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Posts from the ‘Diary’ Category

Pay it forward

Pay it forward is the concept I am trying to teach my son. Be kind to those around you and the kindness you give will come back to you in your time of need. Be generous, be charitable, share what you have with others. My father made jar banks for me and my brother when we were young. We carefully saved one coin at a time for ages till they got filled. Once they were full, we took them to a bank and donated everything to those who needed it more than us. I made the same jar for my son.

Right now, there are a lot of people suffering in Nepal and we can all do something to ease their transitions back to normal lives. What can one person do? Not much. But together we can bring the change they need. How much will it cost you? A cup of coffee at Starbucks, a bottle of beer you buy at a convenient store, a magazine you read and then throw in the trash. 10, 5 even 1$ will matter. And if you don’t trust those big corporations with lots of hired employees, marketing campaigns etc. trust volunteers, those who do it for free. There is a small organization that does on-site help, buying food, rebuilding, catering to the immediate needs of those who suffered. They are not receiving salaries, they will not use your money for their own benefits. Check out their page and hopefully donate your one cup of Starbucks today.

http://www.facebook.com/nepalibyheart
http://www.nepalibyheart.com
http://www.instagram.com/nepalibyheart
http://www.nepalibyheart.livejournal.com Personal diary of the volunteer

And if you are thinking of volunteering yourself, sending your old stuff to Nepal, here is an article that I found very insightful.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/27/earthquake-nepal-dont-rush-help-volunteers-aid

I personally trust big organizations like Doctors without borders, Unicef, Oxfam etc because they have experience and the appropriate channels for an immediate relief but the real people like they ones that created Nepali by heart foundation are doing the same job, just on a smaller scale, providing based on what people need in their particular situations. So don’t hesitate to contact them for more information, donate, volunteer and  spread the news! Share their website on your social channels. Pay it forward. God bless you.

 

 

Geo-discrimifashion

It’s not a secret that I buy most of the stuff online. I haven’t been to a real store in ages especially now that I have a baby. But buying things online is not just about the convenience for me. It is also about the price. Living in Tokyo nothing comes cheap and me being addicted to retail is making it that much harder.. Believe it or not but there are many cases when buying something online from a US store at its original price and paying the international delivery fee and import tax is still so much cheaper than buying it in Japan at a clearance price. ^-^

Plus, when it comes to fashion, let’s just say I prefer foreign brands over local ones – style-wise and size-wise. If I want to buy shoes that actually fit me, I have no other choice but to shop online. In most cases, buying things on the Internet is relatively easy. Most of the US shops are now delivering to Japan and when they don’t, I can use logistics companies that offer re-direct services like Hopshopgo or many others. Yes, it is still cheaper to go through them than to shop in Japan. ^-^

However, more and more shops are beginning to Geo-discriminate customers. For example, gap.com or carters.com would allow you to shop filling your shopping basket with tons of clearance items only to let you know later at checkout that clearance prices are not available to the customers outside of the US. None of the discount codes would be working either.

For years, I have been shopping at abercrombie.com until they opened their flagship store in Ginza and built a Japanese version of the website with a big price adjustment. Suddenly, a 50 dollar pair of jeans was costing 22000 yen (roughly 220 dollars). Every time I tried to access the US website, I was redirected to its Japanese version. Somebody advised me to use a proxy to fool the website’s geo-tracking device into believing I was in the US but I could never complete purchase this way, none of the forms would display correctly…

Until 2013, Japanese Abercrombie store did not offer any kind of sales. The merchandise was always at a full price even during summer and winter sales. So, when US abercrombie.com was having a 70% off clearance sale, Japanese abercrombie.com was still selling everything at a full Japanese price. This year, they offered clearance for the first time but as you can see below, there is nothing “clear” about it. ^-^

US Abercrombie.com

Japanese Abercrombie.com

The funny thing is, when you buy something at a Japanese abercombie.com, the delivery would still cost you 40$ because they ship it from the US, not the local warehouse. So you end up paying 120$ for jeans that costs 80$ AND 40$ for the delivery making the regular abercrombie jeans cost the same as a designer’s pair – that’s a kind of math I really hate!

When a couple of months ago, my friend Lille moved to Shanghai, she started using a VPN service called Hotspot shield to access Facebook that was otherwise inaccessible from China. It gave me the idea to try using it for online shopping as well. I installed a free version and went shopping at abercrombie.com just to check if it’s going to work and it did work! I could not only see the website with all its seasonal clearance deals but also buy discounted items and have them delivered to Japan!!! All I had to do was hide my IP address with VPN and boom – no more discrimination! The same can be done with ae.com that recently opened its store in Japan and closed the access to its US site with US prices.

VPN service is good not only for accessing restricted US-only websites but also to shop securely. I have never had any problem shopping online but for some people the fear of their credit card info being stolen is what’s keeping them from shopping online. I know a lot of Japanese who would rather buy something at a premium price at a real store than to get it online half off.. So, using VPN service can be good because it guarantees privacy by becoming a gateway between your computer and an online world. Instead of visiting websites directly, you are doing so via VPN anonymous server so the website is tracking their IP instead of yours! Neat!

It is also useful for watching movies and programs that are not available to the outsiders like a special John Stewart vs Bill O’Reilly debate on the Daily show or ABC TV series available to the US-only viewers. With my IP hidden, I can easily watch these videos for free instead of buying them on iTunes. ^-^ I can probably also become a member of Hulu and watch whatever at a real cheap monthly fee. Will try that later!

I wish I could also use VPN for shopping at gap.com or carters.com but they don’t discriminate based on IP, they discriminate based on a physical address agreeing to ship to Japan but not allowing to purchase things at clearance prices.. Which is ridiculous because knowing that the overalls for my baby costs 5$ in the US I will never buy them for 3000yen here in Japan so in the end, they are just losing me as a customer. Their loss!!!

Journeys in Japan – Shizuoka, Clematis no oka

Actually, it was just one day trip so this post is not rounding up everything there is to see in Shizuoka. This time, we visited just one place – one of the most fascinating open air art spaces in Japan called “Clematis no oka”. This is the type of museum I appreciate the most – you can walk, run, jump around, take pictures of everything you want,  stay there all day and just enjoy good weather, the smell of lush grass and flowers and most of all the beauty of art all around you.

The entrance to the park greeted us with this beautiful mosaic which immediately created a Chekhov-like story in my head of an old Odessa resort, summer romance going to an end and Koop island blues song playing on the background…

Then, we entered and art was all around us. Most of the installations were made by Giuliano Vangi – Italian sculptor from Florence. He likes working with iron and steel, creating beautiful sculptures with interesting meanings.

This one I call “lost in the woods”. I think this sculpture represents someone who has walked most of his life thinking it will never end and only now realizing that it is almost gone and mostly wasted on stuff that never mattered..

“The wall” was also interesting. You can create a thousand stories for this one with either good or bad endings. ^-^

The inside of the museum building was beautiful too. It was a rare place where taking pictures of everything you want was encouraged rather than reprimanded.

These are my favorite works. The first one is of a man with seagulls. Again, many stories pop up in mind, Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea” in particular.

Then, this one is funny because it looks like both the belittled Akakiy Akakievich from Gogol’s “Shinel” and the Russian president-to-be Putin. ^-^

This one was astonishing. From one side, it looks like a man on the right is kissing a woman on the lest. From the other side, it is the opposite – a man becomes a woman and a woman becomes a man. ^-^

In the Clematis garden, there were hidden caves covered in lush green grass from the outside but made of stone with beautiful statues inside. This one is author’s self-portrait I am guessing with his wife.

Clematis was not in bloom this time of year which explains no visitors (!!! we were literally alone in there) but there were plenty of autumn flowers including beautiful pond lilies and chrysanthemums.

This beautiful statue I named “Genesis upside down”. Adam is trying to eat from the forbidden tree to obtain the knowledge of the Universe whereas Eva is an innocent bystander. She is also wiser than Adam because she is already dressed in clothes whereas Adam is still naked and unaware of his nakedness. It could also be that Eva has already eaten from the forbidden tree and that is why she is dressed… But I like the first version better! No woman wants to be blamed for the sins of the humanity… ^-^

The park also had an English garden with traditional white benches

and a couple of nice Italian restaurants with open terraces and delicious food.

The clematis no oka complex has three museums and a huge forest park. We went to the two museums out of three and took a hike to the forest. It is a spectacular place to be during the Koyo “red leaf” season and of course during clematis blooming. The forest had an open air coliseum for stage performances, summer orchestra and various garden events. I will definitely go there again and I recommend this place to everyone who wants to spend the day in tranquility surrounded by nature and beautiful art.

At the end of our trip (by the way, my driving is improving. I have been driving the whole trip), we stopped at Enoshima to meet the sunset at the beach, just like in my Chekhov story. ^-^

Photoshoot for Lirio d’agua

Last week, I was invited to participate in a photoshoot for a new clothing line called “Lirio d’agua” which means “Water lily” in Portuguese. The brand belongs to a very sweet and whimsical Japanese artist Akino whom I was introduced to by my friend Laura. We’ve met several times in the past, mainly at Laura’s live performances but I never thought that she’d remember me… But she did and she asked me to be one of the girls to model for her.

The clothing line has a great concept. All the garments are made out of men t-shirts so it’s recycle fashion which I am a big fan of. Plus all the pieces are in black, gray and off-white palette which is hello!!! so me! I really enjoyed that day especially because Laura was behind the camera and because everyone was so sweet!!

Here is one of my favorite Akino’s songs

A little tribute to my company (coz I’m bored..)

My company rented another floor in our building to make a cafe and rooms for afternoon naps and overnights. I remember how it was just starting – people were working day and night, sharing desks, sleeping on the floor under tables, eating cup noodles and Yoshinoya gyudons. Now, we have a fancy lounge cafe, rooms for naps and nobody and I mean it, nobody is going to be here during Golden week.We’ve come a long way since the nose-bleeding overstressed days to the present time when our love for work is rewarded with the environment that makes us happy.

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All things April

I haven’t been blogging in April, mainly due to the fact that ever since I gained a little bit of weight by eating junk food out of stress, I’ve been using every free minute to exercise. So far, I haven’t lost much weight but I hooked up on running. It’s the perfect kind of work out for me because it’s free, I don’t have to go somewhere to do it and I can enjoy Tokyo’s scenery along the way. Each time I choose different direction which helped me discover a great open cafe, a nice park and several secluded hanami spots. ^-^

So what was happening in April? First things first – lots of earthquakes. On April 11th we got big one and then another, each one getting closer and closer to Tokyo. On Saturday it was Chiba, yesterday it happened in Nagano.. I can only hope they won’t escalate..

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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! ^-^

Fleurs de musique – Vincent’s first live performance

To be honest, when Vincent sent me an invite to his first live I didn’t know what to think of it because for years that I’ve known him, he never mentioned he can sing. In fact, most of our common friends are singers and he’s never claimed to be one of them till now.  But yes, he can sing and quite beautifully.

Half of the songs were in French – beautiful chanson romances. I particularly liked “Ne me quitte pas” – a very powerful song that I first heard performed by one of my favorite singers Nina Simon. You have to have a lot of character to sing it right and I think Vincent’s performance gave it justice.

I also loved the song called “Tous les cris les SOS”. I didn’t understand the lyrics besides some obvious moments but the way he sang was very emotional and I felt really connected to it.

The second half of the performance was full of surprises. Vincent invited my three favorite girls to sing duets together. At first, he did an impromptu of “Somewhere over the rainbow” and ” 君の知らない物語” with Gow chan. It was the most energizing part of the whole evening! ^-^

Then, he sang an anime song with Laura which was sooo good! They got into characters and had a small fight on stage. That was funny! I have never seen Laura like that. She looked like a 宝塚 girl! ^-^

Then, there were two French songs with Mia who had a very sweet voice. I had no idea! All my friends are so multitalented.. I felt inspired and ashamed at the same time..

Last couple of songs were in Japanese performed together with a Violin player from のだめカンタビレand a harp player who did a nice version of Arai Akino song.

After the performance, we went out to a nice little bar in Shinjuku.

Some copies are better than originals

I love covers and I love when my favorite artists sing covers of some famous songs because each time they make them sound like their own. It’s really amazing how many directions you can go with just one song. I have just discovered one of the epic songs  called “Pauses” originally written by Russian band “Time machine” performed by my most favorite Russian band “Splin”.

Here is the original version

And here is the Splin version

Another example is Tori Amos version of “Smells like teen spirit” originally performed by Nirvana. Tori Amos was introduced to me by one of my closest friends when I was freshman in University and since then she is the only female singer/songwriter I listen to nonstop. ^-^ Her version of Nirvana’s mind blowing song is so soulful and so intimate I get goose bumps every time I hear it.

And of course, everyone is familiar with a brilliant remake of “Mad world” performed by Adam Lambert. I mean seriously, I had no idea that this song was this beautiful! ^-^