September 27, 2010

Trippy Cave

Abukuma-do (Abukuma Cave) in Fukushima is one of the last places where you'd expect to have a trippy experience. A 600-meter long path of stalagmites and stalactites, the cave was discovered in 1969 and subsequently opened to the public.

Go down to the caves and you're immediately struck by how cold it is (15°C). In the past 80 million years, the limestone has formed oddly recognizable formations. This cluster of face-like limestone is dubbed "deities".

"Moonlight Waterfall"

In terms of hospitality, the cave is somewhat of a rarity in Japanese tourist spots, even those that consider protecting the natural environment above visitor comfort. A certain point into the cave, the path splits into two: the normal course and the "exploration course". (The former costs ¥1,200 yen as opposed to the latter's ¥1,400.) From then on, it's virtually impossible to get through the caves without 1) almost falling into narrow river that snakes beside the path 2) finding yourself nearly trapped as you squeeze through the narrowest of crevices 3) hitting your head hard as you make yourself into a ball to pass through low spaces. The fend-for-yourself attitude is quite refreshing in a country that is overly instructive, and is no doubt a large part of the cave's appeal.

But the cave's main selling point is the large hollow close to the end of the trail. My immediate reference was the Emerald City in Wizard of Oz. Strategically placed lights give the formations an otherworldly air, and the cathedral-like "ceiling" and oddly human-looking formations give you a whiff of religion.

Go higher and higher and you're back to reality again.

September 26, 2010

Kiyosumi Teien

Kiyosumi Teien (Kiyosumi Gardens), three minutes' walk from Kiyosumishirakawa Station. For a mere 150 yen, you can walk around this peaceful space. Essentially a cluster of small ponds surrounded by rocky paths, it takes a surprising amount of effort to walk around without tripping and toppling into the water.

Since visitors are allowed to feed the animals, the turtles and koi in particular seem to grow voracious at the mere sight of a human being.

It's quite unsettling to see a dozen fat koi zooming your way and gaping their mouths open.

The park seemed to be a popular date spot. There are benches positioned all around the park to allow for private moments.

A gorgeous willow tree, marred by the sight of the toilets right behind. They have been conveniently cut out from the frame here.

September 24, 2010

We Are a Peaceful Country

(In Kiyosumishirakawa.)

Although I'm unsure of how accurate my guess is, I imagine that in America, kids wouldn't fling around their BB guns in a public park. That said, these pellets were so pitiful, they couldn't even knock over the soda cans.

Portrait of an Office

I'm trying to deduce what kind of person this office-owner is.

Of interest:
-The jar full of roots
-The hair tonic
-The coil of mosquito repellent
-The dumbbell
-The case full of rubber stamps, behind the phone

I'm guessing he's over 60.

Unrequited Love in Two Shots

(Near Monzen-nakacho.)

Cat sees man.

(In the background is Hachimanhashi, Japan's oldest steel bridge, which was built in 1929. It's actually registered as an important cultural property by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.)

Cat makes beeline, but man is uninterested.

September 19, 2010

Nakaochi Virgin

Maguro nakaochi (the meat along the spine of bluefish tuna) from Jige Barracuda in Tsukiji.

The mere sight of this huge slab of tuna was enough to drop jaws, and they dropped even further when we were told to use the edge of a shell to scrape off the meat.

The meat came off surprisingly easily, and tasted better than any maguro I've had in my life. God bless Tsukiji.

When you finish one side, flip it over and start working the other side. This was enough for 5 people to eat very, very comfortably. (I felt a twinge of guilt when I remembered that Japan's consumption of bluefin tuna greatly contributes to declining catch.)

So impressive was the nakaochi that the big tuna head that came immediately after felt anticlimactic. All this (and more) for 4,000 yen isn't bad at all.

September 16, 2010

Bird Control, Santa Monica Style

The four installment in my pest control series. While it is amusing to see the measures adopted by different countries, it is also alarming to see city spaces being uglified in this way. The spray of wire sitting atop the light pole is nothing short of comical.

September 13, 2010

Life Out of a Box

(In Azabu-juban.)

Dedicated to the Ferris Wheel

The Santa Monica Pier, at the perfect hour.

The lack of precautions on this Ferris Wheel was oddly refreshing. There is nothing barring you from taking a swan dive out of the seat but your sanity.

Slowly watching the sun set.

The town gets more and more twinkly before your very eyes. It's 5 dollars for a 10 minute ride. Go at the right time, and the whole experience is priceless.

To Japanese people, Domo-kun is synonymous with NHK, the totally square state-owned public broadcasting organization. It's nice to know that he is something completely different to American audiences.

Was the Slight Intentional?

(In LA.)
The paper under my door at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica. If I hadn't watched the Emmys the night before, I wouldn't have been able to guess that it was Claire Danes behind the sticker. Someone has it in for her.

Leaving the Fashion Victims Behind

In Narita Airport, thisclose to boarding the plane to LA. The sight of this girl willingly wearing her skirt slung below her bottom was too much to bear.

On Your Perch

(In Kyobashi.)

Unconsciously uniform.

September 11, 2010

Earnest and Lazy Salescats

In this shoe store in Edogawabashi, a cat and kitten are allowed free rein of the shop. They seemed to be quite popular with passers-by. Spot the two in the photo above.

The older cat likes to lounge around the tops of shelves. Occasionally, it will hop up onto the cash register, where the food bowls are, and make it impossible for the owner to do his work.

The kitten (unrelated to the cat) is a mostly frightened baby. It jumps at each and every sound and stays on the lower rungs of the shelves.