Here it is! Episode 2 of my vlog Book Shops in Japan, aka video travels and the picture book hunt in Japan. (You can watch the first episode of Athens Books in Osaka here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w86Y9VTgQMs&t=5s
Visiting Kyoto was like stepping through time, from the hustle bustle of modern department stores and hotels on the main street of Naramono-cho where we stayed, to the tiny streets and shops where the geisha strolled. One of my favorite parts about traveling to Tokyo was visiting Arashiyama, a small riverside town outside of Kyoto, where my husband and I went to visit the famous Bamboo Forest and relax under the swaying trees. The snacks were delicious and every little shop had the cutest knick knacks to take home. Here we stumbled upon London Books, a charming second-hand book store where I found several picture book gems:
I found SO many great deals at London Books, it was tough to pick a few since we were only traveling with a small carry-on (I ended up shipping most of my books back home anyway). I patiently waited almost three months for my books to arrive, and then I asked my friend Atsuko to help translate them. She has the most adorable one-year old daughter, and an amazing Japanese picture book library for her. I spent a fun afternoon discovering amazing Japanese picture books and discovering the cultural differences between American and Japanese picture books. It’s fascinating, and I’ll share my findings in a later post. Thanks Atsuko, for generously translating the weird picture book, and sharing your books with me!
These are just a few of the picture books I found:
1. はじめてのおつかい (Her First Shopping)
by: Yoriko Tsutsui, illustrated by: Akiko Hayashi
The adorable little girl on the cover immediately caught my eye, and kind of reminded me of myself when I was a little girl, which is something I never saw in picture books when I was little. The story is also an interesting one to see portrayed in a book for children, with the young girl going on a shopping trip by herself! I would be very surprised to see a story like this printed today in the United States, but this was published in 1977 Japan.
2. たなばたプールびらき (ピーマン村の絵本たち)
by: Hirotaka Nakagawa, Yasunari Murakami
I loved the simple, colorful illustration style of these happy swimmers. I especially liked the pages depicting all the goodies swinging on the trees, something I saw everywhere I went while in Japan. Nakagawa and Murakami have worked on several other adorably fun picture books for kids together.
by: Masamoto Nasu, illustrated by: Yoshifumi Hasegawa
My friend Atsuko translated this one, and it was the strangest tale of a doctor deceived by a magical fox. I really like the watercolor techniques used in this picture book, and the rich use of the dark color palette, with rich reds melting into the grays and blacks.
Highlights from Kyoto:
I was awe-struck by all the temples and shrines we saw in Kyoto. We were blessed with sunny days during our stay here, and along with visiting Arashiyama and the bamboo forest, we also took a day to walk around the amazing temples of Kiyomizudera. The spacious temple grounds has a main hall that stands several stories tall, giving visitors the most gorgeous view of the Otowa waterfall and city of Kyoto down below. The surrounding town of the Higashiyama Disctrict was really fun to explore, and we had the most delicious sushi and steak lunch.
Cute cafes and delicious treats!
Kyoto has an abundance of cute shops and cafes to enjoy a sweet treat. I especially enjoyed Snoopy Chaya (with everything Snoopy!), and Qu’il Fait Bon, a creekside cafe with delicious matcha tiramisu and mango tart. Yum! The outside patio had the most picturesque view of the canal, and I could’ve stayed there for hours. And let's not forget the famous cat cafe! (I peeked in from the outside- we all know I'm more of a dog person.)
Fushimi Inari Temple at Night
With so much to see, we even took advantage of sight-seeing at night, which is a wondrous experience in itself! We were surprised by the fantastic light show on the main stairway at Kyoto Station, and took in the sights from above before heading out to Fushimi Inari. We wandered through the famous red bridges at night, with only a handful of other locals enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s a bit eerie exploring the empty park in the dark, and you have to keep an eye out for wild boars, but it’s definitely a sight to see without all the tourists there. I would highly recommend it as a different experience at this famous tourist location.
Nara: Todaiji Temple, Golden Buddha and the scary deer
In Nara, we visited Nara Park including the Todaiji Temple and the famous deer. The temple housed the most massive Buddha statue I've ever seen. Being in it's presence was truly magnificent, and the photos truly don't do it justice. As for the deer, as much as I really wanted to feed them, once I got there, it was more of an anxiety ridden experience for me. The deer, very much accustomed to being fed by locals and tourists alike, are very pushy, and zero in on you as soon as you have their crackers in hand. I wasn't ready for one pushy deer, let alone a growing crowd, so I broke my crackers into little pieces, threw them on the ground, and walked as quickly as I could in the opposite direction. (My one close photo was pre-cracker and I was still nervous about getting as close as I did.)
I truly loved my visit to Kyoto, with its traditional ways, beautiful architecture and expansive, lush parks. I can't wait to return one day. Big thanks to my awesome husband/creative partner/vlog editor for all his hard work on this series. Renaldo, without you, these videos wouldn’t be nearly as awesome, and I would sound 10x more awkward on camera. I can’t wait to share Crayon House in Tokyo with all of you in the next couple of months!
I caught the Japan travel bug a couple of years ago, and in April the timing (and the amazing steal on flights) was finally right - my husband and I spent an amazing two weeks in Japan. We explored the city streets in Tokyo, were awe-struck by the temples in Kyoto, and enjoyed the whirlwind energy of Osaka. We were surrounded by beauty in nature and ate delicious meals every day, but the icing on the cake for me was the hunt for picture books along the way. I knew Japan would be an inspiring trip full of color and beauty, so I’m spicing up my blog with a few videos of the cutest Japanese book shops where I found my picture book gems.
Osaka is a busy, electrifying city, and we stayed right in the heart of the tourist area in Namba. We only spent a couple of days there, but we ate delicious street food the area is known for, tried our luck at the arcade, and explored the city streets. Here’s a little video on Athens Bookstore, a small bookstore we went into while in Osaka. Hope you enjoy it!
If I Were a Book
written by: Jose Jorge Letria | illustrated by: Andre Letria
Here's the little book I bought at Athen's Bookstore. I love the way the simple text goes hand in hand with the graphical illustrations. Since I don't read or speak Japanese, I found this to be a perfect example of how strongly illustrations can speak louder than words.
Without even knowing the title of the book, which I didn't at the time I bought it, I found the illustrations created a story all their own- we can imagine ourselves swimming through the ocean, flying high above the bustling city or scaling the tallest mountain in the adventures we take while reading a book.
I found the English translated version of If I Were a Book on Amazon, providing snippets of the actual text written by Letria:
"If I were a book, I'd be full of new horizons"
"If I were a book, I would not want to know at the beginning how my story ends"
Didn't you already get a sense of these words just by looking at the illustrations? The power of art and words, even art without words, experienced inside a picture book is exactly why I love them so much.
Highlights from our short but delicious stay in Osaka.
Our stay in Osaka was a rainy one, but the days were perfect to get lost among the tall buildings, surrounded by the endless posters calling our name to try one savory treat after another.
Delicious street food and cute desserts everywhere!
Below: Earl grey rye pancakes topped with fruit and ice-cream, adorable and yummy roasted green tea latte, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes filled with grilled octopus) takoyaki (flavorful octopus balls topped with fish flakes on a stick) and a warm an pan with vanilla ice-cream inside. For dinner, we had the crispiest, tastiest salt and pepper chicken wings I've ever had in my entire life. Osaka is food and dessert heaven.
My husband and I are not gamblers, but in Japan, there were arcades with bright lights and playful music everywhere. I just had to include these photos of the adorable prizes teasing us and the Miyazaki game that lured me in. Only 1000 yen later ($10) and my husband won me the "ultimate prize"!
Thanks for watching my first ever video blog! Coming soon: Part 2 of my picture book hunt in Japan featuring an adorable little shop in Kyoto!
Here you'll find...
a little about me, thoughts on my writing journey, hopefully a spark of inspiration. Enjoy!