Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Neighbourhood Woes


I've been living in my cozy little apartment for now almost two years, and while it has been peaceful and relaxing for the most part, those past few months have been particularly trying. There's my next door neighbour, a woman of a certain age who rehearses the soundtrack to 'Frozen' every single night. Every. Single. Night. There's my downstairs neighbour, a twenty-something student who has weekly drinking sessions that go on until sunrise. He also smokes so much that the smoke reaches my apartment through the vents, and I have to sleep with a mask. It all sounds a bit dramatic, but it's been horrible, especially as sleep-deprived enough as it is. I've been trying to reciprocate with loud French music and early morning vacuuming stints, but I think it's a hopeless battle. I cannot wait to move! It does make for great stories, though.

In other news, October is already coming to an end, with Halloween in between. It's amazing how Japan loves and celebrates Halloween nowadays, way more than when I first got to Japan back in 2009. I'm not celebrating Halloween this year either, it's never been a favourite holiday of mine, but I do enjoy seeing all the elaborate costumes when I walk through Shibuya every evening after work.

All I know is that Saturday morning all shops will be covered in Christmas-themed decorations, including Starbucks and its "Snow Maple Toffee" Frappuccino, their seasonal specialty for the holidays. I'm always curious about those drinks, but the amount of sugar and syrup is more calories than I can burn in a week worth of fitness classes. Anyways- this year I'm very very much looking forward to the holidays, so I might accidentally enjoy those Christmas decorations.

My favourite tempura lunch set around Aoyama

Waiting for the train, every day
This homemade salad was exquisite,
but eating that many greens in Japan
is an expensive little habit.

                                       

Friday, October 24, 2014

Immigration + Persimmons

October marks my routine visit to immigration, which is one of the most stressful and dreadful things about living abroad. Going to the immigration office in Tokyo is an eventful occurrence- from riding the 'immigration bus' and filling in all the paper work, to hours of waiting and finding out there are more forms to be filled. The immigration office is such a grim place, and I mostly feel bad for people working there daily. It's also a good place to people-watch, makes me realize how many foreigners are actually living and working in Japan- it's a LOT.

The paperwork and bureaucracy are the least appealing aspects of living abroad, but it's part of the adventure and every year I learn a little more, and get my act together. I tend to be a procrastinator in most things in life, but I know not to mess with the visa stuff and get myself to immigration in a timely matter. I'm growing up!

Aside from immigration and filling out visa forms, this week has been insane and it gives the tone to the upcoming weeks, probably until the end of December. I try to find relaxing things to do every day, whether it's a workout or a green tea session. My goal for next week is to get 8 hours of sleep per night, go to the fitness club at least twice, and cook every night. Baby steps!

It's persimmon season, and I've been eating one daily. One time I was in a hurry and I bought those 'expensive' ones rather than the budget kind, and they were so much tastier and juicier. Now I'm hooked, and I've been spending an average of ¥250-¥300 per persimmon. I am debating whether it's unreasonable, but I need my fruit.

Vulcanize in Aoyama makes the best soy latte

A mid-range persimmon

Autumn cape

Tea ceremony at Sou-Sou

Matcha & Peach sweets

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mondays

Lately I've been working a ridiculous amount, which even included the weekend. I feel like all I talk about is how much I work, but welcome to Tokyo life. Even though I've had to work nonstop, I've tried to infuse it with some fun, and it's amazing how a few hours at the bookstore, or shopping or sipping on coffee can make a difference.

I spent a few hours at T-Site in Daikanyama on Sunday and finally took home the Rose Bakery recipe book, which is filled with smoothies, salads, scones and tea cakes. Rose Bakery is one of my favourite cafes in Japan (I especially love the Marunouchi branch, located amongst the clothes at Comme des Garçons), and I can finally re-create some of the dishes- they're all so simple and tasty. I also paid an embarrassing amount for the winter issue of Porter, because Christy Turlington and I'm tired of depriving myself of (unaffordable) fashion prettily adorning glossy pages.

I also went to a wine course, at a cooking studio-meets-cafe near the Imperial Palace. The place is called Cook Coop Book, and they offer cooking lessons and wine classes in English. This particular class was about pairing wines with different foods, and even though things start to get a bit blurry after the third glass, I did learn some essential knowledge that I shall apply to my hostess skills, should I ever host a dinner party again (I promise I will, and I can't wait).

I watched a French moved called Casse-tête chinois, which is the sequel of L'Auberge Espagnole and Les Poupées russes, two movies I somehow grew up with, all about traveling and living abroad and coming of age. That last installment was just as entertaining, but it suddenly made me feel old, as I grew up closely to that generation and suddenly all the characters became um, old.

All I hope to do now is open this fashion magazine and also whip up a few recipes from my numerous cook books that tend to remain closed in favour of take-out sushi and meatball udon.

Bed time!

Let's get baking

Let's hope I have time to open it someday

Wine + foods

My new favourite place!

Japanese garden at New Otani Hotel

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Typhoons + Thanksgiving

I may have said that October has the best weather in Japan, but I retract that. I forgot that October is all about typhoons, then it gets really warm and humid, then suddenly it gets rainy and the temperatures dip to a chilly 13 degrees, like tonight. I'm wearing socks and a hoodie for the first time in several months. I actually love it, but I think November is best weather-wise.

It's been nonstop madness since I got back from Kyoto. Every time I escape Tokyo for a few days, I come back to out-of-control amounts of work and deadlines, but it's still worth it to go away. We were lucky this weekend was another holiday three-day one, with Monday being Physical Education Day in Japan, and Canadian Thanksgiving.

Canadian Thanksgiving is one of the holidays I miss the most, chiefly the food part (and family time of course). This year, we went over to some friends' house to watch a very very Canadian movie about hockey, so that felt really nice and nostalgic in a way, even though I don't closely follow hockey, but it's such an important part of our culture.

Canada suddenly feels so far away, even though I was just there a few months ago, being back in Tokyo just sucked me back into this crazy busy life, and sometimes I stop and try to remember that my visit back home wasn't a dream. I had promised myself I would live a more balanced life once I got back to Japan, I've been trying but I still have a lot to work on- it's just been a whirlwind.

As for Physical Education Day, I spent it not doing any P.E. and it was glorious, but I'm catching up on my laziness this week with some much-needed fitness sessions.

I've been liking staying in or just having quiet drinks and dinner at friends' homes, it somewhat balances out my insane schedule quite nicely, not to mention spending quality time with friends is at the top of my list. I haven't been sleeping much lately either, even though I go to bed early I can't fall asleep, which is a bit unusual for me. I think too much and I get too excited about many things, I guess it's good and nothing like worrying over life, which is a nice change.

Lately I've been mostly wearing everything from the Alexandre Plokhov collection, it's just so comfortable and it's like living in sweats all day long, minus the sloppiness. Yes, please.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kyoto in October

We took a spontaneous trip to Kyoto over the weekend, and I realized the past few times I've been in Kyoto is was either scorching hot or bitter cold. Kyoto tends to go to both extremes of the thermometer, but this time it was just perfect, and we managed to avoid the typhoon.

Every time I'm in Kyoto I question my decision to live in Tokyo. Kyoto is much more mellow, less crowded, and even if there are so many tourists, it's such a great city. There is beauty everywhere you look, and you can cycle all across it and avoid trains and buses. Tokyo is the business and pop culture centre of Japan, so that's where I must be for the time being.

Our weekend was packed as usual, but I managed to spend some quality time with this girl and eat the best all-vegetable based dishes at this healthy version of an izakaya. I loved the vegetable tempura, grilled onion, soy-based tsukemen, and kiwi avocado smoothie.

We visited some shrines, and one of them was Kamigamo, a World Heritage site. We learned about how they build the wooden roofs and had a guided visit of the site, and wrote a wish on a piece of bark.  I also made sure to make some time for matcha by the river, and of course Shinshindo.

Kyoto makes me feel so happy and peaceful.



Kyoto station

Shinshindo keeps it real

All-green train

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on the outskirts of Kyoto

Kamigamo is a Shinto sanctuary

I loved this

Kyoto also has Omotesando Koffee

Shinkansen bento!

Sofia sparkling

It rained a tiny bit

standing on the tracks

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's October

I've been out and about a lot lately, whether it's running between meetings or catching up with friends on the weekend. The weather is still so warm, it's just as if summer is back and it's that awkward in-between phase when it's too hot to wear tights and boots but I still wear them because I just can't with summer fashion anymore (never liked it, never will). 

I like October, it's probably the best month in Japan, along with November. So much is happening in the next few months, and it's a great way to end this eventful and wonderful year. I've decided to volunteer more and join a nonprofit organization for women in Japan, which also holds monthly luncheons and talks. Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think of my packed schedule, but I've decided to make space for what's important: friends and family, exercise, writing I enjoy, and things I actually want to do. I didn't really have this luxury to choose my first year or so in Tokyo, and finally life has somewhat settled and I'm able to try different activities and have quality time with friends.

Oh, Japan, it's been such an adventure- I can't believe I'll be celebrating my fifth anniversary here in mere weeks.

Happy birthday to my kitty, I miss her

Canada gets festive

Little Nap Coffee Stand in Yoyogi

October's Metro manner poster:
don't rock out.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mid-Week Holiday Week

September is great, mostly due to those random holidays, and the comfortable weather. It's still a tad too early for tights and sweaters, but that did not stop me from stocking up on warmer clothes. I literally bought every single item from the [Helmut Lang] Alexandre Plokhov x Uniqlo collection, I love those designer collaborations and they're so affordable. If you're in Japan or NYC, I highly recommend checking it out, although it's only available in select Uniqlo shops.

Besides wanting to just wear sweat pants and stay home, I ventured out to IKEA, which was the best way to spend a mid-week holiday. To be honest, I only go for the meatballs, but I picked up a few kitchen accessories and brightened up my tiny little apartment.

I haven't slept much at all this past week, lots of late nights and early mornings and lots lots going on. I just wish I could get myself in bed early, but when it's bedtime, I see it as free time (which I don't get much of during the week) so I just want to stay up, read magazines and watch TV re-runs. I found some reasonably priced international magazines at National Azabu supermarket in Hiroo, on the second floor. They have a pretty decent selection, along with books, and the magazines are much, much cheaper than at Tsutaya or Kinokuniya.



This is so much better than my French press!


Alexandre Plokhov x Uniqlo

Love that sweater dress, in black

IKEA feast