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.
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.
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 laugh at them. 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 it. 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!!
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. 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.
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!
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.
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…!