Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gion Matsuri Yamaboko Junko in Kyoto ♥ 祇園祭の山鉾巡行

Held annually in July, the Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) is a festival of Kyoto's Yasaka Jinja, and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It is well-known for its grandeur and long history, originating in 869.

Visually captivating and magnificent, the float procession, Yamaboko Junko (山鉾巡行) is indubitably the highlight of the festival. ♥ It is held on the 17th of July every year, starting at about 9am at Shijo-Kawaramachi. Yamaboko refers to the two types of floats used in the procession: the 23 smaller Yama (山) and the 9 taller Hoko (鉾).

On the day of the Yamaboko Junko, the usually busy streets are closed to traffic to make way for the spectacular procession of floats. The best place to get a good view is at an intersection, because turning the heavy floats 90-degrees, is itself a spectacular feat to watch.  As the floats make their way down the street, there are various performances to watch as well.

Altogether, there are a total of 32 magnificent floats. Here are 25, in the order that they appeared in.
Though it was a hot day, the blue sky and bountiful light made the colors of the floats shine!

Lots of people took part in the procession, even little children, who were adorable! 
Largest picture: Atop the first float of the procession, the Naginata Hoko (長刀鉾), is the chigo (稚児), the sacred child, a local boy who is selected to be a divine messenger. In the other floats, the child-like figures atop the floats are dolls.

But Kyoto was like an oven that day, baking hot. No one was spared the heat!

Going up to 25-meters high and weighing up to a few tons, the floats are entirely assembled by hand, and no nails or glue is used to hold the parts together. Only rope. To move them along the streets, they are pulled by dozens of men. 

At the front of each Hoko are usually two men holding fans. They are there to pilot and coordinate the movement of the pulling, as the Hoko are heavier than the Yama, requiring about 30-40 men to pull each one.

This was one of my favorite floats: the Kuronushi Yama (黒主山).
I think the (fake) cherry blossoms got my vote!

Atop many of the floats were men playing flutes. 
They sat there and played their songs when the floats came to a halt.

The floats are elaborately adorned with many intricate tapestries and decorations.

Pulling the floats requires much strength and coordination. 
Foreigners can take part in the procession as well!

A doll atop one of the Hoko.

More colorful and spectacular floats passing by.

One of the more visually attractive floats, and another of my favorites: the Fune Hoko (船鉾). 
Fune (船) means boat!

Before each of the floats come, a person bearing a flag with the name of the float walks in front of it.

On the 3 nights before the procession, the streets are also closed in the evening and street stalls are set up selling food and games. You can also use the time to check out the floats, which are on display. There men on the floats playing their flutes, and also children in yukata singing. For a small fee, you can even enter the floats. However some of the floats are restricted to men-only.

I stayed throughout the entire 4-hour procession because I was waiting for the final float, the Oo-fune Hoko (大船鉾), which is supposed to be a large boat...but it was missing?! All that came out was this...the words say Oo-fune Hoko, but there was no float. How odd.

My Olympus Pen died a while after the procession started because I forgot to charge it, but luckily I also brought my older Samsung point-and-shoot, which I think did a pretty decent job. I would have been so devastated if both my cameras were dead! 

I was standing for the entire 4 hours with no shade, as the sun was shining directly at me. Look at the tan I got from just watching the float procession! (´Д`) I think I got kind of dehydrated after as I started to feel woozy after walking off! So I immediately headed to Lawsons and bought like 3 bottles of water which I gulped down. The off to Arashiyama it was! ♥

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jill Stuart Stealing Hearts ♥

Jill Stuart never ceases to amaze me  As the years go by their coffrets get better and prettier, and the Stealing Hearts Holiday 2012 Coffret is by far one of their best ε(๑^ᴗ^๑)з I already love Jill Stuart's pinkness and sweet, feminine designs, but add on hearts and the smell of roses, and it's perfect!  

Not to mention, this year's coffret comes with full-sizes of both a face palette and eye palette, which is quite uncommon for Jill Stuart, and extremely worth the price. I was super blessed to have been gifted this as a birthday present, thank you friends! ♥ The Stealing Hearts Holiday 2012 Coffret contains: 

 Mix Face Powder Compact in 102 Charming Feline
 Powder puff with casing
 Jewel Crystal Eyes in 106 Captured Sardonyx
 Lip Jewel in 101 Kissy Thulite
 Crayon Liner in 02 Lush Black
 Satin pouch with lace frill details and snap-closure

Even the box is so pretty, with the blend of the different colored hearts all over. I love red, pink and hearts, and can't stop admiring how pretty hearts pattern on the covers of the palettes are! The stars of this collection are definitely the face powder and eyeshadow palette  

But I actually really love all the other items too, and forget what I said about the Secret Tease Collection, right now *THIS* to me is the prettiest and most usable holiday coffret that Jill Stuart has ever come up with, because everything it comes with is usable on a daily basis, and super pretty to boot! 

The Jewel Crystal Eyes in 106 Captured Sardonyx is an eyeshadow palette that consists of a shimmery white, rich gold, bright coral pink and deep brown. The colors are very usable and are suitable for daily wear. Unlike the palettes from the Dreamy Garden Collection, the colors for this palette have minimal glitter and sparkle bits, as the white and gold still have some. The coral and brown and are especially gorgeous These two colors have no glitter bits, the color is pigmented, and the finish is incredibly smooth and pearly.

The jewel and my favorite item of the entire collection: The Mix Face Powder Compact in 102 Charming FelineThis comes in the same compact/shape as the Mix Blush Compact, but instead of a blush, this is a face powder! ♥ It is described by Jill Stuart as a "Lightweight pressed powder with a radiant, luminous finish. Coordinated 4 colors blend softly to enhance skin tone for a silky smooth complexion.

There's a pretty heart pattern with the Jill Stuart "J" in white shimmer sprayed over the palette, but that comes off after a swipe. The colors left behind are a light beige, pink, yellow and orange, all with a pearly sheen, and when mixed they give a lovely, radiant glow to your face.  The powder contains wild rose extract and almond oil, and smells *amazing*. I love the smell of roses and this is truly lovely 

Since it is a pressed powder, instead of the goat-hair brush that Mix Blush compacts come with, the Mix Face Powder comes with a puff to apply the powder. The puff if super soft, and comes in a rubber/silicon case with the same pretty hearts pattern as the palettes 

As with all Jill Stuart holiday collections, there's gotta be a pouch/bag! And this year's one is a snap-closure satin pouch with lace frill details and a hanging "J" charm. The pouch is pretty roomy, and can easily store all the items in the collection and more! The dimensions are about 21.5 x 11 x 6cm. It fits my 3 Jewel Crystal Eyes palettes, 2 Mix Compact Blushes, 4 Petite Jelly Lip Glosses, 1 Jelly Eyecolor N, and the Crayon Eyeliner and Lip Jewel gloss from this collection.

The Lip Jewel in 101 Kissy Thulite is a coral-colored gloss with fine shimmers and a doe-foot wand. The consistency of the gloss is slightly thick and sticky, so it stays on your lips. The color is beautiful, with a   subtle jewel-like shimmer and shine finish. The sides of the wand have white hearts on them, and the top has a large crystal ♥ It has a wonderful rose smell, as do all the other items in this coffret.

The Crayon Eyeliner in 01 Lush Black is a waterproof, intense black pencil eyeliner. I've been trying it over the past few days, and it's rather smudge-proof as well! The cap has gorgeous details and patterns, and I don't think I can bear to sharpen the pencil as it gets shorter^^

All the Jill Stuart cosmetics in the coffret are made in Japan and contain moisturizing wild rose extract and almond oil. They not only look great, but also smell like a whiff of heaven; of roses, flowers and bliss ♥ According to the box, they expire 5 years after manufacturing, in September 2017.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Arashiyama ♥ 嵐山

After the 4-hour Gion Matsuri procession, where I stood under the hot sun from 8am-12nn, I took the Hankyu line and headed over to Arashiyama since I was already in Kyoto. The sun was strong, but the sky was a gorgeous expanse of blue, and the clouds perfectly white ♥ Arashiyama is a picturesque district in the outskirts of Kyoto, and is a historic site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The bridge, the Togetsukyo, looks stunning over the water, with the mountains in the backdrop.

This is probably my favorite shot of Arashiyama; the sky was so blue, the mountains and greenery in the background, and the flowing water which was so clear! I love visiting places like this; vast expanses of green and blue, with the mountains as a backdrop. Places where the air is so fresh and I just feel so happy standing there ♥ Honestly speaking, I'm not an outdoorsy person and I'm not a big fan of hiking either, but I enjoy going to mountains, highlands and nature places just to see the scenery!

While there, I visited Tenryuuji, Arashiyama's largest temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a large lotus pond before the entrance, and the sunny weather and blue skies made everything look so good! I didn't go into the main hall (there's an admission fee), though I did buy an omamori (good luck charm).

They also had special limited edition Tenryuuji x Hello Kitty omamori cellphone straps! There are six different types: money, love, wish, education, safety and health.

Walking on, I visited Nonomiya Jinja (got another omamori) and passed by the gorgeous bamboo grove.

The path, flanked by rows and rows of tall, straight bamboo with the sunlight peeking in between the leaves, was so pretty to walk along, especially when the bamboo swayed in the wind ♥ It was also very cooling with the bamboo blocking out most of the heat!

There's really so much more to see at Arashiyama, but it was such a hot day ("like an oven", as a friend described it) and I was kind of dehydrated from the walking plus the 4 hours in the morning, so I gave up hiking under the oven-hot sun! I went to Arashiyama via the Hankyu line, but departed using the Keifuku Randen. The Randen station had food and bites to eat, as well as a beer garden (not sure if it's limited to summer?). The Randen line stops by many of Kyoto's World Heritage shrines and temples, so I decided to visit Ninnaji after Arashiyama~ To be continued another day!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Magic of Diamond Beauty ♡

Wonderful news dear Diamond Beauty lovers; Diamond Beauty is available in Singapore! No lashes right now, but the Diamond Blush (first series), Cream Cheeks, Cream Shadows, Brow Concealer, Nose Makeup and Diamond Puff pressed powder are selling at Haraju-cute, a corner at Guardian Pharmacy selling Japanese brands. Their tagline is "きれいになりたい女の子!あつまれ!All the girls who want to be pretty, gather 'round!" Never thought that this day would actually come *tears of joy* The only pity is that the lashes aren't available (´Д`)

Diamond Lash has always been a, if not *the* favorite lash brand of mine (as well as many other lash lovers out there right?). They have so much variety (5 series/30 types as of now) and they're very affordable compared to other lashes out there, at only 1,050 yen for 5 pairs. And most of all, the lashes are durable and look great! When they decided to branch out to produce cosmetics as well, Diamond Beauty sealed itself as my favorite gyaru brand ♡ And they're a favorite of gyaru models as well, being regularly featured in makeup tutorials in a number of Japanese magazines ♥

These are all the Diamond Beauty products I've hauled from Japan. I love their eyelash glue, it's one of my favorites: waterproof, easy to remove and I love the tube ♥ Slowly and steadily, Diamond Beauty has been adding products to their line. Sadly, it was only after I left that the mascaras, eyeliners and their double eyelid series came out. I really love the packaging of Diamond Beauty products, they're so pretty and I feel like I'm brimming with joy when I use them (♥´౪`♥)

In Japan, Diamond Beauty is sold exclusively at SBY and Donki, with the newest releases always only at SBY. Like the lashes, the cosmetics are great, have a wide range of colors, and really are a bang for your buck compared to the other gyaru cosmetics out there, with a slightly lower price and more amount product ♡ And of course the quality is top-notch ♡ In Singapore, Diamond Beauty is now exclusively sold at Haraju-cute. Although not all products (especially the newer releases) are available, most are! It's so wonderful that many of the Diamond Beauty items that I love that can now be bought in Singapore too ♥

The brow mascara is great. Diamond Beauty offers four different colors, including a super light blond/yellow color (01 Creamy Yellow) to match lighter blonde hair, whilst most other brands at most only have up to a medium-light brown. The two colors I've bought are 01 Creamy Yellow and 04 Choco Brown. The brow mascara, or brow concealer as they've named it, is extremely opaque and thick (hence *concealer*), so it's sure to mask your original brow color to match your hair! ♥ Also, even if you have darker hair, having lighter brows can help soften your look and make it more feminine.

I think when people dye their hair a lighter shade, they often make the mistake of forgetting to match the brows, which makes the overall look seem...a little odd/funny. If your eyebrows are naturally dark, brow powder alone won't have such a flattering result, as you can see a difference between the brow hairs and the pencil color^^ How to fix this problem? Brow mascara will do the trick! It also holds the hairs in one direction to make them look more polished.

But for me, Diamond Beauty's nose shading compact is probably the most amazing addition to their makeup line. The colors are great for creating natural-looking "shadows", and everything you need to create a slimmer, straighter nose is there, with two contouring colors and a highlighter ♥ There's even variety by having two palettes, 02 Dolly Nose (left) and 01 Princess Nose (right). In the past, many girls, (including me!) used brow powder for nose shading. Kate's brow palette was the hot favorite! Then it became using contouring powder, Canmake's shading powder was the hot favorite. But now there are compacts specially for noses, hurray!

Unlike the lighter pinks and peaches of most brands, Diamond Beauty's blush colors are bolder and darker. If you look at all the mode/otona gyaru magazine models from like Happie nuts, Jelly and Blenda, they usually have stronger and bolder cheek colors ♥

Swatches on top (04 Gold Beige, 03 Honey Orange, 02 Apricot Pink); finger-blended on the bottom. Diamond Blush is very pigmented and gives a glowy finish; because the colors have golden shimmer/pearly bits in them such that they don't appear so harsh on your face. 02 Apricot Pink is one of my favorite blushes to use, partly because it seems like a dupe for NARS Orgasm, another one of my favorite blushes (the final one is Jill Stuart's Mix Blush Compact). It gives a natural-looking flush with a golden sheen to it that gives the glow and acts as a highlighter ♥ 

These were supposed to be a summer limited edition item, but maybe it's become permanent? Great news anyway, cos now they're easier to repurchase! Somewhat similar to Canmake's Cream Cheeks, all four colors are pretty, the finish emits a glow, the texture is smooth, creamy, easy to blend and goes on like a dream. I like to use these after BB cream, then top them off with a powder blush to set it and get more color.

The above are swatches and not blended, and the colors aren't actually extremely pigmented. Obviously when you blend them the color spread out, lightens and blends in with your skin color. When blended, they look extremely natural and not too obvious ♥ They can be layered to achieve greater intensity, depending on your liking.

Like the Cream Cheeks, these were launched in summer 2011 and also supposed to be summer limited edition, but now they're available in Singapore too! I still saw them in the SBY store in Osaka, so guess they're staying for now. Although it's called Diamond Beauty Cream *Eyeshadow*, there's a line below it saying [Face Color] so you can safely use it all over your face should you desire to do so. 

Swatches on the left (03 Brilliant Gold, 01 Pink Gold, 02 Nude Gold), finger-blended on the right. The shadows sparkle like craaaazy under bright light ♥ The glitter particles are iridescent and multi-colored, and they shine like diamonds when spread and blended! You can use them under/around the eyes for extra sparkle; Tsubasa Masuwaka does that too! When I saw her, one of the first things I noticed was that the area under her eyes and on her cheeks were very sparkly/glittery. She probably uses the Dolly Wink Cream Shadow, but the effect is the same!

Other than Diamond Beauty, Haraju-cute also features many other gyaru-loved Japanese brands like Bonavoce, Love and Peace, Rose of Versailles and Brigitte, of which Rola is the face of! (♥´౪`♥) I seriously think that the main reason I covet the Brigitte so much is that Rola is their image model hahaha. There's even Mezaik/AB double eyelid tape and fiber, the secret weapon all girls love for creating bigger eyes!

When I first introduced Brigitte before, I never thought that it would ever be available in Singapore. But lo and behold, a few months later I miraculously saw it at a Haraju-cute corner, and actually did a double take to make sure I wasn't seeing things hahaha. No need to pine and yearn for it anymore!

So there you go, a summary on the various Diamond Beauty items I've amassed and used so far. Diamond Beauty is one of my favorite gyaru brands, it's affordable and has variety, and the quality is great. Everything is made in Japan so I feel very safe and assured putting it on my face! 

Though it's a pity that the lashes, lash glue, mascara, eyeliner and eyelid tape/fiber are not available in Singapore, everything else is, and can be found at Haraju-cute. For your convenience, here's a table I've made of the Diamond Beauty items available and their prices: 

Blush 01 Dolly PinkS$23.90
Blush 02 Apricot PinkS$23.90
Blush 03 Honey OrangeS$23.90
Blush 04 Gold BeigeS$23.90
Blush 05 Creamy PearlS$23.90
Cream Cheek 01 Baby PinkS$18.90
Cream Cheek 02 Strawberry PinkS$18.90
Cream Cheek 03 Peach OrangeS$18.90
Cream Cheek 04 Pure OrangeS$18.90
Nose Makeup 01 Princess NoseS$24.90
Nose Makeup 02 Dolly NoseS$24.90
Eyebrow Concealer 01 Creamy YellowS$19.90
Eyebrow Concealer 02 Caramel BrownS$19.90
Eyebrow Concealer 03 Strawberry BrownS$19.90
Eyebrow Concealer 04 Choco BrownS$19.90
Cream Eyeshadow 01 Pink GoldS$14.90
Cream Eyeshadow 02 Nude GoldS$14.90
Cream Eyeshadow 03 Brilliant GoldS$14.90
Cream Eyeshadow 04 Mint GoldS$14.90
Pressed Powder Princess Face (Translucent)S$28.90
Pressed Powder Dolly Face (Matte)S$28.90
I have almost everything on the table! Thinking of getting the Pressed Powder one day, anyone tried them before? The little fairy on the pact is adorable ♥
I've just started a Facebook page for ciramisu, so please like it for previews, updates and random photos!  ♥ Also, don't for get to join my New Year's giveaway, closing on the 25th of January~!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nara Deer Park ♥ 奈良公園

Dear deer! Regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, deer are the symbol of Nara and hundreds roam freely around the park, and they are protected as a National Treasure! Deer crackers can be found for sale at many corners around the park, and you can feed the deer.

Another main attraction of Nara is Kasuga Taisha, a World Heritage Site. It is a 30-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, though you can take a bus there. The bus is not covered in the Kansai Thru Pass, and since I was literally on my last few hundred yen, I walked to and fro (´Д`) Kasuga Taisha is a very pretty red shrine, and their omamori are gorgeous! Even their ema boards are heart-shaped and so cute!

My favorite photo of Kasuga Taisha! 
The grounds are rather extensive with many halls, trees and paths lined with stone lanterns.

On the grounds of Kasuga Taisha there are many deer resting and wandering around. These deer are not shy or afraid of people at all! They occupy all sorts of places in all sorts of positions, like between safety cones, around vending machines, behind stone lanterns, and even in front of store windows! Some deer even walk into the stores! (The ones with automated doors)

Beware of the deer! It didn't happen to me because I wasn't tempting them, but I've heard from friends' experiences that the deer might persistently follow you around if you're eating or holding onto food^^ There are various warning signs around the park cautioning that the deer can bite, kick, head-butt and knock you down! But the deer are quite docile, you can walk up to them and they'll let you pet them.

There are even deer painted on the lamp-posts around Nara Park! Another beautiful summer day, I love the blue of the sky and green of the grass! Beware of rickshaws drivers, they'll come up to you and try to bargain for you to take a ride^^

Visited Yoshikien, a garden that has free admission for foreigners/tourists! It's not very big but the pond is quite pretty. It also has a moss garden and tea house. Right beside it is a larger garden, Isuien, but it has an admission fee.

On the path to the gardens I saw a vending machine, and there are even dedicated buttons on vending machines for the deer! They are a form of donations/fund raising to maintain the deer of Nara Park. I found it funny that they put the line "No drink will be provided." HAHAHA!

Koufukuji, a temple originally built in 710! The pagoda is the 2nd tallest in Japan. Saw two elderly ladies decked in their kimonos paying a visit to the temple. Another sight to see on the grounds is the unique octagonal building^^