Recently I often go to Ikebukuro for Jazz band session.
Ikubukuro is now like a small Chinatown in Tokyo. There are Chinatowns in Yokohama or Kobe in Japan. But those chinatowns are long-hisotry places. They are like tourists destinations.
But Ikebukuro is not tour place but it's just a place of Chinese immigrants or temporary stay. So the color of Ikebukuro is totally different from Yokohama Chinatown. I don't know why Chinese gather in Ikebukuro, but when they started to come to Ikebukuro, this area was rather a dirty and grim place. Now Ikebukuro became a clean area but hearing Chinese language more than Japanese is really strange.
Ikebukuro has several good Jazz places like bars or restaurants. For Jazz fans like myself, this place is still interesting and nice to relax with coffee and jazz music.
For the first time traveler in Ikebukuro, it's a little hard to find such hidden places. But you can easily hear Chinese language in Ikebukuro.
But what we Japanese say exactly is " EN" in Japan, not IEN. So I or maybe many of the Japanese often wonder why it's said IEN by foreigners even after they stay long in Japan.
Also I don't know when and who started the currency of YEN, not EN, in the history, for expressing in English. In Japanese it's written as 円, and it's EN. Nobody reads it as IEN or YEN in pronunciation.
This is a very strange thing for me, maybe not for many people though.
If Yes, please feel free to contact me anytime for tour friend in Japan.
I like traveling and often travel around Tokyo including many of the surrounding tour spots.
I think I could be a good tour partner for your in Japan as I like travel with people from overseas.
It's possbile for me to use my car to travel around if the tour destination is close from my home.
Now it's getting warmer, it's time for us all to travel in Japan.
Anyway, it would be great for me to know more friends from the world through travels.
You can contact me anytime even if you read this article some months or years later than the uploading date.
At some special occassions, we often visit a shrine for praying. It's now at the end of the year ( also some say it's ending of the mankind by Maya's words). I went to a shrine today.
Japanese shrines have a gate with specially impressive form, which is called TORII. Going through the torii gate, we can reach to the main building of the shrines. This photo's torii gate is small one, also the shrine is small. At famous places like Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo or more places, big shrines' torii gate is really huge.
There are several meaning of this torii gate as far as I know. One of them, what I especially support it to be true, is that this is named because the watchers of the shrines stay on the top of the gates, and they keep their eyes on the people passing through it.
Tori means birds, and i means stay in Japanese. Torii so means that where the bird stays. Keeper of the shrine or Japanese shinto is believed to be crows, or the birds. So this gate is where the crows stays on to keep shrines safe from evildoers.
Old shrines always have very old trees as you see in the photo. Also besides the main building, there usually are very old and very tall trees, which are believed to be God Trees.
I become really holy in mind and it's nice to wipe something wicked ingering on me off my body and spirit. This is what I do when my sacred time comes.
Today I had a day trip to Tokyo on business. Usually I go to Ginza or Shibuya for my business partner meetings but today's meeting was in Asakusa.
(*photos used here are taken in Summer of 2012)
Asakusa is still remaining old and trraditional face of Japan and Tokyo. They who were born in Asakusa often say that " I'm edokko !". This means they are proud of themselves having been raised in this area. Edokko is an old Tokyo word, still being used sometimes nowadays, and it means kid of Tokyo. Edo is a word of old era of Japan, and Edo means Tokyo in that era. So they called that era " edo jidai, or edo era ". Edo jidai started about 400 years ago by Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and it continued until the modernization of Japan started in Meiji era ( about 150 years ago ).
Asakusa is a good reflection of that Edo time and Meiji time of Japan. Although nearly everything is newly built after the war, some old parts of this town like Sensouji ( photo) are still existing here. But the most important part of old remainings is the spirit of the people living here. Actually I, Japanese, too feel a little different when we visit Asakusa from my nature. Asakusa people are active, cool in talking, and behave like anything-goes nature persons. They don't care triffle things, and they love people's communication. My hometown also loves personal friendship but not that active like Asakusa people.
For my interest, I tried to walk through the old path of old drinking bars (Izakaya). All the small Izakayas are street bar style when it's warm, and it's really fun to stay there being drunken under the Sun or Moon. Food menue and drinks are all really cheap. Aagin the people of the Izakayas are really active and fun, also the custommers here also drink much, eat much ( even if the strange foods are offered), and talk much too.
To be honest, I firstly hesitated to check the Izakayas there because all seemed a little strange and scary for me. But once we sit down and start drinking, the world around us changes soon. It's just the Asakusa street bar world !
I think most of the foreign people would not like the Asakusa street Izakaya because they might look a little dirty and out of fashion. It's true that we Japanese feel the same there, but it's also trie that we can feel ASAKUSA SPIRIT there.
The Izakaya street doesn't represent all the Asakusa at all, but enjoying the atomospher of local people is certainloy one aspect of Asakusa experience for me.
But agai, I don't recommend this experience to all the visitors here. Actually it's not today's bar stayle at all.
Asakusa has some really good traditional Japanese cake shops ( Wagashi shops). Especially, Umezono and Funawa are my favorites. Umezono specializes Zenzai, which is a cup sweet with Anko paste and Mochi. Funawa is especially famous for its Imoyoukan, which is a potato youkan cake. Both have long history and so many fans in Japan.
I visited Shirakawa 2 days ago, and visited some nice spots.
Shirakawa city is a little famous for history lovers in Japan as this city played historically important role over years.
Now there is a beautifully restorated Castle in the middle of the city and the castle park is a good community space for citizens to hold festivals. Castle is not totally the same as it used to be, but still we can enjoy the image of the history of this city here.
At the other spot, there is a really beautiful and historically known lake, NANKO. This is the first manmade lake in Japan for rich agriculture water. Now it's not only for agriculture but the lake is a totally relaxing park for visitors. Nanko park and Castle park are both very popular when it's time of Cherry blossoms.
There also is a very very famous historic site called Shirakawa No Seki, which used to be a gate to North Japan 400 years ago. People needed to go through the gate to north, that gate was built for keeping peace and order. There also are some more same kind of gates in some palces of Japan. All were for the same reason.
Nothing special about Shirakawa city, but it's interesting for tourists to visit and see some of the historic places and having good ramen at TORA ramen restaurant.
Near my home, there are many nice sightseeing spots for tourists. Today, I try to pick up Inawashiro Lake and Urabandai area.
Inawashiro Lake is the 3rd largest lake in Japan, so it's easy to find in a little big map of Japan. Just behind the lake, there is a beautiful mountain called Bandai as you see above photo. This area is a very popular tour spot in Japan and also we can adventure more in the back side of the mountain, where is called Ura-Bandai area. Ura means rear in Japanese, so Ura-Bandai means the place of rear mount. Bandai area.
In Urabandai area, we can enjoy more in the green woods. Now it's getting closer to Winter time, but just a few weeks ago, this area was covered by amazingly colorful trees and leaves. Hotels and small Inns are a lot here, but there not many modern convenience stores or supermarkets, which reserves this place as nature lover's destination.
Not only Inawashiro lake, but there are several really beautiful lakes in Urabandai. Unfortunately, the most popular place called Goshikinuma ( Five color lake ) photos were not taken in good picturesque timing. That place is a must tour spot but words can't describe how it's nice. So next time I will try to take them and upload here.
Driving around Inawashiro lake and Urabandai is probably one day tour for standard sightseeing. But if you explore the nature by walking, it will be more fun and a few days trip will be required. After Urabandai, it's worth going to Aizu Wakamatsu City for taking a look at old Japanese Samurai time castle and their remained heritage in the city. Especially for local food, Wappameshi is a very unique and popular food in Aizu Wakamatsu city, I will try to introduce again about it later.
If I expand on the trip around this area, one article is not enough at all. This should be continured more.
Ise Jingu shrine is a mecca of Japanese Shinto religion, or mecca of Japanese spirit. For myself, year 2012's main meomory is that I could finally visit the Shrine.
It's hard to explain how this Shrine means for the Japanese. Dense history, mysterious legend, or people's cause for existance is always with this Shrine for us, Japanese.
It's in the sacred wood. Main shrine house is moved every 20 years for a long history time. Peopls of Japan come here to pray before they die without knowing the reason for that pilgrimage. This place has something important when we explain about the origine of Japanese people.
I would love to visit again soon.
In Ise district, they have a unique Udon noodle called Ise Udon. The texture is very soft and tender. Usually people like a hard and resilient Udon but this Udon is totally on contradiction. Personally I like it. If you are Udon lover, a try is recommended.