Tag Archives: Japan

Story Corps

Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center

Last month, Naoto and I did a Story Corps interview! Do you know Story Corps? If you listen to NPR, you’ve probably heard some of the many Story Corps gems from everyday people all across the US. Their mission (according to their website) is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” They have a few booths throughout the States and also a booth that travels. There is one in the Chicago Cultural Center and my book club friend’s daughter, Lauren, just got a job there so we signed up to be part of her training. Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural CenterSo on a rainy Thursday afternoon, we went to the Story Corp booth and chatted about Naoto’s experience coming to America, his eventual journey to Chicago, and how we met. (Forty-five minutes–the time they allot to each conversation–is a really long time to talk! Story Corps edits things down to the best parts for a short radio and podcast snippets.) The room is very small, and dark (as you can see from our picture,) and intimate. To chat, you sit across from your partner and you both have giant microphones to speak into. The Story Corp facilitator sits in with you to do the sound check and to help keep the conversation going if you get stuck. We got stuck quite a few times because Naoto didn’t remember a lot about his first days in America and I wasn’t prepared to ask more questions, so it was nice to have Lauren guide us back on track. I thought it would be weird having someone sit in with us, but it ended up being fine. We didn’t know Lauren before we met her in the booth, so maybe that helped?

We haven’t listened to our recording yet (it takes 3-8 weeks to get it back) but I’m sure it will be fun to listen to in the future. (We are not exciting or profound enough to make it on the podcast or the radio, I’m certain!)

Here’s a link to some of the most recent stories. This one was a particular tear jerker for me. And on the Podcast, there’s a great conversation with Officer Clemmons from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Do you have a favorite Story Corp story? I’ve been listening to the podcast, but often miss them on the radio, so I’d love to hear what I’ve missed.

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2018 Calendars

Adami-Hasegawa 2018 calendars, Heather McAdams Everything Country Calendar, Hobonichi, Word Notebooks Standard MemorandumThe Adami Hasegawas are staying organized this year! Last year Naoto joined Forest Park’s Diversity Committee. Between his two jobs and his meetings and our social lives, I was afraid he’d start double booking himself, so I forced a calendar upon him. I think he liked it, because he used it a lot more than I thought he would. For Christmas I got him the Standard Memorandum. It’s really tiny. Perfectly pocket-sized with enough room to write his work schedule and maybe one other note. I also introduced him to the wonders of the Frixion pen for calendars. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendarI am on my third year of using the Hobonichi Techo. I love it. For me, it’s the perfect size. I like the daily pages for list keeping and just writing random things about my day. I always decorate the monthly spreads, and the daily pages are more utilitarian. (I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about my love for Hobonichi…) I ordered my Hobonichi from Jet Pens. In the past, I’ve ordered directly from Japan, but this year, Jet Pens had everything I wanted now that they are an official Hobonichi shop. A lot of their Hobonichi offerings are sold out by now, but this post is great for going over all the different options, sizes, and accessories. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, TokyoThis year I treated myself to a new cover-on-cover. In previous years, I just had a clear cover and I put postcards and stickers inside to personalize my book. The Tokyo themed cover, with its whimsical drawings of ramen and cats and sushi and donuts won me over. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperI also ordered this handy page keeper. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperIt tucks into the back pocket of the cover. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperAnd then the elastic holds the daily or monthly page of your choice. It’s pretty handy. Heather McAdams, Chris & Heather's Everything But Country concertA few years ago, I told you about the Heather McAdams Everything But Country Calendar and Show. This is only our fourth year of owning this calendar, but this year marked its 25th anniversary!  Heather McAdams, Chris & Heather's Everything But Country concertWe just love the drawings and the birthday and facts for each day. Since we don’t write on a big communal calendar at home, this one works perfectly for our kitchen.

How about you? Are you a paper calendar and planner person? Any favorites?

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My Putz House Settlement

vintage Putz housesLast year, I told Naoto about vintage Putz houses, the tiny Mid-Century glittered paper houses. I’ve always wanted a Christmas village but the newer ones never struck my fancy the way these old beat up ones did. They’re almost impossible to find with the glitter still shining and it’s a rare gem that still has its vellum windows and doors in tact. (Mid-century children must have loved to punch those things out!)

He surprised me at Christmas with two Putz houses–BOTH with all of their vellum in pristine condition! The green one has sweet little details like the curtained window and green door and the red one is so glittery and also has a really special door. He also got me a cast iron Santa riding a sled. I was so excited to pull the village (more like settlement) out this year!    Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageThen, during the Forest Park Holiday Walk, Karen and I found this blue gem. The windows, as you can see, have been repaired, but its color and two-toned glitter roof really sold me. plastic nativity, christmas villageI also picked up this teeny plastic nativity for the village, because every town needs one. ceramic christmas tree ceramic christmas tree, after Every settlement also needs a town Christmas tree, so I painted one at Creativita. Have you noticed ceramic Christmas trees are making a comeback? I highly recommend painting your own! It was such a fun activity!   Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village

The flocked deer are especially fond of the new tree. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageI had to put the village on the sideboard this year because Presley has been napping on the wine cabinet lately. I like it better on the sideboard because the wine cabinet was too high to appreciate the village anyway. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village, putz churchThis year, Naoto added to my collection with a tiny Putz church!! And again, he struck gold with intact windows and doors!! It has some faded trees, but I love the little gate and the blue walkway! This one hardly has any glitter left so I may add some…but I hesitate to mess with its worn charm too much.

Here’s a little video of the complete village…

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Origami Chopstick Holder

I’m the worst you guys! Thanks so much to Susan for reminding me in the comments to post the chopstick/pen holder! I took these pictures back when it was still summer, but then didn’t love the lighting so I figured I would take more, but then the busy-ness of October caught up with me. And now that I’m more free, we’re hitting a rainy spell in Forest Park, which isn’t helping with bright pictures! So, I’m posting these today with hopes of a sunny morning soon so I can update with some brighter, clearer pictures. I really love how easy this project is and I’m trying to find long, skinny objects for all of my friends so I can wrap their gifts in fancy paper holders.

You can use any kind of paper for this project, but I find handmade papers to be most forgiving. (This section at Paper Source is a great place to look for types of handmade papers that work well for origami projects. Steer clear of anything that is flocked or may be too thick to fold well. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!)  When I made Karen’s pencil holder, I used a lokta paper and I’ve used Japanese washi as well. Both of those fold beautifully. Wood based paper will work just fine though, so you can use wrapping paper or anything pretty you have on hand. It’s just not always as easy to manipulate and tends to show mistakes more.

You’ll need to cut your paper to an 8×8 inch square. I used a ruler and scissors for this since the paper is too large for my paper cutter. Do your best to get nice straight lines since origami is a pretty exact science. My paper had a deckled edge so I placed that at the top to add some interest to the collar of the pencil/chopstick holder. You could also cut the deckled edge off and just have clean edges all around. A bone holder (that thing on the right) is helpful to smooth your folds, but if you don’t have one, you’re fingers will work just fine.
Flip your paper over so the pattern is facing down. Fold the paper in half. Open and fold the right half to meet the center fold. Then fold the left half to meet the center fold. Unfold and now you should have four equal sections in your square. Fold your left corner down to meet the first fold (from the left.) Fold your right corner down to meet the center fold. Now fold the left side over to meet the middle. And fold again in the same direction. It’s kind of like rolling it closed. One last turn and this is what the back should look like. Flip it over and this is what the front should look like. (But turn it back over because we need to finish the back part.) On the back side, fold the bottom up about a quarter of an inch or so. This will be the bottom of the holder. Use some clear tape to hold it closed. I know washi tape would be cuter here, but most of it won’t hold securely on handmade paper. Clear tape gets the job done.
Stick in some chopsticks, pencils, pens, magic wands…and you’re done! I made a bunch for my birthday party this year and for Hasegawa Tanabata. All the different patterns make a pretty table (or picnic!)

Let me know if the instructions are confusing and I’ll try to clear them up! And please send me pics of your finished origami pencil holders!

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First-Day-Of-School Pencil Pack

pencil gift, first day of school, CW Pencil enterprises, folded chopstick holder, pencil paperKaren started a new job last week teaching a class at University of Illinois at Chicago. We wanted to give Professor Karen (I’m sure her students call her something more formal.) a little good luck gift to send her off on her first day.Frixion pens, Japanese pens, CW Pencils, editing pencil, highlighter pencil, combo pencil, pencilsLike me, Karen loves Frixion pens, so I pulled a .05 from the “Japanese vault” and added it with a couple of pencils from C.W. Pencils. The Editor looked like a perfect pencil for grading and planning. (Are papers still graded on…paper?) And the Graphite/Highlighter combo seemed perfect for planning and note taking.  I folded a little origami pencil holder for them out of my new favorite pencil paper. I’ll post a quick tutorial for the pencil holder next week. It’s so easy and they have so many uses! (They’re actually chopstick holders!)

P.S. Thinking of our friends (and family!) in Florida and the Carolinas this weekend as another hurricane heads for the US. The devastation on the islands in the Atlantic is just heartbreaking. And still thinking of our friends in Texas who are cleaning up after last month’s hurricane.

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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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Washi Weekend: Back to School Edition

washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI’ve been in 100% neon mode for my mail and my planner this summer. I’ve been using all of my neon washi tapes, pens, pencils, stickers and papers. It’s been fun, but I’m ready for a change, a change to school supplies. Even though I’m not going back to school, I ordered myself a few pencils from CW Pencil Enterprises last week. Those new pencils got me in the mood to refresh my desk space and break out some back-to-school treats from my washi and Japan stationery hoard. I have a “Japan drawer” in my desk that holds a bunch of washi tapes and backup pens. Since we most likely aren’t going to Japan this year, I’ve been dipping into my stash more and more. It’s like having my own little store to visit. washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI bought a few limited edition washi tapes during our last trip that fit the back-to-school bill perfectly. The top two are collaborations between mt and two iconic Japanese brands, and the bottom one was a special tape created by bunbougu cafesparrow notebooks, sparrow washi tape, japanese office suppliesThe first tape (similar) comes from the Tsubame Notebooks in Japan. These notebooks are iconic in Japanese schools, kind of like composition notebooks here in the U.S. Except, as usual, Japan Does It Better! The paper is high-quality and works really well with pencils and a variety of pens. (This JetPens video shows it all nicely!) Tsubame Notebooks have been hand-bound since the 1947 and have remained unchanged since then. I just love the graphic sparrow logo. And here’s a little secret: I bought the notebook after I bought the tape. Fueki glue, Japanese glue, washi weekend, MT tapes, school suppliesFueki glue is another popular Japanese school supply. Fueki-kun, the little yellow mascot, is a pot of glue. It’s made from 100% corn starch and is safe for young children. Fueki has been around since 1925 and offers a large line of products, including (grown up) glue sticks, India inks, paper supplies, and even cosmetics. I’m a bit older than the Fueki-kun market, but I thought the little pot was so cute and it was only sixty cents so I bought a few. The little dog makes such a cute tape, don’t you think?

bunbougu cafe, tokyo office supplies, tokyo stationery, washi tape, pencil sharpenerAnd lastly, a little bit about the bunbougu cafe tape. It has drawings of pencil sharpeners, pencils, and pencil marks. Next to the pencil sharpeners, it says, “gari gari” which is the onomatopoeia for “grate grate.” (Things sound different in Japanese–all of their animal noises are different too!)

presley with Fueki nori on her head, things on my catI’m looking forward to some back-to-school mail this week!

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2016

Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations dayLast month, we had a few friends over to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese festival celebrated on July 7th. (We held our party the weekend after.) The celebration revolves around an old Chinese legend.

Orihime, daughter of Tentei (the Sky King,) had a lover, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa (the Milky Way.) Orihime and Hikoboshi were both hardworking gods. She was a weaver and he was a cow herder. But once they got married, they became lazy which upset the Sky King so he separated them with the Amanogawa. Orihime was so devastated that her father promised her she could be reunited with Hikoboshi, but only on the seventh day of the seventh month and only if she and Hikoboshi worked very hard. But because the lovers were separated by the river, magpies had to build a bridge so they could meet. Tanabata is the celebration of the lovers crossing the Milky Way to meet each other again.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan, sometimes on July 7th and sometimes in August (for those keeping with an older calendar system.) Modern day festivals include fireworks and bright, colorful decorations. (I love these pictures! #decorationgoals) Festival-goers also write wishes on pretty paper strips and tie them to bamboo branches in hopes their wishes will come true. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepI wasn’t planning to celebrate Tanabata, but once I read more about it, I couldn’t wait to have an excuse to invite a couple of friends over for a little mid-summer celebration. I did some research and found a few easy decorations to make. I spent a morning folding a few traditional Tanabata ornaments to hang on the lanai. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami fan Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami bamboo leavesI folded fans and lanterns and made a trail of bamboo leaves (the green one…please excuse my imperfect folds!) and cut a little blue net (which is so simple but turns out so neat looking!)Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations nightI also used this printable and cut strips so we could each write down our wishes. I tied the strips to my basil plant, the most bamboo-like plant on the lanai.
Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, somenI made a yuzu cocktail and Naoto made edamame and somenHasegawa Tanabata 2016, Naoto eating somen(Naoto was the only one who ate his noodles with a fork.) Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepAnd Presley even got into the action, tearing up one of the decorations and chasing it around the apartment all day. (How could I be mad with that sweet, innocent face looking up at me?)

I’m already thinking of Hasegawa Tanabata 2017. I have a Tanabata Pinterest board going so I can keep all of the origami instructions and ideas together until next year. I think I may need to start folding now, right?

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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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