Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Autumn in America

Taking a break from Japan, and visiting the States during my favorite season is a great way to refresh. I've been loving the crisp autumn weather, changing leaves, and the excuse to bake cute Halloween treats.

A trip to Shaake's Pumpkin Patch is a treasured fall tradition in our house, as is carving jack-o-lanterns.

Hiking at Weston Bend State Park is another favorite activity when the leaves change color.

Autumn in KC- so lovely.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tokyo University 東京大学

Today I spent the afternoon at Todai, or Tokyo University.  I met up with a scholar who is a friend of a friend, and she was so kind as to introduce me to a variety of resources on campus that relate to my research, which intersects with hers. The campus is quite lovely, especially on a beautiful early autumn day. Above is the famed Akamon, or Red Gate, which dates to 1827 when the land that the university sits on was part of the estate of a feudal lord.

The building that houses the Historiographical Institute, where I was able to view primary source documents related to my project.

Campus scenery.

Yasuda Auditorium, built in the 1920s with the intention of representing the of the university, and being grand enough to receive imperial visits.

Even the metro stop is green and academic in feel.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday 日曜日

Today was a very rainy and cool Sunday. For me, this is the best kind of day to sit at a coffee shop and do some reading, which is precisely how I spent my day. 

Mori ichi sushi もり一寿司

Before I lived in Japan, I thought sushi would be something I would eat all the time. This isn't really the case. I really enjoy sushi, and while it is easy to find and really good quality here, I just don't find myself eating it that often. I did have it this weekend though, and it was pretty good. Ti and I went to Mori ichi, a kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi place in Oji where all the plates were 135 yen. As the restaurant was really crowded, nothing sat on the conveyer belt for very long, and the chefs were really working to turn out sushi at such a fast pace. It's fun to watch the chaos in these types of establishments, and to be able to see a sampling of what type of sushi is currently popular.

Gluttony. The workers count up plates at the end of the meal to calculate the bill.

The adorable brochure near the register that extolled the health virtues of sushi.

Mori ichi Oji.  Click here to check out Tabelog for reviews (Tabelog is like Yelp for Japan).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ogu Hachiman Shrine 尾久八幡神社

This week I read an interesting article, Eight Things Every Happy Woman Should Have, as found through the blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. In particular, suggestion number six, a hobby, resonated with me. There are many things that I love doing, but my workaholic nature often gets in the way of enjoying my free time. Cooking and yoga are hobbies that I can easily prioritize for the sake of my health, and visiting art museums and attending lectures are hobbies that I can justify as they relate to my work, but doing something purely for the sake of hobby is often difficult to justify. While I promise myself every year that I will take a ceramics class or learn how to play the banjo, these things are really hard to find time for. So, this afternoon, in the spirit of being kind to myself, I jumped on the streetcar and headed over to Ogu Hachiman Shrine simply for the sake of taking photographs, taking a walk, and exploring more of Tokyo.

The fence for the shrine has inscriptions from various neighborhood groups.

A cute couple at the Miyanomae streetcar stop. They were taking photos at the shrine, and then at the station.

Ogu Shrine is a Hachiman Shrine, and  may date back to the 14th century.

Shrine selfie. Also- I really need a haircut.

The water with which believers purify themselves (washing hands, rinsing mouth) before visiting the shrine.

Guardian figures.

Looking out towards the streetcar.

To worship, one tosses a coin in the box at the shrine, rings this bell, claps twice, and says a prayer to the deity.

A lantern at the front of the shrine. It reads Hachiman Jinja (Shrine).

The box into which one can toss a coin.

Plaques that can be purchased. Believers then write their wish on the plaque and tie it up at the shrine.

I was interested to see how many people stopped at the shrine on a Saturday afternoon, many on their way home from shopping, or on bikes. 

Ginko leaves starting to fall, and the smelly ginko berries.

As the weather just turned cool this week, the leaves are still green, but I'm sure they will become yellow soon.

A smaller shrine next to the main shrine.

Guardian figure for the smaller shrine.

Fortunes left at the shrine. One can pay about a dollar and receive an omikuji, or fortune. If it is a negative one, the practice is to tie it up and leave it at the shrine.

Arakawa Toden 荒川都電

The closest transportation to my apartment is the Toden Arakawa streetcar. I live about a two minute walk from the streetcar stop, so as a result I take it nearly every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, using my monthly pass. There used to be over 41 streetcars in Tokyo, but the Toden Arakawa is one of only two that remain (for a great article on streetcars in Japan click here). I generally take the streetcar to Oji, where I can transfer to the JR lines or the Metro subway system, but sometimes I take it further, as it is inexpensive, and a fun way to see the city.

The Arakawa line runs on its own tracks, sometimes on the street, but mostly on above ground rails with its own right-of-way.

During peak times it runs every 3-5 minutes, and even during off hours, it runs less than 10 minutes between trams. The only problem is that it stops early, around 11:20 p.m., so there have been a few occasions where I've had to walk the 12 minutes from the JR train when coming home late from other parts of Tokyo. Click here for the route map.

Board here. One gets on in the front, scanning a transport card or putting in change, and then exits at the back of the tram.

There are multiple styles of tram

This is my favorite tram style- it is based on the old Taisho period design, but is the newest type of car. The interior is completely wood styled. So beautiful! Also, as my dissertation is on the early twentieth century, I find these trams to be a bit inspiring for my project.

In Kajiwara there is a small Japanese-style bakery that sells Toden Monaka, small wafer sweets filled with bean paste in the shape of the streetcar.

I bought a single monaka, but if one purchases multiples, they come in a box that looks like a train yard.