Here I go again, pairing two topics that don't seem to go together at all... but in a way this one does. There is not very much room left in Japan for gardening. I don't know about the rest of Japan but the area where we were (Osaka-Kyoto) was totally built up, the houses and shops reach right up to the base of the mountains with only a few open spaces dedicated to special purposes in between.
Here is the bamboo grove at the public park in Hirokata. The park is well used, lack of space has made the people put great value on these public areas. We came across people picniking beneath the cherry trees... it was a tad chilly mind you!
Lots of houses had the tiniest of gardens yet they managed to cram in an awful lot of plants... I should imagine they look fabulous when in bloom. Their trees were all carefully manicured to allow sunlight down to the ground and even the tiniest space is used to grow stuff.
You can easily see the difference between a very wealthy household....
.... and a not so well off one.
We did see some small rice fields. They were sandwiched in between the houses and shops but there certainly were not enough to feed more than a single family. Japan imports ALL of it's food but that doesn't stop the green-fingered from doing the best they can with the little space they have.
I imagined that one day, with the world's population growing so fast, most places will look like this... just mile after mile of city streets, apartment buildings and shops. If that actually happens then places like this....
...will become very precious indeed. This is the garden of a small theatre in the old part of Kyoto.
It is here that the Geisha and Maiko (trainee Geisha) perform the tea ceremony and dance for the public for only two weeks every year... the rest of the time the building is used for training the Geisha or for private hire. Watch out for my post about the Geisha...
And here a famous cherry tree at a Kyoto temple makes a wonderful sight at dusk. There were hoards of people who had come specially to see it lit up.
Now on to the shops... Oh I did love the shops... and I am not a shopping kind of person believe it or not. But boy do they corner the market on CUTE. I told you about my Hello Kitty hand towel didn't I? In the UK I don't reckon much to Hello Kitty but Kitty Chan in Japan is adorable!!!
Here is one of the many Kitty Chan shops filled to the brim with all sorts of goods depicting Hello Kitty. I can't describe it to do it justice... so much stuff that was simply really CUTE!!!!
I think this must be the only place in the world where you will see a row of soberly suited business men on the train with pink Hello Kitty lunch boxes on their laps! I kid you not... I saw with mine own eyes but not quick enough to get the camera out.
I had asked BillyChristina to find me a craft shop. I was keen to see if I could get Noro wool cheaper than in the UK. We did not have to walk far from our hotel to find a shop with three huge floors devoted to crafts alone... if you ever wanted a hobby... no matter how obscure... from origami to egg decorating to doll making to sewing to knitting to wood carving to clock making to crochet to card making and paper model making and mini Kimono making.. and other's that I don't know what they were... this place had everything you needed to keep you well supplied. I was not able to find any Noro wool... (perhaps it is only made for export?) in spite of them having a really well stocked knitting department so to console myself I bought a little purse clasp and some fabric as a treat. The instructions are in Japanese but I am sure I can work it out! Perhaps I will post about my efforts at some point in the future!
The next treat was in finding a fabric shop... Oh my!!!
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Once again three floors stuffed full of fabric... like you have never seen before... and most of it considerably cheaper than in the UK.
I came to the conclusion that the key to being able to make a living at making your own craft items... sewing bags etc... is the fabric. They had a lot of bags in various intriguing designs hanging up by the fabrics to show what could be made with them... all stuff that I could do easily at home but sadly not with such interesting material.
Reluctantly I was dragged away... and forced to look at electronic gadget shops, then shops with dodgy naked dolls, then shops full of Manga comics and films totally in Japanese. I didn't take any photographs of them.
Wearily, with private thoughts of post-lottery-win shopping trips to come (if my prayers at the shinto shrine are answered that is... this and more shopping at the temple flea market in tomorrow's post), we returned to our hotel and an early night... but not before purchasing a drink to take back to our room....
I tell a lie... I couldn't bring myself to buy it because of the name!