The Reunion at D47 Shokudo

I love D47 Shokudo.

When my friend from university mentioned she was going to be in town with her husband (they were here on their honeymoon!), we decided to meet up in our old stomping ground, Shibuya. And for dinner, we settled on this restaurant.

It’s spacious and the menu is full of specialty dishes from all over Japan. D47 Shokudo focuses on utilizing local domestic products, which is always a plus.

It’s been ten years since we all graduated university and for M, who was an exchange student from San Diego, this was her first time coming back to Tokyo. It was interesting hearing about all the differences she noticed from back then. Like how the food portions are getting larger, or the massive amount of travelers.

We had a good laugh over old memories and had a great time getting to know her husband. It was a great way to end a really long week. Yay for mini reunions! 🙂

Here are some photos:

D47 SHOKUDO (d47 食堂)
Hikarie 8th floor, 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都渋谷区渋谷2-21-1 ヒカリエ8階
TEL: 03 6427 2303
HOURS: 11:30am-10:30pm

The Chi-no-wa at Konno Hachimangu Shrine

You don’t know how happy I was when I saw that Ru had written about Konno Hachimangu (金王八幡宮) in her recent post. It reminded me that I had a few photos of the same shrine from the end of the year so I thought I’d just let you go to her post to learn about this lovely shrine. You know I love reading about something a hundred times more than writing about it. (It has a surprising connection to mathematics, which I did not know!)

Because it was the end of the year, they had the Chi-no-wa (茅の輪) set up. It is a large ring, used as part of the purification ritual called Oh-harai (大祓い) to get rid of all the bad luck in the past year.

It was my first time seeing an actual chi-no-wa so I had to read the instructions. You start by walking through the ring, then go around the left and walk through again, then go around to the right and walk through for the final time. (You can see the instructions in the photo below.)

I think it had instant results because I picked an omikuji (おみくじ) and I got dai-kichi (大吉), the best one! Hurrah!

Here are some photos (and read about the shrine here):

The Afternoon Hanami Picnic at Yoyogi Park

What a perfect day for a picnic.

My baby sister N was staying with me for a week and my other sister Y also came down for the weekend, so we decided to have an early hanami picnic at Yoyogi Park after church last weekend. It was such a warm day and I cannot tell you how amazing it felt to sit under the sun and feel all that warmth. It was actually a bit early for the cherry blossoms but that didn’t even matter.

I brought my ridiculously bright and cheerful picnic rug and we ordered veggie burgers and rice krispies treats from my favorite little burger shop Arms. We also had oranges, thanks to my parents who live in the orange kingdom of Japan. Pretty much my favorite kind of picnic feast!

We bumped into an old friend and dragged him into our game of daifugo. Card games may be old school but it’s still a lot of fun. And you know what they say, playing cards can bring out one’s true inner-self. It’s so true. My sisters and I get quite competitive.

It was an afternoon full of laughs, although the card game did produce a few screams as well. We had a really great picnic and I’m hoping that this is just the beginning of many more to come!

Here are some photos:

The Bonenkai Season in Japan

Bonenkai season is upon us here in Japan.
I mentioned before that Bonenkai (忘年会) is the year-end gathering of co-workers and/or friends. If you look in a Japanese dictionary the word Bonenkai means a gathering at the end of the year to forget the troubles of the year. That’s kind of dramatic but I think it’s a way of patting ourselves on the back and saying Otsukaresama for getting through another year. And we do this by eating, drinking, and being merry together.
The tradition of Bonenkai dates back to as early as Kamakura (1185-1333) or Muromachi period (1336-1573), although back then it was more of a quiet gathering of poem readings. It’s during the Edo period (1603-1868) that Bonenkai became popular among the common folk as a time to drink and party together.   
Do you know the story of Chushingura (忠臣蔵)? (Ru tells the story beautifully here!) It’s one of my favorite kabuki plays and it a famous story of revenge based on a real story here in Japan.
You might wonder what that has to do with Bonenkai. Well, you know how the 47 ronin invaded the Kira fortress on December 14, 1702. It’s said that the reason they were able to invade and finish the job so swiftly is because everyone was still hungover from the Kira household Bonenkai the night before! Quite the story, right?
I never realized the history of Bonenkai in Japan was so long and even interesting. The tradition has been evolving over the years from large-scale company Bonenkais in the 70s to the private and lavish Bonenkais during the late 80s bubble economy years. Then the small-scale affair with close friends and coworkers after the economic bubble burst, which is kind of how it is now (although not as gloomy as the 90s, I’m sure). Good thing for me because I don’t think I could survive a company Bonenkai in the 70s (when sexual harassment was still not in our vocabulary). I like our small-scale ones with close friends and coworkers 😀
And in keeping with the season, I thought I’d introduce you to a really great traditional Japanese izakaya in Yoyogi. You have to make reservations because they are pretty popular but they have delicious food and even better umeshu! Yum yum!
Have a wonderful Bonenkai season everyone! x

1-34-5 Yoyogi
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Everyday: 6:00pm-11:00pm

The Afternoon Walk on Saturday

Some days are too gorgeous not to be outside!
Saturday was one of those days. It was glorious outside and I started my walk from Harajuku and before I knew it, I was in Shinjuku. Of course I stopped here and there to take pictures along the way.
My old boss used to tell me that a true real estate businessman goes out and walks around the streets to get to know the area. He said that no amount of research can exceed the power of seeing through your eyes and interacting with local people. And although I did lift an eyebrow at the use of the word “businessman (Hello? I am a woman.),” I have to agree. Every time I walk down a new street I learn something new about that area.
Like this weekend, I never realized how close Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was to Shinjuku Gyoen, my favorite park. I’ve started working out lately (kind of) so it was really interesting seeing the facilities there. They have a pool and gym that are open to the public when the gymnasium is not used for events…they even had a basketball hoop with a half court. Made me wish I could actually play basketball.
I also couldn’t resist stepping into Shinjuku Gyoen for a bit. I was just enjoying all the green sprouting everywhere in the park when I remembered Rurousha’s azalea post. So off I went looking for azaleas! (You can see what I found below in the pictures!) After the azaleas, it felt so good under the sun that I ended up taking a little nap in the field. Actually, it may have been a deep sleep. Not too sure but it felt great. And it was all worth having pieces of grass and bits of dirt all over my dress and hair. Ha.
Here are the pictures:

Azaleas decorating every other street.

Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium looks UFO-ish, don’t you think?

Shinjuku Gyoen was multiple shades of green…so gorgeous.

The azalea garden was a bright burst of color in this corner of Shinjuku Gyoen.

Quite the change from this view but I love this, too.

I am addicted to these homemade granola bars…this one is cranberry, raisin, and chocolate.

Never one to miss a chance to walk barefooted.
If this great weather keeps up, afternoon naps in the park may become a weekly thing!

The Dinner at La Cocorico

Three of my very first coworkers when I came to this company
always return my Valentine’s Day presents with a White Day dinner.
I love going out to dinner with these guys.
We’ve all moved to different departments and don’t interact on a daily basis
but once a year we get together to catch up at this dinner!

This was my first time here but everything was delicious!
They’re special was the rotisserie chicken.
It was so good that the guys literally fought over it.
You can tell from the pictures that
one of them is not good at this game. haha!
Anyways, I had a great night out with the guys.
Already looking forward to next year!

GEMS Shibuya 5th Floor
3-27-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

The Hanami in Yoyogi Park

Yes, you heard right.
We braved the hanami crowds
and headed to Yoyogi Park this weekend!
It was a very impromptu hanami
as sakura season came quite early this year.
But I’m glad we got to do it!
Drinks, sandwiches, and snacks…perfect for hanami 😀

Cherry blossoms scattered above our heads
It was a pretty chilly day
and it wasn’t the perfect blue sky.
But we had a grand ole time under the pretty cherry blossoms!
And you know what?
It wasn’t as crowded as I thought!
We were there from around 11am to 3pm but
there was plenty of space around us.
I guess all those rumors that Yoyogi Park
is jam packed during hanami season is a myth?
Maybe I’ll make hanami with friends an annual thing 😀

The Oz the Great and Powerful

Went to see Oz the Great and Powerful this weekend!
To be honest, this movie wasn’t the best.
But then again, prequels and sequels can be hard to do.
Also, I kind of got motion sickness in some parts.
But I thought the monkey and china doll were really cute.
They both had me laughing out loud!
And hey, James Franco is a hottie.
(except when he smiles…I like him brooding)
So it’s worth watching if you’re into movies like that 😀

If you’re in Japan and have a Docomo cellphone
you can buy tickets online for 800 yen!!!

Well, actually you also need 300 yen for 3D viewing
and another 100 yen is you don’t already have 3D glasses.

But still that’s much cheaper than the regular 1,800 yen!