Sunday, November 22, 2009

Horseback Archery in Zushi

My second cousin invited me to watch traditional Japanese horseback archery called Yabusame in her town of Zushi. Zushi is located next to Kamakura and is just over an hour away by train from Shibuya. Yabusame demonstrations take place at different times and places around Japan. Kamakura is famous for its Yabusame events, but the one in Zushi is less crowded so you can get a close up view of the archers in action.

Part of the Yabusame included a small samurai procession through the streets of Zushi that ended at a local shrine.

The cold late November weather forced the children's archery event inside the Zushi city hall.

A young spectator has a great view for the archery demonstation on Zushi beach.

It's a hit!

Click here to watch a video of Yabusame.

With my second cousin, Yukari and a samurai.

With Yukari's little boy, Dai-chan, five years old.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) is a tradition of bring children aged three, five and seven to the shrine for a blessing -- and lots of picture taking. The tradition is observed on the nearest weekend to November 15. I went to the Meiji Jingu Shrine next to Harajuku and it was a beautiful sunny day.

A wedding procession at the shrine.

Yoyoji Park in the fall.

Christmas decorations at Omotesando Hills, a really fancy shopping center. Visitors can stand inside the decoration for a photo opp. The photo spot is a cool idea--I saw a similar one at Roppongi Hills.

National Art Center next to Nogizaka Station (near Roppongi Midtown). First time I checked it out and already it is one of my favorite buildings in Tokyo.

Kinoco Hotel

at SuperDeluxe
November 14, 2009
3000 cover plus 700 drink ticket

Cutesy retro surf rock four-piece band. Check out their YouTube page.

I had to work on a Saturday and wrapped up at 6:30. That gave me 30 minutes to get from Shibuya to Nishi Azabu for which there is no direct subway. I should of just took a bus down Roppongi dori. I got to the gig a little late, but luckily they didn't start on time. I enjoyed this band's music and they have nailed down their look and style, but they need to do more shows to hone the performance. After the show, decided to walk it back to my apartment, it took about an hour.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Western homes walking tour of Motomachi and Yamate

Last week the temperature dropped across the Kanto plain forcing me to buy a coat (a great find by the way at a second-hand store), but autumn is not quite yet ready to leave and the temperature jumped back up for a fine weekend to walk around and explore. I was invited to meet up with some old friends in Yokohama so I decided to head out a few hours earlier and walk around the Motomachi/Yamate area.

150 years ago the port of Yokohama was opened up to foreigners. Westerners came and set up shop making Yokohama one of the largest foreign settlements in Japan. They built Western-style homes around Motomachi and in the Yamate hills located next to Yokohama's famous Chinatown. Much of the area was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but today, many of the rebuilt homes have been preserved and make for a nice walking tour of this historical neighborhood.

From the Motomachi Chukagai station, I started off at the Harbor View Park for a view of the city.

The British House is located in the park. Inside, the rooms have been restored and decorated with furnishing of the era.

Yamate 111 Ban-kan is also in the park. There are a lot of tea houses in Yamate for all the walkers, including one in this former home of an American businessman.

The Yokohama Foreign Cemetery is one of the highlighted historical spots in Yokohama. People like the guy who built the first railway in Japan are buried here.

The Yamate Museum (200yen) is located across from the cemetery. Inside you can see odds and ends used in the Western homes.

The Tin Toy Museum (200yen) is a cool place to check out in Yamate. It's located just around the corner from the Yamate Museum.

This is the Ehrismann Residence located in Motomachi Park.

I deviated from the walking tour to go see the remains of the old horse race track in Negishi. From Motomachi Park it's about a 30 minute walk.

From Negishi, I trekked it back down the hill to meet my friends at the Motomachi shopping street. Lots of good places to eat here. In Japan, they already put up Christmas decorations and lights.

The day ended with dinner in Chinatown.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kawagoe Festival

Kawagoe is a short thirty minute train ride out of Ikebukuro. This year the burb became known as the setting for a popular NHK asa-drama, but in the samurai days it served as a castle town on the way to Edo. Today, the castle is gone, but what makes Kawagoe a unique tourist destination is the feeling that the streets have been untouched by the hyper-urbanization you find in Tokyo. In fact, the city's nickname is Koedo, or Little Edo because it retains the characteristics of when Tokyo was called Edo.

A short walk from the train station is Kurakuzuri Zone--a perfect place to walk around and explore for its mix of historical architecture, charming shops and of course food! The centerpiece of the zone is the wooden time bell tower. It still rings four times a day, but I believe its just a recording played on speakers. Even so, just listening to the sound of the bell, you couldn't help but feel like you were stuck in time. The can't miss attraction is "Kashiya Yokocho," an alleyway of traditional candy shops filled with all kinds of Japanese sweets.

I timed my visit to Kawagoe for the Kawagoe Festival in October. The festival is celebrated by tall floats pulled by townfolk around the city streets. On each float are drummers and flute players and a dancer in mask and costume. The best time to see the floats are at night (between 7-9pm) when the lanterns are lit up. When two (or more) floats meet up on the street, a kind of musical showdown takes place where each team tries to throw the other off beat.

So if you are looking for a quick get-away from Tokyo, try checking out Kawagoe! Visit the city website for more info.

And now, some pics:

Matsuri Kid

Kawagoe Bell Tower

"Kashiya Yokocho" Penny Candy Alley

Two floats face off on the streets of Kawagoe

Performers on a parade float

Kawagoe Matsuri at night

Watch short festival videos on my YouTube page.

Food I ate!
Salty cucumbers - 100yen

Tofu donuts - 80yen

Yakiimo, roasted sweet potatoes - 2 for 100yen

Dango, mochi balls on a stick - 120yen

Taiyaki - 130yen

Monday, September 28, 2009


9/23 Moonstep in Nakano
1500 yen plus 500 drink ticket

花ト散るらん (hanatochiruran)

9/26 Club Citta in Kawasaki
4000 yen plus 500 yen drink ticket

Scars Borough
Base Ball Bear

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tokyo Toy Show and Gundam at Odaiba

Yesterday started off with a quick stop at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Shinagawa to see the Micropop show featuring the latest generation of Japanese artists. The show will tour internationally, so look for it! It's going to Germany next. At the museum shop I picked up a graphic book on children's advertising in the Showa era. (1000 yen entrance fee)

Then I hopped on the train to Odaiba to check out the Tokyo Toy Show (free!). Odaiba is a man-made island that unlike the claustrophobic feel of Tokyo is designed with wide open spaces. The island is home to the Big Site convention hall (where the Toy Show was being held), shopping malls and entertainment centers as well as office buildings and residences. There are also an odd assortment of museums and attractions including an onsen theme park and a mini replica of the Statue of Liberty. While it may be a good date spot or nice for a family outing, I think Odaiba was poorly planned. Lots of wasted space and it feels too hodge-podge in terms of the layout.

The Toy Show at Tokyo Big Site is a place for toy companies big and small to show off their latest products. It's a trade show that is open to the public on the weekend. Most of the toys were standard fare you would find in any toy store. The Bandai section was popular with Power Ranger action figures and card games. Anpanman and Hello Kitty were everywhere. And there were a lot of cooking toys. The coolest toy there was a Mickey Mouse Transformer.

From Big Site, I took a long walk to one of the big shopping malls. Inside, there is an interactive sports-type attraction called "Muscle Park." Muscle Park is kind of like being on a Japanese game show. There are games to test your reflexes and balance. Sports-related games like pitching and kicking a soccer ball. And even a replica of the "Ninja Warrior" TV show, called "Sasuke" here in Japan. It's kind of pricey though. I paid 700 yen for the pleasure of embarrassing myself in the pitching game. I couldn't even hit the target...

My final destination was the life-sized Gundam set up on Odaiba for the summer to celebrate the anime robot's 30th anniversary. I know it sounds weird to want to see a giant robot, but it was pretty freakin' cool. And there were a ton of people there, some were even picnicking. It kind of felt religious, and Gundam was their idol. At the top of the hour, music blares from the speakers and smoke comes out of the robot's exhausts, then it moves it's head--and that was it. When they build a Gundam that can walk and shoot a giant gun, then I think the fans will get down on their knees and pray to it, I know I will.

The Gundam is 18 meters high. I don't know how tall that is, but it was huge!

The Gundam will be up through August 31.