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Happy Children’s Day こどもの日

May 5, 2010

The past several days, in Japan, has been “Golden Week” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Week_(Japan)): a chance slew of national holidays wherein salarymen and women alike grasp the opportunity to go on city breaks or weekends away to Nikko and the like.

As blessed Golden Week draws to a close, and classes kickstart on Thursday, the final, May 5th, holiday is called “こどもの日(Kodomo no hi)” or Children’s Day.
Koi fish banners are raised: the myth being that should the koi fish struggle upwards and top a waterfall it turns into a dragon, and thus, seems to be a message of hope and perseverance.

It’s a Family Affair: The New Otani

April 21, 2010

The New Otani Hotel, located a la Akasaka-Mitsuke, has its own helipad.

The sprawling lobby floor spread out into shops an, with floor-to-ceiling window view of the gardens, a bar complete with swanky grand piano.  Ivory. Live jazz perfomance in the evenings. My mother, younger sister and I found ourselves somewhere about the lofty heights of the 26th floor – out of over thirty. Perhaps not such a feat within Tokyo, but something quite vertigo inducing to un-metropolised hicks such as ourselves (I say this lovingly, bien sur).

The plan was to stay at the Otani briefly, then pack in a whorl of sightseeing during our 3/4 days at Kyoto, in time for a triumphant week long return to Tokyo (and to new lodgings).

Adorable, borrowable hotel sample-sized toiletries: universally priceless.

(As it happens, at first, I was too distracted by showing off to my new city-mouse abilities, to take that many photos…)

One totally awesome feature to the bathroom was the surround sound style radio, complete with stations for mainstream music taste (jazz; rock; Jpop, etc). This made a great opportunity to, say, brush teeth and air guitar, or dry hair and dance ridiculously badly to samba. Not that such things were done.

Suki(e) In The Graveyard

April 19, 2010

Fortuitously coinciding with the arrival of family to Tokyo back in March, that week’s previously miserable weather was broken in by a beautiful day. Sun: no clouds, only a feather light breeze. Conditions were an obvious sign for sunbathing. Last time the weather was this good, my balcony was converted into a makeshift outdoor office: a spare blanket became the carpet, office chair was put out, the outside vent-machine (for the air condintioner) made the perfect wee desk on which to place study books, magazines and snacks. I spent the entire day out on my balcony, studying and sunbathing, only to wake up the next day to rain and a red face/arms/neck/chest…

Before the sour bout, however, in my boredom I had woken up super early and taken the chance stillness of the hour to explore the neighbourhood some more; namely the graveyard behind the Aoki Suit Store. Built on the side of a hill, there was something quite magical about discovering the nooks and crannies where hidden steps led to another small plateau.

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Books, Glorious Books

March 27, 2010

Books. Stationary. Puffy stickers. Phone straps.

Each of these things is the equivalent of a black hole to my (nonexistant) purse. Caught in the gravity, I am at odds to escape the inexorable tug of a book or stationary store. With little hope of freedom I throw myself freely into abandon and thus, with a flush of new money, find myself tired but satiated at the end of a day dragging along a bag of tricks:

"Tokyo Art Navi": A Guide to Tokyo's various art spots entirely a la Japanese

"Tokyo Sotoasa Gohan": Soto-Asa being a corrupted form of soto ("outside") & asa ("morning") this impish light read details in Japanese various places out-and-about to enjoy one's breakfast outdoors.

Illustrated vocabulary and situational phrase book for Okinawan's specific dialect. Surprisingly comprehensive and pleasingly weighty.

"Bunkei Jisho": Glorious glossary of grammar. Hefty and helpful, with definition, usage, nuances and examples all given in Japanese, sold also for Japanese looking to hone their grammar.

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Spring in Your Step: Video Roundup

March 26, 2010


Useful insight on the common practices of springtime 花見 (lit., “Flower Viewing” – less commonly known as “Let’s all get wasted beneath this spectular tree”)


An obligatory kitten video. This is what Japan exports best via youtube.


Early bloomers make the news.
Speaking of, a short snippet of the blossoms in Ueno Park:


Fabulous new ditty du jour.

The Island People’s Treasure: 沖縄が興味深い

March 18, 2010

As some readers may already know, I have an interest in all things Okinawan. (Hence my obsessive dragging of willing peoples to the supermarket in Ginza, Washi).

One day I would love to speak うちなーぐち (uchinaaguchi, the Okinawan dialect) – despite the island being part of Japan, it has it’s own distinct language, so distinct that even the average Japanese person can’t understand it either!

Aside from gorgeous weather and equally gorgeous beaches, another thing that draws me to Okinawa is the 三線 (shanshin; three stringed instrument) and the traditional lilting siniging style.

One of the most famous songs from Okinawa is 「島人ぬ宝」 (shimanchuu nu takara; The Islander’s Treasure):

僕が生まれたこの島の空を、僕はどれぐらい知っているんだろう

How well do I know, the skies of this island where I was born

輝く星も流れる雲も、名前を聞かれてもわからない

I couldn’t tell you the names of the shining stars or passing clouds, even if you asked

でも誰より誰より知っている、悲しいときも嬉しい時も、何度も見上げていたこの空を、

But more, more, than anyone, I know, in the good times and bad times, that sky I have looked up countless times to

A Day at the Museum

March 15, 2010

With little time before closing, we explored the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. For a building of 9 floors we did pretty well.

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