Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hello from Japan...

Where do I start?  I went from an incredibly hot, humid day in Brisbane feeling - decidedly uncomfortable in the humid heat, to a wet, overcast, cold day in Tokyo where agin I feel decidedly uncomfortable in the cold, with only a few hours travel in between.  But how wonderful it is.

The morning we arrived (I'm here with Melanie, my daughter) there were even snow drops falling.  We are staying in Bunkyo Bunkyo near the Japan Medical & Dental Universities at a place I found on the internet.

We had a choice of 'western' rooms, but by accident I booked a traditional Japanese room.  We enter a little foyer where I almost feel I should bend because the ceiling is quite low.  Off to the right is a tiny bathroom - the toilet is in an area smaller than a closet, and the bathroom contains a traditional Japanese bath - about 90cm deep and maybe that square, with a tiled floor.  You're supposed to wash yourself off with the handheld shower beside the bath before immersing yourself.  I've got to admit, I haven't tried the bath yet - the shower works just fine and I'm not sure there'd be enough hot water for me to try a bath just yet.

After the foyer we enter what I'd call the sitting room.  There are tatami mats on the floor (you must take your shoes off and leave them at the front door), rice paper screens over the windows and dividing the room from the sleeping area, and a small low table with two cushions on the floor where we sit.  We sleep on futons in the next room.  It's all very thrilling, and although Melanie will tell you I've grumbled a bit about getting up and down from the floor, I'm sure I will be much healthier and considerably more flexible when I get home to Australia.

Travelling around Tokyo is not proving an issue at all. They have an amazing train and subway network (fortunately Melanie seems to manage it all very well), and this is how we get around. It's very cheap, clean and efficient! 

Day 1 we head to Ikebukuro looking for a shop we'd read about called Loft. Despite me seeing it written on top of a building (a few stories up), we spent several hours wandering around (very happily) many shops without finding it.   I did find a wonderful shop that sold the most beautiful paper I have ever seen and everywhere we went people greet us as we enter and call out (I'm assuming to thank us as we leave).

Day 2 we head to the Tokyo Dome for the Tokyo International Quilt Festival. I have many, many photos but if you'd like to see some check out Melaniemade on flickr (I'm not sure how flickr works, but if you google melaniemade flickr, I'm sure you'll find something) - she's loaded many that she took. The quilts are breathtaking in the detail that is included and most are hand quilted in amazing patterns. Initially I was surprised by the lack of colour, however this isn't a true description. In Australia, I think we use quite dramatic, hit you in the face type colours and designs, where here the work and colours are subtle, drawing you into the design which is very complex and precise. I feel very humble when I think of my own patchwork efforts.
This isn't the best picture, but I'm hoping you'll get an idea of the size of the Quilt Show.  The Tokyo Dome is mostly used as a baseball stadium and this is taken from the top of the steps going down to floor level.  We got there very early in the morning and already the crowd is huge. 

It's very cold today and that night as we are sitting very comfortably in the heated room, I open the screen to see what the strange noise is.  Would you believe it is snowing!  Being Queenslanders we have to grab our coates, shoes and camera and head down to actually feel it!  I've just realized that I've managed to lose the photos (not happy), but I do have the one I took fom the top of the Hotel the next morning.  Already the hotel staff have swept away most of the snow, but you can still see it if you look closely.  I've got to tell you however that that tiled floor is incredibly slippery with ice.

Looking over the balcony, you can see what remains on the street.  Already everyone has been out cleaning the road and the footpath.  Apparently there was about 6inches of snow fall.

Day 3 - Harajuku - a fun shopping destination for Melanie.  Lots of amazing little alleyways and shops with lots to look at.  The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.
We were there on a Sunday, when many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay ("costume play"), dressed up in crazy costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc.

  See how narrow the street is.

Just south of Takeshita Dori is Omotesando, a broad, tree lined avenue sometimes referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Here you can find famous brand name shops, cafes and restaurants for a more adult clientele. The stylish Omotesando Hills complex is home amongst many other designer brand shopes, to Jimmy Choos and it took some time to drag Melanie awy from a devine pair of shoes that just weren't meant for her! 

Melanie's just growled and reminded me I'm not supposed to be writing an essay, so I'd better get going, we've off to Nippori the fabric district today and I suspect my luggage limit on the airplane may just be stretched.

Cheers, Bev

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