The Afternoon with the Sweetest Dog Ever

I’m no dog whisperer…but I know a sweet dog when I see one!
I went over to my friend’s place last weekend for a housewarming get-together. But we all ended up oohing and ahhing over the newest member of their family, Chocolat (pronounced the French way, of course!).
She is just two months old and absolutely darling, falling asleep on my feet one minute, jumping around to play the next. I nearly passed out from cuteness overload.
On my way back home, I actually looked up apartments in my neighborhood that allow pets. I even checked to see what kind of dogs were at my local pound. But I’m barely home long enough to take care of my plants, much less a real live animal. And I never ever want to be an irresponsible parent that neglects their pets. So for the time being, I’m going to have to be satisfied with being Auntie Kaori to all my friend’s dogs.
Personally, I don’t mind being the fun aunt that gets to spoil them at all 😀
Here are some photos of Chocolat:

Do you have a dog? Or are you an auntie/uncle like me?

The Afternoon in Kagurazaka

I have always liked the Kagurazaka neighborhood.
A couple weekends ago, my friend F and I went exploring! We wanted to check out the new bookstore, Kamome Books, which opened at the end of last year. It’s not just a bookstore with a great selection of books and magazines. It also has a cafe (with an open terrace in warmer weather!) and an art gallery in the back
This spot was previously also a bookstore, that suddenly closed in the spring of 2014. The owner of a manuscript proofreading company walked passed and realized the bookstore was closing. He decided then and there to do something about it so he opened Kamome Books for people to enjoy “off-line” time in this age where everyone seems to always be online. 
F and I browsed the whole bookstore before settling down for a latte. It was a really warm day and a great place to sit down and chat. With La Kagu right across the street, it’s also a really great place to people watch!

After coffee time, we walked down the street to Akagi Shrine.
It’s a very modern shrine designed by the ever famous architect, Kengo Kuma. I really like it, despite the huge condo right next to it on the property. I’m sure the beautiful shrine is what sold those condos because if it were an old run down shrine with a graveyard behind it, I don’t think I would buy a condo next to that. I mean, I don’t really believe in ghosts. But I am definitely scared of them (if they’re real…you never know!)
You can read more about the shrine here.
We also bumped into a crowd of people wearing kimonos at the shrine. Kagurazaka is one of those places where it’s not unusual to see people wearing them. Kimonos are not the most easiest thing to wear but I love wearing it. It makes the day special, in my opinion. This crowd seemed excited to be walking around Kagurazaka wearing kimonos, too.

We also passed by Mugimaru2, the quirkiest manju cafe.
I knew they had cats inside the cafe. I did not know they had fish outside. Am I the only one worried about this combination? Hopefully the cats are well fed.
My favorite here is the Yomogi Cheese manju (140 yen!).
F and I were too full for a manju…but you can never be too full for gelato! We stopped by Gelateria Theobroma, a tiny gelato shop that F discovered while we were exploring the backstreets of Kagurazaka. Her gelato radar is spot on!

One of the best things about Kagurazaka is that there are various shops located in areas that you would think is a residential area. So it’s a great place to just randomly roam because you never know what you will discover.
Like this pretty park with gorgeous wisteria!
It was in full bloom and you could smell the fragrance of the flowers instantly as you step into the park grounds. It’s a local park, nothing special. But a fun discovery just the same.

You can’t come to Kagurazaka without stopping by Le Bretagne to try their delicious galette, a traditional Bretagne crepe made from buckwheat flour.
They have many restaurants in Tokyo but this was the first one to open. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, which I think will be great once it gets warm. From the cobblestone path that leads to the restaurant, the lovely interior and friendly staff welcoming you in French…it takes you away from Japan, if only during your meal.
I had a great time catching up with F over dinner! It was delicious and we definitely left Kagurazaka full and happy 😀

Have you been to Kagurazaka? Do you have any recommendations?

KAMOME BOOKS (かもめブックス)
Daiichi Yarai Bldg, 123 Yarai-cho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区矢来町123 第一矢来ビル1階
TEL: 03 5228 5490
HOURS: Mon-Sat 10:00am-10:00pm, Sun 11:00am-8:00pm

AKAGI SHRINE (赤城神社)
1-10 Akagi-motomachi, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区赤城元町1-10
TEL: 03 3260 5071

MUGIMARU2
5-20 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂5-20
TEL: 03 5228 6393
HOURS: 12:00pm-9:00pm (closed Wednesdays)

GELATORIA THEOBROMA
Borgo Oojime, 6-8 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂6-8 Borgo Oojime
TEL: 03 5206 5195
HOURS: 10:30am-7:30pm

NAKAMACHI PARK (中町公園)
5 Naka-cho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区中町5

LE BRETAGNE
4-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂4-2
TEL: 03 3235 3001
HOURS: Tue-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm (closed Mondays)

The Super Everyday Ordinary Exhibit by Grace Lee

I was lucky enough to stop by the happiest little gallery in all the land!
After our afternoon sakura hunt through Yoyogi, my friend F and I headed over to L’illustre Galerie LE MONDE, a small gallery in Harajuku that specializes in illustrations. F just happened to be friends with Grace Lee, who’s exhibit Super Everyday Ordinary was ending that day. And I am so happy we made it there in time to see everything!
Grace was the most charming person ever and she showed us around the gallery. This gallery was actually a photo-friendly place, so I started snapping away! Her drawings are so quirky but also wonderfully relatable, just like her. And I mean that in the best way possible, she is a gem!
F and I almost fell over from delight when we spotted an illustration of a striped tshirt, just like the one we were wearing! So of course we had to take a photo with it! ;D 
By the time we were done browsing through everything and chatting with Grace, it was time for the gallery to close. And because we were there and didn’t have any plans, F and I stayed behind to help Grace and the gallery owner Yoshi (who is an illustrator himself) clear the gallery.
As I’m not an artist, I wouldn’t know how it feels to take down your art at an gallery…but I can imagine it would be bittersweet. Everything was so perfectly placed that it was hard even for me to take down the artwork. How I wanted it to stay just as it was!
After everything was done, we all went out to eat delicious Thai food down the street to celebrate a successful exhibit. The great thing about having a Thai friend is that they know where the good Thai restaurants around town are! F even spoke to the staff to ask for “regular” spiciness. Yum yum!
Both Grace and F are artists and it’s always really interesting, not to mention inspiring, to learn how they bring to life their creativeness. Kudos to these girls for going doing what they love! xx
Here are some photos:

(photo by Grace Lee)
(Left photo by Fai)
201 Dormi Harajuku, 6-35-5 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区神宮前6-32-5 ドルミ原宿201
TEL: 03 6433 5699
HOURS: 12:00pm-8:00pm (Closed Mondays)
2nd Floor, 6-1-5 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区神宮前6-1-5 2F
TEL: 03 3400 2918
HOURS: 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:30pm-11:00pm

The Hanami Under the Camellia Tree

No cherry blossom season in Japan is complete without hanami.
Hanami is pretty much a picnic under the cherry blossoms. So you would think that it’s as easy as a picnic blanket in one hand and a six-pack of beer in the other. Well, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
For one, it’s hard to pinpoint when the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom, even with the announcement of the cherry blossom forecast as early as a month before. Especially if you only have weekends (like me).
For another, spring weather is extremely unstable and that means it rains quite often. So not only do you hope the blossoms are blooming but you also have to hang a teru-teru-bozu and pray it doesn’t rain on your hanami day.
And finally, this hanami season is also the end of the fiscal year for most companies and spring break for many students. Which can mean full schedules for everyone and is quite difficult to find a day when everyone is able to come. I actually have a coworker who sets a date for hanami with friends a year ahead.
Well, my baby sister was flying in to stay with me for a few days before heading back to school at the end of March so we decided on this day to get together. It was a gorgeous afternoon with the sun shining through the trees, perfect for hanami.
Except none of the cherry trees had blossoms!
Ha! Ah well, I knew the unusually warm weather was too good to be true. Although it didn’t stop us one bit from having a good time. We spotted a camellia tree in full bloom and decided that one blossom was good as the other! x
Did you have the perfect hanami day this season?
We got burgers from my favorite burger shop! Yum!
Did you try the easter kitkats? (It was way too sweet for me…but cute, right?)
My sister flew in this morning and brought homemade ohagi that my mom made for us.

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 Halloween Day in Disneyland

 

Tokyo Disneyland is famous for introducing Halloween to Japan.

Truthfully, Halloween isn’t even in my list of top ten favorite holidays. I’m not sure if it’s because everything is all spooky, or because I’m just not that into costumes, or simply because I don’t like the color orange.

But my high school friends from Kyoto were in town and they wanted to go to Disneyland so I was game, as were my sisters and another high school friend. It was extra fun because my friend has a six-year-old son and there is nothing like experiencing the Disney magic with a real child (you know, not just the inner child in all of us).

It’s been years since I’ve braved Disneyland from the morning (especially on a holiday weekend!), so my sisters and I joined my friends from 3pm with the starlight passport. We did things that we usually wouldn’t do, like watch the Halloween parade or ride some of the smaller rides, and it made the day that much more interesting!

We stayed until the very end and when the park closed, we headed back to the station. My friend’s son, who had been up since 7am, still had enough energy to shout out “Tanoshi-katta! (That was fun!)

Mission accomplished! 😀

Did you know that Disneyland now has new passport tickets?
How cute is this couple? 😀
No trip to Disney is complete without popcorn! This was the curry flavor…yum!
The Happy Halloween Harvest parade was full of pumpkins, of course!
I now know why people watch parades…it gives them time to sit and rest! Group picture!
H is holding on to our 3D glasses for us…does this make him see 6D?
Getting ready to see Mickey’s PhilharMagic show!
Cinderella’s castle lit up in the night.
The Haunted Mansion was a lot more haunted than usual for Halloween.
And laugh, we did!
If you’re into Halloween, you can enjoy the decorations at Disneyland until October 31st!

The Other Typhoon Day in Kobe

I sort of forgot about my blog posts from summer break.
But this typhoon passing through Japan yet again (the wind is howling outside at the moment) reminded me that I still had photos from my trip to Kobe this summer, which was also during a typhoon! A couple of typhoons ago, to be exact.
One thing I love about large railway stations is that they are connected to various buildings and have underground passages that make it easy to get around and enjoy your day without getting drenched. Especially when there is a typhoon passing through. No umbrella can stand against those crazy typhoon winds so I don’t even try.
In Tokyo we have places like Shinjuku station, Tokyo station, and Shibuya station. The city of Kobe has Sannomiya Station. My best friend from high school (who I went to Yakushima with in May!) was in Kobe with her family so we decided to meet up at Sannomiya station that day. 
I checked out of my hotel and made my way to the station earlier in the morning because I knew that the typhoon was going to hit around noon. I got to look out the window as the rain and winds got stronger while waiting for my friend, who also got to the station early just in case the trains stopped.
We found a nice cafe and spent the morning chatting away and catching up with each other. Once we start talking, it’s hard to stop us girls! We barely noticed the craziness outside and before we knew it, the rain had stopped. So we took advantage of it and ventured outside to see a little more of Kobe, before I had to head to the airport.
Kobe is such a beautiful city. I love it. And although I was only there for two full days, I got to see my dearest friends and had an amazing time! I am already looking forward to the next time, preferably without a typhoon though! 😀
Here are some photos:
We found a cafe in one of the retail facilities. The risotto lunch set was delicious!
The streets of Kobe after the typhoon.
The flowers survived, as did the lovely flower planter.
Every time we are in Kobe together, we end up just sitting on this couch and talking!
A Jizo for retail prosperity sitting in the corner of a shopping street. Look at that smile!
Too soon it was time to head to the airport. So convenient that we can use Pasmo in Kobe now.
Headed to Itami Airport in Osaka on the Hankyu Kobe Line. So retro, I love it!
Mint Kobe 8F, 7-1-1 Kumoi-dori Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
兵庫県神戸市中央区雲井通7-1-1 ミント神戸8F
TEL: 078 200 4730
OPEN: 11:00am-11:00pm