Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Catching you up on the places I've been...

So I've had a lot going on lately between castings, going out and about, midterm essays, and decision making... to update briefly: last week one day I had off from castings and there was a festival for the shrine in my town Ebisu so I walked around taking pictures, visited the shrine, had some green tea and sweets, as well as tried Takoyaki- a typical yummy Japanese food (dough balls with octopus inside and soy sauce, ginger, and fish flakes!) Then last Thursday I had a job for a car magazine cover in Yokohama. My first mag cover! It'll be out by the end of the year I think... I posed with the new Audi SUV model- Q5. Kinda cheezy but oh well. (Check out the gallery for pictures from all of this!) And then Friday was decision time about whether I was leaving Tokyo this week or gonna roll the dice and stay for another month. It was a tough decision to make all on my own- to hold that power was a bit overwhelming as I felt the enormity of it when it came down to it Friday night and I'm sitting in my apartment debating pro's and con's in my head. My decision to stay, once I reached it, was for the better. I think the idea of leaving so soon was stressing me out more. I am happy with my choice and have accepted it- I felt very empowered after in having the ability to make that decision and make choices for myself in what I want to do with my life. That is a great feeling.
Takoyaki- see the octopus inside? once you get over that it's ooey gooey yumminess!

But anyway I love it here and figured why not stay since it's not really costing me anything more, and see what more I can get out of it from modeling work and if nothing else, richer experience! So much more blogging to come! Anyway- this past Sunday I had an amazing day and let the day take me where it went- which turned out to be quite a few places! I started out taking my time getting up and going, with my only real plan to take a walk over to Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple for a traditional tea ceremony since they only perform it on certain days. I got to the temple and went around back to the tiny tea house where I was the only one at that moment for the ceremony. So they take me around to the little garden and into the house with traditional tatami mats and I sit on my knees chatting with the women and observing. They first serve me a small sweet made from beancurd and I later find out it has a half-moon shape on it with hopes for the coming moon to be seen. As the one woman is preparing the green tea, three other people come around the garden- a Japanese man, woman, and white guy. They apologize for interrupting and I tell them it's no problem. The Japanese man spoke English very well and helped translate a lot for me and the guy who came with them. I was able to get more out of the experience for it- like learning that the scroll hanging on the wall dated from the Edo era of more than 3,000 years ago!! We all bowed to it and I asked if I could take a picture (see gallery). They were all so friendly, so we're chatting amongst ourselves- the women serving the tea telling the others that I'm a model (since I explained to them why I'm in Japan).

preparing the traditional powdered green tea

Then after we finish our tea, we leave and thank them. Walking out of the garden, we are still chatting and I'm learning about their relationship with the guy visiting who is from California and in the music business. Basically- they are huge fans of a Japanese music trio called Perfume and the guy from Cali (Jordon) posted a video on YouTube a few months back and the fans in Japan saw it and it became very popular. So popular that this one fan- the Japanese guy, Taro- saw it and invited Jordon to come for their concert in May. They never met before or knew each other but Jordon came and had a blast. Then Taro invited him again this week for their last 2 performances of the world tour this Thursday and Friday. I find this hilarious yet totally believable because 1) music brings all kinds of people together, it's universal and 2) the Japanese are extremely friendly people. So I'm just loving this scenario already and we're getting along so well, they invite me to walk to Tokyo Tower with them since that's next on their plan for the day. I hadn't planned on going myself since it was a bit overcast that day, but since I had people to go with, and wasn't quite ready to stop chatting with them, decided to join. I had no plans so what else was I going to do? It was great to get the views and find out more about these guys. The woman, Maki, had to leave since she didn't feel well, but we had a good time.

view from the lookdown window at Tokyo Tower- eeek! (my feet)

After they were going to Akihabara- the electronics district- where I have yet to go so since they invited me to tag along again, I went for it. We walked around a bit and saw lots of Japanese comic book and anime, along with every electronic imaginable. We even got some Takoyaki- it's quite popular. I was really enjoying myself- I just let the day go and didn't worry about the time or having to tell anyone where I was or what time I'd get home- it was liberating. I ended up spending the rest of the evening/night with them! After we went to dinner in Shibuya where we met up with 4 other Japanese women that Taro and Jordon are friends with, one who Jordon stayed with when he came in May. There are 3 of them that are all friends and Perfume fanatics. They're so goofy and hilarious to be around- they speak a bit of English and they all really liked me and kept saying how cute I was anytime I said anything. The one girl gave me a cd of Japanese electro and a spoon with a jewel-encrusted handle haha. We had a big potluck at dinner- lots of Japanese things to try and I loved it all! Then we headed off to Karaoke! Boy was that hilarious- the trio had outfits one of them made (she teaches fashion design) just like the girls from Perfume and they know all the dances too. They put on quite a performance- I'll try to upload the video I took. It's great. I did my fair share of singing too- one was a duet with one of the Japanese girls, Tomomi, to Material Girl.

The trio as Perfume

That pretty much made my day- I had a blast! After we had "tea time" at this cafe where you can go and play Wii, board games, watch movies, etc! It's pretty awesome. These people are so fun to be around I couldn't believe when it was 11pm on a Sunday night and time to head home. On my walk back I just kept saying in my head "did that really just happen?" I don't take "coincidences" lightly and believe very much that the universe brings circumstances and people into our lives- I mean think about the timing that I happened to be there when they came for the tea ceremony at the same time! We all exchanged emails and I already saw them again yesterday for a home-cooked Japanese dinner at Jordon's apartment. They invited me to the Perfume concert on Friday- I hope I finish castings in time so I can go!! Anyway, that's what's been going on and I'm loving it here. Oh- and tonight in yoga I was able to put my foot around my head all by myself! I'm making progress, it's so rewarding! Though I don't mind the attractive Japanese guy who teaches it helping me out with some of the stretching haha.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Pics

I got new pics today from a test shoot the other week- loved the team and concept! I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of these! Here are samples from each look, check out more at the gallery.I was supposed to be "sad, heart-broken, angry...waiting and waiting for him"

wind-powered energy: go Japan! get on it USA!

then I turned into a doll? or something like that... it was kinda lost in translation

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saturday's Wanderings

This past Saturday I set my alarm for 6 am with intentions of taking a day trip out to Nikko to see the fall foliage and some shrines. But when my alarm went off, I awoke to a sheet of grayness covering the city, with a lingering air of dampness. I quickly googled Nikko on a cloudy day to see if it was going to be worth the trip and came to the conclusion that trip would be best spent on a sunny day. So I went back to sleep and had a leisurely day taking my time, with no plans or schedule. I made my way to Yoyogi Park for the afternoon to check out a Vegan/Vegetarian Festival I read about on an online food website for Tokyo. Before I made it to the festival, I wandered through the park (which is huge) and found a beautiful rose garden and took some time to photograph some of the beautiful nature.I found the festival and wandered up and down the long line of booths set up. There was mostly different cuisines featured, but also some organic teas, clothing, and beauty products being sold. They had movie screenings and speakers for the festival which was both Saturday and Sunday. While most everything was in Japanese, it was still very interesting to see the interest in Organic, Vegan, and Vegetarian concepts. I think it's something not too common in Japan, whereas these ideas have already been around in the U.S. for awhile so I was curious as to how they were presented to participants. I did get a few fliers in English from PETA but I don't necessarily agree with their marketing strategies in scaring people out of eating meat through disturbing facts and photos. I went around picking up free samples where possible and eventually had a vegan lunch.After, I walked around the area a bit more and noticed there was some other stuff going on in the park. I came across a flea market as well as some musical performances in the open venue. I went up and down each aisle of vendors and looked at all the goods being sold, it was an interesting window into the Japanese culture. I made out like a bandit with some bargains- I found 2 t-shirts and a pair of jeans in a box of $1 items (or 100 yen haha). A vintage necklace I scored for $4, a soft, comfy plaid scarf for $3, and some other charms and misc items. The trend-spotting was fun too.

adorable little girl- can I keep her?

Since I was so close to Shibuya, I made my way over and walked around browsing and shopping there. I found a great, cheap store called Three Minutes Happiness and it really does bring happiness. Kind of like an Ikea but with clothes as well as household goods. I got the softest, fuzziest vest for 20 bucks its so cute! Nail polish for $1... I could go on! The shopping here is dangerous. And I even make sure they're bargains because it can get pricey. Like the next store I went in- Opening Ceremony. It's a crazy awesome store that takes interior decorating and displays to a whole other level. Each floor has a unique decoration theme, crazy mannequins, and is made to look like a playhouse or cottage sort of. You aren't supposed to take pics but I snapped a few so check out the gallery for more. Designers like Alexander Wang, Betsey Johnson, Chloe Sevigny, Comme des Garcons, Jeremy Scott, and Pendleton are features in the store, among other designers I hadn't heard of before. Amazingly crafted dresses run for about a thousand dollars and it was quite a shopping experience.mannequin was mechanically running- with a horse head. quite odd.

After I treated myself to dinner solo at a Yakitori place that was advertising on the street for 10% off the menu. Yakitori is just basically grilled whatever on a skewer. I ordered a skewer each of beef, asparagus wrapped in bacon, shiitake mushrooms, and chicken meatballs. There were some more adventurous items I stuck away from (chicken liver, gizzards, etc) since I had just been to a Vegan/Vegetarian festival earlier haha. I'm kind of all over the place, but while I'm in Japan I'm going to experience the culture and food to the fullest so I'll decide how I feel about meat when I get back. They were all delicious and I dipped them in sauces- I love anything grilled. Along with them, I ordered a rice ball stuffed with salmon, wrapped in seaweed. Very fresh and warm- yum! I enjoyed a nice glass of Umeshu- a kind of sweet plum wine/brandy- to go with and felt very relaxed dining by myself at the bar type seating for solo diners. I took my time, had no where to be or any obligations, and just relished the moment (and my Umeshu, since I can legally drink here). All in all, it was a lovely day to myself even though I didn't get to do the planned Nikko excursion. But that will be saved for next weekend.

Sunday I had an acting job! It was a small role I had in a Japanese TV Drama- remaking a movie about Romania in the 1950s. Apparently the dictator demanded everyone have 5 kids to try to expand the population... it's the story of this one man's life who made an impact. My role was to be the wife, in extremely painful labor, giving birth to the 4th of 5th kid I think. They filmed this part in a dingy, creepy old hospital that no one uses anymore so they film stuff there. I swear it'll give me nightmares. I had a goofy nightgown on and they stuffed a pillow under it as I layed there and got some good acting practice screaming in pain and breathing intensely in labor. It was pretty funny. Then after I supposedly gave birth, they filmed just my hand falling off the bedside to indicate I didn't make it. So ominous. But pretty easy and I met some interesting people. Sorry no pics of that haha. That's all for now- stay tuned for more this week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Excursions with the Leons

Last Saturday I had a wonderful evening with the Leons. I met Jorge and LouAnne at a typical meeting point in Roppongi- the big black spider. It's quite an interesting landmark of the area- kind of creepy especially since I'm not very fond of spiders. We met there and went up the Mori Tower to the outside observation center where the helicopters land. It was a beautiful view of Tokyo as the sun was starting to set. After spending some time there, we headed over to the bar from Lost in Translation- ironically named The New York Bar- at the Park Hyatt hotel. So there I was, sitting in The New York Bar in Tokyo having a glass of wine with the Leons, and taking in the amazing view of Tokyo at night illuminated. I think it might even look more beautiful at night- the lights all look like twinkling stars. After, we made our way over to the restaurant for dinner in Asakusa. It was an authentic little Japanese place where the door is so tiny you have to duck to go in. We removed our shoes and went into a room of only 4 communal tables and sat on cushions. LouAnne and I ordered this steak dinner that is brought out and prepared in front of you on a large leaf over a pot of coals. It was delicious! Then we all shared in Jorge's Shabu Shabu which is a large pot brought to the table over a burner with vegetables, broth, and choice of meat- in this case it was Wild Boar haha. We also got Udon noodles to add with it. I tried it and while I'll say it wasn't as savory and tender as the beef we got earlier, it wasn't bad. We enjoyed a lovely bottle of cold sake and I really enjoyed it (from prior experience of trying warm sake I thought I didn't like it). I learned that actually warm sake is the cheaper stuff which is why it's served warm, and the better quality sake is cold. It was a lovely evening and a much-needed break from the girls and apartment.

Sunday I woke up early to meet Jorge and LouAnne for a Sunday morning walk/excursion with their dog Bella. We walked by Tokyo Tower, went to Zojoji Temple, happened upon a festival/market with all sorts of foods and things to try, and then went down to Tokyo Bay. On the way back we went through a Buddhist temple area and it was very peaceful and quiet. Kind of tucked away. There was even a couple getting married but you'd never know. We fed the koi in the pond and they went crazy over the food like it's catnip! It was a gorgeous morning, clearest blue sky without a cloud in sight. After we parted ways, I later headed out to Harajuku with my camera charged! Harajuku on a Sunday is crazy- there are tons of people out shopping and the Japanese teens/young adults dress up like it's some kind of event or holiday. I felt under-dressed and ordinary. But that was ok since I was trying to blend in so I could snap pictures of them. But I also just walked up and asked the girls to pose for a few. The shopping is so good too- my senses were overwhelmed with things to look at, touch, etc. I ended up buying what I think will be my Halloween costume. It's a very Tokyo, Harajuku girl kind of thing- multi color tutu and hoodie with bows and unicorns. I can't wait to wear them! Check out the gallery for tons of pictures from the weekend.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I love shoes

Shoes and purses. Those are my main things that I always gravitate towards in a department store. A sort of weakness I have around them, they lure me in. I spotted this pair in the Vivienne Westwood boutique of an upscale department store in Ginza last week on our day off from castings. They're a collaboration with Melissa footwear so they're plastic/rubbery. Too darn cute. I had to try them on just because they're that precious. They remind me of Lady Gaga and her style. I tried on the sample model since that was the largest they carry (Japanese women have such small feet, a size 7 is large here- 8 is almost not even carried). I felt like Cinderella. They fit like magic slippers and the rubbery feeling allowed for comfortable "wiggle" room. I took my own picture of them on my feet but it's not so flattering... price here is $220 and back home is $150. So while they are sooo Tokyo, if I do decide I have to have them, it'll be when I'm back in the States. For now I can just enjoy oogling.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Last Sunday I was pleasantly surprised by some decent weather and decided to make use of my day outdoors. I headed to Harajuku station to the Meiji Jingu Shrine which is located in the vast Yoyogi Park. It was a peaceful, serene walk into the park and along the trail to get to the shrine. I learned a lot about Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, whom the shrine is dedicated to, as well as the Shinto religion. Upon entering, I learned from the helpful pamphlet that the holy water washing of the hands is a way to pay respect, and so I did. Then I noticed the various wedding photos being taken. There was a family portrait being set up, a couples photo, and then later another procession through the shrine. All of which I have pictures up on my gallery. It was wonderful and joyous and brought such a smile to my face to get to experience such a unique thing while visiting. I could see myself perhaps getting married in a place like this. Though perhaps in a different ensemble.
Then I came across the enormous collection of dolls. I learned that on that particular day, it was Doll Thanksgiving Day. It's a way to say farewell to old dolls and their souls. The following is very interesting information from a handout I received about the process courtesy of the Doll Appreciation Association: Japanese have believed that dolls possess souls, with the custom of treating them with great care and respect and passed down over generations. Shinto religious ceremonies are carried out to purify and bless the existence of old, used, or broken dolls that have completed their service. People bring in dolls and write messages of gratitude to their dolls on paper cutouts, placing the notes before the shrine altar. The messages are used by Shinto priests in bringing peace and tranquility to the souls of the dolls, returning the dolls themselves to the state of mere physical entities. This also is a time for their owners to bid farewell with reassurance. Approximately 40,000 dolls were expected to be enshrined at Meiji Jingu that day. After the ceremony, the dolls are returned to the state of materialistic objects and disposed of in proper and respectful fashion.
Following my time at the shrine, I made my way over to the shopping area in Harajuku. Which is quite extreme and intense on a Sunday. Unfortunately my camera battery died at that point so next Sunday I will return to capture all the crazy fashions. Though I did get to snap a couple earlier of some of the entertainers outside the park, like this guy who was dressed this way just for pictures I think.During my wandering, I stopped and had a snack at this french croissant shop which served me The MOST Amazing warm chocolate-banana croissant I've EVER had. It melted in my mouth and put me in a whole other dimension haha. Out of control. So all in all, it was a pretty great Sunday adventure.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Caw! Caw!

Got the pictures back from the crow-inspired test shoot the other weekend. Here's the one I put in my book, the rest are up on my gallery. So awesome!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Time flies

So it's officially October. Three days in to the month, and I still find myself in disbelief. I've been taking a step back to acknowledge how quickly time is going. I can't believe that it's already October. Which means that I've been in Japan for a month already. Which also means that I might be halfway through my visit if I come back to the US at the end of October as is tentatively the plan. Still up in the air for now, but either way it's craziness how fast time is going in general. So I've been taking time to just stop and absorb the moment I'm in as I still find myself needing the reminder that I'm actually here, in Tokyo, in Japan, and it's amazing. And for those of you reading this wherever you are, I encourage you to do the same. Even if it's in an office or at home, to just take a minute to acknowledge where you are, what you're doing, where you're going, who you're with, and how quickly time is passing because it's important to be aware and not get caught up in all the hustle and bustle. Remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing, who matters to you, and what you want to accomplish because before we know it we will be saying where did October go? Where did 2009 go? And so on.

That's all. Just a little inspirational post for you.