ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Japan

DAY 10 (2/2): FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2018.06.03

While Oedo Market offers customers things that are meant to be kept for a long long time, the Farmer’s Market at United Nations University (UNU) is all about enjoying the moment with fresh local produces and food products.  Held every Saturday and Sunday at the convenient location between Shibuya and Omotesando metro station, the UNU Farmer’s Market offered us an opportunity to sample the freshest local ingredients and snacks right at the trendy fashion district of Tokyo.  Good coffee, refreshing apple juice, tasty roast pork, beef stew, juicy tomatoes, and fresh vegetables left a lovely final remark in the memories of our Japan trip 2018, a journey that brought us onto the Alpine trails of Kamikochi, into milky onsens of Shirahone, fairy-tale villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go, lovely cities of Matsumoto, Takayama and Kanazawa, and then back to the lively metropolis of Tokyo.

DSC_9301We arrived at the Farmer’s Market at UNU at around 11:30.

DSC_9302Local honey, fruit jam, and apple juice were sold at the first few market stalls that we encountered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt one end of the market, a small seating area was set up for customers who bought the snacks or drinks from the vendors or fast food vans.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADepending on the season, Japan is one of the best places in the world to sample high quality fruits.

DSC_9303The fresh green peppercorns reminded us of the peppercorn fields we visited years ago in Cambodia.

DSC_9304Lavender is widely available in Japan in the summer.

DSC_9305The roast pork of Kome Shiru Na is a must-try at the market.

DSC_9306The high quality roasted pork definitely worth the waiting time.

DSC_9311The roasted pork became the first dish of our lunch at the market.

DSC_9310Local apple juice and fresh ice coffee, perfect for the sunny afternoon.

DSC_9319Too bad we couldn’t bring any flowers back to Hong Kong.

DSC_9321On the other side of the market, clothing and handcrafts could also be found.

DSC_9323The van of books was a cute feature at the market.  We sat down at a table for some beef stew.  The air was relaxing but we knew it was about time for us to call it a day and return to our hotel to pick up our backpacks for the airport.  Our amazing ten-day journey in Central Honshu was coming to an end.

 

 

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DAY 10 (1/2): OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2018.06.03

The sun was bright and warm.  Our last day of the trip began with a laid-back Sunday stroll in Marunouchi.  Our flight was scheduled to depart from Narita at 18:30.  Before heading to the airport in mid afternoon, we decided to spend the day leisurely between two Sunday markets: Oedo Antique Market at Tokyo Forum and the Farmer’s Market at United Nations University (UNU) in Aoyama.

Held twice per month, the Oedo Antique Market at the side square of Tokyo Forum is the largest of its kind in Japan.  It was a 15-minute walk from our hotel to the Tokyo Forum.  Designed by renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, the enormous glassy structure of the Forum has become an modern icon of Marunouchi since its completion in 1996.  We visited Tokyo Forum and spent quite a bit of time wandering in the huge atrium back in 2014 during our first Japan trip.  This time, our focus was the side square where about 250 vendors set up their temporary market stalls to sell antiques of all sorts, from ceramics to jewellery, housewares to souvenirs, watches to personal accessories.  The relaxing air, friendly vendors, and the fact that Japanese are well known for their attentive care to preserve and maintain their personal belongings, altogether made the Oedo Market a much deserved treasure trove to get lost in.

DSC_9293The enormous glass atrium signified our arrival at the Tokyo Forum and the Oedo Antique Market.

DSC_9262The cosmopolitan side square of Tokyo Forum is converted into a causal market square for antique vendors two times per month.

DSC_9264Causal customers wearing fashionable straw hats could be seen everywhere in the market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took our time to wander around the 250 stalls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShaded by the flanking buildings and lush green trees, the Oedo Market at the side square of Tokyo Forum offers the perfect venue to spend a Sunday morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were a large range of merchandises.  One must take his/her time in order to discover something that touches the heart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOften, interesting items were displayed in the simplest way on the floor.

DSC_9265All vendors at the market were very nice and talkative (Japanese only).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe returned to the magnificent Tokyo Forum after our first visit in 2014.

DSC_9290Tokyo Forum was busy with visitors coming for its various events and exhibitions.

 


DAY 9 (1/1): OLD DOWNTOWN TOKYO, Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2018.06.02

While we have stayed at Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza in our previous visits to the Japanese capital, this time we picked Marunouchi (丸の内) as the base for our short Tokyo stay.  Literally means “inside the circle” which refers to the area bounded by the outer moat of the imperial palace of Japan, Marunouchi is an important financial district right at the doorstep of the royal residence.  After 2.5 hours on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) that connects Kanazawa to Tokyo, we arrived at the splendid Tokyo Station in Marunouchi of Chiyoda.  As the busiest railway station in Japan in terms of number of trains, the Tokyo Station is a huge transportation hub divided into two sides: the historical Marunouchi (丸の内) wing and the Yaesu (八重洲) side facing Nihonbashi.  Upon arrival at the station, we walked over to the Marunouchi side to check out the beautifully restored station building.  Much of the station was destroyed by B-29 bombing in 1945.  Not until 2013 that the building was finally restored to its prewar condition.  Outside the station at the Marunouchi side lies one of the main financial district of the entire nation, with bank and corporation headquarters, notably the Mitsubishi buildings, and a number of high-end shopping centres and fashion boutiques.

Our hotel was closer to the Yaesu side, where the shinkansen platforms are located.  The Yaesu exit of the station was notably marked by the multi storey Daimaru department store, and the nearby Nihonbashi (日本橋) area.   Literally means “Japan Bridge”, Nihonbashi is named after the bridge with the same name that crosses over Nihonbashi River.  Nihonbashi is part of the original city centre of Tokyo since the Edo Period.  Today, visitors come for the historical buildings and department stores, namely the Takashimaya (髙島屋) and Mitsukoshi (三越).

DSC_9235After years of renovations, the splendid structure of the Tokyo Station on the Marunouchi (丸の内) side finally restored to its glorious prewar conditions.

DSC_9237Just steps away from Tokyo Station, Oazo is one of the many multi-level shopping complexes below office towers.

DSC_9240The first place we checked out in Marunouchi was the Maruzen bookstore in Oazo Shopping Centre.

DSC_9238Built in early 2000s, the airy atrium of Oazo provide a welcoming gesture for all visitors coming from Tokyo Station.

DSC_9333Occupying the site of the former Tokyo Central Post Office, Kitte is a pleasant shopping centre opened in 2013 under the JP Tower.

DSC_9338Other than shops and restaurants, Kitte is also home to a museum, tourist centre and the city’s central post office.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rooftop terrace of Kitte offers a great spot to admire the restored Marunouchi wing of the Tokyo Station.

DSC_9296Other than Tokyo Station, another notable historical building in Marunouchi is Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum (三菱一号館美術館).  Reconstructed according to English architect Josiah Conder’s original design , the current museum was established in 2010.  Dated back to 1894, the original Mitsubishi Ichigokan was once an iconic structure that signified the modernization movement of Meiji Restoration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConnected to Tokyo Bay, Nihonbashi River was created by rerouting the former Hira River as a water management method for Edo Castle.

DSC_9247A stone bridge with a steel frame and designed by Tsumaki Yorinaka in 1911, the current Nihonbashi (日本橋) stands on the original wooden bridge dated back to the 17th century.

DSC_9249The lion of the Nihonbashi (日本橋) witnessed the changing urban landscape of the old downtown of Tokyo.

DSC_9251The Mitsukoshi (三越) at Nihonbashi is the main branch of the international department store.  Founded in 1673 as a kimono shop, Echigoya, the former store of Mitsukoshi established a place where buyers came to purchase goods with cash.

 


DAY 8 (6/6): AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

To end the magical night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, we decided to have a bowl of local ramen.  Through online research, we learnt about a popular ramen restaurant near the train station.  The walk from Asano River to the station was full of surprises as we encountered groups of school children parading the streets with traditional lanterns.  The entire city was turned into a festival ground.

DSC_9174Groups after groups of school children parading on the streets of Kanazawa during the night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi.

DSC_9184It was delightful to see traditional rituals are being passed down to the young generation.

DSC_9189Movable carts were also seen with young traditional drummers.

DSC_9211We passed by Kanazawa Train Station on our way to Menya Taiga (麺屋大河).

DSC_9208Some bloggers suggest Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) in Kanazawa offers the “best miso ramen in Japan.”  That’s a rather bold statement given the uncounted numbers of ramen restaurant in Japan, each has its unique recipe and ingredients.

DSC_9206After a little over half an hour in the queue, we finally got into the restaurant just before 10pm.

DSC_9200The ramen restaurant was full of little decorations.

DSC_9203Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) offers shorter and thicker noodles, with an extra touch of ginger and citrus fruit in the soup on top of the typical pork bone soup.

DSC_9205The uni (sea urchin) ramen was a delicious seasonal ramen we ordered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the next morning, 2.5 hours before the main parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) began, we walked along the main street leading to the train station.   The street would soon become the main parade venue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany local residences had already marked their spot on the sidewalk.

DSC_9216 In front of Kanazawa Train Station, the Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門) would serve as the symbol city gate for the annual parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).

DSC_9218 Parade participants would dressed in 16th century costumes to act like the army of Lord Maeda Toshiie entering the symbolic Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe banner of Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) was hung at the entrance atrium of the train station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the station, we bought a few onigiri or Japanese rice balls for breakfast on the train.

DSC_9230Moving up to the platform of shinkansen or Japanese high-speed railway, our journey of Kanazawa and Chubu Region (Central Honshu) was coming to an end.  In 2.5 hours, we would arrive in Tokyo.

 


DAY 8 (5/6): STREAM OF LANTERNS, Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) is the main annual festival in Kanazawa.  The three day festival commemorates the entry of Lord Maeda Toshiie into Kanazawa Castle in 1583.  The main event of the festival is the Hyakumangoku Parade, which takes place on the first Saturday in June.  Other festival highlights include folk dances and tea ceremonies at Kenroku-en Garden, and the romantic Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi held at Asano River, where 1200 traditional lanterns would be released into the water between Ume-no-Hashi Bridge (梅ノ橋) and Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge (浅野川大橋).  We found out about the festival as we planned the trip, and were fortunate to be at Kanazawa at the right time to witness the Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi on our last day in the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter visiting Higashi Chaya District, we walked over to the river bank of Asano River in late afternoon.

DSC_8859We sat down on the river embankment near (梅ノ橋) to wait for dusk to fall.

DSC_8894The main ceremonial platform was brightly lit up.

DSC_8936As darkness fell upon, lanterns were released into the peaceful water of Asano River.

DSC_8945Each lantern was decorated with unique design and colours.

DSC_8964Soon, more lanterns came down from upper stream beyond Ume-no-Hashi Bridge (梅ノ橋) .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Asano River was slow and peaceful.  Soon the water was filled with beautiful lanterns.

DSC_8998Staff stood at various locations in the water to “rescue” any lantern that were stuck in the river rocks.

DSC_9000There were speeches and drum performances at the main event platform.

DSC_9021The water was really slow.  Sometimes the lanterns were just moving in circle.

DSC_9027The lanterns gradually made their way downstream towards Asanogawa Bridge (浅野川大橋).

DSC_9042The lanterns became more obvious and beautiful and darkness fell upon.

DSC_9071Lanterns slowly moved over to Asanogawa Bridge (浅野川大橋) towards the central arch.

DSC_9113We left the embankment and walked up to Asanogawa Bridge (浅野川大橋) for another look of the lanterns.

DSC_9154Built in 1922, the 54.4m stone bridge provides an elegant crossing over the Asano River.  From the other side of Asanogawa Bridge (浅野川大橋), we could see the first groups of lanterns emerge from the central archway.

DSC_9163Nets were set up further downstream to capture the lanterns at the end of the event.

DSC_9168Looking backwards to Asanogawa Bridge (浅野川大橋) we could see the lanterns slowly approaching.


DAY 8 (4/6): GEISHA, TEA, AND GOLD LEAF, Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

North of the Asano River lies the Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街), the postcard perfect historical neighborhood that appears in all tourist brochures on Kanazawa.  Pedestrian streets flanked both sides with timber row houses where geisha tea houses once flourished, the Higashi Chayagai (Eastern Teahouse Street) has become the iconic image of the old Kanazawa that every tourists love to see.  Today, Higashi Chayagai is the most popular tourist area in the city.  A few geisha tea houses still exist, such as the Shima and Kaikaro Teahouse, and so as many cafes, ice-cream parlours, craft and souvenir shops.  Tourists are particularly interested in the local gold leaf products.  Kanazawa, which literally means “gold marsh”, has been manufacturing gold leafs for 400 years.  Due to the good water quality and relatively high humidity, Kanazawa is an ideal place for gold leaf production.  Today, the city has become the only remaining hub of gold leaf production in Japan.  Gold leaf has been used on traditional buildings, Buddhist altars, statues, glasswares, cosmetics, soaps, and even edible items like cakes and ice-cream.  We weren’t particular interested in having gold leaf on our ice-cream.  Instead, we did try some special types of ice-cream at Higashi Chayagai.  Strolling along the historical street was pleasant under the afternoon sun, despite the pedestrian street could be slightly overcrowded with the continuous influx of tourist groups.  Perhaps the upcoming three-day Hyakumangoku Matsuri Festival (百万石まつり) did attract quite a bit of tourists coming into the city.  Like many other tourists, we would check out the famous Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, the spectacular event at the first day of Hyakumangoku Matsuri Festival where candle lit lanterns would be placed into the Asanogawa River.

1Reaching Oriental Brewing Higashiyama, the renowned brewpub of Kanazawa, signified our arrival at the geisha district of Higashi Chayagai.

2Soon we arrived at an open space at the intersection of several lanes that served as a central plaza in the old neighborhood.

11Many of the timber houses are very well preserved.

3The wooden screens, windows, sidings, and even gas lamps provide a vintage setting to the geisha district.

4_01The beautiful setting of Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街) attract tourists from all over the world.

5Some visitors even come wearing the traditional kimono dresses.

6Swallows construct their nests under the eaves of the timber houses along Higashi Chaya  pedestrian street.

7It is possible to see traditional geisha at Higashi Chaya.

8Posters for the annual Hyakumangoku Matsuri Festival (百万石まつり) could be seen at Higashi Chaya.  The three-day festival commemorates the arrival of Lord Maeda Toshiie in 1583.

9Most wooden houses at Higashi Chaya have been converted into restaurants, cafes, tea houses and souvenir shops.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGold leaf remains as a favorite souvenir for foreign tourists.

12The sugidama (杉玉) signified our arrival at a traditional sake brewery.

14We also went in Yamato to check out their soy sauce.

13Soon the sun angle was getting low at Higashi Chaya.

16Soon the sun angle was getting low at Higashi Chaya.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the central plaza of Higashi Chaya, we stopped by an ice-cream shop for an afternoon snack.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe opted for local favours such as tofu and green tea instead of gold leaf dessert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked over to the Asano River near Higashi Chaya.  Organizers were busy preparing for the lantern event Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi.

20In Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, about 1200 lanterns made with Kaga Yuzen silk textiles would be released into the river.


DAY 8 (3/6): PEACEFUL STROLL ALONG ASUNO RIVER, Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

After SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, it was about time for us to go back in time again to Edo Japan.  In Kanazawa, there are three well preserved geisha tea house districts that draw visitors from close and afar.  Out of the three, Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街) is the smallest one and receives far less tourists than its more prominent sister Higashi Chaya.  Although small in size, sleepy Kazuemachi along the peaceful Asuno River (浅野川) is a very pleasant place to wander around after lunch.  Only a handful of tourists would come to check out the elegant timber houses and take in the relaxing air of this geisha distinct, despite Kazuemachi is conveniently located between Omicho Market and Higashi Chaya.  After having a delicious sushi lunch at Kourin Sushi, we walked over to Kazuemachi on our way to Higashi Chaya District.

DSC_8670Topping the restaurant recommendations on Tripadvisor.com, the small restaurant Kourin Sushi (香りん寿司) is highly popular with foreign visitors.  We made our reservations days in advance via email, otherwise, our chance of getting a table would be slim.

DSC_8668Kourin Sushi (香りん寿司) is slightly bigger than Sushi Ippei.  It was another wonderful sushi meal in a reasonable price.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKazuemachi is pleasantly located along the waterfront of Asuno River (浅野川).

DSC_8688Approaching from the west, the elegant Nakanohashi Bridge (中の橋) signified our arrival at the Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Nakanohashi Bridge, a small park named Ryokusui-en ( 主計町緑水苑) also marks the beginning of Kazuemachi.  Inside the park, a bit of the former castle moat has been preserved.

DSC_8694Kazuemachi was peaceful and sleepy in early afternoon.  We walked on the riverside path for a bit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe air was relaxing and we hardly saw any people, except occasional locals passing by, including a few high school kids riding on their bikes.

DSC_8701The back lane of Kazuemachi away from the river was even more peaceful.

DSC_8704Posters on the walls of the timber houses reminded us the sense of traditional Japan at Kazuemachi.

DSC_8703We passed by the administration building of Kazuemachi District in the back lanes.

DSC_8705At the end of the lane a small stepped path named 暗がり坂, or the Slope of Darkness brought us to a small shrine on the hill.

DSC_8707A small Inari Shrine (久保市稲荷社) awaited us at the top of the stepped path.

DSC_8715Returned down to the Kazuemachi District, we saw a poster of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり), the three-day festival that commemorates entry of the Lord Maeda Toshiie into Kanazawa in 1583.  We were lucky to have the chance to check out the pretext of the festival known as Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi when floating lanterns are placed into the Asuno River later that night.