By noon, it was Tokyo, and this holiday not at all planned. I had just wanted to go some where for the National Day holiday break. Cos of the busy work schedule, I missed to book the mileage pass ticket in advanced and ended up paying a USD 75 dollar for the ticket at the airport that morning, instead of USD15 if one had booked it a month or more in advance. Nevetheless, the 5 day stay in Tokyo was a bargain, and it was decided on the spur of the moment. It was in fact faster to reach Tokyo than to hopped on to the bus and go back to the home in Ipoh. Tokyo perhaps is one of the other home-towns.
Just as once many years ago when I first visited Taipei, the customer officer at the airport would greet me with – ni hui lai le - 你回来了– though he knew that I was carrying a foreign passport，visiting Tokyo brings on a sense of – okaeri - O 归 ri - a return .
Tokyo Banana & omiyage
First taste of Tokyo Banana was a present from a Japanese businessman. It is a sponge cake with banana paste filling, taste is good with a nice nanaf banana flavor. The cake is in a shape of a banana, individually wrapped. The package wrapper is in banana yellow color, and the design & the wording exude modernity, invoking a sense of nostalgia for the home. The bananas are decorated in bow tie, and it has a cute slogan written in English:
'People gather to TOKYO from here and there with memories of their home.
And then, TOKYO gets the every one home town. TOKYO BANANA'
Bringing along a present - omiyage - is a custom commonly practiced in Japan – be it with the businessman visiting his client or someone returning home after a visit to the city or visiting friends.
This stall selling Tokyo Banana is located at the Tokyo Station. And one of easily close to nearly 50 or more different omiyage stalls in the station – selling different type of cakes and cookies from the tradition sweet red bean jelly – yookan - 羊羹, rice crackers & to this modern invention. A box of eight Tokyo Banana is at Y1000 (S$13.00), and it is - 大人气 – dai ninki –meaning a hot sell. In Chinese it reads as - da renqi - meaning showing great sign of life! For 人气 – literary is human breath, or a sign of life!
Tokyo train station is one of the busiest stations in the metropolis together with Shinjuku station. The daily human flow easily surpasses a million commuters! A 0.1% of the commuters buying a box of Tokyo banana would amount to $130K taking in a day – just by selling bananas!
Catch the Tokyo trend - instead of the traditional rice crackers from Asakusa - bring home some Tokyo bananas on your next trip to Tokyo. You can get it at the Narita Airport, too.
Kameya restaurant –Japanese name & color concept
This traditional Japanese is located near to the Ueno station. It offers shashimi, unagi – eel, etc and other seasonal fare. The name of the restaurant - Kameya - 龟屋 - is perfectly fine and normal to a Japanese. And with the noren – (a cloth partition over the door way ) it is as Japanese as you could have it. However, when the two characters are read in Chinese – gui wu - the meaning of the words hits you differently altogether! 龟 - gui – meaning tortoise or turtle, & and 屋 - wu – means house.
The - ya -屋- in Japanese could mean a shop or a store, and this the same ya - as in Takashimaya - 高岛屋 – which most Singaporean would recognize with the popular shopping mall at Orchard Road.
With the two little turtle painted on the noren, one could have thought that this restaurant is selling turtle dishes or even turtle soup. If it is, and if one knows Chinese, one would be puzzled as to why it chose to use the word gui wu -龟屋. It could have used a more refined term for turtle - namely -山瑞 - shan rui. The 汉字- hanzi– Chinese characters for : 山– shan - meaning mountain, and - 瑞 – rui – meaning a good omen. Thus 山瑞 - shan rui – could mean delicacy from the mountain, and this term is used commonly in Singapore by the shops selling turtle soup.
The name -龟屋 – gui wu - could not have been a worse name for a restaurant in Chinese. For the word -龟 – gui – in Chinese could also mean a pimp! My goodness me, the restaurant would than mean a - house of pimp!
Further more – on the shop front decoration - of a white cloth draped over the door way – this would be utterly taboo in Chinese custom and feng shui – 风水－tradition. For white would be most inauspicious, when red brings fortune and luck. I wonder if one could find a a similarly named and decorated Japanese restaurant in Singapore.
Well, it’s business as usual for this restaurant in Ueno- and so much for the cultural shock - the food is superb to the taste bud and delightful to the eyes! Have a go at it when you are in Tokyo. It's about 2 mins walk from the Ueno station along Showa dori Street in the direction of Okachimachi station.
1. Cultural pursuit
Venue: Ueno - Tokyo National Museum
An exhition on the travel of Buddhism from India to Japan. Statue of Buddha from the Gandhara period, around 200AD. The Greek influnce is most visible in the fold of the robes. The Greco-Buddhist art is a hallmark of Gandhara - an ancient kindom located at where eastern Afghanistan & Northern Pakistan is.
( http://www.tnm.jp/ )
Entrace fee to the museum is Y600 or S$7.80. There are commentary notes in English, Chinese and Korean.
Venue: Sumida River
Asahi Beer HQ - the building is modeled after a beer mug with foam at the top. Sumida River with near to Asakusa is located on the older part of Tokya - the so-called : shitamachi or downtown.
Date : 11Aug/Sat
Venue: Decks Tokyo - Odaiba
The folks are down on the beach in the mid-afternoon sun to secure a place to watch the fireworks in the evening. The Rainbow Bridge spanning the bay provides an awesome view over the metropolis skyline.
4. Latin summer on the hills
Venue: Roppongi Hills
Roppongi Hills - the chic & in-place - with a Latin American summer theme
5. Traditonal marriage
Date : 12Aug/Sat
Time : 12:30pm
Venue : Meiji Shrine - 明治神宫 － meiji jinggu
tradtioal japan in its splendouur - the wedding processions were a surpise bonus to the visitors who had to walk about 20 minutes from the Harajuku Station along a tree lined path that provided a welcome shade to the hot afternoon sun.
6. Summer street festival
Date : 12Aug/Sun
Time : 4:30pm
Venue : Shinjuku
Summer is festival time in Tokyo – fireworks with 120,000shots and last for an hour; samba festival in Ueno, or the bon odori – akin to the hungry ghost festival in locally but with fun and fair, and group dancing around a drum beat accompanied with traditional folk songs
7. Budding artist
Date : 13Aug/Mon
Time : 1:50pm
Venue : Tokyo Station
A young artist at work – he started painting by the road side from 8am & the noon temp was 35C!
a) 回 & 归
回 - hui (Chinese) - return, go back, e.g 回乡 – hui xiang - return home or balik kampung
归 - gui – or kaeru (Japanese) - to go back to , to return - to one’s home or place of origin
The ‘O’ in ‘okaeri’ – is an honorific prefix to indicate respect.
b) Gift giving season
Summer is one of the two gift exchange season in Japan: namely - 中元 - ochyugen. The other one is towards the year end - 岁末－oseibo. At this time of the year the big departmental stores in Tokyo will offer expensive and nicely pack present especially of food, such as fruits, noodles and even cooking oil. A Japanese melon packed in a velvet box is not uncommon to be priced closed to Y10,000 ie. S$130.00
c) Tokyo Banana website