Tag Archives: Tokyo

The Best View in Tokyo

Sunset over Shinjuku
Sunset over Shinjuku

Okay, maybe it’s not the best, seeing as how every time you turn down a new street in Tokyo, you’re presented with something surprising and/or beautiful…but it’s definitely a top contender.

In late afternoon, the view's pretty nice...
In late afternoon, the view’s pretty nice…
...but when the sun starts to set, it gets downright gorgeous.
…but when the sun starts to set, it gets downright gorgeous.

Tokyo’s got its fair share of gorgeous views, but in my book, this one – from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku (AKA, the skyscraper district of Tokyo) – reigns supreme. Each of the towers houses an observatory at 202 meters, and on clear days, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. And the capper? Admission is totally free!

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Kappabashi-dori’s Kitchen Mecca

Kappabashi-dori
Kappabashi-dori

The longer I live in Japan, the more convinced I become that there’s nothing you can’t get in Tokyo. Need anything electronic? Akihabara is your haven. Want some cool, counterculture hippie clothes? Kichijoji’s your best bet. Just want to goggle at some of the trendiest (and sometimes most bizarre) street fashion in the world? Go to Harajuku and prepare to feel like you’re ten years and twenty trends behind.

And if you’re looking to stock your kitchen? Look no further than Kappabashi-dori (合羽橋鶏) near Ueno and Asakusa. If you’re looking for some obscure kitchen tool and can’t find it in Tokyo’s Kitchen Town, then, frankly, you’re probably just not looking hard enough.

Need any bowls? Kappbashi-dori has you covered, whether you just need one...or you're feeding an army.
Need any bowls? Kappbashi-dori has you covered, whether you just need one…or you’re feeding an army.

合羽橋 (kappabashi) means “kappa bridge” in English, and there are a few theories as to the origin of the name, both of which deal with the history of the local area. One of them comes from fisherman drying their raincoats (or kappa) off of a nearby bridge when the weather allowed it. Alternatively, the name could have come from a merchant named Kihachi Kappaya, who started a ditch-building project to divert water from the flooding Mikane River. (At least, that’s what I think that’s what this site says. No promises regarding the accuracy of my translation.)

A kappa peeking out from one of the shops.
A kappa peeking out from one of the shops.

Now, though, the official mascot of the street is a different sort of kappa: the Japanese water demon that’s like a long-legged turtle with a bowl on its head. Naturally, the ones adorning Kappbashi-dori are adorable, but the kappa in Japanese legend are decidedly less so.

Keep your eyes peeled, and you'll see kappa everywhere.
Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll see kappa everywhere.

Continue reading Kappabashi-dori’s Kitchen Mecca

Breakfast of Champions, Tsukiji-Style

Japan is a culinary dream, a country that has as many delicious, surprising, and sometimes downright weird dishes as you could ever hope for. I have always nurtured a love of food (…and sometimes a waistline to go along with it), and that epicurean nature has only grown since I moved to Japan. In a land famous for bowls of perfectly chewy udon, giant pots full of comforting nabe, and all the ramen I could ever eat, there still reigns (at least for me) an ultimate king.

And that’s sushi. Tuna, salmon, scallop, yellowtail, flounder, shrimp, eel, clam, octopus, squid…give it all to me, the bigger the quantity and the fresher the cuts, the better. (Unless it’s the unholy trinity of uni/sea urchin/雲丹, namako/sea cucumber/なまこ, and shirako/cod sperm sacs/白子, in which case I will respectfully decline and wait for more salmon.)

A counter filled with fresh sushi is a beautiful sight.
A counter filled with fresh sushi is a beautiful sight.

Continue reading Breakfast of Champions, Tsukiji-Style

Just Give Me a Sign

Throughout my time in Japan, I’ve happened upon some pretty hilarious, entertaining, and just all-around intriguing signs. This is a collection of some of my favorites. There’s no real unifying theme or fact that applies to them all. They’re from various different prefectures throughout Japan and call attention to everything from proper etiquette for interacting with deer to a “real” American burger. The humor in a fair number of them comes from their English translations, but some are amusing regardless of the language. Continue reading Just Give Me a Sign

One Fish, Two Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish

If I wanted to be really true to my day’s activity last Saturday, the title of this post would’ve been “One Thousand Fish, Two Thousand Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish,” but that didn’t exactly fit with the Dr. Seussian rhythm of the original.

Thankfully, Tokyo’s cooled off a bit since my last trip down. Then again, this time I wised up and researched some indoor activities to keep me busy and out of the sun. I took a mini-vacation last week, and since my flight out of Narita didn’t leave until ten p.m., I had plenty of time to kill in the city. Continue reading One Fish, Two Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish

Summer Sonic 2013 (Or, “The Top Reason I Hate Teenagers”)

It’s amazing how time has had the tendency to get away from me lately. Case in point: I meant to write this blogpost far earlier, considering its subject – the Summer Sonic music festival – occurred a month ago today. But for whatever reason, the days are flying by even more quickly than usual, and I can’t believe that it’s already well into September.

The reason for my August trip down to the tropics of Tokyo was Summer Sonic, an annual music festival that’s held dually in Tokyo (or technically, Chiba, a nearby city) and Osaka. I think of it as the Reading and Leeds of Japan, only much, much smaller. Basically the two-day festival trades lineups between the two cities. Whoever plays in Chiba on Saturday will play in Osaka on Sunday and vice versa. One of the reasons I’m really fond of Summer Sonic is because they tend to divide their artists pretty evenly according to style. Last year, for instance, one day’s lineup included Ke$ha, Rihanna, and a host of other pop acts. The following day boasted bands like Grouplove, The Vaccines, Franz Ferdinand, Crystal Castles, and Sigur Rós. (Take a wild guess at which day I attended…) Continue reading Summer Sonic 2013 (Or, “The Top Reason I Hate Teenagers”)

One for the Bucket List

Climbing Mount Fuji has been on my “to do” list ever since I moved to Japan. I was bound and determined to make it to that summit, and the fact that Mount Fuji was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site this year, which meant that the already numerous visitors would likely steeply increase in the coming years, lit a fire under me to accomplish my goal sooner, rather than later.

And so it begins!
And so it begins! It was amazing how much cooler it felt, even only at the 5th Station.

Continue reading One for the Bucket List