Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What did I buy in Japan?

As a follow up to my first post on Things I buy in Japan, I am updating this to reflect my 2017/2018 shopping tastes. 

Of course, after living in Japan, you can believe I returned to the Unites State with a full suitcase of things I had acquired during my time there, from food to clothing to electronics. But for this post I am sharing what I purchased as a returning tourist there this past summer, which reflects a much more specific shopping strategy. 

I didn’t come to Japan thinking I would buy clothing. Even Uniqlo exports to the U.S. now and most clothes in Japan don’t fit me anyway. But when I saw a used Comme des Garcons skirt with a Yoji Yamamoto shirt in the window of Ragtag, I knew they had to be mine.

o Comme des Garcons skirt
o Yoji Yamamoto shirt
o Uniqlo skirt and top
o Inujirushika bag
o Brooklyn Parlour tote
o Bag chains

Beauty Products

Well, that part hasn't changed much in the last 10 years. Japan still has some of the best beauty products.

o 2 kinds of make up remover
o face wash
o body soap
o lotion
o mascara

Stationary aka Everything Delfonics
I love this brand more than anything so of course I made a special stop to their flagship store near Tokyo station.

o Tote
o Folder
o Notebook
o Pen

Magazine Books
Magazine books or Mooks are so incredible in Japan that they are well worth the weight in your suitcase to carry home. I exercised no restraint on this trip and bought 8 heavy glossy mooks home.

o Savvy’s guide to Kyoto
o Popeye’s guide to Kyoto
o Taipei travel guide
o 5 Cafes books 

I picked up a few touristy trinkets along the way, including 5 Daruma which I will wish upon. Headphones from Don Quixote are great for running, and Yayoi Kusama playing cards from an exhibit in Kyoto.

o Daruma
o Headphones
o Yayoi Kusama playing cards

I used to bring back a ton of packaged food and candy from Japan when I was a teenager, but my in recent days my tastes has steered away from candy and I had find all the packaged things in the state. However, this particular company makes amazing dressings and pastes, so at the recommendation of a friend, I took a few home with me. 

o Sesame dressing
o Miso paste

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Out of work Clown

Who says you can't wear stripes with polka dots in one outfit?

Jacket: Marc by Marc Jacobs
Shirt: H&M
Shorts: Orban Outfitters
Shoes: Target
Bag: vintage Coach

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tsutaya bookstore in three versions

Usually when I travel to a foreign country I check out a library – not a bookstore – but Japan is an exception for so many things, and this is one of them. For the most part, there is little of interest to be found in Japan’s public libraries, which are perfectly adequate for the purpose they serve, but tend to be very basic and lacking in innovation and design.

Not so with Japan’s private libraries, such as the Tama Art University Library and the Musashino Art University Library, both only open to students and inaccessible to the public (unless you are a member of an architecture firm or the press). 

I had been looking at ways to try to access these libraries but ultimately gave up because after all, Tokyo is a mecca for interesting architecture, and you need look not further but the bookstore Tsutaya.

Tsutaya has to be my favorite bookstore in the world. Not only is practically every location a design innovation, but they always have exactly the magazines I am looking for, great stationary, and art and travel books.

The most famous Tsutaya is known as T-Site, location in the posh residential neighborhood of Daikanyama. T-site is amazing both inside and out. On of my favorite things about this location is the lounge on the top floor. It would be a lounge anywhere in the world, but you this one is in a bookstore…in Tokyo. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of this lounge, but you'll get the idea when you see the Tsutaya in Shibuya next.

The second most amazing Tsutaya is the newest located in the Ginza 6 shopping mall. Usually I avoid shopping malls at all costs when I travel, but this one as a Kusama Yayoi sculpture hanging from the ceiling, so I figured I would take a look.

The Tsutaya here is no ordinary mall book store, it has a contemporary art gallery that changes exhibitions regularly (when I was there they had a private viewing), and throughout the hallways pieces of art were displayed. Even the Starbucks located in Tsutaya felt like an exclusive jazz lounge and had an enormously long line for tables.

Wondering why my pictures are so crappy?  That’s because I'm taking pictures covertly. My experience with shop staff in Japan has taught me that they really don’t like people taking pictures inside the store, so I had to be discreet, hence there are not photos that will someday find themselves in the pages of a photography book.


The third Tsutaya I visited (there are my no means only three locations in Tokyo, just three I am choosing to document) is one of the oldest, located in Shibuya. The first 8 floors or so are the typical bookstore experience, bright lights, crammed aisles, row after row of uniform bookshelves. Nothing to note there. But the top floor is Wired Tokyo 1999, a café and restaurant encircled with art book and magazines. There is so much good stuff to look at that you hardly want to spend a moment at your table waiting on food. However, we did order some coffee and pasta and both were excellent.

Friday, January 19, 2018

La outfit day 2

On my second day in LA I visited Malibu and the Getty Villa. I wore this top which I have owed since I was 12 years old, with a Comme des Garcons skirt I bought second-hand in Tokyo this past summer. This is the first and currently only Comme des Garcons piece I own and I want to wear it every way. 

Blouse: Kenneth Cole
Skirt: Comme des Garcons
Bag: Coach

Monday, January 15, 2018

Starbucks Japan: Summer edition

Starbucks used to be my haven in Japan. When I lived there, I would go to Starbucks as often as I could. This was partially due to the fact that there were not many other cafes in my prefecture, and that the culture of Japanese cafes is quite different from western-style cafes, and Starbucks was among the few places where I could pull out my laptop and write without being bothered.

However, times have changed since I lived in Japan 2013-2014, and now cafes are everywhere. So when I retuned to Tokyo last summer, I was determined not to go to Starbucks, but instead to hit up as many local cafes as possible. I was determined until I heard about Starbucks summer specials, and then I relented because I just had to, had to, try their new drinks. Here is what I had:

Watermelon Iced tea
I heard about this seasonal drink while I was still in the states and was looking forward to experiencing something like my beloved Watermelon Drink in Taiwan. Watermelon tea did live up to its hype with real puréed watermelon – not a power or food coloring. It was only semi-sweet, with just a subtle hint of sugar and the natural sweetness of watermelon. I didn’t taste any tea, so it was more like watermelon juice, but that was just what I wanted.

Yuzu Citrus Iced Tea
This was another iced tea flavor I noticed on the menu in Japan which I have never seen offered in another country. Yuzu is a kind of citrus in Japan, often cooked with sugar used to make sweet in the summer/ I was even more impressed with this drink than the Watermelon tea due to the yuzu pulp and nostalgic taste.

Matcha Chocolate Cake Espresso Shot Frappuccino
Every year Statbucks Japan tried to outdo itself with a new version of a Matcha Frapuccino. The year I moved to Japan, it was a Chocolate Brownie Matcha Frappuccino, and in years since they have done similar version of this drink. The Chocolate Cake version featered a small cake of top of the frapuccino, every time you poke your straw through you get a bit of cake in your mouth, and the longer the cake sits in the blended Frappuccino, the softer it becomes. I enjoyed this drink but still prefer the cake to be blended with the Frappuccino, for consistent flavor throughout.

Coffee Cakes
The flavored coffee cakes of Japan are among the best desserts Stabucks has to offer. The flavors change every season depending on the drink specials, but they are always semi-sweet, soft, and loaded with delicious and original flavor. This season I had Matcha cake, which featured a delicate dream on top. The other cake I enjoyed was Yuzu Citrus flavored, which has a citrus glaze on top.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

La Outfit

It's become my ritual to go to LA now every winter, and each trip I leave only getting through half the things on my to-do list. This December I spent a week there and still didn't see everything I wanted to see. It have so enjoy rediscovering this city of my youth...especially K-town.

Dress: Urban Outfitters
Top: American Apparel
Bag: Coach 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Return to Japan: a tourist after all

Ginza, a part of Tokyo I haven't seen in 15 years

After an on-and-off ten year relationship with Japan that culminated with me living in the mountains of rural Shimane prefecture, I returned to the city of my fascination as, of all things, a tourist.

Tokyo is one of those few places in the world where I have always thought myself more local than foreign, and going there to see the sights was an idea that didn’t appeal to me all that much at first.

I realized after many years and many trips that I have never seen Tokyo. I have only seen people in Tokyo, and that’s different. On all of my brief visits, I have gone to meet friends and strangers alike, but have never merely wandered the streets as a tourist. This time I would revisit the city that influenced so much of my youth and try to see it from a new lens – the same lens I use to evaluate any new place I travel to – that of a tourist.

Someone's house, Tokyo

The first time I set foot in Tokyo was July of 2003. If you had asked me how the city changed in the last 15 years I would say it hadn’t.  The ugly uniform architecture from the bubble period of the 1980s was still ubiquitous. Landmarks were the same. Even hole-in-the-wall restaurants were still there for me to return. But in the summer of 2017, the city did feel defiantly changed:

There were signs in English where there had never been.
There was new construction all around.
Cafes were opening left and right.
The once quiet and discreet gay area of Shinjuku was adorned with rainbow flag and men in ass-less chaps crowding outside the doors of bars.

Street art popping up everywhere

The city had finally changed. I blame the 2020 Olympics. And globalization. And the inevitable. But it seems to have changed and been changing for the better. Certainly I can’t complain about cafes and English signs and bustling gay bars.

In the end, I spent the majority of my time not with any of the dozens of people I’ve known for 10+ years living there – but with a new friend I had known for only a few months. So this trip was both an ode to nostalgia and a making of new memories.

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 ...