Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Britain -drenched in lard

I was back in Europe for a while in September. I have to say I didn`t get the "Wow everybody here is morbidly obese" feeling when I was in Belgium and Sweden. But as soon as I set foot back in good old Blightly it quickly returned. Well, everybody may be chronically overweight but at least they`re so very happy and everything in the UK is clean and the public services are great and customer service is so considerate and polite... Erm...

Japan in the Fall(out)

Ahh, early autumn in Japan; 20-25 degrees Centigrade, bright days, calm, clear blue skies and the distant rumble of nuclear weapons tests.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The campsite by the river by night.

The campsite by the river by day.

We went to a cave...

Another hike photo from Okutama

Here is a photo from the hike in Okutama


Last weekend I went to Okutama, in the very north west of Tokyo. Technically part of Tokyo, you would never guess that it is a portion of the world`s largest metropolis. It takes around 2 hours by train from central Tokyo to get to Okutama which is very much in the countryside, nestled in the mountains. We spent two days camping by a river and hiking. We also visited a large cave and finished of the whole trip in the traditional fashion; with a nice relaxing onsen (hot spring bath).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I recently went to the floating lantern festival at Enoshima. On an evening, traditional paper lanterns (some very large) are floated along the river. This is a religious festival, the floating lanterns ("toro") supposedly guiding spirits that visited relatives during the "obon" period, back to their spirit world. Unfortunately the whole event was marred somewhat by the rain...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

New T-shirt design! This T-shirt shows the words "Strength of the Dragon" painted in Japanese calligraphy using kanji symbols. If you are interested, you can buy it by clicking here.

Kotohira shrine is a Shinto shrine. It is associated with the god of the sea. There are 750 steps to the main temple followed by more than 600 more to get to the true summit.

I also went to the Kotohira shrine (also known as Kompira shrine after the mountain on which it is built). This is the entrance gate.

One of the strangest things on this little island was the "007 "Man with The Red Tattoo" Memorial Museum". This was opened a couple of years ago in response to the release of the James Bond novel of the same name, a small part of which takes place on Naojima. Perhaps the island was hoping to attract vast crowds of Bond fans, with quality artwork like this, how can they fail?

After returning to Takamatsu I took the ferry to a small island nearby called "Naojima"

Another "attraction" at Ryugado was a collection of birds. This breed had incredibly long tail feathers and was kept in this tiny cabinet. Now, I`m no animal rights expert, but that can`t be right can it?

One interesting thing was this old pot dating from 2000 years ago. Over the centuries it had become fossilised by the action of the calcium carbonate being deposited on its surface and is now fused to the rest of the rock.

Not so far from Kochi, we visited Ryugado cave. (Literally "Dragon-River Cave"). A large cave complex which was inhabited as long as 2000 years ago. There were a lot of stalactites and stalagmites that had fused into interesting shapes.

A view form the top of the castle over modern-day Kochi city - a fairly typical small Japanese city.

Kochi is home to Kochi castle, a fairly small and well preserved castle that is unusual in that it survived both the Meiji restoration and the Second World War relatively untouched (most castles in Japan burned down at some point in the last 100 years). Kochi castle was last consumed by flames back in the mid-18th century. This is a show from inside the castle looking out to a garden.

Hermit crabs

The hermit crabs in action!

One of the stalls was selling hermit crabs! (as pets, not for eating!)

Last weekend I went to Shikoku, the smallest and most rural of the 4 main islands of Japan. I was based in Takamatsu but visited Kochi on the South East side of the island. The market in Kochi (shown above) is quite large and sells a lot of locally produced goods.

Another variety of Kit Kat. This appears to be, er, "Universal Studios Japan" flavour. Closer inspection of the back of the pack reveals that this is, in fact, a mixture of white and milk chocolate.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

No your eyes do not deceive you, this is indeed a bottle of carbonated black coffee. Now, I`m not much of a coffee drinker, but that can`t be right.

A popular dessert in Japan is "annin doufu" a jelly- like, sweet almond tofu originating from Chinese cuisine. So why not make it a Kit-Kat flavour?

How about French Bretagne Milk Kit-Kat? This one seems to be in conjunction with a Japanese French bakery. The subtleties of the difference between this and the standard white Kit-Kat are, I`m afraid, lost on me.

Continuing the tradition; it`s azuki Kit-Kat! Azuki is a red bean, the second most popular legume in Japan (after soy beans). It was originally domesticated in the Himalayas and is popular in Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisine.It is usally eaten sweetened, often as a "red bean paste". It is one of the foods it takes a while to get used to if you are an outsider as its texture and tasete is undeniably "bean-like" which is at first incongruous with its sweet taste.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I am starting a new little venture with a talented Japanese artist. We have set up a web shop selling T shirts printed with unique. hand-drawn Japanese calligraphy artwork. You can visit the site here.The above design says "karate". The first symbol, "kara" means empty, the second symbol "te" means "hand" giving "karate" the meaning of "empty hand". The T-shirt includes the red "hanko" or stamp - showing the artist`s name. Available in a range of sizes!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Just in time for summer: It`s KitKat Fruit Parfait. According to the packet it contains fruit granules. Tastes OK.