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.


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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We had some plans for things we were going to do.  Monday was supposed to be Koya-San a mountain with temples, then switched to the whiskey tour, but that was fully booked.  

So monday was a sleep in, some shopping for warm clothes and then a successful expedition to DenDen town. We had come close before but we actually found it.  Yay.  Is at in a cafe and read while G looked around.  

Then we went back to a nearby kitchen goods shopping street- yep, a shopping arcade dedicated to various kitchen/restaurant elements.  We had found that on our way to denden town.  I had snapped a picture of the left handed knives and sent it to my sister.  She was very enthused, so we bought her one.  After a bit of cross continental messaging!  Yay for iMessage.


The shop was mostly about various sharp edges. As well as a few iron teapots- I want but I don’t know how to managed the luggage weight issue.

There were several shops- some general kitchen wares, others much more specialised.

After this we headed to Spa World- an onsen(hot spring/bath) complex.  It has a swimming and slide area, where you wear a swimsuit and two floors of gender separated baths.  G had my suit, so I waited in the slide floor for an hour (I did get my kindle) because he thought the baths were going to be first.  Once this was sorted, it was a nice place, if a bit empty (Monday night) and a bit old feeling.  Nice and relaxing.  I love going to onsens!

Afterwards we ended up walking through Americamura(?) a slightly dodgy but trendy area with many restaurants.  

Not sure what we did for dinner, but for dessert we got a special set of cakes.

One of the cake shops in the department store basement has this set of cakes, based on one of my favourite fairy tales “Snow white and rose red” 

I got the chocolate bear king

G got the little house (lemon flavoured)


The next day we had a print session at the Ukiyoe museum



I thought I had more pictures of the streets in the area, but they must have been on the big camera, not my phone.  I will try to put them up later.

We wandered around the area and then headed back to DenDen so G could show me.  So many old video games!


Rival maid cafes promoters…

One of the original Nintendo systems…


Dinner was sushi (first time in all of our trips to Japan!)

Wednesday we tried to go to a museum, but it was closed.  This is one of the frustrations of this time of year- a lot of places close for the end of year holiday.  Not for Christmas, but for new year.  We wandered down the local shopping street- much more working and daily life than some of the other ones we had been down.

I think we went back to the Shinsaibashi and Namba area to look at shops, but I honestly can’t remember.  Mellow.

I do want to do posts on the food, and the hotels.



microblog Monday- how much is enough?

A bit odd, considering my last post was about shopping, but I have noticed an increase in people saying they weren’t doing presents this year for Christmas. I wondered whether it was an increase in anti-consumerism, or a reaction of increased consumerism.

One of the reasons I have grown to dislike en masse present giving is that most of the recipients are adults.  They have a salary, usually a decent one, and are perfectly capable of buying themselves whatever it is.  In some cases what they want is highly specific and not cheap.  When did christmas become wish fulfilment time?  So for people who can (and do) buy what they need, it’s a time when they receive stuff they don’t want or need.

I get that for kids it is a time to get new toys, and usually they don’t have much agency to buy Stuff, but I also know that most kids I interact with have plenty of toys, most bought for no reason at all.  So Christmas is not a day for a new toy, it’s a day for many new toys.  

Experiences (which are the newish trend) are also a form of stuff. Certainly we buy stuff as a result. It’s just they feel less accumulative.

At what point do we say enough!?  How much stuff do you need to be happy?  And what sort of stuff?  When are you content?

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


my hobby is shopping

Well no, not really.  But this is something a lot of students used to say to me when I taught English here.  Just to be clear “students” were customers at a commercial English  teaching business and ranged in age from 12- 90 or so.  We did teach kids as well, but they were in different classes.

Anyway shopping is something you can spend a lot of time doing in Japan.

Yesterday we did.  First up was the flea market at Shitennoiji Temple. This is held monthly on the 21st and 22 of the month. (Closest station is Shitennoji mae yuhigaoka on the Midosuji line) at the temple.  Flea markets at temples are common in Japan.  They can be very interesting experience, but most of the markets we have been to previously have been on the tourist circuit (domestic and international) or very small.  This one was huge and mostly localish people, judging by what was sold and not.

We got off the train and G asked me which direction.  I said follow the stream of old people with shopping trolleys!  Even the roads leading to the market had tables, mostly for the shops that were on the road.

The temple gate, leading in…

There were several stalls of old kimonos, which used to be common at the Kyoto ones (but the vendors there have clued into tourist interest and charge accordingly), frequented by ladies in kimonos.

There were rolls of fabric

There several stalls with everyday living things- pots and pans, cleaning products, blankets etc.  there were stalls selling old stuff.  Cameras, old knick knacks, we even saw a rack of 8 tracks.

I bought some buttons at a button stall.  The stall holder told us one was from the 60s, pre Tokyo Olympics, because the papers wrapping the buttons were all 1964 Olympics newspaper articles!

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Thursday night

I live in a state where most retail ( grocery stores being the exception) closes between 5 and 6 pm.  Once a week the big shopping centres are open until 9. For the suburban centres this is Thursday, the CBD is open late on Friday. 

We needed a frame for my stepbrother’s 40th birthday present so we mounted an expedition to IKEA.  And it was an expedition.  We live about half an hour away, on a good day.  Today was not a good day.  We had a big storm blow through aroun 4, and at 6:30 the effects were still present, the freeway was not moving well.

Typical IKEA experience- went for a frame, came home with a hundred dollars of other stuff, plus frame.  

Retail Therapy

So, we went shopping yesterday.  This was due to me spotting a target ad in the morning in the paper, showing some of their new work clothes options.  They looked good, and nice price so we headed to Carindale.

The shopping experience was educational, and confirmed a long standing belief. I have thought for many years that in buying home appliances, it is cheaper to go to Myer or David Jones (the two full service department store chains in Australia) than it is to go to Target or Kmart.  They have cheaper prices for the same item, more often than not.

Well, yesterday the clothes were better too.  Target, which usually does a good job of catering to those of varying size/height seems to have decided on one model for their skirts and she is tall and skinny.  The pencil skirt i tried on was mid calf, and not attractive.  The shirt failed to accommodate my chest.  Because those of us who inhabit the sizes above 12 are so flat chested, on average. no. And the gauzy dress that looked so good on the hanger- horrible on.  Made for twiglets.

All in all, a really depressing, deflating experience.  We headed to Myer, because it was en route to another store, that I usually like, and because G needed new work shirts.  We didn’t have much luck on that front initially, but wandering to the stairs we went through the big is beautiful section.  There was a rack of leona edmiston wrap dresses on 75% off.  G was not impressed with them, but I was and trekked off to try them on.  Lo and behold, not only was I trying on the size below the size that strained at Target, they fit nicely and made me look good.  Even better- two dresses (with a starting price of $150 each) and a gauzy top came to $50 altogether.  Cheaper and nicer.  Happy camper me.

Then we did manage to dig up some work shirts for G and made our way to the other store- Jacqui e, which yeilded two more skirts, in the same size.

Lesson learned- Target may offer larger sizes, but that’s because they small sized them, so they really have the same range as everyone else.