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Hendrick’s gin party at Yoyogi village

Last Saturday, Eri invited me to a party in Yoyogi village – a hidden lush green oasis with pure white beach sand, palms and surf boards. ^-^ It is an open-air complex that hosts organic shops, yummy eateries and even an event space. The party was for Hendrick’s gin – a brand new drink that’s about to hit Japanese market. It is a Scottish gin infused with rose and cucumber. I tried it in a basil cocktail and it was fabulous – a very fresh but sophisticated taste, perfect for a summertime soiree. ^-^ The bottle is very stylish with art-deco and industrial revolution vibes and I like their marketing campaign a lot. They are positioning themselves as a peculiar drink that is not for everyone, describing their customers as the “society of the unusual” which is like honey to all the hipster bees around the world. ^-^

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I was very happy to see Cecile again. She was wearing head-to-toe Zadig et Voltaire with a nonchalant attitude that only French can pull off. ^-^

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This is Hidemi – a beautiful girl in vintage looking Marc Jacobs who organized this party. She is also a mommy and our sons are same age. ^-^

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The party started slow which allowed us to catch up and share recent gossips. ^-^ Then, the place gradually filled up and I got to meet interesting new people like Carmela – a life coach, Keiko – a textile designer, Crystal – a singer, actually the singer. It took me a while to put two and two together but eventually I recognized her as Crystal Kay – Japan’s most loved R&B diva. There were also the always beautiful Yoshiko and Martin Webb as well as Joe and Dan from tokyodandy.com.

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Thank you Eri as always! I had a great time and now I have a favorite party drink! ^-^

Stylish solutions

Right before my big trip back to the motherland, my husband surprised me with an exciting present – 40mm pancake lens for my new Canon EOS Kiss X7 camera. I have an incredible 18-55mm zoom lens that is everything I need minus the weight. It’s just plain heavy and with my bag full of toys and books that I packed in preparation to entertain my son in the airplane, having a compact, light camera was more than appreciative. Now, of course pancake lens and especially this particular one is only good for portraits but I had no problem working around it as long as it guaranteed that my handbag was always light. ^-^

Unfortunately, I had no good case to carry the camera. Wrapping it in a handkerchief did little to prevent it from constant explosions of rice crackers and water spills in my bag (yes, being a mom will guarantee you a filthy, stained bag full of old food and sand. I am not kidding..). So the three weeks in Russia with my adorable toddler did a little damage to the camera but after returning to Japan, I finally found the perfect and I mean really perfect solutions.

First of all, meet my new case for carrying the camera with pancake lens. It is really what I have been looking for all this time. Not only it is super stylish, it is extremely easy to use. I can keep it open in my bag for the times I use my camera on and off like during FNO and it still guarantees great protection as well as a super easy access to the camera.  It is roomy and compact at the same time. I found it by chance while browsing birthday presents for my girlfriends. I had no idea that Artisan&artist make camera accessories. I always associated the brand with makeup. During my brief modeling years, I remember that Artisan&artist pouches and organizers were the preferable choice of many professional makeup artists. I even remember being recommended one by my NHK stylist. I never ended up buying it though because as you can guess, makeup pouches are the number one birthday presents so I got a lot over the years but I did invest into this beautiful camera case. Worth every penny! ^-^

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Now, the other discovery of mine I am yet to buy (here comes my wishful thinking that perhaps one of my dear friends who don’t know what to give me on my upcoming birthday is reading this post and gets my not so modest hint…). ^-^ Anyway, the other case/wrap that I found is oh so great! It can accommodate camera with bigger lens as well as ANY portable gadget – kindle, ipad, game console – you name it. I think it will be absolutely perfect for my bigger lens or any lens for that matter.

アニマル柄がかわいい、おしゃれなカメラクロス

アニマル柄がかわいい、おしゃれなカメラクロス

アニマル柄がかわいい、おしゃれなカメラクロス

Artisan&artist is one of those Japanese brands that offers high quality, innovative products that not so many people outside of Japan know about so I am giving a shout out to the brand and hope they will use and abuse social media to promote their product. It is really great!

 

Enriched sensibility

I have been buying a lot of books recently. The Internet is good for filling in the knowledge gaps but books are still the best way to get the grasp of the whole picture whether it is how not to break your 1 year old baby or learn to distinguish fine tableware from the one you can buy at a 100 yen shop. I have been living in Japan for 14 years and still lack the sensibility to comprehend the highly refined yet understated beauty of Japanese art. It particularly bothers me when I shop with my husband for new plates and rice bowls and it became a real problem when he requested a whiskey glass for his birthday this year. I don’t know the difference between crystal and normal glass. I don’t know why one finely cut glass costs 5 times more than the other that looks the same.. My point is I needed some help so I got the book on Japanese design to finally learn what it is that my husband means when he says “shibui” and why a rustic looking rice bowl in a Gion restaurant costs more than the whole trip to Kyoto. ^-^

Japanese Design

I learned that the super simple Japanese tableware that my husband favors is made in “wabi sabi” – style that partly comes from the Zen philosophy of worldly detachments, simplicity and purity. It celebrates the humble beauty of natural imperfections as well as fragility of life. I often wondered why rice bowls are not always symmetrical, why they never look the same, why Japanese traditional “kaiseki ryori” – course meal comes in a wide array of different plates instead of being served on one unified set as they do it in Europe and Russia. This book really opened my eyes on the whole concept of subtle beauty, something that I find myself drawn to naturally but never had the cognitive apprehension of.  Each plate is unique, each one of them is a work of art, perfected by the generations of artists. I am curious now to go to Mitsukoshi department store and have a fresh look on their displays of rice bowls and lacquer boxes. ^-^ I understand now the obsessive attitude with which my mother-in-law takes care of her New Year “osechi” boxes and tableware. Everything is double-wrapped and stored in a separate container – all those mismatched trays and plates and bowls. When I just came to Japan and saw this rainbow of different plates whether in a restaurant or at someone’s house, my first thought was “oh! They must have broken the others from the set”. How silly of me! Each one of them is carefully chosen to compliment the other. Each one of them is handmade, unique and has a story on its own. I understand now that the value of each piece is in its sophisticated attention to the details, not in whether it has a complicated design or whether it is polished or whether it matches the set. I think I have a good eye for beauty and with my enriched understanding of Japanese unique culture and art, I think I can make smarter choices now and perhaps even surprise my husband. ^-^

The book also mentions a lot of places my husband took me on the path of enlightenment such as Katsura residence in Kyoto or Nezu museum in Aoyama, Tokyo. I always admired the beauty of those places but never knew the underlying story of its architecture and design. Although the book only briefly mentions each school and concept, it gives a pretty full picture on Japanese aesthetics and art in general. When I picked it up and went through the glossary I thought it would be a bit boring like a textbook but it surprised me not only with the interesting content such as historical anecdotes behind some of the works but also with a beautiful captivating language it is written with. It is definitely not just a nice coffee table book but a great read as well.

By the way, bookdepository.com is the place I buy all my books from (the ones I can’t read on Kindle or listen to on audible.com). They ship to Japan for free and have a pretty great selection from art books to children books, even some foreign titles. But I also always check amazon.com as well because they do happen to have better deals on the same books from time to time. ^-^

Another book I found interesting – Japanese nursery rhymes. It would be an understatement to say that my son is obsessed with nursery rhymes in all three languages. It was great to find a book with English translations of some of the traditional Japanese songs that he particularly favors such as “Koi nobori” – carp streamers and “Shabondama” – bubbles. The English translation is adapted to the melody so I can sing it too. The book comes with a CD and each song is performed in both languages. The girl who sings them has a bit of an American accent but I can overlook it especially because it is the English version of a song that I am interested in. The illustrations are adorable! A very useful and stylish addition to my growing collection of children’s books. ^-^

JAPANESE NURSEY RHYMES

I checked the other titles by the same publisher. They have tons of books for children, explaining about Japanese holidays and traditions. They come particularly in handy to the expat families raising children here, in Japan. It is nice to have a good reason to finally learn these things. I like explaining thing to my son and see fascination on his face. ^-^

I have decided to start writing more about the books that I read. I have just ordered 5 books on raising happy toddlers. I think it’s a great idea to share some particularly memorable moments here, on my blog. ^-^ Stay tuned!

Muted palette

Last week, Eri surprised me with an early birthday present – a backpack from Comptoir des Cotonniers‘s Mademoiselle Plume range!!

Yes, the one I had my eye on at the brand’s latest exhibition.

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As all Mademoiselle Plume products, it is made from down and is super light. Backpacks are never described as huggable but it is so soft and cozy, I want to hug it. :) I am blown away by the unique combination of leather, cotton and nylon which makes the backpack so timelessly stylish.  And I can fold it into a very small size, perfect for travel. This one is a keeper for sure.

This backpack is going to be on sale at the end of September. ^-^ Thank you dear Eri for the wonderful surprise!

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And I got myself a new every day bag that can double as a diaper bag or an overnight travel bag because of its size and lightness.

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I used to buy the majority of my bags at Marc by Marc Jacobs but the same design year after year has left me uninspired so I went looking for something else. That’s when I discovered Liebeskind – Berlin leather brand with an edgy yet practical vibe – perfect for an urban girl like me. ^-^

Unfortunately, they don’t have boutiques in Tokyo but there is a decent assortment on Shopbop that delivers to Japan and some of the bags are on sale right now! I got this one on sale. My husband thinks that it is a very difficult color for a bag and that it blurs me out but I love its understated charm. Muted shades are so in style this season. Plus, it’s so huge I can have everything I need including my son’s collection of mini buses that he always requests on the go.

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The photos in the park were taken by the talented Adeyto and the ones on the balcony of my office building were taken by my co-worker Hiro. ^-^

Tokyo Fashion’s night out 2014

It’s this time of the year again. Each shop in Harajuku/Omotesando/Shibuya district prepared something special for the Fashion’s night out and I happened to miss almost all of it, hehe. My dear husband went on a well-deserved vacation to Shanghai leaving me with my little munchkin so I couldn’t really check a lot of stores with a stroller and an 8PM sleeping time. ^-^ But, I couldn’t skip it either so I dressed my son in a matching outfit and went out to at least support my friend Eri who organized an elegant event at Comptoir des Cotonniers Aoyama boutique.

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I had to make this fashion outing kid-friendly so our journey started at Softbank flagship store where we checked cool robots.

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Then, we stared at Hato buses – my son’s recent obsession. Because Hato bus is his favorite toy, he drags it everywhere and of course keeps losing it. The last one we lost at Moscow airport on our way home from our summer vacation so I had to go to Kiddyland to buy him a new one. ^-^

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At Kiddyland, we played with Lego nano trains and Totoro toys – another obsession of his. ^-^

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Then, we headed to Petit Bateau flagship store where he played with ducks while I was spending tons of money on his outfits. I love this brand for high quality basics but it is seriously overpriced.. :/

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I took some snapshots on my way to CdC boutique. I just love the atmosphere of FNO – lots of fashionable folks outside, DJ booths everywhere, champagne flutes are glistering in the lights and people shop, shop, shop. ^-^

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Hello Kitty is being very popular this year. She did a number of fashion collaborations with high-end brands like Mikimoto and Louis Vuitton. Now, it’s Gucci’s time. By the way, did you know that Kitty is not even a cat? It was all over the news recently. Apparently, Kitty is a personification of a cat – a fashion-obsessed character who looks like a cat. ^-^

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At last, we arrived at Comptoir des Cotonniers boutique. For this year, Eri organized a collaboration between the brand and Adrian, a very talented sketch artist and illustrator. He was sketching customers who tried on items from the new Nouvelle vague collection.

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I was wearing CdC so got my sketch as well. Adrian is an amazing artist. In 2 minutes he managed to make a beautiful sketch of me and my son even though we didn’t stop moving for a second. 😉

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My little artist was very inspired with Adrian’s work. He was mimicking him for good 15 minutes while I was sweating next to him, hoping he wouldn’t ruin any of Adrian’s displayed sketches. ^-^

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The new collection is amazing – lots of separates to mix and match and they all are so comfy, absolutely perfect for the cold season. I have my eye on so many things. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shop that night because the fitting room had a long waiting list and because my son was getting tired by the minute.

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I said my sad goodbyes and we left to catch a taxi back home. But not before I did a VERY quick stroll around my favorite Omotesando area behind Prada building. I give the most points to Moncler for their originality. They made it snow in the beginning of September. ^-^

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As usual, Red Valentino and Theory were almost empty. They just don’t know how to create a buzz during FNO. Having a cool DJ booth and free champagne does not guarantee you customers especially if it’s all inside and not visible from the street. And what’s up with all the clothes missing? Don’t you want people to shop? Theory has really missed the mark for me this year by removing ALL the clothes from the first floor.

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We got into our taxi right when it started to rain. I wanted to stay longer (snow, thunder, blizzard – whatever) but my little boy needed his dinner and sleep so we headed back home. Sorry for not having any more pics than that. Promise to do better next year. ^-^

YSL beaute Lumiere Passion release party

Last Saturday, my friend Eri graciously invited me to the launch party of YSL beaute newest product line Lumiere passion. Within the line, the brand has released a new color just for the Asian market – pearly pink that highlights and beautifies the face. I am a big fan of their legendary Radiant touch concealer and the newly released Radiant touch or rose highlighter compliments it the best. I was excited to receive it as well as the new makeup base highlighter Le teint touche eclat or rose in my gift bag. It really makes the face look younger by inviting the light in with its light reflecting pearl powder. I had the opportunity to test it right there at the party makeup salon that was served by an army of professional makeup artists. I learned how to apply the concealer and the highlighter to feature my face the best. You can check this video from YSL for some useful tips.

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The party was held at Tokyo’s prestige Maxim’s de Paris salon in Ginza. At the entrance, we each got a YSL sticker tattoo. Eri decided to have hers on her neck. ^-^

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Besides me, she also invited two other friends – fashionable French ladies. They were both extremely elegant and friendly.

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By the way, Cara Delevingne is the face of YSL beaute this year. I really love her ability to transform from a goofy girl into a lady with impeccable style and manners.

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The party was more intimate this time, with dark setting and less people. All the guests were looking very Parisian, sometimes the attitude matched as well. ^-^ There were a lot of makeup stands where anyone can not only try the new product but also receive a makeup session and advice from professional artists.

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Miki was very animated during her makeup session. I love her fearless attitude.

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Supercupmatcha model/DJ/blogger was working at the event that night.

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The DJs were all amazingly beautiful. Ueno Arisa

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Joe and Dan from tokyodandy.com

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We all tried the new makeup on and then posed for a group photo. ^-^

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By the way, it is the first time for me to have my hair up in a pony tail since… let’s see.. never! I don’t know why but I somehow wanted to try it.. I don’t think it suits me at all.. My body proportions are weird so hiding my freakishly small head with lots of hair is my only option to look normal. Pony tail? Never again..

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And sometimes, in the modern world of #hashtags, a scene like that is not uncommon. Everyone is so busy instagramming, we come together but end up being alone the entire evening.. I remember Quiterie telling me to put down my phone..hehe Oh well, that’s the reality now. If you are not on the timeline of the event, it’s like you were never there.. :/

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Thank you Kozue san for the amazing party and thank you Eri for inviting me to it.