Happy August!

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A lot of plans of mine never made it past the drawing board, but I am happy to announce that a couple of days ago I officially opened a shop on Etsy! If you want a little piece of Japan to come your way, click on the picture below!!!

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How to start a conversation and make friends

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By show of hands, who believes in luck?

I don’t know what to call it, but when my walk was coming to an end this past Friday, I was afraid. I was afraid that my good luck streak would run out someday. I was worried that my life and the experiences would become boxed and patterned; packaged nicely for all of the readers. I was worried about becoming fake.

My moods tend to pinball around, and that morning I felt pretty good about myself. I planned to go sketching. I also planned not to plan. I would go where my nose took me, and hoped things would work out. They did, and I ended up having a great day.

At my station, I managed to get into the same elevator as a man from my neighborhood who I had been wanting to meet for ages. He has art sitting outside of this house all of the time. In rain or shine, the Renoir and Picasso copies stay out. I pass that house every time I walk home, and my pace tends to slow down when I walk by The Painting House. I never could find a good excuse to go and introduce myself, but now I had one. My first ten minutes out of the house seemed to be productive, and I told myself that if nothing else interesting happened the rest of the day, I would be happy with just that chance meeting.

I decided on the platform to always look up. No books. Though books are great and much better than watching TV, I find that after reading I come out of some sort of haze. I feel dull and unobservant.

I counted the number of people using cellphones in the train car: 28. Basically everyone was using their cellphone except the young girl behind me. I glanced over at her paper and saw that it had English on it and I guessed that she was studying for a test. As soon as she saw me looking at the notes, she quickly pulled the paper away- slightly embarrassed. That had never happened before so I took that as my cue to chime up.

For those reading this book:

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The trick is to say something before you can talk yourself out of it.

She was studying for a listening test at her university and that she had everything down pat but told me that she had no confidence in her English. It didn’t sound fun to study in the heat. I wished her good luck.

We parted ways and I went to the main tourist area of the city. For those who don’t know, I was born and raised in Japan and if I do anything that seems touristy, I start to feel uncomfortable. It pained me at first to take out a camera and take photos of the most iconic things in the area. But the ego slowly calmed down and I got used to it. Though I come to this area all of the time, I felt like I was in a different country because I was more aware. I heard different languages (mostly Chinese) and smelled different smells. My favorite smell being the Lush Stores with air-conditioning. On the opposite side of the spectrum, nothing smells worse to me than Ramen on a hot day. Kudos to the workers who don’t use nose plugs.

After some mindless wandering and photo taking, I ended up in Starbucks. Not exactly exotic, but it did the job. While sitting down for a bit with my well deserved sandwich and a book in hand, I noticed other travelers who also decided to get a Frapacchino. Backpackers, couples, families, it was nice to see.

I went back to glancing at my book and two Germans came in looking for a seat. I was hogging a table of two so I told them they could have my spot. One of them was super tall with long arms. He reminded me of the Abominable Snowman from Monsters Inc. He was also just as friendly and invited me to sit with them. We talked for a while with the running theme of the conversation being, “Never become a flight attendant.”

I had a great day but I found myself in a less-hopeful mood towards the end. Asking again, what do you believe about luck? Is it something that is given to you, or is it something that you make yourself? I’d like to believe it is the latter. You can have all the luck in the world, but if you don’t act on it, you miss the chance for a fun ride.

Just ask these two:

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I found the cranes

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Over some lovely bread and a cup of coffee, a friend and I talked cameras. I was telling him about how I wanted to buy a decent camera to start taking good photos because my Itouch just wasn’t cutting it.

Even though this conversation happened last week, looking back I realized that I had fallen into the same rut that many people stumble into the, “I can’t do ABC now until I have a good-quality XYZ”. He quoted a man from Youtube saying, “The best camera is the one that you have on you”. I have heard alterations of this phrase before, but this time it got stuck in my head. I tried to apply it to other parts of my life and I found quite a few areas I should change. One of them being travel.

I have always encouraged people to travel in their area and that it can be just as interesting as taking a plane to a different country, but I was not walking my talk. I would make the more comfortable decision to go home and relax instead.

A few days later, I got the idea in my head to find the cranes that I see from my living room window. On my way home, I would always silently wonder what they were building or how long it would take to get to them. I decided to not leave those unanswered questions under the rug (no matter how mundane they might have seemed).

I took my bike and rode down the hill, and as I rode I reprimanded myself for this being the first time to explore in the four years I have lived here.

I am always around people, and this was the first time I had some alone time without family, friends, or internet. It was quite refreshing and I let my mind go off on some tangents. Some of the stray thoughts that I had were these:

For some reason, I don’t like to show my face in neighborhoods. I don’t like it when I pass people and they stare. It makes me feel self-conscious; like an outsider. I can’t do anything about it, but probably a feeling I should deal with in depth. 

Answering the question as to why I don’t try to explore the area more: I think I know my neighborhood well therefore it is predictable and uninteresting. My brain believes that nothing too out of the ordinary can happen on my turf.

All I want is to have the time to do what I want to do. To travel, to spend time with friends and family. To make art. Is that too much to ask? It just might be when our ego gets in the way. It thinks it’s trying hard. It thinks its putting in long hours and emotional effort. But what it doesn’t know is the number of doors that were left unopened simply because the mind whispered to itself, “I did my part. I don’t have to try harder”.

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With random thoughts floating through my head I managed to find the cranes. It was not a huge event in my life, and I probably will not remember this story to tell my grandchildren; but I did it. I found the cranes.

Just a tourist in this world

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It is a strange feeling to have been born and raised in a country where people always assume you are from somewhere else. If someone asks me where I am from, my automatic answer is Japan. I was born here… I was raised here… how can I not be from here? No, where are you really from, is the usual response. I have never been upset, it just feels strange. When I visited America for the first time in seven years when I was fifteen, I had culture shock. America is my passport country, but it never felt like a home to me. I feel like a tourist in America, but I am viewed as the tourist in Japan. I have heard third-culture kids say that they do not have a from, and that they feel like they do not belong anywhere. Now for me, I feel like I belong everywhere. I am the one taking pictures and gathering up anecdotes and experiences. We don’t have to limit our homes to just one country, one city, one street no matter where we think we are from because we are all tourists in this world.

What remains

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The feels…the feels. After watching an intense episode of the Justice League this picture in some strange, geeky way makes a little bit more sense to me. 

Youth be free, Not Fake

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Japanese T-Shirts and other products are infamous here for not making a whole lot of sense. What most people likely do is put whatever they want to say in Google Translate and think that’s good enough. Many things get lost in translation and you can end up with many raised eyebrows and cocked heads. I keep my eye out for ones that actually mean something. One of the recent ones that I’ve found is on this bag. Most of the students have no clue what they are wearing, and after I explained this one to the owner, he nodded in agreement. 

It summed up what I had been thinking about that exact day. I had been talking with my sister and we discussed the usual worries and slightly irrational fears that comes with being young. The running theme throughout the talk was, “What should I doooooooooooo“? 

We are caged in the idea that we have to know what we want to do. We have to have a plan. We have to have the right balance all the time. While I was traveling, however, the spontaneous moments were the times that changed my course for the better and great things happened when I least expected it. It is the social pressure around us that is pushing us to take the more conservative step instead of the leap of faith. 

Mistakes go hand-in-hand when you are following your gut so you have to give yourself a little legroom when you make the not-so-right choices. There is no shame in admitting when you are wrong. We love to (and in a way, trained to) show the staged part of ourselves. We love the attention and the likes on our profile pictures, but perhaps the freedom comes when you embrace both the cringe-worthy and positive sides because that’s what makes us human. That’s what makes each of us beautiful and 100+ Facebook like-worthy in our own way.

Hiking home

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The lights of the city, they came shining though to me

With sound of the train tracks floating to my window 

It screams that it doesn’t want to leave.

 

When I want to focus, there is nothing I can do.

I’ve got my eyes fixed on the moon

Yet all of my mind is still on you