I spent a weekend in Tohoku - the northeastern region of Japan. The biggest attraction of this trip for me was my 6-year-old neice who lives in Sendai, spending the whole weekend with her was really wonderful :)

We also went up to Yamagata prefecuture, only one hour drive from Sendai and visited a place called Yamadera which literally means "Mountain Temple" and is famous for the "Narrow Road to the Deep North" (Oku-no-hosomichi 奥の細道) where a haiku poet Matsuo Basho stopped by and penned famed haiku poem. The "Narrow Road" leads up to the top of the mountain with a hard climing of over 1000 steps, and another 1000 down to come back which nearly killed me but the view along the way especially from the top was really rewarding. And "onsen" (hot spring) afterwards was also devine!
Back in Tokyo it's heavily raining and rather chilly (typhoon is approaching), seems like this summer is ending so much faster. But I will be going to Taiwan and Vietnam in a couple of days, back to a really hot weather! All the yummy foods are waiting for me and I'm very excited. yay!
If you are a fan of Haruki Murakami, Tony Takitani is a must-see film. It's one of a very rare films that is based on Murakami's story. (I actually don't know any other ones except the coming Norwegian Wood by Tran Anh Hung.) And it's one of my favourite Japanese films!

Though Tony Takitani doesn't have such a big recognition even in Japan, it was shown at film festivals all over the world and it received many awards. It is really beautiful and the mood it has is airy and dreamy with the music by Ryuichi Sakamoto working perfectly well. More than anything, it is so well made that the feel of the original Murakami's story/his world is right there in the entire film as the moving images. It is amazing! Apparenty Tony Takitani is in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in the English version book. So read the story (it's a short story, easy to read!) and then see the film is my recommendation.

Take a peek at this official US trailer:
Japanese Wrapping Paper Pad designed by Kyoto based Japanese stencil artist Mihoko Seki is one of the items I highly recommend from my shop. There are two different design or colours in one pad, 20 sheets each (40 sheets in one pad).
You can be creative with these papers, you can of course use them as wrapping papers but my favourite way of using them is as book covers. If you buy a book in a Japanese bookstore you often get your book coverd in a paper with the shop logo printed on it. But you can make your own very easily, just fold the four sides to match the size of a book, no glue no scissors so easy! And don't they look cute? It keeps the book nice and clean. (Check out lovely Hello Sandwich's post on Japanese book covers!)

You can also use it as a letter writing paper, and make your own matching envelope. You will need a glue and scissors this time, but no hastle!

Or make your own small paper bags?
Or use it as a place mat? No glue, no scissors, no folding!!!!
Or perhaps you have some better ideas? (I'm sure you do.) I'm going to have a limited special sale on these wrapping paper pads and it will be $8.80 for a 40 sheet pad while it's normally $10, if you want to try! This offer starts NOW and will end on 6 September. So check out all the 3 different designed pads in my shop: Wrapping paper pad (Restaurant) / Wrapping paper pad (Salon Biz) / Wrapping paper pad (Cafe & Temples)
Hara Museum in Shinagawa is one of my favourite museums in the world. It's not one of the major museums in Tokyo, it's small but tasteful and is like a hidden treasure box, or that's how I think of it. This Bauhaus-inspired architecture was designed in 1938 by Jin Watanabe who was one of the leading architects in the Showa period. It was originally a residence of Mr Hara, a businessman and art collector, and was turned into a private Museum in 1979 by his grandson.

Hara Museum showcases the latest developments in contemporary art and design including architecture, music and dance.

It has a really charming cafe overlooking a courtyard, which makes me love this museum more! Unfortunately like most Japanese museums no photographs are allowed inside the building so the top three photos are mine taken from outside and the bottom two are from their website.

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
4-7-25 Kitashinagawa Shinagawa-ku Tokyo (google map)
5 mins by taxi or 15 mins on foot from JR Shinagawa Station Takanawa Exit.
I had my first letterpress experience last month! Since I visited the Melbourne Museum of Printing in February I have been so curious about letterpress printing and I had my letterpress meishi (business cards -very important in Japan!) made when I came back from my trip.

And last month I took a quick letterpress workshop and made my meishi for uguisu. I wanted to use hiragana and kanji (they are the two types of Japanese characters) but they didn't have one of the kanji characters I wanted to use so I ended up using all katakana for the shop name. In Japanese wirings there are 3 different types of alphabet, which we use mixing together. Hiragana and katakana have 46 characters each and for kanji there are 1,945 listed by Japanese Ministry of Education. That all together is a massive number compared to English alphabet of 26 each for lower/upper case. So picking all the characters from the case one by one is a hard work, for a newspaper.... can you imagine!?

Anyway, when I had it made professionally I gave them the design (layout) which I mad e with the illustrator, to adjust the letter spacings and the line hights are nothing when done on the computer but oh did I learn how uneasy it is to do that all manually! It was a lot of fun at the same time though. In this workshop I just made a set of very simple layout 25 meishi but I want to take the proper class when I have more time in the future.

I also have some letterpress paper goods in my shop such as these, so please check them out too!
I updated my shop last night and more magazines have been added! (backnumbers/mostly secondhand)

For the past 5-6 years there has been SO MANY lifestyle/home/interior magazines published in Japan, and everytime I go to the bookstore I find something new and they really do inspire me. ku:nel, Lingkaran, Arne, Tennen-seikatsu, Come home! are the popular ones that have been around for quite a long time (unfortunately Lingkaran is now finished) , but the newer or not-so-big-but-actually-quite-good zine-type ones like hibi, murmur, miru by Shiseido can't be missed.

Also though I don't have it in my shop at the moment "kurashi no techo" is the all-time favourite, it's been going since 1948 and is probably the oldest lifestyle magazine in Japan. It's a really great magazine full of useful and inspiring ideas for quality lifestyle, but it has lots of reading stuff so you'd enjoy it more if you read Japanese. Still it's really worth checking out, if you happen to go near a bookstore that sell Japanese magazines do look for this writing "暮らしの手帖"!!
All images are from CLASKA.
CLASKA is one of not-so-many luxury boutique hotels in Tokyo which has renovated an old business hotel started in the 60s in Meguro-dori (street). There are only 9 guest rooms and 26 residential rooms for long term stay. As a resident in Tokyo I haven't stayed at CLASKA but it looks very nice! The gallery shop "DO" on the third floor is one of my favourite shops in Tokyo, and the ground-floor cafe/restaurant/bar "kiokuh" is good too (I didn't think so much of their lunch special though). Why in Meguro-dori? is a common question many people would have as is a little bit out of the major areas of Tokyo, plus it's a good 10 minuite walk from the closest station "Gakugeidaigaku" and can't really say it's convenient. However, from Gakugeidaigaku it's only 5 minutes to get to Shibuya and there is a bus that goes to Meguro JR station in 7 munites from right infront of the hotel.

The name "CLASKA" was taken from a Japanese phrase "dou kurasuka" どう暮らすか (how best to live?) so if you want to stay in Tokyo like living in Tokyo it could be a cool place to stay! It is one of the popular areas to live in Tokyo, and also Meguro-dori is famous for having many interior shops so that is another thing. Otsu Furniture (Japanese antique), boiserie (French antique) and a new shop inspiration (open only on Fri/Sat/Sun) are my favourites, you can find so many more interior shops along Meguro-dori and this is a great website (only Japanese).

1-3-18 Chuo-cho, Meguro-ku (access map)
Another of my favourite shops in Tokyo is Gallery & Shop "DO". ("DO" apparently is pronounced like "dough".) In a large open space, all the beautiful homeware/interior/stationery items of Japanese contemporary designs are presented really nicely. It's a shop and a gallery and I just looooooved looking at each item, wishing I could buy the whole shop to take home!

Their online shop is also great! Unfortunately it's only in Japanese though.
The 2 images below are from their website.
"DO" is actually in a design hotel called CLASKA, it looks really nice - I will post about it later!

The WONDERFUL Baden Baden I also visited last week is in the same area of Gakugeidaigaku though it's not really that easy to find the way between the two shops. (It's about 15 minute walk in the residential area, if you are good at reading maps you'll be fine.)

Gallery & Shop "DO" at CLASKA (3rd Floor)
1-3-18 Chuo-cho Meguro-ku Tokyo
See access information here.