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.
- 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 mama
- 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 Nippon
- britney spears concert at yoyogi national stadium
- Puroresu FMW (Japanese pro wrestling)
- trip to fuji-Q highland roller coaster park & lake kawaguchiko
- 26th birthday (star festival)
- tokyo disney sea
- trip to okinawa
- 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
- took the LSAT for the 2nd time
- worked on law school applications *crossing my fingers & toes*
- ultra music festival
- booze cruise in tokyo bay
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
“Forgetting the hour for departure, forgetting everything, the picknickers opened up casks of wine and proclaimed drunkenness man’s greatest delight.” – Ihara Saikaku, poet and novelist from Osaka (1642-1693)
feat. Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and the Westin Osakaa call to ramen // smiles brought to you by strong zero chuhai
kitty sunning himself, Westin Osaka
girl smiling, O river
lessons in samurai-hood
keys to the castle
osaka castle plum orchard
We only spent one night and one day in Osaka, but I think I now have an inkling of understanding about the long-touted rivalry between refined Tokyo and its rebellious brother Osaka. But I laugh at the idea that people in Kansai are somehow too friendly, as I found their openness and good humor quite refreshing. I’ll reserve my judgment though and try to soak it in a bit longer when I’m back for a visit in July.
P.S. I’m really not much of a drinker–mostly because I’m terrible at it. But my friends love to instigate and because I love them dearly I can translate their energy into a kind of contact high. All the fun with none of the side effects and someone to make sure we get home safely. Cheers to you, Osaka.
xo your friend alice
Location: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan
‘How much do you love me?’ Midori asked.
‘Enough to melt all the tigers in the world to butter’, I said.
– Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (1987)
Happy Valentine’s Day everybody. I hope you are practicing jiai 自愛, or self-love today, and everyday. (The kanji for this idea is the same in Chinese and also happens to be the first character in my name, ‘ai’.) My dear friend Lin (from our little concrete jungle photoshoot) shared a beautiful bilingual post about this concept on her blog, which you can read here.
This space has been a bit stagnant to me the past 2 months. Maybe from a lack of excitement or a natural lull as it occurs to all creative forms. Consistently creating something I am proud of is difficult, and the more drafts I go through, the more I can whittle away the unpublishable or what is simply not quite ready to be shared. I would rather sacrifice quantity than quality, and as I am both self-critical and continuously appraising, I have been collecting photographic ideas and sentiments in my mind for what may come into existence in the future. Even if few people ever see this page, it matters to me that I make something that I am proud of. My best mate Kelly thinks I should combat the artificial norm of only sharing triumphant moments and dreamy vacations on the internet, and while I generally agree with this perspective (sure I have fun, but I don’t post photos of my late nights at the office), I think I will save my daily thoughts for my journal as they may not inspire anyone but me at the moment. Just know that life has been relatively calm over in these parts. Actually, I have been feeling quite inspired and energized today reflecting on what I will be doing this time next year and researching how to further my ultimate dream of a life of international engagement by deepening my multilingual proficiency and pursuing more working opportunities at the intersection of cultures. I am doing some plotting, but I will be patient until I have more concrete plans.
xo your friend alice
p.s. I finished reading Norwegian Wood the day my favorite uncle died, and for that reason, I will never forget it.
p.p.s. While aishiteru 愛してる means ‘I love you’ in Japanese, it is rarely used in spoken communication as it is a very serious, intense proclamation of devotion. Instead, daisuki 大好き is said, which can apply to really loving your partner, or really loving strawberry shortcake.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Nara in an all-day downpour…the soundtrack of course, was Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave
“We haven’t been, but it was something Joe (guitar/lead vocals) stumbled upon. He read about the deer and the status the deer have in Nara. It’s a nice metaphor for people being left alone to live their lives the way they want to live them, not being told what to do or how to exist, having that freedom.”
– Alt J quoted in the Japan Times
Over 1200 deer roam the public park, originally protected as divine messengers by nearby Kasuga and Kofuku-ji shrines; today they are deemed national treasures. They eat seeds and nuts, but love shika senbei (deer cracker), a flavorless wheat cracker (I tried it) sold by vendors throughout the park. The male bucks are (predictably) much more aggressive about getting their fill, the fawns are shy and spook easily, and all of them will bow before accepting a senbei. The park brochure would have you believe this is because they are respectful lil Japanese deer, but more likely, they have cultivated this as a learned response for receiving treats. I can absolutely relate.
arrival in nara
I can hear her smile as she sings
you’ve been warned
peko peko desuyo
I’ve found a love to love like no other can
you’ve piqued my attention
sometimes you just gotta go full derp
me too buddy, me toorepresentative from the future
when you stumble upon a tea house in the woods you have no choice but to go in…
sometimes you just gotta
scratch an itch
what are you looking at?
I’ll bury my hands deep
into the mane of my loverhearty nabe (Japanese hot pot) with a chicken broth and abundant veggies; just what the soul needs after a day spent wandering a magical deer park in the unrelenting rain ❤
xo your friend alice
Location: Nara Deer Park, Nara-shi, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Monday morning mood after a long holiday weekend…
The fluorescent lights in my office coupled with all the screen time makes for mad baby panda squints (who are blind from birth until 3 weeks). I can’t complain though, as I was able to fully relax and enjoy my time away from Tokyo the past few days, which I will share later on.
For now, enjoy this psychedelic photo short from the Robot Restaurant show which I finally went to last week after more than a year of living in Tokyo, mostly because an out of town friend grabbed tickets. 4/10 would recommend…For ¥8000 (¥500 discount if you book ahead online), it’s pretty low value for money, especially because there are two separate intermissions, and every single visitor is a foreigner. I am not sure what makes it a ‘quintessential’ Japanese experience as some have described it… Perhaps the inherent glee and sense of showmanship? The use of taiko drums? The completely screwball and incomprehensible robo-battle plots? I absolutely had fun; it’s a festive environment that allows you to be silly and laugh, but I wouldn’t urge anyone to go if they were visiting Tokyo for the first time.
xo your friend, mr. roboto
Robot Restaurant, 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
I had the rare opportunity to meet real-life geishas as part of the Kagurazaka Cultural Festival this past Sunday. These types of performances are usually conducted in ryotei, a sort of luxurious dining club where patrons eat, drink, and are entertained by trained geisha, a pleasure they willingly pay large sums to enjoy (we’re talking ¥30,000 and up). This demonstration was held at the kenban in Kagurazaka, the official office and training place of the city’s geishas, and while sadly there was no food or booze involved, everyone was positively giggling their faces off and enjoying the contrast between ancient high art, replete with traditional string instruments and well-timed drum beats, and the silliness of crouching down on their knees in a tiger pose. It began with a song and dance, and ended with a series of games. You can read more about the geisha training process and entertainment etiquette here.
To be clear, geishas are traditionally not sex workers, but performance artists and entertainers. Oiran is the term used for a courtesan, who like the geisha, is highly cultured and skilled in arts and entertainment.
Geisha Dance Festival, Shinbashi (1908)
It was a delight to witness this art form up close and it was a nice break from the rest of my Sunday, which I spent grouting the shower, running 6 miles (Tokyo Marathon training), and studying for the LSAT. Cheers to another week, hopefully I will be over this cold and awful cough soon enough. I need to invest in a humidifier…
xo your friend alice
Location: Kagurazaka-shita, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan