Posts by Lara

Lara is an award winning freelance animator and illustrator based in sunny Southend. Lara co-owns an online shop selling her art designs and is a personal blogger. You can also find her on Twitter at @larlarcharms.

Cool Gifts You Should Buy In Japan

Searching for cool gifts you should buy in Japan just got a lot easier! Read on to find clever present ideas that your friends and family will love.

Avoid wasting your yen on tacky tourist souvenirs. I too succumbed to buying all the novelty gifts; Kit Kats in Japan only flavours, more weird chocolate and a ‘fish stick’ that I’m pretty sure is still unopened and very much beyond its best before.

But don’t fret. NONE of the above made the cool cut.

Lara’s Guide to Cool Gifts You Should Buy In Japan

Clips/ brooches/ badges


I use my Pokemon and T.T. Chopper clips all of the time to keep opened packaged food fresher for longer. Choose your friend’s best-loved anime characters for a fail safe and useful present!

The little woman ornament caught my eye in Kyoto but I wasn’t looking for an impulsive buy so I walked away. On the return leg, I was kicked out of a local restaurant while my friends stayed in there to eat! If that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have revisited the same shop to buy the fat woman!

Miniature ornaments can be found everywhere in Japan and make for the perfect traditional present. Also, they don’t take up much room in your suitcase so you can still focus on your important purchases, cool gifts for yourself!



Adhesive mirrors/ phone add-ons


I chanced upon a small but pretty shopping mall during my very short stay in Osaka and bought a pack of Alice in Wonderland mirror stickers in the name of vanity. I stuck the first adhesive mirror onto the reverse side of my mobile and what a game changer!

Gone are the days of being out of the house and feeling run down, constantly hungry, possibly a bit angry and mirrorless..?

Thanks to my phone’s novelty shaped mirror, my life has drastically improved. I can now look at myself whenever I want, wherever I am, with instant results.

Sarcasm aside, I think these make for cute, filler presents and bonus points for being creative with their placements!



Plushie keyrings


The ultimate buyer’s guide to cool gifts you should buy in Japan isn’t complete without some Pokemon love! I bought little Raichu and Pikachu plushie keyrings from the Pokemon Centre in Sunshine City (even the location sounds like it came straight from the game!).

I think Pokemon keepsakes are a safe bet for anyone. Fast forward two years and these two are still my wardrobe guardians who tell me I look good every day (well, maybe not).



I hope this was a helpful guide. What do you think about my cool gifts to buy in Japan? Do you have any holiday related goods that you wouldn’t be without now?

Let me know in the comment section!


Lara King

Lara is an award winning freelance animator and illustrator based in sunny Southend. Lara co-owns an online shop selling her art designs and is a personal blogger. You can also find her on Twitter at @larlarcharms.


Avoid THIS TripAdvisor Booking Scam And Protect Yourself

Don’t get caught by THIS TripAdvisor booking scam! Read on to find out useful ways to protect yourself while booking your next holiday online.


I booked with TripAdvisor, an American travel website for all your hotel booking scam woes. My group trusted me with the job of booking our accommodation for Japan.

Yay, I thought. This will be easy, she said. Oh how wrong was she, I cry.



The insides of a Japanese apartment.

Our little rental home in Kyoto was on the small side but offered us a taste of authentic Japanese living. A cobblestone entrance on the inside, thin sliding doors, a very Japanese washing machine and toilet with a hole in the door (gee thanks!).

The booking nightmare began to unravel when I stepped out of the taxi and touched down on Roppongi’s side streets.

Grappling with the building’s letterbox, I found the promised set of house keys stashed inside the box. What greeted me on the other side of the door was not the address of Asimo’s creator (the most famous robot in Japan). Neither was it the home of Miyazaki, acclaimed co creator of Studio Ghibli. I was expelled to the backwaters of a pit, apparently hidden from the Rising Sun’s rays.


I am still debating if my favorite surprise was the upstairs squatting toilet or our uninvited friends in the form of ants and jumping spiders.


The apartment was dirty, old-fashioned and stunk (perhaps that was just the squatting toilet).

I booked the accommodation because of the low price and this is ultimately what stopped me in perusing a monetary agreement for the misrepresented hotel booking sits scam.

I have also used the hotel booking scam site on another occasion for a short stay in London. However, when checking in, the mouthy rental owners where flummoxed by our untimely appearance because their prison sized rooms were fully booked. I showed them my last minute booking print-outs as confirmation that I paid London’s extortionate rate for a week’s access to a toilet, bed and fridge.

Eventually the owners looked up from their desk and noticed us. They declared that my roommate and myself were lucky because one dirty cellmate had just checked out. How did I know they were dirty? The room was in the same state as it was left that morning. The hotel booking site did not show us photos of that!


The story gets better!


As a result of the hotel booking scam,  I was charged the bloodsucking amount not once, but twice! My chargebacks were being counter reversed by the penny pinching pricks. After months of liaising with my credit card company, I was finally able to reverse the over-payment without the dickhead company making a another counter chargeback.


My Advice is Don’t!


My advice for using TripAdvisor (or other hotel booking site scam pages) is DON’T!


How To Protect Yourselfie


If you are still inclined to book with TripAdvisor, at least protect yourself by paying with your credit card. If the apartment falls short in other ways, the credit card company can act on your behalf to ensure you do not fall victim to the owner’s shortcomings. After all, if you are so lucky enough to receive room keys on arrival, a squatting toilet may be waiting for you on the other side.

Let me know about your hotel nightmare stories in the comment section below! Did they ruin your holiday or are you able to laugh about it now? I look forward to reading!



Lara King

Lara is an award winning freelance animator and illustrator based in sunny Southend. Lara co-owns an online shop selling her art designs and is a personal blogger. You can also find her on Twitter at @larlarcharms.



About Me

Hi, I’m a freelancing illustrator based in sunny Southend. My background is in Fine Art and Digital Animation (B.A Hons) which have led me to my quirky art style I use today. I love drawing sassy women (in all the fashions) and super detailed architecture by hand.

My animation, Hak Nam Henney has been shown in film festivals around the world and picked up national awards including Animex UK and Noise festival. My work has also been exhibited in London and in published medium. I have worked with companies including Kids of Dada, Majenta Solutions and I work on personal commissions.

Please contact me here for work inquiries:


Standing next to a plinth of my award winning animation, Hak Nam Henney.