Sunday, September 30, 2012

Omoide Yokocho, Shinjuku


Some days ago, I took my first visit to Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁) in Shinjuku after work, in pursuit of the famed yakitori. This small alleyway is hidden somewhere within the busy, flashy Shinjuku streets - and it feels like you step back in time. Such an unexpected atmosphere. The enticing scent of yakitori, or grilled chicken pieces on thin wooden skewers, craftily trickling through air toward your nose and down into your stomach.


 I only stayed a short while and have yet to explore this area fully. I would love to go back again.


 We settled on this yakitori shop. Each of the tiny shops along the small alley had seating capacities of around maybe 5-10 customers. We were lucky to grab a small table protruding out of the already packed shop, into the alleyway. This shopkeeper was a funny guy and posed for a few shots. His yakitori was delicious.


Tsukune (chicken meatballs?)


This was my first time to visit a shop specializing in yakitori, and such a lovely old-fashioned feeling to boot! I can see there are still so many little corners of Tokyo that I have yet to discover. If you're in the Shinjuku area, I recommend taking a stroll down Omoide Yokocho, and perhaps stopping for a few amazing bites of yakitori.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kat McDowell & Show Info!


A few weeks ago, Kat and I finally had our schedules align, 
and we took a few hours on a warm, sunny afternoon for a photoshoot and some guitar playing.


 It's been quite a while since Kat and I last met up. 
We first met in person back in 2009, just a few weeks after I first landed in Tokyo, I believe. I was walking through the streets of Shibuya, and I caught a glimpse of someone walking along with a guitar case.. and I thought it might be her. So taking a chance, I sent her a message afterwards on Myspace. (Ah, the ol' Myspace days.) 
And she replied!
Some days later, I found myself sitting on the grass at Yoyogi Park near sunset, talking with her.



 Some things I find most inspiring about Kat are her spirit, her honesty, and her motivation in life.
She's a beautiful girl with a beautiful soul.


 It's so easy to waver from indecision, failure, loss of faith...
but I feel really admire Kat's strong sense of purpose.


Even when we're hit by days of nagging worry and continuing doubt, 
loss of confidence in ourselves and loss of trust in others...

What if we could still remember to be only ourselves,
pursue the things we're passionate about,
and give love and thanks to the people who have been there for us?


It's okay to look down, to fall, and fall deeply.
But just remember to look up again.

 Check out Kat's official website, her blog, and her Youtube channel.

Also, Kat very kindly invited me to play in a Tokyo show next month!
Please mark your calendars if you're free to come see both of us perform :)
We will each be playing a set of about 30-45 minutes, and we would love to meet you there in person!

October 23, 2012
Show at: fu-chi-ku-chi
Address: kitazawa 2-14-2 JOW3 bldg 4F
Phone: TEL. 03-5433-2191
Candle Light Music Vol. 9
Kat McDowell

with special guest: Lisa (Paint with stars)

Open: 7pm Start: 8pm
ADV: ¥2500 DOOR:¥3000 (+ 1 Drink order)

JOW3ビル 4F 2丁目-14-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo

Buy tickets

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Infinite Dimensions


Recently, I've received some questions asking about how I dealt with what people thought before I moved to Tokyo, or how it was to leave close people behind, or how I adjusted to life here. Those aren't really easy questions to answer in a few words or even sentences. Maybe it's not possible to clearly explain at this point. But what I definitely felt, in the months before my departure from California to Tokyo, was this overwhelmingly strong sense, perhaps intuition, telling me that I was going to find something at my destination. It was simply where I needed to go then. There was no specified time period, nor sharply concrete goal. It's just where my path lead me to.

I'd like to chat just a bit about adjustment, then.
As an American in Tokyo, and arriving right away into an English teaching job, I was forced to get accustomed and fit myself in to the ticking clockwork schedule of Tokyo workers and students. Yet at the same time, of course I didn't melt in quite completely, because the cultures, perspectives, and ways of thinking between Japan and the US are just so different. I found it hard to get used to the Japanese-style stooping bathrooms at schools I taught in. I first found the huge and complicated train stations - Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya - mindblowingly difficult to navigate. Within a month or two, I was finding my way around quite easily. (Having to navigate different stations every single day due to my work.) At first I wasn't quite sure what to talk about with Japanese students who had never been overseas, spoke limited English, and seemed quite shy. After a while, I began to learn how to adapt different ways of communication with different personalities of students.

In those kind of senses, I would recommend an English teaching job in Japan as a way for foreigners to get to know what life is like in this country. You may also get a flexible or non-typical (aka non-office worker) type of schedule depending on the company, and this would leave you time to explore your surroundings. Just take time to walk around, experience the naturally quiet spots as well as the bustling centers of Tokyo.


 As a foreigner coming to live and work in Tokyo for the first time, you will probably feel lost at times. Looking around in the train station, you might feel like everyone is walking so quickly and with such purpose, knowing exactly where they are going. But don't worry. In Tokyo, people sort of just appear this way... and you might even find yourself joining in on the walk. But it's okay to be lost. You are definitely not alone.
It helps to come across a purpose, a hobby, or just something you enjoy other than work. Taking pictures, playing music, doing sports, meeting up with new people and practicing your language skills. This city is so huge, you have to carve out your own space and not be afraid to grasp for the things you want. 

If you guys have any other questions about what it's like to live in Tokyo, feel free to let me know in the comments or via email!
I may address your question in an upcoming post :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

If Gravity Let Us Go

Outside right now, it's pouring rain.
The Tokyo skies are dark this evening, 
millions of solitary drops falling down all together,
becoming sheets. 

But I bring you these images from another day.


If gravity let us go
We would all go flying
And I'll meet you somewhere in the milky night
Away past the satellites


The breeze is dressed so lightly
And it breathes onto this fire escape
Where all our secrets melt like ice
Leaving only water


Dancing like a landslide
Swinging round the living room
We fall like sudden rain from sullen skies
Singing to the radio's tune

Say my name aloud and make it new
And I'll promise you what I can
I forget myself when I'm with you
Please remind me who I am
-Gravity by Bic Runga  


We finally came together, after dancing an elegant but interminable dance
back and forth, further then closer
your scent, your soul always pulling me in


Until you became a piece of me.
Four wings instead of two, a matter-of-fact existence
fluttering at my back, never too far
the whisper of your wind, too achingly familiar to let fly past


I can't imagine flying the air without you
and all the once-sweet flowers and nectar slide out of focus
in comparison with your glittering wings.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Glamorous Skies


Recently, we've been having some beautiful skies across Tokyo.
Perhaps they're heralding the end of summer, and ushering in the beginning of fall.


 Last week, I spent a warm, relaxing afternoon with my dear friend Wendy.
Check out the heavenly apple breads above! We both just had to get one.


Wendy and her lunch.


Fish, cooked to perfection.


I hadn't realized that one of the main streets in Akihabara is closed off to traffic,
and allows people to walk in the middle of the street at a certain time on the weekends!
It was a weird and interesting sight.


Captured this lovely shade of blue on the way home, after the sun had set.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Taste of Tokyo Rock


I went to see the band Deigen's show last week after work.
Such energy and passion! It was wonderful.
And I must say, I love taking live show photos of musicians in action!!

It was in a small live house characteristic of Tokyo's usual show spaces catering to indies musicians.
The kind where you are caught in the atmosphere and the sound bouncing off the walls,
where you can step right up a few feet from the stage and feel the energy flowing from everyone.


Check out Deigen's work here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Please, World



 Spread light, not darkness.

Spread hope, not fear.

Spread love, not hatred.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just Conversation





そう、今月で3年なんだ。一瞬だった。怖いぐらいに時間が経ってしまう。でも、これは言える: いろいろあったけど、幸せな3年間でした。






English Translation:

Today, I just feel like writing a blog in Japanese for some reason. It's been a while, but I'll give it a try.

I'm really a random person, aren't I? Why Japanese all of a sudden? (Well, you're living in Japan you know.) So one reason why I've been writing only in English in this blog lately, is that I've really missed writing in English. It is my native language, and I can just express my various thoughts and feelings much more naturally in English. And I can organize them more clearly, use more "creative" and "artistic" expressions. Ever since I was young, even before I fell in love with music, I have loved to write. Whether it was fiction, poetry, my own private journal, I loved writing. Recently, I've been bringing this feeling back.

I just remembered now, but I can also write in Japanese. At my ameblo blog, I really wrote down so many things in Japanese.. so many years of memories still there. Even now, I still really love the Japanese language. But when I write or speak in Japanese, I definitely feel more self conscious. For example, I wonder if what I'm writing at the moment is incorrect, or if the grammar is okay, or if I write this way will the proper nuances be conveyed. Embarrassingly, even after living in Japan for three years, I still feel like my Japanese ability is not good enough.

That's right, it's already 3 years this month. It was like a passing moment. Time goes so fast it's scary. But I can say this: even though lots of stuff happened, I've been happy these three years.
And now, I'm still here in Tokyo.

See. When I write in Japanese, I feel like another different voice of mine comes out. Is that just my imagination? Hm, but I remember this feeling. Having those hopes and dreams during those times. I wonder how much I have changed from those days. I still have dreams now, but the shapes have changed, and so do the colors continue to change.

About music and videos.
Recently, I've tried several times to make a new video, but I end up not knowing what song to sing and stop in the middle. I also wrote the lyrics for a new song, but the melody hasn't come yet. I want to do some covers, but I'm not really into the most recent music. But I think pretty soon, I should be able to make something. I think my motivation will come back. I want it to.
Even though I'm doing music at the pace of a turtle right now, thank you so much for still being so supportive.

So in its place, I've been focusing my energy lately on writing, photography, and life itself. I've also come to think that fashion is an art form. Everything is kind of connected.
I love taking pictures of people so much. Lately, I've been doing photoshoots for some friends and featuring them on this blog. Time flies by so quickly, I want to at least capture the beautiful memories and lovely moments somehow. People's expressions, their eyes, gestures, aura...I want to express them through photography. The stories in their hearts, even without putting them into words.

My cup has already gone empty, so it's goodnight for now.

Good night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Set Your Soul On Fire


What do your passions and interests mean to you?

For me, they are a way to fulfill the yearning in my soul, 
and also to connect to similar souls out there. 


 I've always been on the quiet and reserved side. As a child, I always had one or two close friends, but I wasn't one to join in the crowd - I much preferred an isolated spot where I could devour book after book, or make up imaginary stories and act them out with my best friend. Even though I've moved so many times and I'm not exactly the outgoing type, I have been lucky enough to make some friends and meet wonderful people at each place. And I owe that luck in part to my interests and passions.


 Once you leave behind everything you once knew to start all over, 
what else do you have left to hold on to?

Your passions - what's in your heart, and what helps define you.
It's what you get excited about, what motivates you, what keeps running through your head.


As a teen, I had several different interest phases that I enjoyed alone, such as drawing and writing. But I started to hit a turning point when I discovered my love for singing and Japanese language, nearly simultaneously - because these two really ultimately began to draw me out toward people. 

Learning a new language is all about communication; it just doesn't work all that well if you study it alone. Thanks to my strong interest in Japanese language and culture starting from my high school days and continuing into college, I crossed paths with fellow Japanese learners and marveled in improving together. Just having this shared goal with another student, to be able to speak Japanese, drew us closer automatically, no matter how reserved I was usually. 


And then...



 I have met some of the most amazing people, and made some of my closest friends so far through music. In the last two "move' stages of my life, the move to college and the move to Japan, music and Japanese language have created many of the windows for me to build relationships with people who have moved, influenced, and helped me a great deal. On the huge UC Berkeley campus, I was initially quite lost as to where I could possibly find my place. But there is nothing more liberating than giving yourself up to the things you love to do, and finding in amazement that those things are exactly what unfurl your true colors to the world. 
Now, some of my best memories from college remain as sunlit images of being with fellow Japanese learners and study abroad students from Japan, talking and laughing together, wandering the campus and San Francisco, playing guitar on campus and singing together. 


Coming to Japan, I was once again starting anew. Especially in a completely different country and culture, I felt extremely reserved about going out there and just talking to people. But little by little, thanks to the shows I played, the videos I shared, my blog, the people I connected with through music even before arriving in Tokyo - I was able to meet some of the most amazing people. These experiences have really helped me to grow, and continue to grow and change. 

I haven't always been kind to my passions. There have been times when I was too tired, too lacking in motivation or inspiration, too busy, too distracted by other things... and I just let those same interests that brought me here lay on the side like some forgotten old shoes.
 But right now, I really want to thank those passions. 
For I am truly grateful to them for bringing me people. For bringing me strength. And for bringing me myself.


And here is an amazingly cute kitty on the street. I hope I see it again.


Food! Just because!

So what are some of your passions and interests that have lead to you meeting wonderful people, saved you in times of difficulty and transition, or just feeling more fulfilled in life?

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