Kimono in Asakusa — the ultimate hanami experience!

What would you consider to be the ultimate Japanese experience? Climbing Mount Fuji? Eating fresh sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market at 4 am? Staying at a traditional hot spring hotel? Attending a tea ceremony? I guess all of those things could be considered the ultimate Japan moment, but I can’t say I can check them all off my bucket list yet. There’s one thing, you cannot do properly anywhere else in the world and I’m proud to say I have done it a few times already. And I absolutely love it! Getting dressed up in kimono is always a great experience for me. It’s like a ritual, every piece of kimono, even the smallest one, has its own particular function and it has to be arranged in a special way. Not to mention it looks simply spectacular and is one of the most beautiful and elegant outfits a woman can wear.

This March I had the pleasure to wear it again, and cherry blossoms in full bloom are definitely what made it even more special!

It’s an unforgettable experience, and I really encourage you to try wearing a kimono at least once. (Gentlemen, I’m talking to you too!) If you ever find yourself in Asakusa, head over to Sawadaya Kimono Rental shop. You can choose among hundreds of beautiful kimonos and two amazing ladies will dress you up and they’ll even do your hair! They have offers for couples too — if walking with your partner around Asakusa looking all fabulous is not your definition of the perfect date, then I don’t know what is. (I’ll give some more details about the place at the end of this post!).

Anyway! Today I wanted to share some beautiful moments of my ultimate cherry blossom experience in Asakusa captured by the amazing Boong (The Beholder Photography)!

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 Full-body shots. Check out that fantastic kimono! Everything matched perfectly and even my tabi socks had roses embroidered on them.

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The stunning Chika-san! I think I’ve mentioned her in some of my blog posts a few times. If it’s your first visit to my blog (hopefully not the last) I’ll write a few words about her just for you. We met just a few months after I came to Japan and at first I was Chika-san’s Polish teacher. I still help her study, but what we basically do is hang out in all the cool Tokyo places, as Chika-san is a native Tokyoite and she knows it better than anyone. She was the one, who came up with the idea of dressing up in kimonos.

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Chika-san chose a simple yet elegant kimono, which nicely balanced my rather flamboyant and elaborate kimono set-up. Notice adorable cats on her obi belt! The paper fans we are holding used to belong to Chika-san’s mother, who was a dancer. They were in fact a bit time-worn, with chipped edges and scraped parts, but that’s exactly what made them even more charming.

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Sawadaya Kimono Rental Shop details!

Here’s their website → click here

and their blog → click here

You can also see the blog post documenting my first and second visit to the shop:

December 2014

March 2015

Kimono rental plan (¥5400 per 1 person,¥9800 per couple) → click here

They don’t speak English, but I guess they can reply to e-mails if you use the help of good ole’ Google Translate. All you have to do to make a reservation is give them your details:

* name

* the day and time you’d like to come in

* how many people (boys & girls) the reservation would be for

Caution! If you’re 30 minutes late, they cannot guarantee they’ll be able to dress you up as there might be another customer waiting, and trust me — putting on a kimono takes time. Sadly, there’s no English version of their website, so if you don’t speak Japanese and have any questions, I’ll try to help you — just leave a comment!

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Thank you for reading! ♥

The 11th of March 2011 2:46 PM

Japan, 3.11.2011, 2:46 PM

Shindomap_2011-03-11_Tohoku_earthquake - All - textsource: Wikipedia 

 

Yuya, university student, 23 (Tokyo)

I was standing outside Waseda University when it suddenly started shaking. “Oh, an earthquake” — I thought. As a Japanese person I am pretty used to them, nothing struck me as odd at first. But after a minute or so it hit. Buildings started swaying, glass in windows made that disturbing rattling sound. It was really long… People who were near entrances or things that could fall on them rushed outside. You could hear some people trying to comfort others “It’s okay, please calm down”, young girls were screaming, I started panicking — I just didn’t know what to do. We all gathered at the station, but the trains stopped running. There were no buses either and all taxis were full. “Why is there no train??? I have a job to do” — you could hear some businessmen screaming at train station officers, who couldn’t do anything. Nobody knew what happened in Iwate and Miyagi. We had no idea about the tsunami. After a few hours my brother came to Takadanobaba Station to pick me up in his car and he told me about everything. I thought it was a movie, I didn’t want to believe him. There were smaller aftershock earthquakes coming one after another. I couldn’t sleep that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened.

Ayaka, shop assistant, 25 (Tokyo)

I was working in a small shop in Mejiro, I was the only person there. After a smaller shake, the big one came and it was really violent. We had a lot of small items in the shop — toys, figurines, small accessories — they started falling from the shelves and lamps started swinging back and forth. I didn’t feel safe anymore, I was scared to the point I started feeling sick. I went outside and I saw other people leaving buildings in a rush. The power poles outside were shaking so wildly! I wasn’t hurt or injured, but it was the very first time for me to experience such a big earthquake. I was so scared… There were no trains, so lots of people chose to walk back home, the roads were really crowded. I had never seen anything like that in my life. When I came back home I quickly turned on the TV. All channels were broadcasting what was going on in Tohoku — the earthquake, the tsunami… I thought it was a dream. A very bad dream.

Rino, high school student, 18 (Chiba)

I wasn’t feeling well that day so I didn’t go to school and stayed home with my mom. We live on a high floor in an apartment complex, the tremor we felt when the earthquake hit was really sudden. Our apartment was rocking like a boat. I know what to do in case of an earthquake, we practice it all the time at school… But I would have been so scared if my mom wasn’t with me. I know that my friends, who were at school at the time, couldn’t go back home and spent the night in their classroom. It’s still cold in March, I always think they must’ve been so cold. My dad was working abroad at the time, it was only the two of us — my mom and me. TV showed what was going on in Iwate and Miyagi. I couldn’t stop crying. Aftershocks were strong as well, but fortunately nothing bad happened to me or my mom. I think I should never forget about 3.11 as a Japanese person.


Photographs and comments courtesy of Ben (DochiHoko)

Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture. This building with a ton of rubble around it is a restaurant. There are all of these oyster farmers and oyster farms, this place being one of them. Everything in the area was completely wiped out except for this one building.

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Please search “Miki Endo” to learn about the story of a 25-year old woman from Minamisanriku, who worked in this building. She sacrificed her life to warn others about the tsunami. She never stopped broadcasting the warnings.

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To stand at this building knowing how far away from the shore we were along with the fact that the water crested the top of the building absolutely blows my mind…

 

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Nearly empty field just to the east of the building, which is the direction the water came from. I believe the white building you can see is part of what used to be a hospital.

 



Yumi, college student, 21 (Shizuoka)

I was at school when the earthquake hit. Although Shizuoka is a fair distance from the most affected areas, we felt it here too. Never in my life had I seen power poles swinging as if they were loose — that earthquake was the biggest I have ever experienced. At first I thought it was the Great Tokai Earthquake, which was first predicted by scientists many years ago and they still say it will hit Tokyo one day. I hid under the nearest desk immediately. There was a TV where I was, so I quickly knew about what had happened in the northern part of Japan. TV presenters were reporting the news from a shaking studio and they all were wearing helmets. That’s when I thought it’s like a movie, it couldn’t be real. I saw cars and buildings disappearing under water, when the tsunami came. “Is it really happening in my country right now?” — I thought.

Hanayama, company employee (Fukuoka)

Having experienced the Fukuoka Earthquake in 2005, I know the horror and damage earthquakes brings. I was far from all that this time, I could only see what was happening up there on TV. I felt the significance of this disaster and I thought I could do something to help. I joined a volunteer fundraising group — this is how I could help Tohoku. After 4 years the affected areas have pretty much recovered I think… But the wounds in the hearts of Japanese people might never heal.

Minako, office worker, 26 (Aichi)

I was working at a shopping center in Okazaki City. It happened to be the day of our annual employee health check, and I was in the middle of an eye test. I was reading letters from an eye test chart… and they started shaking! I thought there was something wrong with my eyes and I told the doctor. But soon people around us started saying “It’s shaking, it’s an earthquake!” — it lasted for about a minute, but it wasn’t big. Actually, when I went back to my office on the 1st floor, nobody even noticed there was an earthquake. I got a break after about 2 hours, went to the lunch room and that’s when I found out. Houses destroyed by the force of a huge tsunami, people stuck in trains and cars, a big wave approaching them, tons of white smoke coming out from the atomic reactor in Fukushima… My coworkers and I were watching TV quietly. We couldn’t say anything, we couldn’t believe it was happening here in Japan.

Taka, athletic trainer, 28 (Ibaraki)

I was in Mito, my hometown. I was supposed to have an interview that day. The earthquake hit two hours before that. I had experienced many earthquakes in my life so I didn’t think it was anything different when it started shaking. But this one lasted so long, and it kept getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know exactly how long it shook but for me it felt like more than 10 minutes. Everything in my house fell on the floor — glasses, small things, all broken. Electricity, gas, water, cell phone signal — all stopped working. Everyone tried to contact their families, so all phone lines were busy. I needed to know how big it was so I went outside. Only a few people were on the street — it was Friday afternoon, of course most people were at work at that time. People on the street told me they had no utilities either. I don’t know why, but I was oddly calm, I was thinking pragmatically — I thought we needed food and water to survive. And so did others. There was a long line of people waiting at the nearest store, which didn’t stop operating even if the electricity was down. To be honest, I thought it had all happened in Tokyo — I feared it had turned into ground zero. For many years, the media has been warning us about a huge earthquake that is supposed to hit the Tokyo area one day and I thought this was it. Without TVs or mobile phone reception we had no way to know about Tohoku, and later about the Fukushima nuclear plant. No one around me knew what really happened.

 

  Photographs courtesy of Mr.Taka 
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Nakatoi, system engineer (Kanagawa)

I was working on the 16th floor of a company in Kawasaki City. We felt a sudden tremor, but since we’ve had so many safety drills before, everyone just automatically dove under their desks. But the shaking didn’t seem like it was going to stop. I was there, stuck under my desk, with office chairs moved around the office by the power of the earthquake… For a moment there I really thought that was the end. I thought I would die there under that desk — yes, it really crossed my mind. When it finally stopped shaking, we started checking damage caused by the earthquake. No one was injured and we managed to confirm that our families were okay — we used a special earthquake emergency app that lets us contact our family members (it works even if phone call lines are down). Some people tried calling their friends in Tohoku, but no one could reach them. I can only imagine how incredibly scared they were until they knew their friends and relatives living there were safe and sound. 

 

Natsuho, university student, 20 (Kanagawa)

 I was at home when the earthquake hit, I just came back from school. At first I thought it was just one of those earthquakes that we have once in a while. But as I noticed the earthquake was a lot longer than usual ones, my family and I crawled under the dining room table. I live in Kanagawa — the quake wasn’t that strong here, nothing in my house broke and only a few decorations fell off the shelves. There was no danger from the tsunami where I live, but we had relatives who lived in Sendai so we tried to get in touch with them to make sure they were safe. After a long time we finally had a call from my grandparents and heard they were both safe. I was very thankful that everyone in my family was safe. I saw the news about the earthquake and tsunami on TV and honestly I didn’t feel that what I was watching was about Japan. It didn’t feel real. I didn’t want it to be real. 
 

Masahiro, engineer, 34 (Chiba)

3.11 is a day I will never ever forget. I happened to have a day off that day. I was on my way to a local supermarket, when I saw a lady and her dog — and the dog was behaving in a strange way. I thought it must have been sick or something. Just when I entered the store, the earthquake hit. I realized it wasn’t just another shake we have regularly. This one was strong and lasted for about a minute. On the way back home, I saw fallen roof tiles from neighbors’ houses on the street. I was already sure that something serious was happening. Mobile reception was already dead, but I could watch TV to see what was going on. TV news at that time was repeatedly saying about causalties in Tokyo and a big fire at the industrial complex in Ichihara city in Chiba but not much about the situation in Tohoku yet. Also, I noticed there was a huge cloud of smoke coming from Odaiba direction… I was worried about Tokyo. TV finally started to stream a live broadcast from Tohoku and that’s when I saw how terrible, how severe the damage was. It was far more serious than I had imagined. Actually I couldn’t believe it was REALLY happening in Japan. Later that night, nuclear plants in Fukushima emerged on the news, but not in much detail (it became huge news the next day). Aftershocks were coming repeatedly every few minutes. I couldn’t sleep that night, I kept checking updates from Tohoku and the red-tinted sky over Odaiba. I thought I was lucky that me and my family were safe. Before I fell asleep around 5 AM, I remembered the dog moving oddly in front of the shop. Did it feel it was coming? 

 Photographs courtesy of Mr. Masahiro

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Yoshikazu, software engineering consultant, 55 (Tokyo)

 
I was in my office in Tokyo when it hit. The quake was long and strong. I got uneasy — even though we have earthquakes frequently, this particular one felt unusually big. I was holding shelves, so the books wouldn’t fall on the floor. I remember I thought about my wife’s family who lives in Nagoya. It was obvious to me that the epicenter was far from where I was, and I wondered if their home was close to it. As the news was coming in via Twitter and other online sources, I and the people around me began to realize the quake was very big. All public transportation stopped and we had no clue when it would be back in operation. Most of us working at the company thought of getting food and drinks. Food disappeared from the store shelves in the blink of an eye. My boss was back from a nearby convenience store with a bottle of wine. He opened it and said we could have it — it turned out that that day was his birthday. My mother was living in a nursing home and I was concerned about her. I tried to reach her so many times but the line was completely dead. Public phone networks were given a higher priority so I got in the long long line for a nearby pay phone. Eventually I was assured that she was safe. Back at the office, some colleagues started drinking, trying to drive the stress away. My boss and I joined them. Many people were chatting loudly about something totally unrelated to the earthquake, partly because of the alcohol, partly because of the still remaining stress. I stayed at the company that night. When I got home the next day, I sat in front of the TV and became speechless for a very long time.
 

Hiromi, now stay-at-home mom, 24 (Aomori)

I was working at a factory at the time. I was on the 3rd floor when the earthquake hit — it was shaking so much it was hard to even stand. Electricity in the factory went out. It was dark and I felt nothing but fear and anxiety. We evacuated from the building and I drove back home, the power was down and so were all the traffic lights — there was police everywhere directing traffic with hand signals. It was already night when I got back home. There was no electricity — luckily I had a flashlight and some candles. There were so many aftershocks, coming one after another… I was really scared. Mobile phone network was down, I couldn’t call anyone, I didn’t know what was going on. I curled up in a blanket and listened to news on the radio. The thought “Will I die here like this?” crossed my mind many times that night.

Naoya, company employee, 24, (Miyagi, Sendai)

It was my last day of travelling in Korea. I ate lunch, went back to the hotel and that’s when the earthquake hit Japan. I checked the news — the epicenter was my hometown Sendai. I was in a state of total panic on the way to the airport. I saw it all over the news, it was devastating. All flights to Japan were cancelled — except for ours. Actually, our flight was the last one that was allowed to go. I arrived in Japan at night. Sendai Airport was full of people, I spent that night on the plane as there was simply no space. I managed to go back to Yokohama, where I lived at the time — but I still couldn’t contact my family. In fact all the messages I sent them kept slowly arriving on their devices later, even some messages arrived 6 months after that day! After 3 days I knew they were okay, but they had no hot water, gas or electricity. All stores and gas stations were closed, so they had no other choice but to stay home. Luckily, they could get water from the nearby park. It was pitch-black all around, I even heard of fatal traffic accidents — there was no electricity, people simply couldn’t see each other. Watching news from Tohoku was completely devastating — my friend and I rented a car and decided to go there, even if we knew we might not be able to come back as there was not enough gasoline. But it was better than staying still and doing nothing. Hearing there wasn’t much damage or panic in Niigata, first we went there and packed the car with food and essentials. It took us 15 hours to get to Sendai. The town was completely dead. Fallen rooftops, billboards, cracks in the ground. In Sendai, there was relatively little damage, but still — it was simply horrifying, I couldn’t believe it. The closer to the sea I got, the more damage I saw. The ground, where you knew there were houses before, now was completely empty. You know, I work at an insurance company and I heard from my colleagues in Sendai, that they sometimes had customers with their insurance cards all covered in mud. There’s one more thing I hear happening in Sendai from time to time. There are cases of people asking taxi drivers to take them to places now completely razed to the ground — and as the drivers are on their way, the passengers just disappear. But taxi drivers keep driving until they get to the destination. We believe it’s missing people, who were never found. We believe they just want to go back home.

To be honest, thinking about 3.11 is really hard for me. There wasn’t much damage to my house, but people who were affected the most are struggling even now, 4 years later. Whenever someone asks me where I’m from and hears the answer, they go “Were you safe? Was your hometown affected?”. I really think people should just stop, after 4 years I got really tired of this question. Well, I’m okay — but what about people, who went through all that? Once asked, all they will remember is scenes of the tsunami taking away everything they had, their property, their loved ones. People make comments about dangerous radioactivity levels and hearing them must be heartbreaking for those who decided to stay — remember not to mention anything like that to them. I wasn’t there when the earthquake hit, so I will never know the pain, the fear, the damage. No one who hasn’t experienced it will ever know or understand. 
 
Photographs courtesy of Mr. Naoya
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Please go to yahoo.co.jp and search “3.11” if you’d like to do something for those that were in the most affected areas.
Yahoo is offering special monetary support to match the number of search requests for 3.11 today.
 Thank you so much for reading.
 

February digest!

If only I could, I would update this blog at least twice a week, I really would. But I’m a really busy individual, hence sadly rare updates. I don’t say that to sound cool — I actually am super busy, and in February I reached new levels of being busy, I need some sort of time management course I swear. I wish I could write an article about every interesting thing I see and every interesting place I go. But writing takes time and I’ve been working on a few serious articles recently. You’ll see one of them next week, but for now take a look at a short recap of what happened in February. 

 

FEBRUARY 2015

 

* Valentine’s Day madness = chocolate of all kinds and shapes for the boy you like… but wait what’s that? Chocolates with an old balding man on packaging? Is it considered romantic in Japan or…? No no, it’s just giri choko and if you happened to have received one this year, I’m sorry to break it down to you, but you have most probably been friendzoned.

* Can you believe it wasn’t until December last year that I finally got a chance to try oden for the first time? Somehow I never trusted all that food soaking all day in warm water, right next to the cash register… Oh how wrong I was, it’s super tasty! 

* Are my eyes deceiving me? Japan has finally noticed that flavoured beers have a chance on the market ?! This one here is lemon + hop, but it did taste like lemon beer, so I was pretty satisfied with it.

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* Hazelnut KitKats! Were they good? YASSSSSSS.

Trunks-ya in Asakusa. Just a store with boxer shorts in traditional Japanese designs. Nice souvenir, no?

* Some more Valentine chocolate madness. Choco-burger, choco-curry, choco-everything…

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* If you’ve ever been to Harajuku, you’ll know that it’s covered with funky stickers, on building walls, vending machines, stairs, store windows… I spotted this one on that walkway connecting Cat Street with Ura-Harajuku. Well…

* Seoul! It welcomed me with -11 degrees, but it’s okay, I missed it♥

* Spotted on the metro in Seoul. It was interesting because of a few reasons: the topic, the language used (no Korean or Japanese version) and the propaganda-ish tone. I take no sides in this conflict, I just thought it was an interesting thing to see on a metro.

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 * Blackberry Caramel Cream Latte (or something like that) somewhere in Gangnam ♥

* I’m not a big fan of sweets, but I’m totally crazy about spicy snacks. Korean convenience stores = HEAVEN!

* I know what I just wrote in my previous bullet-point, but let me tell you, the Earl Grey Cookie Pie they serve at You Are Here cafe in Hongdae is to die for!

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* Myeongdong by night. During my stay in Korea in February, the boyfriend didn’t really have much time to hang out, but that wasn’t much of a problem for me. I went to all the places I visited during my very first trip to Korea and discovered all the cute streets again ♥

* Did I mention my boyfriend is an optician by profession? And he has lots of friends, who are opticians too… I got these glasses in Seoul and they’re so darn adorable I still can’t get over their cuteness.

* Aloe drink and sweet green tea by Lipton — two things I wish I could find in Japan.

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* I came back to Japan and had a tattooing session again… Let me just tell you, getting your inner arm tattooed, that one damn spot right above the elbow pit, takes the highest position on my personal chart of most painful spots. Damn, that stung! 

* Spring is almost here and Starbucks is always the first to launch all things sakura. I expected a sweet cafe latte with an interesting flavour — I got sweet pink milk instead. NOT recommended.

* I agreed to write concert reviews for popboxasia.com and a Royal Pirates’ concert was my very first assignment. The boys were ridiculously talented and drop dead gorgeous — check them out on YouTube!

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* Dwarf Asahi beer, how cute ♥

* Reunited after a few weeks! Sweet cheese cream taiyaki… *drool*

* Have you ever been jealous of Goku’s awesome hairstyle? Dragon Ball hair wax — hold level over 9000!

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 Thank you for reading!♥

January digest!

Do you ever feel that time is passing too darn fast? I feel like I blinked and January was gone in an instant! Or am I so used to the Japanese working life rhythm that I actually stopped paying attention to time slipping through my fingers? I remember not opening my class schedule until 5 PM for the first few months of my teaching career. Oh the memories of sleeping in until 2 PM… Now? 10 AM to 9:30 PM, an average of 9-10 lessons in a day, waiting for a day off and a longer vacation. I swear, if it wasn’t for the photos that prove January actually happened, I would have thought I just hibernated and slept through it all. Can any other person who’s been living over here in Japan for a while relate to that? Anyway, you know what they say — time goes faster when you enjoy it, so I guess I should take it as a good sign! That being said, here’s a fresh recap of my January adventures!

JANUARY 2015

* Shitamachi Museum in Ueno! There’s a lot of reasons why you should go there, and one of them is the ticket price – ¥300! Another reason is: I really recommend it!

* Japanese style shinnenkai (New Year Party)! Real shitamachi sake bar, Japanese snacks and shochu with gold flakes! I can’t say I’m a big fan of shochu, in fact the taste is way too strong for me, so I had no other choice than to order a chaser and sparkling water to mix it all. The killer look the Japanese customers and the owner gave me for ruining the purity of the drink was priceless.

* Happy day! The boyfriend came to Tokyo for a week, which also meant I had a long vacation! And that also meant a whole lot of January outfits! YAY for my boyfriend visiting!

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* “Please! Pick up poop” aka why I love Japan… You know, in Poland we have a lot of blocks of apartments, and people love keeping small dogs. Nothing special, it’s pretty common in Japan as well (providing that it’s okay to have a pet in your apartment). But living in such area in Poland means also that every day you’ll have to struggle with those little brown landmines of horror left by these barking creatures, because people DO NOT CARE. But here’s Japan. People pick up everything their pets leave on the ground. They would feel ashamed if they left it behind. They also have a special spray to clean up. I love Japan.

* Pokemon lights in Sunshine City in Ikebukuro! 10 year old me would be so happy seeing this….

* Korean food! Because the boyfriend still has special diet requirements, he could only eat Korean food during his stay here. I’m not complaining ♥

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* Double date with Kathryn & her husband! You have to go bowling when you’re in Japan — especially in the evening, when it’s full of slightly intoxicated salarymen. Trust me, you have never seen people this happy about every failed / successful throw.

* On the last day of my boyfriend’s stay in Japan we wanted to treat ourselves to something fancy, but it was too cold to actually go anywhere far away, so we decided to explore my neighbourhood. We found this super-duper cute soba shop and it was super delicious! I shall return there soon.

* I might have mentioned in my December digest post, that shin ramen always finds its way to my shopping cart…. That sneaky little ramen….

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* Tokyo fashion pt. 3

* The most dramatic, cutest, fluffiest cat in the world. I’m super jealous not only about Garyo’s wicked tattooing skills, but also about his cat. I’ll steal him one day.

* Lunch… Don’t judge.

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* Comfort package from my parents! Polish sour rye soup. I cooked 1 litre of this goodness and ate it all straight from the pot. I regret nothing.

* Everybody’s laughing at selfie sticks. I’m not. That’s one high quality selfie I snapped the other day with this cool little thingumabob.

* Japanese people are not religious, trust me. They don’t really name what they believe in (If they do, in fact, believe in anything), and basically it’s just tradition anyway. Yet, these pamphlets keep jamming my post box somehow.

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* What a crazy week that was… Getting my side tattooed at Garyo’s atelier and my inner arm filled with blue ink at my favourite studio LaRuche. All the painful spots.

* I’ve been craving Guiness for ages! I wasn’t exactly an enthusiast of Guiness during my student days, but here — oh sweet mother of the bitter brew! Also, I know a place where you can get a whole PINT for only 750 yen! I shall review it here one day.

* Hobby OFF find, pretty self-explanatory.

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* As someone commented on my Instagram post: Evolution of food! It’s okonomiyaki AND taiyaki. With spicy sauce. Spicy okonomitaiyaki. I’m addicted. Send help.

* Let me make one thing clear — I really didn’t know what I was buying! I needed a book that would help me with my Korean studies, especially vocabulary. When I saw this ‘point and say’ kind of book, I didn’t think much about it and just bought it. When I finally decided to open it up and study some useful vocabulary, I saw that some of the most useful phrases recommended by the author to memorize were… Well, take a look at the photo.

* Donki always delivers! “Reproduce like the baby skin” and my name on it. I should claim copyright or ask for royalties.

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Thanks for reading and expect a whole lot of new posts coming up soon! ♥ Also, thank you so much for over 50,000 views! Seriously though, the fact that someone actually reads my posts means the world to me! Thank you guys! 

December digest!

Ever since the first of December, I had been waiting for two things: a long holiday and specifically New Year’s Eve. I was supposed to have 5 days off and I was already planning 5 outfits for each one of my cherished days off, on the 31st of December I planned to go to the Tokyo Tower Countdown event and drink some amazake sold at Zojoji Temple. Yeah, I planned. My body decided to play a very unfunny joke on me and caught a nasty flu on my last day of work before my carefully planned long break. Aaaaand this is how I spent my holiday at home watching Hulu (on demand video site, like Netflix) and listening to 90s hits. Well, at least I had time to prepare a few blog updates, including this one. It will be a bit lengthy, but there were so many things happening in December, I’m a bit surprised it all happened in one month!

 

 December 2014

 

* something else than a Subway sandwich and Starbucks for lunch… Onigiri are getting pretty intense these days.

* I met up with Pilar from Chile. I’ve never met anyone from South America before, so it was great to learn a bit about her country. And we had tons of fun talking about South American soap operas we both used to watch when we were kids. If you know Esmeralda, Clarita, Maria (though there were like 15 of them) you know what I’m talking about.

* Mint beer at the December bloggers meet up! We may not be as big as the J-Vlogging community, but we have our meetups too! Oh, and about the beer… Don’t order mint beer. Take my word for it.

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* Sweet potato tea I found in Family Mart… Take my advice and DO NOT buy it. Dear jasmine tea, I will never betray you again.

* A little sneak peek of a blog update and a video coming soon! Lots of fun things happened that day in Asakusa.

* Something I found in TSUTAYA (DVD and CD rental store), just Jesus and Buddha chilling, no big deal.

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* You thought leaflets are getting out of control where you live? This is what I get every week, and I can’t count how many times actually important things went missing somewhere under a pile like this…

* Korean dinner in Shin-Okubo with the stunning Kathryn (Kitsune-kun) ♥

* Speaking of losing important documents under a pile of useless flyers… I missed my tax payment deadline and I got this wild idea that I might be able to pay my taxes at the tax office, but guess what, my idea was too wild for Japan. Because in Japan you pay your taxes in the city hall.

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* There are days when I get the urge to eat something salty and unhealthy and that’s when snack experiments happen. Fried beef flavoured dry ramen snack thingy and fried camembert flavoured balls kinda snack. I won’t be repeating this particular experiment.

* I got this riddle from one of my students saying “If you know the answer, you are genius”. But because I’m more of a lazy cheater than a genius, I googled it. So the text reads: “Hanano no nonohana hana no nanaani nazuna nanohana namonai nohana” and it is just a simple poem for elementary school students. Here’s some more details (in Japanese) →  click ←

* When I was in South Korea in October, I saw this thingy everywhere. Not much time has passed and it’s getting more an more popular in Japan. Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the amazing selfie stick!

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* Finding myself in any bookstore still feels surreal, but so good. 😀

* Shin Ramen will burn your guts and make you hate yourself for your poor diet choices, but I guarantee you’ll buy it again and again and again… Every time I say “It’s over, we can’t see each other anymore”, yet Shin Ramen always finds its way back into my shopping bag whenever I’m at a supermarket.

* On the 15th of December I got this glorious haircut and I’m totally in love with it! I’ve always wanted long hair, but apparently I was wrong this whole time.

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* So I am not a fan of pork. I am not crazy about bean sprouts either. Onion is not my favourite, too. I’d say I kinda hate them all. Yet I listened to someone’s recommendation and ended up with a bowl full of them. Oh well, at least the eggs were excellent as always.

* Real Tokyo Fashion pt.2

* I’ve heard legends about this book and I finally found it! It is pretty hilarious indeed.

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* Japan is a land of warnings, safety posters, and odd labels, and a vast majority of them is pretty obvious, and they must have some cute character on them. This one here says “Watch out for bird poop”.

* I was looking through some serious newspaper someone left at a family restaurant and a wild Pikachu appeared.

* A shrine in Akasaka with Prudential Financial building in the background.

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* Donki is a real treasure trove, selling literally everything. Plus baked purple sweet potatoes.

* THIS RAMEN. It was so good I left the bowl empty. I must go back and write about this place in more detail.

* I happened to have something to do in Akasaka, an area of Tokyo full of broadcasting companies, filming studios etc. This is a skate rink, where I tried ice skating for the first time 2 years ago, with my boyfriend. Oh the memories…

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Amazake! It tastes like milk with honey and lemon and costs only ¥90? Awesomeeeee!

* Tokyo Dome. VIP Seat. Me. BIGBANG members. Just a few meters away. I screamed my lungs out. (ohhh, there’ll be a blog update and a video!)

*  I’ve seen many of ‘those’ people in Seoul, but it was the first time I actually saw them in Tokyo. Japan is not a super religious country. Mostly all they believe in is traditions, customs, celebration— not really religion. And suddenly I see people around Shinjuku station holding placards saying that “Christ carries not only the cross, but also human sins”. Hmm.

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*  Kinako (roasted soy bean flour) KitKats. If you’re wondering, if they were good — yes, they were.

* Did I mention tons of flyers jamming my post box? This is what I found among them recently. I don’t watch TV, so I don’t really know for sure, but I think that broadcasting companies are not very willing to show what’s going on like every week in my city, and probably more often in central Tokyo. There are many peace / anti-nuclear power demonstrations, and the participants often hand out papers like this one. It says “NO to a country in war!” (ごめん gomen functions here as ダメ dame = something bad, 戦争する国 = country that can/might go to a war)

* Who else remembers Togepi? I got some gifts from my students; hand creams, USB warmers, calendars …. and a Togepi. Not that I’m complaining.

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Thank you for reading and Happy New Year! ♥

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!♥

November digest!

Those of you who have met me personally can confirm that one of the phrases you’ll often hear me use is: “Wait, I’ll show you, I have a photo of it”. If I ever recommend a place, an event, a shop, food or any other thing, you bet I have it photographed from all angles that exist. Thanks to that, in my previous post you could see photos I took ages ago with the good ole’ Blackberry. As I’m writing this post, I have exactly 5,351 photos on my phone…so why not use them? This is how I got the idea for this new series that will help me be even more consistent with my blog posts.

I think it might be a nice insight into my daily life in Japan and a nice change after all those lengthy, detailed posts I like so much. 🙂

NOVEMBER

 ∗Apparently, drinks and snacks are not the only things you can buy from a vending machine. Japan went one step ahead and now you can find a souvenir vending machine in Shibuya!

∗I discovered taiyaki only about a month ago and fell in love instantly. There’s nothing better than warm crispy dough with sweet bean paste filling… or any other filling I had an opportunity to try. I totally have to recommend the place I buy all my funky taiyaki from (there’s a little store in my town) → kurikoan.com

∗ Recently, I did some Autumn cleaning and got rid of all things gathering dust. I took out these cushions on the day when household articles were to be collected, but apparently cushions fall into the ‘nonburnable’ category. The trash collecting guys left a special note on the cushions, informing me about it. How nice!

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∗Beautiful sky in my town. In Japan it gets dark around 4 PM, it’s rare for me to actually get off work before twilight falls.

∗Okinawan feast! It still amazes me to no end that there are actually people who don’t like Okinawan style soba. Like… Seriously, guys?!

∗Ultimate working day breakfast. Rice ball and canned coffee.

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∗I thought that car looked cool, so I took a photo. That would explain over 5000 pics on my phone…

∗Ultimate working day lunch.

∗Tenya! Long time no see ♥ 

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∗Forget Hello Kitty, I honestly think that Gudetama is waaay cuter!

∗Cafe in Kita-Senju. You know, I often carry around a textbook with me, in case I actually get any time to study. I had some time to kill and I actually studied. Wow.

∗View of the Arakawa river, on my way back from the orphanage where I volunteer. I volunteer from 19:00 to 20:30 on Fridays. I used to stay until 21:00 but since I moved further away, I have to leave earlier but I get back home around 22:00 anyway. Getting on the super crowded Joban Line on Friday night should be part of some twisted survival reality show, I swear. 

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∗ Hawaiian dinner! They serve awesome food, but they’re hella crowded — the place is called Mokuola.

∗I got to hang out with an idol! Her name is Tia and she’s a member of an AKB48 style idol group called P.IDL. Check out their music, if you’re into that stuff: P.IDL on YouTube

∗I got this from a 9 year-old girl and my heart melted ♥

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∗Supermarket pizza, -30% off the price. Not the best decision of my life and I won’t be repeating it anytime soon.

∗Thank god for Donki and the imported food they sell ♥ Funny enough, I’m not a big fan of regular chocolate, but I’m a total sucker for WHITE chocolate!

∗Socks I’ll never buy, but need to admit they’re just too adorable.

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∗Midtown Tower in Roppongi — there’s a clinic on the 6th floor and I can’t recommend them enough! I’ve had some health problems recently, and because the Japanese doctor I visited a few times examined me only for like 2 minutes, and when I didn’t catch what he said in Japanese and asked him to repeat, he was only like “Nevermind”, I decided to go to a better clinic, where the staff speaks English. I couldn’t have chosen better! → Tokyo Midtown Clinic

∗Tim Burton’s World — exhibition in Roppongi. I loved it.

∗Real Tokyo fashion.

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∗ One of the best taiyaki I’ve had so far — caramel and cornflakes ♥

∗Peko-chan’s new clothes. Peko-chan is a mascot of a bakery nearby my apartment, and she gets new clothes every time a holiday is coming. After the New Year she’ll probably wear a kimono because of Seijin no Hi — Coming of Age Day (and I’ll probably take a photo of her again)

∗ Nearby Tokyo Station. I was looking for a coffee shop, but all I found was shady girls bars. Right next to the biggest business district. Okay…

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∗Found at Ueno Station. How cool is that!

∗High class sushi in Nezu! 

∗Poland Film Festival in Shibuya. I overslept and because I live 47319 kilometers away from Shibuya, I coudln’t make it, to my deepest regret.

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∗It’s kairo (disposable warmer) season again… (as I’m writing this, I have THREE kairo glued on me + fan heater on — Japanese winter is not that cold, but Japanese houses are so cold you wouldn’t believe)

∗Chika-san’s painting is now a part of the exhibition in the art museum in Ueno! (Chika-san is the lady I teach Polish to)

∗Tsukemen time! Ajitsuke tamago = marinated soft boiled egg has to be one of the best things that happened to Japanese food.

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∗Dill and pickles flavoured Pringles. YASSSS.

∗I decided to go half-sleeve with my right arm tattoo and on the 28th of November I had the first session. I’m recording the whole thing, so there will be a vlog coming in a few months! And if you have any questions about Japanese tattoo culture, please ask!

∗After 7 months of studying Korean, I started using the lower intermediate level textbook! Yay!

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That would be all for this November digest. If you have questions about anything you saw in the pics — feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email! I tried to explain what different things are, but if there’s something I omitted (because I probably took it for granted) do let me know!

Thank you for reading ♥