Weekly Web Tacks

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I can’t believe Easter is already this week. We received a wonderful package of goodies from my parents the other day that reminded me it was just around the corner. Easter isn’t much of a thing here, but you can see some signs of the holiday, especially in popular areas for expats. How will we celebrate? Eating candy and . . . well . . . maybe just eating candy.

Here are my web tacks for the week — there’s some love for my home state in there as well as some of Japan’s more personal customs.

  1. I’ve been asked if I’ve seen any gyaru here. This explains why I haven’t. [Japan Today]
  2. An interview with one of the fashion world’s most interesting — and lasting — figures. [The Cut]
  3. This post certainly gave me something to ponder with how I document my travels. [xoJane]
  4. More way to eat avocados as summer approaches. [SELF]
  5. Adding some of these restaurants to my list of must-visits when I head back to Michigan this summer. [Thrillist]
  6. I can’t say I’ve been offered “toilet slippers” yet, but this explanation of Japanese bathroom customs is pretty spot on. [Refinery29]
  7. Prepare to have your swimming skills shown up by the haenyeo of South Korea. [The New Yorker]
  8. Now, I don’t use all of this slang, but I didn’t think these terms were that confusing. [Daily Detroit]
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Searching for Sakura at the Imperial Palace

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This past Sunday was a bit of a gloomy day, but Craig had to run into the office for a while. So, I hopped on the sakura bandwagon and sought out some cherry blossoms. My husband works in Chiyoda, just down the street from the Imperial Palace grounds, which were a great place to look for trees in bloom and then meet up afterwards for some food (pizza, of course).

While there weren’t many trees that had bloomed just yet, there were a few, and it was a treat to get to enjoy them without too much of a crowd. Attendants still stood guard for those few said trees and set up caution tape and cones to keep the overzealous photographers at bay.

The palace grounds are one of the most beautiful places in town when all the trees are open. I remember circling it on our first visit here and realizing, wow, this move is really happening. Now, as the weather warms, I plan to head out in search of more blossoms tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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6 Happy Sights

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This week is off to an exhausting start, but for a fantastic reason. As you know, I’m a tried and true, bleed green MSU fan and Craig and I were more than happy to get up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to watch our Spartans defeat Louisville to head to the Final Four. Ah, March Madness . . . it’s certainly worth being tired to feel like we’re back in the states for a bit.

Spring has definitely sprung here in Japan and it isn’t just the sakura (cherry blossoms) — these pink beauties, like the one you see above, are blooming all over Tokyo. Can anyone tell me what they are? The rest of my happy sights have less to do with flowers, because I know I’ll be sharing plenty of sakura photos in the coming days.

Happy Monday!

In search of sakura on Sunday, despite the gloomy day.

In search of sakura on Sunday, despite the gloomy day.

The most precious little bonsai tree.

The most precious little bonsai tree.

This guy looks like he's had a bit too much sake.

This guy looks like he’s had a bit too much sake.

Stopped by Chiyoda to visit Craig today very much enjoyed the late afternoon walk.

Stopped by Chiyoda to visit Craig today very much enjoyed the late afternoon walk.

How the weekend ended. No complaints.

How the weekend ended. No complaints.

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Small Kitchen Mission: Pho

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I’ll never forget the first time I tried pho. My good friend Jason in Chicago took me to this tiny restaurant he said made the best in the windy city and ordered me up the traditional bowl of seasoned broth with thinly shaved beef. First of all, I was overwhelmed by how massive it was, secondly, I couldn’t get over all the toppings that came out with it, and lastly, I had no idea how to tackle this thing with my pathetic chopstick skills.

But, I persevered and several tissues and cold beverages later to reduce the burn, I had emerged from the bowl knowing soup had just changed for me forever. We went back to that place again when my cousin Christina came for a visit, but it would take another four years for me to have pho again, here in Tokyo at Pho Dragon in Roppongi.

Having experienced this incredible dish again, I knew I had to try making it myself, so I did my research. Pulling inspiration from a few different places, including one of my favorite cookbooks, Cook Yourself Thin (it’s sooo not a boring diet book), I came up with this recipe for a lighter pho that has deliciously wicked kick, because I like mine hot. The key is a flavorful broth — some recipes require simmering the broth for up to eight hours — but this one is much faster.

It came out so well I’m thrilled to share it with you. Make this dish anytime you need something warm and satisfying or when your sinuses need clearing. Just have the tissues ready. And beer. Beer helps, too.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole pieces star anise
  • 1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce substitute
  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 1/2 lb beef sirloin, thinly sliced
  • Hot chili sauce (optional), bean sprouts, scallions, limes and cilantro for garnish

Directions:

  1. Soak rice noodles in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic for 3 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add water, broth and all spices to pot with onion and garlic and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove all spices (including the onion), add the soy sauce substitute and turn off heat.
  4. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Add rice noodles and cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
  5. Once the noodles are done, bring the broth up to a boil.
  6. Either place raw beef directly into bowls with noodles or add it to the broth to cook for a couple minutes. Top with desired garnishes.
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Weekly Web Tacks

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Today I received two more wedding invitations in the mail from relatives back home and was once again touched to be included in these wonderful milestones, despite the distance. We can’t make it home for all of these celebrations, but knowing our friends and loved ones are thinking of us during their special time will always bring a smile to my face.

Here is your reading for the week. My web tacks include some seriously cute and seriously creepy Japan discoveries.

  1. One my favorite regular features with one of my favorite personalities. [The New York Times]
  2. This Japanese village has only 35 human residents, living among more than 100 dolls. Just a bit creepy. [The Washington Post]
  3. The inside scoop on my favorite fast fashion retailer. [POPSUGAR]
  4. Japanese meals are about as kawaii, or cute, as it gets. [PULPTASTIC]
  5. I have to agree with Lauren Conrad about this. [Refinery29]
  6. Japan’s love for the Kit-Kat has reached a new level. [Kotaku]
  7. Who run the world? Girls. [Bloomberg]
  8. A look at the menu offered during award-winning restaurant Noma’s six-week pop-up in Tokyo. [Business Insider]
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6 Happy Sights

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It’s officially spring and I’m itching for the temperature to keep going up. I’m planning to pack away our heavy coats this week after a trip to the dry cleaners, and we enjoyed a nice walk along the Sumida River on Sunday. I’m looking forward to spending more and more time outdoors during the next few months — after all, the blistering heat and humidity of a Tokyo summer will be here in no time.

My happy sights for the week begin with the book you see above, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I keep reading about it and I’m hoping it will help me keep our tiny abode more organized in the year ahead.

It was above 60 degrees on Sunday so I decided to really look like a foreigner and bring my toes out for some air.

It was above 60 degrees on Sunday, so I decided to really look like a foreigner and bring my toes out for some air.

The first time I've ever wanted to steal the decor at a restaurant.

The first time I’ve ever wanted to steal the decor at a restaurant.

A quick bite before our walk along the river.  The ikura, or salmon roe, has become one of my favorites.

A quick bite before our walk along the river. The ikura, or salmon roe, toward the top of the plate has become one of my favorites.

It's March Madness, which means setting an alarm for 1:30 a.m. to watch our Michigan State Spartans. Go Green!

It’s March Madness, which means setting an alarm for 1:10 a.m. to watch our Michigan State Spartans. Go Green!

Almond milk has arrived at Starbucks in Japan. This girl loves a free sample.

Almond milk has arrived at Starbucks in Japan. This girl loves a free sample.

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Tokyo

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Now, of all the western holidays I wasn’t planning to celebrate here, St. Patrick’s Day would top the list. We were still living in temporary housing this time last year and more than a bit shell shocked by the move, so we just didn’t even notice it. While I’ve never been a big partier for St. Patrick’s Day, even though I do have some Irish blood running through my veins, it’s still crazy to think it passed last year without a thought.

But this year, a friend invited us to check out the Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day parade held along Omotesando Dori last Sunday. From samurai warriors to fancy dogs and an array of unique green characters, what we saw when we got there was anything but what I expected. But the parade was lively and all the participants seemed to be having a great time.

With a coffee in hand warm from the vending machine (don’t be jealous), it was fantastic people watching.

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Golden Dragons + Chocolate Fish at Sensō-ji

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I made my way to Asakusa and Sensō-ji Temple this week for the Kinryu-no-mai, or Golden Dragon Dance. Held annually on March 18, three performances of the dance are held to serve as a prayer for prosperous crops. As per usual, I left our apartment without a minute to spare and almost had to run through the Nakamise (the shopping corridor) to get there, but I made it just in time for the third performance of this beautiful dance. I couldn’t believe how packed the place was!

Once the performance is done, the dragon is carried out into the open area in front of the main hall so that spectators can see the dragon up close and even touch it. Needless to say, it was a bit chaotic getting to it and juggling a camera, but I appreciated the chance to take part in the tradition.

After finally breaking free of the crowds, I headed down one of the side streets to my favorite taiyaki shop for one of my top Japanese treats. Taiyaki are waffles shaped like fish that are full of sweet fillings like strawberry cream (popular right now for sakura season because it’s pink) or adzuki bean. My personal favorite, especially at this shop, is the chocolate. (Duh.) This shop makes taiyaki better than any other I’ve been to thus far because it’s got little crunchy bits in it, almost like it’s been filled with a melted Crunch bar. Just typing about it makes me want to go back. At less than 200 yen, it’s a more-than-justifiable indulgence. Have a look!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Yesterday was the first day it really felt like spring was on its way — it better be, since Friday is supposed to be the kick off for this beautiful season. The first ume (plum) trees are blossoming and I can see little spots of pink appearing on the bushes in our neighborhood. Spring in Tokyo is gorgeous and I can’t to wake up and see all the cherry blossom trees in bloom. We’ve already picked the places we’re going to check out once they open — we were a bit late to the party last year and many had gone already.

Here’s what I enjoyed reading online this week. Among my web tacks are some seriously mouth-watering meals. Happy browsing!

  1. A friend and former classmate of my sister’s just opened a new eatery in Detroit. [The Detroit Free Press]
  2. I’ve mentioned before I miss breakfast, but pancakes are very popular in Japan. None like these, though. [Spicy Southern Kitchen]
  3. What do the locals in Japan eat? This is definitely a favorite. [BuzzFeed]
  4. Leave it to the Japanese to improve something most women have in their beauty arsenal. [Fashionista]
  5. I love the look of all these IKEA hacks, especially the first one. [DOMAINE]
  6. Glad to learn millennials are still consuming news. Just in different ways. [The Poynter Institute]
  7. This chef’s favorite dining spots are making me long to return to Paris. [T Magazine]
  8. This is what I’m planning to do today. I’ll be sure to post some pictures so check back. [Go Tokyo]
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6 Happy Sights

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It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day and if you thought it wasn’t celebrated in Japan, you’d be dead wrong my friend. We enjoyed the parade yesterday and checked out a local pub for some early celebration. I’ll be sharing my favorite snaps from it all on Wednesday and let me tell you, it’s as oddly wonderful as you can imagine.

Enjoy my happy sights for the week, starting with that delicious bowl of ramen you see above. I know one day I’ll have chronic acid reflux from only ordering foods that are glowing orange with chilis but I can’t help it. It hurts so good.

Trying to stay alive at the Takao Trick Art Museum.

Trying to stay alive at the Takao Trick Art Museum.

Craig enjoyed his first golf outing of the year. Hopefully it's a little more green for him next time.

Craig enjoyed his first golf outing of the year. Hopefully it’s a little more green for him next time.

Pizza and bubbles for White Day. I'm easy to please. Finally made it to Pizzeria da Peppe Napoli Sta' Ca."

Pizza and bubbles for White Day. I’m easy to please. Finally made it to Pizzeria da Peppe Napoli Sta’ Ca.” Oh my goodness.

Before heading to the fire-walking ceremony last week, I enjoyed this delicious bowl of duck over rice along with miso soup, pickles and tea.

Before heading to the fire-walking ceremony last week, I enjoyed this delicious bowl of duck over rice along with miso soup, pickles and tea.

Bright lights, big city.

Bright lights, big city. Awkward tourists.

 

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