Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Turning Japanese...

Abi here again. I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo last October and came back even more enamoured of Japanese design, culture and general obsession with all things kawaii (that's "cute"). 

I discovered the delights of the 100 Yen shops (or 78p shops if you do the exchange rate thing); nothing like our depressing pound shops they are multi-storey caverns of absolutely everything useful, useless and plain adorable – I had to buy another suitcase (though not only for stuff from all from the 100 Yen shops; I was gifted two full kimonos – these are some heavy garments let me tell you).

Anyways, to cut a long story short (believe me, I could wax on about Tokyo brilliance for days) most of what I brought back was gifts for friends and family but I vowed to return one day. That day is yet to come but my jet-setting husband has just returned from a three-week work trip there and, by crikey I'm a lucky wife, he's brought me back some fine, fine things which I have to share with you...



These Edo Kiriko glasses, above top, were gifts – beautiful coloured glass tumblers that look lovely on the kitchen windowsill, they are beautiful examples of the 180-year-old tradition of glass cutting started during the Edo period in Japan. 

The dinky pink and blue twins, middle picture above, are wooden, hand painted ornaments and look equally at home in our kitchen. 

Another gift (there is a huge and ancient tradition of gift-giving in Japan; it is fascinating and steeped in context and history) is this beautiful trio of Mame-Zara dishes, above; hand painted and perfectly formed Mame-Zara means, literally, "beans-dish" and can be used for serving small sweets etc or displaying as the lovely things they are. I can't find anywhere selling them in the UK which is a shame.


A special mention must go to the packaging of things in Japan; I love all the tiny paper bags and wooden boxes everything seems to come in. I just can't recycle the gingham bag, above top, it's too pretty and the wooden boxes, above, will make stylish storage.



Muji – ah, Muji. I love Muji – and I especially love Muji in Tokyo, where you can personalise any notebook you buy with a choice of rubber stamps for no extra charge. The husband chose two for me – a little dog, because we love dogs and are currently searching for a rescue Fido, and this one with a stripey breton top on it – a more perfect stamp for me could not possibly be found (ask Kate about my inability to wear anything other than stripes; I think it's a disease).


The short Kimono jacket, top, is going to be worn but I have seen Kimonos displayed on walls like this and think they make beautiful wall art. And I just had to show you this packaging: Hiyoko cakes ("bird" cakes; famous Japanese confections in the shape of birds and almost too cute too bear); a gift for the parents but I think you'll agree the wrapping is a mid-century dream and I will be sneaking that away from my folks once they've unwrapped it.


And finally some pure squeak-aloud-it's-so-cute Japan tat: my two new phone charms – a squishy strawberry and a ladybug. Of course. And these two craft kits of a carrot pant -wearing chicken and a slightly disapproving lamb which I can't wait to make and foist on a certain soon-to-be-mum friend...

All in all a feast of everything that is beautifully designed, infuriatingly cute, historically inspiring and just plain bonkers from Japan. I can't wait to go back!

The Japan Centre has a limited selection of Japanese goods which you can buy online and they also have a store on Regent's Street, London.

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