I know the world’s a scary place just now and I can hardly put into words my feelings about recent events in Charlottesville, but at the same time, I’m in Japan and I can’t do much about any of it except to light candles at temples and say prayers that sanity and peace return to the parts of the planet that need them most. If the world goes to hell, my current attitude is “Carpe diem and pass the sushi.”
So Wednesday last I left IUJ and traveled to Tokyo to meet up with T and our good friend K for a little fun and frolic and a quick trip to Nagoya to visit with a Japanese pen acquaintance there. On the way, we spent a lovely day or so exploring some interesting corners of the Ginza area of Tokyo, where K has his pen shop. Ginza, as you may know, is home to the “Rodeo Drive” of Tokyo, the biggest baddest department stores you’ve ever seen and remarkably lavish storefronts of nearly all the world’s luxury brands. But as an urban landscape, even at real estate rates of nearly one billion yen per square meter (!!), it doesn’t win any beauty contests with me, at least from the outside:
But this is where it gets interesting. Like much of Japan, the good stuff is hidden, a little off the beaten path, a bit subtle and indirect. K took us to one of those amazing department stores (forgot to ask which one) that has installed a branch of the Tsutaya Book Shop on its upper floor, complete with a very small, very exclusive, very tasteful stationery department. Since all three of us are pen and paper nuts, it was a must-see. On the way up, this cheery summer display:
Once inside the “bookstore,” folks can browse the merchandise or just settle in and make the scene in this most attractive cafe:
We, of course, made a beeline for the pens and paper section (all gorgeous and WAY over-priced, particularly for us who have connections and can get this stuff for less), but I loved this scene of one of the uniformed customer service employees helping a couple geisha girls pick out the perfect gift:
I was particularly taken with a product I had simply never seen anywhere before – and can’t even say now exactly how it works or who might use it. Solar paper – who knew?
One of our target stops, alas, was closed, but the outdoor signage gave me a chance to snap a shot of T on the left and K on the right, my two Musketeers:
We started looking around for lunch, but this one place seemed to offer menu items that were simply WAY too fresh for my consideration:
…and since life is uncertain at the moment, we decided to ‘eat dessert first.’ Here’s a shot of a place one simply should not miss in this neck of the woods – the Kit Kat flagship store and “Chocolatory.” Now, in the US, Kitkat is just another boring mass-market drug-store brand Nestle milk chocolate square, but in Japan, it’s WHOLE other story. Wiki tells us “There have been more than 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors of Kit Kats produced in Japan since 2000. Nestle, which operates the Kit Kat brand in Japan, reports that the brand overtook Meiji Chocolate as the top-selling confection in Japan from 2012 to 2014….The product’s name as the coincidental cognate Kitto Kattsu (きっと勝つ), translated as “You will surely win” … could be mailed as a good luck charm for students ahead of university exams.”
Here’s a shot of the current limited editions; I am ashamed to admit I tumbled for a small box of the pistachio-grapefruit selection, which was tasty but a bit overpriced:
…and that odd creature in the lower left hand corner is actually a two-foot high caged, er, tower of a number of the different flavors…
Upstairs, there is a charming cafe with some of the most beautiful pastries I have seen in a long time. If you know me at all, you know I’m not much of a foodie, I certainly don’t spend a lot of time photographing my dinners AND I’m not usually seduced by baker’s wares, but that day was an exception and I both documented AND quickly inhaled one of these beauties:
…then off we ran to the train station for a smooth shinkansen (bullet train) ride to Nagoya and thence Kyoto. Stay tuned for more snippets from this trip, unless the Stooge Duo of DT and KJU decided to blow us to Kingdom Come. Trust that I would vaporize with joy in my heart.