Japan Sketch Auction: Friends Curry Shop

I will be posting new artwork regularly and will be up for sale :)
If anyone happens to be interested, please bid on the Instagram page!

One last goodbye

I just had a lovely moment. Our eyes met. I blushed and looked down. This happened many times while he was talking to his friends sitting across from him on the train. I wondered at that time what kind of connection they might possibly have.

We were going in the same direction on the train. Would he get off at the same station? Who was this person? Half-asleep, my brain was a tangle of questions and possible answers.

The train slowly pulled up to the platform, and the station’s name was announced. He picked up his bags and the doors opened. I saw him wave to me as he exited the train. With a smile he mouthed a good-bye. From the windows I saw him stretch his hand out for one last wave. I copied his gesture and with a tired grin I also said good-bye.

This is one of the reasons I like to stay awake on the train even after a tiring day of work. Someone can touch your heart when you least expect it.

In that moment no one wanted to use me to practice their English. There were no words or exchange of conversation, but the intense feeling of curiosity and the happiness in the stolen glances.

I felt in love in that moment. I fell in love with that moment.

Customer Service Q&A. My twin answers my questions.

Lately I find myself fascinated with customer service and how to improve my own performance when it comes to dealing with customers and the people that we are around everyday.

So I turned to my sister this afternoon and I sat her down for a quick question and answer session to see what she thought about customer service.

My sister, Reylia Slaby, is a professional photographer who has quite an impressive resume’. She also helps out at a restaurant in down-town Osaka called Bistro New Orleans. Because of her current situation in having to build relationships with people daily, I thought she would be a good person to start off this mini series with.

12047394_10153115180100778_1509823996_nHi Reylia. Have a sit and let me ask you a few questions. Are there some things that you have done that can fall within the realm of customer service?

I have my own photography business, and I also do a bit of restaurant work. Seeing how customer service works in my own photography business is a bit more subtle, but in the restaurant it is obvious how it comes into play.

Is there anything that you have learned at the restaurant when it comes to dealing with a customer?

Because customer service is so emphasized in Japan, there aren’t too many things I’ve learned yet that I didn’t know before starting. Things like presentation, packaging, and the rhythm of the work were new skills that I learned, but when it comes to customer service I feel like there are things that are just a given. It’s obvious what good service is.

When it comes to the customers, what are some thoughts that you have while working?

I want people to feel comfortable, relaxed, and to have a good time. I want people to have good memories in the restaurant.

Is it difficult to be genuine in a job where you go through the same patterns each day?

I think you can be bored, tired or rundown, but the workers can still be genuine even if the job becomes routine. Customer service works in other directions too. It’s about making people feel good. It’s not limited to the customers either, but the workers in those jobs also have to feel well-treated as respected. It’s all about creating an atmosphere of harmony.

People wonder why service can below par these days, but one culprit I believe is that the inner workings and philosophies of the companies are negative and quite possibly corrupt. So many companies these days don’t value a healthy working ethic, and settle to hire those whose work performance they know to be lazy or poor.

It’s also important to cultivate kindness in the workspace. Everyone should give encouragement.
It’s a shame that we have this idea that we can’t have friends at work or we can’t be friends with our bosses. I don’t think that working hierarchy should exist.

Changing the topic slightly, but what do you think about the company Buffer?

It sounds amazing and like something you would be good at. I believe that you do cultivate good feelings and the person across from you feels cared for.

Do you think their transparency policy helps?

It helps a lot. It’s hard to be honest, especially for a company. In fact, its almost impossible for a company to be 100% honest these days. So I give them tops.

What do you think I personally need to work on?

You are good at diving into something and giving it your whole heart. But, once you’ve reached where you believe to be the top, you move to something different. If it doesn’t continue to satisfy or fulfill you, you move on to other things that will. I believe that this trait can be used to a companies advantage, although.

What is one quote that comes to your head right now? Any quote related or non-related is fine!

Very unrelated, but one quote I like these days is that “Art is not a healer, it’s an x-ray that helps you to understand pain.”

He wrote a poem

photo-179In my last post, I talked about my first encounter with the artist, Mitsushita. Each time we met up until now has been conversations over two hours, the kinds of talks where you happen to glance at a watch and you jump out of your seat, surprised at how fast the time had gone by.

In the beginning, because I am a cheapskate, I had no intention of buying his art. After speaking to him however, I decided that I wanted a piece of this fantastic person.

He drew me —blue wig and all— but he also wrote me a poem. It was not what I had expected, and I was beaming.. As I read, I knew that during our marathon talks he had been listening with ears as well as heart. It was an amazing feeling to be heard.

I will write the Japanese and try my best to translate it into English.

You cried a lot coming here didn’t you.
You did your best and held in your tears.
These words I will write are to the kind one that lets her tears fall.
If you are scared, I want to change your fear into smile.
I want to change your tears of sadness into ones of joy.
Because your smile is the most beautiful. I will love all of your faults.
Your smile is my smile. I will always believe this.

The Snake Handler, Mr. Matsushita and a Blue Wig.

These days I have been getting into a funny new habit – selling postcards on the street after work. I haven’t been out this past week because I couldn’t find a place to sleep in the city, but I will get out again next week if the timing works out.

photo-178It all started when I finished a Chai tea and a sandwich at the coffee shop near Shinsaibashi-suji. One by one the shops in the area closed down for the night, leaving only the footsteps of those coming home from the office, or the ones on the way to their questionable midnight jobs. By this time it was around 11:00 PM and against the shutters of the medicine shop, I see the artist Matsushita on the street open for business. There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t seen him sitting there, yet I had never approached him. I didn’t like the idea of making small talk when I had no intention of making a purchase. This particular evening was different however, and I decided to go and ask if it would be okay for myself to start selling postcards along this road. He explained to me that it would be no problem as long as the shops around were not open. I was excited to start laying out my small postcard collection. I admired this artist and the stand that he started packing up after his long day. Matsushita and his snake-handler sidekick Daisuke were about to leave. With a few words of advice about selling and pricing, they reminded me to watch out for old drunk men, and left shortly after.
I was alone and some people actually came up and started a conversation, commenting on my art and the blue wig that I wore, which was an attempt to hide myself from any potential acquaintances that could walk by. I enjoyed meeting these new people of the night, feeling very incognito.
One man who spoke English came up and introduced himself. We talked for a good twenty minutes, and he decided that it was his job to help me get more customers. His business strategy began with trying to lure people to my little chair by practically harassing them in English. His theory was that people walking by would be more interested if I started speaking in English to them and leave out the Japanese. In my experience however, that is 100% not the case. In Japan, people are afraid of things that they are not interested in. I wish I could be as confident as he was, but I don’t think I could fall into that way of selling.photo-177
After a while, and a few postcards lighter, Matsushita comes riding back on his bike. He was worried about me and came back to check on how I was doing. It was so thoughtful of him to go out of his way.
No other customers came to buy postcards after that, but we talked for hours about his life, what I do for a living, and our opinions of the conventional way of approaching work in Japanese society. His family had different expectations of him, but he choose to be a full-time artist. Now around 30, he questions his choices in a positive way and doesn’t regret them. He told me that he loves what he does and is glad even though he struggles doing it sometimes.
He has lead an interesting life, one very much opposite to the usual briefcase carrying salary-man you see all the time.  I admired his relaxed disposition, and desired his lifestyle.
What would your mind be like after meeting different personalities and observing the world all day?
I hope to go back to the shopping street and see my artist friend and his funky art very soon.

Jottings from the 18th.

I randomly jot down sentences that pop up in my head. If you would like to comment on the two questions presented here, feel free to do so.

photo-176August 18th, 2015.

I run my fingers though my own hair to comfort myself.

Why do people have to lie? Why do people have to pry?

Do you need reassurance that you are a good person? Do you need other people to remind you or tell you?

Wind is amazing. You can’t see it, but it takes you in and envelopes you.

We all have to go through the same process of learning. Whether we are five or if we are thirty, trial and error happens. Mistakes must be made before you can see all angles.

In this moment

photo-174Your face will smile, your tongue will dance.

That was what was written on the sign of Papa Jon’s, the cheese cake shop in Kyoto we went to yesterday. The combination of the food and the lovely company did make my face light up, giving me the energy that I needed at the time. I have been working at USJ and it is not exactly the most relaxing position. With the smiling all day, arranging, and the tight-knit Japanese environment, it was not easy in the beginning. I have not been there long, but little by little I am starting to become more comfortable and more confidant in my knowledge with the park. I am excited about getting better and becoming even more familiar.

I also have been reading a lot of blogs and books that are keeping things into perspective. It is easy to think that your life is tiring, and when I am in a normal state of mind I laugh at how moody I can become. I realize how ridiculous it is to pout.

Life is so beautiful. What are some beautiful things that I jotted down this past month? The kids that I teach after school waved from their cars and screamed to me, “Johnna sensei, bye-bye!” My singing teacher, the absolute angel helping me pass a test that would be impossible to do with my own resources. Friends that you can jump on, laugh with… enjoy with. These are the people you don’t feel pressure to impress, and it is so relaxing. Thinking about all of these things made me so happy today. I don’t want to loose this feeling. For those times when I fall I want to remember this beautiful day. I want to remember that in this moment I have everything.