Micro camper heaven

There are many things that I knew the Japanese were famous for. I had already heard from Jake about the wonderful convenience stores, I knew that the toilets were very futuristic, and that the metro system was clean, efficient and well organised.

I did know a little bit about campervans in Japan, as two of my favourite bloggers Travel Beans, and Kinging It, have been there recently and hired campers.

However, I was not expecting to actually see any while we were there. I did see so many of the cute little cars that lots of people have in the city. I took some pictures of these in the car park when we went to our woodland walk in Kamakura. How cute are they?

I kept saying to my children that they would make great campers, and we did actually come across this gorgeous pink camper with a cute vintage front grille in the village at the start of the walk.

Then we were on our way to a lovely park during one of our explorations of the outer areas of Tokyo and came across an outdoor exhibition full of campers!

I was in heaven. I admit to being slightly, (very?), obsessed with campervans, even after years of researching before I got mine, and having the excitement of getting things sorted in her. I am still watching You Tube videos, looking at Facebook posts, and generally geeking out over all types of vans.

These were incredible. The design and workmanship in these little vans was just stunning. This is my all time favourite, just look at all of that beautiful layout, it looks so high quality and comfortable.

I was very impressed by this one, with a roof tent which meant that they could use the rear space for a bath!

Not that I would consider a roof tent for me. Aside from the very high cost, I need to be able to get out at night for trips to the facilities and would probably fall down the ladder, so a tent at ground level is a far better option.

I also saw a lovely couple of very high spec larger vans when we went to visit a shopping centre. These are similar size to the new VW vans but are much better kitted out inside. This one even had a microwave.

These cost around £25,000. So when I win the lottery I am going to go back to Japan, buy one of these, travel around for a few months, then have it shipped back to the UK. Conveniently they drive on the left as well.

We were at the shopping centre to see another of the marvels of Japanese culture, not a campervan, but a giant robot. These are called Gundam, there are four large versions of these in Japan and China. They come from an animated series which has been around since 1979.

This one is 40 feet high and every hour lights up and moves a little, which is very impressive. It looks brilliant at night as well.

This one is called the Unicorn Gundum, due to the horn, and within the shopping centre is one of the main Gundam model stores, with hundreds of versions of these.

You buy most in kit form, and they have areas where you can go and build your kit with help from the staff. Jake has had many of these in his time, and when he got to Japan one of the first things he did was go and visit this giant one.

Oh and the toilets, they are amazing as well. Combining toilet and bidet, with most having a privacy noise selection as well, so that you can have sounds of running water and birdsong while you use it, they have more controls than most washing machines. That is another thing that I am buying when I win the lottery 😉

I hope that you have had a good couple of weeks. I have had a very lovely time with my friend Sharon, from Marsden, visiting. We have been on some great coach trips and over on the boat to Tabarca. This is a tiny island off the coast that I have posted about before.

Unfortunately the weather here is very unseasonably wet at the moment, and I have another friend arriving today, so we may not be able to do all that we planned. We are actually forecast rain for a whole week, which is unheard of in May 😦 However this friend, Sue, spends her time living between Yorkshire and Scotland, so is used to a bit of the wet stuff!

I will be back next week when I can share with you some of the photos from my recent birthday trip with Mum. We went to Venice, which was brilliant. We have both been before, just for a day, and loved the chance to explore more. There were many gorgeous textiles there, including a whole museum devoted to lace!

See you all soon then and have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The beauty of Spring

We were lucky enough to be in Japan during spring, landing in fact when the cherry blossoms were at their peak. This time of year is very significant in Japanese culture, not only are there drinks, ice cream and cakes flavoured with the ‘sakura’ or blossom, but also the season has a spiritual significance, signifying the new year.

This is very much reflected in art and we saw some beautiful examples of art and textiles honouring nature and blooms at the Tokyo National Museum. The museum is located in Ueno Park, which is one of the main places that the Japanese visit to see the blossoms and the exhibits are themed seasonally.

There were some stunning robes on display here. We had seen an exhibition about the kimono in New York, which looked at how it has influenced Western fashion, and how Japanese fashion changed in the early 20th century as more Western fashion began to be worn.

So it was brilliant to see the different types of kimono, from the early kosode seen here in the red and gold embroidered examples from the Edo period of the early 1600s above, to the later furisode below which is dyed using the shibori technique. You can read more about the history of the kimono here in this article by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

What is also very interesting is the parallels with costume in Europe at this time, the long sleeves of this kimono signified an unmarried women.

Similar long sleeves with yards of excess fabric are common in medieval dress, signifying in this case that you have the wealth to afford excess material and servants to do the menial tasks.

There was also legislation banning excessively decorated kimonos, as there was legislation about who should wear certain colours and fabrics in medieval Europe, the sumptuary laws.

The garments are stunning in the sheer amount of embroidery and goldwork on them. This peacock was one of my favourites, the work that has gone into this is amazing.

There were also many examples of delicate art and calligraphy, all framed with silks and brocade.

The museum itself was a very gorgeous building, full of decorative doors and lamps, it dates from the early 1930s. As with many of Tokyo’s buildings, an earlier one was destroyed in an earthquake.

A really beautiful collection and I loved seeing all the detail of the gowns. Sadly the other museum we wanted to visit, covering the Edo period, was closed for refurbishment, so this was our only museum trip while in Japan.

I only have one more post for you about the Japan trip and that covers something that I didn’t really expect to find, but was great fun! More on that later. I have friends coming to stay for the next two weeks so I will be out and about with them, showing them what Spain has to offer.

I will pop back later in the week as I have been hard at work in the craft space. I am actually ahead of myself in terms of targets for this block of time here so have been spending some time with my machine. More of that next time, meanwhile, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Disney Days

One of the highlights of the Japan trip was our two days at Disneyland. Our family are huge Disney fans and one of my travel goals is to visit all of the parks. I have so far been to Paris, Florida and Hong Kong, so this was something that I was really looking forward to.

We went to the main Disney park on Ellen’s birthday. This was the trip that was planned for her 29th but finally happened on her 32nd so you can imagine how excited she was.

Even though it is very much the same as the other parks in terms of the layout and the rides we still love it. The attention to detail is amazing throughout the park and there were some slightly different things.

One of the immediate differences is that the Main Street area is covered as Tokyo has a lot of rain. There is also a beautiful New Orleans area with some stunning iron work balconies.

The iconic castle, and the Fantasyland area behind it are just beautiful, and so pristine given that the park is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Jake and Ellen love rollercoasters but I don’t so I spent some time on some of the gentler rides such as the steamboat while they did the thrill rides. I just love all the scenery that they have created and never get tired of looking at details such as the geysers.

We did also do old family favourites, such as Star Tours, and I went on Small World, which I love and the children hate. The little dolls are so cute and the costumes all stunning.

A few days later we returned to the Disney Sea park, which I was really looking forward to as it is unique to Disneyland Tokyo. It has its own Mickey themed monorail to get to the park from the main railway station which was cute.

The park did not disappoint and we loved the creation of all the new areas. This beautiful globe is at the main entrance. I love globes and this one was just wonderful.

Our first exploration was the Mediterranean seafront with its beautiful recreation of Venetian architecture around the gondola ride.

The American Waterfront is also very impressive, including a full size ocean liner and lots of cute shops and food areas.

From there we caught one of the trains round to Part Discovery, which is one of the more futuristic areas. Here we went on several rides, including the amazing Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

This is based on the Jules Verne novel and I really wanted to go on it, despite the fact that it is a roller coaster inside a volcano. I was very brave and survived it, despite it being scary at points.

One of my favourite areas was the Arabian waterfront, first seen from one of the many boats rides available, and that was stunning.

Although there are only a few of the smaller rides here the architecture is just so gorgeous, and again the attention to detail is superb.

The final area was a visit to one of Ellen’s childhood favourites, the Little Mermaid area. Above ground is beautiful, with sea inspired architecture with beautiful ceramics and mosaics.

When you enter you find a whole under the sea area which is just magical.

Of course we had to have a go on the Jumping Jellyfish ride!

A wonderful couple of days, we were also so lucky with the weather as we had to book tickets for specific days. It was very reasonably priced as well, at £54 per day for the adult ticket, which when you consider the cost of theme parks generally is very good value. Thanks to my lovely Mum for treating us all to this bit of the holiday, we had such a brilliant time.

I have a couple more things to show you from the Japan trip and then I will tell you all about my Mum’s birthday trip this year. One of my goals for retirement was to be able to spend much more time travelling with Mum, and we made it outside Spain this time.

We are now planning further adventures for later in the year together as she has some hospital treatment coming up so we won’t be going away until that is finished.

It is another lovely day here, despite a damp start. I have had a busy weekend going out with Mum and friends, so am planning to spend the afternoon working on my Liberty quilt, and then maybe have a quick bike ride. Hope that you are all enjoying life whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Rural Japan, temples and bamboo

Much as Tokyo city was very interesting, it was the two trips that we took out to more rural areas that were the most fascinating. We were lucky to have our excellent tour guide, Jake, who knew all the best places to explore, and that meant we saw a lot more of Japan than we would have done on our own.

One of the side effects of him living there though the pandemic has been that he has done lots of visiting rural places, such as temples, shrines and going on mountain hikes, as much of the city was closed during that period and he wanted to avoid crowds.

Our first visit was to Japan’s ancient capital, Kamakura. We went on the train for this which was brilliant, I love train journeys and it was fascinating to see the extent of the city of Tokyo. We got off at a station not far from Kamakura and went on a hiking trail from the small village.

This meant that we got to visit a couple of small shrines and see lots of the forest.

I was fascinated by the wild bamboo and very excited to see a Japanese squirrel!

Ellen always laughs at me when I see squirrels as there were so many of them at her last National Trust job at Clumber Park so she saw them every day. I love them and am now happy to say that I have seen four types of squirrels on three continents. We saw some very fat grey squirrels in Central Park in New York and I have posted previously about the lovely little dark squirrels that we have here in La Marina.

The hiking trail took us up to the top of the area, with brilliant views over to the sea. The photos in no way do it justice and it was so wonderful to see all of the flora around.

At the summit there is a beautiful park, and then when we came down the other side we visited the Great Buddha that I have previously posted about. The trail was a little muddy at times and there were some very steep bits but it was brilliant fun.

Our other rural trip was by coach to see Mount Fuji! Jake had done this trip before but sadly it was misty that day and he didn’t get a good view but we were really blessed and got great views. I was very pleased that we could see it so clearly from the coach.

It was a really interesting trip as well, seeing the beautiful hills and mountains covered in blossom trees and the rural towns and villages.

We went to one of the five lakes surrounding the mountain, Lake Kawaguchiko, which is a very popular tourist spot with lots of hotels and boat trips.

The views were beautiful, not only of Mount Fuji, but also across the lake itself and I amused myself taking arty pictures through the trees.

By the time we were leaving the clouds at top had cleared and we were able to see the peak, which was extremely exciting.

I am so pleased that we got to explore so much of Japan. We will hopefully go back in a couple of years and explore more of the country. Now things are fully open Jake is keen to travel a bit further.

His last visa renewal was for three years, so fingers crossed he has another couple of years of exploration, and hopefully more as he would like to stay there as long as he can. I am so pleased that my children love travel as much as I do, and so proud of them for making their own exciting lives.

I have finished all of the Barbie collection of clothes so will post about that next. The fundraiser is next week, hopefully it will be popular and raise lots of money. I am having a quiet few weeks here trying to get some of my crafting to do list done before I have friends come to stay with me, which will be fun, the first ones since my retirement.

I hope that you have a good week ahead. It is getting quite warm here now so although I have done a couple of short bike rides, I am visiting the pool today. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Tokyo city

As I mentioned in a previous post Tokyo is a vast place, composed of many smaller city areas and as we had an excellent tour guide in my son Jake, we saw a lot of it while we were there.

Our first trip was to one of the many viewing towers, we chose the Tokyo Skytree. Ironically, although we had brilliant sunny weather for most of the time we were there, that day was a bit dull and misty, so we didn’t get the full effect.

It was still amazing though, with a brilliant shopping centre and food court below it. The tower is 634 metres high, and is still the tallest tower in the world. The tallest structure is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

We went to the lower viewing platform, a mere 350 metres in height. From here you can get a sense of the scale of the city.

There is also a scary bit of see through floor, that is a long way down!

We visited many different areas of the city on the excellent public transport system. Although it is vast, and there are so many people, it didn’t seem really crowded until we went to the Harajku shopping area, where we got caught in a crush of fairly epic proportions in one of the streets.

There are many parks in the city as well, as an antidote to all that hustle and bustle, larger ones such as the Imperial Palace Gardens, and small ones like this little temple garden, just a few minutes away from Harajuku.

We visited the Palace Gardens on a beautiful sunny day. It was lovely to see some original architecture as well. Sadly due to bombing during WW2, and many earthquakes, little survives of older architecture in the city. However these guardhouses date from the 17th century and were built from wood with amazing roof tiles.

The gardens also include tea houses, built when the gardens were first opened to the public in the early 1900s, and many gorgeous plantings of blossom trees and my favourite rhododendrons. There was also some amazing bamboo.

There were some beautiful coy carp in the ponds too.

We did also visit some of the smaller residential areas as well. There were some interesting examples of housing in these streets.

A feature of Japanese construction is that all powerlines are above ground due to the risk of earthquakes, so there are jumbles of wires everywhere.

A fascinating city and well worth a visit. I will be back as soon as possible with a post about rural Japan, which was just as beautiful as I had hoped. I would love to go back to explore more of that, there were so many of my favourite features, mountains and rivers.

I have been busy with the Barbie clothing since I got back, I am aiming for a spring collection of six outfits for the next of my fundraisers so just have one fabric and one more knitted one to go, but am very pleased with progress so far.

I will share all of that soon as this afternoon I am finishing sewing the last dress. I have plans to get out on my bike as well today, before it gets too hot as it is up to 25 degrees today.

I hope that you are enjoying life, whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Temples, shrines and Buddhas

As you will know if you have been reading my blog for a while I love visiting religious sites, and we were lucky enough to see many temples and shrines while we were in Japan.

I will post separately about our rural trips, as there were smaller shrines there, but these were the ones within the cities of Tokyo and Kamakura.

Shrines are everywhere in Japan and one of the first that we visited was this one within Ueno Park when we went to see the blossom. Many of the shrines are not old, as they have been damaged by earthquakes, but some parts have been preserved, like the face of this Buddha, which is from one that got destroyed several times.

The Buddhist and Shinto religions are very different from others I have visited previously, such as Catholic and Muslim. The focus is on personal devotion, of visiting shrines, lighting incense, and buying good luck charms, rather than on collective worship.

These plaques that you could buy to write your prayer on were everywhere, with some lovely messages written on them.

The next shrine we went to was a small city one, visible from the train line and just above the street market.

It was again full of prayers and scores of lanterns.

We also went to the most visited temple in Tokyo, the stunning Senso-ji, which is very popular with people who rent kimonos and dress in them for their visits.

As well as the temple complex there are beautiful gardens and lots of people posing for photos, in kimonos as well as these beautiful Korean Hanbok outfits.

These women were kind enough to let me take their picture, there were so many beautiful kimonos there that day.

One of our rural trips ended in Kamakura, which was the ancient capital of Japan until 800 years ago. There we visited the largest seated Buddha in Japan.

This Buddha dates from the mid 1200s. It has survived three major traumas of earthquakes and tidal waves, and has been repaired and restored many times.

I love the temples and shrines, as they are so different from other types of churches. Although they are crowded and noisy, rather than peaceful like other churches I have visited, it is fascinating to see the different types of beautiful architecture, especially my favourite, lovely doors!

It has been a quiet first week back in Spain, deliberately as I am off on my travels again tomorrow, away with Mum for her birthday, so I will be busy updating the blog with all the rest of the Japan adventures and that trip when I return.

It is lovely to be back home. I have been unpacking all of the haberdashery goodies from New York and working on some Barbie outfits, as I have a fundraiser coming up in a few weeks.

I hope that you have all had a good week and are enjoying spring (or autumn, depending on where you are). This is my favourite time of year in Spain, it is sunny, but not yet too hot, so I have been enjoying evenings sitting on the terrace reading and watching the glorious sunsets.

Hope you enjoy whatever you have planned for your time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Almond little fish, Hello Kitty, and sushi on the move

We are now safely back from Japan, an epic return journey involving 18 hours on two separate planes, a hotel at Heathrow, and a short train journey back, including going in a wonderful little Pod transport from the hotel yesterday morning.

This is the future people, the pod seats four, and runs on a little track that looks a bit like a mini roller coaster. It looks like the sort of thing that you would find in a Star Trek movie and was a fun end to the trip.

I have so many things that I want to share with you, and it was difficult to know where to start but I thought that I would begin with the food. There was so much wonderful food available and it really made the holiday.

We were doing lots of sight seeing, so time was limited, and if there is one thing that Japan excels in, it is very good quality fast food. We tend to think of the USA as the home of fast food but Japan wins, as the choice, quality and cost was amazing. Especially for Ellen, as she has quite serious wheat intolerance, so it was lovely to go everywhere, and have lots of choice in what she could eat, rather than the usual limited options.

The choice of food from the convenience stores was what amazed us the most. Jake had said they were good, and that he bought most of his meals there but we didn’t realise the range, and the beautiful fresh options that you can get every day.

Much of it is very healthy as well, with lots of salads. There were also so many delicious varieties of drinks on offer. Our favourite were the rice balls, ‘onigiri’, which come in so many different varieties, with or without seaweed wrapping.

The train station also had amazing food outlets everywhere, with the most beautiful bento boxes, one of which I had for tea one day.

This delicious selection of salmon, rice, chicken and veg cost the princely sum of £6.60, which is amazing when you consider that it was bought at Tokyo central train station. Far better than the usual sandwich or salad meal deals we have in the UK.

There were some very unusual offerings as well. There were lots of food stalls selling delights such as kits to make your own versions of snack food out of what appeared to be jelly, many different varieties of favoured hard boiled eggs, and flavoured beans,

I was delighted to see that you could could get filled, deep fried Hello Kitty at one of the many food stalls in Ueno Park. It was incredible to watch them pour batter into the moulds and produce these tiny little fried cakes.

We weren’t brave enough to try the various squid options, although ‘Almond Little Fish’ and dried squid on a stick of varying varieties were plentiful.

As we were there during blossom time there were many blossom, or ‘sakura’ flavoured options, such as this ice cream, so we had sakura chai, sakura sweets and sakura moochi, a type of sweet rice bun.

The Japanese clearly love sweet foods, I have never seen so many stalls selling versions of biscuits, cakes and chocolate in so many varieties. These macarons were so cute, especially the ones with eyes!

We ate at restaurants most days as well, some were more like fast food chains, such as the ‘beef bowl’ restaurants. These had a wonderful selection of not only bowls of beef, chicken, with rice or noodles, but also sides.

My lunch one day was this delicious miso soup and salad combo. The prices here range from £2 to £4 a dish and it is all freshly prepared and served within minutes.

Our favourite restaurant, which we visited twice, was one called, ‘Sushi Ro’. You order from a tablet at your table, and the food is delivered by a little conveyer belt which runs alongside.

Absolutely delicious fresh plates of sushi and sides and a meal for three of us was about £24 with drinks and desserts.

I was so impressed with the value, I was expecting Tokyo to be an expensive place to stay in but it was brilliant and very budget friendly. You could feed yourself very well eating out for under £10 a day here which would be challenging in other major cities like New York or London.

As well as generally being a great country for lots of different diets, the specific gluten free options Ellen found meant that she could have ramen. Helpfully they had a little pot with hair bands so you could avoid getting your hair in your bowl!

She also found a gluten free pancake place, that serve the traditional very fluffy pancakes, which looked incredible.

We also ate at some food courts, where the options were helpfully displayed in plastic versions, so that you could see what they looked like.

Even the food at Disneyland was varied and well priced. I will post separately about our trips there but have to commend them for their creativity with the Mickey’s hand shaped bao bun chicken sandwich and the Mickey’s head shaped boiled egg. We are still not quite sure how they did that!

I am flying back to Spain tomorrow so will be able to post again soon about more of the things that we saw. It still doesn’t seem real that after all these years we got there and it was particularly special to spend so much time with Jake and see all the things that he has told us about over the last few years.

I hope you have been having a good time, and having a good Easter break if you celebrate. We have missed that this year, but have had so much lovely stuff to eat that we haven’t missed the chocolate!

Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.