Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bye bye!

Well, it seems that I'm off to England today! It feels sad to leave, but I'm going back for a nice reason as Neil and I will be getting married there in a month! I thought I'd send myself off in true Japanese style by having some dressed up dogs as my final image....

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Umbrella hut

It was pouring with rain for most of today, and so the obligatory patterned umbrella came with me - I call them ladies umbrellas as they all use the long style umbrella here, with the curvy handle. Because it rains a lot, they make the umbrellas "fun" to use and many of them are beautifully designed. The one I took with me today was black with bright green dots.

Anyway, when we got to the gallery, we were ushered to a little side room next to the main building, wondered where we were going and soon realised it was the umbrella "hut". It actually looked like Doctor Who's tardis inside and had hundreds of slots to leave your umbrella while you went and saw the exhibition. This is actually very typical of Japan and most shops will have a small version of this, or at least offer plastic tubes to slot your brolly in to keep dry.

Lucie Rie

I went to one of the most inspiring exhibitions I've been to in a long time today. It was a retrospective of the work of Lucie Rie, a potter I had never even heard of until I came here. She was born in Vienna, but fled to England during the war and lived there until her death in 1995, where she devoted her life to creating ceramic works of art that really do take your breath away. I was actually quite moved when I saw it and I'm sure I appreciate the delicacy and work that has gone into the pieces now that I have been studying pottery for a while. Her shapes were so inspiring and the use of glaze simple yet very effective. It was also good to see that some of her early pieces looked a little like my clumpy caveman pieces, so there's hope for me yet...

Prezzie ideas

A while ago I made some framed pictures for Flo and Lila and Morwenna recently commissioned me to do some for her friends' children. Here is the outcome. It could be a new venture for Cheeky Leopard...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Wall hanging

Well, I got busy pretty quickly and here is the outcome! I found some nice bamboo sticks today and decided to use them for my tenegui and to make a hanging for the hallway. I'm actually quite pleased with them!


My latest fad, fabric-wise, is tenugui. I lovingly call them "sweat rags" but they are pieces of dyed cotton cloth that are used for anything from wiping, as a dish cloth, for wrapping gifts, a cover, a wall hanging or..... a sweat rag! They come in all sorts of amazing colours and there is a wonderful shop near me that has a wonderful collection. I have chosen earthy tones (not sure what I'm going to do with them yet) but there are all sorts of lovely colours.

First of all the cotton is bleached, then the fabric is folded into 90cm lengths, with paper patterns mounted on them. They are starched and put on top of each other. When the pattern has been applied, a mound is formed around each pattern to seperate the dyes. The dyes are poured onto the surface of the fabric and are sucked below with a compressor. This will let the dyes permeate the fabric and help produce the design so that both sides stay the same. The washed fabric is then dried in the sun and ready for someone like me to come along and buy a job lot!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

My first log cabin

I went to my quilting class today (yes, I've officially turned into a mad old lady!) and did my first block towards a "log cabin" quilt. Not bad! It's called log cabin as traditionally the centre square is red and represents the hearth of the house, then one side is in "cool" colours and the other side is in "hot" colours. It is all sewn by hand, so don't hold your breath for the finished result, I need to do about 40 of these....

Our first Hibiscus!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Green fingers

Last week's warm weather brought out my green fingers, and so Chris and I made a pilgrimage to a massive garden centre in Odaiba. Chris found some feathered friends which he has threatened to use as their new garden feature. I'm more worried about the blow-up doll on the shelf below - it's meant to scare away the birds, but it seems a lot more sinister than that....

Anyway, I made a good amount of purchases, and have a great selection of pots and plants to transform our balcony into a little oasis. Watch this space...

Friday, 7 May 2010


On wednesday we made a journey out to Odaiba, an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo bay. You can get there by subway, but we decided to take the scenic route on the monorail. It is quite dramatic as it snakes around the bay and spirals up to meet the Rainbow Bridge, before making stops at several shopping malls and amusement arcades en route. We enjoyed the ride and then stopped off at "Venus Fort" a gargantuan shopping mall. From the outside it looks like an aircraft hangar, but you step inside and are immediately transported to an "Italian Village", complete with piazza, fountains and Roman-style statues. Even the ceiling is painted to resemble a perfect Mediterranean sky. Apparently the lighting changes depending on whether it's dusk or dawn...

We then got the monorail a few more stops and got off at the beach..... Yes, there is a man-made beach in the centre of Tokyo and there are even volleyball games going on to complete the scene. The only give away that we are in the city is the Rainbow Bridge looming in the background, oh, and a few tower blocks too!


On monday we decided to take the winding bus trip up the mountain to Chuzenji lake and Kegon waterfall which were created thousands of years ago by a nearby volcano. It was a dramatic ride up the mountainside with 40 odd hairpin bends, and was cool and crisp when we got to the top. Apparently the lake is one of the highest in Japan and is quite beautiful. We decided to take a boat trip round the lake and take it in.

After that, it was a quick stroll to the Kegon falls, with an ice cream stop on the way.... and a quick photo with some bears....

Nikko lunch

For lunch in Nikko we decided to go local and ducked into a restaurant serving yuba, also known as tofu skin. It is made from soybeans and ends up looking like very fine muslin when it's hung out to dry! It is then cut into strips and rolled up to resemble a bandage!
Sounds yummy, no?! Actually, it was and I'm really glad we tried it. We were served about 7 different dishes in quick succession and each one was a variant on the yuba, with a bit of dry, salted fish thrown in for good measure - I couldn't touch that one, I'm afraid...

Nikko Temples

On sunday we went to Nikko for the night. It's been Golden Week here in Japan, a massive national holiday which actually forces people to stop working for a few days and enjoy themselves. Neil deserved a much needed break from the slog of work (he's been working late nights and weekends for weeks now) and we decided to spend most of our time relaxing in the city, but to take off to Nikko for one night.

Nikko is about 2 hours train journey out of Tokyo and a pleasant ride through paddy fields. It is famous for its temples and we were very impressed by the intricacy of them, even though we had to battle through the crowds to see them. After checking into our ryokan (Japanese guesthouse where you sleep on the floor on futons) we spent the afternoon trotting round the temples and taking them in. There was so much to see.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

New York Grill

Following the New York theme of the day, we went for a slap up meal at the New York Grill last night and it was fab! It's on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt hotel, where "Lost in Translation" was filmed, so we followed in Bill Murray's footsteps by having a cocktail in the cocktail lounge first, listening to some jaaaaazzzzz. We were then ushered through to the restaurant and had a table in prime position next to the window - yay! Needless to say, the view was stunning. For dinner, Neil went for the tuna steak and I went for the Australian tenderloin which were both gorgeous. These were accompanied by creamy mashed potato with garlic flakes, and asparagus in a creamy sauce. It was then followed by a divine New York cheesecake - heaven!

Photography Exhibitions

I went to my gallery meetup group yesterday to see two photography exhibitions and meet new people. The people were lovely and we had a beer afterwards, and the exhibitions were interesting too. One was photos by Jean Loupe Sieff, which I loved. The other was by a Japanese photographer called Morimura Yasumasa. His photos were a interesting, but a bit strange. The strangest thing was that it turns out that the organiser of this meetup group lived in New York for 18 years and lived on my block on East 9th street all that time! We both lived opposite each other at the same time and probably crossed paths many times without even knowing it. What a coincidence!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Fab fabrics

I went to a quilt show yesterday with Jo Ann and Helen. The show was a bit disappointing, but there was much foraging to be done and I bought some fabulous fabrics to play with. Now I just need to decide what to do with them...