Friday, December 19, 2014

Thoughts on Being Back in The United States

I kept thinking that it would be so weird to be back in North Carolina, but the truth is it's not. In the past year I felt a lot more out of touch with US fashion and music and slang, and I wondered if I would feel like a stranger when I cam back. But now that I'm here it feels like just effortlessly slipping back into something I never forgot. I guess that rather than just becoming like a different culture I've been learning how to operate fairly easily within two different cultures.

Now that I've been back for a little bit here are some observations:

Central heating feels amazing. Unheated toilet seats do not.

There are clothes and shoes that fit me here!

I have gotten about a million compliments on my Issey Miyaki Bao Bao bag!

Having a car is so convenient, but I'd forgotten how inconvenient it is to walk places. There aren't many sidewalks and even just walking from one store to another in a big parking lot can be weirdly complicated.

At our apartment in Tokyo John and I (and all of our guests) always take off our shoes as soon as we get inside. I never really thought much about it, other than assuming it was probably cleaner, but now I am suddenly realizing how amazing that is. And by amazing, I mean cleaning my floors is SO much easier! (Observed after sweeping and mopping my mother's house.)

It's been amazing to be be back and I am SO excited that John gets in tonight, that my mom gets married tomorrow, and soon we will be in the mountains! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Tokyo Shangri-La

I can't believe it's taken me so long to write about this, but back in October Raku and I went to another afternoon tea with our friend Kristen. This time we went to the Shangri-La hotel in Marunouchi.

This was one was harder to find much information about before going, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Does it make me a huge nerd that I research afternoon teas? The Shangri-La turned out to be fantastic though. The sitting area was more spacious and relaxing than some other places, and we never felt rushed, even though we stayed for a full three hours.

We had a choice between the signature afternoon tea and the seasonal afternoon tea, both of which sounded great. Normally when there are two choices one is substantially fancier and more expensive, but these seemed very comparable. After some discussion we opted for the seasonal menu.The food was generous, with plenty of sweets, savories, and three types of scones. Then at the end they brought out another plate of small cookies and chocolates that we couldn't even finish. I thought the quality of the food was good, and there was a good amount of diversity in the menu, although two of the savories were fish. The salmon was good, but the saurey with eggplant puree, while beautiful, had a very strong fishy flavor. Otherwise I enjoyed all the food. We all agreed that the chestnut pies were divine, especially when topped with a little maple cream.

Among the teas we tried the Italian Almond, Chestnut, and Chocolate Raisin were favorites. Raku ordered the Rose with French Vanilla tea, and while she was very satisfied with it, we might have noticed that it smelled a lot like frilly soap.

As I mentioned before the atmosphere was very relaxing, and the three of us stayed pretty late enjoying the view of the sun going down and all the lights coming up in the city. Although they dimmed the lights and started to prepare for the evening we never felt rushed or pressured to leave.

While I wouldn't rank this my very favorite afternoon tea experience it was very enjoyable and definitely ranks in the top half. I would happily recommend it to other people.

Tokyo Shangri-La Afternoon Tea
Hours: M-F 2:00-5:00, Weekends and holidays 1:30-5:30
Phone: 03-6739-7888
Address: 1-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

The Spread

Chestnut Pies

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

North Carolina Adventure

I'm writing this from North Carolina, and I'm going to be here for almost the next month! The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of getting ready to leave and doing all the fun pre-Christmasy things I wanted to do. I've still got a few Tokyo things I need to blog about, but while I'm here I plan to blog a little about what it's like to be back after so long. I know I was back in April for my grandmother's funeral, but that was a trip with no preparation and mostly a blur of family events.

When I was making plans with my sister and some friends about what to do while I'm back a lot of people were asking what I missed and absolutely had to do/eat/see/etc. And the answer sort of surprised me. There are days when being in Tokyo just feels achingly in my bones alien, but to be honest I've stopped missing most things. Of course there are foods I'm looking forward to eating (Hello, fruits and salads and turkey sandwiches and Mexican!), and shopping I want to do, but the urgency I felt a year ago is gone and in some cases even the desire is too.

I've got a lot of fun plans coming up in the next month, but what I'm most looking forward to is seeing people.