Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Birthday Weekend

Last weekend was my birthday weekend and I couldn’t figure out how to celebrate it. I finally decided that I would spend it trying various crafting techniques I’d wanted to learn for a while. I have about five main techniques I’ve picked up supplies for over the last few months that I have been putting off: Viking knit, kumihimo braiding, various clay projects, origami, and chain maille, as well as some necklaces for my sister that just seemed like such big projects I didn’t want to start since they would take so long to finish. What better way to celebrate my birthday than to stop the research, writing, and basically spinning my wheels on internet work and to just be creative for a few days? My plan for Saturday was to call home and talk to my parents before going out to Yokohama and the mega-store called Tokyu Hands. I had planned to let myself take out about a hundred fifty dollars for craft supplies or whatever really caught my eye and lunch out there. It was a good hour train ride from my place, or so I thought, and I figured I’d leave midmorning and get back to my train stop about supper time. The problem was that I forgot to get yen out the night before and for some reason my cash card wasn’t accepted at the ATMs around my place. As I was walking to a number of ATMs, I passed a store I went in once before. I had gone in and left with the feeling that it was kind of a boutique where cool Japanese things were sold for decoration and a few craft supplies were thrown in. Um, yeah. I had only been in one floor. This time I realized there were four floors. The street level was mostly kitchen goods, the lower level or basement had stamping, gel pens, and scrapbooking things. So far I was interested and had a few ideas but wanted to check out everything before deciding on anything. The second floor was basically school or office supplies. Again, I had some ideas but not much I needed at the moment. The third floor was all origami and paper with paintbrushes, paint, clay, and rows and rows of paper in all lengths, colors, textures, and styles. That got the ideas going but I still didn’t have yen. Finally I settled on about twenty dollars worth of paper goods and an extra bit of Japanese modeling clay to add to the bit I already owned. I had an idea in my head of creating a clay sculpture, maybe not that weekend but soon and needed some extra clay. I picked up a small lunch at the convenience store and was back in my room by 3 pm ready to start my projects. I hadn’t gotten to the mega store, which looks awesome in its multilevel floor-plan for do-it-yourself and souvenir items but it was bordering on rain outside, I wound up saving a lot of money, and I found myself an awesome craft store about ten minutes from my place. (It even sells metal clay I can practice with before spending lots of money online to get things shipped to me.) Tokyu Hands will wait awhile as I get a better idea of my preferred craft techniques and make money to spend at the mega-store.
The weekend definitely did not turn out the way I had hoped. I finally finished two necklaces that had been sitting around for a while. They were ones my sister had requested based on characters from her story and I really liked the design ideas but had never gotten around to actually finishing them and putting clasps on them. I got those two done and started on another simple design I decided to complicate some once I got the components in front of me. I also set up the kumihimo loom so I could start the next day. I also tried to work on Viking knit only to realize the wire I was using was too thick so I’ll have to find thinner wire in the stores around here.
All in all my birthday weekend was relaxing but not as productive as I had hoped. Oh well, that’s what weekends are for and I did manage to finish those two necklaces. (And it turned out my card problems were really just ATM problems. Apparently some Japanese ATMs don’t like foreign cards. Oh well, lesson learned.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tokyo 2011, Day 2

The next day we again had trouble leaving the room on time and got to the restaurateurs’ street less than an hour before we had to be at the theater. This street, which I forget the name of, is full of ceramic dinnerwear, pots and pans, and fake food made to look like real food which people buy to use or display at their restaurants. In Japan most restaurants have a visual menu outside the main door as well as the written menu inside. The visual menu is plastic food created to tempt the taste buds of passersby and look very realistic. My sister really wanted to buy a few pieces but when they’d gone during the week things had been closed. This time we found one store open in the first block and she got something and I picked up a keychain of a small crepe. (Trust me, you should not come to Japan without trying one of their crepes. Hm, my favorite is the strawberries and banana slices with cream and chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and wrapped in a thin French-style crepe. Delicious)
Our next stop was the Japanese National Theater to see a traditional kabuki play. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that as cameras weren't allowed. The traditional theater of Japan, it is based on the acting, not the story. Coming from the Western idea that the acting complements the story, it was hard to see a play where the story complemented the acting, which was the real art. It was also impressive to see a “Living National Treasure” on stage as one of the actors. It was also hard to follow the story as the day only showed three parts of a ten part story, which is typical. Counting two twenty minute breaks, we were in the theater from a few minutes before it started at noon to 4:15 when the third part ended. It was a good experience and was interesting to see a number of Japanese patrons wore the basic kimono to the traditional theater. I felt a little under-dressed in my good jeans and nice shirt but other people were in less formal wear and no one commented on my outfit so I guess I wasn’t doing anything wrong. After a trip to a Christian bookstore where I finally found The Screwtape Letters and a good trip to Mcdonalds, in which we each tried the local sandwiches not offered in the States, we went back to the ryokan. They were going to stay another night and fly down to Okinawa that Monday but I had work the next day and gathered my things before saying ‘bye and taking the train back to my place. As usual, got started later than hoped as we took a while to finish our conversations and I got back to my place at ten but it was a good weekend and I had a lot of fun with my sisters.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome, 2012

As 2011 comes to an end I look back on a good year. I saw a lot of things, did a lot of things and got more stories to tell my possible children or nieces and nephews (or just neighborhood children if those two possibilities never happen :) ). I’ve learned a lot of things and can now rather clearly see two paths my life can take. I can see myself still taking the path I saw myself on in high school or I can see myself on a rather different path I discovered this past year. I’m not sure yet which path I will pursue or which one I will eventually end up on. I may yet find another path to follow and who knows where God will lead me. All I know is that the world is a huge place and the possibilities are endless as long as we keep our minds open and see the world as it is, not as we think it should be. I know there are problems out there, threats that may harm my family, friends, and anyone reading this but I truly believe that, as the card my mom has somewhere with two bears comforting each other like friends says, this too shall pass. Another great sentiment (and probably a quote somewhere) is that after the rain comes a rainbow. May 2012 be full of more rainbows for you than thunderstorms and may you look back on it with more fond memories than sad ones.
May God bless us all in the new year. Welcome, 2012. Try to go easy on us. :)