Rainy day

The fourth day of th trip was to be to Kawagoe- a town that is now on the outskirts of Tokyo, but that was a prosperous merchant town in earlier times.  It has well preserved areas that reflect an earlier era, so is a bit of a tourist place, particularly for internal tourism.  We were going on this particular day because it has a monthly flea market at one of the temples, on the 28 th of every month.  So of course, that was the day it rained.  Often these markets are cancelled if it rains, but this one was apparently still on. It was, but as a half market- probably about half the traders showed, and few customers. Not a good space.  Lots of antiques, and a lot of kimonos. But times have changed from when used kimonos were incredibly cheap- secondhand kimonos and items made from them are popular in Japan and abroad, so the days of really good quality cheap kimonos and fabric are gone.  

 

Once we were finished with the market we trudged along the streets towards the old town- where there are a lot of preserved old warehouses and merchant houses and shops selling traditional things. 

We found a lovely small coffee shop for lunch.  Really good coffee.  Here is G smiling at the front

The lunch

As chlidrens day was coming up, lots of carp flags koinoburi

The houses were interesting, the shops cute, but part of the charm is missing when there is a constant drizzle and the umbrella,is constantly folded and unfolded and the feet are getting wet.

 

So we packed it in early and went back to Tokyo.  We had a productive evening locating a coin laundry within walking distance of the hotel and washing some clothes.  We also found a nice yakitori place near there to eat while the clothes were washing.

Kawagoe seems to be quite a nice place, and I suspect is a lot more fun when there is no rain.  The tourist information people were very friendly and helpful and spoke English.  If you are looking for a day trip from Tokyo, this is an easy one.

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.

 

Travel

Things I like about traveling

  • On an airplane, once it has taken off, looking down at the land.
  • On an airplane, just sitting in my chair and chilling out, it’s a chance to just relax
  • Traveling by train
  • The chance to walk around a neighbourhood, looking at the supermarket and the daily living things. Seeing how universal some things are, and how much meeting other universal needs can differ.  Last year in the USA we had the opportunity to do this in New York and Chicago (a point for air BnB) and also in Northampton. This year we did the same in Tokyo, and to some degree in Kyoto and Osaka. Supermarkets in other countries are always different in surprising ways.
  • Spending time in a cafe, reading a book
  • Sharing something new with my husband
  • Being able to show whomever I am traveling with (usually my husband) something I liked/thought was good
  • Trying new food
  • Going to art museums
  • Going to history museums/social history museums
  • Going to outdoor building museums
  • Walking outside, especially in environments that don’t exist in Australia!
  • Shopping for crafty stuff
  • Food/drink I can’t get at home
  • Onsens
  • Riding on trains, looking at the city
  • Participating in local events
  • Watching baseball
  • Disney!
  • Overseas home stores/electronics shops. Furniture and white goods vary by country.
  • Planning the trip
  • Unplanned moments of serendipity
  • Getting to the airport early enough to have a coffee and relax, starting the trip in a mellow frame of mind
  • Leaving home
  • Coming home
 
Things I don’t like about traveling

  • Going through security and passport control at the airport
  • Checking in for the flight
  • Waiting for luggage to arrive
  • Wearing the same clothes I wore on the plane
  • Take off and landing
  • Airplane bathrooms
  • Tourist/backpacker bars
  • Trying to catch specific train links
  • Traveling by bus.
  • Traveling a long time on overcrowded trains (20 minutes max)
  • Bad food where there is no other option
  • Going over the weight limit 
  • More than a limited period of time in Akihabara/electronic stores.  I don’t have a specific known time limit, but I know it isn’t as long as my husband’s. 
  • Places with no public seating (looking at you japan)
  • Not eating lunch/breakfast on time.  This means cranky.
  • Booking hotels on the phone. 
  • Almost missing a flight through no fault of your own but because traffic/trains/buses broke down
  • Running through an airport
  • Lost luggage
  • Long and slow check in queues
 
I would like to add pictures for these…
Cafe, new food (ice cream in those macaroons), time with my husband
Disney
Fireworks in Japan
River festival in rocky
New food in a cafe in ueno
asakusa temple forecourt
The street crowds watching fireworks in Tokyo. 
At the handmade festival
 
Art museum in Hakone
More art
 

Friday in Tokyo- shopping and baseball

So, Friday on our Tokyo trip was going to be shopping.  G and M headed off to Akihabara, and I went to Nippori, aka fabric town.  I noticed when I got off the train that there seemed to be a lot of shopping ladies heading the same direction, more than we have seen on previous visits.  I had a plan.  There is one Main Street with the shops, with a few scattered on side streets. There is a map showing where shops are.  I was going to do one side of the street, then come back on the other. Super logical.  I would also try to go to the side street shops, as we don’t often visit them.  It started well, and I was being quite disciplined.  Mostly notions, trimmings and useful pieces, rather than fabric.

While I was walking along, I spotted a huuuuge queue outside Tomato.  Tomato is a well known fabric shop, having several buildings in the area, the queue was outside the main one.

But I ignored it, tomato was in my plans for later.  I was doing well, then I ventured into a cute shop with embroidered ribbon trims and cute kits.  I bought something, then the shop lady asked me if I had been to Tomato.  No, but planning to. She whipped out a flyer, Tomato was celebrating its 30th birthday by taking 30%off everything.

So, I walked the rest of the street, was making good time and thinking about my plans for after Nippori, when I made my fatal mistake.  I went into tomato.  I didn’t go to the first floor, I went up, to the floor with Japanese fabrics.  I chose a couple, plus some off cut bundles and joined the queue.  Each floor had a separate queue, for the cutting, then another (much shorter) queue for paying.  The queue snaked the length of the floor and snaked back.  It was very slow moving and people in the queue it grabbing new bolts as they went.  The people in front of me had a cart with 4 bolts of fabric when I joined, as I moved, the three (each a separate customer) added at least 12 bolts, to much discussion of how cute it was.  Then one, as we approached the cutting table changed her mind and swapped about half of them out for new ones.  But they were not the worst.  The worst was that one of the three cutters was occupied for about 40 minutes cutting fabric for one woman and her son (who kept bringing new bolts), so the queue was super slow.  And then bonus!  She finished just as I was having fabric cut, so not only did she extend my cutting wait, the adding up of her fabric delayed my paying queue too.  She spent over $400, even with the discount!  Basically I spent an hour in the queue and was starving when I finished.  So I left Nippori, and headed to Ueno, where I had a very nice lunch set at a place that seemed to be all about fresh and local produce.  I had a tuna Katsu, which was a tuna steak schnitzel, with salad and rice. Yum

I then headed off to the other side of Tokyo, to a more suburban area, for some more crafty shopping.  I went there last time we were in Tokyo, two years ago, but I didn’t see much. So it was raining when I got there, pretty heavily.  I avoided the rain and went into the shop development next to the station.  It had a craft shop I hadn’t visited, as well as some other nice shops.  I bought what I wanted, looked around and was heading down when there was a crash of thunder and all the lights went out.  The escalator I was on stopped.  People screamed.  I walked down, and then the lights came on, but the escalators didn’t start.

It was bucketing down outside, with lightning around.  

But I wanted to go to some other stores so I went back through the station and to another department store.  All under cover.  That department store also had the escalators off, so I climbed up the stairs. I had been there before and there were two stores I wanted to visit and a third that was interesting.  None of them was where I remembered.  I re consulted my craft guide.  Definitely the right floor. So I went down to information and asked about one shop.  It had moved outside.  She gave me directions (which I completely got wrong). And it had stopped raining so I went looking. I found another one, but not the one I wanted.  And then I used google maps and it worked! This is unusual for me in japan.  So I got the store I wanted, and bought a few things.

I was still disappointed about the other store, but I headed back to the department store for a restorative afternoon tea. At a cafe called afternoon tea. It was lovely, and then, as I was leaving, I noticed that the shop on the other side of the walkway was the one I was looking for! Yay!

Japanese department stores are not the same as western ones- each area is essentially its own shop- you cannot take an item from one area and pay in another.  Sometimes they have their own bags, sometimes they will use the larger department store logo bag (and the logoed bags are very important) 

Then I ended back to Shibuya to meet G and M and we went to the baseball.  Summer school vacation had started by this point, and the stadium we went to is quite small, so we were a little concerned about the availability of seats.  We went to a Yakult Swallows game at their home stain of Meiji Jingu.  It’s an old stadium.  We buy tickets for the outfield (cheap seats) where the fan club is.  It was packed, full of families with little kids.  Baseball is different in Japan- the fan clubs have a little band that plays on trumpets, there are specific fan routines (with the swallows it is umbrellas) and the beer girls with kegs On their back.

There were also cheerleaders, and around the sixth inning, a fireworks display!  The mascot came out with a mat and they were the family watching fireworks on the grass. The swallows won, and there were at least three home run hits into the stands.

I highly recommend a baseball game to anyone visiting Japan, but check out the various teams- ticket prices vary.  We were able to walk up and buy tickets on the day for under $20 each.  By contrast, there is a company that buys tickets for tourists and delivers them to hotels with a service charge of $60.  More than we paid for our tickets, although it may depend on where you want to sit and what teams.

 

kraft shopping in kyoto- needles

I meant to do one big post, but have not yet been organised enough.  One issue is my pictures- I overloaded the cloud, so they were taken off my devices and put in our main computer.  And I don’t have regular access, because I don’t have a computer at the moment, so I need to boot my husband off his.  Which is not convenient.  So a bit of a lack of pics.

Anyway, one thing to know about japan is that addresses are not sequential.  I have never understood the numbering, but it is not the same as western numbering.  So 2 might be next to 25.  And street names are often not posted.  So most business in Japan have little maps on the back of their business cards and on their websites.  You learn to navigate by landmarks and other shops. And Google maps is less reliable than usual (I spend a lot of time cursing them).

So. Needles in Kyoto! From a 360 +year old company.  Misuyabari needles.  I found out about them from this blog post. http://justhungry.com/postcards-Kyoto-misuyabari-and-hakotou-lovers-sewing-and-handcrafts

The writer has quite good directions, and has managed to include a Google map link, so can recommend that. My directions are going to be different, and a little bit fluffy.  Teramachi-dori is a covered shopping arcade, which is not uncommon in Japan.  It runs between Shijo-dori and Sanjo-dori (well almost to Sanjo- dori), with the busiest and most interesting stuff at the Shijo-dori end.  Shijo-dori is one of the main roads in Kyoto, and if you go to Gion you will probably go to the Shijo-dork station, or ride a bus along there.  There are a few major department stores along there as well. So, most people will start at that end. The needle shop is all the way at the other end.  So you walk the length of teramachi, at one point it does a little bit of a dog leg, but keep going in the same direction.  Eventually it will hit a crossways street , and form a t junction.  Just before that point there is a little branch off, like a y.  But both branches end on the same t junction street.  At this point you turn right onto the t junction street.  It’s going to be on your left side.  I don’t know how far it is, but on the right side there was a hardware/knife/scissors shop.  It’s further than that.  The sign for the needle shop is a little hidden (because the shop is hidden), but there is a sign for a palm reading place and it is there, through a tiny passage.  You pop out into the courtyard garden and in the corner there is a tiny shop. (The linked blog post above has a good description and pretty pictures- we were there in winter, not so pretty)

Their closing day is Thursday. I know this, because we tried to go on a Thursday. 

I bought some needles 

A tiny travel sewing kit

The top comes off 

Inside a tiny pincushion, some snips, needles and three thread bobbins 

I also got some pins and a pincushion.  It was not very expensive- when I think about how much I pay for needles and equipment here they were cheaper.

There are a number of craft shops along  teramachi- keep your eyes open.  One of the two Nomura tailor (fabric and notions) shops is on teramachi. There is also a bead shop and a number of stationery shops.

The misuyabari logo.

 

When we came back after the Thursday attempt we came from a different direction. We took the subway to Karasumaoike station and walked through the back streets towards teramachi.  We did this because in theory we had the shop pinned in Google maps.  We did, but the directions were not awesome.  Anyway, we found a number of craft and handmade shops.  Many shops may be on higher levels of the building, not just on the street level.  Look at the information(pictures in front of the building).

One of the places we found was one that was on my list already- Avril.

http://www.Avril-Kyoto.com/info/shop_sanjyo.php

An awesome knitting shop.  In the same building (it’s on the third floor) is a button shop and a Tintin shop.  The streets around were filled with great little shops.  Walking from that street towards the river will take you to teramachi. 

Leave a comment if you have questions, or have found other shops. 

microblog monday- back home

After a long trip (well, not as long as the trip back from the USA), we are back home.

And the unpacking has begun.  We need to do laundry, but it has been raining on and off all day, so only one load was done- we have somewhat protected lines, but the rain came with wind, and it was driving across the deck, so only a little load of laundry.

And the unpacking is being done carefully, so that all of the things we bought find a home.

I bought a few lucky bags in Japan and a couple of them came with multiple phone charms.  Way more than I can ever use.  So G has suggested I give some away via this blog.  Thoughts?  I still need to sort through all of the stuff to ensure I find all of them!

Kyoto day three

Day three in Kyoto (December 27).  This was planned to be around Kiyomizudera and the Higashiyama area.

Kiyomizudera is a big temple complex, around a spring of holy water.  It’s up the side of a hill, and I have a very specific route relating to visiting it.

So we caught the bus out there, and got off at the appropriate stop.  Because it is near the top of a hill and the streets are morrow, buses don’t actually get that close.  You have to walk up a steep hill. Some pictures from the walk.

An apartment building, a bit more decorative than usual.

This gives an idea of the steepness of the hill.

Old shop with kids stuff outside. Backyards are not a thing in old Japanese houses.

The area is known for its ceramics.

There were a lot of souvenir shops on this road, and there were even more on the road we went down the hill on.

The temple itself was quite busy, it was a Saturday and the end of the year.  There were a lot of couples in kimonos, which was interesting.  When I lived here it was rare to see men in kimono, and it would usually be in summer, where they wore yukata. It was also not so common to see younger women in kimono- yukata were common, and you would see kimono for the celebration of 20, or at New Years, but there were quite a few.  Kimono are expensive- a proper one, with all the accoutrements will cost into the thousands.  By contrast, Uniqlo sold a yukata set (yukata, obi and hand bag) for about $50 when I was here and you could buy a higher end one for about $100-$150.  Yukata are cotton, they are summer only, and onsens.  Proper kimono are silk, and need more accessories.

But we also saw a lot of ads for kimono rental and I suspect that is why we saw so many in kimono in Kyoto- rented as a couple for the day.

Kiyomizudera is a lovely temple, but part of it is undergoing reconstruction, and was covered in scaffolding and tarps. So I don’t have pictures of the bits I like.  There are a number of different shrines around the temple grounds, including one to help you find love!  There is also a place where you can drink the no longer holy water.  The temple was founded for its access to its holy water, but at some point in the 20th century the government decided that declaring water to be holy was not to be done, so it is no longer holy.

Anyway, there is a spot where it falls over a ledge, and you can stick long handled cups out to drink it.  We have one this in the past, and even bought the special plastic cups to commemorate (rather than use the shared metal ones). G was looking forward to new cups, but it was not to be.  As we were coming down the steps we notified the line for the water was no longer as organised, and then we noticed no cup selling stall! No idea why.  So the theme of this holiday “not quite what we were expecting” is well established.

So we have some pictures from the temple and grounds.  And a comment on selfie sticks.  Sure they sound silly, but there were so many people using them in japan- not to take a selfie of their new makeup or to pull duck face, but to capture a picture with a friend.  Ten years ago, where I lived here, it was very common for strangers to ask you to take a photo, or to be able to easily grab a person to take a photo of you and your party. Not so much anymore- selfie sticks have replaced interaction.

The view out

Fire is a serious risk for Japanese buildings. Preparation ahoy!

 

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