Last summer when we confirmed that J Crew was going to shoot it’s catalogue on our farm, we had a friend Regena, who is a life coach, staying with us at the time. Just after we had finished negotiating the location rental fee, Regena turned to Christopher and asked, “How are you going to spend the money?” “Well it will certainly make the school fees less painful for a while,” he replied. She looked across the table at me, smiled, then turned back to Christopher and said, “Well, what if you use the money to go on a once-in-a lifetime family vacation?” I love it when a girlfriend advocates on your behalf, don’t you? Regena is one of the few people my husband finds it difficult to say no to, and such was the case here. “Not a bad idea,” I was surprised to hear him respond with little resistance. So we set about thinking where would constitute “once in a lifetime.” I knew I’d want to go somewhere in Asia as I had never set foot on that continent. I first thought of India. I liked the idea of spending ten days sightseeing and then a week or so chilling on the beach in Goa. But Christopher and Coco both made disagreeing faces for reasons I still don’t understand. We did agree, however, that the place we chose should be somewhere none of us had ever been, so we could all share in discovering a new place with the same sense of wonder.
Then Christopher suggested Japan. We had planned to go there for our 10th anniversary but had to cancel when I accepted the job at Barneys. And thank god we did – our planned trip would have fallen during the time of the tsunami. Back in 2011, we definitely saw Japan as an adult trip. It was too expensive to take the kids, and we weren’t sure they would appreciate it. But now they were nearly three years older, and with the additional funds provided by JCrew, it would be more affordable. Ever since I was 9 years old I have wanted to go to Japan. I first experienced a taste of its culture when my American neighbours in Bronxville had recently moved back from spending three years there because of the dad’s job. They taught me how to count to ten in Japanese and had better Hello Kitty school supplies than anything you could find in the States. Then two Japanese girls entered my school in 4th grade, and I promptly attached myself to them – making sushi at their homes after school and doing sewing projects with their moms on the weekend. With Coco and Zach now 12 and 10 respectively, we felt they were old enough to appreciate such a foreign culture. So off we set for 18 days over Christmas to discover a new world.
|Despite the sugar, the kids passed out shortly after we arrived at 4 in the afternoon. We forced them to wake up around 7pm and head out to dinner.|
|We consciously decided not to plan many formal dinners, thinking we would just wander Shinjuku, our local neighborhood, in the evening and find a place that caught our eye. It was a good plan.|
|As you probably know, the Japanese just love cuteness. Everything is cute. I like the Margiela store’s version of cuteness in this 7 ft high cat composed of giant box blocks.|
|Christmas lights in Shinjuku.|
|The sushi bar at Sushi Kanesaka.|
|Mackerel with leek paste at Sushi Kanesaka.|
|I love how Japanese embrace iconic design from other cultures, like this VW Beetle.|
|Coco and I spent an afternoon at the Isetan food hall. It blew our mind. We spent hours there staring, tasting, snapping pics. This lady is making strawberry dumplings. Yum!|
|The fruit at Isetan was insane. It was huge, beautifully packaged and breathtakingly expensive. I don’t know how much this grapefruit was, but a single melon was the equivalent of $35!|
|After our first few sleek, modern and neon-filled Tokyo, we set off the see some older culture in Asakusa.|
|We came across this udon restaurant in Asakusa. It was so simple and delicious. Except for the people slurping around me. Not sure I could ever get used to that!|
|In Ginza, Coco and I saw a sign for the world’s smallest ice skating rink and had to check it out. We followed the signs around a few turns and came across this hilarious scene at the Hermes store!|
|A room-sized plastic rose at Dover Street Market.|
|While we didn’t make it to the Tsujiki Fish Market at 4am for the tuna auction, our visit there was still the highlight of my time in Tokyo. It was such an authentic, fascinating, other-worldly, one-of-a-kind experience.|
|Octopus in the fish market.|
|Tiny little fish in the market.|
|Crab in the fish market.|
|These charming little street stalls had some of the best food we ate in Tokyo.|
Coco is a mad sushi lover, and I knew she’d get a kick out of visiting one of the conveyor belt restaurants. We had a total pig out, and this was her stack of plates at the end.