Asakusa Samba festival

I do not know how the ties between Brazil and Japan were originally made, and even Wikipedia is a bit slim on information. However,  Brazil holds the second largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. I cannot really imagine too dissimilar cultures but it seems to work. And it works a little bit both ways. Whilst Japan does not have the second largest population of Brazilians outside of Brazil , they do seem to really appreciate Brazilian culture. One of the ways they do that is with the Asakusa samba festival – a little version of carnival in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, it seems they have not quite got the hang of the after party yet. Still, the costumes, the energy and enthusiasm were all very impressive. Also, going on the crowd that showed up, I’m sure it was also an economic success for Asakusa.

These photos are from the festival held in August 2012. I’m sure it will be on again in 2013. Keep your eyes out in Metro magazine event listings or for posters in the sub-way.

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Dinner Diary: Ginza, LIME Balinese aqua bar

These pictures are from two dinners I had at a fusion Japanese-Balinese bar and restaurant in Ginza called LIME. The restaurant is located upstairs (2F) in the Ginza Corridor arcade under the metropolitan expressway and Shinkansen. A map and review is available from Metro.

LIME has  floor to ceiling fish-tanks running the length of the restaurant and provides most of the restaurants moody lighting. The tanks are chock full of tropical fish, including a beautiful zebra striped moray eel, which hides up near the cashiers.

The food was good. Not fantastic and not expensive, it was good value, interesting fusion food. If you want Japanese food, go somewhere else. If you want pure Indonesia food, go somewhere else. If you want something that sounds familiar but is a little different – same same but different – then give this place a try.

My favourite secret place in Tokyo

Bar Lupin is a stellar little hide-away with a mysterious ambiance and marvelously mixed cocktails. Don’t bother ordering from the menu, just tell the head cocktail chef your preferred base and ask for his recommendation.

My favorite secret spot in Tokyo
My favorite secret spot in Tokyo

This dark, alley-way basement bar is simple and old. Its history dates back to about 1915 and has been kept in-tact with some pain-staking renovation work and true Japanese dedication. The full story of the bar is available in english and Japanese on arrival.

So where is it? You know what, its that good I’m not telling. But these guys are. If you go, go early – they stop serving about 11:30 pm.

Hanami Festival

Hanami Festival was on the weekend and is celebrated by picnicking with friends under the cherry blossoms. I was lucky enough to be invited by Yamazaki-San from work to spend Sunday afternoon with a large and diverse group of his friends and friends-of-friends at Meijijingu Park. It seemed that there were about another 50,000 + people there picnicking with us

It was a great day out and I met some wonderful people. In particular they helped break the stereotype of Japanese I have been told about repetitively and have witnessed a lot so far. They were very talkative, reasonably opinionated, mostly spoke pretty good english and many had travelled. Especially to QLD it seemed for either uni or high-school.

The biggest upside to the day was the atmosphere of fun and excitement that pervaded the park. It was a very joyous occasion with lots of singing, dancing and music. The usually reserved facade gave way to a joyous jollyness and amusement. I’m sure the copious amounts of beer, shoyu and Sake may have had something to do with it. None of the public unrest that comes with such public drinking in Australia, UK and the US though.

Needless to say I had a blast!



Tokyo Motorbike Show

Immersed myself in shiny motorcycle goodness on Saturday with Yuta Horie and Shunsuke Kobayashi. The major highlight of the show was without doubt the huge array of explorer/adventurer/tourers that are now on the market. Plus the Tron-Legacy style concept bike and the electric bike that competed in the Isle of Man race!

It almost makes me wish that I waited a year or two before I bought my bike!

Price points (Bali & Tokyo)

This time, its refreshing to be in Bali. For my wallet anyway!

Price point comparison of Bali to Tokyo:

Cheap accommodation (per night) including pool / onsen
Feed (Entrée + Local staple + Beer)
Back & neck massage

All prices in AUD and estimated/averaged.
Food in Bali: Satay sticks, Nasi Goreng & Bintang (375ml)
Food in Tokyo: Salmon Sashimi, Ramen with Miso sauce,Sapo (330ml)
There is no doubting though that the quality in Japan is much, much higher, although I never bothered to pay the $60 for the massage there. As a travel destination it boils down to what you want, either:
A decent, relaxing but not superb back & neck massage 12 days in a row from a girl who probably learnt from her mum and knows nothing of biology, in a sightly seedy place where you probably never feel comfortable taking your eyes off your wallet or taking your boxer shorts off for fear of sending the wrong message; 
One massage, including complimentary foot scrub, hot face towel and where the massues has a degree in physiology and forces you to take a shower because they don’t want to touch your sweaty body. Kimono’s are provided after the shower to prevent you trying to send the wrong message.
Apply the same concepts to food, accommodation and public transport and then decide which travel destination is best for you. 

Quake? Damn, missed it!

I was in Kyoto on New Years Day with friends visiting a few Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and not so much praying and wishing for good fortune as gobling up delicious Japanese street food.

As a result, I missed the quake experience in Tokyo, which was apparently pretty mild.

I’m sure I’ll catch the next one. Or the one after that.