And so life goes full circle… In 2003 I touched down in Japan for the first time, living in this apartment block in Fukuoka city. Last weekend I went back to visit – a whopping 13 years later. I hadn’t been back during that time at all, but thankfully everything is exactly how I remember it, right down to my old post box, and the sign for the supermarket. It was such a strange feeling, and I experienced the ultimate sensation […]
Quite often when you travel a lot – and particularly when you are a travel writer – so many little moments can get lost; photos relegated to the the depths of memory cards, overlooked in favour of bigger articles that are being written at the time. As a perfect example, I was freeing up some space on a card the other day when I came across a group of photos I hadn’t looked at since the day they were taken. Cycling […]
Each year between mid-February and early March the Setagaya Plum Blossom Festival (Setagaya Ume Matsuri) takes place at Hanegi Park in Umegaoka. It’s a small park, with small neighbourhood vibes to match: the festival mainly attracting local people who live in the surrounding area. I live two stops from Umegaoka, and so last weekend I decided to check out a good sushi place then met some mates to hang out at the matsuri. Cute local festivals like this are what living in the […]
Last weekend I was out at the Mori Art Museum reviewing the new NS Harsha retrospective for Tokyo Art Beat. I’ll hopefully get that article written and published later next week. I’ve always been a big fan of the Mori: it’s a space that never fails to enhance the exhibitions it hosts, not any easy task considering its size. What also makes the Mori special is that admission to the museum also grants you entrance to Tokyo City View on the 52nd floor. Offering 360-degree […]
When I first started this blog in March 2012, it was more a collection of daily photos – a diary for myself more than anything – of all the new things I was seeing and doing in Tokyo. As the years went on, these daily things of course became (somewhat) normal to me and so IKIMASHO! matured (is that the right word?) into a site with more specific articles about traditional festivals, certain neighbourhoods in the city and other stuff […]
TSUKISHIMA / 月島 Last Saturday I had a wander about Tsukishima – a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, just across the channel from Tsukiji fish market (which I still haven’t been to despite living here five years…) Tsukishima was created over 100 years ago using earth that was dredged from the bay during the construction of a shipping channel. It’s an area rarely featured in guidebooks, although among Japanese people it’s probably best known as a mecca for monjayaki – a kind of runny pancake with different ingredients, […]
Categories: Daily Life in Tokyo • Tags: area guide, asia, asian, blog, design, food, ikimasho, japan, japanese, nature, neighbourhood, old japan, old tokyo, photography, shrines, street, temples, tokyo, urban
KAGURAZAKA / 神楽坂 Despite being cold, the winter months in Tokyo are often the best time of year to enjoy clear blue skies and sunshine. And so, with the sun on my back, I recently headed down to Kagurazaka for the afternoon – a neighbourhood in Tokyo not too far from Iidabashi station. (There’s a great cafe down by the canal there by the way, check it out.) Kagurazaka is perhaps most famous for its picturesque cobblestone streets, cute French restaurants […]
Last Sunday – with the cold visible on my breath – I made a short trip on the dainty Setagaya train line visit to the Setagaya Boroichi Fair. Started over 400 years ago, this huge flea market is now designated as one of Tokyo’s intangible folk cultural assets and features about 700 venders selling all sorts of food, junk, toys and antiques. There was a marching band with students playing the tuba, and everyone was in good spirits. I also tried […]
I’m back in Northern Ireland for a few weeks for the holidays. Today some of my old bandmates and I climbed up Cave Hill, overlooking Belfast. Cave Hill is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, with Swift imagining that the Hill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.
“A six-centuries-old tradition, showing allegiance to the mountain gods, feels like a religious test of endurance, writes Justin Egli recounting what he witnessed atop the volcano.” In 2014 I climbed to the top of an active volcano in Indonesia at midnight to witness a very unique festival. It was an extremely intense experience, with pilgrims throwing live sacrifices into the heart of the caldera. I’m really happy to have my account of the experience published by New Mandala – an […]
Realising you are getting old(er) and being perfectly happy about it. A few days ago I came across a piece I did for ACCLAIM magazine in 2015 featuring a bunch of old photos I took with disposable cameras back when I was living in the south of Japan in 2003. It got me thinking how I didn’t really fully appreciate being in Kyushu at the time, and exploring my immediate surroundings. At 22, all I cared about was partying, going to punk […]
Colorful leaves (koyo) are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring. This is a time to seek out silent gardens: to sit motionless among the lonely reds and yellows of nature. Like IKIMASHO! on Facebook
A millennium-old Japanese dance on the grounds of Sensoji Temple, Tokyo.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: asakusa, asia, blog, culture, dance, dancing, design, fashion, festival, japan, japanese, matsuri, photography, se asia, sensoji, shirasagi-no mai, tokyo, traditional, travel, white heron dance
Those of us who work in Japan are lucky enough to get one or two national holidays a month. Health and Sports Day – also simply known Sports Day – is one such day held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle. To coincide with the national holiday, many traditional sporting events take place throughout the city. And so a few weeks […]
When the spirits of mountains and forests roam the streets of Tokyo The summer matsuri season may have died down but there are still plenty of smaller cultural festivals happening all over Tokyo each weekend for those curious enough look that little bit further. For me, visiting these festivals is an integral part of living here: for as well as helping me understand more about Japan, they also satisfy my need to ‘travel’ in that I am constantly seeing something new and fresh for […]
ANA recently got it touch with me about a social media collaboration. It’s the largest airline in Japan, and has a following of over one million on Facebook. It was a good opportunity for me to gain some new followers and get some good exposure. I have been fortunate enough in the last few months to work directly with high-end brands such as Shangri-La, Hyatt and now ANA – and I sincerely hope I can continue this onward trend into 2017 […]
Getting lost in the sound of the Japanese summer Last weekend I took a stroll around Inokashira Koen, a park 10 minutes by train from my house. If I ever decide to move away from Shimokitazawa, it will be to here – in and around Kichijoji. Just west of Tokyo, this area is close enough to the central wards to be convenient but far enough away to have a sleepy, bohemian atmosphere. Then again, being only ten minutes away, I guess I can […]
Last weekend was the annual Reitaisai (Grand Festival) in my suburb of Shimokitazawa. The festival was centred around Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine which was built more than 500 years ago to put the area under divine protection. Around 20 mikoshi (portable shrines) were scattered throughout the neighbourhood and then carried by various teams to the shrine itself. Like IKIMASHO! on Facebook
Touching down in the bustling state capital of Kota Kinabalu On my most recent trip to SE Asia I visited three countries: Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia – specifically the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo. I had visited Sabah’s major hub Kota Kinabalu before, but that was seven years ago and so I was interested to see if the city had changed in any way. Fortunately, Kota Kinabalu has retained its character and has not changed dramatically simply in order […]
The sights and sounds of the city within walking distance – or water taxi. I first visited Borneo seven years ago, spending three weeks in the Malaysian state of Sabah with my ex from Northern Ireland. On that particular trip I always remember toying with the idea of going to Brunei, but for whatever reason it just never happened. Perhaps it was because to get to Borneo we had to fly from Belfast to London to Kuala Lumpur to Kota […]
With its own mosques, schools and police station it’s the largest stilt settlement in the world. Built entirely of stilt houses and wooden walkways, Kampong Ayer in Brunei is a collection of 42 villages housing more than 39,000 people. It is the world’s largest water village. I was lucky enough to visit Kamopong Ayer a few weeks back, and it was probably the highlight of my most recent trip to Borneo. From a distance, the water village looks like a slum, but many of the houses […]
Typhoon strength ramen as Tokyo takes a direct hit from one of three tropical storms Today was my first day back at work after the summer break – and it seemed like the weather didn’t want to play ball. Right now three tropical storms are spinning near the country, and in the last 24 hours Tokyo has taken a direct hit from one of them, Mindulle, which strengthened into a typhoon early this morning. It’s the first typhoon to make landfall near the metropolitan region in 11 years, with gusts […]
Dancing in the streets of my neighbourhood in Tokyo This weekend was the annual Awa Odori festival in my neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. Awa Odori is part of the Bon festivities, which are held to welcome one’s ancestors back to this world for a few days. Participants march in a straight line in unison to music performed on the shamisen, flute, drums, and bells singing “odoru aho ni miru aho; onaji aho nara odoranya son son!” (It’s a fool who dances […]
I’m currently in Borneo after spending a few days in Taipei. Taiwan’s political and international status is messy: it has declared itself as independent, but The People’s Republic of China say sod that, Taiwan belongs to us – a claim controversial due to the unresolved Chinese Civil War. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know the ins and outs of it all: I don’t. Hell, I don’t even know the political goings-on of my own country. What I do […]
Two days of VIP Treatment in Taipei’s most luxurious location Right now I’m back in my regular stomping ground of SE Asia for a couple of weeks. First stop: Taipei, capital of Taiwan. I’ve actually been to Taipei twice before, the last time being memorable for all the wrong reasons when I stupidly decided to break up with my ex-girlfriend in a hotel room on the last day or our trip here. Not something I recommend: an awkward bus back to […]
Noodles and soup. Nothing else. I was in Akihabara over the weekend for an exhibition at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. Usually when I’m out and about I do a quick search to see if there are any highly rated ramen places in the area. My search of Akihabara threw up a few options, but one shop in particular caught my attention as I’d been meaning to try it for a while now. I first read about Shinosoba Tanaka Second (志奈そば 田なか Second) on the Ramen […]
Tōrō nagashi is a long-held Japanese tradition where candle-lit lanterns are released into rivers to guide the spirits of the departed back to the other world.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: ambient, asia, blog, buddhism, buddhist, culture, darren mcclure, design, eilean rec., festival, ikimasho, japan, japanese, peace, peaceful, photography, Porya Hatami, se asia, tradition, travel, Uwe Zahn, video, Zahn | Hatami | McClure, Zen
Ofudamaki was established in 1688 when mothers gave their clothes to male Shinto dancers in the hope of bringing them protection from cholera. My latest piece for DAZED is now online, talking about Ofudamaki, an obscure festival held once a year in a nondescript area 50 km from Tokyo. Check it out here.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: asia, blog, cross dressing, culture, design, female, festival, gender roles, japan, japanese, male, matsuri, ofudamaki, photography, religion, shinto, tokyo, travel, urban
This time last year I was getting ready to go to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand for a couple of months. While looking through my camera the other day I came across some photos from my time in Isaan in the Thai countryside. I remember one day Allan and I went down to get haircuts at the local barbershop. The place was amazing – totally unlike any barbershop I’d seen before, with chickens running about and toddlers getting cool buzzcuts. It’s these daily experiences […]
Last Sunday morning I cycled to Enjoin (en-jo-in), a small Buddhist temple near my house. Despite it only being 10am, the temperature was already pushing 30 degrees and the air was still. The cicadas haven’t started yet, but I feel they aren’t far away. I bought mango ice cream from an elderly couple’s house across the street, and then wandered around the temple grounds, sitting alongside the turtles and koi carp. This post isn’t really about anything in particular, just the small and simple things in life that […]
After posting a location in Japanese on his twitter account, Aphex Twin premiered his new video on one of the screens at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo this evening. The video stars and is directed by Ryan Wyer, aged 12, from Rush in County Dublin. What a wee legend!
Categories: Art, Music & Culture