Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wolfgang Puck Express, Tokyo

Mike and I have been eating Japanese cuisine non-stop during our Tokyo trip.We decided to have Western food one night and found ourselves at Wolfgang Puck Express' doors since we were already in Harajuku. The restaurant is located in Takeshita Street just across the JR Yamanote Line train station. This is more of a casual dining experience compared to it's Michelin Star sister, Spago.


We received warm greetings from their friendly staff. We were seated at a non-smoking table. I ordered margherita pizza while Mike chose spaghetti bolognese.


The margherita pizza is somewhat the size of a dinner plate but can be shared unless you're super hungry. The combination of cheese, basil and tomatoes are just the right amount which tastes perfect! 


The spaghetti bolognese is creamy and incredibly tasty.


For its quality, great service, cleanliness and reasonable prices, Wolfgang Puck Express deserves another visit. This designer fast food experience is something we will never forget. Looking forward to eat at Spago when we visit the West Coast soon.

Photos taken using iPhone5

Friday, April 11, 2014

Harajuku

One of the best places to people watch in Tokyo is Harajuku. It is a small district in Shibuya and is also known to be Tokyo's epicenter of pop culture for young girls. An area where outrageous fashion is present. We visited Harajuku and the surrounding neighborhood of Omotesando and Aoyoma in our first two days in Tokyo. This is another photograph-infested post.

Mike and I were staying in Sakura Hotel Hatagaya.  To get there from our place, we had to ride the Keio New Line in Hatagaya station, go down Shinjuku station, walk for about 6 minutes, transfer to the JR Yamanote Line then hop off to Harajuku Station. The whole commute takes 17 minutes and costs Y260.


Our first stop, Nike's flagship store. My 14 year old nephew wanted a Kevin Durant shoe for his birthday too bad his size was not available. There are plenty of Japan exclusives too!


Then TopShop.  I was delighted to witness a hip hop event. You gotta love those Japanese DJs.


According to Time Out, Tokyo loves a culinary fad. That explains the long line at Garrett, a gourmet popcorn shop originally based in Chicago that recently opened in Harajuku. I'm not a big fan of popcorn but when a co-worker brought some of Garrett's from Singapore, I couldn't stop munching. 


Harajuku Street. For Mike, I think it should be called Heaven Street. Lol.


A lot of skater shops that sell Nike SBs and Nike Roshe Runs can be found here. Oh and did I mention bike shops?!




They say the best day to visit Harajuku is on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the busiest time for this place where you can see Japanese teenagers in Lolita Doll fashion, goth, punk and cosplay. Cosplay means wearing a costume of your favorite anime character or movie star. We did see some girls dressed in costumes but it was too dark already to have a good photo taken with them. Anyway, I  took photos of shops that sell costumes instead. 

While strolling this street, a line from Gwen Stefani's song popped up in my head. "Harajuku Girls, you got the wicked style, I like the way that your are, I am your biggest fan."




Next, Takeshita Street. Another famous street in the Harajuku area. You can find Wolfgang Puck Express here. I'll discuss more about it in another post.



The Japanese are crazy about crepes and pancakes. The demand for crepes are high.



The neighborhood is surrounded by beautiful architecture.





My favorite building in Aoyoma: Prada. Every line the brand has produced can be found here. Omotesando and Aoyoma areas are where you can find the more affluent crowd.


Inside Omotesando Hills...


Omotesando traffic...


Another store that caught the husband's attention.


Photos taken using Canon 550D and iPhone 5. Some information from Wikipedia and TimeOut.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shibuya Crossing

Our Tokyo trip would be incomplete if we didn't walk along Shibuya Crossing. It was an amazing sight and the feeling of crossing the world's busiest pedestrian intersection is overwhelming. Let me tell you a secret, I cried happy tears. Lol! I'm not really the dramatic type but there was something magical about the place. We crossed eight times the first day and twice on another day. The pedestrian scramble is the perfect epitome of organized chaos. We did not experience one single bump. You just gotta love the Japanese culture.


We went all the way up to Starbucks Tsutaya to get this view. This is not even rush hour. To get here, take the JR Yamanote line, go down Shibuya Station and exit at Hachiko Exit.


We were pressed for time on our first visit so we decided to come back and explore the area in more detail. This time it was raining. While people watching in Starbucks Tsutsaya, a fellow traveler mistook Mike for a local. 

Fellow Traveler : What an amazing view! Do you get to see this everyday?

Mike : You're right, it is amazing. No, I'm not from here. I'm from Manila.

Does this view remind you of Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation or The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift?



A short, unedited clip taken by Mike. The music playing in the background was perfect timing.


This experience is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Photos taken using Canon 550D, iPhone5, Video taken using Canon 550D

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hachiko

This trip to Tokyo is awesome! Let me start my Japan-related posts with Hachiko, known to be the world's most loyal dog. Besides my fondness for dogs, loyalty is one of the virtues I treasure most in life. One of the main reasons I wanted to visit this city of high rises and tangled train lines was to see Hachiko's monument in front of Shibuya Station, to visit his grave and to pay my respects in Aoyoma Cemetery. I have only watched the English version of the movie but already cried buckets of tears. I'm looking forward to see the Japanese version. I think it will be more realistic.

Hachiko is a Japanese Akita taken by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno in 1924. He greeted the professor at the end of each day at Shibuya Station which has become part of their daily routine until his master suddenly died in 1925, never returning to the train station where he was waiting. For nine years, Hachiko did his vigil at the train station until he died in 1935.


Shibuya Station's Exit.



The old train car.


Can you spot Hachiko?


After checking Hachiko's monument near the infamous Shibuya Crossing, Mike and I went to search for Hachiko's grave in Aoyama Cemetery by walking from Shibuya, Omotesando then Aoyama. It was a long walk. We were able to enjoy the beautiful sakura trees lining the area.


Sakura up close.


When we arrived in Aoyama Cemetery, we went to the office and asked for directions to Professor Ueno's and Hachiko's grave. The security officer gave us a map and explained directions in Japanese, although we didn't understand most of it, the directions on the map seem easy to figure out. Just follow the main path in the center and look for row 12.


Professor Hidesaburo Ueno's grave. On the right most side is Hachiko's.


 Hachiko's little grave up close.


Since we didn't bring flowers, I picked a stem of Japanese cherry blossoms and placed it in the center. Hachiko's bones are buried here but his skin was preserved and stuffed. I think it is on display at local museum here in Tokyo. By the way, Hachiko Day is celebrated every 8th of April in front of his monument that usually starts at 12 noon.

Hachiko's story is so moving. Seeing his memorial gave a deeper meaning. His loyalty and unconditional love is an inspiration to me and to many.

Photos taken using Canon 550D and iPhone 5

Monday, March 24, 2014

Herbology 101

Have your ever experienced buying herbs and not being able to consume everything until they wilt, expire and then go to waste? This situation is a dilemma of mine. Fresh herbs can be expensive and sometimes scarce hence an extra trip to a specialty store instead of making a one stop shop at your local grocer. So, I started a small organic herb bar. I often use basil and cilantro in most of my home cooking so I bought a pot of each at a weekend market. As you can see, some of the basil leaves on the left photo below looks crumpled it's because the weather began to get hot and humid these days. But no need to worry, I have transferred them to a cooler location. It's also time to move my cilantro to a bigger pot.


I planted coriander seeds (aka cilantro) too. They sprouted after one and a half weeks and now they are on their fourth week. Alas, progress!


I got this pot of mint as a wedding favor. Perfect for making iced teas on a hot summer day in the city.


I plan to get a pot of rosemary, sage, thyme, chives and flat leaf parsley soon. Nothing beats dressing up your home cooking with freshly picked herbs. Walking by my small organic herb bar soothes me, their scents are a delight to the senses. It works like aromatherapy. It saves money too!

Would you like to grow an herb garden too?

Photos taken using iPhone5 
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