Fabric scraps and the art of omiyage

Vacation is a time to relax and break out of habits, but that doesn’t mean its time to put down my needle and thread. I find it extremely soothing to have a hand sewing project that I can enjoy while sipping on my morning coffee. Its a bit challenging in the winter months when there isn’t enough daylight but as soon as spring comes along I notice I pick right back up on this morning ritual of mine. We were in Barcelona this year as the clocks sprung us forward officially into spring and I was sure to plan ahead and pack supplies into my already busting-at-the-seams case.

But there is more to this story, so perhaps I should explain that I very much believe in the tradition of omiyage. The Japanese custom of gift-giving resonates with me deeply. The idea of presenting a small gift when traveling to or from friends and loved ones is an important part of etiquette and there is a lot to learn from the highly complex tradition in Japan. The ideal omiyage is something transient, perishable, and thus food goods rein supreme at the top of the charts. This way you are not burdening someone with something unnecessary that they need to take care of or commit space to in their home. Now the thing is, Japan has a support structure for this, but when it comes to the US nothing really stands out as an ideal, iconic small gift. Maybe I am missing something obvious. What really represents New York and isn’t a bad tourist trinket? I just don’t feel we have an equivalent to the dainty, well packaged, perfect box of treats that other countries have.

plush bunny faces made using leftover fabric and lace scraps

As cooking or baking is simply out of the question for me the next logical answer to the gift-giving conundrum is craft. Admittedly this breaks the rule of being perishable, but it allows the gift to be sincere and from the heart. (And I will not be offended if anyone discards their gift, it is theirs to do with as they please.) Equally important in this approach is that the item share something of both the giver and the recipient. And that brings us back to a freshly brewed cup of coffee, breathtaking sunrises from a rooftop flat in Barcelona, and a mish-mash collection of fabric scraps, lace, beads and satin flowers.

Literally in the last moments before our flight the idea came to be to make plush bunny badges. The item needed to be sewn by hand while away, so I squeezed in a few quick stitches to shape the face and the ears before dashing to the airport. What I particularly like about this project is that it uses up little pieces of lace and fabric that normally would be discarded. Waste is waste and now I feel justified with my basket of odds and ends I have held on to for so long. Given the frenetic pace at which the materials were packed its very fortunate that in the end they worked well to make cohesive pieces. All-in-all I am pleased with the outcome and hope that the recipients enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.



Tokyo Omiyage: Karin Coron Sesame Peanuts

karin coron soy sesame

To celebrate the holiday weekend we opened our second omiyage snack bag from Karin Coron.  We had such a blast walking around the busy shops that line the path to the temple in Asakusa.  This bag contained peanuts hidden inside a crispy shell covered in either white or black sesame seeds.  Of the two snacks, the Wasabi Mame comes in first place.  But the Sesame is also very very tasty.

japanese sesame peanut snack

Its official, we are going to go back to Japan in the spring.  So I had better hurry up and post all the memories from this trip before then ;)

Tokyo Omiyage: Karin Coron Wasabi Mame

Spring is in full effect here in NY now.  Most of the flowering trees are shedding their blossoms.  And thanks to a healthy breeze, today was a doozy for allergies.  Ahchoo.  I decided to hibernate inside hoping to avoid the onslaught, despite it being simply gorgeous outside.  After a bout of post-vacation laundry (finally got through it all) decided it was time for a cocktail and a snack.  So I dipped into my stash of Tokyo omiyage.

Karin Coron

Karin Coron is located at the end of the arcade and on the cross street just before the Hozomon, the last gate, approaching Sensoji temple in Asakusa.  They specialize in traditional karinto and bean snacks.  And if you are looking for a great treat and are in need of omiyage, gifts to bring back from your vacation, then do not miss stopping by this shop.

karin coron wasabi beans

I picked up three packages to try a sample of their different goods.  Today’s selection was wasabi mame (beans.)  They are so delicious.  Just enough wasabi to give them punch.  A perfect crunch; not to hard not to soft.  And a hint of nori gives them flair.

What originally drew me into their shop was their packaging.  The paper used to wrap each snack bag is a gift in itself.  I plan to iron out the folds and perhaps frame them.  Such beautiful designs.

karin coron packaging design

omiyage from asakusa tokyo

Karin Coron is officially added to my “I’ll be back” list for Tokyo.  You can learn more on their website karin-coron.blogspot.com and here is the street view from Google maps if you plan to visit.