Monday, June 22, 2009

Mui is muy bueno

J needed a haircut, and Princess J's hair is more high maintenance than mine. So no thousand-yen Iwasaki butchers for her. We sought something with a touch more professionalism.

Mui sits on the main drag of Machida, just overlooking Asbee shoes. The price for a cut for members is 2500 yen (to be a member, just fill out a onesheet and receive a shiny gold membership card).

Had I known before that I could be utterly pampered by stylish, flirty boys for over an hour for only 2500 yen, AND get a haircut out of the deal, I would have quit my cheapskate ways long ago. Shampoo, head massage, fantastic attention to detail, swarms of assistants meticulously drying my hair. It's like therapy.

We liked it so much that when T. wanted to get a haircut during her visit, we dragged her to Mui just a week after our cuts. The tencho (shop boss, the same guy who cut Princess J's hair) worked on her.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Camera museum, maid café, Taiwanese vegetarian food

It's almost required to walk around the Imperial Palace when you have first-time visitors from out of town. It's pretty there. But a good thing that they offer there happens on Sunday: they lend out bikes for free and you can cycle around the palace. Just leave your ID with an arm-banded old guy and pick your poison: mountain bike, granny bike, sport bike, even some tandem bikes.
We also went to the camera museum, which is close to Hanzomon station. This is definitely a museum for serious camera enthusiasts, as it's one of those small Japanese museums with a tiny space crammed wall-to-wall with one kind of thing. Interesting if you want to pore over antique cameras.

Another thing that all the tourists want to do is visit a maid café. I was certainly game for this adventure, since I've lived here for a few years but hadn't yet braved the back alleys of Akiba in search of frilly-skirted high-pitch voiced 19 year olds willing to bend to my whim.
We chose @home café, at random. They have locations in two different buildings, with different themes on different floors. We went to Hana, which is a Japanese themed café, only because they promised to have English speakers there, and my friends don't speak Japanese.
It was a little silly, filled with nerdy men and girls flouncing around in petticoated kimono-esque dresses, with kawaii touches like barrettes, animal tails peeking out of skirts, and character purses. They were a little flummoxed as to what to do with us, especially as we were two girls and a guy. But they bravely smiled and flirted a little, calling us "ojosama" and making heart marks over our coffee to make it "more delicious". I got a membership card and was asked to come back - you get progressively fancier cards and perks as you visit more often. The highest card level, the black card (or was it crystal? I forget) requires 2000 visits. One person has achieved this level.

Finally, we went to Ikebukuro to go to Roran. I love this Taiwanese restaurant, with a huge vegetarian menu. They have vegetarian ramen, gyoza and other dim sum, and dozens of others options, including a lot of yummy fake meat.
I ♥ Roran.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

out with the bad stuff

Someone recommended stone spa - ganbanyoku (岩盤浴) to me a long time ago. She said that you laid on hot stones, and all the toxins and bad stuff was pulled out of your body and into the rock. Stuff like nicotine, additives, etc.
Then this girl wrote about it. And my friend T. was coming to town and I wanted to take her to do something interesting that you don't have to get fully naked for.

I sussed out a shop in my area using this site, and one torrential Monday night, we three girls checked in to Air Api, which also has a hot yoga studio. We checked in and filled out a short membership form, and a staff person gave us a short how-to chat. Then we were given a bag with towels, pajama-like getups, and bottles of water. We stripped off our skivvies in the locker room and changed into the sweat suits, then went into the stone spa.

There were several different kinds of "beds", made from different kinds of rocks; some in slabs, some beds of loose rocks. They each purported to address different bodily ills: metabolism, cancer, circulation, and so on.

There were two rooms with different degrees of heat, as well as a "cool-down" room for, well, chilling out between sessions.
After the second ten-minute round, the sweat really started pouring out. The room was filled with slick, glowing women (men can do it too, but it's sex-segregated). At the end of our 90 minute session (¥1000), we showered and went out into the street, feeling refreshed and clean and pretty awesome.

It's like a sauna, but I liked it better, probably because of the poshness and the relaxing atmosphere. I always get bored in saunas, and hot really fast. In this setting, you can stretch out and relax and be alone with your thoughts. There's no talking inside, so you can just lie there and think and perspire.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Having friends come to town nearly always means an obligatory trip to Kamakura.

I don't mind, though, because I love the old favorites.
And I see a new aspect every single time I go. I'd never been to Hasedera during ajisai (hydrangea) season.
A beans shop! Pretty!

An exciting new restaurant, with a beautiful vegan set menu.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Salsa Caribe

Salsa Caribe in Roppongi is a good place to get your salsa on. On the night I went, it was packed to the gills. All the staff were speaking Spanish, and there were numerous impressive performances by slick people. I was majorly impressed with the dancing, since I can't do it myself. Even so, I danced with my friends, and with a jerky old guy, and with a nice slinky guy. Go for that Roppongi vibe with a Latin flavor.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

E. is visiting, and he's a professional photographer. For his first trip to Japan, high on his agenda were photography-related pursuits. So we trekked to Ebisu to take in the big Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

I had been previously with Patrick - also an accomplished photographer (who I interviewed here) - and checked out an Araki exhibition. This time, there were three exhibits, each on a separate floor. We decided to start at the top, with the 19th century travel photography exhibit, and work our way down. This turned out to be a good plan, as the photos got bigger, more colorful, and clearer on each level. The first exhibit had a lot of small, old, grainy photos, with examples of different types of early photography like albumen prints and daguerreotypes. The next exhibit had work from five Japanese professional press photographers. These pictures were larger and more modern, with more action. Especially stirring were those taken of an execution of a Vietnamese high schooler during the war.
The last exhibit was the most modern, the 2009 World Press Photo competition. This contest awards the best pictures in photojournalism over the last year, in a number of categories, including sports, daily life, nature, and hard news. These photos were all blown up very large and were in full color, measuring probably around at least two or three feet tall by four feet wide. They were also, I assume, taken mostly digitally.

It was easy to like the last exhibit best, because of the immediacy and the color and the size and the current subject matter. But I think that while the modern photographers are certainly bold and talented, they are working within very different parameters than their predecessors. I appreciated the opportunity to see how the craft has evolved.

The exhibits are all running for a few more weeks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Basement Bar

J and I met at a potluck a couple of months back. She recently moved to Kyodo, so I suggested we catch a show in Shimokitazawa sometime. We found a night we were both free, and then picked a club at random.

I really wasn't expecting much, since we had basically pulled the show choice out of our asses. I checked the bands' myspace pages, and they seemed ok. One was a little more than ok.

We made a reservation, and on the day of, met and grabbed some food and found the club with only a little trouble. When we got in, one band had already played and one was in the middle of a set.

The group, Plathome Nine, had a diminutive girl guitarist/vocalist, and brought to mind flashes of Smashing Pumpkins. Very good.

Next up was the group I had liked on myspace, Akifukuin (秋福音). They make experimental music, using lots of toys and different organic sounds. They were interesting just to hear, but they were really great live. They spent the whole set making coffee, amplifying the little sounds of scooping beans, grinding them, pouring hot water, etc. There were some other interesting instruments, like funny flutes and lots of pedals and looping. Thorougly awesome. I loved this group!
Plus, they were all incredibly cute.

Next, a group called Taiheiyou Shiranui Gakudan (太平洋不知火楽団) came on. They rocked a lot, and the best part was how awkward and apologetic and funny and humble the lead guitarist/singer seemed. He kept saying "thank you, thank you so much, thank you! the other bands were great! thank you for coming! thank you!" and had such a halting stage persona... but then would let loose on a song and would just scream and wail and sing so passionately.
It was really beautiful.

Last came a group called Karakurimusha (からくり武者). They were a really strong indie-pop band, super good. The pedal maven from Akifukuin was the guitarist. Seems he gets around.

The show was really excellent, and I was surprised, because I've been to many many indie shows. Usually, especially when it's not a show you've gone out of your way to see, at least half the bands are ho-hum. I try to be supportive, but often end up sitting in the back or outside, waiting for something decent. But we danced the whole time.

Someone's doing something right at Basement Bar.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Unsolicited backhanded compliment

Hmm. Why did you choose this picture? You're cuter in real life than in this picture.

(Dammit, I *liked* that picture. Jerk.)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My aunt Satoe is cool. She was one of the producers of the new movie Hijoshi 非女子. It's her first movie. I'm going to go and see it tomorrow. Yay.