Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yukatas, Fireworks and Friends, oh my!

I finally made it to my first summer fireworks show in Japan!  

Actually, I did see some when I visited Japan at age 10 and I remember being so close that it seemed like the fireworks would drip onto my head.  We were all laying on the grass looking up and it seemed like there was no blank space in the sky.  It might have been also because I was 10 years old.

Anyway, we went to the Tamagawa fireworks which has been deemed one of the best shows in the Tokyo area.  There were thousands and thousands of people there and it was one of the hottest afternoons I've subjected myself to.  Thankfully, our friends brought so much food and drink so it was really fun and enjoyable.

To think, we were initially thinking of just going to "check it out."  Oh man, no way that would have happened.  You really have to commit if you're going to go see fireworks.  Tarp, food, drinks, queues for the bathroom and a snail crawl back to the train station after.

There was an even bigger show a few weeks ago but I heard that the effort in trying to get home was a complete nightmare.  Tamagawa only took us 2 hours to get home and in the most orderly mob-queue to the station ever.  The social compliance in Japan is amazing.

I also bought my first yukata in Japan.  Yukata is the summer version of a light, casual kimono that people often wear to festivals and such.  Ironically, I resisted bringing any from my home in California because I thought nobody would wear them.  "Look at that girl, she must be a tourist!"

The variety in yukatas is really cool to see, even between men and women and how their personal styles show through.   Aome of them are so, so gorgeous.  I really wanted to take photos of people in their yukatas but I just couldnt bring myself to. Maybe I buy a nicer one at some point but for this one, I actually really liked my outfit.  It was inexpensive and simple and it worked.  Blue with textured lines and white storks and a small, silver belt.  I sweated through all of them.

Tonight, my best friend is flying in!  I'm taking tomorrow, Monday, off to get her settled in for the next 3+ weeks so I'm excited. Hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of her visiting to go do more sightseeing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obon Week and Upcoming Events

Obon is the time of year that people in Japan return to their home towns and pay respects to their ancestors.  Combined with summer holidays and the level of humidity, it's been a pretty slow start to the week. 

On Monday, there was actually a small Obon matsuri (festival) that was held downstairs of our offices that I was pretty excited about.  I haven't been to any of the festivals or fireworks held this summer yet and I was really curious to see how it was like. Especially since my only exposure to such have been mainly Obon festivals back home in California. I wanted to see what the differences were since it seemed to be much more serious thing by business point of view.  Instead, it was more similar than I expected.  Photos captured only by iPhone and photo filters...getting lazy!

Firstly, there was a live cover band.  Pretty rock and roll!  There were a surprising amount of people with their adorable kids running around in yukatas and playing games that are, I guess, very common:

Catching goldfish with a paper net.  I remember doing this; it's super addicting, fun and frustrating!  I think I used to do them with floating ping pong balls though...maybe not as challenging as real swimming fish, now that I think of it...

Several stands of food (and beer). The grilled squid was my favorite to photograph...mmm!

Another game of trying to catch a water balloon yoyo.  I've forgotten how much fun they are!

There is apparently a huge fireworks show this weekend that's supposed to be one of the best in the Tokyo area and I think that I may stay in the city just to see it.  Also, one of my best friends is flying in Sunday night!  Words can't express how excited I am to see her and I'll be taking Monday off to get her familiarized with getting around.  She'll be staying for over 3 weeks, with another friend arriving a week later.  The boyfriend is going to be the luckiest and most unfortunate bloke on this block.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Japan's Beaches: Shimoda, Izu

As a California girl, I'll always feel a bit at home with the scent of an ocean breeze.  Going up along the coastline to Shimoda, Izu was almost like driving along PCH as I watched the sky and ocean meet in their hues of blues.  And the fact that it was the same Pacific made me feel that much closer to home.

What was definitely different, however, was the rock structures. They remind me of the rock formations of Railey Beach, Thailand with their lush forest and greenery intertwined.  And the cicadas definitely remind me that I'm in Asia.  I love it.

A group of us are renting a beach house for the summer to escape the city on the weekends and it's been a nice refresher to the weekly grind.  It takes about 3 hours by train each way but it's nice to chill out, barbeque and eat together.  Mm, the taste of carbon!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I Pledge... live as fabulously as possible from here on out.

Hm, I keep telling myself that (I'm pretty sure I was inspired by some episode of Sex and the City), but the next thing I know, I'm rushing out the door with half-wet hair and flip flops as I hurry off to work 5 days a week.

I tell myself that it's because Californian beauty in more au natural (beachy hair, sun kissed skin, your favorite jeans...) but it's really because I'd rather not take so long getting ready.

But really, it's a goal of mine to look more put together.  My friend gifted me Chanel (to the left) for my birthday this year and it made me feel all fancy and special.  She's pretty well put together, too.

The dedication women have to put themselves together every morning is amazing and it's something I'm still working on.  Maybe having a work outfit blog will motivate me to put in more effort...

"There are no ugly women, just lazy women."  D=

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

My 10 Reasons to Travel While Young

As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that I'm still relatively young and I'm still changing and stumbling through my life abroad.  I've just barely got my ATM card to work and actually withdraw cash in Japan so clearly I'm not above the learning curve.  But these are just a few things that I've felt to be true in my quest for adventure, love and answers.

1.  What you do and who you meet today will influence who you are tomorrow.
         Almost everything that follows can probably be tied into this one, but it's major. Is it my spontaneity that caused me to travel or did travel spark my spontaneity?  If had never quit my dead-end job, would I be living abroad now?  Would I be making the same choices?  Would I appreciate food in the same way?  Would I have learned another language?  I could have been so different!

2.  People are more forgiving of mistakes made while you're young.
          When you're young, making mistakes is all about "growing up," learning about yourself and the world.  If you haven't "learned" about yourself by a certain age...people start to think you're a bum. Or weird. Or both.

3.  People are more trusting to help a young person.
          Old guy asking me for directions = creepy
          Young guy asking me for my number = charming
          But seriously, asking for help is easier when you're young because adults still see you as a child. And they probably wish they were still in your shoes. Natsukashii ne? (Very nostalgic)

4.  You have less responsibilities. Cliche, but true.
          And because of your youth, you have an excuse.

5.  Your body can survive better.
          Backpacking through Europe? Exciting!
          Sleeping in the creaky roofs of a Cambodian hostel?  Edgy!
          Hiking up Mount Kinabalu for 2 days through the heat and cold?  Hardcore!
          Trying food in random street stalls in Thailand?  Risk-taker!
          All this 20 years later?  Exhausting, uncomfortable, painful and food poisoning.

6.  You find passions that you never knew about.
          ie: photography, Vietnamese food, scuba diving, collecting ethnic jewelry, belly dancing, yoga.  Maybe from people you've met along the way or maybe just by accident.

7.  You'll have interesting stories to tell.
          The most interesting are not always the most well-planned!  Some of my best stories include being an underwater stunt double for an action film in the Philippines, backpacking by myself through rice terraces, and falling in love with and in Singapore.

8.  You learn more about people...quickly.  This includes previous friendships, future friendships and even dating.
          I used to be very naive about...everything.  From friends to dating to trusting others.  Sure, that sort of optimism is endearing and ideal, but as cynical as it sounds, you learn how to quickly get a feel for someone across cultures.  This can also be a positive thing as you'll learn social differences in culture very quickly - by accident or otherwise.
          Living abroad is almost like express socializing/dating as nobody seems to really have any time to waste on someone they don't like or enjoy or even just click with.  It's not a bad thing; you'll barely have time to keep up with the important people in your life so there's no use spending time on those are are less than that.

9.  You learn more about yourself.  
          My travels have definitely given me insight on things about myself. Some things fabulous, some not to so fabulous and some even downright painful. ie: "I'm pretty good a photography composition!"  "I'm missing out on all my friends' weddings."  "I've grown apart and am not there for my friends like I should."

10.  If anything, be inspired, fall in love, and change your life before it passes you by.  Create forks in the road and choose the one less traveled!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Cicadas say: Summer is here!

Apparently, the hotter it gets, the louder cicadas get. Well, I hear ya! The summer heat has definitely hit Tokyo and, boy, are the cicadas making it well known.

This is the view from my kitchen on the 15th floor...I thought the clouds looked pretty standout!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Coral Nails

I've been obsessed with coral for years, so imagine my excitement when coral finally became ultra popular a few years ago. I've seemed to gradually collect an assortment of coral items like scarves, earrings (which I've lost already), shoes, dresses, and now my nails. Gel on top of normal nail polish actually. I love combining coral with gold and bright makes me think of pirates treasure on a tropical island.