The Sakura Trees in Shinjuku Gyoen

A super short post to tell you that you should probably be in Shinjuku Gyoen today!
This is what it looks like from above. Look at all those different shades of pink, so pretty! The cherry blossoms from last year were amazing and I’m sure they are this year, too. I love that there’s never a season you can’t enjoy at Shinjuku Gyoen. x

The Sign of Spring in Tokyo

Despite the snowy weekends we’ve been having in Tokyo (here and here), blossoms have been popping up here and there.
And you know what that means!
It’s a sign. The very best sign of all. It means warmer days are just around the corner (which is all I need really) and mother earth is starting to snuggle out of her winter blanket so we can enjoy her magical spring transformation (obviously I’ve forgotten how bad my hay fever is during the winter…but I don’t care!). Can. Not. Wait.
Major blossoms in Japan are ume (梅 – plum) and sakura (桜 – cherry). I love the ume for its delicate and fragrant blossoms and the sakura for its lush gorgeous trees. 
I’ve been seeing ume blossoms around the city but my absolute favorite blossom of all time is this yellow blossom. It’s called Robai in Japanese and Winter Sweet in English. (The kanji for Robai uses the characters wax (蠟) + plum (梅), apparently got the name from the fact that the blossoms look like waxwork.) It has an strong sweet fragrance and I couldn’t make up my mind whether to snap a shot or just keep on sniffing.
Aren’t they gorgeous?

PS: If you want to see ume blossoms in Tokyo, here is a great guide to the best spots!

The Snow in Black and White

Well, it snowed AGAIN in Tokyo this weekend! (Miracles DO happen!)
So naturally, I took this to mean that I can post even more snow photos here! But just to keep things from getting stale, I decided to post black and white photos so it wouldn’t just be another snow post…it would be the black and white snow post! Ha.
I took most of these photos while walking through Shinjuku on my way to meet a friend in Shibuya. The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was an ocean of white. How amazing is that? It’s not a view we see too often in Tokyo. I also stopped by Shinjuku Gyoen and had a hard time resisting the urge to make snow angels. And you can see in one of the photos but the lake in the park had frozen over!
Don’t you love how quiet it gets right after a snow fall? x
Here are some photos:

The Day It Snowed In Tokyo

I know, I know. Everyone is tired of seeing snow photos from Tokyo.
But I can’t help it. I love love love snow. I dislike winter (with a passion), but snow makes the cold, the dry air, the shorter days all worth it. I was telling a friend yesterday that everyone needs snow in their lives. They really do.
I was born in Okinawa and it never snows there. My grandma, who still lives in Okinawa, actually called me this weekend to make sure I hadn’t fallen on ice and cracked my head open or gotten buried under all the snow. I love her. She mentioned this winter was a cold one for Japan and that temperatures even fell to 18C in Okinawa yesterday…I had to tell her that sounded like paradise 😀
Anyways, I don’t remember the very first time I saw snow but my parents tell me that my sister and I were outside playing in the snow EVERY SINGLE DAY. Pretty sure it’s true because I have a lot of memories of us (and photos, of course) playing in the snow (like here and here). Snow was magical to us. And in Tokyo, where it snows only once a year, if at all, it still hasn’t lost its magic for me!
Here are some snow photos:

The Beauty of Shinjuku Gyoen

The end of the year is always a busy time for me (and everyone else, it seems).
But last Thursday, I woke up tired after another night of nomikai (which was really fun!) and needed some time to myself. So I went to the one place I can always count on to calm me and at the same time fill me with energy…Shinjuku Gyoen.
I was pretty sure all the leaves would have fallen by now and I would just be seeing branches against the blue sky. That would have been enough for me.
Well, I was wrong.
Even though the ginkgo trees had started to loose their yellow leaves by the dozen, the Japanese maple trees had just started to change color everywhere. Spots of orange, red, and purple could be seen throughout the park paths, lit up by the rays of sunlight. And it was beautiful.

This is the one place. The one place I know where I can always come to relax. To hear myself think without the chaos. And always leave feeling refreshed, even if it’s during a short lunch break.
 Hope you have a moment to of quiet or calm during this busy season, too! x

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
東京都渋谷区代々木1-34-5
03-3374-4024
Everyday: 6:00pm-11:00pm

The Friendsgiving Nomikai

There are a lot of things I am thankful for.
But tonight I’m thankful for friends. The friends who have different backgrounds. The friends who are moving in different directions. The friends that, despite all your differences, are there for you through thick and thin.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving day in Japan because, well, obviously we didn’t have pilgrims or native Americans who shared their dinner together here. But I grew up loving this holiday and the fourth Thursday of November always reminds me that I have a lot to be thankful for.
So tonight I’m thankful for my friends who all used to be coworkers. We all work in completely different places now but still get together often to support and encourage one another. And it’s just what I needed tonight. Love you girls. x

The Picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen

Ever since I got my hands on this fabulous picnic blanket, I’ve been a picnic addict!
So last Saturday, my bff and I had a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The great thing is that she just moved into my neighborhood (whoop whoop!) so we just met up at the corner of the street and walked to the park together. I love that we can do that now!
We stopped by Freshness Burger to grab lunch for our picnic. Have you tried their vegetable burgers? They are so good. They have a bean burger and a mushroom burger and I am SO happy they are back on the menu. I think they are popular among non-vegetarians, too. This time I went with the mushroom burger set. 
We spent the whole afternoon just laying around and relaxing. There were a lot of families with children also doing the same thing and we ended up chatting with a few of the little people. So cute. All in all it was a great afternoon, especially since the typhoon came and it was all rain the following two days.
Do you have a favorite picnic spot? x

The Pool Day After Work

In one of my efforts to deny the fact that summer is coming to an end, my bff and I went to hang out at a pool the other day after work.
Did you know Keio Plaza hotel has a pool? It’s right down the street from where I work so it’s the perfect spot to cool down during the summer. It’s kind of surreal seeing the skyscrapers rise high above us. It’s also a great place to practice the breaststroke. I’d forgotten how much harder it is to stay afloat in the pool when compared to the ocean. I think we were the only ones swimming laps but it was fun.
Week day pool nights are the best!