As much as I love writing about food and travel, I’ve decided to add a more personal touch to my nook on the web. I have tons of lifestyle ideas I want to write about, that’s why I decided to add these monthly series – Things That Made Me Happy – where I’ll share some exciting news and updates, and give a round-up of positive and interesting events that month: happy moments, favorite finds (local products and items), reads (blog posts, articles and books), etc. Something beyond the usual travel guides and restaurant reviews I write. I feel like this will be a good way to have you, my readers, get to know me better and help me engage with you more. Plus, with all the upsetting news that are currently unwinding back home, it is good to take time, look back and focus on the positive.
Events & Travels
I do have a full-time job, but I try to plan some sort of a getaway for every weekend. This helps give my week a purpose and something to look forward to. My recent adventures have all been day trips, but I still feel like I am constantly on vacation. Proves the point that exploring the country you live in can be as exciting as traveling abroad. Of course, Japan has way too much to offer and despite touring it for over a year now I hardly made a dent. The moment I cross something off my bucket list I magically add three more things onto it. Funny how the insatiable wanderlust works. Anyway, one of the most memorable moments in January was the opening of a sumo tournament that J and I attended. I was so proud to learn that there were two Georgian (country) sumo wrestlers competing (apparently, there is quite a profusion of non-Japanese at the top of this most traditional sports), and I even got to personally meet and talk with one of them! And when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, the Emperor and Empress made appearance during the final hour of the tournament – something that apparently happens very rarely.
I also enjoyed a fantastic brunch with my coworkers in Park Hyatt Tokyo – the food was truly excellent – and it inspired me to look for other hotels that offer similar brunch deals. I currently have my eyes on weekend brunch by The Ritz Carlton, will report back as I plan a visit there.
Less swanky, yet equally enjoyable was a visit to Flipper’s – popular fluffy pancake place – where I met up with Naomi, an expat currently living in Tokyo. This year I made a resolution to find and meet up with like-minded expats and locals living in Tokyo. It’s so important to go outside your comfort zone and try to find peers who share your interests and passion. We had a lovely time chatting about all things travel, food AND Instagram. We briefly explored Kichijoji and planned couple of future outings together.
Last Sunday, I spent the most idyllic day in Atami, a seaside town in Shizuoka prefecture on Izu peninsula. It reminded me of Nice with its nice stretch of beach, small harbor and abundance of sunshine. The primary purpose of the trip was to view plum blossoms and early Sakura – something Atami is famous for. Because the climate here is so warm, flowers start to bloom much earlier than in Tokyo and other regions. I was actually surprised that cherries were even past the peak season. Although this winter has been unusually warm in general. I haven’t had time time yet to load the gazillion pictures I took, but here is a teaser postcard until I write a detailed post next week.
In case you missed it, I have also shared two latest travel guides: Discover Kyoto Off the Beaten Path and How To Spend a Perfect Day in Hakone.
I have been recently hired by a local e-publication Savvy Tokyo to write about travel and food in Tokyo. I’ve been wanting to take my writing a step further and this seemed like such a great opportunity. I am contributing twice a month, which works perfectly for my schedule. If you are interested, you can read my Guide to Tsukiji Market, Top Luxury Restaurants in Tokyo, Where to Find Gourmet Food To-go, and Tokyo’s Top Dessert Shops.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that happened in January was a surprise gift from J – I got to upgrade my Nikon 3100 and move to full-frame D750! With that came two new lenses – 50mm f1.8 and 24-70 mm f2.8.
I tested out the latter in Atami on Sunday and absolutely loved the results, the bokeh is stunning and photos are perfectly sharp. It will be my primary travel lens, although I cannot help complaining how HEAVY it is!
Meanwhile, the nifty fifty will remain my everyday food & street photography lens. It also produced some lovely portraits. I also absolutely ADORE the built in wifi in my camera, makes it so much easier to transfer the photos into my phone so much easier.
As I mentioned I want to start sharing some random purchases I made locally, be it beauty products, crafts, souvenirs etc. While waiting to board on a plane to the US at Narita airport I perused the shops in Terminal 1. First of all, their snack shop is fantastic, and you easily buy all of your omiyage – edible souvenirs there – the choice is great. Also, next to Gate 34, I popped into a crafts shop – Ippuya – which had a selection of quality souvenirs, anything from cosmetic bags to hand-made matcha mugs. I couldn’t resist and picked out two little bags. How gorgeous are they?
I think I will use one for cosmetics and the other one for bringing jewelry or such. As I found out the shop is from Kyoto, so you might want to visit their original shop there too.
And since I am on the subject of souvenirs, how do you like my kokeshi doll? I also picked it up at a random souvenir shop in Tokyo. It is handmade from wood and hand painted as well. I absolutely love its flower hairpiece. It is said that these dolls were originally made during the middle of the Edo period as toys for children of farmers, although now they have become a famous Japanese craft and souvenir for tourists.
I mentioned before that now that I have a good camera, I want to invest more time in honing my photography and post-processing skills. I have been watching tons of YouTube tutorials and reading different posts with useful tips on good technique. I have now moved to shooting completely manual which I thought I would never be able to do. But, most importantly, I am striving to be a smarter photographer, capture truly valuable moments that tell a story. I got incredibly inspired by a post of Andrew Folk, a Tokyo-based photographer, who wrote this piece about his travel to Hanoi. One of the most valuable advice for me was to take time to *observe* and get a sense of the place. Paying attention to details, watching people around you and waiting for the right moment can yield in truly precious stories and I hope to do more of that as I move forward.
That’s about it for now. Don’t judge me too harshly, I promise to make these more interesting and get you inspired. I’ll also keep sharing other exciting products from the local market with you all. My goal this year is to spend quality time perusing local cosmetics shops as Japanese beauty products are said to be of extraordinary quality. Let me know if there is something particular you are interested in too, I’m open to ideas!
How was your January? Any exciting news to share? Link your monthly round-ups down below for me to read!
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Nano I love this and am excited to see what you get up to, I also found there is so much more to blogging than just travel, and it has opened so many doors for me. I love your new camera although it is huge! It’s definitely good to have a smaller back up too. And your photos as usual are amazing, I love all your pics and that Doll is adorable x
Sarah, thank you very much for your sweet comment! I truly enjoy having an opportunity to write about random topics now, can’t wait to share more in Feb’s edition :) As always, thanks for reading! 😘
oh wow, that sumo tournament looks really cool, and how awesome that the Emperor and Empress showed up. i love that you take little day trips every weekend – i need to start doing that.. maybe not every weekend but maybe once a month. why not. like you said, i need to explore the place i live!
Absolutely Keisten! Otherwise time passes without us really knowing where we live! Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words! xoxo
This sounds like a beautiful start to the New Year! It is nice to focus on the positive and congratulations on being hired by Savvy Tokyo, sounds like so much fun!
Thank you so much, Miriam! Writing for Savvy for definitely a highlight :)
What are your favorite YouTube tutorials? I’m hoping to improve my travel photography too – and I’m also in Atsugi and writing for Tokyo Savvy!
Anne-Marie, what a coincidence! I live in Zama. I’d love to meet up if you have time, maybe even go out for a photoshoot? :) Your photos already look gorgeous, but if you want to hone your skills, my personal favorite is Jana Williams. I also find tutorials from Jessica Kobeissi quite helpful. And than random YouTube suggestions along the way. I figure the more you watch the more you learn.
Yes, I’d love to! I replied from my phone w/o looking – accidentally replied from my writing site! Let me know best place to email you and hopefully we can meet up for a photo session over the next couple weeks!
Anne-Marie, thank you for reaching out! email@example.com is my email. I’d really love to meet up, let’s plan something soon :)
I adore these more personal posts – and those little purses are SO cute!
Thank you Emma. I’ll keep these coming.
Your photos are incredible! I’m so excited to see what you get out of the camera!
D750 turned out to be everything I hoped for and then some! Thank you for the recommendation :)
Hi Nano! I absolutely enjoy reading your blog and look forward to pictures and updates on your instagram account as well. I have been fascinated by the Land of the Rising Sun for the longest time and wanted you to know you are doing a wonderful job at bringing to life ,this beautiful country for us! I will finally be visiting Japan in spring this year, in time for hanami :) could you tell me where you picked up that oh so cute kokeshi doll from? I have always wanted one! Will also look forward to your post on beauty/cosmetic finds in Japan. Thanks-Akshaya
Akshaya, it’s hard to describe how truly touched I am by your words. It means so much to hear that my readers enjoy what I am creating. I am excited for your visit. Please let me know if you need any help or assistance while planning your trip. Sadly I bought my kokeshi doll in the outskirts of Tokyo where I live, definitely not worth coming out for it here. I do promise to find out from my Japanese friends some nice shops in the downtown though and get back to you. :)