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.
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!
Linking up with What’s New With You.