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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25 2013

Firefly Watching

Chinzan-so 1

I went to Chinzan-so in Mejiro (Toshima Ward) last weekend to have dinner with relatives. Chinzan-so (literally means Camellia Mountain Lodge) called a real urban oasis is a complex consisting of wedding facilities, a hotel & spa, and twelve restaurants famous for its historic Japanese garden of approximately 17 acres.

Chinzan-so 6
According to its HP, the hill where it’s located was originally called Tsubaki-yama (mountain of camellias) because of its picturesque vistas of blossoming camellias. Chinzan-so itself has a long history. In 1878, Mr. Aritomo Yamagata (the former Prime Minister of Japan) bought the land to build his home and garden, and named it Chinzan-so.

The complex has been holding buffet dinner called “Firefly Night” at this time of the year since the 1960s. The dinner start at 19:00, and after that customers walk across the garden and enjoy watching fireflies. In past days, Chinzan-so released fireflies they had caught (they were exposed to criticism, of course) in the garden, but in recent years, they raise the insects on site.

Chinzan-so 3
Though I’m less fond of buffet, because I was there, I made good cheer at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner. Including this largest banquet room, the same style buffets were hold in 3 rooms at the time.

Chinzan-so 4 Chinzan-so 5
Left: Firefly biotope space Right: The garden full of people
左:蛍育成舎 右:人でいっぱいの庭園(私は既にほろ酔いで、人垣をかき分けで水辺を覗く気力がありませんでした)

The firefly watching at Chinzan-so is very famous and I had always known it, but it was the first time to visit there during the event. This time I stood in for one of my aunt’s family who had an emergency and couldn’t come. Most of the customers were families of parents and children. They seemed to love the event and look forward to it every year. Personally, I recommend to you to have dinner at one of restaurants in the garden (there are nice Japanese restaurants with the quite nice garden view) or just visit the garden pen to the public on weekdays during the event.

Chinzan-so 2

Posted by Kinakinw | 01:15 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

01 2013

The Path toward Android 4.0

Android 40

While the latest version OS of smartphones using Google's Android platform would be 4.2 in the world today, since the end of last week I had difficulty with upgrading my smartphone’s OS from 2.3.5 to 4.0.

My model was released in March of last year as its OS would be upgraded in August of that year. Then, the upgrade was postponed several times, and when a year passed since the release, users of the model learned that we had to keep using 2.3.5 OS in the future. At last, however, the update service started from April 16th!

I came to know that last week and naturally, wanted to bring mine up-to-date.
For proper phone subscriptions, it doesn’t need serious work. Just one can follow the notice from a cell-phone company, download and install the file to one’s smartphone. But, it's hard to call on for me because I’m not a subscribing user. I’ m using the phone for Docomo (a major cell-phone company in Japan) with a SIM of MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator that provides simple mobile communications service without telephone service).

Prior to the OS upgrade, I knew some several minor software updates were available, but I couldn’t do them. I could download all the minor updates files from the manufacture’s HP (it means I could do them not via Docomo’s server) “except” the first one in last May, and without “that first update” my device couldn’t get updated at any cost. The only way to get the first update was “via Docomo’s server” that was impossible with MVNO’s SIM.

After visiting a Docomo’s service shop and called the manufacture’s service center last week, I clearly recognized that, again, the problem is “the first minor software update” as I could download the OS upgrade file from the manufacture’s HP like the other ones.

Then, I asked one of acquaintances who have a Docomo’s smartphone with a SIM of the same size as mine for using his SIM while download the file via the server. We met twice and tried every possible way to get the file, but we couldn’t. I'll leave out the fine details, but we tested the situation where a proper user started to use the phone with factory default. This shows that Docomo is the only one who knows why I couldn’t download it.

I revisited the shop and made a strong appeal to a shop clerk that situation, and then she suggested to send my device to repair. If you send one to repair, your phone will be back in latest condition (which means I could complete its upgrade!!). Though I knew I can get free repairs for 1 year from the manufacture, but I didn’t know a non-subscribing user can also get the in-warranty repair from the cell-phone company. Thanks, Docomo!

The last problem was that a non-subscribing user couldn’t get an alternative phone while repairing period, so I asked one of my friends who uses a Docomo phone to send mine to repair.

The opening photo shows that alternative, docomo AQUOS PHONE SH-06D with Android 4.0 released around the same time as mine.

Using so called “contract-free mobile phone” that one can manage inexpensively is not entirely smooth, but you can learn so much from the problems.

Posted by Kinakinw | 19:02 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

26 2013

Nanduti - Ñanduti

Nanduti 1

Do you know “Nanduti”?
Well, I'm also totally new to the craftwork.

It’s exquisite lacemaking, from Paraguay, made from cotton or other fine vegetable fibers. The word Naduti means spiderweb in Guarani. Online dictionaries and web sites concerning lacemaking say about it in many ways: it’s introduced into Paraguay by the Spaniards, a comparable lace is made on the island of Tenerife and known under various names, and making of the lace is a tradition begun by Paraguay's Guarani. So, I’m interpreting it’s the fruit of invasion called the Age of Discovery.

Nanduti 2

Nanduti 3
I hope it can show how delicate and intricate it is.

I saw it first time at Munn, a café I wrote about last but one where some pieces of the work were displayed and also for sale. I was surprised the fine, intricate lace and became captivated by them. Unfortunately, however, except simple and small ones, delicate intricately patterned pieces were not for sale. The difference between poor and elaborated ones was clear even to my untrained eye, so after I saw fine ones, I wasn’t disinclined to have a simple one.

I asked the café staff why don’t you sell fine ones, and the staff said that they are too valuable to sell and also expensive. The white one in the picture (about 18-by-12 cm) costs tens of thousands of yen.

Nanduti 4

I looked the things up on the Internet and found there are lessons for the lace in Tokyo. I think considerable skill is required to make a good one, but some Japanese women with fast hands may be able to do it.

Posted by Kinakinw | 14:36 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

23 2013

Right Place to Take ID Photo

Tokyo Metropolitan Office

I went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Office yesterday to get my passport renewed.
That was another opportunity for me to need a good ID photo after my driver license renewal last summer. The passport picture is more important than that of driver license because while I use my passport for ten years, the valid period of the license is five years. Although I know no one cares about the photo, I would like to avoid using the passport with an unacceptable photo of myself.

Unlike the license renewal where the officials take picture of everyone at the office (it’s literally one-shot deal), we can prepare that of passport by yourself prior to the renewal. So, I was thinking to get satisfactory one ahead of time, but actually I didn’t do it until I had to.

Yesterday morning, I had three options to get the picture: a proper portrait studio (expensive but many touch up options), a studio at a print service shop (moderate and some touch up options), and a photo booth (inexpensive). I chose the middle one and had my picture taken by the shop manager with “beautiful skin” print processing. However, I couldn’t approve of it.

I decided to forget about that shot, stopped off briefly in a photo booth at the near station on the way to Tokyo Metropolitan Office, and get an OK picture at 800 yen. I didn’t expect a nice shot by it, but I was totally wrong. The machine has developed very much. There was “beautiful skin” print processing (just costs 100 yen more than ordinary one), and the lighting was nice. The most wonderful point about it was that a photo turns out to be moderately-smooth. I mean, while the one taken by the manager was so realistic and textured, the machine hides unnecessary irregularities of face. I thought it has absorbed features of Purikura (an oversized passport photo making booth that fits two-and usually more - smiling faces on a miniature picture usually framed with cute characters like).

I don’t know the other machines are good or not. The one I used was “CITY PHOTO STATION (by Fuji Film)”, which should be scattered across Japan. It’s really great
全てのボックスが良く写るかどうかはわかりません。私が利用したのは、フジフイルムが展開しているCITY PHOTO STATION。全国に広く行き渡っていると思います。なかなかやるもんですね。

Posted by Kinakinw | 21:34 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

18 2013

The Departure and the Arrival

Munni 1

It was a balmy afternoon so typical of May.
I went to a café and restaurant named Munni for lunch with sister. A tenant of the space where it’s located often changes, so from my perspective the café opened before I knew it.

It is hard to describe what kind of café it is. From the signs and menus in the doorway, it seemed to be an American-type waffle and hamburger place, and actually they serve American-type food. However, from their HP, their concepts are “the source of good health and good appetite” and “tea” (so it doesn’t serve have coffee).

Munni 2 Munni 3

I felt the space was minimally renovated after a previous restaurant closed. The interior, decoration, furniture, plates and utensils were quite incongruous. It looked like the owner was in hurry when open the restaurant and collected items in a few days.

Anyway, their hamburger was fairly good, and the staff was friendly and kind.

Munni 4
Lovely staff said that to express their love for the customers, their buns are in the shape of a heart.

Amishiro park
The café is in front of a children’s park called Amishiro Park I often visited in my childhood.

Posted by Kinakinw | 20:34 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

01 2013

Animal Operetta, Les Girafes

Les Girafes 1

That was the other free show at Roppongi Hills called “Les Grafes” by a French street arts company named “Compagnie OFF” established in 1986 in Tours.
こちらは六本木ヒルズで行われたもう一つのショー、フランスのストリートアートパフォーマンス集団「Compagnie OFF」による「動物たちのオペレッタ」。同集団は1986年にツールで設立されたそうです。

The main performers were the nine giraffes, clown, diva, and trickster-like man (not in the pictures). To make a long story short, in the show the clown teeter-tottered and up in the air, the diva sang her heart out diva, and the trickster sprinkled golden powder. Then, a herd of red giraffes was slowly, gracefully moving on, and the circus started. Sorry for the poor report, but that’s kind of what it was like.

Les Girafes 2

Les Girafes 3 Les Girafes 4

It was too crowded to see the whole story of the show, but sill the show was most fun ever! It was so exciting that the herd of red giraffes in the streets of Tokyo.
I had a great time thanks to the complex in the first half of Golden Week Holidays.

Les Girafes 5
I got the perfect shot, but the lack in sharpness in it.

Posted by Kinakinw | 09:54 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

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.

Decadance 2 Decadance 3

Decadance 4 Decadance 5

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.

Decadance 6

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

29 2013

Walking through the Rows of Blooming Trees


Before I visited Ueno, a district in Tokyo's Taito Ward, that is the home of Ueno Park known as a prominent cherry blossom viewing spot, I conceived private conviction that the park wasn’t so crowded because last weekend was the best time to view the blossoms. However, never underestimate cherry-blossom-loving Japanese. Yesterday, there were many people enjoying the blossoms. Since temperatures were cold at the beginning of this week, the flowers still bloomed.


Many people also love to have a party held under the cherry trees. These persons are holding a place for their colleagues and friends gathering coming together for a party in the evening.

Main significance of my visit was an exhibition of El Greco, a medieval painter born in Greek. The park is also home to some of Tokyo's finest cultural sites, including the multiple museums (Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the National Museum of Nature and Science, and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum) , as well as a major public concert hall.


The painter produced his mature works in Toledo, Spain. Many years ago I took a day trip to Toledo when I was in Madrid and saw his works. I was in the course of a trip with my friend by trains through Italy (Venice, Rome, and Firenze) and southern France to Spain (Valenciana, Andalucia, and Madrid). Though I was tired of religious pictures, I could enjoy his presentation of figures. The people that he drew are appealing regardless whether he or she holy or not.

Then I took a long walk through the rows of blooming trees along the Shinobazu Pond.


You know, in Japan, even cats watch cherry blossoms.


Just kidding. Someone living in the park takes care of the cat and set down it in its favorite spot with seasonal costumes. Now it’s one of the characteristic scenes in Spring.


You know, in Japan, even gulls ….


Posted by Kinakinw | 21:46 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

04 2013

Stingy Habit

haneda lounge

Which kind of airport lounge do you use?
Kinakinw who is neither a first or business class traveler nor a premium frequent flyer of a specific airline usually stop at one run by credit-card companies or affiliated with them for free before fright. It is an ancillary service of a gold credit card I have.

I don’t remember when and why I upgraded the card. Since I’m not interested in the honor to be a premium card holder, I once thought of the downgrading it to an inexpensive a normal one, but I held back that. Judging calmly, I felt I got my money's worth from the annual membership. There were two main benefits: (1) it includes overseas traveler's insurance that I bought each time, and (2) I could exclusive access to the airport lounges (limited to domestic airports). Adversely, there were only these benefits for me….

Now that wi-fi services are becoming more widespread, so the lounges have less advantage as internet access spots. However, it’s still nice to take a breather and check mails in a relaxed way especially at the airport when I arrived home.

Posted by Kinakinw | 21:42 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

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