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Farming and fireflies

In June, me and my friends from work  went to Mitaka which is a suburb of Tokyo to enjoy a day on a farm. In Japan, going to a private farm to pick vegetables and fruits is one of the typical seasonal entertainment. Many private farms offer this kind of service where you pick your own vegetables or fruits and then pay by the hour or for the amount you take or eat. There are many themed packages like “ichigo gari” – pick-your-own strawberry and there are also general farm packages where you get to go to a farm and do whatever you want. You can pick any vegetable as long as it is ready, eat it right there or grill it in a nearby tent. That’s the trip we took. We got to pick and eat a lot of corn, garlic, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes etc. and then took plenty home.

I tried every activity that was out there. The hardest was the harvesting of potatoes. I know how to do it because my grandma used to grow potatoes in her summer garden but I have never thought it requires a huge physical strength. It looked so easy when she did it but it is really very hard. My back was hurting after only a few minutes.

Tomatoes was the best part. There were absolutely delicious – very sweet and juicy. Did I mention it is my favorite vegetable? My mom said she drank nothing but tomato juice when she was pregnant with me. That must be why I love them so much. I just seriously can’t get enough. If there was no other food but tomatoes, I’d be happy. ^-^

In the evening, we took a hike to a nearby forest to watch fireflies. There weren’t as many as I thought there would be. I have never seen fireflies before so I imagined them to be something like in a Disney movie – thousands flying around, lighting up the whole forest. In fact, they don’t always switch on their little shiny butts and only male bugs are flying. Also, there are only a few places on earth when you can in fact see thousands of them because they thrive only in the cleanest environments and sadly there aren’t as many left… But it was beautiful nevertheless. The glow they radiate is greenish yellow and when they move it looks magical. ^-^

30 seconds to mars live in Tokyo 2011

A couple of Sundays ago, I came back from the gym with the plan to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the day and then 2 hours later I ended up jumping and screaming at 30 seconds to Mars concert. How did it happen? Facebook! I didn’t even know the band was coming till my friend Lucy updated her status which something like “Who wants to go to the concert?” Her friend had an extra ticket and I was the first one to claim it. 20 minutes later I was out the door heading to the Studio Coast in Shinkiba. The concert was delayed for an hour or so but when it started, it was awesome all the way.

I only knew a couple of songs but because I used to obsess about “My so-called life“, I am a big fan of Jared. “Requiem for a dream” was also the first movie I watched upon my arrival to Tokyo in 2001. I still have the poster coz back then I was still in a scrapbook period of my life – I kept all the tickets, receipts, posters etc. ^-^

Jared has many fans in Japan who not only sang with him every single song (in English!!!) but also dressed by his command in cosplay costumes. Everyone who came wearing a costume was allowed onto the stage to sing and dance alongside the band.

There was also a famous Japanese guitarist opening for the band. Laura happens to know him well so hopefully I get to meet him one day. He was absolutely amazing!!!

This is the band’s most famous song (for anyone who doesn’t know how awesome 30 seconds to Mars is ^-^).

Journeys in Japan – Shizuoka, Clematis no oka

Actually, it was just one day trip so this post is not rounding up everything there is to see in Shizuoka. This time, we visited just one place – one of the most fascinating open air art spaces in Japan called “Clematis no oka”. This is the type of museum I appreciate the most – you can walk, run, jump around, take pictures of everything you want,  stay there all day and just enjoy good weather, the smell of lush grass and flowers and most of all the beauty of art all around you.

The entrance to the park greeted us with this beautiful mosaic which immediately created a Chekhov-like story in my head of an old Odessa resort, summer romance going to an end and Koop island blues song playing on the background…

Then, we entered and art was all around us. Most of the installations were made by Giuliano Vangi – Italian sculptor from Florence. He likes working with iron and steel, creating beautiful sculptures with interesting meanings.

This one I call “lost in the woods”. I think this sculpture represents someone who has walked most of his life thinking it will never end and only now realizing that it is almost gone and mostly wasted on stuff that never mattered..

“The wall” was also interesting. You can create a thousand stories for this one with either good or bad endings. ^-^

The inside of the museum building was beautiful too. It was a rare place where taking pictures of everything you want was encouraged rather than reprimanded.

These are my favorite works. The first one is of a man with seagulls. Again, many stories pop up in mind, Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea” in particular.

Then, this one is funny because it looks like both the belittled Akakiy Akakievich from Gogol’s “Shinel” and the Russian president-to-be Putin. ^-^

This one was astonishing. From one side, it looks like a man on the right is kissing a woman on the lest. From the other side, it is the opposite – a man becomes a woman and a woman becomes a man. ^-^

In the Clematis garden, there were hidden caves covered in lush green grass from the outside but made of stone with beautiful statues inside. This one is author’s self-portrait I am guessing with his wife.

Clematis was not in bloom this time of year which explains no visitors (!!! we were literally alone in there) but there were plenty of autumn flowers including beautiful pond lilies and chrysanthemums.

This beautiful statue I named “Genesis upside down”. Adam is trying to eat from the forbidden tree to obtain the knowledge of the Universe whereas Eva is an innocent bystander. She is also wiser than Adam because she is already dressed in clothes whereas Adam is still naked and unaware of his nakedness. It could also be that Eva has already eaten from the forbidden tree and that is why she is dressed… But I like the first version better! No woman wants to be blamed for the sins of the humanity… ^-^

The park also had an English garden with traditional white benches

and a couple of nice Italian restaurants with open terraces and delicious food.

The clematis no oka complex has three museums and a huge forest park. We went to the two museums out of three and took a hike to the forest. It is a spectacular place to be during the Koyo “red leaf” season and of course during clematis blooming. The forest had an open air coliseum for stage performances, summer orchestra and various garden events. I will definitely go there again and I recommend this place to everyone who wants to spend the day in tranquility surrounded by nature and beautiful art.

At the end of our trip (by the way, my driving is improving. I have been driving the whole trip), we stopped at Enoshima to meet the sunset at the beach, just like in my Chekhov story. ^-^

Hiking to Takao san

On my birthday, instead of throwing yet another drunken party, me and my girls decided to do something healthy instead, like..hiking! We chose Takao san which is the nearest, nicest and easiest hike around Tokyo to enjoy it thoroughly and yet still burn some calories. ^-^

It’s only about 600 meters high so it took us no more than 2 hours to get to the top and that is with all the stops we did on our way there.

We had “goma dango” – sesame oil rice pudding at the first viewing spot in the foothills of the Buddhist temple Yakuōin Yūkiji and then tried our luck at drawing omikuji (Japanese fortune telling). Then, we walked around the temple, took some pictures at different spots and then in the forest and finally arrived at the top.

Usually, Takao san is quite crowded during the Koyo “red leaf” season. Fortunately, the forest was still green so there were still places at the top to sit down and have a picnic.

On our way back, we got lost a bit getting on a trail that was closed due to the recent typhoon. But because it is Japan, the park had like a gazillion different signs, maps and direction posts so we got back onto the main road in no time.

It was a lot of fun to spend the day outside. It got us all inspired to go out more often. Now, we are planning to go to an onsen trip to Nikko in December. This week, me and Gow were planning to go to a yoga class in Shinjuku park but because of rain it was canceled. Oh well, next week then! ^-^

A walk in the park

Last Saturday, Laura took me to Showa memorial park in Nishi Tachikawa. It’s a huge space with 11 km bicycle trail and many themed gardens. It is also famous for autumn flowers like cosmos and red lilies. We couldn’t see much of them though because of the horrible typhoon that destroyed the cosmos fields almost entirely the previous week. But nevertheless, there was still a lot to see! We took a couple of pictures there and had a picnic. Then, she gave me a very nice birthday present – these beautiful Chanel glasses that I so admired on her. She actually asked me to hold them for her while she went to the bathroom and when she came back she was wearing hers!!!! Such a surprise and so very Laura! ^-^

These are a couple of pictures she took of me in the park. ^-^