Tokyobling's Blog

Sunny Hills – Minami Aoyama Architecture

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on March 6, 2015

Here is one for all my architect readers (well, both of them): Sunny Hills in Tokyo’s central Minami Aoyama district (or in Omotesando for those of us who think in terms of subway stations), which is the flagship store of a premium Taiwanese cake brand. The building itself has been much written about in architecture press, and I thought it would be interesting to show how it looks recently, about a year after completion. More information about the building can be found here. If you are into contemporary Japanese architecture this is a good place to start, not least for the delicious (and expensive) cakes!

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The Oldest Cafe in Japan – Cafe Paulista

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on March 4, 2015

Cafe culture started in Japan in 1911, when a few cafes opened up in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza district. Of these the oldest still in operation is the Cafe Paulista (Paulista coming from Sao Paulo in Brazil), which opened in December 1911 operating under a peculiar 12 year contract of free shipments of coffee beans from the Brazilian government in order to spread coffee drinking in Japan. When the great earthquake of 1923 hit Tokyo and the destroyed the cafe at the same time as the free coffee agreement ended the management withdrew from the cafe business. It reopened in 1969 and moved to its present location on one of the main streets of Ginza in 1970. John Lennon and Yoko Ono both visited the cafe in 1969, according to legend. In 2003 there was a bit of flurry when records were discovered in Osaka City of a cafe having opened there in June 1911, but nothing remains of that cafe so even if Cafe Paulista wasn’t the first they certainly are the oldest.

Today the Cafe Paulista is stuck in a peculiar time warp as the building it is located in is quite new while the cafe seems not to have changed one bit since 1970, all the while they are promoting their 1911 heritage! When I visited I found the coffee to be good and the seats comfortable and I think I was lucky to get a seat at all.

Another interesting fact for fans of older literature is the word (verb) “Ginbura” (銀ブラ), which is a short combination of the two words Ginza and Brazil and came to mean “to go to a cafe”, similar as about 15 years ago the word “Sutabasuru” (スタバする) came to mean to go Starbucks. You will find the word Ginbura in books from the 1910s and 1920s. Or maybe not! See the comment section if you are a fan of etymology.

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Hasedera Temple Gardens and Statues

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on March 3, 2015

When I visited Hasedera temple in Kamakura city the main hall was undergoing renovation so I couldn’t get any good photos of it. Instead I spent the time in the vast temple gardens, full of statues, little shrines, jizo, trees, flowers and plants of all kinds. The temple is famous for the hundreds of peonies grown there, not in bloom when I was visiting though, but the kawazusakura, the plum trees and many others were.

The jizo statues of which you see so many in Japan are meant to placate the soul of children lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. The smaller ones are placed here by the parents, and they remain for a year before being removed, symbolizing the rebirth of the soul.

An interesting detail is the Manjiike (卍池), a swastika cross shaped pond. In buddhism the symbol represents eternity, and in Japan it has the added meaning of 10 000, which symbolizes “everything, the universe, the alpha and the omega”.

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Hasedera Temple – Kamakura

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 2, 2015

Most likely founded in 736 A.D., the vast Hasedera Temple is today one of the main tourist attractions of Kamakura City to the south-west of Tokyo. Hasedera is one of the most important temples in a city that is famous for them. The temples main draw, apart from its scenic location is it’s masssive over nine meters tall wooden eleven-headed kannon statue. Due to a camera ban inside the temple itself I could not take any photos of it though. From the top of the temple grounds you get a pretty good view of the city and the beach.

According to the legend, a monk named Tokudo carved two statues out of a giant camphor tree in 721 A.D. One was enshrined in Nara and the other statue was set adrift in the ocean to find its own way to its home. Apparently it washed up in Kamakura and was carried up to the location of today’s Hasedera.

The temple is also famous for its many statues, jizo and impressive gardens. More photos to come!

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