Tag Archives: tokyo

I got a Lolita makeover in Harajuku, Tokyo

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Inside the “Alice in Wonderland” book at Maison de Julietta in Harajuku, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be an adorable porcelain doll, Maison de Julietta in Harajuku, Tokyo has a solution for you.

Maison de Julietta is a small shop on the bottom floor of the LaForet Department Store that offers guests a “Harajuku Lolita Experience.” The experience includes a head-to-toe makeover featuring Lolita clothing, hair and makeup, followed by a professional photoshoot in the “Alice in Wonderland”-themed photo studio.

Maison de Julietta’s official spokesmodel is Misako Aoki. Misako is a well-known Lolita model and a government-appointed Japanese Kawaii Ambassador, which, yes, is a thing. So, you know that this shop is pretty legit.

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Lolita fashion at Maison de Julietta. SCREAMfmLondon

LaForet is filled with impressive and trendy boutiques selling all the latest fashion and accessories — from Lolita styles and beyond. The Maison de Julietta boutique is fully stocked with the biggest, most deluxe Lolita brands there are: Metamorphose, Angelic Pretty, Alice and the Pirates. My Lolita outfit was comprised mostly of pieces from Baby, The Stars Shine Bright — a popular brand that typically retails around $300-500 for just one jumper skirt.

The base price for a Lolita experience is 9,980 JPY (about $84), but there is an additional charge for adding a wig (1,500 JPY), false eyelashes (500 JPY) or an undershirt (200 JPY). Included in the package are three professional photographs from your shoot — any additional copies you want to save will cost 1,000 JPY each.

I recommend going all out with the wig and the eyelashes because YOLO, when in Rome, etc. Once you make your selections, the adventure begins.

“Do you know ‘kawaii’? You’re going to be hearing it a lot today.”

“First, you’re going to pick out a dress!” said one staff member, gesturing toward the impressive rack of clothing in one corner of the shop.

“Are you going to help me?” I asked weakly. I didn’t know the first thing about putting together a coordinate. I didn’t really know anything about Lolita in general, aside from the fact that it looked cute and fun.

I also didn’t feel particularly confident that I was going to be able to squeeze my entire self into these delicate, cutesy outfits. I expressed this concern, and she waved me off, assuring me that the clothes would fit and, if not, they just wouldn’t zip it up all the way and would take photos from the other side. I was lowkey discouraged by that prospect: it didn’t seem very Lolita to be walking around with your zipper hanging open, but what can you do?

I selected a bouncy pink dress with lots of lace detailing and an undershirt with delicate bell sleeves. (“All the foreigners pick this dress!” the staff member told me.) She helped me find matching glitter socks and chunky pink heels, and then sent me to change.

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(✿◠‿◠). SCREAMfmLondon

To my surprise, the dress fit! It was a Harajuku miracle. But I cannot say the same for the undershirt, which would not at all button over my chest. However, the jumper ends up covering everything but the sleeves, so it didn’t really matter. Add several layers of petticoats, fluff, and you’re all set.

Finally, I emerged! They told me I was wearing it wrong, so I slunk back to the changing room to fix it. Finally, I reemerged!

The next step is hair and makeup. The artist worked her magic on me with various blushes, glosses and, of course, the false lashes. I wish I had been paying more attention to her process, because this was the best my makeup has ever looked in my entire life.

After makeup, I picked out a dark, curly wig. I was very wary of this step, but they reassured me that I could take it off if I felt weird. And I definitely did feel weird: I laughed hysterically at how goofy I looked when I first put it on. But once it was styled into cute pigtails and topped with a pink bonnet, I had started to feel comfortable in my new skin.

I sat in the makeup chair and took more selfies in a few minutes than I had in the past few years.

“I thought you said it looked weird,” said one staff member, checking in on me after a while.

“Yeah, I did. But now I’m feeling it.”

“Yeah, but now I’m feeling it.”

Eventually, it was time for the grand finale: the professional photo shoot. The photographer was very skilled and had his shoots down to a science. He told me exactly where to stand, how to pose, and what props to hold. It put me at ease since I felt extremely awkward the entire time.

Honestly, I was having the time of my life just standing around wearing the outfit. I don’t particularly enjoy being photographed, but a Lolita’s gotta do what a Lolita’s gotta do.

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(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. SCREAMfmLondon

I was perfectly alright with only getting to keep three photos from the shoot. I knew that if we took 100 photos, I’d probably only like three of them.

And guess what! I only liked two of them. My selfies turned out way better. In all the professional photos, I have this highly skeptical look on my face; you can almost hear me asking, “Are you sure this is going to look cute…?” through the lens.

When the shoot was finished, I was very reluctant to change back into my street clothes and undo the transformation. I was amazed at how cute and comfortable I felt in the Lolita look. I wanted to wear it all day, and the next day, and every day after that.

Maison de Julietta’s Lolita experience was the most fun I had in Japan. The staff was sweet and helpful (you even get a little Lolita sugar cookie on your way out the door!), the clothes were darling, and the whole experience was a blast. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a unique taste of Japanese culture.

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(◡‿◡✿). SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya

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Fantastic ramen at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Ichiran is the perfect restaurant for someone like me who likes to travel alone and eat delicious food at all hours without having to interact with mankind. This 24-hour Japanese ramen chain is famous for its tasty dishes and private, one-person booths in the dining area.

You can spot Ichiran’s Shibuya location from down the block because of the long line that winds up the narrow staircase and spills out onto the street. It moves moderately quickly as you inch your way closer to the red cloth signs hanging over the door.

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The ominous entryway to Ichiran. SCREAMfmLondon

Once inside the foyer, you insert money into a vending machine and make your initial ramen selection. The machine dispenses change and prints out a ticket.

While you wait for a seat to open up, you will fill out a worksheet about all the exact specifications of your desired bowl of ramen. The worksheet is super detailed and even offers suggestions, which I mostly took: medium-strength flavor, medium richness (oil content), regular garlic, green onion, sliced pork, half a serving of Ichiran’s original red sauce, and medium firmness for the noodles.

When a seat is available, you’re lead into the dining area. This is the best part. I love this set-up. I feel like every restaurant should be like this.

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The private ramen-eating booth for one at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Each diner is seated in an individual cubicle with high wooden walls separating you from the diners beside you and a thick bamboo curtain separating you from the kitchen staff. It’s just you and the ramen. When you’re ready to order, you ring a bell and slide your order sheet under the curtain. When the food is ready, they slide it back under. You never even see the chef’s face. It’s wild, and I love it!

There’s a little spout in the cubicle from which you can pour your own ice water, and you can even order extra noodles if you still have broth left after you finish.

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It’s so beautiful. SCREAMfmLondon

Have I mentioned that I love this restaurant? Because I love this. The ramen was delicious. The medium richness was perfectly spot-on, and the noodles and pork were tasty and flavorful. I wish I had gone a little stronger on flavor and definitely on the red sauce, which was not noticeably spicy. I would make some alterations to my ramen requests and add a soft-boiled egg next time, but Ichiran is certainly customizable enough. And all for about 800 JPY.

So private. So atmospheric. And nobody was there to see when I somehow dipped my hair in the broth. It was perfect.

Food: Angels Heart in Harajuku

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Angels Heart crêpes in Harajuku, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Crêpes are big in Tokyo, and there are about a million crêperies along Takeshita Street, one of Harajuku’s most popular pedestrian-only shopping streets. The foot traffic on Takeshita is so intense that there’s little room for actual movement, so the small restaurants and side streets are essential for a quick escape from the crowds.

Angels Heart is a crêperie located on the corner of one such side street, which provides a nice reprieve from the chaos of the main drag. There was periodically a line, but it went quite quickly.

Angels Heart serves a variety of freshly-made crêpes (both sweet and savory) with your choice of fillings. The girl in front of me definitely ordered some sort of leafy green crêpe filling, but I went with banana, chocolate and cheesecake for around 500 JPY. It was prepared quickly and served wrapped in a sturdy, pink paper cone. The entire side street is lined with people chillin’, eatin’ crêpes, and I was happy to join them.

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Banana, chocolate and cheesecake in one great crêpe. SCREAMfmLondon

The street is on a slight incline, so it provides a good vantage point from which you can do some great people-watching. While I was hanging out, I heard lots of shouting and clanging coming from the main street as several groups of men dressed in short robes pushed their way through the shoppers carrying some sorts of altars on their shoulders. I assume it had something to do with the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsukimi, that was going on around the same time as the lunar eclipse during the last week of September.

But who knows.

At any rate, the crêpe was delicious: the slice of cheesecake was solid, the chocolate syrup was plentiful, the whipped cream was cool while the crêpe itself was warm. What more do you need? Angels Heart is a sweet spot to stop by when you become overwhelmed by the crowds in Harajuku.

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The view of Takeshita Street during Tsukimi 2015. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Mizu shingen mochi ‘water cake’

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Mizu shingen mochi aka. “water cake” is this summer’s trendiest dessert. This strawberry-flavored cake was served in Myeongdong. SCREAMfmLondon

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “The problem with desserts is that they’re just too corporeal”? Have you been longing for a more abstract — perhaps even metaphysical — after-dinner treat?

Well, the search is over. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll come across this year’s most conceptual dessert trend: the Japanese water cake.

Mizu shingen mochi originated in the Japanese Alps, but it’s been gaining popularity worldwide this summer.

The cakes are round, translucent variations on the traditional mochi rice cakes, and they’re usually served with sugary syrup and kinako soybean powder on the side.

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Japanese-style water cakes for sale in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

While last year, the croissant-donut hybrid cronut had customers lined up outside Dominique Ansel’s New York bakery for hours and hours, these water cakes have customers trekking out to Yamanashi Prefecture (a two-hour drive from Tokyo), where they climb a mountain before reaching the hour-long line to order a dessert. And, like the cronut, the mizu shingen mochi is specifically trademarked to one owner: the Kinseiken Seika Company.

Legend has it these special water cakes are jellies made using solidified water from one specific source on Mount Kaikoma and are so delicate that they’ll only retain their shape for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Although, now that they’ve reached the likes of Seoul and Orange County, Calif., I’m going to surmise that the process is a little less special and a little more like the making of Jello Jigglers.

The cakes are pretty cool to look at — but they’re kind of just gelatin in a fancy outfit. The soybean powder is the best part, adding a much-needed punch of texture and flavor to the relatively tasteless treat.

Water cakes are worth a try for the novelty, but nothing to get worked up about.