Harajuku, Tokyo: Crepes and Craziness

A few years ago someone bought me one of Gwen Stefani's 'Harajuku Girls' perfumes. I loved the quirkiness, but did feel like I was a little to old for it. That's pretty much how I felt about Harajuku IRL.

Harajuku is a small area of Tokyo that's crammed full of teenagers, amazing junk food and shops selling the most quirky/cute/bizarre clothing imaginable. It's totally overwhelming (in a good way). Takeshita [hehe] Dori is Harajuku's main shopping street and it is crammed (and I mean crammed) full of teenagers eating crepes, buying clothes and trying to spot themselves on screen (see below). I loved the snacking and people watching opportunities that it presented, but for shopping I preferred the vintage shops on Cat Street, which was only a five minute walk away.

Has anyone got the time?

What's that? You want a kimono for your dog? Your search is over!

Giant pick and mix! Those fried eggs were practically the size of actual fried eggs.

All of that was brilliant, but there was one thing that I particularly loved about Harajuku....dramatic pause....THE CREPES!!!

There were a few different crepe places, and they all seemed to have a similarly epic selection. I ended up having to go back to Harajuku at the end of my trip to finally get my hands on one, and I can confirm that it was worth waiting for (although I do wish that I gone back more than once!).

Yes, that crepe does have a bit of cheesecake inside it. Don't judge me. 

The whole area was so vibrant; I basically walked around with a stupid grin on my face the whole time. Harajuku was an area that confirmed my preconceptions of Tokyo, but there were definitely other parts of the city that surprised me... Next time! I know, I know, I'm such a tease...

You Know You've Been Blogging for a Long Time When...

...you still sometimes wish you had the body for disco pants.

...you've watched your favourite bloggers get engaged, married and have kids (I'm looking at you, Gem).

...the fact that you've followed those blogs for so long makes you feel like a proper stalker.

...you remember life/blogging before Instagram and Pinterest.

...you know that ombre hair is so 2011.

...you die a little bit inside whenever you see that a blogger's twitter handle ends in '99'.

...you remember when Lily used to work in bakery (or am I imagining that?!)

...you sometimes wonder what happened to Cats and Rocking Chairs.

...you remember when bloggers used to be amazed when they got free stuff (I loved this old post of Sarah's that she linked back to recently).

...you are easily able to resist buying a Garmin watch because you know that, like nail art and disco pants, the fitness thing is another blogger trend that will probably pass. That's my excuse anyway!

Book Me! Five Mini Reviews

Coming up: two disappointing books, one fairly decent one and two of the best books I've ever read. Bit of variety for you.

Do You Remember the First Time? - Jenny Colgan
30-something woman goes back to her teens after wishing that she could amend past mistakes. I read it because I wanted something light, but it was a bit too light. Predictable and not as engaging as other Colgan books that I've enjoyed.

Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
Epic tale set in Victorian Britain, about two young women whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined. The antithesis of the Colgan book; surprising and captivating. Captures Victorian London brilliantly- I kept forgetting that I wasn't reading a novel that had actually been written in the 1800s. Can't really fault it; this one definitely falls into the 'must read' category.

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
A journalist reluctantly returns to her home town to investigate a murder. I think that maybe reading Gone Girl set my expectations of Flynn a bit too high. It was still very readable, tense and sometimes disturbing, but just not quite to the same extent. I'd probably have really liked this if it was the first Flynn novel I'd read but, as it wasn't, I just quite liked it.

Fleshmarket Close - Ian Rankin
Inspector Rebus investigates the murder of an asylum seeker on a Edinburgh housing estate. It really frustrates me in detective novels when vital clues conveniently and unrealistically appear out of the blue in the final chapters. Mini deus ex machinas (machini?) if you will. This happened here. The themes around immigration are interesting, although not particularly subtle. I'm going back to my Val McDermids.

Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
Charlie has severe learning difficulties but undergoes a pioneering operation to dramatically increase his IQ. Written and set in the 1960s but still feels contemporary. The characters are beautifully crafted, which makes the novel feel very moving and realistic. Another brilliant book. Read it but make sure you get the tissues ready first!

I've been doing a lot of reading recently (summer holidays, innit?) so there'll be more reviews to come soon...

8 Things I Loved About Tokyo (and 1 Thing I Hated)

Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo... Did I mention that I went to Tokyo?

I'll be posting about it a LOT so get used to it. Sorry, that was rude of me. I'll try and limit it to one a week or something. Read this one then feel free to ignore any others! Read it if you'd like to, I mean. Where are my manners today?!

This post was originally going to be called 'Things I Appear to Have in Common with Japanese People' but that sounded kind of weird and maybe a bit racist (or at least reductionist) so I changed it. Anyway, here's what I loved:

The cuteness. Yep, the Japanese love of kawaii is not just a stereotype. Or maybe it is, but it's a stereotype that every shop/company/public service poster artist conforms to. I'm not really a cutesy person but they won me over.

The snacking opportunities. I'm an extremely food-orientated individual, and trying new foods is one thing I really look forward to when going on holiday. Going to Japan seemed like an excellent opportunity to try loads of new things and it most definitely was. I tried many, many new snacks in the name of adventure and... It was interesting. There will be a separate food post (obviously).

It's acceptable to nap in public. This took me completely by surprise. I regularly saw people napping on trains, in train stations, in museums, on the pavement, leaning against a fountain. Often couples leaning against each other. I might have indulged in a five minute art gallery nap myself. 

The fact that it's acceptable to slurp noodles in public. I had to slurp my noodles because I only posses basic chopstick skills, so I was very relieved to find out that I could do this with pride! You're allowed to make the slurps really noisy too.

The politeness. I came across so many kind, polite people. Strangers approached me to ask if I needed directions, they helped us translate things, chatted to me on the train, they didn't even raise an eyebrow when I handed over a ¥10,000 note for a ¥400 purchase. 

The variety. The contrast between the old and new in Tokyo is amazing. On one hand you've got manga, love hotels, neon, shopping malls and Harajuku's craziness. On the other hand you've got temples, shrines, gardens and (slightly further afield) waterfalls, lakes and mountains. Only problem? There was far too much to do, so now I want to go back and fit in everything else. Boo.

Karaoke. I love Singstar, but hate the idea of singing to a roomful of strangers. In Tokyo, most of the karaoke is in karaoke boxes. So it's just you and your partner/friends in a room (ours was the size of a box) singing away. Advantages of this system: you can hog the mic, you can be enthusiastic, you can order drinks via telephone. And they had tambourines. They really enhanced my performance of Mambo No.5, I'm telling you.

And the thing I hated?
'A jelly-like confection made from bracken startch'. In the spirit of testing my 'I'll eat anything' attitude, I picked up some random 7-Eleven deserts for us to try. One of them turned out to be (unfortunately I translated that after I'd tried it). It was disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. I had to actually spit it out.

Some of this stuff will require separate posts (not the bracken startch, I never want to speak of that again) but you get the idea...

In case you didn't get the idea, the idea is this: I LOVED TOKYO.

Sorry, I'm being annoying now. I'll stop. To quote Chandler, I sensed that I should stop.

Feeling Lucky: a Rare 'Glass Half Full' Moment


I'm feeling so incredibly lucky and grateful. Not just because I've managed to bag what is probably the only reclining chair left in the airport (although that is ace) but because I'm here, and I'm happy.

As much as I try to avoid it, it's easy to dwell on the things that haven't gone well over the last few years, or compare myself to friends with great careers and full ISAs. But really, I know that I'm blessed. The fact that I was born in a developed country, in peacetime, into a family that loved about me and could afford to put food on the table... well, that puts me in a position of being luckier than most people in the world.

All of that is brilliant enough. But now I feel like things are extra brilliant. I've just had two holidays, I've travelled outside of Europe for the first time, I'm in a relationship with someone who makes me incredibly happy, I have the best friends in the world and I'm probably the sanest I've been in years (it's all relative, but still). I'm lucky. And it is luck. Yes I work hard and I'm (normally) a nice person, but there are a lot of people who work a LOT harder than me and are much nicer, and lots of them are in a far worse life situation than me.

Obviously I am still a doom-monger at heart so I'm absolutely convinced that it's all going to come crashing down around me at any moment. The glass half full thing can only go so far!

I don't really know what point I'm making with this, I just think that it's important to stand back, check yo' privilege and appreciate what you've got. Y'know?

Apologies if all this positivity has made you feel nauseous. The cynicism will return soon, I promise.

The Best Dress Ever: A Love Affair

Three years ago I fell in love. There was an initial attraction at first sight, but I could never have predicted how deep and long-lasting that love would become. Rather than try to put my feelings into words, I've created a photo collage of some of the wonderful times we shared together...

Oh, how I loved my bird-print dress. It was versatile, it went with lots of stuff but wasn't boring, it was stretchy enough for me to remain in denial about any weight gain (that's important, right?). I even got a tattoo to remind me of it (not really, but I do have a bird tattoo). Then disaster struck. For a while things had been 'not quite right'; a small hole appeared in the waistband, the pockets became a bit over-stretched. Eventually I had to make the decision to throw the dress away. I'm pretty slobby when it comes to the state of my clothes, but it was getting stupid! I was sad.

Then, as I unwrapped my presents on Christmas Day, I opened this...

Pete had found me the same dress, in my size, on ebay!!! That's true love, right there.*
I love a happy ending.

*I'm talking about the dress again.