Sunday, December 26, 2010

Opening hours

Japanese people are so busy, they developed the 26 hours day

pizza - police

Sake Heating Machine

in an Izakaya in Tokyo Shinjuku District

6000 Y grape

Japanese Restaurant

 Japanese restaurant - in Tokyo Shibuya District

 shoe lockers in the restaurant

Ookayama campus festival

me and the angry chicken

no commen

a dustbin - found in Yokohama, near Aobadai Station

those who have ever been in Japan know that a public dustbin is a very unique and strange spectacle

X-Mas food

my christmas dinner - fried chicken with salad; rice and, of course, misosoup

 Ate it in a small Japanese restaurant near Aobadai - station
Shot the photo with my new D-SLR °°
Price: 690 Y

cafeteria food

 "normal" katsu-curry; Curry with rice and fried chicken. Side order is salad. 

The curry in the elementary school was way better than this one, but it was still tasty.
Price: 390 Y + 80 Y Salad (about)

special food

 Curry with rice isn't Japanese food, but it is very famous here.

What's so special on this one? I ate it in an elementary school. The visit of the school was part of my program here. It was served by pupils. Very cute to see and a good idea.
Price: 0 Y

cafeteria food

Zakeoyako-Don (rice bowl with salmon, salmon eggs and nori-slices), Potato-Sarada (salad with potato-creme), tofu with chicken and Ocha (green tea)

I liked the Sarada and really loved the Don, however I think I will never be best friend with tofu.
Found it in the campus-cafeteria (I start to love this special month ^^)
Price: 625 Y

cafeteria food

Ramen noodle soup with maize, nori, butter and scallops
Found it in the campus-cafeteria. This month they offer some special fine dishes there. I guess I will have a good time ^^
Price: 450 Y

small japanese restaurant food

Yakisoba. Ramen(?) noodles with cabbage and pork.

Typical asian food also in Germany, but even better in it's home country. 
Found it in a small basement restaurant near the campus. A japanese showed us this place. They cook right in front of you on a large cooking plate. Recommend it ^^
Price: 500 Y

cafeteria food

Shobayaki-Don with Tofu in a sweet sauce and water. 

Don is a bowl of rice with something on the top, in this case Shobayaki. It's pork and salat and it taste something like Kebab but with rice instead of bread. Don is very cheap and tasty, particulary with this tofu, hmmmm.
Found it in the campus-cafeteria.
Price: about 500 Y

fine restaurant food


in clockwise direction: a bowl of rice; a small salad with fungies; tofu with very thin fish-slices; four pieces of fried fish with some sauces, cabbage and a raw egg; miso-soup with mussels and sweet teriyaki-sauce.

I can really recommend the miso-soup and the fish-plate. But the tofu with fish-slices was a little weird. Tofu tasted like tofu (nothing) and the taste of the fish was very intensitive.
Found it in a japanese restaurant close to the campus.
Price: 880 Y

Teriyaki-Burger with french fries and coke

Teriyaki sauce is very popular in Japan. It's a sweet sauce and they serve it with chicken, pork, fish ... and burger.
Found it in a fast food restaurant close to the campus.
Price: about 700 Y

Culture on Culture Day

On 3rd of November was National Culture Day. So we decided to do some culture activities and see the Tokyo Jidai Festival in Asakusa.
Asakusa is a district in Taito, Tokyo. It is famous for the Sensoo-ji Buddhist temple with its giant choochin (paper latern) at the main gate. On this day, Sensoo-ji was the showplace for the Jidai Festival.
The Tokyo Jidai Festival is a parade of people in samurai armour and other historical costumes, representing more than 1000 years of Japanese history. The parade started at 1:30 and ended at 4 o’clock pm. It was commented, but only in Japanese.

Tokyo Jidai Festival 2009 on YES! Tokyo


In the evening, we went to the exhibition “The Definiton of Self” in the 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT exhibition hall.
It was open the last day and well visited. We had to wait a little more than one hour. It was an interactive exhibition. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures from the inside.
At the beginning, your weight, height and iris were recorded. These data were used later to find you out of the mass of other visitors. Furthermore you could interact with some devices to “define yourself”. For example, in one installation your shadow was projected on a screen. A computer calculated your circumference and you could drive along your circumference by pulling a rope.So your Self was defined as the length of your circumference. Mine was 6.79 meters.
The exhibition was interesting, but actually it was not worth to wait more than one hour and pay 800 Y for it. However, there are a lot of interesting exhibitions in 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT so maybe I will go there again, sometime.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Okutama - limestone cave, Onzen and more

On 21th November 2010, I went to a small town called Okutama in the western Tama Area of Tokyo.

The location of Okutama in the Western Tama Area of Tokyo Metropolis

Some small words to the administrative area Tokyo Metropolis

Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. Tokyo Metropolis is one of them. In 1943, the former Tokyo Prefecture (Tokyo-fu) and the city of Tokyo (Tokyo-Shi) were merged to what is now the administrative area Tokyo.
The former city of Tokyo was divided into 23 special wards. Each ward is governed as an own city. (Thus, its basically wrong to say Tokyo is a great city; it would be more correct to say Shibuya or Shinjuku or Meguro are great cities. However, everybody will know what you mean ^^) 8 of the 13 million residents of Tokyo life in this eastern area. The population density is 14,061 residents per km2 (e.g. Berlin 3,857 residents per km2). The size of the area is 622 km2 (e.g. Berlin 892 km2)
The former Tokyo Prefecture in the west is also called Western Tama Area, because the Tama-river has its spring here. It is about double the size of “Tokyo downtown” and consists of some smaller citys and towns (However, its population density is still about the same as Berlin). Okutama is one of the towns, respectivily administrative areas. It is the largest administrative area and the most western one. And it's a nice recreational and hiking area.

How to go there

Bad news first: As I mentioned above, Okutama is the furthermost area where you can go in Tokyo. It takes more than one and a half hours by train from Shinjuku Station. However, the way is very simple. You enter the Chuo Line in Shinjuku Station and leave the train 100 minutes later in Okutama. At about half the distance, the Chuo Line becomes the Ome Line in Tachikawa Station. Maybe you will have to change the train here. The next important intermediate stop is Ome. Ome is the last bigger town before you enter the mountains. However, the Ome Line continues to Okutama (but not every train).

What to do there

You can get an English map of the area in Okutama in the tourist information centre. It’s just left hand when you exit the station. Eigo no chizu ga arimaska - 英語の地図がありますか。means do you have an English map (Eigo à English; chizu à map; arimaska à do you have?)
Famous places in Okutama are the Okutama Lake and the Limestone Cave in Nippara. I didn’t try it yet, but I think you can reach the lake by foot in an hour or two. However there is also a bus to the lake and to Nippara. And of course, Okutama is the starting point for many other hiking trails, too. And because Okutama is a popular hot spring area, there are a lot of Onzen in and around Okutama town. I'll come to this later.

To the cave

We wanted to visit the cave and because Nippara is about 10 km to walk, we decided to take the bus. Unfortunately, there is only a bus every 1.5 hours and we had to wait for one hour, so we walked a part of the way. We walked through a gorge along a small river. Although the way was a normal street, the view was amazing.

 an old factory grows out of the mountains near Okutama town

 that's me in front of the factory

 the area offers an amazing view during momiji (fall of the leafs)

this one's for you, Ira ;)

mountains in Japan are steep

 two old bridges

I took the last picture at a fishing place close to the station where we entered the bus. We walked about 3 km to that place,. There is a second smaller limestone cave nearby. Actually, we wanted to visit this one too, but we didn’t understand the old woman who maintained the cave. She said something about small, close and Nippara cave better, but we barely understood a word, so we decided not to annoy her any longer and to enter the bus for Nippara.

Nippara Limestone Cave

Nippara is a small village, 10 km from Okutama. From the bus stop, you can reach the cave in about 15 minutes.
 The Inamura - Rock in Nippara seems to challenge you to climb him

The entrance of the cave with a tomodachi in front

near the entrance is an impressive rock face formation

The cave is the largest in the Tokyo area. A tour through the cave takes about 30 – 40 minutes (it’s a no guided tour, so you can manage the time like you want). Unfortunately, it was very dark in the cave at this day, so the following pictures might be a little noisy.

 that's me exploring the cave

 ok, it's already explored 

Thousands of visitors transported seeds into the cave. Together with the artificial light, they helped a small vegetation to grow

their are some shrines in the cave
 At the end of the cave is a large and very impressive hall. You feel like in a natural cathedral inside a mountain, awesome.

yeah, I was really impressed

Apart from the large hall, the cave offers some (but rare) stalactites and stalagmites and a steep path through the rock. It is a very interesting tour, but be prepared to climb a lot.
Around the cave

The cave lies in a small gorge along a river. After visiting the cave, we walked around a bit. We even found a “secret” path up to a mountain and followed it a while. But we lost the path very soon and decided to go back. However, on our way back, we met a lonely hiker. She told us that the path leads up to a mountain with a large, ancient tree on the top (at least, this is what we understood in Japanese).

a small river along the gorge

the entrance to the "secret" path

very interesting to see at what for places trees can grow

 the tomodachi and me followed the path, as long as we could find it

tomodachi without stamina ^^
can you still see the path??

 amazing momiji

 on the way back to the bus station

Another impressive rock formation; as you can see, it's getting dark soon

Finally, we decided to go back to the station and to Okutama. You should better take a look on the timetable before you start; we had to wait more than an hour for the bus.

Onzen time
To finish the trip, I decided to visit an Onzen in Okutama. The Moeginoyu Onzen is only 15 minutes to walk from Okutama station. I had to wait for a few minutes (shotto matte kudazai しょっと待ってくだざいà please wait a little). You can rest your feet in the Onzen water while you’re waiting. The Onzen was great and I really felt refreshed afterwards. I talked with a Japanese guy about this and that, mainly in English. He told me that I have to try Tempura, deep-fried fish and vegetables. I decided to do so, soon.
The Onzen lies above the Tama River. It has an outdoor pool and you can hear the Tama here and smell the forest. It must be wonderful in winter, when there is snow.
After the Onzen I had a great meal in the Onzen restaurant; rice bowl with pork, mizo soup and salad (unfortunately no Tempura).

This bridge crosses the Tama gorge in Okutama. It was a wonderful evening there.

Summarizing I can say that Okutama is definitely worthwhile to go and there are a lot of spots to discover, but in order to save time its maybe more useful to get spend a night in Okutama. I started my tour at 7 o’clock in the morning and was finally at home at 10 o’clock in the evening.