Polish Festival in Roppongi + a new video!

Have you ever wondered how much Japanese people know about your own country? Of course you have! It is true that many Japanese are interested mostly in English speaking countries and France (← almost EVERYONE wants to go there), but there’s a number of people interested in Eastern Europe too (though I like to think that Poland is exactly in the middle, therefore it’s in Central Europe). 2 years ago, a lovely older lady — Chika-san — contacted me, saying she loves Chopin and Poland, and that she’d like to start studying Polish. I started teaching her and today she can speak a little bit, we hang out and go to events together, she’s like a mom to me. 1,5 year ago I met Ayaka — a girl interested in Poland, and today we’re the best of friends. You might also want to check out Shinya Ayama’s page —  he’s an artist from Kyoto, who is absolutely in love with Poland! We met last year in Tokyo and I just couldn’t believe how determined he was to live in Poland one day. Anyway! The first Polish Festival was held 2 years ago and it was a big success. I attended it last year and I couldn’t miss it this year!

Polish Festival in Roppongi 2014

 

The festival took place in Roppongi, and if you don’t know what kind of place Roppongi is, let me hit you with the facts. When you’re here, you feel as if you aren’t in Japan, because the number of foreigners on the street is much higher than anywhere else in Tokyo. It’s one of the main clubbing areas, many foreign businesspeople live here (their companies pay the steep rent) and there are many fun events. It’s quite nice. During the daytime.

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As you can see there were quite a few Japanese people! I didn’t count, but I guess there were about 15 Polish people? (I guess Japan is one of those rare countries, where there are not so many of us, I guess it’s no more than 1200 people in total? ← it’s a wild guess, I don’t have any real data)

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A beautiful Japanese lady playing Chopin. Perfect!

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Some nostalgic Polish stuff — Christmas tree ornaments (our Christmas ornaments come in different shapes, not just your run-of-the-mill round ones), wool slippers (there’s nothing better to keep you warm in winter) and accessories with traditional Polish embroidery. What I really like about Japanese people is that they LOVE handmade things and they don’t mind paying more for them — they really appreciate someone’s hard work.

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You can’t see it here, but this particular stall was the most popular. It’s still a mystery for me why Polish pottery is so desired in Japan, but naturally, I’m very happy. Chika-san collects Polish apple pots — I had absolutely no idea that we had them in Poland, until she told me. Oops…

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Polish board games I used to play as a kid — it felt so surreal to see them translated into Japanese. Never in my life had I thought I would see that.

CDs with classical music and sweets — my heart hurt seeing the prices. In Poland I would pay about 100~200¥ for a chocolate bar or instant hot chocolate… Here it was 2500¥! Still cheaper than a flight ticket to Poland, though.

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Decorated eggs, papercutting art, bags, pillows and tons of accessories made in Poland.

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The best part….

FOOD & DRINKS!

I missed fruit beer so much! It’s so delicious, I still can’t understand why is this not a thing in Japan !? We have apple, raspberry, citrus, caramel and many other flavours of beer. Go to any bar in Poland and order ‘beer with juice’ — you’ll get a delicious cocktail, beer plus a little bit of strawberry or raspberry juice concentrate. Trust me — IT’S SO GOOD!

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Many types of sausage, bread, sour rye soup, bigos (= hunter’s stew) and other deliciousness… It is virtually impossible to get this stuff in Japan. Oh how happy I was to taste them again. However! I mentioned in the video that the sour rye soup we got tasted strange, but I didn’t explain why. We got instant soup, that’s why. I understand it is difficult to cook it from scratch in Japan, but they could have put in an ounce of effort to prepare it better. Just saying.

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This has to be the strangest meal I ever had. Raspberry beer and a rose jam doughnut. I totally recommend it though!

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I left Poland on the 30th of June 2011. I visited once, in September the same year. I guess you know the rest of the story (if not, please check this post). Of course I miss it… sometimes. I miss speaking my native language, eating delicious Polish food, hanging around cozy cafes and pubs. I guess you only really start appreciating how delicious your national cuisine is after you leave your country. I think that Polish bread and Polish meat are second to none and our soups are so good, I can’t really find a better adjective to describe them. 

You know what makes me happy? Japanese people don’t have a bad image of Poland. They say “Poland? Chopin, Walesa, cold winter, beautiful pottery”. Some of them even know Andrzej Wajda or Roman Polanski. Now they also know that we have awesome food. Well, at least those who attended the 3rd edition of the Polish Festival.

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And what do you think Japanese people think about your country? Leave a comment if you like (I always read them, but it takes a lot of time for me to reply, sorry about that!)

Thank you for reading!♥

The biggest fireworks festival in Japan — Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai 2014!

I’ve been living in Japan for 2 years and now I know how little I really knew before I came here. Of course, before I arrived at the Land of The Rising Sun I had read a heap of books, novels, websites, everything I could get my hands on.  If you’ve ever wondered what aspect of Japan I’m interested in, the answer is coming right up. It’s…. history. Not cute pop culture, not games, not fashion. I mean – all that stuff is equally interesting, but the history of Japan was something I spent the most time on when I was a student. (Answering another question that might come up — my particular interests are Meiji Period, World War II and the post-war society and economy of Japan). Anyway! I admit — I didn’t know a darn thing about the annual summer fireworks festivals. All the guidebooks I had might have mentioned them, but I guess I wasn’t a careful reader. Naturally, when I found out about these events, I knew I just had to go to one. Despite living on a tight budget at that time, I got my first yukata and I’ll be honest here — I  felt fabulous wearing it.

This year there will be no yukata unfortunately — but there will be lots of fun, Asahi beer and bad quality photos!

2012                                                ♥                                             2013

 

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If you’d like to read a few words about the historical background of the whole event (but you’re too lazy to google it yourself), here are a few websites:

Good old Wikipedia

Sumidagawa Fireworks Official Website

The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival Survival Guide 

隅田川花火大会

The Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai 2014!

 

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I admit that choosing Asakusa as your perfect fireworks observation spot is like loading your own gun and then shooting yourself in the foot. Everybody knows it’s going to be insanely crowded with thousands of people, everybody knows that it’s going to be hot, and by hot I mean Lucifer’s sauna kind of hot. Cook an egg on the sidewalk kind of hot. Yet every year most of the attendees go to Asakusa and for the third time in a row, I was one of them. I regret nothing.

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The sweetest people ♥ My best friend Ayaka (the little one), her younger sister Chika (but you can call her Chii) and Ayaka’s coworker Yama-chan!

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Every festival in Japan equals lots of food stalls selling typical festival food. What’s typical? Yakitori, takoyaki, yakisoba, sausages on a stick, shaved ice. Bad news for vegetarians — I guess you’ll have to bring your own snacks. What I like about Japan is that it’s perfectly okay to drink on the street. Not that I do that often, it’s just, you know — there’s nothing better and more refreshing than an ice cold Asahi in this simmering heat!

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I’d like to give you at least a tiny idea of how many people attend Sumidagawa Fireworks. Sometimes you don’t even walk — you just float with the stream of people. Streets around Sumidagawa river are closed, there are thousands of policemen guiding the spectators, patiently holding that yellow tape to keep everything in order. There’s no trespassing or taking shortcuts — if it says NO it means NO. This is Japan.

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These lucky guys! It was a great observation spot — no pushing through people, good view on the fireworks, just sitting there wearing a yukata, drinking beer, looking cool. Awesome.

Legend has it that these spots can be reserved months prior to the event. How exactly you book it, how much does it cost and how can you actually choose a spot? I have absolutely no idea — please enlighten me if you do.

Seeing all the best spots taken, we had no other choice but to keep walking in search of a place where we could feast our eyes on the colourful sky extravaganza.

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We kept walking and walking thought streets of Asakusa with thousand of other people, until it got dark and the fireworks started. It was high time to lower our standards and find a spot where we could see anything. At that point, really anything would have sufficed.

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YAAY! We found a good spot! Slightly tipsy crowd got all friendly, people were talking to each other, trying to catch the fleeting beauty of the fireworks with their smartphones. I’m sorry if these photos are not as impressive — I snapped a few shots for this blog entry only. I might not look at the photos ever again, I might lose the SD card, I might mistakenly delete the “Sumidagawa fireworks” folder from my PC one day. But the memories of what I saw with my own eyes — not through an itty-bitty lens — will stay with me for a lifetime.

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And what do you do after the fireworks? The party is not over, no no! Find the nearest convenience store, buy snacks, more snacks, tons of snacks! Get a sweet pineapple cocktail or a strawberry calpis drink if you feel like it…

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…then find a sweet spot like we did (with an amazing view on Sky Tree and some ToiToi toilets 10 meters away…), spread out that 100 yen small plastic tarp  (← or “leisure sheet” if you want to use Japanglish!) you picked up earlier…and pig out on all that konbini goodness like there’s no tomorrow!


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 Fireworks Festivals in Japan — crowds, cute yukatas, the smell of fried food, heat, humidity, sweat dripping down your neck. We managed to watch the beautiful fireworks show after all, but even if we couldn’t…It wouldn’t have been even a tiny bit less awesome! It’s the people that create the unique atmosphere. It’s that sense of unity I love. We’re all here to forget about work and school and all that stuff that doesn’t make life any easier, we’re here to have a good time, to appreciate Japanese culture. It’s the people who make you think “Messy hair? Sweating like crazy? Heat? Mosquitoes? Hell, I don’t care! It’s awesome!”. These three lovely individuals made my third Sumidagawa Festival a great one.

Thank you guys!

あやとちいと山ちゃんのおかげで今年の花火は本当に最高だった!これからもよろしくね!

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 ♥

Thank you for visiting my blog!

YG Family 2014 WORLD TOUR: Power in Japan ♥

One of the things you should know about me (which I didn’t bring up in my last post) is that I’m a hardcore BIGBANG fan. I wasn’t much into k-pop until last year, but this is what hanging out in Shin-Okubo resulted in (oh Shin-Okubo, I owe you so much).

Simply speaking, I think these guys are pretty awesome.

One of the perks of living in Japan is that lots of k-pop groups, including BIGBANG, come here all the time.  I went to BIGBANG’s live concert at Tokyo Dome last December. They gave an amazing show and honestly, seeing 50,000 people who love them as much as I do, was a great experience.  How could I miss the chance to see them again?

Well, okay. To be perfectly honest, at first I thought “13,000 yen for a ticket and I’ll only get to see them for a couple of songs? Naaah… ” But my inner fangirl was like “Oh come on, even a couple of songs is okay….”.

YUP, TOKYO DOME, HERE I COME!

♔♔♔

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Going to concerts by myself is fine, but it’s always more fun to go with someone who shares your love for the same artist, right? I am lucky to have a friend who loves BIGBANG too (with G-Dragon as her main interest though….Believe it or not, no biases here! I honestly just love them all). The first time I met up with Sharla, we went to a YG Exhibition held in a super remote shopping center in Kisarazu (seriously I would have expected YG to choose something…I don’t know….cooler? No seriously, check Kisarazu on the map, it’s at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere). We had bags of fun though so Sharla was the first person I thought about when I tried to think of someone who might want to go to the YG Family Concert with me.

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I got two tickets real quick — break time at work was enough time (yes, that’s what I do in my break time…I’m actually writing this blog during my break time right now, oops). Your life in Japan can be difficult sometimes if you don’t own a credit card. Luckily I was able to pay for the tickets with cash super easily at a 7/11 and I even got them printed at the same 7/11 one week before the concert. Everything was relatively easy and painless, you might need some help if your don’t read or speak Japanese though. I use this website to buy concert tickets –> a-ticket.jp. I can’t say it’s the best (because I simply don’t really  have anything to compare it with) but setting up an account on a Japanese website is a big hassle, so I guess I’ll stick with it.

WOOP WOOP TICKETS !!!

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What to wear for the concert? Let’s see….Something BIGBANG-ish would be cool. Black and white with some gold accessories. Yeah, sounds cool. BIGBANG is cool, 2NE1 is cool…everyone is cool! I want to look cool too!

….and so thought 50,000 other fans who came to Tokyo Dome that day. We all looked as if we planned our outfits together. Oh well, that feeling of unity was kind of nice though.

Here’s what I had prepared:

* Tank top, BOY LONDON (size L, 154 cm me can wear it as a dress *yay*)

* Shorts you cannot see, and that was the purpose

* Over the knee socks, WEGO

*Black platforms (creepers type) NADIA

* Cross earrings, H&M

* Gold chain necklace, WEGO

* Denim jacket, GU

*Black bag with studs, some random shop, it costed only 1000 yen

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What do you do before a k-pop concert? You go to Korean town to eat some kickass Korean food and spend even more money on some sweet BIGBANG accessories!

….and again, apparently so thought other fans — I have never seen so many people in Shin-Okubo.

There’s one more thing you should know about me – I’m totally crazy about Korean food. You’ll get to see a lot of Korean restaurants if you follow my blog, that’s more than guaranteed.

Stop one: Korean restaurant Maiu (maiukorea.jp)

〒169-0072 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Okubo, 2 Chome−32-23 韓国料理 まいう 大久保本店

780 yen for a lunchtime dish is on the cheaper side in Tokyo, I guess.

Besides, you can never go wrong with Korean food.

Japchae and naengmyon

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Stop two: purikura!

We had to document this special day with cute sticker pics. Actually, a ton of cute pics. What you see here is just 10% of all the purikura we took on that day.

You can never have too much purikura.

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Last stop: TOKYO DOME!

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You still have some money in your wallet after a shopping spree in Shin-Okubo? No worries! YG will take care of it! Before each concert, there’s a special tent-store selling YG Family stuff like clothes, stick lights, rings, hair bands, bracelets, earrings, hats, anything you could imagine.

YG sure does know what their fandom needs.

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Unfortunately, in Japan we are not allowed to take any photos inside of the Dome. I managed to take these photos before a very serious security guy said “No photo, no photo!”

Oh sneaky me.

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♔♔♔


THE CONCERT 

In a nutshell….

BIGBANG

Amazing as always. Professional to the core. They’re all beautiful and awesome. I love them for being them, they’re all different and that’s what I love the most about this group.

2NE1

Great show, really. CL is a walking perfection, she’s the leader for a reason. Dara and Minzy are total cuties, but Bom…not that I dislike her, but it was kind of painful to watch her putting so much effort in a tiniest move. Plastic surgeries have their limits, lady.

EPIK HIGH

They were epik! (you see what I did there?) To be honest I didn’t know them before the concert, but I’m kind of obsessed now. Just check out these songs and you’ll know why.

Love Love Love 

Up

LEE HI

Same as Epik High, I didn’t know her before the concert but she was really lovely so I’ll definitely check out more of her songs.

WINNER & Team B

YG’s freshmen. All young, talented and beautiful. What would happen if GD and TOP had kids? BAM! Winner and Team B would happen, I’m sure of that.

PSY

Well, Psy cancelled his show due to some unknown reason. But! Seeing all the YG Family members singing and dancing Gangnam Style – truly priceless. You should have seen Tokyo Dome. Nearly 50,000 people going totally crazy, unforgettable!


BEFORE

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AFTER

(yes, my eyes might have been teary)

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Trust me, it’s not easy to leave the Dome knowing your idols are still somewhere there (I’m not a obsessed psycho-fan, I swear).

Sharla and I decided to walk around, calm down a bit (and take photos of strangers looking cool…no creeping!).

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Here are some fun people I asked for a photo. It’s so nice that fans actually put so much effort in to their concert outfits. I think it’s so sweet.

Psy, Bom and TOP (“Doom Dada” MV look)

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All in all, seeing my idols again was amazing. They totally rocked my world.  Simply, it was a really happy day.

I guess I’ll never get too old for this.

♡♡♡

Thanks for stopping by and reading my thoughts!

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