Archive for November, 2008

Ageha: A Tokyo rite of passage

If you’re up for all-night clubbing, Ageha is the clubber’s paradise in Tokyo. Located in Shin-kiba, Ageha is a sprawling warehouse-like establishment in the middle of suburbia.

My friends and I were all pumped up at dinner in an izakaya in Shibuya and went onto pocketing chu-his and beers for the train ride to “the middle of nowhere” (which means anywhere outside the JR Yamamote Line or central Tokyo).

Photo: Markiemarc

*These photos were not of the night I went and it was forbidden to bring in cameras. Unfortunately, the camera in my mobile phone kind of sucked, too, so many thanks to the great photographers at Flickr.

UK spinmeister Armin van Burren was spinning the main set and was slated to begin at 330am. The two DJs before him were excellent at working up the crowd to a frenzy.

Photo: switchstyle

The stage was massive and the main dance floor felt like two basketball courts. We did some exploring in the beginning — there were a couple of small rooms with alternative tunes and a spacious poolside bar that was absolutely rocking despite the stinging cold (people just bopped around the huge heaters erected around the water’s edge).

It’s been awhile since I heard such great music blasted from a top-notch sound system so it felt great to dance for hours.

…Till 430am. My body just shut down and I elbowed my way out of the heaving crowd to find a seat. I was kind of like this dude over here.

Photo: soleada

One useful tip for non-nocturnal animals like me: Don’t share a locker with anyone. You can’t return to the premises once you step out and the locker room is outside. I wanted to go home at about 530am but we couldn’t find the last guy who shared a locker with us until much later. With booze-addled brains and half-shut eyes, we stumbled around looking for our equally drunk friend.

Also, if you are clubbing in winter: make sure you bring along a warm coat. It may not look cool but you get to stash in lockers. I, for one, was a little too vain and was decked out in a short dress, a cardi and a thin jacket, which made me shiver my ass off and fall sick after my Ageha escapade.

There are shuttle buses that depart every half hour from Ageha back to Shibuya where most people can catch a train back home. The JR and metro start at 430am from Shin-kiba station so you can take off before dawn if you want to.

My take on Ageha: Fantabulous clubbing experience and you should at least check it out once if you are remotely interested in good electronica.

H&M mania in Tokyo

Photo: Hiroki Blue

High street Swedish giant H&M created a retail frenzy in Tokyo this November, despite economic woes. The news reported insane queues and disappointed shoppers who couldn’t find their sizes despite waiting for hours.

Photo: kuschti

The lines at the Ginza store looked scary, so I decided to wait till the hype died down a little.

Photo: Guy Flaneur

But there were more crowds at the second opening in Harajuku – check out a short video about it here. Some of my fashionista friends went crazy over the Comme de Garcons/H&M collection and were determined to get at least one piece. Apparently, they look a lot more wearable than the ads make them out to be.

Photo: tokyofashion

It takes about an hour and a half to try something on in the dressing room and another hour or so to pay for your goodies, so a trip to H&M would be a whole-day affair.

Does this sound familiar? Krispy Kreme gave birth to impossibly long queues for their fabled double-glazed donuts — for a year.

Photo: joellymo

Anyway, this is indeed a breath of fresh air in the fashion scene and would make staples, like Zara, Gap, Uniqlo, sweat under the collar a bit.

Mind your manners on the metro

The Tokyo Metro came up with a series of cheeky posters about minding your behavior on the train — I find it hilarious because the trains are extremely quiet compared to other countries’, so I don’t see that there’s a need for them. In fact, the hushed silence in the trains freaked me out a little but I come from Southeast Asia and we’ve got a noisy culture when we board the bus or train.

I suppose quiet comfort in the train in important in Japan because there’s such a huge number of people commuting and it’s common to travel as long as two hours from your home to the office. If you have somebody who has loud music blasting from their headphones or taking up two seats instead of one, you would feel thoroughly annoyed after a couple of hours, I suppose.

The Manners series kicked off with “Please do it at home” and among these my favorite is this one below. I have definitely seen women fixing their makeup with a big hand mirror for their entire train journey and the average travel time here is about 30 to 45 minutes within Tokyo. But I don’t really see how this would affect other passengers unless said culprit keeps jabbing her elbows into her neighbor’s ribs.

Summer brought on this one and it’s the coolest so far in the series. I’ve definitely seen salary men transform into action heroes as they leap between closing train doors.

I only ever see rowdy peeps on the last train after a night of drinking, though it seems the norm to take a tall can of beer on the shinkansen (bullet train) even if it’s 10am in the morn…

I wonder how many more quirky posters they would come up with….?

Photos: courtesy of Jean-Marc Rocher

The original Ippudo Ramen in Tokyo

Much has been gushed about Ippudo Hakata Ramen in New York since its grand opening in March this year — news articles reported that New Yorkers waited in the brutal winter cold for up to 90 minutes to eat a bowl of steaming ramen that was a “religious” experience, as quoted in popular food blog, Serious Eats.

A friend who lives there declared Ippudo was her favorite after eating her way through many ramen shops in the Big Apple. With such a vote of confidence, I had to try this tonkatsu (pork broth) sensation when a couple of friends were in town for a visit.

For kicks, I decided to patronize the very first shop built in Ippudo’s chain, which is located in Ebisu, a chic well-heeled neighborhood known for its cool nightlife and culinary delights.

There wasn’t a line to get in (phew…) but it was pretty full of salarymen and OLs (office ladies). I got a seat immediately and pointed to the fabled Akamaru set. Being Singaporean, it was the natural choice as it’s topped with a spicy paste that is not in the Shiromaru one which is just plain tonkatsu soup.

Large bowls of spicy preserved spinach and bean sprouts were placed at every table — this simple but yummy appetizer whetted my taste buds for what was to come.

The rich, savory flavor of the ramen made everyone at the table slurp in silent appreciation. Oishiiiii (delicious)… The noodles were al dente and slippery, while I was just floored by the complexity of the soup — it was a melange of mysterious minced beans (probably from the spicy paste) and punchy meatiness.

You’ve got to try the sui gyozas (steamed pork dumplings) which swim in a clear, light broth and spring onions. Since I’m Chinese by ethnicity, I’m quite critical of gyozas and these little babies were definitely a five-star experience.

What’s unusual about the yaki gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings) was it had a smidgen of yuzu (Japanese mandarin) paste on the side. The citrus bite completely transformed its heaviness and you’d feel you could stuff in just a few more.

Did I see the Ramen Gods in Ippudo? Almost, just almost. I’ve yet to find another shop that’s better and it’s no wonder that it’s touted as the best ramen chain in Tokyo.

Address: 1-3-13 Hiroo, Hainezu Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5420-2225
Opening hours: 11am – 4am daily
How to get there: Take the West Exit from Ebisu JR station and head towards Meiji-dori. You’ll spot the shop next to a post office.

Tokyo Metblogs is revived again

Hi, I’m Yu Ming and I’m a new blogger for the Tokyo edition of Metblogs. I’ll be posting on what’s going on in Tokyo, interesting places to visit, and anything quirky in that Japanese way all of us Japanophiles love.

Even though I’ve been here for two years now, I still get a bit starry-eyed when I see the William Gibson-esque skyscrapers right next to ancient Zen temples. Japan is a living, breathing oxymoron that’s a fascinating creature to watch whom no one can quite figure out.

I’m familiar with the city and can get around without a glitch, but it is a huge metropolis and I’ve still got loads to discover. So come with me and follow my exploration of this adopted home of mine and hope you enjoy the ride. Feel free to give me feedback or ask me a question about Japan.

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