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Japan-Gashapon-Reffert Who has not remarked on the endless rows of capsule toy machines (“gashapon / gachapon” for the sound the capsules make coming out) lining subway underpasses, building walls and shop fronts in Japan? They hold an inexhaustible source of little trinkets, toys for all ages, really. You put in the coins, turn the crank and a little ball will come rolling out. Each toy series has a number of different figures, but which one will it be this time? The mechanism appeals both to the collector and to the gamer by adding the element of randomness. For 200 or 300 Y, you get your chance. You already have three of the same but others from the series are still missing? Better luck next time…

Pretty Cure characters

Pretty Cure characters

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Asakusa-snacks-mapAsakusa remains one of our favorite areas in Tokyo, and even though we are now staying in Yushima when we are in Tokyo, we go over often. Since my post on our favorite restaurants in Asakusa enjoys lasting popularity, it is time to also talk about our favorite places there for the less hungry, if you just want to snatch a little bite. In fact, Asakusa is full of food option, but let’s get started with three of our favorites in the vicinity of the Tsukuba Express Asakusa station (see map). One of the most popular savory treats in Japan is surely nikuman, a steamed bun with a meat and onion filling. You can load up on those at Sekine (セキネ) behind the ROX building at the corner of Shin-Nakamisedori, a covered shopping street. But attention: when you get them really freshly made, the inside is literally steaming hot.

Yummy nikuman from Sekine

Yummy nikuman from Sekine

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Japan-Tokyo-Kyu-Asakura-House-Reffert Just one subway stop away from the ever crowded Shibuya Crossing (also known as the Shibuya Scramble), an oasis of calm can be found in Tokyo: the Kyu Asakura House (旧朝倉家住宅), former residence of the Asakura family in Daikanyama. The house, built in 1919 is nearly a century old and is surrounded by a wooded garden which slopes down the hillside. Japan-Tokyo-Kyu-Asakura-House-Garden-Reffert Continue Reading »

Tokyo-Meiji-Shrine-Inner-Garden-Iris-Reffert Inside the forest surrounding Meiji Shrine, there is a separate garden, the Meiji Jingu Gyoen, which holds a special appeal in June. With the advent of the rainy season, its 150 different kinds of iris which emperor Meiji had planted for his empress explode in bloom.
Japanese-Iris-Reflection-Reffert Continue Reading »

Satsuki-Azalea-Bonsai-Reffert-9 There is always something going on in Ueno Park on the weekends, and last weekend, we happened onto the Satsuki Festival. This festival is dedicated to Bonsai of the Satsuki Azalea, the best of which were on public display. Satsuki-Azalea-Bonsai-Reffert-3 Continue Reading »

"Photographing" the Temple of Heaven - a new friend - Snapshots

“Photographing” the Temple of Heaven – a new friend – Snapshots

Can or should you bring your small children on a trip to Beijing? We have recently spent a week there with our toddler daughter, so here are my two cents. One concern is certainly the rampant air pollution, which has been all over the news during the last two winters. While for me, this excludes a visit in winter, in summer matters are much better. Spikes in the pollution levels do occur (aqicn.org offers hourly updates), but they often last only a few hours and can be worked around. Windy days (after the first dust cloud has blown off) even offer quite good air quality. We found however the very high temperatures quite challenging and ended up spending more time indoors with our daughter than we would have hoped for (we seem to have been especially unlucky, but maybe one should rather aim for earlier in spring or autumn instead?). Continue Reading »

View across Kunming Lake to Longevity Hill (Summer Palace)

View across Kunming Lake to Longevity Hill (Summer Palace)

On our way to Japan, we recently spent one week in Beijing. Due to circumstances (chiefly the facts that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is located very far away from most sights, and that we hit a hot spell with up to 41 degrees C), we were only able to see two of the major sights, namely the Summer Palace (the only sight relatively close to us) and the Temple of Heaven in the center of town. These, however, are truly impressive.
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven

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