Japanese cosmetics review: Pure Smile ‘Edo Art’ face mask

Quick quiz: what was my last post about?

It was about one lovely town at the foot of Mt. Fuji, right? I wrote about a wide range of adorable souvenirs you can bring back with you, didn’t I? Well actually, today’s topic will be very different from what you might expect to see on my blog. I am not a beauty blogger (for that please visit UK2TokyoFamous in Japan or The Beauty Maniac in Tokyo) — but I happen to have access to all the good things Asia has to offer in the face care category. I’d share much more if I had more time to blog about my favourite beauty products (the majority of which are actually Korean), but I decided to focus on somewhat rather funky ones for now. That being said, I present you the latest fad in Japan — art face masks! Oh, and why did I mention my last blog update about Oshino Hakkai? It’s where I got all this cool stuff, that’s why 🙂 

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HOW TO USE?

1. Wash and dry your face.
2. Open the package at the top (each mask is soaked in the essence, it might drip!), place the mask on your face, aligning the holes with your eyes, nose and mouth
3. Leave it on for about 15~20 minutes

◆ using a sheet face mask 3-4 times a week keeps your skin healthy and well-moisturized 
◆ In the summer, you can keep sheet face masks in the fridge for a cool, refreshing feeling

What’s inside?

Purified water, glycerin, PEG / PPG-17/6 copolymer, hydrolyzed collagen, erythritol, Natto gum, Hamamelis virginiana (witch water), Camellia Sinensis leaf extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, xanthan gum, Portulaca oleracea extract, arbutin, hyaluronic acid, PEG-14M, disodium EDTA, methylparaben, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, allantoin, phenoxyethanol, perfume, tocopheryl acetate

Anyway! 3 most important ingredients are:

* Collagen

* Hyaluronic Acid

* Vitamin-E

(This product is not edible, in case you wondered!)

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”ほっぺ姫” face mask

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”紅だゆう” face mask

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“もみ麻呂” face mask

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I’m digging the brows ↓

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My impression?

The masks have one job — to moisturize your skin. And they do it perfectly! When it comes to skin care I trust only Korean products — I’m not saying Japanese cosmetics aren’t good, it’s just that they never really worked for me. Interestingly enough, these sheet masks are Japanese, yes, but they’re manufactured in Korea. It would be a bit difficult to use this particular kind of mask everyday since they’re pretty pricey (¥324 for one mask!), so I’ll stick to the simple plain (and cheaper) type. These masks are simply COOL, like everything in Japan. The design makes you wanna buy them and show off on your SNS. If you ask me, that’s one good marketing strategy that Pure Smile maker came up with.

Where to buy?

Souvenir shops, drugstores and good ole Don Quijote!

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There are many more posts featuring funky Japanese art face masks to come! Thank you for reading ♥

One day trip — Oshino Hakkai 忍野八海 in Yamanashi Prefecture ♥

There is one question I get asked even more often than “How come you live and work in Japan?” (which by the way I answered here←) and that’s “What do you recommend to see / do in Tokyo?”. There are endless websites with bucket lists, must-go spots etc. so I don’t think I can tell you more than you can find on your own, even if your Google searching skills are limited. However, if you searched “What to do while I’m in Tokyo” and Google decided to show you my blog, here’s my recommendation:

OSHINO HAKKAI 忍野八海

(*which is actually not in Tokyo)

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How to get there?

It’s super easy to get there and trust me, it’s totally worth the two hour bus ride. I know it might not be the most convenient form of transportation for those with terrible motion sickness (like myself), but the views from the bus window will make it up to you! They’re spectacular!

All you have to do is:

* go to Shinjuku

* find the Shinjuku Bus Terminal (map and more info)

* buy a ticket to Oshino Hakkai (here’s a timetable and some more info)

* get on the bus…

*… get off at Oshino Hakkai station and have a great day!

 I visited this amazing place when the cherry blossom trees were still blooming… Lucky me!

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Oshino Hakkai is a lovely little town located at the foot of the majestic Mount Fuji. It’s a place with picturesque views on literally every corner. It’s pretty quiet (even with countless groups of tourists) and simply perfect for those tired of Tokyo’s dynamic character.

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Beautiful!

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What is Oshino Hakkai famous for? You can read about it → here ← but if you’re feeling particularly lazy, I’ll summarize it for you in a few words. The name says it all — Hakkai 八 海 (which literally means ‘eight seas’ but) could be translated here as ‘Eight ponds’ and this is exactly what’s special about this place. Eight ponds with crystal clear water coming straight from Mt. Fuji. The water has this amazing azure colour (just like the sea, hence 海 in the name I guess) and the koi fish just add even more beauty to it. 

The place is full of cool things — just look at these traditional thatched houses! I had the opportunity to stay in the house you see below about 2 years ago, when my parents visited Japan. The houses are authentically old and spending a night in a place like that is definitely a great experience.

Ice cream!

If you ever find yourself in this magical place, I highly recommend trying some delicious ice cream. And there’s so many flavours to choose from! I decided to munch on the ultimate Japanese flavour — matcha ice cream!

Soba!

You can’t come to Yamanashi Prefecture and not try soba! I guess it’s the water that makes it so delicious — even the most basic type of soba, without any toppings, is to die for!

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Satsuma-age!

Surimi fish cake with scallop, mayo and lots of other ingredients (here’s some Wikipedia for those more interested in the topic)

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Here’s an idea for those who want to get the most out of their day in Oshino Hakkai. Find a taxi station in Oshino Hakkai and hire a cab! It’s a bit costly I admit, but you get what you pay for — convenient transport, great service and a guide who will take you to the best viewpoints and tell you a bit about each of them!

CAUTION! I have terrible motion sickness, especially in cars — a private tour is a great thing, but if you can’t stand winding roads up hills, think twice before hiring a cab. I managed to complete the tour without a bigger accident, mainly thanks to the super nice and understanding Mr. Taxi Driver, who stopped every time I felt dizzy.

1 hour ride → ¥6500

2 hour ride → ¥13000

 Here are some of the scenic spots Mr. Taxi Driver took us to…

 What can you do right before hopping on the bus taking you back to Tokyo? Shop for souvenirs! There’s a wide selection of absolutely adorable accessories, cute Mt. Fuji, Hello Kitty in kimono, Mt. Fuji chocolate cookies, countless cat accessories, funky KitKats available only in Japan etc. Loooots of absolutely kawaii things you won’t be able to leave behind.

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Have you ever been to Oshino Hakkai? No? Be sure to put it on your bucket list when you come to Japan!

Thank you for reading ♥

Shibuya’s Genki Sushi!

It’s been a while since I last documented one of my sushi adventures. I mentioned that in April and May I may have or may have not consumed mountains of sushi, but unfortunately didn’t give any info on where you can get some of this raw fish deliciousness. I won’t be selfish and I’ll share some fun sushi spots around Tokyo. I have already described my impromptu sushi adventure in Omotesando some time ago, so today it’s time I showed you one place in Shibuya I frequently visit. 

GENKI SUSHI in SHIBUYA

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ADDRESS:

 24-8, 1F, Leisure Plaza Bld.,

Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku,

Tokyo, Japan, 150-0042

MAP: *click here*

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Upon arrival you’ll get a card with your table number. Find your seat… and you’re ready to order! Genki Sushi is not really a kaiten sushi = conveyor belt sushi restaurant. You place orders using a screen and your food arrives on a tiny plate. Super easy! You can choose whether you want wasabi or not, which is actually great because I’m not really into wasabi‘s pungent taste. 

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THE MENU ( ←click on it)

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 Albacore tuna with black pepper

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Tuna with onion and spicy oil

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 Salmon roe and cucumber

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 Spicy salmon

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 Salmon

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 Shrimp with avocado, onion and mayo

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Salmon with onion and mayo

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Shrimp tempura

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 Egg

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 Dried gourd shavings maki

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 Firefly squid

(if you’re not exactly a fan of food with eyes and tentacles, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one…)

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  Cheap sushi chains often have games you can play using the screen used to place orders. I hardly ever win anything, but this time I gave it a go and won this voucher I later exchanged it for a tiny salmon roe sushi ♥

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 Would I recommend this place? It’s really touristy and the ratio of foreign and Japanese customers is probably like 7:3, so if for some reasons you don’t like that kind of place — don’t go there. They do speak English, but if you start speaking Japanese to them, they won’t pretend they didn’t hear it and they won’t continue speaking English ← and that’s definitely a good point. There’s not much interaction with the staff needed, so if all you want is a cheap sushi place with a super easy ordering system — it’s a good place to go!

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Thanks for reading!♥

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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!

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* 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.

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

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.…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.

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* 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….

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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.

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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)

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* 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.

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

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*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.

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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!

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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.

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* 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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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”….

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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! 

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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 )

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Thank you for reading!♥

How to: Budget fashion in Tokyo aka lookbook vol. 10

I’m being kind of lazy with the updates this month, I know. Let me blame it all on work and lack of time as usual again. So instead of the lengthy intro I usually write, have a short selection from my new article for Connect Magazine! 

Have you heard about “Normcore” yet? Well, if you haven’t, I bet you’re trying to figure out what it could possibly be about. It’s a word combination of ‘Normal’ and ‘Hardcore’. I know it probably made you wince, but you better get used to it, because “Normcore” is the hottest word in fashion this season! So what is it anyway? Let me put it this way — being ‘basic’ won’t be seen as an insult anymore. You can be as basic with your outfit choices as you want to be and no one can actually call you ‘unfashionable’. This spring will be all about oversized tops, plain shirts, slacks or your usual denim pants, hippie cardigans, running shoes and slip-ons. There’s a quite significant ‘back to the past’ trend going on, so you might find yourself sporting flares and a turtleneck at some point!

Read more →HERE ← (pages 25,26 and 27, check it out!). What do you think about that “Normcore” thing? I feel like it’s the perfect style for me. After all those crazy years of wearing all sorts of gothic / emo / punk / pin-up fashions, I’m pretty happy with my current closet, no matter how basic it may look. I love shirts. I’m crazy about shirts, I believe I own well over 25 different shirts. They look good with everything and I like that they give that elegant feel to any outfit. Plus they’re cheap, and as you know that is the main point of my monthly fashion updates.

 

→most recent lookbook←

Lookbook vol. 10

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1.

White shirt: It’s actually a shirt I use for work, I think I paid something around ¥500

Black pants: Honeys, ¥1990 (website)

Coat: bought at one department store in Dongdaemun for about ¥6500

Platforms: I guess you know them if you check my lookbooks regularly, but if not — I got them second-hand at MODE Off in Ueno for ¥2000

Bag: American Apparel, bought from an online discount store for ¥1900

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2.

Floral dress: I bought it in Underground Shopping Center in Gangnam Station for 10,000 won = ¥1200

Boots: Jeffrey Campbell, bought for ¥7000 at Laforet in Harajuku

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3.

Black shirt: Bershka, ¥500

Black coat: GU, ¥4000

Grey pants: bought in Dongdaemun for about ¥1600

Boots: Moussy, ¥8000

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4.

Striped shirt: bought at the same shopping center in Dongdaemun as other items in this lookbook, I paid something like ¥500

Black jacket: Bershka, ¥7500

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5.

Sweater: store in Dongdaemun, ¥400 (!)

Shorts: Mustang, bought second hand in WEGO, about ¥2000

Platform boots: Jouetie, bought second hand in Jumble Store in Harajuku for ¥3300

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6.

Blue shirt: GU, ¥1400

Jeans: Bershka, ¥1500

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7.

White shirt: GU, ¥500

Gaucho pants: Bershka, ¥5000

Black shoes: WEGO, ¥3990

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Thank you for reading!♥

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! ♥