The Afternoon of Social Distancing

Well, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Here in Tokyo, we’ve been working from home for 2 months now.

At first it was great, mostly because our tech was not up to par and the VPN access was unreliable. So while waiting for that connection, I made coffee in the morning, cooked meals, did the laundry, watered my plants, went on walks. I’d never been home for such long hours and it was really nice getting to do things during the day.

But then, work became really busy. It’s one thing to be busy during normal times, it was completely another when we were still trying to adjust working from home. With the added stress of having to pull together a new team starting this April, the pressure was real and it felt quite isolating at times.

Now a few months in, we have a better communication framework in place and our team has adjusted, though I’m learning it’s all part of a process.

Some days are good, some days aren’t.

Slowly learning to work through it, and hoping it doesn’t leave me with a bald spot on my head like last year. Not the greatest look for me, really.

There’s a temple I stop by sometimes on my way to or from the grocery store, which is pretty much the only place I go nowadays.

I’ve always liked this spot but now it’s my go-to place to relax. They have a bench on the premises and usually no one is there, which makes it the perfect place to take in the sunshine, the quiet…just to breathe.

My favorite social distancing spot.





The Picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen

Sunday was the perfect day for an afternoon picnic, especially when it meant catching up with my favorite creative girl from New York while she was in town.

The great thing about Shinjuku Gyoen is that it’s never too crowded (well, maybe except for hanami season) and it really is a green oasis in the middle of the city. The warm fall sun and cool breeze felt amazing as we spent the afternoon chatting away.

I wish I had more days like this. It’s so relaxing and nothing beats being with friends.

But all too soon, the melody signifying the park closing began to play…so we packed up and stepped back outside into the city.

Just a side note, did you know that the song that notifies people of facilities closing here sounds like Auld Lang Syne, but it’s actually the Farewell Waltz from the old movie Waterloo Bridge? I mean, that song is also based on Auld Lang Syne so technically it’s the same thing. But who knew that this tragic movie was so popular in Japan that the soundtrack was used as a way to let people know that something is ending?

The things you learn when you’re fact checking your blog post.

Anyways, I didn’t really take all that many photos (too busy talking as always) but here are a few smiles from our picnic 🙂

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The Picnic and Chrysanthemums at Shinjuku Gyoen

Slow weekends are the best.

My best friend and I walked to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden again one weekend. We found a good spot to settle and had a brunch picnic. What is it about eating outside that makes everything taste so good?

We also stopped by the chrysanthemum festival. I’d never seen so many different types of chrysanthemum and was very impressed with the dome shaped chrysanthemum art. Did you know that it is all just one chrysanthemum plant? There are over 550 flowers and each one is placed in a specific position over the course of a year as they grow. Pretty amazing.

The sun was shining from between the clouds and it was a really great morning. Then suddenly the clouds started getting heavier and we had just enough time to see the chrysanthemum festival before the sky opened and it began to rain.

We headed home, patting ourselves on the back for our perfect timing.

Here are some photos:

The Yaezakura and Rooftops

And here I am again, back with more blossoms!
But don’t worry, these aren’t just any old sakura…they are yaezakura, the blossoms with many petals. You might remember some photos from last year from later in the season. 
This year, I happened to pass by this red entrance and see the burst of pink yaezakura blooms…and I ended up walking into the most beautiful yaezakura paradise ever!
I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of yaezakura, but this temple had several varieties of them, ranging from white-ish to pink/green-ish blossoms. (I know, such technical terms!)
They were absolutely gorgeous. As much as I love regular cherry blossoms, I may be leaning more towards these full blossoms now. What about you? x
Here are some photos: 

The Burst of Blooms at Kumano Shrine

Suddenly Tokyo is bursting with blooms!
I know everyone’s blog, twitter, and instagram in Tokyo is suddenly filled with cherry blossoms. I am, of course, one of them
There’s something special about these blossoms that keep you guessing (when will they bloom?) and suddenly vanish before our eyes (this rainy day? this gust of wind?). You just never know how long they’re here to stay.
So what do you do when that perfect sunny day when the blossoms are in full bloom comes in the middle of a weekday? You make the most of your lunch break and visit the nearest cherry tree, of course!
My coworker mentioned that Kumano Shrine (熊野神社), located in a corner of Shinjuku Chuo Park (新宿中央公園), had a variety of cherry trees so during my lunch break I skipped on over there to see if there were any blossoms.
And boy, am I glad I did! The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the sakura looked gorgeous against the main shrine and torii. I am still sighing over how lovely this place was.
Do you have cherry blossoms where you are? Where is your favorite hanami spot?

The Some No Komichi 2015 in Nakai

Local festivals are the best!

Which is why I was once again at Some No Komichi this year, celebrating the art of traditionally dyed fabric. (2013 post here.) This year I was scheduled to help out in the mornings so I invited my friend M to come out in the afternoon.

As this event showcases traditional kimono fabric, many people come wearing their own kimonos. Walking around Nakai during this event, you can almost imagine hat the old streets of Japan were like. I love it.

But for people who don’t have their own to wear, the vintage kimono and goods shop Gallery Sakura provided rentals for anyone who wanted to spend a day in a kimono. They also provided experts to help you wear the kimono (because it’s pretty hard putting it on your own). Isn’t that great?

M and I decided that we wanted in on this kimono day, so we made reservations. There were so many different patterns and colors of kimono that it took a while to choose!

I decided to go with a hakama, which I haven’t worn since my university graduation. It’s half kimono but with a skirt-like wrap around your waist. It basically means you can run while wearing it (which is almost impossible in a regular kimono). M chose a beautiful vintage kimono.

We had a great time walking along the River Gallery and doing a little shopping around the Street Gallery. And with so many people with cameras ready to take a photo of the event, we had no problem finding people to take photos of us. Most of them knew how to use my camera better than I ever could. Ha.

Despite the last day of rain, an estimate of over 12,000 people came to see Some No Komichi this year. It’s so exciting to watch this event grow each year and I’ve loved getting to know the local businesses and discovering new shops through this event. I’m already thinking about what kind of kimono I want to wear next year!

Have you been to Some No Komichi? Would you wear a kimono?

Looking forward to next year! x

The Hinamatsuri Display at Keio Plaza Hotel

What? Hinamatsuri is over?
Yes, well, you’re right. It was last week. But I’m posting this anyway because some parts of Japan celebrate Hinamatsuri according to the old calendar (which would really be April 21 this year, but as the day changes year to year, people usually just celebrate it a month later on April 3rd…I know, so confusing!).
Although Hinamatsuri is not an official you-don’t-have-to-go-to-work holiday, it’s still celebrated quite widely in Japan (and sometimes abroad), especially is you have girls in the family.
Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku brings out this beautiful display of Hina-dolls (雛人形) every year during this season. But what’s even more eye-catching (for me) is the thousands of hanging ornaments made from vintage kimono fabric surrounding the display. There are over 5,500 ornaments, each handmade with love and hope for a child’s happiness.
Did you celebrate Hinamatsuri? Or see Hina doll displays?
I think this daikon radish was my favorite ornament for some reason.
The emperor and empress.
This will be displayed until March 31st at Keio Plaza Hotel.

The View From Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Sometimes I forget how massive Tokyo is.
Which is normal, I guess, when you’re in the midst of it all. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can make you forget a lot of things.
Like getting to this exhibition on architect Kenzo Tange that I’ve been wanting to go to. I’ve had my eye on this exhibition even before it started and I’ve yet to go. I have about two more weeks so I’m definitely going to squeeze it in somewhere this month.
But today, until I can get to the exhibition, I decided to take a short walk to one of his most recognized works in Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s very popular among tourists because it has an observation deck on the 45th floor on each of its towers. And the great thing is, it’s absolutely free!
On a clear day, you’d be able to see Mt Fuji. But today it was a bit too cloudy. You have a better chance of seeing the majestic mountain in the winter. Right now with all the pollen, pollution and yellow sand flying around in the air, it makes it hard to see.
I personally just like looking over the city sometimes. 
It’s so huge. So many buildings as far as the eye can see. Kind of crazy. But sometimes I need this view. It’s good for me to get out of the office and look out into this vast land, jam-packed with buildings and people, to realize that it’s all about perspective.
Also, pictures of the city are always a plus! x

The Nomikai Season

The end of September is the end of the fiscal half year in Japan.
For me, this has always been another nomikai season due to various company shuffles that occur. I can’t speak for everyone, but my company always says good bye with at least one nomikai. There are times I end up going to several different nomikai’s for the same person, just with a different group of people.
Then at the start of October, the second half of the fiscal year begins.
Yup, you guessed it. We also say hello with a nomikai. But I’m guessing many companies do this because, well, this is Japan. And also, because a lot of the izakaya and bars around town are full during this season.
I had a couple of weeks filled with various gatherings of good byes and hellos. Nomikai is the time when people cross over certain barriers and protocol and interact with people they wouldn’t usually speak to at work. Or they find something to discuss besides the usual work related topics. Or they just pat each other on the back and continue get each other stinkin’ drunk.
I don’t know why but I watch everyone all red in the face and smiling…and it warms my heart. I know, drunk salary men and women are not a pretty sight. But when you’ve been through thick and thin with them and know what kind of worries and troubles they carry, it’s just a nice feeling to know that they have this time to throw their arms around one another and just be merry.
Or maybe the umeshu is getting to me and I’m just being sentimental. x

The Weekend I Opened My Windows

Did you think sakura season was completely over?
Well, due to our love of sakura, we have many many types of cherry trees in Japan. Yaezakura (八重桜) is a cherry tree with blossoms of more than five petals and they tend to bloom a couple of weeks later than the most common Somei-yoshino.
I went to my local supermarket and happened to pass by this carpet of pink. So, of course, I had to stop and take a few photos. I love how full the Yaezakura blossoms are. They look beautiful with the green leaves, don’t you think?
This weekend was amazing, even though I didn’t do anything. I did a little cooking and a little tidying up. But I mostly spent the weekend working on my quilt stitching project that I have to finish very soon. Very mellow weekend.
But what made it amazing is the weather outside! I usually don’t open my windows this time of year due to all the pollen in the air, I couldn’t help myself. Well, I also checked the Japanese cedar pollen forecast and it said the amount in Tokyo was low. So I swept open all my windows and enjoyed the cool spring breeze inside my apartment. It felt great!
I hope you all had a fabulous spring weekend, too! x

I love the carpet of pink underneath my feet!

These guys (gods?) were showered with pink petals as well!