Month: Last updated Aug 1, 2017

Mysterious Garden Rocks

If you’ve ever been to a Japanese garden, you’ve may have seen these little rocks wrapped in ropes in various places. What are they?  Decorations? Stuff left by lazy workers? If I saw the rock in the middle of this path, there’s a good chance I’d just obliviously keep walking. Actually, though, this is a  sekimori ishi (or  tomari ishi), and it’s a “Do Not Enter” sign with a difference. Sekimori ishi are usually used on stepping-stone paths in teahouse gardens and are a subtle message telling people not to enter when a tea ceremony is going on or to let people know that a path is closed to the public. However, unlike a “Do Not Enter” sign, they represent a tacit agreement between the guest and host to, “pretend that this is not here.” They also have a decorative function, and it’s true that they have a lot more aesthetic appeal than a “keep off the grass” sign. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of sekimori ishi and how to make them here (in Japanese only). It’s a site by a professional garden designer, and he made the rock in this photo. You can even purchase your very own authentic sekimori ishi from the site. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to...

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Fukagawa Matsuri

The Fukagawa Matsuri (officially the Fukagawa Hachimangu Matsuri) is one of Tokyo’s “Big Three” festivals, but seems to be a lot less well-known than Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri and the Kanda Matsuri. Its a mikoshi festival, and its gimmick is that people throw water on the mikoshi carriers to cool them down. This year I went to the children’s mikoshi event because it’s not nearly as crowded. It was great for photography because there were enough people to give it quite a lively atmosphere, but I could move around as much as I wanted and get up close for photos. It’s held near Monzennaka-cho on the Oedo and Tozai Subway Lines. The climax of the festival is always on the 15th of August. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new...

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Two Obons

This is the annual festival at my son’s preschool and was held on July 17. I thought it was kind of strange to have an Obon festival in July because the Obon holidays are in August, but apparently, the festival gets celebrated at different times in Japan. In Tokyo and Tohoku (northern Japan), it’s celebrated in July and is called “Shichigatsu Bon” (literally July Bon), but in Kansai and most other areas, it’s called “Hachigatsu Bon” (August Bon) and is celebrated on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of August. The reason is that it was originally based on the lunar calendar, and when Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar, some regions kept celebrating it on the old dates while others switched it to the modern calendar. In fact, there are even a few places that still celebrate kyu-bon (the old Obon), so it falls on a different day every year depending on the moon. I really enjoyed the dancing and other events, and if you’re ever walking by a preschool and you see a festival going on, you should definitely stop in because it’s really photogenic. All the kids dress up in yukata and jinbei, and they’re really cute when they dance. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to...

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Average Rents in Tokyo by Area

Tokyo is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and rents can be astronomical, but if you’re a little bit careful in deciding where you live, it can also be surprisingly cheap. This chart is from the homepage of a Japanese real-estate agent called Homes Chintai that shows the average monthly rents for various apartment sizes throughout the Greater Tokyo Area. It goes from cheapest  to most expensive and there’s a huge variation in the 70,000 yen you’d pay for a two-bedroom apartment in Hachioji City to the 194,500 yen you’d pay in Minato Ward downtown (not to mention the fact that you’d probably get an extra 20+ square meters of living space in Hachioji). The website has similar charts for all areas of Japan, but is in Japanese only. The first number in each cell is the average rent in tens of thousands of yen (E.g. 3.73=37,300 yen) and the one in brackets is the number of apartments the company has within ten minutes’ walk of the nearest station. Area One room 1K 1LDK・2K・2DK 2LDK・3K・3DK 3LDK・4K・4DK Hamura City 3.73 (11) 5.01 (67) 6.23 (81) 7.31 (81) 8.18 (16) Ome City 3.77 (84) 4.64 (198) 5.81 (129) 6.86 (121) 8.33 (37) Hino City 4.46 (356) 5.54 (1023) 7.26 (385) 9.38 (255) 11.45 (133) Akishima City 4.47 (69) 5.81 (483) 7.07 (146) 9.04 (91) 10.60 (34) Tama City 4.50 (138) 5.55...

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