Just got back from my latest trip to Tokyo!
From humble beginnings in 2006, my little Japan Crafts has grown to the point where I'm having to travel to Japan twice a year on business. Such a chore! So, I always try to squeeze in as much as I can while I'm there.
This time I had 5 days in Tokyo, and with the invaluable help of my friend Emiko, we had done all the business stuff by the end of day 2. Together, we really are a Dynamic Duo! Especially in 30C heat - I was also sick with exhaustion throughout the week and couldn't sleep. So, 3 days to relax...yeah right...
We went to a puppet maker's studio, where the puppets were a bit like Spitting Image, only smaller, so you could operate them with one finger.
After that, he did a performance of various puppet characters, to the accompaniment of different tapes (yes, tapes).
We checked into a ryokan (traditional inn) where there was a choice of bath - a ceramic one which looked a bit like those terracotta dishes you sometimes get Brussels pate in, and a cypress wood one. I went for the wooden one, while Emiko tried out the pate dish. Mmm, so relaxing for our exhausted muscles. There was a window at bath-height which could be slid open to reveal a Japanese garden, lit up with lanterns. Water trickled from a small fountain, and there were real goldfish swimming around! Easy to forget we were in the middle of Tokyo.
We were given yukata (cotton kimono) for nightwear, which was very comfortable. The only thing that alarmed me slightly was the means of escape (Boyf used to be a H&S trainer, so I have it drummed into me to check for these things in a hotel). He'd be proud to know that I did check, and this was the emergency exit from our 3rd floor room. OMG.
After lunch we visited another museum which was absolutely fascinating, but by this time we were dog tired and could barely stand. We looked round a few rooms before admitting defeat and heading back out. But just as were were leaving, someone collared us and offered us a free Tea Ceremony tour which was about to begin. The thought of a sit down and a cup of tea was too tempting, so we joined the tour.
Oh my goodness. After being given electronic anti-mosquito devices and badges to wear, we were introduced to our tour hosts (there were about 8 of them) and our group of about 25 bowed to each guide as they were introduced. We were led (the front guide with her right hand raised throughout, despite it being obvious that we were following her as there was only one path), through a garden to a tea house. After a talk about the tea house, we were moved on to another tea house. This was repeated 6 times, and it became apparent we were not going to be getting any tea! We tried gamely to concentrate on understanding/translating what the guides were saying, but were just too exhausted by the third tea house and gave up. At the end of about an hour and a half, we were released back at the museum steps - it seems we had both misunderstood what the tour was all about! Oh well.
The garden was very beautiful, though, and again, it was easy to forget you were in central Tokyo.
Since one of my favourite kaiten-zushi restaurants is in nearby Omotesando, it seemed rude not to stop there for lunch. I just love shouting out my order to the chefs and the way all the staff shout their welcome and thank you to each customer, it's a really warm, relaxing atmosphere. Plus, they do a great vegi special.
I managed to pick up some second hand hakama and obi for my iaido, then headed to Shibuya, just for the fun of it. The station spat me out at the famous 'scramble crossing', which was completely insane - each minute about 1,000 people crossed, while deafening music blared from every shop and staff in silly costumes shouted their wares up and down the streets. Love it! But in 30C heat with several heavy shopping bags and an impending migraine, I crossed the scramble crossing a couple of times just to say I'd done it, then got lost in the huge station for about an hour, which would have been fun if not for the aching arms and migraine.
Next day I was meeting Emiko and her friends in a remote town outside Tokyo. She'd told me which train line to take, but I wasn't prepared for just how back-of-beyond this place was! After 2 and a half hours on the train I'd passed through mountains and beautiful scenery, and arrived half an hour late to meet the ladies. Fortunately, they'd realised I was going to be late so it was OK.
We walked to a museum/school of meisen weaving, which was just incredible. It's a technique I've always admired, being partial to the Taisho-Roman style of kimono dressing, so I was chuffed to learn about the process and experience this for myself.
The warp threads are pre-dyed, and I was able to have a go at this myself.
The other ladies tried stencil painting and produced some lovely handkerchiefs and coasters.
Next, Emiko and I tried weaving. We chose our threads, wound them and then wove. Here is my effort, a small coaster, and the colours I chose for the weft.
The next morning I was leaving early for my flight home, and as I took a last look out of my 12th floor window, I saw in the distance...MOUNT FUJI!!!