Tsuyu, the rainy season, is here. Unlike a lot of people, I really enjoy June. I love being able to wear my rain boots. I love the glossy neon lights reflected in puddles all over the streets. And of course, I love that it brings the hydrangeas and turns the whole city into a kaleidoscope of colours. Continue reading “7 Cool Museums to Visit on a Rainy Day in Tokyo”
The animal cafe craze in Japan doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, I think they’re getting more and more creative, each time making our eyebrows raise a little bit more.
I’m sure everyone has heard of cat cafes. Continue reading “Tokyo’s Adorable Animal Cafes”
There’s less than one week till Christmas! I hope everyone is ready… presents bought and wrapped, Christmas tree up, ugly Christmas sweater (that you secretly love) waiting to be worn! Isn’t it just the best time of the year? Continue reading “To Market, to Market”
My Top 6 Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo
No. 6 – Yebisu Garden Place
In the trendy district of Ebisu lies a shopping complex by the name of Yebisu Garden Place. Yebisu is a popular Japanese beer, and there used to be a brewery here about 25 years ago. The winter illuminations aren’t too extensive, but there’s no doubting the very Christmasy feel! This year they have a ginormous crystal chandelier displayed – the largest made by Baccarat!
No. 5 – Shinjuku Southern Terrace
Number 5 on my list is the colourful lights at Shinjuku Southern Terrace. Location, location, location! These lights are right outside Shinjuku Station and therefore attract A LOT of people! I love the light-covered gardens and shrubs, and the huge rainbow of Christmas trees. If you can manage to get a window seat inside Starbucks or Krispy Kreme, it would be a great vantage point for people watching as well!
No. 4 – Omotesando
Omotesando is a glitzy part of town where designer stores line a long, straight street. Grand trees on either side of the road stretch as far as the eye can see. In summer, the trees are full of vibrant, green leaves. Then in winter, the bare branches are transformed into glowing towers. The first thing you notice is how tall these trees are! And then you think, how much effort went into putting all of these lights around the trees?! But I for one am grateful to all the people that worked hard to prepare the illuminations as it is a stunning sight!
No. 3 – Tokyo Midtown & Roppongi
I didn’t make it to Roppongi this year, but last year’s lights left a lasting impression on me. The blue field of lights that seemingly jump into the air at Tokyo Midtown was beautiful. Roppongi Hills is a favourite for Tokyoites, year after year. The view from the overpass looking down the road with Tokyo Tower in the distance is worth braving the cold for!
No. 2 – Marunouchi
Marunouchi is the business area next to Tokyo Station. During the day, it might be all about work, but at night, it’s another story. At 5pm, it turns in an illumination heaven! This year, they have been at the top of the national popularity rankings. The theme is “Disney Timeless Story”, and throughout the whole Marunouchi area, there are Disney-themed displays where you can get your photo taken with characters. Just be prepared for some waiting! The Frozen display, with statues of Anna and Elsa, had a waiting time of 2 hours! Outside on the street, Marunouchi-naka Dori is lined with what they call ‘champagne gold’ lights. Very fancy!
No. 1 – Naka-Meguro!!!
The inaugural ‘blue cave’ at Naka-Meguro was just as impressive as it sounds. During spring, the Meguro River comes alive as the cherry blossoms overhanging the canals bloom. Those same trees have been turned into 500 metres of BLUE BLUE BLUE! It really is something else. I was completely blown away and enjoyed the the very dreamy and magical vibe it created! Although the LED lights are hard to look at when there’s so many of them, it was definitely the best illumination display in my book!
Every now and then, it’s nice to go to a high-end restaurant. You know, blow the budget a little and experience how the other half lives. ;-) One of my brothers has been a chef for over 10 years, and I think through him I’ve formed an appreciation of fine dining. We’ve eaten at some of the top restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne, and Hong Kong. And one thing is consistent, it’s all about the ‘dining experience’: soak up the atmosphere, appreciate the presentation of the dishes, breathe in the aromas, savour the tastes, and enjoy the food!
The other day, I went to Teppanyaki Kisentei, a restaurant in Tokyo Midtown, a complex in Roppongi that houses brand shops, offices, luxury apartments and restaurants as well as the Ritz-Carlton. Teppanyaki is another dining experience entirely. Having the chef actually cook right before your very eyes is exciting. He knows exactly what he’s doing, exactly how long to cook the food, how to season it without having to taste it, how to cut it, and present it. And he does it all with great finesse! His skills are on show for everyone to see. Our chef was definitely confident in what he was doing, but was by no means showing off. I liked his friendliness and how he interacted with the different diners but didn’t impose himself on us. The waiters were also lovely: relaxed, attentive and even cracked a casual joke or two.
We sat at a semi-circlular counter table. Behind the grill area was a romantic night view out over Roppongi. The young Japanese couple next to us were celebrating the guy’s birthday. When the cake came out, we all joined in singing happy birthday – it was so sweet and he loved it! The diner to our other side was a foreigner on his own. But he didn’t seem lonely at all. He was quietly enjoying his food. He was all about the ‘dining experience’ and his obvious contentment was infectious. As he stood up to leave, he turned to us and said we were about to eat the best food of our lives (or something like that). It made me smile.
A seat with a view, with a personal chef, with delicious food and good company… what more could you ask for!
More info about Teppanyaki Kisentei >> http://www.imahan.com/e-guide/kisentei_shop.html
I’m currently back home in Australia, enjoying the beautiful warm weather. It’s so great to be here after almost three years away! I was filled with nostalgia as I drove through the streets, noticing things I’d long forgotten about. But, more than anything, it is just awesome to be surrounded by my family again. Christmas in Australia is of course in the summer – something which my Japanese friends can’t comprehend! We usually spend the day soaking up the sun, having a BBQ, playing a game of backyard cricket or sometimes going for a swim at a river or beach. Very relaxed and casual!
Christmas in Japan is very different. It’s cold. But not cold enough for it to ever snow, which is just disappointing! No one gives presents. Hardly anyone gets together with their family. A lot of people even still have to work!! I guess it’s not surprising, considering Japan is not a christian country. But, come on!!
One tradition I do enjoy is the Christmas illuminations. I have seen some fantastic light displays, from Nagoya to Hiroshima to Nagasaki, each with their special features. Tokyo’s illuminations this year were no exception. I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted, but here’s a taste of what Tokyo has on show.
Let’s start with Roppongi! The lights at Roppongi Hills are possibly the most famous in Tokyo. It really is beautiful walking up the main street under the glistening trees.
A short video of the Tokyo Midtown Starlight Garden. Sorry the quality is a bit low – it was taken on my iPhone.
Next is Tama Center in western Tokyo. I loved the blue tunnel! And they had a REAL Christmas tree – it was massive!
Lastly, the happiest place on earth: Disneyland! The Santa Village Parade was adorable <3 Never too old for a bit of fun!
メリークリスマス! Merry Xmas everyone! I hope you are all surrounded by love and happiness.