Too Cool for School in Japanese Seifuku

japanese seifuku school uniform trend

I am way late to this trend and honestly never expected to be swayed by it. But Japanese School Girl style and seifuku (uniforms) are seeping into my consciousness. More and more schools in Japan are moving away from uniforms and that seems to be helping boost their popularity more than ever. There are so many different ways to personalize this style – from gal to fairy kei. I might be boring but I like just the traditional look. What I call the “after class transformation” style. Imagine the bell rings and it’s time to hit Harajuku for a crepe with your mates. What can you change to mix it up without spending hours preening? Put your belt to good use and hike up your skirt, from your bag you pull out a few badges to pin to your cardigan or blazer, instead of loafers maybe mix in playful shoes, and for the cherry on top plop something cute into a simple twin tail hair style.

too cool for school in japanese uniforms

I will warn you. It isn’t a great idea during lunch, at work, to type in seifuku in Google. I love anime but dang a lotta panty shots came back in my query and didn’t want to look like a perv. Actually that is the hardest part of this fashion style for me to feel comfortable trying it myself. I am not modest, ok, well maybe a little. But I really don’t like super short skirts. Yeah, in my 20’s the shorter I could find them the better. But at this stage in my life I am so over it. Not to mention I don’t want to be plopping down on the subway or in a movie theater and having my bum touching the gross seat. Anyway, I digress.

seifuku uniform styles

My favorite part of seifuku fashion is how easy it is to pull together with a range of budgets and using offbrand pieces. I am convinced a low budget top notch coordinate is achievable. If you want the real deal than the #1 place for uniforms is CONOMi. You name it, they have it. And its good quality. You might need a shopping service to use their site directly but I have seen their items pop up on other shops with international shipping. Lawrara Shop is another popular choice but their prices are steep. Bodyline is another option but not my favorite as their quality is questionable.

Lands’ End School Uniforms

lands end school uniform

Tie  |  Blouse  |  Cardigan  |  Skirt

If you have a good eye then you can use everyday items to pull together a plausible seifuku look. If you are not ready to invest in international shipping and want to try something closer to home, believe it or not, Lands’ End has good base pieces you can start with. I recently fell in love with their cotton peter pan collar blouses. What I didn’t expect was finding something cute on their site in the first place, nor that I would spend so much time in their school uniform category. I didn’t even know it existed. But the best thing about it is they have most of their school uniform items in adult sizes!! So no matter what shape or size you are – you have choices. While they have ties that match their skirts, you won’t find the uber cute Japanese-style ribbons. So I do recommend using a Japanese or Korean source for ribbons to get that authentic look.

Credits:  (1)  |  (2)  |  (3)  |  (4)  |  (5)  |  (6)  |  (7)

Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture?

misako aoki lolita panel nyc japan society

On Wednesday, the Japan Society provided the NY Lolita Community with a precious gift. They showered us with a panel, fashion show, and meet and greet with the one and only Misako Aoki. Not even an ice storm could keep our EGL gals and guys away. The topic of the panel was Lolita Fashion: Costume or Culture? I prefer the later, thank you. Here is a quick breakdown of the details:

  • Gwynn Galitzer of Dirty Bird Production, moderator
  • Former Kawaii Ambassador Misako Aoki, panelist
  • Carolyn Dee author of FYeah Lolita, panelist
  • Christina Gleason author of Ramble Rori, panelist
  • Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, fashion show
 

The Panel Discussion

lolita lecture panelist christina and carolyn of rufflecon

Most panels on Lolita fashion stick to the “101” facts. This panel didn’t deviate much from that script. But what I enjoyed most was to hear Misako, Christina and Caro talk about what is currently on trend. In particular a return to more classic-style coordinates instead of sweet-style dominating the scene. The longer style of dresses in particular being the new and very popular option. Misako also mentioned that she is very fond of the long and flowy trumpet sleeves right now. For example, Baby’s Labyrinth in the Reminiscent Mirror Flower Lace Blouse or on their Doll Coronet Aria Onepiece.

misako aoki discussion trumpet sleeves in lolita trends

misako aoki discussing lolita fashion in new york

And if you can believe it, Misako flew to NY from Tokyo in her coordinate. Bonnet, petticoat, uh huh. Yep she is the real deal.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright Fashion Show

After the Q&A panel there was a mini fashion show featuring eight looks from Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates. While the wedding coordinate is always greeted with oohhs and aahhs. This time it was the pirate boots and hat that accompanied the look Kitsy modeled which attracted the most attention.

grace

tia

tanya - tаня

yanise

tara

stephanie

kitsy

lexie

misako's fashion show

misako aoki

Sweet Dreams,
Sheri

P.S. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your tickets for RuffleCon, the first Northeastern USA convention dedicated entirely to Japanese alternative fashion.

12 Feb Update:  Japan Society posted a video of the lecture to their website.  Be sure to check it out.

Antique Frame Credits:  (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)

Tokyo Day 5: Train Back To Tokyo

ume blossom chirimen silk sachetAfter the scrumptious breakfast it was time to pack up and head out.  We lingered a little while longer in the main building soaking in as much of the relaxing energy of the onsen as possible.  Taka-san took a few photos for us and while we waited had one framed for us in an elegant glass frame.  He also presented me with a small gift which turned out to be a chirimen silk potpourri sachet in the shape of an ume blossom.

bidding farewell to the hakone ryokan

The ryokan, in anticipation of Golden Week, had decorated the lobby with antique Boy’s Day Banners.  It was very festive and in particular the pinwheel, of hawk feather arrow fletching, in gold and silver, caught my attention.  Can’t you just imagine them spinning in the spring breeze?  Very auspicious.

Tokyo Day 5 Boys Day Banners

After several bows, many thank you’s, and a few more photos, the staff called their driver for us.  Our little suitcase was carefully tucked into the trunk and in no time we arrived at the quaint train station.  It was time to head back to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

spectacular views from the hakone train

The calm of the ryokan followed us on the train journey.  It had rained on our trip in, but the sun managed to peek through the clouds which made the mountains glisten as we departed.  There are only a few stops here and there on the switchback line.  One happened to have a Shinto shrine built into the mountain side and spilling its way on to the platform.  At risk of being stuck there, I jumped off the train to get a quick snapshot.  The photo just doesn’t do justice to the energy of the place.

hakone japan mountain side shrine

We met a young couple who were giggling and having fun after their Hakone stay.  Their lack of English and our lack of Japanese didn’t matter.  We all shared a sliver of time where you didn’t need to communicate to know exactly how each other felt.  Happy, refreshed, excited. Well I don’t know how to put it to words,  I guess you had to be there.

say cheese snaps from the train ride

Once settled back onto the Romance Car of the larger train the scenery started to change over.  Brilliant views of the mountains now included rural towns and soon enough a glimpse of the big city.  From the train to the subway to a short walk and we were back in Hiroo.

japanese mountains and train signals

Tokyo Day 5: Japanese Breakfast Feast

Since it is taking me a while to get back into the swing of blogging after the move, and being able to sew again is a few weeks off, I wondered what to post about.  Then a little voice inside reminded me there is a mountain of photos from Tokyo begging to be shared. So without further ado I give you Tokyo Day 5.

When I last left off, we toured the one-and-only Tsukiji Market, taken a brief stroll through Harajuku, experienced a truly luxurious meal at Aoyagi, soked in the beauty of Gora Kadan onsen, and ate ourselves sick on an incredible kaiseki dinner.

Which brings us to day 5.  I was starting to get the impression that someone would need to roll me onto the plane to get back home.  The amount of food that was flowing my direction was outrageous!  And the ryokan breakfast that was about to unfold was climactic.

day 5 hot springs onsen bath

Before breakfast there was enough time to soak a few times in the onsen, start packing for the return trip, and I even curled up like a cat in the small reading nook and caught up on the interwebs.  We then broke down and made a call to Taka-san for some coffee out of desperation.  Next time we visit we will be sure to plan ahead for that.  We are both rubbish without that first cup of joe everyday.

The Feast

After being served coffee and a glass of orange juice, our breakfast began with the arrival of a curious object.  Taka-san quietly placed a delicate wooden box on the table along with some sugars and porcelain pot of shoyu.  The moment were heard the fusuma slide closed behind him, we were possessed with curiosity. “What the heck is in there?  It’s nori!”  This simple yet elegant box had a small compartment on top for strips of nori and a section below for a heating element to keep the nori crisp.  This is why I am so enamored by Japanese design.  Form and function. Just perfect!

day 5 asagohan nori crisper

But the curiosity of the box was only the beginning.  Surprise! A huge vegetable salad arrived next.  “Salad for asagohan?” ほんとに!{For real?}  Hey, why not.  I knew that Japanese breakfasts would be a far departure from what is normal in the US, but admittedly I wasn’t expecting salad (O_O)

asagohan salad for breakfast honto ni

It was an explosion of food next. Amazing!

day 5 asagohan at gora kadan

kaiseki flowerbed asagohan breakfast

And respectfully, the breakfast was superior to the dinner the night before.  I am not sure if it was different chefs or something else.  But the breakfast blew the previous meal away.  Our absolute favorite was the soft tofu, to the right of the grilled sweet fish.  Melt in your mouth does not do justice to describing it.  The ayu was spectacular.  And hidden in a lidded bowl was a charming collection of tofu items representing sakura in reflection of spring.  While the cherry blossoms had already fleeted outside, we were able to enjoy their spirit during our meal.

ryokan kaiseki seasonal cusine spring

2013 Japanese Food & Restaurant Expo

On October 12th, New York Mutual Trading’s 20th annual Japanese Food & Restaurant Expo was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion. It was my second time attending and like last year the crowd was outstanding.  You had to carefully snake your way through the swarm of people and the jumble of tables and vendor booths. But persistence paid off with the enjoyment of yummy samples and some interesting oddities as well.

The day started off with a clever fusion of Japanese cuisine and Hawaiian poke. I can live on poke (in fact it was all we ate on our last vacation to The Big Island.)  The sample was a piece of sashimi marinated using koji and mixed with seaweed and sweet onions.  Miyako Oriental Foods also offered a blend of Yamajirushi Yuzu base seasoning mixed with mayonnaise and served as a dipping sauce for veggies or tofu cubes.  Simple and delicious!

Mr. Chef was very excited to find 100% frozen wasabi.  Nothing but wasabi.  No horseradish no nothing. Now we just need to explore and see if Mitsuwa, H-Mart, Daido or Fuji-mart carries it.  You can get fresh wasabi at Mitsuwa (next to the mushrooms in the veggie isle) but we live too far away to shop there more than once a month.  Having a pure frozen option would be great; can’t stand the powder and tube choices – yuck.

dassai beyond at 2013 jfre nyc

Now onto the serious stuff.  Sake! I know. I am super biased.  I <3 Dassai.  But those clever folks at the brewery had a trick hidden up their sleeves.  They presented 3 sakes that I had never had or heard of before.  The first was a variation using centrifuge pressing technology.  The second was a milky New Year’s exclusive only offered for the holidays.  But the third, oh my, a new star is born. They just introduced a brand new jewel to their lineup called Beyond (“Sonosakie.”)  And it couldn’t have been named it better.

Into the Beyond

As a response to many customer requests to craft something new and uber-premium, this is Dassai’s reply. And I applaud the brand for the integrity they put into the challenge.  They could have easily drafted a fancy label, tweak the recipe slightly, and slap on a higher price tag, and call it a day.  Instead, 10 years in the making, they pushed the limits and themselves beyond. 23 percent polishing was thought to be the final frontier, any further and the rice grains crumble.  But if you go just a bit beyond that point what will you find.  Apparently you find perfection.  This sake shines and is truly a luxury.  Wholesale price is around $400 and after experiencing it, you know why.  I should find better adjectives, but a zen experience which is delightfully smooth is the best I can do.

They skillfully delivered on their mission.  While Beyond might be out of reach for many, the fact is they are still one of the best priced premium sakes on the market.  High quality at an accessible price.  So if you get a chance to try Beyond don’t miss it.  If not, then do indulge in their 50, 39 or 23.

katsuboshi ebi green tea and miso pizza

The unexpected find was Miso Pizza.  This was a ridiculously simple snack made using a slice of bread smothered in a rich red miso paste.  It was topped with onions and cheese then toasted till the cheese melts.  A super cheap and tasty treat that would be great as an after school snack for kids.  The head of the company (will have to look it up) was the cutest thing ever.  He was decked out in a traditional coordinate and with his bristle brush mustache gave the impression of being Japan’s Colonel Sanders.

Another imaginative item was individually wrapped candies made to look like nigiri sushi.  The design of the plastic wrapper acts as the sushi topping (neta) and includes the nori belt that binds the topping to the rice. And a small white candy characterizes the rice.  On that sweet note, that wraps up my experience at this year’s expo. Itadakimasu!

nigiri style sushi candy at jfre nyc

When it Rains it Pours… Sake Of Course

Asumi of Dassai Sake Brewery was at Astor Wines in NYC last weekend providing NY'ers with a fine sampling of 5 premium junmai daiginjos

Having a friend who works for a sake brewery is a fantastic and dangerous thing :)  Last weekend went to support my friend at the Astor Wines Dassai Sake Tasting.  Came home with 2 cases myself.  Kanpai!  Keep the sake flowing everyone – Happy Friday!!!

Tokyo Travel Tips

A couple colleagues at work are planning trips to Japan in the coming days.  They asked me for some recommendations before they go.  Got to thinking this weekend and here are my top tips.

Credit Card + International Fees

Check all your credit cards before you go.  You will want to rely on the ones that do not have international fees.  For example I have a MasterCard World card from Citi (and shhhh I also have an American Express Platinum).  Both do not impose the fee.  My travel buddy had a Discover card and got hit with heavy fees for using his card.  While Japan is largely a cash oriented nation, in Tokyo there were plenty of places happy to accept card payments.  But don’t pay more than you need to.  Call your card issuer (number is on the back of your card) before you go to see if you do or don’t have the fee.

WiFi Rental

http://www.rentafonejapan.com/Mobile-Internet.html

After clearing immigration and customs, picked up our portable WIFI.  A service we used shipped it to the post office in the airport. This gave us the ability to use our iPhone and iPads on wifi setting.  We primarily used it to look up locations of shops and restaurants when we were out.  Especially helpful cause it can be challenging to find locations (there are no street/building addresses).

We are looking into getting prepaid cell phones for our next trip. As it is me and my better half, and we like to do somethings on our own, we are looking for a way to call/text each other while there.  Haven’t finished our research yet… work in progress.  But having 1 wifi device was not enough for the two of us to go on individual excursions.

Currency @ Narita

We did exchange a little money in the airport.  Just enough to get us a cab from the JR station to our apartment and to buy some snacks at a local benri (便利 – convenience store).

Narita –> Tokyo

http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/

UPDATE: The Suica + NEX package was discontinued on 1 April 2014. 。゜(`Д´)゜。 But I still feel the NEX is a good, comfortable way to get from the airport to central Tokyo.

This train package was great!  It is a very comfortable and efficient way of travel between Narita Airport and Tokyo Station.  We opted to get off at Shinagawa as it was closer to where we are staying.  With the Suica & NEX package, available to foreign tourists only, you can travel by Narita Express round trip from the airport to Tokyo and receive a Suica prepaid card worth ¥2000 (about $20.00).  You can purchase it in the basement of Narita airport after clearing customs.

I love my Suica Tokyo Subway card

Suica/Pasmo Subway Card

http://www.thejapanguy.com/using-your-suica-card-and-pasmo-card/

This is a pretty good post regarding how to reload and use suica/pasimo to get around the subway.  Nothing more for me to add really. I am just really happy you can as of this year now traverse all the subway lines with just one pass.

Currency Exchange “Ticket Shinjuku” (チケット新宿)

http://o-dekake.net/kinken/tokyo/st@shinjuku-o.html

Before we left for Tokyo our research recommended that Banks would have the best currency exchange rates. And for the most part that was true.  However, we came across this exchange in Shinjuku which blew all the others away.  It had absolutely the best rate when we were there.  They also sell tickets (vouchers) to events and is popular with locals for that feature.

There were a few exchanges on this street (literally a few doors from each other.)  So be sure to check and compare.  Like I said, this one in the photo had the best deal while we were there (April/May 2013).

Also, make sure you take the D3 exit.  Shinjuku is a big station and it can be very confusing to get around if you come up a different exit.  The D3 exit is only a few shops away from the Exchange, you shouldn’t have to cross any streets, it should be right there.

Currency Exchange "Ticket Shinjuku" (チケット新宿)

Warayakiya in Roppongi (わらやき屋 六本木)

http://www.diamond-dining.com/shop_info/warayakiya/shop.html

http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g600171/

Casual dining, amazing food, reasonably priced, and a unique culinary experience.  If you go make sure you get reservations.  We came the day before and put our name down (was easier than figuring out how to call them).

Their specialty is that they cook with straw, which burns very fast and extremely hot.  It is incredible.  Their tuna prepared this way is out of this world.  And if you are not watching your weight, their fried sweet potatoes are delicious.  We had a great sparkling sake as well with dinner which paired very nice with the fried food and grilled flavors.

Warayakiya in Roppongi (わらやき屋 六本木)

warayakiya roppongi directions

Ippo Izakaya in Ebisu (一歩)

http://www.bento.com/rev/3051.html

It looks like a hole in wall, but the food was extraordinary.  We were the only gaijin in the place!  The chef speaks a good deal of English.  This is a place where you want to let the chef decide.  “Omakase!” came in very handy.  Apparently there is a shop or something downstairs.  While we were there they would throw open the window behind the bar and fish literally flew in through the window.  Amazing sushi for such a great price.  And the sake selection was tops.

Ippo is located on the second floor and we actually walked past it once.  Below are my pics of the outside so you know what to look for :)

Ippo Izakaya in Ebisu (一歩)

Afternoon in Asakusa

Do spend a nice long afternoon in Asakusa.  It is the perfect spot to pick up treats to bring home as gifts for family and friends.  All the little shops are so lively.  And you can get really great good eats all around the area for cheap.  So be adventurous and bring an appetite.  Best taiyaki I have ever had.

SkyTree

Skip it.  Not worth the long line waiting and the cost.  Although the toilet at the top is state of the art and the aerial view is cool.  Definitely not worth the 40 bucks me and my better half paid, not to mention the few hours of the day we lost waiting in line.

Maps, Maps, Maps

I ended up drawing myself a lot of napkin maps in order to get around to specific shops and locations.  So if you have someplace in mind that you want to go do try to plan ahead and print out a map before you go.  Google maps was very helpful when zoomed in so that you could see locations names of shops surrounding the area and get a sense of where you are once you come up from the subway.  Or if you have wifi, then you should be OK to skip the print outs.

Hope this is helpful to my mates at work.  Bring back lots of pictures and tips to share!!!!

P.S. This reminds me, I should really post the rest of my travel pics before my next trip, which is officially booked for March 2014!!!!!!!!!!

Project Update: Yukata Finishing Touches

Busy, busy, busy bee!  Finished another semester of Japanese; flew back out to St. Louis on a business trip; and have been sewing, sewing, sewing.  For as early as I started my yukata project, I am still cutting it way too close to the deadline.

almost ready for this years natsu matsuri

The design has been altered dramatically from the original vision.  I can no longer call the coordinate lolita in style.  However I am really pleased with the result.  The skirt was the catalyst for the design departure.  While the idea sounded great using two different fabrics (for the blouse and for the skirt) in reality it looked very disjointed.  Worse yet, the pattern on the white fabric had the not-so-flattering optical effect of making the wearer (yours truly) look twice her size.  Not what a girl wants.

Somehow I managed to whip up a new skirt out of the blouse fabric remnants.  My better half is raving about the second-take skirt.  He loves it.  (#^.^#)  But you will have to wait till this weekend to see it!!

Hanhaba Obi (半幅帯)

Little miss ambitious, now happy with the new skirt, decided that the pre-tied obi wasn’t sophisticated enough to match all the hard work that was poured into the yukata.  Yep, as if I wasn’t already crunched on time, last Sunday decided to make my own half width obi to go with my festival coordinate.

adding gold trim to hanhaba obi

I have a couple of hanhaba obi’s in my kimono collection.  One was in pretty bad shape but had the most adorable print.  The intention had been to reuse the good parts of the fabric for a project, but turns out it was the obi lining first in line to be upcycled.

hanhaba obi lining and cover

Learned a ton on this DIY project.  Let the creative process take me to a different direction and what I think was a better result in the end. But can’t get too excited yet, still a few more stitches to go!

Project Update: Lolita Yukata Blouse Complete

ヤッタ!Just finished sewing my summer festival yukata blouse.  I couldn’t be happier.  The blouse fits perfectly and drapes exactly how I hoped it would.

wa lolita yukata blouse front

The biggest challenge I faced with this project was the width of the traditional fabric.  I think I did well hiding the seams in the body of the yukata, but the addition is obvious in the sleeves.  Looks OK though – phew.  Seeing the finished garment, wish the fabric matched better on the upper portion of the back.  It was tricky to cut the pieces with the end result in mind.  Next time I will know better.  And I definitely see a next time.

lolita kimono back and side

My next challenge was volume of lace.  Ran out of the lace used on the hem and had to use an alternative for the cuffs of the sleeves.  It bugs me that it doesn’t match but the trim shop is too far away.  If by some chance I can make it down to the fashion district I’ll switch it out, but for now mix-and-match lace it is.

yukata kimono sleeve sode

Next Mission:  Complete the skirt, bloomers, hair bows and deco the obi!  No problem.

 

Page 2 of 912345...Last »