Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sakura Days: Mitsuike Koen and Kishine Koen

With all weather forecasts showing that it would rain over the weekend, I had resigned myself to only getting to see the (admittedly pretty) sakura on my walk to work.
 However the weather gods decided to show their favor, and we managed to have two dry, if chilly, days to enjoy the fluffiness to the max.

On Saturday a couple sharemates and I headed over to Kishine Koen for an evening hanami session. I have been trying to seek more local sights, instead of always running off to Tokyo, and this park is a great find. While there are not as many sakura as in other places, the trees they have are huge! Being rather minor, it was not crowded at all, and we got a nice bit of the wooden deck near the stream to ourselves. There is also an awesome slide, that we spent a good 15 minutes sliding down.
The following day was Mitsuike Koen's turn, a really large park with three small lakes and tons of trees. It is a bit troublesome to get to, as you have to catch the 104 bus from ShinYokohama station, but I think it was worth the trek.
 While there were lots of visitors, the sheer size of the park allows it to not feel crowded. There are plenty of places to lay out your blankets, without having to overhear the conversations of nearby groups.
 The afternoon slowly got colder, and poor Matcha-kun had shown up in a t-shirt. Fortunately I was wearing lots of layers, so lent him my oversized sweater and scarf... just to find that he looks better in it than I do! Very unfair ;p

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hidden Tokyo: Ookurayama Bairin

This year spring has decided to sprint on rapidly. I am just getting over the plum tree overload, and the sakura are already begging for our collective attention.

Once again my beloved Ookurayama reveals its secrets, in this case a lovely little forest of plum trees (bairin). Since it is a kind of odd spot, the crowds are relatively sparse, making it easy to get a seat under a nice, fragrant tree. On a stage in the background (draped in the traditional red and white stripes), musicians and local music students play a series of traditional Japanese instruments.
 I love the bright reddish-pink ones the most, but they also happen to be the hardest to find...and are always surrounded by photographers!
After a pleasant rest on the park, we decided to finish off the day on true hanami style, getting sushi at a place right in front of the station. Basic, but I really reccomend their wasabi maki, which are oddly addictive (and sinus clearing!)
Despite moving into spring, my wardrobe seems to be in monochrome recently (except for bright red lipstick). If done correctly it can be a look with a lot if dramatic impact, and very useful in a profession where you want people to remember you. Although in my case it also has something to do with trends on Italian fashion (all of these are new clothes purchased during my trip home!)

But that's fine, I shall leave the pastels to the sakura!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What do you eat?

My grandmother seems very concerned about what I eat in this far off, exotic country. In attempt to reassure her I brought a bunch of pics with me to Italy. Then I remembered that a few readers have also asked me about my diet/training, and so here it is! 
Not exactly exciting, but I make a real effort (during the week) to mainly eat food I have cooked (or simply assembled, as I eat a lot of veggies raw) myself. Stir fries, curries and brown rice are a staple lunch. I also eat tons of tofu burgers, avocados and pasta. Lots of dairy and fruit as well, to be super kind to my bones.

Weekends, however, are a different story entirely. All the fancy foods and restaurants I introduce here are products of gourmet weekends. If you eat healthily 80% of the time, you certainly get away with an occasional giant plate of eggs benedict and pancakes (or cake, pizza, fondue....).

And the benefits are incredible. Eating well and exercising properly make you feel content (it is proven that running regularly helps fight low-level depression). The desire for junk food diminishes. Without a terribly nasty workout schedule (2 runs per week, yoga once a week, weight training whenever I have 10 minutes free) or awful diets, I look pretty darn toned.

What are your tips for staying in shape? Always good to learn something new!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Week Away: Italy

 Hey, this isn't Japan!
Indeed not, welcome to Northern Italy in the winter. Two cross-continental flights, long layovers and a quick car ride from Malpensa, and voila'. The things I will do for filial piety... still, it is lovely to see my parents in person (rather than on a screen), and any grandparental weirdness I can deal with.

Northern Italian cuisine is not known for being exactly light, and so I had a great three days of filling up on the region's cheeses (fontina is amazing), scoffing large quantities of polenta and risotto, and trying many, many different delicious wines. The views of the snowy mountains and quaint old town are the perfect backdrop to such gastronomic excess.
Another lovely part of going back to my motherland is the shopping. Since I am not actually a huge fan of spending entire days in Tokyo seeking a single pair of pants that fit correctly, it is so wonderful to be able to waltz into practically any store and find lots of clothes in the right length. Indeed, in less than 12 hours I managed to accumulate an entire new wardrobe.
 The last two days of this trip were spent on my old home turf, Rome. As usual the city is beautiful, the weather fantastic and the 'maritozzi alla panna' (a Roman morning delicacy, honey and raisin bread filled with fresh whipped cream) to die for.

It felt odd to be back there. Despite not having lived permanently in Rome for over half a decade, I still know all the byways, and even the cobblestones feel familiar.

But best of all I got to see my horse (although I am most likely 'her human'), and spend lots of time with her. One of the few downsides to living is Japan is that we have to be so far away, and I don't get to see her nearly enough, although I know that she is in good hands and has a great life.