Tokyo Notebook

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

30 2011

Unique Bar in Shinbashi

the house of dolls1

A name of the bar, the house of dolls (人形の館), is reminiscent of Gosu Rori (ゴスロリ, Gothic lolita, a fashion subculture originating in Japan).
However, as you see from the picture showing Star Child, Paul Stanley, it’s a rock bar, which has 6 seats at the bar counter and one sofa seat.

It’s a bit hard to explain the bar. I mean, it’s out of the pattern.

It's like saying that the space is a microcosm made by its female owner.
A theme of a rock bar is obviously rock music and culture, and in many cases, one under private management reflects an owner’s taste in music. The house of dolls does, too, but its atmosphere also mirrors, not forwardly, an individual taste of the owner more than music: her way of living, belief, mind, and so on.

Of course, it’s a sound and healthy bar, and I don’t mind the atmosphere.
The quaint owner, a friend of a friend, runs the bar at her own comfortable pace.

If you are in Shinbashi (新橋)or Ginza (銀座) and feel like having one more drink, why don’t you have a look at her microcosm?
It’s 3-minute walk from Shinbashi Station.

the house of dolls2
The house of dolls, Shinbashi (新橋人形の館)
Tel: 080-5508-4184
Open: Mon – Sat
Juugo Building B1F, 4-18-4, Shinbashi, Minato-ku Tokyo
http://bar-navi.suntory.co.jp/shop/0X00076455/index.html (in Japanese)



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26 2011

Kinakinw Goes to City in the Air - 2

Now, I refrain from making sarcastic remarks directed at Roppongi Hills and Mori Building.

Today’s topic is a personal art exhibition of Odani Motohiko’s (小谷元彦) titled “Phantom Limb (幽体の知覚)” that has been held until February 27th 2011 at Mori Art Museum. I just stopped by at it after visiting the other exhibition.

Well, I rarely see modern art. If you are an expert in the contemporary art, please no flames about my amateur opinion.

art museum1
Odani, born in 1972 in Kyoto, is a Japanese contemporary artist. He graduated from Department of Sculpture at Tokyo University of the Arts (東京藝術大学).

Introductory exhibits at the entrance of the museum were photographs of a girl with white dress (the picture above shows one of them) titled Phantom Limb, the term that I’m familiar with.
Phantom limb (幻肢) is an illusory sensation, experienced by an amputee, of the limb still being attached to the body, even when all sensory nerve fibres associated with the limb have been removed. It’s experienced by almost all amputees. (Oxford Dictionary of Psychology)

I was remembering when I was learned about phantom limb from an old professor in psychology of perception while I saw the photos. For me, it’s an interesting phenomenon that shows a mechanism of perception and cognition, but how is it for artists? It seemed that a central theme for the photos was memories of tactile sense, so I expected, on my own, some successive exhibits would evoke my perceptual memory.

In that sense, I got a wrong assumption, or I’m not trained enough to see arts. Though his works were comprehensible, they didn’t awaken my perceptual memory and sensation, except a large interactive installation in which we experience a sensory illusion, vection(擬似運動感覚).

Personally, I preferred MAM Project 013 by Katerina Seda (Czech artist, born 1977) that also has been held at the museum. She runs projects in which people from small villages participate. The installation in the pictures below titled “No Light (光がない)” wad made by people in a village in Czech Republic where a foreign-capitalized factory have invited a communication breakdown between them. A description said it’s a communication revival measure.

art museum2

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When getting under the tables…

art museum4


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23 2011

Kinakinw Goes to City in the Air - 1

I got a free ticket for Sky Planetarium, an exhibition that has been held from November 26th, 2010 until February 13th 2011 at Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills, a mega commercial complex. The ticket included free admissions to Tokyo City View (The observation deck, 52F), Sky Deck (the open-air rooftop), and Mori Art Museum (53F), so after visiting the exhibition I went round to these facilities.

City in the Air1
A bar counter of Mad Lounge in Tokyo City View
I was lured by happy hours and went in the bar, like insects drawn to the light.
What a spectacular view!

I sometimes get a free ticket of an event at the higher floors of Mori Tower. Though I rarely use it, I went there this time because a producer of Sky Planetarium is Takayuki Ohira (大平貴之, the creator of a planetarium projector, Megastar that can project the most number of stars in the world, His company’s English HP) whose work I wanted to see.

City in the Air2 City in the Air3
Sorry, photography is prohibited in the exhibition area.

Sky Planetarium has three zones: (1) the night sky of Tokyo is projected over a diorama by 10 digital projectors, (2) the 3D Sky Walk where we can walk through a room filled with 4000 stars, and (3) the theater that simulates a voyage from earth to the outer reaches of the known universe.

I unfortunately found little amusement in the exhibition, and I hope I will see a demonstration of Megastar in another place.
First, the diorama on which Mori Tower was highlighted brought my mood down because it seemed that Mori Building projected its power. Second, even though the Sky Walk perfectly reproduced the stars’ locations and distances between them in 3D space, there was no instruction in the room. I couldn’t find any constellation. For a person with little knowledge of constellations like me, the stars were just like random illuminations. Third, new visitors who came in one after another pushed people out of each zone (it was a midweek evening, though), so I had to make a round at a quick pace.

The exhibition charges admission of 1,800 yen for adults including those to the observation deck and museum, and I recommend Sky Planetarium if you stop by it on the sidelines of visiting the observation deck.

I think the observation deck is enjoyable enough if you don’t mind paying the entrance fee of 1,500 yen (an advance ticket is at low price of 1,200 yen).

City in the Air4 City in the Air5

City in the Air6

In closing, I would like to show you the view from the open-air rooftop of Tower of Babel.

City in the Air7


Posted by Kinakinw | 12:49 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

20 2011

The Heat Haze & the Heap of Corpses

The white books with shiny blue cross logo in the picture is a novel titled "Kagerou (かげろう, the heat haze)" written by Hiro Mizushima (水嶋ヒロ), a 26-year-old actor. The celebrity’s first book was published on December 15th, 2010, and the copies apparently were sold like hot cakes in the beginning. However, the way I see it, they have already been dead stocks on a bookstore shelve.

heap of corpses1

I chose this topic because I saw a similar heap of corpses (屍累々) in a small bookstore in Azabu-juban the other day. I was really sorry for the store.

I’m not going to comment on its content because I haven’t read it (and I’ve no plan to do so). I’d like to discuss a business method the young actor and a publisher, Popla Publishing Company, used.

The facts are these.
September 20th, 2010: Mizushima’s agent announced that he left the agency to concentrate on writing, and that got a lot of media coverage.
October 31st, 2010: Media reported that the actor won the grand prize in the fifth Popla literary competition (*) and also won an award of 20 million yen (about $230,000).
November 1st, 2010: The publisher officially announced that he won the competition and that they had not known about the author until editors visited him to tell his novel was selected because he used his real name, Tomohiro Saito (齋藤 智裕).
On the same day: Mizushima held a press conference and said he would withdraw the 20 million yen. Including the news of the grand prize, the news got a lot of media coverage again.
On the same day: .
The publisher declared that they would close down Popla literary competition and establish a new award for newcomers from next year.
December 15th, 2010: The novel was published. The initial print run of the book was over 430,000 copies.
December 28th, 2010: It achieved over 1,000,000 copies.

(*) I have to say that the annual Popla literary competition was equivocal because unlike other quality literary awards, its screening process and selectors were not manifested. There was ample room for selecting in an arbitrary manner.

heap of cropese2

In Japan, there are two book and magazine distribution systems: one is a consignment system in which a bookstore can return books to wholesale booksellers if they are unsalable, and the other is a buy-out system in which a bookstore cannot return them. Under the former system, wholesale booksellers decide how many copies they would ship to each store, while under the latter, stores take a risk and can purchase them as many as they want.

Though many books and magazines are sold in the consignment system, Mizushima’s novels are in the buy-out system.

I’d say that Mizushima and the publisher played a mental game with bookstores.
It was like a fireworks display that the young actor and his novel got a lot, a lot of media exposure in a short period of time. The tag team who never overlook commercial opportunities launched the copies with a lighting speed while the effect of the fireworks remained. I can vividly imagine that small and medium-scale stores that usually cannot be shipped enough copies of salable books thought it was a big chance.

The result was the complete failure of retailers, which purchased too many copies.
An excess advance order of each store led to the ridiculous oversupply of 1,000,000 copies, and to make things worse, people lost interest in the novel surprisingly fast.

Poor bookstores have to sell the copies because they are unreturnable. Thus, an ironical phenomenon is occurring in bookstores all over Japan. The corpses are displayed in the best places of shops for selling: at the entrance or near a cash register.

The team Mizushima won the game by the gimmick, but I think it not be all good.
The retailers will never forget their costly mistakes and the team’s method, and people will witness the miserable end of the dead stocks.

I wonder if they will try to catch lightning in a bottle twice.


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

17 2011

Why I Still Keep an Old TV

This is our only one TV, a TV/VCR combo manufactured in 1998. My sister bought it for playing video games. The VCR has broken down if that tells you anything.

The guy on the screen is Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympics gold medallist in men's figure skating.

Over the past years many people have bought brand-new, digitally compatible equipment that has a plasma, liquid-crystal or organic EL display panel in the wake of the end of analogue broadcast (*). In our case, we’ve been receiving the digital terrestrial broadcasting by cable-TV, and I have no plan to buy a brand-new one.

If you take one look at the picture and know why I don’t want a thin-screen TV.
It’s both the electric appliance and my cat’s bed.

There is a dining table on this side of the TV, and my cat often sits on it and looks at me while I write a blog post in front of the TV. (She is on it in this moment.)
How can I deprive her of her favorite spot?

In reality, the TV is acting up: the screen often flickers and it sometimes takes time before the entire image would be displayed. I will be forced to replace it with new one in the near future. It's preferable that the new one contains a recording device, so I would buy a used TV/VCR combo…. It costs only 3,000 -4,000yen ($27-37)!

If I buy a brand-new TV (all of those have a thin-screen), I would put it on a shelf so that my cat can sit on the top of the shelf.

However, except the matter of my cat, I don’t need a high-definition TV or 3-D TV. The image quality of a decade ago is good enough for me. Though our old fashioned appliance amazes my friends, I’m quite happy with the 15-inch CRT TV.

I watch TV to get information, not to experience virtual-reality.

(*) In Japan, the current analogue broadcast will end on 24th July 2011. If we want to watch regular broadcast after that, an environment capable of receiving digital terrestrial broadcasting will be needed: a tuner for the broadcasting, a TV equipped with the tuner, UHF antennas and so on. (For more information, please refer to Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication’s website.)


Posted by Kinakinw | 23:45 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

14 2011

A Neighborhood Pub

My sister and I got around Azabu-juban shopping street for a while the other day because we couldn’t decide where to eat lunch. Then, one of lunch menu meals of a British pub attracted my attention, so we went in that pub, The Tipplers Arms, for the first time.


Steak and Guinness Pie is a popular Irish dish. It appears to be served at many Irish pubs even in Tokyo. While I was unaware, Irish pubs have been increasing in Tokyo! I didn’t know the dish because I usually don’t go in Irish or British pubs. Well, I prefer domestic or domestically produced beer wherever I am because freshness is vital to beer.


Coming back to the point, this meat pie was like beef stew cooked with Guinness Stout and served with puff pastry. The stew was a little strong for me.

Overall, I liked the place.
The pub serves draught ale of a small Japanese brewery, opens seven days a week, and has friendly staff.
I’d like to stop at it for a beer next time.

British Pub The Tipplers Arms


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11 2011

Making Soba in Takumi no Sato Craft Village 2

My friend, her mom and I made soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles, when we visited Takumi no Sato, a tourist spot in the northern part of Gunma Prefecture, during New Year’s holidays.

There are multiple places where visitors can participate in soba making workshops, and we took one held at Nousanbutu-kakou no Ie (農産物加工の家, the house of processing of agricultural products), a restaurant and shop run by local women. The fee for participating the soba making workshops is reasonable (around 1000 yen per person), while it often costs more than 2000 yen in another tourist facilities.

soba making1

Ingredients: buckwheat flour, wheat flour (about 20% of the total flours), and water

It’s simple, isn’t it?
Wheat flour is used as a thickener for buckwheat flour containing no gluten. Personally, I prefer 100% buckwheat noodles, but it’s difficult for beginners to make them.

Under the direction of a local woman, we worked through the steps below. I did it when I visited there year before last, so I was mainly taking photos this time.

Step 1
soba making2
Put the flours in a konebachi(捏ね鉢, a special basin for soba making) and mix them well.

Step 2
soba making3
Put a third of water and mix them.

Step 3
soba making4
Put rest of water, mix them, and promptly gather dough into a ball before moisture would evaporate.

Step 4
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Make knead the dough by hand. The instructor said that we had to knead it at least 100 times….

Step 5
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Roll out the dough using a rolling pin.

Step 6
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Cut up the folded dough on a chopping] board using a soba knife (そば包丁) and komaita (駒板, a cutting guide board for noodles).


The staff persons immediately boiled freshly made soba, and we had it at the restaurant with maitake mushroom tempura we ordered.

soba making11

Our hand made soba noodles were irregular in shape, but they tasted especially good!


Posted by Kinakinw | 00:10 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

09 2011

Roppongi Hills at 12:30 a.m.

Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) is a mega commercial complex that includes an office tower, high-rise condominiums, shops, restaurants, cafés, movie theaters, a museum, a hotel, a TV studio, parks, and more. It’s located in the Roppongi district of Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Roppongi Hills

Today I got home by the last train of a different subway line than usual, failed to transfer to usual line, and ended up walking home about 30 minutes from a station.
The complex is on the way, and I always walk through it from the station.

This urban center was developed by Mori Building (森ビル) led by building tycoon Minoru Mori.
Locals, including me, do not like the complex and Mori Building.
I’d say this area development assaulted the area. The developer excluded original residents and extinguished original towns and communities. Then, they CREATED, in their words, the new town.

OK. Let's call their bluff.

In fact, though we coldly stand by and watch the complex, we don’t want it to end up a disastrous failure because the failure would have a much greater impact on the area and locals.

Anyway, the only good thing about the development is that the complex provides me with a short cut route from the station, which is relatively far from my house.


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08 2011

Enjoy a Local Atmosphere in Takumi no Sato Craft Village 1

Takumi no Sato (たくみの里, literally means “a masters village”) is an unique tourist spot in which the tourism industry and the agricultural community come together.

I like this spot, and it was my second visit. I went there when I was in Sarugakyo year before last, too.

Takumi no Sato1
It’s located in Sugawa (須川) area close to Sarugakyo hot spring resort in Minakami Town, Gunma Prefecture. Sugawa was an once-flourishing post station of Mikuni Kaidou (三国街道), an ancient highway.

In Takumi no Sato, tourist facilities are scattered about in the village where locals actually live and do farming. There are over 50 facilities including craft studios (体験工房), farmers markets (農産物販売所), food-processing centers (農産物加工センター), restaurants, and pick-your-own farm shops (観光農園).

Takumi no Sato2

Takumi no Sato3 Takumi no Sato4

Takumi no Sato5 Takumi no Sato6

Visitors can participate in various workshops to make crafts in the studios: washi(Japanese paper)-making (和紙漉き), indigo dyeing (藍染), bamboo weaving (竹細工), pottery throwing (陶芸), straw work (わら細工), cloisonne work (七宝焼き), glass etching (ガラス細工), and so on.

Takumi no Sato7 Takumi no Sato8

Cooking workshops are also available: Japanese soba and udon noodles making (そば、うどん打ち), apple pie making (アップルパイ作り), Japanese pickle making (漬物作り), and konjac (devil's tongue) making (こんにゃく作り). My friend, her mom and I made soba noodles. I will blog about that next time.

Not all, but many facilities are run by villagers, and that’s another fun aspect about the spot.

Takumi no Sato9 Takumi no Sato10

Takumi no Sato11

Hours: Most workshops open 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from November to March)
Closed: Varies. Workshops are closed one weekday per week and over New Year holidays (depends on facilities). Conversely, they are open on weekends and national holidays (except New Year).
Admission: Free (workshop fees vary)
More English Information: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7466.html
Takumi no Sato12


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:10 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

06 2011

Daruma, Daruma, Daruma

We stopped over at Shorinzan Darima-ji (少林山 達磨寺, Daruma temple) on the way to Sarugakyo hot spring resort.


Daruma-ji is a temple of Soto Zen School (曹洞宗) in Takasaki City located in Gunma Prefecture.
According to the temple’s HP, in 1680 a villager found a piece of fragrant wood after a flood and enshrined it in a small temple. One day a disciplinant visited there and carved a seated figure of Daruma-Daishi (達磨大師, Bodhidharma: the transmitter of Zen from India to China) out of the wood. Later in 1697, the temple established as Daruma-ji by Shinetsu(心越禅師), the Zen Priest from China.

The terrace of the main hall abounds with daruma dolls.

The temple is famous for daruma dolls modeled after the seated figure of Daruma-Daishi.
It’s a talisman of good luck to Japanese. The dolls meet various requirements. The word on body shows a purpose, for example, good luck (福), celebrations (寿), victory (必勝), success in an entrance examination (合格), and so on.
For us, I mean not locals, it’s regarded as a votive doll: we first fill in the left eye upon setting the goal or wishing something, then fills in the right eye upon fulfilling.

daruma4 daruma3
Locals get a new daruma doll for good luck every year and bring an old one to the temple.

The doll has a winsome look.

My best friend’s mom bought small one for me!
I filled in the eye upon setting a small goal for myself.
I hope I will fill in the other eye anytime soon.



Posted by Kinakinw | 00:05 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

04 2011

A Relaxing New Year's Break

What's nicer than New Year's holidays in hot spring resorts?

I took a trip to Sarugakyo-onsen (猿ヶ京温泉, a hot spring resort in the northern region of Gunma Prefecture on the border with Niigata Prefecture) with my best friend and her mother.

The resort by Akaya lake (赤谷湖) is located in Mikuni pass region (三国峠).

We took a hot bath, had New Year dishes, and drank.

Sarugakyo2 Sarugakyo3
My friend's mom felt lazy to do something….

A mochi (餅, rice cake) pounding event was held at the hotel lounge.
Mochi was originally special food prepared for the New Year and festive occasions. Though we can have it any time now, mochi is still typical food at this time of year.

To make Mochi, steamed sticky rice is pounded using special equipments: Usu (臼, a rice mortar) and Kine (杵, a mallet).


Sarugakyo5 Sarugakyo6
While one person pounds sticky rice into paste, the other turn and wet it.

After molding it into shape, we eat them as one likes. It’s common to dress them with sweet bean paste, toasted soybean flour, or grated radish and soy sauce.


Freshly made mochi is soft and tasty. I love it!
I also feel eating it during the New Year is of good omen.

How was your holiday?


Posted by Kinakinw | 00:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

01 2011

Happy New Year!

It’s the beginning of a new year!
I hope every one of you enjoy a great New Year's Day.

The first post in 2011 is about an illustration for our Nenga-jou (年賀状, New Year's greetings).

Nenga-jou is similar to the Western custom of exchanging Christmas cards. People write and send the postcards in December, to be delivered on New Year's Day. There's a saying that fewer people are exchanging them these days, but I think it’s a good custom to say hello to people we don’t see regularly.

My sister and I enjoy designing our own card every year. I usually plan, and my sister makes it.


This year’s illustration is a rabbit based on one of famous Choujuujinbutugiga (鳥獣人物戯画, caricatures of animals and humans) that had been originally handed down in Kozan Temple in Kyoto (高山寺) and now owned by Tokyo Natural Museum.

Rabbits, frogs, and monkeys are anthropomorphized in the caricature.
According to the museum, that was made in the middle of the 12th century.

2011 is the Year of the Rabbit (卯年) by Oriental Zodiac.
According to Japanese tradition, each year reflects the character of the animal, so it would be a year of progress, in which something new would start, as an image of jumping rabbit.

I do hope this year will be like that.


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