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Nezu museum in Minami Aoyama

On Saturday me and my husband went to see a small exhibition at “Littlemore chika” gallery in Harajuku. It was a tiny place in the basement of an apartment building. The exhibition displayed a photo collection by Imai Tomoki called “Light and gravity”.

Most of the photos were of pine trees in winter forest with sunlight intertwined with the branches. Some of the photos looked like they were taken in North-west forests of Karelia – a historical region between St.Petersburg and Finland. I often go there with my mom who is a big mushroom freak. ^-^

This beautiful lake reminded me of Tori Amos song “Winter”.  Even though the lyrics don’t actually describe any type of landscape, I somehow thought of it when I saw the photo.

This is a typical mansion window but it makes a pretty picture because of the soft light that makes everything inside the room look so serene and so still, like the time stopped for a moment. I often witness such calmness in the room whenever I stay home in the afternoon when the sun sets and the room get filled with this soft evening glow.

After the exhibition I got inspired and decided to go snap some pictures nearby. I went down my usual shopping route towards Shibuya through Omotesando.

This is a naked Gingko tree in front of Louis Vuitton shop.

This is relatively new Chloe – Cartier building right next to Prada.

Beautiful gates of Yoku moku cafe in front of Issey Miyake’s store.

Plum tree in front of former Marc by Marc Jacobs shop.

And this is me wearing my favorite nerd glasses. ^-^

I went all the way down to Minami Aoyama area and saw that the old museum of fine arts that was closed for renovations has been finally opened and renamed into “Nezu museum”. Now, it has a beautiful buidling designed by famous architect Kuma Kengo, the same one who designed Roppongi’s Midtown. The design carries the concept of “wa” – harmony throughout its elements. This is an entrance decorated with both living and crafted bamboo and pebble stones.

Grass is used to decorate the interior of the building as well making a harmonic transition of nature from outside to inside.

Next to museum, there is a big traditional Japanese garden with Pines, Cedars, Gingkos, Cherry and Plum trees.

Because it’s winter everything looked very quiet to me – dark shadows lying still on the surface of small pond, water running down the shishiodoshi in a rhythmical song,  deserted tea house, old leaves resting undisturbed around the cold rocks and bamboo fences..

I’ve heard a German guy behind me telling to his companion: Many people who once visited Japan came back home with a desperate idea to re-create Japanese garden on their premises but they failed every time. It’s something that requires craftsmanship not just inspiration..

Plum trees have already began blooming. The smell is incredible. I could just stand there for hours breathing in the scent of flowers…

The admission to the museum is quite pricey. 1200yen for the entrance but it includes the viewing of the garden so I think it’s worth it. I can just imagine how it will look in spring and autumn. In every season it surprises you with something new and breathtaking.

Wonders of daily life

Back when I just came to Japan I used to work with two other foreign interns who helped me a lot during my adjustment period and taught me everything I needed to know to start programming. One of them was Cang – my Canadian buddy. Ever since he left the company he was visiting Tokyo every three of so years and he came again last week for snowboarding…(yeah, my thought exactly..Why would a Canadian guy go to Japan for snowboarding and bring all his gear with him?) Nonetheless he came and I was thrilled to see him. He hasn’t changed at all, not a single aging feature, quite scary actually.

I took him and his friends to Korean restaurant in Shibuya. We started to talk about traveling so I shared my favorite story about how last year I was going to fly to Patagonia through the US changing planes at LA airport and how I had to come up with another route because the transit visa cost too much time, money and nerves. I went on and on about how they wanted my family’s passports and prove of properties and financial background and how they charge you for every call you make and how you can only ask one question per inquiry. My bitching was brutal, all true – but brutal. It was then that I found out that one of Cang’s friend is working close to immigration department. I was seriously scared for myself. I still plan to go to the US some day so I really hope poor girl didn’t take it personally…

Then, I got hooked up on Cheburashka mania. I mean. it was always my favorite toy when I was growing up – it was actually the first toy I ever received but then recently with all the Japanese attention to the little guy and me obviously living in the country of “kawaii” for way too long time, I joined the obsession and got myself a limited edition Dotour coffee mug with white Cheburashka on it. Oh and it’s not white, it’s just covered with snow. How cute is that? There is the whole cover story on his new look. Cheburashka went to crocodile Gena’s place to give him his Christmas present – a hat but it was snowing heavily so he got covered in show. When Gena saw him, he didn’t recognize him at fist but then they laughed it off and exchanged the gifts and that’s how Cheburashka got his red scarf. The coffee mug was available in every Dotour coffee shop but was sold out the first day it was out – and that’s pretty normal in Japan. You should see the lines every time Christian Dior releases a limited edition makeup pouch! ^-^ Everything limited and hard to get is like a honey to the bee for these folks. And I am all the same because I had to get that mug and so I bought it at yahoo auction for double the price…Now, I am proudly going to use it in the office!

And to continue on the mania and Japanese consumer ability to easily pay ridiculous amount of money for something you can get cheaper elsewhere, here is my experience with Abercrombie and Fitch – a preppy, all-american apparel brand that I am so hooked up on and that I truly despise for that. I used to get it online at their official site. Luckily they shipped the clothes to Japan. Then, when they opened their first flagship store in Tokyo, their website suddenly became unavailable for my sad little Japanese IP address. Instead, I was being re-directed to Abercrombie Japan where I could buy all the same stuff as on the US site but with a “slight change” in price. Here is a little example. These are the jeans that I wanted to buy  – in the US they cost 70$ which is roughly 6200yen and here is how much they cost in Tokyo – 19200yen.

The difference is 13000yen!!!!!!! Can you believe it? And yet it’s true. So of course at first I tried to use public proxy service that basically hides your IP address so you can access US site but then it doesn’t let you run any scripts for free so you can’t actually purchase anything. Then, I called my mommy and cried for help. She could access US site from Russia and buy the jeans for me using my credit card and my Japanese address without any problems at all! And that’s how I fooled Abercrombie Japan. There is just no way I am paying three times more for the same jeans. By the way, I found out that if you access US site via public proxy and then contact customer service by email or phone, they can still accept your order even if it didn’t come through web form. How cool is that? Go to Ginza, try on stuff – find your size and then buy it online. Even with delivery fee it’s still gonna be much cheaper!!

On thursday I had lunch with my girls. Lille went to Thailand and brought us back cute little tshirts. Little miss naughty for me, Little miss chatterbox for Gow and little miss stubborn for herself. These are so true – she couldn’t say it any better! We are planning to wear them for our next outting. ^-^

Just another sunday

Ebisu metropolitan museum of photography is one of my favorite places in Tokyo. It always hosts interesting exhibitions and many of them are free. Till last year it held an annual Media art festival – one of my favorite events. Unfortunately this year I missed it because it was moved from March to February but I managed to see another one similar to MAF. It’s called International festival for arts & alternative visions. It’s gonna run for 10 days and will held exhibitions, screening programs, live events and lectures from artists all over the world. This year’s theme is called “searching songs”. Each artist displays their work as a “song” using various visual images as a language to address many past and present issues. Some were quite disturbing like a young Japanese girl who spoke with a male voice about war experience like it was her own. Then, there was a white naked room with black sitting blocks and blinking light. You are to sit there and listen to the whispers that travel around the room. The amplitude of sound varied dramatically and with sync to the blinking light. I couldn’t spend there more than 30 seconds without my mind starting to go to the dark place but some people sat there for a long time, with their head low and their eyes closed..

My favorite part was of course photo exhibition – the silent story through the pictures of silhouettes and shadows told by
Henri Cartier-Bresson or Polaroid collection of old cinemas. Faded and deserted Majestic or Odeon could tell so much about their days of glory through the torn hand-drawn posters and broken neon lamps. Then, there was a movie of a busy street taken upside down where the shadows turned into people who created them. There are many worlds within worlds, everything has it’s own story, even our shadows have lives of their own. The power of visual image is endless and so incredible..

After museum, we went for a walk in Ebisu garden place. It was very cold but sunny – I could feel spring in the air.

We had lunch at Subway. They’ve got this new sandwich – with burger made from grilled vegetables and tofu. It’s perfect for me so I’m gonna feed on it till Easter. ^-^ It’s tasty and has no meat, fish, eggs or milk. I’m happy I could find something that can keep me going during fasting period.

In the afternoon, I ran into my friend at Isetan so we went to eat mochi – japanese sweets made from rice powder and anko paste. It’s really nice and healthy and again doesn’t contain anything animal. There is this really good shop in Shinjuku, next to Marui sports. Right now, they are selling seasonal strawberry buns and white anko paste mochi.

News about news

Two weeks ago, Serezha came to the shooting wearing a black and white plaid shirt, the very same one that we found later that day on some random guy who walked into our studio during set change. It was kind of funny so we took a picture. Then, yesterday when the show went on air, internet forums exploded with posts from Serezha’s fans desperately trying to find the same shirt. Apparently he is setting the trends around Tokyo. It was funny to see how an ordinary UNIQLO shirt can cause such hysteria. I wouldn’t be surprised to find it sold out pretty soon, hehe.

Then a week ago we went to check fashion crowd at United Colors Of Benetton event at La fabrique – the usual place for this kind of gatherings. It was nothing special, not like the last time I was there for Levi’s x Nylon party – this time only couple of models, some fashionistas, mostly staff and sales people.There wasn’t much coverage although media was present and we even got our picture taken for some sort of report.. We just stood there drinking and talking till it was time to go home. ^-^

Then on Monday, we had our second to last shooting for “テレビでロシア語”. We usually finish around 5 and go home right when Dima comes for his “survival guide” shooting. We never saw him in action till yesterday. He usually does 2 to 4 shows in a day so the lines he has to memorize are 4 to 8 pages long. It’s much harder for him to deliver because he doesn’t get the breaks like we do. While Serezha is talking to the camera, I can sneak a peak into my script. Dima on the other hand has no such chance and has to say line after line till he is done with the block. What surprised me the most was his ability to be absolutely relaxed. I mean he was joking around the whole time. I usually start to panic when the 10, 9, 8, …countdown starts but he was flirting with our director till the silent 2,1 and then delivering the lines perfectly.

While Dima was finishing up, me and Serezha got an opportunity to see the inside of NHK newsroom. It’s pretty hard for outsiders to get in so I couldn’t miss such chance. The place was huge, divided into mini sections by functions such as news traffic control, correspondent operations, media translations, news writing section, news priority section and finally a small dark room with huge red lamp that read “on air”. That’s where a newscaster sat and delivered news.  When we came in, Halle train accident footage in different languages was on most of the screens. Next to them were sitting translators and newswriters who assembled the story and then moved it further up the chain. I saw a big world map with pictures of correspondents resigning in each country. Guess who had the most of them? The one and only drama queen – the US. Russia had three, Africa had one.

There was also the room called “Otomari” – stay-in for the night. Poor folks live in that newsroom for days or maybe weeks. That’s why in Japan there is only one greeting among media people – “Ohayou gozaimasu”. For them, it’s always good morning.

After NHK, three of us had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Dogenzaka and then coffee at starbucks. We spent two hours talking about dreams and achievements. That’s when I found out that Serezha is a big fat overachiever. He took second place in the national Russian literature contest and finished high school with gold medal which is something like valedictory in the US. Then, he graduated from University with red diploma – 100% of excellent grades.It’s such a mystery to me how can such a smart guy who is also a part time model and TV personality cannot find a job in Tokyo. I wish luck will come his way soon enough to reach him before he is completely given up…

Not yet spring..

Last weekend me and the company I work for went to a “gasshuku” – corporate outing to Chiba. Rich companies usually choose Okinawa or even abroad for their semi-annual meetings but then again some companies don’t do it at all and as much as I appreciate my weekends off, once in while it is kinda nice to go out with the whole company and do something fun together. I love Japanese suburban landscapes and I love trips out of Tokyo – that’s where I start to see trees and other wonders of nature. My friend has bought this new Italian film for his camera so we went to try it out during lunch break and after a much-heated discussion about how all Windows PC should die, at least in our company and preferably within this year.

I found this beautiful tree so I absolutely had to climbed it. It already started to wake up from winter sleep. Here and there I could see the leaf-buds.

The film is really interesting. It gives you this vintage effect like old Polaroid.

This was the last shot on the way back to the hotel. I like it because you can see my brand new bag there. It was 70% off at Zadig et Voltaire – my favorite French brand that is slowly dying in Japan because of the intense competition.. The design is featuring zippers all around it – similar to Alexander Wang tote bags..And it’s purple! ^-^ I love it!