Saturday, June 25, 2011

We Interrupt This (Ir)regularly Scheduled Programme...

Hi there! As of tomorrow, June 26th, 2011, this fibre/craft blog will temporarily become a travel blog. We are leaving tomorrow for nearly 3 weeks in Japan! We've been planning this trip for nearly a year, & the prep included my having reconstructive back surgery (!) in January because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to tolerate flying.

This will be our third trip to Japan, our first being 4 years ago. As I may have mentioned before, my son & I have been studying Japanese for 6 years. Our first trip was a reward of sorts, & a boost to continue our studies. Brendan was 11 years old then, & part of this trip was a visit to the family of our first Japanese teacher, Tomoko, on Kyushu. We stayed with her mom, who lives next door to Tomoko's sister & family, including 2 boys slightly younger than Brendan. While we were there we visited the boys' elementary school & took a weekend trip to Asosan, an active volcano, & stayed at onsen & ryokan (tradition hot springs & inns). It was absolutely amazing!! We also discovered one of our favourite places in the world, Uji, which is near Kyoto in the tea-growing region there. It's a beautiful town with many old temples & shrines & very historic.

For our second trip, 2 years ago this past Spring, we decided to go during Spring Break, rather than in the summer, to see the cherry blossoms (see top photo). We could only go for 2 weeks that time, which I found to be a bit short. We didn't make it to the south of Japan that time, but did go back to Uji for a day while we were in Kyoto.

So this time we are going back in the summer, so we can stay longer (although it will be hotter...). When we first get to Tokyo we're going to de-jet-lag for a few days in a hotel in Shinjuku, normally not a place we'd stay because it's so busy. Which is why we thought it would be fun to stay there briefly. And, as it turns out, one of the coolest stores for crafters, Tokyo Hands, is right across the street from our hotel! Whoo hoo! Plus, a branch of Yuzawaya, another wonderful place that sells crafts, yarn, etc is right next to Tokyo Hands. I visited the main store on our last trip to Tokyo & it was amazing...

After we've recovered from flying (& before I buy too much yarn & stuff...) we're going back to see Tomoko's family in the south of Japan. We've got our JR passes & will board the shinkansen (bullet train) on Thursday for Kyushu. All of our boys have grown so much in the past 4 years & we're looking forward to seeing Tomoko & her family. While looking for an activity for the boys to do together, we suggested to Tomoko that they might like to try Dungeons & Dragons (since they really like computer games) & she thought that was a great idea, so I found the starter set at and Brendan used it to learn the Japanese terms for gameplay & to make a scenario for a game (plus had our present Japanese teacher translate the character sheet for him). Brendan's been our local DM for over a year (we have an intergenerational D&D group that meets about once a month) & he's looking forward to stretching his DM skills in another language :) I'm looking forward to doing some cooking with Tomoko's mom, & have translated some recipes for scones & cookies into Japanese so we can make some together as well. Kind of a cooking exchange :)
Here is our dining room table about 4 weeks ago, with Settlers of Catan battling it out with 4 boxes that we sent to Japan in anticipation of our trip. The boxes have presents & baking paraphernalia & weighed a total of 32 lbs. It was quite a project to get them sent (customs forms, 'nuff said) & a great relief as well.

After about 5 days with Tomoko's family, we head back north to Uji to stay for 2 nights in a lovely place called the Hana Yashiki (Flower Mansion) right on the Uji river. Then we head to Tokyo for a week to see Momo (yay!) my good friend who I met while she was living nearby while her husband was in grad school. Momo moved back to Japan just a year ago & even though we skype regularly, I can't wait to see her!! We'll also see our neighbour's daughter, who is a school teacher in Tokyo & who we do fun things with every time we go, & will meet up with some other folks as well.

To prepare for this trip, I also did some crafting :) First, there was the tea cozy project, all of which were packed into the boxes sent about a month ago. Over this past week I've also made rhubarb marmalade, which I often send to Tomoko's family because they really like it, & a bunch of lavender-mint lip balms.

The lip balm is my own recipe & made with all-organic ingredients.
I am particularly happy about the labels (thank you Avery label maker!):
I managed to make them in Japanese & English! When we're in Japan we often give small gifts to people we meet who have been kind to us (it's a custom there) so I like to be well-prepared. We also bring postcards from our home town because people like to know where you're from, & candies made locally.

So please stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks. We won't always have internet access, but I plan to put up a post (eventually) for every day of the trip. おたのしみにしてください!Please look forward to it! 

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