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Dancing in the rain

Yesterday, we went to Le Baron de Paris x Colette Japan fashion festival halloween party at Shibuya’s brand new Belle Salle. I had no idea the party would be this huge – two enormous floors, one with live performance, another one VIP. Thanks to some friends we got ourselves to the VIP floor where I saw some of the famous folks from fashion and entertainment industry.

I went there with my Russian friends – Anastasia dressed as Marilyn Monroe, her sister Sophie dressed as rock star/ John Galliano, Irina dressed as red riding hood and me as queen of hearts. There was also Serezha who got dressed as Clark Kent before the superman makeover! ^-^

I took pics with some crazy folks like this dude in samba attire. He smelled like coconuts and his skin was covered in glitter.

I recognized the guy dancing next to me and drinking champagne right from the bottle as Matsuda Shota – Japanese actor from the TV drama that I was briefly in called “Hana yori dango”. It’s funny how recently I decided to make a compilation video of all my appearances in Japanese TV dramas and had to watch the entire “Hana yori dango” to be able to find myself in it and how just a few days later I meet a guy from that drama. ^-^ He was very charming and spoke very good English!

This is me and the Queen of hearts from Alice in wonderland. I initially wanted this costume but remembering last year’s torture of wearing a synthetic wig to the overcrowded Halloween party I changed my mind.

In the morning, we were returning home in a pouring rain. It was really a “Notebook” type of rain where you hardly see anything in front of you. I was soaking wet when I got home and today typhoon is keeping everyone home. Hopefully tomorrow the weather is going to be fine as there is a whole new bunch of Halloween parties in plans. ^-^

Kindle – my number one toy!

A new addition to my gadgetry – Amazon kindle, the latest generation – a courtesy of sweet husband of mine who gave it to me on my birthday!

The E ink screen is unbelievable – it looks like a page in a book, no glare even when I read in the bright sun. It’s also so slim and so light I can hold it in one hand and read in a packed train or in gym without worrying how to free my other hand to turn pages! The size and weight are perfect – I can carry it in my bag every day – not like iPad that weights me down quite a bit. And the battery is a miracle – it lasts one month on a single charge!

But the coolest thing of all is a built in WI-FI 3G which allows me not only to buy books anywhere anytime under 60 seconds but to also browse the internet for free. I can check my email or look up something in google. All I’m paying for is the price of a book, the rest is free! I’m already on my second book and I can’t stop reading. I downloaded two books that I decided not to buy a while ago because the font in the paperback was so small. With my life in front of PC screen I really have to take care of my eyes. Guess what? Kindle allows me to change the size of the font to the very very big so I could get those two books and read it in a format that was good for me, how cool is that?

Kindle is also a big space saver. In my tiny Japanese apartment, every cm is precious so buying a new book always called for a big decision on where to put it! My bookshelves were packed, the only other option would have been the floor.. The day I got kindle I got rid of all paperbacks! Now, my bookshelf is very fancy – only language, travel and art books are left and a lot of extra space to fill in. ^-^

UPDATE ON KINDLE AWESOMENESS :

It turns out I can highlight my favorite parts in the book and store them as quotes! How awesome is that? The other day, I was complaining to my husband that they only thing I cannot do with kindle is to take a pen and highlight the good stuff, but apparently not only can I do that, I can also easily access them as lists!!!! J’adore!!!!

Last weekend..

Last Saturday, my friend Vincent asked me to help him record his second live performance. He put me in charge of the video and photo shooting for the rehearsal and the official part. I was so proud of myself because it was my first time to deal with unfamiliar video equipment. I managed to set everything up within 5 minutes.

He invited a lot of musicians to accompany him which really enhanced his performance. He did his own versions of “Zombie” and “Lemon tree” – my favorite songs from the end of 90s as well as bunch of original stuff.

When it was over, we had a little after party where I got to meet some of my old friends and drink a really good wine. ^-^

Here is the picture of Vincent’s fans who also came last time. In fact, right after Vincent announced his third performance date, I saw them buying tickets online using their mobile phones. I think he is ready to build an army. ^-^

The next day, I felt like catching a cold so I stayed home and watched DVD the whole day. Recently, I rent everything online so watching an actual DVD is something I didn’t do in three years. ^-^ I rented a movie I so shamelessly happened to miss two years ago. It’s called  “2 days in Paris” and directed by one of my favorite director/actress/singer/songwriter prodigy Julie Delpy.  Her new movie is reminiscent of my generation favorite “Before sunrise” and “Before sunset” sequel only her version is much more bold and stripped from any kind of embellishment that is so typical for any Hollywood movie. This movie is what I call a “lyrical comedy” where things are shown exactly the way they are. I especially loved the scene where a Boyfriend is trying to put a condom on and a Girlfriend is taking her glasses from a night stand, puts them on and tries to help him under the sheets. It’s so funny and so real – I can relate to almost any scene in that movie especially to the arguments about the cultural differences and cries for acceptance. The soundtrack was written by Julie herself and it’s really great too! Watching French movies makes me want to learn French so bad! Three words I learned watching the movie : Soiree, Genial and Arrêt – only a trillion more to go. ^-^

This movie proudly goes into my top ten!

I also must have been slightly depressed on Sunday since I rushed into organizing stuff. I discovered a big bag full of old postcards I purchased at museum gift shops over the years and decided to use them as my toilet decoration. ^-^

I’m going to rotate them every month since I have hundreds more. ^-^ Me and my husband are frighting over whose postcard goes to the wall. For now, it’s six mine and five his. I won! ^-^

Birthdays!

Autumn is the birthday season for me and the majority of my friends, we are all surprisingly born between the middle of August and the middle of December so this particular time of year, we get to party every few weeks.

After my brother’s, my husband’s, my father’s, Zhenya’s, Dalrae’s, Sergey’s and a couple of other friends’ birthdays, Gow’s was next on the line. ^-^ We chose a nice terrace restaurant “Denrokuen-tei” at the top floor of Parco in Shibuya. It served really tasty Japanese food and a great variety of cocktails.

In Tokyo, there aren’t many open space restaurants so you really have to try hard to get a table there but luckily this time we could easily make reservations and get the best possible table right in the middle of the roof, surrounded by small water pools.

Every year, I get Gow a new “Birthday” accessory and every year she absolutely hates it! It’s so much fun to torture her like that! ^-^

After Parco, we moved to a Spanish bar called “Casa del Bueno” which served an amazing carpaccio. We had a couple of bottles of wine and ate like ten plates of meat. ^-^ The atmosphere of the restaurant was great, my recommendation to anyone who is looking for a cozy place in the chaotic Shibuya!

Next birthday was mine. After having so much fun during my birthday week, I didn’t have the energy for a big party so this time it was just me and my girls.  At first I wanted to celebrate it at the Opening ceremony’s potluck cafe but the place looked too huge and too cold for a small company so I settled on the good old Demode queen terrace cafe.

Mia’s birthday was the next day after mine so we celebrated it together. ^-^

Plus, I finally got to meet Lucy – my new friend from Scotland who speaks perfect Russian and I mean perfect! I met her at an audition and for the first 10 minutes we talked, I was sure she was some chick from Moscow. ^-^ Then, she told me she was Scottish – I couldn’t believe my ears. Shame on me for wasting my life writing blogs when I could use the time to study harder..

After getting drank with tons of really bad mojito we finished the evening at the S bar, my recently favorite hangout! Where else would you get 500 yen lemon beer at a terrace bar that has its own DJ?

Then, there was Jiye’s birthday which we celebrated at my place. She came together with her husband and I also invited Dalrae to introduce my two best Korean friends to each other.

I cooked a nice Russian dinner – cutlets with mushroom sauce, baked potato and green salad with sour cream. We drank crazy Japanese cocktails from cans and talked about all things Korea. It was a lot of fun.

Who is next? The rest of my friends! ^-^

Journeys in Japan – Izu, Shuzenji

The climax of my birthday week was a trip to Izu peninsula. I have been planning to go there for a long time but because it is really far and because there is only one road that is always so crowded, it is rather difficult to make the trip in one day. You either have to stay overnight or go there for just a few hours, much more you would spend in a traffic jam on the way back to Tokyo. I chose the first option. ^-^

There was a very famous mountain road called “Izu skyline” with gorgeous viewing points every few kilometers. I really enjoyed driving it while listening to the Thievery corporation – such an adrenaline! But it was the meanest most unforgiving road I have ever seen. At some places, it was so narrow I had to stop to let cars from the opposite direction go through. Plus there was a never-ending cliff on the other side – one small steering mistake and you are flying high in the sky. Just the “Nanadaru” loop bridge alone scared the hell out of me – two 360 degree loops above the deep valley!

Our first stop was Shirahama – the closest white sand beach to Tokyo. Most of the beaches around Tokyo are not sandy or at least don’t have this microscopic white sand that you can find in Odessa or Italy. Last time I remember seeing a flawless white sand was in 1998 on Golden bay beach in Malta. Ever since then, I have been on many gorgeous beaches but none of them were quite as white and clean. I can’t say Shirahama is just as great but I believe it’s the best beach I have seen near here so far. Even in Okinawa, our hotel’s beach was nowhere near as nice. It was also a delight to see the beach completely deserted, few surfers didn’t count.. I keep repeating myself but really, if you want to enjoy spending time on the beach in Japan, go off season.

The wind was terrible though. It blew the sand into everything I had on me but of course it couldn’t force me to abandon one of my favorite traditions – reading on the beach. Plus, I had my brand new kindle with me so I had to try it out. Even with the direct sunlight, I could see the kindle screen perfectly like a page in a book. I have never been this happy about any of my toys before! Kindle rocks! ^-^

After the beach, we drove to the famous Perry road, named after Commodore Mathew C. Perry who arrived to Japan in 1853 with a request to open Shimoda port for the US trading ships. His visit resulted in a peace treaty that ended the era of Japan’s isolation from the rest of the world.

The street is very old and remained the same as it was, only now, instead of brothels and tea houses, there are small cafes, antique stores and old hippie music shops that sell Janice Joplin early edition LPs and play reggae nonstop.

This was one of the small antique cafes that I really fell in love with. It used to be a brothel and you can still see the beautiful kimono of the courtesans that lived there. The shop was selling bunch of stuff – furniture, pottery, dry flowers, paintings as well as old marine memorabilia like fishing boat flags. You could look around or sit down for a cup of coffee or tea – they didn’t serve anything else. Beside me and my husband, there were two other men chatting about the old times – I sensed they were regulars.

I discovered stacks of old magazines from the 70s and 80s – celebrities with wicked hair, crazy fashion and young Hollywood stars that are now old and forgotten like my childhood’s favorite actress Goldie Hawn. I wish there were places like that in Tokyo, where the time stops and every inch has a story to tell. Or maybe they are just waiting to be discovered.. ^-^

At last, we have arrived to our stay, ryokan called “Kikuya” – an old resort with Japanese and European traditional styles intertwined with each other which I find quite typical for this area (Izu, Hakone, Karuizawa, Yamanashi, etc) . These places used to be and still are the summer residences of Japanese Upperclassers who a century ago were the first ones to be influenced by and then to introduce foreign culture into their every day lifestyle. So naturally, even now, many resorts are filled with antiques and other artifacts of once glamorous summerings.

The hotel is built right above the small but very busy river – you can constantly hear the sound of water multiplied by hundreds of tiny waterfalls that run through the stones. Our room had a small patio and a cottage like appeal – very relaxing.

We have arrived in the evening so our check-in was almost immediately followed by a gorgeous Japanese style feast with tiny dishes coming one after another, served by a gracious old lady in kimono who spoke perfect English (just in case!). The dinner was delicious and featured a lot of seasonal offerings like Ginkgo tree berries and kaki pickles and fresh catch.

Traditional Japanese dinners always consist of fresh sashimi, fried fish, tempura, nabe and soba or udon with extras like meat and variety of vegetables all dishes served in their own uniquely design plates and bowls.

After dinner, we went to the onsen and I got lucky again – not a single annoying old lady trying to speak to me while we both are shamelessly exposed. ^-^ I was completely alone and could enjoy 1 hour of solitude inside the steaming rotemburo bath.

The hotel provided the full yukata attire for the best onsen experience – not only yukata itself but also a cute little bag with towels and other necessary accessories – different depending on the sex of customer – so thoughtful! ^-^ The top and the skirt were actually separated – it was so easy to use!

This is me in our little patio early in the morning. I just came from the onsen and decided to do a little fashion show for my husband. ^-^

The next day, after breakfast we went for a walk around Shuzenji. We walked along the river and found a cute little shrine and a Russian orthodox church almost next to each other.

In old places like this, you are likely to find an old-fashioned Japanese lemonade called Ramune which is widely known for the distinctive design of its bottle that is sealed with a marble instead of a plastic cap. To open such bottle, you need a special device that would push the marble inside. It then rattles in the bottle while you drink the lemonade – perfect attraction for the children. Ramune was originally created in Kobe but by a foreigner. Now, it is one of the symbols of summer in Japan along with a  yo-yo balloon and a goldfish.

After Shuzenji, we took a drive to Cycloland – a typical bubble-time theme park where you can enjoy all sorts of bicycle rides and bicycle related attractions. As lame as it sounds, it offers a really picturesque 5 km mountain course ride with your own choice of bicycle from an extensive collection of famous and even rare cycling brands from all over the world.

I chose my bicycle by color which was a big mistake – I could barely move on the uphill, sweating like crazy. I seriously have no idea how my husband does 100 km each weekend.

I then changed to his De Rosa bike which was worth 7 grand – 10 times more than mine and it really made all the difference. I could climb and at last finish the course. I was really proud of myself.

We didn’t stay for the rest of attractions but went straight to Hakone to my favorite susuki spot called “Sengokuhara”.

It’s a huge field of only pampas grass and nothing else. A couple of years ago, I had a photoshoot there and ever since, I am in love with the scenery. Susuki grass is a symbol of autumn in Japan. You can often see it as a decoration for the Tsukimi (Autumn moon viewing) setting.

That’s the susuki picture from 2004 or so..back when I could afford to wear almost no makeup…^-^

Our trip back to Tokyo was as promised quite painful – it was the longest I have ever been behind the wheel. But now I almost feel like an experienced driver. Where should I go next?

Jessica’s wedding after party

A couple of weeks ago I went to Jessica’s wedding after party at a posh club in Ginza. I first met Jessica when we were working together at Sma-station 5. To me she was always a girl with perfect nails – beautiful intricate designs each week. I always adore and respect women who can take care of their nails – something I have neither patience nor desire to spend money for..

We are now both married to our boyfriends back then so I feel connected to her. I was of course thrilled to receive an invitation.

Earlier that week, my Korean friend showed me her pictures from a wedding party she attended wearing beautiful Marc Jacobs dress. Immediately I knew I had to ask if I could borrow it but instead, she gave it to me! It was too big for her and she bought it on sale in LA so it was an easy loss for her and a great find for me! It fits me perfectly!

There were a lot of guests I didn’t know but all very friendly and easy to talk to – they all could speak English.

Traditionally there are always some crazy tequila games and I was asked to participate in one.

Me and tequila are not friends so after I lost – everything went funny including my camera even though I wasn’t the one holding it. ^-^

I mean seriously, after tequila that’s how everything looked to me – I guess me and my Lumix are soulmates because it reflects my mood perfectly. ^-^ I had a lot of fun that night!

Trip to Enoshima

A few weeks ago, me, Laura and Vincent went to Enoshima for our last dip into the ocean before the season was over. Summer houses were already closed but because of that there were only a few people on the beach – the best condition ever (you can actually see the color of the sand)! ^-^

There were a lot of birds though – seagulls, crows and huge hawks that happened to attack Laura. One of them went down and tore a chunk of her sandwich – crazy!

She gave me a gorgeous new XOXO bikini that tripled my boob size because she really hated my flat MJ one I wore last year.  So I went into the water and modeled it for her. ^-^

And these are the pics she took of my brand new Rachel Pally beach dress. I bought it online in spring but didn’t dare to wear all summer. Despite the fact that I bought size XS, the dress was too big for me in every single way (either jersey or Rachel Pally’s sizing went really wrong). To fix the hem alone would have cost me 80$ – half of the dress price so after hesitating and quite frankly almost throwing it away, I took my scissors and just cut 15 cm off it. The hem now is horrible but at least I can wear it. ^-^

In the end it got really dirty and heavy with water so I had to change into my always favorite Abercrombie attire. ^-^

So all we did that day was just stay in water and play with birds.. I always feel so blessed to have such peaceful moments in my life.. Just me and my friends, white sand and salty wind – what else do you need?