In Sonobe, a tiny town 50 minutes from Kyoto by train. Staying with Fiona and Pia in their little (though large by Japanese standards) comfy apartment, worrying that I could crash through a wall at any moment – classic gaijin smash. Being blown away by the richly coloured autumn foliage, and again when we awoke one day to a blanket of white covering the town. I’m so pleased I had this place as a base to explore Kyoto and other cities from, and with such super hospitality. Thanks, friends!
Building Block – so basic, so simple, so perfect.
Brown Rice Cafe is my number one food-related recommendation for Tokyo. I visited twice, and each time it was a struggle to find, but more than worth the trouble. The first time, with Kim, we each enjoyed an assortment of vegetables, pickles and mystery vegan treats with brown rice and miso, while sitting outside with charming blankets draped over our knees.
The second time was the day I caught the train on my own from Sonobe to Kyoto to Osaka to Tokyo to Harajuku (yep), from where I walked down to Shimokitazawa and became lost. All faintingly hungry and rain-drenched, when I eventually found it again I was rewarded for my efforts with a fantastic vege burger with wasabi and lotus root. I love my memory of sitting eating alone in a foreign land after navigating hours of solo train travel. Considering that from there I went on to meet my husband at the airport, miss the last train back to Kyoto by 3 minutes and get stranded in Tokyo overnight, this meal was a wonderful moment of calm during one of my craziest days.
Run, don’t walk, to adorable Mitaka and the best thing in Tokyo or maybe anywhere: Ghibli Museum. You know I love me some Totoro. There were tears. Mainly because it was such an overwhelmingly amazing and magical place to be, but also because adults are not allowed to play on the giant cat bus. >:|
It can be fairly difficult to find a cute and affordable place to stay in Tokyo. But aren’t you lucky, I’ve found one for you! Well, tbh I didnt find it. My pal Mika was in Japan a few weeks before I was, and when she started posting instagrams of her hostel Kim and I immediately cancelled our original booking somewhere blandly affordable to stay at the same place, which wound up being even cheaper!
As you can see, Nui Hostel is really, really nice.
The lobby is a cafe by day and popular bar by night, the rooms are simple, clean and not nearly as small as I’d expected. Kim and I shared a bunk room, and Jason and I later stayed in a river-view double. There are also dorm rooms and the unisex bathrooms are really good and not at all intimidating to share. There is a very sweet kitchen, dining and library area on the top floor. The wifi was super. It seemed like an equal mix of Japanese people and foreigners, which I certainly took for a positive. The staff were exceptionally friendly, and we had no difficulties whatsoever.
Unfortunately we found the location to be really inconvenient. With it being Kim’s first visit to Tokyo and with my terrible navigation skills, it would have been wise for us to stay somewhere more central. I hadn’t realised this as my first time in Tokyo I’d stayed near the Yamanote line, which made it deceptively easy to get around.
I certainly don’t regret staying at Nui, it was an excellent experience and as a place to stay I couldn’t recommend it enough. I’d just say to be aware of how many extra connections you’ll need to make if you do decide to stay there, and perhaps consider booking elsewhere if it’s your first visit and you’re not so confident with navigation.
For a long time I’ve adored the work of sculptor Francis Upritchard, thinking periodically for years now of her creepy lamps with faces and wishing one of them could live with me at my house. Today my friend and book group monarch Ange posted a link on twitter to images of her home and I couldn’t click it fast enough. As you can see, it was even better than I could’ve imagined. Upritchard lives in Hackney with furniture designer Martino Gamper, and the combination of their work and aesthetic is basically perfection to me. Images seen here, originally from here, and a photograph of their kitchen area is also on the cover of the latest issue of Home New Zealand. I’m off to hunt that down tomorrow.
I certainly admire all the bloggers who have their 2012 roundups posted directly before the year ends, and then their resolutions, hopes or intentions for the new year on the first couple of days into it. But we all know I’ll never be one of them! Even if I were a prepared superblogger, with my big trip (which I’m still on btw, it’s fantastic) beginning at the end of November I didn’t really have much time to just sit and reflect until the last week or so.
2012 was pretty awesome. I completed couch-2-5k, something I never thought I’d be able to do, and I got to Europe, a goal which has been a very very long time coming. I went to beautiful weddings in Nelson and the Bay of Plenty, and helped photograph one of them. I travelled overseas with a friend, and on my own, both for the first time. I helped style a cookbook, went to a sleepover at the zoo, and had the best birthday party of my life. I decided I didn’t care whether I was too old or not, and dyed my hair pink. I danced often, and embarrassingly hard. I had a really great year. I feel very lucky and grateful for the good things and people I have in my life.
This year I want to work harder, make more, be proud of what I’m doing with my life, and I want a cat. *nods emphatically*
I had one of my first quiet New Years Eves. Jason and I were in Berlin and were informed repeatedly how crazy people go with fireworks and to stay off the streets at midnight. I’m scared of fireworks at the best of times and had a cold, so we stayed in, watched the Addams Family movie, drank champagne while firecrackers and skyrockets went off consistently from 4pm to about 4am. At midnight it peaked, and we watched from our balcony as Berlin lost it’s shit. It has to be seen (and heard) to be believed!
Hello, I’m in Japan! I will write more soon, but in the meantime you can see what I’ve been up to here.