Monday, December 31, 2012

Fall 2012 Collection

Hey - remember how I said I was merging blogs? Well, get ready to see bits of fashion posts interwoven with travel posts.

Doesn't make a whole lot of sense now, but it will be more coherent later on...I hope...I sense a theme emerging through all this...

Anyways, I wanted to post some recent clothes I made before the year comes to a close. I'm calling this my "Fall 2012 Collection" even though it is not so much a collection as an assortment of random things I've made in the last few months.
Honestly, I've hardly touched the sewing machine in months. I'm been busy with my thesis this Fall, and now that I'm done I can focus on sewing a bit more.
If you want to see some real examples of collections, check out Fall 2010 or Spring 2012.

Lace dress

Cocktail dress

Lace dress

Sleeveless lace dress

Lace dress in a different lace

Yellow floral dress

two-tone cape dress

sheer red top

Large fur bag

mini fur bag

Friday, December 28, 2012

Journey to Izumo: Izumoshi Station

 Izumoshi station is the last stop on the Sunrise Izumo, a 12-hour overnight train ride from Tokyo. Though the train had been making stops throughout the night, when we awoke around 7:00 a.m., our cabin was still crowded with people. Slowly, however, with each stop they became less and less, until we arrived at Izumo, and we were the only ones left. Being the last people to depart the train left us feeling strangely out of place. Like we overslept our real exit and we were now getting off in some no-man's land.

Sure enough though, the Izumoshi Station sign greeted up upon descent.

This marked the end of the only night I ever spent on a train in Japan. Usually I'd be at in a hotel, or a friend's house, or ever bar-hopping all night. Standing on the train station platform made me realize how unbelievable hungry I was. After sleeping on a floor for 12 hours, I decided to celebrate with my favorite Pancake drink from a vending machine. 

God how I love the pancake drink. It literally tastes like  pancake in a can. Imagine a milk tea, but with a slight buttery-maple-syrupy flavor to it. 

Yeah man

I am not fucking kidding

This was my very first time in what I am going to call, "deep Inaka." Inaka is the Japanese work for: rural, countryside, sticks, boonies, BFE. It has a slight derogatory connotation to it, but it can be used affectionately. Americans may confuse this term, however, with our own perception of the rural countryside. Mind you, Japan is a very crowded country, so any town with a population under 2 million is considered Inaka. There is no Pawnee-Texas-population-202-type town in Japan. Basically, a place can be crowded, and still be inaka. Also, one last misconception. Just because a place is inaka, doesn't mean it is without modern technology. Get rid of those rural-China-ox-cart-farming images. You won't see anything like that in Japan's inaka. Rather, imagine something like a sprawling suburb, with no McDonalds and no Starbucks. Welcome to inaka.

Now, "deep" inaka is my term for a place which is really really inaka, but also really far from any major city. People joke that the town of Chiba is inaka, but Chiba is only a 45-minute train ride from Tokyo. Izumo is 12 hours. The closest city is probably Matsue, but there are not many world-famous destinations on Japan's northwest coast. Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo are all along the southeast coast. 

The street right outside Izumoshi station

Landscaping around the station

Despite being "deep inaka," Izumoshi station is pretty big, and even has a little shopping center. I enjoyed a nice meal of  Oyako Don at the soba restaurant there. We were the only customers, and the waitress was an old women who was probably also the shop owner. 

Oyako Don, rice, tea, pickles

The thing I really like about inaka is that people kind of expect you to speak Japanese. Maybe they figure that you've made it this far, so you probably know enough to get by. Usually they are right. The fact that I speak Japanese is kind of taken for granted in inaka. Feels great. 
Don't judge. You'd look the same if you had slept on a train floor for 12 hours.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dreaming of a Japanese Cat Cafe

Can "cats" be a theme for a cafe? If so, does that make it a "theme cafe"? Or can you really even call it a cafe if there is no food or drink served? Isn't it just an indoor petting zoo?

These were my questions upon entering the cat cafe. I'm sure some people go to Japan and think, "I can't freakin' wait to visit a cat cafe."

That wasn't the case for me.

Instead, confused and hungover on a Wednesday morning, I wondered the streets of Shinjuku with some friends until we came across a cat acfe. I asked if we should go in.
"Well, what the hell else would we do?" was the reply.
So we went in. 

For about $10 you get one hour in what feels like a crazy cat-lady's living room. There were about 30 cats that I counted, all of different breeds. That was plenty of cats for me, but my friend seemed disappointed.
"I wanted it to be a sea of cats. Thousands and thousands of cats."

So what it the point of a cat cafe? My understanding is that it is extremely expensive to have a pet in Japan. The pet shops I have visited have all sold regular dogs and cats for prices well over $500. Even if you can afford to buy a pet, the maintenance is very expensive and cumbersome in Tokyo. Not to mention, most apartments are too small, and people work too much to give a pet a decent standard of living. So to satisfy the urge to be surrounded by cats in an urban jungle, people pay for time at a cat cafe. This is just one example of how Japan truly has a means of satisfying any desire. And I mean, any desire

cat as cashier

So the way it works is that you enter the building, remove your shoes (a Japanese norm) and put your stuff in a locker. Then you get a time card from the front desk, and they review the cat room rules with you in Japanese (of which, I only understood half). You can pay extra money for cat nip and cat food, but you can't feed the cats outside food.

The cats were all cozy and people-friendly. Not like your neighbor's cat who hides under the couch every time you show up. They all look pretty happy and healthy, so I know they are being treated well. They all seemed to get along well with each other too.

So what kind of people go to a cat cafe? I mean, besides bored hungover people such as myself. Well, it looked like a lot of young couples. Now, I personally don't think of this as a hot date-type of activity, but I'm no expert on romance.

But the most interesting character of all was a man known as "The Humidifier Watcher." This was a man, probably in his mid-forties, who was there before we arrived, and probably long after we left. He stayed in the same position the entire time, his eyes transfixed on the humidifier. He didn't play with the cats, he didn't touch them, or feed them, he just sat and stared....

The Humidifier Watcher (right)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hello Kitty Terminal - Taoyuan Airport

Since I seem to be doing things in duos, (i.e. the themed-restaurant duo) I decided to follow up my Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe post with the Hello Kitty Terminal in the Taoyuan International Airport.

Now, my whole experience leaving Taoyuan was not particularly great, though it did end with me flying home first class on Delta. While I don't wish to reiterate some of the bad parts of my time in that airport, I would be very happy to discuss the Hello Kitty terminal, which I got to see for all of thirty seconds while racing from the security checkpoint to my airplane.

The terminal can be found at gate C3, right next to a large Hello Kitty gift shop. As if they didn't have enough Hello Kitty merchandise floating around Taipei, this shop and terminal offers one final Sanrio experience before departing the country.

Unlike the cafe, this place was crawling with children. As a non-parent / non-child, I felt horribly out of place. Not the type of area I would just like to linger about, though it does make for some good picture-taking.

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...