Friday, 31 October 2014

Everyday Cuteness in Japan

I think most crafters are familiar with the word 'kawaii' as a genre of cutesy japanese craft like amigurumi crochet and hello kitty. It is a japanese word that basically means "cute" and is used extensively by young women. Before I came here I used to pronounce it 'kai-why' but it should be pronounced 'ka-why-ee'. One of the things westerners notice as soon as they arrive is no matter the seriousness of the situation, there is always an opportunity to advertise or warn against it using a cute character.

Don't get caught in the train doors:
Cute warning
Watch out for trains when you are texting or drunk on a platform:
Tokyo Walking Tour
Stop! A police sign.
Japan Characters - Policemen

There are even more examples in everyday life. Labels:
Kawaii cans
Traffic cones:
pink rabbit traffic cones
Tokyo Crazy Kawaii 2013 - NNO-45

But, despite being bombarded daily with cuteness (even the spam porn pop-ups I get when downloading things are kawaii manga style), I was still taken aback by the kawaii nature of the bag of salt I bought for dyeing with.
Kawaii Salt Packaging
So cute! And only about 70p/$1 so not even an expensive bag of salt. Of course I shouldn't be surprised considering that below is the first salt I bought when we moved here and I've been refilling it ever since.
Panda Salt
Kawaii Panda! Because of course you cannot use the word 'kawaii' without using at least one exclamation mark. You should try to work that into any pronunciation of the word too, otherwise you risk sounding like a tourist.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Edo Tokyo Open Air Architecture Museum

An architecture museum is, when you think about it, a really good idea. Especially if your country has a rich heritage of buildings that keep getting burnt down after earthquakes. But consider... the space needed, the logistics (do you move existing old houses or build copies of old ones), the complexity of having a site where each house is potentially its own mini museum. Regardless, the Japanese decided to go for it and built one and it is the Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (english website). This is not to be confused with the Edo Tokyo Museum, which is kind of like the Museum of London in, er, London. This one is about an hour beyond the centre of Tokyo but getting there does involve getting on a bright pink gas powered miniature bus called Coco, which is quite fun.
Pink Coco Bus to Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architecture Museum
I was heading there because of a promised demonstration by multiple traditional artisans but when I arrived there was a bonus flea market going on in the adjacent park.
Flea Market Stall with Miffy
Having picked up a vintage kimono (for me) and a traditional style coat (for my ickle niece) at crazily cheap prices I headed off to find the entrance.

The place was truly fascinating. Logistically, the Japanese had opted for picking up the whole original building and moving it to the site so the variety of buildings and original fittings was amazing. My 117 photos can be seen here but these are some highlights.

The Farmhouse of the Yoshino Family, dating from the 1800s.
Farmhouse of the Yoshino Family
The left part is your 'usual' house...
View out from inside the Farmhouse of the Yoshino Family
...while the right is the working area with stamped earth floors.
Stove or kiln inside House of Koide
Room sizes are still measured in terms of how many tatami mats the floor takes (you see it in estate agent particulars here) and these mats are the rectangles you can see in the 'usual' photo above. They are traditionally made of woven bamboo. You would never wear shoes if walking on tatami mats so as I went around the various properties I was constantly taking my shoes off and putting them back on again. This was the internal kitchen area.
Baskets inside the House of Koide 
There were a number of houses like this one and each had the open hearth inside, often with someone actually making tea which was being offered to visitors.
Making Tea Inside the Farmhouse of the Tenmyo Family
See the cast iron fish above the kettle? Of course this made the homes quite smokey but then that also helped keep insects at bay.

There were also some more modern houses, like this residential suburb house from 1925, which was arranged in a western style which was quite unusual then.
House of Okawa in Den'enchofu
Inside the House of Okawa in Den'enchofu

The Tokiwadai Photo Studio from 1937 was really lovely.
Tokiwadai Photo Studio
There was a delicately painted backdrop for the models to stand against hanging in place.
Studio inside Tokiwadai Photo Studio

Some of the houses had at least parts of their original gardens with them, like this one which was the House of Korekiyo Takahashi, who was an important politician and it was the site of an important coup. The house dates from around 1900.
House of Korekiyo Takahashi from the Garden
The house was very beautifully fitted out inside with lots of panel and screen paintings.
Room Inside House of Korekiyo Takahashi
View from inside the House of Korekiyo Takahashi 2

The last section of the museum had been put together to resemble a possible shopping street in Tokyo and this is where the Artisans were, perched in shops as they might have been in the Edo era.
Shopping Street
The public bathing house was at the top of the street and had some lovely paintings inside.
Public Bathhouse Kodakara-yu
Inside the Kodakara-yu Public Bathhouse
A tailor's workshop:
Inside the Tailor's Workshop 3
A soy sauce shop:
Soy Sauce Shop
Inside the Soy Sauce Shop
A stationery store with calligraphy brushes:
Stationery Store with Calligraphy Brushes
A florist:
Hanaichi Flower Shop
A beautiful kitchenware shop:
Maruni Shoten Kitchenware Store
Baskets inside the Maruni Shoten Kitchenware Store
And the Artisans! A Bamboo Weaver.
Artisan Bamboo Weaver
A Silk Fabric Stenciller.
Hand Stencilled Silk Kimono
A Wood Block Printer
Artisan Wood Block Printing
A Fine Silk Weaver
Artisan Silk Woven Fabric
That's just to show a few!

I was there for about four hours and that's without dawdling. If you happen to be in Tokyo and interested in such things it is definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Giveaway Winner and Recent Makes

Fanfare! The winner of the Sew Together bag is Connie from Freemotion by the River. That giveaway was the first time I used the free Rafflecopter gadget and it worked really well - no affiliation, just a little plug for a free thing that worked well.

While that giveaway was ticking along I was busy working on these varied bits and bobs. First of all came the preparation for a bit of Shibori.
Shibori preparation
You know tie dye from the sixties and still going now? Shibori was the traditional craft it came from and you know by now my fascination with traditional japanese crafts. I am so lucky to have a library near by and the japanese libraries have craft sections to die for. (I couldn't bring myself to put "to dye for" even though I wanted to.) The shibori books in mine vary from 1930s manuals which are 99% text written on very thin paper to more modern glossy picture books - heaven! There is also of course a lot online. This site is especially useful. I have tried some Nui (stitch resist), a Suji type (pleating) and have the perfect bottle for Arashi ("storm" where you wrap fabric around a bottle, tie it and then scrunch it down on itself). You know you have a craft addiction when you go to the supermarket and buy something based on the shape and size of the container, regardless of the contents, because you need to wrap fabric around it. I am off to buy the dye today so have high hopes of getting to work with it this week.

When I was little I had a small woven ribbon pillow and had always admired the way the ribbons interconnected and the effect it created. My recent dabbling and thinking about weaving combined with planning for an upcoming metal frame purse workshop and resulted in this.
Rainbow ribbon weaving
I got the ribbon online from this etsy shop. Man, that was slippery stuff to weave! Hence all the pins. I love the effect though and put a small piece to use in this.
Rainbow Ribbon Metal Frame Purse
And the other side...cats of course.
Cat Side of the Rainbow Ribbon Metal Frame Purse
The workshop is tomorrow evening so this will be an extra one for them to look at before they start making their own.

Finally, some more stitching on my Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks coincidentally coincided with the arrival of a straggler from the I Love Lucy Bee (the top left one).
Lucy Boston POTC Blocks
It may be 9 months late but that just shows it was worth waiting for!

Considering that I have also taught a crochet workshop, knitted a sleeve and finished the top of a machine sewn patchwork quilt this week I've certainly been quite diverse in my pursuits!

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