30 Jan 2015

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo

'Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!'

The other day, my friend gave me this ornament, the little glass slipper!! It's so lovely and it was very nice of her. The glass slipper is something like girls or women's fantasy icon, isn't it? It's unrealistic but want to have it as the symbol of happiness, whenever your husband or boyfriend is NOT like knight on white horse...

If you are a starry-eyed dreamer, or Disney Cinderella lovers, there's no problem. But if you carefully think about Cinderella, you may notice that it is contradictory. Have you ever had a question about the Cinderella's glass slippers? Because they needed to be strong enough in order for her to walk and dance naturally. Well, they might be magic glass slippers, so they might be confortable for walking and dancing. Then, why was the slipper stuck, even though the magic spell was broken at midnight? Why did Cinderella's slipper come off, if it was such a perfect fit? We usually buy ready-made shoes, so there was a possiblity that someone suited the slipper, at least one or two in town, maybe???

The story is concluded by '...and they lived happily ever after'. The story is too good, but I am curious about the slippers afterward. What happened to them? Did she wear them again or treasure them? I don't want to imagine the dust-covered slipper... I will keep this clean, otherwise happiness might  disappear...

29 Jan 2015

Decent Snow

It's the first decent snow in Tokyo, after sunny days. I haven't seen snow for a while, because there was no snow in my town (in the UK) last season. I am happy to be able to spend winter in Japan, because there are many days with a clear blue sky.


Kagurazaka

There are shopping streets in Kagurazaka, lined by a lot of cafes, restaurants and lovely shops. According to Wikipedia, the main road was once at the outer edge of Edo Castle, and has always been busy because of this privileged location. Actually, it's very popular and sophisticated area.

Kagura means shinto music and dance numbers, and -zaka/saka means slope. Literally there are sloped roads. It is said that the shinto music was played at a shirine's traditional festival and it could be heard in the sloped road. Or a portable shrine in a festival couldn't carried up the hill because it's too steep, but could had done easily with the shinto music.


I met my friend from high school after so long. We didn't feel any long gap of time at all. If I stayed in Sendai or in the UK, we wouldn't have a chance to see each other, so I was so happy to see her. We visited Akagi shrine first. I was quite suprised that it was very modern building.



My recommended course is walking on off-road. It's a residential area, but there are some shops and a lovely local park. Hooray! There was nobody. We came down to a children's level and enjoyed sliding, in our 40's, without children! This elephant slide was awesome!!

 


Kagurazaka has a mixed atmosphere; tradition and modern. There are luxurious traditional Japanese restaurats in this area. Also we found a lot of French and Italian restaurants too.



We had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant. It was a small intimate restaurant, but it was busy at a lunch time and all tables were taken.


We walked around with endless chat and browsed many lovely shops such as handmade crafts shops, bookstores and Japanese plates and utensils shops. It was really fun.



Chat, chat chat. We had a nice chat about from recent to old days. It made the time pass so quickly. One thing I got on that day was this. A set of Setsubun; the traditional event for end of winter. Thank you, my friend:)

28 Jan 2015

Ueno Park

It was a nice day and I felt the spring-ish sun press on my back for walk. So I walked to Ueno Park. It's a spacious public park and also the home of a number of major museums. To be honest, I wanted to see the permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Western Art, but unfortunately it was closed because of the preparation for the next exhibit...

The Shinobazu Pond is completely covered by lotuses during the summer, but now, it's a bit of a barren view...



According to Wikipedia, here was the unlucky direction to the northeast of Edo castle (where the Imperial Palace now stands). The northeast direction was once termed the kimon (demon gate), and was considered where evil spirits passed. So there was the Kan'ei temple (founded in 1625) and once a great complex. Most of the temple buildings were destroyed in the Battle of Ueno (1868).

Ueno Park is also famous for cherry blossoms and hanami (cherry-blossoms viewing party). I've seen the news about cherry blossoms here on TV, but it was the first time to walk among them.

There was a Inari shrine. Inari is a popular deity of foxes, of crops, of agriculture and indsutry, of general prosperity etc, with shrines located throughout most of Japan. These red torii gates reminded me of Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.



 In front of the Tokyo National Museum, tulips were blooming! Spring has been coming!!



27 Jan 2015

International Visitors

According the news, Japan achieved 10 million international visitors last year. Everywhere I go, I see foreigners and hear other languages. The reasons are the weakening yen, recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and easing visa regulation for Southeast Asian countries. Although the government is now aiming to double its goal to 20 million, and drawing in 30 million by 2030!!!

I think it's a good thing and that the number of visitors will be definitely increase because the Tokyo Olympics will be held on 2020. But it also made me think that the government has a strong attitude:) I think there are still some problems remaining among the rapid progression of internationalization, such as security and environment.

@Tokyo Station

23 Jan 2015

Kilometre Zero

I found Kilometre Zero in Nihonbashi. Kilometre Zero is a marker from which distances are traditionally measured. Of course, it's not only in Japan but also many countries have it or similar things.
 

22 Jan 2015

Yuuyake Koyake

At 5:00 pm, a bit of melancholy melody comes from speakers in Otemachi, Tokyo every day. This song is called 'Yuuyake Koyake', very popular children's song. It is also the test of the community wireless system for emergency situations. Lyrics are something like this;

Glowing of The Sunset and Gathering Darkness
 Translated by i-ADNES

Glowing of the sunset, and then gathering darkness
The bell has been tolling from the temple on a mountain.
Let's go home all together, hand in hand with all.
Let's go home with crows which are flying back in the sky.

Funny thing is a dog somewhere always sings a song together:)

21 Jan 2015

Chopping Board

Every time I go to a new place in the UK, I research the origin of the place name with curiosity. Because there are many interesting names and they excite a feeling of curiosity.

There are interesting place name in Japan too. The other day, I walked cross the bridge named 'manaita'. That means 'chopping board'. I thought it was interesting. According to Wikipedia, it was derived from two wooden panels, which bridged over a river like a chopping board. And also it is said because there is Odaidokoro-machi (literally 'kitchen town' ) near there.

In fact, Odaidokoro-machi was a residential area that people who worked at Edo Castle kitchens lived in during the Edo period. Unfortunately, nothing is left around there except a stone marker.

17 Jan 2015

Tokyo Skytree

When I was in Tokyo before I moved to the UK, I could see Skytree in a distance from a train window. It was still under construction. Now, it opened for the public and became the tallest structure in Japan and reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft). The fascinating thing is that the Skytree adopted the essence of advanced structual design technology and traditional knowledge as vibration-controlling structure like a five-story pagoda temple.


There are observatories at 350m (1,150ft) and 450m (1,480ft), and the upper observatory features a spiral, a glass-covered skywalk (partly).

When I visited the Skytree, it was clear weather, I could enjoy panoramic views of the river and the city including Mt Fuji.


To tell the truth, I am scared of heights, but I was ok except for a glass-covered floor.


The fastest large-capacity lifts were installed into the tower. Four shuttle lifts have capacity of 40 people, and they are able to carry passengers up to the 350m observatory in approximately 60 seconds.

When we went back to the bottom, we could see inside of the structure from the ceiling of the lift.


I think it's an amazing structure in Japan. I didn't want to imagine that earthquake would happen while I was there, but if the weather is nice, it's a very nice place to visit.

16 Jan 2015

Healthy Japanese Food

When my parents visited Tokyo, we had a nice lunch at a Japanese restaurant; Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare.


What is Dashi? Dashi is a class of the traditional soup stock that is used in so many Japanese cuisines, and it forms the base for miso soup, noodle broth etc...
 
It is made of fish bonito/skipjack tuna which takes several months or a few years to make. I'll give you a brief description of the production process. The bonito is beheaded, gutted and filleted at first. The fillets are boiled and simmered gently. Then, the fillets are smoked using oak, pasania, or castanopsis wood about for a month. Repeat the process smoking and resting cycle. (At this stage the fillets are called aragatsuo and most commonly found in stores, shaved and packaged for sale.)
Katsuwonus pelamis.png
Source; Wikipedia
 
 
They are still valued but true katsuobushi takes more time for procedure. As the last stage of creating a katsuobushi, the fillets are left with spraying with Aspergillus glaucus. The mold ferments the fillets and helps them to dry out. This process takes a couple of years. The fillets become harder and dryer like wooden pieces.
 
Source; Wikipedia
 
 
Then, they are shaved for cooking.
 
Source; http://www.ninben.co.jp/

'Japanese cuisine' was added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. And it is said that Japanese food is healthy. In fact, Japan has the world's highest longevity rate. One of the reasons is the traditional daily meal patterns, which are called '一汁三菜 '(ichijyu-sansai)' meaning one soup and three side dishes including raw fish and vegetables, with rice.
 
At the restaurant, they serve a healthy food using Dashi and one-soup-three-side-dishes style mainly. Their restaurant respects tradition and accepts modern casual style. It was really nice. They have a shop in Haneda Airport as well. Why don't you try it?

14 Jan 2015

Walking Around The Imperial Palace

We walked around the Imperial Palace. It's the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It's a huge area surrounded by moats. It is built on the site of the old Edo Castle. The Edo Castle was destroyed by fires (1657, 1873), and during World War II.

When we walked pass Chidorigabuchi park, we saw three birds were standing on the heads of naked statues. It was funny...



You can see the parliament as well.


You can go through Sakurada gate. Stone-lined wall is beautiful and awesome! 




The bridge below is the main bridge to the Imperial Palace. An interesting thing is that most people believe and call it Nijūbashi, but actually it's called Seimon-ishibashi. I had believed it was Nijūbashi, too!!!


The weather was nice and it was a really nice walk with having an opportunity to be exposed to great Japanese traditional construction methods.

12 Jan 2015

Yushima Seidō

We accidently ran into 'Yushima Seidō', which is one of Tokyo's Confucian temples established in the end of the 17th century. It was quite a nice area surrounded by serene hush, even though it's in the heart of Tokyo.

 
 
There is a statue of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It has great presence.


Now, it's popular with students praying to the patron of learning, Confucius, to pass an entrance exam.

It was a nice discovery. We were lucky to be able to visit there:)