Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shinjuku Sights

Shinjuku is a place with varied views. Go out one way from Shinjuku Station and you are in the shopping entertainment area. Out a different exit on the east side and you are at the vast green of Shinjuku Gyoen after walking a little. Out the west exits and you could end up seeing some of Tokyo's iconic architecture like the curved Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Head Office Building.

Along with the well known Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

The most famous is probably the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. It is a 204-metre, 50-story educational facility.

Which stands out even in the sea of skyscrapers of Shinjuku.

After my time at Akasaka Palace I first got something to eat and then took the Oedo Line to Shinjuku. Part of what I wanted to see was at the Keio Plaza Hotel which is nestled amongst those famous skyscrapers. Where for Hinamatsuri they had 6500 hanging silk ornaments for good luck.

Along with the display of all these ornaments they had Kai-awase laid out. Kai-awase is a painted clam shell matching game which is played during Hinamatsuri. The paired clam shells represent united couples, so they say.

Of course they had a traditional Hinamatsuri doll display.

 Their set featured Heian period figures and was quite elegant.

I didn't stay long because I was meeting my friend to do a little shopping. On the way to meet her I passed Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) which use to be known as Piss Alley. It's known for the bars and tiny restaurants crammed into this narrow street.

But that wasn't my destination. Which was actually the other side of the station where there are lots of shops and entertainment places. Don't be fooled by this photo, it's actually a very busy area with lots of pedestrians. Found my friend and we did a little looking around before we ended up at Marui Annex. We did a little window shopping, bought a few things at the KERA Shop and I found Marui Annex was a good place to get regional Kit Kats.

We were both hungry and my friend wanted to try Tully's limited sakura drink. I think this was the Sakura Matcha Latte.

We both got the limited Sakura Strawberry Waffle Sandwich. Which was a cream type mousse and strawberry flavoring. Except for the pink sprinkles it was more strawberry than sakura. The waffle was fresh which was nice.

We sat and talking for a time about the concerts, music, people, life. She also gifted me this bit of duck foie gras. I still have to come up with something to use it for. I'm sure I will think of something.

I found this lovely choker in the KERA shop. I'm sad that there was no tag in the package after I purchased it so I don't know who made it.

Also a few of the Moi meme Moitie things I bought at the KERA Shop and at Atelier Pierrot Laforet in Harajuku. I also bought a choker. Happy that at Atelier Pierrot I was able to get the hashi (chopsticks). I haven't used them yet but I have been tempted. Really need an elegant meal for that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reverie at a Fantastical Fountain

My favorite part of Akasaka Palace can be found behind the enormous building.

I am not alone in the admiration of this fountain.

The spraying waters draw you in.

To see the mythical beasts within.

Four griffin statues are arrayed at the corners.

It must be amazing to see this at night. For us mortals, we can only see it as part of the paid tour on days the palace is open.

I wish I could give information on who sculpted this marvelous fountain, the date it was made, but so far no luck. Searched in English and Japanese.

One thing to note, the griffins are not all the same. For example two have the shield under the right paw and two under the left paw.

At first I thought those were lion heads that water pours from at the base of the griffins. Lions are popular symbols of royalty. However they look like they have tusks so may be boar heads which makes sense since boars do exist in Japan. Either way both are seen as powerful animals and symbols of prosperity.

Along with the boar heads there are turtles. Turtles are seen as creatures of stability and good luck.

The fish with uplifted fins and long serpentine tails at the top remind me of shachihoko on Japanese roofs. These are used for protection, especially from fire. I can't help but think of these fish as joyous in the rain of falling water.

While griffin or gryphon may seem western, the earliest examples found are in Ancient Egypt and Iran. From there the image traveled to Central Asia. Seen as the king of beasts and protectors they are used as a symbol of rulers. Which may be why they were chosen to be part of the fountain at the palace for the Prince.

 I really enjoyed spending time at the fountain. It's a nice place to dream at. I hope you enjoyed my photos of it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Where there is a Western Palace in Japan

During my trip to Tokyo last August I spent time up in the Roppongi Mori Tower getting a good look at Tokyo. I was intrigued by a large green roofed building set in a sea of trees. Later I discovered it was the Akasaka Palace, the sole Neo-Baroque style building in Japan. So on this trip off I was to see it for myself. I and a number of other people walked down a long avenue of trees to the impressive front gates.

Gates fit for royalty. Regent Crown Prince Hirohito that is. It was constructed starting in 1899 ending in 1909 as the Tōgū Palace but the Crown Prince only lived there for five years. Following that it has served as government offices and currently is the State Guest House. Thus the reason for all the security.

I was lucky with my timing because right before my visit the King of Saudi Arabia was in residence so the Palace and grounds were closed. When it's not you walk through a long line of security and more to get a ticket to tour the inside and the grounds. A young woman was very eager to assist me getting through the line. Turned out she did a home-stay in Portland, Oregon. Small world sometimes. While the tour inside is limited, the decor with carved moldings, hand painted ceilings and more is amazing. Sadly no photos allowed inside but they can be found online.

Once outside you are free to walk around the building and in some other areas. But as inside, security and cameras were everywhere. I was careful not to photograph much of that but I didn't realize there were people even up on the roof.

Just part of the side of this immense building with a guy up on top peering down at everyone.

I have no idea what they were doing up there. They look like construction workers but could be security wearing clothing to blend into the building. Here is a good look at that copper roof. The exterior walls are granite.

One of the two circular towers. The building was designed by a team of architects including Tokuma Katayama who created several western styled buildings in Japan.

Just a few photos from the back of the Palace.

One can get an idea of the size of this building. The grounds in the back have flowering trees and more, including an amazing fountain that will get it's own blog post.

For now, here are a few details from the back of the Palace.

After some time in the back I walked around to the front of the Palace. This is where state guests would arrive at.

Just one of the side entrances.

The pastel paint on many things gives a real French feeling.

Apparently the ostentatious ornamentation was even too much for the Crown Prince who chose to live elsewhere once he became Emperor. 

Still it is impressive to see. It is good they are making use of this building in some form.

The Imperial Chrysanthemum seal or mon along with two figures of Japanese samurai armor. 

If I remember correctly these are phoenix birds to represent the Crown Prince. 

Reminds me of the Nihonbashi Bridge.

The main entrance doors with the Imperial mon along with paulownia flower mon which may represent the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan.

And the doors next to it which do not have the Imperial mon.

 A look back at the Palace as I began the long walk back to the front gate.

But of course there was another ostentatious gate to go through.

 Part way on the long walk are two fountains off to the sides. Slight reminders of Versailles except for the pruned Japanese pine trees.

 And another look at that amazing front gate, from the inside. Interesting to note that one side the lamp glass is blue and the other side is white. I have no idea why but I'm sure there is a reason for it.

It was definitely worth it to see Akasaka Palace. Even if you don't understand Japanese, viewing the place was enjoyable if you like architecture or history. It definitely took me to another time and felt good to get out of the Tokyo crowds.

The Government website for visiting Akasaka Palace is here. It's important to check because it is not always open along with the rules for visiting.

There are also photographs of the inside of the Palace at the Government website here. I spent a good amount of time staring up at the ceilings, especially in the Hagoromo-no-Ma room. There one sees the sky with flowers floating down from above.