So who is this lady with the sunshade, and what is she doing?

You'd be forgiven for not knowing. But she is supervising the door into one of the most unusual shops in Tokyo. It is called "Alice on Wednesday."

When I first visited Tokyo, in 2014, I didn't manage to get into "Alice on Wednesday." It had only opened two days before my visit, and the initial demand from customers was so high that anyone who wanted to go had to reserve tickets on the internet before turning up.

I have just returned from a second trip to Japan, and this time I did get into "Alice on Wednesday." Obviously, the internet tickets aren't necessary now that the novelty has worn off, but, two years on, the shop has done very well and now seems to have become one of the fixtures of Tokyo life. It's in the attractive Harajuku area of the city, down a side street, and when we arrived there were only about ten people waiting, so we joined the queue...

It's a very tall, thin shop, and you have to enter through that rather tiny door you can see on the right, and begin by climbing all the stairs to the top floor. It's not unlike going up the rabbit hole, in fact, for there are all kinds of curious things on the way. I didn't notice cupboards with jars of marmalade in, but there were toadstools towering above your head...

and strange illuminated pictures on the walls...

When you reach the top floor, it has quite an "attic" feeling. It's very small and Victorian in style, and most of the daylight filters through a stained glass window...

whereas the lampshade, as you see, is a large top hat.

There really seems everything that an "Alice" collector might want. I don't collect myself but even I bought myself a cool little Mad Hatter handbag mirror.

Most of the mechandise is specially designed for the shop, and is not just a collection of things you can get elsewhere. The website, here, is only in Japanese, but this gives an idea of the kind of items they normally sell.

If I hadn't been watching the weight of my luggage, I would probably have bought a mug - I like the one to the left, with the door and a handle like a key.

And I always fall for fancily packed eatables or drinkables. These are mostly to be found on the bottom floor, where you pay.

These rather luridly coloured bottles look as if they really might alter your perceptions a bit.

And the biscuits are most beautifully lettered.

I haven't seen a rabbit-hole cake before, but the ones here seemed to be selling well.

"Alice" is popular and well known in Japan, but it's interesting that here in England nobody has had the idea of producing a shop as creative and original as this. I wonder if the Japanese company will set up a branch in Oxford?

....maybe, one Wednesday, they will.