Happy holidays from the elves

 

Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Tokyo Station: The rebirth of a giant

Tokyo station  resembles  the scenery of a film set from the 1920s. With its inspired European architecture, lighting and breeze atmosphere, it invites you to dream of a Japan that no longer exist but that we all yearn for.

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Bombed during WWII it wasn’t until 2012 that it will be restored to its former glory to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its existence.

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And the surroundings  of the Tokyo station do not disappoint.

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At my arrival to the Imperial Palace I saw the merge of the new and old. All in one

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The Imperial palace guarded by thousand samurai souls

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Everything in Tokyo glows mystery.

Ginza Tsutaya Books: The Edo heiress

Glamorous and exotic, Tokyo has countless secrets, some of them will never be shared, others will be given to you as soon as you arrive in the city. Some others will take time. 

Tokyo is bejeweled but isn’t peaceful. Or so it seems at first glance, but if you give it time, it will tell you where to find those beautiful Eden gardens of peace. And it’s looking for peace myself that I made my way into “Ginza six” and on the 6th floor, I discovered “Ginza Tsutaya books” a real Eden of peace in this tumultuous city. One of Tokyo’s dearest secrets. 

 

The warm lights and works of arts displayed everywhere make of “Ginza Tsutaya books” more than a bookstore but an art gallery, where entering means not only sharing knowledge but experiencing real traditional Japanese culture and the art that this encloses. 

 

When asked about the “Ginza Tsutaya Books”, Pinlu Cheng, member of the PR department explains that “Ginza Tsutaya Books”, is special, a unique Tsutaya Books, because here (Ginza Tsutaya books) we want to people to see culture and art. We want our store to make people feel as if they were entering a gallery, where art and culture can not only be enjoyed but understood…” 

 

And that’s exactly what you feel when arriving in “Ginza Tsutaya books”, where bonsai trees, samurai swords, gigantic books and works of art coexist to form a living haiku (short Japanese poem) that is “Ginza Tsutaya books”.

Odawara: Its treasures and pinky ninja

The first time I visited Odawara, I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I saw it,  I fell in love, metaphorically and literally.  And even now after so many years, it still speaking to me.

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And to many people, because even the samurais stop to take photos in front of it (Odawara castle)

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Its solid wooden gates welcomed me as it has welcomed thousands of people before me.  And will continue to do so until the end of times. Perhaps.

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And with the brave “pink” ninja who kindly posed  for my camera before I left, I said goodbye to Odawara castle once more.

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Meiji shrine: Where the Gods meet

Tokyo is a place of contradictions, where you can find glamour in one corner and tradition and culture in another one (another corner). When visiting Harajuku, Shibuya’s cheeky little sister, one find eccentricity, and it (Harajuku) never disappoints, with its vibrant colors, rare stores, and beautiful people, you navigate through its small allies in a trancelike state. At least that’s how I feel every time I go there (Harajuku)

But just around Harajuku station (Omotesando exit), you will find one of its most precious treasures: Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji jingū) a place that has survived modernity until now. And still bring people together, local and visitors, we can feel the Gods and their spirits whisper in the trees when they ruffle the leaves, which some confuse with the wind. But I know it’s them who met in the trees’ top to talk about us, to make fun of us, to help us, to listen and to remind us that this is not the only life we will live.

The entrance of this enchanted place

Barrels of sake

Barrels of wine

We do like spirits here, what can I say?😉

 

 

Isn’t it breathtaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Meiji jingū, a place not only to worship but to talk to the Gods and to meet them.

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Breaking up with your employer

 

Not a while ago, I quit, what many would call, a dream job in Japan. But there was still something missing in my life. Do not think for a moment, I am ungrateful to my employers, on the contrary, I was lucky to work with them. But it was time to move on. In the last e-mail they sent, I was asked if I’ll ever come back. So I replied as honestly as I could, I told them that they’d find someone else, better than me, because they deserve better. But I also told them they could always call me and count on me. And yes, we could still be friends. I will always be there for them. 
I know comparing quitting a job with breaking with a boyfriend, might sound disrespectful for some people, but in Japan, where work ethics are still very traditional, getting a job is a life-time-commitment. In other words, in Japan, you just don’t get a job, you marry your job. You read that correctly.

You marry your job. Your job is your priority number one. And you immediate supervisor becomes your mother/father, to whom you’re obliged to obey. No arguments. Your boss’s word is final. In a traditional Japanese company, there is no room for “I.” What matters the most is “We,” the group, even to the cost of your well-being. 
This is an actual cultural fact. When you get a job in these islands, you stay with the same company for life. You give them your life, and in return, the company looks after you. And although this has started changing during the last two decades, I was fortunate enough to experience this unbreakable bond, that still exists, in the Japanese Business world.
In other words, quitting was not easy. But, I was lucky enough to see, to live and, to experience this cultural phenomenon in order to transmit to all of you.

Ramen: Its mommy, daddy and museum

 

The arrival of instant ramen in 1958 to the world marked a milestone in ramen history. 

 

                                                                            Instant ramen advertisement-1963

 

 

It was a game changer..! Just imagine….! Japanese housewives didn’t have to slave over a hot stove to prepare one of the most emblematic and delicious dishes ever been born in Japan. But have you ever wondered if Ramen is Japanese?

 

Well according to the ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, ramen is hafu (a mixed race child) 

 

 

                                                        In summary, Chinese daddy, and Japanese mommy

 

                                                                                                      

See..? I never lie 😉 

 

 

And once we finish researching about the origins of ramen, we entered the museum, and this beautiful view welcomed us, 1958 was a magical year indeed. 

 

And it is in 1958 that the ramen museum is set up, as it time had stopped forever in its alleys.

 

The experience was amazing, I mean ramen is a unique experience in its own right. But walking, feeling, touching and “living” 1958 Japan was a sort of a dream come true as if someone would have opened a “time portal” for us. I just loved it..!

 

It was just simply lovely 😊

 

China town: A walk on a Sunday afternoon

 

It was Sunday, I was alone at home so I decided to take my camera and travel to China town in Kanagawa-ken, where I used to live few years ago. 

 

 

And the energy hasn’t changed at all 

 

Maybe it (the energy) has increased. 

 

 

 

 I also made new friends 

 

 

And before I went back I stopped by the police box (koban in Japanese) 

 

 

It was a lovely afternoon indeed. 

 

The Empress: Her tea house, her lake and her garden

As soon as you step into the garden, something changes in the atmosphere, I don’t know if it is the temperature, the cicadas that sing in unison with the wind. Or the voices of visitors that become a mere whisper in the distance. I have no idea, what it is, but something changes. Or maybe it is the Empress Shōken herself welcoming you to her garden.

I see the lights on in Empress Shōken’s tea house, and I can’t help but feel naughty, as if I were spying on someone. But I imagine that if Empress Shōken discovered me outside her tea house, instead of getting upset, she would invite me to drink tea with her. Because I think she was indeed a generous soul.

I just imagine her (Empress Shōken) sitting there in her tea house, looking at the little lake in front of it (the tea house), letting her maids entertain her, and ask them to leave as soon her husband arrives. Of course, nothing of this is written anywhere. I just like to imagine it.

A few shots of the empress’s lake little lake, where the water lilies imperceptibly move with the soft afternoon breeze.

A shot of the tea house from the little lake

I distractedly (without paying attention) walk through the garden and, as always, my feet take somewhere I didn’t mean to go and I arrive to Kiyomasa-Ido well, which is famous for the purity of its water.

But I am afraid it’s time to leave, because I am the only person  in the garden now.  Or maybe I’ll just stay a little bit longer so I can make Empress Shōken company, at least for a little bit longer.

NOTE: Although, Meiji jingū gyoen (Meiji jingū inner garden) existed before the construction of Meiji Shrine, according to the Meiji Jingū gyoen brochure, I always think of the garden, as Empress Shōken’s garden, because the tea house that adorns this secret garden was built especially for her.