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.