March 31, 2008

Cherry Blossoms and Lanterns

Part of Nakano Dori at night, lit in preparation for next week's hanami festival.

Something Nice Pho Lunch

When I go in to Shinjuku at the weekend, I often pop in to have some Vietnamese noodles (pho) at this little place on one of the floors beneath Seibu Shinjuku Station. Due to its location, I imagine the overwhelming majority of its customers are regulars users of the Seibu Shinjuku line, since you probably wouldn't stumble across it otherwise. There are about five different varieties of pho available on the menu, but my favourite is the spicy minced pork with ginger pho. A cheap, quick, tasty and light lunch and well worth trying if you're in the area. They also do tapioca drinks, though I haven't had any of these yet.

March 28, 2008

Modern Art in a Bathhouse

On one of the quiet streets of Yanaka there is a building, which (I guess) was once home to some public baths. Now, however, SCAI The Bathhouse is a small exhibition space currently showing some contemporary works by the painter and graphic artist Tadanori Yokoo. Worth popping in to have a look if you're in the area, particularly since entrance is free.

Temples and Statues

There is an enormous cemetery in Yanaka, but also in the nearby maze of tiny streets, there are dozens of small temples, each with their own gardens and statues. It would probably take a couple of days to do the tour of all of the temples, if you were so inclined.

Yanaka Bossa

Rather than retrace my steps back to Ueno Station, I decided to keep going, and emerged on the north-west side of the park near Geijutsu University. I continued for a few blocks before coming to Yanaka, a quiet part of the city with an old-town feel. Before exploring further though, it was time for a little refreshment, and I popped into this wonderful cozy little coffee shop for a cup of Brazilian.

March 27, 2008

Ueno Koen

From Ameya-yokocho it's just a short walk to Ueno Koen, and at the lower end of the park is Shinobazu Pond. The green roof in the background is a temple called Bentendo.

Ueno Park is one of the most popular hanami spots in Tokyo, and today it was packed with people either having picnics or simply strolling under the cherry blossoms.
Around the pond, there were also bric-a-brac stalls selling everything from antiques to junk.

On a small shaded mound at the top of a flight of steps their is this image of the face of Buddha ~ a little unusual in that is simply a large mask-like image rather than the full body you usually see.

In the grounds of the park, very close to Ueno Zoo, is Toshogu ~ a shrine dedciated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate some 400 years or so ago.

In the grounds of the shrine, there are about 50 copper lanterns, which are never lit, but are more figurative.

I was pretty impressed with the main building of the shrine, which features lots of colourful carvings and opulent gold foil coverings on many of the walls and doors.
On the paths leading up to the shrine there are stalls selling everything from food ...

... to anime masks. Maybe I should have bought one just in case I feel like going to the Neo Shocker Bar.

Not sure what the singificance of this image is, but it was painted on a wooden sign somewhere between Toshogo and the art museums. Interesting though. It was warm enough for the local community centre art class to come out in force and paint some pictures in the park.


Today I decided to get on the Yamanote line and get off at a station in an area I hadn't really visited before. I got off at Ueno and headed out of the station to Ameya-yokocho, a market in a street that runs parallel to the railway tracks. The market dates back to the occupation years following the war, when it was the site of a large black market (the 'Ame' in the name is an abbreviation of America). Nowadays it is host to a number of different shops selling all kinds of fresh and dried, clothes and souvenirs, with stall holders and shopkeepers raucously trying to drum up business. I had lunch at a cheap donburi stall (bottom picture), opting for maguro and ebi (tuna and shrimp), which certainly filled a spot.

Dreamin' Of One

Just Four - Native
Melancholy - Alvinn Pall Sextet
Ode to Ethiopia - The John Betsch Society
Day - Jaga Jazzist
Akula Owu Onyeara - The Funkees
Me - Erykah Badu
Love Of A Woman - Clutchy Hopkins (feat. Darondo)
Dreamin' Of One - Trina Broussard
Grow - Little Anthony & The Imperials
Marvin's Groove - B.W. Souls

Setting Sun in Nakano

Yo! - Graffiti in Kojimachi


Light and Dark

Fire escape stairs on a building in Kojimachi.

Hotel New Otani

Being a beautiful spring day, I decided to wander around some parts of Tokyo I hadn't really explored before. I got off the train at Yotsuya and walked past Sophia University until I reached the Hotel New Otani, a huge luxury hotel, built to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics back in 1964. It's also famous for having featured in the James Bond film set in Japan, 'You Only Live Twice'. Sadly, with the salary I'm on I'm never likely to be able to afford to stay there, but wandering around the picturesque gardens is free, and you can easily forgot you're in the centre of a big city.