2021 Bits and Pieces

2021 Bits and Pieces

Another year of not doing a whole lot, but with a few good highlights

With some restrictions in place in Tokyo pretty much continually since last year, Hina and I haven’t been doing too many exciting things since my last article, but there has been the occasional noteworthy moment!

Christmas in Ebisu

As usual I had no idea this was a thing, but apparently an upmarket park called Ebisu Garden Place is the place to go as a couple on Christmas Day in Tokyo. It does feel like just another Japanese tradition that’s only done because it’s a tradition, but if you ignore that it is a nice place to wander around and enjoy the illuminated courtyard and garden.

We tried to skirt around the edge of the crowds ... no social distancing here

Making traditional sweets

As a birthday present from my parents, we tried out a traditional sweets (“wagashi”) making class. The lady doing it speaks fluent English, so it was a fun opportunity for Hina and I to speak our usual intermingled Japanese and English with someone else, instead of having to limit ourselves to one language or the other!

The sweets are made with shiro-an, a sweet white bean paste that gives them a look and texture quite different to any Western sweets

Learning all the little tricks for shaping and decorating the sweets was fascinating; we made four traditional spring/summer designs using only a traditional triangle-shaped cutting tool, our hands, a toothpick, and a piece of damp cloth.

From left to right on the front plate:

Kawaguchiko, again

We enjoyed Kawaguchiko so much last year that we just had to go again this year! This time we had much better weather with great views of Mount Fuji. Somewhat unintentionally, we spent most of a day walking around the circumference of the entire lake; what looked like easy going on the map turned out to be a long trek on roads designed more for cars than pedestrians, but we got there in the end!

We didn't quite gather why someone made a pile of stones in the shape of Mount Fuji in this particular place, but it was a nice point to stop for a rest

Our hotel had a rooftop terrace looking out to Mount Fuji - it's really a very impressive mountain when you get a view this perfect!

An “art aquarium”

With nothing better to do one day, we went to a place that calls itself an art aquarium, not really knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a unique and quite fascinating place, built by an artist obsessed with creating interplay between light and fish - not something I ever thought of doing in my art classes at school!

The fish are basically all variations of goldfish, swimming in unusually shaped tanks with coloured lights all around

Definitely something that was fun to wander round once, but I don't think we'll become regular patrons!

Only in Japan

Finally, I noticed a couple of fun things around town that struck me as so distinctively Japanese I just had to share them …

Instead of a cafe, this premium coffee brand has a vending machine where you can get souvenirs like coffee cake, coffee and sweet potato jelly, and a branded cup and mask case

At this fruit shop you can get a specially selected individual strawberry as a gift for that special person, for the low low price of about NZ$15

Before the most recent state of emergency we also managed to visit Hokkaido for a few days; I’ll write about that separately when I’ve finished sorting through our many hundreds of photos!

Posted on 29 August 2021
Share on