Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Berry Kristmush!

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Fast food companies in Japan have thrown themselves into turning Christmas into a commercial holiday.  This year’s food offering from Burger King doesn’t appeal to me as much as the “traditional” KFC one and it’s not just because of the terrible pun.  And really “mush” is an awful thing to shorten mushroom to if you want me to eat your food.

Burger King Christmas Food

Burger King Christmas Food

I’m a little horrified that I live in a country that is trying to turn fast food into a Christmas tradition.


Baby It’s Cold

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

It’s December and time for my annual moan about the cold.  I arrived home last night to find that Tokyo has become just as cold as Ireland.  I like to tease my Mum about how cold her house is but I will admit that I miss the electric blanket I used there.  At the minute I’m sitting on my heated floor wearing fluffy PJs and wrapped in a fluffy blanket and I am still not warm.  Once I get warm enough to put down my lapwarmer / laptop I’m going to put up the Christmas Tree.  And even if it’s cold I’m happy to be home.

Spotted in Tokyo

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Seems that Midtown has a new guest this month.




Toro Nagashi on the Sumida River

Monday, August 18th, 2014

On Saturday evening, as part of Obon, we walked down the river to see the release of about 2,500 floating candle-lit lanterns.

Japan Times described the event as:

A hauntingly beautiful sight, the peaceful custom is a gesture of respect for those who have passed away and gives participants a moment to think about their ancestors, loved ones or even past pets.

It is easy to imagine that thousands of floating lanterns would be a peaceful sight, but the event wasn’t really like that.  When we arrived there were thousands of people in Asakusa.  I had expected things to be more sombre but the atmosphere was much more relaxed with a party feel.  If you planned to release a lantern you had to queue for quite a while as they were released one at a time down what looked like a mini aqueduct.

Releasing the Lanterns on the Sumida River

Releasing the Lanterns on the Sumida River

We never got to see large number of lanterns on the river but it was still beautiful and I found the event fascinating and would certainly go to see it again.

Lanterns on the Sumida River

Lanterns on the Sumida River

The best viewing point for the event is on the Azuma-bashi Bridge and after watching the release of the lanterns we considered joining the crowds there.  Once we got closer we released that people were only watching the lanterns approach the bridge and that the other side of the bridge was mostly empty.  We went to the empty side as we assumed that we could watch the lanterns continue on down the river towards the sea.  But no, there were very few lanterns there.  In hindsight it made sense that these lanterns would be considered rubbish that would pollute the river but it was a little shocking to see groups of people in speedboats catching the lanterns in nets and putting them out.

Doraemon in Roppongi Hills

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

I met Marty for coffee this afternoon and was surprised to discover that Roppongi Hills has been invaded by 66 Doraemon.

Doraemon Invasion

Doraemon Invasion


Too Hot!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

I am back in Tokyo and the heat has turned me into a slug – or at least some sort of slow moving sticky creature.  The heat index yesterday claimed it felt like 40 C (104 F) in the city.  I just know that it’s horribly hot.  I dislike the humidity that helps it be hot morning, noon, and night.  We do have air conditioners but they are not reacting well with my chest cold.  I can’t decide if I’d rather dissolve in the heat or be cooler and coughing.  The other nasty thing about the heat is that blog posts end up being whiny like this one as I can’t think of anything much beyond being uncomfortable and hot!

Expensive Fruit

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

When I’m travelling I’m often asked about life in Japan and one of things that surprises people most is the cost of fruit.  Not all fruit in Japan is incredibly expensive but fruit given as a gift or fruit that’s just come into season is.  I had told people in Orlando that I expected pears to arrive in the stores soon and that they would probably be around $5 each but the first pears of the season are just over $7 each this year.

First Pears of the Season

My local department store also had a gift fruit section that contains mangoes that cost around $40 each. As you can imagine I won’t be buying pears or mangoes any time soon.

Mangoes - an expensive gift

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Yesterday afternoon I got to experience one of the more annoying things about Japan – rules. I have sat many exams but I have never sat exams with as many rules as the ones run by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services.  The three papers lasted 2 hours and 5 minutes in total and another hour was spent listening to rules.  No-one could have that many new rules – this was much worse.  It was the same 15 minutes of rules read out 4 times during the afternoon.  The rules were exciting things like -  do not speak during the exam, if your phone rings you will be given a red card, if an alarm goes off on your watch you will be given a red card, if you do not put your pencil down when instructed you will be given a yellow card, you can place an eraser on your desk but it must be taken out of its box, if you blah blah blah…   A yellow card was a warning, two yellows equaled a red, and being given a red card meant you had to leave the test centre immediately and that your paper would not be marked.  I had to stop myself from laughing at the way they held up the card and paused each time they read out a rule that invoked the use of one.

The most confusing rule involved an envelope that was on each desk.  You had to place your mobile phone inside the envelope.  I thought this meant that they were going to collect them but they just wanted it placed in an envelope and put on the empty desk beside the one you were sitting at.  At first I think many people were just going to ignore the rule and leave their phones in their bag but if you were caught doing this you would be given a red card and would have to leave the test centre immediately.

We only had one rule breaker.  There was no clock in the room so I think that people were surprised by the  “pencils down” command when it was given at the end of the first paper.  One student continued to write, but he was given a yellow card for doing this.  I was pleased that the rules were upheld.  I would have been so annoyed if we were allowed to break them after having to listen to them so often.


Snow Monkeys

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Last weekend we took a day trip to Jigokudani Yaen Koen to see the troop of wild Japanese macaques that live there.  We had a fantastic day.

Winter is over, so no snow, but lots of baby monkeys.

Winter is over, so no snow, but lots of baby monkeys.

Great Gift

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

My favourite type of sushi is “aburi hotate”(炙りホタテ), scallops cooked with a flame.   Scallops are expensive and having the sushi chef use a blow torch adds a 100 円 (about $1) a plate to the cost.  I used to eat these these about once a week but now I get to eat them every other day thanks to one of my favourite Christmas gifts. I love my blowtorch.  Not only do I get to eat one of my favourite things, I get to have fun making them.

Blowtorched Sushi!

Blowtorched Sushi!