The Ladybug’s souvenir of Japan (aka the history of Japanese sukajan)

I am pretty sure that you have seen these satin Japanese bomber jackets in your life but I am not sure that you know about their history and why they are so typical, especially in Japan.

The Japan’s souvenir jacket, also called sukajan, is an embroidered satin college or letterman jacket usually in satin, representing typical Japanese landscapes or symbols. I didn’t know that their story starts in the late 30s and that it is strictly connected to an American “tradition” in Japan. I learned about it when I was in Tokyo, in a beautiful vintage shop called Chicago, selling many of these items and I asked the shop assistant to tell me more about them.

She told me that they originates from the city of Yokosuka that has a very long and important military history for Japan and for the United States, especially after the second world war. In fact these jackets started to be produced in the 30s and became very famous during the post-war period, when departing American soldiers bought them as souvenir of the time they spent in Japan. “The original sukajan were often bomber jackets, coats, or even jackets fashioned from old parachute material, with embroidered patches featuring Japanese animals, patterns, or writing. Each jacket was typically hand-stitched — which meant that no two jackets were alike” (source: Japan Today)

You can find original ones in every vintage shop of Tokyo but also all over the world, especially in the States. I even bought a vintage one that I adore when I was in Tokyo at Chicago Vintage (they had so many!).

Today many local shops and designers re-created them with original and modern patterns, like this one that I also got in Tokyo (it’s a longer story because it was my colleagues birthday surprise present!) with a lovely Betty Boop in a perfect Japanese style, wearing a kimono outside a temple with cherry blooms!  

I am  totally in love with these two jackets and it is also for me a way to remember my beautiful trip in this amazing country!

Here I am wearing my Betty Boop modern souvenir jacket by Cropped Heads with a vintage inspired tee from Joanie Clothing and handmade denim Marlene trousers from Madame Ilary.

You can find pictures of my original vintage Japanese sukajan here when I was Bucharest!

The Ladybug on how to wear a vintage kimono at the office

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When I traveled to Japan last summer I finally got the chance to buy a couple of vintage kimonos.  This piece has always been iconic for me: the kimono has an oriental vibe that feels like wearing history and culture from another world; it is incredibly fashionable and stylish and it can add the “great touch” to any outfit, even the most boring one! I had a couple of vintage kimonos in my wardrobe, mostly bought during my vintage trips in Europe, more precisely in Brussels and Madrid but the chance to buy a vintage kimono in Japan was priceless!

As I told you during my Japanese chronicles, I found a couple of beautiful vintage shops in Kyoto and Tokyo where I bought three kimonos, one of them is the one pictured here, a beautiful vintage piece that I found in the most incredible vintage kimonos shop that I saw in Kyoto (I bought two pieces there). Kimonos are quite pricey in Japan, that’s why buying a vintage piece can be the best option also for those who are not that much into vintage! The prices for vintage kimonos are fair (this was around 30 euros) and the most pricey ones are real pieces of art (the second one that I got there was indeed more expensive but it was an hand-painted silk piece that stole my heart at first sight!)

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My friends were asking me why I was buying kimonos as it was such a difficult piece to wear! Difficult? At all! It is a very versatile piece, quite easy to wear, with almost everything, both dressed-up and dressed-down. I answered that it was so easy to wear that I could also wear it at the office! They were not convinced so I accepted the challenge and once I came back home I prepared this easy look to wear at the office. No need to say that they admitted my victory!

No jokes, the outfit was simple yet stylish for the office, I just wore something very “smart” (an handmade white shirt and black Dixie culottes) and put my pale blue kimono instead of a boring blazer! That’s all! I added a tiny vintage belt that I bought in a lovely vintage shop in Osaka and, as I like it to push it a little bit I paired with golden accessories: a pair of Dune London golden ankle boots, brass earrings and ring from Metalica Creazioni.

My colleagues were impressed and they loved the outfit, what do you think? Would you wear it at work?

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The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.3: Tokyo

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And so we are in Tokyo. You cannot imagine how hard it is to describe Tokyo because Tokyo is so much.

If you are in a subway station with many exits you can be sure that at every single exit you will find a very different town. There are big lights and super modern buildings, romantic Japanese gardens, manga, crazy shopping, vintage, luxe, tradition…everything exists in Tokyo.

Tokyo is…Shibuya. The busiest crossroad in the world where we passed by during the day (in a rainy day) and again at night were we enjoyed the neon lights of the shops and buildings of the most crowded area of Tokyo. Don’t forget to stop by The Myth of Tomorrow, the beautiful Taro Okamoto’s murals in Shibuya station and to look for the best fun ever in one of the hundreds “purikura” or “prikura” photo booths where you can take and decorate your photos “manga style”!

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Tokyo is…Shimokitazawa, definitely my favorite area (also defined the “hippy” or “hipster” area of Tokyo), full of vintage shops and bars all along the tiny streets near the station…the only reason why I left was the typhoon announced for that night!

Tokyo is…Harajuku, considered as the area of young people and new fashion trends. For me it is also the area of the immense Chicago Thrift store, definitely one of my favorite vintage shops in town and definitely the one where I used my credit card the most! By the way, don’t forget to visit the shopping street Cat Street with its lovely and very peculiar shops.

Tokyo is…Akihabara, famous for the electronic shops and for the otaku, where you can find hundreds of kawaii, manga and anime shops, videogames, cosplayers and so much more! If you want to have a memory from this area, for 100 yen (less than 1 euro) you may try the gashapon machines that you will find everywhere to get a surprise gadget of your favorite cartoon or theme (sushi, cats, Dragonball, Sailor Moon and many many others)!

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Tokyo is…Omotesando Street, the most famous street for luxury shopping in Tokyo.

Tokyo is…Asakusa, where our trip started and ended, definitely the area that I loved the most (except for the vintage area of Shimokitazawa!). The area is very touristic as it expands around the magnificent Senso-ji temple, the most visited temple in Tokyo. If you are there don’t forget to check your fortune at the Temple like many other visitors are doing (they are also written in English!).

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Tokyo is…Korakuen, with the most amazing Japanese gardens ever. The calmness, peace and harmony of this big garden seems to be miles away from the crowd of the big city! Lotus, rice, carps and the beautiful full-moon bridge…in this garden you will feel like in an old Japanese movie (also because they offer free Japanese umbrellas to protect from the sun…perfect for your pictures!)

Tokyo is…Kagurazaka, the old geisha’s neighborhood, a traditional area of the town very calm and peaceful where you can get lost in the tiny streets of this beautiful area.

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Tokyo is…the Tsukiji Fish Market, the most famous fish market in the world, where we ate the best sushi ever at 8.30 in the morning (Daiwa Sushi was the best for us!). Sushi here is not cheap. You will spend around 30 euros for 10/12 pieces but believe me, you will be more than happy! (No tuna auctions for us!)

Tokyo is…the Toc Flea Market in Gotanda (or any other Flea Market in town) where you can find amazing antiques pieces, second hand kimonos, second hand Coach bags and all type of thrifted clothes and memorabilia for incredible price (still beware of fakes!).

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Tokyo is…the Tokyo Sky Tree, where we went to finally see the Mount Fuji but he decided not to show up during all our staying because of the weather. Still the view of Tokyo from there is breathless!

Tokyo is…Ginza, very famous luxury shopping area of Tokyo near the Imperial Palace.

Tokyo is…Roppongi Hills, a modern district with the Mori Art Museum and full of modern buildings, where Japanese people love to walk and have a drink on Saturday nights.

Tokyo is also the 100 yen shops (where you can buy loads of things for the price of 100 yen), the Tokyu Hands (the most famous department store of Japan), the colored and noisy supermarkets, the beauty shops (where it is “mandatory” to buy Shiseido products for almost half the price and the famous Japanese face masks).

Just one last thing about Tokyo and about Japan in general. I have been told and I read a lot that Japan is quite expensive especially when it comes to eat. Personally, a part for the experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market for which I was prepared, we never spent more than 10/15 euros for our meals, and we ate magnificently quite everywhere. We basically avoided touristic restaurants and we always picked local restaurants where people use to sit at the counter and eat their meal (with tea and water included!).

If you want to try a very special experience we heard about Nagomi Visit before leaving and we immediately booked a dinner with them. Basically it is a site ( where you can experience the incredible Japanese hospitality by having dinner with a Japanese host that will contact you on the site when you insert your proposal. The fee is fixed and you will organize the dinner with the host that is usually within 1km from where you are. You can cook together, understand more about the Japanese culture and enjoy a night out with your Japanese family!

We were lucky to have Junko and her family as hosts: we took the train to Hino where they picked us up and we enjoyed an amazing evening at their place. Junko prepared a tasty Japanese dinner (including different types of sake!) and we had a beautiful conversation, exchanging ideas and tips about our so different cultures. After dinner her son’s friends joined us and we all took a personal class of shodo, the art of Japanese calligraphy. We also received as a present a beautiful fan with our names “translated” in kanji. It was one of the best experiences of our trip. Japanese hospitality at its best!

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The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.2: Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nikko

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When you travel around Japan the best way to do it is by train. Train are fast and always on time (this is not just a legend about Japanese public transportation!) but they are also quite expensive. For this reason before leaving for your trip it is essential that you purchase a Japan Rail Pass in your country that you will activate once you arrive in Japan.

We bought a JRP for one week only (between Kyoto and Tokyo) in order to concentrate all our train trips during this time before ending the trip in Tokyo. We then left Kyoto to travel to Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima and Osaka before heading back to Tokyo from where we had just a one-day trip to Nikko (2-hour train ride from Tokyo) for which you buy a specific ticket including train and access to the World Heritage site of Nikko or other sites if you decide to spend two days in the area.

But let’s proceed with the first stop: Nara. We decided to ask for a free walking tour in town and we got a really nice tour guide living in the city who showed us the beauty of his town starting from the famous Todai-ji site, probably my favorite Buddhist temple in Japan, including the big green area (Nara Park) around the temples full of small temples, pagodas and loads of free lovely deer who love to play with visitors and eat from their hands! The main temple, the Great Buddha Hall, is amazing and it contains the largest bronze statue of Buddha. We stopped for lunch in a super nice restaurant in the city center of Nara where we ate the delicious saba (mackerel) sushi, the typical Nara sushi wrapped in bamboo sheaths.

Near the restaurant there was a super nice vintage shop where I got a really nice (and soft) after lunch shopping session before heading to the Kasuga Taisha, the biggest Shinto shrine in Nara surrounded by a beautiful and mysterious forest. After the tour, on our specific request, our guide brought us to a very special place where we could be part of the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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Second stop of the tour of Japan by train: Kobe. The small town is very famous for its kobe meat, which is the main reason why we visited it. Two of us are vegetarian but our friend really wanted to taste it then we decided to go there. First we decided to head to the famous Nunobiki Herb Garden of Kobe where we got with a cable car and where we enjoyed a beautiful nature and a great view of the town. During the visit we enjoyed a pretty much needed herbal feet bath, we tasted a delicious lavender ice-cream and I took hundreds of photos of succulent plants (my succulent goals!). Of course we had separate lunch: while one of us was tasting kobe meat we found just in front of her restaurant an amazing and super cheap sushi place where we got one of the tastiest sushi ever! We then moved to the Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Museum for a little sake tasting before moving to the next stop: Hiroshima. Just in time for the A-bomb Memorial day, the next day.

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Hiroshima was probably one of the most emotional stops of our tour. We got up very early in the morning to make sure to be near the A-bomb Dome (the only building that didn’t fall down during the atomic attack of the 6th of August 1945) for the 1 minute of silence to remember the victims of the attack. There was a lot of people, most of them were not even born during the facts but many had family concerned by this tragic event. We then visited the peace memorial museum and park and we were amazed by the importance of peace for all the people there. They were not only remembering the past, they were especially celebrating peace. As the morning in Hiroshima was very emotional we decided to allow us some time to relax before heading back to the peace celebrations. We decided then to stop in a restaurant in the city center to taste the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki (a bit different from other parts of Japan as they are done with noodles) and a green tea ice cream before taking the boat to Miyajima island. This island was amazing: there was peace, calm and deers and we enjoyed the view of the famous Shinto tori (door) on the water from the beach. We were then reinvigorated to go back to Hiroshima for the Peace floating lanterns ceremony at the end of the afternoon, where everyone wrote a message of peace on a paper lantern that was illuminated and let float on the river with hundreds of other colored lanterns. I think that we will never forget this experience, possibly one of the most touching of my life.

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The day after we woke up to catch a train for our next adventure: Osaka. There our free walking tour guide was waiting for us to bring us to the beautiful Osaka Castle that is a sort of Museum with very interesting temporary and permanent exhibitions on Japanese art and history. On the way back we stopped to taste the famous tokoyaki (octopus balls) and to eat in an amazing restaurant advised by our tour guide where we ate the best udon and tempura ever! In the afternoon we visited the city center before catching our last train to Tokyo and start the second part of the journey.

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While in Tokyo we dedicated one day to the visit of Nikko. Until the very last day we were not sure if it was worth the visit because we had very different feedbacks from friends and other travelers online. We decided to go and we didn’t regret it at all.  Nikko is full or culture and tradition. With the pass that we got at the train station we could get a bus from the station to the World Heritage site of the Toshogu Temple (the access was also included) that is absolutely amazing! The architecture, decoration, colors, atmosphere are unique and we could also see the Three wise monkeys and the Sleeping Cat. Also the red sacred bridge Shin-Kyo was fantastic, immerged in the beautiful nature of Nikko. So if you are thinking shall I visit it or not, my answer is definitely yes!

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The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.1: Kyoto

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As it happens almost all the time when I am back from a trip with high emotional impact, I need some time to put things together and to try to write them down. This time I must say that I was even faster (do you remember my very late posts about Senegal? But this was a different story).

If you follow the blog on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter you may know that this summer I had an amazing trip to Japan, touring the country during almost two weeks, definitely one of my best travel experiences so far.

Now I have almost 2000 photos, even more memories…how to say something about that?

First of all I decided to split my adventures in three parts: Kyoto, Tokyo and the other cities that I visited (Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, Kobe and Nikko) just to try to make it easier for me to write and maybe also for you to read.

I will start with Kyoto because it is the first city that we visited, after a quick pit-stop in Tokyo when we arrived (relax in a ryokan with private onsen…pretty much needed after a very long flight).

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Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and probably the most charming city of the country: incredible sights by day and by night, the most beautiful temples and shrines, great food and shopping, nature and ancient traditions. We started the visit with the famous Nishiki market where we also ate great sushi and seafood in general. We remained in the city center to start our Japanese shopping with the best vintage kimonos and haoris that I found in Japan. If you want to buy original Japanese kimonos without breaking the bank the best way to do it is finding them in second hand shops or flea markets. In Kyoto I found two amazing pieces in Kawaramachi Dori in a beautiful shop full of vintage traditional kimonos (I also bought a small obi there). Kyoto is also perfect for buying traditional silks and fabrics as the prices are relatively low as well as the famous furoshiki, the Japanese traditional handkerchiefs to be used for almost everything!

We spent the afternoon and night in Gion, the famous geisha’s neighborhood and one of the most fascinating areas of Kyoto. We visited the Maruyama Park with the Shinto shrine of Yasaka and we got lost in the tiny streets of Gion looking for geishas (we spotted four but it was impossible to photograph them!) and enjoying the nightlife.

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Our second day in Kyoto was dedicated to the huge Imperial Palace of Kyoto and its perfect gardens (I learned here the real meaning of perfect harmony in a Japanese garden!) before heading to the Kiyomizu-dera site in Higashiyama, part of the World Heritage and one of the most visited Buddhist temples of Kyoto (finalist for the 7 World Wonders competition!).  In the afternoon we took the famous Philosopher Walk, a long peaceful stone path with many interesting temples to visit on the way like the beautiful Nanzen-ji (where I practiced meditation!) or the Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion.

Our third day in Kyoto was really emotional but also quite hard. I didn’t mention that it was horribly hot and humid during almost all the staying there (exception made for some rainy hours in Tokyo). For this reason we decided to wake up very early in the morning to visit the most famous shrine in the world, the Fushimi Inari-taisha, a quite long climb in the middle of hundreds of tori (Shinto doors) that was so awesome and difficult at the same time due to the awful heat (even early in the morning!). It took almost the half day to visit this amazing shrine but we couldn’t get enough of Kyoto awesomeness, so we moved straight to the Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Gold Pavilion, an amazing golden temple in the peace of a wonderful Japanese garden. After this hard day we decided to have a late lunch at the Shogetsu Okonomi, a restaurant inside the Tenryu-ji site where food (vegetarian) is prepared by the monks following the zen tradition. No need to say that it was delicious and probably one of our best experiences in Kyoto.

Restored after this amazing lunch we felt ready for a long walk inside the bamboo grove in Arashiyama: it was interesting but there were too many tourists so we decided to have a well-deserved matcha ice cream to finally relax and prepare for another perfect dinner in Kyoto!

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The Ladybug explores Japan in a vintage kimono


Saturday afternoons that I love:  brunch, exhibit and movie with my best friends! I can’t really ask for more!

In preparation of our Deejay run we decided to feed our soul with art (but also with food!) and we dedicated our afternoon to see the beautiful exhibit dedicated to the Japanese artists Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro at Palazzo Reale in Milan.

This journey through the art, nature and culture of Japan was full of amazing moments: the beautiful landscapes of Hokusai (especially the ones dedicated to bridges and to Mount Fuji) made me feel the need of traveling to this amazing country that I’m dying to see.  So did the nature drawn by Hiroshige and the beautiful Japanese women described by Utumaro.



The Great Wave of Kanagawa is definitely one of the most powerful pieces but it is hard to pick up your favorites among two hundreds “ukiyoe” prints that you can admire there.

As I was in a Japanese mood I thought it was the perfect day to wear my vintage kimono from Episode Vintage in Brussels paired with my new Frida tee by Vanna Vinci and mum jeans from Topshop.

I added my BFF heart chain from Black Heart Creatives , Superga shoes, Celine sunglasses and Michael Kors bucket bag.

If you want to visit the exhibit it will be in Milan until the 29th of January, I am sure that you will love it too !