March 31, 2007

Hanami season

Spring in Japan means cherry blossoms, and cherry blossoms means time for hanami (literally blossom viewing), which is an excuse for a picnic. All over the country this week, wherever there is enough open space below cherry trees, there will be groups of people seated on the seemingly obligatory blue plastic sheet eating either bentos (either home made packed lunches or ones bought in convenience stores) or having barbecues washed down with a beer or four. How much time is spent actually looking at the cherry blossoms is debatable, but it's a good excuse for a day out.

These pictures were taken at Tetsugakudo Park (philosopher's park, I think) in Nakano on a cloudy Saturday.

Graffiti in Nakano

I always do, believe me, I always do ...

Around Harajuku

I took advantage of the lovely warm spring weather earlier this week and decided to have a wander around the streets in Harajuku. Takeshita Dori is a street full of clothes and accessory shops aimed at the young and, being the spring holidays now, it was packed even on a Tuesday afternoon, with people milling around at a snail's pace.

It was fun to take in the atmoshere and look at the various different fashions on display. In the same way people used to gather at King's Road in London to gawk at the punks, people come here to watch girls dressed in their Gothic Lolita fashions or to watch the 'cosplay' (costume play, or dressing up as an animation character to you and I).

Saw this T-shirt hanging outside a shop of the same name. I wonder if the reverse is true ~ would most rock'n'roll fans like 'banana fish'?

March 28, 2007

Shop in Harajuku

Sorry, girls. No Chippendales on offer, just cheap clothes for teenagers.

Gubernatorial elections

The election for the position of Governor of Tokyo will take place on April 8th and campaigning is under way. Walking through Shinjuku today I saw the incumbent Governor, the outspoken Shintaro Ishihara, speaking in front of the Studio Alta building as part of his re-election campaign. I have no idea what he was rattling on about as I was too busy listening to my iPod, but decided to take a snap all the same.

Spring has sprung!

Cherry trees coming into bloom along Arai-Nakano Dori.

Cherry blossoms in the grounds of the Arai Yakushi Temple.

March 26, 2007

It's all true

Heritage Hum - James Moody
Afreaka - Lee Morgan
Red Clay - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Sparks and Pedals - Soweto Kinch
Yegelle Tezeta - Mulatu Astatke
Harlem River Drive - Harlem River Drive
Momma Momma - Betty Barney
There's a Ghost In My House - R Dean Taylor
It's All True - Tracey Thorn
Father - Raw Deal

March 22, 2007

Phew! I've got my computer back

Almost two weeks after the wine spillage incident, I now have my laptop back. Sadly, it wasn't cheap, but at least I have it back with all my files and data in tact. I certainly won't be putting drinks anywhere near the machine in the future.

March 19, 2007

Translation on a Metro map

But what if she's wearing blue?

Handful of Soul

Gerrard Street - Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Handful of Soul - Mario Biondi & The High Five Quintet
Hype of Gold - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Oye - Naraida
Swung From The Gutters - Tortoise
Psychedelic- Lee Morgan
We Want More!!!!! - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Right On - Marvin Gaye
Let Me Come Within - Renaldo Domino
Under Pressure - The Strange Fruit Project

In Memory of JB

Graffiti mural near Nakano Station.

March 16, 2007

Got that bloomin' wrong!

One of the top news stories in Japan on Wednesday this week was that the national meteorological agency made a very deep and public apology because the computer programme they were using to predict the date that cherry blossoms would appear had got the prediction horribly wrong.

Announcements on TV confidently announced that cherry blossoms would first be visible from March 13th in some parts, with a lot of other areas having blossoms by the end of the week. However, a sudden drop in the temperature this week seemed to have foiled the computer programme.

Representatives from the meteorological agency appeared solemnly in front of the media humbly apologising for any inconvenience this misleading prediction may have caused and then bowed deeply.

Funny that they felt the need to apologise so profusely and that it would be such a high priority news story. Just goes to show how important the cherry blossom season is here.

March 12, 2007

Martian Earthwatch

A.I.E. - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Rope-a-dope - The New Mastersounds
Awunism - Ed Motta
Aht Uh Mi Hed - Shaun Escoffery
Undecided - Shack
Misty Roses - Tim Hardin
Speak of Jah - Sizzla
Martian Earthwatch - The James Taylor Quartet
Zambezi - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
6/8:2 = 3/4 - Evaldo Montenovo & His Group

Disaster strikes

Had a few quiet days here because of a mishap at home last Thursday. Got home after work and decided to have a glass of white wine before dinner. I had literally just poured the wine when I got a text message on my phone. I reached out to pick up the phone, barely nudged the glass and it cascaded all over my laptop! Panic then ensued as I switched the power off tried my best to dry it out and so on.

The machine is now at the maunfacturer and I need to wait a few days until I find out whether or not it can be fixed, and, if it can, how much it's likely to cost. Fingers crossed ...

Until then, I guess I'll be blogging from a cafe, like now, so the postings might be a little less frequent for a while. Hopefully normal services will be resumed shortly.

March 07, 2007

"Pimpoint" is out!

Call me simple, but today is a great day for me in that the new Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, "Pimpoint", has hit the shops.

Since becoming a member of the iPod club, I have hardly bought any physical CDs, but this is one band whose music I will definitely go out to buy. The new album is certainly no disappointment and, after an initial listen, I can say that the band continues to go from strength to strength. "Pimpoint" adds 13 strong new tracks to the Soil catalogue, and hopefully it will bring them continued success.

I know for sure that it will on heavy rotation on my iPod in the coming weeks.

Also pleased that I've already reserved tickets for the Tokyo gig in May, which has now been announced as sold out.

Peko-chan mania

The sight of the week so far has been the ridiculous queues of people at the Kagurazaka Peko-chan Yaki shop.

Peko-chan is the mascot of Fujiya foods, a famous confectioner and cake-making company that goes back decades. In January, all Fujiya franchises were forced to suspend business after it was discovered that in one factory, batches of cakes had been made using expired milk and shipped out to shops. Further checks revealed other breaches of hygiene standards.

The company has now received an all-clear and the Kagurazaka shop (which bakes its produce instore, not using any products from the affected factories) reopened for business on Monday. The result has been a ridiculous surge in demand, with queues around the corner from mid-morning to early evening. The picture here shows the beginning of the queue, with the remainder (a further 50 or so metres long) around the corner ~ presumably so as not to disturb other shops.

Call me over-cautious, but I'm not sure I'll be joining the rush any time soon.

(Background story link in English here):

March 05, 2007

Kiss the sky

Kiss the Sky - Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra featuring Nino Moschella
The Plan - Outside
Delirium - Owusu & Hannibal
Lovelight - Georgia Anne Muldrow
Are You Ready? - Aloe Blacc
For the Haters - Dirty Diggers
Sebe Allah Y'e - Alpha Blondy
マシロケ - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Kirkness - Faze Liquide
Be Still My Beating Heart - Randy Watson Experience

Hats! - 10

In Kichijoji with my orange hat.

Baan Isaan

After work on Saturday I hopped on the train and took a twenty minute or so journey out to Koenji to unwind after a tiring week. I like this area ~ it has a nice atmosphere and there are lots of little interesting shops to browse around.

I decided to eat out too, and was pleased to discover a great little Thai restaurant just south of the station called Baan Isaan, which is a lively place (despite being cramped) with great food and it's pretty cheap to boot.

Uncharacteristically, I forgot to get the camera out to take some snaps of the food or the restaurant, so that will have to wait until the next time. However, I can mention the food I ate, which included Spicy Glass Noodle Salad, Honey Roast Spare Ribs, Minced Pork with Chilli and Basil and Seafood Fried Rice. Oh, and a Singha or two to wash it down with, of course. Great stuff!