Saturday, March 21, 2015

Secret Spring: Hanegi Park

Tokyo never ceases to surprise me. A short wander down the Inokashira Line, I came across Hanegi Park. Don't let the baseball field fool you, this park is home to a truly charming bairin (plum tree orchard) with around 650 trees fetchingly grouped together.
Unfortunately I showed up about 2 weeks past their peak so couldn't get the full effect. But ume are much hardier than their delicate sakura cousins, so there were still enough blooms to make for a nice afternoon walk.
The floor is no longer a freezing shock in the morning, and there is some light when I emerge from the office in the evening... Persephone is indeed on her way!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Black Suits and Coffee: 就活と希望

It is that time of year again. I see them in their shiny black suits, sensible shoes and faces white with tiredness and anxiety. The job hunting season commences, and I watch young students still unused to the brace of a suit as they file through my office, write resumes madly at coffee shops and stare out of trains, glazed over by the repetition of answers to the same 10 interview questions.

Not to mention the questions trey pose themselves.

Will I be okay?
Will anyone hire me?
Do I actually want to do this?
But my parents say...
But my friends say...
What will I do with my life?

I see them and just want to go over, give them a big hug and tell them:

You will be okay.
Don't take a job just because the company is famous or your parents tell you to.
Don't forget who you are, in the process of streamlining yourself for bored HR interviewers.
Life is long, and your first job will mainly teach you what you do and don't like.
Your value as a human being is not linked to your paycheck.
You are fine just the way you are.
Don't trust anyone who says 'you will be lucky to work here'.
Don't trust companies that won't pay you benefits.
Take a deep breath, you can do this.
The company won't take care of you, YOU take care of yourself.

You will change and grow and make mistakes.  Right now it all seems to loom so large, your whole future decided by a few sheets of paper and luck. But try not to worry. One day you will stand as I do now, hopefully in a slightly kinder world, and tell someone else the same thing.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Vegan in Tokyo: A Helpful List

It seems that with age I am getting increasingly snarky about the morality of eating animal products.While I am by no means 100% vegan yet, I have definitely tried to severely reduce the amount of milk products and eggs I eat.

Since I know many others have similar moral (or health) concerns, I started listing some of my favourite haunts across the city, where you can get cruelty free tastiness!

Lets start in Roppongi, of all places. A short stroll from Mori Tower you will find Chien Fu (which also has a sister restaurant in Kunitachi). They specialize in Taiwanese style vegan food, with the fake meat the country is so famous for. The sweet and sour 'pork' is a major favorite, and their huge teishoku sets are all around 900yen. You can buy bags and cans of fake meat, vegan ramen and tofu mayonnaise on your way out too!

Next up is Kagetsu, a major ramen chain. During the spring they have vegan ramen, gyoza and fried rice. Cheap and cheerful. 
(NB. This is the last year they will be serving it, although you can buy the gyoza and ramen from their online store!)
(I ❤ gyoza, can you tell?)
While not a restaurant, the health food store Natural House, which has branches across the city, usually has several choices of macrobiotic bento. They are a bit on the pricy side, but allow you to have the traditional bento experience minus the meat and fish. My favorite is the 'meat' stew Nagomi set.

A hidden gem, if you so happen to be between Azabujuban and Shirokanedai station, is King Falafel. This used to be a twice monthly treat, when I worked in the area. The owner is lovely, and the full sized sandwich is a serious meal, with freshly fried falafel. Serious yum, but only two little chairs outside for seating.
On the same lines, Shamaim near Nerima is a bit of a hike from central Tokyo (unless you live there, of course), but has a fabulous falafel set and hummus set.
For something with a more American flavor, Good Honest Grub (housed in what appears to have been a normal house, between Shibuya and Ebisu) has an excellent Mexican bean wrap and smoothies. 

I have already written extensively about Eat More Greens (near Azabujuban Station) here, where the menu changes with the seasons (and has the most amazing Valhrona chocolate vegan doughnuts).The same goes for Deva Deva in Kichijoji (info here). Both T's Kitchen and T's Tantanmen are fabulous, with the first being one of my go-to lunch places when I lived on the Toyoko line.

There are several more places I wish to go, and there are definitely some that have slipped my mind at the moment.

Any recommendations? I would love to hear from other veggies in Tokyo!