Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
My brother, Mack, likes to joke around and say that his sister is “just hanging out in Japan arranging flower pots”. He thinks it’s hilarious. The truth is that I’ve always been interested in floral arrangement, but never had the time to take any classes. So while we’re here, and while I’ve got some free time on my hands I decided to take an Ikebana class once a week. I’m just now finishing the first of four textbooks. It’s been really fun getting to know the Japanese craft. It’s also been a nice way to meet people, especially my teacher, Reika. We talk a lot and laugh at cultural differences and comparisons between Japanese people and Americans.
Just the other day the Japanese girls in my class had a good giggle at my excitement when I realized we were doing Christmas style Ikebana. “Really! Christmas Ikebana? And I get to choose my ornaments? Wow.” It was a fun arrangement, Christmas decorating in the Japanese style.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
In the same way that western style weddings have become popular here in Japan, Christmas is catching on. Apparently they've cleared it with Buddha and the Shinto gods. They're all cool with it. According to the Japanese people I’ve talked to, during the past couple of years Christmas has become a big deal. And while the actual day of Christmas isn’t celebrated as a typical western family Christmas would be, the holiday marketing, shopping and decorations have taken over the city. Because Thanksgiving doesn’t exist here, there was no reason to hold off. The Christmas mania has been going on since early November. So while we still have a good chunk of time between now and Christmas, I’m (embarrassed) already knee deep in Christmas cheer. Our upstairs lounge is a mess of a crafty Santa’s helper wonderland; and tired of holding off until our trip to The States (land of oven equipped homes), over the weekend I went ahead and baked a batch of these Christmas cookies in our toaster oven.
Friday, November 23, 2007
After spending a couple of hours chatting on the phone with family back in The States, we headed down to Omotesando to enjoy a proper Thanksgiving dinner at Fujimamas. There we met up with friends, a hodgepodge including a Brit, a German, two Frenchies, two long-term residents of Tokyo and two New Yorkers. The food was yuhummy – turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy goodness. But of course nothing beats an all-you-can-eat home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner we all made fools of ourselves at a karaoke joint in Shibuya. Inhibitions were lost to the romance of Disney ballads, and white guys pumped fists and rapped to sexed up Too Short lyrics. I’m learning that spending a couple hours with people in a private karaoke room is a quick way to become better acquainted. Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 19, 2007
We just saw The Shins play a show here in Tokyo. They sounded great. The venue was very small. The price of the tickets was not! I love going to shows here because I can actually see the musicians. I’m not the shortest person in the audience. We could even watch their fingers and tell which chords they were playing (some of the time). Good stuff. I gave Portland, Oregon a shout out. To which James Mercer replied, “Portland, Oregon? You’re a long way from home.” Don’t I know it.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I’m an auntie! My sister gave birth to Riley Jane Jordan on November 8. The baby girl weighs 7 pounds 3 ounces. I’ve never seen a newborn with so much hair (covered by hat in photo). I wish I could have been at the birth. Times like this make it hard to be away from home, but we’re really looking forward to our holiday visit in December. I melted when I heard her cooing over the phone. It really was the sweetest sounding thing I’ve ever heard. What an incredible feeling, having a new family member! I’m finishing up the knitting on this baby blanket, and then it’s off to The States to welcome the little one into the world.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Kapital is a Japanese clothing company. They make really nice stuff in an old school 1950s meets the hippie movement fashion. They use a lot of denim, and everything in the store is unisex. There’s a Kapital store in Roppongi Hills, really close to our apartment. Once in a while I like to go in there to take a look at the merchandise and ponder whether or not I could pull off wearing their pricy, super stylish, hippie-sheik, bohemian clothing. Usually I take a quick look around, peek at an overpriced sales tag, and get out of there. But the other night, just before we went to dinner, we stopped by Kapital. I found this jacket at a good price. I think it’s really cute, and I really like the handmade look and design of their label.
We found this park. It’s called Shinjuku-gyoen and it’s so nice (and big). It’s very Japanese in the way the plants and grounds are groomed, but it also includes a French and an English garden. We went there last weekend for a little picnic and frisbee toss. It’s very pretty and clean. It reminds us of Central Park in NYC. I always enjoy the romantic look of cool, tall buildings towering beyond a big, urban park. It costs 200 Yen to get in, but avoiding the chaos of Yoyogi Park (at least the part near Shibuya) is well worth the money.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
One of my favorite things about my new job is that many of the other teachers are like me – women who have moved to Tokyo to be with their boyfriends/husbands. It’s not easy to meet English-speaking women in Japan, and it’s even harder to meet women you would be friends with without the Japan connection. This is a sad state for a girl like me. Back in the US, time with friends was a big part of my life. I can’t remember how many dinner parties we held at Big Brown (our house in Portland), but I know it was a lot. I miss spontaneous coffee and breakfast dates, afternoons at the spa or nail salon, Mt Tabor picnics, and just plain old chilling out and talking with friends. And while it’s nice to focus on other things right now, and while it’s great to have this time with Driscoll, I’ve definitely been feeling a social lack.
I met my friend Joanna at the school. She’s a British gal, but lived in NYC for six years prior to moving to Tokyo. Somehow, since she and her husband have been in Japan Joanna has managed to rack up quite a long list of girlfriends. I’m not sure how she’s done it. But she has enough of them that she was able to hold an almost crowded dinner party at her apartment (maybe that’s not saying much considering the size of Tokyo apartments). Of course I was pretty excited about this night with the girls.
The get-together felt a lot like being at a dinner party back in The States. One difference was that her apartment is a high rise with a great view (I wish we had prioritized a view when apartment hunting. Why was I so paranoid about the earthquake?). Instead of large dishes of food, the food was miniature – mini quiches cooked five at a time, mini savory scones, and small stovetop cooked or bought dishes (not much room for cooking or for storing large bowls/platters here). Another difference was that after spending almost an entire year in partial isolation with Driscoll, I felt sort of socially retarded, uncomfortable and shy without him by my side (tell me we're not turning into one of those couples). I was also questioning whether or not the comments I made were appropriate. Is it inappropriate to laugh about the seemingly perverted Japanese men with their primped out, fully clothed, prissy, miniature French poodles? But by the end of the night, I’d had a really nice time and met some very cool women. Now the trick is to stop telling myself - I already have friends, they’re just four to seven thousand miles away - and actually start calling some of the girls I’ve met here, hop on a train and go visit with them.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday Brunch is our new favorite breakfast/brunch joint. It’s in Shimokitazawa, a neighborhood just a short train ride from our apartment. Not only is the food delicious, they also sell clothes, shoes and accessories for after brunch shopping. Plus some of the brunch options come with one of their many fantastic desserts! The architecture incorporates high ceilings with skylights letting in cheery morning light. It’s a happy place. Leave it to a couple Portlanders to seek out a great brunch restaurant in a city filled with people primarily eating rice and miso for breakfast.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Driscoll and I were recently married in Portland, Oregon on the Sunday of September 2. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend planning a US wedding while you’re live in Tokyo. It adds stress and difficulty to an already trying task. But the good news is that living abroad can be inspiring, plugging the brain with new and exciting information. This helps shape and reform your style and taste, all of which becomes useful when you’re making choices for your big day. Looking back, I think a lot of the choices I made for the wedding were directly affected by the experience of living in Tokyo and ideas I picked up after moving here. Sure there are things we would have done differently had we planned the wedding in The States, but over all we were pleased. Besides, it’s not really the venue, food or decorations that make a wedding special (dresses and flowers maybe). It’s the people. And we’ve got some good ones. Like Michael J. Fox said about his own wedding, in an interview I watched at a babysitter’s house years and years ago, it’s just so wonderful to look out and see all the people you love in your life gathered in the same room. I’m not sure why I remember that comment he made, but he was right.
The photos are up on our flickr link/Tokyo & Other Photos
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
My birthday was yesterday. We didn’t really plan anything. I thought we were just going to be lazy. Driscoll came home from work a little early. He peeled me off the couch and away from the television to go have a casual dinner down the street. But when we got down the street we passed all the restaurants and kept walking. We walked all the way to Ebisu, where to my surprise, we met up with friends and hopped in line to see M.I.A. perform a concert at Liquidroom.
This concert was one of the best I’ve ever seen. M.I.A. is topnotch among the world’s most original, unique and entertaining artists. She puts on an incredible show – her dancing, her voice, the music and the visuals. She is huhuhot! The show was mesmerizing. I have some of her music, but seeing her live is a totally different and better experience. If she comes through your town, don’t miss her. Characteristically Japanese, Liquidroom is super nice and very clean. Another cool thing about shows in Tokyo is that they start at 7:00 pm and end around 9:30 or 10:00. I missed so many great shows when we lived in Portland because I didn’t want to be up until 2:00 am when I had to work the next morning.
After the show we all had dinner and dessert at an izakaya in Ebisu. Fun night. We’ve got to start going to more shows.
Friday, October 5, 2007
We’re back for what feels like round two in Tokyo. After the wedding I took a giant chill pill and haven’t really done anything communicative in a while. That includes writing this blog. But now that we’re back and settled, I intend to keep a somewhat steady posting flow. I also promise to upload our wedding photos to our flickr account just as soon as we receive them. So stay tuned.
Immigration Bureau of Japan finally pulled me aside and took me into that scary back room I’ve always feared. They explained that I was only allowed to enter the country on a tourist visa twice. Somehow I have made it through five times this year. After threatening to put me back on another US bound plane, they finally gave in, they gave me one last stamp. Here’s to getting my dependent visa before my 90 days is up!
After the airport incident, we made our way back to our apartment. We were happy to be back in Tokyo. It felt great to be home. And for the first time, coming back to Tokyo felt as familiar as taking a trip somewhere in The States. This lasted for a while until my spirits began to take a bit of an emotional dive. It happens here sometimes. Living abroad has its ups and downs. But I have no doubt that the tough times are well worth the experience. Luckily my lows here usually don’t last too long. There were a few key things, which pulled me out of this particular being-abroad-funk.
The weather changed. It’s autumn here now, and it’s beautiful. It’s skirt and jacket weather, and it feels great just being outside. I’m a firm believer that autumn brings out the inner fashionista in most people. Being in Tokyo is fun right now because as the seasons change, so do the styles. I’m really digging some of the cool-weather clothing I'm seeing around town. I started a part-time job teaching. The school is located right here in Azabu-juban (our neighborhood). It’s an international school with kids from all over the world – well mostly Europe, Japan and Australia. I made a great skirt out of some really nice vintage fabric I found in Nakameguro. A successful crafty project is always good for a mood boost. Last, I have a wonderful new husband. He knows how to help pull me out of the low bouts.
Once again I’m really happy to be here in Tokyo. Happy to be living in the moment.
Monday, July 16, 2007
One good thing about living in a big and international city is being able to regularly attend world-class art exhibits. All cities seem to have their own specialties and styles when it comes to art, exhibits and museums. And I’m slowly getting to know the way the scene works here in Tokyo. The approach is ultra modern incorporating a lot of new ideas and experiments. It’s not better or worse from what I’ve seen in NYC, London, or Paris, it’s just different. Many of the shows seem to focus on the experience at the museum, rather than a standard viewing of the artwork. A good example of this is Sky Aquarium, which we checked out last night. Wild, sculptural, water-spouting aquariums were displayed on the top floor of the second tallest skyscraper in Tokyo. The space is also a city viewing area, so windows line the entire floor. As we looked through the aquariums and past the brightly colored tropical fish, we could see the Tokyo skyline. There was a lot of colorful mood lighting, and these incredible jellyfish…
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I’m excited; after some fun hard work I’m having a four-page feature article, some photos, and a map (put together with the help of a graphic designer) published in next week’s Metropolis magazine (Japan’s #1 English publication). I met with the editor yesterday to go over the final details of the layout and it looks like we’re good to go. The whole thing is kind of fun for D and me because before we moved, we would sit in our kitchen in Portland and read up on Tokyo by checking out Metropolis magazine online: http://metropolis.co.jp/ (sorry, I still haven't figured out the active link thing). The article is about Yanesen, a large Tokyo neighborhood, which I now know like the back of my hand. Free tour available to all visitors of Casa de Reid.
Post meeting with editor: celebratory sparkly gold shoe purchase...
Thanks Dwayne, Marie-Adele, and Yuko for your help translating!
Sunday, July 8, 2007
After riding three trains and one bus, we made it to the beach outside of Tokyo. It was a fun adventure; we're always happy exploring new areas. We hiked for three hours up the rocky coast. I think we'll be back once the sun comes out again.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
I finally got it together and whipped out my camera in time to take a photo of this strange phenomenon. This sweet little boy was riding Tokyo Metro all alone. He’s not the youngest solo rider I’ve seen. I’m talking LITTLE kids ride the subway here alone, all the time. I’ve spotted teeny, tiny four or five year-old girls on the subway. They just cruise along by themselves, little feet dangling off the edge of their seat, playing with toys, making their way through the maze of train stations. It sort of blows my mind that their parents are brave enough to let these kids cruise around like this.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I haven’t owned a clothing article this inexpensive since we used to shop the Goodwill dollar bins in high school. Anyway, I just made this little soft cotton dress out of fabric that cost $1.00 per meter. The fabric is from an area of town here in Tokyo called Nippori Textile Town. It’s basically store after store chalk full of all kinds of super affordable fabric. It’s really a crafter's paradise. Sorry, Kspell, I wish I had discovered it before you came. Next time! Oh, and the stuffed dress lying down was an idea stolen from the boutiques around town.