Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just Around The Corner

Oh 2012, is that you?

Can you believe it's almost here already? I hope you are all having a great time partying or relaxing at home to welcome the new year.

Many houses in Japan will be watching NHK's Annual Ko-haku Music Show on TV together with family. Since they started the show on New Years Eve in 1953, it has been the show to watch on the last day of the year. It's a live show that showcases the popular artists of the year in two groups, White group for the guys and Red group for the girls, and it's sort of a contest to see which group wins every year.

There have actually been many non-Japanese artist that have performed in the Ko-haku. Artists like Cyndi Lauper, who sang I Drove All Night in 1990, and Andy Williams, who sang Moon River in 1991.

Although with so many different TV programs available to us and things to do, not as many people watch this show as before. But it's still a tradition in my house have it on TV and we all sing along to our favorite songs.

Happy New Years Eve to you all!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Oh wow. I'm feeling the cold every time I step outside lately.

Can you believe we only have one more day until the new year? Have you already decided on a new years resolution?

I hope you are all enjoying the last Friday of the year!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Glittery Glamour

What does everyone have planned for New Years?

Something about New Years makes me think of glitter and sparkles. Or maybe I just really like glitter and sparkles. Either way, I found these headbands at Don Quijote, our go-to discount store for just about anything.

Here in Japan, headbands are called "Katyusha," which is very weird since it's a nickname for the Russian name Ekaterina. After a little investigation, I've learned that the name came from a character in Tolstoy's novel "Resurrection." It was made into a play in Japan 1914 and apparently Sumako Matsui, who played the role of Katyusha, was wearing a headband in the play and it came to be known as the "Katyusha."

Interesting how things come to be.

Anyways, to bring things back to the present...I've finished making my Nengajo (new years greeting postcards). I thought you might like to see how I make them every year. This year I kept it really simple since I didn't have that much time. I forgot to put in the embossing powder and the pen I use to write in the picture but you get the picture. Now all I have to do is write in a little message to everyone and send them out!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Last Day

I randomly caught these high school boys walking down the sidewalk.

Most of our high school kids wear uniforms here in Japan, although not all. These kids are probably enjoying their winter break right now.

Today is the last day of work for many companies. I took a few days off so I wouldn't have to go back to work after Christmas, so I'm here at my parents place in Osaka right now.

We've been getting ready for the New Year by cleaning out everything in our house. It's like spring cleaning, except people in Japan always do this at the end of the year. We call it Nen-matsu O-soji (年末大掃除), which translates to "year end big clean up," and everyone in the family helps out. It's a lot of work but we do this so we can welcome in the new year to a clean house.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get A Move On

It's this time of year again...actually it's been this time of year for some time now but I've chosen to ignore it, thus the scrambling starts for me today.

I'm talking about our New Years postcards, which we call Nen-ga-jo (年賀状) in Japanese. It's customary for everyone to send out these postcards to family, friends, and co-workers.

If you look at the postbox above you'll see that they are separated from the regular mail, Nengajo to the left and regular mail to the right. They separated it from the regular mail because these Nengajo are only to be delivered after the first of January.

This system starts on December 10th each year and the post office asks us to send out the Nengajo by the 25th, in order for it to be delivered on the 1st. But lazy people like me know that if you send it out by the 30th, it'll probably get there in time. ha.

There are simple Nengajo that you can just buy and write a quick message. Others make their own, using family pictures, which are my favorite kind. I like to hand make my own every year, so I haul out  my stamps and embossing powders. I also use a brush-like pen to write out everyone's addresses.

Like regular letters, the Nengajo tradition is kind of starting to fade out. Many of my friends just text me on my cellphone on New Years. But I like this tradition, and although it really is time consuming, I love receiving them on New Years from friends and family and plan on sending them out every year.

Better get to work...!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After

How was everyone's Christmas day?

I had a nice and relaxing day with family at home. It's always great getting to spend time with the whole family, which becomes harder to do once most of the kids move out. But we try to get together and it's all the more special when we can.

I know I've posted too much of these lovely yellow leaves this month but I can't get enough of them! Since it rarely snows in Tokyo, I'm glad we got to enjoy the colorful trees longer than usual in Shinjuku.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Warm Lights

I thought this was a fitting Christmas Eve photo since it has a Christmas tree AND the word Shinjuku in it!

It actually says Shinjuku Nomura Building but when I took this photo I seemed to have cut it off. Although a lot of the office buildings in the west Shinjuku area decorate their buildings, I especially liked the Christmas trees in this building. The traditional red on green with yellow lights really appeals to me.

Happy Christmas Eve to you all!

See other wonderful reflections from around the world
at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Blur

December has been a blur.

I just can't seem to keep up could probably tell from my lack of posts. But I'm back on the wagon and will be posting a couple of Christmas-y photos around Shinjuku.

I love all the holiday lights and decorations, don't you?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ocean's Table

This is starting to become a food blog with a dash of sorry. I will promise to get out more as soon as possible!

But anyways, just wanted to share what I had at the cafe Ocean's Table the other day. Doesn't the Taco Rice look good? It's a Japanese dish that people love to think is from Hawai'i or somewhere else...but it's really not. haha.

I also love the cafe's interior design, especially the tables with the palm trees and seagulls!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bright at Night

Ginkgo leaves are gorgeous at night, too!

It's once again my busy season at work and since the sun sets around 4:30pm these days, I've only been able to enjoy the brilliant yellow leaves after dark. But they are quite beautiful under the street lights and many people were looking up to admire them while walking by.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Painted Yellow

The golden ginkgo leaves are starting to pop up all over the city lately!

Some are still a little green while others are scattered all across the sidewalk. But either way they really brighten up the streets!

Hope you're enjoying a bright and beautiful day...Happy Friday!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Color The Rainbow

These markers from Muji are great.

Not only do they look good in the glass cases at the store but they also make all my letters and DIY projects more colorful. My favorite is the purple one on the very right.

What's yours?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hot Pink

I think this is a type of camellia.

The bright pink caught my eye. I love that flowers as bright and cheerful as this chose to bloom at the start of winter every year. It really brightens up my day!

NOTE: I've learned from Rurousha that these flowers are called Sazanka (山茶花) in Japanese and I guess is technically a camellia as its scientific name is Camellia  Sasanqua. But like she said in the comments, the Sazanka blooms in early winter as apposed to camellias in late winter and you can tell the difference as a Sazanka drops its petals one by one while a Camellia drops the whole flower!

Thank you Rurousha!!! (And everyone else, please go see her blog filled with gorgeous (and I mean GORGEOUS!!!) photos of Japan!!!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zabon Ramen

Here is another delicious ramen dish!

Zabon is a popular ramen shop that has a couple of stores in Shinjuku. It is a type of ramen from Kagoshima prefecture. I had the Egg Ramen, which is a soy sause based pork broth soup with eggs, Japanese mushrooms, seaweed, and the pork slices which we call "Chashu."

It was really good and I lapped it all up in no time. There's something about cold weather that makes you want to stuff yourself inside the tiny shop with other customers and enjoy a tasty bowl of ramen.

So if you're ever in Shinjuku, you'll have to stop by and have a try yourself!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Golden Glory

I was so excited when I found this ginkgo tree in all its golden glory the other day!

Spending most of the day in the office and getting off of work when it's pitch black outside, there really isn't much time to enjoy these lovely fall colors. But I have a whole hour of lunch break and when it's a sunny day like this, I can't help but walk around and take pictures!

Crossing my fingers for more days like this. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Get In Line

I like how all these bicycles, which are actually illegally parked on the side of the sidewalk, are so nicely in line.

I'm sure some people are just inside the store across the street and will come get their bikes after shopping and ride away. But others will be sitting here for weeks and weeks.

That is, until the ward clears the area of bicycles. They pile the illegal bikes onto trucks and make you pay 3000yen to have it returned. And by returned, I mean, you need to go pick it up at your designated district lot where they keep all the bicycles up to 45 days (only open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 1 to 6pm). After that it's anyone's guess where they go.

So don't park illegally on the streets...but thank you for providing an interesting photo opportunity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Little Red

Look what I found!

This plant growing on the side of the road. I've no idea what it is but it looks very Christmas-y, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Wanna Scoop Baby

Have you ever tried to catch a fish with paper?

This was one of the booths at the Hanazono Shrine. "Kingyo Sukui (金魚すくい)," as we call it in Japan, means "scoop goldfish," and that is what we literally do...with a paper scooper-upper (not the official name, obviously).

The point of this game is to cleverly use the paper scooper-upper (which is actually called Poi (ポイ) in Japanese) and scoop the tiny goldfish into your bowl. When the paper breaks and you no longer can use it, that's when the game is over.

You can see the little boy going for a fish in the photo...but this is a pretty hard game and not very many people at these festivals can scoop the goldfish. The little boy didn't have any luck either and the paper on the Poi broke when he enthusiastically tried to scoop a goldfish out of the water. But they gave him one goldfish anyways, just for trying!

If you're interested, there is actually a National Goldfish Scooping Tournament every year in Japan. I know, it's practically a national sport! haha.

This year over 1800 people participated and the person with the record scooped a total of 87 goldfish in just 3 minutes! How about that!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rake 'Em In

Is this colorful or what?

These are the various Kuma-de (熊手), decorative rakes, which is said to "rake in" wealth and good fortune. Things that are known to bring luck in Japan, like cranes and face masks, are glued on to the rakes for people to place in their stores or houses.

They better bring in good fortune because the Kuma-de actually cost a fortune. Anything from 3,000 yen (smallest Kuma-de) to 100,000 yen (largest Kuma-de, bigger than the ones in the photo above.) is sold in these stalls during this festival.

There were many people roaming the stalls and it was definitely fun to see. Although I didn't buy one for myself, I probably will if I ever start my own boutique or some other retail, just for luck!

What do you think about having something like this in your shop or entrance hall?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Swaying Lanterns

The entrance to Hanazono Shrine (花園神社) looked like this a couple of weeks ago.

The decorative lanterns, which have the names of various people and companies that have donated to the shrine written on them, can only mean one thing...MATSURI!!! (That means "festival" in Japanese.)

The Otori Matsuri (大酉祭) is an annual festival in November. Many people come to pray and enjoy the various food stalls set up but the main highlight of the festival is the Tori-no-Ichi (酉の市). It is called "Rake Fair" by some as many stalls selling various types of Kuma-de (熊手), a decorated rake made out of bamboo, for "raking in" wealth and good fortune. We really like these word games here in Japan.

The Tori-no-Ichi is always held in November on the days of the Rooster according to the Oriental Zodiac, which means that we have 2 or some years 3 days to enjoy this festival. I went on the 26th of November, which is called "San-no-Tori (三の酉)," the third and last day of the Rooster on the calendar.

I'll have more photos of the Kuma-de for you tomorrow!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mum's the Word

Hi friends. How are you?

In case you haven't notice, I have been away from this blog for a bit. Changes at work have kept me busy since October and I've guess I needed a little time to settle into the new routine of having a new additional position while maintaining the old one. Good thing I love the new position.

Also, my grandpa passed away the weekend before Thanksgiving. It's always hard to lose family. I flew down to Okinawa to attend the funeral and spend a few days with the family. He was the absolute best grandpa ever and I'll always remember his smile and the energetic way he would talk.

So...that was a little personal news from me. I'm back on my feet now and hope to keep up with the daily posts from now on. I'm very sorry I haven't been by to comment on all your posts...give me a few days and I will catch up in no time!

Regarding the flowers in the photo, they are called Kiku (菊) in Japanese. They are a type of Chrysanthemum. It's a flower that the Japanese hold very dear as it is also connected to the Emperor of Japan (his imperial seal is a chrysanthemum).

Many people love to grow this flower and we often see them being exhibited, like in the photos here. This was the exhibit at the Shinjuku City Hall. It was really interesting seeing the huge flowers...some how they remind me of the onion fries you can get at Outback!

What do you think of these funny looking...I mean, pretty flowers?