Japan Archives: Shopping in Japan

Japan and Service are two words that seem to belong together. Every visitor to Japan will learn quickly that a customer is not a king (as he is supposedly in the Western World), or an emperor - no a customer is a god. Well, I wouldn't go to that extent but Shopping really is an adventure of its own in Japan.
Yes, everything has its price. But good, heartfelt service will be bestowed upon you even if you look way too poor to be able to afford anything in that store. (Example: Student (=me) with rather out of date clothes in a Tiffany Store at Ginza Street. I would never walk into a Tiffany Store in Germany. Ever.)

Today, I just picked some random pictures out of my last year Japan trip picture folder. As a tourist you'll try to find some rather "traditional" places to have a look at Japanese trader spirit. Like the Ameyoko, a street in Ueno (picture above). Ameyoko is really crowded nowadays (it was a Saturday, though) - on weekdays you'll find more foreign tourists, I guess. If you are inclined to buy: Fish really is (was??) cheap there and you can have great sushi there, too.

"Hm, which salmon steak am I going to buy today?" (It's really cheap. Wish I could buy salmon that cheap and fresh in Germany.) Sadly, I never bought fish there - wouldn't have been able to cook it anyways. But still - I like to go trough Ameyoko as there are also Japanese bakeries, which sell freshly made melon bread or other food vendors with okonomiyaki (japanese style pancakes with vegetables and sea food). Also, there are a lot of tea shops around for lovers of Japanese green tea, as me.

As I said: random pictures. Japan also is the country, where the most products are accessible most of the time. Like 24/7. Around the clock.  There are the konbini stores (= small convenience stores), which are open all night and day and then there are vending machines practically everywhere. Mostly for soda and canned coffee, but sometimes for other goodies as well. In this case: Umbrellas! I really had to take this picture at the train station in Omiya - I loved it so much.
By the way, I never saw a vending machine where you could buy used panties. Sorry, boys, I guess those machines exist somewhere in Japan, but not in the areas where a respectable girl like me actually went to. (Yes, I went to Kabukicho once. At night. With friends. But we just did karaoke.)

An old styled store in downtown Ikebukuro. It is always astonishing that even though Tokyo is the capital of department stores so huge you can easily get lost in them, it is also still a city where the smallest shops seem to exist. Sure, it is getting harder for little shop owners, but still - they are friendly and seem contempt with their situation.

My favorite department stores are Loft and Marui city, by the way. The first for its marvelous selection of paper goodies, Japanese pens, washi tape and the like, the second for its obscene amount of clothing (every style one can imagine: cute, serious, grown up, festive, really anything) and accessorize. Well, it was torture to be sure - but Japanese clothing was out of question for my western butt, so I had to feast on necklaces, bags and make up. (You don't wanna know the details, to be sure.) This picture above just shows what happens, when you are doing your shopping trip on a rainy day: Your shopping bag will end up in plastic covering so it can't get wet. (I bought Mary Quant make up.) I still can't quite decide how I should find that. I mean, I totally freaked out, when I saw that happen for the first time. I was so stunned. (We Germans like to recycle as in "We wanna save the world" and plastic has a very bad connotation for me...And in Japan....well, let me tell you: Almost everything is made out of plastic, even cheese.) But still, I'm very fascinated by this concept of covering a shopping bag up.

For some reason I made lots of pictures of flower shops in Tokyo. Maybe I was missing some greenery in this mega city. And I also love tulips. The light pink ones - or the filled ones! But I never bought plants in Tokyo as it is just way too expensive.

But I really was tempted to buy this Bonsai Cherry tree! But sadly, it wouldn't have survived the flight, let alone be allowed through customs in Germany. What a shame.



Somehow June wasn't quite the summer month this year. Yesterday I walked through a thunderstorm to attend a psychological study (well, I currently need that kind of money. Wasn't much, but at least I could buy some cereal for the next two weeks.). But I'm not complaining as it can get so hot in Heidelberg that one just keeps complaining about the heat. It's actually a heat that one can compare to the "mushi atsui" (muggy and humid hotness) that agonized me in Japan. But there is no air condition in private homes in Germany!
Next week I'll turn 28. 28 years, lots and lots of years of study and the question: Can I finally do something useful with all the things I've learned? Real life - hello, where are you??

When I started this blog I was devastated by the loss of my scholarship and opportunity to write a doctoral thesis. Well, I love to write - but was it really necessary to go on writing academic stuff? So I joined a Creative Writing group at my university and started to write a short story. Everyone needs to start somewhere. And someday I want to write a novel!
Well, job applications are going out, but I'll have to be patient, I guess.
I dived into being creative: Crocheting, Knitting and today I actually hand-sewed drawstring bags (well, one...). This is also definitely something I want to hold on to: Creating things with my own hands instead  of just buying stuff.

I'm just sad, that most of my friends from old times won't be able to join my B-day picnic. I really wish I could meet them again.

*The picture was taken at home, when I created a new drink for me and my mom. It was delicious.


My mobile evolution

When I was back at home last weekend I thought about some of my collections which I could show you, dear readers. Well, I have sparkling things like beads in a drawer, I own lots of random Japanese kitsch, there are many color pencils I collected throughout my childhood years up to now (It is very hard for me to ignore new color pencil collections...) and in my earlier twenties, when I actually earned some money, I started to collect MAC as in Make up Arts Cosmetics (and I love to use it!).

Well, I ended up shooting my collected mobile phone history. Actually my first Nokia phone is missing. Maybe I (or more precisely my parents) recycled it as one should do with old technology?

Well, the left one was a Nokia and it's made of very cheap plastic indeed. I can't believe that we actually used such greenish screens in the early 2000s. By the way, I was one of the last students in my school to get a mobile. I begged my parents, but they were never very much into newest technologies. And well, they were right: Why would a school student actually need a mobile? Other than downloading new jingles and have to pay a lot for it? But then, the bus sometimes didn't come and I had to reach my mother to pick me up from school. (I used a phone card and an old fashioned phone booth.)

When I went to Japan in Spring 2005 for one year I got the orange KDDI mobile. I loved it! I had never seen such an up to date and sophisticated and by the way stylish phone before! And I could take pictures with it!! HA! Mobiles on the German market just started with that kind of technology. And even nowadays, if you have a look at the Japanese mobile market you'll realize how far behind we are.

After my year in Japan I was rather disappointed to get a new mobile. It was really hard to get a folding mobile in Germany. So I got a motorola Razr and afterwards the Razr V2, which I still love very much. I actually miss that one quite a bit. My one year old Sony is again made of rather cheap plastic. But I can take good pictures with it while on the move. And as long as I can make phone calls with it, it serves its purpose, I guess?

Obviously I'm dreaming of an iPhone and actually was offered one the day I bought the Sony. But in Germany monthly costs for an iPhone are way too high for a student to pay. (I would have had to pay twice as much as I pay now!) So I declined (I'm so proud for being that strong! hahaha).

Hopefully I'll get a full time job sometime this year and then I'll get one!


Instagram Magic: Zoo Animals

On Sunday my family went to the zoo in Erfurt. Last year in august my mother and I bought a sponsorship for a thuringian donkey at the zoo as birthday present for my father. Recently this kind of sponsorships became somewhat popular in Germany. So we paid food for one year and could feel happy about helping an endangered species. The cute donkey above is such an endangered thuringian donkey. Our donkey is a 33 year old female and was in her stable. We could pet her and she seemed to like it. (But my parents were kind of sad about her condition.)

Still, I liked the zoo and haven't been in one for a while. (Last time in Ueno, Tokyo as mentioned before.) The zoo in Erfurt is really lovely. Most animal quarters have been rebuilt or renewed and the animals look happy. A very interesting place is the integrated thuringian farm from 1862. It was built to provide milk for mothers and their children in those times. It is the most popular place inside the zoo and families with children gather there to have a look inside old farm life.

I myself found my inner child while feeding a llama. It was just hilarious! My hand was very wet afterwards...To be kissed by a llama cannot be a fun experience at all!


Traditional road trips

More Instagram pics - today send to you from Erfurt, right in the middle of Germany. It is kind of tradition to drive with my mom (in her new convertible) to Erfurt or Weimar, when I'm back home. As I mentioned before this area belonged to the GDR once. And many (Western) Germans still believe we live in Wild West here. (Meaning there is nothing but wasteland and old rotting buildings and nothing to buy and nothing nice to see). Well --- wrong! Oh, so wrong. (Except the occasional rotting building here and there - see pic above...) The last twenty years were spent with lots of rebuilding, reconstruction and renewal. Yes, the GDR was a grey, grey and depressing country when looking at the cityscape. And there was nothing much to buy. (Which was a constant source for jokes: "Don't you have no bananas today?" "We haven't got any tomatoes here. No bananas are sold next store!" Hahahaha!! Love it.)
My childhood has been a happy one. Even though even my family had to deal with repression at one point and another. (I'll have to tell you a sad story soon, when doing another post on my childhood pictures.) And I remember very clearly that I dreamt of many toys I would never get. But we were inventive and built our own stuff from the materials we could get. And I spent so much time in nature. And I remember that as a great time.
But still, I'm very happy about being able to buy nice things nowadays. (I'm a girl after all.) And about being able to choose my own future. Not the future an oppressive system wanted me to have. Thank God.


P.S. I showed those Instagram pictures to my mom and she said: "Why would anyone destroy perfectly good pictures to have them look like pictures taken by old cameras??" Good question. But - hello? - it's so much fun.


While traveling with trains...

  by Chisa2010
, a photo by Chisa2010 on Flickr.

...I love to just stare out the window. (Even when I'm determined to work.) You guessed my fondness for traveling by now, of course. And even though I absolutely love flying, taking the train might be the better option (if possible anyway). You actually SEE the country up close when going by train. (I loved riding trains in Japan! Not just because they are über punctual.)
I actually love to watch the German countryside slide past. I took this picture out of the ICE today. It might look boring to you, but I actually like the green shrubbery quite a lot.

Traveling and working

  by Chisa2010
, a photo by Chisa2010 on Flickr.

Today I left for my home town as there is a long weekend ahead. My parents will go to the Opera all weekend to see Wagner's "Ring" and I'll take care of the cat and dog. And I'll work. On several things all at once, which leaves me again to wonder about self management.
Well, time at the train should never be wasted, so I sat down in a free compartment on an ICE train and translated Japanese texts (for a lecture - still no paid assignment). In Frankfurt my train actually delayed 1 hour because something was wrong with the first wagon. I used the time to go on translating.
When we finally left Frankfurt all people on board were offered free drinks (non-alcohol) and a stamped form to apply for cost reimbursement.
(The law concerning cost reimbursement in case of delayed trains is fairly new! Anyone who has to travel by Deutsche Bahn knows that their trains are almost, but not quite, absolutely always not on time. Or the other way round. Give or take 10 minutes or even up to 20 minutes - that's quite normal. My japanese friends are always going nuts in Germany. And well, I'm missing the Japanese railway myself.
Anyway, a few months ago a delayed train would have made passengers angry but not the executives of Deutsche Bahn. Now, they actually have to try being punctual.
But checking out the form I realized that I wouldn't get the whole ticket price back. Only ten percent for one hour! Okay, better than nothing. And I actually worked, so I guess the delay worked out for me.)


Instagram Magic: Boat on the Neckar

  by Chisa2010
, a photo by Chisa2010 on Flickr.

The Neckar is the river that flows trough Heidelberg. And others cities for that matter. This boat carries tourists upstream and downstream all day. I love the colors and the nice yellow accent made by the buoy.

Instagram Magic: Heidelberg I

  by Chisa2010
, a photo by Chisa2010 on Flickr.

Yesterday was the first "Schlossbeleuchtung" this year in Heidelberg. Thousands of people come together at the other side of the Neckar river to get a good view of the fireworks.
I ended up squashing myself in the tram like I used to in Tokyo. It was great in an odd way! The other passengers complained all the way to downtown. And then I waited on the other bridge to get a view of the fireworks, which were nice an all (especially when the castle slowly 'burned down'), but as I'm used to other one hour long fireworks in Japan, it was a rather short pleasure.
Sadly, I'm no good in taking pictures of fireworks, hence only pictures with daylight.


Romantic Bohemian

Tsumori Chisato draped dress,
Sue Wong shimmer dress,
Dries Van Noten cotton blazer,
TOMS pale pink shoes,
Dazed Dorothy clutch handbag,
Floral jewelry

I just found Polyvore, another website that helps us girls to play around and make nice collages of things we'd like to own.  I just erased the price tags, because it made me feel rather nauseous.  Be assured that I am absolutely not able to buy such things, especially since I am more broke than ever. But still - a girl can dream. 
And I like all colors and girly clothes. And maybe, maybe, someday I'll finally earn some money. Hopefully someday soon. 

Japan Archives: Glimpses of Old Tokyo

Indeed, earthquakes, fires and Pacific War bombings haven't spared much of Edo (the old name for Tokyo) for the tourist to see. And even without natural and man made catastrophes, original houses are made of wood and the humid summers in Japan tend to dissolve wood very fast. That's another reason the main sanctuary of the famous shrine of Ise is rebuild every 20 years. Private houses aren't getting very old either if the financial situation allows it. The house in the picture above isn't very old, even though it looks like it. It was situated in Ikebukuro Honmachi, the part of Tokyo where I lived last year in March. 
  It was a harsh lesson for me, when I first came to Japan. I expected way more old buildings and shrines and temples than I actually could see with a first glance. And I guess that's a disappointment for many western travelers. But we Europeans are rather spoiled with old downtown sceneries (even though it is sad to think of the wars that have left so many European cities in rubble). And the second glance is worthwhile in Japan! Wandering about you can see so many little treasures and the new architecture doesn't even need to be seen as nuisance either. Rather, newest Japanese architecture tries to combine the best of old and new! (Please, don't kill me Prof. X!! I'm not using "tradition" and "modernity" as keywords...)  Let's have a look. 

Mitaka is a lovely outskirt area of Tokyo, where the soul of Edo lingers on. Some of you might know that it is the place of Studio Ghibli - at least the museum can be visited here. (Studio Ghibli: Maybe the most famous animation studio of Japan, comparable to Disney. Famous characters: Totoro, Nausicaä, Kiki, Mononoke, Howl, Ponyo) The day I visited last year was rather cold and rainy and nothing much was going on. But I loved the atmosphere the little village amidst a megacity breathed. There is some traditional trade along the road and one can eat soba (buckwheat noodles), manjû and other tasty stuff. 

This is a picture of the infamous Kabuki za theatre (well, a part of it anyway) at the infamous Ginza street. Sadly, it was demolished shortly after my visit last year. There had been some concerns about earthquake safety, which cannot be taken lightly in Japan, as the "Big Northern Catastrophe" (the 'official' name for the Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Catastrophe so far in Japanese Media) has shown. The last rebuilding had been in 1950, after the War. This building style was called "baroque Japanese revivalist style" as one can guess from the details, but used western building technics to keep it "fire safe". (the original building in that style was finished around 1924.)

Another great and breathtaking example for new and old architecture in Tokyo is the Hama Rikyu garden. I love it there especially in spring during plum and peach blossom time (March). In the center of the park lies this tea house where you are served Japanese green tea in old style. There is no furniture in the tea room itself, and one has to kneel/sit on mats while being served matcha tea in a big bowl with a Japanese candy. The Hama Rikyu Garden ponds are connected to the Sumida River and have a tide. It remains the last Edo-style garden in Tokyo and I strongly recommend it for travelers in Tokyo.

This pagoda can be found in the Ueno Zoo, the only Zoo in the center of Tokyo. For Germans this zoological garden seems rather sad and way too small for all the animals imprisoned inside. Even though the zoo has tried to build better facilities for their animals as there isn't much room in the midst of Tokyo to begin with, this is an arduous task. Obviously a pagoda doesn't belong to a zoo. It belongs to a temple or shrine. And the best places to find such buildings in Tokyo are Ueno park and - not far off - Asakusa. Next to the zoo lies the Tôshôgu Shrine, where this pagoda belongs to.

 Normally this door stands open, but the Tôshôgu Shrine is undergoing renewal, that will last five to ten years (!) as I was told by a monk. (Every time I visit Japan I'm astonished by the doors the Japanese language can open.) So the main building is packed up in a big storehouse and can't be seen anymore. That wasn't a big problem for me as I've visited this Shrine a lot during my one year long stay, but I kind of felt sad for the tourists who were swarming about in Tokyo last year. When I lived in Japan 2005/2006 tourists from Europe or America were still scarce or at least not that common as opposed to last year, where "white people" (hakujin) were everywhere. Somehow that bugged me as I loved to be exotic when traveling in Japan.

That's a little Inari-Shrine (Fox Shrine) in Ueno, which I totally adore. Can you see the fox statures? Since I came to Japan for the first time and lay my eyes on shrines like these, I'm convinced that my "animal spirit" is a fox. I don't really believe in such mumbo jumbo, but still...who knows? The Fox is a very interesting figure in Japanese folklore and religious beliefs. It combines good and bad traits and while the shrine honors the inari as being the one that promotes fertility (especially for rice! For humans there are less ...subtle ways to promote fertility), the foxes in folktales tend to be mean and insidious. Which somehow connects to the European belief of the fox as a cunning and shifty fellow. 
I'll be back with "Glimpses of Old Tokyo" soon. Meanwhile let me emphasize my copyrights on this pictures. Please don't post them anywhere else without my permission and naming of the source. Thank you. 


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Well, I'm so totally stealing this idea, but we all love lists, don't we?
My "June list":
- do my work in a timely fashion: translating Japanese texts and writing job applications (hey, it's fun!)
- take more pictures and play with instagram
- make a blog schedule and write every day !
- leave lovely comments on lovely blogs
- find more followers (I should write this solely for my own happiness, but still - who wouldn't want to find a place in the bloggosphere? )
- buy the missing manual for building websites to get better in blogging
- do more creative writing (I'm currently writing a short story)
- do more crafty projects (I'm currently knitting a chunky scarf even though it is summer; I'm also crocheting coasters, granny squares and flowers)
- and write about those projects here! With pictures!
- maybe provide an DIY-project on this blog?? (How would you like that??) But I have to warn you: I'm a total beginner at this. Still - let's have fun!
- celebrating my 2X- birthday!!! Yay, another year that past.

Greetings - have a lovely weekend!


Instagram Magic!

  by Chisa2010
, a photo by Chisa2010 on Flickr.

As I'm fairly new to the bloggosphere and all things App-related I just wanted to set up an account where I can share my finest pics with you. I haven't really used Instagram till now because I "only" own an iPod touch (even though it is the newest version) and cannot really connect to the Internet while being on the move. But I think I am able to work it now.
This is the Rainbow Bridge in Downtown Tokyo. I really love the 'old touch' Instagram provides.