Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A sinister manner poster

Each month I usually mention the manner posters that adorn the subway walls around Tokyo. But this month I'm so unimpressed, I'm going to mention another, much more sinister-looking one that I saw the other day. I would NOT like to come across this red-eyed devil any time soon!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Hiking at Mount Mitake

On Saturday we ventured out to Mount Mitake for some fresh air and a hike. I have to say the idea of leaving the house at 7.30am and then battling with all the other hikers to get a seat on the express train, did not appeal too much, but once we were out in the clean mountain air, it was perfect! We took a packed lunch and had the now-essential jet boil which brews up hot water in seconds. This meant we were still able to have our English Breakfast tea and hot noodles while taking in the stunning views at the top.

Some of the foliage had turned a beautiful shade of red and orange.

 Lunch at the top - everyone had their camping stoves out, cooking up warming noodles and soup.

 The cedar trees that lined the majority of our route.

Tempura dinner

On Saturday evening our friend Tatsuya took us for a tempura meal at a very old tempura establishment in North East Tokyo. It is in a lovely old wooden house that has been there for over a hundred years and they serve hearty tempura on bowls of rice. Washed down with beer, it was the best apres-hiking food you could think of!

We then sauntered over to Asakusa, through Sensoji Temple, which was beautiful at night time (and no crowds!), and on to one of the oldest Western-style bars in Tokyo where we sampled massive glasses of beer and the local spirit - Denki Bran. Not for the faint-hearted.

Not a great shot of the outside of the tempura restaurant.

Sensoji temple at night.



It's been a bit of an African-inspired week this week with a fab Lagos band on tuesday night and then a fab African meal on thursday night at a lovely little restaurant called Calabash. We ate samosas, patties, and lamb stew with couscous all washed down with a choice of African beers and spirits. We were serenaded by an African musician called Mamadou Doumbia who played a beautiful instrument called the "kora". It's definitely worth checking out.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Fellows Burger Stand

I have always rated Golden Brown as being the best burger place in Tokyo, but on wednesday evening I may have met a strong contender! It was at Fellows burger stand in Omotesando. The burgers are big and juicy with wonderful toppings - I had blue cheese and glorious bacon - finished off with onion rings that are to-die-for. I strongly recommend that burger-lovers make a pilgrimage there.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

I went to a great concert last night - an African band called Egypt 80, led by singer Seun Kuti.  I knew nothing about them and wasn't sure what to expect but it was fab! After fueling up with a big bowl of ramen noodles at a very local, low key ramen shop, we trotted down to the venue which was at Club Quattro in Shibuya. It was very small and hot and there was a great atmosphere, with about 15 musicians on a tiny stage - three trumpeters, two sax players, several drummers, keyboard etc. It was great for the soul.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Shichi-go-san festival

 After the downpour of saturday afternoon, sunday was beautifully sunny and dry with bright blue skies so we decided to make a trip to the Meiji Jingu shrine. The 7,5,3 festival was going on, where 3 and 7 year old girls and 3 and 5 year old boys dress up in kimonos/hakamas and go to the shrine to have their photo taken.

In the past, this was celebrated as a rite of passage into middle childhood. The samurai class who required children up to the age of three, to have shaven heads, then used this festival as a celebration of being allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could then wear hakama for the first time, and girls of age seven replaced the cords they used to tie their kimono with the obi. The ritual of visiting a shrine is to drive out evil spirits and wish for a long healthy life.

Needless to say, there were some beautiful kimonos and the bright sun meant that I got some gorgeous photos. We also saw a few shinto weddings, which I always find moving. We were lucky enough to get up close to one of the brides, wearing her white 'hood'. I was intrigued to watch her getting into her specially designed car that had a flip top roof to allow for height!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Aida Makoto

Saturday was a pretty horrendous day weather-wise and it poured with rain solidly all day. I had arranged to meet up with my gallery group to go and see an Aida Makoto exhibition at the Mori Tower, a perfect thing to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

I had never heard of Aida Makoto before, but he is apparently one of the most noted contemporary artists in Japan today. It is not normally an exhibition I would gravitate towards as his pieces can be extreme, with the use of young girls and erotica as subjects of his work, many of them verging on the grotesque. He uses an interesting combination of political and historical issues, but uses traditional artworks and techniques to express himself. Even though many of the images were obscene, his technical ability, especially when depicting the human form and using traditional nihonga-style painting, were beautiful.

Monday, 12 November 2012


On friday evening a group of us went to see a fab little band called Funkommunity in a fab little venue  called Super Deluxe. The band hails from New Zealand and consists of Rachel Fraser (soulful singer) and Isaac Aesili (programmer, horn player, bass and synth player). They describe their music as soul electronica and they play fab, funky, soulful music combining sampled music with trumpet playing and beautiful vocals. They are only in Tokyo for a week, but I definitely suggest checking them out if you can, or listening to some of their music here.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kimono mayhem

On saturday I went to a kimono sale which was held in an izakaya in Iidabashi. An izakaya is a Japanese pub and tends to be a noisy, raucous place to go to after work, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. We entered the izakaya and were greeted by the usual scene of low ceilings and rows of sake bottles which are owned by regular guests. We went upstairs to where the sale was and were greeted with a room full of very small ladies with very sharp elbows, manically sifting through piles of fabric. We took a deep breath and threw ourselves in, grappling for kimono pieces and obi lengths and pushing to the front to get the best deals. Luckily I'm a bit of a pro at this now and managed to come away with some lovely items which you can see here.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mr Smoky

You are never far from a vending machine in Tokyo and there are many interesting varieties of drink on offer. When we first got to Tokyo, we were intrigued by the hot coffees you could get where the can shot out, steaming hot! I'm not sure how much of it is actually coffee though - most of them are very sweet and processed.

I couldn't resist posting a picture of this coffee can that we found recently in a vending machine, for the smoky man in your life! I'm now desperate to find the female version. What's the betting it's pink and smells of roses?!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A lesson in rice harvesting

The other day we were in Ueno park when we came across a group of people busily harvesting rice! It was meant to be a lesson for the children, but we also found it interesting and were able to follow the process from cutting the growing rice from the urban "paddy field", to removing the rice from the plant and then sifting out the twigs and leaves.

Getting dirty in the mud.

Bundling up the rice sheaves.

A foot-operated machine that removes the rice from the plant.