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So, back in 2008 my fiancee & I visited Japan again during the Summer time.  We met up with our dear old friend Yukie…which she introduced us to an old schoolmate friend of hers. This guy’s name was Yutaka. He’s a really cool, chill guy.  We hung out & had a few drinks together.  Well, the funny thing is…by the end of the night, we were all soooo tipsy that my fiancee kept mispronouncing his name & calling him ‘Yukata‘.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know what a “yukata” is:
A light-weight cotton kimono worn primarily in the Summer time; worn by both men, women & children alike. Yukata are mainly worn during festivals & holidays.

Anyway…Yutaka was cool about it & kept correcting my fiancee. “It’s not Yukata, it’s Yu-Ta-Ka”.  Needless to say, everyone was cracking up at this incident.

You know, if you’re going to mis-pronounce a name like Yutaka… don’t call him a “summer kimono”.  Wouldn’t it be better to say “Yokatta” (which means “What a relief!” / “I’m so happy!”)?  At least if you mis-pronounce his name & call him ‘Yokatta’, it will sound like you are happy to see him.

The last time I visited Japan was in December 2010, with my fiancee & my friends.  These are some of the fun things I learned from my trip.  Enjoy.

1. When you go to a cafe & sit outside and/or next to the window, you will be given a blanket to keep your lap/legs warm (only during Winter season).

2. Most restaurants/cafes have a designated basket with a cloth cover at each dining table.  When you are seated, you can put your purse and/or shopping bags in the basket to keep your bags clear from the aisles & to keep them from getting dirty.

3. Hotel rooms will recycle your  bed sheets & towels for 3 days unless you put the “change my sheets” card on your bed.  This saves a lot on cleaning & water!

4. When it rains, all shops/stores will put a plastic cover on all of your shopping bags so they don’t get wet. (This is the one thing I wish our stores had in the U.S.)

5. Dudes are paid to drive big trucks with giant billboards around town while blaring the most annoying KPop music by the popular Korean boy band 2PM. (Do you notice that I don’t like the band 2PM?)

6. During Christmas time, even though you are overseas, you will NOT escape Western Christmas music…You will hear it EVERYWHERE.  You will also hear “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” & Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” about 50 times a day, while not really sure if the locals even know what the lyrics mean.

7. If you go shopping at a major department store, the sales people will try to sell you everything & anything. They are insanely pushy, but polite as hell about it.

8a. I love the clothing brand A Bathing Ape, & I’ve noticed that ALL sales staff at every single Tokyo region Bathing Ape (a.k.a. BAPE) store are friendly & cool.  Although they can’t speak much English, they can understand it & try to speak it to make you feel welcome. (I have also found that the sales staff at the BAPE stores in NY & L.A.(which is now closed) are also friendly/nice.)

8b. Every single time I go shopping at a Tokyo region Bathing Ape store with my fiancee, we will get special treatment, we will make friends with at least one sales clerk.  I don’t understand this, but I guess my fiancee just appears to be outgoing & perhaps that is why others tend to gravitate toward him & can talk to him easily…even when there is a language barrier. (P.S. If you are ever in Shibuya, Tokyo….look up a guy named Saito at the BAPE store in Shibuya.  He is one of the coolest store clerks I’ve ever met in Japan.)

9. You will see cheesy American restaurant chains all over Tokyo (eg. Outback, TGI Fridays, Denny’s, L&L Hawaiian BBQ, El Torito, Sizzler), but don’t expect crazy lines out the door.  You will only find that mind-numbing queue at Eggs ‘N Things (which came from Hawaii).  The whole Western food trend has come & gone already.  (Plus, I’m a little biased & think that the Japanese spin on Western/American food tastes so much better than the way it’s cooked back home.)

10. You will hear Western Pop music everywhere compared to Japanese Pop music (which is not played nearly as much as Western Top 40/Pop).  I couldn’t escape the songs “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha or “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz when I was in Tokyo.

11. The new latest invention in Japanese technology: Otohime.  Every public bathroom stall will have a device that will make a running water sound for a more discreet bathroom experience.  You just press the button on the device & it will make a flushing noise to mask the sounds.  You can eve buy this in a handy pocket device for travel and/or public use.

12. Most public bathrooms will have a “regular” stall with squat-in-the-ground toilets or “Western” stalls with sit-down toilets.  I thought this was pretty cool…that some rather old fashioned traditions still remain.

13. Fruits are not as expensive as you think they are. It’s not as if every grocery store in town will have that $40 watermelon you saw on reddit.com/ebaumsworld.com. Ok, so compared to American grocery store prices, they are pretty pricey ($6 for 2 apples).  However, they are much more beautiful in color & shape, much more sweeter, & bigger in size compared to our U.S. market fruits.  So, it’s almost like getting more fruit for your money.  Plus, the only $40 fruits you will find are the organic ones, grown on some special farm, & comes in a fancy wrapped box that are supposed to be for gift giving.  Those fruits you will find at super luxe department stores like Matsuzakaya or Mitsukoshi…or at fancy grocery stores that specifically sell organic goods.

Photo © 2011 Hypebeast

Shown above are the visuals of NEIGHBORHOOD’s latest brick and mortar space in Tokyo’s vivacious district – Shibuya. This latest foray marks the brand’s second retail space which had its inauguration last September 23, 2011. Prior to the opening, some exclusive and collaborated pieces have surfaced in anticipation of the remarkable event. The dim-lighted interior of the store syncs to the dark and rebellious aesthetic that is pretty much what we expect from NEIGHBORHOOD. Stocking a diverse selection of apparels and accessories, be sure to stop by at the brand’s new Shibuya branch.
( 1-8-13 Jinnan, Senjou Building, Shibuya-ku,  Tokyo, Japan 150-0041 )

Photo & Text via NEIGHBORHOOD Shibuya Store Opening | Hypebeast.

For those of you who don’t know, NEIGHBORHOOD (a.k.a. NBHD) is a Japanese urban streetwear clothing brand which was founded by Shinsuke Takizawa in the early 1990s.  Following his passion for motorcycles and the counter culture that was heating up in Tokyo, Shinsuke started this clothing brand modeling military, outdoors, trad & biker styles.

The concept of “basic clothing created by digesting unique interpretations of elements from motorcycles, military, outdoor, trad, etc. and also suggesting this lifestyle” is the base for all products and projects which NEIGHBORHOOD is involved with, and always lives in the themes for the seasons.  — via Neighborhood.jp

Shinsuke, along with other notable (& equally famous) Japanese urban streewear designers such as: Hiroshi Fujiwara (Fragment Design), Tetsu Nishiyama (WTaps), & NIGO (A Bathing Ape) originally based their respective brands out of the “Ura-Hara” neighborhood within the Harajuku district in Tokyo.

The area known as “Ura-Hara”, back streets of Harajuku, is a center of Japanese fashion for younger people – brands sugh as A Bathing Ape and Undercover have shops in the area. Ura-Hara is another section of Harajuku, which caters to a mostly male population interested in a Hip-hop, graffiti, and skater fashion and culture. Ura-Hara is seen as the opposite of Harajuku in that it’s more hidden and reserved. – via Wikipedia

I’m so happy & excited that Shinsuke will be opening another store location for his brand (& in Shibuya no less).  I love his clothing brand, & I still purchase his clothes even though he has stopped producing his line in women’s sizes.  Even though most of Shinsuke’s clothing lines are more masculine in design, there are also quite a few items that can be uni-sex & worn by women (i.e. t-shirts & sweatshirts).  Shinsuke’s designs are both practical & daring.  Some items are classic & versatile, & can be worn with both formal & casual styles.  Some items seem just plain ridiculous, but you want it anyway because it is fun & whimsical (& you can feel as though you just bought something outrageously indulgent without feeling the guilty wallet syndrome.)  Most of all, this brand is highly practical & functional, & can be infused into your daily life with ease.  My fiancee is probably the biggest fan of NEIGHBORHOOD that I have ever met & has a large collection of clothing items & home goods that we both share & use everyday.  My fiancee can attest that this brand is not only functional, practical & sleek, but it is also fun, stylish, cool & edgy.

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