Ohayou gozaimasu, long time no see everyone :) What a life altering trip this has been. Never have I ever felt more comfortable, genuinely happy, and above all; complete as a human being. Before I get into this, I’d just like to say I am particularly ever grateful to the Shinkawa family for their over the top generosity, love, and hospitality. You are family.
Second, thank you Dad for doing what you do. All I have ever done is try to learn from you in business. It’s not always easy being your daughter, but for everyone else it’s an enviable position. Thirdly, thank you Shelli for coming to Japan with me. You are the most ideal travel buddy a gal can ask for. A true friend indeed. This was one for the books and I hope to do it again :)
Some of you on Instagram asked me if I speak Japanese, because you could kind of hear a slight accent or slur in my voice on my InstaStories. I should mention that when I was really young, my brother and I took Japanese lessons where we could read and write better than speak. I wish that my Granny would have kept the verbal part going at home because I spent the last month relearning everything and then some. What’s nice is that language and those sounds never really go away. I landed, and all of a sudden basic sentences start flying outta my mouth. My driver could understand me, then locals assumed I spoke fluently (which really tripped me out) and it’s like I just fit into the fibers after that.
6/2/17: SFO – Haneda Airport flying JAL with my monogrammed Mon Purse goods. I watched Beauty and the Beast and The Great Wall, ate a delicious bento box for dinner, and zonked out.
Key Tip: Arrange for a pocket wifi before you get to the airport or hotel. A few of you on Instagram were curious as to how I was using video and posting so much! This little cell pack is picked up at the airport, you plug in, and you’re up and running on secure network. Not once did I use data on this trip. Plus, the cell pack holds a 12hr battery charge!
Check in 6/3/17: Hotel Mitsui Garden Premier, Ginza Tokyo. Our home for a while. I loved staying here. The views of Tokyo are panoramic, a 9 min walk to Tsukiji Fish Market, 3 min to Shimbashi Station (the subway), and chock full of tiny delicious curry houses. I would absolutely stay here again, and hopefully soon.
Strolling Tsukiji Market: Kristine Marie Photography
I shot with photographer Kristine here at famous Tsukiji Market one morning before lunch. I had met her through Instagram and loved her work. Next thing you know we’re shooting in the heart of the fish market, dodging bikes, giant squid, and fish mongers :D It was getting warm, so afterwards Shelli came to meet us for some fresh sashimi bowls (you may have caught this on Instastories.) Eating here is nothing short of mind blowing. We won’t be eating sashimi or fish in the states for a very long time….
A Typical Morning: Jet lag unfortunately hit around 2am for me, however we really liked waking up at 6am naturally to start our day. On average we would walk about 13,000 steps on a non shrine day. We would wake up, eat breakfast or go to the 7-11 or Lawsons for quick coffee and Japanese pastries. 7-11’s here are nothing like the U.S. Here you can eat cheaply and incredibly well for the super hungry or super tired. It’s just plain ridiculous I tell ya. Just ask Anthony Bourdain.
Local’s Favorites: One morning we visited Kanako at her Local Coffee Stand. I was beginning to miss American lattes and I was getting those caffeine headaches late in the day. Here at Local Coffee Stand, they serve exceptional ones (even though the coffee in Japan is pretty good.) Kanako is the daughter of Fumito Shinkawa, my Dad’s dear friend and business buddy here in Tokyo. We have known her since she was in elementary school and when Shinkawa was not in the office, he was taking us out for dinner, drinks, site seeing, and day trips that inevitably turned into ridiculous adventures.
Soft Serve: I legitimately had about 1 soft serve cone every day. It was perfect weather for it, 75-80 degrees with no humidity and cool breeze. The soft serve here is not very sweet at all unlike the stuff they sling in the U.S. Shinkawa took us to a Premium Matcha Soft Serve in Asakusa on our first exploring day, and he was elated because the line was out the door and around the corner. It was worth the wait because our taste buds were blown.
Yoyogi Park: One of our favorite park days here in Tokyo. Mrs. Shinkawa took the day prancing around with us here. It’s kind of like entering another world even though you’re in the heart of Harajuku and Shibuya district. She said to not walk in the middle of the path because “you will trip the Gods.” Here, we went to the temple, bowed and prayed to the wealth and marriage tree, and even witnessed a Japanese wedding that was more fit for royalty (you probably saw that on InstaStories.) What’s more fun is that we wrote our names on a copper plate for the new roof of the temple, so we will forever be permanent here :)
Summer Style: I knew it was going to be warm, but the weather actually was perfect. Mid 70’s-low 80’s with almost no humidity and breezy evenings. June is the start of tropical rain, and we only experienced one evening of that. I packed quite light for this trip and wore my hat nearly every day. My best advice would be to pack hats and shoes you can walk long distances in. Luckily, I brought the whole Via Spiga and Franco Sarto shoe collection with me and not one blister.
Men are always in fitted suits. School children are in uniform with little hats, they’re the cutest. Hell, dogs are better dressed here than most humans. Women all dress very well and on the conservative side. They’re usually wearing a sun hat and flowy pants or skirts. You’ll hear their little heels running through the train station or sandals paired with linen pants or sundresses. It’s really fun to people watch and take inspiration from how they like to wear their clothes.
Kyoto: Unfortunately, we did not spend enough time in Kyoto. Taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, it is about a 2.5 hr trip. We kept our hotel and made accommodations at the same Mitsui in Kyoto. Upon arriving (around 10am) we threw our over night bags into the lobby, packed up the cameras, and walked to famous Nishiki Market for street food before our adventures to the shrines. You saw the video I took at this market…it’s complete and utter sensory overload. What you didn’t see is me knawing on a King crab leg that nearly made me black out. Shelli nearly fainted when she ate her made to order yakiniku (beef skewer.) I personally still think about that fresh matcha manju with matcha powder coating my lil face. I could spend all day here, but we had things to see.
Nara: Nara Park, in Kyoto is home to the bowing deer. These deer are presumed to be messengers of the Gods and are symbols of this city. They do indeed bow for your cookies which is incredibly charming. I’ve had plenty of conversations with the little ones. A few males got aggressive and head butted me while I paid for their cookies, but I let that go a long time ago:D
Fushimi Inari Taisha aka The Fox Shrine: Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari and one of the most famous in all of Kyoto. This is a very iconic spot, so maybe you have seen the infamous Torii Gates before. It’s unreal in person. It’s almost eerily haunting when you pass through the tunnel of red gates, and there are indeed 1,000 of them leading you up the mountain. Torii gates are here to symbolize leaving of the physical world and entering the spiritual one. This is why you’ll see people clap three times and bow upon entering a gate or shrine to summon the Gods before making an offering (or wish.)
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for continuing to read and follow along with me. Everyone says Japan is a magical place, and they are true for saying that. But, for those who are Japanese and Japanese American, there is an internal feeling and sense of pride (at least for me) that makes you a more complete and whole human being. And it’s simply just being surrounded by your people. Not once did I feel lost in translation.
I watched little elementary kids give up their seats and usher elderly into them on the train. It damn near made me tear up. Everything is clean, shiny, and spotless. Not once did I see a homeless person. Are there homeless in Japan? People bow and are gracious, helpful, and kind. The food, regardless of who you are, you will always eat well and never go hungry.
Part II will be coming up next week, so until then :)
Special thanks to the brands who came along with me: