Tokyo trip- Japan hobby show

I have been a little slow about writing about some of the things from the holiday. After Kawagoe, Friday was the day we allocated for the Tokyo hobby show. This was one of the things that caused to go at the time we did.  It runs for three days and tickets were 1000 yen- about $12.  We ordered on the Internet, took the print out to a 7-11 in Tokyo, and they printed the tickets.  The doors opened at 10 am, but only for people who had tickets (us). I knew there would be crowds so we aimed to be there early.  We were there about 9, and were directed to a large queue. People kept going past, with passes around their neck, while queue grew.  Then, at some point we started walking. The queue was taken the length of the floor, then down the stairs and about 3/4 of the way back on the ground floor.  Looking behind us, I was very glad we arrived early.  Once we got to the entry we exchanged our tickets for the passes. Essentially the tickets are for all three days. Bargain compared to the costs in Australia! Unfortunately, we had plans for the other days.

It was so huge! And crowded.  I don’t have many pictures, because some booths don’t like photos, and I was too busy looking.  So many brands I had not seen before, so much stuff!  I bought thread, and a couple of kits and copies of a Japanese craft magazine.  We also grabbed bits and pieces for cosplay outfits. 

Early stage queue- more orderly than it looks

Fake food decor! Very popular

A workshop area, with a bead store behind

One of the many displays- an origami army

A project using recycled materials

This lady was making felted chocolates. There was a whole display and she was demonstrating how to.

Some of her work

I really wanted these fairy gardens, but bio security Australia is unlikely to be happy about bringing them in…

A small selection at the ribbon store!

This was a genius idea.  My feet always ache at these shows and this was a stand with foot massagers.  I didn’t try one, because it was clearly a sales ploy, and I really didn’t want to have a high pressure Japanese sales pitch. But very clever

All ages represented here. There were a lot of kids, not too many men shopping though. 

It was huge.  And we didn’t even wander into the cooking area (not much point)  there was also a whole hall of people selling things they had made.  

Some of the stuff we got 

Fabric pens that disappear in certain circumstances.  I am always looking for new ways to get designs onto fabric.

A lanyard kit, using ribbon

Bits and pieces

A bag kit.

And a bunch more!

I would recommend going to the Tokyo hobby show, it was really impressive.  Wear comfy shoes and take cash.


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.


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.



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
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

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.

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.

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. 

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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