Thursday, September 30, 2010

the daily grind

Here's Dylan making the transfer through Shibuya station from a Tokyu bus line (west side) to the Toei No. 6 (east side). (Conor is probably way ahead of us, heading for the Beard Papa cream puff stand.)
You might look at this photo and say, oh the poor kid, he looks so sad, but let me assure you, this is one cool commuter. OK, so maybe there's a little bit of resignation here. ("No, we are not taking a taxi today...")

Monday, September 27, 2010


I don't know if last night's earthquake woke me up or if I just happened to wake up right before it hit, but I felt the tremors, and it was freaky. It felt like somebody was shaking the bed. Either that or I was spending the night in a sleeper car on Amtrak. It lasted several seconds, I'd say. Reported magnitude of 4.5, epicenter in Chiba, east of Tokyo, just before 3 am local time.

I gather from this map that it was no biggie. It certainly didn't make headlines, at least none that I saw, but it's a remarkable event for me, because I hardly ever notice these things, and apparently they happen all the time. Should a really big one hit, I've got my Emergency Bag all packed and ready to go, though I'm not sure how much good it will do me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Multiple-choice question

Which of the following is NOT an actual book title?

A. Money, Success & You
B. Astrology & You
C. Me & You
D. Kasugai Peas & You
E. You & the Law in Spain

I'll give you a hint:

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Last weekend we made it back to the beach in Onjuku, only this time we stayed at the Hotel New Hawaii, which is only slightly rundown and considerably cheaper than the boutique hotel next door to where we stayed the last few times, Sayan Terrace.

The view from our room's entrance hallway (where you leave your shoes and make your way to the bath or toilet) makes it seem like we were in a suite (maybe the stones in the floor are supposed to massage our bare feet?)

We certainly liked New Hawaii's cafe better than ST's overly-genteel dining room. The menu was nothing special, really, except it did include a very tasty teriyaki-chicken pita sandwich, and the usual edamame, soft serve ice cream (choice of grape, caramel, vanilla or green tea) and other snacks. And beer on tap. And the bar lounge area rocked the Ikea furnishings and huge picture windows with seashore views.

In September, which is off-season, you can't get any food from 3pm-6pm over at the Terrace, because it's "tea time," while New Hawaii's cafe stays open all day, from 10 am - 9 pm. The Hawaii ladies working the cafe even heated up the bag of frozen ramen I bought for Conor at the 7-Eleven down the road, providing a bowl and spoon and everything.

We were also happy to discover that New Hawaii's onsen rooms were bigger and better too, and open from 1pm, 3 hours earlier than over at ST. Of course, the ST has those comfy loungers on a beautiful wooden deck overlooking the ocean. And a small pool. That is filled in mid-July, and drained on the eve of Aug. 31 (the official end of summer in Japan, according to the calendar if not the weather).

But ST doesn't have a Haagen Dazs vending machine in the lobby! (So that's TWO ice cream options at Hawaii. Last time we were at Sayan Terrace, they RAN OUT OF ICE CREAM leaving a half dozen children in tears. I am not making this up.)

The boys ate their cups of cookies-and-cream, purchased immediately upon check-in, in our room before changing into their swimsuits and heading for the sand.
Our Japanese-style room had the traditional tatami mat floor, low table, legless chairs and stacks of seat cushions on hand. (At some point late in the day while you're still out, hotel staff come into the room, push the table and chairs to the side and roll out the futons for you. The futons and all the bedding, and those dreadful pillows that feel like sacks of wood chips (??), are stored in the closet until then.

A sliding paper and wood screen door separated the dining/sleeping quarters from a tiny area that had a sink, two reading chairs, and a mini fridge, and this picture window:

Our view more than made up for the funky burnt-broccoli-like smell in the hallway.

The boys had no complaints.




I think the boys would've slept with those sticks if I had allowed them to bring them back to the room. (I really should sign them up for kendo classes. But they are already taking karate. More on that later.)

And what's a hotel without a beer vending machine in the basement?

Onjuku is 83 min. via the Wakashio Ltd. Express train from Tokyo station. (It's a JR Keiyo line.) Direct trains run every couple of hours; other trains require a transfer to a local line, which adds travel time. Hotel New Hawaii is a 5-min taxi ride from the station.

I'm sold

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kiddyland shut!

Luckily there is a temporary shop opening on Sept. 17 on Cat Street, around the corner from the Harajuku flagship. And at the shuttered storefront on Omotesando, next to Shakey's Pizza, there's a a team of representatives manning the information desk in case you want to learn more.

time to vacuum the duck!

insurance office, Gakugeidaigaku shopping street

cat nap


free fans at the ATM!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gap slogan, tweaked

Here the notion of "Black Magic" is changed into a declarative sentence to help the Gap sell more slacks

Street corner on Sunday

where Meguro-dori intersects with Yamate-dori


I'm sorry, I know this is juvenile of me but...

This looks like a hemorroid remedy, not a snack you buy at the cinema concession stand. Which is where I saw it, when Terry and I went to see SALT, the engrossing yet ultimately shallow and silly flick where Angelina Jolie proves she's skinny, but she's strong. (Name that 80s movie!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

no siree, we're not in Brooklyn anymore

Reading this, I had to grin, as I've had many similar experiences around town. Japandra, how I love your stories. You remind me that I'm not alone!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

tsk tsk

Japan Rail's answer to Tokyo Metro's 'Please do it at home' and 'Please do it again' campaigns. I guess it gets the point across, but I still prefer the yellow comics

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Day of School

We are now taking the city bus (2, in fact, transferring at Shibuya Station) to BST's Showa campus.

Aug. 31, 2010

I hate to say it, but....add a couple of bike helmets and these boys look ready to knock on some doors ('Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?')

Sunday, September 5, 2010

the first lady of foam

First pizza, now coffee: the 2010 Latte Art Champion of the World is...

Haruna Murayama of Japan, the first Japanese to win the title (it was the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe's sixth annual competition). Contenders from 31 other countries participated in the contest, held in London earlier this summer. An Australian came in second place, a Swede took third. Murayama had to produce six cups in 8 minutes to win. Her signature pattern is that of a drooping willow tree.

I wonder how Hiroshi over at Streamer feels about this.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I can't decide who is better at kicking ass -- Ukrainian-born actress/supermodel Milla Jovovich of the Resident Evil series (called Biohazard here in Japan) or U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie (Wanted, Salt). I haven't actually seen any of the Resident Evil movies but I did catch Milla in The Perfect Getaway, (a guilty pleasure -- don't think, just rent) and, of course, one of my all-time favorite flicks Dazed and Confused (where she does a kick-ass job applying Kiss makeup to a couple of statues).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Maybe they should call it 'afterbirth'

Okay, so: I have looked into this a bit further, and whaddya know, Placenta is a thing here. A health thing. Something to eat. You know, ingest. And I'm not talking about what follows your baby out of the birth canal. (Not judging here.) Apparently "The Placenta" jelly-candy-chew snack food I spotted (and, photographed, and posted here earlier today) is just one of a slew of such products that boast placenta -- specifically blended pig placenta, it seems -- as a key ingredient.

Todd Wassel, of Todd's Wanderings, on discovering Placenta!, the drink:

"It is no secret that the Japanese love English, not speaking it fluently, but pasting it on anything and everything to make it seem cooler. Most items make no sense and are just random words strung together. Others are more unfortunate, like the 5 year old girl in my elementary school English class who showed up wearing a t-shirt that said “Smack the Bitch and Pump the Hoes.” I’m still trying to figure out if this was supposed to be a gangster tag line or that of an enraged farmer. In her parent’s defense, it was pink and had cute little flowers on it.

So my natural reaction at seeing the drink Placenta, was that some poor office worker was asked to come up with an English word that conveyed health and vitality for their new line of vitamin supplement drinks. Unable to speak English he turned to his ever present electronic dictionary and the rest is marketing history. To my surprise, they knew exactly what they were doing." (One 30 ml bottle of Blended Pig Placenta sells for about $8.50.)

"More Japanese drink it than I could possibly imagine," Wassel writes. "So many people that a new, popular product line was developed of beverages of various placental concentrations (tastes like peaches!), capsules, an organic skin cream and a wearable facial mask filled with placental extract...."

As Wassel points out, those who practice Placentophagy – the storied, age-old tradition of placenta eating, on the rise again in the U.S. -- will totally dig this. I, however -- a mother of two who decidedly did not consume any part of either placenta (still, no judgments) -- do not.

You can read more of Todd's Wanderings here.

eye catching product of the week

Is it gum? A nutritional supplement? Somebody tell me, please.