Phew! It’s officially spring in Tokyo, and with the coming of spring break also arrived my sister in law, so I have been doing ALL the touristy things and having a blast. That means I have a lot to share with you, of course!
First off… did you know Containment would be here in JUST FOUR MONTHS??? A few years ago I didn’t know if I would ever publish a book, so it’s extra thrilling to me that this, my second book and sequel, will be in the world soon. To celebrate I did a reading for the students at the Canadian International School here in Tokyo, and they were incredibly excited to get a sneak peek at Containment (as well as hear some of Sanctuary).
On to the Japan!
My sis in law and I attended a dance workshop in Asakusa. As always, the Asakusa Cultural Centre is an amazing place, happy to provide Japanese cultural experiences for free (this is also where we were able to see geisha a few months back). If you’re in Tokyo, I highly recommend you check and see if they have anything going on. Asakusa is maybe Tokyo’s most tourist friendly neighborhood, with volunteer guides, English speaking areas, and free classes in multiple languages.
Spring Has Sprung!
The famous cherry blossoms have arrived in Tokyo! It’s like an amazing secret how many of the trees around here are secretly sakura, and the entire city is fast becoming a riot of pink. It’s beautiful how even lifelong residents stop to stare and photograph the pink blossoms. Sakura are truly the ultimate Japanese expression of spring.
I also finally got to see Mount Fuji. You know all those pictures of Tokyo with Mt Fuji all majestic in the background? Yeah, those are photoshopped. You almost never see Fuji from Tokyo, what with all the buildings in the way. And even a hint of cloud cover swallows it up from view in a heartbeat. But this day we finally got a beautiful clear day to view the majestic mountain, and you could immediately see why it’s such an iconic image of Japan.
I did something very unique with my sister visiting… I left Tokyo! We went on a day trip up the mountains to Hakone, and we crammed as much into a single day as was humanly possible. For example, and I don’t want to make anyone jealous, I have added seven years to my life by eating the black eggs of Owakudani. (They’re only black because they’re cooked in the volcanic steam on the mountains, don’t worry).
We also visited Yunessan Water Park. There are lots of beautiful hot springs in Hakone, and Yunessan isn’t the best of them. What makes it special is the water park area, where you can wear a swimsuit. We booked it specifically so we could go with my husband, who then opted not to come inside with us.
But it turned out to be super fun anyway, because Yunessan also has theme pools where you can bathe in wine, sake, green tea, and coffee. So for that experience alone, I really enjoyed the trip.
I have always loved Japanese tea and been fascinated by the tea ceremony. When I was first here longer ago than I care to admit, I knew a woman who practiced it, and she gave me my first introduction to the simple beauty of the tea ceremony. This week I experienced it again.
The coolest thing here was that they actually built a replica tea house. Notice the small entrance with the sword beside it. The traditional entrance to a Japanese teahouse is only 60 cm square (two feet for my American friends). That’s so that Japanese samurai couldn’t crawl in wearing their swords on their backs. The teahouse is a place of peace, so weapons should be left outside.
The tea is prepared in a ceremonial fashion, whisked and handed to each guest, who accepts it and formally turns the bowl to avoid tarnishing the beautiful design with your lips. When you’ve finished the tea, you turn the bowl back toward yourself to admire its pattern before setting it down. This was a simple but profoundly enjoyable hour spent in a remarkably peaceful environment. I would do this every day if I could.
Let’s finish with something silly and touristy and just so much fun: Ninja Shinjuku, a ninja themed restaurant in, no surprise, Shinjuku. We entered a tiny entrance where Pepper the Robot greeted us and lectured us about not feeling silly pretending to be ninjas, because she is also an adult and she enjoys it. She then slides aside to reveal the secret entrance to the restaurant. You’re led to your private, cavern-like room, and the food begins to arrive: an assortment of delicious, themed, beautifully presented dishes. We had cheese and pickle appetizers, steaming boxes of sashimi, chicken steak with bamboo rice and vegetables, and for dessert, well…
It almost broke our hearts to eat this work of art. The base is ice cream topped with chocolate and matcha powder. The tree trunk is constructed of pie crust, and the blooms are made from sakura paste. There’s also a chocolate throwing star embedded in the right branch. You’ll see pruning shears on the plate in the lower left corner: we used those to cut the tree apart and dish it out. And as much as we were reluctant to do it, the tree tasted amazing.
Ninja Shinjuku was not cheap, but it was an incredible experience I highly recommend.
Well folks, that’s all for this month. If you do want to see some additional pics, you can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here. And as always, if you liked this post, please feel free to share!