Matsumoto Castle Sakura Viewing in Nagano

Matsumoto Castle sakura viewing wasn’t something I expected to do last Spring. Actually I thought I had planned my two week Spring trip to sakura forecast perfection. HAHAHHAA I WAS WRONG!

Sakura are gorgeous super fickle flowers. Forecasts change quickly and even if you wait until a month before to book your travel plans, the predictions can STILL BE off. Six days before I was set to leave for Japan the sakura flood came scrolling across my instagram and twitter and all I could do was sit there and glare. DAMN YOU SAKURA! But that’s one of the big things about sakura planning. You just have to be flexible.

The full pink of sakura season. The pinkness happens at the end of the main variety of sakura blooming.

Matsumoto Castle is one of those great flexible locations. It’s in Nagano prefecture but a very easy day trip from Tokyo (2 1/2 hours by train). Since it’s further up to the north, Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jo) sakura bloom later than Tokyo. It’s a popular sakura location for Japanese and the castle appeared ready to with lots of volunteers for their “mankai” or full bloom season. Spring is the most popular time to visit and with good reason!

Matsumoto Castle is known as Crow Castle because of its black exterior. I think its dark look really sets off sakura well.

Matsumoto Castle in its full glory. Along with Matsumoto City’s mascot Alp-chan (アルプちゃん) dressed in samurai armor. For the sakura season there was also a roaming guy dressed in samurai armor that you could take photos with (top right).

Anything x sakura or red maple is my WA OTP so when I’m able to get blossoms x castle… so much bonus!

matsumoto-castle-sakura

The castle peaking out from behind the sakura.

There were a few weeping sakura. Weeping sakura bloom later than regular sakura. They’re very plentiful in Kyoto but not so much around Matsumoto castle.

matsumoto-castle-silly-drawings

I usually don’t take many pictures inside of castles because they’re essentially darkened old buildings that house museum examples and mainly great for their exterior and for having wonderful views when you get to the top. I am so amused by old art though.

Climbing the castle was definitely worth it for this view. The moutains in the back are part of the Japanese Alps.

Inside the castle looking out to the grounds and city of Matsumoto.

Mankai or full bloom in all its glory. Matsumoto Castle sakura gave me hope I’d see more sakura that trip.

matsumoto-castle-falling-sakura

Reasons I’m not on this blog, top being –  I cannot pose, I am more like a bakery possum than a human, and I make stupid faces. But damn it’s the only photo I got of the full glory of the line of sakura trees leading up to the castle. Check out that lovely pink sakura rain.

All I did was resize this photo because I wanted to show how some of the sakura very beautifully pink that day.  :dotbow:

matsumoto-castle-sakura-blossoms-falling

I love when sakura fall because they their whole blossom tends to fall.

We snuck in for the last full blossom day of Matsumoto’s sakura season. It was an overcast day and storms were brewing to rain the next day and take down the fragile blossoms.

How to get there: From Shinjuku take the Super Azuza (スーパーあずさ) limited express to Matsumoto station. There is reserved and unreserved seating which you can sort out at Shinjuku station. It’s free if you have JR Rail Pass or it’s 8,000 yen round-trip for unreserved. It’s a 15 minute walk to the castle from the station.

More information at: myoko-nagano

 

And to think this is just the sakura opener for the blog. So many more sakura posts to do. And many Nagano posts to do, too!

If you missed any previous sakura posts on the Doll check them out here I’ve got a fourth in a series of sakura foods posts coming up too.  :hearts3:

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Koakuma Ageha Sawajiri Emiri’s Kyabajo Shacho book summary part two

Back with another part of Ageha model, Emira Wiz director and Kyabajo Emiri Sawajiri’s book “Kyabajou Shacho….” to keep it short. Or “キャバ嬢社長 歌舞伎町No.1嬢王 愛沢えみりとしての生き方” Kyabajo Shacho Kabukicho’s Number One JouOu Sawajiri Emiri Toshite no Ikikata. Or Kyabajo Boss: Kabukicho’s Number One Queen. Sawajiri Emiri’s Way of Living.

The tagline for the book is “From a Yokohama Gyaru to a bad Kyabajo in Roppongi to becoming Kabukicho’s Number One and running an apparel brand Emiria Wiz with sales of 1,500,000 in the first month.” (Meaning 15,000 USD of sales.)

If you missed previous summary it’s here in part one. We’re finally into the meat of her kyabajo career and she doesn’t paint herself well, but it’s the reality of being a hostess. It’s not an easy place to work.

Parenthesis are my own thoughts or explanations, the rest is a summary.

sawajiri emiri kyabajo

Part Two: From Bad Kyabajo to Number 1 continued…

From meager life Emiri’s Number One

When Emiri was taking a guest to the toilet she heard the rankings being called out and her name was in the rankings (If you’ve never been to a host or hostess club, hosts and hostesses will take their clients to the bathroom. It’s weird but you get used to it). She was really happy and it pushed her to work even harder and in four months she was Number One at the club.

She was beyond happy when she got Number 1. It was the culmination of everything she had been working on. But it was an odd feeling. She never got called out at school so this was a bit embarrassing as well. But she loved the feeling of being Number 1. So she worked harder to be it. She decided to work six days a week. It was really hard because many of the girls would have birthdays (which involve big parties in host and hostess clubs and women earn a lot those times) so she would have to earn a lot more during those times.

Changing to Club Gentle

Even though she was Number One at the one club she didn’t feel like she was number one in Kabukicho and the idea of being the top girl in Kabukicho was what was driving her. She didn’t think she could achieve number one in all of Kabukicho at her club and she was scouted at the time (scouting and poaching is pretty common in the host/hostess business). The scout told her she could even bring in more high class customers. After a year of thinking she entered Club Gentle at age 21.

“I’m not going to quit until I’ve made more than all the other girls”

The new club had a lot of beautiful women. Being the new girl she went to the club everyday and really struggled. After being there for six months she really hadn’t outsold anyone and this brought on a bunch of emotional stress. But because she didn’t want to lose and not be outsold she appeared super conceited to other girls (DUH!).

She says “Who’s that? I don’t know and I don’t care. I hate them.”. She wasn’t interested in talking to the girls much less making friends with them. Even when another girl would help her she couldn’t even bring herself to say a simple thank you. Of course you need help working as a kyabajo but she couldn’t even do that. She was so focused on beating all these other girls that she looked at them like enemies. After work ended a lot of the girls would go out drinking or eating, but she would never do that. She was really a bad person.

Because of this the head of the club said “You’re the girl causing me the most problems.” She was really having problems with the other hostesses. When she had an important customer she would never let any of the girls around him and say loudly enough for other girls to hear that she didn’t want the customer being with them. The manager said she even sounded like she was trying to kill the other girls. But she couldn’t stop, she just saw them all as rivals. Because of this the rest of the girls really started to bad mouth her.

Two of the girls confronted her inside the bathroom they told her that a girl would be taking her seat with Emiri’s customer. She was so pissed she stood in the toilet for 10 minutes fuming. Afterwards she complained to the manager but this was of no use. Instead she got even more fussy saying “I’ll beat that girl, I’ll beat all the girls!” She was fully hot headed then. But the girl didn’t show up a few days later so she had no chance to fight her.

But after this she tried making in roads with the girls and some of them she was mildly friendly with. But one day a customer said “You’re really only after me for my money?” She was shocked by such a statement and asked why he would say that. It turns out that he heard from another customer that this other hostess was saying that to her customer. She lost a customer because of that. She was completely shocked. Why would this girl even start saying such things and poison the water? She was actually on good terms with this hostess and they were having fun the day before.

After this happened she decided she could only see the other girls as rivals and was right to think that way before. Besides she was trying to live for herself and that’s why she should only spend time on what would help her.

The tears won’t stop….

All she could think about was being Number One, but she was losing confidence. But she still felt so strongly that “I must be on top”. This defeating attitude made everyone else unwanted. She was too scared of even trying to make friends with the other girls. She thought spending any ounce of energy on them would make her lose her focus at her job. There was not even “a milimeter of focus left in her heart for anything outside of work”.

Every day was like this and there was so much she hated about it, and lots of days she didn’t want to go work. Why was it that even though it was the only thing she wanted, but as usual she was still low in the rankings? Work was so stressful and afterwards she’d just cry.

Customers wouldn’t show up anymore, when other girls were chosen instead of her, all these experiences that she had working as a kyabajo were so painful she’d end up crying.

After work she’d sometimes go to a massage place in Shinjuku to relax. The masseuses were Chinese and they’d all ask “in broken Japanese” “What’s wrong?” “Are you okay” (she uses katakana on this to refer to their bad pronunciation… uhhh this fumes me). Even though these girls knew nothing about Emiri, that they would care to ask warmed her heart. Everytime Emiri felt that she was unhappy or wanted to quit she’d go to this massage place and relax her stresses away.

They’d ask her “Emiri-chan what’s wrong” and she couldn’t find the words to respond, but they’d say “Keep doing your best”. These girls often saw her at worst, tears streaming down her face like a kid. She cried so much she thought her whole body was made of tears.

Even though Emiri is trying her hardest, why isn’t it working out? The club was a place she didn’t want to go to. She was weak. And what was so good about being strong? She really wanted to quit and run away.

A woman who she had gotten to know a little at the massage place said “I always think you’re going to tell me something, but instead of telling me all you do is end up crying.” She realized how much she must be troubling the staff but she couldn’t stop crying.

After she cried her eyes she went home and slept. Slowly she realized tears weren’t going to help or make her try harder. Everyone at the shop probably had the same worries and wanted to cry at the tough times. She was just going to have work harder. (If this book eliminated the word ganbaru, meaning to try hard, it would be half the size. New title Emiri’s way of ganabaru-ing through hard lifestyle choices).

The unreal one day of four dohan

So after that she continued working everday and of course continued doing dohan everyday. But she wasn’t entering the rankings (the rankings are usually the top 3-5 girls). At her old club Proudia this is how she was able to make it to number one so why wasn’t it working at Gentle?

She ended up visiting a Kyabajo speciality site that listed the hostesses often. Whatever club was listed first they would pick a hostess at of the top rankings to show off that club as a “billboard”. All the hostesses knew this so they would try really hard to get their club to the top of the site. But they really didn’t know how a particular club was chosen as the top so they were left just hoping.

Of course all the girls looked and checked everyday. It wasn’t just her or her club Gentle, all the other clubs were hoping for the same thing. But on the days she wasn’t helped or selling, she would be asked to help the top girls who were selling. By listening and asking them she was slowly learning the tricks of the trade.

But even though Gentle was a super popular club and lots of VIP came there, she was worried when she couldn’t do dohan or the customers didn’t come in and she was stuck there with nothing to do. But if she didn’t come to work there was no way she was going to get into the rankings. And making even one friend was hard to do in the club so her drive to try hard was failing. It was strange but her love of the hair, make-up and dresses that made up the “kyabajo” look were turning into negative things.

More time went by that way, but little by little she was selling a bit more. She finally entered the rankings as Number 3. The two other girls above her were stellar and both became the “billboard” for Club Gentle at one time or another on that site. That not one but three girls could be selling so much really spoke well about the club.

But she realized that just doing one dohan a day for the club wasn’t enough. So why not two or even three or there was one crazy time of four. She’d come into the club with one and having eaten with another beforehand and try to keep them all seperated in club and not being aware of the other. That so many people agreed to do dohan with her she was happy, but she thinks it’s really crazy now and not the best way of doing things.

 

To be continued…. A little bit left of part two to do and then three is when she talks about her time as an Ageha model and how she got into it. I’m a slow and lazy reader, but here’s hoping in between sakura we can finally get to her talk about working for Koakuma Ageha.  :cheery:

 

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3 Kyoto Cafes to enjoy traditional Kyoto sweets

My third post on Kyoto foods or Kyo-ryori and this one is all about Kyoto cafes with Kyoto sweets. Traditional sweets is one of the most famous things about Kyoto. Next to the mouth of most shrines are stalls or petite cafes for enjoying anything from an ice-cream to the rare one of a kind desserts. I’m going to talk about three that are definite highlights of Kyoto sweets. I’ve been to a other dessert places in Kyoto but they just didn’t hold up as well as these three Kyoto sweets cafes for originality and taste.

I also have a map at the bottom that I’ve compiled all my Kyoto food recommendations I’ve blogged about before and some new ones.

Seasonal Kyoto sweets right near the famous temples – Kyodai-ji and Kiyomizudera

Jumodo (十文堂)

address: 京都府京都府京都市东山区玉水町76

Jumodo is a modern Kyoto zakka-style approach to traditional sweets. They have a well designed website and beautiful graphics for their menus and signage. But, Jumodo is still a really cute 4 table sweets place located perfectly next to many Kyoto famous sights.

I decided to stop in and fortify for the temple walks ahead and I was very satisfied I did.
jumondo-kyoto-sweets-cafe jumondo-miso-dango-kyoto-sweets

Man ordered the Modan set (もだん) which includes red bean and mochi monaka, along with a mitarashi kinako (honey peanut) and sweet miso dangos.jumondo-monaka-mitarashi-dango

The monaka to make yourself were temple bells. So cute for Kyoto.

kyoto sweets jumondo-roasted-chestnuts-matcha-latte

I ordered the roasted chestnuts (栗きんとん kuri-kinton) and a matcha latte. I’m usually anti-chestnuts but wanted to order a seasonal item since it was Fall. These were incredibly delicious and although I sampled my man’s items the chestnuts were my favorite.

kyoto sweets at kyoto cafes

The homey outside of Jumodo.


200 year old Amazake Kyoto Sweets

Osakaya Kouji Cafe (大阪屋こうじ)

address: 605-0037 京都市東山区三条通神宮道西入ル西町147-1

Amazake (甘酒) means sweet sake. It’s a very low (or no) alcohol sweet wine enjoyed during New Years. 200 year old Amazake makers Osakaya opened up a cafe called Kouji in Kyoto that serves mainly Amazake flavored items.

Kouji (website from the 90s here) is pretty much the only place I can find where you can eat amazake ice cream or try an amazake latte. So it’s definitely worth it for the one of a kind experience. And who else can you trust to make you the best amazake but a company that has been doing it for over 200 years?

It’s near several temples and shrines including Zuikoji and a small walk from the Inari station which is next to the famous Fushimi-Inari shrine.

The hostess was very kind and offered us an English menu so don’t feel afraid on stopping by!

amazake kyoto cafeamazake-drink-kyoto-osakaya

My man chose the traditional Amazake. Served with a spoon to eat some of the sweet rice, but mainly a drink.

amazake-latte-osakaya

I went for the Amazake Latte complete with matcha sprinkled top. Was very sweet but good.

amazake-icecream-kouji-kyoto amazake-kyoto-icecream-hazlenuts

The highlight for us both. Amazake ice cream with hazlenuts. Very light and delicious!

amazake-kyoto-kouji-osakaya-dining

If the one-of-a-kind items aren’t enough maybe the atmosphere will draw you in? A lovely garden and seating areas.


Enjoy a parfait in Gion

Gion Kinana (祇園 きなな)

address: 京都市東山区祇園町南側570-119

In the lovely old area of Gion away from the busy and tourist-packed Shijo-dori is Gion Kinana. The official name for the brand is Kyo Kinana (京きなな) but its store is named Gion Kinana. Kinana is both traditional and not. It’s founded by a Japanese chef who was making French food and finally after a few moves settled in Gion in 2004.

gion-kinana-kyoto

And why wouldn’t you want to settle in Gion? Gion looks beautiful in any light, but I do like it at twilight especially.

Kinana loved by tourists and locals alike for their seasonal ice creams and parfaits and its small amount of seating on the second floor fills up quickly.

There is an ice cream counter on the first floor but you can only buy one flavor of ice cream on the first and none of the regular menu items. My wait time was about 15 minutes before getting a seat at 5pm. They will sometimes have to split up large parties.

Gion Kinana has a small seasonal menu that rotates, but mainly stays in the yomogi, warabi, matcha traditional Kyoto sweets style.

gion kinana traditional modern japanese sweets

They had two main parfaits for the season:

Left – Kinana Hapon (Nipon)

Warabi Mochi, Red Bean, White mochi with plain, seasame and yomogi ice cream.

Right – Berry Berry Kinana

Yogurt and raspberries make this a “healthy parfait” with plain, seasame and matcha ice cream.

gion-kinana-menu-items

You can also order a half scoop of ice cream and create a menu set. You can choose between the mochi and rollcake set or the mochi and pound cake set.

kyoto sweets gion-kinana-parfait-wa-yomogi

What did I choose? Of course the most wa one! Kinana Hapon! This also included a fresh chestnut (maron) and a shogoin yatsuhashi (聖護院八ツ橋総 | site). Yatsuhashi is a cinnamon flavored sweet made with rice flour. Shogoin yatsuhashi made these into curved cookies that are famous in Kyoto. Kit Kat even picked them as their Kyoto flavor in 2013.

I got the pound cake set which was delicious.

Although Gion Kinana is a sweets cafe do not expect to get a latte or any coffee. Only simple green tea is served here along with juice or sparkling water. The parfait was huge and although I finished I couldn’t stomach food for a long time afterwards. Definitely bring your appetite!


Google Map of all Kyoto food and sweets recommendations

Places I’ve tried and sometimes blogged about on this site. Click through and read why I think it’s a good choice.

So much good food to enjoy in Kyoto! I’ve got two upcoming sakura related posts about Kyoto and then I’ll be hoping to some other places in Japan for food and travel. But this blog is soon going to get very sakura so be prepared for the pinkness :dotbow:

 

I love blogging about Japanese local foods, read all the posts here.

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Les Merveilleuses Laduree Makeup – Brand Introduction In-store shots

I’ve been using Les Merveilleuses Laduree make-up line for three years and in those years I keep meaning to do blog post after blog post about them, but I haven’t. But finally here we go! First all about the brand along with in-store photos, then I’ll break down their make-up line the good and the bad which will be a multipost.

 

Get to know Les Merveilleuses Laduree

What is Les Merveilleuses Laduree?

website: http://www.lm-laduree.com/

Laduree is a French luxury sweets maker that has been around since 1862. Yup 1862! It’s one of the most famous sweets brands in the world and I’ve been lucky enough to sample their wares in Versailles. They’re very popular in Japan with several shops.

Les Merveilleuses by Laduree launched in 2012. Les Merveilleuses meaning marvelous in French are according to the Laduree website post-revolution “goddesses of liberty”.

Les-Merveilleuses-by-Laduree-brandstory2
Les-Merveilleuses-by-Laduree-brandstory

You can read the full story on their English website here

It seems like an odd combination for a luxury sweets maker to do a make-up line. However, Make-up is one of the most profitable money making schemes by luxury houses. Its speculated that Chanel makes 80-90% of its revenue in makeup, skincare and fragrance! (Chanel is a private holding so they don’t have to release profit breakdowns) So if you’d like to make some paper, make-up is where it’s at!

Les Merveilleuses by Laduree is Asia only for now

Although Laduree is a French brand, Les Merveilleuses Laduree is a mostly Japanese brand. It was launched in Japan first and has expanded into other parts of Asia (Taiwan and Hong Kong). It is around Sephora Paris locations but only a few products unlike their stand alone stores, I’m not sure how much it is anymore.

They also have a soap and lotion small line that began around 2013. In 2014 they expanded into skincare with a small line based on the pearl whitening.

Les Merveilleuses has no e-commerce site and they do not sell to third parties. So the in-store experience is the only way to buy. imomoko.com sells the brand at a price-hike here Les Merveilleuses Laduree.

Behind the Brand

Laduree teamed up with the make-up manufacturers Albion the same people behind Paul and Joe Beaute, Anna Sui and Jill Stuart Beauty to create their line.

In Japanese it’s レ・メルヴェイユーズ ラデュレ
Yes Les Merveillesus by Laduree is expensive. It’s aimed at being a boutique luxury brand.

Brand vs. Les Merveilleuses Laduree Price comparison

I’ve decided to use Japanese yen and the Japanese prices on the cosmetics to directly compare. I chose to other brands of MAC and Chanel to show you the price difference on various items. MAC and other overseas brands are more expensive in Japan FYI.

Powder cheek blush

LM Laduree – 4,500 yen for compact and blush refill
MAC – 4,300 yen
Chanel – 5,500 yen

Lip Stick

LM Laduree – 2,500 yen
MAC – 3,132 yen
Chanel – 4,000 yen

Face Powder

LM Laduree – 4,500 yen for compact and powder refill
MAC – 4,100 yen
Chanel – 5,800 yen

 

The stores

Ahh it’s like being in Versailles but more homey. Lovely little jewel boxes of stores with comfy padded benches that you sit on waiting for your order to be rung up. Lots of light and mirrors. Just scroll down below to see how beautiful everything is, don’t just take my word for it.

 

The service

The service is definitely top level. I feel like Les Merviellueses are very conscientious about offering this experience. Their store is Versailles, you are a Princess because you’re there. After six months the staff remembers my name. Admittedly I’m a foreigner and I buy often there when I’m there, but still I appreciate the quality of service. The staff are all friendly and suggestive without being pushy. They also hold special in-store events for its clients to sample new releases or reserve seasonal items. I would say it’s very similar to a brand store in that respect.

Once you’re in their system they track your purchases which is terribly helpful when you want a blush refill and can’t remember the numbers. They’ll just look it up for you! You won’t expect to chat up about their personal lives like gyaru shop staff, but the staff are very lovely.

laduree-makeup-lm-harajuku-purchase-shopping-bag

Here is how my first purchase from Les Merveilleuses by Laduree looked. The lace bag held primer and foundation samples.

The more often you buy the more samples they’ll give you. My experience inside luxury stores and in luxury make-up counters is very similar to Les Merveilleuses.

Les Merveilleuses by Laduree makeup in store shots

I wish I could’ve taken higher quality shots of the inside, but photos aren’t usually allowed. I was allowed to take a few iPhone photos to showcase Frances. Because Frances is life, follow her on instagram at franceslovesyou!

All of the photos were taken at their La Foret Harajuku store which I mentioned in my Tokyo make-up and skincare post.

Les Merveilleuses by Laduree makeupladuree-makeup-lm-harajuku-store-frances

laduree-makeup-frances-les-merveilleuses laduree-makeup-harajuku-les-merveillueses-rose laduree-makeup-lm-harajuku-christmas-cards laduree-makeup-lm-harajuku-store-blush Les Merveilleuses by Laduree makeup laduree-makeup-lm-harajukuladuree-makeup-lm-les-harajuku laduree-makeup-lm-inside

Although I did not watermark these photos, please credit and link back to Universal-Doll if you share on tumblr, pinterest etc…

Next up about Les Merveilleuses Laduree is make-up reviews and recommendations on where to spend and not in their product line.

 

I like to blog and review about kawaii make-up from Japan and Korea. Check all the posts here.

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