Saturday, 27 November 2010

A Couple of Tokyo Joe's

Being a long weekend in Japan, Jules and I decided to fulfil one of our major goals since arriving in Japan. We boarded the bullet train for a quick trip to Tokyo! The train itself is a super fast beast that whisks you past the snow capped Mt. Fuji before pulling into Tokyo station only two and a half hours after leaving Osaka. From there it was just a short walk to the upmarket area of Ginza where we were staying. Being close to the Imperial Palace, it is a very stylish part of town. Along the major shopping strip all of the major European designer labels are well represented and despite worries about the Japanese economy we notice plenty of retail activity. Christmas is in the air and in the evening the city lights are even more spectacular with added illuminations on many of the buildings and tree lined streets. Once again Jules comes into her own, by quickly mastering the metro system and we are easily able to dart around to various areas of this huge city. We explore bustling Asakusa, with the traditional Sensoji temple on one side of the river and the post-modernism architecture of Philippe Starck’s Asahi brewery on the other. There is also the crazy excitement of Akihabara, which is the electronics centre of town, which is matched by the fashion areas of Harajuka and Shibuya with its famous pedestrian crossing that has become the archetypical scene of Tokyo. I begin to discover some the numerous galleries that dot the city, including a major Van Gogh exhibition at the National Arts Centre, which was particularly appropriate as only a few months ago we had visited many of the places where the works were painted. On Sunday evening we indulged ourselves by visiting the bar made famous in the movie ‘Lost in Translation’. On the 52nd floor of the of the Park Hyatt Hotel we sit with drink in hand, listening to some cool jazz and admiring the spectacular view…not bad at all!! Jules and I both agreed that Tokyo generally has a different feel than Osaka…much more cosmopolitan, it feels like a major international city and there is a sense that the locals know it… not in an arrogant way, but just in their general air of confidence. Most spoke some English, which was particularly helpful to us, and the signage, menus etc. were always in dual languages. It is a welcoming city and we certainly enjoyed our short stay here. As we sped back to Osaka we felt confident that we will return soon…there is still so much to see!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sculptural Servings

For my recent birthday Jules presented me with something I had secretly wanted to possess since we had arrived in Japan…my own genuine piece of ‘plastic food’. It came in the form of a deliciously tempting fruity ice-cream sundae which looked so fresh and tempting, which is exactly what it is designed to do. I had developed this strange fascination for these colourful and totally inedible plastic pieces since we started to frequent the many restaurant areas around Osaka. It seems that almost every second eating establishment display their exotic menus using model replicas of the actual dish. They are beautifully presented to the last detail, but as we later found, often provide a somewhat enhanced version of the actual dish that comes to your table. What I particularly like about the plastic pieces are their sculptural qualities that accentuate the sheer visual splendour of food…its colour, texture, patterns and forms. The displays are pure ‘pop art’ that in a different setting could easily be accredited to artists such as Warhol and Koons. Instead they simply add to the overwhelming visual assault that hits the unsuspecting visitor to the streets of Japan. In the meanwhile my little piece sits proudly on display in our apartment, always fresh, ever so tempting, but never to be eaten.