Sunday, October 28, 2012

Japan on a whim, and Halloween in Tokyo



This long weekend in Tokyo, living a TRAVELIFE, I had lunch and did some foodie shopping on Saturday at Tokyo Midtown and then spent the evening walking around the neighborhood with a bunch of neighbors and their kids on a trick-or-treat.

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JAPAN ON A WHIM

This was a very spur-of-the-moment trip to Japan that I really shouldn't have taken, as I'd just returned from Singapore early Thursday morning, and then I'm off to South Africa for two weeks pretty soon.

But with a long weekend and all, I suddenly decided to cancel my Manila plans and hop on that plane and escape all the rainy weather in Manila for some peace and order in the First World -- with cold weather, autumn colors and good food. And some Halloween spirit!

A vendor at a store in Tokyo Midtown

It's probably my last trip to Japan till the cold thaws over as well, as I so dislike winter, even if winter in Japan is relatively mild compared to Europe or the East Coast. I'll probably be back here next spring when the cherry blossoms are out.

LAST-MINUTE TRIPS ARE FUN



As this was a very last-moment decision, I was of course completely unprepared for everything and anything. So very un-Travelife, actually.

I'd basically decided to go to Japan on Thursday night and then I'd packed in 10 minutes on Friday morning.

I have a long-term visa and I always hold an open-dated Manila-Tokyo flight ticket, you see, so I can go anytime and it's just a matter of getting an available seat -- and that's not so difficult when you know practically everyone in the airline industry.


LAST MINUTE, AS USUAL

So I caught the Friday afternoon flight to Japan just in the nick of time -- making it just before boarding. Fortunately there were enough empty seats on the flight so I could get on even at the last minute.

On board, I actually enjoyed myself watching The Diary of Bridget Jones again. Gosh, this movie is a bit cheesy but it reminded me of how Brit screenplays have great dialogue and the kind of dry humor I love.

And then I did a bit of work in the car on the way into the city from the airport because a long weekend doesn't really mean anything to me. I'm working all the time. By 9 PM I was looking at Tokyo Tower.

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DEAD TO THE WORLD

By Friday night at about 1130 PM, though, I was completely exhausted from a hectic week in Manila followed by the pretty hectic trip to Bangkok and Singapore. It was lots of fun but I just couldn't stop working or blogging, so it was a pretty intense two weeks of work and travel.

When I got to Tokyo, I simply crashed. I basically flew to Tokyo after all of 36 jampacked hours in Manila, and when I got here, all I wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up on Monday.



But I recovered my wits and energy enough the next morning, though, to know that I wanted to have a very good teppanyaki lunch at the sister restaurant of the famous Imahan in downtown Tokyo, on the third floor of Tokyo Midtown.

A VERY GOOD IDEA



It turned out to be such a nice idea to do so. Somehow I felt that I got my equilibrium back after a good and relaxing Zen-type meal.

I'm talking like I don't have good meals practically every day of my life, but somehow I really needed this teppanyaki lunch, with its quiet and calm surroundings and seamless theatrics.

THE HALLOWEEN FEVER



Tokyo Midtown is just completely taken over by Halloween, by the way. All the famous food shops from Japan and all over the world have their versions of Halloween treats and sweets on display.

I always buy something from Sadaharu Aoki when I'm here, even if they weren't doing anything particularly special for Halloween. I also buy bread from the store across, Maison Kayser from Paris, and then stop by Dean and Deluca just to see if they have anything interesting to bring back for the dinners I host in Manila.

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HALLOWEEN FOR THE DOGS

These were actually being sold
as Halloween treats for the dogs


Even the very high-end pet shop at Tokyo Midtown -- think hot stone massages and aromatherapy treatments for dogs, plus a hotel that offers everything from deluxe rooms to luxury suites for your pets -- was selling Halloween treats for dogs.

I've snapped a few photos of what's on sale for Halloween at Tokyo Midtown.

A WALK AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD



Then in the evening I joined my neighbors for a walk around the neighborhood.



Completely clueless about the big ruckus that's become Halloween in certain neighborhoods of central Tokyo, especially as I'd just flown in on a last-minute thing, I'd bumped into one of my neighbors earlier that day and she'd invited me to join them. I needed the exercise anyway and it was a great excuse to catch-up, so I decided to do so.



Wow. My neighborhood has lots of expatriates so the streets were literally filled with adults and kids in all kinds of serious Halloween costumes. I don't know when Tokyo got all crazy about celebrating Halloween, but this all certainly happened sometime when I wasn't looking.



And many of the houses had gone all out with their Halloween decor, and the household staff were all at the gates ready to give out candies and goodies to the kids.



It was rather fun, actually. And not a few adults made a serious career out of dressing up tonight, as I saw a couple of Batmen and Wonderwomen walking around with orange baskets sans kids.

A LITTLE MORE NEIGHBORHOOD SPIRIT



Interestingly, apart from having lots of expatriates, my neighborhood is also home to at least two prime ministers, a controversial former Indonesian First Lady, and (for some reason) the owners of three of the largest department store chains in Japan. The owners of one of Japan's most iconic global brands for young girls also lives two blocks away.

None of them opened up their houses for Halloween, even if so many others did.

Some neighbors with Halloween spirit...

CLOSED TO THEIR BEST CUSTOMERS

Of course, Halloween  is a personal thing and participating in trick-or-treat is completely voluntary. But not a few people who actually participate in this every year (this was my very first time to do so) were incensed that the owners of Japan's most iconic global brand for young girls -- I can't actually write the brand name down, but I can almost guarantee that every single person reading this blog will know of the brand if I mention it -- had their house closed for the neighborhood trick or treat.

A Japanese lady goes all out for Halloween
for the kids of the neighborhood


One of my neighbors fumed: "We're their best customers. You'd think they'd get some goodwill going by providing a few small treats for the girls in the neighborhood." Everyone knows which house is theirs, you see, and it's completely noticeable that it was dark tonight -- and it wasn't because they were trying for a haunted house effect.

Just another (scary) evening in a never-endingly eventful Travelife.





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