What is Wabi Sabi? by nim
April 8, 2009, 11:53 am
Filed under: Architecture, Education, Group, People, Temple, Tokyo


We decided to ask these youthful suits what they thought Wabi Sabi meant. They told us that it was too difficult to explain in English what it was (although their English was pretty good)- so naturally we asked them if they could show us a pose that represents Wabi Sabi. Personally, I have  refrained from telling you what I believe Wabi Sabi to mean, because it can have so many defintions- for me it resided in an experience (in Japan) which will be shared later on in this blog series. But for all you Marcel Theroux wannabes, for now, this pose will have to do.


…I should mention, the Japanese local in the middle is infact Bandai reject “Job hunter Ken”. These guys were amazingly animated, and incredible fun and I wish them the best of luck with their job hunting, especially Ken.

Nim and Chandni



The Roku Bar Intimate Dinning Experience by nim
April 7, 2009, 8:43 am
Filed under: City Studies, Group, People

Local pick number two saw us eat in this cosy little restaurant in the City. Once again the layout was quite tight and compact, and the group were nearly sitting on top of one another. But, once again, the whole experience worked for us. Chalk it down to the mellow lighting or maybe it was some numbing solution mixed within our green tea- the layout never felt uncomfortable. The restaurant was small; similar to the first one it would only sit around 25- 30 people max, infact the kitchen was only a few paces away from where we were sitting. But I guess the place was made bigger by the very nature of the way we sat on the floor close to one another- this enabled the interior aesthetic to take charge of our periphery; rather than it being cluttered by waves of people, more commonly associated with the mass dining experience. The food was good too (try the miso soup).


harry, chris, tom and mindy



The Island of Urban Renaissance by nim
April 5, 2009, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Development, Education, Group, Photography, Tokyo





These are some internal and external views of the Harumi Island, where the UR is based. The place contains a mish-mash of styles; concluding with this “Brindley Place” (Birmingham, UK) style garden. This is not a “Zen” garden by any means of the word- but the presence of a small river, a delicate water fountain, and a bending bridge are very suggestive of this popular Japanese style. Both the internal and external spaces are very polished- it is almost like the island is a 3D travel brochure; corporate in its majesty. Alas this is not the true Tokyo- we wanted to see something more Raw…*insert sushi joke here*


the untouchable city by nim
April 4, 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: City Studies, Group, Tokyo, Travel


The “untouchables” refers to the vast majority of the Japanese population who have conformed to a lifestyle where you make as little contact as possible with the public realm i.e automatic doors, taps, toilet flushers, and the obvious mask culture. This mentality has more to do with respect for other citizens than it does with the fear of catching disease. The hand grips on the metro provide a possible exception to this rule; after all they are a complete necessity for a crowded train- you wouldn’t want to be bumping into other people as this would be disrespectful. Yet we hear so much about the potential for germs to be passed from hand to hand on these public rails. This would suggest a number of different plausible explanations: the trains are cleaned extensively, people’s hands are clean to begin with (so less harmful bacteria is passed from hand to rail), or perhaps the metro travelers simply understand that in order to maintain an atmosphere of respect and harmony, they must compensate their own well-being. If the later is true; this mentality is certainly an aspect of wabi sabi.

Arrival by htkay
April 4, 2009, 8:48 am
Filed under: Group, Tokyo, Travel

Having arrived at the Narita International Airport at nearly 10am local time not knowing what to expect but remembering stories and advice on the vast differences between our cultures, everything seemed rather familiar; the lobby had a starbucks, gift shop and Bureau de Change. The rather standard looking travellers gazing at the rather standard announcements board was all rather disappointing.


The weather was a mild 12 degrees Celsius and the sun was shining; as it had been in London when we left, really we could have been anywhere.

But then it became apparent we were definitely somewhere else; the toilet seat was heated and played bird song or the sound of running water, depending on preference, there were men in white gloves directing us across zebra crossings, that seemed perfectly capable by themselves, the seats on the coach felt as though they were only a couple of inches from the floor so the knees were bent at acute angles, and as the coach proceeded into the city, we couldn’t be anywhere else but the world’s most populated metropolitan area.

The apartment blocks, all a standard plot size, rose between seven and fifteen stories above the tightly packed streets below, that we caught an occasional glimpse of through cluttered telegraph poles and electricity cables from the elevated highway, which cut its way through the residential suburbs without any regard for the buildings on either side, or the occupants of the spaces beyond the blank windows.

It took us around two hours from the airport to our hostel in Taito-ku, Taito, a Northeastern ward of Tokyo and about thirty minutes by tube from the main areas of Ginza and Rippongi in the centre of Tokyo.