Tuesday, 27 October 2009
After a day of horrific rain yesterday, we woke up to glorious sunshine today with a stunning blue sky. I decided to have my breakfast out on the balcony and, low and behold, there was Mount Fuji! We have only seen it once before, on another clear day, and I still can't quite believe it's there! Can't wait to go and visit it...
On sunday I met up with Keiko and we went to a big design show called Design Festa, which is held twice a year at the big conference centre out near the bay. It was a massive space and packed full of artists, designers and musicians. All doing very interesting and quirky things. It was mesmerising, but very interesting too. It's intriguing to see how the Japanese approach design and art and I loved the way that they mixed everything together too - manga cartoonists next to girls selling cutesy felted rabbits, next to artists covering their boards in amazing creations, next to women in outlandish make-up and costumes, all whilst musicians strike up and play a few tunes.
Well, I turned a ripe old age on saturday and where better to spend it than in Tokyo! After opening some lovely prezzies from family (Neil gave a beautiful kimono which I will put on the blog soon) and a breakfast of croissants and coffee out on the balcony, we sauntered to the Tokyo American club where Neil treated me to a two hour pamper session of massage and facial. It was heaven! We then trotted off to a restaurant that had been recommended to me by my Japanese teacher in London, Ninja. We weren't sure what to expect as it seemed rather themey and, dare I say it, a tad touristy, but we had a fab time. When we finally found the restaurant (it was hard to find as a ninja must be well hidden!) we came into the lobby which was very dark, and were greeted by a hostess, but couldn't see a way into the restaurant. She said someone would be there soon to show us to our table and suddenly a ninja jumped through a hidden hole high up on the wall! He then bowed to us, banged on the wall and a secret door opened. He led us through low, narrow, dark corridors, past a waterfall and over a drawbridge, and suddenly we were in a pseudo ninja village. There were diners everywhere, hidden in nooks and crannies, behind sliding doors etc. It was pretty well done. Another ninja took us to our table (we both hit our heads when we sat down due to low hanging rock face!) and then took out the menu which was on a long scroll. We had a big choice, with some interesting items - Black Enchantment, Autumn Treasure Chest, and Sherbet Candy in Autumn Flavours - and we chose a big selection. There was an air of Heston Blumenthal about the menu as each course was deceiveing and looked like something, but tasted like something completely different. Our first course looked like a vanilla cream pudding, but when the ninja cut it open it was a salad! It was a great experience and I definitely recommend it for a different night out. Check out the website. If you click on "inerior design" you will get a feel for it.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
I did my first pottery class yesterday with Susan, a woman I met through Stitch and Bitch and who had recommended it to me. We had a lovely teacher who is Japanese but has lived all over the world, and we managed to make two items, which I'm actually quite proud of. It was great to get my hands dirty again and have a play around. Am looking forward to getting my hands on a potters wheel next and going for it! I ahve a feeling she won't let me loose on that for a while...
Yes, it was a beautiful day on sunday, but we decided to spend it in a tiny, dark jazz bar in Meguro. We were invited by Chris, an English guy who Neil has met and lives round the corner from us in a funky house. The wife of a work colleague of his was singing in the band and he asked if we fancied it, which was very nice of him. Anyway, it ended up being fab and I'm so glad we went. We emerged afterwards like moles and spent the rest of the daylight sipping tea on our balcony - very civilised!
I think this is my best dog spotting yet! There was a whole gang of them parading around our neighbourhood on sunday afternoon, complete with jeans, t-shirt and sunnies. They were very happy to pose for us and I have a feeling they are very used to it. I have to say, those jeans must chafe a tad!
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Last night we decided to sample another local restaurant and sauntered down the hill to Spray, a small tapas-type restaurant selling tapas dishes and pizzas. We got a seat at the bar where we were able to quaff wine and watch the chef prepare all the lovely grub. It's good entertainment and puts your faith in them preparing healthy, hygienic food. I had scallops drizzled in anchovy sauce, followed by a lovely pizza, and much wine!
I went to this great art shop on thursday - 6 floors of artist heaven. The first floor sells all sorts of beautiful cards and stationary and every kind of pen/pencil etc. The second floor has card, paper etc as well as a section just for people wanting to draw manga cartoons! The third floor has all sorts of busts and mannequins, as well as a fab array of all types of sketch books. I picked up these gorgeous little cards (among many other things - am hoping to get inspired and head off to some galleries to draw). The donuts are made of wood, and note the little caterpillar sitting on the cherry leaf. I also picked a up a load of xmas cards for inspiration - scarey to think it's already that time and Halloween hasn't even happened yet! Having said that, xmas is meant to be fab here, even though they don't celebrate it. Any excuse for a bit of a decorating session...
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
It was another national holiday yesterday, which meant that Neil had the day off work - yippee! I have to say, the Japanese work very hard, but they are also rewarded with lots of public holidays, which is a good thing. After a relaxing day of going to the gym and mooching around, we decided to take the forty minute train ride out to Yokohama. There is a Chinatown there and we had heard that there was a lantern festival going on. Like many chinatowns around the world, it was very lively and interesting, with lots to see, smell and taste, and we had a great slap-up meal at one of the hundreds of restaurants to choose from. It was alos good to see Yokohama, which is much quieter than Tokyo, and more chilled out.
On sunday we decided to head out to Mount Takao which is supposedly about an hour out of Tokyo. We must have got the very slow train as it took us at least an hour and half and when we got there it was heaving!!!! I've never seen so many people descend on such a pretty, rural place! Normally it would have stressed me out, but the Japanese are so considerate and everyone keeps to their personal space, so it really wasn't too bad and it was nice to get out of the city and see some greenery. It was also a gorgeous day and we strode up the mountain soaking in the rays and breathing in the clean air. Along the way there were little Buddah-type idols and I loved the way that someone had put little red woolen hats on them to keep them warm. One had a jaunty beret-type hat, one had a very snug one on his little round head, and one even had a full-on cape affair! When we got to the top, we rested our feet in a quiet area away from the crowds, and suddenly realised we were siting just outside the monks quarters and two seconds later they filed past us, blowing a tune on some fetching shell trumpets. We had prime position to watch them parade past us in their full regalia, as they made their way to the temple at the top. After a fun ride down the mountian on a cable car, I decided to try out a local delicacy. We had seen hundreds of people eating these "things" throughout the day - young and old alike - and had seen them being prepared at many stalls along the route. They looked like sweet balls on a stick, covered in a maple syrup coating, and were cooked over a charcoal fire. I thought they couldn't be too bad as so many people were chowing down on them, so decided to go for it. BIG MISTAKE! It's one of the most horrendous things I have ever tasted, not helped by the fact that the balls were solid dough, tasteless and stuck to your teeth, and then the topping wasn't a sweet sticky substance, but salty yucccckkkkk! All I can compare it to was if someone tried Marmite or Vegemite for the first time having never seen it before. At least I can say I tried it once, but never again!
We had our first taste of amateur dramatics on saturday night and where else to see it, than in Tokyo! I was told about it by Suzy, one of the English women I met through Stitch and Bitch, and it is organised by the Tokyo International Players. She has been making some of the costumes for it, so we thought we'd trot along and see what it was all about. There were a lot of gaijins (foreigners) there, but it was a lot of fun and everyone who did it seemed to enjoy themselves too. I don't think I'll be running along to join in any time soon, but we may go and see another performance later in the year.
Friday was a gorgeous, sunny, fresh day after the might of the typhoon had passed (it all happened while we were safely tucked up in bed and could hear the wind and rain lashing against the windows) so I decided to head out in the afternoon and see some sights. After fighting my way through the maze of Shinjuku and getting badly lost en route (tried to pretend to myself that I meant to see the back roads of outer Shinjuku) I finally found the towering TMGB. It was made to evoke the Notre Dame with its twin towers, but it is also very Japanese. Needless to say, the view from the 45th floor was stunning, although I still haven't quite managed to glimpse Mount Fuji in the distance.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Well, as a welcome back to Tokyo, I decided to treat myself to a trip to the Meguro Parasitological Museum! Not one's first choice in a city bulging with culture and feasts for the eye, but it happens to be near a fabric shop I wanted to visit, so I went there first, stocked up on cute Japanese fabrics at rock bottom price, and then trotted on to feast my eye on some parasites! I'm glad I hadn't eaten lunch at that point as there were some pretty horrific sights and lots of photos to show what parasites can do to the most delicate areas of the human anatomy. It was, needless to say, a brief visit, and after a scan round the shop, where you could buy a t-shirt with a cute little parasite on the front, I battled home through the relentless rain.
It has now been raining for three days solidly and there is a typhoon predicted for tomorrow. Today a local told me that I mustn't leave the house tomorrow as there will be winds of up to 30mph and heavy rain. I'll have to baton down the hatches (sp?) and bring in emergency supplies to keep me going through the storm!
PS I went to my second Stitch and Bitch last night and met some nice people. One girl is thinking of doing a pottery class nearby, so I may tag along with her. I'm getting craftier by the day.... watch this space!
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Hello there, I'm back! Had a fab, if a tad manic, time in Blighty and managed to catch up with everyone and spend quality time with the family. It was so good to see mum and dad, Morwenna and Dom, but also the lovely ladies that are my nieces - Lila and Flo. Could be a good name for a children's clothing line.... Anyway, I couldn't resist putting a photo up of the two lovely lasses. See above. Flo is now a little lady and heading off to school in her new uniform and Lila is really growing into herself and even left a rather gurgled message (literally) on my phone the other day!
I'm slowly getting over the jetlag and re-establishing my routine. Back to yoga today - my poor body is feeling it! And off to Stitch and Bitch tonight. I managed to use up all the balls of wool I had while I was in England, which is a good sign that the knitting is forging ahead. It's also a good excuse to head to Tokyu Hands before the class and stock up on new wool. I'm also thinking of getting some sequins/buttons to decorate the "scarf", or rather hide the bad bits. There seem to be a few holes forming and I'm not sure where they came from!