Sayonara Shinjuku

Here’s one last neon whirl around Shinjuku’s flashing lights and garish nightlife.

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I’m missing the frenetic city again! The temptation to book flights and head back is increasing with every photo I post!

A last look at Godzilla is a kitschy reminder of the wealth of cultural influences that Japan has gifted to the world.

And if anything sums up the zany, colourful craziness of Tokyo it’s this unlikely pair of tiny dancers!

Awesome Akihabara

After sating my desire for all things kitchen related we head onto get our first glimpse of one of the ubiquitous sights in Tokyo – the neon jungle of Akihabara, AKA Electric town.

Akihabara is named after the fire-controlling god of a shrine built after the area was destroyed by a fire in 1869.

Akihabara gained the nickname Electric Town after World War II as it became a major shopping centre for household electronic goods and the post-war black market.

It’s a popular shopping district for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods.

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Anime and manga shops abound and numerous ‘maid cafés’ are found everywhere.

Everywhere you turn are a plethora of skimpily clad, doe eyed manga dolls. Illustrating a curious sexual but cartoonish vision of womanhood.

Another feature of Japan is the proliferation of arcades with machines for grabbing all manner of fluffy toys and plastic trinkets.

While we associate them with children in the UK, we saw lots of adults putting money into the slots. It all links into the Japanese obsession with Kawaii.

Kawaii is all about cuteness. It’s a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture that features in everything from entertainment, clothing, food, toys to personal appearance, behaviour, and mannerisms.

I feel the blue fuzzy things might be making eyes at me . . . .

Around Akibara are huge colourful billboards and screens with male or female dancing and singing groups.

These are idols – media personalities in their teens and twenties who are considered particularly attractive or cute and who will regularly appear in the mass media .

Another common feature to be found dotted around are Maid cafés.

These curious, cutesy affairs are a type of cosplay restaurant. In these cafés, waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants, and treat customers as masters and mistresses in a private home, rather than as café patrons.

Below I manage to grab a snap of one of the many, very camera shy, maid cafe toutes.

All in all it’s a jaw dropping array of neon highrises, billboards, flashing lights and cartoonish overload.

There isn’t a surface that’s not smothered in cutesy cartoons, or garish advertising. It’s a sensory overload!

I’ll leave you with these colourful snaps of another common feature – vending machines.

The Japanese love to vend things! Whether it’s food, toys, plastic tat or even flying fish in oil – there are literally 1000s of machines on every street corner.

We’ll head back to Akihabara later to see it all lit up at night.

A Quirky Quinta

Trying to top the incredible Pena Palace is pretty much impossible but there are other inspiring, quirky and fascinating places to see in Sintra.

Quinta da Regaleria is just one of them. Another whimsical slice of Portuguese real estate!

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Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”.

*Wikipedia alert* The property consists of a ornate, romantic palace and chapel, and a verdant park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of fantasical constructions.

The palace is also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.

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The land where the estate now stands was sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro

He was eager to build a bewildering place where he could collect symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies.

With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he created the 4-hectare estate.

In addition to other new features, he added enigmatic buildings that allegedly held symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

The architecture Manini designed evoked Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles. The construction of the current estate commenced in 1904 and much of it was completed by 1910.

The whole estate is a wonderland of walls, follies, underground tunnels, hidden waterfalls and more.

Lots of fun! Next up the quirky sight that set our sights on this part of the world to be begin with!

Lisbon colours and corners

Lisbon is alive with colour, blink and you miss it details and delights around every corner.

It’s also famous for its cute little trams that whizz up and down the steep cobbled streets. Two not to miss are number 28 that takes you winding through the old Alfama district and over blood curdling hills.

The other is number 15, a new tram that takes you all the way out to Belem where many architectural delights away you (more of that later)

Modern street art can be found all around the city. Here’s a multicoloured example.

Sacred heart tiles are ones I have never encountered before!

Again I’m delighted by the multitude of religiously themed tiles, coloured walls and window ledge gardens.

Lot’s more colourful details to follow!