Friday, 17 December 2010
Well, it's finally starting to feel like christmas here - the air is getting frostier and the scarves and gloves are starting to come out. Last night I went and saw the illuminations at Tokyo Midtown. They were pretty stunning - a sea of little blue dancing lights covering an enormous expanse of lawn, with music and a light show.
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
I often pass a building on my way to the Tokyo American Club that is designed as a mock Viennese restaurant that often hosts wedding parties. They obviously felt the need to get into the festive spirit, but I fear they may have got it slightly wrong. The normally happy santas have turned into rather scarey ones. One looks like he's been slaughtered and is desperatley clinging on for dear life, while the other one looks like a perv, spying on young girls!
For dinner we headed to Oku a lovely restaurant down the backstreets of downtown Kyoto. It had been recommedned by Wallpaper magazine and was sleekly in keeping with their design aesthetic. The food was amazing and we were were so glad to have found it....eventually...
I couldn't resist taking a photo of what I can only think is the local photography club, with an interesting subject choice. Look how intent these men are at getting a good photo, and there are some impressive lenses there! This isn't the first time we've seen one of these "photography clubs". We've seen a few of them in Yoyogi park as well. Intriguing......
Neil and I headed down to Kyoto on saturday for the day. It was an early start, but we were really excited about going - we love taking the Shinkansen (bullet train). We had sadly missed the best of the autumn foliage, but there were still some amazing colours to be seen on the maple trees and I love the way they compliment the orange of the temples and fences dotted around the city.
Monday, 6 December 2010
Here is December's subway morality poster. Again, it's aimed at that pesky gaijin who doesn't know how to ride the train properly. I have to say, I'm still getting the hang of it. Luckily I don't have to ride the train too often during rush hour, but I did the other day and it was interesting....
The train had pulled into the station and the carriage was already pretty full. I stupidly thought there was no room left for me, but obviously the people behind me weren't having any of that, so there was the obligatory shoving to get on. I went with the flow and got on, turned to face the door like everyone else and then waited for the doors to close and seal us all in. Then, some bloke obviously saw the potential for room for at least one more, so stood in the doorway with his back facing into the carriage. I was bemused at this point as he clearly wasn't going to fit in. How naive I was. Before I knew it, he'd taken a deep breath and with all his might, shot his backside backwards at full force into the carriage, sent us flying, and thus made room for himself. I'm constantly bemused by the contradictions here. People can on one hand be so polite, and on the other, be plain rude!
I saw this car the other day and couldn't resist taking a photo. The owner obviously has a penchant for a certain cuddly toy. They even have a larger than life "friend" in the passenger seat and I love the way their bellies are pressed against the windscreen. Even the car looks like a toy. There are many of these "toy" cars around Tokyo. They don't look very aerodynamic, but apparently the smaller the car is, the less tax they have to pay and in a city where space is precious, it makes sense....
We realised that we hadn't been out of the city for ages, so yesterday we headed out to Mitake, which is about an hour by train out of the city. It is a beautiful area and somewhere that we have been a few times before, but we decided to take a different route this time, that took us over three summits. Luckily we didn't quite realise how steep they were going to be, as I have a feeling we wouldn't have tried it if we'd known, but it was a truly stunning day - clean, fresh air and bright blue skies - and it was so refreshing being surrounded by the tall, proud cedar trees that flank the mountain. We stopped for lunch at the top of the first summit and tucked into a bento box lunch that we'd bought outside the station and it was perfect. I have to say, our legs were a bit wobbly as we made our way home and we must have been a sight on the train with our ruddy faces and lolling heads as we crashed out in the warmth of the train.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Sunday, 28 November 2010
The weather here has been absolutely stunning, so Neil and I decided to head to Yoyogi park today and make the most of it. There is always so much to see there.
We started with the Farmers Market, which always sells beautiful fruit and veg. From there we passed the flea market, where people bring their wares in suitcases and lay them out neatly on the ground - it's always a good foraging session. We then trotted on to the dog run. This could start getting a bit embarrassing as we have been there three weekends in a row now. The dog owners are going to start worrying that we are stalking their dogs..... Anyway, there were some great sights of dogs in t-shirts, as well as a cat, who didn't look too happy that he'd been dragged out of the safety of his home.
The trees in the park were stunning. For some reason the autumn colours here seem different to anywhere else, and we were trying to work out why that was. They have a delicacy to them and we think it's because a lot of the trees are Japanese maple which have the beautifully delicate leaves that almost look like lace when you see them en masse. Anyway, it made for prime viewing with the weather being so stunning. You would never believe it's the end of November!
On friday evening, Neil and I put our glad rags on and headed off to the Conrad Hotel for the St Andrews Ball. The hotel is situated on Tokyo bay and we started the evening with cocktails on the28th floor, overlooking the lights of Tokyo, followed by a slap up meal and then much dancing. It was a lot of fun and great to actually know the steps after weeks of practicing. We're looking forward to the next one on Burns night.....
On friday I headed to the Yokohama quilt show, which is held in a massive exhibition space in Yokohama. It was a feast for the eyes, with half set out for exhibiting quilts and half set out for vendors selling all sorts of wares for the crafty person. We had a fab time foraging through piles of fabric and getting inspired. Some of the quilts were lovely, others not so much, but it was amazing to see the work that had gone into some of them and there was an amazing cross section. We even stopped to watch the prize giving - a very serious affair where the prize-givers were dressed in patchworked rabbit outfits! Only in Japan.......
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Anna and Kev's trip seemed to have a completely unintended animal them to it! After the cat cafe on friday, we went to the dog run in Yoyogi park on saturday, where you can have endless fun watching the multitude of dogs, all in varying states of dress/undress. We loved the poor whippet who had an all-in-one fleece camouflage suit - he's so camouflaged you can hardly see him!
To carry on the animal theme, we ended up at the Owl Bar on saturday night. We always seem to end up there at the end of the night when the mascot comes out to "woo" us!
After a stroll round Ueno park, and dipping into SCAI, a modern art gallery which was once a bath house, we headed to Yanaka, an old district of Tokyo where the buildings are low rise and the pace of life is slower. It's a lovely place to wander round as there are many temples to investigate (with lots of bibbed icons donning knitted hats to keep them warm), shops to forage round (we found a gorgeous paper shop and stocked up on some lovely things), and cafes to sip beer in. We ended up at a gorgeously quaint cafe, crammed full of cat icons, statues, posters etc. It was such a random find, but just what Tokyo is all about - dropping into randomly found cafes, bars and restaurants and finding some real gems.
Morwenna's friends, Anna and Kev, were staying with us for the weekend after an amazing whirlwind tour of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Tokyo was their last stop before they headed home. It was sad to have them here for only two days, but we fitted a lot in and the next few posts illustrate a few of the things we got up to.
Our first port of call, after a slap up curry lunch at a local restaurant, was a cultural one at Asakusa. This is where Sensoji temple is - probably one of the most famous in Tokyo. There was a rake festival going on - random but true. Rakes are supposedly good luck. You could buy miniature rakes festooned with trinkets, but we refrained. and just soaked up the great atmosphere. There is a lot to see and do from food and drink stalls (we tried some dodgy sweet sake and ogled the blue bananas), to the swishing of the incense smoke (wafted over the head for good luck), and then the random things like wig shops and manga masks.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Wanda and I took a little trip out to Hakone yesterday to see Fuji in all his glory. It was a perfect day to go, with bright sun and crisp blue skies making the autumn colours even more stunning. Fuji-san was proudly looking down over lake Ashi and we felt privileged to see him - he can be very shy!
Wanda has now headed off on her travels to Kyoto and Hiroshima. We've had a fab time together and it's been great to rediscover the city and all its quirks with her.
Neil and I felt very privileged to have been the guests of honour at another wedding celebration on monday evening, organised by Neil's work colleagues and held at the Peninsula Hotel in Tokyo.
I wasn't sure what to expect, or even what to wear, but turned up in a black knee length dress (the safe option) and met Neil in the lobby as arranged. It wasn't until I got there that he then informed me we had to stay in the lobby until we were summoned down to the function room. Suddenly, I became a bit nervous as it was all taking on a rather formal air to it! All I could think was, damn, I should have gone and got my hair done! It was raining outside and I wasn't looking my most polished....
We got the call and trotted downstairs to the function room, feeling rather apprehensive. I was shoved in front of Neil and suddenly found myself shuffling into a room, surrounded by 30 of his colleagues (most of whom I'd never met before) giving us a standing ovation!!!!!! We then had to sit at a table while we were given a speech by one of the other partners, before the champagne was cracked open and the conversation flowed. After my initial shock of being the centre of attention, we had a great time and it was really nice to finally meet everyone that Neil works with. They are obviously very fond of him and vice versa, which is a good thing as they spend a lot of hours together!
The evening went far too quickly (and I had no time to take photos) and at the end of it we were given this gorgeous bouquet and a certificate for dinner for two at the sumptuous Peter restaurant at the Peninsula hotel. How lovely!
Monday, 15 November 2010
On sunday evening, we thought we'd finish off our wanderings in style by heading to the famous Gonpachi restaurant in Roppongi. This was the restaurant that inspired Quentin Tarantino's set in Kill Bill and it really was a great experience. The place was buzzing and the food was amazing. I definitely recommend a visit.
Needless to say, sunday was a slow start, but we managed to drag ourselves out and see the world. I took Wanda to Yoyogi park where there are always fun things going on. We saw the dogs dressed in outfits, people juggling, dancing and playing the drums. We couldn't leave without seeing the rockers that come out and perform every sunday, as well as the food vendors selling all sorts of amazing food. After a trip though the mayhem of Harajuku, we plopped out in Omotesando for a quick dumpling or two at Gyoza Lou's.
We couldn't let Wanda leave Japan without a karaoke session, so on saturday night, we booked a room at Lovenet. It sounds dodgy, but it's actually a rather nice karaoke place in Roppongi where you get your own room, with endless food and drink included for three hours. It's amazing how quickly the evening goes. You start off quite tentative and by the end of it you're shouting down the microphone at top volume!
The lads then went on to watch the rugby and Wanda and I went clubbing! We went to a fab little place called Air in Daikanyama and didn't get home til the wee hours. It's not often I can do that any more, but we had a great time!
On saturday we went to the Toyko National Museum in Ueno park. One of their tea gardens was open to the public and we wanted to witness the autumn leaves. They were only in their early stages of changing, but it was beautiful and serene to wander round the grounds. We then went to see a stunning Buddha exhibition where i got to try out my new camera. I love it!
I'm afraid it's been a while since I've put anything on the blog, and now it's all coming at once. I have had my friend Wanda staying for the past week, so we've been galavanting round Tokyo a bit and soaking it all up.
On friday evening we decided to try out an onsen. There are onsens all over Japan and a lot of them are very picturesque and in beautiful settings. This one was an "urban" onsen and in the rather industrial area of Odaiba - the Oedo Onsen Monogatori - on Tokyo bay. It is a bit of a theme park version of an onsen, where the interior is done out like an Edo-era village, so we didn't quite know what to expect.
To get there we had to get the monorail which is quite a stunning experience as you wind around and up the feet of the Rainbow Bridge. It really is a stunning view and the sun was setting as we trailed our way around. When we got to the onsen, we were offered a choice of yukatta (cotton kimonos) and then ushered through to the changing rooms were you have to strip completely naked and then don the kimono. We were a bit apprehensive about this, but once it was done, it felt fine and everyone else is doing the same thing. You then wander around in your kimono, eating, drinking or wallowing in the beautifully hot and relaxing baths. The baths are separate for men and women and after sluicing yourself down and then scrubbing yourself from top to bottom (literally!) you are then allowed to submerge yourself in the rejuvenating water. It was heaven! There is even a mixed outdoor area (where everyone wears kimonos) and you can sit and dangle your feet in the water to the light of the moon.
Monday, 8 November 2010
On sunday I decided to brave the mayhem of Design Festa - a design show that is held twice a year at the Tokyo Design Sight. It is a massive space and filled with weird and wonderful people, selling wares, painting, performing and generally enjoying themselves! It really is a feast for the eyes.