Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Christmas, from The Japan Times and Me

There was a Christmas gift lottery in the Japan Times two weeks ago. All you had to do was send them an email with your name and address and your preferred choice of gift from the list of six or seven different presents on offer. I selected what I imagined would be the least popular choices, sent off an email. Lo and behold on Saturday I got a nice hand addressed letter with a little surprise inside :

A bookmark in traditional lacquer technique, handmade and hand painted by Japanese craftsmen from Fuji-Tori.

I was delighted at such a beautiful piece of work, many thanks indeed to the Japan Times and Fuji-Torii for the gift.

So, to all my readers, enjoy your gifts and the holiday season. Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas, and all the best for the New Year.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

My Life as a Yoga Guinea Pig - Jala Neti

Most married men are subject to the whims of their (sometimes insane) wives, and I am no exception. You see the wife teaches yoga and there has been no peace for the last year whilst I resolutely refused to practise Jala Neti ( saline nasal irrigation ) for the simple reason that a. it was horrible and b. nothing (good) happened.

In yoga circles "good" is defined as water going in one nostril and then flowing Ganges-like through the other nostril under the pull of gravity or whatever.

I started my feeble efforts about a year ago but some beaver-like log-jam deep inside my sinuses prevented any fluid from emerging. Then, about three weeks ago ( and for no particular reason ) I decided to give it another go. This was about the third time and you know what they say ..

The Niagara effect did indeed manifest but only from left to right nostril; a two-way flow was only established on the fourth attempt.

To finish : Since my jala neti epiphany I have not gone around sniffing at everything, nor have I become a wine expert, but I AM breathing rather well.

If you want to subject yourself to similar (ill) treatment, contact and see YogaSan

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sumo : Hakuho wins 60th consecutive bout

We visited the Sumo today. The 12th day of the Tokyo Grand Sumo tournament at the Kokugikan at Ryogoku. It is a fascinating spectacle. We arrived fairly early around 1pm and were enthralled all afternoon until the final bout just before 6pm. Hakuho the 25 year old Yokozuna was looking to continue his undefeated run of 59 bouts. He fought Baruto and won very convincingly in less than thirty seconds :

Tickets are still on sale for the last two days Saturday and Sunday if you are quick. We had a group of three seats in a small 'box' which means you sit on a cushion on the floor. So if you prefer a seat, you are better off with the cheaper tickets, that are in the second floor and bring a pair of binoculars. We bought ours at Ticket Pia on the second floor of Shibuya 109 building in Shibuya.

Monday, September 20, 2010

FolkRocks - Japanese Band

I've been to a couple of concerts by this band FolkRocks and I really like their sound. It's a cross between Folk music and Rock music! Here's one of their tunes with a video of the view out of the window of a train journey I took from Shimoda on the Izu penisula.

Sadly I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but I've been told they fit quite well with the visuals.
The front man of the band is Rui Nagai and he leads the band of five people. There is great atmosphere at the concerts with some very loyal fans.

You can a preview of the other songs on the album at iTunes

They don't play many gigs, but there is one coming up next month in Tokyo. I'll be there and if you'd like to join me I think you'll have a great night out.

Date: Wednesday October 20th 2010 · 6:30pm - 10:00pm

B1 1-20-16 Kichijoji , Tokyo.

Ticket price: 3,600yen ( includes 1 drink)

Facebook Event link : FolkRocks Live

Venue Directions : Take the north exit of Kichijoji station and come out to the big rotary. Take the big street on the right (passing UFJ Bank on your right), heading away from the station. Take the third right after UFJ, and find Star Pine's Cafe on your left .

Directions taken from Tokyo Gig Guide. They have got a huge list of venues that have live music in Tokyo.

If you like Japanese music, there's sure to me more blog posts thanks to this months Japan Blog Matsuri. Hosted by Jessica at Nippon Ichigo The theme is Japanese Music. What's your favourite Japanese band ?

Saturday, August 28, 2010 Resurrected

I glanced at google analytics for the stats on this blog recently and I noticed the site at number seven in the top 10 list of referrers I recall sending a request to be added back in 2007 when I moved to Japan, but I had never really noticed it since then. Looking at the site two weeks ago, it was obvious that it was no longer being maintained, which I thought was a shame.

Long term readers from my time in Korea may remember, I wrote a number of posts about new blogs from the and I always enjoyed finding new blogs to read. So I emailed the JapanBlogList site. To my surprise I received an email back, even more surprising was that the man behind the site is none other than Gary (GDog) from TheDailyKimchi. I met him a couple of times while were both living in Korea and we exchanged numerous emails.

So, to cut a long story short, Gary is busy in Canada and he had not had time to update the list, so I volunteered and he was delighted to let me loose on the site that he built. There is quite a lot of work to do for the site, so I have decided on number of phases for the effort required.

Phase One : Delete all the dead links. That started a couple of weeks ago when I took over, and ( thanks to Jeff as well who sent in a couple of links that I had missed) I think all the dead links have gone.

Phase Two : Add all the latest suggestions in the JapanBlogList inbox. This phase is almost complete. There are still another ten or so from the June and May that still need to be added. I hope to finish that this week.

Phase Three: Revisit all the blogs and collect the RSS feeds for each blog. Once this is complete I will use the feature 'list of blogs' to publish the latest updates for all the blogs onto the website. That's going to couple more weeks. Maybe I should set myself a deadline...

Phase Four : Start a regular posting schedule to list the newly added blogs with maybe a few lines on each blog. In addition I have already started a twitter feed All new blogs will get a tweet with the link.

Phase Five : Run a competition for a Logo for the site for use in social media sites etc and start promoting the site. will be the first port of call. Any other suggestions?

Phase Six : I can't think that far ahead. This should be enough to keep me busy for a few month yet...

So, I have you a blog relating to anything Japanese please let me know. Just follow the instructions on the site for submission, or feel free to add a comment below.
The main requirements are :

1. That the blog has a least ten posts : I don't want people who have just started a blog, try it for a couple of weeks and then give up, so that I have to go and delete them.

2. Has posted something within the last four months.

The site is getting at least a hundred visitors per day, so addition to the list will certainly increase your chances of getting visitors.

If you know of other Japanese blogs not already listed (and I already know there are quite a few that I read that are not listed) please let the blogger know that is Back in Business.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tibetan Sand Mandala

I was lucky enough to get to see this Sand Mandala created by four Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monsastery this week. They started creating the masterpiece to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Dalai Lama's birth on Tuesday 29th June at the Mitsuo Aida Museum in Tokyo. By Sunday 4th July morning they had almost finished.

Just the finishing touches before it was complete.

completed tibetan Sand mandala

detail of tibetan Sand mandala

After the mandala was complete prayers were said and a mask dance was performed and a final ceremony before the sand was brushed into a small urn.

Finally the sand was taken the nearby Sumida river and scattered into the water to symbolise the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
scattering sand mandala into Sumida river tokyo

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Yoga, Beach and Fireflies : 12-13 June 2010

A firefly (Japanese, hotaru or botaru) is a small insect that produces light to attract a mate; in the Tokyo area of Japan this occurs in June. Here there are two species of Luciola (scientific name); genji-botaru and heike-botaru. Fireflies occur in many parts of the world, though they are strongly associated with the literature and art of Japan. This woodblock print (1864) is from the famous Genji Monogatari (thus genji-botaru), and illustrates a fascination for and appreciation of insect forms which finds expression in exquisite and minutely crafted works originating in China and Japan.

My wife is running a yoga weekend near Kurihama, at the Nobi Beach Club (One hour from Tokyo).

The program includes a night excursion for Firefly Viewing. Cost is 27,000 yen. Places are still available.

Please contact for details :

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yoga weekend at Nobi Beach Club

My wife Paola has been teaching yoga in Tokyo for almost a year in our beautiful yoga studio. Recently we went on a first trial-run of a yoga weekend retreat. We got to know of the delightful hostess, Jude, who runs a fantastic bed and breakfast near the beach, close to Kurihama in the south western corner of Tokyo Bay. The NOBI BEACH CLUB.

Two students were eager to try out the experience and we got the train together to Keikyu Kurihama station (about 1 hour of out Tokyo).

There's a popular country park about thirty minutes walk from the B&B, that has a variety of attractions including a spectacular Godzilla statue.

Sunday Morning we had the first lesson at 9am. This included standing poses like Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana , and inverted poses like Sirsasana (headstand) and Adho Mukha Vriksasana (handstand) . After breakfast we had some free time to explore the countryside around Nobi.

The afternoon class focused more on stretching and twisting asanas and ended with pranayama (breath control). In the evening Mr G, organised a very tasty barbecue and we sat, laughed and talked around the fire.

On the Monday morning we got up good and early for a silent meditative walk along the beach to a suitable location on the boardwalk for Surya Namaskara ( The Sun Salutation ). We performed ten rounds of the sequence of forward and backward bends and stretches in the glorious morning sunlight before heading back to the B&B for the morning yoga class. This lesson was challenging, but the excellent eggs and bacon provided for breakfast were a good reward for our hard work.

We had some free time to enjoy walking along the beach and into the forest that starts right outside the house. We ended the weekend with a trip to Jude's favourite eatery: the Kalika, an excellent Nepalese restaurant overlooking the sea.

Paola runs lessons suitable for all levels. Private lessons for a minimum of two people are available. We are also planning many more yoga by the beach weekends starting in June 2010. For more details drop me an email or contact Paola directly from YogaSan

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yamanote line suspended (Mar 23 2010)

no one likes to see that!

Apologies for the spelling, this was from my cell phone earlier this evening. The JR Yamanote line, JR Shonan Shinjuku line and the Saikyo lines were all suspended. My normal trip home from Ebisu to Shibuya was somewhat delayed. After some deliberation I worked out the quickest route would be the one stop south on the Hibiya line to Naka-Meguro and one stop north again on the express Minatomirai line to Shibuya. It only took an extra 15 minutes, but I foolishly did not collect a free subway line ticket from the station staff offering them for the alternative routes, so it cost me 260 Yen. When I arrived at Shibuya the trains were still suspended. I look forward to details tomorrow of what happened.

Since there was no point entering Ebisu station I failed to get a photo of the new platform edge doors that have appeared after the long weekend. I'll try and take a shot tomorrow.

Update: it made the front page on the Japan Times printed edition today with a photo of some people being helped off a stuck train. The root cause was an obstacle hanging from overhead wires. More than 2,000 commuters were trapped on trains in the incident that lasted 90 minutes.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Transport Bookshop in Tokyo

Just come back from a trip to Nishiyama bookstore in Ikebukuro.

View Larger Map

If you are looking for a transport bookshop in Tokyo this is the place to go. It covers trains, planes, boats, trucks, buses and cars; plus some movies and war related books. Most of the books are secondhand and in English but there is a good collection of German and French language books and magazines on trains.

If Ian Allan is one of your favourite publishers, or the initials BNSF mean something to you, I don't think you will be disappointed.

The shop is well organised with almost all the books well ordered, though I was surprised to see a street atlas of a small town in England amongst all the railways books.

The one thing that is missing though, is books on Japanese railways. I found one slim booklet on the Light Rail systems of West Japan, and a couple of books of photos of Japanese trains with Japanese text, but that was it.

Only five minutes walk from Ikebukuro station this small shop is worth a visit if transport is your thing. But If you are looking for fiction or more general second handbooks then go just a couple of stops south on the Yamanote line to Blue Parrot books in Takadanobaba , or carry on further south to Ebisu to Good Day Books.

I'm sure there are more second hand English language bookshops in Tokyo, A search yields this list from American Airlines which includes a few I've not heard of. And if you'd rather shop online I discovered Infinity Books Japan , but it's not the same as browsing a dusty bookshelf looking for something unusual.

Anyone got any more bookshops to share?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Frisk 'Hello Idea'

WTF? It's a Mint! more great adverts from Ebisu station.

From YouTube, the video advert too :

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Nephew

This is a photo of Ben my nephew.
Happy New year to all my readers.