ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Tokyo

TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2019.06.15

Day 1 (1/2).

Our flight landed in Tokyo Haneda at around 6am.  Before our next flight to Hokkaido’s Memanbetsu Airport at noontime, we had a few hours to spare in the Japanese capital.  Tsuyu (梅雨), the rainy season in Japan, was in full force in mid June.  Given the proximity to the city centre, we wouldn’t want to miss the chance of revisiting Tokyo.  We took the monorail and then transferred to the metro heading for Tsukiji Market.  40 minutes was all it took to reach Tsukiji.  It was pouring when we came out the metro at the Kabuki-za Theatre (歌舞伎座) exit.  We followed Google Map to make our way into the quiet lanes near the outer market.

Opened in 1935, the 83-year-old market has officially moved to the new Toyosu Market (豊洲市場) in October 2018.  With no intention to watched a tuna auction behind glass or checked out seafood and produce stores in a brand new shopping centre like setting, we preferred to revisit the old market at Tsukiji, where the Outer Market remained open for business.  At the market, generations of social interactions have developed a strong sense of community.  The chaotic turret traffic at the inner market, desperate tourists cramped in long lines for an early sashimi breakfast, cafes serving simple coffee on dark wood counters, street food stalls along busy lanes and covered alleyways, the spirit and ambience of the old market have drawn us back to Tsukiji again and again.  This time around, our Tsukiji experience took us to a craft coffee shop, a back lane sushi eatery and a historical Shinto shrine.

IMG_8560Miraitowa (future and eternity) and Someity (calm and powerful), the two official mascot of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, greeted all visitors at the arrival lobby of Haneda Airport.

IMG_8576Turret COFFEE, a popular hub for everyone in Tsukiji who love coffee, offered us a decent dose of caffeine to start the day.

IMG_E8579We came just in time to be the first few customers at Turret.

IMG_8586The cafe decor was simple and the coffee was aromatic and good.

IMG_8593Named after the 3-wheel cart that once roamed in the lanes of Tsukiji Market, a real “turret” was placed in the centre of the coffee shop as display and also seating.

IMG_8599Kitsuneya Beef Rice, one of the most popular eateries in the entire outer market, offers visitors a decent alternative to seafood.

IMG_8601For many, leaving Tsukiji Market without picking up several pieces of tuna toro sashimi would be a big regret.

IMG_8617We ended up sitting down at a small sushi eatery in a covered alleyway.

IMG_8621Despite relocation of the inner market, the sushi at Tsukiji Outer Market was equally fresh as before.

IMG_8620Today’s uni (sea urchin): Hamanaka (浜中), Uchiura Bay (噴火湾), Akkeshi (厚岸), Nemuro (根室), Rebun (礼文), and Nemuro (根室).  Even looking at the names of the five fishing villages in Hokkaido would wet our appetite.

IMG_8607Before returning to the airport, we made a stop at Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社), the unofficial guardian shrine of Tsukiji Market.

IMG_8609Built in 1659, the Shinto shrine dedicates to Inari (稲荷大神), the god of fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture.  The Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社) was specifically aimed to ward off disasters and diminish incoming waves.

IMG_8612The 1-ton Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi male lion is one of the main features of the shrine. During Tsukiji Lion Festival on June 10th, the lion head would parade across the Tsukiji along with the red female lion head.

IMG_8613The 0.7 ton female lion head is slightly lighter than the male, but equally impressive.  After coffee, sushi, and Shinto shrine, we took our time to return to Haneda Airport for the flight to Memanbetsu in Hokkaido.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 


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.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


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.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 


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.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 1 (3/3): MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE, Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

A short metro ride took us to Roppongi (六本木), a business and entertainment district dominated by the high-rise complexes of Roppongi Hills (2003) and Tokyo Midtown (2006).  Before the completion of these mixed-use developments, Roppongi was well known for its disco scene since the late 1960’s.  In 2014, we visited the area for the first time to explore these complexes and the nearby National Art Center (国立新美術館) in a stormy day.  This time, we came specifically to check out the exhibitions at Mori Art Museum and 21_21 Design Sight.

DSC_5889 At Roku Roku Plaza of Roppongi Hills, Louise Bourgeois’ famous sculpture “Maman” was given a temporary makeover by Magda Sayeg, the textile artist who was responsible for a wide range of yarn installations in cities around the world.

DSC_5893On the observation deck of Mori Tower, we had a good view of the surrounding area.  The wavy facade of Kisho Kurokawa’s National Art Center stood out at the forefront.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo mark its 15th anniversary, the Mori Art Museum was hosting an exhibition on Japanese architecture on the 53rd floor of Mori Tower.

IMG_5906“Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation” presented the essence of modern Japanese architecture in 9 sections: 1) Possibilities of Wood, 2) Transcendent Aesthetics, 3) Roofs of Tranquility, 4) Crafts as Architecture, 5) Linked Spaces, 6) Hybrid Architecture, 7) Forms of Living Together, 8) Japan Discovered, and 9) Living with Nature.

DSC_5900In each section, the topics were presented with physical models, design installations, architectural drawings, project photos, hand sketches, etc.  Photography was not allowed for most displays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA causal seating area offered further reading on Japanese architecture.

DSC_5904A one-to-one model of a Japanese tea house offered visitors a chance to see the essence of traditional minimalist architecture.

DSC_5905This large wooden model of what looked like a traditional Japanese home was in fact the Tange House designed by architectural maestro Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  Built in 1953, the Tange House presented a fusion of traditional style and customs of modern living.

IMG_5941Towards the end of the exhibition, there was an eye-catching multi-media show made with 3D projections.

DSC_5913After a good taste of Japanese architecture at Mori, we walked a few blocks north to 21_21 Design Sight, a small design museum at Hinokicho Park (檜町公園) in Tokyo Midtown.

DSC_5914With the beautiful terracotta cladding, the 20-acre Tokyo Midtown is an elegant and highly recognizable high-rise complex.

DSC_5915With glass canopies and shade trees, the outdoor areas of Tokyo Midtown exemplify a role model of livable city.

DSC_5945Last time when we came to 21_21 Design Sight, the facility was closed for exhibition installation.  This time, a photography show “New Planet Photo City – William Klein and Photographers Living in the 22nd Century” was held, and we were able to see the show as well as the building designed by Tadao Ando.

DSC_5934Despite its small scale, Ando’s 21_21 Design Sight was an interesting attraction for design enthusiasts.

DSC_5937Curated by photographic critic and art historian Toshiharu Ito, the show began with a video presentation of William Klein’s photographs on the 20th century urbanity, and then contemporary photography on city and people by various Asian photographers.

DSC_5939Ando’s signature fair faced concrete provided a beautiful backdrop for light and shadow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside 21_21 Design Sight, the afternoon sun was soft and relaxing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sat on a bench in Hinokicho Park (檜町公園) to take a brief rest, and decided to follow Google Map for a 25-minute walk to Aoyama (青山).  Time was getting a little late and we weren’t sure if we could still make it to see Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum (岡本太郎記念館), the former home of renounced artist Taro Okamoto.  We left Tokyo Midtown and walked west from Nogizaka Station (乃木坂駅), passed by the peaceful Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園), and reached the fabulous Nezu Museum (根津美術館) in Aoyama at around 4:15pm.  From Nezu, it was only a block from Taro Okamoto’s former residence, and we had about 1.5 hour to visit the house, its exhibitions and cafe.  Time was a little tight and we were quite tired due to the midnight flight.  We decided to leave the museum until next time in town.

DSC_5951Instead, we opted for Cafe Kitsuné at a side street off the fashionable Omotesando (表参道), where the creative talents of world famous fashion designers and architects converged into high-end fashion boutiques.  Associated with Kitsuné, a French electronic music record and fashion label (Kitsuné Maison) created by Gildas Loaec, Masaya Kuroki and company Abake, Cafe Kitsuné is a little gem in Aoyama for anyone who loves coffee and design.

IMG_5949The nice coffee from Japan’s first Slayer coffee machine and the stylish interior made the visit worthwhile.

 
* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 1 (2/3): TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場), Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

Due to the fact that this world-largest fish market is running out of space for future development, and that the site of the existing Inner Wholesale Market is sitting on prime real estate land, the Tsukiji Inner Market or Jonai Shijo (築地中央卸売市場) is scheduled to be relocated to Toyosu (豊洲) in this October.  Handling over 2000 tons of seafood per day and employed over 60,000 staff, relocating the Tsukiji Inner Market is no small feat.  Not catered for public visitors and tourists, the wholesale area is not an ideal place to wander around.  No tourists are allowed before 11am according to the rules, and there is a limited number of quota for watching the famous tuna auction before dawn.  Outside of the wholesale area, a few small lanes of restaurants are extremely popular with tourists.  There are about two dozens of small sushi restaurants serving fresh fish just a stone throw away from the wholesale area.  No wonder the most popular restaurants such as Sushi Dai (寿司大) and Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司) are infamously known for the long queues, with some bloggers mentioning in the range of one to three hours of wait.

DSC_5813This time, we didn’t enter the wholesale area of the Inner Market.  We didn’t want to stand in the way of the busy staff.

DSC_5815We walked to the lanes of eateries and sushi bars to hunt for a place for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJapanese grilled omelette or tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) could also be found in the Inner Market area.

DSC_5826In 2014, we came to the Inner Market in early morning and had a bowl of chirashi for breakfast.

DSC_5827Other than chirashi and sushi, there were also other options such as curry and tempura.

DSC_5822The line for Sushi Dai went all the way to the other side of the building out onto the adjacent lane.  It seemed like a two hour wait at least.

DSC_5847This time, we picked Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司).  Daiwa Sushi occupies two stores so we thought the queue wouldn’t be too long.  We wouldn’t mind queuing for a while to have a chance to taste the fresh nigirizushi or hand pressed sushi (握り寿司) from Tsukiji Market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the door of Daiwa Sushi, a staff was responsible to monitor the queue and direct the entering customers when seats became available in the restaurant.

DSC_5845Through the window, we could see a senior itamae (chef) and his apprentices busy preparing nigirizushi for customers.

DSC_5860We ended up queuing for a little over an hour before finding ourselves sitting at the bar seats of Daiwa Sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior was down to earth.  We sat by the corner right by a photo depicting the catch of a huge tuna.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was only one nigirizushi (握り寿司) set option to order.  Nothing fancy about the sushi, but the freshness of the fish and the vibrant market atmosphere made all the wait worthwhile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the sushi breakfast, we hopped to Aiyo Cafe next door for a cup of coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior of Aiyo revealed a strong vintage atmosphere.

DSC_5864The entire shop seemed frozen in time since mid 20th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe staff were very friendly and spoke some English.

IMG_5898We had a good time exchange a few words with them while taking a short coffee break. After all, we were a little sleepy after the red-eye flight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt another lane there were restaurants that offered Western cuisine.  We thought of trying but were too full after the sushi breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked by an interesting sliding door panel leaning against a low wall outside the row of restaurants that offered Western food.  Was the move to Toyosu already underway for some restaurant owners we did not know.

DSC_5873Judging from the mini figure that actually moved continuously as if devouring a bowl of delicious noodles, the door might belong to a ramen restaurant.  After the sushi and coffee, we decided to move on to Roppongi for a dose of design culture.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 1 (1/3): TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

Walking out of Tsukiji Metro Station, our attention immediately fell to the monumental Tsukiji Honganji Temple (築地本願寺) across the street.  Design in mixed styles including Indian Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu, as well as Western Neoclassical influences, architect and Tokyo University professor Chuta Ito intended to steer away from the traditional East Asian timber architectural traditions.  Instead, he traveled to India numerous times to visit temples, and brought home design touches from the birthplace of Buddhism.  The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed the temple’s predecessor.  The current Honganji Temple was built in the 1930s, and soon became a prominent Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗) temple in Tokyo.  We climbed the main stair and entered the main hall through an elegant doorway with beautiful stain-glass transom windows overhead.  We were surprised to see a full house of audience in the cathedral-like main hall (even with an organ).  Apparently there was a concert going on.  A female vocalist was performing some kind of Western opera inside the temple.

DSC_5878The unique facade of Tsukiji Honganji Temple hardly revealed its true identity of to us.

DSC_5883The elegant stain glass transom over the doorway depict the Buddhist icon of lotus flowers.

DSC_5882There was a concert inside the main hall of Tsukiji Honganji Temple.

DSC_5885The architecture of Tsukiji Honganji Temple presents the trend of cultural fusion back in early 20th century.

Across the street adjacent to the Tsukiji Honganji Temple, we picked a small lane leading into Tsukiji Jogai Shijo (築地場外市場) or the Outer Market.  Encompassing a few blocks adjacent to the Tsukiji Jonai Shijo or the Inner Market, the Outer Market is a popular tourism attraction.  Catered for the public, small shops selling all kinds of culinary-related goods from dried seafood to kitchen knives and food stalls offering a wide range of snacks such as sushi and grilled egg, the pedestrianized lanes of the Outer Market is truly a foodie’s paradise.  On this piece of reclaimed land (Tsukiji literally means reclaimed land), the eateries and shops of the Outer Market had long been providing a diverse range of food to the people of Tokyo since the Showa Era (1926-1989).  The entire Tsukiji Market was in fact a consequence of the Great Kanto Earthquake, which devastated Central Tokyo in 1923 including the Nihonbashi Fish Market.  The fish market was relocated to Tsukiji and began to operate in 1935 as one of the three major markets in the city.  Already the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, the Tsukiji Market is running out of space for further development.  Work of relocating the market has been undergoing for sometime.  After several delays, it seems that the market is really moving to its new home in Toyosu (豊洲) this October.  But that didn’t affect the bustling Outer Market as these few blocks of shops and eateries (and the loads of tourists) would likely to stay even after the move.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStreet vendors appeared blocks away from the Tsukiji Market just outside the Metro Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA large fish painted on the building facade probably reminds tourists the direction of the market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA relatively new market called “Tsuki Waza” will remain at Tsukiji even after the relocation of Tsukiji Inner Market.

DSC_5791The Tsukiji Outer Market is consisted of a few pedestrianized streets of shops and restaurants.

DSC_5793Katsuobushi (鰹節) is the dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna or bonito flakes commonly seen in Japanese cuisine.

DSC_5796Akiyama Shouten (秋山商店) specializes in katsuobushi.  We couldn’t resist but got ourselves 500g of the flakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many small shops with all kinds of dried seafood and seaweed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile it only occupies a few blocks, one can easily get disoriented in Tsukiji Outer Market.

DSC_5810Apart from the small shops, there are also indoor shopping arcades of food stalls.

DSC_5803We ended up get our first snacks from a street BBQ vendor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from seafood, spices can also be found in the Outer Market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATamagoyaki (玉子焼き) or grilled omelette is another popular snacks available at Tsukiji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw about four to five stalls specialized in tamagoyaki.  We tried two of them and they both tasted good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter free tasting of black beans from Kyoto region we ended up get a pack home.

DSC_5812After all, tuna is still the king in Tsukiji.  Quite a long queue of people were waiting for fresh tuna sashimi in front of this shop.

DSC_5875New indoor shopping arcades have been established in recent years at the Outer Market, perhaps as a gesture of confidence for the future of Tsukiji after the relocation of the wholesale Inner Market later this year.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03

In June 2017, we made a 5-day trip to Tokyo for a short getaway.  Last time, we spent most of the time in the bustling capital, with only a full day excursion to visit the World Heritage temples and Alpine scenery of Nikko.  A year had passed.  In late May 2018, we embarked on another Japanese journey to explore parts of Chubu Region (中部地方), the central region of Honshu (本州) between Kantō Region (関東地方) and Kansai Region (関西地方).  The journey took us to the Prefecture of Nagano (長野県), Gifu (岐阜県), Toyama (富山県), and Ishikawa (石川県).  We picked Kamikochi (上高地), a picturesque hiker’s hub in the Japanese Alps, and the charming city of Kanazawa (金沢) as main destinations, stopping by Matsumoto (松本), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Shirakawago (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) along the way.  We planned for five days in the city and five in the countryside, aiming for a balance between cosmopolitan and nature fascinations.  It turned out to be a delightful and diverse experience with mouth-watering seafood, refreshing Alpine hiking, invigorating hot-springs, romantic Gassho-style villages, cozy morning markets, and a magical floating lantern festival.

Once again, our journey began in an early morning in Tokyo (東京), after our red-eye flight landed at Haneda International Airport (羽田空港) a little after 6am.  At the airport, we first went to pick up our railway tickets and seat reservations at the JR office.  It was convenient to make online reservations to ensure seat availability on trains of our desired schedule, but that didn’t save us from queuing for an hour before we reached the JR counter and finalized our purchases.  We then braved the rush hour taking the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅), and switched to the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) to Shinjuku to drop off our backpacks at the hotel.  After all the sweat of moving through the jammed platforms, cramped train cars and busy streets of Shinjuku (新宿) with our backpacks, time was perfect for a hearty breakfast to kick start our first day.  We decided to take the Marunouchi Metro Line to revisit Tsukiji Market (築地市場), the legendary fish market that was about to be relocated later this year.

map japan 2018 finalOur journey took us from Tokyo (東京) to parts of the Chubu Region (中部地方), staying overnight at Kamikochi (上高地), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Gokayama (五箇山), and Kanazawa (金沢), and passed by Matsumoto (松本) and Shirakawago (白川郷) along the way.

IMG_8054Our plane flew over the iconic Mount Fuji (富士山) before landing at Haneda International Airport of Tokyo.

DSC_5785We hopped on the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅).  The train was soon packed with morning commuters after a few stops.

IMG_8061We arrived at the packed Hamamatsuchō Station (浜松町駅) and switched to JR’s Yamanote Line (山手線) heading for Shinjuku (新宿).

DSC_5788It was such a relief after dropping off our backpacks at the hotel in Shinjuku (新宿) and ventured out to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) for a seafood breakfast.

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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day  3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 5 (1/1): MEIJI JINGU (明治神宮), Harajuku (原宿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.18

The sky was grey on our last day in Tokyo.  We decided to spend the morning at nearby Harajuku (原宿).  We moved our suitcase and backpack to the lockers in Shibuya Station (渋谷), and then took the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) one stop over to Harajuku.  Despite we had been to Harajuku a few times, we had never ventured beyond the shopping and entertainment areas.  This time, we decided to spend a peaceful morning at Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), the Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the insightful leader who modernized Japan at the end of the 19th century.  Built in 1920, the original shrine complex was destroyed during World War Two.  The shrine was rebuilt soon after the war.  We had seen photographs of the large and lovely torii gates at the forested path of Meiji Shrine.  It was interesting to see such massive and traditional wooden structures surrounded by mature trees at the heart of Tokyo, just a stone throw away from all the neon lights of youthful Takeshita Street (竹下通り) and fashionable Omotesandō (表参道).  While we were there, some buildings were under renovations for its 100th anniversary in 2020.  We took our time to walk around the compound, wrote down our wishes on an ema (wooden plate to hang at the shrine), and enjoyed a peaceful walk in the urban forest.

Before heading back to Shibuya for the Narita Express, we dropped by the roof garden of Tokyu Plaza for breakfast.  Most shops had yet opened their doors in Harajuku, and we had another quiet moment in an urban oasis.  By the time we returned to Shibuya to pick up our luggage, it finally started to rain.  The rain lasted for the entire afternoon.  It was still raining heavily when our plane took off at the runway of Narita later that day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are a few locker areas at Shibuya Station.  We almost went to a wrong locker area to pick up our luggage.  Luckily, when we left our luggage we took a photo of the locker area to remind ourselves, and that proved handy at the end.

02The timber structure of Harajuku Station is unique in Tokyo.  Hopefully this historical building can survive the massive redevelopment of the area prior to the Olympic Games.

03We loved the massive torii gate of Meiji Jingu.  The natural finish matches perfectly with the surrounding forest.

04Sake offering at the Meiji Jingu.

06The second large torii gate midway into the path of Meiji Jingu.

07Quite a number of buildings at Meiji Jingu were under renovation for 2020.

08There were a lot of visitors at the early hours of the day.

09The natural appearance of a Japanese timber structure offers the best harmony with the surrounding nature.

10Writing the Ema (wooden prayer plates) is always fun.

11After hanging our ema, we bid farewell to the peaceful Meiji Jingu.

01Time was still early when we walked to Tokyu Plaza.  Since the shopping centre had yet opened its doors, we found our way up to the roof garden via an elevator at the side.

02The roof garden of Tokyu Plaza is always a great place to hang out.  While some were having breakfast like us, there were a few dozing off at the far corners.

03Not many visitors were around.  We could admire the interesting design of the decking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking down to the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Jingumae, the popular crossing were almost empty of pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain hadn’t arrived yet, and we had a relaxing breakfast at the roof garden.

 


DAY 4 (3/3): KURAMAE (蔵前), LA KAGU & KAGURAZAKA (神楽坂), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

Across Sumida River from Ryogoku and south of touristy Asakusa lies the low key Kuramae (蔵前), a hub for young artists and craftsmen in Tokyo.  After visiting two interesting museums in Sumida, we opted for a moment of relaxation just a stone throw away at Kuramae.  Like many up and coming neighborhoods, Kuramae contains a rather leisure atmosphere.  Without the tourist crowds that we would normally see in other more popular areas of Tokyo, there were still a considerable amount of local visitors in the area.  Queues were lined up in front of some of the most popular shops such as Kakimori, the wonderful shop of handmade stationery, fountain pens and anything related to writing.  We started off at Camera, a cosy little cafe selling good coffee, snacks, and handmade leather accessories.

01We started our brief Kuramae visit at Camera cafe.

02We sat by the long counter with coffee and snacks.  There were a few racks and shelves of leather accessories on display behind us.

03Maito offers a wide range of clothes and accessories made with dyes extracted from nature, such as flowers and tree bark.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most popular shop in Kuramae we encountered was undoubtedly Kakimori stationery shop.  Visitors lined up outside the shop waiting for their turn to put together a custom made notebook with self-selected paper, cover, ribbon, etc.

05Inside Kakimori, other visitors were busy checking out the fountain pens, ink, and other writing accessories.

06Dandelion Chocolate was another highly popular bean-to-bar chocolate factory originated from San Francisco.

07We also spent some time at Koncept, a trendy shop with cool merchandises from all over Japan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Kuramae, we took the metro to visit another interesting trendy fashion and design store, the La Kagu.  A grand wooden staircase provided a welcoming gesture for all pedestrians and visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConverted from a 1965 warehouse of a publishing company by renowned architect Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), La Kagu immediately became a retail landmark in at Kagurazaka (神楽坂).

03La Kagu is consisted of different lifestyle zones: food, clothing, shelter and knowledge.

04After La Kagu, we walked along the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂).  Kagurazaka (神楽坂) is a traditional Japanese neighborhood with a French twist, thanks to the considerable number of French expats living in the area.

05Cafes, restaurants, bakeries and boutiques line up the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂).

06In a side street, we stopped by a ramen store for dinner.

07We ordered our ramen from the machine outside.

08The friendly staff then prepared our bowls right in front of us.

09No complain could be made by ending the day with a bowl of delicious ramen in a local neighborhood of Tokyo.


DAY 4 (2/3): EDO TOKYO MUSEUM (江戸東京博物館), Sumida, Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

This was our third visit to Tokyo.  Apart from its delicious food and sleek fashion, we were also eager to learn about the city’s history.  In Sumida, we chose to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum, an interesting museum on Tokyo’s history housed in a monumental building designed by Kiyonori Kikutake (菊竹 清訓).  Established in 1993, the museum offers a good introduction of the history of Tokyo, from the founding of Edo to the present day.  Raised on a platform overlooking Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館), the architecture was modeled after an old storehouse in the Kurazukuri style.  Unlike Sumida Hokusai Museum where the scale of the minimalist architecture fits perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood, Edo Tokyo Museum takes a much more monumental approach.

01As soon as we stepped out the lift from Ryōgoku Station, we were overwhelmed by the monumental museum building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the entrance platform underneath the raised museum building via a grand staircase.

03At the far side of the entrance platform we could see the famous Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館).

04We purchased the museum tickets and headed towards the red escalator.

05Enclosed in a glass tube, the red escalator was the main access point up to the museum.

06A partial reconstructed Nihonbashi (日本橋) lay ahead of us once we entered the museum main hall.

07Below the reconstructed Nihonbashi, the most prominent feature was the reconstructed Nakamuraza Kabuki Theatre.

08The story of Tokyo began with the founding of Edo Castle (江戸城), the residence of the shogun.

09From different miniature models, we learnt the evolution of Edo and then Tokyo.

10Interesting information also included traditions and festivals in Tokyo.

11Theatre art was an important part of the Japanese culture and history of Tokyo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADominated with Western brick houses built after a fire burnt down much of the area in 1872, Ginza (銀座) Bricktown was the model area of modernization during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt certain period of the day, there would be performances and activities held in front of the reconstructed Nakamuraza Kabuki Theatre.

 


DAY 4 (1/3): SUMIDA HOKUSAI MUSEUM (すみだ北斎美術館), Sumida (墨田), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

After a full day excursion of historical temples and natural scenery in Nikko, we decided to spend the next day to explore another neighborhood in Tokyo.  We started the day at the southwest area of Sumida District (墨田区), near the metro station of Ryogoku (両国).  Many tourists come to Ryogoku (両国) for sumo (相撲): visit sumo stables to view professional practice, or checked out chanko nabe restaurants for a sumo meal, or even watch a game of sumo wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall).  We, however, came to the area for museum hopping.

Opened in 2016, the Sumida Hokusai Museum is being considered as a novel cultural icon of Sumida.  Designed by Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the sleek architecture houses exhibitions to showcase the life and works of the world famous ukiyo-e (浮世絵) artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).  With his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景), Hokusai is definitely the most iconic figure of ukiyo-e (浮世絵) in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868).  Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the founder of SANAA and a recipient of the Pritzker Prize in architecture with Ryue Nishizawa, is also a generation defining Japanese architect in her own right.  From the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, New Museum in New York, Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, to Louvre Lens Museum in France, Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA have inspired uncounted architects and designers around the world in the last two decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Midoricho Park (緑町公園) where Sumida Hokusai Museum is erected, is also the birthplace of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASejima’s building immediately became a cultural icon in the rather low key residential neighborhood.  The building provides an interesting backdrop for the community play area of Midoricho Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe building scale and the facade’s level of reflectiveness express a certain degree of novelty without creating an overwhelming impact to the surrounding context.

04The cave like slit at each of the four sides provides a prominent entrance gateway at each side.

05The reflectivity of the museum’s metal cladding is right on.

06Everything on the facade is clean and minimal.

07We walked to the main entrance via one of the triangular opening on the facade.

08The facets of the glass panes and the reflections of the outside offer a unique entrance experience.

09The detailing of the triangular opening is once again clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe angular aspects of the architecture is carried through into the interior.

11The washroom on the ground floor is a cute little cube at the lobby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeside Sejima’ architecture, the works of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) were well worth the admission.

13The exhibition space is not big.  Most of his paintings are hung along the wall.  Artifacts such as books and sketches.

14The most famous works by  Kazuyo Sejima is Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景 Fugaku Sanjūroku-kei).  A selection of the 36 prints had been put on display.

15The Great Wave off Kanagawa is perhaps the most well known image by Katsushika Hokusai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the final works by Katsushika Hokusai are also on display.

17A wax display depicting the studio of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) and his daughter back in the Edo Period.

18Outside of the exhibition area, there is a seating area with great views towards the Sky Tree.


DAY 3 (6/6): ASAKUSA AT NIGHT (浅草), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2017.06.16

We both felt asleep on the train back to Tokyo.  The normally popular tourist district of Asakusa (浅草) was largely deserted by the time we walked out Asakusa Station at around 9pm.  We didn’t want to return to our hotel yet.  We decided to wander around Asakusa, from the world famous Kaminarimon (雷門) of Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) to the inner streets of dining, shopping and entertainment district of Rokku.  Most shops were closed except for some restaurants and street eateries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings and streetscape around Tobu Asakusa Station reveal the former glory of Asakusa when the district was a foremost area in Tokyo.

02Tokyo Skytree and Philippe Starck’s Asahi Beer Hall stood out in the skyline beyond.

03Kengo Kuma’s Asakusa Culture and Tourist Centre (淺草文化中心) took on a different appearance under the perfect illumination.

04Surrounded by scaffolding, the Kaminarimon (雷門) of Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) found a moment of peace with the absence of tourists.

05The 200m Nakamise (仲見世) Shopping Street closed for the night.  Security guards were checking the shopping streets to ensure no visitor stayed behind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Nakamise (仲見世), we entered a side street (雷門柳小路) into the grid network of small streets of restaurants, cafes, and bars.

07Orange Street (オレンジ通り), a street famous for its orange paint lies at the centre of the dining and entertainment area of Asakusa.

08The Rokku area of Asakusa was once the biggest entertainment district in Japan before WWII.  During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Asakusa lies outside the city wall and was a red light and theatre district.  During the prewar years of the 20th century, theatres and cinemas dominated the Rokku area.  Much of Asakusa was destroyed during the war.  Today, the entertainment district of Asakusa was only a shadow of its past.

10Some restaurants in the area still maintains the atmosphere of the prewar days.

11In contrast to the spirituality and history of Sensoji Temple just a few blocks away, the Rox Dome is a popular indoor batting stadium.

 

12The atmospheric Dempoin Dori (傳法院通) offers a glimpse of the former theatre and entertainment district.

Not many pedestrians were around at Dempoin Dori.  However some of the restaurants were still open.  The traditional shopfronts reminded visitors the appearance of the lively high street during the prewar years.

17Despite its decline in the postwar years, Asakusa remains an interesting place to stroll around and get a feel of Tokyo’s history and its vibrant dining scenes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, the Rokku area is still a focus of dining and entertainment experience, with outdoor eateries here and there near the junction of Don Quijote Department Store.

16Most shops were closed for the night, but the street-side eateries were still quite lively when we were there.

18The junction in front of Don Quijote Department Store was brightly lit up by neon lights of theatres and shops.

19Apart from the street eateries and traditional shops, there are also covered arcades in the area providing another alternative shopping experience.

20After strolling for an hour or so, we headed back to Asakusa Station and took the metro back to Shibuya.  Passing by the narrow alleyways near the station, the Tokyo Skytree across Sumida River could be clearly seen at the street end, revealing a new chapter of shopping and entertainment just a stone throw away from Asakusa.


DAY 2 (3/4): A STROLL IN NAKAMEGURO (中目黒) AND DAIKANYAMA (代官山), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

Only 15 minutes of walk separates Nakameguro (中目黒) and Daikanyama (代官山), two pleasant residential neighborhoods close to Shibuya and Ebisu.  Last year in 2016, I made my first visit to Daikanyama, and was immediately captivated by its elegance as an upscale residential and shopping area.  This time, we ventured further south towards Meguro River into the neighborhood of Nakameguro.  While Nakameguro is not as established as Daikanyama, its charm as a hip and lovely residential and shopping area has become quite well known to both the locals and foreign visitors.  Our stroll in Nakameguro and Daikanyama began at Higashi-yama Restaurant, where we had a fine lunch.  Then we found our way to the Meguro River, a canal like waterway that used to be an awful stream filled with industrial waste before the 1980s.  The fate of Nakameguro changed its course after the government cleaned up the river in the late 1980s.  Since then the first group of hipsters moved in, and soon trendy cafes, boutiques and residential developments mushroomed along the Meguro River, and gradually transformed the area into one of the most desirable residential neighborhood in Tokyo.  We walked along the river and stopped by a number of shops, before heading over to Sarugakucho (猿楽町) of Daikanyama for a revisit of the magnificent T-Site and the nearby boutiques.  Literally means “monkey fun town”, Sarugakucho of Daikanyama is a popular spot in Tokyo simply to enjoy life: unique fashion boutiques, coffee shops, bookstores, hair salons, organic vendors, furniture and design shops, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Meguro River seems like a canal with peaceful and clear water.

02As the government cleaned up Meguro River, the character of Nakameguro was completely transformed into a pleasant residential neighborhood and a concentration of interesting shops, cafes and restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany shops along Meguro River are catered to serve the immediate community of local residents, such as hair salons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOr local eateries…

05Considered as one of the star attractions in the area, COW Books in Nakameguro has a charming collection of rare and out-of-print books.

06Blue Blue, a unique clothing store owned by Seilin & Co. Hollywood Ranch Market selling a wide range of garments that combines traditional indigo dyeing and contemporary fashion.

07Over at Daikanyama, shops are more concentrated in a clusters of narrow streets of Sarugakucho near T-Site, the famous Tsutaya Bookstore and its garden of shops.   UES Jeans is a small boutique that sells high quality denim.  They believe a garment should be fully used till the end of the product’s life.  The name “UES” is derived from the word “waste”, with reference to the Japanese habit of reusing old clothes for dust cloths at the end of the garment’s life.

08Designed by architect Akihisa Hirata in 2007, Sarugaku is a cluster of six commercial blocks surrounding a valley-like courtyard in a narrow site.

09At Sarugakucho, we couldn’t resist to check out Okura (オクラ), one of the most popular boutiques in the area.  Under the same mother company as Nakameguro’s Blue Blue, Okura is renowned for their garments that perfectly combine traditional indigo dyeing and tailor techniques with contemporary fashion trends and functions.

10Maison Kitsune is another unique boutique in Sarugakucho.  Maison Kitsune represents a success story of international collaboration.  It is founded by French electornic musician Gildas Loaec and Japanese architect Masaya Kuroki, in an attempt to create a brand under the intertwining influences of music and fashion.  “Kitsune” is the Japanese word for “fox”, representing a character of versatility and the power of changing appearance.

11Our brief afternoon walk of Daikanyama ended at the T-Site, the garden retail complex behind Tsutaya Bookstore.

12Other than Tsutaya Bookstore, the stylish restaurant Ivy Place is the main focus in the T-Site.

13At the T-Site, the primary attraction is definitely the Tsutaya Bookstore.  It was our second time to visit this beautiful bookstore.  Similar to my first visit a year ago, we were delighted to find that every corner of the complex was enjoyed by customers of all sorts.

15To us, Tsutaya and the T-Site represents an ideal venue to spend a Sunday afternoon.

17It was getting dark as we left Daikanyama.  We leisurely walked back to our hotel in Shibuya to take a little break before dinner.

 


DAY 2 (2/4): HIGASHI-YAMA RESTAURANT, near Nakameguro (中目黒), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

After Ebisu, our next stop was Higashi-yama Restaurant in Nakameguro (中目黒).  In a quiet residential street in Higashi-yama 15 minutes walk from Nakameguro Station, Higashi-yama Restaurant was well hidden from the street.  We came across this restaurant from our online research.  We were attracted by the minimalist food presentation and the atmospheric interior setting.  We reserved a table for lunch through their website two weeks prior to our departure.  After the traditional Kaiseki experience at Ueno Park the day before, we were hoping that Higashi-yama would offer us a contemporary interpretation of Japanese cuisine.  “A detached house located in Higashi-yama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, away from the clamor of the city, and be a place where people meet and discuss what matters most to them, a place where new communication is born.”  According to the description on their website, the story of this tranquil spot in Tokyo’s Higashi-yama where people come and chat and enjoy modern Japanese food all began in 1998.  Our experience of Higashi-yama began at a narrow stairway off the street.

01A flight of steps led us away from a residential street up to a hidden courtyard.

02Well hidden from the street, the entrance courtyard offers a serene buffer between the street and the restaurant.  The courtyard served well to decant our souls of hastiness and calm down our hearts (as we were almost late for the booking).

03The interior of the restaurant is simple and unpretentious, with traditional Japanese dark timber millwork in a bright and simple setting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tall shelf displaying wine and sake anchors one corner of the interior.

05Wood is such an important material in Japanese culture, from table, chopsticks to chopstick holders.

06The appetizer consisted of eight ingredients fresh to the season.

07Both the taste and the beautiful presentation of the food matched with the overall ambience of the restaurant.

08One of the main dish we ordered was the grilled snapper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other main we chose was the tempura seasonal ingredients.

10After the tasty appetizers and main dishes, we were led by the staff downstairs via a beautiful and modern stair.

12The water feature by the stairwell seems like a contemporary interpretation of a chōzubachi water basin in front of a zen tea house.

13We were led to a comfortable sitting area for dessert.

14Mocha pudding and mango ice-cream came went well with hot Japanese tea.

15An interesting copper sculpture was mounted on the wall over our head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpposite to our sitting area, a staff was preparing tea and chatting with another customer by a high counter.

17 After dessert, we paid the bill and were led to exit the building through a copper door directly back to the street.  Overall, Higashi-yama Restaurant offered us a fine experience, with good food to satisfy our taste-buds and a zen and minimalist environment to sooth our souls.

 


DAY 2 (1/4): YEBISU GARDEN PLACE AND TOKYO PHOTOGRAPHIC ART MUSEUM, Ebisu (恵比寿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

On the second day, we decided to stay close to the area around Shibuya.  We hopped on the Yamanote Line and went one stop over to Ebisu (恵比寿).  Known as the God of Fishermen and Luck, Ebisu is a popular divinity in Japanese mythology.  It was then used by Japan Beer Brewery Company to come up with the brand of Yebisu Beer back in 1890.  Established their production facilities near Meguro, Yebisu Beer is one of the oldest beer brand in Japan.  In the modern era, the train station and the surrounding community was named after the brewery as Ebisu.  In 1988, the beer brewery were moved to a new location.  The original brewery site at Ebisu was then transformed into a commercial complex consisted of office towers, retail, and museums known as the Yebisu Garden Place.  The Western architectural style create a unique atmosphere, attracting young couples and the local community to dine, shop and relax.

Many tourists go to Yebisu Garden Place to visit the Museum of Yebisu Beer.  We came specifically to visit Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP Museum).  Opened in 1995, the museum is known as the only public museum in Japan dedicated to photography.  The museum has recently gone through two years of extensive renovations.  Three wall display of world famous photographs marked the museum entrance at the end of a  colonnade.  Three exhibitions were on and we opted to see them all.  The first one was “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, a selection of works taken by Japanese photographers during the present Heisei era (平成).  The second was Museum Bhavan by Dayanita Singh, a renowned female photographer who captures the various faces and colours of the magnificently complicated Indian society.  The third was World Press Photo 17, the annual award event to compliment a selection of works by the world’s photojournalists in the past year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yebisu Garden Place offers a lot of pleasant public spaces for the community of Ebisu.

02Two traditional red brick buildings mark the entrance plaza of Yebisu Garden Place.

01Many people arrived at Yebisu Garden Place about the same time as we did, probably going to work.

05We arrived at Yebisu Garden Place in the morning at around 9am.  We had breakfast at one of the cafe near the entrance of Yebisu Garden Place.

5aThe interior of the cafe was causal and sleek.

03Across from the cafe, the Yebisu Beer Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the history of Japanese beer.  While a Mitsukoshi department store occupies the opposite side of the entrance square.

 

06A barrel vault atrium and a gentle ramp frame the central axis of Yebisu Garden Place, with the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon at the terminus.

07We then walked under the canopy to the airy Central Square.

08The design of Yebisu Garden Place is dominated by classical layout and axial arrangement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClassical architectural elements include the colonnades that appear in a number of locations in the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Central Square, there were benches painted with playful patterns that marked the 20th anniversary of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYebisu Garden Place is frequented with locals.  We saw a few who came dressed in traditional garments.

11The Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon is a famous luxurious venue in the area of Ebisu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur main reason coming to Yebisu Garden Place was the TOP Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), formerly known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

14The entrance colonnade of the TOP Museum offers visitors a pleasant approach.

15Shōji Ueda (植田正治)’s Sand Dune and My Wife III (妻のいる砂丘風景III) , an iconic Robert Capa’s D-Day shots, and Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hotel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville) provide a dramatic setting for the museum entrance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stayed at the museum for about two hours, seeing three exhibitions including “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, and World Press Photo 17.  The TOP Museum is a fantastic cultural institution for anyone who love photography.  It offers temporary exhibitions on four levels of museum spaces.

 


DAY 1 (6/6): KAIKAYA BY THE SEA (開花屋), Shibuya (渋谷), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

Everyone who has visited Tokyo would probably admit that he/she was  spoiled by the abundance of dining options while staying in the Japanese capital.  For us, it was actually quite challenging to pin down a place to eat near our hotel in Shibuya, because there were simply too many options (6,866 restaurants in Shibuya alone listed on the tourist website Tripadvisor).  We began our trip research about two weeks prior departure.  We checked guidebooks, searched travel websites and read online blogs, and came up with a short list of places to visit and eat.  The name Kaikaya By The Sea (開花屋), a popular seafood restaurant at Shibuya, came up multiple times during our research.  Tempted by their highly recommended seafood, we made a table reservation at Kaikaya for our first evening.  After our visit to Ueno and St Mary’s Cathedral, we made it back to Shibuya right on time to Kaikaya By The Sea at 18:30.

 

01Kaikaya By The Sea is located west of Central Shibuya, in a small street west of the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City.  The “fishy” mural under the shop awning introduces a sense of seaside relaxation to the small urban alleyway of Shibuya.

02The restaurant vestibule is decorated with lots of visitor photos.

03The setting was causal and relax with interesting sea and food related decorations throughout the interior.

04The door handle reminded me of a bowl of seafood soup.

05From his years of surfing, the owner of Kaikaya By The Sea maintains close connections with fishermen working by the sea.  Fish is brought in fresh directly from Sagami Bay (相模湾).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu at Kaikaya is quite creative and diverse, from local Japanese sashimi to fusion seafood dishes, and so as the visitors from local customers to foreign tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKaikaya By The Sea is cozy and full of personal touches of the owner.

08An English leaflet introduces a few of their feature dishes.  We ended up trying the Tuna Spareribs recommended by the staff.

09Our first dish was a plate of very fresh assorted sashimi.

10The second dish was broiled live tiger prawns prepared in Hong Kong style.  Again, freshness was the key and we could clearly taste the sweetness of the prawn meat.

11Then came the in-house specialty tuna spareribs.  They are actually baked marinaded tuna jaw.  The dish was quite a pleasant surprise to us as we didn’t know what to expect.

12Six pieces of fatty tuna (maguro toro) sushi, pickled ginger and fresh wasabi root.  A leaf shaped grinder was given for us to DIY the wasabi paste.  The toro was so soft as if melted right after we put it into our mouth.

13Fresh octopus with rock salt and fresh lemon allowed us to taste the freshness and tenderness of the octopus.

14Despite we had already eaten a lot, we couldn’t resist and asked for the dessert menu.

15Outside the kitchen of Kaikaya By The Sea.

16It was already dark by the time we finished our delicious seafood dinner.

17We took a causal stroll in the area and found our way back to Central Shibuya.

18We then walked through the shopping centre of Shibuya Mark City and Shibuya Hikarie to return to our hotel and called it a day.


DAY 1 (5/6): ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (東京カテドラル聖マリア大聖堂), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After Ueno Park, we still have time to visit another place before our 18:30 dinner reservation back in Shibuya.  West from Ueno, we took the metro to the residential neighborhood of Sekiguchi in Bunkyo District.  We stepped into the peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi, and used Google Map to find our way to St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.  Apart from its religious significance, the cathedral building is also a masterpiece of modernist architecture designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  The cathedral was completed in 1964, about the same time as Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Olympics.

01The peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi led us toward’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACladded with stainless steel, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral replaces its Gothic and wooden predecessor that was destroyed during the Second World War.

03Kenzo Tange’s version of the cathedral was much simpler than a traditional Gothic church.  The essence of the building is expressed through the combination of geometry, lines, shades, and reflections.

04On a plan in the form of a cross, Kenzo Tange extruded eight hyperbolic parabolas upwards to form this unique piece of architecture.

05When seen from above, the cathedral and its skylights would appear exactly in the shape of the cross.

06Reaching 61.68m, the bell tower is separated from the main church building.

07The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral should be a huge surprise for any first time visitors.  The concrete structural shell is fully exposed, providing a minimalist interior where light and shades play the role to create a spiritual atmosphere.

08Benches inside St. Mary’s Cathedral face toward the main altar, behind which stands the tall window extending all the way to the ceiling, then runs across the ceiling to the opposite end of the building.

09The spiral stair behind the seating is a neat feature that goes up the largest organ in Japan.

11The large organ was manufactured by Italian company Mascioni.  We were lucky to experience its beautiful sound when staff were practicing the organ when we were there.

12After a fantastic architectural treat at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we made a short walk in the neighborhood to Zoshigaya Metro Station (雑司が谷駅) for the Fukutoshin Metro back to Shibuya.

13On our way, we passed through the peaceful residential neighborhood of Mejirodai (目白台).

14The afternoon sunlight of the early summer day was brilliant.  The half-hour walk was pleasant and we hardly saw other tourists along the way.


DAY 1 (4/6): NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WESTERN ART (国立西洋美術館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

Completed in 1959, the National Museum of Western Art is the only building in the Far East designed by modernist architectural maestro Le Corbusier.  In 2016, the museum building has been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage along with 16 other Le Corbusier’s works such as Villa Savoye, Unite d’habitation Marseille, Notre-Dame-Haut de Ronchamp, Chandigarh Capitol Complex, etc.  We came for the modernist architecture, although many paintings and sculptures on display by world renowned artists were quite interesting too.

01Precast concrete panels were used as the main cladding material for the museum.

02We were greeted at the front entrance by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the archer.  Bourdelle was an influential French sculptor in late 19th and early 20th century.

03The Thinker at Tokyo National Museum of Western Art was made after the death of Auguste Rodin.

04The lobby atrium of the museum was a pleasant surprise.  The high volume of the space and the trunk-like columns drew our attention to the unique skylight above.

06A skylight consisted of multiple triangles provides an interesting design feature to the space, and also magnificent indirect lighting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn architectural model provides a sectional view of the atrium and shows the exterior form of the skylight feature.

05At one side of the atrium, a zigzag ramp led all visitors to the main exhibition on the upper level.

08On the upper deck, we could get a clear view of the lobby atrium with its statues.

09Again, the concept of bringing indirect sunlight into the interior was the clear intent from Le Corbusier.  The glazing bulkhead above the paintings provided the main source of ambient light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe collection of the museum ranges from Renaissance to the modern ages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe glazing feature brings in indirect sunlight, but it also creates a long bulkhead along one side of the exhibition hall.

12Some of the paintings and statues were interesting, but our focus was always on the architecture itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the museum courtyard, we could see the various facade cladding materials used at different periods of expansion.

14At the forecourt, another zigzag ramp supposedly leads visitors to the lower courtyard.  Now the entire area, including the exterior ramp, is closed off.

15After the National Museum of Western Art, we thought we had enough dosage of art and history for the day.  We were quite tired due to the red-eye flight.  We decided to check out another piece of architectural gem in Tokyo, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sekiguchi.


DAY 1 (3/6): TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (東京国立博物館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After the magnificent lunch bento at Innsyoutei, we followed the main path further into Ueno Park to reach the museum clusters.  Here one can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Wester Art, as well as the largest of them all, the Tokyo National Museum.  Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館) is the oldest and largest Japanese museum.  We didn’t plan to see everything.  We were a little tired from the flight, so we took it easy to explore the museum complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Tokyo National Museum is consisted of several buildings: Honkan, Toyokan, Heiseikan, Hyokeikan, etc.  We started with Honkan, the main museum hall.  This present Honkan was designed by Watanabe Jin. The building was completed in 1938 to replace its predecessor designed by British architect Josiah Conder.  The former building was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

02There are two main levels in the Honkan.  We walked up the grand staircase to the upper level to begin our visit.

03Beautiful amours of samurai and shogunate were some of the most impressive artefacts in the museum.

04The “Fujin and Raijin”or the Wind and Thunder God by Ogata Korin reminded us our visit to Kyoto’s Kenninji Temple (建仁寺), the original location of the screen.  At Kenninji, we saw a replica of the famous screen.

05The Yaksha Generals (12 Heavenly Generals) is one of the most impressive display in the historical sculpture collection.

06Architectural drawings by British architects from the 19th century reveal the popularity of Western culture in Japan during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHistorical photograph of a Japanese samurai taken in 1862.

08At Honkan, there is a room opens to the garden behind the museum.  The room is decorated with exquisite mosaic and plastered motifs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA traditional telephone matches well with the historical decor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA garden of traditional pavilion and reflective pool provided some fresh air during our museum visit.  Unfortunately the pavilion was inaccessible from the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from sculptures, paintings and photographs, historical textiles and garments also provided us a glimpse of the old Japan.

12The museum shop at Honkan is beautiful designed.  A gentle passageway ramps up to the upper mezzanine.  Along the ramp stands a low wall of book display.

13After Honkan, we walked to the adjacent Toyokan Building.  Toyokan houses a few levels of artifacts and artworks from Asia and the Middle East.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chinese and Korean exhibits reveal the close linkage between the cultures of the Far East.

15The Toyokan also contains some interesting pieces from Egypt and the Near East.  After visiting Honkan and Toyokan, we had a little more understanding on the heritage of Japan, and felt it was time to check out the other museums in Ueno Park.  So we exited the Tokyo National Museum, passed by a gigantic model of a blue whale in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science and headed towards the National Museum of Western Art.

 


DAY 1 (2/6): INNSYOUTEI (韻松亭), Kaiseki in Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we took the Ginza Line Metro to Asakusa (浅草) to purchase the limited express train tickets for our upcoming Nikko day trip in two days’ time.  Then we decided to begin the day with some leisure time at Ueno Park and its museums after our red-eye flight.  With lush greenery, old trees, historical shrines and several museums, Ueno Park is a good place for a pleasant stroll.  From online research, we came across a beautiful restaurant called Innsyoutei (韻松亭).  Housed in a century-old timber building in the heart of Ueno Park, Innsyoutei serves a causal version of Kyoto kaiseki cuisine made with seasonal ingredients.  We decided to check it out before our museum hopping.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe original timber house of Innsyoutei was built in 1875.  A little over a decade ago, the building underwent a major renovation.  This rustic tea house has long been a landmark in Ueno Park, where visitors would stop for light refreshments.  The renovation maintained the original building layout, but replaced much of the timber structure with materials savaged from other old buildings in Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture.

02The traditional restaurant complex is full of the beauty of Zen.

03Innosyoutei (韻松亭) literally means “rhythm of the pine pavilion”.  This poetic restaurant remains popular with park visitors, especially during hanami (花見) season when the timber house is surrounded by clusters of cherry blossoms.

04Once entered the vestibule, we were immediately greeted by the fragrance of the incense.

05We took off our shoes at the vestibule, and were led to the dining hall on the upper level.

06The wooden stair is accompanied by a beautiful railing made of bamboo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACovered with tatami floor mat, the dining hall was well lit with natural light coming from the large windows at both ends of the room.  Sitting on zabuton (floor cushions), guests gathered at low tables on the tatami to enjoy their Hana-kago-zen (flower basket meal).

08Outside the large window, we could see lush green everywhere.

09.JPGIt was not hard to imagine the beauty of the space during cherry blossoms when the lush green would be replaced with clusters of pink flowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sat down at a low table and ordered our lunch sets with much anticipation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe appetizers soon arrived.  We were immediately impressed by the presentation and the taste of food.

13We ordered two different set meals of seasonal fish and vegetables.  The food was beautifully arranged and presented like two flower baskets with eye-catching colours.  The dishes were made of various vegetables skillfully prepared to bring out the distinct flavors and textures of the ingredients. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATofu, eggplant, beans, and mushroom might sound simple.  Yet when they were individually prepared with different flavours of sweetness, sourness and saltiness, and were tasted in a certain order of sequence, the experience would become much more complex and sophisticated.  Sometimes, we might not be able to tell what the actual ingredient was just by the look, and would get a pleasant surprise after the first bite. Every of our bite became an opportunity for a pleasant surprise, and was full of anticipation. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA cup of creamy yogurt-like custard beautifully served.

15The meal finished with the traditional delight, a mochi (rice cake) kind of dessert wrapped in a leaf.

16We unwrapped the leaf with high anticipation and were rewarded with a perfect gift to end the wonderful meal.


DAY 1 (1/6): ARRIVAL IN SHIBUYA, Tokyo, 2017.06.14

A brief Tokyo holiday in Mid-June 2017 was an ad-hoc decision after consecutive weeks of exhausting overtime work in April and May. With so much to offer as a cosmopolitan, Tokyo is an ideal destination that always delights us in various aspects from design exhibitions, novel fashion, seasonal delicacies to a simple cup of coffee. For five splendid days in the supposedly rainy season, we were fortunate to enjoy three full days of sunshine, and encountered only an hour or two of heavy rain on the last day as we were about to leave the Japanese capital on the Narita Express train.

Famed for its scramble crossing, youthful fashion and glittering neon lights, Shibuya (渋谷) of Tokyo also has a tranquil side lying just a block or two away from its vibrant shopping and entertainment scenes, and that was where we stayed for four nights at the periphery of the 24-hour vibrant actions of Shibuya.  Since the morning when the Narita Express train brought us directly from the airport after our red-eye flight from Hong Kong, we immediately found Shibuya an excellent base within walking distance to the surrounding neighborhoods such as Harajuku (原宿), Aoyama (青山), Ebisu (恵比寿), Daikanyama (代官山) and Nakameguro (中目黒), and a super convenient hub for public transit, where the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) intersects with several other Metro Lines and Private Railway Lines.

Our Tokyo journey 2017 began in Shibuya, in the midst of magnificent urban dynamic where the stylish young generation flock to the trendy fashion shops, where the locals gather around the statue of Hachikō (the loyal Akita dog (秋田犬) that continued to stay in front of Shibuya Station to wait for its owner for nine years after the owner’s death) to meet their friends, and where exciting tourists would stand in the flock of people at the scramble crossing for selfies in between traffic lights.  A slight drawback on staying in Shibuya was the intense construction works surrounding the station due to the upcoming Olympics Games.  With the new additions of commercial towers, underground shopping streets, and a beautiful new railway station, we anticipate a dramatic transformation of Shibuya before 2020. The current hoarding around construction sites, temporary walkways and directional signs enhance the maze-like character of this world’s fourth busiest railway station.  After all, we came to Tokyo to experience its magnificent urban vibrancy and dynamic cultures, and we were more than happy to call Shibuya home for five fantastic days.

01Even during a weekday morning, the scramble crossing of Shibuya is still teemed with pedestrians.
02The advertisement billboard of Kis-My-Ft2, the seven-member Japanese boy band, was the first thing we saw as we stepped out Shibuya Station after the two-hour Narita Express train ride.
03The wall of Shibuya Railway Station is decorated with relief of Hachikō (the loyal Akita dog (秋田犬) that continued to stay in front of Shibuya Station to wait for its owner for nine years after the owner’s death).  The bronze Hachikō statue nearby is a popular meeting place for the locals.
04Our hotel Sakura Fleur Aoyama was five minute walk away from Shibuya Station.
05We passed by the concourse of Shibuya Hikarie (渋谷ヒカリエ) every time we walked between Shibuya Station and our hotel.  Shibuya Hikarie is a mixed use tower comprised of offices, theatre, exhibition spaces and retail.
06We also frequented the footbridge between Shibuya Hikarie and the station.
07In the evening, the plaza in front of Shibuya Station is full of life.
08While most come to meet up with friends for shopping or dining, some Shibuya visitors would go beyond and come dressed in costumes.  We saw a young man dressed up as if Finn (played by John Boyega) in the Star Wars.
09In front of the station plaza is the iconic scramble crossing surrounded by LED advertisement screens and neon lights.
10In front of Shibuya Station Plaza, a couple on a bicycle stopped at the crossing.
11Every few minutes, a change of traffic lights would allow pedestrians to pour onto the tarmac crossing from all directions.  In midst of the crowds, there were always people (often tourists) standing still to take photographs of themselves and friends in the sea of people.
12Some selfie takers were quite serious and creative about their Shibuya Crossing photo.
13The vivid colours of advertisement screens and billbroads at Shibuya Crossing were often complemented with visitors dressed in outstanding outfits.
14The legendary Shibuya 109 was once the hub of youth fashion and styles.
15The iconic Shibuya Hikarie (second building from the left) may soon to be covered with new commercial towers.
16On the 11th floor of Shibuya Hikarie there is a sky lobby that allows visitors to have a birdeye’s view of central Shibuya.
17view of the scramble crossing from the sky lobby at Shibuya Hikarie.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Shibuya Hikarie, a display model of Shibuya of the near future clearly shows the upcoming additions (highlighted with internal lighting) to the already lively area.
19Near Shibuya Station, narrow Yokocho dining alleyways are some of the hidden gems in Shibuya.
20A few blocks away from the railway station and crossing, Shibuya has another side of low key tranquility.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a few minutes walk from the vibrant scramble crossing, wandering in the peaceful streets of Shibuya almost felt like an otherworldly experience.

SENSOJI (浅草寺) & SKYTREE, Tokyo (東京), Japan

On the last day in Tokyo, we decided to pay a visit to Tokyo’s oldest and most popular Buddhist temple, the Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) and Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾)’s Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center right across the street from the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門).  Sensoji was definitely the busiest attraction we visited in Tokyo.  Everywhere in the temple ground was filled with people, from the souvenir shop lined Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) to the Kannondo Main Hall.

After the temple and Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, we had a little bit of time left before heading to the airport.  We took the metro to check out the nearby Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.  We didn’t go up to the observation deck of the tower, but instead wandered around at the shopping area and the outdoor terrace, where a group of tourists crowded in a small Calbee shop picking the colourful packs of special edition potato chips.

Soon enough, we returned to Shinjuku and boarded an Narita Express to the airport.

1Designed by Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾), the eight storey Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is an architectural gem across the street from the Sensoji.  With exhibition and activity spaces stacked vertically, each floor of the building has a distinct function.

2The ground floor is dedicated to an introduction of the district of Asakusa.

3Glass railing and exposed timber joists wrap around a central atrium.

4On the roof terrace of Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, there are information signage on the railing associated with the view.

5At two metro stops to the east, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) stands out at the background, while the wavy golden feature of the Asahi Beer Hall dominates the foreground.  Designed by famous designer Philippe Starck, the golden feature is meant to represent the burning heart of Asahi beer.

6To the north, the view from Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is dominated by the Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り), the procession route of Sensoji.

7Across the street, the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門) or “Thunder Gate” marks the start of Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り).

8Standing 11.7m tal, with its enormous lantern and statues at both sides, Kaminarimon (雷門) is very popular with tourists and locals.

9Lined with souvenir and snack stores at both sides, the 250m Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) is always packed with visitors.

10The Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) features three large lanterns, with the 3.75m tall chochin (提灯) hang in the middle.

11A cute white akita dog rests at the courtyard in front of Hozōmon (宝蔵門).

12The prominent Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) can be seen from Sensoji.

13Many visitors would gather close to the big incense burner in the central courtyard and cover themselves with the smoke, due to a traditional belief that the smoke can improve their thinking and make them smarter.

DSC_3221The entrance of the Kannondo Main Hall is also decorated with a huge red lantern.

14With 30 million of visitors per year, the Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) is one of the most visited religious site in the world.

15Traditional lanterns on the pavement waiting to be hung.

16The five-storey pagoda is also another main feature at Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺).

17At the main ground of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺), there are a row of food vendors selling all kinds of Japanese snacks.

18Near Sensō-ji, the famous Azumabashi (吾妻橋) is a popular spot to photograph the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) and Asahi Beer Hall.

19At the base of Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー), a series of outdoor terraces provide a pleasant approach to the tower.

20Designed by Nikken Sekkei, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is the second tallest structure in the world just behind Burj Khalifa (830m).


CRAFT MARKET UNDER THE VIADUCT, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, Tokyo, Japan

When most people hear Akihabara (秋葉原) they would immediately think of electronic shops.  One railway stop to its north, Okachimachi (御徒町) is known for its wholesale stores selling jewelry and ornaments.  Since 2010, between the two stations emerged a new hotspot dedicated to everything that is made by the artisan hands.  Situated under the railway viaduct, this hidden gem offers an alternative shopping scene for anyone who admires the skillful hands of devoted Japanese craftsmen.  Merchandises range from umbrellas, shoes, housewares, jewelry, leather products, naturally dyed clothing, artworks, souvenirs, etc.  The name “2k540” is a reference in railway’s terms, which refers to the 2.54km distance from Tokyo Station.  “Aki-Oka” refers to Akihabara and Okachimachi, indicating the craft market is situated between the two stations.

9At the underside of a railway viaduct, the entrance to the “market street” 2k540 expresses a community friendly and low-key atmosphere.

1The logo of “2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan” is painted like a road mark on the asphalt floor.

2The pre-existing structure and the shop buildings on the market street of 2k540 are painted in white, revealing a coherent environment.

6One of the shops at 2k540 manufactures clothing with dyes from the natural world, such as sakura flowers.

3Natural light spills in from the gap above the stores and the artificial uplights at the column bases create a poetic atmosphere as if walking in the nave of a cathedral.

4While some shops are housed in minimal white boxes, some are actually set up in the main space in the colonnade.

5We stayed longer than what expected strolling around 2k540.

8At the end of the market street stands a larger store called Japan Department Store, a shop that sells household items and souvenirs from different areas across Japan.

10Like many big cities around the world, creative industries have given different urban spaces, such as old factory buildings and underside of railway viaducts, a second life to thrive.