Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Bike Key Drama

I seem to be having a run of bad luck recently, first the coin locker incident, then I lost my Nintendo DS case containing two games followed by managing to smash my wife's favourite mug (not a cheap mug either) and many other smaller incidents. This run of bad luck culminated in an incident involving my bikes wheel lock on Saturday, we had been on a manic bike ride through the busy traffic into town when we stopped to browse a nearby shop. When I parked up, I reached down to remove the key (in order to lock the wheel) to find it had vanished! What was odd was that you cannot remove the key unless you lock the wheel which should have made it impossible for the key to fall out while riding.

Luckily, we kept a spare back at the flat but I still felt rather annoyed by the whole thing. It was at this point that I remembered that I had been carrying my so called 'lucky' charm in my pocket throughout these recent incidents. It was pretty clear in my mind that I would have to dispose of the charm as soon as possible but felt that it needed doing in the correct manner so we checked the map for the nearest shrine, which was just a few streets away, and headed off there on foot.

When we reached the shrine I immediately felt much calmer, I'm not a particularly spiritual person but I do find these places calming, I guess if anything its a welcome retreat from the hectic streets of the city. On entering the grounds we were confronted by a huge stage built in the shape of a giant dragons head, quite something for such a small shrine! After staring at the dragons head for a while we found a nearby monk and passed the offending charm other to him for disposal, which he did gladly, then went over to see the main shrine itself.

 You go first......

By the shrine there was a box selling wooden Daruma monks for 300 yen each, at this point I had cheered up considerably so decided to purchase one, spending considerable time choosing the best one. Each monk comes with a slip of paper containing your fortune, I was eager to find out if my luck would change and asked my wife to translate. Luckily, it was a relatively good fortune and said that I had been having bad luck of late (tell me something I don't know!) but just needed to persevere and soon my wishes would come true! It also said that I would find the things that I had lost in a place that was low down and hard to reach.

 My very own monk.

Well, the next day I found my key! Well, half of it anyway, seems it hadn't fell out but snapped in half when riding. Hopefully that was a sign that my little monk was right and my luck will change, I can only hope! (still haven't found that damn DS case though, now where could it be?......)

Dove Biscuits

One of the other place's we visited in Kamakura was the Hoto Sabure store, a company that produces dove shaped biscuits and many other kinds of enticing confectionery. There were many interesting dove related souvenirs on display in the shop but the one that caught my eye was this dove shaped eraser:

The eraser looks exactly like one of their biscuits (not one to leave lying around with young kids!) and opens up to reveal two smaller doves inside, it also comes in a rather attractive tin. Needles to say, I won't be doing much erasing with it! (although I might be tempted to have a nibble).

You can check out their website here:

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kamakura Part 2

After a rather dramatic start, (see Kamakura Coin Locker Drama) the rest of our weekend in Kamakura was very enjoyable. On the Saturday we visited a nearby seaside town which has a beach area that looks like it consists of volcanic rock (great if you enjoy exploring rock pools). There is also a lighthouse up on the cliff top surrounded by what looks like mock roman architecture for some strange reason. For lunch we stopped at a rather run down restaurant near the beach, we were a little reluctant to enter at first as one entrance was guarded by angry looking hornets but our hunger overcame fear and we ventured in. After deliberating over the menu for some time we eventually ordered the grilled squid and sashimi which wasn't too bad in the end. We finished the day by visiting a few nearby shops, including a rather nice antique shop, and watched the sun go down on the beach where many people had gathered to have barbecues.

 Is this Japan?
 One of many rock pools.

 Hoping for stray fish.

 He was probably happily swimming along a moment ago.

 Watching the sun set.

The following day we set off on foot to explore Kamakura further. Our root took us through Shakado pass which is a tunnel that leads through a rock face, I had been through the pass on my previous visit to Kamakura but this time we were shocked to find that the entrance had been partly blocked off by a rock fall! We hesitated for a while, wondering whether we should venture further, but having seen an elderly couple ahead of us bravely bound across the fallen rocks, we decided that we would give it a try. After a bit of a struggle we made it through to the other side safely and breathed a sigh of relief only for me to slip up and land on my rear on the muddy rocks, at least the others found it a source of amusement!

 Shakado pass two years ago.

 Shakado pass in November 2010.

We later met up with other friends that we hadn't seen for some time and enjoyed okonomiyaki and drinks together before browsing more shops and temples. The end of the weekend came around all too quickly and before we knew it was time to say our goodbyes. Our journey back was by night bus which left Kamakura around 9.30 PM and didn't arrive in Osaka until 6.oo AM! Its an okay journey if you find it easy to sleep at the drop of a hat but for light sleepers like myself it can be a bit grueling as they turn off all the lights and pull all the curtains to so you don't even have any scenery to look at! But we made it in the end and look forward to our next visit to Kamakura (as long as I am more observant when locking my belongings away).

 Those temple steps haven't been used for some time!

Some much needed peace and quiet.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

New Work - Seasonal Maidens

I have been creating illustrations of 'ethereal maidens' for each season this year and have just completed one for Autumn, a rather blustery design which is fitting for the recent change in weather.

Just winter to complete now, with any luck I will post it before the year is out and then can look forward to ushering the spring again!

Here are all the designs so far (click to enlarge):

 Autumn Maiden

Summer Maiden

Spring Maiden

To see more of my work click here

Monday, 15 November 2010

Kamakura Coin Locker Drama

The weekend before last we took time out to travel to Kamakura, which is along the coast near Tokyo, to visit friends. I had been to Kamakura once before and loved the place so was eager to visit again.  On the Friday we took the Shinkansen from Osaka to a town near our destination then from there traveled by normal train, the journey taking about four hours in total.

When finally arriving at Kamakura station we had four hours to kill so went to find a coin locker to deposit our baggage then went off to see the sights. We spent most of the time browsing shops along the main high street and had coffee in an interesting cafe, that has a very bohemian looking interior, that bakes its own bread, the banana bread was especially tasty!

 Sundown in Kamakura

After a few hours of browsing we returned to the station and headed for the lockers to retrieve our baggage and meet our friends. However, our happiness soon turned to horror upon opening our locker and finding it empty! For a while we were in shock wondering how this could have happened as the door had still been locked and there is a surveillance camera in the locker room. 

After pulling ourselves together we went off hunting for an available policeman. At this point our friend turned up and we explained the situation, during which five police officers turned up at once! Having explained what had happened to them they looked surprised, telling us that this has only happened once before about three years ago and followed us to the locker. After checking the locker room they all went off to speak to the locker room attendant, then, upon returning, asked what the contents of our bags were. We told them everything we had lost and then where amazed and incredibly relieved to hear that they knew what had happened and had our bags!

Feeling elated, we followed the officers to a nearby room to find that our bags were indeed there. My elation didn't last for long however when I heard what had happened. A very honest person had reported that they had opened locker 247 to put their belongings in and had found our bags there, however we had the key for locker 246, the one above. What we had done was to put our things in 247, shut the door then looked in our wallets to find change. When we had the correct coins, I had turned back, put the coins in 246 and taken that key rather than 247!

Needles to say, I wasn't allowed to forget about that incident all weekend, and probably for many years to come but we were so relieved to get our things back that we could see the funny side of it and enjoyed the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I Heart Famicom

By popular demand, here is a picture of the Famicom games I acquired at the Banpaku-Koen garage sale:

From top left, the games are: Burgertime, Ninja Jajamaru-kun, Challenger, a game I am yet to translate, Excitebike, Dragonquest 2.

So as not to bore any non-game geeks, I have decided to post all Famicom and game related information from now on on another blog which you can find here:

Its very much a work in progress but should be fun!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Penguins part 3

I couldn't resist buying these sweets due to the lovely picture of a penguin and polar bear happily greeting each other, although I am sure the reality of the situation would be much different. Reality aside, the sweets called Korizatou consist of sugar and......well, thats about it, pure lumps of crystallized sugar! They are actually surprisingly tasty and great if you need a sugar rush. You will have to excuse me now, I'm feeling a little fidgety and in need of quick run around the block....



70's Osaka Expo bags

Thought I would post a picture of the souvenirs we bought at the Expo museum. Lovely cotton bags perfect for carrying home shopping in an environmentally sound manner!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Last Wednesday was another sunny day, perfect weather for visiting the park! There was however, another good reason for visiting, the chance to have a good rummage through the bric-a-brac at a large garage sale (or car boot sale if you like) being held at Banpaku-Kinen-Koen park.

Banpaku-Kinen-Koen is famous for being the site of the Osaka Expo held in 1970 and for the imposing sculpture 'Tower of the Sun' which was originally built for the expo by the Japanese artist Taro, and which still stands at the entrance to the park, looming over visitors.

 The 'Tower of the Sun' looms ahead.

 The tower up close.

Round the back of the sculpture.

When we had gotten over the awe of seeing such an amazing sculpture we headed around the back to where the sale was being held. The market had hundreds of stalls, selling all kinds of interesting second hand goods and took a good hour to make our way around. I managed to come away with a horde of treasure in the form of a bundle of Famicom cartridges at 100 yen each!

That's a lot of stalls!

After the sale and a brief stop for food we headed through the park towards the National Museum of Ethnology. It was a beautiful Autumnal day with the trees displaying an impressive range of hues and for some reason I was reminded of walking in the park as a child, perhaps it was reminiscent of the long hot summers I remember from my childhood or the seventies feel of the park. The museum was impressive with different areas dedicated to artifacts from specific regions of the world, at this point in the day I felt exhausted but was soon revitalized after looking at all the fascinating items.

A stroll through the park.

Artifacts at the Museum of Ethnology.

After the museum our route through the park took us to the Japanese garden, the garden is beautifully maintained and includes a lotus garden and a pond with huge koi carp, unfortunately the lotus garden was not in bloom but the dying plants made for some great photo opportunities nonetheless.

The Japanese garden (surely all gardens in Japan are Japanese?)

One cheerful Koi!

Our final stop was perhaps the most interesting, the 70's Expo Museum. This building is one of the few remaining parts of the original Expo complex and contains a fascinating look back at the history of the event. One of the most impressive areas, situated in the the center of the building, is the 'Space Theatre Hall' an arena that still remains as it was at the Expo in 1970's. After leaving the museum I really wished I could have traveled back in time and experienced the event for myself!

The original Expo guide book.

Inside the 70's Expo Museum.

Space Theatre Hall.

Detail from the Space Theatre Hall

The Expo's uniforms.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Despite all the hectic events since moving to Osaka, I have still found time to work on some illustration. My latest work can be seen up on the FormFiftyFive website from Monday 8th November for one week as part of a weekly showcase of artists belonging to the Unseen Agency. I recommend anyone interested in design to check out this great website which profiles many interesting artists and designers.

For those who's fingers have seized up and are unable to click, here is a preview of the work (but please check out the site if you get a chance!)

The website can be seen here:

For more Unseen Agency artists:

For more of my work:

Sunday, 7 November 2010


As I have been job hunting recently, I thought it might be a good time to visit a shrine and pray for some good luck! To do this we visited a shrine on Tuesday in a place called Sumiyoshi in the southern regions of Osaka which is the headquarters of 2000 'Sumiyoshi-Sha' Shrines across the country.

I was told that there is a certain procedure to follow when entering a shrine, firstly when approaching the shrine you should walk along the sides of the bridge, if there is one, rather than the middle. Secondly, you should wash your left hand, using the ladle and water provided at most temples, followed by your right. After washing your hands you should cleanse your mouth by pouring water into your hand then washing out your mouth before spitting it out. After all this you must cleanse the ladle itself by holding it upright so that the water runs down its length.

There are many lucky charms available to buy at the Sumiyoshi shrine, my wife had bought one at this same shrine and was visiting to return it as her wishes had been granted. Inside the charm are three stones, each with a different Japanese character composing the shrines name. In one area of the shrine there is a stone structure containing small stones with the characters written on, when first praying for good luck you must pick up three stones, one for each character, and put them inside the charm (it looks like a small pouch). When returning the charm, the stones must be removed and placed back in to the stone structure, in addition, three blank stones must be collected, the characters written on and placed with the others.

Now armed with my lucky charm, all that remains to do is to see if it has the desired effect!

The entrance to the shrine.

A stall selling masks.

Duck highway.

The main shrine.

Praying to a sacred tree.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Daisen Park Craft Fair

This Sunday we visited a craft fair in Daisen Park situated in Sakai city which is in the southern area of Osaka prefecture. Despite being a rainy day there were many visitors to the fair and many stalls, mostly selling various hand made ceramic and glass goods. Their were some really well made items on display but most were quite expensive and so we only ended up buying a couple of nice hand made rice bowls, but it was an interesting place to visit.

After the craft fair we took a wander around the park, one of my my favourite pastimes! sometimes I feel as if I am old before my time and can imagine myself in 30 years time doing exactly the same things that I do now. The park is also home to Sakai City Museum, which charts the history of the area. The city is known for its burial grounds which are shaped like a keyhole (called 'kofun'), and contains on of the largest graves in the world, known as the 'Daisen Kofun', thought to be the grave of Emperor Nintoku dating back to the 5th Century.

Daisen Park craft fair.

Despite the bad weather the lemonade was still popular!

The park's inhabitants.

Daisen Kofun