December 24, 2013

The Holiday Weekend in Yokohama


Aren't these the cutest Christmas reindeers (aka poodles) you've ever seen?

While many other countries may have a day off to celebrate Christmas on the 25th, here in Japan it is not an official holiday. So a lot of people get together over the weekend or on the 23rd, which actually is an official holiday here (it's our Emperor's birthday!).

I ended up in Yokohama this weekend with my Japanese friends, who currently live in South Korea, and their Chinese-Malay friends, currently visiting Japan from Malaysia. We went by Chinatown and had lunch at Bawarou, a Taiwanese restaurant that actually had vegetarian options. It was really good and the owner was quite the character.

After learning how to count from one to ten in Chinese, Korean, and Malay (this is what happens when everyone speaks a different language), we took a walk down the pier. Yokohama has so much history, it's really interesting learning about how the port opened and evolved. Also, the view is pretty amazing, too.

Our Malaysian friends wanted to try ice skating so we stopped by the Red Brick Warehouse, which we call Aka-renga. Every winter they have a popular outdoor skating rink in their event space. It's very crowded so it's not the place to practice your triple axels, but skating with friends is always fun. Especially when it's someone's first time on ice. The girls had previous experience so they were very good but their dad had never ice skated before. He was like bambi on the ice! Teehee!

We had tons of fun and I'm glad we got to spend our holiday weekend together. And even though I'll be working on Christmas day, I'll still be in a festive mood for sure! (Especially since everyone on the other side of my emails will be on holiday and I won't have that much to do anyways ;D)

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas from Japan! x


December 21, 2013

The Christmas Apple and Cranberry Chutney


One of the greatest things about this holiday season is the food.

I was beyond excited when my friend V, who is an amazing artist in the kitchen, brought me this homemade Christmas apple and cranberry chutney!!!

Have you ever tried chutney before?

I hadn't heard of it before but I looked it up and the internet said that it goes well with cheddar cheese. I've been making chutney grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches ever since with everything from regular bread, brown bread, and even raisin whole wheat bread. So so good. (If I ate meat, I'd put the chutney on that, too!)

So it's really no surprise that this lovely bin of chutney did not last until Christmas day. I made my last sandwich today. So sad that my chutney season is over but so grateful to V for letting me experience the joy of chutney in the first place. Thank you, V! x

December 20, 2013

The Christmas Tree at Kitte


For a country that doesn't technically celebrate Christmas in the religious sense, we really do have a lot of Christmas trees displayed all over Tokyo.

Not that I'm complaining. I love Christmas trees. I've seen quite a few different Christmas trees this season (like this) but I think I have finally found my favorite!

The one that had me oohing and ahhing is this Christmas tree covered in snow. It's the one currently on display at KITTE Marunouchi, a new retail facility that opened this March.

It doesn't have any illumination lights or decorations on it, it's just a tree covered in snow but I think the simplicity of it all is what pulls me. I love it. This Christmas tree is one of the tallest indoor trees in Japan, standing a whopping 14.5 meters high inside the atrium. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri, a Japanese architect, and will be on display here until December 25th.

KITTE is definitely one of my favorite retail facilities in Tokyo. The selection of stores is great and the outdoor roof has a fantastic view of Tokyo station, which was also renovated recently. It also has photos of the old Tokyo Central Post building displayed in various parts of the facility, which I also love. I'm glad they were able to preserve a part of the building exterior, which was originally designed by Tetsuro Yoshida and completed in 1933. Lots of history there.

So if you're in the area this weekend and looking for something to do, stop by to ooh and ahh over this lovely tree, go (window) shopping, and/or gaze out across Tokyo station from the roof! You'll love doing at least one, if not all, of the above. x











December 18, 2013

The Birthday Sleepover


This weekend was my sister's birthday!

My sister came over to my place for the weekend and my bbf also came over so we could celebrate with nabe at home. I always say this but this is the ultimate healthy and delicious meal to have with friends and family in the wintertime. So so good.



And what is a birthday celebration without cake?

This year I went by Giotto, a pastry shop in Odakyu Shinjuku, and chose their citrus fruit cheesecake tart. I should have taken a picture before I stabbed all the candles in it because it was very pretty, but you'll just have to take my word for it. 



It's become something of a tradition to use the exact number of candles to celebrate my sister's birthday. Last year's cake almost ended up being a ball of fire so this year I got three different lengths of candles to diversify the flame. I think it was a good plan, nothing caught on fire. But the candles were a bit too skinny and some of them started doing yoga moves while we were taking pictures! :D



Don't you love that my sister claps her hands after blowing out her candles? (She's a kindergarten teacher...it comes with the occupation. So cute.)

And the cake was delicious!



We spent the night just chatting away. And when I say night, I meant way into the night. We went to sleep around 4:30am...but I think that's what a sleepover is all about. Especially when you're celebrating a birthday!

Happy birthday, Yoko! May your year be filled with happiness and joy!!! x



PS:  Isn't it interesting how you congratulate someone's birthday by saying, "Hope you have a great day!" in English, but you say something like, "Hope you have a wonderful year!" in Japanese? I noticed the difference when someone mentioned it to me. I'd written "素敵な一日でありますように!(Have a wonderful day!)" on a Japanese friend's facebook page. When I went to see what other people had written, many were wishing her a wonderful year. Now I usually wish Japanese friends a full year of happiness but still stick to a day for my state-side friends (not that I'm wishing them any less of their happiness!). Which do you use often?

December 17, 2013

The Beauty of Shinjuku Gyoen


The end of the year is always a busy time for me (and everyone else, it seems).

But last Thursday, I woke up tired after another night of nomikai (which was really fun!) and needed some time to myself. So I went to the one place I can always count on to calm me and at the same time fill me with energy...Shinjuku Gyoen.

I was pretty sure all the leaves would have fallen by now and I would just be seeing branches against the blue sky. That would have been enough for me.

Well, I was wrong.

Even though the ginkgo trees had started to loose their yellow leaves by the dozen, the Japanese maple trees had just started to change color everywhere. Spots of orange, red, and purple could be seen throughout the park paths, lit up by the rays of sunlight. And it was beautiful.






















This is the one place. The one place I know where I can always come to relax. To hear myself think without the chaos. And always leave feeling refreshed, even if it's during a short lunch break.

 Hope you have a moment to of quiet or calm during this busy season, too! x