hunger of the pine

Deep under the cover of leaves and rolling mist, the trees whispered their secrets to me. My heart expressed its sorrows and the moss blanketing the forest silently understood. I have been experiencing some personal heartache recently, and as much as reason exhorts emotion to be still, sometimes all you really need to do to reflect on pain is to remove yourself to a different reality to encourage a likewise change in perspective. It almost always works for me.

I flew to Kagoshima and then took the hydrofoil (a fancy word for a quick ferry) to Yakushima for a strong dose of shinrin-yoku (森林浴 forest bathing), calling upon nature as therapy. My friend Daniel, who I met back in January on a ski/snowboard trip to Nozawa Onsen, joined me (*friendship level-up!)

Mononoke Hime, known to English-speaking audiences as Princess Mononoke, is based on this forest. Apparently Hayao Miyazaki, one of his main animators Masashi Ando, and a team of artists went to Yakushima to sketch landscapes for the film back in 1995. Japanese people hold a deep reverence for nature and I felt this ring through my body in my two days in these forests. I could not have asked for a more warm embrace by my friends the veteran 3000 year old trees, moss, gentle deer, sly spiders, and mercurial skies. Not only beautiful to look at, but they expect nothing in return and are the best listeners 🙂

It’s okay to feel sad, just remember that you are magical and you will keep radiating love into the universe. You will attract what you express. You may stumble, but you will not stay down.IMG_9542.jpgIMG_9141IMG_9399

IMG_9121.jpgIMG_9398.jpgIMG_9248.jpgIMG_9252IMG_9281IMG_8038.jpgIMG_9323Japanese wilderness explorer uniformIMG_9333

IMG_9343IMG_9448IMG_9429hi cuties

IMG_9441IMG_9481IMG_9471my spidey senses are tingling…IMG_9541IMG_9547IMG_9422IMG_8032

IMG_9409IMG_9241.jpgIMG_8018.jpg

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

– Robert Frost (1922)

xo your friend alice


Location: Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

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in the midst of adolescence

Now is the time in my life
that has been filled with aspirations
over many long years
that I shake off the anguish of my heart and
send my lofty aspirations high up into the sky till
they reach the end of the universe
This fierceness of living
through joys and sorrows of life
sometimes distressed and sometimes
comforted by a joy
Agonising over the undulation of life and
moved to tears at the weight of life
I want to keep living until the last days of my life

– Yayoi Kusama, AnOther Magazine (2012)

I’m not an adolescent anymore, but neither is Kusama-san, who wrote and published this poem at age 83.

I couldn’t snag tickets to her new museum in Shinjuku (yabai) but luckily I caught her ‘My Eternal Soul’ exhibit at the National Art Center back in April. She has achieved a sort of legendary status in Japan and abroad with her ‘instagrammable’ infinity rooms and polka-dotted multi-colored, whimsical pumpkin art. Her concept of “self-obliteration” is to become completely engulfed by art. But I most admire her utter lack of apologism. She is completely free and unassuming about her sexuality, mental illness, abstraction, joy in life, love of freedom and desire for fame. Her soul strikes me as dense and light at the same time–but most of all she is free–and I understand why people are drawn to that feeling.Image result for yayoi kusama youngImage result for yayoi kusamaxo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

kindred spirit

Every now and then my wanderings around the internet cause me to stumble upon a personality that draws me in like a whisper. Nancy Zhang is a painter and fashion illustrator in Berlin whose love of coffee, fashion, books, and travel touch the marrow inside me like she could be my blood donor. I recognize that these are broad categories that many people are interested in, but her exact aesthetic and sprite-like essence reached out to touch me amidst all the internet noise. She paints strangers who strike her on the streets and in trains and weaves narratives about them, wondering about their intimate histories. She is moved by them. I want to be her friend. I’ve gone through the entirety of her blog and the realization of her intention to grow as an artist is very apparent from 2011 to the present. She develops from a cutesy whimsical style to something more geometric and careful.

Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now. You can find her art on her page: nancy-zhang.com

But I probably won’t stop daydreaming about moving to Europe and wishing I was an artist…
Jacquemus_artistic_0Mmorz_s_Wide5Nancy_Devaughn_index_s0001I have befriended kindred spirits who inspire and energize me on a few occasions. You know, the type of people whose minds and hearts you are eternally curious about. Megan Kang is one of them and really, she was a big source of inspiration for this blog as she has a natural instinct and eye for uncovering beauty. We met on the first day of a history seminar our last year in college and by happenstance encountered each other at a campus leadership event. That same evening we attended a new moon women’s circle and solidified our bond. The thing I cherish most about our friendship is that I always come away from our time spent together with greater clarity and organization to my thoughts and goals. She always challenges me to give basis to my assumptions and think critically about my motivations with a gentle hand, and I love that about her. When I stop to consider who I feel most inquisitive about, I realize that most of these individuals for me happen to be Asian women. Growing up in Salt Lake City where there were very few other people of Asian descent, I did not have very many Asian friends during my formative years. But I guess there is a certain feeling of affinity that underlies charm. The recognition that the other person is either similar to something you see in yourself (partly due to shared experience) or is a representation of what you aspire to be. I am happy whenever I stumble upon these personalities through different mediums, whether in-the-flesh encounters or leisurely perambulations in cyberspace, as it breathes life and urgency into my soul.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

japanniversary (year two)

It’s September 24th again and time for another round of what did I do during my year in Japan?

This same time last year I thought I would be slaying the LSAT. Sadly I have not proven to be the all-natural standardized testing whiz I once thought I was, so while I ponder my fate as a legal professional, let’s take a look back on this wonderful year in Japan filled with a few transitions and leaps forward.

October

November

December

  • served on bonenkai committee for my company holiday party
  • saw one of my all-time favorite bands, the XX in tokyo
  • took the LSAT for the first time :/
  • trip to atami in izu
  • hakone xmas with mamaimg_4984

January

February

  • attended my first bikram yoga class in Japan at Bikram Ginza
  • ran the Tokyo Marathon and Friendship Run, raising ¥100,000 to support Special Olympics NipponIMG_5294.jpg

March

  • CHO(L)A takes Japan (a return to kyoto, my 1st time in osaka & kobe, and tokyo)_MG_6140_MG_6389
  • start of hanami season (yoyogi park)IMG_5508
  • celebrating the first day of spring in fukuoka

April

May

June

  • britney spears concert at yoyogi national stadium
  • Puroresu FMW (Japanese pro wrestling)
  • trip to fuji-Q highland roller coaster park & lake kawaguchiko

July

  • 26th birthday (star festival)
  • tokyo disney sea
  • trip to okinawaIMG_8647
  • maguro cutting & tokyo bay cruise
  • osaka & kyoto with the Suzukis
  • universal studios osaka
  • moved from kuramae to ginza (more on that later)
  • softbank hawks vs. nippon ham fighters baseball game

August

September

  • took the LSAT for the 2nd time
  • worked on law school applications *crossing my fingers & toes*
  • ultra music festival
  • booze cruise in tokyo bay

Firsts

Goals before I say Ta Ta For Now to Japan this December…

  • visit all 4 main islands in Japan [hokkaido, honshu, (coming for you!) shikoku, kyushu]

Looking back at this second year in Japan, I feel so happy and blessed to have witnessed so much beauty, both in humanity and nature. Of course there have been low points but they serve to make the moments of connection and growth all the sweeter. I’ve had a few personal revelations and challenges this year that I will save for reflection at the end of 2017. If you’re curious, take a peek at last year’s japanniversary post. Thanks to you for dropping by dear reader.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

when they come alive

Try to preserve them, poet,
your visions of love,
however few may stay for you.
Cast them, half hidden, into your verse.
Try to hold on to them, poet,
when they come alive in your mind
at night or in the brightness of noon.

– C.P. Cavafy* in Remember, Body…
a collection of poetry (1897-1933)

*shout out to my former roomie Dimitri for gifting it to me!

 

meet taipei

Witness my ode to the homeland. A greasy food haven, resplendent with rich aromas and friendly folks. A place where locals move with swagger and you can pay $2 for 2 breakfast sandwiches, a green onion pancake, and a soy milk.

Speaking in Taiwanese and Mandarin felt so good. This was my first trip back where I wasn’t visiting family (my mom and brother are both in California right now) so I could fully practice without someone interceding on my behalf. It was the first time I haven’t followed my family around and was able to traverse the city asking locals for directions and chatting up store owners. (Though my haggling skills need a lot of work.) My mum lives in Tainan, in the southwest of the island so I actually have little familiarity with the capital city, making this trip a delightful and reassuring forecast of good things to come.

Now is a good time to share that I was accepted to a program in Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University and will move to Taipei at the end of December when my work contract in Tokyo ends! I’ll probably get a part-time job as well so we shall see what pans out. I don’t feel that I’ll ever be ready to leave a place I have grown to love so much but I am looking forward to where the next step will take me.

feat. Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain (aka Xiangshan 象山), Jiufen Old Street, Yong Kang Street, Raohe Night Market, Shilin Night Market, and Din Tai FungIMG_8921.jpg

IMG_7658.jpgIMG_8831IMG_8927IMG_8913IMG_8911IMG_7689.jpgIMG_8884.jpgxo your friend alice

Location: Taipei City, Taiwan