Saturday, 15 January 2011

Okinawa Dialect Karuta

Recently we visited a shop that specializes in ceramics by the Swedish designer Lisa Larson (click here to see examples of her work).While browsing I came across this version of the card game 'Karuta', designed by the company Toy Roadworks, which is based on the Okinawa dialect.

The game involves matching picture cards containing a single hiragana character with a card containing a phrase beginning with that character. The picture cards are laid out face up and the phrases read out in turn, the players must then try to spot and pick up the corresponding picture card.

It's a very simple game but good fun, especially after a drink or two! I was really attracted to the bright, bold woodblock print style and the slightly surreal depictions on the cards. The company also makes all sorts of weird and wonderful papier-mache toys, you can check out their website here.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Load of Oranges

We were kindly sent a box full of oranges by my wife's grandparents. Despite being in their eighties her grandparents still make a living growing and selling fruit, getting up at four in the morning in order to pick their crops. I can only hope to be that energetic when I reach their age!

Should be okay for vitamin C then.
 I remember the first time I came to Osaka during the winter and how I was shocked to find oranges growing everywhere. In my naivety I never realised at the time that oranges grew in the winter, let alone in Japan!


On Friday we took take a trip to the nearby city of Kobe, which is North-West of Osaka. By train the journey took around forty minutes and only cost 290 yen (around £2.20) one-way, about the same it usually costs us to get into the centre of Osaka by tube.

We spent most of the day browsing shops the many interesting shops in Kobe but took some time out to visit the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum which, as you might expect, exhibits glasswork by many artists, both local and worldwide. You also have the opportunity to make your own glass beads although we decided to decline the offer.

One of the main shopping arcades
A slimline clothes shop.
An old style jeweler.
One of the stranger drinks machines I have seen.

We finished our day out by meeting friends at a small, friendly Italian bar / restaurant called 'Abuku' (foam / bubble). The food was great and the place has a very warm and friendly atmosphere, recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in Kobe! For details check here

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Fruit Drops

If you are about to embark on a long car journey you need to arm yourself with a good supply of boiled sweets. If you also like your confectionary to come in attractive packaging, may I suggest these fruity drops:


I really love this kind of old school packaging and as a plus, the tin would probably survive the bumpiest of road trips!

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year Trip

On Tuesday I went with my wife to visit her mother and grandparents in the southern region of Osaka called Kawachinagano. The area is fairy mountainous and had seen a lot of snowfall over the past week so looked very picturesque and it was a nice change from the urban landscape.

Snowy mountains.
While we were there we ate far too much food and my mother in law gave us a wonderful tea set from the Ippodo tea company which includes a much needed teapot for brewing green tea. About a year ago we visited the main Ippodo tea shop in Kyoto where you can sample many varieties of green tea and have a demonstration of the proper way of preparing it in their cafe.

New Year's food.
Ippodo tea.
We also stopped off at a traditional Japanese sweet shop while in Kawachinagano to buy presents. The people there were kind enough to give us a free gift of New Years plum tea which comes with a good luck fortune, surprisingly it was almost exactly the same as the one I had received with my Daruma monk a month ago! The plum tea was very salty and tasted more like soup than tea, it also had flecks of gold floating in it!

Plum tea.
I have enjoyed my first New Year in Osaka since moving here and am feeling positive about the year ahead, whatever it may bring! I am especially looking forward to the arrival of spring and the warm weather, despite it only having been cold here for about a month.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Industrial Action

For a while now I have wanted to get down to the dockside area of Osaka to take some photographs of the industrial landscape so the other day I hopped on my bicycle and headed east towards the port area.

The journey took around 45 minutes which lead me behind the Universal Studios theme park and through an increasingly industrial landscape with many factories. I took a number of photos around the base of the complex road system in the dock area and under the bridge which crosses to one of the islands.
A lonely view
I hope that structure's strong enough.
Pathways in the sky.
When I reached the bridge I found a spiraling pathway which leads up to road level. Halfway up I stopped to take photos of the view below when out of nowhere someone shouted something out which sounded to me like 'gaijin!!' (foreigner). As the area was very quiet and the voice sounded quite aggresive it was quite a shock and I started to panic thinking that maybe I had photographed someone doing something dodgy and they were coming after me (somewhat paranoid I know!). It did nothing for my nerves when I looked down the pathway and saw a group of 'youths' heading up in my direction. For a minute I thought 'Do I head down and face them or carry on further and over the bridge?'. I eventually decided to head down towards them, thinking that if I went fast enough on my bike I could zip past them.

My paranoia was proven unfounded however when I rounded the corner to face them as they looked more afraid of me than the other way round. Just a silly misunderstanding after all! By that point I had decided that I had had enough of the docks for one day and headed off home, I will be back though to finally cross that bridge!

That's a long way up!
unbelievably, that is a waste disposal centre!