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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Tokyo Fox Rating 6/10

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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) 

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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!

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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Luke Who Turned Up For Halloween! (Pt II)

There really isn’t too much to add in the way of words to what I wrote in ‘Luke Who Turned Up For Halloween! Pt I‘ but this time on arriving at Hachiko exit of Shibuya station we were actually met by the sight of hundreds of cosplayers celebrating Halloween night. The main difference for me was that this time I was equipped with my lightsaber which I hadn’t bothered to take out in the previous Saturday.

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It didn’t take too long for the TV news crews to approach and yet again I was interviewed; this time by TBS but after my three interviews ended up on the scrap heap last week I certainly won’t be holding too much hope of any of it making the cut when it airs on Monday lunchtime!

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Batman (a.k.a. Neil the nurse from the previous weekends event) and I teamed up again and wandered the streets with the odd convenience store beer for comfort. No point in bothering with bars as all the action is on the streets with Center Gai and the streets running parallel all packed full of snap-happy people.

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Having walked home on Saturday night I wasn’t gonna make that mistake again as I had work in the morning. The experience of last year taught me that one needs to start heading to the station at least an hour before your intended train due to extreme crowding and Hachiko exit was absolutely rammed and it took about 30 minutes to get from the gate to the platform to board an overly full train.

You can read ‘Luke Who Turned Up For Halloween! (Pt I)’ here

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