Hana Chouchin @ Higashinomon

After visiting Niō-mon, I sauntered eastbound, leaving Zenkō-ji behind. Tiny snow flakes were dancing in the afternoon sunshine and I could see my breath rising like mist in the air. The street leading towards Zenkō-ji Shita station was sloping downward and icy, therefore, I trod tentatively with a mincing gait.
Then, I came across a half-opened threshold with an easel, displaying a shop sign “Hana Chouchin”…

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From the door way, I could see bookshelves filled with intriguing looking books and prints. So I entered the shop, uttering ‘Gomenkidasai!’ – ‘Hello, is anybody there?’
Upon hearing my voice, an old lady appeared from behind the Shouji-sliding door and greeted me with a warm smile.

The shop was an Aladdin’s cave for retro toy fans and vintage print collectors. The lady explained to me that most of the vintage books and prints were her father’s and they were passed down to her upon his death.
I kneeled down in front of the shelf and flicked through them. Despite their old age, they had no musty smell of old prints and the conditions were very good.
Then, another old lady emerged from behind the door, holding a cup of coffee for me. Those two old ladies turned out to be sisters and were running the shop together.
The latter lady used to work for a children’s book department and the items on sale were her collection which accumulated over the years…

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Oh, I do remember them!
I spotted some of my favourite stories straightaway amongst the books on display…

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The shop was overflowing with old-fashioned toys and playthings made from timber, fabric & paper…

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These toys were uncomplicated and tangible yet sure to fuel a child’s endless imagination and creativity…

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This shelf was laden with traditional toys which generations of Japanese children played with them during New Years holiday. Kites with samurai warriors, card games with old-style illustrations, a Hagoita – Japanese badminton with a wooden rackets & shuttlecock, retro comic books…

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The shop was a treasure trove for children and children at heart. For grown-ups, it would be a reunion with childhood memories. And for real-time children, it would be an eye-opening experience…

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The sisters explained that they had no intention of starting the business when they initially rented this space. They needed some room to sort out their overflowing collection of old books and toys. However, the property they rented used to be a shop and gave them an idea that they could start a book/toy shop for local people…

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At the time of my visit, the shop’s open time was limited to weekend only and the shop had no website. However, it is definitely well worth seeking out this discreet gem near Zenkō-ji…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bookartbookshop @ Pitfield Street

Evil claws of greedy high street chains and property developers keep on stretching towards East London ever since the area has been known for being a hip & happening place.
So far, the invasion of chain stores ebbs around Old Street roundabout even though the onslaught may commence anytime if the UK economy continues to recover.

Amongst the transience of the London cityscape, Bookartbookshop on Pitfield Street stands its corner, being serenely individual and unapologetically arty.

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The shop opened its door in 2002.
One day, Hubbie and I were walking around our new neighbourhood – we moved in 2001, and came across this intriguing shop…

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The shelves are filled with books, cards, maps and charts, all of which are made in limited numbers.
This shop elevates paper into an art form as a medium of self-expression…

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While mainstream publishers and book retailers cash in on the feather-weight celebrity related culture / subject and keep on saturating the market with worthless pulps, a specialist book store such as Bookartbookshop offers a unique opportunity.  The opportunity to handle lovingly hand pressed and bound books.
Every piece is tangible and precious which conveys the importance of handcrafting and offers visual and tactile communication between artist and audience.

East London remains as a treasure trove of quirkiness and eccentricity.
Bookartbookshop is one of the finest examples which defines what the area is all about…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Hokkaido Highway Blues

A blue-sky day is gone.
It’s replaced by uneven tone of grey.
Finally, this unusually “summery” summer has come to the end?
I hope not.
It’s nearly 6pm and I am wondering how tomorrow’s weather will be like…

We had our brunch at Shepherdess.
Instead of my customary Early Bird (egg, tomato, chips, toast & sausage), I ordered Egg Benedict.
First of all, a cup of builders tea minus sugar.
A quote from Wikipedia – Builders tea is an English colloquial term for the sort of strong, inexpensive tea drunk by construction workers taking a break. The term is used to differentiate from other servings of tea, as it is usually both brewed strongly and served in a mug (as opposed to being brewed in a teapot) milky with two (or more in some cases) teaspoons of sugar.
Mmmm… We need more milk. So we asked a small pitcher of milk…

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Here comes my Egg Benedict!
Hubbie was mightily jealous of me. Well, it was his fault that he decided to stick to the usual…

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Nothing was wrong with their cooking but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected.
I found the bacon extremely salty. Oh well, I will order my egg Benedict without bacon next time.
Otherwise it was great.

After brunch, Hubbie headed to the office, and I decided to spend my afternoon in the sun.
The place I spread a picnic blanket this time was Gordon Square near UCL.
I used to come here often when I was a student at the Bartlett…

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One of the great things about London is being able to relax in numerous public spaces like Gordon Square. It’s dotted all around Central London and most of them are well maintained and open to general public.

I read “Hokkaido Highway Blues – Hitchhiking in Japan” by Will Ferguson while topping up a tan on my legs…

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I must say his depiction of Japan was dead-on accurate as well as funny.
It was very hard to suppress a giggle when I was reading one of the episodes that he hitchhiked a police car by mistake and got arrested.
Anyway, please read it. I shouldn’t spoil the fun any further by spilling more beans.
One thing I can say is that there is alway something interesting when it is observed by a fresh pair of eyes…

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