Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Farmers’ Market @ UNU Tokyo

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Every Saturday and Sunday, a sizable farmers’ market sprawls out in the middle of Tokyo. Situated in front of UN University in Aoyama, this market boasts fabulous produce and cottage industry food items. From unusual Japanese citrus and interesting vegetables like gobo (burdock root) and manganji (peppers indigenous to the Kansai region) to freshly baked bread, frozen yogurt, and newly picked greens, this collection of covered vendors seems to have it all. In Tokyo this summer? Looking for incredible ingredients? This is the place to be.

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Farm-fresh-froyo

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Sweet and sour citrus (with samples!)

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Breakfast of Champions

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This week, I had the immense pleasure of spending a couple days at my future alma mater: Yale College. As far as I know, universities are not famed for their cuisine. Yale, however, did have one standout breakfast option: fresh waffles, soaked with school spirit in addition to maple syrup.

 

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Spectacular Sakura

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It’s truly spring in Tokyo. Sakura are everywhere: in every park, down every back street, lining every avenue. Today, I played hooky from school and went out to admire the blossoms before whisking off on a plane to Canada that night. A easy, breezy walk away, Aoyama Bochi (Aoyama Cemetary) has some of the prettiest blooms. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures, so here are a few favorites:

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Even though it was a sleepy Friday morning, I was not the only enamored flower admirer with a camera.

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Ohanami, or flower-viewing, is a spring tradition. The Bochi is a popular spot, with picnickers flooding its pathways every weekend. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get it all (or almost all) to myself.

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Sakura season is ephemeral. The cherry blossoms bloom and then disappear within two weeks, leaving behind piles of petals for a few more days before those, too, vanish to make room for more summery specimens.

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My sister loves the photo. (She insisted I include it in my sakura-sum-up.)

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Wandering away from the Bochi, I passed my favorite art museum in the city: the National Art Center, Tokyo. It brings in exhibits from major galleries around the world and is less than a hop, skip, and a jump from home. With an architect for a mother, I can’t help but absolutely adore the space’s sleek silhouette and dramatic interior.

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The current exhibit: California Design – 1930~1965. I had to see it. With furniture, objects, and even swimsuits from that period, the show was enthralling. I have already promised to return with my mother and sister before it closes in June. If you’re in Tokyo and appreciate classy design, I highly recommend it!

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All in all, it was sunny, splendid day!

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Hinamatsuri Ice Cream

Today is March 3. Here in Japan, it is hinamatsuri, or Girls’ Day, a festival to celebrate girls and pray for their health and happiness. As with any traditional holiday, hinamatsuri has special foods and decorations. Customarily, one sets out elaborate dolls of the emperor, the empress, and the court in Heian period garb and munches on a sweet, colorful puffed rice snack called hina-arare. Baskin Robbins had its own take.

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Baskin Robbins is selling Girls’ Day themed ice cream treats. As per hinamatsuri custom, today, March 3, is the last day for these goodies. (It is considered unlucky to display hina dolls past the actual festival.)

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For the ice cream traditionalists, there is a sort of hinamatsuri sundae complete with cake cubes and a cookie depicting a cute little emperor and empress.

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For the more adventurous, there is this set of palatable hina-ningyo, or hina dolls. The first two tiers of the hina-dan, or doll platform, have been recreated in an edible incarnation. Only in Japan!

 

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Niseko

A long weekend in the middle of February? What better to do than go skiing? For the past few days, I’ve been skiing up at Niseko, a resort in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. Niseko doesn’t have a whole lot of vertical or many scary steep slopes, like North American big-mountain resorts. What it does have, is incredible snow. The powder here is lighter, fluffier, and deeper than anywhere else I’ve ever skied. And it never stops coming! At this point, we’ve been here for almost 4 days and it has snowed on and off the entire time, the ‘off’ segments lasting for ten minutes tops.

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My family has been coming to Niseko for years, seeing as it’s some of the best skiing we’ve done in Japan. While the weather is usually like this, I do have a couple photos from that rare sunny day to give you an idea of what the place really looks like.

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It’s pretty beautiful up here when you can actually see where you’re going, but bad visibility is definitely a worthwhile price to pay for phenomenal snow.

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At Niseko, since the number of difficult slopes is limited, our strategy tends to be find a good run and ski it over and over for an entire half day. My favorite slope here is Strawberry Fields, a powdery pitch that is technically out of bounds but is accessible via gate. It is really multiple runs in one. You can drop into the pitch in any number of places, each one presenting a new line. Dodging trees adds excitement as well as aiding visibility on pea-soup days. Here is the view from the top in the sun. Strawberry Fields Forever.

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In accordance with the conditions, I rented big fat powder skis, or as I like to refer to them, pontoon skis. Although they don’t carve as well as my trusty Atomics, these Volkls were a wonder in deep power.

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The Niseko clientele are largely foreign. The resort is especially popular with Aussies. At Hanazono 308, the best place to eat on the mountain, this is not an uncommon sight.

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The app screenshot-ed below is called Ski Tracks. It tells you how far and how fast you ski. I highly recommend it. Yesterday was a very satisfying day. I went faster than I ever have before. At 81.7 kmph, I’m not far behind my dad’s 84.1. Lindsey Vonn’s 135 kmph is a little further off, but, hey, I’m over halfway there!

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Valentine’s Day

In my mind, Valentine’s Day is essentially a pink and red incarnation of Halloween, minus the costumes. There is food – especially chocolate – everywhere! Here a couple highlights:

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This morning, upon arriving at school, I was greeted by a friend bearing Ladurée macarons. Ladurée is the place to get macarons. A combination of delicate and rich, textured and smooth, sweet and, well, sweet, they are absolute perfection. I sampled the caramel fleur de sel number in the center as well as one of the white ones with green filling. Geranium? Whatever it was, it was exceptionally tasty. Tomorrow I plan to experiment with macaron-making. Hopefully mine will look, or at least taste, something like these sensational sweets.

Now for edible highlight no. 2.

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At dinner, I found this cute little bag sitting at my place.

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Inside were two petit packages.

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Mini-chocolate boxes from mom! I ate the creamy, delectable belgian chocolate on the spot. The Ferrero Rochers will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Varsity Breakfast

Varsity Breakfast

I have been on the debate team for the past three years. Last Friday was the varsity debate tournament. My last debate. As per tradition, the varsity nine skipped school in the morning for a pre-debate potluck breakfast. We had everything from deviled eggs to decadent nutella cake. With tomato-goat cheese and spinach-feta quiche, gobs of fruit, cinnamon roll pancakes and cream cheese frosting, and homemade croissants to boot, I think it’s safe to say no one went hungry. It was a great way to start an even better day, seeing as we won the tournament for the first time in my three years as a varsity debater. We seniors went out with a bang!

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Fish in the Mail

Fish in the Mail

Today I returned home to find a package addressed to me sitting on the credenza! I love snail mail. It’s exciting! The parcel was from one of my best friends in America. We met at arts camp in the states last summer, where sampling various candy bars and mass-market confections became an everyday event. From white chocolate reese’s cups (surprisingly tasty) to mystery skittles (avoiding the puke-worthy punch flavor is crucial), we hit them all. Swedish fish were a favorite, although nothing could ever outdo dark chocolate, much less junior mints. At any rate, we can’t get these crimson delicacies here in Tokyo. American candy plus a parcel from a pal, what a lovely surprise!

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