Category Archives: japan

Nagi Shokudo: Relaxed vegan eatery in Shibuya

Nagi Shokudo Set menu

When in Tokyo, I like to try out different vegan or vegetarian restaurants in addition to my mainstays. Nagi Shokudo (なぎ食堂) isn’t located that far from Shibuya Station but far enough that the bustling noise that everybody associates Shibuya with sounds merely like a whistle. But that’s the way most of Tokyo is, once you leave the busy main streets.

 

So I left the busy part of Shibuya behind walked up and down while being baked in the Summer sun – and missed the restaurant on my first try. Nagi Shokudo is not located at street level but a few steps below. There’s no big sign and the restaurant is partly obscured by a plant. 

 

Nagi Shokudo is supposed to be quite busy during lunch hour but I was lucky and the restaurant was empty when I arrived (but it was full when I left). The restaurant has a very laid back, casual atmosphere and they serve various Asian-style food depending on the day. Their lunch set was delicious with rice, soup and vegetables. A great place for lunch and highly recommended!

 

Nagi Shokudo is open from 12 to 4pm (last order at 3pm) and 6 to 11pm. They close at 4pm on Sundays. Menu and website are in Japanese and English. [ Map ]

 

Nagi Shokudo 2

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Nakagin Capsule Tower – A modern monument

Nakagin 1

For all its traditional temples and shrines, apartment buildings in Japan are usually rather plain and not built to last decades. The Nakagin Capsule Tower is different – it’s one of the few remaining examples of Japanese Metabolism, an architectural movement that depicted towers with plug-in capsules. The movement remained largely theoretical and even though the Nakagin Capsule Tower was built, it never reached its full potential.

 

Architect Kisho Kurokawa’s building consists of two towers with 140 fabricated capsules. Each capsule was fitted with utilities before it was shipped to the tower and could be removed and replaced without affecting the other towers. This was akin to upgrading a software or a piece of hardware: Just swap it out for an updated unit and take advantage of better materials or utilities. Capsules were supposed to be mass produced, lowering the price of a new one. Unfortunately, it never happened.

 

Nakagin 3

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Okunoshima – Japan’s Bunny Island

Okunoshima Rabbits
Bunnies! Of course you can get your fix of bunny-shaped cuteness in one of Tokyo’s bunny cafés, but the number one location for fans of the cute animals is a small island in Hiroshima Prefecture: Okunoshima. I went there this year as part of my Summer trip to Japan and while I was not chased by rabbits, there were many close encounters of the furry kind.

I stayed in Onomichi and took the Sanyo Main Line to Mihara where I switched to the Kure line bound for Tadanoumi. The train sign depicts the ocean and a friendly rabbit waving at visitors. From there, it’s just a short walk to the ferry terminal. Chances are that there are other people going to Okunoshima. At the terminal, you can buy rabbit food. Note that you can’t buy rabbit food on the island and there’s also no convenience store on Okunoshima. First ferry leaves at 7:45, the last ferry heads back to Tadanoumi at 7pm.

Okunoshima bunny standing Read the rest of this entry

Inakadate Rice Paddy Art 2015: Star Wars & Gone With The Wind

Starwars rice art2
Inakadate is a village in Aomori Prefecture and a population of 8000. Since 1993, the people of Inakadate began creating rice paddy art to promote tourism and revitalize the area. Over time, the artworks became more elaborate and for two months each year, Inakadate becomes a tourist hotspot in Aomori. Rice paddy art is created at two fields and this year’s topic were two famous Hollywood movies: Star Wars and Gone With The Wind.

I started my trip in Hirosaki on the 5th of August. Hirosaki Station is the terminus of the Konan Railway Line, connecting Hirosaki with Inakadate and Kuroishi. From April to November, the train stops at the seasonal Tamboato Station which is located next to the first rice field. From the station you can easily see the tower built for the festival:

Rice art tower

Rice field art is best viewed from a vantage point. In the case of Inakadate’s rice art, the planting of the rice is planned beforehand using a computer. The tower located next to the rice field is the only way to truly see the artwork – from the ground, you’ll only get a vague idea about the picture:

C3-PO ground Read the rest of this entry

Naoshima – Island of Art

Benesse House  Naoshima  17
A while ago, I posted about the 007 Museum in Naoshima. Of course it’s not the only tourist attraction on the island and it’s not even close to be the most popular one. Naoshima is known as the “art island” and has several art museums with exhibits by various well-known artists. The island is also well prepared for tourists with a shuttle bus connecting the various art sites and the port.

First, I bought a ticket for the Chichu Art Museum. There is a reserved ticket system in place for that particular museum during peak times when lots of visitors are expected. Outside those times, you may buy a ticket on the day by getting a waiting number. The time when you are able to buy the actual ticket is printed on the ticket. In my case, I had lots of time going to the other museums.

Benesse House Museum

Opened in 1992, Benesse House Museum is a facility consisting of four buildings, integrating a museum and a hotel. Some exhibits where created specifically for this museum and thus can only be seen in Naoshima. Tadao Ando is the architect of both the Benesse House and Chichu Art Museum. While I enjoyed the works inside the museum, I did like the works of art outside around the museums premises and Naoshima’s shore more. Here you can find Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful sculptures.

Benesse House  Naoshima  27 Read the rest of this entry

Aozora – Free ebooks in Japanese language

Furuhon 06
In order to become fluent in Japanese and reach the level of a native speaker, you have to leave the textbook behind at some point. The school I went to (Naganuma) handed out copies of newspaper articles at the advanced level. Another great resource is Aozora (blue sky), a free online library similar to Project Gutenberg.

Aozora was founded in 1997 and archives books for which the copyright has expired under current Japanese law or were released by the copyright holder into public domain. Some works may disappear in the next few years if the U.S. can force Japan into “harmonizing” their copyright law and extend the length of copyright to protect the interests of big publishers. Some classic works still sell well after all. Project Gutenberg and other online archives are facing a similar threat as copyright term extensions are in discussion for other trade agreements too.

What can you find at Aozora.gr.jp? Books, and lots of them. All works have been scanned in and are published as text files. This will come in handy if you are using an electronic dictionary on your smartphone or PC. Many of the greatest writers both from Japan and foreign countries are represented with their work. Read the rest of this entry

Art Aquarium in Fukuoka

Oiran
Over 2.5 million visitors across Japan have seen the special exhibition Art Aquarium which features goldfishes in small and big tanks illuminated with changing lights. I have been to the exhibition two years ago when it started in Tokyo. The exhibition is now in Fukuoka and in Osaka. The Osaka exhibition’s tanks vary from the ones shown here.

Japanese people love good illumination shows as can be seen every year in December. The Art Aquarium features both video projections and lighting, with the latter changing color after a few seconds. Thus you can see every tank in different colors.

The tanks itself are also impressive. The exhibition starts with a few smaller tanks which can only be enjoyed if you knee down. Different breeds of goldfish swim in the tanks and while the smaller ones only house a couple of fishes, the biggest contains almost one thousand! Lighting changes between seven colors.

Art Aquarium

Some of the works combine aquariums with Japanese motives such as the four distinctive seasons.

More photos: Read the rest of this entry

Space Station Osaka: A Gaming Bar

Space Station  Osaka  07

A while ago I stayed in Osaka for New Year’s and was unsure where to spend the evening. So I decided to check out Space Station Osaka, a video game bar in the Americamura neighborhood of Osaka. You can get drunk while playing Atari, Nintendo and Sony games.

The free magazine which mentioned the bar didn’t include a map or a good photo of the place, so I was wandering around trying to find it. There is a small sign in front of the stairs which leads to the bar.

Inside is a row of flat screens and classic consoles. The bar has both the NES and the Famicom, Super NES and Super Famicom, Mega Drive, Dreamcast and more recent consoles such as the Wii and PlayStation 3. There was even an Atari VCS in a corner, although I can’t imagine someone playing it.

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I picked the Dreamcast first because mine is broken and Jet Set Radio is one of my favorite games. The bar doesn’t have a great selection of Dreamcast games yet. Unsurprisingly, many games were for Nintendo 8-bit: Retro game shops are full of Famicom games. Read the rest of this entry

Japan’s 007 Museum in Naoshima

007 Museum  Naoshima  15
The 23rd James Bond is out and again is not set in Naoshima. Naoshima is a small Japanese island between Honshu and Shikoku and is known for its art museums. One museum is dedicated to the James Bond novel “The Man with the Red Tattoo” by Robert Benson. Naoshima officials are still hoping for a movie adaption.

The museum is located near the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal, the main arrival points for passengers coming from Uno Port. It’s just one big room with no staff on site so it doesn’t claim to be an expansive James Bond museum. Most of the exhibits are indeed dedicated to the novel which is set partially in Naoshima, while the rest are mostly from the movie “You Only Live Twice”. An object called “Heartbreak” which is featured in the novel can be seen as well as notes and photos collected by Benson.

007 Museum  Naoshima  01

The latter is of course the only James Bond movie so far set in Japan. It’s one of my favorite ones too, because I like that Bond stays in one country for most of the story. In “The Man with the Red Tattoo” Bond reunites with his Japanese friend and chief of secret service “Tiger” Tanaka.

The main reason for a visit should be the 007 tribute “From Naoshima with Love” though… Read the rest of this entry

Visiting Tokyo’s Giant Tunnel System – Water Discharge Tunnel

Waterdischargetunnel 04

“Sairyu no Kawa” is one of the world’s largest underground discharge channel systems and is sometimes compared with a cathedral due to its size. The water discharge tunnel not only provides safety for an area easily flooded, but is also often featured in the media. They allow visitors.

The facility uses five banks connected to the rivers Naka, Kuramatsu, Koumatsu, Otoshifurutone. In case of an overflow, water is taken from the rivers, filling the banks until all banks are full. The first bank is connected to a drainage pump station which directs water to the Edo River. The whole tunnel is 6.3 kilometers long and 50 meters below ground.

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The Ryukyukan

The discharge tunnel protects a part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area that has been devastated multiple times. The Naka River drainage basin is surrounded by large rivers and fills like a bathtub in case of heavy rainfall. Since the area has been urbanized – 52 percent are urban area – more people are affected than in 1955, when rice paddy fields made up 52 percent and only 5 percent of the area was urban.

Except when it’s used to collect water, the facility may be visited. Tours are offered free of charge. So what’s a visit like? Read the rest of this entry