Monday, 29 April 2013

Azaleas at Nezu

Now is the season for azaleas and, just like the blossom season, people come out in their masses to view the blousy flowers in all their glory. We chose to head north to the Nezu shrine where there is a whole garden full of the blooms. We did share it with hundreds of other Tokyo folk, but it was a beautiful sunny day and great to be out and about. We even managed to find some snacks that celebrate the season in the shape of salty azalea flowers....

Caroline and Nobu's wedding

On Saturday evening we were honoured to be invited to the wedding of Carloine and Nobu, who celebrated at the Cotton Club in Shimbashi. I know Caroline through Stitch and Bitch (as you do when in Tokyo!) and have had the privilege of knowing her for the past three years or so. She met Nobu at a jazz club (he is a jazz musician) and it was love at first sight! The wedding celebration was a lovely affair with amazing food, moving speeches and fab jazz music to dance to. A great way for Neil also celebrate his birthday!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Garden party

The other day I was very honoured to be invited to a garden party hosted by the parents of my friend Tatsuya. It was held in their house which is way out north of Tokyo in a quiet suburb. The garden was beautiful, with a combination of Western styles and Japanese styles which mixed amazingly well. It was a warm sunny day and when we arrived, we admired the garden and then headed inside for an amazing feast (sitting on tatami mats), washed down with champagne and red wine. Tatsuya's father used to be a French chef, so the food was delicious!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bob and Tom in Seoul

While we were in Seoul we noticed quite a lot of the 'Tom n Tom' coffee shops. I couldn't believe it when I saw one of them next to 'Bob's Lunch Box' in Dongdaemun!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A weekend in Seoul

A weekend in Seoul was not necessarily at the top of my list, considering the rumblings coming from North Korea, but Neil went there for work last week, so I decided to brave it and meet him there for the weekend. We ended up having a fab time, soaking up the sights, enjoying the sunny days and eating good food.

I arrived on thursday evening and while Neil was at work on friday, I headed to the National Art Gallery which is housed in a beautiful light and airy modern building. 

 There was a beautiful selection of Korean pottery which gave me a lot of inspiration. I loved its simplicity.

The fabric hoarder in me then decided to head to Dongdaemun, the wholesale fabric district where there was a mind blowing selection of fabrics in every form possible, spread out over several warhouse-like buildings, each on five floors!

I was totally frazzled by the end of it!

 Zaha Hadid designed the new Design Park and Plaza that is in the process of being built in the Dongdaemun area. I loved the way that its space-age shape loomed over the surrounding area. It's a shame it wasn't finished though, I would have loved to have seen inside.

On friday evening we went out in Gangnam (where our hotel was) to find some 'Gangnam Style'. The area is very lively with a main road leading through it and big shops on either side. But if you head down the backstreets, there are endless eateries and drinking spots to choose from. 

 We ended up at a place that served piping hot pork soup with an array of interesting side dishes, including the hot and spicy kimchi (cabbage marintaed in chilli) which I love.

Saturday morning was spent renting bikes from the park and heading along the river which has designated cycle paths. The weather was beautiful and lots of people were out enjoying it. There were lots of food vendors selling their wares.

I loved the way these foot-long sausages were kept warm.

On saturday afternoon, we got the cable car up to Namsan peak to see the view.

 It was very crowded at the top, where people were enjoying the view and the selection of tasty food on offer.

We then headed back down for a wander round Namdaemun market where there were all sorts of items to buy and food to sample.

This was some sort of fishy paste that was getting rolled up and put into sticks by one person, and then being fried up by another.

Saturday evening was spent at an Indian restaurant with Neil's work colleague and some of his friends. It was a really fun night and we ended up at a fab little speakeasy where we had to knock on the door and wait to be let in. The cocktails were very good!

 Slightly sore heads on sunday morning, meant a slow start to the day.

We had a late breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to Bukchon Hanok village, a lovely chilled out area full of traditional Korean houses.

It was the perfect thing to do on a sunny sunday, and there were lots of coffee shops and ateliers to dip into when we felt like it.

Traditional woven slippers worn in the house.

 This is a typical traditional courtyard. Each house is beautifully structured from wood and no nails are used in the construction. This allows for the expansion and contraction of the wood in hot and cold weather.

The blumpers sampling life in a Korean home....

Thursday, 11 April 2013


I recently went on a trip to Mashiko, a pottery village about two hours out of Tokyo. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it is a small village just full of pottery shops, lining both sides of the street. It was all a bit overwhelming at first, but I soon got into the swing of things and came home with some beautiful pieces that you can see here.

Many shops used very simple, tasteful displays.

 This shop was on several levels and sold clothing as well as pottery. 
It had a lovely little courtyard garden.

 The kilns used for firing the pots were built up the side of the hill.

I visited an indigo dye workshop where there were some beautiful fabric pieces. 
These bowls hold the indigo leaves used in the dyeing process.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A visit from the Aussie rellies

There is nothing like having guests in town to see Tokyo with new eyes and to rediscover the places that you have already been to. My lovely Aussie rellies (Paula and George) arrived from Aus on Tuesday and we had a fab few days gallavanting round Tokyo.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent trying to avoid the rain, and a perfect excuse to hit the shops of Shibuya. Much time was spent trawling the endless floors of Tokyo Hands and Loft, and gawping at the culinary wonders in Foodshow food hall. 

Thursday was a beautiful day and we decided to head to Sugamo where there is a market held on 4th, 14th and 24th of every month. I had never been to it before and it had a great atmosphere with food vendors, antique sellers and people generally enjoying a fun day out. Needless to say, I came home with some fabulous fabric purchases.

This vendor was cooking up some octopus balls....

These apples were most impressive in size!

Sugamo is famous for its red knicker shops which are supposed to bring good luck...

We spotted many pampered pooches.

On friday, we were lucky to experience the once yearly Hono Ozumo sumo match, a dedicatory match held at the Yasukuni shrine near Kudanshita station. We joined the masses and filed into the outdoor sumo arena to watch some matches in the sun. There was a lot of larking around, but it was great to experience the tradition of sumo.

These fine lads were waiting in the holding pen for their round in the arena.

Limbering up in the morning sun.

Many people like to get their photograph taken with the sumo wrestlers.

After the sumo match, we had a much-needed hearty lunch at one of my favourite don buri restaurants in Foodshow food hall. 

On saturday morning, we headed to the Nezu museum in Omotesando. It is one of my favourite museums, mostly because it has a beautiful Japanese garden at the back - a little haven in the middle of the city. 

 We were very lucky to experience seeing many kimono-clad women heading to various tea ceremonies held in tea rooms around the gardens. Quite magical!

The kimonos tended to be in soft colours. I'm not sure if this is significant to having tea....

These lovely ladies very kindly let me take their photo.

On saturday we made it to the Meiji Jingu shrine, a must-do if you are visiting Tokyo for the first time. The walk to the shrine is long, but it was well worth it as there were several Shinto weddings going on when we arrived. I am still impressed by these traditional ceremonies and love the pomp and ceremony involved in it all.

The wedding procession emerges from the side of the shrine.

The bride has a massive "hood" that covers an amazingly intricate (and probably heavy) headpiece.

We couldn't help laughing at the "priests" cartoon-like shoes.

 Part of the entourage. I love the red under-robes.

Everyone looked very sombre.

Our lovely guests have now departed these shores and headed on to the next leg of their trip - London! It's been fab having them to stay with us and showing them our Tokyo.