Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat: Tokyo

Halloween in Tokyo. 

Unlike last year, when I tried everything to avoid the Halloween celebrations in the countryside (for good reasons), this year I was fairly excited about Halloween. I dressed up as -guess what- a ballerina (albeit not a very scary one). Cheap and easy, as I already owned the full costume: leotard, ballet shoes, tights, and tutu. To be fair, the tutu was kid sized, but I managed to squeeze into it and strut around Shibuya without too much embarrassment.

Halloween in Japan is big. Even though it's a holiday not traditionally celebrated by the Japanese, they love to borrow traditions from other countries, and they go all out with the decorations and costumes. The streets of Shibuya were wild, full of crazy costumes, and well, barely there costumes.
My friends and I had a fun night out, dancing, club hopping, and mingling in the streets. 

Today was the actual Halloween day, and surprisingly I saw handfuls of kids trick or treating in my neighbourhood. Trick or treating does not happen much in Japan, but I live in a very affluent (read: rich) area, and I think the mothers has organized a neighbourhood candy hunt. It was nice to see, reminded me of home (minus the snow!!)

Here are a few random snapshots, I did not take any photos while out, I was too busy smuggling... er, having fun. 

Slash and Axl.. well done

I met Justin Bieber.. ooooh baby baby

Japan is not complete without purikura

Japan's take on trick or treat: a note read to just take candy

Those are not pumpkins, but delicious persimmons

My neighbour's house

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ikenoue Saturday

Ikenoue is the name of my closest train station, and a peaceful walk away from Shibuya, in the heart of Shimokitazawa. This is what is happening (not very much) on a slow Saturday afternoon, just soaking up some sun on my balcony, on this perfect October day.

Big in Tokyo: Don Quijote

Now that I've been living in Japan for nearly two years, most of my surroundings don't seem as strange or curious as they used to be. Japan is definitely the place to find the most random and questionable items, but somehow it's just part of my daily world.

Don Quihote ドンキホーテ is a discount chain store that carries a wide range of products, including the aforementioned dubious items. The shop is crowded, the neon lighting is well, neon, and the jingles are blaring through the speakers over and over. It's open 24 hours, and at any given time of the day you can encounter long queues at the register and suspicious characters roaming the aisles. It's the best spot for people-watching in Shibuya, as all subcultures are represented, from the heavily made-up gyaru to pineapple-haired hosts and ubiquitous salarymen.

In one visit at the Donki (as it's known in Japan), you can stock up on everything.... seriously, every single thing you need or think you may need: laundry detergent, mascara, fake eyelashes value packs, blond wigs, gummy bears, vodka, socks, towels, perfume, sex toys, tea bottles, lunch boxes, bear costumes, hair brushes, ties, alarms clocks, fresh vegetables.

I'll take it all, please.

Please make sure to visit Donki in any sizeable Japanese city, you can kill so much time in the jungle of a shop, and find the most random items to give friends back home. And interestingly, Donki tends to close for a few hours in early morning (between 5-6am) to re-stock and clean, as Sophia and I learned one time, as we were desperately trying to stock up on eyelashes...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lost in Translation's Tokyo: Park Hyatt Tokyo

I am elated to be contributing to a series of articles on I Want To Be A Coppola, tackling the different locations Lost in Translation was filmed. As I've seen the movie over and over and adore it so much, exploring those landmarks has been a pleasant assignment, and here is my write up about the iconic Park Hyatt Tokyo:

Lost in Translation's Tokyo: Park Hyatt Tokyo

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Udon musings

How things have changed, in the span of a year.

Yesterday, I sat in front of a (warm) bowl of udon at the Shibuya branch of Hanamaru, a chain that carries the sanuki udon I used to eat when living in Shikoku. A year ago, Kagawa's famous dish was my quasi daily fare, as it was so cheap, delicious and filling.

Fast forward a year later: same, ever so familiar bowl of noodles, completely different context. The last time I ate this udon was in Marugame. It was lonely, isolated, but also comforting in strange way, as I was surrounded by a tight knit group of friends- something that was both a curse and a blessing. I had tons of free time, probably too much, and not enough options. My days were spent riding my bike in the rice fields, and trying to stay sane. Oh, the meltdowns.

In Tokyo, I'm busy working on a handful of projects, meeting friends at random times and places, commuting all over Tokyo and staying up past my bedtime. Most of my friends are just as busy- it is not uncommon in Tokyo to work three or four different jobs, in order to survive in this jungle, or rather just to keep up with all the goodness Tokyo offers. It never really stops and it keeps me happy, I am enjoying this so much. I am luckily blessed with a diverse group of friends and familiarity is right around the corner. Somehow, Tokyo is just so easy, and it has been a blast. Things may be far from perfect, but everything feels so right. Or maybe I've gotten better at dealing with my Japan experience.

Yet, when I eat udon and reminisce about my days in the rice fields of Shikoku, I get nostalgic of the mountains, slow trains and peacefulness. I am also reminded that I'd never be where I am now if it wasn't for that significant year. I secretly love the countryside, but I simply adore Tokyo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In my ears.

My latest Tokyo jam...


Slices of Tokyo

Tokyo is warm, then cold, then sunny, then rainy. Friends come and go, it's sad, but life goes on, Tokyo never sleeps. Nothing is more soothing than dancing all night to the beautiful sounds of another edition of Hindu Love on Saturday night.

A couple of onigiris, orange-flavoured water and a first train later, my lovely friend Kumraz and I hit Good Honest Grub in Ebisu, a place recommended by Sophia (you can read her review here) for a late Sunday brunch. I'm so thankful my favourite Sunday tradition is back in my life, it makes me feel much at home, and in excellent company likewise.

I then wandered around the hilly, posh neighbourhood of Daikanyama, famous for its upscale pastry shops and luxury brands... purely eye candy. I also tried to detoxify myself from a weekend copious in foods and other indulgences with a nice run around my neighbourhood, only to succumb a bit later to an okonomiyaki and beer feast back in Shimokitazawa... oops.

Sunday night perfection, I'd say.

Me + The Smiths

Hey, DJ.




Good Honest Grub, Ebisu

Photobooth Love

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sayonara, Sophia!

Another goodbye.

Somehow I still cannot get used to them, even though it's common occurrence while living abroad and befriending fellow wanderlusters.

I met Sophia when I first arrived in Tokyo, and we immediately bonded over blogging, lipstick, our mutual love of dirty rap songs, all things Japan, and most importantly, food!! It was a fun, intense, albeit short-lived encounter- like most in Japan. Yet, those friendships are always so significant, and I know she will be another lifelong friend.

Sophia said goodbye to Tokyo with a stylish fete thrown in Nakameguro, at a fun venue called Just Another Agency, complete with ping pong tables and personalized playlists from her friends. We played DJs for a night, danced, had an Italian feast and copious amounts of wine.

Sophia, Tokyo will miss you, you and your impeccable taste in all things food and fashion related. Cheers to your next step, and until then.

I promise that we'll reach the Golden Cracker next time we're at the Park Hyatt.

Ping pong and friends

Just dance

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun


Here is the playlist I made for Sophia:

Kool Thing- Sonic Youth
Friday I'm In Love- The Cure
Midnight City- M83
Age Of Consent- New Order
Shimmy Shimmy Ya- Ol' Dirty Bastard
Everything With You- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Disco 2000- Pulp
Ask- The Smiths
Boys And Girls- Blur
Love Will Tear Us Apart- Joy Division
Just Like Honey- The Jesus and Mary Chain


Photos by Sophia

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Things lost in translation

A few Lost in Translation cocktails at the iconic Park Hyatt, fun nail colours, ribbons, red wine, a Tokyo night view. This week is a little sad... too many farewells, it's getting cold, things are not as easy as they seem, Tokyo is too amazing for words but very ephemeral, the past two months have been an absolute whirlwind, and I need to breathe. Somehow it's Tokyo and I'm ever so thankful to live here and be a part of this surreal world.

When I look back on Tokyo years from now, it will seem like a dream. Some things simply do not translate in the (other) real world.

I need more ribbons and wine
I'm so wild.

Empty glasses

Tokyo nighttime skyline.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What are you listening to?

Since I've been living in Japan, I have felt a bit out of the loop when it comes to new music. There are fewer concerts to go to in Japan, and when bands visit Tokyo or Osaka, the ticket price is quite extravagant, therefore I never go. It's unfortunate, as it hinders my ability to get hooked on up-and-coming acts. Therefore, I count on my friends to send me playlists and music recommendations, and thankfully I'm surrounded with people with amazing taste.

I recently became addicted to (I'm definitely late on the trend), a page where you can listen to all kinds of music and get suggestions according to your taste, and from friends. Over the past few days, I have discovered so many new bands and became obsessed with M83's latest album, Hurry Up We're Dreaming. 

Please add me and share some music!

Running in Tokyo

After an extensive hiatus on my running habits, due to the insane heat and humidity and small factors such as an intra-Nippon move, I started running again. It's autumn, and the weather is absolutely perfect and crisp enough.

My main concern about Tokyo was about not being able to find proper running paths. Sure, there are green spaces such as Yoyogi Park, but I prefer something that is right in my neighbourhood (by the time I'd run to Yoyogi Park, I'd be too tired/bored to run more!!).

Shimokitazwa does not abound with parks, but I find the small, windings streets are perfect for running. The sights are gorgeous (traditional homes, lots of trees and cats) and there are very few people and cars. From Shimokitazawa, if I run through those small streets, I can quickly find myself in Shibuya or Nakameguro.
I have been using the Run Keeper application, which keeps track of time and distance, and offers a (much needed) map of my whereabouts. To my surprise, I found out that I can run to my friend Mike's house in less than 30 min, when it takes about that time and two different train lines otherwise. I can also run to Shibuya in about 14 minutes, but then again, it's not very handy to show up sweaty and wearing running gear there. Still, it's interesting to get to know Tokyo through running.

I still think my area is the most quiet and residential I've ever lived in, and it's so easy to escape the madness of Shibuya and Shinjuku crowds. Best of both worlds.

Tokyo, I adore you.

Sunday Brunch in Shimokitazawa

I'm delighted with the fact that Tokyo offers many places to eat my favourite meal, breakfast. It's one of the things I miss most about home- being able to get a late breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning (or afternoon), while sitting outside and relaxing. Lazy and relaxing are two words that do no apply to Japanese society, but the brunch tradition is slowly catching up.

I have only tried two places in Shimokitazawa, but the research shall continue, so stay tuned.

Sunday Brunch had special Halloween pancakes, along with a tasty veggie stew and a salad.

I fell for the pumpkin face

Mixture Bakery, one of my regular spots for lunch, offers a morning set before 11am (although I'm never up early enough to catch it on Sundays)- eggs and toast. If you miss it, it's not a problem, as their lunch sets are pretty brunch-tastic: sandwiches, salads and strong espresso. Theyr have an extensive selection of baked goods such as croissants and pain au chocolat, and their infamous espresso bread. Yum.

Tuna and avocado sandwich, apple juice

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Holiday

... and this is how this gorgeous autumn weekend unfolded, complete with a visit from my dear friend Nick hailing from Osaka, a picnic at Yoyogi Park, ventures around Shibuya and Harajuku, my first published article in Tokyo print, some Secret Secret action at swanky Velours in Aoyama, dancing to the sweet sounds of 2Princes (thanks for playing Disco 2000 by Pulp!!), a proper brunch in Shimokitazawa, lots of wine and roommates on my balcony, some much needed catching up, veggie burgers and fake eyelashes with Fashimi at 4am, catching the last train from Shinjuku, some much-needed catching up, and a bit of Billy Idol. 

In no particular order...

We were allowed inside posh velours, but apparently not out!

Nick and Vivian's make-believe wedding picture

Which trend will you wear?!

Yoyogi Park and friends on a Sunday

Someone got quite lucky.

My red tights match the sofa!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tokyo Nightlife: Sniff Sniff, one more time.

Friday night was another edition of the ever excellent Sniff Sniff party, and this one was extra special because it was my friend Sophia's last one, as she is sadly returning to Australia. We danced, drank champagne (and less classy drinks... ahem), had photo shoots, and danced some more. It was the beginning of a weekend that unfolded in the most unexpected, fun way.

Pictures courtesy of Sophia. Tokyo will miss you... Take a peek at her blog as we Fashimi our way through Tokyo fare before she returns!

Leopard and cheetah, oh my.

Alex and a bear

Fun boys, fun DJs

Hello, Jake

Prince's reversible vintage jacket

Gorgeous, talented girls.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

As cliché as it sounds, I still find Shibuya Crossing quite impressive. Shibuya Crossing is simply a busy intersection in Tokyo (well, the busiest intersection in the world, as a matter of fact): once the light turns green, people from four directions go across the scramble.

The big Starbucks overlooking Shibuya Crossing is the busiest in the world. In fact, you can only order drinks in one size (tall size), as it probably saves a lot of time. In my opinion, it's also the quickest service in the world. It's always full of tourists trying to take snapshots of the intersection, but I sometimes enjoy sitting there just to look at the street. I keep in mind that a few years ago, I was one of those tourists myself...

Shibuya Crossing was featured the movie in Lost in Translation, and I think it was truthfully depicted: all the neon lights, giant screens, and loud pop music. My Japanese friends told me that they don't call it Shibuya Crossing, but only the crossing.

Even though I walk across that intersection every morning, I don't think I'll ever lose that strange fascination. Shibuya is and will always be the liveliest place in the world, buzzing with people and incessant energy. It's such a landmark of Japan, and it really makes you feel like you well, live in Tokyo.

Sunday morning, 6:00 am

Sunday afternoon, 2:00 pm

Saturday night. 11:00 pm

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Food Stuffs

Japanese Food Pyramid:


                                                             Canadian Food Pyramid:

Both countries feature grains and carbs as the main nutrients, but the major difference lies in the fruits and vegetables. While the Canadian food guide recommends between 5-10 portions of fruits and veggies per day, the Japanese food guide only features vegetables in the second row, while fruits are at the very top of the pyramid. Interesting.

Did I ever mention how expensive fruit is in Japan? A single apple costs ¥100 (1.35$), a pear ¥160 (2.17$), a bunch of grapes ¥398 (5.39$), and a melon can cost well over ¥1500 (20.33$). Let's just say I rarely ever buy fruit, and the only fruit I can afford are bananas: ¥98 (1.32$) for 3-4.

Banana consumption is a running joke amongst my friends living here... we all are so sick of bananas, but it's the only fruit we can afford. I do frequently splurge on apples and pears because I feel unhealthy if I don't incorporate them in my diet, and I try to stick to seasonal fruit, such as persimmons, as they tend to be quite cheap.

I definitely miss being able to eat tons of fresh fruit (and a wide variety) in Canada, something that is considered a luxury here in Nippon land. Thankfully the selection of vegetables makes up for the lack of fruit!