Mount Asama

Mount Asama, a Panorama

Here it is, my second panorama on GaijinGoJapan! This one is taken again in the beautiful mountains of Nagano prefecture. The main feature of the panorama is Mount Asama, a volcano which is still quite active to this date. The last eruption occurred in 2009 and threw rocks up to 1km above the summit! Thankfully the mountain was very quiet on the day of our climb! (The 1783 eruption completely destroyed the village of Kanbara where the Onioshidashi park is now located.)

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Japanese Design

Japanese Design : Art, Aesthetics & Culture

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Japanese Design

Written by Patricia J. Graham (Ph.D. in Japanese Art History) the book approaches Japanese design in a scholarly manner.

From the Aesthetics of the japanese tea ceremony to the lavish art of the elites, the first chapter introduces the most important Japanese aesthetic concepts and design principles that have inspired Japanese artists over time.

Then, the second chapter deals with the cultural parameters of Japanese design such as the symbiosis or art and religion. Japanese art wouldn’t be the same without the unique culture of refinement and aesthetic beauty omnipresent in Japan.

Finally the third chapter presents key actors in the discover and popularization of Japanese art and design to the western world. Among them were scientists, philosophers, art collectors and avid travelers who explored this fascinating country.

I enjoyed my reading of this book on Japanese design. I learned a lot, for this book contains a lot of scholarly sourced information on art and design from Japan. However I did not feel I was the target audience, with no formal education in arts. In that sense it may not be the best book for neophytes of Japanese culture.

Despite being aimed at the well-informed, the book contains many high quality images of some of the best examples of Japanese art and design that I really enjoyed learning about. My first reading made me want to to learn more on the topic and I’m sure will have changed the way I look at Japanese art. In that sense this book has, I think, fulfilled its purpose.

Disclosure : The book Japanese Design : Art, Aeathetics & Culture was provided by Tuttle publishing for review. There are no commercial agreements between and the latter.

Garden of Kyu Asakura House

Kyu Asakura House

The Kyu Asakura house, built in 1919, is an historic house that survived the disasters of the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Second World War. The house is open as a museum to visitors and offers a unique feel of the Taisho era. The Mansion integrates beautifully with the garden and landscape rocks. The best time to visit the house and garden is in spring or fall.

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Japanese photographer

Institute for Nature Study

The Institute for Nature Study is a natural sanctuary located in the heart of Tokyo. Unlike other gardens in the metropolis, the park’s mission is to preserve the forest in its natural form — vegetation is allowed to grow freely as it would in the wildest regions of Japan. The institute will appeal either to those seeking a meditative experience in the peaceful forest or those interested in Japan’s indigenous plants.

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Isakaya Boat Japan

Restaurant boats in Tokyo (Yakatabune)

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Isakaya Boat In Tokyo

Restaurant-boats are a common sight along the Sumida river in the evening but can also be seen in great numbers in the bay of Tokyo.

On the menu : typical isakaya-style fare or okonomiyaki and plenty of beer. Some of them have a terrace accessible on the roof to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy the night scenery of Tokyo.

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Tokyo Skytree and New Asahi building

One very good place to see Tokyo Skytree

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Good spot to see Tokyo Skytree

The sight of Tokyo Skytree is quite surreal in the night sky of Tokyo. One very good spot to see Tokyo Skytree is located a short walk South-East of Sensoji temple close to the Asakusa train station. On the northern riverbank of Sumida river, a short set of stairs lead you to a walkway right next to the water.

You will get a very good view of Tokyo Skytree, and if you are there at dinner-time, you will see a lot of boats pass by. Those brightly-lit boats are “Yakatabune” where you can eat and drink while cruising the Sumida river. This type of restaurant-boat is a landmark in Asakusa.

To the right of Skytree, you will also see the strange golden sculpture atop the New Asahi building. Many Japanese refer to this sculpture as the “Golden Ounco” which translates to “Golden Poo”.

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Japanese food vending machine

Vending machine at the Japanese restaurant

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Japanese restaurant vending machine
This is not an unusual sight in Japan. Many restaurant chains and small joints use these machines to save on labor costs and to streamline the ordering process.

Don’t be fooled by the look of the machine, many good affordable restaurants use those. If you are lucky they will have a fancy display with pictures. Making a choice will be easy.

If you are less lucky, everything will be written in Kanji without photos. Don’t be discouraged, I’ve often been in this situation as well. Adopting a puzzled expression on your face is a good solution. More often than not, a staff will come and help you choose with whatever English they know. Not only your getting great food but some original human interaction, perhaps with the cook himself.

As for the technicalities: simply insert some bills in the machine and push any button you like. Paper receipts will come out for each item, you should bring those to the table of your choice where a staff will come acknowledge your order. FYI beer is spelled like ビール.