Fateful Encounters http://www.fabricerequin.com Mon, 14 Jul 2014 23:46:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 An Endless Flower Paradise http://www.fabricerequin.com/an-endless-flower-paradise/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/an-endless-flower-paradise/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 17:36:57 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=13047

Hitachi Kaihin Koen
Japan is a country blessed with four distinct seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter due to the wide regional differences in climate. There is a widespread belief that the Japanese have an inherent affinity upon each seasonal transition and that this affinity is one of the major characteristics of Japanese culture. Flowers are a good example that reflects each of those four seasons and fittingly due to the fact that flower viewing is a very popular activity in Japan as most prominently seen in the annual festivities surrounding the cherry blossoms, but not necessarily limited to just them.

Read – Chasing the Cherry Blossom Front of Eastern Japan

There are many places in Japan where various species of flowers can be appreciated at different times of the year. Flower parks and botanical gardens are usually great locations for flower viewing. Some temples and shrines may also be famous for particular flowers. Below are a few places Ive visited during the month of April and May which are popular for flower viewing. The onset gives us a new feel and brings us more closer to the nature than ever.

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Hitachi Seaside Park – Ibaraki

This large public park covering an area of 190 hectares in the city of Hitachinaka boasts a wide variety of seasonal flower gardens throughout the year. In spring, you are met with 4.5 million translucent-petaled baby blue flowers, called nemophilas that blooms all over the park. The hill covered with blue flowers together with the matching pale blue sky is a mesmerising sight, as if you’re standing in the middle of powdery blue goodness. Its no surprise the park recorded its highest ever 1 day attendance this year of more than 71000 people!

http://en.hitachikaihin.go.jp/

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Ashigaka Park – Tochigi

This enchanting Park in the town of Tomita is home to hundreds of these spell-binding trees called wisteria, ranging from shrubs, draped wisteria, to 260-foot-long tunnels in its 10,000 square foot vine grove and are said to be the most beautiful wisterias in the world. One of the largest wisterias, known as a ‘Fugi Tree’ in Japan, has been growing for more than 100-years and forms a living umbrella of leaves over visitors making it hard to take your eyes off it when you’re standing in this fairy-tale environment. The hanging wisteria is so thick in some parts of the Japanese park it is impossible to see through it. These vines normally grow along walls but with pruning and the use of special poles to hold up the branches, they can be manipulated into tree shapes. To be able to see the growing beauty of the wisterias is truly an experience.

http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/en/

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Echigo Hillside Park – Niigata

Tulips has bewitched the people of Japan since their introduction at the beginning of the 20th century and has been produced mainly in Niigata and Toyama where sixty-seven million bulbs are produced annually. The Echigo Hillside Park near the city of Nagaoka is a wonderful experience for people of all ages. By the time the spring season is in full swing, the “Flower Hill” is swathed in red, pink, purple, orange and yellow blooms, a sight that truly looks like something out of The Wizard of Oz. I personally like tulips because they are a more uniquely shaped flower, and their striking colors of the flowering bulbs is a overwhelmingly beautiful sight to see, with each color of the tulip having a positive symbolic meaning behind it.

https://echigo-park.jp/en/

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Fuji Shibazakura(Moss Phlox) Festival – Mt Fuji

The Fuji Moss Phlox Festival is a special spring attraction of Mt. Fuji with some 800,000 shibazakura (moss phlox or moss pink) plants with five petals similar to those of a cherry blossom, spreading over the natural expanse of the mountain. It is one of the largest collections of shibazakura in the Kanto region. With Mt. Fuji at the distance together with the surrounding forest, the blue skies and the pink of the shibazakura creates a colorful contrast that makes for a great photo opportunity. Unfortunately for me the shibazakura were just a week before full bloom during my visit!

http://www.shibazakura.jp/eng/

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Inspirational, uplifting, educational or simply gorgeous visiting these flower parks should not be missed!

Flower Forecast
Please note that a particular flower species might blossom at differing times across regions with varying climate each year. It is recommended to check the location of the flower let it be Park, gardens or temples website if available to keep track of the best viewing time.

JR East Pass
The JR East Pass is an economical and flexible ticket for travel in eastern Japan. Unlimited travel is possible on all lines of JR East, including the Shinkansen, on five days of your choice within a 14-day period from the date when your pass is issued. It is also valid on the N’EX service which provides direct access to Tokyo from Narita Airport. The JR East Pass can be purchased at designated JR East Travel Service Centers, among other locations. This Pass is the biggest recommendation to purchase for any tourist planning a visit to East Japan. This pass is, of course, available all year round.

HTTP://WWW.JREAST.CO.JP/E/EASTPASS

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Chasing the Cherry Blossom Front of Eastern Japan http://www.fabricerequin.com/chasing-the-cherry-blossom-front-of-eastern-japan/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/chasing-the-cherry-blossom-front-of-eastern-japan/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 18:51:46 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=12681

Horse Carriage along the Cherry Blossom Lane in Kitakami
The Cherry Blossom is the flower that symbolises Japan and the Japanese have always looked forward to each spring coming. Traditionally, It was the members of the royal court who went outdoors and enjoyed a picnic, waiting for the blossoms to bloom.The practice eventually spread to other groups in society, until it became something that all people did. The culture of hanami (literally: cherry blossom viewing) in which people enjoy the transient beauty of flowers, so that when the tree are in bloom, people come in large groups with their families and friends to view the flowers and enjoy the festivals with food, drink, and music.

It is truly a sight to behold, especially when it is in full riotous bloom. There are several varieties of the cherry blossom tree, and while most of them produce flowering branches full of small pinkish-hued flowers, some of them produce actual cherries.

My trip takes me to the famous places in eastern Japan where it is possible to take in the beauty of these Cherry Blossoms between the end of April to the Beginning of May. Among these, there are the famous places called the “Big Three Cherry Blossom Sites of Michinoku” (Michinoku being the historical name for the now Tohoku region”: Kitakami-Tenshochi in Iwate Prefecture where 10,000 cherry blossom trees in 150 varieties compete over beauty, Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture where there is the stunning site of weeping cherry blossoms pouring over a samurai residence and last but not least Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture where it is possible to admire Hirosaki Castle surrounded by the contest of cherry blossom. There are of course plenty of other good places to see Cherry Blossoms such as in Morioka also in the Iwate Prefecture.

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Kitakami-Tenshochi & Morioka

Kitakami is renowned as the most picturesque area in Iwate Prefecture for Sakura (cherry blossom) viewing. Tenshochi Park is the place which boasts 10,000 cherry trees of 150 varieties and 100,000 azaleas blossoming along the Kitakami River for two kilometres around onto the Sango River. Taking a stroll through the veritable tunnel of flowers is surely an experience. Alongside the cherry trees, vivid carp-shaped streamers swim in the air above the Kitakami River. Together with pleasure boat cruising, a horse-driven carriage also rolls through the avenue of cherry trees creating a nostalgic atmosphere. (pictures above).

Morioka is another city not so far from Kitakami that provides beautiful cherry blossom viewing, although not as renown as Kitakami it still deserves an honorary mention. On top the large stone walls as the only remaining vestige of the once stood Kozukata Castle lies now a park (Iwate Park). With 18 species of cherry trees of 13 varieties covering the park, a view from the highest point is spectacular, especially when you look down the cherry trees in full bloom on the side of the Shimono-hashi bridge. The pink sea of cherry blossoms will never fail to impress you.

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Kakunodate

In the small town of Kakunodate, you will find many samurai residences that remain making it one of the best places to see an example of a Japanese castle town. Back in the days, In order to enhance their remote rural town with some flavor from the distant capital, the former samurai residents imported weeping cherry trees from Kyoto in 1656 to be planted in their gardens. A few hundred years later, over 150 weeping cherry trees are delighting thousands of tourists every spring with their exceptional seasonal beauty. Blossoms from weeping cherry trees drape gracefully down over the old samurai district and form an elegant tunnel of branches along the riverside, filling the town with a sweet, delicate pink cloud.

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Akita Bijin

It is said that the women of the Akita Prefecture are referred to as Akita bijin (literally: beauties of Akita) and has gained widespread coverage throughout the country. The reason being that they are renown for their high awareness of physical beauty, such as their white skin, rounded faces and high voices, all of which are considered highly desirable. No wonder the region has the largest number of beauty salons! During each seasons in the year especially spring, the Akita Prefectural Government selects a number of Akita Bijin together with volunteers to help improve the image of the prefecture such as in Kakunodate, promoting the towns products and distribute PR materials including some discount information.

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Hirosaki

The highlight of a spring visit in eastern Japan would have to be in Hirosaki. The city’s 50-hectare castle park is shrouded in numerous shades of pink, teeming with pilgrims paying homage to one of Japan’s most instantly recognisable symbols. There are more than 2,600 flowering cherry trees of approximately 70 varieties in the grounds of Hirosaki Castle and its botanical garden, including the Yoshino Cherry, Weeping Cherry and Double Cherry varieties, their petals nearly eclipsing the castle moat.

Similar to Kakunodate, It all began In 1715 when a samurai brought the saplings of twenty-five sakura trees from Kyoto to amuse the Daimyo (lord), who was one of the most sophisticated people of his day. Today there are hundreds more sakura giving pleasure to considerably more than just a jolly vassal Daimyo! Each spring, an estimated 2 million visitors or more amble along castle lanes, or enjoy boating beneath the blossoms in the sakura-lined Nishi-bori (west moat). Lining both sides of the lane on the castle side of the moat is possibly the most spectacular sakura “tunnel” in Japan.

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Cherry blossom season is truly breathtaking and worth planning your trip to Japan around that time.

Cherry Blossom Forecast
The cherry blossoms in Japan don’t open all at the same time. This means that locals and travelers have the opportunity to see the blooms at their best at various times, depending on the city they are in. The best time may vary as well because this is based on an average year. For a schedule of the best viewing times around the country, this is a great website:

http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php

JR East Pass
The JR East Pass is an economical and flexible ticket for travel in eastern Japan. Unlimited travel is possible on all lines of JR East, including the Shinkansen, on five days of your choice within a 14-day period from the date when your pass is issued. It is also valid on the N’EX service which provides direct access to Tokyo from Narita Airport. The JR East Pass can be purchased at designated JR East Travel Service Centers, among other locations. This Pass is the biggest recommendation to purchase for any tourist planning a visit to East Japan. This pass is, of course, available all year round, not just for the cherries.

HTTP://WWW.JREAST.CO.JP/E/EASTPASS

Cherry Blossom in Kitakami

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The First Class Experience with Japan Airlines http://www.fabricerequin.com/the-first-class-experience-with-japan-airlines/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/the-first-class-experience-with-japan-airlines/#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 12:04:12 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=12611

Japan Airlines First Class Cabin Flight London to Tokyo Haneda
I’ve never flown first class, and always been curious. How different could it be? Ive heard so many stories from my father about the experience as he jets around the world and always dreamed for my turn, Well.. I can now finally say my time has come!

While booking my ticket to Japan for the month of April to see the famous cherry blossoms, my father was generous enough to give some of his points to upgrade me to first class making my trip even more special, Thanks Dad! The moment I arrived at the airport the quirks of being a first class passenger began, from the priority check-in, to the fast track past security and then the enjoyment of the lounge. When boarding began for Japan Airlines new Boeing 777-300 bound for Haneda, Tokyo you and a small group of other privileged passengers stroll onto the plane and settle into large comfy seats with ample leg room. Taking my seat, 1K, the window seat in the front row of the cabin the first class flight attendant greeted me and offered a glass of Champagne and not just any Champagne, it was Dom Perignon along with a hot towel. She knew it was my first time as I looked completely in a daze, so she began explaining the features of the seat finishing off with a photo for memories. Nice touch. Once airborne, I was in my own little world.

On board JAL’s First Class Suite you can expect delicious cuisine, a high quality proper lie-flat bed and excellent service – all in luxurious surroundings. I reached my destination fully rested and full of energy ready to start my adventure in Japan!

Japan Airlines First Class Cabin Flight London to Tokyo HanedaGlass of Champagne - Japan AirlinesHot Hand Towel - Japan AirlinesButtons - Japan Airline First ClassCompartments - Japan Airline First ClassBose Headphones - Japan Airline First ClassView from window - Japan Airline First ClassTV Entertainment - Japan Airline First ClassDinner - Japan Airline First ClassBed Set Up for Sleep - Japan Airline First ClassCabins - Japan Airline First Class

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A Museum from the Future called Miraikan http://www.fabricerequin.com/national-museum-of-emerging-science-and-innovation-miraikan/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/national-museum-of-emerging-science-and-innovation-miraikan/#comments Sun, 26 May 2013 10:52:40 +0000 http://fabricerequin.com/?p=10466

Miraikan MuseumA friend from the hostel recommended this museum to me after his visit and I thank him for doing so as it turned out to be a great experience! The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation or just Miraikan, should be a must for anyone with at least a passing interest in new technology and science and its actually a good break from the bustling shopping and sights of the Tokyo city.

As you arrive you are faced with a sleek curved glass-fronted facade that’s modern, appealing, and dare I say it, futuristic. Pretty apt for a museum designed to showcase the future. Although, the building looks huge from outside you’ll realise that inside can be a bit sparse and the exhibits themselves are rather smaller than expected, so do not plan too much time at this attraction like I did. You do not have to understand Japanese to enjoy the museum as the exhibits are in both Japanese and English, but not in other languages. So if you read all the descriptions and try everything out, expect to take about 2-3 hours. It’s not the biggest museum but unlike most science museums it documents and demonstrates technology currently being developed rather than providing an account of the history of science.

Each exhibit trails the frontiers of particular scientific or technological areas including neuroscience, the Internet, genetics, space etc. Those in the permanent exhibition has a hands-on element which would provide something for those that can’t be bothered to read, or for children. However I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday when the place is likely to be quieter. I found it great to be able to stroll around the place without being annoyed by screaming children or pushy parents from past experiences in other Japanese museums.

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What did I like? Well To start, take an amazing look at the built “Kuratas” which is the first gigantic boardable robot in Japan (and the world, too, perhaps?). Kuratas looks almost human with his face and body with four legs and two arms and – of course – the cockpit where the robot can be controlled manually or even with an iPhone. It was listed at the time of my visit as a special exhibit which means that for current readers im not sure is still in the museum.

The other star attraction of Miraikan (which by the way is free for all to view) is the Geo-Cosmos. Glowing beautifully in the darkness, the Geo-Cosmos, which is 6 meters in diameter — about one-two-millionth the size of the actual Earth — looks very much like the image we are so used to of our planet as seen from space. On its screens, content acquired from scientists and research institutes from around the world is displayed or in another words, the images of the clouds for example on the globe reflect the everyday image data taken by the weather satellites. Amazing right? but what amazes me even more is the fact that with the Geo-Cosmos you can see the current image of Earth that changes every minute, and what your Earth will look like in the future. There are many ways to enjoy the Geo-Cosmos. A wide spiralling stairway all around it provides you with an opportunity to admire the globe with a 360 degree vantage point. It’s a thoughtful design which anchors the Geo-Cosmos as part of the building – it’s essentially the heart of Miraikan in which everything else emanates from.

My personal favorite is Honda’s ASIMO which is probably the main highlight of the museum. I just got there in time to watch the performance of the worlds most advanced humanoid robot and it was super crowded (This was the only exhibit where there was crowded, the rest of the museum was relatively quiet), so try and get there earlier in time for the 11 and 2pm shows. It was pretty a jaw dropping session for as its simply overwhelming. Throughout the performance you basically see ASIMO moving around and demonstrate his human skills. From walking to running, climbing to descending, the bending and twisting of its torso, carrying a tray, playing around kicking a ball and the overall synchronization with humans makes ASIMO such a privileged to watch and im just so lucky!

You should also try out the “Songs of Anagura” exhibit – it’s all about spatial information science but engages visitors by getting you to “log in” as you enter the exhibit and then tracks you by shining a funky, cartoon-image light onto the floor around you as you move around the exhibit. Funky music, which you yourself initiate, is played throughout the exhibit at a particular stage in the process.

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So to wrap up from the live performance by Honda’s famous ASIMO robot, to hands on displays demonstrating the concepts behind quantum mechanics, robotic surgery and the International Space State, I can say that Miraikan is a great place to get acquainted with the absolute cutting edge of technology and scientific discover.

While its far from being perfect and cannot compare with some other science museums in the world in terms of size, it’s an excellent option if you are around Odaiba. It approaches modern science in a different way and offers something none of the more traditional science and science history museums do.

To visit the Miraikan ride out on the Yurikamome from Shimbashi – get off at Telecom Centre Station. You can’t use JR Rail Pass on the Yurikamome but it’s a fun thing to do and you get good views across Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge.
Admission: 600 Yen (Adult) – 18 years old and under 200 Yen – Free Admission for 18 years old and under on Saturday. Extra fee for special exhibition.
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (16:30 last admission time)
Closed: Tuesdays (except national holidays and seasonal holidays), New year’s holidays.
Url: http://www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/

Miraikan MuseumMiraikan Museum

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Odaiba’s Life-size RX-78-2 Gundam Statue http://www.fabricerequin.com/odaibas-life-size-rx-78-2-gundam-statue/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/odaibas-life-size-rx-78-2-gundam-statue/#comments Sat, 13 Apr 2013 13:13:24 +0000 http://fabricerequin.com/?p=10002

Lifesize Gundam in Odaiba, TokyoOne of the reasons why I went to Odaiba island in Tokyo was to see the huge Gundam Statue right in front of Tokyo Diver City Plaza. If you are a fan of the animated show, the statue is definitely a must see. After admiring the Gundam for a good 15 minutes, You appreciate the craftsmanship and detail that went into building this life size model, its simply overwhelming! if only I could have one in my back yard, imagine that!

The 1/1 RX-78-2 Gundam Life-size Statue has quite a history, it first stood at Shiokaze Park here on Odaiba island back in July of 2009 as part of the 30th Anniversary of the Gundam series becoming the first of its kind ever built in Japan. Unfortunately the statue was then taken down in September due to the maintenance cost. It was later re-erected in the city of Shizuoka the home of Bandai’s (the company) plastic model factories in July 2010 until March 2011, this time holding a beam saber. The statue did eventually return to Tokyo in August that same year but in disassembled parts as a charity drive from fans after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake disaster. It was not until April of 2012 that the Gundam was finally rebuilt where it still stands today in front of Tokyo Diver City Plaza Mall.

Again Its very impressive so impressive that neighboring China decided to create what they called an “original” statue of its own in one of its theme park, Oh China! Anyway back to the original one in Japan, it was nice to see fans coming together to bring it back up as well as helping those affected by the disaster at the same time. Normally you would see lots of people taking pictures but on the day of my visit it was relatively quiet. You will find the Gundam Cafe and Gundam Front Tokyo shop besides the statue selling Gundam goodies of all sorts. Note the main Gundam Front Tokyo shop is actually a museum/mini-theme park on the top floor of the DiverCity shopping complex.

The best feature of this lifesize Gundam is that you can enjoy a short 5 minutes “life show” where it steams, moves, and has loud sound effects.

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The 1:1 Gundam is standing outside the to-be opened Diver City Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba, 5 min walk from Daiba station on Yurikamome line or 3 min walk from Tokyo Teleport station on Rinkai line.
Shops: 10:00 to 21:00
Daily life-show schedule: Weekdays: 12:00 / 15:00 / 17:00 / 20:30
19:30 – Special 「GUNDAM STAND ATOP TOKYO」(with projected video)
Weekend: 12:00 / 15:00 / 17:00 / 20:15
19:30 / 21:00 – Special 「GUNDAM STAND ATOP TOKYO」(with projected video)
Gundam Cafe: 10:00 to 21:00
Gundam Front Tokyo: 10:00 to 22:00 (from 9:00 on weekends), 1000 yen
Closed: No closing days

HTTP://GUNDAMFRONT-TOKYO.COM/EN/

Lifesize Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo

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On Board the Futuristic Himiko Cruise Ship http://www.fabricerequin.com/on-board-the-himiko-cruise-ship/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/on-board-the-himiko-cruise-ship/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2013 08:09:08 +0000 http://fabricerequin.com/?p=9944

Himiko Cruise Ship - TokyoIn Edo times, the Sumida river was crucial to survival. Now, with modern transportation it has lost its importance for the purposes of commerce. It does nevertheless, offer a different perspective on Tokyo’s skyline and makes for a good tourist attraction. One of the attractions is riding on the famous Himiko cruise ship or water bus, this has been on my list of things to do in Tokyo for quite some time but I never seemed to catch the ship at the right time. Fortunately this time I got lucky and made the most of the ride down to Odaiba from Asakusa.

Himiko is a completely unique water bus with its streamline shaped body with 3D windows. Its unusual design comes from the work of Leiji Matsusmoto, the man who brought us anime titles such as Yamato, Galaxy Express 999 and Herlock. Mr. Matsumoto designed the cruise ship based on its concepts, the image of teardrop and the ship appealing to children. Note that the name Himiko is taken after Queen Himiko who was the first recognised independent lady in Japanese history. I’m sure the ship looks more impressive at night with the futuristic lights but I was having a blast regardless. It is such a nice trip, very relaxing and provides a great and different views of Tokyo, so I definitely recommend it. The Himiko Cruise travel to different locations, so you can plan your day to suit your own itinerary, The trip from Asakusa to Odaiba took around 40 minutes. Now image having an aircraft like the Himiko. It would be great to see everything when flying, instead of only being able to look out of the small windows that are on planes. Wishful thinking but I hope it happens!

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Tickets for all cruises for the day can be purchased at the ticket counter on a first come, first served basis. The ticket counter at Asakusa opens at 9:30 AM, Odaiba at 10:30 AM

Asakusa Pier
The pier is located along the Sumida River, just beside the Asakusa Stations of the Ginza Subway Line and the Tobu Line or a five minute walk from Asakusa Station on the Asakusa Subway Line.

Odaiba Pier
The pier is located just in front of the Aquacity Odaiba shopping mall, about a five minute walk from either Daiba Station or Odaiba-Kaihinkoen Station on the Yurikamome Line.

Himiko’s time table
Departing Asakusa for Odaiba: 10:10 13:20 15:20
Departing Odaiba for Asakusa: 12:10 14:15
One way ticket for Adult: 1,520 Yen
Child under 12 yrs: 910 Yen
Child under 6yrs: 300 Yen

http://www.suijobus.co.jp/ship/himiko.html

Himiko Cruise Ship - Tokyo

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation World at Ghibli Museum http://www.fabricerequin.com/ghibli-museum/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/ghibli-museum/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 05:43:53 +0000 http://fabricerequin.com/?p=9664

Ghibli MuseumThe Ghibli Museum in Mitaka holds a special memory in me, probably for eternal. It features the amazing anime work from one of Japan’s most well-known animation studios, Studio Ghibli and director the great Hayao Miyazaki. Among the iconic and world-famous productions of the studio that I thoroughly enjoyed in my early years and still do are My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Spirited Away – together with all the other movies makes it an amazing space and the museum experience begins even before you enter through the gates. Studio Ghibli has done a wonderful job immersing you in the fantastical yet grounded worlds of their animations through amazing architecture, creative use of signs and symbols, and of course with innovative exhibits that although simple in principle, is executed to perfection.

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Centered around the motto appearing on the museum’s website “Let’s become lost children together” (迷子になろうよ、いっしょに Maigo ni narō yo, isshoni?), or “let’s lose our way together” as it is translated in the English leaflet, the museum has no set path or order of viewing. While the brochure contains a variety of languages the signs within the museum are in Japanese only. Hayao Miyazaki wanted to create a museum that was interesting and relaxing to the soul. His goal was to create a museum “that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!”.

The official museum site as well as a Wikipedia entry gives you a good overview of what the museum has to offer.

On the bottom floor is an exhibit room showing the history and science of animation. One of the displays is a three dimensional zoetrope named “Bouncing Totoro”, with models of a smiling bat, a cat bus, Satsuki, Mei, a big Totoro along with little ones, each in a slightly different pose, arranged in rings on a spinning table. A flickering stroboscope flashes in time with the rotating models, illuminating each as it passes the same spot, creating an illusion of movement that shows how animation works.

On the first floor is a mock-up of an animation studio, with sketches, story boards, reference material and more to look at. Also shown is the process of creating an animated film, from sketches, storyboarding, keyframing, cleanup, coloring, background painting, etc.

In addition to Ghibli-oriented exhibitions, the museum hosts an area where it brings in other animation work. These exhibits are not permanent and rotate out on a varying basis. One more important thing to note is that the Special Exhibits Room is also located on this floor.

Keep in mind that photos are not allowed in the museum and although many will bemoan this, I can see why it makes sense. If photos were allowed, visitors will be busy snapping pictures of everything and fail to just appreciate and soak in the ambiance. Till today the images are still embedded clearly in my head (buy the postcards etc if you need pictures to remember). Photos are allowed outside though and you can get a feel for the museum from my photos.

One of the highlights is that each guest to the museum is permitted to watch one of the featured short film at the Saturn Theater during a single visit. The Straw hat cafe at the museum is also an attraction in its own right. I was there right at the 10am opening and many visitors rushed ahead to queue at the cafe (which opens a bit later). The Food was simply fantastic and the restaurant was working with all organic ingredients. One tip Ive learnt is to hurry up first to the rooftop to get an uninterrupted photo with iconic Laputa robot warrior and then perhaps alternate with someone in the group to queue for a table at the cafe. You can always browse the museum after a brunch.

The Ghibli Museum is definitely a magical place. It’s not that big, it’s not a theme park (more a fine arts museum), but it packs a lasting impression. It does help though if you’re familiar with the work of Studio Ghibli nonetheless I do think there is enough to do and see for this to be fun for all the family or individual.

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Entrance to the Ghibli Museum is strictly by advance purchase of a reserved ticket which specifies the appointed date of the reservation. For visitors outside Japan, You can get reservation tickets at designated local travel agency counters from the website For further information on how to purchase reserved tickets, please click here and follow on by clicking on a country. For visitors already in Japan, Reserved tickets can be purchased only at LAWSON convenience stores throughout Japan. Click here for the required steps.
Hours:Museum:10:00-18:00
Straw Hat Cafe:11:00-18:00
Closed Weekly Holiday: Every Tuesday.
Other: Year-end and New year Holidays, periodic maintenance – click here to view calendar.
Address1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-shi,
Tokyo 181-0013
Access: To Mitaka station, take the JR Chuo Line. Approx. 20 min. from Shinjuku station.It takes approximately 15 minutes walk along the Tamagawa Josui “Waterworks” from Mitaka Station South exit. A community bus is in operation from Mitaka Station to the museum
(fare:one-way 200 yen / round trip 300 yen – 1/2 price for children under 12 years old).
Click to view timetable and printer friendly map.
HTTP://GHIBLI-MUSEUM.JP/

Ghibli Museum

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A Japanese Obsession for Baumkuchen http://www.fabricerequin.com/a-japanese-obsession-for-baumkuchen/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/a-japanese-obsession-for-baumkuchen/#comments Sat, 26 Jan 2013 14:34:43 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=11584

Baumkuchen at NenrinyaI’m struggling to find the appropriate words to describe how much I like Baumkuchen. It originates from Germany, although these days it is much easier to find in Japan after being introduced by the German Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim during WW1. It has since become a national obsession, and they’ve refined it with their characteristic perfectionism.

Baumkuchen or Baumukuhen in Japanese is a kind of layered cake that is traditionally made on a spit by brushing on even layers of batter and then rotating the spit around a heat source. Each layer is allowed to brown before a new layer of batter is poured. When the cake is removed and sliced, each layer is divided from the next by a golden line, resembling the growth rings on a crosscut tree. A typical Baumkuchen is made up to 20 layers of batter and so you get to enjoy that twenty times over in every slice, whilst still retaining a soft spongey texture, which is also carefully prevented from drying out by the layering. For me the most flavoursome part is the outer edge, where the sugars have caramelised slightly and the flavours are concentrated, absolutely delightful!

You can find many confectionery shops selling Baumkuchen across the country, in department stores, train stations or markets. Many of them have an open display window where you see and admire the Pastry chefs at work. I recommend names such as Meisterbaum, Renrinya or Club Harie all of whom Ive bought Baumkuchen from and enjoyed. Come to think of it, I remember watching the anime Yumeiro Patissiere or Kobato where they featured Baumkuchen, this shows how much the Japanese enjoy it. With the advancement level of Japan’s confectionery culture, production technologies and tastes must be on a par with the World’s leader’s level or even better.

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Hikone’s Remarkable Castle http://www.fabricerequin.com/hikones-remarkable-castle/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/hikones-remarkable-castle/#comments Sun, 20 Jan 2013 20:44:41 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=12158

View of Hikone Castle from afarHikone may not be the name on everyone’s lips when visiting Japan but this small town on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa has character and that is from its remarkable yet beautiful castle, which sits atop a steep hill overlooking the town and lake.

The town was the home of the powerful Ii Naomasa and his family, who played an active part in the hereditary Tokugawa shogunate, which began in the early 17th century and lasted for more than 250 years. During Naomasa’s time serving the Tokugawa shogunate, he was rewarded with his own castle which would become Hikone Castle but unfortunately passed away shortly after construction began with his two son’s Naotsugu and Naotaka taking over respectively, the later seeing its completion in 1622.

Today, Hikone Castle is one of only a dozen original castles in Japan remaining intact. Almost all of its kind were destroyed, and the few remaining greatly altered through later modifications. The castle also has extensive moats and outer fortifications left. Although the trek up can be a bit frightening, the views from the castle and the ability to see the workmanship close up is worth the mild stress of ascending stairs that look more like ladders. The mastery of the woodwork is astounding and the beauty of contrasting white plaster with wood and stone is exceptional. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see the mascot, a samurai cat called Hiko-nyan, who poses for pictures in the afternoon. The grandeur might not be like Himeji Castle but Hikone Castle with its incredible natural surroundings and original interior makes it a worthwhile visit. Its important to note that Naomasa’s famous sets of armour painted in red are all preserved within the Castle museum and are accessible for viewing, the story behind it is also worth reading.

Approach to Hikone castleBig map of Hikone CityA spiral approach to the castleA spiral approach to the castleBell atop Hikone Castle groundsHikone Castle in AutumnHikone Castle in AutumnHikone Castle in AutumnHikone CastleHikone Castlehikone_38Statue of Lord Ii NaomasaInside Hikone CastleView of HikoneView of HikoneInside Hikone CastleHikone CastleIi Naomasa armor inside Hikone Castle MuseumIi Naomasa Katana on displayVarious things on display at the Hikone Castle MuseumHikone Castle Visitors can enjoy a stroll along the small shopping district near the castle built in traditional-style wooden buildings which instills a feeling of olden days. Hikone is also known for its Omi beef, one of the three most famous kinds of beef such as the Kobe beef in Japan. Its rich flavor and soft smooth texture as if melting in your mouth is delightful. Sennari-tei is a well establish restaurant that serves Omi beef located in the shopping district.

Hikone Castle RoadCastle Road HikoneOmi Beef HikoneHiko-nyan Hikone Mascot

Hikone castle is a lasting symbol of functional feudalism and military might. The fact that the castle is not on most tourists’ itineraries means that one rarely has to fight crowds even during the busiest holiday seasons.

The JR Pass The JR Pass is the biggest recommendation for any tourist to purchase while planning a visit to Japan. The JR Pass is an economical and flexible ticket for travel throughout Japan. Unlimited travel is possible on all lines of the JR system, including the Shinkansen, on seven, forteen or tweenty-one day pass from the date when your pass is issued. However, the JR Pass can only be purchased from an agent abroad before the visit. Unlike the JR East Pass the JR Pass is not for sale inside Japan itself. The website below shows the list of agents worldwide where you can purchase the Rail Pass

http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en005.html

How to go Hikone Station lies along the JR Tokaido Main Line (also locally referred to as Biwako Line) just one station southwest of Maibara Station, a shinkansen station served by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo with Kyoto and Osaka. The trip is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

The use of Hyperdia The Hyperdia website is the best resource to help foreign visitors plan their rail trip to Japan with a Japan Rail Pass. After inputting your departure and arrival stations Hyperdia will calculate the best routes for you, presenting you the trains timetable along with several choices for the journey you are planning.

http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

Where to Stay My room in the Hikone Castle Hotel was pleasant and had a clear view of the Castle from the window. The location is probably the closest to the castle which gives a better peace of mind.

Statue of Ii Naomasa

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Elements of Culture at Gion Corner http://www.fabricerequin.com/elements-of-culture-at-gion-corner/ http://www.fabricerequin.com/elements-of-culture-at-gion-corner/#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 14:53:20 +0000 http://www.fabricerequin.com/?p=11458

I like the idea of having this sort of ‘taster’ session for multiple aspects of Japanese culture, and so the performance at Gion Corner in Kyoto offers several vignettes of Japanese arts such as a tea ceremony, various dances and a puppet performance. I’m especially intrigued by the Maiko and Geisha culture so this was a great experience for me to learn a little bit about each area.

You are permitted to take pictures during the performance and I read about complaints from other reviews but I was near the front and didn’t have any problems – just try to be respectful of the other people viewing the show. There is a pamphlet in English so you can easily follow along with the performances even though they are in Japanese.

The show was an hour long & was about the changing of the seasons, starting in Spring. First is chado, the tea ceremony. The precise and graceful gestures, the elegance of the pottery, the fragrance of the tea are both beautiful and captivating. Second is the is the Kyo-mai Dance where beautiful Geisha & Maiko came out on to the stage in gorgeous, bright, patterned kimonos & danced with fans & cherry blossom flowers. All of the Geisha & Maiko danced in a lovely, careful, gentle manner & it was again fascinating to watch. Next, we are introduced to Koto, a thirteen-string instruments played in the Imperial Court, then kado (flower arrangement), gagaku, originally court music but which has evolved into a more popular form, kyogen, a comic play that used to be presented at the interlude of Noh plays, and finally Bunraku, a puppet play.

Seven traditional art forms in total are presented and this is a great way to get into the traditional spirit of Kyoto and get introduced to these fascinating art forms. Although Gion Corner is a bit of a tourist attraction, it still seems equally popular with Japanese and foreign visitors. It is nice to roll up to before heading out for a formal, traditional meal at one of the (many) local restaurants. Sit towards the front (seating not banked) and towards the right. Watch the precision of the movements carefully, it is all in the details.

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