Wednesday, August 20, 2014
OMG. I'm having another one of those 'How Did I Get Here?' moments! I really can't believe that I'm so lucky as to be paid to travel to Tohoku and host a workshop for mt.
It's my absolute dream job! I've hosted a few workshops for them now. There was the Kagawa one. This amazing Shikoku one (see the video here).
The Yokohama one. And then there was that time they gave me a private tour of the mt factory.
And the very first workshop I hosted with mt, at amu space in Tokyo. You can watch a video of that workshop here:
I very clearly remember making the decision to travel back to Tokyo for that first workshop. It was just after the big earthquake. (Gosh, you can read about it here) - (not you though Kat, I don't want to scare you!) Mama-sando made sure I was on one of the flights out of Tokyo after the quake (Mr Y was in London at the time and most of my friends fled to other countries or cities and it wasn't much fun being scared in Tokyo alone). Once I'd landed in downtown Sydney my cheeky Mum later told me it was a one way flight, not a return ticket! CHEEEEEEKYYYYYY! Haaa. Anyhooo, while I was in Sydney mt emailed me to ask if I would host a workshop in Tokyo with them. Hello Dream Job! The Australian government travel website had a 'Do Not Travel' warning for Tokyo and my Mum was mortified that I would travel back to Tokyo knowing about this warning. But it was mt!!! I had to do it! So, I packed up and collected enough Frequent Flyer points to make it back to Tokyo. The QF21 which is usually a direct flight from Sydney to Tokyo was stopping in Hong Kong where all of the Australian Qantas staff got off and the flight staff was replaced with Hong Kong local staff. That was scary, I must admit.
I swear I have never seen that QF21 be so empty! NO ONE was traveling to Tokyo! Kinda scary but my motto was 'I'm doing this for the love of mt!' ha ha. 'I'M GOING IN!!!'. During transit I got chatting to a Japanese guy thinking to myself, he's Japanese, he'll make me feel more comfortable about going back to Tokyo and ease my worries about radiation...The poor man didn't help AT ALL! Quite the opposite, in fact. He told me that he was in Sydney trying to get work so he could evacuate his family to Sydney and he seemed shocked that if I had an Australian passport WHY ON EARTH was I going back to Tokyo. Okay...so...bad idea chatting to him. Moving on.
Back on the emptiest flight now from HK to Tokyo and I was still thinking 'I'M GOING IN FOR THE LOVE OF MT'. Touch down in Narita. So many emotions. Standing at the platform of the Narita Express I checked the Australian Government travel warning website and saw that the 'Do Not Travel' warning for Tokyo had been lifted! Nice timing, Sandwich!
In any case...that was another one of the best decisions I've made in my life! I'm so thrilled to be able to work with mt regularly! It's a dream come true!
I leave on Friday via shinkansen to Sendai and then a local train out to Hon-Shiogama. The mt team are so gorgeous and even offered to collect me from Sendai station via car! On Monday, the will drive me to Ishinomaki where the tsunami hit hardest because it's impossible to get to via trains as the train lines were all destroyed in the tsunami. I'm so thrilled I can host a workshop in Shiogama and enjoying making craft with some residents who have been through the toughest time over the last few years.
Here are some pics of the set-up so far. The pics are courtesy of the mt team. I'll be charging up my camera to take lots of snaps while I'm there too!
Come along if you can Sandwiches! The details of my workshop are on the mt website here. The mt workshops are always unforgettable and incredibly fun!
mt school 東北 宮城教室
マリンゲート塩釜 / stock books & coffee / PICNICA
book cafe火星の庭 / MerryMerryChristmasland＊Lab
mt school 東北
Sunday, August 10, 2014
This was one of the most fun jobs I've ever worked on! A four page story about world Sandwiches for POPEYE magazine. I got to eat sandwiches on the house, take photos, meet the cafe owners, write reviews, laugh wayyyy to much with POPEYE Editor Natsumi Oh and I somehow I also got paid?! Whaaaa? It sooo did not feel like work.
All of these adorable illustrations were drawn by Natsumi-chan!
If you're Aussie and in the Tomigaya area I really recommend popping into Bondi Coffee Sandwiches for a little taste of home.
One of my favourite cafes from the shoot was Ace. Seaweed toast anyone?
Walking into Ace is like a step back into the 1970s. Red retro leather seating divided with round edged partitions, individual retro leather stools lined neatly up along the counter seating, throw in some faded posters and sheer curtains to complete the look. Even the menu is an amazing little retro artifact. The images of the sandwiches on the menu were actually taken on film photography in the 70s and deep etched to be used on today’s menu. There is no compromising over here at Ace. In fact, the owners, a team of two brothers, took great pride in telling us about their hand painted signs and how they could easily go to Tokyu Hands and have a circle cut to shape but rather, they prefer to cut everything by hand. Starting with an octagon and then slowly rounding off the edges to make a circle.
Ace’s signature sandwich is the Nori Toast which comes in at an incredibly reasonable ¥170. The concept of this sandwich is an extension of nori-ben, only with the rice replaced with bread. I absolutely loved the nostalgia of this concept. I grew up with sandwiches for school lunches in Australia, so even the idea of getting sent off to school with a nori-ben packed wrapped in a pretty furoshiki by Mum is very special and unique for me.
The lovely brother team invited me behind the counter and described in detail each step of the making of the stores signature Nori toast. We were shown in detail, twice in fact, the sandwiches special recipe which consists of butter, soy sauce and nori on toasted white bread. Not just any plain nori will do, though. During our visit we were offered tastes of various different nori. These guys know their business. One nori we tried was a lemon and honey flavoured nori, which actually had quite a tang to it. There was a sort of sensei-like charm that came with the owner brother team. So much knowledge and right down to the point. These are the kind of people you want to learn from. I got the impression that I could ask them anything and get the right kind of advice. And not just about nori toast.
I can not tell you how amazing it was to be sitting around in a 70s kissaten style cafe with two brothers and POPEYE staff, listening to everyone chatting away in Japanese and tasting various nori. One of those 'I. can. not. believe. this. is. happening. How did I get here?' kind of moments. Before I moved to Tokyo in 2010, I had visited Japan 9 times. And, of all the experiences in Japan, this was without doubt one of my most favourite experiences ever. Standing behind the counter, alongside a pink bin filled with grounded coffee and sandwich crusts I thought that I could not have been happier. I desperately wanted to dedicate my days to making nori toast and welcoming salaryman and other guests with an ‘irashamase’. I couldn’t imagine being happier doing anything else.
Getting back to the decor for a moment, it’s worth noting that Ace boasts some serious retro items such as an analogue phone, which, on the day of shooting, they asked us to call, and sure enough, the sound was straight out of the 1970s with it’s charming ‘bringgggg bringgggg’ chime. We also spotted a vintage Seiko clock which apparently, hasn’t broken once. It’s the kind of place you could set a film in.
This hidden away little gem is a popular one. When chatting about a friends article about Ace, the brothers went to a lovely little cupboard and pulled out some envelopes of press from other magazines. ‘Oh no, not this one’...’Oh, here it is’ as they pulled out various envelopes with print outs from various magazines. It’s the type of place you could easily pop in for a quick sandwich, or you could stay for hours. When asked if the brothers chat to some customers for quite a while, they said ‘Yes!’ adding that some customers are such regulars that they even say ‘Tadaima’ (Welcome home) when they walk into the cafe. Although I don't often find myself in the Kanda area, from now on I am making special trips. I want to become a local here and one day be able to say 'Tadaima' when I walk in.
See the video of our shoot here.
Thank you lovely Natsumi-chan! Sooo many special memories! I love how you captured my annoying comments: 'Swoon' 'コレモ！' 'アリエナイ！'ヤバイー' (笑)
The Sandwich issue of POPEYE mag is so so great and a must have for Tokyo cafe goers!
There are a few things I like about Summer in Tokyo. Kakigori, fireworks, frozen beer, air conditioned trains, hiyashi chuka, watermelon, garigari kun, green goya walls, cicadas and street festivals.
Here are a few photos from last night's Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival, a yearly Summer festival dance event. Last night was surprisingly cool with the typhoon on approach making the experience even more enjoyable. It's always such a fun event with the best atmosphere. People drinking street beers from plastic cups, streets filled with smoky yakitori stands, colourful fans moving in time with the beat...We even saw a dog in a kimono! Oh, Japan.
Next year I really want to join one of the dance groups.
"Oh Yatta Yatta, oh yatta yatta!" *I know that's not what they are saying, but it certainly sounds like it.
Yakitori and nama beer. LOVE!
I stood and chatted to the owner of this soba shop for quite some time. This restaurant has been going for more than 50 years, and the current owner inherited it from his father. Gosh, I really want to work here 'Ramen Girl' style.
Lawsons out in full swing!
Love this legendary man! He has had this toy shop on Ichibangai for 52 years. It used to be the go-to toy shop for local children, but now he only opens through the evening. On my last visit there he pulled out folders of press clippings featuring his incredible shop. What a dude!
I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen this.
The Shimokitazawa Awaodori is on again tonight if the typhoon holds off. If you're in the Shimokita area, you may like to check it out.
Here is a little video I took last night.
Friday, August 8, 2014
NHK came to my apartment yesterday to film a little Hello Sandwich segment. Gosh it's fun working with a TV crew! It was all so new to me, and I made a mistake with one of my lines, but I could definitely get used to it. Super fun. Thank you NHK!