Back to Kyoto

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Anyone who gets a chance to visit Japan needs to include Kyoto on their list of places to see. Japan’s former capital city is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and it’s rich in religious and cultural history. After our trip there in September, I was thrilled to hear Phil wanted to go to Kyoto while visiting us.

Craig and I had a fantastic time revisiting some of our favorite temples, shrines and eateries from the last trip (especially Otsuka for wagyu beef and Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi for ramen), and we ventured to some new sights as well. We stayed Otsu, just a few train stops from downtown Kyoto and overlooking Lake Biwa, another place I hope to get back to this spring or summer.

Here are some snaps from our weekend in Kyoto. It was our first trip with my new camera and I couldn’t be happier with how these images came out. Enjoy!

The view from our room at the Prince Hotel Otsu. You have no idea how close I came to jumping in that pool.

Japan is still pretty green, even in December. The view from our room at the Prince Hotel Otsu. You have no idea how close I came to jumping in that pool.

The ?? temple in central Kyoto. It's the largest wooden structure in the world and is currently undergoing a renovation.

Hongan-ji in central Kyoto. It’s the largest wooden structure in the world and is undergoing a renovation.

Part of the beautiful corridor that runs throughout Tenryū-ji Temple.

Part of the beautiful corridor that runs throughout Tenryū-ji Temple.

We had to go back to the breathtaking bamboo forest in Arashiyama.

A return to the breathtaking bamboo forest in Arashiyama was a must.

Incredible detail on the ?? building of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Incredible detail surrounding the Shishinden, the main building of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

We signed up for one of the daily English tours of palace grounds, which was an incredible way to step back in time. The capitol of Japan was moved to Tokyo in ??.

The Shishinden, also on the palace grounds. One of the daily English tours was an incredible way to step back in time. The capital of Japan moved to Tokyo in 1868.

The ?? Bridge in ?? at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

The Keyakibashi Bridge in Oikeniwa Garden at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

There are hundreds of paintings throughout the buildings of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, kept carefully preserved.

There are hundreds of paintings throughout the buildings of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, kept carefully preserved.

A matcha green tea set with sweets.

A matcha green tea set with sweets.

Kyoto Tower at dusk. I love this picture Craig snapped with his phone -- the tower doesn't even look real!

Kyoto Tower at dusk. I love this picture Craig snapped with his phone — the tower doesn’t even look real!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Sorry my “Weekly Web Tacks” are a bit late this week — my friend Phil flew home today after an incredible visit. It was such a joy to share our life in Japan with one of my oldest friends, making memories we will cherish forever. I hope he can come back soon — he certainly got into the Tokyoite groove pretty quickly. He’s a natural! Check back tomorrow for some pics from our return to Kyoto.

I spent the rest of the night cleaning (sort of) and drowning my sorrows in Netflix and pizza, but happy to know I’ll be seeing Phil and all our friends and family again in just a couple of weeks.

On that note, enjoy your weekly reads!

  1. Do short girls like me really have to avoid all these clothing styles?! The women of Japan would disagree. [WHO WHAT WEAR]
  2. This living room makeover is giving me major real estate envy. [Refinery29]
  3. NASA is looking for people like me who love to lay around and do nothing. For science. [Business Insider]
  4. The bottled cocktail you though no one was drinking has never been more popular in Japan. [Japan Today]
  5. Long before online dating, there was New Year’s Calling. [NPR]
  6. I know I’m not Jewish, but latkes are amazing. Should they be my next “Small Kitchen Mission?” [SELF]
  7. Try this exercise to put the past year in healthy perspective and plan your New Year’s resolution. [ELLE]
  8. Your weekly science lesson about how quickly Greenland is melting. [The Washington Post]
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On Top of the World at Tokyo Skytree

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The Tokyo Skytree is one Tokyo landmark I’d yet to visit until today. I’ve had dinner next door in the Tokyo Skytree East Tower (highly recommended) but had never actually gone up to the observation decks. Thankfully, this was one of the must-see spots on my friend Phil’s list, and despite the cloudy skies, it was still a spectacular way to take in just how massive Tokyo is.

For 2,060 yen, you can take an elevator to the 350th floor, which has a cafe and 360-degree views of the city. From there, you can pay an additional 1,030 yen, you can go up to the 450th floor for even more incredible views.

Looking out over this incredible place I now call home, at the millions of stories playing out all around me, it makes me even more excited for all we still have yet to experience here. There is opportunity, as far as the eye can see.

Preparing for our ascent. At 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world.

Preparing for our ascent. At 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world.

The view from the Tembo Deck at 350 meters up.

The view from the Tembo Deck, at 350 meters up.

Just when I think I've mastered just part of Tokyo . . .

Just when I think I’ve mastered just part of Tokyo . . .

These amazing touch screens allowed you to zoom on different neighborhoods. Only in Japan.

These amazing touch screens allowed you to zoom in on different neighborhoods. Only in Japan.

That's a long way down.

That’s a long way down.

Phil and I just after reaching the Tembo Galleria at 450 meters. Glad I to share this experience with one of my closest friends.

Phil and I, just after reaching the Tembo Galleria at 450 meters. So glad I to share this experience with one of my closest friends.

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6 Happy Sights

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With my dear friend Phil in town, we’ve been a lot of eating. I mean A LOT. When someone visits, you naturally want to take them to all your favorite places and there is NO shortage of amazing food in Tokyo. Phil is a foodie (like me!) and he also brought along a list of spots he wanted to try.

So, sorry I’m not sorry that this week’s “6 Happy Sights” post is mostly food shots. Hopefully you’ve eaten by now or are in close proximity to the fridge. The image above is from Harajuku Gyoza Lou (6-2-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo) where we enjoyed the best gyoza I’ve ever had. I could have repeated this meal four times that day.

I didn't have birthday cake . . . I had birthday churros at La Cocina Gabriela Mexicana (2F, 7-5-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo). I win.

I didn’t have birthday cake . . . I had birthday churros at La Cocina Gabriela Mexicana (2F, 7-5-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo). I won. Excuse the dark picture.

The ladies in my conversational English class treated me to lunch as an early Christmas celebration.

The ladies in my conversational English class treated me to lunch as an early Christmas celebration.

They gave me this gorgeous silk scarf as a Christmas present. It features a red Mt. Fuji, which is supposed to bring me good luck and fortune.

The ladies also gave me this gorgeous silk scarf as a Christmas present. It features a red Mt. Fuji, which is supposed to bring me good luck and fortune.

This was my first time having tsukemen ramen Rokurinsha in Tokyo Station. You dip cold soba noodles into a very concentrated broth seasoned with dashi.

This was my first time having tsukemen ramen at Rokurinsha in Tokyo Station. You dip cold soba noodles into a very concentrated broth.

My first Magnolia cupcake. I never went there in NYC because I refuse to wait in line for baked goods. I wish I didn't like it as much as I did -- the last thing I need is ANOTHER go-to dessert.

My first Magnolia cupcake. I never went there in NYC because I refuse to wait in line for baked goods. I wish I didn’t love it — the last thing I need is ANOTHER go-to dessert.

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November + December Beauty Essentials

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The weather really seemed to change overnight this week. One day I was still bragging to my family about out 60+ degree sunny afternoons, and the next I was digging our heavier coats out of Space Bags buried in the closet. My skin is getting dry, but I also seem to be using more makeup, my summer tan having long faded.

It still feels warmer to me than any December spent in Michigan, but I’ve nonetheless sought out the beauty essentials to help look and feel my best as the temperature continues to drop. For the time being, I’ve put these products into regular rotation for the past month or so:

  1. Chanel Poudre Universelle Compacte — I love using this pressed powder to set concealer and always keep it in my bag for touchups. Since it’s a bit pricey, I buy shade 20 Clair/Transcleucent 1, so I can use it all year.
  2. Essie Nail Polish in Sexy Divide — Dark purple nails are a go-to for me. I like that this one is more on the metallic side but still gets me the same look.
  3. Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser — After trying and completely falling for the Luminizing Black Mask from Boscia, I had to try this cleanser. It heats up on contact and works well with my Clarisonic.
  4. Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile Bar Soap — Once I ran out of my favorite natural hand soap (I made it almost a year!) I wanted to try this trusted brand. This soap doesn’t have any nasty artificial ingredients in it and doesn’t dry out my hands.
  5. Kate Somerville Clarifying Treatment Toner — After years of using the same toner, I didn’t feel my skin was responding to it anymore, so I made the switch to this one. It’s a bit harsh, but you only use it once a day.

What are your beauty essentials that I should pick up? Let me know!

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This Is 28

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I often get asked about the meaning of this blog’s title. Having just celebrated my birthday, now’s a good time to revisit the name I chose.

I was inspired to go with 100 Tacks by my favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self Reliance.” He wrote, “The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.” The most fulfilling life isn’t guaranteed a direct path to our goals. My voyage has been anything but direct, but now at 28, I’ve been fortunate and I’m nowhere near done.

I’d always known what I wanted to do professionally and spent my college years working multiple jobs, taking honors classes and pursuing internships to check off all the boxes to kickstart my career. I first discovered this quote after college, when I had graduated into a recession-era job market with a degree in journalism — an industry fighting to evolve with many publications struggling to survive. I felt like the floor dropped out.

Faced with limited options, I headed first to Chicago, where I held an internship for six months, hoping the budget would recover enough to hire me by the end. Next, I went to New York City and took a chance on another internship for a website that has since folded. Through it all, I filled all my spare hours with part-time jobs and freelance work and spent plenty of nights sobbing over my penniless bank account and seemingly flawless interviews that never led to that big-kid job.

It was only when I returned to Michigan with my tail between my legs that I realized the timing wasn’t right for everything I had planned out, but that didn’t mean I would never get there. Things started falling into place, and I can’t believe I’m now sitting on my couch in Tokyo writing this post.

Do I have that dream job yet? No. But I have found ways to still do what I love while getting to experience so many new things. More importantly, I’ve found a greater pride in my work and belief in my own abilities. I’ve learned to never be the one building barriers in your own way.

My voyage is shaping up to be quite a zigzag line of tacks, and I’ve discovered the best lessons lie in the pit stops. May all our journeys be a ziglag line — a map you can look back on to see a pattern that is uniquely yours.

I wish you a voyage of 100 tacks.

 

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Weekly Web Tacks

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We had quite an action-packed weekend with my friend Phil in town for my birthday. It’s always wonderful to have a friend in visit because they reinvigorate you and get you out of your routine. I’ve enjoyed discovering new places around town with him in areas I’ve been to over and over again —  a reminder I’ll never run out of activities here in Tokyo. The park you see above I’ve walked past countless times but never went into before. Now that’s a beautiful diversion from my normal route.

I hope your week if off to a wonderful start. Here are my web tacks for the week:

  1. Twelve hotels to feed your wanderlust. [Harper’s Bazaar]
  2. Another food I would never have expected to eat in Japan has arrived in Tokyo.
  3. Holiday gifts for the upscale foodie on your list. The cocktail case is pretty amazing. [Marie Claire UK]
  4. Strength training = better sleep. [Self]
  5. The facts on sobfests. [The Cut]
  6. How to exercise with a cold. [Health]
  7. Undergrad Jorgeline Andrea Torres features subjects like Tupac and Marilyn Monroe in her whimsical art. [i-D]
  8. The first thing on my Zara Home wish list. Just the FIRST.

BONUS: I’ve been missing Five Guys’ burgers. This guy just gets it.

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6 Happy Sights

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Not only is it the first week of December, but it also happens to be my birthday week. I couldn’t be more excited to spend my 28th birthday here in Tokyo — it’s still surreal to say that. Craig has been cooking up some surprise for a while now and, being a typical baby of the family, I near drove him insane trying to guess what it was.

But he held firm, thank goodness, because it was Phil, one my oldest and dearest friends from home! On Wednesday night, Craig told me to be dressed and ready by 5 p.m. on Thursday. I had a knot in my stomach all day, but it was worth it when Phil walked in the door. He’s here for the next two weeks, so I’ll have some great things to share as we show him around, including another post from Kyoto!

Here are the rest of my “6 Happy Sights” from around Tokyo that made me smile this week.

Our building manager hung this holiday wreath in our lobby this week, which makes me smile every time I see it.

Our building manager hung this holiday wreath in our lobby this week, which makes me smile every time I see it.

I enjoyed this hazelnut creme brûlée as a birthday treat, courtesy of my wonderful friend Deanna.

I enjoyed this hazelnut creme brûlée as a birthday treat, courtesy of my wonderful friend Deanna.

This may be an ad for antacids, but it's hard not to smile back this guy. Spotted on the Hibiya line.

This may be an ad for antacids, but it’s hard not to smile back this guy. Spotted on the Hibiya line.

Poinsettias! Another thing I never expected to find here.

Poinsettias! Another thing I never expected to find here.

It was my beautiful and inspirational older sister's birthday this week, too! We're exactly two years and two days apart, so our birthday week has always been very special.

It was my beautiful and inspirational older sister’s birthday this week, too! We’re exactly two years and two days apart, so our birthday week has always been very special.

 

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Fast Fashion Finds

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Tokyo is one of the greatest places to draw fashion inspiration. Since I’ve been here — and since I’ve stopped heading to an office everyday — I’ve been reexamining the way I dress and trying to determine what the heck my style is at this point in my life.

When I was growing up, I attended private Catholic school through eighth grade, then made the leap to a public high school. I went from one end of the spectrum — beige and cookie cutter — to the waaaaay opposite end of the spectrum.

Upon first seeing senior pictures that captured my hair dyed a combo of black, purple and blonde with charcoal-rimmed eyes (it looks like I used a Sharpie) and my layered graphic t’s and studded belts, my husband dubbed me an “alternateen.” Fair statement.

In college, I still wanted to look unique but tried to work in some feminine, mature elements. After that, I moved to Chicago and New York City and dipped my foot in the hipster pool. Those efforts ultimately failed — I couldn’t justify buying $200 raw denim under the pretense I would “like, totally never have to wash it, live, ever.’

Now, I’m most comfortable in clothing that is minimalistic and a bit edgy. I can run a little grungy when I dress casually but always want to look classy when dressed up, not girly. With all that said, this girl has been doing some serious closet purging and shopping.

Fast fashion allows you to try new trends to see how they suit you. You can develop your own style, and Tokyo is home to some of the best. Here are a few of my most recent purchases and one item on my wish list from my favorite fast-fashion retailers.

  1. I wanted to add some cozy flannel shirts to my closet for the colder weather. I bought this shirt from Uniqlo three sizes up for a baggier, borrowed-from-my-husband look.
  2. Converse All Star Chuck Taylors are my absolute favorite sneakers. I’ve been wanting this parchment pair with the red and blue details forever. I love wearing them with some cuffed skinny denim.
  3. A black pencil skirt is a staple wardrobe item, but this faux leather one from Zara has a bit more edge to it. It looks just as great with a blazer as it would with a dressed up crewneck sweatshirt.
  4. I have tiny wrists, so bracelets are something I don’t normally wear. But when I spotted this chain one from H&M, I knew it would be great for stacking with watches and other wrist gear.
  5. This jacket from Bershka is on my wish list for winter. I love the faux leather accents on a more structured jacket and the burgundy looks very luxe.
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Filling Up On Delicious Israeli Cuisine at Ta-im in Ebisu

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Aside from Mexican food, Middle Eastern dishes like shawarma, hummus, baba ganoush and falafel are some of my absolute favorites. Growing up in Metro Detroit, I lived within 30 minutes of Dearborn, home to the largest Middle Eastern population in the Western Hemisphere. That meant lots of amazing restaurants cooking foods from throughout the region.

Moving to Japan, I really didn’t think I would find any of these foods here, but leave it to my husband to find a restaurant specializing in Israeli cuisine in Ebisu (another reason to marry a journalist, ladies and gentlemen). Ta-im is a tiny, 14-seat spot located a bit off the main drag, but still less than 15 minutes on foot from the Hiroo stop on the Hibiya line. It’s been open for about three years, gaining a reputation for fresh, quality food at great prices in a town particularly known its lunch deals. The name actually means “delicious” in Hebrew. Sold.

As as we looked at the menu, I wanted one of everything. Craig and I settled on a half order of hummus, a half order of tabbouli, six falafel and a shawarma platter to share (picture above). The hummus was drizzled with fruity olive oil and topped with a tahini dressing — it was so good we finished it before we could snap a picture. Sorry, sort of. Next we got the tabbouli which was a mix crispy cucumbers and tomatoes with hearty bulgar wheat and the fresh flavors of lemon and mint. The falafel were served atop a bed of pickled vegetables and also topped with tahini dressing. Fried fresh to order, they were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Lastly, we got our shawarma plate, which was bright in flavor from turmeric.

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Once we were done, I wanted more. I often do here, but this time I really could have eaten it all again. I love Middle Eastern cuisine because of how fresh it is and how light it can be without being any less satisfying. I always leave the meal feeling full but not tired.

All in all, our bill came to roughly 4,000 yen for dinner. Not bad at all. I think I’ve found my new favorite spot — more proof Tokyo is one of the finest dining destinations in the world, no matter what you’re craving.

Let me know what cuisine you’d like us to try next! I blog to serve. And eat.

 

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