Thursday, 3 October 2019

An Affordable Accessory Haven - My 3000 yen Challenge!



The fashion Mecca of Tokyo

Tokyo is famously one of the most expensive cities in the world. In my experience some things aren't as expensive as the West; such as eating out, all-night-drinking and public transport, however some things are absurdly expensive! Namely fresh fruits, movie tickets and jewelry. A nice pair of earrings that aren't even precious stones or metal can easily set you back around 4,000 yen (37 dollars). There are ways around this though, if you know where to look. My absolute favorite accessory store is nestled cozily in the bustling hub of Takeshita dori, within a two minute walking distance of JR Harajuku station and is easily recognized by its obnoxiously large bubblegum-pink "Paris Kids" sign.
I'm a huge fan of Japanese and Harajuku style fashion but this huge store actually does a well balanced mix of "kawaii" accessories as well as casual, formal and bohemian style pieces to fit every style and whim. The kicker? Every single item is exactly 300 yen including tax! (3 dollars!)



Time is money, baby

One thing I miss about living in the UK is "The Pound shop" where everything was literally one pound, my friends similarly reminisce about the dollar stores back in America, so just the fixed price alone has a feeling of nostalgia in a country where the prices can be pretty random sometimes. The name is slightly weird, I'll give it that, but I just assumed it was tied to Japan's long-lived love affair with all things France.


Tokyo's popular trends

My personal favorite aisle inside is the ribbon section, stocked with oodles and oodles of hair ribbons and barrettes in every color, size, shape and texture. Girly and soft styles are incredibly popular in Japan right now, particularly Larme, running alongside a magazine of the same name and based around the idea of a "cute, but shy girl who spends her time at art galleries and libraries." Luckily Paris Kids sells a ribbon for every outfit and occasion. I find clipping one of these bad boys in my hair even jazzes up my dullest work outfit and adds a splash of color to the most mundane of hair styles.


For people with holes and without

Again the walls are stocked from top to bottom with various styles of rings and earrings for both pierced ears and also clip-ons for babies like me who don't want to hurt their little ear lobes. A lot of the earrings are embedded with gems and pearls and look incredibly fancy and expensive, but again, they're only 300 yen a pair!


Being yourself

It's always an exciting shopping experience because of course there are tons of teenage girls picking out ribbons and scrunchies, but there's also office women picking out dainty little jewelry pieces for work, men picking up presents for their girlfriends and tourists picking out wacky sunglasses and animal ears. This store represents my favorite aspect of Harauku - how it brings so many kinds of people together and how normalized it is for everyone to wear their own individual styles.



Keeping it fresh

Another plus point of this particular store is that the stock changes frequently and seasonally. One gripe I do have with Harajuku is that because it is essentially a huge market place that sells mostly to overseas tourists, the stock doesn't change so often and I honestly see the same items being sold in some stores that were there over five years ago when I first arrived in Japan. Due to the popularity of Paris Kids at least they can switch up their styles often and even release seasonal collections. Right now it is Halloween season and Paris Kids is debuting a spooky range of pumpkin-plastered jewelry, little ghost pins and of course a wide array of animal ears and masquerade-style eye masks.


The 3,000 yen challenge

I challenged myself to spend under 3,000 yen, which I thought would be a huge feat for me because in Tokyo every time I pop outside for more than an hour I feel like I drop 10,000 yen at least and have nothing to show for it, but weighing up my options I noticed that my basket became pretty full quickly and I didn't feel like I was losing an arm and a leg.



                                                                    Thar be treasure

I ended up with a rather impressive pile of booty and it only set me back 2,400 yen! (22 dollars!)
Most of the items are in my signature color scheme of pink and black and are suited to my more flamboyant styles, but I did pick up a somewhat sensible constellation printed scrunchy for work with an adorable little dangling pearl. Right now chunky hair clips are very much "in" among the Tokyo fashion crowd and luckily they had an incredibly array of sizes and designs.


I was surprised because I saw a similar style of pearl bow-style ribbon being sold in some of the more expensive accessory stores in LaForet for a pretty penny so I snapped this one up immediately.


Mission complete!


Overall I think I smashed my challenge with flying colors and only spent 2,400 yen! The accessories I picked up with last me for a long time and I can match them to the vast majority of my wardrobe so I'm a very happy (stylish) bunny.
I really recommend this place for people on a budget, anyone who wants to "try" Japanese fashion but doesn't know where to start, people who want to take a snazzy souvenir home or anyone who just likes pretty things.
Maybe if you're bold enough, you can see if you can top my haul with a 3,000 yen challenge!

If you're hungry for more cute and affordable jewelry stores around Tokyo, please check out this article by Datumou recipe!








Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Hedgehog artist collaboration cafe!


Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite Japanese artist, Yushi Iwasaki! I, being a hedgehog Otaku, first stumbled upon his art a couple of years bag at Design Festa, an event for indie artists in Japan,  and since then he has made a name for himself within Japan selling at pop-up stores and events. When I found out he was doing a collaboration gallery and cafe, I had to go.
His art style is very whimsical and charming, basing his ideas on his own pet hedgehog, but he also includes a number of other little fuzzy friends including rabbits and hamsters.
The cafe itself is in Kichijoji - a place in Tokyo famous for its beautiful park that is a popular date spot amongst couples. I didn't realize that the cafe itself was about twenty minutes from the station, through the park. Although it was unexpected it gave me a chance to really appreciate the vast gardens, especially during Kouyo season, during the autumn where the leaves turn the color of sunset and beautifully adorn the ground.
We also came across this little shrine with an interesting lantern bearing the LoZ Triforce mark!




After a pleasant stroll, we finally found the cafe known simply as "Terrace Gallery cafe", choc-full of people who came to see Yushi's art. A beautiful hedgehog garland hung from the ceiling, the walls were covered in canvases displaying his work and there were tables and tables of goods to be bought.






My favorite items on offer were the giant hedgehog-shaped cushions! everything was reasonably priced with most items being between 700 and 2,000yen. I also loved how most of the items were made from natural materials like cotton and wood, as the cafe/gallery was so close to the park, the whole ambiance of the event had a very natural feeling, especially with the color pallet being mostly beige and hues.
A nice little surprise was the artist was actually at the event and signing post cards with every purchase! I showed him a picture of my hedgehog, Bottchan, and he drew this delightful little sketch!


The cafe itself was also very kitsch and had a very homely feel, serving us tea with a little hedgehog printed biscuit and coaster! The staff were very friendly and I noticed the tea pot and utensils they used were pretty traditional and Showa-era looking. The Terrace cafe isn't far from the studio Ghibli museum, so they played Ghibli melodies from the movies and there were some characters decorations peppered around the walls and tables, along with home made decorations and plushies.



Although this is a temporary collaboration, I feel as though Yushi will come back frequently to showcase his art, so please check their Instagram and Twitter for more information! The cafe itself was very unique, if you are in the Kichijoji area I recommend checking it out even if there isn't a collaboration event running at the time.


My favorite purchase of the day was this glittery snow globe phone case, when you shake it little glittery stars dance around inside, like a real snow globe! Yushi is selling his goods online, so if you are a fan of hedgehogs or Japanese indie artists, please check him out!
I feel as though it is much harder for Japanese artists to promote themselves overseas due to the language barrier and the fact most of them do not have a facebook or Instagram and instead favor Twitter. Let's do our best to spread the word!

You can find Yushi on IG - uchador

Also his personal website - www.u2que.com

Friday, 17 November 2017

Gudetama cafe Mk.2 Sadistic egg Stroganoff




If you are a fan of Japanese Kawaii you'll of course know of Sanrio, the huge monster conglomerate of cute and creator of Hello Kitty, but more recently also the creator of Kawaii superstar Gudetama, 
Gudetama is my favorite Sanrio character for a plethora of reasons, mostly because he is a different kind of Kawaii, dubbed "Gude the lazy egg", this particular character is all about doing nothing and questioning the hustle and bustle of life's eccentricities. Most Japanese kawaii characters are the physical embodiment of "do your best!" a popular sentiment of hard working Japanese men and women, but Gudetama is a lot more relatable in the sense that he just doesn't want to do, well, anything.

Sanrio pop-up cafes come and go but Gudetama ones are always my favorite because Gudetama literally IS a food, so its much easier to create a convincing and exciting menu using his design.


Plus, his color pallet is so vibrant and colorful compared to other characters and their pastel color schemes, you cant help but feel happy being surrounded by so many colorful items bearing Gude's lazy face design. The menu itself was impressive; drinks served in light bulbs, towering roast beef on rice bowls and tapioca drinks, all with a comic strip theme. The only disappointing thing was the decor, as usually theme cafes are filled to the brim with plushies and goods that you can buy at the end, in that area the cafe was lacking. I did however enjoy the wall made of the many faces of Gude!



First up I ordered the strawberry tapioca drink, which came with a Gudetama straw, whipped cream and Gudetama marshmallow, this was incredibly delicious and the presentation was spot-on. It also came with a free coaster! Theme cafe lore in Japan has a consistent theme of getting a coaster with your drink, usually there is a selection, but you get given one at random, meaning you have to visit frequently to get them all.




My food came first with an extremely sadistic theme! Gudetama is laying in a puddle of mushroom stroganoff next to a chicken leg, his speech bubble says "Okaasan...Kamoshirenai" which translates to "Mother! ...Probably". The joke is that Gudetama is an egg, so maybe the chicken is his mother, Japanese humor at its finest. The sauce tasted good, but the rice was a little hard as it had to be compacted to form Gudetama's shape. The chicken leg needed more seasoning, but most Japanese foods do. I was surprised that Gude's face was drawn on with chocolate! but I strangely didn't mind the taste.


My friend ordered the roast beef on rice with onion sauce, topped with a Gudetama egg picking his nose. This was a safe choice as roast beef don is almost always delicious and filling. It came with a light soup with more beef and spring onion.


The whole cafe experience was really fun, the atmosphere was lighthearted and the customers ranged from children to older women, as no one can resist the subtle cute charm of Gude. On the way out we spotted a giant Gudetama plushie too, which made me happy as a theme cafe visit just isn't the same without squeezing the big fluffy version of the character you came to see. This cafe is running for a month and runs on and off in Ikebukuro Seibu department store, please check the website to see if it is running during your trip!


 

Hedgehog collaboration goods at ACDC rag!





As many of you know, I have a one year old pet hedgehog called Bottchan. Hedgehogs are a pretty popular pet in Tokyo, particularly after hedgehog cafes started opening in the city center. They're small, nocturnal and they don't make a lot of noise or have a strong scent which makes them the perfect pet for city dwellers. Of course their most redeeming feature is their grumpy cuteness, especially when curled up in a ball with their belly fluff on show, thus the hedgehog brand of kawaii has caught the eye of a few Harajuku designers. Hedgehog-kei could really be the next big thing!


One in particular is my friend; a designer at the popular Pop and Gothic Japanese fashion  brand ACDCrag. ACDCrag is very special to me because since I first ever visited Japan six years ago, ACDCrag has constantly dominated Takeshita dori, in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving, they have been a constant feature of the scenery. When my friend expressed interest in having my hedgehog Bottchan model for the new collection I was elated, but also curious to see how he would handle a photo studio environment as he is notoriously grumpy.


I bundled him up in his carry case with plenty of food and water and began the short train ride to Harajuku with him resting on my lap, only to find he really enjoyed riding the train! perhaps the rhythmic swaying of the carriage, or the gentle humming of the wheels relaxed him, but the whole trip he was an extremely contented hog. The studio however, was a whole different story. The bright lights, fresh news smells and playthings exhilarated him, which meant I spent the whole shoot chasing him around, trying to get him to remain still for photographing. At one point he even ran up the photographers trouser leg!

After the utter chaos that was the photo shoot I wasn't sure if we took even one photo that could be used for the designs, as most of the pictures were lighting-fast salt and pepper smudges or blurry from Bottchan smearing his wet nose all over the camera lens. However I was pleasantly surprised when my friend mailed me the results, he somehow made my grapefuit-sized bundle of attitude and wrath into a Harajuku style icon!





The set comprises of pants, T-shirt and seifuku-style jacket and comes in dreamy lavender with pastel gradient accents and little pink lightening bolts, the design itself is so soft and perfect!
Many of Bottchan’s pictures adorn the pants with him running, posing and curled up in a neat little ball, I couldn't believe the photographer was able to take that many quality photographs!
The T-shirt is my favorite as it has a ridiculously oversized picture of Bottchan complete with wet nose and whiskers covering the front, the whole set making me one incredibly proud Mama.




You can pick up the entire set at any of the ACDCrag stores in Tokyo, or from their online store that ships overseas ; https://global.rakuten.com/en/store/acdcrag/
I really adore my set, mostly because they are so comfortable and airy. Expect many pastel hedgehog coordinates from me in the coming months!


Lastly, they will be selling at Comic Con in LA! If you are attending please give them a visit and stock up on some hedgie themed goods, I look forward to seeing all your hedgehog-kei outfits!





Monday, 30 October 2017

Sailor Moon store in Laforet!

Since the release of Sailor Moon Crystal, Japan has once again fallen in love with the Sailor Moon franchise; pop-up cafes, clothing and cosmetic collaborations galore are popping up, but most impressive of all is this store in the heart of Harajuku. Laforet department store holds some of the most influential "kawaii" Japanese brands such as Angelic Pretty, Nile Perch and Metamorphose, so holding a store there is an impressive feat indeed and actually, this is two stores.
When the stores opened under a month ago of course there were long lines, pre-orders and crowds but now they have thinned out it is safe to go inside and shop leisurely.


The shops are split in two; one holding miscellaneous items and the other selling apparel and jewelery. The decor of each store are both different and impressive in their own way ; the first being oodles of shocking pink and bubblegum blue, sparkling hot pink chandeliers dangle from the ceiling and the displays are all reminiscent of Usagi's magical jewellery,

  

You can find stationary, phone accessories, home ware, plushies, cosmetics, confectioneries and my favorite of all - the Pullip dolls that did a Sailor Moon collaboration. You can find almost every character, although Usagi sold pretty quickly, but at 17,000yen a pop you might not want the whole collection! One of the most popular items are the Moon and Star rod shaped eyeliners, both cheap and high quality these are my recommended item!


Of course like every other kind of pop-up store in Japan there are plenty of Gatchapon machines! mostly 300yen each they give you the chance of winning a plastic make-up compact, phone charm or earring set. My favorite variation is the charm bracelet, although I never got lucky enough to actually complete it after getting the same charm four times...


The second store has more of a mature feel, gorgeously decorated in royal and eggshell blue, selling an array of casual Sailor Moon inspired clothes and handbags. The most popular of which being the cat-shaped "Luna" bag. The clothes range from inexpensive to pricy, but you should be able to leave with something little over 2,000yen. The dresses were a little plain for my liking but I really love the bags and little attention to details.




The items change seasonally, depending on which collaborations are running at the time, keep that in mind when visiting if you have your heart set on something. Although this store seems permanent, like everything else in Laforet it is subject to change, so if you love Sailor Moon I suggest coming quickly. Sailor Moon fan or not Laforet is full of interesting brands for both men and women, if you are in Harajuku it really is a must see, especially on the fourth floor where there is a very unique restaurant experience. Happy traveling!