Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Senso-ji Temple

Asakusa is a ten minute cycle ride from where I live. It's famous for the Senso-ji Temple(also known as Asakusa Kannon) and was founded in the mid seventeenth century to enshrine a tiny golden image of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Entering from the south you pass trough the Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate) with its huge lantern, named for its guardian gods of Thunder and Wind (Raijin and Fujin). You then enter a huge labyrinth of shops along the Nakamise-dori where you can pick up lots of souvenirs.

The temple has a great atmosphere and overlooking it  a huge five-storey pagoda. In the middle of the grounds there is a bronze incense bowl which people gather round to breathe the smoke. Apparently, breathing the smoke is very healthy for you. After this, I went on cruise along the the river and took in some of the sights of Tokyo

You can check out the photographs

Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Saturday night, I went for a couple of drinks after work to the bar next door. After this I went to Shinjiku to check out some of the nightlife. Once I finished checking out a couple of the bars I decided to go to a nightclub called the Liquid Room in Shinjuku.
I was expecting to pay 4000 yen on the door. They asked me if I knew one of the bands that was playing, so I told them that I did and then I had to pretend that I was on the guest list(this saved me a lot of money).

Once you get inside, you can't actually pay for your drinks over the bar. You have to queue up to buy tokens which you can then give to the barman to purchase your drinks. The club is very dark and dingy and it has a certain dirty feel to it. It wasn't the hi-tech, post-modern, dance utopia I was expecting. In fact it was a little bit goth/industrial/of a dive.

When I got there, they were playing a lot of British music like The Sex Pistols, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers. Then the band came on. The band wasn't really my cup of tea. Imagine someone shouting in your ear through a megaphone whilst on the runway(which is being repaired by roadwork men with pneumatic drills) at terminal 3, Heathrow Airport and planes are landing behind you. It was a bit loud, so I stayed for a few songs, a couple of G&Ts and then I left. Afterwards I checked out a couple of other clubs after getting some flyers, but they weren't really that good and they were also a bit dodgy, if you know what I mean.

On Sunday night, I went to see Quentin Tarantino's latest film Kill Bill. It's been six years since his last film Jackie Brown and I've been waiting with anticipation for his latest.

The story is about a woman(Uma Thurman) who wakes up out of a four year coma after being left for dead at her wedding by a gang of assassins, who she used to work for called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. We never know her name, she's just referred to as 'the Bride'. After she wakes up, she seeks revenge on everyone involved.

The film is short on plot and characterisation but high on action and trust me there's a lot of action, most of which is very bloodthirsty. If you have a weak stomach and you winced at the ear cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs, you'll definitely have your eyes closed for the final part of the film, when the Bride takes on eighty eight yakuza. I enjoyed the film greatly, although I must admit I preferred Pulp Fiction.

Most of the film is set in Japan and the famous Japanese actor
Sonny Chiba plays a very important role. In fact the film is a homage to all of the Asian action films that Tarantino loves so much. In Asia, Tarantino has decided to release a slightly different version of Kill Bill, which is bloodier and more violent, apparently because he feels Asian audiences can take it. So we get an extended manga sequence dealing with O-Ren Ishii's(Lucy Liu) childhood and the fighting scenes against the eighty eight yakuza remain in colour throughout.

A really great film. Definitely worth seeing if you like your action violent and bloody, but unfortunately not a classic like Pulp Fiction.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


About one hour's train ride south of Tokyo is the town of Kamakura. It's a very beautiful place and it was nice to see the countryside. It's a place definitely worth visiting as there are 65 temples, 19 shrines and the Daibutsu(Great Buddha), which is a huge bronze statue of the Buddha.

I arrived around one o'clock and the first thing I did was rent a bicycle, as I love cycling and this would give me the best opportunity to explore as quickly as possible. The man who I rented the bicycle off was very helpful, as he gave me a map and marked out a route that could be covered in the available time I had. Travelling around Kamakura is very easy as everything is signposted.

The first thing I went to see was the Great Buddha. The statue was cast in 1253 A.D. by the sculptors Ono-Goroemon and Tanji-Hisatomo at the request of Minamoto Yoritomo. In 1498 a tidal wave(tsunami) destroyed the wooden temple that surrounded the Buddha, leaving the statue exposed to the elements. The statue is 13.35 metres tall and weighs an impressive 121 tonnes.

I also got to go inside the statue as well(20 yen) and I took some photographs of the huge sandals made for the Buddha. You can check out all of the photographs

After this I cycled to a shrine dedicated to the goddess Zeniari Benten. To enter the shrine you pass through a cave into clearing surrounded by cliffs which is very beautiful. Here, people come to wash their money in the hope that it will triple in value. I didn't do it this time(I was worried about getting my money wet !) but maybe next time. You can check out the photographs

After this, I climbed the nearby hill to Genjiyama-koen, which is a very beautiful park. Here I saw the statue of Minamoto Yoritomo, who became the first permanent shogun and effective ruler of Japan in 1185. Seven years later he established his military government (which was known as the Bakufa) in Kamakura. Check out the photographs

After visiting these places time was very short, so I only had enough time to check out a couple of temples and shrines. You can see the photographs

Kamakura is very beautiful and I'll definitely be going back as I've barely explored it so far.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Saturday I went out with Mark and Neil to Ginza and we had a very good night. We didn't know where we were going so we dived into the first available bar. The barman was very helpful in helping us plan our night. When we asked where to go he didn't just give us directions, he took us there! We ended up in a soul club. There wasn't exactly much of a dance floor though. The only way people could dance was by standing in a straight line between everyone sitting down (think line dancing with disco tunes). The amazing thing was even though none of these people knew each other they all had the same dance moves and were in time to one another. I was very tempted to join in but I was unfortunately too sober to deal with humiliation in front of a large group people. They also did requests and I chose 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor.

Afterwards we decided to just wander about in a vain attempt to find something. It's very difficult to know where to go in Tokyo. Lots of bars and clubs are in office blocks, so places to go aren't as immediately obvious as in Britain. And we definitely found something interesting. We ended up in a place called the Vampire Cafe. And very nice it was as well. The atmosphere was very gothic and dark. It's probably the first time I've ever had a meal with a coffin right beside me. Definitely a good place to go on Halloween with your girlfriend/boyfriend/pet werewolf. You can check out the photos here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Sunday I went to Akihabara(Electric City). It's amazing. It's an entire area of Tokyo where all of the shops sell electrical items. It's like a huge Dixons! I was gobsmacked when I saw how huge it was! Like most of Tokyo it looks pretty amazing at night.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Apparently 90% of Japanese elementary school students learn to ride the unicycle. This sounds a lot better than Britain where 90% of primary school students are probably learning how to steal your car.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tomoya And Eri

On Monday, I got a phonecall from two Japanese friends I met in England called Tomoya and Eri (It was great to see you. I had a brilliant night). I met them in Shinjuku and we went out for a meal and karaoke. There was no dressing up this week, but there was lots of marraca and tambourine action. It was my first time doing karaoke with Japanese people (lots of Japanese songs which I didn't understand, but the one that goes 'train, train' sticks in the mind) and it was a lot of fun.

I was a bit more sober this week when I started singing and it dawned on me that I might not be the world's greatest singer. Prior to this I've always been a bit drunk and thought I sounded OK.

You can see the photographs here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I've now got a mobile phone phone ! This is great as I can now speak to all of my friends and keep in contact with people(cheaply as I also have e-mail).

Today I got some messages on my phone in Kanji(Japanese script) and I was very excited as I thought someone I know had sent me a message. Imagine my surprise when I found out the content can I say?.....very lewd.

In fact ,every time I open up my post box at home, there is a flyer with a naked woman on it, with a phone number. I'm quite sure (even though I can't read the writing) she's not offering to come round and clean my apartment.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In England when a person's zip is undone on their trousers we say 'Your fly is undone'. In Japan people say 'Your social window is open'.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today I read about the very sad story of the last pure Japanese crested ibis(toki) called Kin. Unfortunately, Kin died on Friday morning, after hitting its head on a door ,which now means this type of ibis is officially extinct.

As I'm sure you'll agree, a very sad day for bird lovers everywhere.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wherever you go in Tokyo you see people on bicycles. They're everywhere and you're even allowed to ride them on the pavement(which is illegal in England and can result in a twenty pound on the spot fine).

I've now got a bike and a very nice one it is too! Apparently the Japanese word for my bike is 'mamachari', which means 'a bicycle for mum'. On the front of it I have a huge basket and on the frame there is a sticker that says 'Flower Story'. So it's not really the most masculine form of transport, but it does get me everywhere more quickly. I just hope I don't manage to have any collisions with anyone or cause any fatalities.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I had a great weekend. Mark, Miranda and Niall, who I work with, are a great bunch of people.

We all went out in Shinjuku which is a lot like Blade Runner. Lots of neon and giant TV screens. Fortunately there were no psychotic androids.

Afterwards we did karaoke for the first time and I even got to dress up(although I don't really want to digress what I wore - lets just say I got in touch with my feminine side).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's the end of another week. I'm off to Shinjuku tonight with some friends from work(Mark, Miranda and Niall). Roll on the weekend!