Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Tea ceremony

I have recently read a couple of interesting books “Samurai Williams: The adventurer who unlock Japan” and “The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel.”

Both books talk about remarkable historical figures, who have had a significant impact in shaping Japan’s identity as such. And to my surprise, in both books, the “Japanese tea ceremony” is mentioned, almost as a coincidence.


So, I decided to join a “Japanese tea ceremony” to experience this ritual first hand.  And my scepticism was overthrown by the sacred atmosphere that surrounded the room as an invisible veil had covered it all leaving only our naked souls exposed to what whatever might happened.

I was first, presented with some sweets to help me stand the bitterness of the tea. They were hand-made, beautifully-shapen and, as I confirmed later, nectar of Gods.

Then, the preparation of the tea itself begun, a girl, whose skin resembles the white snow of Akita, with gracious and precise movements started folding and stretching a piece of cloth. Such movements had the audience in a trance. We all fell under the spell of her. She pours tea powder into a bowl and whisks it with intensity and reverence. Then she slowly pours water into the bowl.

Nobody speaks.

Once she finishes with the preparation, a handsome young man passes the bowls around.
He sits the bowl before you and reverently bows before leaving. We turn the cup three times clockwise. And drink the tea in three gulps.

I feel as if a spell has been broken and I can hear the traffic sounds, and people outside in the street again.
I’m asked to eat the sweets I had been given previously, a very polite reminder that it was time to leave.
Life goes on.

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Odawara: Its treasures and pinky ninja

The first time I visited Odawara, I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I saw it,  I fell in love, metaphorically and literally.  And even now after so many years, it still speaking to me.

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And to many people, because even the samurais stop to take photos in front of it (Odawara castle)

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Its solid wooden gates welcomed me as it has welcomed thousands of people before me.  And will continue to do so until the end of times. Perhaps.

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And with the brave “pink” ninja who kindly posed  for my camera before I left, I said goodbye to Odawara castle once more.

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Miyazaki: And his magic at Kichijōji

As I arrived at Kichijōji station, I couldn’t help but notice little gnomes, faceless ghosts and other “magical” creatures walking around. They all seemed busy and preoccupied.

And although I gave them the best of my smiles, they were not kind because they didn’t stop to help me when I asked them for directions. They just ignored me.

And neither the scarecrow that so kindly helped Sophie in the moving howl’s castle seemed to be carrying out good deeds this morning.

I knew the Ghibli museum was close to Kichijoji station, but all those “magical” creatures were taking the whole station for themselves. The volume of their voices was growing louder and louder. And they didn’t seem to be going anywhere but rather waiting.

But waiting for who, I wondered.

And just after few minutes, my question would be answered.

Because just before me, Mr. Miyazaki himself appeared at the ticket gate. And those magical creatures, his creatures, jumped to attention.

He was wearing a wool checked jacket along with a hat of the same print. He, all of him, was just as colorful, enchanted and fascinating as the characters he creates. And they all followed him on to the next train like obedient and lovingly children. And without him, the Kichijõchi station became gloomy and silent.

Shinjuku: The beast and the heart of Tokyo

 

When I arrived to Shinjuku for the very first time, I got lost and I almost ended up crying in one of its corners, as I am houkouonchi, which means literally “person with no sense of direction” (方向音痴 ほうこうおんち)I still hopeless to find my way around this big city.

But if you survive your very 1st day in Shinjuku, the beast and the heart of Tokyo, then you can rest assure that you will survive anywhere else in the world.

 

 

Shinjuku is at first overwhelming and scary, but with time, it opens its arms to you

 

And it can even become your friend and protector, if we give it time. Just a little bit of time.

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Meiji shrine: Where the Gods meet

Tokyo is a place of contradictions, where you can find glamour in one corner and tradition and culture in another one (another corner). When visiting Harajuku, Shibuya’s cheeky little sister, one find eccentricity, and it (Harajuku) never disappoints, with its vibrant colors, rare stores, and beautiful people, you navigate through its small allies in a trancelike state. At least that’s how I feel every time I go there (Harajuku)

But just around Harajuku station (Omotesando exit), you will find one of its most precious treasures: Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji jingū) a place that has survived modernity until now. And still bring people together, local and visitors, we can feel the Gods and their spirits whisper in the trees when they ruffle the leaves, which some confuse with the wind. But I know it’s them who met in the trees’ top to talk about us, to make fun of us, to help us, to listen and to remind us that this is not the only life we will live.

The entrance of this enchanted place

Barrels of sake

Barrels of wine

We do like spirits here, what can I say?😉

 

 

Isn’t it breathtaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Meiji jingū, a place not only to worship but to talk to the Gods and to meet them.

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With love

Walking along the gray streets, sometimes, I wonder how I survived all this time without you.

pablo-4You said goodbye one morning, and although it was not up to you to stay, or to leave. The fact is that you left, and your farewell changed my life. For better or worse nothing was the same.

I was never the same.

And although, I know, deep down in my heart, that you never wanted to leave me, yet again you did.

Ironically, none of us had a say in what happened, but it still hurts, even today. In every step I walk, in every moment I live, in every dream, I still hope to find you.

And I want to think that you remember me as well. I want to believe that this post will reach you. And, that you will read it, and we will be together in some parallel universe. In one way or another.

Somehow trying to explain the emptiness you left in me, I had come up with the crazy idea that when you left, you took a piece of my heart to later hide it somewhere in the world. And that’s why I have lived like a gypsy looking for that missing part of me. Like a cursed soul, whose only hope to survive is to follow the memory of you in this world.

I guess what I mean to say so inadequately in these lines is that I will always love you and that nothing could ever erase nor replace you, ojii-chan (ojii-chan means grandpa in Japanese)

Pictures: The power of perseverance

 

“You are good at taking pictures” people kindly say. And although I thank you all for your kind words, I have a little secret to share.

And the secret is that I’m actually not good at taking pictures. Or at least, I wasn’t. If you do not believe me, you could ask people who have known me for decades, and they would gladly tell you that I am terrible at taking pictures.

But as I’m a stubborn little person, seriously, I’m little. I’m only 5 feet 3 inches tall (164 cms), I don’t quit once I set my mind on something I want.

So, when it comes to taking photos, I see something I like, I adjust the lens and shoot. And if I happen to have my iPod instead of my camera, then I shoot unstoppable. I shoot and shoot until I get a pic that it’s worth something.

Because there is always a shot that can be used. Effort always pays off. And, perseverance beats talent, at least it does in my case.

Lion cafe: Shibuya’s music box

Mondays are not my favourite day of the week, I loathe them. They (the Mondays) fall on me like a curse from the Gods. And that’s why I decided to do something nice for myself and take me out for a nice cup of coffee on Monday evening.

But where? I thought to my myself and then the answer presented itself.

I have been listening for years people talk about this “great place” where you can listen to classical music all day, “this cafe” somewhere hidden in the heart of Shibuya.

So, I made it my task to find it.

And guess what? A with a little help from my friends, I found it, and I felt as if Shibuya were confiding me a secret.

Lion cafe is not your typical cafe, it is something else, it is a house forgotten by time, a sanctuary of peace, or perhaps a gigantic music box.

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Lion cafe’s classical music contrasts with the catchy pop melodies we hear all over Shibuya. Once you enter Lion cafe, it takes you a while to desintoxícate yourself from it. But then your senses give in, your eyes adapt to the soft light, and your body relaxes.

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And you start wondering how can you live in the turmoil and pandemonium of modernity. Problems seem so far away, so distant and blurry. You are at peace here, and this Monday becomes a fantastic day.

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Ramen: Its mommy, daddy and museum

 

The arrival of instant ramen in 1958 to the world marked a milestone in ramen history. 

 

                                                                            Instant ramen advertisement-1963

 

 

It was a game changer..! Just imagine….! Japanese housewives didn’t have to slave over a hot stove to prepare one of the most emblematic and delicious dishes ever been born in Japan. But have you ever wondered if Ramen is Japanese?

 

Well according to the ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, ramen is hafu (a mixed race child) 

 

 

                                                        In summary, Chinese daddy, and Japanese mommy

 

                                                                                                      

See..? I never lie 😉 

 

 

And once we finish researching about the origins of ramen, we entered the museum, and this beautiful view welcomed us, 1958 was a magical year indeed. 

 

And it is in 1958 that the ramen museum is set up, as it time had stopped forever in its alleys.

 

The experience was amazing, I mean ramen is a unique experience in its own right. But walking, feeling, touching and “living” 1958 Japan was a sort of a dream come true as if someone would have opened a “time portal” for us. I just loved it..!

 

It was just simply lovely 😊