Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Life in 2015


This year is already coming to an end, and I'm almost sad it's ending. 2015 was such a wonderful year filled with many surprises, the biggest one being a baby. 

2015 had a rough start- I was still working at a job I truly despised, and I felt like there was no way out. Thankfully I took a risk and went back to freelance and part time work, and found the most amazing opportunity working as a newscaster. And, I found out I was pregnant, which was unexpected yet the best thing to ever happen to me. I loved, loved being pregnant and worked until I was about to give birth- my belly was so big that my coworkers joked I would give birth on air.

This last part of the year has been the most challenging yet wonderful. I'm adjusting to being a new mother, and while taking care of a newborn on very little sleep hasn't been easy, I love getting to know this little bebe and seeing him grow every day. I sleep in three-hour increments and sometimes I wear my pajamas all day, but I know this newborn phase is fleeting and I'm enjoying every part of it. I'm grateful I've had lots of support from my family, and I'm the best-fed mother out there. I've been eating the most delicious and healthiest home cooked meals, I wish I could manage to eat like this from now on. I'm still a bit weak from the recovery, but I'm also feeling the healthiest I've ever been, and within 3 weeks I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I still have to take it easy and rest as much as I can, but I can't wait to go out daily with Anri and show him my world. I also look forward to exercising again, but that might take another few weeks.

So, that was 2015. I think 2016 will be equally great, it will be a year of huge changes with a growing baby and the start of a new life as a family of three.

Thank you for all your lovely comments on Anri's birth, and thank you for reading my musings- still, after all those years and life changes.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year 2016 xx 







Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bebe is here

On Friday December 4 I gave birth to bebe.

His name is Anri, and he weighed 4120 grams, which is over 9 pounds. Who would have thought I could carry such a big baby?!

I was one week overdue, and the natural labour lasted 33 hours. I have to say, nothing could have prepared me for that. It was the most surreal experience, but I feel very proud I did it. I never knew I could feel such love. I can't stop looking at him and smelling him.

We are so in love, and I still cannot believe I'm a mother.


Monday, November 16, 2015

November: Waiting

So far November has been such a slow and quiet month, but it's perfect this way. Long walks, warm baths, afternoon coffees, watching the sunrise because I can't sleep. I'm essentially just waiting, waiting for bebe, waiting for my life to change forever. It's exciting and the closer it gets, the less scary it is. That's the beauty of pregnancy I think, the whole process of it allows you to adjust both physically and mentally to all the small changes, so in the end you're ready and thankful. I had no idea sleep would be so elusive during those last weeks, but it's probably just the way the body prepares for the upcoming months (or perhaps the rest of my life?).

I'm seriously just not sleeping, but somehow I can function during the daytime due to my relaxing schedule. November in Japan is the best, warm enough to sit outside, sunny and chilly enough to wear a few layers. I write and read books and protect myself from pushy elderly ladies at the supermarket- who knew discount vegetables could stir up so much animation in mid-afternoon? Also, I know I'm extremely late to the game, but I recently discovered Amazon Japan sells more than just books, and it comes in handy for ordering baby stuff and heavier items I cannot carry from the store. It's so convenient for a place like Tokyo, where we tend to run small errands on a daily basis by walk or train, and just get the essentials.

In fashion news, Uniqlo has a new collaboration with French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, it's a very alluring and form-fitting collection with pencil skirts, skintight blazers and leopard prints, but nothing I can really wear at the moment, so I'm sticking to cozy knits and lots of black dresses. I did stock up on some Heat Tech for winter, I love the collaboration with lingerie brand Princesse Tam-Tam, the loungewear is really soft and warm. It will be strange to wear regular clothes again in a few short weeks, I'll miss dressing the bump!

While it's been a blissful time on this side, there is a lot to think about with what's going on in the world, and the scary thought of bringing a small being in this turmoil. I'm sure every parent thinks like that. My condolences and thoughts go to my French friends, colleagues, readers and everyone in that beautiful city I've always dreamed of living in, where I imagine the streets are rather empty now.


IKEA meatballs

Our local sushi place

Saturday morning brunch at home

Typical afternoons

Special edition Mount Takao Keio train
My Miffy-themed mother and baby handbook-
I bet Canada doesn't have something as cute!




Friday, October 30, 2015

End of October

I more or less started my maternity leave from work, and it's been quite nice and relaxing. It's also a huge adjustment from my usual hectic schedule, but such a welcome change. I'm just waiting for bebe to arrive, and preparing as much as I can by reading and making lists of things I still need to do. In late pregnancy there's this thing called nesting, where expecting mothers feel the urge to clean and prepare the house, but it hasn't really hit me- I'm either too tired or too lazy to scrub everything, but I'm sort of hoping it does hit me soon!

We were extremely lucky to receive so many baby items from family and friends (in Japan and Canada!), and we have pretty much everything we need. I heard newborns don't need much and I like how in Japan they keep material possessions to a minimum due to space constraints. It feels a lot healthier, I couldn't imagine having to purchase long lists of things that are not necessary, even though I love shopping in general. Baby stuff is very, very cute in Japan, but also practical so I'll stick to that part.

I've been baking a lot, it's something I've missed and it's comforting and warming, especially with the colder temperatures. I made granola bars and next I'll make apple muffins. I also like to experiment with fruit smoothies, and I'm all about hearty breakfasts like oatmeal pancakes since I don't have to rush. I like to take long walks and keep as active as I can, but some days I just feel so tired- every day is so different. I have to slow down, but it's impossible. I also have insomnia, no matter what time I go to bed I never seem to fall asleep before 4 or 5am. It's a combination of excitement and anticipation (and trying to find a comfortable position!).

I feel so lucky I have all this time to enjoy autumn and those gorgeous days. I also feel lucky I'm giving birth in Japan, the level of care I've experienced here is far superior to what I would get back home, despite how strict Japanese doctors can be about weight gain- I had to learn to just smile and nod.

However, I recently found out how difficult it can be for Japanese women to keep their careers while raising children- the system makes it pretty much impossible to do so (nursery and daycare shortage, unpaid maternity leave or simply not welcomed to return to their company) and now I understand why so many women in Japan are forced to become housewives. It's not the worst thing in life, but it's sad if you love your job. Thankfully things are slowly changing, but I think it will take several years before it catches up with some other countries. My case is a bit different, being non-Japanese and working part-time/freelance (and being welcomed back).

In other news, this weekend is Halloween. I haven't celebrated for a few years (I do recall some cat ears and black tights about three years ago, and a kid-sized tutu and a horrible tasting chu-hai four years ago), but I do like costume-watching. I was just passing through Shibuya tonight and people go all out with their costumes.

I also know that Sunday morning will bring Christmas decorations and carols, a magical overnight transformation. I don't mind Christmas so much this year as we'll be celebrating as a family of three!

Korean feast (Japanese-style)

Tokyo Sky Tree is impressive

Tokyo is endless

Tokyo Banana

A few weeks left...

This dress still fits me, thank goodness for DvF

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Uniqlo and Lemaire

Just when I was starting to get bored with Uniqlo (I find the last few seasons have been so disappointing, especially spring and summer 2015), they suddenly come back with something exciting. Just by chance I stumbled upon the latest collaboration, this time with French designer Christophe Lemaire. He used to be an artistic director at Hermès, and now has his own label Lemaire.

Just like his brand's designs, the Uniqlo x Lemaire collaboration is all about clean and sleek lines, cashmere blends, minimalist designs and elegant pieces. I seriously wanted to buy everything, but thankfully the growing bump gave me a bit of self control. I did get a soft wool cardigan (which is on my list for the bébé's arrival and hospital stay so it almost doesn't count as a purchase…) and black cashmere blend coat, which will fit me now and after. The pricing is super affordable too, considering the materials and stitching details, equally impressive in the men's section.

It's my all-time favourite collaboration, and it's already pretty much sold out everywhere in the world, such as in Tokyo, Paris and NYC. The Japanese online shop and some lesser-known store locations do have a lot left now. I especially love the coats and cardigans, but I'm not sure how the jumpers and dresses would fit. You can view the entire collection here.

Last autumn, I also liked the urban sweats collaboration with Alexandre Plokhov, and I wore and re-wore every single item (and still will when I can fit in them again!). I will undoubtedly wear every Lemaire piece for a long time.

As for my pregnancy shopping days, I have everything I need thanks to ASOS and Uniqlo (stylish maternity lifesavers if you're in Japan) and I'm ready for the cold days. I really enjoyed dressing my pregnant body, I feel like I kept wearing similar outfits as usual, only with a growing belly. I feel so lucky. I look back and laugh at the days in summer when I thought my stretchy tunics would fit me throughout the whole pregnancy, how naive was I- I think investing in some maternity pieces is really important, as everything now looks like a mini dress on me. It's amazing how quickly the body changes, and I'm quite tempted to reach for the leggings and sweatshirts at this point!

From now on I'll be focusing on different kinds of collections, which are just as exciting, but a whole lot tinier and cuter. It's a whole new world, I barely know where to start, but I'll figure it out… like everything else.

33 weeks...


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Autumn in Japan

And just like that it's already autumn, and soon I'll be celebrating six years living in Japan. Six years!! Sometimes I feel like I just arrived yesterday with my two suitcases, but on the other hand so much has changed in my life that it feels like forever ago. But no matter what happens, I'll never forget coming here in the first place and those new beginnings. Making that decision to move to Japan without any set plans really changed my life forever.

This time of the year always makes me nostalgic, autumn is when I left my life in Montreal and moved to Japan. It's also when I got married, and now it will be when bébé arrives- another big life change. I've been loving being pregnant, something I did not expect at all. I'm trying to keep a balance between working hard yet having lots of time to rest, it's not always easy but at this point I'm learning to be kinder to myself and realizing I have some limitations.

I don't know just how ready I feel about anything that's coming up, but like every other situation in my life, I tend to just go with it. I feel similar to how I did when I first moved to Japan, jumping into the unknown, equal parts terrified and excited. So, if this experience is anything like Japan, I think it will be extremely rewarding and filled with wonderful surprises.

These days I'm looking forward to cooking some nabe (Japanese hot pot dish), baking again, spending more time outdoors since it's so comfortable, catching up on reading books, sleeping sleeping sleeping (despite the recurring insomnia) and chilling out with that growing bébé making flips in my stomach.

A few scenes from lately…

A rooftop shrine

View of Shinjuku

My favourite spot

A Tokyo cat

A fringe

Train line at dusk

I interviewed Dominique Ansel from the cronut fame

A full moon on moon-viewing festival

Yukata style

Soy honey frappucino at Roppongi Hills

My puppy

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

End of Summer (Nearly)

Suddenly the temperatures in Tokyo dropped, but it's probably only temporary. Still, it's a nice break from the heat and humidity, and a sneak peek at autumn (even though September in Japan will be just as hot as August).

I worked a lot this month, but since every shift is so short, it keeps it interesting and just gives the perfect balance to my week. I love having an excuse to go to Shibuya, and at the same time I like how I can avoid morning rush hour commutes.

August also brings natsubate, literally 'summer fatigue'. Not sure if it's an actual condition, but it does feel real. Could be due to the intense heat or the overuse of air conditioning, or a mix of both. I'm trying to stay hydrated with room-temperature tea (cold isn't so good for the belly, especially if there's a bebe inside) and eat lots of fruit (watermelon, fresh figs and ¥300 apples). My summer go-to food is soba, I could eat it every single day. I've been trying different restaurants around Tokyo, ranging from local neighbourhood spots to Michelin-star places. I much prefer the handmade noodles, and the best side dish is tempura. I'm also eating lots of sashimi and sushi, which is thankfully not forbidden during pregnancy in Japan. I could never live without it! In fact, I like how relaxed Japanese are about all those  so-called 'pregnancy rules'. Although they can be strict about weight gain and keeping the belly warm, the rest is fairly relaxed, which I really like.

Maternity fashion in Japan is another story, though. As expected, everything is quite frumpy, flowery, frilly and cutesy. Pregnant women in Japan tend to conceal their figure, instead of flaunting their beautiful growing bump. It's been interesting to flip through maternity magazines and see what's offered in stores. Let's just say, thank goodness for online shopping and Asos free Japan shipping.

I'm planning for more yoga, afternoon teas, reading, cafe lounging and hopefully a few getaways for the next few months. It's a nice change of pace, although my life is about to change even more, in the best possible way.

Doughnuts at Fred Segal

A visit to the aquarium

I feel like this animal

Never enough soba

Afternoon break at Magnolia

They painted Domo-kun! 
Summer fireworks



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer in Japan



So, it's been a while, and summer has fully kicked in, along with its suffocating, sauna-like humidity and cicada soundtrack. I was able to escape to Canada for a few short weeks, but to be honest, the weather was unusually hot and humid there too. Still it was a nice trip, as usual, but it felt very rushed and tiring. I never thought I'd say that, but coming back to my Tokyo life actually felt relaxing.

Canada was a mix of catching up with everyone, being at my mom's house and eating her lovely food and trying to catch our cat (who gives me bad allergies), meeting my adorable nephew for the first time,    going on a road trip to Toronto, having coffee with my former Montreal roommate and a dear friend who shared Osaka memories with me (and their cute babies), spending time with Seoul friends in TO, a day trip to Niagara Falls (eh, I had to introduce Canada's most famous landmark…), an impromptu stay at the Park Hyatt Toronto, swimming on one of MTL's rooftops, shopping trips at the huge supermarkets and marveling at the fruit selection, barbecues in the backyard, bare feet in the grass and every morning a delicious breakfast.

I found Canada a bit more difficult this time- have I been too spoiled by Japanese convenience and cleanliness? The first few days back home are always a reverse culture shock for me, but this time it dragged on: the horrible customer service (it's a hit or miss), the lack of public restrooms anywhere, the inability to buy water at vending machines on any corner. Have I been in Japan for too long? Still, I loved how warm people are, how strangers sometimes strike up a random conversation with you, and how it's socially acceptable to pretty much do anything you please. I also liked how everywhere is non-smoking, Starbucks are practically empty (and they have those healthy lunch boxes), you can find amazing-tasting coffee, sandwiches and pastries on every corner and green spaces for picnics.

It's always nice to be home, and this time coming back to Japan was equally good. I love my (fairly new) home here, I love my job and I was excited to get back into it. I've been a bit of a homebody lately, taking it easy. There has been a huge change in my life in the past few months... I'm pregnant! It was a lovely surprise (also to my family and friends, as I'm apparently the last person they imagined with a baby), and we're so happy and excited. It's actually been a wonderful time, even if this summer heat. I never thought I would enjoy it so much, as I had never even really thought about what it would be like. I cherish every moment of it, I like sitting alone sipping tea or iced coffee and think about the bebe. I also started maternity yoga, which is a great workout and so relaxing at the same time. I also love updating my wardrobe, with lots of summer tunics, bump hugging t-shirt dresses and treating myself to a little DVF wrap number, which I'll be able to wear for decades. Pregnancy in Japan has been a smooth experience, the health care is very good and I feel like I'm in good hands.

I can't help but look back at my time in Japan and realize how things have changed. I probably say that every time, but it's been quite the journey, and somehow it's just the beginning. I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, May 25, 2015

End of May

May is already coming to an end, and it seems like all I've done this month was work, but I really enjoyed it. I love my new schedule so much- I work in shifts, sometimes during daytime, sometimes evening, and in between I write from home. I avoid most of the rush hour trains and I have time to cook, exercise and well, have a somewhat normal life. Last week I made a chocolate mousse cake and a lasagna, and every morning I make a different smoothie. I feel much more relaxed, for the first time in my Tokyo life.

The weather has been gorgeous in May, very warm and summer-like, minus the mosquitoes and humidity. Along with November, I think May is the best time of the year in Japan. June is rainy season, so I'm taking advantage of the sunny days and non-rain boots days.

We booked some tickets for Canada this summer, and we will visit in July. I'm so excited to see my family and friends again, the cats, and eat tons of fruits and kinds of cheeses (and butter!!! Japan has had a butter shortage this year). I will spend time in Montreal and also Toronto, just like last year. It's something to look forward to for the summer, and it's coming very soon.

I've had some fun assignments lately: I did a yukata photo shoot and class for a magazine, a beauty fair coverage at Tokyo Big Sight, interviews with some famous French and Japanese chefs, and a Tokyo food trends piece. I was also a special guest on one of the radio programs at NHK World, in the French section (my section!).

I'm also back in a Wong Kar-wai phase, I just re-watched "In the Mood for Love", such a beautiful movie. I wonder if I can sneak in a trip to Hong Kong or Seoul before Canada?

Sunday morning brunch in my household

NHK elevator selfie

View from the Yurikamome train line, Odaiba

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thank You, Golden Week and Into May

Thank you so much for all your kind words about my wedding! Every comment means so much to me, and it was heartwarming to read those words. I feel like most of you have taken this journey with me, in some strange way. So, thank you for reading and your wonderful thoughts. I'm so, so happy I could share, and your enthusiasm made it feel so special.

So, Golden Week rolled around again, which is the busiest holiday in Japan. Except for my very first GW five years ago when I lived in Shikoku and finally got out to travel all the way to Tokyo and Osaka, none of them have been as exciting. I particularly remember that one I spent when I lived in Osaka, freshly post-3.11 which was the loneliest time of my life. I was reading back this old post, and now I'm wondering why I was walking around some dark, unknown Osaka streets in the middle of the night by myself. It's something I would never do nowadays because I know better, but I was pretty fearless back then and didn't always think things through. Osaka was such a tough phase overall, but when I look back it was also wonderful- I had so much time to think (about my career, staying or leaving, life) and that's when I really made things happen. That's when I quit teaching, packed my bags and moved to Tokyo to give writing a try.

Now this Golden Week is just going to be a regular work week, the news don't stop for holidays, but I really enjoy it so I'm happy to be there. Did I mention I'm also working in my mother tongue? It's been amazing to immerse myself into the beautiful French language, even though I have lots of literary catching up to do. I also caught a cold earlier this week, one of the worst I've ever had, complete with high fever, sore throat and congested sinuses. I ate okayu (rice porridge) for three days straight, and I actually really liked it. I particularly like umeboshi (pickled plum), so flavourful.

In other news the weather is getting increasingly warmer, and we're planning another Canada visit for late summer or possibly autumn, a shorter one this time but I need some home time and a glimpse of Canadian summer.

Loving my Issey Miyake bag!

Spring ballerinas

Sunday breakfast

Okayu



Monday, April 27, 2015

My Japanese Wedding

Recently, the most wonderful thing happened: I got married.

I waited a bit to share so I could savour this moment and everything surrounding it. It's been one of the happiest moments in my life, and all the changes that came along. I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that took place over the past few years, since I started this adventure. Since I moved to Japan, or even, since I moved to Korea. It's been a handful of years filled with lots of changes and a roller coaster-like journey, and this past bit has been the most exciting of it all.

We had a very intimate and traditional wedding at our favourite shrine in Kyoto, which is tucked in the mountains. I wore the white wedding kimono shiromuku and the white hood wataboshi during the ceremony, then changed to a celebratory red kimono for the reception. The white kimono was very heavy, and I had to wear the traditional wig underneath the hood, even though the hood covered most of it. I was dressed at the shrine very early in the morning, as it took several hours to put on all the layers. It was so tight and heavy, but I started to relax once I saw the final result.

It was such a magical experience to wear the kimono, and to walk over to the shrine under the red umbrella with our families. I was a bit nervous to trip, but I somehow gracefully managed to walk up and down the stairs. The ceremony was shinto, and it included a dance performance and lots of sake drinking. It was quite cold that day, especially in the mountains, but that warmed me up. We also had to read a declaration, which is similar to vows, and our families also got involved in the ceremony despite all the language barriers (from my side!).

We had a traditional meal at one of Kyoto's best restaurants, along with cake and lots of photos. I changed to the red kimono there, and took off the wig and just wore my natural hair with some fresh flowers in it, which I had picked. I had two assistants dressing me and helping me out with everything, I felt like a princess. There was even a bridal taxi complete with a red carpet for when I step out. I wish this could have lasted forever!

I always knew I wanted to get married someday, but I never really knew what kind of wedding I wanted. Somehow it all happened naturally and this was perfection, I couldn't dream of anything better.  The best part was having my family there, and introducing our families for the first time.

Now I have a family in Japan, and that's the most amazing feeling.


Friday, March 27, 2015

April, Spring, New Beginnings

Spring is here, lots of changes, and I'm starting a new job! Can you guess where I'll work?



I haven't been this excited in a long time! The beginning of 2015 was a bit of a life adjustment with lots of thinking about my career and my future in Japan, but somehow everything feels clear again (even if I have no idea what can happen at any time). Life has a way to work things out.

I haven't been going out so much lately, it was a pretty cozy winter with lots of work and late nights, but my schedule is a lot different now and I'm enjoying seeing the daylight. I like going to Shibuya or Shinjuku because I choose to go, and not because I have to pass through there on a hectic commute.

I also just love spending time at home, it's the first time in Japan I have a home I love so much. I feel so comfortable here, and I also like my local area. Everything is within walking distance: cafes, bakeries, restaurants, banks, supermarkets, pharmacy, gym, park, station and the best ¥500 takeout Indian curry. I don't feel the need to escape, as I did when I was living in my little loft. My local area also feels very quiet and residential, even though it's actually quite central, and I enjoy feeling removed from the madness. I got my bicycle repaired (I had neglected it at my former apartment), and I've been cycling again and going to dinner at my friend's house nearby. When I bike, I always feel like I'm back in Marugame and it's such a nice feeling. Not so long ago, yet ages away from what my life is like now.




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Seven Years Ago

Seven years ago I started this blog. I wasn't so young, but I felt young. I was carefree, adventurous, I had a foul mouth and I was fresh off the plane in Seoul, Korea. I wrote this blog mostly from the staff room at my overly religious Korean elementary school, and for the longest time my only reader was my coworker Jaclyn.

This blog was like my diary for several years. In a quasi anonymous manner, I could share my thoughts about culture shock, heartbreaks, wanderlusting and daily things like the music I listened to and the food I ate. I met some of my closest friends via this blog, friends who are still part of my life today. My blog also helped me secure those first writing jobs, as my entries could be used as excerpts and were the closest thing to "published" material to show. My blog acted as a portfolio in the early days, it gave me direction and steered my career into the world of words and journalism.

Although things have changed and my diary now comes in the form of close friends I share champagne with at the top of Tokyo, over Starbucks before morning rush hour or via long messages between Japan and Canada, my heart hasn't changed and I'm still this adventurous girl who dropped everything familiar to dive in the unknown. Even though Tokyo is home and I'm fairly settled here, every day is an adventure and I'm learning so much about the culture and language. That's why I love living abroad so much, there is always a sense of excitement, even though it gets exhausting at times. I'm pretty tame and conservative on the surface, but I secretly enjoy any little thrill I get.

In honour of my blog's seventh birthday, some of my favourite things lately.




Eating

Kaisen donburi, which means a seafood bowl. It looks elaborate, but it's a very easy meal to execute. I just buy fresh sashimi from the local market, and add a few toppings such as yama imo (Japanese mountain yam), kaiware (daikon sprouts), ginger and green onion. It's best to use vinegar rice, and I love it with a miso soup and chilled sake.

Listening

Arcade Fire, all four albums on shuffle. Montreal love, reminds me of the Mile End and running into those guys at La Sala Rossa and La Croissanterie Figaro and when they played in churches.


Reading

Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon. I just ordered it, but I can't wait to devour this book. As you all know I'm such a big fan of Sonic Youth and my heart was broken when they separated. I can often be found lurking around the sixth floor in Shinjuku's Kinokuniya bookstore in search for treasures, but I get so overwhelmed that I often leave empty-handed.

Watching

I don't have time to even watch anything at the moment, but I finally say Boyhood (loved it and the soundtrack) and last night I saw a lowbrow but somewhat entertaining movie called Two Night Stand. I also saw Casse-Tête Chinois, the end of the trilogy of my favourite Euro group following L'Auberge Espagnole and Les Poupées Russes.

Exercising

Does walking at a fast pace and rushing to catch the train counts? I've been trying to keep up with running, but I easily lack motivation due to the cold, the rain, too much work. However, the latest Stella McCartney x Adidas collection might be just what I need to get back into it...

Friday, February 20, 2015

February

And here we are at the end of February, it's been another busy past few weeks filled with sleep deprivation, tight deadlines and crowded trains, but also time spent with close friends, some warm sunny days and a weekend in Kyoto.

Kyoto is a lot colder than Tokyo in the winter, especially in the traditional house I was staying at. I made it to Arashiyama, it was actually my first time going there. I loved the bamboo path!

The plum blossoms have appeared, which means spring is closer and sakura should be here in mere weeks. In Japan, spring is when everything changes: the school year ends in March and back-to-school mode happens in April, as well as the new fiscal year and renewed work contracts.

Things are changing for me as well with a return to freelancing, which I had missed so much in the last two years. Many people ask me about freelancing in Japan, and I think it's a great option but it's also very scary- in terms of visa sponsorship, finances and general stability. Shortly after I moved to Tokyo, I tried freelancing for a bit, but things ended up so messy, with visa drama, teary trips to city hall, anxious immigration bureau visits and more time spent lounging around than actually working.

Freelancing is risky if you're not prepared, so I don't recommend it unless your whole life is in order. Not sure if mine really is, but I've been on top of things (visa, paperwork, address changes, banks, taxes, insurance, doctor visits, immigration, finances) and with some solid contracts I'm ready to dip my toes into this sweet sweet world of freedom (and even more deadlines!). Also, having a workplace to go to a few times per week will hopefully help me achieve a balanced schedule that doesn't involve 4am bedtimes.

In other news, I've been craving sushi almost every single day, and I've been making miso soup on a daily basis and having it for breakfast, with a bit of rice and green tea. I love making a sesame miso soup from Harumi Kurihara, it's so easy and delicious! I highly recommend her book "Harumi's Japanese Cooking" for simple but exquisite Japanese recipes. I've been using white miso (instead of red) since I went to Kyoto, it's not so salty and very delicate. I'm slowly learning how to cook more than just udon, but I still find some Japanese cooking techniques intriguing. I've also been using my oven a lot, mostly for cookies, but I can't wait to make breakfast muffins when I have a minute to breathe this weekend.

I feel a lot happier lately, I'm finally slowly figuring things out.

Wine-toned nails, courtesy of Nail Quick

I fell for this brilliant marketing ploy:
apple tea + butter custard Pocky

Staring at the sun

This place.