Finding “Zen-Time” In Tokyo

No matter how packed your schedule is while in Japan, I highly recommend reserving a few hours of “zen-time”.  On our last morning in Tokyo, we decided to visit Zojoji Temple (増上寺), which happened to also be across the road from Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai, where we had lunch reservations.  Both the temple and restaurant also provided great vantage points of Tokyo Tower.

The main building of Zojoji Temple.

The main building of Zojoji Temple — not the best shot but I wanted to get Tokyo Tower in the photo.

Here is some of the buddhist chanting that I captured. It was rather calming to just listen to them for a while and clear my mind.

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Having lived in Kyoto, the cultural capital of all traditional Japanese things, I have seen my fair share of temples and shrines, but this was my first time visiting Zojoji and I was excited to see such a colourful array of Ojizo-san (お地蔵さん).

ojizo-san

Jizo-sama is a Japanese deity who mainly protects children but also travelers.  These jizo had child-like features and sported knitted red bonnets and held pinwheels that whirled in the breeze.

ojizo-san

After saying our prayers we headed back over the road toward Tofuya Ukai for a mouthwatering, sensational multi-course meal, featuring different types of fresh tofu dishes. The restaurant is beautifully designed with its own garden and all diners have their own private tatami room.

tofuya ukai

Tokyo TowerThe dishes at Tofuya Ukai were all superb, especially the tofu simmered in soymilk and the deep fried tofu with miso sauce. There is a misconception that tofu is flavourless. Perhaps it is in the UK/US, where tofu isn’t exactly our forte, but I promise you’ll be coming back for more after dining at Tofuya Ukai. Go for lunch and order the Matsu (松) course.

Matsu Course Menu

Tofuya Ukai Matsu Course

My idea of a well-balanced lunch: bamboo shoot stuffed with fish meat and oyster dumpling; deep fried tofu coated with miso (simply divine); assorted sashimi; simmered turnip and miso; clam, shrimp, sardine sushi with sesame dressed wheat gluten and seasoned rape blossoms; soymilk with tofu hot pot; grilled Spanish mackerel and taro; steamed rice with lily bulbs and tsukemono; adzuki-bean mousse with strawberry.

We were full, but not uncomfortable so we made one more food stop before leaving for Hakone.  But of course, some traditional Kyoto style dessert from Gion Tokuya (ぎおん徳屋), located on the ground floor of United Arrows For Women in Harajuku.  It was the perfect way to end our time in Tokyo.

Parfait perfection!

Parfait perfection!

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Colours: Eloise Laurence vs. Blur

I’m currently very much in awe of Eloise Laurence, who starred alongside Tim Roth in the brilliant film Broken (2012), an adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel, Broken. If you haven’t yet seen this dark but uplifting coming of age film, do! I’ve only just started reading the book, but I assure you both are good.

Rarely does a film do a book justice, but director Rufus Norris is spot on, and Damon Albarn does a fantastic job with the music for the film (which is the reason for this post). My favourite being a rendition of  Blur’s fan club single ‘Colours’, which is far better than the original. Well done Eloise for the magnificent performance and what a lovely voice!

London In Colour

I rarely divulge much about my personal life here, but thought I’d write a wee post to let you all know that I’m alive and trying to get through the month of May without having a nervous breakdown.  Work has taken up the majority of my time, including having to work on weekends for the past 6 weeks since April.  I’m trying not to moan too much about it as I know there are worse things in life than having to work…but you know, one can only pretend to be calm for so long! More importantly, I wanted to share some stunning colour footage from 1927 London that a friend shared with me today. Enjoy!

Moomins in Hawaii

Although most of America is yet to discover the Moomins they were quite popular at one point in Hawaii, where the Moomins aired in the 90’s.  They even had a Hawaiian version of both the opening and ending theme songs (sung by Robi Kahakalau), which I think are super cute! There was also a Moomin shop in Honolulu on Ala Moana Boulevard but it closed long ago. I even rang the business number listed but it was not in service.  I doubt I’ll find a dedicated Moomin shop in Hawaii, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for Moomins in Maui. In the meantime, enjoy these songs–and Happy Easter! I’m off to prepare for a Moomin tea party!

Men Having Babies?

Before I begin, I must say that I have absolute respect for mums that go through the birth of one child and are still willing to have another, and another, and then perhaps another. After seeing this Dutch television show where two men put on electro stimulation devices that simulate childbirth contractions and film the results, I must admit I’m not exactly embracing the idea with excitement.  I know it’s a beautiful thing to have children but to be able to face the pain and accept that the only way to feel better again is to go through an excruciating amount of pain has got me really nervous.

As much as I laughed (more out of discomfort than entertainment) when I saw this, I commend these two young men for going through with the simulation.  I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as an actual birth (there are no fluids gushing out of their bodies and no flesh is being torn open) but it all does look quite painful. Perhaps all hubbies should be required to experience this before their wives give birth to fully appreciate what a woman must endure to bring a child into the world.  The video below is in Dutch with English subtitles.

My Bloody Valentine: Not Everyone’s Cuppa Tea

I’m really not sure what all the fuss was about when My Bloody Valentine finally released their album m b v, 22 years after predecessor Loveless.  MBV’s music isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea and it certainly is not for me.  I think you need to be on drugs to really appreciate the racket that come out of the band. Their song, Who Sees You sounds like a broken record and makes me want to slit my wrists. It’s eerie and depressing, like many others. In Nothing Is, I wonder if anything is going to happen but nothing does. It’s like someone recorded a riff, put it on repeat and let it play out for 3 minutes. Hardly musical genius.

I tried very had to appreciate the music (can we even call it that?) that was thrust forth and devoured by so many eager fans but I simply could not wrap my head around it. Perhaps my opinion will be like a voice in the wilderness but I’m not alone in my feelings as you’ll see on the Guardian’s poll of the album. Right. So 94% of people who have listened to the new album are obviously people that like the band to start and the 6% are either unimpressed fans or people that simply loathe their music (i.e., moi). But don’t take my word for it.  Have a listen to the entire album below and let us know what you think!

Rating: 2.7/5

Dumb Ways to Die

Let’s face it. When you die, you die. But just as there are noble and heroic deaths there are also some pretty dumb ways to die. Here is an adorable animation published by Australian train company, Metro Trains Melbourne–a safety message warning people against behaving recklessly around trains. Click here to learn more about Dumb Ways To Die. The characters are super cute and the tune is catchy and would make a great learning tool– there is even a karaoke version! While listening to the song, I realised that I often do some of the things they warn against, such as get my toast out with a fork and eat medicine that’s out of date. Oops! What other dumb ways are there to die? I’m sure there are lots!