Every few months something will trigger the homesickness -- someone posts photos of cherry blossoms, This American Life does an episode about the Japanese philosophy of teamwork, I come across yet another mis-use of the word geisha (seriously internets, please stop using this word to refer to any woman in a kimono) -- and the longing for my Tokyo life becomes a visceral ache.
Because one cannot just hop a plane and embark on a 23 hour journey around the globe whenever the mood strikes (unless, of course, you are Richard Branson), one must find comfort in the small reminders of home: a bowl of miso soup, YouTube videos of crazy commercials, a gander through the pages of the quintessentially Japanese Tokyo Smile Holiday by Mariko Hirasawa, an illustrated guidebook to the best the city has to offer.
Divided into sections by month, the book highlights the best places to explore for that season. June is tsuyu (rainy season), so there are a selection of atmospheric cafes to get cozy in. In July is the national holiday "Marine Day", where everyone in the country hightails it to the nearest available beach -- that chapter is all about the hidden delights of Kamakura, a laid-back seaside town whose cool green temples and airy beach restaurants are a very welcome refuge for those escaping the concrete heat of Tokyo. Kamakura is also the only place I know where you can get vivid purple soft-serve ice cream (sweet potato flavour).
I especially love that some of my own former haunts are featured; the Lover's Rock Cafe is where my friends and I once took shelter when a freak hailstorm interrupted our picnic under the cherry trees; D&Department is a so-hip-it-hurts restaurant co-founded by a former student of mine.