30 December, 2010

Country house

Living in a country house must be nice. As long as you understand you need a lot of time and money, and a lot of helpful friends!

The term, "slow life" is often used in Japan these days. People in big cities have a dream of buying an old house in the country side, and living a slow, stress free life.

I don't know who started calling a country life "slow life" in Japan. I know that it won't be so slow. In fact, it can be quite busy.

Some fantasies are good because they are fantasies...

This house is in Sapporo, Hokkaido, the Northern most part of Japan. It snows a lot up there, but very pleasant in summer.

It was so pleasant that I started thinking of buying a house on the second day of my visit there.

My other friend in Hokkaido told me, "Yuji, come back in winter and think again."

Well, I think I will visit again in summer. Hope my friend stops me again.
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29 December, 2010

Taking photos of food

Largely because of mobile phones, nicely developed in their own way in Japan, people often take photos with their mobile phones and upload them to Twitter and other SNS.

I'm not exactly sure but probably people are doing it to share the experience through photos with their friends.

And it is one thing I almost never do.

I simply forget to take photos of the food before eating it.

Here is an example; an empty glass. I had great pomegranate juice, and after drinking it up, I noticed the glass was so pretty.

My Japanese friends will wonder why I didn't take some photos of the juice before drinking it.
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25 December, 2010

Romantic Christmas

This photo was taken in Tokyo.

I am not sure exactly what it means in the sign, but my guess is "be aware of Santa Claus"?

Japan has adopted many different cultures over the many centuries. Christmas is one example.

You may be surprised to see how much of Christmas is found all over Tokyo.

These days most young people consider Christmas as a romantic event. Couples spend the night together at a hotel after having a nice dinner.

Sounds funny? Well, maybe.

But the way people in Japan feel about the new year is very close to the way people in the West feel about Christmas.

This is just another way of enjoying Christmas. So I would say, why not?
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24 December, 2010

Eiffel Tower / Joyeux Noël

When I was a little boy, there was no Christmas for me. My father used to tell me "we are Buddhists, so there is no Christmas celebration for us."

So I don't have good memories of Christmas from my childhood.

After my mother passed away 3 years ago, he changed a lot. Now he is becoming a Chiristian. Life is interesting.

The new year celebration in Japan is very close to what Christmas in the West.
No matter what your back ground may be, this is the season when we get the least sunshine. People naturally feel lonely, and they realize how important it is to help each other.


People go back to the country side, and spend some time together with their family members.

But, what if you don't have close family members to spend Christmas or the new year with?

It is a good idea to spend some good time with people who are in the same situation.

I am one of them;)
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You are guided

Every time you get lost, you find a new way out. (by Yuji)

I got lost so many times in my life, but something has been guiding me through. Some people call it "intuition", some other people call it "guidance. "

Whatever it is, I am still here alive. It's a true miracle.

Life is full of miracles. Even the fact you are now reading this silly blog must be something (I hope).

Oh, once or twice, I got lost on my way back home. It looks like I passed the apartment complex I live in, just because I was enjoying myself so much looking at the moon and stars.

But I am still here alive!
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21 December, 2010

Reflections

I sometimes like reflections more than the real images.

The main theme of this photo is not the window, nor the room.

It's the reflection of the man's legs on the floor.

As I live in Japan, where buildings are often made of wood, this view was somehow fascinating to my eyes.

I like it when people nicely walk into my photos.

I said, "nicely."

It doesn't happen all the time, and that is why I like this one!
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Strange subject 2

I was highly surprised to see a person, a professional photographer, who could actually tell what it was in the photo I uploaded a few days ago.

Strange subject

It was a broken light.

This time I really trust nobody can tell what the subject is.

The dark thing is a microwave.

The green, white, and orange things are bottles of skin lotion.

This photo was taken through a glass door, and I haven't used any effect on it. It's a raw image.

When I have a camera in my hand, the whole world looks different.

Well...not different, to be more exact. It is the same world, but the way I look at things changes. That's is the only important thing.

I am so much in love with this world, and it is a great feeling.
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19 December, 2010

Little buddha

The word, Buddha, is not the name of a person.

It simply means a person who has been enlightened.

Then, what is being enlightened?

In my opinion, it is simply being aware of who you are.

So this little boy is also a Buddha. I don't think he has made so much money and donated it to a religious organization.

But this little Buddha's smile makes me feel very happy. He can make people happy by being himself, not by doing something impressive.

Doing something impressive doesn't always make people happy, including yourself by the way.

There is nothing difficult here. All you need to do is relax.
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Palais Royal

What I like about Paris is (although I have many things about it), I often find a nice combination of the old and the new.

Partly due to the history, and partly due to the way people build buildings, Tokyo doesn't have so many old buildings.

If you see a building over 40 years old, it is very old. It's time to be replaced by a new one.

Coming from the city where everything is new, the scenery like this is amazing, sometimes it can be rather shocking.

Preserving old buildings takes a lot of work. People need to keep working to keep them alive. I guess that is why they added something new to the patio.

But when I visited it, I saw very few people. And I don't think it was just because of the weather.

Oh, it must be good to have so few people there. Convenient for film shooting?

At least, it was convenient for me to do photo shooting.
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18 December, 2010

Strange subject

I enjoy taking photos of things that are not considered to be nice or beautiful.

But when I take photos, I still find some beauty there.

I am pretty sure nobody can tell what this is.

If you think you have an answer, please let me know.

On the other hand, I am not good at taking photos of beautiful things.

I have tried to take some photos of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It just never worked.

I gave it a try for at least 100 times! So far, no luck.

The reason is probably, I have a solid image of the Eiffel Tower, and I have some expectation for my photos. I want it to look the way I want.

Another difficult subject is cherry blossoms. I respect people who can take nice photos of cherry blossoms.

Oh, if you have some good tips on those two subjects, the Eiffel Tower and cherry blossoms, please let me know. In return, I will give you some tips on strange subjects like this one!
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15 December, 2010

Rice wine

Japanese spirits love drinks. This photo was taken at Meiji Jingu shrine.

These barrels of sake, Japanese rice wine, were sent to the shrine by the breweries from all over the country.

Once I saw a tour guide explaining this custom to the international visitors, "Shinto is a very generous religion. Japanese gods love sake."

Well, not sure if "generous" is the right word.

I have studied a little about Shinto, and found the very simple fact.

The teaching of Shinto is only three things; respect for the nature, respect for others, and respect for yourself.

(This is not written in any books. I was attempting to write a book about Shinto, because not many people have done it, and I haven't writtin the book yet. )

This is one example of showing the respect for the nature which gives us gifts in many ways. And the respect is expressed by giving back to the nature.

Oh, by the way, people in Japan are increasingly becoming fond of French wine. And Japan does produce wine.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try, the climate (hot and humid in summer) is not suitable for producing good wine.

When they can produce great rice wine, to go so nicely with Japanese food including sushi, is there any good reason for them to go through a big trouble making wine?

Money, maybe.

But, good French wine can be found anywhere in Tokyo, and the prices are not so high.

If they want to make money, it may be a good idea to export Japanese rice wine to other countries, instead of producing wine. I am quite sure France doesn't produce good rice wine!

A business opportunity!

I wanted to talk about Shinto today. What's wrong with me?

No, I am not drunk. Not just yet.
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12 December, 2010

Seiko Matsuda "Garasu no Ringo (Glass Apples)



Seiko Matsuda is one of the greatest singers in Japan. She made her sensational debut in 1980, 30 years ago, when I was 11 years old.

It was so sensational that all the school girls changed their hair cut imitating hers. There were probably only 2 times in the past 100 years when so many girls changed the hair cut.

The first time was when Audrey Hepburn came out with Roman Holiday.  It was before I was born, but my mother told me even she had her hair short!

The second time was Seiko.

I have been a great fan of her for 30 years. She has so many female followers, as well as some gay followers. Among Japanese gay men, Seiko is the "diva" or "gay icon."

This tune, Garasu no Ringo (Glass Apples) is one of her greatest hits. It came out in 1983.

One thing I feel sorry about her is that she has become so keen about singing in English for the US market. Unfortunately US market is not very easy for Asian pop singers, no matter how talented they are.

In 1991, Seiko released two singles and one album in the US. The first single, The Right Combination became a smash hit on Billboard Top 100. She released two more albums in the US, they both reached some audience.

The Right Combination in 1990


Let's Talk About It in 1995


All to You in 2002

I personally love all the English songs she released in the US, they are all so enjoyable and nice to listen to. But none of them really touches my heart as this jewel piece, Glass Apples.

When I first visited France, a local friend asked me "how is Seiko doing these days?" That was about 4 years ago. An Indonesian pop singer was very popular singing songs in French then.

"If they have nice voices and sing in French, we are happy to listen to them, no matter what countries they are from."

My friend sounded rather sad. I truly believe some Japanese musicians should focus on European market, more than US market.

With her candy voice, if Seiko sings in French, it will sound awfully sweet. My ears will have cavities!!!

09 December, 2010

Celebrated moments

This is one of the photos I like most myself.

It is the statue in Bastille in Paris.

Just when I was taking photos of the statue, the sky started clearing up, and the golden sunshine started falling upon it.

I am not such a good photographer, but I am getting better to find those celebrated moments.

In fact, such special moments can be found any time, anywhere. Each day is filled with miracles.

I think what's important is that I keep my eyes open and find the beauty, and the celebrated moments.
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08 December, 2010

Another manhole cover

Another manhole cover in Tokyo.

I know that I am not the only one who is attracted to manholes.

You can do google search, "manhole + tokyo" and you can find a lot of images.

I found this one close to a famous fire station. I will upload the photo of it sometime soon.

PS - I wish I were the manhole cover designer.
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07 December, 2010

At a Buddhist temple

One of the good things, which I like, about my country is that most people can stay free from religious oppressions.

I don't belong to any religious setups, but I enjoy visiting temples, shrines, as well as churches.

I have lived in many places, including Indonesia, a Muslim country.

It must be one of the reasons I feel comfortable with people with different backgrounds and beliefs.

Christmas is coming soon. A lot of Japanese people celebrate it in their own way.

On New Year's eve, they listen to the sound of gongs from a Buddhist temple in their neighbourhood.

Then, on New Year's day, they visit a Shinto Shrine to make for the very first time in the new year. It all comes very naturally to them.

I hope one day they realise what a wonderful thing they are doing.

For me, that is like "more to enjoy."
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06 December, 2010

What's beautiful

A beautiful and empty can on the street.

Was that for a cat?

I am not joking. I really thought it was beautiful, never seen anything like this in Tokyo.

Probably people in Paris don't think it is beautiful or anything.

I am sure all my French friend will laugh at me who have taken a photo like this.

By the way, I love looking at photos of Japan taken by photographers from other countries.

They always pick up the beauty on my country, which Japanese people take for granted.



Here is one of my favorite sites; henrystradford.com.  He is amazing!




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05 December, 2010

Being yourself

I have visited Paris many times. People often ask me why I like Paris so much.

I really don't have a clear answer but, it is true that I feel great when I am there.

I can be myself, and people don't mind. Everybody is being themselves in Paris. That is a very nice feeling.

In Tokyo, they always have some expectations for each other.

If you are Japanese, you are expected to act like a Japanese person.

 It may only apply to Japanese people living in Japan.

I need to get out of Tokyo, where nobody knows me, nobody cares what I do.

Doing nothing but just being myself... it's something necessary for me for happiness.



This photo was taken around Christmas time last year. Seeing them was one of the best Christmas gifts I ever had.

I wanted to share the pleasure with you.
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02 December, 2010

Japanese culture?

One of the things I secretly enjoy is finding other countries in Tokyo.

This is in West Shinjuku. But there is a little bit of Paris here. The glass pyramid is like a miniture version of the pyramid in front of Luvre.

Japanese culture has never been a unique culture. Japan has always been importing new cultures from other countries.

People often consider Japan as a Buddhist country, but Buddha was born in India, Buddhism came to Japan from India via China.

Shinto is considered to be Japanese traditional religion. However, Hindu spirits are often worshipped at the Shrines. Tokyo even has a shrine where a little stature of Mother Merry is preserved.


In fact, a lot of things that are nicely developed in Japan have their roots in other countries.

Cars are from Germany. Animation movies are from the US.

So, what is the traditional Japanese culture?

I have a clear answer to this question. It is the "willingness to accept good things from other countries."

If you feel welcomed by the people in Japan, please consider that you are experiencing Japanese culture.

It's December now. Tokyo is now beautifully decorated by Christmas trees all over.. Yes, people in Japan love Christmas.

Of course, I love Christmas! If Santa Claus visits me, I will treat him very nicely.

Probably he has been very busy delivering gifts to so many children?

I want to give him a nice massage or something.
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01 December, 2010

Missing the future

The tall building on the right is Park Tower.

Park Hyatt is in this building. It's the hotel were the movie, Lost in Translation was filmed.

The low building in the middle is the apartment complex where I lived until 3 years ago.

This old building is going to disappear soon.

This area used to be an old residential area. But the West Shinjuku became the centre of Tokyo about 20 years ago.

Now there are more and more tall and modern buildings there, replacing the old buildings.

I love West Shinjuku area. It is where I spent most of my childhood. It was fun looking at the buildings being built. One of my oldest memories is looking at those buildings from home.

This photo was taken just a half year ago. Knowing that this scenery will soon be a memory from the past, I feel very nostalgic.

This feeling is nothing but "nostalgia for the future." It's the feeling I have always had since I was a little boy.

It's not sadness. I am just calmly feeling how I feel now looking at this ever changing world.

It's a little bit like missing somebody you don't know very much... and is a very nice feeling.
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28 November, 2010

Travelling by Train


Travelling within Japan could be expensive for Japanese people.

If you have a foreign passport, or live in a foreign country, you can buy a "Japan Rail Pass" for a very reasonable price.

It takes you almost anywhere in Japan.

That is one of the reasons I prefer to travel outside my country.

It is a shame I can't travel with my friends visiting Japan, because they can buy this pass, and I can't... That is so ironic!

Well, maybe I shouldn't complain because I can get a Eurail Pass and travel around in Europe.



But, can Europeans buy an Eurail Pass?

If not, I will need to travel alone! (so ironic...)

This photo was taken at a secret place in France.

I am so attracted to these rail tracks. Trains passe here only once a day.

I was lying down on the ground while taking this photo. The cat was posing especially for me.

Or, she might have been wondering, "what is that Asian man doing here in my territory?"
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26 November, 2010

Kawagoe, my hometown

The word "hometown" has two meanings.

1. the place you were born.

2. the place you live now.

I was born in an old city called Kawagoe, but I kept moving one place to another. I didn't spend so much time in Kawagoe.

I feel so much at home in Tokyo where I live now.

Kawagoe attracts more and more visitors, and is often introduced in guidebooks.

I visited Kawagoe three times in the past 20 years. On each visit, I was together with a friend from another country.

Unfortunately, Kawagoe is becoming a sightseeing spot for me, too.

The photo was taken at Kashiya-yokocho (sweet shop alley, or confectionery row), Kawagoe. Look at the bead curtains made of candies!

It's too dangerous for me to live in the alley.

Changing the subject, I want to add the third meaning to the word, "hometown."

3. the place you feel at home, or feel welcomed.

In this sense, Tokyo is my hometown, and Paris is also becoming my hometown.
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Hello Kitty Everywhere

Our cute English girl, Hello Kitty can be found any part of the city, at any kind of shops.

She is on food products, on clothing, cameras, anything you can think of.

I remember seeing a Hallo Kitty rice cooker.

People don't believe me, but there was a Hello Kitty credit card as well.

I found "Hello Kitty Boot Stand"just a while ago in Tokyo.

Somebody, please teach me how to use it?

Hope this is something only for ladies... and a booted leather man doesn't have to buy anything like that.
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25 November, 2010

Hello Kitty Zippo

This character, Hello Kitty, must be one of the most famous Japanese products.

I don't exactly know why she is so popular.

Though, I can easily imagine she is making a lot of money.

This "Hello Kitty Zippo limited edition" is sold for 24,000 yen (about 215 Euros).

She doesn't have a mouth, so she must be very quiet.

Okay, that is the difference between Hello Kitty and me. Maybe I need to keep my mouth shut and make myself more mysterious?

I just found out something new about her.


According to her official site, she was born in the suburbs of London, England...

So, she isn't Japanese...

She is English!  She is so mysterious!

Was she named Hello Kitty, because she was born in England?

She seemed to have a boyfriend, named Daniel. I wonder if he is also English?

I have more and more questions.  I hope someday she starts telling us more about her mysterious life.
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24 November, 2010

Bears

Native Japanese people, Ainu, considered bears as the gifts and messenger from another world.

Even now, in the 21st century, some people firmly believe it.

I am one of them.

There is something I cannot explain in words about how I feel about bears...

But I can at least say I am so fortunate to be on this beautiful planet where bears live.

I love them, respect them, and just adore them.

I want more bears to come from the other side of the world, or I will need to go to the other side to meet them myself.

Woof!
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22 November, 2010

Buying flowers

This man is carrying a huge bouquet on the train.

That's actually something you almost never see in Tokyo.

One of the most embarrassing places for Japanese men to go is a florist according to some survey.

(Unfortunately, I forgot what else was on the list. )

In the West, it is common for men to give flowers to women. And that is one thing you cannot expect in Japan. Women here buy flowers themselves.

So, if you are a man, and want to attract Japanese women, please buy them flowers. Trust me, it works!

Wondering why this Japanese man is carrying flowers? Probably your guess is correct!
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21 November, 2010

A cup of green tea

When people in Japan say, "let's have a cup of tea," they don't mean green tea.

They will probably take you to a cafe for a cup of coffee or English tea.

Do they drink green tea?

Of course, they do.

Green tea is either, served at Japanese restaurant for free together with meals, or at home.

I took this photo because it was so unusual that I had to pay for a cup of green tea at this old fashioned tea house.

Also, they didn't have any coffee nor English tea there. (I rather liked that!)

Oh, just for your information, Starbucks Coffee is found everywhere in Tokyo. And they serve green tea. No, it's not free.
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20 November, 2010

Paris loves me

This photo was taken in Paris.

N.Y.LOVES ME... What does that mean in Paris?

My guess is the graffiti artist was not very well accepted in Paris, and he missed New York.

He was in love with Paris, but it was one way love.

Instead of saying "I hate Paris," he only stated the fact in a passive way that he was loved by New York.  I think it's very polite.

The artist loved Paris so much that he couldn't be rude to the city...

That is a beautiful story (which I made up.)





So, this is my way of saying "I love Paris." I am Japanese. I am not very direct.

P.S. I think Paris loves me.

18 November, 2010

Being cute


So, this cute manga character is supposed to be me! Yes, it's awfully cute!

This character was made for my latest book published in Japan this summer. He has a magical power to help people clear clutter, find their true wishes, and make them come true.

Also, he is addicted to chocolates...

What I have learned is, things sell better if they are cute. Japanese pop culture is indeed "kawaii=cute" culture. They even turn a 41 year old man like me into such a cute figure. It's almost magical!


I hope my readers don't get disappointed when they see me in person.

Do I like him? Oh, yes, I am in love with him!
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