The first thought I had when going to Shinjuku was for City Hunter, one of the numerous animes we were watching when we were kids and in which you have several scenes of Tokyo. I found a good article in french that shows the real places along with Tsukasa Hojo’s drawn versions right here. Those were the places I was aiming for!
Anyway, I spent the whole afternoon in Shinjuku and started with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the twin towers are quite recognizable, where you can take the elevator to floor 45 and enjoy the panoramic view of the city for free. You can even get a handy tour guide as well, quite useful with a map of each district of Tokyo with the main things to see in it!
On very clear days they say you can see Mt Fuji but I was not lucky enough. The funny part was when I took the elevator with a group of korean old people making jokes, laughing loudly and the poor elevator lady was just whispering in japanese whereas I, the only non asian person, was stuck in the back trying not to laugh. They looked exactly like a bunch of teenagers going out for the first time!
Shinjuku is very dense in my opinion, there are lots of a tiny streets filled with bars, restaurant, shops, pachinko and game centers. I even got lost in the station, it’s crowded, huge and a bit confusing. I headed to the other part called Kabukicho, quite famous for its ‘entertainement’ at night. I went through a street to spot a funny building then realized I was surrounded by pictures of women wearing hardly any clothes, with men standing in front of each stores whispering “DVD? DVD?” to the men walking by. One of them hesitated to offer me the DVD, stared at me until me and my mini skirt went back to the main street in an awkward silence. I didn’t even take a photo of the so-called building. I guess I would probably not go there at night!
I stopped for a snack before heading to Koreatown with one of the awesome crepes. I went for the Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Special!(yes, they put a slice of cheesecake in it.)
Koreatown is up north of Kabukicho, and it’s basically one main street where Idols Stores aligned with comestic stores. On each side you can find tiny streets with restaurants and cafes but I was really chocked by the huge amount of Kpop Stars gifts shops E-very-where. I went into one and it’s very different from the ones in Korea: several screens all along the walls displaying different music programs and movie videos, creating a wonderful hubbub that would give you a headache in 5 minutes!
This and the shining white spotlights that blind you whenever you walk into one those shops.
And just in case you have any doubt in being in Koreatown, pictures of G-Dragon are plastered freaking everywhere. I have to admit, as much I love Kpop….I got really scared…
The afternoon went by really quickly so I didn’t have time to eat anything else (even though I would have love some tteokbokki), I just bought a foundation powder, made jokes in Korean with the store’s assistants (aaah I miss Korea) then headed to Shibuya to meet a friend for a girls night at her place!
All in all, another wonderful day spent in the Holy Land :p
Today I wanted to visit the Ueno Zoo but realized it was closed on Mondays. So instead I went to Takebashi to visit the East Garden of the Emperial Palace….and found out it was also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays….Turned out almost everything is closed on Mondays…But well I had a nice walk through the Kitonamaru Park, where you can find the Nippon Budokan, the Craft Museum, the Science Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art and even the National Archives! I will go back later this week to make sure to visit, especially because the gardens have free entrance!
Then I headed to Kagurazaka through Shirogane, the so-called “French district”, which is mainly a street with a lot of european restaurants and bakeries, along with the traditional japanese pastries, cafes and restaurants. I once again bought a Taiyaki (my new favourite), then ate a Ramen as the cake wasn’t enough. I was a bit nervous to order by myself but I applied the legendary foreigner technique: randomly point something on the menu with a large smile saying “one please!”. It works, that’s all I need.
At the end of the day I went to the nearby station called Kurokoen where the Tokyo Dome is. As I watched several Jpop concerts DVDs, it was something I really wanted to see, but the To-Do is mainly known because of the Giants…I’m not really into Baseball actually but well there are shops for the fans around the Dome but also a baseball museum. In front of the Dome is located an Amusement park called Tokyo Dome City. I have to come back there as well… BUT, I found a shop I didn’t even expected well hidden down the stairs: The Jump Store!!!
For those of you who don’t know, Jump is one of the most famous manga magazine in Japan as it usually discovers the series that will soon become the most popular ones. The shop was quite small but you had several goodies of Dragon Ball, One Piece, Slam Dunk, Kenshin, Naruto, etc. I bought some, but not much….I have to admit I’m quite proud of the Trunks towel I just purchased though <3
Last Saturday, after spending the previous night partying with friends eating homemade yakisoba, we went to Nihombashi, fancy district with a commercial center with luxury shops. On the top level was the Dragon Ball exhibition, with original boards from Akira Toriyama, some of the original covers, and what I found funny was a corner with a video of the same scene in every different languages!
Photos were not allowed except at the end of the exhibition where you could have your picture in a Kamehameha stage set! Of course there was a shopping part that I had difficulties to avoid but managed not to buy anything….yet. Seeing Dragon Ball in Japan was quite emotional for me, I mean I saw the 30 years old ink! xD
After that we went to the cinema to see the new movie, I discover a banana flavoured popcorn served in a huge bucket for 600 Yens! You can buy a token for 200 Yens to have your seat vibrating during the movie as well, and as we went to see it in IMAX, let me tell you it was just excellent conditions!
Of course I didn’t get anything they said (or almost anything) but still managed to understand the plot (yeah, it’s not quite hard really…but it doesn’t matter it’s Dragon Ball ><).
For dinner our good friend Devil took us to The Lockup in Ikebukuro! It was an awesome theme restaurant, everything is made to look like a space prison, you enter the restaurant after walking through a dark mirrored tunnel, you’re greeted by sexy policegirls, the tables are in cell and at 9PM you have a special event: lights are down, monsters have escaped and attack you,
Everything on the menu is presented in chemists’ vials, food looks like experiment and you sometimes have some food to share with a little surprise in it. For example, you can order some potatoe cakes with one of them with hot chili topping, but you have to taste it to discover it. Same goes for some of the cocktails!
We really loved the design and the vibes of the place, the food was delicious, I have to get the pictures of the dishes but it was always funky and original (I personaly found it cute but that’s my opinion). If you get the chance I highly recommand the place as it was not really expensive as well. I wish we can go back there soon!
On my first day in Tokyo, I went to Shibuya to do some shopping. We got off at Omote-sando, and walked through the district up to Harajuku. I bought quite a bunch of stuff, specially in 109’s Garula and d.i.a, but as we have some Para Para nights out coming every wednesday, I needed shoes (instead of my walking boots) and something nice to wear in the civilization!
It wasn’t really crowded luckily but I know I will come back here often…Hem. The next day, I met one of my friend for lunch and ‘help’ him with his own shopping. No need to say that I was as helpful as the shop assistant! After that I joined my paralist friend in Roppongi for my first parapara night. I made a membership card as well, it was quite a moment for me! I had fun even though I didn’t know most of the songs but the mood was really nice, I met new people and I had free drinks all night :p
Tokyo Tower at night
The next day I caught up on sleeping as the weather wasn’t nice it was a good thing to do and yesterday I spent the day walking around Asakusa and Ueno Park. I went to the Senso-ji temple, visited the garden where they give you a cup of green tea that you can have watching the garden, had a good omen, had a bunch of sweets in the street then went to Ueno.
In Ueno, I went through the huge park where you can find a lot of museums and visited the Tokyo National Museum. The architecture is impressive and some of the museum have european mixed with their traditional japanese style. In the TNM, they organized a “Sakura rally” that is to say you go aroung the museum, collecting stamps and when you have them all you get a sakura pin. Yeaaaah \o/ Well it’s a nice idea nevertheless. After walking for more than four hours I went back home before going out with friends to a home party.
And today my friends is Dragon Ball Day so see you later!! :D
I’ve been dreaming to go to Japan for more or less 20 years, since the moment I understood that the cartoons I was watching with my big brother were called “anime” and were adapted from comic books called “mangas”. When people asked “why do you like mangas?” it’s like asking “why do you like Super Heroes?” Everybody loves Super Heroes, and let’s face it: what kind of heroes do we have in France? Bécassine?
Awesome drawing by Tico. Please visit the gallery of this artist on Deviantart!
With my big brother, we’ve been playing videos games and discovered heroes like Mario, Sonic, Link, Ryu, Chunli, Mai, Kyo and Iori. We’ve been worshipping Sangoku, Sailor Moon, Ken (Hokuto no Ken, not Barbie’s boyfriend….Well technically I had them too but that’s not the point!), Ranma when our parents were talking about Conan and American Comics. We were fascinated by this far away country and started to fancy Japan like our parents were dreaming of America when they were younger. Japan created a wonderland where we felt confortable, a fantastic world where we could be safe, far away from our daily life problems and/or bullies.
When growing up, internet helping, I fell in love with Japanese music, started to learn more about the culture, read books (real ones, without pictures, so hardcore!) about the pop culture in Japan, but also about geishas in ancient times (far from the polished image I had), about the troubles of a society that developed too much too fast, about work pressure, racism, teen prostitution. But I was also reading magazines about Japanese idols (you know, these guys that look like girls?), secretly dreamed of dressing up like a kogaru. I also read stories about students trying to enter Todai, stories about samurais wandering during Meiji Era, about angels being reincarnated, goddesses living on Earth, video girls coming out of the TV, and yes sometimes in all those stories you could find sex and/or violence but it was not the only thing there was, contrary to what the majority of people said.
Like every otaku, I started to draw and wanted to be a mangaka. I used half of my weekly lunch money to buy a manga every single week and slowly built my precious collection. I self-learned Japanese and then stopped when it got too complicated and taking classes was too expensive. I was called a weirdo in High School because I was still playing fighting video games instead of fixing my make-up like other girls. I bought Japanese cooking books that I seldom used. I wanted to eat watermelon on a wooden deck with paper doors behind me, watching the sakura trees blossom with a pig-shaped ceramic mosquito coil server by my side. I couldn’t sleep at night for years because I was scared that a girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face would kill me and panicked whenever the phone rang in the middle of the night.
When I finally got to Paris after getting my Bachelor, I remember my brother took me to my first Japanimation convention. We were not weirdoes here, we found people like us, and for God’s sake they had goodies with a white kitten wearing a bow, how cute is that!? I had posters of Hyde next to Eminem (no need to say that I cried like a baby when he came to Paris with his group L’Arc-en-Ciel), watched Japanese dramas along with American TV shows, did musical video games competitions, learned strange dances in which you only move your arms, fiercely said to ignorant people “it’s not Chinese it’s JAPANESE!!!” and occasionally did cosplay as well.
I spent a good part of my childhood with two fingers firmly pressed on my forehead trying to teleport, walking around with a glittering pen that was supposed to transform me when I pointed it to the sky and shouting “Venus Power, Make-up!”, writing stories about how cold water would change me into an animal, throwing phone cards that never stuck in the wall with “Cat’s Eye” written on them or even holding a palm tree leaf while wearing a white dress, and when my desperate mother would ask “what the hell are you doing on the roof dressed like that holding this bloody leaf?” I would always give the same proud answer while the wind was blowing my hair in my face “I’m burning my cosmos!”
We just had different games….
After 20 years of saying “One day, I’ll go to Japan. You’ll see. One day.” I’m now looking at the blemished Kakashi phone chain my brother gave me 10 years ago when I moved from Reunion Island to Paris with a smile, thinking about our childhood. I even made a list of what I wanted to do, which places I wanted to visit. (Oh, when I say “a list” I mean the freaky one on Excel table with colors and sh*t…..What?)
So there it is. It’s Monday and I’m heading from Melbourne to Cairns and then catch a flight from Cairns to Narita, Japan. I told you I’ll be going there one day. And that day is today.
I left Melbourne to get to Belgrave for my new (and maybe last) Helpex where I’ll be staying for almost 10 days. I met my new host at the Belgrave train station, Miss Kooka, and we drove about 10 minutes to get to her house, located inMenzies Creek, in the Dandenong region. The house is surrounded by the rainforest’s gum trees; it almost looks like a modern version of Hobbiton: houses hidden in the forest!
On my first night here, Miss Kooka introduced me to her friends: a whole family of Kookaburras standing on the deck, waiting for food, a border Terrier and a guinea pig! We gave some Kangaroo minced to the seven Kookaburras and I got my fingers bitten several times.
My work here is mainly in the garden, and after the storm there’s quite a lot to do: cleaning the fallen barks, weeding, but also washing the car, cleaning the house and helping for the market during the first weekend of April. I work during four hours every day but it can get quite tiring for my back. Anyway, that’s always good to be busy especially because I was starting to be a little bored in Melbourne.
Miss Kooka usually cooks for both of us and I got to have some traditional Aussie meals: roasted lamb and Shepherd’s pie! The Sherpherd’s pie looks a bit like the French Hachis Parmentier except the meat used is lamb and the sauce used is gravy. That tasted awesomely good, as you reckon Miss Kooka can sure cook! I returned the favor by making my Reunion Island traditional Sweet Potatoes cake and Chiken Cari.
We went to see the Puffing Billy, located next door,a ” century-old steam train still runnning on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook, in the scenic Dandenong Ranges and is a genuine relic of more leisure days”. The train still runs thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers and I had the strong feeling it would finally get me to Hogwarts…or maybe back to the Future?
We also visit some amazing veggie patches in Monbulk where we got no less than 5 different kinds of tomatoes, and on my day off we went to the Sherbrook forest in order to see the emblem of the region: Lyrebirds!
We woke up at 5.30AM (well 4AM for me actually), went to Sherbrook Forest (which is part of the Dandenong Ranges National Park) walked for a while, waited for dawn and finally got to see four of them, 3 females including one singing, and a male scratching the floor. Lyrebirds are quite famous for their perfect imitations of birds, chainsaw, camera shutters, alarms, but this usually happens during breeding season (June to September), when the male is trying to seduce the female by singing and dancing on the mount he prepared and flipping its tail over its head.
The female looks like a pheasant with a larger tail while the male looks like a peacock but when they are running, the first image I had was of Road Runner! We then had breakkie with Egyptian-eye toast made in the BBQ area nearby, surrounded by Cockatoes, Crimson Rosella and Galahs (Yes, they were “freed from desire”…*pom pom tchiii*) parrots. It was fdefinately worth it to wake up early!
On Sunday, I decided to stick to with my tiny list of free stuffs to do. I started by waiting next to Melbourne Central for the free city shuttle, that goes around Melbourne CBD and stops in front of every main building in town. They say you can also hear some historical facts in the train. Yeah, “they say”…..I waited 30 minutes before realizing that the city was not running today, as it was Children’s day and some roads were blocked.Dammit.
That didn’t stop me; I made a little detour when I spotted the Children’s Book Festival in front of my dear State Library and then headed to the National Gallery of Victoria, south of the CBD. On the way, I spotted a lot of people in orange shirt, sweaty, with hot pink cheeks from the run they just had. They just came back from the “Run for the Kids”, were having a break at the Sunday Market at the Arts Center or at Federal Square. In the streets, artists were painting, dancing, singing for money, giving to Melbourne its well-known artistic vibe. It felt like a modern version of our French Montmartre.
I arrived at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) around noon, sat at the entrance where paper and pen were provided under a sign saying “remove you shoes, have a sit and draw your comics, I’ll make a big comics with what everyone has done”. I sketched two drawings, had a first look around the dark grey stones of the building, the glass windows on the ceiling, and the metallic letters on the floor then waited for the 12.30PM free voluntary tour: Portraiture.
We went to see sculptures outside, upstairs on level 2 where some of the most valuable acquisitions of the Museum are exposed and finished with the Asian Arts exhibition. I met some old friends from my High School History of Arts days on the way: Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin and met some new ones like the Australian artist Bea Maddock.
At 1PM we stopped to watch the dance event from the balcony of the Grand Hall. Every dancer was in a square, doing random choreography, each in a different style of dancing, some shouting, some using music, others doing a more elaborate mirrored routine. Then they all stopped at the same time, standing still, tall and straight, eyes shut. Like time was frozen, capturing the attention of the visitors who were suddenly waiting for something big or unexpected to happen. They tried to disturb the dancers, make them laugh like every visitor does when spotting the Royal Guard in front of Buckingham. We waited 2 minutes, 5 minutes, before they all began to dance again like before: ballet, modern jazz, hip hop, flamenco…
After the tour, I went to see two fashion collections: Ballet & Fashion on one hand and Dior & Yamamoto-The New Look, ended by the European gallery which consisted mainly in religious artifacts, sculptures and paintings from France, Italy, Germany, Spain…
If you like the smell of wood, the surrounding dim lights, the whispering of tour guides telling you secrets about a piece of history, the space and calm you can feel when sitting on one of the big black couch in every gallery, and finally if you come to enjoy what they call art throughout ages (out of passion, curiosity or even boredom), then NGV is definitely a must-stop.
For the past few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the State Library. I fell in love with this building. The architecture from the outside is almost as impressive as the one you can find inside. It’s very modern with the polished glossy stairs, the glass doors, the cold metallic elevators, the art gallery and the equipment you can borrow in the Art department, the videos on the big screen on the way to the reading room with a hint of old from the used cover of the books you find everywhere.
But the reason why I fell in love was when I first entered the Latrobe Reading Room. It looked like the library you see in Beauty and the Beast (okay, not quite as big) but it gave me the same feeling. A huge dome covering shelves of books on the balconies, long wooden tables with little green lamps, like the one you see in American teenage movies. I felt like wearing a “University of Melbourne” jumper to walk in the corridors (or my Harry Potter Hufflepuff cloak maybe)! Plus they have free Wifi…Praise the Lord!
I made new projects for later this year, spend time updating the blog, made some research, writing some articles about a bunch of things I had in mind, and of course like every single student in the room: I chatted on Facebook with my friends. Yes, just give it a look and you’ll spot a tiny blue banner on the screen of every single laptop around you.
Well, I didn’t spend all my time there. Almost not. I also had a long walk in the North of the city on Saturday when I wanted to visit the Rose Street Market on Saturday. Never found it (apparently it was close, I saw a lot of people looking for it and following me at the tram station…That’s a failed). Instead, I had a look at the Flower and Garden Show next to Melbourne Museum, deciding I was not passionate enough to spend money on it and just enjoy walking in the streets for 3 hours.
In case you had a doubt: yeah, this is a freaking big city.
On the list of the free things to do in Melbourne, I decided to start with the “I’m Free” tour. It’s a 3 hours walk around town guided by a local volunteer. So the tour is free and you can reward them with a tip (you choose the amount, of course). The concept already exists in Sydney and is quite new to Melbourne.
The meeting place is at 10.30AM in front of the statue of Sir Edmond Bary, at the State Library.
We walked to the State Library, the Old Jail, the Parliament, some arcades in the city, tiny streets to spot the famous street arts, China Town, Carlton Gardens (well, it was closed but still…), St Paul’s Cathedral, Theatres (Princess, her Majesty’s, Hamer Hall), Federation Square… Every stop was explained by our guide with some anecdotes, history facts, and personal impression about the town, the constructions, etc.
I just love the architecture of the city; you can find lots of different styles like old types and very new and modern ones, all mixed up on the same picture. I went to 2 churches as well: one close to the hostel called St Mary of the Sea, and St Paul’s Cathedral, in the city. I like going to churches, I think it’s very relaxing and intimate, plus it gives you a good idea of the type of art you can find in a city. But that’s only my opinion.
Melbourne had a gold rush period in the 1850s and it reflects on some of the buildings. It also seems that Melbourne and Sydney are always competing to get the title of “most popular city of Australia”. Melbourne is very art and culture oriented, it’s quite know for the street arts (you have to get in the tiny streets to spot some of them, it changes every time as the artists keep on painting over one another), and I found the whole thing quite….cosy.
I was not particularly interested in visiting big cities like Melbourne and Sydney (how boring is that…?) but I have to admit the city is indeed charming. You can find different precincts, and every culture is mixed and has its own. They also try to get inspired by all those immigrants’ culture to get a new cuisine. Something maybe more interesting, that could define Australia a bit more precisely, get a more unique taste (and God knows they need it, I mean seriously: sausage rolls??). Funny how it reminds me of Reunion Island sometimes (except that we don’t have precincts, everything is all mixed xD)
I found it very interesting; especially when you just arrived in town it also gives you a good orientation of the city. I would recommend this, especially because we all need a low budget activity sometimes, and there’s no nedd to book it, you can just show up and tours run every day!