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Christmas Illumination in Midtown and Roppongi hills

Yesterday, me and my husband went for a walk to see Christmas illumination in Roppongi hills and Tokyo Midtown – two architectural marvels in the heart of Roppongi.

Each year, they come up with a different theme and every time it is something original and executed at a highest level. You know how Christmas lights are sometimes just thrown on trees? Well, here in Japan, they are all carefully wrapped around each branch of the tree making it look absolutely magnificent. Today, I went to the gym and right there in front of it was a huge tree all wrapped in lights, every big branch and I just felt such a big respect and admiration to those workers who did all that in just one night because in Japan, all Christmas decorations are being established and then demolished overnight so nobody would see the messy work behind such beauty.

So, Roppongi hills went with blue theme this year calling it “Artellegent Christmas” sponsored by Samsung electronics. Last year, it was Tiffany and all the lights were red. The main spider square was decorated with thousands of ethereal looking candles.

Then, Keyakiza alley trees were as usual all lightened up with blue lights.

And just to make my point about meticulously decorated trees, here is the picture of one:

Mori garden had a huge chandelier installation right in the middle of the pond, really breathtaking. Here is the detailed information on all the illumination spots in Roppongi hills: http://www.roppongihills.com/feature/christmas2010/02.html

Then, we moved to Tokyo Midtown which is like 10 minutes walk from Roppongi hills.

Their Starlight garden was even more spectacular and that is something you absolutely have to see. The installation was sponsored by Emirates airlines and it had smoke and flying pixie dust and crystal-like illumination.. I was mesmerized like a child!

The trees around Ritz Carlton hotel in Midtown were decorated into sparkling champagne glasses or so it looked to me. ^-^

I just love Christmas and in Tokyo where Christmas is just another reason to spend tons of money, its celebration is elevated to the level I have never seen before. Its not really related to religion – you won’t see any nativity scenes in the city but if you are looking for an original and artistic Christmas experience, Tokyo will definitely inspire you.

The details on Midtown Christmas attractions: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/jp/xmas/2010/illumination/index.html

There is another spot I want to visit – the new Marunouchi international forum near Tokyo station. I bet their decorations are one of a kind as well..

A triple birthday party in Shibuya

A few weeks ago, three of my Russian friends had their birthdays only a few days apart so we decided to celebrate them all together at the same time in a cozy Italian restaurant in Shibuya.

For any restaurant that profits partly on its ambient atmosphere, 8 foreign girls and especially Russian can mean only one thing – lots of noise, so they immediately offered us their VIP room – separated from the rest of the dining hall, dark and gloomy. In normal circumstances I would prefer that but I was with girls who wanted to party so a small dark lonely room just wouldn’t do. ^-^

We picked a big table in the corner of the main room and in return asked for wine to keep coming nonstop. ^-^

I’ve met with the girls on various modeling jobs because remember if you are a young foreign girl or boy living in Tokyo, you can score yourself almost any modeling job you want, from a national Mazda commercial to a 25 meter high billboard on a big Department store. So I’ve met Natalie (on the right) when we both had to portray Greek Goddesses for Sanma’s 50th birthday (big Japanese celebrity comedian). Then, I’ve met Anastasia and Inna on Sma-Station (Japanese variety show hosted by a famous boy band singer) that we did together for a very long time.

The rest of the girls were their friends – all working models. You can probably see all of them in every wedding catalog or magazine out there.

After Italian restaurant, we went to my favorite Spanish bar and had some more wine. They even let us into their wine cellar to make our own selection.

Both, Natalie and Anastasia are experts on wine so it was fun choosing it together. Anastasia even took sommelier classes. ^-^

It was nice drinking with the girls because even after four bottles of wine, none of them lost control. Our conversation did become slightly inappropriate though but that’s a given. ^-^

Tokyo Design festa autumn 2010

Two weeks ago, I woke up on a Sunday morning with a strong desire to go somewhere and do something and yet out of all the days when my schedule is usually so packed, that particular day I had absolutely no plan.

In times like this, Tokyo art beat and everyone’s beloved Facebook are the two great sources for “where tos and what to dos”. Surely soon enough, I discovered Design festa at Tokyo Big sight! I have always wanted to go to this event which is organized every half a year to introduce the creative works of Tokyo’s many designers, artists, performers, musicians and craft masters.

I was absolutely amazed with everything I saw and as a girl who easily gets inspired by the greatness of other people, I immediately started to play in mind various scenarios of me one day displaying my own work. ^-^ I would love to use my blog to show some of my creative work but due to Japan’s strict copyright laws I cannot…because everything that I have ever created belongs to my clients and since my clients are usually charging users to use my products, there is no way I can display them anywhere else for free.. So if I am ever to show something, it would have to be done from scratch and entirely for that purpose which requires a lot of motivation to sit in front of computer on top of the crazy hours that I already do..Hopefully, one day I will have enough time to let my fantasy run free and create something nice that I can also possibly sell to someone, hehe! Luckily, I already have like 10 business plans for that magic time in my life! When, oh when do I start working for myself?..^-^

For a very long time, I was really impressed with the creativity of Japanese people. Only recently, upon my discovery of etsy.com I have realized that there is a lot of talent and craftsmanship in every country and that there are thousands of unrecognized designers who create way much better stuff than some of the world’s renowned jewelry brands or fashion houses. Seriously, just go to etsy.com and check the silver owl earrings. Then, compare it to Marc by Marc Jacobs and Gorjana owl earrings and you would see the same quality, only the etsy earrings would be sterling silver, no plate – real silver and they would cost three times less than the brand ones. ^-^ When it gets to buying jewelry, etsy should be your first and last stop – period!

I took some snapshots of cute Japanese girls displaying their art work. Many of them were using themselves as principal models or centerpieces for their installations.

One girl was selling postcards with the cutouts of her grandfather’s head. It was so cute and endearing. Who would think of that? How do people come up with such ideas? Amazing!

Many artists were creating their pieces on spot and some even offered custom work like this guy who was drawing portraits on big wood panels.

There were makeup artists offering artificial scars for free and they had the biggest waiting line. The scars and wounds they were creating looked so realistic, I couldn’t tell it was makeup even from a very close distance.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures but here is a video I found on youtube:

This guy was oblivious to everything that was happening around him, he just painted and painted his beauty, completely absorbed in his own private world..

These handmade dolls were amazing, so delicate, so fragile. There is a whole town in Tokyo called Akihabara where you can buy various parts like hair, fingers, glass eyes etc to create your own dolls like that. Once, I found myself in one of these shops and I was really shocked with the crowd who shopped there (yes, that’s a given, you have to be a freak to carry this much dedication to create something like that) but also with the variety of tiniest little parts you could buy to manufacture something absolutely unique. Japanese are the most patient and devoted people I’ve ever met!

This guy was my favorite. He was carving Japanese personal seals “hanko” on small pieces of marble and each one had taken him only a couple of minutes to complete.

He made one for me. It says “Natalia” in Japanese alphabet Hiragana. In Japanese, all foreign words and names are usually written in Katakana – a special alphabet created  for that sole purpose. So, whenever a foreign word or a name is written in Hiragana – traditional Japanese alphabet, it creates a kind of artistic spirit about it. I am going to use this hanko for my art work instead of signature! ^-^

My next stop was at a small Bonsai arrangement booth. A few years ago, my husband bought me a Bonsai tree from the shop in Jyugaoka – the very same one that was displaying work at Design festa. It is run by a cute little old man who gave me a lecture on the care of my “furosou” moss arrangement before selling it to me. He does Bonsai workshops every week and also personally replies to every email so if you are thinking of buying a Bonsai tree, he is the person to ask all the questions to. ^-^

Thats’s his website: http://www.sinajina.com/

I have a little shelf at home where I display all my treasures. That’s where my Furousou moss arrangement went, right next to the rocks that I collected from the Grey Glacier in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia. ^-^

There were some foreigners at the festa as well, displaying mostly their graphic designs and paintings and giving out business cards and hopes of making it big in Japan. I believe some of their work was of the same high standard and surely deserved attention. If you are lucky to sell your character in Japan, you are golden. ^-^

That’s how I met Meghan – my facebook friend from New York and her boyfriend Alex who is not only an artist but also musician. They each presented their brands Ruby Winkle and Optivion – dark but beautiful art that I really liked. I got their prints for free – thanks you guys!

Here are their websites:

http://www.rubywinkle.com/ (Meghan’s cute character Ruby Winkle)

http://www.optivion.net/ (Alex’s Optivion)

In the evening, me and my husband gathered our precious finds and went to watch sunset in the park next to the Big sight.

The park was created as a part of Tokyo disaster prevention program. That’s where people would gather in the occurrence of a big earthquake or some other disaster. Underground, there is an intricate backup system, above, it is a nice green space with a few helicopter landings and a huge field to play soccer or enjoy picnics..

Tokyo’s Big sight was hosting another event that day – Career fair. It is organized several times a year for 3rd year undergraduates who are looking for employment. In Japan, students start to look for job a year before their graduation and if you haven’t found one, next year you chances are going to be even smaller so many unlucky ones decide to take on an extra year at the University or join an abroad program to procrastinate their graduation and therefore have enough time to find a job. I was amazed at the number of students who came in that day. Tokyo fashion blog captured a picture of them standing patiently in line to enter the expo:

My friend Serezha found his present job this way and come to think of it – me too. I visited a career fair in “Zimniy manezh” in St. Petersburg where I learned about various internships abroad and applied just for the fun of it. A month later I got a call, then passed three exams, participated in a culture shock training program, got matched with an IT company, passed exam again and finally landed an internship in Japan. ^-^

Takayama fudou hiking

On Sunday, I went for a hike through Takayama fudou area together with my husband and friends from work.

The weather was great, a kind you would experience in Karelia in the middle of September – neither cold nor warm with the perfect stillness in the air and the rich smell of moss and while berries. Old leaves crunch under your feet as you walk and you can see them falling down all around you like a silent rain. There was a morning fog hiding among the thick pine trees and the distant whisper of water echoing on the background – a true native element for a girl born into the Northern autumn. Needless to say, I do tend to embellish everything that is autumn because to me it is the perfect season that sharpens my sensitivity to its absolute nakedness and above all gives me the perfect environment to re-connect with my spirituality.

It’s about an hour hike to the beautiful Ootake waterfall and then another one and a half to the top of Takayama mountain.

We have discovered several long necked cranes and small fresh water crabs along the way but unfortunately without zoom lens I couldn’t take any nice pictures except for this one of a tiny little crab hiding under the rock next to the waterfall.

Middle of November is usually a “kouyou” (red leaf) season in Japan but because the summer ended so late this year, the leaves were just starting to turn red with the yellow color still in majority.

I particularly liked this tiny sunlit glade in the footsteps of the highest viewpoint hill. It somehow reminded me of my pioneer camping years when we used to play “zarniza” (a military inspired field game) making strategic bases in the similar tiny glades in the middle of the forest.

Our destination was “Kanhassyuu miharashidai” a 770m high viewpoint from which you can observe all 8 counties of old Kanto region. We stopped there for a little picnic on the grass.

My friend brought a bento for all of us that was so delicious it made me want to challenge the whole thing myself. Today, I went to a supermarket and bought a bright pink box that I later filled with rice and fried chicken and salad and fruits for my tomorrow lunch at work. Look at me – I am becoming a typical Japanese office lady! It’ll probably last for a day though as it is really tough to make such lunchbox every day unless you are into cooking or saving money. Unfortunately I exuberate neither one of those wonderful qualities.. ^-^

The seaweed that she brought for onigiri was sprinkled with salt. I have never seen such type before – it was absolutely delicious. Today, I bought it thinking it was the same kind but it wasn’t..

Our way back took 2 hours of constant downhill that at times was so steep I had to find a stick just to keep me in balance. Such descent is so bad on the knees – I am still recovering. There is a phrase in Japanese that refers to them as “laughing knees” because of the..no I don’t have an explanation for such term unless it has something to do with the natural desire of Japanese to put a positive spin on everything! ^-^

My next hiking is going to be to Ooyama so stay tuned for a brief description of a Japanese landscape with a lot of unnecessary but rather detailed references to my overly romanticized childhood in Russia which in most cases have nothing to do with the subject of interest whatsoever! ^-^

Russian retro party at Fiat

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a Russian retro party at Fiat cafe in Gaienmae. I admit this is an old post but I just didn’t have enough time to write about it with all the Halloween preparations. ^-^ The party was organized by Russians – for Russians and their friends from other countries who respect Dima Bilan and Cheburashka. I saw a couple of Japanese girls wearing all sorts of “Фабрика звезд” novelty goods and proudly singing “Ягода-малина”! ^-^

The music was retro and I mean really pre- and post Perestroyka hits like “Алые розы” and “Бухгалтер” and “На теплоходе музыка играла” with occasional video clips from  “Маски” and “Абдула” and New Year’s favorite “С легким паром”! The dress code was red, blue and white but some went even further, dressing in “вареные джинсовые куртки” – washed jeans jackets and colorful spandex leggings and mini skirts aka my badass mom 20 years ago.

There were two girls in particular who came dressed as “Комбинация” – a popular 80s girls band.

We stayed through a lottery where Anastasia managed to win a box of chocolate candies..

Then did a 50 people long train for Lambada orgy and danced through all the hits of Валерий Леонтьев.

At the end, everyone got so drunk – we started to recognize each other from the years of modeling work we did together on various locations. There were so many familiar faces I felt myself like a 10 year old at a pioneer camp’s discotheque.

Soon, there is going to be another Russian party called Revolution at Odeon Roppongi. Here is the Facebook event :

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=157933357575731