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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • November 17, 2006


    Reminiscing Tokyo Part 6: Imperial Palace & Shibuya (11/1/06)

    I woke up extra early in the morning, skipped breakfast at the hotel, and walked to JR Shinjuku Station to purchase Narita Express ticket to Narita Airport on Nov 3. Lonely Planet and other travel resources have advised advance purchase for fear of soldout. One of Japan's hidden jewels that travelers often overlook is the underground aracde--home of many souvenir shops, bookstores, restaurants and bargains. On this particular morning, after I've secured my airport express ticket, I slowed down a bit and spotted a woman donned in kimono and clad in wooden slipper in one of the gift shops. She kindly gave me permission to take a photo of her.

    I stopped by a tiny restaurant in the underground aracde beneath the train station for an asagohon (breakfast), which contained steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish, rolled omelet, pickles, and dry seaweed for 650 Yen (US$5.70). Over asagohon I scribbled a few postcards (a travel ritual of mine) and took them with me to the Main Post Office, which was conveniently located at the proximity of the historic Tokyo Station. As you can see in the picture, I looked a bit lost as I was riffling through the guidebook for a map.

    No sooner had I walked into the post office did my heart skip a beat, at 8:30 am a long line was forming at the door. Once I found my bearing inside the office I learned that the long line was for parcel pickup and social security payable--no wonder it was packed with retirees. The clerk at international post was very friendly and efficient--he even stamped the postcards, peeled the stickers that said "air mail" and put them on for me and assured that they would be sent out immediately. For only 490 Yen not only did I receive quick and efficient service, I also experienced a s[ecial courtesy that was deeply rooted in the Japanese culture.
    The current Imperial Palace (Kokyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family. Edo Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. In 1868, the shogunate was overthrown, and the country's capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. The palace was once destroyed during World War Two, and rebuilt in the same style, afterwards.

    From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) is derived.
    Meganebashi (Eyeglass) Bridge is a popular picture spot thronged with tourists. I beat the tour group by a couple of minutes.
    I walked all the way to where Meganebashi Bridge is cordoned off and reached the observatory point. From this perspective you can see the imperial buildings are separated by an inner moat.
    The palace buildings and inner gardens are not open to the public. Only on January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday), visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see the members of the Imperial Family, who make several public appearances on a balcony.
    The Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public throughout the year except on Mondays, Fridays and special occasions. Please visit the East Gardens information page for more information.

    The East Gardens are the former site of Edo Castle's innermost circles of defense, the honmaru ("main circle") and ninomaru ("secondary circle"). None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses still exist. Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Emperor Meiji also resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.
    In place of the former buildings in the secondary circle of defense (ninomaru) at the foot of the hill, a nice Japanese style garden has been created.

    After the Imperial PalaceI hopped back on the metro to Shibuya, a popular shopping and entertainment area around Shibuya Station. This is probably the most-pictured scene of Tokyo. The opening scene of the movie Lost in Translation was filmed here.

    Shibuya is one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts and birthplace to many of Japan's fashion and entertainment trends, including my favorite--Beams. Most of the area's large department and fashion stores belong to either Tokyu or Seibu, two competing corporations.

    Shibuya has achieved great popularity among young people in the last thirty years. There are several famous fashion department stores in Shibuya. Shibuya 109—called "Ichi-Maru-kyū", which translates as 1-0-9 in Japanese, is actually a pun on the name of the corporation that owns it—Tokyu—which translates as 10-9 in Japanese—is a major shopping center near Shibuya Station, particularly famous as the origin of the kogal subculture. The contemporary fashion scene in Shibuya extends northward from Shibuya Station to Harajuku, where youth culture reigns; Omotesandō, the zelkova tree and fashion brand lined street; and Sendagaya, Tokyo's apparel design district.

    A prominent landmark of Shibuya is the large intersection in front of the station (Hachiko Exit), which is heavily decorated by neon advertisements and giant video screens and gets crossed by amazingly large crowds of pedestrians each time the traffic light turns green.

    Shibuya has everything from 100 Yen noodles, condoms (lots of them in Condomania!!!), pubs, souvenirs, kimonos, fashion T-shirts (some T-shirts by up-and-coming local designers can cost as much as 17,000 Yen!), hats, to top notch gourmet food. No wonder it has been said that Shibuya has threatened Shinjuku's place as the main entertainment and shopping center.
    Center Gai is the narrow street leading away from the station to the left of the giant video screen, it's famous as the birthplace of many of Japan's youth fashion trends. Center Gai is jam-packed with clothing stores, music stores, and video game arcades. I was oblivious to time's passing as I strolled insouciantly and felt the Shibuya vibe.


    Blogger johnNokc said...

    Matt -- I am thorooughly enjoying your wonderful travelogue of HK and Japan. You should be on the payroll of the respective Tourism departments. I'm wondering who took the photos when you appear in them. Are you traveling with a friend or do you depend on the kindness of strangers to take your pic?

    11/17/2006 12:55 PM  
    Anonymous Bill D. said...

    Matt I've been following all along your travelogue. You've got good eyes on things and a handle on writing. :)

    Happy Birthday to you!

    11/17/2006 6:59 PM  
    Blogger Tony said...

    I so have to see Japan. Thaanks so much for giving us a good taste of Japan, Tokyo, etc. My gosh is it really your birthday? happy birthday if that's the case!

    11/17/2006 10:56 PM  
    Blogger John said...

    Matt -- Your birthday??? Had I known earlier I would have bought you a small European country. Anyway, have the happiest!

    11/18/2006 6:23 AM  
    Anonymous Chris said...

    Happy Birthday stud! :)

    I'll call you...

    11/18/2006 7:24 AM  
    Blogger matty said...

    Great pix, but you didn't take my advice Mr. Man! ...zoom in so we can see YOU better!!!!

    And, by the way --- Happy Birthday, Handsome!


    ...the more I think about the film we saw the more I think I liked it. ...I think.

    11/18/2006 7:55 AM  
    Anonymous Marco said...

    Happy Birthday my friend! What a great blog you've started here. I know people blog for different reason, but as soon as I read it I know it's you. This is truly your life--the books you read, the dating life (I know it can be a bitch sometimes but I know you will find him), your travel.

    Thank you for being such a true friend; you truly care for your friends, including me, with your whole heart and not just with words. I wish you the best on this special day of yours (although I come a bit late...)

    I'm lucky to have you as my friend.


    11/18/2006 10:51 PM  
    Blogger Oakland Rezident said...

    Happy Birthday Matt-
    So sad I couldn't make it to dinner ! I don't think I've missed your b day dinner in many many years. Tell your poppa thanks for the crab - I can't believe i missed it !
    BTW- Can u reccomend a good book on Japan's history. Particularly cultural perspectives, ideology and local customs.

    11/19/2006 2:59 PM  
    Anonymous Luis said...

    I know someone else must have asked you the same did you manage to take picture? Relying on the kindness of stranger? Traveling with a friend?

    Happy birthday to you my freind.

    Are you still doing the week long birthday celebration thing?

    11/19/2006 8:19 PM  
    Anonymous Scott said...

    My gosh, I forgot your bday until I read this. Happy birthday to you Matt.

    R u still coming to Bangkok this spring? :o)

    11/20/2006 4:17 PM  
    Blogger Joshua said...

    I love your stories/photos - thanks for sharing!

    11/21/2006 1:40 AM  
    Blogger Rick said...

    Great pictures...looks like a lot of fun. Have to go there sometime.n

    11/21/2006 5:50 AM  
    Blogger Robert said...

    So Matt isn't tell who took 'em pictures eh? Happy belated birthday Matt! I didn't know. Hope you had a wonderful time. I'm sure you did. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and a bit of history and description on each of the site. A totally different culture, must be experienced first hand.

    11/21/2006 7:25 AM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Thanks everyone. I have so much fun on the trip and on my birthday. The parties are still going on. LOL

    11/22/2006 9:27 AM  

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