Monthly Archives: March 2010

Day 05 – Tsukiji Fish Market

Had to wake up at 5.30am to get to the famous Tsukiji Fish Markets. Were too late for the tuna auctions, but the market was at its best about 7am anyway. We had to cross the supernova highway of forklift/little trucky things to get into the markets… these Japanese are very zippy with it! Some times I think they cut deliberately close turns to tourists just to scare them – no one ever gets hurt because the drivers are so quick witted, but I think this is an example of where the passive aggressiveness of the locals shines through. No one ever yells at tourists who get in the way – they are never that vulgar – but we are expected to jump out of their way immediately because they would reverse their little forklifts seemingly without regard… the tourists are invisible.

At the end of the gawking, we made our way to a famed sushi restaurant. The queue was 45 minutes, but the sushi was well worth it. A kindly ojii-chan (grandpa) chef served us as we pointed, waved, gestured at what we wanted in the picture menu. At one stage Ojii-chan put the octopus sushi in front of me and tapped the tail end of it, at which point it curled up right before my very eyes. He looked at me with a very pleased expression – as if to say “look! see how fresh it is!” – I shuddered a little at the thought it might still be alive in ANY way, but gamely ate it under his watchful eyes. The sushi here were indeed the best I ever had.

See Kevin Rudd? This is where our Aussie whales end up…

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Day 04 – Strolling around

Took some easy time out to go window shopping today around Omotesando and Roppongi. We came across our first Tadao Ando office/retail building! It is pity that it was raining and grey, so the strong shadows normally associated with photography of his buildings did not come across, but that did not negate the experience of the building and its voids/intersecting corridors.

In strolling through shops, we noticed that there are a number of cooking studios around where many girls go to pick up domestic skills of cooking – most likely in preparation of the domestic life of marriage. Skill sets vary from learning how to hold a knife, to decorating complex pastries…

HdeM Prada building day and night – there are many better photos taken of this so I’m just putting a couple up just for the sake of it.

Found lovely little hole-in-the-wall shop in Omotesando. Lovely interior fitout (they wouldn’t let me take a photo 😦 ) Beautiful beautiful beautiful black sesame glutinous ball with smooth smooth smooth red bean paste in the centre. Ecstasy upon first bite. Bought for the price of a handmade truffle in Australia. Check out their beautiful website – Hiyashiya

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Day 03 – Yokohama

Two main spots of attraction in Yokohama for us – The Ramen Museum showcasing ramen (egg noodles) with different soup bases from different regions of Japan, and Foreign Office Architects’ International Port Terminal. The queues in the ramen museum took up to 30 minutes for some stalls, but it was well worth the wait, and it served us well as we had time to digest between bowls. We had up to 3 bowls each (sample size)! Filled to the brim, we trained it and then walked several blocks in the freezing sea breeze to arrive at FOA’s futuristic terminal.

Walking into the warm carcass of the building, we found an international dart competition being held in the main hall. It was a curious thing watching professional dart-players – elation and frustration at the 30 sec performance either hitting or missing the bulls eye demonstrated that it is not the sport that matters, but the human spirit for competition that enables us all to strive for the better.

We stayed at the terminal quite a while to justify the long trip and fulfil our obligation of acting the archi-tourist, and undertook some serious photography of the somewhat arbitrary architecture wonder.

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Day 02 – Harajuku land of the queer

Most people have heard of Harajuki. Teenagers play costume dress up every weekend, and there are many little quirky fashion shops alley after alley. I didn’t get to have my photo taken with a Harajuku girl as I hoped, perhaps because it is a Saturday and most of them are only there on a Sunday. However, there were still massive crowds surging through streets, some tourists, but also lots of locals.


A quick photo before submerging ourselves into the sea of people heading into Harajuku.

Harajuku girls who moved too quickly and I could only get the backs of them…

Design Fiesta Art Gallery in one of the backstreets of Harajuku. A few young artists collaborated to put up an exhibition of their works.

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Day 01: Tokyo and its underbelly

After many hours – 7.5hrs to Spore, 3 hours transit, 8 hours to Tokyo, we are finally here. So exhausted that it seems almost surreal. Another hour of queuing at the customs, arranging the JR passes, and 1 hour train ride, 15 min walk, we found our hotel without too much ado. Dropped the bags, and headed out for our lunch – our first bowl of ramen in Tokyo! Danny is in heaven as he slurped his noodles, plus half of mine, burped politely, then went out to buy two cans of coffee from one of the thousands of vending machines lurking in every corner. Did you know you can get hot coffee in a tin from the vending machine too? I was amazed, and very grateful, because it is early spring and still quite cold.

Came back to the hotel to sleep off the rest of the afternoon. Met James and Melody at the foyer to go for dinner. Spent quite a while getting lost as we were trying to find our way to the red light district! It is a Friday night – quite an eye opener. We went there because they were meant to have some nice food in every corner, and indeed there was. There were no end of yakitori shops, but there was a man who was singing as he was bbq-ing prawns on the grill at a corner shop, so we were charmed and went in. Winding our way up the stairs, cigarette smoke hit me like a wall. I was surprised that one could still smoke indoors in this day and age, but hey, we wanted to visit the underbelly of Tokyo, and here it is, no doubt about it. The 4 of us sat down carefully, manoeuvring jackets/cameras/backpacks/scarves around a tiny table and sat cross legged on the tatami. Looking around carefully, we observed men in company of women who were quite obviously escorts of various sorts. They were all there for conversation, food and sake. Both men and women smoked. One woman at a corner had her jumper top stretched over her shoulders, probably in what she believes is in an erotic manner, while leaning heavily across the table. The other to my left looks a more dignified woman who smoked as she drank, very at ease with the man she was with – they made low conversation over sake, and it looked as though they enjoy each other’s company every other Friday night. Another corner sat an older man accompanied with a young girl heavily made up and with a very short skirt. They left very shortly after.

Our hostess was a motherly figure and she made sure we were looked after. Many sign language and bits of English after, she made us order 4 prawns, other chicken and liver skewers and we got our fill of green tea and sake. The yakitori was the best I had eaten yet, though it is only our first day in Japan.

We finished our meal and were expunged to the street in about half an hour. These streets were a smorgasbord of sex shops, rental rooms, phallic displayes, ladies bars, brothels… most had explicit pictures, and every single one had a pimp – or a bouncer, whatever you like to call them, standing outside. Some were big tough black men – looking menacing, eyes piercing; some middle aged bearded men – surreptitious, perving; mostly are well suited clean-shaven young men, boys really, – fancy styled and dyed hair, holding an umbrella each for the rain, unthreatening but watchful. The different groups may know each other, but they steered clear of the others. Men walked in and out of shops openly. Young girls dressed in very short skirts, brightly patterned, high leather boots, flowery tops, extravagant hairstyles, with very heavy perfect blemish free make up. They click-clacked purposefully by at a fast pace, texting at the same time – as if anxious/late for their appointments.

We meandered our way through the streets, staring, gawking, taking photos. No one seemed to mind us, no one interfered.

But they were all watching.

Ladies – take your pick!!! 🙂

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To the land of the rising sun

We are off to the land of the rising sun for our honeymoon adventures! Tremendously excited.

Made myself a necklace to wear for the occasion. I am a little sheepish in saying that I borrowed the idea of mult-strand red coral from someone. However, am at the moment so in love with the colour red, and I too have many red coral beads sitting in my Bead-Box. The big silver oriental lattice pendant is handmade by madame gan – moi, and is suitably appropriate for the my travels to the east.

Stay tuned for travel adventures over the next month! Japan will doubtless be quite an eye-opening experience.

Au revoir et salut – madame gan

Serene smiles

Polite bows abound.

Lovely girls delight the eyes.

Land of serene smiles…

Mystery of East

Pretty girls. Almond.

Eyes hiding behind shy smiles.

Mystery of East…

Tokyo

Tall modern buildings

Block the view of Rising Sun

Is Japan’s soul lost?

Kyoto

Seat of faded dreams

Of Empire of Rising Sun

The sun also sets…


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Looking good in Japan

I’m having trouble assessing my accessories and wardrobe for the up and coming month-long honeymoon in Japan. I tell everyone we’re backpacking, but it’s not really backpacking if we’re not technically ‘roughing it out’ in bunks and dorms is it? Is it wrong to want to look good in Hip-Culture City itself? One wouldn’t want to look daggy opening the doors into the fab HdM designed Prada shop or stepping into Commes des Garcon.

So while He (who owns 10 black tshirts and another 5 white ones) tells me to stop pussy-footing around the luggage bag and just throw some stuff together, I have decided to quickly make myself a pair of pearl earrings from a precious string of baroque pearls. While the gorgeous organic shapes call for bigger & bolder studs, I have to admit to being lazy and just putting simple hooks on them. As He said, we are indeed running out of time (3 days to go!!!), and goddamn it, I just want them on my ears!

Here’s a couple more facts for you pearl-lovers:

Uneven pearls are called ‘baroques’, and are covered in bumps and globules. The word ‘baroque’ has an offspring – an exuberant new style of architecture became popular in 17th C Europe and some years later its critics mockingly nicknamed it ‘baroque’. They were suggesting that these structures were grotesque, like ugly pearls. But the word caught on and even became positive – Extract from Jewels: A Secret History by Victoria Finlay.

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