Friday, 22 March 2013

Ameyoko-cho

When I lived here in Japan the first time, I worked in a suburb of Tokyo called Akasaka Mitsuke.  A couple of years after I left, the company I worked for went bankrupt (I am sure it had a lot to do with their choice of logo, a pink rabbit with huge ears and a beak-like mouth).  A lot of teachers and students had a lot of problems as a result of this, but luckily I was not around to experience any hardship.  In two visits to Japan since, and after six weeks of living here again, I had not been back to Akasaka Mitsuke.  Last Sunday night, I decided I would stop there on my way home from work (it is on the same train line that I use now) and have a look to see how much had changed.  The first thing I noticed after getting out of the station is the area has a Hooters restaurant now (after I move away from the neighbourhood, they choose to open it!!).  The biggest change was that my old school no longer exists.  The building now has a dental clinic where the school used to be, on the first floor (or second floor for my North American and Japanese readers) and a convenience store on the ground floor (first floor).



I wandered around the neighbourhood for about half an hour and found a few of my favourite restaurants were still there, but a fair bit had changed (the girls who wait at the intersections for men to walk past tempting them with a "sexii massagii were still there).

Here is a shot looking down the street my school was on:



I am glad that I did stop in, and will probably go back again now, it did satisfy any curiosities that I did have.

A few days ago, I double checked on the location of Ameyoko-cho, the place that I wanted to find two weeks ago and discovered that I had gotten off the train at completely the wrong station, so armed with the correct information and a photo of the location from google maps I met up with my friend Daniel again and we set forth again for Ameyoko-cho.  After getting off the train at the right station, we found it very quickly.



A bit of history about Ameyoko-cho as it is quite a historical area.  Ameyoko-cho literally means "candy shop alley "It was one of the few places that survived the Tokyo firebombing at the end of WWII and as a result, pretty much all of the buildings are the ones that were there at the end of the war.  Soon after the war finished the area became home to one of Tokyo's black markets.  American soldiers could be found here selling candy to the locals, and from that came it's name.  Now it is a thriving, bustling lively shopping street with shops and stalls selling everything from clothing and shoes to weird and exciting food from Japan, Korea, and China.  Shop vendors shout to people passing by, letting them know what they are selling, how cheap it is, and how delicious their food is in order to tempt them into buying something.  It really is a vibrant area that was pretty crowded when I was there on Thursday, and is jam packed on the weekend days!






Daniel enjoys playing UFO catcher games and today he won a big Panda bear soft toy.





As we were walking out of the shop, two young girls looked at Daniel with a mix of utter awe and envy as he carried his hard earned prize with him.

After walking around reminiscing enjoying the atmosphere of Ameyoko-cho again, I bought some kim chi (korean spicy pickled vegetables) and Daniel and I made our way out of Ameyoko-cho and across the street to Ueno park.  This time of year is a celebrated time of year as it is Hanami time, cherry blossom time.  The cherry blossom period only lasts for a short time and came a little earlier than usual this year because of the warm weather that arrived early.  There are many famous places to view the cherry blossoms, and a lot of people have Hanami parties under the cherry blossom trees with friends or co-workers.






There is a lake near the park with a temple nearby so we wandered over there to have a look and a bite to eat.



You probably noticed the sign in the lake there, and wondered as I did what it says.



It had a very stern looking seagull sitting on it, so I took a photo so I could ask a Japanese friend what it said.  I was told it says "No fishing".  I assume the seagull was there enforcing the rule.

A few photos of the temple.  Another one of those "lucky" incense smoking things that helps you to not lose your hair......






We sat  down to have a bite to eat and we were talking and I noticed a Japanese couple (probably in their late 30's) walking toward us.  About 2 metres away from us, the lady stopped and was staring at Daniel's panda that he had won playing the UFO catcher.  She said "sugoi, kawaii!" (great, cute!) and I gave her a smile as she and her husband walked on.  Daniel hadn't noticed this so I told him what had happened and he told me I should have said something because he didn't really want it and would have given it to her.  So we chased them down and Daniel (whose Japanese is pretty good) explained to her what I had told him, and he then gave her the Panda.  You should have seen the look on her face, she was so happy!  She then did something completely unexpected.  Public displays of affection are not common at all in Japan, and just don't exist between people who don't know each other, especially toward a foreigner.  She stepped up and gave Daniel a huge hug, in the middle of the Park!!  Daniel and I are big believers in a concept called "ichi-go ichi-e" which literally means "one time, one meeting" a really great concept in Japan that says you may only meet a person once in your lifetime, so you should make a good impression of yourself so they remember you.  This happened to me at the airport when I arrived (you may remember me writing about it) when the Japanese guy helped me with my luggage to the next terminal where I was to pick up the sim card for my phone.  Daniel had just performed ichi-go ichi-e!

We then headed off home and I stopped to have a beer with another friend Charlie to finish off another great day in Tokyo.



That's it for this week, see you again next week for another update.

P.S. I might not be able to take any video footage for a little while.  I think i have left my video camera charger in Australia and the battery is flat!  

6 comments:

  1. Hi Jason, sounds like another fantastic day! There must be so much to look at "Candy Shop Alley" but I can't imagine what busy actually looks and feels like in such a huge city. Woolies just before a long weekend is busy enough!!
    The cherry blossoms look beautiful and peaceful. They are a great focus for many different kinds of art...I have done a few different lessons with cherry blossoms as the focus...If you google "cherry blossom art" you will see what I mean. Some are less painful than others would be!

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    1. Hey Natalie,
      to give you an idea, busy at Ameyoko-cho means it takes about 15 minutes to walk 100m! You are moving at less than shuffling speed!! Lucky it wasn't like that when I was there this time!
      The cherry blossoms are amazing. I have taken some more from another place I went to a couple of days ago and I will have to put them and all of my other photos up on facebook for people to check out. I can imagine the other art forms that cherry blossoms make up and I guess it would involve needles!!

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  2. Ok, so why haven't I heard of Ameyoko-cho? But then even living there for a year and a half isn't enough to see it all, I suppose. Good to see the cherry blossoms again. When I did first come to Japan, I had the good sense to arrive this time of year. And I never thought of any seagull being "stern," lol! But stern is exactly right. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Hey mate, I don't know. I think I was initially taken to Ameyoko-cho by someone I lived with, and really liked the place. I went back there probably once every six months to soak up the atmosphere! Going back to Akasaka Mitsuke felt a little strange though. So many good memories from there.
      Thanks for reading.

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  3. Hi Jason,nice to read your blog again.I walked through Ueno Koen in the early evening during hanami and passed a yatei.The lights were on around the lake and this little food stall with a man waiting to be served as the "chef" prepared something steaming in a large metal pot, really sticks in my mind.I suppose the only equivalent in Adelaide is the GPO pie cart(I have a feeling this no longer exists)Wherever I went in Nihon,I enjoyed the sight of these yatei,which were everywhere where sakura could be seen...oishii and yasui and always a friendly smile.Perhaps, you could set up an aussie one...potato chips in a cone!As a matter of interest and you possibly know this,during the summer months on Sat. and Sunday nights,stalls both food and crafts have been operating along North Tce. in front of Goverment House as far as the War Memorial.They will cease to operate at the end of March.I went there one evening and enjoyed a yakitori,prepared by someone from south east asia.It is a good spot under the trees and on the grass...did remind me a little bit of Japan.Going by your kitchen photograph,I have a feeling you may be an excellent cook.

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    1. Hi Noel,
      I was lucky enough to walk around Ueno Koen on a Thursday and it wasn't very busy, but it was right in the middle of Hanami season. At the edge of the park I walked down some steps and across a street to a place next to a lake and they had a lot of those food stalls, and of course I stopped and had some good yakitori too! You are right, delicious and very cheap! Potato chips with chicken salt would go down very well over here I think!
      I wasn't aware of the stalls on North Tce. Good idea too. It would create a nice atmosphere I think.
      As for the picture, I like to cook, but whether I am any good is not up to me to decide. Of course I think I am ok, but then I have to say that because I have to eat my own food!
      Good to hear from you.

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