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  • Shelley Dark

15. Daikanyama day

You know what we could say about Tokyo's weather so far? Beautiful one day, perfect the next! Yesterday was hot with a blue blue sky, today was just right. The only hiccup of the trip so far was that cold wet day in Takayama. We've been so lucky.

I could have packed much lighter clothes than I did - there are things I haven't worn at all because they're a little too warm. As for the 7kg packing experiment - it was really only 5kg because my computer etc took up 2kg - I've just loved being able to lift my small suitcase with one hand so easily, and I think I'll never pack heavily again. But it's great that this time Ange could bring my big bag with her so I have room for a little shopping. I must work out how to solve that problem next time.

The elusive Mt Fuji is often covered by cloud so we were thrilled to have this view this morning at breakfast. And a table at the window again. -:)

The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is also part of the view and houses three educational institutions: a fashion school, a design college and a medical school. Tange Architects were awarded the design contract with their concept, and it was finished in 2008. The cocoon-like structure symbolises the nurturing of students inside.

These are the flowers we bought yesterday at the Aoyama Flower Market - giant sprays of white freesias, white alstroemeria and blue delphiniums. The flowers in the market are grouped by colour and customers can just walk around taking what they would like from the buckets and paying at the counter. It's like picking flowers from your own garden but less work.

This building was on our walk to Shinjuku Station. We are using the Citymapper app for working out how to travel from a to b. It's truly amazing. It even tells you which end of the platform to catch the train on, or descend from. We decided this morning that we'd take a train to Daikanyama and we needed to change trains once. Negotiating the platforms would be difficult without help, but there is usually someone nearby to give advice in English. Today it was a delightful older American man who is writing a book on Japan's Capital Markets before 1941. Or after? I forget.

There's an aversion to flashiness in Japan. A preference for the simple and unostentatious. Which is very attractive. But it has a strange manifestation in shop signage. Or lack thereof. Some shops have no sign, and any indication they are even a business. By being almost inaccessible, do they become more desirable?

This photo might be the front door of any house in Tokyo. It's not. It's the front door of Yaeca Home. It's a small a concept store with a carefully curated collection of garden and home furniture, some antiques, some household objects, and a few items of clothing. I'd read that it would be hard to identify but thankfully someone had posted a photo of the front door on the internet otherwise we would never have found it. There is no sign, it's in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, and you'd never know that it's a shop of any sort.

photo courtesy Ange!

French chairs with woven seats and backs against the windows looking into the garden.

A framed print I rather liked.

A very unusual ceramic and wire chess set.

Vases, the finest of glass ware and a low stool.

Upstairs there is a small collection of clothing, in white and grey, navy and black. I loved the thick cardboard clothes hangers!

We strolled along through different sorts of neighbourhoods, some quite affluent, enjoying the sunshine.

It was fun to catch glimpses of private gardens, but we also enjoyed the self-seeded street-side 'weeds'.

The banksia roses are in full bloom.

We were on our way to a shop-come-nursery called Bio-top. It turned out to be stunning, faced in copper rectangles with a curved front. An old olive tree on guard at the front door, and a dogwood flowering outside the nursery section. There are plants, homewares and toiletries dat ground level and clothes on both floors.

Ange and I were enjoying the styling as much as the stock.

Across the road is a ceramic shop with a facade of precast concrete.

I rather liked the design of this pale green bowl.

The nursery had a small number but an extensive range of plants including a few Australian natives: flannel flowers, and rice flowers.

From Biotop we walked through a less affluent area, where we saw a novel way of solving the parking problem - car lifts!

We were walking along chatting away and hardly noticed this fairly nondescript building. Until Ange said, what's in that window? We walked across to look.

It looked like an antique shop but we couldn't see a sign, nor could we see anyone inside. Then we noticed on the simple scrubbed pine door with this sign. Tentatively we opened it.

If I had an antiques shop, this would be it. What a feast for the eyes. The young (to me anyway) owner's name is Yoshida Shotaro and he has just returned from another buying trip to Europe. Look at his website. It's charmingly naive.

Old stickers.

Enamel watch faces.

Dice and something of the provenance perhaps.

I fell in love with this piece.



old shoes...

and buttons...

boxed bobbins...

It was an absolute joy. There was even an antique skirt hoop hanging from the ceiling, looking for all the world like the frame of a chandelier. A square side table with the finest iron leg brackets that at home I would have bought in an instant. His own brand of white enamel plates were so fine they looked like porcelain. We stayed for a long time.

Next on the list was Kapital with this extraordinary shopfront, a horse's hoof prints tracking across from the footpath to the eaves. Ange described the stock as Navajo meets Tokyo. Not for us.

Much of the stock was interestingly designed, but the fabrics were thick and heavy, the sox rough to the touch.

It was very late for lunch and we were starting to feel hungry and footsore. Google maps turned up Red Book, with a score of 4.4 out of 5. It was very close by, so we followed our noses to a tiny café down a side street. Scruffy fit-out but what a delicious aroma! The two owners were very Japanese but the cuisine was not the same nationality. It was Tokyo Indian - a small menu with English subtitles. We didn't care what it was. It smelled good, so we were there to stay.

We asked what was recommended and the waiter, in very broken English that we couldn't possibly understand, launched into a long dissertation while we listened politely. We didn't understand a word. The menu said chicken curry so we ordered that and a glass of wine each. There was rap music playing with that frightfully monotonous often profane verbal monologue. I ignored it while we ate our very delicious lunch. As we were paying the bill, Ange said, My mother loves your music. Our waiter looked surprised. Really? he said. No I don't, I said laughing, I hate it. For the first time since we had walked in, he showed emotion. He laughed and laughed. So did we.

I read that to say sayonara is really to say that we will not meet again - this is goodbye. So we've learned a phrase ma ta ne (mah-tah-nay) which means see you later. I don't know if we are pronouncing it poorly (likely) or it's much more casual than tourists would normally say. But when we say it as we leave a shop, it causes much hilarity. When we said it to the Red Book waiter, he went off into more peals of laughter. It was enough to recharge us for the entire afternoon.

We ran out of time to visit the three-storey Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama, but saw their collaboration with Starbucks at Naka-Meguro.

click on the photo for a video of the Shibuya scramble

Our last stop was Shibuya for some stationery for Ange's girls. And the opportunity to watch the famous Shibuya Scramble near the train station, Japan's busiest intersection. We first went to the overhead pass where I took this photo, and then on to the second floor of Starbucks coffee closer to the action. It's fascinating and mesmerising to watch so many people going across in several directions. Gradually the intersection is clear of people, the white piano key pedestrian lines appear again, and traffic begins to flow. While this is happening, the line of people on the footpath edge on every side is becoming deeper and deeper until finally the lights change, and the crowd surges outwards as if it has a life of its own. The scramble is on again.

Loft is a reasonably priced store in Shibuya with a whole floor devoted to stationery.

We bought sushi for dinner in the food hall of Seibu Shibuya, a large department store a little like DJ's. We brought it back to the hotel to eat and we opened our bottle of complimentary sparkling sake. Considered opinion: French champagne is safe.

On our travels today we saw this exquisite viburnum with pleated leaves (Issey Miyake eat your heart out) and lime green flowers. Isn't it just perfection?

Hope you've enjoyed today as much as we did. We have something exciting planned for tomorrow so now it's time to sleep. Night night buddies!

shelley dark, writer 

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