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Showing posts from 2016

Final Touring Excursions

Tomorrow is my last day. It felt strange to write that sentence, knowing that I've been gone six weeks, which feels like both no time at all but also forever. Even though this is my fifth time coming to Japan (and the fourth for an protracted trip), the coming-and-going is something I don't get used to. Just as I start getting over my "ugh, I just want to go home" hump and settling in, well, it actually IS time to go home.

What have I done the past few days?

Well, on Sunday my host family and I took a drive to Yamanashi prefecture (re: near Mount Fuji) to visit the Oshino Hakkai, the Eight Sacred Ponds of Oshino. According to the signage, when people used to hike up Mount Fuji for pilgrimages, they would purify themselves in the ponds before starting their journey. And having stuck my hand in an (acceptable) corner of the main pond, Wakuike, it was FREEZING. Some other ponds have specific purposes, however. One was for people who wanted a good marriage, for instance.

Museums of the Old and New

Today was a day for museums.

Initially my host family and I were planning to take a drive to a lake near Mount Fuji, but since the early morning weather was rain we postponed until tomorrow. This left us with an empty day to fill.

My host sister stayed in to study, and my host mom stayed in to work, so my host brother and I set off for the Omotesando area because I'd had an urge to visit the Nezu Museum.

The Nezu Museum is a small museum by most standards that usually houses a small collection of historical pieces (the exhibits today were on ancient Chinese bronze mirrors, a small collection of ink and brush paintings of birds and flowers, three 18th century jeweled English clocks, and an exhibit on loan from Smith College). The main draw to the museum is its extensive traditional garden and the variety of stone lamps and statues scattered within it.

The garden was also scattered with these stone lamps and statues from as far back as the 12th century. They were tucked into corners…

Cat Cafe

Today I went with my host brother to a cat cafe for "research". Yes it is a cafe and yes it has (canned) coffee, but also I really really really wanted to go to a cat cafe. By doing a little research, I found one off a convenient train station that not only didn't require a reservation in advance, but had free drinks and was actually significantly less expensive for more time than other cafes. On to Nyankoto!

For cat lovers, this is paradise:

This shop had fifteen cats, each with their own names and personality described in a photo book:

This cat's name is Kinta and he's a mix--though most of the cats there were breeds I was unfamiliar with and had fur of various kinks and degrees of fluffiness. 
They were all very social, active cats as well.

Kinta greeted my host brother by literally jumping on his back. 
The other cats often ran around chasing each other (one was a very energetic kitten, so he was always pouncing on the others) or flopping down to be pet in co…


Today after grabbing lunch (and a coffee) with a friend from Glee (yay Glove! I wish we'd remembered to take a picture...) I meandered around the Omotesando and Harajuku areas. Omotesando is a large main street lined on both sides with stores, cafes, and coffee shops. It's a shopper's paradise and would have been a more pleasant stroll if it weren't for the heat.

As I walked down a side street, looking for The Roastery, I passed by a Shiseido pop-up promotion for their new line of lipsticks all themed around the color red.

Inside, they offered to match you with your perfect shade of read through a weird "mind number" personality analysis.

Here is a sample of what I walked away with (there were some advertisement pamphlets which I just tossed): a sheet that says what my Mind Number Red, my Inspiration Red, and my Counseling Red are, paper lips with the Shiseido logo, a one-page description of my personality and how to care for myself based on my Mind Number…

Shibuya and Ebisu

The past few days I've been in the Shibuya and Ebisu areas (think: south-west side of Tokyo) to check out some of the up-and-coming cafes, as well as wander around the neighborhood. I've decided that wherever I go, I'm going to find something to do in addition to spending 3-5 hours in coffee shops--while the research and the people I meet are incredible I do regret that I don't get to spend as much time exploring the other aspects of Tokyo. 
Yesterday in Shibuya I checked out The Local Coffee Stand, Coffeehouse Nishiya, and The Theater Coffee. The Local is a pretty unassuming space, even though it is on a main street. It's goal is to be the sort of jumping-off point for people just getting in to specialty coffee: they showcase beans from local roaster and run a website called "Good Coffee" in both Japanese and English to help people find "that local spot" in a neighborhood near to them. I'm including a link to the site, HERE. CLICK THIS.


Turtles in Tokyo (oh, and Coffee)

Yesterday was my first day of research in Tokyo. In the morning I successfully navigated a multi-train, hour and a half trip from Sayama to the far East side of Tokyo (the Monzennakacho/Kiyosumi area, for anyone who knows any Tokyo geography). I had two coffee shops as my goal: the Kiyosumi location of Blue Bottle Coffee (which some of you may know as James Freeman's California-based chain) and the first in Japan, as well as the nearby Arise Coffee Entangle which appeared on every one of the "where to drink coffee in Tokyo" lists I found online.

The Blue Bottle Coffee in Kiyosumi (which is actually quite a residential neighborhood) is a 7,000 square foot monstrosity with a cafe space, roasting space, and other work areas all in one building. The inside is also pretty industrial.

They only had communal tables, which I found interesting, and I ended up having a nice conversation with a mother-daughter pair across from me. But, I confess, the coffee wasn't for me. It wa…