Candy as Art 

The drugstore, stationery store, and home goods store were my favorite haunts in Japan, weirdly.  Not even just to buy stuff, but as Museums of  Aesthetic Interestingness.  I probably would have been in heaven had I found a hardware store. 

I think it was because they revealed the application of beauty and aesthetic into even the functionally rote/mundane.



I don’t claim to know what it means, or have any brilliant analysis–  but it was notable!

Part of why I love vintage stuff is the meticulous detail and ornament in everyday things.  

 For example:     

I’ve always assumed mass production ruined aesthetic in American consumer goods.   

But taking even Japanese candy as an example–  i think it must also be mass produced?  So how do they preserve beauty in everyday things?   

My favorite Japanese candy — a compressed powdery/grainy sugar that melts in your mouth — is an example of (delicious) fine detail and beauty!


Other gorgeous Japanese candy:



These are *Baskin Robbins Birthday cakes* in Japan..

For contrast, see a horrifying sampling of American Baskin-Robbins cakes:

Why??  Don’t we need beauty too?  (Is this related to why Americans always have garbage when we’re walking around?  )

Cuteness is an offshoot of beauty in Japan.  There were more examples than I could possibly capture – it was obicuteous (ha!) but here is some of the cuteness we saw:


Sheep robot, because sheep.

Don’t know what this was pointing to, but people seemed to be taking it very seriously. 


Typical subway advertisement 

Anthropomorphic sweets abound 


Fluffy Bunny Claw Machine


Even *vice* was aesthetically pleasing in Japan.  
The only gambling I saw  was Pachinko. (In which a small metal ball bounces around between pegs to hopefully land in a lucky pocket). 

These parlors were insanely loud, colorful, smoky,  bright, ….  and cuteness filled (?).  


There were serious pachinko players ..  With equally serious pachinko ball holders

I felt kind of creepy photographing what, I assume, are gamblers who might not prefer to appear in someone’s blog —  (clearly not enough to *not do it*) — but I was quick about it, so…  Blurry. 

The following is a photo of a lobby of some serious business in and out of which were walking hurried harried businesspeople:

Why do they have a image of a boat full of wacky cute blobs in their lobby?

Lastly, some misc beautiful or cute (cutiful) things I liked enough to purchase:    



This is a prompt on the ticket machine for the Haruki Train, to Kyoto from Tennoji. ( I could totally be making all these names up and you’d never know!).

It is a single train.   Unless part of the train goes a different speed than another part, this confused us so much.

Being American, we chose the most  ‘loaded’ option, naturally.  Plus we didn’t want to be on the part of the train that went all slow.

Matsue and Tamatsukuri Onsen

Paul and I headed up to Matsue to check into our next hotel, Chorakuen, which is a Ryokan/traditional guest house in Hot Spring country.

Since it’s traditional, not sure how many Americans they get here.  Definitely no English speaking staff here.

Lauren was to meet up with us later that evening to join us —  so when we checked in we fumbled cluelessly through a regimented series of highly ritualized events upon exit from the cab — bags taking away, shoe taking away, slipper giving, paper tags giving (for shoes?), page signing, question asking (who knows what we agreed to!  Two of something, at some point), breakfast table showing, breakfast time deciding, room showing (slipper removing!), table sitting, green tea serving.

We were clearly in trouble almost instantly, and several times — shoes facing wrong way!  Don’t carry your own shoes/bags!  I think we pretty much broke Japan

Our room:

The beds/mats are in the closet behind Paul:

At night someone comes and puts out the “beds”.

The view from our room is beautiful:

After we settled in (and after somehow reobtaining our hidden shoes), we walked around the surrounding neighborhood in search of dinner.

Naturally, Paul thought this restaurant looked good.

That photo is blurry because I only got one shot at it, as every time I stood before it to retake the photo, the pressure sensitive pad beneath it caused the front door of the restaurant to noisily slide open, stopping all conversation within as the wind blasted the patrons and they stared at me.   What’s really sad is how many times that event had to happen before I stopped trying.  Lab mice are smarter than I am.

We went in eventually, and were seated in the only non traditional part of the restaurant.  They were kind of ‘compromise chairs’. Not completely on the ground, yet not full chair height. Just short enough to make us feel silly and like we were Doing It Wrong — possibly by having full length legs.

Again, English was not a thing here, including on the menus.  We ‘mystery ordered’ (food roulette!), and got a nice variety!

 In this photo, you can see part of a complete fish in Paul’s chopsticks:

Anything with a head on, I generously let Paul eat.

After dinner we walked around the town, which has a beautiful river through the middle of it, and multiple walkways next to and above it.   This isn’t a very good photo-  I’ll have to manage one during the day:

Photos from the hotel, including breakfast the next day.

Now it’s snowing outside and there’s a crazy bird.  Lauren tells us that, in Japan, they say the birds are crying (vs singing).

a video from our porch where you can hear crying birds..

Today and tomorrow we are here at Chorakuen.  Museum/temple today.   Tomorrow late afternoon, we part ways with Lauren 😦


A brief post about Stuff

I don’t know what this is, or why it has white squares.  What IS clear, is that it is to be grasped in the hand to be used.  Helpful!

We don’t have enough ‘block foods’ in the US IMO

This tooth care product *has* teeth:

This was an amazing painting by a child, as part of a street display


The ubiquitous vending machines serve both hot and cold drinks.

I tried the heated “rich chocolate with toasted sugar” and heartily approved.  I did not try the Can of Fire.    Hot Corn Cheese Drink:

Paul did try that, and his breath was not for the faint of heart.

The Japanese arcade experience is no different than ours:

Gambling for candy

These things

The traditional “Pringles Claw Machine”:

And of course handcuff and fake sushi claw  machines :

Taiko for points: 
Baby photos here are also exactly the same as ours:

A sign I also enjoyed was this one, in an elevator:

Again, I suspect it’s warning about Plutonium, but can’t be positive.

Friday!  Leaving Yakage, quick Kurashiki stop, then North to Matsue!

Sad to leave Yakage and our inn.  Today we check out and take a series of trains North to the other coast and Matsue.

Stop in Kurashiki to wait for our Express train.    The station has some beautiful areas (plus an Old Navy!):


Update from Lauren:  this part of the station used to be a Hans Christian Anderson theme park!

I don’t understand these body parts:

The public bathrooms sometimes provide these practical, yet somehow off-putting ‘baby holders’.


Okayama Day

Our second day trip from Yakage was to Okatama to see the gardens.  It was super overcast, but gorgeous!

En route 

Lauren tells me the above is an ad for a  lawyer. Yes! I now recognize the ‘scales of justice’ on his Seed Pod Hat!
Okayama bus ride

We didn’t know what this said– but it made me vaguely uncomfortable:

 I told Paul I was pretty sure those were the Universal Symbol for Plutonium, but he disagreed.

I wish I’d photographed our humor-iliating lunch attempt at a gift shop prior to starting, but I did not.  Suffice to say it resulted in Paul receiving an enormous amount of food we couldn’t identify, and me receiving one comical tiny ball of mochi.  Again, we got to see the look of Polite Japanese Customer Service Person Trying Not To Laugh.

Just outside the park wAs this beautiful bridge




This is an Artificial Hill:

I know cause this sign says it:




I was perplexed by the Sweeping of The Water

We took a cab back to the station because we were running late for our train connection, and we needed to meet Lauren for our dinner reservation.

On the train back, a miniature human was traveling alone.  We decided she was 6 or 7 years old? She was super sweet and self sufficient, and you could tell even *she* thought we were doing it wrong.

That photo is kind of blurry because I was trying to be subtle and not as creepy as I’m sure this is.



Kurashiki day

Our first day trip from Yakage was to nearby Kurashiki.  While Lauren was at work, we headed out. 

Lauren told us if we leave at the right time, we will catch the ‘children’s art’ train

Kurashiki is a pretty big city, with a beautiful historical section.  We walked from the train station– down the long long shopping street – to the start of the historical section.  Since we spent most of our time looking at shops on the shopping street, we didn’t get very far into the old part before we had to turn back to catch the train to meet up with Lauren after work. 

Some shops and things in shops we saw:


Paul made me eat pizza for lunch, at a place Lauren and he ate before.  Pizza!   It was, weirdly, one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.  . 


Yakage, or.. in English..”The town Lauren Lives in”. 

Lauren’s adorable little town will be a home base for three days. We love her town, and we love our inn — although we keep Doing Japan Wrong. 

When we’re not annoying locals with improper slipper protocol —    we’re causing them great amusement with our pathetic japanese/hand signal combos and general bumbling Americanesque–  although neither of us have stooped to the depths of Paul on his prior trip where he shampooed his hair with toothpaste at the local bath, much to the glee/horror of the gentleman who informed him. 

Here are some photos from around Yakage.   


This sign says “to Lauren’s House” (probably). 



The train station





 Most of the rooves (yes, rooves) look like this:
 The bar in our hotel “lobby”

What the heck!  Happy logo on this building – who wouldn’t want to work here!     


Bike rooves!  (Yes, rooves).  


This is the breakfast room at our Inn, where we have butchered many a custom:



these are photos of the area around Yakage