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Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Japanophiles wind up in jam

An interior designer in California is wondering how she can get some fabric — "preferably the Kyoto brocade known as Nishijin-ori" — woven to order in Japan. "I'm working on a house owned by a couple of Japanophiles, and they have very specific ideas for what they want."

He/she (unspecified) is lucky, but only if their clients read Japanese. If not they will have to seek help . . . to get to grips with a new Kansai-based Web site in Japanese.

It is an online directory designed to connect artisans with customers, and Kyoto's hope is that eventually it will read like a Who's Who in the Japanese craft world.

Normally it is hard to find ateliers, studios and workshops, because they don't generally advertise or promote; many don't even have signs outside their premises. In the face of mass production, many are now seek a wider market for their wares.

When the Web site was launched in January this year, over 60 companies signed up immediately, including weavers of the brocade this writer seeks. You can also find makers of Buddhist altar fittings, Kyo-yuzen printed silk and urushi (laquerware), for example.

Kyoto Dento Sangyo Kyodo Bank (Kyoto traditional industries cooperative bank): nishi-jin.net/densanbank/ Phone 075-315 8677; fax 075-314 4720. E-mail: renkei@ki21.jp

Best bathhouse in Tokyo

PK writes in reference to "Curvemasters," mentioned on April 15. "I want to let your female readers know about the pool and gym facilities at the venerable YWCA in Ochanomizu (also close to Jimbocho station).

She notes — somewhat provocatively maybe — that because men and children are not permitted access to the facilities (they were completely rebuilt about 15 years ago), they are the "cleanest in town." Also that the experienced staff and most classes are geared towards "the mature woman."

There are a range of for-fee classes and several types of membership available — programs include yoga, pilates, dance, diving, stretch and swim, and aqua aerobics, as well as open pool lanes or mats and gym machines.

"Because as an NPO it does not spend on advertising, and some Japanese language is needed for the initial applications, JT readers may not have heard of it, although WOW at the YWCA has been offering gym services for more than 100 years."

All women are welcome (aside from "the obvious health restrictions and no tattoos"); there is even a swim group for those who have recovered post-mastectomy.

"It has been a wonderfully friendly place of relaxation and fitness for me as a member the last ten years."

Tokyo YWCA: 1-8-11 Kandasurugadai, Chiyoda-ku. For map, see Web site (in Japanese and English):


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