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Journeys in Japan : Karuizawa and Matsumoto

I am recently super late on my travel posts. The volume of photos is one of the reason. The other, I want my posts to be informational and useful to those who travel and that requires a lot of research which almost always throws me into a stalling mode. But with all the posts on fashion that I did these couple of months, I am on the verge of being labeled as “fashion blogger” so I decided to pivot my focus and get down to the posts about the trips I took this year. ^-^

In June, we took a trip to Karuizawa with another Russian family and rented a cottage together. It is not so expensive to rent a family-type cottage in Karuizawa but if you do it with another family, it is even better. ^-^ The one we chose (Highland resort, Kita Karuizawa) had two bedrooms with three beds in each room – absolutely perfect even for families of 4. ^-^ Plus, there is a big sofa in the living room.

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There is a designated space for barbeque in the area but if you have your own equipment, you can also do it on the porch of your cottage. All you need to bring is the grill or brazier, skewers and coal, the rest is provided within the cottage – pots, plates, glasses, cutlery along with the fridge, rice cooker and toaster. Bedlinen, towels and hairdryer are there too.

My friends were originally from Uzbekistan and of course knew a thing or two about how to make a perfect barbeque spread. They did lamb, pork and beef for us and chicken skewers for the little ones.

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After dinner, we went for a little walk around the forest. The sunset was breathtaking. They say that if the skies are pink, the next day is going to be wonderful and it really was. This trip to Karuizawa was one of the best ones and my son had so much fun, I am sure it will leave a positive print on him even if he won’t remember it.

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We played a little bowling. I am still amazed at how a 1.5 year old could lift heavy balls and throw them in the right direction. We give so little credit to babies, yet they prove us time and again how smart and creative they are.

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Although the rule of not stepping on the lane with your street shoes on (or not at all!) was beyond his comprehension. ^0^

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On the morning of the next day, we went to おもちゃの王国 (The kingdom of toys) – a magical place where children of all ages can enjoy not only various toys and attractions but also play sports, trek forest, swim and try different crafts.

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If it is too hot or cold outside, you can always hide in one of the indoor areas and play with wooden toys from different counties, roleplay with hundreds of various dolls or build your own city at the Prorail train wonderland. There is also a restaurant area with kids menu – not much variety there but you do have a choice between a bento with hamburger, sausage and potatoes and a bowl of udon (wheat noodles). There are also ramen, curry, fried chicken and I think pasta.

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After the amusement park, we headed to Hoshinoya – a beautiful contemporary resort from the famous chain of luxury hot springs. We couldn’t afford to stay there but the hot spring itself was quite affordable. For 1300yen (750yen for children) you can use any of the indoor or outdoor baths for the unlimited amount of time. I went there around 2PM with my son and there were only a couple more people. The bath was surrounded by trees with birds singing in them. It had a couple of small waterfalls and lots of sitting stones for sunbathing. My son loved it so much, he didn’t want to get out. We were sitting in water hugging each other, singing and watching dragonflies above our heads. That was the absolutely perfect moment I carefully stored in my memory to cherish for the rest of my life.

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From Karuizawa, our little family headed East to visit Matsumoto – a beautiful preserved city in Nagano prefecture.

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We decided to stay close to the center at a small but very stylish Matsumoto Marunouchi hotel.

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Upon checking in , we took a walk on Nawate street – an old-fashioned shopping district running along the river that hosts a lot of small antique galleries, eateries and my favorite of all – used book stores. The city is famous for its soba – buckwheat noodles, wasabi and raw horse meat – everything is of course produced locally with wasabi farm being the largest one in the world. Unfortunately, traveling with a 1 year old we couldn’t try any of these things. With soba shops, they almost always only sell soba in there and he never tried it before. The risk of an allergy reaction was something we didn’t want to deal with while traveling. So instead, we went to a good old family-type restaurant with an open salad bar where my son suddenly discovered his passion for free veggies and ate like three plates of mini tomatoes, cucumbers and baby corns. ^-^

By the time we got to Matsumoto-jo – the main attraction of the city and one of the biggest castles in Japan, it was already closed but we got to enjoy its exterior grandeur as well as beautiful sunset in its garden.

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Since we were already in the gate city to Japanese alps, we couldn’t help but visit the Azumino national park – beautiful area in the footsteps of mountains with a gorgeous view and a lot of entertainment for children including trampolines, stilt-walking, exploring woodland trails and making local crafts.

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Our last stop was the very stylish Chihiro art museum that displays hundreds of work of the famous Japanese illustrator Chihiro Iwasaki. There is a baby area with wooden toys, children’s books library with tables and chairs to sit and read away. There is a stylish restaurant with an outdoor area where you can also take any of the books and read during your lunch. There are swings and small toys available as well. At the museum shop, you can buy the works of Chihiro Iwasaki as well as many other books including some foreign titles. There are also candies and cookies with the famous illustrations that make wonderful gifts.

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As always thank you for reading and stay tuned for the absolutely wonderful hot springs trip we took at the end of the summer in Izu.

MONKI SS2015 collection

It was my first time to visit PR1 office in Harajuku where Monki show room moved last Spring. My perspective of the brand really changes with each collection. When I first got acquainted with it two years ago, I thought it was in the ranks of Forever 21 and Bershka – young, cheap, street fast fashion but with each collection that I see, I am proven wrong time and time again. Yes, it is very affordable but it is also perfectly designed with clear concepts and great execution and a lot of pieces are very wearable even if you are a few check-boxes apart from the 18 to 25. The new SS2015 collection is absolutely amazing carrying a lot of sophisticated styles that are so me. Black, crisp white, silver and pastels are the colors represented in Monki’s fresh and very successful attempt at mixing sporty silhouettes with unusual materials like perforated plastic. I am completely mad about the perforated black skirt and bag. They will be on sale from the end of February and I will be the first one to snatch them because I got myself on the alert list, yahooo!!

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How cool is this denim dress? I really appreciate the subtle distress detailing on the hem. Oversized shift dresses have found permanent place in my closet because they actually make me look thin.

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The collection carries a lot of cropped tops – something I used to wear a lot when I was 16. Now, it is of course out of the picture (says my muffin top) but I still adore the style and envy the girls who can pull it off even at 30.  Cropped top and a maxi or midi skirt is my dream combination that will never go out of style. ^-^

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Thank you Tabasa for showing me around and for being so nice despite the fact that I destroyed your show room (I was particularly awkward and clumsy that day pushing, dropping and knocking things off).

H&M Studio SS2015 collection

Last week, I went to the preview of H&M Studio SS2015 collection that was inspired by the relaxed lifestyle of Miami and Palm Springs with a very strong 70s vibe. Draped pajama silhouettes, sporty knits and sweats, prints with flamingos and palm leaves, sun hats, light denim and lots and lots of silk. The juxtaposition between 70s style and modern fabrics like mesh and neoprene was brilliant. The choice of color palette is unexpected as well. For a summer collection, colors like wine red, navy and dark green can be heavy but when interpreted with light, fresh silhouettes, they read very smart and sophisticated. There were of course more summer-appropriate colors as well like pastel blue and pink and of course orange – the main color of the next season.

Flamingos see-through pants and silk orange jacket are a bit overwhelming for someone like me but the geeky training pants and elbow sleeve vintage t-shirts were very up my alley. However, what attracted me the most was the silk orange midi skirt with the side pockets. I wanted to snatch it off the hanger and run away with it. It is so light, so airy, so summer, so me. I hope I won’t miss it when it goes on sale at the beginning of March. ^-^

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Men’s collection was inspired by Space – lots of silver and black neoprene in various forms, leather tops, sweatshirt bottoms and dark green knits.

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As always, H&M show room provided the best drinks and finger foods. I love the company they are hiring for the events. The food is always super tasty and the organic herb tea fusions they blend right on the spot are indescribable. On a cold winter day, a sip of lemongrass, blood orange and strawberry Rooibos tea sends you back to the warm summer evening on the beach at sunset time. What can be better than that? It is perfect for creating the ideal mood to preview the collection with.

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Cotton+wool+suede+leather=Autumn

Ok yes, I am too old (but none the wiser) to join the ranks of personal style bloggers out there (and also probably like 10 years too late) but I feel the strong urge to share with you my Autumn buys not only because I really really love them but also because I patiently hunted down every item across the globe and now simply want to brag about it. ^-^

I am one of those crazy people who mainly stick to just a few brands and keep buying the same things over and over again. I cannot help it. If I like it, I like it. My whole life in Japan is so out of my comfort zone, some things just have to be comforting and reassuring. That is probably why I always stick to my preferences whenever I am given a choice between something familiar and something new. My husband and I are often debating this topic. For an adventurous risk-taker like me I am awfully conservative in some areas whereas the always-play-it-safe husband of mine is a dare devil when it gets to trying new things like food, electronics, fashion labels etc.

My point is, yes, of course I am wearing Comptoir des Cotonniers again but there are more reasons to that than just because ITS MY BRAND. It’s versatile, easy to mix and match and dress up or down. This shirt dress that I am wearing is my favorite piece these days. I love styling it differently, wearing with either a ribbon sash or belt or in a loose silhouette. It is from the current AW2014 collection and will go on sale at the end of the year.

The other new proud possession of mine are these shoes (yes! the ones I was drooling all over on Instagram a few months back). These are absolutely amazing – comfortable to wear and comfortable to walk (from Shibuya to Harajuku and back – no kidding! Tested it today!). I love the color. Here I am wearing dark everything and the shoes still look good with my outfits.

The blue leather jacket (I am guessing from Comptoir des Cotonniers 2013 winter collection) I found on the eBay UK for only about 50 Euros and it came to me looking like new. How silly is the girl who sold it to me? I have no words. It’s been three weeks but I am already wearing it to shreds.

The black leather tote bag is from BAGGU. I found it on Shopbop during its Black Friday sale two weeks ago. It’s very soft and light and spacious and goes directly into my list of smart buys.

The hat I bought at Urban research in Mitsukoshi, Ebisu but you can get these sort of hats anywhere now. For the same quality but twice the less price go to Egoist store. I think they sell it online as well.

The double-finger ring I bought on etsy.com from a young jewelry designer based in Croatia. It is my favorite accessory for day looks.

 

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I love wearing sweaters with dresses. It’s geeky and snugly and so me. This sweater is from Zadig et Voltaire. It’s been lying in my closet for a while before I decided to fall head over heels in love with it. I really appreciate the detailing on the shoulders.

The bag is from Liebeskind – my second buy from this German brand this year. I also snatched it on Shopbop at 25% off. It is a clutch type bag that can also we worn over the shoulder – good for both parties and casual days.

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What are your favorite buys this season? I have so many more on my radar. I feel double lucky when I buy something I want at a discount price and because sale season is coming, I am one happy girl these days. ^-^

Zadig et Voltaire Christmas shopping party

Last Friday, Cecile, Eri and me went to Zadig et Voltaire Christmas shopping party at the brand’s flagship store in Aoyama. Free drinks and chocolates were great but the 40% discount is what we all came for. ^-^ With Zadig et Voltaire (read Euro) price escalation over the past few years, the discount was more than appreciative. ^-^ The only sad thing was, I went shopping at the store two days before the party and bought a cute sweatshirt top from their limited Christmas collection at a 100% price.. Oh, the brilliance of Murphy’s law at work. ^-^

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At the party, I took the opportunity to try on everything I could possibly try including the most coveted piece of the collection – the long striped sweater dress featured in catalogs and all the major fashion magazines. As it often happens, the model rocked it so much better than I could ever possibly do. The S size didn’t hide my imperfections but the M size was already too bulky and unflattering.. But being me, I wanted it anyway already calculating lots of IFs in my head (what if I lose weight, what if I wear it with skinny jeans, what if I split the payment into two installments – yes, even after 40% off it was still above my budget). As I was in doubt, I asked my friends on social media to give me their honest opinion about the picture below and guess what? 100% said No. I am still in a bit of a shock. How can something that I really like be seen as nothing special by ALL my friends? Puzzled.. So, I didn’t buy the dress and I don’t think I will even if it remains in stores by the start of the official sale..

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But, girls were more lucky than me scoring some of the great collection pieces that looked absolutely gorgeous on them. I ended up buying nothing even though I have my eye on some of the other pieces. I decided to check out Comptoir des Cotonniers sale first and then come back to Zadig et Voltaire for the final “sale kill” of the season. ^-^ By the way, the official sale starts on 26th of December, right after Christmas. More and more Japanese stores begin their sales at the end of the year instead of 2nd of January that always marked the beginning of a nationwide sale.

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This cropped top received better evaluation from my friends. ^-^

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As this gorgeous faux fur jacket, light as a feather. This is not my style and I am wondering why. I should start wearing something like this. ^-^

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We all received Zadig aroma candles as a thank you for shopping gift (totally not deserved on my part!).

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Another surprise of the day came from Matt, Cecile’s friend who took us to a great Okinawa Chinese restaurant near Aoyama Gakuin university after the event. He turned out to be the 3rd grade teacher of the school my best friend’s daughter goes to and guess what? She is in his class. He has her picture on his phone and everything.  The daughter happens to be my son’s Godmother so go figure how small the world really is. ^-^ By the way, the food at the restaurant was amazing. It was my first experience to stand while eating (it is a common practice in some of the Japanese tiny bars and eateries). I kinda liked it to be able to talk to the chef and even have my say in how my food should be prepared. ^-^

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I don’t get to go out as often as I used to these days so being able to meet friends and have a little adventure on the city is something I am really grateful for and something I thoroughly enjoy. ^-^ Thank you my dear friends for making that day special for me.

Comptoir des Cotonniers SS2015 collection

Last Wednesday, I sneaked out at lunch hour to the Comptoir des Cotonniers SS2015 exhibition. I met with Nicolas – the head of French PR communications and my favorite CdC girls Eri and Midori, all dressed up in gorgeous pieces from the new collection. It is inspired by a French girl (of course!) living in the heart of Paris who goes to an intimate rendezvous at Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg garden). The first part of the collection is representing Parisian icon – the Eiffel tower. There are a lot of black and white geometrical prints as well as classic tailored pieces done with new fabrics like Neoprene and Chambray.

The second part of the collection is the explosion of color, representing delicate flowers of the France’s most exquisite garden. Orange and blue are the dominant colors but there are also touches of pink, emerald and grey. I am in love with Spring knits and some of the outerwear pieces like the absolutely gorgeous quilted denim jacket and a prolonged bomber coat – both are high on my shopping list. There is also a sand colored cotton jacket that looks a lot like the one I lost – I will be buying it by default. ^-^

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This dress is the so French, it hurts. If I manage to lose my muffin top by the Spring, I will be getting it for sure. ^-^

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I like this jacket a lot, especially the contrast between a masculine cut and feminine flowers.

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That’s the jacket that looks like the one I lost. The color is not as brilliant but the cut is so similar. ^-^

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There is a lot of Jacquard in the new collection. It is used not only for the jackets but for the skirts and dresses as well.

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This cropped sweat top with raglan sleeves is so beautiful. I am imagining wearing it with a maxi skirt and trainers. So casual but so chic.

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Nicolas was in love with these shoes. They go with every piece of the collection. My fat ankles do prevent me from wearing oxford shoes so I won’t be getting these for myself but I am sure they will look really elegant on a girl with thin legs.

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Princesse Tam Tam SS2015 collection was amazing as well. The new lace in feather pattern is so sexy and so modest at the same time. I love the muted pastel versions of orange and cornflower blue and I loved the easiness of beach coverups, especially the blue and white striped maxi dress.

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The ornaments and decorations of the show room were so on point with the garden theme. I always get so inspired when visiting Eri and so envious at the same time. She gets to work in such a beautiful environment. ^-^

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Both brands will start releasing their new collections from the middle of January. The detailed schedule can be inquired at either Aoyama or Jyuugaoka flagship stores. What I love the most about going to CdC stores is the skills of the staff who work there. Their amazing abilities to style me in the most perfect way possible is really so awesome. If you like something but are not sure how to wear it or what to wear it with, just ask any of the girls working there. They never push you to buy something right away but always treat you like an important client. 100% satisfaction guaranteed. ^-^
Thank you Nicolas, Eri and Midori for showing me the new collection and giving me a lot to look forward to. ^-^

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The preview of Egoist SS2015 collection

Last week, my friend Sophie invited me to the press day of EGOIST – the fashion brand she designs for. EGOIST is a Japanese brand with Korean roots (and a Russian designer!!) and for a long time it’s been associated with GAL fashion. However, over a few recent years, the label has been rebranded as MOD or NEO MOD or NEO GAL – whatever you prefer calling this new trendy sophisticated style.

The SS2015 collection is called Modern vintage. It has everything the next season is going to be all about: cropped tops, oversized knit cardigans, floral patterns, nautical stripes and of course orange and blue color palette.

I usually pass 109 department store by (the mecca of GAL style) because for me it is always associated with cheap fast fashion night club attire but recently I am starting to change my mind thanks to the brands like Moussy and Egoist. There is a lot to see there and the quality is great too. The fit sometimes can be a problem because I am not your average size 0 Japanese girl. The sleeves and pants are sometimes on the shorter side so it is always smart to try things on before buying them. But the quality is great especially for the price, much better than what you can find at European rival shops like Zara, Bershka and Forever 21.

Last month, I went to the Egoist shop for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised by super comfy leather jackets, flattering fedora hats and cozy knits.

These two jackets from the new collection are already in my wish list. ^-^

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The accessories were great too. Beautiful bags, shoes and jewelry. I especially liked this cornflower blue bag.

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I like this stripe dress that Sophie designed for the new collection. These stripes look really great with floral prints.

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And this dark blue dress with white stars that Sophie made looks super stylish with oversized white knit cardigan. I love this style for Spring.

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This is my darling Sophie wearing her designs. She is not only beautiful but also super talented. I am a big fan!

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The new collection will arrive to the shops part by part starting from January. My Jackets will go on sale around Spring. Can’t wait!