30 November 2012

Sky Tree and full moon

Stay classy, ladies!

It's a topic guaranteed to deliver strong opinions: women who do their make-up on trains. Me? I'm convinced that only plain girls do it. I've never seen a beautiful girl do it: they might simply finish the camouflage job before they leave home, or they might be too vain to do it in public. Who knows.

I don't like to sit next to a girl who's reconstructing her appearance – it's done with enough arm movement to cause both a frozen shoulder and a tennis elbow – but I find it utterly fascinating to watch this complex process. I never wear make-up, and therefore have no insight into its alchemy.

This particular incident, captured here for posterity, was a new and somewhat disconcerting experience. Curlers? Curlers?! South Africans think Coronation Park when they see that in their own country. (I'm also reminded of the time I arrived at my eikaiwa with freshly washed, slightly damp hair, and got reprimanded by a Japanese colleague for being ill-mannered. Dang, woman, that's exactly what I am! I'm from Africa, for pity's sake, but I can assure you I've never in my life worn curlers in public.)

I got on the Tsukuba Express at Minami-Nagareyama Station and watched as at least six different shades of face powder were applied to different parts of the face. After each application, she stared at herself, pouted into the mirror, smiled, pouted again and then continued. When I got off at the second-last stop, Shin-Okachimachi, the curlers were still firmly lodged. I assume they got taken out somewhere between Shin-Okachimachi and Akihabara.

Oh well, at least she didn't clip her nails …

25 November 2012


Komomaki are straw mats that serve as insect control. Read more about it here. The photos were taken in Hibiya Park.

23 November 2012

So that's what it is!

When I first went chrysanthemum-viewing, this variety's shape and display intrigued me (post here). Aha. Mystery solved, courtesy of Shinjuku Gyoen.

More (different) varieties, just because they're beautiful or quirky:

20 November 2012

A very big ginkgo goes very yellow

Do you remember the big ginkgo (the second-biggest in Tokyo) at Kishimojin in Zōshigaya? I wrote about it in this post. I returned to the temple last weekend, and this is what the ginkgo looks like when its leaves are turning yellow:

19 November 2012

Hallo, Most Honourable Tree!

It's a humbling, awesome experience to touch a living creature that's a few centuries old. This is one of the world-famous Japanese cedars (scientific name Cryptomeria japonica; Japanese name 杉 or sugi) at Nikko.

17 November 2012

Why a Hummer?!

Why drive a Hummer in Sendagi 

where streets are so narrow that you see signs like this everywhere 

and where this

and this

would be so much nicer?

16 November 2012

15 November 2012

Love & Marry (but count your money first)

Because the two automatically, inevitably and unavoidably go together, at least in the mind of the jewellery industry. This is a shop in Okachimachi's jewellery district.

13 November 2012


Photos taken at a chrysanthemum exhibition at Yushima Tenman-gū

It looks like fireworks ...

12 November 2012

Welcome to my Slob Nest

This is a shop in Okachimachi's jewellery district that sells American Indian jewellery, but it could've been the home of a few guys I know ...

10 November 2012

Cute creatures from Saitama

Ōmiya's J.League soccer team is called Ōmiya Ardija. Their mascot is a squirrel (apparently "ardija" is a Spanish word for squirrel). I took these photos of the squirrel mascot near Ōmiya Station.

Saitama's prefectural mascot is Kobaton, a Eurasian collared dove. I would choose an illustration of Kobaton with a book, wouldn't I?

I have no idea who/what this dragon thingy is, but I saw him on a map, and I thought he was cute.

Edit added on 11 November: Thanks to a commenter, I now know this little dragon is Saitama City's mascot. (Saitama is a prefecture, but it also has a city called Saitama-shi or Saitama City.) His name is Tsunaga Ryū Nū. It means something like "the descendent of the dragon of Minuma's rice paddies". (Link here.) He's just getting cuter and cuter! Thanks, Anonymous, for putting me on the right track!

9 November 2012

This one's for Lina

And a few others, like Jay Dee, who's also interested in Japan's lovely manhole cover designs. This one has autumn leaves, which is another Lina favourite. I photographed it in Niiza in Saitama.

If you also think Japan's manhole covers are the best ever, you'll probably enjoy Japan Manhole Covers (English) as well as this site (Japanese). Don't be put off by the latter's name; just look at the designs!

7 November 2012

An elephant parade in Tokyo

During a recent walkpedition in Sendagi, I had a bizarre experience: I saw elephants everywhere - at temples, in parks, in shops. As my students would say, I had a fun!

I even saw a flower elephant in Ueno Park!

It was part of the Urban Greenery Fair in Ueno Park. The notice says this is the zoo's flower topiary.

5 November 2012

This sumptuous bridge ...

Here you go, Tall Gary. This is to say thanks for telling me about all those old books and photos!

"Pausing, I admire the curve of this sumptuous bridge, standing out with astonishing elegance against the distant wilderness of the surrounding countryside. The torrent rumbles underneath in a sinister chasm, pouring out white vapor against a bluish backdrop of forests and mountains without trace of human presence.

"Then remembering certain old pictures preserved in the temples, I try to envision once more, in the midst of this unchanging setting, the processions of long ago crossing over this arc of red lacquer: the war masks, the princes in their terrifying, bizarre magnificence; the emperors whom it was death to gaze upon, surrounded by 'warriors with two swords' beheading the curious who dared to look; all that incredible pomp of old Japan, now gone forever beyond the reach of our imagination." – Pierre Loti, Japoneries d’Automne (1889)

You can read the book online here.

Shinkyō, Nikko's sacred bridge

4 November 2012

Birds love rice, too!

Birds love rice, too! I took these photos in Ueno Park, where locals feed rice to birds. One of the men invited Cecilia to give it a go, so she fed the birds and I took photos. Both happy, but not as happy as the birds!