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Posts tagged ‘Tokyo’

A tiny place with a lot of love

  

Yesterday, I had a chance to experience 保育参加 (hoiku sanka) – joining my son for half a day at his care center. Although I knew how his day usually went, I discovered a lot of new interesting facts. First of all, let me explain what a day care is in Japan. It is a public or government-subsidized private institution that caters to kids of working parents. There aren’t enough in the country so the more points you get as a working parent, the likely you are at getting in. Parents who both work and their salary combined doesn’t exceed a certain number have a good chance of getting their child in, availability granted. We were lucky enough to get a place at a government-subsidized private day care. It is run by a corporation and they have a nice, updated approach at raising children. Each child has their own lifestyle rhythm and they try to support that with sleep and feeding schedule. They adapt a lot of Montessori concepts and all the toys are made from natural materials. Teachers also do a lot of DIY material from felt and paper. My son is there from 9 to 6 since he was 4 months old. For the first year, they even let me bring frozen breastmilk for him.

So this is how our day went. Shortly after my arrival, the teachers took the kids for a walk at the playground. They got dressed in groups, then went downstairs and waited for the rest of the class. When everyone was gathered, the teachers sat everyone down on the floor and told them the plan – where would they go, want would they do and who would join them (me in my case). Then, everyone went out and walked in pairs, 1 adult per 4 kids. Teachers showed little cute things around the neighborhood like a new sign on a ramen shop or flowers in the window of a cleaning store. Then, we crossed the big street on green light and made our way to the playground.  Just before arriving to the playground, we stopped by a local bento shop and the owner came out to greet us. The kids hi-fived him for a while, then he waved いってらしゃい(itterashai) – bon voyage and off we went. When we arrived at the playground, one of the teachers ran around the perimeter and checked for hazards. If there was any garbage, she would pick it up and throw away. Then, she made a call to the day care office and reported that all kids and teachers have safely arrived at the playground. She did the same phone call on the way back. The kids were gathered around and told the rules – wait for your turn on slides and swings, no pushing. If kids from other day cares come along, play nicely. Then kids scattered around running, jumping. They looked for sticks, stones, leaves and insects. Others went on swings and slides. Some played まてまて (mate mate) – wait-for-me game. My son and I love to draw on the dirt with sticks so we started drawing funny faces and other kids joined us. They were fighting for who gets to find me a better stick or hold my hand. Kids are so adorable. Of course my son took offence and clang to me like there is no tomorrow.

Then, one teacher started to blow soap bubbles and kids ran around catching them. They blew their own bubbles in turns but only small ones were coming out. Each was nevertheless praised for their efforts. Another teacher has spread a picnic blanket and took out a thermos with tea and paper cups. If you wanted to drink, you would need to take your shoes off, sit on the blanket, wipe your hands and face the teacher. Good manners and the importance of the tea ceremony is taught at an early age. ^-^

We played like this for a while, then it was time to return. We got back to the day care, went upstairs in groups, took our shoes off and put them in a special shoe box shelf. Kids can’t read yet so each box has a unique picture and they all know theirs.

We got back to our class, went to the toilet, washed hands and started to play. The room is separated into four stations: ママごっこ(mama gokko) – a house station, a building station with puzzles, blocks and mosaics, a train station with a wooden railway and trains and a reading station with a sofa and books. There is also a table station where kids eat, draw and play with clay and stickers. The house station has kitchen, drawers with pretend food, a vanity table with scarfs to wrap around and play princesses. The girls immediately went for the vanity table, brought a bunch of scarfs and asked me to do “Ariel”. It took me a second but I figured it out. They wanted me to tie a scarf on their heads so that it flows in the back like Ariel’s hair. They girl who grabbed a white scarf was of course pretending to be Elsa. ^-^ My son started to build a castle and everyone went for the blocks like there were no other toys. I had to play smart and involve everyone into play. 3 year olds are still easy to manipulate.

Teachers were always there for the kids. They didn’t budge in the second a conflict took place. They observed first and if the kids couldn’t rule it out, suggested a solution.

After a while, the lunch was ready for the first group. They served meals in groups, adjusting to the lifestyle of each kid. Some get sleepy earlier so those eat first. The kitchen prepared lunch for me as well – a chicken and veggie stew with bread, tomato and cucumber salad, tea and a slice of apple. Kids have to eat what they have before they can ask for おかわり(okawari) – seconds. My son still takes a lot of time so the teacher talked to him, explained about what’s inside the dish, asked him to take one bite and he got to choose what was on the spoon. My son agreed, tried the stew and then had some. He usually eats well at the day care but always with the help from the teacher. By himself, he is taking ages. I am of course to blame. In Russia, kids are being forced to eat. I grew up like that and it’s wired in my brain. A kid has to eat a lot. So I feed him because this way he eats a lot. If I let him eat by himself, he won’t have much.

After the lunch, the first group went to bed. The beds are portable and brought in from the closet into the play area. Some sleep in the reading station, some in the train station, others in the house station. The beds are called cots and the linen is stretched over it. The blankets are brought from home.

This time, my son and I went back home right after lunch because of our 3 year old well-baby checkup later that day. What I learned from my experience is that their days are very busy. With all the little routines, walks, eating (they eat twice) and sleeping, there isn’t that much time left to get bored (my biggest fear is that my son is bored at the day care, not having enough stimulation). There are also occasional puppet theatres, concerts, sport days and mixers when they get to hang out with younger and older kids.  On rainy days, the biggest room is turned into gym where kids spend their energy running and jumping. In summer, they play with water in the water room. The teachers are always singing, reading, braiding their hair and helping them learn how to go to the toilet, wash hands, tie shoes. They find time to write funny episodes in each kid’s diary, what they ate and how long they slept. Sometimes, I feel they are being better mommies than I am. ^-^

I love everything about our day care. It’s a tiny place with a lot of love and attention to the details. I enjoyed spending time there and those little discoveries that I made (how independent my son is, how well he communicates with other kids, how warm and cozy it is in their class and how delicious the food is) made me exhale and relax. I know he is having a fab time there. That makes me feel a little less guilty and a lot more hopeful that maybe he is going to turn out OK even with both parents working.

 

By the book? Not so much

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I have recently purchased an electrical bicycle for an easy commute with my toddler and it made me see yet again that for a country that loves rules so much, some of them are being ignored on a constant basis. When it gets to safety on the road, not many are willing to sacrifice their comfort. Taxis in Japan is a unique phenomenon on their own but taxi drivers are not the most radical offenders on the road, mothers are. Japanese moms on bikes simply don’t care. They never stop at STOP signs, they never slow down. I am now one of them and it made me notice even more just how many rules they break. Some don’t even look to the sides when they cross the street.
Last year, the ministry of land, transport, infrastructure and tourism has tighten the bolts for the bicycle drivers putting in place a penalty system similar to what they use for car drivers. Yet, the rules are being broken anyway. Why is it that being somewhere on time is more important than getting there in one piece? Some of the kids sitting in the back or front don’t even use helmets and some mothers ride bicycle while being pregnant or with their little babies strapped to their chest, their little heads bobbing around!! If they are so liberal with the safety rules why is it that they can’t go left or right when it gets to something significantly less important? Why do they abide notoriously ridiculous rules like dressing your freezing child into nothing but a school uniform (shorts!!!) in winter? Why? Because the school has a dress code? Because everyone else do it? If you are so by the book and in sync with the system, why don’t you follow the safety rules as well? Why do you put your child and yourself and other pedestrians in danger? On several occasions my son was almost run over and always by a mom on an electrical bike. It’s such a mystery to me.
Discipline is great but so is a little insubordination. My rule of thumb – use good judgment and ignoring the safety rules just because the accidents are rare is the sign of a poor judgment to me. Maybe accidents are indeed rare but the nuisance to other people – well it happens every single day. I’d choose to ignore dress code rules over safety rules any day.

Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst

This morning, I brought my son to the day care right when the alarm went off and the principal announced that the earthquake evacuation training is in place. They have been doing that 2-4 times a year but now that my son is big enough to understand what’s going on, it started to really influence him. He began to add earthquakes to his role-playing. He likes reading books about earthquakes and destroy Lego blocks constructions by shaking them. I have read a book called “Playful parenting” by Lawrence J. Cohen that explains why children often involve their fears into their games. They want to recreate the situation they are scared of but be in charge of it, be the one who controls the outcome. This sort of role-playing helps them accept the situations, make their peace and move on. Two weeks ago, we went for the next round of vaccinations and my son started to give vaccine shots to me every day since. He is in charge. He is the one administering the pain. It helps him move on.
But right there, in the middle of the organized chaos at the day care, my thoughts were scattered. I thought how cute and funny the kids looked in their yellow and silver padded hats but also how scared some of them were. My son included. He was smiling but I know he was on the verge of crying. He was sitting in the group of kids, in his yellow padded hat and looked at me for guidance. I wanted to stay but the principal insisted on me leaving. I felt awful about leaving my son in such a horrid state. I even cried when I left. I don’t want him to deal with the scares of this world, not yet. I hope the real earthquake will never come.. I hope I will be near him if it does..
These little happenings in the midst of our daily lives are really important triggers that help us recalibrate our thoughts, refocus on our priorities and correct our route. I am no longer worried about the little things. I am alert and grateful. Hello, Wednesday.

Let it snow and then don’t please!

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Just yesterday, my friend Elizabeth and I were discussing how mild this winter is. It wasn’t snowing last winter and this one looked pretty similar. All it takes really for the snow to start falling is to mention how it doesn’t snow at all and voila! Here we have our typical Tokyo snow – you enjoy it for 5 minutes out of your window upon waking up in the morning and then you deal with the apocalyptic consequences for the rest of the day. The trains stop, the highways are jammed and you work alone in the lonely office (or pretend to since no one is here). I brought my son to his day care in the morning and everyone met me with the sympathetic “大変でしたね!” greetings. Guys! Its just a few centimetres of snow and you absolutely lose it! And it happens every time it rains heavily or snows. Tokyo is a big high-tech city yet it behaves like a cranky toddler – throws a tantrum in the middle of the busiest rush hour. ^-^ Hello, Monday!

Comfy chic from Anne Valerie Hash

Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to preview Comptoir des Cotonniers‘ new AW2015 collection designed by Anne Valerie Hash. She is a prominent French designer with her own label and a history of working for some of the biggest fashion houses of Nina Ricci, Chloe and Chanel. Her take on the new collection is simple – a dress shouldn’t wear a woman. Her outfits are comfy, easy and versatile yet you would feel luxurious in every one of them. A mix of sporty, mannish silhouettes with elegant fabrics and prints portray the true essence of an urban princess. A city girl, independent and strong yet elegant and sophisticated is the muse behind the collection. There are a lot of designs that are new for the brand, like cross-crotch pants and side slit sweaters. My favorite were the sporty pants made from the Italian suit fabric, thin reversible coats and of course the side-laced sneakers that received an overwhelming response in Europe.

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Nicolas said I look like the French singer Heloise Letissier from the Christine and the Queens project. I checked her out on youtube and she is AMAZING. A new type of singers are emerging these days like her and Lorde that put REAL above everything else. Raw talent without pretense. That’s something I am drawn to. I think Christine would be a great spokesperson for the brand. Her personal style is what the new collection is all about.

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Eri and I are wearing the matching looks. I won’t be surprised if we end up buying the same things when the collection hits the stores at the end of August.

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I was so lucky to meet the designer in person and talk to her about the collection. I really admired her sense of humor and passion to make the fashion comfortable. Wouldn’t we all want to look like dressed for a ball while wearing pajamas?

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_MG_5454 I was wondering how come the brand’s mascot Leon lives this long but I finally found my answer. Doggies replace each other. You can see old Leon and new Leon together on this tee.

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I also took a look at Princesse Tam Tam AW2015 collection. The silhouettes stayed the same but the colors and prints are all new and so beautiful. The navy and nude color combination is smart and very sexy. I also liked the updated version of the lace body suit. Everything with a peter pan collar automatically goes into my LIKE list. ^-^

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Randevouz with Yoko Yonezawa

This year, there was another soiree with fashion illustrator Yoko Yonezawa at Comptoir des Cotonniers Juugaoka flagship store. I am a big fan of her works so I went to check out what she did for the brand and also catch up with my friends.

Yoko talked about her time spent in Paris and shared her tips on how to dress as a French woman. She made a big accent on being natural not just in fashion but in beauty as well. Japanese women tend to overdo it in the beauty department with their gel nails and fake eyelashes. Women don’t need to look like dolls to be beautiful. Highlight your features but don’t go overboard buying various products and spending hours in salons. After all, men rarely appreciate all that effort. ^-^ Attracting them by wearing a mask will prove to be an ill strategy in the long run..or even the morning after. ^-^

The brand also stands behind this philosophy offering versatile pieces that are high quality, comfy and can be used for any occasion. I am in the midst of spring cleaning my closet, getting rid of a lot of stuff I no longer fancy and I have noticed that most of the pieces that stay are from Comptoir des Cotonniers because I can mix and match them together in tons of different outfits. Most of what went straight into the garbage bag was stuff that I bought on sales (it wasn’t so cheap after all) and things that I bought for that “special occasion” that never came. And also I got fat so XS no longer fits me..

Here are some of the Yoko’s works as well as photos from the event.

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Dentelle is in the air

Spring is here and with everything around me blossoming, breathing and fluttering, I feel so heavy and dull in my everything black. I need a change of colors and I need new shoes. ^-^ Recently, I purchased DKNY perforated white leather sneakers and I absolutely love them but I am also thinking of getting sneakers in white lace which is the biggest trend of the season. Lace is in every collection from high-end to fast fashion. This summer is going to be all about dentelle and I am excited about it. I am not a girly person but I love implementing girly elements like lace into my tomboy looks. I learned this trick from French bloggers like Audrey Lombard. She inspired me to start experimenting with lace. I also like the combination of casual basics with super delicate lace, like the one Anine Bing is often showcases on her blog and shop.

So lace sneakers is high on my shopping list. So far, I narrowed my choice down to these 5 models.

 

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From top left

1. Migato platform sneakers

2. LEGit

3. Reef Dew Kist

4. Superga lace sneakers

5. Ash flower lace sneakers

I am thinking Reef sneakers in vintage looking knitted cotton cream lace look really cute and probably would suit me the most. ^-^ I recently re-discovered this brand when I was searching for new leather sandals. Each summer, I buy a new pair of leather thong sandals because I wore the previous pair to shreds. My husband’s father always makes fun of me for wearing beach sandals in the city. He just doesn’t get it. When you live in the city where everything is relatively close, you walk a lot. I don’t commute to work, I walk – 20 minutes each way. When I shop, I walk. When I go meet my friends, I walk. I walk everywhere and I do need comfortable shoes for that. Unfortunately for my type of feet it basically means sneakers or thong sandals, period. So I found a lot of options at Reef. The price is about the same as Tkees or Yosi Samra though so it’s all about the design really. I found some of the styles very appealing so I might give Reef a try this year. Plus, they also make shoes for kids, the cutest sandals ever. My husband didn’t let me buy sandals for our son last year saying that he is not yet an established walker but this year, I got the green light so I am going to have a lot of fun choosing sandals for him.

So, happy shopping to me and to you. Vive la dentelle and vive l’été. ^-^

 

 

KBF AW 2015 runway show

KBF AW 2015 runway was the last one I saw this season. I got to see it previous year accidentally but this time I specifically chose it as my final show because I knew it won’t disappoint me. The hall was packed but my friends and I were lucky to get seats in the second row. I did better with my photos because I was so close. By the way my camera settings for 38mm lens were shutter speed 500, F2.8, ISO 6400. The show was amazing. The visual effects made models appear to be walking in a sand storm. And the alienesque looks of the models made it even more surreal. The theme for the collection evolved around journey. There was a lot of outerwear and oversized sweaters. I really liked the white mixed-knit one. The collection was very retail-oriented. There was nothing particularly innovative going on but I liked a lot of pieces including quilted coat and maxi skirts. Color palette was also right up my alley. I’ll be checking these looks in the stores for sure.

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I really like this model, Mona Matsuoka. She is stunning.

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Jotaro Saito runway show AW 2015

Jotaro Saito kimono runway was one of the most spectacular shows I have ever seen. I am truly fascinated with the perfect balance between modern and traditional that Japan in general is so good at but Jotaro Saito takes it to the next level. He makes traditional kimono attire look cool, effortless, nonchalant. His runway show was a sort of role-playing game. Men appeared with a big samurai-like attitude, almost bothered by the whole idea of showing off what they wear. Women were timid, gracefully gliding through the runway portraying the traditional role of a woman in Japanese society. Yet, at the same time, they also appeared hunting, mysterious, regal, almost superior to the proud men next to them. I love these misguiding appearances. I love the idea of huge power under a timid surface and a humble nature behind grandeur.

Designer’s contemporary kimono were beautiful. My favorite was a black and white graphical one with the navy overcoat. I would wear the coat alone with my normal clothes. The silhouette is very in trend right now.

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The next big trend in fashion? Sharing!

Sharing economy is upon us. The trend has started long time ago but has been booming in the past several years with the creations of social sharing services (Asmama, Taskrabbit), peer-to-peer accommodations (Coachsurfing, Airbnb), bike and car sharing and now fashion. Why buy clothes when you can rent it? There is so much good behind the idea. Instead of buying a 300$ dress to wear for a wedding or a party and then storing it in the closet for half a year or more (because who wears the same dress to consecutive parties? That would mess up my Instagram feed!), you can just browse through rental outfits online, choose something you like and have it delivered to your door. Plus, fashion is so time sensitive. I may invest 400$ into a leather vest only to realize that it is so 2013 and nobody cares anymore. And think about how much money and closet space you can actually save! I’d rather rent a Prada bag for 5000 yen for FNO than become the sole owner of it for 200000 yen and have my toddler spill juice all over it. After all high-end designer bags are for show-offs. A 150$ Baggu bag or 300$ Liebeskind bag are much better choices for daily use. So much more comfortable. How wonderful would it be to store in the closet only the things you use on a daily basis, your basics, your favorites and having the rest rented for the appropriate occasion. I came across several services that are representing this new business model in Japan. They are not yet fully developed or provide a wide enough range of options but I am sure they will get there and when they do, I am going to be in the ranks of their loyal customers for sure.

So how does the magic happen? Usually, rentals are offered through a monthly membership plan (basic, premium or VIP). Shipping and cleaning is free (already included in the rental price). You register your sizes and brand preferences that become the baseline for the service when they create a wardrobe for you. You are also free to browse the items yourself within your membership plan.

Here are several services that I found in Japan:

Air closet operates based on a fixed monthly membership fee of 6.800 yen + tax. Every month you will receive 3 items that have been carefully selected for you by Air closet stylists. You cannot choose the items yourself but you can create a favorite list by browsing their item catalog. It will be used by service as a guideline when creating your looks. Offered items are ranging in price from several thousand yen to the maximum of 30000 yen per item. There is no deadline for returning the items. You can wear them as long as you like. When you do choose to return them, cleaning and shipping will be covered by the service.  You can leave ratings for the stylists later on. For now, Air closet is only dealing with clothing items (no bags or shoes yet).

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Licie is an actual shop in Shinjuku and but they plan to open an online service too in the early June 2015. There is also going to be a 3 day popup shop opened in Harajuku from March 20th to March 22nd. They offer three plans:

Trial – 500 yen for one piece of clothing. Maximum rental period is 1 week.

Basic – 1000 yen for 3 pieces of clothing. Maximum rental period is 1 week.

Premium – 3000 yen for up to 10 pieces of clothing. Maximum rental period is 1 week.

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Unlike Air closet that only deals with clothes from 1000 to 30000 yen in retail price, Licie offers high-end brands such as Fendi, Burberry, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Gucci as well as low-end fast fashion from Zara, Nice Claup etc. You can check coordinated looks on their Instagram account @licie_official as well as post your own.

You can return the items either by bringing them back to the store or sending via mail (on your own dime). You can also choose to buy the item if you really like it. Professional styling services are free of charge. There are several fun perks available to the customers such as selfie photobooth and free drinks at a small cafe. The service offers shoes, bags and accessories as well.

Sustina – deals with everything – you can rent, purchase or sell clothes, shoes, bags, accessories. At the end of March, the service is planning to go live as an app for iPhone and Android.

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Monthly rental plan is fixed to 5.800 yen + tax. You can borrow 5 items per one time but can borrow another 5 after returning your previous order. There are no restrictions on how long you can keep the items. Shipping and cleaning services are free. You can also buy the item if you like it.

The service is mostly dealing with middle-end brands such as A.P.C., Agnes b., Hysteric glamour, See by Chloe, Jill Stuart occasionally also offering Burberry and Isabel Marant. It also offers an extensive selection from what you can typically find in Lumine, 109, Marui department stores – KBF, Snidel, Moussy, Beams, Tomorrowland, Ships etc.

I am getting excited by the minute. I have signed myself up to all three of them so stay tuned for more posts on how rental fashion is about to change my son’s life by putting him through college (on all the money that I save on shopping :)).