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Friday, Oct. 25, 2002


For the right and the wrong kind of break in Japan

Tourist redress

Sheila from London, wants to sound off about a ryokan (traditional inn) she stayed at in Kyoto in early October.

The hotel, she complains, was filthy, the flush toilets smelly, and she found the owners to be not at all helpful or friendly.

"I picked it off a Web site for the Japanese Inn Group. It was also listed in the Rough Guide to Japan. But that rough?

"Because of this experience, together with the pressure of crowds at all the major sightseeing spots, I ended up not liking Kyoto at all."

Sheila, and any visitors who have unpleasant experiences with accommodation in Japan, should write to the group, addressing her letter to Mr. Tobita, at Shigetsu, 1-31-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, and make an official complaint. (The Shigetsu ryokan, of which there are only good reports, is on 03-3843-2345).

JNTO's Tourist Information Office asks that Sheila send a copy of her letter, c/o Ms. Sakai, so that staff can make their own investigations.

They ask that visitors please take the trouble to report any complaints of their time spent here to help maintain and improve standards.

Their phone number is 03-3201-3331. Web site: www.jnto.go.jp

For the kitchen

Remember Glen, in Kanagawa Prefecture, desperately seeking an industrial food processor?

His best bet here is Kappabashi in Asakusa, Tokyo -- an entire street dedicated to the sale of kitchenware. This is where the professionals go for supplies. Designers root around for traditional and contemporary tableware. Tourists like to buy souvenirs -- like the amazingly realistic plastic food you see arranged in restaurant windows to advertize dishes on the menu.

Alternatively, he can order via the Internet from abroad.

Good Web sites for kitchen equipment, include www.thecompletekitchen.com and www.kitchenemporium.com

Traditional arts

Sandy, in Brisbane, Australia, is interested in sashiko embroidery. A Japanese friend brought her a set of hand-stitched coasters as a omiyage gift, and the technique looked so simple and effective that she thought she'd like to know more.

Sashiko is a Japanese quilting technique, traditionally used in northern areas to hold layers of fabric together with a running stitch of thick, white thread on blue indigo-dyed fabric. In the old days, women, and men, would often cover the base fabric completely with breathtakingly intricate designs.

The Japanese publisher Kodansha International has a book in their catalog: "Japanese Country Quilting -- Sashiko Patterns and Projects for the Beginner." The author, Karen Kim Matsunaga, offers the perfect introduction to this ancient Japanese sewing craft.

She gives step-by step instructions for patterns inspired by natural motifs, and offers suggestions for sewing projects.

Karen might also like to contact Amy Kato's famed Blue and White emporium in Tokyo, which sells kits, fabrics and instruction leaflets, either over the counter or by mail order.

Blue and White's address is 2-9-2 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku. (Phone: 03-3451-0537; fax 03-3451-0512).

Hitting the slopes

"I have decided to learn to ski and snowboard this winter," writes Mark G. in Omiya, Satitama Prefecture.

"It seems crazy to be in a country that is 78 percent mountains, and not grab the chance."

Quite right. Tabito Travel can organize every aspect of your ski and snowboard trips right down to the English-speaking ski/snowboard instructors.

Also, Tabito's staff has experience on many of the 600+ resorts in Japan so they can help you pick the resort that is just right for you, your friends, and your family.

Matt Cox, the president of Tabito Travel (tabito means traveler) also provides some useful snippets of advice for wannabe snow slopers.

The season runs from December to April, peaking in February.

And since many of the slopes in Japan are less demanding than their European and N. American counterparts, making Japan a great country to explore by ski or snowboard, regardless of experience.

Large-size boots, over 28 cm, can be in short supply at rental and supply shops so, if you going overseas, you may want to pick up a pair.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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