Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tokyo Treasure Hunt

Okay, this isn't really a costuming thing or a physical piece of art, but it took just as much planning as my more ambitious costumes and I'm pretty impressed that I managed to pull it off.

At the time, we had lived in Tokyo for five years, and were about to move back to the US. Together we planned a farewell party for a Saturday night, but I wanted to surprise him with a treasure hunt before that as an early birthday present. The planning took months, the schedule coordination took weeks, and more than 20 people took time out of their day to be a part of this. We have some pretty great friends.

I said, "I have plans for you today, put on pants." He only asked what kind of pants he should wear. That's trust!

I made an excuse to leave the house, then sent him a text.

Clue #1: A photo of the lockers in our local train station, a locker key, and an envelope of money labeled "for drinks."

Clue #2: a photo of Ichiran in Shimokitazawa, his favorite ramen restaurant in a neighborhood just two train stops away.

At the ramen restaurant, he was met by a friend I had conscripted. This friend went on the quest with him all day and messaged me at every stop so I could keep them on schedule. They had lunch and GuideFriend handed over Clue #3, a photo of a small bottle shop just a couple minutes' walk from Ichiran.

Unfortunately, the shop was unexpectedly closed. But Clue #4 friends met him outside and they went somewhere else to have a drink and look at the clue.

Closed! Boo.

Clue #4: a photo of lockers in Shinjuku station and a locker key

Inside the locker, Clue #5 has a photo of an Irish pub not far from the station and a paper beer glass

Inside The Dubliner's Irish Pub they met another friend for Clue #6.

Clue #6: With the Crossing behind you/ and Loyalty to the right/ The lockers are ahead of you/ Just beyond the smoking site
Fun fact: when this photo was taken, I was on the other side of the building handing off Clue #10

Clue #7: A photo of Ningen Kankei, one of our regular bars.

(Photo from here)

And here some friends that brought us to said bar in the first place, ready to hand over Clue #8.

Clue #8: a photo of lockers in Shibuya station and a locker key

Clue #9: three photos
The sign says "Nakameguro Gate Town" so he would know to go to Nakameguro station.
On the back of one photo I wrote which exit, and "Baird" on the back of another.
On the second floor of the building is a pub called Baird's Beer Nakameguro Taproom.

Clue #10 was handed off by this couple at the Taproom.

Clue #10: a photo of lockers at Ebisu station and a key

Clue #11: a card with the URL, which goes to a short video of the Pirates of Tokyo Bay saying, "What the Dickens!"

The Pirates of Tokyo Bay are a bilingual improv comedy group, and What the Dickens is their regular venue.

(Photo from here)
The bartender was a little surprised to find my clue at the door, (they weren't open when I dropped it off and I couldn't stay), but she played along and gave them Clue #12.

Clue #12: Lockers in Roppongi Station

Clue #13: Another video clue! ( Friends in the States lent their kids to the cause to direct the treasure hunt to the next stop, Pizzakaya in Roppongi.

I knew this treasure hunt was going to be a surprise when Husband kept trying to make other plans for that day, like an office pizza party. In a different pizza place. I managed to get a message to them to change the location to Pizzakaya, so it still worked out. 

I had a great photo of the owner holding Clue #14, but my phone decided not to save it. Harrumph!
(Photo from here)
Clue #14: A poem leading to the going away party we had both planned for that evening
You've had beers (at least one or two)/ But this is an important clue!/ It's no real surprise/ But to you I advise/ To come bid our good friends adieu!

At the party, I gave him the final clue.

The final clue is a puzzle, because why not?

 The assembled puzzle:
is the REAL treasure
hurr hurr hurr (¬_¬)
(But also look in the attic)
Into the attic!

Treasure chest!

We joked for years that the ¥500 coins look like gold dubloons and we should fill a treasure chest with them. So I did that.

I saved these coins for months.

He calls me "mew." It's our version of "honey" or "sweetheart."

Bonus image: how I kept track of everything.

I would not be upset if this is one of the things I'm remembered for.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Husband and I both had Japan-specific costumes for our last Halloween in Japan. For him, we opted for a woodblock-inspired namazu, the catfish of legend that causes earthquakes by thrashing about in its lair. (There are more ancient namazu woodblock prints than you might expect.)
Reference photos from here.
People tended to think he was a cockroach until they saw the reference photos, but then they got it. Not surprising, it's a bit obscure. Here's how I made it! Not nearly as intense as the robot costume I made for myself, but it was a whole new set of challenges. Step 1: paper planning. It's built around a bicycle helmet that we knew would fit Husband's giant head, so I put it on, took some reference selfies, printed one out and sketched the outline I wanted to create.

Step 2: use cardboard, craft wire, and duct tape to create the outline. Include padding as necessary.

Step 3: Add craft wire for lower jaw, experiment with shapes to get the chin, ultimately to be made of fabric. It turns out that the expandable foam padding that they put on wine bottles in our local stores is great for this sort of thing.

Step 4: make an educated guess at the size and shape the chin fabric needs to be (practice version pictured).

Step 5: guess at a pattern for a helmet cover, make a practice version of that too.

Step 6: turn cover right side out, evaluate, decide where to put the dart at the back of the head (couldn't get around darting no matter how I pinned it).

Step 7: make the real one from tee shirt fabric for the chin and pleather for the helmet cover. Note: hand stitch everything because it was faster to stitch the chin fabric without disassembling the jaw wire and because sewing machine really, really doesn't like the traction of the pleather. (This step not pictured, I was in a rush to finish so we could go out for Halloween a week earlier than I expected) 

Step 8: send Husband to the store for styrofoam balls and whisker material (he chose well for both) while finishing hand stitching. Cut foam ball in half, draw on pupils, hot glue to head. Stitch on foam strips (originally meant either to block drafts under doors or protect furniture corners) as whiskers.
Photo from the Metropolis Magazine Facebook page.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Shinjuku Robot

Husband and I both had Japan-specific costumes for our last Halloween in Tokyo. Mine was based on the Amazonian fembots of the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, which I decided I wanted to do the first time I saw the show.

Reference photo on left from here.
This has been my most time intensive costume yet. Over 7 months I clocked 110 hours of construction time. Most of the materials are foam and cardboard, with touch lights, chair, magnets, and elastic from the ¥100 store. (For all intents and purposes, ¥100=$1.) Fabric for the skirt/top/backpack were more of an investment, but I used the whole meter of red I purchased, and I'll find a use for the rest of the blue stretchy vinyl eventually.

The feet started with a cardboard model over sneakers and ended with craft foam over Converse for a lower profile and less of a tripping hazard.

Lower pieces are held on by elastic straps, upper pieces by magnets paired with partners sewn into leggings. Two are pictured, I ended up adding three more on each leg. It still fell off when bumped too hard or if I bent my leg too far, but it held up for two weekends, and I was able to walk all right and even manage stairs as long as they weren't too narrow or tall.

The foam mats I used had some sort of magical nonstick coating, so in order to stick anything to them I used my trusty Dremel to sand off the top layer.

Skirt and Legs
Sewing is still very much a weakness for me. This simple skirt (from this series of tutorials) is definitely flawed, but it was good enough for a Halloween costume.

Making a bra pattern out of non-stretch material was incredibly challenging, but I didn't have time to learn how to make one properly, so I did a bunch of trial and error and came up with this.

The craft foam (and halved styrofoam ball) accents are more my strength.

The gems are coated with Mod Podge, painted blue, shaded with dark purple around the outside, and coated with pearlescent nail polish.

Somewhere around here I realized I painted the two top pieces upside down and had to redo the shadows. Grumble grumble.

Orange and blue watercolor markers worked beautifully on top of the base paints, but rubbed off just as well. Note to self: spray sealant after using these on foam. Foam pieces attached with adhesive-backed velcro.

More patterning by trial and error and guessing, more foam mat pieces. Duct taped underneath and placed on the dress form to get the right angles of bending, then hot glued in the gaps, coated with paper, and hot glue swirls and craft foam bezels added.

Pauldrons made of cardboard, designs in hot glue, everything spray painted silver.

Pauldrons had to be removable in order to attach the shoulder piece to the costume. Magnets and duct tape!

The top is completed by a me-colored long-sleeved tee shirt for modesty and warmth. It's harder to find such a thing than you might expect.

I used a cheap nylon drawstring bag and added a zipper, then squares of scrap fabric for the colors. The spikes are made of a paper clay, the gold edging is a string of gold sequins, and the lights are the same as the gems on the top and shoulder piece.

I wasn't sure if I was going to add in a pilot or not, but then I couldn't believe my luck when I found the perfect sized chair.

I was hoping to find a doll the right size that didn't look like a baby, and the search ended when I found this Hello Kitty doll. I made her a new costume out of quilted thermal fabric (like they have inside cooler bags), cardboard, and craft foam. She was wired into the chair, the chair was belted on to me, and off we went!

Not everybody knew what I was, but enough did. Plus I got to take pictures at the Robot Restaurant, which was awesome. There was also this one guy at a party that didn't get what I was for a good ten minutes, but when it clicked he literally fell down. (Onto a chair, but that's not the point.) It was very satisfying.

Husband and I even appeared in a few videos online.
Like this one, 30-second recap of an international party...

...this video about the Metropolis Glitterball...

...and this video by the same guy about Halloween in general...

...and this one that I found more or less by accident (the best moment is at 8:05 when the guy videotaping realizes Husband is dressed as Colonel Sanders that night and nearly loses his mind).