Archive | September 2011

Brasserie Le Musee a la Crème brûlée

So whilst at the NACT yesterday, we had a late lunch at the Paul Bocuse French Brasserie. Talk about elevated dining – literally. The restaurant sits on the third floor of the Art Gallery atop of an inverted concrete cone. And it’s built as a circular restaurant for double awesomeness.

From NACT
From NACT
From NACT

I’m all about novelty, so I was excited to eat there upon a couple of recommendations from some fellow foodies. There’s apparently always a line to get in. And yesterday was no exception. And they don’t take reservations for lunch. Here is everyone lining up taking a seat to get in:

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

Whilst waiting, I naturally snapped more photos. The line moved quickly enough. Only about a 20 minute wait or so. Enough time to check out the menu and decide what to get.

From Brasserie Le Musee

The restaurant is so cool. And very popular.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

We were at last seated for a late 2pm lunch (Lunch is available 11am to 4pm). After seeing the exhibition and taking lots of photos, I had worked up an appetite. Me thinks being hungry is a hobby.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

Now, you’d think to eat here would be expensive and fancy and all, but it’s totally not. It’s casual french dining and very accessible. There are two lunch courses on offer. The 2000yen set and the 3200yen. The one and only difference between the two is that the 3200yen course comes with soup. Hard to justify an extra 1200yen for soup, so I was content to order the 2000yen course, and spend a little extra for wine! The lunch course consisted of Rillette, main dish (fish or meat dish), choice of dessert, and tea/coffee/orange juice (choose one). So first up, the Rillette (which is like a pâté) served with bread, and also olive oil. Also a small glass of sparkling wine.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

For the main lunch dish: choice of fish or beef. I went the beef. It came out looking like this:

From Brasserie Le Musee

Covered in a sheet of pasta.

From Brasserie Le Musee

But underneath it was some very tender beef.

From Brasserie Le Musee

Probably not the most flattering pictures of that dish. The beef was beautifully cooked. I love it when the meat just falls off. Tami ordered the fish (seabream). I thought this was well plated. There are tiny discs made of potatoes which have been arranged on top of the fish made to look the scales, but really they were potatoes!

From Brasserie Le Musee

For dessert, there was a choice from five offerings. Tami had come here just for the creme brulee. She raves about it. Apparently it’s one of their famous signature desserts. But it wasn’t on the menu. She asked the waiter whether the creme brulee was available and the waiter revealed that it was, even though it’s not offered on either lunch courses. I think the creme brulee is a bit of secret. I considered ordering a dessert off the menu – there were after all, five different options on offer. And for me, creme brulee would not be my favourite dessert. I mean they’re alright, they’re nice and all but meh, creme brulee. I mean it’s translated as ‘burnt cream’. Give me a chocolate gateau cake anytime. Anyway, I did order the creme brulee and oh my god, it was the best creme brulee EVER. It put all other creme brulees to shame. I didn’t know how good a creme brulee could taste until that moment. I was completely blown away. It’s just a creme brulee, right. But no, the creme brulee here is divine. First of all, it came out in a large shallow dish.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

My first thought, was ugh, too much. Too much sugar. It’s just going to be sickly sweet. But no, deceptively it wasn’t overly sweet. It was sweet, but only delicately so. The custard underneath was divine. And again only a very shallow base of custard. It was so perfect and full of vanilla beans that you could see. Wow. It tasted so amazing, unlike any other creme brulee. In fact, you’ve not tasted creme brulee until you’ve eaten one of these.

From Brasserie Le Musee

Really, it was most surprising to ME that I would be converted to being such a fan. I was very skeptical that such a dessert could win me over. Wow. And then onto the cup of tea (or coffee or orange juice – your choice) to savour and linger over that creme brulee.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

And then some more photos inside or rather ‘around’ the restaurant.

From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee
From Brasserie Le Musee

Such a striking atmosphere and wonderful place to eat. They call it an ‘Artistic Dining Experience’. They’re open for dinner as well. And surprisingly very reasonable and good food too. Restaurant details here.

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Cape Soya: The most northern point of Japan

On day 2 of our northern Hokkaido road trip, we were up early and on the road again by just after 8am. We woke up in our hostel and checked out the view over Wakkanai. I was surprised by how big the town was. I was expecting a tiny nothing town.

From Cape Soya

Sea views. Not bad for a youth hostel.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

The hostel looked run down from the outside but was pleasantly nice and modest on the inside. For 20buks (2100yen), can’t really complain.

From Cape Soya

Packed up the car and we were on our way.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

From Wakkanai town, it’s only a 30minute drive to Cape Soya – which is the most northern point in Japan. Can’t get any more norther than that! It was nice scenic drive along the coast line.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

We saw a lot of fishermen out in shallow waters, all in full body wetsuits collecting some kind of seafood. These northern coastal towns have a thriving fishing industry.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

And then finally we reached our destination! Cape Soya. The most northern point in Japan. Woo hoo! That’s what I’m talking about.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

We got to the peak probably a tad before 9am. It was beautiful sunny day, although a little fresh.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

It was rather exciting to be standing there at the point. We could also see out to Russia – Sakhalin. We could make out the land mass beyond the sea. Sakhalin is only 43km from this Cape.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

Along with all the other people, we waited our turn to get the obligatory photo standing at the tip of Japan.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

It doesn’t get much north than this. Literally some rocks, and then the ocean out to Ohktohsk sea and you’re on your way swimming to Russia.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

Japan meets Russia:

From Cape Soya

For a bit of extra novelty, here are the most northern toilets in the whole of Japan. Unfortunately, I did not leave a piece of me behind.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

There is also of course, a souvenir shop.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

At 9:30am it was 12 degrees. And the coordinates of our location were displayed out the front, showing that we were indeed at the most northern point in Japan. We then went for a walk atop of the hill to look out onto the sea and get a higher view of the cape. There’s a little peace memorial park with some monuments atop of the hill.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

We saw a fox up there which was pretty cool. It’s leg was a bit injured because it limped about, which is why I was able to get photos of it without the fox running away.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

So much excitement for one day, or rather one hour. Our day had barely begun. More photos at the top. A few cool monuments to check out and great views out to sea.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

You can faintly make out the outline of Russia in the distance in this photo. Better seen with the naked eye than through a camera lens though.

From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya
From Cape Soya

There’s also a tiny little shrine at the Cape as well.

From Cape Soya

That was our morning at Cape Soya (Soya misaki). Not even 10am yet and I had checked off another item off the Japan bucketlist. Drove on back down to Wakkanai for the next part of our Hokkaido adventure.

Hokkaido roadtrippin’ and Tiffany tea (Day 1)

We just had a long weekend here, so I headed on up back to Hokkaido for a road trip. Our destination: THE most northern point in Japan! On Friday morning, I woke up early and was on the first flight out, up to Sapporo.

From Road trip north
From Road trip north

Arrived in Hokkaido, and got the train into Sapporo where I was meeting Fi and Debs to begin our road trip. Perfect timing as their car pulled up right as I was exiting Sapporo station. A long drive ahead from Sapporo to Wakkanai. Was feeling like I had a cold coming on so I grabbed a Vitamin C drink for the road. This was a bit excessive though. The equivalent of 50 lemons’ worth of Vitamin C. Either lemons contain very little vitamin C, or I was about to OD on the vitamin.

From Road trip north

Hokkaido has such beautiful scenery. It’s God’s gift to cyclists. Lots of flat terrain that stretch on forever over vast expanses of green fields and rice farms – popular with cyclists and runners.

From Road trip north

We made several conbini stops for toilets and snacks. Did you know there are a ridiculous number of Seicomarts in Hokkaido! We must have passed a good few dozen over the long weekend. We stopped for a late lunch at Big Boy – a hamburger steak restaurant with salad bar! Just a family chain restaurant which wasn’t too bad.

From Road trip north
From Road trip north
From Road trip north

Fi and Debs posing with the Big Boy:

From Road trip north

Fi and Debs are friends from my days when I lived in Hirafu (Niseko, Hokkaido). Fi now lives in Sapporo and Debs still lives in Hirafu. More scenes from our Hokkaido road trip up north.

From Road trip north
From Road trip north
From Road trip north

We spent 11 hours on the road on that Friday! Lots of conversation, some napping in the backseat on my part, a few pit stops along the way, some Glee music to pass the time. We took only the main roads and avoided the toll roads (which would have gotten us there faster). Going north, we took the central inland Hokkaido route. The drive should have only taken us 6 hours, but we drove 2 hours off-route. We were so close to the peak…and then we found ourselves taking a wrong turn and driving 2 hours back south! Yabai! It was dark, and around 7:30ish. We had been on the road since 10am. We pulled into a random hotel to get directions. We also had no accommodation planned. We had tents and sleeping bags and were planning on just camping somewhere. But it was also pretty cold up north. At the hotel we stopped at, we rang around for some hotels near Wakkanai to stay at.

We consulted the Lonely Planet book I had carried along (for emergency use). The first hostel in Wakkanai wouldn’t take us because it was already 7:30pm and we were still two hours away, and we were pretty much just booking then. Tried another youth hostel in Wakkanai, and they told us we could stay there only if we got there and checked in before 9:30pm. It was already after 7:30pm and we had over 120km to get to Wakkanai! We put the pedal to the metal and arrived in Wakkanai just after 9pm. And we didn’t really know how to get to the youth hostel. We called up the guy at the youth hostel to get directions and to kind of stall him, so that if we arrived after 9:30pm he’d let us in. We arrived at the youth hostel literally right on 9:30pm! What a blessing. We had lodgings for the night after 11 hours on the road, including 2 hours of “being lost”.

This was the best youth hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was pretty palatial for a backpacker joint. They had either dorms or private rooms. Private rooms being more expensive. We opted for the dorms, but I swear the room we were in had to be the private rooms. It was basically a self-service apartment. There was a dining room, our own shower, own washing machine, fridge, microwave, kettle, and stove, tv, and a tatami mat room that could sleep 5-6 people. All self-contained and private. I couldn’t get over how nice it was! And for 20 buks each for the night.

From Road trip north
From Road trip north
From Road trip north
From Road trip north

What followed next was a most awesome surprise! So, Fi knows how much I love afternoon tea and so she had packed her own little afternoon tea for us. I had no idea. Bless her. She had brought along some fancy cakes, teabags, and even really nice mugs so we could enjoy a proper cup of tea. And these weren’t any ordinary tea cups. These were Tiffany & Co tea mugs!!!! She had packed along a set of cups nicely wrapped in a box. (The Tiffany & Co mugs were a set that she had received as a gift for attending a wedding). How awesome is that. I’m not much of a jewelry wearer or into labels, but Tiffany mugs are pretty special! And after a long, long day of sitting in a car, roadtripping up Hokkaido, a cup of tea was a welcome treat, as was a little Youth Hostel afternoon tea, courtesy of Fi. (Thanks, Fi!!!)

From Tiffany Tea

How cool are the Tiffany mugs – in their signature blue with the ribbon as well! And they, of course, came in a cool Tiffany box! Cups of tea for three:

From Tiffany Tea

I so want to get me a Tiffany mug. I know they’re just mugs, and it’s not like they were spectacularly designed mugs, but still fancy nevertheless. I googled the Tiffany website today. The mugs are not available on the Japan or Australia site…but you can get them on the US website. They cost 35buks! And I think that was for one mug…although it could have been for a pair.

From Tiffany Tea

It was so thoughtful for Fi to do this. So we sat down to tea and cakes in our fancy youth hostel.

From Tiffany Tea
From Tiffany Tea
From Tiffany Tea

We crashed out and fell asleep soon after. We were all utterly exhausted. Day 1 of the northern Hokkaido road trip was mostly driving. We were officially in Wakkanai – which is the biggest most northern town in Hokkaido and Japan. Wakkanai had been on my Japan bucketlist for a while – even though I’ve lived in Hokkaido twice, I never managed to get up there. Tick. It’s also a cool name for a place. The next day is when the real adventures began, as evidenced by the 500 photos that I took. Plenty more installments to come from the Hokkaido roadtrip.

Sky views: Mori Tower

Because the Sky Aquarium was on level 52 of the Mori Tower and because the ticket included entry to the Mori Tower observatory/sky view – what better opportunity to go check out the view. Normally, it costs 1500yen alone just to go up there! Great views to be had from level 52. If you time it to go in the late afternoon, you get the daytime view and then watch it get dark so you see the night light view as well. The sky was clear on Monday night so we got decent views.

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Tokyo is such a metropolis. So dense. So many buildings. So big. So wide.

From Mori Sky View

The space up at the top of the Mori Tower is spacious and wide, but plenty of people around, especially on a public holiday.

From Mori Sky View

There was also a small clownfish fish tank – I think this was just a temporary installment for the Sky Aquarium.

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Flying Fish:

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Uninterrupted views of Tokyo Tower (modeled on the Eiffel Tower).

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Slowly got darker. It was fun to see all the lights being gradually switched on…

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Got a good arial view of the National Art Centre:

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

And then we got the night light view:

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

There’s a cafe/bar up there that sells a great selection of teas, and gelato! Highly recommend the gelato! 2 scoops for 500yen! The hazelnut gelato was delightful!

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Sit and enjoy whilst soaking up the view.

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

Night views of Tokyo Tower. It really stands out of a night time when it’s all lit up. I heard that they’re tearing this down in a few years…

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

It’s hard to take photos of lights at night off of reflecting glass. I tried to do a reflection thing with the tower and the glass window with a random couple. It kinda turned out not too bad. The couple were actually really good models for this shot.

From Mori Sky View
From Mori Sky View

This week has actually been a short week, dubbed a mini ‘Silver week”. Monday was a public holiday, as will be tomorrow (Friday). So only three days of work this week. I can live with that. Two back-to-back long weekends – yay, marked with a typhoon in the middle. Will be going away tomorrow for the long weekend, pending any disruptions/national disasters.

Always be prepared

What a crazy day it’s been. The excitement in Japan never ceases. And by ‘excitement’, I mean natural disasters. A huge, intense typhoon battered central Japan today and now making its way up north…but not before passing through Tokyo. Everyone had been waiting in anticipation for it, and not in a good way. More bracing ourselves for it.

Yesterday/last night, both the Canadian and Australian embassies issued alert warnings via email. I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years and never have I received an alert for typhoon reasons…and there’s usually a dozen or so typhoons a year in Japan. This one was expected to be a doozy. We had some heavy rain overnight as the typhoon made its way east and north.

Today was windy, rainy…but for most of the morning…nothing too intense. By afternoon/early evening, the typhoon hit Tokyo. It was expected to hit between 3-6pm. And it delivered. Most companies were letting people go home early….but not early enough. Around 3-4pm is when most people who wanted to leave early left…but that was when all the trains shut down. So many train lines all went down around 3.30pm leaving masses of people stranded at train stations unable to get home. I, on the other hand was at work, in the office. One – there was a lot of work that needed to be done. It was crazy busy today. Not to mention that we’re shortstaffed at the moment. And secondly, no point in trying to leave the office only to be stranded at the station – this happened on the day of the earthquake. In my attempt to leave early and head for the airport…I was stuck underground at Tokyo station for 8 hours! Better to stay indoors. Quite a few people tried to leave, only to return back to the office and wait it out instead. Train lines were down, and even once they were back up, they were going to be delayed and backlogged by millions of Tokyoites all wanting to get home. Some intense crazy winds whipped through Tokyo. Even our office building was shaking from the wind! Ploughed through work which kept us busy, but was able to work shorter hours thanks to the typhoon. Didn’t want to be stuck in the office all night. Trains eventually started running again…albeit delayed and not to any schedule. Some are out of action altogether. Was lucky to get home without too much drama…apart from the fact that the trains were more crowded than usual! What an insane day.

The typhoon stuck around a few hours and is now headed north. That’s a cause for concern because it’s going to batter Tohoku which has had more than enough damage and wreckage. It also appears that I may be following the typhoon (or is it following me?) because I am actually due to fly to Hokkaido on Friday morning. I’m hoping that the typhoon is done with by tomorrow…but there is a possibility that it may reach Hokkaido on Friday. I think it will go out to sea though. The airports were in chaos with practically all domestic flights cancelled today. With the typhoon having passed, through Tokyo at least, I am expecting hot humid weather to follow for the next week or so. I’ve observed that intense hot days follow after a typhoon. I don’t know why (care to shed any light on that, Alex?!) Got home fine tonight after seeing out the typhoon at the office. But on my way home I saw a lot of abandoned umbrellas. They were no match for these winds. Not much later after I had gotten home…there was an earthquake! Geez. Never a dull moment in Japan. I had actually secretly been worried about this all day – I knew the typhoon was coming, but what if we also got an earthquake at the same time. We still get multiple baby earthquakes everyday. The apartment started shaking slightly…and at first, I couldn’t tell whether it was because of the typhoon winds (which had subsided) or an actual earthquake. Turned out to be 5.3 magnitude earthquake at the source. Not so bad in Tokyo though. I’ve become super, super sensitive to shakes and earthquakes. I can usually feel even the slightest of earthquakes. Sometimes my own heartbeat/pulse keeps me awake at night and I mistake it for a slight earth tremor. Central Japan has suffered a lot of damage as a result of this typhoon – the news footage has been intense – with much flooding.

These natural disasters are taking its toll on the landscape and the economy here. It’s been a wild weather day here, yet things in Tokyo, will go back to normal tomorrow. With all these natural disasters…it’s important to be prepared for anything! That’s why it’s necessary to have an emergency kit or emergency supplies on hand. I am a super organized person..bordering on obsessively organised. I’m a planner. I make lists to make lists. I have a very serious obsession/addiction to making lists! “Always be prepared” was the Boy Scout motto. I was actually a Brownie – of the Girl Guide variety and not the edible chocolate kind, when I was a young girl in primary school. Our motto was LAH – Lend A Hand. I much preferred the Boy Scout motto. So after the March earthquake, I made sure to prepare a little emergency kit. I kind of haphazardly put stuff together with stuff around the apartment, and haven’t really updated it since.

From Emergency kit

Here’s what it contains:

– 4 small packet of tissues (doubles as toilet paper)

– wet tissue/wipes

– honey lollies

– packet of gummie bears

– plastic bag

– 2 mini bottles of water

– 2 packets of Calorie mate (nutrition bars)

– 1 packet Prune/dried raisin biscuits

– 2 bandanas (useful as a cloth, hanky, sling etc)

– A packet of sesame bars

– facewasher

– onsen towel (a small body towel)

– a pencil

– a pen

– notebook

– photocopy of my Gaijin card (identity card that is mandatory for foreigners in Japan)

– a little keychain watch (I don’t own a watch so I’ll need to know what the time is)

– Hokkairo (heat patch)

– Plastic cup

– a fork

– spare empty ziplock bag

– Rain poncho

– box of matches (but no candles…must add that to the shopping list and get me some)

– a tiny medical kit (containing: eye mask, face mask, bandaids, toothbrush, cotton buds, Advil, feminine hygiene products – I’ve put these into a little Qantas airline kit that you get free on airplanes.)

– Sudoku puzzles (pages ripped out from a Sudoku book – figured it was a way to kill time without being electricity-generated entertainment.)

This all fits nicely into one very small portable drawstring cloth bag (about half the size of a pillow) which is easy to pick up in a hurry should I ever need to evacuate. I keep it right by the door in the genkan, so I only have to pick it up on my way out the door.

From Emergency kit
From Emergency kit

I also keep 2L Bottled water by the door as well. I only drink tap water at home…but safe to have bottled water as well, especially after the radiation scares that we had. So that’s all the stuff that I would have in a pinch. At any given time, I also have a handbag and that also holds further essentials, like my iPhone, purse, camera, other bits and bobs, and a torch. I have a small torch wherever I go. It’s basically survival stuff that would get me through 2-3 days if needed before getting on a flight back home, if for example I was stuck in an evacuation centre or the airport for a few days.

Stuff like the laptop, clothes and all other possessions would most likely get left behind if needed. At the end of the day, it’s all replaceable. I have backed up the majority of my photos on online photo albums (I have just under 400 albums saved on Picasa!)…so things like my photos on my hard drive would be ok to leave behind. A lot of photos are also on this blog…so that’s kinda nice too to have. Other important docs I have saved in my email account and Dropbox – if I were to leave behind my computer. The laptop and the SLR camera would probably be the two tangible possessions I most care about. I also leave my passport in an accessible place to grab in an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Having an emergency kit though is only fine when you’re at home. But when disaster strikes…most likely you’ll be at work or out somewhere, and not in the comfort and safety of your own house. I really should also prepare a mini-kit for my desk at work.

After the March earthquake, I did put some small emergency things in place. I always keep a bottle of water on my desk that I don’t touch – it’s to grab in an emergency. I also keep a pair of old sneakers under my desk in case I ever have to walk home from work – not much fun in heels or work shoes. I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste and some snacks in my drawers (the furnitute kind not my briefs) as well. And again, my handbag will always be with me, so I’ll have my torch, purse, phone etc with me. I should put together a proper kit though…especially considering I’m always at work when all this stuff happens! There’s more stuff that I should add to my kit, but you’ve also got to keep it portable. The idea is to not take the whole apartment with you, as tempting as that is! I remembered reading this timely article (I am follower of this blog) and if you read through all the comments, there are some great suggestions in there. It was good stuff for me to consider. And yeah, I saw that movie too, so it really does make you think what is essential for survival but at the same time keeping it to a minimum. You’ve got to brace yourself for anything these days it seems. My kit is kind of a work-in-progress. Is there anything else that I must add to it??

Sky Aquarium

I recently went to the Art Aquarium in Nihonbashi, but yesterday (a public holiday) I went and checked out the Sky Aquarium which comes to town every summer (or at least it has done so over the last few years anyway). The Sky Aquarium is put on by the same guy as the other exhibition. It’s more a proper aquarium rather than an art exhibit. The Sky Aquarium is on level 52 of the Mori Tower building at Roppongi Hills. I liked the Art Aquarium better, but this was still really cool to see, and a great way to spend a hot humid afternoon. The first part of the exhibit was the Aquarium Theatre which was a large fish tank with changing slide projections and lights – a landscape of the four seasons. Spring:

From Sky Aquarium

Autumn:

From Sky Aquarium

Winter:

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

And then there was a series of various fish tanks will all sorts of fish.

From Sky Aquarium

This was some crazy sea slug:

From Sky Aquarium

Some cool fish effects on my camera – which were accidental. I couldn’t get the right settings on my SLR…but they turned out cool anyway.

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

These were some teeny tiny fishlets:

From Sky Aquarium

More fish in tanks. Don’t disturb. They’re in school!

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

Fish close-up. Nose dive!

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

The third part of the aquarium was the Oasis Planet which was the jellyfish area.

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

There were four cylinder open tanks with jellyfish. I was surprised they didn’t have lids on them. You could totally put your hand in them!

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

Jellyfish galore! Don’t get too close. They’re such spineless creatures!

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

These were some polka-dot jellyfish:

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

The centrepiece was a giant glass globe with fish inside.

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

The whole perimeter of the room was also outfitted with a shallow open fishtank.

From Sky Aquarium

This tank housed oopa loopas. I have no idea what these are. They’re a cross between a fish, a frog and a lizard. These were just bizarre. The first time I had ever seen them. I have no idea what they are called in English – but in Japanese they are ‘oopa loopa’.

From Sky Aquarium
From Sky Aquarium

I did an image search for them in Japanese, so you can get more of an idea of what they look like here. They’re a bit creepy. The Sky Aquarium is on until September 25th – open day and night. Entry is excellent value! 2000yen gives you access to the Sky Aquarium AND the Sky view observatory of the Mori Tower AND entry into the Mori Art Museum (MAM). Got to see a really great exhibition on there, after doing the aquarium. It was super impressive – all about architecture and the ‘Metabolism’ movement. It was superbly translated as well. It’s on until next year and worth checking out. So futuristic and creative, especially for a 60s movement.

Onjuku OWS – not a race report

I thought that by the end of today, I was gonna be able to post up another ows race report. But you, like me, are SOL today. Instead of a race report you get a whinge session. Try to contain your excitement, please.

I am totally bummed out right now and have no one to whinge to, so this blog bears the brunt of it today. I don’t like to vent too much on this blog, but today I’m gonna make an exception. It’s a long weekend here in Japan, because Monday is a public holiday. I made plans not to do anything this weekend, because I was going to compete in an open water swim race today. I was almost going to enter in two races – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. But the one on Sunday was going to cost me 100buks just in entry fee alone, so I opted just for the Saturday one. Today I was supposed to do a race at Onjuku beach. 3.84km. I had been really looking forward to it. I haven’t done a race since back in July, so was keen to race, and was also keen to do another open water session before Turkey.

Last night (Friday), at around 7:30pm I got an email from today’s race organizers saying that they had cancelled the event! The reason – “bad water conditions”. Yeah, it was raining a little last night…but not so heavy as to cancel the event. They should have made that decision in the morning! It’s been 30 degrees all week, and I pretty much knew that the weekend would be fine. It’s been nothing but hot all summer. It’s an open water swim race – let’s face it, we’re going to get wet anyway…so even in light rain, the event should go ahead. A few raindrops aren’t going to harm any swimmers. We’re used to getting wet and cold and being in rough water. So they made the decision last night to cancel the event. I was so bummed. It was way too early to make such a call. It had better pour torrential rain all day on the Saturday, I thought to myself. “Bad water conditions” – what did that mean exactly….that’s not the same as bad weather conditions. Are they talking about polluted, contaminated water, or just high waves. How could they have known the water conditions for today, last night to make such a call.

And it comes as no surprise to me that, of course, today is not wet or raining at all. No impending typhoon or tsunami, so the race could totally have been on. It’s actually ideal weather conditions for a swim race. In fact, the temp range for today over in Chiba prefecture is 26-31 degrees. Right now, at just after 11am it’s 31 degrees, with a very, small chance of rain, although today will be both sunny and cloudy. I’m sitting at home with the ac on, very much wishing that I was out swimming in a race today. So, yeah, to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement! Especially, it being a long weekend, and I forwent other plans so I could stick around to compete in this race, on this now glorious, sunny hot day! Am also disappointed because I had done a lot of preparation for this race. I had my swim bag already packed on the Friday. Look, I had even frozen 5 drink bottles (water and sports drink) so they could withstand the heat and stay cooler, longer. I would probably drink a litre of it before the race, and than another couple of litres afterwards. Just shy of 4km, I was gonna need all this!

From Random Saturday

In amongst those drinks, I even purchased a sports drink during the week called ‘Thorpedo’ – presumably named after Ian Thorpe? It’s made by Yakult though…the company that makes that bacterial cultured yoghurt…so I’m not sure how it would taste. It’s low GI though and says that it’s diet sports water. I thought it was hilarious and had secretly hoped it would make me swim like Thorpedo. Now it will have to be consumed in vain.

From Random Saturday

The course map of the race I did not swim (I would have been swimming the long 3.84km red course – a full return length of the whole beach bay area): Not to mention the training. I didn’t actually train a lot this week per se as I was easing back a little, but the prior week, I had been training for this swim. Oh, and the fact that I had paid over 7000yen to enter the race, which they have now just pocketed! No refund, and no offer of a free entry for next year’s race. So bye-bye 7000yen – that would have been enough for two high teas! So, yeah, I’m bummed. The ocean is free…so I’m not sure where or whom that money is going to…. They are however giving us a free t-shirt which they will post out to us for those that want one. Yay, a t-shirt proclaiming a race, that we didn’t even swim in! I use all these race t-shirts as pillow covers anyway. Considering that the weather today is awesome, and dare I say, even a little too hot for comfort, I would much rather be swimming and competing in the actual race that I paid for! On the otherhand, it does mean I have the whole day free to do absolutely nothing! Hence the time to write this whinge session. Looking on the bright side, I now have the whole long weekend to do whatever I want. Mostly bumming around home me thinks. Have a lot of preparation I need to do for Turkey, a bit of housecleaning, I’ll swim at the pool instead…and no doubt, I will find something else exciting and impromptu to do over the next few days off. I’m also looking to buy an underwater (waterproof) digital camera so might do window shopping. I am having trouble deciding which camera to buy. Any recommendations, let me know. A picture of a bag I saw in a store once. I loved the slogan on it!

From Random Saturday

Art Aquarium Part III

Because I know not of the art of restraint, here are more photos from the Art Aquarium. The final one, I promise! These are all pics which I took on the iPhone, and some turned out not too bad. Here are some freaky beady-eyed fish.

From Under water iPhone

And they glow in the dark too!

From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone

An interesting blower goldfish…

From Under water iPhone

Kaleidoscope aquarium:

From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone
From Under water iPhone

Happy 100th anniversary to the Nihonbashi bridge!

From Under water iPhone

I’m channeling fish energy. Need to swim like a fish tomorrow!

Art Aquarium Part II

I always knew there was something fishy about aquariums. Suspicions confirmed. Here are some more photos of more fish from the super cool Art Aquarium Exhibition. These pics were taken on my pocket digital camera, after the SLR camera battery died. I love this pic! “Watcha looking at?”

From Goldfish Art

The lighting was pretty spectacular, as were the showcase diamond fish tanks:

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

The giant fishbowl was perhaps a little too crowded for all the goldfish. Talk about too many sardines in a can.

From Goldfish Art

Pretty spectacular stuff.

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

Definitely need some chips to go with all this fish!

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

The third part of the gallery was some more interesting aquariums and light features. There was a kaleidoscope aquarium. You could look through these prisms and watch the fish swim by.

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

Now, these look like ordinary lamps, right. They were actually lamp fish tanks and there were fish swimming inside them!

From Goldfish Art

This was a lamp aquarium…except I didn’t capture any fish in it.

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

The whole point of the Goldfish Art was to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Bridge in Nihonbashi (where the exhibit was on at). Nihonbashi is an area of Tokyo famous for its bridge. Apparently, goldfish have played an important part in Japanese history and culture since the Edo period, as depicted in various artworks through history. The exhibition was dubbed the “Kingyo’s Coolness” (Kingyo is Japanese for ‘goldfish’). Here were some Edo-style paintings which were displayed showing how golfish have appeared in Japanese art.

From Goldfish Art

The last part of the exhibition, was also another highlight. They had a Japanese folding glass screen – but inside it were more goldfish swimming around. It was a fish tank folding screen. Again the lights changed colours and they had some cool silhouette projector screen happening, so the images on the screen would keep changing as the goldfish swam about. Really, really clever. The artist had a great vision with this exhibit.

From Goldfish Art

Up close, it was a fish tank!

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

Over the next couple of photos, you can see the background silhouette change…

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

Took a nice side angle shot.

From Goldfish Art

Was a really great exhibition to see to celebrate 100years of Nihonbashi.

From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art
From Goldfish Art

The Art Aquarium has sadly finished. It only ran for a few weeks. It was at the Mitsui Hall on Level 4 of the Coredo Building in Nihonbashi, opposite the Mitsukoshi department store. Opposite this building:

From Aquarium Art

The artist behind this exhibition is Hidetomo Kimura. He has several exhibitions which are ‘Aqua’ themed and based around goldfish. He specialises in Art Aquarium. There is also currently another exhibition on in Tokyo called “Sky Aquarium” – an aquarium that has been temporarily installed on level 52 of the Mori Hills Tower – it’s on until Sep 25. It has come to town every summer over the last four years. I’ll probably go check that one out at some point in the next couple of weeks. You can check out info about the artist and his exhibition info in English here.

Aquarium Art: Part I (as seen through the SLR camera)

Last night I caught up with Jeff. I had invited him to come see this really cool art installation/exhibition thing that I had wanted to check out. Today is the last day of the exhibition, so I had wanted to go see it over the weekend before it ended. Ahh, yes, art is fleeting. We met up last night in Nihonbashi where the exhibit was on at. The exhibition was so darn cool. Way cool. I’ll be blogging about it over three posts – taken over three different cameras. I took way too many photos! Today’s Part I are photos taken on the SLR. About a third of the way into the night, my battery died on the SLR. I hadn’t recharged it, so I had to use my iPhone camera and the pocket digital camera for the remainder of the night. So we finally arrived at the Coredo building in Nihonbashi at around 8.30pm-ish. The Coredo building:

From Aquarium Art

The building houses some really nice restaurants. It’s got some great design features in this building. Here were some of the walls and stuff.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

Super cool and stylish. So the exhibition I had wanted to check out was a thing called “Art Aquarium” which featured around goldfish. Lots and lots of goldfish. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was part goldfish aquarium, part art gallery, part nightclub, and part lounge/bar. If you go at night time – they turn it into a lounge/bar where you can drink beer and sparkling wine as you peruse the “exhibit”. I was not expecting a live DJ, strobe lights and thumping music – but there they were. But it was so super cool! We saw fish tanks of goldfish.

From Aquarium Art

It was dark inside except for some strobe lighting, and the lights within the fish tanks. The lights changed all the time throughout the whole exhibit, so you’d get all different colours reflecting from the fish.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

Taking good camera shots was somewhat challenging. You had to work with the glass tanks, the water, the moving fish and the changing lighting conditions – all in the dark!

From Aquarium Art

The exhibition centered purely around different species of goldfish…some of which are cross-bred to produce some fishy-looking goldfish. I found myself having to wait it out by each tank to wait for the lighting to change. Managed to capture a couple of good ones though.

From Aquarium Art

This was a freaky looking fish with a red bulge attached to the head. I don’t know much about fish…except for the fact that they taste good beer-battered with chips! Sorry Nemo!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

Lots of fish!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

This was a bizarre-looking goldfish with some beady eyes!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

Same fish, but different lighting. The lights would change every few seconds.

From Aquarium Art

Another fish under changing lights:

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

The first part of the exhibition was a series of small fish tanks built into and protruding from a wall.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

The Art Aquarium got even cooler as we made our way into the second part of the gallery. This was my favourite part and we spent sooo much time in here. It was like snapshot central in here. Everyone had cameras of all shapes and sizes. We were like goldfish paparrazzi. I kid you not! It opened out into a bar area with a live DJ, and giant diamond-shaped fish tanks!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

So cool. I love water and fish and aquariums. This was just so much fun! It was really mesmerizing. And the music was pumping too. Such a cool vibe.

From Aquarium Art

Everyone was going nuts with cameras! Jeff managed to capture a photo of a dude who was taking photos with his iPad. Hilarious! Taking photos on an iPad has got to be cumbersome. I always wondered if iPad owners ever actually used the camera feature on it!

From Aquarium Art

And the lights kept changing colours!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

There was a glass mirror panel, so I took a photo of the reflection:

From Aquarium Art

It had a real bar vibe, with drinks being served and people just chilling out listening to the music and watching the fish do their thing.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

I loved the shape of the fish tanks, as if they were also real massive diamonds being showcased! There were two diamond fishtanks – one housed small goldfish and the other had bigger goldfish.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

I like this next shot of a girl gazing at the goldfish:

From Aquarium Art

The whole atmosphere was super cool!

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

And then my favourite and the main showpiece was a giant fish bowl water fountain feature.

From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art
From Aquarium Art

I’m going to end it there for today. My SLR camera battery died at this point, and we were only halfway through the exhibit. I’ll continue on with the next installment taken on my other cameras later on in the week. Art Aquarium – super cool! A most excellent way to spend a Sunday night. I’ll post more info about it later on in the week. Entry: 1000yen. Totally worth it! Today (Monday Sep 12) is the last day it’s on. Get ye on down to Nihonbashi! It’s open until 11pm tonight.