Tokyo Notebook

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

30 2010

Azabu at the Close of a Year

The year-end and New Year is our important holiday season.
After Christmas, the town is in the holidays’ atmosphere: people are preparing for the events during the year change period.

Close of a Year1
People purchasing flowers for Shogatsu (正月, New Year)
Close of a Year2 Close of a Year3

Close of a Year4
Shimekazari (しめ飾り) stall
Shimekazari is a twisted straw rope with fern leaves, an orange and other items of good omen. We hang it at the front door until Dec. 31 for washing away evils of that year.

Close of a Year5 Close of a Year6
Close of a Year7 Close of a Year8

I like this period of a year.
I look back at the year and think of many things happened in my life.
Though I have ups and downs as usual, I'm glad I get the period in peace.

I thank each and every one of you for reading my blog.
You really help me continue it.
I wish you good luck for the coming year!



Posted by Kinakinw | 17:02 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

28 2010

It Doesn’t Need Words to Appreciate Beauty

I'd like to continue the topic of the Japan Figure Skating Championships one more time.

Well, it’s like a dream come true that we have many great skaters and young talents.
I’ve been watching figure skating for fun since the age of Midori Ito (伊藤みどり), and maybe this is my happiest period as a fan. (This is also a somber time, but I make no mention of it now.)

My most memorable performance in the National Championships was Mao’s FP.

Many of you might have seen it on TV, but why don’t you try this version in which the noisy comments are removed. All you can hear are the music, the sound of skate blades on the ice and the cheers of audience.

Her performance in the video was so simply beautiful that I found it extremely moving.

My favorite part is that she takes off running later in the program (about 3:38 in the video). That's just what we’d expect from Lori Nichol, a Canadian figure skating choreographer.

I sure would have liked to be there.


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:00 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

26 2010

Japan’s Team Members for World Championships 2010-2011

Japan Skating Federation (JSF) made a formal announcement of the members of the national team for World 2010-2011.

Men’s single: Kozuka, Oda, Takahashi
Women’s single: Ando, Asada, Murakami


Posted by Kinakinw | 21:45 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

26 2010

Results of Women’s FP - the Japan Figure Skating Championships 2010

Flash Report

All skaters finished their performances 10 minutes ago.

1. Ando 137.58 2. Asada 127.47 3. Murakami 126.02
4. Suzuki 119.10 5. Shoji 107.60 6. Nishino 100.07

Suzuki took seventh place in the short program. It seemed her error in FP were only a step out of double axel + triple toeloop and that triple flip ended up double. I think her steps got a roar from the spectators.
Murakami had done it better! She has a lot of nerve.

Mao sent out a signal! She’s almost back, though not fully. Among the elements in the list below, she changed second 3A into 2A. She made minimum mistakes.
Triple Axel+Double Toeloop+Double Loop
Triple Flip+Triple Toeloop
Triple Lutz
Change Foot Spin Combo
Triple Axel
Triple Flip+Triple Toeloop
Choreo Spirals
Triple Salchow
Flying Camel Spin
Straight Line Step Sequence
Double Axel
Flying Change Foot Spin Combo

I’d like to take off my hat to Ando. Her performance must be perfect!

Overall Ranking
1. Ando 202.34 2. Asada 193.69 3. Murakami 187.52
4. Suzuki 175.96 5. Shoji 165.82 6. Nishino 157.09

Congratulations, Miki!

As I keep insisting, the women’s FP isn’t broadcast live, so I’ve not watched the last group’s performances yet. I'm looking forward to see them!

Here is her SP. It’s delightful to watch because it doesn’t contain annoying and unnecessary comments of a sports commentator and TV personalities.


Posted by Kinakinw | 19:42 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

25 2010

After 2nd Day of the Japan Figure Skating Championships 2010

Table of Contents
I. Results & Sentiments
i. Men’s SP & FP
ii. Women’s SP
II. Complaints against the TV station

I. Results & Sentiments
Men’s SP Top 6
1. Kozuka 87.91 2. Hanyu 78.94 3. Oda 77.48
4. Takahashi 74.78 5. Machida 73.75 6. Mura 72.33

Kozuka came out on top after the short program, which was a perfect performance as he said so. His all elements received level4. Good job!
Hanyu made no mistakes and took fourth place in the short program.
At the opening of his SP, Oda fell on his quad and then fell again on his steps (!). He said he raised one's shoulders for covering up the error of quad.
I think Takahashi didn’t feel his normal self that day. His all jumps were unstable.

Men’s FP Top 6 (only just finished)
1. Kozuka 164.02 2. Takahashi 162.01 3. Oda 160.00
4. Hanyu 141.12 5. Mura 134.98 6. Machida 130.36

Takahashi landed quad flip!! (under rotated?) His last triple salchow ended up double.
Kozuka fell on quad toeloop and triple Salchow. Oh, No.…However, he got enough points to be first, so far. Oda fell on quad and triple axel.

Overall Ranking
1. Kozuka 251.93 2. Oda 237.48 3. Takahashi 236.79
4. Hanyu 220.06 5. Mura 207.31 6. Machida 204.11

I think the top three skaters will show up on the next World.

Women’s SP Top 6
1 M. Asada 66.22 2 M. Ando 64.76 3 K. Murakami 61.50
4 R. Shoji 58.22 5 R. Suguri 57.18 6 Y. Nishino 57.02

Two of three skaters from fourth to sixth are juniors, and the other is Suguri who will turn 30 years old on New Year's Eve. Somehow, I get tired of watching Murakami’s SP. Ando performed SP she unveiled at Grand Prix Final with perfect impunity. Great!

When Mao landed triple axel in 6-minute practice, the audience erupted in thunderous applause. They know, we know what she’s trying to do, and we’re waiting.

She LANDED triple axel, though not cleanly but landed. It was nice try in this precarious situation. She's amazing. Triple loop+double loop and triple flip were OK. She didn’t fall down. The audience gave her a long standing ovation. Best Tango in this season. I was very happy to see Mao’s smile after so long.

II. Complaints against the TV station
Fuji Television Network has the broadcast right of the championships and next World Championship in Tokyo, which is really a big tragedy. (I wrote about the station before.)

In Japan, the broadcasts and media treatment of figure skating by commercial TV stations are basically awful beyond all description. (Maybe it's the same in the States or other countries, though.) Ignoring skaters and viewing public, needless TV personalities and announcers ridiculously get excited over the banal stories dragged up by the foolish TV creators: a young highly targeted person vs. a falling star, eternal rivals, technique vs. expressiveness, and so on.

Among those terrible broadcasts, that of Mens SP (12/24) by Fuji Television Network was lower than at any time in history. The on-the-air hours were from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. I was sitting immobile in front of a TV by seven, but what I watched until eight was a stupid quiz show about figure skating. I’m not kidding. Irrelevant TV personalities answered figure skating quizzes for more than half an hour.

There were thirty-two male single skaters in the competition, and many of those, except top skaters, got through the competitive qualifying round to come in it. However, the worst station aired performances of only six skaters. Not sixteen. Six.

In this great nation of figure skating, we have to watch the hellish and terrible broadcast.

Oh, correction, we can visit the live text coverage of sportsnavi, a sports site by Yahoo, and check the results in a moment. Today, I knew the results on the site first.
The idiot showed and will show recorded broadcasts, so I haven't seen Men’s FP yet.


Posted by Kinakinw | 22:41 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

24 2010

The Grand Prize for Best Costume

I enjoyed the costume party yesterday.

The best costume award, selected by me, was the rescued miner!
His choice of the theme was great, and in addition, he made the rescue capsule Phoenix himself.

best dresser
The world was glued to the tube.

I wore Santa Claus costumes as I wrote earlier. Yeah, there were five Santa Clauses including me.
I’m going to wear an elaborate costume with a smashing theme next year.


Posted by Kinakinw | 13:29 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

22 2010

The Day before the Christmas Party

I decided to show up for a party tomorrow.
The problem here is it’s a costume party.

Though I was asked to be present at the party a couple of times, I offered an ambiguous response because it was a bother to think about how I get dressed up.
It’s OK if I go there in the regular clothes, but not fun.

Christmas Party1

I tend to get immersed in anything, so I actually wanted to get up in a much better way.
However, it ended up this ordinary, dull costume. I wonder how many Santa Clauses are coming to the party….

Be that as it may, I'm going to have fun tomorrow!

Christmas Party2

I hope you have a very good Christmas!


Posted by Kinakinw | 11:50 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

19 2010

The First Person of Haruki Murakami

I’d like to make a point that I’m NOT writing this post with intent to criticize the writer’s works or to demean the existence as a novelist.

I just want to tell you about someone else in his “Boku (僕, one of Japanese personal pronouns meaning ‘I’ Murakami uses in his novels as the first person).” Of course, a first person in “I novels” may contains multiple individualities except an author. It’s no problem if there is an actual person as a model of “Boku”, but personally, this writer’s Boku encourages me to think about a lot of things because I know the model.

Theatre Museum
Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum
The word on the façade is “Totus Mundus Agit Histrionem”, the motto of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, meaning "All the world's a stage (全世界は、劇場なり).”

I met Mr. K (I’ll just call him K here) when I was working for a former company. K was (and still is) a president of an advertising company. K was divorced and single at that time.

One winter, at a Christmas party hosted by K’s friend, when I stood and chatted with K, a photographer started to give out photo postcards. The photo was a portrait of Haruki Murakami. It made K told me about his relationship with the popular writer.

K was a Murakami’s classmate in high school in Kobe, and they entered the same university. They lived in the same student dormitory and were real close. K said they maintained contact with each other until shortly BEFORE Murakami became really famous as a writer.

One day, one of their mutual friends informed K of the contents of his friend’s novels. The mutual friend said, “Murakami is writing about you.”

During his youth, K, a baby boomer, was a student movement activist, out going and had a strong personality. I thought K was attractive to ladies.

K said that he had various anecdotes in school days and later, and he told me some of them. I only had read several Mmurakami’s early novels including short stories by the time, but I already KNEW many K’s anecdotes because the leading figure, Murakami’s Boku, did the same things.

I’m going to introduce just one K’s anecdote.
K had a client, an insurance company, and at one time, he made all promotional brochures, calendars and everything in the motif of SHEEP though it was not the year of the Sheep.
You see?

On the basis of speculation, I thought, maybe, the young novelist wanted to be K.

The movie, Norwegian Wood based on the Murakami’s novel, premiered last week, and the author’s name gets a lot of media exposure these days. So, I’m forcibly reminded of K and their relationship.

I don’t have an opportunity to see K, and don’t read the author’s novels any more.
Though the gulf between them seemed to widen in those days, I found there is an immediate connection between them now when I went through into the Internet and updated K’ news for this post.

Well, things would shift slowly with time.

Needless to say, Boku is NOT simply K. Murakami’s first person in the early novels is original created by the talented writer by the absorption of K.


Posted by Kinakinw | 22:39 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

17 2010

The Festive Mood

I decorated my Christmas tree early at the end of November, but I’ve had a feeling of Christmas only recently.

Since I bought own tree, I’ve begun to listen to Christmas songs at home. (It might sound silly, but it adds the festive mood.)

If you have time, why don’t you listen to the songs and share the feeling of Christmas with me!

My favorite Christmas Songs

1. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
My former image of Elvis was the figure in the last few years of his life, wearing glittering white jumpsuits with long fringes, which I hardly called cool. However, with ages, I feel some his slow ballads (for example, Are You Lonesome Tonight? ) are really something.

Elvis is singing Blue Christmas at the unplugged concert!

2. Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith
I love this song written by a Canadian singer-songwriter, especially charming lyrics. I bought a Christmas album named “Maybe This Christmas” by various artists because of someone else, not Ron Sexsmith. That was how I came across the song. I was really lucky!

Though I couldn’t find his video on YouTube, there is one sung by Tim Freedman. I don’t know the singer, but Tim’s singing is also nice!

3. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Dean Martin
I’m often asked, “How old actually are you?” HAHAHA! I always have a happy feeling when I listen to songs of the period: Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, and so on. I feel a desire for their songs at the close of a year.

What is your favorite Christmas song?


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

14 2010

The Origin of Myself

I was born, raised and still living in Azabu, Tokyo, and here is my hometown.

However, if someone asks me where my origin is, I’d say I originate, as an individual, in the land in this photo (I cannot answer a deep question like where is my origin as Japanese or humankind, though.)

A mountain area of Uonuma district, Niigata prefecture (新潟県魚沼郡) It's one of the snowiest areas in Japan

This is my paternal grandfather’s home village.
I spent several weeks there in my childhood. I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but the picture of the village in my eyes is similar to the photo: unpaved winding road, stepped rice paddies and scattered houses. I think there were 20 households at that time.

My mother came from a seaside town in Aichi Prefecture (愛知県), and I do like the town. But, I don’t have such emotional attachment I feel from the village to the town where my mother’s family live.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as of Jan. 1, 2010, Tokyo's 23 wards have a population of 8,502,527 people. It's my guess there aren’t so many native-born Tokyoites, and if going back three generations or more, there are much fewer people whose ancestors are all Tokyoites. In my case, my father was born in Tokyo, but my mother and grand parents weren’t, so maybe, I’m not a genuine Tokyoite. Genuine Tokyoites (they can't even equal the pride of genuine Kyotoites, though) have a lot of self-respect.

The land of my heart now has only 4 or 5 households.

An airborne imagery of the village borrowed from google map.

This less-than-perfect Tokyoite sits between one of the world's biggest cities and the depopulated village.


Posted by Kinakinw | 18:59 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

11 2010

The Dessert Named Siberia

It was a few years ago that I came to know the dessert with unique name, Siberia (シベリア, the frozen northern land in Russia).

Yokan (羊羹, red bean jelly) is sandwiched between kasutera (カステラ, Japanese sponge-type cake).

Recently, I found Siberia (made by a major bread company) for the first time at a bakery. The sponge cake and jelly were soft and tasty. I liked it.

There are several theories about where the name was derived from. For example, yokan looked like the frozen ground or Siberian Railroad.

The theory related Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) seems widely accepted. According to one view, Siberia was invented by Nagafuji Bakery (永藤パン店, it closed down in 2001) in Ueno (上野) for Nogi Maresuke (乃木希典, the Japanese general) when he went to Siberia. Well, I heard the bakery was established in 1912….

Siberia2 Siberia3

Anyway, it appears to be true Siberia was on the menu at coffee houses in Tokyo in the 1920's and it was also popular among children.

Now, besides major companies, fewer traditional bakeries on a street corner make Siberia.

I’d prefer this simple dessert rather than trendy sweets made by a snob “pâtissier.”


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

07 2010

Let's Get Off on the Way

When I was traveling by Fukutoshin line (副都心線, a subway line) the other day, I thought of an idea of making an unscheduled stop at Zoshigaya (雑司が谷) station adjacent to Kishibojin-mae (鬼子母神前) station of Toden Arakawa line (都電荒川線).

Toden Arakawa line is one of few streetcar lines in Tokyo, which is only one operated by The Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation.

There is Kishimojin Temple near the station. It’s a very famous place, but I’d never been to in the past. (According to the temple’s official HP, it refers to oneself as KishiMOjin, not KishiBOjin, so I use MO version when I refer to the temple.)

A gateway street to the temple was within just a thirty seconds walk in a westward direction from the streetcar station.

kishibojin3 kishibojin4
The old houses along the gateway street are now used as a tourist information center and café.

kishibojin6 kishibojin5
Dagashi-ya (駄菓子屋, a candy stand) inside the temple grounds

According to the historical trail on the HP, a small building in which to put a statue of Kishimojin (holds pomegranate bark in the right hand) was originally established in 1578, and then this main hall was built in 1664. Kishimojin (Hariti in Sanskrit) is a Buddhist goddess for easy birthing and the protection of children. In the mythology, Kishimojin was once a cannibalistic demon that stole and killed children, and later, she took refuge in the Buddha and became the goddess.



Lucky me! The fortune said that I’m going to have excellent luck!

It was just a short hour of stroll, but I felt as if I were taking a trip.


Posted by Kinakinw | 17:00 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

05 2010

Ramen to Finis Up with


Yesterday, I had dinner at my friend’s house in Kawaguchi City (a typical commuter town located on the southern edge of Saitama Prefecture). I enjoyed a conversation and ended up catching the last train.

On the way home from the nearest train station, I suffered a conflict in the mind: whether I would eat ramen (ラーメン, a Japanese noodle dish) or not.

In Japan, it’s common that the final destination after drinking would be a bite to eat ramen. Ramen for a midnight snack, when we are a little hungry after drinking, is soooo delicious. We call it “shime no ramen (締めのラーメン, ramen to finis up with).”

However, it’s also a dangerous behavior, which helps fatten.

It was 1:30 a.m. I hung around the ramen restaurant for a while, mulled and stopped short of eating. Instead, I got low-cal cellophane pot noodles (春雨ヌードル, it was only 104 kilocalories!) at a convenience store. It was enough to have soup with some sort of noodles if it wasn’t a full portion of ramen.


After this, I will cook ramen for dinner!


Posted by Kinakinw | 17:45 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

02 2010

One of the Few Occasions to Watch Mao

The 79th edition of the Japan Figure Skating Championships 2010-2011 will be held in Nagano this month.

Dec. 24 (Fri): 16:00 Pairs--SP, and Men--SP
Dec. 25 (Sat): 13:00 Ice Dance--SD, Pairs--FS, Ladies--SP, and Men--FS
Dec. 26 (Sun): 15:00 Ice Dance--FD, and Ladies--FS
Dec. 27 (Mon): 17:00 Exhibition
(Japan time)

The competition, hosted by Japan Skating Federation (JSF), will determine the national champions of Japan and, at the same time, which skater will participate in World Championship.

According to an official announcement of JSF, the members of the national team for World 2010-2011 will be selected, “in a comprehensive manner”, among those who meet following requirements at the end of Japan Figure Skating Championships.

i. A skater placed in the top three at the Grand Prix (GP) competitions including Final
ii. A skater placed in the top three at Japan Figure Skating Championships
iii. A skater placed in the top three in ISU’s World Standings at the end of Japan Figure Skating Championships

As for the women’s, Miki Ando won two titles in GP competitions, and I think she’s already had a ticket to the World. So, two tickets are left. Kanako Murakami took first place at Skate America and third in Nagoya, and Akiko Suzuki took second place twice in China and Russia.

Well, though the process of selection has room for JSF’s arbitrary judgment (by selecting in a comprehensive manner), Mao Asada needs at least a title of Japan Figure Skating Championships to appear in the World.

I thought Mao’s performance in France was much more improved than that of in NHK trophy. I’m looking forward to seeing her at Japan Figure Skating Championships. I’ve already decided to stay home at night on Christmas Eve, Christmas and the weekend.

Besides the Four Continents Championships (I’d say it’s NOT worth joining, though), it might be the last in this season to see Mao participating in an official competition.


Posted by Kinakinw | 12:56 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

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