Saturday, 28 April 2012

Nearly Home

I am very nearly home from my wonderful trip to Japan.  Al met me at Heathrow airport on Wednesday afternoon and we headed from there to my parent's home in Essex where we have been relaxing for a few days.  (I managed to get a nasty cold which was aggravated on the flight home).  Tomorrow we will return to Lincolnshire, via a stop at DS and DDiL's for a nice cup of tea.  I had added photographs to the posts I wrote while I was staying at Sawa san's so please go back to them and have a look.  I will try to organise the photos from the Japan Textile Study Tour (nearly 1000 of them) into some sort of logical series of subjects rather than a day by day, blow by blow account of the tour.  The JTST exceeded all my expectations (and they were high).  We did wonderful things, saw great things and met fantastic people.  The members of the tour were all lovely. 
Several of them write blogs so I am going to list them here as I am sure you will be interested in their reports of the tour too.
Nat, the tour organiser blogs at:
Bryan, our host and sensei, blogs at:
and then there is the tour blog at:
Jean blogs at:
Cynthia blogs at:
Myra blogs at:
Blandina blogs at:

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rain, Fabric and Sushi Rolls

It's a sunny morning after a very wet day yesterday and I heard from Al that it is frosty at home and he had to light the fire.  I have had my last night at Mr Sawa's and this afternoon will be meeting my Indigo Sisters at the Hilton in Shinjuku and tomorrow heading to Bryan's to start the Japanese Textile Study Tour.
Yesterday I met up with Carin and we were intending to visit the Japan Traditional Craft Centre but it had disappeared!  Carin let me know last night that she had discovered it is relocating and will re-open on 23 April.  I shall have to start a "next time list".  Instead of the craft centre and because of the wet weather Carin and I decided there was nothing for it but to go fabric shopping!  She was very self controlled and bought some Liberty lawn for her miniature quilt project.  I, on the other hand, was like a child in a sweet shop and I will share my purchases (in photo form) when I get home.  I was also amazed by the selection of notions and items for a wide selection of textile crafts in the shop we visited.
After a tasty lunch I headed to my little home in Yanaka to prepare for my next adventure - the sushi and sobu party!  Heading out into the rain with a couple from Holland and a family from Germany and led by Isao we boarded a bus (another new experience) and travelled towards Ueno.  After this I was lost but we ended up at Soba-House Daishizen and received a very warm welcome and discovered we were going to make the sushi and then eat it.  Readers of a certain age may remember the Generation Game?  It was similar!  The sushi rolls we made were cut to reveal a rose.  

Yoko made us some more that she cut to reveal a cherry tree in full blossom.  We also had sobu noodles which we told to slurp - and then I cleaned my glasses.  I discovered more about the elastic band which was in my bento box!  It was actually made from a gourd and the version we had last night was very tasty, I think the piece in the lunch box was a bit dry.  However, when I described the rice parcel to Yoko she said it was very special.  Look at Carin's comment on my last post and you will see that she has very kindly provided some links to show all of this.  The sushi evening was part of the programme of events organised by People's Educational and Cultural Exchange and was a great success.
So today....I am off to the Tokyo International Forum and a flea market/antique fair. Then off to meet up with Nat and co.  A massive thank you to Julie and Carin who have been such generous hosts and helped me to see and enjoy far more of Tokyo than I dreamed of.  They are both a delight and so when people say don't meet up with people you 'know' on the internet the warnings don't apply to quilters.  More news when I can.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Japanese Garden Delights

Today I have had a relatively quiet day although I did a lot more walking than I planned as I got my metro station exits wrong and had to walk a very long way to get to where I actually wanted to be.  Still, I`ve learned my lesson.  Like cutting fabric when you measure twice and cut once, on the Tokyo metro check the exits twice and walk once!
It has been a warm and sunny day today and I visited one of the gardens on my wishlist, the Korakuen Garden.  I enjoyed the cherry blossom and many other spring flowers, several butterflies and lots of birds. 

I was especially delighted to see a kingfisher dive across the pond in the Inner Garden while I was sitting and relaxing.  I spotted a bale of turtles
sunning themselves and pointed them out to a little Japanese girl, along with the Makaton sign for turtle - are you impressed little Sam?
After eating my bento lunch, some of which I recognised and one particular piece which I must find out about,
I think it might have been an elastic band, I explored the rest of the garden and then headed to my Japanese home for a lazy soak in the onsen.
This evening I have been packing!  There is going to be little time tomorrow as I am going out for a meal arranged by Mr Sawa and I have to have my suitcase ready to send to Fujino on Sunday morning while I am heading to Shinjuku to join the Japanese Textile Study Tour.  I wish everyone who is now on the way as safe journey and I`m very excited about meeting you all finally.
I will aim to post again before I leave the ryokan but I am not sure how easy it will be to post from Bryan`s.  If you don`t hear anything, don`t panic, I`ll store it all up for you!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Thursday - Japanese Contrasts

Okay my plan is to look at the keys and type slowly and carefully so that I don`t hit the button that turns everything Japanese.  I now have that song in my head thank you Benta!!
I woke up this morning to find the sky clear and blue and the forecast for the same all day.  Julie arrived at the ryokan and we set off on our great adventure, maps and instructions in hand (thank you Mr Fukuda). 
Our first port of call was an exhibition in a warehouse by the canal of some of Amy Katoh`s textile collection.  The canal was lined with cherry trees and the water had a raft of fallen petals floating on it.  Julie pointed out birds, plants and trees so it was a beautiful and fascinating walk.  We called in at a cafe for iced coffee and enjoyed the neighbourhood before the exhibition opened. 
Wow, what a great collection of pre-loved textiles, sakiori (woven), sashiko.  Kimono (work wear not Imperial Palace wear!), boro (rag) cloths, horse harnesses, banners... and a project to make 1000 tenugui (hand cloths) to send to the tsunami area. 

Oh yes, speaking of which, and DO  NOT  PANIC we just had a little earth tremor!  I was sitting in my room and everything shook, not very hard at all but enough for me to think, "hmm, I`ll just gather my passport and important things together and leave them by the door", then I went back to drinking my green tea.
So far, so good.  Still typing slowly.  We had a lovely lunch (thank you again Mr Fukuda) before hitting Chicago!  This is a thrift shop in Omote-sando and in addition to the usual secondhand jeans, t-shirts and dresses they have kimono.  Julie was after obi for a project and I was after yukuta for DH.  Job done!
Apart from this thrift shop the shops in this area are all very upmarket, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc
and then later we turned a corner into Harajuku and found all sorts of sights and crazy places, 100yen shops and young fashion on Takeshita-dori.
Before this contrast though we had a little more culture with a stroll up to the Meiji Shrine and then a delicious dessert in the sunshine - green tea ice cream, yum.

Another lovely day, thank you so much Julie, and I got back to my Tokyo home and sank into the onsen, delicious.  And I`ve made it without turning Japanese!!

Sakura, Sumida River, Sushi and Boro

I`ve just read Carin`s comment on my post:
"Anpan Man nursery school, the ride on the Yurikamome monorail, the stroll in Hamarikyu Garden, the trip up cherry lined Sumida river on the waterbus, your sushi lunch, the 'shabby' old kimonos in Amuse Museum, the fortune telling paper, the walk to Uneo, the Italian dinner, the orange creme brule, the ride home on the tube."
Thank you dear Carin, that sums up beautifully our lovely day together and so if this computer turns Japanese again I will finish and at least my dear readers will know what we did.

28th April, home in England now and I am just going to add some photos of my lovely day with Carin, enjoy:

In the wonderful Amuse Museum, Asakusa 
where you can see, touch and photograph old textiles and even try some on.

 At the Asakusa Temple

 Finishing off a great day with a yummy creme brulee!

Sakura and Boro

I have woken up to a blue sky and the promise of a warm and glorious day here in Tokyo.
Yesterday we had a little rain but it didn`t spoil a wonderful day and the showers probably kept the places I enjoyed with Carin a little less busy.
I have been trying to draw a map in my journal to help me recall everything we did yesterday.  It started with Carin arriving at my ryokan and bringing me a "Japan survival kit" which I shall enjoy long after my trip is over.  We walked to the nearest railway station (I was already in wonder at the cherry blossom we saw and the wonderful temples and interesting graveyards and was lost already) and caught a train on the circular JR Yamanote line towards the city.  We then took a ride on the monorail which took us out to see the Rainbow Bridge and sites of Tokyo Bay.  It`s not a sightseeing line but works well as one!
Then it was my first garden time and a wonderful array of cherry blossom at Hama-rikyu garden.  The blossom that is out at the moment is the most delicate shade of pale pink and there is some that is white.  The darker shades that we tend to see at home in England follow later.  The garden also featured wonderful ancient trees, including a 300 year old pine, and a floral display which made me smile.  It was a field of oil seed rape, being enjoyed by many Japanese people.  In Lincolnshire we have acres of the stuff, it gives us all hayfever and we use it as cattle feed (although some is now made into an oil that is said to rival olive oil).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Good Morning Japan

Good morning from Japan.  I was greeted at Narita airport yesterday by a massive hug from Nat and then we had a lovely day in the sunshine with a trip to Blue and White,
shopping (mainly of the window type) in Ginza and a fantastic strawberry cake to give us sustenance.

I am settled in at the lovely Ryokan Sawanoya and using their computer which types in English until I touch something.....but I don`t know what...and then it types in Japanese! Then I have to shutdown and start again. Hmm something has changed the font but I‘m not going to try pressing buttons。 
Today I am meeting Carin and we are going to have the day together.  She has planned for good and wet weather (it has rained during the night and is cloudy at the moment).
It is lovely to be back in Japan. The people are so friendly and helpful。