Monday, 18 December 2017

Atami and the Ratbones

In the Izu peninsula of Japan, Shizuoka prefecture, there’s a strange seaside town called “Atami”. I had the pleasure of visiting it yesterday.

Atami has the distinct vibe of a holiday seaside town that was once glamourous and hip in the 70’s and 80’s – but is now washed out and run down, never quite making its comeback after the economic burst of the early 90’s.  

From my experience I can tell you that this discovery was in no way unique. When you start to avoid the modern tourist traps, you will find that Japan is full of places like this.

What does make Atami different, is it’s impressive “hihokan” – adult sex museum. And, as impressive as the views were high up in the cliff side where it is located, that is certainly not what I left remembering from my visit.

As you follow the course of the museum, you are lead from bizarre exhibition to bizarre exhibition. Many of the displays require you to push a button/sit on a chair/look through a hole/ insert a coin, etc… and then see what unpredictable strange thing happens. 

The museum does not take itself seriously in any respect, in fact it’s clear that it’s more of a sex-joke museum then an “adult” museum. Needless to say, I laughed a lot.

The worst part of my visit was buying an omikuji from a mysterious sex guru and receiving no fortune (had the machine simply run out... or was it a sign of some awful event in my immediate future.....?). The best part was when I played a game on a very old pachinko machine and won a pair of fluffy handcuffs!

After our visit to the museum, we walking into the town of Atami and went to the Atami geiko getaway dance hall (or 熱海芸妓見番歌舞練場), which is a traditional geisha theatre, where we saw “Yanagiya and the Ratbones” play live, accompanied by burlesque dancing, a traditional geisha performance, a flamenco dancer, and the auctioning of a cocktail drink.

The venue was all tatami mat. We gathered round a small table, drank cheap local beer and homemade food that was sold at the event. We each bought an official merchandise T-shirt, which I will be sure to wear next time!

Each member of the 12-man band was dressed in a different genre of rock
With the singer

Dancing with Joelle for the encore

This hairy-pitted dancer came onto the stage wearing a different costume for each song

Geisha performace

Thank you for the invite Duncan!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Smartphone Life


The whole time that I`ve been here, I thought Japanese people were seriously addicted to their smartphones. But, now I think that it's more the case that I just happened to have been living in Japan at the time when Smartphones peaked in popularity and technological capability, rendering general society to be highly addicted.

Smartphones are very useful - Google maps saves my life... I would never be able to navigate the Tokyo subway system without it. And, of course, Whatsapp and Facebook allow me to maintain contact with family and friends back home. It's truly amazing.

However, I've had this deep growing feeling for quite some time, that outside of being an instrument of distraction, Smartphones and social media are having strong negative effects on individuals and society in more profound ways. I wasn't able to tangibly express why, but I've found a very insightful YouTube interview with American motivational speaker Simon Sinek, that sums it up really well (purposely starting at 3:49):

This certainly got me thinking. I showed the video to Matt (who I think is more addicted to his phone than me), and we discussed how we will start trying to take active steps towards cutting down on using our phones and pay more attention to each other.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Tokyo Streets

Matt works most weekends. So when I wake up at 10am on a Saturday or Sunday, if I don't have something planned already, I'm faced with the decision of what to do with the day. 

Yes I can be productive, clean the house, study Japanese, practice hula hooping whilst watching Netflix (sure...productive). But, that's when I'm not in the mood to leave the house.

A beautiful day in a beautiful city forces me to push myself out the front door. 

So now what? Shopping? Tokyo is the place for it. Yet, I've been thinking a lot recently about my consumer habits. It is too easy to fill free time with mindless shopping. I want to be more ethical in my approach to fashion and consumption, fast fashion is a unfortunate byproduct of the modern era. I'd like to avoid feeding the flames. Be part of the solution and not the problem and all that jazz. Besides, I don't really need anything new. I do not need a new winter dress, I do not need that new winter coat. I must stop filling the void with stuff. 

So then what to do on a lazy Saturday? Well, after whining over the phone to Matt on his lunch break, midday I finally decided the best thing was to just get dressed and go. Why not visit my old haunt Shimokitazawa? Message some friends and see if they're free to meet for a coffee. According to google, the walk was only 2 hours. Perfect. What a great way to enjoy the city, clear my head and get some exercise...(man, dogs would crave an owner like me!).

With a poor sense of direction, and large margin for potential error, of course I did not have complete freedom to wonder there - I had to rely heavily on my phone.

Unfortunately, google maps does not have a "scenic route" mode... as far as I'm aware, so naturally it took me down the busiest, ugliest streets.

But, in those moments where I misinterpreted the map, took the wrong street at the crossroads, or messed up in some other way, things started to become a little more interesting. Of course, I wouldn't intentionally go off-course - 2 hours is plenty enough :-) but in it's effort to redirect my course, google then sent me through the incredible backstreets of Tokyo. Yay!

Tokyo streets are full of tiny houses, apartments and shops, built with intricate unique detail. Each building is designed to maximize it's small designated space in a strange and creative form. They wrap around the narrow winding streets that make up the quiet residential neighborhoods of Tokyo. 

Each home has a completely different style of architecture. Some modern, some old, many inspired by completely different parts of the world. There is an abundance of different shapes, colours, materials and concepts.

The buildings are contradictory, they clash in design. Yet the weird amalgamation of these Frankenstein pieces of Tokyo is one of the most exhilarating things about the city. 

I'm happy with this choice.

When life gives you yuzu

Yes it is finally yuzu season in Japan!

I have already hunted down my first yuzu, which I bought from a small fruit and vegetable vendor that I passed in one of the backstreets of Shibuya. 

In my yuzu-high excitement, I rushed it home and baked a cake. I followed a simple lemon drizzle recipe, but substituted lemon for yuzu.

Zest life= Post-grated yuzu
Although the texture wasn't as perfectly fluffy as I would have liked (according to Matt I over-mixed), the taste was delicious!

Matt adds the sugar-yuzu drizzle to the cake as a finishing touch

Ok, so maybe I won't become a food photographer anytime soon... but it was yummy

Since that first encounter, there have been yuzus spotted in Maruetsu Petit. 

It seems the market price for yuzu in Tokyo this year is between 200-250¥ for one large yuzu.  If you find them cheaper please let me know!

Hey here's something I've been listening to this autumn from the new Kishi Bashi album:

aaaannnd, an oldie which reminds me of hanging out with Addie back at Bristol who introduced me to Kishi Bashi:

Video is a bit meh, but that tune doe.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Tucked In

I stripped the sheets off the bed earlier during my proactive cleaning session. But after a night-out, coming home slightly drunk and disheveled, I'm tired and want to sleep.

Of course, I will begrudgingly need to make the bed first. But what's that? Some annoying drunk Brazilian guy won't move off the sheet-less mattress. I don't have time for this nonsense, no sir. Sleep is the name, and making the bed first is the bed. I'm making the bed, oh yes, and if you won't move, then that's your problem mister.

Slightly lumpier than usual

Is that some sort of reverse memory foam pillow? Oh wait...


This year in Pictures:

Zip, up or down?

At Shinjuku Loft: Halloween Ball

Guess the artwork

Crew meet up at 109

DBZ mania

Shinjuku Loft

Hello Children

Get a hold of yourself man

Was not worth the free "Halloween flavour" Mintia

Nomihoudai in Shibuya

Shibuya Scramble

Shibuya Scramble

Snow white and the seven drag queens

Tenga. Hilarious.

The next day at the Halloween dodgeball tournament:

Our team "Dodge of the Dead"

I only managed to convince one person I had eye tattoos on my shoulders


I had an awesome Birthday!

If you're wondering why I cut the middle out,
it's bcause I watched a video on Youtube
about how to cut a cake the mathematically "correct way"

We celebrated with our new "tradition" that begun last year, baking a carrot cake (my absolute favourite!!), we used Okinawan sugar for an extra kick (our personal twist), and again, it was awesome.

It was so good, that we actually baked a second cake for when some mates came round for a 'lil dinner party.

We also baked a massive cottage pie and a bunch of risotto to go with, including a vegan portion for Freddy 💚

Motoko was nice enough to take this one,
I'm sad she's not in it
(she is my most photogenic friend after all!)

I'm not sure what Matt might have originally been planning to get me, but I forced him to get us tickets to see Beck live at the famous Budokan. He seemed rather relived that I chose the gift on his behalf, as I reckon he was pretty unsure. Tickets to do something fun, is always better than an item you might not use.

Beck was.... INCREDIBLE. Beck is one of my favourite artists of all time. Midnight Vultures was one of the first albums I bought, and I still love it to this day. So when he played Mixed Business (which in no one is an emotional song), I was so overwhelmed with nostalgia and joy that I started uncontrollably crying.

Then, because it is an emotional song, very beautiful, and again, one of my favourites and very nostalgic, I started balling again for Lost Cause (which carried through the next song which was the stunning "Blue Moon"). I couldn't control myself! Matt was pretty shocked by my response, but luckily thought it was sweet and not as insane as it felt.

Did I mention that I love Beck? Like... a lot though?

The Budokan is an incredible Venue

I have seen Beck live before. It was at Fuji rock last year. I was drunk and hyper, I was in the mosh pit and had forced myself as far to the front as possible, I was dancing and singing and it was over in a flash.

This time, I knew I wanted to enjoy it in a different way. We chose sitting tickets instead of mosh pit, and were luckily at the front middle of upper circle, so had a great view. I loved every moment of it.

Here's the setlist:

  1. Play Video
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Ok, I was a little bummed that Sex Laws wasn't played because I was in the mood... but really, what a great line-up!

And now to add a negative note. The support act... Cornelius.

I had never heard of Cornelius, but I understood that the band, with famous front man Keigo Oyamada has had a long celebrated musical career in Japan. My friend explained this to me before we saw them play live at Fuji Rock this summer.

I was entirely unimpressed then, as I was again this time. So mediocre, so pretentious. So desperate to sound original, ironically derivative of Beck. These were my thoughts the first time. I was willing to give them a second chance.

When I watched them at Fuji rock it was with my sister, who was equally underwhelmed, this time, with Matt, who also shared this sentiment.

Lyrically, Cornelius sounds like the rambles of someone with a severe case of OCD who forgot to take their medicine. (repetitive, categorical lines).

Their music is boring, I know that's quite childish to say... but its the best way I can describe them. I mean, some of the songs would work well as background music to washing dishes, or to doing things where you have to focus on anything else.. but being sat and made to acknowledge it was somewhat painful. Possibly because I was so excited to see Beck, that being made to sit through their set felt like time was slowing down and delaying, as a form of punishment. Some of the songs are so dull, and the musicians so uncharismatic whilst on stage, that live heart monitors were installed on-set to assure the audience that the band members are actually still alive.

It was necessary for each member of the band Cornelius to have a
light-up heart monitors next to them to ensure the audience they were still alive. 
Pretty cool visuals though. I guess they had to find a way to distract us from the poor performance.

One last thing I would like to point out is that at the Budokan, the standing audience was actually divided by section. Seriously, how crap would that be to buy a standing ticket to see Beck at the Budokan (12,000 yen), and find out you are in section "F", standing at the back-right, nowhere near to the stage, with a terrible view.

We were pretty shocked to see the standing area was divided into sections
"Section F" -AKA bad luck of the draw