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Reflections on Japan

There’s so much to love about Japan… yes the food is incredible, the architecture boundary-pushing and that infamous contrast of old and new spellbinding. But for me, it’s the countless everyday things that make up why it’s such a unique, calming and beautiful place, and one that I really feel very at home in.

Biking everywhere

tokyobike

From mumma’s with their babies, old women carrying shopping, salarymen in suits and school kids with their bags… everyone gets around on two wheels and  it’s both super convenient and incredibly equalising. No one’s in a hurry. There’s no car vs bike tension that exists in other cities. It’s just a way to get from A to B without a hint of hipster cool.

Eating alone is okay

standup food

Eating solo can sometimes feel awkward, like everyone is watching every move you make. In Japan though, while meals can be very ceremonious and special, other times there’s something purely functional about them. Stand up soba, counter-top udon restaurants, noisy ramen bars. Whether it’s the food ticket you purchase on entry, the partitions that divide people facing each other or the noisy slurping going on around you, it’s just a place to get meal before you’re on your way again – nothing awkward or judgey about it. big thumbs up.

Smaller is better

small bars

So many restaurants, bars and cafes in Japan are tiny. Limitations of space? Realities of a saturated market? Whatever the reason, there’s something super satisfying about grabbing a drink in these mini one-man operations where the same person is preparing drinks, cooking food and clearing glasses. While you may have to wait a little longer, if there’s other people occupying the precious few chairs, chances are you’ll strike up a conversation with someone or just be so much more open to noticing what’s going on around you. Where so many people wouldn’t dream of opening a bar that doesn’t have a scalable business model behind it, here it’s someone’s labour of love. Love it.

Uniformity

japan schoolkids

There really is a uniformity to Japan. Salarymen always wear short-sleeved white shirts in summer. They all carry a similar style bag. They all have it on their laps on the train. It seems like a generalisation, but when it’s all around you, it’s hard not to notice. School kids all wear their uniforms exactly the same way. When it rains, everyone has gumboots, a raincoat and an umbrella. People are SO aware of rain in Japan. I’m not sure if it’s because so few people drive in Tokyo and everyone is exposed to the weather on their commutes, but the minute there’s a drop of rain, no one misses a beat in whipping out their umbrella.

tokyo rain

Bowing

japan -bow

This wonderful tradition is still so strong in Japan, whether you’re buying a bottle of water in a convenience store or farewelling people after a meeting. It’s a humbling act, to bow your head to someone, and a very meaningful gesture that has transitioned so comfortably into modern life. Seeing colleagues farewell each other after something significant still makes me laugh though. It’s like a bow off. Who will turn away first?

Sleeping, everywhere

salarymen

People seem to sleep a lot more in public in Japan. Maybe it’s that so many more people use public transport and have really long commutes. But I’ve been to parties where people fell asleep on the couch. Also, in class people slept all the time. We’d think it was rude. Here, again, there’s a functional practicality to it. It’s natural and normal. I’m tired, I feel comfortable here, so I’m going to have a nap.

Viking

So many wonderful things to do in Finland. I reckon we start with sugar, carbohydrate and caffeine.

Our good friends at Kinfolk recommend Good Life Coffee in which is in the up and coming Helsinki neighbourhood of Kallio. Kallio has the Hakaniemi market and the Workers Housing Musuem to check out as well.

Good Life

As for the sugar and carbohydrate – Finnish Pulla Buns are the way to go. Apparently they and their multiple variations and flavours are everywhere.

boston-pulla

If sweet ain’t your thing then I think the equivalent of the Maltese pastizzi is the Finnish Karelian pastry (or you can get your mouth around it – karjalanpiirakka).

Karjalanpiirakka resepti-16

And good ol’ Buzzfeed recommends 42 Finnish foods to have a gnash on. Vispipuuro anyone?

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I figure post gorge we’d better do some walking. The Helsinki Design district has over 200 design focused stores – might have a few bits and bobs for Bourke.

helsinki-design-district

And after all that design stimulation we might need a minute to be mindful at Kampin Kapelli – The Silence Chapel.

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The second oldest city in Finland, dating back to the 13th century, Porvoo is worth a little explore.

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If a World Heritage site is what you are after then we’ll need to hit up Suomenlinna.

Finnish-Suomenlinna-Fortress

And to top it off perhaps we’ll be up for a Michelin Star – six restaurants have them!

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Or maybe we’ll want some more traditional fare at Seahorse.

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And you know my love of lounges – tell me – is Finnair part of my network? If so lets have a unisex sauna as we leave Finland!

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One day…

the book that we loved when we were in Europe. I read it in London, Paris and on the train to Amsterdam. You read it in Berlin and Como. Such an amazing book. I’m looking forward to the movie (but hoping Anne Hathaway’s Harry Potter rims aren’t too distracting!)

Gertrude St. Projection Festival

Saturday night, Saturday night… what to do?

Given that we live in Melbourne, one of the coolest cities ever, we  share a couple of curries at Curry Cafe, a self-dubbed retro curry restaurant in Westgarth St. before buttoning up our coats and wandering along an illuminated Gertrude St. as part of the Gertrude St. Projection Festival.

“This project reveals the transformative powers of light and image, and how art and design can move us to celebrate our community.”

Over the last couple of weeks Melbourne has been in a State of Design, a local design festival that celebrates design in all its glory throughout the city. This morning I was listening to the radio and heard all about The Repair Workshop, a great initiative taking place at the historic Donkey Wheel House encouraging us to revisit the concept of repairing our goods before disposing them in favour of buying something new. It seems so simple but it’s funny how far we’ve moved away from the idea of fixing and mending.

Anyhoo, the projection show along Gertrude St. was really cool, everyday buildings and shops were transformed by veils of colour and pattern, a crazy crisscross network of lights projecting from diagonal shops, over the street and distant windows – it was fun to explore…

Our very own Boston Tea Part-eee!

So, I think both being lovers of education, well in the very least spending as long at uni as we possible could we should go to Cambridge and visit Harvard and M.I.T

Harvard…

M.I.T – I can just see good ol Will Hunting walking in to mop the floors and finish equations in the building above…

Frank Gehry has also had a little dabble at M.I.T – wouldn’t be worth it without including some architecture reference…

And I think we have to have a drink at a Harvard Bar…’I thought there would be equations and shit on the wall….’

We love a good stroll, even if the weather will be around zero….The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles and takes in 16 significant monuments and places of Boston’s history – including Paul Revere’s home – the guy who warned of the British Invasion…

The North End of Boston is pretty much Italy. Food. Let’s ‘reconnect’ with our Euro heritage 😉 with a delicious meal and some chianti…

Newbury St is from what I can gather is the coolio street in Boston kind of like a cross between Chaps and Robbo. You know me, cool.

Couple of museums and galleries for good measure

Museum of Fine Arts

And the new and freakin amazing looking Institute of Contemporary Arts or ICA…

Landsdowne St is where the Boston nightlife goes doof doof..

The Old South Meeting House – the site of the Boston Tea Party…need to do a bit of reading…very historic, very historic button

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_South_Meeting_House

Trinity Church, I am sure you have seen your fair share of churches – this has some very interesting history and started Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, plus we are trying to reconnect in 2010 remember

Cool old school photo, hey.

I know that you love a good library, well here you go…

Boston Public Library

Shhh.

Isabella Stewart Gardner thought that America was a young country and what a young country needs is art. She built up an amazing collection of over 2,500 pieces and now her spectacular mansion/estate is a museum. God bless her.

The oldest and most famous baseball stadium in the US – Fenway Park – home of the Boston Red Sox. There is a 50 min tour every hour on the hour.

So luckily after a few crazy days in NYC seems like it will be a bit quieter in Boston……hmmmm.

Day One, Seattle

As instructed 😉

01. Pike Place Market

Pike Place is the centre of downtown and apparently is the market of all markets. Worth wondering around and getting a coffee and some food to prep us for our usual walking adventures.

02.  Space Needle

To overcome my fear of heights and your strange fascination with World Fairs we can visit the Space Needle and lookout over Seattle. The Space Needle was the location for the opening of the 1962 Worlds Fair.

03. Experience Music Project

Funded by Paul Allen from Microsoft and designed by Frank Gehry.

04.  Pioneer Square

Is where it all began for Seattle. Some amazing history, apparently a little sordid. My kind of history.

05. Bill Spiegel Tour

The best way to see Pioneer Square is with an underground tour. I am not sure why it is underground.

06. Fremont

The cool area. Let’s walk and take it in and maybe have a lil snack. We should also meet the troll for luck.

07. Capitol Hill

And let’s finish off our walking adventure by checking out Capitol Hill and having a drink at Chapel Bar. Then zzzzzz.

Portland, Oregon

Yes, yes I know you really want to go so you can tell the Rebel ‘girls’ that you went to the LGBT capital of the USA. However there are many other reasons to visit. Here are a couple I stumbled across over a cup of steamin’ and some steel cut oatmeal.

01. Doug Fir

This is the bar in Portland for music and good times. I found this on the Urban Outfitters blog so it must be cool.

02. The Catholic Grotto

If we have a few too many cleansers at Doug Fir we can wonder down to the Catholic Grotto gardens to reflect and in line with our Christmas sermon – we can reconnect.

03. International Rose Garden

Roses are red….

04. Japanese Gardens

To satisfy your penchant for the orient.

05. Dark Better – Microbrewery

To satisfy my penchant for lager.

06. Pittock Mansion

Architecture, interior design, sweeping views and a little bit of history. Just a few of our favourite things.

07.  Portland Art Museum

If you have seen one, well you have only seen one. Best to see them all.

08.  Powells Books

Referred to as one the worlds best and most chaotic book stores with over 1 million new and used books.

09.  Voodoo Donuts

I know how you love a donut. This place could quite very well be your Mecca. Go NorthWest young woman.