Tokyo Travels Day 6

It’s Monday morning and I wake up to the view of a sunny Tokyo skyline. Talia and I have just spent our first night in the guest suite of Kohei’s building and I am feeling refreshed! We put on some tunes as the two of us get ourselves ready for the day ahead of us.  By 10am, we’re already outside grabbing a quick breakfast before we hop on the train to Nippori.

Today, Talia will be joining me as we explore Nippori Fabric Town (also known as Nippori Senigai), the fabric district of Tokyo. Tokyo’s fabric district is vastly different from that of New York’s Garment district in midtown west. For starters, NY Garment district is loud and hectic. Actually, hectic would be an understatement. Anyone who’s had to get in or out of Penn station or Port Authority knows the struggle. The garment district is a hustling bustling neighborhood full of offices from major fashion companies and it’s streets are sprinkled with a plethora of mom&pop fabric stores and large fabric retail stores such as Mood, NY Elegant, and B&J Fabrics to name a few.

A few of the Tomato stores in Nippori

In contrast, Nippori Fabric Town is much sleepier.  Located in the northeast neighborhood of Nippori, this fabric district consists of one street less than a mile long that is chockfull of textile and trim stores. I could literally spend an entire day browsing each and every one of the shops, but today I am on a mission- I will be visiting Tomato, my all-time favorite fabric store in Nippori.

Interior of Tomato's main store

Tomato has several stores in this area. We first head into the main building, which is 5 stories high and carries predominantly fabric. For textile shopping newbies, it can be overwhelming as Tomato has such a wide variety of inventory. Personally, I love the selection of cottons they carry. I feel there is a greater variety here in comparison to what's available in New York. I purchase several yards of different types of ikat for TKK custom kimono client orders and a few yards of a floral cotton as a personal purchase. Since summer is just around the corner, I figure why not get some cute cotton to make myself a new yukata!

Ikat Fabric

After paying for my purchase, I find Talia browsing through the trim section. Tomato actually has a separate store dedicated to trims/notions/buttons/etc. down the street, but the main building also has a nice selection of trims and accessories. Off to the side, is a little table full of cute embroidered patches ranging from 50-440¥. Talia buys a little bunny and a cherry patch. I decide to buy a few as well as gifts for friends back home. These patches would look so cute sewn onto a plain white tee or a tote bag!

Embroidered patches for sale

Finished with the main store, we head across the street to Tomato’s trims & notions store. Dude, this place is poppin’! The store is jam-packed with shoppers rummaging through racks and shelves full of merchandise. The shelves in the front carry iron-on patches, sequins, random knickknacks, etc. One of the front walls is covered from floor to ceiling with buttons. From seashells to cartoon characters, you name it and they got it in button-form! The back of the store carries their wide trim and accessories selection. I head towards the back to buy a few yards of cordedge that I like to use for himo ties. Talia buys 2 little kewpie dolls she found in a basket up front. She says she’ll make them into earrings.

Such cute trims!

Now that I’ve had my fabric fix, Talia and I leave Nippori and take the train to Harajuku for a bite to eat. As this is Talia’s first time in Tokyo, I figure we should do something fun for lunch. We go to the Kawaii Monster Café, a relatively new establishment that I’ve never actually been to before.

A hostess manning the booth out front greets us. She asks us to choose from one of three themed seating areas: Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment, or Mel-Tea Room. I let Talia choose and she selects the Mel-Tea Room. Before we enter, the hostess explains to us we are about to enter the "tummy of the monster Mr. Ten Thousand Chopsticks". She points to the entrance and that’s when I notice that the front door is a monster’s face and the door is his mouth. 

The Kawaii Monster Café is a concept restaurant that is the product of visual artist and art director Sebastian Masuda and restaurant group Diamond Dining. This place is a visual sensory overload. Basically, if Alice in Wonderland had a baby with Willy Wonka, it would be the Kawaii Monster Café.

Mushroom Disco section of Kawaii Monster Café

As soon as you enter, you are face to face with a giant cake-shaped merry go round. To the left is the Mushroom Disco, which is full of psychedelic mushrooms and  vibrant-colored booths. In the center is the Milk Stand, which has colorful (and slightly creepy) animal heads drinking milk out of baby bottles. Take a right from the merry go round and you enter the Bar Experiment, where there is a full bar that is encompassed by a giant jellyfish. There’s a DJ next to the bar who looks like he is literally counting the seconds till he can clock out of work. Straight past the bar is where we will be sitting, the Mel-Tea Room. The walls of this pastel-colored room are covered with giant rainbow macaroons and strawberries dripping with icing. An iridescent curtain with plush red lips on the center covers the back wall.

We sit at our table and soon enough our waitress glides over with our menu. She is decked out head-to-toe in what can only be described as a sugar-high toddler who got to dress herself up for the first time in her play-clothes. Her hair is a kaleidoscope of colorful dreads topped with plastic beads. She’s wearing white leggings with screen-printed eyes. Layered on top are sheer palazzo pants with what looks like Christmas tree tinsel. She has a matching sheer crop-top that is paired with bedazzled armor and fur tassels at the sleeves. On her feet are jewel-toned flatforms with fuzzy monster faces.

Our waitress

Even the menu is a trip. It’s an Ipad encased in a giant plastic cover shaped like a cake. We scroll through the menu and Talia orders the chick & waffles while I order the sliders. 15 minutes later, our food arrives and I hesitantly take a bite out of my mini burgers. To my surprise, it's actually pretty good! By the time we finish our meal, the lights go dark and an announcement is made that there is a performance about to happen at the merry go round. Curious, Talia and I walk over to check it out.

Talia checking out the menu

My sliders with rainbow sauces!

The “performance” is essentially two of the waitresses jumping around the merry go round, trying to pump up the crowd. Eventually, they hop on top and do a little dance there. At the end, they allow the patrons to take photos with them. Overall, this place is pretty kitschy, but if you want to try something different for a fun experience, it’s worth visiting- but probably just once...lol.

We leave Kawaii Monster Café and head over to Kinji, a vintage clothing shop right next door. Kinji, along with Chicago, are two of my favorite vintage/second hand chain stores here in Tokyo. If I had endless time, I could spend hours at this store! But alas, my heart and my wallet know I really shouldn’t be spending frivolously. We peruse through the racks and eventually settle on a few items to purchase.

Next stop, is Tutuanna, a popular lingerie and legwear chain store. I love to buy my socks here so we walk over to the nearest location in Harajuku. First we go upstairs to their lingerie selection. I’ve never bought lingerie while in Japan (personally I find it all too frilly and kawaii for my taste) but I decide to try on some stuff for fun. Talia and I try on our pieces and within seconds we’re both perplexed. Of course Japanese sizing is nothing like US sizing! I am Miss No-Boobs and am usually an A cup in America. I have to try on the B and C size cups in order to find a proper fit. By the end of it, we’re both laughing. It’s definitely a major ego-boost! 

By the time we’re done with Tutuanna, it’s around 7 o’clock. We’re starting to get hungry again so I suggest we go to my favorite gyoza shop in the neighborhood, Harajuku Gyozaro. Located on a back street close to the Kiddyland store, this restaurant is a must for dumpling-lovers. Every time I’ve been here, there has always been a line. Fortunately for us, the current line isn’t too crazy so we queue up. Soon enough, we’re ushered inside to a bar seat.

Pan-fried gyoza

The restaurant has booth tables on the left hand side to the entrance and bar seating in the center that surrounds the open-air kitchen. I love this place because not only are the gyoza absolutely delicious, but also the prices are such a steal! Both pan-fried and steamed dumplings are 290¥ for a plate of 6 (that’s less than $3USD). We order 1 pan-fried original, 1 pan-fried with garlic & chives, 1 steamed original, a boiled bean sprout, and a cucumber salad. Talia and I hungrily watch as the cooks transfer the prepared dumplings into the fryers and large steam pots. It’s just like how my grandma prepares dumplings, except on a much larger scale!

 

Giant pots for steamed gyoza

Talia getting silly with her chopsticks^^

Soon enough our food arrives and we scarf it down. Oishii! So delicious! With our bellies full, Talia and I head back to the apartment. We wind down and watch some TV. On one channel, there’s a talk show discussing American politics.  The host is using a crazy diorama to explain the current Democratic candidates for the presidential race. There’s a cartoon-like Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, all with giant bobble-heads. We flip to the next channel, which is a cooking show called “Cooking with Dog”. We literally watch this for 2 hours. It stars a miniature poodle named Francis and a female chef (she's just called "Chef" lol). The show is essentially this woman cooking while the poodle sits patiently on the table watching her. Basically, everything I want in life. 

Finished with our mindless TV-watching, we get ready for bed. Tomorrow is Talia’s last full day in Tokyo so I will show her around one of my favorite neighborhoods, Shimokitazawa. Stay tuned for my next post where we check out the antique stores in Shimo and stop by my favorite curry shop. It’s sleepy-time for me now so until next time…

Sasa 莎莎


TOMATO

6-44-6 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo
Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm

 

KAWAII MONSTER CAFÉ

4-31-10 Jingumae 4F, Shibuya, Tokyo
Monday-Sunday 11:30am-11pm

 

KINJI

4-31-10 Jingumae B1, Shibuya, Tokyo
Monday-Sunday 11am-8pm

 

HARAJUKU GYOZARO

6-2-4 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Monday-Sunday 11:30am-3am

 

 

Tokyo Travels Day 5

It’s Sunday morning (Valentine’s day!) and I wake up to the sounds of strong wind and falling raining. I check my phone to find multiple notifications of unread texts. The first bunch are from my family group chat; consisting of my mom, my dad, my brother, and me. The next is from Eno, in regards to the shoot. He says the weather forecast predicts for a rainy morning so he suggests we meet for the shoot around 12-1pm, once the rain clears. The final text is from Talia. She says she’s getting ready to head over and will let me know once she gets to Akasaka from Nerima. I send some photos to my family group chat, message Eno in regards to the shoot, and text Talia to meet me at the 7-11 across from the apartment building when she arrives. Kohei is still asleep so I quietly get ready in the bathroom.

Around 11am, I meet Talia at the 7-11 and give her the biggest hug. Even though I just saw her on Friday, prior to this trip, it has been 2 months since we’ve been together. I know 2 months isn’t even that long, but hey, she’s my home girl and I’ve missed her!! 

We get some coffee at the 7-11 and sit outside to chat. The rain has finally cleared up, thank goodness! I message Kohei letting him know that Talia has arrived. He responds back saying he’ll run down to the reception desk to check us into the guestroom so that we can get settled. To fill you all in, Kohei’s building has a guestroom service available. All residents can book the guestroom (just like booking a room at a hotel) for their visitors at a very reasonable rate of 7,000 yen (about $70USD). Since Kohei’s apartment is a studio and can only comfortably fit 2 people, he had offered to book the guestroom so we could have some proper girl time together.

Talia and I finish our coffees and head back to the building. We meet Kohei in the lobby and then head to the 37th floor to get settled into our new room for the next few days. Kohei hands me the keys and I unlock the door to enter. Holy cow, you guys, this room is niceeeee! When you first enter, there is a small foyer with a staircase leading downstairs. To the right of the staircase, there is a glass enclosure, which surrounds the bathroom. At the bottom of the stairs is the bedroom. There are two queen beds and a giant flat screen TV. Giant glass windows overlooking the city skyline are situated on the left-hand side. Right next to the windows is a balcony. Walk towards the back of the room, and you head into the bathroom. There are two sets of sinks, a Toto washlet toilet (love these things), and at the center is the giant bathtub jacuzzi and an accompanying shower. Kohei has to go meet some friends for lunch so he bids us goodbye. The second he leaves, Talia and I whip out our phones to take photos. I mean, we have to; this room is too nice not to share on our Snap Story (lol).

At 12pm, Talia and I leave our beautiful new room to meet the team for today’s shoot. We take the train and get off at Shibuya station where we see everyone waiting in front of the police station. Eno leads the way to a public restroom so the models can change. This reminds me of when I was back in college, styling test shoots and finding public restrooms in parks to dress the models! First, I dress Jiyeon. She’s so petite and incredibly sweet. I dress her in the women’s Floral Jinbei set. After she’s done, I dress Yuno in the Men’s Denim Kimono.

Eno asks me how I feel about the shoe situation. I take a look at the model’s shoes. Unfortunately since we don’t have a stylist on hand, all we got are the shoes on their feet. I tell him I’m not totally digging their shoes with the kimono, but suggest we just photograph ¾ of their bodies or crop out feet in the edits. 

Bare feet!

Eno then asks what I think if the models go barefoot. At first, I’m a little stunned. We are planning on shooting all outdoors. If this was New York and someone told me to go barefoot for a shoot, I’d just tell him or her to stfu. But in all honesty, I was really into the barefoot idea. So, I tell Eno I’m totally into it, but will only do it if the models are cool with going barefoot. To my surprise, Yuno and Jiyeon don't hesitant for a second. They take off their shoes and are ready to go. I guess if I had to go barefoot in any city, it would definitely be in Tokyo; the streets are so clean!

We head to Shibuya Crossing for the first location, a quintessential Tokyo landmark. The crosswalk light turns green and its action time. Eno and Aaran run into the middle of the street while Jiyeon and Yuno stand in the middle of the crosswalk. The light is green for about a minute, which means the photographers have to act fast. We stay here for about 15-20 minutes and then it’s time for the next location. We walk a few blocks and head to a rooftop. We shoot at 2 more rooftops and then it’s a wrap. I am so excited for the edits! After the models undress and the photographers break down their equipment, we head to a café for a celebratory snack. Eno has brought his laptop so he begins to upload his images from his memory card. So far, the shots look great!!

A snap shot of me fixing the Yuno's kimono

Yuno and Jiyeon posing on the rooftop

It's almost time to go meet my friend Angelina (Anji) for dinner. I thank the team and then Talia and I bid them farewell. We're meeting Anji at the Hachiko statue and almost instantly I spot her pastel-dyed hair. I shout her name and she turns around. I run up to hug her. You guys, this chick is the best!! Anji and I have been following each other on Instagram for a few years. Last summer when I was in Tokyo, we finally met face to face and became genuine friends. Anji has such a down to earth spirit, warm personality, and the kindest heart. So naturally, I got in touch with her to schedule a hangout while I'm in town!

After the introductions are made between Anji and Talia, we head over to an okonomiyaki restaurant that Anji recommends. For those of you unfamiliar, okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake that is typically cooked over a grill. We arrive at the restaurant and are seated immediately. Each table at the restaurant has its own grill to cook on top of. Talia and I order a seafood based okonomiyaki while Anji orders a meat version. Soon enough, the waitress brings over our bowls of batter. My seafood batter is chockfull of ingredients: eggs, flour, shredded cabbage, dashi (fish stock), octopus, squid, and shrimp. To cook okonomiyaki, you typically first mix the batter and then grill it like a flat pancake on top of the grill. Personally, I like to grill the meat for a few minutes first before cooking the entire pancake batter.

It's Anji!

While the okonomiyaki is cooking, we catch up and chat. Anji is of German nationality and moved to Tokyo several years ago with her husband. For the past few years, Anji has been running her online store SalzTokyo, which sells a fun range of Harajuku street fashion and vintage kimono and accessories. She is also an aficionado of kitsuke, the art of wearing kimono.

Our okonomiyaki is finally done cooking. Now it’s time for the toppings! First, I put a thin layer of okonomi sauce (it’s similar to Worchester sauce but sweeter). Next, is the Japanese mayonnaise. We have a bit of fun and decorate our pancakes with the mayonnaise. Anji dresses hers with stripes, Talia makes a swirl, and I do several hearts (it is Valentine’s day today so why not!). Once the sauces are done, we continue to layer with aonori (seaweed flakes) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Time to dig in!

Our okonomiyaki pancakes!

We devour the pancakes and now we’re in the mood for a drink. We head over to a nearby izakaya for a drink. Talia asks Anji how she met her husband. Anji proceeds to tell the story of how she was studying Japanese in Germany for fun. Her future-husband was her tutor and soon enough they were smitten. They eventually moved to Japan and after a few years, were married. She shows us photos from their wedding in Germany (so cute!!). I am always so moved when I hear about happy couples- it is so heartwarming!

After our drink, we go back outside for a stroll. We pass by an arcade and decide to go inside just for the hell of it. I spot a row of purikura machines and look excitingly at the girls. We’re all on the same page. Purikura is a photo booth machine where (mostly young girls) go to take digital photos of themselves with friends. You can then edit and decorate these photos on the screen within the booth. The most notable feature of purikura is the eye-editing feature, which allows you to enlarge your eyes (from a scale of what is considered “natural” to straight up ridiculous) to look like a kawaii anime character. 

Anji edits the purikura photos

We put our money into the machine and select the amount of people that will be in the booth (3 of us). As we enter, we select a “theme” (different style backdrops). Now it’s time! The screen in front of us shows us the suggested first pose. It is an image of 3 girls with doey-eyes and their hands sheepishly covering their mouths. 1-2-3-CLICK! Next pose. These machines go quickly so you have to move fast. By the third photo (there are 6 in total), we ignore their suggested poses and just do our own thing. Once the photos are finished, the screen provides us with the editing page. First you can select the scale of eye-enlargement. Anji puts it to the lowest setting. Then we have about 30 seconds per image to decorate. Since we already look ridiculous with our giant anime eyes, I find it only fitting to make the photos look as over-the-top cutesy as possible. We finish with the decorating process and now it’s time to print! We each get a copy of the photos. We look so silly but I love it. I haven’t done one of these in ages!

It’s getting pretty late so we call it a night. Talia and I hug Anji goodbye and then we head back to Akasaka to our awesome new room. We take turns winding down in the jacuzzi (which is absolutely amazing btw) and then get into bed.

Tomorrow, Talia will join me as I go to Nippori- the fabric district of Tokyo. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll show you guys some of my favorite fabric shopping spots. Until next time…!


Sasa 莎莎

Tokyo Travels Day 4

It's Saturday morning and I wake up bright and early at 8am. One bonus of traveling internationally (at least for me) is that I tend to sleep and and wake earlier than usual while still managing to feel refreshed^^. 

Kohei has invited me to a group lunch today at a nearby restaurant with some of his friends. I take it easy in the morning and by around noon I get ready to head out. Eno messages me and asks what I am up to for the day. I tell him about my lunch plans and invite him to join. He messages back saying he'll meet me at the restaurant. Perfect!

By around 2pm, the entire party has arrived. Kohei's 4 friends Cindy, Ken, Len, and Misa are in attendance, all of whom live in Tokyo except for Cindy who is here on holiday, like me. Kohei, Ken, Len, and Cindy all work in finance. Misa is a flight stewardess. We're all chatting with one another from across the table when I find out that Ken grew up in New York. A fellow American, yay!

The Lunch crew! (I have no idea what's going on with my face here lol)

After lunch, Ken heads out to meet up with a friend of his. Kohei wants to go check out the Aoyama Farmer's Market and I want to go to Morita, a textile store specializing in antique kimono and fabric. Cindy, Len, and Misa follow Kohei while Eno comes with me to the store.

I show Eno the address and thankfully, since he is a local, he becomes my IRL Google Maps. 15 minutes later, we arrive at Morita. Opened by Tadashi Morita, the store is a little mom&pop shop run by Morita himself along with his wife. 

Morita storefront

If vintage fabric isn't your cup of tea, don't fret, this store carries more than just that. Not only do they carry a lovely selection of vintage kimono and fabrics, they also sell furoshiki (wrapping cloths), antique ceramics, and mingei (Japanese folk crafts). But alas, fabric is my bread and butter so that is what I gravitate towards! Morita carries a wide range of textiles from vintage cottons and silks to elaborately stitched sashiko and neatly woven sakiori pieces. This is fabric heaven for me. 

Stacks of vintage kimono

Beautiful Sashiko fabric

I rummage through the textiles for nearly 45 minutes before I settle on what I want to purchase. Although a bit pricey, the quality of the textiles justifies the high price tag. I buy 3 different fabrics, each about a yard per piece. One is a black cotton with a lovely woven white geometric print. The other two are deep indigo dyed cotton pieces that I will be using for a Haori coat I am currently making for a Brooklyn based client. I always get so giddy when I go fabric shopping, especially when I have the opportunity to get my hands on fabric like this! 

The fabric I bought at Morita

After I’ve purchased my fabric, Eno invites me to meet up with his friends for some dinner and drinks at an izakaya in Shibuya. When we arrive, two of his friends, Yuno and Jiyeon, are already standing outside (they will also be the models for tomorrow’s shoot). As we’re making introductions, I feel my phone buzz. Brendan’s been texting me throughout the afternoon. It’s Friday night for him and he’s been out drinking with his buddies.  I check his latest text and he’s asking to FaceTime. As the group begins to head upstairs to get seated, I excuse myself to go talk to Brendan.  

Owner, Tadashi Morita, packing my fabric purchases

About 20 minutes later, I finish my call (he was a bit drunk which was entertaining for me lol) and return to the group upstairs. Another one of Eno’s friends has joined; his name is Toto. A few minutes later, I get a message from Kohei asking what I’m up to. I text him back telling him to join us. Just as I hit send, I get a message from Derek, a friend who was introduced to me by our mutual friend Anthony Latouche (aka Mr. Hat). Derek is from London and has been living in Nagoya for the past year for work. His message says he and his girlfriend are in Tokyo for the next 48 hours and would love to meet up if I’m free. I invite the two to join us, because, well, the more the merrier!!!

Isabelle, Derek, Yuno, and Aaran

Our group has gotten a bit too big for the izakaya, (we’re all crammed in one small table) so we settle the bill and make our way to another izakaya. Eno says this place is great because of its crazy cheap beer and ample space. Not too long after we get there, Aaran comes with one of his friends. At this point, we’re taking over two tables. After my 5th beer, I lose track of how much I am drinking. Eno orders some sake, which I happily drink with him and Kohei. By 11pm, I am very full and getting pretty tipsy.

It's Kohei! 

At around 11:30pm, the group decides to call it a night and head our separate ways. I walk Derek and Isabelle to the train and bid them goodbye. I’m so happy Derek messaged me during his precious 48 hours in town- it was such a wonderful surprise! I tell the two of them to hit me up if they find themselves in New York and they say the same if I find myself in London.

Got a cute snapshot of the 3 of us before Isabelle & Derek head home! 

Kohei and I take the train back to Akasaka. We get off at our stop and on the way we pass by his local watering hole, The Quarter House. He asks if I’d be down to pop in for a quick drink and I say sure! The first floor is a restaurant and the basement is the bar. Kohei tells me a locale runs the restaurant while his son runs the bar. As we descend the stairs, I see there is a small group hanging out. A friend of Kohei’s is rummaging through a stack of records while the owner, his wife, and their two friends are drinking at the bar. I take a seat and start talking to the bartender.

Her name is Minami and it turns out, she used to live in New York for 6 years! Minami is a jewelry designer and used to work at Momo Sushi in Brooklyn, right off the Morgan stop on the L. I’m so surprised. I tell her I go to that place all the time! I must have seen her before. She asks what I do and I tell her about The Kimono Kid and how I make custom kimono. I tell her my studio is also in Brooklyn off the Grand stop. She asks me where exactly the studio’s located and it turns out, her ex-boyfriend has a studio in the same building. What a small world!

The Quarter House (photo courtesy of @mizuki_1120)

It’s around 1am when Kohei and I finish our drinks. We say goodnight to everyone at the bar and head back to the apartment. It’s been a fun day but boy am I happy to be crawling into bed now!

Tomorrow, Talia will be coming to stay with me in the guestroom suite that is available via the building management. I’ll also be shooting with Eno, Aaran, Jiyeon, and Yuno tomorrow. It’s going to be a big day so time for some shuteye now. Night night!

 

Sasa 莎莎


MORITA

5-12-2 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Monday-Sunday 10am-7pm

 

THE QUARTER HOUSE

5-1-34 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo 
Monday-Saturday 6pm-2am

Tokyo Travels Day 3

TGIF! It’s Friday! After waking up at around 8am, I head out to grab some breakfast. With my coffee and riceball in hand, I go back up to the lounge to check my daily round of emails. At around 10am, I FaceTime my boyfriend Brendan. He pops up on my screen and I see that he’s outside on the streets of New York. I can barely hear him speaking because the wind is so strong. He’s just left Brazilian Jiujitsu practice and is walking home. He's so cold that he keeps switching his phone from his left to right hand. I even see his eyes begin to water. It’s nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit (that's -16 for you Celsius folk) in Manhattan and it’s in the high 50’s (14 Celsius) and sunny here in Tokyo. I sure left New York at the right time!

After I finish talking to Brendan, I head out of the apartment to start my day. I’m going to Omotesando to check out the Nepenthes store. Brendan works for Nepenthes, a Japanese clothing brand based in Tokyo with also a store and office in New York. He’s been there for nearly 5 years now but has not been to Tokyo and has never seen the store here. Since I’m in town, I figure why not check it out?

Exterior of the Nepenthes Tokyo store

Exterior of the Nepenthes Tokyo store

I take the metro to Omotesando station and then walk through the small winding roads until I reach the Nepenthes store.  Situated between some residential-looking buildings, the Nepenthes store looks quite grand. It is 2 stories and made of almost entirely concrete minus the glass windows that take up the majority of the front façade. On the left, is a winding staircase, which leads to the second floor. A large fallen tree is placed precariously by the front entrance, a decorative juxtaposition to the industrial veneer.  I enter the first floor, which is only footwear. It’s rather small, probably less than 200sq feet. As I take a look at the shoes, the lone sales guy compliments my Engineered Garments jacket that I am wearing (a birthday present from Brendan).  I thank him and we chat for a little bit. Then I ask where the apparel section is and he points me upstairs.

The apparel section at the Nepenthes Tokyo store

The apparel section at the Nepenthes Tokyo store

I exit out the front door and walk up the exterior staircase to the 2nd floor. Although much bigger than the footwear section, it still feels a bit cramped, especially in comparison to the New York store. But the selection of clothing is beautiful. They carry mostly Needles, South2west8, and of course, Nepenthes. But I also notice a small section of Engineered Garments. (There’s not much because EG has their own store in Tokyo as well.)

Now that I’ve checked out the Nepenthes store, it’s time for me to indulge in one of my guilty pleasures- frivolous shopping at Shibuya109! Shibuya109 is not only a popular shopping mall for young girls, but also a landmark and popular meeting point due to its size and centrality in the Shibuya area. This 7 story department store is chock full of kawaii clothing and kitschy accessories. It’s been ages since I’ve last shopped here. But I’m on a mission- I want to buy a few items at Moussy, one of my favorite mid-price clothing brands. I buy myself a jacket and a sweater, both versatile pieces that I can wear now and transition into for spring. With my new purchases in had, I decide to take my time and explore the other floors while I’m here. I notice a store called "Titty & Co." and I can’t help but giggle to myself. Besides the fact that I’m actually a 12-year-old boy when it comes to my sense of humor, I think I just find it all so funny because of how kawaii and girly the store is. Everything is pink and frilly and its name has ‘titty’ in it. I know, I’m such a child lol.

 

 
Shibuya109 shopping center (Photo courtesy of tokyo-fashion.tumblr.com) 

Shibuya109 shopping center (Photo courtesy of tokyo-fashion.tumblr.com

Cosmetic contacts for sale at Shibuya109

Cosmetic contacts for sale at Shibuya109

Finished with my aimless browsing, I head back to the apartment to drop off my new clothes. It’s 5pm and I have plans tonight with my friend Shota. Shota is the brother-in-law of my dear friend Yunmi. I’ve known Yunmi since I first moved to New York and she is like a big sister to me. She and her husband Tomota are some of the best people I know and Shota lives up to the family name.

I text Talia to see if she and Blaise have any dinner plans. She tells me they’re free so I invite them to come meet me and Shota in Nakameguro. At 7:30pm, the 4 of us meet outside the Nakameguro train station. I make the introductions between Blaise, Shota, and Talia. I’m smiling- I love it when my friends become friends with one another! Shota leads the way (he lives in Nakameguro) and we follow him into one of his favorite izakayas.

Shota, Talia, and Blaise!

Shota takes care of the ordering and soon enough we’re filling our bellies with lots of beer and yummy yakitori.  After a few rounds of beers, Shota orders 2 rounds of sake. By now, Talia is craving something sweet so we head out and walk over to an Aloha (a chain of Hawaiian cuisine restaurants) for some pie. Around 11pm, Talia and Blaise decide to call it a night. They have to catch the last train home to their airbnb in Nerima, which is a bit far out from Tokyo city center. Shota and I bid them goodbye and then we’re off to go out for the night.

Peeking into an izakaya!

Peeking into an izakaya!

Yummy Yakitori and Sapporo beer! 

Me and Shota! 

Shota takes me to his friend’s joint, Solfa, a hip-hop club in the heart of Nakameguro. Apparently, one of his favorite MC’s is playing tonight, JJJ. We get to the club and he greets his friend/owner of Solfa. Introductions are made and then the guys do their bro thing. The two get caught up in catch-up talk so I go inside to take a look around. The main floor of Solfa is rather small. It has a bar in the front, an open dance floor in the center, and a DJ booth in the back. Off to the right-hand side is a door, which leads to the main performance space. After the guys are done catching up, Shota and I grab a beer and chill by the bar. It’s nearly midnight when people start rolling in. I quickly notice that I am the only girl here. Guy after guy dressed in FILA, Patagonia, Champion, etc. come strolling in. The sportswear/outerwear aesthetic is very strong here.

Me hanging by the bar at Solfa ^^

Me hanging by the bar at Solfa ^^

JJJ’s set is about to start when suddenly Shota leans on my shoulder. He’s swaying dangerously back and forth and can barely keep his eyes open. Oh boy, do I know that look… Shota’s drunk! Although I was looking forward to seeing the rappers and DJ’s play, I knew it was best to get Shota home before he blacked out. Thankfully he lives just a few blocks down the road. I then proceed to get into a cab and head back to Akasaka.

I forgot how painfully expensive Tokyo taxis are!!! The ride from Nakameguro to Akasaka was barely 15 minutes and my fare was well over 3,000yen (about $30USD). New York will always win the taxi battle, no matter what country I’m in. By the time I get to Kohei’s apartment, I realize that I’m actually a little tipsy! I know Brendan’s at work (it’s Friday midday back in New York), which means I can’t FaceTime him. So instead, I send him some chotto drunk Sasa videos, which is basically me talking to myself, alone in a room, but pretending that I’m talking to him. By around 2am, I’ve taken a shower and crawl into bed.  Tomorrow I will be checking out an awesome antique kimono and textile store, I cannot wait to see their inventory! Now it’s time for chotto drunk Sasa to get some shut-eye, good night my angels!

 

Sasa 莎莎


NEPENTHES

2F, 1-17-4 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

 

SHIBUYA 109

2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10am-9pm

 

SOLFA

1-20-5 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Tokyo Travels Day 2

After a much-needed night of proper rest, I wake up Thursday morning feeling energized and ready to go! I go next door to the 7-11 to pick up a quick morning snack of coffee and a rice ball. It’s so bad, but I really love the bottled cafe lattes that you can find inside any convenience store around here. They’re these bottles of milk and coffee with an excessive amount of sugar. Normally when I’m at home, I take my coffee with just a little milk, never any sugar. But when I’m here I just can’t help myself but indulge!

Sipping my coffee and munching on my rice ball, I scroll through my inbox and reply to emails. My phone chirps and I see that Kohei has just messaged me asking if I’d like to meet him for lunch. I happily oblige. Around 12:30pm, I leave the apartment to meet him at the Aman.  The Aman Group is a hospitality group specializing in hotels in remote regions. The Aman here in Tokyo is relatively new and special in that it doesn't fit their usual location mold (remote/non-city). I knew this because Kohei has a photo book at his apartment of all their hotels in every region. The photos all look beautiful so I’m looking forward to checking this place out!

I see Kohei standing by the front entrance. We take the elevator to the restaurant floor and you guys… this place is gorgeous. The ceilings are sky-high and the interior design is immaculate.

Photo courtesy of The Aman

Photo courtesy of The Aman

We walk toward the back and the maître d seats us at the bar. I look through the menu and see that the cuisine is noticeably western. The waiter comes over to take our order and we both chose one of the pre-fixe sets. Finally, Kohei and I get a chance to catch up! Kohei works for Morgan Stanley and currently they’re about to make a very big deal. He tells me he won’t be home much while I’m in town- part of the reason why we’re meeting for lunch. He tells me of his recent trips to Sri Lanka and Beijing. We talk family, significant others, and life. Mid-way through our meal his boss calls saying he can leave the office early today. Elated, we cheers to the good news. Within 20 minutes, he gets another call from his boss. Kohei tells me suddenly his boss needs him urgently back at the office. Luckily, we were already on dessert.

Kohei has to hurry back to the office so I decide to relax and take a seat in the lounge.  I order a coffee and kick back. In the center of the room, there is a musician in full formal kimono dress playing the koto. For those of you unfamiliar, koto is an instrument made up of 13 strings and is the national instrument of Japan. I am absolutely mesmerized and within seconds, I get lost in the music.

**Buzz** I feel my iPhone vibrate in my pocket.  I get a message from my friend Eno, which brings me out of my musical trance. He tells me to meet him and his friend in Shinjuku so I finish my coffee and head out.

I meet the boys at the entrance of Shinjuku Gyoen park. Eno’s friend is named Aaran. He’s a tall British guy from Leeds living here in Tokyo. We are walking and I’m chatting with Aaran, trying to get to know him, when suddenly Eno enters a random building. Aaran follows suit. I do the same, but quite frankly, I’m a bit confused as to where we’re going. Eno turns around and tells me they’re location scouting. Both Eno and Aaran are photographers. The two of them frequently enter random buildings to check out rooftop locations for photo shoots. This building doesn’t have any security- perfect for their shenanigans! We hop around a couple of different rooftops. The sun begins to set and the view from the roof is beautiful. It’s making me reminisce about summertime in Brooklyn and all the rooftop BBQ parties…

Oh look, it's Eno!

Oh look, it's Eno!

I snap back into reality as Eno asks if I’d be down to shoot with him while I’m in town. I, of course, say yes as I have brought a few of my kimono pieces with me on the trip. He shows me the faces of the models he had in mind and I totally dig their look. One guy, one girl. We decide to shoot on Sunday.

Rooftop hopping views

7pm rolls around and I head to Shibuya to meet Viviane Sheep. Viviane is a friend of my dear friend Vaevae. Vaevae insisted the two of us hangout while I was in Tokyo. Viviane and I meet in front of the police station near the Hachiko exit of the metro. She takes me to On the Corner, a Japanese interpretation of an American diner. By the way, any sort of western style place here is pretty much a Japanese take on western style. Not exactly the same as anything back home, but still, it sure is darn cute.

On The Corner (Photo courtesy of YOHOBOYS)

On The Corner (Photo courtesy of YOHOBOYS)

Viviane is a blogger and model, primarily beauty (i.e. makeup ads, skincare, mostly commercial work). She’s from Taiwan and used to live in New York right before she moved to Tokyo and has been here for 7 years. We spend nearly 4 hours talking at dinner. Honestly, I have no idea how we managed to even talk that much!! We talk about our jobs, our background, etc. Then we finally get into the juicy stuff. I got a text from my boyfriend and as I reply back, Viviane asks who’s messaging me. I tell her about my boyfriend, Brendan- how we met at my friend’s gallery opening when I was dressed in kimono, how I didn’t realize our first date was even a date (lol), etc. Then I ask her about her boyfriend situation. She proceeds to tell me about her ex. I think that’s how we managed to talk for 4 hours. Girl-talk about boys. Always the culprit…hahaha!

After dinner, we walk to the train station and part ways. When I get back to the apartment, I take a nice hot bath to get me in the mood to sleep. It does the trick, my eyes start to feel heavy by around 12am. Early bedtime (well, at least in comparison to my New York standards) so I can wake up early as well! Tomorrow I will be doing a little personal shopping in Shibuya and then I'll be checking out the nightlife scene in Nakameguro with my friend Shota.

Stay tuned! Night angels <3  

 

Sasa 莎莎


THE AMAN

The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 
(Restaurant on 33rd floor)

 

SHINJUKU GYOEN PARK

11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo



ON THE CORNER

1-17-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Tokyo Travels Day 1

It's 7:30am and I am currently sitting in the Shanghai Pudong Airport patiently waiting for my connecting flight to Tokyo. Surprisingly, I managed to sleep the entire plane ride (14 hours) from JFK to Shanghai. It was a red-eye so I literally passed out the second I sat down. I didn’t even wake up for the meals and now I am scarfing down a chicken caesar wrap I bought from Starbucks. Thank you corporate America, lol.

I arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport. It’s 4pm on a Wednesday. I am absolutely giddy! Even though I was just in Tokyo less than a year ago. I always get super excited when I have the chance to come back. After going through customs and picking up my luggage, I take the Skyliner train into the city proper and then take the metro to meet my friend Kohei. Kohei is my friend from high school and he has so graciously offered to let me stay at his apartment while I’m in town.

Akasaka skyline

The Lobby of Kohei's apartment building

I take the metro to Otemachi station and walk into the lobby of Morgan Stanley looking like a hot mess (20 plus hours of traveling will do that to you -___-). I am greeted by Kohei, who gives me the keys to his apartment. We chat for a little but he has to get back to work and I desperately need to take a shower. Kohei heads back to work and I leave to take a taxi to his apartment in Akasaka. His apartment building is a very tall Manhattan-esque style condo. There are well over 50 floors and his apartment is on the 14th. It’s 6pm and I have just about 2 hours to get myself in proper shape to go out. I already made plans to meet up with my friend Talia and her boyfriend Blaise- both of whom are friends of mine from New York. Blaise has been living in South Korea for the past year teaching English and Talia is currently on vacation visiting him. They decided to come to Tokyo for holiday as well so it seemed only fitting that we hangout now that I have arrived!

It's Blaise and Talia!

8pm rolls around and I meet the two of them at a FamilyMart (a chain of convenience stores) right by Akasaka station. We stroll around the streets of Akasaka and then wander into the neighboring area of Roppongi, a neighborhood known for its large expat community and raucous nightlife. We have a nice quiet dinner and then go out for a few beers before we call it a night. My traveler’s exhaustion is finally settling. By the time I get back, I am so tired I sleep like a baby. I am in town for 9 days and I plan on taking full advantage of the short time I have.

Nighttime skyline view from the apartment

Tomorrow will be a full day of socializing, but the next few days I will explore the fabric district of Tokyo, check out local kimono stores, take a day trip to Kawagoe (old Tokyo town), have a photoshoot, dress in formal kimono with my friend Anji, and so much more! Stay tuned! <3

 

Sasa 莎莎

Welcome to the TKK blog!

Hello everyone! My name is Sasa 莎莎 and I am both the founder and designer of The Kimono Kid. For the past two years, I’ve been making custom kimono for clients from all around the world.

That's me! Sasa The Kimono Kid^^

That's me! Sasa The Kimono Kid^^

For the vast majority of people, the word ‘kimono’ brings up an image of an antiquated geisha in a foreign land, wearing a floor length robe during feudal times. However, it would do kimono no justice to be limited to such a stereotyped image. So first, let me break down the etymology of the word…

In Japanese, kimono is written as two kanji characters. The first kanji “ki” () means “wearing”. The second kanji “mono” () means “thing”. Thus the term kimono refers to a vast majority of clothing worn by the Japanese people for centuries. These include, but are not limited to Yukata, Haori, Furisode, Komon, Happi, Jinbei, etc. Each of the different types of kimono varies in overall length, sleeve style, and functionality.  However, it was during the late 19th century/ turn of the 20th century that kimono dress was rapidly replaced by Western style clothing as a means of convenience and modernization during changing times. Hence, the current common misconception of kimono as antiquated dress.

My personal relationship with kimono began about 3 years ago. At the time, I was still studying in the fashion program at Parsons. It was winter break so I went to London on holiday. It was on this trip that I was gifted an antique Haori kimono by an old friend. I brought the Haori back to New York and soon enough took the garment apart, fascinated by its timeless beauty and sleek design. Once the pieces were unraveled, I studied the Haori’s craftsmanship and construction. I began collecting various antique kimono as I was eager to feed my growing curiosity. Eventually, my Aunt in Osaka learned of my new hobby and sent over dozens of family kimono pieces for me to continue learning. Over the next year, I began drafting my own patterns and constructing kimono from scratch. By the end of that year, I received my first custom kimono inquiry from a young man in Brooklyn. That young man sent me referrals and soon enough clients came rolling in. In the past two years since starting The Kimono Kid, I have built the TKK website, got my first studio space in East Williamsburg Brooklyn, developed relationships with fabric mills both locally and abroad, and have acquired a vast variety of custom kimono clients from around the world.

As a kimono craftswoman and aficionado, I firmly believe it is of the utmost importance to not only continue honing my craft, but to also keep learning and expanding my repertoire of kimono knowledge. This brings me to the purpose of this blog. Through the TKK blog, I hope to share with you the history, traditions, and inner workings of all things kimono-related.

Please stay tuned for my upcoming posts on my recent trip to Tokyo. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite fabrics stores, kimono shops, restaurants, project collaborators, and so much more!

I look forward to sharing all that I can with you guys and hope that you may come to love kimono as much as I do^^

Until next time…

Sasa 莎莎