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...

Friday, February 20, 2015

February

And here we are at the end of February, it's been another busy past few weeks filled with sleep deprivation, tight deadlines and crowded trains, but also time spent with close friends, some warm sunny days and a weekend in Kyoto.

Kyoto is a lot colder than Tokyo in the winter, especially in the traditional house I was staying at. I made it to Arashiyama, it was actually my first time going there. I loved the bamboo path!

The plum blossoms have appeared, which means spring is closer and sakura should be here in mere weeks. In Japan, spring is when everything changes: the school year ends in March and back-to-school mode happens in April, as well as the new fiscal year and renewed work contracts.

Things are changing for me as well with a return to freelancing, which I had missed so much in the last two years. Many people ask me about freelancing in Japan, and I think it's a great option but it's also very scary- in terms of visa sponsorship, finances and general stability. Shortly after I moved to Tokyo, I tried freelancing for a bit, but things ended up so messy, with visa drama, teary trips to city hall, anxious immigration bureau visits and more time spent lounging around than actually working.

Freelancing is risky if you're not prepared, so I don't recommend it unless your whole life is in order. Not sure if mine really is, but I've been on top of things (visa, paperwork, address changes, banks, taxes, insurance, doctor visits, immigration, finances) and with some solid contracts I'm ready to dip my toes into this sweet sweet world of freedom (and even more deadlines!). Also, having a workplace to go to a few times per week will hopefully help me achieve a balanced schedule that doesn't involve 4am bedtimes.

In other news, I've been craving sushi almost every single day, and I've been making miso soup on a daily basis and having it for breakfast, with a bit of rice and green tea. I love making a sesame miso soup from Harumi Kurihara, it's so easy and delicious! I highly recommend her book "Harumi's Japanese Cooking" for simple but exquisite Japanese recipes. I've been using white miso (instead of red) since I went to Kyoto, it's not so salty and very delicate. I'm slowly learning how to cook more than just udon, but I still find some Japanese cooking techniques intriguing. I've also been using my oven a lot, mostly for cookies, but I can't wait to make breakfast muffins when I have a minute to breathe this weekend.

I feel a lot happier lately, I'm finally slowly figuring things out.

Wine-toned nails, courtesy of Nail Quick

I fell for this brilliant marketing ploy:
apple tea + butter custard Pocky

Staring at the sun

This place.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sunday Day Out

Ever since I started working in the midst of the happening districts of Tokyo (aka near Aoyama, Harajuku, Omotesando and Shibuya), I stopped going there for fun as I usually associate it with work, and I can't be bothered to lose myself in those crowds on weekends. On weekends I try to stay around my local area, since I rarely get to enjoy it.

On Sunday I ventured to all the most crowded places in Tokyo, namely Shinjuku and Harajuku, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. I had brunch with friends at Le Pain Quotidien in Hatsudai, and I must say they make the best brunch in Tokyo. I think it's ridiculous that people all lining up all over Omotesando for calorie-laden pancakes, while there's this kind of healthier brunch with vegetables, salad, eggs and cheese (and a jam bar… and croissants… not to healthy but I'd much rather eat that). It never gets crowded and you get your own pot of coffee, so I'm completely sold.

Afterwards I walked to the big Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku, where the 6th floor overflows with English books, and even French books. I wanted to buy everything and especially stock up on French books, but I ended up buying something fashion-related (which I'm too embarrassed to mention).

Finally I went to Harajuku, walk across Takeshita dori (or rather pushed my way through the hordes of teenagers) and did a bit of window shopping. I find Harajuku fashion so uninspiring, it used to be more unique but it's just so commercial now. Not that I would ever buy or wear anything from there, but I like to research. I was a bit surprised to see Top Shop has completely shut down all over Japan, I wonder what happened there.

I ended up in the back streets of Harajuku, where all the good stuff is, in the depths of Jinguumae. I also  went to the A.P.C. store there and realized that's where the strip club scene from Lost in Translation was filmed- the shop was turned into a club. I had read about it, but I had never made the connection.

Another rather long week is coming to an end, I find February to be one of the longest months even though it's the shortest, especially with the cold rain (wanna-be snow…) today. I just want to stay home with my bottle of Perrier (my special treat in Japan) and that embarrassing fashion book!

This brunch!! It's called Farmers' Brunch

Harajuku has a LINE store,
which is the most popular messaging app here

The LINE family

Aforementioned A.P.C./L.I.T club

I ate a big sushi roll for Setsubun on Tuesday

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January: New Year, New Me

It's been such a hectic January (what's new?), and the New Year brought many changes and adjustment, and lots of exciting new projects, which I can't wait to share soon. January is always a fresh start, but I must admit it started on a bit a sour note, dragging some dissatisfaction about my work and life balance situation, which I still feel is unhealthy. However, instead of dwelling on it, I decided to work towards some solutions, and I'm feeling so good about what is coming this year.

This month also brought many visitors from overseas, which is always comforting in the midst of winter. I met up with an old friend who used to work with me at summer camp nearly 20 years ago (yup, I spent a few summers as a camp counselor), and my dear friend Sophia from Australia. Yesterday we had a long overdue Tokyo catch up with the other member of our lovely trio, and it was fun to reminisce about 'old' Tokyo days (well, 4 years ago!) and seeing how different our lives are now.

We had lots to celebrate, and it came in the form of an exquisite 4-hour lunch at Beige, the Chanel restaurant in Ginza. It was gorgeous, not only the food and wine pairings, but the details, attentive service, cheese trolley (YES) and the interlocking C's logo on the chocolate. I spent the rest of the day recovering on the sofa, snacking on Australian treats as I don't think I can eat a proper meal for another few days. We also got manicures in the morning, so hopefully it looked like we belonged in Ginza…

Tokyo had a bit of snow yesterday, but for Canadian standards it looked more like rain. Thankfully it melted right away, otherwise it would have been such an ordeal with train delays for days. In other news I've started running again, there is an actual running course around a park in my new neighbourhood, and the full loop is about 2k so I can go around a few times for a decent workout. I like running in the winter, as it keeps me warm.

And on a separate note, this morning Japan awoke to heartbreaking news about journalist Kenji Goto, and while I never had the chance to meet him, I really admired his work. My thoughts go to his wife, young children, family and friends.

Shibuya never shuts down

Grey and wet Omotesando

Kitchen selfie

Beige - Alain Ducasse

Bubbles and quilt