Friday, 22 January 2016

This Months highlights!

A new SPINNs in Harajuku opened this month, in Takeshita dori part two. SPINNs is a perfect place to buy true Harajuku fashion - plenty of pastels and wild designs. It is rumoured that SPINNs actually have staff go to America and buy vintage items from shops like Goodwill, so I suggest raiding your nearest charity shop for a super-kawaii find. They also stock Harajuku brands, popular trends and local designers art work - such as postcards, T-shirts and pin-badges. The designer we found at SPINNs this month had small pastel and extremely cute pin-badges which hilariously said obnoxious things like "ブース〝 meaning "ugly" and " デブ" meaning "fat".
There was also a "My Little Pony" pop-up cafe that recently finished nearby.

Next up is the "Yokai Watch" store in Tokyo station!
After a poll in Japan, it was recently announced that "Yokai Watch" character Jibanyan is actually more popular than Pikachu! This was a little upsetting for me as a diehard Pokemon fan, but Jibanyan also has his charms, what do you think?

The store itself was pretty small but filled with various goods from keychains and plushies to stationary and decorated 3DS systems. The store also had video-games to play, trading cards and little robots for amusements. I am not sure what the postbox-looking thing was, but I didnt want to put my hand inside in case I was infused with some ancient Yokai magic or something.

Finally -

I always talk about Nakano Broadway as it is a haven for geeks and also very close to my house.
I love it for three reasons:

1.Super rare and cute goods. For example, really old Sailormoon dolls or one-of-a-kind Ghibli plushies.

2. The famous Nakano big ice cream. You can have up to 8 scoops, I have only ever handled 4. This time I had soda, sesame, strawberry and green tea.

3. Lastly, the small art gallery found somewhere on the second floor. There are different Japanese artists from time to time and sometimes even storyboards from anime. This month highlights the contemporary designer Takashi Murakami.

Harajuku Fashion, temples, chocolate bananas and pigs!

Asakusa is a very unlikely place for a Harajuku fashion walk, far from Harajuku itself and home to Sensoji temple, considered one of the most traditional parts of Tokyo. I was a little hesitant at first to wear such extreme eye-catching fashion in a place of sobriety and worship, but actually the walk was a huge success.

Sensoji temple is very large, and filled with dazzling colors and architecture, which actually provided a lovely backdrop for the wide range of outfits and accentuated the colors perfectly. Upon meeting at the station we began slowly walking into Sensoji, almost in marching-formation, admiring each-others outfits and the beautiful scenery. The walkway up to the temple itself is actually full of souvenir shops, traditional Japanese sweet shops and restaurants. They change the decorations seasonally., with the current season being white and red, promoting "hatsumoude" - everyone's first temple visit of the year.

 We managed to take a nice snap at the start in front of the giant "red balloon", which actually is a huge lantern showing the "Kaminarimon" - the Thunder gate.There is a huge pair of sandals hung up next to the gate, which are for the gods to wear if they ever enter the temple. When walking down the walkway my Japanese friend said to not walk in the middle, as that is where the Gods supposedly walk.

 Because it was still Hatsumoude season, there were some matsuri stalls set up to buy festival foods. There were the usual kinds of foods you might find at a matsuri - yakitori, okonmiyaki, candy floss etc, but we stumbled across one really kawaii food!
"Choco-banana" - simply a chocolate covered banana, decorated in a really cute way. We found they matched our outfits perfectly!

We made sure to take 82373287382 pictures with our choco-bananas before heading for our next point of call - a roof garden where you can admire the whole of Asakusa from above. Asakusa is actually really close to two major landmarks - Tokyo Sky Tree, one of the worlds largest towers and "The golden poop", literally a building with the statue of, what seems to be a golden poop.

At the roof garden we were able to get an ever better view and take some outfit shots of what we were wearing. It was actually freezing on that day so everyone dressed really warmly. I wore a Swankiss white and lilac jumper, skirt and jacket but added some fur accessories to keep myself toasty.  I bought little sticker-stars from WeGo in Harajuku to stick in my hair and also glitter to put under my eyes.

Walking back to the station we then had another suprise - a wild pig appeared! Someone had apparently been taking their pig out for a walk and tied him up outside a shop, the pig was super friendly and loved all the attention and belly-rubs.

It was a wild day full of sugar, golden poop and pigs, so we were glad to retire early and get some rest.  The Harajuku fashion walk is held monthly and run by Harajuku icon "Junyan". I wonder where the Harajuku fashion walk will take us next time?

*eating choco-banana with Junyan.

Photographs watermarked with "Japanstreets" by Japanstreets.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Christmas in Japan!

This is my third Christmas in Japan, so while it is comfortable for me, I still enjoy and sometimes get a little bit shocked by the weirder side of Japanese Christmas. Christmas is celebrated differently in every country; I was happy that Japan celebrated it at all, as they have never been a predominately Christian country. It is still surprising that around December you will see Christmas trees everywhere, houses decorated and even girls in sexy Santa outfits.

People are sometimes surprised to hear that in Japan, the widely eaten Christmas dish is Kentucky fried Chicken. Japanese people also believe that this is eaten on Christmas day all around the world, which is a little hilarious. This is down to a commercial that KFC ran a long time ago seeing a Western family sitting down to a bucket of fried Chicken on Christmas day. It seems kind of weird but remember that our idea of Santa comes from a Coca Cola commercial, so its not that different really. Japan really loves European culture, so it made sense that they would go all-out on Christmas.

Other Christmas foods that are eaten on Christmas day include "Christmas cake" and even a special kind of Christmas Crepe, sold only in Harajuku filled with strawberry, kiwi and chocolate cake!
Strawberries are in season during the winter in Japan, so you will see them go hand-in-hand with anything Christmassy. 

Harajuku was a fantastic place to get in the Christmas cheer, from the gorgeous, sprawling illuminations in Omotesando, to the more creative window displays. La Foret - the huge department store in Harajuku - almost always has a special "high fashion" take on Christmas. Although my favorite had to be the display outside of Japanese Harajuku fashion brand "SPINNS" who dressed up their tiger in a santa-costume. It somehow worked for me and got me feeling festive.

Neighboring Harajuku, Shibuya also put on a lovely and unique Christmas spread. The massive clothing department store Shibuya 109 did a collaboration with the boy band "Exile" for their Christmas display, whilst outside Hachiko statue there were dozens of Santas hanging from the trees, as though they crash-landed their sleigh right in to Scramble crossing.

There are two downsides for me when thinking about Christmas in Japan:

1. There is no gravy here, so I had to get my Bisto imported.
2. Christmas ends on Christmas day. On the 26th everything is taken down, there is no such thing as boxing day.

Apart from that, it is always enjoyable in Tokyo, with plenty of beautiful illuminations and even pop-up ice rinks, but actually Christmas day, I didn't spend it in Tokyo at all.

Leo suprised me with a coach trip, but he didn't tell me where.

The coach left Shinjuku station and an hour later we were in a very mountainous part of Japan called Sagami. There is a "resort" atop a random mountain which boasts an impressive Christmas illumination show, the unique thing this year was that it was collaborating with the release of the Paddington Bear movie, so it was actually British themed!!!

There were endless amounts of twinkling lights covered fields and trees, there were also some small rides such as a little car that takes you on a tour of the illuminations and the infamous "peddle roller coaster" where you have to peddle it yourself at alarming heights. The air was very clear and fresh, but also very cold as the resort is actually up a mountain,so you can see clouds drifting by - which is quite surreal really.  I also made a mistake of wearing heels as of course everywhere was pretty steep.

The little British touches made this for me; an illuminated bus, a Buckingham palace and they even re-created the Queen out of lights, except she was faceless and you could put your face in the space. That was a little bit weird in all honesty.  It always makes me happy that Japanese people have a fierce interest in British culture, probably due to the massive popularity of Harry Potter.

Finally we ate dinner in the restaurant, which had a huge Paddington Bear gift shop. They had various Japanese and British foods on offer that day, I went for a big helping of fish and chips since I hadn't had it since I was in England. I ordered it a long time ago in a British pub in Tokyo and they gave me fish and....Crisps?! After that blasphemous day I never ate it again in Japan. This one exceeded my expectations though! It tasted like Birds-Eye, but they included some seaweed soup with it, that kind of ruined the British aesthetic.

This event is running until February so I totally suggest anyone who wants to see some pretty lights to take the trip. It was pretty cheap, maybe 3000en each in total.

After that we took the coach back home and spent the rest of the evening playing Playstation 3 and watching movies, it was a perfect Christmas. <3

Lastly bonus pictures from our bonenkai *end of year party*

I hope everyone had a magical Christmas!