Japan Photo Story – Nara Park

We went to Nara Park today. Nothing in the world could have prepared either Plum or myself of the wonder that is Todaiji, the largest wooden structure in the world.

We gawked… and if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these will tell you just how speechless we felt. No vlog today because… it was just WOW.

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@ Oji-cho, Nara

Vlogs & Japan Love!

We haven’t done a review as we planned to… but it’s because we have a pretty good reason.

After so many years of waiting, Plum and I are finally in Japan!! XD

It’s amazingly beautiful, fresh, earnest and… cold. Well, cold by Singaporean standards anyway. As I type this, the ambient temperature is around 17 degrees celsius and rather cloudy. I suspect its due to the rain and according to google, the weather will continue to be this cold till tomorrow when it might clear up and be sunny.

Below are the vlogs we made en route and once we got here. I’ve lost all sense of time and Plum enjoys sleeping whenever she gets the chance. I envy her for being able to do so. I’m wide awake after 5 hours and I didn’t get an ounce of sleep on the plane from BKK to KIX. :/

But Japan is worth it and I would write more but we’ve already vlogged it. So… Enjoy our rants!

@BKK:

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Incredible Tales – Revenge

Yay! We finished the second episode after much pain…. ^_^

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No thanks to iMovie ’08 *mutters*. <_<; This episode is proof that there are moments where Apple just made something so insanely difficult to use. I was looking forward to the editing process but in the end, Plum had to do it again. Still, she did do an excellent job.

Enjoy!

Vlog #1 – Karaoke

Bad singing…. loads of fun. ^0^

– Blossom

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Incredible Tales – The Passenger

Diversity.

It’s always a nice thing. Even if I wonder whether or not, Plum and I might get potentially sued for this. We don’t mean any harm but with the litigious nature of today… I thought we should put this out there.

It’s not about kimonos or anything Japanese today. It’s really about Singapore and in a sense, you could say that this is the other side of PnB which is the gaijin experience.

We started doing the video for the lulz but soon found that we had a legitimate reason on our hands. Plum and I grew up on Singaporean tv and we remembered ‘the glory days’ of when we loved whatever they served us – local or otherwise. We particularly enjoyed the local productions because most of the time, they were quite good.

However, most of it is less than stellar nowadays… or rather, started when I became a teenager. This problem just seemed exacerbated by the advent of the internet and with youtube, it just put the final nail in the coffin. And let’s not forget cable tv which totally kills local Singaporean programming.

That’s not to say that Singaporean tv blows. They have some great fare… so this is our attempt to sort of sieve through what we like and what we don’t like about local productions. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about the industry to make more informed reviews… and also up the standard of our own editing (though Plum and I aren’t professionals so it’s going to take us a while to figure out how to even use iMovie properly >_<;)

So, what happens when 2 Singaporean girls get bored and have a webcam and a mike… well, they load xinmsn.com, log their thoughts… and make jokes and bad puns about the stuff they’re watching. Pardon the audio and the editing, our dear audience of 1. XD

-Blossom

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this time, next month…

… we will be in JAPAN.

Needless to say, we’re both very excited to actually be able to say that and mean it. Tickets are bought and the hotel room is booked. Plum and Blossom are off to Japan for 12 glorious days.

It’s been a while since either of us blogged and if the dashboard wasn’t virtual, it would have covered with a layer of dust. As usual, the culprit that distracted us from all things Japanese was basically work. Oh, that evil, evil word…

One thing we’re definitely looking forward to is the ability to wear yukatas as much and as often as we want when we get there. Since its the summer, tourists in traditional dress aren’t that rare a sight. Plus, Plum and I are Asians so we’ll stick out less as compared to people who aren’t Asian and wearing a yukata. (I still think afro hair with a yukata can totally work though)

Ah, Japan… we’re prepared to be wow-ed and reduced to total fangirlism. @0@

– Blossom

Furisode girls here to make your day!

Some of my favourite shots!

To all curious onlookers at the park: Yes, we were there to make your day! XD

Sakura-hime waiting

Himes resting at the pavilion. Tired.

Kogane-hime crossing the river

Meet Japan’s First Western Geisha

From time to time, I find pretty interesting articles on life in Japan.

This one’s about Fiona Graham, the first ever non-Japanese, western Geisha. I’ve always thought Liza Dalby was the first but apparently, Dalby never billed the clients she entertained. She also didn’t undergo the same amount of intensive training.

Below is an excerpt of the article. Enjoy! 🙂

~Blossom

Meet Japan’s First Western Geisha (excerpt from msn.com)

So how did this tawny-haired foreigner gain access to possibly the world’s most secretive profession? Geisha customs are so arcane, Sayuki says, that even Japanese women are told to imagine they’re “entering an alien country” when they start training. “I spent almost 10 years in Japan from age 15, first as an exchange student, then attending a Japanese university,” says Sayuki, who is fluent in the local language. Later, she specialized in Japanese culture while completing her doctorate in anthropology at Oxford University. Without this grounding, becoming a geisha would have been impossible. “I get many e-mails from American women who want to be geisha. I explain that it’s like trying to be a Japanese politician — nobody could arrive in Japan and become a politician overnight,” she says. “You need advanced verbal and social skills.”

American author and anthropologist Liza Dalby, the leading Western authority on geisha culture, agrees. “For Japanese, geisha are a repository of essential Japanese-ness. A foreigner in this role is almost a contradiction in terms,” she says. Sayuki is the exception to the rule, and she has become so immersed in her geisha persona that she loathes discussing the fact that she’s a gaijin — literally, “an outside person.” Says Sayuki, “My Western background is irrelevant in my daily working life. I have to adhere strictly to the rules and customs just like everyone else.” For instance, as the second most junior geisha in Asakusa — in terms of when she made her debut rather than her age, which no geisha reveals (although she looks to be in her mid-30s) — Sayuki must greet each of her 44 geisha sisters in order of seniority when they hold a meeting, and do so on her knees. “If I get the order wrong,” she says, “I am severely reprimanded.”

Read more of the article here.

More かわいい, less こわい

NB:

かわいい – kawaii (cute) こわい – kowai (eerie)

So this post is a long time coming…

Our bad but better late than never. It’s unnerving to start all over again. Thankfully, the craziness is over for now. I figured it’s best to start off in a chronological order – starting with the halloween post that’s been collecting dust in a corner of my brain.

Between the two of us, Plum is the more outgoing and sociable personality. I’m more tethered to my room, home and all things familiar.

So it took her more than a week’s worth of nagging to get me to agree to attending a Halloween party. Even the bit about it being on a boat, while novel, didn’t hook me.

Halloween isn’t anything much beyond an excuse to party, for some girls to wear next to nothing under the guise of it being a costume and generally getting up to mischief. I’ve done my share of partying in my late teens and I can honestly say that another evening of this didn’t quite appeal to me.

However, like all other ideas, this one took root and my brain was soon running away with what I might like to wear should I choose to attend.

As you can tell from the onsite pics, gunning for the sexy school girl (overrated and too close to home) or the hot slutty sailor wasn’t going to work… so I decided to corner the market on Kawaii-ness.

And that meant dressing up like a porcelain doll or…going Loli.

I’m not and expert so I was in for a huge surprise. I didn’t know till doing some sort of research online just how much effort it took to constructing the Loli-look. It isn’t just some concoction of all things frilly and pink cooked up while one’s ‘discretion gland’ is suspended.

Here’s a summary of all the stuff I gleamed throughout the process and I hope it helps anyone who wants to know more or just wants a rough breakdown. (Do click on the links. Some of the sites aren’t active – which is a shame – but just take a look. ^_^; Enjoy!)

A few issues that certainly made me stop to think were:
– type of Lolita
– anatomy of a Lolita’s getup
– the cost of an ensemble
– my own cynicism

Type of Lolita
Just go on wiki or simply googling the term ‘Lolita Fashion’ and one can see the many types of Lolitas. So my first task was choosing the type of Lolita I was going to dress up as.

According to this site, there’s up to 16 types of Loli-styles to choose from – something I find completely mind boggling. Eventually, I narrowed them down to what I understand to be the ‘main’ types of Lolita:

  • Sweet Lolita

Sweet Loli (but somehow, I have a feeling we're seriously lacking frills here...)

The Sweet Lolita is the one we all recognise dressed in varying amounts of pink, flouncy things with lots of frills, natural make up, curly hair and… all things insanely girlish and feminine.

  • Gothic Lolita

Gothic Loli... personally, I love her entire look.

This brand of Lolitas seem to capture the same ‘spirit’ but with an approach involving contrasting colours such as white and black or pink and black… Lots of black, really because it’s an easy way to show contrast. It’s apparently modeled after Victorian servant wear or mourning clothes. One blogger mentioned that it was the oddest combination of Little Girl meets Old Woman… which reminded me a little of the Olsen Twins.

The other Loli sub-types fall in between these two. The Hime or Princess Loli is very baroque and elaborate in style with pearls, more frills and at times, seems possessed by the spirit of Marie Antoinette. The Ero Loli… is pretty much straight forward sexiness playing on the nymphet fetish. On a tangetial note, the Aristocrat is an interesting alternative that I recommend you pay attention to. It seems to be lumped under Loli because there’s no current classification for it.

The Anatomy of a Lolita Getup

After deciding that I would dress up as the normal Sweet Loli and Plum, as Gothic Loli, it was time to scout for items that would make up our look.

Note the frills on this otherwise scientific diagram! *points finger to heaven*

Looks simple enough, right?

We were so dead wrong. While we knew what to look for or what sort of colours we wanted after looking through the myriad of recommended websites like Baby, The Stars Shine Down (Paris site) or Innocent World, we discovered a distinct lack of shops that could provide us with the needed items at a reasonable enough price… which brings me to the next concern I had…

The Cost of an Ensemble

Most of the cost of an outfit is offloaded by making or crafting your own stuff. Most of the Loli-sites I went to were full of people sharing their works that they take great pride in. Most of these items are very elaborate and pretty… and only understandable that it would cost quite a bit when you put them up for sale.

Still, the cost of a full ensemble is staggering, especially if everything is storebought. After some calculation, we found that it could easily reach upwards of SGD$500 with the dress and shoes being the most expensive items.

Also, due to the scarcity of these sort of shops in Singapore, the few that do sell Loli fashion items e.g. Black Alice or Haru tend to:

  • charge super expensively
  • have terrible service (though this is attributed to the salespeople and not the style… I’m just still annoyed at their No-Trying policy and their hiring of totally uninterested teenagers-pretending-to-be-adults-working-at- Abercrombie&Fitch whose level of social skills are far below the standard known as ‘Lacking’)
  • have a limited range of goods and sizes.

Thankfully, we found a good enough shop called Atsuki at Liang Court. The salesperson aka ‘Holy Princess Devil’ Jolyn (I found her email quite amusing and couldn’t help but advertise it XD) was very helpful and even told us about the rental policy they had.

I rented this gorgeous skirt…

Teal skirt with black lace and crinoline

Gothic-esque... at least

… while Plum opted for this…

So, we ended up straying away from the strict definitions of Loli by a mile… I opted to go as a porcelain doll while Plum went as a cabaret girl.

After all that effort, I can understand why and recommend people actually sew their own clothes in this style. Its amazingly hard to find what you want in stores, even online.

My Own Cynicism

While we didn’t end up dressing as Loli as we wanted to, for many reasons ranging from cost to availability… I had to say that we had tons of fun exploring another facet of ‘extreme’ fashion that I otherwise would never have considered even trying out.

While I do still have a love-hate relationship with all things cute and typically girly, I do have newfound respect for the real Lolitas who really put in effort in creating their ensembles and expressing themselves with such fervour. It’s not easy. At all.

I was surprised that I didn’t look as silly as I thought I would but that could be attributed to the fact that I already have the curls and the lack of height that already labels me as pretty diminutive. I might not look like this…

(... well maybe in my fantasies involving a certain Japanese-Taiwanese actor)

All in all, it was good fun and a great experience to go through. I’d really recommend it to anyone who thinks that this is just some really ridiculous or inane subculture to simply try it out and make the decision based on your own experience as opposed to simply hopping on the Loli-bashing bandwagon.

~Blossom

P.S.

We’ll be doing our furisode shoot soon… Here’s to hoping that we don’t overtan ourselves while on holiday! -_-;

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