On reflection, this post should perhaps be three seperate posts, but hey!
Strange craving of the day: Branston Pickle. I've not had any for nearly 2.5 years. I want some. Badly.
Student quote of the day: Said - 'I'm poor'. Meant - 'My English is crap'.
Let's start with a bit of madness that is Tokyo. Until recently, if you wanted a donut in Tokyo you could get them - but they were pretty crap. However, no more. Now, the wonder that is (apparantly - although I've never tried them myself) Krispy Kreme has appeared in Shinjuku. This picture shows a large queue outside in the cold - to buy a donut. Apparantly, this is always the sight to be seen at this store. Insane.
I'm getting quite into Tokyo at the moment. Not freezing to death the whole time is definitely a bonus, but I'm just.... making more of an effort, I suppose. I'm even trying to improve my almost non-existant speaking ability in Japanese and realising at the same time that I do understand a lot more than I thought I did.
So, the new improved enthusiastic me is playing at tourist in Tokyo. I'm also carrying my camera around with me most days to snap amusing signs, sights, etc.
A couple of weeks ago I persuaded some friends to come with me to the Yushukan Museum (the war museum by the Yasakuni Shrine - you know, the boringly controversial war criminals one). It was really interesting and I'd been meaning to go for ages. Of course, we ran out of time, partly due to meeting late (I wanted a lie in), sitting for ages in Starbucks (other friends were late so we had to kill time) and trying to drag Japanese friends and their cameras away from the Shrines not particularly impressive flea market. We skipped around the last 8 rooms in about 15 minutes, in short.
Here's the tori gate at twilight:
Of course, photos are not allowed in the museum. I got a couple of my mates to demonstrate this point. Although photos are allowed of the kamikaze planes, engines, etc in the lobby:
Outside the museum the flea market had an odd assortment of things, including these. The cat is lucky. One paw raised is for health, the other for money. I can never remember which is which. The little fat guys come with blank eyes, like the one on the left. You paint the eyes in but I can't remember when or why. Useless, aren't I?
Then, last week, I finally made it to the massive Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, by the Sumo stadium. It was very interesting but just too many people. Cool building though and possibly the first time I've seen a reconstructed bridge in a museum.
This little inflatable sumo cherry blossom was outside an Izakaya. Cute, isn't it?
In the Edo-Tokyo museum there are a few food places. This was outside one of them:
There's big park near my house. Previous attempts to go there and back were met with mixed results - ie - I could always eventually find the park but getting home without getting lost was a bit more of a challenge. My record for this trip (which should take about 15 minutes by bike) was over two hours last summer. I don't go there often.
Anyway, yesterday the sky was bright and clear (although bloody windy as I discovered once I got onto my bike) and I thought a trip to the park would be the perfect thing to do.
Here's my lovely green bike:
And here's its granny basket, which I love:
Anyway, there's a big open air museum in the park that I saw half of a couple of years ago and have been planning to go back to since - but I got caught up doing other things yesterday and so wouldn't have had enough time.
Somehow, and let me repeat - this is a BIG park - and about 10-15 minutes from my house - I couldn't find the bloody thing. I don't know where I went but let's just say I asked about 10 people before I managed to find it.
Happily I had no problems getting home this time though. The park was lovely yesterday. There were lots of people doing the normal parky things - walking, skating, tobogganing down a dry hill, unicycling, dog walking, eating, eating, eating....
Here's one of the many food places in the park:
And here's the yummy yaki-soba I bought from there:
And there were a lot of people taking pictures of the plum blossom which was signposted so you could find it and had a raffia mat between trees for some reason. Of course, I also whipped out my camera in an excited frenzy and started snapping the trees. (You know you've been in Japan too long when....)
And here's the raffia path covering. There's obviously some kind of logic for this. No idea what it might be though.
In Japan, everything has to be cute, as I've often said. Even bulldozers have to be bright and happy, as this purple one shows:
Houses in Japan are really small which is why everyone has rat sized dogs. Well, most people do... I spotted a fair few large mutts yesterday, including this gorgeous Great Dane which could probably manage a Chihuahua in two mouthfuls, don't you think?
As I said above, I've been carrying around my camera a lot recently and snapping lots of random things. This is the train I take every day:
Actually, this is an older version as they're being swished up now. The line, the Chuo Line, is also famously known as the 'suicide line'. Can't imagine why.
Often the platform is packed. Occasionally, like when I took this picture, it isn't though, and I quite like this picture:
On the subject of complete randomness, here's a typical lunch box from a convenience store. They heat it up for you. This one was quite good!
And here's my high street. Cute, isn't it?
Signs here fall into a couple of categories - those that baffle and those that amuse mainly. Much of the amusement is caused through either bad English or my lack of Japanese allowing me to imagine what might possibly be being advertised, promoted or warned about. Even when it's obvious actually.
For example this one for no dance-offs:
This one for no exposing smelly socks or throwing your bag on the floor in a tantrum, maybe?
Beware of the evil man who will feed your hat to the chihuahuas?:
On the trains, no precariously balancing children, no fat people, no going to the toilet / no bad posture and injuries must be visible (no arms allowed)?
Green people only? No sleeping, listening to music or talking. That discounts 95% of commuters then:
Mushrooms, however, are allowed to knit on the train or, in fact anywhere:
A lot of famous people do adverts here hoping, probably, that nobody outside of Japan will see them. I have no idea what kind of image Richard Gere is trying to portray here for this (maybe) bank? [I can't remember what this ad is for]. You can also see Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt strutting around advertising phones. Go and look on Youtube if you want to see. I'll try and get round to finding a link eventually. They're quite amusing.
Cigarettes in Japan are disgustingly cheap and easily available in an overabundance of vending machines in the streets. Interestingly, you don't see underages smoking on the streets. I wonder where they hide to smoke?
The message is out though. Whole areas are proclaimed as non-smoking, like these:
I find the anti smoking adverts on the train quite amusing actually. Here's a recent selection, for your amusement. I just find the English so ridiculous and condescending:
As you can see, the above speak for themselves. I don't need to supply comment!
And a final note, from the national treasure that is NHK bilingual television news:
[highly paraphrased of course] - If you think there's a chance you may catch the killer flu make sure you have enough provisions in your house to last at least ten years and, most importantly, when you buy dried foods only buy foods you like.
This is the same news that has told me to dress warmly for bed so I don't get cold, and to be careful my umbrella doesn't hit me on the head in the wind.
I couldn't make this up. They actually told people to only buy foods they like. And there I was, thinking I'd go and stock up on things I didn't like.