Cherry Blossom Erotica

Cherry blossoms (AKA sakura) are fetishized in Japan. The way in which cherry tree seeds have been strewn across the landscape, creating avenues of white explosions, can appear like a virile obsession.  Yet they’re also the epitome of beauty and regarded in such a wondrous manner that one might think that they’re only seen once a century. Actually they bloom for one – two weeks in early April, and every year the mania sets in.

Let me explain. Not only are they dotted around in manga-style pictures, no doubt to add a touch of fragility to the already fragile virgins, but I even saw a guy publicly masturbating by them (post coming soon). Just like the rose came to be associated with the feminine form within European culture, maybe the sakura hold a more sensual connection in Japan.

The majority of people, fortunately, don’t whip down their pants at the sight of sakura – they whip out their cameras, their picnic rugs and several bottles of alcohol, and sit around outside at a hanami (literally, flower-looking) event. In reality, this is an excuse for many people to get wasted. I did plenty of hanami – minus the alcohol. And mainly minus the picnicking as well (it’s my duty to restaurant hunt, so I tell myself).

Scroll down for sakura saturation, brought to you from various locations around Kansai.

Section 1: Hikone-jo, Hikone, Shiga prefecture

Hikone Castle is situated in a park full of a thousand cherry trees.

Section 2: Maruyama Park, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Famed for a very grand Weeping Cherry Tree, a festival atmosphere settles across this park, and people eat and drink and be merry.

Section 3: Sosui, Yamashina, Kyoto

I’m lucky enough to live near a canal area, which has also been sprayed with sakura seeds. It also features some overgrown yellow plants, creating a spectacularly colourful, flowery effect.


Section 4: Around Kyoto

My camera’s been having a little trouble focussing on these snow-like scenes. Here are a few for your perusal:

Mystery Solved – Lion Beating!

Do you remember this mystery constellation? It was twinkling at me from the ceiling of my local department store that plays fake organ music at random intervals. (See here).

Well, fortunately, I now know that this man is not clubbing a monkey to death. He is Orion, the hunter. And he is clubbing a lion to death (which, er, makes it so much better!) Thanks to Catherine Harris for solving the mystery!

It’s…The 4pm Organ and Constellation Time!

Protect yourself from germs...but risk unwanted attention. It's a small price to pay.

I have to admit that I’m slowly adjusting to Japan and all its oddities. I no longer dance to the train station “theme” tunes that play when you board or get off a train. I don’t stop to laugh at politicians waving in white gloves out of vans. I no longer get creeped out by the eerie robotic voices from the advertising vans or the eerie tunes from the rubbish truck. I take my shoes off without thinking. I no longer have the urge to stare at perfectly made-up women sporting white face masks (although I did stare at the leather-bondage themed one. That was too much to ask. Incidentally, you can buy one here.)

However, today was an all new experience. I think I saw a constellation of a man clubbing a monkey to death.

The story begins, unromantically, with housework. The kitchen floor needed to be mopped. So the logical solution was to mop myself and Calle out the front door and not come back until it was dry. This meant we had to go out for lunch. What a shame.

It was a Sunday and past 2pm and so our options weren’t great. We walked down to Daimaru department store in Yamashina and went for “Italian”.

"Roast Ham Pizza" Warning: contains cabbage

Of course, you don’t get ham and cabbage pizza at a real Italian. The cabbage seriously didn’t help things but it wasn’t bad. I tend to find pizza is nearly always edible – never great, never atrocious. It’s a boring but safe option.

But we didn’t decide to go to the Italian place for the pizza. We went because of the salad bar. The salad bar wasn’t some tired lettuce but a whole array of cress, broccoli, tomatoes, ratatouille-style pumpkin, baby corn, sweetcorn, green beans, carrot, chick peas, kidney beans, pasta salad and potato salad. Tomatoes and chickpeas are really expensive in Japan so they were, in effect, a luxury.

Rare luxury in Japan

We left with near-bursting stomachs and were casually groaning our way down the stairs, when the shopping centre erupted into music. Organ music.

The grand atrium contains a giant organ on the third floor level. The organ is not real – or if it is, no-one was actually playing it. Fake organ music streamed through the shopping centre and the ceiling lit up to reveal some constellations and shooting stars.

The 4pm Organ and Constellation Show

I guess the shopping experience is managed very differently in Japan. The 4pm Organ and Constellation Time really increases sales. I suppose.

However, I tried zooming in on the constellation to work out exactly what it is. But it looks like a man clubbing a monkey to death. Which one is it? Ideas please?

Clubbing a monkey to death, or....or....or....what?


The Royal Palace of Cake

I felt the title should be capitalised, as if to shout royalty’s name. For this could be a palace. A staggering four-storeys high, this white-walled cake-castle has more lights than a town square Christmas tree (you can see a photo at night here).

The palace is actually a café. And when we saw it, we were hooked: we absolutely had to eat cake there. When we saw that a cake and coffee set was only 650円, we returned post haste.

The Place: Swiss Rhone 

The Food: A variety of European cakes; cake and coffee set (with home-made ice cream)

As this is a food blog, I should probably start with the food. But for once in my life, I was more taken with the interior of a café than the menu.

The owner was inspired by European architecture and style, particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and collected artefacts accordingly.

Here are some photos so you can the idea of the wooden planes, hot air balloons, cherubs, rocking horses etc.

Now it wasn’t too long before our cakes and coffees arrived. I chose chocolate cake and Calle chose cherry chocolate cake. Both came on beautifully old-fashioned ornate tea crockery.

Chocolate sponge cake
Chocolate cherry cake

I went straight for the home-made vanilla ice-cream which had the lightest of flavours and was an absolute delight.

Sadly, “light” flavours aren’t always a good thing and when it comes to chocolate cake, I want HEAVY chocolate flavour. My cake just merged into a mush of sponge and cream in my mouth. It was almost like eating air – not enough substance. Calle’s cherry cake suffered from a similar affliction – it was fantastic when you came across a cherry, but without, it just evaporated. It wasn’t unpleasant – it just didn’t touch the sides of a cake craving. It left me wanting more – it left me wanting stodgyness.

Overall 3.5/5

Visit for the fantastic décor and an amazing value cake set.

Food quality 2.5/5 – The cakes were of good quality but they lacked taste. The home-made ice cream saved it.

Value for money 5/5 –  cake sets are normally from 650円 upwards, with plenty at the 800円 mark. With ice-cream included and amazing crockery, the value was incredible

Atmosphere 4/5 – Although the shop was well-frequented, we were the only people in the café. It didn’t matter when we had two little men popped out a clock to announce 5pm. In essence, the ornaments will keep you company.

Service 4/5 – Prompt service plus a brief explanation about the history of the place.

How to find it:

There are two but I recommend going to the main one (as the other is just in a department store ie. no big fun palace)

Copy and paste this into Google maps:


As you come out of Yamashina JR station, walk down towards the main road. Just before the giant Racto department store building, turn right. You will be on a small road which runs parallel to the main road, Sanjo Dori. Carry on walking straight for about 10 minutes. The cake palace will be on your left. You can’t miss it.

Final note: Why are there purple smiley faces hanging from the outside? That doesn’t look very European – it looks more Japanese.

Well done, careful observer. You’re absolutely right. Those aren’t purple smiley balloons or plums as I assumed. It’s the Yamashina-ku Aubergine Festival! And every shop is covered in them. One even found its way upstairs into the café….