Kappabashi Kitchenware Street (かっぱ橋道具街) – Tokyo, Asakusa (浅草)

Alternate title, ‘fake food!’ (But, according to a sign I saw “please don’t use the term ‘fake food’, the preferred term is ‘food sample'”)

So you if you’ve ever been to Japan or read anything about Japanese food and restaurants, you’ve probably heard the term ‘fake food’ or ‘food samples’ thrown in somewhere – referring to the super-realistic plastic (tradtionally wax) models used to indicate/advertise what delicious food a restaurant has for sale.

But of course, these restaurants don’t make these models themselves, they buy them/have them made. And if they’re in Tokyo, there’s a reasonable (honestly I have no idea how likely) chance they get them from the Kappabashi Kitchenware Street in Asakusa.

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First up, Maizuru

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Ramen!

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More ramen?!

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Ice cream!

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A variety of rice bowls – the bright orange ‘balls’ are “Ikura” – salmon roe.

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Fruit!

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Keyrings

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Beer!

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Sushi! (by the looks of thinks, sea urchin (うに) up front

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More sushi!

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More more suhi!

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Crab!

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Sundaes!

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Pizza!

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Soba!

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Ramen!

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Crepes!

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Another place…not sure what’s it’s called as the sign just reads 食品サンプル – Food (product) samples

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Crepes!

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Sushi!

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Keyrings!

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Aaand another place – “Satou Sampuru”…

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…though I was starting to get hungry, so I ended up not going in.

And whilst I had heard that ‘these make good souvenirs’, whoever mentioned that clearly has more money than sense…these things are EXPENSIVE (understandable I guess). Some of the small pieces are like £20-30, but for the most part it’s £50+

So that’s the food samples, but this street has everything you’d ever need if you were running a restaurant, and also a decent amount of consumer-focused stores too.

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This coffee place (not a cafe, just selling beans/grounds and equipment) smelled (smelt?) absolutely gorgeous

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Bowl and plates and whatnot

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The sort of signage that you’ll see whenever you walk by most traditional Japanese restaurants

Oh yeah, and this area is called Kappabashi (かっぱ橋), so of course there’s a statue of a Kappa (wikipedia link included as to what a Kappa is)

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yeah…if you read the wiki link…it’s just as weird as it looks

A fun way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy day, just don’t browse the food samples on an empty stomach!

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Well it’s been fun Japan…

And it has been fun, but looking at my bank balance (well more glancing out of the corner of my eye as to minimise the pain), it’s time to come back to England.

So, I’m currently typing this from Tokyo, where I’ll be for the next ~2 weeks, and after that it’s back to England…for like a day, then off to my mum’s place in France for (hopefully not too long – sorry mum!) whilst I look for work, line-up interviews etc. etc. back in England.

To make something clear, even if money weren’t the deciding factor I would still be set on leaving Japan at the end of the 1 year (so I guess that would’ve been March 2019), and whilst I could go into so much more detail here about all the ‘whys’ etc. a) I don’t think I can do it justice typed up here and b) I want something to talk about over drinks when I next see you wonderful people.

So, apologies Rich – I won’t be meeting you in Tokyo for drinks at the end of October, but I will send you some of recommendations for both Tokyo and Kyoto – I hope they’re useful, and if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to get in touch.

As for the blog, if I do/eat anything interesting over the next 2 weeks I’ll post about it, and if I feel like doing any retrospective posts on my time in Japan then those might appear here. The domain name will expire next March, so I’ll probably keep things ‘alive’ until then, at which point I’ll probably make it private on the default (i.e. free) wordpress address so (only) I can look back at it every now and then.

Looking back at life in Tsumagoi (嬬恋)

So I guess this post will be a bit of a retrospective list of fun/interesting stuff that I encountered in my 2 months in 嬬恋.

And I mentioned previously that I was staying in Tsumagoi (嬬恋), and whilst technically true, we were very much on the outskirts (where all the holiday homes etc. are). So occasionally we would venture into the village-proper for events and whatnot.

One such event was the local festival – which was very small in scale but still pretty neat to see.

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This was the like the opening ceremony I guess, and with it being a predominantly farming (cabbages!) village, it was held in September – so more of a harvest festival than anything else.

Also, a few days after there was a really cool fireworks festival – 花火大会! Of which I have zero photos because my phone simply couldn’t cope with the very dark/very light contrast well at all. But I can assure you that it was absolutely delightful – set in a small village, amongst mountains made for a gorgeous backdrop for what (for me at least) was a nice farewell to Tsumagoi.

Anyway, enough waffle, here’s a list of random observations/happenings I kept track of on my phone whilst there – most of them are more ‘me-specific’ rather than anything to do with Tsumagoi, but whatever, read if you want to 🙂

– Trying to explain in Japanese how Windows changed from Windows 95 to Windows 98 and Windows 98 2nd Ed. specifically around USB support (painful!!).
– Pretty sure on that one night that I couldn’t sleep there was a bear or some other large animal outside my room at like 1am, pawing at the windows.
– Then there actually was a bear but I missed it because it occurred just after we’d left for work – police were called and everything.
– Bugs just in general. Man I do not miss that.
– Everyone I spoke to outside of folks running this farm and the volunteers, asked “where are you from?” as their opening gambit, fair enough I guess – white folks are pretty rare in these parts.
– Riding in the back of a truck in torrential rain.
– going to cut a cabbage and having it disintegrate in your hands because it was so thoroughly rotten, bleh.
– Ridiculously good home cooking…every day.
– Teaching English to several very awesome (and very patient) people.
– That guy I worked with for a week who barely said anything other than “thanks” or “ok”. Oh shit, I don’t even know his name. eep.
– Driving a tractor.
– That one time I was driving the tractor, fully loaded with several hundred cabbages and I unintentionally pulled a wheelie – absolutely terrifying.
– The feeling of a shower after 12+ hours of work.
– Getting up at 4:30am…like almost every day for 2 months.
– Having to contain my jubilation after hearing that “the rain’s too heavy, looks like today’s a day-off”.
– Being called ‘onii-chan’ or ‘senpai’ – too weird, I said just call me David (デイビッド).
– When it got cold (~10c) for a few days, and having nabe (hot pot) for dinner was just the best thing.
– Arm muscles (which I believe is the technical term)…that, aside from lugging around my suitcase, I intend to never use again
– Telling every newbie about the (lack of) local attractions, and seeing their expression at the news was always pretty fun.
– Of all the “do you have x in England” questions, being asked “are there black people in England” was pretty funny.
– Thoroughly shattering everyone’s image of England, both through me being me (sorry!), and explaining we don’t all walk around a foggy London with bowler hats, umbrellas and suitcases.

 

Kusatsu Onsen (草津温泉)

Kusatsu (草津), a famous onsen town that 妙子 (Taeko) san very kindly brought us to on a day off. As always, it’s raining, though don’t let that be a reflection of the general weather – we just tended to get days off when it was raining heavily because no-one wants to be in a field for 7+ hours getting drenched.


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It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, but I’m super grateful to Taeko-san for bringing us here as it was an absolutely lovely town. After walking around and perusing the sights, she even treated us to a delicious lunch at a fantastic soba restaurant. And then we took a dip in the natural onsen baths – wonderfully chill day!

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You can almost smell the sulphur in this photo

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Cats!

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I don’t speak German, but “Friendship between Japan and Germany” I think?

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Me, posing as I usually do for photos (badly), Taeko-san (left) and Nanase-san (right)

Onioshidashi Park (鬼押出し園)

What a great name – ‘Onioshidashi’ which translates very roughly to “pushing out demons” was the location of a huge volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Asama (浅間山) in 1783, and the landscape definitely looks like something befitting of such a name. Oh and btw, the volcano is still active.


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Went here with one of the other volunteers on a day-off, and of course it was both super cloudy and rainy. Here’s some of idea of how good the visibility was

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what mountains?

Photos!

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This nook was covered in a moss that was either luminescent or just had some interesting reflective properties, such that it glowed green…which you can’t see in the photo 😦

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You can just about make out the ferris wheel (big wheel?) of a nearby amusement park

So despite the weather, it was a lot of fun due to the interesting landscape…maybe not ‘go there at all costs’ fun, but definitely ‘if you’re in the area’ fun.

Ueda Castle Ruins Park (上田城跡公園)

This was like 2 months ago, and all I can remember is that they converted most of the castle grounds to a public park, which was pretty neat.


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Other than that, enjoy some (only a few, was with some other folks and we were on a time limit, so didn’t want to slow everyone down too much) photos!

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That’s a big-ass stone

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Gun window…is what I’m calling it. A good vantage point to shoot your enemies.

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I guess sometimes you want to shoot people that are a little closer to the castle?

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View of Ueda City, and as usual, mountains.