tokyo: day 1—terrifying, day 2—terrific
By Patricia Belyea
TOKYO JP When I awoke on my first day in Tokyo, I was stricken with vertigo. The world was spinning around me and I could not walk and sometimes not talk. Seven hours and a few tilting exercises later, Michael and I were able to leave our Shinjuku apartment to gently walk around the neighborhood. The end of the afternoon shone gloriously with bright sunshine and lots of telltale signs that we were definitely in a foreign place.
Day Two got off to a slow start as I researched yukata dyeing workshops in the area. I found only one mentioned—in Katsushika-ku. WIth no appointment to visit, Michael and I headed off on the subway and then three trains for an adventure.
Along the way, we stopped at Nishi-Nippori. Michael and I disembarked to explore the area and hopefully find the 100 fabric shops clustered together in Nippori Fabric Town. No luck but we did discover an unpretentious bento cafe with a chicken lunch for 550¥.
Onward! From Kameari station, we took a 15-minute taxi ride to our destination—written down by me on a scrap of paper. As the taxi pulled away, we wondered how we would ever get back to the train station.
Although we had no reservation, Michael and I were invited inside to watch a comprehensive video on chusen dyeing, in English.
The company, Tokyo Wazarashi Co. Ltd., dyes mostly tenugui (hand towels) and some yukata cottons. Its workshops, located outside of Tokyo, still use traditional techniques with washi screens to produce charming hand-dyed goods. We were at the company’s administrative offices.
Remarkably, we were then ushered up to the third floor of the building to see an exhibit of vintage tenugui—dating back to the Edo period—in the company’s private museum. Sanae toured us around and explained that she is a textile artist and chusen dyer who teaches classes at a local university.
I showed Sanae my website and collection of yukata cottons on a laptop she brought into the museum. Sanae was very excited to talk to an American who appreciates yukata cottons so much. “Fantastic.” she said with vigor. Then we learned that Sanae had been a homestay student in Kirkland, a city right beside Seattle, when she was younger!When we left Tokyo Wazarashi, Sanae walked us to a nearby train station less than five minutes away. Following her itinerary of trains and subways, we returned home much more efficiently than our outbound trip.
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