Totes In Tokyo

  • Julia Gash
  • 19th March 2013

I've had precisely 1 hour sleep and it's time to go to work at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Not your average day or your average night but it's where I am right now.

Having arrived in Japan two days ago I had a blissful first night's sleep (after an amazing reflexology session that kicked any jet lag into touch). I therefore settled down to my second night with a smug presumption that I had adjusted to the time zone difference of 9 hours. Not so simple!

My mind was buzzing like a bee having had an exciting day at the Embassy at an exclusive British Giftware exhibition held in the Ambassadors residence. I met with lots of Japanese fashion and gift buyers who love Talented Totes, which I was showcasing at the elegant venue. I was actually in the residence in the 1990s when my print led fashion brand was very popular in this country and it's great to be back here doing it again.  

The Japanese have an affinity with print - as do I. It's part of their heritage and I'm a big fan of the Ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating World) period of Japanese printmaking, having seen an exhibition of this genre when I was an art student in London in the 1980s...a lifetime ago!  

Printmaking is part of my heritage too. My dad was a printer and I helped out in his business throughout my childhood. My Saturday job was cleaning the print factory, which I hated. There were mice droppings...but I never saw a mouse thankfully. I was always surrounded by the medium of print however. Large flat neon (we called it dayglo) screen prints and the Heidleberg letterpress was always noisily pumping away. I can still smell it now.

So I am here in Tokyo again, twenty years on and as before, I am intrigued and inspired by this country and its people. Everything is so ordered, pristine, beautifully done and still. Even the taxis sound like they have slippers on...such is the silent calm that pervades this incredibly industrious yet spiritual city.  Even the cats are cool in downtown Ginza!

cool cats in ginza

Sadly, I didn't find it in my own mind at 2, 3 4 or even 5 in the morning :-( However walking the empty streets in the usually bustling Ginza at daybreak is a memory that I will take back with me to Sheffield.

The sleepless night did give me chance to read Jitesh Patel's fabulous book "The Tote Bag" however. Jitesh also writes a great blog all about Totes, which I love. I met up with him at St Pancras station a few days ago and we talked bags, of course. I share his enthusiasm for the tote bag as a medium for creative expression and like him I am always scouting around for designs that make me stop in my stride or simply smile.

Time to get ready today for a day of talking about Talented Totes to Japan's fashion buyers at the Embassy. Sayonara!