28 August 2007

i'm mister lonely

i'm mister lonely.
i have nobody
to call on the phone.
i'm mister lonely.
i wish that i could go back

i don't know if the words to that song are correct, but i'm definitely mister lonely right now.

i spent my whole day shopping and photographing bowery, delancy, houston and bleecker streets today. it's a great place and as always, i love bleecker street.

i've been here in new york about a week now, and to be honest nothing's going well. it's a long story but i'm really frustrated. i had really looked forward to coming here but everything's going wrong. it's super fucked up. i'm major stressed out, more than i've ever been in a long time. i haven't been sleeping or eating much, and in fact, i can't even breathe properly and it's as if i can't get enough oxygen in my lungs. and no, i'm not exaggerating. i've been spending money going shopping, which is usually my stress reliever, but nothing's working.

i'm pulling my hair out and getting frustrated with all the fucked up rules here in america that prevent me from getting things done asap, i can't get my laptop and i can't get my phone working, which means i have zero social life so i'm tearing my hair out and definitely feel like killing a whole lot of people.

i apologise if you've sent me emails or left comments on my blog. i know my mailbox is piling pretty high. i usually reply quite fast, but to be honest i really don't feel like doing anything now.

i feel like crying, more than anything else.

24 August 2007

hopping mad in manhattan

hey everyone!!

thank you, for all your well-wishes!!! it was really comforting. i've been going around to orientation and all that, and yeah it's been pretty fun.

i've been without a phone since i got to new york, and i've been feeling more than handicapped. so today i went out and got myself a fancy-pancy iphone. then i got back home and got online all excited, and went onto itunes to try and sign up for a mobile plan with at&t, the company that apple teamed up with for iphones.

but no one told me i needed a social security number to apply online!!!! MY GOD I AM MORE THAN PISSED OFF!!!

i called up the at&t customer service hotline, and they promptly proceeded to tell me that i would need to put down a deposit of 5 fucking hundred american dollars. if the service isn't disrupted, i'll get my money back.

after a year.

fuck!! like what the hell!!!

i'm like steaming.

19 August 2007

living your dream

it's about 1am now here in singapore, i'm almost all packed (who am i kidding), and in 10 hours, i'll be boarding the flight to new york. i can't believe i'm gonna be living in new york!!! for the first couple of weeks, i'll be putting up at a family friend's home (i'll be totally b&t), until i find some place of my own in the city.

i've experienced many things these past few years, and i think i've really grown up and matured. yeah i know you're scoffing and going, "but you're 24, you'd better be grown up."

i don't think age has anything to do with it.

i admit i've always had a very sheltered life. i don't think my parents particularly spoil my siblings and i, but we have had opportunities that some kids in other families might never experience. while it is normal for children to leave home at 18 or so, in places like america, it is not so here in singapore. more often than not, people stay home with their parents until marriage, or until they make the huge decision to move in with a significant other. seriously, that is usually the case.

but every family has its own problems, and i feel mine had our fair share of arguments. when i decided enough was enough and i left home at 20, i knew nothing about the outside world. knowledge through just reading is nothing, and even though i had been to japan 7 times for holidays (the longest lasting a month and the shortest was perhaps a week) and i thought i knew it quite a bit, nothing prepared me for what i was to face all alone in tokyo.

the first few months were really tough. i forced myself not to make any english speaking friends, so that i would be forced to learn japanese if i even wanted friends. also, i had never ever lived alone before, let alone do any housework, so it was like being thrown into concentration camp with no one to talk to but 4 blank walls, and no one to listen to but my japanese-speaking television.

it was hard, and i was awfully lonely for a while, but then i soon picked up the language and made tons of friends. i was so happy. when i got into bunka, i thought i would die of happiness. those two years i experienced in bunka, were filled with unforgettable memories and wonderful, beautiful friends, who i love to death.

i decided to study fashion design, not because i wanted so desperately to be a fashion designer like some of my friends, but because i just loved clothes and i loved fashion, and i wanted to learn more.

i told myself, "hey you, you're really living your dream. don't let anything slip by."

i was devastated when school in tokyo ended. the thought of not being able to see my friends for a while was horrible. but then things happened and i transferred to parsons in new york, and although i'm still very sad about being so far away from my friends, the new life ahead of me beckons and i must say i'm very excited about it.

i read something yesterday that made me think about things for a while. it was something that iranian-american anousheh ansari, 40, the world's first female space tourist said.

"how do you put a price on your dream? is it worth one month's salary? is it worth dying for? i don't have an answer. but i believe it is different for every person. for me, i was ready, and still am, to give my life for my dream."
she paid US$20 million to see her dream come true.

i thought that was incredible. technically, i know how many zeros there are in $20 million, but i've never seen that much money ever, so in reality, i don't know how much $20 million is.

but what she said struck a note in me, something that i hope i'll remember for the next three years while i live in manhattan, something i hope i'll remember for the rest of my life.

"the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
- eleanor roosevelt

17 August 2007

8 good reasons to get yourself a new 'do

it's been a while already, but i love this not-that-new-anymore haircut of mine. i can't believe i cut it so short on a whim. my conversation with the stylist went like this:

him: "so what can i do for you today?"
me: "i wanna get my pink color re-done, and trim my hair. it's getting too heavy and i can't style it the way i want to." (note: i usually cut my hair every 4 to 6 weeks, because it grows out fast and i hate it when the layers start weighing down and my hair gets limp and flat. i have VERY fine and thin hair.)
him: "ok. so do you want to just keep the style or cut it?"
me: "cut it?" (the thought hadn't crossed my mind)
him: "cut it?"
me: "ok."
him: "huh? did you say ok? wah you decide really fast. so how short do you wanna go? about shoulder-length? or short like a bob? or "
me: "oh ok."
him: "hah? which one?"
me: "short like a bob. oh, but let's try something asymmetrical please."

i've since looked in magazines and see how some models dress their hair up and i almost miss my long hair, but heck, i'm totally living this short hair now! and besides, it's just hair. it'll grow back one day. but for now i think i like my hair short!! i get some odd power surge from it. weird!

i can never, EVER, understand how some people can go for months without getting their hair cut or at least trimmed. i can't! i just found out that i have a friend who only goes to the salon once a year and i was like, "WHAT?!?!?! ONCE! A! YEAR!.....??????????"

then i realise that this is the same friend who complains all the time that her hair is unmanageable!!

doh! (in a homer simpson kind of way.)

as you can see in my previous post, "10 ways to finding a style that's 'you'", a hair cut or a hair color, really does make a huge difference in the way you look. those 4 pictures there, were taken within the last year. and no, i'm not kidding. the bottom two were of me in almost the same cut, but one color was much lighter. i quite liked it though, cos i'd draw crazy eyeliner and walk around trying to be a rockstar. hee hee. then the hair became much longer and i dyed it a dark maroon purple (the official color name was wine gelare. how cool is that!!) for a while, then streaked it again, then it's pink and short now!!

eight bloody good reasons and signs, that you should get a new cut

1. you get mistaken for someone else
has someone ever tapped you from behind on the shoulder, and said, "hey! how've you bee... oh sorry, i thought you were someone else!"

is your hair style so common that just about everyone else on the street has it? take a look around you and count how many people sport similar cuts to yours!

2. your friends say "you're still the same."
this can mean many things. personality/mentally-wise, i think if you haven't changed and gotten stronger than what you used to be, this can also be a slight problem. looks-wise, it can be a real compliment if you look as young as you used to, and haven't aged a bit. but consider it bad news if you fish out a photograph from 5 years ago, to find that although you have 2 new wrinkles, you have the same haircut....worse, you're in the same clothes too!! (you need to upgrade your style and your wardrobe, just like you upgrade your computer!)

3. you have split-ends.
there is absolutely no excuse. in fact, stop reading this and go to the salon NOW.

likewise, if the ends of your hair are all dry and nasty, cutting them all off is your best solution. no amount of serum is gonna make you goldilocks. hair ends like that are a fire hazard beyond repair and you're better off snipping them off and starting over.

4. someone asked if you cut your hair yourself

there are people who
a. cut their own hair, and when people find out they go,"wow you look amazing! how do you do it so nice?"
b. cut their own hair, and people ask, "do you cut your own hair?"
c. don't cut their own hair and in fact, hadn't had anyone cut their hair for quite a while, and people ask, "do you cut your own hair?"
if you had to ask yourself, "is she talking about me?" to either b. or c., then yes, i am talking about you.

5. you spend more time on your hair than on your face
styling hair shouldn't take you that long, unless you're a fashion model who's about to walk down the runway, and even then, you don't have to style your own hair.

my regular hair styling routine goes like this:
step one: apply leave-in hair protecting lotion/creme/serum ... 3 seconds?
step two: blow dry and use fingers to style hair into shape ... 5 minutes tops
step three: stand a little distance from the mirror. stand too near and you can't judge the overall balance of your hair style! using one finger, scoop a bit of wax or rubber or mud (depending on the style i want), press onto palm of other hand. rub both hands together to spread and warm up the styling product, rub into hair. make sure to only give it a light coat and not apply too much. rub into roots, scrunching here and there.
step four: take a little more styling product if necessary. always apply a little at a time, then build up! if you apply too much at one go, your hair will just look oily and heavy and stuck together, and altogether very gross. style hair keeping in mind the overall balance. when done, twist ends of hair to form little spiky things.
step five: if extra oomph is needed, use a comb and tease hair. or if the wind is howling outside, reach for some hairspray and spritz it just a little, to keep style in place. if unnecessary, step back and look in the mirror. look left - check. look right - check.

and you're done!! the entire process should definitely not take more than 15 minutes, and if your hair isn't already wet, just 5 minutes should really do the trick. (of course, if you're adding pins or tying up your hair in a certain way, it's a different story.) any longer and it's a hint that you really aren't able to cope and manage your tresses anymore.

6. you're in a ponytail 24/7
do you find yourself pulling your hair into a ponytail, or putting it into a loose bun, or pinning it in a certain way everyday? is it because you like it that way, or is it because you're just trying to hide how dull it makes you feel? be honest now.

7. limp
a very fabulous, and very funny, and very gay hair and make-up stylist (my friend from bunka) once remarked, "limp hair, is just as bad a limp d*ck. you don't wanna go there dahh-lin', just snip it off." he meant the hair of course. snip an inch or two off, or keep the length if you want but layer like mad, then watch as your hair literally springs back to life!! "unfortunately, it's not so easy to solve the issue of a limp d*ck."

words cannot explain how hard i laughed. it was the way he said it, the expression on his face. god i miss my friends in tokyo!!

8. when you make new friends, they think you are (add your real age + 10) years old

then they get honestly surprised when you say you are really (your real age). seriously, there cannot be a better reason than this as to why you need a new cut or a new hair style!

it's a fact that shorter hair can make a person look younger, and take years off their real age. if you like your hair long, by all means, keep it long. but remember, long hair or short hair, please keep it in tip-top condition!!

oh, and if you've answered "yes" to any of the above 8 signs, take a photograph of yourself, and stare at it hard. then pick up your phone, call your stylist, and arrange to go in for a session. after all, it's the weekend!! i'm sure you can fit in a couple of hours at the hair studio! take another photo after you get your new hair style/cut/color/revolution!! isn't the difference just simply amazing?? send me your "before" and "after" shots if you want, and i'll post them up here so you can show off to the world. (or rather, the 3,000 or so people who see my blog. shucks. i wonder if i should be sad.) hee hee! <3


l3antha just sent me some photos of her new 'do. i've got one word: WOW!!!



how cool is that cut?? and best yet, she cut it herself!! she said, "i had been wanting to revamp the style for the past few weeks or so, and tonight, i finally grabbed the scissors and hacked away at it..." amazing. plus, i can so picture this cut in so many different colors!! besides this gorgeous orange, i think it'll look sooo cool in platinum silver, fire-engine red, brown with streaks, or super jet-black! i love it!!
go look at her blog and see more of her brilliant new cut!!

xoxo i love all 3,000 of you,

13 August 2007

10 ways to finding a style that's "you"

in a world such as ours, where outward appearances count, can we really afford to be living like slobs, hoping that people will see through all that, and look straight through to our inner beauty? as much as we wish that people will stop being so materialistic, the fact is, that appearances do matter, whether we like it or not. how we portray ourselves is important, much more important than some of us would like to admit.

first impressions are crucial. just ask yourself this:
have you ever looked at a person, made a face, and said, "oh god, what in the world was he/she thinking when he/she left the house this morning? yuck! " and have you ever caught a glimpse of someone's disgusting yellow-almost-brown teeth, got a shock, and could not concentrate for the rest of the conversation, because all you could think of was the person's teeth?

i know i have. i'm sure we all have. after all, we're human. and we judge. that's what humans do. judge.

i'm not saying that you can't dress down on days when you're too lazy, or if you're just going out to grab a coffee. but then you might also run into the hottest man alive when all you've got on is ugly underwear and sweatpants and unruly eyebrows and even worse hair. and then what?

"inner beauty may be more important, but exterior beauty has immediate impact." - daniel goh, editor of style magazine

my advice to you, just like how i spent an hour lecturing my friend the other day when i met her with dirt under her nails, is to find your own personal style, and to groom yourself well. it only takes a small little detail to turn someone off.

i believe that you can never overdress. i believe in finding what works for you and working it to the limit. i believe in having your own style, a look that is uniquely you. i believe in living life to the fullest. i believe in living according to your heart, whether you are angry, sad, or happy. i believe in love. i believe in accessories. i believe that confidence is the ultimate accessory.
"style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." - gore vidal

(of course, if you're intent on being a dirt-under-fingernails, sloppy kind of person, then be the best dirt-under-fingernails kinda person you can be!! even if that sounds super gross.)

you might be wondering why i say 'have your own style' instead of something like, 'be fashionable'? because, honey, fads fade and trends come and go, but your style, something unique to you and only you, remains in people's memories forever. i'm all for buying a new, trendy belt or pair of shoes, but honestly, i get them cheap and never pay much for those, unless they are something that i feel really suits my style. after all, why spend thousands on something, when it'll only be oh-so-last-season in less than 6 months? as you pay for it in hard-earned cash, as you whip out your card and sign your name, designers all over the world have already come up with something new in their atelier.

need more convincing?
here are some quotes that i've gathered over the years, and have pasted into my scrapbooks. i think they speak louder than i ever could.

"fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." - oscar wilde
"'style' is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma." - john fairchild
"the difference between style and fashion is quality." - giorgio armani
"fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are." - quentin crisp
"fashion is made to become unfashionable." - coco chanel
"create your own visual style. let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others." - orson welles
"style is the perfection of a point of view." - richard eberhart
"style is the dress of thoughts" - lord chesterfield
"fashions fade, style is eternal." - yves saint laurent

that friend of mine wasn't convinced. she refused to be. she told me that she wasn't interested in fashion, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with her. she works in a bank, wears shirts and suits all day, but cannot imagine spending more than 10 minutes getting ready each morning!!! i was flabbergasted!

so i searched through my quote book for it and emailed her these:

"people think that fashion is all frivolity and done by people who can't do proper jobs," says writer, adrian gill, "but issie (the amazing isabella blow) understood that it is very, very serious business in terms of civilization and culture. it's the one piece of culture that every single person in the world participates in. not everybody reads poetry or listens to music, but every single person in the world gets up in the morning and puts on something, and whether you like it or not, that's a statement about who you are."

"fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
- coco chanel

i totally agree!! so unless you're like goldie hawn and russell crowe (who apparently parade around their house naked), i suggest you start looking into what sort of image you're portraying through your dressing.

you don't need to wear something spectacular everyday. you don't need to be decked out in the most expensive brands. but you do need a look that is you and uniquely you, because our style is something that reflects us, and that, darling, never goes out of style.


1. personal grooming is basic
clothes are one thing, but before you put them on, you've gotta remember that personal cleanliness, hair, and teeth, are probably the most basic things that say a lot about you!! this is a very important issue that i feel cannot be emphasized enough. do something about your teeth if they are stained and yellow. if you have body odour, proper baths and a good deodorant might be all you need. and please, don't pile on the perfume too much! no one wants to smell you before they even see you! spend time each day grooming yourself. animals probably spend the bulk of their day doing so, so a little time a day isn't gonna kill you.

personal grooming is also about having some manners and class . always say your "thank you"s. learn how to say "sorry". show respect to others. live by example. do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

2. get to know your body
take your time, and get to know your body and its shape. learn what clothing silhouettes, shapes and patterns look good with it. make a list of what you like about your body, and what you don't. then look for fabrics and cuts that will hide what you hate, and emphasize what you love. no one's perfect, and even celebrities hate many things about themselves. why else do you think plastic surgeons are so bloody rich? however, with more knowledge and through experimenting, you'll soon learn what looks good on you.

3. keep a scrapbook
i have like 8 of these books, compiled over the years, filled with pictures and magazine cut-outs. i tear and stick pictures of men, women, and even children. it doesn't matter whether i like their particular sense of style, or whether i think that it will look good on me. what matters is that it looks good on them, and that they look comfortable in their clothes. i feel that somehow, their clothes almost tell a story about them. so i cut them out, and compile them in books that i can refer to. i especially love it when someone comes up with a new way of wearing something; a piece of clothing paired with another, or an accessory, that i've never thought of using before. i also cut out pieces of clothing items that i love.

of course, to do this, you'd need some good magazines. vogue is always good. so's elle, although i dislike many american magazines because there's more ads than content. i also love mostly japanese fashion. my favorite is this magazine called soen. it is japan's first fashion magazine, and was started by my former school, bunka. all hail bunka!! woohoo!! soen's the best. it's different from the runway stuff that you see in vogue. it has the best of japanese designers and it's all about being unique. i subscribe to it and read it like an addict. other japanese magazines i love are fudge, zipper and cutie. i also buy kera sometimes, although it's more of a goth, lolita magazine, because a friend of mine is their model and boy does she have style. i also adore magazines like street, fruits and tune. all 3 showcases the best of tokyo's, and sometimes the world's, most gorgeous street fashion.

4. keep a style bible... or at least a "pictures" folder on your computer
other than scrapbooks, keep photos of yourself. i take photos of myself and my friends really often. i carry a camera everywhere! i do recommend taking lots and lots. it's always good! not only can you keep them for memories' sakes, and look back on them 10, 20 years from now and smile at the good times you've had, keeping a photo diary also helps you look back on previous clothing coordination. looking back on what you've worn, you'll learn a lot about what you look great in, and what you look not-so-brilliant in. you'll be able to tell that that shirt goes with that skirt, or that top should never be worn with that pants again. photos also tell you how you REALLY look to others, which is kinda different from what a mirror reflects back at you. also, do you go crazy like me sometimes, when you've taken at least 10 outfits out from your closet, your room's a total mess, and you're running late but you're screaming, "i have nothing to wear!"? having a style bible means that you could flip back and refer to it on those mornings when you absolutely CANNOT think of what to put on.

i also take photos of my friends and with my friends. like i said, you can look back and smile on them later. it's a great nostalgic feeling and photos help bring back memories when your brain fails you. sometimes when i see my friends in really great clothes, i get them to model for me so i can take their photos too. likewise, when i see people with great style on the street, i sometimes go up to them and ask if i can take their picture. i keep all this in my style bible, just in case i want to refer to it one day. looking at people with so much style is very inspirational!!

one other thing i do is, i get a photo taken in one of those photo booths, everytime i get a new haircut/color, and every birthday. i've been doing it forever.
it's just a boring, smile-at-the-camera kind of photo, but it helps me keep track and document all my previous hair styles. i cut my hair every month, and change my hairstyle and color every other month. some hair styles made me look super fat, some made me look like a rock star, and some made me feel good about myself, so doing that helps me to look back and learn about myself. i also flip through it for ideas, whenever i want to change my hair style. that's why you'll never hear me go, "i hate my hair!"

ok i DO say it sometimes, but it's only when my cut has grown out (my hair grows really fast) or my color has faded and i'm dying to get it fixed.

5. if you're uncomfortable in your clothes, trash it
there's nothing more i hate than seeing someone all dressed-up, someone who should be looking like the center of attention, but keeps wiggling and even scratching at themselves all day, just because what they forced themselves to put on doesn't fit, or itches or whatever. they only look stupid!! i once met a girl who wouldn't sit down to have tea, because her dress was too tight and it might split. i thought that was the dumbest shit i'd ever heard.

gilda radner once said "i base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch." if you don't feel good in what you're wearing, people will be able to see that, and they will be able to see that what you're wearing, just isn't "you".

6. find a trademark, something signature you
all of us are different, and what you might dislike about yourself, could be what makes you memorable. think cindy crawford's mole. many people i know hate their moles, but look how far she's come with it!! and what about jennifer lopez? i think she definitely works that ass. (and mine's probably just as huge. hah!) whether you like their "assets" or not, they are good examples of how it makes them memorable. it can also be a particular accessory, like a person who is never without his sunglasses. there is this great tv personality in japan called tamori-san, and he is never, ever, without his shades. when people in japan think tamori, they think sunglasses! having a trademark helps people remember you.

an unusual choice in clothing can also be your signature style. like this amazing cartoon artist from japan called kazuo umezu, who only wears red and white stripes. everything in his house is red and white stripes. or this friend of mine, seri, who wears polka-dots everyday. a unique trademark that you like, can become your signature style.

7. remember: colors, textures and layering

experiment with colors, textures and layering. for example, if you're like me and you like black (i wear all black on some days), use those 3 rules to help make your outfit more interesting. adding a focal point with colors can really do something for you. like a bright red corsage on an otherwise boring black suit. or a chunky, interesting necklace on a little black dress. or a pink ribbon functioning as a belt, wrapped around a long black t-shirt. or even a really funky pin in your hair. if you'd rather just stick to black and only black, try different textures to add depth, like black satin with something tweed. or simplest yet, dress up with some super shiny enamel pumps. layering can also be very exciting. layering is a skill that comes with practice! i have a friend in japan who's so bloody good at it, she can wear like 5 layers even in summer. i aspire to be like her one day; after all, she's the only one i know who can mix checks with stripes with polka-dots and still look amazing. i also love layering black with greys, or greys with whites, or whites, beiges and browns.

exploring colors also means that you should really try colors other than what you are ALWAYS in. i know people who wear black and refuse to wear anything else, because they say it makes them look fat. to people like that, i'd say "throw out all previous rule books you might have secretly written in your head." if you feel you're not the type to go with loud colors, then at least try out browns, greys, blues and whites. you don't have to wear something psychedelic all of a sudden - after all, sudden changes will only make friends and family think you've gone mad. make small changes at a time (try the "focal point with color' trick!), until you've gotten used to it, and experiment again from there!

8. don't be afraid to experiment!! but more importantly, remain true to yourself.
try to experiment with different looks, while staying true to yourself. while you shouldn't pretend to be what you're not, including aspects of different styles can really broaden your everyday wardrobe. my look is more grunge and punk, but i'd try anything and everything. however, i usually add something to the outfit that is still very "me", so that i don't lose my personality out there. like i'd wear something rather ethnic and traditional, but add a leather, studded belt to the outfit. or i'd be all dressed up in a lady-like dress, but add some edge to it with a black crystal-encrusted skull ring. you don't have to spend big bucks on a look that you aren't sure off yet. just try going to a thrift shop for cheaper options, or better yet, borrow from your friends. i have some friends who have rather different tastes compared to mine, so i sometimes borrow outfits from them just to explore other options. for example, i'm sure you've always been told to stay away from white because it apparently makes you look bigger, but one day, i decided to borrow an outfit from a friend who is always decked out, top to toe, in white, and always looks amazing. i surprised myself when i put it on and decided from that day onwards, to buy more white clothes!

don't be afraid of making mistakes, everyone makes them and you can burn all photos and other evidences later! making mistakes will help you to learn more about yourself, and in time, this will also help you create your own unique style!

however, while trying out different looks is a good thing, remember this: never, ever, sacrifice who you are for the sake of fashion!! there's no bigger turn-off than someone who's decked out in branded clothes and screaming logos, just because they want the world to know they can afford it, and nothing more pitiful than a person who must buy that new dior bag, just because all her friends have already gotten it.

9. smile and be confident
a great smile and self-confidence, are two accessories you can count on to go with any outfit. they never go out of style. the world's most expensive label would look like crap on you, if you slouch your back, look down at your feet and won't look at someone in the eye. on the other hand, i know people who wear the cheapest clothes and look like a million bucks. be confident about yourself. i believe that unless you love yourself, it'll be hard for anyone to really love you. (because even though you have people loving you, when you hate yourself, you don't see that.)

you only look stupid if you feel stupid, so stand tall, push your shoulders back, and smile. feeling good about who you are is what's most important.

take it from coco chanel. the lady said "i don't do fashion. i am fashion."


10. above all, have fun!!
because what's the point of living, if you aren't having a good time?

psst!!! for pictures of gorgeous people, check out wardrobe remix.

update: excuse me? a day after i posted this article, i found this on the daily mail. according to them, beautiful people earn more than their ugly workmates. after reading this, i feel that if you work hard at your job and also at how you look, i think it's a win-win situation all around!

10 August 2007

weekend lover [pink: it's the color of passion]

pink: it was love at first sight. i'm obsessed with pink now. well basically i've been in love with my haircut and color. i love it!! it's pink on the parts of my hair that were bleached, and red on the rest!!

it's amazing how a cut and color can make you feel good about yourself, and boost all confidence levels!!

i feel i can take on the world!!

in fact, in about 10 days, i'll be taking on new york!

yeah baby, here i come.

well, i am running around like a headless chicken trying to get things ready though. and spending a lot of money whilst meeting up with people before i go! yikes!!

by the way, i'm thinking of moving my blog to a proper url , but i'm almost clueless as to where to get hosted and all that. if anyone reading this has any suggestions or advice at all, please tell me all about it and i will love you forever. in honor of my rose-pink hair, i'm also changing the link color of this blog for a while.

and psst. unfortunately, i won't be updating as much as i would like to, because hey, i love my family and friends and need to spend time with them. well, i also need to spend time packing and stuff. quality time together... we have a good relationship, me and my darling boxes. don't worry you can still email me and tell me you love me.
god i'm so needy.

anyway, lovebirds, it's the weekend!! what are you guys up to? before you do anything, watch this video, pink by aerosmith.

i love aerosmith, and i really love that video. i love how all the people in the video are such individuals. they have their own personality, their own unique style, and it totally shines through!! i love how they look so confident and comfortable in their own bodies!! it's such a beautiful thing and because of that, they all look so damn gorgeous.

sing along with stevie!
pink: it was love at first sight
pink: when i turn out the light
pink: it's like red but not quite (this is totally my hair situation!)
and i think everything is going to be all right
no matter what we do tonight

so look in the mirror and tell your reflection "i love you". then call up someone else - a family member, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a friend - and tell them you love them too. then go out into town together, and paint the town red. or pink.

05 August 2007

gilda's guide to tokyo

about a month ago, i sent out an email to my mailing list saying,

"so i've decided. i don't know if i can go back to japan before heading to new york next month, but if not, i'm saving up. and i will head back to tokyo next summer. i will i will!! anyone interested in joining me? i'm a very good tour guide and an even better shopping and food guide. +wink+"
dear gala replied,
"I would love for you to show me around Japan!!! But I don't know when I will get there :> When I go, I'll get you to write me a biiiig list of places I must visit. Maybe that could be a good blog post for you?! I dunno. Anyway!"
so i half-wrote something and kept putting it off because it took me ages to find links and photos. then, i was surfing the web and just happened to come across junglejamie.com, where jamie said she was going travelling, and somehow i just had to email her after leaving a comment that said "when i go travelling i like to go for at least 2 to 3 weeks and try to discover the place and go where the locals would go. i'd say go to japan japan japan!! (ok i'm biased because i've lived there for 4 years and it's second home) but really, it's a wonderful place!!"

turns out, jamie decided to head to tokyo for 6 days, so i had 2 days to write her a massive email telling her places to check out. everything just came spilling out, and there were so many more places i wanted to tell her to explore but heck, how do you explore a city as wonderful as tokyo, in just 6 days!! tokyo is like new york. it's a city that never sleeps, and no matter where you are and what kind of budget you're on, there's always something to do.

i have tons of photos of japan, but with my removable disc unusable now (don't you hate it when you're in the middle of moving continents, and you're stuck with electrical appliances of different voltages? ugh.), these were all the photos i could find on my sister's old computer...

how to use this guide
this is a rough guide put together by yours truely, because i love japan. i've traveled all over it (almost) and i'm always glad to help someone out, in hope that they'll love it too. when i didn't understand japanese and first travelled japan, i was there for almost a month and i loved it. before i started staying in tokyo (i was there just short of 4 years), my sister and i had been on holidays to japan 7 times, usually for more than 2 weeks each time, so you can imagine how much i've travelled. some people say they hate traveling in japan without a tour guide, because they can't speak japanese and yada yada, i think that's all nonsense.

i hate tours. especially because you never have enough time to explore little back lanes. some people think the metro (train) system is a mess, but it isn't. if you do some homework before you set off and find out how to get there, it's a breeze. if you're only going to tokyo, it has english maps too, so it shouldn't be a problem. one guide i used when i first went to japan was lonely planet. it was a godsend and i think it has a great japan guide. there is another guide just for tokyo itself, but if you intend to travel out of tokyo, my advise is to get the japan guide. do your homework!!! if you can't speak japanese, just finding out how to get to places before you set off, will help save you a lot of stress and will ensure you have a pleasant holiday.

this guide will be separated by area, and is filled with places i love. i like taking my time and really looking at things, instead of rushing through and just scraping the surface. i prefer really exploring a place, even if it means going to less places. if you'd rather go to more places, join 2 or 3 areas together. also, mix them up to suit the weather and your own schedule! pick out the places you wanna go to and plan your trip! as always, you can email me with any questions you might have!

the weather
first of all, it's the middle of summer there at the moment, and summers in japan are no fun. it can get pretty hot AND humid. very very humid, so make sure you bring proper attire. and perhaps a small towelette or hanky to wipe perspiration. tissues do not work in summers. they disintegrate on your face if you happen to be really sweating.

it seems, that people like my sister just do not perspire, no matter how hot it is. i, on the other hand, sweat like a pig. i usually carry a small portable fan around. sometimes, as a form of advertisements, there are people giving away uchiwas on the streets. they are plastic and light, so if you see those babies, grab them!! trust me on this! you'll need it!

with summer also comes the rain. the rainy season is called tsuyu, which literally means 'plum rain', because it coincides with the plum season. there are also occasional typhoons which kills all umbrellas and you're better off staying indoors. nevertheless, it's also sale season. it's my favorite four-letter word and the sales are goooooood.

if you head there in winter, which is around december to february, you'll meet some nice cold weather. tokyo isn't that cold (to me), and certainly isn't as cold as new york, but temperatures do usually dip down to about 0 to 5 degree celcius. although rare, it snows sometimes, but because it's a city with too many people, it usually turns to slosh and is pretty disgusting.

my favorite seasons are spring and autumn, when the weather is perfect and everywhere is beautiful. in spring and autumn, it really pays to leave the city for a while and explore the countryside which is too gorgeous. if you have a chance to ever go to japan in these 2 seasons, try going to both kyoto and tokyo. although i love tokyo, kyoto is my favorite city in japan. as the former capital of japan, it's old, very old. kyoto is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, especially in spring, when the streets are lined with cherry blossoms.

getting around
first of all, if you happen to land during the day and the weather's good, don't be an ass and sleep all the way till the plane touches down. look out the windows and you might spot mount fuji from on top! super cool!!

when you get to the airport, take the limousine bus or the train downtown. (about 3000 yen) they'll ask you where you are heading to. the train only goes to the bigger stations like tokyo (there's a tokyo station within tokyo itself), shinjuku, ikebukuro, shibuya, etc. by the bus, they sometimes drop passengers off at the bigger hotels, or you can alight at the train station as well. take the train if you want to reach on time. take the bus if you have too many things to carry and don't want to go through any hassle.

although cabs are expensive and i don't recommend you take them very often, take a cab from the train station to the hotel the first time, because japanese addresses are hard to find for a first-timer. just copy down the name, address and phone number of the hotel and give it to the cab driver. most cabs come with a gps system where they can locate it if they don't already know.

if you'll be in japan for a little longer and plan on taking trips to other parts of japan, consider getting the japan rail pass. it's a "ride-all-you-want" pass for all JR trains and bullet trains (not for the metro). this pass can NOT be bought in japan, so if you plan well and calculate your costs, this ticket can save you tons and i mean tons of money. more on that later. if you're only gonna be in tokyo, then don't bother with it. but, plan wisely - the metro for example, has day passes
where you pay about 700 yen for a whole day pass.

more about the trains
there are the JR (japan rail, government owned) trains, and there are the metro (private) trains. the JR trains are the main ones and are usually cheaper than the metro. the main line is the yamanote (light green) train which runs in a circle around the main cities of tokyo. then there is the sobu (yellow) or chuo (orange) train that cuts across the yamanote. the chuo line is the same as the sobu except that it is much longer, and is an express train and doesn't stop at some stations.

as for the metro, they crisscross like mad, but it's easy to go from place to place. get a map. locate where you are, then locate where you want to go to. all train lines have a different color on the map. if there isn't a straight train that goes there, find an intersection or crossing where the different train lines meet. get off at that station, change trains, and you'll be on your way.

at huge stations like shinjuku, tokyo, and ueno etc, there are up to 16 platforms. stations like shinjuku see more than a million people passing through its gates each day. if you get a little confused, simply ask the station master at the ticket machines when you enter, which platform to go. tell him your destination and ask "home number?" (which is actually a shortform for platform but in japanese, the 'form' sounds like 'home' in english) or ask "nan ban? 何番" which means what number. or, if you just look up at the signboards, they are of the same color as the trains so just match. each train has 2 directions, so locate your color, then check which direction you want to go. they have english on their signs, but only the major stations are on it, so if you're looking for a small station, find a major station in the same direction and go.

on some trains during rush hour in the mornings, there are some "women only" carriages. if you're a guy and you happen to be lucky enough to board one of these, you might find yourself with about 1000 sets of eyes all staring at you, and a nosey old woman who will loudly inform you that you're not allowed on that carriage. if the doors have already shut, act sheepish and apologetic and change carriages at the next station. if not, hop off and dash into the next appropriate door!

if you get lost, you can ask anyone and they would be more than happy to help, especially since you're caucasion. (yes they love caucasian foreigners.) just remember to speak slowly, get rid of whatever accents you might have, and keep your sentences short. i've come across japanese people who know what you want, but unable to tell you how to get there, actually walk you there themselves. they're polite and sweet. so say your proper thank yous - arigatou gozaimashita!

where to stay
for cheap hotels, i usually book this place called toyoko inn. it's incredibly small! don't get a shock when you see the bathroom. it's called a unit bath and the whole thing looks like it comes in one piece, which i found hilarious when i first went there. but the place is clean and that's all that mattered to me. they also have free onigiri (japanese rice balls), pickles (which is yummy and i love) and miso soup in the mornings till about 9 am i think.

they have a few branches in tokyo (to search, click on the "kanto" option), but perhaps the one in shinjuku is probably the most central. (alternatively, go for the ikebukuro one.) you can call up in english and err, speak slowly!! it's a little far away from the main JR shinjuku station, but it's a safe walk, even though you have to past through kabuki-cho! :) look around and you'll see night clubs where hostesses with amazing hair parade around. yeah some sex shops here and there but they won't bother you for anything. toyoko inn also has internet in the lobby, but you have to stand and use it, no chairs. it's free and if you use it at night when there's no one around, you can use it as long as you want. they also have a phone in the lobby where you can make free local calls, so do as much of your calling there as possible.

if you are looking for a more traditional place, tokyo, being a huge city, unfortunately has very few of those so you don't have many choices. i haven't stayed in a ryokan in tokyo before, so i can't really guarantee that they are all that good, but they should be clean, at least. i went to search online and came up with the following that were in the main central tokyo area:

1. in ueno 上野. 10 minutes away from the station, or there is a free shuttle bus at specific time slots. click for price plans (for western or japanese rooms).

2. in meguro 目黒. a little upper-class. nearer to shopping mecca of shibuya and harajuku. click for access map.

3. in asakusa 浅草. 10 mins walk from the station and by far perhaps the most inconvenient, but also the oldest and most traditional looking. it also has "courses" where you can enjoy traditional japanese entertainment. click for price plans.

i guess you have to consider what you want but perhaps the one in ueno is the best choice between the old and new, and in terms of location. you might want to stay in a ryokan for perhaps one day. ryokans usually have beautifully made dinners. it's an art and it's bloody expensive and should not be missed. the one in meguro doesn't seem very authentic, so try ueno or asakusa, which looks the oldest.

tsukiji fish market
one place i bring all my visiting friends to is to the tsukiji fish market 築地. you'll have to wake up extremely early and catch the very first train to tsukiji. it's a brilliant place with huge markets and you'd probably see the biggest tuna ever (like the size of a person). go as early as you can to catch the highlight - the morning auctions. things would have mellowed down by 8 or 9 am. don't wear your best shoes there and watch out for the carts that run everywhere. if you like sushi, you can buy some back to eat. or, line up at the sushi shops there. the shops are puny and the queue goes on forever, but the sushi's super fresh. however, i must say it's a little over-priced.

you might end up smelling awful after tsukiji, so i usually go back home and take a shower before heading out again. you might also be sleepy after getting up early, so go back and take a nap!

have you ever seen anything like it? (if you have, shut up!:) )

it usually takes more than 2 people to cut the tuna up.

queueing to get in the sushi shops can be hell.

so once you get in, make sure to stuff your cheeks full of sushi,
like i did!!

and when you get too full, buy some home to eat more later.
uni (sea urchin). yummy!
i later found out that this is the ovaries of the urchin?
not sure if it's true, but how disgusting is that!!

watch out for these buggers. they are bloody dangerous!

shinjuku has great shopping all over. go to takashimaya for just about everything, 0101 or my lord for the latest fashion aimed at the young adult crowd, studio alta for a glance at japanese gyaru (gal) fashion. for labels, head to mitsukoshi or isetan. i especially love both the women's and men's isetan, where you can find the best of japanese designers.

don't forget to go to the tokyo metropolitan building for a free birds-eye view of tokyo. super nice during sunset.

for fans of the movie 'lost in translation', take a cab to the shinjuku park hyatt hotel and go all the way up to the bar. don't bother walking from the station; it's quite far and you'll only get lost. be treated to some great jazz and breath-taking views of tokyo. drinks are bloody expensive though, so order something you won't get elsewhere. they even have a lost in translation drink!!

i used to live just 5 minutes away from shinjuku, so i know it like the back of my hand. i love love love shinjuku. it's dirty, but the place is always bustling. check out shinjuku's so-called red light district, kabuki-cho 歌舞伎町, at night. the name originates from the kabuki (traditional japanese play/dance/act) and there still is a famous kabuki center smack in the middle. people say it's dangerous but that's nonsense. the gangsters are there but they are generally nice people and don't really come out to bug you unless you owe them money. the dressed-up men in suits with amazing hair that you might find wandering the streets are hosts. ignore them and don't follow them to their clubs unless you're willing to spend a few thousand dollars on wine and champagne. kabuki-cho is a great place to go and explore. there are thousands of restaurants to dine at and you'll never go hungry.

grab a copy of this book called hot pepper. it's a coupon book and each area of tokyo has its own.
you can search for good deals for food, especially in "izakaya"s 居酒屋, which is basically a japanese drinking hole. try asking or looking around for a "nomihoudai" 飲み放題 which means all-you-can-drink. (or "tabehoudai" 食べ放題 which is all-you-can-eat.) most places usually charge about 1000 to 2000 yen for all-you-can-drink, for about 2 hours. you can bargain and there are people all around the streets who would come up to you and ask if you want to go to one.

for typical izakayas, try watami (和民 or 坐・和民) , located just about everywhere, isn't too expensive and pretty yummy too. for the best tabehoudai deal i know, go to mo-para, short for momo paradise. they have sukiyaki, shabu shabu or kimchi nabe (hot pot). all you can eat meat (beef or pork) and veges!! if you go for lunch on a weekday, it's just 980yen. a total steal. otherwise, it's about 1600yen, which is still pretty cheap!

one of my other favorite place to go to is this restaurant called wan わん. they have english menus as well so no worries. it's a really nice place with small private rooms (press the button on the table to order!). they've got many outlets all over tokyo. the one that i find is usually ok to go to without a reservation is on shinjuku dori 新宿通り on the top floor. if you locate that hot pepper coupon book i told you about, they have coupons inside too, which have quite a good deal. if not, print out this one online. but the hot pepper deals are usually better.

my favorite drink there is yuzu calpis ゆずカルピス (pronounced yuzu carupisu) and cassis orange カシスオレンジ (pronounced cashisu orenji). yuzu calpis is a citrus (yuzu) added to calpis, with a tinge of alcohol. if you can't take alcohol, tell them to take it out (arukouru nashi de アルコール無しで). my favorite food is the cheese tsukune チーズつくね (minced chicken with cheese. dip in the egg yolk!) and also the salmon carpaccio サーモンカルパッチョ. i get hungry just thinking about it.

in wan, press the button when you want to pay as payment is done at the counter. you can say "o kai keh" お会計 which means bill please. or in japan, the hand signal for "check please" is using your 2 index fingers and crossing it. (in the western word, some people "sign" in the air)

in japan, people often order a few items then place it in the middle and share, especially in izakayas (the drinking holes). wan is a more upperty class izakaya.

all over tokyo, most ramen ラーメン is also delicious and you can find them everywhere. many shops use a ticket machine. use the pictures, locate the number of the ramen type you want, slot in your money and press button. choose your seat, hand the fella behind the counter your ticket and just wait. if there aren't any machines, just sit down and tell the guy your order. the usual ramen comes in 3 different soups. shoyu しょうゆう (soy sauce), miso 味噌orみそ, and tonkotsu とんこつ(pork based). my favorite is miso. if you are lucky enough to find a butter-corn-miso ramen バターコーン(famous in hokkaido), it's my favorite. i've never been able to finish a bowl of ramen (it's huge) but many of my friends do. i love the soup, which is usually boiled for many hours to get the stock, hence the price tag for just noodles. some ramen shops also sell gyoza 餃子 (japanese dumplings. very yummy).

you can also find shops selling set lunches called teishoku 定食 all over. these are usually not more than 1000yen, and usually come with a main, rice, and soup.

i also love meat and i love yakiniku (barbequed meat). i go for yakiniku about once a week with friends. it's a little expensive. but oh the price i pay for satisfying my tummy.

for a cheaper yakiniku alternative, look out for negishi ねぎし. i love their umakara and their pork roast teishokus. i'm not joking when i say i can eat this everyday. the set comes with the meat, rice, some pickles, and sticky yam which you pour over the rice to eat (just try it!). i love sprinkling the chilli powder over the rice and yam. i've converted just about all my friends from school and we are all negishi fanatics, so try it if you see it. negishi is also great for the guys, because the rice is free-flow. you can have as many bowls as you want. just tell the waiter "gohan kudasai" (rice please). if you're a little hungry and you want more meat, you can also order double portions of meat, of the same or different kinds.

also, look out for a restaurant fronted by a huge mechanical crab with moving legs. it's called kani douraku. it's a famous chain with delicious crab. i treat myself to it whenever i have friends coming from overseas.

when you're finished with any meal and you're happy with it, i usually tell the cook (if he's there) that i loved it. "oishikatta" is the past tense for oishii (yummy). to tell them that you're gonna leave, stand up and say "gochisousama" which means that you're done and thank you for the meal. they'll know then, that you're leaving. i usually say it again after i've paid (sometimes you pay at the door) and when i'm leaving the shop.

if you like anime, make sure to go to akihabara 秋葉原. it's tokyo's electric town, but is now extremely popular as home of all manga, anime and cosplay lovers. it is serious otaku heaven, and extremely interesting -almost hilarious sometimes- even if you have zero interest. stop by the information centre again for a map, and ask for good places to go. on a weekend and on some weekdays if you're lucky, there are scores of girls and boys dressed up in their favorite anime characters. there are even events and concerts in some halls, and you can see real anime fans in their prime. make sure to go to one of the cosplay cafes, preferably a "maid cafe" メイドカフェ where the girls are dressed up in maid uniforms and do all kinds of maid services, like pouring sugar into your drink, "topping it with extra love (holy shit!)", and even ear-digging services. eeks!! the most famous one is called "at home cafe". they're so popular, they appear on television, and have their own cds!! it's crazy!!

for shopping, don't miss out on shibuya 渋谷. you can spend a whole day there and more. for more up-class shopping and trendy little shops, very chic, go to daikanyama 代官山 or ebisu 恵比寿.

personally i love harajuku 原宿 and ura (back streets) harajuku. i do most of my shopping there, and at my lord in shinjuku, but nothing, NOTHING beats harajuku. stop at harajuku station get out of the takeshita dori 竹下通り exit and take a walk down takeshita dori.

there are many cool shops on either side and that's where tokyo teenagers shop. midway, stop by and have a snack at the crepe shops. my favorite is the peanut butter and chocolate crepe from marion crepe shop. (tell them pee-nut-to choco).

walk all the way down and you'd come to a traffic crossing at the end, cross it and enter ura harajuku where i love, eat, breathe and live fashion. there are thousands of trendy shops there. go to your left and explore the entire area behind the birkenstock store. or go straight up front and find
popular cult street brands, bathing ape, neighbourhood, supreme, porter, etc. if you've heard of the magazines, zipper and cutie, many of the brands they feature, like no11 and candy stripper, can be found here. their models (who are readers who became their magazine models), work in shops like flower. all these shops are pretty famous; just ask anyone on the streets and they could probably point you in the correct direction.

keep a look out for little trucks selling sweet potatoes. they usually appear when the weather's cool (not in summer). it's kinda pricey paying 300 to 500 yen for just half a sweet potato, but it's melt-in-your-mouth goodness. almost like warm ice-cream.

if you walk out to the main streets again, you'd be at omotesando 表参道 street. the big boutiques like chanel, dior and all that line the streets. check out kiddyland, one-stop toy shop, for the child in all of us. it's like a japanese version of toys 'r' us. there is the hip omotesando hills shopping center as well. if you can, walk all the little streets behind chanel, dior and kiddyland. it's called cat street and is filled with hidden gems and gorgeous shops. (if you walk all the way through cat street, you'll end up in shibuya!)

at the huge harajuku crossing, which is at the end of harajuku and just before omotesando, there is a big gap store at the corner. it'll be great to just stand there and people-watch for a while. the most gorgeous and creative people walk by gap. some stand around hoping to get noticed. if you happen to keep up with online blogs and websites on tokyo street style, this is where 70% of all those photos are taken. if the most creative minds in fashion (i'm talking about the designers from the paris runways, hello!) can find a cafe to people-watch to get inspiration, so can you!!

across the street from gap is a building called laforet, which is, perhaps, where a lot of hip harajuku fashion comes from.

if you walk all the way up omotesando, go past the small little police post and you'd reach aoyama 青山, high street trendy shopping. walk all the way up and you'd see a shop in a corner on your right, with blue prints on the glass outside. it's comme des garcons, one of my favorite brands if you are interested. walk to the right of that and around the streets behind, for japanese runway brands like dresscamp. down the road from comme des garcons, you'd see prada. if you like comme des garcons, you might also be interested to know that undercover is also just around the corner from prada. they are my two favorite brands, super interesting, and worth just a look!! the prada building itself is a real sight. it's got really interesting architecture, and if you like prada and plan on buying something, head to the changing rooms. i don't know if they are all built the same way, but if you get the one that i went into, it's bloody amazing.

if you go back to the aoyama crossing, find mizuho bank (blue in color), opposite the police post. walk further down past the bank and into all those little side streets for more shopping heaven! woohoo! brands like mercibeaucoup, vivienne westwood, wr, and much more, are all hidden in there.

in ura harajuku, you will also find tori yoshi
鳥良, another favorite izakaya of mine. like wan, it has really traditional settings, which i always enjoy. their tofu, chicken wings, and chicken skin are to die for!! the chicken skin is cooked in a way that it's extra crispy and has like zero fat! click on the link for the map and a coupon to print out, which gives you a free drink.

also, if you happen to be in tokyo on a sunday, go to harajuku station and exit at where the snoopy shop is (aoyama exit). harajuku is PACKED (think sardines) on weekends, especially sundays. that's when the cosplay people come out to play in numbers. walk to the right of the station until you come to a stone bridge with some kind of open space. you can see quite a number of people all dressed up and more than willing to pose for photos. if you're lucky, they are the REALLY good cosplay people with full blown make up. if you're unlucky then they are the wannabes.

i sat next to martin on the plane from new york back to tokyo when i went there in march, and showed him around a bit. it was his first time in tokyo and he had been wanting to go there for years. it was pretty cool bringing him around and hearing say "oh my god!" nonstop. especially when we saw the cosplay chicks and took pictures with them.

the main thing about shibuya must be the shibuya crossing. is there anywhere else like it in the world? i think not. you might have seen it featured in the movie, fast and furious. for a short introduction to shibuya, read this article i wrote some time back. you have to get someone to take your photo in the middle of the crossing, with like a million people walking all around you.

i do recommend exploring the streets of shibuya, starting from center-gai. exit the station through the hachiko exit. anywhere else and you'd be too far away from the bulk of the fun. there are too many hidden treasures, unique only to japan, to mention. for the best of shopping, go to the many parco shopping centers. also stop by uniqlo, for cheap and good quality basics, loft and tokyu hands for all sorts of things, and not to be missed would be 109, located to your left as stand at the shibuya crossing, facing center-gai. 109 is the mecca for japanese gyaru (gal) fashion. it's noisy and packed.

don't forget to take a purikura (photo booth stickers) here in shibuya, where there are many shops just filled with machines after machines of different booths. choose your machine by looking at what each machine can do (there are examples of its print on the sides of the machines).

even better? grab some japanese girls and ask them to take the purikura with you!! say,"isshoni?" which means 'together' (easiest way of asking for a favor!!). hopefully they'll be nice enough to show you how to add cute words and backgrounds to the purikura after it's taken!! there's a time limit on this and you'd be stumped if you don't know how to use it.

another interesting walk would be from harajuku to shibuya. get to the harajuku crossing with the gap store (as mentioned above). there is a fast-food chain called lotteria across the road, with a family restaurant called jonathan's, and a huge tv screen up above. walk in that direction, away from laforet. the road is called meiji-dori. there are two sides of the road, with heaps and heaps of uber cool shops to look at. one of my favorite buildings is the rather new b6. if you walk all the way, you'll soon see a tower records in the distance and that's when you know you've reached shibuya. alternatively, you can go to cat street (see harajuku) and walk to shibuya via that.

shibuya is also home to a pretty interesting theme restaurant called christon cafe. they have another one in shinjuku but this one in shibuya's better. to go there, walk towards 109 from the station. 109's at the tip of a fork in the road. go to the left side, and walk all the way up for about 5 minutes or so. it'll be on your left. i heard they brought in all these gothic furniture and an entire altar (!!) from old churches in europe.

how cute are those cookies??

right next to christon cafe, across the road, and behind 109, is the notorious dogenzaka, a little hill filled with love hotels, adult shops and other sorts of porn stuff. kinda interesting, and perhaps worth a visit with your darling if you're travelling together.

i also have a favourite and very very cheap and super good sushi restaurant that i love and frequent often, that is in shibuya. it's called midori sushi 美登利. midori doesn't open in the afternoons, so go during lunch or dinner. on the weekends it's open all day, but try to go during the in-between hours. don't attempt a friday night. it's useless to give you the number because they don't accept reservations. there is usually a queue to go in, and during peak hours it can take like... an hour. but otherwise, it's usually about 30 minutes. they'll ask you if you want a counter or table seat. request for an english menu (eigo menu). my must-try is the anago 穴子 (which is eel from the sea, different from unagi), and also aburi-chuutoro 炙り中トロ (flamed tuna belly. the best thing ever). they provide green tea and a free bowl of miso soup too. the pieces are fresh, and the fish sizes are generous. best yet, it's actually pretty cheap. hence the line outside. i've never spent more than 3000 yen per person and trust me i eat a lot. i feel midori serves sushi that's just as fresh as what you get in tsukiji, so for the price, this is way better. i drew a map to get you to midori, but it was done in under 2 minutes and it looks terrible. trust me on this one: just go!!!

i don't go to roppongi that often because it's filled with foreigners who don't know how to behave. however, it's worth travelling there just to see tokyo tower. it's nothing much and definitely not worth paying money to go up its elevators, but admire it from a distance, especially when it's pretty at night. tokyo tower trivia: the year (2007 etc) is shown in the middle. i've seen it green on st patrick's day, and red and green on christmas.

there is also roppongi hills and midtown, two great shopping complexes. check out restir in midtown for the best of designer ready-to-wear and haute couture selections. there is also the mori art musuem in roppongi hills that usually has amazing stuff, and also musuems at the back of midtown which has amazing architecture. if you like japanese tv, also remember to check out the asahi tv building next to roppongi hills.

further down, at the corner of the nishi-azabu crossing, is gonpachi. upmarket japanese restaurant with brilliant food. 'kill bill' was apparently filmed here. the setting alone is pretty retro and definitely worth a visit.

disneyland + disneysea
i've never been to other disneylands before, only to the one in tokyo, so i don't know how it compares to the ones like in america, but tokyo disneyland is still pretty awesome. i think most of us grew up with disney, and you can't help but just feel like you've been transported into a magical kingdom once you step in. my favorite ride is the winnie the pooh one. it's so freaking cute!! go early and get your fast passes. remember to stay till the fireworks at around 8, and watch at least one parade. if you only have time to go for a few hours, you can try going in the evenings. i think the evening pass is like half the normal price. if you want a photo with mickey mouse and don't wanna queue up forever, remember where it is (in toontown) and rush over once the evening parade is over!! i tried that once and got in after just 15 minutes! (compare that to waiting two hours. huh!)

also keep in mind that you can get away with wearing all sorts of cute things in disneyland!! in fact, you can get away with wearing just about anything in tokyo, but more so in disneyland. go ahead and try out that alice in wonderland costume!! or whatever lolita wear. buy minnie mouse hairbands! clip on some marie the aristocat ears (you can buy them as hair clips!) onto your hair! buy leopard-print minnie mouse ear muffs in winter! if you go there on a festive date like christmas, dress the part! on halloween, dress up as any disney character! remember to say 'trick or treat' to all the nice people giving out candies! heh heh.

go to the man-made island of odaiba if you've got an extra day to spare. i'd say the main draw is the rainbow bridge, fuji tv and venus fort for shopping. there are two ways to get to odaiba. one is on the yurikamome, and the other is by the jr rinkai line. i suggest going by the yurikamome by day, and coming back by the jr at night, when it's dark and there's nothing to see. check out the oedo onsen monogatari (meaning oedo hotspring story), tokyo's largest artificial hotspring. it might be fake, but it's also done up in retro edo-style, especially if you can't afford the time to go out of tokyo to a real hotspring.

try to hurry on and get seats near the front of the yurikamome.

snap any pictures you want of rainbow bridge, before you enter it!!
once you enter and then leave it, it's hard to get a good picture.

in front of fuji tv

car fanatics will appreciate the huge toyota showroom,
as well as the vintage cars at venus fort.

rainbow bridge at night. with tokyo tower in the background!

studio ghibli
have you heard of studio ghibli スタジオジブリ? its directer, miyazaki hayao, has been recognised with tons of awards both in japan and worldwide, for his animation. no computer graphics, just pure drawings. it's an art. i've got two words to describe studio ghibli, and it's "fucking amazing". miyazaki is a genius. even if you are not that interested in animation but perhaps a little interested in movie making, go visit the ghibli musuem. it's something that shouldn't be missed.

it's an AMAZING adventure and i've been there a few times but never fail to come away more inspired than ever. unfortunately, everything's written in japanese, so if you can find someone to read and translate things to you, pay for their ticket and bring them along! i think just being there is amazing itself. as a japanese it's hard to get tickets, but ghibli sets tickets aside for foreigners. tickets are not sold at the musuem itself, so you can check this site out for how to get tickets. don't forget to catch a screening of a 15 minute movie (it changes every once in a while) with a ticket that you will receive at the door. i hate it that you can't take pictures inside the building, but i can understand because it's just too freaking incredible and miyazaki has the right to preserve his art and not let it get copied!!

if you even in the slightest bit like ghibli at all, you should not miss this!! in fact, borrow/rent/buy/steal whatever ghibli movies you can find before even heading to japan, just so you can go to the ghibli musuem and gawk in awe.

heck, even the signs while walking to the musuem were cute!

totoro in the window

i nearly died when i climbed to the roof and saw this.

i don't know if we got lucky, but check out the color of the sky in the evening!
the place is just magical and every bit as wonderful as disney!

if you're heading to asakusa 浅草, which has perhaps one of tokyo's most famous temples (sensoji 浅草寺), make sure you get to an information centre, get a map of the area, and explore all the little streets behind and around the temple. there are very old shops around asakusa, which was once the hot spot in tokyo, with plays, stand up comedy etc., in the old days. there are many shops where you can find 'okonomiyaki' お好み焼き. ask anyone and they can probably point you to a shop. it's a type of "japanese pancake" cooked in a hot plate and things like cabbage and sauce which is very very japanese. (check out my previous okonomiyaki party!) people usually cook it themselves but you can ask the shop staff to do it for you and show you how.

make sure you also try 'monja' もんじゃ which is sticky and chewy. i LOVE it. my favorite flavor is monja with 'mentaiko' 明太子 and cheese. mentaiko is a kind of fish roe which can be eaten raw, but don't worry, with monja, it's cooked. most of these places would have an english menu because there are many tourists. ask for an 'eigo (english) menu'.

entrance to the temple

too many things to see on the stretch leading up to the temple

colorful shops selling trinkets

colorful yukatas for sale!

on your last day in tokyo, you should probably go to ueno park 上野公園. well i'm not big on parks, but the place is a little serene and somehow calms my nerves. it's gorgeous in spring with cherry blossom trees, but just green in summer. but walk around ueno anyway and go to ameyokocho あめよこ町, 2 long streets of cheap cheap shops. i say go on the last day because of ameyokocho, if you want some souvenirs to bring home. of course you can go ueno (it's near asakusa), and then go again to ameyokocho before you're leaving tokyo. buy all your favourite japanese titbits and various goodies, at MUCH MUCH cheaper prices than you would elsewhere, cos it's mostly wholesale.

for more shopping
check out places like shimokitazawa, koenji, kichijouji. they're very different from the "salaryman" crowd, and extremely popular with teens and young adults.

am i loading you with too much info? heh heh.

also, right after i wrote this, i checked out iCing and woohoo, found that gala had linked me to her post, japan makes me happy!

anyway, i hate that i can't get better photos out of my removable disk, so once i can access those photos, i'll update this again. if you've been to tokyo and have more tips, please leave a comment and i'll update my guide too! this is all i can think of at the moment, so i'll put up more when it comes to mind. also, i'll be writing more guides to tokyo or other parts of japan once i can spare the time. again,
email me with any questions regarding your trip, and i'll try to answer. some of my friends even mail their itineraries to me to ask what i think?!?! if you're lucky, i'll be planning a trip to japan around the same time, or my english-japanese speaking friends might be free to bring you around. good luck, and have fun!!