When I was leaving Tokyo in July 2015 to move back to LA, I thought that I’d visit at least once every year, as I’ve been convinced that Japan is truly, my second home. Living in Tokyo was a major reason why I chose to live in New York City over Los Angeles for the past few years; It’s bustling – there’s something happening around every corner, the food and art scene has been in a constant rush, public transportation actually exists. Since I’ve moved to New York City, I’ve mainly met O’s friends and my brother, Tony’s friends. It’s honestly been a bit lonely sometimes because to this day, I still feel a little culturally out of place. This time, I brought O to meet some of my best friends – some of the characteristics and rituals and mannerisms that could define me a bit more.

Toraya (とらや)

4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

First off, Majima-san – my Itoya coworker, has known me too well for these past 5 years and invited me to Toraya, this gorgeous confectioners gallery and cafe. Not sure how she does it, but whenever Majima-san invites me for an outing, it’s always particularly mesmerizing. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who’s so spot-on for what kind of food, drinks,  interiors. and experience I love. Toraya, founded back in the 1600s, has been renowned for its gorgeous illustrated wagashi design books from the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) and well known to feudal lords. It blows my mind how the original location in Kyoto was burnt to the ground along with the original Imperial palace and such a place still exists. And who knew wooden restrooms and hallways could smell so earthy and heavenly at the same time.

AFURI Ramen (原宿アフリハラジュク)

While we did check out a few ramen restaurants, Afuri was the best  – better than Tokyo street/Rokurinsha 六厘舎, better than Kyoto’s burnt miso ramen. Not sure why, but I loved the Yuzu ramen this time more than I had when I lived in Tokyo. Maybe it’s because we were the first that morning.

Tokyo Disney sea (東京ディズニーシー)

I don’t know why, but Tokyo Disney Sea makes Disneyland look almost sad and ghetto. Something about the scenery of Tokyo Disney Sea makes me want to go every single time I visit Tokyo.  I vividly remember my dad telling me stories of Tokyo Disney Sea when I was growing up.  Although I’ve been there  4 times within the past 5 years, I fall in love with it every time – from the entrance, from getting my mickey mouse popcorn bucket filled with various flavored popcorn, to gazing out the ocean, eating curry, and screaming hysterically at random rides. There’s something hilarious about Indiana Jones and Genie speaking Japanese and Mickey Mouse fighting in Japanese.

Nezu museum

What I like to call…”Kyoto in Tokyo” and one of my favorite gardens (with a museum) by Kengo Kuma and his associates. This gorgeous minimalist museum with Traditional little tea houses even includes a cafe with wagashi. Everytime I come here, I always feel like I am at peace. But of course, O and every other architect I bring here spends almost more of their time/energy on studying the joinery and details rather than the garden – that’s particularly mindblowing in the fall.


3rd Floor, 1 Chome-6 Jingūmae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Originally, O and I were going to go to an owl cafe, but when he noticed a sign for capybaras along Harajuku’s infamous Takeshita…  he insisted we come here instead, just for the capybara. I had no idea that this animal existed nor that rodents could be so relishing with 4 webbed toes at its hind legs and 3 webbed toes at its front legs. Such peaceful creatures.

On the bittersweet side, who knew coming back after 2 years would reveal that 1) My home of over one year is no longer there because of Japan’s disposable housing market, 2) Tokyo metro and J-rail feels and looks cleaner than I’d recall,  3) the majority of my favorite places and coworkers would still be there and  4) To me, truly, these architectural designers are #1 in the world, including my JMA friends.


These past few weeks have been a mesh of huge celebrations, including the Gamble House’s 50th anniversary of the transfer of the Gamble House from the Gamble Family to the City of Pasadena + USC’s School of Architecture, Kevin and Lisa’s wedding, and other college/high school/OC reunions. I was cordially invited, along with all other graduating scholars in residence to attend this in-house tour of the newly renovated kitchen, brunch reunion, and festivities (+ this clip of me + T in a band) (Photo credit to T for taking the blurry group photo and cutting off our legs in the mob of photographers haha)

After this event, T and I split and I quickly rushed down for a much needed haircut from Yuki-san and met with J to Trabuco Canyon to help photograph for Kevin and Lisa’s wedding at Coto. Some photos I was able to snag:


2015 was the year of many big firsts for me: my first year in stepping full time into an interior designer, initiating the ChefCharette and blogging, and pursuing freelance photography. I feel worn out thin from juggling all of these on my plate (with also the additional occasional event planning)… I’ve been desperately trying to maintain some work/personal life balance and am learning to say no to meeting old/new people, even if they are for networking purposes.

Yet I’m also still this incessant 24 year old woman who is worried shitless of what is to come in 2016 and the years aftermore. I can’t help it, I’m anxious to quickly figure out how I can best utilize my skill set and contribute to the world with a meaningful purpose.  (I am tired of drawing nonsense lines for buildings that don’t get built, photographing and filming narratives that people barely glance over.) I’ve decided to hone my design portfolio by studying and adding more interior, architecture, and lifestyle photography. After reading more into Cereal’s travel issues, I decided book this trip to San Francisco by 2015 and to experiment with cafe photography (and to see whether San Francisco could be my next potential move for 2016.)

This year’s trip through downtown was mainly guided by my one of my closest Architecture colleagues: Andrew Lau. Within two days we prepared a breakfast, walked throughout the streets of downtown, and roamed through cafes and restaurants including Blue Bottle, Sightless Coffee, Song Tea and Ceramics and Hops and Hominy.