Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Flash..Some more Mejij-Mura Photos

Four final shots from MejiMura.There are a variety of buildings and architectural styles on view.The first shot shows the side of a huge sake brewery.The building is on a hill overlooking some of the other buildings.

The entrance to one of the larger,grander wooden houses located in the grounds.

The small kabuki theatre on the grounds.

The final shot is an interior one of a prison cell complete with a smiling inmate.The cell is just slightly smaller than my apartment and better furnished.There are a number of prison buildings and structures within Meiji Mura.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meiji-mura Museum

Wishing to escape the confines of my apartment and the heat I travelled to Meji-Mura Museum for the day.
Meji-Mura is an open-air museum that contains over 60 buildings from the Meji Era 1868-1912.Various buildings from all over Japan have been brought there and are on display.One can walk into a school,a jail and a traditional bath house for instance or eat at one of the restaurants that operate out of the historical premises.
Meji-Mura is located near Inuyama which is about a 45 to 60 minute train ride from Nagoya depending on which train you use.From Inuyama Station you need to catch a shuttle bus which takes you to Meji-Mura.A little expensive and time consuming to get there(the shuttle bus takes about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic) but worth it.There are ample signs in English at Inuyama Station that direct you to the Museums shuttle bus stop.
The small building above comes from Tokyo and was the residence of Ogoto Mori and Soseki Natsume.Various displays inside each building,sometimes in English,inform you of the former occupiers and the history of the building.

An old wooden Post Office building in the grounds of the Museum still operates a postal service.Apart from this wooden building there are others built of brick,stone and other materials which makes a refreshing change from the drab grey concrete of more recent constructions.
The Museum has the buildings organised into five main areas.While it is possible to see all these areas on foot I recommend spending a little extra yen and using the buses,train and trams which travel between the various locations.
A standard adult ticket is 1,600 yen.I decided to purchase a 2,200yen ticket which enabled me to use the Museums transport services to get around.

One of the more interesting buildings on display for me was Frank Lloyd Wrights Imperial Tokyo Hotel.The entrance way and front half of the building has been reconstructed.The exterior design reminded me of some kind of South American temple.On entering the foyer I was surprised by how low the ceilings were and how dark it was.
You can buy refreshments and sit at one of the tables and chairs Wright designed but I preferred to grab an ice cream and sit on the lawn in front of the building.

As well as private residences and commercial buildings there are a number of public buildings such as schools and a hospital.Within the hospital building there is a large room on display which gives one an idea of what a hospital ward would look like in the latter Meiji period.

The final photo shows a foreigner residence from Kobe which was built in 1867.The house is a mix of Japanese and European design.The back half of the house is distinctly Japanese with a traditional tatami room occupying the upper storey.

To sum up,I'd recommend this as more of a day trip rather than a half day excursion given that it took me an hour and a half roughly to get there from Nagoya.
The sheer size and layout of the Museums grounds provide one with lots of walking exercise.There are plenty of places to eat there though if you are on a budget take your own lunch and sit in one of the many landscaped areas or gardens.
The variety of buildings in terms of size,construction and use mean theres always something different to look at.
The only minor quibble I had was the piped music that seemed to follow me around the grounds.A mournful violin tune was emitted from speakers strategically placed around the gardens and buildings.It seemed at odds with the bright sunny day and the friendly staff.I was thinking at one point of doing a "Anna Karenina" near the steam train station such was my annoyance at this noise pollution.Apart from this annoyance which seems common to such public places,I remember the same thing at Okazaki Castle,Meji Mura is well worth a visit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Flash..More Photos from the Midland Square Building

A final few shots from atop the Midland Square Building.Looking down over Nagoya you can see a variety of buildings.You can peek down into one of the more popular rooftop beer gardens that operate in summer.

Towards the middle of this photo you can see a school building complete with rooftop swimming pool and gravel school playing yards.On the extreme left a new building swathed in green netting is being built.

Looking over Nagoya towards Sakae.You can see the International Centre Building on the bottom left handside of the shot.

In this last shot,towards the right,one can make out Nagoya Castle and its green grounds that contrast with the surrounding built-up inner cityscape.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Midland Square Building Nagoya

Currently the tallest building in Central Japan,the Midland Square building was completed in autumn 2006.The building stands at 247m and has 47 floors.There is a three floor observation deck,the Sky Promenade,which costs 700 yen for adults to enter.As you can see from the photo theres a sloping walking platform and the viewing gallery is open to the sky and elements.
As well as containing Toyota`s sales staff and thirty odd other company offices the building has a plethora of designer stores,cafes and restaurants and a seven screen multiplex cinema.

Built across from the Nagoya Station Central Towers,the Midland Square Building provides great panoramic views of the cityscape.One of its nearest neighbours is the Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers.It opened in April 2008 after construction began in 2005.
The spiral skyscraper is 36 floors and 170m tall.It houses restaurants,shops and three vocational schools.

On the other side of the Midland Square building is the Lucent Tower,a curved sweeping glass skyscraper.Some 40 stories and 180 metres tall it contains IT and financial companies.

A shot of the Nagoya Station Central Towers that are across from Midland Square.At 247 metres the Midland Square building is 2 metres taller than the Towers.

Looking down from the viewing platform onto the adjoining building that contains the cinema,restaurants and shops.The elevator trip which whizzes up to the observation deck is well worth the experience though probably not for the faint hearted or those who suffer from fear of heights.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Flash..Summer Food

A few samples of Dean and Deluca ice cream from the Midland Square store in Nagoya.
From left to right Fromage Blanc with Raspberry,Belgian Couverture Chocolate,Kyoto Green Tea and Madagascar Vanilla.
The Fromage Blanc contains cheese,raspberry,raspberry sauce,fresh cream,condensed skim milk,sugar and egg yolk.Its quite a thick mixture.The cheese is more akin to cream cheese rather than Edam or mozzarella in terms of texture and provides the substance or filler for the raspberry ingredients and flavour including the little annoying bits that get lodged between your teeth.Worth sampling but Im not sure if Id bother again.

The Beligan Couverture Chocolate comes in a dark brown tub which mirrors the contents
This ice cream like the Fromage Blanc is quite thick but also very rich.Its not overly sweet nor bitter.It looks like real chocolate.Feels like real chocolate when you spoon it and when you first taste it.Its not overly sweet or bitter According to the label the ingredients include the above mentioned chocolate (55% cacao and over) as well as fresh cream,condensed skim milk and sugar.For once I think the small tub is the perfect size as it contains just enough to leave you feeling satisfied.Definitely worth a second look.

Whether or not the Kyoto Green Tea ice cream is your cup of tea depends very much on whether you like green tea or not.The ice cream is very green and creamy.It has a strong aftertaste just like the green tea itself...a somewhat acquired taste.
Certainly a different and an unusual offering.

The final discovery was the Madagascar Vanilla ice cream which contained Madagascar Vanilla beans and extracts among its ingredients.It had a considerably lighter taste than the Green Tea and was noticeably less solid in texture than the Fromage or Beligan.In fact it started melting well before the other three when I tried to photograph them all.
On opening the cover,one is greeted with a refreshing vanilla aroma which spreads through the contents as you eat it.Nice,light and refreshing in contrast to the heavier Chocolate and Green Tea flavours.

A couple of new drinks that caught my eye.The Lipton bottle on the left contains cold tea with a strong coconut flavour.Hence the name "Coconut Island"Quite sweet to the point of cloying I didnt find it that refreshing or thirst quenching.
The second bottle is a Mint Julep soda drink.According to the label its inspired by an original Cuban drink.Its a rather muted under-stated drink.The soda isnt really fizzy in the way most carbonated drinks such as Coke or Pepsi are.In fact I thought the first bottle I bought was slightly flat till I bought another which was exactly the same.If the bubbles lack power so does the mint flavour which seems to be hiding in the background rather than being bold and upfront.

Finally a summer bento or lunchbox offering slices of salmon and beef together with various salads.The centrepiece consists of rolls of crunchy and leafy green salad vegetables.

Monday, August 11, 2008


"Moshobi" roughly translated is Japanese for days of extreme summer heat.When the mercury climbs past 35 degrees celsius.Over the last fortnight in Nagoya there have been many moshobi days.Unlike the fish at Shirotori Garden its difficult to find a cool refuge from the heat and humidity.

Even inside one cant escape the heat and humidity.The thin veneer strips on the top of the classroom dividers have lifted due to the heat in the cramped and poorly air conditioned space my employer euphemistically calls a language school.Such a heated environment is hardly conducive for studying.

Not only does the heat reduce my levels of patience and hours of sleep it also decreases my appetite and my desire to cook for myself.Cold noddles,soba and bentos are the order of the day at present.

A Trio of Quick Book Reviews

Despite the summer heat and humidity giving me cause for impatience and a lack of concentration Ive recently read some thought provoking and diverting stuff.
In no particular order then firstly..
Rubicon. Tom Holland.2003.Abacus.389 pages
Having had my interest piqued in the Roman Empire by the HBO series Rome I was given this book to read.Hollands work brings to life the final years of the Roman Republic.The book is packed full of interesting facts and figures as the author has used a variety of primary Greek and Roman sources as well as more modern works and authors in his research.
I didnt realise the full extent or reach of the Roman Empire or its effect.."In the East great cities were ransacked for treasure-but in the West it was the earth.The result was mining on a scale not to be witnessed again until the Industrial Revolution"pg42. or later on pg 43"Measurements of lead in the ice of Greenlands glaciers which show a staggering increase in concentration during this period,bear witness to the volumes of poisonous smoke huge mines belched out".

What I liked also was that all the leading characters of the time such as Pompey,Caesar and Cato are fleshed out and handled evenly by the author leaving it up to the reader to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad.Who acted out of selfish greed and who acted for the greater good.
Many pages are also spent describing the foundation of society.Its different ranks and obligations,the role of women,families and politics are also covered in this detailed but never dull account.
All in all quite fascinating.Prior to watching Rome I knew little about this era.It seems odd a TV series could spur me on to read further about the subject.

Speaking of TV,the next book is one that accompanies a TV series.
12 Books That Changed The World.Melyvn Bragg.Hodder and Stoughton.2006.344pages
As the author notes in his Introduction he has selected 12 books not "the 12 books" that changed history.It should also be noted that the books selected are all British.No ancient Greeks or books by Marx or Mao.Even calling them "books" as such is a stretch as one of the authors selections is a patent for a machine while another choice is a rule book.
The bulk of the book consists of the author introducing and justifying his choices.He puts each into its social and historical context and explains how it impacted and continues to have an influence today.
Braggs choices are highly individualistic,though some would be difficult to disagree with such as Isaac Newtons Principia Mathematica or Darwins On the Origin of the Species.I think its doubtful that the Rule Book of Association Football would be included in an American version of this book.Indeed it would be curious to speculate what would be included in such a work.

Last but by no means least is this offering from Julian Barnes.
The History of the World in 10 and a Half Chapters.Julian Barnes.Jonathan Cape.1989.372 pages.
This novel isnt really as the title states a history of the world.Its more a group of short stories which are tenuously linked to one another.Seemingly random characters and episodes from the voyage of the Ark to the story of a religious astronaut are described.Historical figures such as Noah and Jonah pop up throughout the book.As do a number of lesser creatures often in a surprisingly unrelated manner.In fact it was fun to try and guess if and how the author would or wouldnt include earlier characters or things in later chapters.
Some chapters stand on their own and therefore the novel doesnt need to be read in a strict chapter order.
Barnes ponders such issues as love.."The history of the world becomes brutally self-important without love"pg 289 as well as the afterlife...
"Is there Hell?"."Oh no," she replied."That was just necessary propaganda" pg363.

While I found the book entertaining and funny at times,I wasnt "immensely moved" as the quote on the front cover suggests.Its a difficult book to recommend as its quirkiness and imaginative style may not appeal to everyone.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Flash..Traditional Confectionery

Jelly like sweets in the shape of watermelon slices.

Small wafer like biscuits shaped like fans.The toothpick serves as the handle.The wafers are stuck together with a small molasses like filling.

A summer stalwart.Basically its just a pile of shaved ice over which you pour your favourite flavour or topping.Very refreshing,particularly when its half melted and slushy.
The offering in the photo above is adorned with a strawberry topping.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tajimi City Fireworks Festival 2008

As with many places around Japan in August,Tajimi City holds a summer festival complete with dancing competitions,food stalls,parades and fireworks.The area has recently made the headlines for having very hot summer temperatures.Yesterday
was no exception.
Even though I didnt get out to Tajimi until 4pm it was still noticeably hotter than Nagoya although its only 45 minutes distant by train.Obviously being surrounded by low hills explains the higher temperatures.
There were the usual food stalls one expects to see at such events though I dont think there were as many as last year.Nor for that matter do I think the crowds that massed on both banks of the Toki River were as large as I recall.Which meant that it was easier and more comfortable to pick a spot to view the firework displays.

The fireworks began as usual on the stroke of 7:30pm.And continued for the next hour to the accompaniment of very loud J-Pop music and a distorted shrill female voice.

There was a noticeable light wind which sprung up after the sun went down.This helped drop the heat to a more comfortable level.It also meant that the acrid smoke from the fireworks tended to drift in the direction of the crowds on the bridges and banks of the river.On the other hand there wasnt much cloud around so the fireworks looked better against the darker night sky.

I also noticed that despite recent hikes in food prices choco-bananas seem to remain steady at about 200-300 yen each.The more elaborately decorated and sprinkled ones were fetching the higher prices.Steamed potatoes seemed popular and there were at least three stalls selling them.Prices ranged from 400-500 yen and the lower priced ones were selling well like hot potatoes despite the heat of the day.
All in all a small enjoyable,accessible,friendly family and local event.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Flash..Endoji Shopping Arcade

Being the middle of summer it seems theres a festival or matsuri being held literally on every street corner.
I ventured out to the Endoji Shopping Arcade earlier this week to see what was happening at the annual Tanabata Festival.The Endoji Shotengai is a traditional shopping arcade within spitting distance of Nagoya Station and many modern buildings in Meieki.Its a quiet backwater.A step back from the modern hurly burly glass,metal and bright lights of more upmarket shopping areas.Grimy,down at heel.

For a few days each year the arcade is decorated with traditional tanabata decorations and huge paper mache figures,models and characters.

Large figures of cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry and Winnie the Pooh vie for the attention of onlookers.A variety of animals such as whales and koalas had also been constructed and hung above the passing shoppers.

Most of the shops in the arcade which straddles a large main road, appear to be family owned.Theres the usual collection of restaurants,clothing,coffee and shoe shops.All very low key and friendly.No large chain stores or blaring music.I did notice a large number of small children and young parents but this was probably due to the fact that the school summer vacation is underway.
The arcade reminded me of those in Osu Kannon.I just wonder how long before the developers and bulldozers move in and change the area.Already in Osu some older wooden buildings have been replaced by nondescript concrete boxes.With the Endoji Arcade being much smaller the loss of one or two buildings to the wreckers ball obviously has a more significant impact.