8th September 2021: Impromptu Madrid Run! (Spain)

This was oh my god so unplanned that I kept improvising throughout the whole day! It all started because a Spanish publisher decided to translate a non-fiction book I’ve loved for ages – Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein. The publisher flew the author in for interviews, and I guess I was disappointed that no signing event was organised. I asked the author once and the publisher another time, then shrugged it off when I got no answer. There were some interviews scheduled for him, and a book fair coming up. I guessed it was just not meant to be, but I did feel disappointed.

And then, on the 7th, Mr Adelstein shot me a message that he would sign my book if I could go to Madrid and meet him at one of his breaks. As you can imagine I just… said yes (I could not meet him that very same evening because of travel times, but I could make it on the 8th. And there I went).

It was the first time taking the train since the whole pandemic thing (hell, I had not even been on a train since Paris 2020), and a weekday so I chose the times carefully to hopefully get close to as few people as possible – it worked, as both rides nobody sat next to me.

I arrived in Madrid and transferred easily, then got out at a new station in the area of Gran Vía. The Tokyo Vice book came out that day, so I wanted to go to a big book store that would hopefully have it already. My first stop, FNAC, failed miserably, so I went to La Casa del Libro, where they told me I would find the book in a completely different section where I actually did. But at least I had it in my hands, even if I had apparently not used my credit card for so long, I got the right PIN for the wrong card (≧▽≦).

After I had the book in Spanish – I’ve owned a first edition copy in English since 2010 – I had thought that I should get a small detail for the author as he was making time for me. As he had to continue on his travelling, I decided to do something small and “consumable”, so I came up with buying some typical Madrid candy – violet sweets from La Violeta. I’d never been inside the shop, but it’s an adorable little place dating back to 1915.

It was still early for my appointment at 14:00, so I decided to head towards a square that hosts an Egyptian temple of all things. On the way I made a stop at a Starbucks for a Vanilla Frappucino, I figured out that the amount of calories would get me going and I would not have to eat until I was back – looking back it was a weird thing, but it made sense in my head at the time. I strolled around the park next to the palace Palacio Real.

The way to the temple was completely blocked off due to construction, so I decided to backtrack. I walked up the great avenue in the middle of the city Gran Vía. As I walked around, minding my business and listening to music, I kept remembering a comic by Sarah Sanders, in which she makes fun of how people won’t leave you alone when you’re wearing headphones and, well, minding your own business.

I reached the square with the fountain to the goddess Cybele Fuente de la Cibeles and the related Palace. The fountain dates back to the 18th century, when king Carlos III revamped a lot of Madrid trying to make it more beautiful and similar to other European capitals.

Carlos III is also responsible for the design of the modern version of one of the former wall gates, called the gate to Alcalá, the nearby town, Puerta de Alcalá. This area was declared Unesco World Heritage Site in summer 2021 as Paisaje de la Luz, so Madrid was in a celebratory mood.

I headed into the park Parque del Retiro, which is also included in the Heritage declaration. The park was initially built in the first half of the 17th century, as part of the royal recreational areas. Carlos III opened it up as public park a hundred years later. Aside from the obvious green areas, the park features fountains, palaces and sculptures. I walked past some of them. First I came across the fountain “of the turtles” Fuente de los Galápagos.

There is also a large pond, aptly called the big pond Estanque Grande del Retiro populated by carps, to whose side stands the monument to Alfonso XII – Monumento a Alfonso XII.

Nearby the pond stands the fountain called the artichoke fountain, Fuente de la alcachofa.

I walked to the fountain that depicts the fall of Lucifer from Heaven, Fuente del Ángel Caído. The fountain itself was built in order to exhibit the sculpture by Ricardo Bellve, who originally created it in plaster. The figure would then be cast in iron for the World Exhibit of 1878 in Paris, and eventually placed in the Retiro.

I strolled back towards one of my favourite points in the park, but that’s because I like iron-and-glass architecture – a little building called Palacio de Cristal, which has a small pond around.

Finally I headed over the little café where I had arranged to meet with Mr Adelstein. He arrived shortly after. He signed my book, but truth be told, I had also brought my first-edition copy, which happens to be full of post-its from the first time I read it. He was happy to sign that one too, and to my eternal mortification… he went over all the notes. I almost died right then and there. We chatted for a little, I gave him the violet candy and he had some umeboshi sweets for me too. I babbled that I was very happy that he had made some time for me, and he told me “but you were so polite on twitter and the publisher said no signatures!” and I kind of died again.

In the end, our meeting was only 15 minutes, but I have not felt so happy in a very long time – that he specifically took time felt amazing. We took pictures and even had a safe mask-hug. Afterwards I headed towards the nearest train station so I could be on my way before the afternoon rush came through, so that was it for the day.

Walking distance: 12.39 km

26th January 2020: Royal Palace and Norwegian salmon (Madrid, Spain)

A friend was over visiting for the weekend and we headed off to Madrid. It had been raining and the weather the previous evening had been rather miserable. Actually, when we left home it was rather foggy and dark, but upon stepping out the Avenida de América bus station, it had become sunny and not cold at all.

My friend wanted to see the Palacio Real de Madrid, the Royal Palace – we had been playing Madrid Cluedo the day before and she had mentioned that she had never been there. At first, we only wanted to see building. As it was Chinese New Year, the blunt of tourists was somewhere else watching the Parade, and we had a short queue to go inside, so she decided to wait as it was not expensive, either.

You can’t take pictures in most of the palace, but the yard looked really nice and you could see the cathedral from there. We also heard all the bells tolling at noon, which was fun. When you go into the palace you see several rooms, including the throne room and the old sleeping quarters. One of my favourite rooms is the one with the Stradivarius violins and other instruments.

While there aren’t that many pictures taken inside, here is a shot of the cathedral, Catedral de la Almudena .

After visiting the Palacio Real, we went to have lunch. She wanted ham, and I wanted a poke bowl I had seen announced in El Corte Inglés cafeteria, so it was a win-win situation. I had a “Poke bowl de salmón noruego”, Norwegian salmon poke bowl that was amazing – a sushi rice base with avocado, spring onion, purple onion, wakame, a soft-boiled egg and Norgweian salmon marinated with soy sauce, rice vinegar and kimchi.

She declared that she was happy after this, so we called it a day.

18th & 19th May 2019: Madrid (Spain) for Jupiter (and fesFE[M]!)

Believe this or not, we this weekend started at super-early on Saturday, when I took literally the first bus out to Madrid, and I think I was there around 7:30 or something to meet my friend. She had been having a rough time and she had asked me to “keep her head off things”. Up until a couple of days before, we did not even know whether she’d been able to come to the concert, so I had a whole plan up my sleeve. Unfortunately, a couple of steps backfired (^◇^;)

First we had breakfast at the coach station where we met, to catch up and to give shops and so on the time to open up. When it was a decent hour we took the underground to drop our luggage at the hotel (the lovely EXE Moncloa, even if I’ll be forever traumatised that the terrace was not open 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。). Then we took the underground again towards the neighbourhood of Chueca, and I had looked up a bunch of Goth apparel shop that… did not open at 10:00 as expected, but at 12:00 (≧▽≦).

Fortunately, some make-up shops were already open and we were able to pass the time amicably before we ended up at the TeamLab exhibit – that I had already seen, yes, I know, but she had not ☆⌒(ゝ。∂)

Teamlab logo and digital art: Waves, butterflies in red and green, and a dripping circle as if it were painted with a brush. All of them are light or bright colours on black.

After playing out in the exhibit for a while, we moved onto the Callao Gourmet Experience for a snack. I wanted to introduce her to the Niji Mochi shop, and we also shared a chocolate ice-cream shake.

Mochi and coffee with whipped cream

Afterwards we were shopping for a little before we moved on to have lunch. I had a surprise for her. While I care little to nothing about Korean food, she is a fan of everything Korean, so we hit one of the best Korean restaurants in Madrid, called Seoul. I gave her free reign to order for both of us and we shared. In my not so humble opinion as blog owner, the best was the green tea at the end.

Lunch: fried dumplings, roasted meat, rice with vegetables, and green tea.

Once fed, we went on and found an underground station and we rode towards the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, National Archaeological Museum, although we had not realised that it was museum day so instead of a quiet exhibition we had to deal with a ton of families!

Exhibits at the archaeological museum: bones from a mastodon, boar statue, lady statue, Neanthertal skull, Roman mosaic of an octopus, Horus statue, Iberian stelae, primitive animal that looks like a boar or a bull carved out of stone, Grecian vase

After that, my friend was tired from spending all night in the bus, so we went to the hotel to finish our check in process. On the way we stopped and bought a few snacks for the following day because you always have to be ready for a post-concert low.

We found out that we had not one but three Japanese restaurants in the area where we were staying, and we happily went to have dinner in one of them, called Naniwa. We had some decent sushi and takoyaki, and ordered takoyaki seconds because we had a discount (≧▽≦).

Dinner: sushi, fried chicken, octopus balls, chicken skewers

The next morning we went to the venue door around 9:00 and upon seeing nobody queueing yet, we went to have breakfast, then walked around the Moncloa park area, mostly chatting, until we went back to the venue. And went back to the venue. And went back to the venue again, just to find there were still no people in the queue.

Coffee and bread breakfast

In the end we ran into the supporting bands went to have lunch in a second Japanese restaurant in the block, Morikaen. On our way there we walked past a family all clad in “Sunday clothes”, and their little girl wearing aaaall white who just stared at us – in rock-goth black – with pure envy in her eyes. Here’s to you, little one. You’ll get there too.

Lunch. Tuna tataki, rice and cicken, breaded pork, octopus dumplings

After lunch, I decided that I was too tired to go up and down the streets and we stayed back to wait for the venue to open before we got into the chaos that was the concert. Honestly, I think this has been the worst-organised concert I’ve ever attended. My friend C***** and I had Premium tickets (there were five of them on sale), which included a handshake with the band, a picture with a member, autographs from all, the opportunity to purchase a Polaroid with the whole band (well… and either a backstage or soundcheck pass that never happened).

Jupiter is a Japanese heavy metal band with a very distinctive visual-kei style, and honestly we only decided to go because it was… easy and convenient, well-communicated and an opportunity to spend a weekend decompressing somewhere. As the time drew near and we could access more stuff, the excitement built up – I also managed to find the album they were promoting and it sounded really well, actually.

There were two support bands, a German one called VII ARC, and a Japanese one. As we went in, I sent C***** to the first row to save my spot and I tried to find out whatever was going to happen with the VIP extras because communication seems not to be the promoter’s first language. It turns out, the experience was throughout the supporting band’s act. Good thing I had asked, else we would have missed it (as someone did! One of the Premium tickets did not show up, and most VIPs never got their chance to even buy the Polaroid).

I got to talk to the support bassist as we waited for the picture, because the had been kicked out from backstage for the pictures – poor guy. Then I had my picture taken with Teru, my favourite member (I swear that if I ever get to do this again, I’m choosing Hizaki cause he’s just amazing). The problem with placing the experience there was that… well, we lost our spot and missed half of the Japanese support band’s acts – fesFe[M], who in the half concert I watched blew my mind. I mean, absolutely blew my mind. They are also a V-kei band, and they’re currently running with a “doll” theme and they were just fantastic.

The Jupiter concert was as expected, very energetic and fun. Even if we had lost our spot, the venue has some lateral raised spots, and I found a good place at a low staircase that allowed me to lean back and not be in too much pain – basically we watched the concert next to the fesFe[M] bass (≧▽≦). Kuze, Jupiter’s vocal, was really good live, more than expected.

After the concert, we bought fesFe[M]’s autographs and got our pictures with them, when we headed back to the hotel and had some dinner, and the following day we parted ways, a bit sad but happy that we had had the chance to meet up and have a fantastic weekend!

Schedule fo the tour

Fesfem playing. They are dressed up as dolls, and the main singer as a bride

Jupiter playing.

4th May 2019: Museo Naval & TeamLab in Madrid (Spain)

There were a couple of exhibitions in Madrid that I wanted to see, and my mother decided to tag along. We took a train and walked to the Museo Naval, the Navy museum, which was being renovated – so the permanent connection was not being shown. In the end, that turned out to be awesomely lucky because it allowed us to see the marble staircase and stained glass of the classical building, which is very rarely shown.

The exhibition that I wanted to see was related to the trips to Asia, mostly China, Japan and Philippines, and it was interesting for 3€. one of these days I would like to come back to see the whole museum when the renovations are over. It’s on the bucket list, I swear. One of these… I’m not sure, months, because I’d been saying I want to go to the Museo Naval for years.

After seeing the “Asia in the Naval Museum” exhibit and the ceiling, we walked towards the Telefónica Building. There, there was an Exhibition by TeamLab, the museum of virtual art from Tokyo! I really want to see it.

There were three exhibits:

  • Flutter of Butterflies, Born from Hands (2019), a magical wall where you can rest your hands for butterflies to come up.

  • Black Waves: Lost, Immersed and Reborn (2016), an amazing scenery of breaking waves.

  • Enso – Cold Light (2017), a self-tracing enso (perfect circle traced with one stroke in calligraphy).

I was very happy to see this, and then we walked around the “Evolution of phones” exhibition- however, I apparently have not taken pictures of that one. I think it was too nostalgic, because god did it make me feel old (≧▽≦).

Before we returned home, we had lunch at a De María restaurant – an Argentinean meat-grill where we got a glass of rose champagne to go. Another place I want to return! However, this time I did not take pictures because the atmosphere did not feel adequate to do so.

17th April 2019: La Almudena & Mercado de San Miguel (Madrid, Spain)

A Japanese friend had a layover in Madrid, so I took the day trip to see her and stay with her until she moved on to her final destination. We dropped off her luggage at the coin lockers in Atocha station and I asked her what she wanted to see.

Our first destination was quite accidental. We were heading towards La Almudena cathedral when we stumbled into the Changing of the Guards in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Palacio Real de Madrid.

The Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid’s cathedral, is right next to the Palace, and we were there a few minutes later. We walked around the upper area. It was a nice, sunny day so the coloured windows made neat reflections on the walls and floors.

Afterwards we found our way to the cathedral crypt.

Then we moved on towards Mercado de San Miguel, St. Michael’s market, a bit of high-end foodcourt. I’m still traumatised due to the 6€ we paid for four lousy croquettes, but that’s life and she really wanted to go there.

It was very hot, so we took shelter in some of the shops and then we headed off to have some ice-cream in the Callao Gourmet Experience and enjoy the view. Afterwards I dropped her off at her train so she could go on her merry way and I went back home.

3rd November 2018: Samurai Spirit in Madrid (Spain)

The event took place in the theatre Teatro Fernando de Rojas in the Círculo de Bellas Artes, in Madrid. A friend sent me the info for it a few weeks before, and I bought my tickets immediately.

Kamui x Mika Kobayashi: Utakatana Sekai – Samurai Spirit is a joint project between the musician and singer Mika Kobayashi and the Samurai artis group Kamui, a troupe lead by the sword expert and fight choreographer Tetsuro Shimaguchi. Through acting and music, the show represented a story about the old samurai ways giving way to a new world.

Pretty cool, if you ask me. Next time, though, I’d need a better seat, as my angle made me see all the stunts… stunty (≧▽≦). Then again, I managed to get pictures with the crew, and Mika Kobayashi’s autograph on her CDs…

21st & 22nd July 2018: Swan Lake in Madrid (Spain)

21st July: The housefront

This Saturday/Sunday getaway was a birthday present, and I have to admit that I was super excited about it – the main part of the present was a hotel night in Madrid and tickets to watch the (British) Royal Ballet in the Spanish Royal theatre, the Teatro Real. And I mean stall tickets, I was over the moon.

The day started at the Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where there was an exhibition about yokai, the Yumoto Koichi Collection (Miyoshi, Hiroshima). It was called Yokai: Iconografía de lo Fantástico (Iconography of the fantastical), and it was rather interesting. It holds a collection of different items related to mythological creatures of Japan, yokai [妖怪] – there are scrolls, woodprints, games, pottery, even clothes and accessories. This was an interesting exhibition, and having seen it would later save me a trip to Miyoshi, allowing me to discover Takehara instead.

Rolls of paper, kimojo jacket and blookwood painting, showing different scenes and beings from Japanese mythology

After the exhibition, we went to the Green Tea Sushi Bar & Cocktail Room, which turned out to have the most overpriced mediocre sushi ever. The place was ridiculously expensive but fortunately we had booked with a special 50% discount, which made it bearable. However, fair is fair, and the tataki was delicious, and the chocolate coulant turned out to be amazing.

Lunch. Sushi boat, sald, tuna tataki, edamame, and an ice cream scoop

The hotel was in the right smack of Madrid, a short walk away from the Teatro Real and we had tickets for 17:00. Before sitting down we took a small exploration walk through the different rooms, including the ball room. I really loved the whole building and in particular the blue room and the ball room.

Royal theatre snippets - the main hall, the stage, the stands. Most curtains are a rich burgundy colour.

Swan Lake happens to be my favourite ballet – I love Tchaikovsky in general, though the stars have always aligned against me watching Sleeping Beauty. In Swan Lake, the evil sorcerer Rothbart turns maidens into a swan during the day, and they turn back to women at night as long as they are near the enchanted lake. The ballet officially opens with Prince Siegfried celebrating his birthday. He receives a crossbow as present, and he is later told by his mother that he needs to choose a bride the next night. As he becomes upset his friend suggest going hunting. In the forest, Siegfried becomes separated from the group and meets Odette, one of the swans. She explains of her predicament, and they eventually fall in love, and Siegfried invites her to the ball in which he needs to choose his bride. The next night, however, Rothbart sends Odette’s magical doppelgänger, to whom Siegfried swears love. Witnessing this in swan-form breaks Odette’s heart. As he realises his mistake, Siegfried makes it back to the lake.

The ending of the ballet changes. Sometimes it is a happy one when the spell is broken. The original ending has both Siegfried and Odette dying together to break the spell. Another alternative is that only Odette dies, but Siegfried manages to kill Rothbart and break the spell – this was the one that the Royal ballet played, and it managed to make me a puddle of happy goo. As Siegfried raises Odette’s inert body over his head, I shuddered all over. It was magnificent.

Snapshot of the credits, Showing Akane Takada as Odette and Odile, William Bracewell as Prince Siegfried, and Thomas Whitehead as Rothbart

The cast after the play taking their bows.

After the performance was over, we had dinner in the Plaza Mayor and then walked towards Puerta del Sol, then back went to the hotel to catch some sleep.

Square Plaza del Sol lit by night

22nd July: The backhouse

On Sunday we went back to the Teatro Real because we had booked one of the visits they offer, the technical one. During this visit you walk through the inner areas of the theatre, and even more interestingly, the upper area.

We saw the main hall, and afterwards we went first onto the backstage, then the backstage, and finally onto the stage where the Swan Lake props still stood, so that was really cool. The visit finished climbing up to the upper area of the theatre to see the views and the theatrical rigging system.

Empty royal theatre, showing the stalls from the stage, the backstage, and the view of the cathedral and the royal palace from the upper windows.

Finally, we had a bite to eat and we headed home for the weekend, and I have to say, I was happy as a skunk.

30th June 2018: Spanish breakfast, Japanese entertainment (Madrid, Spain)

30th June 2018: Spanish breakfast, Japanese entertainment (Madrid, Spain)

My friend C***** came over to Madrid for one of those crazy crazy things that we do – a crazy Saturday. She took a bus overnight and I went to meet her up for breakfast. The day started with a good omen, because I caught a rainbow around 7:30.

To celebrate that we had met up for the first time in a long while, we went to the most famous chocolaterie in Madrid, Chocolatería San Ginés for chocolate and churros. As her bus arrived in the early morning, I think we were there around 8:30 as I took the first train available.

After breakfast, we head over to the area of the theatre, Teatros del Canal, for the main event at noon – a piece of Kabuki [歌舞伎], a piece of classical Japanese dance. In this case we were going to see an adaptation of Fuji Musume and Renjishi. First, we checked out the little market of Japanese craftsmanship and decided that we wanted everything, because of course we did.

Then we walked into the theatre. The company Heisei Nakamuraza was bringing two key pieces in the history of kabuki. The first was Fuji Musume [藤娘] “The Wisteria Lady”. It is a representation of unrequited love, dancing under the wisteria tree that represents femininity, and the pine that represents masculinity. During the dance there are several kimono dances and it is visually stunning. The second piece, Renjishi [検索結果], “The Two Lions”, is a very spectacular dance, in many ways mirrored between two dancers. The first part represents a parent lion-dog and its cub, then there is a small comical interlude and finally the lion dogs come out again in celebration. No pictures allowed of the performance, but have some of the theatre:

The show was over much too quickly, sadly. We went out of the theatre and raided the matsuri / market.

Then we walked a few minutes to the Japanese restaurant Hayama, where we had some sushi, gyoza, takoyaki, curry and ramen to share.

As C***** had an early-evening train to get back (I did mention that this was a crazy escapade specially for her), I tagged along to the station and I saw her off. Awesome way to spend a Saturday, though I wish we could have hung out for longer!

11th March 2018: An old-fashioned museum and a strike in Madrid (Spain)

I was looking at a work-related trip and wanted to use up Sunday morning to visit “a couple” of museums, then meet some relatives for lunch. Unfortunately, I was caught in the middle of a public transportation strike, so in the end I had to walk for a long while instead of doing what I wanted! Anyway, what I managed to do was getting to the Museo Geominero Nacional, the “Geomineral Museum” in Madrid. It is located in the headquarters of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, in a classical-looking building finished in 1925. It was designed by Franciso Javier de Luue. It is a classical-looking museum with wooden cases and an impressive stained glass ceiling, comprised by a central room and three surrounding balconies.

The access is through a marble staircase and the first corridor is already packed with display cases, even before you get to the main area. These cases show small and not-so-small fossils and replicas, displaying the first taste of the evolution of life on earth.

Once in the main room, most of the floor is taken up by the standing cases holding minerals, fossils and meteorites.

In the centre of the room lie the remains of a mastodon, located in the area of Ciudad Real in the 20th century, one of the crown jewels of the museum.

Of course I have been able to locate the collection of megalodon and shark teeth that are on display on the balcony.

Other displays on the upper floors include Spanish mountain goats, cave bears, and a human-evolution collection. Unfortunately, those did not photograph well due to the sun reflection.

And finally, my favourite piece of the collection is the Tyrannosaurus rex skull replica that presides the museum for the second floor.

When I came out, public transport was not running any more, so I had to walk through the Madrid backstreets until I got to the area where we had arranged to meet, and we went to a restaurant called El Escarpín, where I had an awesome pan of… wait for it… gratin meatballs with molten cheese on a bed of potatoes (Albóndigas gratinadas con queso de tetilla sobre cama de patatas). Amazing! Either that, or I was really ravenous after my hour and a half walking. Serves me right for not keeping up with the news! I learnt my lesson!

22nd May 2016: Kabuki at the CBA (Madrid, Spain)

I made a short escapade to the theatre Teatro Fernando de Rojas in the Círculo de Bellas Artes, in Madrid. It was my first time watching kabuki [歌舞伎], a type of Japanese theatre. The play was called Tsumoru koi yuki no seki no to [積戀雪関扉], something akin to “The Snowbound Barrier” and translated into Spanish as “En los límites de Osaka, bajo la nieve del amor” (In the Outskirts of Osaka, under the love snow). It is a dance-drama kabuki written in the 9th century, and deals with the spirit of a black cherry tree turning into a courtesan to extract revenge. Before the play, there was a small conference to explain some details about kabuki and that was really interesting.

Afterwards I just had to run for the trains so… no much time to hang around.

2nd April 2016: Círculo de Bellas Artes (Madrid, Spain)

Círculo de Bellas Artes (CBA) is a Spanish cultural and artistic association founded in 1880, and they had partnered with The Japan Foundation to hold a concert by Kenichi Yoshida [吉田 健一], a famous Tsugaru-shamisen [津軽三味線] player / artist.

I got to Madrid in the late afternoon, with enough time to get to one of the most hidden Starbucks in the city, which was rather crowded as it was Saturday. Fortunately I found myself a table to spend the extra time (public transport transport paranoia, maybe. But it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you and you have been stuck in Spain commuter trains for hours already). And well, a Starbucks a year and all that… And I mean, I was planning to skip dinner so a Vanilla Frappuccino would keep me going.

The concert was to be held at the Círculo de Bellas Artes building, located in downright in the middle of Madrid. It was designed by the Spanish architect Antonio Palacios and erected in the early 1920s. From the outside, I had always thought it looked pretty weird.

Inside, however, it was a different feeling. I had never imagined the inside of the building was going to be this neat! The CBA Headquarters has a neat staircase, an impressive ballroom, and a reportedly-cool observatory at the top. Unfortunately, getting to the observatory required lining and I was not willing to do so either before or after the concert. However, I did get some views from the second-floor windows!

The concert was in the inner theatre Teatro Fernando de Rojas, a fully-functioning theatre on that second floor, with about 400 chairs, and I had got a fairly good seat so I was happy and could sneak up a couple of pictures.

The concert in itself was amazing. Kenichi Yoshida, the younger brother in the Yoshida Brothers band, comes regularly to Spain to teach shamisen – a classical Japanese string instrument – in Barcelona. Oftentimes he makes the most out of his time and organises recitals and other activities. The concert was a mixture of old and new melodies, played along some drumming. The concert lasted for about an hour, and it felt very short. As Yoshida is a frequent visitor, he can speak a tiny bit of Spanish, too, and he tried that. It was a lovely touch.

1st February 2015: Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Madrid (Spain)

You can say that this was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment improvisation – I literally woke up and decided that I wanted to go and see the Space Pirate Captain Harlock. I found a cinema in Madrid that showed the film and I hopped on a train to get there. I arrived in time for an early lunch before I headed off for the film, as the only version in Japanese was at half past three.

This was one of the first times I ate and went to the cinema alone in Madrid, and it was a strange experience. My relatives always say that a person eating alone is sad, and as I’ve been hearing that for a long time, and sometimes it resonates, specially when I’m in Spain. I originally wanted to eat sushi, but in the end I decided against it and went to UDON instead, where I ended getting the membership card. I decided to try the Chicken Yaki Udon – much better than the ramen, in my opinion, as they were real udon noodles, unlike the ramen which uses tallarini – and a koroke (croquette), and I had cheesecake mochi for dessert.

After lunch I headed off to the Yelmo Cines Ideal to watch the film. I had no seat number and I did not need one as we were literally… five people in the cinema. It was a small cinema theatre, and when I arrived there were three or four people, I figured that more would come, but when the previews started we were just five, and five we stayed. When the film finally started, I was really impressed by the quality of the CGI – I already knew that the voice-over was going to be great, what with Oguri Shun and Miura Haruma.

The plot of the film reminded me a little of Space Battleship Yamato, but that might just be me being biased. Even if I vaguely remember watching the anime from the times I was a child, the film felt at the same time nostalgic and new, so I could really enjoy it. Although it is a bit on the predictable side, it wraps up really well.

After the film, I backtracked and it turns out I was home before anyone even noticed I was gone. I should get away more often (≧▽≦).

15th July 2014: Robots and Drums (Madrid, Spain)

A bit over ten years ago, when I was in universe one of my neighbours was paying for a proto-on-demand TV subscription, and it turned out that my TV caught it for some reason. At that time I got to watch a bunch of anime – in Spanish, badly-translated and rather… altered. Among the series I watched was Gainax’s “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, or Shinseiki Evangerion [新世紀エヴァンゲリオン]. Evangelion is a rather confusing series in itself, but the creative translation and censorship made it almost impossible to understand. Evangelion tries to be a giant robot anime with a religious / philosophical background, where humans piloting huge robots (“EVA”) battle monsters called “angels” which apparently seek to destroy humanity. Or something.

The point of this anime-history paragraph is to explain how I ended up at the Museo ABC de Dibujo e Ilustración, the drawing and illustration museum in Madrid. They were running an exhibition about Evangelion and the Japanese katana Evangelion y las katanas japonesas. It was something interesting to see, and the first time I’ve ever seen actual Japanese katana information. The exhibition has three focuses – actual katana, recreations and figures of elements of the series, such as the robots, pilots or weapons, and weapons inspired by the anime.

After the exhibition I took the underground towards the thratre Teatro Circo Price to watch a taiko exhibition: “Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble: Dandan” by Kodo. Taiko are the traditional Japanese drums and there is a whole drumming style for them. It was really, really fun. Due to a fluke of destiny, I had very good seats, so I could enjoy to the fullest – far away from the reverberation and echoes, close enough so I could even sneak in a good picture or two!

The performance was amazing. I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen something so grandeur. Even when I saw a taiko school in Japan, it was just drumming, while Kodo added a lot of acrobatics to the mix. It was really great!

Unfortunately, I could not even check the merchandise after the performance as I had to run for my train, or risk getting stranded overnight in Madrid.

27th September 2013: Bunraku at Teatro Español (Madrid, Spain)

Oh, Gods, this was an odyssey. Seriously, can’t we just figure out print-at-home tickets? When the announcement for the event came up, I got tickets. I actually called my parents to ask them if they wanted to tag along, and they said yes, so I bought three tickets. There were only two performances, and the tickets were selling out fast.

Let me start at the beginning – the announcement involved the Sugimoto Bunraku 2013 European Tour. Bunraku [文楽] is a type of Japanese theatre that uses puppets to perform about serious topics, mostly classic dramas (as far as I know). The puppets are dressed in amazing costumes and manoeuvred by artists dressed in black as if to become invisible. Sugimoto’s company is collaborating with The Japan Foundation to show this art to the world, in this case holding a European tour with the play.

Anyway, back to track: I bought the tickets, and the next step was actually getting them. I had to go to a cashpoint to get them printed (because, again, print at home? It seems to be for lesser beings), which was not easy as I was living in a small town at that point. On top of that, I got the wrong bank cashpoint at first (≧▽≦). Sometimes excitement gets the best of me, but in my defence a) I did not even know the actual bank existed and b) the mistaken bank had a similar name. And on top of that… in the end my parents decided not to come at all! In the end I gave the tickets to my cousin and her kid, who were curious about the whole thing.

We met up in Madrid, in front of the theatre Teatro Español, where the event took place, and it was interesting to see how the whole thing was sold out. The work that was performed is called Sonezaki Shinjū, which translates to The Suicidal Lovers of Sonezaki, or the Love Suicides of Sonezaki, written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in the early 1700s. It tells the love story of a poor merchant and a courtesan. When the merchant is set to marry off another woman, tragedy ensues until the two of them decide to die together in the forests of Sonezaki Shrine. I’ve actually got myself the book (well, my cousin insisted on getting it for me as thanks for the tickets) to read, as there were no subtitles on the play, just a summary brochure.

Even though I’m no fan of the whole romantic drama thing, I have to admit that the music and the puppets made the whole thing eerily captivating. Aside from the puppeteers, the key figure in the play were the musicians and the narrator, which explained (in Japanese) and narrated the play. The way the puppets are dressed, the shamisen and koto music, and the way you see the puppeteers and yet not see them is super cool. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed that I can show you.

Afterwards, we met up with my cousin’s husband (I did try to get a ticket for him, but it was too late already) and we… had McDonald’s, because that’s what we do when he hang out.

Flashback to 26th December 2009: Winterday in Madrid (Spain)

  • Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace)
  • Templo de Debod (Egyptian Temple to Debod)
  • Arco de la Victoria (Victory Arc)
  • Palacio de la Moncloa (Palace of La Moncloa)
  • Puerta del Sol (Square Puerta del Sol)
  • Plaza Mayor de Madrid (Main Square)
  • Plaza de Colón (Columbus Square),
  • Puerta de Alcalá (Puerta de Alcalá Arc)
  • Edificio de Correos (Postal Building)
  • Fuente de la Cibeles (Cibeles Fountain)
  • Edificio Metrópolis (Metropolis Building)
  • Gran Vía de Madrid (Gran Vía Avenue)
  • Círculo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Club)
  • Estación de Príncipe Pío (Príncipe Pío Station)

Note: This is a flashback post, which means it is just a collage regarding a trip I took before I started the blog in 2012. Tags may be incomplete or slightly off.