Cemetery Junction Filming Locations (2010)

It’s very rare that I visit any movie locations beyond the nations capital when I’m back in Britain but earlier this year I went to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough which has been used for countless TV and film productions. One of the movies to have been shot there was ‘Cemetery Junction‘ (2010); the coming-of-age comedy-drama about three lads written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Both of those guys do appear in the film but their parts are mere cameo roles. Continue reading

Dining Out: I-Ran Out For Iranian Food After Watching ‘A Separation’

Having just watched a foreign language flick I think most people might be tempted to go on and watch more films from that country or even book a trip to the place. The latter may usually be true for me but when the country we’re talking about is Iran it’s never gonna be that straightforward! I’ve heard great things about Iran actually, especially its people and would like to visit the country one day but for now I’ll have to settle for the next best thing. Having finally got round to watching ’A Separation‘ (2011) I-ran out to get some ethnic cuisine as that’s the kind of persian I am!

One obvious restaurant springs to mind when it comes to Iranian restaurants in Tokyo and thats ‘Zakuro’ at 3-13-2 Nishi-Nippori. Back in 2011 I first went to this place on an  evening and slagged it off on here! That was more for my dislike of that kind of entertainment and that is still true but having returned their last year for lunch I decided it was a great place for food which kind of got forgotten about in my original entry. More on the food later.

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Now, despite all the film-related stuff here on Tokyo Fox, I really am not a film buff but I do enjoy watching foreign language movies from time to time. ‘A Separation‘ (2011) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012 and its beauty lies with the fact that the tension and drama remains throughout without any need to resort the more commonly used gimmicks of western cinema.

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It is a sad truth that most people from English-speaking countries just will not watch foreign language films when they go to the cinema or rent a dvd. Having to actually read the subtitles in order to really understand what’s going on is one basic reason why. It’s also been suggested that subtitles require more attention and take away the viewers concentration of the action in part. Movie-goers seem to be ok with small segments of the films they watch being subtitled but it seems at times that it’s only really the film buffs who enjoy good movies whether they are subtitled or not.

The brilliant and very tense ‘Argo‘ (2012) was a three-time Academy Award winner in 2012 and having also re-watched this on dvd the other day, Iran was definitely lurking in the back of my mind somewhere. As a movie locations geek I should add that the bazaar wasn’t really in Iran but was instead the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul which also featured in ‘Skyfall‘ and ‘Taken 2‘ last year.

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That links me nicely back to Zakuro which is actually a mix of Iranian and Turkish food as well as also including some Uzbekistani cuisine too. The lunch set is a bargain 1000 yen and includes daily juice, daily kebab, soup, rice, nan, tea, Iran pasta and and a load more dishes which I struggle to recall.

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Sitting on Persian rugs which cover the floor your table is also at ground level and fairly quickly fills up as the staff bring you dish after dish as well as a Turkish fez hat!

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Having been here a few times now it really can be a bit hit or miss. Every time you go to this place the menu is a little different which is no doubt a good thing but when I took my girlfriend here recently for her maiden visit the service was a little lacking and we did get forgotten about a bit after the initial outlay of dishes given to us which it has to be said is fairly impressive. Its just that on my previous visit I was constantly inundated with extra dishes and other little bite-sized nibbles which are passed round by the waiters.

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Funnyman owner Ali is a bit of a character who usually works hard to entertain the diners, particularly the larger groups, and create a communal atmosphere in the place. Sadly, he wasn’t around so much for this recent visit which may be why it wasn’t quite up to scratch. Still, I shall definitely return again one day.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant

I often forget about ‘Forrest Gump’ but it’s certainly up there among my all-time favourite films and it was only a few months ago that I heard there were a couple of Bubba Gump Restaurants in Tokyo which were inspired by the 1994 movie. In the film “Bubba” and Forrest Gump agree to go into the shrimp business as partners after the end of their service to the U.S. Army. However, “Bubba” dies in the line of duty and following his triumphant victory in a ping-pong tour Forrest earns enough to buy himself a shrimp boat. Of course theres way more to the story than that but this is not the place to go into such details.

It’s a rarity in Tokyo but the ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.‘ restaurant in Kasuga is actually located in a very picturesque area among the shops, boutiques, restaurants and theme rides of LaQua. There’s even a fountain in front of it which has water displays every hour similar to that outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

 

Just round the corner from the restaurant is a mock-up of Forrests bench (where he tells his story to a stranger in the film) for the photo opportunist featuring the logo, his bag and even his trainers which are so big you can slide your feet into them.

 

As someone who is always on the look out for movie related stuff I jumped at the chance of going here last weekend when a colleague invited me along. The themed restaurant is full of interesting Gump-related stuff like ping-pong bat drink menus, memorabilia from the film, licensed merchandise, quotes on the wall and tables, screenshots, food & drink with specific Forrest Gump names and to get the attention of the waiter one has to flip over the blue ‘Run Forrest Run’ sign to a red ‘Stop Forrest Stop’ one meaning that they will stop by your table to take your order.

   

I actually really liked this place but its not the kind of restaurant one returns to too often and especially not with such sky-high prices! I splashed out on a pina colada type cocktail (1200 yen) and we kind of shared our meals; shrimp rigatoni and “I’m Stuffed!” Shrimp (shrimp stuffed with crab, baked in garlic butter with cheese and served with rice) which were 1980 yen each! They were both really nice (and so they should be at that price!) and really filling too but we decided to move on to a way cheaper place for a couple more drinks but not before I had my photo taken in front of the cream-coloured suit worn by Tom Hanks in his academy award winning role.

   

Kung-Fu Panda Kids Party

The release of ‘Kung-Fu Panda 2’ into cinema’s this Summer meant I wanted to seize the chance to do another Kung-Fu Panda lesson following my previous efforts in 2009 and 2010. However, this time it was different as I proposed the idea of doing an actual school event rather than just doing it in selected lessons. Luckily the owner of Hibarigaoka school was wanting to do some kind of kids event and so my dream ending up becoming reality on Sunday 31st July. Apart from the idea and being consulted on activities, crafts and games I took a back seat this time and no that doesn’t mean I was lazy! My friend and colleague Lai-Keun took on the mantle of organising it and produced a wealth of stuff such as masks, board games, cut-outs, extra flashcards, craft activities and so on.

Basically it was a teaching partnership for two classes of 13 each with the first group being the 3-6 year olds and the other group the 6-12 year olds. There were a few cry-babies in the first group but overall I think both group lessons went very well. Whilst there was some drilling of the character animals (as well as station games) and a few language points the main priority was to create more of a party atmosphere with a lot of fun games and activities which Lai-Keun came up with including:

‘Make a Lantern’ – the young kids basically coloured in the lantern and a few folds later it was done. Add a handle using double sided sticky tape and its finished.

 

‘Make a Pencil Topper’ – the older kids group basically just cut and folded along the lines of a character topper and used the adhesive tape on it (if they didn’t cut that bit off by mistake which a few did!). Stick a pencil through the hole and its job done.

‘Pin the ears on Po’ – students wear a blindfold and try to stick the ears on the panda.

 

‘Ninja star throwing’ – students have a star each and take turns to throw it into a box. The first team to get them all in wins.

‘Feed Po’ – two teams of students race to feed the panda M&M’s one at a time using a plastic spoon.

  

‘Magnetic jigsaw’ – two teams race to complete and put together a magnetic jigsaw piece by piece whilst wearing a puppet on their hands which is passed between team members

 

‘Pass the parcel’ – self explanatory and who would have thought that every student ended up with a prize?! What chance of the ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ music never stopping on the same student!!

‘Punch & Kick the balloon’ – the teacher throws the balloon to the student telling them to either punch or kick it. Simple but good fun.

‘Hit the pinata’ –  the grand finale of each class where students basically use a plastic baseball bat to smack the sh*t out of a tiger pinata until it breaks and releases a load of candy for them to grab and fight over!

   

The lessons lasted 90 minutes each including a snack and drinks break halfway through and each student left with a goody bag and a smiling face. From a personal point of view I hope that some of them go and see the new film when it finally comes out in Japan on August 19th. Overall, it was a tiring days work (well, half a day anyway!) but great fun and nice to do something different with the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ format I’ve been covering in recent years. I can’t thank Lai-Keun enough for her efforts as well as those of the owner and receptionist (Junko and Yasuko) who all contributed far more than I did to make the party run smoothly. I also now have a wealth of additional materials to use in future lessons should I wish or for when/if ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ is made.

   

Kung Fu Panda Special Lesson (2010 Edition)

To celebrate the end of a hard years work for my kids I treated them to non-textbook special lessons in the last week of March which marks the end of the school year in Japan. This was basically the follow up to last years Kung Fu Panda special lesson and involved the manipulation of their standard text to fit in with the animal characters (from the Kung Fu Panda film) flashcards that I made and laminated and the making of a Po (the title character) mask before the culmination of some games played whilst wearing it. To be honest, I was quite disappointed with these lessons as I hadn’t anticipated so many students being absent as they were on school holiday. My efforts had been geared towards doing this themed lesson with the majority of kids in attendance.
 
Anyway, despite my somewhat wasted efforts (cutting out many rough templates of the Panda mask using old cereal boxes the night before each day) the lessons were still enjoyed a by a fair number of kids (I teach a lot of kids groups which were all mostly depleted that week) and gave them a break from the normal course syllabus.
      

Rain Fall

To be frank I have very little interest in Japanese films. I’ve seen a few notable ones and they’re OK but most just don’t quite cut the mustard with me. However, there is one exception and that is ‘Rain Fall’ which is based on Barry Eisler’s series of books which I have very much enjoyed reading. They revolve around one principle character; John Rain, a Japanese-American cynical, conscientious assassin with a liking for whisky and jazz music. The first two books (there are six in total) are set in Tokyo which was obviously appealing to me and though not as likeable or exciting as the Bourne series they were thrillers which kept me hooked and wanting more including a film adaptation. That has now happened and features Gary Oldman but sadly for me the film is predominantly in Japanese and so there is no need to provide English subtitles. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if it gets released overseas at a later date. I now know how those Japanese people with a strong interest in Hollywood films and American TV shows feel when they can’t watch them until they finally get subtitled.

Kung Fu Panda Special Lesson

Kung Fu Panda was the surprise hit of last year for me as I originally thought it was some horrible cutesy cr*p aimed at the Japanese market. I saw it on the plane last summer when I went to Malaysia and again when I went to Laos via Bangkok as I was so tired that I fell asleep with 20 minutes left the first time I watched it.
While at home at Christmas I bought a cheap Kung Fu Panda annual in the sales which inspired me to use some of the material inside it as part of my special Kung Fu Panda lesson recently. Having photocopied many pictures of Po (the star of the film), and a maze, wordsearch and ‘cut out’ mask I went about constructing a special fun-packed animal lesson loosely based around some of the units in the kids books. I never do craft work in kids lessons as I have always been of the opinion that in regular lessons it is bit of a cop-out when they are there to learn, practice and produce English via a wide variety of activities and games. However, I guess there’s a time and place for craft work and as a couple of my groups were ahead of pacing I decided to allow them to make a panda poster one week (using the target language of the recent units) and then a mask the following one which was worn while playing the ‘fishing for animals’ magnet game (see pictures to get the idea!)
On top of that I also incorporated some of my personal items into the lesson such as any random animal photos I have (i.e. me holding a crocodile, me and Gromit the dog, swimming with fish, riding an elephant, Jaws, an Okinawan buffalo, my ‘Pringles’ duck impression and so on), my frog ‘croaking’ guiro-type thing, my Aussie magnets, coasters and cork hat.
Special ‘Fu Juice’ was on the menu in one of the lessons which was basically just a bottle of green tea with a new label on it. The kids were fooled up until they tasted it! I also shared out some cheap animal biscuits which had the written English word on them which was a chance to re-enforce their phonics and not just me trying to buy popularity!! Overall, the students seemed to enjoy these special themed lessons and I will now keep an eye out to see how I can shoehorn other such film related things into my lessons.