Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer style: Hair by Watanabe

Once again I wanted to rave about Watanabe Hair Dressing in Harajuku, and the best stylist in Tokyo Kenichi Momoi, who never fails to manage my thick mane. This time he cut my hair a bit shorter than usual, in anticipation for a hot and muggy summer, and the upcoming rainy season. I love how he always knows exactly what is best for my hair, and he's such a hair genius that he guessed which shampoo I use just by the smell of my hair (L'Occitane) and noticed I had given myself a kindergarten-scissors trim when gum accidentally got stuck in a strand of hair a few weeks ago (let's not get into that story)- he knows hair!

If you live in Tokyo, I highly recommend Watanabe Hair, for how professional and detail-oriented they are. The service is always so friendly and the atmosphere relaxed, and after a particularly horrible day I got lost in a sea of lavender essential oils, conditioning treatment and massage. They cater to the foreigner crowd, all the stylists speak English and some have trained abroad. I noticed it's quite popular with the Japanese clientele as well, so they can please everyone.

In other news, being back from my Hong Kong holiday is not so fun even though I ate lots of fruit this week (mangoes, strawberries, cherries, bananas). I have bad Japan days sometimes. Tokyo can be a bit stressful, sometimes I feel like I'm constantly struggling to make it here, but it never lasts. Usually a haircut, new nail colours, Photo Booth, a run and a hamburger can fix it.

Summer edition: Tentation on fingers, Delight on toes.

Click here for the map and information about Watanabe Hair. Ask for Momo!

Thanks, Momo!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hong Kong: Sights, Food, Shopping

The notorious HK skyline

Hong Kong was a delightful little dreamland, and I can't get it out of my mind. I liked how laid-back it was, whilst being completely exuberant and animated all at once. Whereas Tokyo tends to be quite rigid and structured, Hong Kong is more relaxed, and there are less rules to follow, and I felt less conspicuous. Hong Kong is the financial centre of Asia, and it's undoubtedly reflected in the skyscraper-heavy architecture, and the free trade and low taxation makes it a shopping mecca.

Yet, it also displays Chinese culture, in its delectable cuisine and in the way feng shui concepts are integrated in daily life, which create a perfect balance between traditional practices and a modern, fast-paced city. After living in other cities like Seoul and Tokyo, I found Hong Kong to be the quintessential blend of how I always had imagined Asia would be like.

The Sights
Hong Kong is relatively small, and the major sights are located on the island as well as on the Kowloon Peninsula across the bay. The best sight is Hong Kong is undeniably the skyline, especially at night: rows of modern skyscrapers, which are all lit up, giving a neon glow to the water. Ascending Victoria Peak is another great way to catch a glimpse of the marvel that is HK, if you're not afraid of heights.

My favourite part was the Chungking Mansions, which were epitomized in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express. It's an area "where Chinese literally brush shoulders with Westerners, and is uniquely Hong Kong" (Wong Kar-wai). It's also a hotspot for the HK police, as much illegal traffic takes place there. The Chungking Mansions feature cheap guesthouses, curry shops, foreign exchange offices, and is the largest gathering place for ethnic minorities in HK. Imported goods, pirated DVDs, electronics, and lots more dodgy merchandise is for sale. It's a pretty dirty place in all senses, but I find it fascinating.

Busy street in Causeway Bay

Lounging by the roof top pool
Chungking Mansions, looking not-so-grim

The gold sign for Chungking Mansions

Inside the madness

You can pose in front of the skyline, like I did

... or like my sister did
But you can also do a split, like he did.
I thought of the 9/11s when I saw that.

View from atop the Peak

I love mountains 

The Star Ferry, making the connection between the island and Kowloon

Crossing the Bay- I want to do that daily

Inside the HK subway, bit small and dark

Temple street market at night... filled with goodness
and counterfeit

My sister and the entrance of Temple street market

The Shopping
Hong Kong is a haven for fashionistas. Wide variety, tax-free luxury brands, shops open late into the night or even all night, and enough cosmetics and beauty treatments to make your head spin. I stocked up on items and brands that are difficult to locate or overpriced in Japan, and filled my bag with enough chocolate to last me a month give away.

Street posing in front of the posh Peninsula

Sasa has all the makeup and skin care you could dream of

And so does Bonjour, which is found on every corner

Busy Times Square street in Causeway Bay

Apparently you can buy bunnies

Rows of colourful potions

And the best of all, Chanel...
where two nail polish bottles cost less than a single one in Japan.

The food
The food! Scrumptious, inexpensive, readily available. HK cuisine is a fusion of East and West, the flavours are layered and nuanced, and every meal is a perfect balance that pleases the taste buds (and wallet). And the fruit! Oh I had missed thee: fresh, delicious, and cheap. I ate lots of fruit every day. It sounds trivial but it was one of the best parts, as fruit is absurdly high-priced in Japan, and I usually can only afford bananas (sad). I've decided to splurge on fruit from now on, as it's essential and not a luxury. I barely tackled a small fraction of what HK cuisine has to offer.

First HK meal: delicious pork ramen

Shrimp Yum Cha (dumplings)

Fresh fruit! Variety! Everywhere! ME!!

Egg tart by the pool
why not.

Best noodles and wonton in town
at Mak's in Causeway Bay

Little brownie bite.
And oh I got a manicure, color is "Dim Sum Plum"
from OPI's Hong Kong collection.
I'm officially a nerd.

Although originally from Taiwan,
tapioca milk tea is available everywhere
in HUGE portions. Yum!

VLT was a popular sweet lemon tea box

Beef brisket at Mak's, again.

Not from HK but I love this chocolate

Hong Kong you were such a treat. I heart HK!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I heart HK

I adore Hong Kong.

Lost in Hong Kong.
My view from the swanky hotel room. 

I'm back from Hong Kong, and it was a complete dreamland: the food, the sights, the shopping, and especially the energy. I loved everything about it. Hong Kong is vibrant, colourful, boisterous, laid-back, lively, and it filled me up with happiness. It was hot, muggy and humid, crowded with people and skyscrapers, and I enjoyed every second of it.

It was great to catch up with my sister in such a different place in the world, and I really had missed being around family- who else will pick up on all my little quirks, whether they're shopping or food-related (I seemed to perk up every time we passed a cookie stand).

I ate lots of delicious fare and have a newfound appreciation of Chinese cuisine, I swam and sunbathed on the rooftop pool, shamelessly shopped all day and until late at night, admired the gorgeous skyline from across the harbour and from The Peak, and finally fulfilled my Chungking Express daydream. Hong Kong is every bit like the movie, in its animation and liveliness, and it reminded me of why I came to this side of the world in the first place.

It was a much-needed break from Japan, and it only made me appreciate the little things I love here and that I sometimes take for granted: the kindness and politeness of Japanese people, the customer service, and attention to detail. Yet, being in Hong Kong was bittersweet: it gave me a fresh perspective on my Tokyo world and a heavy dose of reality checks, which is always welcome but a bit disconcerting.

I'll post about Hong Kong foods, sights and shopping in upcoming posts, as there is much, much goodness to tackle... I soaked it all in and I'm impatient to share.

A huge thank you to the 9/11s for the great posts, which I truly loved- in fact, I am officially asking them to be regular contributors, as their funny tidbits really spiced things up and I have a bag full of thank-you presents for them.

Hong Kong, I want to see you again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The 9/11s Guest Blog: Crossroads

The 9/11s are taking our job of taking over VivMo's blog very seriously. While she's away on her honeymoon in Lanzarote, VivMo promised culture, and culture is what we are going to give you.

It is for this reason that I, DJ Little Lenny Henry, have taken it upon myself to liveblog the Britney Spears movie CROSSROADS. This movie comes highly recommended by VivMo, so I'm sure it will appeal to her legion of blog followers. I have heard only good things about this movie, and I hear it had rave reviews at its time of release. In fact, as a former film student, I can't believe that I didn't watch it. My liveblog will take the form of me writing my thoughts about the movie live, as I watch it. I hope you find this gratifying in some way.

The poster looks promising...

00:00:25 The 'Zomba Films' logo is rather startling. A bad start.
00:00:55 Lezbihonest about the opening dialogue: "Lucy get the box." "OK." "What are you putting in?" "It's supposed to be a secret." (Laughter). "My dad thinks I'm at your place." "My mom thinks I'm at yours." (Laughter). "Let's dig deep." "OK." "So no-one will find it... Dig it deeper!" "Shh. We don't wanna get caught."
00:02:00 Oops, it's 2 little girls. They're doing a time-capsule thing. They'll dig it up after High School graduation. I just vomited.
00:03:00 Britney Spears is now in high school, I guess. She is dancing in her underwear around her bedroom. She's singing along to a Madonna song. Britney's singing sounds better than Madonna's. This was before the breakdown, though. I think she's singing into a spoon.
00:03:40. Her dad is DAN AYKROYD!!!! That is pretty incredible casting. Maybe this movie will be classy after all. Like MY GIRL. Macauley Culkin gets stung by bees at the end. Ouch. Where is Anna Chlumsky now, by the way?
X Factor Judge Britney Spears, Ghostbuster/Funeral Director Dan Aykroyd.

00:04:08 There's a Teen Pregnant. I think it's the friend she was digging the box with. They're not friends any more :(. Britney's a virgin and a loser with a really geeky boyfriend, the old friend is pregnant and she's a cool kid. America!
00:06:30 Britney's crying because she didn't go to any parties in high school. This is obviously not the real Britney.
00:07:30 The friend wants Britney to dig up her box. Britney has chosen to go and have sex with the geek instead. Oh, there's a third friend. She's like one of the Mean Girls. She also doesn't want to dig up anybody's box :(
00:09:40 Oh dear, Britney is really going to have sex with the geek. I was only joking! I know they're about to do it because the director chose to subtly play 'Let's Get It On' over the scene. It's very awkward. He wrote a list of reasons why they should have sex. Number 1 is "Because we've been lab partners for 3 years." It's not sexy, and he's obviously desperate. Britney is not putting out. Now I understand why Justin Timberlake got rid of her.
The good old days.

00:12:40 The pregnant girl has punched the guy who might be her babydaddy. This is like Maury Povich! Hit Me Baby, One More Time.
00:13:15 Ooh, they're all there, digging up their boxes. Britney wanted to find her mom, but Dan Aykroyd won't let her. Why is Dan Aykroyd always a single father (Womanizer)? The pregnant one wants to go to California. In fact she's going to California to audition for a record company. I sense a ROAD TRIP coming on! She wants the other girls to come with her. They're saying no, but something tells me they will go.
By the way, I'm not sure where they're supposed to be living, but there are a lot of dodgy Southern accents going on. Britney is actually from the South, but her accent does not sound real at all. Also, her acting doesn't seem real. But I don't think that was the point of this movie.
00:17:10 Britney is talking about her mother to Dan Aykroyd. He says she's never tried to contact her but I feel he may be lying. So does Britney. She's gone for the road trip! And so has the other non-pregnant one! Shiiiiiiiiiit! Aykroyd is gonna be pissed!
00:19:15 The guy who is taking these 3 18 year-old girls in his car is much, much, older than them. What could his motives be? (Clue: Rhymes with "grape"). He's asking about Britney, I smell trouble.
00:21:25 Whoooooa, Britney is singing along in the car to NSync (aka Justin Timberlake, her ex). This is so META. It is, however, short-lived, because the peadophile who is driving them prefers heavy metal. Also, nobody is allowed to drive his car. I think he's supposed to be edgy.
A moment in cinema history.

00:25:25 They're talking about the peadophile. The other non-pregnant girl thinks he's cute and says she can't believe he went to jail. Apparently he may or may not have killed someone. Britney is throwing a shit-fit now. OMG. Britney actually says "Oh my god." She was flirting with him last night, and now she's being cold. She can turn it on and off like a switch. It's Britney, bitch. He's playing Rage Against The Machine in his car and the girls are all scared.
00:29:00 Britney calls Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd is furious. Britney hangs up. After some banter with the peadophile, the car breaks down. Oops!
00:34:10 They need money to fix the car, so they're doing a karaoke contest, with the pregnant girl as the lead singer. This is going to be terrible.
00:35:55 Oh no. They're singing I Love Rock N Roll. They're being booed and heckled. The pregnant girl sucks. It really is a bit shit. I'm talking about the whole movie, by the way. Britney becomes the lead singer and is fucking amazing, because she's Toxic. They win loads of money and can fix the car. Britney hugs the peadophile murderer. Funny how we forget things...
00:41:05 Britney is dancing 'sexily' (dancing Til The World Ends) to 'Shake Your Ass' by Mystikal (yes!!!) and someone tries to touch her up. The peadophile murderer beats up the guy. Pretty Overprotective, if you ask me.
She's so lucky.

00:44:22 The girls are bonding. Snore. This movie is really bad. I'd rather spend 90 minutes watching the 'Lucky' video 30 times. It's a work of art. Christ, it turns out the pregnant girl is having a rape baby. HEAVY SHIT. I assume that rape abortion is frowned upon in Alabama. America!
00:48:30 The peadophile murderer fell asleep so Britney's going to drive. This will not end well, mark my words. The girls celebrate by singing along to Shania Twain's 'Man, I Feel Like A Woman'. This might be the best scene in the film, only because Shania Twain's music is probably the best thing in the world. I'm joking. Obviously that's Sometimes, by Britney Spears, where she dances with a giant piles polyp in the video. I'm joking, obviously it's this.
Britney with the piles polyp.

00:51:45 The peadophile murderer woke up and ruined the Shania moment. He gets really pissed off, makes them stop the car and says (You Drive Me) Crazy. He shows his anger in a way that we all would, throwing stones around and kicking dust in the air. I'm sure, from this behaviour, that he is definitely a murderer. Apparently, though, he's just frustrated about being around girls all day every day. He would make a really shit gay. It turns out he didn't kill anyone though, so he's now back to just being a peadophile.
00:55:51 The peadophile stops the car in the desert and makes them climb up the rocks that housed the secret alien spaceship in Roswell. They spend the night camping there. Now that he's not a murderer, the girls trust the peadophile.
00:57:45 Britney is a poet! She has written a poem called 'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman'. It's the lyrics to I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman, which I know was written by Dido, so Britney is a plagiarist now. The peadophile lies and says he likes it, quelle surprise, and they're about to kiss when something bites the pregnant girl on the ass. Oops, I Did It Again.
Britney and her mom: C'est Sluts!

01:00:20 Britney knocks on her mother's door and it's answered by the slutty old woman from Sex And The City. This explains a lot. Britney just says, "It's me, momma," as if she hasn't been an absent mother for 15 years. Life is simple when your parents are a Ghostbuster and a sexoholic. Her friends and peadophile just drive off. Smooth. Also, I didn't notice Britney finding her mum's address. Things are so easy. Did Aykroyd just leave it lying around?
01:02:20 It took all of 2 minutes for that slut from Sex And The City to reveal that she has 2 more kids now and doesn't want anything to do with Britney. She probably saw the VMA performance of Gimme More, to be fair. At least the peadophile can comfort her now. Also it's raining, because, symbolism. It's like a Box Car Racer video up in here. Click the Box Car Racer link and prepare to cry, by the way.
A career high.

01:06:30 Oh, now the peadophile has written the sheet music to 'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman'. Again, plagiarism. Someone call Dido and tell her it's happening all over again. First Eminem, now this. It works for Peado Pete though, because now Britney is tonguing him. She then immediately calls her dad (creepy)
01:09:15 They're now singing along to Sheryl Crow's 'If It Makes You Happy' which, to be fair, is what I would do if I was on a road trip across America. What other music is there for this occasion? Even the peadophile has gone from a metalhead to a Fan Of Crow. The rest of the trip goes without a hitch and they're in LA on the beach. Life is easy. So easy in fact that the peadophile has also created a band to play backup for the pregnant girl's audition. Did we forget that the pregnant girl sucks? Well, she sucks at singing. If she'd have spent more time sucking she might not be pregnant in the first place. In other news, the other non-pregnant girl's fiance seems to be a douchebag who doesn't answer his phone so she's in for a disappointment.
01:14:20 It looks like Britney is about to have sex with the peadophile. This scene is slightly sexier than the one where the geek tried to finger her to Marvin Gaye, but only slightly.
01:16:00 The other girl who is not pregnant is disappointed. Her fiance has a girl in his room. Aww shit. Also, he raped the pregnant girl. He's the babydaddy, and he is officially a Criminal.  To top it all off, the pregnant girl falls down some stairs. This movie is ridiculous. Like some kind of Circus.
01:18:45 She lost the baby. Probably for the best, to be honest. I don't want to be cold-hearted, but, come on...
01:19:43 Aykroyd is back! He is annoyed, to say the least. I love the line, "What were you thinking? Running away? WITH A PREGNANT GIRL???!!!"
01:20:30 When Aykroyd asks who the peadophile is (and quite rightly inquires about his age), Britney replies with, "He just gave us a ride." CLEVER SCRIPT. Anyway, Aykroyd's gonna take them "back where they belong". God knows where that is. He also lets her hug the peadophile, which is not very realistic. But of course she runs out of the taxi to do the audition. Aykroyd lets her, what a pussy.
01:27:09 I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman. Britney wins The X Factor. Simon Cowell licks his lips.

I feel quite bad about wasting my time watching this shitty movie. It did make me laugh at times though.

I would recommend that you never watch this movie. If you want to see a good movie, watch this. Thanks, bye.
I really, really like this picture.

The 9/11s Guest Blog: Super-Sentou Realness

Utsukushi-No-Yu, my favourite local super-sentou.

While VivMo (aka Vivian, your favourite blogger) is on a late Spring Break trip to Cancun, we have been asked to blog in her absence. Filling VivMo's void in Tokyo is a tough job, but she feels we have some knowledge that she is unable to offer you, so we'll try our best.

I, DJ Little Lenny Henry of The 9/11s would like to talk to you about the incredible Tokyo world of the SUPER-SENTOU (スーパー銭湯). This is something that VivMo is unable to do as she refuses to go to super-sentou in case one of her readers sees her naked. She can be rather prudish at times. Super-sentou are, however, an incredibly relaxing and invigorating way to spend an afternoon or evening. You also get really, really clean as part of the bargain.

Anyway, super-sentou are the closest you'll get to a peaceful, relaxing onsen experience without traveling out of Tokyo and/or paying a fortune. For as little as 600yen you can find yourself soaking in a hot, steamy bath and forgetting whatever awful things have been troubling you (which, in The 9/11s case, is usually something to do with the gentrification of Tokyo's streets or the sudden closure of a La Pausa). If you're suffering from any aches, pains or illnesses it will even make you feel a little bit better.

Super-sentou can be found across Tokyo, especially in the suburbs. My favourites in my area are Utsukushi-No-Yu (near Takaido station on the Keio Inokashira Line) and Yukemuri-No-Sato (near Sengawa station on the Keio Line). The undisputed champion of super-sentous, for me, has to be Yukemuri-No-Sato's branch in Miyamaidaera (on the Tokyu Den-En-Toshi) line - the plushest, most relaxing one of all. You could easily spend a whole day here without getting bored. In fact I had to do this last year, after getting stranded in a typhoon. Between the baths, saunas, in-house relaxation area (about 50 reclining chairs with built-in TVs and speakers in the head-rests) it may be the best possible way to spend a rainy day.

Yukemuri-No-Sato Miyamaedaira's awesome reclining chair relaxation area.

Super-sentou usually feature the same facilities wherever you go, the main one being a lot of big, hot baths, both indoor and outdoor, surrounded by ambiently positioned rocks. These might include natural onsen baths, healing mineral baths, jacuzzis (or 'massage baths'), electric current baths (?!) and more weird and wonderful baths alongside the regular ones. You'll almost always get a sauna (complete with TV!) and/or steam room as well as a cold bath to dip in and cool off. There will also be copious amounts of showers for you to wash yourself under - make sure you do this BEFORE going into the baths as dirty bathers are frowned upon.

Most super-sentou also offer pretty decent restaurants and relaxation spaces, as well as extra facilities such as massages, treatments, hot stone baths, and even tanning areas for our guests from New Jersey/Essex/The Shonan Shore. Make sure to stop and have a delicious flavoured milk after your bath for the ultimate super-sentou cool-down experience. Strawberry milk is always our choice but we don't hate on the other flavours either. 

MILK: a post-super-sentou essential!

Yes, milk.

This was a Pubic Service Announcement from The 9/11s. Peace In The Middle East.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

While you were out....

Hong Kong

I'm leaving for Hong Kong in a few hours. I want to swim, see pandas, and eat dim sum.

The 9/11s and myself

While I'm busy feasting on delicious fare, shopping and making friends with giant bears, my friends The 9/11s will take over Lost in Translation and indulge you with some of their favourite Tokyo bits. Tom and Gordon have been readers of my blog for a while now, and they can perfectly imitate my style, which never fails to crack me up. They also know Tokyo very well, and are always out and about doing fun things.

They promised me sophistication and culture-related entries, as well as a few surprises thrown in the mix, and I trust them to entertain you (and enlighten you!) with their posts. 

Hello, Hong Kong. I know you'll be as good, and probably better than Chungking Express.