Tokyo trip – shopping

Day two of our Tokyo trip was always going to involve shopping.

We headed out to kappabashi, also known as kitchen town. We have been there several times, so this visit was going to be about buying specific things.  When we got out of the train station G realised there was a Book-Off nearby.  Book-Off is a second hand book chain. They also sell second hand games and consoles and CDs and DVDs. So we headed there. I got a couple of craft books and some games for my Japanese 3ds, G got some Playstation games (PS 4 I think).

Then we headed to kitchen town.  G wanted a knife, I wanted a new coffee filter thing and we had a couple of things to buy for others. Once these were bought we headed to the train station to go to Asakusa. Usually we would just walk through the backstreets, because it is quite close, but one of the things we had to pick up was an iron teapot. The preferred one (after text message and photos) was at the beginning of the street. So we caught the train one stop.  I wanted to go to a museum in Asakusa called Amuse Museum, which turned out to be not far from where we would have been if we walked there, but was a good 10 minute walk from the station.

 It’s an interesting museum, with the ticket desk at the back of a shop, and the museum in the floors above.  Some of it is studios of artists. The main exhibit was an exhibit of old clothes from northern Japan, collected over many years and very patched.  The style of patching is called Boro, or sometimes it is called sashiko (sashiko refers the technique). Rural Japan, particularly in the north, did not have fabric to spare.  Clothes were made warmer by quilting layers, holes were patched with more layers. It’s hard to find these clothes anymore- they tended to be worn into scraps, which were then patched onto other clothes.  Once fabric and clothes became easier to obtain, they were often thrown away.  The man who collected these has preserved something very valuable from the everyday person. 

This is detail of one of the pieces.

This is single stitch embroidery on a more formal piece. It’s amazing decoration achieved with very simple materials.

What I found interesting about this- I first read about this type of reusing in Liza Dalby’s book on kimono. She commented that it was hard to find examples, for the reasons I noted above. Sashiko as a more decorative, ornamental craft has become popular in Japan and in the west- one of the things I do buy here are sashiko patterns that are less traditional as the ons in Australia are all more traditional It has become separated from its original purpose, a merely decorative craft, like a lot of other crafts, the original need no longer exists. Boro- the patchwork held together with running stitch, has been gaining popularity in Australia (and I suspect elsewhere as well), driven partially by some Japanese artists.  I know that at the last few craft fairs I have been to there were Boro classes and exhibitions.  By contrast, I have seen no modern Boro kits in Japan so far. This trip has also been the first time I have seen Boro pieces at flea markets.  There were examples at both of the markets we have been to.  I don’t know if this is because the markets were in Tokyo and surrounds, whereas mostly we have been to ones in Kyoto and Osaka, areas where fabric was more available. Anyway, the exhibition was interesting.

The museum also has a collection of ukiyoe prints, and a roof terrace bar (not open when we visited). We were able to go on the roof and take pictures.

View of Sensoji temple from the roof of Amuse Museum.

Once done with the museum we had a late lunch and headed for Kichijoji.  This is a pleasant suburb of Tokyo – less bustling than the centre of the city.  I had been there before but wanted to show G.  We did quite a bit of shopping.  

The original plan had been to go to a baseball game, but we were too tired, so we just took some nice French cheese from the kichijoji shops and went back to the hotel.

On Wednesday morning we headed to Akihabara to buy a new battery charger for our camera.  I had come down with a cold, so we headed back to the hotel, and I spent most of the day sleeping. G was tasked with finding medicine and going to the grocery store!

Late in the afternoon we went to Tokyo station and went to Character street there- it’s a shopping street full of shops selling various character goods including Ghibli characters and the Moomins. Shopping happened.

We had pre booked evening tickets at Disneysea, and it was an easy trip from Tokyo.

A little bit contradictory- a meditation on the great lengths people had to go to for simple resources, and then a lot of very consumerist shopping.


Tokyo trip- Disney

It’s been a different Tokyo trip.  We usually do Disney at the end of a Tokyo trip, as that is when it is easiest/most convenient. This time, for reasons (golden week) we went on the first full day here. We booked the tickets ahead on the Internet (also a change) and booked evening tickets for Disneysea later in the week as well.

Tokyo Disneyland, unlike the other disneylands, is not actually the Disney company.  It is operated under licence from Disney, has all of the rides etc, but not all of the current Disney park flourishes (magic wristbands?). 

So, we showed up near opening time and cruised through into. The park (no line!). The current theme is Easter. Yes, Easter is over, but not in Tokyo Disneyland.  This means eggs everywhere, specially themed food souvenirs and bunnies and pastel souvenirs.  Weirdly, no popcorn buckets that fit the theme. And there were Easter egg hunts!  You pay extra to get a cardboard egg hunt with stickers.  The beginner one was the cheapest, and the easiest, with ten possible eggs to be found but only five needed to claim the prize. I chose to do that one.  There is also an expert level and a master level.  G chose to do expert, and we are both very glad he did not chose master.  Expert and master had sketchy pictures of things near the eggs, and the expert had vague little clues.  The eggs were smaller (in one case tiny) and at least three were in shop windows. There was much frustration.  But as a way to see the park, and as an alternative to rides, it is good. G is vey proud of his medal prize.

We did do some rides, focusing on ones with short lines.  But we did do splash mountain and big thunder mountain (that was on fast pass). We also went on the canoes (where work is required), the new Star Wars star tours and the monsters inc hide and go seek ride.

Eggs and the castle

Beginner egg hunt

More eggs

We had mickey head waffles

Souvenir cup dessert

The photos are a mixed bag- I am using an older phone (my usual phone is work issued, so was left at home), one of our cameras was out of commission,and I am on my iPad for typing, so I don’t have access to the camera photos or G’s photos.  I may add ore later

This was one of the expert eggs.  See the egg shaped acorn?  That’s it. Hard.

We left before the park closed- during the big light show on the castle (which looks amazing btw), as we were exhausted. It was really nice to catch the train without hordes of other park goers.

We returned on Wednesday with evening only tickets for Disneysea.  This is the other Disney park in Tokyo and it is unique.  Organised around water bodies, rather than lands, it has better food, better shows and an older target age (adults).  It is also the 15th year of operation for the park, so that was the theme.  It was a sea faring, steampunky, sparkly theme. You can buy these light up wands, and there are stations around the park that activate if you place the wand in them.  When you have activated all of them, the wand gets a special sound. Once we saw one station activated, G really wanted one!


One of the activation stations.

We managed to activate the wand, it does require visiting all areas of the park.  We also managed quite a few rides, mainly those with short waits (less than 10 minutes).  This included the Indiana jones ride and 20,000 leagues under the sea, usually lengthy queues there.  We also got an anniversary popcorn bucket and some Duffy stuff.  

The park was remarkable quiet, not too busy.  For the next week or so it is scheduled to be very busy, as Golden week crowds show up.

The ship for the 15th celebrations.  

The Italian harbour area!

We stand until the park closed, so had to catch trains home with the hordes.


Microblog Monday- ANZAC day

April 25 is ANZAC Day.  I have mixed feelings about it.

I read a lot of books set around or after the First World War as a child.  Many of those books were written during or shortly after the war.  One of the overriding themes I got from those books (well most of them) was a feeling that the war was entered into for the right moral/ethical reasons, but that warfare itself was terrible, and the feeling at the end was to never let it happen again.  The war was incredibly devastating to many of the participating countries and the memorials were there to honour the fallen but also to cement the idea of never again.  

With the benefit of hindsight, it was a very pointless war, with no real moral imperative (as compared to WWII, which really was very different world views and philosophies). 

ANZAC day commemorates the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli.  Gallipoli was a battle that should not have happened, a strategic plan (by that master of wartime strategies, Churchill *sarcasm) with no real result.  And carnage ensued.  Australia and New Zealand did not have to be there, they joined in what they saw as a moral fight, to help the motherland and to defend against the German empires aggression.  The casualties through the war were horrific (NZ lost a tenth of either its population, or a tenth of its male population (I can’t remember, but i think it was the total population). For a country that had no battles on its territory, that was not on the same continent as the war, that’s huge.  

So, the commemoration by both countries of the bloodbath is something I get, it marks the day that they lost so much.  It is one of the few days each year that is still a very sacred public holiday.

But, I still have some issues.  The annual pilgrimage to ANZAC Cove in Turkey feels more like a bucket list tick rather than genuine remembrance, and the focus is on the story of the First World War, not acknowledging more recent service (there is some celebration of WWII, but very little about Vietnam or of Iraq and Afganistan). TV is flooded with movies about WWI, and specials.  All of the network breakfast shows host elaborate specials at various dawn services.  It is too much, and feels very jingoistic. 

I think one of the reasons I have problems with it, is that over the years (and I did study the war in high school and college in some depth) I have come to realise that a large part of why it was so awful was that the senior decision makers on all sides had very little actual experience of war, and very little understanding of the realities.  They saw it as a game, and strategic opportunity, not as a conflict where real people suffered.  They valued the strategy over human lives. And they glorified the idea of war.  One of the more striking things things about those books that I read, is that by the end of the war all of them recognised that the war was not a good thing (some admitted it was a mistake) and they did not seek to glorify the war, but to remember the dead and to use the memorial as a way to say they did not want another war.  I think the way it is celebrated now is to glorify war.

All of this was triggered by the fact that they are selling not just poppy badges to wear on the day, but new designs, and I bought one. Proceeds go to support the returned service and league.  

At the airport

Waiting for our flight.  We have a longish wait, as we aimed to get here for the three hours before departure point.  This meant the roads were clear and empty on the way here (I used the cruise control in the car for the first time!), the check in line was short and the customs line was non-existent.  So we ended up in the waiting lounge way earlier than usual.

The last couple of days have been busy.  Lots of last minute errands to do, I had a baby shower to go to (where I won the prize for guessing the girth of the belly most accurately.  I had deliberately guessed low- and I was still a smudge too long- but everyone else went longer!). At least there will be someone at home, so some of the usual leaving tasks were not required.  Although J was excited about aging the place to himself, I think he also wants to travel.

So- two weeks of Tokyo! Let’s see how much I manage to maintain a blogging routine.  


Family roles

People fall into different roles within their families. Until tonight I had not realised mine is to be the “strong” one.  I have never been to a funeral (lots of reasons why) and don’t really go to hospitals to visit people- or at least not compared to others.  I come by these traits very naturally- my family doesn’t do this kind of thing well.  So it’s a little disconcerting to discover I am the designated child for this role.  

My mum is going into hospital for a hopefully minor, probably day surgery procedure. Next week, when I am in Japan. So which of her children has she told? Only me, and she is still trying to work out how to tell the other two.  She also doesn’t like to talk about medical stuff.  I already knew that I was the child who knew about her will arrangements, and the one who knew about her medical directives. 

When I compare myself with others I work with or that I know, I feel like I don’t deal with much of this stuff.  I feel fortunate in the relative good health of my family in that regard. But compared with the rest of my family, I have had to deal with stuff.

Yes- no funerals.  For all but two years of my life my family lived on a different continent from my relatives. And no one died in those two years.