On Screen #6 – Afghanistan

Britain’s war in Afghanistan ended recently after 13 years with the main British base at Camp Bastion being handed over to the locals who will be left to their own devices regarding the security of a province which has proved difficult to tame and has seen 453 Britons killed.

This landlocked Central Asian country has been torn by conflict for decades and for that reason (and pretty much that reason only!) has attracted the attention of film makers and TV executives who have used the various wars as a backdrop to tell their story. It should be no surprise that almost none of these productions have actually been shot in its actual location. Many countries have filled in for Afghanistan and it’s this fakery which attracts the interest of Tokyo Fox.

Our Girl‘ (2014) aired on BBC1 in October with former Eastenders star Lacey Turner starring as the army medic deployed to Afghanistan as part of a a British Army infantry. She played Molly Dawes; the young working class adult who gets caught up in a love triangle of sorts. Serra Della Camp, a beautiful wildlife reserve in the Bonte Bok mountain range north of Cape Town in South Africa filled in for the country and the crew spent two and a half months filming there.

Unknown p0276qgh

The same set was actually used for ‘Bluestone 42‘ (2013); the BBC3 comedy drama series about a British bomb disposal detachment in Helmand Province. How nice of the BBC to save the license fee payers money by squeezing two shows out of the same set! The comedy focuses on the camaraderie between the soldiers, situational comedy, bureaucracy, conflicts of interests and relationships which is all in stark contrast to the deadly situations the potty-mouth soldiers are required to defuse. The end of the second series would’ve been a fitting and perfect place to bow out but I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t mind his favourite shows coming to an end. However, it will return for a third series in 2015.

5468322-low_res-bluestone-42 images

There was certainly no faking Helmand Province though in ‘Ross Kemp In Afghanistan‘ (2008); the British documentary series which aired on Sky One for five episodes followed by another five for the follow up series which was titled ‘Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan‘ (2008). Viewers were taken up close and personal to the realities of battle and the crew were even pinned down by fire from the Taliban, with Kemp enduring bullets passing within inches of him whilst in the second series he ran into a possible minefield.

RossKemp460 RK-Action

Haven’t seen it myself but ‘Combat Hospital‘ (2006) was a Canadian TV show (one season, 13 episodes) set in Kandahar revolving around the life and work of doctors and nurses from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Its creator actually travelled to Afghanistan to conduct first-hand research at a small military hospital where stories from medical personnel were collected to add realism to the show. Real images taken during that visit were blended in with all the other main Toronto-based scenes.

images-1 july11kandahar_1

Onto movies then and Ben Stiller’s romantic adventure comedy drama ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty‘ (2013) featured Afghanistan in the latter part with the Skogafoss waterfall and Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland used to replicate those scenes as this remote European country was used extensively for filming playing itself as well as Greenland. This film is unique in a sense as it includes Afghanistan for reasons other than the war!

410075-61686550-742c-11e3-b21a-c1acf4d34253 408242-6218b180-742c-11e3-b21a-c1acf4d34253

It may be a great story but I wasn’t such a fan of ‘Lone Survivor‘ (2013), particularly the first three quarters of the movie which felt like a propaganda video at times and was more concerned with over-long military-style action scenes instead of characterisation. Bagram Airfield and the ancient city of Bagram itself are seen on screen but all was shot in New Mexico with Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque doubling for the former. In fact, all filming took place in New Mexico (USA) in Chilili and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe National Forest with the latter filling in as the Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches between Afghanistan and Pakistan whilst the former played host to several battles scenes as well as the Pashtun village protected in reality by Afghan villagers out of duty to their 2000 year old code of honour which requires a tribe to undertake the responsibility of safeguarding an individual against his enemies and protecting him at all costs. Their fight against the taliban continues…

Unknown-1 article-2538218-1A635C2E00000578-373_634x409

Born Of War‘ (2013) is set in part in the Wakhan Corridor; the narrow strip of territory in the north-east of Afghanistan extending into China and separating Tajikistan and Pakistan. This time it was Amman in Jordan which filled in for the war-torn country.

The Patrol‘ (2013) claims to be the “British answer to Hurt Locker” and is an action drama film set in Helmland Province in 2006 exploring the relationships between a group of British soldiers as they grow disillusioned with the Afghan war. It was filmed entirely on location in the Agafahy desert which is about 40 miles from Marrakech in Morocco.

the-patrol-tom-petch-owain-arthur-nicholas-beveney-daniel-fraser-2013-raindance-movie-film-review-shelf-heroes The Patrol: film still of soldiers in camp

157 minutes may be too long for a movie where we all know the outcome but ‘Zero Dark Thirty‘ (2012) still provides a very tense and breathtaking finale as the raid on Bin Laden’s hideout (filmed on a specially constructed set in the deserts of Jordan) is played out on screen. The scenes of the Navy SEALs flying in to siege the place are compelling and with it shot to replicate the zero dark thirty (military code for the time 00:30) raid it brings another sense of meaning to the word dark in a film with very dark themes.

ZD30_2 zero-dark-thirty-01-470-75

In ‘Afghan Luke‘ (2011) we see a Canadian journalist going after a story of possible mutilation of corpses in this rocky, impoverished land which appear increasingly incomprehensible and surreal as the protagonist undergoes a series of bizarre adventures. The scenery is quite beautiful actually but naturally those Afghan mountains are not the real thing as British Columbia and Nova Scotia in Canada substitutes for Shirac and the ISAF Base.

Unknown Unknown-1

Kunar Province in the northeastern part of Afghanistan appears on screen in ‘Iron Man‘ (2008). It’s where Tony Stark is captured and imprisoned in a cave after the army convoy is ambushed. Alabama Hills at Lone Pine on Route 395 in central California provide the strange Afghan rock formations. Once he’s escaped from captivity in the prototype metal suit he lands 20 miles further south amid the white sands of the Olancha Sand Dunes. Edwards Air Force Base in southern California doubled up as Bagram Air Base.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 20.36.57 Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 20.37.42

Quite possibly one of the best films to be set in Afghanistan is ‘The Kite Runner‘ (2007); an incredibly moving story about two childhood friends and what follows in their adult lives. The themes of friendship, family, human values, and courage under fire all feature and left a lasting impression on me. The film flashes back and forth and features Kabul in 1978 with production taking place in the cities of Kashgar and Tashkurgan in the Xinjiang region of China with film extras supplied by the Ugyur Community of the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. Afghan scenes shot in the oasis city of Kashgar, China’s most western city, include the kite tournament and the mosque where Amir prays whilst Tashkurgan was used for the opening kite duel scenes, the Pomegranate tree, and the Taliban compound where Amir meets Sohrab. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.14.58 Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 23.58.31  Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 00.02.32 Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 00.10.12

Sly Stallone’s ‘Rambo III‘ (1988) sees the main man go to rescue a longtime friend and mentor from a Soviet prison camp in Afghanistan. Whilst in Pakistan a weapons supplier  agrees to take Rambo to a village deep in the Afghan desert where the usual carnage of such a film takes place with the Mujahideen warriors eventually supporting the hero in his mission. Peshawar in Pakistan played host to the Afghan market scene.

RamboIIIcredits Ramboiii45

The Middle-Eastern landscapes in ‘The Beast‘ (1988) were recreated in Israel (if I can be so vague to pinpoint a movies shooting locations to a whole country!). This movie, which often goes by the name of ‘The Beast Of War‘, follows a Russian tank crew during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan which finds itself separated from fellow tankers and relentless pursued by Mujaheddin fighters.

600px-TB-RPG_01a 600px-TB-RPG7WomanA 600px-TB-SMLE-RidgeA 600px-TB-RGD5Grenade02A

For Timothy Dalton’s debut outing as 007 in ‘The Living Daylights‘ (1987) Afghanistan was actually filmed in the desert of Ouarzazate in Morocco which has been used in many films. The standout sequence in “Afghanistan” sees Bond escape from a Russian air base by aircraft. Whilst trying to diffuse a bomb he is attacked by henchman, Necros and as they scrap away the loading ramp opens and a net containing opium bags tumbles out of the back of the plane taking Bond and Necros with it. The net remains attached to the aircraft as the two men fight to the death clinging on to it as it hangs in the wind.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.47.11 Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.43.48

Tom Selleck starred as a heavy drinking pilot hired by a society heiress to find her missing father in adventure-romance film ‘High road to China‘ (1983). Their journey in two biplanes takes them through six countries with mount Kamenjak near Rijeka in Croatia appearing to look like Afghanistan.

Adapted from the Rudyard Kipling short story, ‘The Man Who Would Be King‘ (1975) starred Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer. It was shot on location in Morocco with the Atlas Mountains, perennial favourite Ouarzazate as well as Glen Canyon in Utah (USA) used to replicate the historical region of Kafiristan which is now known as Nuristan in modern-day Afghanistan.

The events of the original Flashman’s exploits in Afghanistan feature in a brief flashback in ‘Royal Flash‘ (1975) with the head of the Rugby School recounting this tale. ‘Khyber Patrol‘ (1954) was about the struggle between the British army and local tribes who want help from Russia. It takes place on the Afghanistan border although the outdoor sets look remarkably similar to the ones used in many westerns of the time!

So there we have it, over a dozen movies set in Afghanistan but filmed in the likes of South Africa, Canada, China, Iceland, Jordan, Morocco, Croatia, Pakistan, Israel and the USA. Apart from the Ross Kemp series’ (and the news!) the only time I’ve seen the real Afghan landscape is in a short ten minute documentary titled ‘Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul‘ (Watch it here) which follows the lives of two young skateboarders from Afghanistan and juxtaposes the harsh reality of life in Kabul with the hopes and ambitions of the country’s children.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.25.55 Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.30.04

Now there have been loads of war-related films and TV programmes set in Afghanistan and it is nigh on impossible to list them all here. This is just a selection of the one’s I’ve seen or know about but if you know of any others then please let me know in the comments or on twitter via @tokyo_fox

You can see previous On Screen articles by clicking on the links below:

On Screen #1 – Vietnam (Click here)

On Screen #2 – Istanbul (Click here)

On Screen #3 – Myanmar (Burma) (Click here)

On Screen #4 – Brazil (Click here)

On Screen #5 – Thailand (Click here)

Posted in Movie Locations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt III (2002)

In the third and final part of this Bungy Thrillogy series, Tokyo Fox looks back to Sunday 24th March 2002; the day of my triple bungy jump. I was travelling around New Zealand for a few months on the back of a years working holiday in Australia and was in Queenstown on the South Island. Thanks to the journal that I kept at the time it is now possible to recall the events of that day…

“At 6.30pm I walked on up to the gondola to meet American Chris who was jumping The Ledge with me 60 minutes later when sunset had been and gone. In the seven hours or so since the second bungy jump I had hardly given this third one any thought whatsoever but as we rode the gondola steeply up to skyline a few nerves crept up on me though they were no comparison for the earlier jumps.

images images

When we got to the top we had amazing panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables and was actually looking down on the hut which we’d be running and jumping out of within the hour. My original plan (well, after my confidence had grown from the Kawarau Bridge and Nevis Highwire jumps) was to run off the ledge and do a few somersaults but I was now slightly worried about the waist harness doing me damage in the groin area!

We first watched fellow ‘Thrillogy’ jumper Danish Dennis take the run and dive and then when the skyline had darkened it was time for us to take the plunge into darkness. In some ways this 47 metre urban bungy looked worse as it was located 400 metres above Queenstown with the forest and gondola below. Unlike the previous jump sites, we could see out for miles over the town and surrounding area  (well, we could see the areas lit up in the distance anyway!) and then it was time to get into the harness and complete the most challenging day of my life yet. I went before Chris yet again but with very few nerves this time. I had to walk to the edge to look out and wave to the moon (the camera was in the same direction!) before retreating to the back of the hut ready for as long a run up as possible.

bungy3.1 bungy3.2

The instructor then said that I could go “when you’re ready” so I didn’t hang about as I ran and dived off into darkness. Within a couple of seconds I felt the tug of the bungy cord but this was not around my ankles. Instead it was around my groin area and as I sat in the harness swinging in the night skyline the pressure on that part of my anatomy increased! It was only as I was being winched back up (having had to to hook the rope on myself after it was dangled down to me) that the instructor suggested I lie back in my harness more.


After I’d seen Chris jump and the viewed the video footage of it (as well as receiving another blo*dy A4 certificate!) he gave Dennis and I a lift home in his car. I “treated” myself to a McDonalds meal for dinner but didn’t really have any kind of adrenalin rushing or pumping its way through my body which felt very anti-climactic in a way.”

You can read ‘TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt I (2002)’ here 

bungy1.1 bungy1.3

You can read ‘TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt II (2002)’ here 

bungy2.2 bungy2.1

Posted in Action & Adventure, Australasia Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TF Top 5……Tokyo Temples And Shrines In Film

About a year ago Tokyo Fox brought you the TF Top 5……Kyoto temples and shrines in film (it was actually called Kyoto filming locations but they were all places of worship as you might expect from such a city!) and now it’s time do likewise with Tokyo so here they are listed as always in no particular order.

1. Jougan-ji temple: ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003) – Other than my own stuff there’s still very little about this small temple on the internet. It is actually quite a difficult place to find as its located on a highway (route 317) just inside Nakano-ku bordering Shinjuku-ku. The temple which Charlotte visits in the rain gets a massive 38 seconds of screen time and it’s highly likely you’ll have the whole place to yourself. More details here.

Screen Shot 2012-11-11 at 12.45.49 Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 17.01.2130Oct2009 040 P1010239

2. Sumiyoshi-jinja shrine: ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II‘ (1989) – Having been re-united  with his long lost Japanese father, Toxie and Masumi follow him around the block to his headquarters at “Fisherman’s Shrine” which in reality is Sumiyoshi Jinja shrine; a place guarded by foxes. They confront him about his crimes and in true comical fashion he inadvertently hits the girl instead of his son! More details here.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 09.23.18 P1010119

3. Zojoji temple: ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) -  The funeral procession of Yashida takes place at Zojoji although some of the action scenes were blended together with ones shot at the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney! Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko, but Logan helps her to into the urban sprawl of Tokyo. More details here

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.00.27 Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.02.28P1040303 P1040317

Into The Sun‘ (2005) – Zojoji made its big screen (well, bargain bin dvd!) debut in this Steven Seagal classic! There’s some meeting between the baddies though god knows why they chose to meet at such a public place! More details here.

intothesun9 April 2011 067

4. Mori Inari-jinja shrine: ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II‘ (1989) – Yet another entry in this list from this rather silly b-movie and now I think about it there really haven’t been too many shrines or temples featured in films! A fight ensues with a man dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl and some kabuki men from earlier in the film who suddenly turn up in this sleepy part of Tokyo for no apparent reason but given that Troma Entertainment are famed for serving up campy movies this is not so unusual! The area looks quite different these days but the tiny Mori-inari jinja shrine is still there but blink and you might miss it! More details here.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 09.33.24  P1010149

5. Meiji-jingu shrine: ‘Monster‘ (2008) – Definitely the most famous of all the places listed here and in some ways a surprise inclusion (other than being desperate to fill the 5 places!) as it didn’t even play itself in this god-awful movie. The on-screen caption says that its Shinjuku-gyoen Gardens. Even though its supposed to be January the two American girls are wearing just vests as they walk along the path at this shrine in fear of the monster whilst people in the background are just going about their own business oblivious to the fact that there’s a monster on the loose! More details here.

Meiji Shrine 002 Meiji Shrine 001

You can see the ‘TF Top 5……Kyoto Temples And Shrines In Film’ here

Posted in Japan Filming Locations, Movie Locations | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Films Set In Japan – Fear And Trembling (2003)

Starting off at Ryoanji temple in Kyoto this French film has a Belgian woman called Amélie (Sylvie Testud) looking back on her year at a Japanese corporation in Tokyo in 1990. Having been brought up in Japan until the age of five she decides to return and has a one year contract working as a translator for the giant Yumimoto Corporation.

She is a determined young woman who suffers for doing things in a western manner in a country which rewards loyalty rather than initiative and workers are promoted based on their years served instead of their track record. Of course, its hammed up a bit on screen but there’s an element of truth to most of what we see in this office based comedy and it’s this kind of mindset that may explain why the Japanese economy has been in a slump for 15 years or so.

images fear-and-trembling

It may be a comedy but this is certainly nothing like BBC sitcom ‘The Office‘! The entire movie takes place in the office (filmed in Paris) so we sadly don’t get any hint of what life is like outside of their workplace. It would’ve been nice to see a glimpse of Amélie’s home life as it’s this kind of thing which helps form and develop a character.

Having tried and failed to work and integrate into the conformity of a Japanese office, Amélie works her way down the corporate ladder amid abuse, humiliation and insane routine as she fails to understand how things are done in Japan. She goes from doing great bilingual research (albeit work that violates the all important company procedure!) to re-setting calendars to serving coffee to cleaning the toilets! In between all that she’s ordered to not speak Japanese when clients and visitors are present as they wouldn’t be able to have any feeling of trust if they knew the white girl understood their language!

Another degrading assignment involves her being made to copy the same document over and over again. No care for the environment and all the paper wasted from Mr Saito as he demands it be 100% accurate with the text dead on centre to the exact millimetre. Anything less is just unacceptable!

The subject matter of this film is fascinating in itself with the protagonist finding herself in these strange situations which is fine for the first half of the movie but after that it failed to really develop any further. That is probably because it’s an autobiographical account of real-life experiences with very little added in the way of artistic license. The film is based on a book which may explain why the director uses voice over (a little too much but I guess some mother-tongue is needed to keep the natives attentive) to presumably portray essential passages from it.

Taking place in 1990, one would hope that this is a caricature of Japanese offices of that time and that they are no longer like this in any way but I still have my doubts about that! A lot of the story revolves around the inability to develop any human relations with her colleagues, particularly the submissive Fubuki; her female work leader. There are some slight lesbian undertones as Amélie adulates her and wants to please her but this is answered with sadistic pleasure as she is continuously belittled. Amélie realises that the best way to deal with it all is in humour and she uses her wild imagination to play the game of obedience and passiveness which her co-workers excel in.

In ‘Stupeur et Tremblements‘, to give it it’s original French title, Amélie has daydreams of falling out the window and floating over the Tokyo skyline as she’s desperate to escape and for many it’s hard to understand why anyone would put up with all the abuse and still be determined to continue working in such an environment.

MV5BMTYzNzc2MzQxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMzNzAzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_    10868842_det

Tokyo Fox Rating 6/10

Posted in Review: Films Set In Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Daytripper: Lion Shrine In Tokyo!

Think of lions and a safari in Kenya rather than Tama Dobutsukoen Zoo comes to mind. Think of lion statues and Trafalgar Square in London instead of a small Tokyo shrine will probably enter your head first. However, I recently came across an interesting story on  the excellent Rurousha blog about how one of the lions made its way from England to this shrine via Ikebukuro!

DSCN0062 DSCN0036

It’s no surprise to see lion statues as deities in temples or shrines but certainly not the style seen at Mimeguri Jinja Shrine! For one hundred years now the Mitsukoshi Department stores in Japan have featured one of these London-produced lions outside its front doors but when the Ikebukuro branch closed a few years back its lion was donated to this shrine and now sits among the usual things to be found at shrines.

DSCN0052 DSCN0038 DSCN0042 DSCN0045

Having searched out the elephant temple in Shinagawa about a year ago it’s fair to say that I like my quirky little temples and shrines I decided to cycle on over to this area lying in the shadow of the towering 634 metre high Tokyo Skytree.

DSCN0059 DSCN0046 DSCN0048 DSCN0044

The shrine is not only interesting for the lion but it also possesses a rare three-cornered torii which covers a well near a private family shrine featuring lion-dogs. Three is certainly the magic number at Mimeguri which means “three times around” and derives from a 1300′s legend about a priest who saw a magical white fox go round a recently unearthed statue of an old man on a white fox three times…and after that it disappeared! There is a signboard just outside one of the torii gates detailing this story.

DSCN0056 DSCN0057  DSCN0054 DSCN0029

Mimeguri is an Inari shrine and so has a fox shrine and many fox statues as well as a  statue of an old man and an old woman that could supposedly communicate with foxes who would act as messengers. The perfect place for this Tokyo Fox if you will!

DSCN0055  DSCN0030 DSCN0031 DSCN0034

Just across the Sumida-gawa River this shrine is dedicated to two of the seven gods of fortune associated with the river. These gods relate to wealth, farmers, agriculture, rice, the kitchen, fishermen, workingmen and inevitably good fortune. Quite a lot eh! I was just there to test out my new camera and found more than I expected with an earthquake damaged lantern and discarded foxes among these other delights.

DSCN0032 DSCN0026  DSCN0033  DSCN0024

So there you have it, another interesting little place tucked away in the huge metropolis of Tokyo which is proof that there are many hidden delights out there for one to find by just getting out there and taking a look around.

Mimeguri Jinja Shrine can be found at 2-5-17 Mukojima and Tokyo Skytree (formerly Narihirabashi Station) is the closest station on the Tobu Skytree line (formerly Toho Isesaki line) 

Posted in Japan Life, Quirky Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining Out: Mama’s Kitchen (Paraguay)

Paraguay eh! I don’t know much about it at all. I’ve never been there or even to any of its South American counterparts. I can’t think of any movies which have been filmed or even set there. It’s these types of things which Tokyo Fox usually depends on for bulking out a restaurant review!

When it comes to talking about this landlocked country, one man sticks out by a mile and that is the legendary goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert! I loved watching this guy keep net for his country in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s when he played in two World Cup tournaments. Not only was he great between the sticks and an inspirational captain but he was an expert dead-ball specialist and he came so, so close to becoming the first goalie to ever score in a finals with this effort in 1998 and this one in 2002. Overall, he scored eight goals for his country and is not surprisingly the only goalkeeper to ever score a hat-trick (watch it here) as well as a goal from inside his own half. A true entertainer on the world football scene!

8640 chilavert_273622s

As the years rolled by though he started to pile on the pounds a little as he enjoyed his country’s food a bit too much it seems. Yes…. and that tenuous link my friends brings us on to this Paraguayan restaurant in Chiba! On Friday lunchtime I met up with friend and former neighbour Gideon for the first time since January last year when we took a trip down memory lane before moving on to Shibamata. The restaurant is just a minutes walk from Kamihongo station which is the first stop on the Shin-Keisei line coming from Matsudo station.

IMG_6121 IMG_6119

When we reached our destination we were surprised to see that it had changed its name but the Paraguay flag in the window (as well as the former name) indicated that this was where we wanted to dine out for lunch. It actually says Latin American cooking on the sign outside the place and an Argentina flag also dons the outside of the kitchen wall alongside that of Paraguay. There is also a football scarf hanging on one of the walls which is surely justification for my Chilavert reference earlier!!

IMG_6112 IMG_6117  

By my standards this place seemed quite sophisticated on entering, with wine glasses on the tables and a couple of groups of housewives sitting around doing what they do best with their days! The place seems to be more of a bar at night (its stocked with a vast range of alcoholic drinks including Paraguayan wine) but is also open for lunch from 11.30am to 3pm (last orders at 2.30pm) from Tuesday to Sunday.

IMG_6114 IMG_6105

Knowing about a country’s former national goalkeeper doesn’t exactly given one any ideas  about its local cuisine so I really didn’t have any idea what to expect in that area. The lunch menu has over a dozen dishes costing in the range of 1000 yen with an extensive list of side dishes on offer too. I had seen empanada‘s (300 yen) on the internet ahead of our visit and it’s basically a baked pastry stuffed with ground beef. It was absolutely scrumptious and whetted my appetite for my main which was to follow (there was a salad in between but a salad is a salad in my book!). I just asked the owner what the number one Paraguayan dish on offer was and as predicted he pointed to the first one on the menu which was also the most expensive one! Oh well, the 1200 yen Milanesas (breaded meat fillet) was well worth it. Gideon’s chicken and tomato based dish (1000 yen) also looked very appetising.

IMG_6107 IMG_6108

One dish I wanted to try was Borí Borí con pollo which is a chicken soup with small balls of maize and cheese which is supposed to help in getting rid of colds. Given the amount of sneezing I’ve been doing recently I could have done with it but sadly I didn’t notice there was a mini one on the menu until it was way too late.

It appears that there are some close links between Paraguayan and Italian food which presumably owes to the ethnic Italians who have settled in Paraguay over time. As always with these international restaurants, I have no real idea how authentic the dishes are but given that the owner is half Paraguayan half Japanese one would maybe expect it to be pretty close. If you want to know which of his parents is from South America then just look at the name of the restaurant!

IMG_6123 IMG_6124

Mama’s Kitchen (Formerly Yuki Restaurant) is at 3-111-102 Nakaicho, Matsudo-shi

Posted in Food & Drink | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time To Clamp Down On The Idle Behaviour Of Drivers

Back in the day when Tokyo Fox was just getting up and running I often used to write about the everyday quirks and behavioural norms of Japanese society. Whether it be the terrible tv, the moronic cyclists or the behind-the-times smoking rules it’s pretty much all been covered before but one thing that I’ve never ranted about is the many, many drivers who leave their car engine running whilst they park up on some side road.

Crime-wise, Tokyo is a relatively safe city and people tend to sleep anywhere and everywhere and that certainly includes their cars. No problem with that. Why shouldn’t one being able to pull over and take a rest from the often stressful rigours of modern daily life. Besides, if they’re tired then its probably a good idea to take a break and not risk their life or someone else’s. However, the major problem with this is that they leave their engine running with fumes pumping out into the environment. People are seemingly aware of being eco-friendly but many don’t seem to realise that leaving their vehicles idle for a few minutes is wasting costly gasoline and releasing harmful greenhouse gasses.

One of the reasons for this happening may be that there’s just not enough free space for people to relax in. Tokyo in particular is an overly crowded and congested city with space at a premium which is why the locals feel they desperately need to find their own “bubble” to exist in within the existing environment. This is why you see people engrossed in their smart phones all over the place or spending hours with a solitary cup of coffee in a fast-food restaurant. Remember that this is the country where people go to Love Hotels for a bit of intimate privacy as its just not possible to have their own space!

For those with cars (many don’t have their own vehicle in Tokyo as it’s just not needed due to the reliable and efficient train service and the busy roads make the decision of giving up on a car a bit easier) the interior is their own space to relax in and this could possibly be an explanation as to why there are so many drivers compulsively and obsessively fiddling with cellphones, tablets, portable games consoles, TV’s and radios rather than actually opening the door and getting out to stretch the old legs.

It’s probably due to the aforementioned lack of crime that drivers feel comfortable in leaving their motor running whilst they pop into the convenience store, take a toilet break in a park toilet or wait to pick someone up at the station. On that note, the many taxi drivers lining up outside stations usually all have their engines running as is of course the norm in many countries.

So what can be done about this? In a country where change tends to come about very slowly I really don’t know. Confrontation is something that is rarely ever done in Japan so walking by and banging on the window is probably out of the question! Clearing my throat loudly as I pass by may wake them briefly but doesn’t really change much. It’s surely up to the government to start clamping down on this and fining those responsible for letting their engines idle but I won’t hold my breath on that one. Future generations may have to hold their breath more and more when out on the streets if this pollution of the environment continues.

With an ever declining population rate, Japan needs all the help it can get in readdressing this trouble but if it’s tired drivers don’t turn the ignition off whilst taking a well-earned nap then the problem will continue to accelerate.

Posted in Japan Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment