Thursday, 29 April 2010
Last night was a bit of a drag - literally. Suzy invited me along to see the Wicked Sisters at a club in Shinjuku. There was a lot of banter, some good songs and, of course, some fab costumes! The last act, which featured a baby was a little worrying to say the least, but apart from that it was a good laugh!
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
I went to my Sumi-e class on tuesday and the teacher presented me with my first set of coloured paints! Up until now, I have only been allowed to use black and grey. Anyway, we can now look forward to many badly painted pictures of cherry blossom and autumn leaves in technicolour! Watch this space.
Monday, 26 April 2010
I met up with my movie group last night to go and see "Up in the Air" with George Clooney (I know, films are a tad slow to reach Tokyo) which I thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards, we found this statue of Godzilla. He's actually looking very small and cute, which isn't really the idea, so I decided to make him look more the part. A slight variation on the angle and an artfully situated building in the background suddenly turns him from a cuddly cutie into a scarey, man-eating monster...
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
It was Neil's birthday on saturday and so we decided to invite our friends Becky and Chris, and their son Edmund round for a curry - cooked by Neil. The food was fab and we washed it down with some sake sprinkled with gold leaf that I had bought in Kanazawa when Laura was here - served up on a Marmite tray. Very classy! I didn't get Neil a cake, but we had candles standing up in chocolate covered strawberries instead - an interesting take on the birthday theme. Then, with some dutch courage fueled by the sake, we rolled out Chris and Becky's karaoke machine and warbled away to Abba into the wee hours. I haven't seen the neighbours since, but plan on keeping a low profile for a while....
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Well, Laura couldn't leave Tokyo without doing a spot of shopping and so on her last day I took her to the meccas that are Loft and Tokyo Hands - wonderful shops that sell everything you could think of. It wasn't until we looked at our watches and it said 7pm that we realised we had spent 5 hours in just two shops!!! How does that happen?! Needless to say, the hunger pangs had started, so we headed to a fab restaurant that my friend Susan had recommended. It is an izakaya and, like many Japanese restaurants, so hidden that you can hardly find it. But it was a real find and the food was gorgeous, as well as the staff. I'll definitely be heading back there. Note wobbly photos....I think we may have consumed too much plum wine....
It was a beautiful day on sunday and me, Laura and Neil decided to head to Yoyogi park and soak up the atmosphere. En route we passed a man riding a bike who had two dogs in his front basket, one of which was a Border Collie! It was such a funny sight seeing such a large dog in a small basket (and managing to stay in it!) that we went up and said hi and he let us stroke the dog. He told us that he was heading to the park to play volley ball and we couldn't quite work out if he was going to play volleyball, or the dog was. It wasn't until about 20 mins later when we passed them in the park and there they were. He would throw the ball and the dog would hit it with his nose! We then went to nearby Meiji temple and witnessed a wedding. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the guests who were kitted out in these beautiful kimonos.
We then got the late train home and then the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo station. It was my first trip on a shinkansen and very organised and dead on time, needless to say. We were very bemused to see the cleaners go on, do their job and then all come off, line up outside their prospective carriages and then deeply bow to all the waiting passengers before they headed off and we got on the spotless train. Somehow I can't ever imagine that happening in England!
The next stop was the Geisha district - a beautiful quiet area full of geisha houses, and beautiful shops and restaurants. We visited one of the geisha houses and witnessed a local wedding as the bride and groom headed down the main street, visiting each shop as they went.
After our experience in the park, we headed to one of the famous gold leaf shops to sample their wares. We were immediately offered green tea with gold leaf sprinkled on top! We got to see how the gold leaf is made and ended up coming out with a few purchases, including some of the gold sprinkles - could work well sprinkled on the sake we just bought...
Our train didn't leave until late in the day on our final day in Kanazawa, so we were able to fit a lot in. Our first port of call was random and happened to be a little square that we stumbled across. It took our breath away as the blossom was so stunning, so we decided to stay a while and soak up the atmosphere. There was a lovely juxtaposition between a big group of old folk sitting having a picnic, surrounded by lively school children who were all running around and enjoying the beautiful spring day. The children were obviously on a school trip and eager to try out their English on us. We soaked up the atmosphere for a while and were about to leave when one of the old folk came over to us with two steaming bowls of soup! We had sadly just eaten a late breakfast, but realised there was no way we could refuse and it was so sweet of them to offer it to us. So we sat down and slurped up the tasty offering.
In the afternoon, we took another bus from Wajima, further up the coast towards Suzu. We had seen a picture of some beautiful paddy fields that were on the way there and decided to head off to see them. They were sadly not as impressive as we'd hoped and as the bus dropped us off (with the next one not coming for another hour and a half) we realised we would have a lot of time to kill. It was nice to see the paddy fields and we pootled around on the rocks down by the sea for a while, but we were glad to finally see the next bus coming around the corner.
After a morning of perusing the market and getting accosted by rather scarey old ladies trying to sell us shrivelled fish, we seeked out a sushi restaurant that Laura had read about. It could have been very easy to miss and was a tiny place, with a bar and a small seating area inside. When we arrived, there was one other person in there, a Japanese lady who had been on the same bus as us. She was very friendly, as were the owners of the restaurant who we presumed were a father and son. We found seats at the bar and proceeded to plough our way through the wonderfully fresh selection of fish they had on offer. It was lovely to choose our pieces and then have them handed to us minutes later, beautifully presented on the bar. Luckily Laura had her guide book with her that translated all the types of fish and we were able to banter with the staff a bit, as well as understand what we were eating, as we chowed down on scrumptious local fish.
Our first port of call in Wajima was the fish market which was lively and full of stalls with old ladies flogging dried fish and seaweed, among other scarey delights. At one stall, confirming our fears, we were offered something rather small and rubbery to nibble on. It would have been very rude to refuse, so down the thatch it went. It took a while to chew down and was pretty awful (something fishy with a slightly sweet taste), but we managed it with a smile and trotted off, none the wiser to what it was we had actually ingested....
A day trip up the coast from Kanazawa to Wajima was fun, although we had to get up way too early to get the bus! Starbucks was our saviour and we got a bucket load of coffee to keep us going. The journey was quite dramatic along the coastline and it was good to get out of the town and see some more sights.
After that, we went to the modern art museum, which is an impressive structure in the middle of Kanazawa. The main structure is a large round glass building, housing smaller gallery spaces inside, some with permanent exhibitions and some with temporary ones. We decided to be cheap and only pay for the permanent one, but were impressed with what we saw. We liked the "swimming pool". It gave the impression from above that is was a full pool, until you suddenly saw people walking around underneath. The water was sandwiched between two pieces of glass to give the illusion of a full pool. After that, we enjoyed a very tasty lunch overlooking the grounds of the museum.
We also managed to see a studio that produces hand painted/dyed kimonos which incorporates a 15 step process and takes years to master. Apparently they still sometimes wash out the dyes in the local river, but we didn't get to see that. As you can see, there were some beautiful designs which were very inspiring.
As you can probably see, it's been a while since my last posting. This is due to the fact that the lovely Miss Laura, a very dear friend of mine, came to visit! It was so lovely to have her here and to share my experiences of Tokyo with her, as well as catch up, reminisce and generally have a wonderful time. She only had a few days in Tokyo before we headed off on a girlie trip to a place called Kanazawa, about four hours away on the west coast. It is known for its food, as well as lots of crafts including gold leaf, laquerware and kimonos and luckily we got to see all of those and managed to fit a lot in. It is known for its park, so we headed straight there on the first day.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
I went to my first Hanami party yesterday. Literally translated, hanami means "flower viewing" and this has become a traditional Japanese custom. Every year, the weather bureau announces the blossom forecast and this year, April 3rd was said to be the best time to see it. From this, hundreds of Hanami parties were organised and thousands of people flocked to parks and rivers around Tokyo to set up their blue tarpaulins, get out the food and drink, and slowly get drunk! I have never seen so many rosy-faced Japanese people in one place! Anyway, it was a fab atmosphere and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I also managed to meet up with some people I knew and have some beers....
Friday, 2 April 2010
I was in Tokyo Midtown yesterday evening just as the sun had gone down and the blossom looked stunning. They definitely know how to show it off to it's full advantage and had lit it up with lilac lighting to enhance the colours. Against the deep blue sky and a back drop of lit-up skyscrapers, it was pretty stunning. They had also created an art installation on the ground using hundreds of cut-out blossom shapes sitting on lights that changed colour every few seconds. It was a warm but windy night, so quite atmospheric.