Sunday, January 29, 2012

Just 2 more quintessential items to share from my Japanese adventures last week

Those of you who have beaded with me know how much I love these sweet little pins...even more so now that they make them in Tulip shape.

During my tour of the Tulip plant and offices I saw this package of enormous pins. They are large replicas of the cellulose head pins seen on the left. I'm told teachers use these large ones for demonstration/educational purposes.
Please forgive me if you must sit through this while I tell the story once again:

For many years Tulip has been providing sewing kits to 4th graders studying handicrafts. Among the items in the sewing kit is a cellulose head pin. The children are encouraged to write their name on it, learning the value of the smallest tool.

How I love that story. It seems to me quintessentially Japanese. In contrast to my experience of elementary school...learning to use paper cups and a growing number of other disposable items.
Tulip staff knows I am charmed by this story, these pins and even more, to know Mr Harada's father invented the machine that made their first cellulose head pins.

Until a few months ago, before having my first Tulip fine beading awl, these pins were my fav item to tease knots open in beading thread.

Fumiko Ishikawa gifted me this 3 level lacquerware bento box. It is decorated with momiji, or maple leaves, the symbol of Hiroshima. We didn't have a chance to visit after I opened her gift and didn't ask it's origins. But, looking on line, it was made in Ishikawa prefecture. (This prefecture shares her name.) In Kyoto and Kamakura there was so much lacquerware I admired. I am delighted to have this gorgeous bento box as a reminder of Fumiko and this wonderful time in Japan. Plus, I carry at least one meal a week with me. This 4.5" cube will be a beautiful way to pack and enjoy these meals.

There... I seriously hope this concludes my posts about this recent trip to Japan.
There might be posts that describe the factory tour, but only when I start to put that all together.

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Just a final few things to share about my enjoyment of Japan last week.

In addition to exploring the food floor of Mitsukoshi Department Store Motoko and I shopped at Ninben.
Ninben is a purveyor of katsuobushi and other dry goods established in 1699.

In addition to a bag of the bonito flakes I use to make dashi, I bought the dried tuna filet.

Rather than purchase the device shown here to shave the filet to produce flakes, I'll use a plane, not so different from those my carpenter/woodworker husband Jay uses.
Ninben sells choice hongare katsuobushi, which means it has had the mold applied at least 4 times during the 6 months it takes skilled craftsmen to make.
Delicate flakes are also eaten as a food topping. It not only enhances the flavor of the other ingredients, it also dances in a most intriguing way.
When our appetites returned Motoko had a fine idea. She knows that the restaurant we enjoyed in Nagoya in 2008, known for its tebasaki, Nagoya-style chicken wings, has a branch in Tokyo. Yamachan's wings are crispy and non-greasy and soooo good with beer, though I took the opportunity to have saki.
Our visit felt luxurious though only a day long.
It was snowing on our walk back to the Tokyo Done Hotel. That little bit of white ornamental snow was lovely though, I heard it caused a bit of traffic havoc overnight. Tokyo drivers are unaccustomed to driving in it.

We won't see each other again until the Bead &
Button Show
in June in Milwaukee. I'll be teaching 12 classes and she'll be translating for several Japanese teachers (Hiroe Tagaki, Keiko Seki, Yumiko Watanabe, Emi Yamada). Check my class offerings in a couple days. There will be duplicate sessions of a few.

At the peril of making my posts all about the food...

Ok, I admit it. When I'm sharing my travels it seems to be all about the food. It is ACTUALLY all about the people and the love and the food. Easiest to share the food and hopefully you feel the love.
Tuesday noontime, Daisuke came by to take me to lunch before my heading back home. Pressed for time, he apologized for suggesting we eat at the Tokyo Dome food court. What a departure from what I've seen of food courts in the USA. My rice bowl with raw salmon and salmon roe was attractive and fresh and served with pickles and a small bit of sauce. When half was consumed, Daisuke advised me to pour the contents of the pot (perhaps dashi?) onto the remaining portion and enjoy it as soup.

Shinichi Kodoma, director and general manager of sales division (Tulip) joined Daisuke in seeing me off. This shot taken from my seat on the limousine bus bound for Narita airport.

My airport experience in Tokyo has been very civilized. And I enjoyed these sculptures...

Uh, are those sperm? I'm thinking, wondering, can these be sperm when I happen upon this sculpture...

Well yeah, if these are hearts, those were likely sperm. Hmm.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

A day to play in Tokyo before flying home

My friends at Tulip were still busy exhibiting at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Show and I had a day to play in Tokyo before flying home.
My friend Motoko Natsubori came from Hokkaido and we made the most of our day.
We arranged to meet Yumiko Karasawa for lunch. Yumiko was one of the principle organizers of my teaching event for Coronet and Gakusyu Forum the first time I came to Japan in 2008. I taught in Tokyo for a week and then taught or traveled to Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Yokohama. Yumiko
is seven months into her pregnancy and recently left Coronet Co.

We went back to the loach restaurant we'd enjoyed in a past visit with Motoko. It is her Dad's favorite, and ours too.

The entire floor is tatami mats and boards on the floor serve as tables.

The waitress delivers a pan of loach to the charcoal burner at our setting.

We add green onions and dashi and continue cooking them. When we consume that pan another is delivered. This is what the charcoal burner looks like when the pan is removed.

Afterwards we went to Asakusa. We went to Sensoji Temple, a popular Buddhist temple built in the 7th century before strolling Nakamise, the shopping street where I would replenish my Shichimi (Japanese 7 spice blend) and Japanese pepper. I think the name of the shop is Yagenbori and they sell fragrant fresh spice blends or upu can create your own. Plus Yumiko had gifted me a sweet decorated tin that is also the dispenser, of chili powder.
When our appetites returned qe stopped by a dessert cafe. Yumiko and I each had the scoop of green tea ice cream that is served with cubes of agar agar and moochi balls, on left and foreground. Motoko had a bowl of half sweet red beans and half a golden grain porridge.

Even if it wasn't raining, we would have sought a stroll in Mitsukoshi Department Store. Elegant fashions, fragrant cosmetics counters but, the best is the grocery and food department.
Even raw beef is pretty. Notice the marbling!

Especially the Kobe beef!

Yes, priced per 100kg or approx 3 oz!

A case of prepared food...



And gorgeous salads.
Sweetheart is taking me out... Gonna run. More later.
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Tokyo Great International Quilt Show

We were quite busy at the Tulip booth and took only a quick lunch break, leaving little time to take in the show. But, each time I scurried past the exhibits, this quilt caught my attention. I lovvvvvve this.

Turns out to be just one piece of an entire installation of the works of Fumiko Nakayama. I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet with her for a short time.
There were wall hangings of reverse appliqué (trapunto) and embroidery,

This parrot, she explained, had been the object of her scrutiny in the jungle for several weeks.
There was an entire table set with a box of chocolates that were crocheted, stitched and sequined; bouquet of beaded flowers ... amazing.

We made a
Run past the prize winners:

First place is "bond" by Etsuko Ishitobi.

2nd place is Kimie Yoshimasa's "everyday to celebrate 70 years of life".

And the handmade award to Chieko Shiraishi's "lace paper".
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Visiting Miyajima

Daisuke, Naomi and I drove from Hiroshima to meet the ferry to Itsukushima island, the sacred site called Miyajima.
We passed an oyster "farm" between the shores.

The Miyajima Toori (gate) is the famous floating gate to Itsukushima Shrine. Shown here at low tide, in high tide it appears to be floating. It dates back to 1168, though the current gate dates back to 1875. Built of camphor wood, it has 4 legs in addition to the primary columns, providing stability that allows the gate to sit on the surface of the mud, even withstanding typhoons.

Once ashore, visitors are amazed at the number of deer that casually roam the island.

They appeared to pay no attention to the tourists, save nuzzling or snatching the occasional irresistible and unguarded tote bag.

We headed for the Itsukushima Shrine.

Its first buildings were erected in the 6th C, but the present shrine was constructed in 1168. Beside the shrine is a noh stage.
We continued along the path and steps up the mountainside to Daishi-do Hall, where Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism was enshrined in 9th C.

Lining the steps to the temple are statues of 500 disciples, each unique.

This sand mandala was made by Tibetan Buddhist priests, depicting divine figures of Kunnon Bosatsu, the symbol of mercy.

The ceiling is decorated with beautiful botanical pictures.

Naomi, Daisuke and I are all horses (far left) despite being of different ages.

The crocheted hats and scarves are provided by worshippers, some who have lost children and tend to Jizo Bosatsu images to redeem the spirits of deceased babies and children.

The view down to the shore is breathtaking.

When I replied in the affirmative to the question "do you eat oysters?", Daisuke took us to Kaki-Ya. Just inside the entry a man tends oysters on the chargrill. We enjoyed some and these as well:

fried panko breaded, poached, oil-cured, in rice and even in the miso soup! It was truly one of the most outstanding meals of my life!

We toured a few shops afterwards and I purchased oyster soy sauce and oyster rice to make the moment last.

As the day wrapped up we stopped at this cafe for an herbal tea. The floor was all cushioned and pillows lined the walls. The "tables" were wooden rounds. Fabulous.
In a few short hours we would join Mr and Mrs Harada, Kei, Shinichi, HyoMin, Mayumi, Shoko, Asako for welcome dinner #2, at Suishin. Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Catching up on more Tokyo Quilt Festival

It was thrilling to meet fellow felters also creating jewelry. This is Tomoko Higuchi.

Dove chocolates are smooth and silky dark chocolate wrapped in foil with a message inside. The messages are lovely though, sometimes challenging to translate: Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures. Naomi gave it her best, helping our visitors with theirs.

You met rug hooker Noriko Sakurai on previous post. She returned with her friend, a fellow feltmaker.

While checking out her friend's necklaces and nuno felt, check out Noriko's wrist to left!

Shoko and I used a break for a quick but luxurious green tea and green tea ice cream.

Last year my checked suitcase was carry-on sized and, when I determined to bring home 400 Tulip beading needles, making room meant purchases I'd made would be last minute gifts to my friends seeing me off. This year I brought a larger suitcase and revisited Teruko Aoki for more of the green tea loaf I'd bought last year. Shoko treated me to a red bean one and a green tea. Teruko gifted me a couple "cookies".

Speaking of sweets, Sandaki came by the Tulip booth again this year and brought me these sweets to commemorate Setsubun, a Japanese holiday marking the beginning of Spring, observed on February 3rd. Traditions include the throwing out of roasted beans, exclaiming "out with the devils, in with good fortune". Each person eats the number of beans or peanuts equal to their age. Sounds much more festive than our Ground Hog's Day, one day earlier.

Speaking of festivals, March 3rd is the doll festival called Hina-matsuri. Red carpeted platforms display dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and also their attendants and musicians. The holiday began in the Edo period in 17th C, though the dolls may be dressed in court dress from the Heian period 794-1185. Those in seated pose are called suwari bina, and Haradas gifted me this pair. It is tradition to display them through February up to and including March 3rd festival.

Speaking of gifts from Mr and Mrs Harada, their hometown Hiroshima is famous for fine brush production. This lovely set of cosmetic brushes is from Chikuhodo. Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone