Tokyo: Akasaka and Nogizaka

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Sleeping

During our visit to Tokyo, we stayed at the Hotel Grand Fresa in Akasaka. We chose it because the price was so reasonable,and it turned out to be a fantastic base for us during the trip. It was only a one minute walk to Akasaka station, which was on the very useful C line (sealion!), and you could walk to Roppongi in about 20 minutes.

When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered we weren’t able to check in for about three hours. While this was not ideal after such a long journey, we decided to use this time to our advantage and scope out the local area. The receptionists took our bags and lent us a big umbrella, and we stepped out to experience the city for the first time. They actually came running out of the building, chasing us with the umbrella, which was quite sweet. God, Japanese people are nice.

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When we did manage to check in, we were able to pick and choose from a large selection of toiletries and teas on offer to guests in the reception area. Laden with bath salts, we headed up to our cosy room, which was actually in a different building. Although tiny, the room was well equipped, with a small kitchenette (kettle, sink, microwave), little wardrobe, TV, and JAPANESE BUM-WASHING TOILET!!! Yes, all my dreams had come true. It was wonderful.

Sightseeing

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At the end of Akasaka-dori, across Sotobori-dori, we discovered Hie-jinja shrine at the top of an escalator! The instant we stepped off the escalator, we found ourselves in an oasis of calm, completely different from the bustling city below. We had a little wander around, watching people praying, and enjoying the peace and quiet, before heading back down to earth.

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Taking Akasaka-dori in the other direction leads you to Nogi-jinja, a shrine dedicated to Count Nogi Maresuke, a general in the Japanese army who committed ritual suicide on the day of Emperor Meiji’s funeral, in accordance with the samurai tradition of following your master into death. At 8am on a drizzly Sunday morning, this was a peaceful place to while away some time with just the gardeners for company.

Eating

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Akasaka-dori and the roads around it are full of great looking places to eat and drink. Embarrassingly, we got breakfast from Starbucks on quite a few days, but in my defence, they drew cute little cats on our cups, and the cinnamon buns were gigantic.

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On our first evening, we met up with Paul and Jamie at Akasaka metro, before taking a walk along one of the livelier looking roads to find a spot for a drink and a catch-up. We found a spot in a bar which had covered its walls with posters of J-Pop stars, and had an inflatable vicar playing guitar outside. We ordered highballs, which are incredibly popular in Japan – you can buy them premixed in supermarkets. I wasn’t a massive fan of the ones made with just whisky and soda, but the flavoured ones were a lot more interesting – ginger was a particular hit.

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After drinks, we spent a long time looking for the perfect place to eat, dismissing the many Korean restaurants on offer as it seemed right to eat Japanese food on our first night in Japan. We eventually found a fantastic little Ramen place, where the lady running the joint helped us to work the machine where you selected and paid for your (very reasonable, delicious and enormous) meal. Inside, the restaurant was cosy and felt very down to earth. Although, it seemed that they regularly had famous Japanese guests (and Bruno Mars), as the walls were covered in signed sheets of paper.

Lately…

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have much to blog about unless I’ve managed to take photos of something I’ve made, or I’ve been on holiday (more Japan to follow), but looking through my photos from the past month, I realised it wasn’t all dull.

Alfie and I got posing… IMG_2081

…and then he tried out a new comfy sleeping position.IMG_2124

I started working in a really pretty village… IMG_2113

…complete with a nice place to admire the view while I’m studying in my lunch break…IMG_2137

…and I spent much of my first few weeks laughing at this magazine cover in the village shop.IMG_2112

I learnt that I am no longer a country person, after having a terrible reaction to an insect bite and taking my first ever trip to the hospital. The foot still looks a bit weird, but no longer hurts, but I learnt the important lesson to always make sure your toenails are nicely painted.IMG_2119

Ben got a guitar for his birthday, and I took this photo from the shop window while he was choosing.IMG_2105

I tidied up my fabric stash (this is not all of it), and vowed not to buy any more until I found time to sew it! IMG_2127

I took the opportunity to instagram a delicious pulled pork bun from Verano Lounge in Hove. I then hoovered it up in about three seconds. IMG_2139

And finally, our attention was drawn to the presence of a scooter in our street. IMG_2133

Love Sewing: Upcycled Beach Tote

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Hey, remember a while ago when I made a bag for my auntie out of an old curtain? Well, not only did my auntie like it, but the nice lady in her local chemist thought it was lovely and bright, and then Helen, the editor of Love Sewing magazine, got in touch and asked if I’d like to write an article about how to make one!!

I thought about it for about a millisecond, before deciding that yes, that is exactly what I would like to do. I’ve always loved writing, and to have the chance to write something for a magazine which I subscribe to and really enjoy reading is a fantastic opportunity.

Writing the instructions in a way that everyone can follow was an interesting challenge. I’ve been told I’m good at explaining things, but I was worried that would only apply to accountancy. When Ben read through the instructions, he thought he’d manage to make a bag following my instructions as long as I set the machine up for him, so that’s a good sign.

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I’ve been dying to tell people about this for ages, but I wanted to surprise my mum with a copy of the magazine first. She was thrilled, and I am now free to tell the world!!

My article is in issue three of Love Sewing, which is out now. Pleasingly, my contributor shot is this one of Alfie and I hanging out in our jammies.