Leaf Fight in Shinjuku


Last weekend, while wandering around in Shinjuku, we decided to check out the view from the Tocho Building. Coming down, we came across this autumn festival. I don’t think I’ve ever seen kids having so much fun as they did in this box of leaves.



Sacred New Year’s Rope


Many shrines put chinowa (braided straw ropes) at the entrance to the shrine at New Year’s and other times of purifications. Worshipers at the shrine pass through the ring as an act of purification from misdeeds, impurities, or bad luck.According to the Encyclopedia of Shinto, they originate with Somin Shōrai, a legendary hero who tied a magical ring braided of cogon grass around his waist to escape an epidemic.

Thanks to Ojisanjake from the excellent blog, “More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” for pointing out that this is not a Shimenawa, as I’d thought.

Salt and Tobacco Museum


I was in Shibuya the other day, and happened to walk past the Tobacco and Salt Museum. I haven’t been there for years, and they were holding an interesting looking exhibition of paintings from the Edo Period, so I decided to check it out.
The paintings were gorgeous, and although it’s maybe too small to make a special trip for, if you happen to be in Shibuya before November 30, it’s only 300 yen and quite enjoyable.
You can also see some of the pictures here. The site is in Japanese, but even if you can’t read, just click on the text immediately beneath the flash presentation: http://www.jti.co.jp/Culture/museum/tokubetu/0810_event/index.html


The tobacco and salt museum is about Japan’s two of Japan’s most important commodities. This diorama shows a tobacco shop from the Edo Period.


Japan doesn’t have natural salt deposits, so they had to get all their salt from the sea.


A model ship made of salt.


Old tobacco ads.

The tobacco museum’s website and contact information are here: http://www.jti.co.jp/Culture/museum/Welcome.html

UR Chintai – No key money, no agent’s fees, no guarantor


Whenever I go apartment hunting, somehow Lou Reed’s lyric “somewhere a landlord’s laughing till he wets his pants” ends up playing over and over in my head. Most landlords demand two or three month’s “key money” up front as a gift, and charge a deposit, which isn’t really a deposit at all because they deduct at least half of it as a cleaning fee, even if you leave the apartment spotless. Then you have to shell out another month’s rent to your chain-smoking, half-yakuza real estate agent for his useless middleman role between you and the landlord. Finally, if you want to live in your apartment for more than two years, you have to pay a contract renewal fee of one month’s rent.

Last year, I moved again, and my wife suggested that we try a UR aparment. UR (Urban Reniassance) is a semi-privatized government agency that provides reasonably-priced apartments and houses with no key money, agent’s fees, renewal fees, or guarantors. The building we moved into is kind of ugly from the outside, but the inside is comfortable, and you can find a relatively large, fairly livable apartment if you do a bit of searching.

In Tokyo, one-bedroom apartments start around 50,000 yen, two-bedroom units around 70,000 and three bedrooms at around 100,000 yen per month. There’s often a maintenance fee of between 5000 and 10,000 per month, and you have to pay a two-month deposit, but there is no key money, no agent’s fee, and no renewal charge. Also, when you move out, the cleaning fee is usually under 10,000 yen unless there is really serious damage.

The only complaint I have about UR is that the older buildings usually don’t have screens on the balconies. I’m not a big fan of air conditioners, so in the summer we have to put up mesh over the windows making it hard to get out to the balcony. The newer buildings don’t have this problem, though.

UR apartments are quite popular, and some people say they’re hard to get into, but we had a choice of two or three buildings in the area we were interested in.

A couple of qualifiers: there is very little service in English, and all the contracts and discussions have to be done in Japanese, unless you happen to find an office where there is an English-speaking staff member. The homepage is mostly in Japanese and none of the search-functions are available in English.

Here’s the link:

http://www.ur-net.go.jp/ (Japanese site)

http://www.ur-net.go.jp/sumainoshiori/english/ (Resident’s guide in English)

Transvestites at the Kanamara Penis Festival


Transvestites carrying a giant penis through the streets of Kanagawa City.

Video of the festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SggvPrkoJUI
Shrine homepage: http://tomuraya.co.jp/wakamiya.htm (Japanese only)

2-3-16 Daishi Eki-mae, Misaki-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Inside the grounds of Wakamiya Hachimangu.

To get there, take the Keikyu line from Shinagawa Station. Transfer to the Keikyu-Daishi Line at Keikyu Kawasaki Station and get out at Keikyu-Daishi. It takes about 45 minutes and costs 580 yen. It starts at 10:00 AM.web analytics

There are other posts about the festival here:

Louis Vuitton Lanterns at the Meiji Shrine


This huge wall of lanterns was displayed at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo when I visited in early November. When I first came to Japan, I always thought that the lanterns around temples were like votive candles in churches. Actually, the explanation is rather more mundane. Each one represents a donation by a company, usually around 10,000 yen.


These three lanterns were given by the Louis Vuitton Japan Group.

Sushi lunch boxes


Sushi lunch boxes.

Kyudo demonstration at the Meiji Shrine

The Culture Day (Nov. 3) Festival at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is something I look forward to every year. I’ve been four times, and still get excited about going because it’s so great for photography. I tried out the Jidai Matsuri in Asakusa last year, but a lot of the costumes were kind of cheesy, and it was so crowded it was hard to take photos.


The festival starts at 9:00 in the morning, but the first big event is the kyuudo (Japanese archery) demonstration, which starts at 11:00.


This old man seemed really shaky – except when he had a bow in his hands.


Everyone was given a small cup of sacred sake after the ceremony.


The hats are kind of funny, but the kimono are just gorgeous.


There are more photos of this festival at:



Portable Shrine in the Nakamise Shopping Arcade


A mikoshi (portable shrine) being carried down Asakusa’s Nakamise shopping arcade in front of Senso-ji Temple during the Sanja Matsuri Festival.

Here are some other posts about the Sanja Matsuri.http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/?s=sanja