Tuesday, 25 December 2007


'Tis the holiday season, and all over the place (both in Japan and in Canada, and I'm sure in many places in between) people are getting festive by stringing lights on their homes and buildings. In Japan this is known as "illumination." The most famous happens in Kobe where entire streets are lit up with thousands upon thousands of lights.

Other locations, often businesses, create smaller but nonetheless beautiful displays. Shinjuku's Takashimaya department store always puts on an impressive display along the boardwalk by their store. The theme this year is the circus, complete with a lion jumping a flaming hoop, an elephant, a seal balancing a ball on its nose, and tightrope walkers...

My favourite illumination, however, was on a much smaller scale. A house just down the road from my dorm had lights up, including these ones...

It may be difficult to tell, but the picture is of the two kayaks hanging in their carport, decked out in full colour!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Hinomaru or Timbit?

For a girl from the land of Tim Hortons, donut shops are a fact of life. When I first travelled in Japan I knew I could rely on there being a Mr. Donuts (aka Misdo) near the station for a quick and easy breakfast. My favourite was the (healthy?) tofu donut. Over the past few months, however, I have noticed a number of new donut shops.

The most exciting news is tht Mr. Donuts is no longer a slightly seedy bachelor and favourite uncle, he has found himself a young, chic woman with whom to share his life. Misdo, you see, has branched out with a new chain of stores - Andonand. The traditional Misdo is quite similar to your average Tim Hortons, but the new stores are more like a collison of a Starbucks and a ritzy cake cafe.

I am lucky enough to know this because one of the two Andonand cafes has been opeend up just blocks from my university. Purely for research purposes, of course, I went along with a friend to check it out a few days after it had opened, when the congratulatory bouquets still adorned the front door. The spatious interior was clean and sparkly - lots of mirrors had been used in decoration. The donuts, like the cafe itself, are upscale, with exotic flavours and toppings, and at $2-$4 a piece, they have a price tag to match! I had a caramel chocolate crunch and an iced latte, a far cry from a cruller and a double double!

The cafe's name itself amused me. According to the cafe's literature, "Andonand" apparently comes from the Spanish "andando" (defined as progress) and the Japanese "nando" (何度, many times) and the English "and." Put it all together and apparently it means that the restaurant was created for the customer, in the hopes that the customer would keep returning back. Their slogan is simple and surprisingly and very un-Japanesely direct - "Enjoy your donut." Slightly ominous but still lacking the threat of New Hampshire's motto - "Live Free or Die."

A few days latter I found myself wandering around Shinjuku Station when I came accross a food stall that used to sell "bagels" but has now apparently reinvented itself as a donut shop, with the catchy slogal "All you need is love & DONUT." Hmm... I wonder what the Beatles would have to say about that?

Don't even get me started about the long line ups in front of the Krispy Kreme Donuts store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, or the huge boxes people can be seen carrying away from there - I don't understand how people can possible eat THAT many donuts before they go stale! For more info check out the article and youtube video at http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=790