Monday, January 31, 2011

Japan, I Love You

I thought I would share about my journeys as we traveled and as it turns out, I was wrong. Japan swallowed me whole, and I loved every bit of it. (well, maybe not the freezing, toes-numb parts, but more on that later) Our time in this fabled land was richly sensory: visual beauty and bombardment; culinary explorations in many, many directions, most, exceedingly delicious; and lots and lots of walking. We did take trains, buses, and the metro quite a bit, but it was our lucky feet that brought us to one destination after another and all of those treasured points in-between.

After our 14+ hours in a plane and 2 additional in a shuttle from the airport to Tokyo proper, we muscled our luggage to the rental apartment in Shibuya - a youthful, bustling area and a great anchor from which to move about. We got settled in, cleaned up, and then collapsed. And that brings me to our first day. We set out for my favorite nook in this incredible city, the neighborhood of Shimokitazawa, and true-to-memory it remains as vibrant as when I visited it last.

artwork on storefront gate

It was a beautiful sunny day meant for wandering. We were wide-eyed to drink it all in, and one of the first orders of business was to get to drinking some coffee. We found a little corner shop, and as we walked in I was surprised to see a coffee I knew well - the fruity Yirgacheffe that I have loved sipping at spots here in NYC. We got whatever their daily roast was - still brushing up on our *VERY* limited Japanese, we did not attempt to find out what it was. Only that it was delicious and I wished to have more of it. :)

cute teapots lined up along the window

sitting in the warming sun
photo by Jim Lafferty

Meandering around as shops began to open and bicyclists pedaled by, we came across various things.

fun sp moment!

outdoor restaurant display, weathered design on a large urn

Along another small street, there was a flower shop selling exquisite blooms.

such a thoughtful, smart presentation!

Peeking into various shops and taking our time, we were having a blast. Here's another sweet flower shop we happened upon - and I thought I'd be trudging in the freezing cold, it being winter and all!

We had arranged to meet A for lunch and in retracing our steps to meet with her, I found these - a little table that looked like the beginnings of a produce stand, and someone's refined display outside their home - gorgeous, right?

We dined at a place called Cafe Zinc, an artsy, light-filled space with enough room to remain intimate, even when full. The food was simple and a delight, a mix of Japanese comfort food and western-inspired offerings. I loved how the menu was composed: daily selections could be added or removed as per what the chef could source and wanted to make.

iphone photo, Jim Lafferty

What better way to top off a tasty meal than with a rich cup of joe? This place set a new bar for what coffee can be - we found ourselves measuring the flavor of every subsequent cup to the one we had here. It was a divine experience. Sigh.

The day wore on and we set out again. Seeing this orange tree growing on a corner was a warming treat during the late-afternoon.

We did finally leave Shimokitazawa to find a new area to explore. More on that soon. Our first day was bliss. I hope these scenes help you to enjoy it as much as we did!


  1. Great photos, so beautiful and carry so much emotions. I see you had a wonderful time there. Wish to visit Japan once, but there are sooo many places on my list :)

  2. it was! just amazing. i am very excited that there are so many more images to share!! yes, there are soooo many places in this majestic world to visit - what is high up on your list?

  3. Great shots. Clearly a great trip.

  4. and that was just the first day! oh dear. the food iphone shot was great. amazing attention to beautiful arrangement of food on the plate. your first day has made me hungry already.

  5. thanks, you two!
    glad you liked the iphone shot - as a food photog i felt i couldn't include all of these other shots without also sharing in what*we*ate*! am working on post #2 now.... hope it doesn't disappoint :D

  6. The First on My list are Moscow and St.Petersburg.... I want to Travel there in the Middle of the Winter, when is Cold and snowy ;) Have you ever Been there?

  7. Hi Melina,

    I've just stumbled across this beautiful blog of yours thanks to a tweet by Aran of Cannelle et Vanille, and was pleasantly surprised to find this post about your time in Tokyo where I'm from... what a treat to see the town through your gorgeous photos. Looking forward to checking back to see more of your story about Japan and more. Thanks for sharing!

  8. i've never been to russia, but would love the opportunity! i've heard many great stories about moscow - let me know if you do make it there. :)

    hi shewhoeats, thanks for stopping by! i love that you call tokyo a "town" - it's so big! thank you for your sweet comment, i hope you'll find the new posts as fun as this one.

  9. Gorgeous shots Melina. Love them! I have always wanted to go to Japan, you're making me even more fired up to make it happen this year. Will be in touch re: NYC (May 23 - 30th) xxx

  10. thanks, katie! japan is like no other place: such a contradiction in modern and ancient, living right next to one another. looking forward to seeing you and the hubby in may :D

  11. Love the images of the flowers...feels like I can reach out and touch them!

  12. p.s. decided to check these photos out again for inspiration. :)