Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Sugoi Sugoi! Spring Photo Contest!

Posted 13 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Photography

Now then now then now then,

Did you get your fill of hanami/cherry blossom photos for this year? Think you’ve got some pretty decent shots, do you? Do You? DO YOU? Well, in that case you’re in luck.

The good people over at Japan-related blog Wide Island View are running their annual (I think. Could be seasonal. Who knows?) photo contest. Three lucky scrotes will get to pick from a selection of items from White Rabbit Press – Japan’s finest purveyor of kanjified goods for the linguistically challenged.

The contest ends on 15th May, so get yer skates on and start fooling about with those contrast/colour/minger sliders in Photoshop!

Click here for more details.

Shunbun no hi

Posted 18 Mar 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo, Weather

This coming Sunday is shunbun no hi, or Vernal Equinox Day. Traditionally, on this day Japanese people would visit their ancestral graves and hold family reunions. These days, however, they are more likely to visit Starbucks and hold rat-like Chihuahuas.

Shunbun no hi also marks the beginning of spring. It won’t be long before coats are consigned to the wardrobe and t-shirts once again become acceptable outdoor attire. Fantastic.


For all you avid cherry-blossom watchers out there, sakura trees in Tokyo are expected to flower from the 24th March, and should be in full bloom on around the 1st April. Probably the best place for hanami (lit. “flower watching”) in Tokyo is Shinjuku Gyoen, which is pictured above in its late summer guise. It’s a tranquil green oasis in an otherwise concrete-filled desert. Yoyogi and Ueno parks are also good bets, but whatever you do, don’t bother with Inokashira Park in Kichijoji – it’s absolutely rubbish, you’d hate it.

Christmas Lights in Marunouchi

Posted 07 Dec 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Photography, Tokyo

As with every December, the Christmas lights are up in Marunouchi. Looks a lot quieter in this photo than it really was:

Uniqlo Designers’ Invitation Project: Gilded Age

Posted 30 Apr 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Entertainment, Events, News, Shopping in Japan, Style

gildedageuniqlo

Every few months Uniqlo introduces a new range of clothes in conjunction with famous design types. One of this season’s collaborations is with Gilded Age, whose clothing is “inspired by the craftsmanship of the Gilded Age and assembled from artisanal fabrics.”

Blimey. Well, a bit of Googling reveals that the Gilded Age (1878-1889) was shaped by America’s greatest industrialists – men like John D. Rockerfeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. These chaps created the modern industrial economy and helped America’s manufacturing capacity dwarf the likes of Britain, Germany and France.

What does this mean for the clothes, then? The Uniqlo collection utilises natural, earthy colours and light, comfortable fabrics, with jackets boasting a deconstructed smart-yet-casual cut that would normally cost you a lot more than ¥5,900. The only problem is finding a store that hasn’t already sold out!

More: The Designers’ Invitation Project at uniqlo.com (in English)

Meiji Jingu’s 50th Anniversary Bash

Posted 01 Nov 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Meiji Jingu‘s reconstruction the monks with the funk decided to go mental with an enormous lantern display near Harajuku station:

Everyone was desperately trying to take some decent photos:

The flower arranging displays on offer inside the shrine itself were rather lame by comparison:

Walking from Shibuya to Harajuku

Posted 05 Oct 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Advertising in Japan, Events, Only in Japan, Photography, Shopping in Japan, Tokyo, Video

I went to Shibuya and Harajuku yesterday for some shopping and a bite to eat. Google Japan were doing one of their “Things you can do with Google” promotions (“Googleで、できること”), which I’d heard about at Danny’s Tuesday night dinner (more stuff about this from Ken and W+K). The sign says “Fly in the sky in Shibuya”:

There were a set number of tickets available throughout the day for people who wanted to take part. There was no shortage of balloons:

Balloons

Here some staff members were preparing to attach the first flyer of the afternoon to the balloons:

By this time lots of people had gathered round to see what was going on. The first flyer – a girl in her early twenties – was helmeted and attached to the balloons by several sturdy-looking ropes. Finally, after quite literally minutes of anticipation, the girl was released:

Well… that wasn’t quite what the crowd were expecting, although the girl did seem to enjoy herself. So did this chap:

It’s a short walk from Shibuya to Omotesando: one of Tokyo’s poshest streets:

This is the interior of Omtesando Hills, which was opened in 2005 and designed by Tadao Ando. The shops are eye-bleedingly expensive:

Omotesando Crossing is where Meiji-dori and Omotesando meet. It’s always busy around here:

Roadworks along Meiji-dori. I like the illuminated traffic cones. They would serve as a fantastic addition to any university student’s bedroom:

This is the exterior of Uniqlo’s special UT store, which is a short walk towards Shibuya from Omotesando Crossing:

As you can see, Uniqlo now sell Japanese women in conveniently-sized plastic containers, and at very reasonable prices:

Oh, so they’re just t-shirts then. How disappointing:

Watching the Olympics in Japan

Posted 20 Aug 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, News, TV

While “Team GB” (what’s wrong with “Great Britain”?) enjoys its best Olympics for 100 years we ex-pats in Japan have so far been unable to watch most of the action. As Chris Hoy won his third gold medal three TV channels were broadcasting the men’s parallel bars. One channel is enough, surely?

Yes yes, I understand that Japan is good at judo and gymnastics and therefore it’s natural that TV companies would focus on them, but it’s damn annoying. Plus I can’t watch the highlights on the internet due to regional licensing restrictions.

Ah well, at least I was able to watch the women’s 400m final last night.

One more thing: since when has it been okay to use the word “medal” as a verb?

The view from Roppongi Hills…

Posted 14 Feb 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Photography, Tokyo

…is quite impressive, especially on a clear, sunny day. The Mori Art Museum, located on the fiftysomething floor of the Mori Tower, is currently staging an exhibition called “Art is for the Spirit“, with works from the likes of Damien Hirst, Andreas Gorsky and Julian Opie on display (and is, I might add, well worth a visit). While I couldn’t get any shots of the exhibition itself thanks to the extreme number of security staff dotted around, I did manage to take quite a few of the Tokyo skyline for your general perusal:

Shinjuku

あけましておめでとうございます!

Posted 08 Jan 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Gaming, Personal, Photography, Technology, Tokyo, Travel, Work

2007 already? I’m scared at how quickly time is disappearing before my very eyes. I can still distinctly remember New Year’s Eve 1999 as if it were yesterday: I was working in a horror-show bar in Newcastle city centre (Dobson’s. The name sends a shiver down my spine to this day), and slipped down a flight of stairs while carrying a crate of Smirnoff Mule at around 10.30pm, smashing bottles everywhere and smacking my head off a step. This gave me a fine excuse to leave work early and bomb down to Saltburn in my trusty Vauxhall Nova for the celebrations. I arrived down my local about 10 minutes after midnight with a slight concussion, to discover my mates either dancing on tables or passed out in a corner. Treasured memories indeed, and there are many…

NYE 2006 was a far more sedate affair spent in Aichi-ken with the in-laws. We went out for sushi, watched TV, ate some more food and talked about, well… stuff. I rarely drink these days as my hangovers – which were always bad – are now so utterly terrible that I really can’t stand experiencing the pain and torment more than a few times each year. Many Japanese visit their local temple at midnight to say their prayers in the hope of having a successful new year, but it was really cold, so we did it the following afternoon instead.

Japanese monolithGoing back a bit further, my Christmas was about as Christmassy as you could expect considering only 1% of the population are Christians, meaning it was a normal working day for me and everyone else here. My new job – so far at least – is going well. After being a teacher for so long it’s really nice to not have to be “switched on” all the time. I can come into the office, sit down at my desk and quietly get on with my work without having to pretend to be interested/jolly for hours on end. Incidentally I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be doing at work most of the time, so I’ve been attempting to try a few things and pretend to look busy, which, in Japanese offices, has been perfected to a fine art form. Nobody has sussed me out yet, so I think my technique must be pretty good.

In light of not being able to go anywhere nice or return home for the holidays, I continued my quest of buying unnecessary things instead. The most recent addition to my collection turned out to be a PlayStation 3, which weighs more than all the planets in our solar system combined and bears an eerie resemblance to the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It now sits under the TV and quietly purrs away in an ever so menacing fashion, emitting so much heat I can now happily live without central heating during the coldest of winter days.

A Rude Awakening

Posted 11 Sep 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Food, Japanese Language, Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo, Video, Weather

At around 3am this morning I witnessed the biggest thunderstorm I have ever seen in my life. Without any warning whatsoever the heavens opened, lightning struck surrounding buildings disturbingly frequently, and the thunder was loud enough to violently shake the windows.

And I didn’t get any of this on camera. Bugger.

Giving the god a good hard shake

Kichijoji Matsuri was held this weekend, meaning lots of people walking around in blue pyjamas getting drunk, carrying mikoshi around the local area (portable shrines used to carry gods. God taxis – cool!). Apparently the gods quite enjoy being shaken around a bit to wake them from their slumber, although I’m not sure if anyone has ever actually asked the gods for their opinion on this matter.

There were many different mikoshi, carried by different teams. Some of the more active (i.e. one sake too many) groups can get pretty vocal, like this set of individuals here:

Mmm... crabs

There’s also loads of food stalls to have a wander around (and yes, the ubiqitous kebab trucks are here as well. There’s just no escaping them). I’m especially fond of the fried baby crabs. They’re soft enough to be eaten whole, legs and all, and they’re fantastic. I’m quite aware they look like something out of The Thing, but really, they’re great!

In other news, we attended a residents group meeting for our apartment, which was about as interesting as it sounds. Most of the people living in our place are retired so we were the youngest people there by a good thirty years. Luckily they’re all really nice, and had some particulary amusing ideas on what should be done in case of The Big Earthquake (ten years overdue, apparently). Nakada-san – the group leader and ex-university professor – suggested climbing the stairs to the roof and waiting for a fire service helicopter to pick them up. His wife kindly pointed out that the fire service might have a few more important matters to attend to in a city of 30 million people.

Tokyo's suburban sprawl

One exeptionally good point to come out of the meeting was that we were given the key to the rooftop. Apparently we should have been given it when we moved in last year but Nakada-san forgot. The views from the rooftop are supoib, you can see Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, even Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower (yes, I know you can’t see very much in the photo, but trust me, you can see it). We’re also allowed to have parties and stuff up there any time we like which is great during summer. Apparently the old folks are having a full moon party next month, which I absolutely must attend at all costs.

Tokyo skyline (sort of)

I’ve foolisly decided to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, although recently I’ve put in absolutely no effort in when it comes to studying. Methinks I should stop writing this and get some revision done!

My trip to Enoshima, aka “I went so you don’t have to”

Posted 04 Sep 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo, Travel, Weather

The weather throughout the latter half of August had been amazing, perfect beach weather in fact. Last Friday seemed like an excellent day to go to Enoshima, the weather forecast was good – occasional clouds, not too hot – and so the previous evening Mike and I decided to meet at 9.30am, Shinjuku station.

Friday morning, 8.30am – The weather’s looking a bit… grim, but no rain and besides, Enoshima’s a good 50km from Tokyo, so it’ll probably be nicer there.

Probably.

Mike arrives at Shinjuku, and we board the train for Enoshima. At some point between my arriving and leaving Shinjuku, the Gods clearly decided that no-one was going to be enjoying any kind of outside activities for the rest of the day, “Today is a day for watering the garden, pool parties and tramp cleaning”, they declared to each other. “But what about all those people who decided to go to the beach today?”, asked Faiyah Laitah, God of Barbequeues. “Oh yes, forgot about them.” replied the others, “We’ll send them a memo or something…”

However, as everyone knows, the gods are not too great at paperwork, and the memo was never sent. Meanwhile, we arrive at Enoshima in a blaze of… rain. Quite a few others seemed to have had the same idea of heading to the beach today, and look just as disappointed as us as they get off the train. Not to be deterred, we buy a pair of umbrellas and set off into the unknown.

Enoshima is actually the name of a small island a stone’s throw from the beach (and means “Island of the Bay”. How original…), and there’s a causeway linking it to the mainland on which we stood. Seeing as hitting the beach was a definite no-no, we decided to walk over there and see what it had to offer.

Skylab 3 on Enoshima

The first thing we encountered on Enoshima was this rather tatty-looking object on the left. At first I thought it was some bizarre attempt at making a space-themed ice cream stall. But no ladies and gents, this was in fact a real spacecraft used by NASA for Skylab missions during the 1970′s. How it came to be standing in a hotel courtyard on a random Japanese island is anyone’s guess, although I imagine the hotel owner had been out with mates, downed way too many beers, stumbled home and decided to have quick browse on eBay. The rest is history.

Ii tenki da ne

There are many temples and shrines on Enoshima, and I really didn’t care much to look around any of them. Yes, I know they’re pretty, and ooze zen, karma, chi and Orange Fanta from every orifice, but I’ve had it up to the eyeballs with them. Word on the street is that Benzaiten, godess of music and entertainment, is enshrined on the island, therefore I decided to try and communicate with this mighty being, and have her explain why Japanese TV is so absolutely appauling.

Before I could attempt my meeting with Benzaiten, I had to climb to the top of the island. This meant either climbing lots and lots of steps or… taking the escalator! I shit you not, someone had built a series of escalators all over the island. The best thing about this was that each escalator had it’s own ticket booth (manned by a random old hag), despite being only twenty metres long. AND they charged ¥150 for a one-way journey. That’s 75p for a ten second trip!

Rain and steps - a recurring theme today

Unsurprisingly, we opted to take the stairs, and my, what wonderfully slippy stairs they were, and so many too! The streets were absolutely deserted, with the exception of the stalls and restaurants, who naturally had approximately 17,000 staff each (this is Japan, you know, that’s how they do things. Don’t argue). I’m sure this place must be heaving with tourists come the weekend, but it must be absolutely suicide-inducing to work here on a day like today. I contributed to the local tourist economy by purchasing a bottle of Coke from a nearby vending machine. Enoshima is ¥150 better off thanks to me. I hope it’s grateful.

Biiig cliffs, and random fisherman

Occasionally, i.e. when someone had opted not to build a restaurant or gift stall in place of what would have been a really nice view, Enoshima was a really beautiful sight to behold. Very much like the rest of the Japanese coastline, vegetation clings to sheer cliffs for dear life. In fact, once you make it out of the major urban centres and into the mountains, everything seems to be clinging on for dear life. It’s no wonder Japanese tend to live crammed together; there’s simply nowhere else to go.

After around an hour of walking up endless amounts of stairs, and being confronted by a hideous toothless granny who was trying to cadge a cigarette (there was a cigarette machine round the corner), we made it to the top of Enoshima. Here, at the shrine dedicated to Benzaiten, I would feel the full spiritual force of this sacred space. Carefully placing my footsteps, so as not to disturb the mighty power that lay before me, I approached the entrance. As I grew closer I could see that there appeared to be some kind of guardian barring the way, protecting the higher powers from us mere mortals. It seemed to have taken the form of an animal, but I couldn’t make out which one exactly. I stepped further forward to take a closer look and…

Scabby Eared Cat - Guardian of the Temple

…yes, there was a scabby eared, flea bitten cat, casually licking its bollocks. He had the pose and demeanor of the fat, couch-ridden father Jim from The Royale Family. I attemped to communicate with Scabby-chan, as he became affectionately known, but he simply looked up to face me, eyes burning with a mixture of feline rage and cataracts, and said “Temples? My arse!”

After the failure of attempting to communicate with a higher realm, we attemped to get the hell off this place. A wrong turn led us to the sea, on entirely the opposite side end of island. Around here there seemed to be absoutely nothing going on, with the exeption of a few brave souls attempting to fish off the rocks. I used to go fishing for hours when I was a kid, and caught absoutely nothing for all my time and effort. It gave me some satisfaction then, to see that these guys seemed to fairing just as well.

What. The. Eff... are these things?

We had no option to return the way we came. As we walked along one particular footpath on the way back I made the mistake of looking at the sheer cliff-face to my right-hand side. My God, it was like being in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The cliff was covered in thousands upon thousands of brown, cockroach-like insects. I made an all too sudden arm movement, and they parted from the area of wall nearest to me with a swiftness that made me feel like jumping into the sea.

The remaining part of our journey back to the mainland was entirely uneventful, although not once did the rain even look like stopping. As soon as we stepped off the train at Shinjuku, the rain stopped, and every day since then has been absolutely glorious. I don’t know how to say “taking the piss” in Japanese but if anyone finds out, please let me know.