I don‘t think I ever tried umeshu (梅酒/plum wine) before moving to Japan. It is so tasty that I just have to add it to this archive. I realise that I’ve been mainly writing about food and drink items but it makes sense to me as eating and drinking has been playing such a big role during my 5+ years living in Tokyo. Umeshu has become one of my favourite liquors to start the evening with when eating out at a Japanese restaurant. I love the golden colour of the drink and the sweet and slightly sour taste. Umeshu is either served one the rocks (ロック) or mixed with soda (梅酒ソーダ), both versions equally good. Many Japanese make the drink themselves at home and there are make-your-own kits that you can easily buy when the plums are in season. I am sure that a glass of umeshu will always remind me of the many evenings spent at some of Tokyo’s plenty izakayas or yakitori joints.
This melody…what a blessing it was in the first years here in Tokyo. I called it the ‚going home song‘ but, among foreigners just mention the 5 o‘clock bells and everyone should know. In Japanese you‘d call the melody, which is played every day at exactly 5pm 5時のチャイム (go ji no chaimu) or 5時のベル (go ji no beru). Kids, playing outside are told by their parents that when they hear the melody, it‘s time to go home. If everyone sticks to it, it really makes a parent’s life easier. The actual reason for this melody which is played from loudspeakers usually situated at local parks and playgrounds, is to test the speakers so they will definitely work for public announcements during an emergency situation, such as an earthquake, tsunami or typhoon. Each ward has its own melody which can cause a bit of a headache if you are living right at the border of two wards and hear two different melodies very loudly, simultaneously. The melody filmed in the video is Tokyo‘s Minato Ward 5 o‘clock bell version which will always remind me of our time living here, I am sure.
Today’s post won’t be about food or drink but instead I’ve written down my view on Tokyo’s aesthetics as a city. In some thoughts on life in Japan, I mentioned my initial feelings when going into the city from Haneda airport for the very first time. I was in shock as all I could see were industrial concrete buildings, rusty rail tracks, overly dominant elevated express ways, a myriad of overhead electric cables, tons of construction sites and not the slightest bit of green in sight. This was just the initial route into town though; the closer we got to the city centre the buildings’ appearances started to look less industrial and small parks and temples emerged. For me, however, it all still seemed chaotic and messy (in the sense that there was no consistent architectural style to be found). It was all just too urban to be considered beautiful. Finding the beauty in Tokyo does take some time. Continue reading “Tokyo archive 03”
Before coming to Japan there were many things I didn’t know about Sake. Firstly, I hadn’t heard the expression nihonshu before, which is the actual, Japanese word for what the rest of the world calls sake. Sake, in Japanese, is just the general term for alcohol. On the few occasions that I have had sake before moving to Tokyo, I would’ve had it warm. However, in Japan, I’ve found that it is mostly consumed chilled or at room temperature. I had no idea about the serving etiquette either, which includes that you should never pour your own cup of sake. Furthermore, I’ve discovered many different types of sake, amongst them sparkling sake which is, in my opinion, the perfect summer drink.
I have to admit though that, even whilst I enjoy drinking it, I am no expert. I still mainly choose sake by the design of the bottle’s label, which says it all. There is one aspect of drinking sake that I’ve nearly enjoyed the most. It is the custom that when you order sake, a tray or basket full of different sake cups of all colours, shapes and sizes is brought to your table for you to choose from. I liked this custom so much that I started my own collection of sake cups, a work in progress.
My first entry for the Tokyo archive has to be about food, no question. From the moment I had a typical teishoku (定食) put in front of me at a restaurant, I fell in love with the aesthetics of it. The arrangement of different sized bowls and plates for the side dishes, main dish, rice, miso soup and pickles, the beautiful chopsticks on an intricate stand placed neatly at the front of a wooden tray; it is nearly too pretty to touch any of this and start eating. We’ve been trying to recreate a typical teishoku meal many times at home (the pictures are some examples) however, never achieved the beauty of these typical set meals when they are served at a Japanese restaurant. I guess we are just lacking the attention to detail.
Now that my memory archive project has come to an end, I decided on a worthy successor. After five years and some months, our time in Japan is coming to an end soon. As much as time allows, I am planning to post a limited selection of everyday items or treasured concepts that I discovered whilst living here. Continue reading “Tokyo archive”
Finally, I’ve reached day 100 of writing about the things I’ve been letting go off and what could be a better item to celebrate this appropriately than the disposal of a whole house?! No, I am not talking about the bird house in the picture, even though this one was, sadly, left behind (together with the tree it was fixed to and all the other beautiful greenery surrounding it – amongst them two Japanese Maples and four, massive banana plants). In fact, I am talking of our family home of the past four and a bit years. The house has vanished, disappeared within a week. I’d confidently say that getting rid of a whole house can easily be considered the pinnacle of minimalism, can’t it? Continue reading “memory archive — day 100”
Happy New Year! It’s been, again, a long time since I’ve last written, making one of my new year’s resolutions the resurrection of this blog. We’ve only just come back from Europe where we spent some quality time with friends and family. Discarding our return flight boarding passes and luggage tags, which were piled up on the entrance cabinet, made me remember that I used to keep all those things as a teenager, when flying somewhere was still a novelty for me. Continue reading “memory archive — day 79”
I believe I don’t know anyone who is into minimalistic design but isn’t a fan of the Japanese brand Muji. When moving to Japan, I was excited to go and see the brand’s flagship store, having only known a relatively small version in London (that was back four years ago). Actually, my first outing on my own in Tokyo, back then with baby in tow, was a 40 minutes walk to the Muji Concept Store in Aoyama — a big thing as, at that time, I hadn’t really been outside of our neighbourhood yet. Continue reading “memory archive — day 80”
FINALLY, I am in the right frame of mind to start decluttering (and thus writing) again. I did a big tidy-up yesterday to get the house ready for a birthday party and this made me realise again how much happier and relaxed I feel when my home looks in order and things are cleared away.
To kick-off the countdown to 100 items (well, that’s my current goal as it feels achievable), I decided to say goodbye to a pair of craft turtles that I kept as I initially thought those were extremely cute. Continue reading “memory archive — day 78”