Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts

Monday, January 8, 2018

Grand Seiko quartz watch strap change

I wrote about my Grand Seiko last month and mentioned my desire to change the blue leather strap it came with when I got it. I got the leather strap I wanted from the Hirsch store at Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons. They have a very nice selection of straps there and it was tough to choose one for this classic watch.

This is my Grand Seiko model 9581-7020, which is a quartz watch.
The GS emblem (its usually a medallion in the automatic GS models) on the case back. Details on the watch can be seen etched below the emblem.
The watch from another angle.
This is a very thin watch as shown in the photo. The lug on this one is 18mm, which is also shown in the photo stamped on the leather strap.
Here is the watch again shown with the new fine leather strap. If anyone is wondering, the wood here is actually a nice cheeseboard a good friend gave us as an anniversary gift.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Anniversary of first overseas trip

Yesterday was 20 years to the day of the first overseas trip I had. That was back in 1996 when I was given an opportunity to travel to Japan under what was called a Core University Program funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). I was actually some sort of a last minute fill-in as there was budget remaining and available for a short term Visiting Scientist. Fortunately for me, a former mentor, Prof. Shigeru Morichi, who was himself a Visiting Professor at UP Diliman from 1992-1993 agreed to host me at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Kogyo Daigaku, which at the time was also called Tokodai - now it is preferred to be called Tokyo Tech) despite his impending transfer to the University of Tokyo. 

It was a very eventful 35 days from February 26 to March 31 and a stay where I was able to familiarize and acclimatize myself to a new environment. That included going to Yokohama National University to personally submit the final document for my autumn (October 1996) admission to the university to Prof. Tomoya Shibayama, who was the Foreign Student Officer at the time. I was also able to meet with my baptismal godmother (Ninang Mila Takashima who later was also my godmother on my weding) who was residing in Yokosuka-shi in the same Kanagawa Prefecture where Yokohama was located.

Every single day was an exciting one and it seemed to be a different adventure everyday. This was capped by my first sakura or cherry blossoms in late March. Of course, it helped that I already had many close friends in Tokyo at the time, of whom I remain close to this day. I have lost most if not all the photos in my possession from that 35 day trip. Fortunately, there are many photos with my friends and sometime in the future, I hope to get a few copies to scan and preserve electronically. 

More on events in 1996 in succeeding posts...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chilling at the bookstore

Whenever I am at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and I had the time, I try to pass by the Fully Booked branch there. I like browsing their shelves for books, comics or CDs. I think I usually picked up a book, magazine or comic book almost everytime I'm there despite doing my best not to be tempted considering the escalating prices these days. Books are not cheap in the Philippines and I think this is partly to blame for our being generally immature for our tastes in literature. I mean, honestly, how many people really do read Murakami, Rushdie or Garcia-Marquez who recently passed away? I'm all for the electronic stuff as an aid for developing reading comprehension but there's nothing like a good book or magazine to enrich the mind. 

Recently, I had been at the bookstore again months after the last time I was at the Bonifacio High Street. This time I had some time for myself as I waited for the wife to arrive from their out-of-town workshop. I was surprised to find second hand CDs at the music section and found that most if not all came from Japan. I was certain with this as I saw the CD labels and ended up browsing the CDs as I did whenever I was in one of my favorite used CD shops in Tokyo and Yokohama (e.g., Yamagiwa and Recofan). I got most of my CD collection from those shops and most of these were high quality CDs that were made in Japan or Europe including my collection of classical music CDs. I ended up purchasing a couple of CDs - one classical and another jazz to add to my collection. I was a bit disappointed though that the used CDs were not as inexpensive as I had expected them to be. I recall that good quality used CDs in Japan usually cost me 1200 JPY or the equivalent of about 300 to 400 PHP at the time I was there. So I had to make sure I really liked the CDs I picked up before finally making the purchase. 

I celebrated my purchases by getting some frozen yoghurt at the White Hat branch in the same building. The froyo and lemonade were refreshing treats before I walked back to the parking lot to wait for the wife.

Frozen yogurt and lemonade while reviewing my CD purchases.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dinner out in Tokyo

On our first night in Tokyo last February, our group had dinner out upon the invitation of one of our hosts. Though hungry, we really didn't want to eat heavy but wanted a good meal together with a good drink. It was a cold night and everyone was still adjusting to the temperature even with our winter clothing so we wanted to have a hot meal to warm ourselves from the inside. Fortunately, there was a nearby building that hosted a number of restaurants and shops that was open where we could have our dinner. Torafuku is located in between our hotel and the office of our hosts. It was indoors so we didn't need to have our coats on while dining and exchanging stories.

I am no longer the "drinker" I used to be when I was a student in Japan so I was delighted to see Kirin Free, which had zero alcohol. The taste of beer without the kick of alcohol is something my friends would have enjoyed during our time in Japan.
The salad was interesting with sprouts, cabbage and what looked like fish jelly
Kaki furai
Chicken karaage
Eggs and radish on the side
Horenzo (spinach) with fried tofu strips and fries (small fish - dulong in the Philippines)
Grilled salmon
Rice is cooked using these special steamers
The kitchen is open for viewing by diners
Sake and shochu bottles lined up as part of the restaurant display
Reception area of the restaurant


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mobile obento

While walking around near our hotel, I noticed that there were quite a few mobile obento stands in our area. These are not just your typical informal stands that come out during lunch time and are apparently tolerated (i.e., they serve a demand for meals and do not impose themselves upon people). These are mobile kitchens on small vans that have been customized for this purpose. I took a couple of photos of one van near the Kamiyacho Station of the Hibiya Line and another near the JR Meguro Station. 

Mobile kitchen serving curry dishes near the Hibiya Line Kamiyacho Station
Mobile kitchen serving a variety of dishes including yakisoba, udon and curry near the JR Meguro Station
There are similar mobile kitchens in other cities like those in the US (I've seen these in San Francisco and LA) and in Bangkok. However, it is probably the first time I saw these in Tokyo. Of course, it's been a long time since I had been in Japan quite regularly so perhaps this is not really a new thing. In Metro Manila, there are similar set-ups in Makati though the kitchens are on trailers rather than mobile by themselves. The mobile vans I know are those deployed by restaurant chains for events like school fairs and the smaller enterprises that participate in weekend outdoor bazars. Then there are the more informal but hugely popular carts offering very cheap meals that can be seen in many office and school districts that people often refer to as "Aristocart," a play on the name of an established restaurant chain in Manila.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tonkatsu Wako

When in Japan it seems inevitable that we would be eating katsu at some point during our stay. There are many restaurants serving good katsu in Tokyo and you don't really have to hunt the well-known restaurants. All you have to do is walk around, maybe to the nearest string or cluster of restaurants and cafes in your area. There you will find many restaurants to choose from including those serving ramen, udon, sushi, curry, etc. or if you would rather not eat Japanese food, Chinese food and Italian food. There are many Starbucks and fast food like McDonalds but there are also the smaller, neighborhood coffee shops offering light fare for those not interested in a heavy meal. Of course, there are also convenience stores like Family Mart, Mini Stop, 7-11, and Lawson where you can grab a quick meal or snack. These usually have microwave meals that you can have heated at the store and maybe take to you hotel room or office. There are also neighborhood or mobile obento (lunch box) stores that you'll find in areas where there are many offices or schools.

We found a couple of branches of Tonkatsu Wako near our hotel and didn't think twice about eating here. In the first place, we found many people eating there so it looked like a popular place and the prices of meals during lunch time were usually lower due to their lunch sets. I recall I paid 900 JPY for their lunch set of rosu katsu with unlimited rice, cabbage and miso soup. The tea was on the house and you can ask for a glass of water if you're not into tea. Of course, you can also order cola or juice if you prefer and they also have many other items on their menu including non-pork katsu.

Tonkatsu lunch set with unlimited refills for rice, miso shiru and cabbage
Succulent tonkatsu
Tonkatsu Wako provides good meals to those who are tentative about going into just any Japanese restaurant to eat. It offers familiar items that some people might refer to as comfort food in a sense. And the prices are just right for those who might be on a budget.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obento - lunchbox

I always look forward to lunch whenever I am in Japan not because I get hungry quickly but mainly because there is this feeling of expectation or anticipation. This feeling is for not knowing where lunch will be. Would it be at the shokudo (canteen)? At a small neighborhood restaurant? A food court? Or perhaps there will be obento or lunchbox so we could eat together on what we term as a working lunch? In our last steering committee meeting, our hosts ordered special obento for us and you have to admire the fact that with the way the lunch box is presented you would already expect a good meal.

Our bento box comes wrapped in special paper
It includes chopsticks, toothpick and a disposable wet towel
Inside is a lunch treat that I only experience whenever I am in Japan
Needless to say but we all had a great lunch with some variations to other bento as our hosts had to make sure there were food that can be regarded as halal by some of our colleagues.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sushi at Asakusa

We just had internet connection at our new home and I thought one of the best ways to celebrate the new service is to write a short piece about dining at our favorite sushi restaurant in Japan. The wife and I were in Tokyo recently and made sure we visited Asakusa to eat at the sushi restaurant at one of the shopping streets near the temple. It was already 6 years since our last trip to Tokyo together and most of our trips from then were mostly stopovers between the US and the Philippines (Tokyo and Nagoya being hubs of Delta Airlines). In my recent trips to Tokyo, I decided to spend more time in Yokohama and Kamakura, the former was where I lived when I was a student and the latter a favorite haunt of mine during the weekends.

The sushi restaurant is still there and business looked good as the place was full. We were welcomed by the sushi chef behind the counter and the staff serving customers with their side orders. Noting we were foreigners, the staff handed us a menu with photos of different types of sushi indicating their names in romaji as well as their prices. We ordered our usual maguro (tuna) and shake (salmon) sushis and then ordered scallop, yellowfin and others. To cap our dinner, we ordered toro and then otoro. It was the wife's first taste of otoro (we ordered toro before) so I ordered a couple more plates to let her discover (delightfully) the difference among the tuna meat. We were laughing a bit as we commented on how good the otoro was, and the chef remarked that most foreigners didn't try the more expensive plates so he was happy we could enjoy the sushi.

Our favorite sushi restaurant in Asakusa as photographed last February 2014
A plate of otoro - melt in your mouth tuna
Our photo taken in February 2008.

We will definitely be back, what with visiting Japan becoming easier with their relaxed policy for tourists and my getting a multiple entry visa. However, the next time might just be Kyoto and Nara via Osaka. We are already looking forward to that trip.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Of barbers and barber shops

My favorite barber passed away earlier this February. I only learned of this a couple of weekends ago and was a bit sad that I wasn't even able to visit the wake. I considered him a friend even though we met only on for my regular haircuts typically at the end of the month. However, "regular" here actually spanned roughly 30 years since I could remember as my father first took me to this makeshift barber shop at the Cainta Public Market sometime in 1983/84. The only significant break from the regular haircuts was in 1996-1999 when I was studying in Japan and I had my haircut at another barber shop.

I was introduced to this barbershop in the Meguro district of Tokyo in 1996 by one of my good friends. I helped that the barber shop was a few minutes walk away from the JR Meguro Station of the Yamanote Line and I could easily go there whenever I was in Tokyo. Being a creature of habit, I made the effort to go there for my haircuts even though I lived in Yokohama, a good 45 to 60 minutes away by train. My Nihongo wasn't really good so I always asked them about the pictures they had showing different haircuts in front, side and back so I could point to how I wanted them to cut my hair. I remember that I never had a bad haircut there and always got my money's worth. They even had a promotion where each haircut a customer was given a coupon indicating points earned. You could exchange the points for a haircut or perhaps items they had on display that you may exchange the points for. I still have the nail cutter and nose hair scissors that I got from accumulating so many points

I remember at least 3 barbers who usually gave me a haircut. One was a mute, one was a woman and another was a young man sporting long hair. I'm sure I picked up their names at one time but I forget them now though I do remember their faces. The last time I had a haircut there was in 2008 when I stayed in Japan for 1.5 months. That was good enough for 2 haircuts and again, I made the effort to travel the distance from Saitama to Meguro just for the haircut and shampoo that's always been my routine whenever I was there.

With all the changes in Tokyo from 2008, I wasn't sure that the barber shop would still be there when I made the trips to Japan from last year. I really didn't have time to go for a haircut last October as I wanted to re-explore Kamakura and Yokohama. This time though, with some time on my hands and feeling a bit sentimental because of the passing of my old barber, I decided to go around Meguro and check on the old barber shop there. I did find the old barber shop but it was closed and there was a sign there saying it had moved. I couldn't read Japanese well so I couldn't get the details from the sign. However, after crossing the street at the next junction and walking along the other side, I quickly found  where the barber shop had relocated - just across the street from its old location.

The old barber shop is now closed.

And that's because it had reopened just across the street from the old one.
Peeking inside, I happily saw that at least two of my old barbers were still there - the woman and the guy with the long hair. Surprisingly, they looked the same as when I had last been there in 2008. With this knowledge, I now look forward to the next time I could be in Tokyo and maybe have the time to get a haircut at Meguro.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sushi Horikawa

Back in Tokyo after only a few months, I was trying to compile photos before posting them on different articles. However, after our reception today after completing the final symposium for our study on ASEAN, I just had to post some photos I took of the sushi section. Featured is a really experienced sushi chef who was preparing the sushi as participants quickly queued. The Japanese among us seemed excited in their own way and I understood that there was something special about the guy behind the counter who even had this old lady to assist him in preparing the trays and shoyu for the sushi. It turned out that this was Sushi Horikawa, a very good sushi restaurant here in Tokyo. It's probably one of the best if not the best sushi I've tasted and made me crave for more of this and at this high level of quality. I already look forward to eating at a sushi restaurant we found in Asakusa six years ago, the last time the Clairvoyant and I were in Tokyo together.

Preparation of sushi from the raw sea food and Japanese rice (note the assistant on the left)
The chef taking a slice of fish before fusing it with rice and wasabi
The chef molds the fish and the rice in a manner that's artful in technique while the assistant pour shoyu on the sushi tray
Each sushi is a handmade work of art


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Conveniences at train station platforms

Japan is also famous for having a lot of vending machines dispensing everything from snacks, softdrinks and beer to toys and electronics, and even shirts and underwear! At the train stations there are also many vending machines in addition to the kiosks that are basically convenience stores. Here are a couple of vending machines and the garbage disposal bins beside them.

Vending machine and telephones behind a kiosk at a JR Line platform

Vending machine at a Tokyo Metro platform

 Within the larger stations, there are also restaurants or eateries for those wanting a quick meal but happen to have already gone past the turnstiles. These are not your typical holes in the walls or fast food types. Instead there are also full service restaurants or cafes. Then there are food courts where commuters may have a good variety to choose from like the Tokyo Food Bar that I found at the JR Akihabara Station.

This food bar is very much like the food courts we find at malls. These offer a variety of selections for the hungry commuter. The signboards show the menus of establishments inside the food bar.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dinner at Gonpachi

We had a splendid dinner at a restaurant that's said to be the inspiration of Quentin Tarantino for the set of Kill Bill. At the narrow entrance were framed photos of the gaijin owner with celebrities who have dined in the popular restaurant. Gonpachi is located near the corner at Nishi Azabu in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. It is a short bus trip from our hotel and a 10-minute walk away from the Roppongi Station of the Hibiya Line of the Tokyo Metro.

We were greeted with a welcome drink cocktail of sake and enjoyed a dinner consisting of salad, barbecue, soba, and ice cream for dessert. I will feature this dinner in a succeeding post but for now here are a few photos of the place, which was packed with diners considering it was a Monday night.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yakiniku dinner with an old friend

I had the pleasure of having dinner with an old friend who's currently a faculty member at the University of Tsukuba. I have not seen him in a long while and we had a lot of stories to exchange considering he got married only a couple of years ago. We decided to meet up at the huge Yodobashi-Akiba, the largest Yodobashi Camera store in Japan, located just beside the JR Akihabara Station. There, we proceeded to the top floor where there is a food court where we had a lot of choices for dining. We opted for a yakiniku restaurant as both of us had not had this kind of barbecue in a while and it was perfect for the beer that we also had not had in a while (I generally don't drink anymore.). A former advisee of his joined us for dinner and added to the stories exchanged over great food.

Food court at the top floor of the gigantic Yodobashi-Akiba in Akihabara electric town
There are many choices here including the familiar Pepper Lunch that's been a hit in Southeast Asia
Yakiniku is actually an adaptation from the Korean barbecue
Yakiniku, beer and good company are a perfect combination!

I look forward to another meeting and perhaps dinner on my return to Japan this October.