Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer festival

People were coming from all over the place to see the festival.

A float that was going on the street.

See the video of the festival that I uploaded on Youtube:

On the Saturday night I went out to join a festival that is held in summer on a yearly basis in my city, Ibaraki prefecture. There are several other festivals to take part in nearby, but this one is the biggest in size in my city. Stalls that sell food such as wieners, shaved ice, takoyaki and so on were lining up the sidewalks.

But what grabbed the attention of the people were the floats that were marching on the main street. The decoration that looks like a human face( see the pic above) is called "Nebuta" and it was borrowed from Aomori Prefecture where Nebuta has its roots.

The temperature on the night was around 30 degrees, so it was suitable for me to join the festival.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Internet cafe

There are several Internet cafes in my city.

You can have and refill soft drinks or coffees with these machines.

If you want, you can add sugar, honey, chocolate syrup and what not to your glass.

There are many kinds of mangas that cater to your taste.

This is how a seat looks like. You can order food with the phone on the wall.

To those who like mangas very much, an Internet cafe is a place they drop by often. There are tons of books available at such a cafe and they range from the latest magazines to very old mangas. And you can have as many soft drinks as you like, which is called the "drink bar", while you are at the cafe.

Today, almost all young people have a computer at home, so you may wonder they have to go to an "Internet" cafe, but there are some online video games that are playable only there, so people who don't own such a video game would go there.

They charge you about 300 yen for staying there for about half an hour, and additional 100 yen for another 20 minutes or so. And if you order food, such as rice and curry, you have to pay for it as well when you leave the cafe.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The traditional Taiyaki.

Its inside is bean paste.

The new kind of "white Taiyaki".

This one contains some custard.

In Japan Taiyaki is now more popular than ever before. It is a Japanese snack, and its outer dough is made from flour, egg, milk and the inside stuff is bean paste. Taiyaki was first invented in the early 20th century, but it has become very popular recently.

Some shops sell "white Taiyaki" whose dough is white, elastic and made from tapioca. And the inside taste of this white snack varies from bean paste to custard, chocolate, and even green tea.

In the episode 10 of anime "Ai Yori Aoshi"(part 1, part 2, part 3), Aoi buys the traditional Taiyaki and delivers it to Kaoru.

Monday, August 24, 2009


The entrance to Ameyoko
There are many kinds of shops lining up along the streets.

Yesterday I went to Ameyoko, which is a shopping district located in Tokyo between Ueno and Okachimachi station, to buy a pair of shoes. It is a place where there are lots of shops that sell clothes, shoes, foods, accessories, and so on. One can buy those commodities at a fairly low price, and at the end of a year, or Oomisoka, people flock to this area to buy foods to prepare for a new year.
It is summer now, but this shopping district was crowded and I saw several foreign people doing some shopping. Take a look at Tokyo Subway Route Map to see where Ueno station is. It is to the upper right of the center of the map.
You would find many shops that sell raw fish and seafood, which are fresh and cheap. For example, you can buy a king crab for less than 6,000yen (about 60 us dollars), if it is winter and fishermen are lucky enough to catch lots of it. However, you have to be careful to see if its quality is good or not.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Japanese beetle

I spotted a beetle on my way to tennis.

He is licking tree sap.

I play tennis on weekends usually in a park and I wander around in there to see if there is any beetle on a tree in summer. This beetle is a typical Japanese one and seen not only across this nation, but also in China, Taiwan, and the two Koreas. But I rarely find one usually, and this was the first beetle I saw this year.

Japanese coleopterans are usually smaller than foreign ones such as Hercules beetle in Latin America, and this one was just about 6cm long.

You can find this beetle all day in summer, but as a hornet sometimes happens to be on the same tree during the day, it would be better if you go catch ones in the morning or night.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kua Aina

The front of the shop.

The inside where lots of surfing-related goods are displayed.

A standard hamburger set.

I like to tell about something typical of Japan, but my country has been so far influenced by many foreign countries, such as China, Korea, the Netherlands, the US and so on. Among them, American infulence is the strongest. McDonald's is the biggest hamburger company here, but many different burger shops have popped up across the nation.

Some people like to have a relatively expensive burger. This shop in Kashiwa city, Chiba prefecture, called Kua Aina, which I visited the other day is said to have come from Hawaii, and even Barack Obama has visited one of its outlets. I think its taste is the best in Japan.

Japanese hamburger shops offer small burgers that wouldn't fill up the stomach of western people, but the burgers of this shop are sure to make you feel full.

There are about 6 outlets in Tokyo, so if you have a chance to come to the capital, please visit one.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Yokans are usually sold in a package.

The inside of Yokan.

It's true that the Japanese people like to have western sweets such as chocolate, cake, candy and so on. But the elderly prefer Japanese sweets to them and as the green tea goes well with Japanese sweets, people sometimes pick one as a snack.

This Japanese dessert called "Yokan" is my favorite, and this is made from boiled Azuki beans, vegetable gelatin, sugar, and salt. Yokan is soft, but not so elastic as jelly and can be easily cut by a knife or fork.

We can see the 4 main characters of K-ON! enjoy having Yokans in the episode 3 at 6:57.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obon festival

People dance around the center stage, on which drums are set up.

We offer food for the spirits of our ancestors.

Yesterday I went to a nearby shrine where a traditional festival was being held. Such a kind of festival is held nationwide around the 15th of August. About three to five days period including the 15th is called "Obon", when people take vacation and it is believed that our ancestors' spirits come back to the world we live in. So the shrines in Japan welcome those spirits with "Obon Festival Dance". And we put offerings like food in front of a shrine or tombstone for the purpose of serving the spirits of our ancestors.

But there are many cases where this kind of festival is more like secular than religious. In these cases, people invite people in a city and stalls to a place around the station and let them participate in Obon Festival Dance.

I think you have seen the episodes "Endless Eight" of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where the members of the SOS brigade are enjoying the Obon festival on a night and Yuki buys a mask from a stall.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Gamers in Akihabara.

Akibaoo in the mecca of otaku or geeks.

Yesterday I went to Akihabara to buy a new digital camera for me. Akihabara is well-known for being a place where geeks get together and girls do cosplay, but it is also a place where people can get electrical goods on the cheap. The camera I bought was cheaper by about 6,000yen than ordinary mass retailers like Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera.

And as I like anime, I dropped by "Gamers" where lots of video games and figures are sold. It is also a place where anime-related events are held, and Minori Chihara is scheduled to appear at the store this October. Some of you might know Konata from Lucky Star buys manga at this Gamers.

You will see Kagami, Tsukasa, and Miyuki are being accosted by geeks in front of Gamers in the beginning of the video at 0:27.

Also I went to "Akibaoo" to see if anything is sold cheaply. Inside the store there were lots of clothes for cosplay and figures as well. And when I got out of the store I saw some maid girls strolling in the streets to ask people to come to their cafe.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gundam in Tokyo

A standing Gundam that is now on display in Odaiba, Tokyo.

The eyes of this robot flash from time to time.

I know many bloggers are uploading pics of this Gundam, but as a Japanese I also strongly felt the need to go to Odaiba to take a look at it. To those who don't know this, this robot is based on the anime Gundam that was first aired on TV in '79. Many of the boys back then didn't know the anime, but as time went by and the anime was aired again and again, it became really popular and even I got interested in it later on. Ther are many of its sequels like Gundam X, V, and W, but the first Gundam is authentic and the most widely-supported by its Japanese fans.

When I went to see this there were many foreign people including foreign women coming to see this. Some of them seemed aged over 30 or even 40, by which I could see its popuarity in older generations in countries abroad.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


As you might know, this flower is called "Himawari" or sunflower and is one of the symbols of the summer in Japan. The Japanese weather satellite is named "Himawari", by which you can see how familiar the word "Himawari" is to the Japanese people.

The word "Himawari" is used as a season word in "Haiku" or an old Japanese style poem. Haiku was originated by Basho Matsuo, who was a famous poet in the 17th century. When one makes a Haiku, at least one season word should be contained in it.

Friday, August 7, 2009


A stall that sells Takoyaki.

There were 10 types of Takoyaki to choose from.

Usually there are 6 to 8 Takoyaki balls in a package.

The inside of a Takoyaki ball. You can find a piece of octopus in the center.

I like to talk about Japanese food. This one, called "Takoyaki", is usually sold at a stall in a mall or chow hall. And when a festival is held in the premises of a shrine or park, we can spot a Takoyaki stall in there. A piece of Octopus is covered with dough made of flour, which should be later grilled on a hot plate.

Takoyaki is usually seasoned with sauce or soy sauce, with some mayonnaise on the top. The stall I went to today offered 10 types of taste and I chose the soy sauce taste. This food is also popular among foreign people who visit Japan.

If you're a fan of the anime "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", I'm sure you have seen this in the episode 7, 8 and more of the new season.

Here's the link to one of them:

In it you can see Kyon taking one from the hand of Haruhi at 0:37.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Canned coffee

A vending machine that sells a variety of coffee. This one had six kinds of canned coffee.

There are many kinds of canned coffee in Japan, and the number of companies that manufacture them is estimated to be more than 15. They are sold mainly at a convenience store or in a vending machine and each costs about 120 yen.

Yes, canned coffees taste much worse than the regular coffee, but many Japanese people like to have one on their way to the office. It was so humid today that I was sweating a lot, so I bought one. This was an iced coffee type and included less sugar than ordinary ones.

Here's a CM that shows how a Japanese company is pitching its products.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blue hawaii

To those who have seen the anime "Lucky Star", "Kaki Goori" or shaved ice should be familiar. We have this afternoon snack during summer. Today I went to a shop and there I had five types of flavor to choose from. Strawberry, melon, blue hawaii, calpis, and greentea. I chose blue hawaii. It tastes merely like syrup and is colored blue with some kind of artificial coloring agent. The same thing applies to the other flavors except calpis.

The link below is the episode 5 of Lucky star. The story of shaved ice starts at 06:10.

It was above 30 degrees in the Kanto region, so many people were wanting one. Each costed just 100 yen or about 1 us dollar. If you want some milk on top of this, you should pay additional 50 yen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Though it's much cooler than usual this summer, cicadas never fail to turn up. This one is called "Aburazemi", or large brown cicada and seen across the nation. They start to show up en masse in July and keep singing from the morning to the evening, sometimes deep into the night. We Japanese associate cicadas with summer.

This link shows you how it sings:

Monday, August 3, 2009

anime and manga

I'm no serious person, so I often read manga and get my hand on anime-related magazines. These are what I bought recently.

Akihabara in Tokyo is the best place to get anime and manga stuff, but as you know not everybody lives close to Akihabara. People outside Tokyo like me take advantage of locally operating shops like this to buy manga and anime-related stuff.

Traditional Stuff

Japan has lots of state-of-the-art high-tech gadgets and they represent one aspect of this country. But on the other hand we still have many traditional things that we can boast of to foreign people like this garden in Mito. If you're tired of anime and manga, then visit some of our old stuff to better understand our culture. But at the same time I'm all for anime and manga as well, as we need something addictive to forget our daily chores.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cherry blossoms

People get high during the spring season in Japan. We grab some beers and get mesmerised by the view under cherry trees!! The cherry blossoms are seen in April in the Kanto Region and it marks the beginning of a new school year. Though Jan. 1st is the official start of a year, spring is the actual beginning for many people in Japan.

breath-taking islets off the coast

This islet is called Matsushima and is off the coast of Miyagi prefecture. Many Japanese people set sail off the coast to see some. A renowned poet called Basho Matsuo was struck by this beauty and coudln't come up with a single word to describe it.

A typical Japanese festival

In fall festivals like this are held nationwide to celebrate the year's harvest. This one was held in Ishioka, Ibaraki prefecture. What you're seeing is "Mikoshi" or a portable shrine. To get it move around in the streets, we need lots of manpower.