What has happened and what’s going on

Hi guys, it’s been a while!  If you don’t count those two solitary posts from August and September, you could say that I haven’t blogged in, like, 6 months?! Now that I’ve promised to reactive the blog I’ve abandoned for months, I have to keep it going! I’ve been thinking a lot about what direction I should take my blog. I was ready to give up, throw in the towel. But when I thought about it long and hard, I realized I really like having my own place to share all the cool places, cute cafes, interesting facts and even just my daily boring life sometimes. At the moment I’m rather busy not only with the daily grind, but also things like job-hunting and studying for the next JLPT, so I won’t be able to post that often — I promise to keep updating at a somewhat steady pace though. I also realized that I didn’t give you much opportunity to read about my experiences or personal views on different topics. In fact I was rather vanilla when it came to choosing topics to write about. I didn’t want to touch controversial topics before, but now I think ‘Actually, WHY NOT?’ So yeah, anyway, feel free to ask me questions about me and my life in Japan, if there’s anything you ever wondered about or there was no one yet to answer your question. I’ll try to include more advice and recommendations as I get asked about various things quite frequently. Hopefully you’ll like this makeover. I won’t be posting my OOTDs anymore as Instagram seems to work better for these type of photos (I will sell some of my stuff though, check out my Depop account!). I decided to keep my monthly digest posts, as they probably give a good insight into what the daily life of someone who decided to live their life in Japan looks like, although it might not be as exciting or crazy as most people imagine.

The last few months were like a crazy roller coaster though, with an insane amount of ups and downs. Let me fill you in on what has happened and what is going on.

September

I must say that September started off pretty well. Weather got a bit autumny, I went to Tokorozawa and even blogged about it, met up with my Twitter friend Zerosonico who snapped some awesome pics…

1_meitu_2

…went to a Winner’s concert…

12144305_824044181050607_896308116_n_meitu_1

I caught the last moments of summer in Makuhari…

2

… and even became a Hina Doll for a day.

(Would you like to know where you can experience this fun makeover? Let me know!) 

12070812_179490205720408_1175696802_n_meitu_1

Like I said, it started off pretty well. I should have known that just when everything seems fine, you should expect life will kick you in the teeth, and most likely will do it with twice the power you could ever expect. Having said that, the end of September was absolutely horrible. Whatever happened, and some rather heavy stuff did, it was the main reason I stopped blogging for a while. I will not go into needless details here as it’s all far away and there’s no real point in digging it up now. If you follow my social media and have any sort of deducting skills, you probably figured it out anyway. At that time I just needed some time off. I went back to instagramming fairly quick, but mainly because it’s fast and easy— and taking pics around Tokyo was one of the things that made (and still makes) me happy.

October

I was still in some kind of an online hiatus for the bigger part of October and didn’t go out that much hence the lack of pics. I did go out to eat sometimes and discovered that Taco Bell is the feast of gods and chestnut ice cream isn’t edible at all. Really, listen to my advice on this one and don’t ever buy chestnut ice cream.

IMG_6044_meitu_4

I’m lucky to have amazing friends who don’t mind dressing up in silly costumes and taking purikura pics with me, despite the fact that we’re both closer to 30, rather than 20 years old. While we’re on that topic, I thought it would be interesting to introduce my best friend Ayaka and tell you about her in more detail, so a special blog post might happen someday soon.

IMG_5912_meitu_3

On the last day of October I spent a lovely day in Kichijoji, wandering around Inokashira Park and hunting for cute cafes. If you haven’t been there, plan a trip to Kichijoji for your next day off because the area is top notch!

1_meitu_2

November

Pretty eventful month. I kept myself busy and tried to spend every day off with friends. With some of them I visited fancy Japanese restaurants and ate grilled eel, others took me to Taco Bell and if you asked me which one I prefer, I’d have a hard time responding to that question as I love them both equally. (Update: I gave it serious thought and I have to say…TACO BELL ♥)


IMG_6571_meitu_5

For quite a while I felt strong aversion to all things Korean and was kinda worried that the September stuff would irreparably ruin BIGBANG for me, but worry not, it didn’t. The boys gave their best again and this time I was lucky enough to have gotten tickets for two days! I went to one of the concerts with my friend Sharla and here you can see her video of us preparing for the concert and here’s the one taken on the concert day!

And actually, ever since the concert, things started to get better and better. 

IMG_6769_meitu_6

I spent most of November studying for JLPT. I studied in all my free time, at every lunch break and then after work. All my days off work looked the same — I woke up, went to a cafe and studied for 6-7 hours. It would probably have gotten boring real fast, but this time I had a very good study partner* who showed me lots of great ‘secret’ study spots, so different than your run-of-the-mill Starbucks, occupied by high schoolers from dusk til dawn. Ueno, Marunouchi, Yurakucho, Sendagaya…

(*study partner as in: I studied my Japanese stuff, he studied his uni stuff) 

IMG_7067_meitu_7

December

It got all romantic and Christmassy, my study partner and I started hanging out more often and visited all the nice “illumination” spots. Take notes and be sure to visit them next year, if you can! Shinjuku, Roppongi, Tokyo German Village (which is not actually in Tokyo) ↓↓↓

(I’ll be posting a separate post about Tokyo German Village — while the place is really cute, it doesn’t get the coverage it deserves)

IMG_7183_meitu_8

6th of December. I had the JLPT test in the morning and as I studied for it for a few weeks, I didn’t worry about it too much (← OK, that’s a total lie, I was freaking out). My JLPT took place in Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture and from there I had to somehow transport myself to Yokohama, 2 hours away by train. Needless to say I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the next venue but it was all worth it. I got to attend a very special event and see things not many people have a chance to see with their own eyes. There will be a whole post dedicated to it, so I won’t go into much detail now. I’ll just give you a quick sneak peek.

12331882_1652320844992847_1672036267_n(1)_meitu_1

The end of this year was definitely one of the best New Years I have had so far in Japan. I went to Kusatsu where I discovered that crab is actually insanely delicious, skiing is fun and a doctor fish manicure is something I’d like to repeat. I also experienced my first ever outdoor hot spring and let me tell you: nothing beats watching the snow fall on you from the starry night sky, as you soak in steaming-hot water with no one else around you. Moments like that will be one of the best experiences of your life, if you ever have a chance to try it. (Worry not, there will be more photos from Kusatsu!)

IMG_7848_meitu_9

I was lucky to have spent the final days of 2015 with some of the loveliest people on the planet ♥

IMG_8031_meitu_10

On the 31st I did what most people in Japan do. I ate toshikoshi soba, went to a shrine and wrote down my wishes for the New Year on a prayer plaque. I went to the majestic Yasukuni Shrine and drank amazake… Then I had to kill time for nearly 3 hours in a manga cafe watching TV, but that’s a story for another time.

IMG_8176_meitu_11

Several minutes before midnight I stood in front of Tokyo Tower and was virtually floating along in the wild crowd. I guess the only reason I didn’t get trampled by the excitedly celebrating crowd was that there was someone in that crowd who held my hand.

IMG_8199_meitu_12

And this is how I entered 2016 with a peculiar feeling that this year will be a good one ♥

Oh, by the way, his name is Yuya

917906_995113250546462_1518425560_n_meitu_2

Guys, thanks for staying around even if I wasn’t active for the last couple of months. I got lots of e-mails and messages of support, thanks for that. The dark clouds are gone and I’m very optimistic about the things that are yet to come, so be sure to come by from time to time to see what’s new in my chronicles of living my Tokyo dream ☺

Thank you for reading!♥

Tokyo journey continues… aka 10 things I like about living here!

3 years ago I arrived in Japan. I like to think that everything happens for a reason and particular events in life lead me to the place I am right now. Coming to Japan was definitely a new beginning. I got a job, I met amazing people, I became completely independent. I started my adult life right here in Japan, 9000 kilometers away from home.

After 3 years, I feel a lot of routine in my life. Work, home, PC, sleep, work, home, PC, sleep. That initial enthusiasm and interest in everything around me has gradually disappeared. I got used to being here, I know all the things you won’t read about in guidebooks with pretty pictures. Sometimes I miss that feeling of bliss when I opened my eyes in the morning and thought “Wow, I’m in Japan, this is amazing”.  I’ve been a bit grumpy lately, for a bunch of reasons it was hard for me to find much positiveness in the daily grind.

I needed to see the good things again, so I sat down and wrote down all the things I like about Japan and how it changed me and my life.

(photos by Chris https://instagram.com/ghostdances )

IMG_0776 (1)_meitu_2

1. Living here is like a never-ending treasure hunt

 Downtown Tokyo is exactly how you imagine it — full of neon lights, skyscrapers, busy people who never let go of their phones. But once you realize that you’ve been to all the touristy places, you start exploring. You can wander around Tokyo for hours, days, months and I am absolutely sure you will find new things every few steps. Hidden cafes with clientele with an average age of over 70, unique street art splattered all around, lovely tiny stray cats, little shops with handmade or vintage items that can’t sadly compete with the monolithic vast department stores and gradually disappear. Don’t think too much about the weird Japan you know from TV or newspapers. Forget the supposed forehead bagel ‘trend’ (the biggest nonsense I’ve seen in my life I swear), forget otaku and idol culture, underwear vending machines (they probably exist in some deep dirty underground, but trust me — regular people don’t think it’s okay) don’t think too much about Harajuku fashion — that’s all part of Japan I suppose , but it is not how Japan really is.

2. Everything is organized

People queue and rarely cut in lines, no one’s business is more or less important than others’. There are instructions, notifications, warnings and signs everywhere. Though sometimes you might feel it’s really patronizing, you will always know what to do, how to use things, how to get somewhere — because it is all written and explained somewhere for your convenience. For that reason I think I am more gullible and take things for granted. In the UK I took some yen to the city center in order to exchange it to pounds. I found a legit looking currency exchange point, handed money to a good-looking cashier, got my money, counted it and was a bit surprised I received much less than I expected. But I thought I must have made a mistake calculating. It just didn’t cross my mind to ask about anything. When I went back home I checked the receipt I got and that’s when I saw I was charged a 10% service fee. There was no information on the counter. There would be a notice on the counter and the cashier would *probably*  inform me about it — if it was Japan.

3. Japan taught me to care more about the environment 

I still can’t stop myself from cringing whenever I open a bag of snacks and I find that each little piece is packed in a separate paper creating mountains of trash. However! I can’t imagine throwing trash on the street or leaving it on the train, now I can carry it in my bag all day if I need to do that. If I had a dog, I would clean after it thoroughly. I sort garbage: burnables, non-burnables, plastics, cans, glass, household items, batteries… I can’t say I don’t make sorting mistakes anymore, but I do my best. As you may know a few weeks ago I visited my family and friends in the UK and Poland, and let me just say that clean Japanese streets never looked better than the moment I saw them again after 2 weeks of being away.

4. Tokyo is where my friends are

I have met lots of amazing people, I probably would have never met any of them if I hadn’t come to Japan. I have friends from places all around the world: US, Canada, UK, Chile, Singapore, France, Germany… and we all met here in Tokyo. I just want to mention one thing: I’ve seen comments like “All foreigners in Japan hang out only with other foreigners tsk tsk”. What is wrong with that? Just let us have it. We interact with Japanese people on a daily basis, we all have Japanese acquaintances, coworkers, neighbours, partners. But it feels good to meet someone, who can relate to things you say, who will listen to your “I live in a foreign country” complaints until you feel better about being away from home, someone you can ask for relevant advice etc

IMG_0776 (1)_meitu_3

5. One can lead a comfortable and rather stable life here

 Despite all the bureaucracy that will make you cry at some point, life in Japan is very comfortable. Restaurants, convenience stores, karaoke booths, video rental stores open 24 hours. Vending machines (with drinks, alcohol, cigarettes, sometimes even canned soup) every 50 steps. Buses and trains, which are rarely late (but it DOES happen, usually because of bad weather conditions or sad ‘human accidents’) and most commutes are super fast.

6. Most of the time it’s actually very quiet here!

Talking on the phone on any public means of transportation is forbidden and basically people follow along with that. Surprisingly enough, if you’re not on one of the main streets, sometimes you might even forget you’re in Tokyo. Apart from summer festivals, shopping stores during sales where shopping assistants shout so loud you start wondering how is it humanly possible to produce those decibels and maybe izakaya drinking spots, where groups of young professionals or salarymen forget they should keep it down after a few pints of liquid courage… Apart from all that, it’s actually REALLY quiet. Drivers don’t honk and I even have a feeling I don’t hear ambulance or fire trucks sirens that often either!

7. Japan is safe, it’s true

I don’t worry about being mugged on the street, I rather worry about being ran into by cyclists, who think all of the pavement is completely their territory. Sometimes I read comments under articles like this one about a girl getting stabbed in the back on the street at about 11PM. I remember one of the comments said “What was a 17-year old girl doing at this time of night alone on the street?” and that’s when I knew that person has never been to Japan and has no idea about this country whatsoever. Everyday I see high school or even junior high school students going back home at 10-11PM… or even later. Walking slowly with their eyes glued to their smartphones, exhausted after cram school, club activities, piano lessons, secret dates maybe… I finish work at 10PM and go back home around 11PM much more often than I care to admit. Except a few rare nanpa pick-up attempts, no one has ever bothered me on my way back home and trust me, I have a bit of walking to do to get there. Unfortunately I can’t also say that absolutely nothing weird has ever happened on the streets of Tokyo (or should I say trains *cough*), but there’s enough crazy people anywhere in this world and it’s a whole other story anyway.

8. It’s okay to be an introvert (or just get your own space from time to time!)

It is a good point for me, but I will understand if you think otherwise:  interactions between people are kept to a minimum in this country. There are single seats in every restaurant, sometimes you don’t even have to talk to the staff member to order — you just buy a food ticket from a machine and hand it in. People won’t talk to you on the train or the plane and cashiers won’t try to be all too friendly as in “Oh, I like your flesh tunnels, how big are they? You know I have a friend, who has flesh tunnels too and a few tattoos as well…” as often happened in the UK. I’m not saying it is bad — though personally, I never know how to respond to such banter. I get all awkward and say stuff like “Oh I see, ha, that’s nice hehe..he”. Well, they might make some comments about you being a foreigner, but most of the time they’ll lack the courage to do so. It’s rare for people to start conversations here and because I am not a person who enjoys a casual chat with a stranger in the park, I appreciate that most of the time the Japanese mind their own business.

IMG_0857_meitu_4

9. All the cute stuff!

Everyone knows that Japan has all kinds of cool stuff going on. Interesting gadgets, cute accessories, cutting edge toilets, silly useless stuff you don’t need, but want to have. Cute characters, themed cafes, lots of merchandise for manga and anime characters as well as adorable Sanrio creations. My most ridiculous purchase up to date has to be a futon for my phone. Have I used it? Nope, but I took a fun photo of it.

10. Japan taught me how to be a shakaijin

…which literally means “a member of society”. In this homogeneous country everyone has their role to fulfill and playing by the rules is really important. Avoiding conflicts, confrontations, hiding what one really thinks — I honestly think this is why Japan is seen as such peaceful country. I came to understand how to be a part of it, or at least how to try to be a part of it.  I’m more of a listener than a speaker. It might be because of my job, where what I basically do is listen to what others tell me about their life, job, hobbies etc and I always react appropriately.  I am more careful about making bold statements and expressing personal opinions. I won’t talk about controversial topics unless asked. Is it good? I don’t know, but I know it saves you trouble in cases when your conversation partner has completely opposite views on politics, society etc. Japan teaches you how to co-exist peacefully with all kinds of people.

IMG_0946_meitu_5

After 3 years, do I consider Japan to be my home? It’s a very difficult question I’ve asked myself many times. I’ve never lived in a foreign country for so long. Japan is where I started my adult life, I came here after graduation, got a job, rented an apartment, started paying taxes and caring about stuff like health insurance, holidays, paperwork, savings…The rose-coloured glasses I wore when I first came here are long gone. I see a lot of flaws and get really bitter sometimes so please bear with me, until I get through this phase. People say “If you don’t like it, then just leave?” and I cannot say they’re wrong. But the point is…

…I don’t want to leave yet. These days, I don’t see Japan so much as the dream I had when I was a teenager. Although there’s no way for us to know where life will take us, for now I can be sure of one thing. For now, I’m not going anywhere, so stay with me for a while and come by sometimes to read more about some of my new Tokyo adventures! 🙂

Thank you for reading!♥

May digest!

May was a good month. Despite working even harder than usual and even harder than in April when I had to work on my days off (I taught a zillion lessons in May!), I managed to visit some cool places, eat lots of delicious food and meet some great people. I didn’t get that much sleep though, but well, ‘you win some, you lose some’ as they say. I’ll have all the time in the world in as soon as two weeks, when I leave for Europe for the first time in 3 years. I’ll visit my family in the UK and Poland, meet some people and go to a heap of places that will probably bring back a lot of memories. I really can’t wait, though I’m also kinda nervous. I don’t want to sound pretentious or anything like that, but I’m a bit worried about reverse culture shock too… At least I’ll have a topic to write about when I come back to Japan. Anyway, I still have 2 weeks to go and so I’ll try to post a few blog updates before I hop on the plane.

MAY DIGEST

* Do you remember Rino? She was one of the girls I had a girly chat with and I made a blog post out of it. If you haven’t had a chance to read it but think you’d like to, it’s → here ←. Some readers commented that it would be nice to hear about the girls again sometime down the road. This May I met up with Rino again and it was like meeting a completely different girl! She doesn’t wear a high school uniform anymore, she cut and permed her hair, got new fashionable glasses. She is now studying Japanese Culture at Tokyo Women’s University, which might surprise those who read the article and so know she had dreamt of studying Fashion. When I asked her why she decided to study Japanese culture, she answered “There’s still so many things I don’t know about my own country. At first I want to know and understand Japan better” — which I thought was a very reasonable answer.

* Here’s a collections of some funky items I stumbled upon in Tokyo last month… I do want that tattooed Kewpie though, but I don’t have ¥16000 to spare at the moment. Bummer.

IMG_8749_meitu_2

* Remember, if you’re looking for t-shirts that’ll make you the coolest kid in the block, Harajuku is the place to go!

IMG_8805_meitu_3

* And while in Harajuku, why not go to this awesome Hawaiian restaurant I found with Alanna (UK2Tokyo)? It’s called Aloha Table and →here’s their website←

IMG_8785_meitu_4

* While we’re in Harajuku let me show you this fabulous sticker I grabbed in B-Side Label sticker store (read more about the store on Alanna’s blog)

IMG_8801_meitu_6

* Did you know that there’s often some stuff put outside grocery stores in Japan and shops in big shopping arcades often don’t have any gates? It’s because no one would ever think about stealing things. It is something I kinda take for granted now, but I remember when I first came to Japan it totally blew my mind.

IMG_8762_meitu_16

* I finally signed up for yukata and kimono dressing classes! And that glorious gold furisode you see? It’s a gift from Chika-san and I’m so grateful — she actually wore it for her Coming of Age ceremony… 40 years ago! How amazing is that?! I can’t wait to wear it ♥

IMG_8876_meitu_5

* Oh Asakusa… You can take a photo of any random spot there and it’ll still turn out great.

IMG_8890_meitu_7

* If you’re in Asakusa be sure to visit this absolutely adorable maneki neko shrine!

IMG_8904_meitu_8

…or get some delicious sushi…

IMG_8929_meitu_9

* From Asakusa let’s move on over to Kamakura. It was a super fun one-day trip and there will actually be two separate blog posts about Kamakura and Enoshima. Just look at this tiny taiyaki, the Great Buddha, this stunning view from Enoden (train going from Kamaura to Enoshima) and this Dragon Ball gacha!

IMG_9192_meitu_11

* Postcards from Enoshima…

IMG_0638_meitu_18

Back in Tokyo:

* company party where I ate more than I care to admit

* I have a feeling that Japan is starting to discover the wonderful world of flavoured beers… Here’s shikuwasa (Wikpedia calls it “Taiwan tangerine, flat lemon, hirami lemon, or thin-skinned flat lemon”) flavoured Orion beer!

* So I found a small hidden cinema in my town — they happened to be playing Interstellar (they don’t play newest movies and that’s what I love the most about this place).I was absolutely blown away by that movie! Pictures and music = masterpiece.

IMG_9349_meitu_14

And last but not least..

* I’m sorry for this indecency, but of all the things people imagine about Japan this one is true — yes, this stuff does exist, this was on full display in a hobby store and nobody seemed to think there was anything even slightly wrong with it. But! No, people here don’t have tons of piercings, wear whatever they want and dye their hair purple “because everyone in Japan looks like people in Harajuku”. Absolutely not. Harajuku is Harajuku, and it’s not that hardcore anyway. And no, I guess most Japanese businessmen are not encouraged to take naps during the day as I read on some genius website. I teach many businesspeople — no one ever confirmed it. But some parts of Japan aren’t made up, and that’s the harsh reality of it.

 ↓IMG_9042_meitu_15

Thanks for reading!♥

April digest!

Let’s start this last month’s recap with a short intro this time. My April can be described in only 4 words: Seoul, Korean food, Ueno Park and sushi. I visited some places and did some stuff that I wanted to describe in a tad more detail, hence the slight change in the way I wrote this digest post compared to the ones I wrote before. I hope you like it! Okay, let’s go….

APRIL 2015

* I probably mentioned it in some April post — I visited Korea again! This time I visited not only for the purpose of seeing my boyfriend, but also for the purpose of going to my Korean teacher’s wedding! Seoul was beautiful as always, and I just couldn’t wait to eat all the deliciousness Korea has to offer. And the wedding…? Let’s just say that Korean weddings differ from all the weddings I have attended in the past. I was really happy to see my teacher MyoungJin looking like a princess, have some delicious Korean food and drink more makgeolli than I care to admit. Speaking of which! Have you ever drunk with Koreans? Planning to? Be prepared — look away for a second, and your glass will mysteriously refill itself with whatever you’re drinking at the moment. It won’t stop until you’re totally down for the count. Magic!

IMG_7735_meitu_1

* Some super random Korean things: wet tissues with Jesus and a mass schedule handed to me by an older woman while I was passing by a church (why wet tissues?) and… well, the picture on the right… I don’t really know how to caption that one.

IMG_8239_meitu_3

* FOOD. Oh, the foooood. I love Korean food so much, I’d marry it if I could. That budaejjigae! Jumokbap! Kimbap!

IMG_8051_meitu_5

.…but there’s also jajangmyeon. I like my food so spicy it makes fire shoot out my mouth. I’m sorry jajangmyeon, you’re just not my type.

IMG_7847_meitu_4

* Korean food has to be first on the list of my favourite cuisines, but here in Japan there’s still some things that would never be as good anywhere else. Everytime I come back from Korea I tend to be rather grumpy, so this time I cheered myself up with some Okinawan food, okonomiyaki, taiyaki and….

IMG_8086_meitu_6

SUSHI! I’m the type of person who gets hooked on things real quick and once I like something, I will eat it / watch it / wear it until I get totally bored of it. Basically I am not much of a sushi eater, but in April I had unusual sushi cravings.  Here’s some proof.

IMG_8571_meitu_4

There were also a few food experiments in April:

* sakura mochi (sweet sticky rice cake with sweet bean paste filling wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf) ← NOPE

* Durian ice cream! I found it in my favourite Thai restaurant in Shinjuku and I absolutely loved it! It did smell like rancid socks at first, but it tasted absolutely lovely!

* Tuna & cheese & mayo omusubi is so good, I can’t even count how many I’ve consumed already… (probably no less than 25)

IMG_8225_meitu_1

* If you’re looking for a fun place where you can forget about having to work crazy hours, go to Namjatown in Sunshine City in Ikebukuro! What’s there? Everything you need: beckoning cats, gyoza, funky ice cream flavours, ghost cats, cat shrines and lovely Showa era style rooms.

IMG_8172_meitu_3

Coal, rose, ramen, miso paste, fried eggplant, avocado, Mascarpone cheese… just some of the unique ice cream flavours you can find there.

IMG_8170_meitu_4

*Keep in mind that trains running from Ikebukuro on Friday nights get as crowded as is possible. Think of the most crowded train you could possibly imagine and then double that. I do not enjoy being a human sardine, squished against a sea of people, literally hugging some random salarymen from behind (because there’s absolutely NO space), so I will avoid going there on the weekend from now on.

IMG_8202_meitu_3

Before the Ikebukuro madness I visited a slightly more peaceful place — Ueno Park! There’s always so many things to do, I absolutely love it.

* Shitamachi Museum! I mentioned it in my December Digest. Be sure to visit it when you’re in Ueno Park, it costs only 300 yen to get in, and you can snap some pretty awesome photos like these! Also it’s worth visiting just to see how awesome Tokyo Shitamachi really is!

IMG_8141_meitu_5

You can also get a portait of your own beautiful self for only 1000 yen! Funny enough, exactly one year ago, on the 10th of April I got a picture of me drawn by the same artist! This is how I changed over the period of one year.

S__9306127_meitu_2

* Little Mermaid coffee in Shin-Okubo, in Coffee Prince cafe I wrote about → HERE ←

* Pandaruma in Ueno (panda + daruma = pandaruma)

* Japanese act of vandalism on a vending machine

IMG_8664_meitu_1

And last but not least! These absolutely awesome carp streamers in Higashi-Shirahige park!

IMG_8672

Thank you for reading! ♥

Shooting a TV commercial in Japan — my experience

Every now and then I see people sharing funny commercials from Japan. I’ve seen them on my Facebook timeline, Twitter, 9gag and other countless websites — always captioned “OMG! Weird Japanese commercial!”. Never in my life had I thought that one day I would actually find myself in a film studio, shooting a commercial for Japanese TV. I’m not saying I never wanted to try it, it’s just… That kind of thought never really crossed my mind. Yet, some time ago I got the amazing opportunity to see for myself what shooting a commercial in Japan looks like. And today I’d like to share my experience with you.

JOHNSONVILLE TV COMMERCIAL

THE AUDITION

I think I was at work when I got a message from my friend Sharla (Sharla in Japan on YouTube). She asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning for a commercial and although I had never even thought about it, I thought “Why not? It won’t hurt to try!”. I exchanged a few e-mails with the director of the commercial and scheduled an audition. I knew that the company the CM was supposed to be for is an American sausage company and that there would be some sort of vintage / pin-up theme going on. They say “you gotta dress the part to get the part!” — so I tried looking kinda pin-upish, without overdoing it.

IMG_4343_meitu_1_meitu_1

I got some documents to sign and they took a photo of me. Notice how they wrote I’m from Russia — let me just say that I clearly wrote I was Polish on that document I had to fill out. Not that I don’t get mistaken for a Russian all the time and I’m honestly fed up with it, no no.

So anyway, what did it look like? First, I was holding a piece of paper with my name written on it and had to introduce myself in Japanese to the camera. I said some basic stuff like “I’m Stasia, I live here and there, I do this and that…”. And then…? Surprise surprise -– I was supposed to eat sausage in front of the camera. That’s it.  Sounds simple, right? I got a piece of freshly cooked sausage on a plastic plate and some plastic cutlery. They told me to sit at the table “in an elegant way”, cut the sausage and eat it “as if it was the most expensive sausage in the world”. I didn’t eat breakfast that day so I was actually genuinely happy to have received some free food. I did my best to eat it as if it cost a fortune and that was it!

A few days later I received a phone call from the director. I’m still wondering how on Earth I manage to get that far without being supported by any agency and not having any acting experience. Well, either way I’m really glad they called me back!

THE REHEARSAL DAY

I arrived at a shooting studio somewhere in Kanagawa prefecture. I was really nervous, since I had no idea what it would all look like. I was waiting in the make-up room and other people starring in the commercial started coming in. The second person to come was a tall European guy and that’s when the director explained that in fact… we would be playing a happy couple. I was supposed to sit on his lap, feed him sausages and look happy. I admit it was super awkward… You know, we just met, but we had to be convincing as a boyfriend and girlfriend. He was actually a professional actor, so naturally he was really relaxed about it. I must say that all his tips and super nice attitude really helped me.

So what was next? The make-up… Well, what can I say, the stylists were Japanese and they did our make-up the Japanese way. Those eyebrows and that thick black line under my waterlines added at least 10 years to my face, but if that’s the effect they wanted to get, who am I to judge their artistic vision? I was just hoping they would modify it a bit on the shooting day.

IMG_4346_meitu_3

On the rehearsal day we practiced everything we were supposed to do the next day. There was a lot of chair spinning involved and I honestly felt sorry for my partner — he had to carry over 50 kilograms all day, not to mention spinning in the chair, eating sausage and looking happy at the same time!

Apparently, everyone starring in this particular commercial already had a lot of experience. TV dramas, walk-on parts in cinema movies, modelling, talk shows… I was the only rookie there. Besides, I don’t even watch TV so even if I met someone really famous, I guess I wouldn’t have really known? Anyway, other cast members were super friendly and nice, and it was fun to listen to their stories — photoshoot with Kimura Takuya, behind the scenes of saigen drama etc.

IMG_4348_meitu_2

We finished practicing at about 9 pm. It was really tiring — repeating same scenes countless times, with all the lights on you, where every face expression, every gesture, every little thing had to be done according to the director’s instructions. But! I had bags of fun, there’s really nothing I could honestly complain about.

***

That night we all stayed at a business hotel nearby. They had a beer vending machine, so I treated myself to a can of cold refreshing Kirin and took a long bath. There was a long day ahead of us and we all had to be at the studio at 6 am the next day.

IMG_4356_meitu_4

THE SHOOTING DAY

I am not a morning person. It wasn’t easy to wake up so early and jump into work mode straight away. Make-up and hair styling took a few hours, so we had time to grab some coffee and breakfast. Everything was there for the cast and the staff — food buffet, a little trailer with coffee and other beverages, a snack corner. We even had a person to give us bottles of water (each bottle singed with each actor’s name).

IMG_4398_meitu_3 IMG_4392_meitu_2

I was very relieved to see that they chose a lighter make-up for me on the shooting day. And I absolutely loved my hairstyle! Just look at that adorable curl!

IMG_4408_meitu_1 IMG_4417_meitu_2

We practiced our chair spin with a choreographer — everything had a certain order. Spin with no sausage on the fork → putting a small piece of sausage on the fork and showing it to the camera → putting that piece in my partner’s mouth → OMG THIS SAUSAGE IS AMAZING WOOOOW! → spin → repeat. I had a certain melody in my head to keep the right rhythm. I guess I was too focused on it, because the choreographer told us to “SHOW MORE LOVE!”And this is how we practiced showing “more love”….

IMG_4420_meitu_2

I guess we were rather successful, because after that we were told it was… “NO NO, TOO SEXY!”

We didn’t have to be out there on set all the time — as you can see in the video, there were quite a few of us, and each person had their own thing to do. Some scenes were shot separately, for some we all had to be there. That chair spinning part we had to do appears on screen for a few seconds, but trust me — the whole thing took a few hours! Knowing how much time we really spent filming and that the commercial is only 30 seconds long absolutely blows my mind! 

10454954_1085764654783664_2629424384162819620_o_meitu_1

 ***

Making a commercial requires much more time, more acting and more people than I had imagined. There were probably more than 30 staff members — the director, assistants, choreographers, scenographers, make-up artists powdering our noses every 3 minutes, special effects people (notice that fire breathing guy), people taking care of the food… They were all really lovely though. Kind, helpful, supportive… The list of superlatives is really long. Just to give you a quick example: there was supposed to be a scene where my partner and I had to dance, but I didn’t really feel comfortable with that, I swear I was born with two left feet! The choreographers understood that and came up with something else without a single word of complaint. The atmosphere was really laid-back, we could joke around and simply have fun, doing our job at the same time. 

It was my very first experience of this sort and I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t mind repeating it again one day!

(photo courtesy of Katrina )

S__9199630_meitu_1

 

Thank you for reading!♥

March digest!

I know it took me longer than usual to summarize my March adventures, but there’s a good reason for that. I came back from Korea just two days ago, where I spent wonderful 5 days — I attended my Korean teacher’s wedding, ate tons of delicious food, did some cherry blossom viewing… But that will be a good topic for my next month digest. You might wonder “How on Earth does she manage to travel so often!?”. The answer is simple — I work super hard for a few weeks to teach the mountain of lessons my managers require me to teach  (yes, they want me to teach a high number of classes even if I’d be happy enough with a lower number) and that allows me to take a few days off without getting into any trouble. That also means I didn’t exactly do that much exciting stuff in March, but there were still some things I thought were worth sharing, so here they are…

MARCH

* I’m always open to interesting offers and new experiences, so when I was asked to do some make up modelling at Vantan School of Make Up, I agreed straight away. It wasn’t really ‘my kind’ of make-up, but I was only lending my face, so it’s all good.

* Before I came to Japan, I would wear mainly dresses and skirts. I don’t think I even owned one pair of jeans. It all changed the moment I moved to Japan, which is not a country of tall people. And being only 154 cm tall, I can be sure I’ll find my size! I really love that about clothing stores here.

* Some interesting Harajuku find…

↓             ↓             ↓

S__8904773_meitu_1

* Some very interesting Village Vanguard find…

* A statue for all the blow fish of Japan that landed on people’s plates

* A super cute limited edition can of Asahi. This is how to market things in Japan, cute packaging is the key to good sales.

↓             ↓             ↓

S__8904766_meitu_2

 

* 4 sessions, about 9 hours and here’s the finished product — I won’t be modest about it and I’ll say my half sleeve is AMAZING!

* Another interesting Donki find…

* I was looking for a new carpet and I went to one household store near my workplace. I didn’t find a carpet, but I found these ridiculously adorable curtains! I don’t need new curtains though…

↓             ↓             ↓

S__8904769_meitu_3

* What would be spring in Japan without all things sakura? Sakura taiyaki had to happen and I’m glad it did, it cheered up my stomach!

* Gachapon sushi key chains are getting pretty intense these days…

* As a massive fan of BIGBANG I had to have their live concert DVD — actually the concert I went to! — on the day of its release. I had to, even if it meant running to the nearest Tower Records after work.

↓             ↓             ↓

S__8904771_meitu_4

* So this is what happened on one of the last days of March. Be sure to check out my next blog post if you’d like to see some amazing photos from that day!

* Takoyaki Russian Roulette! Rules of the game, you get 8 takoyaki octopus balls and one of them is filled with super spicy chili sauce (called Death Sauce). I thought it was the only interesting thing at a company party I kinda had to attend, but my coworker found the spicy ball and just put it away. Party pooper.

* Some sakura fluffiness somewhere in Setagaya ward. It’s a great hanami spot, but my Japanese friend, who took me there didn’t want me to reveal it online, because “everyone would start going there, and it would be crowded and not fun anymore”, so… I guess I’ll keep it a secret 🙂

↓             ↓             ↓

S__8904776_meitu_5

 

Thank you for reading! ♥

Interview with… Me?

Most of you, my readers, will know that I have studied something connected to Asia. And if you’ve been with me at least since → this post ←, you will know it was Far East Studies and Asia Pacific Studies. But what happened before I got the chance to study what I was really interested in? Unfortunately we usually have no choice but to go through High School, and although I rarely mention it, I guess I’ll make an exception today. As a Junior High school student I liked writing stuff and thought I was good at it, so when I had to choose a High School, I was sure I wanted to go to one that had a class with an extended curriculum in Polish, English and History — a so-called “journalism class”. I won’t lie and say it helped me develop my writing skills — In some way I could say it kinda almost killed them at some point (as well as my passion for History), but now my skills and passion are back, so it’s all good. Where is this all going? There were 35 of us if I remember correctly. And if I’m not mistaken, only one person has actually pursued a journalism career. A few months ago she contacted me, asking for an interview for a local magazine she works at. And I said yes.

It’s nothing big, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?!

…so here it is 🙂 (translated from Polish)

(I added some extra comments in purple)

 

t.in01369 (1)_meitu_1

In Stasia’s case, it was neither anime nor manga that sparked her interest in Japan — it was music. (In case you ever wondered, the very first music video from Japan I saw was MUCC – Saishuu Ressha) It all started with music, so different from all that was popular at that time. A unique stage look, colourful image — all that made me interested in Japanese street fashion and subcultures. An interest soon became a hobby, and a bit later something I wanted to pursue as a career. — she says.

Stasia started studying Far East Studies at Jagiellonian University, and later on Asia Pacific Studies at University of Leeds. She is linguistically talented. Her mother is Russian — as a 9 year old girl, Stasia read books for kids in Russian. (← I can still read and understand some, but sadly I don’t speak the language anymore). She studied English at school and picked up German while watching German television (It is true, although I also studied German for about 6 years — don’t remember much, but I can still get what German people on my Twitter timeline tweet about). When she started university, she started studying Japanese, but it wasn’t enough for her — she made Japanese online friends and practiced the language. (Twitter ♥)

Going to Japan was a dream that she never gave up on. Polish citizens are required to get a Japanese visa in order to live there. To obtain it, they have 3 choices: to marry a Japanese citizen, to sign up for a pricey language course or to find a job. Stasia knew that the last option was the only one she had. She decided to get work experience in companies connected to Japan. In London, she worked for a Japanese catering company serving passengers of Japanese airlines. In the evenings, she worked as a waitress at a sushi bar and her coworkers helped her practice the language. Also in London she had her first interview with the company that later hired her in Tokyo. She got the job and she could replace her tourist visa with a special visa for language teachers (Specialist in Humanities & International Services). For over two years she’s been working at the same school — she teaches both, daily conversation and business English. Among her clients you’ll find university students, housewives, elderly people, businessmen as well as kids, who show their gratitude by giving her colourful letters with cute drawings.

t.in013610

Dreams came true

 In July 2012 she moved to Japan. At the very beginning I lived in a guesthouse, in an area considered rather boring, but I still feel nostalgia for it. Tokyo divides into two parts: Yamanote — tall buildings, clubs, high brands and neon lights, and Shitamachi — which is not as fashionable, and there’s lots of stray cats and senior citizens. I lived in different guesthouses in different parts of Shitamachi for about a year. That might be a good solution for foreigners, as moving in is fast, the fees are fixed and basically it is possible to communicate in English (which is NOT common in Japan), BUT it is not something I recommend for the long run — she says and adds that none of her rooms were bigger than 7 square meters. 

***

BONUS! Here you can see all my rooms. Don’t trust the photos, they take them with a special lens that make the rooms look spacious. 

The very first room

The second room

The last room

***

After a year she managed to rent her own apartment with a small kitchen and a bathroom.  For her it was “something”, but for her Polish friends it was just a tiny room. (Okay, here I want to mention that as for Japanese standards my apartment is definitely not tiny as I have two rooms for myself, I really need to write a blog post about it…) She admits that it didn’t take that much time to get accustomed to living in a big city like Tokyo; she already knew so much about the country, its culture and Japanese peoples’ lifestyle. But it was not always perfect. — Japan is a country with an unimaginable level of bureaucracy. One needs to make lots of phone calls, visit several offices and gather a pile of documents just to get one thing done. When my Japanese was still not good enough to deal with all that, I needed to ask my friends to help me. Getting used to the working style of Japanese people wasn’t that easy either. — she mentions as she speaks about difficulties she experienced at the beginning. Now, she has no trouble communicating in Japanese. (Well, yes and no. I can have a normal conversation, make phone calls, deal with banks etc. but discussing more complicated stuff like politics is still kinda hard).

She respects Japanese for being well-organized. — Everything is in a perfect order, everybody waits patiently in line for their turn. Laws must be obeyed, absolutely not broken. If you lose a wallet or a phone, you can be sure that if anyone finds it, they’ll take it to the nearest police box (or Lost & Found office) and you’ll get it back. Clean streets, safety, life according to the ethos “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you” — she says and assures us that it’s the most convenient city in the world.

Every day is similar: full time job, studying Japanese and Korean, exploring Tokyo in search of cute cafes on her days off. Although she doesn’t have much free time, every Friday she visits an orphanage, where she volunteers (I need to add something here, recently the girl I used to spend time with got a part-time job so I can’t go that as often, but I still visit the place from time to time). She’s had some unusual adventures: she was featured in a Japanese magazine “Tattoo Girls” (it’s a magazine about tattooed Japanese women, but in the issue for 2014 a few foreign women were featured; Stasia has several tattoos), she has posed for photos a few times and took part in a TV commercial. (Read more about “Tattoo Girls” →here←. And the commercial… I can’t say anything about it yet, but when I’m finally allowed to, you can maybe expect a blog post about it?)

She writes about her life and experiences in Japan on her blog shichijyuuni.com. It’s name (shichi- 7 –> 7月, jyuuni -12 –> 12日 = the 12th of July) means the date that marks a new stage in her life. (and you can read about it → here ←)

 

t.in013611

(I skipped the part about prices in Tokyo, because I guess it won’t be interesting for you anyway if you’re not Polish)

Touches of Poland in Tokyo

After over two years as an expat, Stasia has no plans of coming back. — Japan still occupies a high position on the list of the best countries to live in and I can confirm it. And because living here is a dream that came true, I won’t give it up so quick. However, I can’t tell for sure there will be no changes some day– she says. She admits that what she misses the most from Poland is food: soups, bread, ham. This year her cravings were fulfilled at the annual Polish Festival in Roppongi, where she could buy things like Polish apple pie, sour rye soup and fruit beer — not that common in Japan. Japanese attendees could learn some more about Polish culture and customs. – I am observing more and more events connected to Poland, like the aforementioned event in Roppongi or a Polish Movie Festival that took place in Shibuya last year. In the biggest DVD rental store chain you can find more and more Polish movies, which naturally, makes me very happy– she says. 

How does she remember our city? I attended high school in Tarnow, so my memories are also typically ‘high school’. Taking a stroll in the park after classes, rock concerts, coffee in my favourite cafe, delicious waffles with whipped cream… I’ll be sure to visit all those places again, if I only get a chance to be in Tarnow again.

___________

It’s a total wall of text, so thank you if you actually spared a few minutes to read it! ♥