Wednesday, August 26, 2015

End of Summer (Nearly)

Suddenly the temperatures in Tokyo dropped, but it's probably only temporary. Still, it's a nice break from the heat and humidity, and a sneak peek at autumn (even though September in Japan will be just as hot as August).

I worked a lot this month, but since every shift is so short, it keeps it interesting and just gives the perfect balance to my week. I love having an excuse to go to Shibuya, and at the same time I like how I can avoid morning rush hour commutes.

August also brings natsubate, literally 'summer fatigue'. Not sure if it's an actual condition, but it does feel real. Could be due to the intense heat or the overuse of air conditioning, or a mix of both. I'm trying to stay hydrated with room-temperature tea (cold isn't so good for the belly, especially if there's a bebe inside) and eat lots of fruit (watermelon, fresh figs and ¥300 apples). My summer go-to food is soba, I could eat it every single day. I've been trying different restaurants around Tokyo, ranging from local neighbourhood spots to Michelin-star places. I much prefer the handmade noodles, and the best side dish is tempura. I'm also eating lots of sashimi and sushi, which is thankfully not forbidden during pregnancy in Japan. I could never live without it! In fact, I like how relaxed Japanese are about all those  so-called 'pregnancy rules'. Although they can be strict about weight gain and keeping the belly warm, the rest is fairly relaxed, which I really like.

Maternity fashion in Japan is another story, though. As expected, everything is quite frumpy, flowery, frilly and cutesy. Pregnant women in Japan tend to conceal their figure, instead of flaunting their beautiful growing bump. It's been interesting to flip through maternity magazines and see what's offered in stores. Let's just say, thank goodness for online shopping and Asos free Japan shipping.

I'm planning for more yoga, afternoon teas, reading, cafe lounging and hopefully a few getaways for the next few months. It's a nice change of pace, although my life is about to change even more, in the best possible way.

Doughnuts at Fred Segal

A visit to the aquarium

I feel like this animal

Never enough soba

Afternoon break at Magnolia

They painted Domo-kun! 
Summer fireworks



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer in Japan



So, it's been a while, and summer has fully kicked in, along with its suffocating, sauna-like humidity and cicada soundtrack. I was able to escape to Canada for a few short weeks, but to be honest, the weather was unusually hot and humid there too. Still it was a nice trip, as usual, but it felt very rushed and tiring. I never thought I'd say that, but coming back to my Tokyo life actually felt relaxing.

Canada was a mix of catching up with everyone, being at my mom's house and eating her lovely food and trying to catch our cat (who gives me bad allergies), meeting my adorable nephew for the first time,    going on a road trip to Toronto, having coffee with my former Montreal roommate and a dear friend who shared Osaka memories with me (and their cute babies), spending time with Seoul friends in TO, a day trip to Niagara Falls (eh, I had to introduce Canada's most famous landmark…), an impromptu stay at the Park Hyatt Toronto, swimming on one of MTL's rooftops, shopping trips at the huge supermarkets and marveling at the fruit selection, barbecues in the backyard, bare feet in the grass and every morning a delicious breakfast.

I found Canada a bit more difficult this time- have I been too spoiled by Japanese convenience and cleanliness? The first few days back home are always a reverse culture shock for me, but this time it dragged on: the horrible customer service (it's a hit or miss), the lack of public restrooms anywhere, the inability to buy water at vending machines on any corner. Have I been in Japan for too long? Still, I loved how warm people are, how strangers sometimes strike up a random conversation with you, and how it's socially acceptable to pretty much do anything you please. I also liked how everywhere is non-smoking, Starbucks are practically empty (and they have those healthy lunch boxes), you can find amazing-tasting coffee, sandwiches and pastries on every corner and green spaces for picnics.

It's always nice to be home, and this time coming back to Japan was equally good. I love my (fairly new) home here, I love my job and I was excited to get back into it. I've been a bit of a homebody lately, taking it easy. There has been a huge change in my life in the past few months... I'm pregnant! It was a lovely surprise (also to my family and friends, as I'm apparently the last person they imagined with a baby), and we're so happy and excited. It's actually been a wonderful time, even if this summer heat. I never thought I would enjoy it so much, as I had never even really thought about what it would be like. I cherish every moment of it, I like sitting alone sipping tea or iced coffee and think about the bebe. I also started maternity yoga, which is a great workout and so relaxing at the same time. I also love updating my wardrobe, with lots of summer tunics, bump hugging t-shirt dresses and treating myself to a little DVF wrap number, which I'll be able to wear for decades. Pregnancy in Japan has been a smooth experience, the health care is very good and I feel like I'm in good hands.

I can't help but look back at my time in Japan and realize how things have changed. I probably say that every time, but it's been quite the journey, and somehow it's just the beginning. I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, May 25, 2015

End of May

May is already coming to an end, and it seems like all I've done this month was work, but I really enjoyed it. I love my new schedule so much- I work in shifts, sometimes during daytime, sometimes evening, and in between I write from home. I avoid most of the rush hour trains and I have time to cook, exercise and well, have a somewhat normal life. Last week I made a chocolate mousse cake and a lasagna, and every morning I make a different smoothie. I feel much more relaxed, for the first time in my Tokyo life.

The weather has been gorgeous in May, very warm and summer-like, minus the mosquitoes and humidity. Along with November, I think May is the best time of the year in Japan. June is rainy season, so I'm taking advantage of the sunny days and non-rain boots days.

We booked some tickets for Canada this summer, and we will visit in July. I'm so excited to see my family and friends again, the cats, and eat tons of fruits and kinds of cheeses (and butter!!! Japan has had a butter shortage this year). I will spend time in Montreal and also Toronto, just like last year. It's something to look forward to for the summer, and it's coming very soon.

I've had some fun assignments lately: I did a yukata photo shoot and class for a magazine, a beauty fair coverage at Tokyo Big Sight, interviews with some famous French and Japanese chefs, and a Tokyo food trends piece. I was also a special guest on one of the radio programs at NHK World, in the French section (my section!).

I'm also back in a Wong Kar-wai phase, I just re-watched "In the Mood for Love", such a beautiful movie. I wonder if I can sneak in a trip to Hong Kong or Seoul before Canada?

Sunday morning brunch in my household

NHK elevator selfie

View from the Yurikamome train line, Odaiba

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thank You, Golden Week and Into May

Thank you so much for all your kind words about my wedding! Every comment means so much to me, and it was heartwarming to read those words. I feel like most of you have taken this journey with me, in some strange way. So, thank you for reading and your wonderful thoughts. I'm so, so happy I could share, and your enthusiasm made it feel so special.

So, Golden Week rolled around again, which is the busiest holiday in Japan. Except for my very first GW five years ago when I lived in Shikoku and finally got out to travel all the way to Tokyo and Osaka, none of them have been as exciting. I particularly remember that one I spent when I lived in Osaka, freshly post-3.11 which was the loneliest time of my life. I was reading back this old post, and now I'm wondering why I was walking around some dark, unknown Osaka streets in the middle of the night by myself. It's something I would never do nowadays because I know better, but I was pretty fearless back then and didn't always think things through. Osaka was such a tough phase overall, but when I look back it was also wonderful- I had so much time to think (about my career, staying or leaving, life) and that's when I really made things happen. That's when I quit teaching, packed my bags and moved to Tokyo to give writing a try.

Now this Golden Week is just going to be a regular work week, the news don't stop for holidays, but I really enjoy it so I'm happy to be there. Did I mention I'm also working in my mother tongue? It's been amazing to immerse myself into the beautiful French language, even though I have lots of literary catching up to do. I also caught a cold earlier this week, one of the worst I've ever had, complete with high fever, sore throat and congested sinuses. I ate okayu (rice porridge) for three days straight, and I actually really liked it. I particularly like umeboshi (pickled plum), so flavourful.

In other news the weather is getting increasingly warmer, and we're planning another Canada visit for late summer or possibly autumn, a shorter one this time but I need some home time and a glimpse of Canadian summer.

Loving my Issey Miyake bag!

Spring ballerinas

Sunday breakfast

Okayu



Monday, April 27, 2015

My Japanese Wedding

Recently, the most wonderful thing happened: I got married.

I waited a bit to share so I could savour this moment and everything surrounding it. It's been one of the happiest moments in my life, and all the changes that came along. I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that took place over the past few years, since I started this adventure. Since I moved to Japan, or even, since I moved to Korea. It's been a handful of years filled with lots of changes and a roller coaster-like journey, and this past bit has been the most exciting of it all.

We had a very intimate and traditional wedding at our favourite shrine in Kyoto, which is tucked in the mountains. I wore the white wedding kimono shiromuku and the white hood wataboshi during the ceremony, then changed to a celebratory red kimono for the reception. The white kimono was very heavy, and I had to wear the traditional wig underneath the hood, even though the hood covered most of it. I was dressed at the shrine very early in the morning, as it took several hours to put on all the layers. It was so tight and heavy, but I started to relax once I saw the final result.

It was such a magical experience to wear the kimono, and to walk over to the shrine under the red umbrella with our families. I was a bit nervous to trip, but I somehow gracefully managed to walk up and down the stairs. The ceremony was shinto, and it included a dance performance and lots of sake drinking. It was quite cold that day, especially in the mountains, but that warmed me up. We also had to read a declaration, which is similar to vows, and our families also got involved in the ceremony despite all the language barriers (from my side!).

We had a traditional meal at one of Kyoto's best restaurants, along with cake and lots of photos. I changed to the red kimono there, and took off the wig and just wore my natural hair with some fresh flowers in it, which I had picked. I had two assistants dressing me and helping me out with everything, I felt like a princess. There was even a bridal taxi complete with a red carpet for when I step out. I wish this could have lasted forever!

I always knew I wanted to get married someday, but I never really knew what kind of wedding I wanted. Somehow it all happened naturally and this was perfection, I couldn't dream of anything better.  The best part was having my family there, and introducing our families for the first time.

Now I have a family in Japan, and that's the most amazing feeling.


Friday, March 27, 2015

April, Spring, New Beginnings

Spring is here, lots of changes, and I'm starting a new job! Can you guess where I'll work?



I haven't been this excited in a long time! The beginning of 2015 was a bit of a life adjustment with lots of thinking about my career and my future in Japan, but somehow everything feels clear again (even if I have no idea what can happen at any time). Life has a way to work things out.

I haven't been going out so much lately, it was a pretty cozy winter with lots of work and late nights, but my schedule is a lot different now and I'm enjoying seeing the daylight. I like going to Shibuya or Shinjuku because I choose to go, and not because I have to pass through there on a hectic commute.

I also just love spending time at home, it's the first time in Japan I have a home I love so much. I feel so comfortable here, and I also like my local area. Everything is within walking distance: cafes, bakeries, restaurants, banks, supermarkets, pharmacy, gym, park, station and the best ¥500 takeout Indian curry. I don't feel the need to escape, as I did when I was living in my little loft. My local area also feels very quiet and residential, even though it's actually quite central, and I enjoy feeling removed from the madness. I got my bicycle repaired (I had neglected it at my former apartment), and I've been cycling again and going to dinner at my friend's house nearby. When I bike, I always feel like I'm back in Marugame and it's such a nice feeling. Not so long ago, yet ages away from what my life is like now.




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Seven Years Ago

Seven years ago I started this blog. I wasn't so young, but I felt young. I was carefree, adventurous, I had a foul mouth and I was fresh off the plane in Seoul, Korea. I wrote this blog mostly from the staff room at my overly religious Korean elementary school, and for the longest time my only reader was my coworker Jaclyn.

This blog was like my diary for several years. In a quasi anonymous manner, I could share my thoughts about culture shock, heartbreaks, wanderlusting and daily things like the music I listened to and the food I ate. I met some of my closest friends via this blog, friends who are still part of my life today. My blog also helped me secure those first writing jobs, as my entries could be used as excerpts and were the closest thing to "published" material to show. My blog acted as a portfolio in the early days, it gave me direction and steered my career into the world of words and journalism.

Although things have changed and my diary now comes in the form of close friends I share champagne with at the top of Tokyo, over Starbucks before morning rush hour or via long messages between Japan and Canada, my heart hasn't changed and I'm still this adventurous girl who dropped everything familiar to dive in the unknown. Even though Tokyo is home and I'm fairly settled here, every day is an adventure and I'm learning so much about the culture and language. That's why I love living abroad so much, there is always a sense of excitement, even though it gets exhausting at times. I'm pretty tame and conservative on the surface, but I secretly enjoy any little thrill I get.

In honour of my blog's seventh birthday, some of my favourite things lately.




Eating

Kaisen donburi, which means a seafood bowl. It looks elaborate, but it's a very easy meal to execute. I just buy fresh sashimi from the local market, and add a few toppings such as yama imo (Japanese mountain yam), kaiware (daikon sprouts), ginger and green onion. It's best to use vinegar rice, and I love it with a miso soup and chilled sake.

Listening

Arcade Fire, all four albums on shuffle. Montreal love, reminds me of the Mile End and running into those guys at La Sala Rossa and La Croissanterie Figaro and when they played in churches.


Reading

Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon. I just ordered it, but I can't wait to devour this book. As you all know I'm such a big fan of Sonic Youth and my heart was broken when they separated. I can often be found lurking around the sixth floor in Shinjuku's Kinokuniya bookstore in search for treasures, but I get so overwhelmed that I often leave empty-handed.

Watching

I don't have time to even watch anything at the moment, but I finally say Boyhood (loved it and the soundtrack) and last night I saw a lowbrow but somewhat entertaining movie called Two Night Stand. I also saw Casse-Tête Chinois, the end of the trilogy of my favourite Euro group following L'Auberge Espagnole and Les Poupées Russes.

Exercising

Does walking at a fast pace and rushing to catch the train counts? I've been trying to keep up with running, but I easily lack motivation due to the cold, the rain, too much work. However, the latest Stella McCartney x Adidas collection might be just what I need to get back into it...