I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Northern Ireland. However, during July’s ‘marching season‘ it’s purely hate. It stands to reason then that my favourite thing about Japan in July is that there aren’t any petrol bombs, riots or dickheads walking about. There’s no Rangers/Celtic bullshit; there’s no monotonous UTV Live bulletins about Drumcree; and there’s no hideous bonfires piled high with poisonous tyres and manky old sofas. Put simply, like every other country in the world, the 12th of July means absolutely nothing over here. And that’s the way I like it.
This year I celebrated the Twelfth by being as far away from it as humanly possible. Here’s what I got up to in July.
I like cute stuff. Back home I used to have an old cocktail cabinet stuffed to the brim with 80s plush toys: Superted, Count Duckula, Roland Rat et al. Did it look cool? Hell yeah. Did people think I was a weirdo for having it? Probably. Anyway… My love for cute stuff recently led me to Tokyo Station, home to Character Street – an underground promanade lined with shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures. Along with the mandatory Miffy & Hello Kitty stores, there’s also a load of obscure ones – including a Kapibara San store where you can blow £100 on what looks like a giant blob with a face.
I genuinely regret not buying this hamster inside a rubber peanut. I’m 31 years old.
A trip to the Imperial Palace and the greenest green grass you’ve ever seen. I was tempted to walk on it. I didn’t. Go me.
Summer is always packed full of Matsuris – traditional festivals where everyone goes a bit giddy, drinks lots of beer and eats yakisoba. At the Mitama Matsuri I rubbed shoulders with 30,000 lanterns leading up to Yasukini Shrine, and seen nearly as many girls in yukatas. There are an insane amount of Matsuris coming up. You can read about them here.
July = hot. Rainy season is officially over and the the heat has arrived. Vest tops, havaianas and sunscreen are the order of the day.
There was a Columbian festival in Hibiya Koen. I didn’t see any cocaine or guns but i did see a lot of big asses and South American men who all looked the same. I burnt my tongue on a chorizo sausage.
I have an impressive record of getting thrown out of places I shouldn’t be in. Usually it’s because I like to walk into random tall buildings, take the elevator to the top and just dander about. I decided to do the same at the 5-star Imperial Hotel in Ginza, and stumbled across a wedding. I definitely shouldn’t have been there, so I made a quick escape.
Viv, Tim and I rode out to the Museum of Contemporary Art to check out Director Hideaki Anno’s Special Effects exhibition. It was full of nerds marvelling at original props from the Godzilla movies and gasping in awe at crappy looking phasers. The best part was a scaled-down replica of Tokyo that you could walk about in – everything was done in miniature but it looked incredibly real. There was even the opportunity to get your photo taken as if you were a monster destroying the city.
Look at this guy here. What a legend. Dungarees and the worst hair you’ve ever seen. He’s taking a picture…
… of this guy here who looks equally ridiculous. He’s posing to look like a monster…
… just like I am here. I don’t look very scary.
I went Dragonfly hunting in Ueno Park on a hot summer’s day.
A lazy afternoon wandering about the National Museum of Nature and Science. It was awesome. Apart from the usual array of dinosaurs, insects and fossils there was also a thing called the Earth Room – the world’s first 360-degree theatre. It’s shaped like a globe and you stand on a walkway that sits right in the middle of it. The blurb says: “The special effect of the video picture gives a feeling of floating and a sense of speed, which may cause some viewers to become nauseous.” Damn right. It felt like I was flying, and I’ll definitely be going back.
Summer street beers
Followed by summer Izakaya beers
July was a bit of an epic month, and no doubt the fun will continue throughout August. On a sadder note, however, I was shocked to hear of the death of Tony Sly – lead singer of No Use For a Name. NUFAN was a great band, and along with many other Fat Wreck artists, formed the soundtrack for many of my summers. RIP.