It has been raining a lot. Like, all the time. After spending about nine days being forced to walk 5-6 miles of tourist treks in Seoul, Aardvark has basically spent the entire last week in the baby carrier (so she doesn’t get all drippy wet and then ask to be picked up). Which, by the way, results in a very high energy toddler at the end of the day. And parents with very tired backs and legs who are maybe a wee bit cranky since it is also hot and humid, in addition to rainy and wet.
Anyway, we’ve been exploring some of our old favorite places that are INDOORS.
My first order of business in Shibuya was to pop by the Tokyu Hands – a massive, 7-story craft- and hobby- and travel-gear shop (seriously, it’s like they invented it just for me) to see if I could get a Takadanobaba JR train station key chain, similar to the one I got for Kichijoji when we lived here in 2011.
I could not. But that did not stop me from exploring all of Tokyu Hands. And then checking out the branches in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro the next day.
Here’s some of the fun we had in Tokyu Hands:
(My favorite is the one on the right, because you can see Don’s reflection)
Hanafuda is a Japanese card game that is addicting (and actually, a great introduction to Japanese culture, because once you get to know the different suits – like plum blossom or pawlonia – you start seeing them everywhere: motifs in Buddhist temples, along walkways, etc., and some of the card combinations needed to win are also examples of classic Japanese activities, like getting sake and a full moon card to symbolize moon viewing parties (or cherry blossom viewing, etc.)
But this Super Mario Brothers version might just be the craziest version of it we’ve seen.
I’m sorry I couldn’t get this in focus; the double-wrapped package just did not allow for a clear focus, but it’s a few more examples of the Mario-themed cards.
Though I could not find the JR Yamanote Line keychain for Takadanobaba, the reason for my visiting 3 major Tokyu Hands in 2 days, I DID find these, and I might need to get them:
Shinkansen (the famous express trains) chopsticks!
So those toy vending machines (you put in some coins, and out comes a little plastic egg with a toy inside) are everywhere in Japan. (Which, as we were warned when we were here years ago by some friends who already had kids, are just an invitation to either fill your tiny space with crappy toys or engage in an argument with your child every 10 feet. Totally true.)
But some do provide for hilarity: like this one, which are vending machines for hats. For your cat. On the left: hats with cat ears?! On the right, more of a bandana-style look.
Although I can’t imagine putting a hat on an actual cat, there seems to be some outreach in Japan to encourage it:
Don tells me this poster, from the pet floor (Aardvark’s favorite place in the store) is actually urging customers to remember, it’s not just your dog who can wear a hat for Halloween. Cats can wear them too.
While we are on the topic of cats, here are some of the elaborate cats that are part of the Cat Festival taking place at Tokyu Hands, Ikebukuro this month.
As for Loft, this was one of our favorites in 2011 (again, I think a big part of my fondness for it comes from the first day, stuck in a typhoon, exploring as many shops that were open and had lots of floors so we could avoid going outside. And because 2011 Loft was ALL ABOUT Halloween.) So I was eager to return. Plus, we both got these fantastic silicone, Lego-style calendars in 2011, and were hoping to find some 2017 refills.
A few quick observations about Loft this time around: there is NO crazy Halloween theme song. In fact, there are no crazy jingles on any floor. And while that makes shopping, well, less of a headache, literally, it is somewhat sad, too. It’s a bit too could-be-anywhere.
Also, Halloween has definitely been toned down. There is Halloween stuff everywhere, but in much more moderate amounts. Which is a bummer because I adore Halloween. But 1) I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s still early and 2) Even toned-down Halloween in Tokyo is about on par with US Halloween, so I can’t be too disappointed. It is still totally a thing here.
But Loft in general seems a bit classier than before. Which is fine, of course. They still have great stationery and travel gear, and that’s all I really ask of it. Plus I have a suspicion some of that “classier” stuff will eventually become souvenirs, because some of their housewares and stuff are great…
Check out these Mt. Fuji glasses, for instance:
And they do have some crazy face masks, so there are some definite exceptions to the “classy” part.
Yes, that’s right. In addition to cute Japanese cartoon characters, your face mask could look just like Godzilla! (Hey, I think my Halloween costume is all sorted!)
Or you could look like pets:
Or you could dress up like Hello Kitty, dressed up as someone else (and HK is technically a college-aged human dressed up like a cat, right? You could dress up like someone dressed up as someone else, dressed up as someone else. How meta!) all while moisturizing.
Also, just because this was with the face sheets…..um?! WTF?
But the biggest shock:
Hello Kitty is all grown up, apparently.
At Loft, a pop-up mini-shop was selling the Tokyootona line of Hello Kitty.
Complete with seemingly un-Hello Kitty photo booth stage:
Aardvark got fully into it and went wild with the props, insisting she could manage three at once.
I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. The day before, we passed this shop in Ikebukuro:
It’s a shop for “elegant” HK items.