Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Just a short entry today.
Last night I decided I wanted to give Hokkaido miso soup a try... and I was not disappointed!
The usually miso soup uses a fish/seaweed stock (call dashi) and miso. Very simple and very tasty. Anyone who's been to a sushi restaurant back home knows the soup I am talking about.
However Hokkaido miso soup takes it to a different level. Instead of dashi you use chicken stock (I used a bullion cube), miso, milk and the all most important ingredient, a nob of BUTTER. 
With the buttery soup stock I combined with a bowl of ramen noodle, carrot slices, tofu and ham slices. 
I have some more stock left for today, and I definitely plan on finishing it!


Jiyugaoka.... the Forest Hill of Tokyo.

Jiyugaoka is a small community in the Meguro-ku district of Tokyo. Its an upper class neighbourhood with large homes, lots of parks and high end shops. The food looks good, but is out of my price range. This area is not an area to go out an have a good time at night in. Its an area where you have a nice meal and retire home after, or if you are up for it, travel into the core of Tokyo and continue the partying.
My Easter Treat to myself :)
I live here. Its a nice place to live. Its quiet and relaxing. At night it is absolutely quiet, so quiet that I would say my Parkdale neighbourhood in Toronto was louder. But its also a boring area. There is really no cheap fun places and people retire to their homes at 9pm. However there is a massive former Olympic park to the north of my place that is great to run around.
Jiyugaoka is a great place to bring a girlfriend too, so much so that its known to be a place for that reason. There are dozens of pastry shops, chocolatiers, French & Italian restaurants and small boutique girls shops. 
South of Jiyugaoka station is the relatively more trendy part of the area with cafe's and more mainstream retailers. The south is a wonderful area to spend outside reading in or holding hands with someone... however I have done neither, but it looks good when I see it.
I am under a lot of pressure lately at work, but I hope to show you's soon some of my projects that I am working on there. Currently I am helping to construct a massive scaled model of an urban project we are working on. Hopefully I will get my cellphone soon so I can start multitasking my blog entries on the subway... for now, enjoy some more photos.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yet again I have lapsed in writing a daily blog, but things at work are getting heated. Right now we are working towards a deadline at the end of the month for a master plan project in China. This project is massive and when I get some photos of the model someday posted, you will get an idea of the its scale. Currently when we build the model at 1:500, it will be over 3m long! I am building the base of the model up for the massing models to be placed on top. More to follow on this later.

Yesterday I slept terribly and decided that I needed real coffee, and by real the closest Starbucks equivalent. Coffee in Japan is plentiful, but in the form of canned coffee from vending machines. Its either overly sweet with condensed milk or watery black (as a side note the vending machines use their condensing coil to heat some of the cans of coffee which was a nice treat). So I bought an overpriced venti 'drip coffee' and boy was it GOOD. I really missed having a straight up coffee in the morning. I also broke down and bought a really great chocolate croissant (two actually).
This morning I scarfed down my second croissant... and all it needed was some coffee! I will look for some ground coffee today because I found we have a French press in the house. Its pouring rain today. I am going to visit a friend for a late afternoon lunch. Its going to be a slow day I think, I don't think I will go out tonight. I honestly need a good nights sleep. Working until 11-12 every night is starting to take its toll on me.
For you's that are interested I have posted some images of my place I am staying at. Its a guest house apart of the Sakura House network of guest homes in the Jiyugaoka area of the Meguro district. Jiyugaoka is an upscale suburban neighbourhood that is closely connected to the downtown, roughly a 15min metro ride in to Shibuya; a major hub here in Tokyo. The guest house is a wooden structure, so it rocks a lot during an earthquake. I luckily chose the right level to live on in a wooden house in Japan, the second floor. My colleagues at work told me that the second floor the most likely to survive a quake vs. the ground floor (and that I can easily escape out the window). The guest house was the former residence to a famous female Japanese photographer.  
Throughout the house are photographs of the artist's work which document the rise of Japan during its economic bubble. The bubble time for Japan was a time of rapid change and social upheaval. My room is alight, small but functional. I rearrange the space so that my bed is now beside the window, something I am more accustomed to sleeping beside. By moving my bed it also opened up my space more, so I have much more space to move around. I also scored some house plants when I moved in! The rest of the house is clean and simple. The shower is very pleasant. I believe the house has a booster pump for the water because the shower is really powerful... it wakes you up! Laundry machine is free to use, but the dryer needs coins... which is honestly a useless machine. At best your clothing will come out damp. The kitchen is well equipped with two fridges, but the great part is the gas stove. I love cooking with gas, so fast and accurate. I need to do some more cooking!
So now its time to shower and get ready for my day out.. the sun is starting to poke its face out. Hopefully that doesn't mean the humidity will sky-rocket. More to follow everyone... once I get my new cell phone I'll be able to write my blogs on the metro... more to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011


With the hot weather looming here and my Canadian blood unable to cope with the heat, I decided that I needed to get some handkerchiefs to wipe the sweat from my brow while I am out and about. As I found one day taking the train, the stale air of the car made my face pour with sweat (as a little side note, due to voluntary power conservation as a result of the earthquake, much of the metros are not running AC nor escalators in much of the systems. The subway cars then become hermetically sealed steamers).

I decided I would hunt around Shibuya for a place for some handkerchiefs. A came across my now favourite place to buy any clothing here in Japan, Beam's. This place has it all from the daily comfort clothes to the slick suites of Ginza. At the display case I found some very nice designer handkerchiefs with various prints on them. Most ranged in price from $9 to $20 (and unfortunately I happened to purchase a $2 by accident).

As I was dealing with the formalities of the cash, one of the attendants packaged up my wares. In most places in North America they'll wrap some tissue paper around your goods, slap on a glossy sticker and put your goods in a standard bag. But here in Japan, at a store that is average in price range, took the packaging up a notch.

First my handkerchiefs were carefully refolded and put into a small orange envelop. Another larger orange bag was taken out and in it was placed a paid postage questionnaire about their services. On top of that was placed my handkerchief envelop and a 30th Anniversary Beam's catalogue.

All said and done, quite a lot of work (from a Canadian perspective) was taken into two pieces of cloth that will wipe the sweat from my brow. However, because of that service for just a minor commodity it will drive me to go to Beam's again. Simple ritual can alter a persons perspective a long way.

**as a side note that my mother will enjoy, the fabric of the hankercheifs are top notch with the silk screening occurring on both sides of the fabric.**

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cigarettes, Beer, and Music

It has been awhile since I have written my last blog entry...

So I had my official first work of work, and I have to say things are pretty good there. The office is really laid back and things are not taken overly seriously. Something that I guess is fairly uncommon in Japan. Unfortunately, I have started at the office in a lull period, not a lot of projects going on. We are waiting for a big one in China to start up and maybe a competition invitation.

So last night everyone in the office went out to an Izakaya (Japanese style bar) for lots of drinks and food. The food was amazing... and it just kept coming all night. Drank copious amounts of beer and sake. Little tid-bit about the Izakaya, it was the same place that they filled Kill Bills fight scene with Lucy Liu. Though, when they exit the bar in the movie, it was definitely not the same... the real izakaya is located in the heart of Roppongi... the business/club district of Tokyo.. and conveniently near where I work.

When we were done at the Izakaya the night was not over. Oh no, when you go out with Japanese, you better be prepared to go out all night. We then made our way over to a darts bar for a few more drinks and a some rounds of darks. I did pretty well for not having played in years. Saved my team a couple times from loosing. Though, honestly it was mostly all luck on my part.

After the darts bar we moved to our next location, Karaoke! Half the staff took off, but we were still a strong group that soldiered on. I sang a couple times and realize I am completely tone deff... nothing, I cannot string a tune together if I tried... and tried I did! We sang and drank until the wee hours of the morning. Suprising for a 24hr city the metro shuts down at around midnight, so you are either left paying a small fortune for a cab, or holding up in a Karaoke bar until 5am when the metro opens. And at 5am there are hundreds of people waiting half intoxicated or half passed out at the stations platforms. We all slumped into the subway and made our ways home that night. I slept until noon.

Today... its warm here... breezy thankfully... I am dreading when the heat finally comes. One of the metros I took to work had no air moving in it. I began to sweat to death! So today I am going to scout out a place to get my hair cut... I desperately need it trimmed. So I'll let you know how that experience goes. I am not terribly worried, I had gotten my hair cut in China many times without a disaster.. so I expect it should be the same here...

Anyways, I hope to get back into routinely writing and having more to say!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I have journeyed long and far... and I have found my Oatmeal.

It began as my desire to find something that was easy to make for breakfast and that would fill me for long periods of time. Oatmeal I thought would be the best option, so I decided to buy some. Easier said then done.
Oats are not popular in Japan at all. I decided to start at the upscale market near me... nothing.
I then walked far to a local market... nothing.
Hmmm, now i was getting worried as I really hard my heart set on a thick bowl of porridge.
Now I began to scourer the internet for possible leads for the illusive grain.
Costco Japan has it, but thats a days journey away in a transit barren dockland.
Ah, Shubiyu seems to have a lead on it.. internet grocery site lists it in the inventor.
Off to Shubuya I go... on a 15min subway ride away.
Into the Shibuya Food Show market... shelf and shelf I look... nothing... but wait! there it was... sitting there in all its glory... "Scottish Style Oatmeal"... in other words Quick Oats!! Now after paying close to 3 times what I would in Canada for oats, I was quickly on my way home. And you already know the rest of the story... and massive bowl of oatmeal was consumed oh so quickly to a great satisfaction!

That was my highlight for Saturday. Long day, but enjoyable. That day also marked the day that I started to take runs here in Tokyo. Only a km away is an old Olympic grounds with a running track, very scenic and full of other joggers. 

Today started off with another good run around the Olympic grounds.... came home and lazily got read for a lunch date with a friend. She took me to a gem of a place! Had a roast beef meal with veg and soup. The food was so high class in taste you would probably pay close to $30 back home for it, while here it was only $11! Whoever tells you Tokyo is expensive has not experienced it. Absolutely the finest food for a good price. I was so absorbed by the food that i forgot to take a picture of it! Next time!

After that my friend took me to a Charity flea market/event. Another hidden gem of a place. Below and nice cafe the bar housed a small music space with a scattering of artist/designers sell some of their unique wears. If I was be cautious of what I spend I would have bought a few things today. 

I will try to get more pictures of my explorations to you all. I keep getting caught up in moments to remember to take a picture!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Yesterday was my first day of work at Arata Isozaki's office. The office is a very young and relaxed environment. Most of the staff cannot be much older than 35. The office space is one large studio environment with low tables and sight lines to everyone. 

I arrive at work and I am put to work right now.... with labour. The office is in transition from old projects to new projects. Most of the staff and I were busy moving old files and projects around, cleaning up tables and boxing up old models. I helped carry and ridiculously heavy stone counter top up from the basement with another colleague. I hope it remains in its new location. 

Next week we'll be start what I hear is a massive masterplanning model for a project in China. The masterplan model will be about 4-5m long and 2m wide. Have to love Chinese projects which are gigantic on scale. 

I experience my first true packed subway ride home. Literally squashed up against everyone, but no one took any office to the tin of sardine conditions. What I noticed was the wafting smell of scotch from the Salarymen. Scotch seems to be a high selling drink here with advertising everywhere for it. Makes Bill Murray's roll in Lost in Translation make more sense. 

The northern prefectures experienced a 7.1 magnitude earthquake last night. I was relaxing in bed chatting to people online when it hit. Shook the house for a good minute. Furniture shifted a little. My Japanese friend is going to help be build up my earthquake kit and recommended that I sleep with a pair of shoes near the bed. 

Not many new images for this post, just some of the Sakura blossoms alone a street near me. Hopefully more to photograph and write about this weekend. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I had somewhat of a breakthrough moment last night and started to realize that I am actually in Tokyo right now. I've been moving through a sort of surreal fog and not processing my surroundings and realizing that I am actually here. But, last night I was travelling home on the subway from dinner in Shinbuya and noticed something profound on the train. While there was a ton of people packed into the train, they were all SILENT! It was the most peaceful subway ride I have ever had; not a single stressful moment of listening to someone else's cranked iPod or people yapping excessively loud to each other. I could serious get used to a packed train when everything is calm and quiet.

Yesterday the day started yet again with me attempting to unlock my iPhone with marginally better success than the day before. At least the phone is now jailbroken but still has not been able to work the new SIM card that I am renting. I'll have to continue to work on getting that going properly.

I went to Harajuku again and went straight to BEAM's to buy a nice couriers bag I saw the day before. It was priced alight, probably a little cheaper than what I would get in Toronto. I also picked up a London Fog style jacket, makes me look like a 1970's French spy. I also hit up a 100Yen store (similar to a dollar-store) and bought a few odds and ends like a pad of paper and shampoo. While the 100Y stores are really hyped up on websites I don't think they are any better than our Dollarama's back home. 

Met two of my flat mates yesterday, both American's. There is a Swede here that is an intern architect, but he's been pressured by family to go home due to the disasters north of Tokyo. Supposedly there has been a few architectural interns through this house. The girl from L.A. already annoyed me a little, she has a 'you against them' mentality. Gave me a little solidarity talk which turned me off from her. I hate when foreigners get a protective mentality; I want to get out there and not bother always hanging out at the house with flatmates. 

Travelled to Yoyogi Park near Harajuku station. An absolutely amazing park full of trees, ponds, fields and people hanging out on blankets. I think people back home have to utilize our parks better, it was refreshing to see so many people hanging around and having fun outdoors. I sat out at the park until it was dusk and took off for Shibuya for dinner. And when I arrived at Shibuya I was greatly surprised.

I was hoping to find some restaurants but instead found hundreds of places to eat ranging from cheap to expensive dishes. I ate at a soba restaurant for about $5 and it was a fantastic noodle dish. Ordering was made even easier when all you do is see what plasticized dish you like to have and pop the money into a vending machine. The machine gives you a ticket to give to the chef and you take you seat after. No fuss and no tipping... great!

After Shibuya I travelled home and picked up two beers... which will make my father jealous... two tall cans for only $2 each. Jet lag is still taking its toll on me and I was crashing by 9pm again. Today I hope to get some much needed grocery shopping done and will do a practice run to work today... tomorrow is the start of my first day of work in Tokyo.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Morning from my room

With my first day in Tokyo the first thought that is going through my mind is its DAMN COLD!!! I think I underestimated what the weather would be like... waking up to close to 0C weather in a style of house that are typically uninsulated made for a surprise. I wish my thick robe was taken instead of my thinner one. 

One consolation is that the sun was very warm. So like a lizard, I basked in it.

Got out of bed around 7am today and attempted to get my cell going... unfortunetly it needs to be unlocked and that hasn't gone so well. I planned out a day to stop off in Harajuku to look for a sidebag and then carry on to Akihabara to look for cellphone related things. 

Harajuku Street
Harajuku was surprising and over stimulating to handle. The shear amount of clothing stores there turned me off from browsing them thoroughly. While I was looking for a side bag the vast amount of stores (and throngs of people) deterred me from looking for it seriously.

I abandoned Harajuku street and made my way over to the park adjacent the station. The park was a surprising retreat from the bustle of people. Wide tree covered avenues hid any views of the city beyond. 

I debated whether to continue on to Akihabara for fear that I would be stuck in the rush hour commute home. I decided to head out there anyways... The jet lag started to hit me hard when I left the station. The electronic stores were interesting, you can find just about anything you could ever need, though it lacked the affordability of other electronic markets that I have experienced in China. After the walk around Akihabara Electronic Market I decide it was time to head home and find some dinner. 

Denny's... yes I sold out and went for a Denny's restaurant meal... however when I started to review the menu the closest thing I could find to an American meal was the 'Cob Salad'. I chose the 'toro.... something something'. I resorted to pointing out the dishes I wanted... a rice dish covered with cheese, scrambled egg and gravy. It was filling, but incredibly overpriced... definitely not the 'value' meal you would expect at a Denny's. 

I now sit here at home... roughly 7pm on a Monday and I am exhausted. A small tremor just happened now.. I was welcomed last night with a small tremor that was equal to one I experience back in Toronto. I will have to get used to these small shakes. 

Tomorrow I will write a more indepth thought I have had about what I have noticed here in Tokyo... for now, its time to rest...

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Tokyo is my destination...

So, I've been awake for some 10 hrs now and I sit and wait here at the Vancouver Airport. Woke up at 4am this morning at my aunts & uncles; drove with my mother and father to Toronto airport to catch my connecting flight to Tokyo. 

Sad and happy goodbyes as I went to the Gates.

The flight was tolerable, though I had a server germaphobe beside me who swabbed down all his surfaces with disaffectant. He turned out to be a quiet man that did not bother to chit-chat... (though to note, his daughter was sitting beside me, but I guess he felt I would be a bad influence on her and moved her beside an elderly man). 

One gripe that I had was that while when I came back from Vancouver to Toronto during my China expedition I had a complimentary meal and drinks but the trip from Toronto to Vancouver left me starving. I wasn't about to shell over $13 for a Harvey's breakfast meal... so I sucked it up until I arrived here in Vancouver... 

Mozza Burger from A&W cured my hunger. 

T-minus 30mins before my boarding.

The reality that I am travelling to Japan to live for the next 3 months is starting to hit me. 3 months in a place I have only ready about. While yes I have studied the Japanese language for a year now, I feel I have completely forgot it now. All I remember is, Watashiha skoshi nihongo-ga, wakarimasu (I speak a little Japanese....) Oh well, I will have to pick it up much faster now!

Many have told me not to go to Japan for fears of the Radiation and such... but I tell most them I rather die doing that things I love than sit on my butt and squander opportunities.... And really, if its so bad, I'll just leave... but that seems unlikely.

My next entry hopefully will be much more exciting and enlightening. Soon things will no longer be 'what will I do' but 'what I have done."

Edge of Canada