All this writing about pancakes last week reminded the duck and me of a day two years ago when we were going to meet our sugar-appreciation-pals for an afternoon at Sweets Paradise, a dessert buffet! Unfortunately the Shinjuku store was fully booked, so we had to find another place to get our sugar fix. When we were walking through one of the many Shinjuku department stores, looking for an alternative, we decided that pancakes wouldn’t be half bad when we saw that Hawaiian Pancake Factory seemed to have a few empty tables. The duck and I aren’t huge fans of American style pancakes, but, surprisingly, we enjoyed our blueberry pancakes more than we had expected and the lovely conversation with our friends made this an unforgettable afternoon! 3/5 blueberries for the pancakes ♪ 5/5 sugar cubes for our sweet friends ♪
Coincidentally there is another reason this day is burnt into my memory. Throughout our strolls through Shinjuku my ankle started acting up and by the time I had reached my station the pain had gotten so bad that it took me about 20 minutes to cover the 200 meters home (I suspect all the walking we did on our Akita trip a few days prior). Fortunately all this happened during Golden Week so that the duck and I just stayed in, watched movies and waited for my ankle to get better… and we had the sweet memories of the pancakes (and plenty of movies) to keep us cheerful throughout those days of minimal mobility.
Do you have any vivid memories of foods you ate, conversations you had or slooooow walks home?
P.S.: We did end up going to Sweets Paradise a few weeks later – with a reservation. Our plates were way too ugly (as in filled to the brim with random pieces of cake and other desserts) to share on here, though 😛
The duck and I have written about our love-hate relationship with springabout a hundred times. Now that we are asked to stay inside we feel our love grow stronger every day, probably because social distancing also includes distancing ourselves from some of the pollen that aggressively swarm around the neighborhood wondering where their former victims have gone… while the duck and I sit at our computer reminiscing about all the sakurawe got to see in Tokyo two years ago, when the world was still a little bit less crazy and our main worry was having to interrupt our excursions from time to time to treat our stinging eyes with yet the coolest (literally!) eye drops we’ve ever used. Looking through our collection of photos from a happier spring makes the duck and me feel somewhat nostalgic and weirdly poetic. Today we have finally decided to give in to that poetic itch, took a photo from our pollen plagued hike up Mount Takao two years ago (here’s a link to that post and video) and let it inspire us to write yet another haiku within a cheesy inspirational quote format like we did last December.
Now let me share with you the duck and my newest piece of fauxetry:
With this one we tried to add an air of acceptance to those pesky allergies that come with the beauty of spring. I hope that comes across. If not, now you know our intentions, hahaha!
Do you have a favorite season? Please tell us about it (wow, this looks like an elementary school essay prompt. But I’m going with it).
… is one of the city’s most popular attractions! For as little as €2.90 you can see for yourself what all the hype is about! If you live in Berlin chances are that you heavily rely on public transport. The public transport network here is pretty good. In fact, it’s quite similar to that in Tokyo in that there usually are several connections that get you from one place to another, though some might be substantially more convenient than others. There are not many locations within city limits that you cannot reach by bus, tram, subway or train and a brisk walk of usually less than ten minutes – on a day without outages or cancellations, that is. Sure, you might have to change several times – the duck and I sure do – but that just means more opportunities to acquaint yourself with the Berlin-exclusive public transport etiquette (that definitely needs some getting used to, especially if you come straight from Tokyo). When two years ago we would walk around with our phone on permanent silent mode (because we were constantly taking trains and not disturbing your fellow passengers is rule #1 in Tokyo), now there are hardly any days that the duck and I do not get to witness some heated interpersonal drama on the train. Sounds seem to multiply here. I still vividly remember an instance when, in Tokyo, I sat opposite a Japanese businessman whose phone started to buzz. He quietly answered it (which in itself is not a typical reaction by Japanese train etiquette standards), hand in front of his mouth, telling the caller that he is on the train while he hectically bowed in all directions to apologize for the disruption. Because that was such an unusual occurrence he had a big curious audience. Compare that to a train ride the duck and I had two weeks ago where the standard noise level of casual conversations was drowned out by a person who had a Skype chat with their toddler who was watching TV rather than talking to them, all of that with the speakers at max volume! I turned up the volume on my ear-phones, ignoring the warning that pops up whenever you exceed the ‘safe levels’, and still couldn’t understand half of what was said on the podcast I was listening to.
That’s Berlin public transport for you. Throw in the regular delays and cancellations (my favorite reason by far is wire theft, though the wire problem that initiated the duck and my Ikea odyssey last year was pretty interesting, as well) and the occasional wet seat and you have the ‘Berlin train experience’. The best part of it, at least if you ask the duck and me, is that the BVG (the main public transport company of Berlin) gladly embrace their reputation, as you can tell by some of their humorous commercials.
But all that isn’t really what this post was supposed to be about. Before getting lost in this long exposition, the duck and I actually wanted to share our latest discovery on a Berlin bus that made it truly fancy in our eyes (and I think that after reading about the image that Berlin public transport has you can understand why we were so excited): Continue reading →
Two years ago around this time the duck and I were checking out all kinds of Christmas decorations in Japan in order to get some visuals to accompany our very poetic report on Christmas in Tokyo. This wonderful display we found in a department store unfortunately didn’t fit the theme of our Christmas post back then, but it is just too good not to share, don’t you think?
Do you have any favorite Christmas snaps that, for some reason, you seem to be the only person to fully appreciate?
Side story: I worked in a Christmas-themed store once and that was exactly the pose I adopted whenever I was pretending to ‘blend in’ and ‘be one of the Christmas trees’. Not many people appreciated my ‘comedic intentions’ back then, but being a tree for a couple of minutes brought me utter joy. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
The duck and I like to take little walks around the neighborhood with our camera. We like them so much that we do them about once every two years, in fall, because pretty fall foliage is the one thing that can lure us out of our warm and cozy bedroom. Sometimes. Don’t get us wrong; the duck and I actually don’t mind walking (that’s the perfect time for catching up on podcasts), but, somehow, we have trouble dealing with those non-target-oriented ones that don’t lead us to the grocery store, the train station or the mailbox. This is why we get to take photos like this one only once in a while:
My hands were frozen pretty soon after we had left, so it was a bit difficult (even more so than usual) to get a steady photo. This is why we only have the photo above and the one below to show for our good intentions (of going outside)… this year.
For days after our venture into the cold the duck and I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had seen photos similar to these before. So, we looked through the few photos we had taken during our previous photographic neighborhood walk in Tokyo two years ago. And what we found was sort of uncanny:
Isn’t it funny how the duck and I took the same kinds of pictures two years apart without realizing it? Well, I guess it does make sense that the duck and I decide to take our camera out during our favorite season and that, due to our laziness and love for procrastination, we usually embark on our photo walks just before dusk in order to catch at least some of the remaining sunlight.
Our timing for perfect fall foliage seems to be a bit off each time; that’s another constant. Two years from now the duck and I will try our best to take another neighborhood walk at almost the perfect time for autumn leaves. But just almost.
What is your take on casual walks? Did you ever find weird parallels between photos you have taken years apart? Maybe we’re just seeing parallels where there aren’t any. Probably.
One of the first things you will probably learn about Japan, either when you attempt to study Japanese or when you’re trying to prepare for a Japan trip by using your ninja inconspicuousness skills to secretly read as many guidebooks in the bookshop as you possibly can because you’re old-school, is how it’s rather rare to hear a direct ‘no’ out of a Japanese person’s mouth, making you, the blunt foreigner that you are, question every second of hesitation you are met with after asking a simple question. Well, that’s not fully true; I have heard a few noes during the duck and my time living in Japan, be it because we almost exclusively communicate in English or because this whole polite refusal business does not really apply to a foreign duck (by the way, have you seen The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker?) and a foreign me who never had to deal with too much of the Japanese office etiquette. Anyway, this incredibly lengthy exposition does eventually lead to the question I want to address today: Can you get too used to Japanese politeness?
When you enter a store, even a convenience store (the love is real), you will probably be welcomed with an 「いらっしゃいませ 」and then, after you’ve finished your shop, thanked with a polite「ありがとうございました」 that, apparently, you are meant to ignore?! Of course, if you don’t know any Japanese past the basic ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, such mandatory phrases can leave you feeling a bit intimidated when the cashier absentmindedly exclaims something without looking at you and you overthink your decision to browse for souvenirs because you have no clue what that person wants from you. Nonetheless you experience a general politeness pretty much anywhere you go. Wanna open a bank account? Be prepared for the most polite explanation of your account’s perks (in English, if you’re lucky) you’ve ever experienced. Wanna go for a walk in the countryside (Tokyo has a reputation of being rather cold and anonymous)? Your Japanese friend will most likely be best friends with the locals by the end of the day (depending on how deep in the country you are and how foreign you look you might encounter astonished stares or crying babies). Wanna take a train? Make sure to wait in line and board after all the passengers who could squeeze themselves through the mass of fellow passengers in the short amount of time allotted to do so (so that the train can continue to be super punctual and reliable) have gotten off.
Japan is a country that offers incredible customer service and has a general politeness ingrained into pretty much any aspect of everyday life. That can make it hard to imagine going back to a place that is a bit ‘rougher’ and features such delicacies as communal music appreciation featuring phone speakers and a crowded train. However, imagine my surprise when, just a few weeks in, I encountered a cashier who was pretty speedy but just a 4/10 on the politeness scale. I had gotten so used to everyone being super friendly that I felt personally attacked by a stranger’s indifference. Wow, Japan! You got me! Fortunately, a feathery slap in the face brought me back down to earth in an instant.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The duck and I have been enjoying our (way too hot) summer and just could not escape this mean heat-induced laziness that kept us from updating our blog… until a few days ago, that is, when we finally decided to tackle all that extra-shaky footage we got during our climb up Mt. Takao back in early spring. Because it was the middle of the popular sakura season, that one short week that makes everyone pack their picnic sheets or don their hiking gear, the mountain was pretty crowded for a weekday and we even got to follow a TV crew around (can you find them in the video?) that, same as the duck and me, thought that climbing Tokyo’s resident mountain with a few trees that were blooming in pretty shades of white and pink along the way was even cooler and totally smart when you wish death upon all the evil pollen! Anyway, I’ll quit the rambling now and finally present to you this one video that the duck and I were not sure would ever come to see the light of day :
This time we decided to go back to our first two videos and spare you the weird rambling that graces the more recent ones. I hope you appreciate that, hahahahahah!
Do you remember the duck and my quote from way back in December? Well, turns out that, in a way, we actually did come back. This time, about ten weeks ago, after a loooong day of work, we decided to try out Ain Soph.ripple, a vegan burger place in Shinjuku, with wonderful company. And, what can I say, it had been way too long since the duck and I feasted on a burger, and even longer since our taste buds got to bathe in falafel with hummus, tomato, lettuce and sour cream; consequently we combined that – and a cup of tasty corn soup – to eat so much that we later had trouble making it to our train without rolling down the stairs we had just spent way too much time and, admittedly, energy climbing.
The falafel burger was glorious and, as our friends have assured us, the ripple cheese burger is just as great. I can’t wait to go back to this magical burger land! 5/5 super stuffed Ducks! ☆★☆★☆
That’s it for our burger-venture! Of course, a burger is not really super healthy, but the ‘vegan’ aspect helped us ignore that. Yay! Yet another healthy day in Tokyo!
As outdoor freaks living in Tokyo, naturally the duck and I had to explore Mt. Takao, Tokyo’s resident mountain located far out in the west of the metropolis, three times. During our last visit (at least for a while) we were smart enough to take the cable car up so that we could enjoy all the amazing sights on the second half of trail 1 leading up to the top of the mountain and all the ones that we missed on the way down. Because the duck and I are super lazy these days, this post is only going to be a selection of photos with impressions from our trip in May. Ta-dah:
Maybe, if we ever beat our laziness, you’ll even get to see a little video from our Mt. Takao climbing tour back in spring during our semi-(because of the allergies) beloved cherry blossom season. Who knows?
P.S. You know the duck and I are not actually outdoor freaks, right?
P.P.S. We are aware that May is technically not summer. But the change of seasons seems to be rather fluid in Japan and it very much felt like summer, so…
If there is one thing that the duck and I love the most about living in Japan, it’s neighborhood cats! Sure, neighborhood cats are not exclusive to Japan, but nowhere else did we get to take so many close-up photos of them. Just look at how chill the two cats we came across in Kyoto are!
In fact, the cats in our neighborhood are so laid-back that they don’t even budge when we walk past them while they are sunbathing on parked cars, verandas or on a sheet in front of my window (my favorite neighbor by far). Only when they feel a threat from the duck and my gazing eyes will they move and continue living their chill lives someplace else (in the neighborhood). Doing some internet research, but mostly just going about our everyday lives, the duck and I have learned a few things about stray cats in Japan, or, at least, parts of Tokyo, that we want to share on here. Selecting a photographic accompaniment was particularly hard as we’ve taken a lot of neighborhood cat photos throughout the months. But we tried: Continue reading →