Wednesday, 29 February 2012

February morality poster

I'm just in time to mention February's morality poster! Yet again, another sweetie stars, this time a tabby kitten. The caption reads " Please consider the people around you when you consider eating or drinking on the train".

Tofu lunch

Our friend Tatsuya took us to an amazing tofu restaurant on sunday, not something you would usually associate with tasty sunday grub, but it was gorgeous! For starters, it was situated under the shadow of Tokyo Tower and designed in the style of an old Japanese establishment. Each set of diners has their own private room and each room looks out onto the immaculately manicured Japanese garden outside. We had about 8 courses and each one was tasty and interesting, washed down with sake poured from a bamboo flask. After our meal, we wandered around the garden and watched the chef prepare one of the dishes in a specially designed area.

A trip to Naoshima

 While Laura was visiting, we managed to fit in a trip down to Naoshima, one of many islands situated on an inland sea south of Osaka. It is famous for its collection of art museums, as well as for art house projects dotted around the Honmura district of the island. There are also two massive dotty pumpkin sculptures, designed by the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. You can watch this clip here to get a feel for the artist. 

We stayed in a beautifully modern hotel called Benesse House in a quiet area overlooking the sea. The wonderful thing was that the hotel was also an art museum, so we were surrounded by art wherever we went.

I think the highlight for us was the Monet waterlily collection housed in a white marble room in the Chichu Museum, another concrete structure, hidden into the hills of Naoshima and beautifully designed. It was an ethereal moment and even brought tears to my eyes! We weren't allowed to take photos, but you can check out the website here.

One pumpkin met us at the port in Naoshima as we came in on the ferry, the other was situated near Benesse House hotel and sat solidly on a jetty, jutting out into the sea.

Benesse House had its own gallery that houses many artworks by famous artists. We were bemused by this installation which we thought was a selection of rogue weeds that had found their way into the crevices....
A central hallway let in light.
Mud from the river Avon.

A beautiful airy space showing off the collection of artwork.

An ominous, red-suited army.

The kitchen at Benesse House hotel.

A 6 course French meal was included in our room and much enjoyed!

A much needed cocktail.

The corridors of Benesse House hotel. I love the use of light vents at the bottom of the wall, that let in natural light. A lot of the museums were designed like this, with interesting ways of letting the light in where it becomes a piece of art.

Black and white photos lit up with light boxes.

The view from the roof of Benesse House.

As well as the galleries situated in and around Benesse House, there were also the Art House projects where a selection of artists had used old Japanese houses as spaces to create art installations. They were all situated near each other and we got to each one by bicycle that we hired for the day.

This project used an old shrine and used glass steps (that looked like ice) leading up to it instead of the traditional stone ones.

We were given torches and ushered down this rather claustrophobic tunnel that lead under the shrine.

At the end of the tunnel we found these rather creepy steps that mirrored the ones above.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Brunch in Yanaka

On sunday we headed up to northern Tokyo to meet up with some family friends of Laura's. They are a lovely Japanese couple who have lived in the area for a long time and took us to a cafe that a friend of theirs runs - Mamoru even made the wooden sign for them. After a tasty brunch of cheesy gratin, they took us up the municipal tower where there was an amazing view of the Sky Tree.  After that, we headed to Yanaka to wander round the tiny streets there and enjoy the gorgeous sunny day.

Brunch in Tsukiji

My lovely Friend Laura is visiting at the mo and it's a great excuse to go out and sample the wonderful cuisine of Tokyo. On saturday morning we went for sushi brunch at Tsukiji fish market. We had to wait in line for about 45 mins, but it was well worth it and the fish was gorgeously fresh.

The line went out the door and round the corner.

There was a menu above the door of the restaurant, so that you could choose what you wanted as you waited. One of the waitresses would then come out and take your order before you sat.

The restaurant was tiny, just big enough to fit a small, long bar with seats on one side and the kitchen on the other. There was some serious chowing-down going on.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of my fish which was a beautiful pink colour and so tasty!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Flask hoodie

I'm always amazed at the amount of effort that goes into dressing up in Japan, from the women who are preened to within an inch of their lives, to the dogs that can't leave the house without wearing a tutu or some other silly attire. Obviously the same applies to inanimate objects like this flask I saw the other day. Not only is it donning a rather fetching puffa jacket (they come in many shades, by the way), it also has a detachable hood for easy access!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lunch at Kanikousen

Yesterday was my friend Penny's birthday and she decided to celebrate by inviting a group of us along to Kanikousen, a fab Japanese restaurant in Hibiya, specialising in crab meat. The restaurant is decorated in the traditional Japanese style, with stone pathways leading you over a wooden bridge to individual private tea rooms. This is quite disconcerting when you realise you are actually on the 9th floor of an office block! We had our own room, where shoes were taken off before entering and a polite kimono-clad waitress knocked on the door each time before entering. Luckily we were able to order the set meal, so didn't have to deal with translating the menu with our random knowledge of hiragana and katakana, and it was scrumptious!

The room was decked out in tatami mats, a lacquered table and little seat backs resting on the floor. There was also a foot well, so no kneeling necessary - phew!

 Our waitress kindly helped us through the drinks menu.......

 We each received a tray with a wonderful selection of tempura, sushi, gyoza, miso soup, as well as others....

 We had an individual room, but there were also open rooms that you got to via a stone pathway.

Stepping stones leading through the restaurant.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

National Foundation Day Festival

There is always something going on in Tokyo and on saturday, we stumbled across this parade in Harajuku. We soon found out that it was actually in celebration of a national holiday and February 11th is the day of the foundation of Japan! Ceremonies are held at the Imperial Palace as well as at Shinto shrines throughout the country and this procession was making its way to the Meiji Jingu shrine near Harajuku.