I brought back lots of goodies from my trip to Japan and finally got around to photographing them so that I can show-and-tell my shopping experience!
A lot of my shopping was done in the Omotesando neighborhood of Tokyo. Lucky me, my sweet Japanese friend offered to take me out shopping for the day while Mr. Canal Notes visited the electronics district of Akihabara. So, off I went to Omotesando with my friend. Omotesando is a really fashionable area in Harajuku and is particularly known for the architecture – lots of flashy flagship stores from major global brands. Lovely to see, but I was more interested in shopping for items not available outside of Japan.
We visited Natural House, a Japanese organic supermarket where I bought a wonderful selection of tea and a lot of snacks for the flight home, as well as some special Japanese miso and real wasabi. As you can see, reading Japanese or having a friend to help you is helpful in a supermarket.
After Natural House, we wandered into the Spiral building to look through the Spiral design shop upstairs. This shop carries a variety of things from all over, including a large selection from European designers. Very interesting browsing, but my main focus here was the wonderful selection of paper goods. I bought lots of beautiful handmade Japanese wrapping paper. I also picked up several rolls of washi tape, which is Japanese masking tape in different colors and designs. They even had little square washi tape stickers that I think will be great for labeling gifts, especially at Christmastime.
The lovely origami turtles and cranes pictured above are made of beautiful chiyogami paper and were a little welcome gift left on our hotel pillows. Turtles and cranes are good luck in Japan and they are believed to live for 1000 years.
Next, we went sake-tasting at Hasegawa Sake in the fashionable Omotesando Hills shopping center. This is a fantastic sake shop which sells many different kinds of sake, and they have a small bar where you can have a drink or a more elaborate tasting session. I really loved that they sell smaller bottles as well as larger ones, so I was able to buy several different types of sake without taking up too much space in my luggage. After the sake tasting, I had gained enough nerve or lost enough inhibition to buy a piece of handmade artisan pottery that I had admired in a nearby shop. Japanese pottery is beautifully done and much of it is the put-on-a-shelf-and-admire-type, rather than the eat-your-oatmeal-and-put-in-the-dishwasher-type. I was hoping to find a nice combination of the two, but the pieces I was drawn to were the former, so I bought only one piece.
One of the things I loved about staying in a hotel in Japan was the yukata, which is a summer kimono, also used as a lightweight robe. I found them very comfortable and a slightly more elegant alternative to a traditional white terry bathrobe. Particularly useful if you live in a warmer climate, and they are compact enough to take on holiday as well. At Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando, I got several – for myself and to give as gifts. And best of all, satisfying my fabric obsession, I got several antique obi. An obi is the wide sash that ties around the middle of a formal kimono, and is traditionally made from a heavy silk brocade fabric. For those of us who don’t wear a kimono, an obi can be used in a variety of ways for the home. Some people buy them solely for the intricate fabrics, which can be used to make cushion covers, light upholstery or clothing. But I can’t bear to think of taking a pair of scissors to them! I bought a beautiful white one which was used with a wedding kimono, and as it’s over 3 meters long, it will be perfect as a table runner especially at the holidays. I may use the other two at the foot of a bed, as a wall hanging, or perhaps even frame them.
After leaving Oriental Bazaar, we stopped at Yoku Moku, which according to my friend is the best pastry shop in Tokyo. It was packed, but I did manage to try several of their sweets and they were indeed delicious. I picked up a few of their miniature cakes and sweets for the journey home.
Lastly, the Japanese are known for their skincare products, particularly their focus on sunscreen products, which is great if you are fair-skinned and/or sun-aware. From Shiseido, one of my old favorites, I found two kinds of sunscreen that I haven’t seen outside of Japan: Sunmedic was recommended by a friend and I picked up the Aqualabel to try it out as well. I also discovered a charming Kyoto-based brand called Yojiya. You can find it in Tokyo too and I even saw a small selection in the duty-free shopping at the airport before our flight home. At one of their Kyoto shops, I bought two kinds of sunscreen, the hand cream, a face powder with SPF 26, an exfoliating sponge, and rice bran facial cleanser. I have not tried all of the products yet, but I give two thumbs up to the Shiseido Sunmedic sunscreen, the Yujiya hand cream, and the rice bran facial cleanser.
Obviously my trip to Japan was not all about shopping – we had a wonderful and enriching experience traveling throughout the country! It was a nice bonus to be able to bring back a few pieces of that experience as souvenirs, things that I will enjoy trying (like the snacks and skincare products and paper and sake!) and beautiful things to remind me of a beautiful country (like the antique obi and the pottery). What do you think?