Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday the 28th Meguro Fudo-son, yams, The Parasite Museum and more

Today was another laundry day, while Cindy watched the driers Steven and I did a quick run to Kappabashi, a few blocks away, so he could get some plastic food, the kind you see on display in Japanese restaurants. He ended up getting a small bowl of ramen with a naruto fish cake and tenpura shrimp.

After dropping off the laundry we headed to Meguro, I called Leo and we arraigned to meet at Otori shrine. It was the Shichi-go-san festival where children aged 3, 5 and 7 dress up in traditional garb and visit the shrine. Lots of cute kids, proud parents and grandparents. Leo met s at the shrine and after some chatting we headed for the Parasite Museum. A fascinating and disturbing place, with samples preserved in fluid and educational diagrams on the life cycle of various parasites. I bought their guidebook in English to donate to the Exploratorium Museum Learning Studio and a t-shirt for myself. Leo got a delightful card with cute versions of parasitic worms on it.

Then we headed for Meguro Fudôson where a festival was taking place. Lots of good food including deep fried yam slices, grilled squid, yakisoba, and plenty more. Cindy ended up with a bag of foods including takoyaki and okonomiyaki. There was a large section for ornamental plants and one for carnival games. Steven took pictures, Cindy, Leo and I ate.

After leaving the temple late in the afternoon we ran across a pair of very unusual koma-inu (lion dog) sculptures that are often found at the entrance to shrines and temples. Instant detour, as we passed them we found ourselves in a small temple area surrounded by cemeteries. This site was not in my atlas and Leo could not read the calligraphy over the gate. Cindy and Steven had a good time taking pictures of the large variety of sculptures and the interesting plants in the garden.

After leaving we went by Meguro Gajoen, Steven and Leo stopping to taker photos of a famous love hotel shaped like a fantasy castle. There was a flower exhibit at Meguro Gajoen and we wandered some of the halls enjoying the flower arraignments and art on the walls. We then detoured into the garden which climbs up the side of a hill and exited the grounds.

After coffee and a short rest we headed back to the station where Leo gave us directions on a faster route to the ryokan. While waiting for the train my rented cell started buzzing, it was a call from Ono-san who said he had something for us and would meet us at the ryokan. When we got there he had a manga on pilots for Cindy, her father had flown a bomber in Europe in W.W.II, a volume of a manga on ommyoji for Steven, and for me the tenth volume of the out of print large format release of Maison Ikkoku which I had been searching for for five years. Thank you again Ono-san. After a pleasant evening talking we saw Ono-san off at the station and headed back to the ryokan to crash.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday the 27th Edo-Tokyo Museum

We had decided on Friday to hit museums on Saturday and one other day. As it was raining we headed out to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Visiting this very large museum is a full day event. After arriving we picked up a Groot Pass, a book of tickets for most of the museums in the Tokyo area. Cindy and I headed for a coffee shop for morning fueling and Steven headed to the gift shop. After an excellent cup we met up with Steven and searched for lockers which we located with assistance from a guard. After depositing our extra stuff we headed to the entrance of the exhibition area on the 6th floor, I did say this was a very large museum.

In fact it is so large that it includes a full scale reproduction of the famous Nihonbashi bridge, down to the base of the pillars, a reproduction of a kabuki theater and partial full scale reproductions of other buildings.

The museum covers the history of the city from the founding of Edo at the beginning of the 17th century, with half of the exhibit space devoted to the period before the name was changed to Tokyo. After we completed the Edo section we had lunch and desert and headed back to look at the Tokyo side of the museum. From the Meiji Period to the reconstruction of the post war period many aspects of life in Tokyo are on display.

One feature of this museum is several large maps, each the size of a room, showing the city at a particular time in it's history. By the time we were ready to go it was dark and a full storm, had moved in. Luckily for us the subway station was right outside the museum so we did not have to deal with the heavy winds and rain for long.

Friday the 26th Digital Meme, shirts and Meiji University

Ono-san called on Thursday evening and offered to help me obtain the book Recalling the Treasures of Japanese Cinema and the Japanese Anime Classic Collection DVD collection. He met us at the ryokan, we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out for Shibuya. Armed with the address, a map, Ono-san's navigation skills and some wandering about we located the offices of Digital Meme. Now to non-Japanese this is not an easy feat as very few streets have names and buildings do not have separate numbers. Instead major avenues have names, blocks of buildings have a number designation then sections within those blocks are also given a number, each section may have several buildings. For example the address of the office we were looking for was in the Yushin Building, Shinkan 27-11, Shibuya 3-chome Shibuya-ku. However after some wandering we located the building and headed to the elevator and the 12th floor. There we were shown not only what I wanted to buy but also new releases, with English subtitles of two classic Japanese silent films.

My wallet a little lighter we left and on the suggestion of Ono-san headed to the Shibuya branch of Mandarake. While I had fun looking at various goods, and Cindy searched for figurine of Spike from Cowboy Bebop, which she did not find. Steven kept turning up interesting Lupin III items. He finally decided on a four figurine set. On Ono-san's suggestion we headed to a branch of Cospa where I picked up several t-shirts and a coin purse with the laughing man logo from the first Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Tv series. By then I was running out of funds, in fact I had to borrow some from Steven so we headed to a post office where I could use my ATM card to refill my wallet. Post offices in Japan also function as banks and have ATM machines with English instructions. Paying Steven back we decided to head out for food. However it was lunch time and the department store restaurant complex Ono-san took us to was packed.

We then decided to head for the Museum at Meiji University. Now everything we had heard of this museum said it was an archaeology museum, however it was more than that as it included large sections on the history of the school and on traditional craft techniques. This pretty much filled out the remaining daylight and when we finished we headed for a very late lunch at a local Yoshinoya. This chain has the advantage of being smoke free. After devouring our meals we headed back to the ryokan where we visited with Ono-san and using my laptop showed off the photos Cindy and Steven had taken over the past few days.

After seeing Ono-san off at the station we headed back to the ryokan and called it a day.

Ono-san, thank you for your excellent guidance around parts of Tokyo, I only hope that soon I can do the same in California.

Thursday the 25th Nikko

Thursday was another train ride and stunning site. We took the train to Nikko well outside of Tokyo in the mountains, in fact at the end of the train line. Nikko is an old site with several hot springs located in, or near, this small town. The major attraction is a group of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dating back to the 8th century. For the past few hundred years this area has been a tourist attractions as it is where Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate was enshrined in 1617. The Toshogu shrine complex was greatly expanded a few years later employing 15,000 artisans and laborers for two years. The style found here is now unique, other examples that had existed in old Edo were destroyed in fires centuries ago. Steven described the decorative style as Japanese Baroque, and the description matches.

We started at some minor buildings on one side of the complex, this area had few visitors. Then we wandered towards the center where the majority of visitors were found. Numerous tour busses were unloading as others visitors walked in from town. We made a point of going to Nikko on a weekday to avoid the larger crowds of the weekends. Again I won't go into detain on describing this location, there are plenty of good descriptions on the web. If you visit here be prepared to climb a great many stairs as the complex is on a hillside. For the Japanese this is not a problem as they are accustomed to walking, for Americans expect sore legs at the end of the day. Also be respectful, after all this is more than a historical location, it is a religious site.

Oh yes, Cindy and Steven took lots of pictures.

After leaving the shrines, it was getting dark and they were being closed off from tourists, we walked back to the station. At the station we had a meal of rice balls and pickles, very tasty, and caught the train back.

Wednesday the 24th The Ghibli Museum

I had obtained vouchers in San francisco from JTB for the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. We rose, did our morning walk, Cindy and Steven took pictures, and had breakfast before heading back to the ryokan to pick up our stuff and head to the train. Mitaka is West of the highly developed ku section of Tokyo. The buildings we saw from the train were not as closely packed and there were small orchards and farm plots here and there. If we had traveled further West we would have found ourselves in increasingly rural parts of Tokyo.

We decided to walk to the museum along a stream. Cindy and Steven took pictures of some interesting old trees and very large spiders at the center of webs that were built on several intersecting planes.

Once we reached the park where the museum is located we detoured slightly inside walking between old trees, past a racquet club and winding behind the museum to a side gate near the entrance.

Our voucher was checked and we were directed to a counter where we were given an English pamphlet and tickets to the theater. The tickets are nice each containing a four frame strip of film from a Ghibli anime.

After stowing our gear in a coin locker we headed in. The museum is designed for children, children of all ages, and several elements were for those who are very short. The craftsmanship of the details is delightful. Everything is made with a loving attention to detail, glass balls inside rail supports of a stairway, paintings on walls, beams, and ceiling. A large central open space to provide views of the different levels of the museum. Cindy was short enough to use a spiral staircase while steven and I had to use the regular stairway to the next level. At this point we became separated and it took more than just a few minutes to find each other again. In any case this was OK as the motto of the museum is "Let's Get Lost Together".

I won't go into detail, there is just so much in the museum that I don't have the time. Cindy and Steven could not take pictures inside, however we did get some outside.

If you ever get a chance to visit this museum do so, be sure to plan plenty of time to look around. After we left we walked back to the station and headed back to Asakusa and the ryokan, stopping for dinner after exiting the station, we had forgotten to eat lunch.

Tuesday the 23rd Kabuki-za, The Ginza, Takarazuka Theater, Imperial Palace, Masakado's Mound, Nihonbashi

This day we headed to the Ginza, forget the fancy upscale shops, I wanted to hit the gift shops at the Kabuki-za and Takarazuka theaters. The Kabuki-za theater shop did not open until after 11 and was more than worth the wait. I expected to spend some serious money here on DVD discs of kabuki as they are much cheaper here than the imported ones in San Francisco. Steven and Cindy both found several different little items as gifts, including very attractive small hand carved fox key rings.

At the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater Steven and I were vastly outnumbered by women. This very large theater, with several all female acting troupes, is very popular with women. We took in the gift shop and picked up a few items as gifts and for ourselves.

Then on through Hibiya park, we wandered slightly off track as we headed toward Masakado’s Mound. Steven wanted to look at the Diet building which he had seen in 1973, so we did that from a distance and then headed into the gardens near the Imperial Palace. Do I need to say Cindy and Steven took pictures? The remains of the fortifications of the Shogun's castle were impressive. I had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as Cindy and Steven took photos, traveling with avid photographers means a slow pace. After an hour or two we made it to the office building area where we saw Masakado’s Mound. The mound itself was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. What is there today is a memorial stone. This is not some idle monument, while were were there a young man in work denims came with two bags of offerings, leaving a can of beer, two bags of rice and some gold leaf he offered his prayers while we kept a respectful distance. At the same time a man in a suit also prayed.

From there we went to the famous Nihombashi bridge with it's early 20th century sculptures. It was a bit dark but some good photos were taken.

Monday 22nd Ono-san guides us through bookshops

After our morning walk, Cindy and Steven took pictures, we had breakfast and headed back to the ryokan where we met up with Ono Masahiro. Ono-san is the fellow who graciously helped me with the kanji and kana in The Anime Companion 2. We had been corresponding since 1998 and I finally met him in the flesh. After introductions we headed out with Ono-san as our guide. First he took us to a used bookshop in this very neighborhood, we would later return to make purchases. Then it was on to Jimbôchô. One neighborhood, 146 bookshops, who could resist. Our first priority was coffee, with directions from a local clerk we soon reached a Tully's, I usually avoid chains but a nonsmoking place was crucial, and at least it was not a Starbuck's. Under the able guidance of Ono-san we were able to locate several shops with interesting selections of books. I found a bilingual manga I did not know existed and Steven picked up a scarce book on famous shrines at a fraction of the price it would have cost in the US. Some of the shops were truly amazing, one entirely devoted to old prints and books with reproductions of woodblock prints made from woodblocks rather than modern methods.

After a late lunch we wandered for a little longer attempting to locate a book Recalling the Treasures of Japanese Cinema and Japanese Anime Classic Collection, a four DVD set of very early anime with no luck. Ono-san called the publisher and obtained directions to their office for me. We then headed to Akihabara as Ono-san wanted to show me some shops in that area that we missed on our earlier visit.

Sunday 21st Laundry, shrines, flea markets and meeting many fun folks.

For some reason our dirty clothes supply kept growing so we decided to reduce it. The ryokan owner had marked on a map where the local laundromat was so we went to find it. On the way Cindy and Steven took pictures. Finding it in a small alley we noted the time it opened and headed to breakfast. Then we hauled our laundry and started the wash. Then we had coffee at a branch an interesting chain called Makudonarudo. After tossing the clothing into the dryer Cindy volunteered to stay while Steven and I walked about. We spotted some interesting shops and a street with tanuki statues in each light post.

After laundry we headed to Shinjuku to see Hanazono shrine during the day and to check out the flea market there. Cindy and Steven took pictures, especially at the small Inari shrine, which included an impressively sized wooden phallus. When the photo opportunities ran low I suggested we head to another location I was interested in, Golden Gai. As expected Cindy and Steven discovered a wondrous place to photograph. Unexpected was the fact that we arrived during the flea market they hold there twice a year. Each of the little lanes had items laid out and people conversing. One fellow had me shake the trunk of his cloth elephant. While Cindy and Steven took pictures I noticed a fellow photographing Steven so I got both of them taking pictures of each other, then another fellow took pictures of that. We ended up spending several hours chatting, taking more photos and wandering about. In one bar a fellow was playing the shamisen and two women outside were softly singing the song for that tune. I had worn the red Gundam t-shirt I bought at Akihabara much to the delight of several folks.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Saturday 20th Akihabara, Kanda Jinja and Adolfo

I'll be uploading several days at a time to help catch up on this blog. My internet connection is a cable connection in the ryokan office. We usually leave early in the morning before the office opens and arrive too tired to work on this. An annoying thing is that Blogger assumes I am Japanese and puts all the site text in Japanese. Even choosing an alternative language in the browser does not solve this. Good thing my memory is good enough to navigate the menus.

OK on to the reports:

Saturday the 20th was Akihabara day. We arose early and had our morning walk, Cindy and Steven took pictures, and had a traditional Japanese breakfast. Getting to Akihabara was easy as it was a direct shot on the Ginza subway line. I called Adolfo and left a message on his phone the day before and told him to call us when he was on his way. We reached a nearby station and had no trouble finding our way to this famous location with its mass of electronic, game, manga, anime, and model shops. I kept my eye out for certain shops so we check out a little of Toranoana and some model shops where I bought an Anaheim Electronics tote bag and a red t-shirt with Char from Gundam on it. Later I would find out that the large text on the shirt translates as "because I am a boy" as in a kid. At this point we needed to find necessary facilities and headed to the JR Akihabara train station. It did not take us long to realize that the restrooms were inside the paid areas. So we exited at the plaza and started scouting for nonsmoking coffee shops. After a couple of failures we located one where the smokers were in a separate glazed in room. Pastries, coffee and OJ in hand we settled in for a break, and used the facilities.

Adolfo called to say he would be late. I then suggested we head for Kanda Jinja, a significant shrine located on a hill nearby. Steven and Cindy did not know of this shrine so they were in a for a treat as we turned the corner near the main gate. Like all of the shrines we visited there were worshipers entering and leaving. There was also a wedding in the reception hall which meant children were in abundance, the shrine had placed three very large blowup animals on the ground to amuse the children. This mixture of the old and new is an excellent example of the way viable traditions change over time in Japan and avoid becoming mere sterile museums of the past.

Cindy and Steven took pictures. I'll try to do some photo supplements at a later date, likely after we return to California as I have little free time to concentrate on image manipulation or even write for this blog.

After some time Adolfo called to tell us he was on his way and we headed back to meet him. Meeting up with Adolfo was a joy as I had not seen him in some time. I introduced him to Cindy, Steven had already met him a couple of years ago, I then passed on the greetings from the various folks at work naming each person. Adolfo was one of our favorite student workers when he attended Golden Gate University. Seeing Akihabara with him was fun as he knew the area but did not know of the famous anime and manga related shops so I was able to show him around some, including a very adult, 18 and over only basement shop. He is fun to tease.

After some time wandering around and having a coffee break we called it a day and headed back to the ryokan, stopping at a noodle shop for dinner.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday 19th Steven Bennett IV, Nakano, Estaban, Leo and Shinjuku.

Friday we headed out to meet my friend Steve Bennett who as a teen had lived in Tokyo for several years and even worked part time as an animator. We caught the subway to Shinjuku station, transferred to another line to Nakano where we grabbed lunch, soba and udon, and went back to the station to wait for Steven. When he arrived we headed to his old neighborhood where we dropped by a shop that has had the same, now very discolored and patched with tape, Space Battleship Yamato poster for over 30 years. The owner recognized Steve and introductions, with photos, were exchanged. After leaving we grabbed some yakitori a few doors down and headed on to where Steve's grandmother’s house was located, dropping by a model kit shop he used to visit as a kid.

After being shown around a little more we went to Arai-Yakushi temple. During the fire bombings of W.W.II Steve’s grandmother sought refuge here with her infant daughter, Steve’s mother, here during a raid that leveled her neighborhood, except for her house. The temple was very interesting, with people coming and going. There was also a section of Jizo statues in the memory of deceased infants, aborted or stillborn babies. We were then joined by Kris (or Chris, I did not ask how he spelled his name), a friend of Steve’s from Canada who is spending a year in Japan. We then walked back to the Nakano station area. At the Nakano Broadway Mall Steve told us the story of a Friday the 13th where he and his brother went through an incredible sequence of disturbing events when he was 13 on the way to the international school at the local US base. We told him he needed to do a comic strip of the events and to try to get it published in the base paper.

Then we went into the mall where I found a set of Lupin III ball toy figures and well as two statuettes of Lupin and Fujiko at great prices. Then a few doors down the hall we ran into the manga artist Senno Knife, an old friend of Steve who I met many years ago. Our now enlarged group proceeded to shop, chat and explore more of the shops, especially the series of Mandarake shops, each with a specialty that have taken over much of this mall.

Chris (Kris?), Steve, Senno Knife, Cindy, Me. - photo by Steven

We then had to leave to meet Estaban at Shunjuku station so we headed to the station and caught the train back. Navigating Shinjuku station during rush hour traffic is an interesting prospect given that 2 - 3 million passengers pass through this complex station on a weekday. We found where we were to meet Estaban and realized his suggestion to wait at a particular exit gate was not a good idea as it was hot and humid. Luckily he called us to say he would be late so I told him to meet us in front of Studio ALTA. Happily outdoors, we hangout across the street watching club hosts trying to entice young women to come to the their clubs.

When it was time to meet Estaban we headed across the street and met him, he guided us to a great restaurant on the 3rd floor of a building. 100% nonsmoking and inexpensive, the place was hopping with customers. Then as we were just finishing our meal Leo called, perfect timing, to tell us that he was in the area and we headed out to meet him. It was raining and the streets were a mushroom forest of umbrellas. I introduced Estaban and Leo and they came up with a tour of the area for us. We saw some great locations, including Hanazono shrine at night, and plenty of the local street scene. Then we headed to a restaurant, so Leo could get his dinner, where we had a pleasant conversation until we three visitors started to nod out so we headed back to the station and the ryokan.

- Gilles

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ueno Death March part 3 - Steven

Ueno park needs a section devoted to sculptures of Rodan.

- Steven

Ueno Death March part 2 - Cindy

Why was this day called the “Ueno Death March?” Our stroll lasted until late in the morning (early in the afternoon?) and our dogs were tired from the soles to the top of our heads. We hadn’t slept ands our brains were tired. Our jaunt to Ueno Park was supposed to be just a quick scout and it didn’t seem to be that far away from where we had started. Well, it was quite far away and given how tired and frazzled we were, just getting there seemed to be the only mission. At one point, I had actually forgotten where we were going - all I could think of was putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not sure I ever knew why we were going there so late in the day. As the minutes, then quarters went by, and my feet grew ever stiffer, and my mind ever more numb, I sudden;y thought of the long death march of the Cherokee as they were driven from their homeland in the East to the no man’s land of the dry Midwest. Trudge, trudge, trudge. When we finally get there, we haven’t the time nor energy to stay, and basically just skirt the school and the museums along side, detour briefly into the Rodin garden so that Steven can take a snap of the “Gates Of Hell” (apropos at this point), then we leave. On the way out, a large crow landed upon the head of “The Thinker,” perfectly silhouetted against the sky, black bird upon black figure, and I wanted to take a picture. I had run out of film, so I entertained the notion of catching up Steven to take a picture with his camera, but I changed my mind when I realized that it mean actually stopping the march, turning back ten yards, and standing for a minute while the picture was composed. No, no need for that picture.

I now kick myself for allowing fatigue to slay such an opportunity for a wonderful picture. These crows have profiles far different from those at home, and this would have been a perfect picture. Kick me - I’m an idiot.

- Cindy

Thursday 18th The Ueno Death March - Gilles

Ok so this was “recover from the flight day”.

So much for that bright idea, try to have a relaxing walk through one of the most visually diverse parts of Tokyo with major shrines and temples. So we get up after not enough sleep, our biological clocks resisting our feeble attempts to stay unconscious. With everyone else in the ryokan asleep early in the morning we go for a walk heading East along Kaminarimon dori with Cindy and Steven stopping to take pictures of various storefronts, shopping arcades and the city waking up. When we reach the famous Kaminarimon gate it is very early, around 6 am, the famous Nakamise shopping arcade is not open, this is a good thing as the area is not crowded and the shutters in front of the shops are down and covered in murals. Cindy and Steven take pictures.

We also see lots of people walking small, very well trained and cute dogs. The Japanese are early risers and it is not unusual to see people out and about at times when most Americans would be just getting up. At the end of Nakamise is the famous Sensoji temple so we walk through the grounds with their sub shrines listening tot he priests do their morning chants. Cindy and Steven take pictures. After some time we head back to the ryokan and ask the manager about where to get breakfast. He directs us to a nice place for traditional Japanese breakfast, most restaurants being closed in the morning. We find the restaurant and are instructed by the waitress on how to use the ticket machine. We later find out such ticket machines are common. This machine has both pictures, prices and the names of the meals. After a breakfast of miso soup, rice, natto, pickles, etc. we head back to the ryokan to pick up items for a short walk around the neighborhood.

That short walk would last until the evening. We headed back towards Sensoji as Steven wanted to take pictures of the Hanayashiki amusement park nearby. We then discovered a lively neighborhood of old shops and homes with potted plants and people walking and cycling. As we continued to wander we kept finding other interesting structures and items which, of course, Cindy and Steven shot pictures of. Over time we reached a very bust street and proceeded down it. At one point we saw a hummingbird moth, looking very much like a bright green hummingbird flitting from flower to flower on a potted plant between a very busy avenue and sidewalk. We were all too enthralled to remember to take a picture.

After some more wandering we found ourselves at Ueno Station, we had done quite a hike with many detours to get there. After finding a restroom, including scary traditional Japanese toilets - which we did not have to use, we decided to skip the famous Ueno Koen (park) and head back, by then it was past 4 pm. We did walk through part of the park and at the National Museum of Western Art sculpture garden Cindy and Steven took some pictures of some Rodin sculptures.

A short subway ride back to Asakusa we dropped stuff off at the ryokan, grabbed dinner at a noodle place, using a ticket machine again; handy things those machines, and headed back to the ryokan to, shower an get to bed early.

Oh yes I did call a friend who is also in town with his mom visiting relatives and we planned to meet the next day.

- Gilles

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday the 16th, Wednesday the 17th

Tuesday 9:31, San Francisco International Airport

We got through check-in quickly with the help of United’s staff. I hope I did not make the woman who was helping me laugh too much.

Steven has found the airport a little different from his memory of what it was the last time he was here in 1974. Now he is running around practicing with his digital camera. All of the photos you will see in this blog will have been taken by that camera.

Cindy has gone looking for a smoking lounge. When she asked me where one would be I told her “There isn’t one, you have to go without smoking until we exit the subway station near the ryokan.” I’m such a meanie!

Wednesday, time :?

Due to crossing the international date line we have not seen night but are in the next day. Time travel is a nifty thing.
But we are detouring into Russian airspace, no not as part of a secret mission or a good will gesture. It seems that somewhere volcanos are spewing nasty stuff like a drunken fratboy so we have to avoid it, just like avoiding fratboys.

Good views of siberia, just wish we knew when we crossed Kamchatka.

Thursday 3:30 am

My Mac claims it is 11:30 AM in Oakland, my body says it is tired but also time to be up and about. I’m sitting in the lounge of Taito Ryokan and the clock says 3:30 am.

We got to the airport yesterday, got through emigration, got the checked luggage, headed to customs in high spirits handed our declaration forms and passports, got a warm welcome have a nice stay and then headed tot eh restrooms. After necessities I went to change a pile of cash into yen, then we found Cindy who had explored the smoker’s lounge, Steven used his ATM card to get some yen, actually that should be en, the y in yen is a leftover of 19th century transliteration of Japanese. In any case when then went downstairs to the train station and bought tickets for the Skyliner to Ueno station. After entering Gilles realized he had spaced on picking up the cell phone, After all it was way past his bedtime in California. A quick run upstairs, the assistance of a station agent and a dash back just in time to get on the train, the phone was now packed.

At Ueno we transferred to the Ginza subway line, platform 2 to Asakusa. After exiting we were tired and somewhat lost. With some careful comparison of the map on the ryokan web site and the map at the station, some assistance from a young woman, we headed in what we hoped was the right direction. Looking for a koban that was on the map we walked right past it. I then stopped a fellow who understood what I meant when I pointed at the map, he got us turned around and headed back in the right direction. The officers at the koban directed us down a small street and soon enough we were struggling out of our shoes in the genkan and being greeted.

After that: got to room, laid out futon, only Cindy had the strength to take a shower, and we crashed.

More on the ryokan in a later posting.

- Gilles

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lotsa food

I am going on vacation to Tokyo with a couple of friends for the rest of the month.

I'm hoping to try as many different foods as I can in Tokyo so keep an eye on this blog for news. I hope to post trip news here every 2 or 3 days.

Below are 9 new entries, all are for food, to cover three weeks:


amanattô (sweetened beans)



harusame (spring rain noodles)

kara-age (deep frying)




Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Food, Author, Food

This week we are brat safe again with a double serving of desert and a writer I highly reccommend.

chawan mushi

Kôda Rohan

tamago dôfu (egg tofu)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Men (and occasional women) in black

Yesterday when I got home waiting for me was the latest live action DVD from AnimEigo. Shinobi no Mono, the 1962 movie that launched a significant boom in ninja films and stories in Japan. Now we can watch all the intrigue, brutality and action in glorious black and white.

This is great fun, and Goemon Ishikawa is in it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Buyin' ma manga

Today I hit Comic Relief in Berkeley, a great place to get manga. A pretty good week, the last volume of Old Boy, the newest GTO the Early Years and finally the book version of Ghost in the Shell Human Error Processor.

Well I better hit the sack and get some reading done.