A little slice of Tokyo here in Vancity.

Osaka supermarketSo it’s been a week or so since my last post. Had a short family holiday to Whistler where I was happy to hear a fair amount of Japanese spoken and see some Japanese families enjoying beautiful BC but I’m back at it now. I went to the Osaka Supermarket the other day (part of the T&T chain) in search of green tea in bottles for the child. I was most excellently surprised to see a few items that I wasn’t expecting to find in Vancouver, albeit at much higher prices. First of all, Tsubaki/camellia oil. Same packaging as Japan, same stuff BUT it was a little over twice the price. Still good to know that I can get it here as apparently you can’t ship it because it’s an oil and I’m not quite sure if I’ll be back in Japan before I run out. Next, Karis was happy to hear that the magic fat burning detox gel is also available here if she decides that it is worth using at about three and a half times what it costs in Japan. Green tea–the powdered matcha NOT tea bags–is also available which is no surprise; however, the EXACT same bag that I bought in the Japanese dollar store for 100 yen (about $1.03) was seven dollars! Glad I stocked up on those as I use matcha every day. The 1L bottles of green tea that Karis bought daily in Japan are much harder to find. The first bottles I bought had sugar and honey in them which sort of detracts from the idea of ‘health’ and ‘detox’ but I went back and managed to find a couple of unsweetened varieties. Almost ALL of the brands available in Canada, from various Asian countries, are sweetened. The ones that are not sweetened are $7/IL bottle. A little expensive for a daily habit.

Finally, oh happy day, something completely unexpected. They have green tea Popsicles! Same price as Japan. Go figure…

green tea popsicles

Things to do, eggs to lay.

Buddha

I needed another six months in Tokyo at least. There’s so much to see and do, even if you’re not into museums. I AM into museums (not just because they’re air-conditioned but I barely scratched the surface and I was a committed museum-goer whilst I was in Japan. There are  many temples and shrines to see ranging from the small neighbourhood shrines to large imperial temples, plus so many other places of interest: a spa/thermal bath amusement park, Tokyo Disneyland, the Sapporo beer factory, Sake-making tour, kimono trying-on events, ikebana (flower arranging) classes, tea ceremony, Kabuki, the Robot Dinner Theatre, Panasonic Centre, the Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, Asakusa, the Imperial Palace, my old neighbourhoods, Sumida River Tour, not to mention all the local festivals, sumo tournaments, shopping and Obon (festival of the ancestors) which I’ve always wanted to see. My mum was going to come to Tokyo to visit us because she loves Japan (and probably missed the grandchild too). She visited Japan in 1990 when I was living there and we had a fabulous time touring all over the place…though I was exhausted and had to rest when she went home! This time around it wasn’t the best timing as the heat was a big factor–my mum is an intrepid traveller but brutally high temperatures with high humidity isn’t her cup of tea. I can’t imagine it being anyone’s cup of tea though, unless you’re on a beach somewhere.

I really wouldn’t recommend coming to Japan in the summer. Ever. It’s too hot to enjoy so much of what Tokyo and Japan has to offer. I’d come for the cherry blossoms in the spring or for the shichi-go-san festival (3-5-7) in the fall which is when girls (age 3 and 7) and boys (age 5) go to the shrines in full kimono for a ceremony…cutest thing ever! The weather is decent in both the spring and the fall and at least you can go outside without perishing from heat exhaustion!

In the photo, Karis is leaning against the ad for an exhibit I wanted to see but didn’t get time. The Tokyo National Museum is in Ueno Park…I walked past it on my way to the National Museum of Western Art but even I have my limits. Can’t do two large museums in one day. Smaller ones (like the Bridgestone, L’Orangerie in Paris) yes, but most of the museums in Ueno Park are huge and deserve at least a day to themselves. Not that you’d be staying at the museum for the whole day, but it certainly takes a dedicated art lover with a pliable mind to take in two large museum’s worth of art in one day 😉

Car Elevators and Mini Gas Stations

Garage

There are a lot of people in Tokyo–basically the population of Canada–so traffic can be intense. They drive on the same side of the road as the UK and are a lot more aggressive on the road than you would expect. Though I have to say, there is a lot less honking than I’ve experienced in any other city that has even a fraction of the population.

Gas stations use far less real estate than we do; usually they are on the side of the road in a small pull-out (similar to Europe). Drivers stay in the car and are served by a team of attendants (kind of like a racing pit stop) and most Japanese drivers are not well versed on the basic maintenance needs of their car. In fact, when I was learning Japanese from the Mormon missionaries back in 1990, the Canadian Mormon had partnered with a Japanese businessman who moved his wife and family to Vancouver. They bought a car. He proudly mastered the use of self-serve gas stations; however, no one told him about the importance of oil. He blew the engine. He was quite surprised and said to me, “I guess oil is important for the car’s engine…we don’t learn this information in Japan.”

The customary parking structures we use in North America are not viable in Tokyo due, not only to a lack of space, but to the astronomical cost of that space. When I lived there in 1990-91, many of the executives who were clients had cars and drivers but those who really made it had parking spots in addition to the company car and driver. In Shibuya, one of my local parking garages has a full-time attendant who drives the cars in and out, mostly because it’s a little more complicated than our local EasyPark in Vancouver. In Tokyo, you drive in the parking lot onto the spinning round “automobile lazy Susan” you get out, get your ticket and leave. The attendant then spins the car around, opens the elevator door and backs the car in. Cars are either stacked on a revolving ferris-wheel like structure or the elevator is used to transport cars between levels, eliminating the huge amount of space used for ramps. Many people even have two-layer structures in private homes.

One thing more… Parking has gotten a whole lot cheaper in Tokyo! I noticed on the sign that it’s only about $3/hour…way less than it was back in the day!

Sweat Switch Hot Scrub Massage.

fat burning gel

Ah the curiosities of Japanese drugstores….To be completely honest, there were some purchases that we weren’t entirely sure of…in that we didn’t really know what they did but they were intriguing and/or affordable enough to take a chance. The one thing I did stay away from is the ubiquitous skin bleach that is found in many products as the Japanese value pale and blemish free skin which also explains the fact that they have the best sunscreen in the world. Luckily the labelling on these products was often in English/Roman lettering as well as Japanese characters and you learn pretty quickly what to avoid–anything that “whitens, brightens, illuminates, blanches, or bleaches” your skin. Tightening, firming, youthful, pretty, baby (yes, they have a whole line based on “baby” skin which I originally thought was cosmetics for babies and toddlers), lovely and collagen are all words that usually indicate a product with collagen or vitamin C/E instead of bleach. I did learn the Japanese characters for “face bleach” just to make sure 😉

One of our favourite products in addition to the camellia oil, the Shu Uemera facial cleansing oil and the Hello Kitty Collagen Wash is the fat-burning gel. Karis found it at the Don Quixote store and we thought we’d give it a go. The first brand we bought says “Esteny THE MASSAGE Body” on the label along with a picture showing a tomato and some ginseng or ginger. The instructions show that you are supposed to rub it into your stomach. That’s it. No more English but it was only about $6. Karis tried it, and whilst she did smell a lot like a tomato, she claims that it got really hot and she swears her stomach is flatter. She’s a believer. Though this is a child that believed the house hippo was real for quite some time….

The second tube we bought had a lot more English on it as well as a picture of a hot pepper and ginger noting they are HOT. It also has the following in English: DEEPTOCX sweat switch hot scrub massage. Use DEEPTOCX to complete cleansing of your body. Promotion of blood circulation by massage activates your body. DEEPTOCX promotes sweating to remove excessive moisture and waste containing unwanted substances. How could I possibly resist? Apparently it also contains the Hawaiian coffee fruit and gets rid of arm fat (AKA batwings). I haven’t used this product yet, but I did use Karis’s Esteny gel on my arms. I didn’t feel hot sensations, though to be fair the product has a lot more fat to work through on my arms than the negligible amount of fat on Karis’s stomach. My arms are slightly smaller but I’ve also been working out so I can’t really tell what caused the reduction. If the fat-burning gel actually works I will be importing a container of it and bathing in it daily. Stay tuned.

Change is the only constant.

smoking

Admittedly it has been 23 years since I was last in Tokyo and my memory is a little foggy, but I have noticed some changes since I was there last. I’m sure there are noticeable changes in ANY society is 23 years, but the ones I remember are things that were always curious or different or noteworthy to me, even back in the day.

Smoking: Tokyo used to be one big smoke pit. Not only was it legal to smoke everywhere (as I’m sure it was in many places in 1991), but it seemed like more people smoked. It is still legal to smoke outdoors but only in designated and gated-off smoking areas. There doesn’t seem to be any public indoor smoking areas that I saw, but I’m not completely ruling it out. There is still smoking allowed in many restaurants and it seems that many people will still smoke…even right under the non-smoking sign.

Booze in vending machines: Sadly this is no longer the case. Apparently the law was changed to help reduce underage drinking. I have fond memories of the various booze dispensing vending machines in my old neighbourhoods. Of particular note was the vodka machine. It sold only vodka (can’t remember if it was Russian or Japanese but I’m thinking Russian) in a veritable plethora of sizes ranging from airplane miniatures to a large plastic jug with a handle. It was quite affordable and eminently drinkable. There were also many machines that sold beer–brand specific or just any type of beer–and sake in jars, bottles, cans (heated or cold) and casks. Magnificently convenient though I do understand why they had to stop this practice. You can now buy alcohol at any convenience store or grocery store. The only form of ID is that you must tap a button on a touch screen acknowledging that you are at least 20 years old. I can’t help but wonder if the Japanese are too polite to question you…especially if you’re a foreigner.

Height: The overall average height of the Japanese people has risen significantly in my experience. Or else I’ve gotten shorter which is also a distinct possibility. Regardless, people are taller. When I was here last, I went to galleries and museums at least once a week. The crowds never bothered me as even if they were five people deep, I could always see over everyone’s head. No, I didn’t wear heels. I am still taller than the majority of women but not all the men anymore. I also saw some distinctly tall children. Very few overweight people though. I suspect this is because most people have to walk or bicycle every day. I’m finding my car and driving to be painful. I miss walking, even if it was 40 degrees.

English: There is MUCH more English spoken and written now. In the subway and on the trains, most signs are in English and on the major subway and JR lines, all the station announcements are also made in English. This makes life MUCH easier. There seem to be more English speakers around as well. Japanese students all study English beginning in high school but they are taught only to pass an exam and often by non-native speakers. They have impressive grammar skills but lack the ability to converse. This seems to still be the case as most of the people I had conversations with learned their English abroad.

Costs: I was in Japan just before the economy really and truly dumped. It was still the land of milk and honey. I made ridiculous amounts of money as a hostess ($500/night for about 4 hours and 45 minutes work) and as an English teacher ($75/hour up to 8 hours per day). No, I didn’t do anything morally suspect as a hostess unless you count bad karaoke–we weren’t allowed to drink, smoke, eat or cross our legs. If you were up for doing anything morally suspect you could make huge amounts of cash. I brought home enough money to pay for university AND to fund school in the south of France and travel around Europe the following summer. Things were expensive though and I saved money my last six months by working 6 days a week so I didn’t have time to spend anything. Food and lodging were more expensive in 1991 than I paid in summer 2014. Clothing was actually cheaper in many cases this time around as we were there during the sales. Some of the best stationery products in the world are significantly cheaper and heaps better than what we can get in Canada. It goes without saying that green tea–matcha powder which I pay $10 for a small package–is much cheaper. Even Haagen-Dazs ice cream is cheaper. I looked at a few real estate papers and it seems that house prices are down…still really expensive, but that old urban myth about crumpling up a US$100 bill as small as you can and dropping it on the floor in Ginza and having it represent the actual value of the tiny bit of space it covered seems to not be the case anymore. Despite all the news to the contrary, the economy on the surface is still functioning as the sheer number and variety of consumer goods available is mind-boggling.

Under Wraps.

packaging

The art of wrapping…and if it’s an art, it’s probably because the Japanese made it one. Usually when you buy things that come in a package like cookies, crackers and candy, they will come individually wrapped (cookies) or grouped together in small snack packages. It would be very helpful if you were assembling lunches or snacks for kids. It works well to keep things fresh and also (bug warning ewwww) to keep the cockroaches away. Yes, Tokyo is very hot and humid in the summer so they do suffer with cockroach infestations. Luckily we were on the second floor so we didn’t have many…at least we didn’t when I was there. Fingers crossed for the girls still braving the summer heat.

I have to say, things have become more eco-friendly, in terms of superfluous packaging, since I lived in Tokyo in 1991. I recall buying my daily treat at the bakery outside the station. One item only; a cookie, a cinnamon bun. My one item would be wrapped in waxed/tissue-like paper and secured with a sticker, then put in a small box (even if it was just a cookie), THEN put in a carrier bag. Most department stores followed a similar three-layer protocol. First your purchases would be wrapped in tissue–like with like so the packages would be symmetrical and tidy–and neatly fixed with tape or a sticker, then put in a paper or plastic bag THEN this bag would be placed inside a fancy carrier bag with a logo and handles. As I’ve mentioned before, those who brought their own bags or knapsacks to the grocery store were viewed as potential threats to the social order and often received their food nicely wrapped in plastic and paper to protect the inside of their fabric bags or knapsacks.

A lot has changed now. I didn’t buy too many bakery items but they seem to have it down to 2 layers of packaging: a cellophane bag closed with tape or a sticker, placed inside a paper or plastic bag–no more carrier bags unless you buy something big. The department stores, for the most part, still wrap everything in tissue or place items in a paper bag and then put them in a carrier bag. So they’ve got it down to two layers too. Some of the middle-tier department stores have even (gasp) gone to a one bag only system. Nicely taped closed with logo tape but still, only one bag. Some bags, Shibuya Loft comes to mind, even use plastic bags and not fancy carrier bags with logos and handles. They still bow when they present you with your purchases though.

My grocery store has a small rack at each cashier that holds laminated cards with a picture of a bag in a red circle with a line through it that you place in your basket if you have your own bag. You also get extra points and a discount if you bring your own bags. So times HAVE changed. However, they still bring out the plastic umbrella sleeves every time it rains, even in the most lowly of department and grocery stores. The idea of wrapping packages and gifts and concealing things that are less than aesthetically pleasing will likely be a hard habit to break for the Japanese.

Food Fair 2.0 (ex a diversus terra)

Italian Restaurant in Hikarie Shibuya

Please note that all posts are officially now from Canada (ex a divers us terra= from another country…sadly we’re not in Kansas anymore). Though I still have lots to say 😉

Back to the land of the rising sun (which is actually what the characters mean 日本…”the origin of the sun” or “the place where the sun rises and sets”) where you can find amazing restaurants in department stores. This goes way beyond the diner-like restaurants we used to see in Zellers and is more reminiscent of a cafe you’d find in Saks; however, you can usually find 1-2 floors of restaurants (example 6F and 7F in Hikarie Shibuya) plus 1-2 floors of food items in the basement (example B3F and B2F in Hikarie Shibuya) in most Japanese department stores.

The restaurant offerings are varied and range in price from fairly moderate ($10 pp for a set menu dinner) to really expensive ($80+ pp for dinner). There are usually up to three different Japanese restaurants specializing in various types of Japanese cuisine such as sushi, tempura, noodles, tonkatsu (pork cutlets in a variety of dishes), kaiseki (haute cuisine based on seasonal offerings), barbecue or grilled items, bowls of noodles with a whole egg sitting on top (not my fave), Japanese sweets, plus various places with regional specialities (Okinawa, Kyoto, Kyushu). In terms of other types of cuisine, curries from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are also popular in addition to basic Indian food from India. Italian food is also popular with the Japanese and most department stores have at LEAST one restaurant specializing in Italian food but you will often find restaurants with regional specialities (Milanese, Tuscan or Southern Italian), pasta, or pizza and casual fare. Chinese food is quite common and again, offers a few different types like dim-sum, noodle dishes, or very-high end Cantonese cuisine. Irish pubs abound. I’ve seen quite a few Spanish tapas bars as well.

In the basement you’ll find at least one, but often two floors selling groceries (dry goods), fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, deli items, ready-made meals (worldwide cuisine, not just Japanese food), bakeries, patisseries, wine, beer, spirits, chocolate, candies, boxed gifts of food, custom-order dinners that are made while you wait, vitamins, shakes, specialty coffee and tea…as well as smaller take-out restaurants lining the perimeter of the area selling meals that are much more reminiscent of what we would see in a food fair in the mall.

Our culinary experiences were positive for the most part. We did have department store dinner in Hikarie Shibuya at Capricci which was quite good. We had the set menu and our total bill which included the bread bar, an appetizer and a pasta. Including a ginger ale and a prosecco and the total bill was just under $60 (no tipping). The food was good but you can find a few quirks or questionable attempts at Japanese-Italian fusion…sweet potato buns and spinach buns in the bread bar; sweet butter (caramel flavoured?); and weird fish paste on top of Karis’s pasta. Overall it was very good and a pretty decent price. That being said, I bought some Italian deli items one day for dinner and they were less than fantastic (in terms of preparation, quality of ingredients and odd substations) despite costing close to $50. In my experience, it seems to be best to enjoy the cuisine of the country you are in, especially a place like Japan that offers a variety of delicious options that are usually the most affordable as the ingredients are common. Our favourite was sushi at the places with the conveyor belts (usually cheap and cheerful for people in a hurry on their lunch break or on their way home from work). The food was fresh and delicious and Karis and I could eat our fill for less than $15.

Back in the land of Messy, Grumpy People.

Subway people

I know it’s a bit presumptuous to have reverse culture shock after being away for only 5 and a half weeks but I think you experience things differently when you are living somewhere as opposed to holidaying–i.e. you are staying in an apartment, cleaning it, taking out the garbage, grocery shopping and not just staying in a hotel. Though I would have really liked a pool….

Anyway, it’s been a bit weird being home. I’m sure most of it can be attributed to jet lag but there are some cultural differences that spring to mind. People here seem undisciplined and self-concerned compared to the inherent order of Japanese society. Also messy and grumpy. This isn’t really much of a surprise as culturally we are conditioned to value the individual before considering our impact on society as a whole; the Japanese are conditioned differently, pretty much the exact opposite. They are taught to maintain order, avoid chaos and keep the social order intact. Children are taught from an early age that “the nail that sticks up is hammered down” so the urge to conform is pretty basic. Wherever it comes from, it makes for a more orderly and streamlined society, though I have no idea what people are thinking, they are outwardly polite. People don’t push or shove, they don’t jump the queue, they rarely honk their horns, they wait patiently to board the escalator, they make way on the sidewalk…though I guess this behaviour is partially a survival tactic in a city as large as Tokyo, otherwise chaos and anarchy would reign.

People dress more formally. I saw women in Lululemon-like outfits three times. Two of them were jogging and the other looked like she was on the way home from yoga class–based on the fact that she was carrying a yoga mat. The majority of men wear suits and women wear skirts or dresses or dressy shorts. Many kids wear uniforms and if not, they have the cutest clothes ever. Even the dogs are groomed. I know some of the formality comes from living in a larger urban centre but there is a noticeable difference to North American sartorial habits. It’s almost as if you have a responsibility to not disturb the flow by dressing like a bum. Being odd or alternative is fine (Harajuku girls come to mind) as long as you’re tidy. I noticed a similar scenario in Paris and subsequently read a book by an American living in Paris, married to a Frenchman, who was told by her husband that running to the bakery to get croissants in her sweats with her hair in a ponytail was insulting to society in general. Perhaps they have a similar expectation in Japan? I’ll have to look into it…. Also keep in mind that most households wash their clothes in cold water and dry them on a rack–even our neighbour, whose house was worth approximately $4 million, had laundry hanging daily on the deck.

In shops and restaurants they greet every single person that walks through the door. Always. Irasshaimase (welcome). When you pay for things they bow. In any place except the convenience stores and the grocery store, they walk your purchase around the counter and hand it to you, bowing. In smaller shops they walk you to the door and bow as you leave. If it’s an expensive purchase they bow until you are out of sight. Yes, I actually saw this in the Issey Mikayke boutique in Omotesando (high-end shopping area). Four shop assistants bowed until the woman disappeared around the corner two blocks away. I’m not even kidding. In department stores, they bow before they leave the floor. Bus attendants at airports and hotels bow as the bus appears and again as it drives away. I know this sounds excessive, but it is quite charming and you don’t actually realize how peaceful it is to be away from angst and strife until you are back in it. This is the country that experienced no looting or violence in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident.

I went to the 7-11 on Friday night. I said ‘Konnichiwa‘ to the clerk, mostly because I was so tired and momentarily forgot that I was not in the neighbourhood 7-11 in Tokyo where I visited every day. He looked at me like I was a complete nutter. He didn’t bow when I left….

The Long Road Home…

From top...our interminable taxi ride with the blind driver; last views of Narita, last meal (coke float and sashimi) and the fabulous bird's eye view camera from the plane!

From top…our interminable taxi ride with the blind driver; last views of Narita, last meal (coke float and sashimi) and the fabulous bird’s eye view camera from the plane!

I’m sure many of you may have guessed from the radio silence that we were travelling and are now back in Vancouver. I do have more things to post about Japan so I’m not ending the blog…I’m extremely long-winded (I’m told by my daughter) and five and a half weeks was not nearly long enough to say all that I had to say 😉

So we’re home. Getting home was a trial. Normally I have things fairly well planned and organized but there were things out of my control on this one. First of all, we bought our tickets on CheapOair. Not my first choice…actually pretty much one of my last choices, but I have to say it was fine AND a great deal. We flew Cathay which was fabulous (more on that later) but at first I couldn’t confirm our tickets on the Cathay website with the locater number from CheapOair so I was freaking out. CheapOair actually emailed me back and confirmed the flight and told me how to get on the Cathay site. Next, I couldn’t print a confirm as Karis’s computer was not downloading files to ANY flash drives (yes, I did buy a new one, didn’t work) so I had no printed confirms. Wanting to cover all my bases, I emailed the boarding passes to myself and Karis; downloaded the PDFs and screenshot each one.

Karis’s agency made reservations on the airport limousine, paid her fare and the cab to get to the bus and provided a map and instructions in Japanese for the cab driver. When I lived in Japan before, it was almost impossible to get a taxi to stop for a foreigner and you had to have a map and/or instructions in Japanese as there are no regular street names or addresses. I had all of this. Also, one of the bookers happened to be at the apartment as we were leaving so he helped load the car and explain (again) to the cab driver in Japanese exactly where the hotel was…literally a 5 minute drive from our apartment. Anyway we did everything exactly as instructed but we didn’t count on a cab driver not be able to find the hotel! With Japanese instructions, a map and a GPS! Though perhaps the fact that he kept looking at the map with a magnifying glass should have been my first clue. We missed the limousine bus. Luckily I still had my Japanese phone and called Yusuke at the agency and he talked to the cab driver but it was too late. Yusuke was trying to find another bus and was going to book us on the Narita Express which is a high-speed train. I explained there was no way this would work as we had too much luggage to manage on our own because it involves changing trains and going through the station. He then spoke to the driver again and told us he would drive us to Narita. At this point, I didn’t care as there was no way we could miss this flight. Cab fare to Narita is about $300.

So we’re driving and driving. Both Karis and I have to pee, like crazy. We finally get to Terminal 1 (as per Yusuke’s instructions) and Karis sprints out to go to the bathroom. The driver and I unload the car and I ask him the fare…on the meter it says 29000Y. He keeps repeating, “chigau, chigau, no fare.” I finally understand that he means not to charge us because it was his fault that we missed the bus. I insist on giving him 10000Y which he reluctantly accepts and bows until I enter the terminal building. I looked back and he was still bowing.

After the bladders were taken care of, we look for Cathay. And notice that it’s in…Terminal 2. Yusuke sent us to Terminal 1 because our original flight home was on ANA which is in Terminal 1. Sigh. Two floors down to the bus stop; load up the bus with our five suitcases, one carry-on bag and two purses; ride to Terminal 2; disembark with our five suitcases, one carry-on and two purses; wait 15 minutes for an elevator to the departures level–they’re always full because people are loading up on the floor below so we can never get on. We finally break protocol (serious thing in Japan) and get on an elevator going down and don’t get off just to we can ride back up again. Otherwise we’d still be there waiting. Finally arrive at Cathay which is glowing like a beacon in the distance. I love Cathay. The opened up a desk to serve us, printed our boarding passes, checked in four huge overweight bags for free, all with great professionalism, kindness and speed.

A quick visit to the cell phone return counter, a snack and a pit stop to buy Hello Kitty pens and we’re on our way.

Longest flight ever. The food was great (for airline food), great service, personal TV screens, free blankets, pillows and headphones. And my very favourite thing…they have a camera on the bottom of the plane so you could watch the take-off and landing. I’d definitely fly Cathay again…but it was a bit frustrating to fly BACK to Hong Kong, then to Vancouver over Japan. Our direct flight was a little over 9 hours…this was over 21 hours. I was ready to jump off the plane about 3 hours into the second flight….

It’s a barbieworld!

Barbie

It’s technically our last day…though the blog will carry on for a while as I’ve got a few more topics that I haven’t covered yet. In term so of modelling, it’s an odd market this year for a variety of reasons but mainly because there are more girls in town than usual. Karis has more work in Vancouver so we’re heading back to the west coast tomorrow…but hopefully back to Tokyo in the next year or so.

Anyway, back to Barbie. It was sort of apropos that we ended up at the Barbie 55th Anniversary Retrospective as I picked up a flyer advertising it from Seibu (department store in Shibuya) on my very first day in Tokyo…and I remember thinking that it would be a very cool thing to see. As I’ve mentioned before, most department stores here have a gallery and exhibition space and they tend to have some unique exhibits…sort of like 55 years of Barbie 😉 As usual, very well done and beautifully presented. A very complete collection of Barbies in the most amazing outfits, including some collector’s items and a unique Barbie designed by a contest winner. Lots of high fashion Barbie including Burberry, Juicy Couture, Bob Mackie, Christian Lacroix, Dior, Givenchy just to name a few…that I could actually read…the only drawback is that department store exhibits are rarely translated so it’s a bit slow trying to figure it all out but at least I can read the dates and take photos of Karis with the life size Barbie in the display.