to me, none of the crates I've received coming out of Japan are what I'd call good value. In my experience they have maybe one of two items that might be worth 5-10 dollars and are then padded with filler and throwaway items that almost certainly come from Daiso or somewhere similar (meaning they're retail value is 110¥ or less than $1.50). KiraKira crate is no exception. Don't buy crates from Japan if you want to by wowed by the high value verses low cost as I've yet to find one that provides such. They're really more for novelty than anything. This month Kirakira crate was really bottom of the barrel though.

If you'd like to try KiraKira crate for yourself click here.
Or to try for $19USD via Groupon click here.