April 29, 2009

Past Our Prime

(In Kamiyamacho.)

A sign selling kerosene and a beagle, both forlorn.

April 28, 2009

The Knack

(Near Yoyogihachiman station.)

Getting a bit preachy, no?


April 27, 2009

An Orchid Named Obama

A new breed of orchid, created in honor of President Obama. Part of me want to know the intentions behind making this particular color selection the Obama orchid, but I fear I'd find it insulting.

April 24, 2009

A Stickler for Manners

First, it was at a railroad crossing. Next, a pedestrian crossing. Now, it's on a pay phone.

I hope I'll see the tag next on a building entrance. You don't get enough men holding the door open for women in Japan.

April 23, 2009

Blue Chip

(A former mom-and-pop shop in Waseda.)

Once upon a time, you could walk into a shop with this "Blue Chip affiliated store" sign hanging above, do your shopping, and receive some Blue Chip stamps according to the money you spent. You would carefully paste each stamp onto a sheet, slowly accumulating hundreds. The stamps would then be exchanged for pans or mere trinkets, depending on how much you'd collected.

Fast forward to the present, where the stamps have been replaced with plastic cards generating digital points, but the mom-and-pop shops affiliated with Blue Chip have all but died out. Good luck gathering the 74,000 points you need to win a Coach bag.

April 22, 2009

Look But Don't Buy

A ceramics shop in Yoyogikoen, pretty but surprisingly easy to miss.

This would explain why the lineup of the bowls hasn't changed since I took this photo in December of last year.

April 21, 2009

Lunch Break Mystery

During lunch today I had a thought: are thistles part of the cactus family? It wasn't the prickliness that led to this association, it was more the discovery of a tiny yellow flower on the tip of each pink petal on the thistle.

But according to my book on wildflowers, thistles are part of the Asteraceae family, decidedly not related to cacti. Which leads me to conclude that these are not thistles at all, and my spark of motivation to better understand biology is dampened once more.

April 20, 2009

Ripping Ivy Tethers

My favorite ivy-encrusted house is no more, just when the leaves were starting to turn green!

You'd think those vines would reinforce the walls and make them harder to tear down, but no.

Sleeping in Plain Sight

(Outside a Natural Lawson in Tomigaya.)

No one could accuse the Japanese of being picky about where they sleep. Self-consciousness be damned, as long as you're not recognized and you can get your much-needed rest, it really doesn't matter how you look. Here, a tired young worker uses his lunch break so he won't find himself nodding off when he's back at his desk in the office.

April 17, 2009

The Yuba Man

A guy in a cart, going around houses and selling yuba, dried beancurd (also known as tofu skin). Once upon a time, going door-to-door to sell food and wares was standard practice; today it seems almost naive.

I like how this guy works, walking down the street alongside the Waseda University library and offering yuba to students. But what would they do with a bunch of tofu skin in their hands?

April 13, 2009

Lined Up Pretty

It's not really the chawan (rice bowl), it's the pleasing uniformity of the Plexiglass cabinet.

April 10, 2009

Clinging to Life

(Alongside Kanda River.)

The tsutsuji flowers (a type of rhododendron) haven't bloomed yet. The cherry blossoms, sensing the void, have moved in temporarily before they make their way to the ground. A nice way to cushion the fall from the tree.

In Drifts

An Inari shrine in Waseda, sprinkled liberally with the petals of a nearby cherry blossom tree. The little boy in the background was grabbing handfuls and throwing them about him, creating little whirls that looked like snow.

If they could retain their freshness, they would be a nice alternative to throwing rice at weddings.

April 9, 2009

Like White on Rice

(In Waseda.)

Cherry blossom petals lying in the grooves of a cherry blossom-patterned manhole cover. Who would have noticed otherwise?

April 8, 2009

The Mysteries of Hachiko

(In Tomigaya.)

I had never heard of Hachiko sauce until I saw this sign advertising said sauce, but apparently it isn't too different from tonkatsu sauce.

Speaking of Hachiko popping up in unexpected places:

I am finding it very hard to rationalize the existence of this film. Hachiko is is an undeniable part of Tokyo's pop lore, but the story itself is not particularly remarkable. Geography is everything. This makes it all the more puzzling that
Hachiko: A Dog's Story is set in a small American town, with American actors. Replace the name Hachiko with Fido and you would most likely have a run-of-the-mill, man-and-his-best-friend story.

Yet, the film has managed to gather a fair amount of pedigree (director Lasse Hallström, actors Richard Gere and Joan Allen), unlike, say, the upcoming
Dragonball Evolution, with its D-list cast (Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum). The cynic in me smirks because Hachiko was partly financed by Shochiku, a Japanese film distribution company, and stars Gere, whose still has popularity votes left over in Japan from Pretty Woman. I almost wish this film would forgo its American release and head straight to Japan (where the money is in the first place), just to save everyone else from embarrassment.

April 6, 2009

Dead or Alive?

(In Yoyogikoen)

I don't even know the name of this flower. Is it in the sakura family?

April 5, 2009

Jumping the Gun

At a park in Yokohama last Sunday, a place renowned for its cherry blossoms. Most impressive is the cluster of trees atop a small mountain called Sakurayama (cherry blossom mountain). Alas, I've yet to master the timing crucial to seeing the flowers. The buds had barely opened that day.

There were dozens of others who had also misjudged the timing, or it was such a beautiful day that they just wanted to be outside. You can almost visualize how beautiful it would be when the sakura are in full bloom, but nothing can ever beat being able to see it for yourself.

April 2, 2009

This Market and That Market

The Atwater Market, a prettier and less sprawling counterpart to the Jean-Talon Market.

There seems to be an ongoing "which is better?" argument, but mostly I'm just tickled that Jean-Talon has a butcher that sells pig's heads, severed and packaged, while at the Atwater Market, they sell pigs without heads.