Sunday, December 30, 2012


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I spent the long weekend in Hakone, at a rather fancy hotel, Hatsuhana. The weather actually cooperated, so we got to see Ashinoko (although Fuji was being coy as usual), the Little Prince Museum and I watched Matcha-kun transform into a samurai. It also unfortunately came with some angst (on my part, surprise) which now I shall have to work through...
This period can be really hard for expats in Japan, with Christmas being a blingy couple-centered affair, and New Years being when all your Japanese friends go back to their hometowns. We have to find our own traditions, and enjoy the free time to the fullest. I for one have cleared out Tsutaya's shelves of Ghibli and SF movies, pencilled in several runs and decided on an unconventional New Years with a friend. Maybe even hit up the sales at the running store.

One of the awesome parts of New Years is that suddenly Tokyo empties out, and the trains are full of available seats. On my way to another Hash (which I couldn't go to before because of sheer busyness) it seemed as if currently Tokyo has the number of people it should have, rather than the excess it usually has. And thank the kami for other crazy runners, because there is simply too much cake in my diet these days, and I need to make up for it somehow.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2013, and hope that the Year of the Snake will be peaceful and happy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Food News Flash

Harken to the food gods、for they have seen it fit to answer my prayers!

In Minamiazabu, walking distance from my office, I found a tiny falafel shop, and it is phenomenal. There are few things more satisfying than a giant pita stuffed with fresh falafel, hummus, veggies and pickles, topped off with tahini... and yet more hummus. With the weather getting really raw, and the ever present danger of catching a cold, it is important to make sure you are properly fueled at all times, and this is a delicious way of doing so. The nice lady at King Falafel even gave me a free sample of her homemade black sesame hummus, which was pretty sinfully tasty.
With everybody rushing about to get things done before New Years, and clients coming by to pay their respects, we end up with some odd things stacking up in the office. While most of it is paper (endless supplies of calendars, greeting cards and coupons), some are edible.

The Pinanciers from Fukuoka Airport were pretty good, although the Amao strawberry coating didn't taste any different from regular strawberries. The low brow version of the famous Royce chocolate-covered potato chips (which has now been launched in stores, if you are curious) was quite weird. If nothing else they are good for those times you cannot decide between salty and sweet!
Just four more days until my 48 hour onsen vacation... I hope to have good things to say upon my return!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hidden Tokyo: Ikedayama Koen (et al.)

One of the best parts of joining a 'free-range' running club is that you get to go off the beaten track, and see parts of the city you would most likely never come across otherwise.

While a friend and I were running about, trying to figure out a good trail for a future run, we came across Ikedayama Koen. It is far enough away from any station that it was completely empty on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, and it is a perfect little jewel. We both promptly forgot about time, and stopped to look at the autumn leaves glowing in golden sunlight. Moments like this just make you glad to be alive :)
And for some reason that is when it hit me: it is time for a trip. For work I will go to Dubai, and for filial piety Italy, but that is not the kind of travel I have in mind. I want an unscheduled week in a country I have never visited, with views I have never seen and mysterious foodstuffs (yes, I am actually completly ruled by my stomache). It is time to go. Jump on an airplane or boat with just a backpack, notebook in tow.
 (No, these are not my photos. If you don't want people using your pictures, then don't put them on the internet)
Ah, but there lies the rub. Being gainfully employed means you have the funds for such trips, but not the time. And if you have the time, most likely you do not have the funds. I guess it will just have to wait until August...
In the meantime Wave-chan (who is also currently suffering from the travel bug) and I will drool over travel magazines and pictures of the Galapagos.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Definitely one of my favorite expressions in Japanese, it perfectly encompasses the uselessness of trying to change/help a situation/person.

Since I am mostly aquainted with people who have a strong interest in broadening their experiences, learning new things or taking on new challenges, I am not sure what to make of those few who drift along and complain without trying to fix their situation.

Conversation this Sunday:
X-chan: 'Omg I am so bored... what am I supposed to do? Is it like this for all people who work?'
Me: 'You could take some kind of fun class? Yoga is great and not too expensive'
X-chan: 'But that costs money'
Me: 'Go for a run or a walk?'
X-chan: 'But it is sunny out, I might get burned'
Me: 'Well, if you want to make more money and are bored, why not get an extra job one day per weekend?'
X-chan: 'Mendokusai...'

Okay, I get it, you don't actually want a solution, how unfeminine of me to not get that...

And every time I am preparing to go off on a trip all I hear is 'iinaaa, I want to go somewhere toooo'.
Then go! But no, it always goes back to 'my boyfriend doesn't wanna' (as if it is impossible to travel with friends or *gasp* by yourself) or 'you make more money than me' (false, actually you make more, I just manage it better).

If you want to have fun, you need to be proactive about it. Admittedly I may have taken it a bit far, with running AND koto AND yoga AND freelancing AND traveling, along with the usual nomikai and other stuff that pops up. I would love to take drawing classes, and am thinking of taking a course in real estate too. This kind of lifestyle may be busy but hell, you meet a lot of people and have a lot of fun!

I have also recently been dealing with several clients who have little to no life outside of work. Some say they play a sport or do an activity once a month. Others say that playing with their kids is their hobby (no, sorry, that is called 'good parenting'). Seriously? You only get to live once (unless you believe in reincarnation), and you are okay with spending that life at work?!

Such as waste... perhaps in their previous lives they were ants or other such industrious critters?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let the Festivities begin.... (oy vey)

December has landed, with its usual accountrement of bounenkai, Christmas parties, weddings, more bounenkai and the general rushing around one must do before the winter holidays.
I tried to plan it all out, to balance the fun (but tiring) carousing with restorative walks in the park... it is only December 5th, and that plan is already out the window!
Still, things kicked off well. The Hash House Harriers Christmas Party was a blast. I somehow got awarded 'Best Trail', complete with personalized t-shirt and two kilos of baby carrots I am trying to find a use for. We took over the New Sanno Hotel, which is entirely owned by the US Armed Forces, and provides a very strange little bit of America in the middle of Tokyo. Go if you ever have the opportunity, it is a rather surreal experience.
Amidst all this rushing, Matcha-kun informed me that we were going out for kushikatsu. Of course, I was completely uninterested and reluctant, as I hate all delicious deep-fried things (right...). Upon arriving at Kushitei, I was immediately seized by a sense of deja-vu. Our first date had been at their Ebisu branch. Apparently Matcha-kun remembers times and dates, which is more than I can say for myself.
The omakase course is fantastic, everything was delicious, and sometimes graced by special yuzu or pesto sauces. I may have ordered 3 sticks of cheese and pesto...and enjoyed every second of it. Kushi and spumante make a wonderful combination :)
Let us all try to get to our Christmas/New Years vacations alive!