Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Japan Crate!



https://japancrate.com/

I was lucky enough to be able to test out the "Doki Doki" box from Japan Crate which conveniently arrived on Christmas Eve! I had heard about these boxes before and the idea intrigued me, as I love fukubukuro *lucky bags*, omikuji *random fortune* and anything where their is luck involved or you don't know what you are getting, so I was pretty excited.

The site itself has various kinds of boxes centering on different things, like candy or toys. I thought this was a really nice idea, as when I lived in England I really missed Japanese sweets and it was so hard to get hold of little trinkets and plushies for a reasonable price.

When I  first received the box I noticed it was bursting at the seams.


I was already "Doki Doki" at this point and I was curious if it had some things inside that I could easily get in Tokyo, or things that would be a little harder for me to obtain. I waited for Leo to get home from work and we opened it together. <3.

 
 It was super packed and once opened everything jumped out like a pop-up book!
I first noticed how fluffy everything was, and how they included some really cute plushies. The huge one is actually from the Rilakkuma "cat series" by Sanrio. Rilakkuma is actually a bear "relaxing bear" to be exact, but recently they released a series of Rilakkuma wearing various cat onesies, it was insanely popular here in Japan, for obvious reasons. I never got a piece of the merchandise when it was selling here so I was extremely happy and thankful they included one in the box!
It is a perfect huggable size and there its charm point is a little bell that jingles when it moves.


Tucked underneath was this incredibly fluffy fuwa-fuwa Panda eye mask! I actually have really sensitive eyes, especially when sleeping *actually I sometimes sleep with my eyes open x3* so this was a Gods send! The googly eyes add a nice gooofy touch.

Arpacasso products are super hot all over the world right now, so I was happy to see this tiny fuzzy cando-floss pink alpaca backpack bag charm. It is a tiny pouch for putting tiny things in and clipping it to your bag. I think I will probably use this to put my circle lenses case in!

I was actually suprised when I saw this, as I dont recall seeing these at the Pokemon center in Ikebukuro, but I will pop back and have a look soon. This version of Pikachu was insanely popular, the plushies in this style all sold out immediately by scalpers and were sold for like 5x their original price. I love the idea of having this design on a necklace.


The next one made me laugh a lot, made for the Hello Kitty anniversary, they made iconic characters in the image of Hello Kitty, I got Marylin Monroe, but there were also Audrey Hepburn ones and I think a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu one? again I think it is lucky whichever you get inside. The Marylin one even has her little mole, which I thought was precious.


I am glad they included Totoro goods, as not many people can say they dislike the works of Ghibli. I actually dont own that many Ghibli goods so I was really happy to see these! A little snowbunny plushie and a purse. I think the purse is intended for stationary, but it seems water-resistant so I may use it to put my make-up in.


Finally, a little sachet to make your own magic drink! You can find various kinds of these things in Japan, you just mix water with them and they change color, shape, expand and all sorts of other questionable things. This one was a grape-flavored drink with jelly and was actually pretty tasty! I love making these with small children as it feels like cooking for them, it is kind of magical watching them change color too. I have done different versions before, but it was my first time to see this exact kind.

My favorite thing about this package - the thing that made this complete for me was the small illustrated book that comes included. There are original characters, a small comic strip and a beautifully illustrated guide to what you got in your box, their various functions and how to use them. Obviously the candy grape drink is a little daunting for someone who doesnt understand Japanese, luckily they explain it all for you!




Overall I thought this box was amazing, even though I live in Japan I would totally order it. If you are a lover of Japanese products, or better still - you know someone who is, this is perfect.
 The website includes pictures of previous crates, so you can get an idea of what you are getting and they range in price and size. I was shocked at the amount of popular brand stuff such as Sanrio, Pokemon and Studio Ghibli that was included, it made it feel really official.
 If you subscribe monthly, you get entered into a draw to win a "special crate" one of the items in this months special crate was an Animal Crossing 3DS :o

If you have any questions, let me know! I am going to go take a nap with my panda mask and hug my Rilakkuma plush now x3

https://japancrate.com/


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Pink Hime Spotlight!




I have been a big fan of Hime-Gyaru brand "Pink Hime" for a long, long time. Pink Hime is an independent brand created by the designer Tomo from Japan, who established her brand in 2006. Hime-gyaru is a sub genre of Gyaru and is exactly as the name states - "hime" is Japanese for princess and the aesthetic is huge curly hair and eye lashes, plenty of frills, roses, jewels and anything you might find a princess wearing. Tomo makes every piece by hand, and many pieces are one-off, every piece is intricately detailed and filled with love, and of course, pink!

I got sent a huge box of love from Tomo and opening it was like all my birthdays coming at once!
 As winter is coming there were two fluffy scarves; the first one in true princess style is embellished with lacy ribbons, layers upon layers of soft frills, roses and heart-shaped gems. The scarf actually came with a matching lacy hair accessory, laden with pearls and a furry pink heart-shaped necklace. I am still marvelling at how much work has been put into each little piece; even the necklace has tiny pink ribbons embroidered with lace and even those little ribbons are adorned with pearls and jewels. The heart of the necklace is also glittery and filled with little stars that twinkle in the light. Not to mention, all the accessories even smell sweet! Everything is tinged with a slight strawberry aroma, which made the experience even more dreamy.


Next were some fluffy pastel accessories, which would be perfect for a Harajuku-kei outfit as well as hime-style. The scarf is made from soft, fleecy material and silky, pink faux fur and embellished with huge fluffy strawberries embellished with hearts, ribbon and lace in romantic shades of pink. This came with a matching wooly hair barrette in a dreamy pastel gradient embedded with little plastic pastel stars and other little fluffy pastel brooches to accessorize the scarf with.



Naturally I was super eager to take them out for a test drive, so I arranged a day out in Harajuku with my friend Shiena, who is a very experienced and veteran Gyaru. I let her model the fluffy strawberry set, while I modeled the princess items.


We chose the Moshi Moshi box to model in front of , because Harajuku was very crowded as it was a sunday and the box features a huge kaleidoscopic pastel clock, designed by the world renowned artist and designer Sebastian Matsuda, who is also the owner of 6% Doki Doki.


To accompany the Pink Hime items, I wore an Angelic Pretty One-piece dress, pink socks and Jesus Diamante heels. Wearing all the pieces together made me feel like an actual princess that just stepped out from a fairytale, the frills were so plush and soft, while the jewels were sparkling in the light. On the train to Harajuku I was stopped by a few elementary school children who insisted I was a real princess and wanted a photograph!

It was pretty chilly without a coat, but luckily the scarf and colossal amount of frills kept me very toasty inside. I am really excited to wear some of the pieces casually, I am sure that they would look cute even with a very toned down version of this style, or with Liz Lisa style Hime-kaji.





The cuffs were my favorite point, they were obnoxiously huge and frilly, but balanced out the outfit so well. They looked like two very sweet pom poms or cotton candies, and I loved that ultra sugary aesthetic. 
Shiena looked seriously adorable all wrapped up in the fuzzy scarf like a bug, snug in a rug.




To finish our shoot, we went and had giant fluffy pancakes with fruits, whipped cream and drizzled with strawberry sauce. On this day even our food had to be cute!


Please check out the online store of pink hime- www.pinktomo.com
Also find her as PinkHime on Facebook <3

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Design Festa!

 
 
On any given day in Tokyo there are a ton of events for every kind of taste and hobby. One of the most diverse and anticipated events is none other than "Design  Festa" held in Odaiba bi-annually. The building itself is known as "Tokyo Big site" and is more well known for holding manga events such as "Comic Market" and epic car shows, the floor plan is absolutely huge and the building itself is immense and worth travelling too just to see the architecture.
Design festa is an event purely for Indie artists and designers, who come to Tokyo big site to showcase and sell their wares. If its handmade, you can probably buy it at design festa, there are stals for absolutely everything; from the strikingly kawaii down to the completely obscure and ridiculous.
The best part is you can often pick up a one-of-a-kind item that no-one in the world has, or just knowing that each item was made lovingly by the artists hands.
 

The products themselves range from 100yen (about 50p) all the way up to 500,000yen (2,500 pound) and beyond, as a lot of items are made painstakingly from scratch over a course of weeks. One such example was a dragon head made completely out of wood and mounted on a plaque that was going for 100,000 yen.



 
 Even though there were a lot of unique stalls, some of them did sell similar items, so it was easy to see what is on trend this year. Strawberries, fox masks, cake themed accessories and magical girl themed items proved quite popular amongst the sellers. I was happy to find so many wonderful magical girl themed accessories. I purchased a ring from my friends brand and sister brand "Caramel Ribbon" and "Starmii", the design is based around old magical girl anime and it sparkles so brilliantly in the light.


One of my favourite things about Design Festa was that there were many huge murals erected around the building and you could watch artists paint or draw wonderful creations from scratch. It was interesting passing by hours later and seeing this man go from a few paint splatters into a wonderful masterpiece.



The floor plan was so huge, with an upstairs too, even though we were there for about 5 hours, we probably didn't see every stall.  There was also a stage with alternative dance and other artistic performances, there was so much to see and do. Thankfully the event is over two days so you can see everything. The stalls are slightly different on both days though, so make sure you go on the day of your favourite stalls!


There were a lot of manga-style artists who drew in many different kinds of styles, it was really inspiring for me to see how diverse these medium could be. There were also artists who would, for a small fee, take a picture of you on their camera and draw your face! I didn't do it myself as we didn't have a lot of time but I saw the results of other customers and they were incredible.

 
 



There was a lot of old European Lord of the Rings inspired artwork, with dragons, elves and fairies being in abundance at design fest this year, maybe due to  the popularity of The Hobbit last year.




Of course there was no lack of creepy dolls laying around, as well as a lot of stalls who specifically made clothing for ball-jointed-dolls which was very charming. There were so many gorgeous, tiny outfits I wish that the designer would make in my size!

I also ended up buying a poster from "Dreamland" from the stall pictured at the top of this post. The owners of the store were an adorable couple who drew themselves as little Chibi fairies and sold various dreamy, pastel goods. You can find them on intagram as @imyoko724 and @ryosuke.dl



Design Festa is held twice a year in summer and winter in Japan, if you are planning a trip I totally recommend visiting this event. The ticket is only 800yen, and it opens from 11-7pm.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Bakeneko Matsuri in Kaguarazaka



Ghost cats seem to be popular in Japan right now with the super-popular character "Jibanyan" from the Youkai Watch franchise, so of course a festival based around the story of ghost cats would attract hundreds of participants in the lesser known area of Tokyo named Kagurazaka.
Bakeneko is a mixture of the words "Bakemono" which means monster, and "Neko" which means cat in Japanese and Japan famously loves spooky tales. Close to Iidabashi, Kagurazaka boasts a long traditional style street called Kaugurazaka dori which is famous for kimono, Japanese sweets and tea. Such a traditional place was a perfect setting for a festival honoring a creature from many Japanese folklore tales. The story of bakeneko is very ambiguous; some stories say that bakeneko are cats that were killed by humans and turned into vengeful spirits, others say that bakeneko can shapeshift into humans and others say they can raise the dead.
The festival runs annually on the 10th of October, so if you have a penchant for ghost animals, or even just a cat lover, make sure to head to Kagurazaka dori next year.



This festival is a tribute to bakeneko and features a parade down Kagurazaka dori, where hundreds of people cosplay as different versions of cats. Some people chose a very classic "monster cat" cosplay, while others went for cute cat-eared maids, Cheshire cats and famous Anime characters.
The street was chock-full of people, all wearing cat ears, it was all very obscure and Japanese. With the old-style setting I did feel as though I was living in an actual anime. There were many spectators in normal clothes who came to watch the parade, and some oblivious bystanders wondering why everyone was dressed up!


There was also music being played through the street speakers and somehow their choice of tunes were all Michael Jackson and Queen, which added to the obscurity. At first people were just waiting around for the parade to start so there were many opportunities to make friends and take pictures.


One man was seemingly dressed up as Freddie Mercury, shaking maracas and giving out candy, I am not sure what his connection with bakeneko was but it was pretty entertaining. I didn't take any candy though.



Some of the outfits were very intricate and a lot of time and effort went into crafting them. A lot of them used clay masks and paired them with traditional Japanese kimono or samurai armor, which was very reminiscent of kabuki theater. There were even some original characters that people had created, which made it a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.


The Parade itself was wonderful, there were so many participants and everyone was smiling. The age range of participants went from little koneko children and babies, right up to elderly neko samurais, the parade ran though Kagurazaka dori down to the local shrine. Then finally as the crowd dispersed, the youngsters went to the local game center and took Purikura (Japanese photobooth) photos.


The festival itself didn't have many stalls, which is what is expected of a normal matsuri in Japan. Usually there would be market style food vendors serving up huge helpings of yakisoba and takoyaki. There were a couple of tables serving some hot food but that is definitely something that could have been improved upon next year. Luckily, Kagurazaka has a fantastic selection of both Japanese and French food so there were plenty of places to get something to eat, we decided upon a restaurant/cafe that is actually on the river running through Kagurazaka and Iidabashi. You can sit on the decking and enjoy a selection of Italian food, sweets and cofefe and even go for a row on the river! It was so romantic.


Eventhough it was a festival about cats, I ended up falling in love with a beautiful cosplaying sheepdog! (@potedazo on instagram). Being so close to Halloween, meant that everyone was in the cosplay spirit!


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku





The recently opened Monster Cafe in Harajuku is everything you would expect in a Harajuku-themed cafe - heaps of pastel, quirky and sometimes scary-cute looking characters, sugary repetitive pop music and lots of miss-matched colorful fashion.
The cafe is designed by the world-renowned Sebastian Matsuda - father of the psychedelic Harajuku fashion brand 6% Doki Doki and made famous by being the cinematographer and artist influence of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's music video "Pon Pon Pon". If you are familiar with Kyary you know what to expect and you can see traces of Kyarys kawaii aesthetic floating around the cafe;for example one of the staff members "Candy" sports hair that looks strikingly familiar to Kyarys hair style in her MV for "Fashion Monster."

When you arrive at the Cafe you need to select which area you will be in - There are 4 areas and a secret room set aside for reservations. Milk stand is a room based around...Milk? Various animal heads hang in the air, drinking milk from fluorescent milk bottles and lit-up straws.Mushroom disco is exactly as the name states, there are lots of colorful mushrooms in varying sizes. The Macaron room is a little more mature and easier on the eyes, decorated with sweet pastel macaron sweets and finally the "jellyfish bar" is a bar with a jellyfish theme!


When you first enter the cafe you are greeted by a sugary carousel, with strange animals with glowy red eyes that appear to be melting and various iced fruits. Unfortunately you cannot ride the carousel but it adds a very circus-like feeling to the cafe.


The mushroom stand is very prismatic and hypnotizing with its array of bold colors and...Tentacles?!
The mushrooms act as parasols over the various booths, which is a nice touch, however I think this is the least popular area.

My personal favorite is the "Jellyfish bar"! The bar itself is made of frosted plastic with little glowing lights inside that gradually change color. The bar is where you can purchase specific alcoholic drinks that you cannot get in the other areas in a bar atmosphere. My favorite charm point of this area is the luminous jellyfish lamps that are hanging from the ceiling, they also change color, however with a different hue to the background which makes a very ethereal under-the-sea atmosphere.



The food!

The sad part about this cafe is that it is quite expensive - you need to pay a 500yen table charge each, plus everyone has to order at least one drink and one food each, plus tax. This is more than you would expect to pay in a normal restaurant, but you are of course paying for the kawaii atmosphere and themed food.

The food is...Unusual to say the least,but it was all delicious; their unique feature is that they have brightly colored sauces; green, blue, yellow and red sauces make each plate look like an artists pallet but they all had delicious and delicate flavors. There were unusual looking items on the menu such as "rainbow pasta" but also unusual tasting dishes such as "chocolate chicken". The food was a mix of Japanese and western - most of the food was fried however sushi was on the menu.
There were also a selection of beautifully crafted fruit milkshakes and pancakes too, you could get a combined set with pasta, and a drink or pancakes and a drink for cheaper too!


Another problem is that the cafe is quite dimly lit so it is hard to get good quality pictures, so I am sorry for the lack of eye-candy in this article, but at the end of your meal you can take pictures with the Kawaii monster staff!
"Candy" is the staff member with the blue Kyary-esque hair whilst "Dolly" (my personal favorite) is the boy (yes, boy!) with the white wig and heart-themed coordinate. There are a lot of awesome staff members but they are working on different days, it is announced on their Instagram which days they are going if you want your picture with a specific "monster". Their Instagram name is "kawaiimonstercafe" if you want to see more pictures!
The location is opposite the famous "LaForet" shopping center in Harajuku, look up and it should be on the fourth floor of another building. Surprisingly it is usually pretty empty so you shouldn't have to make a reservation unless you want to visit the secret "cat room".
Make sure to add it to your Tokyo bucket list and don't forget to dress up!