Vernicious Knids

Random musings and snapshots about life, love, travel and everything in between...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Follow the yellow brick road...

Most of you guessed that the most recent Photoionary had something to do with footpaths (aka sidewalks).
Well you were half right!
What you saw was a close up shot of the yellow blind footpath rubber bricks used to guide sight-impaired people along the crowded footpaths in Japan.
They also make a nice parking boundary for bikes!
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A quick round...

What's this?
Post your answers in the comments.
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Monday, October 30, 2006

It began with an orange...

"Oranges were scarce; we'd only tasted them occasionally. On the market in Angers we might see them sometimes: fat Spanish oranges with their thick dimpled rind; finer-grained blood oranges from the South, cut open to reveal their grazed purple flesh..." (Harris, 2002:37)
Lush and evocative lyricism is used to breathtaking effect in Five Quarters of the Orange - itself a mystical and intriguing title! Framboise Simon returns to the small village she grew up in during the German occupation to find that all is not as she remembers.
"A couple of days later, at Dadi's house, the Starched Aunts entered the room and I said, 'At last! The tarts are here.' I was referring to the lemon tarts which Dadi's bearer wheeled in on the tea-trolley, just after the aunts entered, but it was an inauspicious start to the evening, nonetheless." (Shamsie, 2001:123)
A delightfully absurd, laugh inducing read set in inner city London and Pakistan. The complicated family tree of the Dard-e-Dils and their predilection for storytelling and producing "not-quite twins" mixes nicely with a potentially scandalous romance.
"Once every few years, even now, I catch the scent of Africa...Ripe fruits, acrid sweat, urine, flowers, dark spices, and other things I've never even seen..." (Kingsolver, 2005:87)

The Prices, an evangelical Baptist family, pack up their belongings and move to the Belgian Congo in 1959 where they find the things they carried - Betty Crocker cake mixes - are quickly rendered obsolete by their new surroundings. Africa has a profound effect on each family member and their growth and decline during their time in the jungle make for a thought provoking tale.
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Close, Closer, Closest:

Mukojima Hyakkaen - a garden with a hundred flowers that bloom throughout the four seasons - is a delight to visit at any time of the year. It was given to the City of Tokyo in 1937 and opened as a pay-per-view garden in 1938.
Some useful expressions for your visit:
Kaien wa nanji desu ka? - What time does the garden open?
Heien wa nanji desu ka? - What time does the garden close?
Otona no nyuenryo wa ikura desu ka? - What's the admission cost for one adult?
Shashin o totte moraemasu ka? - Could you take a photo of me?
This area of the garden is Bai-dosui and contains a very picturesque well with a bamboo lid and wooden bucket.

The kanji above is "Bai-dosui".

I loved the delicate moss growing on the well in this shot.
Mukojima Hyakkaen is an 8 minute walk from Higashi Mukojima station on the Tobu Isesaki line, or a 13 minute walk from Keisei Hikifune station on the Keisei Oshiage line. Or you can take the Toei Bus Kameido (Nippori route #22) and get off at the Hyakkaenmae stop. The garden is open from 9am to 5 pm (last entry at 4:30pm) all year except December 29 to January 3 and is 150 yen to enter.
Remember to click on the photos for a closer view!
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Monday, October 23, 2006

To inhale...or to sip?

Have you heard? Breathing is so 20th century...

Anyone who's anyone has moved onto the latest craze...
...Drinkable Oxygen:

And, it's not just's Diet!

Suntory ... you have made my life complete!
Will you inhale or sip?!
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Glowing dawn:

Kyoto, perhaps more than any other city in Japan, fulfills Western stereotypes of how Japan should be. Austere Zen rock gardens, glamourously secretive geisha, outrageously expensive kaiseki restuarants and elaborately decorated temples:

Kinkakuji - the Golden Pavilion (official name = Rokuonji) - is arguably the most famous of Kyoto's 2000 odd temples. It was originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397, but was later converted into a temple. An obsessed monk burnt it to the ground in 1950 (read Mishima Yukio's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion for the fictionalised version) but a full reconstruction, with the gold foil covering extending to the lower floors, was completed in 1955.

Kinkakuji is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and admission costs 400 yen - Kinkakujimichi bus stop provides the most convenient access. It features on the itinerary of all tour groups - so get there as close to opening time as possible, or you won't have the opportunity to experience the peacefulness of its surroundings! Due to Kyoto's grid design and the excellent free Kyoto City Bus Sightseeing Map it's incredibly simple to navigate yourself around the city - even if you can't read kanji! And how many times have I visited Kyoto? I've clocked up 7 visits so far, and I've barely begun to even scratch the surface!

(These photos were taken on my visit in July 2004.)

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Sunday, October 15, 2006


Back in 2001 I travelled to Himeji to visit the famous Himeji-jou (Castle). It's billed as the most beautiful surviving (i.e. non-concrete) castle in Japan and is also called Shirasagi - the White Egret. After spending a few hours wandering around the spectacular castle grounds I decided to visit the temple complex on Shosha-zan (Mt Shosha). I took a 25 minute trip on the number 6 bus from Himeji station to the Shosha bus stop and then caught the cable car to the top of the 371m mountain hill. It's a famous pilgrimage spot and has been around for about 1000 years. I was one of only a few people wandering around the grounds; it was incredibly peaceful.
(Lanterns - April 2001)
Since then, Shosha-zan Engyou-ji Temple has become famous as one of the locations used in the shooting of "The Last Samurai". Several of the temple buildings and Buddha images have been designated important cultural properties. The shot of the lanterns above is one of my favourite photos of my time here in Japan as the solitary gold lantern among the green ones reminds me of the Japanese proverb deru kugi wa utareru - the nail which sticks out will get hammered. This seemingly simple proverb neatly encapsulates the overwhelming pressure for all members of Japanese society to reside together in harmony and to conform to the expected patterns of group behaviour. It's also a reminder that no matter how culturally attuned I am, like this lantern, I will always stick out in Japan.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

We have a winner and a half...

Who was it that correctly guessed what this blue contraption is?
Omedetous go to My Float and Lou! (Sorry for the non-link Lou; but your profile is not I don't know your website!)

This blue contraption is one of our clotheslines (we also have an orange one) that hangs on our laundry pole on our balcony.
Thanks for playing Photoionary!
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Photoionary strikes again...

Are you ready?!

What on earth is this?

Post your guesses in the comments...
...and thanks for playing
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006


This modified meme comes from Louise.


1. Reach for the nearest book to you and open to page 12
2. Find the 3rd sentence
3. And then find the 4th word in that sentence
4. Do a Google Image Search on that word only, choose the 5th image and post the resulting picture to your blog, along with the word you Googled and these instructions so that others can play!

My book: "Acqua Alta" - Donna Leon
My word: "cracked"
My result:

(Image comes from here)
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Japanese meals generally consist of rice, fish, chicken or meat, vegetables, miso soup and some kind of pickle.

Kimchi is a Korean dish of spicy, fermented cabbage:

Apparently every Korean family has their own secret recipe for making the perfect kimchi. My secret recipe is to buy it from the supermarket!

Another regular supermarket purchase is takuan:

Don't be alarmed by the yellow colour - takuan is simply pickled daikon (giant white radish)'s incredibly crunchy and a great end to a meal.

Edamame also makes frequent appearances on our dinner table:

Salty and crunchy...perfection!
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Guessing time again...

This is a shop in central Tokyo:

What do you think it sells?
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tokyo is full of surprises...

While wandering around the Jingumae area in central Tokyo one rainy Sunday, a few months ago, we stumbled across this:

"Art Scape Action 99" which involved 500 artists collaborating on brightening up a drab concrete streetscape:

How spectacular is the greenery?
I love the way it's invading the artwork's space!

The art is on both sides of the road and continues for about 300 metres. It really brightened up a dreary, rainy day for us!

I particularly liked this vibrant piece.

(All photos taken by moi!)
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Monday, October 02, 2006

Which is worthy of my yen?!

Bearette recently mentioned that she wouldn't mind seeing my Amazon Japan wishlist...but in the interests of interactivity and the coyness of my nature I've turned a simple request into a quasi-complicated blog entry - that involves a lot of reading on your behalf!

The following 5 books (with italicised snapshots courtesy of stolen from
Amazon) are currently in my 348 item wishlist:

The Book of the Heathen - Robert Edric: "At a declining British outpost in the Congo, a man stands accused of murdering a young native girl. The prisoner, Nicholas Frere, an intelligent and once-respected employee, denies none of the charges. His sole remaining friend, James Frasier (the narrator), is the only one who has not already judged and condemned Frere. Everyone around him, from fellow employees to the local trade baron and the deranged priest of a local mission, seems to have a suspiciously motivated interest in Frere's upcoming trial and fate."

Memoirs of Cleopatra - Margaret George: "Bestselling novelist Margaret George brings to life the glittering kingdom of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, in this lush, sweeping, and richly detailed saga. Told in Cleopatra's own voice, this is a mesmerizing tale of ambition, passion, and betrayal, which begins when the twenty-year-old queen seeks out the most powerful man in the world, Julius Caesar, and does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death rather than be paraded in triumph through the streets of Rome."

The Hamilton Case - Michelle de Kretser: "Sam Obeysekere, a lawyer from Ceylon in the middle of the last century who "strove to perfect a performance that never deceived its audience." Obeysekere's narrative starred himself as a British gentleman, a latter-day Sherlock Holmes, in fact, but it was all too elementary, both to his fellow Ceylonese and to the British colonists on the island, that the brown-skinned, stiff-collared "native" was not the right kind of gentleman. These dueling narratives come together in the infamous Hamilton case. Would Obeysekere's role in this murder investigation ensure his favored position among the British elite, or would it expose the folly of his dreams?"

Pillars of Salt - Fadia Faqir: "She interweaves ancient Arabic storytelling traditions, with Muslim and Christian theological sources and modern facts, to capture an alternative picture of Jordanian history - the continuing repression of Arab women whose daily contributions to the nation's economy and struggle for independence are stifled in a male-dominated society. This is the story of two women, a Bedouin peasant named Maha from the Jordan Valley, and Um Saad, wife of a prosperous butcher in Amman. They are forced to share a room in the Amman mental hospital to which they have been confined before and after the British Mandate of 1921."

The Vintner's Luck - Elizabeth Knox: "One summer evening in 1808, Sobran Jodeau stumbles through his family's vineyard in Burgundy, filled with wine and love sorrows. As Sobran sways in a drunken swoon, an angel appears out of nowhere to catch him.Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be far more mysterious than angelic."
I'm sure you all agree they all look equally compelling...but what I want to know is the next time I click and buy... which one should I put in my virtual basket?


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ginza Cocktail Goodness...

I've discovered something even better than Kirin Nuda:

(Image courtesy of Suntory News Release)

Suntory has joined forces with renowned fruit shop Ginza Sembikiya to create 2 premium ready to drink cocktails -Mango and Melon.

I had the Mango ("with pureed Indian grown Alphonso mangoes imparting a sweet aroma and rich texture") while my better half tried Melon (using "Japanese grown muskmelons for a refined aroma and taste")

With 6% alcohol content, I don't think I'll be buying these on the way to work!
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If this is "Hell"...

...Then count me in!

These Hells are for looking at rather than relaxing in!

Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell) in Beppu, Kyushu, was the source of the mysterious billowing steam in this post.

The basket in the shot above contains eggs...the boiling water cooks the eggs to make onsentama...a stinky (because of all the sulphur) but delicious delicacy!

The wooden post in the background says Umi Jigoku.

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