Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fashion and Yebisu

I've been so tired and busy this week, so I've been cherishing small, peaceful moments. I had lunch at Nicolai Bergmann, a cafe I really love which suddenly became so popular. The food is really tasty there, they use quality ingredients for their salads and sandwiches and the tea and smoothies are wonderful. I love all of it except for the hordes of 'ladies who lunch' who populate (read: take over) those spots. Although I lunch, I'm definitely not part of that crowd. Small nuance, isn't it?

Cafe love

It's been raining all day and I decided to skip the gym. Instead I tried the limited edition Joël Robuchon Yebisu beer. I mostly bought it for the packaging and branding, and I have to admit it did not taste much different than the regular brew. I think I just feel more sophisticated drinking from that red can instead of the regular one. I am not ashamed to admit I love anything limited-edition in Japan! I snacked all day today, almost nonstop, so it was a good way to end my 'unhealthy' day. I figured it's better to pack it all in one day, right?

Posh beer

In other news, I passed this shop window today and couldn't help but take a snapshot of the S/S '14 trends. Sadly, many girls wear those kinds of outfits here; very frilly, feminine, peach and pastel-toned. Tokyo is an amazing city for shopping, one of the best in the world- every shop, every designer you can think about is here, including Japan-only collections and items from international designers. Walking around Aoyama, Ginza, Omotesando and Daikanyama makes me melt with desire every time. It's puzzling that people dress so plainly when there is everything available here (and I'm not talking about high-end brands only). I guess Japan is quite conservative, and outfits here just seems a bit mis-matched and frilly for the most part. What do you think of daily fashion in Japan? Not the photos you see on street style blogs, but the real deal?

No, no, no and no.
Those were my rants for the day. Maybe it's the rainy weather? I'm usually a lot merrier. Must be the train rant- incidentally, the Keio Inokashira line stopped on me for the first time in two years, and I had to ride the very most crowded train I have ever ridden. I think it made me appreciate the regular commute. I also found a great alternative to my usual commute thanks to a reader who suggested a different route which makes it possible to avoid Shibuya.

Thankfully tomorrow is Friday, and all I want is to finish my book and have a long workout, and possible a lie in if I can manage to sleep in. On that note, here's a cheerful song from a Japanese indie band called Miu Mau, from Fukuoka.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tokyo Rush Hour Gelato

Is February over yet? I've been feeling sluggish due to the cold weather, but somehow this morning it almost felt like spring. Even though the weather was chilly, I could just smell the spring in the air. In exactly a month, cherry blossoms will be on the brim of blooming, so it's something to look forward to.

Coming home from a vacation always makes it hard to dive back into a routine, and I miss Kyoto so much. I love Tokyo, but I realized my daily commute is killing my soul. Having to go through crowded morning trains and the busiest stations in the world every single morning and evening at rush hour has turned me into such an aggressive, irritated city dweller. Riding a packed train car, sandwiched in between fellow irritated commuters is the worst way to start my morning, even if it's just for less than 20 minutes. Maybe I should cycle to work, but it's not the most convenient in my case. I try to listen to music and focus on my reading, but I can't relax at all. Any tips on how to survive Tokyo train commutes? Help!

In other news, I discovered the very best gelato in Tokyo, in a cozy shop called Pariya, in Aoyama. My friend Nick introduced me to this delight, and I had a mix of chocolate cake and milk-flavoured gelato. I'm pretty vanilla when it comes to flavours, there are so many more to try, but I'm always happiest with  the basics. They also serve meals, so I'll make sure to go there on a lunch break sometime. 

I also had a chance to go to the Park Hyatt for 52nd floor cocktails (I had a French 75 as usual), as we were hosting some friends from abroad. We also took them to our favourite tofu restaurant in Ginza, where every single dish is based on tofu. The meal we picked had about a dozen courses, all using variations of tofu in ways you have never imagined: tofu dumplings, tofu nabe, tofu sushi, tofu skewers and even tofu sorbet for dessert. Most of it is vegetarian.

I finally picked up a new pair of Converse, in navy this time. I've always had white and thought I needed a change. I'm also in love with the new rose-scented body butter from The Body Shop, the scent makes me happy to get up in the morning and hop in the shower. 

Gelato from Pariya 
This view!!!!!!!!!!

They're brand new and clean, so ok to wear indoors (I think)

Guess what I found in Kaldi! OH CANADA!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strange Weather in Tokyo

This is the title of a book I've been recommended, and finally came across. The author is Hiromi Kawakami, and some versions have a different title, such as 'The Briefcase' or 'The teacher's briefcase' (the original Japanese title is Sensei no kaban). I am so shocked by the lack of selection of English books in Tokyo- bookstores actually used to have more English books, but it has significantly decreased lately. I know it's best to order online or just purchase electronic versions, but I like browsing books and roaming bookstores. Aoyama Book Centre in Roppongi and the huge Kimokuniya on the south side of Shinjuku probably have the most decent English selection. Back to the book: I highly, highly recommend it. It's a story about love, food and loneliness (don't they all go hand in hand?).

I also went to a bunny cafe for the first time. I'm not a big fan of cat cafes and such, as I always wonder if the animals are happy and well treated. The bunny cafe was very tiny and very relaxed- there's only room for about six people. The process is a bit different than a cat cafe. You can pick your rabbit from the cages (there's about twelve rabbits to choose from), and hold it for 30 minutes on your lap, on a blanket. The bunnies seem quite happy, even though they're a bit nervous at first they become really friendly after a bit. I held a baby rabbit with brownish, grey fur. He was so tiny. It's a very calm environment, the rabbits are well-taken care of and the staff very friendly. This particular cafe is located in Roppongi (of all places).

Speaking of which, daytime Roppongi is just as seedy as nighttime. I had the pleasure to be there around lunch time, and saw a woman being taken in a police car after stealing from Donki. Keeping it classy! However, I had the chance to eat a meal at the Tokyo American Club and ate the biggest piece of red velvet cake I had ever seen. America! Roppongi is like a different planet. I'm always relieved to come back to my little, local Setagaya area- although that red velvet cake was heavenly.

Must read.

Hi, there.

Bunny selfie

This guy was adorable too

Tiny tiny

Rabbit close up
Red Velvet Cake

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sake, Bento, Chocolate, No Snow and SIX Years

Kyoto was blissful as usual- a bit of an impromptu trip, but a most welcome getaway. I visited my favourite cafes, namely the chocolate one with the cat and dog and lovely Canadian woman, did a sake tasting in nearby Fushimi (I recommend visiting the sake district, in addition to the Fushimi Inari shrine), wandered around and I picked up the cutest bento ever at Bento & Co, a shop entirely dedicated to the lunch box. Heavenly! The top of my bento box is actually a miso soup bowl, and I picked a plum blossom-patterned furoshiki (wrapping cloth).

I felt sad coming home to Tokyo, especially late on a cold winter night and without hot water in my apartment. Somehow a single wire was disconnected outside, which caused me quite the panic attack. Thankfully I was able to fix it with some help over the phone, and now I appreciate hot water more than ever. I kept thinking I would have to boil water then mix it with my iced water to bathe. In any case, most neighborhoods are equipped with a local sento (bathhouse) as traditionally many homes did not have a bath. I live one block away from the sento, but I haven't tried it yet. I think I'm intimidated by all the elderly people I see frequenting it.

In other news, I've now been living in Asia for six years. SIX YEARS. Not consecutive, but I started this very blog exactly six years ago when I moved to Korea. Oh, how things have changed! I had no idea what was awaiting me. I'm embarrassed when I read my early entries, but I like how raw I was. That's when only my desk mate Jaclyn, at my Korean school, would read this blog- she was probably the first ever reader, and the only one for a full year. I think I became more culturally sensitive over the years, more open-minded and easygoing, if I may say.

Well, if you've been reading me for that long, thank you for sticking around, and please say hi sometime. I always feel overwhelmed with joy when I get messages from readers, as I still cannot believe people actually read this page. Where will this take me, six years from now?

Happy birthday, little blog. xo

My bento

This view
Refusing to leave Kyoto

Epic Shinkansen bento

True Love


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kyoto Winter Bliss

I escaped snowy Tokyo for another snowy locale. I'm in Kyoto for a few days, staying in a cozy traditional house. Kyoto is even prettier under the snow than in the midst of the August heat. The next few days will be filled with friends, cats, dogs, chocolate, hot baths, wine, temples and green tea everything.

Snowy shoes


Room with a view

Cat nap

Before he tried to scratch me

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow Haze

This weekend, Tokyo had the biggest snowfall in something like 45 years- it looked like home, to say the least. Over 20cm of white fluff fell from the sky, and suddenly Tokyo was covered in a blanket and transformed into a magical, peaceful land. We went for a long walk, and it was so nice to feel the crisp snow under my boots, it all felt so natural. It also cured my homesickness; I cannot imagine living in a country where it snows about 8 months of the year. It was the little bit of home I needed, and I like to think the nature gods were thinking of me and sent snow my way :)

I kept warm for the rest of the time, wanting to avoid the train delays. By Sunday, the sun came out and the spring-like temperatures made most of the snow melt. So quick! February just makes me want to stay under the blankets and sip frothy lattes, which is what I've been doing lately- until spring comes.

I also had a delicious meal at an Okinawa izakaya. My favourite Okinawa specialty is umi budo, which literally means 'grapes of the sea'. It's a type of seaweed that's shaped like mini-grapes, and the texture is really crunchy- it just pops in the mouth. I also love a fruit named goya, which is a bitter melon. I hope to visit Okinawa soon, but to be honest I'd rather go to Hokkaido first. I'm scared I'd like Hokkaido too much and never come back, though.

Most snow I've ever seen in Tokyo

Winter Wonderland

Grapes of the Sea

I love that place.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Groundhog Day, Setsubun, February is here.

Just like that the shortest month of the year has started (although it often feels like the longest), and in the span of two days Tokyo has experienced freezing cold, snow, rain, sleet, and summer-like temperatures. Madness!

Last week I had the pleasure to meet up with some fellow Tokyo ladies I met through the social networks- funnily,  after four years in Japan I keep thinking I've met everyone I had to meet, but surprisingly I seem to always encounter some amazing souls whom I have so much in common with- and more than just living abroad in Japan. I do hope those meetings become more regular, whether it's over margaritas or Maker's Mark, craft beers, wine or coffee- or all of it.

Winter also means hibernating more, and I've been cooking so much. I made this excellent mushroom risotto, so easy to make even in Japan (although I struggled with the fresh parmesan part), but I bet my selection of mushrooms on this side of the pond would make anyone envious. I've been drinking breakfast smoothies and making meals with fresh ingredients every night. Late one night I got tempted by a "Home Alone" deal from Domino's pizza, but it seemed too desperate (and cardboard-like), so I went to the 24-hour supermarket and made my own pizza from scratch- so much better. And yes, Domino's Japan has a deal called "Home Alone", which is a one-person sized pizza and can of soda. I've ordered it a few times before, please don't judge. Did you know that if you order from the English site of Domino's Japan you get a 5% discount? My Japanese friends don't believe me.

I've also been going to the gym often. Now I go directly after work, without stopping home, and it makes a difference (I go). I've been enjoying bathing and sauna-ing at the gym then coming home relaxed and warm. I've also been back at studying Japanese- yes, yes. I am practicing my kanji handwriting again, and learning new grammar and vocabulary. As opposed to the vast majority of people learning Japanese, kanji is a lot more interesting and easier for me than formulating sentences and speaking. But I have to work on that part, extra harder.

Gorgeous flowers at Nicolai Bergmann

Spring is near

Mid-week mushroom risotto

Maker's Mark was tasty

Train was late, so the attendants give
those lateness coupons to give to employers
-even for 5-10 minutes!

February Tokyo Metro Manner Poster:
move your bags!!