Monday, April 25, 2011

My Japan

Hey folks,

I'm over here in Japan, catching up with friends, eating yummy Japanese food, and listening to the birds sing outside my teeny Asagaya apartment. Things have definitely changed around here in Tokyo since March 11th but, in most ways, it's pretty subtle. The lights are dimmer and most elevators aren't being used in order to conserve electricity. There are signs at the grocery store asking people to only buy what they need and not to go hog wild taking all of the bottles of water (those are my words, not theirs ;P ) It's good to see that, for the most part, life is going along as usual.. parents are taking their children to school, elections are being held, engagements are being celebrated (mine!)... Before I my trip, many friends, family members, and coworkers were telling me that I shouldn't go for fear of radiation. I've been keeping myself informed of the radiation levels here in Tokyo and they are not high enough to cause alarm. There have been some pretty steady aftershocks (that's an oxymoron if I ever heard one), but, within a few days I was pretty used to them. If my old crumbly apartment can handle it.. so can I! I'm writing this in the hopes that people back home won't freak out and turn their backs on Japan in her time of biggest need. I think it's important not to ignore the dangers here but also to keep living life as usual. Keep buying imports from Japan, keep coming here on vacation and for business... Although things are getting back to normal pretty quickly in Tokyo, I know there is still so much work to be done up north. There are so many people displaced. They've lost everything. I hope that people outside of Japan won't forget about her once their is bigger news on the television. I guess this has put a lot into perspective for me. I can see humanity in action and I hope to keep doing whatever I can to help others. That's all I guess...


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tokyo Reunion Yurt Weekend

Some friends with a Tokyo connection got together last weekend for a little reunion a la yurt. Best fun I've had in a while! Great to see old friends, make a few new friends, go back to nature, and find out what a yurt looks like on the inside. Can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, June 28, 2010

konyaku 【婚約】

Who knew that 4 years after starting this modest little blog that I'd be sitting here writing about my engagement to my favorite Nihonjin? I came to Japan in 2005 thinking that 1 year was an awful long time to live so far from home. I was afraid to walk too far from my Chiba apartment lest I get lost and not be able to find my way home. I thought that Japan was a nice place to visit but that I'd probably never be able to make it my home. The really crazy thing is that I thought, when I met "Tsuji" that we'd never be able to over come the language and cultural barriers we have and, therefore, I wasn't prepared to take him seriously when we first started dating.

It's crazy how life turns out sometimes eh?

I'm not going to go into too much personal detail here but I thought my "Japanikate" experience would not begin to be complete without mentioning this milestone in my life. I had my "sayonara" event @ GARAGE in Shimokitazawa on May 21, 2010. Later that night, my man and I took a taxi home, or so I thought. I knew what was up when the taxi pulled up in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku! We laughed nervously without saying a word as we walked through the strangely quiet carpeted hallways. I thought we would be going up to the bar to have a drink and admire the night view of Shinjuku before he popped the question. I was partly wrong. He pulled out a room key and opened a door on the 46th floor. I've never set foot in such an amazing room! I ran straight to the window and gasped at the breathtaking sight. Sparkling lights and buildings of every dimension filled my vision. Tsuji asked me to be his wife and I, obviously, said yes. We invited some friends up to have champagne with us (we greeted them at the door in bathrobes... but it was PG really!)

I never realized how excited I would be on this day. I'm happy that my journeys in Japan are not over and that, in fact, a much bigger and better journey is about to begin.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Spring Fever

Fukui and Kanazawa, Golden Week 2010

It's been one great happening after the next this Spring. Instead of writing a long entry for each happening, I'm just going to smoosh it all together into one... because I am "namakemono" (lazy). At long last, the Loyal We celebrated the release of our album "Homes." We played our hearts out after a 6 month hiatus. 3 shows, 2 of them as part of Momoko Ando's beautiful film "Kakera" which I'm proud we could be a part of (our song "Box is a Rocket" is in the movie) We had our cd release party on May 2nd at Tsukimiru Kimi Omou in Aoyama. There is a lovely big moon that hangs over the stage, making it seem like endless nighttime indoors. Meanwhile, the sun was shining brightly outside. Our friend and producer of the album, Allon, opened the show with sitar and bright pop songs with satirical lyrics. Lindsay popped into Japan for a week and, in between rehearsals, sound checks, and shows, we revisited some of her favorite hot spots and introduced her to a new one (pun intended.. we went to Chofu's Yukari onsen) After that exciting whirlwind, I headed down by night bus to Fukui with Makoto and Ian and visited the Tada family during Golden Week. Aki, my roommate from last year and very good friend, has invited us to his childhood home several times previously and we've always been unable to go. I'm happy we could finally meet his family and see where he came from. The Tada's gave us the royal treatment. The first night, we were treated to a barbecue feast, Japanese style. We drank premium sake, ate until we couldn't move, and then were dragged out of our chairs into the streets to set off fireworks with Aki's nephew and nieces. The children particularly liked Makoto and kept calling him "Hitsuji-san" (sheep man), a play on words.. his last name is "Tsuji." I never knew he was so good with kids! We all became kids again as we ran through the dark streets playing man hunt. During the daylight hours, we visited some of Fukui's famous sights... Eiheiji Temple(where we found a neat little antique shop and I bought a wooden box over a century old), the cliffs of Tojimbo (where we climbed up and down rocks like little ants, ate squid ice cream, and saw the famous phone booth where would-be suicides can call for help), Echizen, and Fukui-jo, Fukui's castle. We got there a bit late but we could enjoy the surrounding scenery and a nice view of town. Aki's family treated us to another wonderful dinner at a local izakaiya on the second night. Again, I found myself in a food coma, and the boys got quite drunk on several rounds of sake. In the morning, Aki's mother, Keiko-san, outdid herself with an incredible breakfast of sashimi, miso, fresh veggies and pickles, rotten beans "natto" (which I actually enjoyed very much) and rice. We were invited to come back any time, "even without Aki." hah! We said goodbye to Aki and his family and headed off to Kanazawa for a few hours before returning to Tokyo. In Kanazawa, we saw the geisha district (but no geisha sadly) and I admired the architecture of the old tea-houses. We sipped tea and ate sweets at one tea house while looking out into the garden. I got a few ideas for my "future house"... I hope to make it a reality some day when I'm rich and famous. Kanazawa reminded me a bit of Kyoto on a smaller scale. The day seemed charmed as everything we set out to do was managed with perfect timing yet no planning. Finally, we took the train home.. we were very lucky that Makoto had the foresight to book our return tickets ahead of time.. most passengers had to stand for the long ride home.

This year, May seems more fragrant then I remember. The scent of lilacs often finds its way into my apartment at night and I feel "natsukashi" (nostalgic) for Japan even while I'm still here. It makes me sad to think another "sayonara" is just around the corner.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nokogiriyama wa noborimashita (I climbed Sawtooth Mt.)

Nokogiriyama, Chiba

March 22, 2010. Three banana hikers and their trusty guide dog set out to climb Nokogiriyama (Sawtooth Mountain). They packed the essentials... beer... chips... chocolate...bananas...and dog treats. It was a steep climb, lots of steps, but they made it to the top despite several beer breaks, the making of a dance video, a chocolate thieving 2 year old, and a noisy bell-wearing ojisan who yelled at them for unleashing the mighty Mamaru (he's a Chihuahua). The view: gorgeous. The hike: a two year old can do it..but gluteal muscles will get a work out. Overall: a great day!

Mamimi Atami

Izu, Mamimi Recording session

A few weeks ago I went down to Atami with Makoto's band, Mamimi Fouksong, and our friend Ian. While Mamimi and Ian were recording for their next album at Yuki's house, Yukie, Koji, and I strolled around the hilly streets of Atami. Atami is well known for it's mikans (tangerines) and onsen (hot springs) and lesser known for its stealthy cats. Where there is a cat, there you will most likely find a Kate. Yuki's childhood home was really great! Spacious and a little spooky, it was neat to spend the night within it's papery walls and tatami floors. I loved sipping my morning coffee in the tranquil Japanese garden. Sadly, this home will soon be demolished to make way for her family's new house which will accomodate her brother's family as well. Yuki was feeling a bit natsukashi (nostalgic) during her last stay in her childhood home. It was a quick visit but the band was able to finish recording and I got a little break from city life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year everyone! I haven't written since August??? Could this be right? Well, I suppose it's fitting since I was in the U.S. from October to early January. I'm very sad to say that my lovely grandmother, Emily Cecilia Sikora, passed away shortly after my arrival. I could say goodbye and kiss her cheek which meant a lot to me. Being home felt really good. I saw old friends and family, worked at my old job for a bit... I felt like I was in a time warp.

Fast forward to January 2010...

I'm back in Tokyo with Makkun. Now, we live in a tiny 2 room apartment which has a few issues but, overall, I'm happy in this place. The rooms are tatami, it's quiet, the old furniture fits here in a way it never did in our old apartment. I'm not so thrilled about the power going out when I want to keep the heat on and use the microwave at the same time, or that it takes about 15 steps to get hot water in the shower 1) switch on the gas 2) push another gas button thing 3) hold down the knob for about 20 seconds 4) turn the knob... while I'm standing naked, shivering, waiting for glorious hot water. It takes a little getting used to.

The first week passed in a flash and so did most of my money that I brought with me. I have to readjust my idea about money. I've scoured and for jobs. I've considered professional babysitting, voice acting, even medical testing for athlete's foot (I don't have athlete's foot by the way) Something has to come through soon!

A copy of the Loyal We album (my band) has finally come in the mail after lots of waiting (and waiting). I'm proud of us! I hope we get to do some touring now! The album will be in stores on January 20th. Now I'm waiting (and waiting and waiting) to hear when our release party will happen. Hopefully I can survive on the pauper diet until then.

I went to a shrine with Makoto the other day to get my "omikugi," or "fortune," for the new year. With trepidation, I shook the box, pulled out the thin little stick, and handed it to the woman. In return, she handed me a thin piece of paper. I didn't look as Makoto read aloud, "Kichi, good fortune." It seems that 2010 is going to be my year! Of course, if it were a bad fortune, I wouldn't have believed it.

Later that day, we went to Usaya in Shimokitazawa. I've mentioned Usaya in a previous post. It's a great little place in a crumbling little alley way. Monday was their 2nd anniversary party and our friend, Takachiho, was going to play. It cost 3,000 yen for "nomihodai" (all you can drink) and "tabehodai" (all you can eat). Mak and I don't have 2 yen to rub together but we wanted to see our friend Yoko and Washi before the head off to California. We sucked it up, spent the dough, and were rewarded with a wonderful night of hot wine, good friends, and I got to try my hand at making mochi! Mochi is a glutinous sticky rice that is traditionally made and eaten during the new year. Some folks were dressed as a cat, bird, ram, and rabbit in colorful patchwork costumes. They looked amazing!

Now I sit, still in my pjs (being jobless has some benefits), and ready to get dressed, go out and do something, anything. I'll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009