Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Review of the Cat Cafes of Asakusa

I have been doing rather well cat-wise recently. Two new cat cafes last week, a visit to my 'regulars' at Ebisu, and now two new cat cafes this week PLUS a return visit to one of the previous week's ones. During one visit I picked up a leaflet advertising an exhibition of cats in Edo era art (I blogged about an exhibition of this I went to). Looking it up online I found it was 3.5 hours away from here, and briefly pondered a day trip. I wonder if I could have fast-onset CCWS (crazy cat woman syndrome)? I do seem to have overdosed.

Calaugh Cafe

There are nine cats at this place which is definitely the most 'cafe' like of these places I have been.
Calaugh Cat Cafe
You are sat at a table to start with and given a drink menu. There is no charge for the first hour - you just have to order a drink - which was admittedly twice the price of a normal drink but then also cheaper than a normal hour at a cat cafe. You then find a cat and let the rest come naturally.
Calaugh Cat Cafe
A number of cats were on shelves that ran around the top of the room, under their own personal spotlight sun-lamps. Others were just chilling out.
Calaugh Cat Cafe
Some were playful, while others were sleepy.
Calaugh Cat Cafe
This one reminded me of our beloved family cat Sweep who died about 12 years ago now. I've been watching "The Blacklist" recently and at one point Red says "You're not really dead as long as you are remembered" but I digress. All in all this was a nice place and you get a drink. But it's not what I'd call a classic cat cafe.

Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe

My review in five words? I would not advise visiting.
Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe
There is nothing actually wrong with this place. The cats are all in good health and look well cared for. They have all the facilities, places to sleep, toys, affection and so on. But there was a smell. Like the place needed a really good airing and someone had done something on the carpet a while ago and it hadn't been cleaned up properly. Also there was cat hair everywhere. That might seem like an odd thing to say but all the other cat cafes I've been to have been very clean. Obviously cat beds and toys get hair on, but the floors are cleaned and hoovered regularly. In this place it was all over everything. But. There were three kittens and a remote controlled mouse. OMG.
Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe
I managed to get the three of them in shot all at once.
Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe
The kittens seriously loved that mouse. They were going nuts, chasing it all over the place. They would catch it and knock it upside down and then look at you, waiting for you to turn it the right way up so they could set off after it again. After the mouse ran out of batteries they frantically chased and play-fought with each other.
Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe
So tiny! And then suddenly all three of them were worn out and had gone to sleep in different places. One inside a play tube, one on a cat bed much too big for it and one on this scratchable chaise longue.
Asakusa Nekoen Cat Cafe
Once they fell asleep I was out of there - the smell and cat hair got to me.

My way home took me close to the cafes I visited last week so having been a bit disappointed with these two I went back to Cat Cafe Nanny, blogged about last week. Those kittens - the ones who tried to get under my maxi skirt last week and are older than the ones above but still quite young - this time made a beeline for the skirt of my shirt-dress. I was kneeling on the floor and one of them dived under while the other two, confronted with a small, moving shape behind fabric, proceeded to attack. Hilarity and slapstick-in-miniature ensued.
My creation
The little lion was upstairs, sunning herself.
Tiny lion cat
So adorable! I also got a better look at the cat with the crazy sideburns.
His fur is crinkled - brindled? Is that the word? It is like stroking a sheep. He was interested in the comic I was looking at, which was in the bookcase there.
Japanese Cat Comic
All the stories feature cats!
Japanese Cat Comic
Japanese Cat Comic
I have to keep an eye out for this one. When I got back downstairs to the kittens I found two of them had managed to get up on top of the sleeping cage and bookcase. They were loving it up there!
I tried to lift one of them down but he was having none of it. I think they were enjoying being so much higher than everyone else for the first time.

I have a few more cat cafes to visit before giving my verdict, but so far Nanny is my favourite cafe of all the ones I have visited. If only Bruiser were there it would be my number one, but he's not so I won't be leaving Ebisu's Nyafe Melange behind any time soon.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Pottering About

Weaving on Monday, and now Pottery on Thursday. I found out about this place at the Stitch'n'Bitch group last week and straight away I booked in. I have wanted to try the potter's wheel ever since seeing people doing it at school and 20 years later - here I was! I also again got one to one tuition from a lovely english speaking teacher too. So lucky!
Pottery Lesson in Ebisu
I was having the 'taster session' which was 90 minutes and as much clay as you can eat. The session costs 3800 Yen which is about £22 and then the firing and glazing was extra, depending on the size of what you decided to keep - you could just ditch everything and leave with no evidence of your output!
Pottery Lesson in Ebisu
I don't want to brag, but in general, manual activities come pretty easily to me. But this? Oh no. It is so much harder than it looks. On my third go I did start to get it and felt much more confident after an hour of 'throwing'. My first attempt did that stereotypical pottery thing of collapsing and splatting off the wheel. This is what the teacher managed to salvage - it should have been a cup a fair bit taller than this and without quite so much 'base'.
Pottery Lesson in Ebisu
I was pretty embarrassed about it but the teacher was genuinely lovely and so patient! On my second one, which was also really bad, I got more of a feel for the clay and by my third I felt much more confident in my understanding of how it moved and how to touch it. The key is moving your hands very slowly and never, ever, suddenly disengaging. I found myself thinking about it as being like laying a new baby down - you don't just plop it down and let go. You support the head and then ease your hand out from underneath very carefully. This was like that.

All in all I made six somethings - 4 cup-ish things and 2 bowl-ish things.
Pottery Lesson in Ebisu
I decided to pay to get four of them trimmed, fired, glazed and fired again which cost me an extra 3000 Yen (about £17, calculated by the size of the objects) so it wasn't a cheap afternoon activity, but I did have a brilliant time. I could go back and do the trimming and glazing myself but not being particularly bothered I opted for the brown glaze and they do it all for me.
Pottery Lesson in Ebisu

Having always wanted to try this, and having found a place only a few minutes walk from the flat, I couldn't be happier with how this session went! I would definitely recommend the Shirogane Ceramic Art School to anyone wanting to have a go. As for going back - I'm not sure. I did enjoy it very much but this isn't something I want to get really good at so I think I'll leave it to the professionals and go back to my sewing. Or maybe...weaving....

Thursday, 10 July 2014

June makes

Just 7 for this month - as seen below.
June Makes
From the top left we have...

  1. Cloth from the indigo dyeing workshop - mine is the snowball one at the bottom of the photo. 
  2. Mother of all patchwork quilt tops. I still don't know what to do with it. 
  3. Colourful hexagon bag with wooden handles. I've used this quite a bit already. 
  4. 'Sew beautiful' bags, one for me and one as a gift which has already travelled half way round the world and back. 
  5. Red convertible clutch/shoulder bag which I made as a sample for a workshop, which then got cancelled due to lack of interest. Boo. 
  6. Camera pouch
I find I never blogged about the last of these so here it is in more detail. 
Camera Pouch Front
Camera Pouch Back
That zip was a real bugger to install. This was my first experience of clamshell patchwork and I do rather like it. I am working on some applecore stuff at the moment and that is fun too. However, those curves take a lot more time to make pieces for and to sew together than my beloved hexagons so I'm not fully converted. 

My WIP list is fairly busy:
  1. Quilt for Nickerjac - fabric bought and design decided. Just pre-washing it all at the moment before starting to cut. 
  2. Two more 'sew beautiful' bags being made as presents. More about that below. 
  3. Applecore patchwork part done for a manicure bag I'm making myself. 
  4. Mum's EPP quilt which I've not worked on all month. 
  5. Jasmine's winter cardigan - all knitted bar half a sleeve and a bow. 
The 'sew beautiful' bags are presents whose recipients do not read this so I can show the two outsides I have made. My youngest sister has a hippo fixation. She's got a PhD in biomedical fnah, is a logistics guru and a strong, independant woman, but she does love her hippos. I am sure a few months ago Tokyo was stuffed to the gills with hippo fabrics but recently I could only find two, of which I went with this. 
Bag outer for Freddie
It is a double gauze (I think that's the right name) so a bit flimsy on its own. I therefore added batting and a backing and treated it like a mini quilt - basting and adding sashiko-like hand quilting stitches. The second is for my SIL's birthday and she said her favourite colours were red, purple, green and black. I went stash diving. 
Bag outer for Stacie
I used the same stitching over the top but using a variegated red - I do love my variegated threads - and a thinner batting. I'll be making both of these up into proper bags very soon. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Just Call Me Orihime

Yesterday I blogged about the story behind Tanabata, which featured Orihime, the Weaving Princess, reknowned for the beautiful cloth she wove. Yeah, that's now me. Action shot!
Me on the Weaving Loom
I asked the lovely teacher if it was ok to take photos and she proceeded to take shots of me from at least five different angles. Not all entirely flattering but then that'll be the chocolate rather than her photography. And yes, I had the teacher all to myself!

I was back at Wanariya, the same place I tried the indigo dyeing at (blogged about here). I booked in for this as soon as I got there and saw the looms and I may well go back to do more. I really enjoyed it! This is my first ever bit of weaving on the loom. 
First Weaving Ever!
The white bit is some waste cotton just so you're not right up against the ends of the warp threads, followed by a strip of card. The warp threads are the ones already on the loom and the weft are the ones you add.
weaving shuttles
There were eight different looms, each with a different set of warp threads on it and I chose one with multi-coloured threads. I then chose hessian twine over wool, since I was making two coasters as a taster session and thought twine would be better than wool for those.
Me on the Weaving Loom
Love handles, ah well. More to hug. I was a little bit cramped since my legs are somewhat longer than your average japanese legs. This left me a bit pigeon-toed so that I could press the left and right peddles underneath - like church organ peddles - that controlled which warp threads were uppermost. Then it was just a matter of moving the shuttle back and forth.
Me on the Weaving Loom
Once I had done enough with one colour the teacher added a card strip to leave enough warp to make a fringe and then I started with another. Once I was done she took them off for me and ran a line of machine stitching along the end of each to secure the ends.
Coasters on the Loom
Yay! Here is how my coasters turned out.
Finished Coasters
I am really happy with these! The sides without the fringes should be straight if you get the tension right and mine are not too bad at all. I also love the multi-coloured warp peeking through too. Ooooo, I really don't have space for another craft in my I?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tanabata Day

Today is the most romantic day of the japanese year! I was told the story behind this on the way to the Indigo Dyeing place. It is so bitter sweet! This version is from Wikipedia.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Orihime, daughter of the Tentei (Sky King), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (Milky Way). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (a cow herder) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer wove cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving. However, the first time they tried to meet they found they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

It's raining. 

However, it wasn't yesterday, which is when I went to the Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
That is Tokyo's Skytree Tower, in case you were wondering, which is a fairly recent landmark. The festival was awesome! Let me lay some pictures on you.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
That last one is a branch of bamboo more or less duck taped to a lamp post. It is said that if you write a wish down and tie it to a bamboo tree it will come true at midnight tonight. Apparently it works even if the branch is no longer attached to the tree. I'd also never seen women in traditional dress eating sausage-on-a-stick or kebabs before, but caught both yesterday. The street performers were great. This guy was wobbling about on a ladder while getting ready to juggle three clubs.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
The reluctant volunteer standing in the middle of the photo was waiting to throw him the third club and as the ladder wobbled to face different directions he kept being asked to move round to face the performer, who would then wobble in another direction. It was very funny even though I couldn't understand a word. The real highlight for me though were the groups of dancers, of which I saw two. Each one was a procession with a group of delicately dressed and elegantly moving women at the front followed by a group of "men" dancing quite raucously behind them, followed by musicians. I say "men" because some of them were women, but I'm guessing it wasn't always like that. The contrast between the women and men's groups were striking and the men's group were really enjoying themselves, like they expected to catch their ladies in the end.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
Every now and again the procession would pause for some set piece dance - first with the ladies and then with the men.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri Festival
It was really brilliant! I'm so glad I went.

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