Sunday, December 8, 2013

Out With The Old,
In With The [Almost] New

Left: sold.
Right: bought.
I traded in my 4-and-a-half-year-old standard kit lens (EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS)
 for this shorty (EF 40mm f/2.8 STM), used. 
Life is clearer now.

Friday, November 29, 2013


[Just came back from the kitchen to write, and on the way one of my dorm neighbors gave me a tezukuri cookie.]

I couldn't have had a better post-midterm celebratory fest this week. After Monday, my last day of exam, I had an impulse to compensate for all the days I spent locked in my broom closet of a room, buried under incomprehensible handouts. I have to admit this was one of the most excruciating studying periods I've had since entering university for 4 identifiable reasons. 

[1.] My credits are maxed out.
[2.] Nothing is anything I'm naturally good at: Stats, Japanese, Economics...
[3.] I'm old, and the deterioration is very apparent.
And [4.] despite it all, I still give a damn.
[Permitted] Stats cheat sheet & brand new GIANT eraser because I screw up a lot. 
So the last thing I wanted to do after classes on Monday was retreat back to my room even though I probably needed to catch up on sleep. Initially, I had planned to gather up 2 friends to go to a very specific cafe in Shibuya, but since it didn't work out with all 3 of us, I'm going to save that story for after it does happen. Nevertheless, I ending up having such a memorable evening with Gabriel and Jammy, Thai food (with free desserts thanks to yours truly!), endless kitchen rants, and "Somewhere", a movie I've wanted to watch for years because of Phoenix music and Elle Fanning but never got around to.

Gabe & Jamz, "Ti Nung" nearby Thai restaurant, and free desserts because the owners liked me.
(Jammy is totally killing it.)

It was a bit of a struggle to wake up the next day, but I had another reward waiting for me in the evening: I had signed up for a visit to Nippon Television Station, located at Shimbashi.  My biased definition of Nippon TV for you is that it's the television company responsible for broadcasting Ghibli films. In fact, the NTV mascot, "Nandaro", was designed by Hayao Miyazaki. 
From the Internet
I got a lot more than I expected from this little tour. First of all, I met a lot of delightful and incredibly welcoming people. Both fellow visitors (who happened to all be Waseda international graduate students) and the people at NTV. We got to meet and greet 2 NTV weather celebrities, Kihara San and SORAJIRO, watch a live broadcast in production - the skills and coordination that go into it - and chat with people in the industry over dinner, which was both very enjoyable and educational. But the winning moment for me was getting to look upon the NTV newsroom from a platform. I can't get over how exact the reality is to what I've been imagining. The newsroom really is on its feet 24/7, with teamwork, collaboration, and communication as its holy trinity. Even the placement of tables, chairs, screens, and the 200 or so people in that huge, column-less room was designed to enhance efficiency. It was such a beautiful [and reassuring] sight.
And now we arrive at present times. Yes, it is 3-crossing-over-to-4 days since the end of my midterms, but I'm not nearly done celebrating. Today, I needed to splurge $$$. Hisashiburi ni. And to do that somewhat healthily, the first thing I did was stock up on the food department because you can't go wrong with spending on groceries. Then, I went to an old camera shop at Takadanobaba to finally do something about my DSLR's multiple issues. This was actually a shining moment for me because I was able to communicate my needs so clearly in Japanese to the shopkeeper, and all my problems were solved for very low cost. Then with that boost, I went to the nearby department store and just let it draw me in. Not going to bore you with all the things I bought but I CAN'T NOT show you this must-have:

Shiba Dog Traditional-Styled Japanese Coin Purse = PERFECTION
Lastly, there were some rewards in this week that were unanticipated and out of my hands. To be concise and put it simply, these rewards are the people I meet in my daily life here. Off the top of my head, I love the people in my Japanese classes. I always arrive to class tired and leave feeling brightened. Yesterday, I also met a very cool person at the gym and found a potential music buddy in one of my classes, which to me is equivalent to finding a unicorn. And just to finally get to sit down and type these words here, edit, format, and upload...  is another great reward in itself. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maybe There Weren't Peanuts And Cracker Jacks, But I Made It To A Ballgame!

          I went to my first baseball game ever on Sunday: the last game of this season's Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League Championship and the always most anticipated "Sōkeisen", Waseda VS. Keio match. I'm pretty sure you can already guess that I was excited and soaking up every second of the experience, but just for the sake of cool euphemisms I would like to say that I liked it better than Pirates of Penzance. (← If you got that reference, I am amazed and you get 20 golden stars.)

          Baseball was one of the more difficult things of Japanese culture to become acquainted with, growing up in Thailand, but I still somehow managed to inherit a very ethnic love for the sport. I don't understand why either, but I could never get into the sports endemic to my geographic culture. The only direct encounter I had had with baseball previously was from P.E. in high school, and a testament to how fond I was of baseball then, I was down for taking P.E. 3 years just to triple the opportunity of getting to play the sport. (Okay, maybe it wasn't all for baseball - I do love basketball, American football, and fitness in general - but baseball was definitely a major component in the calculus of signing up for extra P.E.) Other than that, I only have early memories of my grandparents extolling the Hanshin Tigers and my own fangirling over Suzuki Ichiro in my teen-years. Sometimes I wonder if I would have turned out a baseball fanatic had I grown up in Japan. (Or Boston!) 

          I only realized after I was already inside the stadium on Sunday, looking out onto the stunning ballpark, the significance of where I finally was. It was such an elevated experience. 
Jingu Stadium, so grand in the most unpretentious way. There is something about the classic image of baseball, it's refusal to change with the times, that I love so much. Sunday was also my first time actively participating in university team spirit at an actual sports game.  Even though technically I have nothing to compare the experience to, I am positive that Japanese sportsmanship is unique. It was quite moving when the leaders of each side's ōendan (cheer squad) bowed to their counterpart from across the baseball diamond. Once before the game, and once more at the end. I had never seen such ceremonial exchange of salute and goodwill between rivals.

My favorite shot of the day. A Waseda ooendan.
Players bow to the audience too. 
Oh, and we won, by the way. 9-2.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

We'll See


My 1-year goal: 
to be able to talk to my Japanese family 
(my mother and my grandmother) 
about anything 
in Japanese

Monday, September 23, 2013

An Important Variable

          Remember two months ago when I talked about being excited about being new? "I'm absolutely stoked about... being new... I may not be the most social person in the world, but I embrace adventure, invitations, and challenges. These things are HANDED to you when you're new..." What I said then still holds true. I've been living in Japan for two weeks now, and adventure, invitations, and challenges is a good summary of my experiences so far... Except,
          Now I realize I missed something big in my initial calculations. I forgot about the eventual necessity of sharing your history to new friends. In fairness, giving your story to people for the first time is an adventure, an invitation, and a challenge, but it’s unique in the sense that you must travel backwards rather than forwards, in order to go forward.
          I’m not going to be presumptuous and say that the opportunity to tell about your past arises only after you establish yourself in the present with the group of people you will tell your story to, but that seems to make a lot of sense. You don’t usually start out with telling people who you are other than your name, country of origin, maybe age and major, and maybe some general interests. More likely, you first give them chances to observe you and make their own intuitions about your personality. Meanwhile, you yourself are subconsciously selecting those who will be the audience of your storytelling in time.
          Eventually the timelines collide, and you’re in the perfect time and place to go into something deeper than usual with your new friends - your past.
          It’s a big effort to take. The thought of it exhaustive because the past took a long time to build. But the older you get, the more you've been through, the more moved-on you are from past strives and depressions, the easier it actually is to take the plunge.
          I learned all this at 1 a.m. this morning in my floor’s kitchen with two new friends. I had just finished telling a story of my past when mindlessly I got up to do the dishes, suddenly realizing how long “having dinner together” had lasted. It didn't occur to me that my story had impressed anyone. Honestly, it felt as if I had just recalled something very casual like a vacation or teachers I had had.
          So there I was scrubbing a frying pan with steel wool, more concerned about dormitory etiquette than anything else at the moment, when one of my friends gives me the most unforeseen observation of myself I've ever received:
“For someone’s who’s been through all that, you’re a very easygoing person.”
          Up until that moment I had been holding on to an outdated self-image of a severely damaged person nobody would ever understand or be able to fix. But now I notice how normal and happy I am and have been for a while.  How much of a likable human being I can be. It's surreal, and maybe the reason I strangely woke up early this morning and made myself a very nice breakfast. 
As I said, going backwards in order to go forward.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just In The Vicinity

My day out with Marcus, Billy, and Gabriel around Waseda. 
Finally took my DSLR outdoors. 

1. Marcus.
2. Marcus and Billy way up ahead.
3. Lens malfunction.

Feet of Marcus, Gabriel, and Billy.

The famous meeting point for Waseda students on campus.

Funky architecture nearby.

Friday, September 13, 2013

First Mail To My New Address:
New Glasses Have Arrived!

Parents' fear of their child's starvation, living abroad, clearly.
Looking forward to seeing things through your eyes, new friend.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

4 Days In: Trying to Stay Very Organized

          Just returned from an afternoon scouting of nearby necessity stores. I roughly know where to get everything now as well as mentally marked all the restaurants to visit when 'conbini' food just won't cut it. Indoors, my impulse for organization resumes. I am determined to keep my room, particularly my desk area, efficiently tidy. (Doesn't hurt to be pleasant to the eyes either.) Yesterday's preliminary orientations left me with a bunch of dates and procedures I can't afford to forget, so I spent the entire night comprehending the student kit they gave us, customizing a system of organization along the way. I. was. exhausted. But my spirits about being here have only risen. I admit that paperwork, especially in Japanese, is quite dizzying and stressful, but every second the people around you remind you of how blessed you are being on this journey, and make all the procedures seem like folding a paper in half. It's gonna be a great year, I just know it. 

My buys today. (Lovin' the coffee dripper.)
5 "S" hooks  þ
17 clothes hangers   þ
1 scarf hanger (velvet)      þ
Pieces of home here and there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 1 of Being An Exchange Student In Tokyo

          I'm a bit brain-dead right now from travelling and settling into my dorm, but I want to get the story of my day down immediately so please excuse the straightforwardness of my writing hence forth.
          I arrived in Tokyo yesterday afternoon at 2, feeling quietly excited... I think. I am still "quietly excited" right now, whatever that means. It's as if it hasn't quite hit me yet that I am going to spend the next 11 months in Tokyo although I am nothing but optimism and loving all these little new experiences so far. I've made some charming acquaintances already. In relation to other clans that have started forming, we're a talkative and perhaps obnoxious-looking bunch. Right now we make a nice group of 6, and whether that number will increase or remain, I really do hope this "we" becomes a regular thing. I like these people.
          I think everyone is delighted by the dorms, or at least, to my knowledge, those of us staying at Nishi-Waseda. "Think of the next person" is the inspiring motto around here. I've taken at least an 80% reduction in living space, but I find my current environment very sustainable and snug. Can't wait to fully customize the space. (On a side note, moving in to a new place solo for the first time, you notice the necessities you take for granted, like trash receptacles and rags for cleaning.) The supervisors/caretakers here seem very caring and considerate too. Never had people wipe my suitcase wheels before entering a building. I admit there are a lot of customs to get used to, but it's all fuel to this zen excitement I'm feeling.

Pictures and/or better writing tomorrow.
Peace out.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Look Into The Lights

          You're probably all familiar, at least to some degree, with what film looks like when you get it back from the shop. (If you're not then, kid, you missed an era of great things, and I'm sorry.) Remember how everyone looked like ghosts on those black strips, even though the prints would come out normal? I love the game of film photography - the concept of not being able to check your shots right away; its insistence of artistry, practice, patience, and honesty; and of course those beautiful grains and light glitches that never go out of fashion - but I admit I pay little attention to actual filmstrips. I mean who does? They eventually all end up gathering dust in some drawer in your bedroom... Which is why this latest photography experiment I undertook that has left me infatuated with actual film was something pretty special.
           I'll just go ahead and reveal what was in the previous picture I posted: Reversal Film. You can look up the details on good ole Wikipedia, but if you don't need to know everything about everything, it's basically just film that when you look at it, you can see the picture exactly the way you saw it when you took the shot. Colloquially, we call it "slide film" because back before there were digital media and Powerpoint, people mounted reversal film on slides and projected them in classrooms, for instance, via analog slide projectors. /geekmode
          Anyways, when I was in Japan earlier in March, I had my first encounter with reversal film being sold, and I couldn't resist. Five months and 36 shutterpresses later, I'm back home in my living room, cutting up filmstrips, mounting them in tiny white plastic frames, and admiring the finished product against lightbulbs. Here's a photojournal of my first experience with slide. 
Enjoy. =]

Indoors, not into the lights yet.
Outdoors, into the light.
Back indoors (because it started to rain), now into the lights.
Time to mount.
First, cut.
Place, then press.