Thursday, July 4, 2013

Japan 2013: First Full Day

Brendan & Beanie at Starbucks:

We got to Tokyu Hands around 11:15, & so we decided to meet at the escalators outside Yuzawaya (my fave craft store) at noon, with the guys heading to look at watches for Brendan & maybe bow ties, too. We had decided that it's time to replace Brendan's analog watch with a digital one, since digital time just makes more sense to him. And it would be even more fun to find one in Japan as a souvenir he can use every day.

So we synchronised our watches/iphones & I headed-off to the 11th floor of Takashimaya, where Yuzawaya is. If I seem to be using Tokyu Hands & Takashimaya interchangeably, it's because they sit side-by-side in the same huge building & share escalators on the south side of the Takashimaya department store. Takashimaya is a traditional department store, with a large part of the goods there being clothing. Since most Japanese clothing doesn't come close to fitting my Western-shaped body, I'm far more interested in the Tokyu Hands side of things... & Yuzawaya, too. Tokyu Hands sells just about everything, but my favourite floors are the ones that sell stationery (pens, pencils, post-its, origami paper, stickers- these may sound boring but not when they're from Japan, where cool & cute rule) & accessories for electronics & other toys :)

Yuzawaya probably compares most closely to JoAnn Fabrics in the US, but it's soooo much more. There are bolts & bolts of fabric, but also small packets of traditional Japanese fabrics & kits to sew all sorts of things, from cute cell phone straps to wall hangings or seasonal displays. There are aisles & aisles of findings, buttons, supplies for every craft know to humanity, & of course, yarn & patterns books. I love Japanese crochet books so much! They are always charted, so it's really easy to figure out the patterns with my level of Japanese reading skills. The patterns are either really cute or really stylish. I also love tawashi books. Tawashi are "eco" reusable scrubbies that are usually crocheted. They are often cute & shaped like animals or sweets. They are great small projects, & luckily I found another good tawashi book, so I got some yarn to go with it so I can make some projects for Nerd Wars, the Ravelry game I play, while in Japan. I also found a few more good pattern books, particularly one on Estonian-style knitting & crochet! Very interesting & colourful. I also found a Noro brand yarn that I've never seen in the States (Noro is a very fancy & popular Japanese yarn company) so I picked up a couple balls of Melody yarn. As I was looking around I found so very cool findings- cell phone straps (just the straps) in silver & gold, which I've never seen at home, & some tiny clasp-purse findings to make coin purses.

About the time I went to check-out the guys found me :) They had looked at watches & wanted my input, so after  checking-out we went down a few floors in Tokyu Hands & looked at some Casio digital watches. Brendan chose one with a matte black band that has a light & stopwatch function, so we got it for him & then went to look at electronics accessories. Charlie & I like to get earbud sets when we're here because they are soooo much more comfortable than the ones that came with our phones. They are also easily lost & broken, so we stock up. We found some cool ones that come on a reel, so you don't have to wind them around a holder. We also got Brendan a new iPhone 4 case, since his was shredding from hard use. He chose a slimline grey case, & we nearly plotzed when we found Mameshiba pluggies for the earphone hole. Yay Mameshiba!!!
Brendan's new iphone look :)

Next stop was lunch. The top 2 floors of Japanese department stores are usually restaurants, & we found a soba place to have lunch. Since it's summer, we had zaru  soba (cold noodles served on a woven bamboo plate, which are dipped in broth & then eaten) with sides of vegetable tempura. Yum!!!

Where's Beanie?
Instead of dipping sauce, tempura in this area is served with flavoured salt. The soba is also served with a pot of the hot cooking water, which  you add to the leftover dipping broth & drink.

After lunch the guys went back to the hotel & I did some shopping in the stationery department at Tokyu Hands & then went down to the basement of Takashimaya, where the grocery store & prepared food kiosks are. Oh, & bakeries too :) I got some yummy snacks & drinks for afternoon snack time & then went back to the hotel, too.
After we rested for a while (& had snacks :) Charlie & I decided to take a walk to find a shrine that seemed nearby on the map. Shinjuku is a sea of highrise buildings, so we were curious to see how a shrine would fit into this urban place. On the walk there I saw this street sign, showing the direction ti Ikebukuro, which I thought Brendan & some of my Nerd Wars teammates would enjoy, since the awesome anime Durarara takes place in Ikebukuro. 

It only took about 15 minutes to walk to the Hanazono Jinja, on MeijiDori (Meiji Street). It was well-tucked between modern buildings, but there were old trees sticking out from between the buildings that made it easy to spot. It's a very tiny space, but the shrine is very beautiful.

We put our go-en (5 yen coins) in the box & said our prayers, then looked around a bit. There were workmen setting up what looked like kiosks on the grounds, & when we got back to the hotel we googled it & discovered that every Sunday they have a market there. On the walk home we stopped by the food kiosks in Takashimaya's basement to look for some dinner. We found some yummy pastries at a panya (bakery) there for breakfast tomorrow, but had a hard time finding anything without meat in it for dinner (Brendan is veggie), so we went for Italian (!) in a restaurant in the building our hotel is in.
Where's Beanie?

On the way back to our room we stopped in the hotel shop to get some beverages to have with breakfast & I found a wonderful example of Japanglish in the "Pungency" milk tea bottles in the fridge there.

We are now relaxing by watching funny Japanese tv shows & getting ready to turn in for the night. I am hoping fervently for an uninterrupted night of sleep!!

And tomorrow we get to see babies!!!

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