An Exquisite Look at the World of Kokeshi

Annelore Parot's Kokeshi

What do you do when a series of books you are supposed to review are so beautiful, so creative, so artistic and so imaginative, that you can’t summon up the words it would take to describe it?

This is the quandary I find myself in over a series of books about Kokeshi dolls by author Annelore Parot. I received copies of Kimonos, Yumi & Kokeshi Notecards from Chronicle Books for review, and frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t pass out from lack of oxygen; what with all the gasping I did as I leafed through them.

Kokeshi (Koh-Keh-Shi) are traditional Japanese dolls, usually fashioned out of wood. In the book Kimonos, Parot introduces us to the world of her Kokeshi — each doll tells you a little bit about herself, and you learn a little Japanese along the way.  The books are highly interactive, with flaps everywhere revealing more and more gorgeous images and fun little matching games. One of these Kokeshi is Yumi – and in her book, we find out more about what it’s like in her Tokyo world — the things she likes to do and the friends she spends time with.

Annelore Parot's Kokeshi

I sincerely hope that Parot plans to release a book about each Kokeshi we were introduced to in Kimonos. One of the first things I did after I received these books was look for more. I bought Aoki, and it’s just as gorgeous as the others. Aoki is another one of the Kokeshi we’re introduced to in Kimonos. In her story, we learn that she lives in Kyoto, she always wears cherries in her hair, and she’s about to take a bullet train to Tokyo to visit her friend Yoko – another Kokeshi.  Once again, there are flaps to lift, things to discover or find, and games to play. We match the luggage of each rider on the train to the kimono or obi they are wearing. We find Yoko’s apartment by finding the curtains that are the same pattern as her kimono, we fly colorful carp flags and drink cold green tea with our sushi lunch.

I thought these books would be wonderful to read with Vivienne. But once they were in my hands, I’m not ashamed to admit that I totally hoarded them on my desk for a long while. I would pick them up and drink them in, the colors, the patterns, the pretty details of the cherry blossoms, and then tear myself away. I lied to myself and said I was doing this because they might be a little above Vivienne’s age right now. But here, under the watchful eye of the internet, I am ready to admit it was because I was scared she would accidentally rip them! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER DOES THAT? What am I? A five year old? Whenever I briefly considered showing them to her, I changed my mind and very seriously thought about buying A SECOND SET. You know, just IN CASE they got ripped. I’m going to blame this childish behavior on the fact that I am a Libra with Virgo rising. That’s like a perfect storm right there, huh? A PRETTY thing that must be KEPT IN ORDER. I didn’t stand a chance. Plus, I’d much rather blame the alignment of the planets than own up to the fact that I was being a freaking weirdo.

Remember when I said I had no words to describe how lovely these books are? The best I can muster is to say that if I had endless money to spend on lovely books, I truly would buy a second set of this series — so I could frame every page and hang it on the wall. And in fact, that’s the worst thing I can say about these books: It’s a shame they are books and must stay closed, because it’s such a tragedy to lock such art away. A tragedy!

I finally relented, and sat down with Vivienne to read them. Guess what? She loves them. She loves peeking behind all the panels, playing the guessing games, pointing out the details, discussing all the characters. They’ve been in heavy rotation ever since. And no, she hasn’t ripped or destroyed a single panel, page or pop out. And if she did, I’d take the part that ripped and have it framed.

Hello Kitty: Tell Your Story!


Thanks to a trip to Japan when my daughter was 13months, she’s known in *our* house as “Tokyo Meow-Meow.”

Do you have a story about Sanrio and Hello Kitty? Are you a superfan? Or a super hater? Now’s your chance to spill your feelings about that ubiquitous little minx.

Send an email with your story to

My Little Nomads

Sleeping in Yodobashi

As I write this, it’s another hot friday night in Los Angeles, my husband is out of town and that can only mean one thing: I am partying like a fool!

When I say “partying like a fool,” of course I mean, noodling around on the internet, tweaking photos in Aperture, ripping DVDs to my iPad and planning an 11pm date with A Clash Of Kings. Oh YES, when the cat’s away, the mouse… just kind of putters while eating the occasional ice-cream bon-bon.

But I’m also looking ahead to the fall, and planning out some trips. We’re off to Seattle next weekend, and there’s a couple of east coast trips coming up in October, and a chance we’ll be in Australia in November. I’m booking airline tickets, checking my rewards programs and researching hotels. (I am also the dummy that calls the airlines when they are experiencing high volumes of calls, thanks to Hurricane Irene, so I’ve got that going for me… which is nice.)

Many of our friends are on vacation with their toddlers – one  just left yesterday for Burning Man. With her 22 month old child. She is my hero, for I… I am a city mouse. I think nothing of dragging my kid to New York or Tokyo (or maybe Melbourne) but camping? No clue where to start.

I find that people sometimes get scared when it comes to traveling with their wee ones, and I don’t blame them. Routines are nice in a world where you have no control! But if you’re thinking of breaking out of that routine, I found a website that might inspire you to take off: My Little Nomads. Lots of great tips, lots of inspiration and a chance to share your own experiences with others.

Come on… do it for the pictures!


SDCC: Top of the Cosplayers

Well – at least IMO. This is one of the most beautiful costumes I have ever seen.


Tiptoe... through the Meanies...

Fellow Geek Mom, Melissa over at Bonny Glen, was there with me to witness it – and when she posted a picture of it on her blog, she got a response from one of the women who worked on it. Kudos to you, Lynette – this is exquisite.

In fact, one of the many marvbelous things about Comic-Con is the abundance of creativity when it comes to cosplay. I got into the elevator at my hotel with a girl who was wearing a gorgeous gothic milkmaid costume. It looked like the kind they sell in Harajuku on Takeshita street, very ornate and detailed and lovely. I complimented her on it and she said she got the dress at Forever 21 and altered it.  Another girl who I failed to take a picture of was wearing a skin tight dress that she – or someone – had painstakingly painted a Pac-Man board all over. There went Inky & Blinky chasing the little yellow guy all around her hips.

This guy used a LOT of tin foil. And who knows how much of Rose’s DNA?


Wonderful! Wonderful!




A friend of mine just sent me a link to a marvelous photography blog. I’m enchanted with these self-portraits of Natsumi Hayashi- who always photographs herself levitating. That’s right, let me say that again – these are SELF-PORTRAITS!

After years of following the Adventures of the Dancing Kids, I guess I’m a sucker for photo essays like this.   These also have the added effect of making my heart ache for Tokyo.

The site is called Yowayowa because – in Natsumi’s own words:

“yowayowa is a Japanese term meaning ‘weak’ or ‘feeble.’
Since I’m yowayowa, it’s really heavy to carry SLR cameras around.”

She shares her method of getting these photos – anyone want to take up the gauntlet in another city?

Can You Katakana?

One of the many nice things about working for G4 is traveling. Thanks to Attack of the Show and Ninja Warrior, my husband and I have been to Japan quite a few times – and this October we took our daughter (then 13 months) with us. Tokyo with a toddler in tow was just incredible. We met people we wouldn’t have otherwise met, saw the city in a completely different light, and had experiences we never could have expected.

For instance, I spent a good hour in the department store Isetan happily watching my daughter play with a little Japanese girl in a pool full of brightly colored nerf bananas. No language necessary!

No, I don’t know why they had a pool of brightly colored nerf bananas there, but add it to the list of why Tokyo is wonderful. So, so, so very wonderful.

My daughter was at this awesome stage where she was very smiley and friendly to strangers – so we’d get into elevators with these buttoned-up Japanese businessmen and she’d lean out of the stroller and say “HI!” and they would just melt. Everywhere we went we could hear people as they passed us saying “Kawaii!! Kawaii-ne?!” – which means “Cute! Cute, right?” – and I have to tell you, as her mother, that was VERY SATISFYING.

Anyway, by the time Christmas rolled around, we were going through some serious withdrawal. The Tokyo DT’s are not a pretty sight; sobbing over empty bags of Green Tea Kit-Kats and crumpled packages of Grape Mentos, trolling the local ramen places in Little Tokyo, listening to Capsule’s “Fruits Clipper” CD over and over, dressing like a gothic lolita – okay maybe it didn’t get THAT bad, but you understand me.

Thankfully, a good friend of mine came to the rescue and gave my daughter a fantastic Christmas gift: Japanese Character Blocks by Uncle Goose.

They’re wooden blocks that have the same look and feel of the classic ABC blocks, but instead, boast Hiragana characters and the Katakana equivalent. I’m not doing this definition justice, but essentially, Hiragana and Katakana are like syllables the Japanese use for words that have no Kanji to represent them. Hiragana is used for the traditional Japanese sounds and Katakana are used for words that the Japanese have borrowed from other languages. A good example of this is “towel” – which in Japanese is “taoru.”

They’ve also got a puzzle on one side, which I have no shame in telling you is REALLY HARD to figure out, and thus, VERY REWARDING to complete!

If you plan on teaching your child another language, or, uh, just like looking as though you are — these are a marvelous tool. They have them in a ton of different languages like FrenchItalianChineseKorean – even Hieroglyphics.  Baby shower gift: SOLVED.

I’m not planning on putting her in a toddler Japanese class anytime soon, but I figure, hey – she’s a sponge right now.  Maybe she’ll soak these characters up, and one day find herself in Japan, surprised to realize she knows the department store OIOI isn’t said as if you were a British Ruffian, “Oi! Oi!” – but is pronounced, “Maru One.”