Saturday, 6 December 2008

She's back

Well, it's been some time and I apologise for that. I've been back from Japan for two weeks now and I've been completely silent. I can't describe how absolutely amazing Japan was. In one word, it was brill! I'm writing a zine about my trip and observations. The working title is A Foreigner in Tokyo.

It was an intense 12 days of experiences - exploring, observing, walking, eating, drinking - and buying! I will mainly stick to the crafty stuff for your benefit. The store-bought travel guide was very useful for some things, but the only shopping it really touched on was electrical goods and vintage kimonos, neither of which I could really afford. Thankfully just before I left I just happened to stumble upon the most useful thing ever. I have to give unlimited amounts of gratitude to Marceline and her zine Tokyo Shopping Guide. This little guide helped me find all the crafty, cute, kawaii and kitsch shops I would never have found out about otherwise. Zines to the rescue!

The first craft shop I came across however was completely by accident. It was Day 5 and we had transferred from Tokyo to a small town at the foot of Mt. Fuji called Hakone.

A view of Mt. Fuji from Owakadani.

Boy and I were wandering down the street looking for a place to buy some food when I happened to glance through the window of a shop and see wool! My heart skipped a beat! I immediately went in and started rummaging around. It was one of those wonderful, old-fashioned shops where everything is all piled up, and the lady writes down the prices on a piece of paper. I bought a few kimono fabric squares, an amigurumi cow kit, some buttons, a crochet book called Magic Scrubbers Part 9 and my favourite find so far - a kumihimo braiding kit!

Braiding in action.

A few days later, we went to Tokyu Hands, which is a life-enhancing department store dedicated to all things fun and creative. Boy and I got some fun and creative stuff there! The top floor had a decent-sized craft section. It was interesting to see the types of crafts that were represented: e.g. glass engraving and leather-working. There were even a couple of whole calf skins! Euw! I only bought a couple of little things - some buttons and a stencil. The stationery floor was amazing! And amazingly crowded. Boy and I had a really quick look at everything, but nothing topped the rubber stamp making kits that we found. They came with a carving tool, 'blank' rubber stamp block (very similar to what erasers are made of), an ink pad and a handle for the stamp to slip into. Cool! Later in another store we picked up a whole set of tools with different profiles for advanced carving! This could be very fun!

My last crafty experience was on Day 10, which was a designated 'big shopping day'. :) After spending the morning in the electrical goods suburb of Akihibara, we went to Fabric Street, in Fabric Town. Well, it's actually called Nippori, but the whole place is filled with fabric and sewing accessories shops, so they must have thought they would just run with it.

I love this place!

The biggest shop was one called Tomato. It has a separate haberdashery shop, and then a main fabric shop with 5 floors. It was very exciting. I bought some kawaii buttons and beads, some braid, a frog plushie kit, some fat quarter packs, and some 1-2 metre lots of of some cheaper but still cute fabrics. I stood in a corner of the shop and quickly boned up on the Japanese for "one metre please" and "two metres please" before I approached the counter and I seemed to do OK. Interestingly the fabric with the cute kokeshi dolls on the black background was one of the cheapest in the whole shop. They had so many fat quarters that it made my head spin. In the end I just chose some pre-matched stacks with about 8 pieces each and 2 slightly larger pieces. Then I checked out some of the smaller shops on the street. One seemed to specialise in American quilt-making supplies, another had some random but great stuff. I could have bought a lot more, but I was aware of how the Australian Dollar had recently dive-bombed to pathetic lows, as well as the weight limit on my suitcase, so I was in tight-arse mode. I did stock up on some extra-large ricrac and pompom edging though!

Throughout the trip, I did no crafting whatsoever, and I didn't read anything longer than a menu. I thought I'd go crazy, but I didn't even realise until after it was over. I did however, put a lot of energy into writing and decorating my travel journal. I think that this was enough of a crafty/arty/writy outlet to satisfy me during the trip. Spending 12 days in an almost constant state of excitement was pretty draining - the first five days or so after I got back, I did very little, crafty or otherwise. I was suffering from a major case of the post-travelling blues. Then I got out my kumihimo braiding disc and gave it a try. It's my new favourite craft! I've churned out tons of five braids in different colours and materials, branching out from 8-strand to 16-strand thicknesses. I just don't know what to do with them, that's all. I've seen them made into keychains, necklaces and bracelets, but that would involve a foray into the realm of jewellery making that I've never been willing to take. When you think about it though, for every need that requires fairly thick string or cord, I could use a kumihimo braid. My brain is whizzing.

Kumihimo braid - 16-strand thickness using acrylic yarn; the first braid I made in 4 colours with cord from the kit.

In other news, I received my Etsy Christmas swap package last week. It's a beautiful illustration of a bird in a tree. I hung it in the loungeroom above the entrance to the hobby room and I love looking at it!

So pretty!

Also, I sold some zines while I was away! After a drought of about 6 weeks, I finally sold 2 copies of the Thrify Crafter zine. I also had a bulk order for 6 copies each of two of the smaller ones. That's so exciting! It's really spurring me on to write more.

Oh, yeah and P.S. here's a photo to prove I was really there!

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