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Kiyosumi gardens and MOT museum

Today was finally a sunny day after a week of cold rainy ones..So me and my husband without wasting this precious opportunity went out to see Hussein Chalayan’s art exhibit at MOT museum and took a little detour to Kiyosumi garden which is located at the same Kameido station. The highlight of the garden is a collection of stepping and decorative stones that were brought here from all over Japan. One of them has a famous haiku carved on it : 古池や蛙飛び込む水の音(The sound of a frog, jumping into an old pond).

The garden was amazing! It was one of those breathtaking traditional Japanese gardens where you can enjoy something different every step you take. It was a bit too early to see Azalea and Hydrangea but the Taiwan cherry was in full bloom and the view was spectacular.

The whole atmosphere of the garden was very uplifting and spiritual (minus of course the minor but nonetheless disturbing appearances of some loud obnoxious tourists wearing yukata over jeans).

The main visitors of the garden were senior Japanese ladies, so graceful in their kimono outfits. There is a nice tea house in the middle of the garden so I guess they like going there. Unfortunately I felt too shy to take their pictures..

And there were plenty of carps jumping out of water for food and turtles sunbathing on the rocks and ducks.

I could even spot couple of storks.

There was also this very old umbrella like structure that I really liked. I have no idea how it was made.

And then, somehow the Japanese maple that is usually green this time of year was red as it would be in November.. I guess that’s why they say that you can enjoy all seasons at once in this particular garden.

The Hussein Chalayan exhibition was great too! It showcased him as an innovative designer that has a well-thought and always original concept behind each collection. His very first collection that he presented upon graduating from St.Martins college of Art and Design was made out of decomposed silk that he kept filled with iron filings in the basement of some building till it became rusty and produced an original texture. The exhibition itself was not just an outline of his work as a fashion designer but also it also presented some of his ideas through art installations and short films.

The exhibition is going to last until 20th of June so anyone interested, there is still plenty of time.

大人の科学

So last week my friend Hiro took some of my pics with his brand new toy camera. I didn’t know but he actually made it himself. There is this magazine called “大人の科学” or “Science for adults” and the issue 25 came with the “do it yourself” 35mm double lens camera kit. It only costs 25$, you can check it out here.

http://otonanokagaku.net/magazine/vol25/index.html

It took him two hours to assemble and here are the pictures he came out with.

They look like my old childhood pictures, same quality and grained texture and blurred light. It looks like this was taken long time ago! I love it!

Something new

Yes! At last, my psychotic outrage against Windows PCs during our corporate camping brought fruitful results and I made our CEO give a go to buying three iMACs for designers including me!! I got 27″ display with 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 and ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics with 512MB. The screen colors are gorgeous and I see every single pixel – nothing is blurred or obscured. It took me some time to setup network and resolve an OS X 9.02 bug that didn’t allow me to move data to the network location. There is still some problems with Japanese Microsoft bitmap system fonts displaying funny on Mac but I have discovered a work-around so hopefully it’ll be fine. And in two weeks I am getting…yes, that’s right! ADOBE CS5!!!!!!!! Life is good! ^-^

Someone new

Last week, my old Japanese friend invited me to her house to celebrate the birth of her son Louis. Her husband is Brittish, hence the name and the pretty blue eyes and a blond hairdo.

Louis is 5 weeks new and adorable! I got him a cute outfit a la Jason Mraz with a straw fedora hat and plaid Converse shoes. But he is already quite a fancy pants! I mean look at his outfit – straight from Sweden and fabulous.

There was this very fat cat living in the house. He used to be stray and when my friend rescued him, his tail as broken. Now, he is the king in the house, doing whatever he pleases! Here is him drinking from the tap in the kitchen!

I can’t wait to see Louis grow. So many of my friends are having babies now and soon they will become friends too and there will be the whole new generation of us! ^-^

In bloom

I wish Tokyo would be warmer this year because the most beautiful season where everything grows back to life was a bit hard to enjoy..Rain and strong wind and the temperature staying below 10C are not the conditions under which you prefer viewing sakura in bloom or having picnic in the park…But nevertheless, I enjoyed the view from different locations, more by a sudden opportunity rather than a special plan in mind..

This one was my first hanami. Right before watching Sherlock Homes in Roppongi Hills, me and my husband did a little detour to Sakura zaka to see these gorgeous flowers in bright illumination.

Then, I had a lunch picnic with my little minions at Meguro river.

Lille made (from scratch) almond and chocolate muffins and puffy bacon pie with cheese – delicious! It’s amazing what you can do with a Japanese microwave and a little bit of patience.

Sakura was in full bloom at that day and because of the strong wind, it rained on us non stop. When I got back to my office, my bag was full of little pink and white petals.

These are my most favorite Magnolia flowers blooming in the rain somewhere in Shibuya. When the petals begin to fall, you better watch out especially if the tree is big, they can hit your head pretty hard. Happened to me last year in Shinjuku gyoen park. ^-^

Then on Saturday night me and my husband went to Russian Orthodox church for Easter celebration. It was cold and windy, we could hardly keep our candle flame going during procession around the church. As always it was beautiful – choir singing, bells ringing and people coming to join from every street. I met Anastasia and her sister and some of my old Russian friends.

Before the service started we walked around the Imperial palace and wandered into Hibiya park.

Then walked along the canal where giant carps were jumping out of water.

Paid our respect to Gozilla statue ^-^

and to gorgeous Peninsula hotel! ^-^

Then a week later, I met Serezha in Sakuragicho for the movie “My darling is a foreigner” where none other but our own Gow was starring in it alongside with Dante from Softbank commercials.

The movie was funny and easy to watch but for me had its shortcomings too. Some of the scenes were a bit  disconnected as in all Japanese movie interpretations of famous manga. There were also scenes that had the sole purpose of honoring movie sponsors like wedding scene sponsored by the likes of Zexy. It had no meaning and reminded me again how much I hate robotic circus like weddings that often take place in Japan. Also the stereotypes in the movie drove me crazy. A huge maguro head on the plate in a kaiten sushi restaurant ordered by a foreigner – seriously! That’s ridiculous!

Oh, and Gow chan had to speak bad Japanese with an American accent! I bet it was difficult for her since her Japanese is perfect!

Oh, and couple of days ago I met with Rodion. He is also from St.Petersburg and used to work for a local TV channel before coming to Tokyo.

We have similar backgrounds and the same passion for milkshakes and video games.  ^-^

He took me to one of his favorite cafes in Shibuya where I had a very unhealthy half a litre of milkshake and some decent tacos.

Then, we went to a game center to shoot monsters and play guitar hero.

My last hanami was near my office during lunch break. My friend Hiro bought a new toy camera and wanted to check it out. The pictures are not ready yet but he took some with my camera too.

That day and the day I went to Sakuragicho were the only warm days and it’s already middle of April. What is up with the spring this year?

Patagonia state of mind – Part 2. Valparaiso and Vina del mar

The next day, on 27th of December we woke up early in the morning to go see vineyards in Colchagua valley, Montes in particular because of it’s new Apalta winery designed with Fengshui. ^-^ We’ve ordered some Montes wine earlier in Autumn and really liked it’s subtle and fruity taste. This trip was the reason we stayed more than 2 days in Santiago. As always, yours truly tried to avoid paying big fee to the tourist company that organized wine trips and went to the bus terminal to find a bus that would take us there. Unfortunately, none of the buses went to that direction. I realized that out of two main bus terminals in the city, we chose the wrong one. The guidebook wouldn’t say which one to go to. All the buses went to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar instead so without wasting our time on the logistics we decided to change our plans and go to Valparaiso – “Paradise valley” instead. Later, I was happy to find out we made the right decision as Montes vineyards were closed for public viewing because of the holidays. ^-^ If you do decide to go there, either rent a car or go by bus but stay overnight in Santa Cruz because the trip takes a lot of time and energy and the vineyard won’t help you organize it.

This is me just outside of our hotel, ready for the day trip! I like this picture because all you can see on the background are trees. That’s how an alley supposed to look like. Tall, beautiful trees on both sides. That’s what a room view should look like, not gray concrete walls or train tracks like our flat in Tokyo..

Tur Bus is one of the reliable and save transport companies in Chile. We used it on more that one occasion and were never disappointed with its services. In fact, that was the bus I left my postcards in – the ones that found their way to me after two months of traveling.

On our way to Valparaiso we passed huge vineyards in Casablanca and Maipo valleys – famous for their Cabernet and Carmenere grapes. Yay, we could have a glance at wine making business after all and with all the wine tasting in Puerto Natales later, I think we didn’t miss much by not going to Apalta!

When we arrived to Valparaiso we were immediately stricken by abundant use of colors everywhere.

It used to and still is one of the most important seaports in Chile and because of it’s role in the New world trade, it attracted many immigrants that created this bright-colored, eclectic paradise and left a unique imprint on the city’s architecture. Now, Valparaiso is not only a big cultural center in South America but also World heritage.

The brightest spot “Zonas Tipicas” is situated on the hills. It’s a pretty tough way up if you are on foot and without a sunscreen. ^-^ Pablo Neruda’s summer residence is on the most remote hill to the West. We didn’t go that far but did a thorough look around Cerro Concepcion.

This is a scene right from the movie. A local craftsman is sitting in front of his house and work on some pieces while humming a song. It cannot get any better because as perfect as it looks it is also authentic. He is not there because someone is paying him to be a fake tourist attraction. He is just there because he is a part of this bohemian paradise.

It really took my breath away to see all these scenes of every day live in a place like this.

A cactus in front of a colorful residential building with 24h security sign..

Laundry in the courtyard, little dog house next to withered staircase…

An old tire placed at the dead end of the street giving you a story to imagine. Everywhere you look, it is a perfect movie scene – perfect in its authentic unpretentious way.

That’s one of the few cafes that were open in that area. At first we tried to find a sandwich shop recommended by the guidebook but after we saw it closed, we settled on Con Letras. Inside, the restaurant looked like a travel book library with many bookshelves, music racks and tables filled with maps and guidebooks.

It was too hot to sit outside so we took a table right next to the bar. Everything was made out of wood except the walls that were made out of tin with old photos hanging on them.

With Japan’s criminal deprivation of milkshakes, I seek it anywhere else. Whenever I go abroad, I drink milkshakes, lots of milkshakes, sometimes two or three at a time. ^-^ This one is a cherry milkshake and it was GOOD!

I was two days wiser this time so instead of ordering couple of quesadillas like I would do in Tokyo, I ordered just one and yes, even one came in a huge size so I could only eat half…

After lunch, we headed further in and around the Cerro Concepcion. This is the Lutheran church, one of many iglesias in this area. There are Anglican and Catholic churches as well – another example of eclectic imprint of its former population.

There was a vegetable market right in front of the church steps. Young tanned macho where playing Latin tunes on the radio and dancing right next to the tables with artichokes and onions. ^-^

I took about 200 pictures of various houses – each absolutely unique in it’s design. These are my favorite, colorful and romantic, each telling a story about it’s inhabitants.

This to me, belongs to an old woman who used to know glory back in her days. She had a hard time parting with her beauty and all the attention she used to receive. Only when she got old, she realized she is not so good at being alone or taking care of herself. She spends days at home flipping through an old photo album, sometimes going out to sit in the sun and greet people passing by. ^-^

This house looks well maintained and in color with my favorite purple hydrangeas growing all around it. To me it looks like a boarding house or a small hostel run by a European family.

This yellow house with white ornaments reminds me of Russian dacha. These colors are very typical for summer houses outside of St.Petersburg.

Valparaiso is the city of artists and you can see it everywhere you look – literally, the art is everywhere. These graffiti on the walls of most of the houses in Zonas Tipicos are well-thought, carefully crafted masterpieces that represent various city scenes. One of my favorite graffiti is this girl with a seagull waiting for a ship to come. It reminds me of the drawings I used to send to my father’s ship, asking him to return home safely.

This graffiti is huge and the air-spray work is amazing.

I wouldn’t mind having this drawing on the walls of my house. I’m actually thinking of air-spraying my dacha or at least our storage house..

We took a climb up to Plaza Bismarck for a breathtaking view on the city and then visited the old cemetery.

After a 5 hour walk around the hills of Valparaiso we went down to the port and took a brand new line to Vina del mar – an ambient resort town with many beautiful beaches and celebrity retreats.

It was too hot to stay on the beach with our sunburns so we walked along the shore, glanced a bit at the city’s main square with tall palm trees and took a bus back to Santiago.

The next day, we took a plane to Punta Arenas and finally began our trip to Patagonia. Stay tuned for part 3. ^-^