Party Time in Kyoto

What better time or place to throw a party than in the spring at our apartment in Kyoto?  We had friends CA friends visiting Kyoto for a few days, my more-than-able-son-in-law visiting and several Kyoto friends we were eager to see again. At the suggestion of a friend, we easily decided on a party.  We even have a ceramic party dog whose always ready for the next shindig.

 

Japanese ceramic party dog

My husband and I have a pretty good division of labor for this kind of event. Basically, he prepares the food, and I prepare the decor.  We’ve worked this arrangement out over 50 years of marriage and it’s still working, although the days when everything my husband cooked was made from scratch have shifted slightly towards the ready-made as long as the quality meets his high standards! Kyoto makes this sort of entertaining easy and fun.

For several days before we host a party, we both discuss the food plan and arrive at a mutual agreement on where we’re headed.  Finger food?  Drinks? etc.  On the day of, or one day before, we begin to really concentrate and gather our non perishables.  Here in Kyoto, the land of small dishes, we needed small plates.  After a brief search in department stores, we located the perfect ones to serve a crowd at the local 100Y store.  We’d gotten some wonderful serving platters and dishes of Shigaraki ceramics when we initially moved in a few years ago.  We ended using every dish we had. Dollar store plates mingles easily with the plates of a contemporary Japanese ceramicist.

our Shigaraki dishes

Continue reading “Party Time in Kyoto”

Japan: Through A Child’s Eyes

One way we can recall what it’s like to be a child again, is to travel with children. It’s good if they’re thoughtful and curious.  It’s an added bonus if they have a good “eye” and catch sight of things you might overlook.  A willingness to try new things including unusual looking foreign food is a bonus.  A sense of adventure comes with the territory.

A little back story. Remarkably similar to their grandmother’s penchant for sweet things, both children became initially fascinated with Japan because each time I came back from Japan, I brought back Japanese KitKats for them. The delightful flavors are unseen in the USA.  (See original post.)  The Japanese love of sweet things seems to surpass that of any other country I’ve visited.  Kids pick up on this candy heaven quickly.  It goes without saying they can become easily distracted by what adults think of as junk, but that’s part of being a kid too.

In just a few days, they’ve wandered with us by the small shops, the food stalls and the trinket shops that lead up to the Kiyomizaderu Temple.  I find myself suddenly playing the role of tour leader, expounding on Kyoto history, which they’re not that interested in and do not yet feel they have to feign interest.  I’ve learned to direct my lectures to their parents, who at least appear interested!  It’s a fine line from informing to information overload. Continue reading “Japan: Through A Child’s Eyes”

Monkey Business Trip

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I’m back in Tokyo.

In spite of all my preparation, I showed up at the airport prepared to fly the wrong airline.  As soon as the woman behind the desk at ANA began tsk tsk tsking, I knew I had a problem.  She could not find a  record of my reservation, then looking further, noted that the reservation had been canceled weeks earlier.  I, on the other hand, only held a preliminary reservation I had printed out months ago, put in a folder and carried with me,  confidently presenting it to her at check-in, without checking it over myself. It was worthless.    Upon closer inspection, in small print it read, “preliminary reservation.” It turned out I was supposed to fly JAL, but hadn’t seen the email my husband had sent to me weeks earlier noting the change in airlines.  Fortunately, I got on the ANA flight.

The missteps continued.  I noted a little while after I went through customs, that I no longer had one of my carry on bags.  A quick telephone call by a woman working at the information desk, located it immediately for me.  It was found in customs and they were holding it.  Ms. Lovely-as-can- Be left her desk, walked me back through a locked door into customs and quickly located my bag.  Only in Japan would that have been handled so efficiently and with such nice, understanding smiles.

I’m so used to losing things that I no longer get very upset about it.  I figure I’ll be able to work it out one way or another, but of course this time, I was quite relieved to have my carry on safely at my side again. It did turn out my credit cards had migrated to that bag, but don’t tell my husband. The fact that I’d had two close calls in one day sent up a red flag for me to be more cautious.

I did as I’d planned today and spent several hours browsing at my favorite Japanese department stores.  Feeling somewhat jet lagged I didn’t want to take on anything too taxing.    I headed as usual to their higher floors where the most interesting Japanese products are displayed and there’s a good likelihood of discovering a wonderful artistic exhibit. It made for a fine intro back into the many layered world of Japanese consumerism.

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It astonished me to find, on an exhibit dedicated to mingei,  several pieces of ceramics by the legendary master Kawai Kanjiro, openly displayed and actually for sale.  This small display was the Thrill of the Day.  His pottery was shown adjacent to the this broom maker, another mingei product, painstakingly hand crafted.

img_7724 img_7722One of my favorite paper/stationery stores, Itoya, was remodeled in my absence, from head to toe.  Below is a small sample of the colored washi they carry,

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After completing my rounds in Itoya, the clouds began threatening rain.  Sated, I happily returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the day researching my plans for tomorrow.

How to BE REALLY POLITE

Japanese are noted worldwide for their politeness to each other and to their guests as well.  If you’re not prepared for this tradition, it can catch you a bit off guard and make you feel as if you’re just a step above a barbarian, in terms of manners.

It took very little for me to fall in love with Japan.   On my first visit there, in 1983, I didn’t travel far beyond a covered shopping arcade in the large business- oriented city of Osaka. The visual explosion of color, pattern, and sights in that commercial tunnel immediately beguiled me. I slowly snaked my way through the long arcade because I felt compelled to look at absolutely everything.  It was a new and exotic world.

shopping arcade

japanese anime

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The arcade terminated at the spotless glass doors of a Japanese department store. A friend and I arrived a few minutes before opening.  We watched dozens of clerks, in immaculately tailored uniforms, bustling around in preparation for this event. At precisely 10 AM, with a great sense of importance, the manager of the store unlocked the doors, warmly greeting all the waiting customers.

My friend and I were the first to enter. We were not quite ready for our experience as Exceptionally Honored Customers.  Being the first in line, we began to make our own way past the gauntlet of welcoming sales people .  It seemed as if suddenly, we had become royalty.

A clerk stood silently in front of every single counter. To our great surprise, as we passed them, each salesperson bowed and wished us welcome.  It seemed as if suddenly, we had become royalty.

woman bowingsalesclerks bowing

As a foreigner, I try not to offend.  Unprepared for this show of politeness, my friend and I made a split second decision that the right thing to do was to bow back.  We slowly inched our way through the large first floor main aisle of the store, bowing  in response to each clerk on our right and then our left.  When at last we reached the escalators where there was no more bowing possible, we turned around to note that the Japanese customers who had entered behind us performed no such exchange of bows, they’d just strolled on in!

japanese types of bows

Our bowing performance had  probably held up the rows of other customers behind us, because no one had passed us.  They were probably having too much fun watching us.  All I could think of was that we were like the toy drinking birds of my childhood, who would bow formally and incessantly at the waist towards a glass of water.  All we were missing were the bowler hat and tail feathers!

drinking birdAs I looked over my shoulder, I expected to see everyone in the store erupting in laughter, but I think everyone was far too polite to show their amusement. My friend and I quickly were overtaken by our own laughter and embarrassment.

I did suspect that our foolishness must have made a great tale around many supper tables that evening!  Sometimes, the eager – to – please and uninformed can be TOO polite!  Lesson learned.