United Arrows Shaved Ice

One of my absolute favorite things about Japan is the profusion of shaved ice in the summer time. From the Dom Pérignon shaved ice at the Grand Prince Takanawa (it’ll set you back a cool ¥30,000, or about $300, but it serves seven!) to the surprisingly passable ¥134 special at the 7-11, there’s options to satisfy every craving.

Recently I had an urge for a somewhat traditional style, so I decided to check out the tea room at the United Arrows in Harajuku. A good ways away from the crushing fashion-crazed humanity of Takeshita Dori, United Arrows is a chic clothing store located just across the street from the Harajuku outpost of one of my favorite coffee companies, Streamer Coffee. Well, technically it’s on both sides of the street, but the tea shop is located in the women’s clothing building to the north.

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When you walk in, you’ll probably first notice the gargantuan line, a sure sign in Tokyo that something must be good if it’s worth waiting for. The next thing I noticed was the ceramic mochi grill on every table. The menu boasts a number of traditional sweets, and I look forward to trying their red bean soup with grilled mochi, as soon as the weather cools off.

The decor is lovely, hitting that perfect note of modernity and tradition. The menu itself even caught my eye, with lovely illustrations of the offerings on hand. The scent of money hangs lightly in the air, but the crowd seems to cover a large range of Tokyoites, young and old. I didn’t feel too underdressed in my Uniqlo shorts.

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I chose the 黒みつかき氷, or brown sugar shaved ice. I usually prefer choices with condensed milk, but this is not a place with a lot of customization options. That being said, the great mound of ice and syrup was liberally dusted with きな粉, or roasted soy bean powder, which provided a nutty richness to the whole affair. There was also a little dish of extra syrup with three chewy dango as well.

The brown sugar paired wonderfully with the kinako powder, and the mochi dumplings added a nice element of variety in both texture and flavor. The only fault I found was that their ice was not shaved as finely as the shops in my hometown–maybe I’m spoiled, but the thinness of the ice does really make a difference!

Still, if you’re looking for a traditional feeling with a nice blend of modernity and money (the shave ice was a little on the high side at ¥950, but for Tokyo that seems fairly reasonable–after looking at the Dom Pérignon shaved ice, it seems like a steal!), then this is the place for you!

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Today’s watercolor: The Snake Bucket Challenge!

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I nominate you all! ;)

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Today’s Watercolor: Obon Cucumber Horse & Eggplant Cow

Hey guys! Wow, it’s been a crazy summer so far. Between my presentation at Otakon and the World Heritage Tour in Tomioka, I’ve barely had time to paint anything, let alone post. Luckily this weekend I finally had a chance to get out my paints!

Since I arrived back in Japan just in time for Obon, I decided to do a little painting of this holiday tradition. My friend Haikugirl wrote up a great explanation you can check out!

Basically these are supposed to represent animals and are set out during Obon for the spirits of the ancestors who are honored during this time. The cucumber represents a horse, while the eggplant is a cow or ox. The animals are first set outside, and then displayed on the family altar before being brought to the river.

Have you seen these animals before? Perhaps even set them out yourself? Let me know in the comments, and if you like this post you may like my watercolor of Japanese Daruma dolls from earlier this year!

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Home again, home again!

Home safe and sound in Japan! Thanks for such a wonderful few days, everybody :D Way too short, but pretty great for my first trip home in four years. Thanks to everyone that came out to see me, and for those I missed–next time! Much love <3

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Packing for Otakon!

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In case you haven’t heard, I’m going to be presenting a panel on Gunma Prefecture–Sunday morning, 11:30 am! (I think there may be more goods to give away in my luggage than clothes, haha.)

Anyway, I’d love it if y’all could help me out and tell your friends to come hear about the joys of Gunma! <3

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Pikachu with a view: My trip to the Pokemon Cafe in Tokyo

20140722-230738-83258785.jpgSome times, when living in Japan, one finds oneself at some pretty wacky places. After spending the weekend touring (and tweeting!) the newly designated World Heritage Sites surrounding the Tomioka Silk Mill (more on that soon), I found myself spending Marine Day in line at the Pop-up Pikachu Cafe that just Continue reading

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Today’s Art: Tomioka Silk Mill Mascots!

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In randomly exciting news, I’ve been invited to participate in a two day Tour & Workshop about how to develop promotions for the Tomioka area, home of the Silk Mill, a newly minted UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s only 8 people on the tour, and the others are University Professors and members of committees with fancy acronyms, so I’m honored to be included. It’ll be my first time visiting the sites in Tomioka, and I’m really looking forward to it, as well as to discussing how best to promote Gunma’s first World Heritage Site!

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