Tokyo Notebook

-・- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -・- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.

30 2013

A Way around Pearl Competitive Show

A Way around Pearl Competitive Show 1

#In the post, “pearl” means Akoya pearl cultured in Japan.

As I wrote in the previous post, in Japan, pearl is the most common mourning jewelry for women. So, it comes about as a natural result that memorial services would be like a pearl show. Looking at someone’s necklace appraisingly at the funeral is not desirable and absolutely outrageous, but one can sense the difference not intentionally when women with the similar simple necklaces get together.

A Way around Pearl Competitive Show 2 A Way around Pearl Competitive Show 3
Can you sense the differences between these necklaces? These are all good enough to wear at official functions, but they differ greatly in the price.

In my case, except pierced pearl earrings I haven’t worn the necklace from my youth. Since I had refused to wear a not-stylish ceremonial mourning dress (instead, I wore a simple agnès b’s one-piece suit), I was ok without it. Which is sad, however, I noticed that with advancing years that kind of rebellion would be interpreted as rudeness.

Recently I have worn a quasi-standard black dress at memorial services, and then somehow, I feel that I need to grace the front of the dress. I mean, I think accessories bring the formal outfit for adult women to perfection. Without a necklace, I might appear to be goofy-looking.

I didn’t want to participate in the pearl competition, so I checked other options and found that some people insist jet, black coral, and onyx were more orthodox than pearl as mourning jewelry. Assuming the rules of formal outfit should be in accordance with the Imperial Family, standard Japanese mourning jewelry is jet because the family wears it at the funeral, NOT pearls. In Queen Victoria, the Queen wore jet as part of her mourning dress, so I think the family follows the custom. Unlike in the case of jet, I couldn’t find the origin of the other materials as mourning jewelry. As far as I can predict, the black materials which have similar appearance with jet have been considered standard ones in Japan.

A Way around Pearl Competitive Show 4
From left to right, Jet, Black coral, and Onyx

Anyway, I couldn’t choose jet and black coral. In jet’s case, I couldn’t choose one from necklaces in the price range from 3,000 to 70,000 yen (it was one digit smaller than pearl’s price), and I had no idea about difference in quality. As for black coral, which was my favorite among them, I avoided it because it was difficult to find natural black coral in Japan now. Since 2006 it has been on the CITES list since 2006, and I think most products called “black coral” might be dyed. I suspected that the dyed coral would be subject to fading.


The last one, onyx commonly-used for accessories, was my choice. Thanks to jet, this inexpensive material is more legitimate than pearl as mourning jewelry.

I got perforated onyx loose needed for a necklace, and I’ll ask my friend to process them). Basically, I’m going to use this easy-care necklace daily, not only at the funeral.


Posted by Kinakinw | 15:10 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Pearl

25 2013

Firefly Watching

Chinzan-so 1

I went to Chinzan-so in Mejiro (Toshima Ward) last weekend to have dinner with relatives. Chinzan-so (literally means Camellia Mountain Lodge) called a real urban oasis is a complex consisting of wedding facilities, a hotel & spa, and twelve restaurants famous for its historic Japanese garden of approximately 17 acres.

Chinzan-so 6
According to its HP, the hill where it’s located was originally called Tsubaki-yama (mountain of camellias) because of its picturesque vistas of blossoming camellias. Chinzan-so itself has a long history. In 1878, Mr. Aritomo Yamagata (the former Prime Minister of Japan) bought the land to build his home and garden, and named it Chinzan-so.

The complex has been holding buffet dinner called “Firefly Night” at this time of the year since the 1960s. The dinner start at 19:00, and after that customers walk across the garden and enjoy watching fireflies. In past days, Chinzan-so released fireflies they had caught (they were exposed to criticism, of course) in the garden, but in recent years, they raise the insects on site.

Chinzan-so 3
Though I’m less fond of buffet, because I was there, I made good cheer at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner. Including this largest banquet room, the same style buffets were hold in 3 rooms at the time.

Chinzan-so 4 Chinzan-so 5
Left: Firefly biotope space Right: The garden full of people
左:蛍育成舎 右:人でいっぱいの庭園(私は既にほろ酔いで、人垣をかき分けで水辺を覗く気力がありませんでした)

The firefly watching at Chinzan-so is very famous and I had always known it, but it was the first time to visit there during the event. This time I stood in for one of my aunt’s family who had an emergency and couldn’t come. Most of the customers were families of parents and children. They seemed to love the event and look forward to it every year. Personally, I recommend to you to have dinner at one of restaurants in the garden (there are nice Japanese restaurants with the quite nice garden view) or just visit the garden pen to the public on weekdays during the event.

Chinzan-so 2

Posted by Kinakinw | 01:15 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

20 2013

Where is Your Pearl Necklace? – 2

This time, I took it with natural sunlight at the window on cloudy day.

#This article is what I (who was a person with very little understanding of pearl) thought through the quest for pearl necklaces. Maybe, some of you have an appreciation for pearls, but please, no flames about my honest discussion.
#In the post, “pearl” means Akoya pearl cultured in Japan.

As I wrote in the previous post, I was disappointed in the consumer preference and product imbalance of pearl, but there were other reasons. The serious situation of pearl production in Japan also made me feel depressed. The trade prices of pearl plunged in this decade because of influx of low-cost freshwater pearls from China, and that led to a dramatic decrease in the number of oyster farmer. I heard nowadays, the industry even imports Akoya pearls, especially small sizes, from China and Vietnam.

I tried to forget about a pearl necklace, but the internet marketing blocked me from my effort. One pearl shop’s Internet ad was continued to be shown on my PC (I didn’t use that shop, though), so maybe I was vaguely thinking about it. Last month, I restarted to search pearls, then, I had a fateful encounter with a secondary processing company in Ise – Shima area in Mie Prefecture that is one of main producers of pearls in Japan.

The company purchasing all kinds of pearls from home and abroad and making pearl jewelry sells necklaces using old pearls called vintage which are kept in stock. Though my concern about buying pearls on line remained, I made a trial purchase and get 2 necklaces: (1) 3.5 – 4.0 mm baby pearls and (2) 6.5 – 7.0 mm“Koshi-mono (means grown over a year)” pears. They were locally grown (Ise – Shima) over 15 years ago in original Japanese Akoya oysters.
その会社は地元を中心に海外からも様々な種類の真珠を仕入れ、ネックレス等に加工して販売しているのですが、その中にヴィンテージと称して昔の真珠を用いた商品があったのです。ネットで真珠を買うのには不安が残りましたが、試しに2本購入してみました(これらのサイズは元々それほど高価ではないので)。一つは3.5 - 4.0 mmのベビーパール。もう一つは6.5 -7.0 mmの越物(核入れ後1年以上養殖されたもの)。どちらも15年以上前に日本原産のアコヤ貝を用いて伊勢志摩で生産されたものです。

My gamble was a complete success! Though the company calls them “vintage”, some people would think they are just old dead stock. However, I strongly thought they were worth buying for. Now I’m clearly aware of that I wanted products that made me realize how beautiful original our pearl was.

After the major shellkill in 1997, the Japanese Akoya was inbreeded with foreign one, and now almost all pearl oysters are hybrid. When using the original Akoya, the oysters had to be grown at least 18 months after inserting a nucleus, so all pearls were Koshi-mono in the past. However, now famers shortened the period (about 8 months) because firstly, the hybrid oyster can form pearl layer quickly and secondly, primary processing techniques improved recent years can keep pearls from aging deteriorating without growing longer than before.

The necklace with 6.5 – 7.0 mm pearls toned in white pink maybe isn’t gorgeous as one in a window of Mikimoto (which is also toned), but I think it’s touchingly lovely. On my goodness! We can’t make them again.
ホワイトピンクに調色された6.5 – 7.0 mm珠のネックレスは、ミキモトのショーウィンドーを飾る商品に比べればゴージャスさは劣ります。でも、可憐で美しいと思います。見る人が見ると、原産種にしか出せないピンクの干渉色があるそうです。何とも残念なことに、こういう真珠はもう作れないのです。

I must insist that I’m Not diminishing the value of pearls form hybrid oysters. I just feel attracted to ones from decades ago personally. I feel like I’m buying not only peals, but also our pearl culture in the past.

Since I made the necklace shorter than usual, I got the spare pearls, so to making use of them, I asked my friend to make pierced earrings and a pendant combining with a Tahitian black-lip pearl in the picture. Also, just days ago I placed a new order for a semi-long necklace using unprocessed natural pearls (no bleaching, no toning) cultured more than 20 years ago in Kumamoto with that shop just days ago. This time, I bought the pearls without holes including processing charge, and I have to wait for 3 weeks to get it. The farm of these pearls is gone now, and we can’t have those after the stock will be depleted.

I found myself among pearl lovers.

Meanwhile, I gathered pearl items in my house (I can’t find my ring and my mother’s choker necklace so far). I deeply feel sorry for the items because they are also “vintage”, but I had completely ignored them for a long time. Well, now I’m accidentally deep into pearls, but basically I have zero interest in jewelry goods.

I think many ladies who are reading the blog also have those priceless vintage pearls.

Posted by Kinakinw | 01:34 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Pearl

16 2013

Where is Your Pearl Necklace? – 1

Finally, I got my pearl necklaces within 9 months of setting my mind to it.

#This article is what I (who was a person with very little understanding of pearl) thought through the quest for pearl necklaces. Maybe, some of you have an appreciation for pearls, but please, no flames about my honest discussion.
#In the post, “pearl” means Akoya pearl cultured in Japan.

I had been seized with a keen desire to have a pearl necklace since last fall. The start was that I saw many women in France enjoyed each and every kind of pearls freely and easily. Then, returning to Japan, I read an impressive episode of Kaoru Kanetaka (a pioneering journalist and TV talent) about pearls in her book. In 1960’s when she traveled abroad for taping a TV program, she always wore pearls that were one of specialty goods and export of Japan for promoting them. Her episode made me realize that I live in “the land of peal” and find myself thinking about wearing our beautiful pearls in everyday life. Seriously, I thought I had to wear pearls.

I didn’t have a pearl necklace, nor had knowledge about it, so I started to seek information and browse in jewelry stores last fall. Then, in the end, I didn’t buy any at that time because I sensed a strong discomfort at the current state of pearl jewelry in Japan.

I think there are strong stereotypical pearl values among users. In simpler terms, many women place too much value on a “perfect pearl”: Large (7.5mm or over), Round, Thick Layered pearls with excellent Luster without Spots in specific Colors. Why do they have to be like that?

In Japan, pearl jewelry, especially the necklace, is quite popular. It’s a standard ornament in the situation where gauderies aren’t suitable (i.e. a funeral, child's entrance and graduate ceremony, a daytime formal party and so on). For example, at the funeral almost all adult women wear a pearl necklace, and those people might feel it would be a shame if one’s pearls are far behind from others. So, many people would believe that one should buy a high-quality "lifetime products" as far as possible. The perfect pearl is an ideal lifetime product.

Thought it depends on people how much one can pay for their lifetime product, I’m sure that one would buy an expensive necklace for that person. Then, what happen? They usually keep it in a safe place and wear it at the few occasions like a funeral (I call that a pearl competitive show). Except pearl lovers, it’s a common phenomenon. But perhaps one can't help it. If I splash out and buy my lifetime product, I wouldn’t wear it daily.

I wanted a daily necklace with smaller pearls of good quality (not premier class) that I can wear even when I dress down, and it was difficult to get one at jewelers, brick-and-mortar shops, because I had fewer options. The jewelers, in general, assort products based on the typical demand I wrote earlier, so they sell a limited variety of the products using 5.0 – 7.0 mm pearls what are told “too small to wear because one might feel inferior”.
私はあくまでも日常ばんばん使う、ジーンズにも合わせられるような、最高クラスではないけど質の良い小粒の真珠が欲しかったのです。でも、宝飾店(実店舗)はそういう商品の数自体が少なく、選びようがありませんでした。宝飾店は既に書いたような一般的ニーズに合わせて品揃えしていますから、私が欲しかった5.0 – 7.0mmの商品は元々少ないのです。まぁ、そんな大きさの真珠は引け目を感じて身に着けられませんからねぇ、葬儀では。

Unlike in the case of the jewelers, I had a lot of options at Internet mail order shops, but I just had to wonder whether I could get what I imaged at those shops. Furthermore, I couldn’t sense my connection to teeming products they sold. I saw more than hundreds of necklaces on line, and to my eyes, the products seemed to be a collection of uniformity.

At the same time, I felt as if everyone thought ordinary pearls except those of premier class were empty of value. However, essentially, pearls are blessings from pearl oysters that break their back for producing. I thought one has to have a respectful attitude toward all pearls even if it couldn’t be round and white. We could make every pearl enjoyable according to originality of them (if wearing it only at the funeral, one can’t imagine how to enjoy it). If one select middle class pearls, it NOT has to be that one can’t buy “perfect pearls”.

For these reasons, I was in a sad mood and stopped the quest for pearl necklaces last winter. Then, I restarted it a month ago and got the necklaces in the opening photo. I’ll write about the story in the next post.

Posted by Kinakinw | 15:33 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Pearl

10 2013

Overnight Trip to Hakone


I went to Hakone (a hot-spring resort, popular for generations, located in the center of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park) last week with my friend. Though I’ve been visiting the resort near the Tokyo metropolitan area, it was the first time in a very long while to go through the “typical” overnight trip using Odakyu Group (a major railway company that dominate the traffic network in Hakone).

Day 1 一日目
7:15 a.m.
We bought two “Hakone Free Passes (covering seven types of Hakone area public transportation)” and express tickets for a limited train called "Romance Car” at Shinjuku Station.

10:00 a.m.
We took Hakone Tozan Bus and Hakone Tozan Train and reached The Hakone Open-Air Museum.


Hakone2013_3 Hakone2013_4


12:00 p.m.
Lunch at a soba noodle shop in Gora


13:15 p.m.
We headed to Togendai using Hakone Tozan Cable Car and Hakone Ropeway.

Hakone2013_7 Hakone2013_8

In Hakone, using public transportation is a part of leisure.

14:30 p.m.
Hotel in Sengokubara area


Hakone2013_11 Hakone2013_12
We enjoyed the hot spring, drank, took a bath again, had dinner, took a bath again, drank….

Day 2 二日目
6:00 a.m.
We got up and found Mt. Fuji peeped above the mountains.


9:30 a.m.
We caught the first Hakone Sightseeing Cruise from Togendai to Moto-Hakone.

This is the famous “pirate ship”.


Hakone2013_16 Hakone2013_17

11:00 a.m.
We arrived in Hakone Yumoto by Hakone Tozan Bus and then dipped into a hot spring bath again.

Hakone2013_18 Hakone2013_19
I had been wondering what kind of hot spring spot it is. Well, the facilities were old (someone would say “run-down”), but it had quite nice own hot spring.

14:40 a.m.
We went home by special Romance car entering Tokyo Metro.


Actually, our route was more of the same as the one Odakyu swears by.


Posted by Kinakinw | 20:46 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

01 2013

The Path toward Android 4.0

Android 40

While the latest version OS of smartphones using Google's Android platform would be 4.2 in the world today, since the end of last week I had difficulty with upgrading my smartphone’s OS from 2.3.5 to 4.0.

My model was released in March of last year as its OS would be upgraded in August of that year. Then, the upgrade was postponed several times, and when a year passed since the release, users of the model learned that we had to keep using 2.3.5 OS in the future. At last, however, the update service started from April 16th!

I came to know that last week and naturally, wanted to bring mine up-to-date.
For proper phone subscriptions, it doesn’t need serious work. Just one can follow the notice from a cell-phone company, download and install the file to one’s smartphone. But, it's hard to call on for me because I’m not a subscribing user. I’ m using the phone for Docomo (a major cell-phone company in Japan) with a SIM of MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator that provides simple mobile communications service without telephone service).

Prior to the OS upgrade, I knew some several minor software updates were available, but I couldn’t do them. I could download all the minor updates files from the manufacture’s HP (it means I could do them not via Docomo’s server) “except” the first one in last May, and without “that first update” my device couldn’t get updated at any cost. The only way to get the first update was “via Docomo’s server” that was impossible with MVNO’s SIM.

After visiting a Docomo’s service shop and called the manufacture’s service center last week, I clearly recognized that, again, the problem is “the first minor software update” as I could download the OS upgrade file from the manufacture’s HP like the other ones.

Then, I asked one of acquaintances who have a Docomo’s smartphone with a SIM of the same size as mine for using his SIM while download the file via the server. We met twice and tried every possible way to get the file, but we couldn’t. I'll leave out the fine details, but we tested the situation where a proper user started to use the phone with factory default. This shows that Docomo is the only one who knows why I couldn’t download it.

I revisited the shop and made a strong appeal to a shop clerk that situation, and then she suggested to send my device to repair. If you send one to repair, your phone will be back in latest condition (which means I could complete its upgrade!!). Though I knew I can get free repairs for 1 year from the manufacture, but I didn’t know a non-subscribing user can also get the in-warranty repair from the cell-phone company. Thanks, Docomo!

The last problem was that a non-subscribing user couldn’t get an alternative phone while repairing period, so I asked one of my friends who uses a Docomo phone to send mine to repair.

The opening photo shows that alternative, docomo AQUOS PHONE SH-06D with Android 4.0 released around the same time as mine.

Using so called “contract-free mobile phone” that one can manage inexpensively is not entirely smooth, but you can learn so much from the problems.

Posted by Kinakinw | 19:02 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

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