Tokyo Blond Is Not Porn

Tokyo Blond is not a porn blog, about hair or even, as one pithy friend remarked, a micro beer or late 1980s glam metal band ("Dude, I just saw Skid Row and Tokyo Blond opened and played a killer set").

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences in Tokyo - poignantly, visually, irreverently - for fun.

Anybody can tag along...that is if I like you. This blog will endeavor to be entertaining and honest and frequent enough to keep those following interested including me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christmas In Tokyo

Every holiday I make a list of things Russell and I should do to ensure we make the most of each season.    The list is especially important for Christmas.  I find if we don't make an effort to get into the holiday spirit, the season will just pass us by, and come Valentine's Day, we'll be sitting around wondering what the hell happened.  How did February get here?  Where's my chocolate?

In the States our list looks like this:
*Decorate Christmas tree while sipping eggnog spiked with Jack and listening to annual holiday playlist
  courtesy of the E.I.C. (Elf in Charge, aka, me)
*Dress up fancy for holiday tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills
*Go ice skating and drink hot chocolate spiked with Schnapps
*Go to Roger's Gardens - a gardening shop in Newport Beach which decorates for Christmas
*See a performance of the Nutcracker
*Host annual Duffy boat cruise to see the Christmas lights on Naples Island with friends
*Spend a couple of days at a cabin in Big Bear with Ranger the Wonder Dog in hopes of being
  snowed in.
*Spend the day after Christmas snuggling in front of the TV on sleeping bags, stuffing ourselves with
  goodies from our stockings, while watching old holiday movies all day long in our pajamas.

Since this would be our first Christmas in Tokyo, heck, our first Christmas away from our families, it would be interesting to see how many, if any, of these traditions we could uphold.  Maybe we could adopt some new traditions, traditions only for Tokyo.  I started investigating.

The season started with a work party.  They don't call it a Christmas party. They don't even call it a holiday party.  I can see why.  When Russell worked for Chiat Day before, they were notorious for their Christmas parties.  No one really showed up till after 9 pm and no one really left till after 1 am.  The dress code was always "creative black tie" which meant pretty much anything goes.

In the thirteen years Russell worked there before, I've seen it all: fringed cowboy coats, hippie chicks, scottish kilts and full-on kimonos.  One year Russell and I went as a couple from the 1950s.  This was pre-Mad Men so we were pretty original for our time.

Party baby!
We're both wearing vintage thrift store garb.
Yes, that's a ruffled shirt he's sporting.

This party was very different.  People showed up on time and left early.  It was a kid fest.   They were everywhere.  They had lots of fun activities for parents and kids alike.   Tarrot card reading - adults,  blow up pools filled with candy - kids, picture taking - both, face painting - both?   It was like a carnival, not a Christmas party.  There was alcohol and they did drink - a lot.  There were costumes but they tended towards the furry side: pandas, reindeer, snow men.  Santa was there.  We know him.  We like to call ourselves F.O.S. (Friends of Santa).  Santa must have been sweating profusely because in true Japanese fashion it was about 85 degrees in the agency.

There were fabulous prizes however.  Each agency employee received a raffle ticket and towards the end of the party names were called and prizes bestowed.  There was even a power point presentation to go along with the raffle.  At one point a picture came up on the screen of what looked like a kit. I asked our friend Luis standing next to me, who also happens to be our neighbor, what it was. He said it's a traditional Japanese rice cracker set.  It's a very common Japanese gift for the end of the year.  No sooner had these words escaped his lips when Russell's name was called.  Rice crackers! Nice.  I would have preferred one of the Apple iPods (they have the Apple account, as well as, Nissan) but I was happy we got anything.  Luis started cracking up.  Ten minutes later he won a rice cracker pack too.  We all laughed then.

We actually ended up having a great time and were one of the last to leave.  Partly because we met a fun Japanese couple.  Partly because we appeared to be the only ones who actually followed directions and kept our photograph appointment time when clearly no one else did.  The photograph wasn't worth waiting for.

Santa's belly looks more like a chest goiter. 
It's a tad too high. He agreed.
Note the Panda and Reindeer assistants.

Russell telling Santa what he wants for Christmas.
What I love about this Santa is he rides a Harley!

One thing we learned right away.  The Japanese retailers can decorate!  It's very competitive. Like in America, Christmas lights show up right after Halloween.  Crazy!  But they don't call them Christmas lights.  They call them "Illuminations."  Every major shopping complex or city center seems to have them.  It's a big deal and advertisements for them are posted in the Tokyo metro, luring shoppers to come.  I made a list of all the big ones near us and Russell and I made a point to visit them.

The shopping mecca, otherwise known as the Ginza, was decorated of course.  But it wasn't the Illuminations that impressed me.  Although they were nice. It was the store windows.

An example of the Ginza decorations.
The street was lined with lighted Christmas trees
and the buildings glowed with pretty illuminated patterns.

One jewelry store, called Tanaka, boasted a Christmas tree worth two million dollars.  That's because it was made of 26 pounds of gold.  I had to see this!  There were two security guards posted but they were unusually friendly.  They waved us in enthusiastically but refused to have their picture taken.

All Gold, worth two million dollars.
I wonder if they melt it into a heart for Valentine's day.

The store front windows were beautiful!

Like a dream.

Course it's always Christmas at Harry Winston's.

Even the Cupid statue in front of the Waco Department store was gussied up.

Roppongi Hills was all about the shopping.

Pretty.  Oh and the trees are nice too.

This is what I call "shopping in style"
I told Russell this should be us.

This was a beautiful illumination on the pond,
 in the park adjacent to Roppongi hills.

Even the Roppongi Theater got into the spirit.  First a Christmas tree made of champagne glasses and then windows filled with Christmas trees.

I'll have a glass please.

I think they're multiplying.

In Roppongi they have two unbelievably high-end pet stores.  "Joker" for dogs and, get this, "Diamond Kitty" for cats.  It is aptly named for they had a cat there for sale for....wait for it...$13,920 (or 1,160,000 yen) !!!!  OMG!

The $13,000 cat. 
It must talk for that amount of money.

Cheap kittens.  Only around $3k each.

This dog loves having his photo taken.
But then Japanese dogs do accessorize.
They have bigger wardrobes than I do!
Say "treats"

But by far, when it comes to "Illuminations", the Tokyo Midtown shopping complex was the best.
Not only did they have elegantly clad musicians playing soothing-make-you-spend-more-money holiday tunes, but they had the most amazing "Illumination."  It wasn't an Illumination, it was a full blown light show, set to music with lasers, that would put Disneyland to shame.  It was dazzling.  We went back to Midtown three times just to see it again.  Apparently last year was the first time they did it.  It was only for one night and it drew 60,000 people.  This year it was on every night, every ten minutes, through Christmas.

Made me want to drink champagne and buy, buy, buy!


Every floor of the Midtown complex seemed to have something special going on.  From a Christmas tree made up entirely of individual Santa ornaments, to musicians, to light show.  It was magical.

All the bakeries and candy stores seemed to have their own version of the gingerbread house.
I'll have a snowflake if you don't mind.

Christmas tree made up entirely of different Santa Claus ornaments.

As far as traditions go.  We didn't buy a real Christmas tree because the few we found were over $400. Yikes!  So we settled for a two foot fake tree and instead of egg nog, we drank sake when we decorated it.

Our little, fake but loving it, tree

We did try to go ice skating.  We found an outdoor ice rink at the TBS complex called Akasaka Sacas.   It was way too crowded and the line to get in exhaustive, so we just watched.

But we did take advantage of the TBS center.  

There was an instant noodle shop where you could 
pick from about twenty flavors, plus it included this photo op.
I thought these guys were especially cute.

Russell reverting back to childhood.
He said he knew this big guy then.

I don't know who is cuter.

Is this supposed to make me eat pork?  It is cute.  
Hmmm.  I am kinda hungry.

We did make it to a performance of the Nutcracker put on by the Tokyo ballet.  It was wonderful.  They had a unique beginning where they added a scene from modern day Tokyo.  At first I thought they were going to modernize the whole thing, which would have been interesting, but the modern scene soon dissolved into the familiar classical ballet.  

Me in front of the tree at the Tokyo Ballet.

Last but not least, we discovered a new tradition.  But one that will be good all year long.  

And that is... the Whiskey Ball.   Oh yeah!  I'm loving it.

I never much liked whiskey.  But then a couple of years ago I went to the Kentucky Derby.  The night before the Derby we went to a bar that specializes in bourbon and whiskey.  They had over 200 brands.  I became a fan that night.  

And well, I have to admit, Japanese Whiskey is really, really good.  Add one of these hand carved Whiskey Balls and it's damn right transcendental.  They actually hand carve the ball to fit each glass perfectly.  Because it's fit to the glass it doesn't melt as fast and it mellows the whiskey perfectly.  At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it, and this new tradition.  I'm thinking it should become a weekly thing.

The perfectly carved ice ball and the perfect whiskey.
Merry Christmas to me.

Our ice ball carver and whiskey master.
Also the manager of the L bar in Roppongi where
you can experience this for yourself.
Why hasn't this caught on in America?
Hmmm, we may be on to something.

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