Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Get yer Japanese yarn here! (Prize alert!)

So I'm not finding much time to post about my trip (due to the fact that I had a gazillion things to send out as soon as I got back combined with a sick kid and a kid who's insanely jealous of my laptop...), so I thought I'd get the yarn talk out of the way since I know that's probably what y'all are most interested in anyway - am I right?

The first yarn I found was in a big department store called Matsuyo, in the Ginza shopping district. We didn't spend too much time in the store since the kids were going out of their minds after a morning of sightseeing, but the yarn section wasn't very big anyway.

Not exactly an entire LYS, but it was cool to see yarn in a department store setting. This is where I picked up my two Japanese stitch dictionaries along with some Puppy yarn:

This looks to be one of the higher-end Japanese yarns. I don't know if it's available in the US or not (I don't remember seeing it, but that doesn't necessarily mean much since I have the memory of a gnat). The ball bands are all in Japanese, so I can't tell you exactly what they are - the pink is Alpaca (I'm assuming, since it's called Alpaca Rimisto on the ball band), I'm guessing the cranberry is wool, and the multicolored looks to be a wool-mohair blend or something like that.

Interestingly, there weren't any American yarns at either of the shops I went to. The department store had a lot of high-end European yarns like Rowan and Anny Blatt, and the craft store (which I'll get to in a minute) had Australian yarn but nothing from the US.

My second stop (which was barely fit in amongst all the other things we tried to do) was a big craft store called Okadaya. Owen & I ventured out to find this on our own while Anthony, Bill and Sydney went to stand in line at Krispy Kreme. This was near Shinjuku station, which is pretty close to the Park Hyatt hotel in Lost in Translation. We first went to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, which has a free observatory and some great views.

It's also where the Tokyo Marathon started - here is a view of the approximate starting line:

Bill barely recognized it empty - the start of the marathon was insanely crowded (30,000 people ran it).

After enjoying the view and shopping at the super-cool Hello Kitty-filled toy store in the observatory, I needed to get to the other side of the Shinjuku train station to get to Okadaya. This is not as easy as it sounds, and I ended up winding through this little alley of shops which led to a tunnel under the train tracks. I would've been a lot more nervous if Tokyo wasn't such a safe city! I ended up on the other side with only a vague idea of where Okadaya might be. I wandered around a bit aimlessly, looking for the police station where I could ask for directions if I didn't spot Okadaya on my own.

I finally got to the police stand and asked the officer where Okadaya was. He started speaking Japanese a million miles a minute (although it wouldn't have helped even if he'd been talking slowly) and pointed behind me.

It's not quite as obvious in the picture (at the top of the photo, smack in the center, is a big Okadaya sign), but in person it was like a huge flashing billboard right in front of my nose. I never would've thought to look up to find the store sign! I was thinking it was a little hole-in-the-wall shop, not a huge building. I managed to find the back entrance, which was down an alley, and headed up to the 5th floor (fortunately they had English on their directory, unlike Matsuyo, which did not!).

Okadaya is sort of like a Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michaels, except covering like 7 floors. I didn't stop to explore all the other floors due to limited time but saw buttons, beads, fabrics, ribbons and a bunch of other stuff as I headed up to yarn.

Here are a couple of pics taken in stealth mode (I wasn't sure if the sign of a flashing camera with a slash through it meant no flash photography, or no photography at all, so I tried to take these as surreptitiously as possible).

In addition to these walls full of yarn, they had a section of really cool felting kits (as in, hand-felting and needle-felting, not knitted felting) and some funky crocheted animal kits. I am kicking myself for not getting any of these, but I was a little afraid of trying to make something with Japanese-only instructions! Instead, I scoured the aisles for the most exotic yarn I could find, and came home with these:

The purply stuff at the top was swatched up into socks and was the closest I could find to sock yarn. The stuff right smack in the middle is from the same company and looks to be mohair and something else (it's got 30% of the same thing that the multicolor yarn from Matsuyo had 20% of, and 70% of what the tan ball just to the left of it has, but since I can't figure out what that one is, either, that doesn't really help!). The blue and tan yarns off to the left are REALLY interesting - the blue is some kind of flat ribbon yarn that looks almost like raffia. The tan is 50% of what's in the blue and 50% of what's in the fuzzy stuff just above it. Sort of like a logic puzzle, isn't it? Then there's some good old Noro, which I grabbed because I thought the color was so pretty. This one is made of stuff that isn't in any of the other yarns and I have NO idea what it might be.

I also tried to find some knitting tools that had Japanese writing on them, and those little needle cases at the bottom were the best I could come up with. I got an extra, so I'm going to have a little contest - anyone who comments on this post that they want Japanese swag by Friday will get entered into a drawing for one of the needle holders and their choice of one ball of any of the yarn I brought back.

Now on to some thank-yous! First, I returned home to a great package from my SP9, although she was supposed to include her reveal and she didn't! So, SP9, if you're reading this, please tell me where I can find your blog!!! Here's what I found when I opened the box:

Two giant balls of yarn (yes, one of those is made up of strips of plastic bags, but that is because my fabulous pal included directions for making the recycled plastic bag tote from Knitty Gritty along with handles to use for it - too cool! I can't imagine how long it took my pal to wrap these balls up (and I will say it took a fair amount of time to unwrap them - especially for an impatient paper-tearing unwrapper like myself), but what a fabulous idea! Now I just need to find the time to sort through all this...

As you can see, the cat was very enamored of this process as well. Once I got everything unwrapped, I was rewarded with this lovely swag:

Some nice, hefty wool yarn, a ball of Opal sock yarn (that's the blue & white in the back), some Confetti sock yarn, some Rayflax from Wool in the Woods (that's the pretty pastel stuff off to the right of the Confetti), and a bunch of Burts Bee's goodies, a couple of Knitters Rock Magnets (one says Knit, one says Purl) and two toys for the kids that couldn't have been more perfect - a princess crown and earrings for Sydney and a tractor book with wheels for Owen. They both were instantly obsessed with their new toys. Thanks again, pal!!!

I also owe a photo of my Sockret Pal's last package, but unfortunately I wasn't quick enough and the pieces have been scattered to all corners of the house (or devoured, which was the fate of the chocolate). Sydney especially loved every single thing in the box, which was Valentine-themed, and is putting it all to good use. I salvaged one thing for myself, and it was the best thing - a ball of Tofutsies sock yarn!

I can, of course, only show you a sock sole, but isn't it pretty? I really love this stuff! I wasn't so sure about it since it doesn't feel that soft to me in the ball and I wasn't hugely impressed with the swatches I got to fondle at TNNA. While I absolutely love the whole concept behind SWTC's alt plant-fiber yarns, they often feel kind of unpleasant to me. Knitting with this stuff, however, is a dream. It's a little bit splitty, but I just adore the way my socks are turning out. They are actually quite soft. I would DEFINITELY knit with this yarn again.

Unfortunately, I can't find my Sockret Pal's card to link to her, but I will as soon as I get my desk cleared off. That could be next week, or it could be next year. Just call me little miss organized!

Now, it has taken me literally all day to write this post. Owen really does hate my laptop, and to prove it, here's what he did to it when I left him unsupervised in my office for ten minutes:

Yup, those are keys lying in pieces around my computer! He's done this several times before, and I'm getting very good at putting them back on, but the first time he pulled these off I almost had an aneurysm. That child is precocious, to put it kindly...


Blogger Christy said...

I totally want Japanese swag! But, really...who wouldn't?

5:17 PM  
Blogger Ginny said...

I'd like to be in for the swag, too!

My husband is adjusting to being back on the East Coast from Iraq, and going thru some jet lag. But then I told him about you dealing with two kids and jet lag, and he said, "Wow."

I hope it's getting better!!

5:35 PM  
Blogger Ann-Marie said...

um...contest??? stuff from japan???
i'm in.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I'm green with envy!!! Here's hoping i get a chance to go yarn shopping in Japan next year. (we're doing a 1day stop on our way to manila.)Glad you liked the stuff!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Aimee said...

Oh yeah, please count me in. And if you're interested, here's a link that has Japanese knitting symbols and their meanings (scroll down for the fiber names). I hope it works! http://www.tata-tatao.to/knit/japanese/e-JapaneseEnglish.html

8:23 PM  
Blogger Stariel said...

I would love some Japanese swag! It looks like you had a lot of fun in Japan. :)

8:45 PM  
Blogger greetingarts said...

Wow, Chrissy, that is one mega super post, and a giveaway to boot? Count me in, too, please! I would've just said goodbye to the rest of the family and spent the rest of the vacation in Okadaya. Too fun, thanks for letting us go to Japan for a moment, too!

9:16 PM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

Love the Japanese craft store hunt! Very proud of you for going out on your own, btw. Looks like you found some neat stuff. I laughed & laughed over your fiber analysis percentage comparisons! :) *To which my husband who went to Tokyo a few months back said, "Wow, I never thought to look for you some Japanese yarn . . ." Well, DUH, honey!
Fab secret pal box! All that stuff wrapped up in plastic bag balls--what a riot!
And, um, I'm still a little shaken up over that laptop shot. Getting a little woozy. . .
So, a long comment to a long (but awesome) post. And count me in for the swag, too, please. :)

9:39 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Woot, I'd like to throw my hat into the mix too.

Hope everyone is feeling better.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Sharon Hurlbut said...

Oooh, count me in for the swag drawing! I've been following your Japan adventures in total awe. Your kids must be great travelers!

11:19 PM  
Blogger lexa said...

Put me in on your draw, please! The chance of winning Japanese goodies is probably as close as I'll ever get to Japan.

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH MY, he really did a number on your laptop!

Great loot you got there! And yes, I want some Japanese swag, so please enter me in the contest :)

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Beth in WI said...

Sign me up! If I win I will send my swag to my Japanese-fluent cousin so he can translate the ball band.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

I just made an audible panic noise when I saw the picture of your laptop! Yikes, Owen. Your trip looks like it was cool, cool, cool. So interesting to see shots of their yarn stores.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Donna from TKG said...

I have really enjoyed reading about your adventures in Japan. The craft store looks fantastic.

I would love to be in your drawing. The swag looks fun!

BTW, Violet pulled a key off of my laptop too and I have never been able to get it back on. I may have to have you show me your trick.

See you later.

8:34 AM  
Blogger craftyneedles said...

I do IT in a high school and the students do the same thing! It really isn't funny at that age.

Your Japanese purchases are great. Count me in for the swag.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Liz R. said...

What a cool trip!! My teenagers are dying to go to Japan!

Japanese swag??? Count me in!!

9:35 AM  
Blogger adrienne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:41 AM  
Blogger adrienne said...

i would love a souvenir from japan! count me in!

i feel for your little laptop. glad that you know where all the little pieces fit. but still "ouch"

ps. i deleted my previous comment because of typo. nothing bad.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Bobbi said...

Totally cool stuff. What an adventure for all of you. If you need help with any translations, I'm sure Fluffbuff would be happy to help. http://www.fluffbuff.com

And, yes, I'd like to enter your contest please. Thanks.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

I'll put my name in for the swag too :) Sounds like you had a really good trip.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Nelda said...

Holy cow! I need a valium just looking at your laptop! I'm definitely in for some Japanese swag.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Pick me! Pick me! I'd like some Japanese swag!!!

7:42 PM  
Blogger wendy said...

That was some craft store!

11:06 AM  
Blogger adrienne said...

Oh wow! What an awesome adventure! I'd love to go to Japan someday...
I'd love to enter your contest :) (it may be the closest I ever get to being there!)

2:28 PM  
Blogger z's momma said...

Thanks for running a contest!

I'd love me some swag...

7:36 PM  
Blogger Marly said...

WELL DUH...I would like some SWAG too! :-)

I just got some tofutsie yarn too in that same colorway! I can't wait to try it out. The color reminded me of an easter egg so I am making them next month.


10:14 PM  
Blogger Ina said...

Yes, please, I'd love swag from Japan! Thanks for offering.

6:50 AM  

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