A Cherry Too Far?

We’re turning into the cherry fashion police…

Sometimes what happens on the runway stays on the runway, other times it filters through to retailers, and more times still what happens on the runway should have stayed on the runway.

Nothing says way over the top like giant headgear. Would you balance a giant object on top of your head? Do tell…

Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson
Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson
Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson
Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson
Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson
Cherry Headbands by Piers Atkinson

While the giant cherries look pretty cute on the model, in a strictly fashion shoot only kind of way, out on the street, not so sure… The headbands came in baby blue, pink, lilac, orange, yellow and red-black glitter. Dare to wear?

If you dare, red, black and black-glitter cherries are available on the Piers Atkinson website.

http://www.piersatkinson.com

Exact looks from the runway are rarely replicated, down to the last thread, in the real world. Unless you’re Anna Dello Russo, the Italian-born fashion director and editor-at-large of Vogue Japan. She is a one-woman fashion show. Her personal style has catapulted her to the status of street-style icon. She lives in Milan with her dog, Cucciolina, and has a second apartment for her extensive wardrobe, which includes a few thousand shoes. Her boyfriend lives in yet another place, because her wardrobe takes up all the space!

A Cherry Too Far?

A Cherry Too Far?

Anna is pretty much in a league of her own when it comes to her headgear. She even feels it’s her responsibility to keep head pieces alive, which is good for Alan Journo, the man who makes all of her hats.

A Cherry Too Far?

Not sure I would dare to wear giant cherries on my head. A big orange pom-pom, yes, giant cherries, no 🙂

The Cherry World of YSL

Spring/Summer 2015
Spring/Summer 2015

Generally I don’t like black accessories, but there might be moments for exceptions, especially when Cherries are involved! This season, they are in the YSL collection, or as they have been known for a couple of years now, Saint Laurent Paris. You can actually google ‘what happened to the Yves in YSL’!

I still prefer Murakami’s LV cherries (they had a sense of whimsy with their smiley faces!! and they are not on black). The YSL cherries are nowhere as good looking, but the Saint Laurent Wallet with Golden Chain is growing on me. I am thinking it might have more to do with the traditional YSL logo (which I prefer and which is très chic) and with the gold chain. Possibly not a good enough reason to spend £1,110 plus postage from Selfridges in London (the only store that has it in stock) plus GST! In the meantime, I found a way cooler cherry bag at Selfridges!

Undercover cherry clutch
Undercover cherry clutch, £1,515

Red is bold, and cherries are sexy, playful and good for you! You wear cherries on black, you can’t walk around unnoticed. On second thought, I might not additional help to attract attention…

The combination of black and red is eye-catching and also used by Louis Vuitton for the recently launched ‘Monogram Infrarouge’ (the standard monogram red and bold on a black background).

Louis Vuitton Monogram Infrarouge Dora Bag
Louis Vuitton Monogram Infrarouge Dora Bag

The Ready-to-Wear YSL collection (ready to wear only if you are a French 38) includes some cherry printed items. Definitely not interested in them. The launch of the Spring/Summer collection opened with the cherry printed one-shouldered fluttery dress.

YSL Ready to Wear 2015 Spring Collection
YSL Ready to Wear 2015 Spring Collection

There is also a blouse and a t-shirt.

YSL Ready to Wear 2015 Spring Collection
YSL Ready to Wear 2015 Spring Collection

This is not the first time YSL has included cherry prints. The 2010 collection included a fairly boring cherry dress.

YSL Ready to Wear 2010 Spring Collection
YSL Ready to Wear 2010 Spring Collection

And then there was the 2001 collection with some serious cherries and the French way to wear them 🙂

YSL Ready to Wear 2001 Spring Collection
YSL Ready to Wear 2001 Spring Collection

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Tokyo DisneySea makes some pretty amazing outfits for Mickey, Minnie, Duffy and Shellie-May, and amazing beary outfits…

Tokyo DisneySea 10th Anniversary
Tokyo DisneySea 10th Anniversary
Tokyo DisneySea 10th Anniversary
Tokyo DisneySea 10th Anniversary

Puffles and Honey are wearing the magical outfits today… Spitting image 🙂

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Star Festival 2014 at Tokyo Disneyland
Star Festival 2014 at Tokyo Disneyland
Star Festival 2014 at Tokyo Disneyland
Star Festival 2014 at Tokyo Disneyland

Isabelle and Jay are wearing the Star Festival outfits…

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Duffy and Shellie-May Spring 2015
Duffy and Shellie-May Spring 2015
Duffy and Shellie-May Spring 2015
Duffy and Shellie-May Spring 2015

Shellie-May and Theo are wearing the Spring 2015 outfits, with pants!

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Duffy  in his Sweet Duffy Outfit 2010 at Tokyo DisneySea
Duffy in his Sweet Duffy Outfit 2010 at Tokyo DisneySea

Olivia and Percy are wearing the Sweet Duffy _complete_ outfits! This no pants business is most unbecoming!

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Ellie and Francis are wearing the traditional Mickey and Minnie costumes…

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

There were some really cool outfits for the summer festival in 2012, but they have totally sold out 😦

Mickey and Minnie wear Soryo Kobu dance outfits for Natsu Matsuri Festival 2012 at Tokyo Disneyland
Mickey and Minnie wear Soryo Kobu dance outfits for Natsu Matsuri Festival 2012 at Tokyo Disneyland
Mickey shows off his Soryo Kobu dance moves at Natsu Matsuri Festival 2012 at Tokyo Disneyland
Mickey shows off his Soryo Kobu dance moves at Natsu Matsuri Festival 2012 at Tokyo Disneyland

Still, plenty of costume for a party…

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Puffles and Honey Costume Party

Fireworks for Hubble

http://hubblesite.org

Westerlund 2. Credit: NASA
Westerlund 2. Credit: NASA

NASA and ESA are celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature’s own fireworks — a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2, named for Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund, who discovered the grouping in the 1960s. The cluster resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina.

To capture this image, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding the stellar nursery in near-infrared light, giving astronomers a clear view of the nebula and the dense concentration of stars in the central cluster. The cluster measures between 6 to 13 light-years across.

The giant star cluster is only about 2 million years old and contains some of our galaxy’s hottest, brightest, and most massive stars. Some of its heftiest stars unleash torrents of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds of charged particles that etch at the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud.

The nebula reveals a fantasy landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys. The pillars, composed of dense gas and thought to be incubators for new stars, are a few light-years tall and point to the central star cluster. Other dense regions surround the pillars, including reddish-brown filaments of gas and dust.

The brilliant stars sculpt the gaseous terrain of the nebula and help create a successive generation of baby stars. When the stellar winds hit dense walls of gas, the shockwaves may spark a new torrent of star birth along the wall of the cavity. The red dots scattered throughout the landscape are a rich population of newly forming stars still wrapped in their gas-and-dust cocoons. These tiny, faint stars are between 1 million and 2 million years old — relatively young stars — that have not yet ignited the hydrogen in their cores. The brilliant blue stars seen throughout the image are mostly foreground stars.

Because the cluster is very young — in astronomical terms — it has not had time to disperse its stars deep into interstellar space, providing astronomers with an opportunity to gather information on how the cluster formed by studying it within its star-birthing environment.

The image’s central region, which contains the star cluster, blends visible-light data taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys with near-infrared exposures taken by the Wide Field Camera 3. The surrounding region is composed of visible-light observations taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys. The red colors in the nebulosity represent hydrogen; the bluish-green hues are predominantly oxygen.

NASA named the world’s first space-based optical telescope after American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889—1953). Dr. Hubble confirmed an “expanding” universe, which provided the foundation for the Big Bang theory.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 25 years ago, on April 24, 1990, from space shuttle Discovery (STS-31). The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Ever since Galileo, astronomers have used telescopes to study the sources of light from the universe, near and far. Stars, galaxies, nebulae, and planets too far away for humans to visit become accessible by studying the information contained in their radiation that travels to our telescopes. And yet after a journey of sometimes thousands or even billions of light-years, the light from these distant sources can be blurred or obscured by Earth’s atmosphere before it reaches our telescopes on the ground. The Hubble Space Telescope solves this dilemma by orbiting the Earth above the atmosphere, providing crystal-clear images that have opened our eyes to a universe barely imagined before.

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around the Earth. Credit: NASA
The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around the Earth. Credit: NASA

The exquisite angular resolution that Hubble can achieve allows us to see individual stars in dense clusters, revealing rich varieties of stars, like gemstones: red and blue, bright and faint. Astronomers study populations of stars to determine their age, composition, and how they formed. Stars and interstellar gas make up galaxies, which themselves can be beautiful spiral pinwheels, rotating and sometimes even merging with one another.

The Omega Centauri Globular Star Cluster. Credit: NASA
The Omega Centauri Globular Star Cluster. Credit: NASA

Hubble also shows us the sheer magnitude of the universe. There are at least 200 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy alone, and hundreds of billions of other galaxies within the observable universe. Hubble’s sensitive camera is allowing us to see some of the faintest, most distant galaxies ever detected. The light from these ancient objects has traveled over 13 billion years to get to us, traversing space that is itself stretching and expanding, reddening the light that we see. Light from some distant galaxies is actually magnified, and its path altered, by the gravitational effects of massive clusters of galaxies it passes along its journey to us. This “gravitational lensing” effect can distort the appearance of distant galaxies into long arcs and multiple apparitions. Astronomers measure that distortion to study the distribution of mysterious invisible “dark matter” in the foreground clusters.

Galaxy Cluster Abell 2744, with lensed light arcs from background galaxies. Credit: NASA and ESA
Galaxy Cluster Abell 2744, with lensed light arcs from background galaxies. Credit: NASA and ESA

The light Hubble receives is also telling us of incredible activity in the universe. We see our own solar system buzzing with activity, such as aurorae on Uranus and Saturn, and asteroids colliding. We also see magnificent clouds of interstellar dust and gas where infant stars are vigorously forming deep inside. Hubble’s ability to detect infrared light from these warm young stars enables us to see into these hidden nurseries. Light from more distant galaxies, as they stretch away from us with the expansion of space, is even showing us that this expansion is accelerating: some kind of “dark energy” is pushing the universe apart.

The Eagle Nebula. Credit: NASA and ESA
The Eagle Nebula. Credit: NASA and ESA

While Hubble continues its mission orbiting Earth, NASA is building its successor.

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov

NASA is building the biggest telescope the world has ever seen, which it will give scientists the opportunity to ‘see’ cosmic events that occurred 13.5 billion years ago – just 220 million years following the Big Bang. Named the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, and is tipped to be fully operational within the next three years.

JWST will be a powerful time machine with infrared vision that will peer back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.

The microwave COBE and WMAP satellites saw the heat signature left by the Big Bang about 380,000 years after it occurred. But at that point there were no stars and galaxies. In fact the universe was a pretty dark place.

After the Big Bang, the universe was like a hot soup of particles (i.e. protons, neutrons, and electrons). When the universe started cooling, the protons and neutrons began combing into ionized atoms of hydrogen (and eventually some helium). These ionized atoms of hydrogen and helium attracted electrons turning them into neutral atoms – which allowed light to travel freely for the first time, since this light was no longer scattering off free electrons. The universe was no longer dark! But we still don’t really know what the universe’s first light, created by sources (stars) that fused these hydrogen atoms into more helium, looked like.

JWST’s unprecedented infrared sensitivity will help astronomers to compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and ellipticals, helping us to understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.

Galaxies show us how the matter in the universe is organized on large scales. In order to understand the nature and history of the universe, scientists study how the matter is currently organized and how that organization has changed throughout cosmic time. In fact, scientists examine how matter is distributed and behaves at multiple size scales in our quest for this understanding. From peering into the way matter is constructed at the subatomic particle level to the immense structures of galaxies and dark matter that span the cosmos, each scale gives us important clues as to how the universe is built and evolves.

JWST will be able to see right through and into massive clouds of dust that are opaque to visible-light observatories like Hubble, where stars and planetary systems are being born.

JWST has sensors and other equipment on board that will enable NASA to study the atmosphere of exoplanets spectroscopically, and perhaps even find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. In addition to other planetary systems, JWST will also study objects within our own Solar System. And NASA Chief Scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicts we’ll find strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years. Well, first contact takes place on April 4, 2063, so we better hurry up and make it happen 🙂

The JWST includes a mirror 6.5 metres in diameter, which is three times the size of Hubble’s mirror, and it will have 70 times its light-gathering capacity. It will include four cameras and spectrometers, the latter of which is designed to take in light, break it down into its spectral components, and digitise the signal as a function of a wavelength for scientists to interpret.

Unlike Hubble, which has spent the last 25 years orbiting Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope will go all the way out to one of the Lagrangian points – a set of five equilibrium points in every Earth-Moon System – 1.5 million kilometres (930,000 miles) away. This will keep it far enough away from the Sun so it’s not too hot, and will shelter it from radiation and prevent it from being blinded by its own infra-red light.

It will follow Earth around the Sun over the course of the year so it will be in a Sun centre orbit instead of an Earth centre orbit. Just as Hubble rewrote all the textbooks, Webb will rewrite them again.

The telescope is expected to launch in October 2018.

Enchanting View

Les Roches, Rue de Glanot, 21320 Mont-Saint-Jean, France
Les Roches, Rue de Glanot, 21320 Mont-Saint-Jean, France

An enchanted place for enchanted bears 🙂 They don’t know about the bears yet, but they will! In France they will be ours mignons.

Les Roches, Salon
Les Roches Salon
Les Roches, Dining Room
Les Roches Dining Room

Les Roches is situated in the historic medieval village of Mont-Saint-Jean in the heart of Burgundy. It was built 1901 by a Parisian judge for his mistress 🙂 The architecture of Les Roches is unique and the style is called “eclectic” as it combines architectural styles found in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

There is actually a bedroom called Enchanting View. It is a large double bedroom located at the front of the house with unobstructed views of the valley. The bedroom has a marble fireplace, is furnished with antiques and features three French doors leading to a private balcony with a small table and chairs. And we have just booked a week there!

Les Roches, Enchanting View Bedroom
Les Roches, Enchanting View Bedroom

Beary Impressions of Japan

The Japan National Tourism Organisation has a series of practical guides designed to help the English-speaking traveler enjoy an independent trip in Japan.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/

It turns out that many streets in Japan have no names and the buildings are numbered in a random fashion that was possibly invented by a 13th century Buddhist monk. The secret of deciphering the addressing scheme appears to have died with him. In two weeks, we never really looked for an address. Getting to the hotel on the first day in each city involved taking a taxi to guarantee getting there. Despite failing on a regular basis, Google Maps worked just enough to get us to the locations we were looking for. Instead of the address, we just walked about until the blue dot was on top of the red one! Sometimes it did take walking in circles…

However, when it comes to navigating cultural differences, no guide can prepare you adequately, and there is no app for it either.

This was our first trip to a land where we didn’t understand the language at all or even the alphabet! The Japanese use the Chinese writing system, which does not suit their language, and which takes ten years for Japanese children to learn. Go figure!

The Japanese are very different from everyone else, their uniqueness probably deriving in the main from three principal factors: their history of isolation, the crowded conditions imposed by their geography and the Japanese language itself.

Packed together in large numbers in big cities, the Japanese have developed complex social skills, which led to the phenomenon known as web society – that is, great interdependence between all members of a group and an abundance of social and moral obligations.

The world over, people behave a certain way because the way they think is governed by the language in which they think. The structure of a person’s language influences the manner in which he or she understands reality and behaves with respect to it. The Japanese use language in a completely different way from everyone else. What is actually said has hardly any meaning or significance whatsoever. The Japanese use their language as a tool of communication, but the words and sentences themselves give little indication of what they are saying. What they want and how they feel is indicated by the way they address their conversation partner. Smiles, pauses, sighs, grunts, nods and eye movements convey everything. The Japanese leave their fellow Japanese knowing perfectly well what has been agreed to, no matter what was said, while foreigners leave a conversation or meeting with a Japanese with a completely different idea. While the Japanese focus on the mood of the conversation, other nationalities tend to focus on the content. Consequently, all their hear is platitudes or, even more suspicious, flattery. However, the Japanese are simply being courteous and caring.

The Japanese have a keen sense of the unfolding or unwrapping of time. They are more concerned not with how long something takes to happen, but with how time is divided up in the interests of properness, courtesy and tradition. They are very generous in their allocation of time to you and your transaction. That can also make for long queues and long waiting times! Of course, all the Japanese in the queue wait patiently, while I am standing there thinking, good lord, how long can this possibly take?

In Japan’s conformist and carefully regulated society, people like to know at all times where they stand and where they are at: this applies to both social and business situations. The mandatory, two-minute exchange of business cards between executives meeting each other for the first time is one of the clearest examples of a time activity segment being used to mark the beginning of a relationship.

Other events that require not only clearly defined beginnings and endings but also unambiguous phase-switching signals are the tea ceremony, New Year routines, annual cleaning of the house, and even cherry blossom viewing! A Japanese person cannot enter any number of activities in the casual, direct manner a Westerner might adopt. The Japanese must experience an unfolding or unwrapping of the significant phases of the event. It has to do with Asian indirectness, but in Japan also involves love of compartmentalisation of procedure, of tradition, of the beauty of ritual.

The Japanese are masters of courtesy. Standards of politeness are much higher in Japan than anywhere else in the world. All the Japanese people who took photos of the bears asked for permission first, even if it just took the form of ‘ok?’. Ok!

It is easy to say be very polite at all times, but what is polite in one society is not necessarily polite in another! We got by with lots of smiles, apologising when we got things wrong, and kawai (cute) bears! The bears dressed in kimonos made a particularly big and favourable impression 🙂

Speak slowly and distinctly. They smile and nod constantly, but may not understand much. Ideally, you would learn some Japanese words, we got by with arigato only. Bow if you can manage it, restrict your body language, do not wave your arms about, do not touch people unnecessarily and do not tell jokes unless they are at your own expense and are easily understood. And do not make a racket! Apart from being told off on the plane for laughing too loud 🙂 (I was also told off for that in a workplace once, but unlike on the plane, I ignored that complaint and carried on!) I caused some consternation in a souvenir shop in Takayama when I and two Japanese teenagers found a talking doll extremely funny and we all, including the doll, burst into loud laughter at the same time. We got some telling looks from the staff in the shop, but of course they were far too polite to say anything. Well, I did buy the doll!

It has been said that humour crosses national boundaries with difficulty, especially when heading east. Apart from the Koreans who appear to like everybody’s jokes, few Asians are amused by American or (most) European jokes. The Confucian or Buddhist preoccupation with truth, sincerity, kindliness and politeness automatically eliminates humour techniques such as sarcasm, satire, exaggeration and parody. They also find little merit in jokes about religion, sex and underprivileged minorities. Sick or black humour is definitely out.

Laughing over funny dolls is in!

Privately, the Japanese are convinced of their uniqueness, of which one facet is intellectual superiority. Privately, most, if not all, nations believe they are superior to everyone else. Unlike the French, the Japanese base this belief not on intellectual verbal prowess, but on the power of strong intuition. On a side note, I have to say that Jean-Luc spoke impeccable English and his eloquence was outstanding.

Our next cultural challenge will be back in Europe. It is time we visit Germany. The contrast to Japan will be significant, even though they are both conformist societies. The Germans have a tendency to be blunt and disagree openly rather than going for politeness or diplomacy. Should suit me just fine! Irony, sarcasm and subtle undertones usually fall on deaf ears, you have to say what you mean. Again, not a problem. I sometimes use bluntness just because I am bored! That usually causes a flurry of reactions and I have something entertaining to watch 🙂

Serious-minded, factual Germans do not split their sides on hearing American jokes about Texas, which usually depend on gross exaggeration. The story about the Mexican driving just as fast as he could for 24 hours to get out of Texas, but finding he had not managed it, thrills the American imagination but sounds far-fetched to the German, who might reply, “He should have used a German car”. Now that is funny!

The Shibuya Experience

Sunday morning arrived with lots of clouds and another forecast for rain. Not deterred, little bears went out to check Shibuya, next door to Shinjuku, our residence in Tokyo.

While in Tokyo, we navigated every day Shinjuku train station, the world’s busiest transport hub (and registered as such with Guinness World Records). The station is the main connecting hub for rail traffic between Tokyo’s special wards and Western Tokyo on inter-city rail, commuter rail, and metro lines, using 36 platforms. Including an underground arcade, there are well over 200 exits. You really want to know what platform you need and especially what exit you want to take! Helpful staff will help you identify the right platform, and it is best if you stick to the one entry/exit option every time you use the station. The station is used by an average of 4 million people per day, and while we stayed in Tokyo, by four little bears as well! We also have a new skill. Getting across a river of people, all going in the same direction. The ‘stick to the left’ or ‘stick to the right’ approach does not work particularly well in Japan since there is no consistent use of either side. You have to watch for the arrows on the pavement or on the stairs to find out which side you are supposed to walk on.

From the world’s busiest transport hub, we went to the world’s busiest intersection in front of Shibuya station’s Hachiko Exit. The intersection is heavily decorated by neon advertisements and giant video screens and gets flooded by pedestrians each time the crossing light turns green. Shibuya Crossing is often featured in movies and television shows which take place in Tokyo, such as Lost in Translation, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Resident Evil: Afterlife and Retribution, as well as on domestic and international news broadcasts.

Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya crossing
Shibuya Crossing

On sunny afternoons or clear evenings, the surrounding area is packed with shoppers, students, young couples and commuters. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides, like marbles spilling out of a box. You can observe this moment of organized chaos from the second-story window of the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building on the crossing’s north side, the world’s busiest Starbucks.

Starbucks in the Tsutaya building
Starbucks in the Tsutaya building

Shibuya station’s Hachiko Exit refers to the exit that has a statue of a loyal dog named Hachiko. According to a famous story, the dog waited for his master every day in front of Shibuya Station, and continued to do so for years even after his master had passed away. It is one of Tokyo’s most popular meeting points.

Hachiko Statue
Hachiko Statue

We crossed the intersection and walked north on whatever street that is, going past Tsutaya building and Starbucks and past 109 Shibuya on the other side of the street. Shibuya 109(1) is a 9-floor shopping complex planted, bold and glitzy, diagonally across from Shibuya Station packed with about 120, mainly fashion, boutiques for the under-30 glamor girl. Store names like “Me Jane,” “Baby Shoop,” “Pinky Girls, “Honey Bunch,” and “Dazzlin’,” “Swanky,” “Egoist,” and “Shagadelic” say it all.

Then there is Shibuya 109(2), the younger sister of 109(1) and its chic robo-tech exterior is the first thing you see when you come out of Shibuya Station. Like 109(1), 109(2) has 9 floors of shopping, but it has a lot less dining, and a lot more fashion items for men than for women. It does have a Hello Kitty Store on the 8th floor. Apparently taking the escalator to 8th floor for the small Hello Kitty store is an experience and a tour de force in the Japanese mad fashion world. The Hello Kitty store has a full DJ set up!

Shibuya 109 (2)
Shibuya 109 (2)

We did stop at the Disney Store. On Shibuya Koen-dori, this is one of six Disney stores in Tokyo proper. In terms of looks, the Shibuya Disney Store is the one to visit, with its fantasy shop front opening directly onto the street. All the other Disney stores are inside department stores.

Disney Store, 20-15 Udagawacho, Shibuya
Disney Store, 20-15 Udagawacho, Shibuya

Shibuya is one of the twenty-three city wards of Tokyo, but often refers to just the popular shopping and entertainment area found around Shibuya Station. In this regard, Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and busy districts, packed with shopping, dining and nightclubs serving swarms of visitors that come to the district everyday.

Shibuya is a center for youth fashion and culture, and its streets are the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion and entertainment trends. Over a dozen major department store branches can be found around the area catering to all types of shoppers. Most of the area’s large department and fashion stores belong to either Tokyu or Seibu, two competing corporations.

From the Disney store we went back to the main street walking north, crossed over to Meiji-dori and walked up to Omotesando.

Referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées, Omotesando is a one kilometer long, tree-lined avenue, serving as the main approach to Meiji Shrine. Numerous stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, including several leading fashion brand shops, stand along the avenue. This area generally caters to an older and wealthier clientele than Takeshita-dori near Harajuku Station.

Omotesando
Omotesando

It has all the brand names, but Champs-Élysées it is not. You know when you are on Champs-Élysées! But they do try. This is the only clear street name sign that we saw the whole time in Japan!

Shibuya Experience

The Louis Vuitton Omotesando store was opened in autumn 2002 as the company’s largest store. It is one of many famous brand names that have opened a store along Omotesando. The public store makes up five of the building’s ten floors, which are designed as a stack of trunks rather than conventional floors.

Louis Vuitton on Omotesando
Louis Vuitton on Omotesando

Right next door to Louis Vuitton is the Tokyo Union Church. In case you need to pray to get the disposable income to shop at Louis Vuitton. Says she who owns far too many LV items, and has an eye on the new summer collection!

Tokyo Union Church on Omotesando
Tokyo Union Church on Omotesando

Also on Omotesando is one of Tokyo’s most famous and popular toy stores, Kiddy Land. It has a fantastic selection of toys and other products to amuse kids, including a Snoopy Town and Hello Kitty Shop on a total of five floors. The Omotesando store was reopened in July 2012 after being reconstructed and redesigned.

Kiddy Land on Omotesando
Kiddy Land on Omotesando
Hello Kitty at Kiddy Land
Hello Kitty at Kiddy Land
Rilakkuma at Kiddy Land
Rilakkuma at Kiddy Land

Rilakkuma (a combination of the Japanese pronunciation for ‘relax’ and the Japanese word for bear) is a character designed by Aki Kondo, produced by San-X (originally a stationary maker). In 2010, Rilakkuma ranked as the fifth most popular character in Japan in a survey of the Character Databank. Each year Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank develops the top character listing using sales data. With a retail market for character goods valued at nearly $16 billion!!, Japan represents, by a wide margin, Asia’s largest territory for branded character merchandise.

Japan’s character market reached its peak during the Pokémon and Hello Kitty induced frenzy of 1999, a year that saw roughly $20 billion in retail sales of character merchandise. While economic malaise, migration to digital platforms and other media and one of the world’s lowest birthrates have since tempered the industry’s growth, Japan continues to be the Asian behemoth of character licensing. And with an array of new hit properties such as the popular boys’ action brands, YO-Kai Watch and Oreca Battle, the country promises to maintain its position as one of the world’s most dynamic character licensing markets.

Despite the buoyant environment for character goods, the country proves challenging for Western brands trying to get a foothold. Each year sees the arrival of hundreds of new homegrown characters that are introduced through manga, children’s books, anime and digital platforms, or purely as original iconic characters. Breaking into this lucrative, but competitive, character goods market has proved difficult, but not impossible, for non-Japanese brand owners.

In 2013, the top characters were, in order, Anpanman (a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry!!! produced by Nippon Television), Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty (who is 41 years old this year!), Pokémon (who was in second spot in 2010) and Pretty Cure (who has obviously pushed Rilakkuma futher down the list).

Shibuya Experience

These five have dominated the character market landscape for many years. It is interesting to note that both Pokémon and Hello Kitty drove the 1999 explosion in licensed character goods, and they continue to hold top-ranking positions today. The last 10 years have seen the emergence of many new character brands, but the evergreens (which include brands such as Snoopy, Doraemon, Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine and Super Mario) continue to hold the largest share of Japan’s character market.

While Pokémon and Hello Kitty are well-known for their own stores, at stores such as Kiddy Land, one can enjoy a medley of characters such as Snoopy, Pretty Cure, Rilakkuma, Moomin, Shonen Jump, Hello Kitty, Miffy and more. The best-known destination for character stores is Character Street, found in the basement level of Tokyo Station. In addition to character stores, there are themed restaurants and cafes such as the Gundam Café, also found in Tokyo Station.

While Kiddy Land was interesting, we still prefer Hamley’s in London.

Hamleys
Hamleys

After walking up and down Omotesando avenue gawking at people and store windows, we decided to visit Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Located just beside the JR Yamanote Line’s busy Harajuku Station, Meiji Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park make up a large forested area within the densely built-up city. The spacious shrine grounds offer walking paths that are great for a relaxing stroll. Unfortunately, we arrived at the same time with the rain!

Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine

The shrine was completed and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken in 1920, eight years after the passing of the emperor and six years after the passing of the empress. The shrine was destroyed during the Second World War but was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan. He was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1867 at the peak of the Meiji Restoration when Japan’s feudal era came to an end and the emperor was restored to power. During the Meiji Period, Japan modernized and westernized herself to join the world’s major powers by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912.

Entry into the shrine grounds is marked by a massive torii gate, after which the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest. The approximately 100,000 trees that make up Meiji Jingu’s forest were planted during the shrine’s construction and were donated from regions across the entire country.

The function of a torii is to mark the entrance to a sacred space. For this reason, the road leading to a Shinto shrine is almost always straddled by one or more torii, which are therefore the easiest way to distinguish a shrine from a Buddhist temple. The second torii along the path to the Meiji Shrine is the largest wooden torii of the myojin style in Japan. It was rebuilt in 1975, an exact replica of the original built in 1920. The wood used for the reconstruction is ‘hinoki’ (Japanese cypress), 1500 years old from Mt Tandai-San Taiwan.

Grand Shrine Gate
Grand Shrine Gate

In the middle of the forest, Meiji Jingu’s buildings also have an air of tranquility distinct from the surrounding city. Visitors to the shrine can take part in typical Shinto activities, such as making offerings at the main hall, buying charms and amulets or writing out one’s wish on an ema.

Meiji Main Shrine
Meiji Main Shrine

Meiji Jingu is one of the Japan’s most popular shrines. In the first days of the New Year, the shrine regularly welcomes more than three million visitors for the year’s first prayers (hatsumode), more than any other shrine or temple in the country. During the rest of the year, traditional Shinto weddings can often be seen taking place there.

Shibuya Experience

At the northern end of the shrine grounds visitors will come across the Meiji Jingu Treasure House, which was constructed one year after the shrine was opened. The Treasure House displays many interesting personal belongings of the Emperor and Empress, including the carriage which the emperor rode to the formal declaration of the Meiji Constitution in 1889. There is also a Museum Annex Building just to the east of the main shrine buildings that displays temporary exhibitions.

The Meiji Jingu Treasure House
The Meiji Jingu Treasure House

A large area of the southern section of the shrine grounds is taken up by the Inner Garden, which requires an entrance fee to enter. The garden becomes particularly popular during the middle of June when the irises are in bloom. A small well located within the garden, Kiyomasa’s Well, is named after a military commander who dug it around 400 years ago. The well was visited by the Emperor and Empress while they were alive and has become a popular spiritual “power spot”.

Kiyomasa's Well
Kiyomasa’s Well

Another reason to visit Yoyogi Park and the Harajuku area is to be experience the Japanese teenage culture at its most extreme. Apparently if you visit Harajuku on a Sunday, you could many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay (“costume play”), dressed up in excentric costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc.

Cosplay in Yoyogi Park
Cosplay in Yoyogi Park

We missed them and also missed the city’s Rockabilly gangs who hold dance competitions in their poodle skirts and leather jackets in Yoyogi Park.

Shibuya Experience

Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station. It is the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for adults and some historic sights. The focal point of Harajuku’s teenage culture is Takeshita-dori and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.

But, when faced with inclement weather, little bears did what they do best, they went inside 🙂

Shibuya Experience

Ladurée was found to be a suitable inside 🙂 and bonus, it came with simply delicious cakes! Puffles and Honey tried the Fraise Ladurée, while Isabelle and Jay tried the Saint Honoré Rose Framboise. I am told the cakes were simply divine, and the macarons were euphoric! Especially the cherry blossom ones…

Shibuya Experience