Sunday, May 20, 2007

A nice day in Ebisu Garden Place

Hiroshi and I spent the day together at Ebisu Garden Place. The main purpose of going there was to hit ecco to buy some shoes. Hiroshi wanted some dress shoes, but he has enough of those already, so we ended up buying sandals. Yeah, I had to get some too.... I'm a woman, I love shoes. Actually, the sandals are really great - they support the foot like a runner does (they have the same technology as their running shoes) so they are perfect for walking around all day. Unlike flip flops which are comfortable, but only good for walking on the beach or dashing to the store quickly.

We then went to the Sapporo Beer Museum. I have been to Ebisu Garden Place hundreds of times, but have never been to this museum. Which is silly because it is free. It has lots of old beer making equipment and what I liked best was the art work on the walls made of different parts from beer making machinery. They also had a beer tasting area. For 400 yen you can get 4 small glasses of beer and some crackers. This is actually quite reasonable. Hiroshi and I both had one, but we could have easily shared one. That might have been the better option actually - taste all four and then get a glass of the one you like best. I think the glasses were only about 200 yen or something. Cheap anyway. Then of course, a museum wouldn't be complete without a gift shop (especially in Japan), so we picked up some soap made from hops (I think), a t-shirt for Hiroshi, and some beer caramels.

Unfortunately, by the time we finised at the beer museum it was too late to go to the photography museum. There is an exhibit we both want to see. Ah well, we can go next week or something. So, we went up to the 38th floor of the office building to "Top of Ebisu" which is two floors of restaurants. You can get a great view of Tokyo from the windows, and we were luck to see the sunset. It was a beautiful red sky. It is also beautiful at night with all the twinkling lights. I took a ton of sunset and skyline pictures. Actually, I am quite pleased with how they turned out. You can see all the pics for the day (including our Thai lunch) at my Flickr account.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tokyo Midtown

Went out to Tokyo Midtown tonight, the new shopping area development in Tokyo. It has a very nice, modern design with Japanese influence. Everything is done in blonde wood, with lots of open, airy spaces and light, and it uses metal as an accent in railings, etc. Even 7-11 has modified it's sign to fit in with the decor, rather than having the normal bright red and green colours.s

Actually, we (me and friend Cal) ended up there fairly late, and it was great to wander around without all of the people. It allowed me to appreciate the architecture of the place. One of the things that I hope to do in the future is go to Coppola - a restaurant that serves Coppola wines (yes, the famous movie Coppola). They have fun names like the Skywalker Ranch Chardonnay. You have to go just to say you drank that!

The best, and most amusing store in the entire building has to be the dog store. It includes the "dog deli" serving such things as ostrich and fish, a dog beauty salon, and an assortment of organic dog food for sale. Yes, not just one brand of organic dog food, but several. Of course, the store wouldn't be complete without the wall doggie outfits. (You can find pictures of all of these on my Flickr account).

While the complex was really nice to wander around, I can't say that I would do any regular shopping there. The tenants offer extremely pricey goods, and about the only thing interesting for me was the food stores in the basement (got a wide variety of tofu to try, including some that had karashi spice in the middle of tofu balls) and an aroma therapy shop in the "spa" corridor.

The aroma therapy shop was great actually. They have these little plastic envelopes of essential oils that release scent gradually over about a week. You can put them in your pillow. They smell wonderful, and I found that I am sleeping better with the night time scent.

The other interesting store in the spa corridor was the men's skin care store with attached spa. For "only" 14,000 yen (I think that was the cost) you can get a hair cut and a shave in this super-padded, bright red barber chair in a private room. You can then relax in a room with subdued lighting while perusing one of the many men's magazines... including a wide selection of business themed ones. If you want to make it day, you can always get the manicure / pedicure and massage done as well. Who knows how much that costs! Actually, it was really interesting. We got to take a tour of the facilities because no one was in there at the time. So, as a woman, I suppose I got the secret insight. It was nice to see - essentially all spas cater exclusively to women. This is "the" place to go for metrosexual men wanting to spend a day getting beautiful too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New pictures on flickr!

I have finally gotten around to uploading pictures from the end of last year (link to my flickr page is in the side menu). So there are some more pictures of Beppu, most notably a bazillion pictures of monkeys (cute!!), as well as some from New Year.

Well, the monkeys are technically Japanese macaques, but to me they are still monkeys. I had to rush to catch my fligth back to Tokyo after seeing the monkeys - I stayed much longer than I should have, but couldn't stop chasing after the little babies and oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hectic Week

This week has been absolutely crazy. Everyone enjoyed their time off last week and spent time thinking up new projects to implement right away. I've been in the office until 10 or 11 every night. Of course I don't mind so much. I am really enjoying my new job and am on salary - if it gets busy, it is kind of expected that you stay late sometimes.

Anyway, I am pretty much defining my own job (English Development Leader) and deciding on what projects I want to tackle with my own timelines. Everyone is much friendlier in the office than what you would think. I am at a consulting company that is notorious for being snobby. I seem to be settling in though, and know quite a few people already from being their teacher in the past. That makes it much easier because I already have a social network. I just think it is great to be challenged and doing something new!

Friday, May 04, 2007

My new brother-in-law

Hiroshi's sister Keiko "found a husband" recently and they came up to Tokyo today (with mom) to meet us. Well actually to meet Hiroshi since he is head of the family and they will be living in the family home. I say "found a husband" because she went through an omiai service. Omiai is an arranged marriage; however, in Japan there isn't really much arranging any more. It is more like a glorified dating service. Essentially you say what you are looking for in a spouse and the service will try to match you. This is quite popular in Japan - keep in mind that many women either marry a school sweet-heart or someone who joined the company at the same time they did (the woman quits when she gets married - and yes, some Japanese companies are notorious for hiring "pretty" women so their male employees have a good choice of potential wives). So, unless you are working for a major company, there really aren't that many places to meet people.

So, Keiko and her husband seem happy. Yes, they already got married. This was news to us. They haven't had their ceremony yet though. In Japan, you register at the city office and have a ceremony separately, unlike in Canada where you sign the marriage certificate at the ceremony itself. You can take either day as the date you got married. (Hiroshi and I chose the day we registered). He seems quite nice, albeit shy, and mom adores him so that is good - especially since they are all living together! Neither Hirohsi nor I think he'll have much influence or sway over Keiko, because he is so quiet, but that's ok. Hiroshi wants Keiko to be a bit more "Japanese" and is hoping her husband will push her in that direction. I mean, basically she wasn't going to introduce her fiance to Hiroshi at all and only did so because mom and him were yelling at her. (It was a pretty bad breach of etiquette).

The last couple days have been a bit stressful getting this all organized. They were supposed to come up Sunday, but decided to come up today instead. I think one of them has to work tomorrow, so it would have been a hectic weekend if they didn't come today. I don't really care about the timing - I just have to deal with Hiroshi being stressed out.

We made a reservation at Grand Central Oyster Bar in Shinagawa for lunch. The shinkansen (bullet train) stops there, so it is easy. Actually, it was quite funny. Hiroshi's hometown, Hamamatsu, has a population of about 700,000 people, so I think of it as being quite metropolitan. However, it is not metropolitan by Japanese standards, and I was a bit taken aback by the "wow!" attitude at first. I didn't expect the "the big city is so exciting" reaction! They were taking pictures of everything and seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by some things.

Anyway, while Hiroshi was waiting at the ticket gate to meet them, I went up to the restaurant and preordered. I got some raw oysters, then salad and steamed veggies and fish as the main course. The fish was absolutely divine. I was so happy with myself because I made healthy choices (it is so easy to cave in and get the fried oysters!) and they ended up being awesome. Even more important because this was a fairly serious occassion, and you want to make a good impression. The fish entree was red snapper on top of roasted vegetables, and the vegetables had balsamic vinegar drizzled over them. I am definitely going to try to make this at home, because it looked so impressive, but the ingredients are really quite simple. It was a big hit with everyone.

After lunch we went and had a coffee at Dean and Deluca and waited until their return shinkansen was leaving. It was a nice, albeit short, visit. Personally, I'm just glad that Keiko has met someone nice. I know she has been worried about getting married for a long time. She is 35, and in Japan you are termed "Christmas cake" when you turn 26. Yeah, you know the kind - the one with dried fruit and nuts that nobody wants.

The married thing should prove interesting of course. I can't wait to go down to Hamamatsu next time. Keiko is totally spoiled by mom - she doesn't eat dinner with the family or even at the table. Mom brings a tray up to her room! Now that she is married, not only will she have to eat dinner with at least one other person, she will also be responsible for cooking. I think it would be nice to have a dinner with all of us sitting down together... and think it would be a great bonding experience for all of the women to cook together. I like learning how to cook Japanese and always feel uncomfortable having mom do all the cooking and cleaning all the dishes by herself (she's 73), so I often ask her to show me how to cook, so I can sneakily help out.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The camera upgrade

The camera I bought a couple years ago in anticipation of our world trip has been upgraded twice since then. I have wanted to newest one ever since it came out, and of course got to drool over it today at Bic Camera. Just so happens, Cal is also on the lookout for a new camera, and since Sony has decided to change their memory card type (to something that is still non-standard in any other camera as far as I know), he wasn:t particular on brand.

This of course gave me a brilliant idea. Since Cal was humming and hawing over a pre-DSLR (which my camera was) I offered to sell him my old one, and then use the funds towards the new fz50. We reached a deal that was agreeable to both of us - a much better price than buying one new in Cal's case, and me not have to worry about finding someone to buy the camera on Yahoo auction or whatever.

Essentially it is the same as the old one, except that the lense doesn't extend when zooming. This makes me feel much more comfortable about taking the camera to places where sand can get into moving parts. It also has a new teleconversion lens that I had to get... I mean, come on it brings the 12X zoom up to 21X zoom. How else am I going to get my kick ass nature and animal shots in Tanzania? Not to mention spy on people hehehe.

As we were wandering around, I was checking out the sales and was shocked to find 120GB Lacie portable harddrives for 50% off! Combined with the fact that they have really come down in price from a couple of years ago, this was a steal. Now I can do a full backup of my MacBook Pro -- those of you who have read about my previous drive failures and loss of data will understand my obsession with having full backups.

Anyway, I now have new toys to play with. I hope to get out and take some pics with the new camera soon... speaking of which, I definitely need to update my Flickr page. Has been ages since I've uploaded stuff there. Yes readers, that means new pictures are coming soon!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Whehoo! new places to shop

This week is Golden Week - a week full of holidays here in Japan. Basicaly I only have to work on Tuesday and Wednesday. I spent the last couple days relaxing and today went to my favourite Thai restaurant for brunch with Hiroshi and Cal.

The Mango Tree is located in Marunouchi (the east side of Tokyo station) on the 35th floor of the Marunouchi Building. The Marunouchi Building opened a year or so ago and has restaurants, office space and stores. The Mango Tree has a great lunch buffet for about 2500 yen. Of course I always get a mango juice or coconut smoothie or something, so that adds another 800 yen into the bill, but believe it or not, 3300 yen is pretty decent for ethnic food. The restaurant has a modern decor and floor to ceiling windows, which offer a great view of the city too, so it makes for a nice lunch place, with good food that you can eat your fill of.

On the way to the restaurant we realized that the Shin-Marunouchi building is now open (it opened a couple days ago actually). Shin essentially meaning new. This is one of the newest buildings in Tokyo (there are several new complexes that have opened recently) and there were tons of people walking en masse to get in. My first instinct was to avoid going there at all costs, cuz, really, who wants to go shopping in an environment that resembles Disney Land on a busy day?

Of course that was before I read the list of shops that were there. Turns out the Marunouchi Building and the Shin-Marunouchi Building produce a joint listing of stores and restaurants. In addition to the international food store, I found a store that I have been looking for for ages - Molton Brown.

When I was in Thailand two years ago getting LASIK done, I stayed at the Penninsula hotel and they had Molton Brown shampoo, soap and lotions. Absolutely loved the stuff and wanted to buy some. Of course, I haven't been able to find a store in Japan, and really didn't feel like paying a ton in shipping on top of the already expensive prices by buying online. Well, now there is a store in Tokyo and I am in heaven. My bank account is under duress, but I am in heavenly scented bliss. I have magnolia hand lotion, ginger lily body wash and a bunch of other stuff too. (Of course now that I look at the Worldwide rather than the UK site, I suddenly find a bazillion stores that sell it in the Tokyo area).

There are some interesting stores in the building other than Molton Brown, but it was so nuts in there, that we just kind of wandered with the crowd. I'll have to go back another day after the opening crowds disperse. Ths makes Marunouchi a great place to shop now though. The oazo building has the best (in my opinion) book store in Tokyo. I never seem to be able to get out of there without spending at least a hundred bucks. Gessh. Funny how you go in for a magazine and come out with bags of books. I am not the only one to suffer from this problem either. Now add in Molton Brown, American Pharmacy, 2 international food stores, a really nice brunch place and a Bic Camera in walking distance and I am in shopping heaven. Hiroshi just thinks it is dangerous now. LOL

Of course, that is why when Cal and I hit Bic Camera tomorrow, Hiroshi is staying at home, and all my shopping will remain a secret. ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Let's try this again...

Seems like I never did get back into the swing of blogging last year. So, I am going to try this again. I have been keeping up with my book review blog - check out the links on the right if you are interested. My current book is taking me forever to read.
I have changed jobs and that is going well. It means I can get home at a normal time, make dinner and get stuff done. For some reason I don't seem to be getting much stuff done though. You know the saying that if you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know? I think that holds true. I suddenly have a ton of time on my hands in the evening and I don't seem to be doing anything. Weird.
Well, going forward I hope to keep this blog up to date, and upload a bunch more pictures to my flickr account. I haven't added anything interesting to that page either in a long time. So stay on the look out for new stuff!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New 7 Wonders of the World

You can vote on the modern 7 Wonders of the world here. There are definitely some interesting choices.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Extreme Ironing

Now, this is ironing. I am not quite sure I am up to carting an ironing board up the side of a mountain, but it appears to be a new sport in Japan. Extreme Ironing... the new way to combine exercise and housework at the same time. I only question how the iron gets hot without a power source.... but then again, this is Japan, so it is probably a cordless / rechargeable one.