A year and a half in brief

Most of the highlights

I’ve now been in Tokyo just over 18 months, and a lot has happened! I’ve been promoted at work, got my Aikido black belt, and experienced so much more of the city and culture. So, in brief, here are a few of the things I’ve been up to …

Cooking

It’s much harder to be motivated to cook in Japan since it’s so easy and cheap to buy decent meals, but I still enjoy cooking when I have time - not to mention learning to make Japanese dishes from friends!

One of my Aikido classmates is a chef and my teacher's partner is a great home cook, so this combination of shabu-shabu and homemade bread was amazing! Kansai-style okonomiyaki - savoury cabbage pancakes - are the perfect simple meal to cook together. Traditionally you just add pork, but I like to put some shrimp and pickled ginger in as well for extra flavour. For one of our monthly house parties I made kiwi-style burgers from scratch! I also made an attempt at a beetroot and feta salad, but gave up on making it properly when I discovered it's impossible to get fresh beetroot here and that feta is incredibly expensive. For another one of the parties we made our own temaki-zushi (hand-rolled sushi). Of course I forgot to take a picture of the actual sushi, but you basically roll all your incrediants up into a seaweed or lettuce cone, which is much quicker and easier than trying to get a perfect cylinder.

Festivals of many kinds

Having been to most of the Tokyo’s tourist attractions during my exchange, one of my new weekend pastimes is going to the many cultural festivals that happen here.

Dancers at the Tahiti festival. I was disappointed to find most of the food was Hawaiian, so I ended up trying to make their national dish, Poisson Cru, at home afterwards! Taste of Tokyo isn't the most visually amazing festival, but it's an awesome mix of food from around Japan and the world. Goulash and craft gin were the highlights for me! The Africa Heritage festival had some of the most interesting food I've tried with all kinds of stews, barbecues and beer.

On reflection I think I need to take more photos of the actual food!

Halloween in Shibuya

One of the biggest yearly events here is the Shibuya Halloween party.

To give you an idea of how packed the streets are, imagine this on every road within about five blocks! This is Shibuya's famous "scramble crossing". I feel sorry for the cars trying to get through! Some cosplayers are incredibly good - this guy was completely motionless and genuinely looked like a plastic toy!

Back for a while

Last Christmas and New Year I went back to New Zealand for a while to see the family, eat some steak pies and pavlova, and have a proper (i.e. summer) Christmas!

The sheep at the bottom left is one that my sister and I have had as a pet since we were in primary school. People are amazed I still recognise him ... it's something about the fat nose and grandfatherly bearing 8 years after the earthquake, Christchurch is still a long way from being rebuilt. There are lots of great new things, but also lots of reminders of how slow-moving things can be One thing I still miss from New Zealand is the coffee! In 18 months I haven't found any here that's quite as good Wellington is still as vibrantly chill as ever. It helps that I came on one of the famously rare good days!

Sake Brewing

My teacher happens to know a sake brewer in the mountains nearby, so naturally we went up there for a tour of the brewery and a taste of sake brewed with the famously clear water of the local stream.

The brewery is in a quiet country town with lots of open areas and green stuff. Such a nice change from the concrete jungle! Some of the houses still have old thatched roofs and paper walls. That tree looks far too sculpted to be natural, but it would be so much effort to trim the top branches ... fushigi (mysterious)! At the brewery they have a tiny shrine to the sake spirits above the door, and a symbolic rope which is apparently re-woven for good luck every year.

And onwards …

I've been too busy to go to Aikido as much as I've wanted recently, but I've come a long way since arriving here, and further still since starting out near the beginning of this blog!

Having reached the halfway point of my semi-planned stay in Japan, I’m starting to get reflective. Tokyo is an amazing and fun city, but it doesn’t feel like a place to settle down. I’m still not sure where my next stop will be (back to NZ? On to the UK? Somewhere else in Japan? Somewhere else in the world?) but I do feel like it’s coming in the not-too-distant future.

Posted on 25 August 2019
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