Samantha Mariko, style blogger for Letters Impromptu.
Tokyo street-style is known for its extreme, avant-garde and outrageous form of expression through the mediums of fashion and art. For a city inclined towards mild and stoic mannerisms, its sense of style is anything but subtle. With so many niches and subcultures, inhabitants have their pick of the litter, from the Kogal schoolgirl look and the westernized, hyper-glam Gyaru to the doll-like Lolita (with subcategories of sweet, glam, punk, classic and boyish) and the Decora look so popularized by Gwen Stefani’s ‘Harajuku Girls’. The city is also home to the beloved Comme des Garçons, and credited with popularizing many notable street brands like A Bathing Ape, Head Porter and Uniqlo.
Lookbooker Samantha Mariko’s own style encompasses a unique combination of girly sophistication (floaty fabrics lined with fringe for a Western bohemian flavor) and the dark, urban street-style look often associated with cool Japanese fashion (in other words, leggings, leather, layers and creepers). Here, she shares a first-hand account of her day-to-day life, and everything you’ll need – from accessories to social media tools – to survive in the world’s most fashion-forward city. Be sure to check out her 5 tips for successful blogging at the end of this article!
The ever-bustling district of Shibuya a.k.a. the Times Square of Tokyo.
“Tokyo is such a special place to me – I grew up dreaming of one day living in this fabulous city, with its crowded streets, unique fashion trends and never-ending city night life. I finally made this dream of mine come true almost 2 years ago when I packed up my bags and left my hometown of Huntington Beach for this city, and I have not regretted it since.
There’s always so much going on here and so many new things to try. Living in this city, you will always experience the busy lifestyle. I usually get from place to place via train walking, which is actually convenient because you don’t have to worry about parking a car. This means it’s important to prepare for the day, checking the weather report and making sure to dress accordingly. I like to start off my day with shoes that are stylish yet comfortable for all the walking (my hot pink New Balances are perfect for brightening up a neutral outfit) and maybe bring an umbrella if rain is forecasted.
Mixing fabrics, like a shearling jacket with a cotton skirt, is a great way to pair up monotone colors.
Tokyo is one of the best places to try different restaurants, cafes and eateries. I’m always looking for new places during my lunch break at work. Having worked in Roppongi for a year, and then Shibuya, I’ve definitely discovered my fair share of go-to dining destinations. I love the Eggs Benedict from Lauderdale for breakfast and the veggie burger from J.S. Burger. Other favorites of mine are Cosmos Café and Coffee-kan.
Gourmet eggs benedict are the best way to start the day.
Although I am currently signed to a modeling agency in Tokyo, I also work for clothing brand Le Ciel Bleu. My style has changed considerably since I began working at this company, having been inspired by those I work with, and I am truly thankful for that. In fact, I buy most of my clothes from there (love the denim!), which saves me a lot of time when it comes to shopping.
Mood boarding for inspiration!
When I do decide to shop elsewhere, I usually go to Shibuya or Shinjuku. Some of my favorite places to shop are Forever 21, Zara, H&M and the Dayz Tokyo, to name a few.
Love these casual-chic sweaters from new Japanese brand Ithe’s showroom.
I am usually very selective in what I buy because I want to make sure it is something I would wear for a long time or would go with the pieces that I already have in my wardrobe.
My fringe bag from Eden the Collection, inspired by world travel and traditional Japanese materials.
I find most of my fashion inspiration from Japanese fashion magazines such as Gina, Elle girl Japan, Vogue, SPUR and many others. Even just walking around the streets of Tokyo is an inspiration in itself! Many of the girls I see are always dressed in unique ways, motivating me to be more creative with my own looks.
Some of my favorite Japanese-style magazines.
I truly think that my current environment has helped me to put together more interesting outfits and contributed to my ever-changing fashion sense, which in turn has affected the growth of my blog. I doubt I would have been willing to wear some of the things I wear now, had I still been living in Southern California.
I recently did a photo shoot for my blog in Ginza, where I wore a cropped red-lips tee paired with a midi-length black pencil skirt, zebra print, creepers, and a black and white varsity jacket. Mixing zebra print with a bright red lip pattern? I would have never done that before. Although I was initially unsure of the tee when I first bought it, it has now become a lived-in staple piece in my wardrobe.
Modeling my favorites, a Le Ciel Bleu varsity jacket over a red-lipped pattern tee from Zara.
Trying different poses, with my Underground creepers.
I’ve been blogging for about 4 years now on Letters Impromptu, and looking back on my blogging career in Japan, I feel like it has really helped me develop as an individual. Blogging helped me realize what is truly important to me and how I want to portray myself to the rest of the world. The blogging community has shown so much support and I am so thankful for that. I’ve worked with quite a few photographers in Tokyo, and they are almost always accommodating when it comes to shooting fashion for my blog. It’s really hard to find people to take pictures for my outfit posts, so I appreciate it when photographers are willing to shoot for my blog. I also learned that my friends are very cooperative when it comes to taking pictures as well (thank you!!).
Posing with fellow model at the Diane von Furstenberg for Andy Warhol event in Japan.
Meeting new people is one of the most exciting, and essential, experiences for lifestyle blogging.
To answer some of the questions I’ve received about how to pose for photo and outfit shoots, it actually took me a while to get used to being in front of a camera. I used to be very camera shy, but when I decided that I wanted to go into modeling, I knew I had to get out of my shell. I was lucky enough to work with photographers who were incredibly kind and patient with me, which helped it all become easier for me very quickly.
Although I don’t smile much in my photos, I do think a nice smile is what looks best. I usually pose by standing straight with legs a little bit apart, putting one hand on the hip or roughing up the hair for a more natural look. I like looking down a lot of the time or even to the side instead of always looking at the camera. Moving around so the photographer can get a candid shot is also very fun to try. I’ve gotten some pretty cool shots in the past doing that. Ultimately, don’t worry too much about it, and make sure to have fun while creating!
Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Looking away from the camera can add intrigue to a photograph.
The photo-editing tool I use on my Macbook Pro is Photoshop, which is invaluable for blogging. For Instagram, I mainly use Afterlight, amongst others. It is the best photo-editing app for smartphone in my opinion. I also use Landcam if I want to add text to my photos. I recently started picking up some Japanese photography magazines, and my favorite so far is カメラ日和 (Camera Nichiwa). This one introduces Japanese photographers, the cameras they use, and some of their work. I actually discovered Landcam through this magazine, and also picked up a few tips and tricks on photography!
My social media and photo editing must-haves!
And here is what you’ve been waiting for! 5 tips I’ve learned since I began blogging and living in Tokyo:
1. Quality over quantity. I always felt like I had to keep posting new material all the time, and I still think that is important. But I realized I get more views and feedback when the quality of the post was good, especially the photos. I always strive to write posts with easy-to-see photos that look pretty and are fun to look at.
2. Invest in a good camera. When I don’t have a professional photographer shooting for me, I use my Canon S95. It’s actually a really good digital camera, and the perfect size to carry around with me.
3. Learn how to use Photoshop. I started using Photoshop right when I came to Japan and it’s taken my photos to a whole new level (which is why I can continue using my Canon). I edit all my photos and blog banners on Photoshop. So useful!
4. Reach out to the blogging community. I use websites like Lookbook.nu and Bloglovin’ to find new blogs, and I look through those to find other ones. I read all of my comments and do my very best to respond to comments and answer any questions I receive. It is so important to maintain communication with your audience, and see what they enjoyed about a particular post because it helps me decide how to take my blog to the next level.
5. Use social media in conjunction to your blog. I am an avid Instagram user, and I also use twitter to post updates about my blog posts. Because using quality photographs for my blog is important, Instagram is a very useful tool to promote my blog.
It’s the little things that get me through the day.
Cliché as it may sound, I believe in living life to the fullest and not regretting anything. My life changed completely when I moved to Japan – I left behind a life that I was so used to for something brand new. I’ve encountered so many amazing opportunities and discovered new hobbies and interests while in Tokyo. I’m trying to squeeze in work, my music, blogging, and modeling so it can get quite busy, but I want to do it all and I will. Live life with no regrets.