This is my 2nd full day at home here in Portland after 17 glorious days away in Japan. It is incredibly difficult to readjust to life back in the United States, even after all of these visits.
Day one was spent in Kamakura. This time I spent the visit on the opposite side of town. I had an incredible passion fruit sponge cake and visited the Mame Shiba Inu cafe. The dogs were completely indifferent to us being there, as one would expect of the cutest, snottiest dog breed. I also got to check out a temple and an amazing lotus garden.
On day 3 my friends and I made our way to Yamagata via shinkansen. Yamagata is a small city, but it is sprawling and quaint in a way. I had a great oil soba noodle dish (my favorite Japanese meal) on my first night there AND I got to enjoy a spectacular sunset complete with the surrounding mountain range.
Day 4 found us heading to the spot that has been #1 on my must-see list for a few years now, Yama-dera. Yama-dera is where, in 1689 the famed poet Matsuo Bashō wrote his haiku –
“ah this silence
sinking into the rocks
voice of cicada”
The pictures do not do it justice. There was a sense of real camaraderie among the people climbing the many steps to the beautiful temples. We were the only American tourists there. They made Sakuranbo (cherry) ice cream at a local shop and the shop keeper was so kind with us and curious of how we even came to be there. She was also curious about the sexy anime boy bag my friend was carrying.
These sakuranbo candies were ridiculous. I bought 12 bags. I found them at a train station in Oishida while we waited for our taxi to… Ginzan Onsen!
This place was remarkable. We soaked our feet in the mineral-rich waters before making our way around the tiny village, the trails through the hills surrounding it, and a glorious little waterfall. We also enjoyed the most satisfying cherry sake. Cherries again because the region is famous for them. Kelly had one sip of the delicious drink because her eye closes when she drinks even the weakest alcoholic drink imaginable.
After Yamagata we headed back to Tokyo and headed to the Yayoi Kusama Museum. The sheer joy her pumpkins give you when you see them in person in indescribable.
My friends stayed in Tokyo the following day, but I got back on the shinkansen and headed to meet a new friend in Nagoya, Masa. He purchased a piece from me online earlier this summer and we got to know each other over email communications. We both took a chance and I took the 2 hour train ride to meet him. He picked me up at the station and informed me he didn’t make plans, but was a trail lover like me. So, to my surprise he was willing to drive my behind 2 more hours into Gifu, one of the most gorgeous prefectures I have seen. We hiked in the humid heat a little bit on the trail that connects Tsumago and Magome. The old buildings are filled with tiny shop owners selling sweet and savory treats. The heat made me not so hungry, but we had some delicious rice cakes anyway. We headed back to the station to get me back to Tokyo, but not before Masa showed me his large home and the temple he spent much of his youth in. They opened it up just for us so I could see inside and I felt honored and humbled. My phone chose this time to randomly blast a Chris Brown song that I don’t even have saved in my phone. *tries to be quiet and respectful, fails horribly. Masa walked me to my train and we said goodbye and I was filled with joy over making such a good friend and sadness over the uncertainty of when we would see one another again.
The following day found my friends and I and our friend William attending the new, permanent installation by TeamLab: Borderless. Some of you readers may have seen my pictures from previous TeamLab events. This one did not disappoint. Rooms upon rooms of well thought out, brilliantly conceived lightshows and interactive light displays really blew our minds.
Then, it was time for our annual trip to WonderFest to look at upcoming toy releases and brave the crowds. I had a hard time here. We got drenched as we were herded around the outside of the entire complex before finally getting dumped into the showroom floor with the masses. The crowds weren’t as intense as AnimeExpo, but my back hurt, my feet were drenched, and I just could not snap out of it. Travel isn’t always pretty, but the sight of these breath-taking toys did boost me a bit.
From Wonderfest we headed to the airport and the large northern Island of Hokkaido – Sapporo to be specific. Exhausted and still damp, we called it a night so we could rise early for a bus tour of…
FURANO!! The area is known for its agriculture and pastoral scenes and we got to see so much of it! That gelato you see is blueberry honeysuckle from Furano dairy farms and it was so, so, so good.
On our second full day in Hokkaido we decided to stay in town. The city charmed all of us with its $2 trolley that circles a large portion of the city, its views from Mt Moiwa, and for me – the thicker, farm raised boys everywhere. Dude. so cute. Also, the subway at night is full of life and the windows are down so you get a strong breeze as you travel station to station and something about the city just feels so right.
Mt Moiwa boy for life.
We flew back to Tokyo early the next morning and went straight to JWorld to see my beloved Haikyuu (volleyball anime) boys, to Daikanyama for a cafe that I had to see (but flaked on when I saw the wait), and to dinner with my friend Miniko, a Shibuya shop owner. I got to have oil soba again at my favorite place in Yoyogi and walked around in the humid night to take a few pictures. I still love Yoyogi so much.
The next day my friends headed to Osaka, but I opted to get back on the shinkansen to see Masa again. This time he picked me up and we drove straight to the mountains in Gifu, just beyond the town of Gujo to escape the heat and view a spectacular waterfall, Amidaga. The trails were neatly kept and there was even a ramen shop in the woods below the falls! Afterwards we headed back to Gujo and the little market sitting on the Nagara River. What a place! I couldn’t help but imagine my life there as a farmer. Back in Nagoya we saw the beginnings of the Cosplay world event before saying goodbye again. This time I felt a little less sad with more confidence that we would for sure find a way to see each other again. Also, he gave me coffee that he roasted that I am drinking as I write this post and it is delicious.
I had a final 2 nights and a day in Tokyo after that, but I was a bit too numb with the fear of returning to the US to really absorb anything. That map above shows where I have spent time in Japan so far. Fukuoka and Kyushu are next I believe and you best believe it will be gorgeous and wonderful.
I grew up in Northern Maine, but spent time living outside Washington D.C., Freehold, NJ, Casper, Wyoming and Old Saybrook, CT because my father was a wanderer. All of these places were mostly white, and when they weren’t – they still seemed segregated to me. My parents never taught me to hate other races, or even distrust or think of them as different. I first heard the n word shouted at a man I had known to be sweet and kind and hard working from a kid I went to school with, Eric Debay. I don’t mind naming him because that attitude continued and he became a bully for me, he and his friends regularly calling me a faggot. In that moment I had a decision to make. As he sat on his bike speaking to me in my parent’s car I asked him why he called the man that. He explained himself, but it was clear that he didn’t know why he hated. I was in love with Jody Watley at the time and I knew she was black and I knew that man across the street was cool, so this kid must just be an idiot. I rolled up the window and I’m fairly certain our friendship fizzled out that day. I heard words of hate regularly growing up in that small Northern Maine town – sometimes about Mexican migrant workers, often about gay people, sometimes about Asian people, but most often about black people. I had a hard time understanding it because we weren’t faced with many opportunities to interact with people of color in not just our town, but the whole county and even state.
Through high school I became increasingly obsessed with black pop culture of the time- I would only watch movies like Action Jackson, Poetic Justice, Boomerang and New Jack City. I would mostly listen to TLC, 2Pac, En Vogue, Mary J Blige, and even 2 Live Crew. When it came time to pick a school I went with one in Philadelphia because of Boyz II Men and someone I knew from there who had visited me in Maine. I was so excited to get there and have a more diverse group of friends and maybe be accepted for the first time. The reality though, was that Philadelphia was still a little segregated. I heard even more terrible, racist things out of the mouths of students and co-workers. Racial tension was high and I was young and naive and didn’t understand how to be an ally. When I left school I moved straight to San Francisco and fell into an apartment with a stranger, a beautiful woman named Laura. She taught me about life, loving myself, standing up for others, and yes – about racism and privilege. She was a young black woman. And she was fabulous. When my mom came to visit she exclaimed, “you didn’t tell me she was black, that’s cool!” My mom was proud that I didn’t feel the need to describe her in that way. I didn’t realize I hadn’t honestly. I can’t say I didn’t think about it. Even though I wasn’t taught to hate and no one sat me down to say, “hey, we are only humans, don’t divide with color”, I do. I do see color. I wish I didn’t. I wish something inside of me didn’t assume all black people are rad because I know that is a form of racism too. I know deep down that assholes know no color. I don’t know where it came from or why do it, but I do and I still work on it every day. I do know that without black people in our lives – our music, our dance, our poetry, our movies, our very culture in the United States would be absolutely bland mayonnaise.
Today is Juneteenth, commemorating June 19th, 1865 when the abolition of slavery was announced. I was not taught of this holiday and didn’t know a thing about it until I had black friends. Perhaps if I had learned about that in school, perhaps if other hateful little shites around me had heard the heart breaking tale of the burning of Greenwood, Oklahoma they would have grown to have more empathy, more compassion. Celebrating these African American Holidays and learning of the history could benefit all of us at that young age. I hope our education system evolves because starting young is the only way to bring about true understanding and change and an end to the systemic racism in our country.
Above, some people who I love, who might not have existed or been created had it not been for Juneteenth.
Today I thought it would be nice to feature my boyfriend’s shop and some of my favorite pieces that he has made. When I started making jewelry I tried to have a little story behind each piece, but Jeff from Fantastic Revision takes it to a whole new level. He often tells elaborate stories with each listing, adds in humor, and even makes connections most would never think of. All items in his shop are vintage or handmade with found, vintage, repurposed, and/or natural materials. Everything is one of a kind. All items are made by him personally; nothing is manufactured or mass produced.
The Okavango is “the river which never finds the sea.” Twice every year, the Okavango Delta floods, allowing plants to grow and wildlife to migrate to the otherwise desolate Kalahari Desert in northwestern Botswana. Over 400 species of birds alone appear during these floods and some of the most magnificent African wildlife can be spotted. In the largest inland delta in the world, it’s either feast or famine. Buy the Okavango Delta Here.
Savage Tapestry <– (click here to buy)
They may have appeared to be savages to those civilizations who encountered them, but their way of life was far more complicated than anyone could have imagined. Everything can benefit from a closer look.
This weathered oxidized brass horn-shaped pendant is imported from India and features three sides of purple howlite stone mosiac. It hangs from a gold tone repurposed 1″ split ring on a 30″ vintage brass box chain with spring ring closure.
Rosé Harvest <– (click here to buy)
White sheets, sparkling rosé, and lush red roses- the scene was set for the perfect harvest wedding.
These 2-3/4″ earrings are made from clusters of vintage faux pearls with tiny brass leaves, filigree bead caps, and vintage gold tone rose bloom bead accents. They hang from new 18k gold plated hooks.
Yekaterina <– (click here to buy)
This necklace was directly inspired by Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia. I recently saw a picture of it in a travel magazine and after many Google searches, I finally was able to identify it. Now a museum, it was once the summer home of many generations of the Russian royal family, From Catherine I to Catherine the Great. It is in itself a collection of architectural styles, most notably Rococo on the exterior but not without some golden Russian “onions” atop the roof. The azure blue walls, white columns, and gold leaf detailing are in perfect balance. It seems to both disappear into the winter snow and materialize from the summer sky. It looks quite ethereal at times. Having graduated with a degree in interior design, it would be a dream to see it inside and out.
La Catrina Azteca <– (click here to buy)
She knows the secrets of the dead. She holds your history in her dusty old bones. She knows where the ancestors buried all the silver. No, she’s not going to tell you where. She may be dead, but she’s not stupid.
These 6″ earrings feature turquoise dyed howlite carved skull beads crowned with silver plated rose beads with bead cap crowns and collars. They have turquoise howlite round bead crown accents and feature dripping vintage silver tone repurposed chains. They hang from new silver tone hooks.
And finally…..this one!!!!
The Maltese Madonna <– (click here to buy)
She’s the #1 diva of the Mediterranean. She’s a bit mysterious and not afraid to push the envelope. Just don’t get yourself involved with her- there’s more behind those eyes than you could ever imagine.
This bib necklace is created from multiple strands of repurposed vintage antiqued brass curb chain and a vintage Maltese Cross brooch hanging over them. It has a lobster closure and adjusts from 16″ to 19″ long.
So those are my favorites, but do yourself a favor and check out his shop full of fantastical creations, fun historical facts, and stories. He has a little sale running now for a limited time.