The Burning Mountain

1036b68471670aad64d79247ccee84a1Yesterday, the Yamayaki. Once a year people gather in the city of Nara under Wakakusaiyama to watch the mountain burn up in great flames. The reason why the festival started in the beginning is uncertain, but some think that it was to drive the boars away from the city. Those boars just came back every year and kept terrorizing the people I guess.

Being only the second year watching the Yamayaki, I was uncertain of where the best viewing spot would be. Last year I watched from my friends attic with heaters and warm tea, not exactly up for experiencing the elements. What I learned from being in the midst of the people and the atmosphere is this: try to get up the mountain, as high as possible. Not only will you be able to warm yourself up slightly by being close-ish to the flames, but they have a Taiko, the Japanese drum, performance on the edge of the mountain. For those hoping to attend the festival in the future, abide by this.

I went with an Australian friend and a new friend from Malaysia. Unfortunately because of my limited knowledge, we missed out on the the drums by a minute or two, but we were able to watch the mountain burn from afar, also having a good view of the preceding fireworks.

Our hard work of standing in the cold for about an hour paid off with a hot bowl of Oden and the sweet sweet taste of Amazake.96_image

I’d say it was a good night for more than a few reasons, but there are two that stand out. The first one was the lovely pleasure of being in the company of a couple of fantastic humans. The second is that every time I go to these kinds of places I realize and am amazed at how little I know about the area that I live in. I love this place and I find it extremely difficult to talk about its history or even some random facts for even a few minutes. One of my new resolutions (Not New Years resolutions, mind you. Those I managed not to keep within the first week.) is to be able to give tours of my area and be able to know and explain to my friends that are traveling. Cheers to that, and Happy New Years!

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.

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.

She played

I jotted this down while listening to my friends violin concert. I haven’t seen her in five years, and I was so impressed with her violin playing. 


photo-169The melodies move in a way I can’t explain. They are speaking to me but I don’t know the language. I listen hard and hope to decipher it. This language that couldn’t have come from us but belongs, and will forever be the tongue of the gods. Listen, take care, and they may grant you the miracle of being able to connect to a single note or phrase. The musician is the door to this language. I can’t believe I have known this woman for over 10 years. Oh, how she has changed yet the essence of her burns bright. When she plays, she looks up to the heavens, revealing to the audience the diamonds in her eyes. Then looks away, and she focuses, hiding her ivory stare. Oh, how beautiful she is. Oh, how beautiful her playing is. Oh, how amazing it must be to connect to something that is as wonderful as music. Oh, how fine it must be to speak the language of the gods.

Hearing her play made me transition into the world I want to forever be in. Not this current dream that I am living and have been living for as long as I can remember. Through her music I have seen possibilities and chances that I have not taken. I want to snatch them. I want to take them and make them apart of me. I want to feel the beauty in my bones and wake up. Not with groggy eyes, taking minutes to rub away the sleep. I want to look around and see the art of life. To smile at the unanswered questions. To love the who, what, when, where, why, and how of every situation and not be afraid of it. To not be afraid of mistakes. To own up to the lies I tell. To make up for all of the disappointments. To learn to say goodbye to people- even to those that love you. You have to go. Something, somewhere is calling you but you don’t know how to get there. You have to find it. You have to follow the voice. It needs you there for a reason and you are where you are for a reason. Something, somewhere is calling for you to come home.

Theo O. threw away his art.

1545587_10151840901075778_903114813_nA couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being approached by Theo O. I had been in Singapore at the time, and was sitting lonely in a cafe’ on the weekend. I wanted friends, but didn’t feel like I could approach anyone. I was drawing my carrot cake as I was sitting in that cafe’ and looked up at the group of four young university students in front of me, wishing I could be a part of the laughter. I was waiting for the Synagogue on the corner to open. I was excited because I knew I would be able to have the chance to make friends. I would finally meet people.

With these thoughts floating around in my head, I finished the drawing and my eyes scanned the rest of the cafe’. Most people were staring into their cellphones, their studies and laptops. However, there was one person stood out from the group: a guy with dark shades that was scribbling notes into a book. I assumed he was a company worker finishing up extra things after his job. The man lifted his head from his work and faced my direction. He looked at me, and gave me a little hot-shot nod and grin. Automatically I decided that I would be friends with anyone in the shop but him.

I checked the clock on my Itouch. Time for Synagogue! I quickly packed up my art supplies and exited the shop. I walked a couple of minutes down the road to find the building still locked down. Why does it look like it’s closed? I looked though the metal gates and saw a woman in a police uniform and waved at her to come to me. She was a serious yet friendly lady, and I politely asked why everything was still shut up. She informed me that it was very much open, but to my disappointment, guests needed to show their passports to enter for security reasons. I didn’t think of that.

Passport-less, I said thank you to the guard and started walking down the street. I was on the verge of tears when the thought passed through my head: Something good will happen. With that, I quickly regained my composure and wandered back to the cafe’ I was at. I stood outside of the coffee shop for about ten minutes wondering what I should do. Should I walk back home? The family I was staying with dropped me off, and I knew that their house was far. I could wait, but wait and do what?1492637_10151811158320778_1269779749_o

After standing there for a few minutes, I noticed the same hot-shot with the glasses going in and out of the cafe’. What was he doing? I didn’t think too much about it and went back to zoning out. As I was still staring into space, I get a tap on my shoulder and I find Theo O. in front of me introducing himself, asking how my day was going. He looked younger up close and guessed that he was around the same age as me. I was slightly hesitant to make conversation because of preconceived notions, but we got to talking. To my delight, I discovered that he was not doing company work at all, but was sketching. An artist!

We became friends, and I enjoyed meeting him in Singapore. He was my first friend there and I was ecstatic to have another person to talk to. A person that also loved art.

He flipped through his sketchbooks and I got to see his strange drawings and ideas on the paper. He told me that he wouldn’t think about what to draw, but just start and ideas would flow. I asked him how many sketchbooks he had.

Hundreds.

-What do you do with all of them?

After I finish one, I just throw it away.

I was in shock. All of this amazing art, just gone. What was the point? He told me that he could just re-draw everything if he wanted to. He didn’t see it as a waste, but the purpose of art being in the doing and not the keeping the final product.

Uh-huh… but still….

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Though we were only friends for a short time and didn’t keep in touch after Singapore, I appreciated his art and his friendship that day very much. That day changed the course of my trip and of my life. I fell in love with chance and serendipity.

Before we parted ways and left to go back home after Singapore, I was still confused about one thing. It bugged me and I decided to ask him:

-Why did you just come up to a random stranger and introduce yourself? You didn’t know me. 

A little grin formed on his lips he replied,

It just looked like you wanted to talk to me. 🙂

Go find me on that corner

photo-144Yesterday I was particularly sad not to have had my camera or Itouch charged. It was a big day for me because I tried something new: Selling my postcards in the middle of the street in Osaka. I would only be on that corner for a short time however, after some lovely new friends from Senegal would pass by and be the first and last customers of the day.

They talked to me on that corner for an hour about law, the United States, the future of Japan, and predicted how my own future would pan out.

After treating me to a tomato water from the convenient store, the two brought me the bar that he plans renovate within the next few weeks. The shop used to be a bar, a hair dresser, and a kimono shop all in one, with a lot of the supplies still inside. He seemed excited about all of the leftover things that he found there that the owners had just left. I got to try on a few kimonos that was upstairs and told me to keep one along with a couple of tabi socks and a bright red tote bag. We talked while trying to fix a busted computer and I managed notice the time to catch my last train.

I was very glad that I had met them in that way. It was funny because I wasn’t going to sell postcards. If I did sell postcards it wasn’t going to be on that corner on the side of the street. Lastly, I was going to work at the Spanish restaurant that night so our paths probably wouldn’t have crossed had something been out of sync. I just might be selling postcards every Monday after work from now on to see who else will approach this girl sketching on the side of the road. Go find me on that corner!