Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homebody

Relaxing with Rilakkuma socks


I love my new home so much!

It's amazing how things in life work out for the best sometimes, especially when you least expect it. I haven't had time to explore Nakano very much as I've been working a lot more than usual, but I'm always so pleased to come home every night to my cozy little space. I've been cooking every single day, making gyoza from scratch again, a veggie stew, full breakfasts, and stocking up my fridge with all my favourite foods and soy milk. I almost don't want to go out...

I'm slowly getting used to living on my own again- it gets lonely at times, something I almost had forgotten about. I always remind myself that I survived a year by myself in the rice fields, so this can't be so bad. I've had a few visitors already, delicious home cooked foods, some restful nights and warm evenings despite the cold. I can't wait to purchase a bicycle to roam around the neighbourhood, and finish the fun task of furnishing my room. I found a great メロンパン (melon bread) shop nearby, and tried a few different bus routes. Besides, there's always Starbucks and someone to meet if I feel too isolated...

The weather is getting quite cold, in a mere few days it will be December, and I think I have quite a few things to get excited about.

I love cooking!
Rows and rows of goodness 

Green tea, rice and gyoza for breakfast-
because I can.

French braiding is my go-to hair style these days.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Nabe and Onigiri Girl

My onigiri lunch box.
I was told I look like it.

Turns out I'm growing to love Nakano, and I especially love my space- so cozy and clean. Feeling comfortable in my own home is something I had not experienced in a long time, as shared houses, especially in Japan (where it's an unusual concept) can be impersonal and cold.

Having a clean (albeit small) kitchen is making me want to cook every single day, and the approaching winter days are keeping me inside near the heater. I was lucky to have a private cooking session with a skilled local once again, and this time a hot pot of nabe was suggested in order to keep warm on this cold, cold day. Nabe is a popular Japanese food mostly eaten in winter, and it consists of a hot pot in which you can throw a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, fish, and noodles in a flavoured broth. You can get as creative as you wish with nabe, adding all your favourite vegetables or anything you have on hand.

We picked up a variety of leafy greens at the grocery store, along with sliced meat, tofu, udon noodles, and clear, stringy konnyaku noodles. Making nabe is relatively simple (and cheap!), as you basically just throw in all the ingredients in a hot pot, in a dashi (fish stock) based broth, and let everything simmer. We garnished the portions with a little daikon, ginger, and a special soy sauce + lemon mix.

I was also taught how to properly make onigiri, as my previous failed attempts resulted in a gooey mess. For onigiri beginners, it is suggested to wrap the rice portion in a cellophane sheet in order to shape it. I filled mine with tuna, and wrapped a seaweed strip around it. Yes, it's basic Japanese cooking skills, but it's quite mystifying for a girl like myself. You can see all the steps below.

The nabe meal made me so warm, full, and sleepy. I want to eat it every day this winter. Its so healthy and filling. I saved the onigiri for lunch and made one more for a snack. It was a successful evening.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

Bounty needed for the feast

Throw everything together- tah dah! 

Serve portions in a smaller bowl
and top with ginger and daikon 
How to make onigiri!
Put some lightly salted rice on a sheet

Wrap and shape into a triangle, or any shape is okay

This photo almost did not make the cut
But well, you must make a hole with your finger

Stuff with the filling of your choice.
Mine was tuna, but anything goes!


Add a bit of rice to top it off

Working hard to re-shape it

Triangle, pre-seaweed.
I forgot to take a final photo, it was eaten too quickly maybe.

So many leafy greens to play with.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hi, life.

Michiko and me

So, life is full of surprises.

No matter how much you plan something, life has a way to just happen and change everything around. The past 48 hours have involved two packing sessions and two unpacking sessions, a horrible Hiroo room filled with an infestation of cockroaches (my worst nightmare), three hours of exterminating, a comeback from the indestructible breed (straight out of a horror movie), a night at the hotel (you can guess which kind), and I finally gave up.

I now live near Shinjuku.

On the bright side, the room is big, clean and modern. Not the area I wanted to be in, but hey, I have to be a big girl and accept it. Never liked Shinjuku much, but I'm actually closer to Nakano, which is possibly a cool area. I think I grew up a little bit in the past few days- realized that a nice apartment in a so-so area is much better than a filthy shoebox in a trendy area. Sigh.

So, I'm here now. I love my room actually. I have lots of space and great stuff like a bright red rice cooker, pink pots and pans, a nabe pot, a large table.... um, basic life necessities. There's a supermarket nearby, a river to run along, the Marunouchi subway line, a real French bakery, and this fellow blogger. It's old-style Japanese with a few pachinko parlours scattered along the river, discount fruit and vegetable shops, a manga cafe and some greasy ramen shops. I want to get a ママチャリ(city bicycle) and ride around this place.

I think I might like it.

I can finally relax

Breakfast in the park with a certain photographer
is the best thing ever



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes!!

Ready to go

The leaves have turned yellow and golden, it's undeniably autumn, and November in Japan is truly gorgeous.

I'm all packed and ready to go. Moving doesn't seem like a big task anymore, as I've done it so many times before in Japan. To be fair, I'm good at living a minimalist lifestyle (believe it or not) and I don't accumulate stuff. All my belongings fit in the equivalent of four suitcases. It's not exactly how I wish to live my whole life, as I'd love to make a home and I'm craving a bit more stability these days.

Luckily this time around, I've had lots of help for moving procedures and I'm so thankful for it- I feel spoiled. I'm used to do everything all by myself in Japan, but this time I'm taken care of, and I appreciate it so much.

I've had very nice memories around Shimokitazawa, and in my room. I'll forever remember my first year in Tokyo and living in this neighbourhood, and how much I used to party and go dancing all night, coming home at 6am, or walking all the way from Shibuya in the middle of the night. I don't miss those days at all but I'm glad I experienced the party scene.

Hiroo marks a fresh start, less partying but more writing and more feeling at home, I hope.


That's it




Saturday, November 10, 2012

So long, Shimokitazawa







photos via Flickr


This weekend is my last in Shimokitazawa, as I'm moving house in a few days. I'm a little sad to leave this great, colourful area, crammed with cool vintage shops, tiny cafes, tasty izakaya and ramen shops. Shimokitazawa had a college-student, bohemian vibe, and felt quite relaxed despite the swarms of university students and visitors on the weekend. 

I highly recommend Shimokitazawa as a place to live in Tokyo, as it's such a cool neighbourhood and you can find almost everything you need around here. The eateries are all affordable and there is a good bar and drinking scene if you don't feel like hitting the major areas. It's within walking distance of Shibuya, so you can walk if you miss last train after a night out. 

One thing I despised about living here was the Keio Inokashira line- it's usually very crowded, as the train only has five cars and you have to wait for ten minutes between each train outside rush hour. The last few trains every night are so overcrowded and scarily uncomfortable, and I'd usually avoid them at all costs. Same goes for the morning ones, always a painful experience, especially transferring at Shibuya station. I'm a bit of a train nerd, so train lines and stations are important when I pick a place to live.

I had really good memories in Shimokitazawa, exploring the cafes and restaurants and walking around every Sunday, coffee in hand. I will miss my residential area and the late-night running, but I definitely won't miss this house. Unlike a lot of people, I love moving and it's causing me a great deal of excitement.


Today I should be packing my room, but I believe it will magically happen within the next few days so instead I'll go take a stroll around Shimokitazawa and soak it in a little bit more. By the way, what should I do with my alpaca?  It has moved around Japan so much.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moving up

My lovely Nishikawa blanket

I'm moving house.

Along with being in Japan for three years, and loving Tokyo, my work and my life here, I decided I should be stable for a little bit. I'm exhausted of moving around the country and now that I've found my stride here in Tokyo, I'll stick with it for as long as it keeps me.

When I moved to Tokyo over a year ago, I saw it as a last little stint of fun before starting real life. What was meant to be a temporary situation (a shared house, freelance work, long nights out) turned into well, real life. Suddenly the nights out were replaced with quality time spent exploring the city and with my favourite people, and writing turned into something that not only makes me thrive, but that defines my life and career.

Naturally, I'm seeking more peacefulness and stability, and I grew tired of sharing a house (I promise some juicy stories once I'm out), so I decided to move on my own. I am saying good bye to Shimokitazawa, a neighbourhood that I loved so much, and trading it in for a change of scenery. I'm moving to a lovely area called Hiroo, which is filled to the brim with cute little cafes and cake shops, a large park to go running and within walking distance to some other great areas such as Ebisu and Azabu-Juban (and ahem, Roppongi, but I won't be found there). It's the smallest room I've ever seen, but it's adorable and I'll make it my own.

I'm moving in a few days, and I'm looking forward to discover a new area and have a fresh morning routine.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Japan, three years later.


Not so lost anymore.

Exactly three years ago, I arrived in Japan. In Nagoya, to be precise- it would be my first, temporary home before moving by myself to the rice fields of Shikoku.

I remember every single detail of that day- what I was wearing (a navy dress and black tights), what I did upon arrival (a most exciting convenience store visit and raid), what I ate (my first week's diet was entirely based on sushi, vitamin water, and Pocky sticks). Furthermore I also remember exactly how I felt at that time: ecstatic, lighthearted, euphoric, a bit scared, and mostly happy. Something I cannot describe to other people, but a feeling I'll forever remember.

I always promised myself I'd leave Japan whenever I stopped feeling that way. Of course, after living here for three years, it's not something I feel constantly, but every so often it pops up and it reminds me of how much I love it here.

Things have changed so much over the past three years, I feel like a completely different person. I love where I am now and what I do here in Tokyo, and I love my friends and the life I've built for myself. I miss my family and friends back home every single day, but somehow Japan has become more than just a stint trying something different- it turned into real life.

October to November

Coffee + burger: brunch at Golden Brown in Nakameguro

Halloween has come and gone, and on November 1st Christmas took over Tokyo. I woke up to red cups at Starbucks, holiday jingles, and Christmas trees everywhere. How did this happen overnight?

I'm pleased November is here, because not only is it a gorgeous month weather-wise (mostly sunny and crisp), it's also the month where exciting changes will take place (more on that later). I've been getting really cold lately, as the temperature suddenly dropped. I'm wearing socks to bed and piling on the blankets, as the thin wooden walls of my Japanese home are not fit to keep me warm.

As usual I've been sauntering around Tokyo all week: Shibuya to see all the crazy Halloween costumes (although the Thursday morning costumed walk of shame was not the classiest sight on my way to work), Shinjuku for the night view (nothing beats a mid-week cocktail on some 41st floor), and Koenji for some vintage garb scouring.

I also had the chance to spend a delightful evening at the ballet, in a production called Sylvia, produced by David Bintley. I'll always be fond of Mr Bintley, as he was the first interview I've ever conducted and he made my job so easy. I also had a fun dinner party at my friends house, where we cooked, drank wine and caught up- something quite rare in Japan, as house parties are not a frequent happening.



Do I need a leopard coat?!

Takoyaki socks
courtesy of my summer trip

This view.

The Christmas steps
at Tokyo City Opera

Look what I found in Koenji!

Home made dinners and friends