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All is Buenos in Ueno

March 14, 2010

Today I come blogging in sunshine from my balcony, with a panorama of higgedly-piggedly rooftops and criss-crossed electric cables. Having come through the brief flurry of Tokyo snow (read: slush), it seems the season has plunged into Spring proper. The news predicts “開花” (kaika; Blooming – in this instance, referring to the blossoming of sakura) will hit the city on the 23rd of this month – looking foward to it! Already here and there, are splatters of colour, the blooming of ume (plums) preceding its more famous bretheren.

Taking advantage of the weather’s good turn a couple of days ago I went, with a friend, to Ueno Park. My first visit was a hurried scuttle, having drank far too much coffee/water!, under a cloak of overcast skies. This time, with sunshine and company, was much, much better.

At one of the temples I got my first omikuji, a fortune-telling “paper” as well as a mamori of sorts (it came with the second omikuji). The first one required I shake this wooden box full of thin sticks. Each stick has a number written on it, which corresponds to a certain omikuji. Mines was “三十三” (303 -hey, it’s the magic number!). The second one was simply a matter of sticking your hand into a box full of wrapped omikuji and picking one (with each a random charm – I got the waving cat, 招き猫. Maneki-neko are symbolic for ushering in good fortune – the waving gesture they make is the Japanese “beckoning” – most cloesly associated with fortune of a material kind: money). I’ll be having a crack at translating my fortunes later – people who get predominately bad fortunes tie their omikuji up on the grounds of the shrine, so there might be a hasty return to Ueno on the cards…

We actually also went to the Science Museum post-park touring – given the glorious setting, I went a bit snap happy, so since posting the day entirely would be bursting-at-the-seams awesome, the museum’s getting a post all of  its own! Huzzah!

The days in-between were spent:

  • Getting to know the neighbourhood by exploring the crooked backstreets surrounding our dormitory
  • Exploring the local graveyard, which turned out to be far bigger than I thought
  • Taking photos of the blossoms, Yagami river in the sunshine (at which time I also discovered a convenient sunbathing spot)
  • Taking photos of quirky, cute name plaques; trying to take good photos of the crazy riverside residing feline population

Well, I am feeling gloriously sunned now – maybe time for some more trekking.

Guess what guys? Spring is finally here!!


Third of the Third: ひな祭り 2010

March 3, 2010


Hinamatsuri is the seasonal festival in which prayers are made for girl’s to grow up healthy and strong. Lovely.

Hinamatsuri is one of the points in the calendar signalling the onset of spring; it’s not just the Kitkat that’s getting a makeover. Seasonal fruit 桃 (momo, peach) is used for “limited edition” everything (more on which later).

Here are a couple of snaps (taken with the mobile phone camera, so obviously not stunning quality) from the display in our local supermarket:

And I have spent this year’s Hinamatsuri gloriously lazy and yet somehow, studiously without strain. So whilst the weather is as exciting as Scotlands (oh, nostalgia) today has been, all things considered, a rather lovely wee day. Huzzah.


March 3, 2010

So, the new seasonal kit-kat; Sakura & Matcha flavour:

Big Trouble in Little China (/More Chinese New Year Snaps)

February 20, 2010

Sufficently entranced by  – Oo, the sparkles! – of glitzy Motomachi, we decided it was probably a good idea to head off too Chinatown (Chukagai, 中華街). At the time all I knew was the “events” would be carrying on till midnight, and with that in mind, we were still in good time…

The Gilded Entrance:

Note: a Starbucks in the bottom-left corner – is there no escape?!

Can you guess what Year Of it is?

The front of a gigantic game centre to which we returned, a little on the merry side, to purikura and arcade-it-up.

The “dragons” skipped and shuffled outside of every restaurant to the sound of drums and cymbals; from what I could see there was usually some kind of offering placed on top of entrance for the dragon to snap up before going inside and filling up the place with good fortune. Firecrackers were lit shortly after, and went off with such strength it was like standing right next to an exploding firework. Which was probably the reality of it. The sound, the colours, the people all packed and waiting made everything so much more exciting, despite the rolling crowds and permanent ear damage…

The Motomachi Meander, also known as Chinese New Year Part One

February 19, 2010

Emerged from the Motomachi-Chuukagai Station (which has 8 exits), not quite where planned. It turned out to be Motomachi, and was a fortunate accident, as the area turned out to be quite lovely.

We discovered this magical vintage watch store; the door knobs looked like lion-dogs, heavy, brozen and real. Didn’t realise at the time, whilst trying to get a good (read: not blurry) shot of the lights, there was a man hidden behind the wonderful mess of things watching the whole time! My friend waved, but I was totally – and typically – oblivious, oops.

I loved this place! The window display was full of witches flying, witches cackling, witches sitting or knitting, looking peeved or pleased. It was awesome, they were awesome.

The subdued, arty back streets were split open by a road of expensive stores. One place, devoted to leather went beyond the norm and had a beautiful red car parked outside its open doors:

And here’s to a heartily laughing “Captain Santa”! I kid you not – don’t know the name myself, and was completely taken aback to see his endearing plastic grin glimmer under the spotlights from behind the glassfront.

Oh, and something for the pampered toy poodles and tiny terriors with diamante collars:

Chinese New Year @元町中華街、横浜 (1)

February 15, 2010

February 14th.

A day for couples, and for 2010 the day Chinese New Year fell on. Since hating  on the commercialism of V-Day is apparently passe, let us move straight on to the dish of  the (yester)day:

The Plan – meet @ Motomachi-Chuukagai Station for half 5. Yokohama’s Chuukagai (“Chinatown”) is pretty famous; having visited once prior during daylight hours, it is far more magical when the lights go out. So there was meant to be a parade. Operative word there. Suffice to say, all did not go as planned – we glimpsed the tail end of the celebrations – however much merriment was still had (in which our blogger discovered that taking purikura whilst slightly inebriated makes it way more fun, and that, no matter how hard she tries, she will always fail at taiko arcade games)!

Gazebo Lunch @ Daikanyama

February 13, 2010

The Daikanyama/Naka-Meguro area is easily one of my favourites in Tokyo. These are the places where a little searching goes a long way, and one can really feel like it’s a discovery. There is a deli-cafe settled amongst Daikanyama’s tarmac slopes called Gazebo: they do real sandwhiches. And sell Coke in tall glasses with ginger ale and pomegranate fizzy juice that is somehow 50s diner evocative. In context, not a pricey joint. The details of its decor are adorable.