Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Old Mitsui Family Shimogamo Villa

If you feel like seeing something historic in Kyoto but not temples, shrines or castles, the Old Mitsui Family Shimogamo Villa is an option.  It sits in the south of the Shimogamo Shrine. 

The three-story wooden villa shows a good example of classical Japanese residence built by a wealthy family in the Meiji and Taisho eras.  The main part of the building dates back to 1880 and was moved to the current location when the villa was built in 1925. 

A watchtower is located on the 3rd floor  It is normally closed and is occasionally opened to the public for a limited time.  The stairs to the watchtower are so narrow and steep that you need to hold on to the rope.  The watchtower overlooks the garden that has a gourd-shaped pond, and also commands a view of the Higashiyama mountains.  The views must have provided an important essence of luxury to the life in the villa.    

Seen from the front the house is 3-stories, but from the side it looks 4-stories due to the small space between the 2nd floor and the watchtower.  

A place that gives a flavor of elegance of the early 20th century.  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Shibuya Sky

Shibuya in Tokyo has been undergoing a significant redevelopment - not just a face-lift but a true renaissance. 

The area was considered to be young-generation focused, which still holds true, but Shibuya is now opening their arms wide to all types of people.   

One of the newest spots is SHIBUYA SKY, which opened on Nov. 1, 2019.  From the open-air observatory deck on top of the Shibuya Scramble Square building, you have an unblocked 360-degree panoramic view all over Tokyo and beyond. 

Being closer to the cloud than the crowd, you can also look down on the busy Shibuya Crossing. 

Find time on a clear day or night and go up to the Sky. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

INTERMEDIATHEQUE: Archaeology in Design

There is a unique museum open for everyone.  Intermediatheque is in the KITTE building, which was a former post office in front of Tokyo Station's Marunouchi exit.  It is run by Tokyo University and exhibits the university's collection of specimens.  Yes, like bones and fossils, and items of academic interests. 

At this point, you may not feel inclined to visit if you are not a huge archaeology fan, but this museum is worth a visit, especially if you love good design.     

The archaeological specimens are showcased in such a fashionable way in the two-floor space that you may feel like you are in a design store.  (Photo is not allowed inside, thus it is a pity that I cannot share images here.) 

It also includes a small corner called Quai Branly Tokyo, a branch of Paris' Quai Branly Museum, which focuses on ethnic art and cultures.  It blends well with other archaeological exhibits.

Even if you are not interested in other academic museums, you will enjoy the display and space of Intermediatheque.  And you may find yourself enjoying seeing the exhibits.  Admission is free, so you can just drop by between shopping, sightseeing or dining. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Enoura Observatory - A Place to Experience

There is no one word that can aptly define the place.  Hiroshi Sugimoto's Enoura Observatory is a place to experience. 

About 90 minutes away from Tokyo, the Observatory stands on a quiet hill in Odawara overlooking Sagami Bay.  The sea is stunningly blue despite the proximity to the metropolis.

Odawara is known for sea products, has a castle, and many people pass by the station when visiting Hakone, but the city had almost no connection to art.  Sugimoto chose this place because the sea of Odawara was the origin of his childhood memory.

There are several architectures and exhibits meticulously placed in the large land, often based on astronomy.  At dawn on the summer solstice day, the sun penetrates straight through the glass and stone "100-meter gallery, " along which the artist's "Seascape" series is exhibited. 

There is also a tunnel that faces direct to winter solstice sunrise.  And you can see the natural seascape at the end of the tunnel.

In the garden around the Roman theater, you will find authentic artifacts from different periods and various areas of the world.  They seem so natural like having stood there since long time ago that you may just pass by, but each has a history behind it. 

The artist built the observatory as a place to go back to the ancient times when people observed the stars in order to know where they are, which was the origin of art. 

It is a place to experience.  Advance reservation is required to visit.  Why don't you take a day trip from Tokyo and travel back in time? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


A unique museum recently opened in Tokyo.  It is called "Archi-Depot."

Here you can see a variety of architectural models designed by renowned architects including Kengo Kuma.

The place started as a storage space where architects kept their architectural models created for presentations and competitions.  Then Archi-Depot came up with an idea of archiving and displaying those models at the same time.  How brilliant!
The models are neatly displayed on storage shelves.

Some models have been realized and others ended as a plan, but all models represent the idea of the architects behind them.  

Each model is very well made, like a work of art.  It is just fascinating to look at.

Archi-Depot is in Tennozu, a little off the center of Tokyo (accessible by monorail or car,) but it is already popular with architecture fans and professionals who intently watch the models.

The model below must be one of the newest, "Koh-tei" by Kohei Nawa.  The real one is in the Shinsho-ji Temple in Hiroshima Prefecture.  It is also a must see.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Close Encounter with the Owls

You may have seen owls before but perhaps only from the distance in the zoo. Here is the place to interact with them. 
Among foreign tourists coming to Tokyo, "owl cafes" are becoming hot destination.  They 
are relatively new compared to cat cafes or maid cafes, which are now established as Japan's tourist attractions. 

I recently went one in Harajuku.  There were 14 owls, small and large, on the table along the walls.  You can touch them and feed them.  Some of them may cry and spread their wings, but they do not attack you because they are not hungry being constantly fed by guests and staff. 

When the large owls were static, they looked almost like objets d'art.  They are such beautiful creatures. 

You are allowed to touch the owls on the head and also choose one to hold.  You will wear a thick glove to protect from the sharp claws.  As I was holding the rope tied to the owl's feet, the owl could not fly away but fluttered vigorously.  I felt the power direct to my arms. I had never observed an animal so intensely.  

If you are not interested in cats or maids, owls may catch your heart with the round eyes and dignified posture.  


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Long live the flowers!

This year's cherry blossoms are amazing.  They started blooming here on March 21, over 2 weeks ago, and they are still everywhere in Tokyo in full bloom!

It is such a prolonged luxury of spring.