Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pinker on the other side

Still remembering to find happiness! This week so far:

♥ warm, sunny lunch break reading a book by the river
♥ sky clearing suddenly after an afternoon thunderstorm
♥ wearing a summery skirt
♥ having yummy pho for lunch with my coworker
♥ tofu, mushrooms
♥ evening walk
♥ digging out a nostalgic t-shirt
♥ taking it easy, being myself

I realize now, I think there was a time some months ago,
where I was so busy and used to just going about daily life and work,
that I forgot to really look around, truly see the world.
It's easy for us to slip into the mundane everyday details, facts, comparisons and measurements.
"How much, what if, when I get, if only."
When we focus on things like that, we let escape from our notice,
the happiness and magic that already exist all around.

I'm still a person with plenty of weaknesses and faults, and I still tend to get caught up in the little things sometimes. But lately, I'm finding it much easier to let go, take a breath, move forward and keep moving. Keep seeing, the big picture and what truly is important.
It's okay to have lapses and make mistakes, because we're only human. And even those actions are part of who we are. But it's vital to understand and forgive yourself for those mistakes, and keep practicing, learning, embracing and loving yourself.

It's easy to assume that the flowers are pinker on the other side of the fence.
But once you take a good look at the flowers in this field...
well, you might just be amazed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Walk in Shibuya

Today, it was such warm and comfortable weather that it was too much of a waste to spend cooped up inside.

I decided to go out with my camera and take a walk in Shibuya.

After being in Tokyo for some time, Shibuya station and its surrounding area are rather familiar to me now, having been there many times. (But I still get lost sometimes.) Along with Tokyo, Ikebukuro, and Shinjuku stations, Shibuya station is one of the largest train stations in the Tokyo area. It's known as a popular place for shopping, tourists, and a central point for meeting up with friends and acquaintances. Speaking of meeting spot...

This is Hachiko, the famous dog statue which is often designated as a meeting point. If you pass by this statue, near Exit 8 of the station and the big intersection in Shibuya, you will usually see many people of all ages and ethnicities waiting for friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, etc.. to arrive.

Still waiting...

Crossing the intersection.

When I first had to cross this intersection, with huge crowds of people coming from every direction, blending together, then separating toward their own paths... you can imagine how dizzy I got!

I walked around and visited a few stores. The shops were quite crowded since it was a Saturday afternoon. I also mustered the courage to set foot inside Shibuya 109, for the very first time! Actually, I had never thought to go in before, but I got curious and decided to see what it was like in there. Lots of loudly blasting music from the different shops, but I found a few interesting places. It was worth a visit.

This is Center Gai, which is filled with restaurants, clothing stores, and other shops.

Also visited the new shopping building which is connected to Shibuya station, called Hikarie. Just took a quick peek inside, but it seemed like the usual department store, selling food in the bottom floors, cosmetics floors, clothing, lifestyle goods and accessories, and the restaurant floors.

All in all, a good day! Topped off by trying this type of seafood don for the first time. I'm not sure I enjoyed the uni and kani miso as much as I expected... I think I'll stick to the salmon, maguro, etc. :)

Hope you're all having a great weekend! Enjoy the lovely weather ♥

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chasing Freedom

The other night, I saw a program on TV that ran a small spotlight on porters in India. Porters are basically people who carry heavy loads of items from one place to another in exchange for pay. The show explained that many of these porters came from small villages to work in the city, where they would save up a few cents to a dollar for carrying unbelievably heavy cargo on their backs for miles.

On the show, the cameras followed one of these porters back to his hometown, which he was only able to go back and visit once every few months. He brought gifts and clothes for his son and daughter, and passed all of his hard-earned income, a few hundred dollars, to his wife. The delighted smiles on their faces showed how much they had missed him, and how happy they were to be reunited.

At the end of this segment, the porter said that no matter how hard the work was, he could do it for his wife and children, because he was the father. And regarding his hopes for the future, he replied that he wanted his children to be able to say in the future, that the line of porters had ended with him as the last one.


Thanks to the hard work and support of my parents, I had the privilege to get an education, the time to explore my interests and dreams, the ability to devote energy to my own thoughts and creativity, and the freedom to make choices for myself and my future.
It's so easy to take all that for granted. But it's actually a huge gift. The tremendous scale of that gift hit me suddenly, for an instant, as I watched the story of the porter.

There are so many possibilities out there. And to have the freedom to be able to chase them down, create them, to think and know and feel.
I hope I can take advantage of every moment, every day of this gift of freedom.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lonely metal souls

 I just finished reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, and I must say that it was quite good.
The use of language, the surreal touch, the depth of emotion...
Some parts below, from the version translated by Philip Gabriel:

"We each have a special something we can get only at a special time of our life. Like a small flame.
A careful, fortunate few cherish that flame, nurture it, hold it as a torch to light their way.
But once that flame goes out, it's gone for ever."

"But tomorrow I'll be a different person, never again the person I was. Not that anyone will notice...
On the outside, nothing will be different. But something inside has burned up and vanished. ...
This is the last day for the person I am right now. The very last twilight. 
When dawn comes, the person I  am won't be here any more. Someone else will occupy this body."

"Why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all?
Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them,
yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?"

"I turned face-up on the slab of stone, gazed at the sky, and thought about all the man-made satellites spinning around the Earth. The horizon was still etched in a faint glow, 
and stars began to blink on in the deep, wine-colored sky. I gazed among them for the light 
of a satellite, but it was still too bright out to spot one with the naked eye."

"I closed my eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the Earth, gravity their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, 
they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again. 
No words passing between them. No promises to keep."

-Sputnik Sweetheart

Thursday, May 17, 2012

You left a mark

Today, my thoughts meandered over the countless people I've met so far in my 23 years of life.We rarely think about this while rushing around our daily schedules, but how is it that we crossed paths with the exact people we've met, and why did we connect with some of them? Why didn't we connect with others? 

The majority of people I've met in the past, I've fallen out of contact with. But it doesn't mean that they didn't leave something in me. 

In elementary school, a friend I used to act out make-believe stories with. A friend I played horses and avoided cooties with. 
Boys I crushed on, boys I thought I really liked, but didn't really know about. 

Friends who inspired me artistically, musically, spiritually. Friends I had fights and then made up again with. Friends who stuck with me and kept in touch even after I moved across the ocean. 

Classmates, teachers, students, coworkers. People I met through music. People I met once and may never see again.And there are still so many people yet to meet, who will inspire and captivate me, anger and sadden me, support and encourage me. They will inevitably leave marks on my existence. 

It's like a miracle that we met, know, and have built relationships with the people in our lives now. Out of millions and billions of people out there in the world, the situations and timings happened to be just exactly right for those few to make it into our stories. 

It's easy to take them for granted sometimes.But once in a while, I hope you remember to cherish, give thanks, and send a smile to the important people in your lives. 

In the words of Christopher McCandless: 

"Happiness only real when shared."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What makes you beautiful.

"Lovely nuts and berries, and bits of garbage that I will now proceed to pick out from behind this net placed here precisely to prevent me from doing so! They will definitely give you a nice shiny coat of feathers like mine. Aren't you jealous?"
...says the crow above. But let's disregard him for now, since he isn't the real topic of this post!

When I first arrived in Tokyo in late summer of 2009, one of the first things that stood out to me was the way people here carried themselves - namely, in appearance. There were people donning crazy and colorful fashions in the train, packed right next to businesspeople in pristine suits and shiny leather shoes. There were people wearing lolita outfits, rockish outfits, and sexy outfits that looked like they came right out of a magazine. But what almost everyone had in common - they really seemed to spend a lot of time on their appearance.

I'm not saying this is true for absolutely everyone living in or around Tokyo. But being from the California Bay Area, and having just moved over from Berkeley, where students lived in their sweatshirts, jeans, and flip-flops, this was quite a cultural adjustment to make.
For one thing, the makeup. Now, apart from putting some on for dances, parties, or special occasions, I usually went through daily life with zero makeup. This is what I was used to. I held the belief that girls don't need to decorate their faces or hide their blemishes in order to look pretty.

But now, I began to see girl after girl with carefully done makeup, sparkly nails, long fake eyelashes, fashionable and girly dresses, tights, high heels... I remember having a talk about this with a friend before actually moving over to Tokyo, but being right in the middle of it was a different story. I started to see - this was a different standard of appearance and beauty. Here in Tokyo, this is what people believed was "beautiful". The more effort you put into it, the more valuable your beauty was. This was a sharp contrast to the concept of "natural beauty" that I was used to before. I even started to get confused sometimes, as to whether I was just being young and naive, and that this is what the working world in a metropolitan area was supposed to be like? As in.. common manners?

Well, after being here for several years, I have to say that my views have changed a little. I'm not against makeup, but I usually don't use it in my daily life at the moment. I do think it's fun to decorate and add some accents when going out on the weekends, going shopping, special events, etc. (I'm wearing some eyeliner, eyeshadow, and slight cheek color in the photos below.)
And although everyone has their own needs and views on makeup, (I was even told by a previous Japanese company I worked at, that I should wear makeup to work!) I personally think that there are other things which contribute to beauty.

How about the easiest and most effective accessory for beauty - your own smile?

If you keep busting out your own unique, sexy smile, people won't know what hit them!
And of course, I don't mean that you should have to work hard and create a facial pose. 
I mean that no one else in the world has your own special smile. 
And just that can light up someone else's day, even for just a few minutes.

What kind of face are you wearing when you laugh in delight at something or someone you love?

 Or when you make a new discovery, no matter how insignificant or common it may seem?


Embrace yourself for who you are underneath the makeup and clothing.
I believe those things can be great for giving you confidence and lifting your spirits at times,
but you shouldn't feel vulnerable or ugly without them.

I still feel out of place sometimes, when I'm walking the streets of Shibuya or a fancy shopping district,
on the train or in a station, and passing those who are really amazingly dressed and made-up.

But being in an environment like this, 
I've also come to appreciate even more what makes people truly beautiful - 
their smiles, their personalities, their passions and interests.

Their stories, their hopes and dreams.

Don't forget
what truly makes you beautiful.
It's inside, glowing and shining its way out,
and no one can take that from you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where happiness grows

Sometimes, you can find happiness in simple things and unexpected places.

I don't think it's necessary to do extravagant things or spend a lot of money in order to feel happy. Of course, it's great to splurge once in a while, indulge in something fancy or out of the ordinary, but in this flashy, swirling material world, we tend to lose sight of the good things right under our noses.
Especially these days, many people tend to walk around staring at their phones and digital devices...and even I am guilty of that one. 
But when I looking up and around, really looking and noticing, I can see.. I can appreciate what I would've otherwise missed forever. 

(and then of course, I'm looking back down at my camera to capture it! Oops.)

Things that made me happy this week:

♥ warm, sunny lunches by the river
♥ sandwiches from the cafe
♥ spotting some roly polies underneath bushes
nameko miso soup
♥ amazing skies and clouds after the rain
♥ wearing a skirt to work, even though it got rained on
♥ nice-smelling hand lotion.. need to buy more

What made you happy this week?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The colors in everything

Lately, the weather in Tokyo has really been fluctuating. Does this mean the rainy season is approaching?
Today, going home from work consisted of sloshing through a pelting rainstorm with thoroughly soaked shoes and socks. The streets were filled with lakes, alive and dancing with heavy raindrops.
Spotted this butterfly the other day, feasting on a flower. What a lovely shade of green on its wing!

Cheery pink flowers :)

Self pic :)

Tokyo streets.

If you just pay attention, there exist vibrancy and bright color everywhere. The bright pink of those flowers caught my eye, as well as the glowing yellow lights of the streetlights, oncoming traffic, and surrounding buildings.
What kind of feelings do the pictures you take inspire in you?
I love the way photos can express endless words and emotions, without saying anything out loud.
Although you can never know exactly what another person thinks or feels, perhaps photos are one of the best ways that people can share their perspective. To behold and consider, how someone else sees the world, through their eyes. That's what a picture is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Midway between spring and summer

Tofu topped with myoga

Soaking in the noon sunshine

Goldfish world

Hisaishi Joe's "Summer" fits this feeling so much. Warm strings and gentle piano keys. Drops of light rain, shimmery green leaves alight with early summer's touch. 
Being born in June, I guess I have an affinity for days like that. Maybe there is a summer spirit living inside me.
Although I've been a working person, a 社会人 for almost 3 years now (!!), the scent of summer still reminds me of summer vacation in middle and high school days. Freedom. Lakes and beaches. A cool midsummer night, staring up at the stars, talking about life and the universe.

Where will I be after these school days end? I wondered.
What will I be doing, out there in the "real world"?

And years later, I find myself here.
If I hadn't taken this journey to Tokyo, where would I be?
And already, I shudder to think.. I don't even need to speculate.
Because this journey is what brought me to a truer, strong self than I was acquainted with before.
Because I took this journey, I feel as though anything is possible. If I was able to do this.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Golden Week & Yamanashi

I took a short trip to Yamanashi with my friend and Okaasan in Japan.
About two hours by train from the center of Tokyo, Yamanashi is a vast stretch of green mountains embracing one from every direction. 

A stick of delicious grilled ika (squid) greeted me on the way there.

A shrine visit before heading back home. It was cold in the forest, and I hadn't brought along anything warmer than a thin cardigan. Yet, the chilliness was refreshing and revitalizing, washing over me like a gentle mountain spirit.

How long have these massive trunks stood stretching upward, and what stories would they tell?

A hushed sanctuary.. I felt as though I should step quietly and carefully past these moss-covered stone pillars.

After the rain, the skies gradually cleared as misty clouds drifted over the mountaintops.

I love these shades of blue, gray, and white - overlapping, swimming and melting into each other.

On the train back to Tokyo, I captured this shot of the misty mountains through the window. This was perhaps my fourth time in Yamanashi. Every trip there inspires a sense of peace, calm, and wonder in nature. For no matter how busy and bustling the days are in Tokyo, time always seems to slow down in places like this. To breathe the cool, clean air and let your thoughts fly free, beyond your mind and body, to become comfortable with yourself just as you are.

We are who we are, but the place we put ourselves in, the people and circumstances we surround ourselves with, have such an influence on us - don't we sometimes become almost different people? Perhaps some want to find stability through all those different selves, or some find it necessary to jump from one self to the next. Perhaps it is common courtesy to meld yourself as appropriate to the situation.

No matter which, I think we should try keep a clear idea of who we truly are, because shifting and changing probably tires us more than we realize. It may be possible to even lose sight of who you thought you were in the first place. It's never easy, and even just living life is, for myself, an everyday process of discovering who I am.
It's harder than it seems, to be truthful to yourself and the things you love. Obstacles are always there. But we can move past them.