On Sunday a few of us went to Ueno Park. There are several museums and a zoo there. We spent most of our time in the National Museum, which has several collections in separate buildings. We went through the Japanese collection but only made it through one floor before several parents had to leave to pick up their children after their homestays. My son was getting dropped off later than the rest so it gave me a chance to go through the National Museum of Western Art. It's a small museum with a very impressive collection, especially the French Impressionist collection. The museum was designed by Le Corbusier and there was an exhibit on the design of the museum.
When I left the museum the weather had gotten really bad. It was dark and raining pretty hard. I had planned on going back to Harajuku to see all the Cosplay kids. Instead I took the train to Shinjuku. With a map in hand I found my way to the Muji store there. Reading maps and finding places in Tokyo is very difficult. First, streets don't have names. Second, Tokyo is a maze of small alleyways. It's very hard to know what constitutes a "street" on a map. So finding a shop on a map in the rain was a major accomplishment. The Shinjuku Muji is huge. It covers several floors and has a restaurant. I wanted to try lunch there but there was no English on the menu and there was a very long line for lunch. I knew there was another Mitsukoshi store nearby so I decided to go to the food court there for lunch. After finding the store (another proud moment) I realized that that location had all the boxed gift food but no hot food.
However it did have a craft store. Having a sale.
I got a few amigurumi kits.
Gaspard and Lisa is a favorite series of mine. And it is huge in Japan. Everywhere I went I saw Gaspard and Lisa on coffee cups, fabric, toys (I also found a lip balm case and cell phone charms). I had to get this kit. It has everything from the crochet hook to the eyes to the needle to sew on the nose. And the kitty with the dead fish? Had to have it.
I also snatched up some too cute fabric.
I went back to the hostel for my son's drop off (without any lunch). His family called and said they would be later than expected so I ate some gyoza from the grocery store and waited. When he got back he was so happy and excited to tell me about the trip. He told me all about the hot springs near his host family's house and going to see the older son participate in a Special Olympics game.
On Monday the kids were all invited to visit a Tokyo public elementary school. There was a morning assembly then tours of the school. We all got the school lunch which is a very healthy, hot meal prepared in the school kitchen. It's then wheeled on carts to each classroom and the children serve one another and eat at their desks. The lunch we were served had broiled tuna, white rice with edamame, mixed greens with bacon, miso and the best bottle of milk I have ever tasted. Then the children clean the school. They sweep the classrooms and the halls and scrub the floors with rags. Our students all got to go to one class. My son's class went to PE which was a lot of fun. Then there was a goodbye assembly and we walked back to the hostel.
We went to Akihabara which is also known as "electronics town." The kids all knew about it before we got to Tokyo and were itching to go. We went straight to Yodobashi Camera which is nine stories of electronics and toys! My son got the newest Kirby game, a really cute action game with a little blue penguin in it and a game to learn Kanji all for his DS. There are rows and rows of hundreds of coin machines with little toys in capsules. We got a few Nintendo-themed trinkets for my kids and I got myself a Kapibara-san phone charm!
My son and I both fell in love with this character. My son got a small plush toy too. So cute!
We stopped at the Akihabara Muji location too. I'm obsessed. I know.
Tuesday was our last full day. We went to Kichijoji to go to the Yuzawaya store. It's a massive craft department store. There's yarn and fabric and toys and everything else crafty you can imagine. We only had an hour. I could have spent all day there. You know you're someplace good when the sign has a knitting ram on it.
I had the address and telephone number of a nearby yarn shop called Sheep Meadow. I asked a friend of the trip coordinator, who was helping us all get around, if she knew where it was. She offered to take me there. We headed off walking and she called the shop for directions. After a few blocks she called again, "Moshi moshi! We're at the Tokyo Department Store. Oh, okay!" We walked a few blocks. "Moshi moshi! We're at Unico. Okay, thank you!" We walked and called again. Finally we found the tiny shop with no sign. It was maybe 12 feet square with a table taking up most of the shop. All the yarns were cottons. I asked if there was any wool and the owner pointed to one basket of yarn and said it was "summer wool." I dug out what I thought would be enough for a scarf. We weighed it and she agreed that it would be a good amount. There were no signs or prices on anything so I was a little nervous to find out how much the yarn would cost. Expensive, it turned out, but not crazy expensive. I asked if I could take some photos before I left.
On our way back I had to stop to take a picture of one of the hydrant covers.
After that the kids wanted to go back to Akihabara so we did.
We only had a few hours on Wednesday morning before we left. I took my son to the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. It's not a great museum space but the collection is very interesting. I'm not familiar at all with early 20th century Japanese art. It was really fascinating. Sadly the Gaughin exhibit which was advertised all over the city didn't start until the the third. No naked Tahitian ladies for us.
We walked back to the hostel one last time, got the Narita Express from Tokyo station and our Japan trip came to an end. We both had such an incredible time. I hope we're able to get back to explore more of Japan.