Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Getting To The Ship (FINISHED!!)

After our excursion in Japan, we already felt like we had gotten our money’s worth and we hadn’t even begun the actual voyage yet. My new friend Pam and I had breakfast a Dennys where we met two lovely Australian travelers.

And did a little shopping before getting packed and ready for the actual cruise.

The department stores had some absolutely stunning textiles and kimonos.

The presentation was gorgeous and the textiles amazing!
This was one of the dazzling kimonos we saw at Takashimaya.

We also saw a lovely Painting exhibition with images inspired by Noh masks. We got to meet the artist, who posed for us humbly outside the gallery.

The store was full of enticing items from carefully crafted samurai dolls to housewares to stationary.

Thanks to our Concierge at Hotel Mercure, we made it safely to the pier via taxi and Natalie and I found our room which was roomier than we had ever expected.

The rooms were surprisingly large.

...and It was a room with a view (sort of). This is Harumi port in Tokyo.

Of course it didn’t take long for Pam, Natalie and me to find the buffet!

This is the Panorama Room where we tend to take our breakfast. Yes that mountain of food is my plate! (Sheepish grin!) It is really hard not to go overboard (haha) on the food when it all looks so good!

Outside the window we could see some kind of Japanese fashion photo shoot taking place.

The clothes were quite chic and the accessories very entertaining. (Love the hair!)

Here is a slightly closer view of one of the shoots.


Leave it to the Japanese fashion moguls to combine pink and blue wigs with 18th Century, British inspired uniforms.

Our ship is small for the Cruise set, but has many interesting nooks and crannies. The top deck has a pool and hot tubs (although as you can see it was a bit wet as we left port and no one felt like a swim.)

It was getting dark as we left the harbor and we coud see the big Ferris wheel in Odaiba (not shown) as we followed the pilot boat out to sea.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A Day in Tokyo With Lily Chin

As some of you know, I decided to be decadent this year and take an educational tour of Asia to explore textile and craft work in Japan and China. I had taken a course at Stitches Midwest with the incomparable knitter, crocheter and designer Lily Chin and learned she would be leading a tour with Craft Cruise, a tour company devoted to taking crafters to various exotic locations to learn more about textiles, fabric, knitting and crocheting among other crafty activities. 

We spent our first night in the Hotel Mercure. The rooms were lovely (but of course I miss my hot tub and spa from my other hotel.) Here is the interior of our room on the 9th floor.

Tokyo is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. (Just one blogger's opinion). The first day, Pam and I had a delightful breakfast Japanese style at Denny's and so this morning we visited Starbucks literally just around the corner from the hotel. (This photo is for you, Min!)

I should mention that the night before we had had a lovely "buffet" dinner (called Baikingu in Japan (that means viking for those unfamiliar with Japanese variants of international words - and is a reference to Smorgasbord dining.)) Pam, Natalie, and I all chose attractive dishes from the basement of Mitsukoshi and then got together for a real feast. (Remember you can click on the pictures to enlarge them). We had sushi and sashimi and pork balls and seaweed salads and burdock root and all kinds of delicious (oishi!!!) Japanese specialties. Alas we even had to throw away a few remnants as we could not eat everything we had acquired.

On Friday morning we officially began our Craft Cruise activities. We met the whole group for the first time and headed off to the Tokyo Art Center (for Textile and fiber).  The yarn was absolutely oishii and we had to shop right off the bat!  Lily was presented with a book on weaving by the director of the center.

The Art Center offers all manner of classes to people who would like to become skilled in weaving, knitting or other fiber arts.

This is the weaving studio.  We saw lovely examples of bound weave, waffle weave and textured weaves which were being taught to the students.

We got a demonstration of the looms  and of course, in keeping with Japanese tradition, had our picture taken in the studio.

Why am I always the dumpiest looking person in the group!?

We headed back to Ginza for our next activity. We saw a little photo shoot on the street as we headed toward the Ginza Yuzawaya.
 One always sees such interesting sights. What a  totally cool sign!

I have no idea what this TV spot was about, but ya gotta love a man dressed all in white!

I didn't take pictures at Yuzawaya, but after our visit there, we headed off on the subway for the piece de resistance: Nihon Vogue.

We had our priorities straight, so it was shopping first before visiting the classrooms and instructional areas.

I got some lovely periodicals on lace knitting, but decided to hold off on more yarn. 

(Good thing too I was running low on space and money already!) 

For lunch I decided to take some me time and find a park to relax in. I bought food at the local convenience store and then headed towards the park.

On the way I saw this family.

The baby in the stroller was rather unexpected.

So next I sat down to enjoy my meal. I met a lovely lady who sat down with me and had a conversation in Japanese. She had never been to America, but was interested in English. She was born and grew up in Karuizawa (born in 1930 so she had experienced the bad times of the war.) We talked about the mountains in Karuizawa and the air and she told me about her health regimen of walking. It was a very pleasant visit. I believe her name was Kazuoka.

Then I rushed back to the Nihon Vogue building where we had the opportunity to view some of the various classes.  Here were some samples of things they did in class. Look at the beautiful tatting.

There were classes in session and we got a chance to observe.

The class members were very friendly and kindly showed us what they were doing. Ther were also lovely pieces by the experts.

I can't remember anymore what the topic of the class was, but here is some of what we saw.

It seems to be a class on tatting or bobbin lace.

There were many beautiful pieces on display.

Here you can see some of the students modelling their pieces.

The instructor taught how to measure and construct a garment while we were there.

Our hosts checked in on us as we observed the classes.

Here is  shot of a machine knitting class. (I think this was the sensei).

It is hard to see the piece below, but it demonstrates what was being done.


Even though everyone took their crafting extremely seriously, there were smiles and good atmosphere.

Downstairs on the first floor, there was a cake decorating class .

After our field trip, we went back to our hotel, but we still wanted to look around a bit. Here are some shots of Tokyo at night.


I had decided I wanted to visit the theater so it was off to see Kabuki. This would be my last visit to the old Kabuki theater, as they would tear this one down to remodel it .

It is hard to say good bye to a beloved place.

Sometimes the old must give way to the new, but Japan has a fairly good track record of knowing how to balance these two forces.