Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s Tokyo Kawaii Guidebook App

I don’t often deviate from European fashion and beauty, but you will see me post the occasional Japanese fashion/beauty article on here. So when I heard that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (a Japanese street style model come pop idol) was releasing an iPhone app for her English and French fans I knew I had to write something about it. Not only because it combines four of my favourite things; Tokyo, shopping, travel and food.

Moshi Moshi Tokyo is Kyary’s guide to her favourite spots in Tokyo. The app allows you to explore Tokyo through her eyes, visiting clothing boutiques, cafes and more. Kyary has become a worldwide hit – her London tour was a sell-out with devoted fans turning up in hoards. It’s because of this success that the release of this app makes so much sense. It’s also a great way for the Japanese government to garner interest and promote tourism. Tokyo is an amazing city but it can be slightly overwhelming at times, especially if you’ve never visited before. This app will be a great way for fashionable young things to check out some of Tokyo’s hot spots.

I downloaded the French version to get a taste of the app before the English release. My French is terrible but surprisingly I still managed to understand everything. I loved the interactive features and thought the photography and design was incredibly cute and fun. The small magazine-style section highlights 9 clothing stores, featuring some of my personal favourites, including Nadia, Avantgarde and Tokyo Bopper. Ultimately though the interactive map is the most helpful as it highlights a large number of restaurants, stores etc. making it much easier to find your desired location. Unfortunately the promise of “Kyary’s favourite spots in Tokyo” actually translates to chosen spots in Harajuku. However this is the area that made her famous, making it slightly more understandable. It may seem limited but there are still tons of places to visit and it’s nice to see Harajuku is still getting some love, after a decline in popularity in recent years.

The app is currently available to download on iTunes, however the app only offers a download for the French version right now (to coincide with Japan Expo 2014). The English version will be released on July 18th, in time for Hyper Japan in London (and J-Pop Summit Festival 2014 in San Francisco). The first 500 people to download the guide (via the app) will also receive a voucher for a free badge that they can collect at Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s booth at Hyper Japan/J-Pop Summit.

Download Moshi Moshi Tokyo.

Source: 1

Discuss: Test Drive Your Clothes, Before You Buy

Japanese clothing brand GU (a Uniqlo sister brand) have released a new concept into their new Shibuya Parco store (Tokyo) this month. The concept behind the store has been labelled “GU Fitting” and claims to be the first of it’s kind in the world. 

So what is ‘GU Fitting’ and how does it work? Essentially it’s a service that allows you to test drive an item, or items, of clothing before you purchase it. It may sound a little crazy, and you’re probably wondering how it could work, or why it’s even a thing. Well GU want you to be able to really get to grips with their items, so they’re willing to loan you the items for the day. Say you walk into GU’s new store and your eyes fall on a cute dress, but you’re not sure how it will fit or feel. All you need to do is visit the GU Fitting Counter (they take 30 requests a day) with your item/s (3 max) and put in a request to ‘test drive’ them. You can meet up with friends at a cafe, do some window shopping, or maybe even sit around at home. All you have to do is return them by the end of the day. You can then decide whether you want to purchase them or not. 
But won’t people steal the items? This part has a lot to do with the culture, in my opinion. GU are trusting their customers with the items and are only asking for a name and telephone number, no ID or deposit etc. This is because they have trust in their customers. If you lose your wallet in Japan, chances are someone will return it or give it in to the police. It’s because of this that a lot of Japanese people have a very trusting mentality and it translates well into schemes like this. As for the items on sale – most are priced around 2,000円 (around £11.50) or less, so this is purely fast fashion, nothing high-end. 
GU have certainly come up with a unique way to sell their clothing, and with a large selection of on-trend quality items I can see this becoming a big hit with the brand. GU are already considering expanding the project if it is successful, and as a fan of the brand I would love to try the idea out. Will it catch on? I really don’t see it working outside of Japan, without a few changes. I could see it working in the UK if the customer left their card details/with a deposit scheme, however I’m not too sure the idea would catch on. It does seem like something that would only work in Japan, for now anyway. The store will be open until the end of June, so you still have some time to check it out if you’re in the neighbourhood. 

What do you think? 
Would it work in your country?
Would you ‘test drive’ an outfit/item of clothing? 
Source: 1, 2, 3

Workshop: Take Better Instagram Photos, with Jess Macdonald & Cath Kidston!

On Sunday, I headed to the 180 Piccadilly Flagship Cath Kidston store with AlexSarah. You’d probably expect me to go on and say how we were doing some casual window shopping, right? Wrong! We were there to learn how to take better Instagram photos at a special workshop. May saw three new free workshops (in collaboration with Indytute) pop up at the 180 Piccadilly store: ‘Vintage plate upcycling’, ‘My Cool Shed: how to make small spaces beautiful, with Jane Field’ and ‘Master Instagram in an instant, with Jess Macdonald’. I am a self-confessed Instagram addict! I was incredibly eager to take part and learn some new skills, so it only made sense that we were the first ones to arrive at the workshop!
Jess is a key player on Instagram, with over 32K followers on her @missundergound account. 
She also co-founded Instagrammers London and IGers UK – this lady knows her stuff! I eagerly took notes on my phone during the workshop and threw my hand up every time Jess asked a question – yes, I am THAT person! I’m sure my enthusiasm was charming…at least that’s what I like to tell myself. Anyway, I was taking notes to share them with all of you on here, so no judging, ok? Read below to find out Jess’s tips on how to take better Instagram photos and gain more followers, and to also see my ‘challenge photos’ from the workshop.

How to Take Better Instagram Photos 

No Instagram Filters! That probably sounds a bit insane when you’re talking about Instagram, but it’s true. The Instagram filters can flatten your images and take away the colour and impact from the original photo. Instead you should…
Use Apps! Jess recommended Vsco (my personal favourite) & Snapseed as two of the best. She also said that you should feel free to use the filters on Vsco because they are made to enhance your photo. Just make sure that you don’t go filter crazy, and try to always use one or two of the same filters.
The 3 Ss: Sunsets, Silhouettes & Symmetry: They can make your photos pop and look amazing! 
The Rule of Thirds: This is a simple photography tip that most people may already know. It’s my go-to rule! It’s a bit much to write in note form though, so read all about it here
Borders: Either use ’em, or lose ’em! Yep, either stick with the Instagram square, or only use borders (of the same size). I have been guilty of mixing both, but will avoid that from now on.
Selfies: It can be a bit awkward trying to take your own photo, which means that you don’t always get a great image. Instead ask someone else to take your photo. 
Take someone else’s photo: If you see someone interesting or someone with amazing style, ask them if you can take their photo. Don’t be scared! Just make sure you get their permission!
Hastags: Use them, but keep them relevant e.g. No #London if your photo wasn’t taken in London. Also remember not to use generic terms such as #nice #pretty etc.
Invest in a portable battery: So you won’t have to worry about running out of battery whilst you’re being the pro-photographer that you are!
Make relationships and reply to your comments: It’s all well and good liking someone’s photos but you won’t make relationships with users based on just that. If you like a photo or have something to say about it, leave a comment and let them know. At the same time, if someone comments on your photos, reply or say thank you. 
Jess’s Recommended Instagram Users

Jess recommended 3 inspirational Instagram users:
After Jess had given us some tips and tricks, we were asked to take part in a special photo challenge. We were told to take one Lifestyle photo (think table top, birds eye view), a photo of the Cath Kidston window, and a Selfie/Portrait.
My entries for each challenge category.
So what do you think? Did I do the themes justice? I was very happy with them. I had so much fun messing around and taking photos with Alex, Sarah, Jaz and Rubo. We played with beach balls, hopped inside the displays and basically treated the store like a big playground. All with the consent of the lovely Cath Kidston staff, of course! A big thank you to Jaz for hosting the event, and Jess for her insight, and for inspiring me to take my photography to the next level!
You can find me on Instagram: @bloomzy

A Guide to Learning Japanese

Recently I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions on how I went about learning to speak Japanese. I’m always happy to help people so I thought I would write a small post on how I went about learning Japanese, and some recommendations I have for those who are just starting to learn, and those who want to take it a bit more seriously. 
You can also check out my ‘Life in Japan’ YouTube series for more info.

My Background


Like most people in the British school system I started by learning French. I then went on to learn Spanish for a short while, before I became interested in Japanese. I mention this as I think having a general interest and background in languages can be very beneficial when it comes to learning a new language. Of course you don’t need to have one, but it helps. I started teaching myself Japanese with phrase books and CDs. I learnt some simple kanji/voacbulary and was able to have short conversations about the weather and my likes/dislikes, which as you can imagine was incredibly useful…not. I then decided that I wanted to study either French or Japanese at university (as my tutors had told me Philosophy wasn’t taken seriously by employers) and I eventually chose Japanese as I believed it would give me an advantage. So I went to university to study Japanese, and when I arrived it was then that I learnt that I knew nothing. Sure my tutors were impressed that I could introduce myself correctly etc. but ultimately I was starting from scratch, like everyone else in my class. Even my tutor informed us all that “[you] will not finish this course fluent, and will never be fluent unless you live in Japan for the rest of your life”. Harsh, but true. I studied Japanese at university in England for 3 years, and studied at a university in Japan for 1 year. I am not fluent in the language but I am competent and confident in what I do know.

Hints & Tips for Learning Japanese

Find your own style of learning: This may seem like a bit of a cope out, but in the age of programs such as Rosetta Stone I think it’s a very important lesson to remember. Sure programs and set plans can be helpful, but if they don’t suit your style of learning then you’re not going to get very far. Which leads to…

Learn Your Strengths & Weaknesses: For example, I am more of a visual person so I watched Japanese TV dramas, which helped me pick up key words and phrases. My weakness is memorising the ton of kanji out there, so I worked with programs that would allow me to go over it and remembered them by creating links in my head (e.g.  Like/Love 好き is made up of woman and child, because a woman 女  loves her child 子). It’s different for everyone, but if you can figure out your strengths/weaknesses then learning the language will be a lot easier.

Don’t be scared of textbooks! Some people avoid textbooks as they only see them as utensils for students, and not for those who want to learn language as a hobby/on the side. Sure textbooks can seem quite intimidating but they can be your best friend too! Learning from a textbook from home means you’re not restricted to lesson plans and that you can take your time, and go over sections as many times as you want. In the same vein, you can create goals and plans for yourself using a textbook.

Do set yourself reasonable goals! Don’t expect too much from yourself: It’s easy to become your own worst enemy when learning a language. You can end up expecting too much of yourself, which can be detrimental to progressing. Remember that you can only do so much. Setting yourself goals is a great way of seeing your progress firsthand, and it also means you can pat yourself on the back every time you reach one. Go at your own speed, and realise that you can’t be an expert straightaway.

The Best Resources for Learning Japanese (according to me)


Minna no Nihongo Book 1 (Grammar) & Minna no Nihongo Book 1 (Exercises) [Japan Centre] This series of books are the ones that got me through university, and the first two in the series (that I have mentioned here) are my number one recommendation for those who are beginning to learn the Japanese language. I first worked with Genki, but then my university switched to these (also) as they’re used by most universities teaching the language. In my opinion these books explain the grammar in a way that most people will be able to understand and pick up easily, which other textbooks don’t. Each chapter in MnN gives you a new set of vocabulary and grammar to practise and remember. If you’re a beginner you will probably want to purchase both, so you can complete the exercises (answer booklet is included). They cost around £25 each, but are definitely worth investing in!

Basic Kanji Book Vol.1 [Japan Centre] This is another textbook but this one focuses purely on learning the Chinese characters that make up the Japanese language – kanji. It teaches you the stroke order of the kanji and it also acts as a vocabulary learning device too, as each kanji comes with a set of corresponding words for you to recall. It’s been said that you need to know around 1,000 kanji to be able to read a Japanese newspaper and get by in Japanese society. This book is my personal favourite for learning kanji, and is the one favoured by most UK universities, but don’t let that intimidate you as it is super easy to use. Again this one retails at around £20 but is all you need to get started on your kanji revision.

Anki [Download here] Now this isn’t a textbook, it’s actually a computer flashcard program. You can create your own ‘decks’ of flashcards or you can download someone else’s (there’s a lot out there) to help you revise. It has a great system in that it determines how often you need to revise a particular word or character by your response. For example, I used it to create my own decks from ‘Basic Kanji Book’ and would revise the stroke order and vocabulary. I would always get simple kanji such as 日 so after a while Anki decided that I didn’t need to revise that particular one for several months. More complicated kanji such as 織り I would have to do every day. This is a free program and is a great alternative to having 100s of paper flashcards scattered across your desk.

Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese Grammar App [iPhone or iPad/Android] Tae Kim has created a free app that is simple but incredibly helpful. It’s basically a mini textbook on your phone! It teaches you the basics of Japanese grammar, essential grammar, special expressions, advanced grammar and more! A lot of work has gone into this little app, and it may not look like much but it’s an amazing guide for anyone who is beginning to learn Japanese, or for someone who would like an alternative to their textbooks etc.

Imiwa? [iPhone/iPad only] Imiwa is a free Japanese dictionary available for iOS. You can search for words in English or Japanese and it will show you the corresponding results, along with their kanji (if applicable) and some example sentences. You can also practise your kanji on here, and it will show you the stroke order as well as the readings and example sentences. You can also use the app to search by radicals (these are broken down parts of the kanji) for a kanji that you may not know. This is incredibly helpful if you’re reading a magazine etc. and don’t know the reading of a kanji. This app also lists all of the vocabulary and kanji that you need for the JLPT (Japanese language proficiency test). You can save words, analyse them, make notes and even backup your lists. In my opinion this is best free Japanese language dictionary available on the app store, and even rivals some of the non-free dictionaries.

Japanese Language Buddy Unfortunately you can’t buy or download one of these, instead you’ll have to do some research of your own into pairing with a Japanese language buddy. Learning grammar and revising kanji is all well and good, but if you don’t have someone to converse with then it can seem a bit pointless. Some cities will have language group meet ups, such as the London Japanese Language Meetup. Private tutors (I hired one when I was living in Norwich) are also an option, but they can be expensive. It may be worth meeting with one once or twice a month if you can afford it though as most tutors are native speakers. However I think the best way to practise your Japanese is to make friends with someone and go from there. People often put up ads on the internet for Japanese language exchange with a native speaker (such as Gumtree) or vice versa, and you could even place your own. Remember it works both ways though, help your Japanese language buddy practise their English (if they’re not already fluent) too!

To conclude…

You never really stop learning a language, and there will always be room for improvement. Japanese is not an easy language to learn by yourself, but remember, you are not alone! There are tons of resources, books and people out there who want to help you! Just keep at it and do your best! 頑張ります!

If you have any questions or tips you think should be added to this post, please do feel free to leave a comment, send me an email or tweet me.

A Blast from My Past: Japanese Gyaru Fashion & Life in Japan

A few weeks ago I went back to my parent’s house for a few days. Whilst I was there I decided to raid the attic, and see if I could find my old textbooks. I found myself knee-deep in university papers and old cuddly toys from my childhood. Amongst these were a few boxes of items from my time living (and studying) in Tokyo, Japan. Suddenly my objective was out the window and all I wanted to do was reminisce.
Japanese fashion has been a part of my life for over 10 years now. One fashion sub-culture in particular took up a decent amount of that time – gyaru. With hair high enough to reach the gods, and enough make-up to make an MUA weep, gyaru was an enigma wrapped in a mini skirt and fuzzy leg warmers. I was automatically drawn in, and spent most of my time reading magazines and blogs dedicated to the style. Gyaru is the reason behind me starting this blog in the first place! So you can imagine that finding these magazines and books was something quite special. Memories flooded back: Buying the Ranzuki Hair & Make-up Book in a small conbini in Kyoto. Adding points to my WC loyalty card as I bought everything and anything from the brand. Getting a ‘hair set’ (that has since created perpetual hair envy) with a friend for our joint birthday party. 
I met some amazing people because of gyaru, people who I can now call good friends.  So naturally it will always be a big part of my life and although I’m sure there were bad times, I can only remember the good. Recently I’ve missed my time living in Tokyo, but I do wonder if going back might tarnish those memories. It’s safe to say that things wouldn’t be the same now, but maybe that’s a good thing? Gyaru has faded from it’s origins and seems to be evolving into something all together different. So for now, I’m happy to keep my memories as just that. 
Interested in reading more about Japanese fashion and how my blog started?
Check out my Style Evolution post or browse my Japanese Fashion tag.

The Secret of Avène Eau Thermale

On Thursday I was invited to breakfast with my favourite skincare brand – Avène.
They had cryptically told me that I would be finding out the secret behind their products.
As the brand has made such an impact on my skincare routine I couldn’t wait to find out.
Amongst the gorgeous bouquets of flowers and delicious food were some new products.
Avène is now releasing their ‘XeraCalm A.D’ range, which is aimed at those with eczema.
As someone who suffers from eczema from time to time, this came as a delightful surprise.
But wait, didn’t I mention a special little secret? Well luckily for you I’m going to share it.
So what is the secret of Avène?
The lovely representative told us that it is all down to nature. A long time ago, the founder of Avène found a spring that had special healing properties. The locals also knew about it and used it to bathe in and to help ease their skin conditions. It sounds as though it could be something from a fairytale, right? At least that’s how I imagined it. 
Now, do you remember your geography children? Then you might recall how springs come about. Rain falls down into the soil and makes a magnificent journey through the earth before creating a spring. It is this process that allows Avène to gather their eau thermale, as it rises from a hot spring under the earth. The water in this spring takes all the minerals and a unique microflora ‘dolomiae’ from the earth and soil. This process takes over 50 years, so the eau thermale in all your Avène products really is special. It is a science that the Avène team have been working on, and perfecting, for many years. Luckily for us they are now sharing their secret, so we can all benefit!
So it’s no wonder why Avène’s products are soothing, anti-free radical and anti-irritating. It’s amazing to think that a spring discovered in 1736 is still helping us, and our skin woes today. Avène have put a lot of research, thought and care into their products and I love that about them. I also think it’s wonderful that the eau thermale in their products comes from a natural spring. How many people can say they use the water from a thermal spring in their skincare routine? Their products aren’t only for those with eczema or sensitive-skin, anyone can use them. If you want to be converted, like I was, then you need to try out Avène. 
You can purchase Avène’s new range from selected Boots stores, from April 2014.