Tokyo Notebook

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

29 2013


Decadance !

It’s good weather for a walk in recent days in Tokyo. I wandered around the neighbors yesterday and came across the free event at Roppongi Hills.

The performance called “Decadance” by the Russian carnival theatre group, the theatre Mr Pejo's Wandering Dolls, is one of events during Golden Week holidays (the period from April 29th to May 5th when there are four national holidays) at the complex. The theater was established in 1993 in St. Petersburg, and they come to Japan for the first time.

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The performers with winsome white masks, costumes, and properties make their way around the complex, and then when they reach the event arena they start the performance that involves much audience participation.

Though the title was “decadence”, their pantomimic performance was family friendly that anybody and everybody can understand.

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Decadance 7

Have nice holidays!

Decadance 8


Posted by Kinakinw | 09:30 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

25 2013

Personally, it was not so bad

Carmen 1

The opening photo is a scene from an opera film I watched the other day.
Can you tell the title of the opera?
It’s a famous one everyone knows.

OK. It’s not your fault if you cannot see.
The second cue is the picture below. The same prima donna, Anna Caterina Antonacci, appeared in the same one by a different director. These aren’t from the same scene, but there are the same characters.

Carmen 2

Good job! It’s Carmen.

The film shows Carmen performed at Opéra Bastille last December, conducted by Philippe Jordan, music director of the Opéra national de Paris, directed by Yves Beaunesne. It’s the second one of eight films screened sequentially which shows operas and ballets performed the Opéra national de Paris in the 2012-2013 season.
この映画は、昨年12月にパリ国立オペラによりバスティーユのオペラ座で公演されたカルメンを撮影したものです。指揮は同オペラ・バレエ団の音楽監督フィリップ・ジョルダン、演出はイヴ・ボーネン。「パリ・オペラ座へようこそ ライブ・ビューイング 2012‐2013」と題された昨シーズンの同団のオペラとバレエの舞台を収録した8本の映画の中の2作目です。

The popular French opera performed for the first time in a decade at the theater, and it seemed to confound the prediction of fans, at leasst a casual opera fan like me.

If you want to watch the film without previous knowledge, then please read no more.

I thought this callenging Carmen was just like transfered the action to 1970’s.
I’m going to point out unusual things in this Carmen randomly. As you know from the opening photo, Carmen was blonde and appeared as tough Marilyn. Escamillo reminded me of Elvis in his late life. Roma girls dressed in flover children fashion. Roma boys were in Saturday night fever suits. A drag queen and a Crazy Horse dancer were in Pastia’s tavern.

Carmen 3

Personally, however, I enjoyed that. The blonde Carmen seemed to be a forethoughtful person (I thought the diva enjoyed the peculiar character) and went well together with Don José who was depicted as a simple-headed mama's boy rather than a man who loved someone to distraction. Though the Don José strangled the blonde with a bridal dress he brought (! ) because he’s a poor knife-wielder, it was “Carnem”. The story, music, arias, and dancing were enjoyable. I’m not sure if it was thank to the power of the music, composer, singers, or director, the Carmen was entertaining.

Carmen 4

The film will hit screens countrywide from next June, so check it if you are interested. Oh, this 195-minute film was shown without a break, but there were backstage interviews between Act 2 and 3, which was suitable for a bathroom break.

Few hours age, I came across the picture from Carmen performed by Opéra de Lyon in June 2012. Words fail me, but have a feeling that we can’t watch “standard” one in Carmen’s home country for a while.

Carmen 5

Posted by Kinakinw | 01:50 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

17 2013

The Miharu Takizakura in Miharu, Fukushima

Takisakura 1

The dignified weeping cherry called Takizakura (“waterfall cherry tree” in Japanese) had lived more than 1,000 years here in Miharu, a town located in Fukushima.

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Takisakura 3

I chose the ancient cherry tree as a target of bloom gazing in Fukushima, which was an annual event after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Around 300,000 people visited the tree every year before the disaster, and then it discouraged people from visiting. However, in the third spring after that, people came back.

Takisakura 4 Takisakura 5

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There were many food stalls and shops along the passage from the parking that was full with the cars and tour buses to the tree. The tree is an important source of income for Miharu.

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The town’s name, Miharu, literally means “tree springs”. The name was given because in the town, plum, peach, and cherry trees blossom almost simultaneously, while they blossom at different times in most parts of Japan. There are thousands of offspring of the ancient one including famous trees that have own names in the town.

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I saw several provisional housing sites from a car in the town. It should be remembered that although the people are back, the disaster is not over yet.

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Takisakura designated a national treasure in 1922 is classified as one of the three giant cherry trees of Japan. The other two are more than 1500 years old, so someone say it’s relatively “young” one. Well, I cannot imagine even 1000 years of life.

Indeed, I realized that humans are hardly anything against the great nature.

Takisakura 11

Posted by Kinakinw | 23:17 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

07 2013

Takaragawa Onsen – Large-scale Open Spa


We stopped at Osenkaku, the only one inn in Takaragawa Hot spring, on the way home from Hoshi hot spring. The inn was the same as Chouju-kan in the sense that both lone inns were located along a river in the mountains and the main attractions at Minakami area (the northern part of Gunma Prefecture). However, their facilities and flavors completely differed from one another.


The inn is famous for multiple large-scale outdoor baths. Not only hotel guests, visitors can enjoy them from 9:00 to 17:00 (1,500yen), and many onsen-lovers visit it with the open spa as a guide.

From the entrance building on top of the valley, we walked down into the bathing area through walkways with a lot of traditional folk handicrafts and articles.

Takaragawa_4 Takaragawa_5
The inn has kept Asiatic black bears on the premise since the late owner took care of bear cubs that lost their mother. I heard visitors could take a bath with bears until it was banned by the law.


Passing by the bear’s cages, we got to the broad bathing area where unpartitioned mixed baths were scattered along the stream. In the mixed baths, it was allowed to wear a bath towel, the exception rather than the rule in Japanese bathing facilities, so women could enjoy without feeling someone's eyes. At the same time, most of men also wore the towel, so even though I walked right past the mixed baths, I didn’t come across bare-naked guys.

There are three mixed bathtubs and one for women along the stream. The one in the opening photo is the biggest mixed bath called Kodakara-no-yu (310 square meters) with a gorgeous view. The other mixed baths are Maka-no-yu (186 square meters) Hannya-no-yu (77.5 square meters). The one for women where I used is Maya-no-yu (155 square meters).

It’s 100% natural hot spa flowing from the origin: no additive water, no additional heat, no circulation filtering, no bath supportive, and no chemical. I’m sure this large-scale spa is one of the highlights among various Japanese hot spring facilities.

From Osenkaku’s HP (reproduction allowed) 汪泉閣HPより転載可能な写真
Left hand side(左手): Kodakara-no-yu 子宝の湯
Right hand side(右手): Hannya-no-yu 般若の湯

HP (in Japanese, English, and Chinese)  汪泉閣HP

Posted by Kinakinw | 15:36 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

04 2013

Hoshi Onsen – One and Only Resort

Chojukan 1

Hoshi Hot Spring located in the deep mountains range in Gunma Prefecture, which is just on the prefecture's border with Niigata, is a Mecca for many onsen-lovers. This hidden onsen’s biggest draw is Chojukan, the only one ryokan (Japanese style hot spring inn) in the hot spring with a 1200 year history.

The inn is one of the most beautiful ryokans in Japan. The building set along the stream running through the mountain greenery. The main building (built in 1875), the main bathhouse (built in 1895), and the annex jointed by connecting corridor across the river to the main one (built in 1940) have been designated as National Tangible Cultural Assets.

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The interior facilities are all completely traditional, making us feel as if we have travelled back in time.

Many years I always wanted to go to Chojukan, and I was at last granted that wish few days ago by the opportunity of family gathering with 8 people. Actually, I decided where to stay and booked it. Setting my wish aside, it was nice idea because four of us were come from Nerima near the origination of the Kanetsu Expressway that connected Tokyo to Gunma and Niigata, and two of us were come from Niigata.

Chojukan 7 Chojukan 8
We took two rooms: one in the main building and the other in the annex. Despite the vintage buildings, the restrooms in the guestrooms are modernistic and clean.

There are three bathhouses. The oldest Hoshi-no-yu is extremely famous it is not only visited by the Japanese, but by people from all over the world. The high-ceiling wooden building is a living museum, and the bath water is naturally occurring hot spring that is the same just as it was when the onsen was founded. Though most hot springs need excavation to be used, the bath built on the river bed is filled with spring water bubbling up naturally from the bath floor covered with river cobbles. Maybe, someone found the spring on the river bed, dug at the spot, held the water and had a bath. Then, someone built a small house surrounding the bath. That should be the beginning of the onsen, and the inn still keeps that style bathhouse. What the delightful thing in the world.

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The bathhouse was my main target. One can use the bath as a visitor from 10:30 to 13:30, but basically, it’s a good old mixed bath. Women-only time is provided between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., so female who frown on a mixed bath like me can enjoy a leisurely bathing only if you stay there. All the lights were lampstand with a wood frame and paper shade set on end at the four corners of the room, which created a magical atmosphere throughout the bathing area. I looked around four bathtubs, checked on where the water bubbling up, and settle back in the hot water beside that spot. The hot spring water was fresh and great.

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The foremost small building along the stream in the photo is Chouju-no-yu for women, the one back of it is Hoshi-no-y, and the innermost one is Tamashiro-no-yu.

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Left:Chouju-no-yu(長寿の湯) Right: Tamashiro-no-yu(玉城の湯)

Truth to tell, as far as hot spring water conditions goes, Chouju-no-yu, a small bathhouse for women, was the best. The bathhouse was new, but it was built just beside Hoshi-no-yu and the hot spring water came from on the same system as Hoshi-no-yu. Because of the small tub, the hot spring water is replaced quickly and always fresh. The other facility was Tamashiro-no-yu, the finest one with an outside tub with a view was nice place to enjoy the luxurious atmosphere.

The lone ryokan is about 15 minutes by a car from Sarugakyo hot spring resorts. Though you can reach there by train and bus, it’s not easy to get around. But I strongly encourage you to put yourself on the historical inn and enjoy the hot spring if you find meaning in all the blessings of nature and “good old" Japanese culture.

HP in Japanese 公式HP
External Website in English

Posted by Kinakinw | 20:07 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

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