Category Archives: My Love Affair with Tokyo

Tokyo Tower

Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanNaoto was all about the touristy things on this trip. It’s good because I can’t come home from Japan having gone to only stationery stores on each trip! I’ve never been to Tokyo Tower and Naoto went when he was a kid, so we added it to our agenda when we returned to Tokyo. We had such beautiful weather during our whole trip…seriously it felt like summer most of the time. We tried to use the warm, clear days to our advantage just in case it rained later in our trip. But it turns out, that wasn’t a problem since it only rained a little bit on our very last day in Japan.Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanBuilt in 1958 and painted a striking “International Orange,” Tokyo Tower is the second tallest tower in Japan (and twenty-third worldwide.) At 333 meters tall, it’s only a little over half as tall as Skytree. (But it was the tallest structure in Japan until the Skytree was built in 2012.) Still, about three million people visit Tokyo Tower each year…it’s a classic! Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, viewThere are two viewing levels for the tower. We totally cheaped out and only paid for the basic level. We figured, we’ve seen the view from Skytree so we didn’t need to pay ¥2800 to go all the way to the top. Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailbox Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanThe views were still quite good and we had fun roaming around trying to spot other familiar things in the landscape. It was so hot though–we had to keep stepping away from the sunny windows to cool off a bit! Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailbox Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailboxI bought a few postcards to send with the special Tokyo Tower postmark. Naoto and I send ourselves postcards from our travels so he was in charge of sending this one since it was his idea.

I still have a lot more Tokyo to share, but next week, I think I’m going to take a little break to talk about current life, reading, mail, food, Valentine’s Day…in the meantime, have a great weekend!

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Yuzu No Komachi

On our first night back in Tokyo, we stopped in to see the new Wrapple store (more on that later) and Naoto surprised me with the best dinner of our trip. He found an izakaya right in Shibuya that specializes in yuzu dishes. It’s called Yuzu no Komachi, which means “beautiful girl with yuzu.” Since yuzu is my absolute favorite thing, I was over the moon excited for dinner. And, they had private dining rooms (koshitsu) which are so cozy. I love being able to eat alone with Naoto and avoid the smokiness of most izakaya in Japan. When you walk in the door, you take off your shoes and walk along tatami mats to your “room” where you dine in peace with the door closed. You push a button as you are ready to order each course. It’s so perfect for an intimate dinner for two, or even a big party of people because you set your own pace and can enjoy the conversation with out constant interruptions.  They had tons of yuzu liqueurs from all over Japan. So each time we got a round of drinks, we tried a new liqueur with soda. Everything was perfectly tart and refreshing. Some of the liqueurs were more cloudy than others, as you can see from above, and some were sweeter than others. They were all from different regions in Japan and it was such a great way to taste a variety of them. We’ve brought several yuzu liqueurs home over the years and none are ever as good as ones we’ve tried in restaurants.

We ordered a ton of small plates, each dish just as tasty as the next, starting with fresh cucumber with yuzu pepper……and tuna tartare with ponzu and yuzu pepper…and yuzu fried rice…and yuzu marinated steak…and prosciutto, tomato, and arugula salad with yuzu jam…and yuzu miso with cabbage leaves…and french fries with yuzu mayonnaise……and we ended with yuzu sorbet. This was one of my favorite meals of all time in Japan. I’m always up for a good theme, especially when my favorite citrus is the star. 

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Kitte Letter Room

Kitte is located next to Tokyo Station. I’ve talked about it before, the Tokyo Central Post Office is one of the best, carrying a huge variety of postal treats and the best selection of stamps. And many of the shops inside the shopping center carry postal themed products. This time on our visit, there was a new set-up in the Station Master’s room. It was set up as a “Letter Room.” Signs encouraged visitors to write a postcard and mail it from the post office downstairs. We stopped at Kitte on our way to catch the shinkansen to Osaka. I wrote a couple of postcards from the letter room and shopped a bit before we went on our way. The Letter Room was a nice, quiet respite from the shopping center. Naoto enjoyed the view while I wrote. This display shows ten different letters sent from Tokyo Station by ten different people from all over the world visiting the heart of Tokyo. It’s hard to see here, but the words and illustrations were so wonderful.

Speaking of letter writing…is anyone doing Letter Month this year? I’m going to attempt it again. I have a stack of love cards I pulled from my stationery drawer ready to go and I my Valentine bin is ready to go. I’m aiming for these three things this year:

  • write a letter, card, or postcard every day, and hopefully send something every day, too
  • spend out some of my Japanese stationery…my drawer is full
  • spend out some of my vintage postage stash, which means, taking the time to make 55 cent matches

Here on the blog, I have some more postal related things from Japan to share, and I’ll be posting my mail over on the Instagram.

Happy writing!

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Stationery Tour on the Chuo Line

I randomly started following a few Japanese paper shops on Instagram last year. When we were planning this trip, I told Naoto I wanted to visit some new places, and it just so happened that three of my top choices are situated along the Chuo line, out to the Tokyo suburbs. Our first stop was Hachimakura, a vintage paper shop.  Hachimakura is tiny and smells of old wood and paper. It is packed in every nook and cranny with vintage papers from all over the world. I spent so much time in there sifting through tiny envelopes and packages of labels, stamps, magazine pages, and patterned papers. It was a dark and moody shop, but oh so perfect for the wares. I ended up buying some new screenprinted patterned papers, some old deadstock Taiwanese labels, and some vintage Japanese beauty labels. Next up was Tonarino, a tiny stationery store located a little further along the Chuo line. They carry a lot of standard Japanese stationery brands, but also a lot of independent designers and they have so many cards and stationery that are designed in-house.Tonarino was so white and bright inside, making their colorful array of products pop off the shelves. It was such a cheerful little shop. I ended up buying some Halloween cards (which I sent from Japan) and a house-designed postcard and stationery set. The last place we went was Yamada Stationery. Yamada is in the suburb of Tokyo, Mitaka. Sadly, it was dark by then, so I don’t have any pictures of the outside or inside. I loved this shop, and probably would have bought so much more if we had visited later in our trip. They sell everything from basic Japanese office supplies, to craft supplies, and unique lines of washi tape and stationery. I ended up with a library themed purchase: library cards and pockets and stickers, library card washi tape, and a tube of lotion that looks like old school glue.

Each shop on their own had a lot to offer, but I’m glad we spent some time mapping out the visit so that we didn’t spend an hour on the train hitting up one shop…I always love a stationery adventure.

 

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Maruzen

Naoto found a fun new stationery place to check out this trip. Maruzen is actually a book store, but they have a whole floor devoted to stationery. Their shop in Ikebukuro has three floors of books and stationery and a small cafe decorated with out-of-commission train cars. I didn’t buy very much, just a few fall postcards that I sent from Japan and some washi tape, but I really loved the experience of this location. We ended up having a little snack just so we could sit in the cafe and check out the trains. I got an iced tea and Naoto got a beer and we shared a prosciutto and brie sandwich. Let’s just end with this cheesy picture.

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Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour

 

Hobonichi store, Tobichi, Omotesando, Tokyo, JapanTraveling to Japan in the fall meant it was “planner season.” All of the 2019 planners and calendars were out and huge planner displays were featured at all of the big stationery stores. Naoto was in the market for a Hobonichi this year. He’s doing freelance translation work now and needs something a little more detailed than his tiny planner from 2018. We made a little pilgrimage to the official Hobonichi shop, Tobichi, in Omotesando one afternoon. The facade of the shop is pictured above, an amazing patchwork of weathered wood that distinguishes it from the other houses and buildings in the neighborhood. Hobonichi store, Tobichi, Omotesando, Tokyo, JapanWe didn’t take many pictures inside the shop because they were filming for something, but Naoto took this one of me checking out the accessories. We ended up buying our 2019 Hobonichi Techos at Loft because Loft offers tax-free shopping*, which saved us several yen on each of our planners and accessories. Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour, Hobonichi store, Tobichi, Hobonichi stamp, Frixion stampBut I bought a little Hobonichi stamp (pictured above with two new Frixion stamps) at Tobichi and it was fun to see all of the Hobonichi products in a bright little shop. Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour, Hobonichi store, Tobichi, When we got home, Naoto was excited to open his planner up and get started. So, we held our first annual Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour on “Black Friday” and it was so much fun! Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour, Hobonichi store, Tobichi, Calendar CocktailWe ate leftover veggies and dip from Thanksgiving and pretzels with blue cheese mustard and I made Calendar Cocktails (which were really just Cynar Manhattans.) I showed Naoto all of the bells and whistles of the Hobonichi and he started filling out December.  Naoto has seen my Hobonichi before, but he was really impressed with how flexible it is to use. Also, I have to say, the layout of the Japanese version is way better than the English version. The hourly timing is better and there’s a small area for a checklist, still leaving plenty of room for journaling or other notes on the main pages. I may have to get the Japanese version next year, or use my vast collection of washi tapes and stickers to define areas on the daily pages for myself. I’ll have to experiment and report back. Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour, Hobonichi store, Tobichi, Calendar layoutNaoto refused to use washi tapes and stickers on his monthly pages…but I think I made up for it with my December. Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour, PresleyI sort of feel like recreating this party with some friends who like to decorate their planners. I like to get birthdays and other special days documented on my monthly pages at the start of the year, so I can use my old planner as a reference. I still need to set up my 2019 planner, so Hasegawa Hobonichi Hour Part 2 could still happen.

Cheers to an organized December!

*Many larger chains and even some smaller stores offer tax-free shopping to tourists in Japan. You usually have to spend a certain amount and you always have to present your passport, but it’s a great savings if you are buying a lot of stationery and other souvenirs. So, pro-tip: carry your passport with you everywhere in Japan!

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Machida Squirrel Garden

Machida Risu Park, squirrel parkBefore we left for Japan, I read about this squirrel park outside of Tokyo. It was a park and a petting zoo all wrapped in one and Naoto was confident that we could get there easily, though he wondered what the appeal was. “Squirrels are rodents. Who would want to pet one?” I insisted it would be a fun adventure. I wanted to feed a squirrel and have one hop on my shoulder. Machida Risu Park, Machida Squirrel GardenThe first part of the park was similar to an American petting zoo. Guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, and squirrels were in cages and you could feed them and pet them. It was very laid back and lots of parents and children were roaming about. Machida Risu Park, Machida Squirrel GardenI fed some rabbits who were quite greedy, stealing lettuce from each other and almost eating my finger along with the carrot stubs! And I petted the hedgehogs and marveled at the slow moving turtles.Machida Risu Park, Machida Squirrel Garden, squirrel entrance When we walked through the gate through to the squirrel part, I was instantly bombarded with squirrels. If you stand still, they will run up your leg hoping you will have food! begging squirrel, Machida Risu Park, Machida Squirrel GardenI was uneasily walking around when this guy ran up to me and stopped and begged…shudder. Before I had a chance to tell him that I was a coward, Naoto ditched me and bought some food so I could feed the squirrels. I enjoyed watching him get up close and personal with those crazy beasts, but I was too chicken to be a squirrel feeder!  The rest of the park is an enclosed area where the squirrels can roam freely. We walked through and saw squirrels sunning themselves and napping. It also felt a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamelin because groups of squirrels would follow us around, hoping to be fed!  There was also an old tortoise in the squirrel area. He was more my speed. Machida Risu Park, Machida Squirrel GardenEven though I was a big scaredy cat, I’m so glad we went! It was a perfect spring day and a good excuse to be outside.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the workers at the park are adults with special needs. They earn money by selling and taking tickets, handing out the food, working in the gift shop, and they benefit from the profits of the park. I think it’s an additional bonus to the park, and the customer service is top notch, following the strong Japanese custom of hospitality.

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Itoya & Cafe Stylo

Itoya big red paperclip signOn our first full day in Japan, we went to Itoya, one of my favorite shops in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo. (I’ve blogged about Itoya a little bit before, here and here.) Itoya has been building a new store since 2011 or 2012, so for the past few years, we’ve been visiting the temporary location. On this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing their shiny new store. Itoya buildingThe new twelve floor building is very sleek and it sits between Tiffany’s and Bvlgari (just to give you an idea of what kind of neighborhood we are talking about.) The lower floors are all devoted to retail space selling stationery, pens, paper, craft supplies, and high-end travel and home goods. On the seventh floor, there is a “paper bar” filled with hundreds of papers that you can use for personalized stationery, business cards, or wedding invitations. (I didn’t take any pictures inside the store, but you can see part of the wall of paper at the bottom of this page.) What I’ve always loved about Itoya is that you can find very expensive things there, you can also find plenty of special gifts at reasonable prices. And they’ve always had a huge selection, especially of the things I love: origami paper, stamps, stationery, pens…I used to spend hours in the store narrowing down my choices. Itoya spring windows, flower pensThe new Itoya, though, is much more pared down. They still sell amazing things, but they just don’t carry the same wide-ranging selection that they used to. Truthfully, I hardly bought anything during my visit. And we didn’t stay all day like I thought we would. It was kind of a bummer at first, but honestly, I had more money to spend at the other stationery shops all over Tokyo. (There was no shortage of things to buy!) It was just an unexpected change. Cafe Stylo lettuce, ItoyaBut, one really cool thing about New Itoya is that they have a full-service restaurant, Cafe Stylo, on the top floor. (The old cafe had a very limited snack menu.) And in Cafe Stylo, they serve Itoya-grown lettuce grown in a hydroponic farm on the twelfth floor! We visited the farm and got a peek at the lettuces growing at various stages. Cafe Stylo smoked salmon, ItoyaCafe Stylo chef salad, ItoyaNaoto had the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, which he loved. Because I wanted to try the Itoya lettuces, I ordered the “Cobber Salad” (Cobb salad). It was crisp and fresh and delicious! And we both enjoyed Campari cocktails with our lunch.Cafe Stylo floor sign I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you go! It’s the perfect spot to write postcards and enjoy your new stationery!

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Fujishiro

Fujishiro in sangenjayaOn our last night in Japan, we finally ate ramen in a neighborhood shop. After our happy hour in Carrot Tower, we walked though the winding streets on a hunt for dinner. We found so many little ramen shops, but it was hard to choose which one would be tastiest. Fujishiro was tiny and crowded and it had recently been featured in a Tokyo magazine, so we figured it was good.Fujishiro in sangenjaya, ramen ticket, ramen in Tokyo We made our choices using the ramen ticket machine outside the shop and then we sat and waited on little stools outside for seats to open up inside. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shops Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shopsOnce we got inside, Naoto gave our tickets to the guys behind the counter and they started making our ramen. One guy focused on the noodles, the broths, and the grilled meat and the other interacted with customers and built the bowls of ramen. Chopsticks, spoons, spices, and pitchers of water were on the counter so we could help ourselves. It was a no-frills kind of place. There were six other people filling the restaurant with us, mostly salary men, but also another couple enjoying noodles together. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops, fishcake Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops I ordered the tonkotsu ramen. It had a meaty broth and nice, chewy noodles topped with pork, egg, scallions, nori (seaweed), and fishcake (that pink and white thing in the picture above). Simple, but delicious. Fujishiro in sangenja, shoyu ramen, Tokyo ramen shopsNaoto had the store special ramen*, ajitama ramen. It was similar to mine but it had two marinated soft boiled eggs (ajitama) in it. He enjoyed every bit of it and part of mine! It was the perfect end to our vacation!

*Ramen Tip: If you go to a local ramen shop that uses a ramen ticket machine, the shop’s special ramen will often be on the top left corner. It’s a fun way to try unique ingredients or preparations!

 

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Carrot Tower

Carrot Tower, SangenjayaContinuing our exploration of Sangenjaya…

We’ve walked by Carrot Tower a number of times without giving it much attention. It’s across from the Sangenjaya Post Office, it’s on a busy corner, it’s very tall…but it looked like an office building with a couple of street level shops. On our last day, Naoto wanted to go to a book store to get a magazine and a Kanji character dictionary, so we ventured in.

First though…how cute is the name? I learned from Wikipedia that it was named by local school children. The only thing that could make it better is if there were a carrot mascot greeting you at the door.

ambiance in Carrot TowerThe first floor is an open shopping area where you can buy Japanese pottery, stationery, souvenirs, pastries, flowers…I bought stationery. And the other floors are dedicated to the bookstore, a theater, and office space. But, at the very top, there’s a restaurant and an observation deck. We decided to go up to see what the observation deck was all about. The red carpet leads you to Sky Carrot, the restaurant and then the space to the right is the observation/banquet area. It was SO WEIRD! Some people were sitting quietly and reading. Others were chatting at tables. There was a small family with young children just hanging out. We saw vending machines and an ice cream freezer. ambiance in Carrot TowerKimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerThen we ventured further and found the bar. It felt a little bit like a hotel bar with plush chairs and a few tables. There was a grand piano in the corner. And there were comfy seats facing the view, so we decided to stay awhile. The bar offered a few simple cocktails, beer and, and wine and it was so cheap! (¥500 for sparkling wine and even less for a beer!) view from Carrot Tower IMG_3769At twenty-six stories, Carrot Tower is no SkyTree, but the views were still pretty and it was fun to see Sangenjaya from a new perspective. Kimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerCheers from the Carrot!

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