Monday, December 18, 2006

Temporarily leaving the blogosphere

This is just a quick little post to let you know that we won't be around for a few weeks as we're going to Hawaii. I can hardly curtail my excitement. We have lots of fun things planned like cycling 38 miles down a volvano (you only have to pedal the last 400 yards!), taking a rafting tour of the Napali coast where Jurassic Park was filmed, snorkelling, horseriding and generally having lots of fun.We hope to return in one piece although I am a little worried about the man who got his hand bitten off by a shark in Maui in September - I think the baking, blogging and photography skills would be seriously hampered if that happened to me. Hopefully I'll be alright and return with plenty of pictures and tales from our adventure.

We took a brief interlude from the packing and whizzed down to Peace Boulevard this evening to snap some pictures of the fantastic illuminations on display. In true Japan style there are many wild and wacky creations but they look wonderful. Unfortunately, I didn't get great pictures due the fear of being run over by a cyclist if I stood in the same spot too long. Cycling in this country should be called an extreme sport. Anyway, the packing awaits me.

Lots of love, Martin and Therese,xx

PS. I hope you all get very merry and eat plenty over the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just another ordinary day

Well I thought I'd better move on from the embarrassing discovery that my musical taste matches that of a NASCAR driver - Martin reckons it was all the Dixie Chicks and Gretchen Wilson CDs in my collection that did it. Not much happened today, we both got our haircut (not matching), went to the swimming pool (where I momentarily popped out of my tankini), cycled to the supermarket, then snuggled up on the sofa with a bar of Dairy Milk and watched ET in the afternoon. At the moment Martin is busy in the kitchen making some homemade burgers and wedges for dinner. So there you have it, just another ordinary but cosy Sunday in the McCloskey house. Now I must scadaddle as dinner is ready.
Love until I have something more interesting to post,

PS. The picture above shows the spider sculpture "Maman" by Louise Bourgeois outside of the Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills. There is also a copy outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fish tales

Every morning at the crack of dawn Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is alive with the noise of trucks ferrying boxes of fish around, fishmongers wielding knives like Samurai warriors and auctions selling Tuna valued at £5,000 per fish! One of the world's biggest fish markets, 2,300 tonnes of fish pass through Tsukiji every day and you'll be able to find salmon from as far away as Santiago, eels from Taiwan and crab from Brazil. The auctions start at 5 in the morning for the wholesalers and at 7am the restaurateurs of Tokyo arrive for their pick of the day. Most of the action is over by 8 so you have to get there early. Although we had been shakin' our stuff to U2 only a few hours earlier we still got up at 6 to see all this madness - the things we do in the name of food!

You can choose from over 400 different kinds of fish.

The tuna fish are frozen solid and look like shining silver torpedoes ready for action. At £5,000 per fish the bounty on the trailer below must be worth around £35,000!

The poor man operating the ice machine spent all morning lifting huge blocks of ice onto the conveyer belt, he wasn't even wearing gloves.

The market covers 56 acres of land so there are plenty of fish stalls to peruse...and plenty of ice to slip on too! I slipped once and almost fell straight into the path of oncoming forklift, from then on I held on tight to Martin.

Some of the fish were so fresh they were still moving. I got a bit of a shock as I walked by the squid and it was still moving around!

Outside the market there are lots of wonderful stalls selling some of the freshest sashimi and sushi in the world. Many commuters stop off on their way to work for a breakfast of fish and noodles. Apparently, the tuna sashimi is melt in your mouth good.

If you go to Tokyo you must visit this place but watch out for the men driving the forklifts - they're more concerned about the fish on the back than the people in front!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lambs and legs

While waiting for dinner the other night I said to Martin,

"I'm so hungry I could eat the lamb off the leg of God."

Martin said I was wrong and claims that it should be,

"I'm so hungry I could eat the leg of the Lamb of God."

Can anyone clear up this trivial misunderstanding?!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Random Place Thursday:Tokyo Food Town

If you want to open a restaurant this is the place to go. There are streets upon streets of shops where you can buy sinks, plastic food,big knives, tills and menu signs. It's amazing. I bought a quiche tin, bun tin, mini muffin tin, a loaf tin, scone cutters and a glass cake stand all for under 15 pounds. Martin bought a plastic piece of brie which also doubles as a fridge magnet. (We are not opening an restaurant but I do like to bake. I also like quirky tourist attractions.) Everytime we walked past a shop full of empty display units I thought the shop must have just closed down. Then I realised that the shop was actually selling display units!

Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, I had to be conspicuous as the shop owners get a little fed up with all the gaijin laughing and taking pictures of plastic pizzas and fake fish.

(Note how the forks are suspended in mid-air. I love it.)

Plastic food is a big deal in Japan. There were several shops in the area selling the stuff and it is really expensive, this is largely due to the fact that it is handmade and painted. Outside of restaurants there will usually be an arrangement of plastic food matching that written on the menu. When the food arrives at your table it is identical to the plastic food on display outside. I have always wondered whether the real food is modelled on the plastic food or vice versa.

The noodle bowl store.

Fancy buying a menu board?

Everything and the kitchen sink!

PS. It is really cold here today, it has rained heavily all day and it is so dark I've had the lights on since I got up. For lunch I treated myself to baked beans on toast with my friend Ailsa. (I'm not poor it's just that baked beans are seriously expensive and really hard to find-you'd think they were contraband or something!) Roll on the sunshine of Maui, Kauai and Oahu!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Part 1: Sensory overload

We got back from Tokyo last night feeling very, very tired. With only two days in such a fascinating city I think we are suffering from sensory overload. Everything was so much bigger, brighter and trendier than Hiroshima and all this made me feel very much the country girl. Looking back I think I was unprepared for how different it would be to Hiroshima, Tokyo is a world city just like London or New York. When we were having lunch in Roppongi the menu was in English and the radio was tuned to Virgin FM - I felt right at home. With all this familiarity I almost got reverse culture shock and it was lovely just to be able to read a menu in a flash and not have to worry about speaking Japanese.
Most importantly though I finally got to see U2. It was so surreal and as I was two rows from the front I felt like I was watching them on TV rather than in person!

The best things about the concert were:
1. When Bono asked all the Japanese people to sing Pride, 40,000 people screamed Pride. When he asked all the Irish people to sing Pride, a handful shouted Pride. It was nice to be among that handful.
2. Their performance of "Bullet the Blue Sky" was fantastic and the first time in the concert when I really felt I was watching U2 at their best.
3. Hearing thousands of people sing "Erebation" as opposed to "Elevation'', the Japanese have difficulty pronouncing the letters "V" and "L".
4. During "Mysterious Ways" the band brought three Maiko on to the stage. It was so cool and really fitting for the song. I will never forget the three of them dancing down the catwalk staring straight ahead, waving their fans and looking deadly serious. Then all of a sudden it got too much for the one in front, her eyes lit up and she flashed this big, bright toothy grin across her deathly white face. When they are dancing they shouldn't really smile or show too much emotion but I think the enormity of the situation and all the adultation overwhelmed the poor girl. They were so beautifully turned out, the colours of their obi and kimono were really dramatic and just looking at their perfect hair and makeup was truly amazing. For me it was the highlight of the concert.

I met with a Japanese friend today who asked what I'd been up to over the weekend. I told her I went to see U2 in Tokyo and when she found out that it was my first time to see them she laughed very heartily. I asked her what was so funny and she said "but you are from Ireland and the first time you see U2 is in Japan!" Indeed, life is very unpredictable sometimes but that's what's good about it. My friend Iddya has since reminded me that although she is Puerto Rican she only learned to Salsa when she came to Japan.

NB. In case you were wondering, Maiko are trainee Geisha and we can tell them apart because Maiko wear white makeup but Geisha do not. Maiko also wear a little red bun in their hair as a sign of their purity. If you want to know more I really recommend reading "Memoirs of a Geisha", although entirely fictional Golden's research is meticulous and the book gives you a great insight into an otherwise closed society. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the movie, it is beautiful to watch but it is also pure Hollywood.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Too much excitement

Tomorrow we're heading up to Tokyo to see U2 play at Saitama. It's only 26 hours until I see Larry Mullen Jr. in the flesh and I am so excited I think I am going to scream. All this excitement reminds me of my fourth Christmas when we were heading down to midnight Mass in the car and I got so excited I vomited all over Daddy and my new red velvet dress from the "club book". Daddy and I had to go straight home. Let's hope we don't have a repeat performance tomorrow. Anyway, when I have calmed down I will be back to post plenty of pictures of the "city of blinding lights" that is Tokyo.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The green bullet lives again!

Hey, two posts in 24 hours! I must be running away with myself.

Anyway, it's back. A little letter from the police arrived telling me that the green bullet has been tracked down and that I could go and pick it up. Now I can get rid of Wendy. Martin thinks this is most unfair and that I am turfing her into the night like an unwanted lover. C'est la vie Wendy!