5th August 2019: Vampire Rockstar… I mean Vampire Café {Japan, summer 2019}

After doing laundry (sweaty clothes and lingering smells of smoking rooms), I met up with B**** around Nakano [中野] station for lunch (and on the way I saw yet another long jacket that I loved at a great price, so all in all jacket success).

We did some karaoke and then she tagged along with me to the Vampire Café in Ginza [銀座], which was pretty fun, but that needs to be done in groups so you’re in the main area and not the tiny booths to the side, because then you miss all the atmosphere. Another thing off the bucket list! The ambience of the café was amazing, and the food was not bad. Unfortunately, our waitress was not in the mood to deal with the poor-Japanese-skills customers. As there were two of us, we had one of the little booths. They closed the curtains to give it a casket-y feeling (I’m guessing). We ordered a set for two, Mankitsu Course [満喫コース], literally “Enjoyment course”, and a couple of cocktails – a ブルッドオレンジジュース “blood orange juice” and a ブルッドオレンジサワー “blood orange sour”.

Collage. The two-people booth is surrounded by red curtains, and the food is gothic-looking. The cold sausages have been stylished to look like roses, as has the salmon in the salad. The pasta has a black cross and a grim reaper drawing along the word Death. Ice cream scoops have little cookie legs so they look like spiders. A general shot of the room shows a coffin-looking table with a chandelier on top

Food consisted on:

  • ハム 盛リ合わせ: Ham assortment, more like sausage assortment with biscuits.
  • シーザー サラダ: Caesar Salad, really nice but not “Caesar”, it had a salmon rose.
  • ガリック トースト: Garlic toast, in the shape of coffins, really adorable
  • イカスミ パスタ: Squid pasta, surprisingly good and with an adorable Grim Reaper presentation.
  • ハーブ & スパイス - チキン Herb & Spice Chicken, flambéd at the table
  • 2色アイス: Two-colour ice-cream, strawberry and vanilla in an edible cookie mini-bowl with little spider legs and glazed-cherry eyes

The meal, including drinks, was actually cheaper than I expected when divided between the two of us. The whole atmosphere was rather quiet because the velvet curtains drowning the sound from other customers; the ambience music was creepy music-box like, but very faint. I might want to come back, or maybe not, Jury’s still out.

Walked distance: 15168 steps / 10.8 km, again somehow.

2nd January 2017: Visiting the Imperial Palace {Japan, winter 16/17}

At roughly 9 am, we headed off to the Imperial Palace, the Kōkyo [皇居] for an audience with the Emperor. Sounds impressive, but so did several other some 80 thousand of people. We were going to the so-called “Visit of the General Public to the Palace for the New Year Greeting” (Kōkyo Shin-nen Ippan Sanga [皇居 新年一般参賀]) to wish the Emperor Nappy New Year.

We arrived in the Imperial Palace area maybe around late 9.30s. First we got our flags to wave. Then our bags were checked, then there was a pat-down to make sure that we did not take anything dangerous into the palace. The weather was nice and sunny so it was not too cold, and it was nice. We ended up at the beginning of one of the lines so we had a nice view of the Nijubashi [環境省] Gate, which is usually closed. Then we walked up the gardens until we got to the main building. We were not allowed to stop to take pictures, so excuse random angles and compositions.

We made it to the grounds just in time for the 11:00h audience. We got to see the adult members of the imperial family and hear the emperor speak for a couple of minutes. There was cheering and flags.

After the audience we got to walk down the gardens, and take pictures and think that everything looked awfully mundane for an Imperial Palace. There were traffic signs and the max speed is 30… I don’t know, it was a weird feeling.

Afterward we visited Itoya in Ginza [銀座], which is a huge stationary shop, and I wanted all the things. Afterwards we had some Australian beef and then we headed off to Shibuya [渋谷], where there was Taco Bell (because reasons) and karaoke with B**** and a donut afterwards. The order might not have been exactly that one though (⌒▽⌒)☆

30th December 2016: Water & lights {Japan, winter 16/17}

I headed off to Enoshima [江の島] to meet with my friend Mk-san, whom I met in Gackt’s birthday party in July. By pure chance, I caught a glance of Mount Fuji Fuji-san [富士山] again.

Together (with Mk-san, not with Fuji-san ~ヾ(^∇^)) we went into Enoshima Aquarium – Enoshima Suizokukan [新江ノ島水族館], which was one of the few I had left in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. The highlight was the focus on algae and seagrass, because the jumping fish did not seem to be in the mood for jumping. Oh, and kira-kira jellyfish!

After the aquarium and lunch, I headed back to Tokyo [東京] and I stumbled upon one of the L’Arc-en-Ciel’s “Don’t be afraid” billboards.

Then I met up with K. and D****e in Nakano Broadway [中野ブロードウェイ] for a bit of shopping before we headed out to Tokyo Dome [東京ドーム] to watch some Winter Illumination.

Later we went to Tokyo Station to see the lights in the Marunouchi [丸の内] side and had some avocado burger in a random Freshness we came across. And it was cold. Very cold. Awfully cold. Finger-ouchy cold.

28th August 2015: Matsushima and Sendai {Japan, summer 2015}

The day started in Matsushima [松島], the Pine Islands, where there are… lots of pines. And temples. We paid the small fee to cross the bridge to the biggest island, Oshima [雄島] and headed off there, to just walk around it. There were pines and other trees, but I am no tree expert, so… I could identify the pines… However, there were nice views and it was a good way to start the morning, even if I was not feeling 100%, as I had a small accident coming out of the station that ended up with me sprawled on the floor. Not fun.

This bridge survived March 11, although a smaller similar one was destroyed. In general, the area was quite spared by the tsunami.

A walkable bridge with concrete ground and vermillion guards that crosses the bay towards a rocky island with small pines

View from Oshima into the bay:

A view of the bay. There are pine branches in the foreground, and two small rocky islands with more pines

After the main island, we visited a few of the temples around. First, Zuigan-ji [瑞巌寺], which has some really cool cave altars.

A standing Buddha in front of a cave sanctuary.

Entsuin [円通院] – Mausoleum of Date Mitsumune.

Main building of a temple. It's made of wood so old that it has turned white-grey

Back in Sendai, our first stop was the combini Ōsaki Hachimangū [大崎八幡宮], also known as the Black Shrine, as it was supposedly erected to enshrine the kami of war. It was ordered by Date Masamune, who was a very important figure in the history of feudal Sendai.

Shrine, built in black with golden decoration

Though we did not make it to Date’s mausoleum, we did see the sculpture erected in his honour up on the ruins of Aoba-jō [青葉城]. Here are the Date Masamune memorial on the ruins of Aoba Castle

Statue of a samurai, riding a horse. The samurai has a crescent decoration on his helmet. The horse is mid-step, with its front right leg bent

View of Sendai from Aoba Castle:

A view of the skyline of Sendai with a line of trees in front of it

Afterwards, we headed back to the station as we had to catch the 19.30 train, since we had an appointment in Ginza [銀座] at 22.00. We had a reservation for VAMPS Joysound special karaoke booth, which was normal karaoke, but in a room decorated with VAMPS stuff and a special video, along with some themed drinks. Just one of those cute fandom money-drainers activities.

The Vamps karaoke booth and theme drink

11th August 2014: Microwaved bread is a thing {Japan, summer 2014}

The day started started late due to jet-lag and and on and off night and once again we set off to try and of a tea ceremony in Ginza [銀座]. However, for the second time it did not work out, due to the hotel we had selected had stopped doing it for the summer. Not fun.

We headed out for a late lunch and ended up at a place that tried to be a weird version of a British pub, called “The Ginza Lion” which had some nice set dishes that came with a choice of bread or rice. We both chose bread and we received a baguette piece with butter. Amusingly enough, the bread had been… microwaved. Not toasted but microwaved. I am guilty if having microwaved bread before when I was trying to defrost it. Jokes ensued, and I was there to write a blog post on why microwaved bread is a thing. It is, of course. Will mark trend, I am sure.

Afterwards we headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to cavort idol shops, which are always fun. However, there was an unusual crowd due to the release of Kanjani8 stuff, and some of the shops were too crowded to browse in peace.

From Harajuku we walked down to Shibuya [渋谷] for a couple of hours of karaoke (NEWS version of Weeeek is easier once you have gotten used to the GreeeN one, too). Then we went to The One Hundred Yen Yakiniku to eat barbecued meat and veggies and called it a day.

13th July 2012: Modern & Hip vs. Spriritual & Traditional {Japan, summer 2012}

There was nothing to fear about Friday the 13th, considering that Kinkakuji had predicted me an excellent fortune (yay!), and it started with a niiiice breakfast – Swallowtails‘ cheesecake.

The first stop of the day was skipped due to a train mishap: I missed the stop and did not realise until I had transferred to another line, so backtracking would be expensive. I was not deterred and moved on to my second destination: Ginza [銀座]. Ginza would be the expensive shopping district, and to be honest it did not give me too much of a good vibe.

Not too happy with the place, I decided that since I could ride the Yamanote line for free (Japan Railway Pass = ♥) I would do a couple of other exteriors. The first one was Tokyo Station [東京駅] which was being renovated, so most of it was covered in white fabric.

Afterwards I headed off to Akihabara Electric Town [秋葉原], the place of Tokyo that seems to have more gaijin per square metre. Akiba lives up to its reputation of flashy, hentai, and maido-café infested. Sadly, the Mandarake was doing some kind of renovation and the usual entrances were closed, so I could not find the way into the… interesting section.

On top of the usual Akihabara scenario, I also found some remains of old Tokyo, among them this old stone bridge, Mansei Bashi [万世橋]

The evening’s destination involved a transfer in Ginza again, so I backtracked towards it. Instead of going into the shopping district, though, I headed off to Hibiya Koen [日比谷公園], which reportedly was were the first shogun houses were, around the Imperial Palace.

After some rest and chocolate cookies, I set off towards quite literally the other corner of the castle, to Kudanshita [九段下]. We have heard about the Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi, a matsuri (festival) that involves a number of boats releasing lit lanterns on the water in the Palace Moat at Chidorigafuchi Koen [千鳥ヶ淵公園]. Sounds a pretty thing to see, right? Right. Thing is that Kinkakuji fortune kicked in, so when we arrived there had been a cancellation on one of the boats and… we became part of the festival.

Chidorigafuchi Park is close to Yasukuni Jinja [靖國神社], where yet another festival, the Mitama Matsuri, was being held. We had matsuri food (yakitori), admired the lanterns and heard a bunch of young men doing taiko (traditional drumming). It was beyond amazing an evening.