Groin Groin

Japanese pigs say “buu buu.” I guess someone thinks that English ones say, “Groin, groin.”

Kasai Rinkai Park

There’s a lot more to Tokyo parks than just Yoyogi and Shinjuku-gyoen. Kasai Rinkai Koen is a seaside park on the edge of Tokyo Bay between Odaiba and Tokyo Disneyland. It’s the largest park in central Tokyo, and is home to an excellent bird sanctuary. There’s also an aquarium, acres and acres of grounds to stroll in, and a huge field of poppies that blooms around Golden Week.

Getting there:

From Tokyo Station, take the Keiyou (not the Keio) Line to Kasai Rinkai Koen Station. It takes about 15 minutes and costs 210 yen. The park is just a one-minute walk from the station.

Tel. (03) 5696-1331

Website: (In Japanese only)

Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack

The Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack is an excellent, almost free place to spend an evening in Tokyo. It’s known for it’s “Twinkle Races,” which are held in the evenings.

I was surprised that I didn’t see a single foreigner here when I went.  It’s cheap (just 100 yen) and entertaining, and the horses are gorgeous.

Races are held every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour.

The English website has a guide to gambling.

The racetrack is quite easy to get to. Just take the Tokyo Monorail to Oikeibaj0-mae Station. Go out of the station, turn left, and it’s just a two-minute walk to the track. There are also free shuttle buses from Shinagawa and Kinshicho Stations on Twinkle Race days.

Unfortunately, the race schedules are not available in English, but you can see them here:

Races are held on the dates in blue or orange. Blue indicates night races and orange indicates afternoon races. The next races are going to be held from October 4 to 9, and then from the 18th to the 23rd. They’re run from around 2:30 in the afternoon until 8:00 at night.

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (Japanese)

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (English)

The Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park

Last summer I was really excited to find the Gyotoku Yachou Kansatsusha, a great bird sanctuary just 30 minutes on the subway from downtown Tokyo. Its really interesting, but the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park is even more convenient and enjoyable.

Surprisingly, it’s right by Haneda Airport, but the birds don’t seem to mind all the planes at all. It’s a wonderful escape from the crowds and noise of Tokyo.

To be honest, I have no idea what kind of birds I was seeing, but they were really amazing and I spent hours photographing and enjoying their beauty.

If you go down to the basement of the visitor’s center, there’s a mud flat with hundreds of crabs and mudskippers.

The reason this park is better than Gyotoku is that you can get a little closer to the birds and have a bit more freedom to go where you want.

As with Gyotoku, there are lots of telescopes you can look through, but if you want to take photos you’ll probably want to have at least a 200-300 mm lens.

Admission is just 300 yen.

There’s a good article with more information at:

The official website is in Japanese only:
09:00-17:00 (Feb.-Oct.)
09:00-16:30 (Nov.-Jan.)
Closed:  Monday (Tues. if Mon. is a holiday), New Year holidays

Private Group (20 or more)
Adults (high school and above) 300 240
Over 65 150 120
Jr. high school 150 120
Elementary school free free

Monorail: Take the Tokyo Monorail to Ryutsu Center Station and walk 15 minutes. (Warning, airport express trains [Kukou Kaisoku] do not stop at this station.) Go out of the exit and you’ll find yourself on a big street called Kannana-dori. Turn right on this street, and walk straight,  crossing a river, and highway #357. The wild bird park is a few minutes walk past the highway on the right side. It’s about 15 minutes on foot.


Buddhist Pet Funerals

I hear the word “pettoro-su” (pet loss) surprisingly often these days, and it seems a lot of funeral parlors and graveyards are springing up to help bereaved owners put their loved ones to rest. One of the biggest companies is called Petto Ceremoni- Makoto (Sincere Pet Ceremonies), and it offers a wide range of pet funerals and cremations.

If you want to give your pet a sendoff, they have contracts with Buddhist temples to perform ceremonies.

After the funeral, you can have your pet’s ashes stores in a charnel house. According to their brochure, “The Shou Kannon watches over the charnel house. It’s said to be a Bodhisattva with great compassion, so you’ll be able to feel confident that your beloved pet’s soul is resting in peace through it’s enfolding kindness.” The urn storage service is free the first year, and costs 5,000 yen per year after that.

Here’s an article with more information about pet funerals:

Kiyosumi Teien

A few weeks ago, I tried to go to the Fukagawa Edo Museum, an interesting-looking facility that recreates an old Tokyo neighborhood. Unfortunately, when I got there, I found out it’s closed until the end of July 2010. I was a little disappointed, and wondering what to do, but during my time in Japan, I’ve noticed that the little things you find along the way to a more well-known destination or the places you stumble across by accident can be just as, or more interesting and memorable than the place you set out to find. I decided to have a little walk around, and came across the delightful Kiyosumi Teien.

I’ve been to most of the strolling gardens in Tokyo but Kiyosumi is definitely my favorite. It’s more open and scenic others I’ve been to, and just seems better kept up and with fewer ugly distractions like signs and fences than others I’ve been to.









There’s a great description and video of it on

Click here for a cool infrared photo:

Here’s the official site:

Location 3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0024
Access Toei O-edo Line and Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, Kiyosumi-shirakawa Sta. (3 minutes on foot) Toei Bus Line: JR Kameido Sta., North Exit, #7 Bus Stop (Line #33)
Take the Toyoumi-suisan-futo bus; get off at “Kiyosumiteien-mae” (3 minutes on foot).
*No parking available
Inquiry Kiyosumi Garden Office Tel: 03-3641-5892

Samurai Frog


Giant Samurai Frog in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture.


A tanuki is a raccoon dog, an Asian animal that, although it looks like a raccoon, is actually a member of the dog and wolf family. They’re very popular in Japanese folklore, and were once believed to be sake-drinking, mischievious, shape-shifting tricksters with a big sexual appetite. The tanuki in this photo are at the Awashima-jinja, a shrine for unwanted dolls.



Over 90 percent of the tanuki statues that you see in Japan get “castrated”, or their scrotums get turned into something that makes it look like they’re sitting on a rock, so I was surprised to come across this statue that shows the tanuki’s traditional appearance.

Everything you ever wanted to know about tanuki can be found here at  Mark Schumacher’s excellent Buddhism & Shintoism in Japan A to Z Photo Dictionary.

There’s also a very nice post on Pink Tentacle about Shigaraki, the tanuki capital of Japan, with a description of the “Tanuki’s day off” when all the tanuki are given sleeping masks or put in poses as if they’re playing games or having picnics.

If you have never seen the infamous Japanese tanuki commercial, be sure to click here to see what may well be the most bizarre advertisement ever made.

Falconry Demonstration at Hamarikyu Teien Gardens

The Hamarikyu Teien is one of Tokyo’s nicer parks, and has traditional Japanese street performers and displays of falconry every day. Every year at New Year’s, however, they have a bigger demonstration of falconry that is much bigger than the daily demonstration.


Unless I’m mistaken, this is an owl rather than a hawk.


The birds wear these hoods to keep them from getting overstimulated and getting nervous.


Traditional falconry outfit.



The members of the falconry club seemed like real bird lovers. They paid great attention to their hawks, and obviously took very good care of them. That’s why it was so surprising when, at the end of the demonstration, they released a pigeon and let a hawk take it down. The pigeon was not killed, but it did seem unnecessarily cruel. I quite enjoyed it up until this point, but I’m not sure I’d go again.

There’s more information about Takagiri, the Japanese art of falconry here.

The group that puts on the demonstrations, the Suwa Falconry Preservation Society has a homepage at:

The demonstration is held on the first weekend in January every year. Check the Japan Times Festival page for more information.

Thanks, Your Manner


“If you tug on your dog’s leash, he won’t pee on our wall. WE WILL SUE YOU FOR DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY. Thanks, Your Manner.”