yasukuni shrine

[a continuation from the previous post on the east imperial garden]

from the east garden, one can walk through the kitanomaru koen to reach
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(notice the schoolgirls with yellow umbrellas walking out from a nearby school, under the daiichi torii)

i visited the yasukuni-jinja out of [intellectual?] curiosity. having read so many news reports about the place, i decided that if there was only one temple i could visit in my short 4 days in Tokyo, it’d be this over the famous senso-ji.

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dates for major ceremonies

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lanterns representing various sake houses – the hand-out provided at the temple spoke only of the building without explaining the role that these sake makers have. if i were to hazard a guess, it’d be that these houses supply (sponsor?) the supplicatory wine for prayer.

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you can see the haiden (prayer hall) through the chumon torii.

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the haiden, with the imperial chrysanthemum.

i believe it is important to honour the war dead, the way we do with our cenotaphs, or as the brits do, with wearing poppy flowers in november and memorial services on remembrance day. in fact, i think we do not take it seriously enough here in Singapore, and our war dead deserve more than the hollow credit and mention we give them once a year.

does the difference lie solely in that japan has refused to apologise for their war actions, and the history taught there reflects an altruistic, obedient-to-the-end army, which is so different from that taught here, where the people who lived through the war recount with terror the nightmare of the japanese occupation?

or is this about history being written by the victors, who, as victims in the war, demand for compensation?

or does the conflict ultimately boil down to politics? to unite the people against a common enemy? (and this happens on both sides too – abe and koizumi before him leading longsuffering Japan against the overbearing and oversensitive China, the aggrieved China against the unrepentant Japan who shows no remorse for their crimes against humanity.)

think on these things here – nearest metro stop: kudanshita

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imperial gardens east

after the previous evening where I’d gotten lost at shinjuku, i needed a bit of quiet and headed to the east imperial gardens.

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it was drizzling slightly, which perhaps added to the dreamy romance of the gardens.

being summer, the irises were in bloom…

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and the view was calming –

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for such a beautiful and peaceful garden in the centre of the city, i was surprised that there weren’t more people around. i didn’t expect it to be quite so quiet; perhaps i was thinking of the likes of hyde park or our botanic gardens where there are people exercising, children running about etc. not that im complaining – it put me in a contemplative mood for the next place i visited – the yasukuni-jinja.

(to get to the gardens: otemachi station)

tokyu hands

“Tokyu Hands, the department store with everything for the home you ever wanted…”
-Protagonist, in Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance.

in my case, the home office. after having once lugged a souvenir pint glass and a christmas market hot chocolate mug all over Europe, i thought my aching shoulders and back taught me a good lesson to stop buying stuff while on holiday. perhaps tokyo was too short a trip, i had too much space in the backpack, plus their stuff are so irresistible that i succumbed to the allure of pretty stationery.

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washi tape! i don’t know what to use it on, given that i don’t use tape all that frequently. it just came to my attention while looking at the photo that i bought three cuboid-patterned ones? hmm bit silly of me.

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a memo pad and a to-do list. this, i use weekly. not for recording housework, though.

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more memo pads, which i bought for colleagues too.

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letter-writing paper – creamy yet delicate. i absolutely love this, and wish i bought more, but paying $7-8 for 20 sheets of paper is quite beyond me. yet, i do write notes and letters frequently (at least, i want to). spending money on things i actually use is not considered wasteful, is it?

and so, i splurged $30+ on stationery alone at tokyu hands, definitely a first for me (and hopefully last). if you’ve been to tokyu hands – what did you buy?

pretty ethnic clothing: the yukata

this is the last of a 3-part series on ethnic clothing, this time, focusing on the yukata, the summer kimono.

how i ended up in a yukata was serendipitous. it was my last day in japan, and i had a few hours to roam about shibuya before heading to narita. i stopped outside a shop window to admire the fabric on display, when the shop assistant beckoned me in. i flicked through the rack to look at the kimono fabric – mostly in modern japanese prints (some were honestly quite bizarre – like the modern tokyo skyline amidst a japanese zen garden setting. she then brought a basket over and got me to set my bag down, so that i could try one on. i protested, and tried, in my best broken japanese, to inform her that i had no intention to purchase anything. she gestured, ‘no problem!’ and after a while i went along with it. perhaps she was feeling bored..? or work ethic – not expecting anything in return for good service?

after but a few days in japan, one gets to know the japanese penchant for the beauty of wrapping – your purchases are wrapped in paper, then placed in a plastic bag, then put inside a paper bag to go. (it’s like a turducken, only prettier and in paper form).

the process of wearing a yukata pays tribute to the legendary japanese attention to detail.

there’s an inner white layer, lightly patterned in geometric shapes, fastened with a belt. then the yukata proper – wintry white flowers on a red background, again fastened with a belt hidden under the folds of the yukata. an obi, untied, held together with a binder clip. then a decorative blown-glass charm, strung on a thick blue-and-white ribbon, tied around my waist to accentuate the obi. lastly, a pair of geta to complete the look.

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i was amazed at the intricacy, the careful layering, and how seemingly clashing colours could come together.

later, i wondered how this counted as summer wear, given the layers, when the fabric is fairly thick. and then – if this is thought of as informal, what on earth would wearing a kimono be like?

before i left, she asked whether it was my first time trying on a yukata. i exclaimed that this was my very first time visiting Japan, and thanked her profusely for this unexpected experience. and then there was that slightly awkward bit where we kept bowing to each other as i was walking out of the shop.

i hope she’s doing well.

will be following up with a couple more posts on my short trip in june to tokyo, so stay tuned!

pretty ethnic clothing: the cheongsam

this is the second of a 3-part series on ethnic clothing.

i love the cheongsam. the love affair started with my elderly aunt, who used to wear cheongsam or cheongsam-inspired clothes both to work and for major festivities. then i was introduced to the world of suzie wong, which sealed the deal for me. i thought (and still think) the cheongsam to be the most sexily elegant thing a lady can wear. it is, unfortunately, very unforgiving on the figure; besides, not everyone can carry off the look.

what years of half-hearted dieting couldn’t achieve, a devastating break-up did – i finally lost enough weight to squeeze into my aunt’s lovely red lace cheongsam.

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this was chinese new year, 2014 – posing with the owner of the cheongsam.

it is one thing to be able to wear a cheongsam, and quite another to wear it well. the fire-engine red and mature cut requires a sass, a quiet, refined confidence that i simply do not have. perhaps one grows into it, or, you simply fake it till you make it.

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next up: the yukata.

pretty ethnic clothing: the saree

the first of a 3-part series of narcissistic posts on ethnic clothing, starting with the saree, which i wore to work yesterday (see pictures in previous post!)

i bought this cotton linen one from colombo, sri lanka. it is dyed a rich deep purple colour which fades to a light violet, with a rainbow for the over-the-shoulder sash.

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my akka brought me to her tailor at tekka market, little india, to make the choli (cropped blouse) and transform the untameable bale of cloth into an ‘instant saree’. i am quite obviously incapable of draping it safely, and having an instant sari where all i need to do is velcro and hook the sari at the waist is essential to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions and accidental flashing.

apparently i bought what people term a ‘temple saree’ – plain, without the flashy glass beads and costume jewels, with the art of the dye being its only adornment. akka recommended puff sleeves and an intricate back to make it more youthful. i like how it turned out, and i received compliments from indians and chinese alike.

the first (and only) time i wore it to work, i was pulled aside by a middle-aged indian lady with whom i make small talk every now and then. she helped me adjust the sari so that it draped nicely over my chest, and pulled it taut enough to accentuate my curves without any muffin-tops. a colleague supplied me with a pretty purple bindi.

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not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to wear this again, but it was good fun, even if it made climbing stairs near impossible!

racial harmony day 2014

we were invited to dress [up] in ethnic wear in celebration of racial harmony.

(not sure how long i can keep these photos up, depending on how open my colleagues are to online privacy)

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some of my closest friends for the past decade in my life are from the minority races, and every now and then, i get the sense that i seem to be the minority for that.

racial harmony day hardly scrapes the surface of the issue. while i think racial prejudice will continue to exist in some minor form or another, true racial harmony should imply more than just the absence of racially-driven conflict.

how can we become as colourblind as, say, the brazilians? can we do without the “race: chinese/malay/indian/other” option on forms? will it actually matter, if we take race out of the identity card (and replace it with something more useful like the blood type?) can we begin to take colour out of public speech, beginning with parliamentary concerns and non-colour/community-divided national day rallies? of course, all that is easier said than done, given that different communities have varying concerns that require different policies and solutions.

still, something to look forward to. (ok, given the way our youth are becoming effectively monolingual in English anyway, perhaps the rallies in non-english official languages will be scrapped soon enough. and that is another issue for another post)