Friday, July 29, 2011

Quiet Evening

A lovely sunset over the city.

Is it just me or does that high-rise building on the left look like it's going to fall over any minute? Don't know about you but I'm ready to relax again. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Start Them Young

There were kids doing the Awa-Odori at the Kagurazaka Festival, too!

This little girl was so cute. They were all getting ready to start and someone (probably her dad) called out to her and she was shyly smiling back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dancin' In The Street

The biggest attraction at Kagurazaka Festival is the Awa-Odori (Awa Dance), which is a type of traditional Japanese dance done during the Obon season (July-August).

It's widely known as the dance of Tokushima Prefecture, but it became so popular that there are now festivals nation-wide that features Awa-Odori. I love watching everyone do this dance. There are different styles of dance for men and women, one wild and energetic and the other feminine and alluring. And as in various dances, there were groups that did traditional dances and others who were much more modern.

The movements are often quite quick and my camera really couldn't keep up, especially since it was dark out, and most of the photos ended up blurred. But I liked how some of the photos turned out.

The girls were calling out "Ya-tto-sa Ya-tto-sa!" while dancing down the avenue. So were some people watching in the crowd. (You can hear it here.)

It's a great show and really a whole lot of fun for everyone around!

Watch a great video with many Awa-Odori groups from this year here!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Traditions

A Japanese matsuri (festival) is never complete without people walking around in their Yukata.

A lot of people confuse this with our Kimono. But it's very different, as the Yukata is made of lighter material (usually cotton), has less layers, and we wear the Geta (traditional Japanese sandals) barefoot. Simply put, the Yukata is a summer version of the Kimono.

Festivals like this are pretty much the only time we have a chance to wear the Yukata. I didn't wear one this time but there were a lot of people, from little kids to adults, enjoying the Kagurazaka Festival in their Yukata!

What do you think? Would you like to try one on?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hozuki Market

Hozuki is a plant with a fruit that resembles a lantern when it's ripe. In this photo it's still very green but in a couple of weeks it'll be a dark orange color.

It's used as a decoration during Obon, a Japanese Buddhist holiday, where people welcome the spirits of their ancestors back into their homes. The Hozuki represents the guiding light from the grave and back again when Obon is over.

At the Kagurazaka Festival they had a Hozuki market in a lot of the stalls. Many people bought the plants to take home and grow. Obon is in a couple of weeks and the plant will probably be ripe just in time for it.

Have you ever seen a Hozuki before?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lantern Lights

Kagurazaka is a neighborhood in Shinjuku that I absolutely love because of its traditional Japanese atmosphere. It also has many cafes and shops that make this place a really popular spot.

This is one of the Japanese restaurants located along the main street.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hold My Hand

Isn't this handrail incredible?

I have no information but love these slim little people all along the handrail. They all seem to be reaching out to each other, which is really beautiful.

PS: Sorry about not being able to go comment on your blog. A little bit under the weather and can't seem to sneak away from work lately. Will be by soon, I promise! xx

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Sounds

One of my favorite sounds to hear in the summer are the Fu-rin (風鈴), which are traditional Japanese wind chimes.

There are many types of Fu-rin, but the glass ones are my favorite. The tinkling sound is very light and summery. Many people hang these outside on the terrace to enjoy the sound.

What sound is summer for you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Curtain

Today was Umi No Hi (海の日), or Marine Day, which is a national holiday that celebrates the blessings of the ocean and hopes for the prosperity of Japan, a island surround by the ocean.

For many students this holiday marks the start of their summer vacation. It's also around this time that the season for summer festivals start. Very exciting!

But this summer is also about conserving power, which started out as a necessity and sort of grew into a fashion. We love trends in Japan. And one of the things that people are doing to conserve power is to grow a "Green Curtain" outside their windows. This is suppose to bring down the temperature inside the house 3C.

How do you stay cool in the summer?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

I walked by Zenkoku Temple the other day and I heard the sound of drums and flutes, which can only mean one thing...Matsuri (festival)!

We all love a good matsuri here in Japan. But it seems I was getting ahead of myself and it was just a rehearsal of the Awa-odori (阿波踊り), a type of traditional Japanese dance, for the Kagurazaka Festival next week.

Can't wait to see them doing their dance in full costume!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In The Window

I could see a reflection of the buildings across the river in the windows.

This building belongs to Sony Music Entertainment, which is a really huge entertainment company here in Japan. This dark building and the outer wall is pretty impressive looking. 

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hurrying Home

People crossing the street and heading toward the station.

I don't know about you but I'm ready for this week to be over. So glad it's Friday today. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead! And I hope all of you in Japan enjoy the three-day weekend!

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pizza da Passeggio

I love pizza. It's one of my favorite dishes. But this was my first time trying a cone-shaped pizza.

Konopizza, which I think is originally an Italian store (not sure), has come to Japan. They opened their first store in Shinjuku, which gave me a perfect reason to stop by the other day!

It takes about 3 minutes for them to prepare the cone, but once you have it you can enjoy it inside the store or just head out the door with the pizza in your hand!

The cone was delicious! I really like it because it's easier to eat than real pizza (only need one hand!) and they use a lot of cheese...and that's always a good thing when it comes to pizza!

What do you think? Do you want to try it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Little Corner

I think this is a type of hydrangea but I'm not sure.

It was growing in this little park called Kita-san Momiji Park. Actually I'm not sure you can even call it a park as it's just concrete with a few places to sit. But it's a nice corner in this big city where people can sit and chat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Apple of My Eye

I found some red apples at the supermarket on my way home today.

The apples reminded me of the radio station in Yamamoto-cho, the little town in Miyagi where I was a few weeks ago. The radio station started out as a disaster information broadcast for the people of Yamamoto-cho almost a week after the earthquake.

Yamamoto-cho is apparently known for their delicious strawberries, apples, and surf clams. But because the tsunami swept away almost all the greenhouses that grew strawberries and the surf clams, the only local product that was left were the apples. And so they named the station Ringo Radio because the apples (ringo) survived the tsunami. 

This station actually consists of a couple of folding tables that are placed in the lobby of the town hall. So you can see and here when they are broadcasting. We were always tuned in to this station at the soup kitchen and there were times we heard the phone ringing or someone calling out a name on air, which we all thought was hilarious! But that was just part of this radio's charm.

The radio station became quite widely known and many famous people have come to raise awareness or to volunteer. But the main DJ, who is a former broadcaster who now lives in Yamamoto-cho, also interviews local people and various volunteers.

In this photo a dear friend, who I worked with at the soup kitchen, was being interviewed about her week here and what we were doing. And the rest of us were around the table cheering her on, since it's on live. The DJ has a blog that he updates almost everyday and he actually posted a picture of all of us there that day! (See here.)

The radio was recently changed from a disaster broadcast to a regular broadcast of Yamamoto-cho. And I hear that they will be getting their own prefab housing as a studio at the end of this month. No more ringing or voices in the background. But I'm sure the radio station will play an important part in the recovery of the area through their local information and encouraging programs.

"We will rise again, like the sun rises every morning." (Ringo Radio Motto)

(There is a story behind this photo of a poem written on this cardboard here.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spread My Wings

I spotted this little butterfly the other day.

Or at least, I think it's a butterfly. I heard that when they stop somewhere and their wings are open, then it's a moth, and if they close, they're a butterfly.

Is this true?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yodo Bridge

This is the view from Yodo Bridge, which crosses over Kanda River.

The bridge is said to have been named Yodo Bridge by Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shogun of the famous Tokugawa dynasty. He used the name Yodo because the scenery reminded him of Yodo River, a famous large river that runs through Osaka and Kyoto.

It's a very busy bridge used by both pedestrians and cars.

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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Star Light Star Bright

I had totally forgotten but last Thursday was Tanabata (七夕), also called the Star Festival. It's the day that the two stars Hiko-boshi (Altair) and Ori-hime (i.e. Vega), who were seperated by the Milky Way, are able to come together.

On this holiday, we all write a wish on the pieces of paper called Tan-zaku (短冊) and hang them on bamboo branches. These tan-zaku were hanging across from a restaurant in Nakai so I peaked at a few of the wishes.

The one in the first photo is my favorite. It says "I wish for everyone to laugh like crazy so that their jaws fall off."  I guess the person felt that we needed to laugh more. Below are a few more wishes I liked...

"Wishing for a cool summer." (pink)

"May the earth stop shaking."

"Please! Let me grow (height-wise) just a little bit more!"

I thought the last one was pretty funny! Guys tend to worry about their height here in Japan. All these wishes made me think about what I would wish for.

Do you have a wish? What would you wish for?

Friday, July 8, 2011

All That Flair

This photo is for VP, who asked what the "Bell Bottom Bldg" looked like in a previous post.

This building is officially called "Sonpo Japan Headquarter Building" and was built in 1976, which is actually around the time when I hear bell bottoms were popular here in Japan. I grew up in the 90s when those saggy baggy jeans with teeny tiny t-shirts were popular so I never got to actually wear real bell bottoms. Which is a shame because I love styles from the 70s!

Anyways, back to our bell bottom was designed by Yoshikazu Uchida, a famous architect who was known for his "Uchida Gothic" style. After the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, he was in charge of the reconstruction of the University of Tokyo campus. This building was one of the last designs that he did and although he was not alive when it completed, it's still one of the most famous skyscrapers in the west Shinjuku area.

Do you think it looks like a bell-bottom?

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

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spot the Squirrel

I grew up with squirrels but we don't seem to have them here in Japan.

Except when you're walking along the river in'll spot a few squirrels sitting on a road block while enjoying their afternoon snack.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Simple Smile

I love simple flowers like this. They remind me that the most simple things in life can be the best memories.

My first week in Miyagi was kind of like that. I felt like it reminded me how the simple things can be the most important.

I was there with an NGO group called ADRA Japan and helping at the soup kitchen for the town hall employees of the small town of Yamamoto-cho, who were also victims of the tsunami. (You can read about their various activities here.) I heard that the employees, many who had lost family and homes, had been cooking out themselves but because the town hall needed to operate, ADRA took over and started proving the meals so they could concentrate on the mountain load of work they have waiting for them every day. There were still employees sleeping in their cars in the parking lot or in the town hall and using the baths provided by the Self-Defence Force when I was there.

Most of us volunteers were there for a week and divided into 2 shifts making meals, washing, cleaning...anything that was needed at the time. Needless to say, I am not the greatest cook in the world, but it's amazing what you can put together from the random veggies, canned food, and other groceries that are provided. There was no menu or recipe. Each meal would be decided after checking what we had left in stock and we would all cook various dishes for each meal. After a while, everyone would start getting creative and make bread in the microwave (no oven) or make a dish more tasty by searching through recipes online.

I think the soup kitchen was more than just a place to eat. It was a place where the employees could come in to interact with each other, talk about something other than work, and just relax for a bit before heading back. One of the staff members talked about how when they first set up the soup kitchen, there was little conversation and the atmosphere was very grim. But when I was there, although there were many people who still did not talk about their own experience regarding the devastation or about their families, there were many who would kid around with us, ask us questions about where we were from, or give us advise about how to find the perfect guy (I now know the secret!).

Each smile given to us made our time there have so much meaning. With so many volunteers coming to this small town I know that they won't remember me...but the director of the volunteer center at the town hall always said that "even though we may not remember you, Yamamoto-cho will."

And that is more than enough.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hits the Spot

I don't know about where you are but summer has hit us full force! I just came back home and it was 35C inside my apartment. So hot.

On a day like this Hiyakake Udon (cold broth with udon noodles) is a great way to cool down. Hiyakake (冷かけ) means "pour cold," which refers to the cold broth they pour over the udon.

My udon dish also had Daikon Oroshi (大根おろし), which is shredded white radish, and a small citrus fruit called Sudachi (酢橘) on top. We squeeze the juice from the Sudachi and mix it into the broth before eating.

There is also a wide variety of tempura you can choose from, everything from fish to veggies. The Kabocha (かぼちゃ) or pumpkin tempura is one of my favorites.

It's so good, I could eat here every day! (and I sometimes do...)