Category Archive for Fashion
Thanks for your fabulous feedback of my Israel posts! Glad you are enjoying the expanded food and culture content. But today, let’s dive back into Japan fashion.
I took photos of the latest designs in Studio Alta department store, which I previously wrote about in 2012. (To get here, walk gaily forward from Shinjuku Station east exit, and look for the multicolored logo above you.)
I always stop by Fernopaa because of the cheerful shopgirls, dressed in cute meets punk or hard rock styles. Case in point: this Japanese girl, in a cat eared zip jacket with a surgical stitch print, spiked choker, big cross necklace, and purple lacy dress with a jagged hem.
The styles at Fernopaa are a bit too 80s metal for my taste, but I do enjoy looking at their DIY accessories and shredded garments.
Here’s what the other shop girl wore. Japanese alternative style at its finest: love the layering of necklaces, bracelets and goggles. Her hair has several rainbow tones, and she even drew a cross on her cheek.
This coordinate is a tad “emo” but the devil horns hoodie gets props for creativity. On the right, my Mercibeaucoup bag hovers over a decorated manhole.
Their pieces are over-the-top when combined, but I’d wear them individually. The skull sweater, big cross, pink heart purse and white lace dress could be great in Fairy Kei, Gyaru or Goth outfits.
Studio Alta has several floors, and the boutiques range from romantic girly fashion (Liz Lisa) to craft supply stores. I spotted this spool of hand-dyed gradient silk ribbons.
Also in the fabric shop: lace cat and bear pillows, or pin cushions. I’d feel bad sticking pins in their cute faces!
This butterfly logo signals Algonquins, the Tokyo punk, Goth and Lolita label.
The undead plushies in the middle can be used as purses or general accessories. In the back, you can glimpse a Visual Kei and J-rock music store.
A vegan leather bag, covered in studs and chains, for a hard-edged schoolgirl look.
Another store sold antique styles, like this faded feather and lace Victorian bonnet.
Elsewhere in Shinjuku, I spotted some new stores. The famous Harajuku Avantgarde store, known for its crazy print tights and stockings, has opened up on the ground floor of Lumine.
Avant Garde had a rack of legwear, printed with Disney characters. These tights and leggings tend to be more expensive, but the designs are handmade or limited edition.
Goth and Kawaii are everywhere. In the window, I saw cross tights and a Hello Kitty print.
I leave you with the “worried face” mascot from Ne-net. This clothing boutique has several locations in Shinjuku; Ne-Net is also in Laforet Harajuku and Ikebukuro Sunshine City.
My Scottish Fold kitten sometimes gives me the same look!
For more photos of Tokyo girls and gyaru clothing, check out my previous Studio Alta report.
What do you think of the current youth fashion in Japan?
I came to Israel to report on Tel Aviv’s modern fashion designers and nightlife. However, I was as excited to see Jerusalem, the centuries-old city of miracles and blood.
I didn’t grow up in any religion, but have always been interested in ancient cultures. Spending a day in Jerusalem turned out to be one of the highlights of this tourism board trip, and reminded me of why in-person travel is so important. Read on for magic moments that you couldn’t get from reading a book.
Our wonderful guide Uri Golani took us for a day tour of Jerusalem, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. We stopped to take in this view of the Temple Mount and Old City. For centuries, this tiny piece of land has been sacred to several religious groups including the Romans, Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Many travelers come here as a spiritual pilgrimage. But even if you’re not religious, Jerusalem is an monumental place to visit, especially with a guide like Uri who can explain the city’s complicated history.
(Photography in this post by me and Melissa Rundle. Magic moment #1: how awesome are these Asian tourists?)
Everywhere I looked, I had questions. Who are these men? Why are they swaying their heads? Why do the gravestones look like this? (Uri explained these are Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox Jews, “shuckling” back and forth as they pray in a traditional funeral. Idolatry is a no-no in Judaism, hence the plain markings.)
I can’t begin to describe the layers of human history at Temple Mount. So many different rulers and religions, over the centuries. At the top, you can see the surrounding Walls of Jerusalem, built by Suleiman I during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.
The most famous (or at least shiniest) landmark is the golden Dome of the Rock. After the Persians invaded in the 1st century, they built this Islamic shrine. In the 1990s, the roof was refurbished by King Hussein of Jordan.
(Note: you aren’t allowed to enter most religious sites unless your shoulders and legs are covered. Don’t worry, I brought a scarf!)
All over Israel, we saw people offering camel rides. Many of the animals wore colorful Bedouin garb. Magic moment 2: I tried to pose with a camel, and it grabbed onto my shawl and started chewing!
We stopped by the Church of All Nations — Catholic, but with an open altar for other Christian denominations. It’s next to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus supposedly prayed before he was crucified.
Magic moment 3: My filmmakers and I laughed at a sign that said “Please, No Explanations Inside the Church”. Then we fended off vendors trying to sell us olive branches, which may or may not have come from the garden…
It’s an uncanny feeling, walking in halls where miracles supposedly took place, inspiring everything from paintings to wars. This is the Coenaculum (Uri explained: “Dining room”) on Mount Zion, where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper.
Magic moment 4: we ran into a group of Jewish girls on a field trip. They were curious and giddy as kittens, and crowded around filmmaker Melissa when they realized she could speak some Hebrew. Since she’s Canadian, they asked if she liked Justin Bieber. When she answered no in Hebrew, they cheered at her language skills… and then their faces fell because they’re devoted Beliebers!
Magic moment 5: eating Jerusalem bagels, sold from a wooden cart by the Gate of Zion. Did you know that bagels are oblong and chewy here? We tried one with a pinch of za’atar, an aromatic green mix of Middle Eastern herbs.
By now, I’m sure you get my point — travel is filled with unexpected moments that make the experience magical. We stumbled upon this group of boys goofing around. Many people live in the heart of Jerusalem – it’s not just a tourist site — and you get peeks of everyday life like clothes hanging from windows.
And we came across several bar mitzvahs (coming of age ceremonies for 13 year old boys). This ages-old ritual has become a modern affair: the group had colorful balloons, an announcer with a portable microphone, and a film crew to rival mine.
Nothing encapsulates “traditional meets modern” more than an Orthodox Jew talking on his cell phone, overlooking an ancient city. (What’s the story behind the hats? Why and how do they curl their sidelocks? So many questions… thank goodness for our patient tour guide, Uri!)
I couldn’t wait to see the famous Western Wall, aka Wailing Wall. It’s a remnant of the enclosure around the Jewish Temple courtyard.
I’ve seen quite a few photos and videos of this spot, but still, it took me by surprise. I didn’t realize the wall is divided into two gendered sections. The male area was lively: some people were dancing in a circle, others chanting aloud. The women’s section is quieter; many sat in plastic chairs and read the Torah.
Before entering, everyone has to scan their bags and walk through a metal detectors. Guards make sure you cover your shoulders and legs.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable. We spotted a tour group of extremely wealthy Russian ladies. Each wore thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing, and shoes that weren’t exactly made for walking. (Those sunglasses are Prada Baroques.)
Filmmaker Melissa touches the wall and puts a note in one of the gaps. Every year, more than a million people leave written wishes or prayers in the cracks of the wall. These are collected and buried, in accordance with Jewish law.
Yet another fun moment: we learned that these “stirrups” are for people to stand on, so that they can look into the different sections.
Quite a different feeling in the Muslim quarter. Stalls line the cobbled streets. Vendors tried to entice us with fresh pomegranate juice and religious memorabilia.
Uri showed us the Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa. This is the path Jesus walked, with the cross on his back, on the way to his crucifixion at Golgotha. We continued the journey inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where pilgrims can light candles.
Ready for a transition? We went from the Mount of Olives (from which Jesus ascended to heaven)… to a Mound of Olives in the Machane Yehuda Market!
This festive Jerusalem marketplace sells food and goods, like colorful kippahs or yarmulkes (caps worn by Jewish men).
We got “Shuk Bites”, or vouchers that let us taste a variety of snacks from the market. These included mint tea, stuffed grape leaves, red kubbeh soup (with dumplings) and imaruly (a pizza-like pastry stuffed with cheese and spinach).
When we stopped by a juice bar, they offered us ghat, or qat! Legal in Israel, people chew this leaf as a stimulant (the Somalian pirates used it to get high before attacking Captain Phillips and his crew).
I found the leaves too bitter and spat them out. You have to chew ghat for at least an hour before it has any effect, so I can’t tell you how it feels…
Visiting Jerusalem left my mind reeling with questions and memories. I hope this post conveys what makes travel so special. I can tell you stories and show you images, but there’s really nothing like being somewhere in the flesh, reacting to the smells, sounds and people around you.
We were lucky to have Uri as our guide — he became our friend during this week-long trip, and we shared many laughs and discussions. I hope you’ll ask him to be your guide in Israel; info is on his Uri Golani Tours site.
I enjoyed writing this post, and hope I got the facts about Jerusalem right. If there’s anything that you’d like to clarify or add, please leave a comment or chat me on my Facebook.
What makes travel important to you? Would you want to visit Jerusalem?
The cat’s out of the bag… or box. The Pirates were in Tokyo last December to work on a travel-comedy TV show for Pro Sieben Europe, starring comedian Olli Schulz.
As the show’s production coordinators, we put together a Jpop potpourri. Our shoot locations included a cat cafe, cuddle cafe, host club… and we even rented a fake Japanese family. As Super Mario would say, “Let’s-ah Goooo!”
My team’s arranged and appeared in dozens of TV shows in the past years, mostly about travel and underground culture. Remember when we gave Klaas a bagelhead, and then sewed Joko’s lips together? These shows were hits when they aired on German network Pro 7, so the crew hired us again to work with Olli.
This new program is called “Schulz in a Box,” and the concept is pretty amazing. Olli is sick of feeling lonely in Berlin, so he gets in a giant box, and mails himself around the world in search of friends. First Mate Naomi (above) and I jumped at chance to do this show, if only to pose in a giant crate in the middle of Kabukicho…
… and hang out with poof-haired Japanese host boys! When Olli breaks out of the box, he meets one and trains to be one of them.
As you can see from club decor, women go to host clubs to be treated like princesses, since men (especially in traditional Japan) can be lacking in the romantic department.
Once you’ve paid your “prince,” he’ll act like you’re the light of his life. But behind-the-scenes, these guys seem bored and play with their smartphones as they wait for a meeting to start.
Mostly found in the Kabukicho “red light district” in east Shinjuku, the clubs try to stand out by having themes or over-the-top decor. This club group is called “Smappa”, and we mainly shot at the strangely named “Hans Axel Ven Fersen”. (Google tells me Axel was a close companion and possible secret lover of Marie Antoinette, which taps into what these clubs offer.)
This space is decorated with plastic chandelier strands, lights that change colors, and long-nosed fish swimming in tanks. (It’s still not as gaudy as Club Ai, where we filmed with Norwegian TV.)
Hair-ready, the hosts gather for the weekly meeting. For about an hour, they stand and listen to announcements, such as the current ranking. All hosts are ranked according to popularity and pull, and the best ones have their faces on the giant posters.
Olli was a great sport, and had his hair spiked and sprayed in a host salon. He practiced his hosting skills with female clients, making dark jokes along the way.
On another day, we filmed with our friend Kanae at a cat cafe! (Remember her from NYC adventures and the Corporate Goth party?)
Cat cafes are another way for lonely hearts to find company. Nothing cures loneliness like a squish faced kitty.
We set up this scene in Shinjuku’s Calico Cat Cafe (where we also shot with Food Network). At the entrance, you can pick up a face mask in case you’re allergic to fur.
Kanae did a great job chatting with Olli about Japanese culture, and the quirky ways that people combat loneliness here.
In Japan, Scottish Folds are hugely popular. Every cat cafe has to have at least one foldy, and this one had several. (But they’re objectively not as cute as my Basil Farrow, right?)
When we arrived, a woman was carrying out about five meowing cats in bags. This fold-eared one looked rather squashed!
If you’re visiting Tokyo, try visiting one of these unique cafes. It’s quite the experience to play with dozens of gentle kitties, and you’re allowed to take no-flash pictures.
Guests can also order tea and snacks, or read manga.
Tip: buy a packet of bonito flakes, and you’re instantly popular! Kanae is wearing a Jack Skellington Trick or Treat sweater from the Rollick collection in Lumine.
I’m wearing an Algonquins teal top from the latest collection, and Angelica Brigade hair flowers.
The German TV crew was enamored with Kanae’s doll-like contact lenses and eye makeup.
Kanae poses like a “nyan nyan” cat, outside Don Quixote Shinjuku. She’s a street snap in the latest issue of Kera Magazine!
The Pirates also arranged a segment in a cuddle cafe. Yes, men pay women dressed in pajamas to hold them in their arms. No hanky-panky goes on, just hugging and cooing.
I’m in one of the “cuddle stalls,” which contain a mattress, ball and stuffed toys. Olli found this place a tad uncomfortable, for obvious reasons.
However, we loved renting a fake family! In Japan, you can pay people to pretend to be your mother, father, siblings or other relatives.
This Japanese “mother” dressed and played her part spot on. She gave Olli quiet encouragement and sang him to sleep, in one of the show’s funniest segments.
In another example of “alone together”, we did a scene at Green Plaza capsule hotel. At night, all of these coffin-sized spaces will be filled with businessmen — women aren’t generally allowed. There’s just enough room to lie down, and watch the tiny TV above (naturally, there are naughty channels).
Finally, we made special arrangements to shoot inside Akihabara’s Taito video game arcade. An anime girl with cat-ears welcomes us.
Olli enjoyed playing Dance Dance Revolution, and a table flipping game that lets you vent your anger.
The game center had several floors of video games, including retro fighting ones. Later in the day, these rows will be entirely filled with otaku (geeks).
Naomi and I had a terrific time working with Olli Schulz and his team. You can learn more about this travel-humor show and see the episode on Pro 7 (note, this may not be viewable in all countries).
My “The Bitter End” sweater is by the defunct brand Banana Fish. Found it at Closet Child Shinjuku, and paired it with old diamond print tights.
If you’re intrigued by host boy culture, take a look at the award-winning show I hosted on Norway TV. (This video is watchable everywhere.)
What do you think about host clubs, rent-a-family, cuddle cafes, and the other strange ways the Japanese deal with loneliness?
If you’re a television production company looking to film in Japan, then we hope you’ll reach out to us! In addition to on-camera hosting, the Pirates take care of all filming logistics, permits, translation and any other arrangements necessary. Click to find out more about our TV fixing firm (and see examples of our past work, including bagelheads). Arr.
I loved getting to know the glam side of Bangkok, thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. There’s so much more to this city than backpackers, banana pancakes… and dare I mention ladyboys?
See for yourself, in the latest episode of my Business Insider travel video series. Watch it here — isn’t Bangkok’s pop culture fascinating?
Photos and video by me and Seby. Our Thai adventure included disco clubs, skeleton corsets, and an amusing encounter on the way to Siam mall!
We also visited two sweet designers, who are making Lolita and Japanese-style clothing (here’s a full post about ChuChu). Wonderful to see how the subculture is thriving in unexpected places.
I couldn’t have stayed in a more beautiful hotel, the Sofitel So. They even served absinthe in the lobby.
VIP members get access to the club lounge, which is stocked with food, cocktails and fashion.
Christian Lacroix designed the interior. His colorful couture is unmistakable.
The ground floor contained a Bonnet chocolate shop. I spotted Little Prince sweets, and Parisian shoes and handbags.
Sofitel So BKK is inspired by the five elements. I stayed in this funky Earth-themed suite.
The other themes are Water, Wood, Fire, and Air — represented by modern cloud art.
The entire hotel had glorious views of Lumpini Park. This is a far cry from the Khao San Road hostels…
Stark art is everywhere. I saw a child climbing on this white deer statue.
I spy Ted the Bear in the gift shop.
The lobby’s design mixes traditional and modern.
Also check out the romantic photoshoot I did inside the Sofitel So Bangkok. (My hair is now blue; these are older photos).)
Please take a minute to watch my Bangkok travel video, and leave a comment to let me know what you think!
Did this series change your impressions of Thailand? What is the loveliest hotel you’ve ever slept in?