Category Archives: Shopping

Curious City

Wednesday was Morizo, today is Mozo, and tomorrow’s anybody’s guess, but probably a day off from the blog, given the publishing pattern I’ve come to adopt lately.

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Mozo. After years of only hearing about it, I finally got to Mozo Wonder City shopping mall in Nishi-Ku, Nagoya. I can see now why people sometimes seem to prefer it to other area retail options. As the website explains, with typical Japanese non-committal, open-to-interpretation ambiguity and flowery language, the concept is one of a murmuring, a tiny rumbling/trembling/rustling/fluttering/nudging; sensing the beginning of a movement (literal or figurative – again, it’s up to you), perhaps being on the cutting edge or being present at the birth or sprouting of a trend, indulging your curiosity and growing like Tajimi roadside vegetation in June. My description is beginning to get as overgrown as their concept page, or the ivy nurtured outside their buildings, but you get the picture. It’s got lots of cool stuff.

As it happens, I mainly went to see a movie at the theater there. Besides feature films, this playhouse shows things you might not see anywhere else. Case in point: Three Idiots, the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, showing three years after its release. It was quite the romp. Be warned, unless you speak Hindi, you’ll have to be quick on your toes. There is a 5% mix of English in the dialogue, but the subtitles are all in Japanese. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every detail; Just repeat to yourself: All Is Well, All Is Well. You’ll get it if you see it. No, none of the idiots are called Moe, zo.

I only had time to linger in a few stores. There’s a Village Vanguard with a better selection of architecture and interior design books than other “VillaVans” I’ve been to, and Kitano Ace natural peanut butter mother lode imported food store. The anchor store is Aeon. The whole place is having big sales through Sunday, and even the regular prices I saw were pretty good. There was a very healthy, but not smothering, throng of customers well into the evening. Roads there don’t tend to get jammed, but if you don’t go by car, you can get there on the Meitetsu Line, getting off at Kamiotai Station and walking five minutes.

Guides to Good Times in Gifu and Beyond

Sitting here at the counter at Neu, I pick up this magazine, and the first three pages I randomly open up are places I immediately recognize, though two of them I only went to once, five and nine years ago. Not bad. This has got my attention.

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I’ve never seen this magazine before, but it’s clearly a kind I like. Beautiful photography introducing area shops, inns, restaurants, cafes, hot springs…any way or place to spend quality leisure time. Every new season there’s a different theme. This summer the focus is on “the view out the window.” (The cover story is on summer fun, then and now).

Then Neu’s owner brings out another magazine, this one from the publishers of Cheek, highlighting cafes, bakeries and sweets shops in Gifu, Mie, Aichi and Nagoya, as well as Shiga, Nagano and Shizuoka. Again, irresistible photos and presentation make me want to head out and try as many of these places as I can.

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Actually, Neu appears in both of them, so their being here is no coincidence. Anyway, I’d say I’m sufficiently piqued that I plan to go out and pick up my own copies soon and do a little cafe-cruising, at least on paper. Both are available in bookstores, with Hitomi even in convenience stores. Cheek’s July issue, below, also checks out Gifu hotspots.

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If They Build It…

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I put a nice bright spot in a soggy afternoon with a visit to a hot new place in Toki (yes, Nothing-To-Do Toki) today.

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Since opening just this month, Secret Time Cafe has quickly become quite the in spot, having been supported by lots of folks along the way to realization. Many who had a hand, including a couple of acquaintances of my own, are recognized with their names painted on the floor. Apparently the opening was rather a smash, word of mouth rendering Secret Time no secret at all.

The cafe feels like a bit of Nagoya or other city right in downtown Toki. Near the intersection of route 421 and local (not regional) route 19, it shares an ample parking lot with the second hand shop with the big Santa sign.

The menu has a pretty wide selection to choose from (more galettes, for one thing), everything sounding tasty, eye-pleasing and healthy. I had the taco rice lunch for ¥980 including what you see here and a drink.

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They’ve devoted a lot of attention to the atmosphere here, and did a nice job, especially considering this space has been a revolving door for a number of cheap, seedy or somehow unappealing outfits in the past. That is, emphatically, history now. I didn’t have a chance to look completely around, but I’m sure I’ll be stopping by often enough. More photos and info (like what the “art” on their business card refers to) to come.

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Secret Time Cafe, bar and zakkaya (notions shop) has these very welcome broad business hours: Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to 1 AM. Closed Monday and the third Tuesday. They have smoking and non-smoking sections.

Paydirt, in My Own Back Yard

I stalked down the source of the rhubarb given to me last week, and come to find out, it’s a place I walk by all the time. Well, rooty-toot-toot and rummy-tum-tum! (Sorry, I was reading about rum). I guess I know how I’m going to be spending some of my summer days off: Baking rhubarb pies like hotcakes, which is how the stuff is apparently selling. My first pie in years was okay despite a couple of miscues, but I hope to improve the process for more succulent sweet-n-sour summertime sharability.

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This baking supply store and bakery, Sweet Itoh, is near the Nishikimachi Post Office in Tajimi, somewhat near the Ohashi Cafe Gusto at the corner of routes 15 and 13. Fresh stalks come in in 300 gram bags on Mondays, and you can try your luck (yesterday’s was already sold out today, and the customer ahead of me was ordering some for next week, too) or sign up for them to put some aside.

Celebrating Summer Stalk

Yahoo! The sweet & sour stalk of American pie and jam legend lives and breathes in the archipelago!

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Someone gave me this fresh rhubarb today that I’m thinking to pie-ify soon. My main concern now is the oven. I’ve baked cookies in these cubby-hole contraptions that double as real ovens besides being toasters and microwaves (very tedious, involving temperature conversion, adjustment and re-preheating every four cookies, juggling sheets and cooling racks), but never a whole pie, which at least is one piece instead of a few dozen. I’ll have to find out exactly where, but I do know it was bought locally.

Silly Stalks: A Little Background

Writing this blog often leads to serendipitous learning, and this time was no exception. Out of curiosity, I checked Wikipedia, and found out that although rhubarb is normally considered a vegetable, since 1947 in New York State it’s legally a fruit since it’s mostly used as one.

Beyond that, Wikipedia reports that

In British theatre and early radio drama, the words “rhubarb rhubarb” were repeated for the effect of unintelligible conversation on the background.

“Rhubarb” was [also] a 1969 British short film written and directed by Eric Sykes, starring Sykes and Harry Secombe. The dialogue consisted entirely of repetitions of the word “rhubarb”, all the characters last names were “Rhubarb”, and even the license plates on vehicles were “RHU BAR B.”

As I’ve been becoming a bit of a connoisseur of background chatter, it’s a bit of a letdown to think that a bunch of nothing but rhubarb could have been just as effective as the real thing. I wonder if they used varied intonation. It’s no surprise Sykes was a cohort of the Goon Show gang, predecessors of Monty Python.

Good Turnout for Touki Fest

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Some late afternoon shots (top and bottom indulging in vintage effects) from today’s Tajimi Touki Matsuri, which will continue tomorrow.

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No Japanese festival would be complete without a chance to fish for goldfish.

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I happened to click the shutter just as someone knocking over a milk crate full of ceramics for sale turned heads. We all dread that sort of thing happening. I didn’t stay long enough to see how the responsibility was sorted out. That domburi restaurant on the left with the tan sign is one I’ve been planning to blog about sometime.

Festivals on Tap

The Tajimi Creators’ Market has events coming up the next two weekends.

This weekend, as part of the 61st annual Tajimi Touki Matsuri, ceramic and other artists will be showing and selling their wares in the Tajimi Ginza arcade. Stalls will be selling all kinds of festival food, and a variety of performers will entertain.

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Next Sunday, the same Creators’ Market artists will be on hand at the Tono Fes(tival) at Ceramics Park Mino. Popular recording artists Nobody Knows, and other performers, will play as well. Entry to both festivals is free.

Update: Toki’s Touki Matsuri’s dates this year: April 20th and 21st. At and around Ceratopia. Also an exhibition of modern teaware (I think), from April 13th to the 21st. And one more ongoing exhibition (couldn’t read the kanji) at Ceratopia until May 12th.

Show of Hands

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No time for details, but I just found out about this event, called Machinaka Marché, going on today at the Kappa Ichiba (Hiroba) site on Nagase Dori. It’s a nice day, so it looks worth checking out.

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Update: It’s a family-friendly chance to try your hand at various crafts, after which you can take home your handiwork.

Update 2: I see the event has become regularly scheduled. It’ll be on the second Saturday of January, March, May, July, September and October, as well as November 3rd.

Hitch Your Store to a Wagon

Here and Gone

Walking along Oribe Street yesterday, I came upon a group of a dozen or fifteen people gathered in front of an area that’s normally just an empty, nondescript driveway. A couple of tables had been set up in front of a truck, and folks were checking out goods on the tables, but the crowd was so dense I couldn’t make out the cause for the commotion.

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On asking what they were selling, I found out it was sweets and snacks from Kobe, and the makeshift shop would only be there another half hour. Since it seemed to be drawing such a crowd, I decided to pick up some arare, small rice crackers coated in soy sauce and various flavorings.

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This kind of intinerant shop is about as analog as it gets these days, so it’s nice to see it attracting so many people. It makes me think, accurately or not, of medieval times or the old west, when travelling wagon-bound shops may have brought spices or snake-oil to isolated towns, outposts, and frontiers. I imagine the neighbors all call one another when someone sees them setting up. This one comes here about once a month, and only for an hour or two. Besides the little rice crackers, they had several kinds of cakes. Short of knowing someone in the loop, I think you just have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.