Thursday, April 17, 2014

Running + Easter

This morning I started the day with a loop around the Imperial Palace, which is exactly 5k. There are many metro stations all around the course, but I started and finished at Sakuradamon. It was such a crisp and gorgeous morning, the ideal weather, with a few cherry blossoms remaining in trees (but mostly on the ground). I wish I could start each day with that run, and maybe I should… doubtful it can happen.

I also have a bit of an Easter break, a holiday I had forgotten about since coming to Japan. It's definitely not celebrated here, and until last year or so, Easter-themed chocolates were impossible to find anywhere. Bunnies and pastel-hued chocolate eggs have somehow appeared here and there, and even though the vast majority of the population in Japan has no idea what Easter celebrates (just like in the case of Christmas), they like any excuse to celebrate a holiday- especially one with cute animals (eye roll).

I usually go for a Lindt bunny, and this year I was lucky to receive one. All I'm missing is a Cadbury Egg, an Easter brunch and being at home with my family. Somehow, Easter in Canada usually meant the (slow) start of spring. Maybe many Canadians don't know what Easter celebrates either, they just like the chocolate.

I am one of the lucky few to have an actual break for Easter in Japan, never heard of anything like it so I'll fully enjoy my special day. In other news, I've been hanging out at Roppongi Hills so many times lately in daytime (for work, for errands, for meetings) that I'm afraid people start mistaking me for a bored housewife.


From LA to Tokyo
Avocado Spinach smoothie

'Maman' spider by Louise Bourgeois 
Glorious Imperial Palace course

Tokyo Tower from 'pongi

Lapin de Pâques

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lately

Now that I'm done hibernating, I've been up to so much lately. This sweater weather is synonymous with more time spent with friends, exercising, festivals, long walks at lunch time, iced coffee, new (and old) playlists, outdoor adventures, and re-watching old favourites. For some reason, I always watch Chungking Express in spring, and it makes me want to go back to Hong Kong for a trip.

Today I tried a yoga class, my first time in about five years, and first time in Japanese. I was a little lost in translation so I wouldn't recommend it unless you're quite familiar with yoga or really good at Japanese, and I'm sadly neither. Still it was a lot of fun, the teacher was amazing and it was a nice change of my usual gym/running workouts. I'm still not sure I love yoga- as in, I'm not convinced I could do it on a regular basis. I don't feel the same high I feel when I'm running- maybe it's something that takes time to achieve.

Here's a few photos from the past week- I went to Yokohama Chinatown, such a great place, and such a shame I don't make it there more often. Yokohama itself is quite nice, modern with open spaces and a gorgeous harbour. It's less than an hour from Tokyo, but I always forget about it. Yokohama!

This may be the best iced coffee I've ever had

Listening to this old (yet never gets old) playlist

Those songs {love}
Late Friday night selfie

Getting my makeup done by a pro while killing time during a shoot
{perks}

Yokohama Chinatown Glory



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pardon My French

French is my mother tongue.

I grew up in Montreal, in a French-speaking family, and went to kindergarten, primary and secondary school in French. My whole life was solely in French until the age of 17, when I studied abroad for one year in the USA.

I quickly learned English at my American high school, as it was a complete immersion. I was also very curious about learning English, and spent hours reading magazines like Seventeen and YM with a dictionary, trying to translate everything. I also spent countless hours watching English TV series such as Friends and Full House, and I feel like I learned most of my basic English expressions from Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. I was lucky to pursue my studies at McGill University in Montreal upon my return, where I studied English literature while living a life in French outside of school.

Since I've been living in Japan, I haven't used French so much. Even though I have a few French friends, still watch French movies and read French books, it's not nearly enough. I don't get to casually converse on a daily basis, and every time I use French I feel rusty for the first few minutes. I feel really sad lately about this, not only do I miss speaking French, but my brain feels confused, especially with learning Japanese. I should focus all my energy on learning Japanese, but at the same time I feel guilty I barely use French. I know I'll never forget it, as it's my mother tongue, but I don't want to become illiterate either.

Have you experienced something similar while living in a different culture? Any tips?

In other news, today I tried this cafe called Le Coutume, which is apparently famous in the chic Left Bank of Paris. It just opened a few days ago in Minami-Aoyama, and I know there will be long queues a few weeks from now once some food TV show covers it, so I went in to try the coffee. It's good, very creamy, and there is a nice space to sit. They open early at 7:30am, so I might go there occasionally for a treat.

Miam.

Monday, April 7, 2014

End of Hanami

The end of cherry blossom season is always a bit sad, and one could compare it to a lingering hangover (which literally can be, for many people). Within the next few days, the pink trees will all turn green, and the ground will be covered in pink- hanafubuki (the falling of sakura flowers) is actually my favourite part. It's more subtle, melancholic, and nothing compares to walking on a carpet of pink petals.

My 6k run left my body sore for the whole weekend, but each painful movement is a reminder of how good that was, and I'm looking forward to the next run. Running really does give a natural high. I didn't think I could last this long (I know it's not even that long!), but lately I run on the treadmill at the gym and it's easy to just get bored. Last Saturday's scenic route kept me distracted, and so did the banter of my running buddies.

In other news, today I indulged in a Krispy Kreme doughnut, which probably canceled all the calories I burnt while running. Oh well, it was worth it. I never was a fan of doughnuts before Japan, but here it's all about Mr. Donut and queues at Krispy Kreme. Apparently Canada has the highest number of doughnut shops per capita, more so than Japan, but for some reason I rarely ate them back home. It was the perfect way to end a Monday!

Monday Night

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wrapping Rant

One would think Japan is an eco-friendly place, judging by all the rules about sorting out plastics, bottles, cans, burnables and cardboard, which takes up most of my time on weeknights. Japan loves packaging: convenience stores use plastic bags for every single purchase, even for one mere rice ball, and department stores are even worse, with about three bags for a small item. I rarely see anyone in Japan putting their groceries in a re-usable bag, it seems like most of the population goes for the plastic. Sweets, crackers and many other food items are ridiculously individually wrapped inside one box, and Japan is probably the only place on earth where you can find individually wrapped bananas, carrots, peppers and onions. Unless you insist on no plastic bag at the register, the clerks will wrap everything up.

While I appreciate attention to detail and pretty packaging, this issue really angers me. Today I bought camembert cheese, which came in a box, and the clerk wrapped that box inside its own little plastic bag (I was too late to notice). I barely shop at department stores anymore for makeup, as it takes SO LONG for them to package a single lipstick or nail polish into several small bags. And don't get me started on feminine hygiene products; the drugstore carefully wraps them in a brown paper bag, THEN in a black opaque plastic bag, constantly reminding us that being a woman is shameful. God forbid how un-ladylike it would be to buy such products.

So yes, Japan, please tone down on the packaging, I'm sure my cheese will be just fine next to the box of crackers for my 5-min walk home.

In other news, today has been gorgeous, I ran 6k early in the morning along Meguro river, it was a true hanami run. I need to do this more often!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Here Comes April

Between an early hanami and the end of it, I feel like there was no in-between as the rain and wind took the delicate petals away. No panic, there are still some flowers in bloom, but their short lifespan was even shortened this year. I'm happy I was able to do hanami last weekend, and I plan on a second round this weekend too. I wish the cherry blossoms would last for a whole season, it's such a beautiful, romantic time.

This week was a bit of a downer, it rained so much and the strange weather made me so lethargic. I skipped the gym due to so many evening commitments and being generally tired. No exercise usually puts me in a bad mood, so I've been feeling a bit low, missing home and wishing I could get out just for a bit and speak French or something.

Anyways! April is here, it's a month big in changes in Japan: start of the new business cycle, start of the school year for students, and it's also the time of the year when hordes of apprentice salarymen roam the streets of Tokyo in their boxy suits and have one drink too many and pass out outside the station. It's a pretty interesting month, but can be really tough mentally on lots of people.

Nothing new for me this April; 2014 has been so peaceful, stable and quiet, a nice change from last year's adventures changing jobs and apartments and praying for a visa. I actually love how still everything is, it's the first time in a very, very long time. Maybe the first time ever in Japan, actually.


Early hanami

Rainy week + fluffy hair

End of hanami, 花吹雪

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Early Tokyo Hanami

This weekend marked the start of the fleeting hanami season, which literally means 'flower viewing'. For the fifth spring (fifth! gah!!) in a row, I engaged in this traditional activity, complete with a leisure sheet, sweets, snack and various alcoholic beverages. It was one perhaps the best hanami I've had in Japan, for various reasons: the weather was mild and sunny, the park was peaceful, gorgeous and quiet (location undisclosed!), and I was surrounded with some people I truly cherish, such a longtime friends and even Rachel, a visiting friend from Canada.

The sakura were sparse and small, but they were there, and we found a nice spot under a cherry tree. Everyone brought hanami essentials, including traditional Japanese sweets, fried chicken, sparkling wine, craft beers, red wine, Tim Tams, and plastic plates and cutlery, all spread out on the leisure sheet. We shared drinks and had a photo shoot right before dusk, and we continued the party downtown Tokyo with some nighttime hanami at Roppongi Hills.

We had a long drive with loud music and chu hai's, belted out Kate Bush, Soul Decision (hey, it's Canadian) and The Knife, and went to Tokyo Tower to show Rachel; a must-see for any Tokyo guest, along with the seedy side of Roppongi, from the safety of a car. Hanami season is not over yet, but the flowers are so ephemeral and there's only a small chance to catch them in full bloom and in good weather. Times like these make me feel so lucky to live here.

This is hanami.

Essentials

Rachel's first hanami!
                                               
We're seasoned hanami'ers

Sakura be poppin'

Under the cherry tree

Nighttime hanami is exquisite

Darker shade of pink

Group shot, taken from an admirer

Taking a photo of the photographer