Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Saturday in the Shitamachi: Hakusan and Yanaka

A day of sun! Let the weather gods be praised for this break in the festival of downpours that is Japan's rainy season, which gave me a chance to go see the ajisai at Hakusan Shrine (with matching nails, no less!) Behold the glorious riot of pastel colours!

Thanks to the huge number of temples and shrines, most of the little streets of Bunkyo-ku seem to be redolent of incense, as well as gloriously quiet. As much as I enjoy the sparkling, oshare areas of Tokyo, hanging out in Yanesen seems to be truly good for the soul.

The kakigori at Himitsutou are really fabulous, since they do not use the common, awful sugary syrup. We tried the yogurt with amanatsu and the akashiso ones, and they were fantastic! Not too sweet, with the true flavours of the toppings coming through, and the ice is shaved with a hand-powered apparatus from the Showa era. I have officially changed my mind about kakigori.

Lunch was unfortunately both pricy and disappointing, and after wandering about a bit more we ended up at a matcha place right near the beginning of Yanaka Ginzan, semi-hidden by the stairs. The brown rice choux with sesame cream and matcha cream were impressive, and the matcha latte so strong that I may not sleep tonight!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dating in Japan: Expectations

Last night I was stranded on the Toyoko line for an hour, waiting for the worst of the typhoon to pass, after the last of a series of long days and nights of work events. While listening to the wild winds buffet the train, my thoughts turned philosophical (perhaps aided by the rather large G&T which one of the attendees foisted on me).

One of my friends here has a boyfriend (although I am not sure if that is the best term to use for him) she only sees once a month. He lives 20 minutes away, but is always 'too busy' to meet and doesn't want to come by the sharehouse. Personally, these sound like incredibly lame excuses, but she swallows them whole.

With long work hours and commutes, I understand that meeting once a week may be the max for many people, especially if you want to maintain a decent social life. But unless you are in a long distance relationship, once a month sounds kind of silly...can you really consider someone who does not call you or try to meet with you a boyfriend/girlfriend?

However, this seems to be a common arrangement. A couple of my sharemates are in the same situation, and one of them is male! Is it that meeting once a month is enough for them, or are they afraid to be hated if they ask for more time? I cannot help but remember what my mother once said: If you really care for someone, you will do anything just to spend a few hours with them.

Strange how a few words can influence one so deeply, especially as she was speaking to someone else, but I took those words to heart. I have flown to another EU country when the object of my affection was passing through there, and been visited on less than 12 hours notice by the same person. Flown back and forth between Japan and London, taken night buses and shinkansen between Kobe and Tokyo. I do not regret any of it.

I am not willing to settle for someone who 'allows me' (as my friend said) to meet them, and is not willing to put in work and effort. I analyze everything to death (thank you, liberal arts education), but still feel that knowing that someone will drop everything to come be with you or help you ranks much higher than money, looks, status or even attraction.

Enough pondering now... thankfully there is a Hash tonight, nothing like a 8k run to relieve one of overly convoluted thoughts!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I sometimes feel like a dichotomy, because if possible, I would spend half of my time swathed in high tech workout gear (oh spandex, my love) and the other half in evening wear. Everything in between is really not as interesting...

Unfortunately, I can think of only a few lifestyles for which this is possible (trophy wife, hostess, beauty pageant contestant) and none appeal. Kind of a pity, I have the perfect shape for highly structured evening gowns... a girl can dream, right?

Anyhooo, returning to reality. Everyone deserves a bit of dazzle from time to time... especially if it is inexpensive!

My favorite nail style is this dipped-in-gold look. When I lived in London my awesome nailist came up with several different variations on this style, and I had them on heavy rotation. I am currently being the guinea pig (but a guinea pig with faaabulous nails) for a nailist-in-training, so it is cheap! For professional and koto-related reasons I cannot have overly long, heavily decorated nails, but somehow I only feel properly dressed if I have some shine on my hands... Man, have I acculturated or what? 笑

I have some issues finding shoes that not only fit, but that I also like. Everything in 25cm seems to be either earthmothery, grandmotherly, or just too plain for words. Thank god for Singapore and its huge expat community. I found these adorable creations in Bugis, and am very pleased. I mean really, there are bows on the bows!

The rainy season has begun, along with a slew of work events I have to organize, confirm, attend and generally fuss about. Hopefully there can also be some time for fun in there as well!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Week Away: Singapore

It seems kind of odd to spend eight hours on a plane to get to another country, to then spend 90% of the time in said country in meetings, in a rather anonymous conference room. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about my job and meet my colleagues from across Asia... but as an inveterate explorer, it was somewhat frustrating not being able to see much of the city.

Nonetheless, I managed to get a bit of free time to see the strange, identity-less Singapore, on early morning runs by the river.

Mostly I had to stay around the Quay and Marina Bay areas, which are shiny with tall, sparkling buildings, and almost as bright at night as during the day.

Every night was a feast from each of Singapore's main populations: Chinese, Thai, Malay, Indian... and expat? Everything was delicious, and the restaurants were often lovely, dramatic affairs... but the portions were somewhat American in size, to the dismay of my waistline. The view of Marina Bay from Level 33 (pics above) wins for most dramatic backdrop, however the afternoon tea at 10 Scotts on Orchard Road had some of the most amazing desserts I have had in a while, particularly the rose-flavoured macaron with raspberries.


Thanks to my lovely boss, I had half a day to run free, and spent most of it near Arab Street, shopping in the nearby mall (yay country-wide sales and cheap shoes!), before going to the street itself to visit the mosque, ramble about while listening to the muezzin sing out the call to prayer, and then stuff my face with delicious falafel and hummus. 

All in all an interesting experience, and I never thought that I would be going on business trips so soon in my career :)