Tokyo Craft Guide

You may have noticed it, up there.  Look a little higher… a little higher…

There it is, my Tokyo Craft Guide — an ever growing list of the fabric shops, paper shops, yarn shops, and cream puff counters in Tokyo.  I know that is a pretty huge endeavor, but give me time, people.

While out and about, hunting and haunting every craft-related shop in this fair city, I started keeping a list and eventually, a Google map.  Then I thought, “Wow, six-months-ago-me would have totally loved me for this!”  Cue light bulb.

Dear future-you, I hope you enjoy this guide, inspired by six-months-ago-me and updated by the here-and-now-me, for your craft-shopping pleasure!

You can find the full Tokyo Craft Guide here, and a map here.  Questions or comments?  Leave me a note, I’d love to hear from you!

Murder Pie

One of the reasons I love blueberry pie — it always looks like something went terribly wrong…

Blueberry Murder might make a good name for my pie shop.

These are from Pie Night at Chef Miri’s.  That one hiding in the back?  Chocolate Banana Cream.  It sort of has a deep-dish thing going on, which is a very good idea.

Valentine Sweets

In Japan, it is a Valentine’s Day custom for women to give men chocolates. I don’t even love chocolate that much, and I feel cheated.

You are supposed to give your Valentine handmade chocolates and reserve the store-bought stuff for friends and coworkers, but I saw these and couldn’t resist:

Highball-filled chocolates. Dan called them whiskey Gushers. Eeew. Or, ooooh?

I’m looking forward to White Day, the holiday on March 14th when men reciprocate. According to trusty Wikipedia, I can expect jewelry, white chocolate, or marshmallows.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Update – I just found this.  Totally eeew.

I Really Need to Stab Something

It has been a tough week, so when my calendar buzzed to remind me about sashiko class this afternoon, I had mixed feelings. Though I knew it would be good for me to be around other humans, going to class takes so much effort. I know I’m whining, but listening is hard work.

I decided to buck up and go, and as always, I am glad I did. It turned out I really just needed to stab something.

In case you are new here, a quick debriefing: my craft-time pastime of choice is sashiko, a style of embroidery, which in Japanese means “little stabs.”  And I love to overwork the pun.  As can be evidenced here, here and here.  And here.

The concentrated craft time made me feel better.

A new kit was waiting for me when I got to class, a pouch for holding my sashiko goods.  The kit comes with everything you’ll need — thread, fabric, pattern.  The design includes an image of Japanese scissors, which according to Dan look like Pac Man.  I have scissors more like this, which all the ladies get a kick out of.  (For those observant few — yep, that is a sashiko coaster.  More on that to come…)

Class-time chatter was mostly about shopping.  I think I picked up on this mostly because I’ve become familiar with the various department stores (mmmm, food halls), though I’ve also learned a few more verbs (yay for action words!).  The ladies were cheerful, and they watched me stitch and nodded their approval.  My sensei even sent me home with her pouch, so I can have a model to look at while I work between classes.  Look at the size of her stitches on the left, compared to mine on the right.  So teeeny.  I’ve got some practicing to do.

Here is the reverse, what my pouch will look like someday.  The red felt is for holding pins and needles, and the pouch will hold all my threads and tools.  I’m so excited.  The only thing I love as much as crafting is organizing my crafts.

My favorite part of every class is show-and-tell.  I love watching as everyone pulls out the projects they’ve completed since we last met, and the whole table echos with sugoi! With this group of crafty old ladies it comes from the gut, and the table sounds like a chorus of beer-chuggin’ dudes.  I love it.

An Afternoon Stroll

On Saturday Dan and I took a stroll to Nippori in search of Yanaka Ginza.  We recently purchased a new camera and thought the quaint shopping street would be perfect for some practice shots.

But first, no afternoon stroll through Tokyo can begin without ramen:

We didn’t even make it to the train station before this stop, since this ramen-ya is in our neighborhood.  Dangerous, I know.  B1F, 1-7-9 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku  博多チムそば 麻布十番店、〒106-0045 東京都港区麻布十番1丁目7−9

On to Yanaka Ginza.  Well, almost.  To reach Yanaka Ginza we had to take the train to the JR Nippori station, which is also the home of Fabric Town:

Does anyone remember Cheapo in Minneapolis?  Oh, the hours I spent trying to look interested in used CDs while Dan click-clicked his way through new arrivals.  Apparently it’s payback time.  (You can find more info on Textile Heaven here.)  Only one hour was lost, and then it was back to our mission…

We got a little turned around, and eventually found our way across the train tracks via tunnel.  I sort of love/hate it when I’m in one of these tunnels and the train passes overhead.  Popping out the other side, we noticed people were gathering:

We’d stumbled upon Fujimizaka (meaning Fuji view slope), and joined just in time to watch the sun set over the city.  Everyone was gathered along a road that climbed up a steep hill (apparently some with better cameras than us).  If you are like me and need a little help, Fuji-san was just about here:

Finally, on with our quest.  We were looking for Yanaka Ginza, a small shopping street in northeastern Tokyo that is famous for maintaining the feel of Shitamachi, the traditional and lower class part of Edo which housed merchants and artisans in the marshy (read: humid and stinky) low part of the city.  Most of Shitamachi is gone, due to fires and wars over the years, but a few areas of Tokyo still do it right.  After some iPhone-led zig-zagging through neighborhoods, we finally arrived… and forgot to take photos.

Believe me though, it’s great.  We bought sencha 煎茶, stood in line for grilled meats, and wandered from shop window to cafe menu.  On our way home, we passed a small shrine tucked along the road:

A nice end to a lovely winter day.