Easy Japanese and Korean Cafe Recipes to Make At Home

During quarantine, many of us couldn’t visit our local cafes. In fact, sitting at my favorite coffee shop with an iced coffee while working is probably the thing I have missed the most! As a result, lots of us decided to create our own at-home cafes with recipes inspired by our favorite coffee shops.

Of all the coffee shops in the world, Japan and Korea have some of the most ambitious food and drink combinations. From whipped coffee to onigiri with adventurous fillings, Asian cafes serve up some seriously tasty treats! If you’ve been missing traveling and going to your favorite coffee shop, then whipping up these recipes at home is a fun and COVID-safe alternative.

I first got the idea to have an at-home Korean-slash-Japanese cafe from watching this video from Marie’s Kawaii World. There’s something to be said for a good stay-cation, and making these Japanese and Korean recipes will totally transport you to a different continent. Make sure to watch her video for some tasty drink ideas, and keep scrolling for some of my own personal favorites!

Dalgona Coffee

Have you ever heard of dalgona, or whipped, coffee? I hadn’t until very recently, but I’m dying to try it! It’s a classic staple at Korean coffee shops that has since taken Instagram by storm. This coffee can be made at home by whipping instant coffee, sugar, and hot water and spooning the whip over your choice of hot or cold milk. Get the recipe from My Korean Kitchen.

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Unsurprisingly, Japanese matcha is a staple at cafes in Japan. Matcha is a type of concentrated green tea. The tea leaves are ground to make a bright green powder with an earthy taste and smell. You can make a latte with matcha similarly to the way you would with coffee, by steaming milk and pouring steamed milk into your brewed matcha. Get the how-to on making a matcha green tea latte at home from Japan Centre.

Strawberry Milk

Fresh strawberry milk is a beloved Korean drink enjoyed both in cafes and at home. Instead of adding artificial colors and flavors to a bottle (like we do), the Koreans blend strawberry puree with a sugar syrup and your choice of milk, dairy or non-dairy. This simple at-home version uses sweetened condensed milk in lieu of sugar syrup, meaning you don’t need to melt the sugar over the stove. Get the recipe at Cookerru.

Fruits Sando

For Americans, sandwiches are almost exclusively a savory affair. Not for the Japanese! At a Japanese cafe, it’s not unusual to find a fruits sando, or fruit sandwich. Layers of whipped cream and fruit are sandwiched between two slices of milk bread, a soft and sweet Japanese white bread. You can use any store-bought white bread in lieu of milk bread — but, of course, don’t forget to cut the crusts off in true Japanese fashion. Get the recipe from Sylvia Wakana.

Fruit Sandwich / フルーツサンド | For more description see here boh… | Flickr

Chapssaltteok (Red Bean Mochi)

Mochi are dumplings made from a sweet rice dough. They originated in Japan but are also popular in Korea, where this version — known as chapssaltteok — is from. These mochi are filled with red bean paste, a sweet filling made from adzuki beans. You can find red bean paste (or adzuki beans to make your own) at your local Asian grocery store, or perhaps in the international aisle of your regular supermarket. Get the recipe at My Korean Kitchen.

Onigiri

If you like sushi, then you’ll almost definitely love onigiri. These Japanese snacks, otherwise known as rice balls, are made from cooked sushi rice and a sweet or savory filling. Some traditional fillings include tuna and mayo, bonito flakes, or salted ume plums. However, you can make them without filling…or even fill them with leftovers, as the Japanese often do! Another version of onigiri, known as onigirazu, uses rice as a sandwich for layers of meat and veggies, wrapped in nori (seaweed paper). Get a basic onigiri recipe from Wandercooks, or follow this onigirazu recipe from Just One Cookbook.

Purin

Got more of a sweet tooth than a savory one? Then you’ll love purin, a Japanese caramel custard pudding often served in cafes. You’ll recognize it from the name of the Sanrio character Pompompurin, who is named and designed after purin, his favorite dessert! Surprisingly, purin is easy to make with just a few tasty ingredients. It’s the perfect dessert to impress guests with, since it looks fancy despite being delightfully simple. Get the recipe from Tiffy Cooks.

Homemade Creme Caramel with Sweet Syrup / Custard Pudding | Flickr

Blippo Kawaii Shop: Best Of The 2021 Tokyo Sale

Another year, another Blippo Kawaii Shop Tokyo Sale! The Tokyo Sale is an annual event at Blippo Kawaii Shop, where a select number of kawaii products are significantly discounted.

In recent months, Blippo’s selection has been dramatically expanding. They have stocked a bunch of new items from brands like San-X and Mindwave, and started carrying new brands like Gloomybear and Tokidoki.

As for the Tokyo Sale, Blippo has added many high-quality kawaii products to its sale section in honor of the occasion. You can find characters and brands like Sumikko Gurashi, Bonbonribbon, and Pote Usa Loppy among the stock.

I’ve curated a list of my favorite finds from the 2021 Tokyo Sale section to help you decide what to buy. Don’t forget to stock up — the Tokyo Sale ends soon!

Mameshiba San Kyodai Sakura Plushie Charm ($5)

Japan’s month-long sakura viewing season has come and gone, but it is not your last chance to get your hands on these limited-edition sakura shiba plushies! These cuties are wearing festival ornaments with motifs like sakura blossoms and Hanami dango, with a chain attached so you can carry them on your keys, backpack, or anywhere else that makes you happy.

Pote Usa Loppy Rope Handle Shoulder Bag ($21)

Want to carry your picnic or beach day items, library books, or farmer’s market groceries in kawaii style? Then you need this rope-handle shoulder bag featuring Pote Usa Loppy’s Shiloppy! Sturdy rope handles, a convenient pocket, and a magnetic closure make this bag a high-quality investment for your next daytime excursion.

Sumikko Gurashi Japanese Souvenir Socks ($5)

Blippo has added a wide variety of Japanese souvenir socks featuring Sumikko Gurashi characters to its Tokyo Sale lineup, including this pair including a kokeshi doll. The kokeshi doll is a popular souvenir in Tohoku, Japan! With these socks, you can travel the world without ever needing to leave your backyard. COVID-safe vacay, here we come.

Bonbonribbon Pencil Set ($3)

Whether you’re looking to sketch in your bullet journal or take an exam, these kawaii Bonbonribbon pencils will brighten up your day. You’ll get four hexagonal pencils with a cute design featuring Bonbonribbon and her bunny friends, as well as a selection of buttons. And, thanks to the Tokyo Sale, you can get them for as little as $3!

Sumikko Gurashi Multi-Color Pen ($3)

If you ever have trouble deciding which color pen to use, this Sumikko Gurashi-themed multi-color pen will solve your dilemma. This pen comes with a color for every mood. You can even switch it up mid-sentence if you’re feeling mischievous! The theme of these pens is “happy friends,” which perfectly describes the Sumikko gang in this design.

Colorful Princess Eraser Set ($3)

Get a taste of the royal treatment with this colorfully cute eraser set from Blippo! If you grew up in the early 2000s like I did, these Japanese puzzle erasers will bring you right back to your childhood (and taking apart and putting back together puzzle erasers to distract yourself in class). With designs like wands, tiaras, and gems, these erasers are perfect for embracing the magical girl inside of you.

Sumikko Gurashi Stickers with Gum ($3)

What could be cuter than these kawaii sticker and gum packages featuring the Sumikko Gurashi gang? The Tokyo Sale is rich with Sumikko Gurashi this year, and these tiny boxes full of goodies are no exception! Each pack comes with three pieces of stickers and one piece of gum. Chew some bubblegum while decorating to your heart’s content with these adorable Sumikko Gurashi stickers.

Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town Vs. Story Of Seasons: Pioneers Of Olive Town – What’s The Difference?

I’m back! After a much-needed break from blogging, I (finally) feel inspired to write again. At first, I wasn’t sure I would continue, since I just started a new blog called Wellness by Haley to chronicle what I’m learning about mental health, social work, and grad school. I’m also preparing for a busy year: my first as a full-time grad student!

So, what have I been doing in my free time during this hiatus, besides setting up my new blog? TBH, I’ve been playing a LOT of video games on my Nintendo Switch Lite. You probably already know that I am a fan of Animal Crossing, but I’ve recently gotten into the Story Of Seasons series.

These games are very similar to Animal Crossing in that the objective is to beautify your farm and befriend the local villagers. As someone who loves otome games, I love that there’s a dating/marriage/children component to the series as well! Now that I’ve played both Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town (FOMT) and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (POOT), I have some thoughts about what makes each game unique — and which features I prefer from each one.

Oh, and if you’re waiting for stationery content (because I know I’ve been writing about a lot of video games, etc. lately), don’t worry — that’s coming soon! 😉

Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town

In both the SOS games, you play a boy or girl moving to the town — in FOMT, that’s Mineral Town — where your grandfather used to run a farm. After your grandfather passes away, he leaves you the farm, but it’s in a state of disrepair. It’s your job to restore the farm to its former glory.

The most obvious difference between FOMT and POOT is the art style. FOMT is a chibi art style, while POOT is more sophisticated. I prefer the FOMT style because the graphics load more quickly and are less busy. I felt like the art style and number of features in POOT overwhelmed me a bit.

I have played through the first year of FOMT a few times and gotten to about year 3 on my most recent playthrough. I wanted to decide which of the male marriage candidates were going to be the most entertaining! Eventually, I settled on Grey, who is a cute, fiery blacksmith’s apprentice. His dialogue once you get married and have a child is sweet as honey.

In general, I prefer the marriage candidates in FOMT because they each have their own unique cutscenes and personality. More than in POOT, the game goes into the characters’ backstories and establishes their motivations. It really helps you connect with the marriage candidates, making it easier to choose who to start your new life with.

Another aspect of FOMT that’s better than POOT is the mining aspect of the game. You can enter the mines in both FOMT and POOT, but FOMT has a much more sophisticated mining system. There are many different types of gems you can collect during the wintertime, when no crops grow,

Finally, something great about FOMT that’s not in POOT (as far as I know) is that you can hunt down different treasures throughout the game. There are truth jewels, Kappa jewels, and goddess jewels. Some are hidden around town and some are hidden in the mine. Once you’ve accomplished the main objective of the game (to get married and restore your farm), hunting for these is a fun little side quest that I really enjoy!

Image Source: Steam

Story Of Seasons: Pioneers Of Olive Town

Story of Seasons: POOT is the upgraded version of FOMT that improved on the game’s features and art style. In fact, this newer version of the game is very similar to Animal Crossing in a lot of ways. The primary similarity between the two is the crafting element introduced in POOT. As in Animal Crossing, you can craft decorations for your farm, customize furniture, and obtain different hairstyles and outfits in this newer Story of Seasons game.

After playing FOMT, the first thing I noticed about POOT was how much easier the game seems to be (for reference, I played on Normal for both games). For example, it’s a lot easier to sell items for money (you get more money, faster). More money means it’s easier to upgrade your home and your tools, meaning you can acquire things like pets earlier in the game. This definitely made my experience with POOT more fun.

In general, farming is easier in POOT. For one thing, it’s easier to switch between tools and easier to upgrade your tools. The crops are easier to grow, in that they grow quickly so you can cash out on them sooner. And there’s a wider variety of crops to choose from, without needing to unlock them as the years go on. You can also continue to grow certain crops in wintertime. In FOMT, the lack of wintertime activity meant you spent more than you earned almost constantly, making it hard to acquire a big enough fortune to shop Van’s special items.

Van isn’t in POOT, but one feature they carried over from FOMT to POOT is the Makers. Makers are machines that produce different items from animal byproducts. For example, you can turn milk into butter or eggs into mayonnaise. In this game, however, you have to craft the Makers, instead of buying them from the blacksmith’s. They’re a lot easier to obtain in POOT, which contributes to the ease of acquiring income in this version of the game.

In POOT, there’s a lot more to do because they introduced new elements that made things like cooking easier to accomplish. There’s no Goddess Collection in POOT, which does take away some of the incentive to cook. However, they introduced a Grocery Store, which carries all the seasonal crops you’ve ever shipped. This way, you don’t have to worry about saving your crops for cooking and can just head on over to the store like you would IRL.

However, one of the annoyances of POOT that contributes to having more to do is the fact that it’s so difficult to keep your farm clean. Weeds sprout quickly, grass grows errantly, and every time it rains (which is a LOT, in my experience), puddles accumulate. You can avoid this by placing items like roads, which prevent weeds or puddles from spawning in those squares. But, the rest of the grid is fair game. Not to mention, getting the dilapidated farm clear in the first place takes a lot of time and energy — both yours and your character’s!

In conclusion, POOT is a lot more complicated than FOMT. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of FOMT. And, I definitely felt more attached to the marriage candidates in FOMT. But, the new features in POOT keep me busy and make the game a lot more fun. Instead of wondering what I should do to pass the time, I now find myself running out of time in the in-game day to get things done, both on and outside the farm!

Image Source: GoNintendo

Kawaii Bento Box Lunch Ideas

Bento is a Japanese tradition of packing lunch in a small, single-serve container that dates all the way back to the 1100s. When you think about how old it is, it seems crazy that the bento craze only reached the United States a couple of years ago.

Kawaii character-inspired bentos, called kyaraben, are one of the cutest ways to pack lunch. Just looking at bento box ideas on Pinterest is enough to brighten up your lunch break — and make you hungry! Better yet, they’re versatile: even the pickiest eaters can customize a kawaii bento box to their tastes.

In this blog post, you’ll learn how to pack your very own kawaii bento, including what tools you need to get started and what to pack in your bento lunch box. Let’s get started!

What You Need

Bento Box

The foundation of your meal is the bento box you will pack it in. These days, there are many different styles of bento boxes, including Japanese and Western brands, for you to choose from. Some bento boxes have multiple layers for you to store snacks and side dishes on top, with a larger compartment on the bottom for a main dish. Others come with removable dividers you can use to divvy up the bento box however you see fit. Still others come with their own utensils for easy eating!

Bento Boxes for Adults - 1400 ML Bento Lunch Box For Kids Childrens With Spoon & Fork - Durable, Leak-Proof for On-the-Go Meal, BPA-Free and Food-Safe Materials
LOVINA Bento Box for Kids & Adults ($15)

Rice Molds

A traditional Japanese bento lunch is built around rice balls. Rice molds are a fun way to make your lunch box more kawaii. They come in adorable shapes, like bears and bunnies. You can even find rice molds to create rice balls in the shape of your favorite kawaii characters, like Hello Kitty!

Halloluck 3-Pack Rice Molds ($7)

Cookie Cutters

Different sized cookie cutters are a must-have for personalizing your bento box. You can use them on sandwiches, slices of meat or cheese, veggies, and fruits to make your bento lunch more unique. These sweet shapes can make even the most boring lunch kawaii!

LENK Vegetable Cutter Shapes Set,Mini Pie,Fruit and Cookie Stamps Mold,Cookie Cutter Decorative Food,for Kids Baking and Food Supplement Tools Accessories Crafts for Kitchen,Green,9 Pcs
LENK Vegetable Cutter Shapes Set ($9)

Cupcake Liners

Cupcake liners are perfect for divvying up the compartments of your bento box or keeping a picky eater’s food from touching. You can fill them with berries, pieces of melon, cherry tomatoes, crackers, or cookies to add a little bit of extra to your bento box.

Patelei Animal Theme Cupcake Liners ($12)

Toothpicks

Cute cocktail toothpicks are the perfect decorative accent for any bento box lunch. You can use them for clean and easy pickup on melon balls or cherry tomatoes, or even use them to create meat and cheese or caprese skewers.

Bird Cocktail Picks - Olive Skewers Bpa Free Reusable Sandwich Sticks Appetizer Toothpicks Fruit Stick, Perfect for Cocktail Party Home set of 12 pcs 3.14 Inches
Canos Bird Cocktail Picks ($10)

Kawaii Bento Lunch Ideas

Sandwich Lunch

Many of us think of sandwiches as boring lunch fare, but that couldn’t be further from the truth when you’re talking about bento boxes. Sandwiches’ ability to be cookie cut into unique shapes makes them extremely versatile for themed bentos. You can use slices of meat and cheese to create faces and other accents on your sandwich creations!

Pasta Lunch

Pasta salad makes for a versatile lunch because of the many ways you can make it. Traditional macaroni salad, pesto and caprese, Caesar salad… the list goes on and on. Or, alternatively, serve up warm pasta with your favorite sauce in a thermos, or even a noodle stir fry.

Meat and Cheese Crackers Lunch

A meat and cheese crackers lunch feels nostalgic to me, probably because it reminds me of those little turkey Lunchables I used to eat in elementary school. You can make it kawaii by cutting the meats and cheeses into cute shapes with your mini cookie cutters!

Rice Ball Lunch

The rice ball lunch is a staple of the Japanese bento tradition. What’s awesome about rice balls is that they can be sculpted into any shape your heart desires. Want Rilakkuma-shaped bear rice balls? Do it. Pink-dyed Hello Kitty cat-shaped rice balls? Go for it!

How to Celebrate Sakura Season (Hanami) in the U.S.

Each year in Japan, the cherry blossom, or sakura, trees bloom between late March and early April. It’s customary to celebrate sakura season, or Hanami, with an outdoor festival or a party beneath the sakura trees.

It’s a dream of mine to one day visit Japan during sakura season (and get my hands on some of those limited-edition Starbucks goodies). But since that isn’t possible during the pandemic, I will be celebrating Hanami here in the U.S.

Cherry blossom season is fleeting, and comes just once a year. As the Japanese say, mono no aware (nothing lasts forever)! Make sure to make the most of it with these tips for celebrating from the comfort of your home.

Snacks & Drinks

In Japan, a lot of people celebrate Hanami with signature sweets and drinks that evoke the colors and flavors of the sakura tree.

Traditionally, sake, or rice wine, is the drink of choice during Hanami. In the modern era, however, some of the most famous Hanami drinks come from Starbucks, which releases a cherry blossom latte each year that comes in a beautiful pink color — just like a sakura flower!

You can make your own cherry blossom latte with ingredients you can easily find in the regular grocery store. This recipe from Food.com uses espresso, cherry syrup, vanilla syrup, and your favorite milk to make a sweet and steamy sakura drink.

Food is another way to ring in Hanami. The Japanese often make sakura versions of their favorite sweet treats, while other goodies only pop up during this special season. One such treat is dango, sweet rice dumplings served on a kabob stick. The dumplings are colored in shades of pink, green, and white to evoke the colors of the sakura tree.

You can make your own dango with this recipe from Japan Centre. The recipe does call for some specialty ingredients, like glutinous and non-glutinous rice flour, which can be found at an Asian grocery store. You probably have one in your area, so run a quick Google search to find the Asian grocery store nearest you!

Alternatively, if you’re not much of a chef, many sakura-flavored treats from Japan are available to be purchased here in the U.S. For example, look no further than Blippo to get the limited-edition Sakura Almond flavor of everyone’s favorite Pocky biscuit sticks.

Stationery

If you’re a Japanese stationery guru like I am, then you probably already know that one of the best parts of Hanami season is the limited-edition Japanese stationery that gets released every year. Brands like BGM and MT Tape release limited-edition washi tape; special pens are released that write in bright pink ink; and shelves fill with sheets upon sheets of sakura flower stickers.

So, where can you stock up on these limited-edition sakura goods in the United States? Here are some of my favorite picks for this year’s Hanami stationery.

Spring Limited Cherry Blossom Stickers - Shiba

Cute Things From Japan has many limited-edition sakura goods from Mind Wave, including this sheet of sweet shiba stickers. ($3.50)

Washi Tape - Cherry Blossom

They also have limited-edition BGM washi tape in three different sakura prints. This one, called Morning Cherry Blossom, is my favorite! ($2.90)

You can find this pretty Rilakkuma letter set from San-X at Blippo. The set comes with 4 envelopes and 8 blank and lined sheets with different sakura-inspired designs. ($9.90)

Delde Slide Pen Case - 2021 Sunny Spring Series

This Spring 2021 Delde pencil case from KawaiiPenShop comes in four designs, one of which is a pastel pink sakura theme. The unique shape collapses to form a standing pencil cup for all your writing utensils. ($24.99)

Character Goods

One of the most exciting parts of sakura season for kawaii fans is that all your favorite kawaii characters jump in on the trend! From Rilakkuma to Hello Kitty, you can keep an eye out for special limited-edition character goods this spring that are unique to Hanami in Japan.

Here are some of my picks for sakura-themed character goods that are available for order in the United States:

Rilakkuma Cherry Blossom 15

I was so excited to see this sakura Rilakkuma plushie at my local Barnes & Noble! Dressed in pink with sakura accents, Rilakkuma is celebrating Hanami with a stick of squishy, sweet dango. ($24.99)

Hello Kitty Pink Sakura Kimono 10" Plush

For fans of Hello Kitty, you can find this Sanrio sakura stuffed animal at Japan LA. Pale pink Hello Kitty is dressed in a Hanami-themed kimono with a matching obi, bow, and sandals. ($36.00)

More of a My Melody fan? Not to worry! This adorable limited-edition Sanrio sakura mochi plushie is available on Japan Haul. It’s called a “mochi” plushie because it’s extra-squishy, just like the sweet treat. ($19.10)

Or, if you stan Cinnamoroll, Japan Haul has also got you covered. This limited-edition Sanrio sakura plushie features Cinnamoroll with pink accents, a sakura flower on its ear, and a pretty blue and pink sakura-themed outfit. ($37.32)

The Best Otome Games for the iPhone

Above all else, this blog is about being honest — so I have a confession to make: I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut lately. I live with depression and, lately, it’s been like pulling teeth to get myself to write blog posts for work, let alone for the fun of it.

However, one thing I always come back to when I am depressed is my comfort games: those games you download onto your phone and become absolutely obsessed with when you don’t have the energy to do anything else. For me, those are otome-style games.

While I’m not a gaming blog, and am definitely more of a casual gamer, this post is not entirely out of place given my interest in Japanese culture. In other words, this is yet another extension of my obsession with all things kawaii.

Otome games originated in Japan. The word “otome” is Japanese for “maiden game,” and refers to a story-based game where one of the main goals is to romance a character. Originally, they were geared at women, but they have since become popular with all genders, and many are LGBTQ+ friendly.

The otome style may have originated in Japan, but it has definitely become mainstream here in the United States. If you play Choices or Chapters, then you’re already deeply familiar with the otome concept.

The main difference between otome games developed in Japan and those developed in the United States is the artwork: Japanese otome games tend to resemble the anime style of drawing, while in the U.S., the artwork is more realistic.

If you, like me, aren’t much of a gamer but love a good book or manga, you’ll love otome games. Like Animal Crossing, the game takes little skill to learn and gets you deeply invested in the characters. And, like a good book, the story will pull you in and capitalize on your imagination.

Without further ado, here are five otome games you should check out (both American and Japanese) if you’re interested in exploring the genre for yourself.

1. Obey Me

Obey Me is hands-down my FAVORITE otome game for the iPhone. The premise for Obey Me is that you are an exchange student sent to live with seven brothers in the Devildom. The brothers are devils, while you are human. You are also there with three other exchange students, one of whom is human and two of whom are angels, as well as the Prince of the Devildom. Only the brothers are love interests in the game; of the other four main characters, one is a child and the other three are considered “undateables.” In Obey Me, you can play through the main story, as well as receive chats and phone calls from characters, read side stories, and participate in special events to earn prizes.

Obey Me seems strange and convoluted from the outside, and the story takes some pretty weird turns. But if you’re willing to suspend your sense of realism and get lost in the story, the characters are some of the most compelling you will find in any otome game. Unlike other otomes, you don’t have to choose a route in this game, meaning you can romance as many or as few of the seven brothers as you like. The other nice thing about this is that you don’t need to choose an LI at all, if that’s not something you’re interested in — as far as I can tell, you can skip all of the romantic choices.

Obey Me uses the gacha system, something you’ll find in many Japanese otome games and virtually no American otome games. In the gacha system, you earn randomized pulls from a batch of cards. These cards have ranks and rarity levels that help you beat other players (or, in the case of Obey Me, the computer). You need energy to participate in these battles — in Obey Me, they take the form of dance battles — which are required to progress through the game. That’s the one caveat to this game: it’s annoying to wait for your energy to recharge and hard to earn enough money to level up your cards!

2. Mystic Messenger

*This section has been updated as of June 2021.

I’m going back and editing this section….because I FINALLY played Mystic Messenger! The premise of the game is a bit confusing, but you’re essentially lured into a group chat with a bunch of random guys who invite you to join their secret party-planning association called RFA. Almost the whole game is told through chat, with a few visual novel scenes along the way. One thing I love about this game is that there is NO GACHA SYSTEM in Mystic Messenger! You can also progress through the main story without having to earn any type of in-game currency (though having currency, called hourglasses, definitely helps you binge-play).

Like most otome games, you wind up on a route with a particular character; however, instead of choosing your route, your route is chosen for you based on the number of hearts you have for each character. Hearts can be earned by choosing responses the characters like. There are at least six different characters, including one female, that can be romanced. So far, I have played the Yoosung Casual Story route and the Jumin Deep Story route….Jumin’s route is a bit twisted, but I can’t help but simp a cat daddy!

You can then unlock one of seven different endings (elaborate, right?!) based on your choices over the last 11 days. There are good endings, bad endings, and neutral endings — and you can replay as many times as you want to try to get the ending you’re looking for! My main complaints about the game are about the storytelling: even in Deep Story mode, each route only gives you bits and pieces of the whole picture. The game really gets you coming back for more, because you have to play every route to see the full story and learn all of the characters’ motivations.

3. Ikemen Series

The Ikemen games, created by developer Cybird, send you to different worlds and points in time to fall in love with one of the “Ikemen.” The phrase Ikemen is derived from the Japanese words for “good” and “men” and essentially means a good-looking guy. There are three main games in the Ikemen series (while I call them a series, you can play them in any order and they don’t relate to one another): Ikemen Vampire (“IkeVamp”), Ikemen Revolution (“IkeRev”), and Ikemen Sengoku (“IkeSen”).

Each of the Ikemen games uses the route structure, where you select a love interest after the introductory chapter. In IkeVamp, your love interest takes the form of a 19th-century vampire — but all the vampires in this game are based on historical characters, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Leonardo DaVinci. In IkeSen, the characters are similarly historical, based on the Sengoku period in Japanese history. And, in IkeRev, the game takes place in the 19th century, but the love interests are members of one of two militias fighting in a dystopian version of Alice’s Wonderland.

Ikemen deserves props for its creative plotlines, which are definitely more elaborate than any I’ve seen in other Otome games. Like Obey Me, the Ikemen games all use the gacha system, though the cards play a less important role in these games than in Obey Me. You collect cards through the gacha and then use them in “Love Battles” to earn intimacy points. These points help you progress through the story: occasionally, you will need a certain number of intimacy points to get past a checkpoint. You may also need to battle to earn in-game currency, which is used to purchase clothing items for your avatar at avatar checkpoints.

4. Choices

Choices is the O.G. American otome game. We call them “visual novels” here in the United States, but the premise is the same: choose a love interest; make choices that impact the outcome of the story. In Choices, however, there is no one main plotline. Instead, there are many books — some of which are part of different series — that take place in different worlds. For example, in The Royal Romance series, you play an American waitress who is whisked away to the fictional land of Cordonia to compete for the hand of a prince. Or, in Open Heart, you play a resident doctor who falls in love with one of her coworkers.

Something that’s nice about Choices is that there are books for everyone. Not every book is romantic, either. There are even horror books, like the It Lives series, and fantasy books, like The Crown and the Flame. Some of these books have romantic plotlines, but the romance isn’t the main element. Others don’t feature any romance at all. You can also customize your character’s appearance, unlike in many of the Japanese otome games. Each game lets you choose a face for your character (meaning more racial diversity!) and a hairstyle. In some games, you can also choose your gender, playing as either male or female.

Choices deserves points for its efforts to broaden racial and gender diversity, especially since this doesn’t seem to be something Japanese otome games think about at all. However, it has come under scrutiny for making some questionable choices regarding race (such as its decision to almost kill off a BIPOC love interest, which was scrapped after protest from fans). If you’re interested in learning more about this drama, I highly suggest you scroll through the Choices Tumblr scene. A lot of people on there are much more knowledgeable than I am about these issues!

The other annoying thing about Choices is that if you don’t want to spend real-world cash, you’re limited in your options. You need story keys to progress to the next chapter, and these recharge every few hours (unless you pay to buy more — which, trust me, gets addicting — or opt for the VIP subscription, which gives you unlimited keys). You also need diamonds to unlock different outfits or premium choices, which unlock additional scenes. These scenes used to be treated more like bonuses, but in the newer books, you often need to make premium choices to even spend time with romanceable characters. Again, you can get around this with the $15/month VIP subscription, which gives you 10 gems a day and additional gem rewards for playing chapters.

5. Regency Love

Regency Love is special in that it is neither American nor Japanese: it was made by Australian indie devs, Tea for Three Studios. It also has incredible artwork with special art scenes. As the name suggests, the game takes place in the Regency period, transporting you to a Jane Austen novel where you are the heroine. You can’t customize your character’s appearance (in fact, she is never pictured) or gender, but you can earn different epilogue endings based on your choices throughout the series, which earn you points toward different personality traits (such as being “Amiable” or “Witty”) and accomplishments (like Riding, Embroidery, and Music).

In Regency Love, you play the daughter of a deceased gentleman whose mother is pushing her to get married and secure her future. The main game features three romanceable characters. One is a stoic older gentleman named Mr. Curtis, one is a bland but kindhearted gentleman named Mr. Digby, and one is the aloof Mr. Darcy of the series, named Mr. Ashcroft. (You may also choose not to marry at all.) If you choose to pay an additional $4, you can also unlock a fourth romanceable character named Mr. Graham; unlike the other love interests, he is a humble redcoat soldier staying in your town of Darlington. One of the best parts of Regency Love is that the storylines are well-developed with many opportunities to learn more about your love interest’s past, as well as ample conflict in the present.

Tea for Three Studios is currently planning a sequel to Regency Love, which I am ecstatic about! The sequel will improve on some of the weak points of the original, such as exploring queer storylines. They also plan to fill in some of the plot holes from the previous story — such as a mysterious letter revealed at the start of the story, which is never really explained, and an estranged older brother who, again, is never really explained.

How to Start Collecting Stickers | How I Organize My Sticker Collection

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission from any purchases made through my blog. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting my blog!

If you were born in the 90s like I was, then glittery, rainbow-colored stickers were probably a major part of your childhood. I never had a sticker album as a kid, but I remember begging my mom to buy me Lisa Frank stationery. Even then, I was hooked!

As an adult, my stationery collection only continues to grow. Thanks to my addiction, I often find myself with more stickers than I know what to do with. I am always looking for cute and unique ways to make use of my massive collection. That’s how I started my first sticker album.

In the 80s and 90s, it was popular for kids to collect stickers. They would put them on three-hole paper and stick them in a binder to admire later. Inspired by this trend, and by some vintage Mrs. Grossman’s scrapbook stickers I was gifted by my grandma, I decided to start my own modern sticker collection.

If you, like me, have a growing stash of stickers that you don’t know what to do with, but that you just love to look at, then you’ve come to the right place. Starting a sticker collection might just be the perfect way to engage your inner sticker fiend.

How to Organize Your Sticker Collection

The first thing you need to decide when starting a sticker collection is how you are going to organize it. In my opinion, it’s easier to do this before you start accumulating stickers — but it never hurts to use what you already have, if you’ve already been amassing a collection.

There are a few ways you could organize your sticker collection. Some people choose to use a binder with page protectors. The way I see it, this works best if you are planning to collect sticker flakes or leave your stickers on the sheet.

If you want to peel and stick your sticker collection (which is half the fun, if we’re being honest here), I would recommend using a six-ring binder like I do. Six-ring binders are popular in Korea. They are miniature binders — mine is A5 size — that hold six-ring paper. I bought mine on Amazon for $8 and a stack of 100 sheets of paper for $10.

So, to stick or not to stick? Personally, I stick my stickers directly on the page. But, I think it’s important to note that if you’re going to collect vintage stickers, they aren’t quite as sticky and might fall off. I learned this the hard way and decided to stick the sheets I received from my grandma in the front pocket on the inside cover of my six-ring binder.

For whole sheets, you can buy specially designed sticker albums with protectors that are perfectly sized for your sticker sheets. Or, if you’re looking for an alternative method, you could stick whole sticker sheets in an accordian folder and organize them by years, styles, brands, or anything else you like. You could even use a binder with pocket dividers to house your collection.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you choose to organize your sticker collection — just make it sustainable, and make it personal to you.

Where to Buy Stickers for Your Collection

The next step in starting a sticker collection is actually growing your collection. Where to buy stickers for your collection depends largely on your goals as a collector:

If your goal is to collect rare and vintage finds, I recommend a few options. Firstly, Etsy is a great place to find vintage stickers. They have a vintage tag that you can use to search for brands like Mrs. Grossman’s and Sandylion. Pipsticks also sells Mrs. Grossman’s and Sandylion stickers, including vintage. Lastly, you should always check local thrift and consignment stores for interesting stationery finds. Often, you can discover hidden treasures on the cheap!

If your goal is volume, then you’re going to want to go for cheap stickers so you can easily amass a large collection. Aliexpress is a great place to buy Japanese and Korean stickers. But, if shimmery rainbow stickers are more your thing, you can buy entire books of kids’ stickers for under $5 at places like Amazon and Target. I’m also a fan of the brand Stick-O, which you can get at craft stores: they have cute animal motifs as well as foiled options for collecting.

Are you specifically a fan of vinyl stickers, and perhaps want to collect stickers related to a certain brand or fandom? Try sites like Redbubble and Etsy for stickers made by independent artists, or check out pop culture shops like Hot Topic for merchandise from your favorite fandom.

Stickers to Get You Started

Sticker books are your best friend when starting a brand-new sticker collection. This is a fast way to grow your collection, without shelling out a ton of cash. Here are some of my picks:

Remember Scratch ‘n’ Sniff? Ooly still makes those! These kawaii cat cafe scratch stickers are scented like chocolate. Get them on Amazon for $9.

Trends International Hello Kitty, Multicolor

Love kawaii? For $4, this book of 120 Hello Kitty stickers could be all yours. Jump start your collection today — get them on Amazon.

If you want to really throw it back to the 90s, you can get a book full of over 600 Lisa Frank stickers. Yes, they still make those! Get it on Amazon for $5.

Aesthetic J-Fashion and K-Fashion Picks

In case you haven’t noticed, I am obsessed with Asian pop culture. From anime to otome games, Pokemon to K-beauty, I just can’t get enough of all things Japanese and Korean.

Lately, the same goes for fashion: a lot of J-fashion and K-fashion outfits are popping up in my feed, and I’m obsessed! As someone who’s recovering from surgery, I admittedly haven’t ventured outside my leggings and sweatshirts in a while, but these fashion trends have got me itching to get back into my fancier clothing.

J-fashion (Japanese fashion) and K-fashion (Korean fashion) are distinct, but I lump them together for the purposes of this blog post. Again, both are different — but what they have in common is that they are both popular for being “aesthetic.”

“Aesthetic” is one of those words that I can’t define easily, but I know when I see it. And, if you have spent literally any time on social media, you probably know it when you see it, too. From stationery to bubble tea, Japanese and Korean culture dominate the aesthetic scene…. and fashion is no exception.

Log onto Pinterest and search for “aesthetic outfit ideas.” You may not realize it, but a lot of the outfits you see are either worn by Asian models or inspired by J-fashion and K-fashion trends.

So, how do you put together your own aesthetic outfit using these trends? First, you need to understand what J-fashion and K-fashion really are, and how to dress like a Japanese or Korean stylista.

What is J-Fashion?

J-fashion, short for Japanese fashion, is a term that lumps together a bunch of clothing styles that are unique to Japan. You may have heard of Lolita or fairy kei, two aesthetics that became popular in Japan’s Harajuku fashion scene. These are some of the more distinctive types of fashion, known for fluffy skirts, pastel wigs, and girly-girl accents. But there are other types of Japanese fashion that are less well-known, and more casual, than Lolita or fairy kei:

Mori kei is a type of Japanese fashion that’s inspired by vintage looks and the natural environment. If you want to dress mori kei, you should try to dress like “a girl who came from the forest.”

Natural kei is similar to mori kei, but draws most of its inspiration from the past. Think Little Women or Little House on the Prairie: the natural kei girl lives in a village, rather than the forest, and dresses like Anne of Green Gables.

Otome kei comes from the word “otome,” meaning “young lady” in Japanese. It’s a bit like Lolita, in that it is very feminine, but it is also viewed as more mature than Lolita. There are fewer petticoats and the rules are not as well-defined.

….and many more. I chose to define these three specifically because they have influenced my own style and the pieces that I have chosen to showcase in this blog post.

However, it’s important to recognize that Japanese fashion is as widely varied as American fashion. The word J-fashion doesn’t refer to one thing, but an amalgam of styles.

What is K-Fashion?

K-fashion is the Korean version of the term. Unlike J-fashion, K-fashion does not have many subsets. Instead, it’s a broader term referring to the trends that are most popular in Korea — many of which originate from Seoul.

In Korea, it’s popular to dress in oversized clothing, like chunky-knit cardigans or baggy tee shirts. It’s part of Korean culture to be modest, especially when it comes to revealing clothing. But, while Korean women tend to stay covered on top, they reveal their legs with cute dresses or mini skirts. For example, Korean woman might pair an oversized sweater with a pleated skirt, or a chunky cardigan with a cute sundress.

The school uniform is a staple in K-fashion as well as J-fashion. In both countries, children wear uniforms all throughout their school years — but elements of the school uniform, like pleated skirts or collared sailor shirts, have integrated themselves into popular adult fashion trends.

Aesthetic Clothing Picks (Inspired by J-Fashion and K-Fashion)

If you, like me, are interested in Japanese and Korean culture, you probably know that shopping on Asian sites can be overwhelming. The shipping fees are hefty, you need to deal with translation and currency exchange, and sometimes, you even need to hire a proxy (another person to shop for you and ship the items to your home).

Thankfully, J-fashion and K-fashion are starting to influence the trends we see here at home. These influences can be seen at mainstream Western stores like Forever 21 and H&M, but also at smaller boutiques and on social media. The good news about this is that you can often find Korean and Japanese styles at American stores, without paying $20 for shipping — see below for examples!

Ribbed Cardigan ($14, Nasty Gal)

Paired with a pleated skirt, a fitted cardigan is a classic look. Available in sizes 0 to 10.

Pleated Plaid Mini Skirt ($18, Forever 21)

Pleated Plaid Mini Skirt, image 1

The schoolgirl skirt is a must-have staple in Asian fashion. Available in sizes XS to L.

Tie-front Blouse ($25, H&M)

Tie-front Blouse - Light pink/black - Ladies | H&M US 1

The bow-tie on this blouse is reminiscent of the sailor styles popular in Japan. Available in sizes XS to XL.

Black Denim Overall Skirt ($65, Unique Vintage)

The youthful look is “in” in Asia, which is probably why overall skirts like these are so popular. Available in sizes XS to 4X.

Patent Platform Mary Janes ($68, Dolls Kill)

A nod to kawaii fashion, platforms like these can often be seen on the streets of Harajuku. Available in sizes 5 to 10.

Reviewing Aesthetic Stationery Trends

What’s your stationery aesthetic? Whether you were originally hooked on stationery by studyblr or by bullet journal Instagram,.you have probably heard the names of some stationery items repeated over and over again.

Brands like Zebra, Stabilo, and Kokuyo are favorites in the aesthetic stationery community for a reason, yet they often come with a high price tag. So, is it worth spending money on these aesthetic stationery finds?

I’m a big believer in quality, not popularity, when it comes to stationery. In this post, I review some of the most popular stationery products in the aesthetic bujo and studyblr/studygram communities online to give you the real scoop on what these items are like.

Zebra Mildliners

15ct Dual-tip Creative Marker - Zebra Mildliner : Target

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros: Zebra Mildliners are dual-ended pens that come with a thick end (like a traditional highlighter) and a thin end (like a thick felt-tip marker). This makes them easy to use for multiple purposes, such as highlighting and coloring in doodles or drawings.

Cons: While the markers are highly pigmented, they occasionally bleed through the page. Certain colors, like pink and yellow, are more fluorescent than subdued or “mild.” They may smudge or pick up black spots from pen.

Worth it? Yes. Despite their shortcomings, Zebra Mildliners are a must-have in your stationery toolkit.

Stabilo Boss Highlighters

Amazon.com: Stabilo BOSS Original Highlighter, Pastels - 6-color Set:  Office Products

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros: The Stabilo Boss Highlighters are richly colored and do not pick up black smudges from pen the way that Zebra Mildliners do. Their colors are more truly pastel and less fluorescent. They rarely bleed through.

Cons: The Stabilo Boss Highlighters are traditional single-ended highlighters, so there is no felt-tip end to use as a marker for coloring.

Worth it? Yes. Don’t pass over the Stabilo Boss Highlighters during your next stationery haul.

Tombow Dual Brush Pens

Dual Brush Pen Art Markers 10-Pack | Pastel | Brush Markers | Tombow

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros: These dual-ended markers have a brush end for hand-lettering and a fineliner end for drawing or coloring. This makes them an incredibly versatile pen that comes in a rainbow of colors.

Cons: The fine-tipped end runs out of ink quicker than the brush end. They are on the pricier side compared to other, similar pens you can buy at your favorite stationery store.

Worth it? Yes. The Tombow Dual Brush Pens changed the way I bullet journal for the better.

Kokuyo Gloo Stick

Kokuyo Gloo Glue Stick - Disappearing Blue - Large | JetPens

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Pros: The Kokuyo Gloo Stick is tackier than other glue sticks, meaning that once you stick something down…it’s going to stay there. Unlike Elmer’s, it doesn’t leave a colored residue (even though the stick is blue) on the page.

Cons: The Kokuyo Gloo Stick has a medicinal smell I can only describe as smelling like hospital hand soap. (If you have spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office, then you know what I’m talking about.) The flat, square end of the Gloo Stick is actually kind of difficult to spread onto the page.

Worth it? No. For $4, I would stick to Elmer’s Craft Bond, which comes in a multi-pack, is tackier than regular glue, and will last you longer.

Kokuyo Stapleless Stapler

Kokuyo Japan Harinacs Stapleless Stapler Compact alpha (up to 5 papers)

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Pros: The Kokuyo Stapleless Stapler is small and compact, great for taking with you on the go. Because it doesn’t require staples, you never need to worry about running out or wasting them.

Cons: The paper tab that’s created by the stapler holds, but it doesn’t look very neat, meaning it wouldn’t be appropriate for passing in assignments. It also only staples up to five pages at a time, which isn’t very many.

Worth it? No. If you are a student who needs to staple thick papers in a neat fashion, I would stick to an ordinary stapler.

Pilot FriXion Ball Pen

Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Design Series Block Check Gel Pen - 0.5 mm - Black  Ink - Soft Blue Body | JetPens

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Pros: The selling point of the Pilot FriXion Ball Pen is that it is erasable with friction. The “eraser” on the end won’t run out like a normal one. They are also very pretty pens that come in a variety of pastel colors.

Cons: The ink used in these pens can smudge or disappear at very high temperatures, meaning you need to be careful using these for important documents. The pens do sometimes skip while writing and the ink doesn’t go on smoothly, though it does erase well. Even though it erases completely, you can still see the outline of what you’ve written on the paper — if you write with a lot of pressure like I do.

Worth it? Yes, under certain circumstances. I think if you are a student and enjoy writing in pen, this is worth it for taking class notes, since using correction fluid can take up way too much time and make you fall behind on lecture notes. Because they erase, they’re good for rough-draft or quickly written notes. But for everyday or legal uses, this is not the pen for you.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens

Sakura Pigma Micron pen ink marker felt tip pen, Archival pigment ink pens,  line-width fine

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros: The Sakura Pigma Micron Pens have an extremely fine felt tip, which can be difficult to find in a pen. Unlike other fineliners, however, the tip is still pointed like that of a ballpoint pen. They are comfortable to write with and great for using in your bullet journal.

Cons: These pens occasionally skip. The felt tip is extremely fine, which can make it difficult to write with control if you do not have practice using them.

Worth it? Yes. If you keep a bullet journal, the Sakura Pigma Micron Pens are definitely worth the investment.

Four Lucky Bags (Fukubukuro) to Help You Ring in the New Year

In the United States, the New Year is a time for $1 gym memberships — but in Japan, it’s fukubukuro, or lucky bag, season.

With the exception of Tatcha’s free-with-$100-purchase lucky bags (which swept the beauty news circuit), this trend unfortunately hasn’t swept the U.S. yet the way some other Japanese fads have. If it were my choice, I would take the lucky bags over the diet culture any day!

Thankfully, you can still get fukubukuro in some select locations here in the U.S. Some of these fukubukuro are shipped from overseas, while others come from the States themselves. While the wait may be longer for those that are shipped internationally, it’s always worth it once you open up your lucky bag and see what’s inside.

These four fukubukuro will help you ring in the New Year with a kawaii surprise. Just make sure you grab one before it’s too late: fukubukuro are usually available for a limited time only!

Tips for Getting Fukubukuro in the United States

Because fukubukuro are a Japanese trend that hasn’t yet become widespread in the United States, you’ll need to do some digging in order to get your hands on authentic Japanese lucky bags. My best tips for getting fukubukuro in the United States are as follows:

  • Look at U.S.-based kawaii and Japanese pop culture stores first. Many of these stores have adopted the lucky bag trend, and you’ll pay less in shipping than if you get your fukubukuro from Japan.
  • Use a proxy service to order off of Amazon Japan or other places that sell fukubukuro. Proxy services like ZenMarket hire someone to buy Japan-only items for you. Then, they mail them to you at a lower shipping cost than if you were to purchase them yourself.
  • Search for prior years’ fukubukuro (or unwanted new fukubukuro) on sites like Poshmark and Mercari. Some people are getting rid of theirs at a far lower price point than what they retail for!
  • Expect to pay up to $200 for authentic Japanese lucky bags. The price typically depends on the size, but generally speaking, you’ll need to pay more for a Japanese lucky bag than for a lucky bag sold by a U.S. company. This is because lucky bags are highly coveted in Japan, and fukubukuro season can get competitive among consumers!

Four Lucky Bags That Ship to the United States

Sugoi Mart Lucky Bag

Run by the subscription box company Japan Crate, Sugoi Mart is a shop for getting Japan-only items. Much of their stock centers on Japanese food, which often comes in flavors we would consider wild here in the U.S. If you want to test your taste buds (and snag some kawaii bonus items in the process), grab yourself a Sugoi Mart Lucky Bag this January. They cost $50 and are guaranteed to contain double the value.

Blippo Surprise Kawaii Mixed Bag

Blippo Kawaii Shop sells both signature and character goods. Shipped from Singapore, the $22.50 lucky bag is guaranteed to contain a mix of home goods, stationery, plush, and more from their rich warehouse. You’ll get at least 15 adorable products when you buy a Blippo surprise bag. Because it’s such a steal, I just got my hands on one today. I can’t wait for it to get here so I can show you all what I got! (Note: while I’ve worked with Blippo in the past, I purchased the lucky bag with my own money; this is not a PR product.)

Tofu Cute Panda Mixed Lucky Bag

Tofu Cute is a U.K.-based kawaii shop that sells signature lucky bags stuffed with kawaii goodies. They have both vegetarian and carnivorous versions, since their bags contain a mixture of snacks and Amuse plush. You can also get a version of the lucky bag that contains Amuse plush only — perfect for the plushie hoarder in your life! The Tofu Cute lucky bag costs about 30 GBP, which comes out to about $40 when converted to USD.

JapanLA $40 Kids Surprise Lucky Bag

JapanLA is a Japanese pop culture store based in, you guessed it, Los Angeles, California! Their proximity to Japan makes it easy for them to get their hands on authentic Japanese merchandise. This $40 lucky bag says it’s for kids, but I take that to mean that it’s for the young at heart 🙂 What the bag really contains is an assortment of Hello Kitty items valued between $100 and $150, making it perfect for any Sanrio fans out there. If you’re feeling extra lucky, they also sell a $75 version, too.