In the last month of 2016 I granted myself a wish I’ve held onto for years and years, which was to visit Japan in the wintertime. The original wish came about for the silliest of reasons. Someone gave me a Christmas card (honestly, it was more than a decade ago now!) with a painting of women in kimonos with beautiful umbrellas to protect them from the sparkling glittery snow tumbling all around them, and my heart did the funny fluttering thing that human hearts sometimes do. For some reason the journey has never worked out before, but this time it did and Ashley and I were able to go together.
Lots of people don’t like flying. I can easily understand people being afraid of it. But I just can’t get my head around finding it boring. It was such a beautiful, beautiful flight over.
We spent about half of our time in Tokyo, which certainly has very bright lights, very tall buildings and very big crowds…
…and Harajuku is every bit as pink and as fluffy as people say…
but really I think that emphasis is partly due to those being the things that are easiest to photograph! What is harder to capture are the exquisite places, lovingly curated and perfectly presented, so that you’d feel like an indelicate buffoon pulling out your camera.
So the best I can do is show you some of the things I brought back from those wonderful places.
This necklace was my Christmas gift from Ashley from a little stall all hanging with mossy, leafy branches. I love it so much.
Another beautiful place we visited was a shop I’ve admired from afar for years, Fog Linen. A more serene, clarifying, orderly arrangement of perfectly chosen things I cannot imagine.
I bought linen of course. This and some little packages of linen squares that are so lovely I will probably never be able to use them, but will just take them out sometimes and look at them.
There wasn’t any snow in Tokyo (there hardly ever is) and I was utterly longing to see some, so we got a train to Yuzawa in the Japanese Alps. It was pure magic and that cold, cold air on the face stirs something in my very soul.
The rest of our time in Japan we spent in Kyoto. Again, much of what was beautiful would have been too indelicate to photograph, so most of what I have to show for that time is in the treasures I brought home. But I did take some pictures of the tiny needle shop. Who knew that such a magical place could even exist, very nearly hidden in a garden behind an ordinary shopping mall?
I bought these pins there from the man who owns that wonderful place and who loves pins and needles more than I really knew it was possible for a person to do and it was so lovely to talk with him.
This is another purchase that made my heart glad and somehow says nearly everything about how much beauty there is to be found in Kyoto.
I don’t know if you can really tell the size from the picture but each of these little ceramic rabbits is about as big as my thumb (much prettier though). Perhaps they are chopstick rests? But I will never rest my chopsticks on them. I will just pick them up sometimes and try to absorb the loveliness into things I’d like to make myself. I don’t know when I’ve been so inspired by handmade work as I was on this trip.
We spent Christmas in Kyoto and apparently the thing to do on Christmas day there is to head out to the flea market, Tenjin-san, at the temple. Below you can see a bit of Christmas magic waiting for for us at the temple, right in the dead of winter.
Blossoms! Can you believe it?
Here is some more of the treasure I brought home.
Beautiful kimono scraps!
I am such a sucker for things that have been mended.
And I bought two of these kokeshi dolls.
I packed only a biggish matchbox of Christmas decorations, but here they are with two of the kokeshi dolls (not mine) in our lovely airbnb.
If you celebrate anything special in December I hope it was as lovely a time for you. My matchbox angel sends you all her best wishes and so do I.