The Entryway

I’ve been talking about the weddings on Weddingbee for such a long time that I never got a chance to mention that Masa and I recently bought a condo here in Japan. This is not something I expected to be writing so soon after our wedding. I’ve always been just fine with renting and I never wanted to tie myself down to Japan with a 35 year loan. Yet here we are with brand new condo and a 35 year loan.  I’ll get more into the details of the “why” and “how” we decided to buy a condo in Japan later. For the time being I’ll write about a few of the rooms in the place.

Let’s start with the genkan. The genkan is a room in the entryway of the home that is used for taking off shoes. In Japan, people take off their shoes before entering their homes and various buildings like schools, clinics, and some Japanese style restaurants to avoid tracking dirt in from outside.

A typical Japanese genkan

A typical Japanese genkan (not mine). Image via Wikipedia

I hated the hassle of constantly having to change my shoes when I first moved to Japan, but I quickly got used to it and now really love the genkan area of homes. Firstly, you always know whose home as soon as you walk through the door because you can see their shoes right away.

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Our genkan. Two pairs of shoes means Masa and I are both home.

Secondly, most Japanese people store their shoes in the genkan since that is where you take them on and off. This means you can get big shoe closets like mine to store your shoes.

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I love my shoe closet. It has seven shelves for all of my shoes.

You enter our genkan as soon as you open the front door. The shoe closet is to the left and we have a small console table directly across the front door. We also have an umbrella stand and and slipper rack (the slippers are for guests to use so they don’t have to walk barefoot on the floor.) The genkan floor is made of tile as opposed to the rest of house which is made of laminate wood flooring. I don’t consider our genkan area officially finished yet from a decorating standpoint. I will probably add a few pieces of art work in the future and maybe something to the bottom shelf of the console table.

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Our console table with our cake topper from our wedding, a “just married” sign my brother made for the sweetheart table at the American wedding, a caricature of Masa and I, and a little Dutch house from KLM

Do you take your shoes off when you get home? What do you think of genkan culture?

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The Verdict on Vegetable Ice Cream

Look what I bought a few days ago.

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Haagen Daz Spoon Vege Ice Cream

Vegetable ice cream!

Actually, it’s vegetable and fruit ice cream but Hagen Daaz Japan is  marketing it as vegetable ice cream. It comes in two flavors: tomato cherry and carrot orange.

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Showing of my ice cream modeling skills at the supermarket

You may be thinking why would anyone make vegetable ice cream? Why does this even exist? In Japan, various food companies like Kit- Kat, Starbucks, and Hagen Daaz try to keep things exciting and new for the consumer by coming out with all sorts of different flavors.  On a average day I can go to the grocery store and have over 7- 10 choices of a limited edition ice cream flavors. It’s always fun to see what they have available and the promise of a new ice cream flavor every month or so always has me looking for and buying something new. They are also relatively cheap and come in small sizes so there’s not too much buyers remorse if you don’t like it.

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The flavors seen here are coffee milk, pumpkin, chocolate brownie, rum raisin, mango orange, green tea, vanilla cookie raspberry, and cassis milk

Am American friend let me know that vegetable ice cream was coming to Japan and I decided to give it a try (my friend guessed it would be pretty gross). I first took a bite of the tomato cherry. It was a blast of tomato followed by a sweet cherry aftertaste. I took the spoon out of my mouth, looked over at Masa and proclaimed “It’s disgusting. .. I think.” I took another bite to be sure and tasted more cherry and less tomato. After about my 5th bite I could only taste the cherry and it wasn’t that bad.  I then had a spoonful of the carrot orange. It tasted nothing like carrot and more like an orange creamsicle. I looked at the side of the carton hoping it would be a low calorie, healthy ice cream full of nutrients that I could eat instead of salad, but sadly it wasn’t so. It’s 216 calories for the cup and carrot juice is the 3rd ingredient after cream and milk.

So what’s the verdict on vegetable ice cream? It’s pretty good when it doesn’t taste like vegetables.  I had Masa try both and he didn’t like either of them, but I think if he didn’t know the carrot orange flavor had carrot in it he would have liked it.

Seen any weird Japanese flavors you’re interested in learning more about? Let me know.

Sayonara

Well Hive, it’s time for me to say goodbye. It has been an amazing ten months blogging here at Weddingbee (I can’t believe it’s been ten months!).  Being a bee made my wedding planning experience so much more fun and fulfilling. I cannot thank you all enough for the great experience. I’ve made some amazing friends and learned so much about wedding planning, writing and blogging. Becoming a bee was such an amazing opportunity.

Now for some advice before I go. For those of you who are planning your wedding: have a good sense of humor. Things are going to go wrong and people are going to stress you out. When that happens, just sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine, and laugh about it if you can. There were many times during my wedding planning process, and even on my wedding days, when I just stressed myself out when I should have been laughing.

For any of you who are considering blogging for the bee: go ahead and do it! Start writing, see if you like it, and if you do, apply! Be prepared to grow a thick skin, but also be prepared to have a great experience and connect with some really great people.

So what will I do after blogging for Weddingbee? Mr. G and I just bought our first home here in Japan so we will be laying down our roots and hopefully starting a family here soon. If you’re ever curious about what I’m up to you can check out my blog Sun, Paper, Blossoms where I write about my crafting projects and my life in Japan.

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I’m signing off with a picture of the gondolas on a gondola while I do a peace sign. I think its the perfect goodbye photo.

Lots of love to everyone,
Cici

The Honeymoon “Glad I Dids & Wish I Hadn’ts”

In this post I want to go over the “Glad I Dids” and “Wish I Hadn’ts” for our honeymoon.  Let’s start with the things I’m glad I did.

Traveling off season 
I was really worried about traveling off season, especially in Italy in November which is the rainest season. I pictured miserable rain, tons of stores closed and having an awful time in general, but guess what I found out? Off season travel is amazing! I’d been to Italy before during peak travel time (late May) and the city was extremely crowed. This time around, however, the city was sparse and lines were so much more manageable. This was most apparent in the Vatican. My  first time at the Vatican involved me being shoved and pushed through by crowds of people behind me and spending about one minute in the Sistine chapel before I was pushed out by the crowd. During our honeymoon Mr. G and I were able to leisurely walk through the Vatican museum. We were even able to sit down in the Sistine Chapel and listen to a podcast about for 20 minutes.

As for the rain, it rained three times during our stay in Italy and it was light rain every time. The best part, we got a few great rainy European photos.

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Enjoying the rain in Venice

Going the podcast route.
A friend of mine recommended downloading a few free Rick Steves’ podcasts rather than paying for audio tours or taking a group tour. We did this and it was great. Rick Steves is a great speaker and had very interesting podcasts. We used his podcasts for our tours of the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica,  and the Sistine chapel.

Traveling the way I like to travel.
My family often travels and my stepmother, our family -appointed travel coordinator, loves to plan a full itinerary when we travel. Going to see about five or six different sites a day is the norm for my family and it has always exhausted me. After years of an itinerary- packed travel style, I’ve now become a much more relaxed traveler and fortunately Mr G is the same. During our honeymoon we slept until noon, went to see a site, then went back to take a nap, and then went to dinner. It was a very lazy way to travel, but it worked very well for us.

Dressing up. 
I knew we would be taking lots of waist -up photos so I decided pack lots of cute sweaters and statement necklaces to add a bit of flair to our photos.  From the waist -up I tried to stay fancy, but from waist- down I mostly wore sneakers.

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Here I am rocking a sweater and a big chunky necklace.

Now on to the things I wish I hadn’t done.

Staying outside of the city center. 

During our stay in Florence we stayed outside of the city center and it just made getting to everything so much more work. Finding a taxi after eating a meal at restaurant was a bit of a hassle as well. Mr G and I decided that we will definitely stay in the city center the next time we go to Florence.

Stayed more than one night.

I’d been told that Venice wasn’t worth staying in for longer than I day, but it is a city that could be enjoyed for much longer. I have come to learn that it is difficult to really see a city in just a day. I wish we could have stayed a few days longer.

Are there any travel tips that you have? Anything you wish you hadn’t done? Anything you’re glad you did ?

Gondolas on a Gondola: Part Two

After Rome, we took a train and rode in executive class to Florence. The carriage was very spacious and the chairs were larger and could extend backwards if you wanted to lie down.  The train ride from Rome to Florence was beautiful. The Tuscan countryside is gorgeous with rolling green hills and crumbling ancient stone houses.

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 We had the entire carriage to ourselves and were able to really relax in executive class.

We stayed at the hotel Riva Lofts which isn’t too close to the city square of Florence, but was close to my best friend who lives in Florence.  Our hotel provided bicycles so Mr G and I rode around town and even went grocery shopping.  We definitely had a less touristy stay during our time in Florence due to our hotel not being right in the city.

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Picking up some groceries in Florence on our bicycles.

To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend the hotel where we stayed. The hotel seemed to be more concerned with style rather than substance. Outlets were in weird places and the rooms were very badly lit and dark. It was so bad that we requested to be put in another room. The staff there were great and actually put us in a four story suite free of charge!

In Florence we saw the Duomo and Ponte Veccehio and ate more delicious food. The restaurant Borgo Antico has a smoked cheese and zucchini risotto that was amazing!

One of the best parts of our honeymoon was the cooking class that we took in Florence. Our chef and teacher, Giovanni, took us and the other members of our group on a tour of an Italian supermarket and then to the studio to cook. We made pasta (ravioli and spaghetti) and two sauces- tomato and bolognese- as well as tiramasu. It was all so delicious and so much fun!

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 Cooking our two different sauces.

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The end product at the end of our four hour class.

Our last leg of the trip was Venice which was very romantic. We stayed at a beautiful hotel called the Hotel a la Commedia.  We only stayed in Venice for two days since many people told us there wasn’t much to do, but Mr. G and I totally wished we had stayed longer. Venice, though it’s difficult to navigate (we got lost so many times), is a beautiful city and we can’t wait to come back some day.

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A beautiful view from our gondola ride.

Our honeymoon ended with us taking a private water taxi to the airport (taking a boat to the airport- that was so cool) and back to our normal life in Japan.

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Saying farewell to Venice on our water taxi to the airport.

Has anyone heard that Venice isn’t worth staying in for too long?  I thought we could easily have spent three days there.