These castle-like blocks are common throughout Japan. They are frequently used to make retaining walls, but sometimes are also the sides of buildings. The rough surfaces of these stones are perfect places for moss and other things to grow.
Tokyo, by and large, is not a particularly tall city. One of the tallest areas is the Shinjuku Skyscraper District. While not the most beautiful part of Tokyo, these urban trees have a certain charm to them.
This river was so cold, clean and refreshing that we went swimming in it. We also played in it, trying to catch the small fish in our hands. When the sand and gravel on the riverbed was stirred up it sparkled like gold flakes. It was like a magical river, running just behind our room at the hostel.
Up in Kinugawa there are some great hot springs. Normally they are housed within traditional Japanese-style hotels called ryokan. This one was in a big, Western-style hotel, complete with giant chandeliers. It felt completely incongruous to walk into the baths from that setting, but there it was.
Bamboo is a very popular plant, abroad as well as in Japan. Shops and restaurants try to show they have a traditional feel by planting this fast-growing grass outside their shops. While it looks nice I imagine it's a lot of work to keep it from taking over the shop.
In Japan, summertime is the time for festivals. While most major summer festivals involve fireworks (fireworks seem to be synonymous with summer), there are many smaller festivals that barely count as festivals by the typical Japanese standard. Smaller festivals usually focus around specific interest groups or cultures. This was a Thai Fruit Festival in West Ikebukuro Park. It was mostly food booths and a couple grocery store-like shops, with a couple performers on the stage who were largely ignored.
That's not to say that these aren't great festivals; they are great, but they are largely ignored because they aren't part of the mainstream culture here.
In keeping with my Friday lunch treat, I found Café Troisgros to try. If you're interested in reading more about it you can read my restaurant review. Otherwise, this is the Mushroom Farfalle, today's daily pasta special.
There are small restaurants all over Tokyo. Some would say Tokyo has more places to eat than anywhere else they've seen. While I haven't thought about it much I'd have to agree; there are so many places it's impossible to try every place I want to go. This is a little shop in Otsuka that caught my eye because of the paper lantern plant.
Wish I could say the bamboo is dried out due to the heat because it sure feels like it would be, but this is a fence. It's also not in Tokyo, but the heat in Japan right now is unnaturally unbearable. This year we're hitting record highs...and when the hottest day of the year is September 4th that's not normal.
There is a Brazilian festival in Harajuku this weekend. It seems a large number of the people who went to Brazil a couple generations ago have returned, or rather their children have, and they have brought a Brazilian twist to Tokyo. It's nice to see a glimmer of multiculturalism once in a while.
So here I am, hot and tired with a plate of steak, sausage and grilled pineapple from Barbacoa, shown behind me.
From here on out, Fridays will be my day to take myself to lunch if I've been good all week. Usually I take lunch boxes to work and on Friday there are fewer people in the office so it's not too strange to go on my own.
To that end I went to get Indian curry at Siddique in Shinjuku. The Ladies' Thali set is awesome, with a small pile of saffron rice hiding under the nan (you can see it bumping up next to the lamb curry). It comes with two curries, saffron rice, nan and a yogurt dessert. My curries were shrimp butter dal and lamb curry, and I also got a mango lassi since my desk is full of free drink coupons.
Hanayashiki is a small amusement park in Asakusa that has been open since 1953. According to my friends and coworkers it is the oldest one in Japan and also has the oldest roller coaster. Attempting to confirm these claims, I did a little research but was unable to confirm or reject anything except when it opened. At this point it's accepted as fact, as much "common knowledge" is around here. With Japan's history of historical revisionism I think I'll leave it alone before it turns into a huge search.
The cafe I sometimes go to for lunch added a wine rack on the wall near where I usually sit. It's a nice touch, although being under a large skylight I'm not sure it's good for the wines...in which case it's a shame the wine is being wasted. From the looks of this picture the wine bottles are empty though, which I didn't take the time to check while at lunch. Tragedy averted.