So, I’ve been back from Japan for over a year now and I’ve only just found the time – and energy – to force my abnormally tiny fingers back down onto the keyboard. You could say there are no excuses for taking such a long break from writing, but, of course, I have found plenty! Those long-haul flights are a bitch and, combined with shift work, Christmas stress, followed by more frustrating shift work and new found addictions to Housewives of New Jersey, aren’t exactly the greatest motivation for a blog post – especially one that reminds me I am no longer in the weird and wonderful land of Japan. Also, sincere apologies to all those who went on the world wide search for me – I’m safe and sound but would appreciate it if someone could give the Queen a call; I know she’ll be frantic with worry!
Frustratingly, leaving such a large period of time between arriving back in greyer than grey London and blogging means my memory is beyond fuzzy (not to mention, I turned twenty-five not long ago… old age and memory loss go hand in hand!) I will try my best to do the Japanese justice although, let’s be honest, it’s not as if they need it. It’s a fact universally known that their style is unique beyond any other; if there is any life on Mars capable of fashionable critique (which, of course, I’m sure there is…), they would be singing the praises of our quirky pals across the pond, whilst tucking their little green feet into custom made Louboutins.
These people ooze cool. And not in the ‘you need to see a doctor about that’ kind of oozing. I’m talking ‘DAMN I WANT TO BE YOU!’ kind of ooze; the good ooze! You can’t help but walk around feeling constantly inferior to these beautifully clothes creatures, wondering how on earth they do it… I’m thinking fairy dust? But, of course, they only had the upper hand due to my luggage limit *ahem*. It’s as if every Japanese youth of my generation was born holding The Guide to Good Style and the doctor delivering this tiny trendy human would have a spare copy hidden in his medicine drawer – just in case. Actually, it is my belief all babies with even a speck of Japanese blood in their veins are born wearing a beret and Dr. Martens. Where as I arrived on this earth covered in goo, fashioning ginger fluff upon my tiny peanut shaped head and not much else. Fair? I think not! And this is why, pathetically, I have literally NO photographs of the many trendy humans walking the streets of Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. I was just too afraid to ask. Ridiculous, I know. Especially since they happen to be some of the most polite and friendly people I have ever met, whom I am sure would have reveled in a little attention from moi.
Talking of polite, the Japanese have customer service skills to rival the Ritz! Those of us who live in London know the average welcome to a shop consists of… well…. no welcome at all! In Japan, many shop assistants will hold your bags as they walk you to the door and give you a bow farewell. Some bow so low it is a wonder they don’t fall into a forward roll followed by a cartwheel and a cheeky back flip! No matter what store you visit, you will always be acknowledged with at least an ‘ IRASSHAIMASE!’ meaning ‘welcome!’‘ It was such a refreshing change from the sometimes shameful reception we get over here – Britain, I think it’s time we popped onto Amazon for a copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette….
Another thing to mention is the unfortunate fact that having a tattoo does cause some limitations in Japan. Many associate it with crime (unlike in the West where it’s seen as a form of expression, fashion or sometimes just really bad taste, bad judgement and too much rum) hence the uneasy stares at the large ginger lady lovingly (and painfully) poked into my arm. Despite their dislike of the trend, not one person treated me with disrespect; my painfully pale skin and ginger hair made it pretty clear I had just jumped off the tourist boat. Remember, in some situations you will have to cover them up, so be prepared! Bring plenty of fabulous long sleeve tops or, like me, you’ll have to improvise and consequently create a truly vile outfit (my Halloween concoction was honestly awful – and that’s putting it politely).
Oh, one other thing – don’t forget that this is a fashion blog (or at least an attempt at one). So the thousands of pictures I took of my adventures wont be posted and neither will the detailed information on where I went and what I did. If you have any questions, just ask! Let’s be honest, this blog is pretty long to begin with, and I certainly don’t need any excuses to waffle on………
Where it all began! And wow, what a place to start. I LOVE Osaka. Arriving here was the first time I truly realised how cool the Japanese are. Ignorantly (shamefully, stupidly, ridiculously and all the other words that explain how much of a fool I am) I expected the majority of ladies to be dressed head to toe in Lolita fashion, hair in pigtails, maid outfits galore! Don’t get me wrong – I love the quirk of it, don’t we all? YES, because it’s friggin’ swell. But it was honestly quite a surprise for me to see how varied and approachable the style of the general public was (this is, of course, if your style is painfully cool). We stayed in Amerika Mura, where the young and hip hang. Despite the fact that it rained for three days straight and we spent one whole day so hung over we could just about travel to the KFC for a chicken burger (extremely cultured, I know) we still somehow did so much, and shopped even more so! Not too far from the station there were dozens of designer stores that I would, true to form, longingly peek into, salivating at the windows like a starved dog. Moving deeper into the magical streets of Mura we found an array of clothing and accessory stores, all varying in price and style, with some more hidden than others – but of course my nose is like a bloodhound’s when it comes to clothing, so we found them easy enough! Vintage store Taneo was a lucky find – hidden up some stairs above another shop, as many of them are – and was the first we found of its kind. As always, I had to christen this event with a purchase and luckily Taneo was filled with plenty of candidates to add to my unhealthy collection of clothing. Despite wanting everything, I finally settled on my crazy Olympic 3D jumper, with tiny dedicated knitted men propped on top, practicing in the hopes of winning the gold medal. Our hotel, Lions Rock Shinsaibashi, was conveniently placed in the center of these wonderful treasures, and it was only a few seconds from here I found an awesome little accessory den. Small but packed to the rim with kooky bits and bobs, this little space was home to a mix of unique jewellery, novelty handbags and purses, crazy printed leggings, skirts, t-shirts and stand-out shoes. I took my sweet time in here, since it was the only place I could shop without finding myself lost – my sense of direction is shameful.
It is also in Osaka that I began my filthy love affair with Monki. Here I am, thinking I have made a discovery so great even the scrolls of the dead sea had nothing on me! Then, lo and behold, it turns out there was a store sitting slyly in Carnaby Street all along – less than ten minutes from where I work! So, I can’t claim credit for that one. What I can claim is that Monki is AWESOME! Classic and simple foundations with a quirky edge that will leave enough pennies your pocket for another spin around the store to find those gorgeous pieces you missed the first time around. I, myself, did a frantic spree, since I assumed I would never see this place again. The result was one fabric bag, a pair of suede black Mom trousers, one black dress and croc style leggings – I didn’t want to stop there, but like I said, I forgot the private jet.
Kyoto had a much more relaxed atmosphere than its two buddies in the North and South. Of course, this came as no surprise. When we think of Kyoto we imagine serene gardens, traditional wooden ryokans, keeping cozy in kimonos and green tea by the river. From my short experience here, it appeared fashion followed the same pattern; less catwalk, more comfortable. And comfortable I was, for sure, in my gorgeous ryokan and garden – complete with kimono nightwear! In fact, in every hotel that I laid my peanut shaped head, one of these beauties could be found hiding in a drawer, or sitting on my freshly made bed – just one of the many benefits of visiting Japan! Of course, I treated myself to one to take back to the UK- how could I resist? It was on my check list of things I MUST do on this ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. Lucky enough, they were being sold outside the Fushimi Inari Shrine – second hand for half the price! It was as if they could smell my bargain-hunter stench a mile off!
Last but certainly by no means least: Tokyo. Stepping into the concrete jungle, I finally understood Miss Stefani’s fashion obsession. If you have money to burn, an empty wardrobe and any ounce of sense underneath that fabulous head of hair, all you need now is a one way ticket to Tokyo. Three days in this place was long enough to realise that I need to relocate ASAP! The really poop thing about going to somewhere like Tokyo to shop is that, unless you have your own private jet and a harem of beefy men at hand, there is no way you will find a suitcase big enough to meet your requirements, or the strength to carry it. Next time I’m bringing the Tardis!
Let’s begin with Shibuya 109. It’s like the shiny new doll you adore to the ends of the earth but your irrational fear of dropping the lil cutie flat on her porcelain face keeps her boxed up in the corner – basically I tried not to touch anything, break anything, lick anything or drool anywhere. It’s so pretty! A mass of variety in gorgeous packaging – from preppy to sporty, pink and girly to smart and sophisticated, all the way through to crazy anime prints – Shibuya 109 has it all! And it’s presented so beautifully, with the assistants ready to meet your every need. You really are spoilt for choice.
HARAJUKU! Need I say more? BUT I MUST, oh I must! I have previously claimed that Beyond Retro is my vintage heaven on earth, but I’m making a rebuttal. It has to be done. Because, people, I found the real heaven – fluffy marshmallow clouds, angels shaking their ass like it’s Friday, big pearly diamond encrusted gates!
HARAJUKU! HARAJUKU! HARAJUKU! We literally spent the whole of our last day here and it still wasn’t enough time to see everything (which is probably for the best, since I didn’t want to return to London and be forced to live in a box due to dwindling funds). I have to make a special mention of a few of my favourites from the trip. Me; the land of quirk, bow ties and chunky shoes, Pin Nap; an 80s and 90s paradise exploding with colour and last but not least Panama Boy; the cosy armchair of vintage stores, stocked to the brim with awesome 80s pieces and dear old teddy bears – you’ll just want to cuddle up and spend the night with your new buddies in your sass togs. Or why not the rest of your life?
But SERIOUSLY, people, there is such an abundance of vintage stores in Harajuku, ranging in price, style and vibe, you wont go home empty handed. If you are a lover of crazy prints, conversational pieces, novelty items, thrift stores (Carrie Bradshaw and Macklemore style!) and particularly 80’s pieces you will certainly appreciate what Harajuku has to offer….
…And, of course, Japan as a whole itself. It was amazing from the moment I dragged my booty off the plane and never ceased to impress, entertain and amaze! If you get the chance to go, please take it! For the sake of your wardrobe and your wanderlust! It really does rock your socks. And if you don’t wear socks, go to Japan and buy some!!!! 😀
THANK YOU JAPAN ❤