Today, we went to Tobichi to get a couple of Hobonichi planners (one for me, one for gift). We also went to the luxury department store, Daimeru, to pick up two pens, one is a gift for a family member, the other was a souvenir for me.
I liked that we got a couple of gifts with my Hobonichi planner.
Tobichi is Hobonichi planner nirvana. It’s on the fifth floor of its building but it does a lot with a small space and the staff members are extremely friendly and helpful.
At Daimeru, the 6th floor has a nice selection of pens, papers, and sumi-e supplies. I got a vermillion Pilot to match the Torii gates in Kyoto. Note: Many blogs suggest that department store stationery sections are in the basement. The ones we found tended to be higher, usually around floor 6.
I was tempted but didn’t get any sumi-e brushes as our dog Owen has developed a taste for them and these were quite high end.
Nine generations after a village money lender moved to Kyoto to establish a kimono tailor shop, the family still carries on that business and operates a traditional Japanese tea shop. The ground floor hosts their businesses; the second is their residence.
Built long before the advent of electrical lighting, the rooms are oriented around two gardens open to the sky in order to admit sunlight. The smaller garden is about 6’x6’ and the larger is about 15’x15’ with a pleasantly sounding trickle of water from a hollow bamboo tube.
Patio at teahouse
Two small separate alcoves shelter both a Shinto and a Buddhist shrine. An alcove denotes great esteem, so being seated near an alcove reflects one’s high status.
Safe from original money exchange business The founder designed a room for Noh theater performances. Tatami mats covering most of the floor to suppress sounds. However, a 4’ wide section along a wall was covered by a thin reed mat so the the Noh actors could stamp their feet according to the classical format.
Spectacular mother of pearl table in Noh theatre room
The traditional tea service begins with a hostess whisking powdered green tea into solution and pouring the tea into a handle-less cup. Upon receiving the cup, the guest rotates it so that the decoration faces the host as a gesture of respect. Two small sips, followed by a third slurping gulp to demonstrate the guest’s appreciation.
Our teahouse experience included a kimona try on. There are lots of layers under those kimonas!
Even department stores have nice selections of pens , stationery, papers, and watercolors. We went to Takashimaya on our first day in Kyoto. They give you a 5% off card for purchases over 3000 yen (approximately $30 USD) if you show your passport. It’s good for a month so my pen collecting friends can go wild. Here are a few pictures. Sorry there aren’t more. I was fading fast. Kyoto is hotter than the rest of Japan and humid. I was melting.
The city of Matsumoto reconstructed the all wood district court building of the Edo period as the center of a regional historical museum. The law court has a familiar layout, with the panel of judges sitting on a raised dais, lawyers on a lower dais, and the public at ground level.
Deeper in the complex, a room is set aside as a memorial to Yoshiko Kawashima, a Japanese spy executed by the Nationalist Chinese government in 1948. Her remains are interred in Matsumoto, where she lived as a child for awhile.
In the 1930s, she led a counter insurgency cavalry troop that rounded up anti-Japanese forces in Manchuria. A Chinese princess, she was an influential member of the Manchukuo imperial court, featured in the movie The Last Emperor. She was called the Joan of Arc of Manchukuo and the Asian Mata Hari.
Japanese postcards are often reproductions of exquisite pieces of art so they make lovely souvenirs and gifts. Here are a few of the ones I’ll be sending out. I originally planned to send them from Japan but it looks like I’ll be too busy to address and annotate them before I get home.
Itoya in Tokyo is a 100 year old stationery store with an entire floor of fountain pens, a fabulous cafe, and even some housewares. Everything is beautifully presented and the quality is amazing. If you are ever in Tokyo and love pens or stationery, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Just a handful of the stunning pens available. They also had a Pelikan writing area where one can try out the high end Pelikan models.
And there were so many drool-worthy models that I was overwhelmed.
They also had an amazing collection of stationary and journal supplies.
And to to it all off, the cafe served delectable Japanese style pancakes and mango sangria, as well as a variety of lovely salads, soups, and entrees.
At our ryokan, we have beautiful tatami mats on the main floor, and in the dining areas. A wood or tile step before you enter the tatami room reminds guests to remove their slippers.
The tatami mat in dining room
While beautiful, tatami mats are expensive (one price quote was close to $1000 USD) and somewhat fragile, as well as hard to wash, although they are easy to vaccum or sweep. An errant pair of heels or careless movement of furniture can cause irreparable damage.
The cost and care required is easier to understand once one has viewed the process used to create these classic Japanese floor coverings. Tatami mat manufacture video.
They give a warm, restful glow to any room they grace, but are a bit firm under a futon.
Rice is a beautiful crop as you can see from these pictures. The bright yellow green plants pop against the dark green of the surrounding hills. Most of our team volunteered to harvest rice using traditional methods (second photo above). Ray and I opted out. As an ex-farmer and a farmer’s daughter, we had both put in enough hard work on farms that the prospect of farm work wasn’t appealing. The process is fascinating, however, as the video linked (under process) shows. Modern techniques have been adopted where the farmers can afford the equipment.
The workers from our team wore rubber boots, wellies as the Brits call them.