Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nagoya Business Trip

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Hello Sandwiches!

I just got back from a work trip to Nagoya to host a Hello Sandwich x Martha Stewart workshop for my company. It's been so long since I had caught the Shinkansen. I love travelling on the Shinkansen. There is something so beautiful about travelling and being in between places. My friend Ben describes it here.

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First up, it was time to buy the Shinkansen travel essential: an Ekiben (station obento). 'Eki' = Station and 'ben' is short for obento. I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo station where there are zillions of convenient shops selling ekiben. I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to nice packaging and I couldn't resist this pink furoshiki.

Car number 13. Seat 1 A. Car number 13. Seat 1 A. I think I read my ticket a million times whilst waiting for my Shinkansen to arrive in fear of settling in in the wrong seat.

As I sat down in car number 13. Seat 1 A, right behind me followed two business men. I'd forgotten how busy and jam packed the Shinkansen get. Within minutes these two business men were my new best friends. Our friendship started when they helped me lift my suitcase onto the overhead shelf, but was strengthened when I giggled when I overheard one of them say (in Japanese, of course) 'Ahhh, I really want to eat my ekiben but I should wait till the train takes off'. Somehow we all ended up saying 'itadakimasu' and eating together. Random friends on a Shinkansen bound for Kansai. By the time I had arrived in Nagoya we'd exchanged meishi (business cards), I'd seen a series of family photos, we had chatted about my love of mizutama (polka dots) and I was asked for advice on where to buy mizutama leather book covers.

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This ekiben was pretty incredible. So colourful and so many flavours and textures.

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At 3:41 I arrived at Nagoya.

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Okay, so this bit is a little embarrassing...

Although I've been to Nagoya a few times, I'm not super familiar with the area so I made a little notebook before I left with all the train timetables and transfer details for all of the places I wanted to visit. I used Martha Stewart Crafts polka dot cardboard for the cover, and some lemon coloured book binding tape for the spine. It was a perfect teeny size for travelling (a little bit bigger than my Passmo) and actually, it was a life saver!

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By the time I booked my hotel a few days before my trip, ALL of the hotels in the city were booked out because of a big Arashi concert, so I stayed in Kariya which is about 20 minutes by rapid train to Nagoya station.

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The view from my hotel was quite beautiful for me. Upon arrival I peeked out as the sun set over Nagoya, and was greeted with these lovely glistening lights. I dropped my bags off and picked up up a few essentials from Valor supermarket just by my hotel. I LOVE BIG SUPERMARKETS! With their wide isles, and multiples of the same product to select from. My supermarket in Shimokita is great, but it's rather small and one is forever bowing with a polite 'ah, sumimasen' after bumping into one another. I'm kicking myself for not taking a photo of Valor.

After an hour of unpacking, a little bit of harassing the poor front desk for some items, and I was off again to Evina-san's studio.

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Some of the trains in Nagoya are designed in a cute retro style like this. I love the velvet seats and speckled curtain combo. So different to Tokyo.

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This station walkway bought back memories of Namba-walk in Osaka.

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Sweet little retro style phone stations on the platfotrm.

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Evina-san's Sundwich office! I really, really, want to move to Nagoya and work here with these guys. Such great energy.

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Evina-san and I went to the gallery next door to his office for Wassa's exhibition.  That's Evina-san there on the left. Super cool. Evina-san has just started up an online magazine promoting cultural local living in Nagoya. You can see it here. It was so sweet of him to write about my Nagoya workshop here.

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I'm back at the hotel by 10pm armed with my little sento-style-basket of Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner. Each room at this hotel has a rinse-in-shampoo inbuilt into the shower area, but Shiseido's Tsubaki is available upon request. The hotel staff were a little hesitant to give it to me at first, but (annoyingly) I insisted as this is the same brand I am using everyday, and, let's face it, my odango is not easy to create without a combination of the right products.

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Another favourite feature of the bathroom was this 'ing to the plea' shower cap. Now, I am not one to tease, because, well, have you heard me try to speak Japanese?...but 'ing to the plea'? Is this Japanese Lorem ipsum?

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Usually when I stay in Japanese business hotels the breakfast is all about onigiri and pickles but I rather liked this plane-style-tray with bread, wieners and eggs. The coffee was also not too bad

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On the Saturday it was time for the Hello Sandwich x Martha Stewart Crafts Christmas Ornament and Envelope Workshop! 

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Our workshop was held at a shop called Globe Mart. Naoka-san from Globe Mart was really wonderful to work with and a fantastic co-teacher. She buzzed around helping participants select colours and added pearls to creations with her handy glue gun. She really went far and beyond to make sure each participant was able to create exactly the craft item they had in mind. She wore a sweet little black and white checkered apron with in-built belt. To me she looked like the prettiest little Santa's helper.

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Lots of fun was had stamping original Christmas envelopes with Martha Stewart Christmas stamps.

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Globe Mart also has their own 'Cafe Globe'. Sweet Naoka-san arranged an incredible lunch for us. Avocado Cheese Burger. I love that we sat at our workshop table, with Daiso cutting mats as our placemats. It's pretty much how I eat lunch everyday - amoungst craft mess.

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The workshop participants were all so talented and made such lovely Christmas ornaments.

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In true Japanese style everyone wanted a group photo at the end of the workshop.

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My friend Tomo-kun picked me up from my workshop in his fancy car. It's so rare for me to be in a car in Japan. Being able to have a car and drive around easily is one of the great things about Nagoya. He took me to his gallery 'PI Gallery' where we enjoyed the latest exhibition of overlapped Lomo photographs before looking around his company showroom. Tomo-kun is one talented guy. I was shocked to learn that he had personally and single-handedly designed many craft punches that I own and love. He also designed these sweet Honeycomb Ball items.

Tomo-kun took me to a cute local cafe where we ate taco rice (my all-time-favourite), sardines in a cute retro tin, and potatoes. Poor Tomo-kun was driving and there is a zero alcohol limit when you're the driver in Japan, so he drank coffee and sweet ginger ale while I had a glass of wine. After pouring my second glass of wine the waiter told me that the third glass is free! WA???~~~!!! Nagoya - you get better and better each day!

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And so with the my workshop completed, it was time for fun and games. But, I awoke to this earthquake alarm! My quake alarm is set to go off only when the quake is over Shindo 4 on the Japanese quake measurement system (the huge quake on March 11 was Shindo 5 in Tokyo) and it has never ever gone off. When it finally went off at 7:30am I was half asleep and thought it must be a local Nagoya quake using my GPS. I ran to my hotel door in my pajamas and put on some shoes (so not a good look), and was about to evacuate from the 8th floor when I finally realised it was actually an alert for my home area Setagaua-ku and not for Nagoya. Yaaaa - there's nothing like a rapidly beating heartbeat to wake you up.

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Tomo-kun picked me up again and we drove to 食堂ペコリ , THE cutest cafe recommended to me by Lullatone.  (Thank you so much Shawn and Yoshimi for this great recommendation!) This cafe even had it's own parking. It's so hard to find parking, even for a mamachari in Tokyo, so it was really interesting for me to be able to just park right next to the cafe in Nagoya. べんり!

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You could select from Lunch Set A or Lunch Set B. Tomo-kun and I got one of each. They were both INCREDIBLE! I'm not sure that I've ever eaten a more delicious, and well presented lunch before.
We ate saba, renkon gohan, negi gohan, kabocha and miso soup, tonjiru, tofu and ninjin cakes, and so many other delicious and fresh vegetables. The oshibori's were beautiful French-style towels, and following our lunch, a delicious raisn ice-cream was served.

食堂ペコリ  is a sister branch to Couvert a la Maison, a ceramic design studio, so you can visit their shop next door and buy the same ceramics used in the cafe which are all carefully made in local Aichi-ken.

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After lunch we headed to On Reading, Nagoya's best bookshop / gallery owned by Yoshitaka-san. My Gift Wrapping Zine and Japanese craft book have been stocked here.

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There was a woodblock exhibition and workshop taking place in the gallery space.

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Afterwards, we drove to '8 Hachi Table', a creative space with a cafe, bakery shop, select design shop and plant shop. This is also home to 8 Design office, too.

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I headed to the exhibition at Parco Gallery in Sakae (the Shibuya of Nagoya?) upon Evina-san's recommendation. A lovely little exhibition selling lots of handmade goods.

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I stocked up on cute metallic ceramic mizutama plates made by local Aichi-ken artists.

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This pop-up cafe looked like so much fun and I really wanted to relax on the cute green grass-like carpet, but alas, I had a Shinkansen back to Tokyo to catch.

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I was in a little bit of a rush and almost just grabbed any obento, but this ekiben turned out to be incredibly delicious and included all of my favourite things: Hijiki, renkon, snow peas, kabocha, tamagoyaki, salmon and shitake.

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I pushed my forehead against the window of the Tokyo-bound Nozomi Shinkansen and watched the glistening lights pass by. Hamamatsu seemed to be an interesting seaside city which I'd like to return to someday. I was pretty exhausted by that stage, but watching Japan pass by like that, sitting there with my obento, after a wonderful trip with wonderful people, I almost cried with happiness to be able to live in Japan. Familiar signs such as 'AOKI', 'ニトリ' and 'AEON' flickered past and I felt so comfortable.

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Everyone on this Shinkansen seemed to be exhausted like me.

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And so I made it back to Tokyo with this lovely Nagoya stash of goodies.

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Yesterday I made a lunch of salmon ochazuke, shiso konbu, salad, ham, tamagoyaki and mugicha on the plates and items from Nagoya. And last night I cooked nori tamagoyaki, tonjiru, renkon + snow pea + shallots + shimeji + pork + goma gohan, daikon pickles, shiso konbu, asparagus, shake, salad and cottage cheese. It's another great thing about travelling, trying new food and then attempting to replicate similar dishes at home.

It was such a lovely trip to Nagoya. Naoka-san, Evina-san and Tomo-kun 本当にありがとうございました!Thank you also to my amazing company for sending me there!

I can't wait to come back to Nagoya soon!

Love Love
Hello Sandwich


  1. Thanks for sharing Ebony..
    What a Lovely Journey.. :)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! Nagoya was indeed a lovely journey!

  2. oh my gosh this sounds so cool

  3. Always a pleasure reading your blog, Ebony!
    Thanks for sharing!
    I've been 3 times to Japan but never to Nagoya - now it's on my list!

    1. Thank you Alex! That is sweet of you to say! Be sure to pop into my friends galleries and spaces when you visit Nagoya!

  4. Another lovely adventure! And those speech bubble dishes are just so, so cute :)

    1. Hello Polly, ha ha, aren't they so sweet! There were striped ones, too. It was a hard decision. At one stage the staff and I were actually sitting on the floor with them all layed out chatting away and saying 'kawaii' a million times! ha ha.

  5. Looks like you had a fantastic trip. I'd love to go on the Shinkansen just to have the reason to buy an ekibe, I'd have the pink one like you, regardless of what was inside! Did you keep the box! I would.
    The decorations you made in your class look beautiful too. The Japanese definitely have a very pretty design streak♡

    1. Oh yes! You really need to eat ekiben. Ha ha, to be honest, I really really wanted to keep that box but because I made friends with the two business men I was to embarrassed to keep it! I did, however, keep the one on the return trip which was like a fake basket looking box. Such a hoarder - oh dear!

  6. so beautiful! your photos really make me want to go back to japan!
    and i used shiseido's tsubaki there too! : )
    the smell always brings back memories!

    1. Isn't Shiseido's Tsubaki the best? I know what you mean about the smell! When I travel to Australia I sometimes take the little packs just so I feel like I'm back at home. Did you use the red or the white one? I usually use the red Shampoo and the white conditioner purely because then the bottles are easily identifiable in the shower. But I really prefer the red conditioner. It's silly they don't make the shampoo and conditioner more different in design...

    2. It really is the best! I used the red ones, but on vacation, so it was no problem, but I probably would get confused in the morning too. Maybe a nice diy decorated bottle would be the solution. : )
      Talking about it, I want to use it again! I think I wilk look for it on the internet!

  7. My family lives in Nagoya, I can't wait to visit them next month.
    Thank you for telling me all about these AMAZING places! You are a fascinating person!

  8. So many lovely pictures, your workshop look like so much fun!
    I wish to visit Japan too! <3
    Have a nice day,