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My lovely cousin Stacy grew up in Canada but now lives in Japan where she is married to Motoki. They have a little boy, Joji - and one day I hope we'll all meet. Until then my family gets the benefit of knowing a tiny amount about what it's like to live in Japan from a "local". They take a new year holiday near Kyoto (it sounds so exotic). They use high speed trains. They coped after the shocking 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
A gift from Japan
Sometimes we get surprise parcels - the most recent was a treasure house of things children like - and I imagine things Japanese people like. You can see from the photo that there are toffees wrapped in dice packaging, teeny pencils (ideal for the Borrowers), a scented rubber with an emory board on the side just in case you need to repair your nails, and rose-flavoured sweeties that were truly delicious. Nell, 10, certainly thought so! Cute is certainly a winner for girls.
Thinking Japanese: top five cute attractions in the UK
- Legoland - technically not cute, but anything downsized has the potential to hit the "ahhh cute" button. That said, I've never been to Legoland, Windsor, and secretly hope I never will. Just saying.
- Dolls houses - many National Trust houses boast a children's nursery with a vast dolls' house - a wonderful Georgian one is at Uppark, Petersfield, Hampshire. There's also Queen Mary's dolls house built in the 1920s, on display at the Tower of London. And in my sitting room - a cut down box serves as one dolls house. And on the other side of the room is an Edwardian detached version which Nell and I had fun painting and wallpapering to match our own house's decor.
- The Sylvanian shop -is open seven days a week in a tiny street in north London. But is is ideal for anyone with an old-fashioned yen for model animal mania. See the collection of badger husbands and their hard working squirrel/sheep/wives and cute twins (you're getting the idea aren't you!) here.
- Toy repair shops - hard to find, but worth the effort as the items are getting the second (or third) life they deserve.
- Anime - a massive trend with older, thoughtful teens and 20somethings, see here. Every university seems to have an anime soc where members regularly dress up as their favourite animated cartoon character. You can find anime and manga cartoons in book shops.
Over to you
Where would you go if you wanted to have a day in Japan without leaving the UK?