Many Faces of Japan

16 03 2010

There’s a lot to say about Japan, but in a nutshell: it is the cleanest country on the planet; the people are pleasant everywhere in Japan, but more down-to-earth in the Kansai region; it has an amazing history; the best of electronics and convenience; AND the fashion is equivalent and maybe better than New York’s fashion. As it’s my second trip to Japan, including the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) and Randy’s first, I feel like we covered a different part of Japan that became our own experience. During my first trip, my sister, Mailena, and her boyfriend, Justin, were great tour guides. Justin knew how to get around Osaka and Kyoto like the back of his hand, of course it helped that he knows the Japanese language. And Mailena took me to her favorite spots in their small village, Nishi-Iya, including onsens (Japanese spa), thrift shopping and ‘country’ restaurants. This trip was very special, as it was my sister’s first major move – out of the country and on the other side of the world – and it was my first major overseas trip, by myself. Although it was three years ago, this trip planted the seed to what I am doing now. Justin was teaching English with the JET program and I got to experience one of his classes. So, thanks Mailena and Justin for a wonderful first trip to Japan! And thanks for introducing me to a new world teaching English abroad.

Todai-ji Temple - the largest wooden structure in the world that houses the largest statue of the Buddha Vairocana

As for my second trip to Japan, I fell in love with fashion in Japan. It’s a little out there and I don’t know if Westerners can handle it, but Tokyo is definitely one of the fashion capitals of the world. Not only do the women dress to impress 24/7, but the men dress like they’re about to walk down a runway show. Tokyo is not just a huge metropolitan city with the most modern vending machines that include everything from cigarettes, beer and chicken, but it’s a place to go for people watching. We saw the craziest outfits on the most normal people. Every girl has the same make-up and hair, with fake eyelashes caked on foundation, eye make-up to the max and blonde or orange hair that is curled to the perfect wave. Shibuya is the place to see these women, of which I do not care much for the hair and make-up. But the men have their own style. It seems that every man just came out of an anime cartoon, with their spiked hair and either a suit or ripped up jeans and leather jacket. Enjoy the pictures below!

Harajuku shopping district

Anime-like men in Harajuku

Osaka men fashion





Korean Fashion

30 11 2009

Fashion. As far as fashion goes in Korea, we now know why Korea doesn’t have a fashion capital like New York City, Tokyo, Milan or Paris. Although they might dress well in Seoul, the rest of Korea has a distinct fashion. Members of ShineeLet’s start with the men. Korean men love shiny suits and sparkling ties. The men here are so slim anyway that their skinny jeans and tight-fitted suits make them look thinner than the girls. Men also wear the high-top Reebok shoes with the skinniest pair of jeans.

Another fashion statement is the ‘Konglish’ and Mickey Mouse shirts. Randy bought a shirt that says “Slow Life.” Some shirts just don’t make sense. Sometimes kids will wear shirts that they have no idea of the meaning, even though it may have a curse word. I think they buy the shirt because it has English. Both men and women wear baggy Mickey Mouse t-shirts. I’m not sure what the obsession about the Disney character is, but they love it. And of course, they love anything with Hello Kitty or any other Sanrio character.

As for the women, looks are very important. There are two types of looks that women go for. Some women dress to the tee every time they go out, whether it is to work, school or the grocery store. They wear short skirts, high heels and ruffle blouses. They always carry a mirror and make up with them. As in some parts of the states, some women here must have the latest designer bag or shoes.

The other type of style that women wear is the baggy t-shirt and stirrup tights. I’m not sure if they think it is flattering or if they think they should be as conservative as possible and cover their whole body with a large piece of cloth. In addition to the garbage bag look, they wear converse shoes with tights or skinny jeans.

My take on the fashion. Some of the fashion has grown on me. I’ve always liked ruffle shirts and high heels. It’s taking me more courage to wear the short skirts though. And surprisingly, I like the skinny jeans and tights (not stirrups, these still make me feel like I’m in the early 90s) and the long shirts (not the huge garbage bags). But, I will not be caught wearing Converse shoes with skinny jeans. But, one unique item for shopping in Korea are their shoes. Korea is shoe heaven! There are so many shoe stores and each store has a huge variety of the cutest shoes. And they are for reasonable prices! For my first month here, I bought four pairs of shoes (two flats, tennis shoes and heels) for under 50,000 won, which is equivalent to about $45 USD. Unfortunately, for some westerners, it’s hard to find shoes here because the shoe size here doesn’t go past size nine.