JR Metropolitan Hotel Marunouchi, worth the splurge

Fair to say that 5 Stars is punching well above my usual accommodation level when getting around Japan. 3 Star business hotels are the norm. The JR Metropolitan Hotel Marunouchi (Tokyo) has such a good reputation and is close to transport – in fact, right next to Tokyo Station. Forget the cost I say. Less inheritance for the kids.

Things are looking pretty special when Reception is on the 27th Floor. The grand foyer (is that what it is on the 27th Floor?) includes fantastic artworks and a very large model railway. And of course the usual super attentive and courteous staff.

The King Corner Room had luxurious furnishings complimented by an expansive view north and east across iconic places like Asakusa and the Tokyo Skytree, as well to the expanses of this great city.

A great place. Value for money? Yes certainly, especially for a couple of special nights at the start or end of a trip.

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Cafe Aun quiet beside the Tama River

From the riverside walking track only a small wooden gate sign lets you know that both a gallery and cafe lie on the other side. The short path leads you past kid’s bikes, a cubby house and a deflated football that tell you this is an everyday backyard

The Aun Cafe sits in the back of the house with magnificent views over the upper reaches of the Tama River, close enough to hear the constant flow of rushing water around volcanic rocks seemingly deliberately placed to create a cluster of rapids.

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Akagi-goe section of the Kumano Kodo

The loop from Hongu Taisha to Hosshinmon-oji, on to Funatama-jinja and then on to Yunomine via the Akgi-goe section of the Nakahechi route is a very popular day walk. A short distance from Funatama-jinja, the route crosses over the Otonashi-gawa. A poem from 1158 reflects the spiritual significance of this place: Although the waters of the Otonashi-gawa are shallow, crossing them washes away the depths of impurity.

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Yasu’s favourite izakaya is now mine. IZAKAYA たいと

I met Yasu at the Japan Council of Local Government Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) in Sydney a few years ago. With his posting over and a trip to Tokyo coming up for Veronica and I, some loose arrangements were made to meet up.

Without knowing much about each other, I opted for informality and the prospect of lots of food and adult beverages by suggesting that we go to Yasu’s favourite izakaya.

And what a damn fine night we had at IZAKAYA たいと (I don’t know what is says, but I gather it is an amalgam of the two operators names). When Yasu’s personal Japanese whisky bottle is bought over to the table, the prospects were good that things came only go up from there. Little did I know that Yasu has been eating at this place for 15 years!

Rounds of delicious foods were delivered, selected by by Yasu and Chie and by the operators – their special dishes for a favourite local and us blow-ins. The good range of food much was more that a typical izakaya. Great conversations about work, families, politics, golf, soccer, teaching, history and culture.

A really nice night. Thank you Yasu and Chie.

Check out a place like IZAKAYA たいと rather than the crowds and noise of Roppongi central.  https://goo.gl/maps/Ap3yeCrNZ1G2 106-0032 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi, 3 Chome−4−48

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Kawayu Onsen – better second time around

There is something exotic and very reflective of the heart of Japan to stay in an old wooden ryokan, a fast flowing river in front before big hills that surround. Add to that open air hot spring baths. Kawayu Onsen is one of those places. In 2013 four of us old gents stayed in the Kameya Inn (a couple of stories about that are here)

A return trip in 2016 focused on the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival. With most of the locals involved in the festival, including our Kameya Inn hosts who close the ryokan on festival day, the much bigger and formal Midoriya Hotel became our spot.

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Heart beat #19958

Contemporary art can be weird wonderful and whimsical, more often weird. When it is participatory, it is at another level again. And so I became heartbeat #19958 recorded on 13 April 2016 in Christian Boltanski’s worldwide installation ‘Les Archives du Coeur’.

The house sits facing a quiet beach of the Setouchi Inland Sea. Inside, “Les Archives du Cœur” my own heartbeats were digitised forever. I can’t remember what my personal message was which is part of the archive for the work.

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Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival

With declining rural communities as well as less Shinto followers  across Japan, local religious and cultural local festivals might be struggling to maintain community interest and participation. S0 I say to fellow visitors in particular – seek out and celebrate small festivals.

One such festival is the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival, in Hongu, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture in mid-April every year. With shrine ceremonies and procession of mikoshi, this festival is like many others just smaller scale.

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