The Merry Afternoon Around Town

The other day I was walking from Ebisu to Aoyama.
I spotted a lot of holiday colors around town, although I guess that is to be expected during this season. But even regular things, like green buses and red leaves! It felt great to be walking outside in the sun (even if my fingers were frozen by the time I got home).
I also found a really great flower shop and couldn’t resist buying a couple mini poinsettias to go with the holly I already had. Different shades of red and green here, too!
I hope your day is filled with joy and you have a wonderful holiday wherever you are! xx

Merry Christmas!

The Eureka Skydeck 88 in Melbourne

I almost forgot about these photos of Melbourne!
As much as I am afraid of heights, I’ve always been drawn to high places (with a secure floor and wall protecting me, of course) and I heard that Eureka Skydeck 88 had an amazing view of the city of Melbourne and beyond, so I had to go! According to the visitor information, this is the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemesphere.
So after a quick lunch, where I got to see the girls again, I took a walk around the city for a bit and headed towards Eureka Tower. I initially thought it was an office building but later learned that it is in fact a residential tower. I’m not sure how I would feel about living so high above the ground. But it does have an amazing view, that’s for sure.
Isn’t the city of Melbourne beautiful from above?
Here are some photos: 
By the end of this trip, I was almost an expert at taking selfies!
The tall building on the left is the Eureka Tower.
There were some binoculars that faced city landmarks…this was Flinders Street Station.
There was also a corner of the observation deck where you could step outdoors.

Before I knew it it was dark outside and the city was covered in lights!
The night view was gorgoues…and loved seeing the river we kayaked from above 🙂
Then it was back to the Southern Cross Station to head to the airport! x

The Top 5 Christmas Movies

It’s almost Christmas! Have you been watching any holiday movies?

I feel like in Japan, where Christmas is more of a commercial event and weirdly a romantic holiday, Christmas movies are essential for getting into the holiday spirit. Which is why (just in case you haven’t been watching already) I’m going to share my favorite Christmas movies with you today. And even if you aren’t into Christmas, you can just consider this a list of educational material on a certain pagan festival 😉

Here are my favorites:

“Karen: So what’s this big news, then?

Daisy: We’ve been given our parts in the nativity play. And I’m the lobster.

Karen: The lobster?

Daisy: Yeah!

Karen: In the nativity play?

Daisy: Yeah, FIRST lobster.

Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?

Daisy: Duh.”

I love this movie for three reasons: (1) British English, (2) tons of merry humor, and (3) Colin Firth. Need I say more?

“Bah, humbug.”

I grew up watching the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, long before I even knew of Charles Dickens. The ghost scenes always made me inch closer to my parents but it was always a holiday favorite for our family. I didn’t realize there were so many versions though!

“Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”

Yes, it is a wonderful life, especially when you’re watching this! Can you believe that this classic holiday movie came out in 1946 but took over 20 years for it to become as popular as it is today? In Japanese the title is “Subarashiki-kana, Jinsei (素晴らしき哉、人生!).” I think this was my dad’s favorite holiday movie and we used to watch this every year when it was on television. The angel-in-training is a dear and the last scene always makes me emotional.

“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

After all these years, I still adore this movie. It is a beautiful Christmas movie set in Chicago (my favorite city!) and you will laugh and laugh over how smart this kid is. But my favorite part is the interaction he has with his next door neighbor. It always reminds me that people may not be what they seem. Also, all the crazy 90s outfits in the movie are just too fabulous.

” He would get these far-off looks in his eyes and he would say ‘Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan’. I just wish I’d realized at the time, he was talking about MY life.”

My favorite Christmas movie of all time!!! I know you’ve all seen it. It’s so good I sometimes even watch it in the middle of the year and not just because this movie is also set in Chicago. Lucy and Jack are the lead characters but what makes this movie even more special is the fabulous cast they have surrounding these two. It’s the most heartwarming story ever, that will make you laugh and cry, quite possibly at the same time. And I’d know, I’ve watched it twice already this year 😉

So there’s my list! Happy holidays, everyone! xx

(images via here, here, here, here and here)

The Elephant Slide in Kagurazaka

Taking a break from my travel posts…I thought I’d introduce you to these elephants!
Kagurazaka is a great spot to just wander the streets. On this particular day, I was heading toward Akagi shrine when I heard a screeching noise that could only be a dying crow or a child having tons of fun. It ended up being the latter.
I was curious what was going on so I followed the voices down the narrowest path there ever was and suddenly it opened up into a tiny park in the middle of a residential area. I love how this park feels like a secret, only people who know of it can see the entrance!
Then my eyes fell on these elephants. I also discovered what all the shouting was about. The kids were playing an intricate game of tag on the two elephants, which consists of a long slide (the nose), climbing rocks and pegs (the ears), and a tunnel (again the nose).
Akagi Children’s Park (赤城児童遊園) is a very narrow park and what land it has is a large slope, which this elephant slide utilizes to its full advantage. So creative! These elephants are gigantic and surprisingly not too friendly looking. But I like their droll expressions and more importantly, the kids don’t seem to care at all. The screaming was still going on when I left the park 😀
Aren’t these two elephants darling?

This is a path that leads to the top of the park.
Those tusks!
The slide down is quite long…yes, I somehow slide down but my butt didn’t fit at all!
What do you think of these elephants? x

The Prahran Neighborhood

Did I mention this was my first time staying in an Airbnb?
It’s been awhile since I’ve had to book a place to stay during my travels because I tend to stay with my friends more often than not. But it was a really interesting experience.
On Airbnb, you can book a room or an entire apartment or house. We chose to book a room because there were only two of us. One of the great things about booking just a room is that you get to meet your host, who obviously lives there, so they are able to give you tips and advise if you have any questions. Our host was super nice and laid-back, which I’m guessing you’d have to be with strangers coming in and out of your house.
I was a little nervous at first. What if your host was a crazy person? What if they put a shipment of drugs in your suitcase without you knowing and you get caught when leaving the country? So many things could go wrong.
But of course, that’s what the review section on the Airbnb site is for. You can read what previous people who have stayed there are saying about their host and the accommodation. We ended up with a really great host, thank goodness!
We stayed in Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne. It’s fairly close to downtown Melbourne, both by tram and train, which was super convenient. They had a main street filled with cafes and boutique shops. I really liked Prahran, even though the name is really hard to pronounce. (Apparently it’s really Pra-Ran but all I heard was Pran!)
Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb? Or been to Prahran?
Here are some photos:
Our Airbnb room had the best wooden floors and decorations.
I was so happy to get my hands on this Australian magazine!
My travel essentials in Melbourne: map, travel notes, and sunglasses.
Like Melbourne, Prahran had cafes in every corner as well.
I loved the coffee and colors so much, I came back every morning!
Australia was so friendly…this is probably their motto.
There was a bookstore in Prahran that I went to every other day, too.
A random bike shop we stepped into.
I love these brick buildings!
This is the Prahran train station, which we used every day.
Prahran is on the Sandringham line…notice how wide the trains are!
It was so convenient, I’d definitely stay in Prahran next time I’m in Melbourne!

The Wedding in Melbourne

I have been waiting for this wedding forever!
My amazing friend M got engaged last year and I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Melbourne. Actually, I don’t even remember what the weather was like but there was so much happiness surrounding all of us there that it couldn’t be described any other way!
It started with an intimate wedding ceremony at the Old Treasury Building, filled with joy and laughter, which continued on to the lovely reception party. There were many toasts, dancing, and just all around good cheer throughout the night.
I personally was a little nervous at the reception because I was asked by M to do the speech. And if you know me, you know about my stage fright. Which is why I wrote every word down so my mind couldn’t go blank (unless the impossible happened and I forgot how to read…). 
I am so inadequate when it comes to words. But I did try to articulate how warm and amazing both M and J are. Maybe you can tell me if it came through because I thought I’d share my speech here so you could get to know a little about the newlyweds. Here it is…

Hello everyone. I’d like to thank J and M for letting me share this special day with them.

My name is Kaori and I am M’s friend from college. I don’t exactly remember when we first met because we had so many classes together, but M is one of those girls that is genuinely kind and makes everyone feel welcome in her circle of friends. I am incredibly lucky to have a friend who has such a big heart like her in my life.

Most of you know the story of how M met J. He was passing through Japan during his vacation and happened to meet M at a mutual friend’s place. When we heard from M how she’d met this “someone”…I’m sure we all had some questions.

Questions such as: (a) who is this grown man that takes over a month of vacation from work, which is unheard of in Japan, (b) is he really as nice a guy as M says he is? and (c) how do we know he’s not a serial killer? (So sorry J)

Well, when I finally got a chance to meet J, it was hard to stay suspicious because I saw just how happy he made M. Also, it is nearly impossible to resist his natural charm, which we like to call “J magic.”

Although, there was a time early on in their relationship, I remember M half whispering to me, “I can’t hold hands with J.” I thought this was because maybe he doesn’t like to hold hands…but no. M explained that it was because he is so expressive with both of his hands that it was impossible to hold on! We both had a good laugh over this quirk.

One thing about M is that, although she may seem a little shy or quiet, she is truley one of the bravest people I know. She jumped at the chance to go to grad school, even though it meant moving to a new country. She continues to challenge herself, be it sharing her art work at a gallery or taking up driving (pedestrians of Melbourne, you have been warned!) and I simply admire her for being so strong. She is the best mix of sweet and fierce.

As you know, M is an amazing teacher to her kindergarten children, so I’d like to close this speech with a passage from the famous Dr. Seuss. 

“People are weird. When we find someone with weirdness that is compatible with ours, we team up and call it love.” 

I’m sure anyone who has seen M and J together knows that they are definitely a team, even if they don’t hold hands all the time. I love you both and wish you nothing but the best in your marriage…to M and J! xx

Here are some photos of the beautiful wedding day:
The ceremony room at the Old Treasury Building.
The lovely bride walking down the aisle with her father (who looks like the emperor of Japan!).
The ceremony was beautiful!
Officially married!!!
Whoop whoop!
M and J stepping outside and cheered on by the crowd 🙂
We all took turns taking photos in front of the building.
Me in my dress I found for the wedding this spring and R in the suit he got the day before ;D
M and J in the traditional Japanese wedding kimono. We wrote messages on it at the reception.
We had an amazing table at the reception and it was fun getting to know everyone.
Don’t you just love the groom’s enthusiasm? x
Loved the Malaysian style toast of Yam Seng, meaning “drink to success!”
My vegetarian dish was delicious! So good!
Gosh, these two…they really are the best.
Completely out of focus but for some reason one of my favorite photos…very dreamy!
After their waltz they did the cutest rendition to this Frozen song! ;D
So blessed to be able to share this special day! Much love. x

The Embiggen Books in Melbourne

I am smitten with Embiggen Books.

It may be the smell of books or just the inviting atmosphere but sometimes I will step into a bookstore and think, I could live here! This was definitely one of those bookstores. All I need is a small bed and a kitchenette in a corner somewhere.

Their selection of books is fantastic. Bookshelves cover most of the walls and if I could, I would’ve bought the store out. They have a large selection of books on science and art, which I thought was interesting. But they also have everything from gardening to psychology, pretty much every thing your bookworm heart desires and even more.

Usually I tend to glide over to the travel section, especially when I’m travelling. They also had a table full of books on Australia or by Australian authors, which was exactly what I was looking for. I like to buy a local book during my travels, sort of like a souvenir to remember the city by.

I’m still patting myself on the back because I somehow managed to only buy one book, which is a miracle. I’m green with envy of the people of Melbourne who get to step into this bookstore on a daily basis. Then again, if I were one of those people, I would be broke in a week…so I guess I should be thankful instead!

Isn’t this bookstore is lovely though? What section would you beeline to? x

Here are some photos:

Before the bookstore photos, I wanted to share a hearty breakfast photo 🙂
Some things are the same in Tokyo and Melbourne…little sparrows fluttering about.
Their window display if full of eclectic books.
It’s just one floor but full from floor to ceiling with books.
It’s always fun reading about the places you’re travelling.
I almost got this book until I realized I should probably watch the movie first!
What do you think about Embiggen Books?

197-203 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000 AUSTRALIA
TEL: 03 9662 2062
HOURS: Mon-Tue 10:30am-6:30pm
                Thu-Fri 10:30am-7:00pm
                Sat-Sun 10:30am-5:00pm