wot u been doing?

11 02 2011

So you might have noticed that yamaonna has changed a little recently. Since I’m leaving this job soon I’ve started some preparation for my next adventure – the 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Shikoku! Whist I’m taking my ‘walkabout’ I plan on blogging at iHenro (link above in the menu bar), but until then yamaonna will still be my primary blog. To be honest, after I leave Japan I’m not sure if yamaonna will be continuing, and that’s why I’ve moved my Hikes page to my main page. Anyway, we’ll see how it all works out.

Also talking about preparations for leaving, I spent most of my free time in January working through my ‘Tokyo to-do list’. Part of my list included quite a number of museums, galleries and zoos in Tokyo, so I decided to take advantage of the Grutt Pass, a pass that gives you access to over 70 facilities in Tokyo for 2000 yen. In a month I was able to go to 21 different places, basically for free 😀

Not surprisingly the things I enjoyed the most have been the science museums. I had been to the National Museum of Nature and Science and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation previously, but with the pass I revisited the first and also went to the Science Museum and Risupia. I can say all of them are top quality science museums and very engaging for kids, but unfortunately there wasn’t much English, except for Risupia. Risupia is quite unique in that it makes maths fun! It was the biggest surprise out of everything I went to. I did not expect it to be so well done, but as it’s also a showcase for Panasonic I shouldn’t have been so surprised that everything was shiny.

My other surprise was in the Tokyo Zoos. I had always heard bad reviews of Ueno Zoo, saying it only had small concrete cages and seemed quite cruel to the animals, but it’s obvious that the zoo is undergoing renovations and what has been done looks really good. And they have quite a variety of animals. Tama Zoo was also very good, with some very interesting exhibits like a huge butterfly dome, a bus ride through the lion enclosure and koalas (^-^)v Lastly was Inokashira Zoo in Kichijoji park, which is great for kids with a petting area filled with guinea pigs and a squirrel enclosure that puts you right up close with the scary little things.

ready to attack!

ready to attack!

Other than museums and zoos, I also went to a few galleries. The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is one that I always enjoy, although this time I was a little surprised at one display in the permanent exhibit (sorry, but a Penis Kaleidoscope is not my idea of art. really, I kid you not.). And the Domani exhibit at the National Art Centre was very enjoyable. I particularly like Kanae Toyama’s work, but unfortunately photos don’t do her work justice. The Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art was displaying a very impressive selection of it’s doll collection, and it was amazing to see what can be done with just paper in some cases.

Kiyosumi Gardens

Kiyosumi Gardens

There are a couple of places I wanted to mention lastly. Overall my best day out was at Kiyosumi, where the above mentioned Museum of Contemporary Art is located, as well as a charming little history museum – the Fukugawa Edo Museum, which shows a mock-up of life in Kiyosumi approximately 170 years ago, and the Kiyosumi Gardens, which is small, but very pretty and well priced at only 150 yen. And finally, although not part of the Grutt Pass, but free and quite interesting was the Konica Minolta Plaza in Shinjuku. At the time they had an exhibition by George Steinmetz, who is an amazing photographer for National Geographic, and takes beautiful and amazing photos. Definitely worth looking at!

So, it’s been a busy January. And there still are a few more places I want to visit. Luckily I still have over a month left in Tokyo, although I know it will fly!

Summer in three parts

4 09 2010

September is here, and that means a few things, but mostly – it’s back to school.

This year’s summer vacation was Busy.  Hot.  Exhausting.  But good 😀

For most of my summer I’ve had guests visiting, because it was pretty much my last chance to have people stay before I leave Japan sometime next year.  From now on life in Japan for me will be focused on passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level 2, and then selling my stuff before moving, and I just won’t be able to dedicate myself to visitors like I usually would.

For the first part of summer I had Angus visit, which I talked about in Blessed are the geek, D-days, and Gundam is Back.

On the day Angus left, I started working for a friend, covering his lessons while he was overseas.  It was really refreshing to teach students who wanted to study English, unlike teaching at a school were they are forced to learn.  It was only night lessons, so during the day I had time to chill out, watch tv, and sort out my house a bit before my next set of guests.

For the final part of the vacation I actually had my friend Michael come for a week to climb Mt Fuji, followed by my father visiting for 10 days just because.  By the end of August I had been expecting the weather to start cooling down, but this year has been most unusual with temperatures continuing to reach up to (and occasionally over) 37 C even into September!  It’s actually been the warmest August in Japan since 1946, so I had started to slow down a bit because of exhaustion.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

Despite slowing down a little, I still did a lot of sighting seeing with Michael and Dad.  With Michael we went to Shibuya and Harajuku to see the cosplay kids hanging out there, and Asakusa and Odaiba to see a bit of Tokyo’s history and skyline.  With my Dad, his main requests were to go to Tokyo Tower and Odaiba, so we spent a couple of days doing that.  We also saw Inception, went to the National Nature and Science Museum in Ueno, and probably most exciting for me – went to Disneyland for my birthday!

Rainbow Bridge and Himiko Ferry

Rainbow Bridge and Himiko Ferry

So, overall, this vacation was busy, hot, exhausting, but fun!  (and I went to Disney 3 times! win!!)