I had a yen to go to Takashimaya, a Japanese department store on 5th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan. There's a calm, peaceful feeling in that place. The merchandise is minimal, so there's plenty of room to walk around. What I noticed right away during this visit is that the gorgeous flower section had dissapeared from the first floor. What?!?! The flowers had been the main draw on that floor. The store, after all, is known for their stunning flower arrangements. I kept exploring the different floors and discovered that the flowers had been moved. Where before the flowers had been positioned near the front window on the first floor, they were now in the back of the 6th floor and esconced in low lighting. There was a long velvet couch where one could recline to read gardening books and to take in the quiet and the flowers. I felt like I was in a rainforest that happened to have a lounge.
I took at look at garden-related items on the shelves and found these incredible hand made cards (including the birdy one picured above) from a company called Pixie Designs. Lisa Kovarik heads up this company, and her creations can be found at www.pixiecards.com On the back of each card, it says "Pixie Designs celebrates the marraige of exquisite papers - notably silkscreened Japanese chiyogami - and the art of collage. Multiple pieces and patterns blend beautifully to create original artwork that is reproduced , then finished by hand."
While at Taka, I also ventured down to the basement tea room. With very little visual stimuli, the room is a welcome relief in contrast to the visual and auditory intensity of the rest of New York City. I decided to get earl grey ice cream, something I've never tried before, and matcha iced tea. The tea is bright green, so it looks like wheatgrass juice.
Going back to the floor switcharoo: I was a little bummed about the fact that the first floor was now filled with makeup and makeup counters. This feature makes it like a lot of other 5th Ave. department stores designed to draw in women, and, I'm guessing, more revenue. The flowers, on the other hand, drew in both men and women and were about natural beauty rather than artificial beauty.
Still, Takashimaya remains a haven and an oasis for me.
PS - A great gift item, located on the floor with bedding, are the soaps from Fresh. Each soap is hand-wrapped with thick patterned paper and tied with a tiny stone on top. Even though I don't generally like perfumed products, I think these smell great.