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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Ameyayokocho Market Street in Ueno

Finally Fran was off and we could go somewhere together - I am so lucky that I can entertain myself by going to somewhere I've never been before for hours as long as I'm taking photos, and then sorting them out when I get home! Fran had never been to Ueno before and I though he should see the park as I was amazed by the size of it. In Tokyo you would be suprised how one minute you could be in the busiest of places and a 5 min walk can take you to most beautiful park. It's still quite surreal! We decided as it was a sunday we should get out and see the famous Ameyayokocho - Ueno's market streets.

I got some gorgeous Yakitori (chicken with onion on a stick covered in a gorgeous soy sauce - YUM!) I had had one the day before at the festival but when I decided I wanted to get some more they had sold out!! They mainly sold fish and meat, but they also sold shoes and bags and umbrellas and other things that you would expect from a market, the prices were pretty cheap for Tokyo as well... I was pretty shocked by the squid legs for sale in ice!!! pretty awful! Take a look at this video!

YUCK, Yuck yuck!!! well I was over it as soon as I'd seen it to be honest - at least I don't HAVE to eat it!!! We went off to Ueno Park and walked around the lake. There wasn't alot we could do as we were melting in the heat (around 36 degrees) so we walked in the shade and ended up chilling on a park bench for a bit. Here are our photos from the day. We soon went back home and chilled out in from of the air con!!!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Hiroo Obon Festival

I went to visit Dave and KT in Hiroo for the Obon Festival. The Obon Festival is a Japanese Buddhist tradition to honor the spirits of those who have passed. It has been celebrated for more than 500 years and has evolved into a family reunion holiday which lasts for 3 days. I was really hoping that I would see a community celebrating together and I wasn't disappointed! To tell you the truth, I was blown away by the whole thing. The sound of the music, the dancing, the excitement from the little ones, the look of pride on the parents faces as they watched their little child in their traditional Japanese clothing enjoying taking part in the dance, watching the elderly look with so much love for their family. I could go on... but I have never just never seen anything like it in my life... apart when I have been with my family. The whole event just felt like a massive family and even though I wasn't part of that family, I still felt that I was welcomed. Here are a few photos that literally take the words out of my mouth...

I took a couple of videos to so that you guys could watch the dancing and listen to the music, it was very relaxed and everyone was joining in the dance on the floor. One lady came up to me with her little girl (who had obviously said something to her mum about asking me to dance with them) clinging around her waist and asked me if I wanted to join in the dancing (not directly - a few japanese words - a few english words a few hand gestures) I smiled and replied Thank you, but its ok (in Japanese). They lingered around us for a minute or so and then joined back in the dance, as the little girl walked away she waved at us. It was adorable.

The drumming was the only part of the music that was live at this festival- which I thought it would of been great it if it had all been live, but the drummers were really fascinating!

I only noticed this lady towards the end but she was dancing close to the staging area and showing people how to do the steps, It was great. Luckliy for me this next month is FULL of festivals all over Tokyo... Next week Shinjuku!!!! Here is Dave and KT enjoying the festival!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Sunset over Shinjuku

 I got to Shinjuku just in time for the gorgeous "orangy/pinky" sunset. It was extremly busy there! An estimated 3.5 million people pass through Shinjuku station every day, making it the busiest train station in the world!!! So I've gone from being completely rubbish at going on quiet English trains to being able to tackle the world busiest trains... haha. That's what I would call a good 6 weeks of progress :-D
No one seemed phased by the amazing orange colour coming from the sky... No one even really looked up. I felt like a total cliché - A forgein photographer in Tokyo!!! Sigh! I'm am finding things a little tough at the moment... when I am walking alone and I walk past another westerner there is a weird staring competition kind of thing only for a split second. Also, we went and say in a cafe a couple of weeks back, both me and Fran had taken our books to read and just chill, but we have got used to not being able to understand anyone around us, so there is no need to try and block the noise out - like if I were in a cafe in England. I think it was going to be weird going back maybe for a few days just because of this! When we were sat in the cafe there were two American guys, it was obviously an interview situation and the interviewer had a really loud voice (again - I'm guessing if he has been here a while that he is used to being able to say what he likes at what ever level he likes because there are more people here that don't speak English than people who do). We had to leave because there was no way we could concentrate on our books!!!
I met a BIG Hello Kitty!!! Fran is going to come back with me again so I can have my photo taken with her!!!! AMAZING!!! I really enjoyed Shinkuku but I wasn't there for long enough, I would like to go for the day! because I only saw a very small part! Here are some examples of the beautiful Japanese Skies that we see every day.

 I also visit the Hanazono-jinja Shrine. I was walking on the wrong side of the road looking for it, when I heard a load of singing, I thought it was someone playing music loud in their car but as I got closer (and crossed over!) there was a musical theatre performance going on opposite the Shrine in what looked like a semi permanent big hut with cloths covering the sides, I could see through a gap in the sheets some of the performance. There were about as many people in the production as there were audience - but every seat was filled! 
Any place in Tokyo is amazing to see at night, but this was unbelievably spectacular!!! I would definitely recommend this as a place to see if you come to Tokyo. I know I'm going back!


Ok, so I obviously don't want to say I want to be in an earthquake but apart from the one we had in Manchester a couple of years ago, I haven't experienced one. So to be honest I am intrigued!!! I have been keeping an eye on the earthquake reports just incase I thought I felt one and then I could check

So we have been here nearly 6 weeks now, and we have had no signs of any earthquakes... now  there are on average 4 a day throughout Japan (not many of them are in Tokyo).

To put it bluntly... me and Fran slept straight through 2 earthquakes this morning!!!
So when I woke up (not thinking anything of it) I checked the website and it said there were 2 in the space of 10 mins with the epicenter right on tokyo. and where we live they both measured a 4 on the Japanese earthquake metering system (which goes from 1 - 7)... all I can say is I am gutted (I know I know I should be thankful)! But everything is fine, there is no damage or anything ... Tokyo is built ready for a strong earthquake! Like KTs office building, it has springs either at the top or the bottom which will absorb any earthquake should it hit. So between now and the next earthquake I am going to be handcuffed to my camera ready to get a video at any moment!!!!

But for now... no big earthquakes please Japan, no big earthquakes :-)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beautiful Kameari

Well, we litterally went for a walk in Kameari and the sun set was so beautiful I got a few photos!

So the weather here has been stupidly hot!!! Honestly (sorry for being gross) you go out for 10 mins and you are covered in sweat! Luckily for Japanese Fans, face towels the shade and air conditioning you can get out of the sun if you want... and well I'm going to have to get a few photos but there are some pretty strange hat that I have seen people wearing... to keep the sun off their faces! Anyway, I enjoyed the mist...
Today we got alot of pictures of bugs... I'm not going to post them on here so that people can choose whether they want to see them! There is one in particular that Fran took that literally had it been bigger it could have easy been mistaken for an alien! No joke! If your feeling brave you can see them by clicking here.
We finished off a nice walk by finding the near by river, it was beautiful and peaceful apart from the bugs that apparently live for 1 year in the ground and then come out in summer for 1 day and die... I think they are wanting you to know that they are dieing... I thought the sound was kinda cool until I saw what was making it... and then the noise just goes straight through you!!! Again, if you are feeling brave you can see and picture of the insect by clicking here and you can watch the video of the insect making the noise by clicking here. Good Luck!!!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Rikugien Gardens in Bunkyo-ku

Well, what gorgeous day to visit Rikugien Gardens. It was 36° degrees and I think it's fair to say I was melting! I have never ever experienced weather at this temperature. It made everything... blurry! I kept sitting down in the shade and drinking lots of water to keep me alive!!! Maybe that's kind of dramatic but you know what I mean. Fran has been working hard and is loving his job which is great!!! I have been walking stupid amounts (you can check my pedometer on my phone if you like!!!) Everyday! Everywhere! It's becoming a chore to be honest, but I gotta push past that! So I was wanting an extremely cheap way to entertain myself for the day, so I went with Rukugien Gardens! It cost me ¥300 entrance and it was quite cheap on the train too... so all in all (with the bottles of water I had to buy) I had a great day for around a fiver!!!!
It was so peaceful and serene. I loved it! I had a small map that the lady at the entrance had given me. It read;
"This strolling, mountain and pond-style garden was created based on the theme of Waka poetry in the 15th year of the Genroku Period (1702)" "This garden is a typical example of the famous gardens of the Edo period."
 I saw many birds and insects that I'd never seen before. I was annoyed at myself, I walked around a corner maybe a bit too heavy footed and I think there were about 30 of these birds playing in the water and then just as I realised they were there - they realised I was there and flew off! I entertained myself being as slow as I could to see if they would come back. Whilst I was waiting, I jumped over stepping stones to get to a bench. I wanted to put my bag down and try and take a picture of a massive black butterfly that kep flying past - no luck there thought YET. I stepped back over the stepping stones and realised that I could see a turtles head keep popping up.

He followed me (whilst staying in the water) everywhere I went... I was confused whether he didn't want me there and was trying to chasing me off or whether he was stuck and needed help... I think he may have got caught upstream and couldn't get back down. He was the only terrapin there... I felt bad that I didn't know what he wanted, especially if all he wanted me to put him back down in the main part of the pond. I was afraid that he wouldn't like being handled and maybe bite? I don't know. I hope he finds his way back down though! (Sigh)

Anyway, my patience paid off and the birds came back...

There was a beautiful little Japanese style cafe that I sat down in and took the 2 photos above.

Right, now you can imagine what I'm like when I see turtles... extremely excitable!!! I saw a baby turtle swimming in the water and was so happy because we had only ever seen terrapins in the water here. I walked across this bridge and got half way... this is what I saw...

I just stood there in shock for about 3 minutes with my mouth wide open! haha. I looked around and I couldn't see anyone... I was dieing to tell someone! I heard some foot steps behind me and I turned around and this elderly Japanese man was walking towards me, I just yelled out "LOOK" to him and pointed at the turtles. I felt like a complete idiot as soon as I'd said it! He stood with me for a couple of minutes didn't say anything, he offered me some insect replant (I've got pretty bad bites on the top of my arms at the moment) and then went on his way. I sat down on the bridge (Ow, I just pictured me on a massive bridge... no no, I was sat on a tiny little concrete bridge with no railings... but I made no plans for falling it!) and chilled for about half an hour watching these guys swim around. (I haven't got space to put all my pictures on here so you can check the rest out by clicking here and flicking through to the right.) But I have to post the videos of them!

And then, to top my lovely day off I saw a Grey Heron on the boat which was moored to the island in the middle... I got out my long distance lens and took like a hundred photos of him. (that was a nightmare deciding which one was the best to keep) I really hope it's a rare occasion for him to sit there because it felt so perfect!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Leafcup Picnic on Marine Day

"Marine Day was declared a national holiday in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the ocean and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan"
I went along to Leafcup's Picnic in Yoyogi Park, Harajuku. Everyone was having such a great time. Above is a picture of Me, Ryoko (a lovely lady who had been at my chat table the day before), Ryoko's younger sister and Rieko (Staff at Leafcup). Those of you who don't know - I have started working in a cafe called Leafcup as a English Conversation Chat Host (which is great as I love to talk!). I have a table for up to 4 hours (Iidabashi) and people come and talk with me and other people wanting to converse in English, everyone is always lovely and I certainly feel welcomed by all!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A Rainbow Ring in the Sky

I don't know what made me look up... I was just tidying the apartment... I am so pleased my camera picked it up (even though it is nowhere near as bright!) as I thought I was seeing things!!! There was a big bright rainbow in a circle around the sun... AMAZING!!!!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Asakusa Temple

This photo is my first HDR photo... HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. To simplify it, I took 3 photos all with different levels of exposure, so I had one very bright one, one very dark one and one normal one, then I merged them together and bring out the best bits from each photos - creating a photo with higher dynamic range than a normal photo :-) So this is my first and it certainly won't be my last - I love it!!!!!!

We visited Asakusa only for a couple of hours, I wanted to go to see the temple but Fran had had his first day at work so was feeling quite tired, and to be honest the heat just makes you want to sleep!!!
We turned right out of the Asakusa train JR line station and we came to a river, it was beautiful watching people queuing up to take a Tokyo Tour on the ferry and the sun glistening across the water! Also, I have never seen the sky look so blue as it is in Japan... it's very surreal, you feel like you could be in a dream but it was so relaxing and peaceful.

You see these carts? you would think they would pulled by horses, right? Well you'd be wrong! I couldn't believe my eyes when one of these went past us and there was a person carrying these carts with people in them, they were running too! We saw a girl struggling up hill with one of them. I dread to think how much they would actually weight if someone got in them. There were people shouting for us to get in one for a tour around Asakus... needless to say we didn't go on one...!
We went up a shopping street which would lead us to the temple, there was so many shops lining the streets selling touristy things like, Japanese fans, chopsticks and other ornate items. I saw a small Ice cream parlor, Fran was feeling tired so I offered to get him an ice cream (this was after I saw a man walking away from the shop with a bright green coloured ice cream) The picture above was only one half of the fairly odd flavours... Chocolate Chips OK average, Coffee - OK a little strange I guess, Sesame ? really?, Tea??? TEA flavoured ice cream???, Sweet Potato Ok your taking the mick right, and OH MY GOD Pumpkin flavour who thought that was a good idea - Fran perked up... "Ow, I like Pumpkin" and off he went over to the shop... I couldn't quite believe it!! He bought a cup of ice cream, half pumpkin and half cookies and cream!
He said it wasn't the best, but it wasn't awful... I guess that means it was pretty good by Fran's standards and he ate it all!

This street leads to Asakusa Temple... which was just breathe taking...
We were quite sad to see that the actual Temple was having work done on it so was covered in scaffolding... so not so breathe taking, but we are definitely going to go back when its finished!

Before the people would go in to pray there was a big pot (like a cauldron) that had smoking ash coming from it, people would wafted the smoke at them - it is said that if you are ill, or have bad health, you put the smoke on you and you will be cured. Watch the video below to see.

This is a wish that someone has made, they are tied on a board and then they will come true.

Fran and I just sat here for about twenty minutes, just admiring the view, it was perfect. I really want to go back when the temple is renovated, and also it has made me want to go to Kyoto. Kyoto is the traditional part of Japan. I think about 3 hours away from Tokyo but it has lots of Temples and Shrines and gardens and and it is meant to be very peaceful!!!