Inspiration: Etsuna Otsuka Workshop

etsuna otsuka in her tokyo studio

Sometimes in life things just magically fall into place. Back in the spring some of that magic came my way when a trip to Tokyo fortunately coincided with one of Etsuna Otsuka’s workshops. The moment I saw the posting on her site I immediately reserved a spot. I received a very dear email as well to confirm that it wasn’t a mistake and, with some broken Japanese, confirmed I would indeed be able to attend and was coming from New York.

Her blend of vintage made fresh is very feminine and modern. Formerly loved but discarded lingerie is given a new lease on life in a very positive departure from today’s fast-fashion scene. There is a charm to her work that blends fairytale with classy sophistication. I can think of so many adjectives to describe both her art and her personality: charming, romantic, sweet, endearing, stylish — the list goes on. In short, I am a huge fan!

Inside The Atelier

Approaching the shop address you are greeted with a typical Tokyo building, giving no real indication of what you will discover inside. Once the door opens on the second floor however you are transported to a delicate world woven of fluffy pastel knits, vintage peignoir accents, fine lace, and exquisite embroidery. (more…)

Tokyo Day 3: Tsukiji Part 2

I wasn’t brave enough to get to Tsukiji market at 3am and line up in the queue in the hopes we might get to see the tuna auction.  I know it is a once in a lifetime experience, but a little jet lag and a whole lot of “that’s crazy” kept running through my head.  But all the same we did have an amazing time walking around the market.

Tsukiji Market

asumi says lets go find the tuna

fresh fish in tsukiji

inside tsukiji market tokyo

tsukiji market clams

colorful fresh fish tsukiji

tsujiki market carts

found the tuna in tsukiji

And in the end we did find a tuna!!!  It was gigantic.  The people from the shop who bought it were so friendly and one gentlemen (in the photo) spent a great deal of time chatting with us.  His English was amazing and he was telling us about the price and the different cuts of the tuna.  We took a video of them cutting the tuna, hope it turned out ok.

Now we can’t forget to pick up the knife Adi bought.  Check it out!

masamoto sushi knives tokyo

Just kidding!!!  His yanagi is a bit more manageable and will fit his suitcase fortunately.

Takeoff for Tokyo

off to tokyo japan

Suitcase – check. Travel buddy – check.  Passport – check. Boarding pass – check.
Tokyo – 行きましょう!!!!!

Credits: Sakura | Illustration my own


40×Tokyo: So Much To See & Do

40 x Tokyo

T-minus 5 days and counting!!!

Know thyself. I expect that the following days are going to be insane with all the final prep required for the epic adventure that awaits.  There is still so much I want to research and learn about Tokyo.  But I’ve done my best and now we will see what unfolds.  The trip is going to be jam packed and I can only hope that 2 weeks is enough to experience it all.

so much to do in tokyo

Here’s all the things on my list that I didn’t get to create a pre-trip post about.  It’s a lot.  That is what happens when you put off visiting the place you love for 40 years.

liz lisa luggageWish I had a suitcase as cute as this travel trunk from Liz Lisa.  Maybe I can find something super sweet during the trip.  This will sound crazy but I put out my suitcase 2 weeks ago.  Slowly things have been moved into the official packing pile.  I am trying really really really hard to pack light.  But still have a few missing pieces I need to sort through over the next couple of days.  Looking forward to closing the zipper and heading off to the airport.


40×Tokyo: Tenugui

40 x Tokyo

T-minus 11 days and counting.  Just over a week away!  The anticipation is reaching an apex; I am so excited. Today’s birthday trip wish is to stock up on …

Tenugui (手拭い)

So what are tenugui?  Basically they are traditional, thin, cotton towels that are printed with the most incredible designs.  The internet changed the course of my career, but my roots are in graphic design.  You marry that with my Japan obsession and a fetish for fabric and tenugui becomes a perfect storm. So many of my favorite things rolled up into one little package that also happens to be both fashionable and functional.

The little towels are great for more than just drying your hands and tieing your hair back in Kendo.  They make a great way to wrap wine and sake to give as gifts… can be hung as well art… used as placemats for a nice dinning experience… twisted and tied to make an impromptu hand bag… and so much more.  I have a very small collection of tenugui so will be happy to add to it.  What I haven’t solved for yet is how to use them in a new and innovative way when it comes to sewing fashion projects.  I am sure the inspiration will strike at some point.  Ideas are welcome!!!

great omiyage tenugui from tokyo

Kamawanu Daikanyama

When I first started planning the Tokyo trip, it has been a few years in the making, Daikanyama was high on my list simply for a visit to the home of Baby the Stars Shine Bright.  While the original home of this alternative fashion brand has moved, I didn’t want that to be a reason rule out visiting the area all together.   Thus Google brought me to Kamawanu.  They have branch locations across Tokyo, but their main branch is founded here in Daikyanyama.  In addition to row upon row of tenugui, they also carry a selection of other traditional Japanese accessories.

kamawanu tenugui daikanyama

The best part of tenugui is that the designs usually tell a story.  The motif of the design has meaning.  The more I learn about the Japanese culture the more I comprehend some of these great tales and fables.

Links: Kamawanu English Site  |  A Crafter’s View

Credits:   (一)   (ニ)   (三)   (四)   (五)   (六)


40×Tokyo: Kimono Rentals

40 x TokyoT-minus 38 days and counting.  Today’s birthday trip wish is to rent a…

Kimono (着物)

When I was little my Grandfather presented me with a happi coat he picked up during one of many excursions to Japan.  I cherished that happi coat and wore it until it literally disintegrated.  It was nothing more than a very simple cotton robe, but in my imagination it was a flowing silk masterpiece worthy of a geisha.  I would complement it with a pair of wooden geta, clacking teeth and all, that my Grandmother gave me around the same time.  The geta sadly didn’t last as long simply for the fact I outgrew them quickly (curse you big feet).

tokyo kimono hime

I haven’t had occasion to wear kimono, although that is changing now that I attend more Japanese events in NYC.  I have several kimono in my collection, I do not have all the accessories needed to pull together a complete ensemble.  My goal in Tokyo is to fill the gaps so that I have at least one complete komon look with some modern touches.

Where to Rent Kimono

But even more exciting for me is I want to wear kimono on my birthday.  I still need to do more research but there are several places where you can rent kimono for the day and they will assist you with getting dressed. Here are the links I have come across so far:

taisho hime kimono

Where to Buy Kimono

As for where to buy vintage kimono this is what I have discovered:

Hayashi Kimono
International Arcade.
Tel: 03-3591-9826.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm.
Nearest station: Yurakucho

Oriental Bazaar
Tel: 03-3400-3933.
Open daily 9:30am-6:30pm. Closed Thursday.
Nearest stations: Harajuku or Omotesando

Daimaru Department Store
Tel: 03-3212-8011.

Morita Antiques
Tel: 03-3407-4466.
Open daily 10am-7pm.
Nearest station: Omotesando

Links:  Togo Shrine Flea Market  |  Article on Flea Markets

Can you recommend additional flea markets or stores in Tokyo that carry good kimono for sale?

Credits:   (一)   (ニ)   (三)   (四)   (五)   (六)   (七)   (八)   (九)   (十)

★ Update ★ – During our trip we did rent Kimono.  My friend who lives in Tokyo helped make the arrangements.  This shop also did our hair and make up too!  It was perfect.  Check them out for yourself:

Roppongi Hanagoyomi  3-9-11 Roppongi

Destination Japan

Lucky Pack Post: If it is not food, clothing, shelter or money… then it must be a surprise.

One of the characteristics I pride myself on is that I am not a fixed point.  Meaning there is so much in this world to explore, so why limit yourself to a narrow, well-defined persona.  I have a very broad range of interests from snowboarding to sewing and many things in between.  But there is one persistent passion that has remained throughout the years – a love for Japanese culture and design. But where did it begin?

While a specific object or moment can’t be pointed to, it is very clear my first encounters began with my grandparents.  They were very well traveled and their home reflected an avid fascination with the Orient.

An immaculate silk folding screen hand painted with Fuji-san in different seasons hung above their dining room table.  For a summer robe to lounge around in I was given a ryokan yukata – I wore it until it was threadbare.  And the piece-de-resistance was a set of porcelain buttons my grandmother gave me.  They were painstakingly handcrafted into miniature Noh masks.

I haven’t yet been to Japan, but as the New Year approaches a long awaited trip moves from my 5-year plan down to the 1-year plan.  2012 is going to be full of planning and research, some of which might spill over here onto LSE.  So for my first “lucky pack” post – we begin the journey to Kyoto 2013.

Sweet Dreams, Sheri