Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snowy Tokyo

Snow, snow, snow

Today there was a major snowfall in Tokyo- well, major for Japan, and pretty tame for Canada. I really haven't seen snow in the two years I've lived in Japan. My previous winters were spent in Shikoku and Kansai, and it rarely ever snows there.

I like snow, I think it's really beautiful and it reminds me of home. I also think it's quite interesting how the city gets affected by such a small amount of snow: trains are delayed, roads are not cleared for days, and people are obviously not dressed accordingly. In Canada, this kind of snowfall is a regular occurrence, and no one seems to notice anymore. To be fair, I was not dressed accordingly either, I should know better, but it's been too long. Soaked feet! Bad footwear choice. As much as I love snow, I don't miss the bitter cold and extremely long winters back home.

In other news, February is over. How can such a short month can seem so long? Maybe it was that leap day.

Winter wonderland?

My street= soaked socks

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I like salads.

I eat at my desk. How classy of me.

I think I eat this salad most weeknights, and I vary it according to the season and which vegetables are well, seasonal (read: cheap). Thankfully, Japan has a very wide variety of interesting vegetables and I like to try all of them. Sometimes I think my Japanese diet really lacks protein: I very rarely eat meat anymore, and even though I adore fish, I don't prepare it for myself very much.

This salad is quite high in protein and rather healthy, high in nutrients, and filling. I use the following:

- Spinach leaves
- Komatsuna leaves (a type of spinach, less bitter)
- one small avocado, sliced
- two small cucumbers, sliced
- a small block of tofu, cubed
- a small tomato (well, I guess everything really is small in Japan)
- a handful of raisins for topping
- bit of cooked pumpkin, it's my favourite vegetable in Japan

I just throw everything together, add a tad of sesame dressing or olive oil, and that's my meal. The cost of this salad is actually insanely cheap in Japan, so if you're broke and want to eat healthily, please try it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

(Not) Being Boring

Lately I have been very low-key, but it doesn't mean boring. It's influenza season in Japan, the weather is dark and rainy, and February needs to end. I have been keeping on very good behaviour (for the most part, at least). I'm selfishly choosing to stay in to watch Korean movies about serial killers, which sounds more appealing than anything else right now.

On Friday I consumed about five of these. I had a mini nervous breakdown, which I blame on all the caffeine.

Random afternoon: what was meant as a tame coffee hangout turned into an Italian feast complete with wine- love those impromptu afternoons.

Move over, Starbucks: Dean & Deluca has replaced you for being the best takeout coffee (and they have quality muffins and scones). The ricotta and raspberry muffin is crumbly and heavenly. This espresso bar can be found at Shibuya Station, East Exit.

My friend Prince Ness performed at this great Akasaka venue called Crawfish, along with another up and coming band on the Tokyo scene, The Mootekkis. I absolutely adore his version of James's song "Laid", you can listen to it here. Please don't leave Japan...

I watched this great Jim Jarmusch film called Mystery Train, after Julie's recommendation (she really knows the best stuff). The first part features a young Japanese couple traveling to Memphis, and I found them especially endearing. I highly suggest watching it!

I'm in love with this boy (at least his young self). I have been staying up late googling images and watching videos, such as this one. I'm not sure if it's normal or not, but I'm not too concerned by this kind of behaviour.

Shibuya nights: I met up with lovely Judith who writes the blog Teaching Engrish: she just arrived in Japan a few months ago, but already she has a fantastic grasp on all things Japan, and resides in my former stomping grounds of Osaka. We talked about writing, Osaka v. Tokyo, her cat, the Cool Girls Bloggers Club (she coined it), and shared some hot wine. I'm so happy I met her and her husband, thanks to you both for a delightful evening.

In other news, I'm on the quest for the best and healthiest breakfasts in Tokyo. Rose Bakery is at the top of my list. I adore my job, I seriously do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Smiths Game

Sometimes we make good use of emoticons, like in The Smiths Game, which uses pictures to guess song titles:

I guessed them all except the last one. Please try:)

Other times I like to express my food choices using imagery in very mundane daily exchanges:

I had a lb for breakfast

FYI, a "lb" is a Low Budget sandwich, those found at the convenience store. They're very cheap and quite tasty, and usually come in a mix, such as half tuna/half egg salad, or strawberries/cream, etc. I think after those years in Japan, we developed our own language.

Japan has the best stuff.

(And yes, we do work sometimes)

How to Make Gyoza

Gyoza Galore

Yesterday I made gyoza, a kind of dumpling which is one of my favourite Japanese foods. My Japanese friends taught me how to make it, and we ate them in two different ways: some were put in a tasty vegetable soup, and others were fried and eaten on their own. Anything food-related gets me quite excited, so here are the steps to recreate the experience:

The filling: ground meat, tofu, green onions 

Place the filling on a piece of dough (found at the supermarket)

Seal the edges with some water and crimp the edges

My gyoza were very skinny
All placed on a tray
Some gyoza were cooked in oil, on the pan
Others were boiled for a few minutes

The boiled gyoza were then placed in the soup

Final result, two types of gyoza
Pre-feast + chopstick skills

It was such a delicious late lunch, homemade gyoza is the best.... even though I'll have to run twice as much this week!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Now I'm in Japan

I have just read the most incredible shout-out from Beth, who writes the excellent blog Now I'm in Japan. I have been a big fan of her blog since my early days in the rice fields. Her writing is brilliant and witty, and it always made me envious of her Tokyo life and how straightforward and honest she was about everything, with her unique sense of humour.

Beth and I share the same love of self-portraits, all-nighters, trying to make the most out of Tokyo on a budget, and love for Japan. Now Beth is in New York City, but if she were still in Tokyo, we'd be causing a stir in Shibuya until the early morning hours.

Make sure to read her post to see her picks of other amazing Japan blogs, which I'm flattered to be part of, and to read her about her mad, mad Tokyo stint.

Thank you, Beth!

Monday, February 20, 2012

February: I Heart

Things, that never fail to comfort me in some weird ways.

Shibuya at dusk, ever so familiar

My comfort food is now udon, from my former Shikoku home

Sharing "Slat", a citrusy cocktail my friend Gordon introduced me to

Seafoam green nail polish, springlike (Mini Bourjois).

Chungking Express, the movie that made me fall in love with Asia

This guy's soothing voice

A reader said I post too many pictures of myself. Here's one for you! xo

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mid-February Tokyo Musings

February may the the shortest month of the year, but can feel like the longest: it's cold, rainy (at least here in Tokyo), frugal, and Valentine's Day lurks around the corner, putting unnecessary pressure on everyone.

Although I did not follow any of the ideas I gave in my Tokyo Weekender article (sadly the zoo was a no-go), I had a lovely time indulging on chocolate, ice cream, and hot whiskey. I felt quite content with myself until it dawned on me that I maybe had eaten too much chocolate, and that it was ironic that other people were out following my ideas while I had chosen to spend my night with chocolate. I had a small moment of panic about it all, but I blame it on the whiskey.

I love living in Japan, and I'm probably the happiest I've ever been in my life, but it's not always as glamourous or easy as it looks. Yet it's all worth it, I'm head over heels in love with Japan to this day, and I'm still afraid I'll never be able to leave.

How I spent my Valentine's Day. Chocolate coma.

Homemade card + cupcake

Meanwhile, this girl has the right idea:

Omotesando Koffee

No, it's not a typo, but the name of (perhaps?) the best coffee in Tokyo, or the world for that matter. Omotesando Koffee is a tiny little coffee shop located in a house, tucked into the hilly back streets of Harajuku- good luck trying to find it.

I had the chance to be introduced to that heavenly spot a few weeks ago, on a cold Sunday morning. The exterior of the shop is simply an old, traditional Japanese house and garden, and inside hides a sleek, minimalist interior. The staff who served us was warm, friendly, and chatty- to me, that part is quite important as part of my quality criteria. The menu is simple, and the espresso is outstanding. Absolute perfection in every cup, the right amount of bitterness and frothy texture. One of the sweetest parts about the shop is that you can accompany your java with a little baked custard bite, which is the ideal companion to coffee.

I have no idea if I can ever find the shop again, maybe I dreamt about it, but it's somewhere out there, beyond Omotesando avenue and all my dreams involving espresso beans.

Find it. It's seriously one of Tokyo's best kept secrets.

(Of course I dropped a pin. I'm going back.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tokyo Events: ELLEgirl Night

Right on time for Valentine's Day, I attended a beautiful evening hosted by the magazine ELLEgirl, featuring the brand of makeup Revlon. It was quite the chic soirée, taking place in the stylish Fiat café in Aoyama. Sparkling wine and vitamin water were the beverages offered, makeup samples abounded, and so did beautiful people and music. To keep with the health and beauty theme, a gorgeous, colorful display of organic vegetables from the Farmer's Market was offered to taste. It was the best way to spend a chilly February Monday evenings, before training it back home, still a little buzzed from the bubbles and just gleeful enough to make me look forward to (what turned out to be) a very long week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So much for being wholesome.

party dress, party girl (?)

good morning

Some of the best nights are the most spontaneous ones.

As I proudly hit "send" on my latest assignment after a tedious Saturday spent writing and laced up my sneakers to reward myself with a late-night run (that's how much I love running), I suddenly found myself succumbing to temptation, and forgoing my quiet, healthy, low-key weekend for a night out. Within five minutes I had taken off my running shorts and put on some lipstick and a dress, and headed out to upscale Aoyama.

I was invited to attend an event at posh nightclub Le Baron de Paris, and as I had never visited it I thought I should, especially after hearing that Sofia Coppola frequents it when in Tokyo. Luckily I benefited from the VIP treatment (as a mere peek at the drink menu pricing gave me a mini heart attack, but thanks to some friends and work-related introductions I was spoiled and well taken care of). After too many vodka tonics, an overload of flashing lights and questionable dance music, we opted out and found ourselves feasting on 3am ramen at the dingiest little shop under an overpass in Shibuya. A little bit closer to my element. The night ended at karaoke, with three of us crammed in the tiniest little booth in all of Japan and blurting out Bon Jovi (most excellent karaoke choice) until sunrise.

I woke up still wearing my hair clips, which usually means it was a very fun night. So much for being wholesome, but hey, I'm in Tokyo.

3am ramen