Tag Archives: I *heart* Japan

Glico Man

Glico Man, Osaka, JapanNaoto was full of touristy ideas for Osaka. On our second day there, Hisae, Naoto’s sister, met us and spent a day with us touring around the city. Naoto wanted to visit Tsūtenkaku Tower, see the Glico Man, and eat. When a man takes you to hundreds of different stationery stores, you indulge his touristy desires.We spent the morning in Shin-Sekai, an old neighborhood full of shops and old restaurants and pubs. We ate at a restaurant that specializes in fried kababs.  After lunch, we walked to the tower and waited in line for the observation deck. Tsūtenkaku is known as the Eiffel Tower of Osaka and has been around since 1912, though it was rebuilt in 1956 because they tore it apart after a fire in 1943 and used the remaining steel for the war efforts. It’s “only” 103 meters tall, much shorter than Skytree which is the tallest tower in the world, but it was still fun to look out on Osaka.  Plus, there were all sorts of weird things to do in the tower, such as take pictures with Pretz and Pocky. Dōtonbori, Asahi DryAfter the tower, we headed to Dōtonbori to see the Glico Man. Dōtonbori is a famous shopping and dining area in Osaka filled with giant neon (and modern LCD) advertisements. Naoto had been there as a kid so he wanted to go back to see the Glico Man. (Glico makes Pocky and Pretz and other famous Japanese snacks.) I’m glad we went, but man was the area crazy! I was glad to leave and head to our quieter Airbnb neighborhood for dinner. Here’s a peek at the Dōtonbori neighborhood in action. I took the film for Instagram Stories, so sorry it’s vertical.

 

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Nara

During our stay in Osaka, we took a day to explore Nara. Nara Park is famous for having hundreds of tame(-ish) deer roaming around. Naoto was really excited to take me there.  Nara was a train and a bus ride away from Osaka…I love that Japan embraces characters to advertise its travel industry.  Much like the squirrel park, feeding the deer sounds a lot more fun than it really is. Naoto thrust a stack of crackers into my hand and all of a sudden, several really excited deer were ON me. Man, they really can smell those crackers! It was really intimidating and I just wanted someone else to hold the crackers so I could look around undisturbed.  Naoto, of course, thought I was being ridiculous so he got his own crackers to try to feed the deer. It was all fun and games until one of them bit him on the butt! They were much more sweet and calm when they realized I didn’t have anymore crackers. (But in 2016, 121 people were injured by the deer…they probably deserved it to be honest…we saw a lot of people taunting the animals, which made me sad for the poor deer.) Naoto bought a stone roasted sweet potato from a guy in Nara Park. It was just a simple sweet potato, but it was so hot and delicious. After we fed the deer, we walked on to Todai-ji Temple. Then we got tired of the crowds and decided to find a quieter area.  We ended up in a little independent shopping district that had so many cute shops selling handmade things made in Nara. We had a sake tasting and bought a few souvenirs and omiyage. I bought some pretty letterpressed postcards with deer on them, some organic cotton socks, and some Nara-made biscotti and fig jam. Luckily for us, it wasn’t very crowded, but the shops had so many great things compared to the touristy areas, I hope people realize that there’s other great indie shopping in Nara, outside of the deer park. It was really the perfect weather for Nara. We both wore sweaters and had to take them off because it felt like summer in the sun. I’m glad we made the excursion.

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Misdo’s Halloween Donuts

As with every other trip to Japan, this trip included many trips to Mister Donut. We didn’t go every day, but most days. For some reason, “our” Misdo in Sangenjaya didn’t have the Halloween donuts out when we got to Tokyo on October 23rd. I had researched Mister Donut’s seasonal donuts before we left (#priorities,) so I was very much looking forward to them. Thankfully, there was no donut crisis because we found the Halloween specialties when we visited Osaka.There were these cute mummy donut sticks that tasted like black tea with white chocolate on top. This one was definitely cuter than it was tasty…it was a little dry and white chocolate isn’t my favorite. We didn’t try this pink mummy one, but it was filled with apple whipped cream.And we didn’t try the Pon de Mummy, a white chocolate dipped classic pon de ring. This one was my favorite. It was a chocolate donut with chestnut whipped cream inside. Cute and delicious. Naoto refused to partake in the Halloween donuts, so he got a hot dog donut and a black sugar pon de ring…It was sort of a weird Mister Donut because it was a small satellite shop, so the donuts weren’t made in house like most Mister Donuts. It was a fifteen minute walk from our Airbnb so we only went once during our stay. But, I’m glad I got to eat these guys.

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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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mt Halloween Pop-Up at Tokyu Hands

Next week, I’m hoping to finally work on my little “scrapbook” from Japan, so I figured I could start blogging about it as I go through pictures to print and ephemera to paste. It’s going to be weird talking about Halloween in January but, I think we’ll be okay. Halloween has become a pretty big deal in Japan. In fact, thirteen people were arrested in Shibuya celebrating Halloween…it was a huge scandal and all over the news. (We watched from our Airbnb in Osaka.)

But I digress…

I found out about an mt pop-up shop at the Tokyu Hands store in Ikebukuro before we left and Naoto made sure to add it to the stationery tour list. We decided to check it off the list on our first day in Tokyo.   The whole front of the store was “wallpapered” with mt’s Halloween tape and the first floor was mostly devoted to mt. They had all of their limited edition Halloween and fall tapes available and tons of other packs and single rolls set up in bins for easy perusal. In the middle of the shop, there were Halloween patterned streamers hanging down…the picture doesn’t do it justice…we really needed a selfie stick to show off the full effect. They also had a game where you could pay ¥500 and blindly reach into a bin and take out as many washi tape as you could grab in one handful. I decided not to partake because most of the tapes were pretty basic and I have plenty of washi tapes. I sort of went into this trip deciding not to buy too many washi tapes because I already have so many, but that plan flew out of the window when I landed in Japan.I did try to buy just the ones I truly loved……but really, what’s not to love? I ended up getting the Halloween washi tapes (and duplicates for friends,) mt Halloween monsters wrapping paper, Bande Halloween roll stickers, tiny jack-o-lantern stickers, and some other stationery. Oh and Naoto got Presley a cat treat…at this Hands, there was a whole floor devoted to pet supplies along with a cat cafe. I am looking forward to THIS Halloween when I can use some of the things I bought. If you’re in Japan, I’d highly recommend checking out mt’s website and Instagram to see if they have any pop-ups near you. Thanks to Naoto for starting our trip out with a bang.

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Spending the Yen: Year of the Boar

new years cards, japan post, itoya, We really hit the sweet spot during our trip to Japan this year. I was able to shop for Halloween and fall things, as well as planners, Christmas, and New Years. If you’ve been around for awhile, you may remember this post that explains the Japanese tradition of sending nengajo, or new years postcards.  We found the regular New Years postcards (the two on the right) at Itoya. Many stationery stores offer printing services for New Years cards. We could have ordered something personalized if we had more time (and wanted to send a bunch.) And on our very last day and our very last trip to the post office, we saw the Japan mailbox postcard with the boar. There were Christmas ones too. I just love these cards…it’s always fun to visit the different neighborhood post offices to see what they have available. There’s usually a seasonal one and sometimes regions have their own styles. new years stickers, japanese stationery, year of the boarI picked up a couple of styles of stickers with Japanese new year symbols and the little boar. From left to right: a paddle (I thought it was a bottle of sake, which is why it’s upside down in my picture) for hanetsuki, which is a game like badminton played on new year day, a drum that brings good luck, the boars, and an ema, a placard where you can write a new years wish and hang it at the shrine. new years stickers, japanese stationery, year of the boarA kite, the boar, and kadomatsu, a bamboo arrangement common for new year. new years stickers, japanese stationery, year of the boar, mail artI put all of the postcards in envelopes because of the odd shape of the post boxes and because Japanese postcards are oriented vertically instead of horizontally. I didn’t feel like making weird adjustments on the cards to meet USPS standards, and also this way, I could decorate the envelopes, too.

Happy New Year! May your mailbox be full in 2019!

 

 

P.S. If you’re interested in seeing our New Years cards from the past, here’s a link to those posts.

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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12th Anniversary Gifts

japanese paper gift wrap Every year, Naoto and I exchange gifts based on our anniversary year. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before…) We use this list as our guide, just to keep it consistent. Some years, we are spot on, and other years we leave things open to interpretation. I follow the modern gift guide for Naoto and he follows the traditional for me. The modern gifts for the twelfth anniversary are silk or linen. So I bought Naoto a linen shirt and a chef’s hat. I wrapped his gift in some paper from a shop in Kyoto. (It’s their shop paper that they wrapped our purchases in. It’s been in my paper hoard since…2015?) There was a Kyoto link in our gift-giving this year, as you will see. I think this proves that we are both itching to go back to Japan again. chef's hat, naoto's 12th anniversary giftSadly, the chef’s hat was too small…even for me! But the shirt fit nicely and there’s a new, larger hat on its way. vintage brooch, blue stones, fireworks brooch My gift was supposed to be pearls, but Naoto found this vintage “fireworks” brooch and I love it. Pearls are lovely, but really, I have some pearl earrings (from our wedding) and a necklace (from Naoto’s Hawaiian host mom) and I think that’s plenty of the most fragile “gems” on earth, so this was a good substitution. kyoto gin, ki-no-ri distilleryAnd he gave me gin from a distillery in Kyoto! We’re finally opening it tonight so I’ll have a full report soon. Stay tuned.

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Chalk-Full of School Supplies

Chalk pencils, Chalkboard tape, Japanese office supplies, Hester & CookI think my husband’s punning is rubbing off on me…

I have a little chalk theme going on today. I am old enough to remember chalkboards. Our school transitioned to white boards during my high school years. Mrs. Petersen kept her blackboard though. I always appreciated that about her. I always found the marker to be so slippery on the white board. It didn’t have the same feeling as writing with chalk. And the sound! Normally, chalk sounds so pleasing scraping across the board. But then there’s always that one moment when the chalk makes that horrid high-pitched squeak that catches everyone in the room off-guard. I wonder if that sound is why white boards were invented. I ordered this Hester & Cook “Midtown” white pencil because I’m always looking for a new way to write on dark papers, especially this time of year as I gear up for Halloween mail. I was pretty skeptical about it because colored pencils usually don’t show up well on dark papers (in my experience.) But the pencil was really good! I thought it looked very chalk-like and it writes sort of like a cross between a crayon and a colored pencil. It was a little waxy, but it wrote smoothly, and like I said, covered the dark green paper well. (I smeared it a little bit…) Hester and Cook chalk pencilI plan to use the pencil to decorate the table and black place cards for our next Phantom Flight Night. Though I really like the classic green chalkboard look, too. Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard tape and chalk set, bunbougu cafe, chalkboard tape, Japanese office suppliesI picked up this Nihon Rikagaku black chalkboard tape set at bunbougu cafe last year. (The green tape in the top picture is also Nihon Rikagaku. I found that at the Paper Source Warehouse Sale, though it is not carried at Paper Source.) Nihon Rikagaku is another old Japanese company. They’ve been making chalk since 1937 and since 1960 they’ve hired adults with cognitive disabilities to work in their factories. (I didn’t know this at the time of my purchase, but it makes me want to look for more Nihon Rikagaku products on our next trip. You can find their basic chalk on Amazon!) Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard tape and chalk set, bunbougu cafe, chalkboard tape, Japanese office suppliesThe tape is made from Japanese washi paper and it’s coated so chalk can be erased easily. I’ve only used this on gifts (like it shows on the tiny package label) so far, but I think it would be a fun way to label things in our pantry.

 

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