Looking back on our trip to Tokyo, there were so many amazing adventures and wonderful moments. I never expected that I would look back so fondly on a department store however. But that is the case. Marui One was dedicated entirely to alternative fashion and an epicenter of Lolita. But all good things come to pass and One closed its doors on 25 September 2013. So, it is with joy that I got to visit there and sadness that it is no more, that I present you with this photo journey.
The department store featured 7 floors. Not uncommon, the shops really frown upon photos and so almost all of them post a “No Photos” sign prominently. But what I loved about Marui One was the escalator ride. On each floor, perfectly placed at the landing of the escalator, were displays from a popular brand residing on that level. After I had my fill of actual shopping I rode back to the top. Unabashedly with my camera in hand I started the ride down, snapping each display as I snaked through the ride. It was like a kawaii theme park of sorts. I attracted some stares, but most shoppers went about their business leaving me to my fun.
Metamorphose Temps de Fille
Baby, the Stars Shine Bright
Sayonara Marui One. Thanks for the fun.
If you are looking for something unique and enjoyable to bring back as gifts from Tokyo you MUST visit Asakusa. We bought a bag of this and a bag of that – and so far every single purchase has been a hit. Of all the omiyage snacks and goodies from our vacation, this particular treat gets top marks for being the cutest.
I selected this treat to share with my team and colleagues at work. Admittedly the chocolate items went first, but these also got high praise. Each individually wrapped snack has a peanut in a coated shell for a head and a soy flavored rice cracker for a body. They are designed to resemble a kokeshi, a very simple wooden doll that is usually handmade and decorated with simple lines to indicate a face. They are unique and stand out due to their lack of arms and legs. These crackers are equally as charming as their namesake. And while they were meant for my mates, I had to try a couple. They are delicious!!
“Welcome home.” I wish! I’ve long been drawn to the simplicity and elegance of traditional Japanese rooms. And then I remember that I am a pack rat and where on earth would I put everything? Anyway, back to the point. Today I want to take you on a tour of the suite at Gora Kadan. This is absolutely a part of the trip that has been added to my “I’ll be back” list.
Kakou Annex Suite
As you approach the suite, a short stroll from the main building, you first arrive at a private gate. Slide the wooden doors open and walk down the lantern lined courtyard to the genkan.
Once inside, slip off your shoes on the stone step and transport yourself into Old Japan. To your left is a hallway and bench where fresh yukata are laid out waiting to be slipped on as you sink into the relaxing atmosphere of the onsen.
Just beyond the hall is the bedroom. Two twin beds, a television and a view of the mountain side. A balanced blend of the old and the new.
Slide open the fusuma screens to reveal the sitting room overlooking an open-air stone bath and small garden.
At the end of the hallway you will find all the amenities of a modern bath room but designed to be elegant and true to the principles of maximizing space. A counter with double sinks, the toilet, a deep wooden soaking tub, and an enclosed steam shower follow one another.
Returning back to the genkan (entrance) and to the right you enter the living/dining room. The tokonoma instantly comes into view, with its display of seasonal flowers and an auspicious hanging scroll featuring pine and bamboo. To your right are oshiire quietly hiding extra futons and bedding. To your left shoji screens frame a wooden terrace overlooking the mountains.
Tucked into each side of the room, hidden behind the shoji, before entering the terrace are a reading nook and writing desk. Both cozy and functional, these miniature rooms make excellent use of the space. (The reading nook instantly became my home-away-from-home blogging station.)
I hope you enjoyed the tour. If you are looking for an escape from the busy city and appreciate high standards of customer service be sure to plan a stay at Gora Kadan.
Link: Gora Kadan | Kakou Annex Suite
So where did we leave off. Oh yes, the sake was flowing…
… and flowing…
And the food was still flowing as well. And the proportions suddenly grew making me wish I had worn an elastic waist skirt that night. Course 5 included sashimi adorned with daikon cut in the shape of falling cherry blossom petals served on dish featuring a willow and a bridge. So appropriate for the season. The sashimi was accompanied with a seaweed soup and a small side dish which my memory has failed to remember exactly what it was. I do know it was very very tasty.
Up next was a few bites of grilled eel. We were all chatting and interested in the technique used to prepare the eel. It was very soft and not chewy at all. At which point Kimiko magically produced a book full of incredible photos from the restaurant. She showed us a 2 page spread featuring preparation of this specific dish. The cutting technique is critical to its success. And the flavor imbibed from the grilling was extraordinary.
Up next was a tuna sushi roll and a piece of pickled myoga ginger. Forget the typical slices of ginger that are served with everyday sushi. That little chunk of ginger was spectacular.
I am not an anime otaku by any stretch, but when this single piece of sushi arrived I couldn’t help but channel Haruhi from Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu. FATTY TUNA!!! Need I say more?
Surely, I thought, the fatty tuna must be the climax of the meal. I was wrong. More dishes were still ahead of us. Next up, a slice of grilled fish. The grilling gave it a wonderful bouquet and a distinct texture. Still soft on the inside but moist on the outside. Adi raved about this dish the entire cab ride home. As he is our resident chef, I think that says something.
I confess, when this mystery bowl arrived I was nervous. How on earth am I going to eat any more.
And then more and more and more plates kept coming. And then a giant nabe of rice too! The good news, we had reached the grand finale. The bad news, it was a delicious conclusion and I just couldn’t eat it all. Lucky for me, Asumi had no issues and helped me out. Dōmo Asumi, dōmo.
Ah, but wait, there’s more. No meal is complete without dessert. This evening it was a slice of musk melon and a strawberry topped with a sauce and mint. おいしいですね！
Maybe I should have split this post into 3 parts. Cause even dessert was turning out to be a serious affair. This dish has a little story to it. On the surface it looks like a straight forward manjū, bun filled with anko bean paste. But this little treat was especially made using Dassai sake lees. A very thoughtful and special touch for our dinner party.
What is Going On???
As I mentioned in the last post, while this all looks very posh and proper, the giggles in our little private room were anything but. There were jokes relating those in our party’s ability to consume sake as compared to Starbuck’s serving sizes. I am a “tall” if you must know. And some very interesting attempts at translating using a combination of Japanese, English and French. But those are our secrets and shale not be spoken about further.
However, it seems I have some gaps in memory not just about the food. My camera captured a few shots where I am still not exactly sure what was going on. Looks pretty serious!
And so that concludes our evening at Aoyagi. I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some of the best restaurants in NYC. Sorry Daniel, but I did just find my new, most favorite restaurant on the planet.
Minato, Tokyo 106-0041, Japan
After visiting Tsukiji we came back to the apato to freshen up. Then were off again to meet Asumi in Harajuku for a some fun before dinner.
Adi was smart and his first stop was Starbuck’s across from the Takeshita-Dori arch… must be well caffeinated to face the crazy crowd. Also, doesn’t he look smart in his Yohji Yamamoto jacket! He got it in Paris, wears it in NY, and now it has come home for a visit.
For me this was a stealth mission to get a feel for where to shop when I return later in the week. Having Asumi as a guide was awesome and it meant we could do purikura with someone who (is a pro and) can read all the instructions.
I want to save my money for BTSSB and AP… but could have easily gone crazy in Smile Camp. It is like being wrapped in a rainbow. So cute!!!!!!!!
I bought a cloth chain necklace from the new Kate Spade Saturday. There were several dresses also that caught my attention. I had fun chatting with the shop girl. She said that it won’t be until next year that more locations of this hip new shop open up in other cities.
Someday, just someday, I might actually grow up. But here I am, 40 years old, and still madly in love with crazy colors and loud fashion. So on that note, here is the rest of the photospam from our walk down Takeshita-dori and around Ura-Harajuku.
And if you can believe it, there is still more to Day 3…
We meet Asumi and her mom and went to explore Tsukiji market. First order of business was for Adi to find and purchase his very own yanagi knife. He did all his research before coming and so it was just a matter of finding the Masamoto stand. With Asumi and her mom’s help it was so easy. They were able to translate and help us navigate around. They are so sweet!
More about the knives later, the next mission was breakfast!!! Must find some sushi!!!
It’s all smiles after a yummy breakfast. Wish I could read the kanji, love the restaurant. Not only was the sushi amazing, the tea was some of the best I have ever had. The O’baa-chan was very very proud of her tea.
Too many photos for one post (hehehe). To be continued…
I think we overdid it on Day 2. My feet are killing me from so much walking! But it was all worth it. We started the day exchanging currency. We brought cash with us. Banks typically offer better exchange rates than the small exchange kiosks. Looks like travelers checks would have given an additional advantage.
First stop was Roppongi. We intended on going to Muji but they were closed. So instead we bought a department store bento and had a very yummy lunch. Walked around a bit and got a good view of Tokyo tower in the distance.
Next stop was Shibuya. My travel buddy needed an extra layer – it was really cold. So we knew that Uniqlo would have something guaranteed. And they did. In fact we walked out with 3 big shopping bags!!! We made sure to visit Hachiko. He is so cute. What devotion.
We will be back to Shibuya. This was just a tease. So much more shopping to do. Come on feet you can make it. がんばれ.
Credits: Sakura (with a filter) | Illustration my own
T-minus 23 days and counting. Today’s birthday trip wish is to explore …
This is where me and my travel buddy will part ways for the day; he will be keen on the electronics and I on a mission to find Sailor Moon amongst the anime and manga paraphernalia. I don’t fit the bill of an Otaku, but me and Usagi-chan go way back. According to the interwebs, the best place to begin this search is at Mandarake.
Mandarake Akihabara – 5-5-15 Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001, +81 3 3228 0007, ekizo.mandarake.co.jp/shop/en, Open Friday 12pm-8pm
My coin purse also needs to be ready to fight for sweet surprises tucked away in little capsules. Yes, we are talking about the coin operated vending machines that dispense tiny little toys in plastic bubbles. I don’t gamble, but I can see my self dropping some coin easily to secure the perfect Rilakkuma trinket while in Tokyo. I am fairly certain, like socks, these machines will not be hard to find. But the trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop in capsule heaven, Gachapon Kaikan.
Gachapon Kaikan – MN building 1F, 3-15-5 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 5209 6020, akibagacha.com. Open Mon-Thurs 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-7pm
Links: Akihabara Map
* One of my prized possessions – A Sailor Moon heart locket Gashyapon. Thank you eBay.
T-minus 36 days and counting. Today’s birthday trip wish is to attend…
Of the many Japanese items that adorned my childhood home, there is one piece that for some reason left a memorable impression on me. It was a very large cloth furoshiki that had been framed and hung in the entertainment room. It featured Kamakura Gongorō Kagemasa from the play Shibaraku. He was dressed in the iconic robes bearing the family crest of Ichikawa Danjūrō, three squares nested inside one another known as sanshō. For us gaijin, I think this is probably the character we most widely recognize when one thinks of Kabuki.
Very fortunate for me, the Kabuki-za in Ginza celebrates a grand reopening this spring. This landmark theater in Tokyo retains its original esthetic but has gone high tech with the world’s largest revolving stage and other cutting edge production technology. There will be daily shows April 2nd through 28th which is just perfect timing. I need to book the tickets very soon; the premium seats are going quickly.
Links: The Performance | The Theater | For Tickets | Grand Reopening