spotted in: narita airport

khmer we can 047.JPGwhat if fish could fly?

On my way to Vietnam for the Golden Week holiday (a cluster of national holidays during the first week of May that allows many Japanese employees to take a week off from work)! Squeee! I can’t wait to explore this country and also meet up with my high school friend Dan, whose grandparents and several family members live in Saigon, and also Caitlin and Molly, friends from college. I got smart and booked a non-stop flight that earns mileage this time around, which cost about $100 more than the budget option, but I think is worth saving the extra 10 hours of travel time and not dealing with rude flight agents and random delays (cough china eastern cough cough).

I know I’ll be in good hands with Dan, but any recommendations out there for must-sees/dos/eats in Vietnam? Cảm ơn! (thank you!)

xo your friend alice

Location: Narita Airport, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

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dont stop chasin’ sakura

This is a photo diary of my various hanami hunting exploits this season…feel free to skip if you get queasy seeing the reproductive organs of angiosperms.

Hanami means flower viewing, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it becomes a national pastime in Japan during the month of April when the cherry blossom buds come to fruition and yield a magical canopy of flowers. There is no way to capture in words or images the beauty of Japan during this time of the year; an effervescent week of full bloom that ends before you blink your eyes and notice the heavy rains that have fluttered the blossoms to the streets beneath your feet.

“The cherries’ only fault: the crowds that gather when they bloom”
– Saigyo Hoshi, 12th-century poet

feat. Agnes, Kelly, Daniel, and many beautiful strangersIMG_6604IMG_6607IMG_6687.jpgIMG_6644lady’s harmonica club, Yasukuni-jinjaIMG_6668IMG_6639IMG_6761IMG_6698weeping sakura, Imperial Palace

someone was here at 6 am to reserve this spot it’s THAT serious, Yoyogi ParkIMG_6704.JPGIMG_6605IMG_6746IMG_6875IMG_6878

paper lanterns, Meguro RiverIMG_6877IMG_6918.jpgsalaryman hanami, Ueno Park

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my boo ❤

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IMG_7040IMG_7051till death do us part, Shinjuku GyoenIMG_7066

IMG_7129.jpgIMG_7135IMG_7077IMG_7159which way? Inokashira KoenIMG_7008IMG_7064IMG_7119.JPGIMG_5689

IMG_7061this girl was speaking Chinese and oh so sassyIMG_7101IMG_7113blue steel, Daniel editionIMG_7334
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no photographs, Mt TakaoIMG_7335IMG_7139.jpg

The sakura season this year has been uncommonly, luxuriously long but is mostly over here in Tokyo. But the beautiful thing about spring in Japan is that different varieties of flowering trees bloom at their own pace. Every week I look up from the handlebars of my bicycle on my commute and see a newly evolved fresh face ready to greet the day.

xo your friend alice

Locations: on the street in Taito-ku // Kitanomaru Park // Yasukuni-jinja // Meiji Jingu Gaien // Yoyogi Park // Imperial Palace East Gardens (Higashi-koen) // Meguro River // Ueno Park // Shinjuku Gyoen // Inokashira Park // Mount Takao
Tokyo, Japan

the happiest place in chiba

TIMG_5929.JPGhe title is a bit tongue in cheek…
Chiba prefecture is located to the east of Tokyo and primarily known for its bedroom communities, international airport, and industrial and agricultural areas. In the same fashion Manhattanites might (pretentiously) sneer at the bridge and tunnel set, if you will. Gomen Chiba! 
Tokyo Disneyland
was the first international Disney resort to open so I think it’s safe to call it the third happiest place on earth after Disneyland in Anaheim (the OG) and Disney World in Orlando (the behemoth). And while it is deeply commercialized, part of the fun and magic of the Japanese version is that adults and children alike buy into the story and costuming (shout out to Shirley for letting me borrow her Minnie Mouse ears and Shuyi for the polka dot top). And in general I appreciate that living in Japan means I can never be too kawaii. It was pouring rain for most of the day until about 4 pm but when the rainclouds went on their way I was able to snap a few photos. On the upside, I never waited more than 30 minutes for even the most popular rides and my front row seat to the fireworks show had me squealing with delight. I have no shame about my excitement over a place one might deem childish and here’s why…

feat. Kei-kun, Midori-chan, and big brother William & my parents in the 90’sIMG_7236IMG_7240
IMG_5789.jpgI am very willing to suspend my disbelief. Of course I see the necessity of rationality and logic, but outside of serious and sometimes professional situations, I am more likely to depend on my intuition and feelings. While I have the adult perspective of knowing that the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion aren’t real, I still appreciate the fantasy and the sense of wonder that a place like Disneyland aims to project. I don’t want to be jaded and not get excited about these things. In the name of science or policy, I choose logic and evidence. But in the course of enjoyment in life, I often choose to sacrifice realism and trust imagination. Happily, the distinction between high and low culture is increasingly blurred. Art and experience once defined by exclusivity rather than defensible aesthetic or intellectual value are increasingly bridged by all kinds of folks largely due to accessibility. With access to a computer or library, people anywhere can learn about the culture of far flung places. There is something to be gained from both the alternative and mainstream. (The new S-Town podcast is a captivating reminder of this. Have you listened? I recommend it.)

Okay, that was a long tangent. What I’m trying to say is, if you want to jump up and down and stuff sweets in your mouth while smiling like a maniac at Disneyland–I’m with you!

The rides at Tokyo Disney are nearly identical to the ones I anxiously waited in line for as a tot for the distinctive pleasure that only occasional trips to this fantasy mecca provided as a child. (Peep photos of a beeming baby Alice at Disney in 1995 below.) The infusion of Japanese culture via the menu options (e.g. mochi aliens in Tomorrowland, omurice at the World Bazaar main entrance), orderliness, and story-telling language made this otherwise familiar experience a bit disorienting. At the same time, the genuine kindness and precision with which Japanese culture executes its visions felt very congruent with Disneyland’s vibe. I felt so nostalgic for the memories of my childhood, with the crushing difference of having to return to work the next morning instead of being woken up with a stack of pancakes bigger than my face. (I wish I could track down the specific photo I have in mind–I look so stoked on life!)

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IMG_7296.JPGthis janitor (official title: Showkeeper) drew a spot-on Mickey Mouse face literally using puddle water from the day’s earlier downpour and his mop. apparently it’s a thingIMG_7262This was actually my second visit to Tokyo Disneyland. The first time was on my first trip to Japan to 2004. I remember the outfits being much more scandalous but that memory might also be colored by innocence. Several friends and Disney blogs have heralded neighboring Tokyo Disney Sea as the superior and even *best* Disney theme park out there so I will have to check it out next. For now, another day at the office…

xo your friend alice

Location: 東京ディズニーランド 
Tokyo Disneyland, 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan

spotted in: ohori koen

I impulsively decided to take a trip over a long weekend to spend the first day of spring in Fukuoka. The impulse was spurred by a feeling of restlessness after my friends left, a hope for early cherry blossoms in the western isles of Japan, and just wanting to take advantage of three consecutive days off work. The trip from Tokyo takes about 5.5 hours on the shinkansen (bullet train). It was my first time visiting Kyushu, so I’ve now seen parts of Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu. The only remaining major Japanese island I’ve yet to visit is Shikoku. My goal is to visit all four before my stint in this beautiful country is over for the time being.

“Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.”

– Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (2013)

My friend Shuyi hates having her photo taken, but she gave me approval to shoot anything but her face (which is a shame because it’s a lovely one).

girl x waves

IMG_6545IMG_6540xo your friend alice

Location: Ohori Park, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

alice dreams of sakura

Cherry blossoms represent the impermanence of life and beauty; they bloom brilliantly and fall with the gusts of wind and showers of spring in about one week. On March 10, we came upon three trees in Yoyogi Koen already flowering; quite early for the sakura season in Tokyo (full bloom is forecasted for April 3 this year). All the other trees were still barren, stubbornly bearing their winter visage, and there was hardly any one else around.

*commence dream sequence*

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_MG_6446.jpg_MG_6418 (2).JPG_MG_6448.jpgThis is the last of the CHOLA series for this trip but stay tuned for CHOLA island later this year. We haven’t pinpointed a location just yet, but we’re thinking of somewhere in the Caribbean 😎 I love and miss you all

Location: Yoyogi Park, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

tokyo vice, a CHOLA joint

Multiple cups of espresso-based coffee, strong zero tall boys, vitamin C capsules, and precious few hours of sleep later, our heroes make their triumphant return to Tokyo. But wait, their senses are on high alert. They smell, they feel the energy of this electric city. Trap behavior abounds–there is dancing in subway stations and wilding out yet to be done!

feat. Meiji-jingu shrine, Takeshita-dori Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Asakusa Senso-ji, latte art at Reissue Cafe, Tokyo Metro & JR, Yokohama Noodle Museum, and our ever-constant companion, Strong Zero (with a special appearance by Mone-chan, daughter of our new friend Yo)_MG_6389_MG_6391_MG_6396.jpg_MG_6370.jpgPhoto Mar 10, 12 33 42 AM.jpg_MG_6471_MG_5573.jpg_MG_5581.jpg_MG_6500_MG_6456_MG_6454_MG_6462Facetune (1)best cotton candy of my life and I am no stranger to candy floss I’m tryna telll you

_MG_6489_MG_6490_MG_6509kawaii Mone-chan sippin’ on her ringo juice

_MG_5594_MG_6494my boys ❤ ❤ ❤

Trap behavior led every single one of our young adventurers to miss their separate return flights to California, so that’s one for the books. But no one is going to tell them to 止めなさい よ (yamenasai yo–stop it)!

Will our best friends achieve ultimate mask-off nirvana? To be continued…

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

trap la la land (osaka ed.)

“Forgetting the hour for departure, forgetting everything, the picknickers opened up casks of wine and proclaimed drunkenness man’s greatest delight.” – Ihara Saikaku, poet and novelist from Osaka (1642-1693)

feat. Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and the Westin Osaka_MG_6219_MG_6230a call to ramen // smiles brought to you by strong zero chuhai

_MG_6227.jpg_MG_6241bros 4ever

IMG_5009.jpgphoto-bombed ya

_MG_6295osaka castle plum orchard

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_MG_6350_MG_6352We only spent one night and one day in Osaka, but I think I now have an inkling of understanding about the long-touted rivalry between refined Tokyo and its rebellious brother Osaka. But I laugh at the idea that people in Kansai are somehow too friendly, as I found their openness and good humor quite refreshing. I’ll reserve my judgment though and try to soak it in a bit longer when I’m back for a visit in July.

P.S. I’m really not much of a drinker–mostly because I’m terrible at it. But my friends love to instigate and because I love them dearly I can translate their energy into a kind of contact high. All the fun with none of the side effects and someone to make sure we get home safely. Cheers to you, Osaka.

xo your friend alice

Location: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan