Japan, Japan 2016

Seasonal Flowers in Japan

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Japan is of course famous for sakura season when everyone goes crazy for the fleetingly pink cherry blossoms but that also makes it one of the busiest and most expensive times to visit. Luckily there are beautiful flowers to be seen all through Spring to Autumn, and winter foliage too. Here’s some of my favourites and you can see more of my Japan flower photos on Flickr.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Sakura / Cherry Blossom (March/April)

Okay, I can’t miss sakura out! Our first visit was in late March and we were a tiny bit early for the full sakura display but still managed to spot some. Plum blossoms also appear just before and are almost as pretty. If you want to see sakura, make sure to check the blossom forecast before you book and be prepared to travel north or south if things start sooner or later than expected.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Roses (May-July)

My 2016 trip coincided with quite a few different flower festivals but the main ones were for roses, with amazing displays at Shinjuku Gyoen (at top of post), Yoyogi Park and Nagoya‘s Higashiyama botanical garden. There were hundreds of perfect flowers in every colour and everyone was going photo mad with total heart eyes.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Azaleas (May/June)

Azaleas are considered a bit too boring for a festival but you’ll find them in lots of gardens and the hot pink flowers are so cheerful, especially contrasted with the green leaves. Shinjuku Gyoen had an area with hundreds of bushes and it was so pretty.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Irises (May-June)

I was lucky to see so many different flowers during my May 2016 trip and especially this field of Irises. I managed to catch them at Koishikawa Korakuen on the last few days and take the same photo as the brochure cover! They don’t bloom for long and there were a lot of photographers out as well as a wedding party.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Hydrangeas / Ajisai (June-July)

On my last full day in Japan in early June the hydrangeas were just starting to bloom so I was able to add them to my collection. I think they’re so pretty especially alongside the monuments in the quiet gardens close to Sensoji in Asakusa.

Japan flowers - marcelinesmith

Chrysanthemums (October)

There weren’t a lot of flowers to see during our second and third Japan trips in the autumn but we were mesmerised by these perfect chrysanthemums at Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. There were rows and rows of them, all in different colours but exactly the same size.

Nemophila Hill

Flower Festivals

If you’re visiting Japan in the spring or summer, check for flower festivals. These are out in the countryside so usually require a train and a local bus but the reward is huge displays of thousands of flowers. The most famous ones are nemophila, shibazakura and wisteria but you can also see tulips, sunflowers and lavender. I’d love to do this sometime though they’re very crowded.

Sales & Offers

Weekend Wrap Up

coin purses

It’s been a rainy week with a disappointing lack of package deliveries. I’ve been keeping myself busy updating my product photographs around the internet and working on my online Japan guides (more on that soon).

Limited Time Shopping Offers

  • 30-50% off paper products in my Zazzle store this weekend with the code MAYPAPERSALE. Includes cards, notebooks, gift wrap rolls & tags, posters, stickers and more!
  • 15% off different categories every day at my DaWanda shop through Tuesday.
  • Repeat customers get 15% off all my badge sets! Just login and check the cart page for the code. (How do you become one? Place an order in my shop and you’ll have the option to create a customer account for exclusive monthly offers!)

Ongoing Shopping Offers

  • $10 off your first order at my Society6 store with this link.
  • 25% off any 4 small vinyl stickers from my Redbubble shop or 50% off any 10!
  • 50% off your first personalised card at Thortful with the code TTSHUVNO.

News and Reminders

Crafts

Vintage Buttons & Sewing Notions

Over on li.st, we were talking about our vintage sewing stuff – look what my friend Soléna got from her friend! – and I took a load of photos to share. It was nice to look at it all so I’m sharing some here too.

vintage sewing supplies

I’ve been collecting buttons for a long time now and have a whole collection of button-themed fabric designs from the early days of Asking For Trouble. I’m really glad I took the time to pick out all my favourites and put them in a jar as it’s so colourful to look at. Plastic, flower and geometric buttons are definitely my favourites.

vintage sewing supplies

My button tin isn’t quite as exciting or colourful but there are still lots of great ones in here, along with a whole load of random fastenings and toggles and other odd bits, including…

vintage sewing supplies

Buckles! These are all such cool shapes.

vintage sewing supplies

I love button cards, even when the buttons themselves aren’t that interesting. These ones are all trying to outdo each other with the names. Exclusive buttons! Top buttons! Good buttons!

vintage sewing supplies

My mum gave me this silver thimble and the box is almost prettier than the actual thimble. I keep them on display separately in my type drawer of tiny things.

vintage sewing supplies

Just a cool looking measuring tape. I use this quite a lot even though it’s only in inches.

vintage sewing supplies

This felt flower box is still one of my favourite charity shop finds ever. It currently holds all my tapestry wool.

vintage sewing supplies

I think doilies are so pretty and no one likes them so you can get them really cheaply. I use the big one on my dining table with a plant on top.

vintage sewing supplies

And of course, I have a huge pile of vintage fabric. I feel a bit guilty hoarding it all but it’s so hard to use it. The two on the left are both duvet sets.

Hope you enjoyed the photos – there’s more of my charity shop & vintage finds on Flickr.

Guides and Tutorials

On-Demand Promotion Tips – how to promote your store

Most of the questions I’ve received about selling on-demand are about increasing sales and helping people find your products. The way to do that is to promote your shop and designs through your website and social media so here’s some tips.

on-demand slider

My shop slide to promote on-demand products

Where to promote

Your Website

You should have your own standalone website, even if it’s just a page that directs people to your store/s and social media. It’s much easier to have one place to direct everyone. If you already have a full website, think about how to integrate your on-demand products. You might make a slide for your homepage slideshow, add promo boxes for each store, put the site logos in your footer or create a big page linking to each product category on all your sites, like mine. If you sell products directly, you might add to the product pages informing people that they can get more products with this design on-demand.

Social Media

This one should be obvious too. You’re probably already sharing your work on social media so think about how to promote your on-demand products. I’ll have a list of ideas and topics at the end. Which social media sites you should use depends on which ones you enjoy using most and get a good response from.

Whichever you use, post good images and try not to bore people with constant updates. Use things like Instagram’s Stories to share offers so they don’t clog up your feed once they’re over. I personally find hashtags to be more trouble than they’re worth but they can help you find more people to follow and interact with. Most on-demand sites have a social media account for designers so follow that for tips and promo opportunities.

blog posts

On-demand posts from my blog

Blog or Tumblr

While social media is great, it’s very temporary as once a post disappears down the feed no-one is likely to see it again. A blog or Tumblr is a more permanent space where your posts can be found through web searches and will help boost your rankings with Google as they love new content. You don’t need to write in depth articles (like me…) – though they add a lot of value to your site – just quick updates at least once a week. Tumblr is quick and easy to set up and gives you a readymade audience to connect with through tags. If you want more control, try WordPress or Blogger. One major tip – buy a domain name and use it! That way if you decide to move your blog, your audience will automatically come with you.

Newsletter

All of the above rely on people finding you and checking in on what you’re up to – if you can get them to sign up to a newsletter then you can send them the news. The best way to get subscribers is to offer something in return – maybe do a giveaway or send new subscribers a digital freebie like desktop wallpapers, printables or an ebook. Once you’ve got them, try sending a monthly newsletter at first with sales, new work and other news. Don’t make it all about sales and try to include something they can’t get elsewhere, whether it’s a peek at new designs or just your favourite web links. I recommend Mailchimp for newsletters as it’s very easy to use.

zazzle interview

My Featured Designer interview at Zazzle.

Press & Blog Features

A feature on a popular blog or in the press can send you hundreds of new visitors that have never heard of you. Ask your followers what blogs and magazines they read and search for sites that feature similar work to yours or cover a theme that matches your work. Contact them and hope for the best. As the editor of Super Cute Kawaii, I urge you to please read my tips for getting featured on blogs before submitting your work to sites. Most on-demand sites have featured designer interviews too – keep making new work and join in the community to get their attention.

Flyers

If you sell products direct, design some flyers promoting your on-demand stores and include them in your orders. They’re especially great for me in the UK to send to buyers in the US as most on-demand stores are based there and they can save on international shipping.

on-demand flyer

Promotional flyer I send out with orders.

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Japan, Japan 2016

Japan 2016: Nagoya

It’s the last stop on my mini tour around Japan – after visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima, I moved on to Osaka, with a day trip to Arashiyama, and then headed over to Nagoya before returning to Tokyo.

nagoya - marceline smith

Since Nagoya is only an hour from Osaka on the Shinkansen, I had the option to spend some of the day in Osaka but decided to go straight to Nagoya. Once there, I found it easy to navigate with a similar subway system to Osaka and Tokyo so had no trouble finding my hotel in the Sakae shopping district. I stayed overnight so here’s what I got up to in my time there.

nagoya - marceline smith

Usagito Cafe

The main reason I added Nagoya to my itinerary was so that I could finally visit this bunny cafe and buy one of their trademark bunny ear mugs. It was everything I hoped for and more – baby bunny! – and I blogged about it in great detail last year.

nagoya - marceline smith

Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Visiting botanical gardens is a favourite hobby of mine so I wasn’t going to miss this chance. It was easy to get to – close to Higashiyama Koen subway station (which has a big supermarket with plenty Pocky and snacks). The zoo and gardens are connected so you have to pay for both and walk all the way through the zoo to get the to the gardens. I didn’t have very long before closing time so I only popped in to see the koalas and spend some time in the little shop, so I could buy something featuring their cute mascot.

nagoya - marceline smith

The gardens were lovely, especially the rose garden which was in full bloom and had some water features too.  The larger part of the garden is in a separate section across a road so make sure to keep your ticket handy. There are various sections to explore plus a big glass house. There’s a monorail connecting the two gardens if you don’t want to walk but the signs are all in Japanese and I couldn’t quite figure out the times and prices. If you have more time, there’s a big lake with swan boats, a Sky Tower and an amusement park (see top photo).

nagoya - marceline smith

Nagoya City Science Museum

This was a last minute addition when I realised the bunny cafe didn’t open until lunchtime. The City Science Museum was about halfway between my hotel and the bunny cafe so it seemed like a good plan. Even if you don’t go inside, it’s worth visiting the park as the building is really cool and there’s a big rocket to look at and a fountain. I did go inside and it was worth the entry fee as there’s six floors of exhibits including lots of cool space stuff for me. The signage is all in Japanese but I got along okay.

nagoya - marceline smith

There’s also a lots of stuff for kids with a huge water-powered machine covering two floors, lots of interactive exhibits and a miniature Nagoya with moving trains. If you have more time, and understand Japanese, you can book a visit to the planetarium or deep freeze lab. It’s a great place to wander around for a few hours.

nagoya - marceline smith

Sunshine Sakae

Only in Japan would you discover your hotel was opposite a Kirimichan ferris wheel! You can’t really ignore such an opportunity so I made time to visit. Sunshine Sakae is a shopping centre and also home to idol group SKE48 who make regular appearances. It also hosts temporary character cafes – there was a full Kirimichan restaurant and also a stand selling crepes. I did go on the Sky Boat ferris wheel which was only ¥500 and gives you pretty good views over Nagoya.

nagoya - marceline smith

It’s situated inside a huge branch of Tsutaya, which has books and kawaii merchandise, plus some gashapon. There’s also a big branch of Don Quixote across the street which had flavours of KitKats I didn’t have room for and then never saw back in Tokyo. So annoying!

I had a great time in Nagoya and wish I hadn’t waited so long to visit. I will definitely be back as I want to visit the railway museum, and also see the bunnies again! If you get the chance, go!

You can see more of my Nagoya photos in Day 13 & Day 14 of my Flickr albums.