Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ring, Pray, Photo

Kakanzan Taiso Temple is located one street over from yesterday's Hokosha Tengoku.

This rope is connected to a bell, which you can see in the reflection. After throwing in coins in the offering box, we pull this rope to ring the bell before praying.

From the looks of this rope, you can tell many people have prayed here.

See other wonderful reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hit the Road

You may be wondering why so many people are walking in the middle of the street.
Well, they are in no danger of being run over by a car. This is because this street is closed off to vehicles on the weekends during the afternoon! We call this Hoko-sha Tengoku (歩行者天国), which translates to "Pedestrian Heaven."

It's great walking on the street because the sidewalks can be quite crowded, especially on the weekends!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I caught a couple of heads peaking out at me!
Not sure what it is exactly...a cat? Or maybe a bat? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gone Wild

This is a vacant plot of land that was fenced off.

Various types of weeds and grass were growing freely. Someone sure has their work cut out for them. But it was kind of nice to see this patch of green in between houses.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Green Oasis

 Although Japan is famous for super high-tech toilets that even Japanese people sometimes have a hard time finding the right button, the rooms these toilets are placed are pretty nice, too.

This is my favorite public bathroom in Shinjuku. I love how there are so many green plants everywhere. There is also a sitting room and a changing room for babies in connecting rooms.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Love It Or Hate It

You never know what kind of fashion you'll see at the glittery karaoke box lobby!

The guy on the left is wearing "sarrouel pants," which I hear is originally a type of Islamic ethnic wear...but leave it to fashion to take it to another level. It's really popular this season in Japan. What do you think?

See other wonderful reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sky High

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which we call Tocho (都庁) in Japanese. 

Formerly located near Tokyo Station, Tocho was moved to Shinjuku in 1991 because the former building was too old. At that time, it was the tallest building in Tokyo.

They have an observatory on the top floor, which is a popular tourist spot, and you'll see a fantastic view of Tokyo. Plus it's free. Unfortunately, I took these photos about a week after the March 11 earthquake and the observatory was closed. But I hear it opened again this month, so if any of you visit Shinjuku, this is a great place to go!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Sacred Path

This is a row of Torii that line that path towards Itoku Inari Shrine (威徳稲荷神社).

With the cherry blossoms fluttering down through the Torii, it's a very pretty path to walk through. The Shrine at the end of the path is said to have been built in 1928.

But to tell you the truth, I'm always a little scared of the fox that guard all Inari Shrines...I swear they follow me with their eyes!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blossom of Smiles

As the cherry blossoms gradually blow away with the wind here in Shinjuku...the buds are starting to bloom in the coastal areas that were affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

I wonder what the people in the Tohoku area will feel when they see the cherry blossoms brightly decorate the trees around them. Will they feel the loss of family and friends who are no longer with them? Or will the beauty of the blossoms put a smile on their faces?

I have blogger friend, Dimitri, who took wonderful photos of the cherry blossoms in Osaka, Japan, which is where he currently lives. And I would really like to introduce him to you all here because he is actually also working on a big project called "Project Biwa" to help support the earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. (Some of you may not know, but Lake Biwa is Japan's largest lake!)

Dimitri is currently training to bicycle over 300 km (approx. 185 miles) around Lake Biwa, while documenting the beauty of the region. He writes on his blog, "I live in a beautiful region, and if I can convince one tourist to come here, the benefits to the Japanese economy will be larger than what I will ever be able to donate. And if the pictures can also bring a smile to someone in Japan, it will be even better."

Dimitri has set a goal to raise $1,000 towards GlobalGiving and also plans to make a book of collective photos of his bicycle-thon, giving all proceeds to charity. He is training often and I hope you'll stop by his blog (here) to comment or support his fundraising efforts. I'm sure it will put a smile on his face if you do!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Remedy

Here is the bowl of udon from yesterdays post.

It's just a very simple bowl of udon for people to eat before heading home after a night out. According to my co-worker, this helps people from having a hang-over. Not sure how true that is.

But then, by this time of night, I'm willing to believe anything.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Call It A Night

This udon store, Kameya, is one of the many small stores that make up Omoide-yokocho (思い出横丁), a alley near Shinjuku Station. Omoide-yokocho literally translates to "Memory Lane," although I've heard it being called worse.

It's not the cleanest place on earth, that's for sure. But this small corner of Shinjuku is like stepping back to the 1950s and for that reason it is quite popular with many locals. People would drop by here after a Nomikai, to either continue drinking into the night or to finish the night off with a bowl of noodles.

Which is just what my co-workers and I did one night. Not sure how it usually tastes, but the udon was absolutely delicious at 2 a.m.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yutaka Bridge

There were many of us enjoying the cherry blossoms along Kanda river. This bridge, Yutaka-hashi (豊橋), was a great spot to see all of the branches leaning over the river from both sides.

Click below for more photos of wonderful bridges around the world!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shinjuku L Tower

I actually don't know anything about this object.

Just that it stands in front of the Shinjuku L Tower. This office building was completed in 1989 and I hear it got it's name because the building vaguely represents the letter "L."

I thought I'd post this for Weekend Reflections because there are a whole bunch of things reflecting in this photo. Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

See other wonderful reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Feet Fashion

I'm posting this photo of crocs store in Marui Annex, one of the many popular department stores in Shinjuku, because my baby sister just started high school this April.

It may seem like there's nothing in common. But here in Japan, when someone enters school, whether they took an entrance exam or not, we usually give them something we call "Nyu-gaku Iwai (入学祝い)," which translates to "Entrance Gift."

My baby sister took an entrance exam, passed, and started her new school year this month! (This was my big news!) We're all so proud of her, she's grown up so much! It seems she was just starting grade school yesterday and now she's a high schooler. Wow!

I wanted to give her a Nyu-gaku Iwai, as I couldn't fly in to see her entrance ceremony at school, so I called her up the other day to ask if there was anything specific she wanted.

When I started high school, I desperately wanted a cashmere Burberry scarf, which was what everyone wore with their high school uniforms at the time. (See here.) So I was trying to figure out what it is that high school kids now want...and she said:

"Yellow crocs."

She could have asked for pretty much anything and I would have gotten it for her...and she asks for crocs! I didn't know whether to be proud of her for being so simple or horrified at the thought of her wearing those rubbery things on her feet. I did remind her that they were the ugliest sandals in the world, and eventually would be the stinkiest, too. (My personal opinion, obviously.) But that's apparently exactly what she I got her pair, got it gift wrapped, and send it off to her this week.

I hear how excited everyone is for the new school year, as I pass a lot of students in uniform chatting and laughing their way to school in the mornings, and it makes me smile. I hope my sister is chatting away with her new friends and enjoying the start to her high school days, too!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Akagi Shrine

This is the most modern shrine I've ever seen!

And no wonder...after 700 years of standing here, the old Akagi Shrine was rebuilt into this brand new Agaki Shrine just last year. It's gorgeous...yet a part of me just can't take in all the glass walls and how shiny everything is. But if you look closely at the offering box, there is a poster showing you how you should pray, which is the same as many other shrines. At least that hasn't changed!

Monday was exactly one month since the March 11 earthquake. It feels like such a short period of time has passed since the initial earthquake, but at the same time, it feels like we've been feeling these tremors forever. I can't even begin to imagine what the victims of the tsunami in Tohoku were feeling during the moment of silence we held at 2:46 p.m. on that day.

But just as we put the month behind us, to step forward into another day closer to recovery, an aftershock, quite bigger than our usual tremors, hit Fukushima again, shaking the whole Tokyo area, too. It was as if Mother Nature couldn't stand to be forgotten.

All these aftershocks really make it harder for the areas that were affected by the earthquake and tsunami to move on. It has actually already slowed down the progress at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which upgraded its level of crisis to 7.

But I guess we really can't do anything to sway Mother Nature. All we can do is take it one day at a time.

PS: Not wanting to end on a somber note...just letting you know I've got good new (for me, that is...) coming up tomorrow! :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To the Left

Despite her mood swings...Mother Nature is a beauty!

This is one of the lakes at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This park is actually half in Shinjuku, where I live, and half in Shibuya, another big tourist city here in Tokyo. So I'm actually standing on the Shibuya side of the park, but in the photo, the left side is mostly Shinjuku. (I tried taking a shot standing on the Shinjuku side but couldn't see a thing!)

I've been to this park a number of times and never knew that half of it was not Shinjuku! See, I'm already learning new things about my city through this blog!

See other wonderful reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Under the Cherry Tree

Japanese people love and cherish the cherry blossom. Aren't they pretty?

There was another M 7.1 earthquake late last night that shook the Tohoku area. The whole Tohoku area lost power again, which was one of the only utilities that they had. Gas and water are still only available in certain areas. By late this afternoon, most of the thermal power plants that had shut down had started operating and electricity came back to most areas that had it before last night. But there are still many areas that don't even have electricity since March 11th.

What I worry about most is those people who were not able to stay in the evacuation shelters. I have a co-worker who has relatives in Ishinomaki, which is one of the tsunami-hit cities in Miyagi Prefecture, and he just got in contact with them by phone last weekend. While many of the houses had been washed away, his relatives house still stood, although the flooding reached the second story of the house. They all evacuated to a shelter but because there were so many people there, the families with houses still standing were asked to return to their homes. Not only are these houses a wreck with such things like broken windows and furniture from the earthquake but because of the tsunami, everything from dead pets to fish to seaweed from the sea are scattered about inside the house. The relatives have been living there for over a week now, with only electricity, which means no cooking or bathing as that uses gas, something they still don't have.

When my co-worker wanted to send them money, they told him they didn't need it because the banks were closed and even if they could take the money out, there are no stores open to use it. They asked for a change of clothes and undergarments, because all of their things had been washed away with the tsunami and they were still not able to take a bath, and ready-to-cook rice, so they could make rice balls to eat to get by.

My co-worker said that he's never felt more helpless than during that phone call with his relatives. And hearing his story, it made me realize that there are many many people in need who are still very far from receiving it. The news has reports about evacuation shelters in Tohoku receiving aid lately...but even though the food and clothes go to people in these shelters, there are still many who are in their individual homes who continue to wait their turn to receive help.

...I didn't mean to write so much about this, I keep having to remember this is a photo blog about Shinjuku. But right now, what is happening in the Tohoku area is very much part of our lives here, too. So I hope you'll let me share some of it with you.

On a brighter note, I was taking a walking around Shinjuku the other day and looked up to find a young cherry tree in full bloom! At first I thought they were apple blossoms but the proprietor assures me they are cherry blossoms. Whatever they are, they are gorgeous! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Place In The Sun

Spring sure knows how to make an entrance.

We've been having great weather here in Tokyo, just in time to enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom! The warmer weather has been one of the factors that has kept TEPCO from having to implement rolling blackouts in the Kanto area for over 10 days now. Conserving power usage is now part of our normal lives here, which I think is a good thing.

It gives some of us a reason to do simple things like enjoying a day outside under natural sunlight. Like this man waiting for a fish to bite along this strip of water, which used to be the outer moat of Edo Castle. Although with the way he handled his reel, I'm guessing he's here regularly. Smart guy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Come Together

The much awaited cherry blossoms have suddenly started to bloom everywhere! And with this comes the Hanami ("flower viewing") season.

Some people have stated that there should not be any Hanami this year as we mourn the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. As the word 'Hanami' tends to describe the mass amount of people who gather under the cherry blossoms to drink and party the night away, I can kind of understand this sentiment.

But on the other hand, some Japanese sake brewers in the disaster hit areas are actually asking people to hold Hanami and to drink sake made in Tohoku. I also heard that Hanami originally started out as a way to give thanks to nature and for life, as the cherry blossoms that bloom beautifully but fall away quickly are like a metaphor of our lives, and that we should gather with friends and family under the cherry blossoms during this season, especially now, in honor of all the victims. A chance for us to draw strength from each other to face the challenges that lay ahead.

I think I agree with the latter. I saw many families and friends enjoying the beauty of the cherry blossoms at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and there were smiles all around. And that made me smile, too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Flower Shop

I absolutely adore this pink building!

On Saturday I went to a charity concert for the earthquake/tsunami relief. My friend, who plays the viola in the orchestra, invited me so I decided to stop by this flower shop to by a small bouquet of flowers for her.

Not only were the flowers pretty, but the florist who made my bouquet was friendly, too!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Walk That Walk

I've been walking a lot lately.

On the night of the initial earthquake, when the public transportation wasn't working and thousands of us had to walk home, I learned that my new apartment was closer to work than I thought. And since the trains were running on a "special time schedule" the following monday (meaning they were either not running or running really late), I decided to walk to work and have been doing so since then.

It's a really great workout but when I first started walking it was because I didn't want to get stuck in the subway if another earthquake came. According to Tokyo Metro, the number of people using the subways went down 21% after the earthquake on March 11. It may be that people are just not going out as much anymore but I'll bet there are some like me who just don't want to get stuck 20-40 meters underground.

Plus you get to spot super blue bridges like this when you walk!

Click below for more photos of wonderful bridges around the world!