Now, onto my absolute favourite topic(s): Shopping and Bags. (Already Samurai T shudders in horror.)
In recent years, whenever I go to a new country, I would always ask myself this CRITICAL question: Are there any interesting bags that I can buy, bags that are 1) either not available in Singapore, or 2) 10 zillion times cheaper than in Singapore?
Japan, my wonderful adopted country, offers all the above and more. Despite the recession/deflation/depression, the Japanese remain crazy about fashion and in love with branded bags. It is thus no wonder that the major fashion labels continue to choose Japan as the launchpad for many of their new collections, or unique collections not found elsewhere in the world. For example, many Singaporeans will flock en masse to Japan to stock up on Burberry Blue Label (BBL) and Agnes B, but so far BBL does not really rock my boat. On my first trip to Tokyo, I bought a Damier Neverfull at LV Ginza before it was available in other countries (although less than 6 months later, they appeared on the Singapore market - Dang.)
However, the Japanese themselves have their own "house" brand for bags - Samantha Thavasa New York. The "New York" portion threw me off initially into thinking that it was an American brand, but once you know the Japanese, it is actually a typical branding strategy. Established in 1994, the company has evolved from mainly a handbag company to a full fledged fashion company with clothing lines and cosmetics, but at this moment, I am only interested in their bags.
The Samantha Thavasa bag collections (includes wallets, clutches, etc) are very reasonably priced, around the range of the American Coach, or even cheaper. The singular outstanding Japanese feature about these bags is that they are KAWAII (cute) and ultra colourful so the target market is generally ladies in their 20s or older ladies who feel they are still in their 20s (like MOI - hehe). Ok, they do have some "serious" working bags, but hey why be so boring?
Samantha Thavasa bags are famous for their collaborations with American and Japanese stars like Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Lopez. The Mickey Mouse bag I got (pic above) is a collaboration with Disney (of course) and SMAP, in particular my fave Japanese male, Takuya Kimura, who carries the black version. I wanted a fun bag, and it was fun indeed! The Mickey Mouse is detachable, if you feel too embarrassed about being so eh, outwardly childish. I could not remember the price in yen, but it came up to just slightly under SGD400 (an early Christmas present from Samurai T). I just saw their latest bag collection with Hallo Kitty. Hilarious! But their range is wide and ever-changing, and many bags are less outlandish than mine, so not to worry if you want a Samantha Thavasa!
The only issue I have with the Samantha Thavasa boutiques in Japan - they do not give tax refunds to tourists for whatever strange reason. Tragic! Something should be done about it so that we can save money and BUY MORE BAGS!