Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TAKEDA BRUSH: Meeting Kuninori Takeda

I've been having an inkling to head over to the Takeda brush stand at the Takashimaya Shinjuku Department store for quite some time.
There is still a lot we are getting settled into; after our IKEA madness Saturday, Kyle and I were both kinda beat...but not too beat for me to go and check out some amazing brushes on a Sunday evening!

Shinjuku was very busy, as is to be expected. We came out on the other (wrong) side of the station and had to walk a bit to get to the department store. We stumbled upon the Takeda Brush stand after taking an elevator down, and navigating through dozens of people.  It's a very small shelf in a corner on the 1st floor but still very beautiful.
Just right to the point regarding their size and setup: "Here's our awesome products." LOL.

An older assistant helped me and she was very polite. She showed me a few things and let me look in peace for a bit while she continued to stock, rearrange items, and assist other customers that stopped by for only a few minutes.
My eyes could barely focus on just one thing. Only seeing and ordering products online from this company for about 2.5 years now; it was kinda mind-blowing (as in, amazing, and overwhelming), to see all the products right in front of me.

Takeda Brush Inc. is a small but mighty company.

As I was looking at some eyeshadow brushes, a very pleasant man came up to me and began talking to me, explaining some of the hair types and pulling out some brushes for me. His English was very good: "Squirrel hair," "Round shape", "Better", "Not so good", "Pony", "Red squirrel," "We make..", etc.  As we were talking, I asked if he was from the Takeda family (I had a feeling he was, because he was quite tall, and he looked similar to one of the men from their website's "About us" photos)—he said yes, he was, and I asked about Yasuhiro (who emails everyone regarding inquires), and he smiled and said "My brother." I asked what his name was and if he had a card, he pulled it out, smiling—"Kuninori Takeda" it read.

Side note: I was frustrated I did not know more Japanese, and while I had intended to wait until January to take Japanese lessons, I just can't wait any longer. It's unacceptable for me to not be able to converse as well as I would like, or to at least meet some Japanese people half-way. Basic words just don't cut it. So I decided to re-download the language app "Mango" that was provided to Kyle and I.

ANYWAY...Kuninori and I made it work.

It was such a great experience. I looked at so many brushes, some of their accessories, and at one point was able to ask if they had a catalogue, because I had seen something I was interested in previously.
It was a lovely hunter green and cream brush pouch. The woman from earlier said they did have it, and went into the back of the store to get it. I was worried it may have been discontinued, so was happy when she brought it out.
I purchased the pouch, a very lovely tortoise brush holder, and some Purely Soap. I had Takeda soap in the states, but it was quite large and heavy, so I left it for visits home and brush cleaning. Kuninori also gave me another catalogue (left behind first one); and a beautiful purple square package of oil sheets as a small gift, thanking me for being a customer.

I was good in the store because I have some custom fluffies on the way! 

Kyle took a picture of us, and after that, Kuninori checked out the items for me.

I said "Domo Arigatou Gozaimashita" (Thank you very much for what you have done for me—roughly.) I'm used to saying that in Jujitsu so it rolls off my tongue quite easily as far as all of my limited Japanese goes. It was a very significant thank you and he gave a significant bow in return, I of course, reciprocated the same.
It was a deeply sincere thank you to him for all of his help and his family's excellent customer service and craftsmanship.
As I have been getting custom-made brushes from them since May 2015, I can't describe how much Takeda brushes have improved my life, and brought me closer to some friends online. They seriously have become my favorite Kumano fude brand. I could go on all day, but will just leave it at those sentiments.

If you follow my hashtag on Instagram #myrasbrushes,  you can see some of Takeda's beautiful work they have done for me. #Takedabrush or #takedabrushinc will yield similar results and other fude (brush) lover's creations.

Some of my Takeda Brushes....
Regarding Takeda's history: The company was founded in 1947 in Kumano, Hiroshima by Yasuhiro and Kuninori's grandfather. It remains a small family business today that offers a variety of brushes and products, as well as custom orders per request.
I've tried many Kumano brands over the years, and they are simply the very best in quality and creating a warm, personal customer service experience.

They recently won the "Good Design Award 2017" for cosmetic brushes in the "Household Goods and Daily Necessities" category.  Which you can read more about here.

They spend many years sourcing their hair for the finest quality; ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 years. After that, all of their brushes are carefully hand-made using special trade-secret techniques. All of the Kumano fude brands have their own set of standards for achieving a great finished product, but where there are similarities, I am sure there are huge differences as well.
That difference is most notable with Takeda Brush.

For example, another brush company may use Canadian Squirrel hair for a product. It's a very popular hair type.
However, I've felt some hair that varied from somewhat coarse...soft...and then sometimes slippery.
Takeda's Canadian squirrel is very, very soft, and if they want to create a stronger brush using Canadian Squirrel hair (or any other type), they use a technique called "European Dressed."
It's a bit too long to get into, but if memory serves me correctly, they are the only brand that uses this technique and it is another reason they are unique from the others.
It's not exactly clear what the technique entails (trade secret we believe, and that's totally okay!), but where there is mystery, there is also sheer joy and admiration at feeling the different hair types.

If you are interested in purchasing some of Takeda Brush Inc.'s products, you can visit their website, here: http://takeda-brush.com/  
It is in Japanese, but if you use Google Chrome, the home page can easily be translated to English.

If you have any difficulties navigating the site, questions, or would like to inquire about a custom order, you can email them directly at: takeda-brush@ad.email.ne.jp 
Yasuhiro Takeda will respond to your email within a day, to a few days, depending on holidays, weekends, order volumes, or if he is traveling. 


I left the Takeda stand with a special joy in my heart.

I felt honored, grateful, and in awe. I was also glad I followed my gut instinct to go to the store, as Kuninori was only there from the 3-13th of this month for support. He sometimes travels for one week to other locations.

I do believe it was a moment of fate that I was able to meet him.

I had 2 full years to brush shop, and of all weekends, even after being tired from literally running and train riding the day before, I insisted on this weekend—and there he was. Not a coincidence!

I wish I could explain the whole experience in more detail, but sometimes words just can't capture everything, and sometimes they aren't meant to.

Kuninori Takeda and Me

Thank you for reading. ♡

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Slowly making our apartment home: Mizuhiki Knot, Tokyo Lease, and IKEA adventure

Kyle was gone to Hiroshima on business for a night and I had Damian for a few days, including Kyle being at work during his normal hours once he got back. He works so hard. He was just wanting to be home last night, and I just wanted to be out.
So last night, was Mama's night out. I went to the Tokyo Midtown Mall in Roppongi, about a ten minute walk. It's basically Somerset Mall but Roppongi version with 4 floors, and a view of the light show I mentioned. Very lovely.

I worked my way from the top down, and returned to the 3rd floor to purchase a Mizuhiki Knot.
They are given for births, weddings, funerals, gifts, and other celebrations. They are also said to bring happiness and good luck where ever they are placed.
I intend to hang this one in our Genkan (entryway). I love the royal blue, light aqua; yellow, and purple. I think I loved this one so much because royal blue and deep purple were our wedding colors; and based on size alone, this one seemed like something that maybe given for a wedding—(I could be wrong)— but it never hurts to have some extra good luck and happiness as far as marriage and home life is concerned. 💙💜
I will need to take a picture in natural daylight when I get a chance to capture more of it's sparkling iridescence. Such superb craftsmanship and elegant beauty.
It also reminds me of the yellow, beaded dream catcher I bought at the Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow last year. It feels very similar in aesthetic and positive energy. ✨

Mizuhiki knots are given for special occasions and the various knots often symbolize something different corresponding to the occasion.
Handmade beaded dreamcatcher from the Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow 2016 

Most of our rental furniture from Tokyo Lease came on Friday. I'm excited to share some pictures, but we are waiting on a few items that will be here on Wednesday.
Kyle and I discussed all major furniture and the curtains, etc, but as he had Damian when we were at the used warehouse the other weekend, I made all of the decisions and was happy to do so, without worrying about keeping D happy.
There was a really nice gentleman there that was playing with Damian and Kyle, and making him laugh and giggle. As a mama, when you're trying to make decisions during a lengthy process, any stranger willing to help keep a child occupied for a few hours is a blessing. 🙏 I went as quickly as I could. Tezuka San was impressed with how quickly I made decisions and that we got it all done in one go. 😂 Most of the items we picked were used and in excellent condition. Seriously was surprised at how nice their used stuff was.

Date 2 was tonight: Kyle and I went to IKEA in Tokyo Bay. Had a hard time finding the right area after getting to Tokyo Station to transfer. Running down stairs, down some more, down some escalators, walking quickly. Wrong way, gotta go back up, back down. Where the hell are we? No, it’s the other side of the track; back up the stairs. Hustle hustle. We had to make up for lost time; so it was a lot of rushing. I believe it was 4 levels deep to get to the Keiyo Line.
We had less than an hour by the time we got to IKEA but we were starved: so we had some delicious fish and chips, a mind-blowing raspberry cheesecake cobbler, and some tasty coffee.
The cheesecake and coffee made it worth the trip. I'm not even joking. Phenomenal.
We very quickly went through the miscellaneous house items and grabbed what we could. Some hangers, towels, a lamp I wanted, and some other little odds and ends. Once again, it's amazing how razor sharp your decision making is when you don't have time to be indecisive.
Leaving, we were walk-running to catch the next train and because it was an express train, it comes every 12 mins, not every 2-4 like in downtown Tokyo...we get to the platform and it was literally coming down the tracks as we got there. On the dot: 7:53. We didn’t even plan to catch that one or knew when one was coming, but we definitely lucked out.
Changed trains again at Tokyo Station, got off at the station near our home (Nogizaka) and had maybe a 3 minute walk. 
Got the key in the door at 8:59.
We had the sitter from 5-9. 
We were literally out of breath, but super impressed with ourselves for making it back in time.
It was a workout, adrenaline-inducing, confusing but definitely a fun adventure.
Next weekend, Shanna and Anthony are coming to visit. We are super excited. Kyle and I decided next date night, we will stick closer to home and not go on a mission far away. LOL.

Take care and good night!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Efficiency in Japan and Things I'm Getting Used To


One of the things worth mentioning when living in Japan are things that take getting used to, and things that immediately make your life better.

It seems like an odd blog post, but Japan is incredibly efficient. I imagine it would have to be given the population and it being an island.
The subways, bullet trains, mono rails, etc, etc.
But not just in terms of transportation is Japan efficient, they are for little things that are often overlooked in the states.

A few of the household appliances, storage, and various other little things here have us saying together, "They think of everything!"

Separating waste is something we are learning quickly. They give you a really cute booklet on how to separate the trash, recycling, incombustible items, oversized items, etc. At first it seems overwhelming but they make it easy to figure out with cute pictures and graphics. One of the things I like is that our sink has this large colander container in the drain that is a catch all for any spare food pieces—you simply lift up the handle, take it out and empty.

Cosmetic items, stationery, just all kinds of things have helpful handles, lips, double-purpose pockets, etc, etc.  If I think of any more ingenious things, I will try to post about them.

Serving sizes:

One of the things that is taking getting used to is the serving sizes for drinks. Sometimes they are almost the size of shot glasses; I think the largest size I have encounter might be around 16 oz.
Fountain pop is not as abundant here. I'd be lying if I didn't say I hit up the Wendy's in Roppongi a few times for some fountain Pepsi, and because it's easy in Kyle's absence to have Damian eat some good ole' Wendy's chicken nuggets.  (Yes, there are plenty of other places that serve chicken nuggets, and chicken and all kinds of deliciousness that Damian would enjoy, but we had a Wendy's near our house back home, so it is a familiar fast-food restaurant and one that I consider one of the lesser evils as far as "Greasy fast foods" go. I should also note, their chicken nuggets are far superior in taste than back home.)
I think as time goes by, I will get more comfortable taking D by myself to some traditional Japanese restaurants. There's low key and fancy just like any big city, but as is, sometimes sticking with what you know can help when you have a 2.5 year old by yourself.

Side note: I've noticed this weird thing where if someone mentions something they are getting used to about a culture, or something they miss at home, people in general, online, almost automatically take that as a negative. Some of the comments I've read before are incredibly petty, ignorant, and mean on some people's videos.
Let me state first and foremost: People are allowed to miss common foods and items from home, and stating as such is not them overly criticizing any country that is not their home country. 

As my counselor would always say: "Not wrong, just different."

Keep in mind when you read my blog, that my mentality is pretty much always, "Not wrong, just different."


1) Don't blow your nose in public:

This is more etiquette related, but from my understanding, and I've read about and heard this is in several places, and from some Japanese people: Blowing your nose in public is absolutely disgusting to Japanese people.
It's like a "don't even try it." Not even a little. LOL.

I watched one video where a Japanese guy said it's better to just sniffle. It's interesting, because I think in the States, if memory serves me correctly, when in classrooms growing up, or just about anywhere, if someone was sniffling, it would be noticed; and either they would get tissues or someone would hand them a tissue box...as a polite way of saying, "Take care of that."

I don't like writing about the topic of sniffly, gross noses—but it's one that, in December, when it can get a little cold here (no where near Michigan cold), your nose will run occasionally. I've had to sneak in a corner a few times in public to use a tissue and hope no one would notice. This is definitely taking getting used to.
I promise you, if you've never had to try to not blow your nose in public, you don't realize how much you actually do it. (And yes, I use hand-sanitizer or wash my hands after if a sink is available.)

2) Don't eat while walking:

It's consider impolite to eat while walking. And you definitely do not eat on the subway. That's how they keep everything clean and not smelly.
Again, this is one of those things where you are only somewhat aware of how much you eat and walk, or eat while traveling to someplace.  This is great for really taking the time to enjoy a meal, but incredibly frustrating when you just kinda want to get somewhere. We plan ahead now, for outings, eat before we leave, or if we have to eat "on the go", we'll try to find a semi-private space to do so. I've heard that is okay for the most part….
Kyle and I were excited when we were in the Harajuku district the other weekend and saw some younger kids walking and eating. LOL. But we figured that was district specific because Harajuku is big on fashion and the younger crowd.

That's it for, "Things I'm getting used to" at the moment.

We first visited Japan in December of 2014 when I was 4 months pregnant with Damian; my second time visiting was this past June to look at apartments, and now we live here. So, while many things were noticed my first 2 times here, it's a whole different experience when you're a resident of Japan.

Things that you quickly get used to is the fresh food, how polite everyone is, and the care and craftsmanship that goes into even the most basic, sometimes even disposable, items.

Hope this post didn't sound too negative. As I said, remember, "Not wrong, just different." That different is an amazing experience when you embrace it, as with anything else in life.

Now check out this huge ass Banpeiyu from the Pummelo family I can't wait to try!
I've had a red pummelo before so I'm curious to see how similar they taste. 😋🍊

Monday, December 4, 2017

Japan blogging!


I hope everyone has been doing well.

I finally got around to firing up this old blog. If you're here, it's probably to read about Japan!

Kyle, Damian, and I arrived here in Tokyo on November 20th. So far we're settling in well.
I look forward to posting as much as I can. I will try to do my best to include pictures, but I will be most active with photos on Instagram.
IG username: myramking
You also can find me by clicking on the Instagram camera icon in the sidebar if you view this in the web version.

We live in the district of Akasaka, in the ward, Minato-ku.

It's a business and residential area; and significantly less busy and crowded than other areas of Tokyo. We live right behind Sanno Hospital and it's amazing how much the hospital buffers sound from the street. It's not too noisy anyway, but once you get behind the hospital it's totally quiet. Several of the people who have helped us moved remarked on how quiet it is in our apartment building/area.

Food is amazing as always.
Just this evening, Kyle, Damian and myself had dinner at a restaurant in Akasaka station called "Ginza Lion." I had some of the best fish and chips I've ever eaten. Truly. Kyle got a sausage meal with sauerkraut and seeded mustard...Damian basically ate it all. lol. He was very good throughout dinner, and it was in a nice little secluded booth area; the place was loud which made us happy, and we plan to go again with Damian. Loud places make us feel less self-conscious if he starts to get a little fussy or upset.

We've been trying to build up our walking endurance, and doing short distances with Damian. We take the stroller on longer trips around Tokyo, but we're finding it's becoming more and more of a hassle. Especially in some older subway stations, we have had to carry the stroller up and down stairs. So...Damian is going to be getting very good at walking very soon here. 😂   We carry him when he's tired and we don't have the stroller.  As parents, you just make it work.

Hmm...what else...We're close to the Roppongi district, a very popular area for shopping, art, and expats. We were also told it's "where celebrities live." lol. We've gone over to Roppongi for dinner a few times and to Tokyo Midtown. Recently we saw the Toshiba light show display in the garden area of Tokyo Midtown and it was breath-taking, beautiful, and one of the coolest things I've ever seen--at least in recent memory. There's some clips of it on my IG for those interested in seeing it.

We picked out our rental furniture this past weekend. We hope it arrives before our friends, Shanna and Anthony visit next weekend. They live in China right now, and are going to Seoul, then coming here for their second visit to Japan. Very excited to see them both.

I can't think of anything else to blog about right now, but I'm sure this will become more structured as time goes on.

Thank you for reading! And I appreciate you following me along on our journey in Japan!