Wednesday, October 31, 2007

...and yet more goodies from Japan

Every shop in Tokyo seemed to be full of things I suddenly couldn't live without but I did have to show some restraint (sigh). Here's a few more little things: a felted, giraffe pencil warmer, tape measure trim, mini Blythe, cake eraser set, buttons and tiny tiles!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Haul from Japan ...part one...

Here are some of the craftbooks/interior magazines I happily lugged back from Japan.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Japan Part Three

I really loved all the haiku moments when we travelled. The Japanese seem to have this innate sense of style that can be simple or wildly over the top. A few random things:

I love the way people had tiny pot plants outside their gates and even on the footpath.

Lots of shops had their wares on the street. Love the baskest full of cats.

Umbrellas - for rain and shine. They were gorgeous and sold all over the place; rich colours, pale, ruffled, tinted, large print, the tiniest flowers, frogs, dots, bold stripes.

Food trolley on the shinkanzen (bullet train) - fantastic bento boxes; chicken, rice, pickled vegetable.

Kimonos, flashes of colour; butterflies, cranes, falling leaves. Just lovely.

Shoes: seriously; kids, old people and everyone in between had brilliant shoes in Tokyo; expressive, high, flats, laced - all colours, lengths and styles.

Japan Part Two

Day Three:
Was Em's 40th! We all left early to catch a train and then a bus to Nikko to see the Toshogu Shrine to Tokugawa leyasu - founder of the shogunate & warlord who ruled Japan for 250 yrs. This place is incredible; the temples and shrines (there are five, from memory) are ornate and lavish with steps leading up and up into the brilliant green of the trees in the mountains. Even though there were lots of tourists, we still found plenty of moments for peace and quiet. Hundreds of stone lanterns line the exit path - they would look spectacular lit up at night. One temple in particular features lavish wood-carvings of animals and the three monkeys; hear, see, speak no evil. So much detail to take in. Afterwards, we all walked part of the way back to town and caught the train back to Tokyo. That night we had a birthday Dinner for Em - then some of us booked a karaoke room. Thank god we didn't end up on You Tube - couldn't stand the humiliation. But it was a great night.

Day Four: Up early (again!) - caught quaint tram to Nakasando. No tourists (just us) and a mile long flea market that sold everything from Kokeshi dolls to sardines. I think the market is only once a month - Em's Mum wanted us to get an idea of where/how the locals shop. It was a great experience to see suburban Tokyoites doing their shopping. We had some fantastic street food; pancakes with shrimp and ginger with hot tea and I picked up a kimono for 5000 yen (about $5.) plus about five kokeshi dolls like the above.

Later we got the subway to Akihabara; the place if you want anything electronic. Didn't buy a thing but loved wandering around and checking it all out. Loads of people and the most mobile phones I've ever seen at one time...a chorus of constantly beeping.

Later.... we caught a Sky Bus for a trip around the Imperial Palace. Surrounded by a high wall and motes, we couldn't see much - it's only open to visitors a couple of times a year, but got a sense of its massive size. Getting close to dusk, we got a train to the Ginza. Wow. Chanel, Dior, Tiffany, Gucci.- big names, big money. I just liked the lights - huge blinking buildings, biggest bill-boards I've ever seen; glamour, heels, money, money, money. We ended up having the best Sushi at a sushi train place near a railway station; hmm.
Day Five:
Robyn left to return to Beijing. Miss her heaps. Rest of us caught a monorail near Tokyo Harbour, then a walk through a surreal shopping centre called Venus Fort. This place was strange - called a "Shopping theme park for women"...decorated in a very (okay, I hated it) over the top, European (18th century) style; huge fountains, domed ceilings, white pillars... with hundreds of shops and a casino. There were hardly any people the day we went...the shops where okay but it was like a vacuum sealed experience.

Speaking of surreal...later that day, Em, Shayne (Em's niece) and Em's aunt, Peta and I took the subway to Tokyo Disneyland. Okay. I should admit now that I have spent a very long time looking forward to the Disney experience. I was one of those kids who spent Sunday nights glued to the tv singing "When you wish upon a star..... ". I had to get it out of my system.

I think the ticket price was $65, but that got you in and all the rides. The first thing I noticed was how clean it was - I mean - really, really clean. Everything, including the ground, had a sparkle to it. We walked through the shopping avenue and headed straight out into the guts of Disney, stopping only to buy a pair of mandatory ears! Loads of people turned up to D'land dressed up as Mickey or Minnie - thousands of kids dressed up as Snow White - all looking adorable. We hardly went on any rides - more than a two hour wait for all of them...except the terrifyingly saccharine It's A Small World After all...which had to be we jumped in the little candy coloured boat ("No photos please") and sailed off around the world in 20 minutes, surrounded by tiny mechanical robots dressed in national costume to the bleating whine of, well, you know the song, in Japanese. Lots of laughs. I don't know how many D'land employs but there seemed to be heaps of staff just standing around, waiting for you to catch their eye so they could give you a big D'land greeting. Halloween loomed and the whole park was covered with pumpkins, witches and ghouls, which looked fantastic. Later we started to spot Disney characters roaming the park and I must admit, I got pretty excited when Em said, "Fran...there's Woody!". I didn't exactly break into a run (or did I?) but I was chuffed to get my photo with him. I look, I really do - like a total grinning idiot, but there you go. Later Em got a pic with Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming! Then we located the Snow White who really, really looked like Snow White - problem is, she looked totally creepy because despite the fact that she was human...she didn't actually blink...there's was lots of "My oh my, what's your name?" but no blinking. Un-nerving to say the least because I'm pretty sure I've read something about a connection between non-blinkers and psychopaths....

Five hours later, we walked out with a whole lot of stuff I didn't need: mickey/minnie magnets and some stickers and our wilting, furry ears...caught the train back to Ikebukuro for some udon noodles and bed. But hey. It was a hoot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Japan Part One

Back from Japan. Here physically but mentally, I'm back in this garden in Tokyo, listening to the water run and watching leaves fall. Sigh. Japan was fantastic. Em and I had such a good time. Where to begin?

We only had two weeks and we were travelling in a big group; Em's parents, her niece, two aunts, two cousins and a group of people - friends of Em's folks who wanted to see Japan. Em' s folks have a long association with Japan and this was their 7th trip.

Our hotel was in Ikebukuro on the Yamanote line - which seemed really close to everything.

Some highlights?

Day one: went up massively high building (Government buildings) for a magnificent view (it's free too) of Tokyo. On the top floor was a mini Toy Fair (yay); lots of mobile phone charms and soft toys. Cute rules in Japan. So much is cute - just when I saw the cutest thing (example; buttons - but they were of a tiny mouse-trap with a matching mouse - all no bigger than my one cent coin) - I'd see something even cuter. Later we met up with a friend of ours who came over from Beijing to surprise Em in Tokyo! So Robyn joined us for the next five days. Day one ended over Udon noodles and Asahi beer. I was very, very tired. Could explain why I spent $25 on buttons on the way back to our hotel room!

Day two: Meiji Shrine; a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. We were lucky to see three weddings at the Shrine (pics to come) - just fantastic. The gardens are massive, cool and green but patches of red too as the leaves begin to turn.

Later we walked back to the station to see the Harujuku girls (and boys) - Japanese teenagers (usually) who dress up, catch up and express themselves creatively by wearing the most amazing clothes. Some are inspired by anime characters; lots of Sailor Moon girls. I couldn't help but take photos. Some shook their heads, but only when I asked first...but I realised if you don't ask, they were fine with you taking photos. It was a strange mix of "look at me"...."don't look at me"...wanting to be seen but not appearing as if they wanted to be seen. Then we walked down Takashitadori Street; a long, narrow strip packed with shops; lots of Goth, punk, leather clothes, boots, bags, shoes - and the wonderful 1000 Yen shops where are discount stores packed with cute things (stickers, craft supplies, cards, paper, make-up) - all for around $1. Hello!

Then we caught the train to Shaibuya (then a bus) to Junie Moon & Gallery Lele- the home of Blythe in Tokyo. I was pretty much beside myself with excitment at this point. I have two Blythe dolls already but yes, I came home with a 3rd plus a bag full of gifts for a friend who wanted a doll etc for her daughter. What fun. The shop is small but fantastic and I got to see heaps of custom Blythes on display thanks to the Variety Fair exhibition. I bought Gentle River - a Team Sibley doll - and this incredibly talented artist had a lot to do with her creation. Needless to say, River is devine; her red hair, eye chips and clothes are just lovely; especially her coat with tiny woodland creatures embroidered all around the edge. She's stunning and yes, lots of pics to come.
Finally we had dinner at a small place, Soup Stock Tokyo - a fantastic soup place; one cup, small bowl of rice and green tea. Yum. Very cheap.

Well. That's day one& two....sigh. Work to be done. Don't get me started on the craft books, the hand-bags, Tokyu Hands, Shinzi Katoh, buttons, bits, zen gardens etc.

Some Books I've Really Enjoyed

  • Apples For Jam by Tessa Kiros
  • Saturday by Ian McEwan
  • Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life by Andrew Motion
  • The Bell Jar by Syliva Plath
  • Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
  • Stasiland by Anna Funder

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Living, reading, crafting, taking photos, writing.