29 June 2011

One kyo

On our way to catch a ferry to jet around some Tokyo rivers I spotted a clock. It was five minutes to the hour. We went closer. We waited. Nothing happened. After enjoying so many moving clocks in Japan (like the Botchan clock and the Moomin clock), I guess I had to be disappointed this once. Was it broken? Were they saving power? Who knows.

After we passed under the many many bridges—my civil engineer father wondered out loud whether Tokyo ever considered saving themselves the money and just filling in the river—we arrived in Asakusa, ready to pose in front of the new Sky Tree and the Golden Turd.

We spent the rest of the evening walking around a not-so-shiny Ginza—power saving. I also had to show off the Tokyo International Forum, stitched together in all its boat-like ceiling glory in the last picture.

Then we went to Tokyo

And here's a boring gif, assembled from two of my dad's pictures, to prove it.


And I say boring, because check out Cinemagraphs, it's way cooler.

28 June 2011

Perfect lettuce

When we were sitting with our many empty plates and bowls, could we even have been 10% mentally prepared for how much deliciousness we were to consume?

Our last night in Kobe was spent eating various waves of Chinese food. The best dish was the perfectly shaped lettuce that you use to wrap some porky mixture. Or was it beefy? I forget, because mostly it was heavenly.

27 June 2011

Two ladies shopping in Ashiya

One, dead sexy and dressed to kill, making her selection of meat. The other, taking funny pictures of herself in shiny pink bottles.

Guess which one doesn't belong.

Also in Kobe

Visit a sake brewery around the Nishinomiya area, where the water, and consequently the sake, is delicious. And, if like me, you've been there before, take pictures of things like decorative cups or the stamps they used to use to mark the covering of the sake barrels, or of course the packaging.

We visited the famous Kikumasamune 菊正宗, which has a rather shocking English website, but a much nicer Japanese one.

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution

Quite the mouthful, isn't it? This is a museum we visited in Kobe. I feel compelled to reignite my travelogue flame before my PC goes in for a bit of doctor-doctor at DELL central.

Anyway, I guess the name speaks for itself: the museum is dedicated to teaching us about the Great Hanshin earthquake as well as other natural disasters and how we can reduce their impact—and it does so in great detail. Worth a visit.

23 June 2011

Also in Osaka

A bookstore was being sneaky by openly exhibiting little Seigensha books where I could see them. As you may know, I have an affinity for them.

I caved later in the trip and bought three. More about them some other time, because I really shouldn't browse online about these books. It's not safe.

22 June 2011

Osaka station

Be excited, this is a sort of chronological post about our trip in that it's about the start of it.

We visited the recently renovated Osaka station. My husband and dad had a chuckle at the curved bench of the roof garden.

And if you're into details, you can see everyone keeping right on the escalator. Because in Kansai you keep right, but in Tokyo you keep left.

20 June 2011

Rain day

Literally. This morning the town announcement system woke me up with something about our old friend "Big Rain" 大雨 and a warning and school. I had to check around to confirm, but sure enough, no school today. We may not get much snow, but we get the rain.

I took the morning off to reimmerse myself in packing stuff. It's coming along slowly.

In more interesting news, I'll still put off launching into a full travelogue just to tell you that I believe I can pump out some interesting sets of photographs once I've mined Picasa to complete my albums on manhole covers and the like. For today, something from another potential collection, a bicycle sign from each part of our trip.

From left to right: Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo.

19 June 2011

Smiley Melon and Milky

I don't know where to start with our recent trip, so I'll just go with something conveniently related that isn't bound by exact places and events.

To fully appreciate today's featured food packaging it's good to note that the local speciality product is a big deal in Japan. If you visit a particular place you basically have to see x, do y, and, most importantly, eat z. I'm proud to say that I survived my first you-went-to-Hokkaidō-did-you-eat-...? interrogation with flying colours this Friday. I do however have to explain to my colleagues that I don't visit zoos or other famous animal enclosures if I can help it. Moral issues aside, why travel hundreds of kilometres to see animals in cages? I can think of quite a few other things I'd rather do with my time. (Eat more z?)

Anyway, along with eating z yourself, it's also polite to bring some of it or something that's styled to taste like it back for your friends and colleagues to try.

So on right and below you can see Puccho ふっちょ, a soft candy available all over Japan, in flavours that match the particular regions' specialities. I like the packaging in part because the die cut on the front is useful for making adorable picture frames, and the big picture on the back of the inside box makes a good postcard, as I did with apple and mikan Puccho before. This time I got melon and milk, two of Hokkaidō's specialities. While you can definitely get tired of the cute personification of objects around here—why does a poo or a toilet need a face, really?—this packaging is just super sweet.

Some of the Hokkaidō things featured on the front and back of the individual packages inside include: historical buildings and the night view of Hakodate; the Sapporo Clock Tower 札幌時計台; eating Jingisukan ジンギスカン, sushi, crab, Hokkaidō-style donburi, and Sapporo ramen; the flowers of Furano; and sculptures from the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. If you view the side of the box too you get a good list of Hokkaidō animals like cows and sheep, BEARS!, salmon, seals, the Hokkaidō fox, deer, and some kind of eagle.

A world in a candy box.

18 June 2011

The best drink in the whole world

My very first day in this town, I was taken to meet my landlord and more than anything else I remember the delicious, sweet, red juice I was served. Red shiso juice. A juice I haven't had the privilege of consuming ever since, because it's not really the kind of thing you can just buy in the supermarket.

Fast forward to another one of those conversations about things one likes. Turns out, if you have enough red shiso 赤紫蘇 you can make the drink at home. Really!? Well I promptly bought some plants and stuck them in a pot... and then went on holiday so that they could die in peace.

Cue today, when my husband arrives home after his Japanese lesson with a gift from one of my eikaiwa students: homemade red shiso syrup in a jar. Superheroes I tell you, superheroes.


Wonderfully comfortable and mundane. So much so that I'll interrupt this post just after starting it to go and hang a load of laundry.

Anyway, good luck to that laundry, considering all the rain-rain-rain times we're having, yet again. It seems it's been pretty wet while we were away, as we realised when the announcements at Haneda airport for flights to Tokushima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Ōita said something like "this flight may return to Tokyo due to bad visibility". Noooooooooo. Fortunately we could land in Matsuyama and didn't have to fly back to Tokyo to...? Sleep in the airport?

On my way home yesterday I captured some of summer vibes here. Butterflies, flowers, flooded paddies.

14 June 2011

Sapporo is about beer

And really, if a place has to be about something, isn't beer just right up there in the top 10?

My only complaint about this museum, and some other exhibits I've seen, is that the interesting visual materials—labels, posters, etc.—aren't put into a beautiful book for me to buy at the gift shop.

Went to the moon

Saw a steamy landscape, a smoky crater, and took the appropriate sulphuric baths.

We also took a few moments to spy-photograph some people's seriously excellent gardens.

11 June 2011

Till we meet again, Hakodate

WOW. What a full day. It calls for a bullet list.

  • Super friendly people at the Asaichi 朝市 market. "You're from Africa!?" "Yes... Africa."
  • Appreciation of some people's beautiful gardens.
  • Even more appreciation of the beautiful Goryōkaku gardens 五稜郭公園.
  • Two really friendly guys at the Northern Pacific Fisheries Documentation Museum 函館市北洋資料館 who wanted to know all about us and show us all the great videos. "This one's about kujira. What's kujira in English again?" "Whale." "Ah yes, here, on the info board, there we go." — and then a whaling video from like 1950 that can only remind you of The Life Aquatic... in a morbid way.
  • Public sculpture!
  • Buildings, buildings, and more buildings that I love.
  • Sushi so fresh it'll bite back!
  • The Museum of Northern Peoples 北方民族資料館, which needs some serious graphic/information design help and a critical overhaul, but that at least has lots of pretty patterns!
  • Ice-creaaaaammmmmmmmmmmm.
  • Buildings.
  • Buildings, and churches.
  • And some buildings.
  • And funny cars on the street after dinner—like a Moo Moo taxi that makes moo noises!

There's no one picture that really sums this place up, so this is another montage of sorts. Full sets and more tales to come, later. And hopefully more pictures some years from now, when I visit here again!

10 June 2011

With love from me

There are things in this country that have a habit of stealing your heart. What's left of mine, I give to Hakodate.

08 June 2011

Two Tokyos

Around lunchtime a guy was practising his fue in Kitanomarukōen 北の丸公園. I recognised the song he played—I've heard it as a part of taiko performances before. In an unrelated yet closely located incident, some girls were practising a dance.

Later we spent some time at that Starbucks at that crossing in Shibuya 渋谷. You know, where lots of people... cross. And obnoxious foreigners like me take pictures and video of them doing so.

Big and small

Went there.
Bought this.

05 June 2011

Paper, paper... more paper, and paintings

We gave the German consulate in Osaka so much paper, they couldn't possibly find any fault with our application. Here's to hoping it continues to go well from here on out.

While we waited I looked at the catalogue for an exhibition of Kandinsky and Der Blaue Reiter, currently on at the Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art. Good job on the waiting room literature, consulate.

Below are some pictures of the works I liked. I didn't actually have time to see the exhibition, so more about what we actually saw there—and what we're seeing in Tokyo now—later.

02 June 2011


Have to interrupt this vacuum packing venture to pack a suitcase to go on holiday. Not mentally prepared for any of it, but here we go. Do it. Do it. Do it.

01 June 2011

Live baseball

There are some nice ways to crop this picture, but I'll leave it as is because the texture of the wet ground was so fantastic.

After watching yesterday's baseball game from start to finish I could only conclude, once again, that baseball is the most boring thing I've ever seen.

But instead of getting into those particulars, I'd like to share some other things that dawned on me.

Baseball is hard. Or maybe, the way baseball club is approached is hard. Hard in many ways. You practice hard, all the time. When you play, you give your all. If you don't, or if you make a mistake, you'll get called on it. Immediately. And you have to own up. YES, SIR! And then you have to move along and be better.

I think all of that is easier said than done. And I really gained a lot of respect for my students who conform to this pattern of behaviour day in and day out. Taking off your cap and shouting greetings loudly are just the tip of the iceberg. I can see what the baseball teacher was talking about.