Tokyo 2018 March

It was wonderful to be back in Tokyo again. We’ve been to Japan a few times and really enjoy it. We were excited but relaxed as we made our way from Narita airport to our accommodation. We like using AirBnB rather than hotels so we can have a private space where we can leave our stuff and relax. Also we buy our own food and eat out a lot more allowing us to experience more of Japan.
Speaking of experiencing Japan, on our arrival it was raining. Umbrellas are ubiquitous in Japan. We arrived very late and it was raining a lot so our first job was to buy umbrellas and food at a コンビニ (konbini or convinience store) which was a Lawson Station near 新宿御苑前駅 (Shinjuku-Gyoammae station). We walked to our apartment collected the key and got in with no trouble. The apartment was a typical super compact space with a tiny bathroom and kitchen alcove plus a single everything else room with a small table and a double bed.
To be honest if you’re there to experience Japan this is all you need in the way of accomodation. The Japanese live their social lives outside their apartments and don’t party at home. Bed quiet and respectful to your neighbours if you stay in an airbnb as there is some resentment of them and it helps them to stay available if you are good neighbours.
On our first full day in Tokyo went to Tabata to get Kimono and Nagoya obi for Clover in a nice little second hand Kimono shop there. They’re very nice and friendly but be warned they speak zero english there so it is helpful to have some useful phrases and to be able to understand the responses. The are however very patient and you can point to what you want and they’ll help you.
Next up we went to the Jinja at Asakusa after some wondering around we found the place where we bought Tenugui last time Amuse Museum which we’d previously only found because Otonawa had shown it to us. Got Tenugui and Furoshiki in red. Late this day Clover phoned Sugiura Norio Sensei, unfortunately there was some confusion about when they were able to meet. Fortunately it all worked out well in the end and we saw Sugiura Sensei at Nawa Naka Kai on the Sunday. Had a nice meeting with him there and hoped to see him again while we were in Tokyo. He told us he was going to Nagoya for a couple of days of shooting. We also visited the imperial palace properly for the first time. A free tour was provided by the Imperial Household Agency and I very much recommend it for the information and history imparted on the tour.
Nawa Naka Kai. On the first Sunday of our stay (11th March 2018)
This was an interesting gathering in an old traditional house now used as a studio in Tokyo near Shinagawa. This is a beautiful Edo era home and very much original feel. It will be familiar to fans of Naka Akira and Sugiura Norio from many pictures in recent years. It’s the last place of its kind still available for shooting. It provided a great atmosphere for the Nawa Naka Kai which was very well attended. Naka Sensei talked for a while and then introduced guests. One who is very much involved with SM these days. Kari (check this is correct) who is big in the SM scene in Japan and who is often on TV and video. Also Sugiura Sensei spoke on some matters. (Our thanks go to Nuite de Tokyo for his kindness in translating the key points of the conversation for us. It really added to the value of the event for us. During the event Naka Sensei tied twice with two models (find names of models) X and Y. Naka Sensei’s connection was apparent as he tied with the first model. After only the gote the model was in tears, emotion overcoming her. Naka Sensei put her into a good challenging suspension and the pressure was evident. It was good and emotional and beautiful. The model was an AV actress and apparently Naka had been asked to go easy with her but evidently that wasn’t what the model or Naka Sensei wanted and the scene was quite hard but only using rope, no other toy was involved. The model had some red marks on her arms from burst capillaries (pic) this is something that happens from time to time and is not harmful or long lasting. The model was very happy with the experience.
The second model was a former AV star who had not been tied for a while Naka Sensei tied her on the floor but it was still an intense and challenging scene. That’s something to say here, these were scenes not shows and not rehearsed but real in the moment. It was our pleasure to attend this event and an experience we’ll remember.
Finally I’d like to note another detail about the event, it occured on the anniversary of the great earthquake (11th March 2011) and included a solemn moments silent remembrance for those lost to the disaster.
The next day Monday 12th March we would begin our time with Naka Sensei. To begin the day we tried to go to the Little Bird gluten free cafe near 代々木八幡駅 Yoyogi-Hachiman station near Yoyogi Park (on the opposite side to Harajuku), unfortunately it was closed for that one day and we got some snacks and headed to Naka Sensei’s Artelier. We spent a lot of time talking about kinbaku and these are very useful and interesting times for us. It is often remarkable to see what you have in common and what you can learn which is often unexpected. There are very few people you can have this kind of conversation with and Naka Sensei is the only one I can think of. I’m happy to be in a time where this kind of trip is possible for us.
On the next day Tuesday the 13th March 2018 we decided to start the day by going to the Totoro cream puffs cafe which we had very much enjoyed on a previous visit to Tokyo. We also got some snacks at a konbini and headed to Naka Sensei’s Artelier for our second session. Again most of the day was taken up with conversation and questions. We also did some bondage including Bamboo and Hashira works. We also arranged during this day to meet Sugiura Sensei and Miho Ikeda at Sugiura Sensei’s office and so stayed with Naka Sensei until it was time to head out and meet. Our parting was very emotional and was marked by the gift of a set of shears made to look like a katana, almost a joke but Naka tells us very good sheers and fine steel anyway. Also Naka Sensei gave us a very fine bottle of o saki. We were very touched on top of the emotion of having to say goodbye until the next time again. We were glad we came and sad to leave, we feel a friendship deepened and the next time will not come soon enough.
The meeting with Sugiura Sensei 21:30 Tuesday 13th March 2018
Here we met with Sugiura Sensei, Miho Ikeda and one of Sugiura’s sons. We talked about many things including the trip to Copenhagen (where we’d seen Sugiura Sensei a few weeks before (23rd to 25th February 2018)), Selection of camera and lense etc. as well as our reasons for coming and other matters relating to rope. We received some very thoughtful gifts, one of which we will not be able to open until we are home with a computer with a dvd player. Also we made an arrangement with Sugiura Sensei to sell his anniversary book in the UK and the USA. We’re looking forward to advertising these. It was again sad to walk to the station with Sugiura Sense and Miho san and to leave in opposite directions. Again it is all too brief a visit with wonderful people.
Wednesday the 14th March 2018 heading for Kyoto.
As I write this we are aboard the 新幹線 (Shinkasen) from Tokyo station to Kyoto where we will be for the next four days. It’s our first time in Kyoto and we’re looking forward to seeing a city in Japan other than Tokyo. We are speeding across Japan and saw Fuji san from the train which was a great sight, it made Clover cry (she likes Fuji san). Next time we will come at a warmer time of year so we can take the trip to Fuji itself and maybe make the walk up (there is a limited window in the year where this is possible).
Wednesday 14th March 2018 Arrival in Kyoto
Arrived at Kyoto station. For a city with a reputation for being part of an older Japan the station is very modern indeed. Impressive building and well worth taking a look when you’ve nothing else pressing to do.
We got the train from Kyoto station to Nijo station and changed onto a bus to get to our accommodation, a Ryoken (traditional house). The house is very nice. All sliding screens and tatami mats. No beds, Futon on tatami. No central heating either though there are air conditioners, a concession to modern comforts as are the excellent bath and modern toilet complete with the famed Japanese electrical toilet seat and combined bidet. We had a very thorough introduction to the house by our host and were given lots of useful information about Kyoto, what to see and where. Also some great information on local eating. The local Ramen place is especially worthy of note providing the best Ramen I’ve ever tasted which was our supper for our first day here.
Thursday 15th March 2018
A modest breakfast of things we’d picked up from the local 7-11 (ham, cheese slices, hard boiled eggs) and off to Nijo-jo castle which is pretty local to where we’re staying. We had a good time seeing round the castle which is very well preserved. It was nice to see a Japanese castle as the last time we’d tried in 2016 the caste at Odawara was closed for renovations and we didn’t find that out until we’d got there. We had an excellent tour at Nijo-jo provided by the City of Kyoto Visitors Hosts and thoroughly enjoyed the place.
Next we went to Chionji Marked which is the site of a temple of the same name. The marked is only once a month on the 15th so we went and had a look round. We found while we were there some excellent strawberry treats which were made with (ask clover to fill in what this was) covering the strawberries.
Also an interesting thing happened. An American, tall guy with long white hair pulled back, walking with a stick and sporting an eye patch (sometimes fact is stranger than fiction) asked me what the devil mask society was, as I was wearing a DMS t shirt. There then followed an explanation of Oniroku Dan, the six demons, the six devil masks on the t shirt etc. though I didn’t bring up bondage.
Next we tried to find a place to get a Yukata, unfortunately that was harder than you’d think as it was fine getting kimono but not yukata, probably because it wasn’t the season.
We went next to Gofun nails and got some nail polish for Clover that won’t destroy her nails! Then we were happily in time to go to Ki-Ichizawa to shop for canvas bags, this is more exciting than it sounds. they’re famous for their superbly made and long lasting bags. I’d been looking forward to getting on for months since we started to plan on coming to Kyoto on this trip. In the end I didn’t pick the bag I’d thought I would and got a backpack in red and matcha which again isn’t a combination I was expecting to pick. Clover also got a nice smaller shoulder bag for general use. We bought each other our bags as gifts, cos we’re soft like that.
Finally we went for dinner of rice and ramen at a place I wouldn’t recommend, ‘Cho’ something. It’s find that I don’t remember the name, it was that spectacular.
Well we thought that was finally but it turned out not to be the case as we decided to take a walk to Gion corner to see the Geisha district of Kyoto; and to see if we would see a geisha while we were there (we did!).
Friday 16th March
We start the day at the crack of dawn (I’m not kidding we got up at 05:30) to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is famous for its 10,000 Tori gates. This is a great walk climbing 233 meters to the peak and highest shrine. It took about 2 hours to get up and another 2 to get down, there are some amazing scenes… of Tori gates and also a great view of the Kyoto basin. The raised road looking like something out of a 50s city planners dream. The tori gates are btw the ones seen in the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. Going very early was well worth the effort as there were very few other people there when we arrived and no stalls or shops were open, we saw only a few people on our way up, when we were nearly down again however it was full of tourists and a lot less pleasant.
Once we were down we headed back the way we’d come to Kinkakuji and the ‘Golden temple’ this is quite literally because the temple by the lake is covered in gold. The effect as you can see is very subtle and tasteful. This temple was included in our travels basically because it was famous and also easy to see as it is next to our real destination Ryoan-ji a zen temple which is less well known and therefore a great deal more pleasant for not being overrun with tourists. Also it’s primary attraction is not to every taste. A beautiful zen stone garden. Here’s a few pictures from where we enjoyed a moment’s pause from the day.
Then we headed back to our accommodation and Ramen! Have to get an early night as tomorrow starts even earlier.
Saturday 17th March 2018
It’s sadly our last day in Kyoto, we went to visit Arashiyama and its Bamboo grove early in the morning i.e. we got up at five am to leave our accomodation to get there for dawn and to have the place to ourselves as much as possible. This worked out really well and there were hardly any people there when we found the bamboo grove, we walked it and much of the surrounding area only seeing maybe 5 other people on the trail. We encountered a few more when we ascended the hill to the observation point and looked down on the river but really didn’t meet many people until we had walked all the way down to the river (something like a 100m drop but look this up to confirm) took some pictures there (pictures) and then walked towards the (find name) bridge. After all that we made our way back to Kyoto station for breakfast it was only about 10 am and we’d already been up and doing for 5 hours, so after our omelets with bacon and some of the thickest toast I’ve ever been served, we headed into Gion for a walk around Gion corner in the daylight and to think what else we wanted to do with the day. We remembered we hadn’t been to Kyoto’s famous candle maker and headed off to their shop. Unfortunately they were closed and so this is the only view we have of Nakamura Candles shop and workshop (pictures). Slightly disappointed we returned to Kyoto station to get lunch and then to indulge in some downtown shopping. We found some nice things we’d been looking for. (Hair ornaments, towels, hand cream and more gofun nail polish)
On our last morning we did some shooting in the Ryokan and then went to Kitano Tenman-gū Shrine This place was lovely and we got a great juban to round off our time in Kyoto. A big thanks to our host there who let us check out late so we wouldn’t have to either miss the shrine altogether or have to drag suitcases around. So finally we say farewell to Kyoto and head via Osaka to Kansai where we’ll catch our flight home.
One final thing that rounded off the trip was that we stayed in an 温泉 (onsen). This was a great idea of Clover’s and really rounded off the trip in style. We paid for a private onsen and it was a great experience. I don’t think it’s possible to be cleaner. The pool was so hot we went into the sauna for a break from the heat, showered a lot and had an amazing time. Very relaxing and just what you need to set you up for a long trip home.