For all those struggling when building friendships in Japan!

Barcelona, the city where you can become best friends with a complete stranger after only a couple of beers. A place where foreign faces and languages are part of our daily lives and interactions. I come from that type of culture – so moving to Japan and adapting to its culture has been, to say the least, challenging.

Personally, I found it extremely difficult to adapt. And the complicated stations, over-prized bananas and packed trains had nothing to do with it.

The real challenge came when I had to interact with someone else than a convenience store employee or an overly polite waitress. Once I tried to make Japanese friends out of the international circles in university, I realized how difficult it would be to build deep, meaningful connections in Japan. As many times as I tried, I could always feel there was a wall between me and them.

There are several reasons why that wall might seem so tall and thick when you first move to Japan. The first one being, of course, the language barrier. I haven’t met many people who moved here already speaking fluent Japanese. And even if they did, they had not lived here before, so they did not really know how human interactions work in Japan. And no. Anime and Manga are not reliable sources. Don’t even try!

PIC

So, obviously, you will have to study a lot before you are able to hold a meaningful conversation with a Japanese person who has no knowledge of English. Until then, it might be better to interact with Japanese people that are clearly interested in foreign countries or have studied abroad in the past. They are more likely to be able to speak English, and as they already had contact with foreign cultures, you might understand each other’s mindsets much better.

This brings me to the second cause for that almost palpable distance some foreigners feel when trying to connect with Japanese people. As you might already know, culture and society here have absolutely nothing to do with most western countries. In Barcelona, for example, I would be able to walk up to a stranger in the street and tell them that their shoes look cool and I’d like to know where they got them. Even go for a coffee together afterwards -without it implying any hidden agenda-, and ending up talking about our deepest, darkest secrets. However, I would never try to do that in Japan, unless that person was another foreigner.

In Japan, strangers are strangers and friends are friends. That is why meeting new people in Tokyo might seem hard. Japanese izakaya (bars), for example, are usually divided into areas where people can sit in small groups. Therefore, it is not an inviting atmosphere to talk to strangers. The same happens with karaoke and other entertainment venues. And, as I said, the street is not really an option.

IZAKAYA PIC

Where can I find foreign-friendly, English-speaking Japanese people or other foreigners, then? Well, what worked for me are international events. And there are plenty of them, if you know where to look.

I am going to recommend Couch Surfing, a site that is not as popular as Facebook but definitely worth a try. If you love traveling and enjoy experiencing cultures on every level, I suggest you look it up and try it next time you go abroad. As the aim of this platform is meeting people from different cultures, Japanese people who participate in the events are often able to speak English or other languages, enjoy traveling and/or have lived abroad. That means they probably understand other cultures and mindsets, so it might be easier for you to build a connection with them. Also, there are many Japanese who organize the events themselves, often offering some culture related experience to newcomers or whoever wants to join. And, of course, there are plenty of foreigners there that will understand and share your interest in Japan and, let’s be honest, your general confusion.

CS MEETING PIC

Personally, I have met almost all of my friends here in Japan in international events. I have been able to meet not only amazing foreigners that also feel homesick from now and then, but also really interesting Japanese people that love learning about other cultures and other ways of understanding the world. I have even met some Japanese people that say they don’t quite fit in Japanese society themselves! Through all of them, I have discovered and been able to explore an entirely different side of Japan. At the end, isn’t the huge variety of ways of thinking what makes traveling and meeting people from different backgrounds so interesting?

To sum up, if you are a sociable person who is feeling disoriented and kind of lonely in Japan, attend some international events and just keep an open mind. This way, I am sure you will be able to enjoy Japan in all its splendor and amazing weirdness in great company!

 

To start with, why don’t you join our international events? We try to gather both Japanese people and foreigners in culture-related activities. We guarantee it will be lots of fun! Check our blog and website to make sure you don’t miss any!

Aoyama Girls Night Out – Tulip Team Style!

Omotesando’s more down-to-earth neighbor and Harajuku’s more sophisticated older sister; Aoyama is a place to refresh, get inspired and feel fancy. So it only makes sense that our staff decided to make it our go-to destination for a girls night out – Tulip style!

There is a certain air to Aoyama that gives it an exclusive feel, perhaps because it is tucked away in the hilly slopes of Tokyo, but the small streets do not feel too narrow. Or maybe it’s the effortlessly fashionable artists and designers that can be overheard talking about their up and coming projects in passing. The tiny, boutique shops and local bars’ dedication to their craft to produce top-notch quality and protect the artisan culture, or maybe it is the eclectic architecture that somehow the groups of tourists have not yet discovered.

Heading over to dinner, we passed by Sunny Hills, designed by one of Tokyo’s most beloved modern architects, Kengo Kuma. Fans of Kuma’s work should definitely check out his many projects scattered around Kagurazaka, where we also happen to have two lovely share houses, Chilli Pepper & Cream and Happy House Kagurazaka.

As we approached the restaurant, we were taken aback at the gorgeous exterior and atmosphere. Walking through the bar area (and slightly regretting our outfit choices), we were shown to a table seated by a lit-up terrace. 

Cicada is located just a minute’s walk from Omotesando Station and specializes in modern Mediterranean cuisine. The space itself has a Euro-chic atmosphere but the flavor of the dishes were deliciously authentic. We started with some toasted pita accompanied by various dips of your choice – we went with the classic hummus and a carrot, yogurt, & mint spread.

The cocktail menu was very impressive, which is expected as the restaurant is owned by Tysons & Company, the founders of T.Y. Harbor Brewery.

After our lots of chatting, laughs and “kanpais!” we scoped around the area for a place to grab some cocktails. We stumbled upon Radio Bar and were intrigued by its retro atmosphere, like something out of an old Japanese movie. It turned out that Radio Bar has been around since the 1970s, and THE place to go for cocktail connoisseurs and aspiring mixologists to enjoy a proper pour (which is hard to come across in Tokyo nowadays amongst all the Lemon Sours and Whiskey High Balls).

Accompanied with an incredibly delicious spread of fresh fruits and cheese came Bar Radio’s original cocktails served with impeccable presentation. Each cocktail has been meticulously crafted and perfected over the decades and we appreciated the attention to detail until the last very last drop. Because of the high standards of the establishment, the cocktails are not at all cheap and be prepared to be on your best behavior, that also means to dress accordingly!

Satisfied and slightly emotional over how exquisite our night has been so far, we were not ready for it to end. We decided to check out the nearby Commune 2nd, suggested by our staff Jan who is in the know about many Tokyo’s hidden gems.

At Commune 2nd, you will be greeted with hip, neon clad signs, beer and food stands with a modern-style food truck-like layout, and groups of merry making locals and foreigners alike enjoying themselves over drinks and food.

Commune 2nd closes at 10 PM, let’s clarify that all the shops and eating spaces close at 10 PM sharp! We had too much fun in the lively atmosphere and did not want to leave, but had to take a team pic while we were getting kicked out.

Although at first a bit intimidated and unfamiliar with the Aoyama area, it has become one of our favorite places to explore. Stay tuned for hopefully an Aoyama Part 2 Guide by the Tulip Team and also a possible share house that will be newly opening up  in Aoyama some time in the future 😉

Thanks for reading and enjoy Tokyo to the fullest! Tulip Real Estate specializes in female-only share houses in Tokyo. Send us a message to ask about our share houses and we are more than happy to recommended our favorite places to check out nearby.

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Resident Interview: Vitamin Color in Nakano

Resident Interview: Klaudia from Poland

 

We met up with Klaudia, a resident in our Happy House Vitamin Color shared house. We strolled through the park with her and ask about her experience in the house.

Happy House Vitamin Color

Klaudia, what interested you to live in a shared house?

 

As a foreigner, looking for a place to live in Japan is pretty difficult. It was a much easier method than an apartment and I really liked that Tulip’s shared houses are for women only, so I don’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable.

 

What is your favorite thing about living in Happy House Vitamin Color?

 

I work and am a student so I actually don’t spend too much time in the flat. But I love to cook so I use the kitchen often and also love to relax in my room. I have a balcony in my room so I can even sit out there!

 

Admiring the rainy season’s hydrangeas

 

How would you describe the surrounding area you live in? Do you have any favorite spots?

I think Nakano is great because it is a bit of a student’s area.  Other areas like the main Shinjuku area or Shibuya are very loud and are like party places. I’m a student so for me, it’s better to live in this area because it is so much more quiet. It’s so nice because there are a lot of parks, temples, and shrines around here.

 

Taking a stroll at the nearby park

 

What are your favorite things to do in Tokyo?

I am busy working usually, haha! But I love travelling outside of the Tokyo area like to Kamakura or Yokohama because of the port. At night, it really looks like a movie with all of the beautiful lights. I like the Chinatown in Yokohama too.

Has living in a shared space help or change you in any way? How so?

I love cooking at night and early in the morning, but I think about others more like, “Oh, people are asleep right now. I can’t be noisy!” In Poland, we make a lot of food that will last us for a couple of days. But because there is not so much space in Japan, I get to cook more and am more aware about space now.

Klaudia’s favorite jogging route

 

 

Have you had any challenges in the house that you were able to overcome or resolve?

I don’t have any problems with the house or the people living here. I’m so relaxed so if someone is making a little bit noise, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve heard some people singing in the house sometimes and I think it’s really funny!

Do you have any other plans in the future while you are in Tokyo?

I would firstly like to finish my Japanese studies and would like to have some time to travel more in Japan. Since I love to bake pastries and cakes, it would be great if I can open my own business here one day and run a bakery.

  

             

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your experience in your shared house?

 

If you have never lived in a shared house before, it might take a bit to get used to at first. It’s important to remember that you are in Japan, so the size of the spaces are different if you come from a western culture. It is a good and unique thing to experience here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tulip Travel Tips: Taiwan Edition

Summer is approaching its peak and we all know what that means…its traveling season! If you live in Japan, you might have noticed that Taiwan has been a trendy go-to destination for Japanese people for quite some time. People of all ages flock to Taiwan for vacation for many reasons whether it be because it’s just a quick  flight away,  for the bustling night markets, instagrammable foods (mango shaved ice, boba, and dumplings, oh my!), traditional temples, or Studio Ghibli lovers yearning to walk through the small town that was used as an inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” – Taiwan is a place for one and all to enjoy.

九份 – Jiufen

We decided to head out to Taiwan to catch up on the excitement for ourselves! If you are planning on taking a Taiwan trip soon, here is your guide to delicious local eats and must-see spots.

First up is Huashan 1914 Creative Park located in Taipei’s center. Originally a winery, Huashan 1914 Creative Park has been transformed into a spacious park and marketplace with an artsy twist that is free and open to the public. Here you will find galleries, rotating exhibitions, design shops, trendy cafes, and even an independent movie theater. 

The space has a mysterious and historic feel as most of the buildings are covered in plants or have been left untouched with the faded exterior. The structures throughout the space have an industrial feeling and house high-end, hip fashion shops and local artists alike.

Taipei is a bustling city with crowds, restaurants and street markets, but there are also many pockets within the city where you can enjoy parks, temples, and traditional constructs like  Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Taiwan’s ministry of culture transformed the hall to become a national landmark for “facing history, recognizing agony, and respecting human rights.” In the large park and plaza surrounding the monuments, you can find groups of people meditating, practicing Tai Chi or dancing in various styles in the early mornings.

If you have time for a day-trip while in Taiwan, try going down South to Kaohsiung City where you can see the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas. Enter through the mouth of the beasts and climb up the spiraling staircases in the seven-story towers.

Also a famous attraction in Kaohsiung is 85 Sky Tower, the tallest building in the city where you can check out the observation deck on the 74th floor that overlooks a stunning view of  Kaohsiung and its main harbor. The elevator ride to the observation deck goes dark and projects a star-light show on the ceiling!

Hop on a ferry and in 5 minutes to Cijin Island where you can stock up on fresh fruit and seafood at the street market leading up the beach and enjoy the local island feeling. I have had my share of mango shaved ice in Taiwan but the Cijin Island shaved ice was hands down the best!

Next up is probably #1 on a lot of our Taiwan bucket lists is Jiufen – a small village tucked away in the mountains that is now one of the top attractions in the world for anime lovers. Known to be used as the model for the ghostly street market in Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” you can explore the shops serving delicious street food, local handmade goods, and of course some Ghibli souvenirs to take home.

Taipei Gourmet Guide:

Kao Chi  – A dumpling house right next door to the original Din Tai Fung dumpling house that started it all. Despite being near the now world renown dumpling house chain, Kao Chi stands their ground offering delicious freshly steamed dumplings and packaged to-go bites for the road. The crab and miso dumplings are a must!

Eastern Ice Store – Located in the hip and international area of Daan, Taipei serves cold or hot dessert bowls with your choice of rice cakes, red beans, grass jelly, etc inside. A perfect dessert for any season.

Wang Ji Fu Cheng Rou Zong – With less than 10 items on the menu, this local shop is sure to give you a true taste of Taiwan. Try their signature pork rice dumplings, noodle dish, and fish ball soup. 

Tiger Sugar – A shop you won’t miss because of the enormous line, this boba shop has taken the popular milk tea tapioca drink and uses their own brown sugar concoction to take it to another level of milky heaven. Totally worth the wait!

So, have you booked your ticket yet? 🙂

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Resident Interview: Witt-style Roppongi in Roppongi and Azabu area.

We visited Alex at Witt – style Roppongi shortly before Christmas and then took a short walk with her before we stopped at Starbucks for a chat. Alex has been living in Japan for 7 years, and is now working near Tokyo Tower. For 3 months, she had been walking pass the house that would become Wit t – style Roppongi everyday. When we turned the building into a share house in June 2017, she became one of our first residents.

Tulip: Hi Alex, what interested you in our share house, and how was your experiences with shared houses before Witt – style Roppongi?

Alex: I lived almost door-to-door an hour away from where I work. And though I loved where I used to be, I was looking for a place closer to work because I did not like riding the train during rush hour. While I was looking for an apartment on Craigslist I came across an ad for this share house. I emailed your company, viewed the house and then moved in by the end of that month. As I’ve lived in shared apartments in Japan in the past I was looking forward to moving and being closer to work and friends.

Tulip: What is your favourite thing about living in Witt – style Roppongi?

Alex: I’m most happy about the convenience of living here. It’s really close to my work so I don’t need to take the rush – hour trains. And I hang out with my friends around here too because they all live near the area. About the house itself, I wish there were more common space s that would allow more socializing, like a proper living room. But I like the set up of the kitchen, with the common dining table and TV. It’s good for the size of the house.

[Witt-style Roppongi]

Tulip: How would you describe the surrounding area you live in? Do you have any favorite spots?

Alex: The surrounding area is surprisingly quiet though it’s just right off the main Roppongi Crossing. You only hear people walk up and down Roppongi and the Izumi Garden area. It’s such a nice area and again, it’s so convenient if you want to go shopping or go out for food. I eat out a lot so I can name a few favorite places. Down the street, there’s this place called Downtown B’s Indian Kitchen. Right across from there, in Izumi Garden, there is a Thai restaurant and a salad restaurant I enjoy going to. Right next to the share house is another Thai restaurant. If you go further down to Roppongi Hills there is a soup dumpling place that’s really good [Nansho Mantoten] and a French place called Brassaerie Va-tout. They serve really good lasagna. Everything is just within a fifteen-minutes’ walk from the share house, including my favorite sushi bar, Uramakiya.

[Downtown B’s Indian Kitchen (left) and a cute, little bar down the street (right)]

Tulip: Thanks so much for the recommendations! Do you have other favorite things to do in Tokyo?

Alex: I run, so I really like to go running around the Imperial Palace and seeing what’s around there. That’s my favorite place to run in Tokyo.
Tulip: Do you discover new places while you run?

Alex: I don’t technically go and explore. I figure out where things are while I run. For example, I didn’t realize how close we are to Hibiya Park. One day while I was lost I ran by Hibiya park and it was a nice discovery. I like exploring, but I especially like going outside of Tokyo. I don’t like being around a lot of crowds so I tend not to go to places that are crowded on the weekends, like Yoyogi Park, Harajuku or Shibuya. I try to leave Tokyo on the weekends. Whenever I can, I go snowboarding or go visit friends where I used to live in the West Coast of Japan. One of my favorite hiking spots around Tokyo is Mount Takao, and I really enjoy going on trips with the Tokyo Snow Club. I go snowboarding with them in winter and on fun trips in the summer.

[HoneyBaked Ham sandwich shop (left) and the small park nearby (right) are some of Alex’s favourite lunch spots.]

Alex: I’m used t o sharing space. Every year from when I was nine, I used to go to sleep – away camps and at one time we had 21 girls in one cabin. At a sleep – away camp you learn to share your space. In college , I was living with roommates too. I had my own room but we sha red a common space just like in the share house.

Tulip: How would you compare your living experience in Japan, between living in a share house and living in your own apartment?

Alex: I miss having my own apartment where I can decorate and call everything my own. I had my own apartment when I was living in Toyama. But at the same time, I work all day and I go and see friends, so it’s also enough just to have my own room to come ho me to. It’s a nice space and we rarely get in anybody’s way in the share house.

Tulip: Have you had any challenges in the house? And what did you do to overcome or resolve those problems?

Alex: I sometimes have to remind people to remove their hair from the bathtub, but there aren’t so many challenges. I think we’re doing okay in this share house. There’re bound to be issues that come up when eleven people live in the same house, but when something comes up , you can contact the management to help you communicate with your housemates in a polite and understanding way.

[A view of Tokyo Tower from Sengokuyama Mori Tower]

Tulip: Do you hang out with your housemates sometimes?

Alex: Occasionally . Most everyone in the house ha s different schedules. Mostly we just hang out in the kitchen if we see each other .

Tulip: Do you have any other plan in the future while you are in Tokyo?

Alex: For now, I’m really enjoying my work and I don’t plan to leave Tokyo anytime soon. I have some personal 2018 goals such as running a half marathon and doing the 2018 Spartan Races . But for my living situation and my professional situation, they aren’t going to change anytime soon.

[Izumi Garden (left) and Shiroyama Garden (right)]

Tulip: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your experience in your share house?

Alex: I’ve had a good experience in the house so far. I’m really happy with my living situation . The funny thing about this house is that I passed it every day for about three months on my way to my friend’s place to train for the Spartan Race. I remember that 2 or 3 weeks before I found your advertisement, I was jokingly wondering if one of the houses in the area ha d a room for rent. I really wanted to move closer to the area and when I came to the house for a viewing, I was like, I know this house! And now I’m here . Overall, I think it has been a good experience and I am glad I was able to move here.

Tulip: Thank you so much, Alex. We’re glad to hear that you’re enjoying your time in Japan and in Witt-style Roppongi. We wish you a lovely holiday!

[Around Witt-style Roppongi]

14 Picnic-Perfect Hanami Spots Near Tulip Sharehouses!

Spring is now upon us and cherry blossoms are in bloom! The Tulip Team have put our heads together to present you with the best sakura viewing spots next to each and every of our share houses. Below is a list of 14 parks and places with which you wonderful ladies and gents can refer to next time you’re in town for the traditional Japanese cherry blossom viewing custom also known as hanami (花見). From lively, popular viewing spots such as Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, to serene hidden gems in the likes of Araiyakushi Park in Nakano, we’re sure you’ll find one that suits your fancy to admire the fleeting yet sensational wonder that is Japan’s sakura!

1. Nakano Central Park 中野セントラルパーク | Nakano

A brisk 12-min walk from Happy House Asian and an 18-min walk from Happy House Orange is Nakano Central Park, a dog-friendly open space lined with sakura trees, plenty of eateries (think cafes and shops), convenience stores, and, depending on the time of visit, an impressive, ever-changing collection of food trucks. Nakano Central Park is also the venue of the Cozy Culture Club’s debut hanami picnic event! Bring your own bento and join us for a FREE afternoon of language and culture exchange fun. We’ll be also grabbing freshly brewed Kirin beer at the foodtrucks nearby, so be sure to bring some change.

Interested? Sign up on Facebook or Meetup, we’d love to see you there!

Nakano Central Park 中野セントラルパーク
4 Chome 10-2 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-0001

Nakano Station | FREE Admission

 

2. Araiyakushi Park 新井薬師公園 | Nakano

Sakura illumination at Araiyakushi Park | design_energy

For a quiet, pleasant hanami party, take a 3-min stroll down from our Happy House Vitamin Color, Araiyakushi Park is home to 24 beautiful cherry blossom trees.  The park is teeming with greenery and features a relaxing Japanese-style koi pond swimming with goldfish and carp, the Arai Yakushi Otera Temple, and a brilliant spectacle of cherry blossom illuminations during hanami season.

Araiyakushi Park 新井薬師公園
5-4 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 165-0026

Araiyakushi-mae Station | FREE Admission

 

3. Tetsugakudo Park or Temple Garden of Philosophy 哲学堂公園 | Nakano

Walk 2-min from Cozy Village Jasmine or hop on the 中41 bus heading towards Nakano Station from Happy House Herb for a 10-min ride to a  beautiful part forest and part park scenery of ponds, river, and tall trees. Testsugakudo Park, while small-scale compared to the likes of Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi, the park’s 77 philosophy-inspired buildings, stonework, and pathways make for a lovely, serene afternoon stroll. Cherry blossom trees line the riverside leading to a cherry blossom circle perfect for hanami picnics. PS. Happy House Vitamin Color residents, you’re in luck with options, the park is an 18-min walk from the sharehouse!

Tetsugakudo Park 哲学堂公園
1-34-34 Matsugaoka, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 165-0024

Araiyakushi-mae Station | FREE Admission

 

4. Yoyogi Park 代々木公園 | Shibuya

While Yoyogi Park isn’t the most picturesque of parks in terms of landscape design, its wide open space ensures you won’t be fighting for inches of grass on which to layout your picnic blanket. Plus it ensures you a view of the cherry blossoms no matter where you’re seated! Psst, Witt-style Yoyogi and Witt-style Jingu residents, the park is a mere 5-10min walk from the sharehouse – leaving you ladies with no excuse NOT to go out on a hanami excursion.

Yoyogi Park 代々木公園
2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0052

Harajuku / Yoyogi-Koen / Yoyogi-Hachiman / Sangubashi / Meiji-Jingumae Station Station | FREE Admission

 

5. Setagaya Park 世田谷公園 | Setagaya

Cherry blossoms encircle the pond at Setagaya Park | kanegen

Despite mainly catering to horse-riding children (yes, there are actual horses meandering on site!), Setagaya Park is home to several beautiful gardens, lovely grassy knolls,  a center piece water fountain, and, of course, plenty of cherry blossom trees for hanami. If you are lucky, you might even stumble on an occassional flea market. Psst, this gem of a park is lcoated only a mere 10-min walk from our Witt-style Mishuku sharehouse!

Setagaya Park 世田谷公園
15-27 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0001

Sangen-jaya / Ikejiri-ohashi Station | FREE Admission

 

6. Wadabori Park 和田堀公園 | Suginami

Slightly off the beaten path is the quiet, lush greenery of Wadabori Park, a natural enclave from the city’s hustle and bustle. Happy House Kamikitazawa residents, take a perfectly doable 15-20min breezy afternoon bike ride from the share house and lose yourself in the leafy shades, and unwind with a stress-free spring stroll down the path lined with cherry blossom trees along the Zenpukuji River. Best of all, the park features 10 BBQ facilities (reservation with the Suginami Ward Office required) and the athletic fields are free for all on the 1st Sunday and 3rd Saturday of the month!

Wadabori Park 和田堀公園
2-23 Omiya, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-0061

Nishi-Eifuku Station | FREE Admission

 

7. Toshimaen Amusement Park

Night cherry blossom illuminations at Toshimaen Amuseument Park

10-min by foot from our Witt-style CloveR is Toshimaen. A lively amuseument and water park throughout the year, the charming old-fashioned park is magically lit up after dark during sakura season. The park’s special “Sakura Nights” entry program provides unlimited access to designated rides and attractions while admiring the illluminations on over 500 cherry blossom trees!

Toshimaen Amuseument Park 豊島園
3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima, Tokyo 176-0022

Toshimaen Station | Sakura Night admissions beginning at 500 yen

 

8. Rikugen Gardens 六義園 | Bunkyo

For more sakura illuminations, head over to the exquisite Japanese-style Rikugien Gardens at Sugamo Station near our Witt-style Apricot Terrace. After sunset, the gorgeous Waka poetry-themed park is  transformed into a brilliant fairlyland of dazzling cherry blossom illuminations that are well-worth the entrance fee. PS. Word of advise, book online and get there early to make it in ahead of the line of lovebirds! Oh, and don’t forget to bring your camera!

Rikugien Gardens 六義園
6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021

Sugamo Station | 300 yen

 

9. Edogawa Park 江戸川公園 | Bunkyo

Formed in the Edo era, the Kanda River runs from Inkoashira Park in Mitaka Ward, joining the Sumida River underneath the Ryogoku Bridge. Numerous cherry blossom trees bloom along the riverside, however, one of the best spots to view it is at this particular point inside Edogawa Park, titled 神田川桜並木 on Google Maps, which is a 9-min walk from Happy House Kagurazaka and a 18-min walk from Happy House Stella. The river itself is only a 10-min walk from Happy House Stella, and nearby parks include as Kansen-en Park, Higo-Hosokawa Garden, and the Chinzanso Garden.

神田川桜並木
2-1 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0014

Edogawa Park 江戸川公園
2-2-1 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8555

Edogawabashi / Waseda Station | FREE Admission

 

10. Sotobori Park 外濠公園 | Chiyoda

For yet another river-side hanami picnic option, why not check out Sotobori Park, with a promenade that connects Ichigaya and Iidabashi Station. Chilli Pepper and Cream residents! Make a 5-min walk down to the park to enjoy a relaxing morning or afternoon stroll (whichever suits your fancy!) underneath a canopy of white cherry blossom petals while listening to soft river sounds!

Sotobori Park 外濠公園
2-9 Gobancho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0071

Iidabashi Station | FREE Admission

 

11. Meguro River Park 目黒川船入場 | Meguro


Constantly featuring in Tokyo’s top 10 hanami viewing lists, Meguro River Park is THE place to go for a feel of the much-talked about cherry blossom rain and all-around hanami atmosphere. Numerous small, delectable eateries lining both riversides present the perfect opportunity for a quick bite (or two!). We highly recommend getting there around dusk, grabbing something nice to drink (ala our staff did in the pic above!), and enjoying the changing view from light to night. Our Witt-style Nakameguro residents are in luck, the hanami hot spot is just a 17-min bus trip or a 15-min bike ride from the house!

Meguro River Park 目黒川船入場
1-11-18 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0061

Nakameguro Station | FREE Admission

 

12. Roka Koshun-en Park 蘆花恒春園 | Setagaya

The hanami scene at Roka Koshun-en Park is hands down the most floral site on our list, with a fusion of colors from both pink sakura and yellow rapeseed blossoms! Former residence of famed writer and philosopher Roka Tokutomi, actual name Kenjiro Tokutomi, the historic park grounds contain the author’s prior place of abode, a garden and bamboo forest, a shrine, and an abundance of forest-like flora. OKURA HOUSE ladies, we promise you it’s absolutely worth the 15-min bike ride!

Roka Koshun-en Park 蘆花恒春園
1-20-1 Kasuya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-0063

Hachimanyama Station | FREE Admission

 

13. Shiba Park 芝公園 | Minato

Take a break from Roppongi and enjoy the cherry blossoms with a view of the city’s signature Tokyo Tower at Shiba Park. While not the most aesthetic of parks, its spacious grass fields is excellent for a spot of afternoon napping or for unrolling a substantial picnic spread. The park is also adjacent to the impressive Zojoji Temple, making it a perfect blend of modern, history, and nature sights – all this just a 15 to 20-min walk from our Witt-style Roppongi!

Shiba Park 芝公園
4-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011

Shibakoen Station | FREE Admission

 

14. Johoku Chuo Park 都立城北中央公園 | Nerima

Measuring 260,000 square meters, Johoku Central Park is one of the city’s largest with plenty of green, open space for spreading out picnic baskets and blankets. With its vast grassy fields, a huge athletic field, and plenty of tall trees, our Happy House mint residents only need make a 11-min walk to reach the perfect spot to do a bit of jogging or an early morning outdoor yoga session! PS. The park also has a special area designated for housing Moro relics dating back to the stone ages to satisfy your inner history buff.

Johoku Chuo Park 都立城北中央公園
1-3-1 Hikawadai, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 179-0084

Hikawadai / Kami-Itabashi Station| FREE Admission

 

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By: Lydia Hon

Tokyo Day Trip: The Tulip Guide to Enoshima and Kamakura

Tokyo Day Trip: Kamakura Hase Temple

So you’ve been up and down the Skytree, shopped your heart out in Shinjuku, have an album of photos from the Shinjuku Gyoen in all four seasons, and are itching to discover a different side of Japan… buttttt hard-pressed for time. May we suggest a day-trip to the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture with its gorgeous coastlines and unique slice of history? If so, read on for the low down to an easy-breezy inexpensive day trip to to the beautiful island town of Enoshima and the historic temple city of Kamakura!

Tokyo Day Trip: Eoshima Kamakura Enoden

1. Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass

First things first, transport. We highly recommend purchasing the Odakyu Line Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass. The one-day pass includes one round trip from your departure station to Fuijisawa, unlimited hop-on and offs on the Enoden Line between Fujisawa all the way to Kamakura, and discounts to a few attractions. The pass is available at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center in Shinjuku or at any Odakyu Line station ticket machines.

Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass 江の島・鎌倉フリーパス
Price: 1,470 yen (From Shinjuku Station)
See here for a guide on how to buy from the ticket machines.

2. Katase Nishihama

ENoshima Kamakura Guide 1

Hop off at Katase-Enoshima Station and make your way over to the Katase Nishihama Beach for some of the closest beaches to Tokyo and an amazing, unobstructed view of Mount Fuji! Popular with surfers, the beach is also the scene of a number of parties in the warm summer months. From there, take a 20min walk across the ocean via the connecting bridge to Enoshima Island.

Katase Nishihama Beach 片瀬西浜
3 Chome Katasekaigan, Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture 251-0035
〒251-0035 神奈川県藤沢市片瀬海岸3丁目

3. Enoshima Jinja

Tokyo Day Trip: Enoshima Jinja

Sitting on Enoshima Island is the Enoshima Jinja, one of the nation’s Three Great Shrines dedicated to the Benzaiten (弁才天) goddess of art and fortune. Legend has it that this particular Benten shared a love story with a five-headed dragon, hence the many dragons decked out on the grounds. The Enoshima Jinja is also home to three goddess and their respective shrines – Hetsunomiya, Nakatsunomiya, and Okutsunomiya (from lowest to highest). Psst! Tulip Tip: the stairs aren’t as daunting as they seem! Stretch your legs and save some cash by skipping the escalator and hiking up to the top. It’s a charming 15-20 min walk from the bottom shrine with lovely views of the island town and its coasts.

Enoshima Jinja 江ノ島神社
2-3-8 Enoshima, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa 251-0036
〒251-0036 神奈川県藤沢市江の島2丁目3番8号

4. Lovers’ Hill / Ryuren Bell of Love

Taking the trip with your significant other? Follow the signs off the main path and make your way over to the Lovers’ Bell. Ring the bell, make a wish, and attach your lock onto the fence with the many others to enjoy eternal love. Purchase a lock at the shops on the way to the entrance, or opt to bring your own! Singles, feel free to skip this attraction and head on over to the Iwaya Caves and Chigogafuchi Abyss.

Lover’s Hill / Ryuren Bell of Love 恋人の丘「龍恋の鐘」
2-5 Enoshima Ryunogaoka Natural Forest, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa 251-0036
〒251-0036 神奈川県藤沢市江の島2-5江の島龍野ヶ岡自然の森内

5. Iwaya Caves and Chigogafuchi Abyss

Nestled on the wesern end of Enoshima Island are the Iwaya Caves and the Chigogafuchi Abyss. Previous buddhist monk training ground in the Nara era, the Iwaya Caves consists of two natural caves-turned-shrines housing relics and statues from Enoshima’s past. While the caves are not much to write home about, the walkway to the caves overlooks the Chicgogafuchi Abyss, boasting gorgeous coastal views of crashing waves alongside a breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji. Heads up, the area is subject to very strong winds so we highly suggest extra precaution when climbing up and down the boulders to avoid being blown away!

Chigogafuchi Abyss 稚児ヶ淵
2-5-2 Enoshima, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa 251-0036
〒251-0036 神奈川県 藤沢市 江の島 2丁目5番2号

Tokyo Day Trip: The Great Buddha of Kamakura / Kamakura Daibutsu

6. The Great Buddha of Kamakura / Kamakura Daibutsu

Next up on the itinerary is Kamakura, oozing of traditional architecture with its many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. And what’s a visit to Kamakura without paying respects to the iconic Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha)! A designated kokuhō 国宝 or National Treasure culture heritage site, this particular Daibutsu is vying for a spot on UNESCO’S list of World Heritage Sites, making it a must-see for culture-lovers. To get there from Enoshima Island, walk or hop on a bus to Enoshima Station, take the Enoden Line heading towards Kamakura to Hase Station, and follow the signs for Kōtoku-in.

Kamakura Daibutsu 鎌倉大仏
4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016
〒248-0016 神奈川県鎌倉市長谷4丁目2番28号

Price: 200 yen entry and an additional 20 yen to get inside the Daibutsu.

7. Komachi Street / Komachidori

Beginning from the round-about outside of Kamakura Station, and leading right up to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is the Komachidori Street. Legend has it that it began as an outdoor market held in front of the shrine. Today, more than 250 restaurants, cafes, and boutiques selling traditional gifts and sweets line the bustling street. It’s the perfect place to do a spot of souvenir shopping enroute to our final destination at the Hachimangū!

Kamakura Komachidori 鎌倉 小町通り
Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0006
〒248-0006 神奈川県鎌倉市小町

Tokyo Day Trip: Kamakura Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

8. Tsurugaoka Hachimangū

The most proninent of Kamakura’s Shinto shrines, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is located both geographical and culturally in the city center.  After defeating rival Taira clan in 1180, Kamakura Shogunate founder Yoritomo Minamoto established Kamakura as the nation’s defacto capital and built the shrine as a tribute the Hachiman (八幡神), Japanese god of war and archery. Today, the shrine houses two ponds representing rival clans Minamoto and Taira (Tiny Trivia: the Taira pond has four islands, as “four” holds the same pronunciation as “death” in Japanese), a peony garden, and a small museum. It’s also among the nation’s most popular shrines for hatsumode (初詣), with record breaking visitor numbers of over two million!

Tsurugaoka Hachimangū 鶴岡八幡宮
2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-8588
〒248-8588 神奈川県鎌倉市雪ノ下2-1-31

Not up for a day trip or a lengthy train ride?  Check out our Ultimate Nakano Guide for a low key yet fun-filled afternoon right in the heart of suburban Tokyo!

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By: Lydia Hon

Akemashite Omedetou – A Kyushu New Year!

In Japan, New Years is not about popping champagnes, midnight kisses, ball drops, and a foggy memory of the previous night. Instead, it is a relaxing time for families and friends to visit shrines, enjoy watching New Years TV specials, and huddle under the kotatsu.

明けましておめでとうございます!(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) is what Japanese people say to family, friends, and colleagues when greeting them in the new year, adding 今年も宜しくお願いします(Kotoshi mo yoroshiku  onegaishimasu). It means “Happy New Year” and “I look forward to continuing our relationship this year.”

Cultural Tip: If a member of someone’s family has passed away, traditionally, it is not appropriate to send them a New Years card or say “Akeashite Omodetou” as the family is mourning.

Otherwise, it is standard to say after the clock strikes 12:00, but not before the new year! At the end of the year, people say, よいお年を (Yoi otoshi wo) when seeing someone for the last time before the new year, meaning “Have a great new year.” 良い (yoi) means “good” and the お年 means “year.”

This year, our staff spent Japan’s most important holiday in Fukuoka, Kyushu! It was no ordinary New Years, but one spent helping out in a Buddhist temple.

On New Year’s Eve, people eat 年越しそば (Toshikoshi soba), meaning “year-crossing buckwheat noodles” that represent hope for a long-lasting life. It is usually served at temples, where many people come to line up and ring a large bell, rung a total of 108 times. The number 108 represents the worldy sins and it is believed that ringing the bell will rid those sins of the past year.

As midnight approached and all were warmed up and full with soba, countdown commenced and party poppers danced in the night sky.

Most people will go to their local shrine to do “hatsumode,” the first visit of the year to the Shinto shrine. There, you will see locals praying, warming up around the bonfire, buying a fortune from the stand,  and having some sweet sake or pork soup. Usually very late into the night and sometimes until dawn, families and friends are chatting and enjoying good company to kick off the New Year.

New Years Day is a relaxing time spent with family eating osechi, the traditional New Years food assortment that symbolizes prosperity, luck, and happiness in the coming year.  Ozoni is a mochi soup also enjoyed on New Years Day, but if you are at a temple, you’ll be lucky enough to help make it!

Ozoni has different tastes depending on the region. Kyushu ozoni commonly features a white-miso base but this year’s was particularly special. One of the members of the family got married and it is a Kyushu custom for the husband to bring a large fish to his wife’s family for New Years. We enjoyed this year’s ozoni featuring yellowtail, it was delicious!

It is not as common these days, but some families will drink otoso, a medicinal spiced sake, usually served by the youngest family member. Three cups of different sizes are stacked on top of one another as each member of the family takes turns and chooses their desired cup. The person serving will drink last and will have otoso served by a different member.

After the cleanup and relaxing time over snacks and drink with family, we visited Fukuoka’s most famous shrine, Miyajidake Jinja. Be prepared to see a long wait and large crowds at the shrine on the first few days of the new year of the people who are there to do “omairi,”the act of praying at a shrine.

Some larger shrines hold a 3-4 day festival with food stands, performances, and handcrafted goods for families, friends, and couples to enjoy.

Before going back home to Tokyo, we couldn’t leave Fukuoka without eating the famous tonkotsu ramen! It was a perfect end to the beginning of the year.

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2018 Tulip Bonenkai: Year End Celebrations with Israeli Eats!

Source / illustrain

Literally meaning “forget the year”, bonenkai (忘年会) are parties held with friends and coworkers at the end of the year to leave behind the stresses of the past year and begin the one ahead refreshed via alcohol consumption.

For this year’s Tulip bonenkai, our ever-enterprising lady-boss Norie-san invited us to Shamaim for an authentic Israeli tabehoudai (食べ放題) aka all-you-can-eat session. Think copious amounts of soft pita and scrumptious hummus washed down with your choice of alcoholic beverage! Perched on the first floor of an inconspicous suburban building just a minute’s walk from Ekoda station, Shamaim presents an intimate atmosphere of middle-eastern decor, dark honey wood interior and lively music.

L-R: Naomi, Jan, Owada-san, Kagamimiya-san, Lydia, Norie-san

We started off the evening with a heartful kanpai  (“cheers”) and an obligatory group snap draped with cheery Christmas tinsel supplied by our unofficial designer-slash-entertainer-in-chief Naomi! With the formalities out of the way, we were ready to wind down into a rowdy evening, catch up on life outside of work, and eat to our hearts content. Dinner began with a mouth-watering starter spread of hummus, falafel, pita, and salads!

The scrumptious starter spread!

Following the starters, we heartily feasted on plates of freshly fried schnitzel along with lamb and chicken shish-kababs on beds of perfect rice pilaf. As Tal, the hospitable owner is fluent in both English and Japanese, we had absolutely no problems requesting for seconds! And boy did we spare no effort asking for another round (or two) of our favorites. After chatting the night away exchanging experiences from past and present, we parted ways with full bellies and another year of memories as some headed home while others continued the celebration at the karaoke room!

Interested in giving Israeli cuisine a go? Why not make your way down to Shamaim at:
TM Bldg. 2F, 4-11 Ekoda, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
東京都練馬区栄町4-11 アートビル 2F
03-3948-5333

PS. They are veggie-friendly!