February 27, 2009


Uguisudani is two minutes on from Nippori, and one thing you notice in the station on the way out are pictures of birds like the one above, because Uguisudani roughly translates as 'Valley of the Bush Warblers'. Several other flags and posters in the area carry similar pictures, juts so you don't forget where you are.

Monday was a grey, drizzly day, and to start off my walk around the area I headed to the Yanaka side, and joined up with part of the neighbourhood I reached last week.

One of the largest temples in the area is Kan'eiji, with its large imposing main building and spacious grounds, and the huge cemetery behind it runs alongside the railway tracks.

This building is the old sake house which dates back about a hundred years and now serves as a kind of small museum and information desk (except Mondays).

Nearby I noticed this 'Rest Station, a little shaded area for tired visitors to rest their weary feet. You can also buy postcards and leave the money in little box on one of the benches.
I popped into a great little cafe called Yanaka Bossa and had a curry set for lunch which was a perfect way to warm up.
A few blocks in the direction of Ueno Park brought me to Tokyo Geijitsu University, the university of art, and they were holding their graduation works exhibition, so I decided to take a look, pleased that at least one museum or gallery wasn't closed on Mondays.
There were many kinds of work on display over a number of floors, and though you're not usually supposed to take pictures in exhibitions, I noticed that several others were happily snapping away, so I decided to take a couple of pictures too. Sadly, because my kanji isn't too great, I wasn't able to note the names of the artists, as I would have liked to have credited them here. The above works were a series of chairs made out of different types of shredded publication. For example, one is entirely made up of shredded novels, another fashion magazines and so on.

One the steps outside the university, though not connected to the exhibition.
The International Library of Children's Literature

I wandered back toward the station and out the other side to an area that was much more built up and grey.
This sign was sadly not indicative of the weather on Monday.

A tiny taco-yaki shop wedged in a corner to take advantage of every inch of land.
The blocks next to the station on this side of the tracks are filled with two types of establishment. Firstly you have some small eating and drinking establishments ~ all closed in the middle of the afternoon of course.

The other dominant establishment in the area is the love hotel, and there are literally dozens of them crammed in the maze of streets next to the station, and apparently Uguisudani is famous for this. By day they look fairly drab and lifeless, but by night they will all be lit up in gaudy neon trying to attract customers.

A guy collecting the empty cans from the hotels.
Hidden in among the hotels is this shrine, though I couldn't read the name.

A watering hole called What's Up, not yet open for business.

Various bits of graffiti and stickers on the streets near the station.

Looking back to the shrine from the station platform.

February 25, 2009

Books: The Devil's Cup by Stewart Lee Allen

Being rather partial to a daily fix of caffeine ~ in fact I find it virtually impossible to get going in the morning without a cup ~ a book that suggests that coffee is one of the major driving forces in world history had its obvious attractions.

The Devil's Cup is part travelogue, part social history and part theorising on the contribution the bitter beverage has made to world history. Stewart Lee Allen takes us most of the way around the world from the birthplace of the bean (Ethiopia) through its rise in Yemen and the Ottoman Empire, and then Europe. He follows the trail to the New World, ending his trip in the US, land of the truck stop and coffee chains.

All the time, the prose is witty and informative, hitting just the right spot, like a perfect cup should do. The book is written in a gonzo journalist style, with tales of Allen's adventures and accounts of the various characters he meets interwoven with fascinating tidbits of information about the use of coffee in past societies, and how it was introduced (by foul means and fair) to different parts of the world.

A highly entertaining read which left me gasping for more.

February 23, 2009

Sticker in Nakano

The Amen Break

Over the last couple of decades there has been tendency for a lot of new music to include samples or break beats from tunes made in the sixties or seventies. Sampling has its fans and detractors, but the truth is it's likely to be around for some time to come. One of the most commonly heard drum breaks is what is known as the 'Amen break' and even of you don't know the break by name, you have most probably heard a piece of music that uses it. This 18 minute video is a fascinating look at the history of the break and also looks at the issue of copyright and property rights.

February 18, 2009

Life Is A Trip

Hey Lover - Hardkandy
The Way I Like - Berardi Jazz Connection
Hilo - Antibalas
Tell The Truth As If It Were Lies - Kathryn Williams
Little B's Poem - quasimode
Picasso - Re-Trick
Back To Funk - Robert Lowe
What Do You See In Her - Inell Young
Life Is A Trip - Gypsy Brown
Faith For My Mind - Solar

February 16, 2009


It's a very short trip from Nishi Nippori to Nippori, the next stop on the Yamanote Line, so I had to be careful not to walk to far at the previous stop and go beyond the catchment area of the station. Not that I had to worry too much, because Nippori has plenty of attractions that make it a rather interesting area of Tokyo to visit.
Heading out of the north exit on the east side you see the new Toneri Liner overhead.
This office/apartment building seems to be fairly boastful of its own merits, though it looked pretty ordinary to me.
One of the main streets heading away from the station forms part of the Nippori Textile Town and there is shop after shop selling rolls of print fabric, buckles, buttons and so on.

Unlike some of the more urban areas of Tokyo, here there are some shops that go back a couple of generations.
I headed back to the station and walked through to the west side of the north exit, and you come out at a small hill that descends down into a street called Yanaka Ginza. At the top of the steps you have a shop called Live Dog.

This establishment offers coffee or something stronger to drink in either red or, er, whait.
Yanaka Ginza has a lot of shops selling traditional Japanese food and snacks. This shop specialises in handmade boiled sweets.

Yanaka Ginza runs as far as Yomise-Dori, part of which I visited on the Nishi Nippori leg.
Yomise-Dori then joins a main road that leads to Yanaka Cemetery, so there are a couple of temples on either side of the street.
On the other side of the main road from Yomise Dori, there is a narrow winding street called Hebi Michi, or Snake Street, which runs mainly through a residential area, though there are a few interesting looking shops along the way.

Walking a little from Hebi Michi, past Nezu Subway Station, you reach the imposing Nezu Shrine, tough with the main buildings under renovation at the moment and shrouded in scaffold and tarpaulin there is a little less to see than usual.

I like the shady sixties style cartoon character on this sign. Almost like something out of Pink Panther.
Heading back towards Nippori Station and the maze of streets in the area near the cemetery you can find literally dozens of temples, some of which are good 'for ailments of the stomach', others good for your feet, some very modern with cartoony statues and red-brick buildings (above), others in a more classical style (below).

Is this where it all began?
Yanaka has a number of small galleries and craft shops, and this one offers you the chance to try (and, of course, buy, a shakuhachi, or Japanese bamboo flute).
The area around Nippori offers plenty of interesting things to see that you wouldn't expect to find in modern urban Tokyo, and I know that I will be back again even after I've finished this Yamanote Line project.