Tokyo Notebook

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

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29 2011

Products for Charity - Genki-tenugui


Last month, I wrote about Blue & White, a Japanese craft shop in Azabu-juban, which put pithy messages (e.g. “join hands”, “solidarity”, “don’t escape”, “courage”, “hope”, “smile”, “humanity” and “believe in love”) on its shop window (the entry) after the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake. Now, the shop produced the messages on a commercial basis: a tenugui (Japanese facecloth) with the words on it in the photo given below.
麻布十番にある和小物の店Blue & Whiteが、震災後ショーウインドウに簡潔で心にしみるメッセージを掲げた話を先月ご紹介しました(記事)。そして、そのメッセージが元気手ぬぐい、という商品になりました。

It’s an aid tenugui, and a part of the money raised through sales will be donated to the survivors.

Well, I prefer direct, simple self-contained support actions, like a monetary donation and an aid delivery, and paying within an existing economic framework, like buying products from Tohoku (not charity ones) and traveling to Tohoku. So, usually, I cannot say I like some charity acts: making products for charity, charity concerts, charity events, charity albums, and so on. I refer to them as “indirect dependent ones” for convenience sake here.

I want to make sure I do not criticize the indirect act and people who are engaged in it.
I think the indirect acts are often meaningful. Making new products only for specific aiding may be better than a simple monetary donation in terms of revitalization of economic activities. Charity events by celebrities do enhance opportunities for public’s support actions.

However, I sometime feel uncomfortable when I glimpse unfavorable vibe in the behavior of some leaders of the acts. I mean, if not all, charity acts can be means for self-realization and self-expression in some cases. I have mixed feelings when I see someone promoting and appealing one’s act to others in joyful exuberance. For who's benefit?

Basically, it may be ok what someone might do unless that leads to aid and expanded aid. Simply, that is not my style.

I get back to my original point. Contrary to my behavior on a routine basis, I bought genki tenugi right after I saw the poster in the opening photo.

A few days later of the tragedy, I felt a little left out in an abandoned town. Foreign residents escaped from Azabu. Visitors disappeared. Then I received these encouraging messages of “solidarity” from the local shop, which gave cheer to me most. I’m glad I can keep them around me.

I told the manager of Blue & White that I felt empathy for the messages and was happy to know someone felt exactly the same way. She wrote them after the tragedy. She had a nervous breakdown at that time and couldn’t stop writing them. When the boss, Mrs. Amy Katoh, saw them, she immediately decided to make tenugui using the words.
Blue & Whiteの店長さんとお話し、メッセージを見て共感したこと、同じ様に感じている人がいると思って嬉しかったことをお伝えしました。メッセージはその女性店長さんが書かれたそうです。彼女もあの時は神経がまいってしまい、それらの言葉を書かずにはいられなかったそうです。そして貼り出された言葉達を見たエイミーさんが、すぐに手ぬぐいにしようと決めたそうです。

I accidentally engaged in the indirect charity act, but I know the words and genki tenugui are basically for cheering up Tokyoites and I bought them simply for me. I don’t care if a part of money will be donated or not. That’s the least my spirit of self-respect.


Posted by Kinakinw | 11:40 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

26 2011

Right Place to Eat Indian Curry in Azabu-juban

Siddique Palace1

I can tell you the right place to eat Indian curry in my town.
It’s definitely Siddique Palace Azabu-juban branch, North Indian and Pakistani restaurant ran by Siddique Enterprises that has been operating more than 20 Indian restaurants in Tokyo.
それは、北インド・パキスタン料理 シディークパレス麻布十番店。都内に20店舗以上のレストランを展開する㈱シディークエンタープライズが運営するお店です。

The branch opened last November, and I finally visited it in this month with my sister.
Compared to other Siddipue branches, it’s gorgeous because its concept is palace. Belly Dance Show is held every weekday at dinnertime (no cover charge). Someone says CEO, Mr. Ramzan Siddique made this place for Pakistani embassy, so it has skillful cooks in its employs. If the rumor is true, it might be authentic Pakistani rather than North Indian.

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Tables on the first floor 1階客席

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The basement floor and the façade 地下客席とファサード

We had a set lunch menu with 2 kinds of curries, naan and rice, and all curries were just great! I’ve never been to other Siddique restaurants, so I don’t know if they are good or not. However, I really recommend the Azabu branch for delicious curry.

There is the other good Indian restaurant in Higashi-azabu, but it's a little long walk to it. So, I’m very glad that I can eat excellent curry at that place located within 5 minutes walking distance of my house now.

If you are in Azabu-juban and in the mood for Indian, don’t fail to be there! Although there are other Indian or Pakistani restaurants, but never think of going to.

During the following week, I had lunch at the Siddipue again, and I’m going to have dinner and try a la carte dishes next time.

Siddique Palace6
Lamb and vegetable curry

Siddique Palace7
Siddique Palace Azabu-juban
Open every day from 11am to 11pm


Dear visitor who sent e-mail through the blog’s mail form few days ago,
Thanks for the message!
(The characters were garbled, so I couldn’t read your name and address.)

Posted by Kinakinw | 22:40 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

22 2011

Unscheduled Short Trips


From last Friday night to Saturday evening, I ended up making a round trip to Yokohama twice a day.

My cousin living there had a light stroke resulting from his inveterate disease on the Friday evening. Unfortunately, he was alone at home because his wife's been in a hospital, so I stayed at his house to check on him that night, and I made a hurried trip back to Tokyo to get his medicine (his hospital is in my neighborhood) in the morning of the following day and then delivered it to him. Fortunately, he had resolution of the symptoms.

On the way back to home, I stopped for a while in Yokohama Chinatown for early dinner. The opening photo is "Kanteibyo", Chinese shrine that is dedicated to Guanyu, the hero of Sanguozhi (the history of three countries).

China-town2 China-town3

China-town4 China-town5

It’s one major difference between Chinatowns in Japan and those elsewhere that most visitors are Japanese. It’s a so-called tourist spot. The town became deserted after the earthquake, but some people are back now.


I’ve gone there once a year or so from childhood. There are over six hundreds restaurants, and I’d say that 15% of them serve expensive and delicious dishes, 40% serve expensive and ordinary dishes, 40% serve cheap and brackish dishes, and only the remaining 5% serve cheap and delicious dishes.

The restaurant I went to yesterday was “Shanghai Restaurant” on Hong Kong Strip because someone says it’s really off the beaten path.

It stands out in the town: sleazy look (it looks like a cheap ramen shop on the streets) and chaotic inside.

I hesitated when I open the door and saw inside the restaurant without any people except an older man who looked like managing chef. I took a seat at the counter where I could look on the kitchen and deeply regretted my choice of restaurant. It was a greasy spoon. I found the counter, menu and kitchen instrument are literally greasy.
ドアを開けて店主と思しき無愛想なおじさん一人しかいない店内を見て、かなりひるみました。厨房を見渡せるカウンター席に座り、深く後悔。英語では安っぽいレストランを“greasy spoon”と表現するそうですが、カウンターやメニュー、厨房機器など、全てが文字通り油っぽい店でした。

China-town8 China-town9
If I were an inspector of the health center, I would immediately order the shutdown.

In for a penny, in for a pound.
I ordered a bottle of beer, and the man promptly delivered it with free pickles. That sweet-pickled vegetables were unexpectedly tasty, so I prepared to have dinner there and ordered “beef with green stems of fresh garlic” from a la carte dishes, not ramen and dumplings.

The chef looked for beef and rummaged through the freezer for a long while. He picked a plastic bag and put it in microwave. Then he cut up green stems on a chopping board that didn’t seem immaculate. My heart was full of fear when I thought I would eat it, but thinking it would be cooked, I soothed my mind.

This is what he made. 1,580yen (about $18)

After all, that was a good meal. (I saw he used artificial flavoring, though.)
It was a thrilling experience.

I researched the restaurant online after I got home and knew he seems to have uneven temper and varies on his cooking. He used to work bouncily with his wife.

After getting out of the restaurant, I strolled around the town for a while.
Although it’s difficult to choose a restaurant, I like visiting there. I always regard the strolling Yokohama Chinatown a bit as though a vacation trip.


China-town12 China-town13

China-town14 China-town15


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

17 2011

Don’t React Nervously

Don’t React Nervously

When I stayed at the guesthouse, Hirano-ya, in Yunokami hot spring resort, I met middle-aged and older refugees from Naraha City – most of the city is within a 20km from Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant. The guesthouse is their third harbor, and they came in late April and will be staying through until the end of July.

I knew their stay from the inn’s blog before the solo trip and thought that I would have chances to make contact with them at the small inn. For one thing, we would ate dinner and breakfast together in the dining room. I was determined that I would behave as usual and enjoy, just like my ordinary solo hotspring-trip: soaking in a hot spring and reading a book as much as I want, chatting with someone in the bathroom as occasion offers, and drinking local sake at dinner. The guesthouse wants visitors for pleasure, and the visitors need to enjoy properly even if one of our reasons for staying there is to support Fukushima. If one shows reserved attitude because of refugees, that might make the refugees feel inferior.

I established quite a rapport with a lady from Yokohama in the bathroom, and she, her husband and I ate dinner together and drank after that. We had good time!

I felt that the refugees in Hirano-ya understand clearly the need of unmannered compartmentalization under the circumstances that they live with day-to-day pleasure guests. On the other hand, the visitors form other prefectures, including me, also understand their state of things. We gave a cheerful hello and a short self-introduction, chatted with each other for a while, and kept a suitable distance.

I talked to one of people from Naraha City, an old lady staying there alone, in the bathroom. She was getting ready to plant potatoes in a field when the earthquake struck. She left her house the next day with little more than the clothes on her back and then moved from shelter to shelter. She described herself as a strolling refugee. There are places where refugees can get everyday commodities and cloths for free, but she cannot go there because she doesn’t have a car. If other refugees have one, she hesitates to ask a ride. She wants to make a day trip to somewhere to forget it all, but she cannot spend money because the life as evacuees will be prolonged. She really wants to move to temporary housing, and much more.

While I concentrated on listening to her, I was filled with a feeling of helplessness. If I went there by a car at the very least, I could take her to get cloths. I may render macro assistance to the sufferers of the deserters, but I think assistance to unknown individuals is difficult to offer in a brief space of time.

Through the exchanges, I also reaffirmed I should remain steadfast in dealings with the radiological effects that have an influence on me in Tokyo. Though I keep an ear close to the ground in a calm manner, I break away from the attitude that tends to swing between elation and desperation by short-term developments. I’m in the much, much safer place relative to people in Fukushima. I cannot conduct myself disgracefully.

Unfortunately, the accident makes us shape the course of our life, and how someone responded shows that person.

Posted by Kinakinw | 12:40 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

10 2011

Yunokami Hot Spring Resort


My destination of the trip to Southern Aizu, Fukushima, was Yunokami hot spring resort situated in the mountains near the Okawa Gorge, a scenic area found close to the upper reaches of the Agano River. The hot spring was discovered in the 8th Century, but only residents had used it. The first hot-spring hotel was established around the beginning of the 20th century. Now, it’s a cozy and quiet resort spotted with over 20 small accommodations.

Yunokami-onsen2 Yunokami-onsen3

There isn’t so-called the hot springs resort area. I mean some of inns spread in the gorge, and the others are in the residential area on the west bank of the river.

I stayed at one of guesthouses in the residential area along Aizu railway line. This 7-chambered inn serves homemade meals using many kinds of local ingredients.

Yunokami-onsen4 Yunokami-onsen5

Yonokami is blessed with the abundant waters of the hot springs (simple alkaline hot spring), and all inns don’t have to circulate the water for their hot spring baths. The hot springs are jointly managed: all waters are collected and then distributed not only to inns but also to residents.

The water was crystal clear and smooth. I felt as if it’s bland and innocuous at first, but after soaking it for a while I could feel the scent. I liked it. I wish I could soak in its fresh hot spring.


I stopped by two hot spring resorts along the railway line to Yunokami on the way and the way back.

One was a hot spring bathhouse, Yuno Sato, right next to Yunishigawa-onsen Station, Tochigi, whose platform is inside a tunnel.

Yunishigawa2 Yunishigawa3
People take the elevator to the post-house.

The spring (simple alkaline hot spring) is located just behind the station, and the fresh hot spring water is poured directly into the tub. The bathhouse is new and clean, and the fare is just 500yen for adult. I like Yunishigawa hot spring, but it takes a while to reach there from the station. So, when we don’t have time, it’s nice to have a quick bath.

I was in the bathtub at 9:20 in the morning of my date of departure.

The other was a hot spring bathhouse, Yakushi-no-yu, in Kawaji hot spring resort in Nikko City, Tochigi.


Just to tell you, I did not secretly take this photo of the open-air mixed-sex spa in Yakushi-no-yu. The bathtub is situated beside the river where everyone on the other side can see it. I wanted to go there for a long time, but…. Fortunately, a new bathhouse using the water of Yakushi-no-yu (simple hot spring) opened in 2009 near the original tub.

Yakushi-no-yu3 Yakushi-no-yu2
There are single-gender baths, saunas and rest area.

The water was nice, but the condition of it wasn’t so because the bathhouse was crowded. I should go there in the morning next time.


I got a charge of energy in these hot spring resorts.

Posted by Kinakinw | 13:02 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

07 2011

Oouchi-juku, Former post town in Edo Era


This place is the greatest places for tourism in Southern Aizu, Fukushima.

Oouchi-juku was a post town of the Shimotuke Way, a mountain corridor, that linked Aizu-Wakamatsu (a city located in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture) and Nikko (a city located in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture) in Edo Era (1603 – 1868). It once prospered as key junctions of traffic and trade, and then declined after the era. Fortunately or unfortunately, in the 20th century this isolated town in the mountains remained its culture and the street lined by thatched houses that were used as inns. In 1981, Oouchi-juku was selected as an important traditional building preservation area and has prospered again as a tourist site.


The traditional houses, 100-to-250-year-old buildings, are now used as restaurants and souvenir stores. However, there are small inns, and you can stay in the precious village with the atmosphere of Edo if you want to.

Oouchi-juku3 Oouch-juku4
Oouch-juku6 Oouch-juku7

I visited there during the forenoon of May 3, 2011 and had lunch at one of soba noodle shops. This is 200-year-old building!


Oouchi-juku is famous for Negi-soba we eat with Japanese leek, but I selected walnut soba.

Oouch-juku9 Oouchi-juku10
Walnut paste is served with soba sauce.



While viewing the historic street, I ate soba. It tasted especially good!

I stayed there for a few hours and enjoyed this photogenic village.







Posted by Kinakinw | 12:27 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

05 2011

Aizu Railway

After the World Figure Skating Championships ended, I visited Minami-aizu (Southern Aizu) from May 2nd, the southern third of the Aizu region in western Fukushima Prefecture, by Tobu, Yagan and Aizu Railway. These three railway companies operate direct trains from Asakusa, Tokyo to Aizu-Tajima, the entrance to Minami-aizu.

In the early morning, I took a direct rapid train to Aizu-Tajima at Kita-Senju Station, the second-busiest station on the Tobu Railway and Tokyo Metro networks in Adachi, Tokyo.

Ashinomaki-onsen Station on Aizu Railway in the Southwestern part of Fukushima Prefecture
If the sky were blue, the photo would be perfect.

The spring comes late in the snowy Minami-aizu region, and the cherry blossoms were at their peak. I looked out a window in the train as the scenery went by and found the season went back along the railway line that went through Tokyo, Saitama, Tochigi and Fukushima.



I would like to introduce two distinguishing stations on Aizu Railway among the ones at which I stopped by. The first is Ashinomaki-onsen Station that is famous for Bus, a cat that has been appointed as the honorary station master since 2008. Japanese, including me, like animal that are much talked about, and many people visit the station to see Bus.

Aizurailway4 Aizurailway8


Aizurailway7 Aizurailway5

Unfortunately, Bus was sleeping in her house situated in the corner of the post-house. I talked to a woman who is commissioned to manage the station by the railway company and also takes care of the cat. She said that Bus spend the night at the office of the station.

The next is Yunokami-onsen Station that is famous for a thatched post-house. The mood of the post-house is nostalgia. The cherry blossoms at the station were supposed to be at their peak, but there were fewer flowers due to birds that pecked them this year. This is because there is little food in the mountains due to heavy snow in the last winter.


Aizurailway10 Aizurailway11

It was the first time for me to take Aizu Railway, and I enjoyed the riding because the company runs various train cars in service!

A special observation car with tatammi-mat seats

A wrapping car features Hideyo Noguchi (a prominent Japanese bacteriologist who discovered the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease in 1911), the hero of Aizu.

Of course, there is also Bus’s wrapping car!



Aizu area is more than 100km far from Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant.

Environmental Radiation Monitoring Information

Minami-Aizu, Fukushima 0.07 μSv/h (5/4, 14:30)
Shinjuku, Tokyo 0.065 μSv/h (5/5, 12:00 – 12:59 average)

King’s Park, Hong Kong 0.14 μSv/h (5/5, 12:00)

Singapore 0.09 μSv/h (5/4, 16:00)

New York City, USA 0.09 μSv/h (4/27 – 5/2 average)

Posted by Kinakinw | 15:07 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

01 2011

The Queen of the Season

World Ladies

Congratulations on your second world title, Miki! You deserve the queen of this season.
After 2007’s world title, Miki Ando got through the difficulties and finally won the gold medal again. This mature skater performed excellently well and captivated audiences throughout 2010-2011 season. I’m very glad to see her growth. According to rumor, she’ll take a year off next season, and I think that’ll be a good option for the future.

As for the silver medalist, I’ve regarded her as an untouchable political and ideological issue since 2008-2009 season, so I had never mention her in my blog. However, I’d like to make a few remarks about the skater from our neighboring country this time because her “one-man show” seems to end. On the other hand, the mercy-ruled game was sill going on at the World: no judge gave –GOE to her flopped 3S-1T and 1F in her FP, and unaccountably one judge gave +1GOE to the 1F. If she could just land one more planned jump, she would win.
I’m not sure if her performances deserved the second highest scores in total, but actually, she was, and still is, ONE of the top skaters who can constantly aim the podium. It’s a tragedy that she must be transcendent, perfect queen with an unrivaled ability, but she and her team decided to make that myth. If she wants to continue her career, she has to make some people give up the myth she made.

Carolina Kostner got out of the last season’s slump and won the bronze medal! Congratulations!
However, many Russian people might disagree with the result. Personally, I wanted Alena Leonova (delivered her best performances there and lost by the narrowest of 0.76 margins to Kostner) to get that place, too. I like her skating style. By the way, I was glad to see her respecter, Irina Slutskaya who was there and on the TV before and after Leonova’s performances. I liked Slutskaya and once had a haircut like her.

Is there something wrong with Mao physically? She lost muscles and is too skinny to skate powerful. Comin' in on a wing and a prayer. Well, all of us know she had such a long and hard season and she must be tired. I was happy just to watch you at the World this time. Get rest. I’m looking forward to her performances in the next season.

Last of all, I accuse Shin Amano, Technical Specialist in Ladies’ SP and FP, of lacking in qualification as a figure skating judge. He seems to be unable to discern “under rotation” form “downgraded” or intentionally score particular skaters on an entirely different basis.

< indicates that a jump had more than a ¼ turn completed on the ice, which reduces the base value to 70% of its original value. << indicates a severe underrotation (½ turn or more), and the jump is valued as if it had one less rotation.
< 回転が1/2不足まではいかないけれど、1/4以上不足しているので基礎点を30%引く
<< 回転が1/2以上不足しているので、1つ回転が少ないジャンプとみなす

Each element is judged first by a technical specialist who identifies the specific element. The technical specialist uses instant replay video to verify things that distinguish different elements.

Posted by Kinakinw | 17:06 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

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