Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Xmas and a happy New Year to everyone!

I`ve got a couple of weeks holiday, so I`m off backpacking around Japan, so there might not be many regular updates (don`t, worry I`ll have plenty of stories and pictures in a couple of weeks).

I`m currently in Osaka and hopefully in a couple of days time I`ll be off to Kyoto.

Anyway, have a great one and I`ll be back soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A few weeks ago I went to the Sengakuji Temple, which is famous for the story of the 47 Ronin. On Sunday I went to two festivals celebrating the story.

First of all I went to Ryogoku which is where Kira, the man who ordered the death of Asano lived. It was very busy and lots of people were there to pray in the shrine. The local mayor was also there. I also tried a traditional dish with vegetables and meat in that sumo wrestlers eat called chanko nabe. There was also some traditional Japanese drum playing.

I also had my photograph taken with some men dressed as Oishi and Kira. Apparently I'm dressed as Horibe Yasubei, who is a famous member of the 47 Ronin.

Afterwards, I went to the festival in Sengakuji, which is the shrine for the 47 Ronin, who avenged the death of their master Asano by killing Kira.

This was also very busy and there were lots of stalls selling a variety of food and trinkets.

You can see all of the photos here.

After this I went to Ueno to see the Pablo Picasso exhibition at the
Royal Museum.
The exhibition included 184 works taken from the Picasso Museum in Paris, which have been displayed for the first time in Japan. The works date from 1914-1925, which is seen as being his classical period, when he returned to doing realistic, traditional pictures.

You can see some of Picasso's work at
this website.
This website is also very good and provides a biography.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas is here once again. You can check out my photos of Christmas in Tokyo here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On Saturday night, I went to the X-Trail Jam which is a extreme sports event for snowboarders, at the Tokyo Dome. The Tokyo Dome is a huge arena in the middle of Tokyo. In the middle of the dome there was a huge slalom that ends with a quarterpipe (a jump where the rider takes off straight into the air and comes back down to the same place as they started) which gives them a lot of height(or air as the professionals call it). Snowboarders go down the slalom and try to do tricks like spinning round, in order to win the 11 million yen in prize money.

Famous snowboarders who turned up included American boarders Travis Rice and Finn Heikki Sorsa, plus Norwegian Terje Haakonsen. Everyone competed in what was called a quarterpipe jam session, where the snowboarders go down one after another and do whatever tricks they want to in order to get the most points, all in the space of twenty minutes.

Some of the moves and stunts were pretty amazing and looked very dangerous. There were lots of accidents and I think the danger of it all made it very entertaining for the crowd. I found myself joining in with the 'ooing' and the 'aaring' from the crowd whenever anything bad or exciting happened.

There were thousands of people there and there was a really great atmosphere. The biggest cheer of the night went to the Japanes boarder Rio Tahara, who took his top off and did some amazing stunts. Although he didn't come first, he did manage to win the prize for the highest air.

There were also some Japanese bands called Retro G-Style, Soul'd Out and Road Major.

You may or may not have heard about extreme ironing. This is where people do ironing in a variety of dangerous situations. Check out this

Friday, December 14, 2007

One of the stranger things I've seen is a woman taking a dog for a walk. Why is this strange I here you ask? Well the woman happened to be taking her miniature dog for a walk by carrying it in her bag. Yes, her bag. I'm not sure if it's the latest fashion accessory but I think it looks a little bit odd. Dogs should be kept on leads. Not in bags.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last Saturday, I went to a Christmas party with my workmates Mark, Niall and Miranda. We had a great time. Lots of beer and country dancing. In fact the night is a bit of a blur. You can check out the photo here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rikugien Gardens

On Sunday, I went to the Rikugien Gardens which were created around 1700 by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, the grand chamberlain of the fifth shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. Rikugien literally means 'six poems garden' and recreates 88 scenes described in famous waka(31 syllable) poems.

At this time of year the gardens are very beautiful as there are many colours due to the change of season. You can check out the photos

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Last night I went to the Japan Arts Dance Event(JADE), an international dance event held over three days in Tokyo.

The first two days were devoted to
Butoh, which is a modern Japanese dance created by Tatsumi Hijikata.

I went to the final performance on the Monday evening, which was devoted to humour in dance and featured dancers from Russia and America. I had a very enjoyable evening and the dancing was very interesting and beautiful, if a little strange at times.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Before I came to Japan, one of the major events on the Japanese calender I wanted to go to was the Sapporo Snow Festival, which is held at the beginning of February every year. At the festival you can see huge sculptures made out of ice and snow that are very beautiful.

I spent most of Monday walking around Tokyo, going to travel agents(in the rain!), trying to find an available room and flight. Unfortunately, everywhere I went told me that there were no packages available.

Luckily, I got a phonecall from one of the travel agents yesterday and today I booked my holiday. I'm very lucky as I'm in the centre of Sapporo and only five minutes away from the station.

Now I've got to go out and buy some warm winter clothes!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Japan Cup

On Sunday, I went to the 23rd Japan Cup at the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuuchu. The Japan Cup is the biggest horse racing event in Japan.

Horse racing is very popular in Japan. Here are some horsey facts:

-Each year approximately 200,000 fans go to the race and the first prize for winning is 250 million yen.

-Nearly 4 trillion yen is bet on approximately 3,500 races every year in Japan.

-In 1996, nearly a billion dollars was wagered on a single race (the Arima Kinen). In that same year, over 14 million people attended horse racing events in Japan.

-One of the most famous jockeys in Japan is Yutaka Take, who won the prestigious Grade 1 Prix de L'Abbaye at Longchamp in 1999.

-In total ,18 horses raced this year.

-10 years ago, foreign jockeys were first allowed to race for the first time. Famous jockeys who have raced in Japan include the Frenchman Olivier Peslier, Italian Mirco Demuro, American Kent Desormeaux and the Italian Frankie Dettori.

Getting to the racecourse is very easy by taking a JR train from Shinjuku. When I first got there the first thing I saw were the horses being paraded around the paddock before the next race. You can see the photos

After this I decided to explore the huge stadium.
Betting in the stadium is computerised and is done by filling out a card and putting it into a machine. Fortunately there were some stewards on hand to help me do this the first time.

In total, I bet on four horses throughout the day, but unfortunately I didn't win anything. I only lost 2000 yen(11 pounds) though.

I saw lots of
races throughout the day and there was a great atmosphere. Fortunately it didn't rain. The winner of the Japan Cup was Tap dance City(11-1), ridden by T. Sato.

Like everything in Japan there's cuteness everywhere. You can check out
Jockey Kitty here.

You can see all the photos