Category Archives: My Love Affair with Tokyo

Bar Lariat

We celebrated Naoto’s birthday in Japan on January 5th. I found this local craft cocktail bar, Bar Lariat, in “our neighborhood” near our usual hotel and I insisted we try it. bar LariatFive years ago, we went to Mixology near Tokyo Station and we had a great time…all the time not knowing that this tiny gem of a bar was within walking distance of our hotel! There is no menu. You just let the bartender know what kind of drink you’re in the mood for and he creates something for you. I will admit that this kind of stressed me out. I didn’t want to drink something terrible…but it turns out, the bartender is a great listener and he hit it out of the ballpark all night! With our first cocktail, we were given this little amuse-bouche, cheese and a dried apricot. To start, Naoto ordered something like a Moscow Mule. And I requested something bright and gin based. The bartender muddled a ginko with gin and some other mixers and I was handed a refreshing, delicious cocktail. When Naoto told me a ginko would be part of my drink, I was scared. Have you ever smelled a ginko tree? It’s not good!  But the fruit was really delicious! Kind of sweet and orangey? For his second drink, Naoto had a vodka and kumquat. I finished the night with a yuzu cocktail. Everything about this drink, and especially the delicate chilled glass, was perfection. I felt so fancy drinking here! Naoto had a coffee liquor drink for dessert.  bar lariatWe definitely want to go back on our next visit. The bar only has ten seats and it’s dark and cozy inside. The owner, Masahiro-San, is an expert in his craft and he really creates a relaxing ambiance in his shop. Thanks to him, we ended Naoto’s birthday on a high note!

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My Kakimori Journal

Kakimori notebook, red leather, gold accentsHere it is! (Was it worth the wait?) Kakimori notebook, blue book clothAfter much deliberation, (You can ask Naoto how many times I picked up something and put it back, only to end up with something really basic!) I decided to go with a red leather cover and I stuck with the peacock blue book cloth for the back. I didn’t think the yellow and white book cloth would hold up well over time. Plus, I love red and I love blue, and the yellow doesn’t really fit my vibe…I couldn’t see myself really loving it once I got it home. kakimori notebook kakimori notebook, gold accents kakimori notebook, gold accentsPlus, I really wanted gold accents and that didn’t seem to fit with the yellow pattern vibe. I forgot to mention yesterday that you can also choose your binding colors and other accents for your book. We didn’t get a good picture of those options, but you can see them here. I didn’t add a pen loop or an elastic because I like a simple notebook, but seriously, you can have so much fun adding all the accouterments you like! Kakimori notebook, red leather, gold accents, blue bookclothIf everything in my life could be these two colors, I would be happy. kakimori notebook, fools paperI ended up going with Fool’s Paper for my insides. It’s also a fountain pen friendly paper and when I tested it at the store, I loved how it worked with a 2B pencil, a fountain pen, and a regular thin gel pen. It’s so smooth! kakimori notebook, fools paperkakimori notebook, fools paperkakimori notebook, fools paperBecause I could, I got a mix of lined, dot grid, plain, and grid papers. kakimori notebook, fools paperI also added an envelope to the back, because why not? kakimori postcard, black paper notesIn addition to my notebook, I bought a Kakimori postcard and this notepad.

The notepad has ten different kinds of black paper inside, with all sorts of textures. I sampled it in the store and thought it was fun, and I’m looking forward to using it in my Travelers Notebook and for little notes here and there. kakimori, letterpress birthday postcardsAnd I couldn’t pass up these cute birthday postcards that came with a tiny pencil so you can draw in flames for the number of candles the recipient is celebrating. Genius, right?

If you’re in Tokyo, I highly recommend Kakimori for stationery lovers. I made a small (A4 size) notebook, but they also offer A5 which would be an amazing size for a scrapbook if you filled it with one of the heavier paper options. It’s just such a neat experience to make something just for yourself…now to see if I can get into the habit of using it! I’ll report back!

 

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Kakimori

Kakimori It feels like we just got home from Japan…which could explain why all of our Japanese snacks and stationery treats are still sprawled across my desk and Christmas isn’t completely put away yet…but I digress.

Kakimori was one of my favorite stops this trip. It’s a notebook boutique where you can create your own completely custom notebook. Kakimori’s goal is “to re-evaluate the importance of writing.” Their philosophy is if you can build the perfect notebook, you will spend more time using it. That’s my goal…to use this notebook. kakimori custom notebook paper wallThere is a wall of cubbies where you choose your covers and guts. From book cloth covers, to fancy waxed paper covers and leather covers, the combinations were endless. I had such a hard time deciding. Kakimori notebook coversYou can kind of get a peek of the options here. There is really something for everyone, and also their stock seems to change a bit over time. There were some samples with this grid book cloth that was so fabulous, I think it affected my decision-making because I was so bummed it wasn’t in stock for me to use. Kakimori book cloth coversThis was my choice…or so I thought. kakimori paper samplesOnce I decided on my covers, I moved on to choose the insides. At first I was dead set on Tomoe River paper, but I write on that every day in my Hobonichi and when I tested some other papers, I decided to go with something new. You could also choose black or kraft paper, book journal paper (where it had boxes to rate books and write mini synopses,) and other guided papers.Kakimori paper choices
Kakimori pen selection
In addition to making your own notebook, Kakimori offers a wide range of fountain pens, pencils, and other writing utensils. I am not really a fountain pen user…I can’t get my handwriting to look nice when I write with one, but I always enjoy checking out various inks and pens while I’m shopping. Kakimori pen testingThey had a well-curated selection of other specialty pens and markers. I’m always on the look out for a good white or silver pen. kakimori pencil station kakimori pencil stationI don’t neeeeeed any pencils, but I really loved the script on this French pencil. (I did not buy it because I have a lifetime supply of pencils and then some…) Kakimori finished journalsOnce you choose your journal materials, it takes a bit of time for them to put it together. There is a little waiting room with finished journals you can purchase. Instead of sticking around the store, we decided to go to Dandelion Chocolate for a treat while we waited. Dandelion CoffeeThat s’more thing on the right…I still dream about it.

I’ll be back tomorrow to share my notebook and the other stationery I bought at Kakimori!

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Spending the Yen: Christmas Stationery

I found this Christmas stationery last year at Loft and it was pretty pricey…like way more than I usually spend for stationery in Japan which has so many things for cheap. But Naoto slipped it into my basket and told me to buy it…it’s hard to argue with him in Japan. It’s really lovely washi paper with a nice texture that makes me wish I used a fountain pen more. And the tree is embossed with red and iridescent ink. I hope I can make time to send out a Christmas letter or two this season!

Have you started your Christmas (or other holiday) cards yet? I haven’t…hopefully next week after my last show of the season I can make time for some mail and other holiday cheer!

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Japan Does It Better 25: Karaoke

In college, we took over a local bar every Tuesday night and sang bad karaoke songs and had a great time. Of course, I was young, drinking, and among friends, so it didn’t matter that I can’t carry a tune. I didn’t really care what the rest of the bar thought of me because I was a college kid out to have a good time. That’s the last time I enjoyed karaoke until I started going on our visits to Japan. Karaoke in Japan doesn’t happen in a dive bar among strangers; it happens in a tiny booth reserved for just you and your friends. Right upstairs from the train station by our hotel is a Big Echo, a karaoke chain in Japan. A couple years ago, we went karaokeing for the first time, just the two of us, which is kind of hilarious but also totally perfect.  Inside the Big Echo, you check in at the desk and tell them how many people are in your party and how long you’d like to sing. Then, they assign you a room based on your size. We’ve only ever gone with just the two of us, but even the smallest room is big enough for a cozy small crowd. Inside the booth, there’s a big screen, a couch, a table, microphones, menus, a device to run the karaoke, and a device for ordering food and drinks. The picture above it pretty much the room from the doorway…pretty small (as is everything in Japan) but big enough to sit and sing for awhile. Here’s Naoto, demonstrating the extensive sour menu. There’s also beer (obviously…it’s Japan) and non-alcoholic options. The food is mostly fried bar stuff, but there are healthier options too. We usually just go for late-night drinking snacks. Naoto loves singing old Japanese pop songs, so while I’m eating and drinking my sour, he warms up with a few of those. I have no idea what he’s singing about but the screen always has a fun little scene that may or may not go with the lyrics. It’s fun to see him getting all serious and nostalgic about the old music.  Once he warms up with Japanese songs, we perform duets of Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and Elvis. So, it’s pretty much like singing in our car on a road trip, except with a better sound system. There is a pretty extensive list of American pop music from all eras, so there’s never a shortage of songs. Once the time is almost up, the front desk calls to see if you want to add minutes. We usually add minutes because an hour goes so fast! I think by the time it’s all said and done, we usually end of paying ¥7000 ($65ish) for our food and experience. Not too bad for a late-night date.

As someone who doesn’t have great singing abilities, I love the private room so I can have fun with Naoto (or a bigger group of friends…someday we’d like to go with his sisters or our friends) without feeling self-conscious about picking a weird song or singing badly in front of strangers. So, to me, karaoke rooms are another example where Japan Does It Better! See how fun it is…

P.S. I haven’t done a JDIB post in so long! If you’d like to see more, go here.

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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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