Let's talk about Harajuku

30.11.13 - 16:00
Takeshita dori in the rain

I did say that I would tell you more about my trip to Japan. So today I thought I'd write about visiting Harajuku.

It was one of the things I really wanted to do in Tokyo. There are several reasons for this.
- Firstly, it's where all the 'kids' who dress up in crazy fashions and costumes are meant to hang out/shop.
- Secondly there is temple there, the largest in the city set in lots of trees.
- And (secretly) it was a also a bit of a pilgrimage for me from when I was really into Lolita/Japanese fashions.

We visited a couple of times. The first time is when I took the main picture here. It was raining when we came out of the station and I saw the sign for Takeshita dori. There was some building work going on to the left, but I still recognised the pedestrianised area heading down the hill into the street.

Noa cafe, that you can see on the right, serves delicious belgian waffles. I had apple and cinnamon with ice cream.

There is a little arcade nearby where they have Puri Kura (photo booth) machines. They seem to have progressed rather since last time I used one! I wanted to have a go whilst we were away so I got everyone in the cubicle and took some pictures.

Wow, it's a complicated business. The one I'd used previously took your picture, then you could add some stars and sparkles and that, then it printed it 16 times on a little sheet of stickers. This machine took full length portraits - so you could show off your outfit I presume. The main feature of all the machines seemed to be 'beautifying', things like, smoothing your skin and giving you bigger eyes. Our pictures were hilarious, but I liked the big eyes. Mine tend to disappear when I smile. The options afterwards when we got to 'edit' them where endless and there was a time limit so I didn't have time to look up what the instructions said. Haha. They printed out as two sheets of craziness and there were even QR codes to download them too. Great fun.

Anyway, back out on the street, it reminded me a lot of Camden Town in London. There are lots of shops selling goth-y clothes and souvenirs. Also, tourists.

Then I saw Closet Child.
(Ignore this part if you aren't interested in Lolita fashion.)
Closet Child is one of the main secondhand shops for Lolita clothing. It was amazing. The clothing is in immaculate condition and so much cheaper than it would be new. I was fawning over a beautiful Baby the Stars Shine Bright winter coat that was about £100. Absolute bargain. Then I remembered I don't dress like that anymore and it wouldn't go with anything. I said a heartfelt goodbye and moved on. Le sigh. I'm kinda glad. I could have spent a fortune in there.
There are three floors, the first (upstairs) was all kinds of Lolita, the middle is goth/punk type brands.

-- As an aside, I saw Moi-même-moitié's Cathedral print in real life. The material is hideous! It was expensive too, even secondhand.--

The top floor is less flamboyant Jane Marple and mori style dresses. In fact there are a few shops selling that kind of fashion at Harajuku. Next up was bodyline. We didn't stay in there very long as it was very crowded. Possibly because they have a lot of costume stuffs and halloween was coming up and seemed to be pretty big.

I also went to La Foret and saw the little boutique areas for Alice and the Pirates, Angelic Pretty and a few others. I don't speak Japanese but I suspect that some of the stunningly dressed assistants might have been pointing out that I was too old/fat to fit in their clothes, but I just enjoyed it for my ex-lolita-self.

After I'd done looking at cute clothes, we stopped in at the Neon Genesis Evangelion shop and picked up a few bits. Evangelion is one of my Husband's favourite animes, so he was happy.

The weirdest thing I saw at Harajuku was Pet Paradise a shop just for dog clothes - as in clothes for real life little dogs. I'm not a big fan of dressing up animals, but it's a massive trend in Tokyo, I saw lots of people pushing their pups around in little carts and most of them had some kind of clothing on.

I didn't get a crepe though, so I'll just have to go back.



Berlin + travel scrapbook/journal

24.11.13 - 17:00
Fresh Jam Book.
I've been talking about Japan a lot recently, but a couple of weeks before that adventure, we visited Berlin.

Actually we had this weekend in Berlin planned for quite a while and thought it would be our only trip this year. We had a lot of fun there but it has been eclipsed some what by the awesomeness of JAPAN!

Anyway back to Berlin. We took a cheap budget flight and stayed a great hotel. I decided this would be a good occasion to try out one of my new notebooks 'in the field' so to speak, so I made a little travel journal, a bit as we went, but mainly when we got home.

Check out one of the first Jam Books in action:



Japan musings: fact or ficiton

16.11.13 - 17:00
Whenever you go on a trip somewhere, you do a bit of research right? I'd done plenty of reading up about 'how things are' in Japan and it was interesting to see which things turned out to be true and which a bit of an exaggeration.

Here are a few things I noticed:

What I read: that there aren't many wi-fi hotspots, even in Tokyo
What I found: this is still the case. We hired a portable hotspot to keep in touch and be able to check online maps etc. We used this one PuPuRu.

What I read: that everywhere was really really smokey
What I found: it was okay, less smokey than when you could smoke inside here. You can't smoke in the street in Tokyo either so, thats quite nice.

What I read: that people on the whole are very polite
What I found: that people were on the whole very considerate, though I don't speak Japanese so I don't know if anyone was rude to me verbally ;) It was noticeable in public places like food courts; if someone left something to 'save' a table, no one would move it or sit there. I saw people leave anything from  a scarf or their hand towel (a little towel for drying your hands since they don't have paper towels in public toilets) to a baby.

What I read: that it is really really expensive to buy anything; that apples are £20
What I found: Tokyo prices were similar to other capital cities I've been to. Yes there was mega expensive fruit. I don't think I really ate any fruit whilst I was there. Except those amazing strawberry sweets. They count right? I love Hi-Chews.

There are probably more things. I wrote a post about toilets - yes there are super hi-tech ones, but also super low-tech.



Japanese toilets

10.11.13 - 22:24
I'll grant you it's a little bit odd to post a load of pictures of toilets, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Before we visited Japan I had heard about the electronic toilets, but encountering them everywhere was still amusing. It's one of those things that reminds you that places are still very different from each other as the world gets smaller.

They aren't really that difficult to work out, you just don't know what it's set to do automatically when you go in the cubicle! Sometimes the lid would open automatically, or sounds would play, or the seat would warm up. Some also had automatic flush functions, which seems like a really good idea, as long as it flushes at the time it's supposed too... otherwise...

They all had bidet type options, the symbols for those functions made it pretty obvious what would happen, but I didn't encounter any facilities that wanted to do it automatically, fortunately! Apparently a good tip if you do want to use them is to make sure you are sitting down before you press any of the buttons.

One of the toilets had a little basin on the top and the tap came on automatically after it had been flushed, that was quite a useful one.

On the other hand however I saw quite a few 'Japanese toilets', these remind me rather of old French toilets, but they have a slightly better design. The traditional Japanese loo is like a hole in the floor with a flush whereas the French one is more like a shower tray. Much easier to keep your feet dry with the Japanese version ;) Sometimes there would be lots of the old style toilet, then one labeled 'western style' which was usually a normal not-electronic loo. That was mainly at parks and temples, public areas.

I prefer the ones with all the buttons to the traditional style. I'm not sure having that many options on a toilet is necessary, but I rather miss the warm seat.



Japan travel journal/scrapbook

3.11.13 - 11:16

The last couple of times I've been away I've taken a few scrapbooking supplies along with the idea that I'll scrapbook things whilst I'm still there. This hasn't really worked if I'm honest. There's never any time to do it and I can only use photos that I take with my Instax camera.

What I have found is that I like having the book there. For one, it means that it has actually been to that country/place with me. It also provides a place for me to keep all the bits of ephemera I pick up and helps me be a bit more discerning about what to hold on to (I would keep everything ever: hoarder tendencies).

The other thing I've found useful is to do the writing whilst you are there. It's a lot more difficult to write about how you felt about something before you did it, when you've done it. Obviously there is room for reflection too, you can write about what you've learned etc when you are back home.

So lets get onto my Japan scrapbook. I wanted to make it ring bound so that I could add/move pages and a size that I could put 6x4 photos in. I made most of the pages from papers in the My Mind's Eye 'Spread your wings and fly' collection. The covers are sturdy book board and I had to use a crop-o-dile hole punch to get through it!  The overall size is about 5x7 inches.

This is what it looked like before we left:                    
Empty pages.
This is how it travelled:
I keep my books in these pouches from Muji.
I stick washi tape on the outside so I don't
have to take the whole roll with me :)

Here are some of the inside pages:

I like to have a title of some kind, but I tend to leave the front cover until I get home. Choosing a photo which symbolises the trip makes it more personal and although it won't tell the whole story it generally sets the tone for the rest of the book. I love this picture. It's not really of anything, but the colours and the light take me back there in an instant.

It's not finished of course. I rarely 100% finish a project. But I've enjoyed putting it together and it made me actually print some of my favourite photos. Plus I can continue to work on it when I want to look at Japanese things, so that's a win in my book.