Another year has passed and it is again time to wish my readers あけまして おめでとう, or a Happy New Year! 2015 is the year of the sheep in the Chinese Zodiac. As this time, we have not managed to go back to Japan before the New Year, I can’t as usual put up a picture of this year’s tenugui (see here and here for earlier years). But worry not, it’s not like we had to break the line (after all, we’ve bought already six consecutive versions of this tenugui) and wait another 12 years. The sheep is already waiting for us in Japan, where a trusty friend of ours managed to get hold of the last one they had at the shop! While last year, we’ve spent less time than usual in Japan, we’re planning to be there again in spring, hoping for many happy returns.
With this tiny courtyard style garden, we’ve endeavored to create our own little corner of Japan in Switzerland. Some of the (smaller!) plants have come directly from Japan with us. And the Japanese maple (right) and Doudantsutsuji (center) are obliging with beautiful autumn foliage – perfect for a little bit of leaf viewing!
Back when we lived in Japan, we’d arrive after a stay in Europe with a suitcase full of food that was hard to come by, such as cheese and Swiss chocolate. Now it’s the other way round. We bring an empty suitcase to Japan, just to stuff it full with food items to take home. Of course it is entirely possible to buy Japanese food abroad. (In Geneva, we frequent Uchitomi, an actual Japanese supermarket which also sells prepared foods.) But understandably, many items are ridiculously expensive, and you don’t have much choice. That special brand you’re looking for? Well, you have to bring it home from Tokyo yourself. So what exactly is it that we are lugging to the other side of the earth? As I am regretfully eying our shrinking stash of Japanese food, let me give you a list. Continue Reading »
Have you ever wanted to hold Doraemon in the palm of your hand? The Doraemon augmented reality sets which are on the inside of Glico’s snack boxes such as Pocky or Pretz make it possible, in honor of the upcoming new Doraemon movie “Stand by Me”. You just download the app for your smartphone or tablet and hold its camera over the drawing, and – zapp – Doraemon appears in front of your eyes in 3D, wherever you are! As a special touch, you can color Doraemon the way you like, and your custom coloring gets incorporated into the 3D model. Tapping Doraemon on the screen makes him fly around for a bit. And of course you can take pictures of it all. Truly a thing Japanese, technological and very cool! Continue Reading »
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…
Asakusa 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.Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »