Sunday, February 1, 2015

January: New Year, New Me

It's been such a hectic January (what's new?), and the New Year brought many changes and adjustment, and lots of exciting new projects, which I can't wait to share soon. January is always a fresh start, but I must admit it started on a bit a sour note, dragging some dissatisfaction about my work and life balance situation, which I still feel is unhealthy. However, instead of dwelling on it, I decided to work towards some solutions, and I'm feeling so good about what is coming this year.

This month also brought many visitors from overseas, which is always comforting in the midst of winter. I met up with an old friend who used to work with me at summer camp nearly 20 years ago (yup, I spent a few summers as a camp counselor), and my dear friend Sophia from Australia. Yesterday we had a long overdue Tokyo catch up with the other member of our lovely trio, and it was fun to reminisce about 'old' Tokyo days (well, 4 years ago!) and seeing how different our lives are now.

We had lots to celebrate, and it came in the form of an exquisite 4-hour lunch at Beige, the Chanel restaurant in Ginza. It was gorgeous, not only the food and wine pairings, but the details, attentive service, cheese trolley (YES) and the interlocking C's logo on the chocolate. I spent the rest of the day recovering on the sofa, snacking on Australian treats as I don't think I can eat a proper meal for another few days. We also got manicures in the morning, so hopefully it looked like we belonged in Ginza…

Tokyo had a bit of snow yesterday, but for Canadian standards it looked more like rain. Thankfully it melted right away, otherwise it would have been such an ordeal with train delays for days. In other news I've started running again, there is an actual running course around a park in my new neighbourhood, and the full loop is about 2k so I can go around a few times for a decent workout. I like running in the winter, as it keeps me warm.

And on a separate note, this morning Japan awoke to heartbreaking news about journalist Kenji Goto, and while I never had the chance to meet him, I really admired his work. My thoughts go to his wife, young children, family and friends.

Shibuya never shuts down

Grey and wet Omotesando

Kitchen selfie

Beige - Alain Ducasse

Bubbles and quilt


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy 2015, from Japan

Happy New Year!

I've been away from this space for what it seems like several weeks now, between moving house and a few trips to Kyoto, Christmas and New Year, and now I'm taking a minute to breathe and write for pure pleasure- something I don't get to do so much anymore.

I never really make resolutions at the start of every year, but I always have in mind a few goals and projects. I like new years as they're a fresh start, and they give me motivation in the midst of cold winter months. Last year, I hoped for a more comfortable and settled life, and a trip home to Canada, and everything happened as I wished for. I had also hoped for a less dramatic year- while there were no city hall and immigration and apartment dramas, it was extremely eventful, but in the best way possible.

For 2015, I just want to live a more balanced, healthier life. I'm often driven by work and taking on so many projects, but I want to be more careful about what I choose, and save time for just enjoying life; reading books, meeting friends, running and baking. I always say that but I never do it. Will this be the year I finally do it?

I love, love, love my new home and home life, this is the most comfortable I've ever felt and I look forward to coming home every day, something I rarely felt in the last few years. Tokyo winters do not bother me too much, it's chilly but the past few weeks have been so crisp and sunny. I still loathe my daily train commute, it's something I don't even want to think about, but I'm keeping myself distracted with podcasts and music. However, some mornings I'm so squashed in the packed train that I can't even reach my pockets for my phone, let alone my bag. Welcome to Tokyo!

Despite all this, I'm not quite ready to end my love story with Tokyo just yet. This past year was so wonderful to me, and all I can hope is for more similar adventures, more travel and more books.

Our sheep family

Meeting this deer every year at New Year



My Favourite Places in Tokyo

I had the opportunity to share all my favourite places in Tokyo with Air France, so have a look at a roundup of my go-to caf├ęs and shops around the city! I hope this map is useful next time you're in Tokyo, or if you live here already and want to try something new.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Being Merry

Lots of big changes lately, but it's also been a magical time. I said goodbye to my little apartment and cleaned it thoroughly, I hope the next tenant enjoys it as much as I did despite all the neighbourly nuisances. I moved into my new airy and peaceful home, I took a trip to Kyoto and I welcomed my mom to Japan for her second visit. It's lovely having family over, it's a rare occurrence and it's especially nice around Christmas, a time I usually feel lonely.

Things are changing, and even though it's been so overwhelming lately, it's the happiest I've been in a long time.

My new bedroom

Au revoir petit appartement 

Kyoto, riverside

Kyoto's oldest coffee house

Traveling style

Kyoto fare

In the mountains

At the top of Daimonji- and at the top of the world

Can't live without this.

Santa came early.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Moving In

I've moved about six or seven times in Japan, in the span of five years. From Nagoya to Shikoku to Osaka to Tokyo, then around Tokyo a few times, and again in a few days. I've been living in this tiny little shoebox for now two years (which is a record for me in Japan), but it's time to graduate to something a lot nicer, sans Frozen-singing neighbour, washing machine right outside of my window, chain-smoking downstairs neighbour or adjacent train tracks.

This tiny apartment was great for Tokyo, and the rent was ridiculously low considering the hype of the neighbourhood. I loved the idea of a loft and ladder to access it, but it wasn't practical at all, and got too hot and suffocating in the summer months (which is like half the year in Tokyo). The loft turned into a giant closet, a storage space for all my clothes then forgotten as they were too far away. I don't really recommend lofts (which are popular in Japanese apartments), and climbing up and down a steep ladder can be hazardous in the middle of the night!

Nevertheless it was fun, and I'm ready to say goodbye to my little apartment and be a lot warmer this winter. I'm staying in the same area, which is great as I love it around here. I've been without furniture for the past few days, since I got rid of most of it, so I've been eating takeout from my futon. It strangely reminds me of my days living in Marugame, when I didn't have a table, sofa or chair.

In other (big?) news, I'm excited to share my first piece for the International New York Times, an interview with Chitose Abe of Sacai, one of my favourite brands. The collections are incredibly beautiful and this particular article focused on her collaborations, you can read it here.

And this kicks off December, along with the (real!!) Christmas tree I bought over the weekend. For the first time in Japan, I think Christmas will be merry.

Enjoying the last bit of the bachelorette lifestyle,
with Friends and a bento in tow.

The 'hood

Those gorgeous ginkgo leaves

Leopard + Yellow

American Thanksgiving breakfast at Breakfast Allday

Too excited = blurry

Oh, Christmas Tree!!

Moving, packing and cleaning

Sacai's gorgeous shop and Aoyama showroom
[photo by Maaserhit Honda]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fleece, Leaves and Catching Up on Life

I finally got a taste of freedom those past few days, for the first time in several months. The project I've been consumed with at work is finally over, and while it was such a stressful and overwhelming task, I feel so pleased with the results- a bit like at the end of a tough workout. The past few weeks have been especially difficult, with an average of three hours of sleep per night and a tonsillitis comeback (those sometimes require two sets of antibiotics, apparently).

Over the weekend, I was finally able to savour this sense of freedom, and although I had planned to sleep and not move all weekend, I found myself having more energy than usual and a desire to have a social life again. I spent all weekend with friends I hadn't seen in several weeks, and indulged in bookstore browsing, sushi dinners, movies, pancakes and a visit to a local temple, with several hot baths and lots of sleep.

In the midst of last week's chaos, I tried a nice little treat for my hair and went to a blow dry bar. It seems like those are a staple in most North American cities, but Tokyo had yet to catch up- until a few weeks ago. The salon is called Jet Set Blow Dry Bar, and is located in Hiroo. It's owned by a lovely foreign woman, and the idea is pretty straightforward: they just wash and style your hair, no cuts or colour. The whole experience was so relaxing, from the wash to scalp massage and complimentary herbal tea. It's usually a glass of champagne, but I kept it tame since it was 10am on a weekday. I loved my hair, they did magic with a round brush and curling iron and my hair was in soft curls that lasted for two days. The best part was the name card with my name that they prepared- I love small touches like that.

In other news I stocked up on more fleece and heat tech at Uniqlo, and I'm more than ready for winter. I love the long-sleeved undershirts, leggings and fleece hoodies and socks. I wish I could live in those! I also bought one of those ultra light down vests, they're mildly unattractive and puffy but so warm and comfortable, especially under a coat. All fashion rules go out the window in winter in Japan, anything to feel warm.

My heavy-lifting flannel

More whipped cream than pancake

Shrines and bamboo oh my

October sakura! Yes, this kind blooms twice per year



  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November in Japan

November in Japan is the most gorgeous time of the year. For the first time in several months, the weather is crisp and comfortable, the sun is shining on most days, and it's chilly enough to wear layers, knits and coats but not unbearably cold.

For me, November is also synonymous with pure madness at work with an important project, in addition to (fun!!) freelance assignments and just general changes in my daily life. This week is particularly stressful, but those are the times when I really cherish any bit of alone time I can get, and coffee breaks I can sneak in. I tried some interesting and new-ish cafes those past few days, one in The City Bakery in Hiroo (great coffee and pastries, affordable sandwiches and salad sets), and the other one is World Breakfast Allday in Kita-Aoyama, which changes the menu every months according to an international theme. Last month was Croatia, and this month is USA. There's only one communal table for about 10-12 people, with an open kitchen and a cozy decor that reminds me of my favourite cafe in Marugame.

I also love to stop by Omotesando Koffee whenever I get the chance, but I noticed it has gotten a lot more attention lately. Weekends now have queues, and even weekday afternoons are a full house. In a way I'm happy they're getting recognition as it's such a wonderful place, but I hate that this is no longer my quiet haven. Still, the baristas are so friendly despite this increase of people, and I'll keep going but I miss the days when I could sit alone in the garden.

I'm actually surviving on coffee and persimmons this week, and keeping my eyes on the prize (holidays, Christmas, New Year, sleeping in, fresh tatami floors…). I've also descended into an early-era The Smiths spiral, in parallel with The Bling Ring soundtrack. I haven't had a single sip of wine or bubbly since I got sick a few weeks ago, and I don't miss it at all. Maybe I'm still sick?


,
Fresh tatami <3 td="">

The City Bakery

My 'hood

Good morning indeed

World Breakfast Allday

Staged photo op