Tokyo Hands and many wheelborne / 3 September 2014
Tokyo Hands is today's main attraction. The best one I know is in Shinjuku, home of Tokyo's metropolitan government and boasting the busiest station in the world. We need to change train lines to get there and decide to do that at Tokyo station.
Last time I was there, access from one line to another at Tokyo station was through a non-public series of underground warrens. Things have improved, but it's quite some distance and there was still a short non-public area to be escorted through; on the way I noticed some leaking roof - earthquake damage.
The Shinjuku Tokyo Hands - the famous lifestyle store, shares a building with a department store which has a massive floor full of fabrics, yarns, buttons and other fascinating haberdashery. We estimate my hours spent in this store combo has revealed only about one tenth of its delights so far.
The building sits in Times Square - across the road from the station. There are many people milling about as we cross the large open spaces and bridge into the building which we enter on the second floor.
And I loose count of the number of wheelborne people I meet during this day.
One thing I did notice, getting off the train, my ramp man was my ramp man and nothing would distract him. A woman was waiting to get on and her ramp man was not in position, but she was not allowed to use my ramp which was whisked away and locked in its cupboard (the ramps are neat, lightweight and foldable). Rules are rules and station staff, mindful of safety, usually stick rigidly to them; this includes set procedures with accompanying hand gestures.
Impatient, she did a wheelie onto the train.
This particular Tokyo Hands is 8 floors of everything. I guess it's possible to acquire most of the stuff online, but I get great delight in seeing, touching and weighing my choices. And also inspiration for projects from fabulous stumble-upon items; today's quest is for hardware and haberdashery.
Lunch, on the 12th floor of the building, offers a choice between Japanese or foreign. Our first choice has a long and patient queue sitting outside. We opt for second choice Tai. The large restaurant has indoor seating, part-covered balcony seating and a wide open viewing balcony for a stroll and view over this part of Tokyo with it's many skyscrapers. On a good day you can see Fuji-San from Tokyo, but the weather has been overcast, hot and humid since I arrived. We eat outside, I choose mixed seafood (which includes crab and cuttlefish) with rice and Tai curry sauce, prawn fritters with salad and mango lassi. Japanese Tai food is differently aromatic, fruity and delicious.
When I am finally dragged out of the store with a bagful of treasures we take the train back to Tokyo station, but decide to walk home from there instead of taking the metro, because the wheelchair route in and through the station complex takes almost as long as walking home; add in the extra time it takes ramp man to get me onto the train plus the actual journey time and we gain ten whole minutes, plus greenery and fresh air.
What, I wonder does this tell me about
a Tokyo view of life? Where I have
difficulty finding fabric, here there
are miles of it. When I need hardware with
character I struggle to find recycled
access, here there is Tokyo Hands. Back
home there is online or the nightmare of
London travel. For all it's size and the
density of people, Tokyo seems
a more relaxed, people place; where life is
nudging office spaces in creative
intrusion. People see just what they are
ready to see. I am ready to see
somewhere accessible and creative;
find life here a paradox of patterns
and rules alongside freedoms and choices,
crowded and empty, noisy and peaceful,
and always somewhere to sit, the welcome
of somewhere to eat, food of inspiration.