Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Lost My Mind at Toho Shoji and It Never Came Back

So, as I was saying yesterday, we had a great trip to NYC, and I had a great 40th birthday. It's odd - I wasn't expecting to feel any different on the day, but I really did, a bit. I wasn't depressed at all, but I felt a little introspective, with a sort of, "Wow, I actually made it to 40" kind of feeling. Anyway, I celebrated by taking a really long, luxurious...nap. I'm sorry to be such a walking cliche, but I entered middle age with a great desire for a little extra sleep. (It may help to put things in context if I tell you that the Short One celebrated my birthday by not taking any nap at all that day.) We had dinner with my folks at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, Haru, and later in the week I ate lunch at my absolute favorite restaurant, Gobo, a sort-of Pan-Asian vegetarian place.

As with most trips these days, we tend to plan our itinerary around the SO. So, we admired the polar bears at the Central Park Zoo, visited the Manhattan Children's Museum, played in the big playground in Central Park, visited FAO Schwartz and did other SO-friendly things. However, this trip I did have a cunning plan involving beads, too. In particular, it involved leaving the SO, while he napped, with the Husband during the week (who had gamely agreed to this beforehand) and trotting down to the Garment District to raid, er, visit the local bead and notions stores.

When I started my career after graduating from law school, my first job was in Midtown Manhattan, very close to the Garment District. For anyone not familiar with Manhattan, the Garment District is just that - the fashion center of the city and home to many of the world's great fashion houses including fashion jewelry designers. The appeal for neophytes like myself not directly involved in this industry are the many wholesale/retail stores that service and/or revolve around it - store upon store of notions, fabrics, jewelry and...beads. Back then, I was not a beader at all and never set foot in any of these stores (although I did attend the Swarovski sample sale each year, that only involved finished jewelry). What a waste, eh? So, I thought I'd rectify this lack in my background this trip and make some small attempt to canvas the area. I had the address of a single store in my possession - Toho Shoji - whose brightly colored plastic flower beads I admired in BEADS2008, as a starting point.

Well, I entered Toho Shoji one afternoon with the intention of checking things out quickly before moving on to other stores and emerged two hours later in a daze, clutching a bag full of beads and leather cord. It turns out that the store is a branch of a Tokyo-based bead store. To be precise, it is one of three branch stores outside of Japan and the only one that operates outside of Asia (the other two branches are in Hong Kong and Shanghai, I believe). New York being New York, this meant that when I entered, the store was holding a class on beading in Japanese. Indeed, most of the clientele at the time I visited were Japanese (although I did spot one or two young men wearing chic glasses and black clothing chatting with the employees of the store). I felt for a moment as if I were back in Tokyo (a city in which I have, alas, not set foot for nearly twenty years), and it was a wonderful feeling.

The photo above represents just a small sample of what I ended up walking out with. I love these beads - they are colorful, they are light and they are not terribly expensive. I accumulated so many little individual bags of beads on my tray that one of the sales clerks came up and asked me (politely) what exactly I was planning on doing with all of it? In addition to the cheerful plastic stuff, the store also has what looked to be an extensive selection of seed beads, a very large variety of truly lovely Japanese Tensha beads and a wide variety of metal beads and findings. Even though I spent almost two hours at the store, I actually only managed to cover two tables. I'm dying to go back. If you live in the Tri-state area, I highly recommend a visit to Toho Shoji - they are located at 36th and 6th Ave. If you don't live in the Tri-state area, many of their beads and findings are orderable through their website.

Anyway, my cunning plan for the trip was partially foiled by my overwhelming desire to nap, but I still did manage three separate trips to Midtown. Although I intended to go back to Toho Shoji later in the week, I ended up getting distracted and visited a bunch of other stores, instead. But more on this later. (I have to say that it was a quite profitable trip for both the SO and me - when we packed up our bags before heading home, the spare space in our luggage was equally taken up by toy safari animals and beads.)

Thanks for visiting!


Sheikasaurus Rex said...

Happy belated Birthday, dear! *hugs* Glad you had a good time. :)

Melissa J. Lee said...

Why thank you so much! I have to say it's really not all that traumatic to go through no. 40 (of course, I did have that great nap...)

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

there is somethng about the way you writ which I love. And love your new necklace, above! Have a great time at B&B and give hugs all around to everyone! your friend, Jean

ps: my father was 6'3" and worked in the garment district. everybody knew Bob Baldridge (Scottish) as he headed to woek,absolutely towering over most of the people in the district!

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

pps: if I'm gonna comment on your fun entries, please be kind, my tpos are horrendous!

Melissa J. Lee said...

Thanks, Jean!

I will definitely say "hi" to folks for you at B&B!

I love the image of your father striding to work and towering over everyone in the garment district - it's wonderful!

It's typos and grammar for me - for some reason they're harder for me to catch in the blogosphere than elsewhere. Or maybe that's just me, making excuses!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated Birthday!

I turned 30 last week and yep, I took a nap that day too. LOL

Melissa J. Lee said...

Thanks, Tsoniki! I'm glad I'm not the only one!