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Hi! Thanks for visiting ^_^ My social media platforms: Instagram: meowmier Youtube: http://goo.gl/U5SnNM (formerly under the username francesvlogs but I don't have access to that anymore). I don't really do videos anymore simply because I think blog posts are more informative. Hope you enjoyed your time here! :)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

December 2014 Tax-Free Shopping in Japan (Kyoto & Osaka) /Travel/ Japanese Makeup Haul both Highend & Drugstore

Hi guys!

Yes, the longest title in history, you're welcome.

As I mentioned in my last post, I went to Japan over my winter break :D This post is gonna be slightly different cuz I want to share some of my traveling experiences, so it wouldn't just be limited to a haul. Hopefully this post is gonna be helpful to those who are planning to visit Japan in the near future~
All travel/transportation information will be in pink, so feel free to skip those if you find it irrelevant~ 

Tax-free shopping information will be in blue~

If you guys aren't aware of "Abenomics" already, in the simplest language, Abenomics are the economic policies developed by the Japanese Prime Minister-- Shinzo Abe, and one of the policies was to reduce the rate of Japanese currency. In other words, JAPANESE DOLLARS/JAPANESE YEN ARE SUPER CHEAP NOW (1 JPY= 0.26 TWD=  0.0084 USD as of 12/20/2014... around the time I went). Furthermore, Japan is currently employing TAX-FREE SHOPPING at participating stores. To my own experience, not all Japanese drugstores are tax-deductible, you have to look for the ones that bear the tax-free logo, which I will explain later. "I think" all department stores are tax-deductible though. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

For my trip, I went to Kyoto and Osaka. So this post is probably only beneficial to those who are planning to visit Kyoto & Osaka XD Sorry to Tokyo-goers. However the tax-free policies are the same everywhere lol. We went straight to Kyoto from the KIX airport, stayed there for 3 days, then went to Osaka for 2 days, then airport.

First thing first, how do you get to Kyoto and Osaka from the KIX Airport (Kensai Airport)?

I took the JR Haruka which takes about 1hr25min to go from KIX to Kyoto Station. I purposely booked our hotel right next to the Kyoto Station... so dragging of the luggage around wouldn't be so agonizing :D Also Kyoto Station is the major transportation hub... you can take subway, city buses, JR Haruka, JR trains, local trains, loop lines, and I believe shinkanshen here. We stayed at New Hankyu Hotel Kyoto. I really liked it and recommend it! It's on the same side as the Kyoto Tower, and literally on the left corner right across the street from Kyoto Station.

When you purchase your JR Haruka ticket, there's a value set called Haruka + ICOCA. ICOCA is basically a subway pass, but it can also be used for other JR trains, and local trains. IT CANNOT be used for city buses.

I chose Haruka because it supposedly takes the least amount of time to travel to Kyoto. PLEASE NOTE that Haruka does NOT stop at Osaka Station!!! It stops at Shin-Osaka!!! So if you're like me planning to go from Osaka to KIX, you'll have to take the train or subway from Osaka Station to Shin-Osaka Station. However, the journey is super short, like 5min, so it really isn't that big of a deal (I think you can take either local train or subway). Then you transfer to the Haruka platform from Shin-Osaka Station.

Personally, I recommend getting around Kyoto by the city bus. Simply because at Kyoto Station, the underground subway/shopping mall was a freaking maze... I could NOT figure out which line I should take in order to go to the station that I want. The city buses are on the ground and you just need to figure out which route goes to your destination and go to the corresponding bus... super easy. 

This is what Kyoto City Bus Terminal looks like at Kyoto Station.
Bus stations are numbered alphabetically.

You can look for the destinations and see which routes they're on, then check which buses to take. Then check the corresponding bus stops.

City Bus Stop A has routes 5, 4, 17, 205, 206. And route 5 goes to Sanjo-Kehan, City Museum of Art, etc. You get the idea :)

Stop B

Stop C

Stop C

Stop D

I didn't take JR... so no idea how to take that. 

Also, you can buy a one-day bus pass which only costs 500 JPY... and you can ride any route UNLIMITED times within the day. Wayyy cheaper than taking the subway. The only thing I would say is that buses can get REALLY REALLY crowded, so be prepared for that. After I figured out buses were easier to take in Kyoto, I stopped utilizing the subway/ICOCA lol (but I still used ICOCA for local trains, which was my other major means of transportation).

My biggest advice would be... When in doubt, JUST ASK!! I'm the type of person who usually just like to figure things out on my own... but no no no... GPS was not helpful at all. You will save yourself A LOT of time and walking around if you just ask someone.

Most of my major shopping was done in Osaka but that's simply because there's this one department stores that houses 99% of the brands that I want.  If you're planning to go shopping in Kyoto, Shijo Kawaramachi (四条河園町) area has quite a number of major shopping malls. The shopping malls aren't that close to each other but all within walking distance. I walked past all of them lol. Also has a side note, for those Uniqlo fanatics, the department store "Mina" has the largest Uniqlo store in Kyoto, and has more promotions and discounts than other Uniqlo branches. 

Enough of the transportation talk! First let's talk about the drugstore products that I got ^_^

For drugstore products, you will have to look for the icon that says Japan Tax-free Shop.  Not all Japanese drugstore participates in tax refund, so make sure you look out for the sign before you go cray cray ;D

To get tax-refund at Japanese drugstores, you need to make a minimum of 5000 JPY purchase (that does not include clothing items).

Now let's really get into my Japanese drugstore haul LOL.

Shiseido Benefique Liquid Foundation Crystalizing (My shade is 20). Technically speaking not a drugstore product, but you can find Shiseido in pretty much all Japanese drugstores. Wasn't planning to buy a new foundation... but the sales associates in the store were all so nice TvT so I had to buy something LOL. The foundation seems pretty nice so I am excited to try it. I haven't touched it though because I am determined to use up my YSL TE foundation before opening up a new one (and I still have 2 unopened Innisfree founations... O_o totally forgot about those omg).

Personally think the foundation looks way cuter without the cap on XD

Those are presents for a friend who is considering double eyelid surgery. Thought it would be fun for her to try these out before she gets one ;p In case you don't know what these are, they are micro fiber tapes for creating double eyelid. I've never used one before so I have no idea if they're good or not.

For some reason can't find Fasio in Taiwan anymore. But I remember Fasio being amazing for curl hold and super lightweight. As an interesting note, I was totally ready to raid the Majolica Majorca mascaras and primers when I was in Japan, only to find that the MJ mascaras are more expensive in Japan?!?!?!?!?!???!!! (Retailing at 1200 JPY). How on earth did that happen???? So I just ended up raiding the drugstores in Taiwan LOL.

I had to get those cuz they were like RIDICULOUSLY cheap. I can't remember the price, but I just remembered that I couldn't believe how cheap they were. Kind of regret buying those though because I later realized this is different from the one that I bought in the US. It's more curved. The one I got in the US is a gunmetal color and fits my eye contour better. This one looks more like the Shu Uemura one. Oh well. Got an extra one as a gift for a friend.

Anessa sunscreen! I've tried the one in the white bottle and liked it. Been wanting to try the gold one. Heard this one has pretty good oil control. Will be trying this after I'm done with my current bottle of Dior sunscreen.

D.U.P. Wonder Eyelid . You guys have seen this before. I use it for days when my eyelids are swollen and my double lid decides to move places lol. I went a bit too crazy hahaha. I still have two unopened ones sitting in my drawer -_-... but those are so expensive in Taiwan! It's almost half the price to get them in Japan!! So it's like one of those things even though I don't really need them... I stock up just because they're cheap LOL.

Saw there was a new one! Supposedly flesh toned tape!

But... didn't realize it's single-sided orz... not sure what I'm gonna do with this since I always use the double-sided ones. I'll worry about it the day when I actually use it LMAO.

Got them Slim Walk legging things to wear when I sleep at night. I have to stand for long hours at work so I thought it'd be good to have these especially because over the last year... I've been noticing my veins popping out O_o my legs look kind of gross with green veins all over them. So far I noticed no difference LOL. Like I see no difference and feel no difference (but then again I don't really check my legs haha. Not expecting anything to change in a short amount of time either). Kind of just wearing them as leg warmers.  I noticed they lose their elasticity quite fast though. Which I guess not surprising when the pressure is only 9~21hPa?

While waiting in line to check out saw this is the number one selling lip balm, so I grabbed it XD haven't tried it. But it's from Shiseido so I think it'll be good :P

My favorite cooling eye drop that I used when I was younger. For some reason can't find it in Taiwan anymore?! And for some other reason... I feel like it works better than the Rotho eye drops that I buy here in the US... even though it's from the same brand... hmmmmm...

Wanted to try the DHC supplements simply because I saw this girl I follow on Instagram said she bought those when she went to Japan LOL.

I totally forgot to include those... LOL. But yeah, got me some heated eye masks! I remember a couple years back when I tried those for the first time... I thought they were nice but nothing special. I take it back XD I missed those after I used them up LOL. I found that my eyes feel very relaxed when I use those. Recommend ^_^ I got mine in lavender scent, but there are also fragrance-free, orange scent, as well as rose scent.

That was all the stuff I got from Japanese drugstore!

Onward to department store stuff!

For my high end purchases, like I mentioned before, most of my shopping was done in Osaka cuz I wanted to go to Hankyu Umeda (梅田阪急) shopping mall. Hankyu Umeda is literally right across from Osaka station. From what I can tell... Hankyu Umeda pretty much has all the brands that you can think of... SUQQU, Tom Ford, Albion, SK-II, Shu Uemura, RMK, Lunasol, Laduree, THREE, Cle de Peau, Lancome, Chanel... etc etc. Pretty much all brands except for Jill Stuart. But you can find Jill Stuart in Daimaru, which is a shopping mall located within the Osaka station itself. Super convenient.

New Hankyu is literally right across from Osaka Station. You can see it as soon as you walk out of the Osaka Station (you have to walk across the pedestrian bridge). Daimaru is in the Osaka Station itself. Either way you can't miss any of them lol. 

They give all foreigners 5% off coupons! Not sure if the 5% off applies to everything, but I can tell you they apply to makeup and purses :P The coupon is good for a week. They also give out those tax refund pamphlets.

At Hankyu Umeda, you bring all the receipts from the same day to B1 to get your tax refund (there's a minimum amount you have to spend in order to get tax refund. And it has to be within the same day).


In order to get tax refund: 
Consumable goods (which includes makeup!)-- you have to spend minimum of $5000 JPY
Non-consumable goods (like clothes)-- you have to spend minimum of $10,000 JPY

Same thing in Chinese lol.

So this is what the Hankyu Umeda looks like
Like you literally walk across the bridge from the Osaka station

There's an entrance on the bridge.

Do check out their basement for the food court/supermarket! THEY HAVE SO MUCH STUFF OMG. Honestly, I like browsing their supermarket more than shopping for makeup/skincare LOL.

*-* If you guys could've seen my face hahaha
The mall was VERY busy... some counters give out number tags in the order to be served. Interestingly they ask you to sit down when it's your turn :P

Ma haul :P

Les Merveilleuses LADUREE

Before I get into the haul, wanted to briefly talk about the Les Merveilleuses LADUREE. Three years ago, I freaked out about their rose petal blushes (you can see it here). Three years later, I finally got to see them in person O_O+

Even though I have wanted the rose petal blushes for a long time, I actually wasn't planning on collecting one lol. Simply because I'm more of a practical person... I think if I do buy the rose petal blushes, I would use it. But then again I'd be sad when it starts to crumble, so maybe I won't use it LOL. But in any case, I didn't want to have to bring it back to Taiwan, then to the US... don't want to have to worry about shattering the blushes... -_- in the end it just came down to convenience. I did want to look at those vintage-looking blushes shown above though.

The famous rose petal blushes

They're so photogenic *-*

Not gonna lie... I was quite disappointed when I saw the Laduree products in person. I don't know... especially because of the enormous price tag, I was expecting some serious quality stuff. But when I saw the packaging... the plastic looked kind of toy-ish to me. Like they seemed just a bit cheap to me. Maybe my expectations were too high. The rose petal blushes were pretty... but they were not as delicate as I have thought :/ So even though I came here fully prepared to purchase a blush or something... I didn't end up buying anything for myself. I did purchase a blush for my cousin as a favor though!

The MUA asked me if it was for myself or a gift, so I told her it's a gift. When she returned, she returned with this O_O!!!! The packaging is just beyond words LOL. So pretty

Their signature portrait thing.

I got a cream cheek base for my cousin.

The color is No.4. Please note the lighting was horrible so the color is quite off. I forgot what it looks like in person. I think it looks a bit darker in person, but when applied to the face, it's a very pretty baby pink.

Sorry, no swatches or anything, it wasn't mine and I just wanted my cousin to fully enjoy it XD lol.

Don't know if you guys can tell from the pics about what I mean about feeling that the packaging feels cheap. Not bad but I guess not up to my expectations. The product itself is pretty lovely though... I didn't want to pay the price for it. My cousin was extremely happy with it though! And I do think the blush looks gorgeous on her.


Major damage was done at SUQQU
Sneaked a photo while I was waiting for the MUA to ring up my items :P

The embossing... did not want to show up in photos XD 

There you go!

To be honest, I went to SUQQU wanting to just look at the cheek brush and the eyeliner brushes... but when I felt the bristles of the face brush... I was dead and gone இдஇ So so so sooo soft... The prices of the SUQQU brushes are through the roof... but I figured... this really is the cheapest they can get (since Japanese dollars are so cheap at the moment), who knows if the next time I visit Japan if Japanese dollars are gonna be expensive as hell again?! (You can purchase some SUQQU brushes on Selfridge website but it is a lot more expensive!)

Yes, I am very aware that I am an extremely lucky and spoiled bastard.

I don't want to write any reviews on my SUQQU brushes just yet, because with my Hakuhodo brushes, since they are all made of natural hairs, I noticed that over the years they become... sort of thicker/harsher?? Not that the hairs are harsh or prickly in any way... but they definitely less delicate and soft than when I first got them. Not sure if that just happens to natural hair bristles. So I want to use my SUQQU brushes for at least a year or something before I write a detailed review. I will throw in some of my initial thoughts though! :)  While I think SUQQU brushes are extremely soft and well-made... I don't think there's the need to go out of your way to purchase them. My synthetic brushes work just fine and I am just as happy with them. I do not regret a single bit of my purchase, but I think they are truly luxurious brushes and not must-haves. 

Don't know if you guys remember, but my last order of my favorite eyeliner brush from Hakuhodo was very disappointing, and I mentioned that I wanted to look elsewhee for a new eyeliner brush. Decided SUQQU was the way to go =P

Bought two of the eyeliner brush C. If the bristles hold up well, I think I'm set for the next 10 years LOL. So far really loving this brush. It's like the old Bobbi Brown ultra fine eyeliner brush except better.

An interesting thing I noticed with my SUQQU eyeliner brushes is that they dry very stiff?? Which is good because it retains the shape. But I also found it kind of weird... cuz there's no glue in any of them... so how do they do that?? Sometimes I have to press the bristles on my hands before using the brushes to "break" the bristles apart.

Eyeliner brush C is good for very thin, precise eyeliner look.


Also bought one eyeliner brush D just because I didn't want to miss out on all the eyeliner brush options lol. To be honest, it looks more like a smudger brush lol. The MUA told me this is good for thick eyeliner look, especially for cat-eyes.

Between the two, I definitely prefer brush C. The bristles of brush D feel a bit harsh for me :/ and it doesn't hold up the shape as well??? I found that it's already splaying a bit. We'll see if I will continue to use it as an eyeliner brush, or if I'm just gonna use it as a smudger brush. So far, not the brush that I reach for. 

*_* This. Burned a hole in my pocket.

I was literally blown away by how incredibly soft this brush is. But then again like I said before, I want to use it for longer to see if it loses its softness. Anyway, even though I went to the counter only wanting to look at the cheek brush, I was having major internal struggle whether I should get the face brush or the cheek brush. The MUA recommended me to just take the face brush if I only want to buy one out of the two, because the face brush can be used for both powders and blushes. In the end though I bought both LOL cuz I had some money left. Really liked the size of the cheek brush so I decided it's worth purchasing.


I love how small this cheek brush is... I do have a small face and sometimes find it hard to place the blush exactly where I want it. This brush does it for me. I mean my other blush brushes work just fine but this is nice to have :P

I just went crazy at SUQQU... not even in the market for a new eyelash curler but I just wanted to try everything lol.



I do like it! It has the firmest grip on my lashes among all the eyelash curlers I've used O_O (that includes Shu Uemura, Shiseido, Kevyn Aucoin). However, I still prefer my Shiseido curler cuz it's less curved and fits my eyes better. The SUQQU one is quite curved, so I think those who like Shu curlers will enjoy this. Like it but also don't think it's a must-have. Regardless how firm the grip is on my lashes... my other eyelash curlers curl just as well.


Been looking forward to trying THREE blushes for years!!!

Got mine in 24 Into the Aether and 22 Sweet Thing.

The packaging is a bit cheaper than I thought... it's just matte plastic. Not as weighty as I thought. In fact, no weight at all since no mirrors are built in. At first I was kind of taken aback, but now I really like the design because they're so light, small, and easy to travel with!

Again, not true to color. But I love them both.

I was going to get blushes from RMK and Shu Uemura... but since I bought two at THREE... decided to forgo RMK and Shu 〒.〒Kind of regret it... oh well. By the way, THREE lipsticks seemed very nice as well, so I recommend checking those out if you want to venture out to some high end Japanese lipsticks :P




Been wanting to try this Lunasol "Beige Beige" palette for years as well. It seems like every Taiwanese blogger I read all own one. And every one I read said that it looks like the most unremarkable shades, but you can create the ultimate natural, elegant, classic neutral look with it. I was so intrigued XD so even though when I saw it in person, I did think it was the most unremarkable palette ever XD still decided to give it a go.


Not true to color

Still not true to color but closer.

I must admit... when I first used it, I was very disappointed. But as I play with it more, I have really begun to understand what those Taiwanese bloggers mean :P The peachy shade on the upper right and the beige on the lower left are so unremarkable on their own... but when layered with the brown on the bottom right O_O+ I love it. They layer SO WELL together. The highlight shade is super glittery and pretty... but I have to say the dark brown shade is my favorite. Not only it layers so well with the rest of the shades, I LOVE it when it's layered with my liquid eyeliner. Makes my liquid eyeliner not only super super SUPER long-lasting, but also softens the look without making me look tired (a lot of brown shades tend to make my eyes look more red or yellow or tired). This palette gets a thumbs up from me. The brown shade thumbs thumbs thumbs up XP



I. LOVE. THIS. TONER. Very very VERY hydrating! Leaves my skin feeling so soft and supple. I wish I could buy two bottles but Albion is very expensive :( I actually didn't know how expensive this brand is until this year because I was never interested in it. But now I am super interested in their products.

That was all the stuff I got from from Hankyu Umeda. Now onto Daimaru Umeda! (大丸百貨梅田店)

Unlike Hankyu you get unlimited use from the 5% off coupon for a week, at Daimaru you get 5 coupons (so you can use it 5 times).


They tear off the coupon when you make a purchase if it's applicable.

Tax refund is in B2.

Please note:
Japanese stores generally close REALLY EARLY. Like 9PM (which I guess it's the same as the US). The tax refund counters close at 8:30PM. So make sure you keep track of your time and get your taxes refunded before the store closes... remember the tax refund amount has to be reached within the same day!



Jill Stuart
All MUA at Jill Stuart counter were so pretty A_A especially the one who was helping me out muahaha.

Got two eye shadow palettes, two nail polishes, one eye shadow jelly thing.



This nail polish is made with Swarovski elements! And may I say... SPARKLY (☆ _ ☆)

Personally I'm not really into sparkly nail polishes... got it as a gift for a friend cuz she loves sparkly stuff lol.

This color is in 111 Swan Lake.


So sparkly!

Pretty packaging.

Now this is a polish I got for myself! Couldn't resit. I love it!

It's called 06 Baby Dress.

I have a bit of the nail polish on. It's quite subtle. Can you tell?  Lol I'll post a better swatch in some other post.

Eye shadow palette in 08 Amalia Tutu. I went in looking for another palette, but this immediately caught my eye O_O I got two of this palette cuz the other one is also a gift lol. Please not that this picture is by no means true to color!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact, it's REALLY OFF.

Guys guys guys... even the eye shadows smell like flowers O_o  smells heavenly >w<

Jelly Eye Color

02 Gold Light.

It's a light champagne color. Smells like flowers too O_O+ I actually wanted to get the jelly blush... but for some reason I didn't see any at the counter?? I mean I could've asked but like I mentioned before... I already bought two blushes and decided enough is enough >.<

Samples I got :D

Now onto non-beauty stuff!
Finally got to try out the Uniqlo Heattech thermals! Got mine at Mina department store.

My thoughts on those? Don't expect them to give you extra warmth lol. For really cold days, they act more like an insulation, but you won't feel extra warm as if you're wearing wool or something. For just cool days, these do make you feel warmer (especially if you're indoors). I do like them though, they're super light and soft, but they're just not enough to combat, say like, snow or windy days. 

That white box on the upper right... Green tea biscuits O_O SOOO GOOOOD!!! Not a biscuit person but I could just inhale the entire box. Wish I got more =/ (but it's a good thing I didn't hahahah). Green tea and black tea KitKat =) Truth be told, I prefer the black tea one. I found myself liking black tea more than green tea these days lol. It's also less sweet? The green tea Pocky was okay... good, but didn't blow me away. It's slightly more bitter compared to the other green tea Pocky that I tried, but I do like that it's more green tea-y and less sweet =)

Really wish I got more of these =((( so good. They have other flavors too like pudding, red bean, and other stuff... but we already bought too much and I couldn't bring any more XD

Lastly... I got a new purse =D
My first expensive purse O_o Honestly I don't really care for designer bags (except for maybe owning an Alexander Wang purse when I make money), but I just wanted a presentable, good quality bag for work. I really like it :D

I had my mind set on buying my purse in Japan so when ppl ask me where I get it, I can say, "Japan!" and no one will have the same bag as I do! Muahahaha! Vain I know. LOL. (So far, nobody asked. Double LOL).

Alrighty guys, that's the end of my Japan massive haul. Hope you guys enjoyed. So tired from all the photo editing and typing. Gonna break away from the computer screen now =) Tomorrow is Fridayyyyy!!! Weeeeeee!!!!

Will catch you guys on Saturday for my January favorites ^_^ until then, please stay warm!

<3 Frances


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