Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tokyo Events: Style Band Tokyo 2012

On Sunday evening I had the chance to attend a showcase of local indie bands, Style Band Tokyo 2012. It featured established Tokyo bands such as noise group Guitar Wolf, alongside up and coming artists and DJs on every floor. Guitar Wolf was probably the highlight of the night, but N`夙川BOYS (pronounced n'shukugawa) was the most fascinating for me, with great costumes, sound, and stage presence. I also loved the long-haired boys of Bo Ningen, who gave a crazy, energetic performance. I highly recommend clicking on those links and checking out those amazing Tokyo artists.

As I mention regularly, seeing live concerts is something I deeply miss from back home. Many great bands visit Tokyo and we also have a plethora of local talent, but gigs in Japan are pricey and usually very early. Thankfully it's always possible to catch DJ sets such as Metronomy and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who both had members performing at Trump Room over the last few weeks.

Despite the fact that it was a Sunday night, it was one of the best nights I've had in Tokyo, full of excellent music, performances, hanging out backstage, dancing and not wanting to catch last train.

N'shukugawa Boys (and a girl)

My friends (and Charming Men) Mike and Matthew from Gypsy Badman

DJ and highly skilled photographer Jake, aka Le Champ

A cute DJ wearing a shirt that matches my headband

Found: a hipster, toy camera, beads and vintage sweater (Prince Ness) 

Bo Ningen. I wish my hair was longer.

Bo Ningen, getting a tad crazier

Yeah! Onstage stripping!

I love Tokyo music scene.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Japanese Anime

Me, in manga form.

Pretty dead on, with the hair and purple ribbon and coy demeanor.

Tokyo Neighbourhoods: Azabu-Juban

Even though I've lived in Tokyo for five months, I still have so much exploring to be done. Tokyo is massive, and I tend to stick to familiar areas such as Shibuya, Nakameguro, Shimokitazawa and Daikanyama as I feel quite comfortable there.

Yet, Tokyo is full of secrets and neighbourhoods I had no idea even existed, such as charming Azabu-Juban. This area is a mere steps away from the infamous Roppongi (infamous for its high number of foreigners and seedy nightlife and a particular night I wish to forget)- yet is quite the opposite of it. Cobblestone streets, cake shops, French cafés, narrow streets, it's one of Tokyo's most sought after living areas.

On Saturday afternoon, I met up with my Japanese teacher, a sophisticated, cultured lady who has traveled the world and who always introduces me to Tokyo gems and bits of Japanese culture. She gave me a tour of Azabu-Juban, starting with a visit to a shrine to pray for the new year, followed by a double crème café at French restaurant Le Petit Tonneau. I'm always happy whenever I get the chance to use my mother tongue, and I happily conversed with the staff.

For dinner, we walked over to Gonpachi, a popular Japanese restaurant with a particular decor. In fact, it was used as inspiration for the movie Kill Bill, and it did offer a pretty cozy, warm atmosphere. We shared some izakaya-style Japanese finger foods, accompanied with cocktails. It was such a pleasant Saturday to be in company of an interesting lady and to learn more about Japan and its culture and language.

Le Petit Tonneau, Azabu-Juban


Tempura at Gonpachi

Beef stew + mojito (wild!)

Kill Bill!

Cold January Nights

Mike, to me: "Why are you in a carpenter's workshop?"

We, Tokyoites don't let the chilly January temperatures bring us down. Some friends and I braved the cold and sat outside for some burgers at my favourite joint Whoopi Goldburger in Shibuya, along with some heaters, blankets, and strong drinks.

Tokyo winter is brutal. It's much warmer than any given day in Canada, but the cold is bitter and there are no ways to escape it really. In that case, we just embrace it...

I need more female friends (no offense boys I adore you)

Helena Bonham burger: avocado

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Best Japanese Chocolate: Rummy

I'm currently obsessed with this rum and raisin chocolate called Rummy. Even though it bears an unfortunate name, the taste is amazing and I feel sorry I missed out on it for the past few years. I was very skeptical since names and packaging are important to me, but it proved to be the opposite. I probably would have never tried it on my own because I'm such a snob, but I'm glad I was introduced to this heavenly snack. Each bite has some actual raisin bits and liquor. I highly recommend it to impress guests (and show sophistication despite the awful packaging), or just to create a new little obsession. Believe me, it works.

It deserved it own entry.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January Tokyo

January had a slow start, but it suddenly turned into a frantic yet exciting time, with lots of projects and fun gallivanting around Tokyo. After nearly a month spent detoxing from the holiday indulgences and trying to get back into a healthy routine, I finally braved the chilly nights to dip my toes back into Tokyo's nightlife. Here's a glimpse of the past few days:

My Korean friend Daehyun flew to Tokyo for the weekend, and we had the chance to catch up and explore the nightlife and reminisce about our days in Seoul.

 I couldn't resist a picture of Rilakkuma holding a donut at Hara Donuts in Shimokitazawa. That's how cute Japan is. And no, I would never eat two donuts.

Lately I've been eating lots of take out sushi, along with avocado + cucumber salads. It's probably just a phase, but a good one.

 It was Mike's birthday and he dressed up as Justin Bieber for an art performance in Nakano.

 My friend Gordon sporting his latest acquisition. He speaks the truth... I think.

My friend Mayumi-chan, aka Aerobics Girls, DJing at Trump Room in Shibuya. Great dancing music as usual, I love this girl! And thanks for the birthday present.

Metronomy also had a DJ set later that night at Trump, it was upbeat and crowded and amazing. And I would like to say hello to two people in particular who came up and said hi to me, I'm very flattered you read this blog and I feel very thankful for meeting such cool people through this page.

My friend K. and I ate hummus and pita for the first time in ages, I adore Saturday brunch, especially followed by a ballet recital.

Saturday night was another edition of the excellent dance party Hindu Love at Echo Shibuya. It was packed, sweaty and the music played until sunrise.

 Echo Shibuya is probably my favourite venue in Tokyo, it feels like your own living room.

I browsed record shops and vintage shops in Shimokitazawa, and found out there is loads more within walking distance of my house, north of Shimokitazawa.

I ate udon at a shop bearing the name "Marugame", just like my old stomping grounds in Shikoku. The udon was on par with Kagawa's fare, but it will never be the same in the middle of Shibuya. It was still amazing.

This song.

And, there was snow in Tokyo, I woke up this morning and it looked like Canada, it was quite nice. I like January.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tokyo Haircuts: Watanabe

Hair by Kenichi Momoi

To be fair, I've always had really satisfying experiences getting my hair cut in Japan, whether it was in Shikoku or Osaka. Finding a great hair salon is a challenge in a new city, but thankfully Tokyo has the best in the country.

I first read about Watanabe Hair Dressing through my friend Julie's excellent blog, and since I trust her impeccable taste, I gave it a try. I have visited the salon twice already, and I am more than pleased with the results- in fact, it's the very best haircut and treatment I have ever had, and I only have excellent reviews for the place. They cater to the foreigner crowd: most of the stylists speak English and some have worked abroad, thus are used to non-Japanese hair (which has a very different texture and thickness).

My haircut at Watanabe was a full experience involving a back and head massage, hot towels and lavender essential oils, cutting, styling, and conditioning. My hair stylist is Kenichi Momoi, and I highly recommend booking an appointment with him: he is so professional and pleasant to work with, made me feel extremely comfortable and knows exactly what is best for different types of hair (I tried to talk him into giving me a fringe, but he warned me against it, as it wouldn't work with my thick, wavy texture).

All the staff at the salon is highly qualified and professional: two of my friends raved about Chie Funakura, another stylist there. In fact I have only heard amazing, positive feedback from a handful of friends who have visited the salon before. It's by far the best haircut I've had in ages, and I am loving that place so much! If you live in Tokyo or even just visiting, you should book an appointment there. It's located near Harajuku station, click here for the information.

I seriously applaud any stylist who can somehow manage to turn my lion's mane into a sleek cut.

Haircut = Photobooth session. 

Thank you, Momoi!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shin-Okubo: Tokyo's Korea Town

Korean banchan: bring it on.

This evening, my friend Valerie and I hit the Shinjuku adjacent area of Shin-Okubo for some much-craved Korean fare. Even though I used to complain about Korean food being too spicy for my taste while living in Korea, I miss it a lot and need my regular dose, as it became part of my lifestyle for that year.

Thankfully Tokyo has a rather sizable Korea Town, which is located a few minutes away from the infamous Kabukicho near Shinjuku station. I think the most interesting part of the night was walking through hordes of hosts getting ready for the night and the love hotel-lined streets... but let's move on to the food part!

We feasted on the typical Korean BBQ, which features strips of grilled pork that are meant to be wrapped into lettuce leaves and topped with vegetables and chili paste. We also shared kimchijeon, a pancake filled with kimchi and spring onion, possibly my favourite Korean dish. What I miss most about Korean food are the various side dishes that come along, banchan, and sampling a little bit of everything for a pleasurable and balanced meal.

Shin-Okubo is also filled to the brim with everything exuding Korean pop culture, from shops to restaurants and cafés, to street signs all in hangul. It's a very lively neighbourhood, with the same street food stalls and grilled meat aromas so typically found everywhere in Korea. I'm always quite nostalgic of my days living in Seoul, but I'm lucky it's so easily accessible from where I live now.

A depiction of Gyeonghuigung

I can still read hangul skillfully!

Grilled meat + vegetables

Wrap it all up 
This pig followed me and touched me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tokyofaces: Tokyo Street Style

I think Tokyo offers some of the most interesting and eclectic fashions in the world- anything goes, and everyone is very unique in their personal style. Like nowhere else in the world, Tokyo is a place to experiment and I can tirelessly people-watch all day, as I see the most fascinating and creative combinations.

I was recently introduced to an excellent street style blog called Tokyofaces, which in my opinion captures perfectly the essence and uniqueness of Tokyoites. The photography is equally gorgeous, and it features familiar neighbourhoods as well as daily updates.

I highly recommend browsing through it (then trying to stop!), and following it to keep up with the Tokyo beat. By far my new favourite.

Photos: tokyofaces.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Japan sounds: Miaou

I have been listening to more Japanese bands lately, and discovered loads of great music. I've especially been loving Miaou, a Tokyo-based group. I had the chance to see them performing live in a small, albeit packed Shimokitazawa venue, and they blew my mind. Their sound could be described as instrumental, dream-pop, mixing guitars and synth for a pretty sonic mash-up.

Click here to fill your ears with some beautiful sounds! And, what's not to love about the name?!

 miaou - into your pocket by Teto Records


Follow me on Instagram for random slices of life in Japan! My user name is vivianmorelli. How clever.

Tokyo: Health and Fitness

Although getting a stomach flu might seem like the best way to trim down post-holidays, I do not recommend it and there are far better ways to start the year in a healthy way.

Here is an article I wrote for Tokyo Weekender, about healthy living in Tokyo, but I'm sure it can also apply to anywhere else.

Pick up your copy in Tokyo 

Healthy Living in Tokyo: 10 tips

Having a little trouble zipping up those jeans after indulging on a few too many holiday treats? Follow these simple guidelines for a no-fail detox plan for the new year... and for a healthier Tokyo lifestyle throughout the year. 

1. Lace up your sneakers, and go for a run! It's free, and it's an excellent workout in this crisp weather. Great running paths can be found in Tokyo, such as Yoyogi Park and along Tama and Meguro Rivers. For beginners, the key is to work out in intervals and build up endurance, and I suggest trying the fun "Couch-to-5K" running plan: www.coolrunning.com

2. Find a new hobby. While in Japan, why not try one of the traditional martial arts: judo, karate, aikido, kendo, just to name a few. If it's not your cup of tea, sign up for a yoga or dance class, or swim a few laps at the municipal swimming pool. Visit your ward's webpage to find the nearest community centres.

3. Eat healthy Japanese foods. Step away from heavy quantities of white rice, deep fried foods (pork cutlets tonkatsu, fried chickenkaraage, tempura), sugary red bean paste anko, and the plethora of available Kit Kat flavours. Instead, opt for brown or wild rice, fresh fish, add some grains and beans to your diet, stock up on protein-high tofu and delicious seasonal vegetables.

4. Quick and healthy picks. With conbini and vending machines on every street corner, it can be difficult to resist their assortment of tasty and high-calorie snacks and refreshments. Make wise choices, as convenience stores are full of healthy fare: salads, balanced bento boxes, sushi, frozen edamame, and winter dish oden.

5. (Less) bottoms up. If a non-drinking lifestyle doesn't sound fun, at least bring some small changes into your habits: stick to simple drinks such as wine and beer, ditch the sugar-high mixers, have your liquor on the rocks, and alternate every drink with a glass of water (and thank me later).

6. Japanese cuisine made easy! Try this healthy and simple avocado and tuna rice bowl: marinate thickly sliced maguro tuna into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi paste, then place on top of steamed rice, along with avocado slices. Sprinkle shiso leaves and sesame seeds on top, pour some marinade, and enjoy a scrumptious meal.

7. Get some sleep. A restful night can significantly improve your health: it lowers stress levels, which in turn lowers your cravings for sweets and fattening foods, and gives you added energy to stay active. It is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and to keep a regular schedule throughout the week.

8. Stay active, and see Tokyo. Walk instead of riding the train for short distances, cycle to work and for leisure, and take fun day trips out and around Tokyo: sauntering at Yoyogi Park, exploring a new neighbourhood, hiking Mount Takao or Mount Fuji and the surrounding area, or sightseeing in Kamakura or Nikko.

9. Quench your thirst. Staying hydrated will keep you from munching on unnecessary snacks. Steer clear of soda and artificial juice: water, green tea, roasted barley tea, and sparkling water are far better choices. Try a zest of lemon, orange or yuzu to spruce up your water.

10. Hidden workouts. Shopping as cardio? Dancing until the early hours? Missing last train and walking home? More sex? Be creative!

by Vivian Morelli

Friday, January 13, 2012

January chillwave

I have just emerged from a week spent sleeping and hibernating due to some atrocious stomach flu. I have cabin fever and haven't had a proper meal in days, and I've been daydreaming about all kinds of foods. All I have been doing is writing, sleeping, dreaming about my next meals (and all the ones I've missed), making playlists for my friends and listening to chillwave.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Numazu, Shizuoka

(or, the best sushi ever)

Over the course of my holiday, I had the chance to spend some much-needed time outside of Tokyo, in the mountains of Shizuoka, near Mount Fuji. I visited a friend in a city called Numazu, which is a coastal city surrounded with the Japanese Alps and with a spectacular view of Mount Fuji, on a clear day. To be fair, I didn't get the best view of Fuji since it was cloudy, but the scenery was incredible. Numazu is also famous for its quality and freshness of fish, and I ate the very best sashimi I have ever had in my life. I once claimed that the sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo was the best in the world, but Numazu's has surpassed it. I feasted on thick pieces of red tuna, salmon and octopus on a bed of rice, accompanied with green tea: perhaps the most perfectly balanced meal ever, not to mention for a fraction of the price of Tokyo's establishments.

Numazu is only a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo, and the ride is extremely cheap as well. The scenic train journey was one of the best parts of the trip, as it offers an amazing view of mountains and the ocean. Numazu is a sizeable city, but it has a small town feel reminiscent of my days in Marugame. It made me very nostalgic of my life on Shikoku island, which I now cherish so much. I'm lucky the Japanese countryside charms are only a train ride away, and I'm thankful for local friends who expertly showed me around their home.

I highly recommend taking a day trip to Shizuoka if you're in Tokyo, to breathe some mountain air, eat fresh fish, and explore the Izu peninsula

I still dream about this meal.

If you're in Numazu, hit this!
Fresh fish galore

Numazu station

Travel bags

Numazu River

View of Mt Fuji from Numazu (wishful thinking)

Numazu station