Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tokyo Day 10: The last Good half-day-Jiyugaoka

My last day in Tokyo had started like every other day, slowly, especially since I still thought I had another two weeks and a half. So I got up took all my bedding threw it in the wash and hung it out to dry with my futons which were airing out. I called Sakura house to replace one of my futons because it was moldy smelling and I had only been there 10 days. I skyped with Debra, had breakfast, took a shower, made plans with Jen to get a drink in Shinjuku that night, and blogged.

I finally left the apartment around 1pm and headed into Jiyugaoka to have lunch at Ikanika and wonder taking photos. I studied the google street view of the area and screenshot the local map and headed for my train station. With my newly acquired Suica card I didn't have to figure how much to Jiyugaoka just swipe my card and away I went. I took the Tokyu Toyoko line four stops.

I headed off towards Ikanika cafe, on my walk I saw so many cute shops, lovely residences, and many plum blossoms still in bloom. After a fifteen minute walk I found the cafe. Set in a beautiful little house, Ikanika, was empty when I arrived at 2pm but the proprietor was happy to see me. I changed into the appropriate grass slippers after I removed my boots and picked a rough-hewn table near the window. Behind the window there was a beautiful Japanese garden. each little space in the cafe was special, there was a small sofa with coffee table in one corner and in the opposite corner there was another little wooden table for two with schoolroom chairs. The cafe had a small display of zakka for sale near the open kitchen which I faced. I watched the proprietor prepare my meal which I picked, a lunch set consisted of a dandelion salad, creamy soup and homemade bread. The meal was served beautifully on a linen cloth on a little wooden tray. It was all delicious. After my meal I set off to take pics of the residential neighborhood and check out the lovely stores. About ten minutes after setting off and taking picture of what seemed like kumquats 2:45pm rolled around, and well you know the rest. Because I want this to be a positive post that's the end of my day as far as this post is concerned. The next 48 hours weren't the best so all I will say is that I was glad to hang out with my new friend Jen in her lovely home, in Nerima, and we had a lovely Korean barbecue for dinner. I'm sad I left early but it was the best decision for me at the time.

- Posted by misskitty1970

Please Help Japan


A few people have asked me if I knew where they can donate to help Japan so I've just collected a few links as to some of the more trustworthy places to donate.
The areas where the earthquake and Tsunami hit the hardest is in desperate need of help, if you can make a donation to help out that would be really awesome. Obviously, I understand if your finances are super tight because you are unemployed and making ends meet can be very difficult. If you are in Japan you can even donate food, clothing and other supplies necessary.

Here's a list:

Second Harvest Japan

The American Red Cross
The Japan Red Cross has posted on their website to please donate through your local Red Cross or if you go on their website you can get the info for the banks that will take direct transfers for donations.
Japan Society
Charity Navigator- pretty cool site on which charities are contributing all their funds to the Japan relief and their affiliations.

Concert for Japan

There are many art gallery's having shows that will donate at least a portion of the sales to Japan relief, plus lots of the craft community is donating a portion of their sales too.



Dear Friends,

Thank you for your concern, I appreciate the well wishes from everyone. I was really fortunate to get out of Tokyo on Sunday afternoon and I flew to Seattle which was the first flight available to get out I leave to go home to NYC tomorrow.
When the earthquake hit I just finished having lunch at Ikanika in Jiyugaoka and I started walking around taking photographs and the birds and dogs were going crazy then I saw trees quivering and I realized what was happening so I started running down the hill away from the buidlings into the middle of the street. People were running out of their homes and one older woman saw hat I was hysterical like her and she hugged me through the earthquake. It went on and on and stronger and wouldn't stop, it was much longer than then any other earthquake. The earth looked like it was going to break apart. After it stopped I walked toward the train station not sure what to do, not speaking Japanese and really not knowing where the one or two people I had just met in Japan where. I was alone and unable to ask for help, so I just started crying and trting to call the U.S., of course the phones couldn't get a signal. I kept walking and along the way three different women came to see if I was okay and walked with me. By the train station which is in a large rotunda I met a very sweet couple Naoko and Gary who hungout with me after the first large aftershock for the rest of the afternoon. The earthquake happened at 2:45pm and around 6:45pm we finally got word that the trains wouldn't start running until the morning, so we decided we wouldn't wait much longer to set off to start walking home. I didn't have a map nor gps so Gary and Naoko walked with me for half an hour til the next station and the plan after that was they head off to Gary's place and I keep walking to Nakameguro following the tracks. Unfortunately, after two blocks you couldn't follow the tracks so I just logically decided to follow the oncoming crowd backwards assuming they were probably coming from the Nakameguro station and Shibuya. It was freezing and windy, and the tremors weren't felt as bad on the street. Finally after walking for an hour and half I reached Meguro city which meant I was 5 minutes from my apartment. Got there, tremors were every 5 minutes and I was terrified. But I was able to get through to the states through my wifi and the race to get me out of Japan started. My partner stayed on Skype with me for 15 hours becaues I was so scared and exhausted. I frantically packed in hopes of getting out but logically knew that with the airport closed i was stuck. Facebook helped me connect with tons of friends of friends in Tokyo and Skype was my lifeline to my family. Wifi was the only from of communication and its not readily available in Tokyo so I didn't want to leave my apartment and lose touch with the U.S.. I didn't sleep at all. But I decided I needed to stay with a friend so I went to Nerima to Jennifer's house which she was so awesome to give me her bed and try to normalize the situation with going out to dinner, neither one of us had eaten in 24 hours. We also went to the supermarket and 24hr convienence stores and they were out of almost everything, this happened in Nakameguro also but even earlier, people are scared and know food will run out. After dinner we went to sleep early and at 3am I got a call from my partner and aunt and they got booked in two flights one as a back up. After that it was a race back to my apt in central Tokyo to grab my stuff and then to the airport. Apparently another earthquake happened while I was in the Narita express that didn't affect my train when I was 20 mins away from the airport. I got there early and I thought I wouldn't get on my plane because of the amount of people waiting on line, but I did and I got to Seattle safely, now back to New York! I have to thank everyone for their help, but most of all Debra and my Aunt Raquel who didn't sleep or eat for almost three days to get me on a plane, thank you.


- Posted by misskitty1970

Tokyo Day 9: Clothing, housewares, and Zakka, OH MY! Nakameguro & Shinjuku

I don't want to take away form the seriousness of the events happening in Japan so I struggled with this post. In light of all that I experienced the last couple of days while in Tokyo I felt that I should remind myself of how much I love Japan and not to think of it as the scary place that almost killed me. With that said my heart goes out to all those who have suffered tremendous loss and those who survived at the epicenter of the disasters who now have to carry on and start a new life with heavy hearts. So here's my last day full good day before the earthquake and all the wonderful things I experienced. I will have one more post about the last happy events before the quake too coming up.

I started my day with a trip to Shinjuku to Odakaya one of my favorite fabric and crafting stores. The store is super easy to get to because it's right outside of the East exit at Shinjuku Station, near the Studio Alta building. Odakaya has two buildings, one consisting of 5 floors of fabrics and the other 7 floors of all sorts of crafting supplies, from felting to knitting to pattern books.

After my excursion through a crafters fantasy land I picked up lunch from the 7 Eleven and headed home to drop off my finds and eat. When I was satisfied, I grabbed my cameras and set off to the other side of the Meguro river for some more Nakameguro exploring. I found a slew of tiny stores mostly vintage clothing and housewares and some zakka stores. The buildings and small stores hidden from the main roads were wonderful to photograph and some of the popular places were a also a delight.
Before crossing over the river there were just everyday scenes of Nakameguro in the back streets of my immediate neighborhood and the main commerce street.

This was a great restaurant near the train station.

After crossing the river I found this store which I had scene on google street view before traveling to Tokyo I originally thought it was a restaurant but it was a men's clothing boutique called, VASE, they also carried handmade jewelry and handpainted bags for women, plus all sorts of cute little housewares. There was also, Tokyo Lampoon, a women's vintage clothing store.

If you walk along the river towards the train tracks and pass under them you will come to this Izakaya, which I wanted to try but didn't get a chance because nature had other plans for me. Anywho, if you make a left on this street and walk until you reach another underpass you will see a large ugly red brick building in front of you, this houses a few vintage stores and a cute Zakka store. Here you'll find, Attic Antiques, SIIGE, USA Sundance, Loop, and a few other places,one of the vintage stores had only wares associated with airlines and travel, plus they had a super cute dog working there.

After checking out the stores I came across I lovely cafe/bar called Square Hedges just past the underpass about two blocks. The proprietor, Marie, is a Japanese woman who speaks perfect English and her friend Chel from Arizona hangs out there all the time. They make a delicious Green Tea Latte. Upstairs she rents out to an Aussie, a New Yorker, and I think a guy from California and they have a bike shop/bar. They have total hipster bikes and at night it dubs as a bar.

Getting There: Take the Tokyu Toyoko line to Nakameguro, to cross the river- when coming out of the station cross the street to the opposite side of the station, then turn left and then make the first right and keep walking you will cross the river in about 5 mins.

VASE: 1-7-7 Kamimeguro, Meguro

More addresses to come.

Tokyo Day 8- Shimokitazawa or bust!

I can't believe I've put off going to Shimokita for a week. Not because I don't love it, it's definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods. Before leaving the apartment as I was posting my last post, I felt things shaking in my apartment not enough to register immediately as earthquake, I thought "wow the wind is sure strong out today". The window usually shakes from the wind but I realized my desk and cup of tea were trembling. At that point my brain realized what was going on and I jumped up grabbed my cell phone, passport and wallet, threw on my coat and was running for the door. I was in a bad earthquake in Greece over ten years ago and it was terrifying. The one thing I learned standing in the doorway of an old building will probably get you hurt so get out of the building fast. I finally calmed down enough to realize that it was just a tremor ,but I quickly convinced myself that I freaked out for nothing and that it was probably the strong winds. When I posted my reaction on Facebook my good friend, John, informed me that there was in fact a very large earthquake in Honshu which is pretty far from Tokyo so we did feel a tremor. Panic for a second, take a breath, move on. I'm here for another 21 days so no sense in freaking out. I grabbed my cameras and bag and headed for the station. On the way to the station I walked down a block in my neighborhood that I hadn't seen yet and I met two long haired chiwas working in a store called Belage, and the older woman who's dogs they were was tickled that I love d her dogs. They were ridiculously adorable and friendly. I think the chiwa has become the official dog of Japan because they're everywhere!

Then I took the train to Shibuya and switched for the Keio Inokashira line, which was an insane transfer at Shibuya station, it showed me the magnitude of the size of Shibuya station. I arrived in Shimokitazawa and I had to make the very important decision of north exit or south. I went out the south then backtracked to the north. I walked around just wandering into different stores. First one one I went into was a Little Trip to Heaven an amazing vintage store, I've never seen such a huge fine collection of vintage clothing, everything looked new. There was beautiful stuff from the 60's and 70's. The place had loft ceilings so the clothing went up to the ceiling. I have to go back to this place. It's next to Lotty another vintage store that was closed today that I would like to visit.

More things I saw on my walk around. This store was all lacy pretty things.

Okay Marble Sud is one of my favorite Japanese brands and this is their store in Shimokita. They always have great prints.

The last time I was in Japan and I waked through Shimokita I fell in love with Marble Sud and this vintage housewares and furniture store, A.M.A Store. They have some of the best mid-century , 60's and 70's housewares, and at relatively decent prices. I really want to get the Seiko alarm clock in red or yellow for our bedroom. I wish I could bring a lamp back.

After all that shopping with my eyes, my belly started to grumble so I went in search of a cafe that I read about but it proved to be difficult to find in the twisty streets of Shimokitazawa. I got frustrated and gave up and settles on Deli and Baking, I decent enough self-serve cafe. The only self-service really is that you place your ordered at the counter and you bus your own table. I had an ice pink lemonade (they give you the option of hot pink lemonade, blech!) with a pesto chicken sandwich. As with all chicken in Japan it's always hit or miss, because they don't discriminate on the parts you are eating, so it was a little gamy.

After lunch I cleaned my palate and stuffed my face with a crepe filled with whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate!

After gorging myself on whipped cream I strolled into this market, kinda like a fleamarket, but with vintage, new,and zakka (handmade wares and crafting supplies).

The last store I went to is on the other side of the tracks and it's Bana Bana, they have a lot of housewares and zakka. I met a precious pomerian named Puddin' at the store, I had spied him while we were all crossing the tracks and his mom showed up at Bana Bana to my pleasant surprise and I got to talk to this little fuzz ball. Can you tell I miss my dogs.

On the way home I stopped at the transfer point in Shibuya to take a pic of the famous Shibuya crossing. Then home to relax before going off to my delicious yakitori dinner at Kushiwakamaru in Nakameguro.

Getting there:
Take the Odayu line or the Keio Inokashira line to Shimokitazawa station.

Marble Sud:
2-27-11 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0031
phone# 03-3481-6001

AMA Store:
3-34-2 Kitazawa Setagaya-ku.
phone# 03-3466-8530
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