66 | Day Three - 24 Hours in Tokyo for the Paper Lover

An unexpected day-long layover at Toyko's Narita Airport can be met, head on, in two ways:

  1. Frustration. How DARE the weather in Shanghai not cooperate with my travel schedule? Is it really true there isn't another flight to San Francisco later this evening?
  2. Elation. There's an unexpected chance to experience as much Tokyo as possible in 24 hours.

When met with this situation in August, I spent one hour in frustration. And then I came to my senses and realized how very attractive option TWO was given that I was in the fine paper capital of the world.

I did what any paperphile with a lust for travel would do and jumped on an express train into the city with a single room booked at the Smile Hotel and no plans beyond that.

In 24 hours, I managed to begin to learn the ins and outs of the beautiful, amazing city that is Tokyo and left with a plan to return in the near future.

lessons learned:

1) It is the most ordered and organized culture on the planet…aided by good design

Walking in Ginza, all you can hear is the quiet whoosh of the cars down the road, soft murmurs from the women walking in and out of stores and the occasional Arigatou-gozaimasu as someone leaves a shop. No honking horns. No shouting. No doors slamming or dogs barking.

It's the type of culture that makes you think twice about eating in the subway (for the record -- it's rude) and makes you think that you'll got to hell if you ever cut a line.

All of the order and culture is sustained through good design. Painted lines on the Metro platform indicate where to stand, a simple number system for subway stops gives you a sense of direction and trip duration. There is ledge built into nearly every cashier station, so you have a place for your purse as you pay. The hot towels before every meal. Trays to hand dollar notes and coins, or a credit card back and forth. No spills, guaranteed. Good, methodical design.

2) Prepare yourself to be in Paper Bliss

If you're a paperphile, you better make sure that you're hydrated and that your blood sugar is at a stable level before heading out. I set my sights on two places for the day that I was there - Tokyo Hands, the famous DIY emporium, and Ito-Ya, which boasts 9 levels of stationery. Give yourself at least 2 hours to explore either store.

Tokyo Hands is better for delicate, well-designed office products -- pens, notebooks, and binders.

Ito-Ya will fulfill all your chiyogami and origami dreams, and more.

Late at night, if you want to still want to be designspired, but the shops have closed, head to TSUTAYA - a 21 hour bookstore in Roppongi Hills where you can browse through an astounding collection of western and japanese design books and magazines. Oh, and the shopping area features the tastiest type and graphic design!

3) Cabs are Expensive

The base fare is 710Yen, roughly 10 dollars. If you can, walk or take the metro. A day pass on the Metro will run you just 710Y, roughly 10 dollars. Bonus: Japanese Fashion Eye Candy.

4) Leave your suitcase at the airport

If you're going to be in Tokyo for 24 hours, don't lug your big suitcase to the city. Prepare a day pack with a change of clothes and room for your paper goodies.

5) Google Maps on your iPhone with no international plan

If you're like me, and the sole reason you brave public transportation is because Google Maps tells you where and when to take it, being in a new city without GMaps at your fingertips can be a handicap.

However, if you find internet connection, map out your day on your laptop, take pictures of the directions for all your destinations. Head out with your smartphone. It looks and feels like you have the safety blanket of Google maps... but just make sure your phone is in airplane mode.

6) Most importantly: book all future travel in Asia through Tokyo and pray for missed connections (no, not that kind).

More than anything, being in Tokyo was a tease. I can't even imagine the food and paper sights that I didn't have time to experience. The good news? I have four months to plan my next trip out there. Any suggestions?


Without deviating from the LOTUS&ASH pursuit of preserving tactile paper beauty in our increasingly digital world, it's about time L&A went mobile.

No, unfortunately lotusandash.com (still) does not have a mobile version, nor have I developed an app. However, with only so many hours in the day, and so much paper-love to give, I've had to make my office mobile during my one hour + commute to and from work.

Fortunately, I don't need a WiFi connection to put  handmade touches on each L&A piece that goes out. I've pushed the limits of where you can make stationery, and I've found that all you need is a flat surface (my laptop works great), and as much double-sided tape as you can fit into your backpack.

This is the story of one invitation order:

From my dining room table...

to the morning train....

to the seminar room...

and yes, even at the nail salon...

onto the night train...

and back to the dining table.

Voila! A week's worth of commuting produces ~150 invitations, and about ~50 "what ARE you doing!?" glances from fellow commuters.


And, since we're on the topic, I thought I'd share some of my favorite mobile experiences from the past few weeks (besides my mobile stationery making).

| dia de los muertos parade in the mission . SF . 11.2010 |

| traveling on a champagne soaked, standing-room-only cal train the night the giants won the world series |

| view from the coit . taken with the iphone4 |

| favorite mobile picture app? instagram |





(And other lessons from the L&A San Francisco front line)


  • All the pieces come disassembled
  • There are instructions, but they are confusing. Always confusing.
  • You may think you're following the instructions, but then you attach the wrong side to the wrong wooden dowel, or you add in the tumeric too soon, or your website works in safari, but not IE...

moral of the story: you will mess up. So, you better get good at covering up your mistakes.

  • BUT, going back and editing your mistakes can be long, tedious, and perhaps even impossible.
  • In the end, when it all comes together, it will LOOK great (though it might not stand/taste/SEO so great). And it is definitely worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

Indeed, L&A has been busy furnishing | coding | cooking with an 88% success rate! (The 12% is mostly the cooking... and a slightly off center ikea shelf).


  • Ikea is great for things you don't have to build. (Plates, towels,  sheets... i.e. DRAGON, GZORMEG, and MIKANON)

BUT! when faced with things to build... recruit friends:

And offer them: Breakfast.

BECAUSE: Breakfast is the easiest meal to conquer (and offer to people as your "specialty").

Toast? Check.

Eggs? Check. Check.

Cereal? I'm a pro.

When in doubt, Avocado makes everything taste better -

And while you're waiting for your furniture to be built, and your kale to soak in avocado-y goodness, why not finish up a few of websites?





Though I love ikea, cooking, and coding...

my heart still lies in paper.

| ZEN . designed 08.2010 |

47 | L&Adventure : Austin

L&A was lucky enough to travel to Austin, Texas this past weekend to celebrate Whole Food's 30th Birthday. What's better than a free trip to a city full of great design, to celebrate the birthday of the mecca of health food stores? Not much.

| THE SPOILS of Winning the Whole Food's Birthday Contest |

congrats again to Merit!

Birthday bash or no birthday bash, Austin is well worth the visit for anyone interested in good design (especially of the retro variety)  and food, and when they come together.

Must dos:

- Visit the Flagship store of Whole Foods (obviously), and try one of their "Health Starts Here" foods...

- Have an Iced Chai while listening to Vampire Weekend at Halcyon Coffee / Bar.

- Visit uncommonOBJECTS in South Congress - an antique store sorted by color, complete with an ode to Century Schoolbook:

- Experience live music... everywhere. The streets of Austin are filled with every kind of music from Reggae to Bluegrass, from dance mash ups to Sunday Morning Jazz.

- Dance at Broken Spoke. Now this is the real thing. Country Music Dance Hall - need I say more? If you don't feel like sticking out like a sore thumb, make sure to pack your cowboy boots.

And if you don't own a pair of cowboy boots, make sure to pack someone who will ask you to dance.

- Run or Bike Around Town Lake on a Saturday Morning... Just when you think the loop is over, it probably isnt. Beware of ducks. But, the city vistas are worth the distance and threat of duck danger.

- And if it's particularly hot, jump into Barton Springs

If you're feeling like you need a little inspiration | music, design, cooking | a trip to Austin may be able to cure what ails you.