Sunday, February 3, 2013

Setsubun - Bean Throwing Festival

Today, Setsubun is the day that marks the beginning of spring in Japan. It is  not really spring, and it is still cold - but this is the tradition. People go to temples all over the country were some priests and invited guests throw roasted soy beans into the crowd. The fun is to try to catch these beans  before your neighbours - but in a civilized manner - these are Japanese people. A 10-year-old boy succeeded to catch a Ziploc beans bag  just between my legs, and as a very controlled oriental man, I succeeded to refrain myself from throwing  him away with the beans....

As I explained to some English women besides me, this is done to drive away the evil spirits that bring bad luck to one's life. Many superstitions,  like having a statue of a kind of raccoon with big testicles and holding a sake bottle to bring good fortune, or the unluckiness of the number "four" are  still very common here.

Nevertheless, today was a beautiful sunny winter day and we all enjoyed very much the event - although, I missed some background music and  "batucada".

After the festival we visited Kappabashi Street where you can find cookware for your house or restaurant.  But, the real attraction for tourists are the shops that sell realistic food models such as sushi, bowls of ramen and yakitori.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Biking around the Imperial Palace

My beloved bike has finally arrived in Japan!  I have spent so many good moments with "her"  that Noemi calls her  my lover. She makes many noises while riding it, she is not new or fancy - but I was really missing it.

For my first trip, I decided to ride around the Imperial Palace. I have understood that you can at least visit the gardens, but all the gates were closed today - need to check this later.

Today is a beautiful day - sunny, 5° C and not windy - perfect for a ride. The route was only 10 km, but it was a wonderful beginning.

You can track my route clicking here in this link, You will be able to follow the route and see the pictures at their precise place they were taken.

South of the Imperial Palace Park, you can find some of Tokyo's  landmarks:

The National Diet of Japan  ( Parliament )

Prime Minister Official Residence ( reminds me the Israeli  Knesset )

National Theatre ( photo from Wikipedia)

Supreme Court ( photo by Caspar Borkowsky)

View of the Marunouchi building complex close to Tokyo Railway Station

View of the Marunouchi building complex close to Tokyo Railway Station

Stone  walls and ditch around the Imperial Palace

You can access  the complete album by clicking on the photo below:
Biking around the Imperial Palace

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Japanese Sanitary Vases

The subject of today's post is the Sanitary Vase, or in Portuguese "privada".

In  our apart-hotel room the sanitary vase is separated from the shower or the hand basin and  toilet cabinets.This dedicated space is very common in Europe, North America and also in Japan - but not at all  in Brazil. Having "some" spare time and decided to enlighten my readers, I searched the Internet for an answer with no success. Only found some hotel reviews in Brazil where some people complained about this segregation. Can someone solve this mystery by adding answers in the "Comments" link  at the bottom of this post page?

Waiting for some answers,let's return in the meantime to my Japanese sanitary vase -take a look at it! Do you notice any difference from the one you have at your place?

There are two electronic boxes close to it for commanding this sophisticated equipment.

You find this box hanging on the wall allowing you to:

- Turn On this "functionality". If you are a true Latin macho you can refrain yourself from using this Japanese piece of technology.
- Water Jet:  The big blue painted buttons allow you to program the water jet operation. You can select between  a concentrated or soft ( funny word....)  water jet directed to your buttocks (well, not exactly the buttocks, but.... )
- Bidet: Women can enable this additional feature
- Arrow buttons:  You can adjust the water pressure,and the position of the water jet 
using these buttons.
- Jet Move: You can make the jet move back and forth automatically around your rear.
- Massage: This is the strangest function - you can make the shower spray alternatively stronger and weaker water jets!  Usually the biggest   "shock" or  "surprise" (depends in your past experience with colonoscopy  or other similar recurrent acts ) is at the beginning of the jet stream. By selecting this option you can multiply this pleasure multiple times.
- Air: After completing the water phase, you can have a hot air stream flowing pleasantly at your bottom. Unfortunately, this model does not come with an oscillating air jet. However, using this functionality reminded me of the air jet equipments that are now installed in public toilets for replacing paper towels - at the end you need to dry your hands in your trousers ( just kidding....).

The other control box allows you to:  
- Set the temperature of the water
- Set the temperature of the seat 
- Set the temperature of the air
- Enable the deodorant - I did not find any difference in the room smell after a good dump (sorry about it.....)

Hope that you will enjoy reading this text as much as I had while testing it. :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coming of Age holiday in Tokyo

Last Monday was a national holiday in Japan celebrating the Coming of Age when all those who have reached  20 years old are congratulated for getting to the age of majority ( i.e.   late "bar-mitzva"). The  young women use long sleeves kimonos and men prefer a western suit gathering  in groups commemorating this special event.

This event happens every year on the second Monday in January since 714 A.D., but this time it happened under a strong snow storm that disrupted completely the traffic and most of the parties in Tokyo and the rest of Japan.

(by Yuya Shino / Reuters)

Hoping to see these specially dressed young people we went to Sensoji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, that is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Tokyo.

After getting soaked taking these pictures and completely frozen, we ran to the first restaurant to get a hot tea. At the doorstep, some Filipino tourists urged us to taste the "melon bread" that was indeed  fluffy, sweet and delicious.

Click on the picture at the bottom to access all the photos from this album. Select the first picture and then click on the "Full Screen" button  to better enjoy these "amazing" pictures.