Friday, 28 January 2011

A little bit of China, Europe and a Fair

There was only one place we went to which was outside of Tokyo and that was Yokohama! 3rd January was when we went because it was one place Hannah really wanted to go, and it was cheap to get there from Tokyo so why not? Really glad I went now, I think it was one of my favorite places on this trip.

When we arrived we walked the whoooole length of the town to reach Japan’s largest China Town! And it was huge! And FULL OF FOOD! OMG it smelt so good! We found a reasonably priced place down one of the streets and had some of the nicest Chinese food I’ve ever had! It was normal chahan (friend rice) but…it just tasted different to what you get in England. Probably because it was made for Japanese tastes rather then English tastes, and probably because Japan is closer to China it has a more authentic feel about it. I mean, yes it was made by Chinese people and no it’s not real Chinese food because it’s made different, but still it just tastes waaay better then English Chinese food and is significantly less oiling (although it’s still an oily meal). I don’t know if that made sense…so here’s a picture of the meal:

After wandering around the area all the streets began to look the same! Manjuu stand (steamed buns), Chinese temple, tourist shop with extortionately priced tea/Chinese toys/Chinese clothes. It was cool don’t get me wrong! And I really loved exploring all the little side streets and the smells of the food were sooo good! I even got some Chinese pastry things from one lady (the only ones there it seemed) which were soooo delicious! I wish I could go back now and get more! But after a while we got bored and decided to go exploring around Yokohama. We digged out our maps and ah-ha! A park! So wandered over to the park.

What we found on way to discovering the park was not something I had expected to see at all! It was long shopping district which seemed to have been made from different parts of Europe. It just had a very distinct European feel to it. It wasn’t necessarily the contents of the shops or the people (obviously) but the buildings themselves seemed to be based on different architectures from Europe. France, Germany, Sweden…it was like stepping into a Miyazaki movie!

At the beginning of this shopping district as we first approached (which is what attracted us to it in the first place) was the sound of drumming. We followed it to find a lion dance happening! Three guys, one playing drums, one flute, and one as the lion started to play and the lion ran around scaring small children and then preceded to run into the store they were performing infront of before running back out to finish. I have a feeling the dance was intentionally for that store. Maybe good fortune?

We back tracked a little after exploring the shops (found an import shop with foreign sweets, foods and liquor!) we headed up to the park. But as we wandered up we first came across a “Foreigners Cemetery”. This was the most random thing, I thought! It was certainly a Christian cemetery and it went all the way up the hill on the edge of the town. We climbed up following the cemetery and lo-and-behold there was a church at the top and a sign explaining that the cemetery was had been burying foreign Christians for hundreds of years (since after Perry forced Japan to open their borders and trade with America in the 1850s). NOT ONLY THAT but the cemetery held the resting place of Charles Wirgman!!! Now if I had read his name 4 months ago I wouldn’t have cared at all, but thanks to Media and Culture I know who this man is! He’s an Englishman who came to Japan after it opened it boarders to write for the London Times. He drew serious paintings of Japan depicting it for the Brits back home, but also made satirical comics which were only for the resident foreigners but got picked up by the Japanese. His work was…well it never intended to become anything but they say that it did have an impact on those who came after him and was one of the factors which helped develop Japan’s manga (comics). I knew he was buried in Japan but forgot it was Yokohama, and to be there where he was was quite awesome.

Anyway, at the top of the hill past the cemetery was a large area full of houses based on foreign houses. There was even a map pointing out the different homes that once belonged for foreign diplomats in the 1800s such as “the French House” or “the English House”. The parks themselves, we noticed, were even called “France Park” or “America Park”. The one we wandered over to was America Park and it had a lovely view of Yokohama and the bay. You could even see Tokyo. It also had a few of the houses so we found the England House which didn’t look very English except for the HUGE rose garden out the front. Some of the roses were even in bloom!

It was beginning to get dark by then so we wandered back down to town and found a Sukiya (cheap fast food gyuudon (beef on rice)) and had dinner. Then we headed back to the harbor where (earlier that day) we had passed a HUGE fun fair with the famous ferris wheel which acts like a clock! At least at night it does, because the lights on the ferris wheel count down and then every 15 mins the lights change into a rainbow display. We then headed over and went up on the ferris wheel! Ahhh I was nervous at the top but the views were amazing and as long as the thing we were in didn’t rock too much it was fine…I think.

That was going to be our final thing but as we headed back to the station we came across a street performer. He was just…so good! So charismatic and funny and although he messed up a lot he didn’t fail to turn it into a joke or to interact with the audience in some way. People gave him a lot of money at the end too, even I was tempted to but I was already in dept to Hannah ^^;

(Btw he didn’t mean to hit his head with the Diablo)

Ahhhhhh twas a good day. I’m glad I’m writing this now because I can remember it all over again.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Emperor of Japan

This is a short blog but it comes with a video! Yay! Basically on the 2nd January at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo the Emperor and the Royal Family appear before the public and gives a speech a couple of times throughout the day. How could we miss this opportunity!? So Hannah and I went to see the Emperor trying to meet up with Louise, Sheila and Myra but missing communications meant we missed Louise and Sheila altogether and Myra was late so I was ahead of Hannah and Myra (and her friends I later discovered), because I had got off at a different station in search of Louise and Sheila.

So in the end I wandered over to the palace on my own. Security was what you expect at a place where the emperor of Japan was going to show and the place was packed! We missed the first…viewing, but I only had to que for an hour to see the second. It was quite…I don’t know. Everyone seemed so excited. They’d been given flags of Japan outside (even me) and there was secret security in the crowds…well not that secret because they all had obvious ear pieces and were wearing suits. The speech itself kinda went like this (the video is a lot clearer then this >< )

When the speech was done everyone filed out and I was able to meet up with Hannah and Myra and her friends Chee Sang (or Cheese) and Jenna (whom I’d met before at Kareoke). But sadly Jenna wasn’t feeling well and had to rush off, which left just the four of us.

We went and found awesome lunch of tenpura don (deep fried stuff on rice) and then decided to head over to Yasakuni shrine. On the way though the streets were full of Japanese Nationalists in their black vans (and a few white) with the Japanese flag blasting old music and probably preaching about how the Emperor should be put back in power and all the foreigners should be kicked out. (They’re like the BNP only they have vans with speakers on them). It is a bit scary hearing them though when you know you’re the one being discriminated against.

Yasakuni shrine is a bit of a controversial one because it’s where the Japanese war dead are buried, including the war criminals. It’s the one where whenever the Prime Minister of Japan goes to pray there, there are masses of protests in China and Korea, because it’s full of the people who did atrocities to them. But despite this it was new years and the shrine was packed with food vendors and people going to pray for the new year. None of us prayed though knowing it’s history, but it was interesting looking around and it had some pretty displays of music and a nice Japanese garden.

After we all wandered back to Tokyo station and Myra and Cheese left Hannah and I felt like we hadn’t quite had enough and decided to walk back to Morishita from Tokyo station. It was far but really nice just to be able to walk through the streets. Also we stumbled across a shrine just before it was closing and I was able to pray for the new year again. Let’s hope all this praying will make the new year worth while.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Years in Tokyo-World

So I took Louise and Sheila back to mine and Hannah’s in Morishita, making a quick stop at the 100en store (which is like £1 store but has food and things that are useful and work), to get curry and rice and some veg. When we got back I cooked us all a nummy meal of cheap curry and we watched the Kouhaku Uta Gassen aka the Red and White Song Battle!

Every New Years eve in Japan they do this show where the years top singers split into two teams (red and white) and have like a sing off. Not just the J-pop bands but also a wid

e selection of Enka performers as well as a couple of kids songs from animes. It’s basically a variety show, a bit of a laugh. Kinda like red nose day only it’s just singers and doesn’t raise money for charity…I think. I really, really enjoyed it ^-^ But I don’t think the others did so much…could have been thanks for Media and Culture module last term meant I knew half of the people on stage…ahh well. Sadly the video I took of the performance has a lot of background noise and shaking because I was distracted, but I got some photos!

Once that had gotten a way through we decided to head out early to the Shrine. Yes, shrine. Hannah and I decided we wanted to do New Years the Japanese way and had scouted out a nearby shrine that wasn’t more then 20min walk away. It was a Buddhist temple right next to a Shinto shrine. We were arrived the streets were packed with food vendors. OMG it smelled soooooo good! After exploring the mouth watering food stalls we went and found the temple. A few people were quing up so we joined the que…but the que didn’t move…we waited, and waited. I looked behind us and the road down to the temple was PACKED with people! Then as soon as it hit 12:00 (people in the crowd started to count down) the crowd rushed forward with some guard trafficking the people so the temple wasn’t over whelmed. We were near the front too so managed to pray for the New Year soon on New Years day.

Then we went exploring some more, and got omamori (charms, I got one for study) and some uranai (fortunes) for the new year. I got pretty average fortune (again, I never get great, just average, story of my life hahaha). OH! While we were getting those I saw some Buddhist priest blessing someone’s car! I knew it happens (the trains in Kansai get blessed) but it was the first time I’d seen it happen!

Then it was weird Japanese food hunting time >8D Thankfully the curry had filled us and we had little money so didn’t buy too much but what we did get was good. I think it was okonomiyaki, taiyaki and some kind of steamed dough in random sauce XD I can’t remember. Then Louise and Sheila went and Hannah and I walked past. I can safely say we didn’t really do anything the following day, just relaxed in snuggly bed (or vegetating if you want to put it another way XD)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Comiket was the main reason I went Tokyo. Yes it was for my dissertation research but mainly it was out of my own interest thanks to the magical Genshiken and their adventures to the convention. For those who don’t know (mostly family) Comiket is short from ‘Comic Market’ and is a HUGE gathering over 3 days where people sell comics, games, music, fanfiction and other random things that they’ve made. Over 500,000 people will attend in a weekend. And although it cost a bit to get there the entry is free! Woot!

This was basically my first trip out of my own since I’d come to Japan (second technically but the first wasn’t all day). OMG it was sooo nice to get out without worrying about other people and just wander around at my own leisure. I had to get up early to get to the Tokyo Big Site at 10:30. Perfect timing I think because I could go straight in even though there were hundreds of people. Comiket is famous for having people que from 5am so they can get the doujinshi (fan made comics) from their favorite circles (these things are made in groups mostly rather then individuals).

I knew it was going to be big…I just didn’t realise the full scale of how big it is! Two huge halls the size of football pitches full of stands and people. Apparently there are something like 1500 stalls which change each day. Every day has different things and so I went for all three days.

Day 1 was mostly the comics aimed at girls. I have never seen so many Japanese women concentrated in once place. Of course there were men as well. Actually I was surprised to see that although mostly people in 20s there were also a lot of people who were older and middle aged. Even those selling stuff!

On day 2 there was an even mix of people and I met a middle aged woman selling…you wouldn’t believe it, Japanese fanfiction of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes! Turns out she had ordered it from England and her friend had subbed it for her. She was the first person I interviewed for my research and ahhh I made such a mess XD Oh well. She said I could e-mail her so if I had any questions I could ask her…I really should e-mail her ^^; woops. And then my second interview was of this guy who was selling a music CD he and his friends had made and he was really nice and GAVE me one of his CDs as a present! I didn't know what to say! Mainly because I didn't know how to say "I can't accept this" in Japanese but also because I was speachless. So kind! Half way through the day I randomly ran into this French guy who had come to London for the con. He was interesting, but I felt really awkward doing interviews with him standing there. He ended up coming round with me for the rest of the day. So much for having time to myself. Oh well. He was an interesting character to talk to and was also interested in the differences of practices between Japanese and foreign otaku.

Day 3 was New Years eve and yet the con was still going! Louise and Sheila met up with me for the con. Unfortunately it was also the busiest I’d seen it, and we could barely move through the crowds! I don’t know if they enjoyed it, I felt kind of bad dragging them around and kept worrying about them. We also went through quite quickly, missing out rows of vendors. So it was an early finish that day as they were both still tired and probably a little jet lagged. Oh well, can’t be helped. ^-^

At least I can say that I felt very happy and fulfilled after the 3 days at Comiket. I'd spent more money that I should have, taken LOADS of shiny cosplay photos and has succesfully interviewed a large number of people for my project ^_^ (Minor note: You can't take photos inside the con because of anamity, so only outside and cosplay pictures)

Later that day was New Years…I know technically the beginning of the day was new years, but in my mind the events got separated into two (probably because they’re just so different)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Tokyo at Christmas

Apologies for taking so long in updating, I will catch up now!

So after Cait and Brit left it was the 22nd December. Hannah and I stayed in most of the day but got bored and decided to wander over to Akihabara. The first time we’d walked over there! It took about 40mins but was a nice walk through the sky scrapers, we even diverged off the main road to find very old style Japanese boat houses in the river behind skyscrapers. Akiba itself is famous for it’s large concentration of anime, manga, games and electrical stuff. It was certainly that, very busy with maids advertising cafes on almost every street corner it felt. Sadly it didn’t feel the same without having money to splerg on the figurines and I didn’t get as excited as I thought I would. We visited Akiba one more time the day after that with Myra who’s another Kent student studying in Waseda in Tokyo. I think I’ll need to go back there on my own before we leave and have a proper explore of the area and not get scared of using the DDR machines in the arcade (I’m worried I’ll look like an idiot compared to the insanely skilled Japanese kids in those arcades).

Then it was Christmas eve and all through the house...well anyway, eve was a busy day. Hannah, Myra and I went to Tokokawa Inari shrine and then to Heiei shrine which is based on the god of Mt Heiei (I cant spell it) which is another larger shrine in Kyoto area that I have yet to go to. Then we walked over to Tokyo Tower! We almost got lost but were ok in the end and omgoodness the view from Tokyo Tower was AMAZING! It really was worth the 1500yen we spent climbing up it. Especially because we went just before sunset before it got busy and got to see the sun setting and then Tokyo at night. SO COOL! Then wandered over to Roppongi Hills to see the famous Christmas lights, which were ok, but not that amazing. AND THEN we got the train to Myra’s place and ate tempura don (don lit means something on top of rice) which was nommy. AAAAAND THEEEEEN we went to Myra’s dorm for a bit before going out with her friends and kereokeing until 5am!!! Ahhh it was a good night ^_^ As Hannah and I arrived back at our house at 6am we could see the dark sky slowly getting brighter in the East on the city, but didn’t stay up watch the sunrise and instead went straight to bed.

Christmas day itself was, apart from the karaoke, not that entertaining, just sat in bed all day until it got late enough to Skype home. Watching Christmas happen through a computer screen was the weirdest thing. It was really nice still being involved in Christmas and seeing everyone, but it was like watching a film, I was involved but not part of it. But it was still lovely seeing my family again and I miss them a lot. I also opened the presents they’d sent me in the morning and that made me miss them even more hahahah!

Boxing day Hannah and I met up with some friends of hers in Harajuku but we weren’t really impressed that they didn’t want to see the temple in Harajuku park or that they wanted to go to Shibuya to an American clothes store where they’d been to the other day. But that aside Harajuku is cool! There weren’t as many people dressed up in extreme clothes like you would think there would be but that could have been because of many reasons. Tired of foreigners taking photos of them; found somewhere else to go; had already been and gone; where mostly wandering around instead of hanging out on the bridge; I’m just used to seeing that extreme wear after being in Japan so long. We also went to Shibuya (where the American store was) and it’s where the famous crossing is. We crossed it. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be XD

And then that was the end of boxing day and Christmas :( Oh well. At least in Harajuku I got free hugs!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ramblings - I miss England

I miss going to Anime on a Thursday and being insane. I miss RPGing and falling into the role of a make-believe character and discovering the story of the GM. I miss Roos awesome cooking and Hughs wise words. I miss Leo and his ability to be insane with me and Freds ability to be awesome sexy by being herself. I miss lying in on a Sunday morning in a room to myself. I miss baking random food with my house mates. I miss wandering into town and having to work my way through the tourists. I miss walking past the Lady Luck and never going in. I miss Sam and the way he smells like pipe tobacco and mens deoderant. I miss Cait and her ability to rant for ages and Danielle at her side knowing so much and saying so little. I miss Georgia whoes smile and hugs can brighten anyones days. I miss walking back from campus with friends late at night, or even on my own. I miss the smell of the trees along the foot paths up to campus. I miss the train tracks and the familiar scenery around them. I miss playing games and getting fish and chips with Sarah, Tom and Jon. I miss watching them play magic the gathering and wishing I knew how to play. I miss going to Adams to play games with them and others, eating snacks and doing sing star. I miss Steve who always reminds me of an adorable underfed rabbit and his awesome girlfriend Dinithi. I miss randomly jumping into conversations at anime. I miss randomly jumping people at anime. I miss the anime house crew sitting in the corner in a world of their own. I miss classes. I miss being inspired and fearing my teachers. I miss stressing over essays that only get so/so marks. I miss the end of a term when everyone says good bye. I miss being home being bored and then my mum comes back and makes me tea. I miss tea at home. I miss food at home. I miss getting a chinese on lazy days. I miss my dad and his random DIYing on Sundays. I miss my sisters not being at home because they have boyfriends. I miss it when I do get to see them. I miss my doggy Charlie. I miss walking him across the fields. I miss walking across the countryside for an hour into town. I miss the few occations I can get to Mogs house. I miss Mog's tea. I miss how her house smells and how her family are always nice. I miss Alicks and the three of us chatting online every night. I miss black berry picking. I miss the smell of the countryside. I miss so much more that I can't think of right now. I miss the smells, sounds, touch of England and all the people I know in it. <3