October 04, 2007

Cheap drinks at Korakuen

So, we decided to head over to Tokyo Dome for the last game of the season. And being cheap, we opted for the beer garden although the game itself was probably sold out anyway.

Now, I think we are going enough to be regular customers...unfortunately the all-you-can-drink in two hour special was discontinued. I mean, really, how could they do that to me?

Despite that, we stayed longer than we usually do. And, of course, drank less. A beer is 680 yen, so it is still a bargain compared to Roppongi, right?

After that, we went to our customary second party spot, a pub in the LaQua complex next to Tokyo Dome. It has an outside deck, so it is cool. Even better, the bar was hosting all night happy hour to celebrate the end of the baseball season. Woo! Having no idea at the time, I had to ask twice how much the drinks cost because it was so cheap. 670 yen bought a scotch on the rocks and a jumbo-sized (=almost a pint) cuba libre.


The picture above was our only clue...I understand "sale", although "happy hour" would have made been more clear. In any case, that more than made up for the beer garden disapppointment. Sorry about the quality of the picture...I took it with my mobile phone.

Posted by Kirk at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2007

Busy weekend

OK...I know it has been a LONG LONG time since I updated this. I seem to write that sentence a lot, but this time I mean it. I got back from Thailand at the beginning of April and this is the middle of May. Well, what can I say? I have been busy.

I started going to language school again and there is not really too much to write about as a result. Hmm, maybe that is a poor excuse.

In any case, it has been an eventful weekend so let me tell you about it. On Friday, I went down to Zushi to look at apartments and I think I have found one...and maybe two. I am going to put an offer on one Monday. It is close to the beach, but cheap. It needs a lot of renovation, so it is perfect for me: why do something easily, when there is a difficult way to do it?

By the way, here are a few pictures of Zushi Beach. I love it down there, but you probably are well aware of that already.

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I will know by the end of the week whether I got the apartment. At the very least, I get to make another trip down there. I hope it is on Friday because I need to get into the routine of escaping the city for the weekend.

Last Friday was funny. After I left the real estate agent, I did not know whether to stay down in Zushi for dinner and a drink or two, or to come back to Tokyo. I had been speaking Japanese all day, so I did not really want to meet new people and chat, but all I had were schoolbooks, so I had nothing to occupy my attention while eating and drinking. So, I went for a drink anyway.

As soon as I ordered my beer, Jeremy called to see if I was up for dinner. That was cool, so I said I would head back to Tokyo right away. But, as I hung up the phone, a jazz musician came into the bar, set up and started playing. Now I was torn, because I could easily imagine myself spending a few hours listening to him. That is why I want to go back next Friday.

Moving oin, I went for a long bike ride Saturday...two hours at least, and that has to be the first time I really have done that. I felt great afterwards. But strangely, as I walked around my apartment later, I heard a loud "pop" from my knee and now it is a bit sore. Really, I hate getting old.

Despite the injury I worked through the pain and met Kaz and Kuniko to watch baseball at Tokyo Dome. The Giants were playing the Chunichi Dragons. Here are some pictures...I am sure you noticed there is not much baseball, but there are quite a few of the beer girls. They are amazing.

They carry a tank of beer on their back and go through the stands selling it. One of them told us that it weighs 13kg fully loaded and part of their salary depends on how many beers they sell...so they have to run around a bit. Lovely, energetic and they bring the beer right to your seat. Considering all that, I have to ask myself why I do not go to the baseball game everyday.

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Oh, by the way, the Tokyo Giants lost. In fact, by the time we had got to our seats they were already losing 3-0. But it was still fun for us. And Kaz taught me some interesting baseball terms in Japanese.

満塁(まんるい)means the "bases are loaded"。

And batting averages are described using 割り(わり)分(ぶ)厘(りん)。 Actually, one of my Japanese teachers had started to describe this but I did not understand at the time, so I asked Kaz to help me out. To give an example, a .321 batting average is 3割2分1厘。I am writing this here, because I know I will forget and I want to look it up again.

Well after the game, we had a light dinner at Torishige in Azabu Juban. It was very good and a nice way to end the evening.

So, how is that for a long entry?! I am really proud of myself.

Posted by Kirk at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

神楽坂まつり・Kagurazaka Festival





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Kagurazaka Festival

Friday was a good day. Usually, we go to lunch together after class and we did. After that, we went up to Iidabashi. There were a few reasons for this. First of all, Nichibei is moving there next month and we wanted to see what the new building looked like. It is OK. More importantly, Iidabashi has many more restaurants and cafes in the building near the station, including Choco Cro (!), Tinun and a bagel shop. I am really looking forward to it, even it means an extra ten minutes to get there every day.

There is also Kagurazaka close by, which is an awesome place. And it held its neighbourhood festival on Friday so we had our whole evening sorted out. Being students with our afternoons free, we got there way too early, so we spent some time drinking coffee and talking at Canal Cafe. I have written about that before, so no need to go into detail.

Although there were a lot of mosquitos. One of the guys in our class said he read that you could kill them by putting a ten-yen coin in a glass of water. I must have missed something because all that does is get a ten-yen coin wet.

Anyway, we headed over to the festival about 6pm and watched everyone singing and dancing, which you can see in the pictures above. We eventualy ended up in front of the convenience store where we could eat and drink cheaply (also pictured above).

The festival ended at 9pm, so we went to a karaoke place for a few hours. This is the second Friday in a row that we went to Kagurazaka for karaoke. It is becoming a disturbing tradition...as I do not sing very well. But it was FUN. Luckily (?), the place closed at 11pm so I got home at a decent hour. I could write about a million more things, but putting this into Japanese first has sapped all my energy. Sorry.

Posted by Kirk at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2006







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Posted by Kirk at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2006

Drinking with the monkeys

How cool is this? Yoko sent me this link...there is a beer garden at Takao-san, which is where the monkey park that inspired the name of this website is.


Takao-san Beer Garden

Takao-san is almost an hour away by train and in the mountains (well, the beginning of the mountains...foothills). Despite that, it is actually in Tokyo and this beer garden can claim to be the highest one in the city. Pretty impressive?

I think so - please check it out. I will.

Posted by Kirk at 07:46 AM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2006

Canal Cafe - Iidabashi





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Posted by Kirk at 07:00 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2006

China Cafe Eight and Shanghai Bar

Despite the bad weather, I have been going out most nights. Last night, I met Chiaki, Shiho and Ikuko for dinner at China Cafe Eight in Roppongi (across from the Grand Hyatt). The food was suprisingly good and very cheap, which would explain why it was almost impossible to get a table without a reservation.

The interior design is...interesting. I won't ruin the experience for you by describing it here, but Roppongi is a good location for it.

Keeping with the China theme, we popped over to Shanghai Bar for a few more drinks afterward. Not much to say about this - expensive drinks, and moderate service. You can't beat the location, however.

Posted by Kirk at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2006

And an old Tokyo favourite

I got back to Tokyo on Saturday morning. If I was worried that I had missed a key element of the weekend, my concern was soon moderated.

I met Nuala, Yoko and Yoko's friend Julien for dinner in Shibuya Jyu followed by a nightcap at Hub. I had assumed that would be the end of the night as it was getting late, but Melanie called Nuala and said she would be in Castillo later and that we should join.

And we did.

Castillo only plays 70s and 80s music and there is a serviceable dance floor at the back of the bar. The waitstaff has not changed in the six years I have been in Japan and you tend to run into a lot of people drifting through at various times (that means you Martin). It is good fun. By the way, this is the same place we went after Nuala's BBQ last summer and it was just as crazy then.

After several hestitant attempts at leaving, we finally did at 3am. Staying out that late is not the best way to get over the jet lag, but I did enjoy it.

Posted by Kirk at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

The Lovable Tramp (なつかしい風来坊)

We watched Yoji Yamada's "The Lovable Tramp" last night. It was made in 1966 and is one of his first movies. It was surprisingly good. He is a movie-making genius.

It was a struggle for me because the DVD copy I have does not include any English subtitles. I put the Japanese subtitles on in hopes this would help, but it was more distracting then anything else.

I wanted to write more about it, but I have to go to the embassy this morning and have some documents certified. Lovely...

Posted by Kirk at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2006

Almost six years and I still see things that blow my mind

I saw a strange thing tonight. I was on my way home after attending some work-related event at Roppongi Hills. This took me along Roppongi Dori around 930pm. It is Monday night, but the street was fairly crowded as it usually is.

Anyway, I end up walking slightly behind this woman pushing a baby stroller. She is in a hurry. When I look over at her, I realise she is very young and my first reaction is she could not be more than fifteen or sixteen. Of course, lots of expats have a hard time with guessing ages here (it is usually a good policy is to not even try).

Unencumbered by a baby stroller, I soon passed by the woman despite her obvious rush. I glanced over at the baby as I moved forward and that was when I almost fell over/ran into someone etc.

Because it wasn't a baby. It was a baby-sized Hello Kitty doll.

Posted by Kirk at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2005

Thanks for the tequila shot Thomas

Another week, another sayonara party. This was a spontaneous, last-minute sort of thing, but a lot of people came and that was good. Fortunately, one of my colleagues Thomas bought a few rounds of shots (one was tequila...not sure what the other one was), so that I could feel extra good today. Thanks for that. And there are no pictures...I thought I had left my camera at home, but when I checked this morning it was in my backpack all along. Of course, that is probably best.

I was up at 7am this morning, which is baffling. Why does that happen?

Posted by Kirk at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

November 23, 2005

Kagurazaka rocks!

I added a few pictures to the photo gallery. Click here (nightlife) to see them.

On Monday night, a few of us headed off to Kagurazaka for dinner and drinks. For those of you who are familiar with Tokyo, you will know that this area is well known for its concentration of good bars and restaurants. We had a fantastic dinner and ended the night at a super cool bar. In between, there was an expensive disappointment. All-in-all, it was a really good night.

We started off at Seigetsu, a sake bar/izakaya just off the main street. The food was superb, although we did not try the sake (I foolishly thought I would be taking it easy - more on that later). Plus, it is a very nice setting with semi private rooms so you are not distracted by the other guests. Unless they are loudly yelling "ROPPONGI!" or "AKASAKA".

We actually had dinner twice as our first group (me, Yoko, wataru and Markus) had finished by the time the second group (Jan and Masa) had arrived. After that, we decided to check out Nonki, which had a nice picture on their website and I had seen a decent review of it on the Internet. I am not going to link to either, because you might be fooled like we were. I am tempted to find the blog of the guy who said it was good and let him know what a complete idiot he must be, but I should have known better. We spent Y12,000 for six drinks and some dodgy snack food. And it was cold and a little musty. We all told ourselves it was a good experience, but than we quickly moved on.

We finished the evening off at Tagore (ターゴル) on Kagurazaka near Iidabashi station. How cool is this place? Well, there was a giant monkey mural in front (!), big comfortable tables inside (!!) and they also have Denki Bran (!!!). I was quite happy...at least until Tuesday morning when I had to ask myself why I was waking up to go to work with a Denki Bran hangover for the second time in two weeks.

That is us in front of Tagore Bar below (except Yoko...she was taking the picture). On the right...the entrance to Seigetsu.

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Kagurazaka is on my list of cool places to go...I hope we get back there soon. And I hope if I drink Denki Bran it is not on a weekday night.

Posted by Kirk at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

Hanezawa Garden - closing soon

We went to Hanezawa Garden on Thursday. It is an amazing place, occupying 10,000m of prime property between Ebisu and Hiroo (which also makes it very inconvenient to get to...adds to the exclusivity!). I read somewhere that it was built for the head of the Japanese railways during World War II. They did a good job, it is a beautiful place. There are both indoor and outdoor restaurants and all of it is very well done.

We sat outside on the terrace, which was very nice (well, maybe it was a little cold), among the trees and the torches. It was easy to forget you were smack in the middle of one of the world's largest cities.

The occassion was bittersweet - saying goodbye after five years to some of my original colleagues in Japan. I will not post any pictures this time, my poor photography skills were not helped at all by the drinking we did.

I am glad we went, because Hanezawa Garden will close down next month. If you have a chance, you should head over there before it goes. There are not many places like that left in Tokyo. I will miss it.

Posted by Kirk at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

Kamiya Bar - Asakusa

I have added some pictures in the photo album. Go here and click on nightlife.

We tried a different night out for a change, heading to Asakusa for dinner and drinks. Our first stop was the famous Kamiya Bar at Asakusa 1-1-1. Here are some representative photos...

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The Kamiya Bar has been there for over one hundred years and I read that it was the first Western-style Bar in Tokyo (not sure about that, but read on). Besides its great location (for Asakusa, not for people coming from Roppongi/Akasaka), it is best known for its signature drink, Denki Bran (that is what you see on the right above).

What I found out the morning after is that this is a mix of gin, rum and brandy with some herbs thrown in. If I had known that before, I might not have been so eager to keep ordering them!

But that is what we did.

The bar itself looks like a cafeteria and you had to buy tickets for your first order at the register. And the place was well-lit...this is where I am at odds with the Western-style comments above.

As pictures are worth a thousand words, I will let them tell the story. That is Chiaki, Yoko and Ikuko in the first picture. Yoko has bought a digital camera, but she uses it as a weapon waiting for people (me) to do something embarassing and recording it for posterity. I do not like the competition. The next picture is Take and Wataru enjoying some of that fine Denki Bran. After that, an idealised view of the bar with the boys in front.

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We actually arrived in three groups. The first six of us were the early birds and we built up a substantial (and insurmountable) head start in drinking. Jan (that is him below in the new advertising campaign we designed), Mineka and Michika arrived later, and Tomoko and Nuala were so late they missed last call!

Of course, that meant another bar so that their trip to Asakusa was not in vain. I am not sure what that place was, but it did have a food vendor in front, which seemed pretty cool...that's Chiaki and Ikuko taking advantage.

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It was a fantastically good night. I even slept on the train on the way home!

Posted by Kirk at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2005

Sayonara Glenn

Glenn made his almost final farewells Friday night. I say "almost" because I expect to get out with him one more time before he heads back to England. Hobgoblin Roppongi was sayonara party headquarters, and (strangely for Tokyo) we stayed there the entire night.

I should mention straightaway that there was a great turnout. I bet there were at least fifty people at one time or another! What can you say - Glenn is a popular guy. On the left, you can see he is getting into the swing of things...to the right, it looks like he has finally realised I brought my camera! Actually, I did not get my camera out until late, so what you see below are pictures of the ones strong enough to carry on all night.

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Which is what we did! The barstaff had to kick us out so that they could close. Fortunately, reason prevailed and instead of a move to the next bar, we all went for ramen instead. It was a fantastically good night and it is safe to say Glenn is leaving on a high note.

Of course that is standard for a Friday night in Tokyo...are you sure you want to leave Glenn? (insert your own "expect you to be back" metaphor here - I can't think of any good ones right now). And make sure to keep checking back here to see what you are missing out on!

Posted by Kirk at 05:26 PM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2005

Making up for lost time

First things first...

Sayonara Emma and Jeremy! Safe trip back to London and I am looking forward to seeing you in December. As you may recall, they had their leaving drinks on Wednesday. Here are a few pictures from that. On the left: the lovely couple...on the right, is a not-so-well done group picture. Sorry about that.

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We went to Aux Bacchanales in Ark Hills and sat outside. It was almost perfect weather (it did get a little chilly at the end) and about fifteen-twenty people showed up at various times over the evening. It was great fun. I should be writing more about it, but mornings are the only time I have to write and with j** l** (I said I would not mention it), I am not at my best.

Last night, I met Howie and Kaz for a few drinks at Heartland in Roppongi Hills. It was not very busy for a Thursday night. I prefer it that way, so it was a good night out. Howie and I pushed on to a few other places to see if we could find where everyone was hiding, but the whole town seemed empty. I was camera free, so no pictures this time. Considering the declining quality of photos, it is obvious that the camera needed a rest.

Posted by Kirk at 07:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2005

Mexican food, pool and MORE leaving drinks

It was my first night out since getting back (OK, it was my first night back). After work, I went with Yoko and Michika for dinner - we had Mexican food. I am not sure why I had that after being away from Japan for a month - you would think that something Japanese would be more appropriate. Not thinking straight, I guess.

After dinner we met Jan and Delon from the office and went to play pool. Again, this is probably not what I was missing in my time away. First of all, I am absolute crap and I overwhelmingly proved it. And, there seems to be better ways to spend my time than making a fool of myself (not that you would guess).

I am not posting any pictures - none of them came out very well. You are off the hook, Michika.

Anyway, tonight is Emma and Jeremy's leaving drinks. They have been in Japan for three and a half months because Emma was transfered over here from London to help out. I imagine her boss finally found this blog and saw how much fun she was having and decided to call an end to it. It is too bad, because they are good fun and they seem to belong here. If you know them and want to say goodbye, drop me an e-mail and I will tell you where we are meeting up. If you do not know them, you can catch the post-party review here tomorrow.

Posted by Kirk at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2005

The Tokyo Film Festival is coming soon!

You would think with an early start every day in London (7am) that I would use the weekend to sleep late...but I was up at 630am. I seem to be caught in this vicious circle. I went to sleep at 10pm or 1030pm last night...I am not sure which. When I got back to the hotel, I could not decide what I should do, so I did what I always do when I have to make a decision: I fell asleep.

tiff_index_02.JPG Anyway, the coffee place near the hotel does not open until 8am, so I played around on the Internet and, to my pleasant surprise, found the site for this year's Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF). I have been meaning to look this up as it happens every October, but had not made the effort, so it is good that I found it now.

It runs from 22-30 October...tickets on sale from 3 October. There are a few James Dean (50th Anniversary) films, which would be fantastic to see on the big screen, old Japanese films, and a ton of films from Asia and Europe. It should be good.

Who likes movies? Who is coming with me?

Posted by Kirk at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005

Last barbecue of the summer

We had a barbecue last night. Unfortunately, it looks like the last summer fun before I leave Japan on my next business trip. But there was a good turnout (thanks for coming!), tons of food and drink (too much, my refrigerator is full!), and good fun.

On the left is Glenn's daughter Alex and Jeremy and Mina's daughter Calyn. I love that picture. On the right, you can see Ryo, Yoko, Alex and Reiko.
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Here is Glenn, Mario and myself. Leigh had better things to do than turn for the photo (well, maybe we did not tell him) and Alex is off to the right looking happy. That is Yoko and Chiaki on the right...if you read this blog regularly, maybe you are getting to know them.
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This is Kaz with Chihiro and Reiko in front ofthe barbecue. I hope that they were having fun...Kaz looks a bit surprised here. And on the right, Kaz with Chiaki and Kuniko. I should tell you that Kaz did all the barbecuing. I had told myself I should do this, but I kept running around. He did a good job - everyone was happy with the food. Maybe I should let him do that all the time! Let me know if you quit your day job, Kaz.

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I kicked everyone out at 10pm so I could go watch the football, which was rude of me (I apologise), but better on my head this morning. I went with Tom and Tim over to Legends, where we met up with Peter and his parents. Tim kept calling over the Japanese guys to meet Peter's mom. That was pretty funny, although maybe she (and Peter's dad!) did not think so. I (sensibly) left my camera at home, so you will have to trust me on this.

Posted by Kirk at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2005

One last Hayama Day

If you want to skip straight to the pictures, please access the photo album here and look at the album "Hayama 2"

We went to Hayama again on Saturday. As expected it was a really good time. I went down at noon, but that turned out to be two hours earlier than the next arrivals. It gave me time to get chairs and umbrellas, change into beach wear, and relax for a bit. See...doesn't this look nice:
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Yoko, Michika and John were the first to show up, and they were followed soon after by Tomoko, Nanako, Emma and Jeremy. Actually, the fog showed up first, which most people on the beach thought was strange, but having seen this in Hokkaido and Karuizawa for a better part of a week, I was not surprised at all. I had implied Kaz was the cause of this in Hokkaido, but fog at the beach when it is 30 degress is pretty solid evidence that I am the one at fault. Here is the evidence to prove it:
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Fortunately, Shiho and Chiaki arrived and the fog disappeared. (How did they do that?) Leigh, Carol, Kinuko and her new boyfriend also arrived to round out the group.

I will give you some of the highlights of our time on the beach:
* Shiho is always smiling - she is also a good swimmer (no pictures of that, sorry)
* Chiaki was also smiling a lot...she did not go swimming though, so I could get plenty of pictures of her
* Michika is always swimming - she grew up in Shonan, so this is all familiar to her
* John and I tried bodysurfing...that was fun!
* Tomoko and Nanako rented a air mattress and swam out to the floating markers. I tried to follow but the water was surprisingly cold once you got past the breaking waves.
* Leigh and Carol seemed to be talking a lot about work
* Emma and Jeremy read and napped
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We had to give all our beach kit back at 5pm, so we moved over to the Blue Moon for the evening's entertainment. We managed to get a table and 14 chairs, so that worked out OK. Here is a photo of the girls checking out the fancy bracelets they gave us for paying our cover charge. And again, we had a quality table. This is the sunset from our table...I am posting the best picture, taken by Yoko with her cell phone. Isn't this a great shot? She is a genius!
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Having our evening location sorted, a few of us walked down the beach. I love that. Sure enough, we ran into a group of people burying one of their friends (there is a picture in the album). This time it was sand (last month it was seaweed). If anyone can tell me why they do this, I would like to know!

We also were chastised by one of the police officers who told us not to take any pictures of him or the walls/trees of the Imperial summer home. He didn't confiscate any of our cameras, so maybe he was not too serious about it. Or maybe he was lazy.

Back at the Blue Moon, the music act was marginal, but the drinks were flowing more freely, and that is what was important. They did not do so well with the food, but that seemed less important as the night went on. This should give you a better idea.
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We saved the real excitement for the end. The bar closed at 1045pm, presumably leaving plenty of time to catch the last train at 1130pm. That is important...a taxi ride back to Tokyo would be hundreds of dollars (ten thousands of yen). Unfortunately, when we got to the raod, it took 5-10 minutes just to get the taxi company on the phone. And when we did, all they could promise is that they would do their best. Eventually, one taxi showed up, but we needed two...so half us remained on the road by the beach. I kept thinking "ok, as long as it comes in the next five minutes, we will be OK". When the five minutes was up, I would think "ok...if it comes in the next two minutes.." and so on.

Anyway, with 15 minutes before the last train, the rest of us were able to get a taxi. And we made it to the station with a minute to spare...whew! On the left is Yoko on the train...she must be relieved that she was not stranded with me in Hayama! That's the rest of us on the right. I kept joking around about sleeping on the beach, but it seemed less funny the closer it got to 1130pm. Anyway - all is well that ends well. And we another great day at the beach.
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Posted by Kirk at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

Tasogare Seibei

I have been taking it easy since I got back from Hokkaido. I am still on this crazy schedule of going to sleep before midnight and waking up before 7am...maybe that is what I should do all of the time?

It rained last night, and as I had nothing to do, I watched a DVD that I bought a few months ago but had never got around to opening. The movie is Tasogare Seibei (Twililght Samurai) and it was very very good! You should rent it...or let me know and I will lend you the DVD.

The movie is about a low-ranked samurai in the era just before the Meiji Restoration. It was directed by Yoji Yamada, who has been making movies for 30 years (or something like that), and stars Hiroyuki Sanada and Rie Miyazawa. It was nominated for an academy award in the US for best foreign language film and won 15 awards in Japan. I won't go into any more of the details...you should watch it yourself.

Posted by Kirk at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

They rocked us!

We went to see the Queen/Ben Elton musical "We Will Rock You" at Shinjuku Koma Stadium last night. Simply put, it was awesome. I am usually not a big fan of musicals, but I liked this one. It might be that the music is well-known, which did help.

More importantly, the acting, singing, script etc were all first rate. It was a lot of fun - they put together an outrageous story and sprinkled in a lot of humour to show that they were not taking themselves too seriously. I hardly realised that three hours had gone by. Even more surprising was how much the audience got into the show. In my (admittedly limited) experience with concerts in Japan, the audience is extremely quiet, but not here.

Chihiro organised everything (thanks!) and Reiko and Ando-san joined us. After the show, we went to Hibiki in Shinjuku for a late dinner and more chat. Reiko was laughing at me because I ordered a lemon sour. She says it is a kids' drink. It was dark, so maybe she did not notice how young I am (ha ha - that would be the alcohol talking). As with the show, we completely lost track of the time and missed the last train. Fortunately, home was an easy taxi ride away. It was a very good night.

Anyway, the show ends on 24 August - if you want to have a fun night out, try to catch it in the next week. It is well worth it.

Posted by Kirk at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2005

Nuala's excellent BBQ

Nuala had a barbecue on Saturday and it was great fun. It was also the (latest) introduction of her nieces (Clare and Anna) to Tokyo. They were surprisingly compatible with a bunch of almost middle-aged expats who think they are ten years younger.

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Anyway, the whole barbecue thing was touch and go for awhile as a rare August thunderstorm was the first guest to arrive on time. It was 520pm and the sky opened up. We had a spectacularly cool thunder and lightning display - at one point, it seemed less than a kilometre away! - before clearing up.

I should have written this up on Sunday instead of poking around my apartment doing nothing, so I will stick to the highlights instead:

* Zombie punch...Nuala's nieces mixed a couple of batches of this up. The first try looked like green pea soup, but tasted great. The second try looked more like punch, but...well, it also tasted good, but I think I had lowered my punch-tasting standards by then.
* Laura's BBQ sauce...she was mixing this up at one point and I was doing my typical "stand in the kitchen and mock people while not doing anything myself routine". I could not get enough of it later. The secret ingredient is apparently Chipotle Tabasco.
* Yoko's lasagna...I have been waiting to try this for weeks, and wondered if I ever would. Yoko left the office early on Friday and I was giving her a hard time, especially when she said she might not go to the BBQ. I feel bad now. Yoko also dressed for the occasion in a very nice kimono (see the picture on the right below!). I think she was slightly overheated because she kept drinking a lot (ha ha - I am joking!)
* Richard's music selection...because Nuala's nieces are apparently crap at selecting music.
* Floor dancing...Clare and Anna would have us believe that dancing in a sitting position actually happens. Seems to me I had not drank enough to need to dance sitting down (that's the actual dance on the left)

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Anyway, sometimes everything works together really well. There was good food, drink and nice people in ample measures. I had a great time.

Eventually, the rain came back (no thunder, unfortunately), which was our signal to move to the second party. So, most of us jumped into taxis and headed to Roppongi for part II of the evening. After a quick drink at Mogumbo's (not quite my scene), we popped next door to Castillo's. They must have known we were coming because they gave us the prime tables next to the fog machine and Coors beer vending machine.

Nuala thought this was a good opportunity to show everyone how I can spin around in circles until I pass out. As you can imagine that was exactly what I was hoping for.

The best part at Castillo was the 70s man...here is a picture of him chatting up one of the birds with us (on the left) and of Clare taking his props and showing us some of her funky Warrington dance moves. Someday when she is married with children, she will pay me lots of money to remove this from the Internet. Until then, please enjoy!
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I know there was tons more that happened and worth writing about, but I was too lazy yesterday, and I am already late to work today. So, this will have to do.

Thanks for a great party Nuala!

For now, I have posted the pictures in the photo album under "Nuala's BBQ".

Posted by Kirk at 02:18 PM | Comments (2)

Kamiyacho Festival

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After work on Friday, I headed down to Kamiyacho for its annual Summer festival. This is not one of the big celebrations in Tokyo, but it does have some meaning because I used to work in the neighborhood. Suprisingly, in the five years our office was there, I never went. You could say I was making up for lost time.

I met Mark, a friend who still works in Kamiyacho, and the staff of the local Dotour Coffee Shop (that is them on the left). 11aug 017.jpg It was good to see them again - I probably went for coffee three times a day when I worked there and there were always so friendly.

As for the festival, it was hot (of course), but there was plenty of cheap beer (¥300!) to help regulate the temperature. And for entertainment, there was a band, although that is using the term loosely. Their first song was A-ha's "Take on me" and it only took 30 seconds to realise that was what they were playing.

The festival finished at 830pm, but we stayed around for a few more drinks at one of the Kamiyacho locals, Brussels Bar. Just when we were thinking of moving on, there was a terrific downpour - and that kept us drinking for another hour. If I was smart, I would have went home then.

But, we had decided early on to go to a jazz bar in Roppongi, so that is what we did. Unfortunately, at midnight, the music was finished for the day. In fact, the bar was empty. The did have plenty of scotch and shochu, however, which seemed reason enough to hang out for awhile. The bar is Jazz House Alfie, near Azabu Police Station, and it is a cool place to go. I recommend you try it when there is music, but if you go later, at least try the Tantakatan shochu. And drink plenty of water so you do not have a hangover the next morning.

Check out some pictures in the photo album under "Nightlife".

Posted by Kirk at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

That boy sure can drink

Another Tuesday, another night out. I met Glenn for a few drinks at Legends in Roppongi. Well...more than a few drinks maybe. He has been in England, so we had not had a chance to catch up in awhile. I think we have got that sorted out now.

Anyway, we managed to run into a few people from the office: That's Tomoko and Kinuko in front, Jan is in the back, and Glenn is the one jumping around behind the girls. Anyway, once they arrived the night turned into a mini-party. It was a lot of fun.

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As you can see from the picture on the right, Kaz also stopped by for a pint or two. That good-looking woman on the other side is Kinuko. For some reason, we went absolutely mad with the camera...I ended up with 50 pictures, which is one reason why I took so long to post this. I could not decide which pictures to publish.

Here are some of Tomoko with various people. She is very photogenic, isn't she? Tom could not make it because he was working. I should apologise to him...we made Tomoko call him even though he was stuck at the office and we were out having a good time (sorry tom). But that is OK, because he will come out Saturday...whether he wants to or not. (right Tomoko?)

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When the dust settled, only Glenn and I were left. So, we had a few more drinks. The waitress came and sat with us for awhile once she finished, but then she ran off to someone's Sayonara Party.

As for Glenn, no matter how fast I down a pint, he always has an empty glass in front of him. I do not know why I try and compete. Can't be the hangovers that eventually follow.

Posted by Kirk at 07:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2005

Jeremy and Mina have a party

I got my hanabi (fireworks) fix tonight. It was the annual Jingu fireworks show, so Jeremy and Mina had a small party. I went over there with Chihiro - it was good fun.

We had an almost perfect view from their awesome terrace, although someone had apparently built a new high-rise sometime in the last year that managed to obstruct some of the view. As a result, the fireworks that went off low were more of a glow on the horizon than anything else. Still, the show went on for almost an hour - so we had plenty to see. I tried to take some quality pictures, but I am not very good at that: do not let the shot below fool you - it was very impressive.

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And there was plenty of good food and drink. You can see Jeremy on the right in his Indonesian kit showing off by the barbecue. We also had some fantastic curry and a few bottles of wine. I was amazed that they put all this together on a Monday.

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Of course, that was just the beginning. After the fireworks, there was dancing (Jeremy and Calin) and story-time (Mina and Calin). She was still going strong when Chihiro and I left, which is a bit embarassing in a way. My first defense would be she could sleep all day, but let's face it - so could I. Out-partied by a one-year old...I hope no one finds out about that!

Jeremy/Mina - thanks for the party - I enjoyed it.

Posted by Kirk at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2005

Football, rugby and Swanky - a good night out

We got a full night of entertainment packed in! We started with the football, extended to rugby and finished with a nightcap at Bar Swanky. It was all very cool.

Football: Jubilo Iwata v Bayern Munchen, National Stadium
This has been on the agenda for a few weeks now. You may remember that we were able to procure some discount tickets from the company. Bayern Munchen won 3-1, but the scoreline flattered their performance.

30july 010 edited.JPG I went with Leigh and Kaz. It was very nice to be out - the temperature had cooled down and the lines for beer were not very long. Even better, they had vendors coming around to sell you more beer later. Its been awhile since I have seen that. We had decent seats as well, which is good. But we were not really close enough for my camera. This guy sitting next to me had this fancy set-up with the long focus lens - looks like he had spent some serious dosh on it. I thought he was being extravagant, but a look at my pictures afterwards made me think he had the right idea.

The game was exciting too, at least the first part. After all the players lined up and had their pictures taken, the game ball was dropped by a helicopter onto the pitch. That was not the exciting part, I just thought I would mention it.

Rather, Jubilo Iwata seemed to rise to the challenge and secured an early lead, which they held until BM were awarded a penalty early in the second half. When they failed to convert, the ref gave them another chance. This was in the far goal, so I cannot claim to have seen the whole thing, but I didn't like it. That seemed to take the energy out of the home side.

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In fact, the quality of play in the second half was not so good. You had 18 guys meandering around mid-field waiting for the clock to run out. Every so often, someone would punt the ball upfield and a striker would run after it. It must have been too hot for the players. If that is true, I cannot imagine what it was like for this guy (this is the mascot for the Year of Germany in Japan - not sure if this is a mouse or what it represents).

Rugby: Australia v South Africa, Clubhouse Bar/Shinjuku 3-chome
After the football, we headed up to this place to watch the rugby on TV. They certainly treated us right: when we came in, all the tables were full, but they managed to make some space for us by moving some people around. Fortunately, it was one of the best tables for watching the television. We were pleased.

The food was suprisingly good and the atmosphere was a nice change from the usual Roppongi sports bar. Actually, maybe the atmosphere was the same, but the faces were different. I am not sure. I think everyone in the bar was supporting Australia except Leigh and a Kiwi at one of the tables near ours. South Africa ended up the winners and the place cleared out soon after that.

Bar Swanky - Akasaka 2-chome
Leigh and I took a taxi back to Akasaka after the rugby. As we got out, Leigh noticed two things: 1) it was not midnight yet; 2) there was a bar in the building the taxi driver let us out at. And that was Bar Swanky, which I have been to a few times and really like. What can I say...we had to go in.

I tried to find an Internet site for this place, but there are hundreds of links to places described as swanky (Shinjuku Park Hyatt/Lost in Translation/Roppongi Hills) and I could not wade through all of them. They are only pretenders to being swanky.

Anyway, you take an elevator to the ninth floor and when you come out there is a doormat that says Swanky and a smoky mirror with the same. Inside, it is tastefully decorated (swanky?) and there is a surprisingly good view looking out towards Roppongi. It was a good way to end the evening. Bar Swanky is very cool.

By the way, it is in the same building as the Starbucks on Roppongi Dori (next to Akasaka Twin Towers). WHen you see a blue sign with a penguin you know you have found the right place!

Posted by Kirk at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2005

Finally a night out

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After months (well, ok, a little more than a week) of working late, I finally had a night off last night. So, I met Richard for a few drinks. As tribute to the fantastic weather, we opted for an outside venue and went to Legends Sports Bar in Roppongi.

They actually have a very clever set up. Legends and Hobgoblin are in the same building and run by the same people. The British can go to the pub (Hobgoblin) and drink warm pints, play darts and watch the football. The Americans can go to the sports bar, drink light beer and watch basketball. Clever, right?

Actually, the football was on at Legend...more about that later. (Preyash - sorry for calling you to say I was watching it when you were working too much on your last night in Japan - it was a crap game anyway).

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Anyway, it was good to see Richard as we had not met up for awhile. In fact, I think the last time I saw him was his barbecue back in May, before my business trip. So, we had a lot to catch up on:
("you all right?" "yeah...you?" "yeah, good..." "...another round?")

We ran into a few people while we there, as you do. First up was Martin and Dave (you can see Martin in the picture on the right - and that is Richard on the far left). Dave used to know Richard's brother when he worked in London (small world!) Also, there was a small earthquake, which rattled the glasses a little. And that got us talking about the Hanshin earthquake back in 1995, as most of those guys had been in Japan at that time.

Later, we met Chisato and Lisa, the good looking girls trapped by Richard and Martin in the photo. Chisato (on the right) is an opera singer, but we could not get her to demonstrate. But, we are waiting for the CD! Lisa (on the left)is working to be a translator (thankfully, as my Japanese is awful). I am pretty sure her English is better than mine too.

Posted by Kirk at 08:43 AM | Comments (1)

July 24, 2005

Sayonara Preyash 2

This is kind of a misleading title as we (Leigh, Nuala, Melanie and myself) only sat next to Preyash's fifth sayonara party and were not directly involved. But we did make it to Grape Gumbo despite the earthquake and it was fantastic.

First a word or two on how we got there. Yesterday's earthquake had a lot of implications. First, the elevators in my building were not working. I really have a much better appreciation for how high up I live, not just from the shaking, but from the 15 flights of stairs I went down to get out. All I could think as I climbed down was how awful it was going to be if they were still out when I returned.

Even better, many of the subway and train lines were not working. To rub salt in the wound, that meant that there were fewer available taxis. And it seemed the ones we did see were not interested in picking up a few foreigners. As a result, we were late.

But it was worth it. As I may have mentioned before, I like this restaurant. The food is very good and the wine selection is awesome. I like the spicy duck...it is unbelievably tasty, but truly most anything you order is going to satisfy you.

Even if the food had been poor, it would have been a classic night out because Melanie is one of the funniest people in the world and all sorts of strange things happen to her. It is a good combination.

For example: if you were thinking of buying the new Jack Welch (super ex-CEO) book on management tips, don't...it is complete rubbish. And if you insist you have to read it, you should go the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Lost and Discarded Book Center. They are still after Melanie to come get her copy which she thought she had safely binned (next time take your meishi out before leaving it in a toilet stall). Anyway, there are probably plenty of copies there for you to claim.

By the way, Preyash had another great night. Check out the comments on the last post and you will see that he was out until 4am AGAIN. Why his long-suffering wife puts up with that behaviour is a mystery! (just kidding Preyash - i know you only go out late twice every eighteen months).

Sorry - no pictures this time.

Posted by Kirk at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2005

Sayonara Preyash - Part 1

Last night, we took Preyash out for his farewell dinner. I think he has had four or five of these now, so that in itself is nothing special, but I did happen to be invited to this one (!) so it is worth mentioning. We had hoped to go to Grape Gumbo, but it was all booked up, so we reverted to Plan B, which was Cicada in Nishi Azabu.

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This is Preyash with two of his clients, Sean and Peter. Do you think he looks a bit nervous? I had already warned him that the camera would be out tonight, and if you remember from a previous post, I intended to get some memorable pictures of the evening! So, he had every reason to be! Leigh was also with us, but I could not get him to move over, so he will remain hidden from sight for now.

Anyway, the food is good (the portuguese style spicy chicken was fantastic) and the staff were careful to keep the wine flowing at a regular rate. The link above gives the place a lot of kudos, and I would generally agree. For some reason, however, they could not decide whether to give us more bread or not, so they would bring a basket, set it down and then take it away. If you can deal with that, you should go sometime.

Foolishly, I had thought this would be the entire evening and expected to have an early Friday. As you can imagine, I was sadly mistaken (like I usually am). After agreeing that one more drink would be a good idea, we headed over to Amyrta bar near Nishi Azabu crossing for a night cap.
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I am pretty sure that spelled the name of the bar wrong as I could not find an Internet site using that version. But I do have a good excuse in that the first three years I was in Tokyo I had known it as the "air con" bar, because of the big AC units lined up on the sidewalk next to it. In fact, it is famously hard to find as it is off the main street and down a small corridor and the only way we could find it is too look for those AC units: "is it down there?" "no, I can't see the aircon units" "better walk a little farther up the street then"

As you can see from the pictures, we had a good time. The bar was hopping when we arrived, but after twenty minutes or so they found us a table. In the sense I wanted to get home early, this was not a good thing, but it was certainly more comfortable. And the so-called "just one drink" turned into three or four (I was not really keeping track after awhile).

We nicked the stylish hat from one of the girls in the bar and handed it to Preyash, who immediately put it on. Pretty cool, don't you think? I certianly know what I am getting him for Christmas!. I probably would not have published this picture except he kept telling me, "hey, come on...it is only 12am" (or 1am...or 2am). So this is what you get for reminding me of the time.

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To summarise the rest of the night: Preyash had a cigar (see his suave lighting technique above) and we talked for awhile with these girls at the table next to ours. From left to right is Mari, Nao, and Nori. Aren't they lovely? The crazy stalker man on the right is, of course, Preyash. They are from Chiba, which is pretty far away from central Tokyo, and were in town for a full night out (meaning all night as the trains stop at midnight and do not run again until 5am).

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Eventually, it was 3am and I saw this guy, who was looking like I felt. How he could sleep like that is beyond me. I felt terrible because I really should have stayed out later, but I was running on fumes. And Preyash reminded me that of all the time he was in Japan we had never had a big night out.

But I had mixed beer, wine and mojitos over the course of the night (not in the same glass, but you know what I mean) and I was feeling a bit giddy. So, we finished our drinks, said goodbye to the birds and headed off home. It was still dark when we left, which was a small sign that I had some self-control left...I was quite pleased to get home and asleep before the sun came up as I could still say I had an early night.

By the way, I called this Part 1, because I will see Preyash again tonight, this time at Grape Gumbo, one of the great Tokyo restaurants.

Here is a few more pictures to round out the evening...on the left is Leigh at Cicada. On the right is Sean with Mari and Yukiko.
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Posted by Kirk at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2005

Ooops I did it again

What is it about summer? I get down on my knees and pray for a reason to go out in the winter but no one will. Crank up the temperature a few degrees and everyone is out.

Actually, this is one of the benefits of living in Asia - time works differently here. Most places in the world have some unwritten rule that you cannot make plans after 6pm. Anyway, I was at the office until 915pm...instead of going home, I called Dominik and sure enough he is out. I met him and Jeremy and a few others at Ex-Bar.

After that, we intended to go to Hills Cafe, but it had closed...for good (more about that later). So, we ended up at Heartland in Roppongi Hills. Still with me? While we are there, I meet the ex-boyfriend of one of my colleagues and one of the girls I met at the beach in Sarushima last weekend.

Good fun! I wanted to take some pictures but Horst at Ex-Bar snapped my picture when I went in there (sober!) and it looked so awful I swore I would not get my camera out. It is 1230 now and I just got home. Overall, I thought I would work late and come home...instead, I went out, met a bunch of people and tied one on. Whew...better get to sleep.

Posted by Kirk at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Best Italian in Tokyo?

I was out for dinner at Elio's in Hanzomon tonight. It could possibly be the best Italian restaurant in Tokyo. Everytime I go there, I swear to myself that I should be eating there everyday.

I stayed with the basics tonight...penne alla'arrabiata for a starter and a nice sirloin with balsamic for the main course. We finished off with parmesan and a cappucino. I want to say the portions are just the right size, but I could have had two or three other things on the menu. It is just that good.

I thought there would be a nice picture on the website to stick into this entry, so I did not take my own. But there is not, so you get stuck with the boring text-only entry for now.

By the way, they also do a reasonable lunch menu and the fast service means you do not have to make excuses when you get back to the office late. Lunch or dinner...you need to get over there.

Posted by Kirk at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

The return of Matt

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So...here we are, Thursday night. And it's another good night! Tonight was the return of Matt to Japan. He lived here for some god-awful amount of time (16 years?!), but went four years ago with his lovely wife to England. And now he is back..

We all met up at Hobgoblin Akasaka. I won't go into the details, mostly because I drank a lot! Anyway, on the left...Matt with Andy. On the right, Matt with Paul. Maybe tomorrow I will expand on this. For now...yikes, need some sleep.

UPDATE: was supposed to be a quick drink or two and turned into most of the evening! Anyway, I used to work with Matt and Paul when I first arrived in Japan. So, we spent a lot of time talking about where all of our former colleagues have gone, what they are doing etc. We also talked a bit about where to live after leaving Japan. Funnily enough, all those places have warm weather and beaches!

Posted by Kirk at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Ex-Bar - a Tokyo institution

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Tonight was a good night. I met up with some friends at Ex-Bar. If you have been in Tokyo any time at all, you know about this long-time Roppongi favourite. The respectable, handsome gentleman in the picture on the right is Horst, owner of Ex-Bar and a long-time Tokyo native (if you ever there check out all the pictures on the walls...he has been here for a long and very fun time!)

Anyway, it is truly the local's local. Everyone I see when I visit has been going there for years and they all know each other. After one night with the massive quantities of great food, sport on the TV and Unterberg to wash it down, one can understand why the regulars swear by it. Anyway, I do not spend enough time there. It is a good place.

That dodgy man in the picture on the left is Dominic, also a Tokyo institution, but enough about that. And to fill in the details on the other picture, the angry aggressive German is Thomas. I am the one on the left that seems unaware a picture is being taken (even though I had given up the camera two seconds before that).

Ex-Bar is highly recommended. If you can't make it, you can always chec