Like many women, I’ve had a somewhat turbulent relationship with my self-image. Thanks to a particularly nasty bout with eczema when I was younger and constant weight fluctuations, it was difficult to feel comfortable — much less confident — in my own skin. Age helped me navigate those treacherous waters, but fashion was mostly what kept me afloat. Despite how I felt about my body, I always found ways to have fun with how I dressed.
If you follow us on Instagram, you might have caught whiff that I’m heading on a trip to Japan. My family lives half a world away so we try to meet up somewhere we can all have a fun vacation, and this year we agreed on Kyoto. I’ll spare you the ugly details on how many WhatsApp messages it actually took for all of us to reach a consensus — we’re one of those weird families that’s not remotely alike. (Truth be told, my older brother is still wishing we were headed to a beach.)
The workaround with our diverse family usually involves large swaths of time in the schedule that are “open”. During those periods we split up and do whatever our hearts desire. I have no doubt I will spend many of my open slots dining solo: my family isn’t quite as food-obsessed as I am, and for God’s sake, I’ll be in Japan. I’ll want to eat every fifteen minutes! My parents will likely find themselves in many of the gardens Kyoto has to offer, as they have long been fans of horticulture.
Serendipitously, on a recent visit to the New York Botanical Garden, the exhibition that occupied the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory was NYBG’s annual Kiku exhibition. (As an aside, the Victorian-style stunner is one of our favorite buildings.)
Kiku, which means chrysanthemum in Japanese, is a flower that has been long revered in Japanese culture. Kiku has been said to embody the idea of perfection, and is also viewed as a symbol of the sun. It’s featured in the Imperial Seal and the Japanese emperor sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne. The art of growing and training the flowers is a dying tradition in Japan, so the long-standing alliance between the New York Botanical Garden and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo has been mutually beneficial. Shinjuku Gyoen trains NYBG staff so that the craft lives on and enjoys worldwide attention.
I follow quite a few New York bloggers and Instagrammers, but I also love to read blog posts from people who are traveling to the city for the first time. While it’s partly because I’m curious about what they choose to do on their visit, it’s also because there’s a genuine feeling of wonder and excitement that’s infectious. I find their observations charming, whether good (“there’s so much to see!”) or bad (“it smells horrible!”). Traveling has always given me that high — going into sensory overload as you take in things you’ve never seen, smelled or heard before. And while many cities have charmed me, few have done so like Tokyo.
Visiting Japan was always high on my list because I love the food. If someone said I could only eat Japanese food for the rest of my life, I would equate it to having to serve out a prison sentence in Barneys.
It’s gonna be rough, but I think I can handle it.