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 saw so so much yesterday with my friends Maiko and Gabrielle and wanted to write it all down before my brain losesa the detail and order of things.
First up was Fuji Sun at Gallery 5610 by photographer Taishi Hirokawa. The show wowed me as I have great respect for Fuji and a love for all mountains, but I had the privilege of seeing Maiko’s baby Skye stand for the very first time.
My favourite piece at Fuji Sun
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
On the way to our second gallery in Omotesando we spotted my dream home.
This Shiba and Saru Painting was a gift for Maiko and Skye Chan as it represents their Astrological Signs.
Skye Chan is so photogenic. I took this little beauty at 246 Commune, an amazing little food cart space.
We also stopped off at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams to see Yugo’s “Girls”, but I didn’t get a picture. Afterwards we scooted over to one of my favourite spots, B-Side Label to snag some more stickers!!!! Once again, the shop girls were filled with exuberance and joy and kindness and left me wondering how they always maintain it at that level.
Tokyo Cultuart by Beams mural in Harajuku.
Gabrielle and I said farewell to Maiko and began our walk to my favourite coffee shop, but opted instead to check out an incredible garden cafe just next door. We had homemade ginger lemonade and ginger ale and a dessert that neither of us can recall the name of.
When I was last in Tokyo (this Spring) I had a half day all alone and I walked from Shinjuku through Yoyogi to Harajuku. It instantly became my favorite walk. I re-created it with Gabrielle in reverse yesterday. The walk takes you over a huge curved overpass, up a winding street littered with beautiful apartment buildings and fancy department stores. It curves under traintracks and through Yoyogi Park to Meiji Shrine. (Torii gate pictured above) We doubled back through Yoyogi Park to the winding road past a really cool Loréal corporate office building and Yoyogi station. And then we came to Shinjuku and my favourite hotel…
At this point my friend and I had barking dog feet, so we took a breather in the lobby of Century New Southern Hotel. This is the panoramic view from the 20th floor lobby.
After our refresher we jetted off in search of Hanazono Shrine because I remembered enjoying the summer festivals there last summer. The party was in full swing with Taiko drumming and everyone dancing. We stood mesmerized, especially…
When this amazing woman above started drumming. She seemed so powerful and fearless and I liked her Taiko skills best. After the drumming and dancing we hit the food stands and got bacon wrapped herbed cheese and giant mushrooms on sticks, but the food party was just beginning.
As I like to use Yoyogi station instead of Shinjuku we walked back towards that stop. On the way we spotted a couple packed curry and noodle houses, but down one alley stood this beautiful beacon and we did’nt even need to look at the menu to realize we found Nirvana. I had the best bowl of udon in my life filled with things I did and didn’t recognize. The noodle boss was sweet and handsome and Gabby got a free upgrade in size and her noodle bowl was the size of a German Sheppard. And we headed back to Bukuro with full hearts and bellies. The end.
Last year my friend Kelly and I packed a lot of life into a two week trip to Japan, a place we both adore. One of my favorite Unesco world heritage sites, Himeji Castle was a highlight of the trip. As we approached the castle I got to see my dear friend weep tears of joy as we took in the view. She had been dreaming of visiting for many years and once you see the place you can understand being overcome with emotion. As we started the long walk through town to Himeji Castle my thoughts were we would be able to explore the grounds outside and take some breath-taking photos, but I was not prepared to be allowed to go inside, and not just go inside, but explore every floor, all the way to the top. The history here is a bit overwhelming and inspiring at the same time. The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō or Shirasagi-jō (“White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle”) because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
I based this painting on one of my photos of the castle and added the Egret because of the name.
This piece took me ages, but I poured a lot of love into it as I hold the place in such high regard. It is on 5×7 canvas board and has an ornate, vintage gold wooden frame. It is for sale now, but will also be featured in my upcoming show in Philadelphia on May 5th. (More on that later)
I have been bouncing back and forth between paintings, painted earrings and Jewelry trying to get more out there, restocking stores and preparing for art shows and charity events. It has felt overwhelming at times and as though my Work load is more than I can manage, but that is when I am my most creative. One of this week’s creations is a Star Wars favorite (of mine) SABINE WREN!!!
Below is one of my entries for Little Art Big Cause, URANUS and NEPTUNE. The charity art sale takes place at Scandals in downtown Portland and will be up May 4th through Pride month. HALF of every sale will benefit various charity organizations.
“Space Cowboys” is one of five original pieces that I have at the Sci-fi Show opening May 4th at Afru Gallery in SE Portland.
I have a mega-crush on Beast Boy from the Teen Titans which was really the primary reason behind painting the beauties below. Of course, I can’t wear them, so perhaps a cuff is in order.
And finally we come to my last entry, this glorious copper and agate necklace. The perfect orange Oregon beach agate was found on a walk near Seal Rock with my boyfriend. It pairs nicely with the vintage copper chains and is sure to get you bombarded with compliments!
That’s all for now – just a snap shot of me, trying to power through a rather difficult month. MAY is here and big things are just around the corner. I will speak on that tomorrow!