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The View from Roppongi Hills

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Built for a whopping four billion dollars, the mega-complex known as Roppongi Hills opened to the public in 2003. With museums, malls, theaters, parks, hotels, hundreds of stores and restaurants, along with some of the city’s most expensive apartments, Roppongi Hills would love to eat up several of your Tokyo days. We spent about an hour there.

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A view of the Tokyo Tower from Roppongi Hills

Until a construction tycoon named Minoru Mori decided to revitalize it with an ambitious development project, Roppongi had been a seedy neighborhood where young and/or shady people went to party and get blitzed. Actually, it still is. The first thing we saw here was an absolutely wasted woman attempting to climb into a cab. Sensing imminent disaster, we paused to watch. As if on cue, she stumbled and fell face-first onto the concrete curb. It looked awful, but she picked herself up without any visible damage, so we felt fine about laughing. This was at one in the afternoon, by the way.

It was a pratfall which set the tone for our visit to in Roppongi Hills. There’s something about the place we didn’t like. It’s too showy. Too fake. It’s both ritzy, and just below the surface, totally trashy. Roppongi Hills is a rich, drunk woman face-planting before getting into her cab.

With outdoor loudspeakers that blare late into the night, and a confusing maze of walkways which make navigation a nightmare, Roppongi Hills isn’t a favorite among its neighbors. Most horribly, a boy was crushed to death in the mall’s revolving doors because the safety sensors had been placed too high, and weren’t able to detect his presence. It was later revealed that the revolving doors had been a known safety risk, and had caused at least 32 accidents prior to the child’s death. This fact had been concealed from investigating authorities, and the ensuing scandal turned local opinion firmly against Roppongi Hills.

 View Roppongi Hills

So we were already antagonistic before arriving. We skipped past the high-end shopping opportunities, and marched straight toward the 54-story Mori Tower, through legs of a giant spider. Courtesy of French artist Louise Bourgeois, this outdoor sculpture looks neat, but its spindly, organic shape is completely out-of-place in sleek and angular Roppongi Hills. “Trying too hard,” I hissed at Jürgen. “And does her name have to literally be Bourgeois?”

Anyway, the 360° view from Mori Tower is renowned as one of the best in Tokyo. You can see the SkyTree in the north, the Landmark Tower way down south in Yokohama, and even Mount Fuji on a clear day. Usually, you can pay extra to go onto the outdoor helipad for an even higher view, but the wind was too strong during our visit. That was fine by me, because it allowed us more time to enjoy happy hour at the bar.

Apart from our visit to the tower, we paid short shrift to the rest of Roppongi Hills. The museum at the top of the Mori Tower looked interesting, but was overly expensive, and we didn’t have any desire to wander through the mall. But such indifference seems to be more an exception than a rule. Roppongi Hills has become a bonafide Tokyo tourist attraction, drawing 26 million visitors in its first six months, each of whom spend an average of $100. That’s impressive, and despite our own misgivings about the complex, it’s probably worth a look.

Location on our Map

Great Hotels In Tokyo

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June 29, 2014 at 11:18 am Comments (0)

In and Around Tokyo Midtown

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It surely won’t keep the title for long but the tallest habitable building in Tokyo is currently the Midtown Tower, part of the Tokyo Midtown complex in Akasaka. We spent a day checking out the sights around Midtown, including the National Art Center and the tranquil Nogi Shrine.

Midtown Tokyo

Built in 2007 for over three billion dollars, the mixed-use Tokyo Midtown complex provides office space for leading firms like Xerox, Cisco and Yahoo! Japan, as well as residential apartments for (it seems safe to assume) the ultra-rich. In addition, it’s home to the five-story Galleria Mall, the Suntory Museum of Art and Issey Miyake’s 21_21 Design Sight workshop.

We spent a long time inside the Galleria Mall, walking into a number of shops… nothing which we could afford, of course, but there was some neat stuff. Along with stores selling clothing and household furnishings, there’s a vinoteca dedicated to the wines of Frances Ford Coppola. Even though we couldn’t shop, it was fun to be around such luxury, and one of Midtown’s best attractions is entirely free. Out back, in the shadow of the massive tower, is a gently sloping park that has soft grass, upon which hundreds of people were lying.

Midtown Tokyo

After resting in the park, we walked over to the nearby National Art Center, which also opened in 2007 and is among the largest art halls in Japan, with an ever-changing lineup of exhibits in its many rooms. But we were less interested in the art, than the architecture. The building, designed by Kisho Kurokawa, has a tilted, wave-shaped glass facade and an interior architecture that features huge, upside-down cones.

Midtown Tokyo

Further north along Gaien-Higashi-Dori, we came upon the Nogi Shrine. This is the former home of General Nogi, who served Emperor Meiji throughout his reign. The General had an illustrious career, with victories against both the Chinese and Russians, but today he’s most well-known for a demonstration of ultimate loyalty. A couple days following the death of the Emperor, both Nogi and his wife committed suicide in their home; she by throat-slitting, he by seppuku.

It’s a grisly story (and one I don’t find particularly “honorable”), but today the shrine and its adjoining park make for a peaceful escape from the noise and tawdry luxury of the upscale neighborhood surrounding it.

Locations on our Map: Tokyo Midtown | National Art Center | Nogi Shrine

Travel Insurance For your Tokyo Trip

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June 29, 2014 at 7:45 am Comments (0)

Eating in Tokyo: Our Favorite Foods

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Every morning before starting out on another day in Tokyo, I would ask Jürgen what he was most excited about. It didn’t matter whether we were planning to visit an ancient temple, a renowned museum, a crazy festival or a gorgeous garden, his response was always the same: “Eating.” And I would thoughtfully nod in agreement. Of all the things Tokyo has to offer, its delicious and surprisingly affordable food is probably the highlight. This is a city in which it’s almost impossible to eat poorly.

Omurice
Omurice

As a foreigner, ordering your meal in Japan isn’t always the easiest task in the world. What is Mentaiko? Katsu-sando? Karaage? Are these fish guts? Cow brains? The words are so unfamiliar that anything is possible. But the first time someone suggested omurice, I knew I could rest easy. I ordered with confidence, and watched with satisfaction as exactly what I expected was placed before me: an omelette served atop rice. Omurice! Sounds simple, and it is, but somehow Tokyo’s restaurants elevate this no-nonsense dish to a delectable art form. [Photos]

Udon
Udon

Thick white noodles made from wheat flour, udon competes with soba and ramen for noodle dominance in Tokyo. At its simplest, udon is served in big bowls of hot broth, topped with scallions, but there are endless ways to order it. Topped with tempura. Served with a piece of sweet tofu called aburaage. Accompanied with mochi: a glutinous rice ball (not my favorite). You can have cold udon, udon with veggies, or with raw egg. It’s one of the cheapest and quickest meals in Tokyo, and the chewy noodles always hit the spot. [Photos]

Tonkatsu

We had been introduced to tonkatsu, breaded pork cutlets, during our time in Busan, South Korea, but the deep-fried dish is originally from Tokyo. Like udon, this is a dish you can order in a variety of ways: in a sandwich, covered with curry, or atop a bowl of rice. But in our estimation, the classic tonkatsu plate is still the best: served with a heaping helping of shredded cabbage, and topped with a dark and tangy Worcestershire-style sauce.

Okonomiyaki
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It might seem wrong that, as a customer in a restaurant, you’re forced to cook your own meal. But when you can skip all the prep-work — all the chopping, thinking and balancing of ingredients — cooking can be a blast. We consistently enjoyed the okonomiyaki restaurants we went to. You choose the mix that sounds best, then pour the batter out onto the perfectly-heated plate in front of you. The flipping is tricky, but within minutes you’ll have a wonderful pancake-style dish. Or a horrid, splattery clump of half-cooked dough. [Photos]

Takoyaki
Takoyaki

Frequently, we’ll be indulging in a favorite new foreign food and I’ll say something like, “Why don’t we have this back home? This would totally be popular in America!” But while eating takoyaki, I didn’t say that. I mean, I enjoy takoyaki, but I seriously doubt that it will ever succeed with my countrymen. These are, after all, fried octopus balls. Deep-fried dumplings of dough, each concealing a big chunk of octopus. They’re cheap, yummy and popular in Japan, but Americans are more likely to embrace seppuku. [Photos]

Tempura
Tempura

Tempura is fried food, nothing less and nothing more. Fish and vegetables tossed in a flour batter and dropped in oil. Unlike octopus balls, fried food is a concept which my inner-American has no problem with. But somehow tempura tastes different than what I’m used to. Lighter, crispier and healthier. The batter is kept cold and clumpy, not mixed too much, and the frying is done in regular vegetable or canola oil, for the barest minimum of time. You can find tempura restaurants ranging from the very cheap to the quite expensive, but what you’re unlikely to find is tempura done badly. [Photos]

Sushi
Sushi In Tokyo

It’s sushi, and this is Tokyo. Do you want me to elaborate on that? You know it’s delicious. It’s delicious, fresh, perfectly prepared, served in millions of wonderful restaurants on every corner, and it’s absolutely affordable. Come to Tokyo and eat as much sushi as you can stomach, because when you go home and are charged eight dollars for a single piece of tuna nigiri, you’ll wish you had eaten more. [Photos]

Soba
Soba

We learned how to make soba noodles during a day spent with a master chef. But it was by watching (and listening to) fellow patrons in the restaurants of Tokyo, that we learned how to slurp. Soba are hand-cut buckwheat noodles, normally served cold, with a small bowl of soy-based dipping sauce that’s garnished with spring onions. You grab a few noodles with your chopsticks, dunk them half-way into the sauce, and then … slurrrrp. One of our favorite meals. [Photos]

Ramen
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I thought I knew all about ramen noodles. I went to college, after all, and survived four years on a diet of Papa John’s pizza, beer and ramen. But I knew nothing. Those dried-out noodles in styrofoam cups have as much to do with real ramen as Pringles have to do with potatoes. From the first steaming bowl I tried in Tokyo, I was hooked. I could eat ramen for weeks and never get sick of it, especially since there’s such variety. Every region of Japan has its own spin on the dish, and you can find them all in the capital. Especially popular in Tokyo are tsukemen, or dipping ramen noodles. [Photos]

Shabu-Shabu
Shabu Shabu

A pot of broth is set upon the burner built into your table, and soon the waitress will bring a tray of vegetables and meat. Once the broth is boiling, you start plopping in the food, leaving it to cook for as long as you want. Then you eat it. Shabu-shabu is another Japanese dish which asks the customer to do the cooking himself. The name is derived from the sound the food makes as you stir it around the pot. I’d be more inclined to call it “hiss hiss,” but “shabu shabu” is apparently how the Japanese ear hears that sound. At any rate, this is a fun meal to enjoy with friends. [Photos]

Japanese Cookbooks

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June 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm Comments (5)

The Modern Side of Yokohama

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After dedicating the morning to Yokohama’s historic harbor district and grabbing lunch in Asia’s largest Chinatown, we moved farther north up the bay and spent the afternoon in the more modern part of town.

Modern Yokohama

The 1980s were an exciting time for Yokohama. At the beginning of the decade, it surpassed Osaka in population to become Japan’s second-largest city. In 1983, work began on Minato Mirai 21, a sprawling complex built on reclaimed land that was destined to become the city’s new business and entertainment district. And in 1989, Yokohama unveiled both the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (the Cosmo Clock) and the 860-meter Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Modern Yokohama

Our afternoon began at the Red Brick Warehouses, located across from Osanbashi Pier. These twin buildings were built in 1905, and managed to survive the disasters that leveled the rest of the city, thanks to the durable material with which they were constructed. Today, they host upscale shops and provide a unique setting for special events.

Modern Yokohama

From here, it was a short walk to Cosmo World, home of the aforementioned Cosmo Clock. The amusement park is free to enter and we wandered underneath a roller coaster to watch a steady procession of screaming adolescent girls splash down the water log ride. (Amusement parks in Japan seem to be popular with screaming adolescent girls.) We considered riding the Ferris wheel, but the sky was turning a strange color, so we decided to keep our feet on the ground.

Modern Yokohama

Sure enough, as we crossed a bridge into the Minato Mirai 21 district, an astounding wind storm kicked up. I hadn’t felt wind like this for a very long time, nearly strong enough to knock us both over. Umbrellas and hats were flying, bikes were being blown over, and hairstyles were being ruined all around us. This was chaotic fun for a couple minutes, but made it impossible to appreciate the architecture of this modern urban district, whose name means “Port of the Future in the 21st Century.” Soon, we were running for shelter in the Landmark Tower.

Modern Yokohama

Until being bested by Osaka’s Abeno Harukas in 2014, the Yokohama Landmark Tower was the tallest building in Japan. Completed in 1993, the tower boasts an observation deck on its 69th floor, and elevators that reach speeds of 28 mph.

Modern Yokohama

Almost two months after having arrived in Japan, it was from atop the Landmark Tower that we finally saw Mount Fuji. The wind storm had removed some of the smog, revealing the famous flat-capped mountain on the horizon. We sat down in comfortable chairs facing west, ordered wine, and stayed put as the sun went down. It was the perfect way to end an exceptional day in Yokohama.

Locations on our Map: Red Brick Warehouses | Cosmo Clock | Landmark Tower

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June 26, 2014 at 6:50 am Comments (2)

Yokohama’s Chinatown

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Outside of China, the largest Chinatown in Asia can be found in Yokohama. Hundreds of restaurants and shops are packed into this colorful and boisterous neighborhood, along with a multitude of gates and temples, and (if you’re visiting at lunch time) approximately 34 billion students looking for a cheap meal.

Yokohama China Town

Yokohama’s Chinatown feels like a theme park, with large gates clearly defining its borders and a festive atmosphere reigning in its pedestrian-only streets. This isn’t a normal neighborhood with residents quietly going about their lives, but a boisterous place where people go to eat and have fun. Chinatown is a completely different beast from the rest of Yokohama, which we had found to be quiet and relaxing.

China and Japan haven’t always enjoyed the rosiest history of friendship, and the fortunes of Yokohama’s Chinatown have waxed and waned with the tension between the two. The neighborhood was established when Japan opened its borders in 1859, and grew rapidly until the Sino-Japanese War of 1937. Relations stabilized after WWII, with Japan’s embrace of pacifism, and today Yokohama is home to thousands Chinese expatriates, most of whom are Cantonese.

Apart from admiring the neighborhood’s elaborate gates and its temples, the main thing to do in Chinatown is eat. There are so many options, it’s hard to know where to start. You can pig out on street food like dumplings, fried chicken, pork buns, chestnuts, rice cakes and kebabs. Or you can choose a lunch special offered by one of the hundreds of restaurants. Spicy Szechuan tofu dishes, Beijing duck, Shanghai-style fish, or an infinite variety of noodle and rice meals.

Overwhelmed by choice, we finally sat down in a random restaurant which looked popular, and enjoyed a delicious multi-set meal for about ¥800. Don’t ask me to share the restaurant’s name or location, because we were so disoriented by lunch time that I remember neither. Anyway, I have a feeling that any place you eat in Chinatown would be excellent.

Our trip to Yokohama was turning out to be a lot more interesting than expected, and Chinatown was the day’s biggest surprise. Even if you have to skip the rest of the city, it’s worth the short journey from Tokyo just to see this neighborhood and enjoy some authentic Chinese cuisine.

Location of Yokohama’s Chinatown on our Map

Hostels In Yokohama

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June 25, 2014 at 9:47 am Comment (1)

A Trip to Yokohama

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After Tokyo, Yokohama is the second-biggest city in Japan, with a population approximately equal to that of Los Angeles. The idea of dedicating a single day to it is absurd, but Yokohama is so easily accessible from Tokyo that it actually makes for an excellent short excursion.

Yokohama Japan

Just hop on the JR Tokaido train heading south out of Tokyo Station and 25 minutes later, you’re in Yokohama. It’s so close that it could be conceivably be considered a suburb, and indeed, many people commute from here to the big(ger) city every day for work. But although it exists under the shadow of Tokyo, Yokohama has an identity and colorful history all its own, thanks largely to its status as Japan’s first international port.

When Japan finally opened its doors to trade in 1854, it did so reluctantly. The shogun designated Yokohama, a fishing village farther down the coast from Edo, as the only port allowed to accept ships from other countries. Foreigners were permitted to settle down here… and only here. The result was that Yokohama blossomed into Japan’s most cosmopolitan city. Strong populations of Americans, Chinese and Brits brought with them innovations and learning that the country had previously shut its isolationist ears to.

The international flavor is still readily apparent in Yokohama, which boasts one of the world’s largest Chinatowns, as well as buildings which wouldn’t look out of place alongside the Thames. We began our day by walking from the train station past the baseball stadium, home of the Yokohama Bay Stars, and down Nihon-dori (Japan Street), which was once the official boundary between the city’s Japanese and the foreign populations.

Yokohama Japan

Soon, we were at the bay and walked out onto the newly-reconstructed Osanbashi Pier. It’s rare that a pier could be considered a worthwhile tourism sight, but Osanbashi is lovely. Constructed with gentle slopes covered in grass, it looks more like a park than a pier. This has been the center of Japan’s maritime relations since the country’s doors opened, and today welcomes cruise ships full of foreign guests.

We now walked southeast along the bay, through Yamashita Park, where there were a number of statues and kids playing catch, and came upon the NYK Hikawa Maru. Built in 1929, this enormous passenger ship connected Japan to Seattle until the outbreak of World War II. It acted as a hospital ship during the hostilities, and then returned to its peaceful Pacific crossings until being decommissioned in 1960.

It was about noon when we reached the Yokohama Marine Tower, which has an observation deck on its top floor. From here, we had a nice view of the harbor which has played such an important role in Japanese history. Further north, we could spot the modern section of the city, which we’d be visiting in the afternoon. And to the south, Chinatown, which we (correctly) reckoned would be a great place for lunch. There was still a lot ahead of us, but we were feeling optimistic; our morning in Yokohama had already been an unqualified success.

Locations on our Map: Yokohama Station | Yokohama Stadium | Osanbashi Pier | Yamashita Park | NYK Hikawa Maru | Yokohama Marine Tower

Great Hotels in Yokohama

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June 25, 2014 at 7:13 am Comments (3)

The Giant Pandas of Ueno Zoo

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Japan’s first zoo was established in Ueno Park, in 1882. Although its age is starting to show, the zoo is still a popular retreat in Tokyo. It’s inexpensive, surprisingly large and, of course, there are those irresistible Giant Pandas.

Ueno Zoo In Tokyo

I was excited to get into the zoo, because I’d never seen Giant Pandas before. Lili and Shinshin would be my first, and we arrived right on time to see them do what they do best: eat. It was lunchtime, and the pair were just digging into a heaping pile of bamboo. A gift from China, they arrived in Tokyo in 2011, and have been Ueno’s star attractions ever since.

The pandas are kept in pens directly at the entrance, and we feared that the rest of the zoo wouldn’t be able to live up to such a grand opening. To tell the truth, it didn’t. There are some other fun animals, including the most playful polar bear I’ve ever seen, and a couple of adorable red pandas, but nothing else was nearly as exciting as the Giant Pandas.

Also, Ueno is not among the most modern or comfortable zoos we’ve ever visited. That’s to be expected, I suppose; it dates from an era in which humans didn’t pay all that much attention to animal welfare. The pens are often woefully inadequate, particularly for some of the larger birds, and none of the animals have a lot of space to enjoy.

But Ueno Zoo is big, and if you can put your sympathy on hold, you could easily spend hours here. Just the opportunity to experience wildlife in the middle of the big city is worth something, and besides, it’s almost impossible to pass up the chance to see Giant Pandas like Lili and Shinshin.

Location on our Map

So Many Cute Panda Things From Japan

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June 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm Comments (0)

The Nikolai Cathedral in Kanda

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In many other countries, the Nikolai Cathedral would hardly merit a second glance. But in Japan, the Byzantine-style construction is definitely noteworthy. Built in 1891, this Russian Orthodox church set atop a hill in Kanda is one of Tokyo’s stranger sights, just because it exists at all.

Nikolai Cathedral in Kanda

So what exactly is a Russian Orthodox Church doing in one of the choicest locations in central Tokyo? The story dates to the 1860s, when Ivan Dimitrovich Kasatkin decided to bring his religion from Russia to the eastern islands of Japan. After landing in Hokkaido, he set about learning the language and had soon converted three people to Christianity, one of whom was both a samurai and Shinto priest. The future Saint Nikolai didn’t stop there. Moving to Tokyo, he snapped up this property in Kanda and erected his church. By the time he died in 1912, he had managed to convert about 40,000 people.

We visited the church during a walk around the neighborhood of Kanda. You can step inside, but you can’t walk around freely. Neither the architecture nor interior artwork are all that memorable, and the stunning view the cathedral must have once commanded has long been obscured by neighboring skyscrapers.

Still, it’s fun to see a building so discordant with its surroundings, and a visit to the Nikolai Cathedral provides a convenient excuse to check out the rest of Kanda, which is packed with great restaurants and shops.

Location on our Map

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June 23, 2014 at 10:44 am Comments (0)

Akihabara

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The great Mecca of otaku culture, Akihabara is home to innumerable shops dedicated to anime, manga, cosplay, trading cards and collectible figurines. The world’s first Maid Cafe was established here, and you can also find cheap electronics stores, grand arcades, multi-story hobby malls, and much, much more. It sounds wonderful, so we were surprised when we didn’t like Akihabara all that much.

Akihabara Tokyo

Akihabara was Tokyo’s original “Electronics Town,” where, in the post-war years, people could buy the newest household gadgets. It was also the first area in the city to embrace computing and so it became known as a place with a futuristic outlook. The young, geeky gamers of Tokyo congregated in Akihabara’s bars and cafes, and it developed into a natural center of otaku culture.

Otaku is a tricky term, which I’m not sure I fully understand. Basically, it’s the Japanese version of “ultra-geek,” referring to people who are maniacally obsessed with things like manga or cosplay. Like “geek,” otaku is a traditionally negative term which has come to be embraced by its community. Today, a large percentage of Japanese self-identify as otaku.

Whatever it is, we saw otaku culture at its strongest in Akihabara. We walked through the arcades where guys were playing insane games involving digitally-imprinted playing cards. We squeezed into stores to look at ridiculously expensive anime figurines, and marveled over the people actually buying them. We explored comic shops which spanned seven floors. We ambled down the streets, dazed, politely shaking our heads to every maid that tried to win our attention. Far quicker than than we had anticipated, we’d had enough: Akihabara is not for us.

I don’t know what went wrong! I consider myself rather geeky… I enjoy the occasional role-playing game, and could list off a dozen members of the Green Lantern Corps without blinking. But I’ve always kept my geekiest impulses under control, afraid what might happen should the flood gates open. In Akihabara, confronted with truly unrestrained geekery, I had solid proof that moderation is the best policy.

Akihabara Tokyo

There’s something cute about a maid cafe. There’s nothing cute about dozens of maid cafes. And there’s something downright creepy about hundreds of young girls dressed in suggestive costumes standing around on street corners. Same with the collectible card stores… who doesn’t like card games? They’re fun. But try visiting one of these shops where literally hundreds of various Magic-type card-battle games are sold. Where people will spend a fortune on a single rare card. There’s little joy to be found here, just obsession. After Akihabara, I wanted to grab a fishing pole and go sit on a lake. I wanted to spit in the dirt, and rub mud on my face.

Still, it’s a crazy area and maybe on a different day we would have enjoyed it. At any rate, Akihabara is worth seeing, and if you’re in the market for cheap electronics (or comics or games or maids), it’s probably the best place to go in Tokyo.

Location of Akihabara Station on our Map

Buy Crazy Stuff From Japan Here

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June 22, 2014 at 3:49 pm Comments (0)

Folding Paper at the Origami Kaikan

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Almost everyone knows a little about origami, the Japanese art of folding paper. But for a deeper understanding, we visited Tokyo’s Origami Kaikan (Origami Center) in Bunkyo, where we had the opportunity to learn at the feet of an ancient sensei.

Origami Kaikan

In its most pure form, origami is the art of folding a square sheet of paper. Swans, frogs and balloons are among the most well-known shapes, but there are artists who can fashion simple paper in unimaginable ways, using nothing but folds. Many architects study origami and incorporate its techniques into their designs, and it’s a popular diversion among mathematicians, who are capable of creating intricate models.

Origami has always appealed to me, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Tokyo that I allowed myself to delve into the art form. I bought a few books and stacks of paper, and created a bunch of animals and modular geometric shapes. There’s something entrancing and meditative about the process, and I suspect that I’ve found the hobby which will distract me in my old age.

Old age was certainly on my mind during our visit to the Origami Kaikan. While browsing books on the third floor of this multi-story center, we were invited to sit down at a table with a man who was over 100 years old. He was whipping out origami shapes with frightening speed, and we tried our best to copy his instruction. He spoke not a word throughout the session, though he did frequently grunt with impatience when we couldn’t keep up.

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The lesson was in creating pencils, and we learned as swiftly as possible. Our first couple pencils were clumsily-done, but fortunately the learning curve wasn’t steep; this was a simple shape, with only a few folds required, and soon we were spitting out pencils like a factory. Master’s grunts gradually softened until they almost sounded like grunts of approval.

Origami Kaikan is listed as a Cultural Treasure of the Bunkyo Ward. It’s been in existence since 1858, when it was established as a paper-making center. Paper is still produced here today, and visitors are welcomed into the studio on the fourth floor, although it was closed during our trip. The Kaikan also puts on frequent origami workshops for specific models. These sessions are mostly in Japanese, but since you’re just watching someone fold paper, that’s not a deal-breaker.

Location of the Origami Kaikan on our Map

List Of Origami Books

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June 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm Comments (3)

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