Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#MelShogatsu2014 年越し蕎麦


Toshikoshi soba for dinner complete with kotobuki naruto. :)

Kohaku starts in a few minutes. The end of the year is on its way.

Monday, December 30, 2013

So heavy...

I decided to bring my half finished projects with me to my grandmother's. Also picked up a few groceries. And I'm hanging out with people while I'm in Enshu so I need actual clothes (typically I just stay in room wear the whole time or sweats when I go outside).

"Projects" doesn't sound like much but my projects are paper-based. I have 5 notebooks that I can think of off the top of my head. And I brought my Sarasa pack and all of my masking tape for my scrapbook. Hoping to draft some OSD entries while I'm there too.

But as always, my main purpose is to spend New Year's with my grandmother and stay glued to the TV while eating literally a box of mikan watching TOKIO since they are on pretty much every day. Happy times.

#MelSketch100 25-26


I thought I'd get more in this week, but still got distracted. We'll see if I get more in over the New Year's holiday.


Dec 24: 25 of 100

Dec 27: 26 of 100



Sunday, December 29, 2013

FINISHED!

Celebrating the end of my work year with my ever favorite: Soup Stock Tokyo. After this, it's back to this house after a quick trip to the drug store for some nail polish. Whee!

Obsessive Stationery Disorder: No New Year's Cards for me

This year, I won't be taking part in a personal annual tradition of making but not sending out New Year's cards (I have an unfortunate habit of writing letters and never sending them). This year I won't be making them in the first place.


While we have holiday cards in the west, Japan has New Year's cards. Growing up, I watched my mom carve New Year's cards each year with the coming year's zodiac. Somewhere along the way, I joined in and started to genuinely enjoy designing elaborate cards and incorporating extremely minor references that pretty much no one else would get, while still being visually pleasing to anyone.

2012 - Year of the Dragon

Two years ago, for the Year of the Dragon, I carved a shachi-hoko based on the decorations on the roof of Nagoya Castle. 

It was my first New Year's in Nagoya and a shachi looks like a dragon. Really big in the back the the character 辰 for the Year of the Dragon.

But in the top left corner, ever so subtly, I also included a design on the side based on the tattoo of a character in One Piece named Dragon. 

Not that I expected anyone to notice, but it made me happy it was there.


2013 - Year of the Snake

I started planning for the Year of the Snake in February. 

I was determined to use motifs from one of my favorite movies of all time, 白蛇伝 (The Legend of the White Snake), which is Japan's first full-length animated feature film.  The images of this movie have stayed with me ever since I saw it as a little kid.

For this card, I combined Bai-Niang's bas
ket from the beginning of the film, patterns from the Xu-xian and Bai-Niang's clothes, sprigs of holly leaves, and the words "Happy Hollydays" (so they would be Christmas appropriate as well) to create the character 巳 which represents the Year of the Snake.

I took it a step further and made sure there were 20+13 leaves to represent 2013 and 25 berries to represent the Japanese year, Heisei 25. 


To top it off, I took about two weeks to find the right shades of colored pencils so I could preserve the overall balance of the card, while keeping the colors true to those in the film. 


It was a work of art and made me extremely happy. But before I got all of them out, not that I would actually succeeded in doing so given my track record, I got the call from my dad asking me to come home. I knew that meant he didn't have much time left and I arrived just in time to say good-bye. That was late January 2013.

2014 - Year of the Horse

It's tradition to not send New Year's cards when there is a death in the family and to also send out cards saying you won't be sending or receiving cards because they are, in their nature, celebratory.

To be honest, with everything going on, it was a bit of a relief to not have to worry about designing New Year's cards. And I refuse to send the cards that are sent to announce that you won't be sending cards because it's still sending cards. Plus anyone I would send them to already knows.

But as New Year's season approached, the stores began to carry the glorious different designs to choose from and the wonderful little parts that can be put together for a more do-it-yourself look. New Year's card are a big deal over here. Far more than Christmas cards will ever be in the west. I love all the puns and creative ideas that flood stationery stores each year and this year, the sheer number of unicorns and pegasi is insane. Rainbows and cuteness galore. 

And as you know, I love making my stationery store rounds, but as I do, fact that I wouldn't be making a New Year's card and, more importantly, the reason I'm not sending cards sinks in. It doesn't help that my dad was born in the year of the horse. He would have been turning 72 in 2014.

It's just how it is. And how it will be from now on. I accept that. But I'm still going to be melancholy and a little mopey about it.

Because that's just how it is.

Though I gurantee, this year off will come back with a vengence for 2015, the Year of the Sheep. I have over a year and my gears are already turning. 

Because that's just how I am.


Morning Adventures: Farewell TORELU Breakfast

They've decided to stop serving breakfast at my favorite place for breakfast on the weekend. Boo.

This just happened to be the last of the tickets I bought before they raised the price a while back, so the timing worked out just right, but still, boo.

Will have to find other options or just cook at the house. Maybe it's time to try some recipes.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

初雪! SNOW!

For about 5 seconds, it snowed. I caught one snowflake and it melted in a second.

That about sums it up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Weekend of Bingo and Chocolate

This past Saturday, Samantha was coming into town for a concert, so I invited her to stay at my place rather than go all the way back home. After picking her up in the center of town, we went to my local burger place for a late dinner. 

First thing in the door, we were told that the bingo game was about to begin so the food service would be a bit late. Turns out it was their Christmas party. We sat down, ordered and were given bingo cards. They have good burgers and fries and a good selection of beer and just after our food was served, the BINGO game began.
Beer and Bingo (and a Burger a few minutes later)
As the game progressed, we ended up sharing our booth with members of a band who were there for their own Christmas party. They were sweet guys and gave us some CDs. Before heading home for the night, we promised to check out their concert in February.

Our bingo prizes. I got a giant bag rice crackers and Samantha got After Death Sauce. 

After a slow morning, we headed to the Science Museum to check out the chocolate exhibit. It was pretty good. They showed the harvest of the cacao bean and the process in the factory as well as the history of the major chocolate companies in Japan. At the very end, there were some amazing chocolate creations by a world-class chocolatier. Insanely cool.
Doesn't she look awesome? She's made of chocolate!
Inspired by the chocolate experience, we set off to Sakae, had lunch in a cafe in Loft, a bit of stationery shopping, and went to our final destination: the Lindt Chocolat Cafe for some hot chocolate. Little did we know that by ordering the special winter hot chocolate, we were in for the hot chocolate experience. I am not exaggerating when I say this was the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life.
Lindt Chocolat Speculoos.
Hot chocolate with cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Soooo good.
While enjoying this delicious chocolate delight, we came to the conclusion that if this is what the White Witch gave Edmund, no one can blame the boy for giving up information about his siblings and Aslan. It was that good.

It was a lovely weekend of events that just happened to fall into place in a beautiful way that can only occur through serendipity. I'll take it as my Christmas present from the universe and a fantastic one at that.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

At the Theater: かぐや姫の物語-After thoughts

WARNING: SPOILERS


Wow. That was good.

I liked the style and the look. It also really struck a cord with me on multiple levels, which left me in tears as usual.

Massive props to the voice of Sutemaru. There was one point which just totally messed with my brain. It was like he was was holding his breath for years and suddenly let go and what that meant and how that made this story that much more bittersweet. It was the love story that never happened. In the hands of anyone else, it would have gone that way. He would have fought for her. And she for him. But they went their separate ways. And if he did fight for her, I would give him credit for his love, but he'd be an ass for leaving his wife and kid. ...I'll stop here. Simply put, I like how it wasn't happily ever after, which is how this story should be.

Speaking of which, one thing that made me sad for different reasons was that judging from chatter after the movie, parts of it seem to have gone over the some of the audience's heads. It's Kaguya-Hime; of course she's from the moon and has to go back. That's like asking why Cinderella has to leave before midnight. It's how the story goes.
/rant

Anyways, there was an awesome character that I fell in love with. She's just so cute. And they had a charm at the shop, so I got it. Will open it later. Wonder which one I got. Any one would be welcome.

Okay, I'll stop here.
Still have a post-movie buzz. It's a good sign.

At the Theater: かぐや姫

Decided to go to a movie before work. Wanted to after work too, but it's Christmas Eve and winter break. I'm used to uncrowded weekday mornings so this is way busier than I care for. But I didn't want to miss this one.

Thoughts after the movie.

#MelSketch100 22-24


Just three this week. Might have more next week.

Dec 16: 22 of 100

Dec 17: 23 of 100

Dec 22: 24 of 100

Monday, December 23, 2013

OMG: When Obsessions Collide

Taichi is covering the national figure skating competition, as he always does, and posted photos of his work space on his blog. 

He is using a Delfonics Rollbahn and a Zebra Sarasa. SAME AS ME. I actually squeed outloud.

The little things in life that keep me happy. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Obsessive Stationery Disorder: Work Pen Case #1


My work pen case at one of my workplaces. I'm only there on the weekends so when I'm not there on the weekdays, I pack them up in the pen case and put them in my locker so they won't bother whoever uses that desk during the week (also to prevent anyone from using my pens). 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Obsessive Stationery Disorder: A White SKE48 x CoCo Ichiban-ya Frixion Pen

Something happened that made me feel that higher powers are telling me that my stationery obsession isn't necessarily a bad thing.


The other day, I got lunch at CoCo Ichiban-ya, which, if you've spent time in Japan, you know, is a curry restaurant. Instead of my usual, I decided to go for the soup curry. As I was waiting for my meal, a waitress came by and said that everyone who orders the soup curry has a chance to win a prize. The soup curry is in collaboration with an idol group called SKE 48, so the prizes had something to do with the group. I pulled out a card and not only did I actually win a prize, but I got the pen. 



Not the sticker or the smartphone stand, both of which I have no need for, but the pen. A Frixion pen with SKE48 and CoCo Ichiban-ya printed on it.

I'm not sure if I'll use it since I don't use the Frixions on a regular basis outside of work, but it made me quite happy and a white Frixion pen is quite rare. In fact, I think this is the first time I've seen one.

Knowing me though, I'll find the perfect use for it soon enough.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 6 - Early Morning

Taking my regular days off and determined to visit my grandmother twice a month as I always do, I decided to take the night bus back to Toyohashi rather than all the way back to Nagoya.

When I arrived at Toyohashi station, the shutters were still down. It was a bit of an odd sight, though I've seen Hamamatsu station that way before and I've had my share of seeing Nagoya station just as everything is shutting down. 

It wasn't too long before they opened the shutters and I waited for the first train then transferred to the next first train to the station near my grandmother's. The sun was just coming up and, despite how cold it was and how eager I was to curl up into a warm, heated futon, I couldn't resist taking a picture.


I made it to my grandmother's around 6:15am, had some breakfast, then proceeded to sleep for pretty much the rest of the day. A lovely way to (almost) end a nice trip out east. 

After getting some rest and catching up on my TV. I made my way back to Nagoya and got myself ready to go back to the daily grind until my New Year holiday.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 5 - Tokyo Tower

And finally, after parting ways with Yumi, I made my way to the Tokyo Tower, possibly my favorite Tokyo landmark.


I don't know why, but when I have spare time created by taking the night bus to and from Tokyo, I end up at the Tokyo Tower to do something with my time. I'm not even sure why I bother, especially at Christmas time with all of the couples, but I like the view from the Tokyo Tower.


There's something that draws me to this place. Maybe it's something as small as hoping that one day I'll find a gift that actually does say 努力 and 根性 on it. (Old school SMAP reference. If you don't get it, move along.)

Whatever it is, I'm sure I'll keep returning to this place just because.


Next: The way home (i.e. my grandmother's)

It's raining!

And I happily spent the entire morning under my warm covers.

Now it's off to what I hope is a short day of work. And I'm wearing my rain boots, which always make me feel happy when there are puddles.

But first, a late lunch.

#MelSketch100 20-21



Only two this week as well. Mainly because, as I'm sure you you, I was in Kanto earlier this week. 

20 of 100

21 of 100

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Whee! Concert!

And a nice seat doesn't hurt. It's been too long.

To the symphony!

Even got dressed up and stuff.

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 4 - Johnny's Family Club

I already saw them on their keitai site, but I couldn't resist dropping by JFC in Shibuya to see the Christmas/New Year messages from my five favorite guys in person.


There was a cute display outside with the names of the core groups and some of the solos. I was slightly sad Toma's name wasn't there, but his fans aren't as rabid as some of the others. Speaking of which, we didn't stay long enough to see the video message; you can only take so much Johhny's fangirling if you haven't built up an immunity. But I did manage to get a shot of the TOKIO messages and photos.


Notice how there isn't a single serious shot. It's so perfect, it makes me smile. I love these guys so much. If you count back to when I first bought on of their CDs, I've been a fan for 16 years. 

Can't wait to see what they have planned for their 20th next year. 


Next: Tokyo Tower

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 3 - Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Mseum

After sleeping in through what I found out later was a torrential downpour Tuesday morning, we headed out to the Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Muesum at my request.

I love this museum. It's a tiny thing near Ebisu station (where you can see the location they used for that famous scene in Hana Yori Dango). I love seeing the different things that people did and do with photography. Things that I never thought of doing. Even if it's not really my kind of photography, I love seeing it.

This time around, each exhibition was different from the other, but I enjoyed them all.

Ueda Shoji & Jacques Henri Lartigue: Play with Photography
The juxtaposition of the two photographers from the same period but culturally different backgrounds was an interesting way to look at photography as it began to reach the masses. It also proved that people took pictures of their cats jumping mid-air even in the early 1900s.

every stroller can change the world.: Contemporary Japanese Photography vol.12
This was a collection of work by a number of up and coming Japanese photographers. They each had a unique view and a clear style, which was refreshing to see. I guess with photography becoming so accessible, I feel like I've seen everything a million times, but some of these were a nice shock to the system.

Takatani Shiro: Camera Lucida
This photographer mixes photo and video media and I was quite mesmerized by two of his works. One was a 360 degree view of the sky from dawn to dusk. My love for sunrises, sunsets, clouds, and the sky in general was quite satisfied by this one. The other work, I will never be able to fully describe sufficiently, so I'm just going to say that it involved eight plasma TVs, lines of color morphing into video which transformed to a collective still photograph of sorts.


It had been a while since I last went and it was good to take in the atmosphere of this museum. I really want to go back again next year for some more. 


Next: Johnny's Family Club

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 2 - Chinatown

With our personalized Cup Noodes in hand, we took the Akaikutsu shuttle bus to Chinatown.


Aside from the aggressive chestnut sellers, it was a quiet way to end the day. We got huge nikuman, which we ate as we walked up and down the street. It was really pleasant. Not too cold and not that crowded.

I also stumbled upon a jade bracelet that fit the image of the bracelet I had been looking for. Finally, my TOKIO bracelet set is complete! I would elaborate, but it would only serve to prove just how deep my fandom habits go. And it's pretty scary, so I'll spare us both the details.


Next: Day 2 - Tokyo

Obsessive Stationery Disorder: Improvised Pen Case - Part 2


The first one worked out so well, I made another one for the other pens in my purse pen case. This one is made from two index cards and masking tape. I may have to reinforce it or replace it as time goes by, but it's working beautifully so far. A few pens and my Tombow pencil are still free floating, but having these two in here make a world of difference. Finding pens is so much easier now and an added bonus:


I can stand them up in the pen case to make for easy accessibility. Color me happy.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yokohama/Tokyo Dec 2013: Part 1 - Cup Noodles Museum

-----
First:
I went to the Kanto area to visit a friend and we went to a few places, but mainly hung out and chilled. And it was good. I actually wrote a few blog entries, so they'll be posted over the next few days. Some Instagrams along with a few words. Sometimes a lot. It really was a good trip mostly because of the lovely company. And Yumi, if you're reading this, you really need to come to Nagoya. I'll start planning random things we can do. 

And so here we go
----

If you are ever in Yokohama, drop by the Cup Noodles Museum in Minato Mirai. 


After meeting up with Yumi at Shin-Yokohama, it was off to the Cup Noodles Museum. We found it easily enough thanks to a map taped up on the front of the police box (I guess it's an FAQ). From the outside, it's a rather bland building, but the museum itself is pretty impressive. It focused on Ando Momofuku's creative process and instant ramen as a theme rather than a subject. 



Thursday, December 12, 2013

At the theater: RED 2

I figured what was missing in my life was a movie so I'm watching RED 2 before heading back to the house. Was considering watching Kaguya Hime as well, but decided against it because it's cold tonight. I still got time for that one.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#MelSketch100 18-19


Just two this week. It has been a bit busy and I'm still trying to adjust to a new schedule I gave myself.

They opened the gates

But the train's not here yet. I got a hot drink just to warm up my cheeks.

Ooh, train!

Mmm, warm train.

At Toyohashi Station right on time

The shutters are still down. Kinda creepy.

30 minutes to the first train and slowly there are others arriving.

On the bus!

This time headed to Toyohashi. Taking the first train to my grandmother's once I get there.

It's been an awesome weekend. First the Creators Market with Samantha, then Yokohama and Tokyo with Yumi. I'll be posting pics and posts soon.