Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Obi shopping

I have only recently got into buying the obi fabrics. The obi is the 'belt' that goes around the kimono and is usually very bright, often with a heavy gold element. It wasn't until I bought one and made it into a clutch bag, that I realised how fab it looks as a smaller piece and looks stunning as an evening bag. 

The other day, a friend of mine took me to the wholesale area of Tokyo and we were ushered into a warehouse (after taking our shoes off of course), where there were hundreds of obi and kimono to choose from. I came out with a rather lovely bunch of items. I now need to find a use for them......

March morality poster

Here is March's morality poster. The caption reads 'Please do not put your belongings on the seat next to you'. I have to say, this cute-some pooch looks a tad guilty, or is it just a case of back strain from carrying such an enormous bag?!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

One year on

On sunday we were walking through Shibuya when we came across this anti-nuclear march. It was a civilised affair, but quite poignant and obviously a subject that causes worry in a country that is so vulnerable to earthquakes. This time last year was a very worrying time for everyone living in Japan.....

Saturday night

On saturday night we dipped into an art event in Roppongi where art installations and performances, as well as free entry to the main galleries were happening all over the area for one night, until sunrise on sunday. I'm ashamed to say that we boughed out earlier than sunrise, but we did get to see a great cross section of pieces, as well as actually be involved in one of the "installations".

A group of us became the "artwork" and were asked by the artist to pose for him. This was our view of the "audience" watching us.

A friend of mine happened to be upstairs and was able to catch us on film. I'm in the second row form the back.....

A rather space-age piece in Roppongi Hills.

An enormous blow-up installation by Yayoi Kasuma who arrived to give a talk below.

An enormous blow-up kokeshi doll in the Tokyo Midtown building.

A performance artist who looked more like an ice skater than an artist, danced in and started painting on canvas, accompanied heavy dance music.

I'm afraid we weren't too impressed by her "avant garde" performance and left soon after these daubings were created.

I loved this piece which consisted of a light source placed behind canvas.

More fantastical pieces by Yayoi Kasuma, placed in the gardens behind Midtown.

A hike at Mount Mitake

The other day we went for a gorgeous walk up Mount Mitake, about an hour's train ride out of Tokyo. 

We love to get out of the city and smell the clean air and walk among the cedar trees, with a picnic lunch at the top. Good for the soul. The train is always packed with serious hikers, all with the latest gear. We are often amused by the serious "climbers" that are inevitably on the train. They bring their own crash mats (which look like padded suitcases), which we thought was sensible, until we realised that they only actually climb about 8 feet off the ground!

Serious climbers off to find a suitable 8 foot high rock, with trusty crash mat to hand.

We love walking through the tall, slender cedar trees that flank the mountain path.

Lunch at the top and a stunning view.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sake sampler

On sunday we headed out to Ishikawa Brewing Company a sake brewery in Haijima. We wanted to see how sake was made as well as get to sample some of the goods.....

The company has been around for 120 years and now uses modern machinery to brew the sake, but in the old days, a team of workers were brought down from the north of Japan to work there. They were usually farmers who would work in the rice fields in the summer, harvest the rice and use it to make the sake in the winter. 

The sake is made by first polishing the rice to get rid of the protein and oils, and then washing it to get rid of any power and steaming and cooling it. The rice is then fermented with yeast.

After a look around the brewery, we were taken to the tasting room and given a few samples of different sake. Needless to say, we came home with a few bottles. Before leaving, we ducked into the Japanese restaurant they have on site and downed a gorgeously hearty meal of fried tofu, soba noodles and tempura, all washed down with some of their sake. Scrumptious!

One of the early beer bottle labels used on their beer. Sake consumption has decreased by 50% since other alcohols were brought to Japan, so the brewery had to diversify. They do a lovely wheat beer which I was rather partial to.

There was a good selection of sake to choose from in the shop.

Our guide offered us a variety of sakes to sample. I was amazed at how different each one was.

One of the sakes they have in house is decanted fresh from a vat and must be drunk soon after bottling - fine by me!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Sunday lunch

On sunday we went for a meal at Ukai, a beautiful restaurant out at Mount Takao, about an hours train ride out of Tokyo. It is situated at the foot of the mountain and landscaped beautifully so that the dining rooms are approached through immaculate Japanese-style gardens. We had our own separate dining room, designed like a traditional-style Japanese house with tatami mats on the floors (you have to take your shoes off at the door) and a heavy lacquered table in the centre of the room with grills in the centre to grill your food.

It was a truly beautiful experience.

I love these knitted beret-clad men and had to take a photo.

The restaurant was reached by crossing this beautiful red bridge.

The gardens were immaculately landscaped and lit with burning torches.

It had begun to rain and our waitress led us to out dining room with umbrellas.

The dining room had a large lacquered table in the middle and grilling areas in the centre to grill out chicken and vegetable skewers.

Our waitress came in with a wicker tray full of the food for us to grill.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Welcome Bob and Tom

Please welcome the lovely new additions to our home - Bob and Tom, two beautiful ginger bothers who are 8 months old and absolute sweethearts. We feel so lucky to have them. 

We've been thinking about getting a cat for a while and when we went and looked at the Ark website (a wonderful animal rescue home here in Japan) these two cuties popped up and called our name. After a visit to see them at their foster home, we realised we just had to have them and now they are slowly settling into their new place. Please excuse any fawning from now on and I will try and keep the proud mum-ness in me to a minimum.......

Tom cat looking very proud.

Bob cat helping me get some work done......

Playing games and seeing double.

Bath time is much easier when you have a bro to help out.

Checking out the new view.