Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Japanese Folk House Museum

A few weeks ago I did a trip to the Japan Folk House Museum, just minutes out of Tokyo, but a world away. Its grounds have a selection of over 20 traditional farmhouses from various regions of Japan, and many of the traditional methods of farming and cooking are demonstrated in each house. It was a very interesting trip, apart from the fact that it started snowing as soon as we got there.... Lunch was eaten in a barely-heated soba restaurant, sitting on tatami mats with no shoes on! After lunch, we got to try our hand at traditional indigo dyeing in a workshop on the grounds. It was a lot of fun, if a tad cold!

 The houses are made using an intricate layer of beautifully stacked straw. The outer straw wall is used as protection during snowy periods. Families often moved up to the higher floors when snow became too high. The second floor became ground level!

 The straw roofs are amazingly thick with a solid scaffold of bamboo underneath, which can be seen from inside the house. I love the cracked earth walls.

 These people were lighting a fire to make tea. They use the bamboo stick to blow air onto the fire.

 Wooden buckets.

 At the indigo dye workshop, we were given lots of items to play with. We each had a handkerchief sized piece of cotton and could use clips, marbles, film cases etc to tie around our handkerchiefs before they were dyed.

 I chose to use a marble in the centre and some clips around the outside, with some elastic bands to create a tie dye effect.

 The fabric pieces were then placed into the indigo dye in lovely big vats that were sunken into the floor. The vats are enormous and made from hand thrown clay.

 The fabric pieces were dipped twice to make the colour stronger and they came out looking like this - a beautiful deep indigo blue. Mine is the middle piece.

Kimonos on the Myoshoji river

On friday morning I travelled out to Nakai to experience a once yearly event along the Myoshoji river called some-no-komichi. This is an area where there were many kimono dyeing factories along the river that were used regularly up until the 1950s. After dyeing, the fabrics were washed in the river and hung above it to dry in the sun. Once a year, the some-no-komichi event is held to honor the workers who dyed the fabrics, and local kimono shops have donated kimono pieces to display across the river. It looked stunning in the morning sun. You can find out more about it here.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Marathon man!

Well, he did it! I'm so proud of him. His time was an astounding 4 hours 2 minutes and he was still standing at the end! A gang of four of us chased him around Tokyo with balloons, banner and Union Jack flag. We went from Shinjuku (the start) to Hibiya (10km and 20km markers), up to Ningyocho (for the 30km mark), and then down to the Odaiba to see him finish. We only just made it to each point with about 10 mins to spare before he passed us. We were all shattered by the end of it, so I can only imagine how poor Neil felt. He got home yesterday afternoon and had a hot bath and a beer, followed by a hearty lasagne.

 Gathering at the start line.

One of our mascots!

 Going strong!

Around the 30km mark - energy levels are definitely starting to drop at this point.

 Nearly there!

The finish line - Neil is on the right with his hands in the air.

The proud medal owner.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Go Neil Go!

The big day is almost here! The Tokyo marathon is tomorrow morning and Neil is gearing up for the big day. Today we went and got him registered. He now has his bib and number and if you type it into this link, you can trace his progress. Go Neil go!

Having a ball

Last Saturday we put our glad rags on and headed out to the Tokyo American Club to celebrate Burns night. We're not Scottish and the event was a few weeks late, but we had a fab night, swigging whiskey and Stripping the Willow (a Scottish dance, in case you wondered.....). As ever, the bagpipe band was spot on, and the fiddlers did an amazing job as we swung the night away!

The happy couple - note the Cheeky Leopard bag!

The band serenading us.

A rousing Scottish bagpipe band - note that they are all Japanese!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sweets Forest

Since moving to Tokyo, I often find myself saying "only in Japan". This time it was regarding Sweets Forest a confectionary expolsion in Jiyugakoa. This cafe serves all manner of sweet items (often unidentifiable) which you can enjoy surrounded by pink cut out trees.