Tokyo Notebook

-・- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -・- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.

31 2010

The End of Summer

sparkling firework1

It’s called senkou-hanabi (線香花火, sparkling fireworks).
The small toy fireworks literally mean incense fireworks because they look like Japanese style incense sticks.

My friend gave them to me and suggested that I use that in my blog article more than a month ago, but I wasn’t in no mood for sparkling fireworks because the hot humid weather continued.

I think the sparking firework with transient beauty is a match for the end-of-summer evening.

It's (murderously) hot during the day, but I feel the end of summer approaches.
It’s cooler in the late evening than it was last week, and I didn’t turn on the air conditioner at night during the past 3 days.

So, I set off and shot the fireworks yesterday. Without a tripod and cable release, the photos are not so good.

According to a fireworks wholesaler’ HP, the state of the firework, from firing to finish, is divided into four phases, and each phase has a charming name.

First phase (the left picture)
Botan (牡丹, a tree peony flower) A small fireball grows.

Second phase (the picture above)
Matsuba (松葉, pine needles) The fireball sparks.

Third phase (the center picture)
Yanagi(柳, a willow branch) The sparks abate.

Fourth phase (the right picture)
Chiri-giku (散り菊, a falling chrysanthemum flower) It’s just before the end of it.

sparkling firework4 sparkling firework3 sparkling firework2



Posted by Kinakinw | 21:19 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

29 2010

A Small Inn with Great Hot Spring

a small inn1

I stayed at minshuku (民宿, a private home that provides room and board) in Ohiradai (大平台温泉), one of hot spring resorts in Hakone, last week.

Ohiradai hot spring resort is relatively new among the others in Hakone; the village first struck hot spring water in 1949. Some residents opened inns constructed by refurbishing their houses after that, so most of accommodations in the resort are relatively small.

The minshuku, Sanraku-sou (山楽荘) provides great hot spring water that is not circulated, so we can enjoy the hot spring in its most essential, natural form.

It can accommodate 5 groups per day, but my party (my friend and I) was the only one at that day. So, we had hot tabs all to ourselves!

a small inn2 a small inn4

Now, I’m facing the consequences of this little escape.
After returning from Hakone, I'm working 12 hours a day, of course, through the weekend.


Posted by Kinakinw | 12:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

27 2010

A Little Escape from the Heat

Hakone (箱根) is located just 100 kilometers from Tokyo. It’s part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and famous for outdoor activities, natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji. Above all, Hakone is a historical hot springs resort area in Japan, and many unique resorts are dotted in the mountains.

a little escape

In the middle of this week, I spent the day relaxing at the mountain hideout in Hakone.

The hot spring the inn has is one of long-established springs in Hakone. The inn was independently-operated for hot spring cure, and now, a company manages it as day use bathing facilities without regard to commercial concerns.

There is nothing except the hot spring and greeneries: no TV, no restaurant, no refreshment stand and no spa treatment. The inn is a gem of Hakone where just only people who love and calmly enjoy the hot spring water should go. (Sorry, I refrain from using the name and place of the inn and giving its information because the company preserving the treasured hot spring doesn’t want publicity for it.)

It was hotter than last year in the midst of the mountains, but still, the daytime temperature was 25-27 degrees Celsius (77-81 Fahrenheit).

I enjoyed soaking in a nice bath and taking a nap in the fresh air.
I wish I could stay there all summer.


Posted by Kinakinw | 10:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

25 2010

Unspoiled Scenery

When I went to shitamachi (下町, see Definition of Shitamachi) last weel to visit my friend's izakaya (居酒屋: a Japanese-style pub), I got my eye on this old-style shichiya (質屋: a pawn shop) near my friend’s place.
I felt like I was back in the 1950's.

pawn shop

According to Nationwide Pawnshop Union Alliance Society (全国質屋組合連合会) in Japan, the pawnbroking dates from the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, around 1185-1333) and has a history of 700 years.

Until the 1960's, pawn shops were closely connected with people's everyday life and offered secured loans. However, the number of the shops has been decreasing with the development of the consumer loan business. There were over 20,000 shops across the country in 1958, but about 2,500 in 2009.

Many prosperous merchant families and estate owners run pawn shops as a sideline in the olden days. This shop might be one of the cases because my friend said that the shop operator holds real estate that would be a main source of income.

When I was a child, there were old-style shops like this in Azabu, but remaining pawnbrokers rebuilt their shops and houses into modern buildings for rent.

I think it's almost like a miracle that I can see the unchanged shop in central Tokyo.


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:00 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

23 2010

Be Wary of Fraud

A few days ago, a stranger named Fong sent an e-mail to my official address. The message subject was “attention: ****** ***** (my full name).”

In conclusion, it was a fraudulent mail.

The story went like this.
Mr. Fong identified himself as an attorney at a law office in Kuala Lumpur and said that his late client, Damian ***** (my family name), who died on February 11, 2007, left vacant estate of $15,725,000. The bank where this huge amount was lodged had issued the attorney a notice to contact the next-of-kin to this fund or the account would be confiscated. So, he asked me to impersonate the next-of-kin of Damian *****, inherit the client’s estate and then share the amount on mutual agreed percentages with him.

Kuala Lumpur
Photo by WallpaperLink

It was the oldest trick in the book: a “there is locked-in money” story. If someone accepts Mr. Fong’s offer, then he or she would be requested to deposit a certain amount of money in the bank to receive the fund of $15,725,000.

My concern for this mail was the location of the office and the day Damian died (though it must be fictitious scenario). I actually visited Kuala Lumpur on March 2007.

Many years ago, a fortune-teller told me my former incarnation as a boy in Malaysia. Though I considered this kind of former incarnation as a fantasy, I’ve felt familiar to the country since then.

I’d say that another approach might be more effective to scam me. If the attorney said that Damian had adopted me as an heir, I would send an inquiry mail.

It would be a delightful fantasy that an extended family member I had never met left a lot of money to me.


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:05 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

21 2010

Summer Festival in Azabu-juban

juban festival1

From August 20th to the 22nd, Azabu-juban shoutengai(麻布十番商店街), a nearby shop street, is holding a summer festival in which hundreds of yatai (屋台: food stalls) stand. It’s one of the biggest food festivals in Tokyo.

The festival is held in the third weekend of August every year.
When I was a child, it was one of the summer events I was looking forward to and, at the same time, alerted me to finish my homework during the summer vacation.

juban festival2
These girls are just like Kinakinw at that age.

After Azabu-juban has become more convenient for visitors with the opening of new subway lines, the shop street are too crowded to enjoy the festival. Especially, after 6 p.m. it’s impossible to walk through the street.
Thus I always visit there early in the evening, move among the food stalls, buy several types of food, and have them for dinner.

juban festival5 juban festival6
Okonomi-yaki (お好み焼き: a pancake with bits of meat and chopped cabbages )

juban festival7
Tako-yaki yatai(たこ焼き屋台: a octopus dumpling stall)

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Choco-banana (チョコバナナ: chocolate covered bananas) and Yakisoba (焼きそば: pan-fried noodles)

juban festival3
Boys, you never win a game console!
This is a (crooked) lottery PTA doesn’t like, but children learn the world from the stall keeper.

juban festival4
Kingyo-sukui (金魚すくい: goldfish scooping)

juban festival10
Yeah, Mr. Destroyer!
He is on cordial terms with an owner of a building in Azabu-juban and a familiar person in this neighborhood. Good to see you!


Posted by Kinakinw | 09:28 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

19 2010

Start Again

The day before yesterday, I safely arrived home in Tokyo.
That was a good trip!

Since then, the summer heat has been getting me down. I spent all day in bed sleeping yesterday.

start again
I cannot forget the pleasant climate in the Northern West Coast.

I'm going to return to my routine at work from this afternoon and start to operate the bolg as usual from weekend!


Posted by Kinakinw | 10:41 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

16 2010

Nob Hill

I visited the northwestern area of the city this afternoon.

Nob Hill1

This area is called Nob Hill, an exclusive residential district with many old Victorian houses. It’s turned into a shopping district over the past dozen years or so. (There is a town with the same name in San Francisco.)

Nob Hill2 Nob Hill3

Nob Hill4 Nob Hill5

I had a lunch at a restaurant in the area.
I recognized at a glance that it’s a good restaurant, and I was right.

Nob Hill6

Nob Hill7 Nob Hill8
The restaurant is run by Laurelwood Brewing Co., so I had to drink their beer!

Nob Hill9


When I returned to the downtown, I came across an India festival held in the town’s square.

Nob Hill10

Well, I bought this dress today.

Nob Hill11

I think it’s cute.
However, it frequently happens that even if I think so in the States, I would lack the opportunity to wear it in Tokyo….

I’ll head back to Japan tomorrow!


Posted by Kinakinw | 16:36 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

15 2010

Free Time

The conference was over.

Though I was filled with a feeling of fatigue, I stopped over at a waterfront park on my way back from the venue.

free time1
Clear and Sunny Day

free time2
It’s a familiar summer scene in any street in the world.

A market is held in the park every Saturday and Sunday.

free time7

free time4 free time5
Many art and craft shops stand.

free time6
Of course, you can listen to live music.

I will spend my one free day tomorrow and then leave for home.


Posted by Kinakinw | 11:40 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

13 2010

Pleasurable Staying

I’m staying here to attend a conference (not on a sightseeing trip), but I’m having a jolly good time!

It's great to be here in the heart of downtown, though there was an option for staying at a hotel near the venue just off the town.

Yesterday, I prepared my presentation for the whole morning, left the hotel to have an early lunch and came across a farmers market held in a park behind the hotel.

pleasurable staying1

pleasurable staying2
These fruits and vegetables are all organic.

I’m a lover of vegetables who gets into high spirits just by watching them.

pleasurable staying3

pleasurable staying4

Then, in fine spirits, I visited a Japanese Bento (弁当: a boxed lunch) Cafe; listed on a guidebook. According to the cafe's HP, all Bentos are prepared using mainly natural and organic ingredients from local farmers.

pleasurable staying5
They were perfect!

The summer art festival is taking place in the city, and one of the event sites is next to the hotel.

pleasurable staying6
A band began to play in the early evening.

pleasurable staying7

pleasurable staying8

Look at a bunch of happy faces!

Watching them was enough to make me happy.


Posted by Kinakinw | 15:55 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

12 2010

Maintaining Bodily Functions

I arrived in a west coast city.
It was cool and sprinkled a little bit.

I’m staying at a so-called boutique hotel that is stylish and comfortable.
Above all, the hotel staffs are personable and solicitous. I can stay here without anxiety.

the first day1

the first day2

the first day3

When I checked into the hotel in down town I felt sick and run to a bathroom, but after lying awake in bed for a while, I recovered and was getting hungry.
So, I walked out on the streets to look for a restaurant.
The rain had stopped and the sun was out.

the first day4

the first day5
Many people were listening to the band playing in a square.

the first day6
Someone was dancing.

the first day7

the first day8

When I go abroad on business alone, I normally eat East Asian food on the first day because I think it’s effective in keeping up a good condition.

the first day9
I found some Chinese restaurants and made a mistake in selecting.

After returning to the hotel, I took a nap.
I couldn’t do anything yesterday because I was in the fog of a jet-lagged mind.

the first day10
I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant near the hotel.

the first day11
Udon (うどん: noodles made of wheat flour) was acceptable level.

It's 8 a.m. local time, and I feel full of health.
I've got to get moving.


Posted by Kinakinw | 00:05 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

10 2010


Now it's summer vacation season, and Narita Airport isn't as crowded as I expected.

This time, I can travel nonstop to a destination.
Lucky me!


Posted by Kinakinw | 14:11 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | 未分類

08 2010

I’m Busy. Though I’m Busy…

I watched the fireworks from my friend’s house yesterday.

Sorry for the poor photo. I took it with a camera in my hand.

The owner of the house is a former co-worker at a company where I started my career. In 19XX, ten women joined an international department of the company in the same year, and we still get along well. (I worked there only for two years and half, and then I changed jobs.)
We have a reunion party every year in time for the fireworks show.


We watch the beginning and ending of the show at just about anytime because we have to step out onto a balcony to see it. I’m always the first one who retreats to an air-conditioned room.

I hope we will have a good time together in the future!


Posted by Kinakinw | 13:01 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

05 2010

With A Little Help From My Friend

I want to get assistance even from a cat (“猫の手も借りたい”).

This is the literal translation of a Japanese common expression that means one needs all the help one can get.
I understand why a cat appears in the expression.

I’m busy preparing for a business trip I will go on next week. The preparation is not progressing as much as I had hoped.

When I return home exhausted, I see the tranquil scene.

‘Where were you?'

This is our cat called Chihuahua (チワワ).
She seems to have so little work to do.
Please take my place.



Posted by Kinakinw | 00:10 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

02 2010

System of twenty-four Seasonal Divides

I wrote in the last post that “shochuu-mimai (暑中見舞い)” is sent from the end of the rainy season until the beginning of fall (立秋, ritsushu) according to the calendar. Ritsushu is Aug. 7 or 8, and after that day, the greeting card is called “zansho-mimai (残暑見舞い).” Zansho means late-summer heat.

This custom is common knowledge even Kinakinw knows.

So, what calendar does ritsushu belong to?
I vaguely assumed it would be based on the lunar calendar (旧暦) for a long time. But, it was not accurate, to say the least.

Ritsushu that divides shochuu-mimai between zansho-mimai is one of “twenty-four setsuki (二十四節気)”, a system of twenty-four seasonal divides of the solar year. It was originated in ancient China to make date on the lunar calendar correspond to seasons based on the solar calendar.


According to the lunar calendar, each month started on the day of new moon. The period between new moon and the next was 29.5 days on an average, and then there were about 354 (multiply 29.5 by 12) days in a year, which was 11 days shorter than 365 days year on the solar calendar. Thus, the difference between the calendar date and seasons was getting large year after year. When the difference was reaching 29.5 days, an intercalary month (閏月: uruu-tsuki) was added. (That year had 13 months.) Twenty-four setsuki was the criterion for deciding when an intercalary month was added. (HP of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan: NAOJ)

As already mentioned in the previous post, “Cherry Blossoms and Saigyo”, a specific date in the lunar calendar varies on the basis of 365 days year. To know the seasons was really important for agricultural work.


In twenty-four setsuki, a solar year is firstly divided into four seasons, and secondly, each season is divided into six priods. Japanese still know many of them as words that express seasons.

2010’s Setsuki in August
“Ritsushu (立秋, the beginning of fall)”: August 7
“Shosho (処暑, the end of summer heat)”:August 23

The calendar was reformed in 1872. Though the lunar calendar is no longer official, even now NAOJ announces the date of each setsuki every year.


Posted by Kinakinw | 23:43 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

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