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Spending the Yen 1: Bunbougu Cafe

SyuRo box from bunbougu cafeI’m not sure it’s necessary to blog about each and everything I bought in Japan…

I bought a lot…mostly washi tape, stationery, pens, Biore products, some craft supplies and some seriously tasty snacks involving green tea. (The Green Tea Kit Kats sold at the airport are my favorite things on earth!) Naoto was very much an enabler. Every time I wavered about buying something, he reminded me that we are only in Japan once every year or so. I rarely argued with this reasoning. Even so, I regret about five things I chose to not purchase…ahh next time! syuro box from bunbougu cafeThese are the stationery bits I bought at bunbougu cafe. I chose some calendar stickers, two rolls of MT tape, message cards and this lovely silver box. The box is covered in tiny scratches, which I love because it’s not so precious that I won’t use it. (I always need more wabi-sabi in my life.) It’s large enough to hold pens or post-its on my desk and has become a catalyst for the Great Desk Clean-Up. (Remember this post? Yeah, it’s that bad again.)

Syuro silver boxThe thing I loved about the box is its story. The box is handmade by artisans in Shitamachi (an old section of Tokyo) who used to make tea containers.  Since most people are buying mass-produced tea tins now (because they are cheaper, of course) the makers branched into creating other useful household items in order to keep their livelihoods and to preserve the act of making goods by hand. Each box is handmade and hand scuffed, giving it all those tiny scratches, and celebrates monozukuri (simply, the act of making things, but for a more complicated answer, click the link.)

I love having a little piece of handmade Japan on my desk to remind me of our trip, bunbougu cafe and (most importantly) to keep my desk clean!

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Kyoto Part 3: Our Anniversary Lunch

IMG_3181Would it be weird to start blogging about my 2015 trip again? Maybe? I’m going to write anyway. I’ve been going through my pictures and reminiscing about all of the fun we had last spring and I realized that I’ve never really closed the book on that trip. I have a few last things to mention about Kyoto and some new editions of Spending the Yen.

We were in Kyoto for our anniversary last year and Hisae (my sister-in-law) took us out to lunch at Yuzu-ya, a restaurant and ryokan near the Yasaka Shrine. At street level, it looks like a black storefront (pictured above) but once you go through the doorway, you see that you walk up a rocky stairway to get up to the restaurant. IMG_3174IMG_3173Once you’re there, you forget that there’s a busy street below. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and trees and feels so removed and peaceful. ambiance, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThere is traditional seating near the windows where you can appreciate the trees and fountains outside. We sat at a regular table, but we still had amazing views. IMG_3158The meal was very traditional, using locally-sourced ingredients and lots of yuzu, hence the name Yuzu-ya. (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, in case you don’t remember me talking about it before.)  Our first course was an appetizer of traditional Kyoto-fare. As you can see, it was presented beautifully on a tray of tiny plates adorned with leaves. Each bite was so different in taste and texture but it all worked together perfectly. IMG_3161Next, we had smelt grilled alongside bamboo leaves on a tiny table-top grill. IMG_3162(It was looking at me.) On the side was a yuzu sauce. I picked off as much meat as I could, but Naoto finished it off for me. (He ate every last bit, including the eye and the bones!)Then we had porridge with rice and fish and egg and chives, again cooked table-side and finished with a squeeze of yuzu. IMG_3167It was incredible. dessert, mochi, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThe dessert course was green tea and a brown sugar mochi. A simple but delicious way to end the meal.

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Cherry Blossom Mail

cherry blossom mail I’m a bit late for cherry blossom season, but last week, I sent out some pink blossomed mail to a few pen pals. What can I say? I’m inspired by those postage stampscherry blossom sweets papers, cherry blossom bags, spring mailWhen we were in Japan last year, I picked up a bunch a sakura stationery and of course I tucked it away to use this spring. I wrote letters on the kaishi papers, folded them around a Japanese tea bag and tucked them inside these sakura printed cellophane flat bags. The tiny sakura flowers on the papers showed through the bags…flowers everywhere! I sealed up the bags with washi tape and used labels for the addresses. Easy!

I got a bit behind last week on the Write On Challenge and National Letter Writing Month but I’m all caught up and looking forward to finishing strong. I can’t believe April is almost over! How has the challenge gone for you?

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Scenes From Bunbougu Cafe

Bunbougu cafeOh Bunbougu Cafe! Please expand to my community!

I know, I know…it wouldn’t be the same. I wish more people in the US would embrace the marriage of cafes and stationery shops.

I spent a lot of time at Bunbougu during our vacation. In addition to spending my birthday there, we went back again and again for coffees and shopping. My favorite thing (other than my birthday dinner) was the snack you see above. I ordered a set that included a pot of tea and three tiny sweets. As you can imagine, I was blown away by the tiny office supply-shaped cookies. I ordered the strawberry matcha poundcake, the hazelnut ginger pencil cookies and the yuzu pepper key cookies. Everything was so flavorful and delicious–the keys were so peppery that my mouth was burning (in the best way possible!) There were other options on the menu (including a coconut flavored triangle and protractor) and you can see them here.Bunbougu cafeBunbougu cafeAll of Bunbougu Cafe’s menus are hand drawn (by one of their own workers) with gorgeous colored pencil illustrations of their food and cocktails. Bunbougu cafeOne of my favorite things to order was the caramel tea latte, a milky black tea with a hint of caramel-y sweetness. I’m working on perfecting my own at home since it will be awhile before I can drink one at Bunbougu again! If you received a postcard from me in Japan, most likely it was written at Misdo or Bunbougu…it’s the perfect place for mail! Bunbougu cafeBunbougu cafeBunbougu cafeBunbougu offers loads of unique stationery, desk items, pens and pencils, washi tape, office supplies… Many things are made in Japan and most of their offerings are from small makers and businesses. I saw many familiar American makers’ products too. I ended up buying two more silver boxes, pencils and washi tape.Bunbougu cafe

But my favorite “purchase” was my new membership at the Bunbougu Cafe. For ¥700, I now have my own membership card and a key to the stationery drawers at Bunbougu! Now each time I go, I can show off my key or my membership card and get into special events (if they ever occur during our visits) and unlock the stationery drawers at the cafe. I already left my business card in one and sifted through the pretty papers and pens…apparently too busy enjoying things to take a picture (sorry!)Bunbougu cafeSee you soon, Bunbougu Cafe!

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The Four Treasures: Paper

Mulberry paperMost calligraphy paper is made from mulberry, though some are made with gampi or mitsumata (both Japanese bushes). Paper makers use the seasons to guide their making because temperature and humidity affect the fibers of the paper, which in turn affects the way the ink absorbs into the paper. I love that the process is so reliant upon nature…

Since paper is natural and doesn’t last forever, it adds a bit of wabi-sabi, beauty in impermanence and imperfection, to the practice of calligraphy.

This paper is from Naoto’s aunt’s collection. It is washi paper, but it is not so precious that it needs to be saved for special occasions. When we did our calligraphy practice last week, we used plain printer paper (just because we have an endless supply of that and no printer). Once I got a little bit better, I tried writing on the washi…the brush moves more beautifully and the ink absorbs much differently than on printer paper.

Update: Naoto found a calligraphy class in Tokyo for me! I am so excited! Hopefully I will have a follow-up to the Four Treasures series soon!  

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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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