Like any city with a fairly lengthy history, Tokyo’s various neighborhood names tell interesting stories, even if they aren’t obvious at first. I never thought twice about the Tsunokamizaka Street (津の守坂通り) by my old apartment until the local coupon booklet explained that “津” was a nickname for Osaka, “守” means “governor” and the “坂” (hill) in this case stands for “waterfall.” Turns out the street, which does have a big drop in the middle, was the site of the waterfall on the governor of Osaka’s luxurious Edo grounds. Who knew? And where’s my waterfall by the way?
Of course, not every name is quite so colorful. Here are some Tokyo place names that stand out in my mind, for reasons both good and bad…
Daimon (大門 – “big gate”) – the inspiration for today’s post. I went there for the first time yesterday morning and wow, there’s a really big gate there. I couldn’t stay long, but I was kicking myself that I hadn’t brought my camera with me since it is indeed a very nice, very massive gate.
Kasumigaseki (霞ヶ関 – “foggy barrier”) – after a number of high rise developments went up in Shinbashi, this district no longer gets any cool ocean breezes or fog. But as home to Japan’s national government ministries – portrayed by the media as fairly shady entities – many would contend that the name still fits plenty well.
Mizonokuchi (溝の口 – “gutter entrance”) – not only does this area have the distinction of being on one of Tokyo’s worst train lines (the rib-killing Denentoshi-sen), it has a sad, sad name.
Roppongi (六本木– “6 trees”) – for this gaijin ghetto, a more appropriate name might be“6 double tequila shots at Geronimo’s and a wild ride home on the Hibiya Line.”
Akabanebashi (赤羽橋 – “red wing bridge”) & Akebonobashi (曙橋 – “daybreak bridge”) – these two have a lot in common. They share similar sounds, pleasant imagery and yes, bridges. One more thing in common – the areas themselves are not charming in the slightest. Oh well, can’t have it all I guess.
It’s that time of year again – time to panic at the thought of coming up with yet another round of unique Christmas gift ideas. At Tokyo Bounce, we believe that no one on the nice list should be left without a little bit of Japanese awesomeness in their stocking, so we’re putting together a series of gift guides. In today’s edition, we’re looking at some gift ideas for him.
For tinkering types
This revival of the hit ‘80s toy is great for guys with a serious case of marble roller coaster nostalgia, but it’s also a good fit for anyone who loves a bit of weekend DIY. Putting together the Spacewarp 5000 takes measuring, cutting and assembling, so it’s not for the clumsy or easily frustrated. But the payoff – watching little marbles race through the sculpture at warp speed – is surprisingly fun and of course, immensely satisfying.
There are plenty of guys out there who just love to one-up each other with the latest gadgets. If this sounds like someone you know, then this is the gift you’re looking for. The X-Flyer from Bandai is a flying hovercraft/UFO that doesn’t bother with a remote controller – it uses a sensor to keep itself flying a set distance above your hand, arm, head… well, you get the idea. Anyone who appreciates gadgetry and pure tech amusement would be happy to find this flying fellow under the tree.
This jumbo Facebank “eats” money (as in, makes a chewing and swallowing motion) and finishes up with a satisfied burp. I think most men can related to that, even if they don’t have the best savings habits. If any piggy bank can convince menfolk to save their pennies, this is certainly it.
Like the old saying goes, the USB Humping Dog is man’s best friend. It makes a fun gag gift or Secret Santa present, though let’s file this one more under “gifts for bros” rather than “gifts for respectable elder statesmen.”
Japanese gadgets aren’t all just toys and novelty items, as the Audio Technica ATH-ES7 portable headphones amply demonstrate. Precision engineering and high-quality materials give superior audio quality – from clear, smooth treble to tightly focused, powerful bass. Of course, this kind of perfection comes at a price, but what’s a few thousand yen when you can enjoy the heaps of thanks from the lucky guy who scores this?
My first winter in Japan, I was a student living with a host family in Kyoto. My host mother was a wealthy widow with a big house in posh Arashiyama but like most people, we had no central heat. And although I bemoaned the frosty sleeping conditions, I also learned that the Japanese have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for handling the cold… + more
Compared to many places I’ve visited, Japan is a rather smell-free land. Oh sure, you can catch a whiff of spicy temple incense or the fresh, grassy smell of a new tatami from time to time. And the unmistakable reek of natto fills my dining room every morning. But just walking the streets, you won’t notice much.
Still, this doesn’t mean that Japanese people don’t like to use their noses – in fact, the incredible variety of aromatherapy products suggests quite the opposite. Here are some of the more original and over-the-top essential oil diffusers on the Japanese market…
Today is Thanksgiving in the US. While a number of other countries also celebrate this sort of holiday, there’s really no Japanese counterpart. So for those of us in Japan who may want to celebrate the spirit of the day, here are a few ways to translate the traditional meal into a more local context… + more